Marketplace’s most viewed stories in 2014

Raghu Manavalan Dec 31, 2014

2014 saw big stock market gains, a large drop in oil prices, and the lowest unemployment rate since the recession.

But, which stories did Marketplace readers visit the most?

1. What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live

Is cable dead?: Netflix continued its push toward original content, with “Marco Polo,” “BoJack Horseman,” and new seasons of “Orange Is the New Black” and “Arrested Development.”

What happens inside of Netflix HQ when its first original series, “House of Cards,” releases its anticipated second season at midnight?

2. You Hate My Job: Football referee (plus, a ref quiz!)

Pretty sure that’s a penalty: Despite nearly two decades of experience, retired NFL referee Bill Carollo says the job was always nerve-wracking: “If you say that you’re not nervous, you’re probably kidding yourself – and you probably aren’t really prepared.”

Carollo recalls one controversial decision in a playoff game that ruled against Tampa Bay’s football team. The call resulted in “200 calls [to] my house. I’m unlisted. 15 to 16 people were arrested for death threats. I had to pull my kids out of school. And that’s when [I made] the right call.”

3. Why are sticks of butter long and skinny in the East, but short and fat in the West?

Butter cubed: Bonnie Robinson Beck from Larchmont, New York, has always wondered why butter cubes are long and skinny in the east, and short and squat in the west.

Until we fielded this question, we had no idea an unspoken butter battle drew a border between the two halves of America. But when we explored the answer, we found out there’s pretty much an expert for everything.

4.How an HBCU with 35 students keeps its doors open

Almost a ghost college: If historically black colleges and universities are an endangered species, Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, could be closest to extinction. Most buildings on its campus are now boarded up and abandoned.

Before the school lost accreditation in 2003, a few thousand students were enrolled at Morris Brown. But almost overnight, most fled out of fear their degree would carry no weight. Today, only 35 students remain enrolled.

5. The British have solved unemployment, once and for all

The solution to all of our problems: Roll this one idea out into the economy and everyone who wants to have a job would get a job. If it works as promised, not just Britain but the rest of the developed world including the U.S., could have full employment.

Outsourcing of jobs to poorer parts of the world? No problem. Robots and algorithms taking away human jobs, not to worry. And what is this device that would solve what is one of the greatest and most persistent economic problems?

Well, it is not a device in the sense of an electronic contraption. But it is a mechanism, a policy mechanism that is being put forth by experts at the New Economics Foundation in London, among others.

Here’s the idea: the 21-hour work week.

6. Silicon Valley has a dress code? You better believe it

Strictly casual: Silicon Valley is known for its ‘casual’ dress, which means T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. But don’t be fooled, techies care a lot more about appearances than they let on. Put another way, there’s a lot of code in the Silicon Valley dress code.

7.Why women’s pockets are useless: A history

The purse lobby is stronger than you could have ever imagined: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus descended upon society in 2014. Amid loving descriptions of its crisp camera, its intuitive operating system and the near-reverence for its sleek lines, one question (quite literally) looms large: Is the bigger iPhone 6 Plus a “pocketable” size?

There’s one problem: Women’s pockets have always had a history of being unable to hold a phone, or much else, for a long, long time.

8. Two obsessed guys and a radical motorcycle design

Zen and the art of motorcycle designing: Ten years ago, J.T. Nesbitt was one of the top motorcycle designers in the world. His picture graced the cover of magazines. Celebrities sought out his extravagantly expensive machines. But in 2005, while he was visiting a prince in the Middle East, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and destroyed Confederate Motorcycles, the company that built Nesbitt’s bikes.

Seven years later, his career hadn’t recovered. He was about to take a job waiting tables in the French Quarter, when a stranger showed up on his doorstep and turned his life upside down.


Why do gas prices end in 9/10 of a cent?

…and everything else you’ve ever wondered about gas stations.

Nine-tenths of the answer: To answer the most wondered-about question in the history of “I’ve Always Wondered” (seriously, like 15 people asked), we headed to Three Lakes, Wisconsin, to meet with Ed Jacobsen (known as “Jake, the Oil Guy”). Jacobsen worked for Esso and then bought a half-dozen gas stations he ran for decades. Now, he runs the Northwoods Petroleum Museum — a collection of at least 4,000 items, from drill bits to vintage gas pumps to antique oil company freebies.

“We have to go way back to when the oil companies were selling gas for, let’s say, 15 cents, and then the state and federal boards decided they wanted a piece of that to keep the roads going, so they added 3/10 of a cent. And the oil companies said, ‘Well, we’re not going to eat that,’ so they passed that on to the public.” Raising prices a penny would have been disastrous when gas only cost $0.15. But why has it stick around?

10.Making it to the 1 percent is more common than you think

The 1 in 100: Back when the Occupy Wall Street movement chanted “We are the 99 percent,” author Mark Rank got curious about some of the assumptions buried in that chant. Who exactly is the 99 percent? And what’s their relationship to that remaining, increasingly notorious 1 percent?

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