AT&T thinks you might watch ads in exchange for a cheaper phone plan


“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey told Reuters. AT&T confirmed those comments to CNN Business. (The phone carrier owns CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia.)

The new plan could come as early as “in a year or two,” he told Reuters.

While advertising-supported phones haven’t taken off in the past, despite efforts from Virgin Mobile and Sprint, AT&T (T) said it has the advantage of better ad targeting. Ads will be tailored to customers identified across multiple devices, a strategy that could also help the company sell ads for more money, Stankey said.

Stankey told Reuters the company would also benefit from running an ad-supported version of the HBO Max streaming service next year.

AT&T’s advertising business called Xandr works with data outside of the company to tailor ads, but over the long term it could face legal scrutiny and privacy concerns over using that data.

Stankey told Reuters, “I don’t know if we can count on it in perpetuity.”

Picnic fever is surging. A decades-old basket brand thinks it can make a comeback

For decades, a Longaberger basket was regarded as a status symbol. The baskets, which sold anywhere from $20 to over $100, were handcrafted using strips of maple wood, and each was dated and signed by its maker. The company employed thousands of independent sales people who took their inventory of baskets to home shows, or gatherings similar to Tupperware parties, where the host would invite friends and family to buy them.

But the baskets eventually fell out of fashion. The Longaberger Company, a family business in Dresden, Ohio, that made them, filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and liquidated the following year.

Last November, financial services firm Hilco Global partnered with consumer goods marketing company Xcel Brands to buy the Longaberger brand and bring it back to life. Another Dresden business, Dresden & Co started to produce the Longaberger baskets again for Xcel to sell.

“To us, the Longaberger basket never died,” said Xcel Brands CEO Robert D’Loren, who served on Longaberger’s board of directors from 2006 to 2008.

It just needed to be updated and marketed differently, he said.

Xcel Brands relaunched the Longaberger baskets on home shopping channel QVC in November, and adopted an online sales strategy. Instead of salespeople selling the baskets at home shows as they once did, D’Loren said they will now sell the baskets (which are priced from $49 to $195) through digital storefronts.

Perhaps the biggest mistake the company made in the past was failing to adapt to how consumers were gravitating to online shopping, said D’Loren.

D’Loren said he has no plans to remove the network of independent sellers for the brand. What’s different now is that the selling process is online and supported by video and live streaming content.

“The most powerful form of selling is through product demonstrations by passionate people,” he said, adding that the brand currently has 3,500 salespeople, or “stylists,” and plans to rapidly add more.

The updated approach is showing some early success, said D’Loren. “To date we have sold out of all new basket collections well ahead of anticipated demand,” he said.

A basket-shaped headquarters

At its height, The Longaberger Company, founded in 1973 by Dave Longaberger reached $1 billion in sales, according to D’Loren. It had more than 8,000 employees and its baskets were sold through a network of tens of thousands of independent sales people, much like Avon or Tupperware.

Longaberger baskets were coveted picnic baskets that were handmade using strips of maple wood.

Its headquarters was located in a building shaped like a giant picnic basket, which still exists and is now a popular state landmark and tourist stop.

After Longaberger’s death in 1999, the the business took a turn, D’Loren said. As the economy headed into a recession post-9/11, pricey picnic baskets weren’t top of mind purchases for consumers struggling to hold on to their jobs.

The company started to unravel over the next couple of years and laid off hundreds of workers, D’Loren said.

In 2013, in its 40th year of business, The Longaberger Company was acquired by a Dallas-based holding firm CVSL which later became JRJR Networks. It continued to produce the handmade baskets.

Picnic baskets are in demand as outdoor eating becomes popular in the pandemic.

But even under the new ownership, basket sales dwindled until Longaberger filed for bankruptcy and went out of business.

That could have spelled the end of the brand if Xcel Brands, whose portfolio includes other struggling retail brands like Isaac Mizrahi, Judith Ripka and C. Wonder, hadn’t stepped in late last year.

Xcel is changing up Longaberger’s strategy. In addition to bringing back the baskets, Longaberger now offers a variety of home décor, kitchen, and lifestyle products like tableware and cushions in order to appeal to a broader demographic.

Its basket portfolio includes classic designs and new collections feature limited-run and holiday-themed collections. “We will be adding unique baskets for holidays like Easter and Fourth of July,” D’Loren said.

Picnic craze in the pandemic

There are early indicators that timing is working in favor of the Longaberger revival.

Two websites that sell previously-owned Longaberger baskets say demand for picnic baskets in general has surged in recent months, helped by increased interest in picnics in the pandemic.

On Mercari, searches for picnic baskets have skyrocketed 455% year-over-year, according to the company. Poshmark, another popular resale marketplace, said picnic basket demand on its site has also soared through the summer. Some vintage baskets sell for $300 and higher.

Sales of the Longaberger baskets have jumped 96% in recent months on Poshmark compared to last year.

The timing couldn’t be better for Longaberger’s revival as consumers embrace a more outdoor lifestyle while staying close to home, said Marshal Cohen, a retail expert and chief industry analyst with NPD Group.

Even so, he said it could be a challenge to get consumers who didn’t grow up with the brand to become fans.

“The growth in outdoor [activities] comes in the form of new consumers to the world of picnics, and the [Longaberger] heritage is not as strong to that market,” said Cohen. “It’s not as easy as just turning on the faucet.”

Sophie Wessex reveals what she REALLY thinks of Meghan Markle in rare interview

Speaking to The Sunday Times’ Christina Lamb about Prince Harry and Meghan’s departure, Sophie said: “I just hope they will be happy.” She added that the Royal Family actively tries to welcome new members and them feel comfortable.

She said: “We all try to help any new members of the family.”

The Countess went on liken Meghan and Harry’s relationship to when she first met Prince Edward and explained how she dealt with with attention from the media.

She added: “Remember I’d had five years to adjust.

“And for our six-month engagement I was even staying at Buckingham Palace.

“Not that you necessarily know how it will pan out.”

Sophie gets along well with all family members, but she is specifically known for being close to the Queen and Kate Middleton.

She recently participated in the Duchess of Cambridge’s Hold Still photography project by submitting a photograph relating to the subject of the coronavirus lockdown.

The project, which was unveiled in May, aims to show “spirit of the nation” during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Meghan Markle: How Queen granted Eugenie request Meghan was DENIED

About the the Queen’s close relationship with the Countess, a former royal equerry once told the Sun the Queen finds Sophie’s presence “soothing”.

They said: “If Sophie Wessex is staying at Sandringham then you can pretty much guarantee the Queen will ask her – usually last thing on a Saturday night – if she would like ‘a lift’ to the church.

“And the same happens at Balmoral. The Queen likes to be completely calm before church and she finds Sophie’s presence soothing.

“Who gets the backseat is also one of those quirky royal ways that signals who is in favour.



He just doesn't get it! Deluded Barnier STILL thinks we'll fold on fishing – UK hits out

The Brussels bureaucrat has accused the UK of trying to secure a best of both worlds Brexit with “single market-like benefits” but has ignored his own attempts to keep the country tied to EU rules. His intransigence has blocked progress on the post-Brexit future relationship between Britain and the EU, according to a senior UK negotiating official. Mr Barnier is still asking the UK to remain tied to the bloc’s state aid rules and for continued access to Britain’s fishing grounds.

The UK official said: “As Michel Barnier said, and often says, Brexit means Brexit, and that is correct.

“The EU doesn’t apply that to these two policies, where the position is that we have fisheries arrangements very much like of the Common Fisheries Policy and we are expected to define a state aid policy that looks very much like the one the EU has.

“In those areas they don’t seem to apply that principle like everywhere else and that is the frustration.”

Earlier today, Mr Barnier claimed time was running out to secure a deal after the seventh round of trade talks broke up without any significant progress.

The Frenchman blamed Boris Johnson for the lack of movement, claiming the Prime Minister had rowed back on his pledge to inject more vim and vigour into the negotiations over the summer.

Mr Barnier told reporters he was “worried and disappointed”, adding: “Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards.

“Given the short time left, what I said in London in July remains true,” he said.

“Today, at this stage, an agreement between the UK and the EU seems unlikely. I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time.”

He pointed the blame at Downing Street and accused the Government of not showing enough flexibility to broker a compromise.

Mr Barnier said: “Those who were hoping for negotiations to move on swiftly forward this week will have been disappointed.

MUST READ: POLL: Which red lines should Boris compromise on to secure a deal?

“The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts,” Mr Frost said.

He added: “We hear the British government’s concern about maintaining its sovereignty and its regulatory autonomy and we respect that, clearly. But no international agreement was ever reached without the parties agreeing to common rules – no international agreement.

“Apart from the question of a level playing field there are still many other areas where progress is needed and for example, obviously fisheries where we have made no progress whatsoever on the issues that matter.”



Wall Street thinks a double-dip recession is more likely than V-shaped recovery

Just 17% of fund managers expect a rapid V-shaped economic recovery, according to a Bank of America survey released Tuesday.
Far more (31%) anticipate a gradual U-shaped recovery. Worse, the Bank of America survey showed that 37% of fund managers expect a double-dip recession via a W-shaped recovery.
The findings are yet another reminder that the stock market is not the economy. Wall Street may have catapulted back to record highs at lightning speed, but there is no guarantee Main Street will.
The fact that the S&P 500 recovered its pandemic losses is more of a reflection of the unprecedented steps taken by central bankers than the strength of the real economy. By slashing interest rates to zero and buying trillions of dollars of bonds, the Federal Reserve has left investors with almost no choice but to bet on risky stocks.

The S&P 500, home to some of America’s richest and most powerful companies, has spiked more than 50% since the March 23 lows. But smaller companies, which are less suited to survive the pandemic, have lagged behind. The small-cap Russell 2000 is still down 10% below its August 2018 record high.

“Markets are still skeptical about the durability of the economic recovery,” Solita Marcelli, UBS Global Wealth Management’s Americas CIO, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

Is the rally overdone?

That’s why 57% of fund managers surveyed by Bank of America want companies to focus on slashing debt. Just 30% are pushing companies to ramp up business investment. Tellingly, very few fund managers want companies to return cash to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.

The economic concerns revealed in the fund manager survey echo what America’s leading CEOs are saying.

Just 9% of US CEOs anticipate a V-shaped recovery, according to a Conference Board survey released in late July. More than twice as many (23%) expect a double-dip through a W-shaped recovery.

Some investors worry the remarkable recovery on Wall Street may be overdone.

Why it's time for Amazon and other quadruple-digit stocks to split

The percentage of fund managers saying an equal weighted portfolio of stocks, bonds and gold is overvalued reached the highest level since 2008, according to Bank of America.

And yet there were silver linings in the survey.

Seventy-nine percent of fund managers expect the economy will strengthen, the highest since late 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession. And more fund managers believe the stock market is in a new bull market (46%) than those that say this is just a bear market rally (35%) before new losses.

Even though the stock market is back to record highs, Bank of America strategists said they “do not think positioning is dangerously bullish.” In other words, they don’t fear a new market bubble.

Housing is booming. But what about the rest of the economy?

The debate over the shape of the recovery comes amid conflicting signals.

Some parts of the economy are showing signs of rapid recovery. For instance, housing starts surged in July and have now recovered 90% of their February-April decline, according to Jefferies.

“Housing data continue to paint a picture of a V-shaped recovery. In the case of housing, we believe it will be sustained and long-lasting,” Aneta Markowska, chief economist at Jefferies, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

Housing market is still going strong and propping up the economy
The housing boom — fueled by limited inventory and pent-up demand from millennials flocking to the suburbs — has lifted confidence among homebuilders to record highs. The housing strength is also padding the bottom lines of home improvement retailers Home Depot (HD) and Lowe’s (LOW).
Consumer spending, boosted by a wave of stimulus from Uncle Sam, is also recovering swiftly. After crashing to a seven-year low in April, US retail sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, retail sales in July hit their highest level on record.

Yet the labor market recovery will take much longer, economists say.

At 10.2%, the unemployment rate remains above even the worst levels of the Great Recession. The United States added an impressive 1.8 million jobs in July, yet that marked a slowdown from June’s record-breaking pace of 4.8 million. And payrolls are still down nearly 13 million during the pandemic.

One-third of NY-area businesses wouldn’t survive without aid

The true health of the economy is being masked by emergency aid from the federal government — some of which has expired while Congress debates what to do.

Without that help, a staggering number of companies would struggle to survive.

If current revenue levels persist, about one-third of New York-area businesses would become insolvent without government support, according to a New York Federal Reserve survey released Tuesday. Manufacturers said they would become insolvent in an average of just six months, while service sector firms said they’d go under in an average of eight months.

The survey, which included companies based in New York, northern New Jersey and southwestern Connecticut, reflects deep concerns from companies about their finances.

About three-quarters of service-sector firms and manufacturers said they were either very or somewhat worried about collecting payments from customers. And roughly two-thirds said they were very or somewhat concerned about maintaining adequate cash flow.

Those Main Street worries suggest the risk of a double-dip recession should not be waved away by the euphoria on Wall Street.

China is watching you: Beijing wants to 'shape and control how world' thinks

Being the origin country of the coronavirus currently sweeping the world, China was also the first to implement a string of surveillance strategies in order to combat the virus’ spread. Its most obvious – as has been adopted by countries the world over – is the lockdown; though Beijing’s rules were far stricter than, say, in the UK. There, Chinese citizens were monitored, and neighbourhood watch committees – emblems of a time before current president Xi Jinping – were established and told to report to their local authorities should they spot anyone leaving their homes.

In some instances, doors were boarded up, with people unable to leave their homes even if they wanted to.

The pandemic essentially gave Xi justification for a more intense top-down control than before; with public monitoring stations dubbed “war rooms”, mobile data cultivation and ID-linked tracing apps regimentally rolled out nationwide.

Even before the pandemic China was moving towards being a surveillance state, this most notable in regions like Tibet and Xinjiang, and more recently Hong Kong.

Beijing has also drawn up a “social credit” points system which determines an individual’s standing in society based on their actions: the more good a person does in the eyes of the state, the more rewards they might receive like better credit scores; the more bad an individual does according to the state, the more freedoms they might have stripped of them, like not being able to take internal flights.

China: Beijing wants to control how the world thinks about it an expert told Express.co.uk

China: Beijing wants to control how the world thinks about it an expert told Express.co.uk (Image: GETTY)

Hong Kong: The mainland implemented the security law into Hong Kong in June

Hong Kong: The mainland implemented the security law into Hong Kong in June (Image: GETTY)

Many argue Xi’s intense campaign of surveillance is nothing short of Orwellian.

But, as Sean King, senior vice-president of Park Strategies in New York and an affiliated scholar at University of Notre Dame’s Liu Institute, told Express.co.uk, China is now moving to control the way the world views, writes and talks about it.

It appears that the Communist nation wishes not to exert physical influence outside its borders but instead digital distortion.

Mr King explained: “I don’t think China has any plans on world domination but I definitely think they want to control their immediate area.

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Hong Kong protests: Hong Kongers destroyed cameras around the city during the protests

Hong Kong protests: Hong Kongers destroyed cameras around the city during the protests (Image: GETTY)

“In the old post-Soviet days we would have called this ‘near abroad’ – the South China Sea, Tibet, Taiwan, that area and whether you consider it a part of China or not, and the general vicinity.

“I think China has issues in controlling those places and they also want to shape and control how the world talks about them: so how people in other countries speak about Taiwan, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

“You see this through economic coercion, threats, withholding of exports, contracts, tourists, and you see this through various state media posts around the world and the way embassies and consulates influence local discussion about China.

“Ultimately, China isn’t hell bent on world domination but it definitely wants to control its immediate vicinity and shape and control how people talk about them in all corners of the world.”

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Xinjiang: The western state is subject to intense surveillance from Beijing

Xinjiang: The western state is subject to intense surveillance from Beijing (Image: GETTY)

Xi Jinping: China's president is currently engaged in a campaign of expansionism

Xi Jinping: China’s president is currently engaged in a campaign of expansionism (Image: GETTY)

A perfect example of this might be found in new security laws that China enforced in Hong Kong in June.

Several things are now illegal and enforceable by Beijing on the previously autnomous island, including secession (breaking away from the country), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism (using violence or intimidate against people), and collusion with foreign or external forces.

A handful of experts now fear that the curb on freedoms could extend beyond Hong Kong.

They say that anyone who breaks any part of the security law, anywhere in the world, and either returns to Hong Kong, visits, or perhaps changes flights on the island could be indicted and tried on the mainland.

Hong Kong news: The protests mapped out

Hong Kong news: The protests mapped out (Image: Express Newspapers)

These fears were realised in June, just 12 days after the security laws were imposed, as Zoom, a US-based video conferencing company, admitted to suspending the accounts of human rights activists at the behest of the Chinese government and suggested it would block any further meetings that Beijing complained are illegal.

It led to the company, located in the “free world” where freedom of speech rules, being accused of censorship on behalf of the Chinese government.

In a statement, Zoom said: “The Chinese government informed us that this activity is illegal in China and demanded that Zoom terminate the meetings and host accounts.

“We did not provide any user information or meeting content to the Chinese government.

Zoom: The video conferencing platform shut the accounts down of human rights activists

Zoom: The video conferencing platform shut the accounts down of human rights activists (Image: GETTY)

“We do not have a backdoor that allows someone to enter a meeting without being visible.”

Unlike many social media platforms, Zoom is not blocked in China.

Earlier this year, the company again apologised over revelations that data of users around the world, specifically in the West, might have been captured by China as some of the platform’s servers are located there.

Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan immediately apologised and promised that going forward, any data would never be routed through China.



Have subscription fatigue? The head of NBC's new streaming service thinks he has the answer

Peacock has finally arrived — and while the new NBCUniversal service may be showing up late to the party, it hopes to catch attention with a colorful library and an entry price of $0.

Matt Strauss, the chairman of Peacock and NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, spoke with CNN Business about the service’s launch on Wednesday, the free-tier approach and why he likes the name Peacock.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

I’m just going to ask right off the bat: Are you a fan of the name Peacock? You can be honest with me.

You know, I am. I see it as providing two paths. One, it pays homage to NBC and the heritage, as a lot of the content does tap into NBCUniversal. But at the same time, it’s not NBC+. So there was a conscious decision that we’re building a new brand, charting the path for the future.

That gives us permission to also reinvent what we want Peacock to stand for, as a consumer value proposition and as a brand. I like the fact that it plays in both of those different dimensions.

Off the top of my head, there’s Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, CBS All Access, HBO Max and Apple TV+, and those are just the big services. Tell me why I should sign up for Peacock as well.

Because Peacock’s going to give you access to premium entertainment and live news and sports, content that’s timely, timeless — and it’s free.

Peacock: What you need to know about NBCUniversal's new streaming service

Speaking of free, Peacock is a bit different than some other services in that it has a free version supported by advertising. Why was that important?

There’s a couple of reasons we think this is really going to resonate. The first is we’re seeing signs of subscription fatigue, [with] so many different options people are paying for. The research we’ve done indicates people are looking for alternatives, for lower-cost options. There’s been this expectation that people don’t want to watch ads — I think that’s not true. There’s a very large group of consumers who would embrace an alternative model.

This to me is like a white space in the market, [in] that most streaming services are focused on a very targeted segment, which is ad-free premium content.

What has been the biggest challenge in bringing Peacock to market during a global pandemic? How has it changed your launch strategy?

We had always planned to do a two-phase launch: kind of a soft launch on Comcast (CMCSA) as a sandbox to learn, and then nationally three months later in July. We’ve hit all of our launch dates. Clearly, you’ve got to be flexible. None of us could have anticipated a global pandemic where you’ve got upwards of 1,000 employees across the world now sheltering in place.

We’ve had to make changes in programming, given that some of our original productions got delayed [as] almost everybody in video has experienced. We decided to really lean more heavily into content we knew was nostalgic and familiar — like “Two and a Half Men” or “King of Queens” or “Everyone Loves Raymond,” shows that are almost like comfort food. That’s been a very effective strategy.

What postponing the Summer Olympics means for NBC
The Olympics were also postponed.

The Olympics were meant to be an opportunity for us to tap into that moment to launch Peacock, [so] we had to shift our marketing strategy. If there’s a silver lining, we’ve been able to put together what I think is an even better, more aggressive marketing campaign for July.

And what we lose in 2020, we more than gain in 2021, because we’re going to have almost two Olympics within an 18-month period. Plus, we’re going to have even more original content next year along with other great opportunities like “The Office” shifting over exclusively to Peacock in January.

I think we’ve been able to navigate [the changes] to the best of our ability — and do it in a way that we haven’t lost a beat. If anything, we’re actually further ahead than where we thought we’d be at this point.

How do you think coronavirus is going to change the streaming world, and Hollywood?

Certainly it’s had an impact on how we produce original programming. One of the silver linings [is] that because of sheltering in place, overall we’ve seen an increase in video consumption across the board in this country.

The other thing is that six or seven months ago when we revealed our strategy, we identified this opportunity of subscription fatigue, which is why we leaned toward free ad-supported. Now that we are arguably heading towards an unstable economy, possibly a recession, I think free is more relevant now than it’s ever been.

In a very small way, I think everyone’s trying to figure out how to somehow do something positive for the country, given everything that’s been happening. People at Peacock personally feel very [invested] in bringing this service to market — not only because it’s quality content but also because we’re making that available for free. [It] is a really good thing for consumers to have that choice [right now], especially if affordability is an issue.

Coronavirus vaccine is closer than the market thinks, Wharton's Jeremy Siegel predicts

Coronavirus vaccine is closer than the market thinks: Jeremy Siegel