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Tribune Publishing enters the viral marketing sphere

Tue, 2014-09-23 11:00

Tribune Publishing, newly-created this summer after the Tribune media conglomerate split its print and broadcast operations, has partnered with Contend, a viral video marketing company. 

The deal brings digital video savvy to Tribune Publishing’s four-year-old marketing operations, which has already been courting advertisers with a one-stop-shop approach. 

While many newspapers and other legacy print publications have been beefing up their digital marketing offerings—mostly through native ads, such as sponsored web articles—this appears to be the first time a newspaper chain has made a direct investment in a viral video company, one that is not only creating ad content for Tribune’s websites, but for other websites and social media portals as well.  

“Our digital marketing services are our fastest growing area. It has the most upside. It opens up a whole new client list,” says Bill Adee, executive vice president of digital for Tribune Publishing. “What we’re really doing is we’re focusing on a problem that a lot of businesses have, which is creating content. And at the beginning, it was focused on maybe more text-based needs.”

The investment in Contend, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, allows Tribune Publishing to broaden its portfolio to video content, such as an online video series for the supermarket chain Jewel-Osco, which was the first time Contend and Tribune Publishing partnered on a campaign. 

Something Fresh - Ep3 - Quincy from Contend on Vimeo.

The Jewel-Osco series did not run on Tribune’s website—signaling a shift in strategy in which the ads the newspaper giant creates internally do not necessarily have to be ads that run on its own properties. 

“We’re well-known story tellers, right…So why wouldn't we be very good on behalf of a brand telling a story? Completely separate departments. Completely. But at its core, that’s what we do,” Adee says. 

While marketing and news may be separate departments, newspapers are banking on audiences realizing that distinction. Adee says he doesn’t see a danger of an audience backlash, at least with the video content, because it is not disguised as news content. 

“It’s not 'Jewel presented by the Chicago Tribune.' It’s Jewel. There’s no mistaking where this video came from,” Adee says. 

Newspapers may be willing to take risks with sponsored online content, because digital advertising represents one of the few areas of revenue growth for the industry, says Ken Doctor, a media analyst who used to be an executive at the former Knight Ridder Newspaper Chain. 

“It’s a big industry trend. It’s one of the biggest that we’ve seen in several years. And we see it everywhere from at the top end—the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Hearst magazines—to… smaller papers across the country,” Doctor says. 

As newspapers are losing the big advertisers they used to rely upon, they’re turning to the tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in their markets. 

“So publishers are saying: 'We know media, we know how to tell stories with writing and now with video, and we can also help them with social media.' So they are completely reorienting their sales approach away from just selling space to helping these merchants bring in new customers and retain the current customers they have. So, it’s really been a revolution in marketing, and we’re in about the third year of it at this point,” Doctor says. 

For Tribune Publishing, that revolution is necessary. Its digital ad sales accounted for 18 percent of all its ad revenue. And digital ads are one of the few areas of growth for newspapers, Doctor says. 

Contend CEO Steven Amato says while his company is part of the new media world, there are advantages to partnering with a newspaper chain that has established highly-recognizable brands in many cities. 

“Tribune is sitting on an amazing bunch of assets… and they have such deep relationships in local markets. That’s an unbelievable asset. They are part of [their communities]… that is not something you get everyday,” Amato says. “It’s a 167-year-old startup right now, Tribune Publishing. It’s very exciting.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Tribune Publishing in the headline and when the partnership was announced. The text has been corrected.

The Tribune Company enters the viral marketing sphere

Tue, 2014-09-23 11:00

Tribune Publishing, newly-created this summer after the Tribune media conglomerate split its print and broadcast operations, this week announced a partnership with Contend, a viral video marketing company. 

The deal brings digital video savvy to Tribune Publishing’s four-year-old marketing operations, which has already been courting advertisers with a one-stop-shop approach. 

While many newspapers and other legacy print publications have been beefing up their digital marketing offerings—mostly through native ads, such as sponsored web articles—this appears to be the first time a newspaper chain has made a direct investment in a viral video company, one that is not only creating ad content for Tribune’s websites, but for other websites and social media portals as well.  

“Our digital marketing services are our fastest growing area. It has the most upside. It opens up a whole new client list,” says Bill Adee, executive vice president of digital for Tribune Publishing. “What we’re really doing is we’re focusing on a problem that a lot of businesses have, which is creating content. And at the beginning, it was focused on maybe more text-based needs.”

The investment in Contend, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, allows Tribune Publishing to broaden its portfolio to video content, such as an online video series for the supermarket chain Jewel-Osco, which was the first time Contend and Tribune Publishing partnered on a campaign. 

Something Fresh - Ep3 - Quincy from Contend on Vimeo.

The Jewel-Osco series did not run on Tribune’s website—signaling a shift in strategy in which the ads the newspaper giant creates internally do not necessarily have to be ads that run on its own properties. 

“We’re well-known story tellers, right…So why wouldn't we be very good on behalf of a brand telling a story? Completely separate departments. Completely. But at its core, that’s what we do,” Adee says. 

While marketing and news may be separate departments, newspapers are banking on audiences realizing that distinction. Adee says he doesn’t see a danger of an audience backlash, at least with the video content, because it is not disguised as news content. 

“It’s not 'Jewel presented by the Chicago Tribune.' It’s Jewel. There’s no mistaking where this video came from,” Adee says. 

Newspapers may be willing to take risks with sponsored online content, because digital advertising represents one of the few areas of revenue growth for the industry, says Ken Doctor, a media analyst who used to be an executive at the former Knight Ridder Newspaper Chain. 

“It’s a big industry trend. It’s one of the biggest that we’ve seen in several years. And we see it everywhere from at the top end—the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Hearst magazines—to… smaller papers across the country,” Doctor says. 

As newspapers are losing the big advertisers they used to rely upon, they’re turning to the tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in their markets. 

“So publishers are saying: 'We know media, we know how to tell stories with writing and now with video, and we can also help them with social media.' So they are completely reorienting their sales approach away from just selling space to helping these merchants bring in new customers and retain the current customers they have. So, it’s really been a revolution in marketing, and we’re in about the third year of it at this point,” Doctor says. 

For Tribune Publishing, that revolution is necessary. Its digital ad sales accounted for 18 percent of all its ad revenue. And digital ads are one of the few areas of growth for newspapers, Doctor says. 

Contend CEO Steven Amato says while his company is part of the new media world, there are advantages to partnering with a newspaper chain that has established highly-recognizable brands in many cities. 

“Tribune is sitting on an amazing bunch of assets… and they have such deep relationships in local markets. That’s an unbelievable asset. They are part of [their communities]… that is not something you get everyday,” Amato says. “It’s a 167-year-old startup right now, Tribune Publishing. It’s very exciting.”

At some Wal-Marts, health care in your shopping cart

Tue, 2014-09-23 07:34

Maybe you’ve picked up a prescription medication or been fitted for a pair of eyeglasses at Wal-Mart. But would you trust Wal-Mart with your larger medical care?

The retailer is trying to figure that out, opening up clinics in a handful of stores in South Carolina, Georgia and Texas. 

At a recently opened clinic in North Augusta, South Carolina, a steady stream of patients came through on a recent morning. The clinic is located near the front of the store, with opaque windows for privacy. It’s small, with just three exam rooms.

For $40 you can get a medical checkup with a nurse practitioner. For Wal-Mart employees on the company health plan, it’s only $4.

Roger Beahm, the executive director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Retail Innovation, says the move is a natural step for Wal-Mart. He says growing companies are always looking for the next big thing.

“So how do you that? How do you get more customers into the store? How do you increase the size of the shopping basket when they are in store?” Beahm says. “The answer to that lies in getting more products, more services that customers are willing to buy when they come into the store.”

Wal-Mart has done that before by offering in-store banking and food service.  Some locations already host walk-in clinics in space leased to local healthcare providers.  But now, Wal-Mart is opening its own on-site primary care clinics.

By owning the clinics, Wal-Mart can control costs and the services offered, says the company’s senior health and wellness director, Jennifer LaPerre. She says the company has a track record of pushing other retailers to provide health services at a lower cost.  She cites the $4 generic prescription drug program the company rolled out in 2006.

“That became branded in the community. It caused numerous other pharmacies to follow suit,” LaPerre says.  

The company is piloting the concept in areas with high rates of chronic disease and a shortage of healthcare providers.  So far, that means smaller cities in the South, in states that aren’t expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s an obvious place to start, says Dr. Harris Berman, the dean of Tufts University School of Medicine. Berman says he would have been skeptical of the idea a decade ago. But he says technology is making it easier for nurse practitioners to stay in touch with doctors who will supervise them remotely and help ensure better care.  He says rural areas have an especially critical need for primary care providers.

“I don’t think patients in Boston would go for this concept, or in metropolitan areas,” he says. “But Wal-Mart is very much into rural areas. And I think there, there really is an acute shortage and this would be seen as better than no care.”

PODCAST: The climate change odd couple

Tue, 2014-09-23 03:00

Stock markets around the world are having a downbeat day so far, in part because that's what tends to happen in September, but also because of a new signs of trouble for Europe's economy. A survey of business activity in the 18 countries that use the Euro suggests recovery there is stalling. Plus, there's news today the Obama Administration is cracking down on what are called "inversions," the controversial maneuver of acquiring foreign companies to save U.S. tax. Targeted are the special loans that make these acquisitions possible. President Obama and republicans and democrats in congress agree that what's need in the longer run is tax reform. Yet that's a process that doesn't seem to be moving forward any time soon. That got federal budget watcher Stan Collender doing the math on an unconventional solution. And among the many announcements coming out of Climate Week in New York comes this news of strange bedfellows: A partnership between some leading environmental non-profits, including the Environmental Defense Fund, and five oil companies.

An unconventional solution to tax reform

Tue, 2014-09-23 02:00

The Obama Administration has announced a crack down on what are called "inversions": the controversial maneuver of acquiring foreign companies to save U.S. tax. Targeted are the special loans that make these acquisitions possible; seen as a stopgap approach.  

President Obama and republicans and democrats in congress agree that what's need in the longer run is tax reform. But that's a process that doesn't seem to be moving forward any time soon.  

That got federal budget watcher Stan Collender doing the math. Collender—who use to work for both the House and Senate budget committees and tweets at theBudgetGuy—has written a column entitled "How to Abolish the Federal Corporate Income Tax without Increasing the Deficit," and stopped by to talk about an unconventional solution. 

Click the media player above to hear Stan Collender in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

Investors await another big IPO

Tue, 2014-09-23 02:00

You heard all about the largest initial public offering (ever) last week. That is, the debut of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. Now, investors are awaiting the second-biggest U.S. IPO of the year.

Shares of Citizens Financial Group are expected to price later Tuesday. It could be the largest bank IPO since Goldman Sachs in 1999.

Citizens Financial Group is one of the largest regional banks in the U.S., but it’s owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. During the financial crisis, RBS was bailed out by British taxpayers. Now, the UK government wants out, says banking analyst Richard Bove with Rafferty Capital Markets.

“They’re saying, 'Hey look, we don’t want to be in the banking business,'” Bove says. “'You forced us to bail you out. Now give us the money back, and if that means selling off assets, sell them.'”

Kathleen Smith manages a fund that invests in newly public companies at Renaissance Capital. She says this year has been the strongest for IPOs since 2000, but financial companies haven’t fared so well.

With the Citizens offering just days after the biggest IPO ever, “it will be a test of the market capacity to add additional new product to portfolios,” she says.

Smith says investors may also look askance at the $9 million in bonuses Citizens executives are expected to get from the IPO.

Oil companies and environmental non-profits team up

Tue, 2014-09-23 02:00

Among the many announcements at Climate Week in New York comes this news of strange bedfellows: A partnership between some leading environmental non-profits, including the Environmental Defense Fund, and five oil companies. The companies agree to work at cutting emissions of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—in the process of exploration and drilling. 

These oil companies aren’t household names in the United States, but they’re big, like the national oil companies of Mexico and Norway. The absence of “super-majors” like BP and Exxon isn’t the potential weakness that concerns Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback, who served on an Energy Department panel on shale gas safety.

"You have to understand, it’s not the companies you know," he says with a laugh.  

Rather, big problems may come from small-timers, who operate under a variety of state regulations and ethical constraints. The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates there are as many as 15,000 oil and gas drillers, most of them relatively small time. An agency report showed almost half a million active natural gas wells in 2012.

"There’s so many wells being drilled, and there’s so many companies in the process," says Zoback. "It only takes a few bad actors to cause problems."

Nathaniel Keohane, vice president of international climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, agrees that there are limits to what this particular initiative can achieve. "We think that by starting with this group and expanding it over time, we can start to make progress and demonstrate what’s possible," he says. 

At in-store clinics, $4 checkups for Wal-Mart workers

Tue, 2014-09-23 02:00

You can’t buy a lot for $4—maybe a cup of coffee or muffin. But at about a dozen Walmart stores across the South, $4 will get employees a visit to a nurse practitioner at an in-store clinic. It’s part of a new primary care program that Walmart is testing in three states.

Eric Klein leads the healthcare team at the national law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton. He says Walmart could actually come out ahead in the big picture.

“You have to look at the entire cost,” he says. “It’s not just the $4 copay, it’s the entire cost.”

Klein says if employees go to an on-site clinic owned by Walmart, the company could save money on doctor visits and insurance premiums. Cutting out the middle men could bring down the cost of Walmart’s insurance plans.

Dr. Harris Berman, the dean of the medical school at Tufts University, agrees.

“If the employees are getting it done here for $4, it won’t show up in their insurance bill,” he says.

With more than a million employees and their dependents on the Walmart health plan, the program could help shape the primary care market if it goes nationwide.

Jennifer LaPerre, Walmart’s senior director of health and wellness, says the company has a “unique opportunity” to help provide lower-cost care. LaPerre says the $4 figure is also part of Walmart’s branding strategy, in keeping with the $4 generic drug program that it launched in 2006.

Klein says Walmart also wins by having clinics just steps away from the checkout lines.

“By taking better care of their employees they actually get better results economically,” Klein says. “Less absenteeism, and that’s a real cost savings over time.”

Walmart is piloting the idea for now; planning to open about a dozen clinics by the end of the year in Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina. LaPerre says Walmart is choosing stores in areas with high rates of chronic disease and a shortage of primary care doctors.

If the concept works, Walmart may take it nationwide.

The U.S. Treasury takes steps to stop tax inversions

Tue, 2014-09-23 01:30

The U.S. Treasury has taken steps to stop tax inversions, the process by which a U.S. company acquires a foreign firm and moves abroad in order to reduce its tax bills. In recent weeks, large companies including Burger King and Medtronic have revealed that they are pursuing inversions, drawing the ire of the Obama administration and Congress.

The Treasury’s new rules, announced late Monday, make inversions harder, and eliminate some of the financial benefits associated with the process. The Treasury moved to close a loophole that facilitates “hopscotch loans,” which allow corporations to gain access to their accumulated foreign earnings without paying U.S. taxes for that access, as is typically legally required.

“The Treasury notice, almost entirely, is directed toward preventing that from happening,” said Robert Willens, president of Robert Willens LLC, a tax accounting and consulting firm.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has admitted that the new rules won’t end inversions altogether, and called on congress to take action. Congress has made unsuccessful attempts in the past to limit inversions.

“The problem is, every time Congress does something, firms find a new way to take advantage of becoming a foreign firm and reducing their U.S. taxes,” said Roberton Williams, a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center.

Thank the Japanese Prime Minister for that new car deal

Tue, 2014-09-23 01:30

When I first figured out that the most popular car in the U.S. costs the same now as it did 25 years ago when Marketplace first went on the air, I was as astonished as I assume you are.

We have been looking at the weird, wonderful but sometimes destructive ways that prices have moved in the last quarter century. When it comes to cars, it has been an article of faith that 2014 cars have so much more sophisticated stuff bolted to them that they must be more expensive.

The 1989 Honda Accord for instance had no airbags at all. ABS braking? Forgettaboutit. The entry level DX sedan didn't come standard with air conditioning. You had to roll down the windows. Its engine generated just 98 little horses. It did come with doors and a steering wheel, however, and luxurious power steering.

The sticker price for that base Honda Accord in 1989 was $11,700. These days, the cheapest Accord has airbags galore, AC standard, Bluetooth, power windows. Its got 185 horses, its fuel economy is much better, and it's even just about a foot longer. But it lists for $21,955. The price of the extras that accumulated over the years.

Or is it?

Adjust for inflation and the 2014 Honda Accord is like $11,445 back in 1989. In other words, the fancy new Accord is selling for a few hundred dollars cheaper than its more Spartan predecessor back when the first President Bush was in the Oval Office.

Since we didn't just fall off the turnip truck however, we know that the cost of a car is not just the cost of a car. What happens to the total cost of driving a mid-sized sedan like the Accord over the last 25 years? The results of that analysis were also a surprise and they're here. Not to ruin the suspense, but while gas, maintenance insurance, taxes/title are more expensive now, the cost of borrowing money to buy a car is much, much lower now. Depreciation is also less as cars get better and last longer.

But I haven't forgotten I mentioned the Japanese Prime Minister in the headline. What does Mr. Shinzo Abe have to do with any of this? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. One veteran economist I talked to about how the 1989 and 2014 Honda Accord cost the same reminded me that Honda is based in Japan. Prime Minister Abe's economic stimulus program known as Abenomics has had the effect of weakening the Japanese currency. Even though the modern Honda Accord is assembled in Ohio, the low yen/high dollar means that Honda can keep the Accord's price low, in part because the same amount of dollars generates more yen when the profits are sent back to Japan. This economist told me that Honda's competitor Ford grumbles about this and estimates the low yen these days lets Honda sells the Accord for a few thousand dollars less than a U.S.-based car company.

The thing is, Mr. Abe has only been running things since very late 2012 and his Abenomics have held sway since last year. And those Accords have been awfully competitive contenders in the U.S. car market for decades.

Could Gotham improve Fox ratings?

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:30

Fox's ratings are in free fall. Last season, the network averaged about half the viewers of CBS. Without big football games to shore up its ratings, the network is looking for a hit. 

"I think it’s very important," says Horizon Media Research Director Brad Adgate. " Television is still a hit driven business and they need a hit."

One potential bright spot in the darkness is "Gotham", a dramatic Batman prequel. The Television Critics Association has named it the season's "most promising series." "It's exciting. It's a little scary," says TCA treasurer and TV critic Jacqueline Cutler. "I will be absolutely gobsmacked if this is not Fox's huge hit of the year."

But critics have been gobsmacked before, and Fox needs more than a critical darling. The network has struggled since the heyday of American Idol, which regularly helped FOX come from behind to lead with the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic. "They did that [for] eight straight seasons, which is unprecedented in the annals of television," Adgate says. "You know, they can’t rely on that anymore."

It's a particularly tall order at a time when network television as a whole, is losing ground to cable television. "Network TV at this point is less than a third of the national TV advertising market. Cable is two times bigger," says Brian Wieser, media analyst at Pivotal Research. 

"In that context a decline in ratings at Fox shouldn't be that surprising."

So Fox is betting big on "Gotham", and entering the market for superheroes while the getting is good. The CW found enough success with another DC show, "Arrow", that it's doubling down this season with a lighter spin-off about the Flash. But the CW generally gets lower ratings than other broadcast networks, and a smash there — "Arrow" usually pulls in around 3 or 4 million viewers — just won't hold up on the big four.

The Marvel series "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was a solid hit for ABC, but couldn't hold onto the nearly 12 million who tuned in for its massive debut. ABC brought the show back and added another, "Agent Carter". But in all, the field is going to be a lot more crowded. NBC also has a DC show, "Constantine" on Friday nights this fall, and juggernaut CBS just ordered a "Supergirl" series.

Gotham premieres tonight at 8 p.m. eastern, but with Hulu and DVR, analysts say we won’t know the real ratings for another week.

Spilling the beans on Starbucks' coffee-beer

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:30

I love coffee. I love beer. But I'm not sure how big of a market there's going to be for a coffee drink that tastes like beer. 

This weekend, Starbucks workers took to Reddit to talk about the Dark Barrel Latte, which is, I suppose, supposed to remind one of stout. Like coffee-flavored stouts, but the other way around? 

It's also going to have caramel, chocolate and whipped cream. So really, it's not even coffee.

And yes, I am a purist.

Blackberry's not dead yet

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:30

Blackberries used to be a permanent fixture on the hip of many professionals, but in recent years, lots of those users have ditched the “crack berry” in favor of iPhone or Android devices. Vultures have circled over the company as a few of its new smart phones flopped.  

But despite the ongoing death watch, Blackberry is still alive and will likely debut two new phones this week: The Classic and the Passport.

However, it’s not trying to reclaim its old status, says Charles Golvin, the founder and principle analyst of Abelian Research.

“It would be a mistake to think about Blackberry as a competitor to Apple and the iPhone or other Android-based device manufacturers,” says Golvin. “They’re not focused on consumers, they’re focused on businesses.”

Blackberry’s target is “the hard-core email user who’s in a regulated industry where the keyboard is really the value-added differentiator,” explains Bryan Prohm, an analyst who covers Blackberry for Cowen and Company.

These phones are meant to attract government, finance, and legal users, plus IT managers who will be tempted by Blackberry's security and device management software.

The devices are a way to get people to use Blackberry’s software – the company’s real focus these days.

So is this makeover enough to shoo away the vultures?

“The way I see it is, it’s a reinvention in progress,” says Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research. “There’s still lots of challenges before we know whether [Blackberry] will survive. So I haven’t written them off, but they really aren’t competitive anymore in the consumer handset market.”

The company, which declined to comment for this story, has stabilized its financials in recent quarters. But Apple is also chasing corporate clients. It announced a new partnership with IBM recently, with its eye on a similar business prize.

You could be the life on Mars. Yes, you.

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:17

Suddenly, everyone seems to be going to Mars.

NASA's MAVEN satellite has just begun orbiting the Red Planet and studying its atmosphere, and a craft launched by the Indian space agency is due to arrive in the Martian orbit this Wednesday. Meanwhile, various private sector organizations are planning something far more ambitious: the first manned landings on Mars.  One of them – the Dutch-based Mars One project – says it’s on course for blast off with a four person crew within a decade.

You might think that Mars One’s biggest problem would be recruitment. The Mars visitors face a seven month long journey to a bitterly cold, dusty wasteland that has no oxygen and not much water. And then there’s the matter of the return journey: There isn’t one. The cost of bringing the crew back would be so prohibitive that this is to be a one-way trip. These are not so much Mars visitors as settlers or colonizers.

Nevertheless, an astonishing 200,000 people applied to join the mission. This figure has been winnowed down to a more modest 705 who are now being more closely assessed.

Twenty-one year-old Ryan McDonald – a physics student at Oxford University – is one of the (so-far) successful applicants . He can hardly wait for lift-off.

"I’m going there because I want to live on Mars, spend my life there – because that’s how I think I can achieve the most for humanity," he says.

"My main motivation is the example of the Apollo mission. It was the generation that was inspired by the moon landings that went on and gave us things like the internet, iPhones, advanced technology which immeasurably improves our lives and we’re so dependent on these days. A manned landing on Mars could have a similar effect. So I want to give a new generation their Apollo moment."

McDonald is unfazed by the prospect of never returning to Planet Earth. The same goes for 34-year-old school lab technician Alison Rigby – another Martian "candidate."

"It’s happened throughout human history,” Rigby says. “People have traveled across the planet with no hope of returning to where they came from. So I would belong to the next generation of these pioneers."

Bryan Versteeg and Mars One/ www.mars-one.com

Rigby – who has a master’s degree in chemistry – finds the idea of spending the rest of her life in a bio-dome examining the chemistry of another planet "enticing."

The man behind the Mars One mission – Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp – claims his inspiration for the project comes from the Olympics.  Lansdorp, who made his money from a wind energy firm, says what caught his eye about the London Games was the revenue from sponsorship and broadcasting rights: $4 billion for only three weeks of broadcasting.

"That was because the world was watching," says Lansdorp “The world would certainly want to watch the first Mars Landing. We will raise the $6 billion we need for the project by selling the media rights.”

A subsidiary of the Dutch company that created the Big Brother TV franchise has already snapped up the broadcasting rights to the Mars One final crew selection process.
But Dave Wade – an underwriter at the Lloyds insurance market in London who specializes in insuring commercial space projects – is skeptical about the viability of the Mars One project. First of all, he believes it would cost a lot more than $6 billion: “ More like $100 billion,” he says. And he can see a problem with the those broadcasting rights – a conflict between the demands of interplanetary travel and reality TV.

Bryan Versteeg and Mars One/ www.mars-one.com

“The TV producers will want controversial people, difficult people. They want drama,” Wade says. “That’s not the kind of people you want on a space mission, particularly a one-way mission where the crew are going to be locked up in cramped capsule for months on end. It’s just fraught with difficulties. And they won’t be able to evict anyone from the bio-dome on Mars!”

There goes the neighborhood: The college students next door

Mon, 2014-09-22 12:08

On a busy road in Baltimore, Valerie Sirani walks up to a shabby beige house with three mailboxes and Christmas lights lining the windows. She knocks on the door. After a few minutes, a dozen or so young men in shorts and T-shirts gather on the front lawn, looking a bit wary.

They’re all students at Loyola University Maryland, living in a row of big houses off campus. Sirani hasn’t come alone. She’s brought with her representatives from the university and City Hall, as well as a uniformed police officer.

“My name is Val,” she tells the group. “I’m the community association president. Does everyone know what community you’re living in?”

They throw out a few guesses, but it’s clear they don’t.

“It’s Lake Walker,” Sirani tells them.

Lake Walker is a small, middle-class neighborhood in North Baltimore. With Towson University, Goucher College and Loyola all just a few miles away, Sirani has counted at least 20 houses rented by college students, out of about 700 homes. Today’s meeting is part welcome wagon, part warning.

“You’re part of our community and we want you to have fun,” Sirani says, “but we want you to be safe.”

So maybe don’t come home from a day of drinking and set out lawn chairs on your slanted roof to watch traffic, like Sirani recently saw some kids on this block doing. She stopped and took a picture.

“The kids obviously saw what I was doing and came down,” she says. “They were very polite, but extremely intoxicated.”

The minute school starts back up each year, so do the off-campus parties—and the complaints from neighbors about noise, fights, and people urinating in the bushes. Baltimore City police officer Doug Gibson shows the students a folder full of reports just from the past few weekends. If a house gets written up as a “neighborhood nuisance,” the landlord and tenants can be hit with hundreds of dollars in fines.

“Some of the reports already from this block are in that process right now,” he says. “There are going to be, most likely, some $500 citations issued already this year.”

Afterward, Loyola senior Bryan Pricoli admits the chat was a little intimidating. He also admits that having people over is one reason he wanted to live off campus.

“Obviously within normal human behavior,” he says. “This is just six good guys living together, and just having a good time our senior year.”

And they don’t have that much choice about where to live. Decades ago Loyola made an unusual agreement with several neighborhoods in its backyard that its students wouldn’t live there.

Studies have shown that the presence of a college, with its cultural activities and open spaces, raises property values. That doesn’t mean people want students living next door. Joan Flynn, senior vice president for administration at Loyola, warns the students that their behavior reflects on the college.

“You need to understand that you’re living here for one year; these folks are living here essentially for a lifetime,” she says. “The goal here is to be viewed as a contributing member of this community and not an element that diminishes the quality of life in this community.”

Efforts to smooth neighborhood relations are catching on at other colleges, says Beth Bagwell, president of the International Town-Gown Association. When students know their neighbors, it’s “harder to ignore the fact that Ms. Smith next door has a baby and she has to get up at 7 o’clock in the morning,” she says.

At the University of Colorado Boulder, some students living off campus are required to attend an orientation before they can collect their keys. They learn about the local nuisance law and hear about the community from a neighbor. Among the houses that have participated, Bagwell says citations for things like noise and property damage have dropped by half.

“So they were able to quantify the fact that this was a very successful program, and they’re still doing this,” she says.

Lake Walker’s Valerie Sirani isn’t sure. After a meet-and-greet with students from Towson University the week before, she was inundated with emails from neighbors complaining about a Saturday night party.

A big week to come in climate change policy

Mon, 2014-09-22 10:14

It's going to be a big week in New York for the policy of climate change. 

Just a day after 300,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to bring more attention to the need for climate change action, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced it was divesting from fossil fuel investments.

"What's clear is that this is a symbolic announcement," says Marketplace's Scott Tong. "But the amount of selling off would pale in comparison to the size of most of these big companies."

The reality, Tong says, is that we're in a planet that is supposed to keep global warming to just two degrees Celsius, but is currently on track to double that figure. But one of the other realities, he says, is that accountants could change the world of climate change.

"[The bankers] are everywhere talking about the opportunities of a low-carbon economy," he said. "Solar and wind energy, they say, are worth investing in, because in many places they can compete against coal and gas. There are tens of billions of dollars going towards bonds that invest in low-carbon technologies — not because of polar bears but because the return on investment is good. This is the kind of reality they're trying to send to national capitals."

Your Wallet: Redesigning student financial aid

Mon, 2014-09-22 09:18

According to the Federal Reserve, total student loan debt in the country has recently surpassed $1 billion:

The effects of student loans pop up throughout the economy: housing is out of reach for many, and even social security can be affected.

So, how would YOU re-create financial aid, if you could? Would you require work-study programs to bring down the cost of college while in school? A greater number of programs that cover student debt after you graduate?

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

When private investors, not taxpayers, pay the toll

Mon, 2014-09-22 07:00

Nine years ago, Indiana's then-Governor Mitch Daniels was looking for money to improve the state's roads and bridges. His solution was a public-private partnership in which the Indiana Toll Road Company leased a 157-mile stretch of highway in northern Indiana for 75 years to the tune of $3.8 billion. The deal was supposed to benefit both the state, and the company, a Spanish-Australian partnership.

“The private partners would receive tolls that were paid by motorists and the state would receive a better, improved road and this upfront cash payment,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. When the recession hit, Americans started driving less, and tolls became less lucrative. And while that became a problem for the Indiana Toll Road Company, the partnership meant that taxpayers weren’t on the hook.

“There's no taxpayer bailout involved in this in any way, shape or form,” said Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation. “This is one of the advantages of these long-term deals. They shift the risk from the taxpayers to the investors.”

And, despite what’s happening in Indiana, investor interest in these types of projects hasn’t flagged, says Poole, who points to similar toll-road deals currently underway in Orlando, Dallas-Forth Worth, and northern Virginia.

The numbers for September 22, 2014

Mon, 2014-09-22 05:49

In New York Monday morning, everyone is talking about climate change. Thousands of protesters marched to promote awareness and action; the Rockefellers, who made their fortune in oil, announced their $860 million charity will divest from fossil fuels and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a 10-year, $1 billion-dollar plan to cut the city's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. All of this is timed with the climate summit convening at the UN Tuesday.

So everyone's talking about the environment this morning — including us — but we're reading some other stuff, too. Let's take a look at those numbers:

10 million

Apple sold more than 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices since Friday, beating the first-weekend sales of the iPhone 5, CNET reported. Apple also upsold more people on pricier models with more storage than it has in past years, one analyst told Business Insider. Apple makes 70 percent of its profits from the iPhone, and that flash storage is high-margin. Overall, it's a good day for Apple and a bad day for the millions of women trying to fit those bigger iPhones in their pockets.

2008

That's when Home Depot reportedly got the first warnings they might have a cyber-security problem, about six years before 56 million cardholders' information would be stolen in a massive data breach. Former network security employees told the New York Times that Home Depot was lax about security, using outdated antivirus software and failing to regularly scan for vulnerabilities.

14.7 percent

The nationwide three-year default rate on student loans in 2013, this year's numbers are expected Monday. Schools exceeding a 30 percent default rate three years in a row or 40 percent in a single year can lose federal funding, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, and this year the department of education has changed its criterion from a two-year default rate to the ostensibly more accurate three-year rate. The default rate is on the rise, and one department of education official told the Chronicle as many as two to three dozen schools could lose federal aid.

2/15/14

In case you missed it, that's the day the Baltimore Ravens front office reportedly first learned what was on a security camera tape from inside the casino elevator where former running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiance. According to an ESPN investigation published late Friday afternoon, Ravens higher-ups pushed for leniency from both prosecutors and the NFL as they tried to keep the tape — which became public two weeks ago — under wraps.

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