Category: Business Written by CNN
by Doug Gross
AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- In five years on YouTube, Francesca Ramsey says, only one of the nearly 200 videos she's posted has been explicitly about race.
Last Updated on Monday, 11 March 2013 18:49
Category: Business Written by Harry C. Alford
(NNPA)—Legal Shield was first known as PrePaid Legal and that is where this story begins. This is a story of a relationship between the National Black Chamber of Commerce and this network of top legal firms and the company’s representatives selling the services it provides. Only in America could this relationship have happened.
My first encounter with the firm was back in the early 1990s. We were based in Indianapolis with the start of our first experiment, The Hoosier Minority Chamber of Commerce. We hired a photographer to cover one of our events. The guy went well beyond scope and demanded pay for that mistake. I told him I will accept only the pictures I requested and will pay for only that. A week later I received a demand letter from renowned local attorney Linda Pence. The matter concerned $400 and I quickly decided to pay it rather than go head to head with this fierce and reputable legal ace. After that I called the photographer and asked, “How did you get Linda Pence to represent you?” He said: “Easy! I have PrePaid Legal coverage. They have my back.”
Years later, I was attending a board of directors meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when one of the officers approached me and said, “Harlan Stonecipher, CEO of PrePaid Legal, wants to talk to you after the board meeting.” He pointed out Harlan and I approached him after the meeting. Harlan explained to me that he has a very important form of legal service for common citizens. It provides insurance like service which clients can use whenever they have a need for legal service. It is affordable and gives them the use of top notch legal firms to serve their needs. “We are successful but, still, I want to share this service with more of the Black community. Can I and you figure this out and work together?” I agreed.
Soon I had lunch with one of PrePaid Legal’s top performers, Darnell Self, who happens to be Black. We mapped a strategy. I would go on the road motivating their representatives and Darnell would meet the NBCC Board of Directors and present at our conferences. Before long, that developed in my speaking via DVD’s and keynoting at their annual events. I even testified before Congress (Congressional Black Caucus African American Male Initiative) about the advantages of PrePaid Legal in the Black community.
It was an easy sell for me. I was witnessing Black males and females gaining wealth through the selling of this great service. Former postal workers, unemployed, ex-offenders, etc. were now making $150,000-plus per year selling this fantastic service. While the service was answering the needs of many people with problems, quandaries and other legal aspects (saving a lot of youngsters from jail for example), the representatives were being compensated well. Many had been living in poverty their whole lives but were now buying homes, sending their children to college and building long-term wealth for their families.
The NBCC started telling the world about this phenomenon. Darnell’s division of the network is called Team NuVision and it is about 90 percent Black. At one of their regional meetings, I keynoted before 4,000 Team NuVision representatives. I got so motivated that I declared them all to be members (gratis) of the NBCC and to put that in their bios. They all jumped up and cheered for eight minutes. This gave them credibility as they worked in their communities. At this time, Darnell had about 40,000 representatives in his network. Today, he has more than 470,000. His representatives are based from the island of Tonga to the east coast of the United States. We put him on our board of directors and gave him our prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year Award.”
At this time, PrePaid Legal was publicly traded. Some “short sellers” on Wall St. wanted to defame them so that their stock would lose value. The New York Post would call me and rant why I supported them. In the end, even Black Enterprise wrote a very scathing and unfair article about them. We were appalled and went to “war” with these naysayers.
Soon, Harlan Stonecipher would sell his company for $650 million. Only in America can a boy from the Ozarks turn a dream into a fortune. The company is now privately owned and is known as Legal Shield. A few weeks ago, we met with the new executives of the company, including Darnell Self, and have decided to join together and promote their new product. Before, they concentrated on personal or family service but now they also have a plan for small business owners and that excites us immensely. Stay tuned as we take it to another level serving the needs of business owners throughout our great nation.
Last Updated on Friday, 08 March 2013 09:51
Category: Business Written by Stephan Broadus
ANNOUNCES CHANGES--Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., March 7.(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Technology Writer
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Facebook has redesigned the main attraction of its social network to address complaints that its website has turned into a jumble of monotonous musings and random photos.
In an attempt to breathe new life into Facebook's News Feed, the company will introduce new controls that allow people to sort streams of photos and other material into organized sections.
With the makeover unveiled Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes to turn the News Feed into something more like a newspaper tailored to the particular interests of each of the social network's more than 1 billion worldwide users.
Although Zuckerberg didn't say it, the overhaul also appears to be aimed at carving out more space to show larger and more dynamic ads within the News Feed as Facebook seeks to boost its revenue and stock price.
Previous tweaks to the News Feed have triggered howls of protest among Facebook's users. Hoping to minimize the grousing this time around, Facebook intends to roll out the changes in phases. It will probably be six months to a year before everyone who accesses Facebook on a personal computer sees the revamped News Feed, the company said. The facelift is likely to be more jarring for those who only visit Facebook on a PC because it incorporates some features already deployed in the social network's mobile applications for smartphones and tablet computers.
"They needed to freshen things up," said Brian Blau, research director of consumer technologies for Gartner Inc. "This should bring a lot of cooler things" into the News Feed.
The new features will enable users to choose to see streams of content that may feature nothing but photos or posts from their closest friends, family members or favorite businesses. Or they can just peruse content about music, or sports, as if they were grabbing a section of a newspaper. Other newspaper-like changes will include lists of events that users' social circles have flagged for the upcoming weekend and other summaries meant to resemble a table of contents.
By adding more personal touches, Facebook is acknowledging that the computer-generated formulas that it has been using to determine the content shown to each user have become less effective as the social circles within its network have widened to include a more diverse array of information.
"This gives people more power to dig deeper into the topics they care about," Zuckerberg said while discussing the makeover at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.
Facebook still intends to rely on algorithms to select some material to feature on the main part of the News Feed, much like newspaper editors determine what goes on the front page.
More space on the News Feed's front page and other sections space will be devoted to pictures and video in recognition of how dominant those visual elements have become on Facebook as smartphones and tablet computers equipped with high-quality cameras have made it easier to share snapshots and clips.
About 50 percent of the posts on News Feed include a photo or video now, up from 25 percent in late 2011, Zuckerberg said.
Bigger pictures also will give advertisers a larger canvass to make their marketing pitches. Facebook is hoping marketers will seize the opportunity to develop more creative ways to entice and intrigue customers so advertising can become a more acceptable fixture on the social network.
More than anything else, the changes are meant to make Facebook a more fun place to hang out. If it doesn't keep evolving, the site risks becoming an Internet has-been like other once trendy social networks such as Friendster and MySpace.
"This is all about keeping people engaged," Blau said.
Although Facebook's website remains one of the Internet's top destinations, there have been early signs that the social network is losing some of its pizazz, particularly among younger Web surfers who are starting to spend more time on other fraternizing hubs such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram, a photo-sharing site that Facebook bought for $521 million last summer.
A phenomenon, known as "Facebook Fatigue," was recently documented in a report from Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. The study found that about 61 percent of Facebook users had taken a hiatus for reasons that range from boredom to too much irrelevant information to Lent.
That's a worrisome trend for Facebook because the company needs to ensure that its audience keeps coming back so it can learn more about their interests and, ultimately, sell more of the advertising that brings in most of the company's revenue.
"I don't think it had turned into a crisis, but Facebook was probably seeing some internal data that was telling them they needed to do something," said Greg Sterling, a senior analyst for Opus Research.
Facebook has been struggling to find the right balance between keeping its fun-loving audience happy and selling enough ads to please investors who want the company to accelerate its revenue growth.
Wall Street seems to think the redesigned News Feed might be a step in the right direction. Facebook's stock gained $1.13, or 4.1 percent, to close Thursday at $28.58. The shares remain 25 percent below the $38 that they fetched in Facebook's initial public offering last May.
The mobile-friendly redesign of News Feed underscores the company's intensifying focus on smartphones and tablet computers as more of its users rely on those devices to interact on the social network.
About 23 percent, or $306 million, of Facebook's advertising revenue came from the mobile market during the final three months of last year.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 21:14
Category: Business Written by Cheryl Pearson-McNeil
Did you know that tens of thousands of new products are introduced to consumer markets around the world every year? It could be a new flavor of ice cream, a fancy new electronic gadget or the latest shade of red lipstick that not only moisturizes, but practically stays on for life. Then poof! You turn around and your new favorite isn’t there anymore. That’s because more than half of all new products will disappear from the shelf within the first three years of their debut, according to Nielsen insights.
Whether you live in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Latin America or here in the United States, we Internet-savvy consumers are a stubborn group. We like what we like. Our purchasing trends and habits worldwide are documented in the Nielsen Global Survey of New Product Purchase Sentiment, where the company surveyed more than 29,000 consumers with Internet access from 58 different countries about new product awareness.
Now, I am like a new product groupie! I see it and I head out to buy it like a junkie. The report shows that consumers are optimistic about trying new products, but there is bit of anxiety at the thought of switching brands. Half of the global respondents did report being willing to switch to a new brand, with 57 percent of respondents in the United States being the most enthusiastic if all the conditions are right. In addition to relevance, need and distinctiveness, the data shows that marketers need to consider the emotional factors that go into a consumer’s decision to make a new purchase choice. Around the world, those emotional factors are universal: value, variety, proof-of-concept and familiarity. Here’s a look at the percent of consumers around the globe that definitely/somewhat agree to the general purchase of new products:
•Will purchase a store brand or value option—64 percent
•Like when manufacturers offer new product options—63 percent
•Wait until a new innovation has proven itself—60 percent
•Prefer to buy new products of familiar brands—60 percent
•Like to tell others about new products—59 percent
•Generally willing to switch to a new brand—50 percent
•Economic conditions lessen possibility of trying new products—45 percent
•Prefer local brands over global brands—40 percent
•Willing to pay a premium price–39 percent
Just as consumers across the globe have multiple choices in how we enjoy media content, we also have a multi-mix of media from which to choose when considering purchasing a new product. Nielsen’s global survey shows that the Internet is a major influence in that mix. According to Nielsen, consumers are increasingly finding the Internet and mobile vehicles just as compelling as other more traditional advertising. Traditional advertising platforms include TV, radio, newspaper, billboards and direct mail. Globally, 77 percent of responders felt word-of-mouth referrals by friends and family is the biggest persuasion factor for purchasing products, followed by seeing a new product in a store at 72 percent, while 70 percent try free samples and 67 percent use active Internet searches.
U.S. respondents seem to be a bit more skeptical about Internet searching on new products, with 59 percent of us saying we were much more or somewhat more likely to purchase a new product after Internet research. Also in the U.S., 45 percent of the respondents used Internet communications for new products to research a brand or manufacturer’s website, 30 percent researched through an article on a frequently visited website and 30 percent used Internet forums. Thirty percent of U.S. respondents, purchased a new product after learning about it via social media, and 29 percent turned to web ads while 27 percent used a video posted on a video-sharing website.
Seventy-three percent of U.S. consumers surveyed reported that the Internet is very/somewhat important when making a new product purchasing decision for electronics, 63 percent for appliances, 62 percent for cars/auto needs 59 percent and music. Those percentages are a little less robust than the percentages for other global respondents who weighed in on Internet importance in purchasing: electronics (81 percent), appliances (77 percent), books (70 percent) and music (69 percent).
African-Americans are also savvy Internet users and Black women; particularly indulge in a little retail therapy with just a click of a button. Black women are extensive users of e-commerce involving purchases of clothes, groceries, and health and beauty products online. Also, 18 percent of Black women have shown higher interest in downloading coupons, especially those in the 25-54 age range.
Overall, top purchases African-Americans have made online include:
Among the global consumers surveyed, those in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa are most engaged in online decision-making. Globally, the Internet influence trend is impacting purchasing in consumer packaged categories, too: food and beverages (62 percent), personal hygiene (62 percent), personal health/over-the-counter medicines (61 percent), and hair care (60 percent).
As the Internet makes the world a much smaller place, a tighter consumer community, do you feel international? And, don’t you feel empowered to know that you can make or break a new product with your fingertips? You and your choices matter. So, I’ll say it again—use your power wisely.
(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com)
Last Updated on Friday, 08 March 2013 09:48
Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—In today’s struggling economy, many consumers find themselves short on cash. When consumers seek a credit remedy, one particular lender is likely to bring more problems than solutions: companies that make car title loans.
According to new joint research report by the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Responsible Lending, the average car-title loan of $951 winds up costing the typical borrower $2,142 in interest. Nationwide, 7,730 car-title lenders in 21 states reap $3.6 billion in interest on loans valued at only $1.6 billion.
The car-title loan uses a borrower’s personal vehicle as collateral and additionally charges triple-digit interest rates, like those of payday loans. And similar to payday loans, the typical car-title loan requires full repayment in just one month. When borrowers cannot afford to pay in full, they are forced to renew their loan by paying additional interest and fees. The report found that a typical customer renews their loan eight times.
The report also found anecdotal instances in which car-title lender marketing practices have lured consumers by advertising 25 percent interest per month for a two-week loan. The actual rate of interest, however, equates to 300 percent annual percentage ratE. And it’s not as though 300 percent APR is an offsetting risk to the lender: Car-title loans are usually made for only a fraction of the vehicle’s market value—approximately 26 percent.
When borrowers can no longer keep up with interest payments, cars are repossessed and yet another fee is added to the borrower’s debt. On average, these repossession fees run in the range of $350-$400 or about half of the borrower’s remaining loan balance. The report found that one in six consumers was charged expensive repossession fees.
It’s easy to sum up the central problems with car-title loans. As the authors write in the report, these loans “carry inherently unsuitable terms that cause already vulnerable borrowers to pay more in fees than they receive in credit while putting one of their most important assets at risk.”
If you’re thinking that there ought to be a law against this obviously predatory product, be sure to tell your state legislators. Most states with car-title loan laws either have no interest rate caps, or authorize triple digit interest.
Tracking how these loans affect consumers is one thing; financial reforms are quite another. In this regard, the CFA-CRL report calls for public policy actions at the state and federal levels.
For example, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could enact protections addressing loan terms and underwriting. States, on the other hand, could adopt rate caps of 36 percent on these loans.
Other policy recommendations include:
Changing loan terms to equal monthly payments that would enable borrowers to gradually pay down their debt;
Require written notice prior to borrowers and the right to redeem the vehicle before lenders repossess or sell the car; and
In the event of a vehicle sale, return to the borrower any surplus between a new sales price and the remaining amount of money owed.
In 2006, similar consumer protections were enacted to protect the military and their families. If President George W. Bush and Congress could agree to cap small loans at 36 percent annually for this consumer sector, it seems reasonable that the rest of us should be given the same protections.
(Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 10:38
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