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Tuesday, May 16, 2023 by Snacks
United Airlines pilots at SFO (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

United Airlines pilots at SFO (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

United Airlines pilots at SFO (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

United Airlines pilots at SFO (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Yesterday’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
33,349 (+0.14%)
S&P 500
4,136 (+0.30%)
12,365 (+0.66%)
$27,367 (+1.64%)

Hey Snackers,

Bad news for WaterTok fans who love adding Skittles powder to H20: the World Health Organization recommended against consuming non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss, pointing to a review that suggested “potential undesirable” health effects from long-term use.

Stocks ticked up yesterday as investors hoped for progress on the debt-ceiling drama (ICYMI: the US could default as soon as June if the limit isn’t raised). Today, President Biden is expected to meet with congressional leaders to discuss.


1. US pilots seem set on striking as staffing shortages collide with booming vacay demand

The seat-belt sign is on… and there could be turbulence ahead for summer travelers. At least 25K US pilots have voted to authorize a strike this month as peak travel season approaches and new contracts haven’t been reached with major carriers. Pilots at American Airlines and Southwest overwhelmingly approved a strike, and those at United picketed last week.

  • Full flight: 80% of US air travel is flown by four carriers — American, United, Southwest, and Delta — three of which have potential work stoppages looming.

  • Slipstream: After Delta pilots authorized a strike last year, the airline approved a $7.2B pay hike that’ll boost wages by 34% over four years. Pilots at competing airlines are seeking similar deals, plus more reliable schedules.

  • Red-eye: For airlines this is particularly bad timing for a labor dispute. The industry faces a staffing crunch, Boeing jet shortages, and booming summer demand.

Planes, trains, and labor disputes… Airline and railway strikes are rare because Congress can vote to block them with a law that protects interstate commerce (see: Biden blocking a nationwide rail strike in December). But frustrated pilots could still disrupt airline schedules by refusing to work overtime. Meanwhile, airlines are facing a surge in pilot retirements given the FAA’s age limit of 65: half will be forced to retire in the next 15 years.


Essential workers are waiting for their payday… Pilots — like rail workers, delivery drivers, educators, and nurses — were all essential to the economy as the pandemic halted work in other sectors. Contract negotiations are coming due in nearly all these industries, as essential workers come out of the pandemic without significant pay bumps. If unresolved, it could mean disruptions in everything from shipping to healthcare.


2. Vice Media goes bankrupt as buzzy digital publishers lose their click status

Sunset in Viceland… Vice Media, the news company behind sites like Motherboard, Refinery29, and (of course) Vice.com, has filed for bankruptcy. Yesterday it agreed to sell most of its assets to a group of creditors for $225M — a far cry from its $5B+ valuation six years ago. Refresher: Vice launched in the mid-'90s and quickly gained fame thanks to its edgy headlines and quirky docu-series (see: “Snakeman”). But Vice has struggled to turn a profit as news-consumption habits shift.

  • Old series: Vice's monthly US visitors dropped to 20M in March — just half its audience in 2019. Last week it axed 100 jobs and its flagship “Vice News Tonight” program.

  • New chapter: The company says it plans to use the creditors’ cash to keep biz running as usual, while looking for a larger buyout offer to help escape its $800M+ of debt.

The digi-darling downfall… Vice’s bankruptcy follows the unraveling of other digital-native media sites that’ve struggled to keep eyeballs. Last month BuzzFeed closed its news division, and its stock has plunged 90% since its SPAC IPO in 2021. And last week Paramount shuttered MTV News after 36 years on the air. In 2017 Mashable sold for a fifth of its 2016 valuation.


News go-tos are consolidating views… Half of US adults are getting some or most of their news from social media, redirecting precious ad dollars away from digital publishers. While buzzy headlines from Vice and BuzzFeed can rack up likes on social feeds, it doesn’t translate to consistent site traffic. Meanwhile, traditional publishers are holding their weight: The New York Times added 1M digital-only subscribers last year, in its second-best year for online subs.


3. Heard on the Block: "Sybil attack"

🥸 When someone makes a bunch of alt accounts to dominate a Twitter poll…

On the internet nobody knows you're a dog, or that you're behind the 70 profiles voting #beef in a pet-food company's poll. A "Sybil attack" involves creating numerous accounts to manipulate a system (picture: bots), and it's a long-standing problem in cybersecurity and crypto. Sam Altman's worldcoin, which uses eye-scanning orbs to establish a person's uniqueness (and reward them with crypto), is said to be on the verge of scoring $100M in funding.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Prep’d: The Biden admin is testing a government-run online tax-filing option. Americans with simple returns would file free with the IRS, threatening the likes of TurboTax and H&R Block.

  • Level1: EU regulators approved Microsoft's $69B plan to buy “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard, but the mega-merger still has to get approval from regulators in the US and the UK, both of which are trying to block it.

  • Bet: Sports-merch retailer Fanatics is getting into betting, agreeing to buy PointsBet's US biz for $150M. Sports betting on apps like DraftKings and FanDuel is booming as legalization spreads to more states.

  • Reverse: General Motors recalled nearly 1M SUVs Friday over concerns of an exploding airbag part. Auto recalls have ramped up: Ford and BMW issued warnings and recalls recently, also over airbag issues.

  • Gassy: US natural-gas-pipeline operator Oneok agreed to buy its oil-moving rival Magellan for almost $19B. As renewable energy gains ground, pipeline operators are increasingly scooping each other up to fuel growth.

Snack Fact of the Day

Nearly half of Americans eat at least three snacks a day


  • Earnings expected from Baidu, Home Depot, and Vodafone

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: Delta, GM, and Microsoft

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