With a Single Sentence, Walmart Just Turned an Amazing Idea Into an Epic Fail

And now, Walmart has made a new announcement that seems to build on that strategy.

At least, it did at first glance.

According to Bloomberg, the nation’s largest private employer asked hourly workers to rate potential incentives from a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 signifying “This would be awesome!” and 1 signifying “I don’t care about this.” 

The incentives included the following:

  • Sign-on bonus
  • Child-care services
  • Tutoring
  • Pet care
  • Gym memberships
  • Company-provided mobile device
  • Transportation assistance
  • Immediate access to an employee discount card
  • Access to paid time off from day one
  • Gift cards 
  • Apparel credit

What a great and novel way to figure out what kinds of perks matter to your employees: Ask them!

But as I continued reading the report, a statement from Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing seemed to negate all the goodwill this poll could have created.

“We’re always listening to feedback from our associates on how to improve our offering and experience,” Rushing said. 

And then, the kicker. Wait for it…

“While the results of this poll are insightful, we don’t currently have plans to implement anything based on the results,” Rushing continued.

Man, oh man.

Where Walmart went wrong

Walmart is definitely on to something. Using real employee feedback to help inform its future hiring and benefits strategies–what’s not to like about that?

It comes off sounding like the following: 

Hey–we really want to know what would make you guys happy working for us. Just don’t expect that we’ll actually give you any of those things.

Look, I get that Walmart needs time to figure out what to do with this information, and that it doesn’t want to make promises that it can’t (or won’t) keep. And I have to admit, I kind of admire the company’s honesty.

But here’s another novel idea: 

You’ve worked hard to hire the right people and get them to buy into your company culture. You’ve spent time and money trying to solicit feedback from those people–feedback that you admit has already provided valuable insights.

Now, why not actually take those valuable insights and use them to attract more, like-minded employees?

Otherwise, what could have been an amazing idea will be nothing more than a major tease–and one more missed opportunity.

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The New Apple Watch Heart Monitoring Only Works in the U.S.

When Apple said its new Apple Watch heart monitoring capabilities were FDA cleared, they meant only FDA cleared, it seems.

The new Apple Watch touts a fancy new ECG, or electrocardiogram, monitor. It’s the type of device that is medically advanced enough to need clearance before public consumer use. Apple actually only got FDA clearance a day before its big event announcing the new Apple Watch, along with three new iPhones, Bloomberg reported. Now, it’s working on getting equivalent clearances internationally.

However, before that happens, the new heart monitoring features won’t yet be available for international customers, according to Bloomberg. In fact, Apple isn’t even advertising the new function on its international websites.

Overseas customers looking to get the new Apple Watch, and keen on the new ECG feature shouldn’t worry, though. While no date is reportedly set for a global roll-out, Apple is working on obtaining clearance and is expected to release an update adding the new feature in once approval is obtained.

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This Guy Works From Home and Makes Big Money On iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. (Here's His Brilliant Trick)

As you might imagine, he’s discovered a pretty clever trick that enables him to do this. You might have heard some of his songs, which he records under 72 different stage names, such as:

  • The Very Nice Interesting Singer Man
  • The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns
  • The Strange Man Who Sings About Dead Animals
  • The Guy Who Sings Your Name Over and Over

Here’s his story, his secret, and just how successful this strategy is for him. 

‘I Love Hugh Grant’

Farley is 40, a married father of two. He’s been working from home like this full-time for two years, but previously he spent 17 years working in a group home, and performing on the side with a band called Moes Haven. 

The band had very little professional success, but they wrote a funny song called ‘I Love Hugh Grant’ about the British actor, and it started making money on iTunes and Spotify. 

Well, comparatively speaking, anyway.

“We’d write these serious songs and sell nothing. And then, whoa, ‘I Love Hugh Grant’ made like 74 cents last month!” Farley told me in a phone interview.

Obviously, 74 cents a month is not exactly a fortune. But Farley said he had an ephinany: “Most people would quit, but I was like, if I can make 20,000 songs that are as successful as ‘I Love Hugh Grant,’ I’ll be doing pretty well!”

So, he set out to do just that, recording song after song after song–most of them inspired by terms that people might search for on digital music platforms. And then, it started to work. 

‘A Song for Waterbury, Connecticut’

Farley is incredibly prolific, working from the basement recording studio in his home. Many of his creations are not exactly great art, he’s the first to admit. For example, he’s written and performed 1,800 songs that are literally him just singing people’s names over and over. 

But people search for their own names. And if they come across one of his name songs, they’re likely to play others, too–just to marvel at the sheer number.

And he’s written more than 1,500 songs about different towns across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. He’s never visited almost any of them; he just looks them up on Wikipedia.

“They’re funny. They make you laugh, and there’s value to that,” he said. “Part of the joke is that you’re like, ‘Wait a second, he did one about that town, there’s only 6,000 people in that town. Half the joke is people saying, why would he do that?”

Soon he was seeing some success singing songs like, “A Song for Waterbury, Connecticut,” “I Made This Song About Wollongong. What Do You Think of It?” (Australia), and “Rock Out to This Song About Haverhill, Massachusetts, Ok?”

But nothing–nothing–prepared him for what would happen when he came upon perhaps the most-successful musical search term of all time.

‘Hundreds of songs about poop’

By far, Farley’s most successful and lucrative songs are about poop, pee, and all the other gross stuff that our bodies produce. And they’re all really a search engine optimization play.

He has hundreds of these songs on the three big digital music services. Why? Because it occurred to him a few years ago that most little kids seem to go through a phase when they’re obsessed with bodily functions. 

So now, if your 3-year-old says something like, “Alexa play a song about poop!” it’s Farley’s work that comes up first. (As the father of a 3-year-old, I can vouch for this.)

In fact, he records this genre under two distinct band or artist names, both of which rank really well for search terms that probably nobody else will confess to trying rank for.

The two aliases: “The Toilet Bowl Cleaners,” and “The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, and Pee.”

“It’s kind of like how a big company will have multiple brands,” he said. “I just want to intimidate any potential competitors.”

Just do the work

I think the part of that last quote about intimidating the competition is at least partially a joke. But the revenue he’s making from this each month isn’t. It’s not exactly retire-to-a-beach money, but he said he’s bringing in about $65,000 a year from this kind of SEO-oriented music alone. 

On top of that he said, his wife has a full-time job, so it’s more than enough to live on. Importantly, it also allows him to be at home to take care of his two kids.

Along the way, Farley said he’s figured out how to cut costs, churn out music, and push the envelope on what some of the digital systems will allow.

One example: He uses cdaby to post his music across all digital platforms, and since they charge by the album, he said he records massively long albums, usually with 80 songs or more on them. 

“Part of what I like about this, is there’s this whole ‘tortured artist creative person’ myth,” he told me. “My approach is it’s just going to work every day. If you force yourself to just do the work, you’re going to come across some really creative ideas.”

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T-Mobile and Sprint Making Big Promises If They’re Allowed to Merge

T-Mobile was planning to attack the cable TV industry even before it agreed to combine with wireless rival Sprint, but says it can expand the effort more broadly and more quickly if regulators approve the merger.

Using the upcoming, faster 5G wireless technology, a combined T-Mobile and Sprint could offer an alternative home Internet service to cable by 2024 in 68% of the territory of Comcast (cmcsa), the largest cable provider, and 64% of the area serviced by Charter Communications (chtr), the number two cable player, according to T-Mobile chief operating officer Mike Sievert. Nationwide, the service would cover 52% of all zip codes and could have nearly 10 million subscribers in 2024, he said.

“Our business planning has confirmed that there is a large market for New T-Mobile’s in-home broadband offering at the anticipated pricing and service levels,” Sievert wrote in a filing on Friday with the Federal Communications Commission, which must approve the merger.

T-Mobile hasn’t said much about how it plans to take on the cable industry since buying startup video provider Layer 3 TV last year for $325 million. T-Mobile CEO John Legere said at the time that the cable market, with its high prices and poor customer service, “looks a lot wireless from a few years ago.” In general, the carrier plans to use the same “un-carrier” strategy it used in wireless, which meant dropping practices customers didn’t like, such as two-year contracts and data overage fees.

To be sure, companies have often made extravagant promises about enhancing competition to encourage merger regulators to approve their deals and haven’t always followed through. And some opponents fear that whatever the impact on cable, the wireless phone market would become less competitive if the two carriers merge. Also, even without T-Mobile and Sprint, Verizon and AT&T are working on significant 5G offerings to compete with cable.

But T-Mobile (tmus) and Sprint (s) say that by combining they will have more resources and more airwave licenses to enhance their 5G network. The faster and higher capacity wireless 5G networks could replace traditional wired Internet and video services from the cable companies, they say.

In another section of Friday’s FCC filing, authored by T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray, the company said the combined company’s 5G network would have an average speed nationwide by 2024 of 451 megabits per second, fast enough to download a high-definition movie in about 1 minute. But without the merger, T-Mobile’s projected average speed would be 100 Mbps and Sprint’s 116 Mbps, Ray said.

Sievert disclosed a key detail about T-Mobile’s promised home Internet and video service competitor to the FCC: how much cheaper it will be overall compared to services from cable companies. But the detail was blacked out from the publicly-disclosed version of T-Mobile’s filing. “These speeds and coverage areas will be offered at a significant discount to the prices of traditional broadband providers, with monthly prices planned to be generally [redacted] lower than traditional services,” Sievert wrote.

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These Free Marketing Hacks Will Help You Grow When Cash is Tight

Even in what many consider volatile economic times, executives around the world are spending prodigiously on marketing their businesses. According to a 2018 CMO survey by Deloitte, Duke University, and the American Marketing Association, marketing budgets are expected to grow in the next year and reliance on marketing analytics is up by 30 percent.

Not every company has consistent revenue though to cover all those marketing costs. Many startups and even medium-sized companies don’t have a ton of cash coming in, so they need get creative.

Here are 12 ways to market your business even if you have no budget at all.

1. Have an elevator pitch.

If anyone should ask you what you do, know how to give a condensed 30-second speech about your business. Include who you serve — and ask what you can personally do for them.

Having an elevator pitch is one of the easiest ways to network and obtain new leads and customers without spending a dime.

2. Engage with influencers in your niche.

With social media use at an all-time high — take advantage. Find in your niche and engage with their content. Their followers will come to know you — through them. It’ll help you form relationships with the influencers themselves.

They may remember your engagement — want to work with you — and give you a shout-out when you approach them about your business.

3. Create videos.

According to data from Cisco, about 82 percent of worldwide internet traffic will involve video by 2021. Smartphones easily record videos that you can post on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter — for free. To take it a step further, record longer videos for YouTube and place them on your website.

4. Take advantage of free networking events.

You don’t have to pay anything to find free networking events in your area. Eventbrite and Meetup have filters that let you find free events near you, and you can customize them to fit your niche. Don’t forget to bring your business cards and follow up with those you meet after events.

5. Use LinkedIn.

According to a study that Hubspot updated this year, LinkedIn is 277 percent more effective for visitor-to-lead conversion than Facebook and Twitter. People underestimate LinkedIn. It’s a no brainer to market your business using it.

6. Create a referral program.

Word-of-mouth still works. Offer a referral program for your loyal customers and clients that refer you to someone else. This shows your appreciation for current customers, and generates hot leads because you’ve come highly recommended.

7. Praise your competitors.

Many have been taught to never bash a competitor while some choose not to engage with competitors at all. Praising your competitors makes you look like a confident and decent business owner.

This is the right thing to do in the first place — and can give you the opportunity to be featured by competitors as well.

8. Offer a free product/service.

Consumers love free stuff. Offer a free low end product or service. Going “freemium” saves money on marketing — gains new leads — and creates a sales funnel to bring in more income.

You don’t need to offer your most expensive service for free. Give them enough to see how valuable your product is, but still leave them wanting more.

9. Create an email signature.

Sending a lot of emails on a regular basis? Market yourself and your business through your email signature. Include your name, position, website, social media, and even a product/service you can offer with a discount code.

10. Cold pitch.

Cold pitching is great when you’re a service-based business — or when you’re trying to get your product placed in a local or national business.

Curate an email that grabs the target’s attention. Combine this with personal details or flattering research about them — and send it off. The worst anyone can do is say, “no.” You might just reach a few who like what you have to offer.

11. Volunteer.

Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about — and don’t be afraid to wear a shirt that has your logo or business name on it. You’ll be making a difference while getting your name out there.

12. Send thank you emails.

Always send thank you emails to customers and clients — and to businesses you’ve worked with and enjoyed. Sending a personalized email puts you back in their view, which can mean an extra sale or referral. Emailing is free — and doesn’t take a ton of time away from you.

While some of these steps may take time — most are a creative collision course to building more trust and relationships with your audience and customers. These communications can be critical in helping you market your business when you don’t have the money to spend — yet.

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EA’s Madden Video Game Is Off to Its Best Start in 6 Years

The NFL might be struggling with attracting fans, but when it comes to video game football, excitement is at a six-year high.

Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL 19 was the bestselling game in August and posted its highest launch month sales in six years, according to The NPD Group. The bump comes as overall video game spending surged to $796 million, a 26% increase compared to a year ago.

This year, on the whole, has been a good one for the video game industry. Spending is up 17% to $7.5 billion so far, with what’s expected to be a lucrative holiday season still to come.

The biggest title on the horizon is Take-Two Interactive Software’s Red Dead Redemption 2, from Rockstar Games, the creators of Grand Theft Auto. That’s likely to put two of the developer’s titles into the Top 10 for the year.

Grand Theft Auto V, which long ago became the best-selling game in tracked history, has been among the top 10 sellers for 59 of the 60 months it has been available. It is, at present, the fifth best-selling game of 2018, an unheard of ranking for a five-year old game that originally came out with the last generation of consoles.

Here’s how the month’s top selling games ranked. (NPD does not publicly offer precise sales figures.)

  1. Madden NFL 19
  2. Monster Hunter: World
  3. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
  4. Grand Theft Auto V
  5. Mario Kart 8
  6. Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker
  7. God of War
  8. Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  10. Super Mario Odyssey
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SpaceX Will Reveal the First Moon-Bound Passenger Since 1972. Here’s How to Watch

SpaceX says it’s signed the first private passenger to fly around the Moon in one of its rockets, and will reveal the mystery passenger’s name at 6 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday. The event, held in SpaceX’s Southern California headquarters, will be broadcast live via a YouTube stream. You can watch the announcement here on YouTube or on a page that SpaceX has set up on its site.

As part of its preparations to create a spacecraft that can fly people to Mars, SpaceX is building what it’s named a BFR—which stands for the Big Falcon Rocket—that will approach the Moon without landing, via a path similar to the one that Apollo 8’s astronauts took on a December 1968 mission. SpaceX has yet to disclose a launch date for rocket, which remains to be built.

The announcement represents a reprieve from months of bad news for SpaceX founder Elon Musk, whose efforts to take on Twitter trolls and to take private Tesla, another company he founded and now leads. SpaceX says that only 24 humans have visited the Moon or its orbit in history, with the last one traveling on a 1972 Apollo mission.

That mission, the Apollo 17, included a crew made up of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt. SpaceX’s passenger will be the first person to take a space flight toward the moon who did not train through a formal program like NASA.

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President Trump's Tweets Top This Week's Internet News Roundup

In the past seven days New York decided it didn’t want Cynthia Nixon as its governor, Amazon’s owner elected to get into the education business, and a series of gas-line explosions hit north of Boston. But on the plus side, we also had Mark Wahlberg’s schedule to look at and a new Dolly Patron/Sia collaboration to listen to, so I guess it’s not entirely a hellscape out here? Maybe? While we ponder that idea together, let’s look at what else has been dominating the online conversation over the last week.

Is There Such a Thing as a Solemn Fist Pump?

What Happened: President Trump probably could’ve handled the anniversary of 9/11 better than he did.

What Really Happened: The anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2001 is a solemn occasion, and one in which the United States turns to its president to see empathetic, strong leadership that comforts everyone and embraces the country’s greatest strengths during a troubled time. President Trump’s behavior on 9/11 this year was, well, maybe not that.

He did, to be fair, address the topic people wanted him to.

Funny thing about the image in that last tweet…

There was also this:

Oh, and this:

What could be more presidential?

As the media dazedly recounted Trump’s behavior during the day, others found a memetic outlet for those appalled by what was happening.

There. Doesn’t that feel almost cathartic? There’s nothing that can’t become content, if we try hard enough.

The Takeaway: To be fair, it could have been worse. No, really.

Bad Tweets, Part 2

What Happened: Apparently, when you’re prone to paranoid thinking, it’s very easy to become a truther for all kinds of things.

What Really Happened: Actually, speaking of things that could’ve been worse, let’s take a brief moment to discuss what might be the worst thing President Trump has done on Twitter yet. First off, please remember that an independent study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University found that the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria stands at 2,975 (and rising. Now, with that number in mind, consider that as recently as this past week President Trump was calling the government’s response to Maria “incredibly successful,” and complaining that the work was “an unappreciated good job.” OK, now that you know all of that, think about this:

Yes, that really was Trump outright denying the deaths of thousands of people, and claiming it was a lie motivated by politics. Just let that sink in for a second.

Of course, this was news because how could it not be? The president is outright being a hurricane impact denier, which is genuinely staggering.

Still, at least his Republican counterparts stood up against him. Right? Well, OK, Orrin Hatch and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed they hadn’t seen the tweets, Lindsey Graham also questioned the death toll, and Marco Rubio tried to straddle a non-existent line.

Studies in leadership, all. (FYI, a couple of Republicans did eventually push back.)

The Takeaway: If this was, as some believed, an attempt to distract attention away from other subjects, it certainly worked well. Maybe a little too well.

All Those Witches, Lined Up and Offering Confessions

What Happened: The ongoing so-called “witch hunt” against those surrounding President Trump claimed another victim last week, as Paul Manafort pled guilty in court on Friday.

What Really Happened: On Friday, the one thing that political watchers had simultaneously been expecting and convinced was unlikely to happen—let’s call it the Schrödinger’s cat of the current political moment—finally happened: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreed to plead guilty to avoid a second trial.

The news resurrected a piece of Trump-related ephemera in at least one person’s mind.

Of course, people are already wondering how this impacts the big picture.

At the time of this writing, Trump’s Twitter feed is filled with Hurricane Florence-related retweets, but it’s genuinely only a matter of time before he responds to this news and revisits his previous statements about Manafort.

Still, at least the White House has its angle, as utterly unbelievable as it is.

Once again, Paul Manafort was the chair of the Trump campaign, and the man who chose the vice president. It’s more than a little disingenuous to claim that this has nothing to do with the campaign. But tell that to those around the president.

The Takeaway: There’s really only one way to end this, isn’t there?

Ringo Starr Would Be Appalled

What Happened: Just in case you thought that Thomas and Friends was a jolly series about happy trains and overweight controllers, the National Rifle Association has a shocking piece of information for you. Yes, the National Rifle Association.

What Really Happened: Everyone knows that, sometimes, there’s something in combining two flavors together to create a fun and exciting taste combination that will thrill the masses. Chocolate and peanut butter? It’s a game changer! The NRA and Thomas and Friends? Maybe a little less so, as it turns out.

Yes, you read that right. A show on the National Rifle Association’s streaming service dressed characters—you know, trains—from Thomas and Friends in KKK hoods. This is actually a thing that really happened, somehow.

It’s quite breathtaking that this was real—so real, in fact, that it became a story in its own right, because sure, why not? But at least Twitter was totally cool with it. Oh, no. Wait.

But how did Dana Loesch, who hosted the segment, feel about the whole kerfuffle?

The Takeaway: There really is just one way to wrap this one up. George Takei, do you have the pun-o-matic ready?

Emergency Services

What Happened: There’s one organization that even the federal government turns to in times of natural disaster, and with a hurricane headed towards the East Coast, last week seemed like the time to shine a spotlight on it.

What Really Happened: Late last week, Hurricane Florence made landfall on America’s East Coast, leading to a very difficult number of days for everyone whose homes, family, and loved ones in its path. But even before it hit, Florence was very much being considered a big deal.

With mandatory evacuations underway, people watched as the storm grew stronger, then seemingly weakened before getting stronger again. Was it going to slow down and linger in certain areas? It was hard to tell. Even NASA got involved. That mixture of surreal expectation and fear kept building throughout the week as the hurricane continued to approach.

But how serious were storm preparations on the ground? I mean, a state of emergency is one thing, but is there another way to measure these things? Turns out, the answer is yes, and in the most amazing way.

It’ll come as little comfort for those affected directly by Florence, but for everyone else, there’s some strange joy to be had in watching the Waffle House Index go mainstream. The world can still offer unexpected delights, it turns out.

The Takeaway: Stay safe, everyone.


More Great WIRED Stories

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Evacuating for Florence, Tesla's Security Flaw, and More in This Week in Cars

Sure, we’re a little biased around here. But when storms bear down on this country’s coasts—scary ones, like Hurricane Florence (since downgraded to a tropical storm), threatening floods and high winds—our minds zero in on the transportation aspects. Some people need to leave their homes, but how? Some need to get to shelters, but when, and how quickly? And then, after the storm is over, someone needs to get in and assess it all. And then the residents need to come back. This week, WIRED Transpo spent some time thinking about these thorny questions, from the perspective of residents, government emergency planners, logistics-obsessed officials, even drone pilots.

Elsewhere in transportation world, we talked to people who had solved other intimidating issues: How to stop someone hacking your Tesla, how to get around flying cars’ battery problems, and how to help someone ride a bike at 168 mph. It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

  • Tesla owners, remember to turn on your dashboard display PIN. WIRED security writer Andy Greenberg tells the tale of KU Leuven researchers who discovered that anyone with a bit of savvy and $600 in radio and computing equipment should be able to wirelessly read and decrypt Tesla key fobs, allowing them to swipe cars without a trace. Tesla rolled out its new antitheft PIN feature two weeks ago, and says no Model S units sold after June are vulnerable to the hack.
  • Don’t call it a concept car. Mercedes-Benz’s Vision Urbanetic is a “mobility concept,” a body-swappable hybrid that can haul people or packages, depending on its fancy. The concept is an excuse for the Germans to start thinking (and messaging) about new forms of moving stuff—without adding to cities’ already oppressive traffic issues.
  • Another pack of Germans, another mobility concept. Transportation editor Alex Davies meets BMW’s Vision iNEXT, an electric, autonomous, baby SUV that BMW hopes points to the future of driving. Or not driving, as it were.
  • Led by Los Angeles, 30 cities teamed up this week to create an online portal for collectively bargaining with electric car, street sweeper, garbage truck and bus manufacturers over the price of their products. Together, these cities will need to replace 115,000 vehicles valuing about $10 billion, senior writer Jack Stewart reports. And going electric is a lot easier when you can get a good deal.
  • As Hurricane Florence continues to batter the East Coast, it’s important to remember: When governors and mayors declare mandatory evacuations, they’re the products of years of planning and thought.
  • But some have more planning and thought than others. A disaster and urban planning expert tells me that some places just don’t have the resources for robust hurricane plans—and that the vulnerable, and especially those without cars, suffer for it.
  • As the rains continue to fall, Jack Stewart catches up with the professional drone pilots prepping to help out in the recovery effort—beef jerky, pretzels, and all.
  • Waze and tech company SpotHero install specialized beacons in Chicago’s labyrinthine tunnels, where no functioning GPS dare go. Just one problem: Locals love their shortcut tunnel secrets.
  • Lyft adds public transit data to its app in Santa Monica—meaning Californians might open it every time they travel, no matter the mode.
  • What’s better than a flying car? A flying car with all of its complex electric battery issues solved, because it’s in fact tethered to a power line for much of every trip. Eric Adams speaks to the (quixotic?) inventors behind the Karman Electric concept.
  • Meet Denise Mueller-Korenek, a bicyclist who hopes to beat the world motor-paced bicycle land speed record—a mere 167 mph—this weekend at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. “Accelerating past the takeoff speed of a Boeing 757 on a bike seems impossible,” writes contributor Joe Lindsey, but when you’ve got a drag racer blocking the wind for you, it just might be possible.

Elon Musk Street Art of the Week

It’s been 11 days since Tesla CEO Elon Musk sat down for a 2.5-hour, wide-ranging interview with comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan. And it’s been about eight days, if the internet is to be believed, since someone in Melbourne, Australia, immortalized the interview with a mural of the [CEO himself taking a quick hit of a blunt.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s past

A look back at 2016 finds the top reason startups fail: Running a hardware business is super hard.

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To Solve Flying Cars' Battery Problem, Tie Them to Power Lines

Of the many challenges facing the nascent flying car industry, few turn more hairs gray than power. A heavier aircraft needs more power, which requires a bigger battery, which weighs more, thus making a heavier aircraft. You see the dilemma. So how do you step out of that cycle and strike a balance that lets you fly useful distances at useful speeds without stopping to recharge?

One startup thinks the answer lies in another question: Who needs a big battery, anyway?

San Francisco-based Karman Electric proposes dividing the need for power from the need to carry that power through the air. It wants to connect passenger-carrying electric air taxis to dedicated power lines on the ground, like an upside-down streetcar setup. The aircraft will carry small batteries so they can detach from the lines when necessary, but they’ll get most of their juice from their cords, allowing them to cover long distances at high speeds.

A few more questions, then. What happens if the cable gets jammed, or a bird flies in its path, or a helicopter wanders by? What if there’s a power loss on the ground, or if two vehicles get their cords tangled? How can you traverse bodies of water or rugged terrain? And doesn’t tying a flying car to the ground defeat the whole purpose?

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The WIRED Guide to Drones

Karman cofounder Chiranjeev Kalra, an alum of Virgin’s Hyperloop One program, has a surprisingly reasonable set of responses to this unsurprisingly wide array of concerns. For starters, the vehicles will pull power from the ground only at altitudes of 30 to 100 feet, outside of dense population centers. If they’re flying through a city, or approaching their destination, they can disengage from the power line, pull in the tether, and run off their own battery, flying as high as 3,000 feet. “This portion of the flight is untethered and operates on batteries,” Kalra says, “typically the so-called first or last mile of intercity travel.”

The idea of routing power straight from the grid to a moving electric vehicle is as old as the moving electric vehicle. Trolleys have been doing it for more than a century. In cities like San Francisco, buses and streetcars use this setup. It’s common for trains, too. The setup has even been broached as a way to run long-haul trucks on electricity instead of diesel. Karman simply inverts the idea, combining the flexibility of an air vehicle that can detach and go anywhere whenever necessary—something trains can’t do—with the efficiency of a grid-powered system.

Named for Hungarian aerospace engineer Theodore von Kármán, the company debuted the idea with a demonstration at Bentonville UP, a secretive, invitation-only air taxi conference held this past weekend in Bentonville, Arkansas. Karman engineers strung a pair of wires between two supports and flew a small quadcopter drone back and forth between them. Karman is developing a full-scale, six-rotor demonstrator now and expects to start testing by the end of the year.

A full-scale system could, Kalra says, transport 10,000 people per hour for hundreds of miles between cities, cruising in close formation at speeds north of 200 mph. That makes it more capable than an aircraft that can use only as much power as it can afford to carry. And while it doesn’t eliminate the need for room on the ground, Kalra says stringing those power lines is still easier than building, say, a hyperloop.

“This is a completely open system,” Kalra says. “Aircraft can leave or enter the power track at any point and land wherever they need.” At those entry and exit points, the “WireRunners” that connect to the ground track would be “flown” down via built-in drones, then retracted via the same setup at the end. And if a cable does get caught on something, a quick-release mechanism stops it from taking down the aircraft—which should have enough battery life to manage a safe landing.

Of course, the key question isn’t how this idea compares to the hyperloop. It’s how it compares to solutions that actually exist—like commercial air travel, highways, trains, and intercity bus networks. Could it compete on efficiency or cost? How long would it take to build, and how much would it cost to maintain? Large infrastructure projects like laying hundreds of miles of power cables are always complicated and expensive, at least in the United States. Throw in the serious regulatory concerns the flying car space already faces, and this looks like a rather hard sell.

But if Karman can handle those concerns without getting itself tied up in knots, at least it won’t have to worry about where its power is coming from.


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Walmart teams up with Instacart for same-day delivery in Canada

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Thursday it has teamed up with U.S. home delivery company Instacart to bring some Canadian customers same-day grocery deliveries, raising the stakes in the country’s hotly contested retail space.

FILE PHOTO: A Walmart store is seen in Encinitas, California April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Walmart’s Canada unit said the service, which is part of a pilot program with Instacart, will be available in the Greater Toronto Area from Sept. 13, while customers in Winnipeg can start availing the service later this month.

Like in the United States, retailers in Canada have been facing stiff competition from Amazon.com Inc, pushing a lot of them to invest in online sales and home delivery.

Last November, Canadian grocery and pharmacy chain Loblaw Cos Ltd teamed up with Instacart to offer home delivery service in Toronto and Vancouver. Startup Instacart counts Whole Foods, Costco, Target and more than 100 other retailers as customers for grocery deliveries, and charges a delivery fee for its service.

Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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6 Reasons to Multitask Starting a New Venture With Your Current Employment

One of the big decisions every aspiring entrepreneur has to make is when to quit your current job to devote yourself fulltime to your new startup.

Some of you are so committed to the new passion that you quit your day job early, and dedicate all your time and resources to the new venture. Others wait until the new business starts to generate revenue and profit before making the move.

Which is right? I’m definitely a proponent of the multitasked approach, since every new venture is inherently risky, and startups usually take longer to ramp up than you imagine.

In my experience as a startup advisor, I find the minimum time to revenue is at least a year. Break-even and profit may not happen for a couple of years after that. And investors are hard to find in these years.

On the other hand, many investors, including billionaire entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” co-host Mark Cuban, essentially demand an all-in early approach as a pre-requisite to funding, making it clear that a total commitment is expected if you want outside money.

Of course, you might be able to pay yourself a salary from the investment, but this will be minimal and critically watched.

While there is no right or wrong here, I believe there are some good arguments for not quitting your day job too soon. Here are some of the key ones I would suggest to every aspiring entrepreneur who doesn’t have a rich uncle, or isn’t sitting on a large nest egg:

1. Make sure this new lifestyle is really for you.

I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs all the time who can’t wait to ditch the corporate lifestyle, make all their own decisions, and be in control of their destiny. Later, half of these come back to admit that their day job was not all that bad, less stressful, the work predictable, with others to lean on for hard decisions.

2. Current job income keeps family and creditors satisfied.

The alternative of living off credit cards and borrowed money, while waiting and hoping for your startup to kick in, will drag down your motivation and kill your support system just when you need it most.

Even the most successful startups can’t sustain founder salaries for the first couple of years.

3. Multitasking is the norm for everyone these days.

With all the pushes and pulls on our lives already, adding a new startup effort as one more activity should not be seen by anyone as breaking the bank.

The challenge is to keep all your priorities, personal and business, in balance. Anyone running their own business needs to learn that anyway.

4. Starting a company fulltime is stressful and lonely.

Having another job is a good way to get the balance you need for visible accomplishments, interactions with other people, and certainly a regular paycheck.

Of course, you must not short your day job, so you need the passion of your new idea to keep you energized enough to excel in both.

5. Keep your startup efforts “below the radar” until proven.

No matter how much passion you feel for your idea, not all friends and family will be positive or accepting of the major risks and commitment involved.

By maintaining your startup activities as supplementary with future payback, your efforts will look visionary rather than perilous.

6. Be able to learn from failure without embarrassment.

Historical and current statistics still show the chances of failure on any given idea are better than even.

Even with all the help resources available to entrepreneurs, there is still no better way to learn than trying an experiment that doesn’t work. Working in parallel minimizes the pain and visibility.

I recognize that all aspiring entrepreneurs are unique, with different levels of risk tolerance, energy, and motivation. I do find that the entrepreneur lifestyle is more fulfilling for many than traditional business.

Thus I encourage everyone to ignore the pundits and take a hard look at your own goals and drivers, and proceed with caution. Your happiness and legacy depend on it.

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Apple Stock Slips as Trump Calls Out the Company Days Before Its iPhone Event

Two days before a long-awaited Apple event—during which Apple is expected to introduce new iPhones—President Trump took to Twitter to steal some of the tech giant’s thunder. And the ripples were felt all the way over in Asian stock markets.

Apple is staging an event in the Steve Jobs Theater in its Cupertino headquarters on Tuesday, September 12. Rumors and leaks suggests that Apple will release three new iPhones—two with OLED screens and a lower-cost phone with a LCD display—as well as updates to the Apple Watch and new iPad Pro models. Apple typically goes to painstaking lengths to maximize the impact of its September event announcements.

Trump had other ideas. On Saturday, he posted a tweet suggesting Apple should move its production facilities to the U.S.

“Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China – but there is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive,” Trump’s tweet said. “Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now. Exciting!”

Last Wednesday, Apple sent a letter to the Trump Administration warning that the move could lead to higher prices for Apple devices: everything from iPhones to Watches to HomePods. And the negative impact, Apple warned, would be worse in the U.S. than in China.

“Because all tariffs ultimately show up as a tax on US consumers, they will increase the cost of Apple products that our customers have come to rely on in their daily lives,” Apple’s letter said.

Following Trump’s response, Apple’s shares declined 1.3% at $218.33 a share Monday. Since Apple made public its letter about its trade concerns, its stock has slid 4.4%, ratcheting its market cap back down toward the $1 trillion level it first reached a month ago

But the bigger impact was felt in Asia. Shares of Apple suppliers Luxshare Precision, Shenzhen Sunway, and Suzhou Dongshan Precision fell as much as 10%, Reuters said. That helped fan concerns of trade tensions between Asia and the U.S., which led many Asian markets lower. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.3% Monday while the Shanghai Composite fell 1.2%.

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White House Secrets Top This Week's Internet News Roundup

Boy, oh boy. Technically, thanks to Labor Day, this past week was shorter work-wise than most. That said, the internet never takes a day off, so it was just as full as the rest. Think we’re kidding? We’re not. As proof, here’s a series of unrelated tweets that represent just a fraction of what people were talking about online over the last seven days:

Hungry for more? Read on.

Fear and All Kinds of Loathing in Washington, DC

What Happened: The newest Trump administration tell-all book might be the biggest—or, at least, the most all-telling, and the most reliably true—one yet. Needless to say, it didn’t come and go without causing some drama.

What Really Happened: It’s been a few weeks since Omarosa’s book grabbed headlines, so clearly it’s time to start thinking about another White House tell-all. This time around, it’s possibly the motherlode: Fear: Trump in the White House is the upcoming release from legendary journalist Bob Woodward, and it’s been breathlessly anticipated by everyone who figured that Woodward would have the true story about what is going on in President Trump’s administration. And with the release just a week away, this happened:

Yes, the Washington Post got its hands on the book early, and let’s just say that the review—such as it was—suggested that this would be everything people wanted and more.

The first excerpts to be released were juicy, to say the least.

And, it turned out, it wasn’t just the Post that got an early copy.

Let’s just say that a lot of people found what was shared to be a little alarming.

Others were more alarmed (or, at least, surprised) by the lack of pushback from the White House over the release of the excerpts and the response they were generating.

As should only have been expected, that didn’t last.

And, of course, it wasn’t too long before the president got in on the action.

There’s only one problem with taking the attitude that you can just pretend this stuff isn’t real: This book comes from Bob Woodward. He really doesn’t half-ass or fictionalize. He’s the real deal, as could be seen by his wonderfully old-school reply to the denials.

Perhaps the oddest part of the whole thing may have been an 11-minute call between Woodward and Trump, which was recorded and then released by the Post.

Seriously, though: If this is just what’s coming from the pre-release hype, imagine what the actual book will be like.

The Takeaway: If nothing else, this whole kerfuffle has proven once again that, for the current President of the United States, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, even when it’s clearly bad publicity.

The Op-Ed Is Coming from Inside the House

What Happened: Bypassing the need for reporters and anonymous sources, the New York Times published an op-ed by an unnamed White House staffer about the goings-on in the current administration.

What Really Happened: As if the Woodward book didn’t make the White House look unruly enough, there was a pretty dramatic second development on Wednesday that was … well, dramatic, all things considered.

The piece was titled, with wonderful overstatement, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration“—although, as the actual piece explained, “To be clear, ours is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous”; instead, it argued, “there is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first”—and it was, to put it mildly, quite a read.

It should be pointed out that plenty of people were unconvinced by the central premise of the piece.

As further proof that the White House might not be at the top of its game, the publication of the essay appeared to come as a complete surprise to people within the administration, as the by-the-second tick-tock of Twitter revealed.

…It took, apparently, one hour and 31 minutes to formulate a response, judging by the timestamp on the following. Just in case you’re curious.

But what is a response from the White House these days without some extemporaneous riffing from President Trump? As you might expect, he treated this extraordinary event with the nothing but the gravitas and reflection it truly deserved.

There was another, equally obvious, outcome of the whole thing: lots and lots of speculation about who wrote it. Reportedly, the search for the author of the piece combined with the search for those who spoke to Bob Woodward for Fear, is likely creating a very unhappy atmosphere in the White House.

The fact that the Times op-ed editors granted the writer anonymity was deemed troublesome by many, though the reasons why varied from person to person.

While some people had some cunning plans for finding out who was responsible—

—others believed that the identity of the author wasn’t entirely mysterious in the first place, as this much-shared thread on Twitter made clear.

For what it’s worth, Mike Pence denies writing it, which … I mean, he would, wouldn’t he? That’s just what you’d expect him to do. Wait, now I’m getting all paranoid.

The Takeaway: One of the surprising takeaways from the whole thing was just how ready social media was to publish parodies of the piece, complete with any number of pop culture references…

Justice Brett Is So Close to Happening

What Happened: Last week everyone got to meet Brett Kavanaugh, the next Supreme Court justice (probably). As far as meet-cutes went, let’s just say that the Senate and Brett had particularly awkward rom-com rockiness to deal with.

What Really Happened: While all of the above was unfolding, there was a parallel track of intrigue happening in the confirmation hearing for potential Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh, which turned out to be anything but dull. Even before the hearing began, people were excited, and not just because an amazing 42,000 pages of documentation were released just hours before the first day of the hearing began. Why, there was even cosplay.

Things got off to an amazing start. Or, at least, certainly not a boring one.

Oh, but the controversy of the day wasn’t just about what the Senators were saying, as it turned out.

As if the video didn’t disprove the White House version of events, Fred Guttenberg offered his take on what had happened, which was (of course) disputed by the White House.

To the surprise of literally no one, this became a media story pretty quickly. But, wait! That’s not all! On the very same day—this is still just the first day of the hearings, remember—there was also the idea that one of Kavanaugh’s staff was flashing a white power sign behind him for the entire hearing.

Thankfully, this was something that was very quickly put to rest on social media even before it had time to set in.

Bash’s husband took to Twitter to complain.

We’d love to be able to say that, after such a tumultuous first day, the hearings settled down into a nuanced discussion moving forward, but the second day brought up potential hacking connections and confusion over whether he’d been consulted over the Mueller probe, and the third had conflict over documents concerning race, whether or not Roe v. Wade is “settled law,” his inability to condemn Trump’s attacks on judges, and if he’d lied during his 2004 confirmation hearings for the DC Circuit Court. This one, it seems, is going to run and run. But don’t worry, Kavanaugh fans; he’s still likely to be confirmed no matter what.

The Takeaway: If nothing else, Twitter displayed its ability to keep everyone on-topic as the first day of the hearings drew to a close.

InfoVictory May Have Been Declared After All

What Happened: Ding-dong, Alex Jones’ social media career is dead, now that he’s been officially kicked off of Twitter.

What Really Happened: It took a very long time, but guess what? Alex Jones has, a month after being removed from YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest, also been banned by Twitter.

Many people wondered why it was only now that Jones—who had already seemingly violated the platform’s terms of conduct—was removed. Let’s just say that he gave Twitter a lot of reasons in the 24 hours before his banning.

There’s actual video of this here, originally streamed by Jones and InfoWars on Periscope. It’s somewhat astounding. And then, of course, there was this, but you knew about this photo already.

Of course, Jones being banned from his final mainstream outlet was big news—but more than a few people were suspicious about just what exactly led to Jones’ removal, and how close to home it hit for the social network.

As much as we might want to focus on the Jack Dorsey of it all—and that’s saying nothing about that beard—we really, really, shouldn’t forget [gesturing wildly] all of this, either.

Perhaps we’ll never know what the real reason for Jones’ removal was. Then again, perhaps it doesn’t even really matter.

The Takeaway: Maybe this should just be the start of a multi-pronged effort on behalf of Twitter. Some folks are already offering up suggestions for next steps, after all.

Just Do It to Yourself

What Happened: Nike extended its deal with Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who famously took a knee during the National Anthem to protest police violence, and everything you might have expected to come as a result happened.

What Really Happened: The ever-controversial subject of NFL protests returned to the fore last week with the news that Colin Kaepernick is the face of Nike’s next wave of “Just Do It” commercials. Kaepernick announced the deal with Nike via Twitter.

It was, as Nike surely hoped, a muchreportedupon deal—and a lucrative one, too.

Whatever the value of the deal, maybe we should take a second to appreciate that Nike is standing up for someone seemingly abandoned by those in his chosen career.

Well, maybe don’t get too excited…

This just in: This issue is a particularly complicated one. Nonetheless, surely it’s good to see someone stand behind Kaepernick, right? Turns out, not everyone thought so.

The so-called boycott didn’t impress everyone, however.

Presumably, Nike wasn’t impressed by—but may have been, perhaps, thankful for—the protests, considering that estimates suggested the news raised $43 million in media exposure for the company in just one day. Curiously, while Nike stock is down 2 percent at the time of this writing, it is also gaining popularity and expected to continue doing so.

The Takeaway: No matter how nuanced the idea of a Nike deal may be, considering the company’s own practices, let’s take a brief moment to enjoy how utterly un-nuanced the enjoyment of ridiculous protests that ultimately both miss the point and serve no purpose can be.


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This Week in the Future of Cars: What Happened at Tesla, Uber, and Chevy this week

We’re going fast…somewhere. This week was full of people and corporations making market-moving decisions. Not all seemed wise. Elon Musk did a 2.5-hour live interview, got peer pressured into smoking a blunt, and maybe didn’t inhale. Mercedes has a fully electric SUV coming out, and Chevy is prepping the country’s serious haulers for the intro of its beefy new pickup. A company that specializes in bus trips took an interesting detour into sleep technology. It’s been a weird week! Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

  • Late Thursday evening, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave a rare live interview to eminent podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan. It was classic Elon, transportation editor Alex Davies observes: thinky, a little awkward, goofy, full of weed jokes (and a touch of actual weed). But that sheer force of personality may not be enough to guarantee the electric carmaker’s future anymore.
  • Even so, it’s very hard to imagine a Tesla without Musk. It will probably take an even more dramatic incident for the loyalists on the company’s board to take a hard line with the self-christened “business magnet.”
  • Aurora, the little-known supergroup made up of autonomous vehicle technology pioneers, is finally talking. Alex chats with Waymo veteran and Aurora CEO Chris Urmson on why the startup will be smarter about machine learning than its competition, and how close its tech is to being able to do everything a human can.
  • One year into his role as CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi reflects—and introduces a new suite of safety features.
  • One Montana startup is using Doppler lidar—the same tech that cops use to catch speeding drivers—to create colorful images that just might give cars a better (and safer) sense of what is gong on around them.
  • As part of a string of electrifying announcement from major automakers, Mercedes-Benz unveils its first fully electric SUV. This one comes with an 80-kWh lithium-ion battery, an estimated 279 mile-per-charge range (according to the New European Driving Cycle testing protocol), and a top speed of 112 mph.
  • There are monster trucks, and then there’s Chevy’s new ZR2 Bison pickup truck. Senior writer Jack Stewart has the details on the off-roading, desert-running behemoth, a perfect rig for people who really, truly need to haul a lot of stuff.
  • WIRED contributor Eric Adams takes a trip to West Africa to hang out with the Diplomatic Security Service. Never heard of ‘em? They’re the Postal Service meets Mission Impossible: 103 couriers who carry top secret mail between US State Department hubs. Quoth Eric: “Snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night? Try war, ebola, diplomatic ejection, or military coup.”
  • If an overnight trip on a bus sounds unappealing, the team at the startup Cabin would like to introduce you to their new snoozing tech. The company’s vehicles—which take near-daily trips between San Francisco and LA—are already stocked with 23 sets of pillows, blankets, night lights, and bunk beds. It now hopes to outfit the buses with bump-cancelling mattress mechanisms, for a smoother ride and night.
  • What happens if the Bay Area doesn’t solve its housing and transportation problems? More for the rich, and even less for the poor, probably. A local urban policy think tank explores the ways the region could fix its issues in the next 70 years—and the ways it could bungle them.

Bike Lane Propaganda of the Week

Bike lanes are great, but you know what’s even greater? Protected bike lanes. This Vox video explores what happened when New York got smarter about building them. (Spoiler: good stuff.)

All hail the protected bike lane.

Stat of the Week

70%

Portion of ride-hailing trips that were completed in Asia alone in 2017. The next biggest markets were North America and Latin America; only 5 percent of trips were completed in Western Europe due to stricter regulation. (Via ABI Research)

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s past

A look back at 2016 finds the top reason startups fail: running a hardware business is super hard.


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Reports that Musk security clearance under review are inaccurate: U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Media reports that the U.S. Air Force is reviewing the security clearance of Elon Musk, the chief executive of automaker Tesla Inc are inaccurate, U.S. Air Force spokesperson Captain Hope Cronin said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, arrives at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition II in Hawthorne, California, U.S., August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Musk has security clearance because another of his companies, SpaceX, provides satellite launch services to the U.S. government.

Earlier on Friday, Fox Business Network and CNBC reported that the Air Force was looking into Musk’s marijuana smoking and his security clearance after Musk was filmed smoking pot, drinking whiskey and wielding a sword on a live web show with comedian Joe Rogan.

Hours later the automaker said its accounting chief would leave after a one-month stint, the latest in a string of unusual behavior and executive departures that have stunned investors.

Shares of the electric carmaker closed trading at $263.24, down 6.3 percent for the day, with investors on edge after a tumultuous August during which Musk proposed and then abruptly pulled the plug on a go-private deal.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Tesla shares reel as executives quit and CEO smokes pot on webcast

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk was filmed smoking marijuana and wielding a sword on a webcast, just hours before the automaker said its recently-appointed accounting chief would leave, the latest in a string of unusual behavior and executive departures that have stunned investors.

Shares of the electric carmaker tumbled more than 6 percent on Friday to $263.24, with investors on edge after a tumultuous August during which Musk proposed and then abruptly pulled the plug on a go-private deal.

Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton resigned after just one month in the job because of discomfort with the attention on the company and pace of work during that time, Tesla said in a filing on Friday. It later said that Chief People Officer Gaby Toledano would not return from a leave of absence, just over a year after joining.

Later on Friday, Tesla named a new president of automotive operations, promoting eight-year Tesla employee and former Daimler truck exec Jerome Guillen into the role overseeing all automotive operations and reporting to Musk.

That move, described in a company blog with several other promotions as a result of board and management discussions, gives Musk a seasoned auto industry veteran to lean on at a time when some investors have called for a new chief operating officer. Shares barely moved after hours, when the promotions were announced.

Morton and Toledano, whose departures come shortly after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opened an inquiry into Musk’s aborted privatization plan, join dozens of senior executives who have left Tesla.

“Since I joined Tesla on August 6th, the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations. As a result, this caused me to reconsider my future,” Morton said in the filing.

Late on Thursday, Musk was filmed drinking whiskey, briefly smoking marijuana and wielding a Samurai sword during a 2-1/2-hour live Web show with comedian Joe Rogan that swiftly spread across social media.

Taking a puff from a joint, which Rogan said was a blend of tobacco and marijuana and legal in California, Musk said he “almost never” smoked.

“I’m not a regular smoker of weed,” Musk said. “I don’t actually notice any effect … I don’t find that it is very good for productivity.”

It was the latest in a string of unconventional behavior by the billionaire South African native who is also CEO of rocket startup SpaceX.

Even before Musk’s surprise Aug. 7 tweet that he had funding “secured” for a go-private deal, Tesla had been under scrutiny from investors, analysts and short-sellers as it works to hit production targets and slow its cash burn.

Morton, who is walking away from a $350,000 base salary and a $10 million new-hire stock grant that would vest over four years, said he believed “strongly” in Tesla and that he had no disagreements with the company’s leadership or its financial reporting.

Analysts on Friday reiterated their call for Tesla to bring in another senior leader.

“We have been calling for a co-CEO or COO to assist to codifying the leadership structure and in so doing, the culture at Tesla,” said James Albertine, analyst at brokerage Consumer Edge, speaking before the promotions were announced.

“We think this is further evidence that the time is now for management and the board to address these issues.”

SOBERING EFFECT ON INVESTORS

Tesla’s $1.8 billion junk bond maturing in August 2025 plunged as much as 4 cents on the dollar to below 82 cents, a record low, in Friday trading, pushing the yield above 8.8 percent.

Coupled with an upfront cost of 21 percent of insured value, it now costs an investor around $280,000 to insure $1 million of Tesla debt for a year.

With Tesla’s stock falling to its lowest level since April, short sellers added 810,000 shares to their positions, bringing the total as of Thursday to about 32.6 million shares, according to S3 Partners, a financial technology and analytics firm.

Tesla has told investors it expects to turn a profit in the second half of this year, a forecast the company’s head of investor relations, Martin Viecha, reiterated at a conference earlier this week sponsored by RBC Capital Markets, RBC analyst Joseph Spak wrote in a note on Thursday.

Viecha also restated Tesla’s forecast that it will build 50,000 to 55,000 of its Model 3 sedans in the current quarter, and indicated the company’s working capital will improve as production increases, Spak wrote.

Prominent short-seller Andrew Left has sued Tesla and Musk, saying in his proposed class-action complaint on Thursday that Musk’s issuance of materially false and misleading information related to his abandoned plan harmed both short-sellers and those hoping the stock would rise.

A man walks near a logo of Tesla outside its China headquarters at China Central Mall in Beijing, China July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Reporting by Nivedita Balu and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco, Joe White in Detroit and Dan Burns in New York; Writing by Meredith Mazzilli; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Rosalba O’Brien

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Chip gear makers slide as KLA-Tencor CFO warns of slowing memory chip growth

(Reuters) – Shares in chip equipment maker KLA-Tencor Corp fell 9 percent, dragging along rivals, after the company’s chief financial officer said September is still a “drought” in terms of memory-chip shipments and that a recovery might not be as strong as expected.

Memory chipmakers’ production plans and outlook are closely tracked due to concerns that a two-year industry super-cycle may be skidding to a halt. The $121 billion global memory chip industry has enjoyed an unprecedented boom since late 2016.

“We thought that December quarter would snap back pretty strongly, when we look at it today … feels like it will be up a little less than what we thought,” Chief Financial Officer Bren Higgins said at the Citi 2018 Global Technology Conference in New York.

“We see September is still is a drought…,” he said.

KLA’s shares were down 8.6 percent, while those of the top two chip gear makers, Applied Materials and Lam Research Corp, were down 3 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

KLA’s grim forecast follows downbeat sentiment expressed by Micron Technology Inc’s Chief Financial Officer David Zinsner at the conference.

“NAND pricing did decline in the third quarter,” Zinsner said.

Micron’s shares fell 9.2 percent.

Average prices for NAND flash memory chips, which are found in mobile devices and memory cards, have nearly halved from a peak in 2017.

However, prices of DRAM memory chips, which help servers, gaming PCs and cryptocurrency mining devices process large amounts of streaming data, are up more than 20 percent.

KLA-Tencor now expects second half 2018 shipments to be flat to down a few single digits, compared with its earlier guidance of mid-single digits growth.

Analysts also highlighted weakening demand for memory chips.

“DRAM pricing is likely peaking in CQ3…NAND oversupply has worsened recently,” said Baird analyst Tristan Gerra in a client note.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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Shortseller Citron files lawsuit against Tesla, Musk

(Reuters) – Shortseller Andrew Left of Citron Research filed a securities fraud lawsuit against Tesla Inc and its Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, alleging he had manipulated the stock price by issuing false and misleading information.

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Musk stunned the markets on Aug. 7 with tweets about taking the Palo Alto, California-based company private and that funding had been “secured.”

The billionaire entrepreneur later abandoned the plan on Aug. 24.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all persons who purchased, sold or transacted in Tesla shares between Aug. 7-17, the filing bit.ly/2MVzZmG showed.

Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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Amazon touches $1 trillion, on pace to overtake Apple

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) on Tuesday briefly joined Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to become the second $1 trillion publicly listed U.S. company after its stock price more than doubled in a year as it grew rapidly in retail and cloud computing.

Its shares traded as high as $2,050.50 before easing a little to end the session at $2,039.51, up 1.3 percent and just short of the milestone level of $2,050.2677.

If the online retailer’s shares keep up their recent pace, it would be a matter of when, not if, Amazon’s stock market valuation eclipses that of iPhone maker Apple, which reached $1 trillion on Aug. 2.

Apple took almost 38 years as a public company to achieve the trillion dollar milestone, while Amazon got there in 21 years. While Apple’s iPhone and other devices remain popular and its revenues are growing, it is not keeping up with Amazon’s blistering sales growth.

Amazon has impressed investors by diversifying into virtually every corner of the retail industry, altering how consumers buy products and putting big pressure on many brick-and-mortar stores.

“It says a lot about Amazon and its ever-increasing dominance of segments of the retailing world as well as the web services business,” said Peter Tuz, President Of Chase Investment Counsel In Charlottesville, Virginia. “They have a tiny share of the worldwide retail sales market so there’s a lot left to capture there.”

(Graphic: Amazon vs. Apple: reut.rs/2PwtdRg)

Amazon also provides video streaming services and bought upscale supermarket Whole Foods. And its cloud computing services for companies have become its main profit driver.

Slideshow (5 Images)

“Amazon’s a little bit more dynamic than Apple because the iPhone has become more mature. Amazon’s cloud business is an extra growth driver that Apple doesn’t have,” said Daniel Morgan, portfolio manager at Synovus Trust in Atlanta who describes Amazon’s cloud services as its “crown jewel.”

In the second quarter the unit accounted for 55 percent of Amazon’s operating income and 20 percent of total revenue, according to Morgan.

Apple started trading in December 1980 but its stock did not truly start to take flight for another 25 years, spurred by the iPhone, the breakthrough device that left competitors in the dust.

Amazon – founded as an online book-retailer in Chief Executive Jeff Bezos’ garage in 1994 – started trading on May 15, 1997 at $1.50 on a split-adjusted basis.

By October 2009 it had risen to $100 and the stock hit $1,000 for the first time on May 30, 2017. It has held above that level since Oct. 27, 2017.

Just 10 months later, on Aug. 30, Amazon shares hit $2,000 for the first time, just $50 per share away from giving the company a $1 trillion market value.

(Graphic: Analyst Price Targets: reut.rs/2NHwHQq)

The stock is up 74.5 percent year to date. In comparison, Apple has risen about 35.0percent in 2018.

Analysts expect Apple’s revenue to jump 14.9 percent in its fiscal year ending in September, according to Thomson Reuters data, a hefty rise but still far short of Amazon’s expected revenue growth of 32 percent for 2018.

Reporting by Sinéad Carew in New York and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas and Phil Berlowitz

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Jon Kyl Will Take McCain's Senate Seat

On Tuesday, Arizona’s governor appointed former Republican senator Jon Kyl to fill the US Senate seat vacated by the late John McCain. The appointment could spell even more government scrutiny for tech giants like Facebook and Google—even though Kyl has only committed to serving until the start of the next Congressional session in January, though he may stay through 2020.

While McCain, who passed away on August 25, never focused his energies on the practices of technology platforms, Kyl has taken up the cause in his private endeavors, particularly as the head of an internal probe at Facebook into whether the platform is biased against conservatives, which was announced in May.

The results of that investigation have not been made public, and it is still ongoing. A Facebook spokesperson said that Kyl would leave the audit, but that it would continue with the team from law firm Covington and Burlington that he had led. Kyl did not immediately return a request for comment. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, also held meetings with Facebook executives about the question of liberal bias as part of the inquiry.

Kyl’s appointment comes just one day before representatives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook are set to testify again before the Senate over concerns about privacy, political bias, and anti-competitive practices. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will also tomorrow appear separately before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to address similar concerns.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing is slated to focus on “foreign influence operations use of social media platforms,” but tech executives will likely also face questions about whether their platforms are biased against certain political viewpoints.

Over the next several months, Jon Kyl will arguably be the senator best-equipped to ask such questions, having ostensibly spent the summer examining Facebook’s treatment of conservative viewpoints, both internally and on its platform. In late August, The New York Times reported that an extremely small group of Facebook employees have internally argued that the company isn’t welcoming to conservative viewpoints.

In recent months, a number of conservative lawmakers, including President Trump, have also accused tech companies like Google and Facebook of suppressing right-wing content, and have questioned whether they should be regulated as a result.

In April, for example, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, half a dozen Republican lawmakers questioned whether the social network had suppressed content produced by conservative commentators Diamond and Silk. Just last week, President Trump accused Google of purposely favoring negative coverage about his administration in its news product.

The belief that tech companies intentionally censor certain political beliefs is also increasingly held by voters, especially Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in June.

For years, conservatives on Capitol Hill have alleged that prominent tech companies are biased against their beliefs. They often cite a 2016 Gizmodo article as evidence, which reported that Facebook employees suppressed the reach of conservative outlets in its trending product. But while Silicon Valley is notoriously a hub for liberal tech workers, many lawmakers’ specific accusations have largely been unfounded. Still, their complaints highlight the amount of power over Americans’ speech and access to information that a handful of California companies have consolidated.

Kyl appears well-poised to ramp up the questioning over whether Google and Facebook can keep that power while avoiding more government oversight. Aside from his experience with Facebook, the senator also has a history of pushing for the regulation of some internet activities. In the early aughts, he was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for the criminalization of some categories of online gambling and he ultimately helped to pass the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Act.

As a lobbyist at Covington and Burlington, where Kyl has worked since declining to seek reelection in 2013, he has represented clients like Walmart, Georgetown University, and the conservative political organization Judicial Crisis Network. His clients have also included some technology companies, like San Diego-based Qualcomm.

Kyl has also busied himself with more than just auditing Facebook this summer. In a sign of his deep commitment to conservative interests, Kyl has also been guiding Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, through his Senate confirmation hearings.

As Kyl’s fellow senators mull over proposed legislation like a national privacy law, that commitment may also increasingly mean towing the Republican line on regulating big tech. No one is poised better to lead the effort than Kyl.

UPDATED: 9/4/2018, 4:52 PM EST: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook


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Samsung Q8FN 4K Review: A Pretty But Pricey 4K Television

One of the best perks of the job is that I get to try some tech toys that are simply out of my price range. From high-end cameras to bonkers-expensive pro laptops, I realize I’m pretty spoiled. That’s why when I had the chance to try one of the newest Samsung 4K TVs in my apartment, a sense of dread came over me. Would swapping my dinky, three-year-old 40-inch for an expansive, pricey, 55-inch 4K unit ruin my life? Would I feel compelled to immediately jump onto the higher-def bandwagon and sell one of my kidneys for the pleasure?

Having now returned the Samsung TV to its rightful owners, I’m inclined to say no. This awe-inspiring quantum-dot-packing eye-fatiguingly luminous television didn’t quite make me rethink my entire existence. But why didn’t this luxe flat panel transform my low-contrast, standard dynamic range life into something brighter and happier than my cheap, old Sony? Two words: Frasier Crane.

Out and In

Opening the box and setting up the Samsung Q8FN was a joy. The panel is big, but it wasn’t too hard to wrestle the set out of the box by myself. Thankfully, instead of a complex stand, the two metal feet are held in by clips, and you won’t have to touch a screwdriver to get it onto your entertainment center. Even though I kind of miss the versatility of Samsung’s OneConnect system (which broke out the TV’s ports onto a separate box instead of leaving them all tucked away behind the TV), this year’s Q8FN seems way less cluttered. On its own on my TV stand, it struck a clean, austere profile.

Though they’re not effortlessly accessible, the Q8FN’s ports are at least plentiful. With four HDMI ports and a few USBs, you’ll be able to plug in plenty of inputs, be they PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Blu-ray, or Apple TV. Because it’s a 4K HDR-capable set, I opted to plug in an Xbox One X, which can play streaming and disc-based media in that high resolution.

The OneRemote clicker is similar to what other high-end Samsung TVs include, eschewing a number pad for a simple iPod-like direction ring, two rockers for volume and channels, and a few other controls. The remote includes a microphone and a voice command trigger for use with Bixby, but I didn’t find it all that useful, since I eschewed the TV’s built-in smart platform and broadcast TV for streaming via the Xbox.

I’m Listening

After giving the set a few hours of break-in (I popped in my 4K Blu-ray of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and ran the film on a loop during an afternoon), I sat down and started checking out what there was on Netflix. I’ve been watching some classic shows recently, mostly switching between stretches of Frasier and Star Trek: Voyager. The problem? Both of these SD shows, no matter how the Samsung’s Q Engine chip tries to upscale, look terrible blown up on this TV. The resolution delta doesn’t help, but the big, 55-inch size made the poor compression and lack of detail so obvious compared to our rinky-dink 40-inch set.

The sound wasn’t so hot either, since the speakers seem to be rear-firing and lacking in bass. Definitely invest in a sound bar.

But then there’s high-def content. The first movie I spent time watching on the TV was the terrific Black Panther in 4K HDR. This movie blew me away on this Samsung. Action scenes like the nighttime car chase in Busan, Korea pushed the TV’s HDR to its limits. Thankfully, the set made short work of the fast-moving action and contrasty visuals, arguably making the movie look better than it did when I saw it in theaters. Even normal HD stuff like Netflix’s Luke Cage was spectacular to watch, bringing the show’s version of Harlem, with its resident baddies and goodies, vividly to life.

Games look great too—I spent hours flying space fighters in Star Wars: Battlefront II and was in awe of the blackness of space, nearly blinded by the glare off of nearby planets and capital ships. Granted, the Xbox One X is geared for high resolution gaming, and when I changed inputs to the connected Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey was noticeably less crispy—it’s in HD, after all.

While this set’s “QLED” tech won’t give you OLED-level blacks, I was pleasantly surprised at the contrast the TV was able to output. With the full array local dimming turned to the lowest setting, and the TV’s brightness reduced a bit (out of the box, the Q8FN was aggressively bright) did a convincing OLED impression. I didn’t notice weird blooming or lag between when an object appeared on screen and when the closest backlight portion boosted its brightness. For an LCD, this Samsung justifies its premium perch in the QLED lineup.

When my review period was up, I was sad to have to put this gorgeous slab back into its box. Switching back to our old 40-inch Sony took an adjustment period, but, all things considered, I adjusted quickly. I went back to my routine of Frasier and Voyager, and though it isn’t as all-enveloping as our old HDTV, I was happy to watch the low-quality show on a smaller, duller TV. I’ll be shopping for a 4K TV later this year. But maybe I’ll wait until I’m done with my ’90s TV binge.

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2 Streaming Amps for Audiophiles: Naim Uniti, Bluesound

Streaming music doesn’t have to mean compromised sound. These hi-fi amps can help you find cloud-connected aural ecstasy.

1. Naim Audio Uniti Star

Best for: Streamcurious audiophiles

With a built-in CD player that rips tracks to a local drive, the Uniti Star eases the pain of parting with your CDs. Naim’s app summons your newly captured tunes and streams hi-res songs from cloud services. The hardware is pricey, but you get premium guts like a 70-watt-per-channel amp and a huge, velvet-­smooth volume knob.

$5,995
Buy Now

2. Bluesound Powernode 2

Best for: Proud digital natives

Bluesound’s more modestly priced streamer can access oodles of cloud music services and radio stations—including hi-res offerings—or play a local library stacked with FLACs. Basic panel controls are supplemented by the excellent BluOS Controller app. The integrated 60-watt-per-channel amp can power any speakers, from tiny to towering.

$799
Buy Now

Styling by Reina Takahashi

This article appears in the August issue. Subscribe now.


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Apple Will Require All Apps to Have a Privacy Policy

After data breaches at other tech companies and the European Union’s stricter GDPR rules, Apple is tightening up its App Store.

Apple will require all future updates and new apps to provide a link the developers’ privacy policies. Previously, Apple required any apps with a subscription model to link to their privacy policies, according to the Verge.

Apple told developers about the new requirement, which goes into effect Oct. 3. No apps will be automatically removed if they don’t include a privacy policy after that date since it only applies to updates and new app releases, but any changes made to an app without a privacy policy will now have to include one.

The new rule offers an extra layer of protection for Apple. While the responsibility around data handling first lies with the app developer itself, Apple is reinforcing its role as a platform delivering those apps to users. The move makes sense for Apple, which has often touted itself as a tech company focused on upholding security when it comes to users’ data. Apple also has guide for best practices regarding privacy policies.

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Google Is Taking Down Tech Support Scammers

Google is taking action against the tech support scams that advertise on its platform.

The tech giant is making a commitment to removing misleading ads. Google told the Wall Street Journal it removed more than 100 ads every second for violating some part of its policies. Now, it’s also implementing a verification program to further combat bad actors.

The program is meant to ensure that only legitimate third-party tech support companies will be able to advertise on Google. The company announced it will also restrict the category globally in a blog post Friday.

The move comes after an investigation from the Wall Street Journal found fraudulent tech support ads masquerading as larger companies like Apple. Scammers would utilize Google’s advertising system to create misleading ads. The ads would display a link to Apple’s website, but the number in the ad would direct to a call center that the Wall Street Journal says “engages in tech-support scams.”

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China's Meituan Dianping sets HK IPO valuation at up to $55 billion: sources

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters/IFR) – China’s Meituan Dianping, an online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform, has set an indicative price range of HK$60 to HK$72 per share for its initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong, valuing itself at up to $55 billion, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Visitors look at a Meituan Autonomous Delivery (MAD) vehicle of Chinese food delivery platform Meituan-Dianping, at the first Smart China Expo in Chongqing, China August 23, 2018. Picture taken August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Meituan Dianping, already one of China’s most valuable internet firms, is discussing a valuation of $45.5 billion to $54.7 billion with potential cornerstone investors for its float, said the people.

Meituan Dainping did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in Singapore, and FIONA LAU of IFR in Hong Kong; Writing by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Susan Fenton

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Apple: Big Red Flags

Apple’s (AAPL) ability to generate high earnings can take a hit due to the decline in its operating margin. On a year-on-year basis, Apple’s operating margin has fallen for 11 straight quarters. In the recent quarter, the operating margin came at 23.68% whereas it stood at 28.39% in the June quarter of 2015. There has been a cumulative decline of 471 basis points in the last three years which should reduce the long-term bullish sentiment.

As Apple prepares to launch its flagship iPhones in the next few weeks, all reports are pointing to a lower pricing for all the three models to be launched. Unless Apple is able to reduce its bill of material or BOM cost, we would see another year of falling margins. It would be difficult for Apple’s stock to continue with the current bullish run as these key metrics show a big decline.

Another quarter of operating margin decline

Fig: YOY operating margin decline shown by Apple. Source: Apple filings, Ycharts

March 2015: 31.51%, March 2016: 27.67%, March 2017: 26.65%, March 2018: 26.00%, Cumulative decline: (551 bps)

June 2015: 28.39%, June 2016: 23.86%, June 2017: 23.71%, June 2018: 23.68%, Cumulative decline: (471 bps)

Sep 2015:28.39%, Sep 2016: 25.10%, Sep 2017: 24.95%, Cumulative decline: (344 bps)

Dec 2014: 32.50%, Dec 2015: 31.86%, Dec 2016: 29.81%, Dec 2017: 29.76%, Cumulative decline: (274 bps)

This decline has continued in the recent iPhone cycle when we saw high price tags on all new models of iPhones. The higher pricing provided a good bump to the ASP but it also came at the cost of higher bill of material. Although iPhone X was sporting a very high price of $999, it also had one of the highest BOM. According to a teardown by IHS Markit, the $999 iPhone X had BOM of $370.25. Hence, the BOM of iPhone X was equal to 37.06% of the retail price.

On the other hand, a teardown of iPhone 7 showed that the BOM was $224.80 while the retail price was $649. In this case, the BOM comes to 34.63% of the retail price. We can clearly see that although iPhone X was sporting a higher price tag, it produced lower margins for Apple.

The growth of Services segment is often cited as a big reason for the long-term bullish case in Apple. However, faster-growing services like Apple Music would have a much lower margin than what Apple produces through its devices or App Store. Spotify (SPOT) reported a gross margin of 21%. Recent margin models by Macquarie Research estimate only 15% gross margin for Apple Music. A higher product mix towards services which deliver lower margins will inevitably lower the overall margins of the company.

Next iPhone cycle

Apple will be launching three models in the next iPhone cycle. There would be a successor to iPhone X with 5.8-inch screen and a plus-size model having 6.5-inch screen. However, most of the focus is on the cheaper LCD version of iPhone X, let’s call it iPhone 9, which will have 6.1 inch screen. Most of the analysts have estimated this iPhone 9 to have a sub-$700 price tag. This would be the main model which would drive the bulk of unit sales for Apple.

Unless Apple is able to show some very big improvement in lowering the BOM of this iPhone 9, it will see a big decline in margins. Last year, iPhone 8 had BOM of $247.51. If Apple manages to keep the cost inflation to 5%, it would see the BOM of iPhone 9 rise to $260. If the price tag remains at $699, this would have a BOM cost equal to 40% of the price tag. A lower retail price for iPhone 9 will further increase the percentage cost of BOM and reduce the margin for a model which could possibly show highest unit sales among new models and be the biggest contributor to revenue.

Hence, it looks highly unlikely that Apple would be able to break the margin decline in this iPhone cycle.

Other red flags

In my previous article on Apple, one of the comments pointed out that other metrics like EV/FCF should be given greater importance than margins. Even in this metric, Apple’s valuation is now at the highest level after the Great Recession.

Fig: EV to FCF is at the highest level while yield is at the lowest point since the first few hikes in dividend.

While in the early part of this decade, Apple could justify the higher valuation level due to rapid growth in iPhone segment, it does not have a similar revenue growth driver. Also, the revenue base was much smaller at that time which led to a much bigger impact due to iPhone growth. It would be harder to move the needle now when its trailing twelve month revenue is over $250 billion.

Services segment is showing good growth prospects but it is still quite small compared to revenues from devices. In the last quarter, Services segment had revenue of $9.5 billion, which was equal to 17.4% of the total revenue. Other Products segment had revenue of $3.7 billion, making a contribution of 6.9% to the total revenue. Together these two high growth segments contribute less than a quarter to the total revenue.

In this scenario, if the margins are declining while valuation levels are at record levels, it would inevitably lead to greater bearish sentiment towards the stock.

Investor Takeaway

Apple has reported operating margin decline for the past 11 quarters. At the same time, its EV/FCF ratio is close to 19, which is the highest level in this decade. There are several revenue streams like Apple Music in the services segment which will further push the margins down. It is unlikely that Apple will push the envelope in terms of pricing in this iPhone cycle. Keeping price hike at moderate levels can help Apple in increasing the unit sales but it will have a bigger negative impact on margins. For long-term investors looking for value, the margin decline is a strong signal about the future headwinds facing the company.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Are You Using Slack Correctly? Try These These 4 Tips to Remove Distractions and Be More Productive

Slack has become the go-to communication platform for businesses around the world, and for good reason. Generally speaking, it is less distracting than email, it allows quicker and easier communication, and it can help improve culture.

But just like email, Slack can hinder your team’s productivity if used incorrectly. Most people know about the general tips, like do-not-disturb mode. Here are my lesser-known tips for setting up Slack and using it in a way that limits distractions and increases productivity.

1. Change your sidebar settings.

On the left side of Slack is the sidebar that contains all of your direct messages, channels, apps and notifications. It is most likely the first place you look when you open up Slack. The default setting leaves everything visible, which is a problem for a few reasons.

First, your sidebar will quickly become cluttered. You’ll waste time scrolling through irrelevant direct messages and channels just to find what you’re looking for.

Second, it’s a distraction. Even if you have no notifications, looking at an enormous sidebar filled with direct messages is using up part of your precious–and limited–brain power for the day.

You want to go into preferences, go to the sidebar tab, and select “unreads and starred conversations.” When you do this, the only thing you will see on the sidebar is unread notifications and starred conversations. It might be a little jarring at first, but the pure bliss of looking at a completely–or almost–empty sidebar is worth it. You can’t get distracted if there’s nothing there to distract you.

In order to not lose important things, just get in the habit of starring channels and direct messages that you absolutely must have quick access to at all times.

2. Use numbered naming conventions for your channels.

This is a simple strategy you can implement to organize your Slack team’s channels. If you have a lot of channels, you know it can be a hassle to sort through them.

To organize them, put numbers in the beginning of each channel name, based on importance or priority. At my company, we use the format “#-department-topic” to easily organize all of our channels.

The number will determine what order it shows up in on the sidebar. So, the most important channels should have a zero in front of them–meaning they will always appear at the top. From there, you can use 1 through 9 to keep the rest of your channels organized.

As an example, one of our channels is titled “0-tasks-admin.” This is a channel to discuss administrative tasks, and it is an extremely important channel–hence, the zero. This will always appear at the top of the sidebar (assuming you’ve starred it).

This simple system will keep your channels organized and cut down on time spent searching for information.

3. Use “mark unread” to keep track of your messages.

With the settings I’ve mentioned, if you receive a direct message from someone and you read it, then click away, the message will disappear from your sidebar and likely fall of your radar. This can be a problem.

Whenever you encounter a situation like this, just be sure to right click the message and select “mark unread” or hold down the option key and click it. This will keep the notification in your sidebar while you move on to other things, so that message will stay on your radar and you can deal with it when the time is right. Alternatively, you can also select to have Slack remind you (create a notification) in a certain number of hours.

4. Utilize Slack apps to their full potential.

If you haven’t yet explored some of the apps that are available in Slack, you should do so. You can check out the entire list, but here are a few of my favorites…

  • AskSpoke: An extremely robust internal database program that uses a friendly AI chatbot to answers common questions like, “What’s the WIFI password?” or “Where can I find the new client onboarding form?” that your managers would normally have to spend valuable time answering.

  • Standuply: An app that can run asynchronous standup meetings within your Slack team and allow you to quickly create video messages by typing /video.

  • Meekan: A useful app that allows you to quickly schedule group meetings with nothing more than a simple question.

  • Zoom: A simple integration that lets you start a zoom video meeting by typing /zoom.

  • Google Calendar: A simple integration that gives your team a shared Google calendar with reminders in Slack.

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Facebook rolls out Watch video service internationally

LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook is rolling out its Watch video service globally one year after it launched in the United States with original entertainment news and sports content to compete with platforms like Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File photo

Facebook’s Head of Video Fidji Simo said Watch was gaining real momentum in a crowded marketplace because it was built on the notion that watching videos could be a social activity.

“Every month more than 50 million people in the U.S. come to watch videos for at least a minute on Watch, and total time spent watching video on Facebook Watch has increased by 14 times since the start of 2018,” she told reporters.

“With Watch … you can have a two-way conversation about the content with friends, other fans or even the creatives themselves.”

Facebook said eligible creators would be able to make money from their videos using its Ad Breaks service in Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand as well as the United States from Thursday, with many more countries set to follow.

Simo said publishers were making “meaningful revenues” from its automated video advertising system on the platform, which has featured shows such as beauty mogul Huda Kattan’s “Huda Boss” and live “Major League Baseball” games.

“We know it’s been a long road but we’ve worked hard to ensure that the Ad Breaks experience is a good one for both our partners and our community,” she said.

Ad revenue will be split 55 percent for the content creator and 45 percent for Facebook, the same ratio as in the United States, Simo said.

Publishers need to have created three-minute videos that have generated more than 30,000 one-minute views in total over the past two months and must have 10,000 followers to participate in Ad Breaks, Facebook said.

Simo said Facebook was working on a variety of other options for creators to make money, such as branded content and the ability for fans to directly support their favorite creators through subscriptions.

“(Fan subscription) is something that is rolled out to a few creators now, but we are planning on expanding that program soon,” she said.

Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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My Top 10 Stocks For The Next 10 Years

A month or so ago, I posted an article outlining my portfolio’s holdings. Obviously, these are my favorite stocks in the market (which is why I own them), but I realize that many investors aren’t interested in managing portfolios comprised of ~70 holdings. In a piece I published a week ago, a reader asked that I put together a “wish list” of sorts, regarding my top 10 or 20 stocks. I had some time this weekend, so I decided to acquiesce.

Just this week, the markets set a record for the longest bull market run. As the old adage goes, old age doesn’t kill bull markets. But even so, I think it’s safe to say that we’re in a late cycle environment and when putting together a list attempting to look 10 years down the road, I assumed that it is likely that we’ll experience a bear market between now and the end point of this project.

With this in mind, I’ve done my best to select companies with strong secular tailwinds. It’s impossible to do anything but speculate when peering so far into the future, but macro trends with secular growth prospects add an extra layer of defense. These names will likely fall alongside the rest of the market in the event of a bearish event, but I think, for the most part, their growth narratives will remain intact regardless of the broader market’s health. Assuming I’m right, this should lead to outperformance over the long-term.

I should also note that while I always think that valuation is important, when looking a decade down the road, I thought it made more sense to focus on growth potential. As you’ll see shortly, I didn’t pick and choose stocks with crazy, triple digit P/E ratios, but this list does include names that I’m not interested in buying in the present because they appear to be overvalued.

The risk profile of this portfolio is a bit higher than my own on the whole. I didn’t include any of the established divided aristocrats that form the bedrock of my personal portfolio because the idea with this piece was to pursue growth (albeit, in a relatively conservative manner). For the most part, I stayed true to my dividend growth roots with this list, but I’m looking to target the dividend aristocrats of tomorrow.

With this in mind, let’s get into the list.

Apple (AAPL)

Up first, we have Apple. This was an easy stock to include. It’s my largest position by far, because of several reasons. First and foremost, smart phones have essentially become the Coca-Cola’s of the present age. What I mean is every has one and feels like they couldn’t live without it. The iPhone is the strongest brand within the smart phone space. Apple has the highest hardware margins and I don’t expect this to change. What’s more, Apple is diversifying its revenue streams with services, further monetizing its massive worldwide active device count. But, what I like most about Apple isn’t its operations in the present, but its massive cash flows and the flexibility that they give the company moving forward. The way I see it, there isn’t another large cap, dividend growth company in the market can has the capability to re-invent itself in a moment of need, like Apple.

Microsoft (MSFT)

While we’re on the subject of cash flows/cash hoard, why not transition to Microsoft. With Apple saying that it plans to go cash neutral on its balance sheet, that leaves Microsoft as the next likely candidate to take the throne as the most cash rich company in the world. MSFT doesn’t have the ~$270b of cash on hand that AAPL does, it did have a very impressive $133.7b of cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments at the end of the last quarter. This cash gives Microsoft the same flexibility to grow moving forward that I discussed with Apple. Microsoft is also a leader in the fast growing cloud space, the video gaming space, social media, and the A.I. market. What’s more, it still has significant legacy cash flow coming in from its software division. Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has become a well diversified technology powerhouse with growth engines left and right. What’s not to like?

Alphabet (GOOGL)

Sticking with the Silicon Valley powerhouse theme, let’s go to Alphabet. GOOGL is the only company on this list that doesn’t pay a dividend. Alphabet is known for its Google search engine. The Google family of offerings still generates ~90% of Alphabet’s revenues, which is a bit concerning in terms of the diversification of its revenue stream, but GOOGL isn’t just a digital ad company. It’s become a leader in the cloud space. Instead of paying a dividend, GOOGL has invested heavily in more speculative bets, several of which could be paying off handsomely in the near future. GOOGL’s Waymo division, for instance, is thought of as a leader in the autonomous vehicle space. GOOGL’s software makes it a leader in the automation/A.I. space in general, which is exactly where I want to be as an investor looking out over the long-term horizon. GOOGL is also doing interesting work in other significant markets, such as healthcare. I also view it as a potential leader in digital security. When it comes to technology, GOOGL appears to have its hands in a wide variety of cookie jars and when it comes to long-term success, this is exactly what I like to see.

NVIDIA (NVDA)

And finally, we come to the last pure play technology company on the list, NVIDIA. Right now, NVDA is a leader in the fast growing video gaming industry, but I think that’s just the start. NVDA’s CPU chips have found a home in data centers worldwide, which is also an industry with secular growth behind it. Lastly, and probably most importantly to my long-term bullish thesis here, is NVDA’s leadership in the automation/driverless car market. I suspect that the transition from driven cars to driverless vehicles will be one of the greatest transformative developments for society in the decade(s) to come and NVDA seems poised to profit from this shift. NVDA is probably the expensive stock on this list in terms of valuation (I strongly considered including Amazon (AMZN) as well, but it’s valuation is simply too speculative at this point and while I’m long the stock personally, I think it carries too much risk to include in a top-10 list), but I still think the stock has massive upside for those willing to stomach the share price volatility.

Boeing (BA)

I suppose that you could say that Boeing is a technology company (BA is building rockets to put man on Mars, for goodness sake); however, I’m going to continue to view them as an industrial/transportation company. With that being said, the globalization/urbanization macro trends that Boeing benefits from might be just as strong as the A.I./automation trends that drove a lot of my tech picks. The world has seemingly insatiable demand for airplanes. Since Boeing operates as a part of a duopoly in this field, this bodes well for them. This company has a backlog of nearly $500b. Sure, there is speculation of Chinese competition entering the market, but I think that’s likely a decade or so away, at least, from really putting any major pressure on Boeing. In the meantime, BA will continue to post massive cash flows and return large chunks of change to its investors. What’s more, BA has recently focused on improving its margins via a service segment that continues to post nice growth. This should not only continue to drive demands for its products, but also increase the switching costs for customers. Being a cyclical company, Boeing does run the risk of dividend freezes, or even cuts, in bear markets. With that said, I don’t worry about the income that I receive from Boeing. This company has posted a dividend growth CAGR of ~14% dating back to the year 2000. That works well for me.

Disney (DIS)

We’re moving away from the tech trades, but DIS still benefits from much of the same tailwinds. As the undisputed king of content (especially once the Fox deal closes), I think Disney is really going to benefit from the ongoing automation trend. As automation increases the efficiency of human society, free time should be on the rise. That will increase the demand for entertainment and experiential retail. Disney offers both in spades. I picked DIS for this list instead of Netflix (NFLX) because of its more diversified business model, its long history of in-house content production, its massive content library, and its much cheaper valuation. Although Disney had been pretty late to the game in terms of over the top streaming offerings, I think it’s good that they’re finally moving strongly into the space with their ESPN app and the OTT services expected to launch over the next 12-18 months. It’s also worth mentioning that Disney will likely have a large stake in Hulu after the Fox deal closes. It might be a bumpy ride as the traditional media landscape continues to evolve into one that primarily revolves around streaming, but long-term, I really like Disney.

Nike (NKE)

Technology has been a trend throughout this list. I don’t really consider Nike to be a technology company, though I do think they are one of the world’s leading material science firms. Nike’s innovative fabrics have evolved over time to enhance both performance and comfort. Looking ahead long-term, I suspect that the world will have a more intense focus on enhanced productivity and Nike will benefit from this. We’ve already seen times changing with regard to performance/comfort being prioritized over traditional dress wear that might not have been as practical. Worldwide, Nike’s brand name is strong, representing quality, and even wealth, to a certain extent. In a world where demand name branded goods is declining, I think Nike’s swoosh remains strong. Macro trends aside, I also think that Nike is setting itself up to be a dividend growth superstar over the coming decades. The company has an established history of strong, double digit increases. Since 2002, Nike’s dividend growth CAGR is a very impressive 16.6%. Even after all of this dividend growth, NKE’s payout ratio is in the 30% range. This company has plenty of room to grow its dividend and I fully expect it to be a dividend aristocrat in the future.

Starbucks (SBUX)

Starbucks is my consumer staple-esque name on this list. I realize that SBUX is more of a consumer discretionary company, but in this health conscious world, I believe that coffee will continue to be more popular than Soda as the go-to caffeinated beverage of the energy deprived individual. I’m a big fan of investing in companies that legally sell addictive substances. Demand for tobacco based products appears to be falling, but that isn’t the case for caffeine. I view SBUX as the McDonald’s (MCD) of the millennial generation. I think this is a dividend aristocrat in the making. Since initiating its dividend its dividend, SBUX has a strong history of double digit annual growth. The company recently increased its dividend by 20%. Although SBUX has become known for 20%+ dividend growth, I wouldn’t be surprised to see its DGR slow in the relatively near future. This is bound to happen as the company matures. However, right now SBUX yields close to 3% and even if it only averages 10% dividend growth annually over the next decade (which I believe to be a conservative estimate), we’re still talking about some wonderful compounding going on here.

Visa (V)

When I was thinking about putting this list together, I wanted to stay fairly diversified. I knew I wanted a financial stock on the list and ended up having a hard time choosing between J.P. Morgan (JPM), which is my favorite big bank, offers a cheap valuation, and a relatively high dividend yield, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), which essentially speaks for itself as a highly diversified holdings company with incredibly strong cash flows and leadership, and the two main credit card companies, Visa and MasterCard (MA). I crossed J.P. Morgan off of the list because while I think it will benefit from rising rates and lower regulation in the short-term, I still worry about how it will fare during the next recession. I crossed Berkshire off of the list because I’m not super bullish on the insurance industry moving forward (I suspect that climate change will continue to cause problems for the those companies), because it doesn’t pay a dividend, and although this is a bit morbid to say this, because Warren Buffett isn’t getting any younger and I suspect that at some point during the next decade he will no longer be calling the shots for this company and I think that could cause Berkshire to lose some of its luster amongst investors. This left me with the two credit card names, which essentially act as toll booths in the global digital payment market. I think both names are great and it’s difficult to choose between the two operationally. I think both names will be dividend aristocrats one day. However, I decided to make my decision based on the current valuation, which favored Visa as the cheaper option of the two.

W.P. Carey (WPC)

When I put together lists like this, I always like to include a high yielder or two. In the past, AT&T (T) has usually been my go-to name in the high yielding space; however, since I already included Disney on this list, I decided to go with my favorite REIT, W.P. Carey, which sports a slightly higher yield than AT&T, at 6.2%. I like WPC so much because of its well diversified portfolio. Unlike other well known triple net REITs, WPC isn’t constrained by geological limits or the industries of its tenet base. WPC is a global REIT that owns properties spanning a variety of industries, from retail, to industrial, to office, to warehouse, and self storage. I nearly went with Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) in the high yielding slot because of that company’s diversified revenue streams, but WPC’s yield is much higher than BIP’s ~4.5%. BIP probably offers better dividend growth prospects than WPC, but that’s okay. With this list, I’ll get my dividend growth elsewhere. In my opinion, WPC offers a safe, stable 6%+ yield, with low single digit annual dividend growth prospects, with attractive total return prospects to boot as management focuses more on becoming a pure play triple net REIT, which should increase the quality of its income, garnering it a better credit profile, and eventually, spurring multiple expansion to levels on par with the other large cap triple net players in the space.

Disclosure: I am/we are long AAPL, MSFT, DIS, NKE, WPC, NVDA, GOOGL, BA, SBUX, V, MA, JPM, BRK.B, BIP.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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