Monday, November 7, 2016

Twitter May Sell Vine For Cheap Instead Of Closing It Down

A few weeks ago, Twitter upset creators and fans of its six-second looping video service, Vine, by announcing its plans to close down the app. That may not be the case, though: there are reportedly some suitors that want to take Vine off Twitter’s hands for a low price and keep it alive.

TechCrunch reports that the outpouring of sadness and affection for Vine after the announcement drew the attention of some potential buyers.

After the shutdown was announced, the New York Times reported that Vine costs $10 million per month to run, and the rumored sale price for the service is only $10 million, meaning that it wouldn’t actually make money on the deal.

What it could do is keep the brand alive, and maybe keep users cross-posting their fresh Vines to Twitter, embedding them in Tweets, if the new owner kept the links to Twitter active.

One rumored suitor is Japanese messaging company Line, which at least has a conveniently similar name.

A sale could be a liability to Twitter if the new owner does something harmful or offensive with the site, or even if it shuts down the archive and severs the links to users’ favorite video loops.

You know, like this one.

Twitter still might save Vine by selling it [TechCrunch]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

McDonald’s Big Mac Getting Both Bigger And Smaller

Even though McDonald’s franchisees have complained about having their corporate overlords force too many limited-time menu items on them, the fast food giant continues to tinker. This time, it’s the company’s signature sandwich, the Big Mac, which is getting both smaller and bigger versions in 2017. 
McDonald’s tested the Mac Jr. and Grand Mac earlier this year at 125 restaurants in central Ohio and in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and now Thrillist reports that the Golden Arches will take both of them nationwide early next year.


The Grand Mac is composed of all the typical Big Mac ingredients, just on a super-sized scale with a third of a pound of beef. That’s compared to the traditional Big Mac, which comes with one fifth pound of beef.

On the other end of the spectrum, the smaller Mac Jr. is simply a Big Mac with just one layer.

Previously, a franchisee in Ohio said the different sized Big Macs came about based on customer feedback.

If the national, limited-time rollout of the new sandwiches goes well, they could become a permanent fixture on the chain’s menu.

McDonald’s Has Two New Big Mac Sizes [Thrillist]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Consumer-Facing Companies Blame All Of Their Woes On Election

It’s all your fault. Yes, you, Mr. or Ms. Consumer, because you’re apparently preoccupied with the election instead of out shopping like a proper American should. How do we know this? Executives of publicly-traded companies keep getting on conference calls with analysts and journalists and saying so.

An analysis by Reuters (Warning: auto-play video at that link) shows that 80 executives have specifically mentioned the election during their quarterly earnings calls, usually as an excuse for poor sales. Companies selling everything from furniture to appliances to recreational vehicles are holding back, the executives say.

It’s not just that people don’t want to buy stuff: they don’t want to buy new businesses, either. The CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts blamed the election for slowing growth in new franchisees, noting that the election results will determine the future of workplace regulations and minimum wage and benefits laws. That apparently makes aspiring donut shop owners hesitant to open new outlets.

Not everyone buys this excuse, of course. Reuters compares executives’ use of the election as a reason for poor sales to a child saying that the dog ate their homework. It’s like CEOs have an especially rambunctious new puppy at homes, and are taking advantage of the opportunity.

The election ate their homework? CEOs blame campaign for weakness [Reuters] (Warning: auto-play video)

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

It’s Obviously Delightful When The “You’ve Got Mail” Guy Is Your Uber Driver

There are few certainties in this world — we live, we die, that’s about it — but one thing is for sure: if the voice behind AOL’s “You’ve got mail!” greeting is your Uber driver, you’re gonna make him recite those famous words so you can post a video of it on the internet.

A Californian woman had settled into an Uber she hailed over the weekend in Shaker Heights, OH, when her driver, Elwood Edwards, informed her that he was kind of a big deal, at least to anyone who had email in the ’90s.

“I completely geek freaked and asked if he would do the video,” she told CNN.

He agreed, and she captured Edwards uttering those famous words, posting the result on Twitter.

“OMG OMG my @Uber driver in Ohio was the You’ve Got Mail voice Elwood Edwards!!! I made him say it in this video,” she wrote.

Edwards’ voice ended up as the email greeting because his wife worked for a company called Quantum Computer Services in the 1980s, CNN explains, which eventually became AOL. She heard the CEO say he wanted a voice to notify people when they received an email, so she told them about her husband the voice actor… and the rest was history, earning him just $200 for the voiceover.

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

After Hanjin Bankruptcy Crisis, Shippers Seek Out Large, Stable Companies

The sudden bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping left billions of dollars’ worth of cargo, potentially including all of your holiday gifts, floating on container ships in the ocean in legal limbo. Now the companies that ship cargo don’t want to risk having that happen again.

The bankruptcy of Hanjin, a South Korean company, was the largest collapse of a shipping company during a downturn in the industry that started with the economic meltdown in 2008, and never quite recovered.

“A lot of customers are looking at the more stable shipping lines to contract their cargo with,” the chief executive in charge of Asia Pacific for the shipping part of Maersk, a Danish company, told Reuters.

Industry insiders say that their customers are seeking out large, stable carriers for their valuable cargo. Smaller carriers began merging, including the three largest shipping companies out of Japan. Others have even been showing potential customers information about the health of their finances to prove that bankruptcy isn’t imminent, and their cargo isn’t about to get stranded.

Maersk has a plan, too: take advantage of the situation and buy up smaller carriers that are struggling to stay… “afloat” is the wrong word to use here, isn’t it?

Cargo owners in flight to safety after Hanjin collapse, shipping lines say [Reuters]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Soylent Says It Knows What’s Making Customers Sick; Will Stop Using Algae-Based Flour

Last month, meal-replacement startup Soylent voluntarily stopped selling its new-to-market nutrition bar and long-running powder after receiving reports from customers who became ill after consuming the meal-replacement products. Now, the company says it has pinpointed the cause of the issues: an algae-based ingredient called algal flour. 

Bloomberg reports that Soylent believes that algal flour — unique to the Food Bar and Powder 1.6 — is to blame for customers’ experiences with vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain, and it will stop using the ingredient in future batches of the products.

“We are releasing new formulations of our powder mix and meal replacement bars early next year,” Rob Rhinehart, Soylent’s co-founder and chief executive officer, tells Bloomberg. “Our new formulations will no longer contain algal flour.”

Algal flour, according to Bloomberg, is used as a vegan replacement for butter and eggs and is created from algae grown in fermentation plants that is then dried.

The ingredient was purchased by Soylent by TerraVia Holdings Co, which also provides the product to Unilever for use in lotions and soaps.

“Our algal flour has been used in more than 20 million servings of products, and we are aware of very few adverse reactions. In no cases was algal flour identified as the cause,” Mark Brooks, a senior vice president at TerraVia, tells Bloomberg.

Soylent also uses a version of the ingredient — algal oil — in its pre-made drinks, but says it has not received any complaints from customers related to those products.

Issues with Soylent’s products began in mid-October when the company announced it would voluntarily stop selling and advise customers to stop eating its Food Bar after receiving reports of people becoming ill after consuming the product.

The company then said it conducted an “aggressive investigation to uncover why people were having negative experiences after eating Soylent Food Bars.

The investigation included “product testing, an exhaustive industry search, and discussions with many of our suppliers,” the company said in a blog post. “Our tests all came back negative for food pathogens, toxins or outside contamination.”

At that point, the company says it began to shift its focus to whether any one ingredient could be triggering a food intolerance, noting that such an issue would explain why not all customers had become ill after eating the products.

During the review, the company says it noticed that a handful of consumers — less than 0.1%, according to Soylent — who consumed Powder 1.6 over the past several months reported stomach-related symptoms that were consistent with what Bar customers described.

Soylent then announced it would stop the sale of Powder 1.6 — which is designed to be mixed with water and consumed instead of solid food — and advised customers who have shown sensitivity to the product to discard whatever is left.

Despite the move, the company did not reveal at the time what ingredient it believed caused the issues.

Soylent says it will reformulate the Bar and Powder products to remove the common ingredient, with new products expected to be available in early 2017.

Still, Bloomberg notes that any kind of reformulation will take time, as extensive testing will be required before the products are put on the market.

Soylent Thinks It Found What Was Making People Sick: Algae [Bloomberg]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Large Green Snake On A Plane Surprises Passengers On Aeromexico Flight

Pardon me a moment, while I pull out the usual Samuel L. Jackson reference out and dust it off: passengers on an Aeromexico flight experienced a real life Snakes On A Plane moment on Sunday after a large green viper slithered from the ceiling to greet his captive audience.

Passengers on the flight from Torreon to Mexico City caught the moment when the snake emerged from behind an overhead baggage compartment and dropped partially into the cabin on video, and of course, posted it to social media. One traveler called the appearance of the “flying snake” a “unique experience”:

The airline said the flight made a quick landing and the stowaway snake was captured by animal control, CNN reports.

As for how the reptile ended up on the plane in the first place, the airline isn’t quite sure yet.

“The procedures carried out for this flight are currently being evaluated to determine how the animal entered the cabin and measures have been taken to avoid such incidents in the future,” Aeromexico said in a statement to CNN.

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist