National News

Should Twitter have to measure up to Facebook?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 11:00

If "A Tale of Two Cities"were written today and Charles Dickens chose social networkers, instead of cities, as his subject, the opening line might go a little something like this:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of metrics.

“If you are a social network, the two most important metrics for you are your user base and the level of engagement of the users,” says Shaym Patil, Vice President of equity research at Wedbush.

The value that Wall Street places on a social network like Twitter or Facebook is primarily based on its MAU’s, or  monthly active users--the more active users, the more potential for ad revenue.  This is why when Twitter announced its third quarter earnings  Monday, its stock took a hit.  

Investors are worried that Twitter’s user base isn't growing fast enough. It’s not anywhere near the gold standard of social media companies, Facebook. Twitter’s active user base is about one fifth of Facebook’s

But Nathan Eagle,  CEO of Jana, a mobile marketing platform, is skeptical of the one metric fits all approach. “Twitter and Facebook have different models and they are going after different things,” says Eagle.

Twitter, for example, doesn't just sell ads. It has a whole suite of developer tools it sells to companies like Jana. It offers tools for detecting crashes and monetizing, for example.

These are parts of Twitter’s business model that aren't reflected in the MAU numbers. As a result, Nathan Eagle thinks Twitter should have its own more sophisticated metric for assessing its value.  “MAU’s are at least a proxy for success,”  But says Eagle, “I do think that we will come up with more nuanced metrics.”

Until that more nuanced metric arrives, the almighty MAU will likely reign supreme. Or, as Dickens said, Twitter and Facebook will continue to live, “for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

 

 

 

CNN takes the Empire State Building

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 11:00

CNN announced its election night plans Tuesday: the network will take over the Empire State Building to display U.S. Senate vote results.

As results come in, a vertical LED-illuminated "meter" atop the spire of the building will ascend in either red or blue.

Once a meter reaches the top of the spire, that party will take control of the Senate.

Who will win? Apparently CNN will decide.

 

 

What the end of Quantitative Easing will and won't mean

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 11:00

Quantitative easing – it’s fun and accessible and all the cool kids are talking about it, right?

“Believe it or not, I tend to try not to talk about Quantitative Easing at cocktail parties,” says Ann Owen, an economics professor at Hamilton College. “But just a real brief explanation is that it’s a way for the [Federal Reserve] to increase the money supply by buying bonds.”

The Fed generally has two focus areas: employment and inflation. Historically, a main tool to keep each in check has been setting interest rates through its Federal Funds Rate. But back in 2008, the Fed decided it needed something more and QE was born.

Six years later, the Fed is widely expected to announce the end of QE after its Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meetings Tuesday and Wednesday.

Owen says while ending QE may sound like a giant leap, it's actually a relatively small step because the Fed now has a balance sheet worth over $4 trillion.

“That’s money that in the banking system and will hopefully finds its way into the economy, says Michelle Girard is the chief U.S. economist with RBS. “As long as those reserves aren’t taken back out, through asset sales or other methods of shrinking the balance sheet, then the reserves that have already been created are still able to boost economic growth.”

Think of the Fed as a jogger who’s not slowing down or speeding up, but keeping the same pace – and there’s still a long road ahead.

The economy is clearly in a better place than it was when QE started.

But Morris Davis, a professor at Rutgers University and a former economist at the Federal Reserve Board, says he’s skeptical about how much of that is due to the bond-buying program.

“We can debate its effectiveness and we should debate its effectiveness,” he says. “But going forward, we’re going to see a lot more of this, actually, by Central Banks all around the world and I think we’ll point back to this episode as having led the pack.”

After QE, the Fed still has its more traditional tool – interest rates. Davis says it’ll probably be a while before the Fed feels comfortable enough to start raising its Federal Funds Rate in any meaningful way. 

As Great Barrier Reef Ails, Australia Scrambles To Save It

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 10:55

One Australian report estimated the reef had lost more than half its coral since 1985. The government is considering a new 35-year plan to rescue the reef, but some say it falls short.

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Why Does Saudi Arabia Seem So Comfortable With Falling Oil Prices?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 10:15

Normally, the "central banker of oil" would slow production to push up prices. Not so now. Some say it's a geopolitical tactic aimed at Russia and Iran; others say it's just protecting market share.

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American Volunteers In Liberia Are Anti-Quarantine

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 10:03

They fear that the threat of isolating a returning health worker for 21 days will cause a drop in the number of volunteers at a time when more medical staff is needed to quash the outbreak.

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Thieves Tunnel Into Indian Bank Vault — From Across The Street

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 09:47

When a bank in northern India opened for business Monday, the staff was surprised to find the strongroom breached from underground. Local media say the crime resembles a movie plot.

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The numbers for October 28, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 09:04

Six years and $3 trillion later, quantitative easing is coming to an end. The Federal Reserve is expected to make an announcement following a tw0-day meeting in Washington this week. The Washington Post has an interesting history of the bond-buying "experiment," noting QE was originally intended as a one-time injection into the economy, but has been used to stimulate growth in many areas.

As we await official word from Fed Chair Janet Yellen on the policy, here are some other stories we're reading — and numbers we're watching — Tuesday:

3.5 million

That's how many customers have had their Internet speed slowed down more than 25 million times by AT&T since fall 2011, according to a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission Tuesday. Many of these customers are heavy data users with unlimited plans, which AT&T no longer offers, Reuters reported. The FTC called the throttling "deceptive," with some customers' speeds slowed up to 90 percent.

300 million

The number of people using Alibaba's payment system, Alipay. Alibaba founder Jack Ma, fresh off a massive IPO, is set to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook this week to talk about potential partnerships, the Wall Street Journal reported. Apple just launched its own mobile payment system last week. 

25

The number of times per second new RFID chips installed in NFL players' shoulder pads transmit their location. The new sensors allow for near-real-time motion tracking and player data of unparalleled depth, the Verge reported. The league is experimenting with these "next-gen stats" in games this year, with an eye toward putting more sensors on all players and, eventually, the ball.

9

The number of movies Marvel Studios announced through 2019 at an event in Los Angeles Tuesday. It's a shot across the bow at DC Comics' similarly huge plan, announced earlier this month, for ten new films through 2020. 

A Family's Fall Harvest Blooms In 'A Kitchen In France'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 09:03

Since moving her large family from a Paris apartment to a historic farmhouse in the French countryside, author Mimi Thorisson has found a way to merge the best of the different worlds she has known.

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Happy Birthday To Google Doodle Honoree Dr. Jonas Salk!

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 08:51

On the 100th anniversary of the polio pioneer's birth, Google takes note with a doodle. As the world gears up to fight Ebola, it's a good time to remember one of the heroes of a 1950s epidemic.

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The Many, Many Secret Lives Of Teachers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:53

What do teachers do outside the classroom? We've gotten hundreds of responses to that question. To list a few: They officiate at weddings, run nonprofits and Jazzercise.

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Insurers May Cover Costly Hepatitis C Drugs Only For The Very Ill

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:20

Many insurers are restricting access to new drugs that are easier to take and that promise higher cure rates because the price tags can run $95,000 or more.

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Pope Says God Not 'A Magician, With A Magic Wand'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:18

Speaking at an assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Francis also affirmed that evolution and the Big Bang are consistent with a creator.

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Australia Blocks New Visas From West Africa Over Ebola Outbreak

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:09

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says Australia's steps to keep Ebola from crossing its borders include "temporarily suspending our immigration program, including our humanitarian program."

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The 21-year-old who owns a factory in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:02

Alex Shlaferman was 11 years old when he made $10,000 by selling DVDs that taught viewers how to levitate. At the age of 16, he founded his company, Vante Toys. His venture has been so successful that he now owns his own manufacturing company in China.

Vante Toys is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

"I create products for the mass market," says Shlaferman. "My specialty is products that are under like 20 bucks, that’s what I’m good at. I don’t understand luxury goods or high-end fashion; I understand products that sell for like ten, twenty bucks."

The 21-year-old that owns a factory in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 07:02

Alex Shlaferman was 11 years old when he made $10,000 by selling DVDs that taught viewers how to levitate. At the age of 16, he founded his company, Vante Toys. His venture has been so successful that he now owns his own manufacturing company in China.

Vante Toys is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

"I create products for the mass market," says Shlaferman. "My specialty is products that are under like 20 bucks, that’s what I’m good at. I don’t understand luxury goods or high-end fashion; I understand products that sell for like ten, twenty bucks."

Friend Of Accused Boston Bomber Found Guilty Of Lying To Police

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 06:46

Prosecutors said Robel Phillipos lied to the FBI agents investigating the April 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

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A holiday rush at ports piles up cargo

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-10-28 06:18

There’s a traffic jam in Los Angeles, but this one’s not on the freeways. The port complex  of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest, is so backed up right now that some importers are avoiding the port altogether. Problems there are delaying some shipments for two weeks or more. The bottleneck is giving southern California’s ports “a black eye,” says Jock O’Connell, international trade adviser at Beacon Economics.

There’s congestion at many ports right now, but the Los Angeles-Long Beach complex handles 40 percent of U.S. imports, so the ripple effects are long and wide.  If retailers are "planning on having it stocked for the Christmas holiday, it needs to be in the port now, it needs to be moving through,” says Frank Layo, a partner with Kurt Salmon Associates. “So any delays now are kind of critical. We’re running out of runway.”

Port officials say the delays at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are rooted in a shortage of trailer chassis, to load the containers onto. But that problem has been exacerbated by an unexpected surge in imports this year, along with the sudden rise of “mega-ships.” They can carry three times as many containers as older ships and they’re straining port capacity. Others say unresolved labor negotiations at the port are crimping efforts to ease the port’s traffic jam as well.

Some retailers are diverting shipments to other ports and a few are even flying merchandise into the U.S.  But Noel Hacegaba, chief commercial officer at the Port of Long Beach, says they’re working hard to ease congestion. “At the end of the day our reputation is at stake,” says Hacegaba. “Beneficial cargo owners have choices. And we are doing everything that we can to make sure that we continue to be the gateway of choice.”

China May Drop 9 Crimes From List Of Death Penalty Offenses

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 06:01

The move appears to be part of a trend to reduce the use of the death penalty in a country that still executes more people than any other.

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With Obamacare, More Millennials Are Going To The Doctor, Sort Of

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-28 05:55

Once young adults started getting coverage through their parents, they started getting checkups more often, a study finds. But they still may need help filling a prescription.

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