The last few weeks have been busy in the online music industry. First, Apple bought Beats Music. Then Amazon added a music service to its Prime subscriptions. Now, Google is buying Songza, a streaming service that recommends music based on your mood or activity.
There are categories like “going to a festival” or “twerk at werk,” which queued up Pharrell’s “Happy.”
“Everybody’s competing for that slice of consumers’ time,” says Willy Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School. “You look at a service like Pandora, where the number of hours [users are] connected to the service per month is actually surprisingly high.”
When users aren’t on their computers, they can keep listening on smart-phone apps, which Shih says is appealing to advertisers. Since Google is already good at selling ads, this could be one more offering in their portfolio.
But users have also shown they’re willing to pay to opt out of ads – and pay over and over again, essentially renting the music instead of buying it, says Sam Hamadeh, the founder and CEO of PrivCo, a research firm that’s looked into the financials of several streaming services.
“That’s sort of the holy grail in the internet or e-commerce business,” he explains. “Once you sign up, it’s a one-time sale, and a one-time marketing effort to get you to buy it and then it pays off dividends for years, if not forever.”
However, Hamadeh cautions these services aren’t actually profitable yet.
So there’s another reason to be in this business - and it’s not really about music.
“Every service that Google can offer that keep web users or mobile phone users within the Google universe of applications and services adds value,” says Matthew Crain, a professor of media studies at Queens College CUNY.
It also keeps consumers away from Google’s competitors – which might be enough to make the company want to “twerk at werk.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District had plans to give every kid an iPad; a billion-dollar proposition.
But it turns out the one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best strategy after all.
So some LA schools will be allowed to choose between Apple, Microsoft and Google-based devices.
Broadening the choices makes sense, said Brandon Martinez from USC’s Rossier School of Education. “It allows students and teachers to see what works best for them. And then they can give feedback, they can swap devices, and give a more informed decision when they look to purchase at a larger scale.”
LA’s move isn’t great news for Apple. But it’s not going to knock the company off its throne, as king-of-the-educational-technology-market.
“Apple is in a very, very strong position,” said Mike Fisher, who studies the education technology market for Futuresource. “They are the number one in the U.S.”
But competition is coming on fast.
“The big trend we have seen in the last year is the rise of Chromebook,” said Fisher. Chromebooks run Google-based apps and they can be relatively cheap.
In 2012, Chromebooks accounted for only 1 percent of school devices shipped. By the end of last year, they had a quarter of the market.
Microsoft is also big player in the educational tech. It recently scored a big contract with Houston Independent School District.
And Fisher thinks Amazon may be next to jump into the education game.
What's more, he thinks they’ll all start hooking up with curriculum providers. “You’ll see some of the big publishers in the marketplace, people like Scholastic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, partnering with hardware vendors.
Schools are a $13 billion global battlefield for makers of educational technology.
“It’s a green field,” said Stephen Baker, an analyst at the NPD group. “A place to sell that doesn’t have anything now, so it’s all new volume.”
By some estimates, only about a quarter of students and teachers in the U.S. have a classroom computing device.
As we move to a world where more kids are taking tests and learning online, schools are likely to want computers in everyone’s hands.
The storm is expected to affect Fourth of July travel plans. It's still unclear, however, what kind of weather will be felt along the Eastern Seaboard.
Target - itself the recent target of gripes from some gun owners - issued a "respectful request" that customers leave their guns at home. Its action follows similar moves by Starbucks, Sonic, Chili's and others.
Companies are increasingly taking stands on a host of hot-potato issues including gay rights, contraception, and guns, whether they want to or not.
"These things can actually be forced on you," said Neeru Paharia, a professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. "You do have to take a stand, right? You have to pick a side."
Target was drawn into the fray after gun rights advocates toted their rifles into Target stores in Texas and elsewhere. In response, an anti-gun group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, collected almost 400,000 signatures protesting the carriage of firearms in stores.
Target says 80 to 90 percent of its customers are women and nearly 40 percent have children.
David Sutton, CEO of Top Right Strategic Marketing, said if a company takes a political stance, that stance should be aligned with the company's public image and private values.
"Whether it's gay marriage or gun control, if your inner identity is consistent with the statements you're making in public, I think you're on solid ground," Sutton said. "I think brands that take a stand on things they believe in - consumers appreciate that."
Not all consumers appreciate Target's decision. The company's interim CEO, John Mulligan, made the "no-guns" request in a post on the company's blog. It has received more than 2,000 comments, including some angry responses.
Target's request in no way affects gun carry laws.
Paul Argenti, a professor of corporation communication at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, points out that Target may have some tough decisions to make if customers insist on bringing their guns to the store.
"I think the really interesting question is: what happens when the people who are obviously going to oppose this decision start pressing the issue," Argenti said. "That's when we're going to see some real action here."
The strawberry breeding program at the University of California, Davis, is a big money-earner. It's created a unique hybrid of the public and private breeding sector, and that's led to conflict.
Derek Williams' dad was around when he was growing up, but it was his mom, he says, who taught him what it takes to be a good man. When she died in 2009, he had to learn from both parents' examples.
The Labor Department releases its latest jobs report this Thursday, and a lot of economists are talking about "slack" - the unused part of the economy.
“'Slack' means that there are significantly more people willing and capable of filling a job than there are jobs for them to fill,” said Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen during a speech in Chicago back in May. “There remains considerable slack in the economy in the labor market.”
Slack matters. But just how much of the economy isn’t being used right now is a matter of debate.
“Slack in the labor market is often one of the first things the Fed looks at in terms of setting monetary policy," says Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute.
And by monetary policy, he’s talking about interest rates and other ways the Fed fights inflation.
“To the extent there is slack in the labor market, slack in the overall economy, you’re not producing as much as you would otherwise," Calabria says. "You’re certainly falling short of the potential in terms of the economy.”
Calabria says slack means we’re a less wealthy society than we could otherwise be. It also matters for the un- or under-employed.
Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, says the economy is recovering from an "extremely unusual recession" that's left the labor market in a state it's never been in before. And that's causing some uncertainty.
“If we had run out of slack, then we should start to see wages and inflation really starting to rise right now," Wolfers says. "But we don’t see that at all. And so by that measure it suggests we’ve got quite a long way to go.”
And since the head of the Federal Reserve thinks there’s a lot of slack in the economy, it probably means lower interest rates for a longer amount of time.
We know some people are more at risk for abusing alcohol than others. Now scientists say they're getting closer to predicting which teenagers are most at risk.