Marketplace - American Public Media

Marketplace's most viral stories: February 2014

Mon, 2014-03-10 12:48
Thoughts, disclaimers, bad jokes, etc.: This is our rundown of Marketplace’s top stories on Marketplace.org, Facebook, Twitter, reddit, LinkedIn, and Stitcher during February 2014.   Our story inside Netflix HQ when season two of House of Cards launched brought in the most traffic to our site, and did well on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Will HBO’s True Detective dominate web traffic for March 2014?  

Most viewed on Marketplace.org: These were our most visited stories in February 2014, even if the article was posted before the month. reddit brought most of the traffic to our interview with a retired football referee before the Super Bowl. Employees took a break from applying to jobs to read a story about applying to jobs.

1. What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live

2. You Hate My Job: Football referee (plus, a ref quiz!)

3. Your loyal employees are always looking for the next job. 

APM: Marketplace on Facebook:  Facebook posts are sorted by “total reach” on the Marketplace page, essentially the number of people who saw that post, because they like Marketplace on Facebook or saw the post through their friends. This list includes Facebook posts from February 2014. 

1. iPads in schools   (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by APM: Marketplace.

2. Innovators

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by APM: Marketplace.

3. Outdated checking
  (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by APM: Marketplace.

Most traffic to Marketplace.org from Facebook

What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live

@MarketplaceAPM on Twitter: Defining success on Twitter can mean a few things. Are you looking for which article was clicked the most? Most re-tweets? Best use of a cat GIF? There’s a couple of different categories that mean success:
Most clicked tweet  

@realjohngreen And on the Internet right here!: http://t.co/4nRe2WEhHv

— Marketplace (@MarketplaceAPM) February 18, 2014 Backstory: Author John Green recognized high-school friend Townsend Kyser, a catfish farmer in Greensboro, Alabama as a guest on the show.

Most retweets  

Protesters in Venezuela have added @Zello to their list of social media platforms. http://t.co/A7uhh957iX pic.twitter.com/LTlRdUGdFE

— Marketplace (@MarketplaceAPM) February 25, 2014   Most traffic to Marketplace.org from Twitter  

What happens at Netflix when HOUSE OF CARDS goes live: http://t.co/POrtZ1vCa7

— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) February 15, 2014 reddit: Articles on reddit are sorted by which stories received the most upvotes, basically reddit's equivalent to Facebook's likes.

1. NFL referee Bill Carollo received 200 angry phone calls to his unisted home number, had 15 death threats that resulted in arrests and even had to pull his kids out of school because of a controversial call in a championship game. Later it was found that he had made the right call. (Sports)

2. TIL the First Family pays for most of its living expenses in the White House, including groceries, toiletries and some staff. (Today I Learned)

3. EVE's "The Mittani" on NPR (Eve)

LinkedIn: Sorted by most traffic to Marketplace.org from LinkedIn. Tech employers and employees make up a huge part of its audience, which comes through in the stories that did well.

1. What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live

2. Your loyal employees are always looking for the next job.

3. Silicon Galley? Seeking innovation off-shore

Stitcher: Stitcher is one of our most popular audio platforms that allows people to share and listen to individual audio segments.  It's really popular in the Bay Area, tech and health stories tend to do better on the site than other topics. 

1. Facebook buys WhatsApp messaging service for $19 billion

2. You won't listen to this audio, and you won't share it

3. CVS to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco, will miss $2B in sales per year

If Michael Scott ran an NGO

Mon, 2014-03-10 12:38

Hussein Kurji didn’t have to look far for inspiration for his latest project, "The Samaritans."

"I had heard a lot of stories from aid workers in and around Nairobi, and I thought they’d make for good television," he says. 

What he came up with was a “The Office”-style mockumentary that tackles nepotism, sexism, racism, and misplaced idealism.

Criticisms of non-governmental organizations aren’t new, and Kurji makes sure to acknowledge that many do excellent work in Nairobi, Kenya where he’s based.

“We decided to show the funnier side, the crazier side of NGO culture,” Kurji said.

He emphasizes the stories are exaggerated for comedic effect.  

"It is a work of fiction, but we weren’t naïve, we knew that there would be conversations around the topic."

For now, they’re using their website as their source of global distribution. They have already released the first two episodes of the series. Viewers can rent the show using PayPal.  Kurji says they hope to get distribution soon through Hulu or Netflix.

How much aid Ukraine really needs

Mon, 2014-03-10 12:21

The Ukrainian economy is one big mess. The country has zero percent growth. Its currency is plummeting. Its credit rating is worse than Greece’s, and its black market economy is one of the biggest in the world, depriving the government of much-needed taxes. The government owes billions, including nearly $2 billion to Russia for fuel.

Bad leadership and corruption are at the root of Ukraine’s problems, says Anders Aslund, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former advisor to the country.

"President Victor Yanukovych had one aim for his economic policies – enriching himself as much as possible together with his family. He didn’t care much about the rest," Aslund says.

That corruption has scared off foreign investment in a country that has agriculture, steel, rocketry and even its own (under developed, critics say) natural gas resources. Ukrainian leaders say they need at least $35 billion to start fixing the mess they’re in.  

 

Changing fraternity culture: A business question

Mon, 2014-03-10 12:02

The fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon turned 158 years old over the weekend -- and it also banned pledging. SAE is one of the largest fraternities in the country and it’s gained something of a reputation for its intense hazing rituals during pledge period. At least 10 fatalities have been linked to hazing-related activities at SAE since 2006, including the death of a 19-year-old Cornell student, whose mother sued SAE for $25 million.

"We realized that a lot of people might have a bad perception of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which we regret," says Brandon Weghorst, spokesman for SAE. "Because we know all the good things that our members do every day that don’t get attention."

Now students who want to join SAE will simply be invited. It’s been a controversial decision: on SAE's Facebook page, one person said the frat was throwing the "baby out with the bathwater" and punishing everyone for a few people's bad decisions.

But others think SAE didn't really have a choice.

"I think they found themselves in a very untenable position," says Ron Binder, associate dean of students at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. "It’s not sustainable given the number of injuries and deaths and number of lawsuits." Binder’s fraternity, Sigma Phi Epislon, did away with pledging back in the 90s. Binder says since then, the frat’s membership, GPAs and community service hours have gone up.

But will a pledge ban make a difference?

"I really think that this pledge ban is semantics and public relations," says Andrew Lohse, who pledged SAE at Dartmouth in 2009 and is writing a book called Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy. "Before this, this organization said they didn’t allow hazing, and there was a hazing hotline, and all these things… This policy change probably won’t accomplish a lot to actually curb the on-the-ground hazing events."

Lohse doesn’t think hazing will really go away until fraternities and sororities do.

And those fraternities have some powerful alumni out to support their cause:

  • Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway - Alpha Sigma Phi - #4 on the Forbes Billionaire’s List
  • The Koch Brothers (Charles and David), Koch Industries - both Beta Theta Pi - #6 on Forbes Billionaire’s List
  • S. Robson Walton, Chairman of Walmart - Lambda Chi Alpha - #14 on Forbes Billionaire’s List
  • Paul Gardner Allen, Co-founder of Microsoft - Phi Kappa Theta - #56 on the Forbes Billionaire’s List
  • Phil Knight, Co-founder/chairman of Nike - Alpha Epsilon Pi - #446 on the Forbes Billionaire’s List
  • Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot - Alpha Epsilon Pi - #446 on the Forbes Billionaire’s List
  • Jerry Yang, Founder of Yahoo! - Phi Kappa Psi - #828 on Forbes Billionaire’s List

My first job: Big-rig truck washer

Mon, 2014-03-10 11:45

ESPN college sports commentator Rece Davis has built a career as an expert on college hoops and football, but his first job was far from the glamour of March Madness: At 13, he got his first job cleaning trucks on Saturdays in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Davis says back then this was a great job. He could make $40, sometimes more, for five or six hours of work.

He said his objective was always to finish the job before the early games for college football came on, and there was one thing that repeatedly threatened that:

"You just hope that the guy driving the truck hadn't gone through fresh tar on the road because (if he did that) you were there forever."

Davis says scrubbing tar off trucks helped him learn early about work ethic and dependability.  But he says, he didn't escape without being a little traumatized by his first job.

"That's why now I almost always just drive through the car wash. I don't remember the last time I even manually washed my car." 

The guy behind nutrition facts and energy guides

Mon, 2014-03-10 11:25

A couple of weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration and First Lady Michelle Obama announced changes to the official Nutrition Facts label.

Burkey Belser is the graphic designer who did the original label. He says: "It's as if my dog died and I got a new puppy I liked, but not as much as old Spot."

Belser did the original label for free because Congress hadn't designated funds to pay him. He was paid for the Energy Guide label though -- that bright yellow sticker on your appliance that says how much it costs to run it.

Belser says the key in designing these types of labels is to design it for all Americans to read, which means removing anything that might slow down someone who has poor literacy skills, or for whom English might be a second language. That's why there's no punctuation on his original design.

"The goal is to be clear...while I always, and any designer hopes that they're going to have an artistic presentation, artistry plays second fiddle to getting the idea across."

The new nutrition facts label hasn't been formalized yet and Belser has his own ideas about how'd he update it.

Here are the current nutrition label (left), the FDA's suggested nutrition label (middle), and Belser's suggested nutrition label (right):

 

And just for kicks, here's the original label from the 1970s:

Which public radio host are you?

Mon, 2014-03-10 10:59

This final note about online polls and surveys. The social media team at WFAE in Charlotte have come up with a new one: Which public radio host are you?

It's got some reasonably relevant questions: Who would you most like to interview? What's your favorite public radio show? What should your college major have been?

So, I took it. And, honestly, I don't know how I didn't come up with me. 

Who did I get? Apparently the internet thinks I should be Audie Cornish, the co-host of NPR's All Things Considered. 

Companies are falling over themselves to go public

Mon, 2014-03-10 10:27

We're not very far into 2014, but you can already call this the year of the IPO. So far, more than 40 companies have gone public. That's more than double last year at this time and the most since the economic boom year of 2007. "And the party’s just starting," says John Fitzgibbon, founder of IPO Scoop. He says the IPO boom is all about the strong stock market. "It’s very simple approach. Good stock market equals good IPO market. Lousy market, kiss it goodbye."

The stock market has been a bit bumpy, but worries about a crash are easing. Investors now want to put their money into companies they think will deliver solid returns. "The increase in the activity for the IPO market is really a statement of how much the market had been held back in the previous last few years," says David Menlow, president of IPO Financial.com. And Menlow says many companies feel they’ve gotta go public before the other guy. "They’ll be a sense of urgency as we move through the year and businesses will expand and as a result we’re expecting all boats to rise with the tide."

Menlow expects we’ll see the IPO pace keep up through the end of the year.

 

Arm candy for her: The Ken doll

Mon, 2014-03-10 09:32

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up on March 11:

SXSW highlights: Neil Young and custom Oreos

Mon, 2014-03-10 09:01

We're only a couple days into the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, but Marketplace Tech has already been hard at work covering the most important panels and interviewing the biggest names in the tech industry.

Check out the slideshow above for pictures of our experience so far

From raising our hands at Julian Assange's skyped-in appearance to visually confirm that yes, we could hear him in spite of a shoddy internet connection, to testing out crazy flavor combinations from Oreo's cookie printer, the festival has been everything we hoped for and nothing we expected all at the same time. Throw in a conversation with actress Rosario Dawson? We'll take it.

Still to come: a conversation with Biz Stone on his forthcoming book, Things A Little Bird Told Me, our coverage of Edward Snowden's panel discussion, and Neil Young joins us to talk about his new music streaming service called Pono.

Ashton Kutcher to invest in Aaron Levie's Box

Mon, 2014-03-10 08:30

For a cloud storage company that has some major competition, Box's future seems to be getting brighter and brighter. We interviewed the company's CEO Aaron Levie at South By Southwest ahead of his presentation in Austin, and he let us in on a bit of news. Just as Box is projecting to double revenue this year to over $200 million, Levie and company have also drawn new funding from Ashton Kutcher. Ahead of the announcement, Levie told us: 

"Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary invested in the company, and that was really around our focus and strategic push within the media and entertainment space...Companies like Sony Music, CIA, Live Nation, Wasserman Media Group -- all of these companies use Box to share and collaborate around their information, and we would like to go work even deeper in this market, so we are looking forward to having them on as strategic partners."

Our interview with Levie touched on everything from the pressures of a young entrepeneur to how Box was able to survive in a space where giant companies like Microsoft and Amazon were already established. Check back here for the full interview. 

Public transportation at its highest level since 1956

Mon, 2014-03-10 05:17

Last year, Americans used public transportation to take 10.7 billion trips. According to the American Public Transportation Association, ridership hasn’t been that high since 1956.

“It’s truly a fundamental shift in how people are moving about their communities,” says Michael Melaniphy, the group’s president and CEO, noting the growth started several years ago. “Initially, when fuel prices spiked, it drove people to transit, and once they came, they decided it was good, and they stayed.”

There is a correlation, Melaniphy says, between high ridership and the health of the U.S. economy. Sixty percent of trips taken on public transit are work commutes.

However, Mitchell Moss*, who directs the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University, argues the other 40 percent is also important: 

“Mass transit today is not just a peak-hour activity,” he says. As public transportation becomes more popular, and as cities spend more money on expanding it, transit systems are opening earlier and closing later.

“There was a time when you said, ‘I want to live near a good school district,’” Moss says. “Today, people want to live near a good transit connection.”

Moss is referring to young people especially, who are ever less likely to own cars.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. He is Mitchell Moss. The text has been corrected.

SXSW Frontlines: How to protect your data

Mon, 2014-03-10 01:40

If you're a famous musician, a tech company CEO, or a tiny startup with big dreams, chances are you or some of the people who work for you are spending time in Austin, Texas this week for the conference known as South By Southwest (SXSW). It's an event that draws thousands of people together ever year for an exchange of ideas, business cards, and plenty of deal-making.

Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio from Austin with the latest.

PODCAST: Seen at South By

Mon, 2014-03-10 01:16

SXSW Interactive is in full swing in Austin, Texas. With five days packed full of panels, parties, and of course, tacos, it's impossible to get to every can't-miss event. Fear not: Marketplace Tech has you covered. 

Throughout the festival, our producers and reporters are speaking to some of the biggest names in tech. 

Plus, China has issued a miserable little statistic about its economy. At a time when forecasters were expecting the country's exports to grow, they shrunk 18 percent last month. That has some economists worried about the growth of China's consumer economy. And yet, others are pointing out that the numbers were impacted by the Chinese New Year.

Exchanging currency in Venezuela is a nightmare

Mon, 2014-03-10 01:00

Exchanging currency in Venezuela is a nightmare. The official exchange rate is six bolivars to the U.S. dollar, but on the black market, the rate is around 80 to one dollar.

The bolivar is like a hot potato. Rice University professor Mark Jones says the average Venezuelan has no confidence in the currency and “tries to get rid of it as soon as possible, especially with inflation that approaching around fifty percent right now.”

The country introduces a new currency exchange system today that’s meant to bring the official rate closer to the black market exchange rate. That could be good for U.S. companies, which have been unable to convert and export profits made in Venezuela.

Wolfgang Koester is CEO of FiREapps, which helps corporations manage their foreign exchange. He says Venezuela’s new system will not in itself “help corporations yet. But if they continue down this path and free their currency up, that will be helpful for corporations.”

 

 

Guy Kawasaki loves him a good tech bubble

Fri, 2014-03-07 21:25

It is possible you haven't heard of Guy Kawasaki, but you have almost definitely heard of some of the products the best-selling author and former Macintosh "software evangelist" has put his weight behind over the years.

They include early Mac software, Google +, and Motorola Mobility. Marketplace Tech spoke to Kawasaki on the 4th floor of the Austin convention center crawling with SXSW Interactive attendees. And the Hawaiian born tech-y, who was toting around a new monitor and a camera, had plenty to say. Our interview will air this coming week, but here are a few highlights: 

- Guy is a Mac AND Android guy. He still uses a Mac as his laptop, but he feels like the android operating system is much better and more customizeable in Google. 

- If he were to start a company tomorrow, Kawasaki might stay away from hardware and software, and look towards services. The market for hardware seems too compeitive, the market for new software is saturated, and starting a service company on the cheap is easy these days. 

- Kawasaki sticks by his Google +, no matter what you think. He says that as a social network, it has less spam, more sharable and compelling content, and better killer apps, like Google Hangout. So don't count out Google + going away any time soon.

- Are we in a tech bubble? Guy thinks yes, probably, but that it doesn't matter. What's important, he says, is knowing when to cash out. He also points out that the dot com craze, people didn't think the market had a ceiling. It always does. He says the key is to know when to hold stock and when to sell it. 

There's more substance and audio from my Guy Kawasaki interview coming up! Make sure to listen this week to Marketplace Tech as we start broadcasting the goods from Austin. 

The view from the ground in Simferopol

Fri, 2014-03-07 17:41

Context, in economics and geopolitics, is everything. Who's doing what to whom, and what happens as a result.

So with that in mind, we asked the BBC's Natalia Antelava to tell us what things are like in the ground on Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

What's the mood like?

"Nervous. I'd say it's even more nervous than it was a week ago... People woke up this morning in Crimea not quite sure whether they were waking up into Ukraine or Russia."

Does it feel like a Cold War? Does that phrase have a different meaning there?

"It does. And actually Cold War has never been the phrase very widely used in the former Soviet Union, so that's not the words people are using. But the sentiments are certainly the same. Especially among people who are publicly supporting Russia."

What's life like on the ground? What's changed about the day to day?

"Prices are going up. People have been telling me they have been stocking up on some things, like flour and the basics. But the city on the outside is functioning normally. I went to the market this morning and talked to some ladies selling vegetables, and they were complaining about prices... saying, 'But it's ok, because once we join Russia, Putin will take care of us."

What does it feel like to you?

"It feels like the 1990s. I myself am Georgian, I grew up in post-Soviet Georiga, and the breakaway republics, like...they never developed as autonomous... they're these frozen conflicts that every once in awhile flare up. And that's what people fear here."

What partying taught Andrew W.K. about money

Fri, 2014-03-07 16:10

I'm not an expert on anything except having fun. 

I'm a professional partier and not a professional economist, but like anyone else I've had my own experiences with money, and I've learned a few things about it thanks to all my partying. Before I actually started to earn a living from partying, I spent most of my money on it. Now since I make money from partying, I have even more respect for both money and fun. Here are three simple truths partying taught me about money: 

Money isn't evil 

I used to think that money was bad. I'm not sure why I started thinking that. Maybe it was from old sayings like "money is the root of all evil," and just seeing how trying to get more of it made people act crazy. I also had a lot of friends who lived their lives without making much money, and they seemed to think that making it wasn't cool. They didn't like having jobs, so they did everything they could to get by without needing money — which takes a lot of effort and often seemed to involve punk music, not bathing and not eating meat. 

A few years ago, I had a very wise person explain to me that money is just like "magic paper", and this magic paper allows you to do amazing things. Money itself is neither bad nor good, it just depends on what you do with it. I finally realized that my own "money is bad" beliefs were pushing money away from me, money I could've used to make my dreams and goals into reality more efficiently. Find out why you think that way, and then consider re-evaluating your beliefs. When you have money to spend on friends, family, and fun, suddenly it becomes one of the greatest and most powerful tools in the world. It's true that the best parts of being alive don't require money. But that doesn't mean it can't improve the conditions of life. And you don't have to be greedy or a scumbag to use money and feel good about it. 

Spending money is important 

I'm obviously not an expert on the financial markets, but even I can understand that money has no value or ability to do good if it isn't spent. It's wise to save money for a rainy day or for a future house or whatever, but in a modern society we rely on each other spending money in order to spread the wealth around. If you're concerned about the poor people, it can seem like a meaningful show of solidarity to be poor yourself — it can seem like we should live with less, because others have less themselves. But if poor people had more money, they almost certainly wouldn't turn it away so they could continue being poor out of protest. And you being poor doesn't help a poor person either. You having money can certainly help a poor person, a sick person, a bored person, etc. And all of us spending money is what keeps it moving around — it keeps modern civilization functioning.

Whenever the media talk about a financial crisis, they end up making it even worse, because the anxiety their reports inspire cause people to save money rather than spend it. And so all that money is just sitting there, not doing anyone any good.

The only thing that money is meant for is spending. And that's especially true when you spend it on partying. 

Use money for joy

In my opinion, spending money on fun and games is its best and wisest use. Of course, there are times when it's necessary to spend it on things like clothing, food, or shelter -- but once we have the basics covered, I can think of no better way to spend money than on joy. Some people have tried to make me feel guilty about spending money on things they call "frivolous," but the beauty of money is that it is up to you to decide how to spend it. That's the freedom. And there should never be any feelings of regret or sadness when you use your money for joyful experiences. If paying to go on a roller coaster makes me happy, then money really can buy happiness. When we have experiences of joy that last, we're not only investing in our own direct happiness, but the happiness of the world in general. Money spent on fun and feeling good is totally righteous. Money spent on getting wasted is never wasted money. So, keep on partying with money, and keep on having fun.

Some employers shift 401(k) matches

Fri, 2014-03-07 15:24

It's not every day that people get fired up over retirement planning, but that's what happened at AOL last month when employees lashed out over the company's move to make year-end, lump-sum contributions to their 401(k) plans instead of matches every pay period.

In the aftermath one state regulator wants to know how many other companies have made that switch. Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin says most people are less than mindful about saving for retirement. "Especially younger employees. When they get their 401(k) statement they toss it in the heap with everything else.  I know I was guilty of that for many years."

That's a big mistake, Galvin adds, because pension plans are a thing of the past.  He says American workers are more dependent than ever on their 401(k)s for retirement savings, and they stand to lose money if their company contributes only once a year. "They’re going to suffer the loss of whatever benefit of compounding – that is having that money in their account earning interest for that whole year –would be."  Add to that if you leave your job mid-year you can kiss the entire contribution goodbye.  

Galvin says people deserve to know in advance when their employers stop making 401(k) matches with every paycheck, and why, so he’s asked two-dozen of the country’s major 401(k) providers to tell him by March 10th how many companies have switched to once a year. The largest of those providers, Fidelity Investments, tells Marketplace: it’s a small number – and mostly large employers.

"You have increased cost of benefits; that has to be covered," says economist Robert Merton, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and a Professor of Finance at MIT.  He points out that some of the companies in question could be trying to avoid other, more painful cuts such as health care benefits, but he says they should be transparent about it. "You have to not look at the one act, you have to look at why they did it, or at least why they said they did it. Almost everything is a tradeoff, so being informed about it is helpful."

Massachusetts Secretary of State Galvin says Congress might have to get involved if more companies move to once-a-year matching.

At the Employee Benefits Research Institute, president Dallas Salisbury says the rising cost of health care could drive that trend, and workers should expect changes.  "Overall costs in the economy and their overall pay package gets adjusted all the time," he says. "If they think they’re not being treated fairly then go look for a new job."

Salisbury says, bottom line, whether people choose to save enough money on their own is what will determine when and how they can retire.

Why buy? Memories of a music consumer

Fri, 2014-03-07 14:59

My first buyer rewards program was at Turtle’s Records & Tapes, a small chain of music stores with a handful of locations in Atlanta. I was 8 years old.

Do you still pay for music?
It was the 1980s, so I can’t imagine what kind of information they could have collected from me to validate my “membership.” All I remember was being handed a pale yellow pamphlet with squares that you were supposed to cover with stamps – like actual stamps you had to lick to apply – every time you bought a piece of music at Turtle’s.  Once you had a certain number of stamps, you received a major discount on a record or cassette, making you more awesome than everyone else in the entire world for a brief moment in time.

I bought a lot of music in my youth. Some of my earliest purchases were the vinyl single of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's iconic album, “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper.”

My music access only increased as I got older. In college, I worked part-time at WHOV, the campus radio station where I also DJed a couple of shifts – everything from R&B to straightforward jazz. That meant a little extra spending change ... and more knowledge about music than I ever thought I would need.

In 2001, when my entire CD collection was stolen from my by a very bad person, I thought I’d never be able to rebuild. But, I was determined. So I kept collecting, this time opting for mostly-used CDs via sites like half.com. A few years later, digital music came on the scene, which made it easier than ever to organize my collection, create mood-setting playlists and buy everything I liked.

But something happened to my music buying habits recently. Free streaming services like Pandora and Spotify came along and my phone got smarter, too – or at least better at gaming the system for free downloads. I just stopped buying music with any regularity. I can’t even remember what year it was when I last updated my iTunes library, and it looks like I’m not alone. Earlier this year, Billboard reported the first drop in digital music sales since the iTunes store made its debut in 2003.  CD sales continued their steady decline and overall album sales also experienced an 8.4% drop. All of this made me wonder: Is owning music important to anyone anymore? If yes, then who? 

Marketplace Money took to social media to ask people to tell us why they still buy music – or  why they stopped buying – and to share some of their favorite memories as paying music consumers. 

We kicked off the conversation on Facebook:
(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by APM: Marketplace.

And on Twitter,

@LiveMoney Used to be very important when I had to go to an actual store and buy music, not so much any more.

— Daryl Paranada (@darylparanada) March 3, 2014

And, for fun, we asked:

@LiveMoney 1.) first CD i bought was Ricky Martin. 2.) Last CD I bought was Perry Como. 3.) Goodness, that would be amazing.

— Zac Bissonnette (@ZacBissonnette) March 4, 2014

A couple of our listeners agreed to talk with us about how their music buying habits have changed.

John Cummings in Westlake Village, CA paid less than a dollar for his first big record store purchase.



Helena Okolicsanyi in Manassas, VA is big on supporting artists she loves by buying their CDs and attending live shows:



And Mavis Gragg, a 38-year-old attorney in Washington, DC says she is determined to beef up her music collection again.  Here’s why:



Like Mavis, I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t have my own music library. I want to have tangible access to the songs I love, and be able to hand them down to my children – even if they make fun of me for delighting in archaic formats like compact discs.

Which, if you haven’t listened to one in a while, sound amazing, by the way.

What are your memories as a music consumer? Tell us about the first album you bought, or the last, and your relationship with owning music in the age of free streaming.  Leave a comment below or Tweet us @LiveMoney.

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