November 17, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! George Santos announced that he won’t be seeking re-election following a scathing ethics report detailing personal expenses allegedly paid for with campaign funds, including $20k worth of rent, OnlyFans purchases, and botox. Today we explore:

  • Pop app: Social media buzz is difficult to maintain.
  • Inside inflation: Which prices are rising the most?
  • Sell-by: HelloFresh shares are tanking, as users give up on the meal-kit delivery service.
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Pop app

If you spend time on the internet, you'll know it’s rare to go more than a few months without hearing about a new social media app, each with a fresh angle that promises to break the cycle of mindless scrolling.

This week, it was the turn of Lapse — which, counterintuitively, uses the astonishingly impressive iPhone lens to mimic a disposable camera — ranking 3rd on the App Store chart for free apps.

But, if creating a breakout hit is hard, maintaining that momentum is much, much harder. Analysis of the relative Google search volume for the internet’s most recognizable platforms shows that, bar a few familiar exceptions, whatever interest initially goes up, comes down hard when apps fall out of favor (see: Bebo, Vine, Friendster, MySpace, Clubhouse, BeReal, and many, many more).

Even having one of the most famous people on the planet as your talisman can’t guarantee success. This week, former President Trump’s platform Truth Social reported operating losses of ~$35 million since its inception, as the social network remains in legal and regulatory limbo.

Unsocial media

Platforms like Lapse and BeReal are sometimes billed as being anti-Instagram by attempting to reconnect people with their friends and family in an unfiltered way — filling a gap for social media that’s actually social, rather than focused on news or entertainment.

But, while the mega apps are old and ugly enough to act as lightning rods for regular criticism (Facebook will turn 20 in March), people can’t seem to stop using them. Indeed, just this week, Apptopia data revealed that Meta’s biggest apps saw modest increases in daily users, beating out Gen-Z mainstay TikTok.

Growing slower

The pace of price rises in the US has slowed, with the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) up 3.2% in October compared to the same period in 2022.

Although it's an overall increase, the rate is down from 3.7% in September — and the lowest annual rise since June. However, it’s important to remember that the overall CPI figure is only a composite picture of the wildly complicated US economy, and prices have been rising and falling more extremely across the board.

Inside inflation

Indeed, the BLS index measures monthly price fluctuations across more than 300 individual categories of spending, from the price of rice to college tuition fees.

Take cars, for example, which are costing us both more and less than last October, depending on what you’re trying to do with them. Filling one up or buying a used one? That will set you back 5.3% and 7.1% less than last year, respectively. If you’re looking to get one insured, however, you’ll pay 19.2% more than if you’d taken out a policy last October, and maintaining and repairing your vehicle will set you back almost 10% more on average as well.

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HelloFresh was looking a little past its “sell-by” date this week: after the company cut its profit guidance for the year, investors dumped shares, which saw the stock price fall ~14% on Thursday. The move leaves the company’s stock down 52% since mid-September, wiping some $3.4 billion from the meal maker's value.

While it’s unknown exactly what moved HelloFresh to issue the profit warning — just 3 weeks after it had restated financial targets on a quarterly earnings call in October — the German company pointed to weaker-than-expected sales growth and rising costs in North America, where 56% of its active customers are based.

Founded in Berlin in 2011, when co-founders personally hand-packed the early pre-prepped meals, HelloFresh was one of the first leaders in the “meal-kit delivery” industry, quickly expanding into the US and eventually becoming the most popular meal-kit service in the world.

On a list of “businesses that boomed during the pandemic”, HelloFresh wasn’t quite on Zoom's level... but it wasn’t far off. Although millions turned to the convenience of regular food deliveries during lockdown, holding onto subscribers has proved difficult in 2023, with its customer count falling in each of the last 4 quarters — shedding 440,000 HelloFreshers in Q3.

More Data

• At the start of November, Portugal produced enough renewable electricity to serve the nation’s needs for a whopping 6 consecutive days.

• Fake it till they take it: Feds just made the biggest counterfeit bust in US history, after seizing $1bn worth of knock-off handbags and shoes from an NYC storage unit.

• A new report has outlined a worrying 65% rise in health insurance claims for eating disorder treatments in the US.

• Now's the time to buy a second-hand watch, as prices for brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe have fallen to their lowest point in 2 years on the resale market.

• Soda stream: New York state is suing PepsiCo for contributing over 17% of the plastic pollution along the Buffalo River.


• From Jesus to Jesse James: a data-viz deep dive on the historical figures that pop up most on the silver screen.

• Interesting charts explaining how you (probably) know 611 people.

Off the charts: Which car-maker, that continues to face legal repercussions after a wave of social-media inspired thefts, has Amazon announced will be available for users to buy on the shopping site? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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