While I agree with this article in general, I take issue with one of its suggestions:
5) Organic Produce
Sure, buying organic makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing, but it isn’t always the best choice for your wallet. Fruits and vegetables like kiwis, sweet corn and broccoli require very little pesticide to grow. Others — like avocados, onions and pineapples — have thick or peelable skins that reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals. “Any pesticide that remains is not getting through,” says Lempert. For a handy reminder as you shop, download the Environmental Working Group’s wallet-sized organic produce guide.
Buying organic produce isn’t just about avoiding the ingestion of pesticides, though that’s certainly one great reason to do it. It’s also about helping the environment by reducing the amount of harmful surface water runoff from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Such runoff harms and kills wildlife, creates algal blooms that harm and kill yet more wildlife, and may ultimately hurt humans who consume contaminated water and food.
If you want to save money by not buying organic produce or by only buying certain types of organic produce, that’s your call. But, there will be an environmental cost to your economic savings. Buying organic produce of any type is not wasting money.
The Fraser Institute is offering a $1,000 first prize and five $500 runner-up prizes for proposals on what economic or public policy issue it should try to measure. Entries are due by May 15th.
Measurement should be a key component of any debate on public policy. Measurement transforms issues that are otherwise abstract or obscure into something concrete or tangible. More importantly, measurement facilitates fruitful discussions and productive public debates.
However, the first step towards measurement involves identifying issues that are important enough to be measured. There are numerous issues that should be measured but have not been measured or measured inappropriately.
We want to hear from you on what public policy issues you would like to see measured. In particular, we would like your comment on an economic or public policy issue that you feel has not been measured or has not been measured adequately.
Obama used a tour of Southern California Edison’s electric vehicle testing center to announce that $2.4 billion of stimulus money would be used to help get everything in place for widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The goal: to put a million plugin hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.
I got a call today from someone wanting to survey me on behalf of Nespresso. I love Nespresso. I evangelize it to all. I have one to two espressos a day from my Nespresso machine and its coffee pod system. My parents got me the machine for Christmas a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since.
So, I asked the woman on the phone how long the survey would take and she said “24 minutes.” My jaw dropped. I had to level with her that I thought that was way too long for a phone survey. She politely thanked me and ended the call.
This experience has left me with two questions:
Who takes a phone survey for 24 minutes with no promise of compensation or reward?
If the refuse/abandon rate for a 24-minute phone survey is as high as I’m guessing it is, how useful or actionable can the survey results be? Wouldn’t the results be from such a select sliver of diehard/bored/unemployed consumers that they might not represent overall consumer sentiments well?
I will have to pose these questions to my marketing guru wife this evening.
When I got an email from Dominion today about our monthly power bill, it had a line at the top that said: “You have the power to choose renewable energy! Click here to sign up or learn about your Green Power options." So, I clicked there and very pleased with what I saw.
As of January 1st, Dominion has joined hundreds of power companies in allowing customers to voluntarily purchase Green-e Energy®-certified Renewable Energy Certificates. Basically, you pay to have enough renewable energy go into the regional power grid to meet some or all of the power needs for your home or business. The renewable energy comes from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, or low-impact hydro sources.
Signing up for the program doesn’t mean that the power coming into your home or business would necessarily be from renewable sources. But, it does mean your power usage would help drive demand for renewable rather than non-renewable energy sources. It’s A Good Thing.
The cost for Dominion’s program is an extra penny and a half per kilowatt-hour (which is cheaper than some other programs out there). You can sign up to cover all of your energy usage or to cover a specific number of kilowatt-hours per month. A typical home in Virginia uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours of power on average per month and so would pay an extra $15.00 on average per month.
I looked at our power bills for the past year and saw this would have cost us a little over $18 per month on average. Not a bad deal to help promote the development of renewable energy sources and to thus help reduce CO2 emissions. So, I’ve signed us up!
If you’re interested in joining this type of program, you can see if your power company offers something like it or buy Renewable Energy Certificates directly from one of the companies that offer them.
South by Southwest is one of the biggest annual geek shows, so naturally there are thousands (tens of thousands?) of iPhones roaming around downtown Austin. Good luck making calls or receiving text messages, especially anywhere near the convention center.
<whitewhine>Making calls and sending SMS messages is nearly impossible and all of our iPhone batteries are draining because they keep trying to make connections.</whitewhine>
Would you pay $54 to register your bicycle so you could ride it on public thoroughfares and bike paths in Oregon? Would you if it were the law? Wayne Kriger is a member of the Oregon House of Representatives. He is also a non-bicycle riding Republican from Gold Beach, OR and chief architect of Oregon House Bill 3008. Hewants everyone who rides their bike on a public street or bike path to pay a $54 cycle registration fee. Also, it must be renewed every two years.
Just when government should be incenting people to bike more and drive less, this state legislator is doing exactly the opposite. So sad.
My earlier post has generated some great reblogged comments. Thanks to all who took the time to weigh in. My thoughts after reading them:
I agree that free content will generally trump content that requires micropayment. The question is how much longer can free last? As print subscription rates and web ad revenue stagnate or dry up, at what point are even prominent national newspapers going to be forced to radically change their model? Will we reach a point when no one can afford to produce quality content for free?
I think the music-track-for-99-cents model can be applicable to newspaper articles. Think of the newspaper as the band or artist that you like/respect/trust. Think of the headline and first paragraph of an article as the 30-second song preview. People will certainly expect to pay a lot less for a newspaper article than they would to own a music track, but that doesn’t mean they won’t willing to pay something.
I don’t know what the economics are of running a newspaper now or in the future. I just threw out five cents per article as an example micropayment price. Actual prices may need to be more or less depending on the publication, author, article topic, article length, etc. I think newspapers would have to experiment with pricing to see what works. And, they may need to have both ads and micropayments in order to be profitable at certain publications. I don’t think the goal of micropayments should be killing ads. The goal should be making newspapers profitable again. Newspapers have ads and subscription prices/issue prices now, so I don’t think a model of ads and micropayments is a big departure.
To be clear, I don’t think newspapers are dead. I think print is dead and that newspapers will rise from print’s ashes online. They may be smaller and fewer in number, but I think we will continue to have wonderful online newspapers in the future.
Newspapers are dying. Everyone will tell you this from NPR’s On the Media to, well, your newspaper if you still read one. As a former journalism major, a former PR guy, and an avaricious consumer of news, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts on this situation.
Let’s be clear about what’s dying here. The demand for thoughtful reporting by professionals isn’t dying, though it is evolving. The physical medium of the newspaper is what’s truly dying. People aren’t going to continue to have folded, printed paper thrown on their doorsteps every morning. Personally, I don’t see this as a bad thing.
Print deadlines needlessly constrain news professionals and make breaking news stale. All the ink, paper, printing, and delivering of newspapers is horrible for the environment. And, flipping through pages of paper to find content is no longer what many consumers want from news providers.
Understanding the Problem
While the parallel between newspapers and music labels is by no means exact, I think it’s valid overall. In both cases, we need to understand that the medium actually isn’t the message and that mediums evolve.
Think what a high percentage of staff and budget at a newspaper aren’t directly involved in gathering, writing, or editing news. They buy and store paper and ink. They run and maintain printing presses. They deliver papers and stock paper boxes. None of that has anything to do with news. And, online options are faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly.
This is similar to how music labels have dealt with burning and labeling CDs, making jewel cases, printing liner notes, wrapping cases in cellophane, and shipping them to stores. None of that has anything to do with music. And, online options are faster, sometimes cheaper, and more environmentally friendly.
You buy an entire newspaper or newspaper subscription just as you buy an entire CD or CD club subscription. Buffet-style online subscription models have been tried by both newspapers and music labels. But, in most cases, they haven’t been profitable.
The difference in these two stories is that music labels have figured out how to make money online (courtesy of the Apple iTunes Store and others), while newspapers haven’t cracked this nut yet. I think newspapers can take a page from the music label playbook to get profitable.
Let’s say you saw the headline for a New York Times Online story and it grabbed your interest. And, let’s say there was a system in place where you could automatically pay five cents to read that story by clicking on the headline. Perhaps you could even make that payment anonymously. Wouldn’t that be a good deal? You get quality content easily and the New York Times can add up a bunch of digital nickels into a profit on that article.
Web ads clearly aren’t providing the profits that newspapers need as they transition online. I think micropayments for specific content could. Sure a lot of micropayment startups crashed and burned around 2000 with the bursting of the tech bubble. But, I don’t think micropayments were a bad idea. I just think their time had not yet arrived. With the popularity of online content in 2009, the time for micropayments could be now.
Everyone bemoans the consolidation of newspapers by media titans. But, micropayments are a case when consolidation actually could help everyone. If all the newspapers (and other publications) inside a chain or conglomerate supported a single micropayment system, you could seamlessly buy specific content from every publication under that umbrella.
Not convinced of the appeal of micropayments? Well, just stop and think about how popular single tracks on digital music stores are when compared to full albums. The music industry offers specific content for a small fee to make money and so should the news industry.
I don’t think micropayments are a silver bullet for newspapers. Being able to get almost any publication online means that your local newspaper has a hard time competing with the New York Times Online except in covering local news.
I think we are going to see fewer newspapers over time, but online competition could also lead to better newspapers over time. I think newspapers will soon exist solely or primarily online. They will have smaller staffs. A higher percentage of staff members and budgets will be directly involved in news gathering, writing, and editing. I think local papers will continue to focus even more on local news. And, I hope micropayments will become common.
While the transition will be hard and painful for those who work at newspapers, the end result could be positive overall. Consumers could have cheaper, easier access to better quality news and the newspapers that remain could be profitable.