Joining me on PowerTalk this week is Michael Vivio, President of Cox Target Media. Now you may be scratching your head going, what company is that....but as you’ll soon learn, its the company behind that blue Valpak envelope you get each week in the mail. Each and every week, it’s packed with coupons, discounts and other offers that are designed to help you save money, while driving revenue at those establishments. 

Since was named president of Cox Target Media in December 2010. Within a year, Michael has taken Valpak and Valpak.com to new heights with a newly re-launched website that has seen online traffic increase 400%, and new partnerships that doubled the amount of online coupons to 40,000.

I don’t know about you, but at my house we go not only go through it each week, but I use the app on my iPhone religiously and I get to load great deals into Passbook. As I look at it right now, I can see coupons for Gold’s Gym, local dry cleaners, a bunch of restaurants that we go to and a bunch of other services. 

As you’ll learn in a few minutes not only is that emphasis on local is a key differentiator for Valpak, but the company has hundreds if not thousands of companies that it works with each week. Just because its local doesn’t mean its just small business - quite the contrary, Valpak works with businesses of all size to drive revenues by giving consumers the deals they need. 

There’s a growing amount of data that suggests the global economy is headed once again for a Spring swoon. Worse yet, two engines for the domestic economy -- one being the consumer and the other small business -- are coming under pressure. In particular, more Americans have been falling out of the labor force, are on food stamps and have seen their disposable dollars disappear. That’s at the heart of what I call the Cash Strapped Consumer. That said, identifying and dealing with a pain point makes for a great business.

We talk about all of that as well as what sets Valpak apart from the daily-deal group of companies like Living Social, Groupon (GRPN), Google Offers (GOOG) and more. We also talk about how Valpak is gearing up for the push to mobile commerce, which includes not only payments, but also couponing. 

Whether your looking to save more than a few dollars each week, curious as to how Valpak is positioning itself for the future, or why Groupon is on the ropes, those answers are all found in this week’s PowerTalk. 

Direct download: 05-27-13_VALPAKPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:20am EDT

Folks - 

As you know there’s a lot going on in the press these days -- the IRS targeting conservatives, the AP scandal and Benghazi to name a few. Another is immigration and immigration reform. Joining me this week on PowerTalk to sort through the issues on immigration is former Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, Carlos Gutierrez. Before he was the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Gutierrez was the Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Kellogg Company (K).

As PowerTalk friend economist Douglas Hotlz-Eakin recently wrote “Immigration reform resulting in net population growth and an increase in employment-based immigration would likely have wide-reaching economic benefits, and would provide a boost to the housing sector.” Companies poised to benefit include not only the homebuilders like Toll Brothers (TOL) and D.R. Horton (DHI), the nation’s largest homebuilder, but also furniture, paint and appliance vendors like Ethan Allen Interiors (ETH), Sherwin Williams (SHW) and Whirlpool (WHR).

It’s not just housing that would benefit from a revamped immigration policy. Consider that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s (FB) co-founder and chief executive, pulled together an impressive roster of tech executives to advocate for immigration reform.


To the U.S. technology industry, there's a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business.

According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • 65% of organizations hiring full-time employees say they are having difficulties recruiting for specific job openings.
  • Half of organizations said candidates do not have the right skills for the job, while 42% said candidates lacked the needed work experience.

As former Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez tells me, if we want to get the country back on the growth path we need, we need to revisit immigration. He would know, after-all in 2004 he was the person that Fortune Magazine dubbed “The Man That Fixed Kellog.”

Direct download: 05-19-13_SECGUTIERREZPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EDT

This week on PowerTalk not only am I excited to talk to someone who is truly informed and that means a great conversation to take you behind the scenes and in the know, but  we get an answer to a question that many have been wondering if not asking - based on what we’ve seen over the last few years, how would President Obama fare if he were the CEO of a publicly traded company?
Answering that question is none other than Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor in Chief of Forbes Media. I’m sure many of you have seen Steve on TV, read his widely followed Fact & Comment column in Forbes magazine or on Forbes.com or consumed his book “Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets Are Moral and Big Government Isn’t.”
As you might expect Steve a fantastic guest and we cover a lot of ground -- the U.S. economy, what’s going on in Europe, growth vs. austerity, tax reform, Obamacare, and big government. We also touch on how Steve has revamped the business model at Forbes given the challenges faced by the traditional publishing business model. It’s a great conversation, and I think  you’ll really want to hear is Steve’s answer to that question and a number of others.

Direct download: 05-12-13_STEVEFORBESPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11am EDT

In recent weeks, we’ve heard from a number of cable companies like Comcast (CMCSA), Charter Communications (CHTR), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and others. All in all, it’s been a message that reinforces the increasing degree of what I call the Connected Society - WiFi, the Cloud, high speed Internet and on demand programming. Mix in the shift toward smartphones and tablets, and we find the notion of appointment TV viewing is nearly gone save for sporting events. 

Those cable companies are battling with mobile operators, such as AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and others for consumer dollars. As they do this, the operators have made it more expensive for consumers to utilize their services even though new technologies have made it cheaper for those companies to deliver said services. Just this past December, Charter Communications instituted a price increase on its high-speed Internet service. At Comcast, price increases on video service and customers upgrading to HD packages and digital video recorders (DVRs) helped boost the company’s first quarter profit by 17%.

For those wondering why I’m up on all of this, the growing Connected Society is a key  part of my Always On, Always Connected PowerTrend

Joining me on PowerTalk to discuss why this and what it means is Susan P. Crawford author of the new book “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.” Ms. Crawford is a law professor who served as special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy. 

It’s a terrific conversation and not only is Susan an ace on the subject matter but doesn’t pull any punches. Some of the key insights that Susan and I discussed on this edition of PowerTalk include:

  • How after years of deregulation and a wave of mergers, there has been little to competition nor adequate oversight when it comes to high-speed Internet access.
  • Verizon Wireless and AT&T, who together account for about two-thirds of U.S. wireless subscribers, can raise prices with impunity and often appear to act in lockstep. Their average revenues per household or per user continue to climb. By comparison, in Europe, where wireless carriers face much more competition, average revenues per user have fallen by 15% over the last few years.
  • Despite high-speed Internet access offerings from AT&T and Verizon -- Uverse and Fios, respectively -- those two companies have stopped expanding these offerings and are focusing on their wireless services. As Susan points out, this leaves the cable companies and Comcast in particular in the cat bird seat when it comes to high speed Internet access and related services. The industry leader, Comcast continues to invest in network infrastructure to ensure product leadership in video and high-speed internet, as well as the expansion of new services that generate attractive returns like business services and XFINITY Home.
  • From an investor’s perspective, Comcast has several competitive moats about its business especially since the purchase of NBC Universal, While many see Comcast’s competitors being the other cable companies as well as AT&T and Verizon, Susan points out and I agree with her that post Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal its real competitors are companies like The Walt Disney Company (DIS), a content company that owns theme parks and ABC; Viacom (VIA), which owns CBS; and News Corp. (NWS).


Direct download: 05-08-13_SUSANCRAWFORDPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:10pm EDT

Welcome back to PowerTalk - I’m your host Chris Versace and I’m taking you behind the scenes and in the know with conversations I’m having each week with CEOs and key business. If your new to PowerTalk, we’re going deeper into some of the key issues of the day to help sharpen your view when it comes to investing. 
Last week we got the latest rash of economic data that shows that while the U.S. economy is not falling off a cliff, it’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. In recent weeks, we’ve gotten figures that point to more people falling our of the work force, heard more about cyber attacks and watched the tragedy in Boston while the issue of gun control percolates in Washington. 
We’ve also started to realize what the true cost of Obamacare will be when its fully implement in 2014. Even The New York Times ran a story recently with the headline “Democratic Senators Tell White House of Concerns About Health Care Law Rollout”
It also seems that many across the pond in the Eurozone are realizing that austerity is not the solution. After years of insisting that the primary cure for Europe’s malaise is to slash spending, the champions of austerity, most notably Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, find themselves under intensified pressure to back off unpopular remedies and find some way to restore faltering growth to the world’s largest economic bloc.
Joining me this week to make some sense of all of this is Dr. John Lott, economist and author of the new book “At The Brink.”  In his new tome, John talks about how the Obama stimulus was the most expensive failure in history, why debt will continue to grow under Obama and why you can expect soaring health care costs.
It’s a book that Kevin Hassett, Director of Economic Policy Studies and senior fellow  at the American Enterprise Institute says is “chock full of sober, fact driven analysis that is must reading for anyone who wants a glimpse of our near future.”
Not only is it that but John Lott has a number of charts and graphics that crystalize the central points. After hearing that you may be excited to see the book, but just wait until you hear what he tells me.
Direct download: 04-28-13_JOHNLOTTPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18pm EDT