Marketplace - American Public Media

Goodbye, productivity. Hello, HBO.

1 hour 7 min ago

It's an impressive list of high quality television: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, plus mini-series like Band of BrothersJohn Adams. 

These are all of the HBO shows that will be made available next month to Amazon Prime customers.

To some, it will feel like a necessary perk, what with Amazon Prime membership costing more than it used to. To others, it's a farewell to productivity, because let's face it, this is a lot of television to watch. Just how long will it take you to get through all of this content?

Assuming you take no potty breaks, don't sleep, and eat in front of your laptop or television, it will take this long:

Thanks to the website tiii.me, which allows you to calculate how much of your life you've spent watching tv based on what shows you've seen, it will take a grand total of 21 days, 23 hours, and 30 minutes to blaze your way through all of the HBO content.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, maybe don't plan on doing much for the month of May.

Want Botox? A wrinkle filler?

1 hour 44 min ago

Valeant, a pharmaceutical company, is trying to look good. It’s made an offer for Allergan, the company that produces Botox. Over the past couple of years, Valeant has bought up other pharma companies including Solta, Obaji and Medicis, makers of skin-smothing-lasers, creams and fillers. Valeant isn't looking to make more by increasing R&D, but you don’t have to wrinkle up your forehead to figure out why it wants to buy the company that produces Botox.

“They are clearly going to have a monopoly in the marketplace," says Dr. Jack Berdy,  CEO of SmoothMed, a service that provides botox treatments in Manhattan. Berdy notes Valeant already bought the company that makes Dysport – a Botox competitor.

“I can’t imagine the company Valeant, who would look for economics in a takeover, maintaining both products in the marketplace," he said. "One of them would probably disappear.”

Along with a lot of jobs -- for some people, Valeant's offer is going to create stress (and wrinkles). Seamus Fernandez, an analyst with Leerink Partners, agrees.  “That’s a fair conclusion,” he says.

Fernandez says the international market for cosmetic dermatology is worth billions every year. And with the potential for consolidating workforces, Valeant is trying to be efficient.

“Most doctors are pretty busy, they would much prefer to just talk to one person who could go through and update them on what’s new on all the products they use, rather than having to have a bunch of different sales people come in from each company,” says David Krempa, an equity analyst with Morningstar.

Fernandez says, unlike the wrinkles it fixes, the market for cosmetic dermatology is growing – at about 12 percent a year.

The NYPD learns about #backlash

2 hours 1 min ago

The New York Police Department got a big lesson in social media this week. It created a Twitter hashtag – #myNYPD – to get people to tweet pictures of happy New Yorkers standing with smiling officers. But this being both New York, and social media, the NYPD didn’t get quite what it expected.

Not only did it backfire – now the hashtag has spread on Twitter to other police departments like Los Angeles and Chicago.

Twitter users sent in scores of pictures of New Yorkers who appear to be abused, beaten, even run over by officers. Some of the photos may be old or misleading, but the NYPD fell into a trap that has sunk many a social media campaign before it. 

“Part of me is kind of incredulous. Didn’t they expect they would get this kind of backlash?” says Ann Handley, head of content at MarketingProfs, and co-author of Content Rules. “You can’t get people to talk about how great you are on Twitter.”  

The NYPD could have learned something from McDonald’s' experience two years ago. It wanted people to send in nice comments with the hashtag “#McDstories.” They got something else entirely, says Howard Fencl, Vice President at the crisis communications firm Hennes Paynter Communications. “Trolls came out of the woodwork with ‘my brother found fake fingernail in his french fries, #McDstories,” he says. "People are sick of spin.” 

Some companies have more success jumping into what everyone is already talking about on Twitter. After Colorado legalized marijuana, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted a picture of empty ice cream shelves, which went down well with Twitter users. 

But if you’re big and important, the public might just be itching to knock you down a peg.

“The Police Department. McDonald's. You talk about taking it to the man, not every organization is ‘The Man’,” says Jay Baer, founder of the social media consultancy, Convince & Convert.

Baer says social media doesn’t create hate; it just uncovers it. 

Rick Warren goes global, for more mega-church action

3 hours 6 min ago

Rick Warren, author of the best-seller "The Purpose-Driven Life," is expanding his Saddleback Church from the Los Angeles suburbs to 12 global cities.  Last weekend, a campus in Los Angeles joined Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Manila and Berlin. Moscow, Tokyo, and Accra are among those coming soon.

Scott Thumma, an expert on mega-churches from the Hartford Seminary, isn't surprised:  He says the megachurch is a global phenomenon. Of the world's top 20 megachurches, only one is in the U.S. 

"If you just look at it in the United States, you see it as a suburban reality," he says. "It's kind of recreating a kind of small-town connectedness with people who have like values and interests," he says. Around the world, he says, that's "what we're all  longing for, in the anonnymous urban setting." 

Seoul is the world leader in mega-churches. Its Yoido Full Gospel Church boasts almost a half-million churchgoers per week. And it's not the only one.

Top 20 Megachurches, Worldwide Rank Attendance Church Name City Country 1. 480,000 Yoido Full Gospel Church Seoul Korea 2. 75,000 Deeper Christian Life Ministry Lagos Nigeria 3. 75,000 Mision Cristiana Elim Internacional (Elim Central Church) San Salvador El Salvador 4. 70,000 New Life Church Mumbai India 5. 65,000 Onnuri (All Nations) Community Church Seoul Korea 6. 60,000 Pyungkang Cheil Presbyterian Church Seoul Korea 7. 55,000 Victory Metro Manila Manila Philippines 8. 50,000 Living Faith Church (Winner's Chapel) - main campus Lagos Nigeria 9. 50,000 Apostolic Church Lagos (Ketu) Nigeria 10. 50,000 Yeshu Darbar (Royal Court of Jesus) Allahabad India 11. 50,000 Nambu Full Gospel Church Anyang Korea 12. 50,000 Bethany Church of God Surabaya Indonesia 13. 50,000 Igreja de Paz Santarém Brazil 14. 45,000 Evangelical Cathedral of Santiago (formerly Church of Jotabeche) Santiago Chile 15. 43,500 Lakewood Church Houston U.S.A. 16. 42,000 Comunidad Cristiana Agua Viva (Living Water Christian Community) Lima Peru 17. 40,000 Redeemed Christian Church of God Lagos Nigeria 18. 35,000 United Family International Church Harare Zimbabwe 19. 35,000 Kwanglim (Burning Bush) Methodist Church Seoul Korea 20. 35,000 Word of Hope Church Quezon City Philippines

Data from outside the U.S. adapted from Warren Bird's list of the World's Biggest Churches. Data on Lakewood Church from Thumma's U.S. Megachurch Database

A lot of mega-churches now have multiple locations. 

"You get to a point where it becomes a franchise model," says Thumma. "It's easier and more cost-effective to plant several campuses around town."

Like McDonald’s, the experience is the same wherever you go, including a variety of more-intimate worship settings in a single campus, with the pastor beaming in his sermon via closed-circuit.  

Warren has an advantage for someone growing a church: worldwide fame. His book has been translated into 85 languages.

"That gives brand recognition to him and his church," says Richard Flory, research director at the University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

Here's a map of mega-churches in North America, based on a database Thumma has compiled

Milwaukee locals want to bring Pabst back

4 hours 24 min ago

Back in the day, Milwaukee was known as the Beer Capital of the World. But if there were ever a beer that truly represents the city, local Susie Seidelman says Pabst Blue Ribbon is it.

"Pabst is from Milwaukee, and so much of the brands authenticity, its draw, its appeal, its marketing has to do with Milwaukee," she says. "It’s right on the can, it’s all over the website, all over the promotional material. We really made this beer what it is."

Seidelman is part of a Facebook group called “Milwaukee Should Own Pabst Blue Ribbon”. It has more than 4,000 members.

Pabst might have been born in Milwaukee, but for the last four years it’s been headquartered in Los Angeles. It’s owned by investor C. Dean Metropolis. He’s the guy responsible for bringing Twinkies back.

The Pabst brand is worth a lot of money—anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion. Seidelman says coming up with that kind of cash would take a lot of people willing to part with their money.

“We would have the brewery be community owned by the city of Milwaukee, we would put the call out to hundreds of thousands if not millions of investors asking for small support in the form of purchased share.”

Local business owners like Jim Haertel are rallying around the movement. He has a special interest in Pabst.

“We have their former corporate offices. We have Captain Pabst’s old office, even his roll top desk, which we would gladly save for the president.”

Haertel says he had to fight to save many of the old industrial brick buildings at Pabst headquarters. He even opened a bar in one. He says he has space to accommodate the new Pabst if it comes back to Milwaukee.

“Pabst is certainly the first of the great Milwaukee brewers, Schlitz would share some of that fame. The two of them really duked it out over the years,” Haertel says.

But now Pabst owns Schlitzand Blatz and brands like Colt 45. And the company does all this without even brewing its own beer; it pays MillerCoors to do that. But Pabst does have one thing going for it.

“Pabst is still the largest American owned brewery," says Jim Kupferschmidt, who owns the Milwaukee Beer Museum.

He says that’s because MillerCoors and Anheuser Busch are both now owned by foreign beer makers. He says there’s a good reason beer companies are buying out competitors: “You want as much shelf space on the liquor store and in the tavern as you can possibly get.”

As for Milwaukee’s push to bring Pabst back, Susie Seidelman says she knows it’s a bit of a pipedream. But she says it’s not about the beer. In fact, she doesn’t even drink Pabst: “I’m more of a Miller High Life person myself.”

Seidelman says Pabst never should have left. She says this is about righting a wrong.

This is an office, not a jungle gym!

4 hours 52 min ago

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up April 24:

Did you buy a dishwasher in March? The Commerce Department reports on orders for appliances and other durable goods.

It's Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Not a parent? Maybe it's Get Away From Your Coworkers' Kids and Take a Really Long Lunch Day.

If you're in Iceland you probably have time off to celebrate the first day of summer on Thursday. It's a public holiday.

Actress Shirley MacLaine turns 80.

And the focus is on traveling far. Really far. A three-day Humans to Mars Summit wraps at George Washington University.

What deflation is and why it's the worst dog ever

6 hours 54 min ago

You've probably heard about inflation, when prices rise for the goods and services you but. But how much do you know about its evil cousin, deflation.

Deflation is when the average level of prices start to fall throughout the economy.

In order to explain, we will use Econodog, a small white Coton de Tulear, courtesy of Precious Pets in Manhattan, to play the role of the economy as we walk through the city.

Precious Pets NYC

Econodog the Coton de Tulear helps us understand deflation

Like the economy, Econodog is responsible for pulling us along.

As we begin our walk, Econodog is giddy with joy. He is enthralled by cigarette butts and pigeons, and starts pulling very hard. In fact, Econodog is pulling so hard that he becomes inflationary. Inflation, of course, is when prices are rising. It happens when money is moving too fast and the economy is becoming hyperactive and flush with cash. People borrow, buy, and push up prices.

For Econodog, we pull back on the leash. For the economy in real life, the Federal Reserve does the same thing. It has a leash for money. That leash is called interest rates. The Federal Reserve will raise those rates if the economy pulls too hard. If borrowing becomes more expensive, people will think twice about throwing their money around, and they stop driving up prices.

As our walk progresses, a malaise befalls Econodog. Perhaps our walk has persisted for too long, or perhaps the rejection by the birds was too much to bear. Either way, at the corner of 51st and 2nd Ave, Econodog has become deflationary. He has stopped. He will not pull us anywhere.

Look at him. Those eyes.

Cute, yes?

WRONG. HE’S NOT CUTE. DEFLATION IS NOT CUTE.*

While you might think that things getting cheaper in an economy is good, deflation is secretly vicious**.

DEFLATION BITES

When prices fall, it’s usually when an economy is weak. Unemployment is persistent, so you find workers willing to work for lower wages. If you're a business, that's small comfort because the weak economy also means people aren't buying your stuff. So you offer price cuts to get people to buy. So prices start to fall.

And here are Econodog’s hidden fangs: "When prices start to fall, people realize prices are falling. Then they realize it's better to spend money tomorrow, when things are cheaper, than spend money today," explains economist Justin Wolfers. So people start to spend less. Which contributes to weak demand that caused the deflation to begin with. "It's self perpetuating; deflation leads to lower growth leads to deflation leads to lower growth.  It’s a deflationary spiral."

IT’S DISOBEDIENT

And unfortunately, we can’t use the leash like we could when Econodog was being INflationary. When Econodog is deflationary, he is being unruly in the opposite direction. He isn’t moving too fast and pulling too hard, he's just sitting there. Sluggish. Like a furry lump. Very frustrating: if we want Econodog to pull us along, he needs to move. But pulling on the leash won’t help. Neither shaking the leash nor throwing it will work. The dog won’t move.

That's deflation. Money is moving slowly, prices are falling, not rising. You can relax the leash as much as you want. In the case of the Federal Reserve, that means you can give as much slack as you can on interest rates, taking them down to near zero. But sometimes things are bad enough that this doesn't make the economy move. There's an expression for this – "you can't push with a string," or in this case, a leash.

YOU MUST PLAY MIND GAMES WITH IT

So there we are, on the corner of 2nd and 51st, Econodog has come to a halt. Trainer Bernadette Ambrosioni has an idea. We are near Econodog's home, so we look towards home and tell Econodog that we are going home.

Wanna go home? Wanna go home? Let’s go home!

Now that Econodog's expectations are that the walk is over and we are going home, he becomes excited and starts moving again and is joyous once more.

"Shifting expectations can be a great way of solving deflation," says Wolfers. Seriously!

Yes, when it comes to the real economy, you have to fix the underlying problem of a slow growth, but you also have to change people’s minds.

The reason is that if people expect deflation, they cause deflation. Remember, if people expect things to be cheaper in the future, they put off purchases. As a result people start to spend less, which further causes deflation. Spend less, economy shrinks, prices fall, spend less. That's the vicious cycle.

So, you change people’s expectations. You tell them you're printing money, you tell them you're going to create inflation, lower interest rates, and stimulate the economy. In fact, this is exactly what Japan is in the middle of doing.

How does this actually work? Wolfers says think of it from a business owner's perspective. "If you can convince shopkeepers that you want to bring inflation back to the economy, then they'll expect competitors will raise their prices tomorrow, therefore there's no reason for me to cut my prices today."

And, ideally, people would start spending today instead of waiting for tomorrow.

Japan dealt with deflation for more than a decade and is only now fully exiting that trap. Europe is straddling on the edge, and the U.S. is just one percentage point above deflation territory. Many economists are predicting we'll pull up just in time, but for now, the possibility is nipping at our heels.

* He's actually very cute.

** In real life this dog is adorable and we love him and he is not vicious.

PODCAST: Is Apple the new Microsoft?

7 hours 28 min ago

Apple is expected to report mostly flat revenues from a year ago, when it releases earnings after the bell Wednesday. It wasn’t so long ago, of course, that Apple’s stock was a rocket ship, seeing the kind of exponential growth you find in tiny startups. Another tech company used to be like that: Microsoft. 

David Einhorn, a pretty big name among activist investors, made headlines yesterday with his “bubble basket” and for saying that there’s now a consensus that there’s a tech bubble.

Hollywood is no longer the go-to place for shooting feature films and TV shows. Just eight percent of big budget Hollywood films were made in LA in 2013, down from 65 percent in 1997. And from 2005 to 2013, California's share of one-hour TV series dropped from 64 percent to 28 percent. 

 

 

Is there another tech bubble on the verge of bursting?

7 hours 51 min ago

David Einhorn, a pretty big name among activist investors, made headlines yesterday with his “bubble basket” and for saying that there’s now a consensus that there’s a tech bubble. 

Activists investors buy a large chunk of stock in a company with the goal of pressuring management to make changes. At the Active-Passive Investor Summit in New York, Einhorn said his “bubble basket” is a group of stocks he’s shorting, or betting that the price will go down. While he didn’t name companies, we can assume there are tech stocks in that basket. Einhorn is betting that some stocks might fall by as much as 90 percent.  

Activists investors also raised bigger issues. Jeff Ubben, a notable west coast hedge fund investor, called into question executive compensation at the tech companies. He singled out Google’s Eric Schmidt and his $100 million pay package in 2011, which Ubben thought was outsized. Ubben noted that same year, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon was “hauled over the coals” for getting paid $20 million.

The tech companies haven’t responded to the criticism but upshot from the summit was that tech companies need to be put under more scrutiny. 

 

Regional airlines need pilots but offer low wages

10 hours 59 min ago

There's a huge and growing demand for pilots at the nation's regional airlines. The Government Accountability Office says the small carriers need to hire thousands of new pilots.

So you'd think lots of folks would be in line. After all, some pilots pull in $200,ooo a year.

But starting salaries are much lower, which is sending some pilots elsewhere.

Take Doug Fowler, who quit his regional airline gig with Atlantic Southeast Airlines (now ExpressJet) after nine months.

"My paycheck -- my [take] home pay -- was $13,300," Fowler says.

According to the Air Line Pilots Association, the average co-pilot at a regional carrier starts out at about $22,000. That's $10 an hour. Fowler says he had to work a second construction job just to pay the bills.

"You should be paid more than $20,000 a year," he says, citing the responsibility pilots have for the fifty passengers on board. "My wife's life is worth more than twenty grand a year," he says. "So that's the way we look at it."

But that's not how regional carriers look at it. They bid contracts to the big airlines to fly small planes on short routes. It's fiercely competitive. So about the only way to make money is to pay pilots next to nothing.

"Typically, pilots worked in this position and moved on to another company, so the airlines felt they were being used as a stepping stone," says aviation consultant Kit Darby. Everyone knew the game. "Since they were leaving anyway, there wasn't much incentive to provide a living wage at the starting position," Darby says.

All that used to happen quickly. Within a year, you were on your way to captain's seat and better pay.

But now there are more barriers.

Mandatory retirement for pilots went from age 60 to 65. And a new Congressional mandate requires pilots amass 1,500 flight hours before they can get an airline job. That's a 600 percent increase.

Darby says something's got to give at the regionals.

"They have to be mindful that they are competitive with other companies, or they'll take what is an inadequate supply and turn it into no pilots available."

Doug Fowler, the pilot who quit, says he might return to the big guys one day. But for now, he's content flying corporate customers in a single-engine turboprop at about $30,000 a year.

Why the lights have dimmed on LA's film industry

12 hours 36 min ago

Hollywood is no longer the go-to place for shooting feature films and TV shows.

Just eight percent of big budget Hollywood films were made in LA in 2013, down from 65 percent in 1997. And from 2005 to 2013, California's share of one-hour TV series dropped from 64 percent to 28 percent. 

Why the big exodus? States like Georgia, New York and Louisiana -- and countries like the UK and Canada -- are offering attractive tax subsidies to lure filmmakers.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a "state of emergency" in the local film and TV production industry.

The Association of Film Commissioners International held their convention in March at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Century City. It’s been called “The Poacher’s Convention.” Dozens of booths lined a big hotel banquet hall. Each one promoted the natural beauty of their state or country -- and their generous tax incentives.

(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

A sign atThe Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) Tradeshow in West Hollywood, California. 

“The show is called ‘Locations Trade Show’ but it’s really not about locations anymore, it’s about incentives, and North Carolina is a 25 percent fully-funded rebate,” said Aaron Syrett, the North Carolina Film Commissioner.

The movies “Iron Man 3” and “The Hunger Games” and the TV shows “Homeland” and “Sleepy Hollow” were all shot in North Carolina. The state spends $80 million a year on those rebates.

But, Syrett said, his state isn’t really competing with California. “We’re competing with Georgia and Louisiana,” he said.

States like Utah also offers filmmakers a 25 percent discount. To drive the point home, the wallpaper in Utah’s booth was just the number “25%” repeated in a huge font.

“The business is here in Hollywood. We want to keep it here. Everyone here wants to take it away,” said Art Yoon with Film LA, the group that issues permits to shoot in Los Angeles. “I mean, we have a $100 million tax credit, that’s not nearly enough. We’re going to have to up that if we want to be serious about keeping the industry here.”

California, by all accounts, hasn’t kept up. The state has a lot else going for it: local talent, sunny weather, and a support system, like caterers and electricians.

But documentary filmmaker Deborah Rankin said it ultimately comes down to dollars and cents: “Especially as an independent filmmaker, it’s really, it’s hard. It’s hard raising the money, and you’ve gotta make it go as far as it can,” Rankin said.

Filmmaker Dan Gagliasso is working on a Bosnia-Kosovo war film, and plans to shoot it in Minnesota, largely because of generous tax credits – especially if you shoot in the northern part of the state. And, he said, the red tape in Los Angeles makes shooting there more difficult.

“You know, if you say the wrong word, suddenly you have to have a study because you’re crossing a stream with a horse. It’s like, ‘Well gee, it’s a private horse ranch, that horse crosses that stream every day!’ They don’t care. It’s bureaucracy,” Gagliasso said.

Hollywood filmmakers are hoping California lawmakers will pass a bill that would extend the state's current $100 million a year film production tax credit. The bill would also expand the range of films eligible to apply for tax credits, and would open the credits to television pilot production. Its main opponents are education groups who are lobbying for more school funding rather than increasing production incentives.

Aereo case has its head in the clouds

14 hours 7 min ago

If you're of a certain age, you'll recognize this familiar sight:

From the VHS of yore, this bright green FBI warning prohibited the "public performance" of any content. That distinction between public and private is what will largely decide the outcome of Aereo's case. Aereo argues that since the content is going directly to a customer, it's not that different than picking up a TV signal via an antenna you might buy and set up in your house. Or as CEO Chet Kanojia puts it, it's what makes it legal for you to sing a Miley Cyrus song in your shower: no one but you is enjoying/suffering through that performance but you.

But there's more than just television at stake in this case, something that everyone involved seems to be aware of. Cloud computing companies in particular are keeping a watchful eye on how this all plays out.

A lot of companies that rely on the cloud are worried that depending on how the court rules, it could mean companies will need to look differently at the content on their servers, including issues of copyright and licensing.

 

Want to get in shape? Get chased by zombies

Tue, 2014-04-22 15:00

You've seen those high-tech bracelets worn by everyone from Oklahoma City Thunder hoops star Kevin Durant to Apple CEO Tim Cook. And yet, Nike reportedly is going to shutter the division, and lay off the engineers, who make the athletic company's FuelBand wearable fitness tracker. 

 

Is the wearable fitness device market slowing down? No, not really. In fact, for many, the standard Fitbit or calorie-counter apps are too basic. Check out these unconventional additions to the list of tech aimed at getting you in shape.

 

Coach Alba

 

Not everyone can afford a personal trainer or a life coach who takes responsibility for their clients' health. That's where Coach Alba comes in. After answering a survey on pivotal moments in daily life, Coach Alba is designed to text users during "crucial moments" to remind them of goals, and to encourage good behavior. If, for example, late night snacking is your vice, Coach Alba will ping you in the evening with reminders of what you've already eaten that day. Find out more about Coach Alba here.

 

 

Pact

 

If you think words are cheap, then Pact might be the right phone app for you. Aside from allowing you to track your diet and exercise on your phone, Pact adds the element of financial reward if you keep your set goals. Your pay off comes at the expense of fellow users who did not make it to the gym when they said they would, or those who ate a donut instead of a salad. Be warned: fail at meeting your goals, and you end up paying more successful Pact users with your hard earned cash. Find out more about Pact here.

 

 

GymShamer

 

Like Pact, GymShamer uses public accountability as motivation. Unlike Pact, you pay with your dignity, not your money. GymShamer is set up to notify your friends via your social media accounts when you miss a trip to the gym. Winner of a Foursquare hackathon in January, GymShamer may be coming to an embarrassing social media debacle near you. Find out more about GymShamer here.

 

GymShamer

 

Striiv

 

If you're a gamer, gameplay advantages may be more your speed. The Striiv Pedometer rewards the amount of steps you've taken by providing goods for a Farmville-esque game on your phone and computer. In this case, you're populating an enchanted island with trees and animals. It's like Lost, but with rewards for people who continue to pay attention. Find out more about Striiv here.

 

 

Zombies, Run!

 

Speaking of gaming and fitness, "Zombies, Run!" is an app that places the user in the middle of a post-apocalyptic dystopia where running isn't just for exercise, it's for survival. Like Striiv, the more you exercise, the more rewards you receive. Unlike Striiv, you're also running for your life. "Zombies, Run!" will instruct the user on how far they have to go in order to escape the hoarde of imaginary zombies following close behind. Think "Running Dead," not "Walking Dead." Find out more about "Zombies, Run!" here.

 

Why Roto-Rooter cares how you die

Tue, 2014-04-22 14:03

The Centers for Disease Control tells us that about 2.5 million people die in this country every year.

And 44 percent of those people are now dying in hospice care.

That's surely a cultural change, but it's also a business opportunity. Hospice care has become a $17 billion business.

Fran Smith wrote a book about hospice care called "Changing the Way We Die."

She describes hospice care as the most successful part of the healthcare industry, and says it's surprising who is getting into the game.

"More than half of hospice programs are run by for profit companies. All the growth in hospice over the past ten years has been in the for-profit sector. The company that owns Roto-Rooter, ChemEd, is the owner of the largest hospice chain in the country - Vitas."

Are Apple's halcyon growth days over?

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:56

Apple is expected to report mostly flat revenues from a year ago, when it releases earnings after the bell Wednesday. It wasn’t so long ago, of course, that Apple’s stock was a rocket ship, seeing the kind of exponential growth you find in tiny startups. Another tech company used to be like that: Microsoft. 

Until around 2000, it was a growth story. Then, it got big and slow and its stock stagnated and people just stuck with it for the dividends. The question on investors’ minds is whether Apple will have a similar fate. 

“There are very different circumstances that faced Microsoft in the 1990s and Apple of today,” says Pai-Ling Yin, a Social Science Research Scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. She says Apple is no Microsoft.  

First of all, it can’t afford to sit still. Unlike Microsoft’s monopoly position, Apple faces stiff competition from the likes of Google and Amazon.

And, Apple has a different culture.

“It has demonstrated a unique ability to reinvent itself every few years,” says Ross Rubin of Reticle Research. 

Now, investors are used to the company reinventing itself with new products that cannibalize its old ones.

“Apple is in a transition but I don’t think we’re ever going to find a point where Apple isn’t in some kind of transition,” says Robert Paul Leitao, founder of the Braeburn Group, a network of Apple analysts.

Soon, we may find out if the company can pull off another winner. 

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been promising to enter “new product categories” soon.

The wearable future from bracelets to mouth guards

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:50

When Nike first came out with those little bracelet-fitness trackers they call FuelBands, everyone from basketball star Kevin Durant to Apple CEO Tim Cook was wrapping them around their wrists. But there are reports out now that Nike might be stepping out of the wearable technology market, after it made layoffs in its FuelBand engineering team.

The brave new world of wearable technology has come a long way since the good old fashioned wrist watch. 

Of course, these days, wearable tech can do a lot more than just tell time.  Gadgets like the FuelBand and FitBit track the steps you take, and the calories you burn. Others can track your heart rate, or control your thermostat and the volume on your stereo.

And while Nike may be stepping back from manufacturing its own wrist-band activity tracker, that area between your arm and your hand is still shaping up to be a very hot place for tech innovation.  Apple is expected to come out with an iWatch sometime this year.  Google has been developing an operating system, designed just for watches and other wrist-friendly gadgets. 

"We expect great growth in this market over the next few years," says Chris Jones, vice president at the tech analyst firm Canalys. Jones says just over 7 million of these "smart bands" sold around the world last year, and predicts that number could triple in 2014. 

But all you other body parts out there-- don't be jealous.  You too will get cool technology.  Over at the wearable tech company i1 Biometrics, they are developing mouth guards that go in the mouths of football player, "to sense whether or not they've suffered impacts that might warrant them being pulled from the game," explains David Gallaher, the firm's social media director.

There are also smart band-aids that adhere to your skin and track your hydration.  Smart tattoos with RFID chips you can plant under your skin to monitor all sorts of things. Only the tech crazed will be using this kind of stuff in the near future, but soon they might be as common as a wrist watch...used to be.

What's on that dollar bill? Maybe some anthrax

Tue, 2014-04-22 13:10

And this final note which may rekindle your interest in bitcoin.

From the Wall Street Journal: money is even dirtier than your mother told you it was. The Dirty Money Project at NYU conducted what's called the first comprehensive study of DNA found on dollar bills.

And found the bacteria that causes acne, other bacteria linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections. They also discovered extremely minute traces of anthrax and diphtheria, and DNA from horses, dogs, and white rhinos.

Fire a failing manager and other lessons from sports

Tue, 2014-04-22 11:40

Why can’t the corporate world be more like major league sports? When a sports team loses too much, the coach gets the boot, and gets it fast. In the past week, the Knicks fired their entire coaching staff, Manchester United sacked their manager, and the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team coach was fired too.

Far be it from us to endorse bloodlust, but why aren’t CEO's dealt this kind of fate?

1. They are, you just might not know it.

The Conference Board has done a lot of research on corporate succession, and one of their researchers, Melissa Aguilar says “the probability of a succession event is higher following poor performance.” Huh? What? Succession event? Yes, ‘succession event’ – Aguilar didn’t say ‘firing’, because “not everything that gets called a retirement is a retirement.”  You’d be surprised at how many CEO’s “retire” at a young age. Plus, coaches are more like managers, not corporate executives. And you can be sure that in the corporate world, a manager who doesn’t perform well will be shown the door.

2. A good CEO is hard to find. 

“I can tell you, I’ve managed a number of successions – it’s very hard!” in the words of Joseph Bower, who teaches at Harvard Business School.  “Companies are much more idiosyncratic than we think or as an economist would pretend - they have complex cultures, they have capabilities that tend to be unique,” and they’re made of complex arrays of humans which, as we all know, behave rather strangely in large groups. Finding the right person can be hard, and it can take a long time.

“I remember at one point the head of Johnson wax was hired by Nike because he was a good marketing executive and it was thought he could do well at Nike,” says Bower. “It turns out that marketing furniture polish is very different from marketing running shoes. That didn’t work out.” 

 3.Because a CEO isn’t a real thing.

Otherwise put, being a CEO isn’t a real thing. It’s not like being a blacksmith or a French teacher, where there’s a specific and universal skill set. You could run a company of two people selling pickles or a company of two thousand advising commodity investors – in both cases you’re a CEO. That doesn’t mean you can do both well.

4.You can’t hide the fact you lost a game. You can totally hide the fact your earnings are down.

“For a corporation, results are much more opaque,” says Smith college’s Andrew Zimbalist. “It’s not win or lose. Although corporations like to have growth and profit, there are ways to hide the lack of profits or to inflate the actual profits.” 

To be fair there are a lot of other things you can blame for bad results if you’re a CEO – the economy, GDP, China – take your pick of scapegoats real or not. 

“At a corporate level there’s more cronyism,” says Zimbalist. “You have boards of people who are CEOs themselves. It’s a social circle that’s more tight, and they are likely to be more lenient since they are in a similar situation. 

5.If Shareholders were like fans, Wall Street would be full of drunks and burnt out buildings

“It’s well known that some investors are not rational, but almost anybody would agree that very few sports fans are rational,” says Matteo Arena, who teaches finance at Marquette University. “Most fans react to poor results in a very passionate way and put a lot of pressure on teams.” That thirst for revenge and destruction is why sports teams often ditch their coaches or managers so quickly.  

6.Maybe Shareholders are like sports fans, but just slower.

A sports team can lose ten games in a month, but it takes a corporation 2.5 years to have 10 quarters of bad earnings. And CEOs usually walk shareholders through the ups and the downs, explaining what they expect to happen, which can sometimes be like talking down an angry mob.   

7.The CEO is often in charge of replacing the CEO

“In more than 50 percent of publicly traded companies in the US, the CEO is also chairman of the board,” says Matteo Arena. How easy do you think it is to replace the person in charge if that person ... is in charge of replacing the person in charge? 

Is TV streaming illegal? Aereo and the high court

Tue, 2014-04-22 10:46

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments about the legality of broadcast TV streaming operator Aereo. The case pits traditional television broadcasters against Aereo, which lets customers record broadcast TV in their local markets and then watch programs via television, computer, tablet or smartphone.

Q. What is Aereo?

A. Aereo, which was founded in 2012, is a service that lets paying subscribers watch broadcast TV on smart phones, tablets and computers. The company builds “antenna farms” that are filled with DVRs and thousands of dime-sized antennas. Using the Internet, customers can tune in and record local affiliates.

Q. Sounds complicated?  Was it for the justices?

A. Most of the justices displayed a decent understanding of technology, actually. Justice Sotomayor revealed she has a Roku, for instance. Other justices invoked Dropbox and Netflix. There were some exceptions, however. Justice Breyer made a few dated references to record stores – that is, stores that sell phonograph records.

Q. What does the case hinge on?

A. Under copyright law, there is a distinction between private performances and public performances of copyrighted works. Private performances are legal. You could invite friends over to your house to watch a basketball game, for instance. Public performances are illegal.

Aereo stresses each subscriber has a one-to-one relationship with its technology – DVRs and antennas. Each customer has total control over each of those two things. Broadcasters argue that, because Aereo has thousands of customers, what it is doing is illegal.

What do students actually learn in college?

Tue, 2014-04-22 10:19

At Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., about ten students — all women but one — sit at a round table discussing Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey.”

 The 88-year-old college has a reputation for doing things differently. Most classes are small seminars like this one. There are no majors. Students do a lot of independent projects. And grades aren’t as important as the long written evaluations professors give every student at the end of every semester. It’s no surprise, then, that professor James Horowitz is skeptical of any uniform college rating system, like the one being proposed by the Obama administration.

“The goals that we are trying to achieve in instructing our students might be very different from what the University of Chicago or many other schools or a state school or a community college might be striving to achieve,” Horowitz says.

The Obama administration is due out this spring with details of its controversial plan to rate colleges on measures like value and affordability. The idea is that if students can compare schools on cost, graduation rates and even how much money students earn after they graduate — colleges might have to step up their game. Especially if, as proposed, poor performers risk losing access to federal financial aid.

All that, naturally, makes colleges just a bit nervous. Sarah Lawrence is fighting back with its own way of measuring value. The faculty came up with six abilities they think every Sarah Lawrence graduate should have. They include the ability to write and communicate effectively, to think analytically, and to accept and act on critique.

“We don’t believe that there’s like 100 things you should know when you graduate,” says computer science professor Michael Siff, who helped develop the tool. “It’s much more about are you a good learner? Do you know how to enter into a new domain and attack it with an open mind, but also an organized mind?”

Faculty advisors can use the results to track students’ progress over time and help them address any weaknesses. A student who’s struggling with communication could take class with a lot of oral presentations, for example, or make an appointment at the campus writing center.

But Siff says the tool is also about figuring out what the college can do better.

“This tool will allow us to assess ourselves as an institution,” he says. “Are we imparting what we believe to be these critical abilities?”

So how is the school doing? So far there are only data for two semesters, but on every measure seniors do better than juniors. Sophomores do better than freshmen.

Starting next fall, advisors will meet with their students at the beginning of each semester to talk over their progress. In sort of a trial run, Siff goes over the results so far with one of his advisees, junior Zachary Doege.

On a scale from “not yet developed” to “excellent,” he’s mostly at the top end. Doege says he likes seeing his own growth.

“I think the thing I like the most about this is just the fact that I can look back at how I was doing in previous semesters and sort of chart my own progress,” he says. “Not comparing me towards other students—just me to myself.”

That’s a different measure of the value of an education than, say, student loan debt or earnings after graduation — the sorts of things the Obama administration is considering as part of its ratings plan. Students and parents are right to ask if they’re getting their money’s worth, says the college’s president, Karen Lawrence. After financial aid, the average cost of a Sarah Lawrence education is almost $43,000 a year.

“People are worried about cost,” Lawrence says. “We understand that.”

And they’re worried about getting jobs after graduation. But she says the abilities that the new assessment measures—critical thinking and innovation and collaboration—are the same ones employers say they’re looking for.

“We think these are abilities that students are going to need both right after graduation and in the future, and so it could be an interesting model.”

One she hopes other schools will take a look at as they figure out how to answer the national debate about the value of college.

The six "critical abilities" that Sarah Lawrence College identified as skills that every graduate should have:

  • Ability to think analytically about the material.
  • Ability to express ideas effectively through written communication.
  • Ability to exchange ideas effectively through oral communication.
  • Ability to bring innovation to the work.
  • Ability to envisage and carry through a project independently, with appropriate guidance.
  • Ability to accept and act on critique to improve work.

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4