National / International News

Why you always see the same ad while binge-watching TV

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:59

I recently curled up with some back episodes of "Scandal," ABC’s rather addictive show about crisis manager Olivia Pope, who often works for and is generally in love with the president of the United States. 

Toward the end of season three, there was some high drama with the first family, right before a big live interview  – when we paused for a commercial break.

An instrumental version of Billy Joel’s “My Life” played and this took over the screen:

At first, I barely noticed Larry or the blue-eyed woman in ads for the prescription eye drops Restasis, but both ads and a handful of others kept rotating through every commercial break across nearly four straight episodes.

“That’s a very common experience these days,” says Jim Nail, an analyst with Forrester Research. “That when you’re watching TV programs that are streamed either from the network streaming app or some other service, that you see the same ads over and over and over again.” 

Nail says part of the problem is that the services and advertisers haven’t caught up with the way viewers binge-watch shows online – seeing Larry a few times in one episode isn’t a big deal, but, as I found out, string a few shows together and his presence can become irritating. 

Nail says a bigger reason for the repetition is that there’s still a shortage of online advertisers. That's because ratings and demographic data about digital audiences doesn’t yet mirror the kind of data available for television audiences.

“There aren’t enough advertisers comfortable buying [online] to follow the model of broadcast television, which is 17 minutes of commercials an hour, which means 34 advertisers, give or take,” says Nail.

In contrast, an online show might only have a handful of advertisers, which keeps Larry and his online peers busy.

The growth in online video content also means lots of work for Larry, says Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University.

"You've got this volume of video that's just extraordinary," says Chiagouris.

Digital video advertising dollars are also climbing — 20 percent in 2013 — but "the amount of video that's available to be sponsored is probably five times that." 

While there’s tons of content available online these days, Anna Bager, with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, notes that the amount advertisers actually want to buy is still relatively small.

In other words: Larry has standards. He probably doesn’t want to be next to someone’s shaky homemade YouTube videos.

“The inventory is scarce so advertisers tend to want to buy all of the inventory,” she says. This can include sponsorships, where ad spots might be sold to one or a limited number of advertisers.

However, Bager and Chiagouris agree there’s another reason for at least some of the repetition. Advertisers want to make sure their message gets through to distracted viewers who might be checking email, clicking around the internet or generally trying to avoid ads.

“Advertising is usually annoying, I think we kind of know that,” says Bager. “We may be incredibly annoyed with Progressive because their ad keeps showing up and it’s kind of an annoying ad in general, but when we want to buy insurance, we know that Progressive is an insurance company.”

Similarly, viewers might remember Larry and decide to open an account with Merrill Edge if they’re in the market for a similar product in the future.

Of course, they could also retain negative feelings toward Larry and decide to go with one of his competitors instead.

"I think generally advertisers instinctively believe that over-exposure to the same ad, the same night, with the same hour -- things like that -- run the risk that people are just going to feel completely bombarded and their attitudes will turn negative," says Forrester's Nail.

Plea to stop Afghan rape executions

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:59
Human rights groups urge the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to intervene to stop the execution of five convicted rapists.

AUDIO: Chefs prepare posh school dinners

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:37
A comprehensive has seen a jump in pupils eating school dinners, after hiring restaurant chefs to run the kitchen.

Debate: Does U.S. Military Intervention In The Middle East Help Or Hurt?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:31

As the U.S. presses on with airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, two teams tackled the motion "Flexing American Muscles In The Middle East Will Make Things Worse," in the latest Intelligence Squared debate.

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VIDEO: Ebola care: Sierra Leone v US

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:26
Ebola cases are now being treated in Africa, Europe and the US. BBC News looks at the difference in the standard of care.

Kenya transgender activist wins case

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:19
Kenya's high court orders education authorities to amend the name on a school certificate of a woman who was born male.

Iran leader urges university freedom

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 09:18
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calls for more academic freedom in his country's universities and a lifting of unnecessary restrictions.

VIDEO: European Parliament

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 08:40
MEPs hold a hearing with Italy's Federica Mogherini, the nominated Vice-President of the European Commission.

What you need to know about the AIG trial

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-07 08:39

There's a star witness in a big trial today.

You've heard of him: Timothy Geithner. The case: AIG shareholders, including former CEO Maurice R. Greenberg, are suing the Feds, saying they feel cheated by the terms of the bailout in 2008.

Didn't Henry Paulson testify yesterday?
Yup. Then-Treasury Secretary Paulson testified. He said the AIG bailout deal was "punitive." AIG made risky bets, he said, and its shareholders deserved to be punished for them. The key was to send a message to Wall Street: "Just so you know, we are not the Santa Claus of easy bailouts. If you come and ask for one, the terms will be harsh." Okay, that's a made-up quote.

So why does this testimony matter?
Because Paulson was not the key player in regards to details of the AIG bailout. Geithner, then-head of the NY Fed, was. He's the big witness this morning, says Columbia law professor John Coffee, and the guy Greenberg's lawyer (one David Boies) really wants to grill.

Oh yeah, the bailout.
Recall: in the fog of the banking crisis, the Feds realized AIG was in big money trouble. Why? AIG was the insurance company for banks that bought risky subprime loans. If those loans defaulted, AIG was on the hook. (five-dollar word: credit default swaps).

What's the AIG shareholder beef?
The Feds were overly mean, they say, and they punished us too harshly. Or, in legal-speak, they took control of AIG without "just compensation" - a Constitutional no-no.
The details:

  •  In return for $192 billion in loans, we got hit with a 14 percent interest rate. Beltway loan sharks.
  •  The feds took an 80% stock share in the company.
  •  We got these harsh terms, but the banks got paid back 100 cents on the dollar for their risky investments. How come only we sat in the barber chair for the haircut?

What do AIG shareholder want?

Led by former CEO Greenberg, they are suing for $40 billion in compensation.

What's the counter-argument against AIG?
We needed to punish you, because you took bad risks. But we needed to save the banks because the financial system was on life support. That's the job of the Federal Reserve.

What role did Geithner play?
He ran the NY Fed, which engineered the details of the whole bailout.

Geithner argues – in his recent book, "Stress Test" – that the government had no choice. If they hadn't bailed out AIG, it would be ruined the economy. His NY Fed has also been accused of hiding the terms of the 100% payments to the banks that bought AIG default insurance.

How could Geithner's testimony impact?

“If the evidence that comes out in the case shows that there was a big misfire at the fed, then congress may react and change the way that the Fed does business,” says Georgetown finance professor Jim Angel.

Public reaction to the government's bailouts of large financial institution during the financial crisis was so negative says Angel, that when congress passed Dodd-Frank it reduced the fed’s ability act. New restrictions, he says, could be key in a future crisis.

Why do we care, again?

In litigation, there's this thing called discovery where each side has to "open its kimono" to the other.  Lawsuits are all about getting to the bottom of things. And observers are hoping that this lawsuit could get to the bottom of the financial crisis. Angel says “There’ve been a lot of studies of the financial crisis, but do we really know what happened?”

His answer: not really. He hopes this lawsuit could reveal facts that we don’t know, we don’t know about how the crisis and the bailout of AIG occurred, as well as a potential answer to the “Watergate question” -  what the Fed knew and when it knew it.

That sounds pretty exciting, but John Coffee, director of Columbia Law School’s Center on Corporate Governance, isn’t so sure he agrees with Angel.

“I don’t think you’re going to learn dramatically new information," he says. "You may hear snippets, emails anecdotes that support both sides." 

There are two opposing points of view on how the government handled AIG’s bailout, notes Coffee.

“One side said it was done to prevent financial contagion and panic. The other side says it was done to achieve a backdoor bailout of large banks you wouldn’t dare to fund directly and publicly,” he says. 

Coffee’s opinion: the court won’t decide to oversee or restrain financial regulators. Those new regulations, he says, already exist – thanks to Dodd-Frank. But Georgetown’s Angel takes a different view.

Neknominate man ate live lizard

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 08:32
A man who swallowed a frog and a lizard for the Neknominate online drinking game, is ordered to carry out community service.

The numbers for October 7, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-07 08:13

The International Monetary fund is dialing back its predictions of global economic growth for 2015, revising its projection to 3.8 percent, down from 4 percent a few months ago. In its World Economic Outlook report, released Tuesday, the IMF blamed sluggish growth in part on the Eurozone, which it warns has a much higher probability of re-entering recession than it did earlier this year.

Tempering expectations further, the Wall Street Journal notes that the IMF's predictions are often "overly optimistic."

Here are some other numbers we're watching Tuesday:

300 lumens per watt

LEDs are able to give off far more light for the amount of energy they use — compare that figure to 70 lm/W for fluorescents and 16 lm/W for incandescent bulbs. That efficiency won the blue LEDs inventors the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday, CNET reported. It's a break from past years, which awarded much larger and abstract discoveries like universal expansion and the Higgs boson.

77

The number of travelers stopped by stepped-up exit screenings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in countries most affected by Ebola. President Barack Obama said Monday the U.S. will reexamine its practices here and abroad, the Washington Post reported, as several Republican lawmakers push for travel bans.

1984

The IBM Model M keyboard has been around 30 years, and for many tech writers, IT professionals, programmers and even the guy who created "Minecraft," it's still the standard to which all other keyboards are measured. The Verge has an extensive piece exploring the Model M's history and enduring popularity.

VIDEO: Ash dieback: How to inject a tree

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 08:00
The BBC's Claire Marshall takes a closer look at how you go about injecting a tree with a prototype fungicide, derived from garlic, as part of the fight against ash dieback.

University inspections face overhaul

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 07:43
How the quality of university courses in the UK is checked could be overhauled in the next few years.

VIDEO: High speed spin for 100-year-old

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 07:05
A 100-year-old woman takes a high speed spin at Snetterton Circuit as part of her adrenalin fuelled centenary birthday celebrations.

Inflation to a twenty-something

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-07 07:00

As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the surprising, sometimes delightful and sometimes destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century.

And like many of the twenty-something variety, we decided to mark the occasion by taking a selfie...of our spending. Enter the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Rather than looking at costs and pricing, the CE looks at how much consumers spent, on average, on any given item or service that year. It's compiled from two sources: the Interview Survey, and the Diary Survey. The former checks in with consumers on quarterly basis, monitoring larger expenditures (like rent and costs related to vehicles), while the latter asks people to keep a spending diary over a shorter period of time to catch smaller, day-to-day purchases.

Together, they create a picture of the spending habits of consumers during a given year. Among other things, the CE is used to revise the Consumer Price Index by looking at goods and their "relative importance." And as we've explored elsewhere, putting together that "basket of goods" that determines inflation is a tricky process that some feel hasn't been handled well in the past.

Regardless, looking at CEs from two years provides interesting comparisons of how much and where we spend our money.

So now that Marketplace is in its twenties, how does our spending compare to a twenty-something from 1989?

Adjusted for inflation (think 2013 dollars), here's how much income consumers 25 to 34 years of age made versus how much they spent on rent, food, alcohol, clothing, and shoes in 1989 and 2013.

It's worth noting that the CE gets incredibly specific. For example, this same age group spent $174 on "cereals and cereal products" in 2013, whereas their 1989 counterparts spent $233 in the same category. Amounts spent on health insurance are also available ($601 in 1989, $1,334 in 2013), which will be an especially interesting comparison to revisit when the CE for 2014 is released, as the Affordable Care Act will have been in effect for this demographic.

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VIDEO: Staying safe while reporting Ebola

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 06:33
The BBC's Tulip Mazumdar, who has been reporting from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, explains how the BBC is covering the crisis safely.

Why do people love Ordnance Survey maps?

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 06:26
US-born neuroscientist John O'Keefe loves Ordnance Survey maps. Why?

Syria jihadist rebels seize priest

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 05:53
A Franciscan friar and about 20 parishioners have been abducted by jihadist rebels in north-western Syria, the Custody of the Holy Land says.

Your questions to Paul Wood

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 05:18
What's at stake in battle for Syria and Iraq

VIDEO: Pearce: I encountered some unpleasantries

BBC - Tue, 2014-10-07 05:14
The so-called Heroine of Hackney who joined the Lib Dems after the 2011 London Riots is bidding to be an MP.

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