Numlock News: March 3, 2020 • Cows, Dog, Goop
By Walt Hickey
There’s a lot of stuff that you can consume or pay someone to do to you that has purported positive effects despite not necessarily being backed up by medical science, and Morning Consult polled about those things to find out how many people are down. For example, 21 percent of respondents said they had used or eaten CBD-infused products, while 19 percent said they’d be down to try it. Some of them are popular but kind of maxed out on interest, but others are fairly niche with lots of room to grow: just 9 percent of people had tried a “sound bath” while 32 percent were intrigued, 6 percent had done raindrop therapy while 34 percent were down, and just 2 percent had tried flotation therapy while 27 percent would be willing to try it. Listen, have we considered that maybe the American people just kind of need a bath? Because I’m getting the sense that Gwyneth Paltrow types are just desperately hunting through a Thesaurus looking for ways to sell “a nice bath.”
While businesses that focus on travel have suffered amid fears over the global coronavirus outbreak, the way people work is adapting with unexpected consequences. It’s not just that over 230 trade shows have been cancelled or postponed. Companies that specialize in videoconferencing software are booming, such as Zoom, which is up 45 percent over the past month. In China and South Korea, the jump to working remotely has had material impacts on the quality of calls: phone call audio quality in those countries has deteriorated by about 10 percent thanks to the additional load.
Intuit, the owner of TurboTax, announced last week it would pay $7.1 billion to buy an ascending rival, Credit Karma. Still, there may be a violation of antitrust in play: Credit Karma may own a tiny fraction of the tax market with its completely free services, but that caused a ton of concern at Intuit, which made $1.7 billion from TurboTax last year. They controlled about 67 percent of the online tax prep market in 2019. Credit Karma prepped 1.5 million returns last year, a fraction of the 39 million prepped by TurboTax. This might not be a done deal.
Call of the Wild has made $79 million globally, which is a pretty good amount of money for a dog movie for children. Still, the movie is expected to lose about $50 million, because it cost $125 million to make and would need to break $250 million to $275 million to end up in the black, and a quarter billion dollars is a bananas quantity to expect for Call of the Wild to make. The movie cost that much because the dog was completely CGI, which is an incredible premium to put on a budget given there are literally places in every major North American city with a business model based on giving away dogs for basically free. That’s like spending $100 million to perfectly simulate the appearance of a pigeon or an AOL installation CD, they’re literally free.
New York City will lose about 30 public payphones that run on Ninth Avenue between West 23rd and 57th Street before the end of March. After that, New York’s Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications will rip out another 3,000 pay phones that inexplicably remain operational in New York City. That’s most of them, and CityBridge — the consortium that installs and maintains public communications structures in New York City — will likely eventually swap them out for the revenue-generating WiFi-enabled billboards of LinkNYC. Interestingly, four proper phone booths — on 66th, 90th, 100th and 101st streets — remain in operation, because why not. Those will remain in service in the metropolis indefinitely, thanks to a dedicated campaign from local journalism icon The Daily Planet, and despite suspiciously intense lobbying against them from local mogul and billionaire Lex Luthor, founder of LexCorp.
In the early 1970s, Wisconsin was home to 75,000 dairies. A wave of consolidation and a grueling business cycle has rendered the iconic family dairy unrecognizable today, as the state now has just 7,400 dairies. Half of neighboring Minnesota dairies don’t make a profit, but despite the business hardships for producers demand is the highest it’s been in 56 years, at 646 pounds of dairy per American in 2018. This has rewarded scale: 53 percent of American milk is produced by 3 percent of its farms.
For a while, specialty grocery stores were thriving, offering organic foods or fresher vegetables than the gigantic supermarket chains were capable of putting together. But the supermarkets caught on that they were losing the fight for people who wanted good food and have stormed into the space, with high-end grocery stores now struggling to compete with large chains capable of offering organic food at big box prices. Between 2009 and 2018, sales of organic foods jumped from $21.27 million to $47.86 million, but most of that $26.6 happened in the first couple years of that decade and the rate of growth is tapering off and slowing down.
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