Numlock News: November 26, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


Last year Procter & Gamble spent $100 million to buy Native, a company that sells deodorant through the mail. It’s one attempt to stay ahead of the direct-to-consumer hoard that is chipping away at the margins of major retailers. Indeed, of the over 400 direct-to-consumer brands out there, about 45 of the companies are specifically targeting a product segment that Procter & Gamble essentially owns. There’s now another threat for established consumer good companies, which is unbranded items like the in-house brand offered by Amazon. Energizer and Duracell are great examples: branded batteries have been getting hosed by generic competitors because people truly don’t care about the sticker on the outside of their AAs.

Andrew Essex, Medium

The Bill Is Due

A new report from 13 federal agencies lays out the anticipated costs of climate change on the United States. Barring significant steps to dial back the damage being inflicted on the atmosphere, by the end of the century the disruption to exports, agriculture, trade, supply chains and increased severity of natural disasters could wipe out 10 percent of the gross domestic product. Specific projections as it stands now: $141 billion related to increased heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rising, and $32 billion in infrastructure damage.

Coral Davenport and Kendra Pierre-Louis, The New York Times


The European Union has approved a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom, but the hard part is still yet to come. Prime Minister Theresa May will need to get approval from parliament to move forward on the agreed-upon exit, however 94 Tories — members of May’s own bloc — have indicated they will not vote for the deal as is. That could be a problem, as there’s little incentive for Labour to bail out May, and a pro-Remain push for a second referendum has been proposed.

Alex Wickham, BuzzFeed News and Alan White, BuzzFeed News

This weekend's subscriber-only special edition was a talk with Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier all about Facebook’s issues last week, from their pre-Black Friday ad tech failure to their slowly-unfolding leadership crisis. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Financial Wizard Robin Hood

Robin Hood made $14 million this past five-day weekend at the box office from 2,827 North American locations. That means it debuted in sixth place overall behind films Ralph Breaks The Internet and Creed II, and also dropped behind Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, and Bohemian Rhapsody. Robin Hood literally cost $100 million to make and will almost certainly not even get close to that figure after losing to the likes of Ready Player One But Good, Philadelphian Continues Blood Feud, Meek Biologist: Wizard Hitler Sucks, The Geisel Estate’s Cash In, and Music Video For Queen’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1.

Erin Nyren, Variety

Family Separation

The Trump Administration’s spending on their ill-fated immigrant child separation policy has hit $80 million and rising. That will continue to grow, as over 147 children who were separated from their families have not yet been reunited with their parent. The program ended in June amidst public opposition.

Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times


Joan Graves has been the chair of the MPAA ratings system for 18 years and worked for the sex-and-violence umpire for 30 in total. She estimates that she watched and rated over 12,500 films. She will retire in the coming months. Generally speaking, people tend to think she nailed it: 84 percent of parents find the ratings to be accurate, which is fairly on-target. One trend is surprising, though: the death of the “G” movie. In 1969, 101 films were rated G, but in 2017 that number was down to 11 G-rated movies. This is a disappointing trend, if only because it wouldn’t be thrilling to finally get into PG-13 movies if not for G movies.

Brooks Barnes, The New York Times

Corporate Behemoths

Between the early 2000s and today, in any number of industries, the market share of the two largest companies has jumped enormously. For instance, in the early 2000s the two largest hardware stores combined to about 42 percent of the market, a figure that today stands at over 80 percent. The shipbuilding, tobacco and pharmacy industries all saw the market share of the two biggest companies rise by at least 30 percentage points. In tech, it’s even more pronounced: the two largest smartphone companies controlled just under 80 percent of the market in 2012, a figure that is today just shy of 100 percent.

David Leonhardt, The New York Times

Mobile Payments

The top mobile payment app in the U.S. isn’t Apple Pay, Google Pay or any of the other myriad payment apps, it’s the Starbucks app. In North America, 40 percent of sales at Starbucks are part of their loyalty program and the mobile order tool of the app is 13 percent of all transactions. Fans of the app are really, really into the product, because there’s always going to be a small subset of humans that will fork over an unfathomable amount of money in exchange for a gold star.

Heather Schwedel, Slate

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 

Previous Sunday special editions: 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

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at