October 16, 2023

Today's Topics

Good morning. Diplomatic efforts were frantic on Sunday, as efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from intensifying stepped up and the US moved a second aircraft carrier into the eastern Mediterranean. Today our charts explore:

  • 50:50: A recession is pretty much a coin flip, according to top economists.
  • The magic formula: As Disney turns 100, its business model is still a dream come true.
  • Left to their own devices: How much time do teens spend on social media?
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Fence sitters

True to their reputation, economists are once again sitting on the fence. This time, the group is split on the chances of a recession, which until recently, was seen as pretty likely. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal’s latest quarterly poll found that top business and academic economists now put the chance of a US recession in the coming year at 48%, down from 54% in July.

The Federal Reserve will be pleased to see the number drop below 50:50, as the central bank has looked to curb inflation without triggering a full-blown recession — the near-mythical "soft landing".

A fine balance

The still-strong labor market and cooling inflation are winning most of the plaudits for this slightly more optimistic view — but there’s much that could still derail things. The surge in bond yields, and its effect on future government spending, is certainly high on the “worry list”, but nothing is as unpredictable as the ongoing Israel-Hamas war — with the threat of wider conflict in the region looming larger following a weekend of escalating clashes not only in Gaza, but on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Once upon a studio

Today marks exactly 100 years since 2 brothers, Walt and Roy, set up an animation studio in a nondescript LA office that would go on to shape the entertainment landscape: The Walt Disney Company, or the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, as it was known back then.

The monolith that is the modern House of Mouse has been celebrating the milestone with a range of merchandise and events across its parks. However, it’s the company’s short film, Once Upon a Studio — featuring 543 memorable characters — that’s been the standout.

The magic formula

As it’s grown into one of the biggest media companies in the world, modern Disney obviously looks different to how it did in 1923. A series of acquisitions in recent years, for example, has seen the company’s focus shift from Mickey to Marvel and Fantasia to Fox. But, to generalize, what really has lived on is Disney's core formula for the business: make content and characters people love, and monetize them in multiple ways.

Ever since 1955, when Disney first opened the gates to the Magic Kingdom, the company has made most of its money through a heady mixture of theme parks and ever-popular TV and movie content.

Indeed, flicking back through the archives, we found the company’s 1960 annual report, which detailed $18 million in amusement park income, with film rentals and TV income totaling $18.4 million and $5 million, respectively. Although the millions have become billions — and divisions have been split-up, put back together, and renamed countless times — the core structure of the Disney business really is not-so-different, all these decades later.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Left to their own devices

Device-dependent teenagers are far from phoning it in: a Gallup poll has found that over half (51%) of US teenagers report spending at least 4 hours per day on social media apps.

Indeed, while US teens overall spent an average 4.8 hours per day on the 7 popular social media platforms tested in the survey — YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter/X, WhatsApp, and WeChat — it appeared that, statistically, teenage girls were more chronically online than their male counterparts, racking up 5.3 hours per day versus 4.4.

YouTube was popular with Gen Z boys, averaging ~24% longer per day on the platform than girls, who reported spending more time on TikTok and Instagram. Meanwhile, messaging services like WhatsApp accounted for less than 15 minutes a day across both genders.

The survey also revealed that 17-year-olds were most likely to pass the 4-hour mark every single day. What surprised us most, however, was the 42% of 13-year-olds who also met the 4-hour threshold, given they’re only just old enough to meet the minimum sign-up age for most of these platforms.

More Data

Blockheads: Minecraft has sold over 300 million copies worldwide, cementing its position as the best-selling game of all time.

• Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour has officially become the highest-grossing concert film in US box office history, taking an estimated $95-97 million in its opening weekend.

Best Buy is hitting the eject button on DVD and Blu-ray sales, phasing out sales of the physical discs in early 2024.


• Just 10 companies were responsible for 44% of all tech layoffs over the last 2 years.

• Mapping the latest developments in the Israel-Hamas war.

Trending topic: Martin Scorsese has defended the ~3.5-hour run time of his new film, Killers of the Flower Moon, which will be released later this week, telling critics to “give cinema some respect”. We explored the rise of lengthier movies back in July — read our full take 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.