Numlock News: May 31, 2019 • Angry Birds, Amsterdam, Afghanistan

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

Wealthy Birds

Rovio, the maker of the game Angry Birds, is on a bit of a tear lately, with its stock up 80 percent this year after a 65 percent wipeout in its first few months. The issue for any game maker is that they tend to live and die on a few hits, and Rovio is no different: they make 85 percent of their gross bookings from its top five games, and half of their revenue is from Angry Birds 2. After a fallow period Rovio did strike a hit with Dream Blast, a game where you pop bubbles and hand Rovio $7.7 million in one quarter. That’s about 10 percent of that total haul.

Kati Pohjanpalo, Bloomberg

Misbehavioral Ads

A new study looking at the impact of behaviorally targeted advertising — those internet ads that use cookies to draw conclusions about you and serve products they believe are best suited for you — found that despite the added labor and intrusion of cookie-based ads, publishers only get about a 4 percent increase in revenue for an ad impression involving a cookie compared to a cookie-less one. A 2009 study found that advertisers were willing to shell out 2.68 times as much for a behaviorally targeted ad than another one. If you’re running those numbers, the premium goes to middlemen — ad tech companies — that get 60 cents of those programmatic ad dollars. Gosh, I’m super thrilled we turned the single greatest leap forward in communications technology into an intrusive and snooping dragnet for that!

Keach Hagey, The Wall Street Journal

Baw God That’s Swinson’s Music

The United Kingdom is figuring some stuff out at the moment, and a new poll from YouGov looks appropriately weird. In the past 19 years, there have been only two occasions where the YouGov poll didn’t have the center-left Labor party or the center-right Conservative party as the top dog in Britain, and one of those times was yesterday. Asking “if there were a general election held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?” 24 percent said the unabashedly pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, 22 percent said the self-explanatory Brexit Party, and Labor and Tories each had 19 percent each. That lead is within the margin of error, but at the very least illustrates that nobody has absolutely any idea what is happening in Britain anymore, we’re in three-body problem territory now. Let’s see if they Clegg it up.

Chris Curtis, YouGov

American University in Afghanistan

Congratulations to the United States Agency for International Development, which combined America’s two favorite things — squandering a fortune in Afghanistan and squandering a fortune on college — into one cohesive scandal. The American University in Afghanistan graduated 1,281 Afghan degree students in the past ten years, and all it cost was $162 million. For that money ($126,000 each) it’d probably make more sense just to fly the students stateside. But the real issue is that $63 million is unaccounted for, with the combined efforts of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction and US AID completely unable to determine what precisely it was spent on. I guess their accounting major track leaves a bit to be desired.

Rod Nordland, The New York Times

Dietary Advice

A California health coach was fined $750 in Florida for offering nutrition advice without being a licensed nutritionist. A federal court is now expected to rule on the court case that followed, as the woman argued her free speech rights were violated. Registered dietitians finish months of education and pass an exam and are represented by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, while life and health coaches are 200 business cards and a domain name away from practicing. Licensing in general is under scrutiny; some question why florists or interior decorators require the assent of the state to conduct business, but cases like these where medical advice is offered pose a more thorny question.

Candice Choi, Associated Press


There’s an overcrowded election happening, if you haven’t heard, and it’ll all come down to the California vote. Naturally I’m talking about the hundreds who ran to serve on the ruling body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that puts on the Oscars. Those hundreds of entertainment industry pros were narrowed down to 63 contenders for 17 seats, each representing a branch of the Academy (like directors or actors). There are 11 incumbents for those 17 seats running for re-election, and now that the dust of the primary has settled it just got interesting. Laura Dern is trying to hold her seat to a challenge from Rita Wilson and Margaret Avery, meanwhile former Director branch board member Michael Mann is challenging Steven Spielberg for his spot. This is the second most interesting election I follow. The first, obviously, being the actual Oscar vote.

Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter


Tourism to Amsterdam is rising steadily, but that’s chafing the locals. Overnight stays rose 13 percent in 2017 and 7 percent in 2018, with 17 million people visiting the city last year. Still, Amsterdam has only 830,000 residents, and they’re feeling distinctly outnumbered. And while The Netherlands are working to increase tourism — expanding the airport to accommodate another 50,000 flights per year, expanding the cruise terminal to up the 280,000 nautical tourists in 2015 to 770,000 annually by 2030 — residents are kind of annoyed they can’t exercise their god-given right to smoke pot in public or go to the red light district without being swarmed by gawkers.

Feargus O’Sullivan, CityLab

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores