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Updated: 33 min 54 sec ago

People aren't walking into banks anymore

Fri, 2015-03-27 15:40

If you see a vacant building for lease in the neighborhood, chances are there was a bank there at one point. We’re seeing it at financial institutions big and small — from Citigroup, now operating in fewer cities, to FirstMerit, which is closing 16 branches in four states. 

Between direct deposits and ATM’s, walking into a bank isn’t something a lot of people do anymore. Loans are now more by-the-numbers.

Charles Kahn, who teaches finance at the University of Illinois, says it makes sense that banks are closing branches to cut costs — specifically real estate and personnel. Also, Kahn says banks have a lot more competition, from credit card companies and brokerage firms, for instance.

What’s lost with a branch closing? A lot of hand-holding for people who find banking confusing, says Paul Noring, managing director in the Financial Risk Management practice at Navigant, a consulting firm. Noring says, a branch is like an ad. 

"Branches are the best way that banks can still reflect their brand with their customers," Noring says. 

Still, for most customers, says Ross Levine professor of banking and finance at the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, it’ll just be an inconvenience. 

Women lag in well-paid blue-collar jobs

Fri, 2015-03-27 12:14

With the job market getting tighter, employers are starting to report shortages of skilled workers, especially in manufacturing and the construction trades—for jobs like welder, electrician, carpenter and machinist. The Manufacturing Institute, part of the National Association of Manufacturers, predicts there will be 2 million unfilled jobs at American companies by 2025 due to the so-called ‘skills gap.’  The American Welding Society estimates that the building and manufacturing industries will need 290,000 additional welders, welding instructors and the like by 2020.

Employer groups, labor unions, women’s advocacy groups and government policymakers all see women as part of a potential solution to the coming blue-collar labor shortage. But so far, progress to recruit more women to training programs and jobs in the construction trades has been slow.

“We’ve seen the desegregation of many occupations—bus driver, mail carrier, firefighter, police officer,” says Lauren Sugerman, director of the National Center for Women’s Employment Equity, a research and advocacy program of the Washington, D.C.-based group Wider Opportunities for Women. “But we have not seen the same movement of women into the construction trades.”

Sugerman says that is a significant failure because such occupational segregation leaves women out of lucrative jobs that require skill and training, but not necessarily an expensive four-year college degree. Construction jobs — often through unions — also frequently come with health coverage and a pension. She says the difference between traditionally male-dominated blue-collar jobs and traditionally female-dominated "pink-collar jobs" can lead to “between a $900,000 and $2 million gap in earnings over a lifetime.”

WOW has compared the top occupations (by participation) of men and women and found big gaps in pay (see chart). The top three occupations for women include secretary ($665 median weekly wages), registered nurse ($1,086) and cashier ($368). For men, they are truck driver ($736 median weekly wages), manager ($1,409) and first-line supervisor of retail workers ($792).

And, says Sugerman, women are poorly represented in jobs such as roofer, carpenter, electrician, ironworker. All of those jobs can pay $40/hour or more once a worker reaches journeyman status. “Women are now 2.6 percent of the construction workforce,” says Sugerman, “so there’s been very little progress.”

Making progress on that gender gap starts in a smattering of nonprofit pre-apprenticeship and skills-training programs around the country. They’re supported by unions, employers, and community colleges, and teach women basic tool-use, applied math, worksite job safety.

Holly Huntley owns environs, a small construction firm in Portland, Oregon, and regularly brings women onto the job site to train them through a pre-apprenticeship she teaches in that is run by the nonprofit group Oregon Tradeswomen. Huntley has hired two graduates from the program. Once they reach journeyman status they’ll make $26/hour.

Huntley says she’s glad to be able to offer a woman-run construction workplace.

“I know a lot of women in the trades that experience harassment on a daily basis,” she says. “I think it’s history, it’s a male-dominated culture with the catcalls and racial slurs and gender-based slurs and jokes. And I can’t have that, I have a really low tolerance for that.”

Journeyman carpenter Dan Ewing is the lone man on Huntley’s crew. “When I mention that everybody else in the company is a woman, people tend to raise their eyebrows,” says Ewing. “But it’s really nice. Men are fine, but we tend to be pretty crass. Everyone here is just more civilized.”

Where there are pre-apprenticeship programs, like in Oregon, the number of women making it to construction apprentice and journeyman is rising. Unions and employers often support the programs—to boost women’s participation and counter discrimination, and also to deal with a growing shortage of skilled workers.

That support has made a big difference for Heather Mayther. She’s 32. Last year she did a free training program with Oregon Tradeswomen, went on to another training program and is now an apprentice in the local carpenter’s union.

Mayther has three-year-old triplets and she has been earning $19.69 an hour, plus getting family health insurance. “Gender-wise, I didn’t really notice any discrimination or anything like that,” says Mayther of the construction sites she’s worked on so far. “The crew was great, they were more than willing to show me what I needed to know.”

She says she has been catcalled, and propositioned for dates. She says her supervisor has her back when she complains. “I’m not here for a husband, I’m here to work. I’m here to work my butt off, and to take home a paycheck that I can live on.”

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney on pushing boundaries and his biggest weakness

Fri, 2015-03-27 11:56

Updated March 27, 2015. This story originally aired Jan. 20, 2104.
  Clothing company American Apparel is known for making their products in the U.S. and for paying their employees more than minimum wage. It's also known for eccentric CEO Dov Charney:       On pushing boundaries  “It’s important that every generation, there are going to be certain people that push boundaries. And those are my people."   On using sex to sell clothes
“Sex is inextricably linked to fashion and apparel. And it has been and always will be. And our clothing is connected to our sexual expression so of course, advertising related to clothing, there’s going to be a sexual connection forever, whether it’s Calvin Klein, American Apparel, or brands we haven’t even contemplated."   Kai Ryssdal: Do you ever look at one of your billboards and go: Whoa, alright wait, we went too far?
Dov Charney: Absolutely.
KR: And then what do you do?
DC: We put up another one.   On the importance of Made-in-USA
“I don’t think it’s very important to the customer and I’m glad that it’s not.” He clarifies that the "made in LA" aspect of the brand “brings flavor and it should also call attention to the fact that we make the merchandise ourselves which is very important.”   On his biggest weakness
“My biggest weakness is me. I mean, lock me up already! It’s obvious! Put me in a cage, I’ll be fine. I’m my own worst enemy. But what can you do—I was born strange.”      

 

Inside American Apparel's factory         Charney opened his first retail store in 2004, in Los Angeles. The bulk of American Apparel manufacturing happens in an immense warehouse in the city's downtown district. Employees from all departments work together out of the bright pink building. "We have sellers,  marketers, photographers, computer programmers, IT experts, production, product design, scheduling, forecasting, retail development, everybody is connected to this building," Charney says.   The last few years have been financially difficult for the company. "Right now, we’re retrenching a little bit because it’s unclear what the future of bricks and mortar retail is," says Charney. He has plans to build up the company's presence online and to expand the business in the future.   Charney's no stranger to personal difficulties as well. He's faced several sexual harassment lawsuits from past employees, most of which have been dropped. He's also faced criticism for the sexual images American Apparel uses on billboards that promote the brand.

Your Wallet: Recycling

Fri, 2015-03-27 10:15

Next week, we're talking about Recycling. How does reuse factor into your financial life?

Maybe you're in the market for a used car, or passed along your old baby clothes to a friend...

Tell us your story of economic recycling. Write to us, or tweet us -- we're at @MarketplaceWKND.

Transforming your wait in line from torture to fun

Fri, 2015-03-27 09:31

Have you ever had such a bad experience somewhere — a store, a hotel, a restaurant, an airport — that you vowed never to return? 

That's the question Dick Larson, a MIT engineering professor known as "Dr. Queue", asks his students. Larson, an expert in the field of lines, says that in a class full of college students, more than half of the hands go up. In fact, it was his own horrible experience in line at a big box store that first interested Larson in lines. Now, he studies the ways to optimize structures for an overall improved experience.

People have been studying lines since at least 1955, when an experiment in New York attempted to solve an issue with complaints about elevator delays. Larson says a business analyst at Wharton suggested that floor to ceiling mirrors be installed next to an elevator to stop complaints about delayed wait times. The elevator wait times stayed the same, but with people occupied by their own reflections, complaints dropped to near zero.

Coincidentally, 1955 also marked the opening of Disneyland, which soon mastered the art of the line to become, as Larson says, "The best scientist and engineers of line management in the world."

Disney's Imagineers — a team of scientists, engineers and operations managers — design lines along side attractions at Disney parks. The story begins with the wait to ride, and the Imagineers calculate and optimize the experience based on the payoff.

"They design all kinds of distractions within the line ... so that you feel like the amusement has actually started before you get on your two-minute ride up Space Mountain," Larson says.

If you've waited in line at a theme park (especially if you've waited alongside a child), twisting and turning through rooms and meticulously decorated outdoor spaces, to the tune of a favorite theme song and with video updates on monitors overhead, you've experienced firsthand some of these careful scientific calculations at work.

It's one thing to wait for the anticipated joy at the end of a theme park line, but lines aren't all so happy, and many of us are in them every day. In traffic, on hold with the cable company, waiting for checkout at the grocery store. It can be exasperating. Larson says that a lot of this is about managing expectations and weighing value.

"If somebody is shopping for the family for the week, and you have $200 worth of groceries, you expect to wait in that line for awhile, because there might be another one or two carts ahead of you like that," he says. "But if you go back the next day because you forgot a half a dozen eggs and a quart of milk, you expect to go in and out fast in the express checkout lane. It's all a matter of expectations."

If you're shopping for a value, you may be more willing to brave a long line. Larson says big box customers are happier to wait, because they think they're getting a deal, compared to if someone visits a high-end jewelry store, they may expect fast, personal service and no wait times. 

So can the theme-park models be applied to the outside world to make line experiences better elsewhere? Larson says other businesses can take some of the same ideas: distracting, amusing and teaching customers to keep their minds and eyes off their clocks.

And technologically, lines are changing everywhere. There are more options for self-service — at the gas station, the drug store or the bank — and more ways to preempt wait times by scheduling appointments, call back times, or "fast pass" style service: like at Disneyland, or in an airline's mileage club, or in a toll lane, where you can pre-book or pay more so you can wait around less.

Lines may be improving, but Larson says when it comes to wait time, there's still more work to do. 

"This is something that retailers and service providers don't understand," he says. "If they don't pay a lot of attention to their customers' line experiences, they may lose a customer for life."

Should you procrastinate on purpose?

Fri, 2015-03-27 09:19

"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today." -Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield 

You may have heard some version of this quote — in school, at work, from your parents or your boss —and you may even have said this to yourself or someone else as a piece of advice. 

But Rory Vaden might disagree. He's the author of "Procrastinate on Purpose", which aims to distinguish procrastination from priority dilution. According to Vaden, the former is a lost art; the latter is a means to mediocrity. 

In the modern workplace, overwhelmed by sheer volume of tasks and an increasingly prevalent over-achiever mentality, people take on as much as the possibly can, something that Vaden argues often leaves the most important things left undone in favor of daily minutia. 

In his book, he suggests that giving yourself permission to procrastinate is about reorganization and patience, by putting tasks through a funnel which allows for elimination, automation, delegation and delay of tasks before committing one's focus. According to Vaden, offloading smaller responsibilities multiplies time for the next day.

To hear the full interview and learn more about how to procrastinate on purpose, listen using the player above.

A push for transparency in healthcare pricing

Fri, 2015-03-27 09:10

Usually when we shop, finding the price is the easy part. Cars, airplane tickets, burgers and beer, it’s all right there. 

But when it comes to health care, an industry we spend $3 trillion dollars a year on, prices often remain a mystery.

Some say that’s no coincidence, and that genuine cost transparency would make some of the waste and price variations vanish. It's not easy breaking open a black box that, intentionally or not, richly rewards doctors, hospitals and insurers.

Barbara Barnes has peered inside that box in a way few of us ever do. She audits hospital medical records for a living, about 20 charts a day, five days a week.

That trained-eye experience has hardened her, so when she plans her own medical care she knows the healthcare system helps her physical health — but when it comes to her financial health, she’s on her own.

“I look at some of this and I think to myself, 'Are you, as a physician, making the best decisions for the patients? Or, are you making the best decisions for you, and your hospital and your business?”

It’s an uncomfortable conclusion to draw about a business that many still see as compassionate, even loving, but in an era where many of us have to shell out thousands of dollars before insurance kicks, there’s nothing kind about concealing prices.

“How did we get to this place where you ask what something costs and no one can tell you and we accept that as normal," asks Jeanne Pinder, who launched Clearhealthcost.com, a guide to health care prices.

She’s hoping to stop people like Barnes from getting walloped by big — sometimes financially devastating — bills that are essentially secrets until after the fact.

In her work, Pinder has found example after example of jaw-dropping price discrepancies.

“People [in San Francisco] were being asked to pay anywhere from $20 to $988 for a simple X-ray,” she says.

Pinder relies on a mix of big data, shoe-leather journalism and crowd-sourcing for price information.

To maximize her reach, she’s partnered with four large public radio stations, including WNYC in New York, WHYY in Philadelphia, KPCC in Los Angeles and KQED in San Francisco. (Disclaimer: KPCC, like Marketplace, is part of American Public Media.) 

Pinder is looking at the provider side of the ledger too. MedPage Today, which reaches some 670,000 physicians, has also agreed to work with Pinder.

That said, even with access to about 2.5 million consumers and doctors to help crowd source, Pinder says it’s beyond her scope to list every price for every procedure performed by every doctor out there.

“We don’t pretend to be exhaustive or comprehensive, it’s a sampling so that you can have an idea how big the price range is to orient yourself in the marketplace,” she says.

The effort is really just a start: Through the help of some outrageous stories, it aims to pressure doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to do more than what they do today, but there is some cause for guarded optimism. The professional group Healthcare Financial Management Association has launched a campaign for greater price transparency. The group says most hospitals do something on transparency, from the simple to the sophisticated. In Seattle, Virginia Mason Health System has built a tool that it says estimates out-of-pocket expenses based on someone’s actual insurance plan.

It's good business, says Vice President of Finance Steve Schaefer. “In every retail experience, every consumer weighs two variables: personal cost and quality. And they will make purchasing decisions based on those two variables,” he says.

That thinking about consumer behavior is a dawning realization for many in healthcare. That may be the most powerful benefit that comes from all the attention transparency is getting; by talking about prices, we begin a conversation about value. And if you think talking about prices was hard…

Dov Charney seeks $40 million in lawsuit

Fri, 2015-03-27 09:01

Earlier this week, the now former CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney, decided to move forward with a $40 million wrongful termination lawsuit.

Charney, you might remember, was fired after much strurm und drang and questionable conduct, I think you could say — much of it sexual in nature.

The interview I did with Charney was from almost a year ago ... you gotta hear it to believe it. Really.

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney on pushing boundaries and his biggest weakness

 

 

 

Commercial drones have tailwind overseas

Fri, 2015-03-27 08:54

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, put up a post yesterday confirming that his company has been testing drones over in the United Kingdom.

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As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we've designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, March 26, 2015

The basic idea is to beam internet service down from drones that will eventually have a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737. Amazon, meanwhile, is also looking to the U.K. to develop its drone delivery service.

In the U.S., the FAA has proposed rules that would allow some commercial drone use, such as only flying during the day and at certain heights. The agency says it needs to balance safety and privacy with the economic potential these drones might represent.

While waiting for the rules to be finalized and implemented, permission to use unmanned aircraft commercially has to be given on a case by case basis. That’s largely grounded the real estate agents, photographers, farmers, and other professionals who might want to use drones at work, says Jon Resnik with DJI, a company that makes drones for personal and commercial use.

U.S. regulations are lagging behind European countries, Australia, and Canada, says Brendan Schulman, head of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice at the law firm Kramer Levin. But the FAA’s proposal is a good start, says Brian Wynne, the president of Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Still, he says the sooner drones can get off the ground, the sooner the industry can start contributing to the economy.  

Quiz: Masters of the classroom

Fri, 2015-03-27 08:48

Most public elementary school teachers have some kind of post-secondary degree, according to the Department of Education.

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Fun Fact Friday: A driverless battle

Fri, 2015-03-27 08:47

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks to Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post and Felix Salmon of Fusion to discuss the week that was.

Here's what else we learned at Marketplace this week:

Fun Fact: Freight railways spent $26 billion in private money to maintain Amtrak tracks last year.

The battle over rail space between Amtrak passenger trains and freight trains carrying the products we consume continues. While federal law mandates that passenger trains get priority on the rails, it's freight railways that are contributing heavily toward keeping the tracks intact.

The fight over America's rails

Fact: 90 percent of car crashes in the United States are due to driver error.

Good news, though! That number is expected to plummet by half as driverless cars go from science fiction to fact. As a consequence, the insurance industry will also have to reassess its business model.

If cars don't need drivers, do drivers need insurance?

Fun Fact: Dayton, Ohio, had the most patents per capita of any American city by the early 20th century.

This week, in our series collaboration with the BBC, Six Routes to a Richer World, we visited Dayton, Ohio. A place where start-ups flourished, making brilliant engineers and scrappy entrepreneurs fabulously wealthy. Sound familiar? Check out our short list of inventions that came from this area:

Finding the beta version of Silicon Valley

Fun Fact: Writing something damning about high-frequency trading will anger the richest people on Wall Street.

Michael Lewis sat down with Kai Ryssdal this week to talk about a new afterword for his book 'Flash Boys.' He discloses the negative reaction he received from "all the people who were making lots of money off the problems" he uncovers and leaves us with a sobering prediction:  "If the market continues to be structured as it is, you're looking at the next financial crisis."

America's next financial crisis?  

Fun Fact Friday: A driverless battle

Fri, 2015-03-27 08:47

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks to Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post and Felix Salmon of Fusion to discuss the week that was.

Here's what else we learned at Marketplace this week:

Fun Fact: Freight railways spent $26 billion in private money to maintain Amtrak tracks last year.

The battle over rail space between Amtrak passenger trains and freight trains carrying the products we consume continues. While federal law mandates that passenger trains get priority on the rails, it's freight railways that are contributing heavily toward keeping the tracks intact.

The fight over America's rails

Fact: 90 percent of car crashes in the United States are due to driver error.

Good news, though! That percentage is expected to plummet by half as driverless cars go from science fiction to fact. As a consequence, the insurance industry will also have to reassess their business model as we near closer to this futuristic reality.

If cars don't need drivers, do drivers need insurance?

Fun Fact: Dayton, Ohio, had the most patents per capita of any American city by the early 20th century.

This week, in our series collaboration with the BBC, Six Routes to a Richer World, we visited Dayton, Ohio. A place where start-ups flourished, making brilliant engineers and scrappy entrepreneurs fabulously wealthy. Sound familiar? Check out our short list of inventions that came from this area:

Finding the beta version of Silicon Valley

Fun Fact: Writing something damning about high-frequency trading will anger the richest people on Wall Street.

Michael Lewis sat down with Kai Ryssdal this week to talk about a new afterword for his book 'Flash boys.' He discloses the negative reaction he received from "all the people who were making lots of money off the problems" he uncovers and leaves us with a shocking reality. "If the market continues to be structured as it is, you're looking at the next financial crisis."

America's next financial crisis?  

PODCAST: Are you going to eat that?

Fri, 2015-03-27 03:00

The loved ones of people lost on that Germanwings flight in France this week, along with every thing else, will be confronted with issues of financial liability. With authorities pointing to a deliberate act by a member of the crew, the company's liability could rise. More on that. Plus, the European Union is looking at whether e-commerce sites across its 28 countries are putting up illegal barriers to cross border purchases.  The investigation, which will last more than a year - will look at online retailers including the big ones... like Amazon, which accounts for a large chunk of Europe's online commerce. And there's a fancy New York restaurant where you can pay...to eat garbage. Really good tasting garbage. The menu consists of items made either entirely or in part from food waste, an effort to interrupt the supply chain, find value and make a point about what we throw away.

New York chef turns food scraps into fine cuisine

Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

Americans love a good food trend, whether it’s boneless wings, or eating like a locavore. In New York, one establishment is breaking new ground with a menu that consists only of dishes made from food waste.

Dumpster dive vegetable salad. Fried skate wing cartilage. Meatloaf made from beef usually fed to dogs. These are among the specialties at wastED, a popup in the space that’s usually occupied by Blue Hill, a farm-to-table restaurant where President Obama and the first lady once ate.

Like a lot of food-conscious people, Blue Hill’s chef, Dan Barber, is appalled by waste. Not just the meals people leave on the plate, but the food that never even makes it into the kitchen.

For example: the leftover pulp from cold-pressed juice. Barber figured out how to turn it into veggie burgers. And he says the guy who runs the juice factory is delighted.

“I mean, he said, ‘I’ve thought about this a lot and I hate that we’re trucking this to other states to dump or to compost, it makes no sense,’” Barber says. “But is it his fault? I don’t think so.”

Barber believes it’s the chef’s job to find a use for everything, so the supply chain sends less food into the trash.

In his kitchen, Dan Barber picks up what appears to be a thumb-sized piece of plywood.

“After you press the pistachio for the pistachio oil, this is what’s left. But here we made it into a cookie,” Barber says.

Dipped in chocolate, it is actually pretty good.

A peek inside the kitchen trash can reveals a tangle of latex gloves and plastic wrap. Nevertheless, Dan Barber reaches in, and pulls out some useable vegetable matter.

“See that’s a no-no,” Barber says. “I’m glad you caught me. These are beautiful ends of shallots. We should probably do a dish with this.”

WastED runs through the end of the month. All plates cost $15, and reservations are recommended.

 

 

 

 

The ins and outs of 'zero-based budgeting'

Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

It looks like Kraft will be put on a strict diet after its merger with Heinz.

That diet could come in the form of zero-based budgeting which the parent company behind the deal – 3G Capital Partners – uses as part of it's cost-cutting playbook.

It involves  managers justifying spending plans from scratch every year, and not just carrying over the last year’s budget.

“Every department within a large organization would have to justify their existence,” says Shane Dikolli, a professor of management accounting in the MBA program at Duke University.

He says when 3G Capital Partners took over Heinz, it saved money by getting rid of corporate jets, and even limited use of company printers.  

But there are drawbacks. Zero-based budgeting is time consuming, and can hurt morale. That's why many companies just do it every few years.

But it is catching on, and not just in corporate suites. The Iowa governor’s budget office uses snippets of zero-based budgeting to examine government programs. And Iowa lawmakers are considering legislation to bring the state even closer to a zero-based budgeting system. 

 

 

 

 

European Union investigates e-commerce

Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

The European Union plans to investigate whether there is anti-competitive behavior among e-commerce sites across the 28-nation bloc.

The investigation, which will last more than a year, will examine a number of online retailers and websites, including giants like Amazon, which accounts for a large chunk of Europe's e-commerce.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission antitrust chief, says she wants to investigate why cross-border purchases make up only 15 percent of the EU's online sales.

Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesperson with the European Commission, says the investigation is aimed at a broader goal. "There is an overarching ambition of the commission to make sure that we have a single market in online in general," says Cardoso.

Silicon Tally: Facebook Drones

Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Ben Richmond, contributing editor to Vice’s Motherboard.

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Soylent aims for maximum nutrition with minimum effort

Fri, 2015-03-27 02:00

It might seem surprising (or not, depending on your personal taste) that a life lived on instant ramen could lead to a breakthrough in nutrition. But that's exactly what led Robert Rhinehart to want a food product that provided all of the nutrients of a full meal while maintaining the simplicity of something like an instant noodle. So he created Soylent, which is touted as the biggest pivot in YC (Y-Combinator) history.

With roughly the consistency of a milkshake, Soylent is described on the company's website as providing "maximum nutrition with minimum effort."

Click the media player above to hear Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio try Soylent for himself.

$85 will buy you a week's worth of the product (28+ meals, according to the site). For $300, you get 112+ meals, which the company says is enough for 4 weeks of sustenance. 

The Washington Post sat down with a nutritionist to breakdown of some of the benefits and drawbacks of the product. While both the absence of added sugar and preservatives, as well as the elimination of waste were acknowledged as benefits, the article also points to the cultural necessity of food preparation and community. The need for dietary fiber and variety in diet are also cited as concerns.

For his part, Rhinehart says that he was drawn to how a product like Soylent could eliminate some of the complexities of meal preparation from his daily life. And, he points out, traditional meals will be there when you want them. 

 

Two apps, both alike in functionality

Fri, 2015-03-27 01:58
$100

That's what Twitter paid to acquire the live-streaming app Periscope earlier in the year. The app launched Thursday, riding a new wave of smartphone live-streaming. Kai Ryssdal talked with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson about the streaming resurgence, its commerce and drawbacks.

$300

That's how much you'll spend on 4 weeks worth of Soylent, a milkshake-like product that claims to provide the nutrients of a full meal with minimal effort. Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio got to try some of the stuff, and said the flavor was unremarkable. Robert Rhinehart, the creator of the product, said that's the point. Rhinehart's goal was to create a product that removed some of the complexities of meal preparation from his daily life.

5 percent

The average mall vacancy rate in American malls at the end of last year. That comes from a report often cited to show malls are dying, including in this blog. CityLab puts the stats in context, arguing that the death of the American mall has been greatly exaggerated.

$48

The approximate cost of a "notel," a portable media player that is gaining popularity in North Korea, Reuters reports. It's a combination TV/radio/DVD player with USB and SD ports, and it can be charged from a car battery. It's essentially the perfect device for North Koreans looking to get around censorship laws; some will reportedly watch banned media via USB with a state-approved DVD in the player to camouflage their use. Notels are pouring into the country from China via the black market, so many that the government recently started selling its own modified versions.

2 agents

That’s how many agents the FBI has that are authorized to fly its fleet of drones. This was just one of the frailities revealed in a report released earlier this week on the FBI's drone program. But you already knew that, didn't you? So why not head over to Silicon Tally, our weekly quiz on the week in tech, and prove your news savvy.

Cord cutter, or committed to cable? How you watch what you watch

Thu, 2015-03-26 15:43

When Marketplace conducted a poll about your entertainment consumption habits, we learned that while some of you are still paying for deluxe cable packages, many others have found creative solutions to cut down costs — some to as low as $7 a month (by getting internet services for free). 

Here are how Marketplace listeners are getting their entertainment, how much it’s costing them, and why some of them decided to cut the cord on cable:

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