Numlock News: August 12, 2020 • Rookies, Concrete, Cannabidiol

By Walt Hickey

Draft

Usually following the conclusion of the college football season, top prospects for the NFL will leave college to begin training for the NFL, often on the tab of their agents. The players’ agents will pay for six to 12 weeks of training for the contenders, an investment upwards of $50,000 per recruit, higher for more promising clients. The goal for the agents is to get their players in top condition for pro days and workouts, increasing their draft stock and getting them into the league. Even if it does lead to drafting, there’s still no guarantee of an ROI: 60 percent of NFL players are on base salary contracts, which means $610,000 for rookies, and agents are prohibited from taking more than a 3 percent commission, meaning it’s not until year three or four when the cost can be recouped. That’s just the nature of the business, but now the possibility of the cancellation or postponement of college football seasons — periods when players can work out on their school’s dime — puts the entire ecosystem in a tough position, as extending that workout period can put the whole investment in the red.

Emily Caron and Jacob Feldman, Sportico

In-Flight Wifi

Gogo, the company that puts internet into many commercial aircraft, is possibly looking to get out of the business of doing basically the sole thing they are known for. The company lost $86 million in the second quarter of 2020 because flight volumes were down to a trickle, and literally any Wi-Fi on earth is superior in quality to in-flight Wi-Fi so nobody needed to buy it. Sessions per day for Gogo fell from 125,000 pre-pandemic to 11,000 per day in April, though as of August, they’re up to 40,000 per day. A second issue that popped up was that airlines took this opportunity to retire lots of aging aircraft, aircraft that — inconveniently for Gogo — has their tech installed onboard. Should they successfully bug out of selling internet to single fliers, they’ll instead focus on their more lucrative business subscription options.

Sean O’Kane, The Verge

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Hermit Crabs

Amazon is in talks with Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the United States, to rent space that once housed the retail juggernaut’s victims, department stores like J.C. Penney and Sears. Those anchor tenants had been a critical part of the whole mall ecosystem, stores designed to attract shoppers who could avail themselves of the more niche shops, food court, and so on. Now that the department stores at Simon’s 204 properties are dropping like flies, the whole enterprise — from the dirtbag teens in Spencer’s Gifts to the dirtbag teens in the Barnes & Nobel coffee shop to the dirtbag teens looking at wallets and nothing else in the J. Crew — is crumbling, with nobody to save it because the dirtbag teens grew up, left Jersey and started newsletters. Amazon may be an unlikely savior, as the e-commerce giant seeks to improve last mile, and putting fulfillment centers in centralized retail locations could come with advantages. Any space would come at a discount, as warehouse rents are $10 per square foot while department store rents range from $4 to $19 per square foot.

Esther Fung and Sebastian Herrera, The Wall Street Journal

Notes

While much of the world reacted to a global pandemic by cutting back on the use of cash — which necessarily changes hands — the Germans still love it. In general, Germans love using cash, and are a rarely stubborn economy in terms of switching to more convenient — though arguably more extravagant — forms of payment like credit cards and touchless payments. Cash is still 75 percent of Germany’s transactions, and Germany’s central bank issued 17 billion euro notes and coins more in March than it did in February, and the bank continues to issue 3 billion to 5 billion euros a month in cash, which is a fairly normal pace.

Esme Nicholson, NPR

CBD

An independent analysis group tested 15 CBD products from grocery stores, gas stations and specialty shops to determine if the advertised cannabidiol amounts held up under scrutiny. All told, a bit of a scattershot: at the gas station, three products advertised as containing CBD did not in fact contain an iota of CBD, and the other two items had less than advertised. The grocers and head shops fared better, with the former containing 136 percent of the advertised CBD on average and the CBD specialty shops containing 83 percent of advertised. All in all, across the board just one in five products contained the amount advertised.

Melissa Vonder Haar, Winsight Grocery Business

Creatives

A new analysis from Brookings puts a brutal number to the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the creative economy, estimating from April 1 to July 31 alone there were 2.7 million lost jobs and losses on the order of $150 billion for the creative industries, which encompass musicians, designers, performers and artists. That’s on the order of 9 percent of all annual sales of creative works and a third of all jobs, a pinch specifically felt in the performing arts, which alone accounted for 1.4 million lost jobs and $42.5 billion in lost sales. While L.A. and New York have the worst absolute losses, in percentage terms the impact is more acute in places like Vegas, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, and Memphis.

Richard Florida and Michael Seman, Brookings

Concrete Solutions

About 15 percent of concrete is cement, and making cement emits a globally significant amount of carbon dioxide, and so the most useful construction material on earth is responsible for 8 percent of global carbon emissions. For a while, its users have sought to make cement more efficient, with some replacing some amount of the cement with fly ash and slag, remnants of the coal burning and steel production process. That helped by improving performance and diverting the gunk from landfills, but as coal plants retire and steel declines, there’s simply less of it. So far, there’s been incremental success but no silver bullet: crushed glass has been used to replace some cement, Portland-limestone cement cuts carbon by 10 percent, a process called CarbonCure cuts carbon by 5 to 7 percent, but if there’s good news it’s that people are buying it. Though some mixtures cut carbon by 50 percent and cost 5 percent more, many businesses with a sustainability commitment are increasingly willing to pay.

Jane Margolies, The New York Times

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