Numlock News: February 21, 2019

By Walt Hickey


Queensland drivers will soon be able to pay 475 Australian dollars — roughly $340 — to create a customized vanity license plate that has an emoji on it. There are five emojis to choose from, including face with tears of joy, sunglasses guy, winking face, smiling face and heart eyes. They’re strictly for appearances, and are not part of the alphanumeric license number, and thus you won’t have some sort of ridiculous situation where an Android user is unable to determine the symbol an Apple user’s license plate incorporates. And while I can’t shake the idea that this feels like one of those slippery slope situations, really all we’re talking about is the functionally of a bumper sticker that identifies people who are texting and driving 100 percent of the time.

James Vincent, The Verge

Oscar Gold

Despite making an annual stink about the Oscars and pretending like they need to be overhauled completely or it’ll be an apocalyptic broadcast catastrophe, ABC sure makes a lot of money off of them. The network pays $75 million annually for the broadcasting rights, and last year the telecast generated $149 million in ad revenue. What’s more, the average price of a 30-second ad spot rose from $1.6 million to $2.1 million last year, and this year is fetching between $2 million to $2.6 million. Those numbers — which for the network heads unfamiliar with the direction, are going up — seem to put a lie to the idea that the production is in crisis.

Gerry Smith, Christopher Palmeri and Anousha Sakoui, Bloomberg

Just tuning into the Oscar race? Get up to speed on who’s favored to win with The Numlock Awards Supplement.

The Instagram Home for Retired Bachelor Contestants

If you ever asked yourself, “hey, I wonder why that perfectly kind person on the television would submit themselves to the mercy of a reality television show editor,” one answer is all the Instagram follows. The average woman eliminated on night one of The Bachelor hauled in a gain of 4,414 new followers. And if you wondered why people could be so cruel on reality television, it’s because it pays: contestants who got the villain edit — even if they were gone in a short time — reaped 40 times the follower bump. The longer they stuck around, the better they were too: those who left in week six of the competition came out 104,565 followers ahead, and making it to the final four has been worth on average 361,347 new follows.

Skye Gould and Walt Hickey, INSIDER

The Competition

Microsoft is a weird company, and its odd journey through the shifting technology business can be seen by who the company names as its competition. Analyzing public filings throughout its existence, Quartz found that Microsoft evolved from a company competing with Novell, Sun Microsystems and Lotus to a firm that now sees Google, Salesforce, Cisco and Sony as its rivals. And looking at its journey overtime, its primary rival couldn’t be clearer. Not Apple, not even Oracle, but IBM, which was mentioned over 270 times in the competition section of their reports over the past 30 years.

Youyou Zhou, Quartz

Tide Pods

Procter & Gamble’s line of detergent pods called Tide Pods are a smash hit. P&G’s brands own 79 percent of the laundry pod business, and the laundry pod business is good. Since eight years ago, liquid detergent packets grew from a rounding error to 16 percent of the detergent market, a $1.5 billion sector. There’s an issue, though. Tide Pods look like the kind of fruit that would appear in a Dr. Seuss book, and is sending people to poison control at an alarming rate. Most detergent-related injuries resolve fairly quickly, but not all of them. Pods are a massive portion of them: even though pods are 16 percent of the detergent market, they account for 80 percent of all major injuries related to detergent.

Jake Meth, Fortune

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In 2016, South Korea deployed the Thaad air defense system for the United States, which ticked off China something fierce and prompted them to remove or annoy Korean media and industry. The Bank of Korea estimated the backlash suppressed Korea’s growth by 0.4 percent in 2016. But what’s worse, K-pop icons BTS have not been able to tour in China. News that some concert promoters in China have been making new overtures to K-pop managers has sent stocks in those band owners popping on the belief that the lucrative market may be reopening and the thaw beginning. BTS made $40 million on its latest world tour, reportedly, and the South Korean music industry — back in 2016 — generated $98 million in sales in China, which was then its largest market after Japan.

Bloomberg News

Gross Water

An AP investigation into 43 mining sites under federal oversight found that on average 50 million gallons of contaminated wastewater streams out of the sites every single day. While lots of that is captured and treated, 20 million gallons of it everyday isn’t and goes untreated into rivers, groundwater and ponds. There are tons of mining sites that are seeping contaminants into drinking water, largely because the companies that operated them abandoned them and didn’t bother to do anything about lasting damage to the ecosystem around them. The estimated number of abandoned mine sites is as much as 500,000 nationwide, with an estimated 161,000 in 12 western states alone, with 33,000 degrading the environment according to government estimates. The federal program that oversees the cleanups just this past year saw its budget cut from $35 million to $13 million.

Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

The Oscars are imminent! Want to have the inside track on who’s ahead? Check out the awards coverage in the Numlock Awards Supplement, and if you’re just tuning in start here.

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