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March 25 2015 3:25 PM

Study: When Companies Perform Poorly, Female Execs Face Bigger Docks in Pay

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

The New York Fed has a new paper out on gender differences in executive pay, and it's downright scary. 

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Not only do men get paid more in general, but their compensation is usually structured such that they get paid much more than executive women do when their company does well. On top of that—and this is where it gets frightening—the researchers find that female executive pay tends to get docked more when a company does poorly.  

"So, roughly, it's heads men win, tails women lose," says Matt Levine. 

This is how the authors of the paper explain the problem:

First, female executives receive a lower share of incentive pay in total compensation relative to males. This difference accounts for 93% of the gender differences in total flow compensation. Second, the compensation of female executives displays a lower pay-performance sensitivity relative to males. A $1 million dollar increase in firm value generates a $17,150 increase in firm specific wealth for male executives and a $1,670 increase for females. Third, female executives’ pay is more exposed to bad firm performance and less exposed to good firm performance than for males. A 1% increase in firm value generates a 13% rise in firm specific wealth for female executives, and a 44% rise for male executives, while a 1% decline in firm value generates a 63% decline in firm specific wealth for female executives and only a 33% decline for male executives.

The authors control for the fact that women are generally younger, and therefore less senior with lower pay. They also look at whether it's just because women are more risk averse and tend to spend fewer hours at work than their male counterparts. They find that those aren't satisfactory explanations for the huge gaps (not to mention the fact that at the executive level, the difference in hours worked between genders is much lower than in the general population).

The authors think that a lot of this disparity can be explained by informal networks, which men have access to to a greater degree than women. Men, they say, are more "entrenched," which gives them greater bargaining power when negotiating a contract. 

The only way to solve this, really, is to increase transparency in pay within an organization. One of the authors of the paper, Stefania Albanesi, told Bloomberg that "increasing transparency in general in an organization but specifically with how your pay is set relative to others in similar positions is going to be helpful."

This is especially true as people further down the ladder start to get performance-based pay, which has become more popular in recent years.  "Our analysis suggest that performance pay schemes should be held to closer scrutiny and raises a note of concern for the standing of professional women in the labor market as incentive pay becomes more prevalent," the authors write.

Leaning in still doesn't necessarily get women into the old boys' network—and it seems like the easiest way to make pay fair is to recognize that and structure organizations accordingly.

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March 24 2015 4:39 PM

Soon, All Your Internet Ads Will Be Prettier—and Maybe Creepier

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Amazon's advertising platform may only account for a small proportion of the global digital ad market—a scant 0.75 percent in terms of revenue share according to eMarketer—but the e-commerce giant has ambitions to make advertising across the web a better experience for consumers.

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Amazon has three advertising areas: Across its own sites, across its mobile devices such as the Kindle and Fire tablet, and the Amazon ad platform which extends Amazon ads to other websites. Speaking to Business Insider at Advertising Week Europe in London, Amazon Media Group's European director Dan Wright said the company is actively working to build "centers of excellence" with advertising agencies in the region to help produce the kind of advertising consumers actually enjoy and find useful.

The net result won't just be more advertising revenue flowing into Amazon, but that consumers will feel like advertising on the Web is getting better. Wright thinks the "potential is untapped" in terms of the design and utility of ads—particularly in the area of e-commerce, which he described as a "trillion dollar industry." The ambition is to create a set of guidelines and rules that will hopefully develop best practice across the entire ad industry.

He said: "On this trip [to Ad Week Europe] I'm spending a lot of time with media agency partners to discuss center of excellence capabilities to develop a greater experience for consumers, because when we do that we create revenues for advertisers."

It's a big ambition. And it's also quite a big ask. Agency staff are constantly being pulled in different directions from different advertising partners. Facebook holds "Publishing Garages," assembling agencies with their clients to develop Facebook campaigns in-house; trade associations are constantly looking to create advertising standards which involves numerous meetings and working groups; and their clients, the advertisers themselves, are more demanding than ever when it comes to getting more bang for their buck.

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Wright acknowledges that Amazon is asking for a big-time investment, but he thinks it's one that will pay off. "In the end it's about what value we are creating as a partnership. If the value is great enough they will invest their time and they can come to a place that's worthwhile," he added.

In its mission to be "customer obsessed," as Wright calls it, Amazon isn't seeking to build out an ad tech stack like rivals Google and Facebook, which are constantly rolling out new adtech products or acquiring adtech companies so they can own every bit of the ecosystem—from the supply side to the demand side.

"We don't think about a stack," he said. "We think about things we can implement for the ecosystem that's for the benefit of the customer experience. It doesn't have be big and bold, it's about how advertising serves for a good customer experience. For us a simple area is creative consumers will appreciate. E-commerce ads [an Amazon ad format where brands can display their products and consumers can see ratings, review, and click to buy] are ads that customers appreciate."

Amazon's real sweet spot, though, is its data. It may only have a small slice of the digital advertising market, but with 370 million active accounts, it has a wealth of data for advertisers to tap into. And that is probably what will get agencies and advertisers interested in signing up to its center of excellence plan.

March 23 2015 2:32 PM

How Taylor Swift Bought the URL Taylorswift.porn Before Anyone Else Got the Chance

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Starting June 1, anyone will be able to purchase domains ending in .sucks, .adult, .porn, and hundreds of other options, with new suffixes released every month. So to protect Taylor Swift's name and brand, the singer's team has reportedly already purchased TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult.

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the nonprofit group behind this expansion of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs—is allowing public figures and companies to get ahead of the game by purchasing domains before they open to the public.

"For example, Microsoft has already registered Office.porn and Office.adult," Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM Registry, which operates the .porn and .adult top-level domains, told CNN Money. "The same goes for TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult." Starting in June, "It's first to the buzzer," Lawley said.

It's a smart move for Swift to claim her name before the trolls can, but the pop star has always been business-savvy. She recently trademarked lyrics from her latest album; beat the paparazzi out of a $100,000 payday; and in a controversial move, pulled all her music from Spotify because "piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically."

But note to Swift's team: .Sucks is operated by another company, so it's still available for purchase. The .sucks domains will cost up to $2,500 to buy out, according to Marketingland.

Before he left office, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller told ICANN he thought it was "little more than a predatory shakedown scheme" to get businesses to spend big money on defensive domain registrations.

But according to CNN Money, "[ICANN] claims that its program to expand gTLDs will be beneficial for all internet users, because descriptive domains, such as .healthcare, .deals, and .amsterdam, help ensure web users arrive at their intended destination."

"To me it's very responsible," said Steve Miholovich, senior vice president of marketing at Safenames, a domain registrar and advisory firm for websites. According to CNN, he added that "another benefit to having more descriptive domains is greater parental control over which websites their children visit. Blocking isn't always as easy for .com adult content sites."

March 19 2015 4:10 PM

Google and Apple Are Now in a Mobile-Payments War

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Despite slower adoption than Tim Cook may like, Apple Pay is still the fastest-growing way to pay for things with your smartphone. But Google isn't resting on its laurels, suggests a new analyst report from Barclays, and will be coming after Apple hard—with Samsung gearing up for its own assault on your wallet. 

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The key issue is the underlying technology behind these mobile payment services. Apple's big innovation was to take the iPhone 6/6+ design and build in an "embedded secure element"—basically, a middleman that takes your credit card number and encrypts it so that the cash register never actually gets your real information.

It's built straight into the phone and sits near the NFC antenna in the device that does the actual transmission. Since Apple was able to muster its corporate might to get the banks, the credit card companies, and the retail chains on board, that embedded secure element has the most support in stores and with banks.

Google, on the other hand, launched its original Google Wallet NFC mobile payment service for Android devices back in 2012. To make life easier for retailers, Google chose what we call "host card emulation," where software in the phone pretends to be a card, as opposed to the embedded hardware that Apple would later go with.

Google's approach is easier for phone makers and retailers alike to use, because it's all in easily updated software. But it's less secure, and importantly, it won't ever work with the kinds of contactless card readers common on public transit systems, like the San Francisco Bay Area's Clipper. 

Since then, Google Wallet has added support for embedded security elements, like the kind built into every Samsung Galaxy phone since the S3. But it doesn't need one to work. Barclays also notes that using both embedded security elements and host card emulation could provide better security than either alone.

So the big question for Google, then, is whether it will follow Apple's lead and encourage more Android manufacturers to put in more of those embedded security elements—and whether the phone makers will follow through.

That's an especially big question in light of Google's acquisition of Softcard, a mobile payments platform that was originally owned jointly by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to compete with Apple and Google, but never went anywhere. All phones that had Softcard pre-installed will soon have Google Wallet instead, drastically increasing its reach. After all, there are more Android devices than Apple in the world. 

Google may be starting from a disadvantage, but it's coming after Apple Pay hard. This is especially true as Google adds more devices with fingerprint sensors, used for authentication as with Apple TouchID, to its roster. We'll probably hear more about Google's ambitions for mobile payments at the I/O event this May.

The wild card here is Samsung Pay, launching this summer in the U.S. and South Korea, which uses payment technology similar to Apple Pay. But thanks to Samsung's acquisition of LoopPay, it has something that neither other company has: The ability for a phone to pretend to be a simple magnetic-striped card. It's an add-on to the usual NFC chip, and is still contactless from the phone, but as far the cash register is concerned, you just swiped plastic.

Apple Pay is popular, sure, but it still requires specialized hardware that not every business can afford. But even the shady liquor store on the corner should be able to take a Samsung Pay swipe.

And that's not to mention that banks may start offering their own mobile payment services that bypass those altogether, especially on Android where there's no restriction on using it.  

The mobile payment wars are only getting started. As more people get more devices that can use Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Samsung Pay, these types of payments are only going to take off.

March 18 2015 5:12 PM

New York City Has More Uber Cars Than Taxis

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Less than four years after Uber started operating in New York City, Uber vehicles now outnumber yellow taxis on the streets there, the New York Post reported Tuesday. New data from NYC's Taxi & Limousine Commission indicates that Uber has 14,088 cars operating in NYC's five boroughs, and that there are 13,587 medallion taxis in the city.

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Yellow cab drivers can also work for Uber using the company's uberT program, a taxi service accessible for Uber customers through the company's mobile platform. But uberT taxis aren't considered Uber cars in this case.

Uber launched in May 2011 in New York City. New York City is one of Uber's largest markets, and was the first city Uber expanded to outside of its hometown, San Francisco.

New York City has not been without obstacles for Uber. Some drivers have contested Uber's claims that they stand to make $90,000 a year driving in New York City for the service, and in January, New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission briefly shut down five of Uber's six bases (a basically toothless penalty for an organization that dispatches its drivers remotely).

But Uber is no worse for any troubles it's had in New York. In fact, it's doing quite well there. According to a leaked internal document, in December 2013, Uber generated $26 million in New York City, or $312 million annually. Of course, that was more than a year ago, and those numbers would presumably be even higher today.

March 18 2015 4:05 PM

You Can Now Buy an Electric Car Directly From Tesla in New Jersey

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

On Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill that allows Tesla to sell its electric cars directly to consumers, no dealers necessary.

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"I said last year that if the Legislature changed the law, I would sign new legislation put on my desk and that is exactly what I'm doing today," Governor Christie said in a statement. "We're pleased that manufacturers like Tesla will now have the opportunity to establish direct sales operations for consumers in a manner lawfully in New Jersey."

According the governor's office, "the bill changes the law in New Jersey and removes the prohibition on direct sales by auto manufacturers who do not have franchise agreements, giving manufacturers of zero emission cars, including Tesla, the ability to sell directly to New Jersey consumers at up to four locations in the state."

The law stipulates that manufacturers will have to maintain service centers at locations where they conduct direct sales. Tesla has been waging an ongoing battle against the very entrenched network of car dealers in the U.S. Franchise laws prohibit automakers from selling the cars directly to buyers. 

Instead, car dealers act as middlemen, holding cars in inventory, providing financing and insurance services, marketing in their regions, and servicing vehicles. Each state has its own laws on the books, so Tesla has been fighting its battle on a state-by-state basis. With the New Jersey bill becoming law, Tesla buyers can now go to one of the company's stores in the state and actually place an order for a car. 

Technically speaking, Christie's action on Wednesday altered the existing law—and restored Tesla's legal right to use a direct-sales model in New Jersey that it had been forced to abandon in early 2014. It remains to be seen whether New Jersey will be an isolated case—or spur other states to change their dealer franchise laws.

In late 2014, Tesla seemed to have conceded that the company might have to pursue a hybrid of direct sales and dealer franchising as it expands.

March 17 2015 5:02 PM

Robo-Advisers Are Marching Into the Wealth-Management Industry

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

UBS, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley stand out in the global wealth-management industry, with each responsible for handling more than $1 trillion in investors' assets. But they're now under siege from well-funded startups that offer a wide array of advisory services at a low cost thanks to broad use of automated functions.

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These are the robo-advisers. 

We're only in the first round of the wealth-management wars, but the sector—which has historically been dominated by well-staffed big banks and a network of good-old-boy relationships—is seeing its competitive landscape evolve rapidly. 

While these old-school firms continue to draw multimillion-dollar clients, the robo-advisers have attracted so-called HENRY (that's “High Earning, Not Rich Yet”) clients, a new Goldman Sachs report says.

Betterment, Wealthfront, FutureAdvisor, and Personal Capital are among these new firms.

Many of these startups are actually backed by the competitors to Wall Street's incumbents in the wealth-management space. Citi Ventures is among the backers that have contributed more than $100 million to Betterment, and Personal Capital counts both USAA and BlackRock among its investors. 

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Via Business Insider

Startups in the wealth-management arena differentiate themselves, particularly with new HENRY millennials, through automated advising. According to Goldman, “viral customer acquisition strategies” target clients' tendency to tap into their social network to generate investing ideas. They're also doing it with lower fees than the incumbents.

In the short run, it's meant to get more millennials onto wealth-management platforms earlier. In the long run, it aims to keep them engaged as they grow older and need to manage more cash—by that point, startups are aiming to have scaled up client services to better compete with the bigger players.

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Via Business Insider

The fees are key to big banks and other fund managers. Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit is responsible for a double-digit portion of the bank's top line. It's even more meaningful for other fund managers, like Charles Schwab.

Another big advantage startups enjoy is their low investment minimums: between $0 and $100,000 (with Personal Capital being the highest). They need less in fees to pay a smaller staff, and lower fees also lets startups scale up faster with smaller investors. 

One Wall Street source notes that banks' wealth-management operations offer services that most startups cannot: estate planning and a broader range of investment options.

“The robo-advisers work for middle class, or young people, who don't have much and just need to avoid fees,” one Wall Street pro points out. “They can't replace full-service advisers.” 

Still, the Wall Street incumbents aren't just sitting there. Competitors to the new class of wealth-management firms have clearly taken note of the HENRY trend: Earlier this month, fund manager Charles Schwab launched its Intelligent Portfolios platform, promoting lower fees through automated technology.

Again, we're only in the first inning of the wealth-management wars.

March 16 2015 3:14 PM

If You Want a “.Sucks” Domain Name, It Could Cost You $2,500

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Starting March 30, you'll be able to buy a .sucks name for your website—if you can afford the prices of up to $2,500, as MarketingLand reports. 

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Vox Populi, the company that will be selling the .sucks website names, will charge $2,500 for certain registered trademarks with a .sucks name. For your own, nontrademarked usage (like MattWeinberger.sucks), it's $199 until June 1, when the price goes up to $249. 

There's some controversy amid the buildup to the release of .sucks domains. Before he left office, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia called Vox Populi's pricing plan "little more than a predatory shakedown scheme” designed to gouge companies who will rush to buy their own names to defend against trolls and other Internet mischief-makers, reports MarketingLand.

(Just as an example of what companies should be worried about with ".sucks," check out the very unofficial Walmart.horse website.)

Consumer advocate groups will be able to buy a subsidized .sucks domain for only $9.95 per month, but they won't be able to use it for a website criticizing a company. Instead, Vox Populi will force users at this price tier to go to a discussion forum hosted on its own site, Everything.sucks.

For its part, Vox Populi says that by pricing domains in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, it's stopping trolls and scalpers from buying them in bulk. As Ars Technica points out, using a .sucks website to criticize of a company is most likely protected under the law, as long as the site's not libelous.

March 13 2015 5:58 PM

Criticizing Columbia Journalism School's $92,933 Price Tag Is Easy. Here's Why You Shouldn't.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Columbia's graduate journalism school is planning to cut staff and shrink class sizes. In a story on the news, Bloomberg relays the following: "Estimated tuition, fees, and living expenses for a full-time master's degree student are $92,933, according to the school website."

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People who work in the media industry lost their minds over this line on Twitter on Wednesday night. After all, $92,933 is a lot of money for an industry that doesn't promise investment-banking-type riches. Or, to be more current, it doesn't promise app-maker riches. 

Here's a guy I know who works in media saying people don't need to go to journalism school:

He's half-right. You don't have to go to journalism school if you want to be a journalist. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. I went to journalism school, and it was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. 

Here's my story: I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2002 with a BA in economics. I didn't do any internships while in college. When I graduated, the economy was in the toilet thanks to the collapse of the dot-com bubble and 9/11. I had no experience in my field.

And frankly, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I couldn't land a real job. Turns out that when you go for a job interview and the person asks, "Why do you want to work here?" you shouldn't answer with, "I just want a job."

I spent the next five years working a middling job at the University of Pennsylvania. I was working at the photocopy shop at Wharton—Reprographics. My coworkers were great fun to be around, but they were not high achievers. One guy, for instance, literally slept on the job. Out in the open in front of everyone, he just took a nap every day. He also brought in his weights and tried to set up a mini gym in a storage space so that he could work out while on the clock. 

The job was mind-numbing, but it was easy. I was able to listen to music and talk radio. It also allowed me to take two classes per semester free at Penn. I took lots of art classes. I learned how to use Photoshop. I took a bunch of photography classes. I took a few classes on video and a few writing classes. 

Somewhere along the way, I decided I needed to do something more productive with my life. I was between going to school for filmmaking and journalism. I chose journalism because I thought I would have a better shot at landing a job when I was done. 

(In retrospect, journalism was a perfect fit for me. I like taking classes and learning new things. I also like the creativity of art like photography and video. Journalism is built on constant learning. It requires creativity to tell stories. Also, I love talk radio, which is what modern journalism is most like.)

When I decided to do journalism school, I went to my writing professor at Penn, Robert Strauss, for advice. His advice: Don't go! It's a waste of time and money. He said I should just start writing, doing freelance for local papers. 

For a certain kind of person, that's great advice. For me, it made no sense. I literally could not think of one idea to pitch the local papers. And even if I did have an idea, I would have had no clue how to execute the idea. 

So I decided to enroll in NYU's Business and Economic Reporting graduate program. I don't remember how much it cost. It was relatively expensive, but I got a student loan. 

That program was a year-and-a-half-long immersion program in journalism. I learned more in 1 1/2 years at school than I would have freelancing for three years.

For instance, on my first day of my first class I was told to write a story finding someone who took out a subprime loan. Step one was to figure out what a subprime loan was. Step two was to have a complete meltdown about the fact that I had no idea how to find someone with a subprime loan. I sat in my apartment and thought, "I can't do this. I am totally screwed." Then I thought, "If you can't do this, then you're really screwed, because there is no plan B." I eventually figured it out. School helped me learn how to report and learn the rules of journalism.

The student loan allowed me to afford life while going to school. If I was freelancing, I'm not sure I would have been able to afford life.

It also led to my interning at a website called Silicon Alley Insider (the site that would become Business Insider) as well as BusinessWeek. There's just no way either organization is hiring a guy with no journalism training as an intern. And if I didn't intern at Silicon Alley Insider, then I wouldn't be a deputy editor at Business Insider

So things worked out for me very nicely!

To people balking at spending $100,000 to go to journalism school, here's what I would say: It can be a power boost that propels you into the industry. It's sort of like venture capital money. Sure, you could bootstrap and grow slowly, or you could take an investment, burn the cash, and scale quickly, then figure out profitability later. 

Now, this doesn't mean everyone has to go to journalism school.

The guy whose tweet I highlighted above—Farhad Manjoo—never went to journalism school, and he's making a lot of money practicing journalism. I haven't talked to him about it, but my guess is that he was always focused on doing journalism. If that's the case, then yes, journalism school isn't necessary. If you know you want to be a journalist from day one, then there are plenty of other things you should do. I would recommend doing a computer science degree and working for your school newspaper or writing a blog. Then go intern at Business Insider, or BuzzFeed, or Vox.

There's no repeatable straight line to success in life. That's one reason we write stories about people who are successful. We want to learn from their example and see what we can apply to our lives. It's never the same story. 

So, people who tell you not to go to journalism school aren't necessarily right. They didn't go to school and it worked for them, so they think they're right. People who did go to journalism school and had it work will recommend it. They're not necessarily right either. 

It's your call. If you think you can write your way into a journalism job, then do it. If you want to invest in training through school, then do it. 

(Also, while we're here, lots of people say you can't make money in journalism. I remember on my first day of journalism school the professors were talking to us as if we decided to become monks. My parents were teachers, so I don't have the best sense of what making money is for people, but I can tell you based on following this industry that you don't have to become a monk. If you work hard, you will be rewarded. Not app-maker money, but still good money for a really fun job.)

March 12 2015 4:03 PM

Thank Aldi For Sending British Supermarkets Into a Death Spiral

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

In the days before the Internet, families would spend hours in their "favorite" supermarket at the weekend, buying in bulk, running up massive bills and keeping the physical tills ringing.

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When I was growing up, it was received wisdom that the more expensive the supermarket, the "better" and the "healthier" it was, and the better the customer service would be. You knew that if you were shopping in Sainsbury's, mum and dad were probably doing a bit better than the parents who were raiding the aisles of cut price goods at Asda.

The market was structured on that basis. Waitrose was at the top for the richest people, followed by Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons, depending on your rung on the ladder. The quality of the food increased alongside the price, and the relative poshness of the supermarket brand selling it. The three things—quality, price and store brand—were inherently connected.

All that has turned out to be wrong. The Germans know the UK market better than the British do. In the last two years, the UK supermarket business has turned into a bloodbath of misconceptions. And the Old Guard—Tesco, Sainsburys, and Morrisons—are losing.

Just look at this chart by market researchers at Kantar Worldpanel. From 2012 to 2015, the German discount chains Aldi boosted their market share. Aldi went to 5 percent, from 2.6 percent; while Lidl's share rose to 3.5 percent from 2.5 percent. They have taken nearly 9 percent of the market in just two years:

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Sometime in the 1990s, British people started taking food seriously and realized that price was often no guide to taste or freshness. Online shopping and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and A Girl Called Jack showed Britons that you can have quality food for a fraction of the price at supermarkets, if you know what you're doing.

Supermarkets that don't provide great, cheap food are hurting as a result: Morrisons reported its worst set of profit results in eight years, today. Its pre-tax profit plunged 52 percent to £345 million ($517 million), compared to the previous year, while revenues fell 4.9 percent to £16.8 billion in 2014, from £17.68 billion in 2013.

"This is a rout, not a reversal," said Phil Dorrell, director of retail consultants at Retail Remedy. "With the most dated stores and weakest business strategy of the old guard grocers, Morrisons has truly been put to the sword by the rise of Aldi and Lidl." 

The war is making food cheaper, too. Kantar Worldpanel says food prices in Britain dropped by 1.6 percent in 2014, compared with the previous year. That has helped consumers save £400 million.

"We keep prices constantly low while keeping product quality consistently high, which is exactly what shoppers want," said Roman Heini, Aldi's UK group managing director in September last year. "They had become used to thinking you have to pay more for better products. We've shown them this doesn't have to be the case."

Aldi and Lidl's growth trajectories are insane. Aldi sales rocketed 19.3 percent in the 12 weeks ending March 1, 2015, compared with a year ago. That was the slowest rate of growth since June 2011. It still managed to rack up 5 percent market share from 2.6 percent the year before. Lidl, which is a privately owned company based in Germany and therefore does not have to reported its earnings in the same way as a public company, also posted growth of 13.6 percent.

On March 10 this year, Ocado, the food equivalent of Amazon, reported a 19 percent jump in gross group sales for the 12 weeks to February 22 2015, compared to a year ago. In other words, the new players are growing. The traditional British chains that once anchored every high street are shrinking.

For some of them, even being a supermarket is a liability. "It’s hard to see a way out for Morrisons, the minnow of the supermarket group, as more and more people are preferring to do the weekly shop online, making physical stores more of a drain on an already weak balance sheet," said Augustin Eden, a research analyst at Accendo Markets.

Now look at Britain's largest supermarket, Tesco. Despite the Tesco recording its best performance in 18 months in the 12 weeks leading to 1 March, sales were only up 1.1 percent. This period included the Christmas and New Year related discounts. 

“Supermarkets have to get used to this ‘new normal’ of low profit margins and must adapt accordingly. The discount retailers like Aldi and Lidl have fundamentally disrupted the market and the Big Four—Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury's—must accept their losing market share,” said Professor Heiner Evanschitzky, professor and chair of marketing at Aston Business School. 

“The best option for them now is to shrink their businesses gracefully,” he says.

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