June 5, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! As the writers’ strike rolls into its 6th week, the Directors Guild of America has managed to sit down with Hollywood’s biggest studios, taking action to ensure their pay doesn’t get cut in a “truly historic deal”. Today's charts explore:

  • More Prime: Amazon keeps adding to its flagship membership.
  • On the clock: Baseball's rule changes have had a huge impact.
  • The (gentle) rise of Reddit: The social media platform is in its awkward years.
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Prime mobile

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Amazon was in talks with wireless carriers such as DishNetwork, Verizon, and T-Mobile, about offering a nationwide mobile phone service to Prime subscribers for as little as $10 a month, or possibly even free.

Some of the companies have since denied any talks with Amazon, but even if a deal doesn't materialize, the fact remains that Amazon is still keen to stuff more benefits into Prime to attract — or more importantly retain — its customer base.

The latest Prime offering is already a fairly confusing combination of express delivery, streaming, reading, shopping, photo storage and (some) music. While the majority of people subscribe to Prime for the speedy delivery, the bundle has been a powerful draw for consumers — with US subscribers surging from roughly 27m in 2013 to a staggering 170m just eight years later.

However, after raising the yearly membership fee from $119 to $139 last year, Prime's growth has slowed, even going into reverse per the latest estimates from CIRP. In the meantime, Walmart has also emerged as a formidable competitor with its $98-a-year Walmart+ subscription, offering similar benefits like free delivery on orders over $35 and early access to sales.

Land and expand

The expectation is now for Amazon to expand its Prime offering by introducing new perks and privileges (some creative ideas here from The Verge).

The potential venture into the mobile industry is not Amazon's first attempt. In 2014 Amazon launched the Fire Phone… which lived up to its name, crashing and burning against stiff competition, being discontinued within a year. Despite this, the tech giant has shown a willingness to invest and sustain losses in the relentless pursuit of scale. One more reason not to cancel your Prime membership is probably enough for the execs at Amazon HQ to consider any idea.

On the clock

We’re roughly a third of the way through the MLB 2023 season, though fans (and players) could be forgiven for feeling like this year’s competition is whizzing by, with the average game duration down ~15% compared to the 2022 season.

That’s down to some new rule changes that have been implemented this year, notably the addition of a pitch timer to speed up the action and shorten the gaps between pitching and batting, as the MLB continues its efforts to get more eyes back on America’s pastime.


The game-shortening regulations have arrived at a strange moment in time for baseball, with youth interest in the sport waning — just 7% of Americans under 30 say baseball is their favorite sport, behind football, basketball, soccer, and “something else” — and attendance figures falling. At this current rate, the MLB will have shaved 68,000 minutes or 47 days worth of action by the end of the season, but whether that translates to reinvigorated interest remains to be seen.

Baseball games used to be much shorter affairs 100 years ago, in the heyday of stars like Babe Ruth, running for just 1 hour and 54 minutes on average in the 1923 season. As the years progressed, however, matches became more drawn out with more pitches and longer times between them, peaking in 2021 when the average game came in at 3 hours and 11 minutes.

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Social media platform Reddit missed the red-hot IPO market of 2021, and efforts to go public this year have taken a knock after Fidelity, the lead investor in Reddit’s most recent round of funding, slashed its own valuation of the company by 41%.

On top of that, Reddit is trying to manage a growing backlash to recent changes to the company’s API access and data. The rise of generative AI models uncovered the fact that Reddit’s billions of posts and comments have been a rich source of training data for models like ChatGPT. Reddit decided that it would start charging for access to more of its data — something Twitter has also started doing — much to the chagrin of smaller developers. One such Reddit app, Apollo, reported that at its current usage, access to Reddit’s API would cost ~$20m a year at the suggested new prices.

The (gentle) rise of Reddit

Reddit remains an unusual shape in the social media puzzle, with its groups of communities, known as subreddits, similar to the earliest versions of internet forums. These are places where people gather to discuss everything from movies to memes, tennis to tattoos, gardening to ghosts, investing to interior design and all of the wackiest topics in between.

With an emphasis on anonymity, strict posting rules and little reward for building a “following” or becoming an “influencer”, the platform has grown slower than peers. Two of its biggest default subreddits “r/funny” and “r/askreddit” are imperfect but reasonable proxies for how the platform is growing — both of those have grown steadily over the last decade, reaching ~50m and ~41m members respectively. For various reasons, the company has struggled to replicate the hyper-targeted advertising machine of Facebook and Instagram, despite conveniently having its users organized by interests and topic. Navigating how to get paid by massive AI models, without alienating smaller developers, will be a difficult tightrope to walk — but it could generate potential new sources of revenue for Reddit.

More Data

China started digging a 10,000-meter hole last week, which will be the world's deepest once it is completed in 457 days.

• Exploring the fall of TikTok viral videos, classified as ones with over 10 million views.

Taylor Swift has announced new tour dates and her Argentina shows are now seen as a bargain, as the country suffers from 100% inflation.

Spotify's big leap into podcasts is being pulled back, as the company lays off 200 staffers.


• Check out the most loved buildings in the world.

Charting the rising cost of weddings, as couples go over the top for their special day.

Off the charts: Production on the film adaptation of which toy reportedly caused an international paint shortage in the run up to its release in July? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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