Sprucing Up the Ag Labs

first_imgThe U.S. Department of Agriculture bills its Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) as “The World’s Largest Most Diversified Agricultural Research Complex.” Still, the place is a shadow of its former self—the scientific staff is down about 40% since its heydey in the 1950s—and it’s in dire need of repair. There are some new labs on the campus, but the bovine genetics program and others make do in 1930s-era buildings that have never been updated. “They’re doing First World science in Third World buildings,” says John Peter Thompson, who heads NARA-B, a group that advocates on behalf of BARC. The stimulus package would come to BARC’s rescue, plus provide upgrades for many of USDA’s 100+ research facilities across the country. The funds are to the tune of $209 million, which falls short of the $315 million that USDA said it needed last year to catch up on deferred maintenance. A USDA official says the agency has started prioritizing its list. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Fixing leaky roofs is hardly a bad thing, but what ag research advocates really want, of course, is more funds for science. Thomas Van Arsdall, director of the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, is trying to look on the bright side. “I don’t really care about buildings,” he admits. “But obviously if [stimulus funding] improves the lab, it would make for better science.”last_img read more

On World Soil Day, scientists warn of underground extinction risks

first_imgIt’s time for ecologists and conservation biologists to dig deeper into dirt—in order to better understand the threats facing soil creatures that are key to healthy ecosystems and our food supply, and that might offer a rich source of potential antibiotics.That call to expand studies of oft-neglected underground biodiversity is included in a new collection of papers timed to highlight World Soil Day, which is being celebrated today.“Despite marked progress over the last few decades, currently soil ecology still lags far behind aboveground ecology, and our knowledge of the world belowground is comparatively limited,” soil ecologist Stavros Veresoglou of the Free University of Berlin and colleagues conclude in one of the papers, appearing in Nature Communications. In particular, they note, studies of the extinction risks faced by soil organisms “are alarmingly sparse.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)“We need to be studying extinctions in soil and the time to start is now,” says Matthias Rillig, a co-author of the paper and a soil microbiologist at the Free University of Berlin. “Given what we’re doing to the planet in terms of land use and global climate change, there is a concern among soil scientists that we may be missing something going on.”Already, the authors note, some studies have documented local extinctions of earthworms and wood-decomposing fungi because of species invasions or changing environmental conditions. But researchers have tended to downplay the risks of soil extinctions, in part because of the perception that soil microbes and other subterranean organisms are widely distributed around the globe. In many places, however, scientists have little idea of what is living in the soil or the novel roles played by individual organisms.Now, soil scientists say a suite of new tools, including advanced DNA sequencing methods that can determine how many types of microbes are living in a sample of dirt or water, could help researchers fill in the gaps. Some researchers, for instance, are using such tools to uncover the so-called rare biosphere—the large number of diverse microbes that persist in low abundance in a soil sample.“If we can get a handle on rare biosphere, we might be able to say if there is or is there not any extinction,” says Jonathan Eisen, a microbiologist at University of California, Davis. But one challenge is that sequencing tools can’t determine whether the detected DNA came from a living or dead organism. And because microbes can multiply rapidly, their populations can change with the season or the weather. Just because something is rare now doesn’t mean it is rare at some other time, Eisen notes.Inspiring scientists to launch studies to better understand such dynamics is just one of the goals of World Soil Day, which is helping cap a year-long research and outreach initiative known as the International Year of Soils. Eisen, for one, laments not being able to jump into a soil submarine to explore underground, the way marine biologists examine the deep sea. But he and other researchers say that, until someone invents such a craft, there are plenty of other ways we can better understand what’s going on beneath our feet, if we just take the time to look.last_img read more

Tanaaz Bhatia talks about turning her passion for movies

first_imgTanaaz BhatiaBorn and raised in Mumbai, I was an economics graduate from Sydenham College when I went to do an MBA from Stern School of Business at New York University. I majored in media and finance and started my career as an analyst in the media sector with Merril Lynch,Tanaaz BhatiaBorn and raised in Mumbai, I was an economics graduate from Sydenham College when I went to do an MBA from Stern School of Business at New York University. I majored in media and finance and started my career as an analyst in the media sector with Merril Lynch on Wall Street.Being a banker on Wall Street was an adrenalin rush, working for 12 -14 hours a day, learning to dot the Is and cross the Ts, I learnt everything there was to in detail. At 24, I was one of the youngest to get the Stern degree, since most of my batchmates were significantly older. What I lacked in experience, I made up by building strong contacts. I met one person, who in turn introduced me to another and that’s how I realised there was so much to learn out there.I always wanted to be a banker and the media sector was a natural draw for me. Working on Wall Street was a dream come true and my years there taught me to be disciplined. I went from analyst to associate, and then vice president within a short period, and I gradually became interested in learning the ropes of the media industry. Nothing thrilled me more than understanding how studios operated and how films were financed. With time I was able to work with Time Warner, Universal Studios and many leading conglomerates. I couldn’t have asked for a better deal.When I returned to the country after eight years as a banker on Wall Street, little did I know that it would be a blessing in disguise. I jumped right back into work with Kotak Goldman JV covering media, and began working with the leading media houses in India. It gave me a great insight into what I wanted to do even though I’d never imagined I would work with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan or Saif Ali Khan and their production houses. It was over a cup of coffee with friends that the idea of starting a media company came to me. I knew that analysing and valuing a company is vastly different from setting up and running one. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to be an entrepreneur. My mentors backed me with advice and all the support I could get and that’s how Bottomline Media, my own baby, happened. advertisementWith time, I was able to contact my former clients who were interested in exploring the sector of movie marketing and our fund began to grow. Along with movie marketing, our company also started funding other media ventures in a small way which were mostly at the inception stage. We would support start up funding, seed capital and let the business grow.At the time we started, an old friend approached me to work on his film and I decided to take up the challenge. That’s how Rahul Dholakia’s Lamhaa (2010) happened. It was a challenge as at the time, I had only two people under me and we operated from my house or coffee shops. The critically acclaimed Lamhaa went on to become a platform for me since marketing a film about terrorism was a hard task for anyone in the business. We still managed to rope in the likes of Hero Honda and Tata Motors for the film, and I’ve never looked back since. Another one of my earlier projects was the Salman Khan starrer Main Aurr Mrs Khanna(2009) for which we tied up with Melbourne Tourism and Gitanjali Jewels, amongst many others. My job is not only to make strategic tie-ups for the brands I handle and help them gain visibility by partnering with celebrity platforms, but also to help reduce the cost of filmmaking.It was tough initially, to transition from a life with a secure paycheck to one where there is a constant uncertainty about whether the film would release on time and if the brand deals will go through. I would have nothing to do for months on end. That’s when I decided to diversify through the three main verticals of Bollywood-Movies, Marketing and Media.I do not come from a film background, but my work always spoke for me. I started getting calls from production houses where we had no connect at all, just because they had heard of our work. Convincing a client may or may not be a challenge. Some like Shah Rukh Khan for instance, are marketing geniuses themselves so when you go to him with an innovative thought, he will add more value to your idea and in the end and you know it’s going to be a killer concept.advertisementI have a very simple philosophy- nothing is impossible and dream of the unachievable. Keeping that in mind, I have nurtured the foundation of my company. We read the script, identify what can work and why we would want to associate with the brand. We have been fortunate to work with brands and international chains that haven’t even ventured into Bollywood.This year we are looking at actively expanding the verticals and will invest across media platforms more rapidly. Additionally we are also looking at starting a new division that would produce ad films. My mantra is simple-to make the best of every opportunity that comes your way, because, as Abraham Lincoln said, “You cannot fail if you resolutely determine, that you will not.”The author is the founder of Bottomline Media which provides turnkey marketing solutions to leading film production houses.last_img read more

Stan Wawrinka sets up semi-final showdown with Kei Nishikori in Toronto

first_imgSwiss second seed Stan Wawrinka advanced into the semi-finals at the Rogers Cup with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3 victory over big-serving South African Kevin Anderson at the Aviva Centre in Toronto on Friday.Wawrinka raced into a 4-0 lead as he swept through the opening set in 30 minutes, and then overcame tougher resistance by Anderson in the second before wrapping up the win in one hour, 14 minutes.The 31-year-old from Lausanne, who hit 14 winners and lost only five of his first service points, will next face Japanese third seed Kei Nishikori, who battled past unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 3-6 6-2 in the last eight.’ONE OF MY BEST MATCHES'”I started really well from the first game,” said Wawrinka, a two-time Grand Slam champion who is seeking his 15th ATP World Tour title. “It showed me that I was ready, aggressive, moving really well.”It’s one of the best matches of the year I played, I think. I was calm. Serving really good. Mixing a lot. I was reading the game well, good in defence and found a way to come back and attack.”Nishikori, who reached the final in Miami and the last four in both Madrid and Rome in ATP Masters 1000 events earlier this season, beat Dimitrov in a see-sawing encounter that lasted just over two hours.Later on Friday, top-seeded Serb Novak Djokovic was scheduled to meet Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych before local favourite Milos Raonic, the fourth seed, takes on Frenchman Gael Monfils.last_img read more

10 Questions About Investing In Index Funds: An Interview With Mark Hebner

first_imgMark T. Hebner is the author of Index Funds: The 12-Step Recovery Program for Active Investors and founder and president of Index Funds Advisors (www.ifa.com).Why should investors choose index funds over actively managed funds?HEBNER: I actually started off with the idea that active investing is really a little bit of a gambling addiction for investors, and therefore they should go through my 12-Step Recovery Program for active investors, which basically dismantles the whole idea of active investing and describes a more prudent passive investing strategy.According to a study by Professors Barras, Scalliet, and Werners, 99.4% of 2,076 mutual fund managers displayed no evidence of genuine stock picking skill over a 32-year period from 1975 to 2006.The remaining 0.6% who did outperform the index were “statistically indistinguishable from zero.” Or as Mark Hulbert put it, “just lucky.”And yet, investors pour money into actively managed funds. Why is that?At the end of the day, one of the reasons you would pick an active manager is you believe he’s going to provide alpha—excess return for a fund relative to its appropriate benchmark.What this study says is that it’s rare for managers to beat their benchmark every year.What you discover is some years they do better; some years they do worse. On average, they may be positive but the more their returns vary, the more likely it’s due to chance.If you don’t believe what I’m saying, carefully read the study. If you understand it, you will never again pay a fund manager 3 to 10 times what you pay for an index fund.But fund managers seem to always be touting how they beat their benchmark. Are they misrepresenting their results?One of the main reasons active managers appear to be beating a benchmark is because the wrong benchmark has been selected, number one.Number two, they style drift throughout their history so that a more appropriate benchmark would be a moving benchmark, where one year might be closer to large growth and the next year closer to large value, and so on.The missing link in all investment analysis is proper benchmarking.What’s your evidence for that?HEBNER:  We did a study of 614 mutual funds over 10 years, and only 0.16% of them—basically one—had a return that beat what’s called a “multiple regression benchmark.”Beyond these two studies, there are probably 100 different studies that come to similar conclusions in different ways. That’s why I would never pay a manager to actively manage my portfolio. But what about investors like George Soros who appear to generate alpha consistently over time?HEBNER:  One second. Give me the standard deviation of the alpha; how volatile are his excess returns, his alpha? You slipped in the term that he “consistently” had alpha. I guarantee you that’s not the case.In our study I just referred to, 80 of the 614 managers had positive alphas. The average alpha was 0.84%. The average standard deviation of the alpha was 5.64%.With those two numbers, I calculated I would need 180 years of data before I could be 95% confident that the alpha they claimed was not actually zero.One of the problems you have with managers like Soros is they close some funds. Not including the closed funds is called survivorship bias of the data.How horrible were those funds? What happens is managers basically close down what turned out bad and leave open what turned out good.Why isn’t there a possibility that the ones that turned out good weren’t due to just chance? The investment industry has had a horrible record in what I’ll call “a rigorous statistical analysis.”What other reasons do you have for recommending index funds?A risk-appropriate return is really what an index fund or a benchmark captures. The real questions for investors is, “How can I position my portfolio to have the best chance of actually capturing that return for the risk I took?”There are three key elements for doing that. Number one is complete diversification of every investment that meets your criteria. So if want to invest in small caps, you want all small cap stocks in the entire world.You want the 10,000 stocks that meet your definition of small because that minimizes the random errors in the pricing of those stocks. Prices are only best estimates, not the perfect price.What’s the second element that will improve investors’ chances?And the way we minimize those random errors even further is by holding for a risk-appropriate period—the second key element.The longer you hold, the more you hold, and the more likely you’ll be appropriately paid for the risk you took.And the third element?Keep your costs and taxes at the absolute minimum. Portfolio turnover is part of those costs. I don’t want a manager trying to indentify which stocks are mispriced.When there are 5,000,000 willing buyers and 5,000,000 willing sellers each day in the world, how in the heck does a manager know more than those 10,000,000 traders?Could you explain in more detail how diversification will help investors capture risk-appropriate returns?HEBNER: The expected return of an index is the same as every stock in that index, but the index has greater certainty of achieving that expected return.Now, active managers would challenge this, but we have no idea which stock will generate which return in the future. That’s evident by the lack of stock-picking skill of those managers in the study, right?What this means is, diversification is your buddy and the only free lunch in investing because you can buy that index at the same or lower cost than buying a stock and have the same expected return.What attracted you to this subject in the first place?HEBNER: A friend of mine was killed in a car wreck and left his widow a substantial amount of money. She said to me after being bounced around by various investment managers, “You’re a good businessman; you must understand investing. Help me translate what my investment manager is telling me.”At that point I’d been 12 years with Morgan Stanley and really never understood what they were doing either. So I told her, “You know, I’ve always wanted to dig into this for my own portfolio, and you’ve given me the push I needed.”I bought John Bogle’s books and Burton Malkiel’s books, among 20 others. And you know, what I’ve been telling you has been well known since the early 70s.Anyway, I decided there was a real need to have a real quality education for investors to get them to do this right, so I wrote this book.“10 Questions About Investing In Index Funds: An Interview With Mark Hebner” was written by Gregory Taggart. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related Post navigationlast_img read more

7 Ways to Avoid Self-Sabotage and Stay Debt-Free for Life

first_imgGetting out of debt isn’t easy, but when you make that last payment and become completely debt free, the overwhelming relief and freedom you gain from accomplishing such a huge feat can make it all worthwhile.Anyone who has paid off significant debt will tell you that the journey to becoming debt free was a long and difficult road, paved with a lot of hard work, determination and sacrifice.As a result, it’s completely understandable that newly debt-free people may want to reward themselves for a job well done.The problem, however, is that if you’re not careful, it’s easy to slide back into the same spending patterns and end up right back where you started.Getting out of debt is hard, but staying out of debt can be even more challenging.Here are a few lessons that may help you stay on track, avoid a debt relapse and keep you out of debt for good.Loosen up on the budget and breathe, just a little.You’ve come a long way and now you’ve earned a little breathing room.Don’t go crazy, but do give yourself permission to spend a little more on creature comforts (so long as you can really afford them) so that you don’t feel so deprived.Moderation is key.[Related Article: 3 People Who Dug Out of Deep Debt]Pay with cash — or charge only what you have the cash on hand to cover.Look, credit cards aren’t 100% bad. It’s the temptation and how we use them that can be bad. Doing away with credit cards altogether could impact your credit and your ability to leverage money.Therefore, make a promise to yourself — especially if credit cards are a weakness for you: limit the number of cards you use to two and only charge what you know you can pay in full when the bill comes in.Don’t splurge. Plan.If you want to take a cruise or buy the latest HD TV, plan the purchase and save the cash upfront.This won’t give you the instant gratification of getting what you want “right now” but if you plan it, you can still get what you want without the guilt of spending money you know you don’t have and racking up debt that will weigh you down later.Plus, if you’ve got the cash on hand, you can still charge it, pay it off immediately, and benefit from any credit card rewards that may be available to you.Identify your money triggers.What is the one thing that you find very hard to resist buying? It could be the latest electronic gadget, clothes, art, vacations, eating out — you name it.It’s the one thing you just can’t seem to stop yourself from spending money on if it’s right in front of you. These are your money triggers.By identifying your weaknesses you can avoid impulse spending by removing the temptation — or by avoiding the temptation altogether.Mine happens to be electronic gadgets. It seems I can’t walk into an electronics store without dropping a few hundred dollars, so I just remove the temptation by avoiding those stores entirely.And when I do need something, I order it online to keep from having the merchandise right in front of me. It’s just too tempting for me to resist.[Related Article: 7 Signs Your Credit Card Debt Is About to Implode]Redirect the money you spent on debt payments each month to savings.After you’ve paid off all your debt, take the extra money you now have each month and continue making those same payments towards your savings instead. Every penny saved is another penny towards financial insurance for unexpected financial emergencies.Everyone should have an emergency fund, and with the state of unemployment and the current economic outlook, the old standard of saving enough to cover your expenses for 3-6 months is now closer to 8-12 months for emergency funds.Develop a support group of likeminded debt-free friends. If the people who surround you make it hard to stick to your debt-free lifestyle, it’s time to create a new support group of those who will. They’ll relate with your struggles because they’ve been there too.When your family is upset because you won’t join them on a cruise for next year’s Christmas holiday (when you can clearly charge the excursion), your support group will stand behind you and cheer you on for making the right choice, despite any guilt or pressure from family and friends that want you to “keep up with the Joneses.”[Related Article: Can You Really Get Your Credit Score for Free?]Never forget the nightmare of how living with debt felt.The last lesson, and probably one of the most important, is to never forget the everyday stress and anxiety that you fought so hard to eliminate from your life.You were there once, and remembering how it felt can be an incredibly effective reminder of why you continue to fight every day to make sure you don’t fall back into the same destructive pattern.“7 Ways to Avoid Self-Sabotage and Secure a Debt-Free Life” was provided by Credit.com.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related Post navigationlast_img read more

10 Commonly Overlooked Tax Deductions

first_imgShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related Post navigation You have a duty to pay taxes, but you don’t have a duty to pay more than you owe. And you only owe the amount that shows up on line 76 of your 1040—after you take all the deductions (and credits) you’re allowed by law.What follows is a list of deductions you can’t afford to overlook.But know this: All of them are subject to certain rules and limits not discussed here and many of them are worth nothing to you if your total itemized deductions don’t exceed $11,900 (for those married and filing jointly); $5,950 (for those filing separately); or $8,700 (for those filing as head of household).Casualty and Theft LossesYes, it hurts when you lose a favorite necklace, or when a burglar palms your coin collection. It hurts even more if you lose everything in a Sandy-like natural disaster.You can take some of the sting out of those losses by deducting them. You’ll need to document your losses, and some of the rules are tricky, but where there’s a loss, there’s generally a way to deduct it.Federal Estate Tax on Income in Respect of a DecedentYou know that income from the IRA or pension you inherited from your dad (or mom or grandmother)? That’s income in respect of a decedent.And because his estate may have paid estate tax on it, you may be able to deduct that tax on your income tax return. Go figure.Family Planning and Fertility TreatmentsDid you take a pregnancy test at home? Deduct the cost of the kit. Did you purchase birth control pills prescribed by your doctor? Deduct that, too.What about purchasing a breast pump, or paying for fertility treatments or a vasectomy? You guessed it — that’s all deductible, too.IRA Administrative FeesIf you pay your IRA fees out of your IRA account, you lose two ways: The account has less money to grow tax-deferred, and the fee isn’t deductible.Pay the fee out of pocket and you’ve solved both of those problems.Student Loan Interest Paid by Your ParentsSo here’s the deal: When your parents pay your student loans, the IRS treats the interest they pay as a gift to you.Thus, since it’s therefore really your money that paid the interest, you get to deduct it—if your parents don’t claim you as a dependent on their income tax return.It gets better: You don’t even have to itemize to take this deduction!Interest, Fees, and Expenses You Incur When You InvestIt takes money to make money. Often, much of the former is deductible.For example, investment and custodial fees are generally deductible, as is the interest you pay on the money you borrow to make those investments. State Sales Tax or State Income TaxWhen Congress stopped just short of the Fiscal Cliff on January 1, 2013, it reinstated your right to deduct sales tax you paid in 2012. If your state has both a state income and a state sales tax, you get to choose which tax to deduct.Didn’t keep all your receipts? No problem. You can use the IRS’s handy sales tax deduction calculator.Out-of-Pocket Charitable DeductionsBill Clinton famously deducted his underwear. You may want to follow your former leader (but not too closely—the IRS is watching after all).Add up the cost of the ingredients for that pie you baked for the charity auction, the miles you drove to do charity work, and similar unreimbursed expenses related to your work for your church or other qualified charity, and you may qualify for a sizeable deduction.Points Paid on the Purchase of Your HomeThis one is tricky, with all sorts of rules, but the essence is this: Sellers who pay points can’t deduct them, but the points do reduce the amount the seller realizes on the sale.Buyers can deduct points—even seller-paid points—maybe in the year paid, possibly pro-rated over the life of the loan. The dickens is in the many details.Sin Tax DeductionsIf the stress from preparing your taxes has driven you to drink or smoke, or if you’re off to Vegas to see if you can win enough to pay your taxes, know this: You can deduct the cost of drug or alcohol treatment and the cost of programs that help you stop smoking.You can even deduct your gambling losses—to the extent of your winnings.Gregory Taggart is a former bank attorney who now works as a financial writer. He has written for various Bloomberg publications, Institutional Investor, Bankrate.com, among many other publications.last_img read more

10 Characteristics of Debt-Free People

first_imgSo you have debt. As you probably know, you’re suffering in good company. According to the Federal Reserve, total household debt is at a staggering $13.86 trillion — and has been steadily climbing. While you might be one of millions… Full Story,We’ve all heard the expression “less is more,” and the concept of minimalism embraces that fully. While it is not a new concept, the minimalism trend has gained popularity in recent years,  especially amongst Millennials in the United States. From… Full Story,Saving more money is one of those big goals that a lot of people have, but get stuck. I know this because we use to be right there too. The year would fly by and we were nowhere near our goal…. Full Story,Have you ever heard of “discretionary income” but felt unsure about exactly what it means? You’re not alone. Many people are aware of what they spend, but not the financial lingo behind it. Discretionary income refers to the remaining funds… Full Story,Mastering the personal finance basics feels pretty good. Getting a firm grasp on your expenses and budgeting like a pro is a reason to celebrate—you’re building the foundation for a solid financial future! This, of course, goes hand in hand… Full Story,While the traditional definition of financial freedom is that you have enough in investments, savings, and passive income that you don’t have to ever work for money again, it can also mean that you reach a point where you don’t… Full Story,Do you ever feel on edge because you’re not sure if you have enough in your bank account to cover your bills and put food on the table? If so, you’re far from alone. A recent study by the United… Full Story,Starting your journey toward financial fitness can be overwhelming. If you take a gander at the Center for Financial Services and Innovation (CFSI)’s eight key indicators of financial health, which include spending less than your income, having sufficient living expenses… Full Story,This Independence Day, as with each 4th of July, I’m reminded of the great leap of faith my parents took more than 37 years ago when they bought one-way tickets to the United States. Their move from their embattled Iran… Full Story,Earlier this month I had a major #fangirl moment. It was a full #fangirl evening, in fact, when I teamed up with New York Times bestselling author and Girlboss founder Sophia Amoroso to share in a very special money event…. Full Storylast_img read more

Finances and Engagement: The MONEY Talk

first_img Post navigation Congratulations on your engagement! You and your significant other are perfect for each other, and you want to spend the rest of your lives together. But did you have the talk?You’re probably thinking, “What talk?”Let’s talk about MONEY. Money. Money. Money.Although scary, money and finances in any relationship, especially a marriage, IS A GREAT indicator as to how well two people understand each other, communicate, and trust each other.This is the best first step to take in your marriage. And for better or worse, you’ll know soon enough if it’s going to work long term for you.And now… we ride off into the sunset?I’m getting married in a few weeks and understand how important budgeting and finances are to relationships. My fiancé and I use Mint to keep everything organized and easy to access. We’ve gone through the financial talk, and I want to give you some tips on how to have that conversation. It can be a tough conversation to have, as many people are embarrassed or confused about how to talk about money openly and honestly. I will be doing a video soon with tips and advice for having that talk!So after I got engaged, I thought what’s next? I’d bolt away with Prince charming on a beautiful horse and never think twice about paying a bill again. Yeah right!You go from being boyfriend and girlfriend to fiancé. It’s when all these money questions came to mind. And by the way there is no straight formula to lay it all out.Bringing up money.First things first. My biggest suggestion would be don’t just bring it up in a random conversation. Set a day and time and make it clear that it’s going to be a talk about your finances. That way both people can be prepared.I asked my now-fiancé, Michael, if he had ever used Mint (he knows I use apps all the time) to which he responded, “Yes, I’ve used it.” That’s how our conversation started.Having serious and honest conversations about money is important, and you both need to be able to approach it calmly, and not as an argument. One way to bring it up is to discuss it when you’re planning to move in together.“OK, we are going to look for a lease starting in July. We will need to have $5,000 for first month, last month, and security deposit. Let’s talk about how we’re going to save for this, how we are going to split the bills, and also how we are going to deal with finances once we’re living together.”Same page of the same storybook.If your financial situation changes, such as one of you gets laid off, one of you gets a substantial raise, or a new job, or maybe you get a new large bill, like a mortgage or a car payment. Whenever a new financial situation comes up, you should sit down and talk about it, how it will be paid, how money will be saved, split, earmarked, etc. Being open and honest about money is so super important in any relationship.Michael and I were super honest about salaries and money from the beginning, and continue to have open conversations about it now. Here’s how conversations go on in our life:“We spent too much this month, I want to cut back on xx now for awhile.” Or “OK, I got a raise, I’m autosaving xx dollars from our accounts every month.” Or even “I’m feeling insecure because I bring in less money than you, gimme hugs.”When you and your partner first move in together, and you are tying your lives together, you should have already had the serious conversation about finances, but in case you haven’t it’s never too late! There should be no secrets or hiding of assets in a healthy relationship or marriage.Ask yourself who is the breadwinner, and what type of marriage are we going to have?It is rare for two people to be making the same amount of money, so figuring out how to split up bills, how much to save, and making budgets is very important to the long term health of your relationship! Money is one of the things that statistically couples are most likely to fight about, so you want to address this head on.Not all marriages are the same.Some are 50/50, where each partner works, and they contribute equal amounts and have access to a joint household-specific account or credit card, in addition to separate accounts with the rest of their money.Others are completely separate. All accounts are separate, and everyone has his/her car payment, monthly bills, and split the mortgage/rent payment much like roommates would from their individual accounts.And then lastly, there’s going all-in. Where everything is jointly shared (regardless of who makes what), and all accounts are shared and accessible. All of the bills and savings come from one central shared location.There are other options too, and discussing it and making a plan is very important. Figuring out what works for you as a couple is most important, it doesn’t matter what other people do, it matters what is best for you specifically.You and your partner need to figure out where you are with all finances, and where you want to be for your relationship.Now that you’ve learned a few ways to bring up that conversation and started figuring out what kind of financial relationship you have or want, in the next blog I’ll talk about what to discuss in that conversation.Check back in soon! Jessica Naziri is the founder of TechSesh.co, a lifestyle website for women inspired by tech, with everything you need to get your tech fix, delivered in digestible and bite-sized content. Jessica’s mission is to bring tech to women and women to tech and was recently listed as Women to Watch in Tech by Inc.com.Jessica has been a technology news reporter for The Los Angeles Times, CNN and CNBC.com. Since then, her work has also appeared in TechCrunch, The Washington Post, Mashable, CBS, The Travel Channel, CNN, NPR, USA Today, Inside Edition, Yahoo!, and Business Insider.Follow Jessica on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or reach out directly via email Hello@techsesh.co.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Relatedlast_img read more

10 TED Talks on Minimalism to Inspire You to Spend Less

first_imgWe’ve all heard the expression “less is more,” and the concept of minimalism embraces that fully. While it is not a new concept, the minimalism trend has gained popularity in recent years,  especially amongst Millennials in the United States. From tiny houses to the KonMari organization method, people are finding unique ways to declutter their lives.At its core, minimalism is a lifestyle that chooses everything with intent and gets rid of things that cause distraction or serve no purpose. When people eliminate distracting things from their lives, it opens new opportunities to focus on other areas. One area that minimalism can help you refocus on is your finances. With less material items in your life, you can better prioritize how you budget and spend your money.Adopting a minimalist lifestyle isn’t as simple as throwing a few things away, and it can require a lot of discipline to fully take on. If you’re in need of some extra inspiration to help you embrace minimalism, these TED Talks will help you see the value in it and how it can help you to spend less and begin your path to a debt-free life. Click on the image of any presenter to view their talk!  Minimalism primarily focuses on decluttering your physical space of material items, and only keeping or purchasing items that provide value to you. In doing this, you free yourself of distractions and the temptation to buy unnecessarily. While minimalism does not stop you from spending money, it can help you shift your focus on more important ways to budget and spend. Over time, the changes in your spending habits by adopting minimalism can add up and make a difference, and you can find yourself in a healthier financial situation.  SourcesMoney Under 30 | The Balance | Frugaling | Project Hot Mess | Apartment Therapy | The Singju Post | Business Insider | The Moneyless Man | The Art of Letting Go | Getting Rid of 1000 Things | Less Stuff, More Happiness | From Clutter to Clarity | Sell Your Crap, Pay Your Debt, Do What You Love | The Ten-Item Wardrobe | The Less You Own, The More You Have | Get Rid of the Unnecessary to Get Down to Basics | Minimalism – For a More Full LifeShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related5 Practical Ways Minimalism Saves MoneyMarch 16, 2018In “Minimalist Lifestyle”12 Tips to Help You Live Within Your MeansAugust 13, 2013In “How To”Downsizing? Here Are The Pros And Cons You’ll Need To ConsiderJune 26, 2019In “Housing Finances” Post navigationlast_img read more

This Independence Day, Think About a Menu Change

first_imgMillions of American families are preparing to celebrate the July 4th holiday by planning their party menus. This year, they might want to think about alternatives to the traditional burgers.Why? The world is on course to have nearly 10 billion people by 2050. More people and better diets in poor countries means the world will need 70 percent more food. More land in agriculture will mean more planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions.One way to sustainably feed a growing population is by shifting diets away from resource-intensive, meat-heavy menus. As Americans head to the grill this Independence Day, they can help by swapping their burgers and hot dogs for grilled vegetables or chicken, which have much lower emissions profiles.In a new podcast, I discuss these choices with WRI’s Janet Ranganathan and Richard Waite. They are two of the authors of a new paper, Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future. The paper shows that eating less meat, particularly beef, and moving toward diets with a greater share of plant-based foods reduces pressure on forests and land, lowers greenhouse gas emissions and sets us up for a more sustainable future.The paper also tackles the crucial question of how to shift people’s diets at scale, an issue we take up in the second half of the podcast.last_img read more

6 Tips for Making a Business Marketing Video

first_img Video Marketing Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Aug 22, 2008 9:15:00 AM, updated March 21 2013 Topics: This article is by guest writer Catie Foertsch from www.OurTownLLC.net who has a lot of experience producing video of many types and formats. Start with a script.  If you don’t, you’ll turn on the camera and find yourself tongue-tied as you try to think of what to say. Unless you’re using a teleprompter, bullet points are better than paragraphs. Develop a list of bullet points and then rehearse your way through them a couple times, honing what you want to say just like you do when you’re rehearsing a power point presentation. Remember that people are trained to watch video as story, so frame what you say with a beginning, a middle, and an end. (More about the end later.)  And – while you might want to say a whole lot about your business, boil it down. Don’t overwhelm your viewer with detail.Don’t try to impress your audience by channeling someone who impresses you, like maybe Seth Godin. People have a very, very sensitive authentic-meter, and can tell immediately if what they’re seeing is faked or forced. Remember the old maxim about doing business with people we know, like and trust? Video is a great way to let people connect with you in all three ways but it only works if their authentic-meter tells them they’re watching a real person. So be yourself.Don’t use the camera’s built-in microphone.  Buy a wireless lavaliere mic and clip it on your lapel.  You can pick one up for short money, and the difference in the professional quality of your video is huge. To find one, Google lavaliere mic. Just make sure that the one you buy has the right connections for your camera.Be vigilant about your lighting. This is one of the easiest ways to make your video look good. Don’t shoot against a window because your camera will adjust to the outside light and you’ll be way too dark. Don’t place yourself directly under an overhead light because you’ll get very nasty raccoon eyes, as the light casts shadows from your brow. Do point a light source directly at your face, to counter shadows from overhead light. You can take the lamp shade off a table lamp so the light shines on your face, or point a desk lamp at yourself. Don’t place it so close that you blind yourself, just use it to fill in the light on your face. It’ll make a big difference. And, if you have dark skin, do not shoot against a light background as the camera will adjust for the background. Place yourself against a darker background so the camera adjusts to your face and not the white wall behind you.Frame your face well. If you’re placing your video on your website it’s going to be relatively small, so if your face is small in the video it will be very difficult to see on your website. Why does the size of your face matter? Because we want to watch your face as you talk. And beware of too much head room. Head room is the space above your head in the frame, and too much leaves lots of empty space and too little you. So – bring your head very close to the top of the frame. Aim for a head-and-shoulders shot without a lot of headroom and you’ll look great.End your video with some kind of call to action. This is because people watch videos to watch a story, and every story must have an ending, and the most effective ending for a marketing video is a clear communication of what the person should do next. Here’s an example: “Bankruptcy is not easy, but we have the experience and the know-how to help you through this. So call us, right now, and let’s get started.”What’s the bottom line? Communication-wise, video is the sharpest tool in your toolbox, and making good video isn’t hard. So why not start using video to communicate your message? Photo by danny.hammontreeFree Ebook: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing Learn how to implement a comprehensive internet marketing strategy, step by step.Download this free ebook for step-by-step instructions on how to make internet marketing work for your business.last_img read more

How Many Posts Does Your Business Blog Need to Grow Leads? At Least 20.

first_img in this 3-part series. Reserve Your Spot Now Originally published Apr 5, 2010 8:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016 Want to read more? Download the full  We grouped 760+ HubSpot customers who blog into four different categories based on the size of their blogs. When comparing the median customer’s monthly lead number in each category, we observed that leads started to grow once blogs . lead growth has the potential to accelerate for customers who grow blogs beyond the critical threshold Marketers With Blogs Generate 67% More Leads Date and time: In the Topics: blog usage as well as blog size , which are a central factor in Google’s organic search ranking algorithm. Other related sites are likely to link to a blog that provides interesting and fresh content. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack . . Customers with blogs of 24+ articles are more likely to be committed to updating their blog frequently and, thus, are likely to generate more traffic from referring sites. , we discussed the strong connection between Google indexed pages and leads. Here, we’re taking a look at the significant positive relationship between blogs and leads. More specifically, we’re looking at .  based on results from these companies. The report and this article were written by Sophie L. Schmitt. . Customers with 52+ blog articles generated median leads that were 77% higher than the median result in the “24-51 article” group. This growth is twice the increase between the prior two groups (30%). Read article 1 Grow indexed pages in Google more rapidly . Blogs give visitors a reason to come back and interact with sites. Marketers who are not blogging are leaving leads on the table. Marketers who do blog must invest time and effort in developing a blogging process that ensures there is always a critical mass of articles available to attract visitors who convert to leads. Blogs impact leads because they: steady stream of content than by adding web site pages. As we showed earlier, Increase the number of keywords marketers rank for in Google the more Google indexed pages a site has, the more leads it is likely to obtaincenter_img . Here, we compared median leads of customers who blog to those of customers who don’t. We looked at leads over a three month period (November ’09 through January ’10). , a new HubSpot report based on statistical analysis of 1,400 customers’ inbound marketing activities. The study identifies  Live Webinar: The State of Inbound Marketing Lead Generation The graph also indicates that offered a critical mass of articles, on the order of 20 to 50 articles create a blog last post Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 1:00pm EDT  Lead Generation Customers with blog article numbers above this critical threshold are likely to have enough content to make a significant impact on search engines through additional indexed pages and new keywords with which to associate. In addition, other sites are more likely to link to a blog that offers a Marketing Takeaways lead generation best practices Along with blog size, we looked at plain and simple blog usage. This is the second of three articles that share findings from  This graph also shows that marketers with small blogs (fewer than 10 articles available) generate similar lead results to marketers who choose not to Generate inbound links Blogs Need to Reach a Critical Mass of Articles to Generate Leads The State of Inbound Lead Generation based on the number of articles available on the blog. State of Inbound Lead Generation report . Through blogs, marketers have the opportunity to create unique content that can be different from their web site content. They have the potential to significantly increase the number of keywords they rank highly for in Google.  We have written about the impact of blog usage on leads before As expected, the median customer who blogs generated 67% more leads than the median customer who does not blog, or 15 vs. 9 leads. The results were the same for both B2B and B2C customers in our sample.  Increase repeat visitors Learn how companies are using inbound marketing techniques to generate higher volume and lower cost leads and customers. .last_img read more

Content Selling: The Next Evolution of Content Marketing [Infographic]

first_img Originally published Jan 11, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Save This post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.Marketers are well aware of the power of content marketing to attract and nurture leads. But at some point, leads get passed on to Sales, and salespeople are generally not as “hip” to the content movement as their colleagues in marketing.That is, until now.Whereas marketers are usually content creators, socially savvy reps are becoming adept content curators, finding and sharing internally- and externally-sourced collateral that is interesting and relevant to prospects. Some are even taking to LinkedIn Pulse or personal blogs, writing original articles to boost their thought leader status among buyers.However, this type of activity is still the exception rather than the rule. To show salespeople how content can be used to not just market but also sell, pass along this infographic from KnowledgeTree. It translates tried and true best practices from content marketing into a new practice: content selling.Marketing already knows that content is king. Now, let’s unite Sales and Marketing under the same ruler by spreading this infographic among both functions.Save Topics:center_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Content Marketinglast_img read more

Can Company Policy Make Your Team More Creative? Here’s How 4 Companies Are Experimenting

first_img Topics: Originally published Jul 26, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Creativity This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.Nowadays, you don’t hear the phrase “office culture” without someone bringing up the open office concept. Cubicle farms have gotten a bad rap over the past decade or so, replaced with more innovative workplace setups that supposedly help breed creativity and collaboration. (Whether or not they actually do is up for debate.)But open office plans aren’t the only way to spark employees’ creativity and innovation. According to the New York Times, “Studies of innovation come to the same conclusion: You can’t engineer innovation, but you can increase the odds of it occurring.”So how are companies trying to improve the odds?We’ve found four companies with a different approach to investing in employee creativity. While the effectiveness of these programs can be hard to measure given their inherent subjectivity, it’s interesting to see what companies are doing to help cultivate an innovative and inspirational work culture.1) Sagmeister & Walsh: Flexible Vacation PoliciesThe concept of flexible vacation policies has been the talk of the town for the past few years. At HubSpot, we’ve found that an unlimited vacation policy means employees are more engaged and more productive when they are at work. They can spend less time worrying about plans and timing and more time thinking about how to do their jobs well.But unlimited vacation is just one iteration of flexible vacation policies. In fact, 25% of the employers on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For offer paid sabbaticals to their employees. While employee retention is one of the main draws of offering these long breaks to employees, another big benefit is letting them explore new ways of thinking.Design agency Sagmeister & Walsh — which designed the album cover for The Rolling Stones’ “Bridges to Babylon,” among many other famous projects — actually shuts its doors and gives its employees an entire year-long sabbatical every seven years. The first time co-founder Stefan Sagmeister did this, it was because he realized the work coming out of the agency had started to look the same. So he decided to do something drastic: He completely shut down the firm for a year so he and his team could refresh their creative outlook.”That’s clearly enjoyable for myself, but probably even more important is that the work that comes out of these years flows back into the company and in the society at large rather than just benefiting a grandchild or two,” said Sagmeister in his TED talk, “The Power of Time Off.”2) Pixar: Small Incubation TeamsIf you’ve ever seen one of Pixar’s animated films, from the Toy Story trilogy to Finding Nemo to Ratatouille, you can begin to imagine how many creative minds it takes to produce a feature-length film. It’s not like a team of 10 people in a room came up with all those clever ideas — it takes every member of a 200-to-250-person production group to pull together a film.”People tend to think of creativity as a mysterious solo act,” wrote Ed Catmull, president of both Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios. But in reality, each movie contains “literally tens of thousands of ideas.”And during the creative process, not all of them are gold. So how do you sift through a wave of ideas to extract the very best ones? Pixar had a process.”While I’m not foolish enough to predict that we will never have a flop, I don’t think our success is largely luck,” Catmull wrote. “Rather, I believe our adherence to a set of principles and practices for managing creative talent and risk is responsible.”After Toy Story 2 came out in 1999, Pixar decided to change the mission of its development department. Instead of managing the birth and development of ideas all on its own, as they had in the past and as is traditionally done at other studios, the development department now helps directors put together small incubation teams to help directors refine their own ideas. The challenge is building a team that’ll work effectively together.Then, once the team’s assembled, members go to work at hacking through the rough ideas and refining them. Great team dynamics are essential here. “Nobody pulls any punches to be polite,” Catmull wrote. “This works because all the participants have come to trust and respect one another. They know it’s far better to learn about problems from colleagues when there’s still time to fix them than from the audience after it’s too late.”In the end, the philosophy rests on getting creative people together, giving them a lot of autonomy and support, and providing them with an environment for honest feedback. 3) Google: Rewarding Risk-TakingMost managers would probably claim they encourage their employees to “be more creative” or “be more entrepreneurial.” Fail hard, fail fast … and so on and so forth. But what are they actually doing other than verbalizing it?It’s one thing to say it’s OK to take risks and learn from failure, and it’s another thing entirely to mandate it. Google’s experimenting with the latter. You may have heard of the company’s famous 20% time policy, which requires employees dedicate 20% of their time (roughly one day per week) developing their own side projects. Products that’ve come out of 20% time include Google News, Gmail, and AdSense.While the effectiveness of the program has been widely critiqued, its implementation is a testimony to how important the folks at Google believe individual innovation is. Being given ample time to go beyond your comfort zone can not only open the door to new challenges and opportunities, but it also allows people to exercise their natural problem-solving skills. “Once you have become accustomed to taking risks, you break free from the average way of living and thinking,” wrote Stacia Pierce in The Huffington Post.4) Colgate: Flexible Working HoursWhether employees have kids, doctor’s appointments, or simply work better in the early mornings or late at night, many companies have gotten good results from empowering them to work during hours that suit their lifestyle. Structure can hinder innovation, while allowing employees to focus on work when they’re working. Plus, working during their own high productivity hours can help bolster creative thinking. At the same time, high-autonomy ethos can also strengthen trust and increase retention rates. “The start-ups of Silicon Valley have reaped the rewards of giving employees a long leash,” wrote Claire Hodgson for The Guardian.Flexible scheduling has become more and more common across a variety of industries, and Colgate-Palmolive’s only one of thousands of companies adjusting their policies to allow employees more work-life balance. But, as a 209-year-old company with an employee base of more than 35,000, its adoption of flexible working hours is particularly impressive. In fact, the company tops job search engine Indeed.com’s list of the 25 biggest companies that go “the extra mile” to help their employees have more of a work-life balance.The key to success when it comes to flexible working hours? Efficiency and professionalism.”Past and present employees comment on the Colgate-Palmolive employer review page [on Indeed.com] noting that management sets realistic expectations for employees, promotes time management skills, and clearly communicates,” said Mike Steinerd, Indeed.com’s director of recruiting. “Colgate-Palmolive offers some great benefits, such as flexible work hours, telecommute options, and nearby back-up childcare centers, which is a nice perk for work-at-home parents. As a result, Colgate-Palmolive has a high rate of employee retention, which is a testament to their culture.”How effective are these innovation policies? Unfortunately, any metrics you’d use to measure them are a little hairy. There are plenty of folks out there who are skeptical about whether implementing programs like brainstorming sessions, science fairs, and so on actually make an impact on the bottom line. What seems to be the trend here is that, at the very least, employees like having these policies around — and that can help you retain and attract smart people.What innovation policies do you find interesting? Share with us in the comment section. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

How Are Digital Publishers Approaching Monetization: 4 Key Takeaways

first_img Topics: When it comes to the digital publishing landscape, experimentation is the new norm. Launching native advertising, paywalls, and affiliate programs—media leaders are seeking ways to transform their engaged, loyal audiences into long-term sources of revenue. Seeking to counteract declining ad revenues, publishers are facing more questions than answers. Does it make sense to follow the footsteps of The New York Times in implementing a paywall? Will the programmatic ad market eat into direct-sales margins? What’s considered normal, and what are the lowest-hanging areas of opportunity?Media leaders should pay particular attention to the following 4 lessons learned from our initial monetization shapshot:1) Paid Subscriptions Aren’t the Smoking GunPaywalls may seem like low-hanging opportunities as immediate revenue streams. After all, The New York Times is witnessing steady year-over-year growth to its paid subscriber base. Data from HubSpot points out however, that this type of success is rare, with a mere 10.9% of respondents in the Benchmarks report citing subscriptions as their greatest source of revenue.Publishers are finding it challenging to complete with the free content that proliferates on the web—as reflected by 78.4% of our survey’s respondents reported offering at least some form of content for free. Different publishers cater to different audiences, at varying ends of the economic spectrum. While some audiences will jump to pay for content, others will flock to the wealth of content that’s available for free. It’s a catch 22—when publishers implement paywalls, they do so at the expense of audience size and scale.Paywalls may seem like a ‘quick fix,’ to digital media’s monetization challenges, but there’s more to the story. Before making the decision to charge audiences for content, audience will need to conduct thorough cost benefit analyses for their unique audiences. Publishers can pun into play a strategy that proves their content is worth it’s salt, or branch out and pursue new, alternative revenue opportunities.In an ideal media ecosystem, publishers can provide content for free while still relying, in part, on other sources of revenue. The best approach varies based on the unique audiences that each publisher reaches.2) Sponsored Content is on the RiseWith advertisers looking to engage audiences in engaging and creative ways, publishers are noticing an uptick in sponsored content and native advertising. Majority (54.8%) of both B2B and B2C publishers cite this monetization stream as likely to increase in value in the immediate future .The value proposition is clear—content drives meaningful conversions at scale, and publishers offer platforms for brands to reach wider audiences through webinars, ebooks, native ads, branded videos, and more. From a monetization perspective, media leaders are evolving into discussion leaders and information facilitators. Sponsored content opens doors to a new digital advertising frontier.When it comes to sponsored content, however, publishers need to be careful to maintain a high-quality of work. Consumers can be skeptical of paid placements and likely to ignore anything that looks like an ad. Media leaders know their audiences best, and may want to retain control over their editorial messaging and strategy—operating as consultants to their brand and agency partners.Publishers have a unique vantage point in that they understand their readers and know how to drive traffic. Media leaders provide more than platforms. They offer consulting, distribution, and the gold standard for high quality content.3) There’s an Opportunity Beyond AdsWhen it comes to new and creative ways to monetize a digital publication, native ads are only the first step. As publishers continue to adapt and evolve their business models, new revenue opportunities will continue to emerge.Publishers are starting to give this perspective some thought and are testing the waters across the board by leveraging webinar sponsorships, event sponsorships, newsletter sponsorships, selling subscriber lists, lead generation for advertisers, and classified directory listings as new monetization streams.By introducing new products to their repertoires of offerings, publishers can increase their average customer lifetime value and make more out of the web traffic that they’re already driving. Traditional ad revenue becomes just one piece of the overall monetization puzzle when publishers can be less dependent on programmatic ad market dynamics that are outside of their control.4) The Future is Still Up in the AirIt doesn’t take a report to know that digital publishers are operating in a volatile time of transition and discovery. Surveyed publishers reported upon whether they expected certain tactics to increase or decrease in value. While there were some clear winners (sponsored content)  and losers (print advertising) on the list, attitudes about paid subscriptions, selling data, and display advertising were on the fence. A near-equal percentage of respondents expect these monetization tactics to increase or decrease in value.For this reason, publishers are still deciding where to focus their efforts. Between events, sponsored content, and traditional paths to monetization like display advertising, there’s a lot to test and even more to learn. The biggest challenge, at this point, involves the sheer number of opportunities ahead. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Aug 18, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated August 29 2017 Content Distributionlast_img read more

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

first_img Originally published Nov 29, 2016 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017 Blog Post Topics Imagine you own a business that films and produces yoga routines for at-home practice. As search engine results pages become more crowded, your chances of ranking for a popular industry keyword — such as “yoga” — begin to diminish.But as it turns out, that’s not the end of the world. These days people are actually conducting more specific, conversational queries — think: “how do I teach myself yoga?” — to get the information they’re looking for, faster.Unsurprisingly, Google responded to this change in behavior by introducing RankBrain — a machine-learning artificial intelligence system — as well as Hummingbird — a search algorithm designed to focus on the meaning behind the search terms being used.The result? An increased number of long-tail keyword variations that are regularly searched within a topic. Jackpot.Learn more about HubSpot’s latest tools to power your growth here.But with more topic opportunities on the table, how can you be sure that you’re going after the right ones? To help you avoid wasting time on topics and keyword plays that won’t generate a meaningful return for your business, we’ve put together a simple process for validating your ideas before you start writing. Check it out below. How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process1) Get to know your audience really well.Ideally, you’re already conducting market research and thinking about your audience before you start writing a piece of content. But in case you’re not, or you need to refresh your memory, here are a few questions you should be asking when you’re brainstorming blog content ideas:Who searches for information on this topic? What are their ages, job roles, and demographic traits?What emotions do you want to evoke? What are their goals?What do you want viewers to do with your blog posts once they read it?When you have a clearer idea of the demographic and psychographic traits of your ideal audience, you can then use this information to substantiate your list of ideas. Chuck the ideas that don’t fit their mold, and keep the ones that do — it’s that simple.2) Create a topic cluster based on your persona research.Once you know who you’re writing for, figure out what questions they need answers to. To start, think about providing solutions to challenges your audience is facing.For example, in the yoga example above, your audience’s problems might include: not having enough time to go to the gym, a lack of nearby gyms, an inability to afford a gym membership, or high levels of stress.From there, marketers should ask questions to determine the specific angle of their content. What’s the best way to deliver this information — a blog post, an infographic, or a video? What content has already been published about the topic, and what angle can I pursue to differentiate mine?One of the best ways to organize your thoughts and finding here is through a topic cluster — a new way to strategize blog content geared toward how search has evolved.Continuing with the yoga example, you’d want to create a topic cluster centered around “yoga” as the main topic. Then, you’d come up with subtopics that are related to yoga but based on long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for in search. These could include “at-home workouts,” “exercises for stress relief,” “yoga for beginners,” and “online yoga classes.”Here’s an example cluster that HubSpot’s Head of Growth & SEO Matt Barby created. Notice that while the core content topic is “workout routines,” the cluster content — referred to as pillar content — spans a wider variety of related topics.By clustering ideas around one core topic that is relevant to your audience, it become easier to generate content that you know will resonate.”This is a very simplistic overview but can work as a light framework for prioritizing content ideation and production,” explains Barby in an article detailing the full process. “The role of the pillar content is to cover the core topic broadly and also perform well at converting visitors into leads (or whatever your conversion goal is). The cluster content that is built for each of the subtopics will focus on gaining greater topic visibility and funneling traffic through to the pillar content in order for them to convert.”3) Use tools to gut check your topics.Once you have topics in mind for blog posts, do some testing: Just because you think the topic is interesting and good for search engine optimization doesn’t always mean it will resonate with your audience.Here on the HubSpot Blogging team, we propose blog topics and titles alongside a reason why we think they will perform well. Here are some of the tools we use to determine if an angle is worth writing up:TitleTester: As the name of the tool suggests, TitleTester allows you to plug different title options into its tool to analyze which has the highest clickthrough rate. Use this tool to test different angles on a topic to see which generates the most interest.Twitter Polls: Ask your followers to vote for topics they’re most interested in reading more about using Twitter Polls. Use that data to guide your topic choosing before starting to write.Twitter Chats: Figure out which Twitter Chat most closely aligns with the topics you’re writing about, click on the hashtag, and see what types of questions people are asking about. That will give you an idea of a content gap that your blog post could fill with resources for your audience.BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo analyzes how many times a URL has been shared via social media or linked to by another domain. Do some quick competitor analysis by dropping in links to content on the topic you’re writing about to see how different angles have performed in the past.Blog Comments: Does your blog have commenting enabled? If not, it should, because feedback from your subscribers is the exact answer to the questions you’re asking — what content is my audience interested in? Take positive and constructive feedback from readers to inform your strategy.Once you’ve aggregated responses to different tests and questions you’ve asked your audience, choose a topic and title with the greatest level of engagement and response, and start writing your blog post.Quality > QuantityThe biggest takeaway for marketers is to emphasize blog post quality and relevance over quantity. Instead of writing multiple blog posts without a review of the strategy behind them, it will be difficult to rank in search and achieve lead generation goals.For HubSpot customers, HubSpot Content Strategy will help guide you through the process of creating a topic cluster. Based on data from the HubSpot Keywords App, Content Strategy and the Blog Topic Generator will recommend topics that you should create content around, and advise against topics that will be hard to rank for or are unrelated to your central topic. It’s coming soon to the HubSpot software, and users can sign up for early access now.How do you decide which topics to write blog posts about? Share with us in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this post! Topics:last_img read more

Harry Kane nets hat-trick as England romp past Bulgaria

first_imgEngland’s serene progress towards Euro 2020 continued as captain Harry Kane grabbed a hat-trick in a 4-0 demolition of Bulgaria in Group A at Wembley on Saturday.Kane opened the scoring after 24 minutes and struck home two penalties after the break as well as providing the assist for Raheem Sterling to get on the scoresheet.The Tottenham Hotspur striker’s second hat-trick for his country took his tally to 25 goals from 40 appearances and put him ahead of 1966 World Cup final hero Geoff Hurst on the list of all-time England scorers.Gareth Southgate’s side have now scored 14 goals in their opening three Group A games and lead the table with nine points from Kosovo (8) who beat the Czech Republic 2-1 earlier on.England host Kosovo for the first time on Tuesday when another victory will leave them looking virtually assured of reaching next year’s tournament that culminates on home soil.It was not a perfect display by England with Bulgaria having three good chances, one when the score was 0-0, but England proved far too strong as they left the visitors languishing at the bottom of the group with two points from five games.First half, we got caught on the counter a couple of times. We said at halftime we needed to try and come out and get an early goal and that’s what we’ve done, Kane said.It’s a good result we hope to take into Tuesday.Bulgaria had never beaten England in 10 previous encounters, scoring only twice, and despite starting reasonably solidly and having the game’s first chance through naturalised Brazilian Wanderson, they were the architects of their own downfall.advertisementThe expected home onslaught had failed to materialise in the opening quarter but England were gifted the lead.Southgate would have been concerned by some slackness in his defence and Galin Ivanov wasted a great chance to head his side level when he was picked out by Ivelin Popov’s cross.Shortly after the break Wanderson was played in and his fierce effort from a tight angle was saved by Jordan Pickford.Stung, England immediately counter-attacked and Marcus Rashford was sent clear and as he turned back inside in the area he was tripped by the sliding Nikolay Bodurov.Kane dispatched the penalty with ease and six minutes later he teed up Sterling to score off his thigh from close range.With the points in the bag England sent on Chelsea youngster Mason Mount for his debut while Jadon Sancho also got some game time as he replaced Sterling with 20 minutes left.Kane was also given a breather but not before he had earned and converted his second penalty in the 73rd minute after being hacked down by Bulgaria substitute Kristian Dimitrov.Kosovo have emerged as the unlikely closest challengers to England in the group and will arrive at Wembley in good heart after goals from Vedat Muriqi and Mergim Vojvoda secured their victory over the Czechs in the day’s other Group A game.Patrik Schick had put the Czechs ahead.last_img read more

Amol Muzumdar appointed South Africa batting coach for India series

first_imgMumbai stalwart Amol Muzumdar was on Monday appointed as the interim batting coach of the visiting South African team for the Test series against India beginning October 2.The 44-year-old, who made 11167 first-class runs at an average of 48.13 but never got to play for India, confirmed the appointment.”I was approached last week and I have accepted the challenge. To be associated with an international side is a huge honour,” Muzumdar, who played most of his cricket for Mumbai before moving to Assam, told PTI.Besides a mountain of first-class runs, Muzumdar also scored 3286 runs in List A cricket. He has also been the batting coach of IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals.Muzumdar has a tough task at hand as he joins a team in transition for the three-Test series beginning in Visakhapatnam followed by matches in Pune (October 10-14) and Ranchi (October 19-23).South Africa had won the ODI and T20 series against India in 2015 but were hammered in the four Test series 0-3.Also Read | India vs South Africa: Virat Kohli’s team to assemble in Delhi ahead of T20I seriesAlso Read | Quinton de Kock-led South Africa team arrives in India ahead of T20I serieslast_img read more

Longer format suits Navdeep Saini, feels Zaheer Khan

first_imgFast Bowler Navdeep Saini has been part of India’s T20I team of late. The 26-year-old was part of the shortest format series for India tour of West Indies and the homes series against South Africa. However, former India pace great Zaheer Khan wishes to see Saini playing in the longest format of the game as well.Right-arm fast bowler Navdeep Saini earned is maiden India call-up for the 3-match T20I series against West Indies and the RCB player impressed in his very first outing in the national colors as he bagged 3 for 17 and the Player of the Match award.Saini varied his pace around 150kph in his first T20I in Lauderhill and was impressive with is short balls. The pacer also got to a hat-trick ball after dismissing Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer off consecutive balls.Impressed with his skills, Zaheer Khand believes Navdeep Saini could adapt well in the Test format as well and want him to join the pace duo of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.”The longer format, that’s the format that suits Saini. Saini has got the pace and consistency in length,” Zaheer told Mumbai Mirror.Meanwhile, Zaheer also showered praise on Bumrah who has lately gained the reputation of being the best fast bowler in the world. The 25-year-old picked 13 wickets in four innings at an average of 9.23, including only the third hat-trick in the 2-match Test series against West Indies.”I have always said that if he had that outswinger for the right-handers, he will be a nightmare for the batting sides. I am glad that it has happened now,” Zaheer said.advertisement”He needs to work on his fitness and keep doing the things that have brought him this far. With experience he will keep getting better and better.”However, Jasprit Bumrah will not be seen in action in the upcoming home Tests against South Africa has the pacer has been ruled out of the 3-match series due to a minor lower back fracture. He has been replaced by Umesh Yadav in the squad.Also Read | Jasprit Bumrah’s awkward action has worked as his advantage: Zaheer KhanAlso Read | Would be great to see Indian players in Abu Dhabi T10: Zaheer Khanlast_img read more