🥶 It's freezing out there
I wish I was talking about the weather. Big Tech signals real market slowdown.
👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.
In this edition
Tech freeze hiring explained (kinda)
Brain-computer interface startup Synchron implants first device in US patient
Netflix loses fewer subscribers than expected (still a loss, but stock is up)
Why are companies, even Big Tech freezing hiring?
The biggest news of the week has been a string of stories about the hiring freeze at Big Tech and layoffs at startups and other companies.
According to Bloomberg, Microsoft cut less than 1% of its 180,000-person workforce, affecting groups such as consulting and customer solutions. The company is also eliminating many open positions, including in its Azure cloud business and its security software unit, as the economy continues to weaken.
This week, Google also announced it will pause hiring for two weeks, except for offers that have already been made, after saying last week it would slow hiring for the rest of 2022.
Apple is planning to slow hiring in 2023. Some groups won’t see increased staff next year and some positions won’t be back-filled.
Many companies have also been affected by layoffs. Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud announced that the company would be laying off 6 percent of its staff even though it had already slowed down hiring. Tesla, Substack, Netflix, and Twitter have had to do layoffs recently, too.
Earlier in the year, Meta froze hiring, downsized or dismantled teams and stopped developing features, and Elon Musk had also had a 'super bad feeling' about the economy and planned to cut 10% of Tesla jobs.
Yahoo Finance has a long long long list of others, if you’re interested.
Why are even the biggest companies out there scaling back? Uncertainty, to put it in one word, and bracing for worst if the economy takes a downturn.
Also, looking at the biggest tech companies with vast throves of user data reacting very carefully one might follow suit. Not that they see the future, but if they are afraid of what is coming, we all should be very careful.
🧠 Brain-computer interface startup Synchron implants first device in a US patient. The hope is that the patient, who’s lost the ability to move and speak, will be able to surf the web and communicate via email and text simply by thinking – the device will translate his thoughts into commands sent to a computer. As Bloomberg pointed out, this step puts the startup ahead of Musk’s Neuralink. Synchron has already implanted its devices in four patients in Australia, who haven’t experienced side effects and have been able to carry out such tasks as sending WhatsApp messages and making online purchases. Founded in 2016, Synchron has caught the attention of the brain-computer interface (BCI) field because its device, known as the stentrode, can be inserted into the brain without cutting through a person’s skull or damaging their tissue. [Bloomberg]
RELATED: Paul Merolla, a founding member of Elon Musk's Neuralink left the company in recent weeks. There were eight people, including Merolla and Musk, who helped set up Neuralink six years ago, according to the two sources. Merolla's exit leaves only one Neuralink founding member. [Reuters]
🦾 New experiments show simulated robotic limbs can feel like a part of our own body with a little practice. Researchers immersed participants in a VR environment that included an avatar of themselves—with an extra pair of virtual robotic arms just below their real ones. Participants controlled the simulated robo-arms using sensors attached to their feet and waist. [Scientific American]
💸 Instagram launches a new “payments in chat” feature in the US that lets users buy products with Meta Pay and track orders from small businesses via DMs. As someone on social media pointed out “great, this is the feature I wanted Instagram to have ten years ago”. [TechCrunch]
🛒 ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, is testing a food delivery feature in China that allows some restaurants to deliver meals to the users of Douyin (TikTok’s sister app for China). The launch of the new feature, reported earlier by Chinese news outlets, is currently only available to a small number of users in limited locations, because the number of restaurants participating in the program is still very small. Restaurants using the feature can receive food delivery orders from Douyin users through live-streaming broadcasts. [The Information]
🎨 OpenAI expands access to DALL-E 2, its powerful image-generating AI system. The company announced in a blog post that it will expedite access for customers on the waitlist with the goal of reaching roughly 1 million people within the next few weeks. You can join the waiting list here. [TechCrunch]
🎓 Europe’s top 10 ‘unicorn universities’ 2022, whose founders have launched the most unicorns. Paris-based Insead ranks no.1 and was also ranked as the best business school in Europe. University of Cambridge comes second and then Stockholm University at third place. [Sifted.eu]
👨⚖️ The Delaware Court of Chancery grants Twitter an expedited five-day trial in October in its lawsuit against Elon Musk. Musk wanted a trial to commence next year. [CNBC]
🤓 A nice overview of Google Docs features. Some you already know, some you don’t, this is a usefull Twitter thread. [@thatroblennon]
👀 Netflix loses fewer subscribers than expected and says cheaper ad tier is coming in early 2023. The company reported Q2 revenue was up 8.6% YoY with a 970K subscriber loss vs an estimated 2M subscriber loss. Netflix said during earnings call it will likely start the ad tier in a handful of markets where advertising spend is significant. [CNBC]
RELATED: Netflix tests charging customers in five Latin American countries an extra fee if they use an account for more than two weeks outside of their primary residence. [Bloomberg]
📺 In the US, video streaming usage increases 21% in a year to now account for nearly one-third of total TV time. No.1 is Netflix (6.8%), followed by YouTube (6.7%), Hulu (3.4%), Amazon Prime Video (2.6%) and Disney+ (1.7%). [Nielsen]
🤗 You can now use bold, italics and strike-through formatting in YouTube descriptions. [Social Media Today]
📊 Rise of subscription sleepers: Over 43% of digital media subscribers become inactive the day after they subscribe. That’s up from 39% in 2021. [Axios]
🎬 Amazon is redesigning its Prime Video platform (finally). Prime Video’s megabudget “Lord of the Rings” series will debut on September which gives it time to work out the new design. It’s rolling out on smart TVs and Android devices first. [NYT]
💰 Disney secures record $9bn in upfront ad sales for 2022-23. [Reuters]
🎭 Adrian Bliss, whose skits you might know from TikTok, is a good example of how an “overnight success” is actually a creator a decade in making. He has been creating videos since 2013 on YouTube and got popular with his characteristic videos on TikTok which he also publishes now on YouTube. [The Publish Press]
👏 Discord surpasses 500M downloads. The average session time per daily active user (DAU) on Discord is twice as long as that of streaming platform Twitch, and more than double that of Facebook Gaming, Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, and Snap (chart below). [Apptopia]
🤷♂️ Facebook splits the Feed on iOS and Android into Home, a TikTok-style tab with recommended content, and Feeds, a chronological tab of followed pages and people. I mean, at this point, who cares? [The Verge]
📈 Instagram has become the most popular news source for young British teenagers, according to research commissioned by the UK’s media regulator, with BBC TV channels sliding from first to fifth place in the past year. [FT]
FROM THE FIX
[ 📬 Get The Fix newsletter delivered to your inbox every week with the latest insights, news, and analysis about the European media market. Sign up here > ]
🎧 Grow your podcast audience from scratch: 15 practical strategies to get you started. I spoke at a conference and made my presentation into an article. I’ve tried to make it as practical as possible. [The Fix]
🗣 A profile of Stories from Chora Media, a popular 7-minute long daily news podcast in Italy, and its creator Cecilia Sala, a 26-year-old foreign correspondent. “The idea is always to start with a scene, a detail or a character, famous or unknown, that is symbolic in some way and is an instrument to tell a larger, more universal story,” she told Reuters Institute. [Reuters Institute]
❓ Poll: Is your company also acting with more caution due to economic uncertainty?
Last poll results: Do you think more people should have access to DALL•E? 60% said yes, 20% think it should be limited and 20% are a bit scared by it.
🙏 And big thanks to Celine Bijleveld who helped me edit this newsletter. You can follow her on Substack here.