August 21, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! What's booming today? It's grocery store sushi, of course, as Kroger is now the biggest seller of sushi in the US, slinging a reported 40 million pieces a year. What else we're exploring:

  • Great expectations: Nvidia has driven the stock market higher, but can it live up to the hype this week?
  • White noise: Spotify's latest source of tension.
  • Something borrowed: Mortgage rates for would-be borrowers are hitting 20-year highs.
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Great expectations

For much of this year, AI has been the driving force behind much of the positive stock market narrative. Now, that optimism is set to be tested, as Nvidia, the best performing stock in the S&P 500 Index in 2023, will report earnings on Wednesday.

Back in May, Nvidia told investors that it expected revenue in its second quarter of the year to be around $11bn. There’s nothing particularly unusual about doing that — companies offer this sort of guidance all the time — except that it was roughly 50% more than what analysts were expecting... which is particularly unusual. Indeed, that kind of increase would have been surprising even for a much smaller company, but for a giant like Nvidia, it's pretty much unheard of.

Right place, right time

Not by accident, Nvidia now finds itself in the perfect position to cash in on the AI boom, as demand for the company’s graphics processing units (GPUs), which can power large-language models and other machine learning tools, surges. For example, OpenAI’s models for the groundbreaking GPT-3 model were trained on Nvidia hardware.

So far, Nvidia shares have roughly tripled in value this year, taking the company to a $1 trillion valuation, and dragging much of the rest of the tech sector with it. Will it live up to the hype?

Related reading: Chartr's Sunday Deep Dive — Checking In On ChatGPT.

Breathe in…While many people turn to ambient music to unwind, "white noise" is becoming a source of tension for Spotify, as podcasts that play relaxing sounds are costing the company millions every year.

According to an internal document, as reported by Bloomberg, Spotify has been looking to remove white noise and other ambient content, in an effort to turn audiences towards shows that are more lucrative for the platform.

Accounting for ~3 million listening hours on Spotify every day, white noise podcasts deliver aural tranquillity through a variety of soothing sounds. Listeners tune in to falling rain, tropical birds, radio static, or even the whirs of fans and airplanes — and the popularity of the genre only seems to be growing. Data from Google reveals that YouTube searches for "sleep music", "rain sounds" and "white noise" have surged in recent years. This has meant that ad revenue for podcasters in the burgeoning field is at its zen-ith, with creators raking in as much as $18,000 per month, simply for looping the same pacifying noises on repeat.

Breathe out...

In 2019, Spotify acquired Anchor, the podcast creation app, in a bid to encourage users to host their own shows. Since then, creators have swarmed to the service, with 44% of the 4m+ podcasts listed in the Podcast Index, hosted on Anchor.

However, Spotify’s push towards ‘talk’-based content unintentionally advanced the listenership of white noise and ambient podcasts. As pressure to improve the streaming service’s profitability mounts, with the price of its premium service increasing last month, banning white noise podcasts was considered, with the company estimating it would have boosted profits by nearly $40m. Much to meditate on.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

How high can you go?

The average US mortgage rate has surged to 7.1% — a level it has not reached for over two decades, according to data published by Freddie Mac last week — as sustained interest rate rises from the Federal Reserve continue to filter through into the mortgage market.


The reverberations of these high mortgage payments, coupled with the sizable contingent of present homeowners who secured mortgages during the era of ultra-low interest rates, have cast a shadow over the housing market. Understandably, everyone already holding favorable fixed rates are reluctant to re-enter the mortgage market, leaving aspiring buyers with limited options. The consequence? A nearly 19% plunge in year-over-year sales of existing homes in June, converging to make the most challenging housing affordability conditions in the last four decades, per Bloomberg.

More Data

91% of women have reported receiving an unwanted romantic message on LinkedIn, according to a survey.

• Danish company Novo Nordisk, maker of weight loss drug Wegovy, now has a market cap of $420 billion, larger than the country's annual GDP.

• A woman from Oregon is now the world record holder for the largest donation of human milk by one person: nearly 1,600 liters, enough to fill 2,253 Venti Starbucks cups.

• Diving into Elon Musk’s 153 million X, formerly Twitter, followers finds that 42% of them had zero followers as of October last year and 62.5m had tweeted nothing at all.


• With US autoworkers voting this week on a strike, making another industry-wide walkout possible, use this map to track current labor action.

• Charting the dirtiest US cities based on the number of complaints.

Off the charts: The division of which company, which has been in decline for years, has decided on one big giveaway for its final act? [Answer below].

Answer here.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Recent newsletters

Analogs and algorithms: The changing shape of the recorded music industry
Amazon’s empire: How the tech giant makes its money
Powering down: Electric vehicle sales lose momentum
We and our partners use cookies and similar technologies (“Cookies”) on our website and in our newsletters for performance, analytical or advertising purposes to ensure you have the best experience on our site and/or interaction with us. To find out more about the use of Cookies, see our Cookie Notice. Please click OK if you consent to our use of Cookies or click Manage my Preferences to manage your Cookie preferences.