By Walt Hickey
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YouTube’s trend of unboxing videos — where a person removes the packaging from an item and, in gratitude for the service they provide, receives a billion video views — has major ripples in the toy biz, which is reorienting how they sell and package toys to elevate the component of surprise and physical theatrics of box elimination. Since 2010, the presence of unboxing videos has grown 871 percent on YouTube, and kids love them. Kids aged eight or younger spend two hours and 19 minutes per day on screen time, and one study found kids eight and under spend 65 percent of that time on YouTube. I could judge, but I must say one of the great thrills in life is drunk ordering something on Amazon and then two days later getting a magical unexpected surprise box to tear open like a velociraptor, so let’s just say I do see the appeal here.
Americans can feel it in the air: a new political campaign season is brewing and due to the nature of the primary process, it will likely span the country and not merely a few swing states. This means that we must ask which media will become effectively unusable thanks to rampant and annoying campaign ads over the coming months? Digital ads are still a fraction of the spend, but add up: an estimated $623 million was spent on digital advertising in the midterms. And while companies in the U.S. spend 54 cents of every ad dollar online, political campaigns remain analog, with about a nickel out of every ad dollar going online. But don’t be surprised if all the ads you see skew negative, that’s the algorithm’s doing: negative video ads were 24 percent more effective at generating ad recall on Facebook than positive ads, which is a number that really makes me think we’re all fairly screwed.
This Little Piggy Opened Markets
While the U.S. trade war with China continues on, there are several reasons that it may come to an end, and all it took was three-tenths of all the pigs in China dying to accelerate that. The USDA estimates that due to an outbreak of African Swine Fever roiling the Chinese hog farming system, inventory in China will drop to 374 million pigs, and commodities economists estimate that hog feeding is down more than 30 percent, indicating a die-off of staggering proportions. To replace that shortfall would require all the combined pigs in Canada, U.S., Mexico and Brazil. There were 74.6 million head of hogs in the U.S. in December, and China may want some of those, so this could end trade impasses.
A new study finds the optimal ages of puppy cuteness, which is essential science that I am glad still finds funding. Researchers at Arizona State, Utrecht University and Texas Tech asked dozens of volunteers to rate the attractiveness of puppies ranging from birth to seven months of age. The research found that Jack Russell terriers peak at 7.7 weeks, White Shepherds at 8.3 weeks and Cane Corsos at 6.3 weeks. That coincides with the ages at which mother dogs abandon their pups — an estimated 85 percent of the world’s dogs are feral, so this happens a lot — and one theory is that cuter dogs may find more success in not dying during that troublesome period of time and thus natural selection presents cuteness as a survival incentive.
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Levi Strauss & Co. went public last week, making the descendants of Levi Strauss extremely wealthy. In 1902, his $6 million estate went to nephews and other relatives, a figure that would have been worth $175 million in today’s dollars. Those descendants are now worth about $5.6 billion. The Haas family controls 61 percent of the shares, excluding stock held by charities, and sold about $300 million worth of stock in the IPO.
Jordan Peele’s Us made $70.3 million domestically over the weekend, making it the third-biggest horror opening ever behind It and Halloween, which incidentally means it’s the highest-grossing original horror title not based on existing intellectual property. It also had the best opening weekend for an R-rated film ever. The film made an additional $16.7 million overseas, meaning that it’s made back its $20 million budget about four times over. I look forward to next weekend, when me and all my fellow cowards out there will hit the cinemas to see it now that it’s understood to be one of those horror movies that even we scardey-cats have to see so as to not have to exit conversations.
Baby Boomers own about 32 million homes, and account for two out of five homeowners in the country. One issue in some Sunbelt real estate markets is that the design of those homes — big, private, not in walkable areas, requiring a car, did I mention big — is a bit out of style with younger folks who’d conceivably purchase them. This means already there’s a glut of big and pricey homes on the market in areas that cater to clusters of retirees, and let’s just say those who’d ideally buy them aren’t exactly known for being particularly liquid or liking enormous living spaces very far from city centers.
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