Reynolds Weekly: April 15, 2019

by April 15, 2019

Looking for business stories to cover? We’ve put together a list of resources and story ideas you can use in your reporting. (Photo credit to Pexels)

Income-Share Agreements Replace Student Loans

Instead of taking out loans, students may be able to make a deal with investors by promising part of their future pay.

With this Income-Share Agreement (ISA), college students agree to pay investors a percent of their future income, usually capped at a certain amount and timespan. Although this is a feature of for-profit colleges, public universities (notably, Purdue University) are starting to take this on.

How to start your reporting:

Critics compare this practice to indentured servitude, as well as raise concerns on regulation. Some wonder if it’s even viable, as not all college students graduate with a job afterwards. Check out the math on this in Forbes.

Although ISAs typically don’t make people pay if they’re not working or at a certain income threshold, there are many drawbacks, such as not being able to repay early and cutting into your take-home pay, NerdWallet warns. There are also no set consumer-protection laws.

Are any universities or students in your coverage area involved in these ISA programs? What was their experience? The drawbacks? The advantages? Which degree programs would be viable (or not) for an ISA? (For example, STEM versus liberal arts) How does this factor into student debt? (Americans owe $1.2 trillion in higher-education debt.)

Some Like it Hot (Topic)

The Hot Topic you remember from 10 years ago might be a little different from the one today.

While retailers are experiencing the highest amount of shutdowns in malls in seven years, Hot Topic’s brick-and-mortar setup is still doing well. Hot Topic is surviving by adding mainstream appeal to the mix, not dominating it, but ushering in more casual fans, or those in pursuit of Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Riverdale, or Supernatural gear.

Sycamore Partners acquired Hot Topic in 2013. The store is still a hotbed for fans and has 676 franchises across North America, an uptick from 2014.

How to start your reporting:

Are there any Hot Topic stores in your area? What other places sell merchandise for fans of pop culture?  Is there a difference between the spending power of casual and passionate fans?

Convention season is coming, particularly San Diego Comic Con, which rakes in thousands of attendees and hundreds of millions of dollars, making up one-fourth of the city’s annual tourism revenue. New York Comic Con has made over $100 million in the past. Are there any events planned for fans of pop culture in your area?

Take a look at specific conventions, such as for anime or certain shows. For example, there’s Gallifrey One for Doctor Who fans, or ClexaCon, created in 2017 for female LGBTQIA+ fans after a popular queer character from The 100 was killed off.

How do conventions make revenue, besides from selling tickets? Do they have deals with hotels or restaurants? What about galleries and merchandise from fan artists and creators? Copyright law might be particularly interesting to look at in your reporting.

Subscription Services for Summer Blockbusters

When MoviePass gained popularity in 2017, many thought it’s subscription service was too good to be true. Movie fans could see unlimited movies at any theater for $10 a month. Turns out, it was too good to be true. MoviePass shut down several times and eventually changed its subscription model.

Several other competitors have come along since then. With the summer blockbuster season just around the corner, the New York Times featured several of these services and what they have to offer.

How to start your reporting:

These services come with benefits that can be localized to your coverage area. Are they popular with moviegoers in your audience? Which ones offer the most in your area? Have local theaters seen a boost in business thanks to subscriptions services?

Netflix and other streaming services have a tight grip on what consumers are watching these days, but movie theaters have not necessarily gone to the wayside. Check out our recent post on covering the business of movie theaters.

Subscription services continue to grow in popularity as well. From prepared meals to personalized clothing, there’s no end to what consumers can buy with these services. You can find more ideas for your coverage in our post on the business of subscription boxes.