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    Published on: October 11, 2012

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    One of the great things about this gig is that it is a way for me to constantly educated, enlightened and even delighted. I never know when it is going to happen, but something will come along that will simultaneously make me say "Wow! I didn't know that," and "Wow! I can use that on MorningNewsBeat."

    Which is exactly what happened the other night.

    I was at the movies with my daughter, and before the movie started, she turned to me and told me about an iPhone application that she thought I might find useful....

    It is called RunPee, and essentially what this app does is provide a database of almost every movie currently in the theaters, offering hits about when it is best to leave to go to the bathroom. You know, the sections of the movie when it won't really matter if you are out of the theater.

    Not only does RunPee provide this service, but it also offers a time. You can choose the movie you are seeing, and hit the button when it starts. When the movie gets to one of those points when you can miss a couple of minutes, it vibrates ... letting you know that you can run pee.

    Like in Looper, you can run to the bathroom for four minutes at the 56 minute mark, and then again for five minutes an hour and 17 minutes into the movie. And, it'll tell you what you are missing while you are peeing!

    This is information for life!

    I'm a 57 year old man, and I have to admit that this app may be one of the most relevant on my iPhone. I'm a little disturbed that my daughter sees me this way, but facts are facts.

    But beyond the personal relevance of this application, I have to say that I am totally blown away by whatever and whoever created it. This is a really, really smart idea ... and hats off to the folks who came up with it.

    it just goes to show you ... there are so many opportunities out there for companies that innovate, that keep looking for new niches, that try to identify the behaviors that offer them a chance to do something new. Go figure.

    Anyway, that's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Chalk up another victim of the nation's obesity crisis.

    Allstate, the insurance company, now is saying that overweight Americans are causing the vehicles they drive to get less fuel efficiency - amounting to more than one billion gallons of wasted fuel each year.

    According to the Chicago Tribune, Allstate "teamed with to document the struggle between fuel efficiency and passenger weight. Between 1960 and 2002, 1 billion gallons of gasoline could be attributed to the weight gain of motorists in passenger vehicles ... More gas is likely to get guzzled as people are getting heavier. Currently, more than a third of adults are obese, but the obesity rate is expected to reach 44 percent by 2030."

    Of course, one billion gallons is "less than 1 percent of  the total fuel used by passenger vehicles annually," the Tribune notes. But now that this data is in the public domain, expect New York City to start weighing drivers at toll booths before they drive into the city, and increasing their toll charges depending on their BMI; the same could go for taxi fares, which are likely to be synched to how overweight passengers happen to be.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    Published reports say that McDonald's plans to start installing Apple iPads in select restaurants, believing that the availability of such technology will make it relevant to the next generation of shoppers.

    The iPads, which are affixed to the tables, will allow consumers to play games, surf the web or check email while consuming their burgers and fries.
    KC's View:
    Hard to imagine that iPads are more attractive to kids than french fries, but I do think that this kind of technology helps to improve McDonald's image as being hip.

    I just wonder how tough it will be to keep wiping the grease of the iPad screens.

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    CNBC reports that Facebook is testing a new feature called "Collections," which it says "will help retailers share their products on the social network — and for the first time allow users to click through and buy products through Facebook." Among the retailers involved in the test are Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Victoria's Secret.

    The story notes that "Facebook isn’t charging for this service yet — but presumably it plans to take a cut of all sales that originate on its platform. And the more people share products, the more they’re likely to buy ... With this latest move, Facebook is hoping to push into the next frontier of social shopping and capitalize on the power of people sharing products they like with friends. It only seems natural for the company to roll out this service in time for the holiday shopping season."
    KC's View:
    It is not hard to imagine that this kind of service could be hugely applicable across a number of retail venues. It also is not hard to imagine that Facebook is looking for any possible way to generate revenue and demonstrate to investors that it has a sustainable and profitable business model.

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    Here are two stories that vividly illustrate the directions in which technology seems to be taking us ... or at least the directions in which the culture is driving technology.

    • The Los Angeles Times this morning reports on a new study from Piper Jaffray & Co. saying that four out of ten US teens now own an iPhone - compared to the 17 percent of teens who made that same claim back in the spring of 2011.

    In addition, the story says, "Piper Jaffray also found that the number of teens who own a tablet computer has jumped from 34% in spring 2012 to 44% in fall 2012 -- and 72% of those who do own a tablet own an iPad.

    "You can bet that number will go up when/if Apple releases the heavily rumored iPad mini that is expected to cost $299."

    • Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "the personal-computer business has entered a tailspin," a situation "triggered by factors that include cannibalization by tablet computers, sluggish economic conditions and slowing PC sales in emerging countries."

    According to the story, "the grim signs come as Microsoft Corp. and its allies are hoping to generate excitement in late October with a new version of Windows and new devices designed to run the software. Researchers IDC and Gartner Inc. said PC shipments in the third quarter fell more than 8% from a year earlier, the steepest drop since at least 2001. A third report, from IHS iSuppli, projected PC shipments for the full year would decline for the first time in 11 years ... Market watchers had expected some PC buyers to put off purchases until the launch of Microsoft's new operating system. But the severity of the slowdown in the third quarter—ordinarily a better one for PC sales because of back-to-school purchases and other factors—came as a surprise."
    KC's View:
    Love this note from the Times, which is quick to note that people should not go "all self-righteous about how spoiled kids are today," because the report does not specify which model iPhone kids have: "Now that the iPhone 5 has come out, you can find an iPhone 4S for about $100 and some deals offer an iPhone 4 for free. There's also a good chance that many of these teenagers are carrying around Mom and Dad's old iPhone hand-me-down. Passing along a working but outdated iPhone to a teenager is the perfect justification for a parent to go out and get a new phone."

    So it is the parents who are spoiled.

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    Reuters reports that Walmart told analysts yesterday that "it plans to add roughly the same amount of store space in fiscal 2014 as it has planned for fiscal 2013, and will still open more supercenters than smaller stores in the United States, its largest market ... Walmart plans to more than double the number of its Neighborhood Market grocery stores in the United States by fiscal 2016."

    The story goes on: "Wal-Mart still plans to open more stores around the world, but, as it said earlier this year, will slow down store openings in Brazil, China and Mexico. In Brazil and China, Wal-Mart has said that it wants to work on making improvements in its hundreds of stores. Meanwhile, the store approval process in Mexico, where its local affiliate has more than 2,000 locations, has slowed and become more complex in the wake of allegations that the company had bribed government officials to speed up approvals."

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Walmart is opening a hiring office for the controversial Neighborhood Market that it is building in the city's Chinatown neighborhood. The store has been opposed by local residents and organized labor, which have suggested that the store could hurt the character of the neighborhood.

    According to the story, "The new market, set to open early next year at Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues, is one of 21 new Wal-Mart grocery stores announced in California. And on Wednesday, the discount giant said it plans to speed up the opening of its smaller-format grocery and express stores to compete better in cities ... Both models are designed to help Wal-Mart expand beyond suburban areas into densely populated urban cores and compete against dollar stores and convenience shops."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    • The Chicago Sun Times reports that Kraft Foods is under pressure to sever ties to an Idaho dairy farm that stands accused of animal cruelty.

    They aren't just accusations. Mercy for Animals, an animal rights group, yesterday released a video showing workers at the Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy who "viciously punch, kick, jump atop and stomp on cows held in restraints as the animals scream in pain." In other scenes, "the cows are mercilessly beaten with canes and shocked with electric prods as they struggle to keep their balance on the slippery and unsanitary feces-covered floors of holding sheds."

    And, it isn't just Kraft. The Sun Times reports that "Bettencourt also sells milk to cheese suppliers for the Wendy’s burger chain. Wendy’s said Wednesday that it had demanded that its supplier sever ties with Bettencourt immediately. Bettencourt is an indirect supplier to Burger King, the world’s second-largest burger chain, which said it had launched an investigation that could result in similar action."

    Reuters reports that Toys R Us "will open toy departments in 24 Macy's Inc (NYS:M) stores this holiday season as the world's largest specialty toy retailer looks to reach more shoppers in the biggest selling season of the year. The toy departments, which will be open roughly from October 15 to January 15 next year, will be in Macy's stores in key U.S. markets including California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York.

    • The New York Times reports this morning that "the Girl Scout cookie box is getting a major makeover - for the first time in more than a dozen years - to better tell the story of what girls learn from selling cookies. Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils all and the other cookie varieties will move from being a product to a messenger, seeking to explain what scouts do and to reconnect with some of the 59 million Girl Scout alumnae ... The new box lists the five skills that girls learn from the Girl Scout cookie program: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics."

    According to the story, "The scouting organization describes the annual cookie sale as 'the biggest girl-led business in the world,' with two-thirds of scouts participating annually. Cookie sales have increased more than 3 percent in each of the last three years. Last year, 214 million boxes were sold, for a total of $787 million, up from 207 million boxes and $760 million the year before."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    • Alex Karras, the former defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions who perhaps is best known for playing Mongo in Blazing Saddles, died yesterday after a long battle with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer. He was 77.

    Earlier this year, Karras agreed to become a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the National Football League charging the league for misleading players about the impact of multiple concussions. Thousands of players are party to the lawsuit, which said that Karras “sustained repetitive traumatic impacts to his head and/or concussions on multiple occasions” and “suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas."

    The NFL says that it has never intentionally misled players about concussions, and that player safety is a priority.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    Responding to our story about Walmart testing same-day delivery, one MNB user wrote:

    I find it interesting that Walmart continues to ramp up their game in the name of the consumer. The Whole Foods scam has been exposed and they turn out to not represent who they claim to be and in the end they are just another chain that continues to try and stick it to the consumer, with false claims of organic and extremely high pricing. Walmart however, continues to find ways to lead and keep everyone on their heels... If memory serves...KC is/was Whole Foods biggest fan?

    I think in this case you are quite literally comparing apples to oranges. Walmart and Whole Foods have entirely different business models, and so I'm not sure that building up Walmart requires slamming Whole Foods. There's room for both.

    As for my preferences ... while there are things about Whole Foods that I admire, and I do some small percentage of my shopping at one (mostly because there is a Whole Foods within walking distance of my house), I'm not sure that the record would indicate that I am Whole Foods' "biggest fan."

    Another MNB user took a position that is fairly consistent with how I feel:

    Walmart's got a huge hurdle to overcome if they think they can compete with Amazon. In addition to the fact that Amazon has millions more product offerings given their affiliate program, they have the added value of their ratings system, which I believe is one of the most valuable - and often overlooked - web assets. Nearly everyone I know consults those reviews before executing a major purchase. And by comparison their competitors attempts are laughable.

    And of course we can't overlook the fact that like everything else Walmart does, the website is ghastly. I tried to purchase a gift card yesterday and quickly bailed just because I couldn't stand the interface and process.

    Walmart always thinks they can compete with the assorted sweet spots of their competitors, but does so with a ham-fisted approach that is laughable. Remember when they tried to compete with Target's hip clothing brands by trying to market their own brands like Faded Glory and White Stag?

    And Jim Swoboda chimed in about the long-term implications:

    Traditional retail will become a "niche" at best.  It's only a matter of time...

    MNB user Mark Raddant had a comment about Kate McMahon's column:

    It seems to me the Organic products sold by the larger Consumer Product Giants are missing an opportunity.  They should begin labeling their products in accordance with the California law up for approval, even to the point of stating they are doing this in the absence of a national GMO labeling regulation.  Then the organic labels can—through social media—encourage people to change the giants from within by purchasing more of the non-GMO products and letting the consumer’s buying habits determine the outcome.  It seems to me the protesters are missing the same opportunity by not encouraging the giants to shift their resources through purchasing more of the non-GMO products, and letting the market force the change.

    Regarding a Starbucks story we had yesterday, MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

    I’ve got to side with Starbucks on their fight against the use of the cute but definitely confusing name “Starbarks Doggie Day Care”.  Let’s start with the fact that it took me two or three times of reading this piece before I caught the spelling difference (‘barks’ vs. ‘bucks’).  Add to that a not-unreasonable (potential) consumer assumption that Starbarks could be a legitimate brand extension (think of Reebok’s children’s line “Weebok”). 

    For a business/service provider to use a name that is a pun or variation on a widely known and admired brand (whether in the same category or not) unjustly (and possibly undeservedly) bestows consumers’ positive feelings and assumptions (toward the legitimate brand—in this case, Starbucks Coffee) onto the unrelated business.  And should the unrelated business fail to live up to the high expectations cultivated by the legitimate brand, it casts a shadow on the legitimate brand which has no control or connection to the offending business—regardless of whether they are in the same industry or not.  After all, Walmart isn’t in the business of selling construction supplies, but I don’t think they’d allow a Sheetrock supplier to operate under the name “Wall Mart”.

    And maybe Herman Melville should have hired lawyers to keep his book from falling into public domain?

    And, we got the following email from MNB user Bev Bennett:

    Like you, I read the piece on the drop in Protestant affiliation. The NYT version had some interesting things to say about the impact.

    These people are likely to be young:

    "Now, more than one-third of those ages 18 to 22 are religiously unaffiliated. These “younger millennials” are replacing older generations who remained far more involved with religion throughout their lives."

    They're likely to be liberal:

    “The significant majority of the religiously unaffiliated tend to be left-leaning, tend to support the Democratic Party, support gay marriage and environmental causes,” he said.

    And, they're likely to be engaged in social action:

    “A lot of the younger people are very spotty in their attendance at worship, but if we have a mission project, they?re here,” said Ms. Lindner, the pastor of a Presbyterian church in New Jersey. “They run the soup kitchens, they build the houses in Habitat for Humanity.”

    Do you think these qualities could have some food industry implications? I do.

    The biggest implication, it seems to me, is the utter lack of trust that an increasing number of young people - and not just young people - have in major institutions. An absence of faith - and not just religious faith - can be a tough obstacle for companies to overcome in the long-term.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2012

    • In the American League Divisional Series, the Oakland Athletics defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-3, bringing their best-of-five series to a 2-2 tie, while the New York Yankees took a 2-1 series lead with a 3-2 defeat of the Baltimore Orioles.

    • Over in the National League Divisional Series, the San Francisco Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3, tying their series 2-2, while the St . Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 8-0, taking a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.
    KC's View: