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Tuesday
Nov302010

Google in Talks to Buy Groupon

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) – In what would be the online search giant’s largest acquisition to date, at an estimated $5 billion, Google is in talks to buy Groupon, a popular online coupon company, according to Financial Times.

In only two years of operation, Groupon is estimated to have brought in $350 million in revenue. The marketing company offers daily coupons, or “Groupons,” that offer big deals for those who recommend the offer to friends through various social networking sites.
 
Industry analysts say the acquisition could help Google bolster its share of social network advertising in its effort to lessen Facebook’s share.

The deal would surpass Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick three years ago, which had a price tag of $3.1 billion.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Level 3: Comcast Put “Tollbooth” on Streaming Video

Photo Courtesy - Netflix, Inc.(PHILADELPHIA) -- Just as Netflix announced it would make streaming videos cheaper for customers, Internet provider Comcast has announced it will charge more to stream such content to its customers.

After Netflix announced they would use the service of Level 3 to help stream movies, Comcast countered by announcing they would charge Level 3 a fee to send that video to Comcast Internet users.

Level 3 has called the move an Internet “tollbooth” that is counter to the spirit of an open Internet.

“Comcast is putting up a tollbooth at the borders of its broadband Internet-access network, enabling it to unilaterally decide how much to charge for content which competes with its own cable TV and Xfinity-delivered content,” Level 3 chief legal officer Thomas Stortz said. 

Comcast – which has a bid to own NBC – denied the claim, saying the fee followed a move by Level 3 that would nearly double traffic sent through Comcast.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Kardashians Pull Prepaid Debit Card Off the Market Amidst Criticism

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Kardashian card is no more, and the reality TV stars behind the prepaid debit card debacle don't want to talk about it.

"We are not working with the bank anymore and that's all we're allowed to say," Kourtney Kardashian told ABC News on Tuesday.

On Monday, Dennis Roach, lawyer for Kim, 30, Khloe, 26, and Kourtney, 31, announced the Kardashian sisters were pulling their name off the Kardashian Prepaid MasterCard after being slammed for the card's hefty fees. The decision came in the wake of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's investigation into the card. He called the card's fees "predatory."

Last week, Blumenthal -- who is the state's U.S. Senator-elect -- warned consumers of the perils of credit cards marketed at young adults and revealed that he demanded University National Bank, which issued the Kardashian Kard, provide specific details about how the card is promoted and sold in Connecticut.

"Keeping up with the Kardashians is impossible using these cards -- laden with pernicious and predatory fees that swallow card value," Blumenthal said in a statement. "These cards are feckless financial tools designed to promptly diminish in value with virtually every transaction -- and even when consumers don't use the card at all."

In addition to Blumenthal, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, chastised the Kardashians for promoting a fee-heavy card and cautioned other celebrities against blindly promoting products.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Home Prices Across US Are Dropping, Index Shows

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Home prices are falling in the biggest cities in the country, according to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index of home prices.

The index of 20 cities found that prices slipped seven-tenths of a percent in September.  The hardest hit city was Cleveland, Ohio, where home prices slid three percent.

S&P Indices Vice President Maureen Maitland says it seems the housing recovery really hasn't taken hold yet.  "If you look at these numbers, the third quarter, and you look at them compared to what had been going on earlier this year, these are disappointing numbers," she says.  "Any boost that we had gotten in early spring now seems to be gone, and the momentum appears to be moving in a negative direction."

Maitland adds that although home prices are up about six percent since April 2009, these are disappointing numbers.  "At best, I think what we can say with the housing market right now is that they seem to have leveled off at the bottom," she says.

Several factors are to blame for the drop, according to Maitland, who says, "It really looks like there's just too much supply out there and not enough demand, and given the fact that the unemployment rate is still high above nine percent, there's really no economic recovery that's supporting a housing recovery."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Websites Use Social Networks to Pick Presents for Your Friends

Photo Courtesy - Hunch [dot] com(NEW YORK) -- Every year around this time, holiday shoppers fret and fuss over what to get their friends and family.  But this year, a few new Web tools offer to provide shoppers with gift ideas.

Using profile information pulled from Facebook, these websites try to match your friends' preferences and interests with products you can buy online.

"Every e-commerce site has this problem of gifting, and it's a significant chunk of e-commerce," said Chris Dixon, CEO of Hunch.com, a recommendation engine that recently launched a social gift finder tool with Gifts.com.

But now that social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have helped turn the Internet from just a "Web of cookies and computers" into a Web of people, he said, companies like his can add a layer of tools that analyze people and their preferences to personalize the Internet and their purchases.

Hunch.com, for example, asks users a series of questions to develop a "taste profile" for them, which it then uses to help make recommendations about anything from books and movies to restaurants and gadgets.  Its latest project, in partnership with Gifts.com, combines Facebook profile data with its own taste-based algorithms to help shoppers find potential gift ideas for friends and family.

Once you allow the site to import information from your Facebook account, it looks for what your Facebook friends have "liked" or identified as interests.  It then builds a list of possible gifts for each friend, which you can refine by answering questions based on what you know about them.

Etsy, Amazon and eBay, together with Facebook, have launched similar tools that help shoppers spot gifts for friends. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Cyber Monday: Positive Signs for Strong Holiday Shopping Season

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- With shoppers flooding stores over the weekend and flocking to the Web for Cyber Monday deals Monday, retailers are increasingly optimistic that it will be a strong holiday shopping season.

Holiday spending over Thanksgiving weekend totaled $45 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, and many analysts expected strong sales on Cyber Monday as well.

At Amazon.com's distribution center in Phoenix -- just one of 25 shipping centers the company has across the U.S. -- more than a quarter of a million packages shipped Monday.

It's a positive sign, particularly because while "Cyber Monday" gets plenty of press attention, it's not usually even the busiest day for online retailers. Holiday sales typically peak sometime in December.

With broadband Internet connections far more common in American homes than they were five years ago, shoppers certainly didn't need to wait until Cyber Monday to do their holiday shopping over the Web.

Online shopping surged over the weekend, with sales jumping nine percent compared to a year ago, according to analytics firm comScore. On Thanksgiving Day alone, comScore calculates that $407 million was spent online, up nearly 30 percent from 2009.

And as Web orders poured in over the weekend, sales at the mall were equally brisk. The average shopper spent $365 in the last few days, up $20 from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

All those dollar signs could also be good news for the American worker. Experts say that many of the 600,000 new jobs that were created this holiday season could become permanent.

"We definitely plan to keep some of these seasonal workers on as full-time employees after the holidays," said Berg Wegner, director of fulfillment for Amazon.com.

The uptick in holiday spending, particularly online, provides more incentive for fraud. Monday, the federal government targeted several websites illegally selling counterfeit items.

At a news conference Monday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder said that law enforcement authorities have seized and blocked 82 websites that were selling fake versions of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Timberland, as well as music and software.

One shopping trend that is legit, though, is mobile phone use. Fifty-nine percent of cell phone users say their phones are crucial in the shopping process, according to the Mobile Marketing Association. They use them to check prices, look up inventory in nearby stores and even make purchases.

For some, it's the ultimate synthesis of getting out and about for a little holiday spirit while also getting the very best deals available.

eBay mapped the use of its mobile shopping app over the weekend, and it shows that shopping by phone isn't limited to tech-savvy city dwellers. The top volume for mobile sales was found in cities in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Price Increase for "12 Days of Christmas" List

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PITTSBURGH) -- Ever wonder what it would cost to buy all the items listed in “The 12 Days of Christmas”? According to the annual PNC Christmas Price Index, true loves will have to shell out just under $100,000 to get all 364 items.

From the 12 drummers drumming to the partridge in a pear tree, if one were to purchase these items in 2010, it would cost $96,824. This figure represents an increase of approximately 10 percent compared to the price one would have paid for all of the items on the list last year.

According to the PNC CPI, the very first item listed in the song, a partridge in a pear tree, costs $161, a 1.3-percent increase from last year.

Moving along the list, two turtle doves cost $100, up 78.6 percent from 2009, and three French hens now cost $150, up 233 percent from last year. Bird prices seem to be on the rise across the board, as the seven swans-a-swimming cost $5,600, an increase of 6.7 percent from last year.

As for performers on the list, the 11 pipers piping cost $2,356, and those 12 drummers drumming are doing so at a cost of $2,552. Both prices represent a modest increase of 3.1 percent.

There are four gifts on the list that remained the same price as last year: the pear tree by itself, four calling birds, six geese a-laying, and the eight maids-a-milking.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Walmart to Acquire 51% of Massmart

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Walmart seeks to broaden its international reach, as the company announced Monday that it has offered to purchase 51% of the shares of Massmart Holdings of South Africa.

The company issued a statement saying the offer -- at 148 rand a share, representing a 19.2% premium to the 30-day weighted average price on September 23 -- has been unanimously recommended by Massmart’s board of directors. The total offer is for 16.5 billion rand, or 2.34 billion U.S. dollars.

“We continue to be excited by the opportunity to invest in Massmart's business and to accelerate its growth and expansion in South Africa,” said Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Walmart International.

McMillon said the combination fits well with the corporation’s strategy of being able to enter high growth markets where it can use its global expertise and generate strong returns. Walmart also hopes to be able to connect small farmers with its global supply chain, and thus increase farmer income and improve the quality of their produce.

The Wall Street Journal reports that several labor unions have objected to the proposed combination, saying that Walmart is guilty of poor labor relations and that its entry to South Africa will hurt suppliers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Fiji Water Closes Fiji Facility

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Fiji Water has announced it will be closing its facility in Fiji due to an increase in taxes.

The company made the announcement on Monday, saying that the government’s new 15-cent-per-liter tax was untenable, and as a result the company has no other choice but to close the facility. The Fiji government will impose the tax on bottled water locations where more than 3.5 million liters are extracted per month. Fiji Water falls in that category. Currently, the company pays one-third of one percent tax per liter of water.

Fiji Water issued the following statement: “We are saddened that we have been forced to make a business decision that will result in hardship to hundreds of Fijians who will now be without work.”

The company says as a result, it will be forced to cancel several large construction projects in Fiji and will have to cancel all ongoing purchases from local suppliers.

Company officials say the government’s action sends the message that the country is unstable and is becoming a risky place in which to invest.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Government Cracks Down on Sites Selling Counterfeit Goods

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department and Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation on Monday announced they have seized 82 domain names that were being used to sell counterfeit goods, including fake handbags, pirated software, copies of DVDs and phony Burberry scarves.  A lot of people wouldn't fall for the fakes, but enough would be satisfied with them that they stayed in business, until now.

A few of the seized URLs include dvdcollectionsale.com, coachoutletfactory.com, mydreamwatches.com, usaburberryscarf.com, burberryoutletshop.com, massnike.com.

"By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. “Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. The theft of ideas and the sale of counterfeit goods threaten economic opportunities and financial stability, suppress innovation and destroy jobs."

The government timed its announcement for Cyber Monday, and the effort is part of something called Operation in Our Sites.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio