January 25, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Back in the day the streets belonged to the people, writes Joseph Stromberg. Automakers then figured out a way to get pedestrians off the road and onto sidewalks in the United States:
- In the 1920s roads were places where pedestrians, push cart vendors, horses, and playing children jostled for space.
- It was the responsibility of everybody on the road – including cars – to make sure nobody got hurt.
- But as car use began to spread the number of deaths dramatically increased with the elderly and children frequent victims.
- There was a strong backlash against automobiles, made worse because people viewed them as frivolous play things for the rich – similar to how we see yachts today.
- People got organized and pushed for proposals to impose drastic speed limits on cars.
- The auto industry sprang into action, launching a counter-campaign to make roads the domain of automobiles.
- They were successful. Under new rules pedestrians could only be on the road when they were on a crosswalk.
- While there were new rules against jaywalking, they weren’t being enforced, so car makers launched a new campaign to shame people into following traffic laws.
- This included introducing the term “jay walking” – a jay back then was a term for a hick who didn’t know how to behave in the city.
- They also launched a wire service where journalists could send them details of car accidents, and the service would respond with a fully written article shifting the blame for the accident on the pedestrian.
The full article provides many more insights, has some excellent examples of the ads from the campaigns of the era. It also explains why automakers repeatedly hit a clown with a Model T. Read it here.
January 23, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
In a delightful article from a chap who seems would make for extremely pleasant coffee break conversation, Andy Baio wrote about piracy of Oscar nominated films:
- Screeners are copies of films that are sent to the Academy members who vote to decide the winners of the Academy Awards.
- They frequently leak on the internet so that internet pirates can enjoy the movies at the same time as the screeners.
- The vast majority of screeners are sent to voters as DVDs.
- Yet pirates leaking movies online are increasingly able to use high definition sources.
- The number of screeners that were available on the internet peaked at 81% of Academy Award nominated movies in 2003.
- Today the number is closer to 36%.
- This isn’t a victory for anti-piracy efforts. Rather, it’s because nobody wants to watch them since pirates can download higher quality versions.
Read the full article with excellent charts, statistics, and more over here.
January 22, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
In 1987 the American Supreme Court ruled that Native American tribes could not be stopped from building casinos on their land. This was expected to transform the economics of the community as those banned from gambling elsewhere could flock to reservations for a roll of the die. The gamblers came but the money generated didn’t always do much to benefit the community writes The Economist:
- Around half of all Native American tribes operate casinos and together they generated revenues of $28 billion in 2013.
- Tribes sometimes disperse these payments to their members through “per capita payments” that can range from a few hundred dollars to over $100,000 every year.
- Some members will even receive 18 years’ worth of payments in a lump sum once they turn 18.
- This has led to the rise of a successful business in car dealerships targeting those who just celebrated their 18th birthday.
- Despite the windfall a study found that while between 2000 and 2010 casino revenues doubled, the overall poverty rate of the tribes increased from 25% to 29%.
- Tribes that make per capita payments are at higher risk of seeing poverty rates rise.
- In contrast, tribes that use their profits to invest in other businesses and help grow the overall economy have been more successful in combating poverty.
- The reason for this seems to be that generous per capita payments, while usually not enough to live on, help recipients fall into the trap of not working.
Read more about the intriguing study here.
Source: The Economist
January 21, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Lily Kuo took a hard look at President Xi Jinping’s income:
- The Chinese government has announced large pay rises for civil servants.
- This is thought to be an effort to fight corruption, as the hope is that officials will no longer use bribes to supplement their income.
- Oddly, however, it has actually highlighted the extent of the corruption.
- President Xi Jinping’s base salary, for example, will now be about $21,960 a year.
- In comparison Barack Obama earns 24 times that amount – $545,000 a year.
- Yet the Chinese leader is able to afford to send his daughter to expensive international schools.
- Prior investigations have indicated that the President’s extended family, though not the President himself, has millions of dollars in investments stashed abroad.
Read more about why the numbers don’t add up here.
January 20, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
A couple months ago hackers released thousands of emails from Sony pictures. Ben Fritz went through them and pieced together the details behind Sony’s largely unsuccessful awards campaign last year:
- You can hire “awards consultants” who help come up with a strategy to increase the chances of winning an Academy Award.
- With the guidance of an awards consultant, Sony executives considered spending $4.2 million on a “Phase One” campaign for Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips.
- A Phase One campaign is the amount that’s required merely to make a movie an awards contender. The amount budgeted included $250,000 for DVDs of the movie for the Screen Actors Guild, $250,000 for the cast to travel and promote the film, and $700,000 for ads.
- Spending this kind of money was considered because it was estimated that Tom Hanks winning best actor alone would boost sales by $1 million.
- It’s unclear how much Sony ultimately ended up spending on the campaign but it was unsuccessful. While the movie was nominated for six Oscars, it won none.
- Sony also created an Awards budget for American Hustle, estimating that a best picture win would increase sales by $3 million.
- This campaign was also unsuccessful, possibly because the company was unable to get top stars Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to schmooze with the entertainment elite at social events, or with hosts of talk shows.
Find out more about what goes into winning an award, why some within Sony think this is “foolish money”, and read how Captain Phillips’ producer reacted to not winning an award over here.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
January 19, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Jason Del Rey wrote about how Amazon prices its products:
- Contrary to popular perception, Amazon does not have the lowest prices across all products in a category.
- Instead it finds the most popular product in each category – say a particular brand of television – then makes its prices lower than competitors for that one product.
- Since consumers will likely price compare on the most popular product, they’ll see that Amazon has the lowest prices and (incorrectly) assume that this is true for all products.
- Less popular products in a category seem to be more expensive on Amazon than other websites.
- Amazon’s peripherals are more expensive than competitor versions. The company may be assuming that customers will be comparing prices of the main product, not its accessories.
Read more about how Amazon’s pricing works, and how you can ensure you get the lowest prices here.
January 18, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Paul Sullivan wrote about the investments that parents are making in the hopes of not having to pay for college:
- The amount of money that parents are paying to provide sports coaching to their kids has grown to 10.5% of gross income.
- Some see this as an investment – if a child gets a sports scholarship then the parents won’t have to pay for college.
- Parents will thus pay coaches up to $400 an hour to make their children better sportspeople.
- They’ll also take them to camps across the country.
- The chances of a child getting a sports scholarship is so small though that the expected return on investment doesn’t justify the amounts spent.
Read what parents should really be spending money on, the problem of emotionally immature tutors, and more over here.
Source: The New York Times
January 17, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Beth Montemurro took a look at how Christian weddings have changed over time:
- Queen Victoria of England got the modern wedding dress started when she wore a white satin gown for her wedding in 1840.
- The elite soon copied this fashion although it didn’t become widely popular among the masses until after WW2.
- Up until the mid-1950s Christian weddings were done at home, in the family’s “Sunday best” perhaps with a small dinner party.
- Then modern marketing got started. Stores, jewelers, and caterers began selling the image of a decadent wedding.
- Dolls in bridal gowns imprinted the standards of a modern weddings on children at young ages.
Read about how weddings have evolved, how they are a pledge of allegiance both to the conventional and to the new, and more over here.
You can read more of Centives’ previous coverage on the economics of weddings here.
January 16, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
The Economist took a look at adverts that aim to shock and awe:
- Gory adverts, such as those focused on the number of children who die as a result of speeding, leave a longer lasting impression on viewers than non-gory ones.
- However they are less effective at changing behaviour, possibly because extremist ads showcase threats that seem farfetched.
- Positive ads that encourage people to quit smoking, are, for example, more effective than negative ads that try to scare smokers with images of tumors.
- Cash strapped governments and NGOs may increase the use of shock ads, however, since they are more likely to be shared on social media and thus reach a wider audience.
Read more here.
Source: The Economist
January 14, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
As the world was preparing to ring in 2014, a gang of intrepid revolutionaries set out to overthrow Gambia’s dictator. They failed. Javier Blas wrote about how much it cost:
- The group trying to launch the coup d’état consisted of just 20 people.
- The budget for the operations was a measly $220,798.
- This included $2,000 for each of two sniper rifles, and a $4,000 expense account for each of the revolutionaries.
- The operation was bankrolled by an American of Gambian descent who made his fortune in Texas. In return for his investment he was expected to be installed as President.
- This isn’t the first time a few brave souls have tried to take a state. In 2004 the son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was given a suspended sentence for trying to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea.
- A French soldier launched four coup attempts in the Comoros Island between 1975 and 1995. A couple were even successful.
Read about the attempt, details of the master plan, the group’s motives, and more over here.
Source: Financial Times
Via: Marginal Revolution