Contests that teach, encourage and reward kids to better themselves and/or their communities help us all. Author Karen Russell told NPR “New Yorker Radio Hour” listeners on a recent August weekend about how proud she was to treat her family to a ...

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  1. Service of Contests for Kids: We’re All Winners
  2. Service of Cart Before the Horse: Corporations Collaborate When Foolproof Locks on Internet Security Don’t Exist
  3. Service of Changing Taste: The Lowdown and the High
  4. Service of Subscriptions: A Winning Business Model—Sometimes
  5. Service of Favorite Things Possibly Gone in Moments
  6. More Recent Articles

Service of Contests for Kids: We’re All Winners

Contests that teach, encourage and reward kids to better themselves and/or their communities help us all.

Author Karen Russell told NPR “New Yorker Radio Hour” listeners on a recent August weekend about how proud she was to treat her family to a pizza when she was a kid. An avid reader, she’d qualified for a free pie with one topping through Pizza Hut’s Book It program. She’d read 10 books.

Books tossed recently at the Millbrook, NY Transfer Station

Book It was founded in 1985. It runs from October 1 to March 31 for children from Kindergarten to the sixth grade and homeschoolers can also participate.

Things may have changed since Russell won her pizza. She read printed books and today many children use Kindles and other tablets. Some may still record their books on paper and some access an app that reaches teachers who track their participation. But the goal remains–to promote reading.

The National Road Safety Foundation [NRSF] conducts contests for kids to help its campaign to drive down the number of traffic accidents, deaths and injuries here. I know about it because a colleague, David Reich, runs and promotes the contests. One is “Drive2Life,” in its seventh year, in which teens submit messages to be turned into public service announcements [PSAs] to warn drivers about the dangers of speeding. This year’s winner, a California 8th grader, received $1,000 and a trip to New York where he collaborated with Emmy Award-winning producers to script, film and edit his winning PSA, “Cars Aren’t Toys.” The PSA aired on “Teen Kids News” on 150 TV stations.

Photo: fcclainc.org

In addition to Drive2Life, there are NRSF Drive Safe student contests in Washington DC, LA, Chicago and Atlanta as well as Safe Rides Save Lives for members of Family Career and Community Leaders of America [FCCLA] and #DrivingSkills101 for Students Against Destructive Decisions [SADD] Chapters nationwide.

Can you name other great contests for children? Did you participate in any when you were a kid?

Photo: washingtonautoshow.com

    

Service of Cart Before the Horse: Corporations Collaborate When Foolproof Locks on Internet Security Don’t Exist

Photo: edgarstewart.com

Thank goodness all giant corporations aren’t leaping into bed together to share respective expertise and information although some are inching in that direction and others are raring to go. It won’t be long.

But first a digression: In arriving at the topic for this post I counted seven fuzzy attributions in one newspaper article. Isn’t that a lot? Laced throughout a recent front page article in The Wall Street Journal I read: “According to people familiar with the conversations; the people said; a person familiar with the discussions said; some of the people said; said people familiar with the matter; some of the people said and people familiar with the matter said.”

Photo: clckinmoms.com

Nevertheless I believe the topic is valid and am troubled by its implications. The title and subtitle: “Facebook to Banks: Give Us Your Data, We’ll Give You Our Users. Facebook has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about customers as it seeks to boost user engagement data.”

Reporters Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and AnnaMaria Andriotis wrote that Facebook had spoken with people at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and U.S. Bancorp “to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger.” Facebook Messenger is a messaging app and platform.

What did “people say” about the conversations? “Facebook has talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, the people said. It has also pitched fraud alerts.” In addition, “Facebook asked banks for information about where their users are shopping with their debit and credit cards outside of purchases they make using Facebook Messenger.” Messenger has 1.3 billion active monthly users according to the reporters.

Photo: pinterest.com

Timing could be better for this outreach. The reporters reminded readers about current investigations in which Cambridge Analytica accessed data on some 87 million Facebook users without user OK. “‘We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit-card companies for ads,’ [Facebook] spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana said. ‘We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships or contracts with banks or credit-card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.’”

Banks are tempted by the digital reach and doing business with online platforms with healthy and growing businesses. Even though Facebook has introduced what it says are safety features, “Bank executives are worried about the breadth of information being sought, even if it means their bank might not being available on certain platforms their customers use.”

While PayPal and Square have beaten banks to the punch in the world of mobile commerce many customers continue to be comfortable with traditional ways of paying such as credit and debit cards, cash and checks.

Photo: timeanddate.com

Some deals between big players are already struck though I question their purpose: American Express members can reach a rep through Facebook. [Why would you need to do that?] Paypal users can send money through Facebook Messenger and Mastercard’s Masterpass digital wallet lets customers place online orders with some merchants.

Before all these mergers of communications, customers and data happen, shouldn’t there first be a firm grasp on digital customer privacy? Why are we becoming so lazy: Is it so onerous to check a balance on your bank’s website that you need Facebook do it for you? Can you believe that AmEx members can’t reach out to a company rep but instead need Facebook to do it for them? These “benefits” appear to potentially favor everyone but the consumer—do you agree?  Do you pay for things via mobile wallet, credit or debit cards, cash or checks? And last, does an article with more than a few generic attributions disturb you?

Photo: canyourelate.org

    

Service of Changing Taste: The Lowdown and the High

Photo: 13.com

Question: What do smart marketers do when consumers cool on their once hot product? Answer: Develop the next trend.

Beer consumption has slumped—Americans chose wine or cocktails over beer in 2017 for the first time. Saabira Chaudhuri and Annie Gasparro wrote that drinkers “are thinking about other things: taste, value, beer bellies.”

Photo: stealingshare.com

In their Wall Street Journal article they cite Beer Institute stats: the brew was 60.8 percent of people’s drink of choice in the mid-1990s. Last year it dropped to 49.7 percent. People 21 to 27 years of age chose beer 65 percent of the time in 2006 vs. 43 percent two years ago according to Anheuser-Busch InBev SA.

Enter brewers like Lagunitas, a Heineken company, among several “diving into the deep end of the cannabis-infused drink pool.” The brand introduced a sparkling water drink for sale in California called Hi-Fi Hops according to Steve Huff on maxim.com. “Lagunitas says their 420-friendly fizz comes in two strengths: a lighter version with 5mgs of THC and a stronger one loaded with 10mgs of the only reason anyone messes with cannabis anyway (it’s the THC that brings the mellow, in case you didn’t know).” THC stands for tetrahydrocannabidinol.

Photo: forbes.com

According to Huff, “If anything, the beer maker is a little late to this game. Blue Moon founder Keith Villa is producing craft beer loaded with THC. Corona is ready to join the game, too. And California vintners have been infusing wine with weed for a while now.”

Cannabis is legal in Canada but is against federal law here. Mike Adams, contributing writer at Forbes, wrote that “Molson Coors, the second largest brewer in the world, is reportedly trying to get into the game.” It’s considered by some currently a risky venture for sales in the U.S right now though “the beverage sector alone is expected to produce $15 billion a year, according to statistics from Cannabiz Consumer Group.”

Photo: newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org

Adams reported that in Canada the market might jump from $5 billion to $22 billion because, as a Canadian brewer planning to introduce a cannabis beer observed, “Smoking has lost, and beverages are how we like to become altered.”

Do you think that cannabis drinks will take up the sales gap for breweries made by decreased beer sales? Will pressure by breweries, along with other interest groups wanting to make cannabis legal, convince lawmakers to change the law in the US? Have you tried a cannabis drink?

Photo: thedrinkbusiness.com

    

Service of Subscriptions: A Winning Business Model—Sometimes

Photo: Tundra Restaurant Supply

Before Amazon customers buy a toothpick, its 100 million Prime subscribers have handed the company from $77.88/year to $119/year, representing the cost to students and everyone else respectively. [Some may be grandfathered at $99.99.] Nobody outside the company seems to know the breakdown so you can’t do the math but 100 million paying $1/year would represent a tidy sum.

Subscribers get benefits such as free fast shipping for eligible items, shopping deals, streaming films and TV shows.

Photo: videoblocks.com

According to Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post, “The real money, though, is in the buying power these shoppers wield: Prime members reportedly spend an average of $1,300 a year on Amazon, compared with $700 for its customers who are not members.” And it seems that many of the former don’t comparison shop.

The subscription model works for others such as Netflix, which Siegel reported has 125 million members. Health clubs too—which count on people paying for a year and not returning after a few months.

Photo: What’s-on-Netflix.com

On the other hand, MoviePass has had trouble calculating its fee and benefits–a shame as the concept originally served a purpose, especially for customers in cities where one movie ticket costs upwards of $15. Its monthly fee will soon increase to $14.95 from $9.95. According to Nishant Mohan in The Wall Street Journal, “MoviePass, which has more than 3 million members, lost $98.3 million on $48.6 million of revenue in the quarter ended March 31.”

Tuesday’s Journal reported that the company would limit subscribers from one movie a day to three a month. Ben Fritz wrote that the company had forecast 5 million subscribers by December 2018 which chief executive Mitch Lowe admits might not happen quite that fast. He told Fritz: “Ultimately, I believe this is a 20 million-subscriber business over the next three to four years.”

Meanwhile, it’s trying to stay afloat. It has competition such as AMC Entertainment Holdings with 175,000 members with a monthly $19.95 charge to see three movies a week at its US theatres. MoviePass “plans to limit the availability of first-run movies opening on more than 1,000 screens during the first two weeks.” It also has had technical glitches. One recent day its app featured showtimes for e-ticketing theatres, only, and none others.

I’ve noticed disgruntled customers gripe on social media. One subscriber wrote on Facebook: “I’m unable to cancel my account. They say you’re liable for a year. It’s crazy. You have to go thru their app for customer service and that took more than 2 hours.”

Have you had trouble getting out of a subscription? How many times can a company stumble and succeed in the end?  Are there some subscriptions you endorse? Any you don’t?

Photo: crisistimes.com

    

Service of Favorite Things Possibly Gone in Moments

Niece Alison & mug from John

If we’re lucky, we own and can treasure some favorite things.

Carr fire Photo: Axios.com

Millions don’t have this luxury starting with Californians now homeless due to the Carr conflagration, just one of many. Then there are those who also have lost everything in other fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods and some half a million in the U.S. living on the street or in their cars because they can’t afford an alternative. Favorite things are the last thing on their minds.

Glenn Close told The Wall Street Journal Magazine’s Thomas Gebremedhin that her mother’s gloves were among her favorite things. I understood that: I have a worn pair of my father’s leather ones on a shelf in my living room which I mentioned and photographed in “Service of Remembering.” About her mother’s Close said “I find them hugely comforting. Sometimes, when I need it, I put them against my face.” I lay my hand on top of my dad’s gloves for reassurance.

My bet is that most favorite things are small and of little intrinsic value. I know of only one photo taken of my parents on their wedding day. It’s on my wall [photo left].

In addition to books, the physical things I hold dear are mostly small: two coffee mugs nephew John gave me and countless photos—some framed—nephew Edward has shared [see the photo above for one of the mugs and one of the photos]. A copper cocktail jigger from sister Elizabeth and wooden recipe box she gave me decades ago make me feel at home. Daily I wear a ring and bracelets from dear ones along with my wedding band.

A ceramic and a china bowl—one a friend made, the other, a wedding gift—join lovingly-used Vietri dinner and pasta plates [right] we hand-carried from Italy and decorative kitchen towels that I keep until they are in shreds. I love my posters; a cartoon of my father; a vintage silver Tiffany cocktail shaker; key rings; a photo of my parents on a motorcycle in France that Edward framed for us; an oil painting of my mother as a child and my parents’ everyday silverware.

And I’ve just started.

What are some of your favorite things? Do you think “there but for the grace of God go I,” when you hear about devastating natural disasters that turn lives upside down?

    

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