Numlock News: October 29, 2019 • Pokémon, Bowling, Moisturizer
By Walt Hickey
Gotta Catch Em All
A Pokémon card has sold for $195,000 at auction, information that I think necessitates the invention of a time machine so I can alert every adult in my life in 2000 that these are, indeed, investment vehicles and not merely the passing obsession of a completionist child. The card is “Pikachu Illustrator” and it’s a 1998 hologram promotional card of which only 39 were produced, and allocated to the winners of an illustration contest. Only 10 copies are confirmed to still exist, which sounds about right, as “74 percent” is a pretty reasonable fraction of Pokémon card collections doomed to disposal, yard sales, and fraternal larceny.
Silicon Valley is built on the notion that investing a comparatively small sum of money in just the right batch of talents can lead to enormous profits down the line. This year the largest firms are exercising that strategy hand over fist, cranking up their investments in lobbying congress and the federal government amid enormous scrutiny of the firms and their business practices in the nation’s capitol. Facebook cranked up lobbying spending 25 percent higher in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period of 2018 to $12.3 million. Amazon upped its investment in lobbying 16 percent to $12.4 million. Apple and Microsoft, hardly strangers on the Hill, have also turned the lobbying heat up by 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Literally the only company that spent more on lobbyists than Facebook was Northrop Grumman, which makes ships for the Navy.
The number of Americans in bowling leagues fell from over 9 million in the late 1970s to 1.34 million bowlers in 2017-18. Now, though, bowling alleys are catching back on, as the eternal appeal of drinking heavily and knocking things over has been re-discovered by a new generation. In August 1989, 92,200 people were employed at bowling centers, which fell consistently until bottoming out in June 2015 at 64,500 bowling employees. But since then, thanks in part to new tech like the string pinsetter — which has seen technological leaps that make them considerably simpler to maintain than the free fall pin machines of yore — employment has bounced back from its 30-year slide, and now 72,300 people are employed in bowling.
It was a rough quarter for AT&T, with the cable company losing 1.16 million premium TV subscribers and AT&T TV Now dropping 195,000 net subscribers for a total loss of 1.36 million paying customers over the course of three months. AT&T had 21.6 million video customers at the end of September, down 3.6 million from 25.2 million the same time last year. The CEO of AT&T said that he believes the cord cut rate has now peaked, which is either a defiant call to arms ahead of a bold transition to streaming or the kind of thing that gets written on a corporate tombstone.
Men’s interest in using cosmetics is on the rise, with men 18 to 29 less likely to agree with statements like “makeup is for women,” “it’s not socially acceptable for men to wear makeup” and “people like me do not wear makeup” than men overall, according to a new Morning Consult survey. Though fully 80 percent of men claimed that they care about their appearance, broadly speaking they are not exactly doing all that much to advance the ball, cosmetology-wise. Merely 5 percent of men said they currently use moisturizer, and just 9 percent said they use lip balm, let alone anymore advanced cosmetic treatment. Still, all is not lost: 15 percent of men 18 to 29 said they’d definitely consider wearing makeup, and another 18 percent said they would maybe try it.
Lots of companies that advertise their products are pulling back from advertising agencies and bringing their business internally, just one of many issues facing ad firms today. The other part is that consumers genuinely do not enjoy what they make and will actively pay money to avoid seeing ads, so there’s also that, but one problem at a time: in 2008, 42 percent of the Association of National Advertisers had an in-house ad agency, which rose to 58 percent in 2013 and as of last year is now 78 percent. More work handled within, say, Unilever or Bayer means less work for the Don Drapers and Pete Campbells of Madison Avenue. This is leading larger ad firms to push shotgun mergers between ancient creative agencies and digital ad upstarts.
According to data from Waze, Manila is the world’s worst city to drive in, taking 4.9 minutes to navigate one kilometer in September. That’s up from the 3.8 minutes it took in April, and puts it far above the next two cities — Bogotá (4 minutes per kilometer) and Jakarta (3.83 minutes per kilometer) — when it comes to navigation. For the Philippine capital there’s now no respite: Waze used to see a morning rush hour and an evening rush hour, but now there’s no midday dip anymore in the heavily concentrated region. Waze also doesn’t anticipate it getting any better as the holidays approach, and forecasts a 16 percent increase in kilometers driven over November and December in Manila.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Open Borders · WrestleMania · Game of Thrones · Concussion Snake Oil · Skyglow · Juul · Chris Ingraham · Invasive Species · The Rat Spill · The Sterling Affairs · Snakebites · Bees · Deep Fakes · Artificial Intelligence · Marijuana · Mussels ·