Numlock News: May 11, 2022 • Marsquake, Undersea Cables, Rich Strike
By Walt Hickey
Thanks so much for all the well wishes!
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, a silkscreen image of Marilyn Monroe by artist Andy Warhol, sold for $195 million Monday in the most expensive sale ever of a work by an American artist at auction. It’s also now the most expensive work from the 20th century, and beat Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled which sold for $110.5 million in 2017. The buyer went unnamed, so congratulations to the petrochemical titan, princeling or metallurgy oligarch who presumably made off with the decorative tax shelter and inflation hedge.
The InSight lander has detected a magnitude 5 marsquake, the biggest tremor so far out of the 1,313 seismic events it’s measured since landing on Mars in 2018. So far, the largest one measured up to this point was a 4.2 magnitude marsquake. The planet is less geologically active than Earth, and the InSight lander’s French seismometer has helped to understand more about the underground of the planet. The lander’s primary mission ended in December 2020 and right now is on an extended mission through the end of the year, but it’s on borrowed time: Dust is collecting on InSight’s solar panels, and it doesn’t have a way to clear it off; without a stiff breeze, its days are thought to be numbered.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces the monthly Consumer Price Index data, which is an analysis of prices for a basket of goods that helps measure the inflation rate in the United States. Besides its informational use, that calculation has colossal reverberations across the federal government, directing the flow of lots of federal cost of living calculations. That all-powerful number is the result of the work of 477 people who are specifically employed by the government to track prices, sort of a secret shopper but for economists, going from shop to shop to see how prices of up to 100,000 goods and services move month to month.
Saturday’s Kentucky Derby saw an 80-1 underdog horse win the race, a shocking turn of events that had to be seen to be believed. No, I mean that literally: While 19 million watched the Derby live at its peak time on NBC and Peacock, fully 36 million people then subsequently watched the race’s finish on NBC Sports’ social media accounts, presumably people who had a phone shoved under their nose and told, “hey whoa check this out.” That figure doesn’t count the untold millions who checked out the race on a bootleg, non-NBC video clip.
A new report released by the Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers projected that the podcasting industry will generate revenues of $2 billion this year and $4 billion by 2024, a massive growth in ad spend for the growing medium. The amount of time spent listening is up, as is the amount of podcasts in general, but the big innovation for the industry has been dynamic ad insertion, which lets buyers target ads to listeners. Yes, previously ad buyers had to pick and choose shows based on what they thought the audience needed, just guessing which kinds of podcasts would be good for postage services and which would be good for mail-order mattresses and which podcasts just screamed “audience suffers from An Inhibition In The Means Of Attaining Gentlemanly Density.” But the dark ages are over: While dynamic podcast ads were less than half the market in 2019, last year 84 percent of ads were dynamic, and that’s only going up.
While the business of laying down thousands of miles of undersea cable had long been staked by local telecoms, increasingly it’s major internet players like Google and Meta footing the bill for immense cabling projects. For instance, the Equiano cable to connect Africa and Europe will improve Nigerian download speeds by a factor of six and cut the price of data by 21 percent, and it’s being staked by Google, acting with the motivation that you can’t show Google ads to people if those people have cruddy internet. The literal wires of the internet may be a bottleneck for the players operating at a global scale: In 2010, content providers consumed 6.3 percent of total international cable capacity. By 2021, that was 69 percent of cable capacity, a figure projected to rise to 78 percent by 2027.
This year there are going to be a projected 2.5 million weddings, up from 1.27 million weddings in 2020. In addition to being a massive glut of nuptials in general, supply chain snarls mean it’s actually getting pretty difficult to get suits delivered in good time. For instance, Vancouver-based Indochino — where about 35 percent of the business is in weddings — produces its suits in Dailan, China, and ships the custom suits to its North American customers through Shanghai, and while it takes an average of six days to complete a suit, add in the shipping problems inherent in getting items out of China and through Los Angeles these days and people are getting their attire dangerously close to the big day.
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