Numlock News: April 30, 2019 • DVDs, Japanese, Jakarta

By Walt Hickey

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As streaming services begin to eat up more and more attention from consumers itching to watch previously-released movies, the market for DVDs has taken a pretty considerable hit. In the final quarter of 2015, $2.2 billion worth of DVDs were sold. That figure dropped to $1.9 billion in the same quarter of 2016, and $1.5 billion in 2017. Seasonality is a big deal here (DVD sales peak in the quarters with holidays in them) but still, only $0.8 billion worth of DVDs were sold in the most recent quarter we have data, down from $1 billion in same quarter of the previous year. This is one reason that Walmart — which moves a lot of DVDs and sells half of all American televisions — is entering the streaming programming race and will pay for original programming to come to Vudu, the streaming video service it acquired in 2010. The hope is to draw eyeballs to the streamer and ensure that the last sale they make isn’t the TV you use to watch their streaming rivals.

Lucas Shaw and Matthew Boyle, Bloomberg


Indonesia’ capital, Jakarta, has a number of significant challenges ahead of it. It’s the fastest sinking city in the world and today nearly half of its area is below sea level. Models estimate that by 2050 about 95 percent of North Jakarta will be submerged. The groundwater the city extracts to keep its millions of citizens alive is the very thing submerging it, and many surface resources are polluted. The estimated cost of traffic jams in Jakarta sets their economy back $6.8 billion annually. Still, Indonesia’s planning minister and president have a bold plan to ensure that their nations capital will remain sustainable into the far future, and that plan is to move the capital to a different city and actually on to a different island altogether. Bold move! Though I have to say, the classic “just leave as conditions get unsustainable” strategy is more often utilized by, say, unruly fraternities rather than federal governments.

Merrit Kennedy, NPR

Mobile Phones

With some 8 billion active mobile phones on the planet, it’s worth observing that even though 1.1 billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity, we’re still collectively outnumbered by mobile devices. Of those, an estimated 5.28 billion of those phone subscriptions are for mobile broadband, that is to say the kind of device we’d generously call a smartphone. Not only are we outnumbered, but also mobile phones are growing faster than the human race, with the number of mobile subscriptions growing by just shy of 5 percent over the past five years while the human growth rate remains a fraction of that.

Mike Murphy, Quartz


As it stands 68 percent of American offices have low or no separation between workers, meaning they’re those bullpen style open office environments. The promise of the open office was once that it fostered collaboration and saved ever-so-precious space. While it’s certainly more efficiently packing people in, the outcomes pertaining to collaboration are actually way murkier. One 2018 study found open offices actually decreased face-to-face interaction between colleagues by as high as 70 percent. One reason? If everywhere is a watercooler, nowhere is, and there’s an incentive now for people hard at work to pop on headphones or ear pods in order to signal they’re busy.

Amanda Mull, The Atlantic


Japan is working to overcome a shortage of prime-age workers by opening its doors to talented immigrants. This requires those workers pick up the language, and as such the hottest job in Japan has been language educator. From 2011 to 2017, the number of students seeking to learn Japanese jumped 90 percent and now stands just shy of 250,000. The count of teachers hasn’t risen anywhere near as quickly, rising only 27 percent and still standing shy of 50,000. More than 300,000 people could come to Japan in the next five years.

Isabella Steger, Quartz

I’ve Been Framed

There’s a number of key milestones of adulthood — high school graduation, moving out on your own, maybe meeting someone special — but none better at drawing a bright line between childhood and maturity than the day you drop like $200 on frames so you aren’t living like an animal anymore with posters taped to your wall. I’ll confess, this moment came in my own life later than I’d otherwise prefer. Still, the internet is getting really good at the mass distribution of posters and other artwork, and given how hard it is to find a cheap frame that movement has been quite good to the 9,000 local frame shops in the United States. Custom framing can get pricey quick, and part of that is variety of materials required for these shops to remain in operation, which can reach into the thousands.

Aditi Shrikant, Vox


According to data from the U.S. Census, there are now 6.4 public relations specialists for every news reporter, a massive jump from the 1.9 P.R. people per journalist in 1998. Moreover, that’s only going to get worse: there will be an estimated 282,600 P.R. people in 2026, a 9 percent increase from 2016, according to labor department projections. Meanwhile, the headcount of reporters and correspondents is projected to drop 9 percent to 45,900. Part of that growth in P.R. is totally related to the decline of newspapers, as former reporters who need to eat head over to the other team.

Alexandre Tanzi and Shelly Hagan, Bloomberg

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