Marketplace - American Public Media

After Hurricane Sandy, a redesign of flood protection

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

People like to say Superstorm Sandy was a wakeup call. As it approached New York City in October 2012, businesses there had no choice but to rely on an age-old technique.

"Sandbags!,” says Bryan Koop. He's a vice president of Boston Properties, one of the country’s largest owners and developers of office buildings. “I'm pretty sure those were around when the Romans were building buildings."

In the aftermath of Sandy, East Coast companies like Koop’s went in search of new ways to protect themselves from flooding. Since then many have made hefty investments in one particular product: the AquaFence. Boston Properties sustainability Manager, Ben Myers, says it’s the only good option out there.

"We did look at one inflatable solution that wasn't as easily deployed and was inflatable, so it could puncture and – not work,” Myers laughs.

Boston Properties installed an AquaFence system around its signature property, Atlantic Wharf, which sits adjacent to the Boston Harbor. There’s no sign of anything different with the building until a storm approaches. When one does, a few workers pull out the AquaFence’s Ikea-like interchangeable parts from where they’re stored under the building’s parking lot.

"I've heard stories that when Sandy hit New York, there were trucks were stopped, material supplies were commandeered for the emergency response," Myers says. "This is here, it's secure, we're not waiting for sand or supplies to be shipped in from an outside point."

The team anchors each part of the fence to small hooks usually hidden under bricks surrounding the structure. When they’re done, the AquaFence turns the building into a walled city, with one difference: the side of the wall facing out—toward the encroaching storm water—is connected to a series of panels that lie on the ground. Floodwater is supposed to cover those panels on the ground, weighing them down and strengthening the whole AquaFence.

"We can keep this up piecemeal. We can keep our entrances open, we can keep our parking garage open, right until the last minute,” Atlantic Wharf property manager Barrett Cooke says. “We actually have portable staircases that would be strategically placed near our entrance points that are means for people to easily walk across it."

Forty AquaFences have been installed around buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn since Sandy. At a couple hundred thousand dollars each, it’s not a small investment. But the AquaFence’s big selling point is that you can put it up when you need it, fast.

“Eight hundred linear feet of fence—going up in a matter of a couple hours,” Koop marvels.

And it’s all reusable. Adam Goldberg, director of the New Jersey-based AquaFence company, says several AquaFences have been through floods multiple times successfully.

“There’s a grain facility in Hungary that has used the panels four times in four years,” he says.

Goldberg says the product is spreading fast—there are more than 50 in the US and another 20 in other countries.

“We had sales increases of about 200 percent, year over year, for the last three years in the US,” he says. “Last year alone we had over 40 projects.” 

Pedialyte embraces its new customers: revelers

Fri, 2015-05-15 02:00

Amy Garlit is not afraid to admit it: she sometimes drinks Pedialyte when she's hung over.

“If I know I'm going to have a crazy night out I'll buy some in advance for the next day,” she says.  

Click the player above to see Marketplace staff try Pedialyte for themselves.

Garlit, 30, says she used to drink Gatorade after a big night out—like a pub crawl—to rehydrate. Then a friend turned her on to Pedialyte a couple years ago.

Pedialyte, an electrolyte-filled drink used to rehydrate kids with stomach flu, is now getting traction among lots of adults like Garlit.

Abbott Laboratories, which makes the beverage, says adult use of the drink has increased by 57 percent since 2012. The top reasons for adult use are stomach flu and hang-overs.

“Today we know that more than a third of our sales actually come from that adult use,” says Michelle Zendah, an Abbott spokeswoman.

Zendah says the company is trying to appeal to its new customer base with flavors like strawberry lemonade and orange. Zendah says they’re “a little more appealing than a Grape or a Fruit Punch that a child would prefer.”

A new social media marketing campaign includes quips like Pedialyte goes well "with both red and white." Wine, that is.

“The question is, how do you keep your marketing mix consistent with the two segments,” asks Carlos Torelli, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota. He says some parents might find Pedialyte's new identity hard to swallow.

“Because they don't think that the kids should be drinking something that somebody drinks after a hangover,” he says. “Although it might be chemically the same thing, it might look weird.”

Torrelli says it might make sense for Abbott to have two separately branded drinks. The company says it currently has no such plans.

Video produced by Preditorial

Music: "Royal Banana" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

 

 

Silicon Tally: The selfie drones are coming

Fri, 2015-05-15 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 Kristen Bellstrom, senior editor at Fortune Magazine, where she writes The Broadsheet—a daily newsletter about the world’s most powerful women.

Click the media player above to play along with this week's quiz.

An LA MillerCoors brewery will use less water

Thu, 2015-05-14 13:00

A MillerCoors brewery here in L.A. has joined a drought awareness campaign this week.

The company says it's proud that it's been able to reduce the amount of water it uses in brewing — by more than a billion gallons.

Which, in all seriousness, is great. Honestly. 

But really?

That's the less watery version of their beer?

Classical music sales enter 'survival mode'

Thu, 2015-05-14 13:00

Classical music sales have been struggling for years now. They make up just 1.4 percent of music consumption, compared to 29 percent for rock, according to a Nielsen survey last year. Symphonies from Nashville to Canada’s Prince Edward Island are dealing with mountains of debt. And audiences of classical music haven’t changed much, which makes it tough for artists who aren’t Andrea Bocelli to make it in the industry. 

When Lara Downes, a classical pianist, describes what she does, she uses terms familiar to today’s generation of starving artists. Terms like "entrepreneurial" and "DIY." 

“We’re in survival mode,” she says. “We need to build an audience. And we’re kind of tired of making music for the same people all the time.”

So Downes not only does the concert circuit, but she’s on social media, and she’s at schools. And she posts her work on sites like Soundcloud.

She’s hoping her music will land on fresh ears. At performances, she looks out into audiences and sees mostly older people who are there because they love Beethoven. Her job, she says, “is to find the person who could come to the concert hall because you get them curious about Beethoven.” 

Audiences of classical music aren’t diverse, which is a challenge for the industry, says Michael Boriskin, artistic and executive director of Copland House. The organization promotes classical music through live performances and outreach programs. 

Boriskin says touring is still the bedrock of an artist’s career. But they can’t just walk out onto a stage, perform, and go onto the next city. “Because there is so much competition for people’s attention,” he says. 

Boriskin says that personal interaction is what makes the difference. And there’s a chance to sell a few CDs. 

Writing your way to the White House

Thu, 2015-05-14 13:00

Walk into about any bookstore in Washington and they are hard to miss – all the books by presidential hopefuls.

James Webb has a book  called “I Heard My Country Calling." Ben Carson's is “One Nation."  Then of course there’s “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy” from Mike Huckabee.

“This is where we put the newest books that were released in paperback – so  you can see right at the front is Hillary Clinton’s paperback:  just came out last week,” says Mark Laframboise, the book buyer for the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. 

He points out other books, by Senator Marco Rubio, and Congressman Paul Ryan.

“Paul Ryan’s around sometimes," he says. "He was down in the coffee shop a couple weeks ago.”

This is ground-zero for political books, a hangout for politicians and political junkies. But Lafromboise says even here, the presidential campaign book usually has a short shelf life.

“A month, three weeks," he says.

So why write them?

“Candidates feel a lot of pressure to get their message out there in their words with their ideas, without the filters of lots and lots of other people,” says Lissa Muscatine, a former chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton, who worked on most of Clinton’s books. 

Now Muscatine owns Politics and Prose with her husband, Bradley Graham. Muscatine says the candidates’ books take many forms.  Memoirs, or manifestos, laying out what they would do as president. Who buys these books? People like Gordon Mantler, a historian at George Washington University.

Mantler is browsing in the political section.  He bought one of President Obama’s books: "Dreams from my Father."

“I didn’t feel like this was the typical memoir that’s setting up a presidential or national campaign,” Mentler says.

And that’s key.

“I think the most important thing is to write a book that the reader will find authentic,” says longtime publisher Peter Osnos, founder and editor-at-large of the PublicAffairs publishing company.  

He says political writers should open up about their lives. And say something original. And it doesn’t hurt if people are really interested in you. “Dreams from my Father” was published in 1995, but sales didn’t take off until after Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. 

And candidates shouldn't worry if their book is a total bomb — we’ve had some pretty bad writers win the White House.

Small businesses work to keep up on social media

Thu, 2015-05-14 13:00

In the middle of the night, Brenda Shapiro woke up and thought: “LibbyLicious.” The perfect name for a small baking business built from a mandel bread recipe handed down by her husband’s grandmother, Libby.

Unfortunately, the South Florida baker did not wake up with a social media strategy.

“This is why I have my daughter-in-law do this for me,” Shapiro said, “I’m busy baking, delivering, packaging, going out and selling my cookies myself. I’m a one-person show.”

There were 28.2 million small businesses in the United States in 2011, the most recent year of data available from the U.S. Small Business Administration. For mom and pop, the ins and outs of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram can prove tricky.

When Brenda Shapiro quit her job as a surgical assistant at 50 years old, it certainly wasn't to pursue a life-long love of hashtags and status updates. She was following her passion for baking. Shapiro’s social media strategy for LibbyLicious is to take pictures and send them to her daughter-in-law, who posts those pictures to the company’s social media accounts. As a result, Shapiro couldn’t actually remember her own Twitter handle.

“It’s ‘LibbyLibicious.co,’” she said. When it was pointed out to her that periods aren’t allowed in a Twitter username, she guessed again: “Just ‘LibbyLicious’?”

Actually it’s @LibbyLiciousCo.

Last year, the social networking site LinkedIn published a survey that found most small businesses are most concerned with attracting new customers. And that they’re banking on social media as part of the solution.

One potential reason: the voice of a single stranger on social media could hold irrational power.

“Remember back to the days when there were Blockbuster video stores?” said Angela Hausman, who runs the social media marketing firm Hausman and Associates. “Other customers would come up behind us and see us looking at a video box and say, ‘Oh yeah! I really liked that movie.’ Or, ‘no! That was a really stupid movie. Don’t get that...’ We believed them!”

Marcus Messner, a social marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, says getting people to talk about your brand is a first step. “I think the real challenge is to go beyond people liking your Facebook page or following your Twitter account.” The Holy Grail, Messner said, is to “actually have them do something: Have them buy your product, show up at your store.”

In 2009, before its reality TV debut on TLC, Georgetown Cupcake started turning followers into customers by posting a daily secret flavor on Twitter and Facebook. The “FREE (not-on-menu)” cupcake goes to the first 100 customers who show up and ask for the flavor by name: “Vanilla caramel hazelnut” on the day this story was written.

@GTownCupcake/Twitter

Sofie Kallinis LaMontagne, who started the company with her sister Katherine Kallinis Berman, says they use social media to pull back the curtain on their business.

“Secret flavor is one of those ways,” LaMontagne said. “It’s giving [customers] an inside look at flavors we’re developing, things that are not quite on the menu yet. And they feel like they’re a part of the experience.”

Brenda Shapiro, the one-woman, mandel bread-baking show, doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location to lure customers into just yet. She’s still working on building her social media identity.

Niklas Myhr, a blogger and assistant professor at Chapman University, had a few specific ideas for Shapiro.

For starters, he said, “it could help to have a sort of backstory.” To tell people about Grandma Libby and her history and her recipe.

Also, he says, small business owners are experts in their fields. Hone that expertise and write posts that are informative, “something that is not just looking like an ad,” he said.

Finally, listen to people online. Be helpful.

“The same principles that Dale Carnegie wrote about in ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ still apply in the digital era,” said Myhr.

US-certified 'GMO free' on the way, for a price

Thu, 2015-05-14 13:00

Chipotle made headlines last month for its decision to remove genetically modified ingredients from the food at its 1,800 stores.

Now, the Associated Press reports that the United States Department of Agriculture plans to start issuing its own certification for foods that are “GMO free." There are currently no government labels that certify a food as GMO-free, nothing akin to Department of Agriculture’s “certified organic” label.

But, in a letter obtained by the AP, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack describes a plan to roll out a voluntary “GMO Free” distinction that  companies can pay to get; a government certification that could be a marketing advantage. The label was requested by a large food company. 

Brian Yarbrough is a consumer research analyst with Edward Jones.

“The natural organic food industry is exploding with growth and the regular food industry is just struggling,” Yarbrough says. “If you are just a core center-of-the-aisle, a Kraft Food or a Kellogg's, you can go back and look at the results, growth is hard to come by."

Yarbrough says it’s too soon to tell if “GMO free” will achieve the same market appeal that organic has. 

But consumer groups pushing for GMO disclosure aren’t thrilled

“We think this is an outrageous move,” Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association, says. The group supports laws requiring companies to disclose all GMO ingredients.

Making it easier for consumers to find GMO-free food is a good thing, Paul says, but "not if it's going to cause the manufacturers of those products to have to charge consumers more because they had to pay for that certification."

Food companies oppose mandatory disclosure of GMOs, citing scientific consensus that GMO food is safe.

The Department of Agriculture has not said when it will start issuing the labels.

There are possible ways to check your food labels though. KQED's Mike Kahn breaks down how to read Price Look-up Codes (PLUs) to look for conventional, organic and GMO produce. 

Six things to do with your new free time on Facebook

Thu, 2015-05-14 12:43

Facebook's new Instant Articles feature allows news organizations like Buzzfeed and the New York Times publish articles directly to the site. The pitch is that they'll load faster, so users won't waste precious seconds waiting for content to load. Here's a few things you can do with that free time.

This video was produced by Preditorial.

Elon Musk's evolution, from sci-fi dreams to Space X

Thu, 2015-05-14 12:33

Elon Musk runs a couple of high-tech companies, but they do more than code.

They make things like space rockets and electric cars. Elon Musk is the CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, and now he’s the subject of a new biography by Bloomberg Business reporter Ashlee Vance. It’s called "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future."

Vance's book is getting some buzz this week. We talked with him about, arguably, one of the most important entrepreneurs of our time.

On Elon Musk’s upbringing:

He was born in South Africa, and ... as you might kind of expect, he was really into sci-fi and video games. He was a bit of a loner at school. He was very bright. Growing up, his father was pretty hard on him. It’s one of these things in the book where Elon and his family members talk about it, but they never say what was so difficult about his dad…but you know that it left this big impression on Elon’s life.

About Musk’s evolution in Silicon Valley:

He had to learn a lot during that period. At Zip2, he was the CEO of the company and he was not a great CEO. He worked really hard, and people were impressed with that. He outworked everybody and he had this hustle. He was smart but he wasn't great at managing people. Then he gets to PayPal and it sort of repeats, although he’s getting a little bit better as time goes on. And he’s finding ways to sort of marshal people and learn to encourage them, and then he realizes you get more out of people if you do that. You see him evolve.

On Tesla’s charging stations and innovation:

I was one of many people who thought that was crazy and it would never happen, and today there are hundreds of these charging stations, not only in the United States but in Europe and Asia. So you have a guy who built the electric car and then built the fuel infrastructure to pull it off. When he starts doing things like that, you start giving him the benefit of the doubt.

On Space X:

I think Space X has changed the space industry. All of its competitors are reacting to it. There’s still huge gambles and risks but the companies are very healthy right now.

Your Wallet: Can you buy exclusivity?

Thu, 2015-05-14 11:55

On next week's show, we're talking about exclusivity. 

What does it mean for you, in your finances? We want to hear your stories of exclusivity...tell us about the time you paid a premium for a special service (or didn't!) or signed up for a high-rewards membership credit card. We want your stories of being excluded and included when it comes to finance. 

Write to us here, visit the Marketplace Facebook page, or tweet us, we're @MarketplaceWKND

Face-to-face transactions at the farmer's market

Thu, 2015-05-14 11:01

Transactions are getting quicker, easier, more digital, less personal. At convenience stores and even grocery stores you can check yourself out. In a growing number of stores, you can pay with your phone

Sometimes, simple transactions come at a cost.

But one marketplace remains mostly unchanged by technology and mostly un-marred by fees: the farmer's market. There, you can still find tables piled high with fresh fruits and veggies, see the same familiar faces selling flowers or handmade soaps, try hummus and dips made the day before, and interact with the farmers who grew your food. 

Even though an increasing number of market's accept food stamps, prices are higher than what you'd find at a typical grocery store. Still, there are deals to be had — sometimes if you're willing to haggle a little bit, other times if you're willing to buy in bulk. 

At the farmer's market in Los Angeles, we brought $20 and left with pounds of strawberries -- enough for two pies -- seven avocados, a half-dozen eggs, two nectarines and two donut peaches, the first stone fruit of the season. 

A few tips for how to make the most of your money at the farmer's market:

  • Buy in bulk: if you have a vendor you like, buy a few things from them, they're more likely to throw in something extra or knock a dollar off the price
  • Don't pick out your own fruit: ask the farmer what's ripe, and if they have time, have them pick out what you're looking for. You'll end up with the best tasting fruit, and if you ask for "$4 worth of ____" instead of picking it out yourself and having them weigh it later, you'll stay on budget. 
  • Buy in season. Produce is cheapest when it's in season, no matter where you're buying. 
  • Try things! Take advantage of free samples and deals on new products or seasonal specials. 

Kay Cannon on writing the hit 'Pitch Perfect'

Thu, 2015-05-14 10:35

When "Pitch Perfect," the film about a female college a cappella group came out in 2012, it was considered a surprise hit at the box office. When its writer, Kay Cannon, heard that the studio wanted to do a sequel, she says she was not only terrified, but,  "I thought I was going to barf.”

Cannon has a background in improve. She performed at Second City in Chicago, and later in Las Vegas. She credits Tina Fey for launching her career as a writer.

“I started writing because I wasn’t getting things as an actor," she says. "I wasn’t like pretty enough to be the ingénue, I wasn’t 'character' enough to be the goofball sidekick, I’m kind of ethnically ambiguous.”

She says she decided, “I’ve got to literally write my own ticket.”

And that’s where Fey comes in. Fey read some of Cannon’s work and asked her to be a writer on "30 Rock." It came with a caveat though. Fey asked Cannon if they’d still be friends if Fey had to fire the unexperienced writer. Cannon replied, “I look forward to the day you fire me.”

Since then, Cannon’s added credits for "New Girl" and "Cristela" to her resume. "Pitch Perfect" was her first feature film.

“In a practical sense, it was absolutely easier to write the second one than the first one. On a personal level, I lost my father and had a baby,” Cannon says.

The first film took her four years to write but with the sequel, she was on deadline.

“I was just happy the first one got made," she says. "And then to see the reactions of everybody, it does feel like there’s an anticipation for this movie. It’s very exciting.”

Kay Cannon on writing the hit Pitch Perfect

Thu, 2015-05-14 10:35

When "Pitch Perfect," the film about a female college a cappella group came out in 2012, it was considered a surprise hit at the box office. When its writer, Kay Cannon, heard that the studio wanted to do a sequel, she says she was not only terrified, but,  "I thought I was going to barf.”

Cannon has a background in improve. She performed at Second City in Chicago, and later in Las Vegas. She credits Tina Fey for launching her career as a writer.

“I started writing because I wasn’t getting things as an actor," she says. "I wasn’t like pretty enough to be the ingénue, I wasn’t 'character' enough to be the goofball sidekick, I’m kind of ethnically ambiguous.”

She says she decided, “I’ve got to literally write my own ticket.”

And that’s where Fey comes in. Fey read some of Cannon’s work and asked her to be a writer on "30 Rock." It came with a caveat though. Fey asked Cannon if they’d still be friends if Fey had to fire the unexperienced writer. Cannon replied, “I look forward to the day you fire me.”

Since then, Cannon’s added credits for "New Girl" and "Cristela" to her resume. "Pitch Perfect" was her first feature film.

“In a practical sense, it was absolutely easier to write the second one than the first one. On a personal level, I lost my father and had a baby,” Cannon says.

The first film took her four years to write but with the sequel, she was on deadline.

“I was just happy the first one got made," she says. "And then to see the reactions of everybody, it does feel like there’s an anticipation for this movie. It’s very exciting.”

Tech IRL: Mobile transactions and Apple Pay

Thu, 2015-05-14 09:18

Weeks after the release of the Apple Watch and months after the introduction of the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Pay, more store and banks are signing on to offer mobile payments though Apple's service. 

Mastercard, Visa and American Express already support Apple Pay, and Discover will soon join the club. And the list of banks and retailers who accept Apple's mobile payments is growing: You can use Apple Pay at McDonald's or Whole Foods, in Coca-Cola vending machines and at the JetBlue terminal in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles airports. 

Apple Pay has been touted as being more secure and more convenient than swiping a credit card, but has faced some questions about security when the onus is on banks to verify accounts. It's also had issues with acceptance in stores that are pushing their own mobile retail services, like CVS, Walmart, and until recently, Best Buy. 

As more U.S. businesses make the move toward mobile payments and Apple Pay, the service is looking for even more reach: integration into Las Vegas businesses and a move to China. 

To hear more about Apple Pay and where it's headed, tune in using the player above. 

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