12 12 / 2013
It’s a whether vs what thing, basically. Or, to put it another way, it’s a real-world application of Buridan’s ass.
In the case of gifts, there are certain occasions (birthdays, weddings, Christmas) which are associated with strong societal pressure to give something. What you give is, in general, much less important than that you give. So it’s actually societally OK to give a crappy present: “it’s the thought that counts”.
Tattoos are more interesting. I’ve wanted a tattoo for quite a long time, but I’ve always been paralyzed by indecision about what tattoo to get. It’s so permanent, I set the bar extremely high — and end up with nothing, when I’m pretty sure I’d prefer something to nothing. Call it FOFR — fear of future regret — almost the opposite of FOMO.
When I see happily tattooed people, it’s obvious that they’ve made a simple determination — that a tattoo (or a lot of tattoos) is better than no tattoo, and that therefore they should simply go ahead and ink up. That doesn’t mean it makes sense to get an ice-cream cone tattooed on your face. But let’s remain within the realm of general common sense here, and I’m quite happy that the world’s skin is getting more colorful and interesting.
Just as I’m happy that people keep on giving each other gifts at this time of year. The deadweight loss involved notwithstanding.
10 12 / 2013
"Each of these activities (listening to high end audio gear, drinking high end wine, having needles inserted into your chakras) is really about ritualizing a sensory experience. By putting on headphones you know are high quality, or drinking expensive wine, or entering the chiropractor’s office, you are telling yourself, “I am going to focus on this moment. I am going to savor this.” It’s the act of savoring, rather than the savoring tool, that results in both happiness and a longer life."
25 11 / 2013
“Joanna Coles, who runs Cosmo, is a dynamo. She is the future of fashion,” he enthused, unprompted. “She’s got a pizzazz about her and an edge that is exactly what you need in that business. I’m a big fan.”
Bloomberg is less of a fan of youthful, experimental fashion — the city’s efforts to aid emerging designers notwithstanding. “You have all these new fashion people that you and I have never heard of, doing things that I don’t like. I don’t think they are real fashion,” he scoffed, proffering his preference for Establishment labels like Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Ralph Lauren. “But that’s what our parents said about our stuff and what these people will say about the next generation,” he allowed philosophically."
25 11 / 2013
Michael Wolff has a weird column about Business Insider today. (Near the top, he says that Henry Blodget can be seen “at nearly every industry cocktail party”, which is hilariously wrong, Blodget hates going to such things, and almost never does.)
Wolff also back-of-the-envelopes some ad-revenue math:
Blodget recently told the Financial Times that Business Insider’s revenue will be “close to” $20 million this year…
Let’s assume that “close to” $20 million is more like $17 million and that a few million of that comes from conferences, its low-margin, hard-work new area of business that Business Insider has been recently bragging about. So figure perhaps $14 million from its core advertising base.
BI's 10 million uniques likely yield something near 40 million page views a month, which would be a $3 CPM (cost per thousand views), hardly setting even the abysmally low online CPM world on fire. In fact, comScore tends to undercount by almost half, so it could be more like 20 million uniques with 80 million page views and a CPM across the site of $1.50.
Let’s grant Wolff’s assumptions, silly as they may be. And let’s put to one side that he uses the term CPM (the cost to an advertiser of 1,000 pageviews) when he means RPM (the revenue to a publisher of 1,000 pageviews). The difference, of course, is that you can get more than one ad per page.
In any case, if you have 40 million pageviews per month, that’s 480 million pageviews per year. Now, let’s say you have advertising revenue of $14 million per year. Then you’re getting revenue of $14 million per 480 million pageviews. Divide both numbers by 480,000: that’s the same as $29 per thousand pageviews. Not $3. Wolff’s off by an order of magnitude.
Similarly, if Business Insider is getting $14 million from 80 million pageviews a month, that works out at an RPM of about $15, not $1.50.
Now I have no idea what Business Insider’s revenue or pageview numbers are. But I do know bad arithmetic when I see it. And Wolff’s arithmetic reminds me of nothing so much as Mary Meeker’s, back in 2007. Except in Wolff’s case, of course, it’s unreasonably bearish, rather than unreasonably bullish.
24 11 / 2013
"Why does Steve Ballmer keep making critical executive decisions that effectively tie the hands of his successor? First the reorg, then Nokia, then Microsoft’s financial reporting structure, and now employee compensation. These are not small decisions! Each of them goes to the core of how a CEO can truly impact and shape a company, and I find it borderline scandalous that Ballmer is making said decisions as a lame duck. It certainly gives credence to the idea that leaving was not his idea, and he’s hoping to get his last licks in before he goes."
13 11 / 2013
"*The sentence “Few motorists would dare blow through a red light, even if it appeared safe to do so” has been removed from the second paragraph. A 2000 report indicates that drivers in New York City run 1.23 million red lights each day, which is more than a few."
Correction du jour
04 11 / 2013
Nick Lemann, the former dean of Columbia Journalism School, has a monster 10,000-word profile of Mary Jo White in the latest New Yorker, which has the most legendary fact checkers in the business. So why does it contain pretty basic errors of fact?
In 2004, the commission permitted the big brokerage houses to take on a much higher level of debt. The firms quickly began borrowing at possibly ruinous levels, which made them feel the effects of the crisis even more acutely.
The first sentence is arguably true, but the second sentence absolutely is not.
“Dark pools,” private unregulated markets, enable banks to execute undisclosed trades.
Dark pools are not unregulated. They are very regulated, as anybody who runs one will tell you. And all trades in dark pools are disclosed and recorded, just like trades on any other exchange.
And then there’s this doozy:
In 2000, the S.E.C. permitted stocks to be traded in pennies or fractions of pennies, rather than the customary eighths or thirty-seconds of a dollar. That made it easier for traders to make money by placing very large orders for very small variances in the price of a stock.
Nothing trades in fractions of pennies, at least not if it’s trading at over a buck a share. And decimalization didn’t make it easier for traders to make money, it made it harder for traders to make money.
I’m not sure what to make of all this, except to say that the New Yorker really doesn’t get finance. And/or, Lemann gets special dispensation to be a tourist in worlds he doesn’t really understand, and that because of his stature, he doesn’t get the extra scrutiny that such writers require.
24 10 / 2013
"No purchaser of a sovereign debt instrument today does so in the hope and expectation that when the debt matures the borrower will have the money to repay it. The purchaser does so in the hope and expectation that when the instrument matures the borrower will be able to borrow the money from somebody else in order to repay it. This is a crucial distinction. If by sovereign creditworthiness we mean that a sovereign is expected to be able to generate enough revenue fromn taxes or other sources to repay its debts as they fall due, then most countries are utterly insolvent."