Marketplace - American Public Media

Subscribe to Marketplace - American Public Media feed
Updated: 23 min 46 sec ago

Cheaper fuel, cheaper flights. But not for you.

Mon, 2015-05-25 02:00

A gallon of jet fuel will cost you around $1.66 a gallon these days. That’s down 40 percent from what it was this time last year.

For airlines, which bought more than 16 billion gallons of fuel in 2014, we're talking about a savings of possibly around $22 billion, says Samuel Engel, who manages the aviation practice at ICF International. In 2012, fuel represented 31 percent of global airline costs, and this year it’s around 25 percent. Fuel isn’t the airlines’ only cost, but it’s their largest.

If you were hoping to see some of that savings in the form of cheaper tickets, get in line. Your group isn’t boarding yet.

“There are some complicating factors to consider,” says Sanjay Nanda, senior vice president at Sabre Airline Solutions. “Many airlines hedge on fuel.”

That is, they buy it in advance at locked-in prices. It saves them from rapid spikes in fuel, but also keeps them from taking full advantage of price declines. About 25 percent of airline fuel was hedged this way, according IFC International. “So I’d say most airlines have benefitted but some more than others,” says Nanda.

Still, they’re clearly saving billions. Where is it going?

“They’re putting that money back into the business in the form of new planes, new services – larger bins, new wifi,” says Jean Medina with Airlines for America, an airline industry group. “Our members will be taking effectively one new airline delivery every day.” U.S. airlines also have $60 billion in debt that needs servicing as well, says Medina.

Another priority group for fuel savings, at least for some airlines, is labor. “Delta, a couple months ago, made the largest profit-sharing payout in history to their workers,” says IFC International’s Samuel Engel. Any labor union with a contract to renegotiate will also likely take a keen interest in fuel cost savings if they’re sustained.

So what about those fare prices?

“As fuel prices come down, it starts to allow airlines to operate more routes, and it allows them to compete against each other and offer discounts,” says Engel. “But it’s not immediate. It doesn’t happen until the competitive dynamic plays out.”

And oil prices come and go, says Sabre’s Nanda. So for airlines, “prices are more tied to supply and demand,” he says.

Supply has increased, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp. “There’s been a 6 percent rise in available seats,” says Chuck Thackston, a managing director at ARC. Airlines are managing to fit more people on each plane, whether by increasing the number of seats or purchasing larger capacity models. “Airlines are competing to fill those additional seats,” he says.

ARC says it’s this supply increase that is affecting fares. “Travel within the United States is largely flat year over year,” says Thackston. “The past several years have seen airfares increasing, and we now see those fares leveling off and going down very slightly for summer travel.”

Summer airfare to Europe has declined by about 3 percent, with some destinations seeing particularly stark drops. Fares to Kona, Hawaii, fell 12.7 percent. Trips to Belgrade, Serbia, are 24.3 percent lower on average. 

Airfare to New York as a domestic destination increased 9.3 percent, and international fares to Berlin increased 10.2 percent.  

So, no, lower fuel prices won't mean a big dip in airfare just yet.  

At Harvard, even the meat smoker is smart

Mon, 2015-05-25 02:00

On a quest to invent a smart smoker, a Harvard engineering class is partnering with Williams-Sonoma. Over the last few months, junior-year engineering students have smoked more than 200 pounds of brisket. The result? Well, as a self-admitted meat lover, I figured the only way to really know was to take a bite.

It wasn't hard to find the class. The mesquite aroma led me right to teaching assistant Peyton Nesmith. The Alabama native is tending a 300 pound, black, hour glass shaped ceramic smoker. The contraption is covered with wires, gadgets and gizmos.

An up-close look at the brisket Nesmith is cooking. (Eliza Grinnell/Harvard SEAS) 

Nesmith gave me the low down, “This brisket’s been cooking since 3 a.m. We probably have a few hours left on it. This is our typical routine. Our cadence of our battle rhythm as our adviser would say.”

That adviser is Professor Kevin Kit Parker. He’s not just an academic—he’s a towering Army Lt. Colonel in the reserves. With, he says, a Southerner's passion for barbecue.

“I was walking around the parking lot of the Memphis Liberty Bowl looking at all these contraptions that people were smoking barbecue in. And I'm thinking none of these things looks the same. And that means we haven't reduced our knowledge of barbecue down to a fundamental set of laws about how to do barbecue right.”

Parker proudly displays the Harvard smoker. (Eliza Grinnell/Harvard SEAS)

Parker says he vetted his ideas with culinary experts,“I talked to some classically trained chefs. They said no one’s done this. No one’s ever taken a scientific approach to barbecue, to smoking."

Parker teaches bioengineering and applied physics at Harvard. So he decided to give his students a real-world assignment. First he introduced them to a client, the high-end consumer retailer Williams-Sonoma. The job: come up with the perfect smoker. After five long, snowy months the data is in. It’s game day.

Students present the design and physics of the Harvard smoker to class-client Williams-Sonoma. (Eliza Grinnell/Harvard SEAS)

The students work up to the last minute to showcase the final product. A parade of guests checks it out in a fancy auditorium in one of Harvard’s engineering buildings. Professors, chefs and top brass from Williams-Sonoma pack the room. 

The students rock. 

All 16 play a part in explaining the smoker’s intricacies using Parker’s mantra—design, build and test. From the unusual shape of the smoker to a smartphone app that keeps you up to date on what temperature the meat is at and if you need to make any adjustments. As he chews, Williams-Sonoma’s Pat Connolly rates the Harvard smoker against other smokers out there.

“If you look at the color you get a much more consistent color here. If you look at the moisture the moisture is fantastic compared to the competition.”

Connolly says the trademarked, patent pending, app wielding, BBIQ smart smoker just might have the right stuff. And make the leap from the classroom to a future Memorial Day celebration.

Members of the Harvard community, representatives from Williams-Sonoma and local celebrity chefs enjoy brisket prepared in the Harvard smoker by students of the class "Engineering Problem Solving and Design Project." (Eliza Grinnell/Harvard SEAS)

Late springs warms up housing

Mon, 2015-05-25 02:00

Spring and summer are often a hopeful time for anyone involved in the housing economy. Houses show well; potential buyers go looking; homebuilders are building.

Bad winter weather in early 2015 made for a poor start to the year for housing. But figures for April suggest the housing economy might finally be on the rebound. “Improvement in housing really has been a missing piece to this recovery,” says Michael Baele, managing director of U.S. Bank’s wealth management division. “And we are encouraged to see some better numbers.”

Here are some key recent housing indicators:

• Housing starts rose 20 percent in April. (U.S. Census)
• Permits were up 10 percent in April. (U.S. Census)
• New home sales have increased from 434,000 units (annualized) in Q3 2014, to 513,000 units in Q1 2015. (U.S. Census)
• Existing home sales fell 3.3 percent in April. (National Association of Realtors)
• The one-month supply of homes rose by 0.7 to 5.3 months in April. (National Association of Realtors)
• The median price of a single-family home rise 10 percent from April 2014 to April 2015. (National Association of Realtors)
• Construction payrolls were up by 45,000 in April. Year-over-year, construction employment has increased by 280,000. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The oil economy, as measured in hot dogs and U-Hauls

Mon, 2015-05-25 01:57

You can learn a lot about the economy in Williston, North Dakota, based on Mitch Petrasek’s recent hot dog consumption. 

When I met him in March outside the U-Haul where he was working in Williston, the capital of the state’s oil patch, he had eight dogs lined up on a grill.

“I'll eat two now, two for dinner and two for breakfast,” he says. The remaining two, he says, would be offered to his boss.

Petrasek’s diet includes a few other things, like power bars and granola bars — the kind of stuff that didn't need to be warmed up or refrigerated.

“That's the worst thing off living in a car is the eating situation," he explains.

Petrasek was living out of his car even though he was making nearly $18 an hour at U-Haul. That’s not entirely surprising for a place like Williston. The oil boom pushed wages sky high. Ditto for rents.

“I could pay $1,000 to stay in a crappy apartment with someone or I could save a $1,000 in my bank account,” Petrasek says.

But the economic forces pushing him to sleep in what he called his “house-car” were shifting right under his nose. Petrasek's boss at the Williston U-Haul, Brian Way, says it was getting hard to maintain a decent inventory of moving trucks. A slowdown in the oil patch meant people were renting trucks to leave town.

“The issue now that I see it is that we just don't have many people moving in,” says Way. “We used to have two or three a day, where now we have two or three a week.”

That was at the end of March. Since then, the picture hasn't brightened much for the oil industry. The number of drilling rigs in North Dakota has dropped further to about 80 today.

When I called the U-Haul for an update, I learned neither Petrasek nor Way worked there anymore. Both had transferred to another facility in Fargo, North Dakota, on the other side of the state. Petrasek just moved a couple weeks ago. He says the situation in Williston hadn’t changed much since we last spoke.

“Oh yeah, there [are] still way more people going out than coming in,” he says.

He says he’s making a lower hourly wage now in Fargo, but he can afford housing. He and Brian Way are now roommates, and Petrasek says he's expanded his diet far beyond hot dogs.

The oil economy, as measured in hotdogs and U-Hauls

Mon, 2015-05-25 01:57

You can learn a lot about the economy in Williston, N.D., based on Mitch Petrasek’s recent hotdog consumption. 

When I met him in March outside the U-Haul where he was working in Williston, the capital of the state’s oil patch, he had eight dogs lined up on a grill.

“I'll eat two now, two for dinner and two for breakfast,” he says. The remaining two, he says, would be offered to his boss.

Petrasek’s diet did include a few other things, like power bars and granola bars — the kind of stuff that didn't need to be warmed up or refrigerated.

“That's the worst thing off living in a car is the eating situation," he explains.

Petrasek was living out of his car even though he was making nearly $18 an hour at U-Haul. That’s not entirely surprising for a place like Williston. The oil boom pushed wages sky high. Ditto for rents.

“I could pay $1,000 to stay in a crappy apartment with someone or I could save a $1,000 in my bank account,” Petrasek says.

But the economic forces pushing him to sleep in what he called his “house-car” were shifting right under his nose. Petrasek's boss at the Williston U-Haul, Brian Way, says it was getting hard to maintain a decent inventory of moving trucks. A slowdown in the oil patch meant people were renting trucks to leave town.

“The issue now that I see it is that we just don't have many people moving in,” says Way. “We used to have two or three a day, where now we have two or three a week.”

That was at the end of March. Since then, the picture hasn't brightened much for the oil industry. The number of drilling rigs in North Dakota has dropped further, to about 80 today.

When I called the U-Haul for an update, I learned neither Petrasek nor Way worked there anymore. Both had gotten transferred to another facility in Fargo, N.D., on the other side of the state. Petrasek just moved a couple weeks ago. He says the situation in Williston hadn’t changed much since we last spoke.

“Oh yeah there's still way more people going out than coming in,” he says.

He says he’s making a lower hourly wage now in Fargo. But he can afford housing. He and Brian Way are now roommates. And Petrasek says he's expanded his diet far beyond hot dogs.

Why the CPI doesn't figure in the Fed's calculations

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.1 percent last month, according to figures out Friday. You could think of it as one more piece of evidence in the "no inflation" pile.

The CPI is used for a variety of things, particularly in adjusting rent and wages, as well as "in private contracts to escalate values of money ... by the government ... to adjust social security, and so forth," says Steve Reed, an economist at the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics who works on the CPI.

But the CPI isn't what the Federal Reserve looks to when it tries to figure out whether the economy as a whole is experiencing inflation. The Fed prefers the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, or PCE.

Jeremy Siegel, a finance professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says both of the measures' "headline" numbers are inaccurate, "and the reason for that is when the price of one good goes up, we substitute it with other goods." For instance, if beef gets expensive, you'll probably just buy some chicken, and your quality of life will not suffer much (if at all).

That's why the Fed looks not at the headline PCE, but the core PCE, which is the PCE with the volatile prices of food and energy stripped out. Ben Friedman, an economics professor at Harvard, says the Fed is just trying to influence the economy where it can.

"They're letting the economy respond to movements up or down in oil prices rather than having monetary policy do that," he says.

The PCE and its core number — will be released on June 1.

States take back some economic incentives

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

The state of Missouri recently suspended its incentives program for IBM after the company reported layoffs at a new center it had opened in Columbia. The state said IBM didn't make good on its promise to maintain at least 500 jobs there. Other states are also taking a hard look at economic incentives they granted to businesses to relocate or open new facilities.

The U.S. is facing an egg-tastrophe

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

You may not know it, but we have an egg-tastrophe on our hands. Thanks to bird flu, an estimated 31 million chickens have been killed — that’s 10 percent of the country’s egg-producing poultry.

Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg department at Urner Barry, a commodity market news reporting service, says prices for wholesale eggs have almost doubled, and it's the wholesale market that's going to feel the pinch of higher prices first.

Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst for companies like McDonald's, which relies heavily on eggs, notes that the shortage may be difficult.

“About 25 percent of McDonald’s sales rest in breakfast," he says.

And it’s not clear where companies like McDonald's can turn for cheaper eggs. Certainly not from neighbors such as Canada and Mexico — those countries were already buying eggs from the U.S. While there is talk of getting egg-sports from the EU, Pesciotta says there’s a problem. In the U.S., producers wash and refrigerate eggs to protect against salmonella. But the EU vaccinates its chickens and says washing can damage shells, making eggs more vulnerable to bacteria.

Pesciotta says that unless the U.S. and the EU can agree on egg-zactly what makes eggs safe, we may have an egg-pocolypse.

“They produce to their set of rules. We produce to our set of rules," he said, "they’re different.”

Egg-tastrophe

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

You may not know it, but we have an egg-tastrophe on our hands. Thanks to bird flu, an estimated 31 million chickens have been killed — that’s 10 percent of the country’s egg-producing poultry.

Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg department at Urner Barry, a commodity market news reporting service, says prices for wholesale eggs have almost doubled, and it's the wholesale market that's going to feel the pinch of higher prices first.

Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst for companies like McDonald's, which relies heavily on eggs, notes that the shortage may be difficult.

“About 25 percent of McDonald’s sales rest in breakfast," he says.

And it’s not clear where companies like McDonald's can turn for cheaper eggs. Certainly not from neighbors such as Canada and Mexico — those countries were already buying eggs from the U.S. While there is talk of getting egg-sports from the EU, Pesciotta says there’s a problem. In the U.S., producers wash and refrigerate eggs to protect against salmonella. But the EU vaccinates its chickens and says washing can damage shells, making eggs more vulnerable to bacteria.

Pesciotta says that unless the U.S. and the EU can agree on egg-zactly what makes eggs safe, we may have an egg-pocolypse.

“They produce to their set of rules. We produce to our set of rules," he said, "they’re different.”

 

Why do companies offer free stuff at the same cost?

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

One of the questions we received from listeners as part of our "I’ve Always Wondered" series is about why companies give you extra for free.

Eileen Lee wrote us to ask: "Why is it that, every once in a while, my favorite brand of shampoo, food or drink gives me an extra 20 percent free?  Why would a company do this?”

Lee is a statistician and demographer who is finishing up and publishing her master’s thesis. She’s a very careful shopper, dissecting special offers and deals. And she’s very particular. For example, her chicken nuggets have to be dinosaur shaped. Why?

“I like biting the heads off,” she says.

Eileen and I are on a virtual shopping date. I’m at my favorite store in Wheaton, Maryland, just outside Washington. She’s at a store near Los Angeles, where she’s from. We head to the shampoo aisle. Eileen spots a get-more-free deal right away.

“Yeah, Organix – they have some oil of Morocco shampoo and it’s 50 percent more free,” she says.

So will she buy it?

“No, I’ve used their stuff before," she says. "I don’t like it. It makes my hair feel weird.”

Eileen’s got a brand of shampoo she likes, and sticks with. Ditto for toilet paper and detergent. We go down aisle after aisle, looking for a get-more-for-less deal she likes. We don’t find any. Hence her question.

“What made me ask the question was that I never fall for that," she says. "If I see an extra 20 percent, and if it’s not the same brand I’ve been using or the same particular series of brands, then I wouldn’t even think of  choosing it.”

So Eileen never goes for those deals. But, turns out, lots of other people do. That’s part of the answer to Eileen’s question.  

“It gives you an effective discount that’s very tangible and enables you to differentiate your product from the others on the shelf," says Ira Kalb, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern Calfornia. "And it sways people to your brand.”

You want consumers to try it and get hooked on it. Pepsi was among the first companies to experiment with get-more-for-free in the 1930s.

“But they hit upon this idea that they would have a package twice the size but they’d sell it for the same price as the Coke, which was a nickel," says Robert Schindler, a professor of marketing at Rutgers University. 

Pepsi promoted the deal with this radio jingle:

 

Back in the grocery store, Eileen says I’ve answered her question. But she’s still not interested in the get-more-for-less deals. Now, manufacturer’s coupons? That’s different.

“Because then I can actually calculate if it’s actually cheaper," she says. "Whereas with the 20 percent free, I have to calculate, OK, what was the normal price and am I getting more product?”     

But that's an I’ve Always Wondered question for another day.

Cannes Film Festival disappoints critics

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

Grantland writer Wesley Morris is at the Cannes Film Festival and fills us in on what’s going on.

On the vibe at Cannes:

The vibe is, “What happened to the movies?” We saw "Mad Max" on the first day, and we’ve been trying to see "Mad Max" ever since. It is amazing. It is the best movie, and very little that we’ve seen since then has been as great, especially in the main competition.

On the artistic direction of the movies being shown:

The financing for these movies has really compromised some of the artistic choices that a filmmaker can make ... You have money coming from all over the world, and it dictates certain things. Like, if you’re a Greek director and you’re getting Irish money, then you have to take Colin Farrell with the money you get, which happened. It happened at a movie this year!

On making movies in different languages:

There are a number of other directors, maybe like six other directors, making movies for the first time or maybe the second time, not in their native language. And the results are kind of mediocre. You wonder if that has something to do with it.

On people getting turned away for not wearing the right thing:

It’s not the scandal that people are making it out to be. It’s not happening every night, but everybody’s got a story about how it happened to them or someone in their party …where you were denied entry because you were not appropriately dressed. It has caused a great deal of consternation and a greater deal of comedy. It is one of the pleasures of coming to this festival. You need some ridiculous thing to happen if you can’t get a great movie.

China dominates beer sales

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

Quick: what's best selling beer in the world?

I'm just going to go ahead and assume you didn't guess Snow.

Bloomberg ranked the top 10 selling beers in the world by market share, and apparently Snow is all the rage in China these days — up just shy of 600 percent in the past decade. Number two, Tsingtao, is also based in China.

Both can be tricky to find here in the states, so you'll have to settle for number three or four, Bud Light and Budweiser.

Weekly Wrap: Inflation, the Federal Reserve and minimum wage

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news are Leigh Gallagher from Fortune and the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. The big topics this week: the Consumer Price Index and inflation, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech in Rhode Island and Los Angeles increasing its minimum wage to $15.

A fashionable workout

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:00

In a fashion world trend known as “athleisure,” clothes that can work at the gym...can also make a fashion statement.

“Leggings and tank tops and sneakers are sort of taking over the style masses,” says Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes. “But you don’t actually have to work out in them. For a lot of people this is just sort of their everyday casual look.”

Popular brands such as Lululemon started making yoga pants outside-of-yoga-class stylish, and high-fashion brands put sneakers and sweatshirts on the runway.

“Suddenly all these different parts of the fashion food chain are participating in the same trend,” Holmes says. “So that’s sort of why we see this ‘peak athleisure' moment.”

Now this moment has become a big business — Bergdorf sells some leggings for more than $400.

“Women are justifying this purchase by saying 'Hey, this is not just something I’m going to sweat in, but it’s something I’m going to brunch in.'” Holmes says.

And it isn't just luxury brands; athletic brands like Under Armour and Adidas are capitalizing on athleisure.

“Every apparel brand out there sees a piece of this pie,” Holmes says. “So if you’re a performance-based company like Nike you can infuse a little more fashion and suddenly attract a broader customer base. Or if you’re a fashion brand, you think ‘Hey, I can make something in spandex!’"

How elite students get elite jobs

Fri, 2015-05-22 12:08

When we think about the debate over inequality in this country, a central piece of American mythology comes to mind: anyone who works hard, regardless of social status, can get ahead.

But it's not that simple, and people from exclusive or affluent backgrounds often land the most prestigious jobs.

Lauren A. Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has been looking at investment banks, consulting firms and law firms for the last decade for her upcoming book "Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs."

Rivera spent nine months as an ethnographer in one of these top firms, observing every aspect of the hiring process. She points out the firms may be missing out on top talent.

"If you want the best and the brightest regardless of social background, if you're not systematically looking at over half the best and brightest because they don't qualify in terms of social background, that is not necessarily an equitable or open process," she says.

Vista Theatre is a one-screen wonder

Fri, 2015-05-22 11:08

There aren’t a whole lot of 92-year-old theaters left in the country. For the Vista Theatre in Hollywood, success means walking a fine line: adapt to the changing times while holding on to the motif from days gone by. With just one screen, there’s not a lot of room for error.

“You can’t make a lot of mistakes here,” owner Lance Alspaugh says. “You can’t book the wrong movie, or you’re gonna be slow for a week or two. It’s very important to always be right.“

If always picking a hit isn’t hard enough, Vista’s success is closely tied to the quality of the movies Hollywood puts out.

“[With] all of the technology, there are so many opportunities for people to not go here,” Alspaugh says. “It’s gotta be something unique that’s attractive to the audience, so they can’t wait to see it.” With its 50-foot screen and Dolby speakers, visually impressive movies tend to fare the best.

So, how’s business? Alspaugh says things could always be better, but there are frequent surprises: the theater’s recent screening of "Mad Max" was so wildly successful, they decided to keep it for an extra week, pushing back Disney’s "Tomorrowland."

Video credits: Produced by Preditorial  www.preditorial.tv Director and Editor: Rick Kent Cinematographer: Anton Seim

Father John Misty, song and dance man

Fri, 2015-05-22 10:43

Musicians play a lot of shows and festivals, and these festival gigs often come with contracts.

One common contract is called a "radius clause." A radius clause, in essence, gives the promoter a form of territorial exclusivity, making sure that the performer does not book concerts with competing promoters and venues in nearby areas, which can undermine ticket sales for their main event.

Father John Misty, also known as Josh Tillman, is the former drummer for Fleet Foxes. Tillman has toured on most major festival circuits and knows these clauses well.

"I ended up having to play a way smaller, basically unprofitable album release show because of a radius clause," he says.

"I Love You, Honeybear," his second full-length solo release since leaving Fleet Foxes in 2012, is out Feb. 10 on Sub Pop Records.

Your Wallet: The first thing you ever bought

Fri, 2015-05-22 10:26

On the next episode of Marketplace Weekend, we're looking at your money across the years.

We want to know: what's the first thing you ever saved up to buy?

Send us your memories of your first purchases, and how much they cost. 

Write to us here, visit the Marketplace Facebook page, or tweet us, we're @MarketplaceWKND

The art of keeping — or spoiling — a TV secret

Fri, 2015-05-22 10:11

We've all been there: you fall behind on a TV show, or you're late to catch on to a new streaming series. Someone mentions a plot twist, a character death... maybe you just checked Twitter in the three hours between the time a finale airs on the east and west coasts. Suddenly, it's ruined. Your experience has been spoiled.

In a time of media overload, it's hard to avoid spoilers. It can be equally hard to avoid spoiling things for someone else. It's enough of a cultural phenomenon that there are apps and plug-ins created to help people avoid leaks. Google even has a patent for a spoiler prevention tool.

But spoilers aren't always an accident. People are searching for them. According to Google Trends, searches for "Mad Men" spoilers spike every season:

The same holds true for long running shows, like "The Bachelor":

So maybe we don't hate spoilers as much as we claim? Researchers at the University of California San Diego found that people actually like spoilers — they ask people to read short summaries of stories and then read the real thing, and the results showed greater enjoyment of a story when one already knows the ending.

Still, networks and production companies guard secrets and spoilers about their shows ferociously. The secrecy surrounding the scripts for shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men is notorious, and in the world of reality television, the effort is even more acute.

No one demonstrates this more clearly than Kris Jenner, who has proven herself to be an incredibly adept manager of her family members' personal lives and connection to the media. as Bruce Jenner began transitioning to live as a woman, the Jenner/Kardashian family focused on preserving every possible exclusive story: Bruce's exclusive ABC interview with Diane Sawyer contained almost no Kardashian commentary — they were saving it for their own special episodes about Bruce to air on E!. And the "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" episodes related to Bruce's transition don't give away many details about the future — that'll be exclusive to Bruce's upcoming documentary.

ABC and other reality shows use the same anti-spoiler tactics employed by the Kardashians to keep the winners of shows like "The Bachelo" a secret, even as bloggers and fans scan social media and tabloids for clues as to what happened in shows that taped months earlier.

While the economic impact of spoilers on scripted or reality shows isn't quite clear — do people end up not watching? do spoilers actually generate more publicity? — it is clear that there's still a premium on preserving the exclusive, for both producers and consumers of content.

PODCAST: Disappearing grocery stores

Fri, 2015-05-22 03:01

The guessing game over when interest rates will go up ... continues. More on that. Plus, we all know what a 'leap year' is, but what about a 'leap second'? On June 30th, an extra second will be added to the world's clocks to make up for the discord between the earth's rotation and the clocks we humans use. And while it may not seem like much, it's a big deal to the world's markets. Plus, residents in the struggling city of Flint, Michigan, have seen their share of hardship over the years. In addition to a catastrophic loss of manufacturing jobs and subsequent blight, the city is losing its grocery stores, making life even more difficult for its poorest residents.

Pages