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Those big summer sequels may stop, one day

Thu, 2014-05-29 12:28

Wesley Morris has a question: Why does “big summer blockbuster” always mean “big summer sequel?”

“There’s another 'Transformers' movie,” says Morris,  film critic at Grantland.  “Everything is ‘another.’ It is either a sequel or part of a franchise, which is technically a sequel.”

Morris says that gargantuan franchises like Spiderman and Transformers have been safe bets for film studios in recent years. But this summer might see that trend changing.

“I think people are going to be ready for something new. And something original. The [negative] response to "Amazing Spider Man 2" has been really heartening, at least for me. It’s interesting to see moviegoers get a point where they are getting fed up with the idea of being expected to go see something because it’s starring a superhero, or based on a comic book."

Venture capitalists learn to love education

Thu, 2014-05-29 11:48

Education isn’t what you’d typically think of as sexy. It’s practical. It’s serious.

But add a little tech and vavoom! Venture capitalists are very, very into it.

Michael Moe is CEO of GSV Capital, which has invested $100 million in education technology companies like Coursera and 2U. He said there’s a lot to like about education these days. 

Education as a whole is a big market—$2 trillion in the U.S. and $4.5 trillion globally—said Moe. “And it’s characterized by very few large players.”

Today, technology grabs only a slice of that spending. Moe estimates the e-learning market is around $80 million and growing.

There are big names angling for dominance, like Pearson, Google and News Corp. But Moe said that leaves plenty of room for small companies to hit big and grow fast. “I think the forces at work could compress that time from idea to mega-business into a much shorter period,” he said.

One of the companies trying to make the jump to mega-business is Remind101.

Basically, Remind101 gives teachers the ability to mass text kids and parents, things like homework assignments, test reminders, notes of encouragement. Like these:

Crepe Day is in danger of being cancelled! Be sure your behavior is not the reason! via @remind101

— Krista Applegate (@MmeApplegate) May 28, 2014

 

Candide: banquet information on choir room board. Payment due Thursday if you plan to attend. via @remind101

— David Carter (@cugeoffrey) May 29, 2014

Company CEO Brett Kopf says the idea originated back in fifth grade. “I have a bunch of learning disabilities,” he said, “I have ADD and dyslexia. I was diagnosed in fifth grade, and school was always really hard for me.”

In college, he realized reminders, like texts, could help him get stuff done. They could help him stay on track. 

So he and his brother set about building a company that provided that service. “I would drool at the thought of going to Silicon Valley,” said Kopf, “I thought it was some golden place where money just fell of trees. And it doesn’t.”

Okay. Money might not fall off trees.

But, since 2011, when Kopf and his brother got to Silicon Valley, they’ve raised more than $19 million from investors.

Remind101 is free for teachers. The company says teachers use it to send more than 80 million texts a month.

And, the teacher focus is part of the reason it’s so attractive to venture capitalists. There’s a shift in the education market. The customer is changing.

“In the past, the way that innovation came to schools was in a car,” said Jennifer Carolan, managing director of NewSchools Seed Fund, part of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a non-profit, philanthropic investment group. “A salesman would set up a meeting with a District IT administrator and in a few weeks time, the salesman would bring his computer and demo the product to the district decision maker.”

Today, she said, it’s all different. “We have teachers discovering apps and tools on their tablets and bringing them into the classroom.”

And with millions of teachers out there, those apps and tools can spread fast. “When this period of education history is written,” said Carolan, “it will be the story of the teacher who is driving technology growth in our schools and starting the edtech companies.” 

The question now is how much of the money chasing what’s next in the classroom, is going to pay-off. For investors. And for students.

Educational technology has already had some high-profile bankruptcies; investors and foundations have taken some hits.

And, on the education side of things, researchers like Justin Reich, at HarvardX think many of the companies getting money aren’t providing services that are changing the equation. 

Take, for example, online games with multiple choice answers. They are easy to identify said Reich, “Oh I know what this is, this is a worksheet. It’s randomized and it’s on a computer, but I had worksheet problems. I know what these things are.”

Or apps that hand out digital badges. “Oh, those are stickers. Mrs. Trusdale in the third grade gave me stickers, I recognize these things.”

A lot of online classes are teachers, teaching in front of a board. Not that transformative, he said. “If what we’re hoping to have happen is to have there be really profound changes in the way we prepare people for an extraordinarily complicated society, then paving old cow paths is not going to be the way to accomplish that.”

He thinks venture capital needs to look beyond what’s sexy, and focus a little more on substance.

Venture capitalists make a big deal over education

Thu, 2014-05-29 11:04

How to Use this Graphic:

Venture capitalists are pouring money into educational technology. If last year's numbers are any indication, the amount of spending could double to more than $2 billion in 2014. 

The above graphic uses data from the NewSchools Venture Fund, a public charity that invests in educational technology.  The Fund estimates that $452 million was invested in the category in 2013.

Each bubble represents one of 116 deals that NewSchools documented in 2013.  The bigger the bubble, the bigger the investment.  You can read more about each of the deals by clicking on the bubble.

The new note home from teachers

Thu, 2014-05-29 10:37

As part of our story on venture capital investments in edtech, we met with the folks at Remind101.  

It's a service that allows teachers to send one-way text messages to students and parents.  Remind101 says teachers send 80 million texts a month.  

Teachers are using the service to do all sorts of nudging.  And celebrating.  

And,#beatClarkston.

Here are a few examples of what teachers are sending...

 

Serial killer profile project due tomorrow. Be ready to present your PowerPoint! via @remind101

— Angela Thomas (@ROHSapPSYCH) May 26, 2014

Together we are way stronger than all alone. When we stand up for each other, we all win! http://t.co/GV2kKKJNCv via @remind101

— Gus Kaplanges (@gk81359) May 15, 2014

Tell everyone you know to buy their advanced dance show tickets!!!! https://t.co/Kc6kPNMmEp via @remind101

— Whitney Dance Team (@whitneydance13) May 13, 2014

Remember you need a 2L bottle, construction paper, tube (for nose), duct tape, etc for Tuesday. via @remind101

— Ann Beemer (@Physicstchr) May 26, 2014

PreAP: make sure you bring your books and notebooks today. I'll be out so be on your best behavior. via @remind101

— Erin Underwood (@eunderwo) May 23, 2014

Two days left to preorder leis for graduation http://t.co/PFA9iF3mKM via @remind101

— KHS Activities (@KHSActivities) May 23, 2014

@HF2lax Reminder ! Be sure to cheer our varsity team on as they play round two play off today at Clarkston! #beatClarkston via @remind101

— Amy Kowalski (@akkrave) May 22, 2014

A cool drink for the end of the week

Thu, 2014-05-29 10:05

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Friday, May 30:

In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on personal income and spending for April.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week continues ahead of hurricane season.

The first Indianapolis 500 took place in 1911. Ray Harroun won in his single-seat car. He used what may have been the first rear-view mirror in place of a spotter.

Other famous vehicles in history on this day include NASA's spacecraft Mariner 9. Launched in 1971 on a mission to map the surface of Mars, it became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet.

The University of Michigan issues its final May consumer sentiment survey.

And some folks celebrate National Mint Julep Day. Luckily it falls at the end of the week.

Apple bought Beats headphones. Now what?

Thu, 2014-05-29 09:41
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 09:00 Matthew Raymundo/ Via Wikimedia Commons

The image illustrates the White Solo Beats by Dr. Dre. Apple is allegedly in talks to purchase Beats eletronics- an acquisition that would cost a reported $3.2 billion.

Apple has two new employees on board after deciding to buy music brand Beats Electronics yesterday for $3 billion dollars. One of them you probably know -- rapper Dr. Dre, the other probably not.

Music executive Jimmy Iovine is less of a name and more of a music visionary -- or at least that’s what Apple hopes. What Iovine brings to the company first and foremost is that he’s a music industry superstar. He’s worked with Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, U2 and 50 Cent. He knows people and people know him. He’s got a reputation in the industry as a business guy who can relate to artists and creative types. And the thinking is that he will help Apple hammer out new deals.

He’s also seen as innovative. He helped launch the Interscope Records label that promoted gangster rap in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Iovine also got artists to market clothes and electronics -- the Beats headphones with Dr. Dre is a perfect example.

One important question is what Iovine can do to help Apple make more of a name for itself in the online music subscription service world dominated by the likes of Spotify and Pandora. Beats does bring with it a music streaming service, with 250,000 subscribers. Of course that’s modest compared to Spotify’s 10 million.

Jackdaw analyst Jan Dawson says, really, what Apple is buying is someone who has a natural gift for understanding what consumers want.

“Steve Jobs had great instincts in that area too. But obviously since his departure that’s fallen to other people and Apple has a very capable set of executives but they don’t have somebody with that same instinctive relationship with music who can really understand what it is that people want and how they are going to buy it,” he says.

Apple is betting if you match Iovine with Apple’s resources, they’ll find some way to make beautiful music together.

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday May 29, 2014Interview with Dan GorensteinStory Type InterviewSyndication PMPApp Respond No

PODCAST: The cost of concussions

Thu, 2014-05-29 09:09
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 09:47 Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

This really might not be enough to prevent a concussion.

There's a big rush to reduce concussions in sports. But the technology has yet to catch up with the demand

Ever wonder why public radio sometimes feels a little like a classroom? Well there's a reason. More from our new LearningCurve series

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday May 29, 2014 Hosted By Stacey Vanek SmithPodcast Title 05-29-14 Marketplace Mid-day Update: The cost of concussionsStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

Curveball: Celebrity musicians and online education

Thu, 2014-05-29 08:37
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 11:33 iStockPhoto <a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/digital-music">View Survey</a> by Dan AbendscheinSyndication PMPApp Respond NoBranded story type Curveball

Curveball: Celebrity musicians and online education

Thu, 2014-05-29 08:33
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/digital-music">View Survey</a>

How maternity jeans and T-shirts led to Juicy Couture

Thu, 2014-05-29 07:32

The Juicy Couture brand is probably best known for the brightly colored tracksuits that were favored by celebrities in the early 2000s. But athletic wear wasn’t what Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor had in mind when they started the brand -- a story they tell in a new book, “The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It Into a Global Brand”.

Skaist-Levy says the two knew they wanted to make a ready-to-wear line together:“So we set out to create the perfect T-shirt. We’re really not into disposable clothes, we love things to last,  [to] get better and better as you wash them.”

To the pair, the perfect T-shirt was “buttery, buttery, buttery soft. We love soft,” says Skaist-Levy.

In the beginning, those T-shirts were branded with the tagline, “Made in the Glamorous USA.”

“In the beginning, what’s crazy is that everything we made, every bit of cotton, everything, came from the U.S., came from the Carolinas,” says Nash-Taylor. “Today, you couldn’t do that. You just couldn’t, none of those mills even exist anymore.”

Listen to the full interview above to hear more from the Juicy Couture founders including why maternity jeans were so important to their first collection; how they spent that first $200; and what it was like to sell their company at the height of its popularity.

JuicyCouture.com

PODCAST: The cost of concussions

Thu, 2014-05-29 06:47

There's a big rush to reduce concussions in sports. But the technology has yet to catch up with the demand

Ever wonder why public radio sometimes feels a little like a classroom? Well there's a reason. More from our new LearningCurve series

Apple bought Beats headphones. Now what?

Thu, 2014-05-29 06:00

Apple has two new employees on board after deciding to buy music brand Beats Electronics yesterday for $3 billion dollars. One of them you probably know -- rapper Dr. Dre, the other probably not.

Music executive Jimmy Iovine is less of a name and more of a music visionary -- or at least that’s what Apple hopes. What Iovine brings to the company first and foremost is that he’s a music industry superstar. He’s worked with Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, U2 and 50 Cent. He knows people and people know him. He’s got a reputation in the industry as a business guy who can relate to artists and creative types. And the thinking is that he will help Apple hammer out new deals.

He’s also seen as innovative. He helped launch the Interscope Records label that promoted gangster rap in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Iovine also got artists to market clothes and electronics -- the Beats headphones with Dr. Dre is a perfect example.

One important question is what Iovine can do to help Apple make more of a name for itself in the online music subscription service world dominated by the likes of Spotify and Pandora. Beats does bring with it a music streaming service, with 250,000 subscribers. Of course that’s modest compared to Spotify’s 10 million.

Jackdaw analyst Jan Dawson says, really, what Apple is buying is someone who has a natural gift for understanding what consumers want.

“Steve Jobs had great instincts in that area too. But obviously since his departure that’s fallen to other people and Apple has a very capable set of executives but they don’t have somebody with that same instinctive relationship with music who can really understand what it is that people want and how they are going to buy it,” he says.

Apple is betting if you match Iovine with Apple’s resources, they’ll find some way to make beautiful music together.

Want faster internet connection? Go to the moon.

Thu, 2014-05-29 04:34
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 04:38 David DeHetre / Creative Commons

So it's made out of cheese AND is a wi-fi hot spot?

If you're frustrated by a slow wi-fi connection you could consider moving...

...to the moon.

Scientists from NASA and MIT have developed a way to create a wi-fi hotspot on the moon and the speed is faster than an earth-connection. Scientists say the signal could be used to transfer large amounts of data or even stream hi-definition video....no buffering.

Maybe someday we can get that here on earth.

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday May 29, 2014Hosted By Stacey Vanek SmithStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

Hosting the Olympics and coming away with a profit? Imagine that. Three cities that bucked the trend

Thu, 2014-05-29 02:59
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 03:30 Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Coastal Cluster Olympic Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

With such high costs, it's seemingly miraculous that any chosen location manages to turn a profit. Yet, some manage to do so. Here are three cities that managed to come out of their hosting stint on top:

Getty Images

1. Los Angeles - Surplus: $232.5 Million

The west coast city managed to end the games with a $232.5 million surpluss due to smart planning -- like revamping old facilities as opposed to building new ones -- and budgeting. The design teams also used cheaper materials typically associated with temporary tents. You can read more about how L.A. pulled it off here.

Michael Smith/Newsmakers

2. Salt Lake City - Surplus: $56 Million

Salt Lake City donated about $30 million of their profits to the Utah Athletic Foundation.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

3.  Atlanta - Surplus: $10 Million

Aside from finishing in the black, Atlanta also benefitted from converting one of its Olympic stadiums into a facility for baseball.

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday May 29, 2014by Tobin LowStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

The Sochi Effect and the unwanted Olympics

Thu, 2014-05-29 02:36

The number of countries bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics is dropping fast. Call it the Sochi effect -- this year’s winter games hosted in Russia, which cost a crushing $51 billion. 

Poland was the most recent country to drop its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Voters soundly rejected the idea in a referendum. Switzerland, Sweden and Germany were all former contenders, but they too have dropped their bids.

"It’s not like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny just dropped a buttload of money in your lap," says University of Chicago’s Allen Sanderson says countries lose money because the games are run by a monopoly -- the International Olympic Committee. "Countries tend to lose money on these things."

Ukraine, Norway, Kazahkstan and China all say they’re still interested in hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

But not all host cities come away from their hosting gig with massive debt. Here are three cities that bucked the trend

The cost of concussions

Thu, 2014-05-29 02:30

The White House hosts a summit Thursday about the perils of concussions in youth sports.

Researchers have been racing to find a fix, but gels and extra padding in helmets may not do the trick.

“Helmets stop skull fractures," says professor Dennis Molfese at the University of Nebraska's Developmental Brain Laboratory. "But we think it’s the primary rotation movement to the head that produces the concussion.” 

He’s working with electrodes to diagnose concussions. Other academics experiment with blood samples or voice patterns that can reflect brain damage. But it will be years before any reach the market.

Sports teams have an economic incentive to find a solution. The NFL is finalizing a more than $700 million settlement, which was rejected by a judge earlier this year, related to ex-players’ brain injuries. And experts anticipate more concussion-related law suits at all levels of the game.

Want faster internet connection? Go to the moon.

Thu, 2014-05-29 01:38

If you're frustrated by a slow wi-fi connection you could consider moving...

...to the moon.

Scientists from NASA and MIT have developed a way to create a wi-fi hotspot on the moon and the speed is faster than an earth-connection. Scientists say the signal could be used to transfer large amounts of data or even stream hi-definition video....no buffering.

Maybe someday we can get that here on earth.

Law & Order: tech edition

Thu, 2014-05-29 01:00

For those who have spent an entire day on the couch letting Netflix dominate the tv or laptop screen, binge watching is not such a new phenomenon. Artist Jeff Thompson is certainly no stranger to the concept: he has watched all 456 episodes of the original Law & Order franchise. But unlike the rest of us, he was getting paid to do it.

That's because Thompson received a grant from Rhizome to track the use of technology throughout the show's 20 year history. The fact that the show thrived on being "ripped from the headlines" (i.e. as current as possible), produced a weekly episode, and ran for such a long time make it a particularly useful series for such a project. 

Aside from maintaining a blog of screenshots of every computer that makes an appearance on the show, Thompson used the opportunity to track other technology-related data. For example, he maintained a list of every URL used throughout the series, as well as a chart that tracked the parallels between the drop off of computer useage on the show in tandem with the burst of the dot-com bubble. The chart below shows the number of computers used per season, while the following chart tracks the closing price of the Nasdaq (in light grey) over the same years.

A chart of the computer count in every episode of Law & Order

The light grey portion charts the closing price of the Nasdaq

Thompson also saw an opportunity to track the evolution of our attitude towards technology as well. In the beginning of the series, computers generally sat in a corner, eventually making their way onto individual's desks as their use became more ubiquitous. It's these minute details that really interested Thompson. He points out that while a lot of people document and write about the history of technology, the seemingly boring details are not as thoroughly documented. In fact, when asked about his favorite bit of technology in the series, he points to a pretty mundane piece of furniture: the computer desk. 

How marriage contributes to inequality

Thu, 2014-05-29 01:00

Prior to the 1960s, it wasn't unusual for a college-educated man to marry a woman with earnings that were significantly less than his -- or a woman who earned nothing at all.

Over time, as more women entered college, a pattern of "assortative mating" began to emerge. Research shows that, beginning in the 1960s, college-educated men became more likely to marry women who were also college-educated. Income is highly correlated to education, leading to the growth of double-income households that earn more then their less-well-educated peers. Some researchers though, warn that structural factors like taxation and the shrinkage of labor unions are far more pertinent when discussing the rise of inequality in 21st century America. 

Hosting the Olympics and coming away with a profit? Imagine that. Three cities that bucked the trend

Thu, 2014-05-29 00:30

With such high costs, it's seemingly miraculous that any chosen location manages to turn a profit. Yet, some manage to do so. Here are three cities that managed to come out of their hosting stint on top:

Getty Images

1. Los Angeles - Surplus: $232.5 Million

The west coast city managed to end the games with a $232.5 million surpluss due to smart planning -- like revamping old facilities as opposed to building new ones -- and budgeting. The design teams also used cheaper materials typically associated with temporary tents. You can read more about how L.A. pulled it off here.

Michael Smith/Newsmakers

2. Salt Lake City - Surplus: $56 Million

Salt Lake City donated about $30 million of their profits to the Utah Athletic Foundation.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

3.  Atlanta - Surplus: $10 Million

Aside from finishing in the black, Atlanta also benefitted from converting one of its Olympic stadiums into a facility for baseball.

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