Papa John’s is T-Swift’s secret weapon


June 11, 2019

Today, car collectors panic and self-driving startups hire a mechanic, but first…
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How Billboard’s skewed album rankings birthed the bizarre bundling business

To get their albums to the top of Billboard’s chart, Taylor Swift, DJ Khaled, and other popular musicians slip free downloads of their albums into “bundled” sales of everything from pizza to T-shirts to energy drinks, The New York Times reports.

Album sales may not matter, but album rankings do

Billboard’s music charts have been the definitive sign of success in the music industry since 1940. 

But, although most modern listeners stream songs instead of downloading whole albums, Billboard’s charts value album downloads 1,400x more than individual streams when ranking albums — even if those downloads were free with the sale of something else.

So, to climb to the top, artists go to great lengths to bundle their downloads with other popular products.

Billboard birthed a bizarre business  

Taylor Swift once bundled an album with a large, one-topping pie from Papa John’s (just $22!) — and other artists have done the same with hoodies, T-shirts, keychains, and other gimmicks. 

The Backstreet Boys, who hadn’t been on top of Billboard’s chart in 19 years, shot to #1 four months ago by bundling their download with concert tickets — and then quickly fell to #24 the next week.

Even more bizarre, bundling works: Last year, 18 of the 39 songs that made it to Billboard’s top spot got a little help from a bundle.

The battle over the bundle

Generally, Billboard allows bundling, but it did disqualify DJ Khaled 2 weeks ago for encouraging unauthorized bulk sales with an energy drink bundle, sparking debate.

Now, many industry insiders are calling for bundling to be banned entirely.

“We’re obviously not fans of bundling,” explained Desiree Perez, the COO of DJ Khaled’s management company, Roc Nation. “But our hands are being forced by Billboard’s desperate, last-ditch effort to keep streaming from eliminating what’s left of music downloads.”

Bungled bundles
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The road to autonomous trucking is paved with more diesel mechanics than AI engineers

Starsky Robotics launched in 2016 with bold plans to fix the freight industry by replacing human-driven trucks with self-driving ones. 

But, as TechCrunch reports, the company today has 3 autonomous trucks — and 36 “regular” trucks.

Starsky’s journey shows that startups sometimes succeed only by collaborating with existing experts, instead of disrupting industry insiders.

In repairing a truck, Starsky fixed a broken business model

When Starsky’s trucks broke down in early tests, the company didn’t need AI experts — it needed mechanics.

When Starsky needed remote operators to run tests, it found that only career truckers could complete the tests safely.

Starsky soon found it could only scale its autonomous fleet by scaling its (larger) human fleet 6 months beforehand.

Autonomy… but with human support

Starsky still plans to create a fully autonomous fleet but now recognizes it will need trucking industry veterans to help. 

CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher admits he underestimated the importance of trucking expertise and says Starsky will achieve its goal of 25 autonomous trucks by 2020 only with at least 100 regular trucks and drivers.

» We’re gonna need a wrench…
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As luxury carmakers flood markets with new rides, their old cars lose value

Luxury car sales recently shifted into high gear: New car sales are up 26% for Aston Martin, 51% for Lamborghini, and 22% for Rolls-Royce.

But, in the exclusive world of luxury cars, that’s also bad news.

The value of those same companies’ used cars are skidding out: Prices of used Aston Martins are down 54%; Lamborghinis are down 56%; and Rolls Royces are down 48%. 

The Rolls-Royce paradox

Luxury car brands are built on exclusivity, so selling lotsa Lambos brings in mountains of money for Lamborghini… in the short term. 

But, in the long term, selling too many Lamborghinis also erodes the exclusivity of the brand, threatening the future value of the cars as collectibles. 

After all, luxury Lamborghinis aren’t supposed to be *gasp* common — otherwise, why would billionaires bother spending $300k on them?!

The conundrum of the ‘instant classic’

As more and more consumers prefer new styles of cars (like SUVs) and new features in cars (like lane-departure systems and collision-avoidance sensors), it may be harder for vintage car owners to sell old rides that may once have seemed “timeless.”

Now, luxury car collectors could be in for a conundrum as luxury rides become less like trophies and more like, well, cars.

» Poooor Aston Martin owners

Your medical data is worth 3x more than your financial data. Why?

Banks and financial institutions have always been targeted by hackers, but health care organizations are increasingly getting hacked to pieces by data thieves, according to a recent report.

Health care data has become popular on the dark web because it is easily monetized and, unlike bank information, it’s hard to change.

The permanence problem

Although bank account numbers can be quickly changed, health histories cannot — which makes personal health information (PHI) up to 3x more valuable than other types of personally identifiable information (PII).

Plus, since health care transactions go through several intermediaries — providers, insurers, etc. — it can take longer to detect health care fraud than financial fraud. 

On the dark web, doctor credentials are hot commodities that go for as much as $500 per record, while personal health insurance login information sells for a measly $3.25 per record.

Health care breaches are on the rise

Health care businesses in the US reported 44 breaches to the US government in April, the worst month on record.

The scale of these breaches is also worsening: A recent data breach at Quest Diagnostics may have impacted up to 11.9m patients’ records.

» Life’s a breach
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