Luxury Potato Chips

October 23, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Oddity Central wrote about the market for premium potato chips:

  • St. Erik’s, a Swedish micro-brewery, was upset by people enjoying their premium drinks with regular over the counter chips.
  • So they set out to make their own. The luxury chips are packaged in black boxes that hold just five.
  • The boxes cost $56 – or $11 a chip.
  • Each chip is hand-made and has its own flavour. The selection includes a chip made with Matsutake mushrooms found in the wild pine forests of northern Sweden, and another made with Leksand onions grown on the outskirts of a small Swedish town.

Read and see more photos on Oddity Central’s website.

Via: Marginal Revolution

The Economics Of The Blaze

October 20, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

There’s been talk recently about the formation of a new conservative news outlet. There might be room in the industry given the downfall of the most recent entrant, as Michelle Fields wrote:

  • Glenn Beck launched The Blaze, a conservative news site, in 2010. It did incredibly well and by October 2014 it had 32 million unique visitors a month.
  • Today though it manages just 8 million a month.
  • The website’s New York newsroom has been shut down and staff are being asked to work from home.
  • In fact, they’re being asked to make sure they don’t leave home. Travel and phone stipends have been eliminated.
  • What happened after such a promising start? It seems to be failure of senior management. The infant company has already been through four CEOs – managing to go through two of them in one particularly bleak six month period.
  • One of the former CEOs is currently fighting off a lawsuit alleging fraud and mismanagement.
  • There has also been infighting about editorial independence versus aiding the conservative cause.

The Huffington Post goes into details about what the website is doing to try to turn things around in the full article.

The Future Of Internet Is Light

October 19, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

The Economist wrote that your desk lamp could become a powerful communications device:

  • Lights can be made to turn on and off at a frequency that makes the flicking imperceptible to the human eye.
  • This can thus be used to transmit information. It’s like Wi-Fi except instead of radio waves to encode 1s and 0s, waves of light are used instead.
  • The main drawback of using it to replace Wi-Fi is also the technology’s main feature. Light can’t penetrate walls so you can’t ensure reliable internet across a home. But many businesses wish they could keep the internet within their walls for security reasons.
  • Light might also be the best way to transmit information wirelessly on aircraft or in hospitals. While the effect is marginal, traditional wi-fi still has the tendency to interfere with the signals generated by sophisticated equipment.
  • Since airplanes come with reading lights anyway, cabins could re-purpose them to save on the weight of cables and bring down fuel costs.
  • Currently mainstream tablets and phones don’t have the technology to transfer information via light. But a simple USB dongle can enable the functionality. And it’s possible that smartphone cameras can be used for the task.
  • The technology might even be embedded in street lamps to provide internet connectivity across a city.

The Economist has many more details about the technology.

The Economics Of Stand Up Comedy

October 18, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Lindsay Goldwert wrote about the stand up comedy world:

  • Amateur comedians actually have to pay to perform – and hope that they build their name or maybe get some tips at the end.
  • But even the world’s top comedians will perform for free. They’ll do it to test out new jokes before releasing it to a more serious paying audience.
  • A topical joke – say about something that one of the Presidential candidates said – can be told for about six months, but loses potency soon after.
  • Jokes also follow the laws of supply and demand. If there are multiple comedians making jokes about Donald Trump’s hair, then the audience will soon tire and stop laughing.

Read the full article, which goes onto talk about stolen jokes in the age of social media, on Quartz.

The Economics Of Inheritances

October 17, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Richard Davies wrote about inherited wealth:

  • One study found that parents with more transferrable wealth – such as housing or bonds – received more visits from their children.
  • The best way to get attention from children was to be sick, wealthy, and to have multiple offspring that might be competing for a prime spot on the will.
  • Parents respond to incentives too. In some farming communities it is the youngest that inherits the family’s lands. This ensures that older children leave the home and make something of themselves. But there’s still a strapping young child around to take care of the parents in their old age.
  • Today the wealthy struggle with structuring inheritances so that the next generation can’t blow it on booze and other distractions.
  • One popular method for doing so is an “incentive trust”. This ties inheritances payments to the achievements of certain milestones – like graduating college. Or it might incentivize hard work by agreeing to match a scion’s salary – rather than replace it entirely.

Read more about inter-generational wealth transfers on 1843.

Colouring Books For Adults Are Surprisingly Popular

October 16, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Joshua Gans wrote about an oddly popular product:

  • In 2015, three of the best-selling books of the year were colouring books targeted at adults.
  • Fans say that they are calming and help them return to a simpler time.
  • They might be popular with retailers because they have zero resale value. Once they are coloured in, they can’t be re-gifted to someone else.
  • Brick and mortar stores might be trying to push them because they’re the rare type of book that don’t work well as e-books.
  • And gift-givers might just like giving these away because they’re safe and are unlikely to offend anyone.

Read more musings about the popularity of colouring books and what this says about economists at Digitopoly.

Via: Marginal Revolution

The Economics Of Going Back To School

October 14, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Hayley Glatter looked into what the start of a school year means for children in the United States, where uniforms are not the norm:

  • The average American household spends $674 on back to school shopping.
  • More than a third of that is spent on clothing – including the clothes that the student will wear on the first day back.
  • The trend for splurging on back to school merchandise seems to have started in the 1960s, as post-war consumerism began to take off.
  • Spending has surged since then. In an era of social media and Facebook likes, image seems more important than ever, and students are responding by putting ever more thought into their dress.

Read more at The Atlantic

The End Of Bar Soap

October 13, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

The era of bar soap might be coming to an end wrote AJ Willingham:

  • Bar soap sales fell 5% between 2010 and 2015.
  • The reason seems to be young people. 60% of those aged 18-24 say they hate the idea of someone else’s germs on their bar soap.
  • They much prefer liquid soaps which are perceived to be more hygienic – even though soap is…soap. It cleans itself.
  • Bar soap is also thought to be inconvenient – it’s slippery and many a shower singer has had to interrupt their tune to bend down and grab their soap.

Read more on CNN.

Flying In First Class? How Adorable.

October 12, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Miquel Ros wrote about the market for personalized luxury jumbo jets:

  • Airbus and Boeing have special departments that focus on selling personalized versions of their commercial jets to the world’s elites and super-rich.
  • There are 300 of them around the world. Many of them are like the United States’ Air Force One, used to ferry around world leaders.
  • While the market is small, it is profitable. You don’t have to offer bulk order discounts to individual buyers.
  • Buyers of airplanes typically focus on factors such as fuel economy. This is not a concern for the ultra-wealthy who prefer, instead, to focus on speed and range – to ensure that they can get to their destination quickly, and without making unnecessary stops.
  • The planes cost hundreds of millions of dollars and often the cost of customizing the interior of the plane is more than the cost of the plane itself.
  • Only a handful of companies have the skillset necessary to ensure that the inside of an airplane looks like decadent luxury – but still meets all safety requirements.
  • The rich like their gold, and the typical private jumbo jet has 300 kilograms of it in fittings and decorations.
  • The jets might also be customized to include things like special on-board garages for luxury cars.
  • You don’t want to be too ostentatious though. After all, you have to consider re-sell value, and the next owner will want their own customized interior.
  • The one private jet you can’t get is a personalized version of the double decker A380. Airbus is too busy meeting airline demands for the jet to work on one off customized versions.

Read more and see incredible photos on CNN

And Now For Wooden Skyscrapers

October 11, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

The Economist writes that we might soon return to an age of wooden buildings:

  • Wood buildings are about a quarter of the weight of concrete buildings.
  • While wood is more expensive than concrete as a building material, once you factor in the lower cost of transporting the lighter material, it comes out to be about even.
  • Wood is better than concrete for the environment – wood traps carbon. In fact, a wooden structure could reduce a building’s carbon footprint by up to 70%.
  • Advances in materials engineering help ensure that a wooden building could stand up to modern fire safety codes.
  • Skyscrapers are typically built in densely populated urban centers. Wooden buildings would allow for a much quieter construction site.
  • Lumber can more easily be carved and shaped, giving architects a broader horizon for creative expression.
  • There is currently a proposal for an 80 storey, 300-meter wooden skyscraper in London (pictured).

Read more about the future of wood as a building material at The Economist.