Numlock News: October 25, 2019 • TikTok, Robots, Holidays

By Walt Hickey

Have an excellent weekend!

TikTok’s On The Clock

Came up in the App Store with alacrity, grabbed number one — it broke the floor — it quickly hit Gen Z, but it’s Chinese, so you see, it’s been catching some flack, and when it leaves the top tier it’s not coming back. TikTok’s on the clock, installs have been down these days, 564 million users this year and 1.45 billion since launch. But the 177 million users it’s scored in the third quarter is down 4 percent year over year, the very first time it’s notched a decline in installs. That’s never a great sign, as user growth is down from 182 percent in the first quarter to 16 percent in the second quarter.

Zheping Huang and Shelly Banjo, Bloomberg


Fully 33 percent of those surveyed said that they’re considering purchasing Disney+, the new streaming service coming from the Mouse. That’s higher than the 30 percent considering HBO Max and 26 percent weighing Apple TV+. Compare that to 56 percent considering Hulu, 60 percent weighing Amazon Prime Video and 72 percent considering Netflix. All told 46 percent of Millennials have considered purchasing Disney+, which is 13 points higher than the general population and presumably entirely due to Hilary Duff.

Morning Consult


Last year, automakers made 95 million cars and commercial vehicles worldwide. Lots of those vehicles depend on international cargo shipping — the E.U. exported 6.1 million cars worth $154 billion last year, with the U.S. buying 1.2 million of them and China buying 600,000 — so new tariffs are putting a serious damper on the automobile business. Some ships — holding 8,000 cars per trip, Audis and VWs to the U.S. and Jeeps and Fords on the way back — may soon be returned to their owners amid a tariff-induced slowdown. Last year global production of cars fell 1 percent, which while small is nevertheless the first decline since the Great Recession.

Costas Paris, The Wall Street Journal

The Short Wonderful Time of the Year

This year Thanksgiving is late, with just 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Compare that to 32 last year. Retailers are already pocketing this statistic ahead of sales misses come January, but in reality the six fewer shopping days should not make much of a difference. All that means is that a larger fraction of holiday shopping is projected to take place in early December, with 69.3 percent of shoppers projected to hit the stores then, compared to 52.8 percent last year. Overall holiday shopping is projected to rise anywhere from 2.7 percent to 5 percent.

Anne Riley Moffat, Bloomberg


The commissions structure of real estate in the U.S. means that sellers are out a serious chunk of change and real estate agents are forced to rely on just a few sales a year to make their entire livelihood. For instance, the 2,773 Douglas Elliman Real Estate agents closed 5,979 transactions last year, which averages out to about two deals per agent per year. Given that it takes just a few dozen hours to make a sale, the rest of that time is spent shoring up new business, so naturally you can spy an inefficiency here. In 40 states, it’s instead legal to negotiate a rebate, where buyers will pay an hourly rate for the services of real estate agents, and then come commission time those agents will rebate the difference back to the buyer.

Justin Wolfers, The New York Times

This past week’s Numlock Sunday was with Pat Garofalo, who writes one of my favorite newsletters, Boondoggle, all about the maddening, crazy politics of local tax incentives. He’s the author of The Billionaire Boondoggle and I’m just a huge fan of his work.

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One Day

In the fourth quarter Amazon projects to spend $1.5 billion to facilitate one-day shipping, according to its latest financial reports. Generally the third quarter is the one where Amazon preps for the big holiday season, and as such has employment of some 750,000 people now. Overall this past quarter the company’s shipping costs were up a sturdy 46 percent year over year, up to $9.6 billion.

Dana Mattioli, The Wall Street Journal


In 2018, the total market for social robots aimed to aid people with disabilities and elderly people was $48 million globally, with the market for rehabilitative robots hitting $310 million. Overall, the market for social robots is projected to grow 29 percent every year from 2019 to 2022, and the demand for rehabilitation robots is poised to grow 45 percent over the period. For such social robots — able to converse or entertain people in nursing homes and the like — the monthly service contract will be about 50 percent to 60 percent of the cost of hiring a human to do the same tasks, and that’s important as there’s projected to be an enormous shortfall in staffing in eldercare, with a 151,000 shortfall for paid care workers by 2030 and a 355,000 shortfall by 2040.

Corinne Purtill, Time

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