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The Economics of the Blockbuster

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why do we get summer holiday blockbusters? They seem to matter more and more to Hollywood studios. According to one professor "the entertainment industry is moving more towards a winner-take-all-market". Yet it wasn't supposed to be like this. A best-selling 2008 book, The Long Tail, argued that the mainstream was going to be "shattered into a zillion different cultural shards," as fickle consumers "scattered to the winds" using the internet to find the books, films and songs that met their unique taste. So what might be going on?

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Maker Movements - Garage Manufacturing

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Collaboration and innovation are often fast-tracked by creating the right spaces for people and ideas to mingle.

This seven minute video from the Economist is deeply interesting - it looks at the Artisan's Asylum near Boston, Massachusetts in the USA which is host to a number of new hardware businesses. They are built around cheap work space, high-tech tools and crowd-sourced funding. The project has spawned some notable success stories many built around digital 3D printing - is there anything like an equivalent Maker Movement in the UK?

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Unit 3 Micro: MOOCs and the Learning Market

Friday, August 02, 2013

MOOCs, massive open online courses, may change the university and college system for ever. How potentially disruptive are MOOC providers such as EdX, Coursera and others in the complex market for higher education?

See also:

MOOCs - threat or opportunity? (BBC Newsnight, July 2013)

IMF launches MOOC on finance (June 2013)

MOOCs - an education revolution (New Scientist)

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Unit 3 Micro: Indie Games and Contestable Markets

Here is a great example of the fast-changing dynamics of the computer gaming industry. Indie gaming studios are proving more nimble, innovative and ultimately smarter than the blockbuster console franchises who have dominated the industry for years. The rise of smartphone and tablet gaming has spawned a new type of gamer and a new type of game with opportunities and challenges for all players.

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Paul Ormerod: No free lunch.  Defaults today mean less jam tomorrow

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Potential defaults in the Euro zone have been in the news again. In Portugal, the ruling coalition parties and the main opposition Socialists have been unable to agree on a European Union-led bailout plan after days of talks. Yields on the country’s 10 year bonds have approached 7 per cent, compared to the 1.5 per cent in Germany. There has been some improvement this week on the news that an early general election has been avoided, but yields still remain over 6 per cent.

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Paul Ormerod: Social Influence, Media and Marketing

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Here is a video of a talk given at Nudge Blog this summer on how developments in our understanding of networks can be used by businesses in complex markets

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T-Shirts and consumer choice

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Firstly, I hope the first AS exam went well, whether that was macro (OCR), micro, and whether for the first time or a retake. I also hope that in amongst the revision you’re in the market for a more random blogpost…

This one’s a topic on which Paul Ormerod would have something to say. On NPR’s Planet Money radio show/podcast, they’re launching a T-shirt, and using this as a stimulus for a whole set of reporting on its genesis, from cotton subsidies to its design. The latest podcast investigated the colour of their T-shirts. “What’s the economics in that?”, I hear you cry…

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Paul Ormerod: The Market for Speeding Points

Friday, March 29, 2013

What is it worth to take someone else’s speeding points?  The Huhne-Pryce case has brought this into sharp focus.  Setting aside the moral issues, the question raises interesting topics in economics.

It turns out that there is a market in these points.  The Daily Telegraph discovered that prisoners are willing to take points.  By the time they get out, the points will often have expired.  For around £200, someone will take your three points.  But mingling with a group of England supporters after the Wales debacle on Saturday, their tongues loosened by alcohol, I discovered that one respectable woman claimed to have done it for £500. 

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Paul Ormerod: Hip Hop and Why Some Things Succeed

Friday, March 15, 2013

Just over a month ago, a group of young men from a fairly yokel part of Australia posted a video on YouTube.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Except that the video now has over 21 million viewings.  More than 170,000 variants of the original theme have been posted on YouTube.  A few have received even more viewings than the original, with one notching up over 63 million.

The wider repercussions have been even more dramatic.  Australian miners have been sacked for recording their on version underground.  People have been arrested in Russia for copying it on a World War Two tank.  In Israel, two soldiers have been jailed.  A flight from San Diego is the subject of a major investigation when the passengers attempted to redefine the Mile High Club and create a version in mid-flight.

This phenomenon of popular culture is called the Harlem Shake.  Its essence is that a group of people perform a comedy sketch, accompanied by excerpts from the 1980s hip-hop song of the same name.  King Lear it is not.

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Paul Ormerod: Today Singapore and Japan, Tomorrow China

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It has suddenly become fashionable to be concerned about China’s growth rate slowing down.  This is not a matter of a short-run cyclical downturn, with normal service being resumed shortly as the economy roars ahead once more.  It is a worry that there will be a permanent slowdown by the end of this decade.  Instead of annual growth rates around 10 per cent and even more, the Chinese economy will settle down to the much more sedate rates seen in the West in the 1950s and 1960s in the range 3 to 5 per cent.

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Should we invest to avoid snow days?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Although it's not been too bad in my area, the recent cold snap is another example of the extreme weather we've seen a number of times in recent years. But what does extreme mean in this case? This isn’t a hurricane. It’s extreme in the sense that it’s unusual. This weather would not faze the Finns or Swedes. They are equipped for this weather, so surely we too could avoid the loss of a work/school day by some investment.

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Paul Ormerod: Meat and potato pies and the Nobel Prize in economics

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tragedy struck at a mid-week game played during the holiday season in Football League Division Two.   The pies ran out in the home supporters’ bar.   The incident may seem trivial to those not involved.  Yet it illustrates some important themes in economics, which have even gained their inventors the Nobel Prize.

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Unit 3 Micro: DropBox - Network Economics and Market Contestability

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Here is a superb blog from the Economist magazine into a digital business built around the Freemium pricing model and where network effects are strong. Also good for understanding market contestability and the impact of new entrants on profit margins. Dropbox is my preferred file sharing system, I am pretty much locked in and wouldn't change!

Freemium is a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content

The complete guide to freemium business models

Paul Ormerod: Bankers, Greens and the Barking Mad: When Prophesy Fails

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Forecasts of the end of the world have an even worse track record than predictions in economics.  Some followers of the Mayan calendar believe the world will end next week.

But we have been here before.  In 1956, an American group, led by a suburban housewife, believed that a catastrophic flood would destroy the world on a specific date.  Concealing his true identity, a leading American social psychologist, Leon Festinger, had joined them several months previously.  When the flood failed to happen, he noted that, far from abandoning their beliefs, the members became even fervent in their view that the world was about to end.

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Paul Ormerod: Prisons, incentives and how to save the planet

Friday, November 30, 2012

Criminals are refusing to leave Portugal’s prisons.  According to the International Herald Tribune, prisoners are starting to want to serve the full amount of their sentences rather than be released on parole.  This is despite the fact that there is record over-crowding and conditions inside are reported to be dire.  Motoring offenders are increasingly failing to pay fines, opting instead to serve three or even six month sentences. This is a remarkable illustration of the effect of economic incentives.

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Paul Ormerod: A stitch in time: We need smarter government, but less of it

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What is the connection between the content of Boris Johnson’s speech this week to the CBI, tax avoidance and evasion, executive pay, petty crime and plagiarism by students?  This is yet another one where economics can help us with the solution. Economists have long used the example of a factory which imposes costs on other people in the neighbourhood through the pollution it generates.  They refer to such costs as ‘externalities’. These are costs external to the factory itself.

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Paul Ormerod: Corporation tax: fostering the illusions of the electorate that someone else will pay

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Corporation tax is very much in the news.  Starbucks is merely the latest to be in the spotlight, having paid no corporation tax on more than £1billion of sales in the past three years .  This became noteworthy when the Prime Minister himself declared he was unhappy with the level of tax avoidance by big corporations  working in Britain.

The plain fact is that if corporation tax did not exist, it would be madness to introduce it.  The tax plays to the ignorance not only of the general public, but of almost all politicians.  It encourages the fantasy that there is a free lunch, that someone else will pick up the bill for the welfare state and bloated state bureaucracy.

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The Olympics and the wider struggle

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The last three Summer Games have seen a titanic battle between the US and China to head the medals table.  Combining the three, China is just ahead, having 121 golds to America’s 116.  But America headed the table in both 2004 and 2012, and it is the massive haul in Beijing which just edges it for the Chinese.

Is this a portent of the wider struggle for global hegemony in the 21st century?  Just 20 years ago in Barcelona, the US was well ahead with 37 golds to China’s 16.  The Chinese have caught up – or so it seems.

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The Olympics, traffic in Central London and a bar in Santa Fe

We all know now about the empty roads and deserted shops, all quite contrary to the official announcements before the Games began.  No doubt Transport for London used their massively complicated, expensive models of the transport network to deduce that the system would be under massive strain. 

But a deceptively simple game devised in the 1990s about a bar in Santa Fe sheds light on what has happened.  Santa Fe is teeming with high powered researchers, who proliferate in the state of New Mexico.

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Unit 4 Macro: Social Capital, Social Networks and Economic Development

Friday, July 27, 2012

There is increasing interest in the roles that social capital and social networks can play both in economic development and also as part of effective development policies.The sociologist Robert Putnam has defined social capital as “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.”

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