Last night's State of the Union speech was all about the American perspective. President Obama focused on income inequality, wages, jobs, and the U.S. middle class. Marketplace Morning Report guest host Lizzie O'Leary checks in with the BBC's Andrew Walker on how the speech is being received in the rest of the world. ("Basically, a much bigger American story for the most part has been the death of Pete Seeger," he says.) Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
After two years of debate and stopgap measures, we may finally have a new farm bill. The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up a compromise agreement today. The legislation includes a host of reforms to, among other things, food stamps and subsidies, but reforming subsidies might not save the government much money.
For almost two decades, farmers have gotten what are called “direct payments” from the government -- that’s a check from Uncle Sam, no matter what.
“With direct payments, you got paid the payment even if you had great yields and high prices,” explains Art Barnaby, a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.
Last year, those direct payments cost taxpayers about $4.5 billion.
Crop insurance is one of the things that would replace those payments, and Bruce Babcock, the Cargill Endowed Chair of Energy Economics at Iowa State University, says that would be a big deal. “But it’s not clear that it is actually getting the government at all out of the subsidy business,” he adds.
That is because these payments would be tied to commodity prices, so they would fluctuate. Taxpayers would save money when prices are high, Babcock says, “but if they fall significantly, we will be spending a lot more money on farm subsidies than we would have under the old programs.”
And when commodity prices fall, they don’t tend to rebound overnight. Babcock says it’s likely we would face many years of high subsidy payments.
Nintendo announces third quarter earnings today and things aren’t looking good. The game maker already slashed its full year outlook -- instead of profit it now expects a net loss. You could say Nintendo’s facing an identity crisis. For thirty years, it’s made games you can only play on Nintendo hardware. But does it have to change to survive?
Every good identity crisis needs a foil. You know, that character who highlights your own weakness. Hamlet had Laertes (and Fortinbras and just about everyone else).
Nintendo has The Smart Phone.
“Because anyone who’s carrying a smart phone is carrying a mobile gaming device,” says Jeff Ryan, author of “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America.”
Ryan and other analysts say Nintendo’s market has been eaten away by phones and tablets where casual gamers get tons of games free. Nintendo fans buy a dedicated console that only plays Nintendo games.
So, will the company make its games available on other platforms? Michael Pachter is a research analyst at Wedbush Securities, and he’s dubious.
“I don’t think there’s a chance that they’ll do that,” he says. “They should. But I don’t think they have any intention of it.”
Nintendo is making a strategy announcement this week. Jeff Ryan says they may try to play nice with other people’s software. But not how you think.
“People are trying to invite Nintendo to their party, but instead Nintendo is going to invite the other people to Nintendo’s party,” he says.
He thinks they may try to increase the range of games you can play … on Nintendo consoles.
There is about to be a huge land rush on the internet. Web registries -- companies and organizations that manage and market web addresses -- are unleashing approximately 1,500 new top-level domains, or TLDs, in the next eighteen months. The TLD is the set of letters to the right of the dot -- as in, .com, .org and .biz.
Now, get ready to add .singles, .guru, .bike, .plumbing, .ventures, .holdings and .clothing -- and that’s just this week’s crop. Addresses with those endings are being offered for sale starting today through venture-based domain-name registry Donuts, Inc., which is one of the biggest players in the new TLD space. Specific addresses will be marketed through registrars, such as Godaddy, 1&1.com and eNom, according to Donuts’ website (which gives this explanation of the firm’s name: "We are nuts about domain names. We are donuts.").
JoeBike is a bustling high-end store selling bicycles, accessories and riding gear in Portland, Oregon. The owner is Joe Doebele, and initially, he expressed skepticism that a new web address ending in .bike would do him much good.
“Immediately, who would be looking at .bike?” he asked. “I’m not going to invest in a destination that people don’t even know exists.”
Doebele’s current website is joe-bike.com -- which is pretty good from a marketing perspective. Dot-com addresses are the most popular on the internet, with more than 100 million registered, accounting for more than 75 percent of the total (which also includes .net, .org, .edu and other less popular extensions).
Within a few weeks of the initial launch of new top-level domains (during which prices for individual addresses can be set high by registrars selling them), individual web-addresses will settle at approximately $10 to $40 per year. Doebele thinks that would be affordable, making the url joebike.bike worth obtaining. If he did, he’d have a better chance of staking out his brand, and could use the new address to redirect to his current .com site, or to market to cycling aficionados -- if .bike ever catches on.
When a new TLD is first launched, though, prices can be high. Addresses in the .clothing TLD will start at $12,539.99 today, but decrease daily until they reach $39.99 on Feb. 5. Other hot TLDs with higher prices include .buzz and .luxury -- under which some addresses will cost several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars apiece.
By next year, there will be approximately 1,500 new TLDs, including in foreign scripts, and for major brands, such as .apple and .google.
Not everyone is convinced this vast expansion of internet domain names is worthwhile or wise for companies and organizations that depend on their current urls.
“I don’t think there’s a strong need for the additional extensions,” says Aaron Wall of SEO Book, an expert in search-engine optimization. “I just think it’s an easy way to build a high-margin business, if you’re the person that’s selling them and you’re good at marketing.”
Wall thinks many web-users will be confused by all the new endings, so they’ll keep clicking to the standard .com and .org addresses that they know and trust.
“There are going to be so many extensions at once, they’re all going to be competing for attention,” says Wall. “There are tons of names in .biz, .info; even .net and .org still have lots of great names available.” He cautions that small-business owners may be better off going after them, rather than the new untested TLDs.
Kieren McCarthy worked as general manager of public participation at ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the international nonprofit organization overseeing this massive internet expansion. He now follows internet policy at .nxt. McCarthy is convinced many of the new TLDs will catch on in the next few years, as kinks are worked out and the addresses get more familiar.
And he says these new, more specific TLDs will make it easier for people to connect to their communities and interests, and to find resources online.
“Basically now everyone still thinks .com is the internet or is the most important part of the internet, and from a purely logical, technical point of view, there’s no reason for that to be the case,” says McCarthy. “With all these new extensions, I think the internet will start reflecting our lives more closely.
“So if you run a bike shop or you’re just a bike fanatic you’ll say ‘well, I’ll get .bike’ rather than getting something .com. So it’s going to be a very, very different internet, where what comes after the dot simply reflects what goes on in life.”
McCarthy says new top-level-domains in foreign scripts like Cyrillic and Arabic will expand global use of the internet, and spread a wider sense of international ownership of the internet as well.
Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., didn't like a reporter's question. With the camera still rolling, he said he would throw the journalist "off this [expletive] balcony." Also, said Grimm, "I'll break you in half."