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StartPlaying raises $6.5M to connect tabletop game players online

Dungeons & Dragons fans can find game masters more easily with this new platform for online RPG play......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsMay 13th, 2022

Is Nintendo Switch Online worth it? A complete guide to the new features and price

With a Nintendo Switch Online membership you can play online multiplayer games on your Switch, along with a selection of classic games. You can sign up for a weeklong trial of Nintendo Switch Online.Nintendo With a Nintendo Switch Online membership you can play online multiplayer games on your Nintendo Switch. A basic Nintendo Switch Online membership is $19.99 for a year, while the "Expansion Pack" plan is $49.99. Nintendo Switch Online also gives you access to dozens of free games, including classics from the Nintendo 64. Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories. If you want to make the most of your Nintendo Switch experience, then you need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.Nintendo Switch Online gives you unlimited access to online multiplayer, which is great for games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and necessary to play online-only games like Among Us.Quick tip: Some online-only games, like Fortnite and Pokemon UNITE, can be played even without a membership.You can sign up for Nintendo Switch Online using your Switch, or straight from your computer or phone. Here's how much Nintendo Switch Online costs, and some of the exclusive features you'll unlock with your membership.How much is Nintendo Switch Online?There are two Nintendo Switch Online membership tiers: The basic subscription and the "Expansion Pack" subscription. The Expansion Pack has all the same features of the basic plan, along with some extras that we'll explain below.A basic Nintendo Switch Online subscription costs $3.99 a month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 for a year.A Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription costs $49.99 for a year — there's no monthly option.A basic Switch Online plan is about $20, while an Expansion Pack plan is about $50.NintendoIf you're planning on sharing your account, you can also sign up for a Family Membership, which gives up to eight Nintendo Account holders online access for a year. This raises the prices to $34.99 for a basic subscription, and $79.99 for an Expansion Pack subscription. Again, there's no monthly version.No matter which version you pick, you can try Nintendo Switch Online for free for seven days.What a Nintendo Switch Online membership offersLive multiplayer actionA Nintendo Switch Online account lets you play multiplayer games online with gamers from all around the world. This is the service's most important feature, and probably the one that you'll use the most.Quick tip: If the game you're playing has local multiplayer, you can still play that mode without Nintendo Switch Online. You'll need to have all the players in the same room together, though. Having online multiplayer can massively enhance some games. For example, it unlocks competitive tournaments in Pokémon Sword and Shield, and new game modes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Some online-only games require Nintendo Switch Online just to play them — this includes megahits like Among Us and Overwatch.You'll need a subscription to play online in games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.Nintendo; Sora Ltd.New battle royale gamesWhen Nintendo Switch Online first launched, it came with an exclusive game: Tetris 99. This is a battle royale version of Tetris that pits you in a survival contest against 99 other players at once.Tetris 99 is exclusive to Nintendo Switch Online.NintendoSince then, they've also released PAC-MAN 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35, two more modernized versions of classic games.These games are free, but you can only download and play them with a Switch Online membership.Classic Nintendo gamesOne of Nintendo Switch Online's most acclaimed features is its library of classic games. A subscription gives you free access to dozens of these games, which were originally released in the late 1980s and 90s but have been remastered specifically for play on the Switch.A selection of SNES games available for Switch Online members.NintendoThe basic Switch Online plan gives you games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System, like Double Dragon and Mario Kart. The Expansion Pack adds Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Ecco the Dolphin.You can also play most of these games online with people on your Switch friends list, giving you a brand new way to experience the classics.Backup save dataSwitch Online automatically uploads all of your save data to Nintendo's servers. This means that even if your console is lost or damaged, you won't lose your progress. It also lets you move between Switch consoles easily, without worrying about which device you've played on more.Just remember that if you unsubscribe from the Nintendo Switch Online service, you'll need to resubscribe within 180 days or your cloud saves will be erased.Expansion Pack members get free DLC for popular gamesUsers who've signed up for the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan also have access to downloadable content for certain games.As of this writing, Expansion Pack users who play Animal Crossing: New Horizons will receive the Happy Home Paradise DLC for free. This DLC costs $24.99 by itself.Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers a DLC package to Expansion Pack members.NintendoThere's a good chance that more games will distribute DLC this way in the future.Use the Nintendo Switch Online app Nintendo Switch Online also includes the Nintendo Switch Online app for iPhone and Android, which lets you check your in-game stats and voice chat with other app users.Certain games, like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, gain new features when connected to the Nintendo Switch Online app too.Steven John contributed to a previous version of this article.Yes, the Nintendo Switch has Bluetooth — here's how to connect a headset or new controllerHow to sync Nintendo Switch controllers with your system, so that up to eight people can play at onceHow to add friends in 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' and have them visit your in-game islandHow to add friends in 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' and have them visit your in-game islandRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 18th, 2021

Nintendo Switch Online is getting new features and a new price - here"s how it works

With a Nintendo Switch Online membership you can play online multiplayer games on your Nintendo Switch, along with a selection of classic games. You can sign up for a weeklong trial of Nintendo Switch Online. Nintendo With a Nintendo Switch Online membership you can play online multiplayer games on your Nintendo Switch. A basic Nintendo Switch Online membership is $19.99 for a year, while the "Expansion Pack" plan is $49.99. Nintendo Switch Online also gives you access to dozens of free games, including classics from the Nintendo 64. Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories. If you want to make the most of your Nintendo Switch experience, then you need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.Nintendo Switch Online gives you unlimited access to online multiplayer, which is great for games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and necessary to play online-only games like Among Us.Quick tip: Some online-only games, like Fortnite and Pokemon UNITE, can be played even without a membership.You can sign up for Nintendo Switch Online using your Switch, or straight from your computer or phone. Here's how much Nintendo Switch Online costs, and some of the exclusive features you'll unlock with your membership.How much is Nintendo Switch Online?There are two Nintendo Switch Online membership tiers: The basic subscription and the "Expansion Pack" subscription. The Expansion Pack will launch on October 25th, and has all the same features of the basic plan, along with some extras that we'll explain below.A basic Nintendo Switch Online subscription costs $3.99 a month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 for a year.A Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription costs $49.99 for a year - there's no monthly option. This option will become available on October 25th, 2021. A basic Switch Online plan is about $20, while an Expansion Pack plan is about $50. Nintendo If you're planning on sharing your account, you can also sign up for a Family Membership, which gives up to eight Nintendo Account holders online access for a year. This raises the prices to $34.99 for a basic subscription, and $79.99 for an Expansion Pack subscription. Again, there's no monthly version.No matter which version you pick, you can try Nintendo Switch Online for free for seven days.What a Nintendo Switch Online membership offersLive multiplayer actionA Nintendo Switch Online account lets you play multiplayer games online with gamers from all around the world. This is the service's most important feature, and probably the one that you'll use the most.Quick tip: If the game you're playing has local multiplayer, you can still play that mode without Nintendo Switch Online. You'll need to have all the players in the same room together, though. Having online multiplayer can massively enhance some games. For example, it unlocks competitive tournaments in Pokémon Sword and Shield, and new game modes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Some online-only games require Nintendo Switch Online just to play them - this includes megahits like Among Us and Overwatch. You'll need a subscription to play online in games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Nintendo; Sora Ltd. New battle royale gamesWhen Nintendo Switch Online first launched, it came with an exclusive game: Tetris 99. This is a battle royale version of Tetris that pits you in a survival contest against 99 other players at once. Tetris 99 is exclusive to Nintendo Switch Online. Nintendo Since then, they've also released PAC-MAN 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35, two more modernized versions of classic games.These games are free, but you can only download and play them with a Switch Online membership.Classic Nintendo gamesOne of Nintendo Switch Online's most acclaimed features is its library of classic games. A subscription gives you free access to dozens of these games, which were originally released in the late 1980s and 90s but have been remastered specifically for play on the Switch. A selection of SNES games available for Switch Online members. Nintendo The basic Switch Online plan gives you games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System, like Double Dragon and Mario Kart. The Expansion Pack adds Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Ecco the Dolphin.You can also play most of these games online with people on your Switch friends list, giving you a brand new way to experience the classics.Backup save dataSwitch Online automatically uploads all of your save data to Nintendo's servers. This means that even if your console is lost or damaged, you won't lose your progress. It also lets you move between Switch consoles easily, without worrying about which device you've played on more.Just remember that if you unsubscribe from the Nintendo Switch Online service, you'll need to resubscribe within 180 days or your cloud saves will be erased.Expansion Pack members get free DLC for popular gamesUsers who've signed up for the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan also have access to downloadable content for certain games.As of this writing, Expansion Pack users who play Animal Crossing: New Horizons will receive the Happy Home Paradise DLC for free. This DLC costs $24.99 by itself. Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers a DLC package to Expansion Pack members. Nintendo There's a good chance that more games will distribute DLC this way in the future.Use the Nintendo Switch Online app Nintendo Switch Online also includes the Nintendo Switch Online app for iPhone and Android, which lets you check your in-game stats and voice chat with other app users.Certain games, like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, gain new features when connected to the Nintendo Switch Online app too.Steven John contributed to a previous version of this article.Yes, the Nintendo Switch has Bluetooth - here's how to connect a headset or new controllerHow to sync Nintendo Switch controllers with your system, so that up to eight people can play at onceHow to add friends in 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' and have them visit your in-game islandHow to add friends in 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' and have them visit your in-game islandRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 15th, 2021

3 Toys & Games Stocks to Watch Despite Industry Challenges

The Zacks Toys - Games - Hobbies industry benefits from robust demand for sports toys, fashion dolls and accessories and STEM toys. Stocks like JAKK, MAT and HAS are well-positioned to tap the surge in demand. The Zacks Toys - Games – Hobbies industry has been negatively impacted by high costs, COVID-related retail closures, shipment disruption and stiff competition. However, robust demand for smart toys, STEM toys (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), sports toys, fashion dolls and accessories bode well. The industry participants have been undertaking efforts on the digital front and focusing on better execution of marketing and promotional initiatives to drive growth. The industry players, including JAKKS Pacific, Inc. JAKK, Mattel, Inc. MAT and Hasbro, Inc. HAS, are likely to gain from the aforementioned trends.Industry DescriptionThe Zacks Toys - Games – Hobbies industry comprises companies that design, manufacture and sell various games and toys. While traditional toymakers primarily focus on marketing and selling action figures, accessories, dolls, youth electronics and arts and crafts, other industry players develop and market content and services on video game consoles, personal computers and mobile. Some of the industry participants offer video game platforms, playing cards, Karuta and other products along with handheld and home console hardware systems and related software. A few companies also develop and operate retail and online military simulation games and provide multiplayer and single-player games.3 Trends Shaping the Future of Zacks Toys - Games - Hobbies IndustryShipment Disruption & High Costs Remain Concerns: The coronavirus pandemic continues to hurt shipments, brick-and-mortar sales and delivery of content. Temporary store closures, product shortages, lower retail inventories and supply chain disruption have been hurting the industry. The companies have been resorting to product launches and shifting toward more technology-driven toys to boost sales, which might drive profits in the long haul. However, costs related to the initiatives may prove detrimental to the industry in the near term. Maintaining liquidity has become an arduous task for a number of industry participants in the current scenario. Most companies are cutting pay and furloughing employees.Pandemic Driving Demand for Toys: Although coronavirus-induced shutdowns have hurt most industries, toymakers have been gaining from the same. With kids stuck at home, parents have been buying toys in bulk to keep the children occupied and away from the TV while they work. While the toy-buying spree continues across the country, online sales of board games and building sets have been on the rise. Per the NPD Group, U.S. toys sales increased 16% and 13% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. During 2021, both unit sales and average selling price (ASP) rose 8% and 4%, respectively. According to the NPD Group, the three-year compound annual growth rate for the period between 2018 and 2021 was 8%, primarily driven by ASP growth of 8%. Most toy companies are focused on bolstering online business. The industry is anticipated to perform robustly in 2022.STEM Toys Gaining Popularity: Amid declining sales of traditional toys, robust demand for STEM toys has been quite a relief. The Asia Pacific region has emerged as a major growth driver for STEM toys. Countries like India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are witnessing rising demand for STEM toys. Parents are focusing more on educational toys to teach their children during the pandemic. Per a Technavio report, educational toys are likely to grow to $28.4 billion during 2021-2025, witnessing a CAGR of more than 14%. The APAC region is likely to contribute growth of 36%. The industry players have been capitalizing on new distribution methods, development of digital-play components, exploration of ventures with other industries and focusing on international expansion to drive growth. The industry has enormous growth potential in China and Brazil as both countries have a massive population of kids aged zero to 14 years.Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Dismal ProspectsThe Zacks Toys – Games – Hobbies industry is grouped within the broader Zacks Consumer Discretionary Sector.The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates dismal near-term prospects.The Zacks Toys – Games – Hobbies industry currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #211, which places it in the bottom 17% of 253 Zacks industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperform the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1. Since Jan 31, 2022, the industry’s earnings estimates for the current year have moved south by 10.2%.Before we present a few stocks that investors can take a look at, let’s analyze the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.Industry Underperforms S&P 500The Zacks Toys – Games – Hobbies industry has underperformed the S&P 500 Index in the past year. The industry has decreased 17.7% over this period compared with the S&P 500’s decline of 1.1%. Over the same time period, the sector has fallen 36.6%.One Year Price PerformanceIndustry's Current ValuationComparing the industry with the S&P 500 Index on the basis of forward 12-month price-to-earnings, which is a commonly used multiple for valuing the industry, we see that the industry is trading at 20.88X, higher than the S&P 500’s 17.82X but lower than the sector’s 18.07X.Over the last five years, the industry has traded as high as 31.37X and as low as 18.83X, with the median being at 26.37X, as the chart shows.3 Zacks Toys Stocks to Keep an Eye OnJAKKS Pacific: Headquartered in Santa Monica, CA, JAKKS Pacific is a multi-brand company that designs and markets a broad range of toys and consumer products. The company has been benefiting from strategic acquisitions, a solid international footprint, and a focus on innovation and collaborations with popular brands and movie franchises.Shares of this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company have appreciated 52.4% in the past year. Its earnings for 2022 are anticipated to increase 13.1%. In the past 30 days, the earnings estimate for 2022 has been revised upward by 16.3%. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. Price & Consensus: JAKKMattel: Headquartered in El Segundo, CA, Mattel is the world’s largest manufacturer of toys. A robust Barbie brand and Hot Wheels sales are driving its performance. Given a strong product lineup, which includes core brands, licensed brands and lucrative product associations, the company remains well-poised for growth. Barbie brand continues to instill investor confidence with solid performance. In the first quarter, the Barbie brand’s worldwide gross billings witnessed an improvement of 8% on a reported basis and 12% at cc.Shares of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company have gained 19.7% in the past year against the industry’s decline of 17.7%. Its 2022 earnings are anticipated to increase 13.9%. In the past 90 days, the earnings estimates for 2022 have been revised upward by 1.4%.Price & Consensus: MATHasbro: Headquartered in Pawtucket, RI, Hasbro is engaged in the design, manufacture and marketing of games and toys. Hasbro has been witnessing strong gaming demand amid the coronavirus crisis. The company has a top gaming portfolio, and it is refining gaming experiences across a multitude of platforms like face-to-face gaming, tabletop gaming and digital gaming experiences on mobile. Given a strong product lineup and a greater focus on entertainment-backed products, Hasbro's Entertainment and Licensing segment is poised for growth.Shares of this Zacks Rank #3 company have declined 9.9% in the past year. The company’s sales for 2022 are anticipated to increase 3.1%. In the past 30 days, earnings estimates for 2022 have been revised upward by 3%.Price & Consensus: HAS Bitcoin, Like the Internet Itself, Could Change Everything Blockchain and cryptocurrency has sparked one of the most exciting discussion topics of a generation. Some call it the “Internet of Money” and predict it could change the way money works forever. If true, it could do to banks what Netflix did to Blockbuster and Amazon did to Sears. Experts agree we’re still in the early stages of this technology, and as it grows, it will create several investing opportunities. Zacks’ has just revealed 3 companies that can help investors capitalize on the explosive profit potential of Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies with significantly less volatility than buying them directly. See 3 crypto-related stocks now >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Hasbro, Inc. (HAS): Free Stock Analysis Report Mattel, Inc. (MAT): Free Stock Analysis Report JAKKS Pacific, Inc. (JAKK): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here......»»

Category: topSource: zacksMay 10th, 2022

The best gaming consoles in 2022: The PS5 edges out Xbox and Switch with its exclusive games, unique controller, and 3D audio

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all have new consoles for the next-generation of video games — here's the best gaming console for you. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Xbox; Sony; Nintendo; Rachel Mendelson/InsiderVideo game console sales continue to soar, thanks to a new generation of excellent devices released by industry giants Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles are now approaching 18-months-old and have set sales records for both Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo released the Switch OLED in October 2021, an updated model of its portable console that continues to see steady sales five years after the release of the original Switch.With prices ranging from $200 to $500, buying a new video game console is an investment. The best game console for how you want to play will vary based on your budget, your favorite types of games, and whether you need a gaming console to be the center of your entertainment or streaming setup.I have been playing with and testing video game hardware for 15 years, and I've had ample time with the latest consoles since their releases. Below, I have detailed what each of the major consoles is best at, and which you should choose based on our hands-on experience and past reviews.Here are the best gaming consoles in 2022:Best gaming console overall: PlayStation 5, $499.99, available at TargetThe PlayStation 5's library of blockbuster exclusive games, 3D audio, and unique DualSense controller make it the best console for most gamers.Best portable gaming console: Nintendo Switch OLED, $349.99 at TargetThe Switch's ability to seamlessly transition between portable and docked gameplay remains impressive and its low price point make it a great choice for casual players. However, it lacks the power to play some of the most popular games on Xbox and PlayStation.Best gaming console for multimedia: Xbox Series X, $499, available at TargetXbox Series X is the ideal centerpiece for your home entertainment system, matching the PlayStation 5 in power and offering a better user experience with perks like Xbox Game Pass.Best budget gaming console: Xbox Series S, $289.99, available at WalmartThe Xbox Series S is an excellent device for its price point, but lacks a disk drive and has low storage space. Players who don't mind compromising performance for price should be plenty satisfied. Best gaming console overallPlayStation Five (PS5)BI Photo Isabel Fernandez PujolPlayStation 5 (All Digital)$399.99 FROM BEST BUY$399.99 FROM AMAZON$399.99 FROM TARGET$399.99 FROM GAMESTOPPlayStation 5 (Standard)$499.99 FROM BEST BUY$499.99 FROM AMAZON$499.99 FROM TARGET$499.99 FROM GAMESTOPThanks to its powerful hardware and Sony's blockbuster exclusives, the PlayStation 5 offers the best console gaming experience.Pros: Incredibly fast solid state drive, industry-leading graphics, unique DualSense controllerCons: Large design takes up a lot of space, slightly less storage and raw graphics power than the Xbox Series X, low stock due to demandReleased in November 2020, the PS5 set a new standard for video game consoles with its M.2 solid state drive (a format among the fastest storage to date), DualSense controller, and support for 4K resolution at a 120Hz refresh rate (or how many times a screen's image refreshes per second). A long awaited update adding variable refresh rate to the PS5 was released in April 2022.Along with a growing list of PlayStation 5 exclusives, the console has access to thousands of backwards-compatible PlayStation 4 games. PS5 owners who subscribe to the standard version of Sony's PlayStation Plus service will get access to more than a dozen classic PS4 games right away, and more games are added to the PS+ collection each month.The PS5 will automatically upscale PS4 games when possible, boosting frame rates and overall resolution. Even games with support for the powerful PS4 Pro, like "The Last of Us Part II"  and "Ghost of Tsushima," can see improvements on PS5.PlayStation's exclusive game franchises, like "Ratchet & Clank," "Spider-Man," and "God of War," use the unique features of the DualSense controller, like haptic vibration feedback and a built-in microphone. These exclusive games and features give the PS5 an edge over the Xbox Series X and make the console hard to skip for gamers who want to play the latest blockbuster releases. Sony is still working to make the PlayStation's digital game library as robust as Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live. PlayStation Plus Premium will launch in June 2022 and let players subscribe to a library of games that's bigger than Xbox Game Pass, but it won't include newly released games the way Microsoft's service does. Online play and communicating with friends on PlayStation is still an easy process when compared to the Nintendo Switch.PS5 also outclasses the Switch as a home entertainment device, thanks to its 4K Blu-ray playback and support for most streaming apps. However, if you think you'll be using your console as a streaming media center as well, you should consider the Xbox Series X.The PlayStation 5 comes in two versions: the $500 standard model and the $400 Digital Edition. The Digital Edition does not have a Blu-ray drive, but the consoles are otherwise the same. We recommend picking up the standard edition if you want to buy physical games or have a collection of old PS4 games.Read our full PS5 review hereBest portable gaming consoleNintendoNintendo Switch Lite$199.00 FROM AMAZON$199.99 FROM BEST BUYNintendo Switch OLED$349.99 FROM BEST BUY$349.00 FROM GAMESTOP$349.99 FROM AMAZONThe Nintendo Switch OLED offers great value for a portable console, boasting TV support and a huge library to satisfy gamers of all types.Pros: Great value, Joy-Cons provide two controllers out of the box, popular Nintendo titles, portable and docked modesCons: Online play is limited compared to Xbox and PlayStation, Joy-Con drift issues occasionally require controller repairs or replacementThe Nintendo Switch's hybrid portable design has made it wildly popular; you can take it on the go and play games in 720p on the small screen or connect it to your TV with the included dock for a full 1080p HD gaming experience. The $350 Switch OLED is the newest version of the console, incorporating a larger, brighter OLED screen, an improved kickstand, and slightly better audio for $50 more than the original device.Both Switch OLED and the $300 standard Switch come with two removable Joy-Cons that can be used as individual motion controllers, making it ideal for playing with a friend while on the go. Nintendo Switch games come in durable cartridges rather than on Blu-ray discs, making them easy to store in a case and travel with. The console also has expandable storage via MicroSD card, so you can boost the fairly small 32GB internal storage by up to 2TB to store more digital games.The $200 Switch Lite is an ideal choice for solo portable play, but it lacks the ability to connect to a TV and it doesn't use removable Joy-Con controllers. The portable screen is only 13% smaller than the standard Switch, and the Lite is thinner and easier to hold. The Switch Lite battery lasts for about seven hours, while the standard and OLED Switch models can last for up to nine hours.If you plan to share your console with friends or family, you should definitely pay the extra money for the Switch OLED. The standard Switch's extra portable controllers, dock, and the TV output are already worth the money, and you'll get all the quality of life improvements that Nintendo made four years after the release of the original Switch by going OLED.Regardless, the Switch is still a capable home console with a large library that's especially great for families. Popular franchises, like "Super Mario," "The Legend of Zelda," and "Pokémon", can only be found on the Switch, and lots of classic games have been remastered for Nintendo's portable.No portable gaming console can compare to the Switch's library and value — it's just a matter of whether you want to invest in Switch OLED, the standard Switch, or Switch Lite.Of course, if you're just looking for a way to play games while you travel, you can stream games to your smartphone using a video game streaming service, like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Google's Stadia, or Amazon Luna and connect a controller to play.Read our Switch review here, and Switch Lite review here, and our Switch OLED review here.Best gaming console for multimediaBen Gilbert/Insider$499.99 FROM BEST BUY$499.99 FROM AMAZON$499.99 FROM TARGET$499.99 FROM MICROSOFTThe Xbox Series X excels as an entertainment hub with its 4K Blu-ray player, Dolby Vision streaming, and easy library sharing with Windows.Pros: Powerful gaming hardware, 4K Blu-ray playback, Dolby Vision HDR for streaming apps, movie and TV show purchases can be shared with Windows via Microsoft accountCons: Dolby Vision doesn't work when playing Blu-ray discs, movies purchased through the Xbox store can only be streamed to the console so no offline viewingThe Xbox Series X is a multimedia powerhouse, with support for 4K Blu-rays and most popular streaming apps. Unlike PlayStation, Xbox offers movies and TV shows through Microsoft's digital storefront, allowing you to build an entertainment library that can easily be shared with Windows PCs and tablets.Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Vision, a high dynamic range (HDR) format that helps compatible TVs enhance image quality with improved color accuracy and contrast. The feature can be used with video games as well as streaming apps, like Disney Plus and HBO Max. Unfortunately Blu-Ray discs played on the Xbox Series X can't use Dolby Vision, but can use the more common HDR10 format.Xbox Series X is HDMI-CEC compatible, so if your smart TV supports that technology, you should be able to use your TV remote to control the Xbox. In terms of settings, the Xbox Series X also offers a bit more control than the PS5 with its support for 1440p resolution (as well as 4K) and variable refresh rate on supported TVs.Also, the Xbox Series X is arguably more powerful than the PlayStation 5 in terms of performance, because of its slightly faster CPU processor and stronger graphics processor. But the PS5's exclusives and unique DualSense controller make it more appealing for most gamers. Still, if you're looking for a living room centerpiece, Xbox Series X will deliver the best possible experience for both games and movies.Xbox does have some major exclusive games on the way, especially after Microsoft's $1 billion acquisition of Bethesda Softworks, the company behind games like "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," Doom," and "Fallout." Microsoft launched "Halo Infinite" with a free multiplayer mode in 2021, helping it achieve the most popular launch in franchise history. Further down the line, Microsoft's recent $68.7 billion purchase of Activision-Blizzard should bring franchises like "Call of Duty" and "Diablo" exclusively to Xbox, too.Read our review of the Xbox Series X here.Best budget gaming consoleMicrosoft$299.99 FROM BEST BUY$289.99 FROM XBOXOriginally $299.99 | Save 3%$299.99 FROM TARGET$299.99 FROM GAMESTOPThe Xbox Series S benefits from Xbox Game Pass, backwards compatibility, and Microsoft's online services, offering great value for less money than the Xbox Series X.Pros: Great price for current hardware, support for Xbox Game Pass, backwards compatible with thousands of Xbox One and Xbox 360 gamesCons: No disc drive for games or Blu-rays, 364GB storage space can be filled quickly, can only be expanded with a special storage card from SeagateThis more budget-friendly Xbox console can play all the same games as the more powerful Xbox Series X with a few significant trade-offs. The Series S doesn't have a Blu-ray disc drive, so you'll be limited to digital games on the console's solid state drive.Xbox Series S has 364GB of storage space available for games after installing the operating system, and you can buy an expansion card to add another 1TB. While this pales in comparison to the Series X's 802GB of space, it's significantly more than the 32GB offered by the original Nintendo Switch.Xbox Series S and Switch share the same price, but budget-focused gamers will get more value out of the Xbox's multimedia features and other benefits, particularly Xbox Game Pass. For $10 per month, Game Pass gives subscribers a library of more than 100 games, including access to new Microsoft games, like "Halo: Infinite" and "Gears 5," the same day they're released.The Xbox Series S doesn't have the same level of graphics performance as the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, so it's best to save for those consoles if you're worried you won't have the best visual quality. The Series S does support 4K resolution playback though, unlike the Switch.Read our review of the Xbox Series S here.Check out our other gaming guidesFuture Publishing / Contributor / Getty ImagesThe best Nintendo Switch accessoriesThe best Nintendo Switch gamesThe best Nintendo Switch controllersThe best iOS gaming controllersThe gaming laptopsThe best gaming PCsRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 2nd, 2022

Scientific Games (SGMS) Expands Footprint in North America

Scientific Games (SGMS) was among the first companies to launch its product offering in Canada as iGaming Ontario officially launched its regulated online gaming market for private operators. Scientific Games Corporation SGMS has expanded its footprint in North America with the launch of its gaming platform in Ontario, Canada. The company, currently doing business as Light & Wonder, expects the geographic expansion to strengthen its position in emerging markets and establish itself as the leading cross-platform global gaming firm in the long run.As iGaming Ontario – an agency of the Government of Ontario – officially launched its regulated online gaming market for private operators on Apr 4, 2022, Scientific Games was among the first companies to tap this opportunity and launch its product offering adhering to the compliance standards of the regulator. This, in turn, will extend the reach of its content and technology platform OpenGaming and will make its top-performing games from in-house studios widely available to gaming buffs in the region. These include a repository of more than 3,500 games supported by a comprehensive range of responsible gambling tools for a safe and enjoyable gaming experience for players.The company has embarked on a series of strategic steps over the past few months to transform itself into a cross-platform global gaming entity. Notable endeavors include the divestiture of its Lottery and Sports Betting businesses and the proposed rechristening of its corporate name to Light & Wonder, reflecting its focus on gaming content, hardware and systems that connect to iconic titles.The transition marks a deliberate ploy to bring great game franchises to players on the go, including games in land-based casinos, online and mobile and in both real money and free-to-play social gaming markets. Scientific Games aims to operate under the new name from Spring 2022 and correspondingly change its ticker symbol to LNW.However, a sluggish macroeconomic condition in international markets like China is a headwind for Scientific Games. The company derived almost 31% of 2021 revenues from sales to customers outside the United States. We believe lackluster growth in such major markets will remain an overhang on the stock.Nevertheless, we remain impressed with the inherent growth potential of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.SGMS has gained 28.7% over the past year compared with the industry’s growth of 7.8%.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchRimini Street, Inc. RMNI, sporting a Zacks Rank #1, is a solid pick within the broader industry classification. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 10% and delivered an earnings surprise of 60.4%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Earnings estimates for the current year for Rimini have moved up 16% since August 2021. The company offers premium integrated application management and support services that enable enterprise software licensees to save significant costs, free up resources and achieve better business outcomes.Benefitfocus, Inc. BNFT, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), is another key pick for investors. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 30% and delivered a modest earnings surprise of 84.4%, on average, in the trailing four quarters. Earnings estimates for the current fiscal have moved up 53.3% since April 2021, while that for the next fiscal is up 75% over the same time frame.Benefitfocus offers innovative SaaS solutions, which help to simplify the complexity of operations while unlocking the potential for better health and improved outcomes. Over the past six months, it has gained 17.3%.Mimecast Limited MIME is a Zacks Rank #2 stock. It has a long-term earnings growth expectation of 15% and delivered an earnings surprise of 14.6%, on average, in the trailing four quarters.Over the past year, Mimecast has gained 97.2%. Earnings estimates for the current fiscal have moved up 19% since April 2021, while that for the next fiscal is up 13.8% over the same time frame. Mimecast aims to help firms from malicious activity, human error and technology failure for building a more resilient organization. Special Report: The Top 5 IPOs for Your Portfolio Today, you have a chance to get in on the ground floor of one of the best investment opportunities of the year. As the world continues to benefit from an ever-evolving internet, a handful of innovative tech companies are on the brink of reaping immense rewards - and you can put yourself in a position to cash in. One is set to disrupt the online communication industry. Brilliantly designed for creating online communities, this stock is poised to explode when made public. With the strength of our economy and record amounts of cash flooding into IPOs, you don’t want to miss this opportunity.>>See Zacks’ Hottest IPOs NowWant the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Scientific Games Corp (SGMS): Free Stock Analysis Report Benefitfocus, Inc. (BNFT): Free Stock Analysis Report Mimecast Limited (MIME): Free Stock Analysis Report Rimini Street, Inc. (RMNI): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here......»»

Category: topSource: zacksApr 8th, 2022

Exploring eXp: Splits, Caps, Commissions and Everything You Wanted to Know About the Virtual Brokerage

Maybe it is the company’s sleek, 21st century branding and focus on virtual rather than physical space. Maybe it is a recent meteoric rise (from 1,000 agents in March of 2016 to 70,000 at the end of last year). Maybe it is a ubiquitous marketing and recruitment strategy, driven by internal incentives that pay agents […] The post Exploring eXp: Splits, Caps, Commissions and Everything You Wanted to Know About the Virtual Brokerage appeared first on RISMedia. Maybe it is the company’s sleek, 21st century branding and focus on virtual rather than physical space. Maybe it is a recent meteoric rise (from 1,000 agents in March of 2016 to 70,000 at the end of last year). Maybe it is a ubiquitous marketing and recruitment strategy, driven by internal incentives that pay agents for bringing in other agents. Most likely, it is a combination of these things that has made eXp Realty a target of both scrutiny, imitation and questions within the industry, as real estate professionals have sought to understand a company explicitly designed to upend the “traditional brokerage.” But what is eXp, really, behind and beyond the sharp marketing? Is the model revolutionary, and does the company’s commitment to a non-physical, multi-national brokerage sacrifice other important supports and tools for agents? The company Founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Glenn Sanford and going public in 2015, eXp has rejected several preconceptions of the real estate industry—most notably, the need for any sort of physical office where agents work and meet clients. eXp says “a few” brick-and-mortar locations exist, while most agents use shared offices or work from home. John Yen Wong, an eXp associate broker in the San Francisco Bay area, tells RISMedia that while that decision appeared fraught a decade ago, it looks prescient now. “All of a sudden, the story about not having a giant office was no longer the giant hurdle that it once was,” he says. eXp agents, brokers, trainers and employees mostly meet in a persistent, virtual world—not a science-fiction photorealistic CGI hub, but something with the look of a videogame from the mid-2000s. Both formal and less formal interactions can happen in this space, all using relatively accessible technology—mid-range laptops or tablets, with a microphone. While this might be enough to draw in (or turn away) some people, depending on their comfort with technology and level of independence, the first questions most agents and brokers ask when looking at a new company are likely going to be based on money. That was the case with one former eXp agent interviewed by RISMedia, who asked that their name be withheld so they could speak candidly about their time at the company. Relatively new to the industry, they were drawn in by eXp’s very affordable $85 monthly brokerage fee ($149 due at sign up, which includes the first month). “That’s one of the reasons why I chose eXp,” they said. “That $85 a month was really a big plus for me.” eXp operates with an 80/20 commission split for agents with a $16,000 annual cap, though even after reaching it they continue to pay a handful of other fees to the company, starting with $250 per transaction until the agent reaches another annual cap ($5,000), after which that fee drops to $75 per transaction. Agents also pay a minimum of 25% commission to their team leader, which goes toward the team leader’s annual cap. The former agent says they were not aware of most of the fees until they witnessed the conclusion of a transaction after joining eXp and felt disappointed seeing the final take-home check for an agent. “That’s my bad, I guess,” they laugh. eXp CEO Jason Gesing, in an emailed statement to RISMedia, referred to a presentation on the company’s website that includes all the specific transaction fees—thought it does not make mention of team-related splits. Prospective agents are also told “in multiple written and verbal ways” about the fees, he says. There are no franchises at eXp—the company operates as one large, connected entity. Wong says this is another area where eXp initially took some criticism, but which later turned out to be a positive in the evolving industry. “There was a fear at the time of being perceived as one giant company taking over everything,” he remembers. “The perception in general around anti-trust seems a little bit different .” Huge multinational companies and brands like Google, Amazon and Facebook have allowed consumers to just become generally more comfortable around behemoth corporations (though some of that goodwill has waned in recent years, Wong points out). Instead of franchises, eXp currently offers three different types of team structures, with one serving smaller groups, one for larger groups and one flexible option. The company also runs a program called “ICON” for those who meet incentive goals, which offers stock bonuses and recognition for top-performing agents. The “Traditional Team,” which the company describes as its most common format, has less than 10 agents and needs to have closed either 30+ transactions or $6 million in volume during a calendar year. Agents only must pay $8,000 to meet their cap and get to 100% commission, though they will not be eligible for the ICON Program if they do. The “Mega ICON Team,” as its name implies, is for larger groups—ten or more, specifically. Agent’s $16,000 cap is reduced to $4,000, but the team must reach $56,000 in annual commission paid (and if they don’t, the team leader pays the difference and they become a Traditional Team for the next year). These teams must also close 175 homes or $40 million annually, and all agents must be based within 100 miles of their team leader (or have a satellite team leader with a higher cap). Finally, a “Self-Organized Team” allows a team to join without any of these requirements or benchmarks—any commission split is fine, though there is no reduction to the $16,000 cap. Another part of the company that has been scrutinized by outsiders, eXp’s “revenue sharing” program has sometimes been compared to multi-level marketing programs, as agents receive residual compensation for recruiting other agents to the company. Seemingly aware of this perception, Google searches for things like “eXp pyramid scheme” turn up a handful of long-form articles and blogs by eXp agents or employees explaining the details of the program and pushing back against these labels. The way the system works is complicated and eXp has dedicated a good amount of time and energy to explain the specifics. On the most basic level, agents get a small percentage of the adjusted gross commission income (AGCI) of other agents they “sponsor” to join the company and anyone that person sponsors (and so on). They can earn larger percentages if they have enough recruits in any of these “tiers” (meaning degrees of separation from the original agent). Sponsored agents must be active—earning $5,000 or closing two transactions every six months—to be part of another agent’s downline. In reality, the revenue sharing does not appear to be a significant proportion of most agents’ compensation. Numbers released by the brokerage show that the average payout an agent received through the program in 2020 was somewhere around $2,000, though theoretically it could be much larger. Gesing says the company gives back 50% of annual revenue through the program, a total of $220 million in 2021. Another eXp offering is the opportunity to be paid in company stock, bought at a 10% discount, with up to 5% of an agent’s total compensation available this way. Wong says this program, which launched right after the company went public, not only serves to keep agents involved in the company’s success but is simply a more lucrative compensation plan from the get-go based on the discount. “You’ve already made 10% off your money,” he says. There is no vesting period for this stock, according to Gesing (some stock disbursed through the ICON program does have a multi-year vesting period) and about a quarter of all eXp agents have opted into the program. eXp stock has been up and down recently, rocketing almost 2,000% during the first year of the pandemic before falling precipitously over the last year. The experience Of course, a brokerage is more than what it pays and what perks it offers. Wong says that eliminating all physical spaces and building a virtual world will necessarily require adjustment and come with tradeoffs to some degree. “It’s not a problem that’s unique to ,” he claims. “The virtual environment, I had some skepticism.” Like any new space—virtual or physical—it takes some getting used to, but Wong says that learning the layout and simply practicing moving around in it was enough to show just how much the platform could offer. “I found that to get an answer when I needed it, it was immediate. But I had to have the initiative to kind of find out where to go,” he says. “Same as if you were a new agent at the old traditional model.” While Wong admits the current build of the meta-world is “cartoony,” he sees the underlying function of it as having incredible power to eliminate inefficiencies and connect people, adding that eXp has the ability and desire to upgrade its platform (the company owns the developer of “eXp World” and has plenty of cash on hand). For the former agent, some of their struggles were at least partially attributable to the isolation of virtual space, they said. Hoping for a quick start and training on eXp’s systems, they described being essentially left to their own devices almost from day one. “I didn’t think there was enough support for me,” they say. “My mentor, he said he was going to have enough time for us—I don’t think he thought realistically about what it was like to bring on a new agent.” Getting even basic questions answered was hard, and the mentor became less responsive as time went on, they say.  Another person who ran trainings also oversaw a huge number of agents in the region and was hard to reach as well, they add. The virtual eXp world can accommodate 1,000 agents or more at a time for a lecture, Gesing says—though it is also used regularly for small teams. What the former agent says they wanted, being new to the brokerage and relatively new to the industry, was to “shadow” more experienced people at the company—directly observing every single step of their process, from their presentations to their staging to how they pitched FSBOs. That just didn’t happen, they said. Gesing says that the mentorship program has had a “great response” overall at the company. Mentors need to have a certain amount of experience at eXp and are self-selected, he explains, and are paired with agents based on MLS and location to walk them through their first three transactions. “The mentor’s objective is to provide guidance in a practical, hands-on way and to lead new eXp agents through each step of the process,” Gesing says. “It provides valuable one-on-one learning opportunities to further ensure our agents’ success.” RISMedia was recently taken on a guided tour of eXp World (a shared Zoom screen of an eXp employee exploring the virtual world). Though it was hard to determine performance in this format, the world offered some incredibly granular options for customization, from accessing internet browsers on virtual workstations within the virtual world, to setting up sound-proof chat rooms in offices that could project video footage on walls. eXp Senior Marketing Director Jennifer Van Burkleo, who led the tour, says that new agents have their names highlighted in a certain color so others can help them out when they first join. They are also dropped off right near an info desk (staffed 24/7) and a map. Most virtual rooms seemed like they were accessed through a series of drop-down menus—teleporting user’s avatars instantly—though other spaces could be accessed just by walking. Interviews for staff positions are conducted in the virtual world, Van Burkleo says, and the software receives regular updates—recently giving avatars a passive blinking animation. Right now, the main eXp World requires downloaded software—that is, the program must be installed on a specific device rather than accessed anywhere through a browser or app. But a beta version of the world that can accommodate 200 people at a time is already available through any web browser, allowing smaller groups of agents or staff to use the space for their own purposes (separate from the persistent, main world). For the former agent, their first experiences in eXp World felt odd, clunky and off-putting, with technical issues on one device tablet while not running at all on another. The former agent compares the program to “The Sims,” a popular open-world video game series where players follow simulated people through their daily lives. Training within the virtual world felt like a big online college lecture, with little interaction or energy. “It took a while to find out specific destinations,” they say. “It wasn’t personal.” Wong says he believes there are ways that eXp can better help agents understand the model, and understand the functions of the company—both the specifics of the virtual world and the reasoning behind why it operates the way it does. With 40 years of experience in the real estate industry, he knows that he has a different perspective, having spent decades consulting with various companies on how to structure a real estate business. “That’s me—you’re going to find that the majority of real estate agents in the world don’t get as granular as me; that’s just my nature. But what I am doing is helping the people on my team and others,” he says. The big picture According to Wong, eXp has created a structure that fulfilled many of the important innovations he explored when consulting with and studying real estate businesses, specifically concerning compensation structures and expenses. Physical space in particular has been “a giant burden” for decades, he claims. “You have nice offices—it’s wonderful for getting somebody to come to your company but once they’re in, they’re rarely there,” he explains. “So it was an expense that was okay when the market was strong, but when the market turned, it was a burden that was killing .” For the former eXp agent, the most important thing was the smaller support structures that they felt were lacking from the get-go—a friendly face to interact with and a clear path to learning and success within the company. “Training is so important, there’s such a learning curve in real estate,” they say. “There’s so much to it…all these steps, and not just for as an agent, but for their buyers and sellers—they should be trained really, really well.” Despite the less than stellar experience, the agent says they aren’t ruling out eXp in the future or cautioning others to avoid the company, only urging other agents to research other companies and make sure it is a good fit before signing on. “I would definitely tell them to be careful,” they say. “Just as a newer agent, they should be cautious.” Wong claims he spent two years researching eXp before he “made the jump,” when he was assured that the model was sound. He also lauds the revenue and stock sharing programs as thoughtful and an improvement of other companies that have tried profit-sharing incentives. “The way eXp does it, it’s pure. A dollar of GCI comes in, you get a percentage of that,” he says. As someone who is later in his career, Wong also points to the ability for brokers and agents to continue receiving their revenue share income after retirement and pass it on to family following their death or if they become disabled. He says that broadly, people understanding these benefits and opportunities is a great way to build a team and bring more real estate professionals together, particularly those who have the same sorts of goals and perspective on the industry. “Does everyone at eXp understand it to this level? No. I tend to be geeky,” he laughs. “But if I can see this and I can message it properly, then I can say this is the place to be.” Jesse Williams is RISMedia’s associate online editor. Email him your real estate news ideas, jwilliams@rismedia.com. The post Exploring eXp: Splits, Caps, Commissions and Everything You Wanted to Know About the Virtual Brokerage appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaApr 7th, 2022

2 Stocks Standing Out in the Internet Software & Services Industry

The Internet-Software & Services industry has been impacted by a decline in overall business levels as a result of the pandemic, but GLOB and VRSN are worth considering. The outlook for the Internet-Software & Services industry appears negative going by the estimate revision trend over the past year, driven largely by the pandemic. Some companies were, however, positively impacted by the pandemic and the rush-to-digitize trend that it gave rise to. The diversity of players in this group is the reason for this dissonance.Being the backbone of the digital economy, it’s hard to see this industry doing badly over the long term. However, the near-term outlook has deteriorated given the negative economic indicators, rising inflation and geopolitical tensions. To make matters worse, valuation remains high. Under the circumstances, Globant (GLOB) and Verisign (VRSN) are the only ones warranting a closer look. About The IndustryThe Internet Software & Services industry is a relatively small industry primarily involved in enabling platforms, networks, solutions and services for online businesses and facilitating customer interaction and use of Internet based services.  MajorThemes Driving the Industry:The overall impact of COVID has been mixed for the industry. Although it necessitated work from home for employees, the industry, being by nature tech-centric, had relatively fewer issues with this. On the other hand, business continuity concerns accelerated the shift to cloud-based working for many companies, while service providers, both work-related and otherwise, also moved to Internet-based channels. Another big segment that did humongous amounts of online business was retail. All of these moves were positive for the industry (in terms of revenue) and partially offset the negative impact of declining business at brick-and-mortar players. At least some of the positives will outlive the pandemic. In other cases, the return to physical operations is still ongoing, and hindered by new strains of the virus, inflation and other concerns.The geopolitical tensions in Europe have a bearing on oil prices and certain supply chains, and therefore, also on large segments of the economy. And some experts fear that the Fed’s actions to contain inflation could have a deflationary impact in the current environment. Since any improvement in the general level of economic growth improves prospects for the industry, the current environment is contributing to the negative outlook.The higher volume of business being operated through the cloud and the increasing demand for enabling software and services involves infrastructure buildout, which increases costs for players. This causes great fluctuations in profitability as new infrastructure is depreciated and fresh debt is serviced. So even for the players for whom revenue growth has accelerated, the pandemic exacerbated this situation leading to weak profitability in 2020 with 2021 growing slightly off 2020 levels but well short of 2019 levels.The level of technology adoption by businesses and the proliferation of connected consumer devices that might help people connect and do business online also impacts growth. The high penetration of mobile devices among users and the pandemic-driven necessity is driving more businesses to adopt technology that they earlier stayed away from because of the cost involved. This is positive for the industry.Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Continued ChallengesThe Zacks Internet – Software & Services industry is housed within the broader Zacks Computer and Technology sector. It carries a Zacks Industry Rank #161, which places it in the bottom 36% of more than 250 Zacks classified industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates that while the industry is recovering from pandemic-inflicted problems, certain issues remain.The industry’s positioning in the bottom 50% of Zacks-ranked industries is because the earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate continues to deteriorate. Looking at the aggregate estimate revisions, it appears that analyst confidence in the group’s earnings growth potential for 2022 has been on a more or less steady decline since last April. Over the past year, the 2022 average earnings estimate is down 42.9%. The estimate for 2023 slid even more, declining 51% from last April.Before we present a few stocks that you may want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.Industry's Stock Market Performance Is SufferingThe past year’s performance of the Zacks Internet – Software & Services Industry shows that it has mostly lagged the broader Zacks Computer and Technology Sector, as well as the S&P 500.The aggregate share price of the industry dropped 20.3% over the past year compared to the broader sector’s increase of 4.7% and the S&P 500’s increase of 13.0%.One-Year Price PerformanceImage Source: Zacks Investment ResearchIndustry's Current ValuationWhile many of the players are still making losses, the industry as a whole continues to generate profits. On the basis of forward 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, we see that the industry is currently trading at 62.7X, just below its median level of 62.8X over the past year. The S&P 500’s P/E is 20.2X (median value over the past year is 21.6X). The industry is also overvalued compared to the sector’s forward-12-month P/E of 24.8X (close to its lowest point of 24.2X over the past year).The industry has traded in the annual range of 59.51X to 77.89X, as the chart below shows.Forward 12 Month Price-to-Earnings (P/E) RatioImage Source: Zacks Investment Research2 Stocks Worth ConsideringGlobant S.A. GLOB: Luxembourg-based Globant offers a broad range of technology services covering engineering, design and innovation. These services are used in ecommerce and other product distribution-related systems; finance-related systems; and game and graphic engineering systems. It also offers a range of other services. Since these services facilitate the digital transformation of companies, Globant is positioned to grow for years to come.Globant has a roster of big clients and it continues to target big customers. Additionally, it seeks to deepen relationships with these big customers to generate a steady flow of revenue. This is evident from the fact that its clientele grew 42% in 2021 with clients spending over $1 million growing 43%.This Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) company is up 23.1% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the 2022 EPS increased 44 cents (9.8%) in the last 60 days. The estimate for 2023 increased 49 cents (8.8%).Price and Consensus: GLOBImage Source: Zacks Investment ResearchVeriSign VRSN: VeriSign provides Internet infrastructure services, including primarily domain name registry services and also infrastructure assurance services.Verisign is benefiting from a growing trend in new domain name registrations as well as price increases of up to 7% pursuant to the Third Amendment to the .com Registry Agreement with ICANN. The steady nature of the business that is tied to digital transformation leads to relatively steady cash flows. A couple of concerns include softening renewals of new/first-time renewal businesses (related to macro concerns and search algorithms) and competition from Google’s free public domain name service.This Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company is up 9.9% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the 2022 EPS is unchanged in the last 60 days while the estimate for 2023 is up a couple of cents.Price and Consensus: VRSNImage Source: Zacks Investment Research Just Released: The Biggest Tech IPOs of 2022 For a limited time, Zacks is revealing the most anticipated tech IPOs expected to launch this year. Concerns about Federal interest rates and inflation caused many private companies to stay on the bench- leading to companies with better brand recognition and higher growth rates getting into the game. With the strength of our economy and record amounts of cash flooding into IPOs, you don’t want to miss this opportunity. See the complete list today.>>See Zacks Hottest IPOs NowWant the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report VeriSign, Inc. (VRSN): Free Stock Analysis Report Globant S.A. (GLOB): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksApr 5th, 2022

2 Stocks Standing Out In The Internet Software & Services Industry

The Internet-Software & Services industry has been impacted by a decline in overall business levels as a result of the pandemic, but GLOB and VRSN are worth considering. The outlook for the Internet-Software & Services industry appears negative going by the estimate revision trend over the past year, driven largely by the pandemic. Some companies were however positively impacted by the pandemic and the rush-to-digitize trend that it gave rise to. The diversity of players in this group is the reason for this dissonance. Being the backbone of the digital economy, it’s hard to see this industry doing badly over the long term. However, the near-term outlook has deteriorated given the negative economic indicators, rising inflation and geopolitical tensions. To make matters worse, valuation remains high. Under the circumstances, Globant (GLOB) and Verisign (VRSN) are the only ones warranting a closer look.About The IndustryThe Internet Software & Services industry is a relatively small industry primarily involved in enabling platforms, networks, solutions and services for online businesses and facilitating customer interaction and use of Internet based services.Factors Driving The IndustryThe overall impact of COVID has been mixed for the industry. Although it necessitated work from home for employees, the industry, being by nature tech-centric, had relatively fewer issues with this. On the other hand, business continuity concerns accelerated the shift to cloud-based working for many companies, while service providers, both work-related and otherwise, also moved to Internet-based channels. Another big segment that did humongous amounts of online business was retail. All of these moves were positive for the industry (in terms of revenue) and partially offset the negative impact of declining business at brick-and-mortar players. At least some of the positives will outlive the pandemic. In other cases, the return to physical operations is still ongoing, and hindered by new strains of the virus, inflation and other concerns.The geopolitical tensions in Europe have a bearing on oil prices and certain supply chains, and therefore, also on large segments of the economy. And some experts fear that the Fed’s actions to contain inflation could have a deflationary impact in the current environment. Since any improvement in the general level of economic growth improves prospects for the industry, the current environment is contributing to the negative outlook.  The higher volume of business being operated through the cloud and the increasing demand for enabling software and services involves infrastructure buildout, which increases costs for players. This causes great fluctuations in profitability as new infrastructure is depreciated and fresh debt is serviced. So even for the players for whom revenue growth has accelerated, the pandemic exacerbated this situation leading to weak profitability in 2020 with 2021 growing slightly off 2020 levels but well short of 2019 levels.The level of technology adoption by businesses and the proliferation of connected consumer devices that might help people connect and do business online also impacts growth. The high penetration of mobile devices among users and the pandemic-driven necessity is driving more businesses to adopt technology that they earlier stayed away from because of the cost involved. This is positive for the industry.Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Continued ChallengesThe Zacks Internet – Software & Services industry is housed within the broader Zacks Computer and Technology sector. It carries a Zacks Industry Rank #200, which places it in the top 21% of more than 250 Zacks classified industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates that while the industry is recovering from pandemic-inflicted problems, certain issues remain.The industry’s positioning in the bottom 50% of Zacks-ranked industries is because the earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate continues to deteriorate. Looking at the aggregate estimate revisions, it appears that analyst confidence in the group’s earnings growth potential for 2022 has been on a more or less steady decline since last April. Over the past year, the 2022 average earnings estimate is down 42.9%. The estimate for 2023 slid even more, declining 51% from last April.Before we present a few stocks that you may want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.Industry's Stock Market Performance Is SufferingThe past year’s performance of the Zacks Internet – Software & Services Industry shows that it has mostly lagged the broader Zacks Computer and Technology Sector, as well as the S&P 500.Aggregate share price of the industry dropped 22.7% over the past year compared to the broader sector’s increase of 6.3% and the S&P 500’s increase of 15.0%.One-Year Price PerformanceImage Source: Zacks Investment ResearchIndustry's Current ValuationWhile many of the players are still making losses, the industry as a whole continues to generate profits. So on the basis of forward 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, we see that the industry is currently trading at 60.6X, close to its highest multiple of 64.6X over the past year. The S&P 500’s P/E is 20.25X (21.66X at its median value). The industry is also overvalued compared to the sector’s forward-12-month P/E of 24.74X (close to its lowest point over the past year).The industry has traded in the annual range of 64.57X to 77.89X, as the chart below shows.Forward 12 Month Price-to-Earnings (P/E) RatioImage Source: Zacks Investment Research2 Stocks Worth ConsideringGlobant S.A. GLOB: Luxembourg-based Globant offers a broad range of technology services covering engineering, design and innovation. These services are used in ecommerce and other product distribution-related systems; finance-related systems; and game and graphic engineering systems. It also offers a range of other services. Since these services facilitate the digital transformation of companies, Globant is positioned to grow for years to come.Globant has a roster of big clients and it continues to target big customers. Additionally, it seeks to deepen relationships with these big customers to generate a steady flow of revenue. This is evident from the fact that its clientele grew 42% in 2021 with clients spending over $1 million growing 43%.This Zacks Rank #2 company is up 24.8% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the 2022 EPS increased 44 cents (9.8%) in the last 60 days. The estimate for 2023 increased 49 cents (8.8%).Price and Consensus: GLOBImage Source: Zacks Investment ResearchVeriSign VRSN: VeriSign provides Internet infrastructure services, including primarily domain name registry services and also infrastructure assurance services.Verisign is benefiting from a growing trend in new domain name registrations as well as price increases of up to 7% pursuant to the Third Amendment to the .com Registry Agreement with ICANN. The steady nature of the business that is tied to digital transformation leads to relatively steady cash flows. A couple of concerns include softening renewals of new/first-time renewal businesses (related to macro concerns and search algorithms) and competition from Google’s free public domain name service.This Zacks Rank #2 company is up 10.2% over the past year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the 2022 EPS is unchanged in the last 60 days while the estimate for 2023 is up a couple of cents.Price and Consensus: VRSNImage Source: Zacks Investment Research 5 Stocks Set to Double Each was handpicked by a Zacks expert as the #1 favorite stock to gain +100% or more in 2021. Previous recommendations have soared +143.0%, +175.9%, +498.3% and +673.0%. Most of the stocks in this report are flying under Wall Street radar, which provides a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor.Today, See These 5 Potential Home Runs >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report VeriSign, Inc. (VRSN): Free Stock Analysis Report Globant S.A. (GLOB): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksApr 1st, 2022

These 3 Gaming Stocks Are Set To Climb the Leaderboards

After the record-breaking number of online players in 2020 and 2021, the video game industry has significantly evolved, shifting the landscape and bringing in serious attention. Gaming has emerged as a trendy hobby, allowing players to seamlessly connect and communicate with one another across the globe at the click of a few buttons. The industry was developing steadily until it saw an enormous boom stemming from lockdowns during COVID-19.After the record-breaking number of online players in 2020 and 2021, the industry has significantly evolved, shifting the landscape and bringing in serious attention.For example, tech giant Apple AAPL is rumored to be in the development of a gaming console, Meta Platforms FB owns the widely-hailed VR gaming company Oculus, and Microsoft MSFT has just made a massive acquisition this year of leading video game publisher Activision Blizzard ATVI.To capitalize on the future upside this industry brings, let’s look at three stocks that currently have video game and related operations and analyze how they shape up to benefit in this rapidly growing industry.NintendoNintendo NTDOY is a worldwide leader in game development and publishing. A few of its beloved game franchises include familiar names such as Donkey Kong, Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Brothers. The Nintendo Switch, the company’s flagship console, has been a massive hit across the globe. As of December 2021, the console’s unit sales surpassed 103 million, becoming its best-selling home console of all time in just four years after release and pushing its famous Wii out of the top spot.NTDOY’s gaming revenue saw a remarkable increase from 2020 to 2021, jumping 37% and raking in $16.5 billion, boosted by Nintendo’s library of 29 titles that have sold over a million copies. NTDOY has a loaded video game release lineup for this year, including The Legend of Zelda – Breath of The Wild 2; the first installment ranks as the number five video game of all time and is one of Nintendo’s all-time best sellers. The 2022 lineup also includes many other hit classics, such as new installments in the Pokémon series and the beloved Super Mario Brothers that are expected to bring substantial sales.Nintendo has seen its current full-year consensus estimate trend increase 6.2% to $3.90 per share over the last 60 days, and next year’s trend has increased nearly 12% to $3.99 per share. The company boasts a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and has a trailing average EPS surprise of 86% over the last four quarters. Additionally, Nintendo is reaching out further than just video gaming, utilizing the reach of theme parks and character-related merchandise to bring attention to its brand.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchWith fully-established operations, a highly anticipated 2022 video game lineup, and an extensive gaming library that includes all-time classics, the company stands to fully benefit from the industry’s booming growth. NTDOY would be an excellent stock for investors looking to ride the wave of gaming.MSFTMicrosoft MSFT burst onto the gaming scene with its legendary Xbox gaming console in 2001. Two legendary franchises they own are Halo and Minecraft, and by acquiring Activision Blizzard in January, it bolstered its game library even more.Last year, MSFT launched its next-generation Xbox X | S consoles that came out of the gate with serious performance upgrades from its previous Xbox One. As of January this year, it’s estimated that MSFT has shipped out nearly 12 million units of the new consoles, displaying the popularity and well-received nature of the product.Microsoft intends to publish all Activision Blizzard games onto its Xbox Game Pass, a service with over 25 million subscribers that costs a low monthly fee of $9.99. ATVI’s gaming library, which has over 400 million monthly active players is expected to boost Microsoft’s gaming revenue, a metric that increased 8% in Q2. Xbox hardware revenue grew 4% in Q2, and overall, gaming revenue grew 33% year-over-year from 2020 to 2021. Additionally, the company has ventured into cloud gaming, a space that is quickly becoming highly competitive and lucrative.The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has increased nearly 2% to $9.31 per share, and for next year, it has increased 3% to $10.67 per share. Microsoft is currently a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and has a four-quarter average EPS surprise of nearly 11%. Additionally, combining Microsoft’s Project xCloud with its Xbox Game Pass is expected to enhance its already competitive position in the gaming industry.Microsoft Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise Microsoft Corporation price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | Microsoft Corporation QuoteMicrosoft's future within gaming is very bright. With a fresh library of games established onto its innovative Xbox Game Pass, a new cutting-edge console, and pushing the boundaries of cloud gaming, it’s easy to see why MSFT would be an outstanding stock that provides ample video game industry exposure.NvidiaNvidia NVDA, the worldwide leader in visual computing technologies, is the last gaming-related stock that I believe provides excellent upside in the gaming space. While NVDA doesn’t actively develop video games, the company’s cutting-edge technology is found in a vast majority of modern gaming PCs and other gaming platforms.The chip giant posted record-breaking annual gaming revenue in FY22, up 61% to $12.5 billion. Its GeForce RTX 3050 desktop GPU boosted its stellar gaming sales in Q4, which saw massive demand due to its low $250 price tag. Nvidia has announced over 160 gaming and GeForce-based laptop designs and has integrated Nvidia Reflex technology to provide low latency gaming, an attribute gamers highly seek when making purchasing decisions.The current full-year earnings estimate has increased 7.5% to $5.55 over the last 60 days, and next year’s estimate has increased 7.8% to $6.37 per share. NVDA is currently a Zacks Rank #2 and boasts a 7% average EPS surprise over the last four quarters. Additionally, in its latest quarterly report, NVDA’s CEO said that it is seeing exceptional demand for its technology and that the company is propelling advances within gaming, one of today’s most impactful fields.Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchNvidia is positioned very nicely to reap the rewards of the booming industry. Record-breaking gaming revenue, a new line of cutting-edge gaming laptops, and strong demand for the company’s revolutionary technology are all significant factors that make NVDA a strong portfolio choice for investors wanting a piece of the gaming pie. Additionally, NVDA is a more diverse way to obtain exposure to gaming without fully committing to a game-developing-only company. Just Released: Zacks Top 10 Stocks for 2022 In addition to the investment ideas discussed above, would you like to know about our 10 top buy-and-hold tickers for the entirety of 2022? Last year's 2021 Zacks Top 10 Stocks portfolio returned gains as high as +147.7%. Now a brand-new portfolio has been handpicked from over 4,000 companies covered by the Zacks Rank. Don’t miss your chance to get in on these long-term buysAccess Zacks Top 10 Stocks for 2022 today >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Apple Inc. (AAPL): Free Stock Analysis Report Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): Free Stock Analysis Report Activision Blizzard, Inc (ATVI): Free Stock Analysis Report NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA): Free Stock Analysis Report Meta Platforms, Inc. (FB): Free Stock Analysis Report Nintendo Co. (NTDOY): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksMar 24th, 2022

Apple removes copycat Wordle apps from its App Store after confusion over how to access the popular word game

Wordle has taken the internet by storm, prompting clone apps to pop up on the App Store in an effort to capitalize on the game's popularity. The word puzzle game "Wordle," which went viral in late 2021 and early 2022.Josh Wardle Wordle, a word puzzle game, is already one of the hottest internet crazes of the new year. App developers have been copying Wordle and putting their clone apps in the App Store. Apple recently took action against the dupes by removing them from the App Store. A word puzzle game has already become one of the hottest internet trends of the year and now copycats want a piece of the fame.Wordle, a web-based game where players have six tries to guess the five-letter word of the day, has gone viral on social media, where players have taken to sharing their mastery (or lack thereof) of the daily puzzle with the rest of the internet. But because Wordle's popularity has skyrocketed since it launched in November 2021, dupes are trying to capitalize on its success, prompting Apple to take action against clone apps. The tech company has started removing programs from its App Store that directly copy the game or that are named similarly in an effort to mislead users, according to Bloomberg.Unlike many other popular internet games, Wordle is only available on the game's website, and users do not need to download an app or create an account in order to play. One of the few apps left with Wordle in its title is "Wordle!," a time-based game that was made over five years ago by Steven Cravotta, Bloomberg reported. Cravotta's app received about 40,000 downloads during the first week of January, a 850% increase from the week before, according to data Bloomberg received from the mobile data and analytics firm App Annie. A direct iOS clone of Wordle was removed from the App Store on Thursday after the creator received backlash from Wordle fans online, Variety reported. Tech entrepreneur Zach Shakked created "Wordle — The App," which offered a similar game to the original with five, six, and seven-letter words and a "pro" mode with unlimited play for a $30 yearly subscription, according to Variety.Shakked released an apology on Twitter on Wednesday."I realize I crossed a line." Shakked wrote. "And I surely, surely will never do anything remotely close to this again."—Zach (@zachshakked) January 12, 2022According to Apple's developer guidelines, creators are encouraged to "come up with your own ideas" and cannot "simply copy the latest popular app on the App Store, or make some minor changes to another app's name or UI and pass it off as your own."Josh Wardle, a software engineer who lives in New York City, made Wordle. The game, a riff on his name, was created originally for his partner, Palak Shah, who likes word games, according to NPR.Wardle previously created a hit Reddit April Fools' Day joke back in 2015 called "The Button," Insider reported. However, unlike "The Button," Wordle offers a different way for people to stay connected and share their strategies with others."They'll have a family chat group where they share their Wordle results with one another," Wardle said in an interview with NPR. "And especially during COVID, it being a way for people to connect with friends and family that they couldn't otherwise see, and it just provides this really easy way to touch base with others."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 13th, 2022

Go, Team, Go: How Sports Can Shape Real Estate

Everyone knows someone (or is someone) that makes sports fandom a defining passion. From everyday choices like clothing to enormously important life events like weddings, these individuals dedicate tremendous energy, time and money to their favorite team, school or competition. But when it comes to the biggest financial decision of their lives, how much do […] The post Go, Team, Go: How Sports Can Shape Real Estate appeared first on RISMedia. Everyone knows someone (or is someone) that makes sports fandom a defining passion. From everyday choices like clothing to enormously important life events like weddings, these individuals dedicate tremendous energy, time and money to their favorite team, school or competition. But when it comes to the biggest financial decision of their lives, how much do sports factor in? Can the die-hard fans of a franchise or school redefine a real estate market? How do real estate professionals incorporate these incredible passions into their own lives and businesses? Like everything in the industry, the specifics depend on where you live. But in each disparate city, centered around stadiums or spread through historic neighborhoods bedecked in local colors, sports often draw new lines across the real estate landscape. Whether it is Main Street traditions stretching back 100 years or access to game-day celebrations, catering to sports fans has inexorably shaped how real estate functions—at least in some markets. Green Bay, Wisconsin, was originally occupied by the indigenous Menominee tribe, eventually colonized and settled by French farmers and fur traders. But the town of just over 100,000, sitting on the edge of Lake Michigan in the frigid northern midwest, is not as much known today for this history, its industry or geography. Since 1919, Green Bay has been the home of the Packers, now members of the National Football League (though the team actually came into being before the league). Considered a sort of holy city of football, the Packers lay claim to some of the most significant moments, players and developments in the sport, from hosting the 1967 “Ice Bowl” (with gametime temperatures at around -45 degrees Fahrenheit) to the iconic tradition of the “Lambeau Leap” (which sees players leaping into the arms of fans following a score). Ben Malcore, a broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Green Bay, is a lifetime fan of the Packers—truly and literally. His parents put him on the waiting list for season tickets at birth. Two decades later, Malcore received his tickets and has never looked back. “You see a lot of either former Wisconsinites or even people who are out of the county who are just sort of die-hard Packer fans investing in real estate in and around the stadium,” he says. Green Bay is particularly unique not just due to its history, but also due to its size and location. About 120 miles from the nearest metro in Milwaukee, the city does not check any of the boxes of a major sports market, and without the kind of amenities available and accessibility inherent to big coastal metros, the Packers themselves provide an anchor both practically and through the team’s culture in Green Bay. Everything from fancy outlet stores to hotels to tech companies have invested in the otherwise small-town market of Green Bay because of the Packers, Malcore says, including big tech companies like Microsoft. At the same time, average residents benefit from the presence of the Packers as well. Those with property near the stadium have put their kids through college by renting out their lawns as premium game-day parking. “Folks put out a sign—’Twenty bucks, restroom available, easy in, easy out.’ And you’re on the road to a small business,” Malcore laughs. “Oh, it’s crazy.” It is barely an exaggeration to say that Green Bay is owned by the iconic football team. The Packers in fact, developed their own condo district right next to the stadium, selling what Malcore described as “an integrated Packer experience” in 2,200 to 2,800-square-foot townhomes (priced from around $700,000 to $1 million). Malcore himself sold a couple of these homes—one to a former professional hockey player who wanted “to live Green Back Packers every day.” With a condo, residents get VIP access to various Packer amenities, including a winter tubing park, a Packers-themed football field, an ice-skating rink and invitations to ownership meetings (the Packers are unique in North American sports franchises in being a publicly traded, non-profit company rather than an individually owned or corporate entity). Green Bay is not the only place where real estate is defined by a team, or teams. Another much larger mid-Atlantic city in western Pennsylvania has seen its blue-collar, hard-bitten history and culture coalesce around sports fandoms. Pittsburgh has been Mark Handlovitch’s home his whole life, working on a horse farm when he was young before getting into real estate. When asked about the local sports fandoms, he quickly devolves into a passionate and far-reaching soliloquy, rattling off the names of neighborhoods where local stars grew up, telling stories of encounters with current or former players and describing tailgate scenes with the detail and depth of a renaissance painter. “These small steel towns, that’s where it really evolved from—it wasn’t the flashy ritzy neighborhoods. In Pittsburgh, it came from the deeply rooted steel towns and the steelworkers and the miners who went to work every day. And the roots are still there,” says Handlovitch. A great example of this is the city’s hockey franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team did not have the respect of Pittsburgh residents automatically, nearly forced to fold after a decade of mediocrity in the 1970s and early 1980s. But when a man named Mario Lemieux—a 6’4,’’ 240-pound son of a construction worker—joined the team in the mid-80s and began dominating the ice with a combination of deft skill and toughness (famously playing in a game the same day he received radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), Pittsburgh fans showed up. And they kept showing up too, becoming one of the most die-hard fan bases in the National Hockey League. Photo courtesy of Mark Handlovitch But the NFL’s Steelers (Handlovitch asks the name be spelled “Stielers” to reflect the local pronunciation) remain the city’s biggest draw. Knowing where to be on fall and winter game days (and pre-game days) is essential, he says. People often want to live on these routes—including a river shuttle service that operates even on sub-freezing winter weekends—if only for the spectacle of parades of black and gold (the team colors all three major Pittsburgh sports franchises). “You talk about tailgating—tailgating is everywhere here. It’s not just around the stadium,” he says. Movers and Shakers There is perhaps no one more dialed into both sports and real estate than Doug Walker of John L. Scott Real Estate in Seattle. For more than four decades, Walker managed the visiting clubhouse for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, traveling almost weekly to stadiums from Florida to Michigan (including working three Super Bowls) while simultaneously working as a real estate broker. Recently retired from the sports side of his work, Walker says understanding the intersection of both fandoms and the practical machinations of the sports world has been foundational to his real estate business. “A lot of what I do real estate-wise came from me being in professional locker rooms,” he says. Everyone from players and coaches to team support staff are constantly moving in the sports industry, and Walker says the connections he made working for the Seahawks created an incredibly powerful network of people looking for someone to help them buy or sell a house. “When you know somebody—their equipment manager has a friend who is moving to Seattle, they would call me up,” he says. “That network has been really a good source of referral business for us over the years. It’s kind of a fraternity—you have coaches that are always moving cities, and players and staff and friends.” That level of knowledge and connection is obviously unique, and not every real estate agent can get a part-time gig with a professional sports team. But integrating into the sports landscape, as Walker has, can help grow a real estate business in a plethora of ways. Adam Davis is an associate broker for RE/MAX Select in Portland, Oregon—a city that isn’t necessarily known for its sports fandoms. The NBA’s Trail Blazers, the MLS’ Timbers and the NWSL’s Thorns all maintain extremely passionate fan bases, and the college rivalry (known as the “Civil War”) between the University of Oregon and Oregon State remains red-hot in the area, he says. But Davis adds that a lot of his sports-related connections come from transplants moving to Portland who want to bring and share their disparate team loyalties in a new city. Photo courtesy of Kevin Dyer “Being a sports fan myself—either you’re in Portland so there are no sports to care about other than the Blazers and the Timbers, or you’re a sports fan in general,” he says. “So just being able to keep tabs on other teams gives me a little bit of an insight and a conversation to have with people who are coming from out of town.” Like in many cities, certain bars, restaurants and neighborhoods have organically developed to cater to fans of specific teams or schools, according to Davis. As a fan of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings himself, navigating the local scene of national sports loyalties is both difficult and important for his business. “I can recommend even down to the neighborhood where they can live in proximity to sports venues where they can watch their favorite games,” he says. “I can say, ‘If you wanna go watch a game, don’t go to this bar, because it’s not going to be a friendly audience.’” Hometown Heroes Maybe the most important part of sports to a real estate professional is personal and straightforward, and has nothing to do with estimating property values or calculating commute times on game days. In an industry where authenticity is everything, there is almost nothing as local and loved as sports, and someone who can bring their passions to that arena will always have a way to connect with his or her community. “It’s incomparable to me. It’s a giant party of like-minded individuals,” says Malcore of the Packers fandom. Handlovich says that in Pittsburgh, he can talk with nearly anyone about specific neighborhoods, towns and high schools where local sports heroes lived or grew up. He speaks excitedly about encountering local legends, and lists a handful of sports stars who actually made their names playing for other teams (Joe Namath, Mike Ditka) but grew up in Pittsburgh. He recalls specific moments—when Houston Oilers star Earl Campbell took an earth-shattering tackle from the Steelers Donnie Shell in 1978. The feeling of stocking up on game day food, drinks and snacks in the city’s famous Strip District—a concourse lined with historic and local businesses historically home to all the wholesale food peddlers—is something Hadlovich can describe in vivid detail to a Pittsburgh newcomer, or empathize with to others like him who grew up there. “Even the visitors come down go into the Strip District because the culture down there is amazing,” he says. “It’s the old stores, the old names on them that have been around for generations.” In Seattle, where stadium location and city layout isn’t as conducive to tailgating as some other cities, Walker says that the Seahawks, Major League Baseball’s Mariners and the NHL’s Kraken connect people across the region in a way that almost no other belief, habit or passion can. “The fan base here is huge, and the suburbs and the bars and restaurants are always really crowded,” he says. “Each community has their own venues…it’s a common denominator.” For those in real estate, all of this has tremendous value in building a brand and creating trust and lasting relationships with people. Walker says his local reputation as someone who worked for the Seahawks has directly resulted in people approaching him for the real estate needs, and “sports celebration venues” like garages and ADUs remain common. Davis says that one of the most fulfilling parts of his profession is connecting people with what they love and value in new living situations. Often buyers are resigned to losing some of the experiences they enjoyed in home-town fandoms when they move, or are afraid of feeling isolated from the overall sports landscape. Helping them hold onto those feelings can make all the difference, according to Davis. “Just learning that there are active sports fans here, it is a visible relief for people here, because it’s such an enjoyable pastime for them that they weren’t expecting to hold onto,” he says. Jesse Williams is RISMedia’s associate online editor. Email him your real estate news ideas to jwilliams@rismedia.com. The post Go, Team, Go: How Sports Can Shape Real Estate appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaJan 5th, 2022

The Metaverse - Much, Much Bigger Than Facebook

The Metaverse - Much, Much Bigger Than Facebook Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com, “I’m serious. She could actually be a 300-pound dude who lives in his momma’s basement in suburban Detroit. And her name is Chuck.” Facebook is now Meta, and Meta wants to own the Metaverse. Just what is the Metaverse, what are the opportunities, and can Mark Zuckerberg repeat the success of Facebook by monetising a whole new way of doing business, or is it shaping up to be something much, much more? This morning’s Porridge is dedicated to my new colleague Diaa, who was foolish enough to ask what I thought about Facebook.. he will learn.. As a distraction from worrying about What Biden and Xi actually said to each other, the state of wage inflation across economies, UK vs Yoorp unpleasantness, and wondering what 100,000 armed-to-the-teeth Russians are doing on the Ukraine border (aside from being a classic maskirovka to distract us from what Putin is really doing..), I thought today I might continue my grand tradition of writing about stuff I know I know very little about… So, just what is the Metaverse? What kind of opportunity does it represent? Is it, as so many fantabulous things in this wonderful world are, yet another digital solution in search of a problem? Is it hype or a genuine new trend? Of course, my interest in the Metaverse was pricked 2 weeks ago when Facebook Inc changed its name to Meta. Since then the stock is up 7%, only down 8% from its September high before the recent whistleblower news. A few cynics have suggested the renaming was all about trying to distance and shut-off the recent sordid whistleblower accusations about Facebook. Zuckerberg has previous form as something of a congenital acquisitive hoarder of the future – and he clearly wants to own “the metaverse” with the intention of monetising it. The question, and future value of the firm, ultimately lies in how well he achieves that. The Metaverse concept was first described and named by Science Fiction writer Neal Stephenson – whom I’ve actually read! – right in the very early days of the internet revolution. Way back in 1992 he presented a vision of human avatars inter-reacting in a 3D digital space in the novel “Snow Crash”. He pretty much nailed it – establishing digital life alongside concepts like “proof of work” leading inevitably to the concept of digital currencies, the genesis of Bitcoin, the Blockchain and now Non-Fungible Tokens. Today, the Metaverse is being “imagined” as some kind of Internet version 2.1 – but it’s really describes how we will all integrate digitally. It will offer a more immersive world of deeper engagement into virtual and augmented reality – once the technology catches up with the promises. “Digital Visionaries” are talking about how natural it will become to do everything from shopping, business and living a social life online in the form of single or multiple digital avatars… It informs the world of “Ready Player One” and raises fears about a “Matrix” like future. The thing is – whatever Facebook would have us believe – it’s already happening and has been for some time. The global gaming sector is now infinitely larger than the film industry at over $100 bln per annum.  Fortnite, the game, has become a global sensation, and now includes virtual concerts given by smart artists who see the future potential. The amount of cash spent in-game purchases is over $50 bln, just in the US! My family hails from the Scottish City of Dundee, once famous for “Jam, Jute and Journalism”. In the 30-years post-war, it looked to be in terminal decline, but is now the heart of the UK’s exploding gaming sector and home to best-selling game ever: Grand Theft Auto. (Incidentally, the City’s recovery began in 1982 when the UK’s first commercial UK computer; the ZX Spectrum, was built in Dundee!) It’s a city reborn. Zuckerberg has a problem. His existing brands; Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will remain essentially unchanged (for now) and are, essentially, advertising companies under competitive and evolutionary threat. They remain the dominant brands in social media advertising, but their user bases are not as sticky as once assumed, and they no longer have a monopoly as social media breaks and fragments into multiple players and themes. Let’s give Zuckerberg some credit for trying to derisk Facebook Meta by diversifying its earnings. The regulatory risks from privacy concerns and the charge its maximised advertising revenues to the detriment of users by targeting them with dangerous social media tosh are huge. How long before an American class action suite emerges for trillions alleging American youth have been mentally damaged by social media? Without Zuckerberg’s unique approach –  I suspect Facebook would be as unlamented as “Friends Reunited” in the social-media graveyard. He is painting the Metaverse he intends to own as a virtual environment where “you can be present with people in digital spaces”, an “embodied internet”, and how it’s going to “succeed the mobile internet”. It’s an opportunity for him to monetise Facebook’s investment in things like the Oculus VR set, and to diversify his earnings from pure (yet risky) advertising to actually selling hard and soft stuff in the Metaverse. Will he succeed in making Meta the dominant venue in the Metaverse? Don’t underestimate the potential for monetisation in the Metaverse. Earlier this year a 17 year old artist, Fewocious, sold 600 digital sneakers in NFT format through an on-line auction for…. $3.08 million. There is now a whole digital fashion universe selling unique NFT apparel gamers can wear on-line. As yet there isn’t a way of being able to dress across the net (enabling digital avatars to wear the same gear across multiple games and in multiple venues), but I’m assured it’s going to happen. There are now a host of earnest fashion designers exclusively focused on digital fashion. There clearly are also real and valuable applications for the metaverse in terms of virtual reality business and education. Effectively, Education when virtual last year when millions of school-kids zoomed an academic year because of Covid. Imagine a future where kids can attend any school they want as digital avatars – interesting, and horrific in terms of real social interaction, not to mention the health consequences of living on line. I’m intrigued by the business potential. Like every other firm we’re wondering just how much office space we really need. How often do clients actually visit the office? Do we all need to be there? Would we not be cheaper and more efficient to continue developing better on-line tools. Instead of one hour zoom calls, what about an on-line digital office open all day? The potential to design and innovate new ways of working in the metaverse are only limited by our imagination! Zuckerberg is a smart fellow who sees all that potential. He knows Facebook is a risk business – the declining numbers of young people using it isn’t compensated for by the ones using Instagram. The dominant younger generation platform is TikTok, which is now part China Government owned after it took an ownership stake in Bytedance. As the Facebook brand inevitably fades its advertising revenues will plummet. Therefore, he is staking the next stage of his brand’s development on his company’s 3D universe. He will find new ways to monetise whatever data Meta can find in its virtual and augmented reality universe – which is not without associated risks to consumers and therefore the company. And that’s where the jury is out – can he make Meta as much a monopoly as Facebook once was? If not, and I suspect its going to be a very crowded space, then Meta’s future is debatable long-term. One final thought – if the Metaverse takes off, then I suspect so does a currency to go with it. I am reassessing Ethereum. Tyler Durden Wed, 11/17/2021 - 19:40.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 17th, 2021

18 unique gift ideas for the gamers on your shopping list, from controllers to collectibles

Gift shopping for a tech-savvy gamer can be tough, but we've got more than a dozen handy gift ideas for players of all types. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Shuttershock Finding gifts for the gamers on your shopping list can be tough with so many options to choose from. We put together a list of our favorite gaming gifts, ranging from controllers to collectibles. When choosing a gift, it's important to know if your gamer prefers PlayStation, Switch, Xbox, or PC. Gift shopping for a tech-savvy gamer can be challenging, but we've put together a list of suggestions that will leave any gamer happy. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are now one-year-old and the industry has begun pumping out a steady stream of new games and accessories to usher players into the next-generation of gaming.From this year's most popular releases to wireless headsets and awesome collectibles, our gift ideas offer something for all gaming tastes and budgets. If you're looking for more tech gifts, be sure to read our guides to the best tech gifts under $100, the best tech gifts under $50, and the best tech gifts under $25.Here are the best gifts for gamers: A headset to stay in contact with friends HyperX HyperX Cloud II, available at Amazon, $127.44The right pair of headphones can help players feel fully immersed in their games, whether they're exploring a fantasy world or listening closely for enemy footsteps. Headsets with microphones are essential for communicating with teammates online, whether you're playing on your computer or a console.The HyperX Cloud II with 7.1 surround sound is available for less than $150 right now, and it works with PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. It uses a USB dongle for a faster, more consistent wireless connection than Bluetooth can provide, at ranges up to 60 feet.The battery can last for up to 30 hours on a single charge, and even without power, you can always connect the HyperX Cloud II to your phone or controller with a 3.5mm audio cable. There's a physical mute button for the microphone, and you can even remove it when you only need the headset.PS5, PS4, and Nintendo Switch have different headphone requirements than the Xbox, so you'll have to pick up a pair of Xbox licensed headphones, like the HyperX CloudX, if you know the gamer in your life prefers Xbox.If you're willing to go with a more affordable wired headset, the Razer Kraken X provides 7.1 surround sound on PlayStation, Switch and Xbox, and it's less than $50.Cloud II Wireless Headset (small)Kraken X Ultralight Gaming Headset (small) A gaming monitor for 4K resolution and competitive play Amazon BenQ EL2870U Gaming Monitor, available at B&H, $299.99Sharing the living room TV with a gamer can be tough, so consider getting your favorite player a dedicated screen so they can play in peace. Monitors have become increasingly popular for gamers of all types, including console players, since they offer less delay than most TVs and sport smoother frame rates while playing.Newer monitors have support for popular TV features, like HDR color and contrast, making them easier to pair with consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. This BenQ 28-inch gaming monitor is about the size of a small TV, it supports 4K resolution, it's AMD FreeSync compatible, and it boasts a fast 1 ms (GtG) response time. The best blockbuster games Monster Hunter Rise launched as a Switch exclusive, but it's coming to PC in 2022. Capcom Various games for PS5, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, from $40The best games you can buy this holiday season vary based on a gamer's platform of choice, so it's essential to know if your gift recipient owns consoles (like the PlayStation, Switch, or Xbox) before buying a game.Some of the top games released in 2020 and 2021 are console exclusives, like "Monster Hunter Rise" on Nintendo Switch and "Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart" on PlayStation 5. "Monster Hunter" has experienced a boom in popularity including a live-action movie released last year, while "Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart" features some of the most impressive video game visuals to date.Nintendo's offerings are known for being more family-oriented; "The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening" reimagines a classic Game Boy title from the ground up, while "Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury" is a four-player platforming adventure that's reminiscent of older "Mario" games, with an extra open-world mode called "Bowser's Fury."for PlayStation 5 (small)for Nintendo Switch (small)Valhalla (Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4) (small)for Nintendo Switch (small)(PS5) (small)Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (small)for PlayStation 5 (small)for Xbox and PlayStation (small) A subscription to hundreds of games on PC, Xbox, and Android Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (3-month plan), available at Amazon, $38Microsoft's Netflix-style subscription for video games gives members access to more than a hundred games, ranging from Xbox classics, like "Halo," to popular recent releases, like "Among Us" and "Doom Eternal."Xbox Game Pass Ultimate isn't exclusive to Xbox consoles; games can be played on Windows computers and streamed on Android phones. For Xbox owners, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes Xbox Live Gold, a $10 monthly service required to play games online, so you get a ton of value for just $5 more per month. A premium controller with customizable buttons Microsoft Xbox Elite 2 controller, available at GameStop, $140If you know a gamer who has been playing with the same old Xbox or PlayStation controller for years, you can give them a major upgrade. The Xbox Elite 2 controller has a rechargeable battery, four extra paddle buttons on the rear, and comes with extra tools to customize and tighten your joysticks and directional pad.The Xbox Elite 2 works on PC, is Bluetooth compatible, and will work with the Xbox One and Xbox Series S|X.Sony doesn't make their own premium version of the PlayStation's DualShock controller but Scuf Gaming makes a $160 PlayStation 4 controller with paddles similar to the Xbox Elite 2, plus a wide selection of customizable faceplates. Extra storage space to spend more time playing, and less downloading Charnsitr/Shutterstock Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2TB, available at Western Digital, $65The latest games can require anywhere from 20GB to 200GB to install, so gamers of all types will appreciate an upgrade in storage space. PlayStation and Xbox both allow external USB drives for storing games, screenshots, and your video recordings. You'll need a USB 3.0 drive with between 250GB or 8TB of storage.We recommend buying a drive from a reliable brand like Seagate or Western Digital — 1TB is enough to at least double the space available on consoles, and there's currently not much of a performance advantage if you buy a more expensive solid state drive for your consoles.The Nintendo Switch uses MicroSD cards to expand beyond its 32GB of internal storage. The Switch supports MicroSD cards up to 2TB in size but we recommend a 128GB or 256GB card, which offer plenty of space at a significantly lower price.Note: Games optimized for PS5 and Xbox Series X must be stored on each console's internal drive to play. A controller clip that makes it easier to game on the go Kevin Webb / Insider PowerA Moga Gaming Clip, available at Amazon, $15Your phone can become a full-fledged portable gaming device when paired with the controller of your choice and a simple $15 controller clip. This cheap and versatile accessory lets you physically attach your controller to your phone for convenient on-the-go gaming.I use the PowerA Moga gaming clip for Xbox controllers, which allows me to comfortably attach the controller and house my smartphone. The design also lets me easily connect the gamepad to the phone via USB instead of Bluetooth. Using a USB connection lets me save some battery and eliminate wireless delay. I can immediately use the controller to navigate my phone's usual interface and move between apps without any additional setup.The PowerA Moga gaming clip I own is specifically designed for Xbox controllers, but Oivo makes similar clips for both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 gamepads.MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip (small) An all-in-one VR headset to explore gaming from a new perspective GameStop Oculus Quest 2, available at Best Buy, $299Released in May 2020, the Oculus Quest 2 has set a new standard for virtual reality headsets with hand tracking, greatly improved image quality, and no external sensors needed for setup. Oculus Quest 2 can be used as a standalone device for gaming, chatting, and watching movies, or connected to a PC for even more immersive performance.Quest 2 (small) Iconic collectibles inspired by popular games GameStop Gaming collectibles from Pop, Nendoroid, and Kotobukiya, from $10Not every video game series is popular enough to have its own set of collectibles, but you can find a wide selection of gaming-inspired figures and statues from brands like Pop!, Nendoroid, and Kotobukiya. Prices can range from $10 to $250 or more depending on the item, but what's important is finding a collectible that matches your gamer's style.The collectible shop iam8bit also offers lots of rare and limited collectibles, like vinyl video game soundtracks and customized cartridges for old games. Limited Run Games also puts together physical releases for popular indie games and retro titles that include unique collectibles like T-shirts and art books.Mega Man X Model Kit (small) Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 11th, 2021

The 7 best cheap headphones in 2021 - all under $50

Headphones can be pricey, but there are still solid pairs available on a budget. These are the best cheap headphones you can buy in 2021. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Amazon Flagship headphones are pricey, but you can still find some truly excellent models on a budget. The Mpow 059 are the best cheap headphones overall thanks to their solid sound and wireless support. The JLabs Jbuds Air are a stellar set of true wireless earbuds in the $50 price range. Read more about why you can trust our tech team to provide the best product recommendations. Table of Contents: Masthead StickyAudiophiles will happily spend a ton of money on high-end headphones, but most people don't want to drop several hundred dollars on a pair. Even audio enthusiasts will admit that inexpensive headphones have come a long way in recent years.In the budget-friendly range, you shouldn't get into the weeds with technical specifications like frequency response or premium features like noise-cancelling or wireless charging - these are more of a concern with high-end gear. At lower price points, your primary considerations should be durability and sound quality: Your headphones should be well-built enough to withstand regular use and should offer good sound for casual listening.With these criteria in mind, we've selected the best affordable headphones you can get right now. Our top picks include a variety of styles, like over-ear, on-ear, wireless earbuds, and gaming headphones. Though our recommendations already carry budget-friendly prices, please keep in mind that we expect many of our picks to go on sale during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.Here are the best cheap headphones you can buy:Best cheap headphones overall: Mpow 059 Best cheap true wireless earbuds: JLab Audio JBuds AirBest cheap wired headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBest cheap on-ear headphones: Koss PortaProBest cheap gaming headphones: HyperX Cloud StingerBest cheap wireless earbuds: iFrogz Impulse Duo Wireless EarbudsBest cheap wired earbuds: Panasonic ErgoFit Best cheap headphones overall Mpow Bluetooth headphones can be hit or miss, but the wireless Mpow 059 offer a surprising level of comfort and sound quality at an incredible price point.Type: Closed-back over-earDrivers: 40mmConnectivity: Bluetooth, detachable cable with 3.5mm connectorBattery life: Around 13 hours of playbackPros: Folding design, sound is surprisingly good for a pair wireless headphones, cable for wired use, strong valueCons: Wireless sound signal won't be as deep or detailed as a wired connection, the mic is only usable in Bluetooth modeOne of the most popular applications for Bluetooth connectivity is headphones. In the past, wireless headphones have been rather hit or miss, but today's Bluetooth headphones, like the top-rated Mpow 059, are head and shoulders above those of yesteryear.In terms of design, the Mpow 059 don't re-invent the wheel. They feature two 40mm neodymium magnet drivers and a full-size over-ear design with rotating padded ear cups and an adjustable cushioned headband. The 059 also include a convenient built-in mic for hands-free calling when synced to your phone, and the earpieces fold inwards for added portability.What sets the Mpow 059 apart from other inexpensive headphones is that what they do, they do quite well, delivering good wireless sound along with a sleek design and solid build. One really nice touch is that you can actually use the Mpow 059 as wired headphones with the included cable. When used wirelessly, the Mpow 059 draw power from an integrated 420mAh battery for around 13 hours of juice.For this price range, the Mpow 059 headphones represent an excellent value given their sound quality, great design, and wireless convenience. You can typically find them on sale for less than their suggested retail price, and we expect even better deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Best cheap true wireless earbuds Amazon The JLab Audio JBuds Air are the best-kept secret for incredible value in wireless earbuds, with better sound quality than their price lets on. Type: EarbudDrivers: 8mmConnectivity: Bluetooth 5.0Battery life: Six hours in each earbud, 18 hours in charging case, 24 hours totalFeatures: Microphone (right earbud only), IP55 water resistancePros: Well designed, great sound, very inexpensiveCons: Buttons can be tricky, some connectivity issuesTrue wireless earbuds are all the rage at the moment, and for good reason — they're compact, portable, and if you get the right pair, they can sound amazingly good. You usually have to pay a little more for quality wireless earbuds that match the performance of bulkier full-size headphones, but the Jlabs Jbuds Air defy this norm. Indeed, the Jbuds Air sound terrific. We'd expect this kind of audio from wireless earbuds that cost closer to $100 or more. They come with three built-in equalizer (EQ) presets, with Jlab's signature EQ as the default that gives a powerful, exciting sound, and also gives some bass boost and clarity to softer music. You won't find noise-cancelling, but that's fine — it's not expected at this price range. You still get a little noise isolation with the earplug style that fits in your ear canal. The Jbuds Air come with three sizes of ear tips so you can find the best fit.  As expected, you can make phone calls with the built-in microphone, and there are touch sensors on each bud for controls, like volume, track change, picking up phone calls, and even summoning Siri or Google Assistant. Battery life is pretty standard among most wireless earbuds, but we love the built-in USB-A charging cable. It's a little short, but it saves on clutter.  Best cheap wired headphones Audio Technica If you're looking for a well-made pair of entry-level headphones that sound great, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are more than up to the task.Type: Closed-back dynamic over-earDrivers: 40mmConnectivity: 3.5mm, quarter-inch adapter includedPros: Well-made, comfortable, great sound for the price, sturdy 3.5mm cable comes with a 6.3mm adapterCons: Bass response is lacking compared to more expensive modelsAudio-Technica is one of the biggest names in the world of studio-quality headphones. The company offers a big lineup of professional-grade cans that will set you back hundreds of dollars, but it also makes a variety of affordable alternatives, including the ATH-M20x over-ear headphones.The ATH-M20x are designed to be an entry-level pair of studio headphones and they feature a full-sized over-ear design with 40mm drivers. They work great with phones, but when hooked up to a PC or TV, the ATH-M20x really shine. They deliver excellent sound quality in the high and mid ranges, with sufficient impedance to eliminate annoying interference (like faint buzzing) when hooked up to your electronics. The sound is clear, crisp, and accurate, but don't expect super-deep bass.The cushioned headband and leatherette-covered padded ear cups are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and the cups also provide good noise isolation that filters out the majority of ambient sounds and won't bother others around you unless you're really cranking up the volume.The ATH-M20x could be considered the little sibling of Audio-Technica's ATH series, as these are essentially a budget-friendly alternative to the M40x and M50x — two highly rated headphones that cost more. But, for about half the price of the M40x, the ATH-M20x are an incredible value. Best cheap on-ear headphones Koss If you're looking to ditch your earbuds for something beefier but still portable, then look no further than the Koss PortaPro.Type: Semi open-back on-earDrivers: Dynamic, size not specifiedConnectivity: 3.5mmRead our Koss PortaPro headphones review (Bluetooth version)Pros: Impressive sound quality for size, lightweight and comfortable, folding design is super-portableCons: The on-ear design doesn't isolate noiseWhen it comes to portable on-ear headphones, one pair stands above the rest: The famous Koss PortaPro. The PortaPro have been around for decades and have earned something of a legendary status among the head-fi crowd. This fame is owed to their impressive output relative to their small size and low cost. They're not going to put out the same deep sound as a pair of over-ear studio headphones, but the PortaPro nonetheless punch well above their weight in the audio department.The on-ear pads are connected to a slim, flexible metal headband. This headband features a simple slide adjustment, and the plastic ear pieces fold inwards for portability. The lightweight construction might take some getting used, but the PortaPros are surprisingly durable.The PortaPro also shine when it comes to sound quality. The lows, mids, and highs are all punchy and responsive. Just bear in mind that the on-ear design won't isolate noise as well as over-ear headphones. If you like to crank the volume, others are going to hear it.The Koss PortaPro might just be the perfect pair of travel headphones and they're a solid value. If you're willing to pay a bit more, you can even buy a version with Bluetooth support for wireless listening. Best cheap gaming headphones HyperX Kingston's excellent HyperX Cloud Stinger offers everything you need for intense gaming sessions without cutting corners.Type: Closed-back over-earDrivers: 50mmConnectivity: Dual 3.5mm connectors for input and output (mic)Features: Volume control slider on right ear cupRead our best gaming headset guidePros: Outperforms similar headsets in its price range, comfortable design, good audio and microphone quality, compatible with all modern gaming platformsCons: The microphone folds up but cannot be removedGaming headsets have something of a bad rap among the audiophile community. Yet, these headsets have improved considerably in recent years, with brands like Kingston releasing impressive models, like the excellent HyperX Cloud series.Our pick, the Cloud Stinger, is Kingston's budget-focused HyperX model. One of the reasons gaming headsets get the side-eye from audio enthusiasts is because the built-in mic means that makers have to pack more electronics into the housing, potentially causing sound quality to suffer. The Cloud Stinger doesn't skimp on hardware, however, with beefy 50mm directional drivers that deliver big sound.The drivers are contained in large rotating memory foam ear cups that are comfortable enough for hours of gaming. The padded headband is adjustable via a steel slider, and while the rest of the headphone housing is polymer, it feels durable without being too heavy.Although the drivers are large, they're fairly basic, and the sound quality is very good but not mind-blowing. You're simply going to have to spend a lot more money if you want super-detailed studio-quality sound. The directional drivers make it easy to pick up in-game environmental details and they also isolate noise very well.The microphone feels very sturdy but you can't remove it when you're just using the Stinger as normal headphones. It simply folds up out of the way. For the price, however, it's hard to find fault with the HyperX Cloud Stinger. Best cheap wireless earbuds ZAGG The iFrogz Impulse Duo headphones deliver good sound quality for the price.Type: EarbudDrivers: 6mm dual driversConnectivity: BluetoothBattery life: 10 hoursRead our iFrogz Impulse Duo earbuds reviewPros: Excellent design, affordable, Bluetooth connectionCons: The sound quality isn't as good as other options on this listBesides sounding pretty good for the price, the reason iFrogz Impulse Duo earbuds made the cut over all the other budget earbuds we've tried is their design.The dual driver construction is what gives these earbuds an audio-edge over the competition. But mostly, these earbuds succeed where most Bluetooth models fail: Instead of having all of their technology built into an unwieldy dongle that hangs off the cable connecting both buds, iFrogz built it all into a magnetic clip.Clip the dongle onto your clothes, pop in the earbuds, and you're ready to listen to music. In terms of audio quality, you shouldn't expect an audiophile experience at this price point, but don't expect a bad one, either. These are actually the upgraded version of the earbuds iFrogz previously released, and while the design is the same, time was spent in improving the sound quality.I'll put it to you this way. These headphones are so easy to use that they're my go-to pair between reviews. It's just so convenient to coil them up and pop them in my pocket after a commute. — Brandt Ranj Best cheap wired earbuds Walmart The Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds are about as basic as a pair of wired earbuds headphones can be, but they feature surprisingly good sound quality.Type: In-earDrivers: 9mmConnectivity: 3.5mmPros: Impressive value, comfortable fit, integrated microphone and call remoteCons: Some build quality issues, audio performance is good for the price but not on par with more expensive earbudsIf you don't mind a fully wired design, it's hard to ignore the value that Panasonic's ErgoFit earbuds provide. Sure, you don't get Bluetooth playback and you do have to deal with wires running down your ears, but when it comes to in-ear headphones in this price range, few can compete with the overall quality of the ErgoFit.Each earbuds uses a 9mm neodymium magnet driver, and the resulting sound is very solid for the price. To be clear, you won't get anything near audiophile-quality, but reviews from Tom's Guide and Reviewed both note the ErgoFit's deep bass performance. Though overall clarity is only decent, the earbuds offer a lot for very little.The ErgoFit earbuds don't provide much in the way of extra features, but the headphones do include an integrated microphone and call remote for easy use with smartphones. You still won't get the convenience of a Bluetooth wireless connection, but the mic is a nice inclusion. Overall build quality is nothing to get excited about, but that's to be expected for such a budget-friendly headphone model. If you want to save even more, Panasonic also has a version of the ErgoFit without the microphone and remote for an even lower price.  What else we considered Soundpeats We'd feel remiss if we didn't mention the SoundPeats T2 wireless earbuds as an upgrade option over the JLab Audio JBuds Air if you're willing to spend $60.The T2 have surprisingly good sound quality and feature active noise cancellation (ANC) as the justification for their higher price tag. At $60, the T2 are an easy recommendation if you're looking for cheap-enough wireless earbuds with ANC. You're not getting the best noise cancellation, but it's still better than no noise cancellation. How to shop for headphones Sony Headphones are available in a variety of styles and sizes specifically designed to suit different needs. A large pair of over-ear headphones, for instance, can offer impressive sound quality for listening at home, but they're not ideal for portability.Below, we've detailed some common headphone types, explaining the basic advantages and disadvantages of each style. Wired and wireless options are available for all of the headphone types we've listed. Though headphones of all types go on sale throughout the year, the best time to buy headphones is typically on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.Over-ear headphones: This style of headphone features large ear cups that are designed to rest over your ears to create a seal around them. Over-ear headphones are typically capable of offering better sound performance and noise isolation than other headphone types. On the downside, they tend to be larger and less portable. On-ear headphones: Like over-ear headphones, on-ear models also feature ear cups, but instead of completely covering your ear with a seal, they simply rest on top of your ears. Though they can still provide good audio, this design makes them less suitable for isolating outside noise. However, on-ear models can be more compact than over-ear models.Earbuds: Unlike on-ear and over-ear models, earbuds are compact headphones with separate left and right buds that can be designed to either rest just outside your ear canal or be inserted inside. In-ear buds can feature different size tips to better fit different ear shapes, allowing them to create a tight in-ear seal for better sound and noise isolation. Some earbuds feature a wire to connect the left and right buds together, while true wireless models are completely free of cables. This design makes earbuds great for portability and use with smartphones.  Gaming headset: Designed for use with video game consoles and computers, gaming headsets include an integrated microphone for online multiplayer chat, allowing you to communicate with other players. Headsets can be on-ear or over-ear, and certain models feature support for advanced surround sound processing and 3D audio formats. Some gaming headsets are built for specific platforms while others feature universal compatibility with multiple systems.  The best deals on budget-friendly headphones from this guide While it's tempting to pick up a pair of headphones for dirt cheap, it's also easy to spend your money on a pair that doesn't sound very good, or isn't very comfortable. We tested several pairs of headphones to find the ones that are an especially good value.Better still, headphones see discounts all the time, like more than 50% off these MPow budget headphones at Walmart, at the time of writing. You can also look forward to deeper discounts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We've rounded up the best deals on budget-friendly headphones below.We've rounded up the best deals on budget-friendly headphones below.JBuds Air (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us. Check out our other headphone buying guides Amazon The best over-ear headphonesThe best noise-cancelling headphonesThe best true wireless earbudsThe best gaming headsets Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 8th, 2021

What is Amazon Fire TV? A guide to the streaming device and how it differs from its competitors

Amazon's Fire TV is a family of five streaming media players that deliver movies, music, games, and more to your TV. Amazon Fire TV devices plug into your TV and use the internet to stream entertainment content. Aayan Arts/Shutterstock Amazon Fire TV is a video streaming device first released by Amazon in 2014 that now has five different models. Fire TV has a remote control with Alexa-powered voice recognition. In addition to Amazon Prime Video, Fire TV has access to thousands of streaming channels, streaming music like Spotify, and even games. Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories. Amazon Fire TV is a video streaming device created by Amazon - it connects to a television or monitor and lets you watch TV shows and movies streamed over apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and thousands of others. Amazon released its first version of the Fire TV in 2014, and has since developed several different models.What is Fire TV?Fire TV works like other media players (such as Roku, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV). It's a device that connects to a TV or monitor via an HDMI port and behaves sort of like the TV's operating system. It has its own home page and library of free and subscription-based streaming apps that you can use to watch videos and listen to music. In that way, Fire TV turns any ordinary TV into a "smart" TV - or can be used as a replacement for the OS built into a smart TV. The Fire TV family of media players streams video from the internet to your TV. Amazon Currently, Amazon offers five versions of Fire TV, from the value-priced Fire TV Stick Lite to the premium Fire TV Cube. In between those two, Amazon offers three other models: the Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, and the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. In general, all five devices work essentially the same and offer the same array of streaming apps, streaming music, and games. The Amazon Fire Stick looks like a USB flash drive but connects your TV to a vast library of video content online. Amazon The difference between models is mainly a matter of image quality, sound quality, and connectivity. The Fire TV Stick Lite and Fire TV Stick only display HD, for example, while the other models offer 4K video. Likewise, all but the Lite output sound in Dolby Atmos, and you need at least the Fire TV Stick 4K Max to connect to the new WiFi 6 wireless standard.What can you do with a Fire TV?Like any streaming media player, Fire TV is an entertainment device that gives you access to a vast array of content - free and subscription movies and TV shows, as well as music and games - via an internet connection. The primary focus of Fire TV, and no doubt the main reason most people purchase one, is for streaming TV shows and movies. That means you can connect to countless streaming apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, and many others including, of course, Amazon's own Prime Video. The Fire TV lets you watch content from nearly every streaming service, including free options like PlutoTV and Tubi. Amazon Fire TV does a lot more than just streaming TV and movies, though. It can also stream audio. Using apps like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Sirius XM, you can listen to music on demand as well as radio stations and podcasts. It is also a gaming system, after a fashion. You can use Fire TV to play a large assortment of games. Titles range from mobile classics like Candy Crush to a modern version of Pac-Man and GTA Street Fighter. Some games can be played with the Fire TV remote, though for a more satisfying gaming experience you will need to add an optional game controller. How Fire TV differs from its competitorsThe streaming media player field is fairly crowded; you can choose among Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV, and that doesn't include several less popular models. Most of these devices have a lot of baseline features and capabilities in common, such as access to a vast library of streaming content and a range of products across all price points. Although, Apple TV is an outlier, with no low-end product to compete with the inexpensive Fire TV Stick Lite.Fire TV distinguishes itself from competing products in a few important ways:Fire TV is built on the Android OS, but Amazon has modified the software substantially, so it cannot run Android apps. That's in contrast to Chromecast with Google TV, which has access to the entire library of Android apps, including Android's mobile games. Because Fire TV is an Amazon product, it emphasizes Amazon services. You certainly have full access to other channels and apps, but Amazon emphasizes its own services, like Prime Video and Prime Music, by default when you look for content.While other streaming players may or may not include voice control, Fire TV has voice control built into every Fire TV model using Alexa, the same personal assistant found in Echo smart speakers.All the ways you can watch Amazon Prime Video on your TV, from smart TVs to streaming from an iPhoneA beginner's guide to the Roku Streaming Stick: How to install and use the device'What can the Amazon Echo do?': Everything you need to know about Amazon's smart speakersA complete guide to the Amazon Echo family, the smart speakers that will change your home foreverRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 4th, 2021

31 cheap tech gifts under $25, from Bluetooth speakers to smart light bulbs

These are the best cheap tech gifts under $25, including speakers, cables, keyboards, accessories, and more. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. There are plenty of great tech gifts available for under $25. Alyssa Powell/Business Insider Tech gifts can be expensive, but there are affordable options out there for shoppers on a budget. Some items under $25 include the Tile Mate Bluetooth Tracker, Echo Dot (3rd Gen), and more. For more recommendations, check out all of our gift guides. Tech products make great gifts, but finding one for the right price can be tricky. Though high-end gear gets pricey, there are plenty of gadgets and accessories available in the $25 and under range.These affordable items are often designed to solve little problems or complement other products, making them easier to use. Better yet, they're usually things that friends and relatives never think about getting for themselves, making them excellent gift ideas.For under $25, you can find all sorts of fun, useful, entertaining, and creative tech gifts. Regardless of whom you're shopping for, we think we've found at least one budget-friendly product that would serve that loved one in your life well without running up your credit card bill. You'll probably find a little something for yourself in here, too. A budget-friendly smart speaker Best Buy Echo Dot (3rd Gen), available on Amazon, $24.99Amazon's third-generation Echo Dot is on sale for just under $25 during the holiday shopping season. There is a newer fourth-gen model with a more modern, spherical design, but that one costs double the price. This older version has all the same Alexa features, making it a full-fledged smart speaker that you can gift on a budget.If your giftee prefers Google's ecosystem, you can also find the Google Nest Mini on sale for just right $25. Both devices are reliable, compact speakers with hands-free controls and helpful digital assistants.  A high-speed HDMI cable ready for next-gen gaming Amazon Amazon Basics 48Gbps HDMI cable (6 feet), available on Amazon, $9.99If there's one thing home entertainment fans can never have too many of, it's HDMI cables. Between streaming boxes, video game consoles, Blu-ray players, AV receivers, and computers, there's never a shortage of devices we need to plug into a TV or monitor. HDMI cables always come in handy, and this Amazon Basics high-speed model is rated for all the latest and greatest video specifications. With a bandwidth capability of 48Gbps, you can rest easy that this cable will properly transmit 4K and HDR content, even at 120Hz. This makes it a great fit for next-gen gaming consoles like the PS5 or Xbox Series X.  A plug-in for more Wi-Fi coverage Amazon TP-Link N300 Wi-Fi Extender, available on Amazon, $14.99Wi-Fi signals can sometimes struggle to reach every corner of large living spaces. This can be especially challenging if you're working from home. The TP-Link N300 WiFi Extender can plug into most common outlets and add up to 800 square feet to your home Wi-Fi coverage. After you hit the WPS button on your home router, you'll have to hit the range extender on your TP-Link device. After that you'll be able to get speeds of up to 300 Mbps in otherwise difficult-to-reach areas in your home. A charger without the hassle of untangling wires Amazon Yootech Wireless Charger, available on Amazon, $13.99The Yootech Wireless Charger covers a number of bases. It supports a 7.5W charging mode for select iPhones, a 10W charging mode to cover select Samsung Galaxy Notes, and a 5W charging mode for Google Pixel models and other Qi-chargeable phones.As long as these types of phones have a case less or equal to 4 mm, the charger should be able to charge them And aside from smartphones, the charger will let you charge AirPods and AirPods Pro as well. An all-in-one speaker with lights, music, and an alarm Amazon Tranesca Bluetooth Speaker with Lights, available on Amazon, $24.95This speaker from Tranesca acts as both a night-light and a home listening experience. After you connect your music device to the speaker via Bluetooth or an aux cable, you'll be able to hear your favorite songs. One charge will let you listen to music for up to four and a half hours. You can also switch the speaker to an alarm clock mode, making it a versatile product to place by your bedside. A fun phone case Case Mate Case-Mate Phone Cases for iPhone and Samsung, available on Amazon, from $24.95For the colorful types out there, Case-Mate has a wide range of cases for iPhones and Samsung phones, including ones that are iridescent, full of glitter, or covered in real pressed flowers. Colorful, shiny, and glittery isn't everyone's style, and Case-Mate has a selection of more reserved and sleek cases, including leather cases, clear cases, and stylish plastic cases that offer protection for that person who simply won't get a case for themselves.Keep in mind, however, that while Case-Mate offers several models in the $25 and under range, some of its cases do exceed that budget, including its new iPhone 13 lineup. A ring light to upgrade your Zoom calls Amazon LED Ring Light with Tripod Stand & Phone Holder from UBeeSize, $17.59Now that working from home has become more common, we're relying on video calls more than ever — often in less than ideal lighting conditions. This ring light can help improve the quality of your daily Zoom calls with three different lighting modes, a tripod for your phone, and a Bluetooth remote so that you can control your phone while it's in the stand. Give AirPods a protective home Insignia / Best Buy Insignia Case for Apple AirPods Pro, $12.49This AirPods Pro case by Insignia is a super easy and inexpensive gift that AirPod owners will appreciate. The case is made of protective silicone that not only prevents scratches and damage from drops and impacts, but reduces the amount of dirt and dust that can make its way into an AirPods charging case. The carabiner is a great little touch that lets the user attach their AirPods case to anything they often carry out with them. It's a nice solution to keep AirPods where you know they'll always be found. The case is available in a variety of different colors, too. A desk stand for your phone that doubles as a charger Amazon Anker Wireless Charger, available on Amazon, $19.49Smartphones are our daily companions — from displaying recipes in the kitchen to playing music, hosting our social gatherings over Zoom, and serving as a TV you can take to any room. This desk stand from Anker makes it easy to prop up your phone on any surface and wirelessly charges it at the same time. A PopSocket Grip PopSocket PopSocket Grip, available on PopSocket, from $8PopSocket grips stick on the back of any phone or tablet to provide a comfortable grip, but they can also be used as a stand. The thing that makes PopSockets so giftable is their affordability and sheer usefulness — people love them, as they help devices keep more secure in your hands and help prevent accidental drops. That, and they come in so many different styles. You can give your loved one a PopSocket with their favorite sports team, pop culture fandom, or animal on it.PopSockets can also be re-applied a few times to reposition or transfer to a different phone or tablet. They can be attached on bare phone or tablet surfaces, or on most smooth and flat cases. They pop in when not in use, but even then they offer some support.  A smart light bulb that can add some color to your living room Amazon TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Bulb, available on B&H, $14.99You don't need to spend a lot of time or money to add some smart lighting to your living room. This color-changing smart light bulb from TP-Link could make a great gift for anyone looking to spice up their home lighting with different color and brightness options to fit the mood. It also doesn't require any extra equipment like a hub or a bridge; just connect it to your home Wi-Fi, download the Kasa app, and you're good to go. It works with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, too. A compact Bluetooth speaker for everywhere Anker / Walmart Anker SoundCore Mini Bluetooth Speaker, available at Amazon, $24.99I have a small, portable, battery-powered Bluetooth wireless speaker just like the Anker SoundCore mini, and it's one of the most used devices at my home. It brings better sound and louder volume than my phone can ever deliver, and it's perfect for listening to podcasts and music in the shower, in the kitchen, chilling outside, and on camping trips. The SoundCore mini has a 15-hour battery life, a 66-foot Bluetooth range, and 5W of sound. It doesn't have water resistance, but it'll still work just fine in a bathroom. It's pricier than some other similar compact Bluetooth speakers out there, but most of them in the $25 range come from brands we've never heard of before, and you can't go wrong with Anker. Replacing those lost headphone dongles for iPhones Hollis Johnson/Business Insider Apple Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Adapter dongle, available on Amazon, $7.99Apple's iPhones used to come with a headphone adapter but new models no longer include one. This is one of those items that shoppers ache to buy for themselves because it shouldn't cost you an extra $10 to use your wired headphones. This makes the dongle an excellent gift, however, as many iPhone owners can make good use of it.The dongle can be found for $8 on Amazon and Target compared to Apple's $9 price.  Tech-friendly touchscreen gloves Amazon Achiou Winter Knit Touchscreen Gloves, available on Amazon, from $8.49Anyone who lives in a place where it gets cold in winter knows that you have to remove gloves to use a smartphone outdoors. Essentially, a phone's screen doesn't register a finger's touch through a standard glove's material. It's not the worst problem in the world, and it may not warrant someone to get a pair of these touchscreen gloves themselves, thus leaving you the perfect opportunity to give them a pair. Aichou's bestselling winter gloves have special pads on the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger that can be registered by your phone's screen, letting the wearer keep the gloves on when it's freezing outside.   A next-level screen cleaning kit Amazon Whoosh! Screen Cleaner Kit, available on Amazon, $14.99The Whoosh! Screen Cleaner Kit is an alcohol and ammonia-free screen cleaner that's safe on phone screens, and unlike harsher cleaners, it won't strip screens from the factory coatings, namely the oleophobic coatings that prevent screen from getting all gummed up with finger oils. Coming with a pocket-sized bottle of cleaning spray and two cloths, this kit will also clean tablets, e-readers, TVs, Kindles, and anything else with a display. Even glasses can be wiped clean with this kit. The company even claims that Apple uses Whoosh cleaner in the Apple stores to keep display devices clean worldwide.We should note that Whoosh doesn't claim that its cleaner kills bacteria or viruses.  An iPhone tassel cable with charging Amazon Oneenjoy Tassel Cable for iPhone, available on Amazon, $10.99This handy leather tassel keychain includes a hidden USB-to-Lightning cable for charging an Apple device on the go with an external battery or with a charging brick.  A water-resistant smartphone armband Amazon Tribe Water Resistant Cell Phone Armband Case, available on Amazon, from $14.98A great gift for runners and fitness enthusiasts, the Tribe cell phone armband case secures your phone to your arm in a case that repels rain. The arm band is fully adjustable elastic, and it comes in three sizes that can accommodate pretty much any phone size. Your phone retains full touchscreen functionality while it's in the case, and the band also includes a handy key holder and headphone jack.  A tabletop Burger Time machine My Arcade My Arcade Micro Burger Time Cabinet, available at Amazon, $23.99For the retro game fan in your life, give them the gift of digital burgers at their desk with a miniaturized version of the original Burger Time cabinet. The Burger Time game was released in the US in 1982 as a large arcade cabinet, but this modern reproduction is small enough to hold in one hand, and can be placed on any flat surface like a desk. The tiny arcade cabinet has a 2.75-inch screen with original Burger Time artwork on the exterior, and it comes with speaker and a headphone jack. It's powered either by four double-A batteries, or with a microUSB cable. Grips for the Nintendo Switch's Joy Con controllers Amazon / Fyoung Fyoung Controller Grips for Nintendo Switch Joy Con, available on Amazon, from $9.99These Joy Con controller grips by Fyoung give players a better and more comfortable traditional console-style grip on the small Switch Joy Con controllers. They have full-size left and right bumper buttons, and they stay in place, even when you move them and shake them around for certain games. For less than $10, these are a no-brainer for Switch-owning friends and family. They come in a variety of colors to match controller colors, too.  An adjustable phone stand Amazon Lamicall Adjustable Phone stand, available on Amazon, from $9.99The Lamicall Phone Stand lets you (or your loved ones) mount your phone at an adjustable angle, which works great when you don't want to hold or touch your phone and frees up your hands for hands-free usage. Think streaming a video while you cook or sitting at a table, holding a video call with friends or family, or keeping a recipe visible while cooking (just remember to adjust your screen's timeout to keep your phone's screen on). It fits any phone and can accommodate most cases, but thicker cases may not fit in the stand's lower arms. It's also easy to adjust, and can flip between portrait and landscape modes. The stand is made of metal and comes in a variety of colors, too. A headphone holder for their desk Amazon Brainwavz Hengja Headphone Hanger, available on Amazon, $13.99The Brainwavz Hengja is an essential gift for a friend who has on-ear or over-ear headphones. This adjustable headphone hanger clamps horizontally or vertically onto a table, shelf, or even a thin wall. The clamp is tightened onto a surface with a flat piece of metal that you can screw to tighten with the included tool.It's made entirely of metal, so it's quite sturdy and will fit and support pretty much any headphone size. It only comes in a black color option.  A Wi-Fi smart plug for smart homes Amazon Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini (2-pack), available on Amazon, $14.69You can connect any device to the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini, from lamps to fans and air conditioners, to make it a smart device that you can control from a phone via the Kasa app, or via a smart assistant like Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. Some of the "smart" things you can do with the Kasa smart plug includes adding routines to turn your plugged-in devices on or off. You can also check up and turn on or off those electrical devices remotely via the Kasa app, which works great to give you peace of mind when you're away from home.  Glasses with a blue-light filter Amazon Cyxus Vintage Retro Blue Light Filter Glasses, available on Amazon, $19.99It seems every day, more and more research is coming out about the dangers of over-exposure to blue light from phone and computer screens. A 2018 study showed that too much blue light can increase your risk of blindness.The Cyxus Vintage Retro Blue Light Filter Glasses filter out 90% of the blue light emitted from screens and barely affects the image. Blue light filters prevent eye dryness and general fatigue from staring at a screen too long, and these glasses are a good, affordable gift for anyone who you know to work in front of a computer screen for long hours. A cheap but effective laptop bag Amazon AmazonBasics Laptop Bag, available on Amazon, $13.49Amazon is full of laptop bags of all prices, but the AmazonBasics Laptop Bag is one of the top-rated, and it gets the job done for an affordable price. It comes in 10-, 11.6-, 14-, 15.6-, and 17.3-inch models to accommodate different laptop sizes, as well as a smaller version for tablets. Plus, it has extra pockets for mice, cell phones, pens, and other small gadgets you might be carrying.  A long USB-A to Lightning charging cable Amazon Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable, available on Amazon, $22.99For a stocking stuffer or gift exchange, you can never go wrong with a charging cable — no one ever has enough charging cables for their iPhones or iPads. Plus, the longer cables like this 10-foot model makes it easier and more comfortable to use your iPhone or iPad while it's charging, as the included 3-foot cables don't let you get very far from the charging brick.You don't want to go cheap with cables, and one way to avoid cheap cables is to go with a well-known brand that's proven its reliability over the years. The Anker 10-foot Powerline+ is a proven, reliable, and long-lasting cable that also comes in a variety of colors.  A solid wireless keyboard and mouse combo from Logitech Logitech / Best Buy Logitech MK270 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse, available on Best Buy, $24.99A full wireless keyboard and wireless mouse combo from Logitech for $25 is a great deal and an easy gift for someone you know who needs one. There's no other combo we'd recommend to get someone who needs a mouse and keyboard up and running. There's nothing fancy here, apart from the value. The keyboard is powered by two triple-A batteries, while the wireless mouse is powered by a single double-A battery. The keyboard and mouse communicate with your computer with a tiny USB adapter, and it doesn't need pairing because it doesn't use Bluetooth.  An effective gaming mouse Walmart Logitech G300s Optical Gaming Mouse, available on Amazon, $22.35The Logitech G300s is a great gift for someone who enjoys gaming, but doesn't yet have a top-notch gaming mouse. It has a comfortable ambidextrous grip and six programmable buttons you can adjust with Logitech's gaming software. And, for under $25, it's been praised by multiple reviewers as the best budget gaming mouse you can buy. Don't let the price tag fool you: The G300s isn't a bad mouse; it's just an older model.The G300 comes with a gaming-grade optical sensor for better accuracy and tracking than standard mice, and some sleek and modest lighting strips that accent the all-black matte plastic G300s. It plugs into a computer's standard USB port.  An big, wide mouse pad for work or gaming Walmart / Corsair Corsair MM100 Cloth Gaming Mouse Pad, available at Walmart, $12.96A mouse pad seems strange as a gift, but this one is large and well made — it's one of those things that can make a surprisingly significant improvement to comfort and efficiency while using a mouse for gaming, work, or general use. The Corsair MM100 mouse pad is larger than standard office mouse pads at 14.5 x 10.6 inches (370mm x 270mm) with 3mm thickness, making for greater surface area. That means fewer mouse lifts as you're moving the cursor around the screen. And, of course, it's great for gaming, which is this mouse pad's primary intention.  An effective dashboard phone holder Amazon iOttie Easy One Touch Phone Holder, available on Amazon, $16.06If you know anyone who is still using an ancient GPS to navigate, have mercy on them and give them the iOttie Easy One Touch Phone Holder. This car mount has a one-touch release mechanism for easily inserting and removing your phone, and its arm can pivot 225 degrees to ensure a comfortable viewing angle.The Phone Holder stays on a car's dashboard via a suction cup, which sticks to an included dashboard pad that sticks firmly on a car's dash. You can simply use the suction cup on a car's windshield if the driver would rather not use the dashboard pad that sticks onto the dash.    A Tile Bluetooth item tracker Amazon / Tile Tile Mate, available on Amazon, $24.99Attach the Tile Mate to your keys, luggage, backpack, briefcase, or any other valuable possession to ensure you never lose that item again. If you misplace the object that includes your tracker, just check the Tile app to see its location in seconds. As a bonus, if you lose your phone, you can squeeze your Tile Mate to make it ring. The Tile Mate has 200-foot range (60m) and it's water-resistant, making it an actual realistic option to track your pets, too. If items with the Tile Mate are out of range, there's a chance that the someone else with a Tile can pick it up and relay its location back to you via the Tile Network and Tile app. The Tile Mate has a one-year battery life that can be replaced by the user.  A subscription to a popular streaming service Hulu/Alyssa Powell/Business Insider Hulu gift card, available on Amazon, from $25This recommendation technically breaks our under $25 threshold, but it's such a convenient gift that it's hard not to include. Hulu is one of our favorite streaming services thanks to its affordable price and big selection of network shows, original series, and entertaining movies. Though the platform doesn't sell annual gift subscriptions, you can buy Hulu gift cards. A $25 card will cover three and a half months of Hulu's ad-supported plan ($7/month), or just under two months of Hulu's ad-free plan ($13/month).Once your recipient's gift credit expires, they must provide another payment method to continue their Hulu subscription. Similar gift cards are also available for Netflix and Paramount Plus. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 29th, 2021

60 gifts you can get on Amazon for under $50

A more expensive gift isn't always more meaningful. Here are 60 gifts under $50 that you'll love to give and others will love to receive. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Wake up early and make mini heart-shaped waffles for a breakfast together. Amazon Affordable gifts can be just as thoughtful and useful as expensive gifts. We rounded up 60 gifts on Amazon for under $50 that anyone would love to receive. From an ice cream maker to a foot massager, there's a gift for everyone in this guide. For more gift ideas, check out all Insider Reviews gift guides. Your friends and family may not want an expensive gift, and it's a myth that a higher price tag means a present is more meaningful. It doesn't take more than $50 to bolster your mother's watercolor hobby or improve your brother's morning routine with a new coffee thermos. Finding a perfect gift also doesn't necessarily need to require an hour of your time in the trenches of Amazon search results. Below, we've rounded up 60 of the best finds on Amazon - with all the perks of easy, fast shipping and saved payment information. Check out all 60 cool gifts under $50 on Amazon: An electric s'mores maker to use indoors Amazon Indoor Electric S'mores Maker, $24.89This electric tabletop s'mores maker is game-changing as it lets you roasts s'mores indoors and all year long. It comes with two roasting forks an comportments trays to hold the s'mores ingredients for the perfect toasted treat. A portable touchscreen vanity mirror Amazon Touchscreen Vanity Mirror, $25.99This touchscreen vanity mirror enhances any facial ritual from glam, skincare routines, to shaving. It makes your face clearly visible with its 33 radiant LED lights and works up to 250 minutes on a full charge. The portable device offers comfortable viewing angles at 30 or 100 degrees at adjustable brightness levels.  A digital camera that instantly prints your memories Amazon Kodak Printomatic Digital Instant Print Camera, $49.99Instead of waiting on photos, this digital camera instantly prints those precious memories. Each moment is captured on 2 x 3" photos that are in full-color and durable, where they are tear and water-resistant. This convenient device can also save the photos to a MicroSD Card.  A comfy polyester bathrobe Amazon/Insider NY Threads Men's Polyester Bathrobe, from $19.99NY Threads Women's Polyester Bathrobe, from $19.99If looking to stay warm, this ultra-soft polyester bathrobe is perfect to relax and lounge in for the cold months. It features front pockets and an adjustable waist belt for a snug fit.  A pan that makes ice cream in minutes Amazon Chef'n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker, $44.95For a simple and quick way to make ice cream, you'll want to surprise them with this ice cream maker. There's no electricity, buttons, or tech involved, making it a great gift for anyone, even those with children. It's basically a quick-freeze shallow metal bowl that freezes your ice cream batter in a matter of minutes. You can read more about why we love this product, in our guide to the best ice cream makers.  A pocket projector for the movie enthusiast Amazon ARTlii Pico Projector, $49.99Projectors used to be clunky and old school, but this mini projector makes viewing easy and compact. They can slip it into their pocket and even travel with it, minus any hassle. They'll be sure to enjoy many movie nights with this gift. A small toiletry bag for the avid traveler Herschel Herschel Chapter Toiletry Kit, from $25.49If they're getting back into traveling, you can't go wrong with gifting them a toiletry bag. They can ditch the plastic bags or pouches that aren't even waterproof. This toiletry kit has a waterproof main compartment, an internal mesh storage sleeve, and a leather accent on the zipper. Plus, it's small enough to fit into their backpack, work bag, or carry-on.  A cocktail shaker for the one who likes to get creative in the kitchen Connie Chen/Insider BrüMate Shaker, $34.99With summertime upon us, there's no better gift than a cocktail shaker for the one who loves to create new drinks. This one in particular is even named the best cobbler option in our guide to the best cocktail shakers. We love this shaker because it doubles as a drinking vessel, is triple-insulated, has a built-in strainer, and comes in a bunch of colors.  A foot massager to ease stress and pain Amazon HoMedics Triple Action Shiatsu Foot Massager, $49.99After long days on their feet, they'll appreciate this foot massager gift. We name this one the best budget option in our guide to the best foot massagers for a reason. It can be used on all parts of the foot and parts of the body, is relatively compact, and is easy to store. Their feet will thank you for the endless massages that come with this gift.  An all-in-one wallet for the jetsetter Amazon Zoppen Travel Passport Wallet, $14.99With more people getting vaccinated and travel restrictions lifting, this wallet will help them prep for their next trip. It holds passports, boarding passes, credit cards, and every other essential in one slim design. A relaxing weighted blanket Amazon YnM Weighted Blanket, from $49.80Gift a peaceful night's sleep with this calming blanket that comes in 40 colors and 15 various sizes and weights. Its seven-layer system includes tiny beads that deliver a contoured but comfortable fit to your body.Read our full review of the YnM Weighted Blanket here. Fluffy slippers that feel and look like a cloud Amazon Parlovable Faux Fur Slippers, from $18.99The Parlovable Faux Fur Slippers are among our favorite slippers for lounging around the house. They make your feet feel — and look — like clouds thanks to the faux fur upper and memory foam sole.    A watercolor set that's great for beginners Amazon/Business Insider Norberg & Linden Watercolor Paint Set, $15.99Everything they need lives in this watercolor starter kit: a 36-color palette, a 12-page watercolor pad, and six brushes of various sizes. Not only does this set contain all of the essentials for a newcomer, but it's also portable. The pad measures in at 5.5 inches x 8.5 inches, and the watercolors themselves come in a lightweight, covered pan. Family and friends of all ages can enjoy painting with this kit. A journal for maximizing productivity and organization amazon Productivity Planner, $24.99For the high achiever in your life, this productivity journal can help further motivate them to be their best self. This journal's undated, daily layout provides priority templates to get them headed in the right direction to accomplish their many goals. It also includes extra space for them to jot down their ideas, future tasks, and inspirations. A jade roller for the beauty enthusiast Amazon/Business Insider Ginger Chi Jade Roller, $23.99They can pamper themselves on the regular with this jade roller from Ginger Chi. It's made from 100% certified Xiuyan jade along with silver nickel. The double-sided roller helps to reduce puffiness and increase elasticity, with a larger end for all over your face and a smaller end for tighter areas. A travel pouch and a tester of the brand's Regenerating Serum also come with the jade roller, making it perfect for novices and travelers alike. This product has even earned a spot as best for beginners in our guide to the best jade rollers. A portable cooler bag for spring and summer excursions Amazon Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag, $32.99Look no further than this convenient, hefty, and compact cooler bag. They can travel in style to spring and summer picnics, camping trips, and beach days. The padded handle and removable shoulder strap make it comfortable to carry, while its ability to collapse makes it easy to store. It's also large with a 24 liter capacity, meaning they can fit all of their essentials in one insulated bag. A stylish bucket hat for any season Amazon/Business Insider The Hat Depot 300N Unisex Bucket Hat, from $10.99They'll appreciate this bucket hat that's both trendy and protective. It comes in just about any pattern and color — neons, tie-dyes, camos, and neutrals are just a few of the options. This hat is made of 100% cotton and includes eyelets for a more breathable feel. Plus, the nearly 2.25-inch brim will keep their skin and eyes protected from the sun. A coffee table that's more than just decor Amazon "Humans" by Brandon Stanton, $13.87A coffee table book is a great housewarming gift. But this hardcover book does more than just look pretty. It's an expansion of Brandon Stanton's "Humans of New York" photography project. Page after page follows Stanton's travels across the world, documenting portraits and short, but impactful stories of the people he's encountered.  The gift of light Amazon AIXPI LED Ring Light, $16.14Give the gift of light with Insider Reviews' best budget ring light. This simple, easy-to-use light has everything that phone videographers need to get started. It includes a tripod setup that's easy to move and adjust to your angles. You can also toggle between its three different light settings — white, warm yellow, and warm white — to find your perfect glow.  An ambient moon lamp Amazon DTOETKD Multi-Color Moon Lamp, $19.88Earning the title as Insider Reviews' best multi-color moon lamp, this light basks the room in 16 different soothing hues. Its wooden stand props up the 3D moon and, thanks to its sleep timer, you can fall asleep to its glow without needing to worry about leaving it on all night.  A portable picnic blanket Amazon Oniva Outdoor Picnic Blanket Tote XL, from $33.95The Oniva Outdoor Picnic Blanket Tote is a huge blanket that fits six people easily. Our Insider Reviews team loved it so much they named it the best picnic blanket overall. Its soft fleece interior has water-resistant backing that folds up quite compact. A Bluetooth microphone to sing karaoke Amazon Wireless Karaoke Microphone, $19.99It's a gift for everyone to enjoy, whether or not you can carry a tune. You can connect your phone and play music through the microphone's speakers, and turn the volume up and down depending on your comfort. It's the perfect thing to shake up a night in or to break the ice at a holiday gathering. A vintage puzzle that doubles as cute home decor Amazon Cavallini Papers & Co. Butterflies 1,000 Piece Puzzle, $22All the puzzle lovers in your life will be beyond grateful for this gift. From house plants to constellations, Cavallini Papers & Co. puzzles are both challenging and aesthetically pleasing. Once they're done, they can frame it and hang it up as wall decor.  A smart home camera at a fraction of the cost Amazon Wyze Alexa-Enabled Smart Home Camera, $31.28With 3,000+ five star reviews, the Wyze v3 Camera is a popular and inexpensive smart home option that rivals expensive models. It's Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled and lets you view anywhere on your mobile device.  Read our full review of the Wyze v3 Camera here.  A media streamer that can turn a basic TV into a smart one Amazon Roku Streaming Stick+, $49Essentially, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is your standard media streaming stick and can convert a basic TV into a smart one that can stream Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and more. It's Alexa-enabled, too, so you can control it by voice.Read our full review of the Roku Streaming Stick+ here.  Homemade breakfast made with a heart-shaped waffle maker Amazon Dash Mini Waffle Maker Machine, $19.99Get up early, and make your friend, significant other, or family member heart-shaped mini waffles for breakfast. The Dash Mini Maker is compact enough to keep for special occasions without cramping your kitchen, too.   A wooden caddy tray for the world's most luxurious bath Amazon Royal Craft Luxury Bathtub Caddy, from $39.97Few things are as luxurious as a long bath filled with plenty of activities and treats. This one is waterproof, slip-resistant, and designed to accommodate one or two bathers at once.  A compilation of the love letters of great men Amazon "Love Letters of Great Men", $13.95If you find yourself at a loss for words, let the love letters of great men do the talking for you. This volume includes love letters written by Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte, James Joyce, John Keats, Dylan Thomas, and more.  A calendar for dog lovers Amazon/Business Insider WeRateDogs 2021 Calendar, $13.41If they're a dog person (and even if they're not), they'll appreciate waking up each day to a new pup photo with an exciting backstory. The calendar follows the same format as WeRateDogs' popular Twitter account, and don't worry, every dog receives a rating of at least 11/10. A vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottle that people swear by Hydro Flask Hydro Flask 12 oz Travel Coffee Mug, $34.45Hydro Flask is a cult favorite for its water bottles, and these vacuum insulated stainless steel mugs work just as well. They'll keep hot drinks hot for up to six hours, and cold drinks cold up to twenty-four hours. Amazon/Business Insider Anker Nano 20W USB-C Charger, $13.59This year's iPhones won't come with a charging adaptor in the box, so if you're getting someone a new phone during the holidays, they'll definitely need one of these. The Anker Nano charges three times faster than the typical Apple charger and is physically the same size. An unfussy cookbook meant for hosting one person or many Amazon "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking" by Samin Nosrat, $16.67"Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" is a New York Times bestseller and a James Beard Award winner for a reason. This book offers a great explanation of exactly why food tastes so good, breaking it down into four main elements.   A powerful wireless charger for their desk Amazon Anker Wireless Charger, $49.89Get them a wireless charger that lets them charge their phone without having to plug it in or take off their phone case first.  A durable, inexpensive Fire tablet Amazon Fire 7 Tablet, $49.99Amazon's Fire tablets are a relatively great deal for a tablet if you're not looking for anything super high-performance driven or luxe. For the average user, they're a good fit. It's Alexa-enabled, so you can ask for quick access to music and entertainment or messages and calling, and it has up to seven hours of battery life. You can shop the latest versions for a bit more money here. A portable laptop desk Amazon AmazonBasics Adjustable and Portable Laptop Table, from $42.55As more and more people find themselves working from home, a laptop desk is essential for comfort, convenience, and efficiency. 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It's set in a coastal town in North Carolina and follows a possible murder and the local suspect, the misunderstood Kya Clark, who's been known simply as "Marsh Girl" for years. A tough, wind-resistant umbrella they can rely upon Amazon Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella, $23.95Hear me out. It may seem boring, but everybody needs an umbrella, and this is way better than whatever version they bought the last time they veered into a CVS while it was raining. We think it's the best umbrella you can buy thanks to how well it resists wind and how long it lasts, and they'll find themselves thankful for it often.  A portable and waterproof speaker Amazon Anker Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker, from $39.99This wireless Bluetooth speaker is waterproof, durable, and easily portable. 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It's made from peppers grown in community gardens across the US.  Anthony Bourdain's bestselling culinary and travel memoir Amazon "A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines" by Anthony Bourdain, from $13.19This is Anthony Bourdain's New York Times bestselling chronicle of traveling the world in search of the globe's greatest culinary adventures. From California to Cambodia, Bourdain spent much of his adult life searching for the perfect meal. A cold brew coffee maker Amazon Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker, $24.99This cold brew maker is as inexpensive as it is convenient, and it can even save hundreds of dollars per year. It easily fits into most refrigerator doors, is simple to use, and makes a good amount of cold brew at once. If they need more than one quart, there's also a two-quart option under $40. Read our full review of the Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker here. The cult-favorite clay mask that took over the internet Amazon Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Facial & Body Mask, $14.95The Aztec Clay Mask is one of those cult-favorite products of the internet that's driven from the obscure depths of Amazon to beauty vlogs, Youtube testimonials with over 4 million views, and even the Sephora beauty blog. It's been called "the world's most powerful facial," and it's also under $10. It can be mixed with water, but it works best with a little bit of apple cider vinegar.Read our full review of the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Facial & Body Mask here. A universal USB wall charger that fits four devices Amazon Anker 4-Port USB Wall Charger with Foldable Plug, $31.99Double the outlet space with this four-port USB wall charger. Its advanced charging capacity also means their tech will charge faster than average. An Atlas Obscura calendar full of daily photos and tidbits about the world's strangest and coolest places or festivals Amazon Atlas Obscura Page-A-Day 2021 Calendar, $15.99The Atlas Obscura calendar is a fun, novel way to infuse each day with an anchor of appreciation and wonder for the world. There are hundreds of photos that celebrate the world's strangest and coolest places, festivals, and foods. Travelers and life-long learners are particularly good candidates for this one. A milk frother so they can make their favorite coffee or hot chocolate drinks from home Amazon PowerLix Milk Frother, $14.95A milk frother is an unexpectedly convenient tool to have around the house, and it can make an otherwise normal cup of coffee or hot chocolate closer to what you'd buy at the cafe. With it, they can make lattes, cappuccinos, and frothy coffees every morning for less. The best travel pillow we've found Amazon Trtl Travel Pillow, from $29.99We know it sounds gimmicky, but these travel pillows from Trtl really do make a difference, which is why we've voted them the best travel pillows you can buy. There's a slightly more expensive version that's even better, too.  A delicious gift basket of caramel, chocolate, and crunchy gourmet treats Amazon Chocolate, Caramel and Crunch Grand Gift Basket, $37For less than $40, you can gift gourmet chocolates and caramels pre-wrapped in a keepsake basket. The set includes seasonal favorites like caramel corn, chocolate pretzels, and peanut brittle.  A hair turban that will cut drying time in half Amazon Aquis Original Microfiber Hair Turban, from $20.99Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels have inspired a slew of rave reviews online, including one from our own team of product reviewers.The towels are made from a proprietary fabric called Aquitex that's composed of ultra-fine fibers (finer than silk) that work to reduce the amount of friction the hair experiences while in its weakest state. It also prevents hygral fatigue — the stretching and swelling of wet hair that makes it vulnerable to frizz and damage — by cutting the hair's drying time by 50%. A charging case that protects and charges wireless devices on the go Amazon Mophie Wireless Power Capsule External Battery Charger, $20.67This compact, portable case charges wearables like the Fitbit Flex, Beats by Dre, and JBL Wireless Earbuds on the go. The 1,4000 mAh rechargeable battery translates to about 60 hours of audio playback in wireless earbuds.  Alexa-enabled smart plugs Amazon Wemo Mini Smart WiFi-Enabled Plug, $28These plugs turn your devices into smart tech. They help your giftee control their lights and appliances from a free app on their phone, or by voice using Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.  A hilarious card game Amazon What Do You Meme? Party Game, $29.99This hilarious popular card game brings together the funniest memes of the Internet with over 350 caption cards for funny combinations.  A highly rated pump with universal wine stoppers to keep open bottles fresh for longer Amazon The Original Vacu Vin Wine Saver with Two Vacuum Stoppers, $17.99This hyper-popular pump and universal wine stopper set keeps open bottles of wine from prolonged exposure to the air, which is what causes the breakdown of its character and taste. This version makes a "click" sound when the user has managed to create an airtight seal and has almost 6,000 five-star reviews. A photo book from one of the most renowned wildlife photographers Amazon "Polar Obsession" by Paul Nicklen, $35.49Paul Nicklen is an acclaimed Canadian photographer, film-maker, and marine biologist known for his work in the Arctic. He's a frequent contributor to National Geographic and has won the BBC Wildlife Photographer award of the year as well as the prestigious World Press Photo award for photojournalism, and this coffee table book is a beautiful homage to polar landscapes.  A powerful external battery Amazon Elecjet PowerPie, $49.99It's not groundbreaking to give your partner a portable charger, but they'll find themselves grateful for it repeatedly. It's perfect for traveling and commuting, when it's safe to again, and acts as insurance for long days away from home. It reportedly charges iPhones twice as fast as the original iPhone charger. 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Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 28th, 2021

Transcript: Hubert Joly

       The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Hubert Joly, Best Buy CEO, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.   ~~~   BARRY RITHOLTZ,… Read More The post Transcript: Hubert Joly appeared first on The Big Picture.        The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Hubert Joly, Best Buy CEO, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.   ~~~   BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest. Hubert Joly is the man who helped turn around Best Buy when they were floundering about a decade ago. The stock has since returned 10X from when he joined as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He is the author of a fascinating new book, “The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism.” He’s really a fascinating guy, has an amazing background, both as a consultant for McKinsey and being on a number of different boards and running a number of different companies. Everybody who’s looked at his work always put him amongst the best CEOs, top 100 this, top 30 that, really just a tremendous, tremendous track record. And I had a fascinating time speaking with him. I think if you’re at all interested in anything involving leadership or the next era of capitalism or why the old-school Neutron Jack approach to just firing everybody and cutting costs away to restore profitability no longer works, you’re going to find this to be a fascinating conversation. So, with no further ado, my interview with Hubert Joly. VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. RITHOLTZ: This week, my special guest is Hubert Joly. He is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Best Buy. He is currently the Senior Lecturer on Business at Harvard Business School. He is on the boards of directors at Johnson & Johnson and Ralph Lauren and has been named one of the top 100 CEOs by Harvard Business Review, one of the top 30 CEOs by Barron’s and one of the top 10 CEOs to work for in the U.S. by Glassdoor. Hubert Joly, welcome to Bloomberg. HUBERT JOLY, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School: Well, thank you, Barry, very much looking forward to our conversation. RITHOLTZ: So, let’s start with a little bit of your background, you’ve been the CEO of three major companies. Tell us about how that came about. Take us to the beginning or early days of your career. JOLY: Yes, Barry. I started my career with McKinsey & Company in France and then also in the U.S. Essentially, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, that, I thought, it’d be a great training ground and I ending up staying a dozen years at the firm, done a great deal and had wonderful opportunities to lead great companies. At first, I left McKinsey to lead a client that was EDS, Electronic Data Systems in France and I ended up doing a number of turnaround and transformations of companies in industry sectors that were challenged by technology. So, in videogames, in travel, and then, of course, ended up with Best Buy. And I’ve ended up working a variety of industry sectors and those specializations there and every move was a move that was based on — it was – there was somebody with whom I had developed relationship that played a critical role. And so, for example, when I left Vivendi Universal to become the CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the CEO of (inaudible), which was one of the two shareholders, had been a client of mine and where we have stayed friends. So, Barry, one of the key lessons is that try to minimize the number of people you annoy or irritate along the way and try to focus on doing a great job when you are and then I hope that God provides in the end, which is, I think, the lesson for me of my career. RITHOLTZ: So, I want to spend more time talking about your career. But I have to ask, how did you find yourself moving from France to the United States, what led to that and what was that transition like? Because every time I’m in Paris, I always end up saying to myself, God, I could live here. JOLY: Yes. Thank you for that, Barry. So, the first time I moved to the U.S. in 1985, I was with McKinsey & Company. I’d gone to school in France and there had been discussion of should I do an MBA in the U.S. and after a while, McKinsey said no, you really don’t need to do that. But if you want to spend time in the U.S., we’ll send you to one of our offices. So, I ended up in the San Francisco office, quite the years where the minors were at the top of their game, right? So, that — it’s quite fascinating. And then the last time I moved to the U.S. was in ’08, 2008, when I became the CEO of Carlson Companies. So, I moved there from Paris, France to Minneapolis, Minnesota. And I love France. I think it’s a great country. I love the U.S. What I love about the U.S. is that since Jefferson, we’ve been optimistic. It’s been the dream of a better life and it’s this optimism. Let me tell you, in France, you talk about a problem that has never been solved. People will say, well, who are you to talk about it. Nobody has been able to solve it, right. But in the U.S., if a problem has never been solved, immediately, your friends is like, this is interesting, let’s see whether we can solve it. I love this optimism in this great country and I’m now a dual citizen, Barry. RITHOLTZ: Very — really, really interesting. So, let’s talk a little bit about how one becomes a good CEO. Is it effectively on-the-job training or is it a function of your experience and ability that makes you a great leader? JOLY: Yes. There’s the myth that you’re born a leader. I think that every leader was born, of course, but none of us were born leaders and I think it’s a learning journey. And for me, it’s been — yes, I’m learning by doing, learning on the job, learning from great mentors. One thing I learned the most about — with McKinsey was watching my client’s lead and I learned so much from a number of them. Learning from colleagues, at Best Buy, I learned so much from the frontliners and some of our great executives and then our coach. So, let’s slow down here. Can we agree, Barry, that exactly 100% of the top 100 tennis players in the world have a coach. RITHOLTZ: Sure. JOLY: I think the same is true for all of the NFL teams, all of the Champions League teams. What about us executives, right? And so, it’s interesting that now, for CEOs and senior executives have coaches much more popular. But 10 or 15 years ago, not so much. And I’ve benefited enormously, my first coach was the inimitable Marshall Goldsmith. I’ve learned a ton from him. He helped me deal with feedback and focus on getting better and asking for advice. And without Marshall, I would not be – it is infomercial before and after picture, it’s most improved. RITHOLTZ: Marshall Goldsmith was where? Was that at McKinsey or? JOLY: It was — the first time I worked with Marshall was in 2009. I had just became the CEO of Carlson Companies and my head of HR, Elizabeth Bastoni, told me, would you like to work with a coach and my first reaction was, am I doing anything wrong, is everything wrong with this? He said, no, no. I know Marshall, he helps in a great deal get better. His clients are – were, at that time, Alan Mullally of Ford and Jim Kim of the World Bank. I said, that’s cool, I want to be a member of that club. And Marshall was so helpful because when I was getting feedback, you do a 360 and you hear the goods and then you hear the other parts and my reaction initially was, what’s wrong with them, right? What are they talking about? And Marshall helped me — and the way he helped was — so, I did the 360. He gave me first all of the good things that people have said and says, spend the time to swallow this, digest this. And then the next day, he gave me the other stuff and he said, here’s the scoop, you don’t need to do anything with it, right? There’s no god that says that you need to get better at any of these things but you can — but you get to decide what you want to work on and get better at, right? And think about, so, here’s a question that we could ask, right, think about things that you’d like to get better at, right, and if you cannot think about anything, try humility, right, as a potential area. And then what Marshall made me do is talk to my team and said, thank you very much for all of the feedback you’ve given me and then based on what you said, I’m going to start to work on three things, number one, number two, number three, and I’m going to follow up with each of you to ask you for advice on how I can get better at these three things and then a few months from now, I’ll follow up to see how I’m doing. Now, believe me, Barry, first time I did this, this was excruciating pain having to admit to my team that I was not perfect. They knew it. They knew I was not perfect but having to say it out loud and then I wanted to get better at something. But this getting better at something makes it very positive. And then — so, later on, when I joined Best Buy, I repeated that signaling to every one of the executives that it was OK to want to get better at something. And so, later on, everybody at Best Buy had a coach and we were all helping out each other on getting better at our job, which is what I think you need to do. So, coaching — executive coaching plays a key role in my life. RITHOLTZ: Very interesting. And I recall seeing Marshall Goldsmith’s name on a book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” and a quick Google search shows me that like you, he also is a professor. He teaches at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and has quite an impressive CV. But I want to stick with the concept of coaching and mentors, what did you learn at McKinsey who helped you when you were there sort of develop into the CEO that you are today? JOLY: Yes. So, there was — for me, there were two phases, Barry, at McKinsey that we serve, before the partnership and then the partnership. So, in my first say six years as an associate and then a manager, I learned a lot about problem-solving, communications, serving functional matters and so forth. So, I could say I learned a bunch of technical skills. But when I became a partner, the opportunity I got was sit down next to the CEO of the clients, watch them do their thing and listen and learn from them and that makes me — I got a great deal, right, because they were paying us and I was learning from them, right? Couldn’t get a better deal than that. And so, I will always remember, there was a client in, Jean-Marie Descarpentries was the CEO of a computer company Honeywell Bull and this is the guy who told me that the purpose of the company is not to make money, right? It’s an outcome, right? In business, you have three imperatives. You have the people imperative, which are the right teams. We have the business imperatives, which are the customers or clients and then great products and services. And then there’s a financial imperative and, of course, you have to understand that excellence on the financial imperative is the result of excellence on the business imperative, which itself is the result of excellence on the people imperative. So, it’s people, business, finance and finance is an outcome. And by the way, it’s not the ultimate goal because if you think about a company as a human organization, a bunch of people working together, they’re probably in there to create something in the world, right, and we can dig into this but that was — and believe me that was 30 years before the BRT statement of 2019 that we said we need (ph) in August the second anniversary. And so then, it was — the practical implications around this is that when you do your monthly review with your team, start with people and organization. Don’t start with financial results. If you should start with financial result, you’re going to spend your entire time on financials and you want to understand what’s driving these results whereas if you start with people and organization, you have a chance to spend time on that, then business, customers, products and then the CFO will make sure that you’ll spend enough time on the financial results. So, for me, that was a game changer and I applied this throughout my career and you could say whether it was in videogames or in travel or hospitality or in Best Buy, this focus on people first and treating profit as an outcome was a big driver performance. And this has not smoked anything illegal when I say this, Barry. As you know, the share price of Best Buy went from beyond low, it was $11. Recently, it’s been between 110 and 120. So, time spent in nine years, that’s not bad. Maybe you could have done better, Barry, but it’s OK, I think. RITHOLTZ: No. I don’t think I could have done better than 10X and PES no longer illegal in New York. So, you could smoke whatever you like. We’re going to — by the way, those three steps that you just mentioned are right from the book and we’re going to talk a little more about the book in a few minutes. But before we get to that, I have one last question to ask you which has to do with the fact that Best Buy, you mentioned it’s up 10X, it’s a publicly-traded company. Before you were at Best Buy, you are also at a giant company but it was privately held. Tell us a little bit about what that transition was like having to answer to shareholders and Wall Street. How did you manage that? Very different experience from everybody I’ve spoken with over the years. JOLY: Yes. Barry, so, I’ve worked in a public company, Best Buy. I’ve worked in a family-owned company, this was Carlson Companies. I’ve worked in a partially private equity-owned company, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, one equity partner of JPMorgan with 45 different shareholders and frankly, I think it’s pretty much all the same. You have shareholders whether they are large entities like Fidelity or Wellington or it’s a private equity player or it’s a family, they have expectations and needs and, by the way, all of them are human beings, right, by the way and that’s focused on the high-intensity trading that all the longs and all the shorts, they are human beings, and I’ve had – even though I say profit is an outcome and is not the ultimate goal, shareholders, even in stakeholder capitalism, are very important stakeholders. They’re taking care of our retirement. So, we love them for that. And so, when I was a CEO of Best Buy, I so enjoyed spending time with our shareholders sharing with them what we’re doing, answering their questions, they’re smart. It was always taking things away and the key was pay attention, listen and then pay attention to the say/do ratio. Best Buy had lost its credibility because they were saying a lot but not doing much, right? So, with my wonderful CFO sharing the column with me, we’re going to say less and do more and that’s how we’re going to build our credibility and we would be very transparent, share our situation, the opportunities we saw, what we’re going to do, and then we update them in our progress. And so, I really enjoy the competition. But in many ways, Barry, I think public, private equity or a family is largely the same. It’s people, we have to respect them and take care of their needs. RITHOLTZ: My extra special guest this week is Hubert Joly. He is the former Chairman and Chief Executive at Best Buy, a company that he helped turn around over the course of his tenure there. Let’s talk a little bit about that. If you would have asked me a decade ago what the future look like for Best Buy, I would have said they were toast that Amazon was going to eat their lunch and they were heading to the garbage pile. Tell us what the key was to turning the company around so successfully. JOLY: You’re, right. Everybody thought we’re going to die. There was zero buy recommendation on the start in 2012 and what I found as I was examining the opportunity to become the CEO because my first reaction when I was approached was this is crazy, right? This is the same reaction as you described. But what I found is that there was nothing wrong with the markets or the business outside. All of the problems were self-inflicted. In fact, the customers needed Best Buy because we needed a place where to see and touch and feel the products and ask questions. And the vendors ultimately needed Best Buy. They needed a place where to showcase their products, the fruit of their billions of dollars of R&D investments. The problems were self-inflicted. Prices were not competitive. The online shopping experience was terrible. Speed of shipping was bad. The customer experiences in the stores have deteriorated. The cost structure was bloated and, and, and. That’s great news because if a problem is self-inflicted, you can fix it. RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: And so the first phase was all about fixing what was broken and the advice I had been getting, Barry, was cut, cut, cut. We’re going to have to close stores, cut headcounts. We did the opposite. All of the stores were profitable. So, frankly, there was no point of closing stores in a significant fashion. RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: It was very — the first phase was a very people centric approach, listening to the frontliners. My first week on the job, I spent it in the store in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I think in France, we would say St. Cloud but over there it’s St. Cloud so there you go. And really listening to the frontliners, they had all of the answers about what needed to be done. And so, my job was pretty easy, it was do what they have to — what they said we needed to do like fix the website, make sure the prices were competitive and so forth. The second on the people centric approach, build the right team at the top and then instead of focusing on headcount reduction, focus on growing the top line by meeting the customer needs and fixing what was broken in the customer experience and treating headcount reduction really as a last resort. And then focus on mobilizing the team on what we need to do for the customers. That sounds soft but that was our opportunity and that’s what we need to do in the first two or three or four years. And then once we have saved the company, it was about how do we — where do we go from here, how — what kind of company do we want to build for the future. And that’s why we focused on designing our purpose as a company. We said we’re actually not a consumer electronics retailer. We are a company in the business of enriching life through technology by addressing key human needs, which we’ll talk more about this. But this was transported because it’s expanded our addressable market and have to mobilize everybody. And as a company, we have to work on making this come to life in all of our activities and really creating an environment where – I think the summary at that time was we unleashed human magic. We had a hundred thousand people plus, I think spring in their step, connecting would drive them in life with their job and doing magical things for customers. And frankly, Barry, I learned so much along the way and, again, all of this sound soft but go back to — we went from $11 to 110 or 120. That was the key. RITHOLTZ: To say the very least. So, let’s talk a little bit about what you guys had done in the physical stores. The big threat to Best Buy was people showrooming, meaning showing up to look it up products and then buying it for a little cheaper at Amazon. How did you — and this is the line from the book, quote, “How did you kill showrooming and turned it into showcasing?” unquote. JOLY: Yes. So, everybody was talking about showrooming at that time. The frequenct was not that high actually but of course, it was incredibly frustrating for the blue shirt associates in our store to spend time with you, Barry, we love you but we spent 30 minutes with you answering all of your questions about the TV and then you buy it online. So, after 30 days at the company, we actually decided that we were going to take price off the table by lining up places with Amazon and giving the blue shirts the authority on the spot to match Amazon prices. And so, I took price off the table … RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: … and the customers, once they were in our stores, they were ours to lose. RITHOLTZ: Right. When you want to drive home with the TV in the back of the car instead of waiting a couple of days from it to come from Amazon, immediate gratification has to be a huge benefit you guys have as the physical store. JOLY: Exactly. And then, yes, of course, the (inaudible) but you’re still going to die because your cost structure is too high, it’s higher than Amazon or Walmart. So, we did take $2 billion of cost out. RITHOLTZ: Wow. JOLY: But the way we won in the end was we just had aha moment of, as I said, showcasing. If you are a Samsung or HP or Amazon and Google products, you need a place where to showcase your products, right, because you spend billions of dollars on R&D and if it’s just I’d say vignette on a website or box on a shelf, you’re not going to excite the customers. RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: You need a place where to showcase your products. And so, we did deals. The first one was with Samsung where we had a meeting in December of 2012, Barry. J.K. Shin, the then CEO of Samsung Electronics came to visit us in Minneapolis in December of 2012 and over dinner, we did a deal where in a matter of months, you would have 1,000 Samsung stores within our stores where you could showcase these products. It was just across the aisle from — we already had an Apple store within the store and it was good for the customers because they could see the products, they could compare with Apple. It was good for Samsung, right, because the alternative for them first was to build 1,000 stores in the U.S., it takes time, it’s difficult, and. of course, we have this great location and great traffic. And good for us because it was part of our OPM strategy, other people’s money strategy, right, because there were some good economics for us. And so, that allowed us to offset the cost advantage in Walmart or Amazon we have and then over time, we did deal with all of the world’s foremost almost tech companies, including Amazon for crying out loud, and that was the game changer. And we look — if you look at our stores today, they are shiny because — we have all of these shiny objects and you can see and experience all of these products. So, that was really a game changer. RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk a little bit about both Samsung and Amazon. First, I’m always surprised that people don’t realize what a giant product company Samsung is. It’s not just phones but it’s phones, its TVs, it’s washers, dryers. I mean, Samsung basically anything in your house is a product that Samsung makes and not just entry-level washer, dryers or refrigerators. I think was it last year or two years ago, they bought Dacor, which is like a subzero, high-end manufacturer of kitchen appliances. So, when you set up the store within a store with Samsung, tell us about what that did and how did that impact Samsung’s sales at Best Buys? JOLY: Sure. Yes. I mean, you’re right to highlight this great company. The first deal we did with them was focused on phones and tablets and cameras. So, in a matter of months, they had these stores within our stores and it really put them on the map. It is I think — if you go back to the ’90s, Samsung was not the same company. They were really low end and the chairman at that time, so, the father of the current — of J.Y. Lee now, came to the U.S. and said, at some point, I want Best Buy to carry us and it would be the ultimate goal. And now, they’re one of our top five vendors, probably better than top five. And so, it really gives them the physical presence and to prove that it’s worth for them was then we did the same in the TV department and then in the appliance department. So, it’s been a series of wins for them. And once we have announced the deal with Samsung, other — we had similar conversation with Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, we had a conversation at CES and then two months later, we did the Microsoft stores within Best Buy and then it went on and on. And Tim Cook at Apple told me that he didn’t really like what we were doing, he understood it but he didn’t really like it and Apple has been a very important vendor to Best Buy. So, what we decided to do with them is do more. And so, it was stronger partnership. So, Best Buy is not simply carrying products and partners with the world’s foremost tech companies and with some of these companies and partners on product development, new product introduction and because there’s so much innovation that drives the business, it’s a critical role we play. We also partner in service, Best Buy sells AppleCare, an authorized Apple service provider. So, these partnerships really changed the game. And in the U.S., I think it’s not arrogant to say that Best Buy is the only player which these large companies can do these meaningful deals. So, it really changed the trajectory. RITHOLTZ: I have to ask you about the Geek Squad. Whose idea was that and how significant is it to the company? JOLY: Sure. Robert Stephens was a student at the University of Minnesota, was the — is the founder of Geek Squad in 1994. Very creative guy. The name itself is good — is cool, the logo and so forth, and then Best Buy acquired the company in 2002 when it was quite — still quite small and now, of course, it’s become really big, it’s 20,000 employees. And it’s the key elements of Best Buy’s differentiation because Best Buy is not just in the business of selling you something. We’re — our target customer — people who are excited about technology need technology but also need help with it. And so, with the Geek Squad and the blue shirts, we’re able to advise you when you’re looking at what to do but also help you implement in your home, helps you figure out if something is not working across, right? Of course, let’s take an example. If Netflix is not working tonight at your house, Barry, is it because of Netflix, is it piping to the home, is it the router, is it the streaming device, is it the TV, honey, what is it, right? And we’re honey, right, and we’re going to be able to help you across all of these vendors. And so, that’s a big differentiator for the company. So, really genius. RITHOLTZ: My extra special guest this week is Hubert Joly. His new book is called, “The Heart of Business.” Let’s talk a little bit about writing a book which is quite an endeavor. What motivated you to sit down and say, sure, I’ll write a book? JOLY: Well, this is not a traditional field book. So, this is not a memoir. This is not about the story of the Best Buy turnaround per se. It was reflection, Barry, and it’s really been something I’ve been thinking about for the last 30 years that so much of what I’ve learned at business school, what McKinsey or the early years of my career is wrong, dated or incomplete. And when sit back today or in the last couple of years, even though I’m the eternal (ph) optimist, I have to say it out loud, the world as we know it is not working, right? We’re in this multifaceted crisis, you have, of course, the health crisis and economic crisis, suicidal issues, racial issues, environmental problems, geopolitical tension, it simply is not working. And what’s the definition of madness, right? It’s doing the same thing and hoping for different outcome. And for me, on my FBI’s most wanted list, is two people. One is Milton Friedman, shareholder primacy, and two is Bob McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense and executive at Ford who’s the — almost the inventor top-down scientific management. These approaches don’t work and I think they got us in trouble and there’s a growing number of us, right, and certainly, I’m not the only one, who believe that there’s a better formula that business can be a force for good that — it’s the idea that business should pursue a noble purpose and take care of all of the stakeholders that you put people at the center. You embrace all stakeholders in some kind of declaration of future dependents. There’s no need to choose between employees and customers and shareholders. It’s by taking care of customers and employees and the community that generate great returns for shareholders. We treat profit as an outcome and this formula, people call it stakeholder capitalism or purposeful leadership, I think everybody now talks about it and embrace it, most people. There’s still a few who don’t agree. But the challenge then is how do you do this, how do you make this happen and, Barry, I felt that with my experience and the credibility of the Best Buy turnaround, I could add my voice and my energy to call this necessary foundation of business and capitalism around purpose and humanity and provide like a guide for any leader at any level frankly who is keen to move in that direction but like the rest of us, we would help. And so, that was the genesis of the book and the subtitle of the book is leadership principles, right, for the next era of capitalism and the book is full of very concrete examples and stories and illustrations. There’s questions at the end of each chapter that people can use to reflect and act at their company. So, that’s the book. RITHOLTZ: Speaking of the book, it got a terrific review from all — of all people, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. How did that come about, how did Bezos give you a review and what’s the relationship like between Best Buy and Amazon these days? JOLY: Sure. Best Buys has always sold Amazon products because we think about Amazon as the retailer, of course, as a cloud company but Amazon is also a product company, right? They have the Kindle and, of course, all of their Echo products. And Best Buy have always sold Amazon’s products in the stores. Other retailers say it otherwise but we felt these were great products and we’re here to serve customers. I got to know Jeff firstly through the business council. Both of us were members there on the executive committee and once, I was invited to discuss our turnaround and how we had approached that transformation and Jeff was in the first row and being very kind. But then we did this significant partnership where I think it was in 2018. Amazon gave Best Buy exclusive rights to Fire TV platform, which is their smart TV platform, to be embedded into smart TVs. So, any smart TV with the Fire TV embedded in it, Best Buy is going to control that. It’s only going to be sold at Best Buy or by Best Buy and Amazon. And when we did the announcement for this deal, we did it in a store in Beverly, Washington, and Jeff came and we had some media there and Jeff said, TV is a considerate purchase. You got to see the TV. Best Buy is the best place in the world we you can do this. That’s why we’re doing the partnership and we built this stress-based relationship. And, of course, the media was — this was a jaw-dropping moment and Jeff is a very generous man. It’s interesting because it raises another question which is how do you think about competition. As you lead a company, do you obsess about competition or do you obsess about your customers and what you can become. And that’s one of the things that Jeff and and I share which is you obsess about your customers and becoming the best version of yourself you can be. Of course, at Best Buy, we look at Amazon. We wanted to — actually, in the sense, we neutralize them, right, because same prices, same great shopping experience and we ship as fast as they do. So, let’s call it a draw on the online business and then we have unique asset. And so, you’re not obsessed about your competition. In fact, in some cases, you partner with them and I think the world — other than the COVID pandemic, there’s another pandemic in the world which is the fear or the obsession about zero-sum games. The only way that Amazon could win is if Best Buy loses or vice versa. The only way this podcast can be successful, Barry, is if you win and I lose. That’s crazy, right? You get to collaborate and create great outcomes and I think in this world as leaders, we have to think about how we can create when win, win, win outcomes for our customers, our employees, our vendors, the community and ultimately, their shareholders. RITHOLTZ: And to put some flesh on those bones, some numbers on it, in 2007, before the financial crisis, Best Buy had done about $35 billion in revenue. In 2020, they were somewhere in the neighborhood of 47 billion and this year, I think the company is looking for an excess of 50 billion. So, clearly, that’s been heading in the right direction. Let’s talk a little bit about your experience on other boards. You’re in the board of directors of Johnson & Johnson and you’re on the board of directors at Ralph Lauren. What have you learned from those firms that were applicable to Best Buy and what do you bring to the table for those companies? JOLY: Yes. So, I joined — the first board I joined was Ralph Lauren in 2009 and I was the CEO of Carlson Companies, which was Carlson Wagonlit Travel, TGI Fridays and then a bunch of hotels, Regent and Radisson. The reason why I was interested in joining another board was to try to become a better CEO in the relationship with my board and sitting on somebody else’s board, you can see the needs of the board and then you can see how the CEO and their team are dealing with you. So, that was a great experience because when you become CEO and you deal with the board, you have zero experience, right, dealing with the board. So, that’s one of the things you learn on the job. So, that was a great way for me to learn. And these two companies, J&J and Ralph Lauren, they’re two amazing companies. J&J, I joined recently. I joined about 18 months ago. And so, watching Alex Gorsky and his team navigate the pandemic, their Credo-based approach. I mean, they’re the inventor of stakeholder capitalism before (inaudible), right, with their Credo that they created in 1943 that’s focused on all of the stakeholders. They’re one of the most innovative companies. So, they show the value of doing meaningful innovation for the benefit of, in their case, their patients. This is a wonderful entrepreneur. The company was founded in ’67 and it’s a great company, one of the most iconic brands on the planet. So, how do drive this and how do you balance left brain and right brain and, of course, enjoying cooperating with Patrice Louvet, the CEO, who is a terrific guy. And so, learning — I’m like a sponge, I love learning (ph) from others. What I bring, I would frame it along the lines of what I was looking for my board to do when I was CEO and I was not looking for the board to give me all of the answers and do my job, right? But I use the board — I wanted — I build a board that would give me complementary skills. So, I wanted to have the best people on the board that would have skills that would be additive to our management team and use the board as a sounding board to — I would get 80 percent of the value of the board meeting in preparation to the board meeting. And then getting reaction at the sounding board. When you are in the weed, sometimes, you’re missing something and then being able to access unique expertise from my board. So, what I try to bring on these boards is I try to be a resource for the management team, a sounding board, and helping them with their most important issues. I really enjoyed that. I’m in the state now where I started a new chapter as you highlighted, I’m no longer a CEO but it’s a matter of giving back and helping the next generation of leaders be the — become the best version of themselves they can be. So, I do that through boards and through executive education at Harvard Business School, also coach and mentor of a number of CEOs and executives. So, it’s — I just love doing that. RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk a little bit about what you’re doing now. Tell us about the class you’re teaching at Harvard. JOLY: So, on Monday, August 30th, that is the first day of school for the incoming MBA class. So, I’m one of the professors in the first year. I teach marketing, which is about — it’s focused really on how do you grow a company focusing on the customers. So, that’s one of the things I do. I’m also part of the faculty that’s — as a program for new CEOs. So, twice per year with a small bunch of new CEOs, I did this when I became CEO, that come here for three days and we try to help them out. I’m also part of the faculty that’s doing a program called Leading Global Businesses and last but not the least, I’m really passionate about this, we’re designing and we’re going to pilot program for companies and then also in the MBA program called Putting Purpose to Work and Unleashing Human Magic. So, many companies on this purpose journey today. And so, there’s going to be a series of workshops for the top 30 people, custom programs, one company at a time, and we’re going to try to support them in their journey. We’re doing our first pilot this fall and to look forward to learning from that experience. And I think we’re just in the early innings of that new era of capitalism. So, so much to learn. I’m super excited to be part of that journey with a number of companies. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. I have to ask you the obvious question, is your book a book you assigned to your students? What do you have them read? JOLY: So, HBS is a school where there’s really not, for the most part, mandatory reading of any books. So, I know that last year, before the book was established, my wonderful Section E from the MBA program, they all got a copy of the manuscript and they had great conversations, too. Sometimes, the book gets distributed to the participants of the executive education programs. But in the MBA, there’s little mandatory reading. It’s all about, as you know, the case study methodology, which is a wonderful way to learn because it’s hard to learn just from reading. Reading, I mean, I encourage people to read the books for sure but it’s by practicing that you really learned, right? So, that’s the HBS way. RITHOLTZ: To say the very least. And one of the things that Bezos specifically mentioned was that he thought your turnarounds at Best Buy was going on eventually become a Harvard Business School case study. What are your thoughts on that? JOLY: Well, we’re actually working on that with Professor Gupta and it’s going to be taught for the first time. This is going to be fun, right? It’s going to be the last case of the marketing class in December. And so, of course, in my section, it’s going to be ironic. I’m going to be Professor Joly and I’m going to be one of the protagonists. There’s been other cases on Best Buy but this one is going to be much on the turnaround and transformation. So, that’s going to be fun. I’ve also taught it — we’ve also taught it in some of the executive education programs. So, Jeff – I know Jeff is right, there’s a Best Buy case now at Harvard Business School. RITHOLTZ: Really, really quite interesting. So, you mentioned purposeful leadership. Let’s delve into that a little bit. How does one become a purposeful leader who’s focused on creating the sort of environment where others can flourish and perform at their best? JOLY: Yes. This is, for me, such an important information and I grew up believing that as the leader, what was important was to be smart, right, where I went to school and to — some of the best schools and in the early years of my career, this is the left brain would highlight being the smartest person in the room. I’ve learned over the years that this is not what drives great outcome over time. I had an entire reflection and we slowed down. One of the things that is important to do is reflect on why do we work. Is work markedly a mixed reputation, right? We work — is work a punishment because some dude send in paradise, right, or is work something we do so that we can do something else that’s more fun or is work part of our fulfillment as a human being, part of our quest for meaning, right, to talk about Victor Frankl. And one of the things that I really invite myself to do and every leader to do is reflect on this. What’s going to be the meaning of my life professionally? How do I want to be remembered? One of the things we ask the CEOs to do in the CEO program in Harvard is write your retirement speech or with my wife when I — when we coach or mentor CEOs, we ask them to write their eulogy. What would you like other people to say on that day when you’re not here to listen? And I think this is so meaningful because people talk about the purpose of the corporation. I think it starts with our individual purpose, right, because motivation is intrinsic, right? And so, how can you lead others if you cannot lead your life and yourself? For me, that’s the beginning. And very practical, one of the turning points in our journey at Best buy, Barry, was every quarter, we would get together as an executive team for an offsite and one day, I asked every one of the executive team members to come to the offsite with a picture of themselves when they were little, maybe two or three years old. We got some really cute pictures, Barry, I can tell you that and over dinner, we spent the evening sharing with each other our life story and what drives us in life, what’s the meaning of our life. And what came out of that discussion, several things, one is we realized that all of us were human beings, not just a CFO or CMO or CHO, and that, with a couple of exceptions, all of us had the same kind of goals in life, which is it is the golden rule, do something good to other people. And that was transformational because we said, well, we’re the executive team of Best Buy. At that time, Best Buy — we had saved Best Buy and it was — where do we go from here? Why don’t we use Best Buy as a platform to do something good in the world and become a company that customers are going to love, employees are going to love, community is going to love and, of course, shareholders are going to continue to love. And so, there’s a similar idea in my mind which is connecting what drives us as individuals with the purpose of the company and the thing for companies that are embarked on the purpose journey, they write down their purpose but if they just try to cascade it down and communicate it to everybody and say, why don’t you — why aren’t you excited about this new purpose, right, it doesn’t work. We really have to start with what drives every individual and the company and then you realize that, yes, what is your role. So, in the book, I talked about the five Bs of purposeful leadership. The first B is be clear about your — what we are talking about, be clear about your own purpose, be clear about the purpose of people around you and how it connects with what you’re doing at the company. The second one is be clear about your role as a leader. It’s not to be the smartest person in the room but to create the environment in which others can be the best version of themselves. And, of course, if you’re leading a significant company and Best buy has more than 100,000 people, the only thing that happens is the thing that you decide that you come up with, you know it’s going to go far, right? So, it’s all about creating this environment which is significant mind shift. It’s also about — yes, Barry? RITHOLTZ: I was going to say, I’m struck by your comments and this comes through the book about showing vulnerability, inspiring people, embracing your humanity. I think back to the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, whose nickname was Neutron Jack for how frequently he would lay off people and close divisions and fire other executives. When you were putting your philosophy to work at Best Buy, were you aware that this is a radical break from what had come before you? JOLY: Yes. And to quote — so, to go back to France in 1789, at the moment of the Storming of Bastille, there is Louis XVI asked La Rochefoucauld, is this a revolt, and La Rochefoucauld’s response says, no, sire, this is a revolution. And I think that’s what it is and it’s really shifting things. People are not the problem. They’re the source and they’re also the ultimate goal. And I think that most people agree with this, Barry, the challenge is not agreeing with this now, I think it’s really doing it and it’s — I can speak from experience. If you were to look at my face, you would see all of these scars on my face. Learning from experience and trying to get better at this is a lifelong journey of learning to be vulnerable. I was raised — being taught that I — you couldn’t say I don’t know and now, in the world we live, did you have a manual for the COVID pandemic, did you have a manual for back-to-the-office, Barry? No. So, it’s clear that we don’t know. So, we have to be able to say my name is Hubert and I need help and we’re going to work together to figure it out. So, there’s a C change in leadership, meaning from a place of purpose and with humanity and a great deal of humility. RITHOLTZ: So, I want to talk about the pandemic in a moment. I want to stick with this revolution that you mentioned. There’s a quote from the book that I really like, quote, “The Milton Friedman version of capitalism got us here. But now, this model is failing.” Explain to us how it got us here, why it’s failing now and what comes next. JOLY: I used this to highlight the idea which mainly has been Milton Friedman’s, only I get was the context when he spoke. But the obsession with profits being the only thing that matters is proven to be poisonous and excessive focus on profit is poisonous and there’s several reasons for this. One is when we look at the reported profit of the company — by the way, if anybody believes that U.S. GAAP really tries to equate economic performance, study your accounting again, it’s not even trying, it’s a set of principles. There’s many things that GAAP profit does not capture, including your negative impact on the environment or how well your sales force is trained. The other thing is that it focuses on an outcome. So, in medicine, the (inaudible) analogous is my MD was focused on my temperature, right, and I don’t want a doctor that’s purely focused on my temperature because maybe he’s going to put the thermometer in the fridge or in the oven, right, depending. I want somebody who’s going to be interested in what’s driving my health and try to help me get healthy. And so, we got confused by this obsession and that was (inaudible) and, of course, there’s extreme cases. Enron is one of them but — where we lost track of why we’re on this planet and responsibility with doing the right thing. So, this new model, the reinvention of business probably going back to some of our roots, right, with the idea that business is here to purse enabled (ph) purpose. And this is not about socialism, this is about doing something good in the world that could be responding to needs of customers in a way that’s responsible. It’s about putting people at the center embracing all of the stakeholders in a harmonious fashion, refusing zero-sum games and treating profit as an outcome. I think that’s the formula that’s employed by some of the best companies on the planet. And as leaders, we need to go back to that and to learn new things because we’re so influenced by some of the techniques we learned last century, including this top-down management approach and using it extensively. So, that’s something you’re going to learn over time. There’s research by the MIT that shows that financial incentive deteriorates performance, which is the opposite of what we’ve learned, right? But if you feed somebody with carrots and sticks, beware because you’re going to get a donkey, right? RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: And in a world where you need creativity and people to be their best, motivation is going to be intrinsic. So, that’s what you need to be able to touch and get to the environment where people want to be their best and make a meaningful contribution in their work. So, I think this is a very exciting phase. This is an urgent phase because I’m concerned probably like you and many others that we have a few ticking timebombs and I have three wonderful granddaughters. I want to do my best to try to, quote-unquote, “make the planet” be a better world, right, than the current trajectory. RITHOLTZ: And this is very consistent, I have a fuller understanding of your philosophy that profit should be an outcome and not just the goal in and of itself. You’ve really put some meat on those bones. JOLY: Yes. Thank you, Barry, and there’s practical implications of that again and starting your monthly business meetings or even your board meetings with people and organization and then customers and business and then basically (ph) with with financial results. You should take care of the first two, the profits will follow. So, it’s a significant practical and philosophical transformation. Talking about quotes here, we quoted Milton Friedman, but I love this quote from the Lebanese prophet, Kahlil Gibran, who said that work is love made visible. RITHOLTZ: That’s a wonderful quote. And let’s talk a little bit about visibility of some of the changes you did. By the time you stepped down from the board of directors in June of last year, Best Buy’s board of 13 directors had, for the first time ever, a majority of women and three African-American directors. Tell us how you brought about this increase of diversity. What about diversity throughout the rest of the company and what was the impact of so much inclusion and a shift away from the older homogenous types of boards? JOLY: I think, Barry, it’s clear for every one of us today that having diversity is going to get to a better business outcome and I do believe that has there been Lehman brothers and sisters instead of Lehman brothers, we would have had a different outcome. But if you also take it a very practical fashion, in one of our stores in Chicago that’s in the Polish neighborhood, if the blue shirts don’t speak Polish, they’re not going to sell much. RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: Or when we had Brazilian tourists in Orlando, the blue shirts didn’t speak Portuguese, they were not going to sell much. So, having diversity of every dimension, talent, skills, profiles, gender, race, the country’s color is changing very rapidly, it’s becoming black and brown, we have to represent — it’s very simple, we have to represent the diversity of the customers we serve. If we don’t, bad things happen. And so, there’s a business imperative, there’s also a moral imperative when we see the state of the country. So, from a gender standpoint, as I said, I have three granddaughters, I want them to have the best opportunities, and why would it make sense to only recruit from a quarter of the population, right? RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: The board’s — I’ll say the board’s composition was a great place to focus now. It’s not the only one. When we rebuilt the board study in 2013, we want to have the best skills. We were determined to be diverse. So, we had an early focus on gender diversity and when I started to focus more on ethnic diversity, probably starting in 2016, 2017, I met — I had a great meeting with Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments and … RITHOLTZ: Sure. JOLY: … she’s now the Chair of Starbucks, everyone knows Mellody, she’s amazing, one of the things she told me is that people cannot be who they cannot see. And so, starting at the top and having a board that would signal the direction was important. So, what’s really — and changing the composition of the board is not that hard with only 10 or 12 or 13 people, how hard can it be? So, we told the headhunter don’t bother giving us resumes of non-black directors, right, and if you believe that you are unable to find great black candidates, well, say that’s OK, we won’t have a problem with that. We’ll just work with another firm. It’s not a problem. And so, we recruited three amazing directors and we got them on the board that they’ve concluded (ph) in this direction and I think it makes a huge difference. And, of course, Best Buy is headquartered in Minneapolis and following the killing — the murder of George Floyd, it’s pretty simple, if you — if the city is on fire, right, if the community is on fire, you just can’t open stores, right? You can’t run a business. RITHOLTZ: Right. JOLY: So, in this country, we have this big racial issue that has been going on for centuries. I think generation has the opportunity to end systemic racism and that’s something we, I think, business can play a big role in this. So, that was determined and that’s what we did. RITHOLTZ: Let’s jump to our favorite questions that we ask all our guest starting with tell us what you’re streaming these days, give us your favorite Netflix or Amazon Prime, what’s keeping you entertained during the pandemic? JOLY: I have so much electronic equipment in our place that I’m doing a lot of streaming. I love — I always listen to music. I’m a movie buff. I have a collection of probably 800 movies on my (inaudible) setup. Our favorite I would say recently has been “Good Doctor.” I think that’s Season 5, it’s starting at the end of September. We’re very excited about this. And then from a podcast standpoint, I like listening to HBR’s Idea Cast. That’s a weekly – a great weekly podcast. Whitney Johnson has a great leadership podcast called “Disrupt Yourself.” And then I have to mention, there’s a young teenager, well, teenager would be young anyway, right, but let’s call him a teenager, Logan Lin has got a FinanZe podcast that focused on the Z generation. My God, the guy is so cool. So, everybody joins and downloads FinanZe spelled F-I-N-A-N-Z-E and that’s Logan Lin. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. We hinted at some of your mentors but let’s jump into that in more depth. Tell us some of the people who helped to shape your career. JOLY: There’s so many, Barry. Jean-Marie Descarpentries, a client of mine, had this big influence on me teaching me so much about how to put people first and treating profits as an outcome. There were two great friends, yes, who happened to be monks in a religious congregation in the early ’90s. That was a turning point. They asked me to write a couple of articles with them on the theology and philosophy of work which is where I got a lot of my roots in terms of work as part of our search for meaning as individuals, as human beings. It changed my perspective on work. Another turning point, too, in my early 40s, you could say throughout the book, it was at the top of my first mountain, right, had been a partner at McKinsey & Company. I was on the executive team of Vivendi Universal, by many measures., I’ve been successful, right, except I think the top of that first mountain was very dry which was not fulfilling. There was no real meaning. So, I call it my midlife crisis, right? So, instead of going on to an island, I did — I stepped back and I did the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. So, you could say the founder of the Jesuits, of course. You could say he was one of my mentors that was really helpful to help me discern my calling in life, which today or since then has been to try to make a positive difference on people around me and use the platform I have to make a positive difference in the world which is what I’m doing now teaching and mentoring and so forth. And then we mentioned Marshall Goldsmith, my first coach and a good friend. Later on, I also worked with Eric Pliner at YSC. When the board — so, Marshall was doing my annual — having that board with my annual evaluation and the board realized that Marshall and I were such good friends and said, we need somebody more objective now. And we got Eric Pliner, who is now the CEO of YSC, worked with me but also his firm works with every one of our executives and helps us with executive team’s effectiveness and that was quite transformative. You should have spent more time earlier on not just on building the right team but enhancing our team effectiveness and I learned a lot working with Eric in that journey. RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about everybody’s favorite question, tell us about some of your favorite books and what are you reading right now. JOLY: I read three books this summer. The first one is by Rakesh Khurana who’s now the President of Harvard College and it’s called “From Higher Aims to Hired Hands” which is the history — exactly for me, the history of business education in the U.S. over the last 120 years and how the business school curriculum were saved and how — and why he believes and I do believe as well that we need to evolve it not just learning techniques but also with — it’s not just about learning something or learning to do something, it’s also learning to be, which is I think an entire journey. I also read “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson and a book by my colleague, Tsedal Neeley, “Remote Work Revolution” which is, of course, a very timely book. Best book ever read, I have to mention Marcel Proust being French, “In Search of Lost Time.” It’s only 3,000 pages. So, if you have a minute or two, I encourage you to get to it. Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is another favorite. And you mentioned the Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” And finally, I have to mention my wife’s book called “Aligned: Becoming the Leader You’re Meant To Be” and her name is Hortense Le Gentil. It’s one of the best leadership books that I’ve ever read and, of course, a little bias maybe. RITHOLTZ: Maybe you’re a little bit bias. So, you work with grad students and college students, what sort of advice would you give to a recent college graduate who is interested in a career either as an executive or leadership or even in retail? JOLY: I think the advice is the same as we give the new CEOs is write your retirement speech or even better, write your eulogy. And I know my good friend John Donahoe, who’s now the CEO of Nike, did this when he graduated and he’s always kept it. And I understand he goes back to it every year and it’s hard. (Inaudible) between the ages of 26 and 34, early in your adult life, you don’t necessarily know everything but try to write it and see what journey you want to be on and how you want to be remembered. That would be one plot. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. And our final question, what do you know about the world’s of leadership and executive management today that you wish you knew a couple of decades ago when you were first getting started? JOLY: Well, there’s so much over the years. I think it has to do with profits being an outcome not the goal. It’s about importance of looking at drivers of performance. It’s about my role as a leader is not to be the smartest person in the room but to create the right environment. Not about being perfect. Nobody’s perfect. And I think the quest for — maybe I’ll finish with this, the quest for perfection can be very dangerous, can be evil, right, because if you’re trying to be perfect, guess what, you’re not going to be successful. You’re going to be incredibly demanding and harsh with people around you because you expect them to be perfect. And so, you have to be laxed and be kind with yourself and others around you and be able to open up and share what you are struggling with, understand what they’re struggling with and help each other out. That’s the — I think to me, that’s — it’s such an important consideration. The quest of perfection can be very dangerous. Be kind to yourself. During the pandemic, we learned so much, right? We used to fly around Barry, long time ago on planes, right, and we were told by the steward or the stewardess, if the oxygen mask comes down, put it on yourself first before you help others. So, as we continue to go through challenging time, taking care of yourself as a leader, making sure you meditate, you reflect, you exercise, you ask for help either from your personal board of directors, your best friends, that’s the key thing, that’s going to be the way that we can then help others. So, take care of yourself first. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. We have been speaking with Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO at Best Buy and currently a lecturer at Harvard Business School. Thank you, Hubert, for being so generous with your time. If you enjoy this conversation, be sure and check out any of our previous 376 former discussions that we’ve had. You can find those at iTunes, Spotify, Acast, wherever you feed your podcast fix. We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at mibpodcast@bloomberg.net. You can sign up for my daily reads, you can find those at ritholtz.com. Follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put these conversations together each week, Charlie Vollmer is my audio engineer extraordinaire, Atika Valbrun is my project manager, Paris Wald is my producer, Michael Batnick is my researcher. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio   ~~~   The post Transcript: Hubert Joly appeared first on The Big Picture......»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureSep 27th, 2021

Mass Shootings: The Vicious Cycle Fueled By America"s Toxic Cult Of Violence

Mass Shootings: The Vicious Cycle Fueled By America's Toxic Cult Of Violence Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “Mass shootings have become routine in the United States and speak to a society that relies on violence to feed the coffers of the merchants of death. Given the profits made by arms manufacturers, the defense industry, gun dealers and the lobbyists who represent them in Congress, it comes as no surprise that the culture of violence cannot be abstracted from either the culture of business or the corruption of politics.” - Professor Henry A. Giroux We are caught in a vicious cycle. With alarming regularity, the nation is being subjected to a heartbreaking spate of violence that terrorizes the populace, fractures communities, and gives the government greater justifications to crack down, lock down, and institute even more authoritarian policies for the so-called sake of national security without many objections from the citizenry. Mass shootings have taken place in schools, on college campuses, movie theaters, nightclubs, grocery stores, concert venues, bars, workplaces, churches, on military bases, and in government offices. In almost every instance, the shooters were dressed in military-style gear and armed with military-style weapons. Take the latest shooting that took place in Uvalde, Texas, when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, wearing body armor and carrying a rifle, walked into Robb Elementary School and opened fire, leaving at least 19 children and two teachers dead. This Uvalde shooting took place ten days after another 18-year-old man, heavily armed and wearing tactical gear (including a tactical helmet and plated armor), opened fire in a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y, killing 10 people. In 2018, a 19-year-old former student armed with a gas mask, smoke grenades, magazines of ammunition, and an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle opened fire on students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., leaving 17 people dead. Ten years ago, 20-year-old Adam Lanza—wearing body armor and black clothing, and armed with military-style weapons—opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., leaving 26 dead. Prior to the shooting, Lanza reportedly spent his days “playing violent video games amid posters showcasing military equipment.” According to an FBI report issued the day before the Uvalde shooting, these kinds of “active shooter attacks” have doubled in recent years. As expected in the wake of such tragedies, there has been a vocal outcry for enacting more strident gun control measures, more mental health checks, and heightened security measures. Yet surely there’s more to these shootings than just easy access to weapons and mental illness. Ask yourself: Why do these mass shootings keep happening? Who are these shooters modelling themselves after? Where are they finding the inspiration for their weaponry and tactics? Whose stance and techniques are they mirroring? When you start to connect the dots, they lead right back to the American police state and the war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex, both of which continue to dominate, dictate and shape almost every aspect of our lives. The United States is the number one consumer, exporter and perpetrator of violence and violent weapons in the world. Violence has become America’s calling card. We are a military culture engaged in continuous warfare. We have been a nation at war for most of our existence. We are a nation that makes a living from killing through defense contracts, weapons manufacturing and endless wars. We are being fed a steady diet of violence through our entertainment, news, sports and politics. All of the military equipment featured in blockbuster movies is provided—at taxpayer expense—in exchange for carefully placed promotional spots aimed at boosting civic pride in the military, recruiting for the military, and churning out profit-driven propaganda for the military industrial complex. Even reality TV shows have gotten in on the gig. It’s estimated that U.S. military intelligence agencies (including the NSA) have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows. Then there are the growing number of violent video games, a number of which are engineered by or created for the military as recruitment tools, which have accustomed players to interactive war play through military simulations and first-person shooter scenarios. As Esther J. Cepeda writes for The Washington Post, “Violent video games alone do not cause people to go off the rails, arm themselves and open fire on innocent people in public places. But there's also no question that there is something wrong with a multibillion-dollar video game industry that sells to young men the ability to virtually assassinate a foe as an escape from real life.” The media, eager to score higher ratings, has been equally complicit in making (real) war more palatable to the public by packaging it as TV friendly. The military has also been firmly entrenched in the nation’s sports spectacles, having co-opted football, basketball, even NASCAR, “tying the symbols of sports with the symbols of war.” This is how you acclimate a population to war. This is how you cultivate loyalty to a war machine. This is how, to borrow from the subtitle to the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, you teach a nation to “stop worrying and love the bomb.” This is how you sustain the nation’s appetite for war. As journalist David Sirota writes for Salon, to those who profit from war, it is “a ‘product’ to be sold via pop culture products that sanitize war and, in the process, boost recruitment numbers.” No wonder entertainment violence is the hottest selling ticket at the box office. As professor Henry Giroux points out, “Popular culture not only trades in violence as entertainment, but also it delivers violence to a society addicted to a pleasure principle steeped in graphic and extreme images of human suffering, mayhem and torture.” No wonder the government continues to whet the nation’s appetite for violence and war through paid propaganda programs (seeded throughout sports entertainment, Hollywood blockbusters and video games)—what professor Roger Stahl refers to as “militainment“—that glorify the military and serve as recruiting tools for America’s expanding military empire. No wonder Americans from a very young age are being groomed to enlist as foot soldiers—even virtual ones—in America’s Army (coincidentally, that’s also the name of a first-person shooter video game that was produced by the military and used as a pivotal recruiting tool for 20 years). Explorer scouts, for example, have been one of the most popular recruiting tools for the military and its civilian counterparts (law enforcement, Border Patrol, and the FBI). Writing for The Atlantic, a former Explorer scout described the highlight of the program: monthly weekend maneuvers with the National Guard where scouts “got to fire live rounds from M16s, M60 machine guns, and M203 grenade launchers… we would have urban firefights (shooting blanks, of course) in Combat Town, a warren of concrete buildings designed for just that purpose. The exercise always devolved into a free-for-all, with all of us weekend warriors emptying clip after clip of blanks until we couldn’t see past the end of our rifles for all the smoke in the air.” No wonder America spends more money on war than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil. America polices the globe, with 800 military bases and troops stationed in 160 countries. Moreover, the war hawks have turned the American homeland into a quasi-battlefield with military gear, weapons and tactics. In turn, domestic police forces have become roving extensions of the military—a standing army. You want to stop the gun violence? Stop the worship of violence that permeates our culture. Stop treating guns and war as entertainment fodder in movies, music, video games, toys, amusement parks, reality TV, sports and more. Stop distributing weapons of war (weapons that have no business being anywhere but on a battlefield) to the local police and transforming police into extensions of the military. Stop exposing young people to the military industrial complex’s pervasive propaganda. Stop falling for the military industrial complex’s psychological war games. Salvador Ramos may have pulled the trigger that resulted in the mayhem in Uvalde, Tex., but something else is driving the madness. We’ve got to do more than react in a knee-jerk fashion. Those who want safety at all costs will clamor for more gun control measures, widespread mental health screening of the general population and greater scrutiny of military veterans, more threat assessments and behavioral sensing warnings, more CCTV cameras with facial recognition capabilities, more “See Something, Say Something” programs aimed at turning Americans into snitches and spies, more metal detectors and whole-body imaging devices at soft targets, more roaming squads of militarized police empowered to do random bag searches, more fusion centers to centralize and disseminate information to law enforcement agencies, and more surveillance of what Americans say and do, where they go, what they buy and how they spend their time. Yet as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, all of these measures play into the government’s hands by locking down the nation without doing anything to address the underlying causes of this madness. What we need is a thoughtful, measured, apolitical response to these shootings that takes aim at the violence plaguing our nation by lowering the levels of violence here and abroad, whether it’s violence we export to other countries, violence we glorify in entertainment, or violence we revel in when it’s leveled at our so-called enemies, politically or otherwise. Our prolonged exposure to the toxic culture of the American police state is deadly. Tyler Durden Fri, 05/27/2022 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedge1 hr. 48 min. ago

The Great Resignation has spurred a new class of entrepreneurs. These 22 small business owners share how they turned side hustles into successful companies.

You could start a hair care business, a dog-walking service, or an urban farm. We put together a collection of guides to get started. A record number of people started new businesses last year, including dog walking, urban farming, and food trucks.iStock; Insider The pandemic upended many lives, but it didn't overturn the entrepreneurial dream. A record number of people launched new startups last year and that momentum hasn't faded in 2022. Here are 18 guides on how to start any business, from a modest urban farm to a food truck.  See more stories on Insider's business page. The pandemic upended many lives, but it didn't overturn the entrepreneurial dream. A record number of people launched new startups last year and that momentum hasn't faded in 2022.More than 5 million new business applications were filed last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — that's up from the 4.4 million filed in 2020. Many of these businesses are sole proprietorships or single entrepreneurs without employees. For those who want to chase their entrepreneurial passions, here are 18 guides on how to start a business, from a dog-walking empire to a modest urban farm, and even a food truck.1. Copywriting businessSarah Turner Agency offers freelance copywriting for clients in the medical and health sectors, content marketing strategy, and training programs for future copywriters.(Courtesy of Sarah Turner)Sarah Turner launched her eponymous copywriting agency in 2013, after leaving her job as a research assistant.Sarah Turner Agency offers freelance copywriting for clients in the medical and health sectors, content marketing strategy, and training programs for future copywriters. Last year, Turner booked $2.6 million in revenue, according to documents verified by Insider. Read more about how Turner launched her copywriting business. 2. Website flippingChelsea Clarke is the founder of Blogs for Sale.(Courtesy of Friday Eve Photo)Chelsea Clarke is the founder of Blogs For Sale, a company that flips little-known websites into desirable online businesses that can generate $16,800 in a year.Clarke said her startup took off last year as more people sought online revenue streams during the pandemic. In 2020, she earned $127,000 from flipping 13 websites and brokering sales for 50 more sites, documents reviewed by Insider verified. Read more about how Clarke built her website-flipping business.  3. Instagram side hustleToday, Plant Kween has 311,000 followers and collaborates with brands like Spotify on curated content.(Courtesy of Christopher Griffin)Christopher Griffin's Instagram account, which is under the moniker Plant Kween, is devoted to pictures of the 200 plants living in their Brooklyn apartment, tips on caring for the greenery, and useful botanical knowledge. They started the account in winter 2016 — as a means of learning about something new after graduate school — grew it steadily to 311,000 followers and collaborates with brands like Spotify on curated content.Griffin couldn't disclose what they earn with the music-streaming service but a partnership with the fashion line Tonle, that sold $42,000 of non-binary clothing last year, netted them around $8,400, according to Tonle. Read more about how Griffin built their Instagram side-hustle. 4. Urban farmHere’s how Joanna Bassi built an urban farm from scratch and her advice for fellow farming entrepreneurs, including how to pivot during a pandemic.(Courtesy of Joanna Bassi)Joanna Bassi turned her unused backyard — measuring 150 feet by 75 feet — into an urban farm that could grow fresh produce for local establishments.Bassi started from the ground up in January 2018, and by the following year, she netted nearly $6,000 in revenue from selling at farmers markets and local restaurants, according to documents viewed by Insider. In 2020, the pandemic temporarily closed Bassi's restaurant clients and hurt business. She still managed to book nearly $7,000 by creating new revenue streams. Read more about how Bassi built her urban farming business. 5. Pet care and dog-walking businessYou can teach your dog to shake your hand with a simple command.vgajic/ Getty ImagesJill Nelson took over her friend's 15-year-old dog walking and pet sitting startup Hot Diggity in 2015. Since then, she's scaled the Seattle office, opened a Vancouver location, and purchased Hot Diggity's Portland, Oregon, outpost. Revenue for Hot Diggity's three locations sank between 2019 to 2020 — Portland had the most drastic decline, falling from $2.1 million to $986,000, according to documents verified by Insider — but Nelson said the company weathered the storm and is already seeing an increase in bookings. Read more about how Nelson built her dog-walking and pet care business. 6. Hand-dyed yarn businessKenyon shared his advice for launching a business around your passion, building community support, and how he stands out in a crowded market.(Courtesy of Jake Kenyon)In January, Jake Kenyon left his full-time job as a speech pathologist to pursue his side hustle: A hand-dyed yarn business called Kenyarn. The pandemic drove many consumers to crafts, like knitting and crocheting, which helped boost Kenyon's business.Kenyarn's gross sales jumped from $33,000 in 2019 to $125,000 last year, and he's on track to surpass that figure this year, according to documents viewed by Insider. Read more about how Kenyon built his hand-dyed yarn business. 7. Food truckAlessio Lacco and Sofia Arango opened a pizza-focused food truck, tapping Lacco’s 15-year background making Neapolitan pies and the truck he already owned.(Courtesy of Atlanta Pizza Truck)Alessio Lacco and Sofia Arango launched Atlanta Pizza Truck last August as way to make money during the pandemic.In its first five months of business, the couple booked $82,000 in sales, according to documents reviewed by Insider. In the first three months of 2021, they netted $53,000 in sales and believe they are on track to at least double sales from 2020.Read more about how Lacco and Arango built their food truck business. 8. Hair care businessStormi Steele(Courtesy of Stormi Steele)Stormi Steele used to make hair care products in her kitchen while working in salon in 2012. She'd mix over-the-counter ingredients, such as flaxseed oil and vitamin E, in an effort to create a solution that would help her hair grow. Today, Steele is the founder of Canvas Beauty Brand, which booked nearly $20 million in revenue last year.Read more about how Steele built her hair-care business.  9. Pop-up bakeryOn January 21, Abby Love opened her first bakery, Abby Jane Bakeshop, in Dripping Springs, Texas.(Courtesy of Abby Love)When the opening of Abby Love's bakery was delayed due to the pandemic, she launched 10 pop-up bakeries around Dripping Springs, Texas to keep her brand alive, attract new customers, and boost revenue.Love partnered with local businesses for her pop-ups, choosing establishments that didn't sell baked goods and attracted the kind of customers who would appreciate her locally-sourced ingredients.Read more about how Love built her pop-up bakery business. 10. Craft brewery businessChristophe Gagne and Avery Schwenk are the cofounders of Hermit Thrush, a Brattleboro, Vermont-based brewery that exclusively makes sour beers.(Courtesy of Little Pond Digital)Christophe Gagne and Avery Schwenk are the cofounders of Hermit Thrush, a 7-year-old Brattleboro, Vermont-based brewery that exclusively makes sour beers. Today the brewery has 21 taps and its canned varieties are sold in 9 states, plus DC. The brewery's most popular concoction, Party Jam, is a collection of fruit-forward sours that typically sells for $19.99 on the company's website. What's more, Hermit Thrush booked $1.5 million in revenue last year, according to documents viewed by Insider. Read more about how Gagne and Schwenk built their craft brew business. 11. Furniture makingMatthew Nafranowicz, a master craftsman, started doing upholstery work more than two decades ago.(Courtesy of The Straight Thread Co.)In 2002, Matthew Nafranowicz opened his furniture upholstery storefront, The Straight Thread, in Madison, Wisconsin. Furniture upholstery represents an estimated $1 billion market in the US, and government data shows it employs roughly 30,000 people.Read more about how Nafranowicz built his furniture upholstery business. 12. Self-publishing(Courtesy of Sally Miller)Sally Miller is a self-published author who's written and co-authored 15 books on Amazon. She made $9,000 in royalties in January, her highest amount to date, according to documents viewed by Insider. "It meets my two criteria, which is that I'm making money and doing something I really enjoy," said Miller, who built a following through her subject matter, which focuses on how people can make money through various entrepreneurial ventures, like Airbnb and ghostwriting.Read more about how Miller built her self-publishing business. 13. Online clothing storePink Lily founders Chris Gerbig and Tori Gerbig.Courtesy of Pink LilyTori Gerbig started selling clothes on Ebay and Facebook as a side hustle to pay off student loans. In 2014, she and her husband Chris launched an online shopping site called Pink Lily with the goal to hit $50,000 by the year's end. They met that goal within four years and have been growing ever since. Today their company, based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, employs 300 people, operates a retail store, and has 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, Last year, the brand made $65 million in revenue, nearly double the previous year's revenue, according to documentation reviewed by Insider.Read more about how the couple scaled their business and gained a loyal customer base.14. Short-term rental startupErica Beers, left, and Rebecca Slivka created their short-term rental startup Pillow and Coffee in 2015, targeting business travelers who needed a place to work in Los Angeles.Courtesy of Pillow and CoffeeErica Beers and Rebecca Slivka created their short-term rental startup Pillow and Coffee in 2015, targeting business travelers who needed a place to stay in Los Angeles. Five years later, their properties are a haven for travelers who can work remotely.In 2019, the duo booked $3.8 million in revenue, nearly $800,000 more than the previous year, according to documents viewed by Insider.Read  their 5 tricks for making millions on sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com.15. Live shopping businessVivian Nguyen is the owner of Cyndercake.Courtesy of Vivian NguyenIn 2020, Nguyen's business Cyndercake made more than $60,000 in sales on the live shopping app Popshop Live and now it's helping her pay for college. She started as an influencer on YouTube selling "squishies," or foam toys with a viral following and her growth on the app led her to open an ecommerce site this year. As more small businesses and resellers in the US are using livestream shows to grow their businesses and personally connect with customers, the livestream shopping market is estimated to be worth $6 billion this year and $25 billion by 2023, according to Coresight Research. Read more about how Nguyen built her live shopping business.16. ResellingNicholas Waskosky has been selling thrifted clothing on Poshmark since he was 14.Nicholas WaskoskyAt the age of 14, Nicholas Waskosky began flipping his thrift finds at "buy, sell, trade" stores like Plato's Closet. Then he made his first listing on the resale app Poshmark: a pair of Birkenstocks for $20."I undervalued them and they sold almost instantly," he told Insider. "I got hooked and I've been doing it ever since."Once he turned 18, Waskosky registered NCI Resale as an official business, selling on other platforms like ebay and Instagram. On Poshmark alone, he sold $34,607 of goods in 2020, and he's done $26,835 in sales so far this year, which Insider verified with documentation. Read more about how Waskosky runs his resale business while attending college full time.  17. PainterIssac PelayoPietro ArredondoAfter being laid off from Disney in 2020, Issac Pelayo turned his passion for painting into a business. "Not having a steady income from Disney — it was extremely rough at first," Pelayo previously told Insider.He started painting every day and began networking with rappers, basketball players, and other artists through social media. With no art dealer, gallery representation, or formal training, Pelayo built a business on his own. He receives most of his commissions through Instagram direct messages, with his art selling for between $3,000 and $10,000. He even does tattoos, for which he charges up to $1,000. Last year, he sold more than $250,000 worth of paintings and prints and he expects to double that number again this year. Read how he used Instagram to scale his side hustle business.18. Career-coaching businessKathleen CameronKathleen CameronKathleen Cameron worked as a nurse for 12 years before launching her career-coaching business. At the time, she felt like something was missing from her job. She left her nursing job in 2019, worked in marketing for six months, and started Diamond Academy at the beginning of 2020. She was able to apply her leadership skills to the service-based business while earning more money and gaining greater flexibility, she said. In the first six months, she landed 100 clients. Now, she coaches more than 1,000 people and generated more than $11.5 million in revenue last year, which Insider previously verified with documentation. "I really want to create a life where I can go and do anything, anywhere," she previously told Insider. "The old way that I used to live was very structured and rigid."Read more about how Cameron built her coaching business and how she spends her days.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsider7 hr. 47 min. ago