Oct 20, 2021 - Podcasts

The new information age

America’s economic edge in tech used to be because of hardware, like computers, and software, or programming — think companies like Facebook or Google. But now we’re at a tipping point in the shift to an information economy that focuses on creators, content and data.

  • Plus, Halloween is roaring back in 2021.
  • And, how COVID has affected organized sports for kids.

Guests: Axios' Sara Fischer, Jennifer Kingson and Tyler Buchanan.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday October 20th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: Halloween is roaring back in 2021. Plus, how COVID has affected organized sports for kids.

But first: the new information age is today’s One Big Thing.

America’s economic edge in tech used to be because of hardware, like computers - and software, or programming - think companies like Facebook or Google. But - we’re at a tipping point in the shift to an information economy that focuses more on creators, content and data. Axios Media Reporter Sara Fischer is here to explain more about this new internet-supported economic age -- Hey Sara.


NIALA: Sara, so when we say creators, content and data, what are we talking about?

SARA: We're talking about people that rely on the internet for their jobs. Sometimes part-time, sometimes full-time, but these are people who have built businesses on the back of the web. And they're important, Niala, because they're fueling the economy in a much different way than we've ever seen before.

NIALA: How are we seeing this reflected, for example, in job numbers?

SARA: Yeah, so the amount of people who have jobs that are tied to the commercial internet is 17 million as of 2021. That's up from 3 million from 2008. And then the other thing you're seeing is that there's so many more jobs that are tied to the internet, but they're tied to things like making content or marketing or sales. They're not tied necessarily to things like coding or technical infrastructure. Anyone that wants to start a business can very easily do so because it's so easy to buy and outsource all the technical needs, all of the coding that you need to start a website and start a business online.

NIALA: So what effect has this switch had on how companies are growing and hiring?

SARA: Well, it’s a huge impact - For one, people still hire many engineers, of course, but a lot of smaller companies, think of your startups, they don't actually have to buy all that technical talent. They can rent tools. They can rent software so that they can just build up really fast without having to invest in building up the code and the backend of their websites altogether. And the other impact it’s had on employment is you just have so many more people out there creating content, creating information. You know, the number of people who work in the news and information jobs has tripled in the past few years. It's this huge explosion of people in news and information, in the creator economy, in entertainment, etcetera.

NIALA: And this isn't just big tech companies in Silicon Valley, right? What is the scope of what we're talking about?

SARA: No, not at all. It's smaller companies, especially that are driving a lot of this growth. It's small mom and pop shops that have now migrated online that are hiring people to help with that digital shift. Big tech companies still have a huge role to play, sure, but some of the smaller companies, what's so interesting about them, they're not necessarily headquartered in these big coastal tech hubs, you know, democratizing web-based jobs and technology across the entire country. And that's really important if you think back to when we first were getting on the web in the nineties, it was all about some of these big hubs in Silicon Valley. That's where the big companies are now. Now it's everywhere.

NIALA: What else do we need to know about this new information age?

SARA: Well, it's really heavily reliant on data. So much of the new information economy relies on data storage, data transfer, and data implementation. How are you organizing your data? How are you transferring it from one company to another? Data is the new currency in the information economy. And I think that's probably the biggest change between now and the inception of the web three decades ago.

NIALA: Axios media reporter Sara Fischer.

SARA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with the big bucks going into this year’s Halloween.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo. Last year - with the height of the pandemic and a candy shortage to boot, Halloween was basically canceled. But this year - with the green light from even Dr. Fauci for kids to go trick-or-treating - Halloween sales are soaring to the tune of $2 billion more than last year. Axios Senior Correspondent Jennifer Kingson has the latest on the tricks and treats in store for all of us. Hey, Jennifer!


NIALA: How does the spending of Halloween 2021 compare to past year?

JENNIFER: We're going to have a record year for Halloween spending - more than $10 billion. Now it's not surprising to learn that this is more than last year when the CDC advised that everybody stay indoors and stay away from one another. But it's even more than the year before 2019, when already this was. An adult as well as a children's holiday.

NIALA: On average, how much are people spending on Halloween

JENNIFER: Costumes are the biggest category that people spend on, And this year it's estimated by the National Retail Federation the average consumer will spend $104 on total Halloween stuff, everything from greeting cards to candy, to costumes. One survey by Ledding Tree estimates that parents with young kids and gen Z-ers are actually going to contemplate going into debt or doing a major splurge this year because they're so fed up with pandemic conditions.

NIALA: Axios’ senior correspondent Jennifer Kingson. Thank you, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Thank you.

NIALA: Almost 1 in 3 kids in the U.S. who participated in organized sports before the pandemic have since stopped playing. That’s according to an Aspen Institute survey, and while COVID is still keeping some kids from participating in youth sports, many recreation departments are returning to their pre-pandemic league schedules, and hoping for a return to normal. That’s the case in Columbus, Ohio, where Axios local reporter Tyler Buchanan says youth sports are taking time to bounce back. Hey, Tyler!

TYLER BUCHANAN: Hey, it's good to be here.

NIALA: Tyler, why are Columbus, Ohio, youth sports taking so long to fully cover?

TYLER: I think it's just like a lot of other communities around the country . You have, you know, organized sports with schools, organizations with their local community centers, and then there’s just local nonprofits and private leagues. And kids want to get back, but I think parents are just still a little bit concerned about where COVID stands and where the numbers stand. And there are studies that show that one fifth of children do have some kind of financial impediment. Either they can't afford the equipment or they can't make it to practices and games. So you add that on top of some of the COVID hesitation, and that's why some of the numbers this fall are down. You know, things like soccer - really big here in the Columbus area, fall baseball. We didn't even have a fall track season for a lot of the community centers because of COVID. So that's kind of the big hesitation right now is COVID and then a little bit of finance.

NIALA: Would you say this mirrors what's happening across the country?

TYLER: Yeah. We're seeing research from the Aspen Institute, interviewing parents across the country, showing that more than one fourth of children that had interest in playing sports before the pandemic have since lost interest. So they're at home and they might be playing some kind of sport on their own or, generally playing outside, but they're not playing some kind of organized, you know, recreational team sport.

NIALA: And how does that loss of interest translate into mental and physical health for kids, especially when we're thinking about participation in organized sports?

TYLER: Being able to play organized sports is not only good for the physical health. It's great for mental health for kids to be around other kids their age. We're seeing that around 25% of parents reported their kid's mental health suffered during the pandemic.But half of those said their kids' mental health improved once their local sports came back. And in terms of the physical health, we're seeing clear data from the CDC showing that childhood obesity is up, during the pandemic, just because kids aren't outside playing as much.

NIALA: That's Axios local reporter from Columbus, Ohio, Tyler Buchanan. Thanks, Tyler.

TYLER: Thanks so much.

NIALA: One last thing before we go today: at 95, Queen Elizabeth is Britain's longest living and reigning monarch, but she has politely declined an offer from a British magazine to be named "Oldie of the Year".

A letter sent to the Oldie magazine from a secretary read, quote "Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept.”

What an elegantly worded refusal.

That’s it for us today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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