Numlock News: January 2, 2020 • Weasels, Chinese Food, Hasbro

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back! Hope everyone had a great holiday and happy new year.


The 2010s were a decade that saw a tectonic shift in the music industry to streaming services. In 2010, streaming accounted for just 7 percent of the U.S. music market, a figure that rose in 2019 to 80 percent, per an RIAA report. The number of paid streaming subscriptions increased from 1.5 million to 611 million as of mid-2019. Naturally, the other big winner of the decade couldn’t be more obvious given that information: vinyl. Vinyl? Vinyl? Yep, sales of vinyl albums rose from $50 million in 2010 to $450 million in 2019, so congratulations are in order for Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1.

Jem Aswad, Variety

Chinese Food

New data from Yelp shows that the share of Chinese restaurants in the top 20 metropolitan areas fell from 7.3 percent of all restaurants five years ago to 6.5 percent today. Those 20 locations added 15,000 restaurants over the period, but such a drop corresponds to 1,200 fewer Chinese restaurants. That’s not entirely bad news, and may be a symptom of a great broader story in the United States about immigration and success: namely, lots of Chinese restaurants are shutting down because aging immigrant parents who founded them don’t need to work there anymore, and their kids have moved into other better work and don’t have an interest in operating a restaurant. Functionally, immigration was successful: the two most common employment fields for self-employed first-generation Chinese immigrants are restaurants and construction, while the most common fields for the second generation were computer services and dentistry.

Amelia Nierenberg and Quoctrung Bui, The New York Times


The fourth-most common cause for non-collision car insurance claims in Germany is weasels, which last year led to 198,000 insurance claims. They are a menace, and a growing one: that’s 42 percent higher than the number of weasel-contingent claims in 2005. This phenomenon — a nature vs. technology tale that I will now fall back on when asked “can you describe Werner Herzog’s entire deal to me?” — is widespread enough that German automobile manufacturers offer an optional Marderabwehrsystem, or Weasel Defense System, that repels the beasts with an electric shock. Experts believe that accounting of weasel damage is underreported, partially because only some insurers in the highly developed society offer a weasel policy. I can only assume the underreporting is due to shame or blaming the wires being damaged on something cool like a nemesis rather than a weasel.

William Boston, The Wall Street Journal


After two decades of conservation, the groundfish population off the West Coast is making a comeback, and industry groups and environmentalists have partnered to open up new fisheries as part of a long-term plan to secure the recovery of the fish populations. In 2018, 31,483 metric tons of non-whitefish were hauled in from trawl vessels off the coast. That’s the highest level since 2000, when 34,844 tons were pulled in, one of the last years of an annual decline in landings that coincided with the overall decline of fish stocks: as recently as 1992, fishers had been consistently hauling in over 80,000 metric tons per year. Thanks to the conservation packages put in place around two decades ago, plus quotas in 2011, the groundfish population has rebounded.

Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press

College Ball

Though football is beset on all sides, the college game is doing quite well, even if it’s in flux. All told, in the past decade 23 colleges dropped football, but over the same period 66 schools have picked it up, and the total number of schools participating in college football is at an all-time high of 775. Even a small college football program can return a few million dollars based on an annual investment somewhere in the mid-hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it a modest if sensible addition to a campus. Like many seemingly too-good-to-be-true investments, the key with this one is that they do not pay for lots of the labor.

Bill Pennington, The New York Times

Toys and Other Things

On Monday, Hasbro officially completed its acquisition of Canadian studio Entertainment One, which brings the owner of Peppa Pig and PJ Masks and Ricky Zoom under the toymaker’s polyethylene empire for $3.8 billion. eOne, a proven studio, will be able to serve as an in-house development wing for its intellectual property, which has generally been farmed out to other companies like with Paramount’s forthcoming coproduction of Clifford the Big Red Dog and even earlier hits, like the Transformers franchise. Meanwhile Hasbro now gets like 80,000 hours of programming, lots of it infectiously popular kids content, to sell to some streaming service. An incidental side effect of the media consolidation on display here is that — as it now owns eOne’s music subsidiary — Hasbro is now the officially the owner of Death Row Records, founded in the 1990s by Suge Knight and Dr. Dre.

Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, and Trent Fitzgerald, XXL


Happy New Year! Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi hiked the prices on over 200 drugs in the United States yesterday, because the year is now slightly higher and you can’t do anything about it. Most of the price hikes are somewhere between 4 percent and 6 percent, and more price hikes will be announced later this week. Pfizer increased the price of about 27 percent of its portfolio, GlaxoSmithKline rose prices on over 30 drugs including its HIV drugs and cancer drug Zejula, and Teva Pharmaceutical announced 15 price hikes, some by more than 6 percent. The U.S. has high drug prices compared to other countries that have their governments directly or indirectly control costs.

Michael Erman and Carl O’Donnell, Reuters

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