This morning, the Barack Obama administration released data on enrollments in the health-care exchanges. If you’ve been paying any attention at all, the numbers aren’t a huge surprise. In the first two months of operation, 365,000 people got as far as selecting plans on the exchanges. A little more than 60 percent -- 227,000 of them -- enrolled through state-run exchanges, with the overwhelming majority of enrollments coming in four states: New York, California, Kentucky and Washington. The rest were on the federal marketplace. About three times that number have been “deemed eligible” for Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
How good you think this is depends on what baseline you use. The administration is comparing it with the first week of October, when basically no one could enroll; obviously, this represents a huge improvement over that. But compared with projections made before the exchanges opened, this is quite low -- about a quarter of what officials were expecting. Unless it accelerates dramatically, the system is going to be well below the 7 million private-insurance enrollments that the Congressional Budget Office forecast for the first year of operation.Read more »
It’s fair to say that Upworthy is an Internet sensation. The site has only been around for a year and a half, and it had 87 million unique visitors in November from a comparative handful of posts. Yet there’s a vulnerability at the heart of its business model, as Jeff Bercovici explains:
Sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy -- and a growing number of imitators -- have all but perfected the science of producing stories that Facebook users can’t resist sharing with their friends and “liking.” With 1.2 billion users, Facebook offers a platform big enough to build an entire business on: Upworthy, which said it had 87 million unique visitors in November, gets more than half its traffic from the social network, while Buzzfeed, with 133 million uniques, counts on it for about one-third of referrals.
It would therefore be potentially devastating to these sites — and to the entire category of what I’ll non-judgmentally label virality mills -- if Facebook did anything to make it more difficult for them to disseminate their content through its users’ newsfeeds. But some people think that’s exactly what it’s trying to do.
Last week, Facebook said it was making new changes to the algorithm that governs what shows up in users’ streams. The changes are meant to ensure users see “high quality articles” instead of just “the latest meme.”
Until 2011, entire public companies were built around gaming Google Inc.’s search algorithms, using networks of low-quality content to move themselves up the search rankings for popular terms. Then Google changed its algorithms, and those companies lost a huge chunk of their revenue overnight.Read more »
Two big pieces of news on General Motors Co.: The government has sold its remaining stake, locking in a loss of roughly $10 billion, and the company has named Mary Barra to the position of chief executive officer. She will be the first woman to head a global automaker.
Of these two pieces of information, the latter is much more interesting. It’s hard to find much new to say about the government’s investment in GM: We lost money that we wouldn’t have if we’d just stepped in to provide debtor-in-possession financing to see GM through a reorganization, rather than becoming part owners so the administration could micromanage the process. That’s almost $35 for every man, woman and child in America, and we don’t even get a coupon to apply toward a new GM automobile. Still, there’s not much we can do about that now.Read more »
Back when Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, Republicans slipped in an amendment requiring members of Congress, and their staff, to buy their own health care on the exchanges. The provision was meant as a poison pill, but there is a logic to it: Members of Congress should be willing to eat their own cooking, shouldn't they?
Ryan Cooper argues that this will eventually have a salutary effect on the health-care system, as congressmen find out just how bad things are for ordinary Americans:Read more »
Washington, D.C., like many cities, has affordable housing programs aimed at promoting home-ownership among its lower-income citizens. And like many cities, Washington is experiencing rising home prices. This has left it with a bit of a conundrum, writes Aaron Wiener at Washington CityPaper: Should participants in the affordable housing programs be allowed to reap a windfall from their city-funded adventure in home-ownership?
Of all the city's affordable housing programs, this has to be among the worst returns on investment: The city, through its Housing Production Trust Fund, subsidizes the construction or renovation of an affordable home. A low-income resident buys it at a steep discount. After 15 years, the resident can sell the property and pocket not only the initial purchase price and any appreciation, but also the value of the city's subsidy. The seller walks away with a windfall profit, the home is no longer affordable, and the Trust Fund investment is gone.
The affordable housing nonprofit Manna finds this problematic. So over the past three years, the organization, together with several partners, has worked on a solution that culminated in a proposal Manna shopped to several members of the D.C. Council: first Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, then Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who expressed interested in introducing the legislation, and finally At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, who jumped on the proposal with the most gusto and quickly introduced it as a bill earlier this week.
The bill under proposal is modest: It claws back the initial subsidy out of the sale proceeds. But others say that this doesn’t go far enough, and that the program should restrict resale at market rate for much longer -- perhaps for good. The debate exposes a tension at the heart of these programs: Are they for the citizens of Washington, or are they for the city?Read more »
Last week, we finally learned how Spotify Ltd. pays its artists. The math is not too happy, if you’re in the music business:
Spotify Ltd. on Tuesday disclosed, among other things, that each time a user listens to a song, rights holders are paid between 0.6 cent and 0.84 cent. Over the course of 2013, the company said, it will have paid $500 million in royalties, representing half of the $1 billion Spotify sent to rights holders since setting up shop in 2008.
The stats were unveiled as part of a new Spotify Artists Web page, a site where rights holders can access analytics tools to track their performance on the streaming-music platform.
To see why this is such bad news, let’s think back to the dark ages, when I used to buy CDs. If I liked an album, I might listen to it several times a day for a month or so -- call it 60 plays. Over the course of a year, I might play a record 70 to 100 times in the first year, with rapidly diminishing plays thereafter.
For this, I would pay them maybe $12 -- in 1990 dollars. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that this is equivalent to about $20 today.Read more »
When I was 19 years old, my mother gave me a KitchenAid mixer. That sums up a lot of things about my family: We cook a lot, we eat a lot, and for gifts, we give each other kitchen gear. Friends refer to our house as “The Appliance Museum,” and I have to say, they have a point. On the other hand, it’s a delicious hobby.
Below are the items I recommend for the cook in your life, even if you’re that cook. Unless otherwise noted, everything is something I have used and loved. Hope they can bring happy cooking to all this holiday season.
Come January, when some number of Americans have bought insurance on the new health exchanges and are starting to use the services, you can expect another controversy to arise when many of them find out just how few doctors and hospitals they have access to. Call it “doc shock,” though the biggest outcry will not come when people try to schedule an appointment with their physician, but when someone gets sick and they learn they cannot go to whatever top-notch hospital they want, only to the hospital that is included in their plan.
The problem varies across the country. In Washington, where I live, it basically won’t be a problem at all; exchange policies have mostly the same provider networks as regular policies from those insurers. On the other end of the spectrum, in California, where the exchange put heavy pressure on insurers to keep premiums low, most exchange policies have bare-bones coverage that excludes top-tier hospitals such as UCLA and Cedars-Sinai. The industry calls these “narrow network” plans, but consumers are likely to have some more pungent names for the stripped-down provider offerings.Read more »
This week’s announcement that New York magazine was becoming a biweekly was greeted, in my profession, with the sort of cheer that might herald the announcement of a sewer line backup or a mid-honeymoon appendectomy.
New York magazine is very successful. Its editor is very well regarded, and it wins lots of awards. It gets scads of Web traffic. It publishes magazine features that win the admiration of fellow journalists and has also become practically ubiquitous on social media. And, apparently, it still can’t pay the bills as a weekly publication. Hearing that New York magazine can’t make it as a weekly is, for a professional journalist, rather like being told that your teddy bear has cancer. How is that even possible?Read more »
Slate has an article up today with a provocative headline: “Most Female Journalists Have Been Threatened, Assaulted, or Harassed at Work. Here's Why We Don't Talk About It.” However, the evidence provided by the article doesn’t say any such thing. Amanda Hess reports the result of a Web survey performed by International Women’s Media Foundation and the International News Safety Institute. Says Hess:
Sixty-four percent of the 875 respondents said they had experienced “intimidation, threats, or abuse” in the office or in the field. Most of the abuse was perpetrated by the journalists’ bosses, superiors, and co-workers. Forty-six percent of female journalists said they had experienced sexual harassment at work, including “unwanted comments on dress and appearance.” That harassment was also overwhelmingly perpetrated by colleagues. Twenty-one percent said they had experienced physical violence -- including being pushed, pinned down, or threatened and assaulted with weapons -- in the course of their work. Thirteen percent had been sexually assaulted on the job -- again, mostly at the hands of co-workers.
If you’re a female journalist, these numbers are unsurprising. Pervasive sexual harassment and violence against female reporters, editors, and writers is rarely aired publicly, but it is an open secret in the field. The majority of incidents of sexual harassment and physical assault detailed in the IMWF survey were not reported to employers; 76 percent of women who met physical violence on the job did not report the assault to police. That’s partly because bosses and cops are the ones responsible for threatening and assaulting us. A small portion of abuse and intimidation reported in the study came from government officials (7 percent of reported incidents) and police officers (3 percent); 23 percent of women who said they had experienced physical violence on the job were assaulted by cops. The majority of these cases involved men we work with. When we do hear about harassment and assault against female journalists, it’s generally in the context of incidents perpetrated by people outside of the business (see: Lara Logan and Erin Andrews).
That doesn’t mean that female journalists are not forthcoming about the issue. We talk among ourselves, naming names in private email threads, drinks outings, and anonymous blogs. This is our “sad coping mechanism,” as Ann Friedman put it this year. Female journalists keep these discussions at a whisper because we know the men responsible are “too professionally powerful, too entrenched to really be held accountable for their behavior.”
Well, I’m a female journalist, and I found these numbers surprising. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that sexual harassment happens, because I’ve experienced it, though not in my years as a journalist. I certainly believe that many female journalists have been made uncomfortable by bosses and coworkers, subjected to unwanted propositions and so forth.Read more »