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A Macroeconomic Internet “Bakery”

We know the internet is simultaneously a recent invention, integrated into every niche of our lives, and difficult to understand fully. I like to anchor theoretical questions—how does the internet actually work?—in specific case studies. Today’s podcast guest, Lev Borodovsky, creator of The Daily Shot, is one of them.

Lev has created a daily email with a pile of macroeconomic charts that thousands of people—myself included—subscribe to. Think of it like a bakery (fresh bread each morning) only the hot rolls are snapshots of macroeconomic conditions. Below is one of today’s charts. (Note the jump in hospital costs, exactly what Mario Schlosser, founder of Oscar, discussed on the previous podcast.)

Lev’s success is a revealing data point. There is an important difference between disruptive inventions and cash flow. Airplanes are a wonderful invention but the cash flow from investing in them isn’t very good. Who makes money on the internet?

We know part of the answer is behemoths like Amazon that use scale to displace Walmart and Costco. Another part of the answer is that consumers enjoy lower prices, what economists call a “consumer surplus.” But there are also individual operators with a niche product and a well-defined audience that otherwise would not exist. That’s Lev.

He created The Daily Shot by accident and his missive hits inboxes at 6 am sharp each day. It is not as widely read as, say, The New York Times, but that doesn’t matter. As long as Lev keeps his expenses contained and quality high, he has figured out how to make a profitable “bakery.” As you will hear, like any exceptional baker, he is obsessed with quality.

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