Numlock News: May 16, 2019 • Honey, Peas, Ransomware
By Walt Hickey
Good fences may make good neighbors, but the app NextDoor wants to break down those fences and connect you to your neighbors, which walking through the metaphor kind of sounds terrible. Investors are looking past the fact that the less that people know about others, the better we’re able to improvise social cohesion and are dumping a fortune into the app: it secured a $123 million round that gives it a $2.1 billion valuation. The conceit is that NextDoor enables neighbors to meet through location-based message boards, which I’m sure sounded great in theory to a person that has never been to a single HOA or neighborhood board meeting in their entire life. Worth highlighting is that the $112.4 million invested in 48 social media startups by venture capital firms was the lowest since 2005, signaling that just maybe we’ll soon be free of social dilettantes attempting to profit by mining into our collective sense of discretion.
Not So Fast, Sheldon
While Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory are getting all the headlines about the record-breaking tune-in for live television audiences, another nerdy staple has sneakily stolen the title of most-watch prime time broadcast: Jeopardy! brought in 13.3 million viewers on average in the week ending May 5. Literally 8.3 percent of U.S. television homes watching at some point, the best weekly average in 14 years. That handily makes The Big Bang Theory (12.5 million viewers) and Game of Thrones (11.8 million) look niche by comparison. Granted, Jeopardy! doesn’t have any particular re-watch or delayed viewing traction, as the other shows have in spades, but it’s always nice to see syndicated programming do a flex for the fans. And imagine, for the tens if not hundreds of millions needed to make those episodes happen, Trebek got away with paying just $1.7 million so far.
Wednesday saw the three left eastbound lanes of I-80 in Indiana close following a semi truck hauling 41,000 pound of amber honey overturning before the morning rush. It took until 1:30 in the afternoon to wipe up the mess, described as a mixture of diesel and honey, which is a great name for a band. Five containers of honey spilled from the trailer, and at least half of the other eight were leaking.
As the internet has managed to wipe out a number of previously stable occupations — retailer, travel agent, financial advisors — real estate agents have seen their commissions and headcount fairly undisturbed by the onset of the internet. Even though half of buyers find a house online, 87 percent of those buyers still end up retaining an agent who gets 3 percent despite not in fact finding them that home. The average commission — split by buyer’s agent and seller’s agent — declined from 6.1 percent in 1991 to 5.1 percent in 2016, but lots of that drop is in luxury homes. There are now 1.36 million members of the National Association of Realtors, but three lawsuits may do what no startup has done yet by alleging that the steady commissions are the result of collusion by NAR, which violates antitrust laws, an allegation which is disputed by the group.
Now that we’ve all apparently agreed to take veggie burgers seriously as a product class, it’s time to look in on what’s really behind the meat alternatives. Peas, the answer is peas. Soy fell out of favor, and the star ingredient in an increasing number of the faux-flesh is the humble pea, and it’s all part of Canada’s long plan to dominate the world. Global pea protein sales are projected to quadruple by 2025 thanks in a major way to the meat substitutes. Canada is most poised to capitalize, accounting for a projected 30 percent of all pea production by 2020. Right now, producers of the meat substitutes are locking down supply chains and shaking a lot of pea farmer’s hands.
A ransomware attack is when a hacker obtains access to your computer, encrypts all your files and then demands bitcoin in exchange for the password. If it sucks as an individual, for companies, hospitals and law enforcement it’s a nightmare that costs thousands. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center counted 1,493 ransomware victims in 2018, but most companies that get data taken hostage prefer that to remain on the down-low, and the actual estimate from the Department of Homeland Security is 4,000 ransomware attacks per day for about 1.5 million per year. There are companies that purport to step in and use technology to decrypt the hacked tech for a fee, which is a real blessing. Or it would be, except for the fact that a ProPublica investigation found that some of these companies just pay the ransom and take some profit on top, restoring the client’s system and letting the afflicted client keep plausible deniability.
The Net Is Dark And Full Of Terrors
HBO is having one of the most consequential months of its existence with the conclusion of Game of Thrones, which is why it’s kind of baffling that they’ve had such a difficult time containing spoilers and leaks. Film studios and television shows have all sorts of ways to keep the lid on when it comes to hot-ticket media, so why does Thrones seem to scoop the wire on a nigh weekly basis? The issue is that HBO has to distribute the show to something like 180 markets a day ahead of time for translation and simultaneous air purposes. You might think, well, why bother with all 180 of them if clearly a few are just going to leak it early, and the answer is two-fold: HBO has to air it worldwide simultaneously or the show will be pirated basically immediately, and the second is that North American HBO subscribers are distinctly outnumbered on this one. HBO has about 140 million global subscribers, and even more millions get Thrones through a licensed third party and only 50 million live in the U.S.
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