Numlock News: May 27, 2022 • Reality TV, Scooters, Vinyl
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend! We’re off on Monday in observation of Memorial Day.
The median compensation package for a CEO of an S&P 500 company was up 17.1 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, hitting $14.5 million. That growth vastly outpaces the 4.4 percent increase in wages that private sector workers got over the same period. Obviously, lots of that compensation is locked up in options that can't be immediately cashed out or are contingent on continued performance, but the gap between worker pay and boss pay is really bad: At half the companies, it would take the median worker at those companies 186 years to make what their CEO made, up from 166 years in 2020.
In April of 2022, the four big scooter-sharing companies — Lime, Voi, Tier and Bird — had 12.5 million monthly active users, up from 8.3 million last year and on par with the 12.1 million users who were on the platforms in 2019. The big thing that the companies like Lime have worked on is the lifespan of those scooters. Originally their first generation scooters lasted less than two months in the field on average, scooters that were bought off the rack and applied to heavy commercial use. The newest Gen 4 scooters are the result of over a year of in-house engineering and are designed with a replaceable battery that means the equipment can withstand five years of use.
A new airborne lidar survey, which uses infrared lasers to penetrate just a little bit below the solid surface of the earth, has turned up the obscured ruins of 11 indigenous towns in northern Bolivia and also found new details on walls and important buildings in 17 other previously known settlements. The places were home to the Casarabe, a mysterious ancient civilization that hasn't had the same kind of attention that the Maya and Olmec have.
College enrollment in the spring 2022 semester in the United States was 15.9 million, down 4.1 percent and down substantially from the 17.1 million students in higher ed in 2020. Naturally, there are some bright spots and some particularly grim ones. On one hand, freshman enrollment is up 4.2 percent, a major correction from the decline of 3.5 percent seen last spring. On the other hand, public community colleges have taken the brunt of the decline, seeing their student count down 7.8 percent compared to last spring.
This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to the brilliant Ed Zitron, of the excellent Where’s Your Ed At newsletter. Ed joined us a few months ago on the Sunday edition talking about bad management and return-to-office shenanigans, and the response to it was so good I’ve been itching for a chance to get him back on. Ed’s been writing about two major topics, one being companies attempting to drag their workers back into an office, and the other being cryptocurrency exploiting retail investors, and we dived in. Ed can be found at his newsletter and on Twitter.
The FTC is refining the way it handles endorsements and the liabilities that spokespeople and influencers have regarding the products they shill, a guide initially enacted in 1980 and then subsequently updated in 2009. This has a pretty significant impact in college sports, where the new ability of student athletes to make money off of their name, images and likenesses means that nearly 70 percent of those deals are related to influencing and posting content. The new rules could put the college students on the hook for the products they plug, as they would make endorsers liable for their statements and if they’re deceptive or not. That means if an athlete is caught shilling goop or powder with unsubstantiated or misleading claims, that could actually provoke a negative consequence.
One of the most consequential but nevertheless hilarious trends in the music business has been the resurgence of vinyl, which grew from a $14.2 million business as recently as 2005 to a $1 billion market last year. The buyers for vinyl are far beyond the original core set that kept the tables turning, according to surveys conducted by the RIAA, as only 38 percent of the current market has even been collecting vinyl for more than ten years. In fact, a third of the 17.6 million buyers of vinyl have been in the game for less than two years. Anyway, congrats to those 5.8 million people on their recent acquisition of Rumours, In the Aeroplane Over The Sea and Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1; you’re gonna love it here.
WarnerMedia and Discovery
Two massive pop culture companies — WarnerMedia, which is behind Warner Bros and HBO, and Discovery, which is behind A+E, Discovery and Food Network — have tied the knot, and with that it means that their two streaming services, HBO Max and Discovery+, are becoming a bundle. They’re really complementary: 69.9 percent of the demand for Discovery+ was for reality television, and 23.9 percent was for documentary content. On HBO Max, those are thin slivers, with reality just 4 percent of demand and documentary just 5.3 percent, with most of the rest coming from drama (24.9 percent), comedy (22.7 percent) and animation (15.4 percent).
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