February 5, 2024

Today's Topics

Good morning! Yesterday saw the 66th Annual Grammy Awards: a night to remember for first-time winner Miley Cyrus, but one to forget for rapper Killer Mike, who was arrested after picking up 3 gongs at the pre-televised reception. Today we explore:

  • Logged on: Meta is still finding new users for its social media empire.
  • Instagram vs. Reality: Why Meta can afford to burn billions on the metaverse.
  • Bucket list tix: Super Bowl tickets are more expensive than ever.
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Happy Birthday Facebook

Facebook has officially left its teenage years behind, with the social networking platform that started in a Harvard dorm room celebrating its 20th birthday on Sunday.

Just a few days earlier, the company’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was being grilled by a Senate committee over concerns about child safety on the “Family of Apps” under the holding company monolith that is Meta, which includes Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Reality Labs (Meta’s virtual reality division). However, Friday brought a more celebratory itinerary for Facebook execs, as Meta reported a lights-out quarter, sending shares up more than 20%, adding $196bn to the company’s value — the largest one-day gain in Wall Street history.

For investors, there was a lot to like about Meta’s update. Yes, the company is still talking a lot about the metaverse — and spending billions of dollars trying to build it — but its core social media business is so wildly profitable that we’re running out of superlatives to describe it.

Instagram vs. Reality

Somehow, 20 years on from Facebook’s founding, the company is still signing up new accounts, with daily active users hitting 3.19 billion — and now, Meta is better than ever at monetizing those eyeballs. Indeed, the average US or Canadian user was worth an eye-watering $226 in revenue for Meta last year. That means the company is extracting $18+ of value from you every month, holding your attention with content that — for the most part — has been uploaded freely to its platform, without costing Meta a single dollar.

Most companies could never dream of burning $40bn over 3 years developing a new product. But, then again, most companies don't have a business that has churned out $163bn of operating profit to fund that investment.

And, while virtual reality has yet to become actual reality for many Meta-owned platform users, there’s already some fierce competition in the form of Apple's long-awaited Vision Pro VR headset, which hit shelves on Friday having sold an estimated 200k pre-order units at $3,499 apiece.

Bot pursuit

Although Meta is still waiting for its big bet on VR to pay off, the company didn't shy away from pouring resources into AI as the sector exploded last year. Meta launched LLaMA 1, its first iteration of a generative AI large language model, in February 2023, and only a year later it has already begun training LLaMA 3, its latest attempt in building towards artificial general intelligence (AGI).If you want to get a sense of where Zuckerberg & Co’s focus is, earnings calls aren’t a bad place to start. The term “metaverse” came up a total of 20 times in the earnings call from Q2 2021, as the company rebranded to “Meta” to better encompass its virtual world vision. But, recently, “AI” has been getting all the love — with a whopping 72 mentions in Meta’s Friday call.

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Super charge

If you’re hoping to score some last-minute Super Bowl LVIII tix to see the Chiefs take on the 49ers this Sunday, your big game budget better be as stacked as some ad agencies', with prices rising above $10k-per-ticket — the highest on record.

This year’s championship game is taking place in Las Vegas for the first time ever, as the ultra high-spec Allegiant Stadium is set to host ~65,000 football fans (Taylor Swift likely among them), as well as a half-time show from Usher and pre- and mid-game performances from Post Malone & Tiësto.


Of course, Super Bowl ticket prices vary across vendors, but hikes have been seen across several platforms as the world of sports continues to mirror the “gigflation” trend observed by American concert-goers last year. Indeed, sports tickets soared 15% year-over-year in December, according to BLS data, while getting a seat for an NFL game typically cost almost 9% more in 2023 than the year before.

On TickPick, an online marketplace where fans can buy and sell tickets fee-free, some premium Super Bowl seats are reportedly available for as much as $41,818, with the average ticket listing on the site spiking to $11,060 some 13 days before the event, 93% more than the cost of tickets at the same point in 2019.

More Data

• Going Rogan: Podcast host Joe Rogan has signed a non-exclusive, multi-year partnership deal with Spotify for a reported $250 million.

• There was a drop in violent crime rates across most American cities last year — however, Washington DC was a notable outlier, having seen a nearly 40% rise in violent crime.

• Strava's Chipotle Challenge, where contestants had to run a 300m segment as many times as they could in January, ended in chaos: while Denver's winner ran the stretch 1,041 times, 5 people in LA tied with 369 attempts — all of them won a year's supply of burritos.


• Charting the significance of the Walmart stock split for its workers.

• Delving into the Super Bowl halftime show, where a mere 1-minute slot can cost a staggering $14m for advertisers.

Off the charts: The new CEO of which major clothing retailer — that was changing its store strategy last July to needle out competition — told the FT yesterday that they want to make fast fashion even faster? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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