Investing and Global Finance News


New York Times Buys ‘Serial’ Podcast’s Production Company Behind

New York Times Adds to Its Audio Journalism

The New York Times, building on the success of the “Daily” podcast it parents, is expanding its role in audio journalism.

The Times Company bought Serial Productions, the company behind the hit podcast “Serial,” for $25 million. The purchase will facilitate the production company’s capacity to increase the number of shows it makes, and will allow for the promotion of those on  The Times’s channels (i.e. website, newsletters, and others).

“The idea is to drive New York Times readers and listeners toward Serial projects. There’s going to be ways that we can help Serial tell more stories, bigger stories and, down the road, figure out how our newsroom and theirs can coordinate even more deeply.”

Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor responsible for NYT audio

“Serial,” came out in 2014 as a spinoff of “This American Life.” Serial Productions was established in 2017 by Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig, the host of “Serial,” and Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life.”

Jayme Albin Helps You Plan a Gradual Return to Normal for Kids

Jayme Albin Helps You Plan a Gradual Return to Normal for Kids

New York and many other states have lifted the strict lockdown restrictions. After spending months “trapped” indoors, many families are trying to figure out how to transition out of quarantine and resume a new normal in the shadows of the coronavirus. Author, psychologist, and therapist, Dr. Jayme Albin, offers advice on helping kids face these unchartered realities.

Jayme Albin Helps You Plan a Gradual Return to Normal for Kids
Dr. Jayme Albin offers tips on helping children navigate their feelings as they develop post lockdown routines.

As we begin to venture out for the first time, Dr. Albin says many children might be confused or hesitant about the changes. After spending so much time sheltering in place to avoid infection and contagion, it can be scary to think about heading out. She recommends seven things parents should do to support children:

  1. Be open: take the time to explain the changes to the lockdown restrictions. Have age-appropriate conversations about what the new protocols are and why it is OK to change what you’ve been doing so far. Validate their feelings (fear, uncertainty, confusion), but also highlight the new opportunities that are being offered now. Parents do not (necessarily) have to have all the answers to kids’ questions, but allowing them to ask freely gives them a sense of calm and assurance.
  2. Let them lead: Have your son or daughter think of ways they can safely interact with their friends. Get them to consider what feels right for them and what they are comfortable with. Simulate a playdate and ask them to consider responses to a peer or adult not following the rules.
  3. Give them time: Despite the immediate way corona took over our lives, a re-entry to normal is gradual. They may some time to figure out their comfort levels with the new rules, and that is OK. Don’t rush them to do anything and give them the reigns to decide what they want to do and who they want to meet up with first.
  4. Stay connected: Have them check in with peers, cousins, and other family members. These connections with loved ones will remind kids that the people in their lives (outside of immediate family) have not disappeared.
  5. Safety first: Remind your kids that rules are designed to protect them and that people in charge are weighing risk factors and evaluating data all the time which is why things change. Eventually, things will go back to the normal they knew, but for now, all the new regulations are focused on their wellbeing.
  6. Be together: The last few months have afforded increased quantities of family time. Make sure that some of that is infused with quality interactions as well. Do some of the things your kids love to do together as a family. These meaningful encounters with you assures your kids that even as things change, you are still there for them. It is also a great way to get them talking about their feelings, worries, anxieties.
  7. Stay on schedule: Maintaining a regular routine, with consistent mealtimes, bedtimes, play hours, etc. enhances a sense of safety.

The pandemic has brought many new challenges to children’s mental health. Dr. Albin reminds you that if your child is experiencing extreme behaviors and is not handling the gradual transition back to a new routine well, reach out to a children’s mental health professional.

Giving Tech Longer Life

The pandemic-induced recession has many people looking for different ways to save. One place to start is by investing in our technology. Put differently: we have to take better care of our tech so it lasts longer and serves us better.

Before corona, most of us tended to have no patience for mindfully managing our devices. As soon as a tablet or phone started to slow down or discharge quickly, we opted to buy a new one rather than investing in a repair. But now, when so many people face reduced income, making the tech we rely on last longer makes sense. By giving our gadgets a bare minimum of care, we can prolong their life and support the economy. While retail stores for Apple and Microsoft are not offering repair services during the pandemic, local fixers remain an option.

Here are a few initial steps to take to breathe more life into phones, tablets, and computers at a minimal cost.

Check Your Battery

Just like car tires, device batteries need regular replacing. Batteries can only be charged a finite number of times before deteriorating, they are almost always the first thing to go on devices. Most gadget manufacturers have software you can use to check battery health.

Clean Up

Devices get dirty. Debris, dust, and dirt accumulate in all sorts of places and shorten the life of any electronic device. Use a simple flashlight to see inside charging ports and headphone sockets and clean out anything nasty. Open computers once a year and clean off the fans.

Purge Unnecessary Data

Clutter isn’t good for your mind or your phone. Use internal apps to gauge how much storage is being used and regularly delete any unnecessary information. If you can’t commit to throwing things out, transfer old information to an external hard drive.

Safety First

Protective cases for devices are not just fun and fashionable, they also protect phones from damages and drops. Screen protection is also important. Wirecutter, a New York Times site that tests products, recommends protectors from Maxboost and TechMatte.

Fixers are Friends

If you’re not comfortable doing any of the above yourself, or you fear there is something more complicated going on with your device, seek professional help. Do a search for nearby shops and ask for quotes for the repair. When you find a trustworthy repair shop, share a positive review, return with other devices, and be grateful for good service.

Is Pandemic Tech Hurting or Helping Small Businesses?

Small businesses have had to get creative to survive the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown enforced to curb the spread of the contagion. But the same technologies that sustained these businesses also yielded increased costs and complexities.

As our lives are increasingly more digitalized, business owners (of all sizes) are contending with new expenses relating to customer loyalty, relevance, and marketing.

Running a small business was never considered an easy undertaking. But technology is presenting emerging burdens to these businesses, making it even harder to stay afloat. Digital services have many associated costs and fees. Credit card companies and online payment providers take a piece of each sale.   There’s really no going back to a tech-less life. Businesses must rely on all sorts of technology for personal and commercial interactions. So while the apps and services are essential to most companies, business owners should keep a close watch on what they are spending and getting in return. They should invest time and energy in maximizing their benefit from these services, just as they look to maximize their bottom line.

Funding Growth for Oscar Health Insurance

Health insurance company Oscar has raised $225 million in its latest round of funding. Existing investors AlphabetGeneral CatalystKhosla VenturesLakestar, and Thrive Capital, renewed their commitments, while new supporters joined the venture, including Baillie Gifford and Coatue.

Oscar is making it easier to health insurance.

Oscar, the New York-based health insurance provider, has raised a total of $1.5 billion since its founding in 2012 by Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner. It is the first direct-to-consumer health insurance company and has more than 420,000 members across its products. Oscar will use the new funding to continue its mission of simplifying health care while also reaching a $2 billion revenue base by the end of 2020.

New York Offers Grants for Business to Corona Comply

NY businesses to get grant to buy ppe

Corona has forced changes in every part of life. Stores are not the same place we were used to just a few months ago. There are less people walking around, plastic partitions at checkout, customers and clerks wearing face masks, and many more disinfecting stations.

NYS offering grants for businesses who incur extra costs related to corona compliance

These modifications are costly and many businesses, already strapped after three months of lockdown, are struggling. New York State Senator Sue Serino introduced a new bill that will offer financial aid to businesses and non-profit organizations committing to complying with corona restrictions.

“New Yorkers stepped up in a big way when they were asked to stay home and do their part to promote public health and safety. Now, it’s time for the state to step up and support them as they safely reopen. That means removing any potential obstacles to reopening, including the significant costs that are associated with adhering to the new stringent state mandates.”

-New York State Senator Sue Serino

The grants will allow companies to purchase personal protective equipment, hire industrial cleaning services, and/or renovate existent workspaces to comply with regulations. Funding will come from the remaining federal Cares Act Funding to New York state. 

How Fintech is Helping Small Businesses

The current ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to some remarkable business discoveries, including the revelation that fintechs, primarily online financial service companies, are effective liaisons for small business owners as well.

The agility and flexibility that most fintech companies have allows them to be responsive in real-time; they experienced fewer policy and bureaucratic hurdles than more established financial service firms. Fintech makes it possible to meet clients’ financial needs online. They build virtual and sustainable relationships with financial clients in the same way traditional physical banks promoted their services.

Rho Business Banking, for example, set up a network of 100 banks at the very onset of the corona crisis. Through this network, customers had access to loans from a diverse set of money lenders. While most banks prioritized the business customers they knew and pre-approved, the countless small businesses that didn’t fit that category saw fintech offering lifelines and immediate lending solutions.

Brooks Brothers Changes Course Due to Corona

In March, the Brooks Brothers clothing manufacturer was praised for its quick response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The designer brand transitioned its three US factories to produce personal protective equipment for medical teams and frontline workers.

But these same factories are now at risk of becoming casualties of the virus they were working to protect against. In fact, the future of Brooks Brothers, and its branding as THE “Made in America” brand, is in jeopardy.

The brand that dressed America’s presidents and former presidents, as far back as James Madison, is facing an uncertain future. It is laying close to 700 employees and is looking to sell the factories. Besides the three shirt manufacturing plants in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New York, the company also has a tie factory in Queens. But these sites together yield less than 20% of the Brooks Brothers line.

Brooks Brothers management is hopeful that restructuring and consolidating will provide fiscal stability, affording the company a chance at survival and regrowth when this is over.

A New York Company Surviving Its 2nd Pandemic

Eastman Machine Company in Buffalo makes fabric-cutting machines. It is a fourth generation family owned business that has weathered its fair share of crises. Over the course of the company’s 132-years history has unfolded: World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and World War II.

The company’s equipment is used by the aerospace and transportation industries. Highly needed makers of medical masks and shields also use Eastman machines which qualified the company as an essential employer allowed to operate under New York State guidelines.

To date, Eastman has successfully stayed alive and operational, though some cuts have been made. Forty of the company’s 57 production workers were let go. While the lay offs were unavoidable, Eastman continues to pay for those workers’ health insurance, to ensure that everyone is taken care of.  With a focus on survival, much of the company’s research and development plans have been shelved for now. Eastman is just one of many small businesses across the U.S. that are major employers. According to the Small Business Administration, small business accounts for half of all private-sector jobs.

Eastman received a $2 million loan under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, and hopes to bring back enough employees by June 30 to qualify for loan forgiveness under the program.

Entrepreneur in the Food Field donates to New York hospitals

The coronavirus has been ravaging New York City since March, and local food entrepreneurs stepped in to support healthcare workers on the frontlines. Some have offered free meals, others are packaging to-go bags with ice packs for pick up, and some businesses are modifying their business model to accommodate demands.

Cole Riley, for example, founded the Founders Give, to collect and distribute healthy snacks and food products to hospital staff. Over the course of two months, the initiative provided 1.6 million snacks and beverages from close to 300 brands to 47 hospitals. Contributors have been big business food makers like Chobani and Kind Healthy Snacks, as well as small scale eateries.

Riley explains:

I’ve become the No. 1 distributor of snacks and drinks in the hospitals, donated or otherwise. Hospitals stopped placing orders in early April for regular food orders. They were running out of money. So, I’ve become in many facilities the only source of food coming in. Every night before the next day’s scheduled deliveries, I reach out to each brand and their founder directly to let them know where their product is heading: one pallet to Mount Sinai, 40 cases to NYU Langone, 6 skids to Metropolitan. That type of transparency doesn’t happen in nonprofits.

The pandemic has necessitated an almost constant shift in plans and realities. Some businesses have closed, others are trying to figure it out. For Mr. Riley, the corona has given him a new goal and vision in his work to promote small businesses.

According to Mr. Riley, “There’s an opportunity to take what we’ve been doing in New York with hospitals, expand on it gradually, focus on the CPG brands and founders, make it as easy as possible to give, and I really believe if you bring this community together as a streamlined nonprofit … we can make a huge impact.”