The latest billionaire investment: Ink and ego

Jeff Bezos
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Jeff Bezos

Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.

Keeping up with the Joneses, 21st-century style


Think fast: What do the rich want?

Beep. If you answered yachts, jets and cottages in the Hamptons, you're just so early 21st century. Try newspapers, condos and gold underwear.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the latest billionaire to pick up a newspaper, plunking down $250 million for the Washington Post, which lost $50 million in the first half of the year. While a quarter-billion is real money to most of us, it's just 1 percent of the value of Bezos' Amazon stock.

Most major newspapers have been hammered in recent years, losing ad revenue to the Internet, so these venerable properties are going for a song. Last Friday, Boston Red Sox owner and commodities trader John Henry agreed to pay a mere $70 million to buy the Boston Globe from The New York Times Co., which paid $1.2 billion for the Globe in 1993.

Recent buyers aren't necessarily bargain shoppers, as these properties may never rebound.

(Read more: Higher bills? Thank the emerging middle class)

The profit motive may be at play in New York's high-end condo market. A shortage of luxury-apartment construction in recent years has made high-end properties harder to come by. Builders say they just can't build or convert fast enough to meet demand, and real estate agents say that buyers, aside from seeking prestige addresses, see luxury condos as a relatively safe investment.

Finally, there's that gold underwear. Made with golden thread rather than gold plating, the traditional method, the pricey ladies foundations are said to be supple and comfortable. The chief markets are the Middle East, where most buyers are women, and Russia, where they are men.


"If it wasn't clear that newspapers have become trophies for the wealthy with an interest in journalism or power—or a combination of both—it should be now."
—CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin

"These [newspaper] deals don't make financial sense. ... Newspapers have gone from the public markets to the hands of a relatively few billionaires who have an appetite for social, civic and financial roles."
—Ken Doctor, an analyst at Outsell, a research and consulting firm for the publishing industry

Keeping the clunker running


U.S. automakers from Ford to General Motors have been outperforming in sales recently. You wouldn't know it, though, from the average length of time people are holding onto their cars. There was a time—wasn't there?—when driving a late-model car was a key to American pride.

That may still be true for those who can afford a new car every two or three years, but more and more of us are driving older vehicles. The average age of cars on the road in the U.S. has hit an all-time high of 11.4 years, up from 11.2 years in 2012 and 9.9 years in 2006.

(Read more: With hybrids, beauty in the eye of the owner)

There are two ways to look at this: Americans are poorer or thriftier, or vehicles are better. Polk, the research firm that found the statistic, cites both reasons. (Maybe there's a third factor: New-car styles aren't very compelling.)

Whether you feel a newer car is a must-have or not, there's good news in the aging fleet. The older the cars on the road get, the more pent-up demand for new ones. And despite the age of the average car going up, auto experts think that the recent hot pace of sales—driven by overseas markets such as China and pickups used for business purposes—can continue for four or five years, so the geriatric car in your driveway won't stop auto sales from giving the economy a nice boost.


"One factor driving that demand will be the growing gap in the fuel economy of vehicles built between 2002 or earlier and the new models. In 2002, the average fuel economy of new cars in the U.S. was 29 miles per gallon, according to the Department of Transportation. By 2012 it was up to 35.6 MPG."
—CNBC's Philip LeBeau

Tracking gizmos to keep employees healthy


You've seen those car insurance ads for an under-dash gadget that will tell if you're a safe driver? Well, soon we may see something like that to tell whether employees are living healthy lifestyles.

No, it won't plug into the back of the head like something from the new Matt Damon movie. It will be a wearable device like the ones dieters and exercisers currently use to measure activity and count calories. Broader use could be driven by Obamacare.

At least that's how John Sculley, co-founder of Misfit Wearables and former Apple CEO, sees it. In 2015, the Affordable Care Act will require employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance or face a fine. To keep premiums at a minimum, many employers will promote healthy lifestyles and use gadgets like Misfit's Shine, a kind of high-tech pedometer, to gauge compliance.

Current fitness devices measure steps taken, distance walked, intensity of activity and sleep time, and then deduce the calories burned. Some also link to computer, Internet or smartphones to allow the user to record food intake and exercise routines. And some hook up with social media so the user can share progress, or lack of it, with friends. Future devices could be much more elaborate, taking measurements critical to people with chronic conditions.


"We're already seeing a rush by employers who are moving to self-insurance. And as they do that, they suddenly care about their employees' productivity in terms of their health care."
—John Sculley, co-founder of Misfit Wearables

(Read more: Health care needs a dose of social media)

Making the most of your company's tweets


Steve Jenkins was waiting for takeoff when he noticed it—his boarding pass for Virgin America Flight 753, bound for San Francisco, was missing his frequent flier number. He could have flagged a flight attendant. He could have called customer service. Instead, Jenkins, the CEO of a Seattle-based gaming company, decided to pick up his phone and tweet. Four minutes later, Virgin American responded.

With 200 million active users generating 400 million tweets a day, a growing number of businesses are looking to make the most of their Twitter presence.

Companies advertise on Twitter using promoted accounts, tweets and trends, all of which appear prominently in a user's feed. Twitter doesn't charge to post the ads, marketers pay based on the amount of engagement—how many users click and retweet them.

Faced with shrinking digital attention spans, brands must compete to stay relevant. To put the Virgin America anecdote into 140 characters or less: It's adapt or die.


"With Twitter, you've got an ad that's intertwined with insight of content. In order to get attention and engagement, you have to be as good as you possibly can. Being loud actually works in reverse."
—Adam Bain, president of global revenue at Twitter