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Guinness Is Making An IPA

The brand famous for its creamy, black stout is going hoppy to compete with America’s craft brewers.

Guinness

Guinness may be synonymous with the creamy, black stout from Ireland, but the struggling brand has been branching into new territory in the U.S. After introducing Blonde American Lager last year, the brewer is now launching an India pale ale to compete with the country's growing craft brewers.

The new Nitro IPA, a “hop-forward” beer brewed with five kinds of hops in Dublin, is canned with the same little nitrogen-filled ball (which they call a “widget,” pictured above) found in regular Guinness that the company says helps to create a thick, creamy head. It will be launching in the U.S. this month.

Here’s what the new IPA looks like next to regular Guinness.

Here's what the new IPA looks like next to regular Guinness.

Guinness

The IPA is a product of the Brewers Project, a group of Guinness brewers “charged with exploring, inventing and perfecting new beers.” So far, they have released Dublin Porter, West Indies Porter, and a lager called Hop House 13.

This group of experimenters represents Guinness' efforts to look beyond its classic products for new avenues of growth. Ad Age reported this summer that Guinness will support Brewers Project beers in the U.S. with television and digital ads.

American consumers seem interested in trying new varieties of Guinness. According to Diageo, the London-based beverage company that owns the brand, Guinness sales globally were flat, but in the U.S. sales increased 3% in the fiscal year ending June 30 — due to strong sales of the new Blonde American Lager. It was a turning point for the brand, which had suffered negative sales in North America the two years before that.

Yet sales of regular Guinness Draught in the U.S. remained weak in the last year due to competition from craft beers. The decline is not something Diageo could ignore — the U.S. represents about 16% of Guinness' global sales by volume, reported the WSJ.

Guinness is clearly pursuing the craft beer drinker with its new IPA. Already, IPA is the most popular style of craft beer, accounting for for 21% of volume sales of craft beer last year in 2014 after growing 47%, according to data from the Brewers Association.


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BuzzFeed – Business

Rupert Murdoch’s Education Company Will Stop Making Tablets

Students using Amplify's tablets.

Amplify.com

Amplify, the education company owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, will stop selling the tablet computers that were once a central part of the company's plan to shake up the education industry, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak with the press.

Despite an almost $ 1 billion investment by News Corp, Amplify has struggled to gain a foothold in education, which its CEO, Joel Klein, had described as an industry ripe for disruption. Its bright-orange, “ruggedized” tablets were often at the root of its troubles: plagued by technical glitches, the first batch of them was recalled after a high-profile $ 15 million launch in Greensboro, NC.

Ultimately, few districts bought the devices, and the head of Amplify's tablet business left the company earlier this year. News that Amplify was giving up on the tablets was first reported by Bloomberg.

The devices were Amplify's first product. Billing itself as a hybrid technology-and-education business, Amplify built the tablets to work hand-in-hand with its own digital curriculum.

The company's talk has always been big: Klein said in an interview with BuzzFeed News last year that he saw Amplify's tech savvy enabling it to compete with the education industry's textbook giants, Pearson, Houghton-Mifflin, and McGraw-Hill. The company's “educational DNA,” Klein said, gave it an advantage over companies like Apple and Google, whose devices now dominate many digital classrooms.

“There’s a sense that we’re doing something very big and very exciting,” Klein said last April.

Amplify's struggles show that in an industry as entrenched as education, disruption, even for well-funded companies, is difficult. Despite talk of a “digital revolution” underway in the education system, the three largest textbook companies remain dominant, continuing to win massive contracts with large and bureaucratic school systems that often prefer to stick with the products they have used for decades.

The company will continue to focus on its digital curriculum products, which have features like embedded videos and work on a variety of devices, the source said. It will also keep pushing a newer line of assessment tools. School districts already using the devices will continue to be serviced by Amplify, the company said in a statement.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Here Are The Companies Making Your Airbnb Feel More Like A Hotel

What began as crashing on a stranger’s futon has become a industry-swallowing juggernaut. But as the service matures, more customers expect the fancy linens and amenities found at hotels — and a group of startups are emerging to provide just that.

Chris Weeks / Getty Images

In the old days, when you booked a hotel room you knew roughly what you would be getting: a certain amount of cleanliness, amenities, services, and comfort, depending on how much you're willing to pay. And as Airbnb gradually takes over the market, a new ecosystem of service providers is emerging, aiming to bring a degree of order and predictability to the world of crashing in a stranger's apartment.

One of Airbnb's triumphs has been creating a fairly trustworthy layer of user reviews atop of a vast pool of rooms for hire that range from some guy's couch to a serviced penthouse. As a general rule, users can book a well-rated room from a host with lots of positive feedback and feel fairly comfortable that things will work out. But the company, which expects to pull in half a billion dollars of revenue from an estimated 1.5 million listings by the end of this year, still offers a mixed bag of experiences, and many believe the semi-chaotic system will gradually become standardized, much like the hotel industry it is gradually swallowing.

Enter companies like Guesty, Keycafe, Proprly, City CoPilot, SkyBell, Smart Host, and Beyond Pricing. A growing army of entrepreneurs aim to drive the standardization of Airbnb and the wider industry, offering everything from cleaning services, key exchange, and property management to a physical concierge desk for Airbnb listings in a given neighborhood. Beyond just piggybacking on Airbnb's growth, these companies hope to be the standard-setters for a new industry that looks set to boom long into the future, and will come under more and more pressure to offer a reliable experience, and one that complies with local laws.

“With Airbnb there's going to have to be some increased regulation on the rooms that are on their site and that consumers are using,” Dan Wasiolek, a hospitality analyst with Morningstar, told BuzzFeed News. He noted that New York recently increased the ranks of its Airbnb legality task force to ensure the quality and safety of Airbnb rooms offered in the city remained at adequate levels. “I think that makes all the sense in the world,” he said.

While the concept of standardizing Airbnb listings the way hotels are grouped by star ratings may be appealing, the pure volume of listings and users makes it a challenge. In other words, how can you create order and standardization among a pool of listings that is swelling to well beyond the million mark?

“They need to have standards, and Airbnb knows that,” said Randy Engler, a former eBay executive and frequent Airbnb host who founded property management startup Proprly in 2013 when he recognized a need for better guest experience among Airbnb hosts.

“The standard of cleaning and room experience, in hotels it's binary, it's either up to those standards or it's not, and we're trying to bring that to Airbnb, we're trying to get that on listings. If you go and check into a W or Ritz you don't even have to think about it.”

Similar challenges have played out at Uber and other ride-hailing companies, where the original promise of “ride-sharing” — an app-enabled version of carpooling, person to person, for a low price — has given way to a much more commercial product, with common standards for vehicles, drivers, prices, and service. It's easy to see the so-called “home sharing” business going the same way.

Airbnb would not comment for this story. But a number of these startup founders told BuzzFeed News that the company is aware of the need for quality metrics on its listings that go beyond just guest reviews. Engler attributes many bad Airbnb user experiences — messy rooms, complicated key pickup rituals, canceled bookings — to its astonishingly fast growth. The startups around Airbnb hope to become indispensable to the company and its users as the market matures.

“When you're growing that fast things are breaking,” Engler said. “That's the thread that is really challenging, because a lot of hosts, it's not that they're bad hosts, it's just if you've never stayed in a nice hotel, how do you have any concept of what it's like to stay in a nice hotel?”

Mariah Summers / BuzzFeed News


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BuzzFeed – Business

The Demise Of Making It “Facebook Official”

What was once a relationship milestone is now a cheesy relic of the aughts. According to a BuzzFeed News poll, about 40% of twentysomethings refuse to put their relationship status on Facebook.

BuzzFeed

There was a time, perhaps not so long ago, when two tech-savvy humans would meet, mash their parts together, fall in love, and make a display of their blissful commitment to the world: making it “Facebook official.”

People fretted over that step, agonized and analyzed over when was the right time to ask their partner about changing their status to “in a relationship.” In many ways, it was the digital version of the traditionally analog process of “defining the relationship” and thus the source of late-night TV show jokes and wine-soaked goss-seshes among besties. It was the new symbol of how our anxieties over our digital lives impact our real ones. The most important website of this century had given birth to a completely new step in the millennia-old tradition of finding another human to dock genitals with for a few decades until you die.

But it seems “Facebook official” isn't what it used to be. This week, BuzzFeed News ran a poll, “How Do You Use Facebook's Relationship Status?,” asking people whether or not they display their relationship status on their Facebook profile, and some of the social etiquette around it.

A few notes about the data: As many as 80,000 people responded to the 16 questions (People tend to drop out of these polls: 80,000 answered the first question, but only 40,000 answered the last). The last question was about age demographic, which as you would imagine would significantly impact relationship status. Only 11% of respondents were over 30, and 14% were high-school age (14 to 18). The other 75% were 19 to 29 years old. So consider that these results are MOSTLY about twentysomethings. However, each question is not broken out by age.

Also, please keep in mind that this poll was in no way scientific. Take it for what it is: a large sampling of Facebook users who self-reported their habits in a BuzzFeed News poll designed to be entertaining.

Qualifications aside, here were some of the most surprising findings:

However, there's a little bit of wavering here. For example, 34% of respondents said “Ew, never” to the question of 'how long into a relationship do you change your status?' A few questions later, though, it jumped to 43% saying changing their status is something they'd never do. Later, 41% said that even in a serious relationship, they don't put their status.

I blame this discrepancy on poor poll design by yours truly. My attempt to make the poll fun to take turned out to be at odds with creating an accurate poll. It essentially asks the same question a few times, but with differently worded answers, and sometimes more middle-ground, nuanced answers. So sue me, Quinnipiac.


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BuzzFeed – Tech