March 31, 2023

A Coding Standard to Track Media Assets Is Proposed

For advertisers and media companies, keeping track and organizing the tonnage of media assets — from video clips to commercials — can be a challenge, particularly online. On Thursday, a media industry organization announced the findings of a two-year study that uses a coding system to monitor these assets, similar to how U.P.C. labels track consumer products from shipping to purchase.

The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, the industry group, advocated for the widespread adoption of the new system at an event in New York, saying it would allow media companies to earn additional billions of dollars in revenue while saving millions of dollars on back-end processing systems currently used to track media.

Companies that tag their ads and their videos with these standardized codes will also be better able to determine where, when and how the content is viewed.

Some of the companies involved in the test phase include NBCUniversal Media, Viacom, Turner Broadcasting, Starcom MediaVest Group, ESPN, Hulu, ABC, Nielsen, Arbitron and comScore.

“Brands, advertisers and networks produce more content than ever but, unfortunately, the industry still lacks the ability to accurately identify and track assets across all distribution points,” said Jane Clarke, the managing director for the coalition in a statement.

Janice Finkel-Greene, the executive vice president of buying analytics at MagnaGlobal, said the coding system would also help advertisers manage the sheer amount of data available to them from sources like social media and research companies like Nielsen.

“We wind up with all of this wonderful data but we have difficulty putting it together,” Ms. Finkel-Greene said.

The coding system would help advertisers more precisely tailor ads to a particular audience, she added. The system would also help companies automate what can be a haphazard often manual process of coding content.

Such a system would allow media companies “to spend less time putting the data together and more time doing analysis,” Ms. Finkel-Greene said.

Charles Kennedy, a senior vice president of research at ABC, said the media industry had been “hampered by the labor intensity and the complexity” of keeping track of digital media. Using a standardized coding system would help the company show the right ads to the right people, especially those who view content online. If a consumer watches an ABC show days after it has aired on television, ABC would be able to show the viewer updated ads — and profit off the ad that is shown.

“It will help us move into the world where we have dynamic ad insertion,” Mr. Kennedy said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 18, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the organization proposing a new way to track and monitor media assets. It is the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, not the Coalition for Media Management.


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Alibaba Vice President Replaces Founder as Chief

Mr. Ma, 48, announced in January that he was stepping down as chief executive officer to make way for younger leaders. He has stayed on as chairman.

Jonathan Lu Zhaoxi, a 13-year veteran of the company, will take over in May as chief executive, said the company, based in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

“He is passionate about and familiar with the group’s various businesses,” Mr. Ma said in the announcement. “Not only has he contributed to building our culture and organization and developed many talented people, he also possesses a unique leadership style and charisma.”

Mr. Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 to link Chinese suppliers with retailers abroad. The company has expanded in consumer e-commerce with its Taobao and Tmall platforms, which are among the busiest online outlets in the world.

Mr. Ma is part of a generation of Chinese Internet entrepreneurs who built successful businesses in e-commerce, entertainment, search and other fields.

In addition to Mr. Ma, several other people have become billionaires, including Robin Li of the search giant Baidu and Ma Huateng of Tencent, an entertainment and Web portal company.

Mr. Lu, who joined Alibaba in 2000, was the founding president of its online payment service, Alipay, and worked at Taobao, the company said.

Alibaba announced a reorganization in January to split its seven units into 25 divisions, to compete more effectively in China’s turbulent Internet market.

China has the biggest population of Internet users in the world, with 564 million people online at the end of 2012, according to an industry group, the China Internet Network Information Center.

The country trails the United States and Japan in e-commerce spending, but the Boston Consulting Group expects China to take over the No. 1 position by 2015.

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Bucks Blog: Workers’ Share of Health Costs Is Likely to Continue Rising

Towers Watson/NBGH

Workers are paying a greater share of their health care costs, and that trend is likely to continue over the next several years, a new report on employer-based health plans finds.

Employers still bear most of the cost of workplace health plans. But employees contribute 42 percent more for heath plan coverage than they did five years ago, as against a 32 percent increase for employers, according to the study from the benefits consultant Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit industry group whose members are large employers concerned rising about health care costs. (This change is shown in the graphic above.)

Meanwhile, though, the share of the total cost of health care borne by employees, including both premiums and costs paid out-of-pocket, climbed to 37 percent in 2013, from 34 percent in 2011, the report found.

Annual salary increases, meanwhile, have averaged less than 2 percent percent over the last three years, so workers are losing ground. “From a total rewards perspective, ” the report concludes, “rising health care contributions are taking their toll on employee take-home pay.”

The report is based on an e-mail survey, conducted from November through January, that questioned benefits managers at 583 employers about their health care benefits. The participants collectively employ about 11 million full-time workers.

The majority — about 80 percent — of employers said they planned to continue to raise the share of premiums paid by employees over the next three years.

Employees paid, on average, about 23 percent of total premium costs last year, and are expected to pay nearly a quarter in 2013, as companies take steps to control their costs. In terms of paycheck deductions, this translates into an average employee contribution of $2,658 to premiums in 2012. That is expected to rise to $2,888 in 2013 — an increase of nearly 9 percent in one year.

How do you expect to deal with the increase in health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs?

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Bucks Blog: Does Long-Term Care Insurance at a Young Age Make Sense?

The average age of people buying long-term care insurance has been falling, as people seek to balance the possible need for nursing home or in-home care with the considerable cost of the insurance premiums. Even some very young people are buying the insurance, and a few of them are making claims under their policies, according to an industry group.

Last year, 3.5 percent of individual policies were bought by people age 44 or under, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, which tracks industry data and trends. (In contrast, 56.5 percent of individual buyers last year were between 55 and 64, and the average age is now 57, down from 67 about a decade ago, according to the association’s data).

The youngest claimant is a young man who bought coverage at age 21 and began receiving payments under the policy at age 24; he has continued receiving benefits for seven years, association research shows. The youngest female policyholder currently receiving benefits under a claim obtained coverage at age 28 and needed care within the same year. She qualified for benefits that have amounted to over $135,000, the association said. A number of insurers reported claims from policyholders in their 30s, the association found.

The association didn’t gather information about why younger adults make claims under the policies. But it is likely that they had an accident or were diagnosed with a serious medical condition that required longer periods of care, said Jesse Slome, the association’s executive director. (People who already have serious medical conditions are ineligible for long-term care insurance, which requires health assessments before applicants obtain coverage.)

But does purchasing a long-term care policy at a young age generally make financial sense?

It’s true that younger people tend to qualify for coverage more easily and pay lower premiums. A policy that provides for $164,000 in total benefits over time before it runs out, with the option to increase coverage in the future, costs roughly $635 annually – or about $53 a month — for a 25-year-old, according to the association’s 2012 price index.

Enid Kassner of the AARP’s Public Policy Institute said people in their 20s and 30s should be cautious about buying the insurance because while their premium may seem low at a time when they may not own a home or have children, it’s very difficult to predict whether they will be able to continue to afford the premiums over a very long period of time. “It’s not a product for everyone,” she cautions.

Most policyholders, she noted, don’t use their benefits until they are in their 80s. If young policyholders later decide that they can’t afford or don’t want to continue the insurance, they will have wasted all those premiums they paid since they don’t accrue to your benefit the way they might with certain kinds of life insurance. (And young policyholders should expect that premiums will go up over time, she said; while most policies are meant to have stable premiums, insurance companies sometimes can impose increases, sometimes large ones, on an entire “class” of policyholders). While Ms. Kassner said that she focuses primarily on policy issues rather than on consumer matters, “The advice I tend to give is, you should only buy if you intend to keep it.”

Another caveat to buying the insurance at a young age, she noted, is that few long-term care policies sold today provide lifetime benefits; they typically are structured to provide specific benefits over a certain period of years. So if a young adult bought a policy and then needed to file a claim because of an accident or illness at a young age, the coverage wouldn’t necessarily extend for the rest of his or her life. (Mr. Slome of the long-term care association said lifetime coverage is available but is generally very costly because of the unlimited benefits.)

Would you consider buying long-term care insurance before you turn 50?

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BASF to Stop Selling Genetically Modified Products in Europe

“There is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe — from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians,” said Stefan Marcinowski, a board member with responsibilities for plant biotechnology. “Therefore, it does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market.”

The company has instead decided to focus on “attractive markets” in the Americas and in Asia, he said.

The withdrawal of the potato leaves a type of corn produced by Monsanto as the only biotech crop grown in Europe.

A total of 140 jobs will be cut in Europe from the company’s plant science unit, which was responsible for developing the Amflora potato, mainly for use in the paper industry, BASF said. Many of those jobs will be moved to the company’s new plant science headquarters near Raleigh, North Carolina, and to other sites in Berlin and Belgium.

Although BASF does not yet sell any other genetically modified crops for cultivation in Europe, the company said it no longer had plans to market other potatoes, including a disease-resistant variety called Fortuna, and a disease-resistant variety of wheat.

Even so, the company said it would continue seeking authorizations to sell its potato products in Europe, a sign that the company was keeping its options open for the future. None of those potatoes, or the wheat, are currently marketed elsewhere in the world.

The decision by BASF is a sign of the difficulties for the biotechnology industries in Europe, including in areas like nanotechnology and animal cloning, said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, a director at EuropaBio, an industry group.

“The sad irony is that we import biotechnology products into Europe, and that means we’re probably paying more for them than we need to, and we’re losing research jobs to the places where they’re being produced,” he said.

BASF’s decision is a blow for the European Commission, which began a new push last year to allow farmers in Europe to grow gene-altered products in parts of the Union that accept the technology.

In so doing they hope to remove an irritant in trade relations with the United States and with other countries that use biotechnology, and to lower costs for European farmers and industry.

John Dalli, the E.U. commissioner for consumer safety, approved the genetically modified potato two years ago, the first such step in more than a decade.

Environmentalists reacted with fury to that decision, saying that Mr. Dalli had overstepped his mandate, and they cheered the news that BASF would stop trying to sell their biotech products in Europe.

“This is another nail in the coffin for genetically modified foods in Europe,” said Adrian Bebb of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

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Economix Blog: Small Businesses Plan to Increase Hiring



Dollars to doughnuts.

Some good news in the job market: Small businesses plan to increase hiring, according to the latest report from the National Federation of Independent Business.

The organization — an industry group for small and medium-size businesses — conducts a survey each month on subjects like optimism, credit conditions and jobs. November’s survey showed that the net share of companies that were planning to hire workers was at its highest in 38 months. The share is well below where it has been in previous recoveries, but is an improvement nonetheless.

DESCRIPTIONSource: National Federation of Independent Business, via Haver Analytics

What’s more, the net percentage of companies that say they have already increased their employment in the last three months — that is, the percent saying they increased their staff minus the percent saying they decreased it — was positive for the first time in nearly four years.

DESCRIPTIONSource: National Federation of Independent Business, via Haver Analytics

For a while, small businesses seemed to be lagging big companies. Perhaps even the country’s smaller employers are finally starting to enjoy the feeble recovery.

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Federal Officials Extend E. Coli Ban

Federal food safety officials said on Monday that they would ban the sale of ground beef containing six toxic strains of E. coli bacteria that have increasingly been showing up in the food supply, taking a long-delayed step that was opposed by many in the meat industry.

“This is one of the biggest steps forward in the protection of the beef supply in some time,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, the head of food safety for the Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat. “We’re doing this to prevent illness and to save lives.”

The new rule means that six lesser-known forms of E. coli will be treated the same as their much more famous cousin, a strain of the bacteria called E. coli O157:H7, which has caused thousands of illnesses and prompted the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef and other products.

That strain was banned from ground beef in 1994 after it caused a major outbreak of illness that sickened hundreds and killed four children. Until now, that one strain of E. coli was the only type of dangerous bacteria to be banned from any type of fresh meat. It is not illegal to sell meat containing other types of bacteria, like salmonella, in part because cooking typically kills the pathogens. Regulators have treated ground beef differently from other meats and poultry because Americans like to eat it rare and resulting illnesses can be deadly and children are often the victims.

In recent years, however, scientists found that several other strains of E. coli in food were making people sick and they identified the six most potent, which were called the non-O57s or the Big Six.

The American Meat Institute, an industry group, was highly critical of the new policy. “Imposing this new regulatory program on ground beef will cost tens of millions of federal and industry dollars — costs that likely will be borne by taxpayers and consumers,” the group said in a statement. “It is neither likely to yield a significant public health benefit nor is it good public policy.”

Citing arguments it has made previously in opposing such a step, the group said that other measures the industry is already taking to improve food safety are sufficient to help combat the additional strains of E. coli. 

While several outbreaks caused by the Big Six E. coli strains have been linked to produce, the group pointed to the fact that only one has been tied to ground beef. In that outbreak, which occurred last year, three people were sickened.

“There is no public health crisis related to those strains in ground beef,” the group said.  The agency will begin enforcing the new rule in March, to give the meat industry time to prepare for the change. The rule will apply to hamburger meat and trim or beef scraps that go into it, as well as some other products, like steaks that have been tenderized with machines that use needles to poke minute holes in the surface. The agency will start testing meat at packing plants in March.

Some meat processors have begun to test for the six strains in recent months in anticipation of federal action, but many others will most likely begin testing once the new rule takes effect.

Under the rule, any meat that is found to contain the Big Six E. coli, in tests by government or industry, will have to be diverted for use in cooked products. The bacteria is killed by heating the meat to 160 degrees.

While the new rule significantly expands the agriculture department’s ban, it does not include all forms of toxic E. coli. A highly virulent strain of the bacteria that caused thousand of illnesses and dozens of deaths among people who ate contaminated sprouts in Europe this summer is not one of the Big Six because it has not been detected as a cause of illness in the United States.

Dr. Hagen said the list of banned pathogens might continue to grow. “This is where we started and it doesn’t rule out the possibility that we would consider other pathogens in the future,” she said. Toxic forms of E. coli produce a poison called shiga toxin. It can cause bloody diarrhea and severe stomach cramps. The most severe cases can lead to kidney failure and death.

The Agriculture Department has been weighing an expansion of its E. coli ban for at least four years. A draft of the new rule was completed in January, but it was further delayed for months in a review by the Obama administration.

The meat industry argues that an expanded ban would lead to increased costs, including for testing and holding back meat from the fresh ground beef market.

The U.S.D.A. estimated that the new rule would cost the industry up to $10 million a year for testing and diverting meat to cooked products.

Dr. Hagen also said that the rule did not conflict with the Obama administration’s push to cut back on regulation that could increase costs for business at a time of economic hardship.

“There’s really no inconsistency between having a strong economy and having a safe food supply,” Dr. Hagen said. “The administration is committed to regulate only to the extent that is necessary to protect our people.” The U.S.D.A. first moved to ban the O157 form of E. coli in 1994, after an outbreak the previous year was linked to hamburgers sold at the Jack in the Box fast food chain.

At that time, the meat industry sued to block the ban, but the agency prevailed in court.

Several advocates wondered whether the industry would now take a similar step, or whether it would ask allies in Congress to seek to bar the Agriculture Department from carrying out or enforcing its new rule.

William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents food poisoning victims, said he hoped the industry would not fight the expanded rule. “I would certainly urge them not to do it,” said Mr. Marler. “They lost on 0157 and I think it sends the wrong message to consumers and trading partners.”

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