Archive for December, 2018

Year in Review: A Look Back at Small Business Trends in 2018

Monday, December 31st, 2018

 

Small Business Trends - Executive Team - virtual leadership meeting

Here at Small Business Trends we’ve had an amazing year and we could not have done it without you.  We’d like to share a look back, with our 2018 Annual Report.

The Year Started Slow – But Ended Great!

The year 2018 has been fantastic overall for us. But the year did not start out that way.

Sales in the first quarter of 2018 were slow. At the end of February cash flow was at a low point.

But the team did not let that get us down. Instead, it inspired us to work harder. We spent the next two quarters catching up, getting out of the red and back to the black.

And then we had a terrific fourth quarter to cap things off. More on that in just a bit.

Thank you, dear readers, from the bottom of our hearts. You inspire us to do better.

And thank you to our valued sponsors and advertisers. You provide the financial backing to keep Small Business Trends publishing. We appreciate your business!

In the following annual report I will go over our accomplishments, the challenges we faced, and why we are so stoked for 2019!

Accomplishments by Team Small Business Trends

Reached 30% More Small Business Owners

Our traffic grew considerably during 2018. We were able to serve 30% more small business owners this year compared to last.

We are in the digital publishing business. Think of our business as similar to a magazine or newspaper. Just as with any magazine or newspaper, our “circulation” numbers are a key performance indicator.

Some of you found us via Google and other search engines.

With the boost in search traffic we also got a pull-through in direct traffic. We’re telling our story better, and that has improved our brand recognition. For example, we improved our About Small Business Trends page.

While traffic is good, that doesn’t mean anything unless we meet your expectations. Using advanced analytics and big data, we were thrilled to discover:

  • A core group of readers are brand lovers of Small Business Trends. Over 11,000 of you visit an average of 35 times a month. Wow!
  • Another 300,000 visit many times a month.
  • And another 1,750,000 visit a bit less frequently during the month – typically one to a few visits.

Our goal is to give you more content you desire, so that you WANT to return — often. For that, we knew we had to better understand what you like and what engages you. That’s why data is so important to a small business.

Our big data analytics revealed other useful insights. For example, we learned that longer content is more popular. Content with at least 1,000 words has longer time on page and better engagement overall.

Here’s another interesting factoid. Not only do YOU prefer longer content, it’s also better for us. Longer content earns more — at least 5X more. See Revenue by Word Count chart below.

Conclusion: Be data driven. Don’t assume anything about your audience or customers.  Each business, site and audience is unique.

Revenue by Word Count - Small Business Trends Annual Report 2018

Reinvigorated Our Social Media

We got a small but sustained boost in traffic from revising how we approach social media.

Over the past decade, we’ve gotten considerable traffic and branding visibility through social media. After all, we’ve been on Twitter since 2007 — that’s 11 years!

But times have changed. So we had to change:

  • We rebranded our @smallbiztrends Twitter account from a combined personal/organizational account to a company account. I started using my individual account (@anitacampbell).
  • Our social media manager has increased engagement 150% through several strategies, including sharing humorous content.
  • We improved our LinkedIn presence, publishing more content there.
  • We upped our presence on Pinterest, YouTube and Quora. And we cut back on Google+, in light of Google’s plan to shutter the network in 2019.

Conclusion: Social media is evolving. Every small business should periodically re-examine what it is doing and where.

Achieved 25% Improvement in Production Processes

We refined our internal content production processes, achieving 25% improvement.

In the publishing business, content is our product (not just a marketing technique). Efficiency, quality and quantity all matter. Processes and systems can make or break profitability.

  • Our executive editor did a fabulous job guiding the team toward evergreen content that leverages our content investment wisely.
  • Our assistant editor did a magnificent job coming in 10% under budget for content expenses. He manages a global team of talented writers.
  • Our search specialist does wonders on on-page optimization.
  • Our editorial assistant does a great job filtering news to keep our publishing schedule moving.
  • Our client administrator worked with the Content team to ensure 96% on-time delivery of sponsored content deliverables.

The team collaborates virtually. We are proud of being able to operate as if we are in the same room — even though we are across the globe. We use various chat tools and shared documents to achieve this.

Occasionally we even hold our Tuesday executive team meetings by video. Note the screen capture image at the top of this report showing a recent meeting.

We estimate we got 25% process improvement overall.

Conclusion: Process improvement opportunities in a small business are often small things staring you in the face. Improving one small thing may not move the needle. But add up several changes and the difference becomes meaningful.

Challenges We Overcame

Like any small business, we face challenges every day.  In 2018, team Small Business Trends had three large challenges to overcome.

Compensated for Seasonality

As I mentioned at the start of this piece, our first quarter of 2018 started in the red.  Why? Seasonality.

Revenues in our industry are seasonal, just like many of your businesses. Our business model is based primarily on ad earnings. We are able to provide content free to you because we earn from advertisers and sponsors.

Advertiser spending is traditionally lower in the first quarter. And for unexpected reasons, we ended the prior year with smaller-than-normal cash reserves.

I was honest with the executive team. I explained what we were facing. There’s no point in hiding the situation. If you do, you can’t get your team’s help to turn things around.

I’m happy to report that team Small Business Trends rose to the challenge. We not only managed to get through the first quarter, but we had an amazing turnaround in eight months. Two factors contributed.

First, we forged a strong partnership with the right ad revenue partner. This gave us a recurring revenue stream. We have multiple revenue streams, but most have huge swings from month to month. Having one revenue stream that’s more predictable made all the difference.

Second, ad rates for the final three quarters of 2018 were on fire.  The Ad Revenue Index image above below rates for the entire industry during 2018. Rates nearly doubled between January and December, as you can see from the image below.  That helped too.

ad rates for 2018 - seasonality

 

Conclusion:  Find at least one predictable revenue stream. It alleviates some of the white knuckle pressure to meet payroll. You will be freed up to work ON your business, not just IN your business.

Addressed Deferred Maintenance

Imagine for a moment that you were so busy, you didn’t have time to keep your store shelves and warehouse organized. You didn’t have time to clean the premises.

Fifteen years go by. Just think what your business would look like!

That’s what we were facing. Think of this website (smallbiztrends.com) as our storefront and warehouse.

For 15 years we kept creating new content. As the site grew, maintenance required more time — so we tended to put some of it off. As a result:

  • Outdated content piled up like virtual dust bunnies.
  • Older links broke.
  • Technical issues negatively affected Google crawling.

To top it off, we came face to face with the 80/20 rule.  Big data analytics showed that 80% of our ad revenue is driven by about 20% of our content.

This is caused by two factors. First, some older content is simply outdated. Second, the more content you have, the deeper the best content gets buried.

We knew we had to take a step back in order to grow in 2019.

We started by conducting a site audit using a tool called SEMRush. The great thing is that the tool gives a roadmap for how to fix the issues, and we’ve made good progress already.

Conclusion: Don’t put off maintenance. Time is not your friend.

Optimized Site Speed

Site speed is more important than ever, especially with the shift toward mobile visitors. So we set a goal to improve site speed during 2018. And I am happy to report the site is much faster today than before we started.

One of the changes that dramatically improved site speed for us was caching pages on a CDN. Previously it would take a few extra seconds or partial seconds to create the page dynamically. Caching really helped.

But improving speed is not a “once and done” task.  Many factors slow a site down. In fact, speed varies page by page. And new issues pop up. We have to continually tweak.

Conclusion: With some challenges the bar is always moving. Keep at it.

Looking Ahead

So there you have our 2018 Annual Report from Small Business Trends.  We accomplished some things we are proud of.  And we managed to overcome some gnarly problems.

For 2019 we intend to:

  • Understand voice search. Voice search is the next frontier. I bought voice search devices for each of the executive team members, so we can experiment
  • Organize the site more. We will continue weeding out older, less relevant content. We will focus more on structure.
  • Improve user experience. We intend to focus on improving the mobile experience for you, in particular. We’ve already started. For example, we recently widened our mobile template by a number of pixels. When we implemented our responsive template five years ago, mobile screens were narrower. Screens have trended larger since then. In addition, our COO has undertaken UX improvement as a special project of hers.
  • Focus on branding. We will strive to increase brand recognition. Knowing we have so many loyal readers encourages us to do more to stay top of mind.
  • Continue building team strength. One thing we’ve learned over 15 years is that a small business’s strength is its team. When our team members put our collective heads down, we accomplish amazing things  So we are investing in training and expanding the knowledge of the team.

We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

We at team Small Business Trends hope this Annual Report inspires you to reflect back on YOUR success.  After all, that’s our mission. “Small business success … delivered daily” means we strive to help you be successful, everyday.

Wishing you a successful year,

Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends.

PS:  What are you proudest of from 2018?  What do you plan to focus on in 2019?

This article, “Year in Review: A Look Back at Small Business Trends in 2018” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Year End Report Looks at Email Marketing on the Biggest Shopping Days of 2018

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 Holiday Email Marketing Trends

The one marketing channel which has been delivering consistently for years is email. And with a record-breaking $7.9 billion in sales for Cyber Monday 2018, SendGrid wanted to know just how marketers were using email.

SendGrid analyzed the data from the record 2.9 billion emails sent on Cyber Monday alone. The company surpassed its highest sending volume to date and looking at this data the company found valuable insights marketers can use as part of their sending strategy.

For small businesses, this report highlights the benefits of using email as part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Because according to SendGrid, email is the number one digital driver of ROI for brands responsible for 24.2% of traffic.

However, email is not being used as effectively by small businesses. In an email interview, Small Business Trends asked SendGrid’s Len Shneyder, Vice President of Industry Relations:

Why are more small businesses not taking advantage of email marketing considering it consistently delivers when it comes to conversions?

Shneyder said, “Email at scale is challenging, therefore, it might seem daunting to small business owners or they might think they lack the tools to utilize email as a growth channel. But that need not be the case. Email marketing is extremely cost-effective. It remains the best digital marketing channel for return on investment and email’s cost-per-acquisition is the lowest of all media types, according to the Data & Marketing Association. Our research also found that nearly 50% of consumers have purchased from websites after seeing a marketing email.”

Shneyder goes on to say while some businesses use email, they’re not taking full advantage of the full spectrum of tools available to them. He says small businesses can use, “A broad range of email applications from a simple newsletter, to an automated onboarding series, to similar product recommendations, promotions/sales and transactional emails like email receipts and password resets.”

2018 Holiday Email Marketing Trends

One of the data points most often cited is the time you send an email. However, SendGrid reports the time you send the email doesn’t affect open rates for most of the day.

It goes on to say when you send an email during the evening time it raises opening times to almost 8 hours. Therefore, the company recommends sending time-sensitive deals before evening time to make sure they’re well received.

What about Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Regarding Black Friday, the open rates for emails on this day were 42 minutes faster than regular Fridays, which stands at around 4.5 hours.

Ironically enough, using subject lines which use “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” were performing worse than those which didn’t mention the events.

SendGrid recommends marketers to use subject line switch leverage segment specific interests, previous purchase behavior, or provide an innovative, clever, and compelling value proposition to entice the consumer.

Additional data points during Black Friday and Cyber Monday are: fewer exclamation points were used, even though this practice was higher in 2018; usage of discounts in subject lines fell to only 6%, and 26% will click more than once on links in the same email during Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

So, Small Business Trends asked Shneyder:

Why should email be part of the overall digital marketing strategy for small businesses?

“Besides being the most cost-effective channel in terms of ROI with $38 of return for every $1 of investment (DMA), email is consumers’ online identifier to sign up for new products and services and retrieve important user credentials. People change their home address more frequently than their email address, therefore, email serves as the system of record for our digital lives.”

He added, “Given the proliferation of email vs. the world’s population, it’s only natural that every new business will turn to email to create connective tissue with customers and prospects. In fact, we found that 67% of consumers believe email is essential to their lives and Gen Z expects to increase or maintain their email usage over the next 5 years.”

Whether it is Black Friday/Cyber Monday or any other day of the year, email is a cost-effective marketing solution for small businesses. This is especially true for startups with limited budgets.

As Shneyder said, “It’s important for small business owners that are not using it to understand that email will be the most effective means of reaching their audience out the gate and as they grow.”

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Year End Report Looks at Email Marketing on the Biggest Shopping Days of 2018” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Square Appointments Allows Businesses to Reach Customers on Instagram and Google

Monday, December 31st, 2018

You Can Now Use Square Appointments on Instagram and Google

As a payment solution, Square (NYSE: SQ) is always looking to improve its platform by bringing the physical and digital world together for a seamless ecosystem.

The company’s latest endeavor in this area is the integration of Instagram and Google with Square Appointments. This will allow users to reach more customers in two of the most popular digital platforms.

Square Appointments on Instagram and Google

For small businesses with a digital presence, this integration will make it possible to acquire new customers from their social media feed on Instagram or search results in Google. And if you don’t happen to have a website, Square Appointments still allows you to get discovered on Instagram and Google.

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How Does it Work?

If you are a business with an Instagram account, you can add a call-to-action (CTA) button to your page. When a customer clicks on the CTA button, they will be able to instantly book an appointment through Square Appointments.

You Can Now Use Square Appointments on Instagram and Google

All this takes place without leaving the Instagram app, which adds to the user experience.

For Google, you have to opt-in to Reserve with Google. When a local customer searches for the services you provide it will allow them to create, cancel, and reschedule appointments directly from their Google Search and Maps.

This also takes place within the app, which removes another friction point for consumers when it comes making an appointment. When the appointment is finalized, the business will be notified of any new booking through Reserve with Google.

You Can Now Use Square Appointments on Instagram and Google

What is Square Appointments?

Square Appointments makes all of your services bookable by customers on your online booking website, through booking links and now on Instagram and Google.

The intelligent scheduling of Appointments syncs your personal calendar to ensure your availability is always accurate through a cloud-based platform.

With the cloud, you can access the appointment anytime and anywhere so you can keep track of all your bookings. And because Appointment allows the customers to reschedule, you will also be able to see any of the changes as they happen.

If you have a team of workers, each employee can see their individual calendar and see their schedule on any synced device. When they get an appointment, they will receive confirmation directly.

As an administrator, you can give employees different levels of access, adjust schedules, manage every location from a single account, and track all the schedules to see who is available.

With this solution in place, you will be able to attend to your customers’ needs with a personal touch. The platform gives you the appointment history, personal details, notes, and purchase history of each customer. This information lets you provide customized service for all of your clients.

You can also send friendly reminders to your customers or inform them about any changes which might take place.

According to Square, this integration has resulted in businesses experiencing an average of 34% year-over-year increase in reservations with Square Appointments.

Point of Sale Integration

It goes without saying Square has also built its point of sales feature right in with Appointments.

Customers can pay for items and services directly from an appointment, with sales automatically being attributed to the right employee. At the same time, you can track your stock in real time and get email alerts when items run low.

When a customer is ready to pay, the Square payment ecosystem accepts every kind of payment quickly and delivers your funds almost instantly.

Image: Square Appointments

This article, “Square Appointments Allows Businesses to Reach Customers on Instagram and Google” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The A to Z of Financing Your Own Business

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Small Business Funding

You have an idea for an exciting new business.  You’ve done your research and you’ve written a business plan.  Now it’s time to answer the big question – how to finance a business.  Let’s take a look at your options and the things you’ll need to consider in your quest for business funding.

Small Business Funding

Business funding is a broad concept.  It can be used to describe many the financing needed for various business situations, like starting a new company, expanding a current business, or covering cash gaps.    For now, we’ll focus on business funding as it relates to financing a brand-new business.

Things to Consider When You Finance a Business

Before you dive head first into your financing options, take some time to really understand what you’re financing.  This is imperative.  Obviously, you need to know how much funding is required to get your business off the ground.  We’ll get into that a bit later.  But you also need to have an idea of how those funds will be allocated.

Whether you’re borrowing money from a bank, working with a group of investors, or getting a loan from your parents, you’ll need to be able to explain what the money will be used for in specific terms.  Here are some aspects of your business that could require startup capital.

Renting or Buying Space

If your business will be headquartered in your garage or a spare bedroom, great.  You probably won’t need to worry about money for a workspace.  But look into the near future – if your business grows the way you intend, can you sustain it in your garage?

For those who need a space, like an office, warehouse, or workshop, check out your options for renting or buying and keep those figures in mind for your overall financing needs.

Hiring Staff

Unless you’re running a one man show, you’ll need employees.  And unless you have a network of people lined up to work for you, you’ll have to post jobs, work with recruiters, and run background checks – all of which cost money.  Many people don’t realize, there are costs associated with hiring employees, not just paying their salaries.  If you’re in the market for executives, senior management, or high-level tech gurus, your costs will be even higher.

Inventory

Depending on your business model, you may require inventory to get started.  Since you can’t make money without first having inventory, these costs will be part of your business financing.

Equipment

Whether it’s a simple laptop or a multi-million-dollar piece of machinery, the costs for your equipment will likely come from your startup funds.  Keep a running list of all the equipment you’ll need, not just the big stuff.

Managing the Customer Journey

Not so long ago, customer service was just something that happened when a consumer called your company.  Nowadays, customer experience is a huge part of the success (or failure) of any business.  When you’re figuring your startup expenses, don’t forget to include the cost for consultants or third-party tools like surveys to manage your customer’s journey.

Working Capital and Day-to-Day

Remember those employees you hired?  Well, they’ll be expecting a paycheck, whether your business is turning a profit or not.  Consider how much financing you’ll need to sustain your employees’ salaries and benefits.

And don’t forget the day-to-day costs of running a business.  Incidentals come up all the time and it’s important you have an operating fund to keep you covered.

How Much Funding Do You Need?

Now that you have a nice list of the specific costs associated with starting your business, it’s time to figure out how much money you’ll really need.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic number or special formula that will help you decide how much financing your business needs.  There are some guidelines you can follow, though.  Start by estimating the amounts you think you need for each of your expenses.  Then compare those estimates to the following criteria.

What’s the ROI?

Figure the approximate return on investment for the funding amount you estimated.  If result is an unacceptable ROI, you might need to reconsider your amounts in some areas.  And remember, certain expenses will be just that – expenses.  Things like your daily operating budget won’t have a measurable ROI.

How Quickly Can You Pay Off the Debt?

Debt is a pretty common part of starting a business.  But no one wants to be in debt forever.  Think about how long it will take you to pay off the amount you’re thinking of financing.  If the term is longer than you’re comfortable with, you might need to scale back on the funding in some areas.

Will You Incur More Debt Later?

Your initial answer is probably, “Of course not!”  But don’t be so hasty.  Incurring more debt isn’t always a bad thing – Like when your business explodes, and you need more inventory.  Other times, you might fall a little short and need some help bridging the gap.

In any case, be conscious of the potential need for more financing in the future.  Be honest about whether you could manage both debts and how you would do it.

Types of Business Funding Available

Business funding generally falls into three main categories — debt financing, equity financing, and bootstrapping.

There is no better or worse option.  Each type of financing has its place in different business scenarios.  The type of funding you choose will depend on your business model, your goals, and your resources.  Here’s how each of them works.

Debt Financing

Debt financing means you’re borrowing money.  The word debt might make you cringe, but not all debt is bad.  Most businesses in the world have been in debt at some point, that’s how most of them got started.

Business loans from a bank and borrowing money from friends or family are both examples of debt financing.  In these cases, the amount you borrow must be paid back (with interest if you’re working with a bank.)

When you fund your company with debt financing, you have the distinct advantage of maintaining complete control of your business.

Equity Financing

Equity financing means you sell part of your business to investors in exchange for funding.  There’s no loan, interest, or repayment involved.

Angel investing is the phrase commonly used for startups.  Angel investors give business owners money to start their companies and in exchange, the investor is given a portion of the business.

While there’s no repayment needed for equity financing, you are relinquishing part of your business to your investors.  Some investors may be totally hands-off, trusting you to handle all the business.  Other investors may wish to be involved in some of the decision making.

Bootstrapping

The word bootstrapping means using your current resources in a situation.  The term can be applied to all sorts of scenarios.  In the case of financing your business, bootstrapping means you rely on your own personal finances to get your business off the ground.

It’s an attractive thought, considering you won’t be in debt to anyone nor will you have to sell any shares in your company.  And you’ll be in complete control of your business.  It can be a hard road to travel though, especially if your personal resources are limited.

How to Decide on Financing

Every business is different, and so is every funding situation.  The type of business financing you choose will depend on many different factors.  And there’s no rule that says you can only use one type.

Many startup owners opt to take on a few investors, get a small loan, and invest some of their own money.

Here are a few of the things you should take into consideration when deciding on which financing option(s) to choose.

Consider How Much Capital You Need

If you only need a small sum to get your business off the ground, bootstrapping could be an option for you.  Larger amounts may require loans, investors, or both.

Reflect on Your Own Finances

The idea of bootstrapping is enticing, but it’s not for everyone.  If your personal finances can’t sustain running a business and taking care of your other responsibilities, you may need to investigate other financing opportunities.

Admit Your Tolerance for Risk

Bank loans must be repaid.  If your company fails, no matter how sad the situation, the bank still wants its money.  If this thought terrifies you, think long and hard about your approach to financing your business.

Think About Your Relationships

What happens if you’re unable to pay back your family and friends?  Will this effect your relationships?  Before accepting loans from people with whom you have close ties, be realistic about how it could play out.

Check Your Credit Score

Thinking about a loan?  Your credit score will be a factor is financing through a bank.

Decide on Your Willingness to Work with Investors

If you choose to go with equity financing, you’ll be giving up part ownership in your company.  This is a perfectly acceptable trade-off for some business owners while others may be totally against the idea.  Before you enter into an agreement with investors, be sure you understand the short-term and long-term effects it may have on your business.

Other Considerations

Once you’ve settled on the amount needed to finance your business, you can begin approaching banks or investors for funding.  Be careful during this process.  You may be surprised when you’re offered more money than you actually planned for.

It will be tempting to accept a larger loan or a higher amount of investor funding.  But doing so could be detrimental to the long-term health of your business.  Taking out a big bank loan means a longer term of payments and more money paid toward interest.  Signing on more investors than you need will result in losing more and more ownership in your company.

You worked long and hard on your business plan and you should give equal attention to your financing plans.  Be honest and precise about the money you need and use the funding according to your plan.

Republished by permission. Original here

Image: Due.com

This article, “The A to Z of Financing Your Own Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Russia Arrests American in Moscow Over Suspected Spying

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Russia has arrested an American citizen on suspicion of spying in Moscow, its domestic security service (FSB) has said, quoted by Aljazeera. 

The FSB, which took the American into custody on December 28, said in a statement on Monday that a criminal case has been opened against the suspect.

The statement, issued in Russian, identified the American using a name that appeared to translate as Paul Whelan. It did not provide any detail about the nature of the alleged espionage.

The US embassy in Moscow could not immediately be reached for comment.

The arrest comes amid various spy scandals involving Russia and the West – from the alleged poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England to the conviction of Russian citizen Maria Butina in the United States for acting as an illegal foreign agent.

Russia’s relations with the US soured since Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Since then, the US and other Western countries have imposed a wide range of sanctions against Russian officials, companies and banks.

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Angela Merkel’s New Year’s speech: Germany Will Take o Greater Responsibility Internationally in 2019

Monday, December 31st, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany will take on greater responsibility internationally in 2019, and keep pushing for global solutions to the challenges of climate change, migration and “terrorism”, reported Aljazeera. 

In her annual New Year’s address, the four-term chancellor said international cooperation was needed to master these problems, but said old certainties about the multilateral approach was “coming under pressure”. 

“In such a situation, we must again stand up for, argue and fight more strongly for our convictions,” Merkel said in a text of the message her office released before a scheduled Monday broadcast.

“And we must take on more responsibility in our own interests.”

In recent months, Germany has frequently been on the receiving end of criticism by USPresident Donald Trump, whose “America First” policy is the opposite of the unified response to world challenges that Merkel advocates for. 

Germany will campaign for “global solutions” through the United Nations, Merkel said, noting the country is spending more on humanitarian aid and defence. 

Berlin is due to assume a rotating seat on the UN Security Council on January 1. 

Merkel also pledged to fight for a “more robust” European Union, and vowed to maintain a “close partnership” with the UK despite its decision to leave the bloc. 

Turning to home, Merkel urged Germans to champion “openness, tolerance and respect”.

“These values have made our country strong. We must espouse them together – even if it is uncomfortable and taxing,” she said. 

It has been “an extremely difficult political year”, she added, acknowledging that many Germans have “struggled very much” with her most recent government because of persistent infighting. 

Merkel, who has led Germany for 13 years, said she set the stage for a “new beginning” in late October by announcing she will not seek a fifth term. 

The move followed losses in regional elections for her coalition. Merkel has since given up the leadership of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, Germany’s main centre-right party.

Her ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took over the party’s leadership earlier in December. 

Merkel has previously said she plans to remain chancellor for the rest of this parliamentary term, which is due to run until 2021, but questions remain over whether she will remain in office for the duration due to tensions within her governing coalition. 

“Democracy lives from change,” she said in her New Year’s message.

“We build on what our predecessors left us, and shape things in the present for those who will come after us”.

Source

Philippine Storm Death Toll Surges to 68

Monday, December 31st, 2018

 The death toll from a storm that struck the Philippines shortly after Christmas rose to 68 with the number of fatalities expected to climb even higher, civil defence officials said Monday.

Fifty-seven people died in the mountainous Bicol region, southeast of Manila, while 11 were killed in the central island of Samar, mostly due to landslides and drownings, the officials said.

“I am afraid this (death toll) will still go up because there are a lot of areas we still have to clear,” said Claudio Yucot, Bicol civil defence director.

The weather disturbance locally named “Usman” hit the country on Saturday. While it did not have powerful winds it brought heavy rains that caused floods and loosened the soil, triggering landslides in some areas.

Many people failed to take necessary precautions because Usman was not strong enough to be rated as a typhoon under the government’s storm alert system, Yucot said.

“People were overconfident because they were on (Christmas) vacation mode and there was no tropical cyclone warning,” he told AFP.

Although Usman has since moved westward away from the country, many affected areas were still experiencing seasonal rains, hampering rescue and recovery efforts, he added.

At least 17 people are still missing and more than 40,000 were displaced nationwide due to the storm, the civil defence office said.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.

The most powerful was Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in 2013.

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The Subway and Part of the Ground Transportation Will Work on New Year’s Eve

Monday, December 31st, 2018

The metro and part of the ground transport in the capital will work on New Year’s Eve night, reported the Bulgarian National Television.  Night bus lines will also be available to citizens, but some of their routes will be changed.

Detailed information on the working lines of public transport can be found on the website of the Center for Urban Mobility.

Source

Almost 70% of Bulgarians Will Welcome the New Year at Home

Monday, December 31st, 2018

67% of Bulgarians will welcome the New Year at home, another 17% will visit their relatives, 11 out of 100 will celebrate in a restaurant.

This shows data from a national representative survey of Exacta. Compared to last year, the proportion of our compatriots who will celebrate at home is decreasing.

Every fourth says it will travel to New Year’s Eve. Most of them will remain in the country, but the number of those who will face the holiday abroad is growing.

This year, leading destinations remain Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. And according to the eSky air travel platform, most people will fly for the feast to London, Rome, Frankfurt and Berlin.

Source

Putin Sent a New Year Greeting to Trump

Monday, December 31st, 2018

In a congratulatory message to Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the widest range of issues, reported the Bulgarian National Television.

Putin emphasizes the importance of Russian-American relations as the most important factor for stability and international security.

Russia’s head of state has sent greetings to a number of leaders – among them Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis.

Source

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