October 23, 2017

ABC News Dethrones NBC in Crucial Ratings Race

One year after a significant reordering of television’s morning shows swept ABC into first place in the ratings race, the same thing might be happening in the evening.

ABC’s 6:30 p.m. newscast, “World News With Diane Sawyer,” bested “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” among 25-to-54-year-old viewers last week, ending a winning streak of almost five years by NBC and rekindling interest in the once-predictable ratings competition.

NBC remained on top among total viewers. But ABC’s win was significant because television ads on news programs are bought and sold based on the coveted demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds. Ms. Sawyer has been seeking to snap Mr. Williams’s streak in that category ever since she took over “World News” from her colleague Charles Gibson in 2009.

ABC said the victory was its first since the week of Nov. 17, 2008, shortly after the election of President Obama.

It was a narrow victory: 38,000 viewers in the relevant age group separated the two shows. Partly for that reason, people at NBC News cautioned that the results could be a one-time aberration. Last spring and summer, though, those same people saw their prized morning show, “Today,” fall to second place behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” first in total viewers and then in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic. The first time “G.M.A.” won, the gap was just 31,000 total viewers. Now its streak is nearly a year old, and it wins every week by an average of 650,000 viewers.

In the evenings, “World News” and the third-place “CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley” have shown some momentum this year at the expense of “NBC Nightly News,” which Mr. Williams has anchored since 2004. “This is just one week, so it is clearly too early to talk about a sea change in the evening,” said Amy Mitchell, the director of journalism research at the Pew Research Center. “But if you look at it alongside the larger NBC News narrative, this is one more sign of a chipping-away at their long-dominant news ratings.”

The battle between NBC News, a unit of Comcast, and ABC News, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, has been evident at other hours of the day as well. Some at NBC were pleased when ABC’s late-night program “Nightline” was moved an hour later to make way for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in January; some at ABC were equally pleased when Mr. Williams’s prime-time newsmagazine, “Rock Center,” was canceled in May. (Its last broadcast was on June 21.)

At both networks’ news divisions, hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue is on the line every year. While that represents just a tiny fraction of the total revenues of their parent companies, the news divisions are expected to post a profit and show growth, which is not easy at a time of stepped-up competition on television and online.

As is the custom in these bitterly contested ratings competitions, NBC’s news release about the 6:30 ratings on Tuesday made no mention of ABC’s gains; it simply excluded the 25-to-54-year-old viewership totals and emphasized that “Nightly News” had been winning among total viewers for years.

For NBC, which is still struggling to right itself in the mornings, a more permanent loss to ABC in the evenings would be doubly embarrassing. Turning around the “Today” show has been identified as the top task for Deborah Turness, a British news executive who will start as president of NBC News next Monday. The ratings results last week suggest that shoring up “Nightly News” will be a priority as well.

Among total viewers, “Nightly News” had an average of 7.54 million last week, besting “World News” by about a quarter of a million. Over all, ratings for the big three nightly newscasts have held relatively steady for the last couple of years after decades of slow and steady erosion. About 22.1 million people watched one of the three programs on an average weeknight in 2012, down 2 percent from an unusually strong 2011.

The ratings, of course, bestow bragging rights upon the best-performing network. On Tuesday, the executive producer of “World News,” Michael Corn, bought pizza for his staff ahead of a more elaborate newsroom celebration planned for later in the week. In a statement, Mr. Corn thanked the viewing audience and added: “We have a lot more work to do. We’re just getting started.”

In a twist that television industry gawkers immediately homed in on, the victory was shared by Ms. Sawyer and one of her regular fill-ins, David Muir. That was because Mr. Muir substituted for Ms. Sawyer three nights last week — the same three nights, it turned out, that ABC beat NBC in the all-important ratings demographic. Mr. Williams prevailed, barely, on the two nights that Ms. Sawyer was at work.

Mr. Muir, who usually anchors “20/20” and the weekend editions of “World News,” and George Stephanopoulos, who hosts “G.M.A.” and moderates “This Week,” are widely seen in the industry as the two most likely successors to Ms. Sawyer. For now, that is purely theoretical; Ms. Sawyer, who became the anchor at the end of 2009, has given no signal that she plans to step down soon.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/business/media/abcs-evening-news-bests-nbc-in-coveted-age-group.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Your Money: For Car Renters, Signing on the Electronic Tablet May Mean Trouble

Before her most recent trip last spring, she learned that she was covered through her personal auto policy and her credit card. So she made sure the Dollar Rent a Car clerk with the friendly, back-home demeanor knew she did not want any coverage. “She went back to her big screen, which I could not see, and she clickety-clickety-clicked,” said Ms. McKinnon, a 66-year-old retired nurse practitioner. Then, as the clerk instructed, Ms. McKinnon signed her name on the electronic tablet.

But 15 days later, when she returned the silver Ford Focus, Ms. McKinnon said she was handed a bill for $944, nearly twice what she expected to pay. She was charged an extra $23.95 a day for the loss damage waiver, an option that isn’t technically insurance, but that generally “waives” the renter’s responsibility for loss or damage to the vehicle.

“I was instantly furious,” she said. She may have even kicked a steel pole. The manager was called, but never came. Finally, Ms. McKinnon, still enraged, left to catch her flight home.

What’s curious about her story is that it seems to be occurring again and again at Dollar Rent a Car counters across the country. Just last month, something strikingly similar happened to Chris Hughes and his family when they traveled to Orlando, Fla., to visit Disney World, and rented a Dodge Avenger at the airport there. Ditto for Jay Seibert and his family, who flew to Denver in December to spend time on the slopes in Colorado ski country. “I practice insurance law,” Mr. Seibert said, adding that he explicitly told the agent that he didn’t need or want the coverage, “which made it all the more ironic that they want to saddle us with these costs.”

The problem, in all three cases, is that the customers said they unwittingly signed for the coverage on the electronic tablet even though they had verbally declined it. As for Dollar, which was acquired by Hertz last year for $2.3 billion, a spokeswoman said that the company complied with all laws and denied allegations that it sold customers products they didn’t want.

But at least a hundred customers, according to one consumer lawyer, contend that’s precisely what happened (mostly at Dollar, though a smattering said they had experienced the same thing at Thrifty, a sister rental company). The lawyer, John Mattes, said he had heard from the consumers over the last year and a half. Four of them, including Ms. McKinnon, are at the center of two lawsuits against Dollar Thrifty seeking class-action status. Ms. McKinnon’s complaint, which was amended this week and filed in the Federal District Court in Northern California, alleges that the company engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices. A second separate complaint, filed in November with the Federal District Court in Colorado, is also still pending, according to Alan Mansfield, a consumer attorney in San Diego, who is working with Mr. Mattes on that case and representing the plaintiffs in the California case. The spokeswoman for Dollar Thrifty said the company intended to defend the cases vigorously.

Mr. Mattes said he started collecting victims’ complaints through his Web site, after he heard from two consumers with similar stories within a span of several days. “In my business, one incident can be written off as a mistake, two is a little too coincidental, and when you see three, you say, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ ” he said. And he added that he continued to hear from consumers every week.

With the exception of joining a class-action lawsuit, what sort of recourse would a consumer have in this situation? Consumer advocates say any effort should start with a letter to the company, and, if that doesn’t work (it didn’t here) to try lodging a dispute with the credit card issuer. But some Dollar customers tried that with little success: Dollar sent the credit card companies receipts with their signatures. A spokeswoman for Bank of America said it was bound by Visa and MasterCard regulations on disputed chargebacks, and, if the merchant has the customer signature accepting a charge, there’s not much more it can do.

As a result, this situation is likely to quickly devolve into a case of “he said, she said.” In a letter to Ms. McKinnon, Dollar explained that while its agents were capable of making mistakes, the company strongly suggested that clients review the contract carefully before signing to accept. And the records indicated that she initialed to accept the “loss damage waiver” charge.

But even here, there’s the issue of potentially confusing language. Rental customers might say out loud that they want to decline insurance coverage, but then they may see something on the electronic screen that asks them if they agree to the loss damage “waiver.” You can’t blame a tired or inexperienced traveler for thinking that by clicking to accept the “waiver” they are waiving insurance, when, in fact, it means they are accepting that type of coverage.

Perhaps these consumers should have caught the errors on their receipts before they put the keys in the ignition, or they should  have been more vigilant about what they were signing on the electronic tablet. The customers I spoke with all said they did as instructed, taking the agents at their word.

“We did not expect that, while the counter agent was smiling and verbally assuring us that we would not be charged for options that we had affirmatively declined and did not want, he simultaneously and apparently was including those very charges,” Mr. Seibert said.

In fact, if travelers believe they were intentionally misled, they can seek punitive damages through small claims court.  Alexander Anolik, a travel lawyer and co-author of “Traveler’s Rights: Your Legal Guide to Fair Treatment and Full Value (Sphinx Publishing, 2003),” said to sue for misrepresentation, fraud or unfair business practices, all of which are torts and eligible for punitive damages. That may at least make the case worth your time and effort; Mr. Anolik said to ask for three times the amount you lost in damages.

“I am a judge in California small claims,” Mr. Anolik said, “so I believe in this non-attorney-led, quick, inexpensive means of regress.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/06/your-money/for-car-renters-signing-on-the-electronic-tablet-may-mean-trouble.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

F.D.A. Toughens Heart Warning on a Common Antibiotic

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday toughened a warning it made last year about the potential risks of azithromycin, a commonly used antibiotic that can cause changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a fatal irregular heart rhythm in some patients.

The risks, which have been noted in the warning labels on the drug since March 2012, were quantified in greater detail in a study published last spring in the New England Journal of Medicine that was led by a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Last May, the F.D.A. announced that it would review the study, which found a small increase in the likelihood of death in people treated with a five-day course of azithromycin, compared with people treated with other antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin. Two related antibiotics, erythromycin and clarithromycin, were already known to raise the risk of death, but azithromycin had been thought to be safer.

The stricter warning on Tuesday was a result of that review, said Stephanie Yao, a spokeswoman for the F.D.A. She said the language on the labels for the drug had been strengthened to include, among other things, details from the 2012 study, and information from a later study by Pfizer.

Patients at risk for developing this condition include the aging, those with histories of heart problems or with low levels of potassium or magnesium in their blood, those with slow heart rates and those taking medication that is known to lengthen the intervals between heartbeats.

Azithromycin is used to treat bacterial infections, including bronchitis, pneumonia, sore throats and earaches. It is familiar to many people as the “Z-Pak,” to be taken for five days, and part of its appeal is its convenience; many other antibiotics must be taken for 10 days or longer.

Pfizer, which manufactures Zithromax, a brand name for azithromycin, said in a statement that the potential risk has been “well established in this class of antibiotics,” and that, in collaboration with the F.D.A., it has updated the label on Zithromax, to inform doctors and patients about it.

The company said that the drug, which has been on the market for about 20 years, and is now being produced by other manufacturers in a generic form, “continues to be an effective treatment option for patients all over the globe suffering from many types of bacterial infections.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/fda-toughens-heart-warning-on-common-antibiotic.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Macmillan Settles With Justice Department on E-book Pricing

11:58 a.m. | Updated Macmillan said on Friday that it had agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice over the pricing of e-books, asserting that the potential costs of continuing to fight the action were too high.

The agreement means that all five major publishing houses have settled the charges brought by the government last spring.

Apple, which is also a defendant, will continue to trial in June, according to the Department of Justice. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday.

In a letter addressed to authors, illustrators and agents, Macmillan’s chief executive, John Sargent, said that the risks were too great to go it alone.
“Our company is not large enough to risk a worst case judgment,” he said. “In this action the government accused five publishers and Apple of conspiring to raise prices. As each publisher settled, the remaining defendants became responsible not only for their own treble damages, but also possibly for the treble damages of the settling publishers (minus what they settled for). A few weeks ago I got an estimate of the maximum possible damage figure. I cannot share the breathtaking amount with you, but it was much more than the entire equity of our company.”

In a suit filed last April, the Justice Department accused the publishers and Apple of conspiring in e-mails and over lavish dinners to set the price of e-books at an artificially high level. The publishers had moved from a wholesale pricing model, which allowed retailers to charge what they wanted, to a system that allowed publishers to begin setting their own e-book prices, a model known as “agency pricing.”

The defendants said they were trying to protect themselves from Amazon, which was pricing e-books below their actual cost, putting financial pressure on the publishers that they said would drive them out of business.

Nevertheless, three publishing houses, HarperCollins, Simon Schuster and Hachette, settled with the government immediately. Penguin, Macmillan and Apple decided to fight the charges. But in December, to clear the way for its merger with Random House, Penguin settled too.

The terms of the Macmillan settlement mirrors that agreed to by the other publishers. Macmillan will immediately lift restrictions it has imposed on discounting and other promotions by e-book retailers and will be prohibited until December 2014 from entering into new agreements with similar restrictions. The publisher must also notify the government in advance about any e-book ventures it plans with other publishers.

Macmillan had been holding firm that it wouldn’t settle, and analysts offered varying explanations for the sudden turnabout. James McQuivey, an analyst for Forrester Research, said that potential merger talks might be one motivation. The publishing industry has begun to consolidate to respond to the threat from Amazon, and when Penguin and Random House announced last October that they would merge, it fueled speculation that more alliances would follow.

“This was a fight not worth fighting in the first place,” Mr. McQuivey said of the lawsuit, “and given the likely nature of merger conversations behind the scenes, that’s where you finally decide the litigation is an obstacle to those talks, which are much more important.”

But Mike Shatzkin, the founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, a publishing consultant, downplayed the role of a potential merger. “There have been no rumors and no signs that Macmillan is merging,” he said. “I would actually take their statement at face value.”

He said he thought it was more likely that Macmillan realized that their stand on pricing was having no effect on the market. E-book prices have been declining steadily but not precipitously since the settlement with the first three publishers went into effect last September. “Their settling doesn’t change the overall market, and it looks much more that way to them now than when they were originally fighting,” Mr. Shatzkin said.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/citing-potential-damages-macmillan-settles-with-justice-department-on-e-book-pricing/?partner=rss&emc=rss

BlackBerry 10’s Debut Is a Critical Day for Research in Motion

Now with just 4.6 percent of the global market for smartphones in 2012, according to IDC, RIM long ago exchanged dominance for survival mode. On Wednesday, the company will introduce a new line of smartphones called the BlackBerry 10 and an operating system of the same name that Thorsten Heins, the president and chief executive of RIM, says will restore the company to glory.

But Frank Mersch, who became one of RIM’s earliest investors after seeing the block of wood, is far less excited by what he sees this time around.

“You’re in a very, very competitive market and you’re not the leader,” Mr. Mersch, now the chairman and a vice president at First Street Capital in Toronto, said of RIM. “You have to ask: ‘At the end of the day are we really going to win?’ I personally think the jury’s out on that.”

The main elements of the new phones and their operating system are already well known. Mr. Heins and other executives at RIM have been demonstrating the units for months to a variety of audiences. App developers received prototype versions as far back as last spring.

While analysts and app developers may be divided about the future of RIM, there is a consensus that BlackBerry 10, which arrives more than year behind schedule, was worth the wait.

Initially RIM will release two variations of the BlackBerry 10, one a touch-screen model that resembles many other phones now on the market. The other model is a hybrid with a keyboard similar to those now found on current BlackBerrys as well as a small touch screen.

The real revolution, though, may be in the software that manages a person’s business and personal information. It is clearly designed with an eye toward retaining and, more important, luring back, corporate users.

Corporate and government information technology managers will be able to segregate business-related apps and data on BlackBerry 10 handsets from users’ personal material through a system known as BlackBerry Balance. It will enable an I.T. manager to, among other things, remotely wipe corporate data from fired employees’ phones while leaving the newly jobless workers’ personal photos, e-mails, music and apps untouched. The system can also block users from forwarding or copying information from the work side of the phone.

Messages generated by e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging and LinkedIn accounts are automatically consolidated into a single in-box that RIM calls BlackBerry Hub.

Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research, called the new phones “beautiful” and described the operating system as “a giant leap forward” from RIM’s current operating system. Ray Sharma, who followed RIM’s glory years as a financial analyst but who now runs XMG Studio, a mobile games developer in Toronto, has been similarly impressed.

But both men are among many analysts who question the ability of BlackBerry 10, whatever its merits, to revive RIM’s fallen fortunes.

“If it’s good, it will help inspire the upgrade cycle,” Mr. Sharma said. “But it has to be great in order to inspire touch-screen users to come back. If it’s good, not great, I will be concerned.”

Mr. Golvin was more blunt. “They’ll need to prove themselves in the face of a simultaneous onslaught of marketing from Microsoft, not to mention the continued push from Apple plus Google and its Android partners,” he wrote. “This is a gargantuan challenge for a company of RIM’s size.”

In the year since he took over from the founders, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, Mr. Heins has certainly remade RIM. He cut 5,000 jobs in a program to reduce operating costs by about $1 billion a year. Along the way, he also replaced RIM’s senior management and straightened out its balance sheet. While unprofitable, RIM remains debt-free and holds $2.9 billion in cash.

With BlackBerry 10, RIM not only started over with its operating system, it also rebuilt the company through acquisitions. Its core operating system comes from QNX Software Systems, the design of the user interface is largely the work of the Astonishing Tribe in Sweden while other main components, like the touch-screen technology, came from smaller companies that are now part of RIM.

Integrating all of those acquisitions, analysts and former RIM employees say, added to the delays that plagued BlackBerry 10.

Now that the new phones are finally here, Mr. Heins is counting on RIM’s remaining base of 79 million users globally to eagerly upgrade. But where those customers reside may be as important in their numbers in determining the success of that plan.

In the United States, which leads the world in setting smartphone trends, about 11 million BlackBerry users switched to other phones between 2009 and the middle of last year, according to an analysis by Horace Dediu on Asymco, a wireless industry blog he founded.

Until the final months of 2012, RIM continued to increase its subscriber base through sales of low-cost handsets to less developed countries like Nigeria and Indonesia. Although BlackBerry 10 will be made available worldwide, the initial phones will be too expensive for a majority of BlackBerry fans in those regions.

RIM may also have confused its loyalists, particularly in North America and Europe, in the run-up to the BlackBerry 10 debut. Many of those users stuck with BlackBerrys because of their physical keyboards. But public demonstrations for BlackBerry 10 were centered on the touch-screen-only version and its virtual keyboard.

While some corporations have remained loyal to BlackBerry, RIM not only has to sell them on the new handsets, it also must persuade them to upgrade server software to accommodate the new operating system, a costly and time-consuming process. Companies whose employees continue to use older BlackBerrys will have to run two separate BlackBerry servers.

Mr. Heins’s pitch to those corporations is that the BlackBerry 10 server software will also allow them to manage and control data on employees’ Android phones and iPhones. But any corporation or organization that allows those phones to connect with its systems long ago installed mobile device management software from other companies, including Good Technology and SAP. RIM is likely to find that the competition in device management software is as severe as it is in the handset business.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/technology/blackberry-10s-debut-is-a-critical-day-for-research-in-motion.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Resignation Suggests Rift Between CNET and CBS

2:23 p.m. | Updated A senior writer for CNET, the technology news Web site, resigned on Monday, less than an hour after a report suggested that CNET was barred from presenting an award to a company being sued by CBS, which owns CNET.

Greg Sandoval, a former Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reporter who has spent the last seven years at CNET, said he no longer had confidence “that CBS is committed to editorial independence.” Mr. Sandoval announced his resignation on Twitter and did not immediately respond to an interview request.

A spokesman for CNET also had no immediate comment on Monday.

Mr. Sandoval’s resignation stemmed from a decision made last week to disqualify a Dish Network ad-skipping product from a CNET tradition — the Best of C.E.S. Awards. Promoted as the official awards program of the Consumer Electronics Show, the awards were presented last Thursday in Las Vegas.

A tablet called the Razer Edge went home with the Best in Show award. But Dish’s Hopper could have won it instead — if CNET hadn’t taken it out of consideration.

The Hopper is a digital video recorder that allows users to skip all the ads on prime time network television shows, with a feature called Auto Hop. The CBS Corporation, the parent company of both CNET and the CBS broadcast network, and several other network owners filed suit against Dish last spring. Dish countersued at the same time and asserted that the feature “does not infringe any copyrights that could be claimed by the major networks.”

The litigation is pending. In the meantime, Dish continues to promote the Hopper and add new functions to it. At C.E.S. last week, Dish showed off a faster, spiffier version of the product with the ability to transfer recorded shows to iPads. CNET’s reviewer was impressed. But the Best of C.E.S. Awards became another battleground for CBS and Dish.

CNET attached a disclaimer to its awards announcement on Thursday that read, “The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp.” The Web site said that going forward, it would not review any products that are tied up in lawsuits with its parent company.

The outcry was instantaneous.

“We are saddened that CNET’s staff is being denied its editorial independence because of CBS’s heavy-handed tactics,” the Dish Network chief executive, Joseph P. Clayton, said in a statement. “This action has nothing to do with the merits of our new product. Hopper with Sling is all about consumer choice and control over the TV experience. That CBS, which owns CNET.com, would censor that message is insulting to consumers.”

CNET said it would continue to deliver “unbiased news” to readers. But new details about the controversy came out Monday morning and apparently influenced Mr. Sandoval’s decision to resign.

The Verge, another technology news Web site, reported that the Hopper “was not simply an entrant in the Best of C.E.S. awards for the site, it was actually chosen as the winner of the Best of Show award (as voted by CNET’s editorial staff).” When executives at CBS learned about this vote, they objected and ordered another vote with the Hopper taken out of contention, The Verge reported, citing anonymous sources.

The timeline “suggests a growing influence of CBS’s corporate interests in editorial decisions at its digital news subsidiaries,” the Web site added.

Mr. Sandoval’s resignation via Twitter came about half an hour after the Verge article was published.

“CNET wasn’t honest about what occurred regarding Dish,” Mr. Sandoval wrote, calling that “unacceptable to me.”

“I am not disgruntled,” he added. “CBS and CNET were great to me. I just want to be known as an honest reporter.”

On Monday afternoon a CBS spokesman released a statement that read:

CBS has nothing but the highest regard for the editors and writers at CNET, and has managed that business with respect as part of its CBS Interactive division since it was acquired in 2008. This has been an isolated and unique incident in which a product that has been challenged as illegal, was removed from consideration for an award. The product in question is not only the subject of a lawsuit between Dish and CBS, but between Dish and nearly every other major media company as well. CBS has been consistent on this situation from the beginning, and, in terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100% editorial independence, and always will. We look forward to the site building on its reputation of good journalism in the years to come.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/resignation-suggests-rift-between-cnet-and-cbs/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Barnes & Noble Reports Tepid Holiday Sales

9:44 a.m. | Updated Barnes Noble on Thursday reported disappointing holiday sales for the nine-week period ending Dec. 29, particularly for its struggling e-reader business.

Retail sales from the company’s bookstores and its Web site, BN.com, decreased 10.9 percent from the same period in 2011, to $1.2 billion. In a surprise, sales for the company’s Nook unit — which includes e-readers, tablets, digital content and accessories — decreased 12.6 percent over the same period.

The nation’s largest book chain has invested heavily in recent years in developing a tablet that could compete with offerings from media giants like Google, Apple and Amazon.com. While its most recent products have won critical praise, the sales figures emphasized just how hard the battle has been in an increasingly competitive digital market.

The company pointed out that the Nook unit sales decreased even though digital content sales actually increased 13.1 percent. (Digital content sales are defined to include digital books, digital newsstand, and the apps business.) So the decline was a bad sign for the sales performance of their tablets, which offer services like music and video in addition to books.

“We entered the holiday with two great new products, Nook HD and Nook HD+, both highly rated media tablets of phenomenal quality,” William Lynch, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Nook device sales got off to a good start over the Black Friday period, but then fell short of expectations for the balance of holiday. We are examining the root cause of the December shortfall in sales, and will adjust our strategies accordingly going forward.”

Last month, Barnes Noble announced that Pearson, the British education and publishing conglomerate, was taking a 5 percent stake in Nook for $89.5 million. Analysts said that that cash investment — following a $300 million investment by Microsoft last spring — would help the business but not solve its core problems.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/barnes-noble-reports-tepid-holiday-sales/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economix: Looking Ahead to the Jobs Report

Maybe, just maybe, this is the month the job number pops.

The March job report will be released Friday morning, and quite a few economists, to the extent that they can be drawn into such discussions, are betting on a number just short of 200,000.

It’s not hard to understand that bet. The weekly unemployment claims have declined steadily, from the mid-400,000s to the neighborhood of 385,000. In almost any other context, the latter would be a grim number indeed. But in this slowest and most sluggish of recoveries, it is a sign of somewhat fewer layoffs.

And the unemployment numbers for February offered signs of hope as well. The economy added 192,000 jobs, and the 12th consecutive month of gains by companies. A comparable gain in March would provide the strongest two-month performance since last spring, when short-term Census hiring was driving the trend and private sector hiring was still weak.

“I suspect tomorrow will be the first time I use ‘traction’ and ‘momentum,’ ” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “I suspect that the workers on the sideline will start coming back in.”

This could lead to a paradoxical moment, however, as the unemployment rate might rise even as jobs are added. It now stands at 8.9 percent. The explanation goes to the size of the work force, which has steadily diminished for several years. Just 64.2 percent of adults are either in the work force, or looking for a job; that’s the lowest labor participation rate in a quarter-century.

Many Americans, in other words, have given up hope of finding work in this most terrible of economies, and survive on a spouse’s salary or savings. And they wait and hope for an upturn. “The unemployment rate may go up, but the bad news will be the good news,” Ms. Shierholz noted. “It will mean people feel better about getting back into the economy.”

The larger question is what the medium-term future augurs. Will the job force continue to expand through the spring, and perhaps start to add jobs with enough vigor — 300,000, say — to reduce the unemployment rate substantially? As Ms. Shierholz notes, if the economy adds 200,000 jobs a month, it will be 2019 before it reaches the same employment rate as before the Great Recession started. (Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has shed 7.5 million jobs.)

Many economists speak optimistically of the spring, but the outlook grows uncertain after that. The international storm clouds are many, from spectacular debt problems in Europe to revolution sweeping the oil-rich Middle East to Japan and its many maladies. And then there is the possibility of a government shutdown in Washington, as the Republican House challenges the White House.

Some of the problems arising from these storms, such as higher oil prices, could take a while to work through the economy and, possibly to erode consumer confidence.

“The first half of this year will be the best job market that we’ll see in this whole expansion,” said David Levy of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center. “We’re riding the crest of earnings. “But after that, and looking toward 2012, the situation is very questionable.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f39b33a77c47720a8b85288b022c37fe