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What you need to know about Occupy Central

Mon, 2014-09-29 09:27

Stocks have been on a rollercoaster ride recently, and geopolitical events aren't helping. Last week it was the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. On Monday it was Hong Kong, where demonstrators are demanding that future elections be free from Beijing's interference.

Here's what you need to know about the movement, commonly referred to as Occupy Central.

What's happening? 

The thousands of demonstrators — mostly students — don’t want Bejing to vet their political candidates. Hong Kong was slated to gain universal suffrage and hold its first fully democratic election for chief executive in 2017.

Chinese president Xi Jinping reportedly reasserted his stance on the issue in a meeting with business leaders from the region. Protesters began gathering in Hong Kong's business district Wednesday, clogging roads, closing schools and businesses and canceling civic events.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

What's the history behind it?

Hong Kong used to be a British territory, returning to Chinese control in 1997. A document called Basic Law was ratified during the transition, guaranteeing certain freedoms and eventually democratic elections to Hong Kong under the ethos "one country, two systems."

"There are things you can talk about, there are books you can buy in Hong Kong, even though it's part of the People's Republic of China, that are off limits in other parts of the People's Republic of China," says Jeff Wasserstrom, who studies protest movements in China.

This isn't the first time Hong Kong has pushed back against policies from mainland China to keep their semi-autonomy. New national security laws and education efforts have been points of protest, and Hong Kong is still the only place where people can legally hold vigils for the 1989 massacre near Tiananmen Square.

What's Hong Kong's role in the economy?

Hong Kong has freer capital flows than mainland China, as well as more financial regulations and legal freedoms. All that is attractive to businesses.

“On the surface, Hong Kong’s economy is tiny,” says IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh. “But … you’ve got a lot of Western banks having big operations there. You’ve got a lot of Chinese banks. So Hong Kong plays a very important role financially in Asia, but especially with respect to financial flows and capital flows in and out of China.”

Hong Kong is often called a gateway to China. An American or European manufacturer might set up a plant in mainland China to lower labor costs. But the company could also set up shop in Hong Kong, where’s it’s easier to raise capital in the Asian markets.

The protests may cause short-term market disruptions, but Johns Hopkins economist Heiwai Tang says Western businesses will have to grapple with Hong Kong’s integration with China over the next several years, especially if China's in charge.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

How has the government responded?

About 40 people have been injured in the protests, which have largely been peaceful. Riot police deployed tear gas over the weekend, but were less confrontational Monday while still urging the crowd to disperse.

Occupy Central presents a test for President Jinping, the New York Times reported, who has positioned himself as a political strongman, drawing a hard line against dissent in the mainland. Making concessions to the protesters would be a sign of weakness, but a show of force large enough to dispel these protests could bring back dark memories of Tiananmen Square

Wasserstorm told Vox the protests could end with Hong Kong's current chief executive stepping down, which wouldn't likely change election policies for the time being but could be a small victory for pro-democracy groups nonetheless.

What's the role of social media in this?

As with many, many recent protests around the world, social media has played an important role, especially since the Internet is censored in mainland China. The government reportedly blocked Instagram over the weekend, and state-owned messaging service Sina Weibo saw a record number of posts deleted. A number of journalists have been providing live coverage on Twitter, which is blocked in mainland China.

Protesters have begun organizing through the chatroom app FireChat, which saw 100,000 new users sign up over the weekend and 33,000 people using it simultaneously in Hong Kong. FireChat is particularly useful to protesters because it's difficult to censor or shut down. However, FireChat doesn't allow private chat and it's not encrypted, limiting its utility for protesters.

#OccupyCentral #HKStudentStrike
Pls remember msgs not encrypted yet. Dont use your real name.
http://t.co/hFrrfffFMu pic.twitter.com/JPtK7ZRLrC

— OpenGarden (@OpenGarden) September 28, 2014

The numbers for September 29, 2014

Mon, 2014-09-29 07:51

Police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at the Occupy Central protesters in Hong Kong Sunday, injuring at least 40, but the pro-democracy activists stayed put on Monday. Riot police have reportedly backed off from the crowd, but are still urging protesters to disperse. The crowd is protesting a move from Beijing they say will put restrictions on the election for city executive in 2017.

As we keep an eye on the situation in Hong Kong, here are some of the other stories we're reading Monday.

$85 billion

The value of the Federal Reserve's loan to AIG, amid the 2008 financial crisis. Starting Monday, a federal judge will weigh whether the bailout, which gave the government a nearly 80 percent stake in the company, was legal. The six-week trial will call on former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury secretaries Timothy Geithner and Henry "Hank" Paulson, Reuters reported.

$780 to $930 million

The estimated cost of U.S.-led airstrikes against the extremist group ISIS in Syria, according to a report from Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The report also gives projected costs of the conflict, depending on the continued airstrikes and the number of ground forces potentially deployed. Some estimates were as high as $22 billion per year.

1.3 billion

Facebook's massive user base's data will be used in a new advertising platform called Atlas, launching Monday. The service, bought from Microsoft last year, will use Facebook data for targeted ads across the web and in mobile apps, The New York Times reported. Like all things Facebook, it comes with a bevy of privacy concerns.

Biting the hand that feeds you?

Mon, 2014-09-29 07:00

On Monday, the federal government will be on trial in Washington. It’s being sued over the government bailout of the insurance giant American International Group, or AIG.

In the fall of 2008, the government made an offer to AIG. In essence: We’ll loan you $85 billion. In return, we get a nearly 80 percent stake in AIG.

The suit is being spearheaded by a former CEO of the company, Hank Greenberg, who now heads Starr International Co. He says the government violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says the government can’t seize private property without just compensation.  

Hester Peirce is a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. She’s not unsympathetic to Greenberg. But she thinks he’ll lose.

“Arguing that you were entitled to government assistance during a crisis is a pretty weak argument,” she says.

The government says AIG’s board approved the bailout, and the company couldn’t dictate the terms of its rescue. If the government wins, the case could set some loose ground rules for future bailouts of financial institutions.

“The institutions do have to agree to government terms if they want the assistance," says Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform.

And, he says, they can’t go back and object to the terms, long after the bailout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wall Street’s Inner Sanctum

Mon, 2014-09-29 07:00

Once during the roaring '90s, I was ushered into the high temple of Wall Street. You might be thinking Goldman Sachs, but its headquarters are near, but not on, Wall Street. The high temple of Wall Street is the big church that presides over the street’s high end, Trinity.

I was interviewing the Rev. Dan Matthews, the Episcopal priest who was, at the time, rector of Trinity. The topic was what we then called “socially responsible investment,” a way to apply an investor’s personal values to a portfolio. Trinity owns a lot of Manhattan real estate and I was curious if the parish screens its massive portfolio to be sure it doesn’t own securities in companies that do things the church finds morally repugnant. 

Not really, came the answer. Matthews told me that his board of directors consisted of captains of Wall Street, and, try as he might, he could never get his vestry to agree on good versus bad companies (beyond their capacities to generate future profits). There was a strong view that it was the board’s fiduciary responsibility to make sure the church’s portfolio generated the best return. It was the job of priests and parishioners to then decide what good works could be done with the proceeds.

That was 18 years ago, and the movement has come a long, long way. Many practitioners have taken the word “social” out of the acronym; it’s still SRI, but Socially Responsible Investing now stands for Sustainable, Responsible, Impact investing. It involves much more than screening out companies that do stuff you don’t like (like despoiling the Earth). It can also mean rewarding companies that do better than their peers to address social ills as you, the investor, see them. SRI is also about shareholder engagement. Investors are part-owners of companies and can band together to pressure management to clean up its act.

All those years ago, SRI might have come off as hippie investing money management for the granola set. Now, it’s very big business, with some of the largest investment companies in the world prepared to screen portfolios.

It may be that this month SRI reached a new milestone: a high-level call for governments to help with this movement. Some of the most powerful people in the world have, in essence, endorsed what they label as Impact Investing. British Prime Minister David Cameron, as then-head of the Group of Eight club of nations, had called for a committee to be pulled together on the subject. The U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia and the European Union delegated one senior official and one prominent figure from the private sector to the group. Their mission: to figure out ways to take Impact Investing to the next level, so it can do even more to make the world a better place. The project grew out of the sense that persists after the great financial collapse of 2008 that the world of finance needs to “build a health society rather than endanger it.”

You’ve heard of the “invisible hand”? The group has just released a report calling “Impact Investing” the “invisible heart” of markets. I spoke with Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief for The Economist magazine, who served as the fancy group’s reporter. He said the group embraced the notion of “three-dimensional investing,” adding social and environmental impact to the usual elements of risk and reward. He is also excited about new ways of measuring the effects of impact investing.

What’s next? The report argues that it is now time for governments to play a key role in markets that make the world healthier by making sure that regulations aren’t a stumbling block for these social innovations. Government can also make sure that when it spends its big money, it does its part to demand the similar kinds of social returns that investors may increasingly ask of their portfolios. 

PODCAST: The strength of the Indian-American community

Mon, 2014-09-29 03:00

First up, the federal government has been accused of not aggressively going after individuals who had a part in the financial crisis. Today, it's the federal government being sued in a federal court over its bailout of the insurance giant American International Group. A former CEO of AIG thinks the bailout cheated him and shareholders. And India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the U.S. right now. He'll meet with President Obama today, but he also appeared before a sold-out crowd of 20,000 at Madison Square Garden in New York this weekend, which speaks in part to the strength of the Indian-American community. Plus, let's check the ingredients list for the recipe here: A cup and a half of Big Data, stir in an algorithm, heat in a saucepan before sprinkling in the apps. Venture Capitalists believe the food industry is next in line for disruption, and tech startups have some ideas. 

How techies are reenvisioning restaurants

Mon, 2014-09-29 02:00

In San Francisco, you can see the future of restaurants ... or at least as it’s envisioned by the techies. And no surprise, that dining experience starts with an app.

You didn’t bring your lunch and you don’t have time to go out? Go to your iPhone, look for your favorite restaurant app, and click on the photo of the lunch you want. While they can’t quite zap it to you yet, they’re working on it.

“Ah, here we go. An order, it just popped up on my app!” says Cayden Berkmoyer, a driver at Sprig, one of the many food tech startups popping up in San Francisco. We’re in his car, and in the backseat is a big bag full of assorted boxed lunches. Here’s how Sprig works: When you place an order, an algorithm sends it to the nearest driver.  

“The order is for Tanya,” Berkmoyer says, reading off his app — she ordered a kale granola salad. With that, he starts his car and is on his way.

Sprig is like a San Francisco–style restaurant, only on wheels. Lunch is $9, and the food is mostly organic, the meat hormone-free. The startup won’t say if it’s profitable or how many meals it serves a day. But it’s looking to expand into more cities, says Nate Keller, Sprig’s executive chef.

“Sprig is a company whose mission is to bring healthy food to the masses,” Keller says.

And Sprig thinks it can do this by using technology, which will cut out waste and allow it to compete with big restaurants on price while still offering healthier options.

Kent Bennett with Bessemer Venture Partners says, in the past, tech investors stayed away from food.

“The challenges are immense,” he says. “Most of the companies we invest in move ones and zeros around, and food tech companies, you’re moving heirloom tomatoes around. You know, they start to rot the second they come off the vine.”

And rotting food, a big problem in the restaurant industry, is money down the drain. But Bennett says with the tech boom, investors are giving food another look.

“This is a trillion-dollar market. There’s no category of software that even begins to approach that number,” Bennett says. “And there’s a lot of pain in the food space, whether it’s health and wellness or affordability.”

And Bennett says venture capitalists are betting that startups can use mobile computing and big data to take away some of the pain, and take on traditional food companies. 

Artistic inspiration or piracy?

Mon, 2014-09-29 02:00

Jeff Koons’ retrospective show at the Whitney Museum of Art is a grand testimonial to his work over the decades. It is also “a time capsule for copyright law,” says Andrew Gilden, teaching fellow at Stanford University Law School. 

Standing in front of a sculpture of an elderly couple holding eight blue, adorable puppies entitled “String of Puppies,” Gilden points out that Koons was sued in 1992 over this very sculpture. The artist had re-created a photograph taken by photographer Art Rogers and, juxtaposing it with other sculptures in his series, was trying to comment on the banality of the images we are bombarded with in daily life. Rogers sued, alleging that Koons’ sculpture amounted to stealing. 

Koons lost.

“The court looked at the sculpture, looked at the photo, and said they’re similar, it’s piracy,” says Gilden. “Doesn’t matter if he had some grander purpose.” 

Back in 1992, “the court hated his work,” says Amy Adler, professor of law at NYU. “They saw him as involved in the business of art, saw him as a pirate, talked about how much money he made from the work, and he lost rather spectacularly.” Koons had to settle two other lawsuits on similar grounds.

Fast forward to 2006, Koons was sued yet again for using another artist’s work, this time in a collage.

Koons won. 

What changed?

The Supreme Court intervened in 1994 to say it’s OK to copy art if the new work is "transformative."

“Does the work have a new purpose or character, has it altered the previous work with new meaning or message?” says Adler. “Whether the new work was transformative is the key to the test.”

Other considerations still listed in the 1976 copyright law receded in importance. These included the effect of the copying on a potential market for (or value of) the copyrighted work, and the extent, the nature and the purpose of the copying. 

This, argues Gilden, has created a problem. 

“This shift in fair use has predominantly protected big name defendants who appropriate from small name artists.” Gilden says in most visual art copyright cases in the past 10 years, the wealthier more famous artist has won. They’ve won defending against claims they copied someone else’s work, and they’ve won pursuing others for copying their work. Gilden argues this is because courts, like people, think of famous and non-famous art differently.

“We have a hard time thinking of prominent artistic works as being raw, as being the building blocks for something better.”

While cases like those of Jeff Koons or Richard Prince “might seem to open up the doors to more sharing and accommodation of sharing, copying, appropriation art, it does not,” says Gilden. The law around fair use is still vague, and the expense of challenging if one is found guilty of copying is immense. And, adds Gilden, “Other less prominent artists have lost in situations similar to Koons’.”

William Fisher, who teaches Intellectual Property law at Harvard Law School, offers another explanation for the disproportionate success of the wealthy and famous: “Wealthy artists are much more likely to be sued than poorer artists because they have deeper pockets.” On the other hand, “Other features of copyright law do unfortunately bias the system in favor of more wealthy and sophisticated defendant artists.” 

First off, he says, “The unpredictability of the fair use system means you have to hire a lawyer in order to mount a defense, and lawyers are expensive.” The federal litigation system also now gives plaintiffs the opportunity to conduct very expensive discovery in the course of litigation, “which is financially burdensome for anyone.” Lastly, remedies and damages, if one loses a copyright case, can be immense. 

The unpredictability of copyright cases is one of Adler’s primary criticisms: “One of the worries that I think we should all have about the extremely chaotic and uncertain area of fair use law is it will force artists to steer clear of engaging in work they should otherwise be able to do for fear of getting sued, and that applies to all artists rich or poor.”

Modi visit throws spotlight on Indian-Americans

Mon, 2014-09-29 02:00

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is currently visiting the U.S. He’ll meet with President Obama Monday, but he also appeared before a sold-out crowd of nearly 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday, which speaks in part to the strength and enthusiasm of the Indian-American community.

Officially, there are more than 3 million Indian-Americans in the U.S. and — as a group — they’ve been largely successful.

Their median household income is roughly $100,000 — about double that of the rest of the population — according to 2013 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Part of this comes down to education,” says Milan Vaishnav, an associate in the South Asia Program with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “I think nearly three-quarters of Indians who are coming to the United States already had a bachelor’s degree,” he says.

Many gain access to the U.S. on skills-based visas and enter fields like software, engineering, medicine, and finance.

Not all support Modi politically, but the visit is a chance to express national pride, says Vaishnav.

Over the last decade, Indian-Americans have become increasingly politically active, says John Echeverri-Gent, a professor at the University of Virginia.

“This is a group that in terms of its political lobby is really coming of age,” he says. In particular, Indian-Americans are increased in pushing for stronger ties between the U.S. and their home country, as well as immigration reform.

But Indian-Americans should not be seen as a monolith, says Suman Raghunathan, the executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together.

“Part of what the per capita numbers don’t fully portray is the incredible economic and socioeconomic diversity we see in the Indian-American population,” she explains, noting an increasing number of Indians in the U.S. who are undocumented or are here on temporary visas. 

How techies are re-envisioning restaurants

Mon, 2014-09-29 02:00

In San Francisco, you can see the future of restaurants...or at least as it’s envisioned by the techies. And no surprise, that dining experience starts with an app.

You didn’t bring your lunch and you don’t have time to go out? Go to your iPhone, look for your favorite restaurant app, and click on the photo of the lunch you want. While they can’t quite zap it to you yet, they’re working on it.

“Ah, here we go. An order, it just popped up on my app!” says Cayden Berkmoyer, a driver at Sprig, one of the many food tech start-ups popping up in San Francisco. We’re in his car, and in the back seat is a big bag full of assorted boxed lunches. Here’s how Sprig works: when you place an order, an algorithm sends it to the nearest driver.  

“The order is for Tanya,” Berkmoyer says, reading off his app—she ordered a kale granola salad. With that he starts his car and is on his way.

Sprig is like a San Francisco-style restaurant, only on wheels. Lunch is $9 and the food is mostly organic; the meat hormone-free. The start-up won’t say if it’s profitable or how many meals it serves a day. But it’s looking to expand into more cities, says Nate Keller, Sprig’s executive chef.

“Sprig is a company whose mission is to bring healthy food to the masses,” Keller says.

And Sprig thinks it can do this by using technology, which will cut out waste and allow it to compete with big restaurants on price while still offering healthier options.

Kent Bennett with Bessemer Venture Partners says in the past, tech investors stayed away from food.

“The challenges are immense,” he says. “Most of the companies we invest in move ones and zeros around, and food tech companies, you’re moving heirloom tomatoes around. You know, they start to rot the second they come off the vine.”

And rotting food, a big problem in the restaurant industry, is money down the drain. But Bennett says with the tech boom, investors are giving food another look.

“This is a trillion-dollar market, there’s no category of software that even begins to approach that number,” Bennett says. “And there’s a lot of pain in the food space, whether it’s health and wellness or affordability.”

And Bennett says venture capitalists are betting that start-ups can use mobile computing and big data to take away some of the pain, and take on traditional food companies. 

ATM fees continue to rise

Mon, 2014-09-29 02:00

Using the ATM can be convenient, and banking industry consultant Bert Ely says that when it comes to out-of-network fees, ease is where the problem begins.

“First of all, ATM machines are getting more sophisticated,” he says.

According to Ely, maintaining and upgrading ATMs to handle fancy new features, like video tellers, costs banks a lot of money. Meanwhile, low interest rates have kept profits down. 

“So, they look elsewhere for income,” he says.

They look, for instance, to out-of-network ATM fees. A new study from Bankrate.com and data from other research shows average out-of-network fees are up between 2.5 and 5 percent over last year. So while your bank might not be charging you, it's instead slapping customers from other banks with fees when they use its ATMs.

“The reality is it’s better for them to charge other banks' customers, than their own more," says Jim Miller, senior director of banking with market research company J.D. Power.

Miller says that unlike with overdraft fees, at least using another bank’s ATM is a choice — albeit, an expensive one.

So where are you likeliest to pay the most? Here are the five cities that have the highest ATM fees, on average:

1. Phoenix, AZ: $4.96

Alan Stark/Flickr

2. Denver, CO: $4.75

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

3. San Diego, CA: $4.70

Justin Brown/Flickr

4. Houston, TX: $4.67

Adam Baker/Flickr

5. Milwaukee, WI: $4.66

Joseph A/Flickr

 

Are you deep in debt? What's your escape plan?

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:40

We want to talk about escape plans. The average US household credit card debt stands at $15,607

What amazing things have you done, or are you planning to do, to get out of debt? Any debt.

Come commiserate, gloat, or just share your story.

Let us know on Twitter or email us, we'd love to hear your ideas.

Are you deep in debt? What's your escape plan?

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:40

We want to talk about escape plans. The average U.S. household credit card debt stands at $15,607.

What amazing things have you done, or are you planning to do, to get out of debt? Any debt, big or small.

Come commiserate, gloat or just share your story.

Let us know on Twitter or email us. We'd love to hear your ideas.

Google explores why everyone is a little bit racist

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:19

This will probably come as a surprise to no one, but Silicon Valley is dominated by men. In fact, it's dominated by white men. 

Google's workforce is around 70 percent male and just over 60 percent white, and New York Times tech reporter Farhad Manjoo says the company knows that's bad for business.

"The interesting thing about Google is it's working on problems that no one has ever worked on before," Manjoo says. "So the way to solve those problems is to get an extremely diverse group of people looking at them. [Google] feels like if they can get more women, more people from different parts of the world looking at these problems they'll have a better chance to solve them than if they have a bunch of people that live and work in Silicon Valley and look like the TV show 'Silicon Valley.'"

Manjoo wrote an article this week called "The Business Case for Diversity in the Tech Industry." He says Google has been promoting programs to try to draw more diverse students into software engineering, but it's also started tackling something below the surface. Manjoo says Google calls it "unconscious bias," and he attended a new diversity workshop put on by Google's human resources team.

"It was interesting because it's based on a lot of research in psychology about how people express biases in ways they don't know," Manjoo says. "Google's basic message in these workshops is that everyone is a little bit racist, a little bit sexist and the way to make sure you're not acting that way is to be conscious of what you're saying, to be conscious that this is a problem and not let your unconscious biases lead a meeting or lead the way."

Protecting yourself from fraud protection

Fri, 2014-09-26 13:54

We don’t want to make you paranoid. But these days, you have to be on the lookout for fraud, even via products that are supposed to prevent fraud. 

"It’s quite an irony that these identity theft products have been consistently found to be sold in a deceptive manner,” says Prentiss Cox, an associate professor of  law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just fined U.S. Bank in connection with identity protection and credit monitoring services it was selling. Customers were charged for credit monitoring by a company the bank hired, called Affinion. 

Banks need written permission to monitor a person’s credit report. But the CFPB says U.S. Bank started charging consumers before they signed permission forms the bank sent out. Their credit was never monitored, but they were charged anyway, according to the CFPB.

“The bureau determined that this conduct was an unfair practice and ordered U.S. Bank to repay consumers approximately $48 million,” says Deb Morris, the deputy enforcement director at the CFPB. 

Neither U.S. Bank nor Affinion would agree to an interview, but both sent statements. Affinion says it "proactively built and implemented a solution over two years ago to obtain the required authorizations upon enrollment to our service."

The U.S. Bank statement says the problem was with Affinion: "As soon as we became aware of the issues with Affinion, we took swift action to protect our customers, and ultimately, discontinued our relationship with Affinion approximately two years ago."

‘That’s that Bart Simpson defense," says Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "I wasn’t there. I didn’t do it. You can’t prove anything.”

Mierzwinski says fraud in these anti-fraud products is widespread because they're profitable, and banks can automatically charge us once we sign up. Mierzwinski says don’t even sign up for stuff that’s free at first.

“The free trial offer only lasts for three or five days," he says. "And if you forget to or fail to cancel, they start billing your credit card on a monthly basis.”

The Bottom line: Depressing as it may be, always watch out for fraud even from those who offer to help for free. 

A social network with no ads?

Fri, 2014-09-26 13:51

You've heard the grousing about Facebook? It’s usually about the advertising cluttering up your feed or the fact that they’re mining users' data.

While that might cause some people to see red, a startup named Ello saw a business opportunity. The social media site promises not to show its users ads or mine their data. And Ello is striking a chord with consumers: The social media site said it's getting 45,000 requests to join an hour.

So that’s all well and good, but there’s the billion-dollar question? How’re they going to pay for all this?

Paul Budnitz, CEO and co-founder at Ello, says, unlike Facebook, the social media site isn’t trying to get everyone on Earth to sign up.

“It doesn’t have to be worth $30 billion to be successful. It can just be a good business,” Budnitz said.

Budnitz says Ello won't charge users. Instead, to make money, the site plans to sell special features, like the ability to manage multiple accounts. They could also sell emojis and stickers.

Roseanne Wincek, a venture capitalists with Canaan Partners, said there is money to be made in hawking those goods. But, she says, if Ello plans to accept the 45,000 invitations it claims to be getting every hour, the social network will need big money.

“I think it’ll be hard to have investors and a ton of users and a ton of data and then say you’re not going to use it” to make a lot of money, Wincek said.

Brett Kopf is the CEO of Remind, a messaging app that’s aimed at teachers and students. Like Ello, Remind doesn’t sell advertising or user data. Kopf said while it might be hard to get mass consumers to pay for privacy, there are businesses that’ll shell out money for it.

“Like in education and in health care, there are real privacy concerns,” Kopf said.

And if there are real privacy concerns, he thinks people will be willing to pay real money for it.

Rotten Tomatoes turns its Tomatometer to television

Fri, 2014-09-26 13:43

Matt Atchity is the editor-in-chief at Rotten Tomatoes, the website known for its film reviews and its signature “Tomatometer.” The site is now a year into featuring television reviews alongside its long-running film reviews. Atchity reflects on the reasons that TV has moved so much more into the spotlight in recent years.

People want more of it
Film watchers are passionate, but the buzz usually dies down after opening weekend. Atchity says television audiences don’t want the coverage to stop after a season premiere. They want to read and talk about the show episode by episode.

“People have really emotional relationships with the characters and you hear people talk about, ‘Oh god, did you see what happened with Walter White and his wife last night?’ It’s gossip. They invite these people into their homes because they’re invested in those characters’ lives.”

Television is the new film
Television series are increasingly filmed all at once, similar to the way feature-length movies are shot. Atchity gives "The Knick," a drama series from Cinemax, as an example.  “They shot that like a movie. That was a 70-day shoot.”

Beau Willimon did the same thing with "House of Cards," the series he created for Netflix. That’s also the way creator and director Jill Soloway shot her new Amazon series "Transparent."

When audiences are able to binge-watch 12 or 13 or even more hours of a television series, it can certainly feel like they’re watching a very long movie.

TV is more convenient
Atchity says Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, is right when he told Kai Ryssdal that TV should start when the viewer wants it to start. That’s a common theme among television services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and Showtime Now.

Atchity also points out that younger viewers — like his 10-year-old son — are already comfortable watching 30- or 40-minute TV shows on their smartphones. The services and networks that figure out how to serve those audiences are going to win in the long run.

It's time to break out the decorative gourds

Fri, 2014-09-26 13:40

It's pumpkin-spice latte time.

What, you ask, does that have to do with anything?

Well, the good people — who clearly have too much time on their hands — at the Washington Post have run the numbers and figured out when peak "Decorative Gourd Season" is.

You know, pumpkins, squash and the like that show up carved and on people's porches and mantels this time of year?

Based on Google searches, Decorative Gourd Season runs from late August to early November. Specifically, the third Thursday in October is peak Decorative Gourd Day.

So, now you know.

Weekly Wrap: Inside Goldman Sachs

Fri, 2014-09-26 13:08

Linette Lopez from Business Insider and Cardiff Garcia from FT Alphaville talked with Kai Ryssdal about the week that was: The GDP is revised upward, what does it mean? What happens when the head of the world's largest hedge fund resigns? And we look at the report from "This American Life" on the role of Goldman Sachs and the New York Federal Reserve in the run up to the financial crisis.

Listen to their conversation in the audio player above.

What will TV be like in 25 years?

Fri, 2014-09-26 12:42

As part of "Screen Wars," our series exploring the future of television, we asked a bunch of the industry's brightest where they see the medium moving in the next 25 years. Here's what they said, some answers have been condensed for clarity.

Starcom President Amanda Richman, already exploring the possibilities of the second screen, focused on interactivity:

"Television will still exist but we'll think of it perhaps more as a screen that certainly has much more interactivity and opportunity for us to choose the shows that we want. Not through a remote control [but] more voice activated like, you've already seen with Xbox and Kinect over the last year. we'll be able to really program our old channels and that will be the biggest change. [TV] will look a lot more like the app world of mobile: choosing how you engage with the shows you want on an interactive screen."

Showtime head David Nevins looked to the future challenges of raising revenue without commercials:

"I don't think the demand is going anywhere. The challenge, the 'How do we get paid for it' challenge comes out of the captive audience [that] has to watch the 30 second ad. That's where some of the challenges are: There are other ways that people are demanding to see [TV], and some of them aren't so conducive to the 30-second ad. But I think people are rapidly figuring it out. I think as long as demand for television doesn't go away, we'll figure out the business model challenges."

Marlene King, showrunner of the very buzzy drama "Pretty Little Liars," said in the future the buzz around a show will keep up all year:

"This is the second golden age of television, I think it's such an exciting time to be in TV ... Netflix releases "House of Cards" or "Orange is the New Black" and it stays relevant — people are talking about it on social media — for about month, and then it kind of goes away until the next one comes out. What's next is finding a way to create a show that you binge-watch, but people keep talking about all year long. [You] find ways to stay out there in the universe. I think that's what people are trying to do, and I think in 25 years maybe there will be those types of shows."

Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, said he's frustrated at scrolling through hundreds of channels and landing in the middle of a show he wanted to watch:

"My prediction is that everything or anything that you may find inconvenient or annoying about TV now is going to be innovated away ... I think we can do better ... With the exception of sports and live events, even the concept of coming into a show in the middle of the show will soon be part of the past ... It should start when you start, you should be the boss."

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson had a few ideas, particularly about all the different places we'll watch TV:

We're going to see the nature of screens change in the home. It's not going to be a television anymore but maybe it will be a wall in your home ... that plays content that you deliver from your mobile device. You tell the wall what to play for you...Another place that I think we're going to be watching a lot of television is in our cars...It's early days right now, but a lot of estimates say that in 25 years we're going to see a lot more self-driving cars on the road. I think we're going to be watching a lot of TV while we are moving in vehicles. Not just as it is now, when you're sitting on a plane, but when you're sitting in a car doing every day things as you're traveling.

After asking all these guests that question for two weeks, Kai Ryssdal's prediction had gone full sci-fi. After all, who could have predicted all the advances in the past 25 years?

I am much more on the 'In 25 years we're all going to have chips in our brain' spectrum, and I'm only being a little bit factious... You heard Roy Price at Amazon say you're not going to have to scroll through menus and all that. I think we're going to be a step beyond that, and I don't know what that is...I think it's going to be much more innate, much more sub conscious, much more intuitive than actually having to decide to watch something. We're almost just going to think it and it's going to be there.

Finally, we asked you all to let us know what you thought TV would be like in the future. Most predicted that the platform won't even exist:

Weekend Brunch: The NFL's future, changing the climate and whither Olive Garden?

Fri, 2014-09-26 12:39

Joe Weisenthal from Business Insider and FT’s Shannon Bond chat about the week’s news. Click play above to hear them break down the NFL in pop culture and the market effects of climate change.

This weekend’s reading list:

New York Times: Roger Goodell Says N.F.L. Will Overhaul Personal Conduct Policy

Daily Beast: Capitalism Is Saving the Climate, You Hippies

Salon: Wall Street won’t save the world: Why “free-market solutions” are a recipe for disaster

Bloomberg Businessweek: A Hedge Fund's 294-Page Recipe for Fixing Olive Garden

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