Monthly Archives: February 2011

When Love Outgrows Gifts on Valentine’s Day

As if we needed another sign that Valentine’s Day is getting awfully expensive, the coupon Web sites have now gotten into the game.

These group buying sites may be trying to strike decent bargains for users. But now that so many people subscribe to their e-mails, gift givers have to be playing a weird psychic game with themselves. Will he know I used a Group on? Will she think less of me for doing so? Cut-rate romance feels somehow wrong, so plenty of people simply pay up. It’s a special day, after all.

Once you head down that road, however, it’s hard not to feel like a sucker, swept up in the frenzy of an occasion that might not have endured were it not for the Hallmark crowd. After all, there is something kind of pathetic about having to designate a day to be good to your mate. Still, we dutifully participate in this mass ritual of public devotion, paying extra for the prix fixe while packed elbow to elbow with others when it would be way more romantic to have a great restaurant mostly to ourselves the next night.

It all seems wrong somehow. So I set out to prove that successful couples have gotten wise to all the fuss and spend less on gifts for one another as time passes. No such luck, alas. The data does not seem to exist. What I did discover, however, was that many of us were probably taking the wrong approach to quantifying our generosity in the first place. Long-term relationships do not survive without gifts, to be sure. But they are not the gifts you may think.

Allen M. Parkman has been married 37 years, though his parents divorced in 1944, when he was just 4 years old. Figuring out why marriages fail has driven part of his research as an economist and (now emeritus) professor of management at the University of New Mexico.

His 2004 article in the journal Economic Inquiry, “The Importance of Gifts in Marriage,” went a long way toward cracking the code, he says. It began by noting, as other researchers had, that unlike people in his parents’ generation, those marrying more recently were seeking increases in psychological welfare in addition to material gains. To his mind, many gains come from gifts, which he defined as an offering where you incur a cost but receive no direct or immediate benefit.

That certainly encompasses all of the usual trinkets and baubles. While we don’t know how total spending on these things changes over time, Thomas Bradbury, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies marriage, noted that the grand totals were not the right metric. He suggested considering the proportion of income that people spent instead.

This makes a lot of sense. After all, there is a display of plumage that goes on during many courtships, a wooing based in part on establishing one’s credentials as an exceedingly generous soul. A lot of disposable income goes toward this sort of thing. The De Beers people seized on the metric in a brilliant and insidious way, suggesting that no price was too high for an engagement ring — simply pile up two months’ worth of salary.

But this is only half the story, Mr. Parkman says. Many gifts are of the psychological and intangible sort. They range from simple empathy, affection and a catch-all category called “understanding,” to complex actions like sacrificing your career so your family can move to a city where a spouse or partner has a new and better job.

This is a useful construct during tough economic times. Worrying about the gift-giving ritual is a high-class problem, after all. But if you count yourselves among the working (or nonworking) class and can’t afford to buy many gifts, it sure seems as if there are still plenty of gifts you can give.

Generosity on this front, however, is a harder thing to test for during courtship. And you can’t just go out and buy these psychic gifts as a partnership matures, even if you make a lot more money than when you first met. So it’s no wonder that failure here tends to sink lots of marriages, according to Mr. Parkman’s research.

Regularly scheduled giving, then, is not necessarily a mark of successful marriages. Charlie Turpin and his wife, Jewell, of Minneapolis have been married 56 years. Mr. Turpin describes traditional gift-giving as something they have outgrown.

“It really is liberating,” he said, noting the stress that came from needing to read one another’s mind on command because of a mark on the calendar. “Early in life, presents and occasions are important, but as you get older, you have everything you want.” Now, he and his wife channel much of their generosity toward their family.

“We gave away a lot of money, but it wasn’t tied to an occasion, and it was not required,” he said. “You know you are doing the right thing. It’s not stressful at all.”

A gift can also be as subtle as granting implicit permission for a spouse to pursue a passion that is somewhat pricey, even if you’re not a spender by nature. Bob and Mary Kuhn of Glen Mill, Pa., decided to call a halt to traditional gift-giving on state occasions at least 15 years ago. The couple, both 68, have been married for 43 years.

Ms. Kuhn laughed as she recalled her husband’s radio-controlled airplane habit. “Those things crash,” she said. “So that can be a gift until someone is no longer interested in that sort of hobby.”

Shelly Lundberg, an economics professor at the University of Washington who has studied bargaining within marriages, likes this example for the signals it sends. “It shows not only that I know what you like, but that I value an aspect of you that you consider important,” she said, say a mechanical mind or a tinkering spirit.

The other nice thing about Ms. Kuhn’s offering was that there was no occasion she was observing when she made it. Ike and Mae Mosher, who have been married for 70 years, never established much of a traditional gift-giving ritual between them because they stretched their finances early on in their relationship to support his mother and sister when his father died. Ms. Mosher’s sacrifices early on were her own gift to Mr. Mosher and his family.

Over time, their giving to one another became more spontaneous. “He would give me gifts just for the sake of giving me a gift,” said Ms. Mosher, who lives with her husband in the Classic Residence community in Chevy Chase, Md., “not necessarily because it was a day you have to give a gift.”

This maps exactly, it turns out, to some of the findings of Terri Orbuch, a professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan who leads a continuing study of married couples that dates to the mid-1980s. “Romance and passion is all about using the elements of surprise and the elements of newness,” she said. “That’s what couples say, and that’s what I’ve found in the research.”

So practice random acts of generosity, whether it’s with traditional gifts or more psychic ones. And if you and your better half want to partake in this national ritual of devotion, it certainly can’t hurt.

But it probably isn’t necessary, either. “It is very sweet and nice when you are 20 or 25,” said Ms. Mosher, 92. “But we are so safe and secure in our love for each other, there is no need for that kind of thing.”

 

Copyright 2011 by The New York Times

Advertisements

Facebook Officials Keep Quiet on Its Role in Revolts

With Facebook playing a starring role in the revolts that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt, you might think the company’s top executives would use this historic moment to highlight its role as the platform for democratic change. Instead, they really do not want to talk about it.

The social media giant finds itself under countervailing pressures after the uprisings in the Middle East. While it has become one of the primary tools for activists to mobilize protests and share information, Facebook does not want to be seen as picking sides for fear that some countries — like Syria, where it just gained a foothold — would impose restrictions on its use or more closely monitor users, according to some company executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal business.

And Facebook does not want to alter its firm policy requiring users to sign up with their real identities. The company says this requirement protects its users from fraud. However, human rights advocates like Susannah Vila, the director of content and outreach forMovements.org, which provides resources for digital activists, say it could put some people at risk from governments looking to ferret out dissent.

“People are going to be using this platform for political mobilization, which only underscores the importance of ensuring their safety,” she said.

Under those rules, Facebook shut down one of the most popular Egyptian Facebook protest pages in November because Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who emerged as a symbol of the revolt, had used a pseudonym to create a profile as one of the administrators of the page, a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.

With Egypt’s emergency law in place limiting freedom of speech, Mr. Ghonim might have put himself and the other organizers at risk if they were discovered at that time. Activists scrambled to find another administrator to get the page back up and running. And when Egyptian government authorities did figure out Mr. Ghonim’s role with the Facebook page that helped promote the Jan. 25 protest in Tahrir Square, he was imprisoned for 12 days.

Last week, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, urged Facebook to take “immediate and tangible steps” to help protect democracy and human rights activists who use its services, including addressing concerns about not being able to use pseudonyms.

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, Mr. Durbin said the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia had highlighted the costs and benefits of social tools to democracy and human rights advocates. “I am concerned that the company does not have adequate safeguards in place to protect human rights and avoid being exploited by repressive governments,” he wrote.

Elliot Schrage, the vice president for global communications, public policy and marketing at Facebook, declined to discuss Facebook’s role in the recent tumult and what it might mean for the company’s services.

In a short statement, he said: “We’ve witnessed brave people of all ages coming together to effect a profound change in their country. Certainly, technology was a vital tool in their efforts but we believe their bravery and determination mattered most.”

Other social media tools, like YouTube and Twitter, also played major roles in Tunisia and Egypt, especially when the protests broke out. But Facebook was the primary tool used in Egypt, first to share reports about police abuse and then to build an online community that was mobilized to join the Jan. 25 protests.

In recent weeks, Facebook pages and groups trying to mobilize protesters have sprung up in Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco and Syria. Hashtags on Twitter have also helped spread the protests, which extended to Algeria over the weekend and to Bahrain, Iran and Yemen on Monday.

“This is an incredible challenge and an incredible opportunity for Facebook, Twitter and Google,” said Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, where he works on projects about the use of technology and media in the developing world. “It might be tougher for Facebook than anyone else. Facebook has been ambivalent about the use of their platform by activists.”

Unlike Vodafone and other telecommunications carriers, which often need contracts and licenses to operate within countries, Facebook and other social networks are widely available around the world (except in countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have restricted access) and encourage the free flow of information for anyone with access to the Internet.

In a speech that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to deliver Tuesday, she will once again emphasize that Internet freedom is an inalienable right. In recent weeks, the State Department has been sending out Twitter updates in Arabic and began sending updates in Persian over the weekend.

Twitter and YouTube, which is owned by Google, have been more willing to embrace their roles in activism and unrest, Mr. Zuckerman said.

After the Internet was shut down in Egypt, Twitter and Google actively helped protesters by producing a new service, speak2tweet, that allowed people to leave voice mail messages that would be filed as updates on Twitter. Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s founders, used it as an opportunity to emphasize the positive global impact that comes with the open exchange of information.

When the Internet was back up, YouTube, working with Storyful, a social media news curation service, took the thousands of videos pouring in from the protests in Tahrir Square to help people retrieve and share the information as quickly as possible on CitizenTube, its news and politics channel.

Facebook has taken steps to help protesters in Tunisia after government officials used a virus to obtain local Facebook passwords this year. The company rerouted Facebook’s traffic from Tunisia and used the breach to upgrade security last month for all of its more than 550 million users worldwide; at the same time, it was careful to cast the response as a technical solution to a security problem. There are about two million Facebook users in Tunisia and five million in Egypt.

Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company was not considering changing its policy requiring users to use their real identities, which she says leads to greater accountability and a safer environment.

“The trust people place in us is the most important part of what makes Facebook work,” she said, adding that the company welcomed a discussion with Mr. Durbin and others who have an interest in this matter. “As demonstrated by our response to threats in Tunisia, we take this trust seriously and work aggressively every single day to protect people.”

Mr. Durbin has urged Facebook to join the Global Network Initiative, a voluntary code of conduct for technology companies, created in 2008, that requires participating businesses to take reasonable steps to protect human rights.

Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, said that the people and companies behind the technology needed to be more transparent about what information they collect, and that they needed to develop consistent policies to allow people to opt in or out of their data collection systems. “We must have a right to protect the privacy of information stored in the cloud as rigorously as if it were in our own home,” he said.

 

Copyright 2011 by The New York Times

I would love played for Manchester United if move to Premier League

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez has revealed that he would have loved to have played for Manchester United if he ever decided to move to England.

Xavi Hernandez had given a man-of-the-match performance against Germany, and Spain were two minutes from reaching the World Cup final when the referee in last year’s semi-final asked him if he could have his shirt after the game. ‘If you blow the whistle a minute early, it’s yours,’ he replied.

On the verge of reaching the pinnacle of his career, the final where he would complete his full house of major honours, the sorcerer supreme of Barcelona and Spain’s magical midfields, the most unassuming of world beaters, still wasn’t taking things too seriously.

Listening to him talk about his English football heroes ahead of next week’s visit to London, it’s obvious the sport he loves and demystifies so eloquently is still, first and foremost, just a game to him — one which he and his pals just happen to play better than anybody else in the world.

His face lights up first when he is told the story of Wayne Rooney getting up from his couch to give Barca a one-man standing ovation in his living room as he watched them beat Real Madrid 5-0 last November, and then when he reels off the names of his current Premier League favourites.

‘Rooney, Scholes, Cesc (Fabregas), Nasri and Giggs,’ he says, adding: ‘I was also a big fan of John Barnes, Chris Waddle and Matt Le Tissier. And although it is a different style, I liked the Paul Ince and Roy Keane partnership Manchester United had. They would have been my team had I moved to England.’

Paul Scholes receives special praise: ‘In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything.

‘He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.’

Xavi won the World Cup aged 30, one year older than Scholes when he retired from international football feeling undervalued by the then England coach Sven Goran Eriksson.

So why is the pass master, so revered in Spain, often discarded in England? For Xavi it starts in the stands with the difference between English and Spanish football culture.

‘You are a nation of warriors,’ he says. ‘If I go to Liverpool’s ground and someone puts the ball into the area and Carragher hammers it out of play then the fans applaud. In the Nou Camp you would never be applauded for that.

‘It’s a different culture that values different things. Here if they see you are afraid when you are in possession then you get whistled. It’s the world in reverse.

‘I do see it changing slightly. Before, the typical No 9 in England was a Crouch or a Heskey and it was a long ball from the back from a Terry or a Carragher and nothing in between.’

So a shift in emphasis is needed but it shouldn’t come completely at the expense of the traditional uncompromising English centre half, says Xavi.

‘I don’t want to be misunderstood. I have huge admiration for both Terry and Carragher. We have (Carles) Puyol here. Technically he is not the best player in the squad but he is a great defender. Players like Terry and Carragher are very necessary but they have to adapt to the team as opposed to the team adapting to them. In some ways what these players do has even more merit because to me it comes naturally.

‘For Iniesta, Messi and Rooney it comes naturally, but for them it is much more difficult to lift the head and play a pass. But they should have to adapt to the more technically gifted players, not the other way around.’

A ‘skill -over- strength’ revolution is mooted every time England fail at a World Cup, but Xavi says a radical overhaul of values would mean nothing unless it started at kids’ level.

‘You have to find the players who have the technical ability right from the off as Barcelona do,’ he says.

‘Other teams look for young players who are tall, big and strong. There are teams here in Catalunya who at the under 10s level will beat Barca’s under 10s.

‘But from that Barca under 10s team you will end up getting three footballers and from the under 10s of the other team not even one will make it. They are already thinking about winning instead of unearthing the technically gifted players which is Barcelona’s priority.

‘You spot a youngster who can lift his head and play a first-time pass and you think, “He’s worth something, let’s have him come and train with us”.’

The fact that the Barca philosophy is drilled into players before they are even teenagers is what then gives Barcelona the edge over other sides who attempt to play the same way.

‘Watching Arsenal is almost like watching Barca. Everything goes through Cesc and Nasri,’ says Xavi.

‘But the difference is that at Arsenal each player is a product of whatever youth system he came through. Here we have players who have been at the club for 10 or 12 years and that is the difference — everything comes automatically.

‘Here they make you think from day one. The first thing you do when you join this club is rondo (the passing drill with one player trying to win the ball back and three or four players passing one-touch between themselves). It’s think, think, think, and it teaches you the responsibility of keeping the ball and the shame of losing it.

‘You lift your head before you receive the ball, you look to see if you are in space, and who else is in space, and you play the ball first time. Modern football is so quick that two touches means too slow.’

Arsenal remain the closest thing to Barcelona in English football, but their Barca-Lite tag is a generous one after six years without a trophy. Would such a drought be tolerated at the Nou Camp?

‘If you go two years without winning things here then you have to change everything,’ says Xavi. ‘But you change the people, not the ideology. The philosophy you can’t ever lose. The fans here are not going to understand a team that sits back and plays on the counter-attack.’

Back in 2008 Barcelona had gone two years without winning anything and rumours circulated that Xavi might be part of a clear-out.

‘When Ronaldinho and Deco left there was talk of “Sell Xavi to help us bring Cesc”, but along came Pep (Guardiola) and he said that he did not see a Barcelona without me. That was the end of it.’

Next week’s opponents, Arsenal, may well have been his most suitable destination although he believes he would have adapted to any team and thrived with the passion of Premier League crowds.

‘I have never seen anything like the supporters there. We won 3-1 at Liverpool once and we were applauded off the pitch, and Liverpool were as well. All the players who go to England to play come back saying wonderful things about it, the fans, the people. I think I would have liked it.’

Xavi celebrates after won in the 2009 Champions League final

Xavi stayed in 2008 and after Guardiola’s Barcelona took just one point from their first two games they won their third handsomely and went on to win an unprecedented six out of six trophies.

‘Who knows what would have happened if we had drawn that third game. They might have said, “This guy can’t carry on”. But I knew straightaway that Pep would be successful. He would be a success anywhere in the world,’ says Xavi. ‘Intelligence is being able to adapt to anything and Pep is very intelligent.

‘Normally a coach needs two or three years — he is a one-off. When we signed him I just thought, “Madre mia, we are going to go off like a shot”. He is so persistent.

‘If he was a musician he would be a very good musician, if he was a psychologist, he would be a very good psychologist. He expects the maximum from himself and that rubs off on others.’

And it’s the football demanded by Guardiola and not just the results garnered by it that Xavi is so enamoured with.

‘We go out from the first moment looking for the ball and looking to put pressure on the opposition. If you are not going to pass the ball then why play the game. That is not football in my opinion.

‘For another coach — someone like (Javier) Clemente or (Fabio) Capello — they may have another idea of football but it is good that the Barcelona idea works. What were Holland looking for in the World Cup final? A Robben counter-attack? Penalties? We won a lot of games 1-0 but it was the opposition that were boring, not us.’

The smothering tactics used by the Dutch are copied, with less and less success, every week in La Liga but Xavi has learned to live with the close attention.

‘I spend the entire 90 minutes looking for space on the pitch. I’m always between the opposition’s two holding midfielders and thinking, “The defence is here so I get the ball and I go there to where the space is”.’

His team-mates make it easy for him, he says. ‘My job is to pass the ball, and I have Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa and Alves all showing for passes. It gets to the point where I think they are going to get annoyed with me because I have played three passes without giving the ball to Messi or that Alves has gone forward three times and I have not given it to him once. When Messi is not in the game he switches off!’

The gap that Barcelona have now created between themselves and the rest was never so obvious as in November last year with that 5-0 win over Real Madrid so appreciated by Rooney.

‘It is a source of great pride that an extraordinary player like Rooney, someone who could play perfectly well in Barcelona’s system, feels that way,’ says Xavi.

Xavi (hidden) is bundled after opening the scoring during Barcelona's 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid

‘The 5-0 was the best game I have ever played in. There are more important games like the World Cup final but the feeling of superiority was incredible — it is one thing to have it against another team but against Real Madrid? They hardly touched the ball. We gave ourselves a minute’s round of applause in the dressing room afterwards.’

Last year the Champions League held special importance for Barcelona precisely because the final was to be played at the home of their great rivals. This year Wembley provides the added spice.

‘It is all about nostalgia. Getting to the final is great wherever it is played but Wembley is special,’ says Xavi. ‘It’s special for everybody in football but for Barcelona more so because of our first European Cup.’

And to close, he recalls that night 19 years ago when Barcelona first held the trophy aloft. ‘I was only 12 years old and I was not allowed to go to London. My two brothers went and I cried to my parents but they said I was too young. I remember watching the (Ronald) Koeman goal at home on television. If we can get there again this time I will be able to make up for that.’

 
Copyright 2011 by The Daily Mail

Apple keeps on growing!

Apple is set to become the world’s most valuable company this year, financial analysts said yesterday.

It is predicted to leapfrog the current number one, oil giant Exxon Mobil, capping a remarkable rise for the gadget firm, which is thriving on sales of Mac computers, iPhones, iPods and now iPads.

Shares in Apple are predicted to rise a staggering 32 per cent over the next 12 months, driving the company’s market value up to £269.5billion.

Apple based in Cupertino, California

That is tipped to be sufficient to overhaul Exxon, currently valued at £263billion, even taking into account that its value is also set to increase, with rising oil prices likely to drive up its profits.

The rest of the top ten is dominated by mining and energy heavyweights, along with Apple’s long-time rival Microsoft, now trailing behind a firm it used to beat easily.

Steve Jobs at the launch of the iPad last year

Apple reported its best ever quarterly results last month, continuing its relentless rise up the list of the world’s biggest companies.

In the last three months of 2010 alone, it sold 3.89million Macintosh computers, 14.1million iPhones, 9.05million iPod music players and 4.19million iPad tablet computers.

The better-than-expected figures for iPhones – which benefited from an expansion of their U.S. network – and iPads caused many analysts to upgrade their 12-month
predictions for Apple’s share performance.

Although Apple suffered a momentary setback when shares plunged early last month after CEO Steve Jobs said he was taking a medical leave of absence, experts remain bullish over its prospects, saying it has only just begun to exploit the international market.

Analysts are as giddy as you can be, but Apple just keeps surpassing those numbers,’ said Pete Najarian, co-founder of stock market website TradeMonster.com.

Although it has long cultivated a unique reputation with a loyal customer base devoted to the ‘cool’, quirky brand and aesthetically pleasing design, it is only in recent years that Apple has transformed into a sales juggernaut.

Founded in California in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, it grew in the shadow of Microsoft and was given up for dead a decade ago but surpassed the PC giant last May to become the world’s most valuable technology company.

Apple's iPod preceded the colourful iPod Minis and Nanos

Its rise is likely to be boosted with a thinner, lighter and souped-up version of its iPad tablet computer that is reportedly already in production.

Some experts expect the company to sell as many as 35million iPads this year, more than doubling last year’s 14.8million sales.

However, Apple’s latest success comes just months after it was accused of exploiting workers, with a spate of suicides among workers at manufacturing plants in China.

Fourteen workers at the Foxconn Technology Group factories, which make iPhones and iPads for Apple, killed themselves last year amid complaints of ill-treatment, causing Apple to launch an investigation.

 

Copyright 2011 by Daily Mail

 

 

Manchester City race up Europe’s rich list, but United remain Premier League’s wealthiest

Manchester City’s rise to prominence on the European stage has been underlined in spectacular fashion by the publication of the annual report into football finance by accountants Deloitte.

City's financial standing has improved greatly since the takeover by Sheikh Mansour

Despite the fact that City have still not qualified for the Champions League – narrowly missing out to Tottenham last season – figures for the 2009-10 season show that the richest club in the world have begun improving their moneymaking activities in keeping with their recently acquired status.

Last year’s publication had City in 20th position in Deloitte’s Football Money League, with an annual revenue figure of £87million. However, in the space of only a year that figure has rocketed to £125.1m and has moved them up to 11th spot.

Although Spanish giants Real Madrid (£359.1m) and Barcelona (£325.9m) still sit in the top two spots with Manchester United third with an annual income of £286.4m (up by £7.9m), City’s leap up the table is by far the most impressive.

Certainly it reflects well on the efforts of much-maligned City chief executive Garry Cook and will encourage the club that they can bring their income and expenditure equation into line with the FIFA Fair Play rules due to be introduced in the coming years.

City’s enormous jump in revenue is a reflection of increased income from new sponsorship deals at home and in Asia, the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, America. If Roberto Mancini guides his team into next season’s Champions League, City will certainly make it in to the rich list top 10.

Last night Alan Switzer, director of football business at Deloitte, said: ‘The table is based on the revenue generated by the club, so the factor that Manchester City have a rich owner isn’t the direct reason for their good showing.

‘The main movement for City has been in their commercial revenue. They have had great success on the traditional stuff like the shirt sales but they have also excelled in that next tier of sponsorship. They have been able to look to the Middle East and across the Atlantic.

‘We certainly expect to be reporting another substantial increase in revenue for City next year. Whether it is enough to get into that top 10 depends on the results of the club.

‘There’s an interesting tussle to break into the top 10 next year, actually. Manchester City have made a big move up the table without being in the Champions League. But even if they do qualify it will be close between them, Spurs, Juventus and Liverpool for that 10th spot.

‘It is too close to call because we don’t know what Spurs are going to do in the Champions League this season.’

Elsewhere in the Barclays Premier League, Arsenal have continued to show promising financial performance, something that reflects the benefit of their move to the Emirates Stadium.

The London club are fifth in the table, as they were last year, with their annual income staying just about unchanged at £224m.

One club who may wish to worry, however, is Liverpool. The Merseyside club have slipped one place to eighth in the table and although their revenue has stayed stable at around the £184m mark, they will inevitably come under threat from City and Spurs next year as – for the second season running – they are struggling to qualify for the cash-rich Champions League.

It is also clear that Liverpool’s failure to build and move into a new stadium is holding them back. Switzer said: ‘Arsenal’s move to the Emirates is one of the main reasons why they have moved up the table in the last 10 years.

‘Ten years ago they were 13th and now they are up to fifth. If they continue not to play Champions League football, Liverpool will be under a lot of pressure from the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham to stay in the top 10.’

Chelsea remain in sixth spot in the table with an annual revenue of £209.5m, a slight rise from the previous year.

Chelsea's revenue increased following their league and cup successes last season

MANCHESTER CITY are still nowhere near being the richest club in the world.

Owner Sheikh Mansour has a fortune of £20billion and his family is worth £550bn.

But City are only ELEVENTH on football’s rich list with Manchester rivals United eight places ahead in third.

The top six richest clubs are unchanged with Real Madrid top followed by Barcelona, United and Bayern Munich fourth in the Deloitte Money League.

Arsenal are fifth, with Chelsea sixth. Liverpool have dropped a place to eighth behind AC Milan.

City, who have spent nearly £550million on new players, are up from 20th to 11th, one place ahead of Tottenham.

Dan Jones, of Deloitte’s sports business group, said: “The top 20 clubs have a combined revenue now of 4.3billion euros and this rise is likely to continue next year.

“Overall these figures show remarkable growth despite the recession.”

 

Copyright 2011 by Daily Mail

EBay Says Big Growth Is Not Over

SAN FRANCISCO — EBay was growing so fast early in its history that Meg Whitman, its former chief executive, liked to joke that “a monkey could drive this train.”

John Donahoe, her successor, still has the company on the track, but eBay’s competitors are moving a whole lot faster.

Three years into the job, Mr. Donahoe has made only modest progress in improving growth at the online retailer. He has given the Web site a cosmetic makeover and recast it as an outlet mall where retailers can unload last season’s merchandise, instead of being an all-encompassing auction house. “I think we’re turning a corner,” Mr. Donahoe said in an interview last week.

But while eBay’s marketplace revenue grew just 8 percent to $5.7 billion last year, eBay is still losing market share to its rivals, as global e-commerce sales increased 18.9 percent in 2010. Amazon.com widened its lead last year, whileGroupon, the daily deal service, and a number of specialty retailing sites like Etsy began nipping at eBay’s heels.

Mr. Donahoe says he plans to tell Wall Street securities analysts on Thursday at the company’s analyst day that eBay can now “go on the offensive” by building on its early momentum with mobile shoppers and that it will better integrate sister products like PayPal, the online payment service. But he is not expected to announce any major new products or services.

Analysts and eBay’s investors have continued to pressure him to deliver on an earlier promise to match the growth of overall global e-commerce this year. But being able to achieve that goal — J.P. Morgan forecasts e-commerce will grow 18.9 percent again this year — is hardly guaranteed.

“While they’ve made some nice initial progress, there are quite a number of problems left to address,” said Scott Kessler, an analyst with Standard & Poor’s.

EBay’s troubles were a long time coming. It managed to annoy many of the people who sold goods on eBay and those who bought them. Buyers complained of clutter, irrelevant search results and fraud. Sellers grumbled about what they saw as excessive fees and eBay’s favoritism of big retailers over small merchants.

Growth in sales volume, the value of merchandise that changed hands on the site, excluding automobiles, started to flatten in 2006. After the recession began, the volume declined — even though eBay used to brag that it thrived in tough times because users emptied their closets and attics for extra cash.

Kristin Brandt, a soap maker from Ogden, Utah, is among the many sellers who left eBay for other sites. Making a profit on “Feebay,” as she and others sometimes refer to the site, was impossible because of the money eBay extracted for listing products, posting photos and making a sale.

“You end up paying more than you intended to sell something that wasn’t worth it in the first place,” Ms. Brandt said. She now prefers to sell on Etsy, where there is less traffic but the fees are lower.

Mr. Donahoe has been shifting eBay from its roots as an online flea market. He recruited big retailers that needed to sell out-of-season, refurbished and liquidated merchandise. He pressed for more fixed-price sales so that impatient users — eBay had 94.5 million active users at the end of last year — could buy products without having to bid and wait to see if they won.

It was part of a broader strategy to make the company, which is based in San Jose, Calif., more competitive with Amazon, a one-stop shop for nearly everything. Amazon’s reliability, discounted prices and growing mall of third-party retailers have given it a big edge in the rivalry. Amazon reported a 40 percent gain in revenue, to $32.4 billion, last year.

After countless tweaks, eBay’s marketplace Web site now has a noticeably cleaner design to keep buyers focused on the merchandise. Mr. Donahoe also invested in improving eBay’s search engine so users could better sort through its more than 200 million products.

Giving various product categories a custom look, rather than a generic design, is another way eBay is trying to compete. EBay thinks users shop differently depending on the kind of product they are looking for, and catering to that translates into more sales.

In the fashion area, users can browse images rather than text. A shopper who finds a black purse she likes, for example, can click on “see more like this” to reveal others in similar style and color. More custom looks are planned for later this year in the auto parts and home and garden categories.

Despite all the effort going into sprucing up eBay’s marketplace, half a dozen buyers and sellers interviewed recently did not notice any cosmetic changes. But they cited a few other upgrades that they said made buying and selling easier.

James Chen, owner of Audio Images, an audio equipment store in San Francisco, said he stopped selling on eBay because of excessive fees around three years ago and instead set up shop on Amazon. But in December, he returned to selling on eBay and discovered that eBay automatically suggested product descriptions — a feature introduced last year — so that he did not have to write them himself. “I’m very happy with things,” Mr. Chen said. “Buyers are just buying.”

Mr. Donahoe lavishes praise on eBay’s efforts in mobile shopping, which have shown early success. This year, eBay expects its customers will buy at least $4 billion in merchandise using smartphones, twice the amount spent in 2010.

EBay’s RedLaser app, a bar-code scanning service it acquired last year, lets users compare prices for a product on a store shelf with those online. Another acquisition from last year, Milo, helps users find local stores that have a particular product in stock.

 

Copyright 2011 by The New York Times

 

Betting on News, AOL Is Buying The Huffington Pos

The Huffington Post, which began in 2005 with a meager $1 million investment and has grown into one of the most heavily visited news Web sites in the country, is being acquired by AOL in a deal that creates an unlikely pairing of two online media giants.

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company’s largest acquisition since it was separated fromTime Warner in 2009.

The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company’s other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

By handing so much control over to Ms. Huffington and making her a public face of the company, AOL, which has been seen as apolitical, risks losing its nonpartisan image. Ms. Huffington said her politics would have no bearing on how she ran the new business.

The deal has the potential to create an enterprise that could reach more than 100 million visitors in the United States each month. For The Huffington Post, which began as a liberal blog with a small staff but now draws some 25 million visitors every month, the sale represents an opportunity to reach new audiences. For AOL, which has been looking for ways to bring in new revenue as its dial-up Internet access business declines, the millions of Huffington Post readers represent millions in potential advertising dollars.

“This is a statement that the company is making investments, and in this case a bold investment, that fits right into our strategy,” Mr. Armstrong said in an interview Sunday. “I think this is going to be a situation where 1 plus 1 equals 11.”

Ms. Huffington and Mr. Armstrong began discussing the possibility of a sale only last month. They came to know each other well after they both attended a media conference in November and quickly discovered, as Ms. Huffington put it, “we were practically finishing each other’s sentences.” She added: “It was really amazing how aligned our visions were.”

One of The Huffington Post’s strengths has been creating an online community of readers with tens of millions of people. Their ability to leave comments on Huffington Post news articles and blog posts and to share them on Twitterand Facebook has been a major reason the site attracts so many readers. It is routine for articles to draw thousands of comments each and be cross-linked across multiple social networks.

Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Huffington say that AOL’s local news initiative, Patch, and its citizen journalist venture, Seed, stand to thrive when paired with the reader engagement tools of The Huffington Post.

AOL’s own news Web sites like Politics Daily and Daily Finance are likely to disappear when the deal is completed, and many of the writers who work for those sites will become Huffington Post writers, according to people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not to be identified discussing plans that are still being worked out.

Although AOL is publicly traded, The Huffington Post is a private company and does not disclose its financial data. But Ms. Huffington, who co-founded the site with Kenneth Lerer in 2005, said it had its first profitable year in 2010 and was poised to continue growing. . Huffington Post executives estimate that the Web site will generate $60 million in revenue this year, compared with $31 million last year.

The sale means a huge payout for Huffington Post investors and holders of its stock and options, who stand to profit earlier than if the company had waited to grow large enough for an initial public offering.

While Huffington Post has been growing — it now employs more than 200 people, a threefold increase in just the last few years — AOL has been shrinking. Last year it eliminated close to 2,500 positions, roughly a third of its staff. Although its most recent earnings estimates beat Wall Street expectations, revenues for the fourth quarter were down 26 percent from a year earlier as dial-up customers continued to disappear. Ad revenue, which is seen as the company’s main business going forward, was down 29 percent from the year before.

Since 2009, the company has untangled itself from its ill-fated merger with Time Warner, a legacy media company with print magazines, a film studio and television channels. AOL, not fully a media company, not fully a technology company, never melded with its corporate partner.

As its own company, AOL has emphasized editorial content, a strategy that is intended to keep it competitive in an Internet marketplace dominated by Google. AOL is betting that it can sell, alongside that content, local advertising and display advertising, areas that Google does not dominate.

Last year, AOL acquired the influential technology news blog TechCrunch for $25 million to supplement its technology coverage, which already included the blog Engadget.

While AOL has invested heavily in creating content through enterprises like Patch, the initiative meant to fill the void in areas where struggling local newspapers have cut back on reporting, much of their writing and news gathering is not up to the standards of what consumers get from their traditional news sources.

The Huffington Post, too, has faced criticism over its content, much of which is aggregated from other news sources. But it has started to invest more in original reporting and writing, hiring experienced journalists from The New York Times, Newsweek and other traditional media outlets. By acquiring The Huffington Post’s reporting resources, AOL hopes to counter the perception that it is a farm for subpar content.

“The reason AOL is acquiring The Huffington Post is because we are absolutely passionate, big believers in the future of the Internet, big believers in the future of content,” Mr. Armstrong said.

In that sense, the deal carries a risk for The Huffington Post, which has had none of AOL’s troubles and is widely viewed as a business success with its own unique voice and identity. Now that it is to become part of a large corporate entity, what becomes of that unique character is an open question.

“The potential is great; it’s almost overwhelming,” said Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post’s senior political editor. “But the key will be to engage people who really want to be engaged, and make it hospitable to them, draw them in and expand the sense of community without losing them at the same time.”

 

Copyright 2011 by The New York Times

 

 

Wolves were worthy winners

Sir Alex Ferguson was magnanimous in defeat after his side were left humbled by Premier League strugglers Wolves.

Despite taking a third-minute lead through Nani’s clinical strike, the Reds rarely approached top gear as the tenacious hosts overturned their deficit and clung on for a deserved victory.

“We are disappointed, particularly after going in front so early in the game,” Sir Alex toldMUTV. “The result was caused by bad play at set-pieces. That is the nuts and bolts of it and we don’t dispute that.

“It was a great start. We made a lot of chances, particularly in the first-half. Nani had two great shots at the goalkeeper, Wayne Rooney had a good chance too, so we played a lot of good football in the first-half and made some great chances, but we were never at the races in the second-half. We had an incredible amount of possession. The pitch wasn’t very good, but nevertheless we never really created anything.”

The league leaders’ cause was hindered by the late withdrawal of Rio Ferdinand, who suffered a calf injury during the warm-up and is now out of action for a fortnight. In his stead, Jonny Evans started, while Chris Smalling stepped up to the bench.

“Normally I think we would have put Chris Smalling in that position because he has been playing right side and Jonny has been playing left side, (but) Jonny had already done the warm-up. It was important because of the experience that Rio has in games like that.”

 

Resources – manutd.com

 

 

Manchester United 3 Aston Villa 1: Wayne Rooney double sinks plucky Villans

REMEMBER the days when Wayne Rooney wanted out of Old Trafford?

It seems so long ago. Since then strikers all over the country have been accused of throwing their toys out of the pram – Tevez, Torres, Bent, Bendtner, Carroll, the list goes on. Rooney has been forgiven by the Old Trafford faithful for his high-profile tantrum and last night they were singing his name from the rafters as he scored two and could have had four. All the talk about goal droughts can be forgotten.

Rooney has discovered where the net is again after bagging his first double in 11 months and his first goals at home from open play in almost as long. And the added bonus was that he did it in front of a delighted England boss Fabio Capello. Expect Rooney to go on a goal-scoring spree with such a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. His resurgence could be the extra ingredient which sees leaders United over the finish line in the title race and maybe even emulate Arsenal’s Invincibles.

With evergreen Ryan Giggs continuing to defy his years at the age of 37, Nani in outstanding form and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic standing firm at the back, the omens for United are good ones. This victory equalled a club record established at the end of the last century of 29 games without defeat. That run stretched from Boxing Day 1998 through to October 1999, during which time United clinched the Treble. This time round United have not lost since being beaten at home by Chelsea on April 3 last year. Alex Ferguson had tried to calm worries about Rooney’s lack of goals, insisting that as long as he and partner Dimitar Berbatov got 40 between them he would be happy if Rooney’s contribution was only 10. You knew that was not good enough for Rooney.

He was desperate to get back on the goal trail, especially at Old Trafford having only scored one penalty at home all season. He struck after only 50 seconds when a long free-kick from Edwin van der Sar sailed over Richard Dunne.

Rooney brilliantly controlled the ball with his right foot before cracking an unstoppable volley beyond helpless keeper Brad Friedel. American stopper Friedel became Villa’s oldest ever player at the age of 39 years 259 days and, like Giggs, he defies the years. Despite being unable to do anything about Rooney’s opener he made a fantastic diving save to his left to keep out a fierce low drive from Nani, held on from Patrice Evra’s near-post shot and kept out another Nani effort to his right.

The Portuguese winger was not having much luck. He was also denied a penalty believing he was blocked by Villa centre-half Dunne, only for referee Chris Foy to ignore his claims. Nani was finally rewarded for his endeavours when he produced a pinpoint cross to Rooney to slam home the second just before half-time. That was the England striker’s fifth goal of the season and gave United a comfortable cushion going in to the second half. While United were the superior side, Villa have been pulling away from the danger zone in recent weeks. And they grabbed a goal back on 58 minutes through £24million new boy Darren Bent. Ashley Young bravely won the ball and Stewart Downing got away down the right.

Bent, in space, was begging for the cross and, when it arrived, he despatched it like the true finisher he is. It was the England striker’s second goal in three games since his controversial arrival from Sunderland. United were stung but five minutes later ensured there would be no comeback. Skipper Vidic headed down to Rooney and, when the ball was laid back, the Serb defender curled home a magnificent shot. Rooney would have been proud of that one himself. Vidic gets the odd goal or two but usually with his head. Young almost set up a grandstand finish but his 20-yard effort struck the crossbar. Rooney fought hard for his hat-trick, being well tackled by Dunne as he went through and then foiled by another quality save from Friedel.

Berbatov could have added to the 20 goals he has already scored this season near the end but the Bulgarian fired over from eight yards after Friedel had denied Nani. It was back in the autumn that Rooney blew a gasket and announced he wanted to go. He complained about a lack of investment in the United team and questioned why there were no major new signings coming in to Old Trafford.

Ferguson has since presented him with a new reserve keeper in £3.5m Anders Lindegaard and precisely nothing else while rivals like Chelsea have been splashing more than £70m in the transfer window. Not a peep of complaint from Rooney any more. He has learned to get on with what he does best on the pitch and leave Ferguson to do what he does best off it.

 

Copyright 2011 by Suffian Yans

 

 

 

 

Ryan Giggs voted Manchester United’s greatest ever player

ALEX FERGUSON has hailed Ryan Giggs after the legendary winger was named Manchester United’s greatest ever player.

Giggs topped a poll of United fans and finished above Eric Cantona, George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Red Devils boss Ferguson said: “I am not surprised at all.

“Longevity always comes into play in these things and Ryan has been around here for more time than any other player.

“He recently appeared in his 600th league game, which is an exceptional achievement.

“That won’t be done again, not by one player at the same club.

“And then we can talk about his performances, which have been top class for 20 years. Even now, at the age of 37, he is amazing.”

Giggs admitted he was shocked to be informed of his latest award.

He said: “When I got told I genuinely couldn’t believe it

“There have been so many great players here.”

 

Copyright 2011 by Suffian Yans