When you think of the iconic images of New York City, certainly the yellow taxi cab comes to mind. It makes sense - NYC makes up 40 percent of the for-hire vehicle industry's business in the United States. It's why Michael Ibrahim, CEO of a startup called Whisk, thinks his business couldn't have gotten started anywhere else.
Unlike other phone apps with on-demand car services (think Uber or Lyft), Whisk doesn't deal in recruiting drivers to be part of its service. Instead, it serves as a platform for users to locate the nearest black car or livery business vehicles. Also, unlike its competitors, users can watch their ride fare in real time on their phone, not unlike riding in a yellow taxi.
Ibrahim says that working with multiple businesses that offer cars for hire allows Whisk to avoid a common problem found in other ride-sharing programs:
"There’s actually a predicative problem about knowing where rides are going to come from at what time and helping to deploy drivers. And what we get, because of our model, is we have all these partners that are helping us do it."
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Hoboken, N.J., has experienced several major floods since Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Dawn Zimmer says her city isn't waiting to prepare for the effects of climate change.
The plastic beads in some face soaps look a lot like fish food when they end up in the water. Two states are close to banning the beads, which researchers say can spread toxins through the food chain.
Coffee prices have spiked this year because of drought in Brazil and a disease that's crippling coffee production in parts of Central America. Coffee traders says prices could rise to $3 a pound.
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Now that the Nigerian military seems to be serious about rescuing girls kidnapped by Islamist extremists, relatives worry that firepower alone won't save them. They want the government to negotiate.
Indulge me for a second here, while I digress, would you? (I know, I haven't really said anything to digress from, but let's not get hung up on the details, shall we?) There's a fistful of business and/or economic stories I could touch on right now: Credit Suisse and its guilty plea, AT&T buying DirecTV, Jamie Dimon and his pay raise, GM's latest recall... and so on and so on.
But the truth is, these daily stories can be a dime a dozen. You wake up, you report something, you tell people about it. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The bigger issue for me this week, honestly, has been systemic.
Largely lost in the news of Jill Abramson being fired from the top job at the New York Times was the leaking of a long and sophisticated report (by a team led by A.G. Sulzberger, the son of the man who fired Abramson, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger) on the Times' digital future. Companies, both inside and oustide journalism, come out with "Our Digital Future" memos all the time.
But the Times being the Times, this one's going to resonate. As it should. It's well researched, clearly written, and insightful. I want to pull out two related but separate points:
1. "Audience Development." It used to be that we'd put a story on the radio (or a newspaper would put the story in the paper), the audience would come listen or read it, and that would be it. Distribution made simple. Catch is, of course, that it's waaaaay more complicated now. We're all so distracted and pulled at and tugged on by Twitter feeds and Facebook and all the rest that we (journalists, that is) have to figure out a way to get you to pay attention. The Sulzberger report (and many many others, to be fair) calls it 'audience development.' So here's what I want to know from you guys:
How do you want to be... developed? (Courted, if you will.) If I tweet at you, will you come? Shout-outs to our website? Are you a podcast person and are we making that available enough to you?
2. Ummm... money. Here's the equation, in public media, anyway. Far and away our audience (and revenue) is tied to what goes on the radio. Which makes sense. That's what we've been doing and doing well for decades. It's not, however, where the future is. Mobile, digital, portable and personal is where we're going, yet the audience and the money aren't there yet. So how do we at least balance the scales?
How do we drive digital content that meets our standards but can't yet pay for itself?
What should we not do that we used to do? (So that we can start doing the things we have to do.)
Newspapers are trying to figure it out – all the way up to the New York Times – and so is public media, both APM (the company that owns Marketplace) and NPR. It is, honestly, kind of an existential question.
In other news, a couple of quick shoutouts from Marketplace coverage this week. First of all, the Morning Report team is in London for a special look at income inequality in the (other) global financial center. Mind the Gap, it's called – get it? Also not to be missed is a two-parter from David Weinberg about the rebirth of American craftsmanship, risk-taking, and a really cool motorcyle.