🧽 Sponge cities are the future - The Hustle
The Hustle

🧽 Sponge cities are the future

Plus: Too many apps, cool photos of tiny things, a special chameleon, and more.

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Silent-film star Anna May Wong will be the first Asian American featured on US currency as part of the American Women Quarters Program.

In today’s email:

  • Uber: Get ready for the ads.
  • Chart: App overload.
  • Sponge cities: They’re soaking up excess water.
  • Around the Web: A rare chameleon, microscope photos, pumpkin care, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Jacob and Rob break down Uber’s big bet on advertising, Amazon’s clever Black Friday move, Tesla’s earnings, and more.

The big idea

Zachary Crockett

Uber: Serving up rides, chow, and… ads

It’s been a big week for advertising.

On Tuesday, Netflix — once an advertising foe — answered analysts’ burning questions about its upcoming ad-supported plan.

Then yesterday, Uber hold-my-beer’ed them, detailing plans for its own foray into ads.

Uber? Advertising?

Consider this: The company facilitated 1.87B trips last quarter across rides and deliveries, with its 122m monthly users averaging five interactions with the company each month.

Those interactions — sitting in a car, ordering a burger — equate to mountains of face time from eyeballs with strong consumer intent, meaning Uber now commands a remarkably powerful platform for serving ads.

The company says…

… early tests have “surpassed expectations.”

  • Within apps, brands can sponsor listings and place ads on storefronts or after checkout, among other things. Over 40 brands are on board, including NBCUniversal and Heineken.
  • Uber is also testing in-car tablets in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and already offers drivers electronic rooftop billboards.

Does this help drivers?

Uber’s head of mobility recently noted that advertising revenue could subsidize Uber’s costs without decreasing driver earnings.

To its credit, Lyft has been doing much of this since August. Its tablets offer riders a map, plus options for tipping, which the company found increase 28% per ride with the tablet.

Notably, the tablets also offer controls for the world’s highest-pressure responsibility — controlling the music.


Sheesh: McDonald’s adult Happy Meals are selling out fast, and one eBay seller listed three unopened toys for a cool $300k.


Friday football? An exclusive “Black Friday” NFL game will air next year on Prime Video. With it, the NFL gets another weekday, and Amazon — more people who might buy toilet paper.

BMW announced plans to invest $1.7B to produce EVs and batteries in the US.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured the iconic Pillars of Creation in pristine detail. Hubble famously photographed the pillars in 1995.

Another day, another AI image thingy. Adobe’s Project Motion Mix is AI tech that turns still photos into dancing animations.

Fancy a cuppa? British inflation is at a 40-year high, with prices up 10.1% YoY. Food was up 14.6% through September.

Big news, Angelenos: Google-owned autonomous taxi company Waymo is bringing its ride-hailing service to LA.

The IRS will increase the standard deduction and income thresholds for 2023 due to high inflation.

Metaverse bummer: The Sundance Film Festival nixed its New Frontier program for 2023, which features experimental content in VR and AR, and its online social hub, The Spaceship.

Listen up: The Hustle listened to hours of audio and pulled together a definitive list of 20 business podcast creators that deserve way more hype.


Singdhi Sokpo

More apps, more problems

Apple’s “there’s an app for that” was a fun ad slogan. But now, there may be too many apps for too many things.

Okta, a platform that connects employees to apps, found that companies used an average of 89 different apps in 2021, up from 58 in 2015, per Bloomberg.

  • One study found workers across three large employers switched between apps ~1.2k times daily.

The problem

Apps are supposed to make life easier, but app overload actually decreases focus and boosts stress.

Frustrations only increase when companies change apps frequently, require employees to remember a bunch of passwords and complicated login procedures, or when notifications are constantly pinging.

  • In fact, complaints about apps increased 32% in 2021, and an average of 76 employees quit per year because they’re so vexed by tech.

The solution? Well, it could be to streamline or consolidate apps across the company to make sure there are no redundancies — but that might mean installing yet another app.

Green Infrastructure

Sponge cities are sopping up climate change

When it rains, it pours. And climate change means it’s been raining more than ever.

Global cities, built in dryer times, aren’t prepared to handle the flooding caused by increased rainfall. Where there was once grass and soil to soak up water, there’s now impenetrable cement. (Something about paving paradise to put up a parking lot.)

To prepare for soggier days ahead…

… urban planners around the world are transforming concrete jungles into “sponge cities,” per Wired. Sponge cities are structured to soak up water rather than repel it, using tools like:

  • Permeable surfaces, such as concrete bricks separated by crushed stone
  • Rain gardens, which can divert and collect excess rainwater
  • Vegetated swales, AKA plant-filled ditches that soak up runoff water

But water isn’t always bad

As storms become more frequent and severe, so will droughts — so the ability to collect groundwater for drinking, cooking, and cleaning will be invaluable.

In case Mother Earth didn’t have enough problems, sea levels are rising, making spongy infrastructure even more important for coastal cities.

And you might absorb some of the cost: Cities such as Pittsburgh and Los Angeles are already taxing residents for their property’s impermeable surfaces.


🦶 On this day: In 1967, two men claimed to have filmed Bigfoot in California. Many have tried to prove or disprove the footage, known as the Patterson-Gimlin film.

🎃 How to: Make your jack-o’-lanterns last with proper pumpkin care.

🎥 Neat: Type any phrase into this website to surface movies in which it’s said.

🔬 Wow: See the winners of Nikon’s Small World 2022 Photomicrography Competition, which celebrates images taken through a microscope.

🦎 Aww: Conservationists at the UK’s Chester Zoo have hatched 10 Parson’s chameleons. The rare reptile is the largest chameleon in the world, and its eggs can take two years to hatch.


AI-generated image of “a spaceship launching big tomatoes on the Colosseum.” Prompt courtesy of Riccardo from Italy. (Have an idea? Submit it here.)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst, Sara Cravatts.
Editing by: Mark “Appetizer Overload” Dent.

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