Marketplace - American Public Media

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

PODCAST: To encrypt or not to encrypt

Mon, 2014-09-22 03:00

First up, an expected bankruptcy filing today is telling us something about the way Americans drive these days, and the wisdom of investing in U.S. infrastructure. The Indiana Toll Road company, which owns the rights to a 157 mile mile stretch of highway in Indiana, has been struggling with about $6 billion of debt. It's just one of several private companies that made what turned out to be bad bets on toll roads. Plus, after the iPhone accounts of some celebrities got hacked recently, Apple's been talking about privacy. It's now released a freshened operating system that makes it tougher for the unauthorized to get into Apple phones and tablets. Not to be outdone, Google's says its doing something similar for Android. Why the move is making law enforcement authorities unhappy. And the long recession deprived many younger people of a way to launch themselves into career-type jobs and what some might call financial adulthood. Which means, they also aren't launching into some big purchases that have traditionally been part of the American Dream: first car, first home, first retirement account. The big challenge here is for the younger workers themselves, but it's also a hassle for marketers.

New OS from both Apple and Google will encrypt

Mon, 2014-09-22 02:00

If you have a password on your smartphone, the new Apple and Android operating systems will encrypt your data so nobody can read it—Not Apple, not Google and not law enforcement.

Adi Kamdar, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said this move shows companies are realizing their users care about privacy.

“It is significant because privacy is becoming more of a competitive tool,” he says.  

Kamdar says the encryption only applies to the data you keep on your phone. It doesn’t apply to data gathered by apps or that’s stored in the cloud.

Despite these work arounds, law enforcement officials are upset. Ron Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, says in light of the Snowden revelations, he understands the need to protect privacy. But, he says, Google and Apple have gone too far.

“Two big tech providers are essentially creating sanctuary for people who are going to do harm,” says Hosko.

Hosko said lawmakers need to step-up and make laws that balance privacy and safety.

Many young people are not in a position to splurge

Mon, 2014-09-22 02:00

The recession deprived many young people of a launching pad into career jobs and financial adulthood. And that means they also aren’t launching into some of the major investments that have traditionally been part of the American Dream; such as purchasing a first car or a first home, or starting a first retirement account.

“Because the economy has hurt them so badly, they’ve had a delayed adulthood,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding in New York, which conducts market research on the workplace and consumer expectations of this age cohort. “They don’t reach a salary of $42,000 until the age of thirty at this point; there’s $1.2 trillion in student loan debt; fifty percent of them are unemployed, underemployed or have given up on their job search completely; 21 million are living with their parents.

“They’re in debt,” says Schawbel, who has just published a book on Millennials' job prospects, titled "Promote Yourself: The New Rules of Career Success." “They’re getting married later, getting cars later. In order to make ends meet now, they have to have as few expenses as possible.”

If these consumers delay big-ticket purchases for years to come, or never make them in numbers comparable to the Boomers and Gen Xers before them, it could have a profound effect on the economy in the future.

Still, brands still have to at least try to interest young consumers in purchases such as new cars, starter homes and condos, or major household appliances. Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University and author of the book "Gen BuY: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail" has some advice for marketers.

“What people have is a showcase of who they are,” Yarrow says. Millennials express their identity through their clothes, their appearance, the objects they have around them.

She says new homes are a tough sell—especially in the high-priced hip cities where young people like to live. But furniture shouldn’t be.

“Ikea is perfect for this generation,” she says, “because it has an extremely low price point, it’s really customizable, it’s what you put in it, what you paint on it, how you make it yours.”

Yarrow thinks cars that will be more attractive to young people if the marketing focus is on environmental values and green fuels. “Because it’s not just transportation,” says Yarrow, “it’s also a way of saying who you are to other people.”

Dan Schawbel says the experience of learning about a brand—whether from the brand itself, or from friends and through social media, is crucial for this generation.

“They want interactive experiences,” says Schawbel. "So before you show them the product, before you connect with them, put stuff online that shows this is what you’re getting, here’s the experience, here’s why it could be valuable.”

But he also offers this caveat: “Even if you have a great experience, make the product look really good, you can tweet from the dashboard, all of that—it comes down to how much can Millennials even afford.”

At the moment, that’s not very much.

March in New York calls for action on climate change

Mon, 2014-09-22 02:00

Has the time for action on climate change finally come? That’s what protesters around the globe are hoping. Over 310,000 people took to the streets in New York City on Sunday, according to the march’s organizers. They’re calling it the largest climate march ever.   There were life-long activists and people who had never joined a protest before. Their list of concerns was long and varied, but the targets were mostly clear: the politicians and companies who marchers want to press to take action on global warming ahead of a climate change summit at the United Nations on Tuesday.   “Corporations generally don’t care about the environment,” said Benjamin Breitkreuz, a retired clergyman. “Theirs is a profit motive.” He came from New Jersey, carrying a sign that read “corporations are killing our planet.”   Over 1,500 organizations partnered in the march, including labor unions that pledged to use their organizing power to push for environmental causes.   “We need to send a clear message to the governments and the corporations that the people of the world aren’t going to stand for this,” said New York train operator and union member Josh Fraidstern. “We’re not going to let them poison us; we’re not going to let them destroy our future.”   But many people simply came on their own or with their families, hoping their numbers would raise awareness.   “Really, America needs to lead,” said Lu Petrie, who came up from Virginia for the march with her husband and son. “It’s so embarrassing that America isn’t leading on this issue.”   She said she hoped the high turnout would help raise awareness. She’ll also be looking to the UN this week to see whether world leaders have recognized that climate change is an issue people are willing to fight for.

Our readers' worries and hopes about student data

Fri, 2014-09-19 20:45

We hosted a Twitter chat on Thursday, September 18, to discuss our Quantified Student reporting project, and to hear what our readers have to say about student data policy issues. Here are some selected tweets from the conversation:

[<a href="//storify.com/Marketplace/learningcurve-s-studentdata-chat" target="_blank">View the story "LearningCurve's #studentdata chat" on Storify</a>]

The economics of slow money

Fri, 2014-09-19 15:14

We came across a story from Vermont Public Radio about a new digital currency called Beetcoin.

It's an electronic currency like Bitcoin, designed for farmers with small and medium-sized operations, and that got us curious about how smaller-scale farms are funded and the economics behind running a farm.

To put that in context, we headed over to Rockefeller Center in New York City, where we met up with Christopher Wayne, the technical director of Greenmarket Farmer's Market's technical assistance program. Greenmarket's oversees New York City's Farmer's Market Programs. 

While a farmer's market might seem like an oasis of natural goodness in the heart of the city, as Christopher Wayne explains, there's a lot of work with "slow money" that goes on behind the scenes to bring these markets here.

"Slow money" brings us back to Beetcoin. What exactly is slow money?

As Vermont Public Radio's Angela Evancie explains, "Slow Money is looking to establish networks where the investors in small farms and small food businesses are local, they're right there in the community … and they are the ones connected to the investors."

Click play above to hear more about Slow Money and the economics of farming.

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