comScore Reveals the Top 50 Websites in May

Leading company in measurements of the online world comScore released today the monthly analysis of the activity on the top 50 US websites in May. The results are based on the company’s measuring service Media Metrix.

The analysis reveals that car rental websites had their traffic boosted by 16 percent, as 6.3 million people with plans for summer travel visited websites in this category, while Mother’s Day drove up traffic by millions for websites selling e-cards, gifts and flowers.

According to Media Metrix executive vice president, Jeff Hackett, Americans looked for gifts, flowers and e-cards for Mother’s Day, car rentals for their vacation plans and furnishing and consumer electronics sales on Memorial Day.

Gift, flower and e-card websites had close to 28 million visitors, an increase of 15 percent from April. scored the first position in May, posting a nine percent increase, to 5.4 million visitors. On the second position came American Greeting, which recorded about five million visitors.

With an increase of 125 percent, ProFlowers is the website with the most significant month-over-month gain, followed by 1-800-Flowers, which was up 88 percent to 2.7 million visitors and, with an increase of 85 percent, FTD, which recorded two million visitors.

E-card websites posted a 13 percent increase, to 17.5 million visitors. The first place was landed by Evite, up 32 percent to 4.9 million visitors. MyFunCards posted a 15 percent monthly increase, reaching three million visitors. The fourth website in the top five was AG Interactive, with 2.8 million visitors. The fifth position went to 123Greetings, which posted an increase in monthly visitors of 24 percent, to 1.8 million visitors.

In May, the most visited online property was Yahoo! Sites, with 188.8 million visitors. Google Sites came in second, with 180 million visitors, followed by Microsoft Sites, which had 179.8 million.

USCM: Pre-Crisis Job Levels Hard to Reach in Metro Areas

The conference of US mayors, USCM, revealed that metropolitan mayors expect to see double digit joblessness in 75 metro areas before year-end and 27 areas dropping to single digit unemployment. The USCM also projected a growth of the gross domestic product of 3.5 percent for the rest of this year, up from 1.9 percent in the first half.

Employment levels like those before the economic downturn will be slow to emerge, reveals a USCM report. However, USCM estimates that, by the end of 2014, many of the metropolitan areas will see employment bloom, with half of the 363 metro areas reaching pre-crisis levels of employment. Forty-eight areas are forecast to remain behind in employment levels and to reach their pre-crisis employment peak only after 2020.

The USCM annual meeting brought together the mayors in US to discuss the challenges that their cities face in the current economic climate. Given some of the less optimistic outlooks, the USCM participants launched a call to the White House and the Congress to intensify their efforts to stimulate the economy. Among other things, they called for an end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also asked that military spending be directed towards stimulation of the national economy and domestic jobs.

Metropolitan areas are expected to generate 86.4 percent of payroll additions by the end of 2015. Unemployment predictions are not very optimistic, with 69 metros at more than 10 percent, 100 with at least 9 percent, 173 with 8 percent by the end of next year.

Less than a Quarter of Americans Have a Six-Month Savings Safety Net

A recent Bankrate survey reveals that only 24 percent of Americans had savings that could cover their expenses in case of loss of income while another 24 percent had no safety net in savings whatsoever.

This statistic represents a wake-up call for Americans, as the number of people who have been unemployed for at least six months has reached 6.2 million.

The most likely to have savings that could cover expenses for six months are people with higher incomes, most in the 50s or 60s. However, in this age group, about half do not have an emergency savings fund. The worst performers in the savings department are low-income households and people below 30.

An additional portion of 22 percent has very small savings that would not allow them to cover expenses for three months. About 46 percent of the respondents said they had sufficient savings to cover expenses for at least three months.

The survey also shows that the Americans do not feel as secure about their financial security in June as they did in May. The index measuring financial security dropped from 98.5 to 97.8. However, 26 percent of the respondents said they were more relaxed about their debt compared to last year. Those that are uncomfortable with their debt accounted for only 19 percent of the participants to the survey, the lowest portion since December last year.

The index for financial security, issued monthly by Bankrate, is based on phone interviews with more than 1,000 US adults over the age of 18.

US RBC Bank to Be Acquired by PNC

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and the financial services company PNC announced today that they entered an agreement for RBC’s subsidiary in the US, RBC Bank USA, to be acquired by PNC for the price of 3.45 billion dollars.

The acquisition of RBC Bank USA will grant PNC access to very attractive markets in the southeast of the country, while adding value for PNC shareholders, explained the chief executive and chairman of PNC, James Rohr.

He added that the company’s recent acquisitions have demonstrated through their success that the company’s products are able to gather new clients and reduce costs, and the current transaction represented an incredible opportunity for the company’s growth.

RCB Bank, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, has 424 branches in South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina. After the acquisition, the two companies will have a total of 2,870 branches, pushing them to the fifth position in the top of US banks.

The transaction is expected to be accretive to PNC’s earnings in 2013, based on how much of the transaction price of 3.45 billion dollars will be paid in common stock. PNC has the option to pay RBC about one billion dollars in common stock, representing three percent of PNC’s shares at the price of 57.79 dollars, the closing price on Friday, June 17.

The acquisition offer represents some 97 percent of the current value of RBC Bank USA, based on the bank’s April balance sheet.

After the transaction is finalized, PNC could incur planned integration and merger costs of some 322 million dollars. PNC estimates that, after the merger, RBC Bank’s non-interest expenses would be reduced by approximately 230 million dollars through the improvement of administrative and operational efficiency.

The estimated closure date is estimated to be March 2012. The merger agreement has been approved by the management boards of both companies. The current price is subject to adjustments, based on the value of delivered tangible assets at the time of closing the transaction.

Verizon Wireless: James City County 3G Network Enhanced by New Cell Site

Verizon Wireless coverage for 3G data and voice is expanding as the company activated its latest cell site in Virginia, James City. Following the activation of the new cell site, Toano town will get improved capacity and coverage.

Verizon Wireless customers in James City who use smart phones, laptops and tabled will now be able to take advantage of increasing network performance in their daily activities online, such as real-time sending and receiving of email, instant download of music, games, apps and videos, high-speed Internet browsing, and much more.

The company has been pursuing an aggressive investment campaign, amounting to several billion dollars since 2000, in order to increase the capacity of wireless Verizon networks so that they can keep up with increasing demand. Verizon Wireless invested some 347 million dollars in regional improvements for the networks. The total investment in the region reached more than 2.6 billion dollars since 2000.

The regional president of Verizon Wireless, Mike Miorana, pointed out that the wireless networks of Verizon are in increasing demand, as an ever growing number of people relies on 3G apps and smart phones to stay connected and manage various aspects of their lives, whether on-the-go or at home. As such, Verizon Wireless is committed to continuous improvements of the network in order to give their customers more speed and coverage and overall better performance.

The average speed of Verizon mobile broadband services is 500-800 kilobits per second for upload, and from 600 kilobits per second to 1.4 megabits per second for download.

comScore: 176 Million Americans Watched Videos on the Internet in May

The latest Video Metrix data released by comScore revealed that, in May, 176 million American Internet users watched video content online, the average viewers watching a total of 15.9 hours of video content and 5.6 million viewing sessions. Approximately 83.3 percent of the US Internet users viewed video content online.

The top video content property in May was Google Sites, boosted mostly by YouTube viewings, with 147.2 million viewers.

With 60.4 million unique viewers, VEVO comes in second, followed by Yahoo! Sites, with 55.5 million unique viewers.

The fourth place went to Facebook, with 48.2 million unique viewers, while the fifth place went to Viacom Digital, which scored 46.5 million unique visitors.

The highest number of sessions was posted by Google Sites – above 2.1 billion with an average of 311 minutes per viewer. Every YouTube viewer watched 311 minutes of video, or more than 5 hours of video, in the last month, breaking the 5-hour barrier for the first time.

American Internet users viewed some 4.6 billion video advertisements last month. The highest number of impressions was posted by Hulu – 1.3 billion, followed by Tremor Media with 700.8 million impressions, with 642 million views, and BrightRoll with 565 million views. American viewers spent two billion minutes in May watching videos ads, and the most minutes were registered by Hulu (560 million).

From the video advertisement networks, Tremor Media had the best monthly results, with a potential reach in US of 47.1 percent, followed by BrightRoll with 42.1 percent. With 40.4 percent, Break Media came in third.

Increasing the Energy Efficiency of Buildings Requires Proper Incentives and Financing

The 22nd edition of the Energy Efficiency Forum of North America highlights solutions that could improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

The leaders attending the Forum pointed out that making available incentives and financing could lead to increased energy efficiency of buildings. The forum, co-sponsored by the Energy Association and Johnston Controls, looked into how consumer education, energy policies, and advanced energy efficiency technologies can lead to considerable improvements in the fields of economic growth, global competitiveness and energy security.

Senator Jeff Bingaman told the energy experts and policymakers attending the forum that the Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources was highly interested in offering opportunities that will allow the federal government to become a model for the use of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies. He added that such measures and policies could save taxpayer money, boost the energy market and create an increasing number of jobs in the private sector.

Furthermore, implementing current technologies for energy efficiency is the cheapest option to moderate the country’s energy demand, while also providing the fastest results. Accelerating the implementation of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies could stall the projected increase of the country’s consumption of energy by 2030.

As indicated by the 5th annual survey on Global Energy Efficiency from Johnson Controls, the top barrier in the way of improved energy consumption was the limited access to funding, while government incentives and savings in energy costs were identified as the main motivators. The survey was conducted with the participation of 4,000 people, and the results were announced at the Forum.

The Building Efficiency president at Johnson Controls, Dave Myers, said that building accounted for nearly half of the energy consumption worldwide. He added that, despite the fact that their owners want to improve energy efficiency, the lack of real funding options was hampering their efforts.


The Young Generation, the Only Age Group Increasing its Spending on Golf

While golf remains a game favored mostly by well-off baby boomers, the young generation shows increasing interest, as suggested by their increasing spending on the sport. Furthermore, there are several new regions that appear promising.

According to the 2011 Spend Sights report for consumer and business golf spending in US released by Business Insight, young individuals aged 18-29 years old increased their spending on golf by 27 percent from the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2011.

The report further shows that, over the same period of time, other age groups presented considerable decrease in golf spending – 33 to 45 year-olds and 46 to 66 year-olds by 19 percent, and seniors (above 66) by 21 percent.

The report analyzed the patterns of spending at private and public golf courses and at retail locations across the US.

Golf spending has been significantly affected by the financial crisis. The current report, while it does not indicate a full recovery in spending, reveals that in the first quarter of 2011 the year-over-year spending on golf apparel and equipment increased by 10 percent.

Furthermore, the report noted the emergence of several new golf destinations, considered being prime locations in their state. The new locations were identified based on the increase in spending, such as a 40 percent increase in South Dakota, and 12 percent in each Delaware and Iowa.

Gulf locations that were previously considered top spots and receiving most of the money spent on golf (up to 49 percent of the total), posted some year-over-year decreases in 2010 – Florida by 14 percent, California by 10 percent, Georgia by 7 percent, Texas by 5 percent and New York by 4 percent.

From Q1 2007 and Q1 2011, small businesses dropped their spending on golf by 25 percent, while large businesses cut golf spending by 35 percent.

Model Year 2012: Audi Unveils Audi R8 GT, Limited Issue of 333 Cars

A limited-edition, very special R8 GT is coming from Audi for the model year 2012. The new R8 combines the best features of the Audi Spyder and R8 Coupe, and it is intended to represent the peak of Audi performance.

This is a historic step for Audi as the new R8 GT is the first ever limited-edition vehicle produced by the company. The new R8 GT will be built worldwide, and in a total of 333 units, 90 of which will be dedicated to the US market. The gear shift of each limited-edition R8 GT will display the production number.

The starting price for the limited-edition Audi R8 GT is 196,800 dollars. The 333 buyers will enjoy a car with increased power and lightweight advanced materials. The car outputs 560 hp, 0-60 acceleration in a stunning 3.6 seconds, torque of 398 lb-ft, 198.84 miles per hour top speed, and an 8,700 rpm red line, powered by a 5.2 liter V10 engine.

The car will have suspensions tuned for performance, a Quattro permanent all-wheel drive and an R tronic sequential gearbox.

The performance of the new Audi R8 GT will also benefit from aerodynamic improvements and the use of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber components are used strategically in order to reduce the weight of the car. Virtually all body parts and components have undergone weight optimization. The car’s total weight is lesser than that of R8 V10 by some 180 lb.

Lockton: The Law of Health Reform Causes Deep Distress to Employers

A recent survey from insurance broker Lockton revealed that almost 20 percent of employers considered the alternative of abandoning group coverage in 2014.

The “play or pay” mandate of the health reform law, taking effect in 2014, causes employers serious concerns. Roughly 70 percent of the employers interviewed by Lockton said they were either “very concerned” or “concerned” about the impact this law would have on their businesses.

By law, in 2014, most workers will have the possibility to choose from a number of insurance programs subsidized by the federal government, and this will allow employers to become more flexible and to terminate group insurance contracts. According to Lockton’s most recent, survey 18.8 percent on employers planned to do so.

The director of Compliance Services at Lockton, Edward Fensholt, said that the move would not be surprising. He added that the company’s clients have been hinting in this direction for the past few months and that they seemed apprehensive with regards to the provisions of the new law. Furthermore, employers are aware of the fact that the future would bring them increased expenses and work.

The survey is based on the answers of some 40 percent of Lockton’s client-companies. The survey consisted of 10 questions on the health reform. The responses were consistent, revealing a high level of frustration about the fact that the new law will make the administration of health plans even more burdensome from an administrative point of view and more costly than it currently is.