National News

How much are social media followers worth?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

Tamara Peterson stands on a Manhattan street, peering into the screen of her iPhone as she waits for a woman carrying a “I love New York” bag to pass in front of a Brownstone.

“These shadows are beautiful,” she says, composing the shot.

Later, she posts it to her Instagram feed, where hundreds of people like it within just a few minutes. Her photos of New York cityscapes have attracted roughly 70,000 followers.

Social media sites like Twitter and Instagram are increasingly placing ads in users’ feeds – and so, too, are the people who have built large followings on those sites. YouTube’s top star has reportedly earned over $4 million dollars from ad sales. But companies are also interested in more modest followings.

Peterson earns between $500 and $1,000 per sponsored post from big companies like Home Depot, as well as smaller ones like Blue Apron, a subscription meal delivery service. She’s represented by two companies that help her broker deals with advertisers: Niche and Mobile Media Lab.

But Peterson maintains that Instagram is just a hobby and she doesn’t want to leave her full-time job as a professional organizer.

“I’m picky about the jobs I take because I want my feed to look a certain way,” she says, nixing alcohol brands and visible logos.

She’ll often take down sponsored posts if the company doesn’t require her to leave them up.

On the other hand, Sara Hopkins, aka SayHop, could imagine social media eventually becoming a full time gig. She also uses Niche to book ads and has a bigger following – roughly 350,000 followers across a handful of different social networks. Her posts range from selfies (half goofy, half glam) to videos featuring an eerily accurate dolphin voice.

Hopkins is a local TV reporter, but she doubles her salary by posting ads to her followers, whether it’s a six-second video on Vine or a photo on Instagram.

“For Coke, I’m doing two Vines and I think one Instagram post, and it’s about $2,800,” she says. “And for Old Navy, I did one Vine and one Tweet for $2,000.”

So what do her followers say?

 “It varies between people saying, you know, ‘if you’re going to make money off of it, cool,’” she says. “As long as you don’t do it every day, all the time.”

 On one of her recent paid posts, only one person commented that he was unfollowing her because of the ad, but the rest of the nearly 40 comments defended her right to post it.

Thousands of disability claims in limbo at the VA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

The Veterans Affairs Administration is being pounded over scandalous delays for veterans seeking health care.

Now comes a new concern about tens of thousands of veterans' disability claims that are going nowhere; possibly the result of the agency shifting its claims process online.

About a year and a half ago, the VA launched a web portal for submitting disability claims. Since then, vets have initiated nearly 450,000 claims electronically. But about 300,000 claims have sat idle. Some have even expired.

Once applicants start a claim, they have a year to wrap it up.

"What we worry about is that some of these people, having started a claim, may be thinking they've submitted something to the VA, and the VA is just taking their time to take action on it, when in fact they haven't completed the application process," says Gerald Manar, ‎Deputy Director of the National Veterans Service with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Disability payments can range from about $100 a month to several thousand dollars a month.

Robert Reynolds directs the benefits assistance service with the VA. He says the agency made a big push to move the whole claims system online. Vets may be confused about the process.

"This is a huge transformational business change," Reynolds says.

Reynolds says the VA is meeting with veterans service organizations to figure out who opened disability claims online and needs help finishing them.

Shhh! It's time for Formula E!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 02:00

The new international championship for fully-electric racing cars just held its first major test session at the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire, England.

The series kicks off with a race through the streets of Beijing in September. It will include events in 10 cities, concluding with an "E-prix" around London's Battersea Park next June.

Organizers hope it will transform the way we think about electric cars, as well as providing a test-bed for new technologies, which can help to improve their performance.

The Donington test marks the first time the cars have run in anger - and the first time members of the public have been able to see how they compare to more traditional racing machines.

The BBC's Theo Leggett went to see how the new cars look - and sound. Watch his report above.

Text and video courtesy of the BBC.

China's Booming Real Estate Market Finally Begins To Slide

NPR News - Thu, 2014-07-10 01:27

After years of stunning growth, China's go-go real estate market is in retreat. It has been one of the engines driving the world's second-largest economy, so economists are watching it closely.

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Companies: stop making your employees use tablets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 01:00

I followed the bank branch manager into one of those little offices to set up a recurring payment from my account. While I pulled out my ID and my bank card, I watched her pull aside tangled cords and guide her tablet through a clumsy re-docking process. The tablet itself - an Android - had a heavy-looking cover with oddly shaped handles and a plug for the dock.

"Is that thing helpful?" I asked. Her bright, officious bank manager expression slid away and was replaced by a rueful grin.

"Ehh..." She sighed. Then she brightened again. "It's much more portable," she said. 

"But are you doing stuff where you need it to be portable?"

"Honestly, not really." 

This is a perfect example of how companies are misreading the mobile revolution. They see that tablets are a hot item, and they want to be part of that hotness. It's why Microsoft still believes its powerful Surface tablets can get a leg up against the iPad and various Android options. It's why PC sales have taken a nosedive in the last few years. It's why, even though tablets are often only really being used for entertainment, companies are buying in. 

But it's not always the right move. At a fundamental level, tablets do the same things computers do, just usually with less powerful software and hardware. They are way more mobile - and that's a significant difference - but they're often less capable. Or we are less capable at using them for certain tasks. 

It's almost like companies are trying to mimic the television commercials showing how a certain company is totally revolutionizing the way you do business. The story boards write themselves:

The guy in America invents a product. He sends the designs from his tablet to a guy in China who looks at them on his tablet, which he also uses to deliver instructions to the production line. Then the shipping company guy in Germany uses his tablet to organize the process of filling orders.

Boom. Awesome. Isn't technology amazing? 

Look, I get it - in some cases, introducing tablets to your business helps your business do better. I have carried my tablet to Marketplace's morning editorial meeting and other workplace huddles. And from boardrooms to factory floors, people are using them to try to be faster, more "nimble." Maybe as a customer, I'm impressed sometimes when the person on the other side of the transaction is using a tablet. We're all wrapped up in how consumer electronics are all the rage these days, and if you squint your eyes and blur your vision enough, putting a tablet or a smartphone in every representatives' hands makes a company look more innovative. Really, it makes a company look cooler. There's value in that. But how much?

This week, Gartner released its latest estimates for tablet and PC sales. While PC sales continue to dip and tablet sales continue to grow, there is some leveling out in the data. That is partly about the cycle of upgrades for businesses and consumers, and the maturing of early adopter markets like the US. But part of it may also be that some companies are discovering more tablets don't always mean better, faster, stronger business. 

I told my bank manager story to someone, and they told me a similar story about going to a brick-and-mortar store for a major wireless carrier. The associate began to input the information into a tablet and started having problems. He threw up his hands, and said "I'll be right back." He disappeared into the back office and returned a few minutes later with all the data input for the transaction done. What magic was in the back room? An old fashioned PC. 

New device aims for paranoid-parent market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-10 01:00

The electronics-maker LG is, like many of its competitors, making a foray into wearable technology. However, this device has a distinctly different purpose — not to keep the wearer informed, but to keep a parent informed on their child.

The device, the KizON, is a child-tracking wristband — paired with the band is a smartphone app, where parents can look on a map and see where their kid is.

They can also call the wristband and talk to the child — if the child doesn’t answer, it will still connect to the child and hear surrounding sound.

While the device may reduce parental paranoia, it could be hard to get kids, especially older ones, to wear it

“It’s still think it’s going to have a steep climb for total acceptance, and probably easier is something that’s built into something your child already wants,” says Lindsey Turrentine, Editor in Chief of reviews at CNET.

From McDonald's To Organic Valley, You're Probably Eating Wood Pulp

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 23:29

Many processed foods contain cellulose, which is plant fiber that is commonly extracted from wood. It's used to add texture, prevent caking and boost fiber. And it's been around for ages.

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The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 23:28

A team of volunteer space cowboys may have to say goodbye to ISEE-3 and to their dream of reviving for a final mission the creaky, 36-year-old hardware. Failed tests Wednesday suggest a fuel problem.

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The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 23:28

A team of volunteer space cowboys may have to say goodbye to ISEE-3 and to their dream of reviving for a final mission the creaky, 36-year-old hardware. Failed tests Wednesday suggest a fuel problem.

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Bingeing On Bad News Can Fuel Daily Stress

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 23:27

Simply watching, reading or listening to steady news coverage of a traumatic event can be as stressful as experiencing the event in person, research suggests.

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Could A Socialist Senator Become A National Brand?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 23:23

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders opposes war and advocates for veterans. Even in the most conservative corner of Vermont, he's managed to do well. Now there's buzz that Sanders may run for president.

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Obama Turns To Gov. Perry In Seeking A Solution To Border Crisis

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 16:28

After a meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, President Obama addressed the influx of migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Congress Has The Ability To Fix Immigration Crisis, Obama Says

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 15:29

His remarks in Dallas followed a meeting with faith leaders and local officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, to discuss the large number of unaccompanied minors at the border.

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Last-Resort Antibiotics In Jeopardy As Use Rises Globally

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 15:18

Antibiotic sales in clinics and pharmacies around the world rose by more than a third over a decade. Now drugs reserved for the most dangerous bacteria are at risk of losing their effectiveness.

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For Kids In Immigration Court, Legal Counsel Is Catch As Catch Can

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 15:14

Advocacy groups have sued the federal government for not providing lawyers to children in deportation proceedings. Unlike criminal courts, these courts don't provide representation for defendants.

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Interpreting The IRS Emails, Washington-Style

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 15:01

Throughout the yearlong investigation, congressional Republicans and Democrats have taken the same evidence and come to diametrically opposed conclusions.

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An Actor, A University And A Famous Name Lead To A Lawsuit

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 14:32

The estate of John "Duke" Wayne and Duke University are fighting over commercial use of their shared name. Although the actor was always known as Duke, nicknames don't have much standing in court.

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Report Says FBI, NSA Spied On American Muslims

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 14:21

The men quoted in the story by reporters Glenn Greenwald and Murtuza Hussain say they were targeted because they were Muslims. But it is unclear why they were targeted.

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On Calif. Cattle Ranch, Students Wrangle With Meaning Of Manhood

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 13:52

Deep Springs College is an all-male school — and a working ranch. It sounds very macho, but the increasingly diverse student body says being a man is all about questioning the meaning of masculinity.

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Should President Obama Visit The Texas Border?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-09 13:49

There are plenty of reasons, for and against, a presidential visit to the border. In any case, a visit wouldn't do much to diminish the criticism over the administration's handling of the crisis.

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