"This kind of thing will undermine the deterrence idea of white-collar crime prosecution." -- University of Texas law professor Henry T.C. Hu after a federal appeals court reversed Frank Quattrone's obstruction-of-justice conviction, to The Washington Post
Google's effort to roll its advertising juggernaut beyond digital is struggling. But that may not be good news for print media. In February, Google (GOOG) auctioned off ad space it had purchased in about two dozen magazines, from Martha Stewart Living to Road & Track. The auction, the latest twist in a six-month experiment with buying and reselling print ads, was open to thousands of advertisers. But Google was forced to extend the deadline to lure more buyers.
The tepid demand was apparent in some winning bids. Nicholas Longo, CEO of CoffeeCup Software, which makes tools for creating Web sites, bid just $4,600 for each of three half-page ads in Martha Stewart Living. The magazine's rate card pegs the price of a half-page ad at more than $59,000. Longo wound up paying at least 93% less than that. Neither Google nor Martha Stewart Living would reveal what Google originally paid for the space, but it didn't get a similar discount.
Google can certainly digest a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. A spokesperson says the outfit is more concerned with testing the auction process than with any financial return. But the results may indicate that the true value of a page of print lags its list price, at least in the eyes of Google's advertisers, who are used to high-return search engine campaigns.
Selling itself as a haven from bird flu, the U.S. poultry industry has a point to make, but it's a tricky one: Its chickens are raised in "contained facilities." Unlike some Asian birds, they don't go outside, where they could have contact with their wild, diseased brethren. As animal rights groups have long complained, the vast majority of the 10 billion chickens produced annually are confined in so-called factory farms.
So how do you market something that conjures images you would rather avoid? Very carefully. John Lea, group vice-president at Tyson Foods (TSN), makes the practice sound almost benevolent. "Our commercial birds are raised in facilities that protect them from wild birds and predators," he explains, adding that the U.S. poultry industry is "the most protected in the world from accidental transmission." And Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council says that "keeping flocks indoors is the best way" to avoid disease. Whether or not that's true is open to debate. Tyson, for one, is not taking any chances, having increased testing and security measures. Meanwhile, groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are fuming over the efforts to promote factory farms as a form of biosecurity.
It was quite a start on the road to the Final Four. CBS' (VIA) first stab at free Webcasts of the NCAA basketball tournament drew over 4 million viewers in the games' first weekend. That's a million short of the audience for same-day Webcasts of last summer's Live 8 charity concerts on AOL Music, but the 200,000 or so who logged on simultaneously to view the Madness topped the concerts' 175,000 peak audience. At one point before the first game started, 150,000 fans queued up to log on, according to CBS. A spokesman for Marriott International, whose Courtyard chain co-sponsors the Webcasts, said: "We're very pleased."
For a preview of how CEO pay may be disclosed in the future, take a look at Bank of America's (BAC) latest annual proxy. The company is one of a few listing "total compensation" for top brass ahead of new Securities & Exchange Commission rules expected to kick in next year. (All told, CEO Kenneth Lewis came in at $22 million in 2005.)
For the first time, BofA lists the dollar value of executives' stock options as a pay-package element. And it makes quite a difference. When the current proxy looks back to 2004, it lists Lewis' pay in the new way, for a total of $22.7 million. Compare that with his 2004 pay as disclosed the old, piecemeal way in last year's proxy: $19.2 million, close to 20% lower.
The amount of salary, bonus, and restricted stock, the largest parts of Lewis' pay, are the same in both filings. But the new proxy adds in $3.2 million, the estimated value of the 500,000 shares underlying the options Lewis got in 2004. The older proxy just lists the number of options.
There are also changes in "all other compensation" for Lewis in 2004. The number is $359,223 this year, vs. $195,112 last year. The difference, says Bank of America spokesman Terry Francisco, is primarily due to BofA's now putting a dollar value on its CEO's pension accruals.
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"...If life doesn't exist on Enceladus [one of Saturn's moons]...I suggest seeding the moon with Terran organisms that might be able to survive and flourish. In a few decades genetic engineering might also progress to a point where exotic...metabolisms could be synthesized with the physiology of more complex aquatic organisms."
Always looking for a new twist, the makers of blue jeans may find one in a technology designed to keep denim dry in a downpour. Researchers at Cotton Inc., a textile industry group, have created Storm Denim, a Teflon-like fabric coating that would presumably prevent cold-and-clammy jean syndrome by causing water to bead up and run off. The trade group says that denim treated with the coating still breathes, keeping the wearer comfortable. And the finish -- designed for use on fabric that's faded, whiskered, embroidered, or dyed -- doesn't change the look or feel of a pair of jeans. The treatment also won't alter manufacturing costs much, the group contends, since the coating comes from readily available chemicals. No indication yet that big players in the $14 billion jeans industry are planning a line of water-resistant jeans.
Wal-Mart (WMT), Home Depot (HD), Starbucks (SBUX). The names attract millions of shoppers -- and those who dwell in the ever-evolving world of computer fraud. Computer security firms are warning about a spate of "brand spam," e-mails promising a "$500 shopping card" at Wal-Mart or a "$500 Home Depot Gift Card." The offers, which use company names and logos without permission, require users to click on a link, type in personal data, and take a survey. Presto! The site says the gift will be mailed.
The offers are, of course, too good to be true. "They are using the brand name to add credibility," says Joel Smith, chief technology officer at AppRiver, an e-mail security firm. Smith estimates that of the 500 e-mails per second his firm filters, brand- spam offers account for about 3%. Most have complicated user agreements requiring consumers to take additional steps before getting a gift, such as signing up six others for the promo. It's unlikely, Smith says, that anyone ever receives the gift.
Like phishers trying to steal credit-card numbers, brand spammers are trolling for consumers' e-mail addresses and preferences. The reason? To sell the data to other spammers. Soon after signing up for one of these offers, a user gets spam for obscure lotteries or "free" movie tickets.
Wal-Mart spokesman Martin Heires says the company is warning consumers that it never offers freebies over the Internet. Home Depot says it has worked with law enforcement to shutter sites using its logo. Starbucks says it is aware of the Starbucks "offer," which is "definitely not a Starbucks project."