How teenagers buy music today

The music industry is struggling because so much of its product can be accessed for free, what with YouTube and “radio” sites such as Pandora (setting aside illegal downloads).  But even when a person wants to buy music, it’s hard if you aren’t old enough for a credit card.  And it’s even harder if you want to buy music your parents wouldn’t approve of.  From Aaron Leitko:

The Internet has given kids boundless opportunities to hear music gratis, but few ways to pay for it.

To shop for mp3s on iTunes or Amazon, you need a credit card or debit card. If you’re a minor with an allowance, you probably don’t have either. . . .

If your tastes don’t align with Best Buy’s music buyer, you’ll have to turn to iTunes. And your folks, who control the purse strings.

“Right now, most kids are using parents’ iTunes accounts or otherwise relying on parental permission to make their purchases,” says Mary Madden, a researcher at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The only hiccup: The songs that teenagers want to hear and the songs their parents let them hear are often very different. Leveraging chores in exchange for Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (uncensored version, of course), the Tool discography or anything Odd Future-related is for brazen teens with particularly liberal or oblivious parents. For the rest, an awkward conversation about the record’s content is inevitable — unless they get their hands on a gift card.

“This is kind of the untold genius of iTunes that’s not spoken about, when it comes to teenagers, is the gift card,” says Crupnick, who estimates that two-thirds of the money teens spend online is with such cards. . . .

“They only ever pay for music out of respect for the artist,” MTV researcher Mariana Agathoklis says. “They almost view that as a way to show off their fandom, where it used to be that you would follow an artist on tour, you would look like them and wear their T-shirts.” A record is no longer an impulse buy — it’s patronage.

via How can you be a rebel if you use Mom’s iTunes account? – The Washington Post.

Amazon’s same DAY delivery

We blogged earlier about how online shopping sites have a big advantage over local businesses in not having to charge sales tax.  So states and now Congress have been trying to pass laws to collect those taxes.  Amazon used to fight those efforts, but no longer, saying, in effect, throw me into that briar patch. From Farhad Manjoo in Slate:

Why would Amazon give up its precious tax advantage? This week, as part of an excellent investigative series on the firm, the Financial Times’ Barney Jopson reports that Amazon’s tax capitulation is part of a major shift in the company’s operations. Amazon’s grand strategy has been to set up distribution centers in faraway, low-cost states and then ship stuff to people in more populous, high-cost states. When I order stuff from Amazon, for instance, it gets shipped to California from one of the company’s massive warehouses in Kentucky or Nevada.

But now Amazon has a new game. Now that it has agreed to collect sales taxes, the company can legally set up warehouses right inside some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Why would it want to do that? Because Amazon’s new goal is to get stuff to you immediately—as soon as a few hours after you hit Buy. . . .

It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly this move will shake up the retail industry. Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of Internet retailers, something that dozens of startups have tried and failed to accomplish. (Remember Kozmo.com?) But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop. To put it more bluntly: Physical retailers will be hosed.

via Amazon same-day delivery: How the e-commerce giant will destroy local retail. – Slate Magazine.

If you have no electricity, check your computer

My nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for letters to the editor, if there were such a thing, in the aftermath of the great power outage:

Monday, July 2, my third morning in the heat without power (and no power at my workplace), imagine my relief when I saw on the middle of the front page of my print version of the paper, topics listed with potentially helpful information about “The commute,” “Government workers,” “Summer school,” “Weather” and, most importantly, “Heat survival.” Then imagine my utter shock when we were directed to find this information at washingtonpost.com! Was I supposed to turn on my fan to cool off, and listen to my radio while I looked this up on my dead computer? I looked through the paper’s articles about the storm for any references to what seemed available only online. Not a trace. I was aghast. Was it a joke?

It was incomprehensible to me that those of us struggling with power outages were told to use our computers to find this much-needed information. Please use your heads.

Sharon Dodd, Rockville

via Without power, help online is lost – The Washington Post.

The internet sales tax bill

The old complaint was that big corporate retailers like Wal-Mart and Borders were putting the local mom ‘n’ pop stores out of business.  But now buying on the internet is making even the big box stores obsolete, as people from every corner of the nation are buying what they need  online without the need of any local stores.

Not only that, the online retailers have a big price advantage.  Part of that comes from not having to charge sales tax, which can add upwards of 10% to the cost of a product.  Local stores report how they are being reduced to showrooms for online companies, as customers go to actual stores to check out the merchandise and then buy it online.  Sometimes they do so on their smart phones while they are still in the store.

Now states, desperate for revenue, and local businesses are pushing for internet operations to charge sales tax.   More and more states are passing laws to this effect.  Now the federal government is getting into the act.  A bill before Congress, with lots of bipartisan approach, would make it easier for collecting sales tax to become routine across the internet.

The latest federal proposal — the Marketplace Fairness Act — has strong bipartisan support and appears to be moving forward. . . .

The bill proposes that a state can decide whether to enforce collection of its sales tax. If the state chooses to, then it should simplify its tax system according to conditions outlined in the bill.

Sales tax rates generally range from 5 to 10 percent, depending on the type of product as well as the jurisdiction (cities and counties can impose their own taxes on top of state rates). In Maryland and the District, many items are taxed at 6 percent, while in Virginia, the sales tax generally hovers around 5 percent.

Traditional retailers with an online presence, such as Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart and Target, also support the bill, as do groups such as the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

On the other side is Net­Choice, the trade association of e-commerce companies. Net­Choice has opposed sales tax collection and overturning the physical-presence ruling by the Supreme Court. Its argument, which Amazon has used in the past, is that tax calculation for thousands of jurisdictions country­wide is an impossibly complicated task.

“The burden falls disproportionately on a small business,” said Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice. “It has no accounting or IT staff to keep track of tax rules and holidays.”

The new bill exempts online businesses making less than $500,000 a year from collecting sales tax. NetChoice says that threshold is too low. It also notes that the amount states will gain from online sales taxes is less than 1 percent of total state tax revenue.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and 12 others, was introduced in November. The House Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing on it July 24.

via States, Congress rallying for an e-sales tax – The Washington Post.

What do you think about this?  Can you formulate an argument why this is not a good idea on grounds other than just not wanting to pay more?

Coming back to the power outage

When we came into our house after our vacation, we found that our technology fast was continuing.  We had no electricity.   We came back to the great power outage of 2012.

We had heard people talking in the airport before our connecting flight about the big storm–the straight winds of over 80 miles an hour known as a derecho  (Spanish for “straight,” as opposed to a tornado, meaning “turning”) that hit the country, knocking out power for millions in the D.C. area.  When we drove into the small town where we live, the first stop light was out, but then the others seemed to be working, as were the lights in shops and the loudspeaker at the Little League park near our home.  But when we unlocked the door and walked into our house, we stepped into a blast furnace.  No air conditioning, no lights, no kitchen appliances, no internet.  The landline didn’t work either, which usually doesn’t happen when the electricity goes, and our cell batteries were running low.

What to do?  We were weary of hotels, but surely many of them would be without power too, and the ones that were functioning were surely full.  We called our power company to report our problem and see how the repairs were coming, but the animated message could give no estimate of when electricity might be restored.   I got on my smart phone and learned that repairs could take not hours but days.   We resolved to just try to get some sleep in the sauna that was our room.  We sat out on the porch until it got dark.  Finally, we got sleepy and went inside.  To cooler air!  To the humming of the refrigerator!  The lights came on!

Our electricity was out for only about 24 hours, and we missed most of it.  We lost some food, but we had drawn our supplies down anyway for our two weeks of vacation, so that wasn’t so bad.  There are  about 600,000 people in the area–one out of three electricity company customers–who still don’t have power, so I both sympathize and empathize with them.

So now, despite our fun time in the woods, I now hail the electronic era as a great blessing and have learned not to take it for granted.

 

Power outages drag on in D.C. region; officials fuming at utility companies – The Washington Post.

Obama’s data mining

Yesterday we posted about mining “big data,” how corporations, politicians, and researchers are delving into Twitter, Google,  Facebook, and other online information to forecast trends, target customers, and gain various competitive advantages.  Well, it turns out that the Obama campaign is mining such data on voters on a massive, unprecedented scale.  Politico’s Lois Romano reports:

On the sixth floor of a sleek office building here, more than 150 techies are quietly peeling back the layers of your life. They know what you read and where you shop, what kind of work you do and who you count as friends. They also know who your mother voted for in the last election.

The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation — from data mining to online organizing — reaches so far beyond anything politics has ever seen, experts maintain, that it could impact the outcome of a close presidential election. It makes the president’s much-heralded 2008 social media juggernaut — which raised half billion dollars and revolutionized politics — look like cavemen with stone tablets.

Mitt Romney indeed is ramping up his digital effort after a debilitating primary and, for sure, the notion that Democrats have a monopoly on cutting edge technology no longer holds water.

But it’s also not at all clear that Romney can come close to achieving the same level of technological sophistication and reach as his opponent. (The campaign was mercilessly ridiculed last month when it rolled out a new App misspelling America.)

“It’s all about the data this year and Obama has that. When a race is as close as this one promises to be, any small advantage could absolutely make the difference,” says Andrew Rasiej, a technology strategist and publisher of TechPresident. “More and more accurate data means more insight, more money, more message distribution, and more votes.”

Adds Nicco Mele, a Harvard professor and social media guru: “The fabric of our public and political space is shifting. If the Obama campaign can combine its data efforts with the way people now live their lives online, a new kind of political engagement — and political persuasion — is possible.”

Launched two weeks ago, Obama’s newest innovation is the much anticipated “Dashboard” , a sophisticated and highly interactive platform that gives supporters a blueprint for organizing, and communicating with each other and the campaign.

In addition, by harnessing the growing power of Facebook and other online sources, the campaign is building what some see as an unprecedented data base to develop highly specific profiles of potential voters. This allows the campaign to tailor messages directly to them — depending on factors such as socio-economic level, age and interests.

The data also allows the campaign to micro-target a range of dollar solicitations online depending on the recipient. In 2008, the campaign was the first to maximize online giving — raising hundreds of millions of dollars from small donors. This time, they are constantly experimenting and testing to expand the donor base.

via Obama’s data advantage – Lois Romano – POLITICO.com.

Do you think all of this data the president’s campaign is collecting is a game changer or ultimately trivial?  Does gathering so much information about you for political purposes bother you?


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