CVS Rebrands to CVS Health, Stops Selling Tobacco

I noticed a commotion in Bryant Park as I got off the subway yesterday. People in red shirts were holding balloons, standing inside giant hearts, and handing out lollipops. I walked over to the party and realized there was indeed something to celebrate: CVS has stopped selling tobacco.

To celebrate the end of tobacco sales, CVS filled Bryant Park with red hearts and a blow-up cigarette reading, "Cigarettes Out. Health In."

To celebrate the end of tobacco sales, CVS filled NYC’s Bryant Park with red hearts and a blow-up cigarette reading, “Cigarettes Out. Health In.”

The internet was buzzing with the news that CVS had announced it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its more than 7,600 stores, one month earlier than the original October target date. The plan was announced back in February, in a move that was lauded by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association.

But CVS also had another change to announce. The company has changed its name from CVS Caremark to CVS Health. Writing for the Associated Press, Tom Murphy says this reflects the trend of drugstores playing a bigger role in the health industry, in part because of Obamacare’s new options for receiving medical treatments and vaccinations.

Laura Ries, president of the brand consulting firm Ries & Ries, says,

“It’s an improvement off of Caremark, but it’s not some amazing thing that will change the world.”

I agree with her that most people won’t notice the change. None of the stores will be marked by the full name, and personally, I didn’t know CVS Caremark was the real name in the first place. But a broader and more general name like “CVS Health” allows for smaller branding opportunities within the different segments of the company. And there’s still the option of including the word “Health” in order to resonate with the company’s mission.

For example, yesterday’s announcement came with its own social media campaign. People were encouraged to post their #OneGoodReason to live tobacco free — and they did! How many times have you seen a drugstore do that and actually have people participate? Articles about the announcement also circulated across Facebook.

CVS reps were also handing out these "The Last Pack" tobacco quit-kits, filled with information, health stats, an activity booklet, coupons, and stickers.

CVS reps handed out these “The Last Pack” tobacco quit-kits, filled with information on quitting, health stats, an activity booklet, coupons, and stickers. The packs will also be available at CVS checkouts.

The loss of tobacco sales is expected to cost the company $2 billion annually. But CVS hopes to make that up as new parts of the business continue to grow, and people are noticing. Perhaps because of the announcement and all of the attention it’s gotten, CVS shares have gone up 22%. One thing is for sure. CVS has successfully positioned itself as a drugstore that truly cares about the health of its customers.

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Facebook Unveils New ‘Paper’ App

Facebook released its new ‘Paper’ app last week, marking its latest entry in the world of mobile technology. According to the Facebook Newsroom, the app is designed to make “storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and fullscreen, distraction-free layouts.”

The idea is to make the Facebook experience more akin to that of a newspaper or magazine. I’ll say that the interface is definitely more visually appealing than the standard Facebook app, and it can actually be quite fun to use. The swiping panels focus on photos and short headlines, rivaling that of social media competitor Twitter — a fact that is surely less than a coincidence.

Paper is the first app to come out of the Facebook Creative Labs, the company’s new initiative to develop apps to target specific user demands. Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch, reminds us of the familiar feeling of anger that many Facebook users get when the site makes a drastic change. (Remember when we were all forced to switch to the Timeline? Scary stuff.) The Creative Labs are working to make entirely new apps so that users can pick and choose which ones they want to use, without alienating the people that want to stick to the traditional format.

Paper focuses on news stories, but its home page is still based on the original news feed of friends’ status updates. You can choose to use one app or the other, or even both, but Jessica Guynn of The Los Angeles Times writes that Facebook might intend users to gradually make the switch to the new app’s format. “It’s Facebook reimagined for the smaller screen,” and that’s necessary if the social network wants to remain relevant against its competitors.

Facebook Paper Kyle Schuerger

But what I’m really interested in is the fact that Facebook has a team of people hand-picking the stories that are featured on Paper. Jennifer Van Grove writes in an article for CNET that

Sections are a mix of posts surfaced by algorithms and plucked by human editors, with the primary goal being to present you with content you haven’t seen before.

This brings Facebook, which was formerly based solely on user-generated content, into a whole new territory as a social gatekeeper. As more people subscribe to the new app, they can get their news from Facebook’s headquarters, and therefore be fed only the news that Facebook deems worthy. With roughly 1/5 of the world’s population using Facebook at the end of 2013, and almost half of those users preferring the mobile platform, that’s a lot of power.

That being said, they are still using relatively legitimate and established sources to populate these Sections … for now. If and when Facebook decides to enter the business of reporting the news itself, this could turn in an even greater issue. And that’s something to think about.

But for now, Facebook Paper is a fun app to use. I only downloaded it to see what the hype was about regarding the Creative Labs, but in just a few days, it has already gained a solid place in my news app rotation. An iPad version isn’t available yet, but given the news format, I’d assume that’s on the way — along with an Android version, for that matter.

You can download Facebook Paper here.

Hulu Adds Hundreds of Titles to Kids Lineup

Sesame Street

Hulu Plus recently announced a great addition of titles to the ‘Hulu Kids!’ banner of its subscription service. A new roster of series from studios like Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, Jim Henson Family TV, and PBS Kids were added last week, including a few Spanish-language titles.

Hulu has been trying to expand its offerings in an effort to boost its subscription revenue. After co-owners Disney, 21st Century Fox, and NBCUniversal decided not to sell the company this past summer, the owners have invested hundreds of millions of dollars towards developing the platform, both in its technology and content. Looking forward, I’d say they either want to make it more attractive for a higher bid in the future, or maybe even let it go public. Just look at how well Netflix has done after taking this route.

And with Netflix becoming the huge powerhouse that it has, and Amazon Prime trying really hard to get in the game too, Hulu needs to keep upping the ante if it wants to compete. Bottom line: this means creating original content and buying up the rights to stream highly popular content.

But what’s really interesting about this most recent addition is that it’s all in children’s programming. Yes, the competition is doing it too (see the Disney-Netflix deal), but what does this say about the position of children’s content as a whole right now? In a blog posted on Hulu’s website, Rodrigo Mazon, who works in Content Acquisitions for Hulu Latino, writes:

Kids are starting to take control of their viewing – they know what they love to watch, and once they find that favorite show or character, they’re hooked, and they’ll watch it over and over and over again.

Now look. I’m all about kids watching television, but I find this kind of mindset a little troublesome. I don’t know that it was the smartest move for a Hulu representative to give parents — the ones he’s trying to convince to pay the subscription fee — the image of their children mindlessly sitting in front of the television for hours on end. Children’s programming should be a tool for the child’s development, not ‘baby’s first addiction’.

Whether this will give much of a boost to revenue remains to be seen. A lot of the additions were gathered with non-exclusive deals, so the series can already be seen on platforms like Netflix. But with its connection to current traditional programming, forays into original series, multilingual commitments, and now a wider selection of children’s content, Hulu is definitely becoming a major player in the game.