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Why the Domino's Pizza mascot 'the Noid' vanished

Fri, 2015-01-02 12:05

In the late 1980s, the Noid was pizza's worst enemy. He made pies arrive cold, late or crushed, with cheese stuck to the top of the box – at least that's what Domino's ads would have you believe.

Domino's could "avoid the Noid," delivering hot, fresh pizzas in 30 minutes or less. The Noid ads were a huge success, spawning toys and even a video game. 

But it all came crashing down in 1989, when the Noid suffered what may be the worst PR disaster in history. Zachary Crockett has written about the Noid for Priceonomics, and he tells us the strange, sad story.

Six brand mascots potentially as strange and popular as the Noid

Mac Tonight

Mr. Six


The mascot for Hi-C's popular "Ecto Cooler" until 2001, 17 years after the release of "Ghostbusters."

Bob the Baby

Not to be confused with the E-Trade baby, who didn't get his own show on CBS.


These guys also inspired a short-lived TV series, starring a young Nick Kroll.

The King

This plastic-faced mascot was polarizing, but popular enough to appear in several video games.

College football's playoff payoff

Fri, 2015-01-02 11:01

$7.3 billion is the sum ESPN will pay for the 12-year broadcast rights for NCAA football's four major bowl games, plus the two semifinal bowls and the national championship game.

Since the playoffs draw championship interest to three games instead of just one, the moneymaking potential is huge, and many say it's only a matter of time before the bracket is expanded to eight teams or more.

"I do believe that this will be the first step in an expansion in what will likely be an eight-team playoff eventually," says Paul Swangard, director of the University of Oregon's Sports Marketing Center.

As the TV money keeps growing, program budgets and coaching salaries are increasingly on par with the pros. But the only ones who aren't seeing a payday are the players.

Uber has a rockin' New Year's Eve

Fri, 2015-01-02 11:00

In the run-up to New Year's Eve, there was a lot of speculation about whether Uber’s surge pricing would affect ridership. That means when demand goes up so does the cost of using the car-sharing service.

Uber reports that most of the trips subject to surge pricing happened between 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on what is technically New Year's Day.

More than 100,000 passengers were in an Uber at the stroke of midnight, and demand increased by 180 percent between 12:01 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., according to Uber.

New Yorkers took the most trips around 2 a.m. and Parisians took the most trips around 4 a.m., local time.


Something new from from something blue

Fri, 2015-01-02 10:57

Making something new from something old. Marlo Fox is a denim designer at the Gap, Jeff Garza is a veteran of the war in Iraq. And he collects of odds and ends.

Together, they've built a new business called Fox Hole, and a second life of sorts for very well-loved clothes.

It all started with Jeff's dad's old Levis.


Things that will cost you more this year

Fri, 2015-01-02 10:20

It's a new year and some of the daily items we buy will see a price increase. Mark LoCastro, a shopping expert from sheds light on why things will cost more this year. We are talking about items that we can't live without  like coffee, chocolate, and bacon. One of the main reasons for this increase is that demand has outstripped supply. Another issue is mother nature and drought. But it's not all doom and gloom, we will see items like gas prices on the decline. This is great news for consumers because they end up with more money in their pockets. Which could put momentum into retail sales and the stock market. Check out LoCastro's full list.

Your Wallet: Inheritance

Fri, 2015-01-02 08:26

We all have inherited something from our family and the people we surround ourselves with. Whether it's money, habits or mind sets.

We want to hear your story. What are some of the things that you've inherited over the years?

Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

PODCAST: Maybe don't hit the gym

Fri, 2015-01-02 03:00

First up, a look at the great foreign currency shift of 2015. Plus, the children of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have been criticized for overly protecting his speeches and writings but also commercializing them for profit. One result: you can watch the “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube, with a Doritos commercial. And January is the busiest month for health clubs to sign up new members, as people resolve once and for all to get fit in the new year. But many people don't go to the gym often enough to justify the expense. Economists have some theories about why that's the case.

'I Have a Dream,' served with tortilla chips

Fri, 2015-01-02 02:10

When the movie "Selma" comes out in wide release Jan. 9, the speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr. will not be historically accurate. The studio didn't have the rights to use King's actual words. The King Estate, which controls his intellectual property, is known for aggressively pursuing those who use his speeches without permission. But not always. When someone posted the entire "I Have a Dream" speech on YouTube, it stayed online, preceded by a Doritos ad.

Jennifer Jenkins, a copyright expert, says that's probably YouTube's Content ID system at work. Under that system, the holder of a copyright can block an unauthorized video, or collect the ad revenue from it.

Click the media player above to hear more.



"I Have a Dream," served with taco chips

Fri, 2015-01-02 02:10

When the movie "Selma" comes out in wide release Jan. 9, the speeches given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will not be historically accurate. The studio didn't have the rights to use King's actual words. The King Estate, which controls Dr. King's intellectual property, is known for aggressively pursuing those who use his speeches without permission. But not always. When someone posted the entire "I Have a Dream" speech on YouTube, it stayed online, preceded by a Doritos ad.

Jennifer Jenkins, a copyright expert, says that's probably YouTube's Content ID system at work. Under that system, the holder of a copyright can block an unauthorized video, or collect the ad revenue from it.

Click the media player above to hear more.



Pinterest opens a door to advertisers

Fri, 2015-01-02 02:00

2015 is the year that Pinterest users out there might notice more “promoted pins." The social media site has launched a way for more retailers to get their products pinned and shared.

But will users be happy when Pinterest takes a turn toward online mall?

Click the media player above to hear more.




Gym plans in the New Year? Economists think otherwise

Fri, 2015-01-02 02:00

January is the busiest month for health clubs to sign up new members, as people try to make good on their New Year’s resolutions. But few show up often enough to justify the expense. 

Economists have some theories about why that's the case. 

“The cost of getting out of bed, driving to the gym, and so forth, weighs more heavily than the long-term health benefits,” says Dan Acland, a behavioral economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Acland says when people consider whether to hit the gym, the payoff might seem too remote. Instead they focus on the immediate barriers, a tendency called “present bias.” (A yet fancier term, “quasi hyperbolic discounting,” describes the tendency through a mathematical model).

Acland says when folks plunk down money on new gym memberships to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions, they're often overly optimistic that the current barriers to working out will go away. 

“We say that they are naive with respect to their future self control problems,” Acland says. 

The result is that about half the people with health club memberships are no-shows, according to Justin Sydnor, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He says a lot of people think the money they spend on gym memberships will push them to exercise more. But Sydnor says the gym might be part of the problem. 

“Is the gym the easiest place, is it the place that you're not going to struggle as much on a daily basis to go to?” he asks. 

That’s a question that Jenel Farrell of St. Paul, Minn. has been facing as she considers a gym membership at her local YWCA. Farrell has cancelled a membership at a yoga center across town because she couldn’t drag herself there often enough to get her money’s worth. But she hopes to hit the Y more regularly and meet one of her recurring New Year’s goals. 

“It's always fitness,” she says. “And the other thing is chew my food slower.”


Silicon Tally: Hello, 911? My PlayStation doesn't work

Fri, 2015-01-02 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 science and technology reporter, Rose Eveleth.

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Illinois faces sudden drop in state tax

Fri, 2015-01-02 02:00

The new year brings profound budget challenges for the state of Illinois, which has the worst credit rating of any state in the U.S. and is dealing with the expiration of temporary tax increases.

Illlinois also has a divided government: a newly-elected Republican governor Bruce Rauner who campaigned against making the state's temporary income tax increase permanent, an unfunded pension liabilities of about $100 billion (or possibly more), and a solidly Democratic state legislature.

The state has a flat income tax. Everyone pays the same rate regardless of income. Lawmakers had hiked that rate in 2011 from 3.75 percent to 5 percent to deal with the effects of the recession, promising that the hike would be temporary and would expire in 2015. But they spent the money on the state's pension obligations instead of helping local municipalities deal with the recession, says Laurence Msall of the Chicago Civic Federation, a non-partisan budget watchdog group.

"There has been a willingness to ignore longterm financial repurcussions of short-term politically-attractive answers," says Msall, whose group earlier in 2014 had proposed fixing the state's budget woes by gradually reducing the income tax rate down to 4 percent while also consolidating various branches of state government to cut spending.

Msall's organization also proposed taxing retiree income, at least to some extent. Illinois is one of only three states — out of 41 that impose income taxes — that doesn't tax pension income, the Chicago Civic Federation said in a report.

Instead, before Rauner's election, Illinois' Democratic Governor Pat Quinn proposed making the temporary tax hike permanent — a plan Msall says would not have solved all of the state's fiscal woes anyway.

Rauner ran a successful campaign that criticized Quinn's proposal. And now, the Democratic-controlled legislature is waiting on the new governor to propose how to close the budget gap while accounting for about $2 billion in tax revenues that will disappear in the current fiscal year, and another $4 billion revenue reduction in the fiscal year starting in June 2015.

"There is no plan right now," says Msall. "The budget that they've passed is going to run up the unpaid bills ... The state is borrowing from its own resources and it's relying on accounting gimmicks"

Richard Kaplan, an expert in tax law at the University of Illinois, says there are other revenue sources the state could draw upon outside of the state income tax.

"There are a variety of these excise taxes on gasoline, telephone service, alcohol and tobacco products," says Kaplan, who adds that the state could also expand its sales tax to apply not only to goods purchased but also services such as hair cuts, medical care and others.

If such taxes are enacted, it could mean Illinois tax payers who see additional money in their paychecks now, may soon end up paying higher prices for daily expenses in the near future.

As funding drops, scientists turn to the crowd

Thu, 2015-01-01 11:54

Susan Nagel from the University of Missouri studies the health impacts of chemicals used in fracking. Last year, Nagel found remnants of fracking chemicals in Colorado streams near locations of previous fracking spills.

“This was an initial study, and we found this kind of strong association,” Nagel says. But she wanted to go farther and confirm her results with more testing.

Her grant application with the National Institutes of Health, however, sat in limbo for months, so she turned to crowdfunding. Nagel set up a project page on the site

“We spent a lot of time on the actual site, developing a video, developing the content to be short but explicit, to be understandable to a broad audience,” Nagel says.

It worked.

Nagel raised $25,000 for a follow-up study. Research like hers is the latest destination for online donors looking to back projects they like. Brian Meece of the crowdfunder RocketHub says science that strikes an emotional chord does better on his site. “Research for animals, research for the environment ... things that are curious, things that are quirky, things that are fun” all do well, Meece says.

It helps if your page has captivating pictures of sharks or jaguars on it, or if the research is about a topic donors care about. With federal funding for science flat or falling behind inflation in recent years, more scientists are trying out crowdfunding.

The crowd has launched hundreds of small-scale science projects, but there are potential problems. When the federal government decides whether to fund a grant, panels of experts peer-review each application. The National Science Foundation’s Kevin Crowston says it’s not like that when the crowd is the judge.

“You really need an expert to be able to look at that and say 'well, this really is new and interesting' or 'in fact, this is like something that’s already been done,'” Crowston says.

Jai Ranganathan, a co-founder of the crowdfunding web site, says his site vets projects to ensure the people behind them aren't, well, totally crazy. “Basically we’re trying to screen out cranks – that you’re not writing in crayon,” Ranganathan says.

Crowdfunding can fill in some gaps in federal funding, Ranganathan says. But in the end, it’s no match for the biggest crowd of all – taxpayers.

Ringing in the new year with a pay raise

Thu, 2015-01-01 11:07

For millions of workers around the country, the new year will mean a bigger paycheck. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia are raising their minimum wages in 2015.

In Florida, the increase is modest at just 12 cents an hour. In South Dakota, workers will earn an additional $1.25 per hour. What will that mean for the economy?

“I really don’t think it’s going to make a difference,” says Kedra Jackson, who works part-time at a McDonald’s in Baltimore, where minimum-wage workers will see a 75 cent raise. “A lot of employers are going to cut hours.”

But economists like Elise Gould say far more workers will benefit than lose out. “Families at the bottom really need to spend their money,” she says. “When they spend their money, it increases demand for goods and services, and that really stimulates the economy.”

Champagne wishes and hangover-cure dreams

Thu, 2015-01-01 11:01

Hangovers have existed as long as overconsumption of alcohol (that is to say, as long as alcohol has existed). But even though a new magical concoction, technique or pill comes along every few years to offer a cure, the task may be futile.



Anou, the accessible Etsy of Morocco

Thu, 2015-01-01 11:00

Etsy is great for the small-time crafts-person to reach new audiences. But there one problem: If you're among the millions of artisans around the world with limited reading and writing ability, it won't help much.

Anou, a new website launched in Morocco, helps rural artisans cut out middlemen. And you don't have to read or write to use it. 

Morocco is famous for its artisan crafts, like rugs, lamps, jewelry and mosaics.

A few years ago, Anou founder Dan Driscoll and some colleagues were working as Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco and noticed that many artisans were living in poverty. Some make only around $100 a month. The Anou site addresses the technological hurdle of posting to the web — but that's just the first step in a much bigger process of becoming actual business owners.

Inside the CIA's crystal ball for 2015

Thu, 2015-01-01 11:00

In 2000, the Central Intelligence Agency released a 70-page report predicting what the world would be like in 2015.

A few of the predictions:

  • The world population will grow by more than 1 billion, to 7.2 billion.

That's right on the nose.

  • Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the U.S. as a shaper of the global economic system.

Man, was that prescient as the Euro Zone faces slow growth, and another recession.

  • Populations in many African countries will fall because of aids, famine and continuing economy and political turmoil.

They didn't get everything right. The continent's population has grown by about 300 million.

You can find a more complete list of the predictions on Business Insider's website.

Semi-rosy outlook for housing market

Thu, 2015-01-01 09:50

Real-estate analysts predict 2015 will be better for the housing market than 2014. How much better?

A 10 percent increase in home sales would be a "realistic expectation," according to Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. "Frankly, if we just continued what we saw in the second half of 2014, we’d be up 10 percent." But, that's only if interest rates don’t shoot up too much, and unemployment continues to decline. 

How about prices? What’ll happen to them in 2015?

“We are predicting that the price of the average existing single family home will come in around 2.8 percent year-on-year for 2015, ” says Stephanie Karol, a U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight. In other words, prices will increase around 2.8 percent this year, compared to more than 3 percent in 2014.

So, it’s all sweetness and light for the housing market in the coming year?

Not quite. A housing Grinch looms in the background. “Just put a green face on me,” says Anthony Sanders teaches real estate finance at George Mason University.  He says a big shadow is looming over the 2015 housing market: wage growth. Wages have only increased by around 2 percent, but Sanders says we need 5 or 6 percent wage growth for people to have enough money to buy a house.

The jobs being created in this economic recovery don’t pay enough to support buying a home, he says. “Mostly service industry.... You know, wait staff. And those are not people that are traditional homeowners.”

Until wages pick up, Sanders says, we’ll have to rely on foreign investors who still see U.S. housing as a bargain. 

McDonald's makes a move toward not-so-fast food

Thu, 2015-01-01 08:44

McDonald's has hit hard times. Its earnings report in 2014 was the lowest in over a decade.

But the company announced a big change that may help spur sales: It's rolling out custom burgers across the country. 

The move towards customization is part of a growing trend in the food industry. Sales for fast food, or quick-service restaurants as they're officially known, have been flat, but fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera have seen surging growth.

So McDonald's is trying a few new tricks. Last week, the company opened a test kitchen restaurant in Sydney, Australia, called The Corner with fancier fare than the usual burgers and fries. And more upscale options could soon follow stateside.