414 (25 March 2020)

Welcome!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  Relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  Article titles preceded by [SR] require a subscription.

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided many opportunities for reflection, so this weekly will be a bit different, more of a blog post than a review of the news from the perspective of the invisible forces. 

What really caught my attention this week—I’ve noticed this before—is how one big story with many facets can “crowd out” so much news.  I’d love to have some measures that would make that “crowding out” precise.  It has made me wonder about the decision-making processes for those who create media products.    

Newspapers have, in concept, so many column inches to fill each day.  This constraint is especially strict for print newspapers, not so much for online papers.  Who makes these decisions?  What factors are considered?  How are these decisions made?  It seems like magazines are in a similar situation.

Television broadcasts, in particular news broadcasts, have so many seconds to fill each day.  Who makes these decisions?  What factors are considered?  How are these decisions made?  I am reminded a bit of the TV shows The Newsroom and Sports Night, which provide dramatic answers to these questions.

Need I go on?  Essentially, every media product is created by people facing constraints, some more binding than others.  Who makes these decisions?  What factors are considered?  How are those decisions made?   Maybe this is too narrow a statement, since more and more media products are being created by algorithms, with relatively little human intervention, but someone has to create the algorithms.  I welcome the thoughts, and especially references, of those who have some specific examples to relate.

Aside from media products, the Covid-19 pandemic has led me to think about interdependence.  Three pairs of articles follow. 

Here are two that relate to labor markets:

(20 March 2020) Coronavirus Threatens More Than 15 Million U.S. Hospitality JobsBloomberg.com.  The article provides information about the number of hospitality workers in a variety of metropolitan areas, as well at the workforce share of hospitality workers.  Asheville, North Carolina appears the respective numbers are 33,000 and more than 13.5%.  Check out the map and place your cursor over a city that interests you.  Here is the story for Las Vegas and Orlando.

(22 March 2020) Help Wanted: Grocery Stores, Pizza Chains and Amazon Are HiringThe New York Times.  As more people “shelter in place,” the demand for people who will bring things to them has increased.

Here are two that relate to products markets:

(9 March 2020) Global oil demand to decline in 2020 as coronavirus weighs heavily on marketsInternational Energy Agency.  The curtailment of travel and broader economic activity means oil usage has declined sharply. 

(21 March 2020) Freezers Sell Out as Consumers Stock UpThe New York Times.  The demand for small freezers, roughly 5 cubic feet, has skyrocketed.  The fact that that are “mostly made in China” has made restocking harder.  In a similar fashion, this is “A Boom Time for the Bean Industry The New York Times.  Canned and dried beans are  being purchased by people who have never eaten them before.

Here are two that provide broader perspective:

(13 March 2020)Retailers’ Worries About Impact of Coronavirus Shift From Supply to DemandAdweek.  Moving on from supply-chain concerns, this thoughtful and lengthier piece that takes a broader view of supply and demand in many markets. 

(16 March 2020)Will the Coronavirus End Globalization as We Know It?Foreign Affairs.  It argues that “the pandemic is exposing market vulnerabilities no one knew existed.” 

So, what to make of all this?  What had struck me, before I assembled the six articles above in the way I did, is the complexity of market interdependence.  There is nothing new about this, it is just that the coronavirus is the present disrupting event.  As the first pair of articles make clear, labor demand has dropped dramatically in some markets, while demand has increased in others.  Likewise, the second pair of articles show that product demand has dropped dramatically in some markets, while demand has increased in others.  The third pair of articles broaden out the analysis, essentially asking us to think about demand and supply in all markets, and then to examine the risk associated with being interdependent, a big question indeed. 

So, yes, market interdependence is complex.  I’d love to have some measures that would make that complexity precise.  Maybe then we could come address more mindfully the costs and benefits of interdependence.  Right now the costs are prominent, but the benefits are obscured.

Be well!

Bruce

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