National / International News
As an airline representative gives the boarding announcement for passengers who purchased tickets for seats with additional room, Alice Friedman stays seated in the gate area.
She opted not to purchase any of the extras the airlines offered on this flight, since it’s just a quick hop from New York to Massachusetts. But she has paid for additional space on longer flights to Europe, for example.
Like many travelers, Friedman has heard about the airline industry’s improving bottom line, which can make their push to upsell passengers feel a bit uncomfortable.
“It’s not exactly unfair," she says. "But it does create all sorts of problems, I think, for the ordinary traveler; the casual traveler; the people with kids.”
2015 is looking like a good year for the industry, says Jean Medina, a spokeswoman with the trade group Airlines for America. Industry profits are up about 5 percent for the first half of the year, compared with the same period last year. “Largely, that was driven this year by a drop in fuel prices,” says Medina, noting airline revenues were up only slightly.
How much of those savings should be passed along to consumers?
Decreases in ticket prices tend to follow drops in the cost of oil, though they typically lag a quarter, says Helane Becker, a managing director for Cowen and Company who covers the airlines. In July, the average fare passengers paid per mile of travel fell 3.5 percent year over year. “It may feel to some people that they’re paying more, but when you look at the absolute numbers, they’re not,” says Becker.
While those fares don’t include things consumers now have to pay for separately, Becker believes it makes sense to ask people to pay for the things they want. “You know, you can stay in Ritz Carlton or you can stay in a Motel 6,” she says, indicating passengers have a choice in the level of service and amenities they choose.
She says airlines are companies, not public utilities. But consumer advocates disagree.
“The fact is, it’s in many ways a utility that’s treated as a free enterprise,” says Bill McGee, a consultant with Consumer Reports. McGee says the airlines are vital to the American economy and people’s lives. However, because of consolidation in the industry, airlines have less competition and people have fewer choices.
He thinks airlines should be passing more of their fuel savings onto consumers. “There has been a slight decrease [in fare prices], but it’s in no way correlated with the savings they’ve seen in fuel,” he says.
Plus, McGee says with the fees and extras, it can be hard for consumers to figure out what their final fare will be, which makes it hard to price shop.
More Americans are investing in their futures using exchange traded funds, or ETFs. They’re exploding in popularity as investors large and small sign up, seeking tax advantages and flexible trading that mutual funds lack. The industry now has $2.1 trillion in assets, on track to hit $5 trillion in 2020, according to research and consulting firm ETFGI.
As these rivers of money flood in, regulators and market pros worry about how much the pipes can handle. This came to a head during last Monday’s market turmoil, when pricing went haywire for a number of ETFs and mutual funds.
“ETFs are growing really, really fast and perhaps the technological infrastructure is not growing as fast,” says Seddik Meziani, a finance professor at Montclair State University, who also consults and writes about ETFs.
The ETF industry stands behind its products, preferring to view last week’s issues as more of larger market problem, rather than something specific to ETFs.
Like any investment choice, ETFs have pros and cons, risks and rewards. Flexible trading cuts both ways. It’s easier to make a smart trade, but also to stumble into a stupid one. ETFs are relatively new and trendy, but age-old investment advice still applies.
“Innovation is good, but it is important that you understand the nuances of a product before you go and buy it,” says Deborah Fuhr, managing partner of industry tracker ETFGI.
Mark Garrison: ETFs are soaring because they’re tax efficient, and unlike mutual funds, can be traded throughout the day. U.S. ETFs have $2.1 trillion in assets, on track to hit $5 trillion in 2020. As rivers of money flood in, regulators and market pros worry about how much the pipes can handle. Seddik Meziani is an ETF consultant.
Seddik Meziani: ETFs are growing really, really fast and perhaps the technological infrastructure is not growing as fast.
The ETF industry stands behind its products and sees last week’s issues as more of larger market problem. Like any investment choice, ETFs have pros and cons, risks and rewards. Flexible trading cuts both ways. It’s easier to make a smart trade, but also a stupid one. Deborah Fuhr is managing partner of industry tracker ETFGI.
Deborah Fuhr: Innovation is good, but it is important that you understand the nuances of a product before you go and buy it.
Even when something’s trendy, you still have to do your homework. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.
President Barack Obama is in Alaska this week to talk about climate change. Some environmentalists say it’s a bit hypocritical, because just two weeks ago the government gave Royal Dutch Shell the green light to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. Some Alaskans, too, are concerned about the President’s message.
Just like last year, tens of thousands of walruses are coming ashore in Alaska. They’re reacting to disappearing ice because of climate change, hauling out on a beach, instead of on ice, to rest. Jesse Morris, a scientist with the University of Utah, says people in the Arctic aren't just talking about climate change, they live it.
"It’s challenging for us to wrap our minds around these low frequency changes that have been happening in the high latitudes for a long time,” he says.
So, it sounds like it’s time to develop a plan. President Obama is using the word "strategy." Dr. Stephen Langdon, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, says he doesn't know what that means.
“If that word means anything, it’s going to have to address numerous different kinds of topics,” he says.
Topics like an expanding Northwest Passage, which leads to sovereignty questions: who controls the waters of an Arctic Ocean that was, forever, not really an ocean? Not to mention the ongoing debate about drilling for oil both in Alaska and offshore in the Arctic.
The official theatrical trailer for the next "Star Wars" movie, "The Force Awakens" isn't even out yet. But already the official "teaser" trailers have been viewed more than 75 million times online. And they've grabbed enough headlines to keep an army of Stormtroopers distracted for hours.
The trailers have been teased or shown on Instagram and other social media, and every dribble of new Star Wars footage has been given the level of attention movie studios once reserved for movies themselves. Trailers no longer just promote movies, they are events in and of themselves, often with big budgets.
Ellene Miles is a publicity strategist in Los Angeles. By "eventizing" a trailer, she says, the studio is "creating a frenzy. It is creating a deep, deep anticipation."
Miles says there are a lot of ways to create buzz around the release of a movie trailer. Some studios offer exclusive "premieres" to media outlets like late night talk shows or popular websites. For instance, the red band trailer (as in R-rated) made its debut earlier this month on "Conan".
"Trailers have become the main event," says Miles. "Or pretty much the undercard to the main event."
In the first six months of the year, movie fans watched 35 million hours of movie trailers on You Tube, according to its parent company, Google. And that was just on their smart phones.
Trailers have become enough of a draw that they often attract ads for other movies. So, you'll have to sit through one trailer before you can see the trailer you came to watch.
And the trailer genre has expanded dramatically. "Instead of just one theatrical trailer, you are getting the green band for everyone, the red band, R-rated trailer," says Frederick Greene, who researches movie trailers and movie marketing. "You have teasers, you have featurettes, you have a whole ecology of movie marketing materials.
Thanks to the web, there are also many more outlets for trailers, and opportunities to tailor them to different audiences.
"Jurassic World," for example, had multiple full-length trailers, and at least two dozen different TV spots.
All this attention to trailers is fueling a boom in the industry. Greene says back in the 1980s, there were four major trailer houses. Today, there are closer to a hundred.
Chris Walter heads one of those companies, A Big Trailer. It has produced trailers for "The Hurt Locker," "Neighbors," "Despicable Me 2" and others. "You would think through the amount of trailers being created, the quality would go down," he says. "But they are actually getting better."
With trailers becoming their own events, movie studios have a lot to lose if they don't get it right. And a lot to gain if they do.
"Studios will triple vend, quadruple vend, meaning they will send a film to four of five different trailer houses," says Walter, adding that studios have been known to spend as much as a $1 million on one attempt. "Then, they will have a bake-off to see who does the best one."
But for all the new obsession, the goal of trailers is still the same. To get people to see the movie.
That's how much Netflix shares slumped on Monday morning, following an announcement that cable network Epix had inked a deal with Hulu while also ending its agreement with Netflix. As part of the new deal, films from Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount will be available to Hulu subscribers. The New York Times reports the move comes as Netflix focuses more on its original programming.35 million
That's how many hours of movie trailers have been watched on YouTube in the first six months of this year...and that's just on smartphones. With all the different kinds of previews for films — red band trailers, TV promos, featurettes — the clips leading up to the release of a film have become an industry themselves.$50,000 to $70,000
That's the estimated purchase price of the last lunch menu from the Titanic when it goes up for auction on September 30th. The auction will mark the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the ship at the bottom of the Atlantic. Corned beef and dumplings were among the offerings on April 15, 1912, the Associated Press writes.3.5 percent
That's how much less passengers paid for airline fare year over year in July. While some passengers have complained that it seems like airfare is only increasing, the data show that fares themselves have actually decreased. But that doesn't account for the amenities that are often sold separately. When it comes to extra legroom or baggage, sometimes the skies are friendlier if you're willing to pay a little more.
Research suggests eating fish regularly over a lifetime is good for the brain. But when it comes to staving off cognitive decline in seniors, fish oil supplements just don't cut it, a study finds.
Doctors and parents often miss the signs of female athlete triad syndrome — low energy, low bone density and irregular menstruation in an otherwise healthy-looking girl or teen.
During his U.S. visit in September, the pope is set to meet with unaccompanied minors from Central America who have formed a youth soccer team co-sponsored by New York's Catholic Charities.
The GOP's post-mortem in the wake of the 2012 election suggested the party needed to appeal to Latinos. But, the current immigration conversation sparked by Donald Trump could threaten that goal.
Tiny island nations, Latin American developing countries, and even non-joiners like Switzerland have all found more power and influence in climate negotiations after forming or joining a group.