Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Evidence of Point Shaving in College Basketball

Since the NCAA tournament starts tomorrow (I don't really count the play-in game), here is a college basketball related story:

An economist at Penn argues that point shaving occurs in 5% of games with large spreads. The interesting part is how he examines the data for clues that this is happening. It is very similar to the chapter on cheating teachers in Freakonomics.

(Source: Freakonomics Blog)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The $39 Experiment

This site describes an experiment where a guy mailed letters to various companies asking for free stuff. He keeps updates on who gives him rejections and who sends him free stuff. Some of the letters are fairly entertaining:

To McDonalds:

Dear Sir or Madam:
You may love to see me smile, but I, however, love to see me eat. Please send me coupons for free McDonald's product, so that I may continue to eat (and smile).
Thank you well in advance, Tom Locke, eating enthusiast

To Nylabone:

Dear Sir or Madam:
My dog (a random mutt) loves your "Healthy Edibles" bones. I wanted to name the dog "Bonecrusher", but my wife ended up naming him "Rudy Huxtable". What a stupid name for a dog. Anyway, your bones are the only thing that stops this dog from molesting my leg while I'm working on the computer. Any chance you could send over some free samples? My dog – and my leg – would greatly appreciate it! Thanks well in advance, Tom Locke, "keeping my dog off of my leg" enthusiast
He has already gotten more responses than I thought he would. Any predictions for what type of companies are likely to give him free stuff? Any explanation for the type of companies who already have? If you had to pick another company that he did not choose that you think would be very likely to send you free stuff if you asked, which would you choose?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

Are DVDs the death of movie theaters?

There has been a lot of talk about how movie theaters are in big trouble due to the fact that people buy a lot of DVDs nowadays, can watch recorded TV shows on their TiVo or DVR, and can watch all of these media forms on big plasma TVs that are close to theater experience anyway.

Here is an interview in the NY Times with the CEO of Regal where he explains why he thinks DVDs are good for the movie theater business. Here is his response to the question of how much of a threat DVDs are to movie theaters:

I think DVD's have been the savior of not only the studio model but have been beneficial to theater owners, too, because it funnels more money back into the studios, which in turn fuels higher production budgets, greater numbers of films, and so on.

We have seen the window shrink from an average of about six months between theatrical to video 10 years ago to about four and a half months today. Some compression of that window over time is justified, or has been justified at least in the past, because we generate our piece of the pie at the box office much quicker today than we did a decade ago.

People who run the studios are smart people, and I think they realize the tremendous value of having that theatrical launch pad. And I don't think that's going to change. They make films to be released on the big screen.

Which side do you believe? The side saying that movie theaters are on their way out or the side saying that movie theaters are helped by the popularity of DVDs, etc.?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Car-buying in China

Another China Fact of the Day courtesy of Business Week via Marginal Revolution:
84 percent of new car sales in China are to first-time buyers. In the U.S., just 1 percent are.

What does this tell us about China? If you were starting a business in China, what type of business would you start (other than a car company)?