Numlock News: August 8, 2018
By Walt Hickey
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America has too many places to buy a bed. From 2009 to 2017, the number of U.S. stores that sold mattresses rose to 15,255, a 32 percent increase. There are literally only 14,079 McDonald’s in the U.S. This cutthroat competition — plus e-commerce competition that compelled brick and mortar researchers to, well, go to the mattresses — has forced the top mattress retailer in America, Mattress Firm, to close hundreds of stores in a tactical retreat.
Match Group owns about 45 brands that help people find other people who would like to date, marry or have anonymous sex with them, but the prized gem of their personals empire is Tinder. Yesterday, Match announced Tinder has over 3.7 million paid subscribers, up 81 percent from the same quarter in 2017, which is a major chunk of the paid subscribers for all Match brands, which numbered 7.7 million people during the three months of the second quarter. What I think is wild about this is only 3 percent of Match revenue comes from ads, with most of the remaining earnings coming from paid subscriptions. What a fascinating and fundamentally sustainable business model!
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Trust In Media
A new study polled the favorability ratings of a number of major news outlets, with networks like PBS, NBC, ABC and the BBC having the strongest favorability ratings. But the most universally loved network was, in fact, The Weather Channel, which had 85 percent of respondents indicate a favorable opinion and only 7 percent hold unfavorable views. When a hurricane hits Florida, The Weather Channel doesn’t cut to a round table of meteorologists, a former aide to Hurricane Andrew, an insurance industry lobbyist and some crackpot funded by a billionaire’s anti-Doppler Radar PAC.
Attendance was up 4.8 percent at SeaWorld, which depending on who you ask is either a theme park owner or a private prison company for orcas that also sells concessions. The company is on a turnaround after both offering free beer in some facilities and also recording a $4 million expense with the federal government to settle claims that the previous management downplayed the financial impact of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.”
Workplace programs designed to improve the health and fitness of employees are all the rage, but new research that controls for the inherent participation bias of the programs casts some doubt on their efficacy. Basically, healthier and more active people are more likely to sign up for a program that gives a financial incentive for being healthy and active, which distorts studies looking at whether wellness efforts actually work. One study structured to work around these issues found that what looked like a reduction in average hospital costs — wellness program participants had only $273 in costs versus $387 for those who didn’t participate — were wiped out ($317 versus $297) when the analysis was properly structured as a randomized controlled trial.
Mobile Phone Chargers and Cables
The European Union has, since 2009, attempted to pressure 14 tech companies to work toward a common charging standard by 2011. Thirteen of those signatories switched to USB. The last one, Apple, rolled out clunky adapters that will allow its proprietary plug to work with USB. The European Commission estimated that 51,000 tons of old chargers and cables are thrown away every year, and it’s considering forcing a common standard on chargers to fight that.
The U.S. imports roughly 480 tons of asbestos every year from Brazil and Russia, virtually all of which is used in the industrial process to make chlorine. Explicitly banned in most countries, asbestos — the carcinogen responsible for about 40,000 related deaths in the U.S. annually — is still, technically, legal in the U.S., just ridiculously restricted. New rules from the EPA, though, will allow the creation of new products that contain asbestos.
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