Marketplace - American Public Media
Since going public last fall, Twitter has yet to announce an actual profit. And as the company got ready to announce quarterly earnings this fall, analysts expected the company to announce another modest loss.
Twitter has introduced some new features in recent months—including a “buy” button for certain brands—but nothing especially dramatic. How much time does the company have before it gets lumped in with companies that never quite took over the world, like MySpace?
Twitter makes some money by selling ads. Just not a profit. Analysts say ads aren’t a great fit with what users want from Twitter.
But analysts also say that Twitter is so useful to so many people, that profits must surely be there, somewhere.
"I always like to say that the day television was invented was not the day the 30-minute sitcom was invented, or the one-minute advertising spot," says Rebecca Lieb from The Altimeter Group.
However, some of the analogies suggest that Twitter’s success is not a sure thing.
For instance, Rob Enderle invokes the old joke about the kid who smiled like crazy while he shoveled through a pile of horse manure. "I honestly think there’s a pony in that pile," he says, "but it’s harder to discover because Twitter’s just so very different than everybody else is."
He thinks Twitter’s got maybe 12 to 18 months to find the pony. Which, again, he thinks is in there somewhere. "Somebody eventually will come up with something that works" he says. "And if it isn’t Twitter, then Twitter will likely be replaced by that company."
Like how Google replaced Yahoo, and Facebook replaced MySpace.
After rolling out Apple Pay with much fanfare on October 20, Apple has now hit a snag with its new mobile-payments system. And it’s not a technical problem. Rather, several major retailers don’t want to play ball and aren’t enabling mobile payments using Apple Pay in their stores. They include Wal-mart and Best Buy, and as of this week, CVS and Rite Aid.
The drugstore chains, which have not commented publicly on their recent decisions to shut down trials of Apple Pay in their stores, apparently favor a rival mobile-payment system that is in development now, and will be rolled out next year by a group of major retailers—including Wal-mart, Target, Lowes, Best Buy, Gap and others. That system, named CurrentC from the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), will bypass credit card companies. The payments will be made on a customer’s debit card, accessing their bank account, says technology analyst Ben Schachter at Macquarie Securities.
“It certainly feels like they’re going to push to disintermediate not only Apple and Google, but also the credit card companies,” said Schachter. “They clearly don’t like paying those credit card fees.”
Schachter expects Google to launch a mobile-payments system for Android smartphones soon, piggybacking on the near-field communication technology that Apple Pay uses to send payment information between a smartphone and a retail checkout terminal.
Consumers may not embrace CurrentC when it is launched, says IT and marketing professor Anindya Ghose at NYU's Stern School of Business. He said Apple Pay—which requires a smartphone wave and a fingerprint—offers a high level of financial security.
“Your credit card number is never revealed in any way to the merchant or anyone else in the system,” said Ghose. “It’s encrypted completely and secured. So the chances of a fraud are dramatically reduced.”
Apple Pay also keeps customers’ purchasing data more private. The rival store chains want that data to push coupons and special deals to customers via their smartphones.
We know that other people take your money, lie to you, and scam you. Do you ever do it to yourself?
No matter how bad or good your financial situation is, what's the one thing you will always spend money on? Do you feel guilty?
What is that one thing you refuse to give up?
This week, Lizzie O'Leary sits down for brunch with Jessica Pressler from New York Magazine and Ben Walsh from the Huffington Post to discuss the economic news of last week and what's on their plate this week (get it?).
Chris Black is a New York City-based brand consultant and the founder of Done to Death Projects. His Twitter feed offers "high level cultural commentary" on current events, pop culture, music, fashion, and more. Black spoke with Marketplace Weekend about navigating social media, the narcissism of selfies, and the cringe-inducing act of rereading your own Twitter feed.
"I think a lot of people in social situations are preoccupied with this stuff. Young people especially. When you've grown up with the internet and grown up with an iPhone, it's a very different mindset than someone like me or you," Black says.
His forthcoming book: 'I Know You Think You Know It All: Advice to Help You Stop Looking Like a Jerk in Public and Online' is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.
Listen to the full story in the audio player above.
Part of the reason for the recent tumble in oil prices is the surge in production in the U.S. – namely, natural gas.
The process to extract it – fracking – is not universally popular. A referendum on the upcoming ballot deep in the heart of Texas, in a town called Denton, would ban fracking.
Marketplace's Scott Tong has been reporting from Denton this week.
"Drilling proximity to people's homes is the issue," Tong said
But how Denton residents feel about that drilling hinges on whether or not they own the mineral rights for their land. Those who do are collecting tidy sums from oil companies, who pay for leases to drill there. Those who don't see long days of loud activity 80 yards away, with little compensation.
Proponents of fracking are worried that a ban in Denton, only affecting 100,000 or so people, would invite copycats throughout the state of Texas. Likewise, other countries with significant shale formations are watching to see the health research and policy reactions that come out of Texas's fracking boom.
Residents who oppose fracking are vocal, speaking frequently with reporters. They're worried about unintended consequences: loud noise, pollution, and trucks moving in and out, diminishing the quality of life. The supporters have pored big money into opposing the referendum through ads and advocacy, but rarely put faces to those views.
If you watch season three, episode seven of “The Walking Dead” you may see me eating a guy. I was paid $100 to dress up like a zombie and help take down and disembowel a hermit. But aside from chiggers and a blurry screen grab for my Facebook page, that $100 is all I’ll ever get from my performance. That’s because extras get no residuals.
When you become a bigger part of the show, however, that changes. The next step up from an extra is a day player. If you get a line of dialogue in a show or have a scripted physical interaction with a character (called “special business”), you qualify for residuals. Everyone from day players to stunt performers to the main cast of a show, otherwise known as“featured players,” gets residuals. How much they get is based on what they are paid in the first place.
If you listen to the story above (we'll post in a few hours), you’ll hear how John Michael Tyler who played Gunther the barista on “Friends” got paid for his very first line. This Gunther:
But here, I thought it would be interesting to calculate how much one of the main cast members gets paid:
The “Friends” cast was making $1 million an episode for the last couple of seasons. But Craig Beatty, the Vice President of Entertainment Partners, says there’s a ceiling. During “Friends” that was around $2,500 an episode. So let’s use that as our jumping off point to calculate an example:
Let’s take “The One Where Eddie Moves In," otherwise known as the ultimate "Smelly Cat" episode:
If, back in 1996, it repeated once during the summer and once the following year on NBC, then Lisa Kudrow would have theoretically gotten:$2,500 x 2 = $5,000
When a show is syndicated to basic cable and local television stations (called "free television" in the biz), a sliding scale kicks in. Kudrow would have received 40 percent for the first re-run (40 percent of $2,500 = $1,000), 30 percent for the second re-run ($750) and then 25 percent for the next three re-runs. After that, it goes down incrementally until the 13th time it airs. From then on, an actor gets 5 percent for each episode every time it airs, forever. So if “The One Where Eddie Moves In” re-aired five times in syndication, the math would work like this:40% of $2,500 = $1,000
+30% of $2,500 = $750
+25% of $2,500 = $625 x 3 = $1,875
Kudrow would also be compensated for foreign rights, but those work a little differently. Back in the '90s, she would’ve gotten one flat payment of 35 percent, no matter how many channels it showed on outside North America. So:35% of $2,500 = $875
And if we add all that up:$5,000 + $875 + $1,000 + $750 + $1,875 = $9,500
I won’t get into DVD and digital media sales because those get pretty complicated, but let’s just say we hit $10,000 total per episode, for easy math’s sake . With 236 episodes, that would mean Kudrow would’ve gotten at least:$2,360,000 in total residuals for “Friends.”
Now, we all know “Friends” has aired a bajillion times, so it’s safe to say that estimate is ludicrously, ridiculously and extremely low. Plus, the cast of “Friends” actually negotiated for a higher share than that maximum for residuals, so they’re sitting pretty, especially since "Friends" has made somewhere north of $3 billion in syndication.
Regardless, residuals are a steady stream of income in a line of work where nothing else is all that steady.
Dr. Craig Spencer was treating Ebola patients in Guinea two weeks ago. He now is in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan after showing symptoms of the disease himself. Health officials are telling New Yorkers not to worry, and that Ebola is a difficult virus to contract – requiring contact with body fluids from an infected person while they are showing symptoms, including fever and diarrhea.
All the same, those officials are continuing to retrace Spencer’s steps through the city to see who might have been exposed to the virus. They have Spencer’s own account as a starting point, but they’re being helped by the multiple electronic checkpoints of life in the city.
From our commute on the subway, to buying our morning coffee with a credit card, to that Uber ride and of course Facebook updates, we are all leaving a digital wake as we move through the physical world.
“There’s a whole field of digital epidemiology harnessing these new digital data streams like digital exhaust for purposes of public health,” says John Brownstein, associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Spencer took an Uber to the Gutter bowling alley in Brooklyn, for example.
“You can get access to the driver, distance [and] location that driver went to, the other passengers of that vehicle,” Brownstein says.
Credit card histories are obvious logs of a person’s location. But there are less obvious sources of information as well.
“We’ve looked at people’s access to free wireless networks, and we could tell when two people were close to one another and how they move around the city based on their access to social networks and we can model the spread of disease,” Brownstein says. That information is usually aggregated to study movement of large groups and transmission of disease, but it could also be used to trace individuals.
Smartphones especially leave digital trails far beyond simple call logs or even GPS data.
“That phone is doing a bunch of things for us,” says Gavin Manes, CEO of digital forensics firm Avansic. Not only is it regularly checking with the phone company for texts or voicemail messages, it is interacting with third parties.
“If you work for a business, you are probably have an email account connected to something like Microsoft Exchange,” he says. “Every so often your phone is making sure it still has the connection and reporting to that server what its IP address is and its approximate location.” While a phone company may keep its logs of a user’s location for only a few hours or a few days, the logs on email servers – or Facebook servers or Twitter servers – persist much longer.
Even digital keychains used to lock or unlock a vehicle can send information that can be picked up, says Mane. When you point your keyfob at your car and click to unlock it, that message can be picked up by another car of the same make.
There is one big caveat to using all this data.
“It’s not easy and it’s not automatic,” Manes says.
Take the subway, for example. It’s possible to detect what subway card was swiped at a turnstyle right after a sick person’s. From there, an investigator may have to go to a subway card machine’s records to determine what credit card number was associated with that subway card. From there an investigator will have to connect a name to that credit card number, which will probably involve going through a credit card company.
“There is no computer in someone’s basement that’s automatically tracking that material together,” Manes says. This is because none of these data sources was designed to track people for the sake of tracking people.
“This tracking data, it’s not like these systems were developed for that purpose, it’s a byproduct of the system needing to function,” Manes says. “When we can triangulate someone’s cellphone, it’s not because we designed the cellphone system to be able to do that, it’s a byproduct of the need of the phone company to know where someone is so they can know which cellphone tower for them to talk to.”
The data is big, and so is the city. Sifting through both is a monumental task.
Proctor & Gamble announced Friday it was planning to spin off Duracell.
Smithsonian historian Eric Hintz shares the story of the battery company, which got its start back in World War II.
Made with easel.ly
For more, click the audio player above.
As Amy Scott reported, we send billions of emails every day.
The thing is, email is terrible. At least that's the conclusion among Marketplace's digital audience: between unnecessary "reply all," vague subject lines and passive-aggressive cc'ing, the inbox can be a place of pain.
It can also be crowded. We asked:
So far, we've seen a few inbox zero fanatics. We salute them:
We've also seen... way more than zero:@Marketplace 16,695 in main inbox folder, an additional 5,000,000+ in saved folders — Blaine Bershad (@BlaineBershad) October 23, 2014
@Marketplace 192,397 emails.— Mike Brown (@xenoxaos) October 23, 2014
The question now: Can you beat them? We want to find the fullest inbox in America. Tweet us @Marketplace. Bonus points for a screenshot.
If there’s one message today’s high school students hear over and over again, it’s this: Go to college.
But Liz King, who grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, has known since middle school that college was not for her.
“I’m not a book person,” she says. “You know you are or you’re not.”
So, when the time came, King asked to go to Minuteman, a vocational high school near by. She wanted to become a hairdresser.
“I wasn’t having any of that,” says King’s mom, Jeanette Chapman. Years earlier, her son had asked if he could go to Minuteman to study plumbing. She said no to him too.
“I just had the impression that going to vocational school, he would miss out on something, a profession where you could make more money,” Chapman says. “I think it was all to do with making more money.”
Chapman, like most parents, wanted her kids to go to college. Surveys show more than 90 percent of Americans believe a college education is important.More than 90 percent of Americans believe a college education is important, but only 32 percent of people over the age of 24 have a bachelor’s degree.
“You’ve got a paradigm that’s embraced by almost everybody, but the reality is that by the time they get to their late 20s, only 30 percent of young people have actually gotten a four-year degree,” says Bill Symonds, director of the Global Pathways Institute and author of a 2011 report for the Harvard Graduate School of Education called Pathways to Prosperity. The report argues the U.S. is failing to prepare millions of young people to lead successful lives because high schools focus too narrowly on an academic, college-prep approach to education.
Symonds says there are millions of good jobs that don’t require a Bachelor’s degree. Many of those jobs are in so-called “middle-skill” occupations, like construction manager and computer technician. These jobs tend to require professional licenses and certificates, but not college. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, the median certificate holder out-earns more than a quarter of people who have Bachelor’s degrees.Straight to college — or not
Thirty-four percent of 2013 high school graduates were not enrolled in college as of Oct. 2013Enrolled1.96 million Not enrolled1.01 million Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Minuteman Regional High school, a vocational school outside of Boston, offers the kind of education in which, Symonds says, the nation should invest more. Students spend half their time in academic classes and half in a career major. They can choose high tech fields like robotics and computer programming or traditional trades like plumbing and carpentry.
Steve Hurley, a graduate of the electrical wiring program, says he chose Minuteman because he “didn’t want to get out of high school and not know what I was going to do with my life.”
Hurley graduated in 2014 with a certificate that helped him get started as an electrician’s apprentice. If he becomes a certified electrician, he can expect to make about $40,000 a year to start. That’s higher than the median wage for all workers in the United States.
Michelle Roche, director of career and technical education at Minuteman, says lots of kids who might otherwise drop out of high school end up thriving in vocational school.
“The students who have not felt success when they’re in a traditional academic school, where they've got to sit, the teacher’s talking at them, they’ve got to regurgitate this information, they've got to memorize and study. They’ll come here and they’re standing on their feet, they’re working with their hands, they figure out a problem,” she says. “And success breeds success.”
Graduation rates at regional vocational high schools in Massachusetts are actually higher than at traditional high schools.
'If I went to college, I would waste a crap-load of money'
Liz King, the aspiring hairdresser, convinced her mother to let her go to Minuteman, by promising to take all the college prep classes, in case she changed her mind about going to college.
But King says she knew college wasn’t for her.
“I thought that if I went to college, I would waste a crapload of money,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t good at studying. I was a procrastinator. And if someone was like, ‘Hey Liz, let’s go party, hey Liz, let’s go NOT study,’ I would’ve been like. ‘OK!’ I’m not self-motivated like that.”
But she is motivated about her career in cosmetology.
King graduated from Minuteman in 2004. By then, she had completed enough training hours in school to take the exam for her cosmetology license. She took the test days after she finished her high school classes and had her license by the time she walked across the stage to get her Minuteman diploma.
“My thing was having my certification before I walked,” she says. “That was more important to me than my diploma.”
King is now 28. She’s married, has a baby, and is doing what she loves. She and a business partner recently opened their own hair salon. It’s called J&L Studio, in Arlington, Massachusetts.
King won’t say how well it’s doing, but she says her family is “good, we’re comfortable, we’re paying our bills.”
She also says that when it’s time for her daughter to look at high schools, she plans to take her to Minuteman.
“Who knows, she might be book smart and want to be a doctor and then I don’t know if Minuteman would be the right choice for her. Maybe she would need like a Harvard-type high school. But, says King, “I want her to know that it’s not one way or no way.”What you learn, what you earn
Average earnings of U.S. workforce by educationGraduate degree$76,000 Bachelor's degree$54,300 Associate's degree$42,088 Certificate$34,946 Some college, no degree$34,624 High school graduate$29,202 High school dropout$20,480 Source: Georgetown University
What do I love to do?
Ed Bouquillon, the superintendent of the school district where Minuteman is located, says when students graduate from Minuteman he wants them to be able to answer two questions: What do I do well? And what do I love to do?
“And we’ll connect the answers to occupations or college majors,” he says.
When he meets with parents, he asks them if they know the answers to those two questions.
“Some say ‘yeah,” he says. “And some say, ‘Boy, I wish someone had asked me that in high school.’”
Amazon shares dropped 95 cents at close Thursday and the company posted disappointing earnings with operating losses at $544 million. It has been a big quarter for Amazon, with new acquisitions, well-received original series, ugly publisher fights and a disastrous smartphone launch.
The Fire Phone loomed large over the earnings call, which by itself has cost Amazon $170 million. With that new perspective, Forbes just published a review of the cash-hemorrhaging, actually-not-bad device.
Here are some other numbers we're watching and other stories we're reading Friday:$5.5 million
Ello is jumping off of that new venture capital infusion and becoming a public benefit corporation, Wired reported. Critics have noted the social network's ad-free, data-benevolent ethos might not stand up to investor pressure or future revenue opportunities. But its new PBC status — a relatively new designation — and charter prohibits Ello or any future buyer from selling advertising or user data.64 percent
The portion of American adults who don't know that online price discrimination — steering different users toward different price points based on cookies and other data — is legal. A new study from Northwestern University shows this practice is widespread, used by major retailers and travel sites. Time has a guide for users trying to get the best price.95,000
That's how many temporary employees UPS will bring on this holiday season, up 10,000 from last year. Overall, holiday retail hiring is expected to surpass 800,000 employees this year, the highest it has been since 1999. Though those temp positions only turn into permanent jobs for a few.$200,000
A physician who traveled to West Africa to care for Ebola patients is now in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. More on precautions being taken in his care. Plus, some news out of Europe this morning: members of the European Union have agreed on new targets for emissions. Back here in the states, investors continue to pay attention to energy prices which are on the decline. More on that. And in Chicago this weekend, UPS will hold a recruiting event to hire temporary drivers. The company says it needs 95,000 seasonal workers to meet the demand from holiday shoppers and to avoid what happened last year.
A survey by National Student Clearinghouse tracks high school-to-college transition rates.Which factor is most strongly correlated with college enrollment?
In Chicago this weekend, job applicants will interview at a recruiting event to become temporary UPS drivers. It’s part of an effort by the shipping giant to hire as many as 95,000 seasonal workers across the country to help meet the demand from online Christmas shoppers.
UPS is working to avoid what happened last year, when a rush of last-minute online orders and bad weather led to a public relations nightmare: UPS was late in delivering some Christmas gifts.
To help with the surge of demand last year, UPS eventually hired some 85,000 workers during the holiday shopping season. But it had only hired 55,000 initially. This year, it is taking no chances by hiring more temp workers, and hiring them all earlier in the season.
"UPS will flex its air and ground network with more temporary processing capacity,” says UPS Spokesperson Susan Rosenberg. “And that is everything from added work shifts to sort packages, as well as mobile sorting and delivery centers that are pop-up in some fast-growth locations.”
Rosenberg says UPS began planning for this holiday season on December 26 last year, including “collaborating with the shippers for better volume forecasting.”
Last year, there was a burst of last-minute orders, which, combined with major snow storms, worked against UPS.
“A lot of the retailers were pushing the last date for delivery back as far as they could to compete with Amazon,” says Yory Wurmser, a retail analyst with eMarketer, an e-commerce consulting firm.
This year, retailers are adding another complexity by changing up how they ship in the first place.
"A lot of retailers are shifting their fulfillment models to shipping from stores. So there’s going to be a big increase in pick-up points,” says Wurmser.
That’s likely to put even more pressure on shippers like UPS this holiday season, as holiday shoppers increase their reliance on shipping. Online orders are forecast to increase 16.6 percent this holiday season, and are likely to see double-digit gains for several years to come, according to eMarketer.
The world’s biggest producer of gem-quality diamonds holds presidential elections Friday. The same party has ruled the country since its independence.
Diamonds have been good to Botswana, but not everyone has benefited equally.
Diamonds helped transform Botswana from a very poor country into an upper-middle income economy. Former U.S. Ambassador Michelle Gavin says Botswana avoided the dreaded ‘resource curse.’
That’s when countries with rich natural resources experience low economic development. Gavin says Botswana largely protected its revenue.
“It hasn’t gone into Swiss bank accounts; it’s not in some former president’s yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean,” she says. “In Botswana, you can see what happened to those revenues. You can see it in the roads you drive on, the schools and the clinics that you pass.”
“There’s tremendous inequality and there has been for years in Botswana,” says political science professor Amy Poteete of Concordia University. “It’s one of the more inequitable countries in the world.”
Poteete says the volatility of diamond prices has increased in recent years, which plays into the country’s lower growth rates.
Whoever wins this presidential election will face continued pressure to diversify the nation’s economy.
Recently, I was late for a meeting in downtown San Francisco. Worse yet, it was during the workday when it was impossible to find parking.
Now, this is a problem you’ve likely encountered if you live in a big city—That is, circling around looking for parking. Well, no surprise, the techies in Silicon Valley have an app for that. And so I pulled out my iPhone, clicked on a parking app called Luxe and told it where I was going.
When I got to my location, Kelda ran up to greet me. She was my Luxe valet.
“How long are you staying today?” she asked.
I told her about an hour. And then I asked Kelda how she knew what side of the street I was going to be on.
She took out her iPhone and said, “I have it right here on the app and so you can see where you’re coming from.”
Kelda took my car to a parking lot that had partnered with Luxe. For this service, I pay five-dollars-an-hour with a $15 dollar maximum. Not bad for valet parking in downtown San Francisco. And when I was ready to leave, I pulled out the app to get my car.
Curtis Lee, the CEO of Luxe Valet, says despite its name, the start-up isn’t just providing a luxury, it’s using technology to tackle real transportation problems.
“Thirty percent of traffic is people looking for parking,” he says. “And in parts of San Francisco, that amounts to 27 minutes on average” of people circling around.
With parking being a $30 billion industry in the United States alone, Lee points out there are a handful of start-ups in San Francisco that are trying to capture that market.
“I call it the 'instant gratification economy,'” says Liz Gannes, a reporter at Re-code. She says it started with services like iTunes, where with one click, Apple could zap a song to your computer. Now smartphones are bringing it into the real word.
“You push a button on your phone and get rides through Uber and Lyft,” she says.
She says this new iteration of the instant gratification economy has a few big challenges. First off, these parking-tech companies probably don’t make sense outside of densely populated cities
“And, you’re dealing with real world goods and services,” Gannes adds.
Unlike, say, a digital music file, you can’t just zap up a hundred parking spaces. Plus, you need real people in the real world to provide the service.
“One of the ways that different companies are doing that is that they’re working with people who are not full-time employees and are subcontractors,” Gannes says.
And that introduces real world labor issues. In other words, as the instant gratification economy tries to move offline, tech companies are losing their online advantage and facing many of the same problems brick-and-mortars do.
It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?
Data journalism may have just jumped the shark.
Boulder, Colorado is the winner, so to speak: 102 commodes per 100 people. That’s 305,200 total toilets, using more than 5.3 million gallons of water per day. Miami, Florida comes up last at 62 per 100, and the national average floats at 83.
Redfin says too few toilets in a home is often a deal breaker for many prospective buyers. After all, nobody likes standing outside the bathroom waiting for Dad to finish reading the newspaper.
Amazon isn't quite what you'd call a blue chip, yet. In its quarterly earnings release after markets closed, Thursday, the giant online retailer reported an uptick in sales. But losses were up, too, nearly half a billion dollars in the third quarter alone.
"You know that Wu Tang song, Cash Rules Everything Around Me?" asks Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson. "This has to be Jeff Bezos's mantra over the past several years... but he hasn't been making enough."
From Fire phones, tablets and TVs to losses in streaming video, Amazon seems to be overwhelmed with its multiple business under one roof.
"Selling retail, but also you should remember Amazon's cloud services," Johnson says, are some of the bright spots. Think: the company's $600 million cloud contract with the CIA.
Amazon has long been subject to criticism that it is too many things in one, and will eventually have to pare down. But that moment doesn't seem to be coming any time soon.
Bezos, Johnson said, seems to be looking toward a broad ecosystem, where Amazon is a part of nearly every aspect of our lives: from retail to gadgets, to entertainment, groceries and more.