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Righteous ROI: How do you know marketing automation is paying off?

VB WEBINAR: This sponsored post is produced in association with Autopilot. How do marketers know if their marketing automation investment is paying off? It’s a good question, with a quantifiable answer: you’ll be able to show them the money. At its core, marketing automation is about attracting, acquiring, and growing customers. But unlike other awareness-generating aspects of […]

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Runkeeper finally lets you leave your iPhone at home thanks to its latest Apple Watch update

Popular GPS fitness-tracking company Runkeeper has launched an all-new Apple Watch app, “rebuilt from the ground up,” says founder and CEO Jason Jacobs. As with other fitness tracking apps, Runkeeper has been available for Apple Watch for months already, but with its latest incarnation, it’s inviting users to leave their iPhones at home. This would […]

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Chrome 47 beta brings cooperative multitasking, flexible desktop notifications, and splash screens on Android

More than a week after releasing the stable version of Chrome 46, Google released Chrome 47 beta for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The company detailed the new features, which include support for cooperative multitasking, flexible desktop notifications, the usual security fixes, and splash screens for sites added to the Android home screen. Chrome is […]

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ApprovedFINANCEFinance and economics

Dwindling dollars

DESPITE the government’s best efforts, the rattle of money-counting machines can again be heard in Egypt’s back alleys, where traders sell dollars at a premium to the official rate. The government devalued the pound to match the black-market price earlier in the year, thereby wiping out the illicit trade. But demand for greenbacks is outpacing supply once more, leaving the government short of cash and putting the traders back in business.

Egypt’s foreign reserves fell to $16.4 billion in September, enough to cover about three months of imports—the minimum the IMF considers advisable. But Egypt is not attracting many dollars at the moment. Years of political turmoil have hit tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI), which amounted to $6.4 billion in the last fiscal year (running from July until June). The government hopes for $10 billion in FDI this year—wishful thinking, analysts say.

At the same time, demand for dollars is rising. Egypt has run annual trade deficits for over a decade. Lately they have grown. Although the bill for oil has come down along with the price, Egypt still imported $12.3 billion-worth last year. It…Continue reading

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Five-star fakes

“I WILL post awesome review on your amazon product,” bess98 declared on Fiverr, a website where individuals sell freelance services for $5 or more. On October 16th Amazon charged that bess98 and more than 1,000 others were illegally hawking customer reviews. The case comes just six months after Amazon sued the operator of four sites peddling similar stuff, including the subtly named buyamazonreviews.com.

Like Amazon, other websites have fought fakes with lawsuits, carefully honed algorithms and even sting operations—Yelp, a popular review site, has had undercover staff answer ads from firms seeking glowing write-ups. Yet the problem persists.

For as long as there have been online reviews, there have been fakes. The motivation is clear: for example, one extra star on a restaurant’s Yelp rating boosts revenue by 5-9%, according to Michael Luca of Harvard Business School. Mr Luca and Georgios Zervas of Boston University have shown that restaurants seeking fake acclaim are likely to be independent—online reviews matter more to them than to chains with established reputations. So some businesses ask friends to post raves, seek reviewers-for-hire and offer customers discounts in exchange for praise.

For websites that claim to be an impartial resource, such practices are troubling. “While small in number,” Amazon contends in its new suit,…Continue reading

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ApprovedFINANCEFinance and economics

Deleveraging delayed

IN MOST respects, double-digit growth is a relic of the past for China. In the third quarter the economy grew by just 6.9% year-on-year according to official data, and probably by a percentage point or two less in reality. Yet bank loans increased by 15.4% in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2014. Having released a torrent of credit to buoy the economy during the financial crisis, China was supposed to have started deleveraging by now. Instead, banks are continuing to pump debt into the economy, while the authorities, apparently worried about the damage a contraction in credit might do, coax them on.

Growth in credit has at least slowed in recent years. A broad measure is “total social financing” (TSF), which encompasses bank loans, corporate bonds and a range of shadowy loan-like products. TSF growth soared to 35% in 2009 when the government called on banks to open the taps and support the then-faltering economy. It has since decelerated: it rose by 13% in the third quarter from a year earlier. The problem, though, is that nominal GDP growth has fallen much lower, to 6.2%.

This means that China’s…Continue reading

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ApprovedFINANCEFinance and economics

Under threat

It could get messy after Malta

FOR much of the past five or so years, the euro area has been suffering from a toxic combination of economic, financial and political ailments, making it the main source of fragility in the global economy. That honour has now passed to emerging markets. Yet their difficulties are likely to impede what has in any case been an insipid recovery, making it harder for the euro zone to clamber out of deflation.

The European Central Bank (ECB) was not expected to announce extra monetary stimulus when its governing council met in Malta on October 22nd (after The Economist had gone to press). But many economists think it will act within a few months, maybe as early as December. The ECB’s most likely response would be to extend its programme of quantitative easing (QE)—creating money to buy mainly public assets—beyond September 2016, when it is currently scheduled to end.

Until clouds gathered over China and emerging markets over the summer, the economic weather had appeared to be brightening. The euro zone’s output grew at an average rate of 0.4% a quarter…Continue reading

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French lessons

See you in Somerset

LIVING in the shadow of a nuclear-power plant does not bother the three occupants of the “Bar Des Sports”, a one-room affair with formica tables and a blaring television. The owner of 18 years, (“Jacques, only Jacques”), is about as unruffled by fears of an accident as his balding white dog slumped by the door.

That attitude is common in Flamanville, a north-coastal village of stone houses and hanging baskets, where 4,000 employees and contractors work on the two reactors at the local nuclear-power plant, opened in the mid-1980s. But a third, much larger reactor, called Flamanville 3, is likely to become the focus of international attention because it is the model for an imminent expansion across the channel, in Britain. It is being built by Electricité de France (EDF), the world’s biggest power company, which on October 21st agreed with China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN), a state-owned entity, to build two reactors of the same design in south-west England called Hinkley Point C. EDF will own two-thirds of the project and CGN a third. The plant in Somerset is supposed to open by 2025, after…Continue reading

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ApprovedFINANCEFinance and economics

Funny numbers

IN THE coming week government statisticians in America and Britain will release their initial estimates of economic growth for the third quarter of the year. Markets will leap or sag, depending on the news. But investors are wrong to see the releases as a moment of statistical insight; they are merely the first round in a high-stakes game of “pin the tail on the donkey”.

Take January-March last year in America, when an icy winter kept shoppers at home. The intial estimate of GDP growth from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)—an annualised gain of 0.1%—was disappointing but not disastrous. The second estimate—a decline of 1%—made things looks bleaker. By the time the third and final estimate came in, at -2.9%, it was clear the quarter had been the worst since the depths of the financial crisis (see chart).

Statistics are revised for years, but their relevance soon fades. The BEA recently reviewed its data for 2012-14 and discovered that the American economy had grown more slowly than it had previously thought. At a stroke it removed $70 billion, equivalent to Sri Lanka’s entire output, from its figures. No one…Continue reading

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ApprovedFINANCEFinance and economics

Putting Goldilocks to work

“ALWAYS pack a sweater,” one local businessman advises visitors to Singapore, “because the best thing about our weather is the air conditioning.” Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, would have agreed—he considered the air conditioner the greatest invention of the 20th century. Another Singaporean politician once remarked that if it had not been for artificial cooling, local workers would be “sitting under coconut trees” rather than labouring away in high-tech factories.

Singapore is rich enough to keep its indoor spaces cool. Neighbouring Indonesia is not. Economists used to think that rich countries’ greater cooling power would enable them to limit the damage to their economies from the higher temperatures brought by global warming. A cross-country comparison published in 2012 found that higher temperatures did not seem to sap growth in rich countries, but did in poor ones. It is hard to compare the impact of temperature on growth in hot and cold countries directly, since there are too many variables to control for. Instead, the study compared growth…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness

Nine billion company names

ARTHUR C. CLARKE’S “The Nine Billion Names of God” (1953) tells the story of a group of Tibetan monks who believe that an ethereal “bingo!” moment will arrive when they have discovered all the possible names for God. They calculate that this will take 15,000 years to complete if they continue with their old-fashioned method of writing by hand. So they rent a computer to speed things up. The computer duly gets to work—and when it spits out the final combination of letters the monks get what they wanted: “without any fuss” the stars begin to go out.

The world may one day discover whether there is a corporate equivalent of that bingo moment when all the possible names for companies have been tried. The West is creating start-ups at an unprecedented rate. Emerging-world companies are going global. Established companies are merging to form mind-boggling combinations: the soon-to-be ABInBev/SABMiller beermoth is rooted in five separate companies, Anheuser-Busch, Interbrew, AmBev, South African Breweries and Miller Brewing.

Companies are right to devote a lot of effort to thinking up names: they are the best chance of making a good…Continue reading

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Pharaonic creations

TO SOME young adults, Vemma Nutrition looked like a path to wealth—the chance to sell energy drinks, recruit other sellers and, according to a company video, enter a world of private planes, fast cars and pretty women. To America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Vemma looked like a pyramid scheme. In September a judge barred Vemma from conducting its main business while the FTC makes its case in court. The FTC’s suit is, however, relatively rare. Pyramid schemes remain devilishly hard to identify.

Nearly three years ago Bill Ackman bet $1 billion that Herbalife, a multi-level marketing company (MLM) selling nutrition products, was a pyramid scheme. The hedge-fund manager is still arguing his case. But a broader fight is brewing. Some industry observers want new rules to spot pyramid schemes. On October 21st the Direct Selling Association (DSA), the lobby for MLMs, went to Capitol Hill to eviscerate the idea; its members have the benefit of a congressional caucus, formed in September to support the interests of the multi-level marketers. At issue is a simple question: what is a pyramid scheme?

No national law or…Continue reading

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Instagram launches Boomerang, an app that creates crazy looping 1-second videos

Instagram has launched yet another standalone mobile app called Boomerang, which lets you “turn everyday moments into something fun and unexpected.” Available for Android (not yet live) and iOS, Boomerang lets you click once to capture a rapid-fire series of 10 photos, which it then stitches into a 1 second-long GIF-like moving video that loops […]

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How Lionsgate is trying to break the movie-game curse

Since Peter Levin joined movie studio Lionsgate last year as head of interactive ventures and games, he has been a heavy dealmaker. Levin has commissioned movie-themed games, created a multi-company deal to fashion a virtual reality game from Keanu Reeves’ John Wick film, and he even invested on his own in an esports professional gaming […]

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