June 24, 2024

Bucks Blog: An Option for All That Halloween Candy

If you work at home, like me, and have children, like me, you are perhaps struggling (or will be soon if you live in the area hit by Hurricane Sandy) to stay away from their giant bags laden with Halloween candy. As always, the Milky Ways are calling my name.

So you may be interested to know about a program called “Halloween Candy Buyback.” Under the program, dentists across the country agree to take your children’s excess candy, and forward it on to “Operation Gratitude,” a nonprofit group that packs it into care packages for United States troops serving overseas.

Some dentists offer a financial incentive, like paying youngsters a dollar a pound, while others simply take the candy off your hands. You can find participating dentists by going to the Web site and typing in your ZIP code. (It’s always best to call ahead before showing up with your collection, to find out details and to confirm the deadline for dropping off the candy.)

If no dentists in your area are participating, you can still ship the candy yourself to Operation Gratitude. (No financial incentives are offered for this option, and the shipping costs are on you.) Organizers ask that you separate chocolate from nonchocolate candy, to avoid problems with melting.

Candy collected from the Halloween drive ends up in packages that arrive for the December holidays, said Rich Hernandez, who helps oversee operations for Operation Gratitude in Los Angeles. He said he expected to begin receiving hundreds of boxes of candy daily, starting next week. While many troops are coming home, there are still thousands of service men and women in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Africa and aboard aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region, he said.

What are you doing with all of that Halloween candy? Do you plan to keep it all?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/an-option-for-all-that-halloween-candy/?partner=rss&emc=rss

State of the Art: Financing the Stuff of Dreams Through Kickstarter

Come on, people. Open your minds. You don’t have to participate, but at least let the youngsters have their fun.

And then I started hearing people rave about Kickstarter.com. I was mystified by its success — and alarmed that I didn’t get it. Was I suffering from Early-Onset Fuddy-Duddyism?

Kickstarter is a “crowd-funding” site. It’s a place for creative people to get enough start-up money to get their projects off the ground. The categories include music, film, art, design, food, publishing and technology. The projects seeking support might be recording a CD, putting on a play, producing a short film or developing a cool new tech product.

Suppose you’re the one who needs money. You describe your project with a video, a description and a target dollar amount. Listing your project is free.

If the citizens of the Web pledge enough money to meet your target by the deadline you set, then you get your money and you proceed with your project. At that point, Kickstarter takes 5 percent, and you pay 3 to 5 percent to Amazon.com’s credit card service.

If you don’t raise the money by the deadline, the deal is off. Your contributors keep their money, and Kickstarter takes nothing.

But here’s the part I had trouble understanding: These are not investments. If you make a pledge, you’ll never see your money again, even if the play, movie or gadget becomes a huge hit. You do get some little memento of your financial involvement — a T-shirt or a CD, for example, or a chance to preorder the gadget being developed — but nothing else tangible. Not even a tax deduction.

Furthermore, you have no guarantee that the project will even see the light of day. All kinds of things happen between inspiration and production. People lose interest, get married, move away, have trouble lining up a factory. The whole thing dies, and it was all for nothing.

So why, I kept wondering, does anybody participate? Who would give money for so little in return?

Now, when you’re a tech columnist, you get e-mail pitches every day from P.R. people hoping you’ll write about their clients’ products. But in the last few months, I’ve started getting something really strange: pitch letters about products on Kickstarter. Products that aren’t even products, just concepts. Weirder yet, these pitches aren’t coming from the creators of those products. They’re coming from ordinary citizens.

I started reading about their projects. The one that seemed to be drumming up the most interest lately is called the Elevation Dock. It’s just a charging stand for the iPhone, but wow, what a stand. It’s exquisitely milled from solid, Applesque aluminum. You don’t have to take your iPhone (or iPod Touch) out of its case to insert it into this dock. And the dock is solid enough that you can yank the phone out of it with one hand. The dock stays on the desk.

The engineer behind this dock, Casey Hopkins, needed to raise $75,000 to make his dock a real product. But his pitch was so popular, it met that goal in only eight hours. “In 24 hours, it was at $168,000,” Mr. Hopkins told me by e-mail. “It was shocking. I couldn’t eat and I didn’t sleep for about three days. The euphoria lasted about a week; then it was nose to the grindstone to start getting all the manufacturing and a million other things in place.”

Today, with 16 days left to his deadline, he’s raised $700,000. That’s a Kickstarter success story, all right.

So is the TikTok Watchband, which turns an iPod Nano into a touch-screen watch/computer on your wrist. Its goal: $15,000. Its final take: $942,578. It’s now a real product and it’s for sale in the Apple Store.

The creators of the PID-Controlled Espresso Machine, a new design that brings the consistency of expensive espresso machines to a low-cost machine, sought $20,000 — and raised $369,569 by its deadline last week. The Cosmonaut wide-grip stylus for tablets blew past its target back in April; the video points out that for a low-resolution surface where you can’t rest your hand, a fat stylus makes more sense than a pencil-like one.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=30d962270a40885320ac095ef8abb8d7

Disney and YouTube Make a Video Deal

The deal, set to be announced on Monday, is small on its surface: Disney Interactive Media and YouTube, a division of Google, will spend a combined $10 million to $15 million on original video series; those shorts will be produced by Disney and distributed on a co-branded channel on Disney.com and YouTube. The channel will also include amateur video culled from the torrent uploaded to YouTube daily.

But the alliance is striking because of what it tacitly acknowledges about each company’s weaknesses.

Disney, currently working on yet another overhaul of its Web site, is conceding that its own brand is not a powerful enough draw among children looking for video online; YouTube is viewed as being cooler.

So in a reversal of a go-it-alone Web strategy, Disney will go fishing for youngsters on YouTube in addition to making YouTube a prominent part of its own site — something that the company hopes will coax children to stay longer.

“It’s imperative to go where our audience is,” said James A. Pitaro, co-president of Disney Interactive. He added that the idea is to “bring Disney’s legacy of storytelling to a new generation of families and Disney enthusiasts on the platforms they prefer.”

Disney Interactive has been losing money — over $300 million in the last four quarters — and Mr. Pitaro, part of a new leadership team at the division, is under pressure to create Web videos that can be monetized quickly. Disney.com’s traffic has also been dropping at an alarming rate. Unique visitors totaled 12.7 million in September, down from 17.9 million in June, according to the measurement company comScore. Seasonality does affect traffic to some degree.

YouTube hopes to gain something from the Disney brand as well, namely credibility among parents, many of whom aren’t thrilled at setting their younger children loose on a site where the videos can be ragged and provocative and the comments even more so. The company wants to compete with cable television for ad dollars by adding more professional videos.

Teaming with a Hollywood heavyweight significantly advances that goal. Studios have been reticent to provide Google with free Web material.

“It’s an acknowledgment that we want to work with the best brands and, yes, we expect this partnership to attract new advertisers,” said Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head for content partnerships.

Disney is an important ally for YouTube, which walks a careful line when it comes to attracting children; there is no age requirement to access the site but you are supposed to be at least 13 to register for an account. YouTube also needs Disney because it remains locked in a legal battle with Viacom, which owns the other major player in this arena, Nickelodeon, and keeps its videos (aside from some promotional material) off YouTube.

The Disney-YouTube partnership follows YouTube’s announcement late last month that it planned to create dozens of channels featuring comedians, sports stars, musicians and other entertainers. It is also offering cash advances to prospective producers that totaled more than $100 million, according to people with knowledge of the plan but who were not authorized to speak publicly. The investments in the channels reflect Google’s belief that the Internet is the third phase of the television business, after network TV (with a few channels) and cable TV (with hundreds).

Mr. Kyncl emphasized that YouTube intended to remain a neutral distributor and that its alliance with Disney should not be construed as an effort to move into the production business. Under the terms of the deal, Disney will produce the Web series, the first of which will be based on its popular puzzle app “Where’s My Water?” which features a grinning alligator named Swampy. The goal is to have eight original series in production at any given time, Mr. Pitaro said.

Disney will sell the advertising inventory and split part of the revenue with YouTube. Aside from producing the new shorts, Disney will also select amateur video to include on the channel. (Disney said it does not expect to hire any additional staff to handle these duties, relying instead on existing resources.) Video from Disney television shows will also be featured on the channel, although the company must be careful here to avoid angering cable partners by giving too much away at no charge.

Mr. Pitaro, who joined Disney last October after a stint running Yahoo’s media properties, pressed for the deal. He said the redesign of Disney.com — a site criticized as slow, poorly organized and too promotional — should be completed by fall 2012. The YouTube partnership, he said, “is a very nice first step. It shows that we’re not thinking small.”

Claire Cain Miller contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d12f6376b1625bfea2e6fa5e3e48d0aa