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The Biz Roundup March 24

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

The U.S. government needs to be able to take over and wind down a broad range of economically important non-bank financial institutions, top economic officials told Congress Tuesday, though who will get that authority was left as an open question. . . .

“If a federal agency had had such tools on Sept. 16, they could have been used to put AIG into conservatorship or receivership, unwind it slowly, protect policyholders, and impose haircuts on creditors and counterparties as appropriate,” Mr. Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee. . . .

The creation of any resolution authority would rely on legislation enacted by Congress, and top lawmakers suggested Tuesday they agree with the need for broader oversight over financial companies. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank praised the way the FDIC has been able to effectively deal with collapsing banks and suggested that agency should be a model for creating a system for dealing with large companies.

“We need to give somebody, somewhere in the federal government the power” to put failing nonbanks “out of their misery,” Mr. Frank said at the hearing.

(“Bernanke, Geithner Call for Broader Government Power,” Wall Street Journal, March 24) Six months too late and a few hundred billion dollars short, but now we’re talking. And I mean talking economic recovery here, rather than pissing into the hurricane. Let’s stop funding absurd executive compensation packages and get out there and kick some hunny-buns.


What happens when the news goes out of business? Well, maybe publishers should get smarter about Web advertising.

The problem of matching ads to page content is acute for general-interest newspapers: “The audience is constantly changing,” Addante says. If, for example, UNC advances in the NCAA tournament, more readers are likely to come from North Carolina. If there’s a shuttle launch, more space nerds. Another Joaquin Phoenix freak-out? More celeb-watchers.

Addante claims that Rubicon’s programming — processing about 1 trillion rows of data daily — is supple enough to adjust what the ad users see in real time, in a way that can keep up with the newspaper websites’ traffic volatility.

And sometimes stay ahead of it. For example, when the airliner landed in the Hudson River, traffic on New York newspapers’ websites skyrocketed. Addante’s team got an alert from the publishers and helped pour high-value ads onto those sites.

(“By ‘optimizing’ ads, can the Rubicon Project save this newspaper?,” Los Angeles Times, March 24) Grim reality 101: the subscription cost of a newspaper barely pays for the materials cost of the ink and paper. All that other stuff — reporting, editing, marketing, running the presses, delivery — that’s paid for by advertising. And newspaper advertising is going bye-bye like last year’s snow as it migrates online. Trouble is, online newspaper advertising is a poor match for both advertisers and news publishers because, well, you folks out there in audience-land ain’t clicking the ads and buying the crap on the other side of the click. Or, more accurately, you’re not doing it at levels high enough to make it worthwhile. So that means the news goes out of business and we’re left with the paranoiacs, crazies, unhinged (or neverhinged), one-trackers, or just plain dead-wrong loonies like Arianna Huffington, Politico, Andrew Sullivan, TMZ, Matt Drudge, and all the other guests at the movable blogfeast. Broadcast news? Need I say it? A walk through the ocean of broadcast news would scarcely get your feet wet. The only hope for real, objective, keep-your-looney-tunes-off-my-news is to convince all you good citizens out there to CLICK THE DAMN ADS AND BUY THE DAMN CRAP! But that isn’t your job. It’s the job of the publishers and the advertisers. So get to work, you guys, before you get out of work.


Just in time for a penny-pinching recession: Starbucks brings back four-dollar a pint ice cream to match its four-dollar a cup coffee.

Starbucks Corp. on Tuesday unveiled its new ice cream line, which comes in flavors inspired by Starbucks’s most popular beverages. . . .

Starbucks Corp. on Tuesday unveiled its new ice cream line, which comes in flavors inspired by Starbucks’s most popular beverages.

(“Starbucks new ice cream hits stores,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 24) Timing is everything, I guess. Starbucks ice cream has been off the shelves for, what, six months now? In the meantime, people have cut way back on their spending and their indulgences. In the last six months, McDonalds has displaced Starbucks as the premium coffee vendor of choice (McDonalds?). Yes! Just the right time for wallet-sucking premium ice cream! I guess sometimes you just can’t lose too much money.

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