In the news this week: weakening BlackBerry sales, new guidelines for advertising to children, and a Facebook page that seeks to return items to tornado victims.
RIM Warns of Weak BlackBerry Sales
Research In Motion Ltd. warned of slack sales for its BlackBerry smartphones in the current quarter, sending its shares plunging. The warning is fresh evidence that RIM is struggling to compete with Apple Inc. and other smartphone makers, especially in the U.S. market. For the quarter ending in May, RIM said it now expects per-share earnings of $1.30 to $1.37, down from the $1.47 to $1.55 projected last month. RIM also said it expects shipments of BlackBerry phones for the quarter to be at the lower end of the range of 13.5 million to 14.5 million it forecast in March. The company said the lower shipments and a shift to lower-priced models will result in revenue slightly below the $5.2 billion to $5.6 billion estimated forecast in late March. RIM said it expects to achieve full-year earnings per share of about $7.50, anticipating "strong revenue growth" in the third and fourth quarters of the fiscal year. In March, it forecast it full year earnings would be in excess of that target.
U.S. Seeks New Limits on Food Ads for Children
The federal government proposed sweeping new guidelines on Thursday that could push the food industry to overhaul how it advertises cereal, soda pop, snacks, restaurant meals and other foods to children.
Citing an epidemic of childhood obesity, regulators are taking aim at a range of tactics used to market foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children, including the use of cartoon characters like Toucan Sam, the brightly colored Froot Loops pitchman, who appears in television commercials and online games as well as on cereal boxes.
Regulators are asking food makers and restaurant companies to make a choice: make your products healthier or stop advertising them to youngsters.
The guidelines, released by the Federal Trade Commission, encompass a broad range of marketing efforts, including television and print ads, Web sites, online games that act as camouflaged advertisements, social media, product placements in movies, the use of movie characters in cross-promotions and fast-food children’s meals. The inclusion of digital media, such as product-based games, represents one of the government’s strongest efforts so far to address the extension of children’s advertising into the online world, which children’s health advocates say is a growing problem.
The guidelines are meant to be voluntary, but companies are likely to face heavy pressure to adopt them. Companies that choose to take part would have five to 10 years to bring their products and marketing into compliance.
Facebook page seeks to return items to tornado victims
A group on Facebook has created a page to try to link victims of Thursday's tornadoes with photos, documents and other personal effects blown away in the storm.
The page, called "Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes," lets members post photographs of things they've found, along with their e-mail addresses, in the hopes that items of value may be reunited with their owners.
The missing items were presumably blown away by the storms that tore through Alabama and other Southeast states late Wednesday and early Thursday, killing more than 270 people and devastating entire towns and neighborhoods.