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The Hustle

Why watch King Charles III’s coronation alone when you can have the companionship of a teddy bear made just for the occasion? The highest-end bear boasts 26 glass gemstones and velvet lining — it’s unclear if the teddy is able to formally knight you, but for ~$430, it better.

In today’s email:

  • Metaverse: The one real estate market that isn’t competitive.
  • Off the clock: Americans are working fewer hours.
  • Digits: Gadgets for retirees, apps for teens, and more for everyone in between.
  • Around the Web: An abandoned city, revenge bedtimes, a marketing newsletter, and more internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear a special episode about why pro athletes owe a “jock tax” every time they work in another state, and why, if you’re a remote employee, you might, too.

The big idea
land for sale

Nobody’s moving to the metaverse

Back when everyone was excited about the seemingly endless potential of the metaverse, metaverse real estate was hot.

Now, we must imagine a pixelated tumbleweed rolling through the streets of a digital ghost town as The Block reports a significant downturn:

  • In late 2021 and early 2022, weekly trading volumes on metaverse platform Decentraland were at $1m+. One plot sold for $2.43m.
  • Today, just 20-30 traders trade ~$50k/week.
  • Of Decentraland’s 98k land NFTs, it still owns ~68% of them.

Meanwhile, attendance at Decentraland’s Fashion Week dropped from 108k in 2022 to 26k this year, despite showings from well-known brands.


The Block notes that gaming platforms, like Fortnite and Roblox, are going strong, while metaverse platforms like Sandbox and Alien Worlds aren’t.

Gaming platforms, however, are fun, and the average user usually knows what they’re supposed to be doing there.

  • The Verge’s Jay Peters attended Decentraland’s Fashion Week and found it hard to navigate, sparse, and glitchy.

That lack of traffic probably isn’t ideal for the brands that showcased there — including Balenciaga, which was misspelled on its own booth and which seems to be doing better with AI-generated memes anyway. So, why shell out for virtual real estate no one visits laden with ads no one sees?

There’s also, of course, the real world, where inflation has likely left people inclined to spend money on IRL items over virtual ones.

But maybe don’t count it out

There have been some fun metaverse splashes — Tender Claws’ VR staging of The Tempest comes to mind — and virtual concerts from stars like Ariana Grande have pulled huge numbers. Plus, Fortnite players do spend money on skins and digital items.

Maybe the key to metaverse retention isn’t real estate but just… building something social and fun first?

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eyeball wearing a hat

Our ability to measure humanity’s dipshittery in kilograms: Environmental nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup impressively extracted 200k kgs of trash from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — but the ~1.8B-piece pile o’ floating trash that’s 3x the size of France still has another ~79.8m kgs in it.


TodAI in AI: Human sonographers and an AI model went mano-a-gizmo in a clinical study at LA’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, reading heart ultrasounds to see whose initial cardiac health assessments were most accurate. The machines won.

Café au loot: A group of thieves hacked through the wall of a Seattle coffee shop to access the adjacent Apple Store. They made off with ~$500k in merchandise, including ~436 iPhones.

In less successful thievery: An 18-year-old was arrested after breaking into Michael Jordan’s Illinois mansion. In fairness, His Airness’s place is quite expensive to enter legally — it’s on the market for $15m.

Plea the fifth: Tesla has slashed prices five times this year — up to 6% across its full EV lineup — leaving investors worried about the sustainability of Tesla’s industry-leading profit margins.

… and in more Elon whims: Twitter started the weekend restricting how its users interact with posts that link to Substack on a whim that probably had nothing to do with the rival newsletter platform preparing to launch a new Twitter-esque feature. In a whim-reversing whim, the suppression ended last evening — pending further whims.

The unemployment rate for Black Americans hit its lowest point on record, down to 5% last month. The gap between Black and white Americans set a record low as well, but Black unemployment is still 1.8 percentage points above the rate for white Americans.

Off the ban wagon: Prominent brands from Pepsi to Apple show no sign of slowing their TikTok spend, even with a possible ban looming, with US advertising up 11% on the platform last month. Corporate America had a tough choice: Tune out political squabbling and directly connect with 150m users in their target demo, or… yeah, that was always the one choice here.

Rey of light: Disney’s Lucasfilm says three new Star Wars feature films are on the way. There’s no timeline set for them, but feel free to use this template for your own Snippet whenever they do come out: “[Title] broke box-office records with [$1XXm], despite mixed reception from fans and critics.”

Samsung is slashing chip production following a 96% plummet in operating profit, which it blamed on a drop in demand as customers shift away from tech due to inflation.

Oh no: Some Starbucks customers claim its new olive oil drink results in an urgent need to use the bathroom — which could be a good thing if it makes Starbucks stop requiring a code for the door.

Duh: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in an effort to understand why driver recruitment was down, became an Uber driver. He learned what any of us who’ve worked in a service industry know: Some people are rude AF.

Presentation pro: Giving a strong presentation can be make or break for your career. Here’s how to deliver an effective, engaging presentation every time.

Average US work hours

Working hardly or hardly working? Americans’ on-the-job hours are dropping

Walk through any American city and ask around — you’ll quickly find gobs of people who feel overworked.

But also don’t do that. It sounds like a sad way to spend a day.

It’s clear why burnout runs rampant: US work hours are often well beyond its international counterparts. UN data shows Americans working 400 more hours — or 10 whole weeks — than Germans every year.

We’re now seeing indications Americans are catching up on slowing down.

Into the wee hours

A University of Maryland study shows average US workweeks dipping 30+ minutes since 2019. Some key figures:

  • High-earning young men, no stranger to coming out on top in workplace studies, did it again — their reduction is the highest (down 1.5 hours).
  • Self-proclaimed workaholics are down, too — high-hour employees dropped to a gaudy 52-hour average, from their gaudier 55.
  • Employees aged 16-54 saw the biggest declines overall. Black and Hispanic employees 55+ years old saw the least change.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers suspect a pandemic-fueled work/life balance reexamination as a leading driver.

  • The rise in virtual work — where it’s much easier to cut out early, not that the remote employees behind this newsletter would know — is a presumed contributor as well.

The other side

The trend’s stickiness is hard to estimate, but it’s great news for the nation’s collective mental health as long as it lasts.

Easier to estimate: how this news complicates the economy at large. The Maryland study estimated the shortening hours were equivalent to the labor of 2.4m employees.

  • Per Bloomberg, that labor shortfall then heats up the job market and pressures employers to keep wages up, making the Fed’s inflation-fighting job harder.

But we’ll worry about that after we take a quick 10 weeks of vacation to uh, better relate to our German readers.

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Free Resource

15 hard-hitting value prop templates

Value props = clear, concise pitches for buyers and stakeholders.

AKA the key branding language no business can afford to flub.

Before you get flustered on the framework, we’ve got you covered. Here are 15 clean-cut copy and design templates to help you tie it all together.

Create and brainstorm with these models:

  • Value Proposition Writing
  • Value Proposition Canvas
  • Brand Hierarchy
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Mission and Vision Brainstorming

Keep those pitches pristine. Packaged by HubSpot. 🧡

Proper value propping →

Digits: Boomers, Mario, Lemon8, and more news numbers

1) Tech ain’t just for kids. Americans aged 50+ are spending more on tech than ever before — an average of $912 last year, compared to $394 in 2019. A WSJ reporter embedded in a Pennsylvania retirement community found ample chatter about health wearables (owned by only 28% of older Americans, per AARP), home assistants (used by ~60% of AARP members), and password protection (only 37% of people 55+ use a password manager, per an Age of Majority poll).

2) ByteDance is doing the thing again. The controversial TikTok maker has another hit with Lemon8, now up to 16m global downloads. The lifestyle app, described as a Pinterest/TikTok hybrid, had a quiet US launch in February, but picked up speed in March with a reported ~4.25m US users. You may point to TikTok’s #lemon8 hashtag accruing 2.4B views as one reason for the growth and… yeah, we would, too.

3) New York City’s budget office found the total amount of unpaid fines for parking violations, speeding, running red lights, and unauthorized use of bus lanes there totaled $1.02B between 2017 and 2022. Normally, a chunk o’ change like that would raise our eyebrows, but this is New York drivers we’re talking about.

4) The IRS recently unveiled a game plan for its $80B in long-term funding, which includes improvements in tech, auditing, and making people who attempt to reach the agency on the phone a lot less pissed off. After a recent hiring push, the IRS is now answering 80%-90% of calls, up from 17% in 2022, and wait times are down to four minutes on average, down from 27 last year.

5) Illumination and Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie goomba-stomped multiple records over the weekend, scoring the biggest opening ever for an animated film — $377m worldwide — plus the biggest debut ever for a video game adaptation and the top opening of 2023. Mamma mia, that’s a lot of gold coins.

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😱 On this day: In 1953, the first 3D film in color — House of Wax starring Vincent Price — debuted.

🤯 That’s interesting: While renovating his home in Derinkuyu, Turkey, in 1963, a man uncovered a tunnel in his basement. It led to an entire abandoned city.

📩 Good read: Growth Daily is “The WSJ for marketers” covering the news, tips, and tools marketers and growth-minded founders need to crush their day.

🛌 How to: Stop revenge procrastinating when it’s bedtime.

🥕 Aww: And now, this looks comfy.

forgotten attachment meme

When you’re a master of words, but an apprentice at attachments. (Link)


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