TIME Technology and Media

Facebook Rolls Out a New Plan To Crush Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a keynote session on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 24, 2014.
Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a keynote session on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 24, 2014. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Facebook launched FB Newswire, which aims to be journalists' social media resource for breaking news

Facebook announced a new service Thursday designed to make it the primary social media resource for journalists covering breaking news, a direct shot across the bow at Twitter.

FB Newswire is a tool accessible via Facebook that features an updated stream of newsworthy and embeddable public content. This includes photos, videos, and status updates about categories ranging from hard news to lifestyle to celebrity to sports. Journalists can grab that content to use it in their own stories across the web.

Newswire is powered by Storyful, bought by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp for $25 million in 2013, which promised users that it will be vetting all of the content it is providing.

Thus far, FB Newswire has provided content on stories ranging from Kim Kardashian’s views on the Armenian massacre:

To Obama taking pictures with a robot:

Twitter, one of Facebook’s primary competitors, has come to be known as a major breaking news resource for the media. It has built that news-friendly model with strategic hires and tool integration.

TIME Retirement

There’s a Dangerous New Way to Get a Quick Loan

Getty Images

Americans ratcheted up borrowing from retirement accounts during the recession and have never stopped. Here's why these should be loans of last resort

Lingering fallout from the Great Recession includes the high rate at which workers with a 401(k) plan borrow from that pool of savings, imperiling their future retirement security.

At the end of last year, 18.2% of participants in a defined contribution plan had loans from their plan outstanding, according to new data from the Investment Company Institute. That rate has held above 18% since 2010, having jumped from 15.3% in 2008.

More workers also have taken hardship withdrawals since the financial crisis, further evidence that some at least have come to view their 401(k) plan as a piggy bank—not a retirement account. Hardship withdrawals have held steady the past few years, occurring in 1.7% of plans last year, up from 1.3% in 2008.

Loans seem to be the top choice for families plugging holes in their budget. The average loan balance is around $7,000, representing about 12% of the typical remaining 401(k) balance of $59,000. That’s a big chunk of savings that isn’t available to grow during the period it has been borrowed. You’ll pay yourself interest when you settle the debt, but not enough to replace years of lost growth in a rising stock market. In many cases, the loans never get repaid and become subject to penalties and income tax.

Loans are easily the biggest source of “leakage” from retirement plans. About one in four American workers with a 401(k) plan expect to tap their retirement account for current expenses. This leakage tops $70 billion a year, equal to nearly a quarter of annual contributions, research shows.

The issue is so concerning that experts are looking for reasonable alternatives to 401(k) plans. Some believe funds borrowed from a 401(k) should be insured so that in the case of a worker who loses a job any money borrowed from the 401(k) plan would be replaced—not permanently lost, penalized and taxed.

In general, 401(k) plan loans should be avoided—or used as a last resort. They are not as costly as some pundits would have you believe. But failure to repay is all too common. Default rates on 401(k) plan loans have roughly doubled since the financial crisis and account for about $37 billion a year leaving retirement savings accounts.

 

 

TIME Paying for College

The Next Massive Bailout: Student Loans

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Christopher Futcher—Getty Images/Vetta

A new repayment option is really about student debt forgiveness. It's been popular, and is getting very expensive for taxpayers.

A few years ago, I began interviewing adults at least 10 years out of college and who had never managed to pay off their student debt. Some were past the age of 50 and headed slowly but surely for personal bankruptcy. Sadly, their stories were as common as they were upsetting.

Not much has changed. Outstanding student loans continue to balloon, and they now total $1.2 trillion nationally, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Among students graduating in 2012, 71% had student loans averaging $29,400, according to a report from the Project on Student Debt. So while today’s grads may be part of the most educated generation in history they are also the most indebted twentysomethings the world has ever seen.

This isn’t good. Young people should be buying cars and setting up households—not boomeranging home to Mom and Dad and dedicating their income to loan repayment. Household formation is half the rate it was seven years ago, and most of that is due to the drag of student debt, the CFPB has concluded.

Government is trying to address the problem. There has been talk of refinancing student debt at lower rates. But that discussion has largely stalled. President Obama is pushing for a new funding model, where the amount of student financial aid available to universities is tied to things like their graduation rate and the initial salaries of their graduates. But the rating system, which might eventually hold tuition hikes in check, is at least a year away.

Another new initiative may be backfiring–at least at it relates to keeping college costs contained. Since 2011, student borrowers have been able to choose a plan that limits their amount due to 10% of discretionary income, which is defined as 150% above the poverty level—now at $15,730 a year for a two-member household. That means such a household would owe based on income beyond $23,595. If this household earned, say, $35,000 a year, it would make payments of about $100 a month.

For public employees and those working for a nonprofit, so long as they made regular payments the debt would be considered settled after 10 years regardless of how much was owed or paid back. For private sector employees the debt would be settled after 20 years. This payment plan, which is really more of a debt forgiveness plan, has proved so popular that enrollment is up 40% in six months and now includes 1.3 million Americans owing $72 billion.

Yet there is no free lunch, and we now have what looks like a high stakes game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time we bat down one source of escalating tuition and student debt, another source rises up. Because of the forgiveness feature, students appear more willing to borrow; universities are advertising the forgiveness plan and seem poised to raise tuition to soak up the funds. Just like that we are back where we started—a lot of borrowing and little incentive for colleges to keep tuition hikes down.

And it gets worse. In this popular new arrangement, taxpayers get stuck with the tab. Already the future cost of the forgiveness feature is pegged at $14 billion. To keep students and colleges from running up too big a bill, President Obama is pushing to add a lifetime forgiveness cap of $57,500. That would help. But make no mistake: the next bailout is happening now. It may be more palatable than bailing out banks and car companies. But the costs are mounting.

 

TIME TIME 100

Meet the Disruptors of the TIME 100

Jeff Bezos Launches Bezos Center For Innovation In Seattle
David Ryder—Getty Images

The Time 100 has featured its fair share of tech world disruptors, from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg. This year is no different, with an impressive array of tech CEOs that range from a couple of Chinese mega-moguls to a pair of fresh-faced innovators fresh out of Stanford University. Here’s a breakdown of the people on this year’s list who are doing the most to change the world of technology:

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy

Ages: 23 and 25

What they did: Launched the messaging app Snapchat, through which users send each other pictures that disappear after a few seconds. The app is changing the way we communicate—or at least, the way your kids communicate. The rapid growth of the app, which processes 400 million photos per day, is the latest sign that people are craving ways to connect through private networks online instead of broadcasting all their thoughts to their Facebook friends.

Who’s scared of them: Facebook, which offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion last fall and got turned down. The company also launched a Snapchat clone called Poke, which flopped.

Pony Ma

Age: 42

What he did: Founded Tencent, the giant Chinese Internet company that runs everything from social networks to massive multiplayer online games. At more than $150 billion, its market capitalization eclipses large American tech firms like Intel and Hewlett-Packard.

Who’s scared of him: The Chinese government, whose strict censorship laws are harder to enforce on private messaging services like Tencent’s WeChat app. The government has forced WeChat to restrict certain words, but users can still communicate through images and audio in ways that are tough to regulate.

Tony Fadell

Age: 45

What he did: Known as the “father of the iPod,” Fadell spearheaded the development of Apple’s disruptive music device. Later, he launched the smart smoke detector company Nest, which was bought by Google for $3.2 billion at the start of the year.

Who’s scared of him: Well, smoke alarm manufacturers, obviously. More broadly, though, Nest and other companies that are developing products tied to the “Internet of Things” could threaten the manufacturers of all sorts of traditional appliances, from televisions to refrigerators to automobiles.

Jeff Bezos

Age: 50

What he did: What didn’t he do? Bezos’s Amazon began as an online book store and is now a grocery store, a music retailer, an entertainment company, a fashion outlet, and a web hosting service that keeps much of the Internet online. Most recently he entered the journalism business by buying the Washington Post for $250 million.

Who’s scared of him: Physical retailers like Wal-Mart, of course, but also a growing a number of his tech peers. Next on his list of targets may be Apple—Amazon is rumored to be launching a smartphone to compete with the iPhone later this year.

Jack Ma

Age: 49

What he did: Created the Chinese giant Alibaba, the biggest e-commerce company in the world. The company runs a merchant marketplace like eBay and an online payments service like PayPal, as well as a cloud computing service and other businesses. Its public offering in the U.S. later this year could be bigger than Facebook’s and bring an onslaught of Chinese tech firms to American shores.

Who’s scared of him: Probably everyone. Like Amazon, Alibaba has its hand in a lot of different businesses, and it’s increasingly making big investments that operate outside of China. For example, the company invested $215 million in a messaging app called Tango that is competing in the same sector as WhatsApp.

Travis Kalanick

Age: 37

What he did: Launched the upscale, on-demand taxi service called Uber, then expanded its appeal to the masses with a cheaper ride-sharing program.

Who’s scared of him: Traditional taxi companies, which have tried to claim that Uber’s service is illegal. Soon it may be FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service complaining—Uber is testing a new courier service in New York right now.

 

TIME Earnings

General Motors Profits Drop 86 Percent After Recalls

The troubled automaker took a $1.3 billion hit after it had to recall 7 million vehicles worldwide, 2.6 million of them because of problems with ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths so far

General Motors said Thursday its first quarter profits dropped approximately 86% from the same period last year after a series of massive recalls cost the automaker $1.3 billion.

The company’s profits in the first three months of the year fell to $125 million, compared to $865 million for the first quarter of 2013. This year’s first quarterly earnings report marks the company’s worst showing since it reported a loss after going through bankruptcy in 2009, the New York Times reports.

But the company’s first quarter profits still trounced analyst estimates. Excluding one-time items, GM’s profit was 29 cents a share, well above the Bloomberg estimate of 4 cents a share.

GM has recently recalled 7 million vehicles worldwide, 2.6 million of which because of faulty ignition switches that have been linked to at least 13 deaths. The company was also hit with $300 million in restructuring costs and $419 million because of a valuation change in Venezuelan currency.

TIME Technology & Media

Net-Neutrality Advocates Angered by FCC’s Planned New Rules

Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington March 27, 2014. Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

Internet service providers could strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment, under proposals by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, violating the ideal of equal access for all consumers

The Federal Communications Commission plans to propose new rules that would allow Internet service providers to charge content companies for preferential treatment over the “last mile” to users, according to multiple reports, in a blow for advocates of “Net neutrality,” the principle that consumers should have equal access to content available on the Internet.

The proposed rules, which are being circulated among the five FCC commissioners, come three months after a federal court struck down the agency’s 2010 Open Internet Order. After details of the proposal leaked out Wednesday evening, Net-neutrality advocates reacted with anger, with some claiming the new rules threaten the Internet’s traditionally free and open culture.

In a statement released late Wednesday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler called that notion “flat-out wrong.”

Under the FCC’s new plan, Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T “would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers,” according to an FCC spokesperson. The companies would also be prohibited from blocking or discriminating against online content, but they would be allowed to strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment, as long as they acted in a “commercially reasonable manner subject to review on a case-by-case basis.”

Net-neutrality advocates argue that Internet startups might not be able to afford to pay for such special treatment, potentially stifling innovation on the Internet, which has spawned one of the greatest periods of technological development in U.S. history, generating hundreds of billions of dollars in economic growth.

“The FCC is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online,” Michael Weinberg, vice president at Public Knowledge, a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is not Net neutrality. This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet.”

Net neutrality was enshrined in the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order, which required Internet service providers to be transparent about how they handle network congestion, prohibited them from blocking traffic such as Skype or Netflix on wired networks, and barred them from discriminating against such services by putting them into an Internet “slow lane” in order to benefit their own competing services.

In February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the FCC’s authority to enforce the antiblocking and antidiscrimination rules. That verdict was a blow for President Obama, who campaigned as a strong supporter of Net neutrality. In the wake of that defeat, many Net-neutrality advocates called for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service.

Such reclassification would have restored the FCC’s authority to enforce the rules, but it also would have prompted a major showdown between the FCC and broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, which are extremely powerful on Capitol Hill and oppose such reclassification. Instead, the FCC appears to have chosen a more politically palatable route — based on the agency’s so-called Section 706 authority — that will seek to address blocking and discrimination on a case-by-case basis.

“This is not Net neutrality,” Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, which has long championed Internet openness, said in a statement. “It’s an insult to those who care about preserving the open Internet to pretend otherwise. The FCC had an opportunity to reverse its failures and pursue real Net neutrality by reclassifying broadband under the law. Instead, in a moment of political cowardice and extreme shortsightedness, it has chosen this convoluted path that won’t protect Internet users.”

FCC chairman Wheeler is a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist who was previously managing director at Washington-based venture-capital firm Core Capital Partners. Wheeler, a longtime Obama loyalist, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s two presidential campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Wheeler has insisted he is committed to a “free and open Internet.”

The FCC’s new proposal would establish a “baseline” rule prohibiting broadband providers from engaging in “commercially unreasonable” practices in sending Internet traffic to consumers, but it’s unclear what would constitute a “commercially unreasonable” practice. The proposal would also establish a process for resolving disputes between Internet service providers and content companies on a case-by-case basis.

For over a decade, the Internet has largely adhered to Net neutrality, which is why most consumers take it for granted. In practice, Net neutrality means that all users have open access to the Internet, just like all Americans have the right to travel anywhere in the 50 states without a passport. Without this open access, startups like Google, Twitter and Facebook might never have flourished, according to Net-neutrality advocates, who say the FCC’s new proposal threatens the Internet’s vibrant ecosystem.

“This is a stake in the heart for Internet openness,” says Lauren Weinsten, a veteran tech-policy expert and prominent Net-neutrality advocate. “The nation’s largest Internet service providers have hit the ultimate jackpot. These companies keep secret all of the information needed to evaluate whether violations of Internet openness have occurred, and because the FCC moves so slowly, by the time it acts, a company that’s been victimized could be out of business.”

Wheeler disputed the suggestion that the new rules would harm the Internet’s openness, calling such claims “flat-out wrong.”

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Wheeler said the proposal “will restore the concepts of Net neutrality consistent with the court’s ruling in January. There is no ‘turnaround in policy.’ The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original Open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.”

The new proposal, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would not apply the rules to so-called paid peering arrangements, like the one recently struck by Netflix to pay for a direct connection to Comcast, in order to improve performance for users. In the wake of that deal, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called on the FCC to establish “strong” Net-neutrality rules preventing companies like Comcast from “charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube or Skype.”

Updated on April 23 at 10:20 p.m. E.T. with a statement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

TIME Apple

Apple Stock Soars 8% on Strong iPhone Sales

The Apple Inc logo sits on display at the company's store in the Gran Plaza 2 shopping mall in Majadahonda, near Madrid, Spain, on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.
Angel Navarrete—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple sold 43.7 million iPhones, substantially more than the 37.7 million that Wall Street analysts had been expecting

Tech titan Apple reported a 4.6% increase in quarterly revenue on Wednesday, handily beating Wall Street expectations after selling significantly more iPhones than analysts had predicted.

The company also said it plans to increase its stock buyback program and dividend, pleasing shareholders who have called for the company to distribute more of its cash.

The solid results, which amount to the strongest non-holiday quarter in Apple history, encouraged investors who have grown restless about a perceived lack of innovation at the company. Apple shares soared as much as 8% in after hours trading, adding $33 billion in value and sending the company’s market capitalization back over the $500 billion level.

IPhone sales were particularly strong, with the company selling 43.7 million units, substantially more than 37.7 million that analysts had been expecting.

“These are surprisingly good numbers, especially on the iPhone,” Piper Jaffray technology analyst Gene Munster said in an appearance on CNBC shortly after the results were released. “Investors should breathe a sigh of relief about these numbers.”

Apple reported revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $11.62 per share, compared to revenue of $43.6 billion and profit of $9.5 billion, or $10.09 per share one year ago. For the current quarter, Apple forecast revenue between $36 billion and $38 billion, slightly below that $38.1 billion that analysts had been expecting.

“We’re very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We’re eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market.”

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Cook said that Apple established a new iPhones sales record in the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China. Earlier this year, Apple announced a deal to make the iPhone available for sale to China Mobile’s 760 million customers. Cook said the company plans to triple its number of retail locations in China over the next two years.

The iPhone has been available on smaller carriers in China for years, but sales have faced pressure in the face of lower-cost competition from devices made by Samsung and other manufacturers that use Google’s Android mobile operating system. Analysts estimate that Apple could sell between 20 million and 30 million iPhones on China Mobile’s network next year.

As usual, Cook declined to go into detail about the new products that the company is developing, but said to expect new gadgets this year. “We’ve got some great things there that we’re working on that I’m very proud of and very excited about,” Cook said. Speculation has centered on a new TV product or possibly a wearable computing device like an Internet-connected wristwatch.

Apple has not introduced a new product category since the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in October 2011, prompting fears about the state of innovation at the company. Still, Apple has made impressive improvements to its existing product lines, and the iPhone and iPad are considered the gold-standard in their respective categories.

Apple also announced a rarely seen seven for one stock split — which means that each existing shareholder will receive six additional shares — in an effort to lower the share price and make the company more accessible to small investors. The company, which is now sitting on $156 billion in cash, also boosted its stock buyback program to $90 billion, and increased its dividend by 8% to $3.29 per share.

“We generated $13.5 billion in cash flow from operations and returned almost $21 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the March quarter,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in a statement. “That brings cumulative payments under our capital return program to $66 billion.”

Cook added: “We’re confident in Apple’s future and see tremendous value in Apple’s stock, so we’re continuing to allocate the majority of our program to share repurchases.”

In a message posted on Twitter, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who has been agitating for Apple to return more of its cash to shareholders, said he was “very pleased” with the company’s plan to increase its stock buyback program. He added that he continues to believe that Apple is “meaningfully undervalued.”

In one sour note, iPad sales fell short of analyst forecasts, with the company selling 16.35 million units compared to expectations of 19.7 million. Cook explained the difference by saying that last year Apple increased iPad inventory, but reduced it this year. On the bright side, Cook said that two-thirds of users registering iPads were new customers, and he pointed out that the iPad is the fastest growing product in Apple’s history.

On the conference call, Cook paid tribute to Oppenheimer, who is leaving the company this year, by observing that Apple is now 20-times larger than it was when Oppenheimer joined the company. “His expertise, leadership, and incredibly hard work have been instrumental to the company’s success,” Cook said.

TIME technology

Facebook Blows Away Analyst Projections With Strong Earnings

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on March 7, 2013.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on March 7, 2013. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The social network exceeded analyst projections in its latest quarterly earnings report, generating $2.5 billion in revenue, as it gains more mobile users and gets a growing proportion of its advertising revenue from mobile

Facebook once again exceeded analyst projections in its latest quarterly earnings report Wednesday, as the world’s largest social network continued to show investors it can transition its advertising business to mobile devices.

The company generated $2.5 billion in revenue and had earnings (minus some line items) of 34 cents per share in the first quarter of 2014, greatly topping analyst estimates of $2.36 billion in revenue and 24 cents per share in profits. Net income for the quarter was $642 million, triple the figure from the same quarter last year. Facebook shares rose only slightly on the strong earnings in after-hours trading.

The social network said it gained about 50 million new monthly active users in the quarter, increasing its total to 1.28 billion. Daily active users now total 802 million, up from 757 million in the previous quarter. In a key milestone, mobile monthly active users also crossed the one-billion mark for the first time. Mobile ads are quickly increasing in value for the company and now generate almost 60 percent of Facebook’s total ad revenue.

“These results show Facebook’s business is strong and growing,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call with investors.

Despite early doubts when Facebook first went public in 2012, the company has now proven that it can have a mobile-first mindset and profit handsomely from it. The next challenge for the social network will be growing its business outside of the Western world. Nearly two thirds of Facebook’s users now reside in places besides the U.S., Canada or Europe, but the revenue it generates per user is more than six times greater in the United States than Asia. Some of Facebook’s moves early this year, like purchasing messaging platform WhatsApp for $19 billion and announcing plans to beam Internet access to people in remote areas via drones, seem directly aimed at shoring up revenues in these non-Western markets in the long term.

Though Facebook is making several long term bets, including the purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion in March, the company is content to let its main website do the heavy lifting of generating profits for now. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg both stressed that acquisitions like WhatsApp and Instagram won’t be monetized heavily anytime soon. Neither will internal Facebook products like the Paper news reading app and the new auto-play videos that now appear in users’ News Feeds. “The current priority is growth,” Zuckerberg said of Facebook’s suite of apps and services. He pointed to 100 million users as a threshold to cross before developing an app into a significant business.

The company once again expressed confidence that it will be able to serve users increasingly relevant ads on Facebook, thus boosting their value to marketers. Data backs up the claim—a recent study by Adobe of Facebook ads used by 100 large social media advertisers found that click-through rates in the first quarter increased 160% year-over-year. “The ads are getting more relevant, but there’s a long way to go,” Sandberg told investors. “We have a great opportunity to build the first platform for personal marketing at scale.”

TIME drinking

How to Drink Scotch Whisky

It may not be everyone’s cup of whisky, but if sales are any indication, Scotch is more popular worldwide than ever before.

Scotch sales have nearly doubled over the past ten years to roughly $7 billion, according to the Scotch Whisky Association. The United States is the world’s leading importer of the drink, buying nearly $1.32 billion worth of the spirit each year. The drink can legally be called Scotch only if it’s made in Scotland and aged in oak casks for at least three years.

And note that it’s also spelled “whisky,” without the e, to differentiate from popular American-style “whiskeys,” such as Jack Daniels or George Dickel.

But the real test comes with the tasting. TIME’s Josh Sanburn met up with Richard Patterson, Master Distiller of The Dalmore, to learn the proper way to enjoy fine Scotch.

TIME Technology & Media

HBO Just Made a Brilliant Move to Hook Younger Viewers

HBO and Amazon aren’t only targeting their shared enemy, Netflix, with their major content licensing deal announced Wednesday. They’re going right after me and my friends, millennials aged 18-25, because we’re vaguely aware The Sopranos and The Wire were pretty great shows, but we were way too young to catch ‘em on their first go.

The Sopranos, the most influential show included in a deal that will bring older HBO content to Amazon Prime subscribers even if they don’t separately subscribe to HBO, ran from 1999-2007. That means when Tony Soprano was first beamed into HBO subscribers’ homes, I was eleven years old, more interested in Nickelodeon offerings like Spongebob Squarepants or Rocket Power, both of which premiered in the same year. (HBO is a unit of TimeWarner, which also owns TIME.)

My generation’s tastes changed as we grew older, but it’s tough to fight society’s demands that we spend our time watching whatever’s hot at any given moment, lest we fall out of cultural relevancy. Some college friends watched The Sopranos or The Wire on DVD, but most of us preferred to spend our TV time making sure we were catching the moment’s hot shows, like The Office, The Walking Dead or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—we just didn’t have time for outdated stuff, regardless of how good it was.

Now, though, we want to catch up on what we’ve been told was some pretty great television. While some of us have HBO GO access for Game of Thrones and True Detective (thanks, Mom and Dad!) many of us don’t, because it’s still pretty expensive to add HBO service to most cable packages and we’re kind of broke right now. But we do have Amazon Prime, because we buy lots of stuff online and we want it fast – Prime’s pretty affordable when you consider all the benefits (subscribing to HBO for the video content doesn’t mean I can also get HBO to send me new socks and a box of Cup Noodles in two days’ time).

There’s still some cultural demand to watch today’s best shows, but there’s so much great television that we’ve got to pick and choose anyway: Game of Thrones, True Detective, Orphan Black, New Girl, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Veep, Silicon Valley, the 24 reboot, Orange is the New Black, Justified, Parks and Recreation, Sherlock, The Americans, Scandal and oh, yeah, the Stanley Cup playoffs, among other hits I’m missing here.

That picking-and-choosing that everybody’s doing reduces the cultural pressure to be up-to-date on all the top shows: If we all tried to watch all these shows so we could talk about each and every one of them around the watercooler, we’d all lose our jobs, and with them our access to the watercoolers to begin with. That’s lose-lose.

So, if you’ll need me, I’m taking a break from trying to keep up with today’s TV so I can finally get around to The Sopranos. No spoilers, please.

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