Marketplace - American Public Media

Yelp gets a positive review from the courts

Thu, 2014-09-04 13:19

A federal court of appeals in San Francisco has ruled that Yelp can, if it so chooses, raise or lower the rating of a business on the site depending on whether or not that business advertises with them.

Such a move would not be classified as extortion, which is what the lawsuit at issue had claimed.

Yelp is happy with the results, but claims it doesn't do such things, anyways. The company said in a blog post:

"We are obviously happy that the court reached the right result, and saw through these thin attempts by a few businesses and their lawyers to disparage Yelp and draw attention away from their own occasional negative review."

ABC is betting big on Shonda Rhimes

Thu, 2014-09-04 13:19

While CBS airs football games on Thursday nights, ABC is hoping all the not-so-sports-inclined spouses settle in for a night of Shonda Rhimes.

Don’t know the name? Rhimes created "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Scandal." The two TV shows have been bright spots for a network that’s had a rough couple of years when it comes to prime time, says Horizon Media analyst Brad Adgate.

“Last year, they were last in adults 18–49. But when it came to women 18–49, they were second,” Adgate says.

Shonda Rhimes is credited, in large part, for that success. She's a creator and showrunner who champions strong female leads and a diverse cast. Adgate says that formula appeals to women, who now make up about 65 percent of the network’s audience. With network ratings sliding, he says, it’s not surprising that ABC would double down on its niche success.

So the network is promoting Rhimes to its audience. An advertisement for the Thursday night lineup edits together dialogue from each show to make the characters say "I love Shonda Rhimes."

Cynthia Littleton, TV editor at Variety, says while there have been powerful showrunners in the past, this may be the first time a network promoted one as a star.

“This branding and the three shows stacked on one night,” Littleton says. “That is absolutely a function of social media and how it has turned Shonda Rhimes literally into a marketable star for the network.”

Littleton says Rhimes was also masterful in using Twitter to promote shows and make herself a star with viewers.

The script. #Scandal #season4 pic.twitter.com/drTWONNODN

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) July 24, 2014

But will this branding work?

“Network TV these days is a game of trying to do better than you did last year, which is hard to do,” says Joe Adalian, an editor with Vulture.

Adalian said by that measure, ABC’s Thursday strategy will work. The night is already filled with two hit shows, and with Rhimes' star status, the third has a good chance of becoming one, too.

Shonda Rhimes didn't initially set out to be a television writer, much less one of the industry's most powerful showrunners. According to a New York Times profile from last year, Rhimes decided to apply to USC's film school after graduating from Dartmouth because she read that it was more competitive than Harvard Law.

Rhimes got in, graduated, and initially broke through as a writer for HBO's Dorothy Dandridge biopic, starring Halle Berry. She went on to write Britney Spears' acting debut, "Crossroads," which was critically panned but a box office hit. She scored her first Disney credit with "The Princess Diaries 2" and sold "Grey's Anatomy" to the Disney-owned ABC around the same time.

"Grey's" was a midseason replacement but an instant hit, prompting a Rhimes-lead spinoff in 2007 that lasted six seasons. Broadcast TV is crowded with medical shows, but Rhimes' series distinguished themselves and became a cultural touchstone. Just ask the many, many people who tossed around nicknames like "McDreamy," "McSteamy," etc. in the late 2000s.

In 2013, Rhimes' shows were pulling in $300 million in advertising each season, Forbes reported, or about 5 percent of ABC's revenue. Since "Grey's" premiered, she has adopted two children, who, the Times wrote, regularly come to work with her.

After cementing her place at ABC with two hits, Rhimes created "Scandal," which she told the Times is her most unfiltered project, uninhibited by network notes, and appropriately insane and melodramatic.

"What were they going to do, fire me? I wasn't worried about what anybody else thought," she told the Times. "This one was for me."

Rhimes has said she doesn't want to be pigeonholed into a certain type of show. So, she's branching into another crowded space — the legal drama — with "How to Get Away With Murder," starring Viola Davis as a law professor who becomes embroiled in a homicide with four of her students. The show will follow "Scandal" to round out ABC's three-hour Rhimes block.

How productive are we? It depends on how you look at it.

Thu, 2014-09-04 13:19

This is not your father’s productivity rate.

Back before the recession, the Labor Department reported worker productivity increases of 2 to 3 percent a year. We’ve been stuck at around 1 percent for the past few years.  

“One percent today is not the 1 percent of 2006 before we went into the recession,” says Christopher Rupkey, chief economist of MUFG Union Bank.

Rupkey says, before the recession, a 1 percent productivity-rate increase would have been awful, because we were in that crazy housing bubble. It skewed productivity up. After the bubble burst, productivity skewed down.  

So, if you think about it, 1 percent isn’t so bad, says James Craft, a business administration professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Given what we’ve experienced in terms of some of the problems in the economy and its recovery and so forth, I think that is reasonable at this point in time,” he says.

And here’s another thing to think about: It’s harder to measure productivity now. It was easier when technologies like Microsoft Word first came along, and the cause-and-effect was clearer. 

“The big benefit was, of course, secretaries don’t have to retype memos here after taking advantage of word processing,” says Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

Now, Handler says, we have so many new technologies it's hard to tell what's responsible for productivity improvements. The cloud? That new app on your phone? Both?

Still, Handler says, some things haven’t changed. Companies need to hire good people and spring for the latest technology, even if they’re not sure how it will affect productivity.

The European Central Bank whips out the big guns

Thu, 2014-09-04 13:19

Whipping out the big guns, monetarily speaking.

Europe’s Central Bank announced today it was stepping on the economic gas, giving the eurozone a shot, or whatever your choice of analogy. 

More specifically: It lowered its deposit rate for banks to negative-0.2 percent from negative-0.1 percent. 

“Nobody except the ECB has flirted with negative interest rates. Even Japan. This is unprecedented,” says Marc Chandler, Global Head of Currency Strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

A positive interest rate means banks earn money on what they hold on reserve with a central bank — whereas a negative interest rate means banks have to pay to park their money there. The idea is that this will push money out into the financial system and promote lending. 

Secondly, the ECB said it would start purchasing asset-backed securities, much like the United States Federal Reserve and the Bank of England has done (the quantitative easing strategy) to promote lending and inject money into the stock market and economy.

Why now?  

Second-quarter GDP growth flat-lined in Europe.

“The eurozone economy is failing to recover in the way that the U.S. or U.K. economy has been recovering,” says Andrew Lilico, head of Europe Economics. “You have countries with 25 percent and up unemployment that are still very much trapped. While it just got out of recession, the economy has gone from contraction to stagnation.” 

One symptom of this, says Chandler, has been that “lending has collapsed in the euro area as banks try to rebuild balance sheets and deleverage.”

The European Central Bank is preparing to take on new regulatory authorities. As banks brace for future stress tests, they have cut back on lending. At the same time, says Chandler, consumers and small businesses aren’t inclined to borrow.

Plus, the inflation rate has inched down over the past few months, reaching precariously close to zero. 

“We had the inflation rate of eurozone countries running at 0.5 percent  in June, 0.4 percent in July, 0.3 percent in August. It has been gradually declining,” says Abdur Chowdhury of Marquette University and chief economist at Capital Market Consultants. 

Chowdhury predicted the ECB’s move, contrary to many analysts who assumed the bank would wait until later this year to act. “The major concern that people have is they don’t want deflation, because that would create a vicious cycle” of economic contraction.

Early ECB assessments have pointed out that drops in inflation were occurring for “good” reasons — fuel costs were falling, for example. But Chowdhury says even if that’s true, the fact that the GDP isn’t benefiting from those good reasons makes the threshold of 0 percent inflation and the risk of crossing over into deflation territory dangerous, because deflation is a difficult problem to solve once it starts.

Why not sooner?

Hindsight is 20-20, but many economists argue some things are just plain easy to see coming.  “They should’ve done it four or five years ago,” says Lilico, a sentiment Chowdhury echoes.  

“The governing council that makes the decision has one member for each of the eurozone countries,” says Chowdhury. “These member look at national interest first and the interests of the eurozone second, to be honest.”  Still, he says, “better late than never.”

Will it work?

Chandler, who also anticipated the ECB’s move, says “probably on the margins.” He expects inflation to bottom out in the next few months, but not cross over into deflation territory, and he says the stimulus, rate adjustment and resulting slide in the euro may all contribute to this. 

As for what this means for the U.S., Chandler says, “It makes us look like a high yielder; it makes the U.S. look more attractive."

European investors may opt to put money into U.S. bonds and securities at the same time the Federal Reserve stops doing so. This could keep yields on bonds from falling precipitously as the Fed exits its stimulus. 

As rates fall and yields in Europe shrink, the euro will become a less attractive currency to hold and will fall in value against the dollar (1 percent shortly after the ECB’s news was announced). This means European goods will be cheaper for Americans to buy, but it also means Europe will become less hungry for American exports as they become more expensive in Europe.

How to blow off steam – and the driver next to you

Thu, 2014-09-04 08:37

Tens of thousands of workers have flooded into rural North Dakota to take jobs created by the state's oil boom. Now, there's a shortage of housing and there's a shortage of restaurants. There's a shortage of workers for non-oil businesses. And at the end of the day, there's not a whole lot to do.

Some guys, though, have brought one hobby with them: tinkering with their pickups and showing them off. Todd Melby talked to a customizer shop about one distinct way to show off.

Listen to his story in the audio player above.

Diesel engines can be tuned so they pour out black smoke. In Williston, North Dakota diesel pickup truck owners turn to Mark Pyatt at Killer Diesel Performance.

Todd Melby

Todd's series "Black Gold Boom" is an initiative of Prairie Public and the Association for Independents in Radio.

European Central Bank cuts interest rates

Thu, 2014-09-04 07:00

Very few were predicting the European Central Bank would cut interest rates today, but cut they did. The benchmark rate went from a super-low 0.15 percent to just 0.05 percent. 

Brenda Kelly, Chief Market Strategist at London-based IG Group, joined us to offer some context on the surprising move.

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

As fast-food workers strike, unions get redefined

Thu, 2014-09-04 07:00

Fast-food workers in more than 100 cities plan to walk off the job Thursday. The goal is a higher wage: $15 an hour. The Service Employees International Union, the SEIU, is backing the workers.

“They are not giving up until they are heard, and $15 and a union becomes a standard of practice in all fast-food restaurants in the United States,” says Mary Kay Henry, the union’s president. Corporations argue that would be bad for business.

The SEIU has spent millions of dollars getting the word out, but it has also asked home-care workers, a group it recently unionized, to strike in solidarity with the fast-food workers.

“I think it is part of the redefinition of what a union really is and how unions operate,” says Thomas Kochan, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

According to Ruth Milkman, a sociologist at The Graduate Center, CUNY, this push for a higher minimum wage is part of “a comprehensive campaign with lots of different pieces” born out of necessity.

“The traditional approach to unionization that SEIU and other unions have used isn’t really working too well these days, and they recognize that, and they are interested in experimenting with new approaches and new methods,” she says, noting that less than 7 percent of private-sector employees are unionized.

The real question, argues Harry Holzer, a labor economist at Georgetown University, is: “Is there really pressure on employers to raise wages?” Sure, a daylong strike affects the bottom line, but, he points out, that is nothing compared to what it would cost them to raise wages and offer better benefits.

PODCAST: Fast-food strike

Thu, 2014-09-04 03:00

First up, more on the surprise move from European Central Bank, which cut key interest rates from pretty low to really, really low. And fast-food workers in more than a hundred cities plan to walk off the job today. The goal: the desire to get paid $15 an hour. Plus, an example of the consumer becoming the advertiser. In India, there's a trend that goes way beyond, say, wearing a hat with the logo of some brand you like. 

How reading on screens is rewiring our brains

Thu, 2014-09-04 02:00

Dr. Maryanne Wolf says that reading isn't something we're born to do — it's something we train our brain to do.

Wolf is the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, and the author of "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain." She says we rewire parts of our brain and build new circuits as we learn to read.

But something interesting is happening as we use new technology for the process of reading: The circuits we're building in our brain are different than those we build when we read books. And some of the implications are worrisome for our ability for deep thought.

Following other discussions for this week's series on technology and reading education, Wolf joins us to talk about reading, new tech and their impact on the brain.

Click the media player above to hear Dr. Maryanne Wolf in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.

The jobs report: strong, steady job growth takes hold

Thu, 2014-09-04 02:00

The U.S. Labor Department's monthly employment report for August is expected to show some improvement in the job market from July. The consensus among economists is for 230,000 jobs to have been added to private and public-sector payrolls, and for the unemployment rate to have declined 0.1 percent to 6.1 percent.

The trend is now stable and well-established after five years of labor-market improvement that only came in fits and starts, says economist Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution.

Burtless points out that private businesses have been adding more than 200,000 jobs per month.

“In the last six months, the government has joined the party,” Burtless said. “Public employment is now rising again, although very slowly. As long as these jobs reports continue, I think everyone should be heartened.”

Burtless and other economists are discouraged by anemic wage growth, though. In the years since the recession ended, paychecks for most Americans have just barely kept pace with inflation.

Economist Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute says that shows there’s still significant slack in the labor market. Employers don’t have to offer higher pay to attract and retain workers, and workers don’t have much bargaining power.

“Workers are really not seeing the growing productivity, the growing economy, in higher wages,” Gould said.

Americans face food insecurity despite economic growth

Thu, 2014-09-04 02:00

The number of American households suffering from food insecurity is down from its peak in 2011, the USDA said in a report released this week.

The decline was a modest 2.7 percent — bringing the number down to 17.5 million households where access to enough food for healthy and active living (how the USDA defines food security) was inconsistent or not dependable.

The report also said the number of households with severe food insecurity, including one member of the household who is going hungry, remained unchanged at almost 7 million. One out of five of these homes include children.

While researchers report that parents often shield their children from hunger, in 360,000 households, food availability was so poor that children were also affected.

“In these households, with very low food security among children, parents reported that children were hungry, but they just didn’t have enough money for food or that children were skipping meals, and in the most extreme situations going the whole day without eating,” says Alisha Coleman-Jensen, co-author of the USDA study.

Nevertheless, the number of extreme food instability households dropped from 1.2 to 0.9 percent.

Households with food instability are not evenly spread out around the country. There are more of them in urban and rural areas, and fewer in the suburbs. Southern states are hit hardest, while North Dakota, which is in the middle of an oil boom, has the lowest rate at 8.7 percent.

The nationwide numbers are grim, despite the fact that the economy has been improving, albeit modestly, and unemployment is decreasing. Coleman-Jensen says when researchers took into account employment, income and other factors, the most significant barrier for improved food security in the U.S. appeared to be inflation in food costs.

Graphic courtesy of USDA Economic Research Service.

“In certain categories, like proteins and dairy, they’ve been incurring double-digit inflation. You also have increasing demand for select commodities around the world, and that’s likely to keep an overall upward pressure on costs,” says Erin Lash, a consumer products analyst with the Chicago-based research firm MorningStar.

Lash says droughts are also partly to blame for higher food prices in certain categories. For example, beef prices rose 10 percent last year, and pork prices rose as much as 7.5 percent. Both meats will likely see price increases this year as well, as consumers feel the effects of a drought in Texas and Oklahoma, and a Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus that killed 7 million piglets last year.

In 2015, the USDA predicts food prices overall will see more normal levels of inflation, around 2 to 3 percent. But USDA co-author Coleman-Jensen says it is too early to predict whether that will significantly improve America’s household food security problem.

State governments experiment with cloud computing

Wed, 2014-09-03 15:15

From the outside, Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Green House Data center looks fairly nondescript, just another boring building in a corporate office park.

But get past security and it feels like something out of "The Matrix" — a long white hallway leads to row after row of blinking servers. They’re extremely well protected, says staff engineer Courtney Thompson:

"Laser grid-based systems on penetrations on the outside of our walls. Kevlar bullet-proofing anywhere there is a window. We like to show people we go to the nth degree to make sure our clients' data is secure.”

The clients that use Green House Data’s cloud hosting services include New Belgium Brewing Company, the National Outdoor Leadership School, and now, the state of Wyoming.

“We are getting higher quality servers, higher quality data protection,” says Wyoming Chief Information Officer Flint Waters. “So it’s more economical for us, but it’s also far more bang for the buck.”

Waters is leading the transition of most of the state’s data from state-owned servers to the cloud — space on the Internet rented from big data companies, like a giant version of Dropbox or Google Drive. Pennsylvania is also moving government data to the cloud.

Waters says there are lots of benefits: He gets access to the very best IT professionals, and the state only has to pay for the storage it needs. He says there’s no way Wyoming can compete with companies that manage data for a living.

“When it comes time to put together a bunch of new trucks for our fleet, we don’t say, ‘Let’s put together a factory and assemble trucks.’ We look at GM, Ford, Chrysler. And this is a very similar paradigm,” Waters says.

While many states are looking into the cloud, a nationwide survey last year found that most are worried it could violate privacy laws. Waters says he understands the concern, but it is silly to think that government-owned servers are any safer.

“Folks say, 'It’s more secure because I control the server.' Well, yeah, but I can pick it up and walk out to my car with it. And that citizen data isn’t secure anymore.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Lee Tien isn’t convinced. “If you are controlling your own data center, you have the control that matches your responsibility,” he says. “When you move into the cloud, something could go wrong.”

Tien points to an example out of California as a reason to worry. School kids in that state use a cloud service called Google Apps for Education. But last spring, it came out that Google had been clandestinely mining their emails for ad research.

Tien says governments need to be good stewards of their citizens’ data. "There is a tendency for there not to be whole lot of public oversight over these kinds of decisions, even when they can be quite fateful for everyone involved.”

For small governments, navigating the world of cloud computing can be confusing. Thankfully, there is Australia.

“Australia has always been a country where the citizens have valued their privacy," says John Sheridan, Australia’s information minister.

The Australian government is moving a lot of information onto the cloud, too, and last year it came out with one of the most extensive guides to data privacy out there.

Sheridan says government cloud computing contracts need to be able to hold private companies accountable. “We need to look at their security. So we don’t want someone hacking our websites or doing those sorts of things.”

And, Sheridan says, if there is a hack, governments need to be sure they know about it, and know how it’ll be fixed.

In Cheyenne, Courtney Thompson would be one of those fixers if something went wrong. Pointing at the banks of humming servers, he says Wyoming is just the beginning for states heading to the cloud.

“Massive data centers like this, they’re the future of computing."

Colorful snippets from the Fed's 'Beige Book'

Wed, 2014-09-03 13:27

I actually enjoy reading about "The Beige Book," the Federal Reserve's regular look at regional slices of the American economy.

I know this makes me sound incredibly dull, but bear with me.

The latest installment came out today, and so we know (thanks to The Wall Street Journal):

-  Theme-park attendance in and around the Atlanta region was soft, because family vacations were delayed due to snow-day makeups at the end of the school year.

- Aerospace manufacturers near San Francisco are worried about titanium supplies, because of sanctions on Russia.

- A mildew outbreak in North Dakota may reduce sunflower yields. My personal favorite.

C'mon... fascinating, right?

Under Armour makes its fashion move

Wed, 2014-09-03 13:25

How do you add more than $590 million to the value of your company in just one day? Hire Gisele Bundchen

That’s what Under Armour has done. The athletic apparel company has been aggressively marketing itself — it even tried to steal away one of Nike’s most popular endorsers, NBA star Kevin Durant (he stayed with Nike).

Under Armour has traditionally appealed to male jocks, but it’s trying to broaden its customer base to include more women. For a company that started out in the mid-'90s catering to male football players, Under Armour has come a long way. Its sales rose 34 percent in the second quarter, and the company is on track to pull in $3 billion in revenue this year.

That’s still peanuts compared to Nike, but Under Armour is flexing its marketing muscle. A host of celebrity athletes have signed on to endorse its products, including ski racer Lindsey Vonn and ballerina Misty Copeland. “The fact that they’re willing to put money behind these celebrities signals to others that, yeah, we’re going to be playing against the big guys,” says Amna Kirmani, a business professor at the University of Maryland.

Kirmani says Under Armour has always had a good reputation among serious athletes, but now the company needs to broaden its appeal with “everyday individuals.”  That includes people who may never step foot near a gym. Matt Saler, director of sports marketing at IMRE,  says active sportswear is becoming more of a mainstream fashion trend.  “Under Armour’s really at the forefront of it with Nike and their competitors. They’ve really established their place in the category as one of the leaders.” 

Celebrity photo hack puts a cloud over Apple

Wed, 2014-09-03 13:24

This is the view from Apple headquarters this week:

[<a href="//storify.com/Marketplace/response-to-celebrity-nude-photo-hacks" target="_blank">View the story "Response to Celebrity Nude Photo Hacks" on Storify</a>]

Twitter was full of celebrities tweeting about how they felt violated when nude photos from their iCloud accounts were posted online after they were apparently hacked

The story led to speculation about weaknesses in iCloud security, and all this less than a week before a major announcement from Apple, likely the unveiling of an iPhone 6.

“It’s a hit to Apple,” says Colin Gillis, a senior technology analyst at BGC Financial. He says Apple should be looking forward, and presenting consumers with new security tools like biometrics — requiring a fingerprint instead of just a password to access accounts.

“They will offer you solutions that you’ll have, you know, extended on new iPhones to help prevent these types of things," Gillis says.

So, just buy a new iPhone and everything will be fine, right? 

Not quite, because the celebrity nude photo dump is so much more personal than a credit card data breach.

“It’s like someone, you know, going through your personal trash," says Jeff Howe, head of the media innovation program at Northeastern University. "I think it absolutely engenders a sense of violation.”

That could make consumers more wary of sharing personal stuff online. Could something like that happen to our data in the cloud?

Cathy Boyle, a senior mobile analyst at eMarketer, said she's definitely noticed more wariness from consumers.

“But I think if you tell them that if you share a certain amount of your information with us in exchange for something valuable, then people seem to be more accepting of sharing their information,” she says.

So companies would have to offer us a discount or special treatment for our online data.  Otherwise, hey — stay off my cloud. 

Who can you blame when you get hacked?

Wed, 2014-09-03 11:20

The cloud is a tricky place to put your information, pictures or other things you consider private.

Turns out, every major cloud storage service — Dropbox, Apple's iCloud, Google Drive and so on — all use the "mutual responsibility model" in their terms of service. This means if you give away your credentials, then the cloud service provider cannot be held accountable if you get hacked.

"They count anything," says Ben Johnson, host of Marketplace Tech. "Even if you don’t know that you are giving it away. So if you get phished, or if someone gets you to click on something and they hack into your computer or your phone, that counts as ‘willingly giving it away.’"

With those terms of service, you might need to compromise some privacy for the convenience of using any cloud storage. Or, like Kai, you can turn the setting off altogether.

Listen to the Kai Ryssdal's full conversation with Ben Johnson in the audio player above.

An obsessive hunt for America's early recorded music

Wed, 2014-09-03 11:15

The technology of recorded music is a lot older than vinyl albums spinning on '60s-style turntables and singles — 45s — popping onto a jukebox needle.

The very earliest records held two to three minutes of music per side. They measured 10 inches of shellac, and were played on Victrolas that were more of a furniture design statement than a means to a musical end. The needles were so crude they gouged out the grooves on the records.

Moving at 78 rotations per minute, the remaining records are a technological relic that holds some of the earliest American music. There are few remaining metal masters, the engraving technology that can resuscitate the original recording sessions of, say, the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." So the record itself becomes an obsession for collectors who seek out 78s. 

"It's a high-stakes treasure hunt, in a way, because they're saving these songs from certain death," said Amanda Petrusich, who interviewed collectors for her book, "Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78 rpm Records".

The "wildness" includes Petrusich's own scuba-diving adventure into the Milwaukee River, after getting a tip that some 78s might be wasting away underwater. Not to mention the hours collectors spend at yard sales, scouring eBay, and the high price a rare disc can command. 

"There was a very public sale recently on eBay of a record for $37,000," Petrusich said, adding, "That's not uncommon."

The stereotype of the collector was partially true and partially not, Petrusich found. Overwhelmingly male? Definitely. A kind of tight-knit fraternity? Check. 

But older, sort of pale, doughy middle-aged men, à la Steve Buscemi's character in "Ghost World"? Petrusich says "not so much." 

Some of the obsession seems to be driven not only by the hunt, rarity and preciousness of the music 78s may contain. It's also a way for collectors to surround themselves with true antiques. 

"The idea that these are men who feel in some way isolated by or excluded from modernity is very much true. They end up ultimately collecting these things as a way of insulating themselves from that, or slowing down the acceleration of culture."

Fortunately for new fans of prewar blues or Creole music, a lot of songs have been digitized. For example, a song that Petrusich fell in love with, Blind Uncle Gaspard's "Sur Le Bord De L'eau," is on YouTube, iTunes and Amazon. Not least because it was included on the soundtrack to HBO's "True Detective." 

 

Petrusich and her fellow collectors hope more of these songs survive their fragile 78 form. 

"Not all old records are good, but there's a sense that we don't even know what has fallen through the cracks."

Even so, she said, there's a special quality to holding an old disc, hearing the scratches as it plays on the equipment it was first heard on. 

Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.

At Fashion Week, it's hard to stand out from the crowd

Wed, 2014-09-03 10:26

New York City’s Fashion Week begins Wednesday night, and one of the first shows will be in Central Park — on horse-drawn carriages. 

"We'd like to refer to this as a moving runway," says Tobi Rubinstein Schneier of the Tahor Group, which dreamed up the idea for designer Victor de Souza. Seven models dressed in couture will ride seven carriages drawn by white horses in a loop. "The horses are iconic New York, and they’re majestic and they’re beautiful," says Schneier. "You know, they’re models themselves." 

It's just one of many techniques clothing brands are using to stand out in a crowded field. Ultrahip label Opening Ceremony is putting on a one-act play, co-written by film director Spike Jonze and actor Jonah Hill; British designer Gareth Pugh is creating an "immersive experience." Less established designers are thinking unconventionally as well. Emily Saunders would say only that her models would be static, and that the theme of her collection is a song.

"The 1968 Iron Butterfly song 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,'" she says. 

"There’s no question that cutting through the clutter is what every smart business person is trying to do today," says Alison Kenney Paul, vice chairman of retail and distribution at Deloitte. But in her view, the biggest change to Fashion Week is how the Internet and fast fashion have shortened the distance between the shows and the streets. 

"I believe you’re going to see some of the looks if they really resonate with people almost within weeks, not months," says Paul. "It’s much more of a short, uh, runway, if you will."

Based on current economic conditions, Paul predicts more consumers at the end of that runway this season.

Oh, yeah, and more neutral colors.  

Your Wallet: Hacking the grocery store

Wed, 2014-09-03 08:48

According to Gallup, families in America spend roughly $150 dollars a week on food:

Gallup

Marketplace Weekend wants to know, how do you save money at the grocery store?  

 

@MarketplaceWknd Plan meals around what's on sale (esp for meats) not just what you feel like eating.

— Karen Luck (@WhereIsMyKindle) September 3, 2014

 

Eat fast food whenever possible RT@MarketplaceWknd: What are your favorite tips and tricks to save money at the grocery store?

— SevenPointBuck (@SevenPointBuck) September 3, 2014

 

@MarketplaceWknd Reach for the back of the shelf (bread, meats, eggs, and so on). Later expiration dates for the same price.

— Dylan Campbell (@dylancampbell) September 3, 2014

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

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