Consumer Electronics Industry Set for Bounce-Back

June 15, 2009

A new survey by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), reported by TWICE,  shows that sales in the consumer electronics industry should be on the upswing by 2010. Although sales will be down 0.5% this year, CEA is projecting a 1% growth in the third quarter and 1.5% growth in the fourth. They anticipate a 2.9% growth in 2010. The CEA is estimating that sales will bottom out during this quarter and then start their upswing.

In its Mid-Year CE Market Update, CEA focused on the flat panel TV business. They reported that individual manufacturers, distributors and retailers have been keeping lean inventories, but that overall shipments are up. Consumers also seem to be “trading down” in flat panel size, opting for the more affordable sub-40 inch models.

Several categories that seem to be on the rise are e-readers, netbooks and mini notebooks. CEA is estimating that 1.127 million e-reader will be shipped this year and by 2012 6.46 million will be sold that that $99 prices for e-books is possible by then. Screens that are larger, in color and have touch capabilities will become more popular and may also feature video and animation.

As a company that has numerous clients in this space, we are hoping that the CEA reports are accurate.

Any manufacturers, retailers or dealers out there seeing this growth take place, or projecting it to take place in their businesses?

Posted by: Lauren

What Happens When You Have a Degree, Debt and No Job

June 2, 2009

I got lucky – I never really entered the job market. In fact, I had already begun interning here at Caster before I walked across the stage donning my cap and gown and was moved into an entry level position only months later. Like I said, lucky. I don’t take it for granted, especially now as I watch the class of 2009 step out into the worst economy most of us have ever encountered. Having spent four years living on loans only to be faced with the possibility of no jobs, no steady income and no health benefits is the sad reality for many of these grads. And the loans – my god, the loans, well, everyone has them it seems.

The Boston Herald reported over the weekend the prediction given by two prominent higher education experts that the next financial bubble in the US to burst will be in colleges and universities.   It seems that tuition rates, which increase at seemingly exponentially high rates every year, are regularly hiked way more than inflation.  So people have to borrow more now than ever to even have a chance at a BA and then graduate with more loans than their degree and subsequent job market can support.  This coupled with the seemingly never ending stream of student loans, largely backed by the US government, make it a disaster waiting to happen.  Or burst. 

Smaller colleges could go bankrupt if the majority of these loans are defaulted on, as so many of their student body rely on them to pay their tuition and fees.   We’re sending people to school on credit – who is actually paying for the education?  If upon graduation, no one can get a job due to the failing economy – who is paying back these loans?

The question is a scary one.  Analysts at the College Board are predicting between 20 and 40 schools could close this year and are warning that the layoffs at prestigious schools like Harvard and MIT are only the beginning. 

What is the solution?  I made some decisions recently regarding my next steps in higher ed and it seems many students may follow in my path – pursuing degrees online.  Once thought of as invalid, online degrees have made significant strides in gaining recognition as legitimate ways to earn a degree, particularly a Masters.  The program I am enrolled in is less expensive than my Bachelors and allows me to continue working in my current position. 

I think the real solution lies in the value we put on education in general in this country and how much we’re willing to sacrifice in order to compete in the global economy.  If the next generation can’t afford to be educated at higher learning institutions, how will our collective knowledge and innovation ever be on par with the European Union, for example, where the majority of their students receive a free college education?  I’d say we need nothing sort of a revolution.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter

Ad Guy Says PR Is More Relevant Than Ever

April 16, 2009

Next time you need to justify what you do as a public relations professional, point your judge to this article… which was written by an advertising executive, no less. It’s a terrific, inspiring, timely read.

Posted by Joe Paone

A Dose of Dilbert on a Freezing Tuesday

December 23, 2008

Anyone who needs to buy a last-second gift for a professional that will bring joy 365 days a year (or at least a snicker a day), should definitely consider a Dilbert flip calendar. My boy Scott Adams (total stranger) captures the office culture as well or better than any blog or British sitcom ripoff and it’s truly a treat to share a few minutes each morning with the Elbonians, his pointy-haired boss and of course Dogbert and Catbert.

Pick one up at or find one at the mall.

In honor of CES 2009 product launches and the our toilet bowl economy (and because I am running low on original thoughts), here is the comic from this past Saturday.


Ode to Feeling Better

December 18, 2008

I’ve been searching for a blog topic all day when the lovely Becca handed me this month’s copy of Ode Magazine.  For those not familiar, Ode is a relatively new publication focused on the community of “intelligent optimists” who strive to make the world a better place.  Idealistic?  You bet.  But as I scanned the pages, I stumbled across the feature article – “In Praise of Intelligent Optimists” written by Jurriaan Kamp.  (I searched for this article online but it looks like their website is still featuring the December issue articles.)  As I scanned the article, it is this paragraph that struck me

It’s at times like these that optimism is more essential than ever.  It’s easy to be an optimist when things are going fine.  But optimism is a quality anyone can practice in every circumstance, especially during difficult times.  Optimism isn’t about denying reality; it’s about creating a better reality than you’re facing….The Intelligent Optimist knows a half-empty glass is also half full.  And she knows more can be gained by focusing on what she has than by focusing on what she’s missing.  Intelligent Optimists know that for every problem there is (at least the beginning of) a solution, and that the search for that solution can be inspirational in itself.  At the same time, they’re not afraid of negative thoughts, which they realize help them stay realistic.

The truth is, we are facing a very troublesome time.  It’s hard to escape the bad news – it’s truly everywhere.  You have to dig for a ray of hope or a glimmer of a positive announcement in every newspaper, magazine and online publication.  So what do you do?  It is easy to be a pessimist.  A pessimist never has to take risks or be afraid of failure because essentially, the inevitability of failure is their M.O.  But to be optimistic despite facing terrible, terrible odds?  That takes true courage.

I like to think of myself as an idealist but even I’ve been having trouble finding the bright side.  But I know I need to because progress?  Well, it never comes from thinking failure is inevitable.

Tomorrow is the last day of our food drive.  I wanted to do something, anything, for the people who can’t afford to feed their families during the holidays because as bad as you might think you have it, someone always has it worse.  So on Monday, I’ll drive to the Food Bank in Providence and know that our donations won’t fix everything.  But it’s a start to fixing something.  It’s a start to being optimistic in a very pessimistic time.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter

Tips for Survival

May 23, 2008

As gas prices inch to $4.00/gallon in the Northeast and $5.00/gallon in other parts of the country (I’m looking at you California), there’s never been a better time to conserve fuel.  And since every gallon of gas burned generates the carbon equivalent of a 20-pound bag of charcoal briquettes, conserving fuel not only helps your wallet but also saves the environment.  (Didn’t you know?  Green is the new black?  Please don’t punch me.) 

So after perusing the internet, I’ve found some handy little tips for those people who find the commute to work taking a toll on their budget.  And because I’m such a nice person, I’m going to pass them on to you.

  1. Be a careful (read: good) driver – Don’t slam on the brakes or gun the gas pedal and try to avoid speeding.  I know, I know.  You’re late – aren’t we all?  But every 5 mph you go above 60 mph is the equivalent to paying an additional $0.10 per gallon.  True story.  So those of us who are perpetually late for our lives and speeding to make up for lost time – it may be costing us. 
  2. Keep your engine tuned – Keeping your car in good shape is a good general rule of thumb anyway, it will reduce your matainence cost overall if you change your oil regularly and make sure your engine is running properly.  But it can also improve your gas mileage by an average of 4% – so go and schedule that appointment at your local Speed-ee Quick Lube Car Repair. 
  3. Buy cheaper gas – I know, I know.  What a genius idea – revolutionary, really.  But gas prices can vary several cents by region and make a difference in the overall price to fill up your tank.  In the town I used to reside, gas was always about $0.08 cheaper than near our offices.  Gas Buddy can help you find the cheapest place in your area for regular unleaded.  (If you need super deluxe gas, you’re on your own.) 
  4. Drive less – What’s that?  I should get the Nobel Peace Prize for brilliant, innovative ways to save on gas?  You’re too kind.  But truthfully, we all rely on our cars to take us everywhere and it’s rare that we consider our other options for transportation, no matter how high gas prices become.   When I lived in Washington, DC it was not only more cost efficient but also entirely less stressful to take the metro into the city rather than wasting precious gas sitting in traffic on the Capital Beltway.  Perhaps you don’t have a great public transportation system in your area (cough, Rhode Island) – but there’s always carpooling to work with people making the same trip and splitting gas costs. 

Perhaps this list won’t make a huge difference on your overall fuel bill the next time you stop at the pumps – but desperate times call for desperate measures people.  And you know, there’s always those things hanging below your waist called legs.  I hear those things are pretty handy for transportation.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Posted by: Ashley