Monthly Archives: August 2014

Amazon’s Twitch purchase heralds a new age of creative consumption

It’s enough to make an accountant develop a nervous one. This week Amazon snapped up Twitch, a video platform and community for computer gamers, paying the princely sum of $970m (£585m) in cash. That’s a lot of money for something many people have never heard of – more than three times the amount Amazon spent to pick up DVD and streaming video service Lovefilm in 2011.

But Twitch is something very different. Instead of a provider of films created by large studios for a mass audience, it is a niche platform where the customers create their own content. It has 900,000 unique broadcasters and accounts for 1.8 per cent of peak internet traffic in the US, ahead of Facebook (1.5 per cent) and Amazon (1.2 per cent). Its success demonstrates seismic changes in consumer behaviour and the previously unimaginable opportunities they offer attentive firms. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Innovation, Technology

Who’s back: The Doctor is the unexpected freedom fighter our civilisation still needs

Look who’s back. Tomorrow night Peter Capaldi, formerly swear-master Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, takes his place at the Tardis console.

What makes Doctor Who so enduring? It’s thirty years since it made me cower behind my childhood sofa, but after its bold regeneration in 2005, this bizarre TV series seems like its irrepressible hero, as full of life as ever. Continue reading

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Filed under Art, Freedom, Innovation

Iran’s female Fields medalist is a reminder of prosperity’s liberating power

Amid all the horror and hard choices dominating the global news this summer, it’s important not to miss the brighter trends as well. So it is worth taking a moment to salute Maryam Mirzakhani, who became the first woman to win a Fields Medal, the Nobel of maths, this week. Continue reading

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Lights out for darker skies: The First World War started with a crash

For the City, the Great War began with a financial crisis. Even before Britain committed itself, Europe’s great powers ranging against one another spelled disaster: the collapse of the magnificent, peaceful edifice of international trade built between the empires.

As told in Jerry White’s riveting account of London in the war, Zeppelin Nights, on Friday 31 July 1914 the London Stock Exchange closed indefinitely. Lloyd’s of London refused all business except to insure war risks. The bank rate suddenly doubled from 4 per cent to 8 per cent – its highest level in 40 years. Long queues formed outside the Bank of England, eager to exchange notes for the harder currency of gold. Continue reading

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Filed under Economics, History

Forget free market selfishness: It’s socialism that turns us into liars and cheats

Markets make people better. Not many people seem to think so these days, but the idea got a boost from a recent piece of research by Dan Ariely and others, which compared moral behaviour in Germans brought up in East and West Germany.

The team found that those with an East German background cheated twice as much as those raised in the capitalist West. The East Germans regularly lied about their success on a task throwing dice. Older subjects, with more experience of life under socialism, cheated the most. Those who had lived for 20 years or more under socialism were 65 per cent more likely to cheat than West Germans. This supported earlier work showing East Germans approved far more of cheating on taxes, although that criminal propensity appeared to be eliminated after seven years of reunification. Continue reading

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Filed under Economics, Freedom, History, Human nature