February 7, 2024

Today's Topics

Good morning! Tracy Chapman's hit Fast Car has topped the iTunes chart some 36 years after its first release, following the singer's performance at the Grammys. Today we explore:

  • Ghosting: Snapchat is back to racking up losses.
  • Spicy season: Chipotle and Taco Bell are both finding ways to grow.
  • Virtual virtues: What you can, and can't, do in online meetings.
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Disappearing profits

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, revealed another quarter in the red yesterday, taking the ephemeral messaging service’s cumulative loss to some $10.8 billion since 2015.

Investors haven’t received the news kindly. At the time of writing, Snap shares are currently down more than 30%, with sentiment not helped by rivals such as Meta, Amazon, and Alphabet all reporting strong growth in their digital advertising businesses. The news means that, out of the last 36 quarters, Snap has turned a profit in just one, back in Q4 2021 — a false dawn for the company's finances at the time. Perhaps preemptively, a day before the earnings release, Snap announced it was slashing 10% of its workforce — its largest cut since a 20% reduction in 2022.

There was a faint silver lining, as the company announced progress on Snapchat+, the platform's premium tier in which users pay $3.99 a month for exclusive features that likely mean little to those of us who aren't Snapchat-power-users, but include: a Friend Solar System, Chat Wallpapers, and a Friend Snapscore Change. That service now has 7 million paying subscribers. Unfortunately, Snap’s more ambitious projects — from AR smart glasses like Spectacles to the short-lived camera drone Pixy — have mostly drained resources without delivering to the bottom line.

Downsizing

Snap isn’t alone in slashing jobs, as tech companies continue to trim their headcounts despite giants in the industry generally thriving. Indeed, according to layoffs.fyi, over 33,000 tech workers have lost their jobs in 2024 already, with Amazon, Microsoft, eBay, DocuSign and many others reporting job cuts.

Spicy season

America’s appetite for fast-Mexican is showing few signs of waning, with Chipotle reporting a spicy 14% jump in annual sales yesterday, while quick-serve industry leader Taco Bell revealed a milder 9% jump in revenue this morning.

Chipotle’s results were served with a 7% uptick in footfall in Q4, bucking the trend seen at rivals Starbucks and McDonald's, both of which reported declines in foot traffic. Customers appeared broadly unfazed by Chipotle's price hikes, with strong demand propelling the company to just shy of $10 billion in sales, as it looks to onboard some 19,000 new workers for the bustling “burrito season” period from March to May.

Taco Bell has also been hiking prices — upsetting some of its loyal customers, who turn to it as a value option — with data sourced from Reddit revealing that Taco Bell dominated mentions on the social media site… but often because customers were complaining about the price of their meal.

Despite the price rises at fast-food favorites, America can’t seem to get enough of Mexican-inspired bites and Tex-Mex food more generally. In New York City, taquerías are booming, and an analysis of new menu items released at chains across the country found that many of the new dishes include Latin or Latin-inspired ingredients, with Birria (a Mexican stew) and chicken taco salad among the fastest-growing menu items.

For the mass market, Chipotle finds itself at the center of that boom, with plans to open another 285+ restaurants in 2024.

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Virtual virtues

For many of us, remote video meetings have become as much a part of the working week as the bleary-eyed morning commute or vague, succinct small talk about the weekend. But, we’re not yet all on exactly the same page about what is — and what certainly is not — acceptable call conduct.

According to a newly published YouGov survey conducted late last summer, for example, 74% of Americans think cracking open a cold one while on a call from home is unacceptable under any circumstances, while 16% think it’s okay in an informal meeting, and a particularly thirsty 3% contingent think it’s fine in any meeting context. Smoking and vaping were impermissible to even more American adults, while having the TV on in the background was deemed the most egregious breach of etiquette by the highest share of respondents at 77%.

Given the amount of time we spend hosting and attending work meetings has soared some 252% since 2020 to as much as 7.5 hours a week, per Microsoft analysis of customers who use its work products, wider conversations around video call conduct — and just how comfortable we should get when dialing in from home — won’t be going away anytime soon.

More Data

• Lucky in Kentucky: a group of employees at a middle school in the state scooped a $1m Powerball jackpot after playing the same numbers every week since 2019.  

YouTube TV has soared to become the biggest US internet-based streaming subscription service by some way, with its 8 million sub count almost double its nearest competitor, Hulu+ Live TV.

• The Swift Effect will reportedly be in full force during Super Bowl commercial breaks this year, as more female-focused adverts from brands like Dove and e.l.f fill up the $7m slots.

SATs and ACTs are back in the Ivy League, as Dartmouth becomes the first of the elite college group to reinstate the exam requirements after a pandemic pause.

Hi-Viz

• Consumerist Where’s Waldo: find the hidden brand logos in this fun viz game.

• A great data-driven exploration of whether we’ve reached the peak era of record-setting in athletics.

Off the charts: Which company is reportedly refusing to engage with its former CEO, who co-founded the business back in 2010, and his reported mission to rescue the company from dire financial straits? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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