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WEST CHESTER, Pa. (Reuters) – The Home Shopping Network is getting an image makeover.
A studio set is seen at the QVC Studio Park in West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.
A U.S. television network where shoppers can buy everything from electronics to kitchen gadgets, the Home Shopping Network is overhauling its lineup to offer more beauty products while adding streamed video content to win over shoppers without cable TV.
A division of Qurate Retail Group, the network is facing growing competition from Amazon Inc. and Evine Live Inc for consumers like 24-year old Erin Bounds, who regard buying products through TV shows a relic of the past.
“Someone who is 24 doesn’t have the time nor desire to watch an hour-long show about a piece of jewelry or a vacuum when they can get an answer and the product quicker and probably cheaper on Amazon,” said Bounds, a resident of Ellicott City, Maryland.
For decades, the main difference to shoppers between HSN and Qurate’s other shopping network, QVC, typically came down to variations in branding and merchandise, with HSN selling more electronics. Qurate acquired HSN in late 2017 for $ 2.1 billion so the two shopping networks could join forces to better compete against Amazon and its home-shopping-style online video promotions.
Qurate executives told Reuters they now are culling HSN’s core merchandise offerings to eliminate many higher-priced electronics and some home goods, such as vacuum cleaners and blenders.
Instead, they are adding more niche cosmetic and apparel brands to help draw some distinction with QVC. They are also pushing both QVC and HSN to pursue younger shoppers with click-to-buy links on Instagram and Facebook Live for items such as earrings, shoes and Vince Camuto jeans, in a bid to spark a rebound in demand.
Second-quarter revenue at HSN declined 12 percent to $ 473 million from $ 533 million a year later the company announced Wednesday. Stock in the company, which counts media mogul John Malone as one of its largest investors, is down about 8 percent year to date, compared with a 14 percent increase for the Nasdaq index, and 64 percent increase for Amazon.com year to date.
“You’re seeing the impact of them digesting a large organization that is clearly not growing if you look at the numbers,” said Ben Claremon, partner and research analyst at investment firm Cove Street Capital, one of Qurate’s shareholders.
“There’s just not the degree of demand for home shopping products, and the desire to spend hours of the day watching them diminishes as you go down in age,” he said.
BALANCING BLUE LIPSTICK WITH BRACELETS
The new strategy is aimed at creating more distinction with the two cable channels after the merger, according to Rob Robillard, the new VP of Beauty Integration at Qurate.
In beauty, for example, one of HSN’s top selling products is Too Faced “Unicorn Tears” blue lipstick, which sells for roughly $ 22. One of QVC’s best products is the Doll 10 Nude lipstick with a price tag of around $ 25, noted Robillard.
“We were sort of hoping there would be this real big difference between HSN and QVC,” he said. “But the two are actually very similar.”
Qurate will partner with Robin Burns-McNeill, chairman of Batallure Beauty, a company specializing in brand strategy, product and package development, sourcing and manufacturing in the fragrance, cosmetics and skincare categories, to create a collection of proprietary beauty brands, the company told Reuters exclusively.
The first manufactured beauty products from this partnership are slated to launch in fall 2019 on QVC.com, and, if all goes well, the company said they would likely tap on Burns-McNeill’s shoulder to create proprietary brands for HSN as well.
They have a tall order. Amazon is the top online destination for beauty and the fifth-most-popular retailer for skincare and cosmetics, according to Coresight Research, behind leaders Walmart, CVS Health, Target Corp and Walgreens. QVC and HSN do not rank on the list.
In March 2016, Amazon launched “Style Code Live,” a daily live fashion show which has since gone off-air.
This June, Amazon unveiled Prime Wardrobe in the United States, allowing Prime members to try on clothing, shoes, and accessories before purchase. Customers have up to seven days to try their clothes on at home, and are charged only for those items they choose to keep.
Celebrity-driven shows and videos on QVC still have their upside, according to vendors such as Xcel Brands Inc Chief Executive Robert D’Loren. A QVC apparel vendor for more than six years, D’Loren cites on-air appearances of fashion designer and QVC host Isaac Mizrahi – D’Loren’s largest, most successful brand on QVC – as strategic advantage for the home shopping network.
D’Loren thinks Qurate, which currently accounts for 60 percent of Xcel’s brand volume, is well-positioned to take on competitors Amazon.com and video retailer Evine, and that it’s “only a matter of time” before millennials like Bounds give Qurate’s QVC and HSN a shot.
“There is something to tuning in, watching, having product fully demonstrated to you that is unique and has great value, and I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the market,” he said.
Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Edward Tobin
High-speed cameras, commonly known as slow motion cameras, imbue milliseconds with the weight they’re so rarely granted. A balloon pops, with the water inside it still holding its shape; a bullet shot underwater leaves an attenuated cone of air in its wake. Daniel Gruchy and Gavin Free, known on YouTube as The Slow Mo Guys, have captured these moments and more than 150 others in painstakingly slow detail. (In one personal favorite, the duo recorded the fracture pattern in glass that was heated and then rapidly cooled. At 343,000 frames per second, five seconds of IRL action resulted in 19 hours of footage.)
“Everything looks cooler in slow mo,” says Free, who aside from his involvement in multiple RoosterTeeth productions also works as a slow-motion cinematographer on big-budget features (Dredd, Snow White and the Huntsman).
Since November 2010, the Slow Mo Guys channel has amassed millions of subscribers and nearly 1.5 billion views—which is a lot of frames, feats, and stories to share. In this Tech Support, the guys answer viewers questions about where they get all of the food they blow up, and which stunts were the messiest, the hardest and the most painful (like having a soccer ball thrown against your face). Gruchy shares that he’s tried much of that exploded food, and Free reveals his sound design technique for filling lapses in sound during the videos.
Watch the video to learn more. Don’t worry, it plays at regular speed.
More Great WIRED Stories
Scott Gordon had just arrived in his job as provost of Eastern Washington University when an alumnus approached him at a meet-and-greet in the Skyline Ballroom of Spokane’s Hotel RL.
The event was new, too. Called the Eagle Summit after the public university’s athletics mascot, it was meant to build enthusiasm among the school’s supporters. That has become increasingly crucial at a time when Americans’ faith in higher education is declining, governments are investing less money in it, and employers complain it’s producing too few graduates with skills they need.
Eastern Washington in general and Gordon in particular were determined to turn that around. So when the alumnus, who worked for Microsoft, told him that the Redmond, Washington-based technology behemoth would be hiring huge numbers of people to specialize in data analytics, he went back to the campus to fast-track a new degree program in that subject.
One year later, Eastern Washington’s bachelor’s degree program in data analytics had its soft launch this semester, enrolling a handful of upperclassmen. It will debut more broadly next year for an entire entering class. The first trickle of graduates is expected next summer.
That’s the fastest the university has ever introduced a new degree program, a feat it achieved by adopting off-the-shelf course materials already developed by Microsoft that the company is distributing to help turn out more employees with data and computer-science skills.
It was a rare solution to the massive problem of conventional higher-education institutions that largely operate at a 19th-century pace trying to keep up with the fast-changing demands of 21st-century employers — and an example of how tech companies and some businesses in other industries, impatient with the speed of change, are taking matters into their own hands by designing courses themselves.
The intervention is a direct response to the fact that the shortage of data and computer scientists “isn’t being handled” by universities and colleges, said Charles Eaton, executive vice president for social innovation at the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA.
“The industry would be very satisfied if higher education was taking care of it,” said Eaton. “I don’t think there’s a desire to get into this space, other than that it’s not.”
A Big Gap
CompTIA projects that 1.8 million new tech jobs will be created between 2014 and 2024, many of them requiring people with data and computer-science credentials. Retiring baby boomers will leave countless additional positions open. But colleges and universities are turning out only about 28,000 computer-science graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees per year, based on the most recent figures from 2015, according to the consulting firm Deloitte.
“There’s just a giant gap there,” said Sean Gallagher, executive director of the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy at Northeastern University. Fewer graduates are emerging from the pipeline than are needed, he said. “I think that’s why the tech sector has been the place where these alternative models are being pioneered.”
Tired of waiting, Microsoft, Linux and other employers have teamed up with edX, a collaboration started by Harvard and MIT to provide online education that is much easier than brick-and-mortar programs to keep up to date and to disseminate to vast numbers of students simultaneously.
The courses employers have been helping to create don’t just teach skills students need to work for Microsoft, Amazon or Google, like the highly specialized training classes that are longtime industry standards — Linux System Administration, for example, or Office 365 Fundamentals. Instead, the companies are working with edX and others to provide what they say are the educations that all of their employees require in common, including such abilities as critical thinking and collaboration.
And the pace with which they’re intervening has been picking up.
Cognizant Technology Solutions has joined together with a company called Per Scholas to offer online training for technology jobs to prospective employees in New York State. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is helping the for-profit university Southern Careers Institute create Woz U, an online education program to produce tech workers.
The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation in October launched its Talent Pipeline Management Academy, encouraging employers to become involved much more directly in ensuring that the education system produces people with the skills they need.
And companies including Accenture, Boeing and Microsoft have created the Internet of Learning Consortium to speed up the production of job-ready workers by using the internet to teach them what they need to know.
“It’s funny how this pendulum swings,” said Eaton. “We talk about the days long gone when companies trained employees from the ground up and now we’re talking about companies training employees again. These organizations are saying [to the universities], ‘We need people with X, Y and Z skills and you’re not providing that.’ ”
While 96 percent of chief academic officers at higher-education institutions say they’re effectively preparing students for work, only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree, the polling company Gallup found. The Manpower Group reports that 40 percent of employers are having trouble finding workers with the skills they need. Forty-eight percent of leaders globally, surveyed by the consulting firm McKinsey, said it’s particularly hard to find and keep employees who understand computer analytics.
“Our academic institutions and the corporate programs that supplement their efforts are not successfully meeting the growing demand for people with appropriate job-ready skills,” the Internet of Learning Consortium complains. The education system is “failing to keep pace with the changing needs of the economy,” echoes the Chamber of Commerce Foundation. And the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine warned in a report in late October of “a growing sense of an impending crisis” as universities struggle to respond to these complaints.
To speed things up, a few schools are adopting the online content being created with help from Microsoft and others. That’s what Eastern Washington did, using edX courses in data analytics and related topics developed by Microsoft and other employers and academics, and adding extra support from faculty in classrooms in what’s known as blended learning.
“The challenging thing for colleges is that the technology changes so quickly that by the time you get your program up and running, you have to make a lot of changes and updates to keep it relevant,” said Lee Rubenstein, vice president of business development at edX. By comparison, he said, edX updates many of its tech courses four or more times a year.
Some academics take a dim view of this development. Faculty could react more nimbly to industry demands if their universities hired more of them and gave them the resources they need to update courses or offer them online, said Jonathan Rees, a professor of history at Colorado State University-Pueblo and coauthor of the book “Education is Not an App.”
“A cookie-cutter course is not going to solve the need for creating thinking in the future,” Rees said. “Human beings who understand the discipline should be the ones doing that teaching.” Faculty, he said, “are the ones who are the educational experts.”
Adopting ready-made online courses may be cheaper than creating new programs at every university from scratch, Rees said. “But you don’t have a solution to the problem. You just have a lot of poorly trained data scientists coming out of universities.”
Eastern Washington combines the edX courses with in-person faculty support. That has been shown to improve success rates, which Gordon said are low for students who take online courses on their own. (This is a sensitive issue for providers of so-called massive open online courses such as edX, which wouldn’t disclose completion rates for particular courses or subjects.)
It’s one solution to some of the many problems universities appear to face in keeping up with industry demand.
In addition to long waits for programs to be approved by faculty and accrediting agencies, for example, many schools can’t find enough people qualified to teach computer science. The increase in the number of tenure-track faculty in that and similar fields has been one-tenth as much as the increase in the number of students crowding into classes, the Computing Research Association reports.
US universities produced fewer than 2,000 people with Ph.D.s in computer science in 2015-2016, the last year for which the figure is available, the association says, and it says more than 60 percent make a beeline for highly paid jobs and lavish benefits in the private sector.
“There is not much left for academia,” said Susanne Hambrusch, a Purdue University professor of computer sciences who co-chaired the committee that wrote the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report.
The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, for example, is in the market for five or six new faculty hires per year in data, business analytics and other fast-growing disciplines, said Ash Soni, executive associate dean of academic programs. It usually manages to fill just two or three of those positions, Soni said.
This at a time when the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report found that demand for computer-science courses has more than doubled in less than a decade — but the supply of graduates still isn’t coming close to keeping pace with the number of openings.
“It’s not surprising that Microsoft says they don’t have the graduates to hire,” said Hambrusch. “There is a lag in responding. It’s really difficult to grow a department so fast, for any department.”
Meanwhile, more non-majors also want to take computer-science classes, putting further pressure on those programs. Nearly half of all jobs now require at least some digital skills, according to a Brookings study released in November, and students know those jobs pay more. So some of them are also vying for the limited number of seats in already overburdened computer-science courses here and there.
Economics is also driving students to sign up for computer-science majors. The median salary for senior software engineers with bachelor’s degrees in computer science is $ 104,507, and it’s $ 116,092 for those with master’s degrees, according to the compensation data company PayScale.
“The pace of change and product cycles and skills demands in the economy are moving more quickly than traditional university processes and program development can keep up,” said Northeastern’s Gallagher.
That needs to change, for universities’ own self-preservation, said Gordon, of Eastern Washington.
“In this new landscape of higher education, where state resources are declining, where there’s an erosion of the public’s confidence, we need to think a little differently and partner with employers,” he said. “It behooves us as an institution to do what we can to fulfill that need. That’s how higher education can regain the confidence and trust of the public, by stepping up to fill those gaps.”
Soni is more blunt.
“We’ve got to be at the leading edge of today and tomorrow,” he said, “rather than the day before.”
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for their newsletter.
An Instagram bug affecting some users is preventing them from temporarily disabling their accounts, TechCrunch reports. “Disabling” on Instagram works similarly as on Facebook, meaning that the account will be hidden as though it has been deleted. It temporarily hides all actions by that account including posts, likes, comments and the profile.
Users have been complaining about the issue on social networks like Twitter and Reddit since February. Several users were redirected to the home page after trying to disable the account.
From now on, Uber drivers will start their shifts with selfies.
The ride-hailing company is expanding its Real-Time ID Check feature across the US, it announced in a blog post Friday. Drivers submit a selfie through the app to ensure the person driving the car matches Uber’s account on file.
The feature doesn’t connect to a background check or do anything else to ensure the underlying safety of Uber drivers. Instead, it just checks that the person in the car is the same one Uber has on file.
Drivers will be asked periodically to submit selfies before accepting rides, Uber said. The company uses Microsoft’s Cognitive Services API to compare the photo to one it has. If the photos don’t match, a driver’s account will be temporarily blocked. Read more…
Data centres, central to cloud computing, is believed to consuming about 3 per cent of the global electricity supply and account for about 2 per cent of …