Google Further Reduces Small Payments to Content Creators

YouTube is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google.

(p. A15) SAN FRANCISCO — The authorities believe a woman who shot three people at YouTube’s headquarters before killing herself on Tuesday [April 3, 2018] was angered by the social media outlet’s policies.
While the police did not specifically say what those policies were, they likely had to do with a concept called “demonetization.”
. . .
One of those creators was Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman the police said had shot YouTube employees in San Bruno, Calif. She frequently posted videos to several YouTube channels and had become increasingly angry over the money she was making from them.
“My Revenue For 300,000 Views Is $0.10?????” Ms. Aghdam wrote on her website, while calling YouTube “a dictatorship.”
. . .
Video creators take a share of the money from ads running before or alongside their videos. But YouTube has been raising the bar on qualifications for running ads.
Last April, the company said it would set a requirement for 10,000 cumulative lifetime views before allowing videos to gain ads. In January, the company raised that requirement to 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year and 1,000 subscribers.

For the full story, see:
NELLIE BOWLES and JACK NICAS. “YouTube Complaints From Attacker Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars.” The New York Times (Thursday, April 5, 2018): A15.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 4, 2018, and has the title “YouTube Attacker’s Complaints Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars.”)

Department of Motor Vehicles Staffed by Sloths

The video clip above is an authorized “embed” from YouTube.

(p. D3) . . . “since the trailers have been playing everywhere, I can tell you a bit about one of the best things in “Zootopia”–an extended sequence set in a Department of Motor Vehicles office where all the clerks are sloths. That’s a funny notion, to be sure, and the main sloth, a clerk named Flash (Raymond S. Persi) has a deliciously distinctive demeanor. But the sequence’s great distinction is how confidently it is developed. In an era of quick cuts and speedy action, Flash is remarkably…outlandishly….hilariously….and memorably s-l-o-w. Kids will be imitating him for a month of Saturdays.

For the full review, see:
Morgenstern, Joe. “‘Zootopia’: Beauty and the Beasts.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 4, 2016): D3.
(Note: the ellipsis at the start is added; the internal ellipses are in the original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 3, 2016, and has the title “‘Zootopia’ Review: Beauty and the Beasts.”)

Canadian Cartel Seizes 20,400 Pounds of Robert Hodge’s Maple Syrup

Video interviews related to the New York Times article quoted below.

(p. B1) The scenic and narrow lane that leads to Robert Hodge’s sugar camp is surrounded by a cat’s cradle of plastic piping that draws sap from 12,000 trees. At the end of the lane, a ramshackle hut contains reverse osmosis pumps to concentrate the harvest. A stainless steel evaporator, about the size of a truck, finishes the conversion into maple syrup.
Just one thing is missing: the maple syrup.
For weeks, security guards, hired by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, kept watch over Mr. Hodge’s farm. Then one day, the federation seized 20,400 pounds of maple syrup, his entire annual production, worth about 60,000 Canadian dollars, or nearly $46,000.
The incident was part of the escalating battle with farmers like Mr. Hodge who break the law by not participating in the federation’s tightly controlled production and sales system.
“It’s a good thing that I’m not 35, 40 years old because I’d pack up all my sugar equipment that’s movable, and I’d go to the United States — oh yes, in a minute, in a minute,” said Mr. Hodge, 68.
While many Americans associate Vermont with maple syrup, Quebec is its center. The province’s trees produce more than 70 (p. 4) percent of the world’s supply and fill the majority of the United States’ needs. The federation, in turn, has used that dominance to restrict supply and control prices of the pancake topping.
. . .
Mr. Hodge is similarly intransigent. At this point in the season, Mr. Hodge would normally have sold his syrup, turning his attention to his cattle and other crops. But this year he had nothing to sell. He contends that farmers should be allowed to set their own level of production and sell directly to large buyers, regardless of what the law says.
“They call us rebels, say we’re in a sugar war or something. I’ve heard rumors of that,” said Mr. Hodge, at his farm in Bury, Quebec.
“Yeah, I guess you could call it that.”
Across the table, Whitney, his 20-year-old daughter, who also farms, looked up from her smartphone and interjected.
“A war over maple syrup, like how pathetic can you get?”
. . .
Prices are set by the federation, in negotiation with a buyers’ group. The federation holds most of the power, given that it controls a majority of the world’s production.
Such domestic systems are facing scrutiny in a global marketplace. One major hurdle in the talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal with 12 countries, has been Canada’s refusal to dismantle a similar quota system for dairy and poultry farmers.
Maple syrup buyers, including some American companies, have bristled at the federation’s tactics. They appreciate the steady supply. But some have taken issue with the aggressive enforcement efforts, including large fines for companies buying from Quebec producers outside the system, and the rising prices.
The situation, critics contend, could prompt buyers and producers to shift to the neighboring province of New Brunswick, and Vermont in the United States. Or consumers might simply pour artificial syrup instead.
“People will always eat chicken,” said Antoine Aylwin, a Montreal lawyer who has represented several buyers in disputes with the federation, including some American companies. “But they will not always eat maple syrup if they think that they can’t afford it.”

Defying the Law
Mr. Hodge was shocked in 2009 when the federation demanded 278,000 Canadian dollars for not joining the system and for selling directly to a buyer in Ontario.
Most years, Mr. Hodge’s sugar bush grosses about 50,000 Canadian dollars. About half the money goes to cover electricity for the vacuum pumps and oil for the evaporator.
“I’d have to give them 100 percent of what I gross for five years, and I would have nothing for production cost,” he said. “That just ain’t possible.”
Mr. Hodge openly acknowledges that he is defying the law. When the quota and centralized selling system were introduced, he continued to sell directly to a buyer in Ontario.
. . .
Like others who have invoked the federation’s wrath, Mr. Hodge’s battle seems as much about principle as avoiding a potentially crippling fine.
In Mr. Hodge’s view, the system’s restrictions are stunting the growth of Quebec’s industry. It is less bureaucratic and less expensive, he explains, for buyers to go to Vermont or New Brunswick. He said that he had no problem with paying the federation its 12 cents a pound tax for various services, like promoting maple syrup in new markets, particularly in Asia. But he will not adhere to the quotas.
“Well, I don’t accept the system because I don’t believe in not being able to sell our product,” he said. “We just think that that product is ours. We bought the land. We’ve done all the work. Why should we not be able to sell our product the way we want as long as we legitimately put it on our income tax?”
That’s a question that exasperates Mr. Trépanier of the federation. While Mr. Trépanier studiously avoids calling the organization a cartel, he has described it as the OPEC of maple syrup in the past, referring to the group of oil-producing countries. The system, he said, is doomed to collapse without production discipline.

For the full story, see:
IAN AUSTEN. “The Maple Syrup Mavericks.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., AUG. 23, 2015): 1 & 4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 20, 2015, and has the title “Canadian Maple Syrup ‘Rebels’ Clash With Law.”)

Portland Government Stops Girl from Selling Mistletoe to Pay for Braces

In Portland, the government is stopping an 11 year old girl from selling mistletoe to raise money for her braces. Here is a link to the KATU local Portland ABC news station video report: http://www.katu.com/news/local/11-year-old-told-not-to-sell-mistletoe-but-begging-is-fine-234014261.html?tab=video&c=y It also has been posted to YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj4caXi0wdw

Nebraska Teenager Becomes the “George Clooney of YouTube”

(p. 263) Google also became more aggressive in connecting sponsors for popular videos. A paragon of YouTube’s business model was “Fred,” a video channel created by a Columbus, Nebraska, teenager named Lucas Cruikshank. The teen pretended to be a six-year-old kid named Fred Figglehorn in a series of two-minute videos. “Fred is the George Clooney of YouTube,” says Hunter Walk. “He was the first one with a million subscribers. He uploads videos, and we put ads against them. Sometimes he sells product placement ads. Fred makes a million dollars a year. He just signed a movie deal.” The Fred videos– generally manic rants in which Cruikshank portrays a hyperactive, possibly brain-damaged child who speaks like one of Ross Bagdasarian’s chipmunks– often sported commercial messages for sponsors such as Samsung, the Food Channel, and Bratz on an overlay at the bottom of the window. Since he started in 2008, at age fourteen, Fred’s (p. 264) YouTube videos have chalked up over half a billion viewings. Though Fred’s success was solely a product of YouTube, people in the company never met the phenom. “We sent him a cake once,” says Walk.
YouTube helped Fred’s youthful creator not just by selling ads but by providing analytics, the same way it did for AdSense publishers. (This was a result of an initiative called the YouTube Insight project, developed by engineers in Google’s Zurich center.) Such data helped creators learn what was working and where. “They’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m big in the U.K.! I never knew I had a London following!'” says Walk. Superusers such as Cruikshank were so successful in exploiting YouTube’s business initiatives that corporations such as Sony were studying their methodology and even paid some of them consultant fees to help them understand the digital world.

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Poor People Want Washing Machines

The wonderful clip above is from Hans Rosling’s TED talk entitled “The Magic Washing Machine.”
He clearly and strongly presents his central message that the washing machine has made life better.

What was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution? Hans Rosling makes the case for the washing machine. With newly designed graphics from Gapminder, Rosling shows us the magic that pops up when economic growth and electricity turn a boring wash day into an intellectual day of reading.

Source of video clip summary:
http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html

The version of the clip above is embedded from YouTube, where it was posted by TED: http://youtu.be/BZoKfap4g4w

It can also be viewed at the TED web site at:
http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html

(Note: I am grateful to Robin Kratina for telling me about Rosling’s TED talk,)
(Note: I do not agree with Rosling’s acceptance of the politically correct consensus view that the response to global warning should mainly be mitigation and green energy—to the extent that a response turns out to be necessary, I mainly support adaptation, as suggested in many previous entries on this blog.)

DaVita Threw Out Medicine and Billed Taxpayer: Huge Medicare Fraud

DaVitaMedicareFraudDrewGriffin2012-11-29.jpg

I saw this clip broadcast on Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room” broadcast on 11/29/12 (if memory serves–it might have been the day before).
The clip shows the magnitude of the fraud, but also emphasizes that there were significant incentives for those who knew about the fraud to keep their mouths shut.
This is one huge case of over-billing, but over-billing happens all the time. Taxpayers could have used that money for other purposes. The opportunity cost is huge.

A link to the clip posted on CNN, is:
http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/29/company-accused-of-giant-medicare-fraud/?iref=allsearch
(Note: I believe the November 29, 2012 date in the image above is the date that Drew Griffin posted the clip to the CNN blog, not necessarily the date of the broadcast.)

Coase: “Firms Never Calculate Marginal Costs”

Source of YouTube video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZAq06n79QIs#!

(p. 257) You can watch a 99 year-old Ronald Coase speaking in December 2009 for 25 minutes on the subjects of “Markets, Firms and Property Rights.” “One of the things that people don’t understand is that markets are creations. . . . In fact, it’s very difficult to imagine that firms act in the way that is described in the textbooks, where you maximize profits by equating marginal costs and marginal revenues. One of the reasons one can feel doubtful about this particular way of looking at things is that firms never calculate marginal costs . . . I think we ought to study directly how firms operate and develop our theory accordingly.” From the conference “Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase,” held at the University of Chicago Law School by the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law. The webpage also includes video of seven panels of prominent speakers, along with PDF files of a dozen or so papers given at the conference. Available at 〈http://iep.gmu.edu/CoaseConference.php〉.

Source:
Taylor, Timothy. “Recommendations for Further Reading.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 24, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 251-58.
(Note: ellipses in original.)

Chamber Blitz Clip for Tort Reform

BlitzGasolineCans2012-10-11.jpg “Blitz gasoline cans, at Ace Hardware in Miami, Okla., will soon disappear from stores. The company closed because of the costs of lawsuits contending that the cans were unsafe.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

The “Mr. Flick” quoted below is Rocky Flick, the former CEO of Blitz.

(p. B1) Crusading against what it considers frivolous lawsuits, the United States Chamber of Commerce has had no shortage of cases to highlight, like the man suing a cruise line after burning his feet on a sunny deck or the mother claiming hearing loss from the screaming at a Justin Bieber concert.

Now, the lobbying group’s Institute for Legal Reform is showing a 30-second commercial that uses Blitz USA, a bankrupt Oklahoma gasoline can manufacturer, to illustrate the consequences of abusive lawsuits. The ad shows tearful workers losing their jobs and the lights going out at the 46-year-old company as a result of steep legal costs from lawsuits targeting the red plastic containers, according to the company and the institute.
The closing of the 117-employee operation this summer became a rallying point for proponents of tort reform. . . .
. . .
(p. B2) Blitz executives note that the company, which was the nation’s leading gas can producer, sold more than 14 million cans a year over the last decade, with fewer than two reported incidents per million cans sold. The company said the most serious incidents usually involved obvious misuse of the cans, like pouring gasoline on an open fire.
. . .
A decade ago, Mr. Flick said, the company would face one or two lawsuits a year. The number grew to six or seven a year, and finally to 25 or so last year when Blitz filed for bankruptcy.

For the full story, see:
CLIFFORD KRAUSS. “Two Sides of Product Liability: A Factory’s Closing Focuses Attention on Tort Reform.” The New York Times (Fri., October 4, 2012): B1.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 5, 2012 and has the shorter title “A Factory’s Closing Focuses Attention on Tort Reform.”)

View the Chamber video clip on the Blitz example:

FlickRockyFormerBlitzCEO2012-10-11.jpg

“Rocky Flick, Blitz’s former chief executive.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

Vivid Examples of Government Obstacles to Entrepreneurship

EconomicFreedom.org/Stories is posting video clips of free agent entrepreneurs and the obstacles that government policies put in the path to their achievements. The videos give concrete examples and make the costs of regulations more real by connecting the costs to the faces of actual people.

Diamond to Teach Creative Destruction Colloquium in Fall 2012

CreativeDestructionColloquiumPoster2012PortraitTopHalfCropped.jpg

Colloquium Rationale:
Creative destruction is the process through which innovative new products are created, and older obsolete products are destroyed. In transportation, for example, cars creatively destroyed the horse and buggy, trains creatively destroyed horse-drawn wagons. Such innovations contribute to longer and richer lives, but may come at the cost of greater uncertainty in the labor market. Schumpeter claimed that the process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. Although Nobel-prize-winner George Stigler has described creative destruction as “heresy,” a growing number of economists and non-economists have found the concept useful in understanding the world. While most of the emphasis will be on the implications of creative destruction for business and the economy, the discussion will sometimes involve issues related to information science, sociology, medicine, law, engineering, psychology, literature, political science, architecture, and history.

You can hear me talking about last year’s version of the Creative Destruction Colloquium (which was offered last year under a different course number and a slightly different title) in the following YouTube video: