April 19, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Secret Service officers were called into action yesterday to respond to a serious security breach on the White House grounds… after a curious toddler slipped through the northside fence. Today we're exploring:

  • McMenu: McDonald’s classics are getting an update.
  • Digital nomadland: Working from anywhere’s only getting easier.
  • Not still watching: Netflix is scrapping its DVD offerings after 25 years.
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McDonald’s is freshening up its core classic burger range with softer buns, more Big Mac sauce, and “meltier” cheese, to make up what the company is calling its “best burgers ever”. The fast food giant is even bringing back the Hamburglar character, not seen since 2015, to promote the new improvements which will hit US menus in 2024.

Would you like a franchise with that?

While some of McDonald's overarching decisions are implemented at the top and must be followed across locations — like these new recipe changes — the McDonald’s model has always allowed franchisees a certain degree of freedom ever since Ray Kroc laid down his “in business for yourself, not by yourself” approach in the 1950s. Indeed, many of the chain’s most famous offerings from the Egg McMuffin to the Big Mac were dreamed up by franchisees themselves.

That franchise-first model has enabled the golden arches to expand from a local California fast food joint, opened by two brothers in 1948, to one of the biggest brands in the world with 40,000+ locations. And it's a strategy the company has doubled down on in recent years. Indeed, throughout its aggressive international expansion in the 1990s, McDonald's operated ~20% of the restaurants. But ever since a restructuring in 2006, the parent company has taken a backseat — preferring to collect the steady franchise fees without operating each individual store.

These days, the company operates just 5% of the locations, presumably still enough for management to get a sense of what's going on, what menu changes to make (like "meltier" cheese) and how to position the overall brand.

Digital nomadlands

Catalonian locals in Barcelona say rising rents and gentrification are forcing them out of their neighborhoods as digital nomads take advantage of a Spanish visa, designed with remote workers in mind, which recently came into effect.

American interest in the visa spiked last month, but Spain’s not the only country looking to welcome international workers. Indeed, Colombia announced its new digital nomad visa even more recently and flaunted its 3 best cities that could act as your new office on its tourism website.

Have work, will travel

Despite the constant reports of more firms and CEOs calling for workers to return to the office full-time, the pandemic has opened up a whole new world of work for many. That geographic unshackling has freed people up to work not just from home, but from anywhere, with 17 million Americans reportedly identifying as digital nomads last year, up 131% from 2019.

Predictably, digital nomads have been taking to the internet to explore their options before taking the plunge. Subscribers to the subreddit r/digitalnomad, an online hub for travel-oriented remote workers, passed the 2 million mark in March and Google searches for “digital nomad visa” have recently hit their peak in the US.

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Season finale

Netflix is giving up on delivering red envelopes filled with DVDs to subscribers, yesterday announcing the closure of its DVD-by-mail business. That marks the end of an era for the company that shipped its first DVD, a copy of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, back in 1998 and has gone on to mail over 5.2 billion DVDs since.

After launching its streaming service in 2007, the writing has been on the wall for Netflix’s DVD division. As early as 2009, CEO Reed Hastings was anticipating that the core DVD division was doomed — a prediction that in hindsight feels obvious, but at the time seemed bold.

As subscriber numbers climbed, soaring past 50 million by 2014, Netflix had already started its second big pivot: original content. As the rest of the industry woke up to the power of streaming, Netflix invested heavily into its own programming, producing some great (and some terrible) shows, helping the company hold on to its early lead in the streaming wars. Since then, its DVD business has steadily diminished, falling from revenue of more than $1 billion a decade ago to just $146m last year, less than 0.5% of the company’s total.

For you

Even with the DVD service now ejected, the role it's had in shaping what Netflix is today is undeniable. It was where the company first introduced its subscription model and where it developed its algorithmic recommendations, suggesting your next DVD based on what's trending, new releases and a list of ‘top picks for you’.

As the red envelopes are retired, Netflix faces a stream of challenges in the form of an increasingly saturated market, a possible writers' strike and a faulty live business — as anyone who recently tried to tune in to watch the much-hyped “Love Is Blind” reunion will know.

More Data

Fox News and Dominion managed to reach a $787 million agreement just “moments away” from the opening statements of the defamation lawsuit.

• With the show in its final season, the chance to make your Succession dream life will cost you: Kendall Roy’s NYC triplex has gone on the market for a cool $29 million.

• AI’s first hit song, featuring fake versions of Drake and The Weeknd, has been removed from streaming services after it racked up 600k Spotify plays and 15 million views on TikTok.

Hi-Viz

• Zelensky, Xi, Macron and Modi: how Americans view world leaders, even the ones they’ve never heard of.• These 5 charts show the true cost of inflation over the last 2 years.

• The expensive US cities where $300k actually feels like $100k.

Off the charts: The number of babies named ____ has dropped precipitously since a tech company released their product of the same name? Hint: if you own this product, it may have briefly stopped working this week. [Answer below].

Answer here.

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