(5 Dumbest article updated with new information on Bank of America resuming foreclosures, a report on Yahoo turning the bidding tables on AOL and Starbucks testing alcohol in stores.) 5. Super-Size My Foreclosure!
When U.S. mortgage lenders saw the housing market going down the tubes and a wave of foreclosures headed their way, they of course staffed up with the most highly qualified accountants and mortgage processors they could find. So qualified, in fact, they found an honorary name befitting their learned stature: Burger King Kids.
4. AOL and Yahoo!: Because the Last Merger Went So Well
3. Green Energy = Jobs! We Think!
The reality is that many of the U.S. green energy companies are facing significant challenges. A recent report from Vice President Joe Biden's office highlighted the jobs that companies in the green energy sector are creating as part of the federal stimulus funds they have received -- but raised as many questions as it answered. Take Beacon Power and its 20 megawatt innovative flywheel energy storage plant in Stephentown, New York, which will create 20 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs. On the same day that Beacon Power put out a press release heralding its inclusion in Biden's list, the company also announced that it had received a letter from the Nasdaq Stock Market that its common shares failed to comply with the $1.00 minimum bid price required for continued listing. Beacon Power shares, currently trading at 35 cents, haven't eclipsed the $1 mark in more than a year. Just this week the company said it was denied a second loan commitment from the federal government. Wind power was another focus of the Biden report, and yet, 2010 has been one of the worst years on record for the U.S. land-based wind power market. The American Wind Energy Association's 2010 mid-year report said 700 megawatts of wind power were installed in the U.S. during the second quarter, bringing the total up to more than 1.2 gigawatts installed at the mid-year point. That's 57% below the 2008 level, and 71% below the 2009 installed base. The AWEA projected that wind power would decline somewhere between 25% and 45% this year. The pain in the wind power sector was certainly reflected in the stock price of Recovery Act project company Broadwind Energy ( BWEN), down more than 70% this year, and that's after a recent rally in shares. The reality is that the headlines over the past year have all been about solar companies shipping jobs elsewhere. Save for First Solar ( FSLR), which on Thursday, announced a manufacturing expansion that will create 600 jobs in the United States, there's been something of an eclipse in solar job growth. Evergreen Solar ( ESLR) moved its manufacturing operations to China in a bid to remain competitive. Energy Conversion Devices ( ENER) recently announced that it was shipping more than 100 jobs from its Michigan plant to Mexico. TheStreet Says: We love green energy as much as the next polar bear, but nobody said it was the WPA.
2. Huuuuuu....luuuuuuu??? Where Are You, Hulu?
If Hulu is hoping that it's $9.99-a-month subscription service will help it fight off other video providers, the GE ( GE)/NBC, Disney ( DIS)/ABC and News Corp. ( NWS)/Fox joint venture should know it's already way behind on the cards. Hulu Plus is accessible on Samsung TV and Blu-ray players and will be available on certain Sony and Vizio products this fall. Netflix is also there. Hulu Plus just returned to Sony's PlayStation 3 after blacking out its service there last year and plans to jump on Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox 360 next year. Netflix is already on both systems and the Nintendo Wii. Hulu says Hulu Plus service for Roku and TiVo devices is "coming soon." Netflix will eagerly await its arrival. Hulu's platform deficit is what makes the service's absence from Google TV particularly egregious. Google TV takes an enormous step toward full media integration -- which one assumes Hulu would embrace as a Web video provider. Still, Hulu never acts like a Web video provider but, rather, like an old, withered network exec clinging to his product with a bony, wrinkled, arthritically frozen hand. It clings to its ad-driven model even as it places a monthly subscription fee atop it. That approach assumes Hulu's content is so rare and inherently valuable that platform producers should kowtow to its demands. Hulu has a wealth of content and, to users who've taken advantage of the service to catch up on their favorite series, it's an asset. It is, however, one asset among many that such platforms as Google's TV and Android products, Apple's TV and iproducts and entire lines by Samsung, Panasonic and Philips can accommodate. While Hulu Plus operates under the old network premise that we'll provide it and you'll like it, device manufacturers are flipping the content equation on its head when it comes to Web video and spelling out the terms. TheStreet Says:Hulu's handlers just need to swallow their pride and realize one thing: Nobody ever got rich by doing nothing.
1. Starbucks: Slow Steam Ahead
No doubt, Starbucks needs to address a growing quality issue, and this may be a good way to go about it. That said, spending years insisting baristas become the Terminators of the coffee world and then one day asking them to, oh yeah, be more human is an example of the identity crisis that seems to plague Starbucks. The company wants its customers to stay and spend more, but its campaign to produce baristas that are efficiency machines has jumped the counter and infected the larger atmosphere. The result is anything but cafe-like. Check out the Starbucks on Broadway near Wall St. on any given day and you'll see baristas juggling a lineup of eight or more drinks while both blenders roar behind them. After shouting your order, the cashiers engage in their own wind sprints to grab cookies and pastries from the display case while another blasts breakfast sandwiches in an oven and doles out oatmeal. Starbucks is going a step further. The company is now testing a new format that offers wine, beer and cheese. So desperate are they to get away from the frenzied vibe they've created in their stores and to capture some later hour sales that they've gone so far as to downplay the Starbucks branding in the test locations. But the majority of Starbucks' customer are being asked, on a daily basis, to ignore the chaos. Stay. Enjoy the free Wi-Fi. Listen to the latest indie band, if you can hear it over the blenders and the order shouting. Oh, would you like to try our instant coffee? And here's your $5 latte, in a to-go cup. Always in a to-go cup. TheStreet Says: Is Starbucks jumping the shark? Or is that just us, jumping the line.