TIME Companies

SeaWorld Aims to Revamp Image After Blackfish Blowback

Marketing push is about "changing mind-sets," company says

The once-beloved theme park SeaWorld is still reeling from the effects of the 2013 critical documentary Blackfish, which linked stress caused by holding killer whales captive to the 2010 death of a trainer. But SeaWorld Entertainment indicated Thursday it has plans to reshape its brand.

On a call with analysts, during which the Orlando Sentinel reports the company announced its fourth-quarter earnings were worse than expected, SeaWorld announced it would launch a new marketing campaign in April aimed at people who haven’t picked a side in the debate between those who are against keeping animals in captivity and those who remain loyal to the park.

“This is not a hit-and-run, as we say in the marketing world, where you can just advertise for a month and hope it goes away,”Board Chairman and interim CEO David D’Alessandro said. “This is changing mind-sets and making sure mind-sets stay changed, recognizing that the opposition is not going to stand still as we do this.”

Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.

TIME Apple watch

Just Look at This Completely Ridiculous $75,000 Apple Watch

It has a lot of diamonds

Many have speculated that version of Apple’s upcoming smartwatch could retail for vastly more than the $349 entry-level price the company announced when it unveiled the device last year. In fact, by some estimates, the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant could net as much as $5 billion per quarter from sales of its highest-end gold version alone. Then there are the planned versions below, put out by reseller Brixx. Its top-of-the-line model will cost just shy of $70,000.

The company says it plans to take apart Apple’s devices and reassemble them—with extra luxury. According to a Brixx release, the company will do the following:

Each piece is disassembled inside Brikk’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Los Angeles by a team of skilled engineers. They are hand polished, then plated with five layers of diverse metals before their final plating in either two layers of gold or platinum. High quality diamonds are set with a microscope in a custom-machined bezel. Each piece is then reassembled and tested before shipping to clients.

More information about the final availability of the Apple Watch will be available in early March, when the company holds its “Spring Forward” event in California.

TIME

The 1 Thing That Could Instantly Make Your Credit Score Better

overhead view of hand holding credit card and using laptop
John Lamb—Getty Images

You can do better than this

Just about everybody has to pay their electric bill, but that payment you make every month to keep the lights on rarely, if ever, makes it into your credit report. And that’s too bad, because one of the big three credit bureaus says it could really shed some “light” on your score if it was included.

Credit bureau Experian conducted a study and finds that the number of Americans with subprime credit scores below 600 would fall by nearly 50% if on-time utility payments were part of their credit profiles. The number of people in the nonprime or “fair” credit bracket of 601 to 660 would shoot up by 54% and the number of people with scores above that would go up by 15%.

There has been a lot of interest in this so-called alternative credit reporting, using data like electric bills, rental payments and even cell phone bills. Advocates of including this kind of information, like Experian, say it would help “credit invisible” people who have little or no traditional credit history establish one. If both rent and utilities were part of credit scores, Experian says as many as 54 million people who are essentially invisible today would be able to participate in mainstream finance.

Right now, a pile of red tape keeps this information from appearing on most people’s credit reports. There’s debate about whether or not the government should regulate inclusion of this kind of data, and advocacy groups have expressed concern that utility payment information could be misused once in the hands of credit organizations and could lead to people’s scores falling if late or missed payments are included. Currently, most of the times a utility bill does make it into a person’s credit file is because they didn’t pay and the bill went into collections. “Reporting such negative data will most certainly push those same families struggling to recover from foreclosure and bankruptcy out of their rental homes,” one warns.

But Experian says if utility payments were included in credit scores, more than three-quarters of people who already had a credit score would see their score rise. The majority of scores would go up by at least 11 points, the bureau says — that’s a big enough spread that could mean the difference between getting the best rate on something like a mortgage or car loan and having to dig deeper into your pockets every month. Experian found that only 3% of people would see their credit scores fall.

 

TIME Companies

The Fascinating History of the Coca-Cola Bottle

Manufacture Of Coke Light Soft Drinks At The Coca-Cola Hellenic Plant In Cyprus
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Empty glass bottles of Coca-Cola Light, also known as diet Coke, travel along a conveyor belt ahead of filling at the Lanitis Bros Ltd. bottling plant, part of the Coca-Cola Hellenic Group, in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

The anniversary comes at a difficult time for the soda maker

Coca-Cola is making a lot of the 100th anniversary of its iconic bottle. Given what’s happening with soda sales generally, and Coke sales in particular, the festivities come at a delicate time.

The celebration of the bottle includes an ad campaign in more than 100 countries featuring Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Ray Charles, and an exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta called “The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100.” The exhibit will include “more than 100 objects, including more than 15 works of art by Andy Warhol and more than 40 photographs inspired by or featuring the bottle,” the company said in a statement.

Warhol, of course, was pilloried for his seeming embrace of consumerism though works like the Campbell Soup Cans and Coke Bottles, though of course it wasn’t that simple. The result was that the counterculture had infiltrated consumer culture, and vice versa. Warhol, who saw consumer products as having a leveling effect, said this about Coke:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

The original bottle was designed by the Root Glass Company in Indiana, nearly 30 years after the product was launched in 1886. Root won a contest where participants were challenged to “develop a container recognizable even if broken on the ground or touched in the dark.” Root’s design allowed consumers to recognize the product “even if they felt it in the dark,” according to Coke.

The celebration comes during a rough period for Coke. It has implemented a massive cost-cutting campaign. Its quarterly profits were down by 55%, it reported earlier this month. Meanwhile, sales of sugary soft drinks in general are plunging, having dropped by more than 20% between 2004 and 2014. In an effort to capitalize on consumers’ move away from sugar and toward protein, Coke has introduced Fairlife milk products. The bottles are pretty cool, but one can wonder if anybody will be celebrating them 100 years from now.

TIME Companies

Do This 1 Thing For a Better Google Ranking

Google Mobile Search
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a Nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Mobile-friendly sites will do better in search results next month

Google is once again tweaking its search algorithm with a new change that should have some benefits for users.

The company announced in a Thursday blog post that it will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results starting April 21. Sites that work well on a smartphone will get a “significant” boost over other sites, the company says.

The change should ensure that people conducting Google searches on their phone typically arrive on easily-readable sites rather than messy desktop-based layouts that are hard to navigate on a small screen. Google offers a form where developers can input a URL to see whether it is mobile-friendly or not.

In addition to the algorithm change, Google said starting Thursday it will begin surfacing content hidden within apps more prominently in search results. If a developer has enabled App Indexing, Google’s search bots can crawl the contents of an app just like a Web page. Information from the app can show up along with regular search results on Google.

It makes sense that Google would want to incentivize App Indexing. The search giant doesn’t have the stranglehold on information queries on phones as it does on the desktop because people often boot up more narrowly-focused apps (Amazon for shopping, Yelp for food) instead of using Google to trawl the entire World Wide Web. More indexing means more valuable information that Google can present to users and serve ads against.

TIME Gadgets

This Is Exactly When We’ll Know More About the Apple Watch

Apple has an event March 9

Apple just sent out media invites for a March 9 event most likely involving the upcoming Apple Watch.

 Invite
AppleApple Invite

“Please join us for an invitation-only event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco on Monday, March 9, at 10:00 a.m.,” the invite reads.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the Apple Watch will hit stores in April, making early March the perfect time to unveil new details about the device. The event could also involve other announcements, like a refreshed MacBook Air or Apple TV.

(Read more: Hands-On With the Apple Watch)

TIME Media

Nickelodeon Is Trying to Hook Pre-Schoolers on Streaming TV

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R. Nelson—Getty Images/Flickr RM Little girl using tablet

New service will have classic kids shows but fewer current hits

Nickelodeon is the next big television brand to throw its hat in the streaming ring.

The Viacom-owned kids’ network on Wednesday announced a new online service called Noggin, which will stream old episodes of shows such as Blue’s Clues and Little Bear for $5.99 per month. The service, available for iOS devices March 5, will also feature older shows such as Allegra’s Window and Gullah Gullah Island, as well as music videos and educational content.

Missing from the service are more recent mega-hits like Dora The Explorer. Nick says the content available on Noggin will remain “separate and distinct” from what you can watch on TV.

For what’s being offered, the price tag may be a bit high. Sesame Street now has a streaming service that costs $3.99 per month, and much of the legacy Nickelodeon content is available to Amazon Prime subscribers–along with a boatload of other features–for $99 per year, or $8.25 per month. However, Nick said it may offer Noggin to cable subscribers free of charge in the future.

MONEY TV

Nickelodeon Thinks You’ll Pay $6 a Month for a Netflix for Preschoolers

Blue's Clues
Nick Jr. Blue's Clues

If you think your toddler needs more screen time—and if you somehow don't already have more than enough child-friendly streaming options—Nickelodeon has the product for you.

This week, Nickelodeon announced that it is launching a new app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, available at Apple’s App Store starting March 5. The app will be a subscription video service called Noggin—the same name of the cable TV channel that was a predecessor of Nick Jr.—and it will offer as much ad-free viewing of “Blue’s Clues,” “Little Bear,” and other preschooler fare as your little one’s eyeballs can handle, at a price of $5.99 per month.

As Variety noted, “Nickelodeon continues to grapple with ratings declines at its traditional TV network, owing to viewers seeking video content on new kinds of screens.” In a recent week, Nickelodeon’s ratings among kids were down 35% compared to the same period a year ago. So you can’t blame the Viacom-owned network for trying to do something to boost its audience and revenues.

But who is going to pay $5.99 a month this service? Starting at just $2 more monthly, you can be a subscriber to Netflix, which has plenty of content for children of all ages—it’s even been adding reboots of kids’ shows like “Care Bears,” “Magic School Bus,” and “Inspector Gadget”—as well as movies and shows for adults. The vast majority of consumers who are intrigued with streaming already subscribe to one or more service, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (free for Prime members), or Hulu Plus, all of which have sections full of kids’ content. There’s also plenty of free kid-friendly streaming video out there (PBS Kids, for example). Finally, if you have a pay TV subscription that includes Nickelodeon, as most packages do, you can download the Nick Jr. app for free and watch unlimited, ad-free full episodes of “Dora the Explorer,” “Bubble Guppies,” and such.

It’s unclear, then, why all that many families would need to pay another $6 a month for yet more preschooler streaming content.

If there’s a parallel in the industry, it’s CBS All-Access, the subscription streaming option that also charges $5.99 per month—and that many observers assume will fail. At least the CBS product is targeting adults, most obviously folks who are big fans of the network’s shows, such as “The Good Wife” and various versions of “CSI” and “NCIS,” as well as older programs like “Brady Bunch” and “Star Trek.”

CBS All-Access has some hope of attracting grownup subscribers who are picky about what they watch and who like CBS’s programming. But how many preschoolers do you know are picky about what they watch? Most of the kids we know are more than happy to be allowed to watch something—anything—on the iPad while their parents enjoy their meal at the restaurant.

TIME energy

Google Is Paying Millions to Help You Switch to Solar Power

Solar installer, Justin Woodbury, Namaste (accent over the e) Solar, secures solar panels for a photovoltaic solar array system on the roof of a house in the Sorrel Ranch area, near e-470 and Smoky hill Road in Aurora Friday afternoon in record temperatur
Andy Cross—Denver Post via Getty Images Solar installer, Justin Woodbury secures solar panels for a photovoltaic solar array system on the roof of a house in the Sorrel Ranch area, near e-470 and Smoky hill Road in Aurora Friday afternoon in record temperatures.

The search giant is investing $350 million in a fund to cover home solar panel installations

Google is investing $300 million in a fund designed to help people install solar panels on their houses.

The fund is being created by SolarCity, a fast-growing solar energy startup that boasts SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as its chairman. SolarCity has attracted $750 million overall for the fund, which will finance solar panel installations for homeowners in 15 states. Homeowners who install the panels will then pay SolarCity for the electricity they generate.

SolarCity claims its customers “usually” pay less for electricity than people who use traditional fossil fuels — and it says its energy is cleaner, too.

“It’s good for the environment, good for families and also makes good business sense,” Sidd Mundra, Renewable Energy Principal at Google, said in a statement.

The investment is Google’s largest in renewable energy projects.

 

TIME

Why China is Making Life Miserable For Big U.S. Tech

A new report says China’s government has banned purchases from Cisco, Apple and other tech firms nearly two years after the NSA’s spying programs were revealed

On Sunday night, Citizenfour, a film about Edward Snowden holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room revealing the global spying programs run by the U.S. National Security Agency, won the Oscar for best documentary for its chilling portrait of technology and surveillance.

Three days later this week, in China, news surfaced that the country has banned government purchases from some of the largest U.S tech firms implicated in the very affairs revealed by Snowden, including most notably Cisco Sistems, but also Apple Inc, Citrix Systems, and Intel’s INTC McAfee security business. The companies were recently banned from China government purchases, according to an analysis of the government-procurement list by Reuters. The number of approved foreign tech brands on China’s purchase list fell by a third.

Whether China is really worried about U.S. tech firms jeopardizing state security, or if it’s simply using the Snowden news as pretext for favoring domestic technology firms, is being debated. But U.S. companies being banished from the government purchase list clears up any doubt that China is an oppressive market for big U.S. tech firms.

China reacted almost immediately after Snowden divulged the NSA programs in mid-2013. Cisco said afterwards its China business had slowed to a crawl, in part because its IT-equipment was associated with spying. (It was later reported that the NSA intercepted Cisco routers to install surveillance equipment without the company’s knowledge, which Cisco CEO John Chambers later complained about to President Obama.) Last year, Microsoft’s Windows 8 was banned from Chinese government computers for what the government said were security concerns. Today, the country is trying to cleanse key industries in banking, state-owned enterprises, and the military from U.S. technology by 2020, according to reports.

Until now, China hasn’t explicitly banned U.S. tech products, but it has gradually distanced itself from foreign tech. Earlier this month, China’s banking regulator said it was planning to require source code from any suppliers of IT products used by its banks. That is greeted as a nonstarter by Microsoft Corp, IBM and Cisco. If approved, the rule would effectively shut them out of billions of dollars of contracts. Industry analysts say the Chinese are years away from building their own equipment on par with say, Cisco’s, but they are getting closer.

The stripping of Cisco and Apple from the approved government list is the latest salvo in an ongoing tech conflict between the U.S. and China. The U.S. has similarly discriminated against Chinese telecommunications equipment makers for “state security” reasons. In 2012, a U.S. congressional committee warned that Huawei products could be used for spying—a charge the company continues to deny—but did not release evidence to support its claims. Huawei, the biggest telecom infrastructure maker in the world, can’t bid for U.S. government projects or large U.S. telecom contracts. ZTE , the second largest telecom infrastructure maker in China, is similarly banned.

In China, the situation has grown so poor for foreign IT that Cisco, in its latest quarterly results announced two weeks ago, said China sales dropped by 19%. Cisco’s public relations department won’t even directly address the topic of discrimination in China.

Except for Apple, which posted record sales in large part because its iPhone 6 dominated China’s market, there’s little reason to expect future good news for big U.S. tech in the Middle Kingdom. Snowden changed the dynamics in an already uneasy relationship. Now the effects are showing.

This article originally appeared on fortune.com

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