Numlock News: July 8, 2020 • Salad Bar, Stitcher, Roadkill
By Walt Hickey
The sneeze guard was simply not enough. The salad bar has been in peril for the past several years, and 2020 may yet prove to be a death blow to the renowned feta cheese distribution system. Supermarket salad bars have been in decline for years, with the 2.2 percent year-over-year drop in the weight of salad sold in 2016 expanding to an 8.7 percent drop in salad bar sales in 2019. This year has been apocalyptic: in the 52 weeks ending June 14, salad bar volumes were down 30.8 percent at grocery stores, and a market research survey found over 80 percent of consumers say grocery store salad bars are too risky. There are usurpers waiting in the wings for the end of the egalitarian simplicity of a chilled row of chaffing dishes stocked with greens, namely a $35,000 robot that makes salads, it looks like a vending machine, and I hate it because I know someone already coded a maximum allowable amount of cheese into it before there’s a price increase. Pimento-stuffed olives are legally a vegetable, fight me.
Of 4,300 television episodes produced in the 2018-19 season, 31 percent were directed by women. That’s up from the prior season — when 25 percent were by women — and has doubled over the past five years, per the DGA. There is some encouraging progress, particularly in the gender breakdown for first-time directors: almost half of first-time hires in the 2018-19 season were women, which is up from 41 percent the prior season.
The sheer number of animals that are struck and killed by motorists is believed to be massive. A study put the estimate in Europe at 200 million birds and 30 million mammals each year, while in the U.S. the best estimate is 1 million animals become roadkill each day. The stay-at-home orders led to an immediate reduction in roadkill in some states: researchers documented a 21 percent decline in California in the four-week stay-at-home order, a 38 percent reduction in Idaho, and a 44 percent reduction in Maine. Over the course of a year of reduced travel, in those three states alone an estimated 27,000 large animals would live rather than meeting their maker in the grill of an SUV. This isn’t squirrels and raccoons we’re talking here: mountain lion roadkill was down 58 percent in California.
Today’s standard video-encoding is H.265, which needs about 10 gigabytes of data to transfer a 90 minute 4K definition video. The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute in Germany has announced the next encoding, H.266, which needs half the bitrate. That means it can do a 90-minute 8K video for 10 gigs, or can move that 4K video with just 5 GB of data. Switching to a new encoding isn’t just flipping a switch — phones need new chips in order to record and play back footage in the format, and existing recordings will need to be re-encoded. It might be doable only on a faster processor, but Apple, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Intel and Huawei were all involved in some way in its development, so it could indeed become the norm at some point. The reason to consider pushing adoption of the new format is that in order to stream 8K video, you need an internet connection over 85 megabits per second, and let’s be real, nobody’s getting that, so adopting the standard could help people get more mileage out of their internet bandwidth.
Sirius XM is close to buying Stitcher Inc. from E.W. Scripps for something like $300 million, which would buy the satellite radio company a seat at the table in the forthcoming battle over audio turf in a podcast business fight with players like Spotify, Apple and iHeartMedia. Stitcher owns an app and a $4.99 monthly subscription service, as well as the podcasting network Earwolf. Stitcher, best known to comedy nerds as the producer of The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project but to everyone else as the people behind Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Comedy Bang Bang and Freakonomics Radio, also runs an ad unit that serves ads for shows like My Favorite Murder and WTF With Mark Maron. This would be a tidy return on investment for Scripps, which bought Midroll for $50 million in 2015 and Stitcher for $4.5 million in 2016 and combined them to make the current unit.
In the United Kingdom, 50 movie theaters opened up over the weekend, and the winner at the box office was Pixar’s Onward, which earned a grand total of £21,626 ($27,000) in the entire country. That is a per-screen average of $576. Interestingly, Trolls World Tour — the film that was released direct to video on demand after a scrapped theatrical run, which caused a freak out from movie theaters in the U.S. and a threatened boycott of Universal Pictures by jilted cinemas — made $21,000.
International students are the lifeblood of U.S. universities and a massive financial contributor to the colleges’ bottom lines, paying $44.7 billion in tuition, living expenses and books in 2018. Chinese students have accounted for most of the growth from international students in the past decade; in 2009, there were 128,000 international students studying in the U.S. from China, with 563,000 international students from everywhere else in the world. In 2018, there were 370,000 Chinese students and 726,000 students from the rest of the world. In addition to expanding the talent pool of applicants, international student more often pay full freight to study, supporting the institution and keeping tuition costs lower for domestic students. A survey of 600 colleges and universities from May found 88 percent projected international student enrollment to drop, and 30 percent forecasted a substantial decline. This is potentially good news for the neighbors: in 2019, the number of international students who took their studies to Canada rose 13 percent.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends. Go to swag.numlock.news to claim some free merch when you invite someone.