Marketplace - American Public Media

Dollar stores are a target for food companies

Tue, 2015-08-18 02:00

Food manufacturers have been grappling with Americans' changing preferences. Fresh foods are in, processed foods ... not so much. So it's no surprise food companies might be very interested in outlets where processed food still thrives and sales are rising: dollar stores.

According to the consulting firm Kantar Retail, dollar stores are an $80 billion business with tens of thousands of locations.

“It’s got a 6.5 percent compound annual growth rate from the end of the decade, which is well above the 4 percent growth rate the conventional grocery store channel is running,” says John Rand, senior vice president of retail insights at Kantar.

Dollar stores typically offer less expensive and smaller versions of core household items. (Despite the name, not all products are priced at $1, but they’re still cheap). Rand says the food products at dollar stores tend to be what experts call “center of store” items — the non-perishables that are the hallmark of processed food companies.

“This is a channel that's been growing in itself and growing for General Mills,” says Rick Krichmar, senior manager in Shopper Insights at the food giant General Mills, which enjoyed 8 percent growth in the dollar and drug store channel in 2014.

Even as General Mills responds to consumers’ growing health obsessions by cutting artificial flavors and colors from Lucky Charms and offering organic products under its Annie’s banner, Krichmar says there’s still a market for items like Hamburger Helper and Chex Mix at dollar stores. Consumers who buy the smaller, discount store versions of those brands tend to be older people and those with limited incomes.

“While we see a lot of metrics of the economy improving from depths of recession from 2008, we know lots of people have employment but those jobs pay much less,” Krichmar says. “And the future growth of the population — a large part of that is going to be the lower income household.”

Dollar store shopper Shirley Senske sees her own household stuck in neutral. She’s a school bus driver and mother of five, and she regularly shops at a Dollar General store in a Minneapolis suburb. She says she and her husband earn so little as to count among the working poor.

"Your paycheck is gone when you get it because you know you've got to pay rent,” she says.

Senske knows she might pay more per ounce for the smaller-sized stuff at dollar stores. But she can't always afford the giant stock-up sizes.

“Sometimes it's cheaper to buy the little things, and then save up and get the big items," she says. "It's a matter of what you can afford that month.”

But some analysts question whether food companies can afford to make the smaller dollar store products Senske wants.

“Can the production lines handle it, and can you get a decent margin on it?” asks Edward Jones stock analyst Brian Yarbrough.

Yarbrough says those are questions that big food companies will have to figure out. Nevertheless, as Walmart loses grocery shoppers to dollar stores, Yarbrough says it makes sense for food companies to go where the growth is.

The tooth fairy is getting cheaper

Tue, 2015-08-18 01:54
$200 million

That's how much NBCUniversal has invested in BuzzFeed, announced Monday in a release on the BuzzFeed website. Says Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal, "BuzzFeed has built an exceptional global company that harmonizes technology, data and superior editorial abilities to create and share content in innovative ways." The release also states that as part of the deal, the two companies will work on strategic partnerships.

49 stores

That's how many Sheetz convenience stores are located in West Virginia, according to the company's website. Sheetz found itself in trouble with West Virginians a few weeks ago when it said it would only sell pepperoni rolls made out of state, as opposed to those made in local bakeries. What's a pepperoni roll? We're glad you asked.

24 cents

That's how much less, on average, the tooth fairy is paying for teeth, according to an annual survey conducted by Visa. Whereas $3.43 was the average going rate for lost teeth in 2014, kids this year made just $3.19. The study found that the amount made on teeth is directly correlated with household income.

50 percent

That's how much Target has expanded its organic groceries selection over the last year, with some analysts saying it's grown 15 percent over just the past few weeks. It's part of the company's attempt to recover from recent missteps, including a push into groceries that proved a little misguided. Target seems to have realized that rather than carrying more pre-packaged goods, consumers care about organic foods and fresh produce.

New Orleans' mayor: Storm's crux was levee failure

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:25

In just a few years, the city of New Orleans will celebrate its 300th birthday. As the celebration approaches, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants New Orleanians to strive not just for a rebuild, but for progress.

“I want them to think about building the city for the future and not just getting back to where we were before Katrina hit,” Landrieu says.  

But as the population of New Orleans grows to about 94 percent of what it was the day before the storm, the city is whiter and wealthier than what it used to be. Landrieu says it’s not fair to peg New Orleans’ growth as racially imbalanced though.

“The city of New Orleans before the storm was [a] major majority African American city,” Landrieu says. “It’s a more eclectic city than it was before, but there’s no hint or no chance that the city of New Orleans has ever lost its historic character or its essence as a gumbo."

Another hurdle for New Orleans as it turns 300 is making sure businesses will want to stay in the Big Easy. As Marketplace continues reporting on New Orleans 10 years after Katrina, we've found that many business owners have had a difficult time rebuilding.But Landrieu doesn’t think his city’s struggle to revitalize means New Orleans has an inherent flaw.

“If any city got their hump busted like New Orleans did, it would be a tough rebuild,” Landrieu says. “What the country needs to be thinking is, ‘What’s going to happen when it hits us? And how can we protect ourselves and how can we learn from New Orleans?'”

Landrieu points to New Orleans’ levee breaches as the real crux of the Katrina disaster, an infrastructure failure he thinks could happen in other cities around the country.

“The country ought to be thinking about the fact that Congress can’t even pass an infrastructure investment bill and the need for that so that we can be a stronger nation,” Landrieu says. “New Orleans is just a canary in the coal mine when it comes to that.” 

Do members of Congress take vacation time to campaign?

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:02

Jim Brinson is a CPA in San Diego, and he's a fan of the "I've Always Wondered" series. He submitted this question:

“With all of the current sitting congressmen and senators announcing their run for president, I've always wondered how they get away with campaigning. I would have to think that the campaigning gets in the way of their real job. How do they get so much time off? Do they still get paid full salary?”

Jay Hunter is the data editor for member information at CQ Roll Call and offers this answer: “They do not actually get time off, and they do get paid their full salary.”

Most members of Congress make $174,000 per year. Hunter tracks how — and how often — they vote.

“Especially this cycle," Hunter says, "a lot of the current senators who are running for president have missed a lot of votes in 2015.” He compared how often those senators showed up for votes this year compared to other members of their caucuses.

Most often absent is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has missed almost a third of his votes this year, compared to the Senate Republican average of about 3 percent.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has made almost all his votes (98.9 percent), but he’s been criticized along with others for using the Senate floor as a campaign venue. Longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch complained about it earlier this month, saying, "We must ensure that the pernicious trend of turning the Senate floor into a forum for advancing personal ambitions, for promoting political campaigns, or for enhancing fundraising activities comes to a stop.”

 But American University government professor Jennifer Lawless says missing votes doesn't necessarily mean the candidates aren't doing their jobs as senators.

“So as long as they have excellent staff, both in their district and in Washington," she says, "the overwhelming majority of their work can still get done, even if they’re on the presidential campaign trail.” Lawless says the votes candidates miss tend to be ones where their vote won’t change the outcome. Plus, as long as an opponent doesn’t bring up a poor voting record in a campaign, constituents usually don’t care.

Brinson says he now understands how the system works, but he's still not happy about it.

“My curiosity is satisfied, but I’m not satisfied," he says. "I mean, they’re neglecting their duties. I think it’s pretty bad.”

He says the relatively unproductive Congress might get more done if its members spent less time campaigning and more time legislating.

Is Amazon Alone?

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:00

Amazon is on the defensive after a story in the New York Times questioned its workplace culture and described appalling stories of employees being treated harshly while recovering from health and family issues. CEO Jeff Bezos says there will be zero tolerance for actions like those described in the story, which include a woman who had miscarried twins being sent on a business trip the day after surgery and a cancer patient given a poor performance evaluation after returning from treatment.

But other parts of the story, about the long hours and constant pressure on employees to perform, ring true not just at Amazon, but at other tech companies.

“They put people in jobs that deplete them incredibly,” explains Bob Sutton, a Stanford University management professor. “That’s just how it is across the industry.”

And as many who toil in law, medicine, management consulting or investment banking are quick to point out, punishing hours are not something technology companies invented. But hearing of long hours at a tech company cuts against the image these firms have carefully crafted as progressive temples of innovation that shower their workers with free food and swanky gyms. But even those perks reinforce long hours.

“The perks vary from company to company, but where they exist are generally designed to, you know, keep you from leaving so that you work harder,” says David Auerbach, a veteran of Google and Microsoft.

A caffeine-fueled all-nighter culture that propels a young tech company may not serve a giant public firm. As tech companies grow from startups to sprawling public companies with global offices and numerous departments, they realize they can’t run giant businesses with just young, single techies.

“Many of these companies find it more difficult when people start to get older and have families and children,” says Katherine Phillips, senior vice dean of Columbia Business School. “The culture might not exactly fit.”

Technology that may help potholes get fixed faster

Mon, 2015-08-17 12:50

Christoph Mertz spends his days looking at cracks in the street.

“Once you’re involved in something like this, you see every crack in the road, every pothole, you say, ‘Ohhh, this is interesting,’” he says as he weaves around sizeable potholes on the narrow streets behind Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. A small camera mounted on his windshield, much like a GPS device, shoots video of the pavement unspooling in front of him as he drives. He says he relishes finding really deteriorated streets because “it’s a really good example for my data.”   

Mertz is a researcher at Carnegie Mellon. He works with the university’s Traffic 21, a research arm  focusing on practical solutions to transportation problems, and he’s built a computer program that uses photos to detect cracks in street pavement. He’s been testing it using photos extracted from the video he shoots in his own car, but he’s also working with the city to test the technology. He’s placed cameras inside three city vehicles. 

For Pittsburgh, which currently uses manual, visual inspections to assess city streets, the technology could one day be a more reliable and cheaper alternative for maintaining roads. 

Human vs. computer inspections

Pittsburgh maintains 1,100 miles of streets, divided into 17,000 segments. Three inspectors are responsible for visiting each of those segments to evaluate them. The inspectors use their eyes to assess the streets, to note any cracks, potholes, or rutting, the severity of the deterioration, and its proliferation in the segment. Inspections can be “fairly subjective,” says Lee Haller, deputy director of public works.

Also, the inspectors have other responsibilities; it takes them four to five years to review all of the segments.

The city uses a pavement management system and models to predict a street’s lifespan, but Haller says because of the subjectivity and long inspection periods, there’s a good chance much of the base data is inaccurate. “After winter, the condition of a given street can change rapidly because what was just cracking after a number of freeze-thaw cycles turns into major potholes,” he says. 

Pittsburgh’s street inspection system is standard for cities.

Mertz’s program, he says, automates the process, speeds it up and eliminates human bias. It uses photos from the cameras installed in city vehicles that would be making the rounds anyway, and thus not requiring a dedicated employee. The program breaks the pavement in each picture into a grid, and then the photos are combed digitally using an algorithm, looking for texture. A newly paved road looks flat to the machine, but a road with cracks in it will have texture. Then it calculates how much of the given surface is covered by cracks and scores the road’s condition.       

A sample city map where streets have been analyzed using Christoph Mertz's pavement inspection program. The green dots mean the pavement is in good shape, yellow indicates some damage and red means the pavement quality is bad.

Christoph Mertz/Keystone Crossroads

The program can "inspect" streets as quickly as the photos from the city cars come in. Mertz says running the algorithms on large data sets can take a while, but for him that meant several days, a relative wink-of-an-eye compared to the city’s yearslong inspection cycle. 

For Haller, having access to more accurate, up-to-date street data would make planning easier and more effective. He’d know exactly which street segments need work to meet a quality threshold, for example. He’d be able to ask for money and promise specific results, something he can’t always do now. 

“I think when you have the conversation with Council and say these are the extra streets specifically by name that we would be able to do in this upcoming season if we had extra money, it’s more tangible,” he says.   

A better, more predictably maintained road network means a more viable city.

“That is not only the public getting to and from work, which is very important, but it’s also bringing goods and services … freight and the like,” says Brian Leshko, an American Society of Civil Engineers fellow. “It really does have a big impact on the economy of a city.” 

Working out the kinks

Back at the lab, Mertz is still working out kinks in the program. He pulls up a map of Pittsburgh filled with green, yellow and red dots, each representing an analyzed image of a street segment. Green means the road is good, yellow means it has some damage and red means it’s bad. As he clicks on the dots, images of the pavement pop up.  

He clicks on a red dot, but the photo shows smooth pavement, broken only by the shadows of overhanging tree branches. It turns out the algorithm still can’t tell cracks and shadows apart.

There are some other issues, too. For now, files have to be transferred and handled manually, which Haller says doesn’t work for the city. Mertz also hasn’t trained his program to see potholes, patches, rutting, or to analyze non-pavement road surfaces (Pittsburgh has many brick and stone streets). He says he hopes to get to all that.

When he does, the technology could be a game changer for cities like Pittsburgh with aging infrastructure and limited resources.  

Amazon's company culture: innovative or punishing?

Mon, 2015-08-17 11:02

In her piece in the New York Times, Jodi Kantor (with help from David Streitfeld) looked at the innovative and harsh working conditions that employees face at Amazon.

“So many of us know Amazon as consumers but not that many of us knew about the fascinating workplace that Jeff Bezos has created inside the corporate Seattle offices,” she says.

Amazon has a reputation for having hard-working employees.

“They do pride themselves on being a tough culture," she explains. "You know Bezos tells people ‘This is a culture of working incredibly hard.’ They use the phrase 'unreasonably high' to describe their standards and expectations.” 

The hope for Bezos is that these high expectations yield success for the company. Kantor says that in some ways it’s working.

"By many measures, it is very successful. Amazon just became the country’s largest retailer…[Bezos] is now the fifth-richest man in the world. And what people say is that part of Amazon’s success can be attributed to the fact that he’s basically invented a way of getting the most out of every employee.”

Kantor says employees value a lot of aspects about Amazon, for instance, “it’s a culture of innovation, there isn’t a lot of red tape, relatively junior people can have a lot of responsibility.” But that doesn’t mean that employees aren’t being hurt by the harsh company culture. “I found that in most of our interviews, we were talking to people who really loved aspects of working with the company, but they were struggling with this kind of punishing culture,” she explains.

Kantor says some of the practices that employees found upsetting were how team members had to compete with each other.

“Team members are ranked against each other," she says. "It’s a very competitive atmosphere,” and this can create an uncomfortable working environment because “at Amazon, it’s particularly direct. Because, for example, you can send secret negative feedback about your peers to your peers’ bosses. The bosses see who it’s from but other workers don’t necessarily see it.”

One of Kantor’s more surprising findings was about Amazon’s evaluation system. “The evaluations system is fairly relentless … we found a real pattern of people who had life crises when they were at Amazon; they had cancer, their parents died, they had really bad pregnancy loss. And that they said is that the company did not give them time to recover, and they felt the company was so relentless that they couldn’t pause and get back on their feet,” she explains.

It comes down to finding a balance between pushing employees while making sure not to hit their breaking point. She says that companies that have this kind of culture have to ask themselves, “Is there any place you finally draw a line and say ‘An employee cannot work this hard,’ or ‘When x and y happens to an employee, they simply need to take time off.’”

Kantor explains that, "for so many of the people we talked to in the article, they themselves were debating the ’Amazon way’ … only within the context of their own lives: ‘Is this right for me?’ ‘Do I really want to work this way?’”

The article has helped bring that debate into the open.

“So it’s not only an Amazon worker sitting with her husband talking about those issues, but it’s now more of a public conversation,” Kantor notes.

PODCAST: Amazonians

Mon, 2015-08-17 03:00

On today's show, an update on the markets; a look at skyrocketing live music revenue; and more on the brutal work culture accounts at Amazon.

Racial pay gap exists even among the highly educated

Mon, 2015-08-17 03:00

College-bound students are often told that higher education bolsters their earning potential in the professional world, a fact that remains well-proven. What is not so true, according to a new study published Monday, is how much an advanced degree protects against larger financial shock, such as a recession.

According to the results published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, black and Hispanic college graduates saw their median net worth fall from 1992 to 2013, whereas white college graduates saw their earnings rise. What is notable about this time period is that it includes three recessions, speaking to how widespread financial circumstance affects ethnic groups differently.

Among the findings: 

Between 2007 and 2013, white college graduates saw their median net worth fall 16 percent, whereas black and Hispanic graduates saw their worth fall 59.7 percent and 71.9 percent, respectively. Asian college graduates saw their median net worth go up 5.1 percent, by comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the core reasons for the imbalance may be the differences in debt. As the New York Times writes, many black and Hispanic families take on more debt in an effort to reach midde-class status. In times of recession, money owed becomes an even larger burden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concert industry headed for a record year

Mon, 2015-08-17 02:00

With the concert industry earning $1.43 billion through the first half of this year, according to Pollstar, performers old and new are cashing in. The live music business is rocketing toward a record year, lifted by Boomer bait such as The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac, as well as data-driven pricing tactics and a growing festival business.

The top of the list leans heavily on the back catalog. Of the year’s top five grossing acts in North America, the youngest is Kenny Chesney, who got started more than two decades ago.

“We’ve tended to rely on acts like the Stones and Fleetwood Mac, the kind of evergreen attractions that could fill arenas without having a new album,” says Pollstar’s Gary Bongiovanni.

His numbers show the Rolling Stones on top, earning $80.7 million. Garth Brooks, Fleetwood Mac, Kenny Chesney and U2 round out the top five. But with a much-anticipated tour underway, Taylor Swift is poised to break into that elite group soon.

Overall, average ticket prices are at an all-time high of $76. That’s a sign bands and promoters are using big data to price smarter, scooping up money that used to go to scalpers.

Another important development is the growth of festivals. They’re particularly popular among younger fans. Accustomed to having every artist streaming at their fingertips, younger fans expect the same kind of variety in concert.

“The festival is a reflection of how the millennial consumes music,” says Rich Tullo, research director at Albert Fried & Company.

Mark Garrison: Of the year’s top five grossing acts in North America, the youngest is Kenny Chesney. And he got started more than two decades ago. Gary Bongiovanni runs Pollstar, which tracks concert revenue.

Gary Bongiovanni: We’ve tended to rely on acts like the Stones and Fleetwood Mac, the kind of evergreen attractions that could fill arenas without having a new album.

His numbers show the Rolling Stones on top, earning $80 million. Overall, average ticket prices are at an all-time high of $76. That’s a sign bands and promoters are using big data to price smarter, scooping up money that used to go to scalpers.

Rich Tullo: A lot of the guesswork is being taken out of the industry and it’s creating great new revenue opportunities.

Rich Tullo tracks the entertainment business at Albert Fried & Company. He’s watching the growth of festivals among younger fans.

Rich Tullo: The festival is a reflection of how the millennial consumes music.

They’re used to having every band streaming at their fingertips. So they want the same kind of variety in concert. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Auto sales buoyant as consumers get cheap credit

Mon, 2015-08-17 02:00

A lot of Americans are in debt. You might be among them. And the borrowing is for just about everything – school, a home, even a car. New loans for cars and light trucks have surpassed $1 trillion dollars for the first time, according to a recent report from the New York Fed. And access to cheap credit is changing the way Americans think about their automobiles.

We're not only taking out loans to buy new and used cars, we’re also taking those loans out for longer — more than five and a half years. Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com, says folks are treating cars more like a commodity — almost like a smart phone. “You’re gonna have your monthly payment and after a few years, you’re going to trade it in for something a little bit nicer."

"A lot of buyers right now are coming in with less credit history and less cash," says Alan Baum, principal at Baum and Associates, an automotive marketing research business. “The buyers that we’re seeing coming into the market that might not have been in it previously are going to need either a larger loan, or a loan with a longer term, or both." 

Baum says that longer loans mean you’re probably not going to be in the market for a car as often, something automakers don’t like to hear, because that means this car buying boom might not be around for much longer.  

Auto sales buoyant as consumers get loans

Mon, 2015-08-17 02:00

A lot of Americans are in debt. You might be among them. And the borrowing is for just about everything – school, a home, even a car. New loans for cars and light trucks have surpassed $1 trillion dollars for the first time according to a recent report from the New York Fed. And access to cheap credit is changing the way Americans think about their automobiles.

We're not only taking out loans to buy new and used cars, we’re also taking those loans out for longer than they ever have — more than five and a half years. Jessica Caldwell, Director of Industry Analysis at edmunds.com says folks are treating cars more like a commodity — almost like a smart phone. “You’re gonna have your monthly payment and after a few years, you’re going to trade it in for something a little bit nicer."

"A lot of buyers right now are coming in with less credit history and less cash," says Alan Baum, Principal Baum and Associates, an automotive marketing research business. “The buyers that we’re seeing coming into the market that might not have been in it previously, are going to need either a larger loan, or a loan with a longer term, or both." 

Baum says that longer loan means you’re probably not going to be in the market for a car as often, something automakers don’t like to hear. Because that means this car buying boom might not be around for much longer.  

The anatomy of equipment: simple hacks with Money Mark

Mon, 2015-08-17 02:00

As part of a series about music technology called "Noise Makers," we're talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device. For this week's installment Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson had a conversation with Money Mark about simple hacks and making music from unexpected sources. 

If you ask Mark Ramos Nishita, or Money Mark, about his work with the Beastie Boys, you might end up hearing more about minutiae of writing a song than say, what it's like to be part of a multi-platinum group. He remembers the marginalia of the Check Your Head album, released in 1992, specifically: "There was a time when we were building the studio in Atwater village at the same time as we were recording. They were playing basketball in the other room. I was screwing a screw into the wall and it made this incredibly amazing sound. And [Adam] Yauch came in and was like, 'We should just record that.'"

The spontaneity of incorporating an accidental sound into a studio album fits within Mark's musical ethos: "There’s this Japanese saying that if you sharpen the knife too much, you actually make it dull. So, there’s a point when you have to have an emotive force there to inject into all this stuff that’s around you."

This philosophy derives from Mark's childhood — As a kid, whenever he would get a new piece of gear, his father, who was an electrical engineer, would take it apart in order to understand how it works.  

As a result, Mark's music making involves less polishing and more tinkering. For a live performance, Mark says: "I actually just bring everything out on the table. Nothing is really hooked up. But I think even that is the theater of it — Getting the cables and patching it all together and making a chain. And this is how it sounds in the end. All of that to me is very entertaining. I always wanted to know what was behind in the wings of the theater and what was really making all that magic happen."

Click the media player above for an extended interview with Money Mark which includes a live demonstration of a musical hack involving a cell phone, an amplifier, and a quarter.

A show that sets the market for classic cars

Mon, 2015-08-17 02:00

About 20 late-sixties Ford Mustangs are hauling around a tight turn at the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, near Monterey, CA.

Most of these cars are being driven by their owners, but some owners hire professional racers.

“It would be unfair to say that everybody here is really rich, because there are a lot of people who have owned their cars a really long time,” says Automobile Magazine writer Jamie Kitman. "But there's also plenty of super-duper millionaires.”

These are super-duper millionaires to whom luxury brands want to sell their cars. So the companies have hauled out an arsenal of their own antiques and latest models for the Concours d’Elegance, aka the Pebble Beach Car Show, a four-day celebration on California’s Monterey Peninsula.

“There isn't any other place in the country that has a concentration of people that are affluent automotive enthusiasts,” says Kim McCullough,Vice President of Marketing for Jaguar Land Rover North America.

McCullough wouldn’t say how many dollars this event could bring in for her company, but it’s pretty clear how much cash is being tossed around at the classic car auction happening at Pebble Beach.

The highest valued car here is a 1962 Ferrari, estimated to fetch $14 to $16 million.

“It’s a very wild and important Ferrari,” says David Gooding, founder and President of Gooding and Company, the host of the auction. The prices battled out here will drive the overall classic car market. Values have doubled in the past decade. But Gooding says don’t get into it for the investment.

“You should buy it because you love it because you want to use it you want to show it or vintage race it,” says Gooding. “Or just have it at home and stare at it.”

The 1962 Ferarri, by the way, went for $16.5 million dollars.

Take a look, clean water is in a book

Mon, 2015-08-17 01:58
56 percent

That's how much the net worth of blacks with college degrees dropped from 1992 to 2013, according to a new study published Monday. By comparison, whites with college degree saw their net worth rise 86 percent during that same time. Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the report finds that a college degree, long believed to be a safeguard against the negative effects of recession, does not protect black and Hispanic graduates to the same degree that it does whites. As the New York Times writes, a key factor could be that blacks and Hispanics have to accumulate more debt in the pursuit of middle-class status.

$1.43 billion

That's how much the concert industry took in during the first half of this year, meaning live music is headed towards a record in 2015. Part of that has been so-called boomer bait; bands like the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac drawing longtime fans to stadiums across the country. But it also shows that bands and promoters are using big data to price tickets smarter, scooping up money that used to go to scalpers.

$16.5 million

That's how much a 1962 Ferrari sold for at the Concours d’Elegance — aka the Pebble Beach Car Show — a four-day celebration on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Many attendees are among the uber rich, and as a result, the show is an opportunity for luxury brands to show off both their antiques and latest wares.

99 percent

That's the amount of bacteria that can be removed from water using one page of "The Drinkable Book," a product created in partnership between pAge Drinking Paper and WATERisLIFE. Each page of the book (which is embedded with silver and copper), can purify up to 26 gallons of water. As Quartz reports, the product was proven successful in 25 contaminated water sites in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti and Bangladesh.

I believe I can fly (for a very, very long time)

Mon, 2015-08-17 01:53

Emirates, the airlines, announced its adding a flight between its hub in Dubai and Panama City. Perhaps most notable is the sheer length of the flight: At 8,590 miles, and with an estimated travel time of 17 and a half hours, it will be the longest non-stop flight in the world.

In its honor, Stephan Richter, editor-in-chief of The Globalist, joins us as quizmaster. The topic? Travel, of course.

Click the media player above to play along.

Behind Amazon's newest venture: music

Fri, 2015-08-14 15:01

Last month Amazon launched a new experiment that's part album and part playlist. It's called Amazon Acoustics, and it's group of songs performed by 32 different artists.

Some are covers of songs you've heard before, and some are original. The songs are available to stream for Amazon Prime customers along with other people who want to purchase them online. What the playlist represents though is something that companies are spending more time and money on lately: exclusive content.

Steve Boom is the vice president of digital music for Amazon and the executive behind the project. He talks to Lizzie O'Leary about Amazon's plans in the music business.

Click the media player above to hear the interview with Boom.

Startup hopes to make art investment more inclusive

Fri, 2015-08-14 14:52

Madelaine D'Angelo had the idea to found Arthena, sort of a mutual fund for fine art. It's an online crowdsourcing platform that allows investors to essentially buy an equity share of an art collection for the relatively low price of $10,000. That money gets pooled with other investors, which allows the group to own art collections, like "New York Art 1960s to 1980s" and "European Emerging Artists."

Investing in art tends to be outside the financial grasp of most individuals. Art auction house Sotheby's sold Vincent van Gogh’s "L’Allee des Alyscamps," and Monet’s "Nympheas" for price tags well over $50 million each.

D'Angelo grew up and worked in the art scene, but noticed that museums and collectors were trying to reach out to a wider audience that she was a part of. "We know that there's people out there that want to participate, but we just can't seem to bring them in," D'Angelo says.

"I'm part of this generation that they're trying to reach out to, and I realized that this generation looks at art not only from a cultural perspective, but also a financial perspective. And it makes sense, because if you look at how many kids my age have student loans, if you put $10,000 into something, you want to make sure it'll be worth $10,000 the next day."

D'Angelo notes that while post-war contemporary art has made roughly 10 percent gains the over last five years, "past performance does not indicate future success."

Click play above to hear more about Arthena and the art market.

 

Looking back at New Orleans, 10 years after Katrina

Fri, 2015-08-14 14:21

Next week, Marketplace Weekend is looking at New Orleans and its people, exploring life, business and culture in the city 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.

If you live there and/or were affected by the storm, we want to hear from you. What's changed the most in your post-Katrina economy?

Reach out to us on Twitter or email, we'd love to hear your stories. 

Check out past Marketplace stories from the city:

The story of New Orleans' recovery in one business

Banking on a New Orleans recovery

How independent businesses kept New Orleans afloat

 

Iceage's Elias Rønnenfelt on creativity and success

Fri, 2015-08-14 14:19

If there's a theoretical person who doesn't care about making money, it's a punk rock star. Part of that kind of studied coolness is a nonchalance about material success. But success is exactly what's happening for the Danish band Iceage. Their third album was reviewed as "brilliant" and they're in fashion magazines and on a U.S. tour. 

Lizzie O'Leary spoke with frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt in downtown New York, where he was staying with an artist friend. She sets the scene with a mattress on the floor, stacks of philosophy books and an ever-present cigarette.

Listen to Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's thoughts on success and creativity by clicking the audio player above.

Pages