Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Story ideas: Earnings reports, Twinkies, faux hot dogs

July 2, 2013

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By Flickr user Ayleen Gaspar

We’re at the start of a fresh month and July always manages to serve up some antidotes to the summer doldrums; this year should be no exception for business and financial writers.

Once we’ve recovered from the Fourth of July, International Chicken Wing Week (which begins July 5) and World Kiss Day (July 6), there are plenty of other seasonal and substantive subjects from which to choose.

By the way, if you’re chafing at the typical fireworks/barbecue/flag sales Independence Day stories, in some circles July 4 also is celebrated as Independence from Meat Day.  A look at the local market for faux hot dogs, TVP burgers and other non-animal grill fare might be an interesting twist; a recent report from the market research firm Mintel says that U.S. demand for meat alternative products reached $553 million in 2012, up 8 percent from 2010.  What are local grocers, food producers, artisanal / cottage food shops, farmers markets and others doing to fill that demand, and are there any interesting novelty products to satisfy traditional holiday tastes?  For more background, here’s a 2012 NPR report, “Meat alternative market beefs up.”  And if you’re sticking to traditional menus, this recent CNBC story explains why this week’s burgers might be pricier than last year’s.

Here’s a look ahead at some topics to keep in mind. Some we’ll circle back to with longer blog posts, but this riff on July-oriented ideas should help you fill out your calendar no matter what your beats:

Earnings: 

Aluminum producer ALCOA will report on July 8, kicking off the second-quarter earnings season, which many pundits already are characterizing with terms like “stinker” and “train wreck.”  Now is the time to check with companies on your beat for their earnings announcement and conference call schedule, and to try to leverage the events into personal interviews with executives you don’t normally encounter.  If you’re on any sort of consumer beat, start pondering a markets reaction story.  I’ll be back with a lengthier blog post on the economic import of earnings season next week.

Twinkies return:

The popular crème-filled sponge cakes will be ready and waiting in their little cellophane wrappers July 15, according its new private equity owners.  You can use this as a springboard to a variety of story angles, from Twinkie substitutes (are any local bakeries serving up lookalikes?  Here’s an LA Times story on imposters like Bingles) to now-defunct local snack and food favorites to any other local companies that might have been snatched up, revamped and ultimately resold by private investment and turnaround firms.

New state budgets and laws: 

If you haven’t already, take a look at how new state budgets (including tax expenditures/tax breaks for businesses) and new laws may affect consumers and small business owners.  Here, for example, is a round-up from Florida that could be mined for biz stories on the now-banned sale of bongs to wastewater treatment to street-legal golf-cart-type vehicles to optometrists dispensing drugs.

Naturists and nudism: 

OK, so it’s not your everyday business-section centerpiece.  But with July boasting both Nude Recreation Week (July 8-14, according to The Naturist Society) as well as International Nude Day (July 14) it seems worth investigating the popularity of naturist/nudist resorts and gathering places.  They are far more plentiful than I would have suspected, shows a ZIP code search at the American Association for Nude Recreation website.  NBCNews.com reports that “Nude travelers gear up to take it all off this summer” and quotes TripAdvisor surveys indicating that interest in nude beaches is up.   Why not look into clothing optional/nudist/naturist resorts as a tourism angle in your area, and what amenities it takes to keep them competitive?   Here’s a CNN article on the best skinny-dipping spots worldwide, which sets the bar pretty for high.

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