Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Russia ends natural gas discount for Ukraine

Gazprom says the decision to charge a higher price was made because Ukraine has failed to pay off its debt for past supplies, which now stands at $1.7 billion.

By Peter Leonard And Vladimir Isachenkov
The Associated Press

MOSCOW - Russia on Tuesday sharply hiked the price for natural gas to Ukraine and threatened to reclaim billions previous discounts, raising the heat on its cash-strapped government, while Ukrainian police moved to disarm members of a radical nationalist group after a shooting spree in the capital.

People pass barricades near the Dnipro Hotel in Kiev, where a tense standoff between Ukrainian police and a radical nationalist group Right Sector ended Tuesday when its members surrendered their weapons. Their departure followed a shooting spree in which a Right Sector member shot and wounded three people, including a deputy mayor, outside a restaurant adjacent to the capital's Independence Square.

The Associated Press

Related headlines

NATO foreign ministers were gathering for a two-day meeting in Brussels to consider further steps in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, including measures to reassure the Baltic states, Poland, and Romania that the alliance would help guarantee their security.

Alexei Miller, the head of Russia's state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom, said Tuesday that the company has withdrawn December's Discount that put the price of gas at $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters and set the price at $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters for the second quarter.

The discount was part of a financial lifeline which Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to Ukraine's President, Viktor Yanukovych, after his decision to ditch a pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow. The move fueled three months of protests which led Yanukovych to flee to Russia in February.

Radical nationalist groups played a key role in Yanukovych's ouster, but they quickly fell out with the new government. Many activists are still encamped on Kiev's Independence Square, known as the Maidan, and have signaled their intent to remain there until the election of what they deem to be a legitimate government.

Last week, one of the leaders of the most prominent radical group, the Right Sector, was shot dead while resisting police.

Right Sector members then besieged parliament for several hours, breaking windows and demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. They lifted the blockade after lawmakers set up a panel to investigate the killing.

Late Monday, a Right Sector member shot and wounded three people outside a restaurant adjacent to Kiev's main Independence Square, including a deputy city mayor, triggering a standoff that lasted overnight.

Police responded by surrounding the downtown Dnipro Hotel, which Right Sector had commandeered as its headquarters, demanding that the radicals lay down their weapons and leave. Avakov said that Right Sector members agreed Tuesday to leave their weapons behind and went to a suburban camp, escorted by officers of Ukraine's Security Service.

The Ukrainian parliament then voted to order police to disarm all illegal armed units. Backers of the measure said the drive was needed to combat a recent surge in violent crime and to defuse the risk of provocations by "foreign citizens" in Kiev and the south and east of Ukraine, heavily Russian-speaking regions where anti-government groups have rallied over the past several weekends in calls for secession.

In March, authorities launched a broad appeal for the voluntary surrender of weapons, many of which went astray from police depots during months of unrest. The government has said a similar amnesty will remain in effect in April.

If police disarm nationalists and other radical groups, it would undermine Russia's key argument: the allegation that the new Ukrainian government was kowtowing to nationalist radicals, who threaten Russian-speakers in southeastern Ukraine. Russia has pointed at the perceived threat from ultranationalists to defend its annexation of Crimea, and has concentrated tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine, drawing Western fears of an invasion.

Putin and other officials have said that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu insisted Tuesday that the Kremlin wants a "political settlement that would take interests and rights of the entire Ukrainian people into account."

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he couldn't confirm reports of a Russian pullback from Ukraine's borders.

(Continued on page 2)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miguel Cabrera -- Thanks to $292 Million Deal ... My Barber's Flying Private Jets Now

Tigers Superstar Miguel Cabrera

Thanks to $292 Mil Deal Now

My Barber's Flying Private Jets Now

Miguel Cabrera might be happy about his $292 million contract -- but his barber flat out lost his mind celebrating the ridiculous deal ... and tells TMZ Sports he just got a fat raise from the Tigers slugger.

Moises Lopez , or as he's known in the biz ... "Jordan the Barber" -- because he's the best -- was at Miguel's house in Florida when he got the call about the record-setting deal.

The video is awesome -- after Miguel hangs up, Jordan says in Spanish ... "We're gonna go crazy" ... and busts out the world's first $292 mil shuffle.

Jordan tells us, "Miguel said he's gonna pay me double from now on."

Dude is worth it. Jordan also tightens up the domes of Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and CC Sabathia.

Jordan is based out of NYC where he has 2 barbershops ... but keeping up with Miguel during the season won't be a problem -- "[Miguel] said he might send for me in a private jet."

Ballingest barber. Ever.

Gap Outlet: $25 off $75 purchase, printable or mobile coupon

<Deal Nowp>

Go here to get a new coupon from Gap Factory Outlet good for $25 off $75 purchase for four days only.

$25 off $75: Offer valid from 3/27/14 through 3/30/14 at Gap Outlet, Gap Outlet Kids & Baby, or Gap Factory Store in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) only. Not valid in Gap stores, online, or in our clearance center. Discount is allocated across items. GiftCards, packaging, taxes and prior purchases do not qualify toward the minimum purchase requirement and coupon cannot be applied to such items. Coupon must be surrendered at time of purchase. Limit one coupon per customer per transaction. Copies not accepted. Not responsible for lost or stolen coupons. Cannot be combined with other offers or coupons, including Gap Inc. employee discount. Cashiers use coupon code: SAVE25

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Energex Tube shutting down

Every worker at Energex Tube will be laid off within two months. It's uncertain if they'll ever return to their jobs.

Employees at the Dain Ave. plant - formerly Lakeside Steel - were told Monday a decision was made to idle operations "for an undetermined amount of time" due to market conditions and "unfairly traded imports into North America."

"This will result in the indefinite layoff of all hourly employees until business conditions change," said a layoff notice obtained by The Tribune.

The company provided eight weeks' notice of indefinite layoff, effective Monday. It will continue to extend health and insurance benefits for the duration of the layoff, the notice said.

Rick Alakas, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 523, is trying to hold onto some optimism. But closure weighs heavily on his mind.

"I am very concerned about the future of that plant," he said Tuesday. "This setback is a real blow to us."

Alakas said the layoffs apply to everyone there - 126 hourly workers and 36 salaried employees.

"It's a very difficult period," he said. "It's emotional and it's difficult, not only for our members in the plant, but for their families."

He said a meeting is being planned to address workers and their spouses or partners next Tuesday about what will happen in the coming weeks and to give them a sense of what's happening with the North American steel industry.

He said workers for now will complete scheduled production jobs and then move into cleanup mode for the shutdown.

Energex Tube is owned by U.S.-based JMC Steel Group, which purchased the plant for $58 million in April 2012.

An announcement posted on the Energex Tube website Tuesday said: "Despite significant operational improvements within the Canadian plant, market conditions, primarily the influx of unfairly traded OCTG (oil country tubular goods) imports into North America, have greatly reduced the ability for our Welland, Ont., operation to be profitable. The company has decided to idle operations located at 160 Dain Ave."

It went on to say: "We expect that all layoffs will be completed by May 19, 2014. This announcement and timeline are based on the best information currently available but may be affected by various factors. Energex would like to thank our customers and employees for their continued support."

JMC Steel spokesman Jelani Rucker and Energex Tube president Randy Boswell could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

JMC Steel, too, blamed low-priced imported steel products for its decision to cut 110 Welland jobs in July 2012.

Work began last May to demolish more than half the buildings at the Welland plant. Demolition started with more than 50% of the structures there, and subsequent plans called for the demolition of buildings along Ontario Rd. that had been used for finishing 16-inch pipe.

In total, more than 37,000 square metres (400,000 square feet) of buildings were to be demolished.

The company announced in late 2012 that it was phasing out of the furnace review production of its eight-inch pipe and at that time permanently cut 94 jobs.

"The future is difficult. We are holding out hope that there is opportunities for that plant to resume operations," Alakas said.

"This isn't the first plant that's been idled" in the steel industry, he said. "What we're experiencing in Welland is nothing new."

He said the shutdown will cause a ripple effect in the community, be it for suppliers, transporters or restaurants and shops - "pretty much across the board."

"It's another sad day for the city," said Welland Mayor Barry Sharpe, "and I'm sure it's absolutely devastating news for the employees and their families."

He said the last time he was involved in a corporate call with the company was February 2013, "and it ended in a positive note" about plans for the future that included a stretch production mill and new furnace, some of those plans which were followed up on.

Sharpe said following a meeting with city manager Craig Stirtzinger Tuesday the municipality is willing to support any case put forward to support North American steel workers.

"We're prepared to step forward if there's a need to meet the minister of economic development," he added.

Still, the massive scope of the issue for which Energex appears a victim "makes you feel pretty powerless," the mayor said.

Dumping charges levelled by North America's steel industry go back well over a decade, and it seems nothing has been yet done to look after domestic jobs.

Welland MP Malcolm Allen said the Canadian government has left industry problems to be ironed out in courtrooms, but small- and medium-sized industries and related machine shops - and those shrinking big companies - don't have millions of dollars to throw toward uncertain outcomes.

Many finished steel products coming into Canada, he said, are arriving at prices lower than the international market price for the raw material.

"In my view, it's purely dumping - no doubt about it."

Trade agreements with countries where environmental control standards are lesser and labour costs are lower, but where it's also difficult to identify points of subsidization, need to be re-examined, Allen said.

"Welland is a microcosm of what has happened across the broader sector of manufacturing in Ontario," Allen said.

"It's extremely troubling," he said of the local Energex plant, "since they've done so many things over there to be competitive."

greg.furminger@sunmedia.ca Follow @GregAtTheTrib

Sunday, March 23, 2014

GDC 2014: Rocketcat's 'Wayward Souls' Might Actually, Finally Be Close to Finished (and It Looks Amazing)

<Discountp>Rocketcat Games make some of my favorite iOS titles, and ever since they announced a spinoff to their action RPG Mage Gauntlet [$2.99] at last year's GDC, I've been dying to get my hands on a finished version. However, it's been a longer development cycle than Rocketcat expected, and it's seen several versions and name changes in the two and a half years since they began working on it. The bright side is that all that extra development time means the game, now known as Wayward Souls, is absolutely stuffed with crazy features, enemies, items and playable characters. Rocketcat's always entertaining Kepa Auwae walks us thro ugh a lengthy demo of the latest version of Wayward Souls. Enjoy.

As I mentioned in the opening and we touched on in our conversation, Wayward Souls has a lot of depth in terms of character progressions and sheer variety of enemies and environments. By Kepa's own admission, it's a very niche and difficult game, but I think there's definitely an audience on iOS who will absolutely fall in love with Wayward Souls. The goal is to submit the game and have it release before PAX begins on April 11th, so if all goes according to plan, we'll finally be playing Wayward Souls in the next few weeks (fingers firmly crossed).

Coupons.com: Your Mailbox's Trash Is This Company's Treasure

  • COUP is the solution to the largest problem in discount advertising.
  • COUP has found a way to monetize the mobile revolution and society loves them for it.
  • Several demographic and economic changes will help drive COUP's market capture and penetration.
Who is Coupons.com?

Coupons.com ( COUP) provides digital coupons. It offers Price Compare, social, mobile, and loyalty card promotions. The company provides a collection of money saving printable or save to card coupons on the Web; coupon codes for saving on online purchases from online merchants; and daily deals for discounts on products and services from local businesses, a well as offers Grocery iQ, a shopping-list application that allows users to create, organize, and share shopping lists, and find and use coupons. It provides DFSI, a digital free standing insert; online marketing campaigns, email, and social media programs; and print and mail, clearing, and advertising solutions to brand marketers. The company also offers solutions for publishers to monetize Website traffic, including custom-b randed microsites; and Brandcaster, a self-service coupon syndication platform. In addition, it offers APIs for developers to integrate Coupons.com coupons into their products. Further, the company provides family codes on coupons, customer care solutions, customer support, and coupon processing services. It serves consumer goods manufacturers, advertisers, retailers, promotional marketing firms, pharmaceutical, and other companies.

So are they an advertiser? Does anybody even use coupons?

Not really an advertiser, but they do let the advertisers do all the heavy lifting for them in a traditional sense, and YES people DO use coupons. We'll get to THAT later in the article. For now, lets take a look at the coupon business in general.

The coupon business has been around since 1887 when the Coca-Cola Company first introduced a coupon for a free drink. They placed their coupon in the hands of one in every nine Americans between 1887 and 1913 and this promotion helped them become the global force that they are today. Of course their story isn't that simple, but it all started with their initial dip into the coupon market.

The coupon business has gone through some very dramatic changes since inception and has evolved (devolved) into the modern day mess that it is. We'll get to THAT later in the article as well.

Currently, 305 billion paper coupons are distributed annually, representing an aggregate discount value of $467 billion, with 2.9 billion being redeemed, representing an aggregate discount value of $3.7 billion saved, according to an annual industry report by NCH Marketing Services, Inc., a provider of coupon audit and settlement services. It's hard to quantify the amount of digital coupons being distributed but based on what we are able to put numbers behind, a recent report from Juniper Research suggests that the mobile coupon market will be worth $46 billion by 2015, "Mobile coupons are going mainstream, cost effective mobile coupon campaigns are now within the reach of smaller retailers providing them with an easy way to drive profitable footfall and build customer loyalty. To ignore the potential of mobile coupons would be to ignore the future of mobile commer ce". This is just an outline description of the coupon market, not the primary focus of this article, but I do think it's important to understand the potential that is available to a company who can bring together a portion of the opportunity.

I happen to agree with the study findings at Juniper. The coupon market is huge and as time goes on I think the trend will continue towards mobile. Companies that can form recognized platforms with reputations of excellence should stand to make a lot of money. Even currently in the paper coupon dominated world the problem isn't potential, its execution.

How can COUP improve the numbers mentioned above?

The goal of any advertiser always has been and always will be to gather as many eyeballs and ears as possible and direct them to their product. The problem is the current methods present as many problems as they do potential. Currently, the most widely used methods of distributing coupons (a form of advertising) are: direct mailers, advertisements in sector exclusive channels (meaning per client advertisements to a particular grocery chain, or furniture store, etc), product specific coupons for loyalty programs (no "hard" coupon but a secondary price tag on the product that gives the coupon price for the loyal customer), brand specific coupons not advertised but presented on the particular brands website (printable at the consumers discretion), and television and radio ads that inform the customer of the "sales" available based on the above mentioned product specific coupons. You can see how the current methods put the majo rity of the workload on the advertisers and muddy the waters between brand building and trying to move discounted inventory.

Some of the challenges created by the current methods of distributing coupons are listed below and are also mentioned in the COUP S-1 filing:

Challenges for CPGs and Brands:

-difficulty engaging consumers at scale

-difficulty coordinating promotional channels that are optimized to their retail distribution channels

-complexity of reaching consumers at the moments critical to influencing their purchase decisions

-difficulty of integrating with retailer promotion efforts

-inability to measure and improve the effectiveness of promotions

- lack of security

Challenges for Retailers:

-coordinating CPG promotional spending to drive benefits to the retailer

-difficulty in engaging digitally savvy consumers with retailer promotions

-improving the efficiency of redeeming all forms of coupons

Challenges for Consumers:

-traditional and digital coupons may not be available in the form that a consumer finds easiest to use

-difficulty in finding coupons for preferred brands and retailers

-lack of personalization

This is where COUP steps in and provides the much needed solution. COUP provides a comprehensive, all inclusive, 100% online and mobile platform for all parties involved. They have found a solution to presenting products to buyers, on a personalized, tailored, and timed basis. What's even better is that COUP has found a way to get the consumer to actively engage with the brands and consumers packaged goods companies that makes the consumer immediately aware of the savings and "opportunity" the companies are presenting them with. What this has shown, based on data collected by COUP in regards to touchpoint activations (the customer downloading a coupon to their personal "coupon bank" within the COUP platform to use at the particular retailer - think grocery stores), is an increased loyalty to retailers within their group of preferred vendors and even to the CPG companies on a brand specific level. Brand loyalty is the desired result of any advertisement or coupon campaign. COUP can build this. Lets take a look at why each participant in the sales process would look to use COUP (also mentioned in the S-1 filing):

Consumer Packaged Goods Companies and Brands:

-COUP can cast a wide net - in the first nine months of 2013, COUP generated revenues from over 940 million transactions

-Engagement with the consumer - "Our platform allows CPGs to better engage with consumers by enabling multiple touchpoints during a consumer's shopping experience. For example, a consumer can use our mobile app while they are walking through the aisle of a retailer, find a coupon for their favorite detergent ,save the coupon directly to the retailers loyalty program and receive the discount automatically at the point of sale without the need to present a physical coupon"

-COUP can blend fresh advertisements with coupon promotions within the same platform and same screen

-SPEED - "Our ability to deploy promotions in days rather than weeks or months provides brands the ability to strategically allocate promotion spending to drive increased sales of their products." Taking advantage of quick shifts in shopping behavior can be the difference in selling a product and furthering a markdown (hurting margins).

-Help with optimization of promotions using proprietary analytical tools

-Security - counterfeiting and fraudulent usage of digital coupons is one of the major barriers to adoption for those new to the technology, COUP's platform securely manages promotions and helps alleviate these concerns


-Leverage CPG promotion content to increase sales - "Retailers can integrate promotions from our platform into their point of sale systems, retailer-branded websites, retailer loyalty/rewards programs, mobile applications and social media programs. By offering CPG promotions from our platform through their own digital channels, retailers are able to increase sales of the CPG promoted product at their locations and increase consumer loyalty." Absolute no brainer.

-Recurring income from COUP not ordinary to coupon usage - "Retailers receive a distribution fee from us when we generate revenues from a digital promotion transaction on the retailer's website or through its loyalty reward program. Retailers benefit from an additional source of revenues not available with traditional coupons, in addition to driving purchases of the CPG products at their stores.

-Integration with retailer point of sale systems - customer is no longer required to present a paper coupon (less work for the consumer has shown to equal more usage), cuts down on check-out time, improves the customers experience in store, builds loyalty via "savings", and simplifies the processing of coupons.


- Broad network or CPG's, retailers, and specific brands that use COUP

-Easy to use - customers can build personalized lists of coupons, store coupons for printing at home if they prefer, use the digital coupons at point of sale, and download coupons directly to their retailer specific loyalty cards

-Personalized promotions - "Our point of sale solutions and mobile applications help consumers save time and money by optimizing and personalizing the presentation of promotions.A consumer using these products will be presented with a set of optimized promotions based on their prior coupon selections, geography and other demographic and behavioral attributes." The search engine of coupons, only this search engine makes relevant suggestions.

COUP takes advantage of an obvious need in a way that presents a clear value add to all parties involved in the sales process. Lets take a look at COUP's growth strategy going forward.

The road ahead and a look at COUP's numbers

COUP's business model has been slowly developing into what they hope is an unstoppable force. They already have over 2000 brands and a network of over 30,000 publishers committed to what amounts to a joint venture. The significant reach of their ability to promote to consumers increases their value to other CPG's and retailers, which in turn increases their network and increases their value to consumers. So as they develop one train of their business the other train naturally develops as well. They've built an incredible amount of momentum and made a focus of putting in place the infrastructure to operate at a much larger scale, always focusing on the next level of capabilities. Revenues at COUP grew from $27.2 million in the quarter ended September 30, 2012 to $39.7 million in the quarter ended September 30, 2013 while operating expenses declined from $33.1 million to $29.0 million and net loss declined from $16.6 million to $1. 6 million over the same period. This is an incredible set of numbers from a company this size. If they continue to develop at the same pace, I don't think it's out of the question to imply that they stand a good chance at developing at a faster pace (based on network exponentiation), they could become a household name and Wall Street darling by the end of 2014. The aggregate of all CPGs that used COUP's platform during the nine months ended September 30, 2011 increased their promotion spending with COUP two years later during the nine months ended September 30, 2013 by 44% over the amount spent during the nine months ended September 30, 2011.This is because what COUP is doing, is working. The company will continue to deepen existing relationships, develop new relationships, further their saturation across secondary and tertiary circles of influence, and expand on the 940 million transactions they did in the first nine months of 2013. They'll continue to take advantage of the disappearing stigma of using coupons and hopefully capture a large portion of the market that is moving to entirely digital usage. The consumer, especially those who have come of age during the last five years, has become incredibly cost conscious and sensitive. COUP helps brands create value and loyalty with this new wave of shoppers and helps the brands move volumes of inventory that otherwise would be at risk of further markdowns.
In 2012, COUP generated revenues of $112.1 million, representing 23% growth over 2011, a net loss of $59.2 million, representing an increase of 158% over 2011, and an Adjusted EBITDA loss of $47.3 million, representing an increase of 233% over 2011. During the nine months ended September 30, 2013, COUP generated revenues of $115.3 million, representing 51% growth over the same period in 2012, a net loss of $12.8 million, representing a decrease of 75% over the same period in 2012, and an Adjusted EBITDA loss of $3.5 million, representing a decrease of 91% over the same period in 2012.Numbers like these suggest that COUP is on the front end of what should be an incredible run as they develop into the industry leader for this new, now necessary, player in the sales process.

I like COUP for a long term hold or for somebody looking for a beta sensitive, growth oriented company in the short term. Currently, COUP is trading in the middle of a range that is has traded in since IPO which leaves a bit of room to the upside in the very short term but what I am most interested in is the mid to long term growth potential of the stock. The stock is grossly undervalued, in my opinion, based on the low levels of CAPEX needed to expand the existing model (the CAPEX required to build the infrastructure has already been priced into the IPO pricing, the growth mentioned above has not), the ability to generate revenues based on whether a customer actually uses a coupon or simply downloads the coupon to the platform ("Each time a consumer selects a digital coupon on our platform by either printing it for physical redemption at a retailer or saving it to a retailer online account for automatic digital redemption, we are paid a fee which is not dependent on the d igital coupon being redeemed"), the ability for the company to generate advertising revenues when they advertise in correlation to coupon placements on the COUP platform, and the many secondary services COUP can provide as value adds for existing and new business ( Grocery iQ, DFSI, custom-branded microsites, etc). The company has shown the ability to cut adjusted EBITDA losses by 91% over the last two years and that was taking into account the above higher run rate of CAPEX. I happen to believe that as COUP further entrenches themselves as the industry leader and can further demonstrate the ability of their network that they will be able to negotiate larger concessions from customers when it comes to the splits in revenue generations (pay per click, fee paid to retailers or CPG companies for third party coupon usage generation, etc). The company, during their IPO roadshow, announced being adjusted EBITDA positive and this will most likely lead them to carry through with the expressed desire to begin looking for strategic acquisition targets that can allow expansion or deeper penetration into the target markets. They have had over 7 million downloads of their mobile application and this is without heavy spending on advertising the actual services of the company. The overwhelming large percentage of CAPEX to this point has been on infrastructure development as mentioned above. A switch to a focused spending on advertising or the acquisition of a company that can expand integration of their app to more mobile devices will do nothing but accelerate overall revenues and profitability. COUP is currently trading at around 15X trailing sales and growth/tech oriented stocks have been known to trade between 30x-60x sales depending on the hype and prevailing macro environments. With management expressed models calling for 30-32% adjusted EBITDA on 66% to 68% gross margins, this stock has a lot of room to run to the upside. I think once the stock settles into a more established range and can display a lowered volatility that bank upgrades will quickly follow, which will move the stock as well. I like the valuation at just under 2 billion and think that this company will be doing at least 750 million in sales ANNUALLY in five years or less. That would put the stock trading in the $100-105 range, the bottom of the range pricing in room for any necessary expansion of the share float.

IF COUP can continue along the path of predictable results, one that they have had great success is following, I could see their stock rapidly increasing in price based on the projected organic growth and the growth that they would be acquiring.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


If you're in PPC, you'll undoubtedly have heard about Hanapin Marketing's HeroConf, the world's largest PPC conference. If you're thinking of attending HeroConf 2014, you won't find people wearing capes, masks or spandex leggings (well, probably not, anyway). However, you will find WordStream and many other PPC experts speaking about the hottest topics in paid search.

HeroConf 2014 will take place at the Hilton Austin Hotel in beautiful Austin, TX, from April 28-30. The Hilton Austin is nestled in one of the city's trendiest areas, and is located just two blocks away from Austin's historic 6th Street entertainment district.

Why Attend HeroConf 2014?

There are already dozens of reasons to attend HeroConf 2014, but here are some of the highlights:

  • 4 keynote addresses
  • 11 networking events
  • 40 in-depth sessions covering a wide variety of PPC topics
  • 65 presentations by PPC experts from Google, Bing, HootSuite, Acquisio and eBay, among others
  • A speaker-to-attendee ratio of 1:5, offering unparalleled access to industry experts, influencers and thought leaders

During HeroConf 2014, WordStream's very own Director of Search Engine Marketing, Rich Griffin, will be speaking about "The Truth Behind Quality Score (No, Really)," a must-see talk about the ins-and-outs of this important PPC metric.

Fun and Games

Of course, HeroConf is known for much more than its quality speakers, diverse program of events and ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Attendees will be able to demonstrate their athletic prowess during table tennis tournaments, watch the latest films at private movie screenings, and enjoy complimentary drinks at the event's open bar. Oh, and there will be plenty of chances to commemorate the occasion with some awkward and/or hilarious photos at HeroConf's special photo booths - form-fitting clothing optional.

10% Off Registration

As a sponsor and speaking partner of HeroConf 2014, WordStream wants to give you the opportunity to attend this unique event at a 10% discount. Simply use the Deal Now "WordStream10" when registering to get your discounted tickets.

Passes are selling out fast, so don't delay - don your trusty utility belt and attend the year's biggest and best PPC event. We'll see you there!

Search Marketing Madness!

It's that time of year again! In the spirit of NCAA March Madness, PPC Hero is running its Search Marketing Madness bracket again, and now's the time to cast your vote! The contest features four categories - Best PPC Conference, Best PPC Blog, Best PPC Software and Best PPC Manager. Weigh in and you could win a free registration to HeroConf 2014. Enter here for a chance to win!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NoW offered hacking reporter 'crude' deal to keep job by not spreading blame

The News of the World's former royal editor accused a company lawyer of offering a "crude carrot and stick" Online Deals which would see him keep his job if he did not allege others were involved in phone hacking, the Old Bailey has heard.

Clive Goodman, testifying in the phone-hacking trial on Wednesday, also accused the News International lawyer of trying to "dictate lines of defence" following his arrest on suspicion of phone hacking in 2006.

Goodman said he found the lawyer's actions "inappropriate and just a bit shocking" and more "threatening" than the prosecution case lined up against him.

He claimed the News International lawyer had effectively ambushed him in a private legal meeting, telling him he would only be sacked if he said others on the paper were involved or knew about phone hacking.

Goodman produced a previously unseen email between himself and his lawyer, Henri Brandman, complaining about a News International lawyer who had gatecrashed a meeting he had had with his barrister in December 2006.

The meeting between Goodman and his lawyers - Brandman and counsel John Kelsy Fry, QC - had been arranged to discuss the case and the mitigation defence ahead of a meeting with the probation service and sentencing.

Goodman had pleaded guilty on 29 November to hacking the phones of members of the royal household but had specifically said the News International lawyer was only to be present at part of the meeting.

He told jurors that the News International lawyer arrived early and sat in on a discussion he had not been invited to.

"We got to the part of the meeting where I said I fully expected to be sacked by News of the World. At that point he interrupted and said that was not the case," Goodman said. "Again, he said it would only happen if you blame others, if you do that, you can't really expect Andy [Coulson, the editor] to take you back."

Following the meeting on 12 December 2006, Goodman fired off a letter to Brandman protesting at the News International lawyer's, behaviour describing his presence as "most unhelpful".

"He arrived while we were in full flow to deliver a fairly crude carrot and stick from the NoW," he wrote. "As the newspaper has no voice at our mitigation/sentencing hearing on January 26 I found the attempt to dictate lines of our defence highly inappropriate and just a bit shocking."

He continued: "I do not wish to see any NoW representative at future meetings or for them to receive updates on the progress of the case, or for them to sit with us on the day.

"I felt more threatened by the message he was asked to deliver today than I have been by much of the prosecution case."

Previously jurors heard that Kelsy Fry had advised Goodman that a judge might take "a positive view of someone standing up and taking responsibility for their actions". Goodman said this "echoed" advice he had been given by Brandman.

Goodman in the event pleaded guilty and did not implicate any others in his mitigation statement used ahead of sentencing.

He was sentenced to four months in prison on 26 January 2007. On 5 February that year he was sacked by the News of the World. "I learned of it in a phone call from my wife," he said.

He was released on a tag in late February and in March launched an appeal against his dismissal citing five reasons as to why it was unfair.

Among them was a claim that others on the paper had been hacking phones and had not been sacked, and that the editor and a News International lawyer had "promised on a number of occasions that I could come back to the newspaper if I did not implicate any other staff".

Goodman had an internal appeal hearing on 20 March 2007. He did not have legal representation but said there were "47 inaccuracies" in the notes taken of the meeting by News International and distributed to various parties. Some were so bad as to "reverse the truth" Goodman told jurors.

Little more than a week later he was invited to meet Rebekah Brooks, who was then editor of the Sun. She offered him a six-month contract to work on "bookzines" - glossy supplements on subjects including the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death. He was offered £12,500 for the work but felt it was not a "serious job offer".

Goodman told the jury of a second internal hearing on 10 May with the company's human resources chief Daniel Cloke and the News of the World's new editor, Colin Myler. Again, he did not have legal representation but recorded the meeting covertly.

On 30 May 2007, he was formally notified that his appeal against his dismissal was rejected. He then discussed his situation with an employment specialist lawyer Tony Lorenzo, at Lewis Silkin.

Goodman settled with News International later in 2007 after being offered £140,000.

Four years later he was arrested again but told jurors that he gave a no comment interview because of leaks to the Guardian. He read about his pending arrest the night before. "It did not come as a great surprise to me that the police would be turning up the next day at dawn to arrest me."

He said when he was at the police station, he learned during a break that the Guardian had more details of the "green books", the royal telephone directories he was suspected of paying for and the amount he had supposedly paid for them.

"That doubly encouraged me not to give any kind of comment," said Goodman.

Goodman said he initially felt "very sore" about the way he had been treated by Coulson, who was his friend, but that he no longer felt hostile towards him. He said his negative feelings towards him faded in prison which he described as "a good place to think".

Goodman has not been charged with hacking offences but denies two other charges that he paid public officials to obtain royal telephone directories.

The trial continues.

Bruce Rauner wins Republican nomination for Illinois governor

CHICAGO - Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner won the GOP primary Tuesday in his bid for Illinois governor, as voters embraced a first campaign by the multimillionaire who flooded the airwaves with vows to run the Democratic stronghold like a business and curb the influence of government unions.

With Republicans eyeing what they view as their best shot in years to win the top job in President Barack Obama's home state, Rauner defeated three longtime state lawmakers - including the current state treasurer. He advances to a November matchup with Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who easily won his nomination for a second full term.

"The voters are going to face a stark choice in November, a major decision about the future of our state," Rauner said in his victory speech. "It's a choice between failure of the past and a new day."

Between Quinn and predecessor Rod Blagojevich, now imprisoned for corruption, Democrats have held the governorship since 2003. But Rauner could present a serious threat, partly due to a massive fundraising campaign that included contributing more than $6 million of his own money.

For voters across Illinois, the governor's race represents a potentially transformative battle over union influence, with some voters saying they want to break an alliance between organized labor and Democrats, who have long controlled most statewide offices and the Legislature.

Organized labor battled back out of concern that Rauner could seek to weaken unions in the same way GOP governors have in other states across the Midwest.

Quinn's first re-election ad of the season - focusing on Rauner's evolving stance on raising the minimum wage - hit the airwaves Tuesday evening. Quinn has called for increasing the state's rate from $8.25 to at least $10 an hour. Rauner had initially called for a cut and later said he'd raise it under certain circumstances.

"I'm here to fight for an economy that works for everyone," Quinn said Tuesday night. "Not just the billionaires, but for everyone."

Rauner says he would model his governorship after those of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Both significantly rolled back union power in what they said were necessary steps to attract business and reduce costs. Rauner defeated state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the primary.

"Rauner is going to be a bull in a china shop; we need a bull," said Tom Sommer, a 57-year-old real estate broker from the Chicago suburb Hinsdale. "It's not going to be more of the same."

Issues such as a public pension overhaul and high taxes "are coming to the fore and the old guard is not going to handle that," Sommer said, adding that he voted for Rauner because of his tough talk against the unions that represent public sector workers. That sentiment persists despite Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's push to fix Illinois' finances by overhauling the heavily underwater public pension systems, which earned him the unions' ire.

Rauner has also won supporters with his call for term limits.

Union leaders, meanwhile, sought Rauner's defeat by encouraging members to pull Republican ballots and vote for Dillard, who picked up several union endorsements.

The typically left-leaning unions spent more than $6 million on the GOP primary, both in anti-Rauner and pro-Dillard ads. Rauner raised more than $14 million, including $6 million of his own money - more than any candidate seeking a gubernatorial nomination in state history.

Rauner warned supporters about the unions' efforts, saying Quinn's "allies" were trying to hijack the election. He said legislative term limits could break the labor-Democratic alliance.

The race turned out to be far closer than polls suggested. With nearly all precincts reporting, Rauner's edge over Dillard was slightly more than 2 percentage points.

In southern Illinois, voters had another reason to want to upend the state's political order, saying they felt marginalized and neglected by a political balance weighted toward Democrats and the Chicago region.

In the last 10 years, things have gotten really bad (in the state)," said Marty Johns, 48, of Godfrey. "Throw out all the Democrats in Chicago. All of our money goes up there while southern Illinois gets the crumbs."

Johns said he voted for Dillard to "remove Quinn."

Quinn, who was Blagojevich's lieutenant governor and assumed the office after he was booted amid a corruption scandal season 1, easily defeated a lesser-known primary challenger Tio Hardiman in his bid for a second full term.

Brady won the 2010 GOP nomination, but lost the general election to Quinn. Brady, of Bloomington, argued he built the support during that bid to defeat Quinn this time around.

Rutherford, of Chenoa, did little campaigning recently. He all but conceded defeat after a former employee filed a federal lawsuit accusing Rutherford of sexual harassment and political coercion. Rutherford denied the allegations.

Republican primary voters also chose state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a dairy magnate, to run in November against U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat. Oberweis, who defeated businessman and West Point graduate Doug Truax in the primary, has lost five of his six bids for public office.

Also on the ballot were primary races for the U.S. House, Illinois Legislature and statewide constitutional officers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Still work to do

As a mother of a teenager, and an 8-year-old, I am shocked sometimes when I hear what their priorities are.

One day, my 8-year-old tells me enthusiastically that she will be getting "Miss Me Jeans" for her birthday. Apparently, a friend told her that's what she bought her. I had to ask what the heck are "Miss Me Jeans". I was shocked to find out that for my 8-year-old this brand name could cost up to $80. Not an amount I would spend on a pair of jeans that my daughter will grow out of next month. Of course, my teenager knew all about these jeans with glitter and glamour on the back pockets, and she herself had purchased some with her own money.

This is a moment where I, as a mother of daughters, worry. Not because my daughter wants to wear stylish jeans, but because society continues to push women into looking good, rather than looking to the future.

In college, a professor in a Gender, Race and the Media class gave us an assignment to visit a local toys r us jobs "R" Us store and write down our findings where race and gender were concerned. I went with the attitude that I would see all the progress women have made, see how we've progressed when it comes to racial equality and would leave with a good feeling.

However, the opposite happened. One clear indication that we've still got work to do is the Lego aisle. While shelves upon shelves had Lego themes geared towards boys, there were two for girls, and of course, they were pink.

Now, I understand that women dress up, wear makeup and spend plenty of time and money on their looks, but at the end of the day, I don't want it to be the only thing we are judged for. As I have told my own daughters regularly, "If you aren't enough without makeup, you'll never be enough with it."

In watching a documentary on women recently, I realized how often America's leading women are judged by looks rather than brains. The media regularly talks about how Hillary Clinton hasn't necessarily aged well, how Sarah Palin must have gotten a boob job, how Nancy Pelosi must have gotten plastic surgery. With male candidates, other than how much more gray hair President Obama has since taking over the nation's top seat, we do not hear about their looks.

At the end of the day, I don't care how Hillary Clinton looks, I don't care what Sarah Palin did to her breasts - I care about what they have to offer in the campaigns they are running. Also, I don't care that they are female. No woman will get my vote unless they earn it.

With that said, I leave you this week with some parting facts that I learned from a CNN report. The following are accomplishments by women that we have heard very little about.

*The "frequency hopping" technology that is vital to much of our military technology and helps keep your cell phone and your GPS devices secure was developed and patented by Hedy Lamarr.

* An amazing 16-year-old patriot, Sybil Ludington, outdid Paul Revere, riding 45 miles in the pouring rain to warn New York colonial militias that "the British are coming".

* A secret agent, code named "355," worked for George Washington's band of spies. While agent 355's true identity is still unknown, what is known is she was a woman.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kings sign Royce White to 10-day deal, send to D-League affiliate


By Zach Harper | NBA writer

Royce White has at least 10 days to prove himself to the Kings. (USATSI)

The Sacramento Kings have been trying out reclamation projects this season under new management and new coaching. They traded for Rudy Gay earlier in the season and followed that up with a trade for Derrick Williams. Now they're adding another forward project to their organization.

The Kings signed Royce White to a 10-day contract Thursday and sent him to the Reno Big Horns, their D-League affiliate. From the Kings:

The Sacramento Kings today signed forward Royce White to a 10-day contract, according to Kings General Manager Pete D'Alessandro. White has been assigned to the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns.

White was the 16th pick by the Houston Rockets in the 2012 NBA Draft with a documented anxiety disorder that often prevented him from flying to games when he was in college. In his rookie season with the Rockets, he publicly battled and chastised the Houston organization for not providing him with the proper support needed to participate in his work environment. He played with the Rockets' D-League team but never played for the Rockets.

He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers this past offseason but was waived before the season started.

Monday, March 3, 2014

TA Plays Live: We Did It, 1,000 Followers and Counting!

<Promo Codep>We crossed the 1,000 follower mark last Thursday, with our own Killercow of all people being the dude to be the 1,000th. That's pretty awesome, considering not more than a few weeks ago I wasn't really sure if people were interested in iOS streams when we started all this. Anyway, if you haven't yet, please follow us as it's the best way to get notified when we're streaming.

To tune into the TA Plays Live stream you've got three options:

  • The easiest is to just scroll down to see the embedded video stream and chat below. Make sure to turn the volume slider up if you want to hear game audio and commentary.
  • Visit the TouchArcade channel on Twitch directly and watch over there.
  • Download the Twitch.TV app [Free] and either hit this link on your device or simply search for the channel TouchArcade.

I usually stream until around 7:00 Eastern, at which point I toss the videos up on YouTube for everyone to see that missed the stream. If you want me to play something, just join the chat and tell me what you'd like to see. Try not to be too pushy though, as it kills the vibe of things when people get really demanding.

Check out the stream below, or if you're viewing the site in our app or mobile, please download the Twitch client and mash the link mentioned above.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Man charged in strangling death of SC teen

<weather com codep>A Holmes County family says they are living, breathing, praying proof miracles happen. 78-year-old Walter "Snowball" Williams died late Wednesday night. Thursday, he was back to life. Holmes County

A Holmes County family says they are living, breathing, praying proof miracles happen. 78-year-old Walter "Snowball" Williams died late Wednesday night. Thursday, he was back to life. Holmes County

'Real Racing 3' Celebrates First Anniversary With Free Porsche 911

<Discountimg src="http://toucharcade.com/wp-content/plugins/lazy-load/images/1x1.trans.gif">

It just goes to show how quickly things happen in the App Store, as it feels like Real Racing 3 [ Free] was released ages ago, but it's only been a year. Time flies on the App Store. We loved it in our review, and followed the review up with a guide on how to play it without spending money.

Well, if you're still playing Real Racing 3, or just still have it on your phone and haven't played in forever it might be worth firing it up to grab the free 1972 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7. The developers tweeted about it last night, and grabbing the car is as easy as following the banners for it in game.

If you've yet to try Real Racing 3, I say give it a shot. It's a pretty awesome racer, and while it'd be nice if you didn't initially have to tip toe around free to play elements, you can still have a lot of fun in it spending zero dollars.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Digital discounter Coupons.com sets terms for $130 million IPO

Coupons.com, a digital network of Amazon Deal, online coupons, loyalty card promotions and mobile coupons, announced terms for its IPO on Tuesday. The Mountain View, CA-based company plans to raise $130 million by offering 10 million shares at a price range of $12 to $14. At the midpoint of the proposed range, the company would command a fully diluted market value of $1.1 billion. Coupons.com, which was founded in 1998 and booked $168 million in sales for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2013, plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol COUP. Coupons.com initially filed confidentially on October 25, 2013, and plans to price the week of March 3rd. Goldman Sachs, Allen & Company, BofA Merrill Lynch and RBC Capital Markets are the joint bookrunners on the deal.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Know Which Online Retailers Offer Coupons Via Live Chat


Can't find a Super Sale anywhere? With the growing "live chat" customer service trend, many operators are trained to hand out coupon codes to polite shoppers that simply ask. I did the research and found a dozen of the most popular retailers that'll hand out a code via live chat to shoppers who play their cards right.

This post originally appeared on Rather Be Shopping.

Here is what I discovered (in alphabetical order):

Bass Pro Shops

One popular online store that readily hands out coupons via live chat is BassProShops.com, which is a huge shopping destination for hunters, fishermen, and outdoors-men. If you can't find a coupon the traditional way, be sure to pull up a live chat session and politely see if they have a coupon code up their sleeves. A few tips:

  • Always be polite and courteous when asking for a coupon since your words are all you have when trying to score an online discount.
  • [Customer service agent] Debi immediately hooked me up with a coupon code good for free shipping on my entire order. This coupon did exclude boats, but luckily I'm not in the market for a new boat!
  • If live chat fails to bring you a coupon at Bass Pro Shops make sure to check out their Facebook page as they have currently have a couple coupons posted on their wall.

Birthday Express and Celebrate Express

If you're in the planning mode for your child's next birthday party or any other big shindig, be sure to hit up a live chat operator for a coupon at Celebrate Express.com or Birthday Express.com. Here's the skinny:

  • Both websites use the same coupon codes so you can start the live chat feature from either site and the codes will work on both.
  • Leslie hooked me up immediately with a coupon code good for 15% off your $75+ regular-priced merchandise total. Not a great coupon but certainly handy for larger purchases.

Dress Barn

For those who love to shop for bargains at DressBarn.com you're going to want to get well acquainted with their live chat feature. Here are a few tips:

  • I got the impression that my operator, Laurel, had a big list of coupon codes at her disposal. I say this because she said "Try PRES14″ as if she had other codes up her sleeve if for some reason it didn't work.
  • So if you're buying more than one item, or any sale items, ask the Dress Barn operator for a coupon that better fits your online order. I think you'll be happily surprised with the results.


For those of you not familiar with Eastbay.com, they sell athletic footwear, apparel, and training equipment. They are known for their amazing selection but tend to also be on the expensive side so you'll always want to shop with an Eastbay coupon code. Here is how I scored one from live chat:

  • I was having trouble viewing their website and asked my operator, Dan, if they had any current coupons. He told me they did and it was viewable during step four of the checkout process.
  • I told him I couldn't see it on the website and he was able to tell me the coupon code needed to collect 20% off.
  • This is a good strategy for any website you're having trouble using as many retailers will give you a coupon for your inconvenience.


I can only assume that the Foot Locker live chat operators are sitting at their desk wearing a stripped ref shirt with a whistle around their neck.

  • My Foot Locker live chat buddy, Aaron, hooked me up with a free shipping on $75 or more coupon code. Not great, but if you shop regularly at Foot Locker you already know that most of their shoes are priced above $75.
  • I tried to get something better out of Aaron, like 20% off, but he did not have another coupon for me. He said that later in the month he'd have a 20% off coupon, but nothing right now.
  • I asked him if better Footlocker coupons typically come out later in the month and he confirmed this to be true.

Home Depot

Next, I hit up Jen via live chat at The Home Depot.com and asked her for a coupon code. She was unable to provide one but she did offer a pretty cool service that is worth sharing.

  • I told her I was doing a kitchen remodel and looking for a coupon for a new dishwasher. The washer was already on sale for close to 25% off and no additional savings were available but she was incredibly familiar with the washer and was able to answer all my questions. Very handy if you are doing a big remodel and have a bunch of questions.
  • Jen was by far the most helpful live chat operator I have ever talked to in terms of product knowledge. Well done Home Depot.


I was really impressed with the live chat operator at J.Jill.com, who ironically was also named Jill. I wonder if they only hire gals named Jill? But anyways, she really went beyond the call of duty.

  • First, Jill hooked me up with a free shipping coupon and then she dropped the 411 on where to find the best deals. She told me J.Jill was offering their entire "Sale and Outlet" section for an additional 30% off for a limited time. No code needed.
  • I love when live chat operators tell me where they most savings can be found on that particular day.
  • Also be sure to follow J.Jill on Twitter as they are known for dropping exclusive coupons on their feed on a weekly basis.


L.L.Bean is known for their quality clothing and outstanding customer service that includes a 100% satisfaction guarantee. These days they always offer free shipping on your purchase but rarely have other coupons. Your chances increase greatly if you use their live chat feature as they want you to finalize your purchase today. Here's the best strategy:

  • Be polite, maybe even compliment them on how happy you have been with prior L.L.Bean purchases. In other words, butter them up a little then ask for a coupon to help you save a little money today.
  • I was able to get a 10% off coupon code to apply to my purchase. Not huge savings, but well worth the few minutes it took to get my discount.

Lands' End

There is little doubt the live chat feature at Lands' End will pay off for you in one way or another. Here is the direct link to a Lands' End live chat operator. Here is your best strategy for savings:

  • By being polite and direct I was able to score an online coupon for 30% off all merchandise with free shipping on $50 or more.
  • Lori, my live chat operator, was very receptive to helping me save some money and she had excellent knowledge of Lands' End sizing and styles which was a very nice bonus.
  • If you can't find a Lands' End coupon always open up a live chat session and politely ask for one. Chance of success: 95% at the very least.

Office Depot

I opened up an Office Depot live chat session I was not very confident that I would get a coupon code as they can be pretty tight about handing them out. But my buddy Bobbi delivered the goods. Here is your best strategy:

  • I simply asked for a $10 off $50 or more coupon and was given it right out of the box, next time I will amp it up and ask for a 20% off coupon. I got nothing to lose.
  • Also, it is worth noting that over the years I have received tips that the Office Depot Facebook page is also a great resource to score a coupon when 'Live Chat' doesn't deliver the goods.


I was really impressed with the customer service Shutterfly.com live chat employee "Sweety" gave me. Here is how it went down:

  • After I asked her if she had any coupons I could use, she asked me to make sure my order was in my virtual shopping cart so she could take a look at it and find the best coupon for me. Pretty cool.
  • After I placed my photo-book in my cart, she took a look at it and came back with the very generous offer of a $10 credit on my photo-book on top of the 25% off site-wide offer Shutterfly was already offering.
  • Tip: Make sure you add the maximum number of stuff you want to order in your cart, open a live chat session and start negotiating the best coupon you can get.


For those of you not familiar with Snapfish, similar to Shutterfly, they specialize in taking your photos and turning them into amazing prints, gifts, and cool books and calendars. Your order total can add up pretty quickly so be sure to hit up the Snapfish live chat feature and ask for a coupon code.

  • I simply asked for a coupon code, nothing specific, and my buddy "Shashank" hooked me up with a 30% off coupon. I couldn't help but think of Morgan Freeman as I collected my savings.
  • They typically allow you to stack coupons so feel free to politely ask for a free shipping coupon as well. They often have a free shipping coupon on $25 or more.

Have you had any success scoring a coupon code at other online retailers using their live chat feature? Let us know in the discussion below.

Ask For a Coupon | Rather Be Shopping

Kyle James is the founder of Rather Be Shopping, a website updated daily with the best online coupon codes, printable coupons, and bargains that we can find to all your favorite online stores.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Can Amazon Be the Source for Cheap Textbooks Students Desperately Need?

With students and parents already dealing with the rising cost of attending college, little attention is paid to the ridiculous price of text books. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, is looking to change that with the release of " Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives."

NASDAQ: Big business, captive audience
Whereas regular book publishers have to compete with the idea that you can choose the new Stephen King over the new John Grisham (or simply not read at all), academic publishers have a captive audience that has to buy their books. Because of that, while prices for regular books have fallen since the advent of e-reader's like amazon books.com's ( AMZN ) Kindle and Barnes & Noble's ( ) Nook, prices for textbooks continue to climb.

According to the PIRG study, the average student in United States spends around $1,200 a year on books and supplies. Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82% -- nearly three times the rate of inflation.

To make matters worse, those rising prices, the study said, have forced already strapped students to make some difficult choices.

  • 65% said they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.
  • Nearly half (48%) said the cost of books had an impact on how many or which classes they took.
  • 94% of the students, who had skipped buying a required book, said they were concerned that it would hurt their grade in that course.

Amazon to the rescue?
PIRG says publishers use "a set of tactics to drive prices skyward," such as releasing new editions every three to four years regardless of changes in the subject material.

"They price these new editions quite high, which in turn dictates the price of used books and rental books," said Ethan Senak, a higher-education associate at PIRG. "Even as they move into e-textbooks, publishers incorporate paywalls, expiration dates, and printing restrictions that further continue the practices they've used to control the traditional market."

Amazon, and a variety of online start-ups, have tried to create alternate markets for textbooks, which cuts out the publishers and Barnes & Noble, which runs bookstores at a number of universities. Through its used-book market, Amazon, has bought back books from students and resold them well-below their list price.

The textbook publishers, however, are hip to this strategy and have come up with a number of ways to force students to buy new books. According to PIRG:

  • Publishers release new editions every three to four years regardless of changes in the subject, with prices that are 12% higher on average. Once a new edition is released, that copy takes the place of older editions on store shelves. That means students are not only forced to buy the more expensive new edition, but are also unable to sell back their used book from the previous semester.
  • Publishers also increase costs by packaging textbooks with online pass-codes or CDs that increase prices 10% to 50%. These pass-codes often expire after a limited time period, eliminating the viability to sell back the book.
  • New "cost-saving" options like loose-leaf and custom editions are more affordable upfront, but often end up costing more because they have no resale value.

Little competition
Just five textbook companies control more than 80% of the $8.8 billion publishing, market, according to PIRG. Three of those companies -- Pearson ( ) , Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Publishers --sued a start-up, Boundless Learning, which was attempting to offer free alternative textbooks. That federal court case was settled with the details not released, but it shows that those making the most money off of students will do whatever they can to protect their turf.

Still, change is coming
Students overwhelmingly support a change in the system. According to PIRG, 82% of students felt they would do significantly better in a course if the textbook was available free online with buying a hard copy optional. This is exactly how open textbooks are being designed.

In addition to open textbooks, which are only available for a tiny percentage of college classes, a number of schools have begun book rental programs. According to PIRG, there were only 300 schools with rental programs in 2009, "that number had increased 10-fold to more than 3,000 by 2013.

In addition, Amazon.com launched a college textbook rental program in 2012. Per a PIRG spokesman, "The proliferation of these programs seems to have mitigated the cost curve for students over the last several years."

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Transfer window: Guide to all the January 2014 Premier League deals

<Best Dealsul>
  • Cheslea sign Kurt Zouma from Saint Etienne for £12.5m - defender to stay in France for rest of the season
  • Lewis Holtby joins Fulham on loan from Tottenham
  • Cardiff wrap up double deal from Manchester United with Wilfried Zaha and Fabio da Silva arriving
  • Sunderland sign Liam Bridcutt from Brighton for £2.5m
  • PUBLISHED: 23:00 EST, 31 December 2013 | UPDATED: 20:35 EST, 31 January 2014

    Sportsmail's transfer centre

    Whether clubs are primed to contest the title race, battle over European places or fight tooth and nail to avoid the drop, the winter transfer window is their chance to shuffle the squad.

    Clubs notoriously play it rather cagey in the early part of the window. But as soon as a couple of big deals happen later in the window, it often sparks a mad scramble as clubs look to bolster their squads at knockdown prices.

    Of course, January is also a time out-of-favour players agitate for a move away - especially in a World Cup year - or clubs look to ditch high earners.

    So, keep track of all the latest transfers this month with our club-by-club guide...

    CARDIFF Click here for the latest Cardiff City transfer news Click here for the latest Crystal Palace transfer news Click here for the latest Hull transfer news





    Thievy Bifouma (Espanyol, loan)

    Thursday, January 30, 2014

    New V2 Cigs Coupon Codes Released During the Largest Sale of the Year

    ECigBuzz Has Teamed Up With V2 Cigs to Launch the Biggest Sale on Starter Kits in V2 History; The Massive 65% off V2 Cigs Coupon Is Only Valid on January 30, 2014

    LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Jan 30, 2014) - ECigBuzz, known primarily for providing trustworthy e-cig reviews online, has released exclusive V2 Cigs Deal Today during a one day sales event. V2 eCigs has teamed up with leading review website ECigBuzz to offer the biggest discount on their products available anywhere online. Shoppers looking to save 65% can use the coupon code "ECIGBUZZ15" and for 40% discount on flavor cartridges use "ECIGBUZZ10" until the 30th of January, and it even works in combination with any official promotions.

    The new V2 coupons can be viewed here: http://www.ecigbuzz.com/coupons/v2-cigs-promo-code/

    V2 Cigs has been awarded the number one position among the popular e-cigarette brands reviewed by ECigBuzz. The company has succeeded in maintaining its slot in the top 10 list, which is a clear proof of its manufacturing quality that manages to counter competition from its fellow brands, relentlessly. V2 has a robust standing in terms of reputation. ECigBuzz helps consumers in making the right choices by offering objective assessments of the pros and cons of each e-cigarette brand through its regular reviews.

    Speaking about the innovative V2 eCigs, a company spokesperson commented, "The V2 Cigs electronic cigarette is a revolutionary alternative to traditional cigarettes. V2 electronic cigarettes offer an authentic smoking experience without the smoke, ash and odor produced by tobacco cigarettes."

    The first V2 Cigs coupon code is ECIGBUZZ15, which provides a 65% discount on starter kits. So, if a user is making a switch from the traditional cigarette, this could be a great way to save as much as possible on kit purchases. The V2 Cigs promo code for the second offer is ECIGBUZZ10, which provides for a stellar 40% discount on flavor cartridge purchases. For both offers, the discount codes need to be entered at checkout and the savings are then deducted from the total purchase amount.

    For smokers who have already switched to e-cigarettes, these V2 coupons hold the promise of comprehensive savings on one of the most coveted e-cig brands. And for those who are still contemplating a switch, this could prove to be an opportunity like no other.

    About ECigBuzz:

    ECigBuzz is an online e-cig review, news, and opinion site.

    Amazon's Kindle to enter physical stores in deal

    Online retail giants Review are reportedly looking to offer physical book stores the opportunity to sell Kindle e-books as well as traditional books.

    According to reports, Amazon will offer stores Kindle tablets and credit cards for them to use in transactions as well as potential services in web development and data analysis.

    This could provide a lifeline to the traditional bookseller who sees the growth of e-book readers as a serious threat to their businesses.

    The sources close to the company also stated that these are early-stage plans of yet but could be rolled out in the near future.

    Amazon has already made significant steps into the possibility of selling in stores after the company hired a number of engineers from another company called GoPago who developed technology in the areas of checkout systems through smartphone apps.

    Experts in the field of smartphone payments believe that this is a necessary step for the company's future. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Richard Crone, chief executive of Crone Consulting, said: ""The game of mobile payments is going to be won or lost at the physical checkout, that's where nearly all of commerce is done today. At the end of the day, a merchant wants to make a sale, to drive up business. And if Amazon or anyone else can help them do that, that's tough to turn away."

    The company's e-book division has continued to flourish and is by-far the largest distributor.

    2013 in particular was a bumper year for the company with 426 items sold every second in the build-up to Christmas.

    Sunday, January 26, 2014

    U-M, MSU deal with injuries - and play today for 1st in Big Ten

    <Amazon Dealp>Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are in the NBA, and Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Mitch McGary are all dealing with injuries.

    These are the top two teams in the Big Ten?

    It's almost hard to believe, but No. 3 Michigan State and No. 21 Michigan are the only teams left in the Big Ten without a league loss, and everyone else in the league has at least two. That means tonight's showdown (7 p.m. ESPN) between the state rivals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing could have major implications on the title race.

    "It's a big game, a rivalry game," Michigan State guard Gary Harris said. "The Bres will be rocking. They'll be ready to play, so it's definitely going to be a battle."

    Breslin was certainly loud last year, when Michigan State and Michigan played each other as top 10 teams for the first time. The Spartans won that one in a 75-52 rout.

    Today's game marks another first — Michigan State (18-1, 7-0) and Michigan (14-4, 6-0) have never met with both teams at 6-0 or better in Big Ten play.

    It's a rivalry that's experienced a renaissance in recent years. Michigan and Michigan State were both part of a three-way tie for the Big Ten title in 2012. After the embarrassing loss in East Lansing last year, the Wolverines rebounded and went all the way to the Final Four. Michigan has won four of the last six in this series after losing 18 of the previous 21.

    "I think the main thing is we're not scared," Michigan's Nik Stauskas said. "We're just going to come in and play the way Michigan basketball plays and just be as aggressive as we can."

    The Wolverines lost Burke and Hardaway after last season's run, and any hope of similar success in 2014 seemed gone when McGary needed surgery for a back injury. McGary is out indefinitely, but Michigan has won eight in a row despite the star big man's absence. Jordan Morgan has filled in and is helping the offense with his ability to cut to the basket.

    "When he's a threat, people kind of sag in from the side," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Stauskas is doing more as a passer than maybe Hardaway did."

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

    Super Bowl Live Auction has Manning jerseys, Chili Peppers drums for sale

    Peyton Manning's grass-stained jersey. Eli Manning's grass-stained jersey. Whatever your poison, the Discount Bowl Live Auction has it.

    Now through Feb. 1, an auction preview and appraisal fair is ongoing at the NFL Shop at Super Bowl, located in Macy's Herald Square.

    The actual auction is on Feb. 1, Super Bowl eve. What prices are we looking at? Anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 for Peyton's Broncos jersey, and $5,000 to $7,500 for Eli's Giants jersey. Hey, we know which Manning made the Super Bowl, amirite?

    But shirts of the brothers Manning aren't the only memorabilia on offer. There's also a Colin Kaepernick-worn 49ers jersey ($6,000 to $8,000), Super Bowl XLVII opening kickoff coin ($3,000 to $5,000) and 1997 Denver Broncos Super Bowl ring (a whopping $20,000 to $30,000), in addition to a slew of other valuable items - 150 in total. Auction proceeds benefit NFL-supported charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the American Cancer Society.

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who will play Super Bowl halftime with Bruno Mars, are also participating in an NFL auction of a drum kit and drum sticks, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The drums will go to auction after they've been used in the halftime show - that auction runs until Feb. 7 at nfl.com/auction.

    Throughout the Hunt Auctions appraisal fair, visitors can have their own sports memorabilia valued for free. To call ahead and reserve an appraisal appointment, call (610) 524-0822.

    NFL Shop at Super Bowl is in the fourth floor of Macy's, at 151 W. 34th St. in New York; the store is also hosting a series of appearances from athletes and celebrities.

    To see the auction items, visit nfl.com/auction. Pre-bidding on the website ends at 6 p.m. Jan. 31. The live auction starts at noon on Feb. 1. Bids can be made either in person or by phone.

    Call (610) 524-0822 or email info@huntauctions.com to reserve a phone line.

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

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    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    New source for coupon savings on produce

    Coupons on fresh fruits and vegetables are harder to come by than coupons on packaged groceries.

    But starting today, saving on produce will get bit easier with a new program from the digital Promo Codes site SavingStar.

    The coupon site announced it's launching a "Healthy Offer of the Week." A new offer will appear each Tuesday.

    This week's coupon is a 20 percent discount on broccoli marked with the code PLU #4060.

    The discount is valid on up to $10 in broccoli and is valid through next Monday, Jan. 27.

    Buy $5 worth of broccoli, for instance, and you'll receive a $1 credit.

    If you're not familiar with SavingStar, I highly recommend signing up at SavingStar.com, which allows you to save money at up to six different stores in the Triangle. It takes only a few minutes to register your store loyalty card numbers. Once you've done that, it only takes a few seconds each week to select the offers you wish to use.

    At the store register, SavingStar coupons are NOT automatically deducted from your grocery order. Instead, the savings accrue in your SavingStar account. Once you've saved $5, you select how you want to be paid.

    Have the cash deposited directly into your bank or PayPal account. Or choose an Amazon e-giftcard or donate the money to charity. I typically opt for the Amazon option, using the windfall as a way to purchase gifts around the holidays. Last year, I wound up with more than $75 in my account.

    In the Triangle, six stores participate in SavingStar: CVS, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Lowes Foods and Rite Aid.

    The SavingStar coupons may only be used once.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    Cheapskates Lindsay Lohan, Neil Patrick Harris Get $10 Every Time You Use Their Uber Promo Codes

    We at Betabeat are avid followers of Lindsay Lohan's Twitter feed. After all, you never know what you might find there.

    So when we saw a LiLo tweet promoting taxicab disrupter Uber's services and offering a Best Deals, we just had to know: was this the result of an official partnership between the startup and the star, or was Lindsay up to something shady?

    Use my Uber promo code, 8g4wy, and get $20 off your first Uber ride. Redeem it at uber.com/invite/8g4wy.-
    Lindsay Lohan (@lindsaylohan) January 12, 2014

    It turns out the latter is true - and Ms. Lohan isn't the only celebrity pimping out Uber to her followers so that she can get discounts on the rides herself. Neil Patrick Harris and Snoop Dogg (or Lion or Walrus or whatever he's going by now) are guilty, too.

    An Uber rep told us the partnerships weren't official endorsements and that the stars' choices to tweet the codes were "organic." Every Uber user has the privilege of sharing their code in an effort to collect discounts. Each time someone uses your Uber code, you get $10 to use on future rides yourself. This month, a special is running so the person who owns the code gets $20.

    What's shady is that the codes only work the first time the fan uses Uber - so Lindsay Lohan is getting a $20 credit because your friend used her code, when you could have been the one to get it.

    You know how whenever your aunt goes to a new hair salon, she bugs you to go get your hair cut there so that she'll get $5 off her next '80s perm? Linds, NPH and Snoop are all being that annoying aunt right now and hogging all the discounts for their rich, famous asses.

    Furthermore, Uber told us there's no limit to how many times one person's promo code can be used. Lindsay Lohan has 7.6 million followers. She's probably got free Uber rides lined up until 2026 at this point.

    Here's a look at some of the tweets the celebs have pushed. Snoop's code is UncleSnoopATL, basically the vanity license plate equivalent of an Uber coupon, which doesn't seem that "organic":

    Party wit tha boss this Sat in ATL n get a night of FREE rides on @ Uber_ATL. Enter code "UncleSnoopATL" n share !! blog.uber.com/unclesnoop-
    Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) September 25, 2013

    And Neil Patrick Harris has used his code under the guise of preventing drunk driving, when he was directly cashing out on it. Ew.

    I love UBER! Way better than a taxi. Sign up using my promo code, get $20 off your 1st ride: uber.com/invite/8lf32 Don't drink & drive.-
    Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) December 18, 2013

    Don't drink & drive this July 4th weekend. Use Uber instead - it's rad. Sign up, use code '8lf32' and you'll get $20 credit. You're welcome.-
    Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) July 02, 2013

    Seth Rogen apparently used the code to collect cash for charity. So maybe there's some hope for Hollywood.

    Signup to @ Uber_LA w/promo code: HilarityForCharity and u'll get $20 off ur 1st ride! #Uber will give a donation 4 every person that rides!-
    Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) April 24, 2013

    This also explains why people are spending time to defraud Tinder users in an effort to get them to use an Uber promo code. Whoever was behind that fake Uber ad stood to make a lot of money in Uber credits off of Tinder users.

    We asked Uber a bunch of followup questions about the stars seemingly abusing the system, and whether this was their intent when they created the promo codes. We noted that the system is probably very effective at getting the app onto users' phones.

    "We're happy to see that all kinds of people, including celebrities, are excited about our superior service and want to share their Uber love with friends," Uber rep Andrew Noyes told us.

    Of course, it's not morally wrong for these stars to exploit Uber's promo code system by profiting off of their huge fan bases. But they're taking discounts away from normal people, plus it's just trashy - especially if they're pretending to do it just because they're concerned about drunk driving, as Mr. Harris did.

    No matter how hard your last movie flopped, this isn't a good look. Celebrities should let us plebes wallow in the first‐time‐user discount game while they stick to shilling Vitamin Water.