About this Author
Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
About this Site
Moores Law defines the history of technology. It held that the number of circuits etched on a given piece of silicon could double every 18 months as far as its author, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, could see. Moores Law has spawned constant revolutions since then, not just in computing but in communications, in science, in a host of areas. Moores Law applies to radios, and to optical fiber, but there are some areas where it doesnt apply. In this blog well take a daily look at new implications of Moores Law in real time, as it rolls forward to create our future.
February 23, 2006
News of the Civil Rights lawsuit aimed at making Craigslist mediate its listings has hit The New York Times.
The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says that the company’s current ads often violate laws against non-discrimination. People advertise to hire folks, or to rent apartments, and don’t think that “whites only” applies to them.
The newspaper industry is downright gleeful over this. Julie Bosman’s lead is dripping with sarcasm.
FOR several years, Craigslist.org has been aggressively taking classified advertising from newspapers.
Now Craigslist is the one under attack.
The story, and the suit, are deliberately misleading. They both ignore the fact that the ads in question are free.
In that way they’re not really ads at all. They are speech.
Which changes the legal principle. To force on site managers a responsibility to police all speech for all potential legal violations would render free speech impossible.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
February 22, 2006
Google's Image Search service is illegal.
U.S. District Judge Harold Matz of Los Angeles delivered this stunner in a suit originally filed by a porn firm, Perfect 10.
At issue is the Google Image Search caching and delivery of "thumbnail" images, which is the only way to tell someone what an image hit consists of. Perfect 10 not only sells its images to Web sites, but sells smaller "thumbnails" of those images to people with mobile phones, and those thumbnails, by themselves, represent product it wants money for.
Last March Agence France-Presse also filed suit against Google, claiming its delivery of thumbnails as well as portions of its news stories violated its copyright.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Telecommunications | e-commerce | law | online advertising
February 09, 2006
The funniest Super Bowl ad was probably the FedEx bit with the caveman saying "it's not my problem" FedEx hadn't been invented and the other caveman's package got stomped by the dinosaur. (Although my 14 year old son howled at the Diet Pepsi Jackie Chan set-up, with a Diet Coke getting squished as a "stunt double.")
The most important ad, however, came at the end. It was a fairly straight ad, although (like everything else about the game) horribly overdone. In it a man with a cellphone walks through a world populated by sports of all kinds -- baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR and track all going on around him.
It was a house ad, really. It was for Mobile ESPN. ESPN is owned by Disney, which also owns ABC, which ran yesterday's game.
So why was it important? It was important because neither ESPN, nor ABC, nor even Disney owns any cellular assets. They don't hold frequencies, or towers, or run networks. They are re-selling.
Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile has already created billions of dollars in equity value through cellular wholesaling. Others want into the business. It's a good business, good for the wholesaler, and good for the network (usually Sprint) doing the wholesaling.
Yet this is the business the Bell companies have spent the last decade destroying when it comes to Internet access. They ignored the promises of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. They killed all the CLECs, claimed they didn't have to wholesale on "new builds," made everything a new build (even cutting copper to guarantee it) and topped it off by getting governments on the state and federal level to sign-off on the scheme.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing
February 05, 2006
AOL and Yahoo have begun offering corporations "preferential delivery" of their marketing e-mails to users for prices ranging from .25-1 cent per message.
The scam is being run by Goodmail Systems, whose home page advertises "if it's certified, it's safe." (The illustration, from the Goodmail Web site, is an animated .gif of the company's "partners.")
The claim is that this is "opt-in" only and "not spam." But the incoming lists aren't audited. This is, in fact, a pay-off to let "spam that is not spam" through the company's spam filters.
Here's the real Clue to what is going on, from the New York Times piece found on the International Herald Tribune:
The two companies also stand to earn millions of dollars a year from the system if it is widely adopted.
Get it? They want to charge protection to spammers.
For outfits which have been part of the Internet for a decade and more, Yahoo and AOL don't know much about the Internet, do they?
I run a mailing list which may be subject to the charges, and I can tell you right away it's no sale. No operator of a free e-mail newsletter service is going to pay protection on what is legal opt-in traffic.
Who will? Marketers .
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | spam
February 02, 2006
Verisign CEO Stratton Sclavos is a big investor in incumbency. And he gets value for money.
OpenSecrets.Org reports that he gave $84,000 in political contributions during the 2004 cycle, and has (with his wife) given another $24,700 in 2005. The Verisign PAC, meanwhile, has spent another $36,200 this cycle, in hard money contributions.
That’s not all. The same Web site reports Verisign put out $124,000 in “soft money” contributions during 2002, and $88,600 in the 2000 cycle. While some of the money (about 15%) goes to Democratic incumbents, the vast majority goes to Republicans.
That's just the money I found searching OpenSecrets under Verisign and Sclavos. It doesn't count other money that may have been sent from Verisign executives, or their families, or third parties under Verisign's direction.
What does Verisign get for this money? It gets the full legal authority to rob the Internet, to take you, for everything it can grab.
And it's grabbing with both hands.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | Politics | e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | personal
February 01, 2006
Change is the one business constant. Those who embrace it succeed, those who resist it fail.
But change also dislocates.
Workers threatened by change organize unions and seek protection from government. The Luddite movement was a call by workers to smash the new textile mills that threatened their jobs.
Business calls against change are heeded more often, because they may speak the language of change and back it up with cash. In autocratic societies the cash is called a bribe. In a democracy it’s called a campaign contribution.
History proves that in every case, the public interest governments must follow is to embrace change. This is tough when the threatened industries have enormous political power.
Yet America has done this for 200 years.
- 19th Century Whigs embraced change as “public works,” ports, canals, and (later) railroads and telegraph companies that needed scarce capital.
- Turn of the Century Progressives embraced change as antitrust, worker protection and (perhaps most important) the income tax, which replaced the tariff as the funder of government and made America the world’s business leader.
- Mid-century Europeans forged free trade agreements, starting with Iron and Steel, evolving into the European Community. America embraced this movement through the WTO and such treaties as NAFTA.
Cars replaced railroads, oil replaced coal, suburbs replaced cities, and as the American blackboard was erased, rewritten and erased again, incumbents were allowed to wither away.
Today Google is the face of corporate change. Google has become a corporate stand-in for the changes the Internet makes necessary. Thus the incumbents have their knives out for it:
- Telephone companies threatened by the Internet’s end-to-end principle, in which services are defined at the edge, want government to give them power to define services within their networks that everyone – including Google – will be forced to pay for.
- TV and movie studios threatened by the fact that video can be passed as bits have demanded, and gotten, the power to halt distribution of bits they own.
- Newspapers threatened by the Internet’s power to organize everything and make it available through links want government to make Google (and then the rest of us) pay for “linking rights.”
These forces are made more powerful by the fact that networks, studios, and reporters have no new business models to replace what’s lost as Google and its followers (Level 3, Craigslist, eBay, Amazon) march forward.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce | law
January 30, 2006
Google has to obey the law.
Doesn’t matter if the law is oppressive, as in China. If Google wants to do business in China, it must obey the law.
Google can fight stupid laws, as in the EU Google can argue in court against some laws, as it’s doing in the U.S.
But Google must, in the end, obey the law.
I’m sick and tired of sanctimonious claptrap from people who state, baldly, that Google’s stated intent to “do no evil” means it must defy the law. Google is a public company. Google can’t do that. No public company can.
You can complain all you want about Google’s actions within the law. People do. They complain about its cookies, about its tracking usage patterns. They complain about its habit of leaving projects out to dry if they don’t work, about how some projects aren’t worth the spin that’s placed on them. They complain about its lack of lobbying prowess, or how little it has spent lobbying.
But Google has to obey the law.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Politics | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing | online advertising
January 29, 2006
This week's issue of A-Clue.Com is on-topic (for once).
It's about e-commerce, and about how to make start-ups work.
Specifically we're talking about what it takes to get a start-up launched and the character of a successful entrepreneur, who is at its heart.
You're invited to join the A-Clue.Com community by clicking this link. Always free.
I learned a great and terrible lesson recently.
While it's true that anyone can launch a business, an entrepreneurial business must be a team from the start.
Sure, you need the entrepreneur, the idea person. You need someone who can find the money, who can sell the scheme, who can adjust to events, who can lead. You need someone of boundless energy, determination, ambition, and (especially) ruthlessness.
If your business is going to be on the Internet, you need a content guy. Having an Internet business without a content guy is like having a restaurant without a chef. On my latest venture, I'm the content guy (not the entrepreneur).
The content guy is committed to the editorial mission of the site (and even stores have an editorial mission). The content guy has contacts, a voice, an understanding of what's needed to attract attention and credibility. A content guy might be able to run the whole show himself, if this were a small business. But it's not, so keep the content guy in his place.
There's a third team member needed, and many businesses fail to plan for this. That's the tech person. In a restaurant this would be the maitre 'd. In an old-line manufacturing business this would be the engineer. In retailing it's a number cruncher. A geek, in other words. Gotta have a geek.
While today's Web tools are much more powerful and simple to use than ever before, they're still tools. Every step toward simplicity is matched by a step toward power. While users may use your Web site to simplify their lives, or even their own creation of content, that's not how it works inside the site business.
+ TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
January 25, 2006
Everyone hates spam. But there has been no political constituency potent enough to fight the well-organized Direct Marketing Association, which has successfully defended spammers from meaningful regulation for a decade.
Now Matthew Prince, a young Chicago lawyer, thinks he has the answer. Porn. Well, anti-porn.
Using the Christian Right as his political base Prince’s company, Unspam Inc., has gotten laws passed in Utah and Michigan that could both make him rich and make most e-mail disappear. While fighting for the law in a Utah court, he has taken his show on the road to Georgia, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, trying to get identical laws passed there.
The laws create a “do not porn” registry, run by Unspam, that e-mailers must filter their messages through. Anything in an e-mail deemed “harmful to minors,” even in a link, becomes a felony. Not just porn offers, but alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms and illegal drugs are covered. Parents on the list get the right to sue for up to $1,000 per message (Utah) or $5,000 per message (Michigan). There are also criminal penalties, including jail time.
Prince spends money through his “base,” using Susan Zahn’s WDC Media (the same folks used by Christian broadcasters) for his PR, and emphasizing the porn angle in his releases. An Unspam press release sent out via Webwire identifies only the porn industry as fighting the new laws.
But the direct mail industry is now energized as well. WindowsSecrets editor Brian Livingston put out an article on Earthweb last year blasting Prince as essentially a patent troll. (The company has filed U.S. patent application 20040148506 to protect its registry, he says.) Prince claims he wins his registry contracts through competitive bids, but if you got the law through and patented the required technology, well, you figure it out. (I should note here that WindowsSecrets is an e-mail newsletter, so Livingston would have to filter his lists through Unspam if the law holds up in court.)
A recent Wall Street Journal story on Unspam estimates compliance costs this way:
Businesses are charged $7 for every 1,000 email addresses examined each month in Michigan, and $5 per 1,000 in Utah. Companies must have their lists examined once a month. A company with a list of 100,000 emails would pay $14,400 annually to have its list examined by both states. Unspam receives the majority of the revenue to administer the registry, and the rest goes to the state.
Livingston disputes the WSJ conclusions. He says monthly screening won’t protect e-mailers, that 85% of the money goes to the state. He then offers two illustrations of how easy it would be for the law to be abused:
- A conservative activist puts her e-mail address, which is also used by her daughter, on a state registry. The listing takes 30 days to become effective. She then e-mails a health clinic for information about morning-after pills. If the clinic replies with the information, the sender is guilty of a felony.
- A liberal activist registers his and his son's e-mail address. After 30 days, he e-mails a gun dealer, asking for product listings. If the dealer replies with details, he's guilty of a felony.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce | law | marketing | online advertising | spam
January 24, 2006
California spammer Jeanson James Ancheta, who turns out to be a 20-year old kid, has pled guilty to computer misuse and fraud charges which should draw him a four-year sentence.
Ancheta is the first to be convicted of creating a "botnet," a network of infected computers hired-out to spammers and other malware authors.
Now for the big question. We've established that bots are bad. We've established that the people who create this poison deserve prison.
Now what about those who enable the crime? What about the people who bought spam generated by these botnets, or who bought ads sent by that malware? This was an economic crime, after all. It can't exist without both sides of the transaction.
We don't just want to throw the pot producers in jail, the Pedro Escobars and their ilk. Isn't the point of our law enforcement to get at the "street dealers" and "users," those whose dollars enable the crime? I've seen tons and tons and tons of ads along those lines, produced by the federal government, over the last decade and more. The propaganda is accepted. We all agree.
So why not here?
Why isn't it a crime to buy the services of a spammer, or to buy the services of a botnet? Why isn't it a crime to advertise through someone's stolen bandwidth, using their stolen PC?
Spam and malware would be a lot easier to stop if those who paid for it faced hard time, too. And I don't want to hear any garbage about "distribution channels." Don't give me that nonsense that you can't police your distribution channels. Of course you can.
Or you, too, should be going to jail.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | spam
January 21, 2006
NOTE: The following entry is being mirrored at the new Infrastructure Held Hostage blog.
We live in an uneasy relationship with the past.Photograph courtesy RPI
The whole past is available to us, there to teach us lessons, to give us Clues that can help us avoid yesterday’s mistakes.
We can find multiple analogies within it. While our politics may seem, to some, analogous to those of the early years of the Cold War, in terms of technology they’re far more like those of the early Progressive Era, the early 1900s.
So imagine if the railroads of that time controlled all the roads.
That’s precisely what AT&T and Verizon, aka Bell East and Bell West (making Qwest and BellSouth into Bell North and, what do you know?) are doing to the Internet right now.
Jay Gould should have been so clever.
They’ve gotten away with it (so far) because the Internet uses the old phone network (cars using the old railroad tracks) for transport. As with railroad tracks and cars, the phone network brings irrelevant, even obnoxious, artifacts with it.
Take out the frequencies used for phone calls (which you can easily do with VOIP) and your DSL line could handle up to 7 Mbps down, no problem, without changing out the underlying technology.
Still don’t believe me? If you have a home LAN (and millions do) you’re assigning IP addresses to each PC on the network, creating your own private Internet.
Your transport to the Internet backbone could be delivered just as easily with a cable modem as with the phone.
- When the cable company offers you phone service they’re not rebuilding the old infrastructure, just modeling it on data.
- Internet transport could be delivered over power lines, and where my inlaws live, in Flatonia, Texas, it is.
- Internet transport could even be delivered using radios, through a Wireless ISP (WISP) using the shared unlicensed WiFi frequencies your home network (and garage door opener, and cordless phone) use.
Whether that WiFi cloud is owned by your city or a private company is irrelevant – it would work.
Many large companies create their own networks, linking to the Internet only at competitive peering locations where they can get the best prices on fiber transport. Long distance fiber remains a competitive market (for now). Their fear is that, with so much of the U.S. transport market now held by the Bells, their prices could be squeezed just as yours are.
Given that the cable operators have powerful lobbies, and cable does not cover everyone, the phone companies are, in their own lobbying for privilege, allowing them to exist. It’s also convenient. Their current efforts at “improvement” are aimed solely at delivering TV to homes, as cable does, not at improving Internet service.
By allowing this dual-monopoly on consumer Internet transport, or duopoly, the cable and phone monopolies mask reality. Having a choice between only cable and a Bell for ISP service is like having a choice between only Coke and Pepsi for the liquid you need to live. It’s a false choice.
In his book $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, Bruce Kushnick details how we got from the open, competitive market of 10 years ago to today’s duopoly. But I’m more interested in how we get out of this, and what a truly competitive Internet market might look like.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce
January 06, 2006
Ever play the old board game Risk?
There were two winners at the end, and one ultimate winner. The first kid would pile all his counters up in one spot (usually Greenland, because it was big on the Risk board) and place one or two on adjacent squares. The second kid, the one who won, would right their way across the board strategically, taking on the first kid only at the end. Once the final battle started, and everyone knew how it was going to go (the first kid was going down), they'd walk away, someone would upend the board, and the first kid would claim he won, or got a draw, or something.
In computing Bill Gates is the first kid. The desktop is Greenland. Everything is focused on Windows and Office. And when computing was based on the desktop -- in the early days of the Great Game -- Gates looked dominant.
But the world is connected. Larry Page is playing the role of the other kid. He's sweeping the board right now, thanks to the Google Bubble, and today at CES he showed the hand he'll play against Gates over the next year.
The talk is going to all be about Google TV, and the scuttlebutt will all be about the Google PC, while software types (like me) will look really closely at the Google Pack of software.
It's what the Google Pack doesn't contain that most intrigues me.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
January 02, 2006
Folks who were wondering how Rupert Murdoch and Fox would try and capitalize on the purchase of MySpace over the summer don't have to wait any longer.
They're doing it by trying to break network neutrality, from inside a Web site.
Net neutrality is a basic principle of the Internet. It means you can go where you want. But if you are a registered user of Murdoch's MySpace today, you can't go to YouTube, which MySpace has deemed (without telling anyone) a competitor.
Alice Marshall's Technoflak reports that Murdoch's site has blocked access to YouTube from MySpace users, giving them white space instead. The site has also erased all references to YouTube from MySpace posts.
I thought that as word of this gets around the MySpace site it would be interesting to see how enthusiastic people are to remain there, and how many might be looking for a new online home. Oh, wait, it's already getting around. (Things happen fast in the blogosphere.)
Here is the story at the BlogHerald, with more details (the idiots are even modifying user profiles to erase references to YouTube) and while the rebels tried to get organized against this, they made the mistake of trying to launch their campaign from within MySpace.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising
December 21, 2005
One of my favorite Web bugaboos has always been bloatware. (This cute guy came up in a search for the term, but he's a blowfish, delicious batter-fried with tarter sauce. Like an aquatic drumstick.)
My first run-in with this imperative was over a decade ago now, at the old Interactive Age. The art director wanted to force folks to go through her home page before getting to my daily news hole. The home page was pretty, a mock-up of each magazine's cover. But it was bloatware.
Bloatware wastes time without providing value. And it's creeping into the Web again.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | computer interfaces | e-commerce | online advertising
December 20, 2005
While you're all tucking into your Christmas turkey the hype machine for the next round, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is already filling media inboxes.
CESlong-ago replaced Comdex as the technology industry's premier trade show.Somewhere between the Internet and the iPod, computing bifurcated into a gadget market, which is CES' bailiwick, and a server market, which doesn't need the trade show hassle.
One 2005 success you've probably got under your tree right now is the games DVD. It may be a sports title, a fashion title, or a trivia title. It sells based on the brand (ESPN, Trivia Pursuit) standing behind the maker (as opposed to a publisher's brand). Play is divided between some sort of game board and the TV, on which the DVD plays the answers.
The next step in that evolution is bringing the Web into the mix, making the whole thing instantly updateable, and providing a continuing revenue stream in terms of new content and Web stores. That's what NetBlender is touting. They sent two PDF press releases here today (the bulk of the site is password-preotected) and the language would make P.T. Barnum proud.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Software | e-commerce | marketing
The eBay Myth is that you are somehow safe there.
This has never been true. From the beginnings of the service, in the 1990s, eBay deliberately tried to hold its security expenses to a minimum.
First, "the community": was to be relied upon. Then you were told, it's your risk. The eBay financial system has never been a member of Visa because achieving that level of security would be too expensive. So eBay bought PayPal and tried to turn it into a private bank -- only it lacked banking security.
It is natural to rely on cops in the financial world -- after you have done everything possible to protect yourself. That costs money, and money is something eBay has always been reluctant to spend, at least on computer security.
Now eBay admits that many accounts are being hijacked by crooks, and it acts surprised. Once again, they seem to blame crime victims and "phishing" e-mails when in fact it's their own security (or lack of it) that is at fault.
Successful eBay merchants have been pushing-back on this story, with letters claiming they're happy bunnies, but they're insiders here.
The fact is that eBay has never paid-out what was necessary to assure any level of security. It has pocketed that money as profit, and now it's reaping the whirlwind for that.
Want to prove me wrong?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Security | e-commerce
December 16, 2005
What motivates a blogger most? (Image from the blog of James P. MacLennan.
It's not really money, although money is nice. What bloggers want more than anything is traffic, and the attention that traffic generates.
Traffic validates. Traffic defines our value within the blogosphere.
There have been many attempts to calculate this over the last few years. There were blogrolls. There are link numbers. But these are mere approximations. What we want are page views, audience, comment strings so long that we ignore them or (maybe better) turn them off (because we're now so powerful and important).
Despite the talk among bloggers about how we transcend the "old media," what jazzes us more than anything is a TV or radio appearance. Then, unless we already work in TV or radio (in which case our blog starts with a huge head start) we put on our best suits, we luxuriate in the makeup chair, and we preen for the cameras.
I've often said writers are shy egomaniacs, and it's on display all over the blogosphere. Even though the talents needed in writing, blogging, and TV appearances are all quite different, what most bloggers really want is to be, in some small way, "king of all media" (at least in our minds).
Now, what are the business implications of all this?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | personal
Google has launched a music search service, just a week after the Music Publishers' Association launched a legal move to close lyric sites and put their owners in jail.
Google has been at the forefront of the Copyright Wars and has always taken an aggressive position in favor of the free flow of information. It has yet to back down in court, although it has watched some things (newsgroups and Blogger) wither on its watch.
In this case, Google insists it will only act as a link, using legitimate "music partners" like iTunes and providing only snippets of data on its own, like song lists. In fact, there is no Google "tab" as there is with News, for instance. Instead, a "search music" button appears when you do a search on a relevant term in the regular Google search box. This can be based on a specific term, or the button can lead you to music-related results even on a general term.
By combining with other tech companies in this effort, Google seems to be pushing a compromise on the recording industry, which has tried to force users into accepting its technology choices, its terms and conditions.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Podcasting | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
December 06, 2005
One of the hidden ironies in the present Web 2.0 boom is that it occurs against the backdrop of a continuing Web 1.0 bust.
Companies that arose in the 1990s in such niches as e-commerce have never really recovered from the dot-bomb of 2000. In particular online department stores like Buy.Com, Overstock.Com and eCost.com have come to look as faded as old Penney's and Sears department stores did a decade ago.
Nothing unusual here. The reason we've had so few recessions in recent decades, and such short ones, is that new booms pile on behind the old ones, so that a failure in one segment is matched by the rise of another.
Anyway, Buy.Com is planning an IPO because they need the capital, eCost is being de-listed, and Overstock.Com lost money in its last quarter.
+ TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
November 28, 2005
Mapquest, the AOL-owned first-mover in online mapping, is about to fall.(That's their map of Cancun to the right.)
The Clue here is an AP story that looks like it was ordered-up by the AOL marketing department, but which can't resist showing cracks in the veneer.
The headline is about Mapquest pushing mobile mapping (which is good). The unwritten story is how Mapquest may be signing carriers to exclusive deals that keep rivals off, something that is possible since mobile "Internet" service is not Internet service at all, but private networks controlled by carriers.
Still, there are big problems revealed here, such as:
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November 23, 2005
Evaluating blog traffic has always been a dicey proposition.
There have been many attempts, with many different methodologies. There were blogrolls, hits, unique visitors, all sorts of nonsense.
Feedster has recently adjusted their methodology. They try to count all links, and discount the spam ones. The most interesting innovation here is the tag cloud, which you can see to the right of the list. Notice that popular tags are bigger than less-popular ones. The biggest remain politics and tech, followed by gadgets (which is a sub-set of tech). (Oh, and let's not forget to send a little link love to Robert Scoble (number 76), who turned me on to this.
What's interesting here is that these are subjects for which print publishers either have poor publishing models or failing ones. If you were invested in computer magazines over the last decade, you lost your shirt. Political publications have always been money holes.
As you will note from the headline, Corante is number 21 on the list, with 18,446 adjusted links. That's well ahead of such reportedly popular sites as Gawker, TalkingPointsMemo, Eschaton and Kottke..
You can see some of the unfairness right there.
Here I'm comparing a whole bunch of people (of which I'm proud to be one) to the sites of individuals. And, in fact, the big MSM blogging headline of 2005 has been the rise of "group blogs," so-called blogs that are actually running some sort of Community Network Service, like Dailykos (number four on the list), and the Huffington Post (number seven).
So let's be fair, with a bunch of group blogs Corante out-polled:
And that's just in the first 150.Don't you wish there were some solid business models on that list somewhere?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce
November 18, 2005
The launch of so-called Open Source Media (no, they're not open source, in fact they try to keep people from even using fair use quotation through a EULA, don't get me started ) is proof that a Blogging Bubble is well underway.
Why? No business model.
Everyone doing a blogging network, whether AOL (Weblogsinc), Gawker Media, Metroblogs, Huffington Post, OSM, you name it -- they're all using a media strategy. And Dana's First Law of Internet Commerce is:
It's not publishing, it's not TV, it's the Internet.
Any strategy based on bulk advertising, based on pure page views, is going to fail. No strategy based on pure star power can succeed, because it doesn't take into account the fact that stars fade and stars emerge. (It's not who you are, it's what you're saying, that counts.)
So, smart guy, what do we REALLY want?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
November 11, 2005
eBay is going down.
The collapse of its stock price may be followed by the collapse of the entire company. Certainly a fire sale is in the offing.
I can say this with some certainty because eBay has bought itself an enormous political problem with Skype, a fight it can't win because of its diminishing goodwill.
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November 09, 2005
Easy to say, tough to do.
- One thing. Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) must be simple, powerful, easily understood by everyone you do business with -- employees, suppliers, customers.
- Fulfill the promise. Do what you say you will do, always, Any failure to meet your USP can be fatal. But failures will happen. Meet them with kindness, and redemptive behavior. Think of the result as customer make-up sex.
- Don't lie. This starts with no lieing to yourself. Delusion is the first temptation of success. Always keep someone close who will tell you the truth about yourself, and let them. It's going to come out, whatever it is. The rule is not, don't let it. The rule is, don't do it.
- Identify with your customer. It's not just, the customer is always right. It's, you're the customer. Your interests are their interests.
- We're all publishers now. Your job is to organize and advocate a community or lifestyle. That's your business. Organize what your customers want into one place, and be an advocate for their interests.
- Keep it simple. Don't let the complexity of a growing business tear you away from a simple, coherent message. Some profits aren't worth chasing. Stay in your niche.
Like I said, easier said than done.
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One word: branding.
Microsoft is not a Big Time Brand, as my friend Rob Frankel would say. It doesn't give most of us the warm fuzzies. It's not a trusting relationship. There's no love there, as there is with Apple or Google.
So while I enjoyed Russell Beattie's brilliant summing-up of the strategy, I am far more confident in Om Malik's competitor sum-up. Look at the left side of Om's chart, then look at the right. Is the right side of the chart going to collapse because the left side is tightly integrated?
Remember what's coming, please. Apples are going to be on the Intel platform next year. That means they'll be just as cheap as Dell machines, maybe cheaper, and more stylish to boot. Google dwarfs what Microsoft is doing online, because they know where their business starts (search).
It's good that Microsoft is understanding where their business starts (the desktop) but just putting extensions on that into others' turf isn't monopoly.
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The hidden flaw, or Achilles Heel, of scaled technology systems like Amazon, eBay and Google is that the technology replaces human action.
Techdirt's recent story of the angriest eBay seller is just one example. The folks at eBay have always been lax in putting human resources against their computerized auction house, and frankly I won't do business with it as a result. A seller who threatens buyers physically should not be on the system, period.
It's an open secret that eBay is beset by fraud, on both sides of transactions, that Google results can be clickfrauded, that Amazon is robbed by identity thieves. These companies regularly calculate the cost of real police against the perceived benefits from better policing and keep the wallets in the pocket. We all suffer from that.
The danger is that every Web 2.0 start-up I've seen or heard of goes the same route. Computer interactions are replacing human interaction, cutting the costs of transactions. Perhaps we're cutting too deeply.
The problem, technocrats insist, is that people "don't scale." I can only do a certain amount of work each day. Same with you. When it comes to computer work, just put in another server, another T-3 line, and the same software's impact is multiplied.
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November 01, 2005
A lot of people are (rightfully) upset over SBC CEO Ed Whitacre's recent statements dismissing the concept of network neutrality.
Given that SBC will take the AT&T name once its merger with that company is complete it has many fearfully humming the theme from "Empire Strikes Back," seeing the Death Star in the sky again, preparing to see the Internet lights turned off all over the world. (The song is now a favorite of every Enormous State University band, usually played in the Third Quarter as Little Sisters of the Poor are crushed.)
Frankly, Mr. Whitacre is an idiot. There are many reasons why net neutrality, and not paid content access, will triumph in the U.S.:
- Google is one of the largest owners of dark fiber in the world. That's what their San Francisco WiFi bid is really all about. They need to fill that fiber, and WiFi can easily render wired phones (and lines) obsolete.
- Sprint has some interesting deals going with cable companies that create a "triple play" with cable networks combining phone, mobile, and television service. Network neutrality in that offering could cause millions to switch off their phones.
- Level 3 can easily link their fiber backhaul capacity to new providers via WiFi and WiMax, delivering another alternative for consumers.
- People aren't stupid. Consumers understand what the concept of network neutrality means. If it's threatened they will demand it from regulators and Congress.
- The U.S. is an increasingly small portion of the Internet. Continued slow growth will make the U.S. an economic backwater, and people know that.
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October 31, 2005
Hiow is this for a Halloween story?
Like Frankenstein's monster, AT&T is coming back from the dead.
The genesis of this stupidity is probably the old North Carolina National Bank. It acquired dozens of banks, large and small, and became NationsBank. That was a new, powerful brand. Then it acquired the Bank of America, based in San Francisco. After the deal was done it took that name. Now, in downtown Charlotte, there are homages to the old BofA on the cornices of its downtown office campus, along with some of its other kills. The bank thinks it's a nod to history, but I think it's more like the old hunter who puts deer heads on his wall.
In this case, it's SBC chairman Ed Whitacre who has the big ambition. He thinks that, by using the AT&T name, he can inherit the Bell System and, eventually, recreate it. Put back together what was torn asunder, only this time with no regulation, no controls, all powerful.
And in control of your Internet.
In his first move with the power of AT&T, Whitacre wants to start charging sites rent in order to reach his customers. Forget network neutrality. Forget about the nature of the Internet, which is that users route around attempts at control. If you're using SBC (excuse me, AT&T) DSL, Ed Whitacre will decide what sites you can see, what services you can use, what protocols you can support. My guess is he won't start by demanding rents from Google. He may go after smaller sites, like Corante, first, in order to set the precedent. But this is his promise.
This is the way Bellheads think, and it's good to get it out in the open. It's all about control of the customer, total control. Whitacre seems under the impression that today's political status quo will survive forever, that he will be allowed to control his customers as he wants.
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October 21, 2005
When Craig Newmark sold 25% of his Craigslist to eBay last year, there was some skepticism. "This is a mistake. eBay bad and robotic, Craig's List human and good. And now on the way to selling out."
Well, that writer need not have worried. Craigslist can be robotic, too.
Before, and since, eBay bought an early executive's stake in his company, Newmark has been busy trying to control what the Internet says you can't control -- links.
Techdirt has a summary of the latest. Just as eBay blocked out people who tried to link its auctions with those of other companies, Craigslist has forbidden aggregation, even searches across multiple Craigslist sites.
Had Craigslist not sold its stake to eBay it might be difficult for it to get away with this. But lawyers are wonderfully useful creatures, able to stop even obviously-legal things, like linking into the site, by firing papers and money over the bow.
The queston isn't, is this right. (It's not.) The question is, is this helpful to Craigslist?
The simple fact is that, in the short term, it's not, but in the long term, it may be.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | e-commerce | law
I have been reluctant to dive into the Google Print controversy because all the rhetoric is phony.
The rhetoric is about principles, fair use vs. copyright.
The reality is this is about money, about monetizing something that had no previous value and the obligation that places on the person doing the monetizing.
The plain fact is that everything Google has done, and everything Yahoo did before it, is based on monetizing fair use. The concept of fair use arose based on the idea it had no economic meaning, that it represented a necessary intermediate step on the way to meaning (and money).
But now we find, 10 years after the Web was spun, that fair use has enormous economic value. Through the magic of databasing, finding is now more valuable than having.
What then is the obligation of those who extracted this value to the holders of the data providing the raw material? The legal question has been answered, there is none. If publishers can stop Google from offering books online without payment, they can stop Google from linking to books without payment, because Google is only going to offer extracts that represent fair use free. It's the physical equivalent of the "deep linking" proposition we dealt with in the 1990s. If a book isn't read because it can't be located it makes no sound.
The moral question is something different entirely. If Google extracts a profit from Google Print, I think it does have a moral obligation to spend some of that money on activities that benefit writers and other content creators.
+ TrackBacks (1) | Category: Copyright | Internet | e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising
October 14, 2005
We're back on task at A-Clue.Com , discussing our original charter -- electronic commerce.
Of course, if you had (subscribed already these thoughts would be in your inbox right now.
Still, better a few hours late than never, right?
The recent agreement between Google and Sun highlighted a fact that has struck the tech industry in the gut, the effectiveness of the open source business model.
Marc Andreesssen, Bingo Bango Software in Atlanta, and even I (watch this space next week) are all working along the same path. Ad sales and e-commerce, when properly scaled, can pay for a lot of development. Those development costs can be spread so thinly that people can use powerful tools for literally nothing.
There are strict limits to this, I believe. A lot of entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, look at the success of Google AdSense, they read about big companies ramping up their online ad spending, and they figure the same stuff they've been doing before will now start making big bucks.
There are some key variables I believe will make the difference between success and failure in this space. One of the most important is the value you can derive from each page view.
Raising that value does not mean throwing ever-more-intrusive ads in front of people, or demanding personally identifiable information from each reader you then will share with advertisers.
What it means is making the offers on each page so relevant to the reader's interests that they will proceed down a sales funnel. How far will they go? That's where I part company with the "experts" in terms of strategy.
I'm proposing we think of three key elements in raising the per-page value of content::
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October 06, 2005
Internet businesses are easy to get into, easy to compete with, easy to replace.
This is a truth Internet entrepreneurs know and big media companies have yet to find out.
That's why Jason Calacanis sold out Weblogsinc after just two years. That's why the owners of MySpace were willing to take Rupert Murdoch's money so quickly.
They know they can come up with another idea quickly, and compete effectively with it quickly, if they get unhappy with their new corporate parents. They also know that their peers in this business know this, and would gladly sell out to the same companies if they don't.
Thus, as soon as a position is a established, and a big company thinks, "ah hah, a barrier to new competition," the owners of those companies are going to take the money.
They know there's no such thing as a "barrier to entry."
The cost of building a scaled Web site is falling, not rising. It's attention and talent which are the quantities in short supply. So talent will take the money and look for the exits every time, knowing that, since no one online knows you're a dog, no one knows that you've slipped your chain, either.
What does this mean about today's Weblogsinc deal?
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San Francisco is hopping this week over Web 2.0.
What is it? It's a database.
When you use a database as your basic site design template, then everything becomes a database call or a database interface. Thus, you can do anything. You can do blogging, you can do identity, you can do customization, you can do community.
The problem is getting stuff into that database. Can you share data among databases? Users don't like that. But how do you get permission for all the relevant, needed data to get into the database?
The obvious answer to that is that users have to live inside the database. A lot. This restricts choices, because time is limited. It means there are only a few "winners" -- a few sites will scale to get everyone's data and everyone else will lose out.
Thus there's a self-liimiting aspect to Web 2.0 trials. Unless....as with Sxip, you can take your personal data (the stuff that would fill a database) with you, and control it. Then you point that data to whatever database you choose to be a member of.
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The dot-boom ended when AOL bought Time-Warner. (People forget that AOL shareholders got 60% of the combined company's shares.) Will the blogging boom also end with an AOL purchase?
I ask because friends of mine in the business are thrilled over AOL's purchase of Jason Calacanis' Weblogsinc for a price reported to be $25 million. (Russell Buckley thinks AOL overpaid.)
Calacanis' company is probably the biggest in this space, but $25 million is less than the cost of a single good magazine title.
The bloggers are happy because they assume this means they now all have high-paying jobs with AOL. I don't know if that's true or not.(Jobs, yes. Highly paid? I don't know.) I'm wondering, however, just how big a business phenomenom rolling-up the news end of blogging can be, if the top group in the field is worth only that.
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October 05, 2005
I wrote something today suggesting that Dr. Eric Schmidt leave Google.
I was told, by my editor, that it was over-the-top. "A series of cheap swipes," "rather than a reasoned case."
Maybe it was. I didn't post it. I wrote something much milder, more humble, more seeking of counsel rather than snarky and smart. (I like editors. They save us from ourselves. They're very important people. Buy an editor lunch today.)
But like many people here I feel a personal kinship to Google. And I think that is the company's chief asset. Mess with my GoogleLove, and you're messing with your own GoogleSelf.
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September 26, 2005
Regular readers here will recall how I called Rupert Murdoch's deal to buy the owner of MySpace, well, ill-advised.
It may be worse than that. The company now finds itself fighting a rear-guard action by former CEO Brad Greenspan, who wants to buy a controlling interest for more than Murdoch's paying.
But it doesn't stop there. Greenspan is also making some serious charges against Intermix management in his Web site on the deal, Intermixedup. He charges, among other things, insider trading the price-kiting, essentially saying they used pump-and-dump tactics.
Despite all this chicanery, Greenspan charges that MySpace is worth far more than Murdoch is paying, and he could get a better price. Which leads to some questions:
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September 25, 2005
With The New York Times' new Web strategy having been in place for a week now, and with its having been debated for months before implementation, it amazes me that no one has identified where that strategy came from.
ESPN has been a part-pay site for years now, and did it the same way the Times is trying to, by putting what it considered valuable content behind a paid firewall.
Even the tiny thumbnail "in" icons used on the two sites to designate content that is behind the firewall are nearly identical.
So, why did it work for ESPN but it isn't working for the Times?
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September 21, 2005
Apple has released iTunes 5.0.1, which it says fixes problems found on iTunes 5.0.
I was frankly surprised at the number and vehemence of responses to my earlier item about iTunes 5.0 The reason? Reports on the problems have gotten very little traction in the mainstream press.
George W. Bush must envy Steve Jobs in some ways. Kanye West, who famously dissed the President during a Katrina fund-raiser, actually sang at the Apple iTunes 5.0 announcement, and didn't go off-message either. This story is being carried mainly in the blogosphere, where there are currently 176 posts under iTunes 5.0 problem (although not all are on-point).
Instead, Jobs and Apple continue to be hailed as heroes in the mainstream press:
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September 20, 2005
Let me take a stab at explaining Google's grand strategy.
My friends at ZDNet call this the Google PC, or a network computer.
Well, sort of. You may, instead of buying Microsoft Office, suscribe to Google's GMail and have a rudimentary office system with a gigabyte or two of storage.
But to say Google is going after Microsoft, the way we said Microsoft was going after IBM, is really to damn with faint praise.
If that were all there were to it, why would Google be planning on building out WiFi, or build out an optical network?
Google isn't aiming at Microsoft, or at IBM. It's aiming at the entire computing-telecommunications complex, building out what I'll call the Google TeleComputing Environment.
The idea is to take advantage of not only the Internet's ability to disintermediate clients, but its ability to disintermediate the phone network at the same time, and to do this in an entirely open source way.
What do I mean? Here are the ingredients:
- Universally-accessible applications, based on search.
- Universally-acessible networks, at broadband speeds.
- Universally-competitive systems, worldwide.
Google is flattening the world. More on what this means after the flip.
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September 19, 2005
Americans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.
This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.
The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.
In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.
Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:
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September 14, 2005
Amidst all the wailing over the Times' experiment in forcing people to pay subscriptions for Internet newspaper content, an important fact is being lost.
The International Herald Tribune.
I have seen no announcement that the IHT is changing its policies, or changing what content it offers. (The Tribune is owned by the Times Co., which bought out The Washington Post Co.'s interest a few years ago.) Here's today's opinion front page.
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Here is the situation:
- If blogging has a business model, it is based on advertising.
- Blogs are posted on Web sites, which carry the advertising.
- RSS feeds are increasingly adding ads to the feeds, BUT
- The revenue from the ads goes to those providing the feed, not to the content creators.
Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:
UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):
While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.
FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.
No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.
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September 09, 2005
After $2 billion, Rupert Murdoch's Internet strategy has become clear.
Murdoch finished off his buying spree by putting $680 million into IGN, which runs Web sites devoted to video games. This followed his earlier purchases of Scout Media, which runs sports sites for various sports teams, and the company that owned Myspace.com, the music fan site.
Murdoch has called a special "summit" of his top corporate chiefs for this weekend at his California ranch. Prince Alwaleed bin Talals Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia has apparently endorsed his strategy. (Didn't know the Saudis had their hooks into Murdoch quite that deeply, did you?)
So, is this going to be a gusher or a dry hole?
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September 08, 2005
In an era where money is magnetic ink, even the rich of New Orleans may not be safe.
A friend forwarded an American Banker feature (all content is behind their firewall, only the headlines are in front) that explains all this.
The story, by Steve Bills, details the problems banks had in the impacted area, and as many as five banks were still out of action as of Tuesday.
Those banks hurt worst were small community banks that did not outsource their financial processing.
Customers of those banks who managed to escape may be unable to get to their money, although they may not all know that because financial networks do have a limited ability to "stand-in" for their absent customers.
This could happen again-and-again, because only 40% of small banks out-source. Would out-sourcing solve the problem? Not necessarily. One of the bigger outsourcers, Fiserv, has operations in New Orleans (fortunately they're based in Wisconsin) and eight employees are still missing.
Given all this there are some basic things that need to be required:
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August 28, 2005
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August 22, 2005
The fastest way to save energy in this country is to build-out the Local Web. (The illustration is from the PRBlog, in a story about a local Web conflict.)
Every day I find limits in the local Web. Right now, for instance, I need a USB Bluetooth connector for my laptop. It's on the Staple's Web site, but delivery is three days away, and it's not at Staple's. It's on the Best Buy Web site, but it's not at the local Best Buy. I'm going to Fry's tomorrow (a 40-mile roundtrip) and if it's not there I'll have to wait for delivery.
All this driving would not be necessary if local inventories were rourtinely tied to Web sites (as they sometimes are at BestBuy.Com). That's one Local Web application.
There are many others.
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August 17, 2005
Mark Glaser has an OJR piece up about Cook's Illustrated, which has drawn 80,000 paid subscribers.
Glaser credits "cross-promotion and deep research" with the site's financial success.
The truth is simpler, and comes in one word -- credibility. Glaser sums it up this way, "the Consumer Reports of food." (That's publisher Chistopher Kimball, from an appearance on CBS.)
It's an apt description. I pay for Consumer Reports online. I don't use it often, but when I face a big purchase, I get my money out. Because CR is absolutely, 100% credible. There are no ads. There are no conflicts of interest. Everything they do is about earning my trust -- mine, not any vendors -- and they succeed at that.
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August 10, 2005
A number of items have come across my desk today advertising cool mobile stuff, but failing to offer anything resembling a business model.
Here is one of them -- Navizon.
It's advertised as a "peer to peer location service" combining "WiFi, cellular and GPS." But what exactly are you supposed to do with it? Where are the applications that will get Navizon's money out, let alone a profit? No clue.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | e-commerce
August 06, 2005
Back in the 1980s, Wall Street played a game on Microsoft's duo of Gates and Ballmer, demanding "grown-up supervision" for the then 20-something computer software duo.
Fortunately, Bill and Steve did not take the hint (get lost). They kept their stock, kept control, isolated a succession of adults, and finally came out the other side, billionaires and still in control to this day.
Well, I think Google has now outgrown its grownup.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin not only founded Google, but set many of its most important standards. They understand Google's corporate direction in their bones. But, like Gates and Ballmer back in the day, they were forced by Wall Street to get "adult supervision" in the form of Dr. Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt is, at heart, a computer scientist, and a good one. He is known as the "Father of Java," for his work on that language while at Sun. Then he went to Novell, and nearly rode the thing into the ground. (This should have been a hint, boys.)
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August 05, 2005
The mystery is, how are these people still in the game?
Overstock is a money-losing Amazon clone which seems to spend its entire marketing budget on cable television.
Maybe it's the salt water. Overstock is based in Utah, former home of Novell, current home of SCO, the place where me-too tech ideas get a family-friendly makeover, then die.
The TV ads are mostly image pieces, a spokesmodel in her 30s oohing about the various departments -- clothes, office supplies, video, jewelry. (Her name is Sabine Ehrenfeld, and she's actually 42. She's done some other work, but she's best known for these ads.)
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July 28, 2005
I believe that one of the cruelest businesses of our time are the so-called "payday loan" folks.
You see these shops in every ghetto. Victims write checks that are due to be made good when they get paid. The interest rates on these things can be as high as 100%.
Banks think that, at this rate, it's good business.
Now the business has come online through a San Diego outfit called Spotya.
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July 23, 2005
I'm a big fan of both Marc Canter (right) and Joi Ito . (NOTE: The picture, by Dan Farber of News.Com (and ZDNet fame), was taken off Marc's blog.)
They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.
But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
Here's why I think that.
Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.
In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).
Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).
Marc calls GoingOn an Identity Hub, something to which other identity systems can connect. (It's interoperable with Sxip Networks, for instance.)
But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:
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July 21, 2005
That headline could have been written about me. (But let's see if I can't make it up to you right now.)
It's the oldest dodge in the blogging world. You call another reporter lazy in order to cover up the fact you haven't looked at a story.
The usually-reliable Rafat Ali (right) did just that this week in his PaidContent, calling out The Guardian's Emily Bell for her skeptical take on Rupert Murdoch's $580 purchase of Intermix.
Just how lazy is that? Click below and find out.
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Amid the hullaballoo over CardSystems International, here's a little story that you missed.
Wal-Mart's opening a bank.
Not just any bank. A special kind of bank. An industrial bank, in Utah.
No offices, no direct deposit. Mainly, they exist to handle credit cards and other consumer loans. I'm sure the terms are very favorable, because big corporations are hotter for these than Donald Trump is for endorsement dea.s GE, Merrill Lynch, American Express and Target all have them. Berkshire Hathaway is setting one up to make loans for its R.C. Willey Home Furnishings stores. (Betcha didn't even know Buffett sold furniture.)
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Adam Penenberg channels
IDC IDG head Pat Kenealy (left, by Jay Sandred) on another of those occasional "you're going to have to pay for Web content someday" pieces we see every so often.
Well, he's right. But he's also wrong.
He's right because there's already some Web content people do pay for. Dow Jones loses reach and influence, but does make money selling online subscriptions. Lexis-Nexis and Dialog haven't gone free with the dawn of the Web. Last time I checked iTunes was selling songs online, at a profit.
He's wrong because he insists that "micro-payment technology" will stimulate the growth of pay-for-play content. We've been hearing that one for 10 years now, and it's as wrong now as it was in 1995.
There's already a micro-payment program in place. A very successful one.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
July 19, 2005
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Investment | Podcasting | e-commerce | medicine
July 15, 2005
I'm not trying to start a rumor here. I have no insight into whether Dave Sifry (left, from Marc Cantor's blog) has considered any offers for his Technorati site, nor how he would react if one came in.
But since Barry Diller bought Bloglines (via AskJeeves) Technorati's performance has been falling behind that of its rival.
Robert Scoble (who works for a possible acquirer, Microsoft) offers the numbers, three times as many links to Sifry's own blog from Bloglines as from his own engine.
There is a vital lesson here about the technology space:
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | marketing
July 11, 2005
The search for online business models is a continuing fascination of mine at A-Clue.Com.
This week I returned to the theme, and readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)
Most online stores fail their editorial mission. (That's Joseph Pulitzer to the right, from his eponymous journalism school at Columbia University in New York.)
You may have great merchandise, you may have great service, you may have a nifty shopping cart. But if you can't bring the values of your shop floor to your Web site, you won't succeed online. Over time you may not succeed offline either.
An editorial mission replicates the value of your store online. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? For Amazon it's a database, a huge variety of merchandise. Works for Amazon, works for Wal-Mart, but it won't work for you.
In fact, Wal-Mart's failures online can be attributed to this editorial mission failure. They were unable to replicate the values of a real Wal-Mart in their online efforts. While the store looks a jumble, regular shoppers know you can actually get what you want there fairly quickly. What they should have enabled was a form of "shopping lists" that people could print-and-use at home, adapting to their own needs, then input regularly on the site, along with a delivery service.
The difference between editorial values and commercial values is that the one defines what you are, and the other puts your name in mind. If branding is to be worthwhile you must deliver the values the brand promises. That is exactly how editors think, too. What you call your reputation they call credibility.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Investment | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
July 07, 2005
Since I was handing out royal titles last week I thought it might be fun to consider what J.D. Lasica might deserve for Darknet.
NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.
A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.
Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.
Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.
What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!
Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.
And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | Software | computer interfaces | e-commerce
July 01, 2005
Don't like fiction? I understand.
But you still need your summer reading. The season is upon us.
So might I offer you the latest from my new friend J.D. Lasica, Darknet
I've been covering the Copyright Wars for nearly a decade, and wish I had looked up from the day-to-day to try something like this book. Its subtitle is Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and it covers a ton of ground.
If you're not familiar with the digital underground, or what digital editing is capable of, then Lasica's book will be a revelation to you. Even for old hands like me it's good sometimes to get it all down so you can ponder it as a whole.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | law
June 29, 2005
Cellular operators love to go on about how much better their walled data gardens are than that nasty Internet, because consumers are safer.
Jamster and mBlox created the Crazy Frog phenomenon with a very addictive, and heavily advertised ringtone that topped the British pop charts for five weeks.
But there was a sting in the tail. People (mostly kids, but at least one BBC reporter as well) found they didn't just buy a 3 pound ringtone, but a "premium SMS" service that charged them as much as 3 pounds more for each add Jamster then sent them.
The two companies are being investigated but according to the BBC the maximum penalty could be a mere 100,000 pounds to mBlox, plus loss of its British business license. It's estimated the scam has earned over 10 million pounds so far.
But do you want to know the rest of the story, the bit the Brits don't know (yet)?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | cellular | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing
June 28, 2005
The recent theft of 40 million card numbers at CardSystem Solutions is a turning point in the identity theft wars.
Previous thefts involved third parties, insiders or numbers left in bins, things that are easily fixed.
The CardSystems case stands out, first, because it happened at an actual processor and second, because it involved the use of a computer worm.
My wife works at a payment processor in Atlanta (most processors, for some reason, including CardSystems, are based here) that has (knock on wood) not been hit (yet).
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | Internet | Security | computer interfaces | e-commerce
June 27, 2005
Former RIAA president Hilary Rosen finally gets it about copyright.
This volume needs to be embraced and managed becasue it cannot be vanquished. And a tone must be set that allows future innovation to stimulate negotiation and not just confrontation.
Her column at the Huffington Post (she apparently chose not to take feedback on it) is filled with honesty about both the tech and copyright industries, honesty she never admitted to (in my memory) while shilling for the RIAA.
But is it possible that this honesty is what finally caused her to leave? (Or did her life, and its imperatives for action, take precedence?)
That would be a shame, because the fact is, as she writes, that the answers here must lie in the market, not the law courts. For every step the copyright industries take in court, technologists take two steps away from them. This will continue until the copyright industries really engage consumers with offerings that are worth what they charge, and which aren't burdened with DRMs that restrict fair use.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | e-commerce | law
June 17, 2005
We returned to the topic of e-commerce, and the effort to make money in journalism, with this week's A-Clue.Com, which went out to subscribers this morning. (You can get one too -- always free.)
The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)
In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.
Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.
Let's sell ads.
Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | online advertising
June 13, 2005
Due to low salaries and high turnover, journalism continues to face the problem of reporters seeing failed trends repeated, not spotting them, and repeating the same failed cliches of earlier years, mainly due to orgnaizational inertia.
First, from the Financial Times, a piece on Internet sites being bought by media companies, "falling prey" to them being the operative cliche. On the whole these are market losers cashing out. The buyers aren't getting much, and the story doesn't examine the track records of the sellers. There's a story here, but not the one written.
Second, we have the BBC with the idea that consumer demands drive tech developments. If the iPod were possible 20 years ago does anyone deny we would buy it?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce
June 03, 2005
My free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com was launched in 1997 as a discussion of e-commerce.
This week I returned to the topic.
The reason why publishers have no editorial budgets with the move to the Web is simple. (Image from Websitecenter.)
None engage in Deep Commerce. Instead, they still just sell ads.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consulting | Economics | Internet | Investment | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
June 02, 2005
Mark Glaser's best column yet for USC's Online Journalism Review is on the subject of Googlebombing. (The picture is from Kristenlandreville.)
He works off a case study on Quixtar, which has apparently hired a number of people to make sure its reputation looks stellar and critics aren't found. Yet one of those critics, Quixtarblog, is the third result I found just now, on Google, with Quixtar as my sole keyword.
So it works both ways.
Glaser identifies one of the pro-Quixtar Googlebombers as Margaret S. Ross, identifying her as a Quixtar IBO. But a few more minutes on Google would have picked up this, a Peachtree City, GA outfit called the Kamaron Institute, which she runs, that has been accused of manipulating search results for, among others, CNN. Glaser also identifies Ross as a "writer" for something called esourcenews.com, while in fact she's the registered owner of that domain.
My point here isn't to dump on Mark's work here. It's very good. I just want to make two important points:
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | online advertising
May 31, 2005
A corporate blog may reveal more than you want to without revealing anything at all. (That's PR Blogger Klaus Eck.)
In order to succeed a blog must be spontaneous, fun, news-oriented and irreverent. If it sounds like a corporate communication it will be treated as such, and either be ignored or laughed-at.
There is a risk the blogger may reveal more than you want known, about corporate strategy or what you're really up to. And, let's face it, most corporations are sausage factories, on the order of Ricky Gervais' The Office or Scott Adams' Dilbert.
How can you avoid this? Some good advice follows:
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Internet | Telecommunications | blogging | e-commerce
Chris Anderson's blog, The Long Tail , is a "public diary on the way to a book" about the economic impact of mass customization.
As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.
Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.
As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.
What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.
Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?
What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising
May 25, 2005
One of the most interesting ideas I heard at the recent Blognashville event was Glenn Reynolds' suggestion of "local blogs." (The image is from Notbored.)
I looked into it. Won't work.
Local blogs don't scale, except in a small number of instances, in localities that are in fact quite large. You can, in theory, have New York blogs, covering the whole city, but how local are we talking about?
There's not enough of an audience for a single local blogger to cover, say, school board meetings, or crime, or even business, and bring in any money at all.
The answer to scale is comprehension. But that brings its own problems.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising
May 24, 2005
I'm generally all in favor of anything to fight spam. And regular readers of this space will recall how much I like my own anti-spam tool, Mailwasher from FireTrust.
But this pissed me off.
UPDATE: After posting this I learned the spam database I'm about to describe is not necessary for Mailwasher to work. My complaint here is solely regarding issues of marketing and notice. Mailwasher remains my anti-spam solution of choice.
The latest version of the product, Version 5.0 to be precise, supports a company spam datebase, called FirstAlert! This is a commendable thing, on balance.
But in order to pay for maintaining this database, FireTrust has changed its business model. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Essentially they're going to a subscription model built around FirstAlert!
I was asked to download the "upgrade" to Mailwasher, by FireTrust, roughly a week ago. I did so. It's now a $37 product but, if you want to maintain your own POP3 mailbox and a public e-mail address, it's a necessity. Upgrading was transparent, easy-peasy.
Suddenly this morning I get a pop-up, inside Mailwasher, reading "your subscription to FirstAlert has expired," with a link to renew. The link goes to a page inside the FireTrust site, and they want $9.95 for the subscription. The page doesn't indicate how long this "subscription" lasts.
Because of the way in which this was done, it can look to a consumer like a classic bait-and-switch. I bought this thing just last week and now you want MORE money?
Fortunately it's very easy for FireTrust to fix this:
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Software | e-commerce | marketing | spam
May 23, 2005
I have been criticized soundly here by the early leaders of the blogging business community,(Pictured is one of these leaders, Jason Calacanis. From Vertikal.Dk.)
And why should these people listen? They have what they consider success. I'm a "low traffic blog." If I'm so clever I should be doing it, not talking about it, right? (Right.)
But the plain fact is, most of today's top blogs are using the wrong business model.
Their model is a media model. I tell you, you listen, and maybe I advertise to you on the side. This is what newspapers do, what magazines do, what radio does, what TV does.
But is the Internet a newspaper? Is it radio or a magazine or TV? No, it is not. The IN in the word Internet is short for Intimate. So why then should a business model imported from one of these other industries be appropriate? Only because, like TV entrepreneurs in the late 1940s, you can't think of a more appropriate one. You don't have the right vocabulary. You weren't born to this medium.
What would work better?
The community business model would work better. This is driven, not so much by what bloggers want to say as what their readers want to say. There are many high-traffic sites now using the community model -- Slashdot, Plastic, Groklaw, DailyKos. What they have in common is true community software -- Scoop, Slash, even Drupal.
The problem (and this is the nut of the issue) is that most of these community sites have deliberately shied away from having a business model. The only site I mentioned above that has a true business model is Slashdot, and Slashdot is so unusual people with an editorial background can't get their arms around what that business model is.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
May 21, 2005
In last week's issue of my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com, I took a look at business models , following a weekend at beautiful Belmont University in Nashville (left).
This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.
There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.
Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.
I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.
So it went.
I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Journalism | Politics | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising | personal
May 19, 2005
I was planning on writing this afternoon about Broadcom's new patent suit against Qualcomm. Regardless of the merits, it looks like a good corporate strategy, creating uncertainty about a market opponent just as you're entering their space.
But in researching the story I learned something new about Google that may distress you. And that's a better blog item than the one I started with.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
May 18, 2005
Some time in the next month the copyright world may (or may not) reel from the Supreme Court's decision in the Grokster case.
The facts on their face are as favorable as the plaintiffs can make them. Grokster is all about making money for itself off the property of others. Its business model is to sell ads, including adware (sometimes a polite word for spyware and malware). It hoses both sides of every transaction. And the software really does little more than a good FTP server (with an automated database) would.
The vast majority of Grokster's use is driven by hoarding. People fear losing access to the music they love (or might love). So they load up, until they have gigs-and-gigs of it they have to haul around. (Thanks to Moore's Law of storage this gets lighter and less expensive over time, but it still has to be kept.)
The hoarding in turn is driven by the industry's threats. Threats of rising prices. Threats of lawsuits. Threats of copy-protected CDs.
The market solution to the facts is already in the pipeline. Many have proposed the idea of taxing people for unlimited access to the industry's wares and in fact schemes like Yahoo's Music Unlimited work just that way. Pay the "tax" (which starts at $5/month but could go up subject to negotiations with the industry) and download all you want. No need to hoard. Stop paying and all your files magically disappear. (The genie is found in Microsoft's DRM.)
More on the jump.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Internet | Software | e-commerce | law | online advertising
May 16, 2005
...no giant leap for wino-kind.
The Supreme Court decision legalizing cross-state wine shipments is limited.
First it applies only to states where delivery of wines to homes is legal in the first place. Georgia is not one of those states. (Although that law is not always enforced -- once I got some Michelob in a press packet.)
"If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on even-handed terms," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. If it doesn't you still got tough luck.
Second the case applies only to direct from-the-vineyard sales of U.S. wine. Imported wines aren't included. Importers can't ship to consumers, only vintners can.
But let's make this sporting, shall we?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | e-commerce | fun stuff | law | personal
May 14, 2005
By and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.
Instead they apply business ethics.
While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.
In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.
And Fuat Kircaali (right), CEO of Sys-Con Media, has apparently chosen to apply business ethics in the Maureen O'Gara scandal. (He has hinted at this before.)
This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.
UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.
Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.
"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. OGara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."
More after the break.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | Linux | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing | personal
May 13, 2005
B.L. Ochman (the picture is from her Whatsnextblog) has already broken this, but this week's a-clue.com newsletter features a piece on blogging business models, written following the Blognashville conference.
I spent the weekend at Blognashville, a gab-and-egofest for about 100 (mostly male, mostly middle-aged) bloggers at Belmont University in Nashville (a pricey pimple on the bottom of Vanderbilt) to fuss over Glenn Reynolds (much nicer in person than online) and to search for meaning.
The big question: how will we make money off this?
People are investing a ton of time and effort in blogging. Volunteers get burned out if they can't find money. All institutions are built on money. At Nashville we all felt we were in the gold fields and no one seemed to have made a strike.
There's a Clue there. Nearly all those 49'ers (and Alaska 98'ers) who went in with pick and shovel failed. It was those who went in with a business model, professional mining companies or merchants such as Levi Strauss, who succeeded.
Some 99% of blogs (including mine) go about the publishing question backwards. That is, we look at the process from the writer's point of view, not the reader's. This is forgivable in that bloggers are writers, but this is one of the key differences between writers and publishers. Publishers create for the market.
That is, publishers define the readers they want, the content those readers need, and the advertisers they will hit-up to pay the bills. They then order the production of the product, and keep an eye out to make sure it meets the readers' requirements.
In other words, the difference between blogging and journalism lies entirely on the business side of the shop. Publishers are just as likely to pay for lies as bloggers are to make stuff up. The difference is the publishers create lies that appeal to their audiences, while bloggers write lies that appeal to themselves.
This is easy to understand when you look at the professional blogs that are run by publishers - Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.
In contrast I found, at blognashville, that even the most-popular bloggers are mere dilletantes. This is a term Glenn Reynolds applied to himself. Dave Winer, with whom I spent pleasant hours, is also doing his blog on-the-side - his business is RSS. I was surprised to find myself the most knowledgeable businessperson in the room, and I'm a complete failure.
When you're led by amateurs you can't expect professional standards to be upheld. Yet, on the editorial side, blogs often do just that. It's on the business side where they all fall down.
Still, I saw several potential business models at the conference:
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May 09, 2005
Googlejuice is that precious elixir which makes the difference between a site or blog that has tons of regular traffic, and those that don't.
Getting Googlejuice, legitimately or not, is a real industry. It iranges from Search Engine Optimization to spamdexing.
Google is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting its algorithms in this area to be fairer, and keep people from playing games with it. Just last week it sought a patent on new Google News technology it claims will enhance that site's credibility. This may backfire, because the major media certain to get more Google Newsjuice out of this are the same companies looking to charge for links.
But that's another show.
One of the great ironies of my recent mistake here was that it actually increased this blog's Googlejuice. Between those who linked to complain, my responses in apology, and those who followed up on my explanation saying they hadn't seen my apology, the incoming link traffic here actually rose 50%. If some of those people stick around (maybe wondering when I'll fall on my face next) it's actually a good thing.
Jonathan Peterson, who did the Amateur Hour blog here for a while, made this observation to me over the weekend.
I think there are a few good lessons - the most important of which you
already knew - the firestorm around an error is good for your link
popularity. Andrew Orlowski has been playing this game at the Register for years (and it's the reason I stopped
reading The Register, but his anti-blog idiocy brings in the googlejuice.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | blogging | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
The dirty little secret I uncovered at Blognashville is that Glenn Reynolds is actually a very nice guy. Smart, too. (Not truly handsome like I am but OK for a hair-head.)
Reynolds, who teaches law at UT Knoxville and apparently enjoys it, also plays a right-wing crank on his Instapundit site. He does this part-time and, in part thanks to first-mover advantage, he dominates the right half of the political blogosphere, with over 15,000 incomng links at last count. (This blog, by contrast, has 262.)
Reading Reynolds, and those who admire him, one gets a completely false impression of the man.
In Nashville I found an erudite, intelligent, and amused gentleman of the old school, always in a suit and tie, never seeming to sweat, with a genuine smile that looked nothing like the MegaChurch preacher readers might expect. The haircut looks like something out of a 1968 Young Republican Club, and the blog reads like that as well, but the mind and the man behind them are quite different.
There was some real wisdom in the man as well. Don't believe me? Following are some quotes lifted directly from my notebook during the event:
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | Politics | blogging | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
May 05, 2005
Dmitri Eroshenko is warning the Internet advertising space that the sky is falling due to click fraud. (Illustration from Coolstuff4writers.)
There is click fraud, and the higher the value attached to a click the more likely it is. There are both human and automated click fraud programs out there.
But the sky is not falling. Click fraud is not destroying Internet advertising. In fact, business is booming. CP/M (as in cost-per-thousand) programs are making a comeback. Sponsorships are on the rise.
Besides, Eroshenko's hands aren't clean. He writes as an executive with ClickLab, a company in the business of solutions for click fraud. In other words, he's selling something.
This sort of thing happens all the time. The mobile phone virus scare is driven, in part, by people who want to sell you mobile phone anti-virus software.
What has changed?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism | e-commerce | ethics | marketing | online advertising
May 03, 2005
Why is it that politicians have done a better job on the Internet than publishers?
It has to do with a concept I call Pitch Credibility.
Journalists understand the concept of credibility. It's the trust readers place in us. If there is a journalism profession, it's based on this idea of credibility. I took a huge hit to my own credibility when I screwed-up an item on Ev Williams. I went through hell on that not to regain my credibility, but to minimize the losses, and in hope the damage would not spread to innocent Corante authors.
But just as editorial work must have credibility, so must advertising. That is the innovation the Internet makes necessary.
Moveon.org understood this right away. It knew that if it suggested you give to Candidate X, then Candidate X better fit the desires of the Moveon audience, or the endorsement would damage Moveon. Because it had pitch credibility with its audience, Moveon was able to gain honest information (a mailing list) from its members, and even financial support, based solely on its promise to deliver.
While Moveon failed in these last two cycles as a political force (ask Presidents Gore, Dean and Kerry) it has succeeded in creating a business model that everyone else on the Internet needs to pay attention to.
So if Roger Simon, for instance, is to succeed in his efforts to unite the right-wing blogosphere and extract money from its members, he must retain pitch credibility. He better not let anyone like me in because I'd damage it. And he better use that credibility only to solicit for products, services and people the audience will surely endorse.
Perhaps you can see now why this idea is easier for a politician to understand than a businessman. Politicians are attached to what they're selling in ways businessmen aren't.
Belief is at the heart of pitch credibility.
How can we take advantage of this in the business realm?
Click to find out.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | online advertising
April 29, 2005
Next weekend I'll be at Blognashville, helping out the Media Bloggers Association, where the question will be asked again, "Is blogging journalism?"
Short answer. No.
It can be, of course.
When journalists blog, when we ask hard questions, dig for facts, and take mistakes seriously, well then yes journalism can happen on a blog. (Cartoon from Cox and Forkum.com,)
But a blog can be a diary. If you invite just a few people to post, and those same people are all who can read it, a blog is groupware.
A blog can be a community. Let a lot of people offer posts, organize the comments, add polls and ratings.
A blog can be your picture collection. It can be a record of what you saw today.
And that is not all, oh no, that is not all...
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April 28, 2005
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to handle NO.
(I don't know where this image originated. It appears to be an old poster of actor-author Dom DeLuise.)
I learned this lesson from an entrepreneurial friend of mine today, and it's so important I had to blog it.
Entrepreneurs bring ideas to businesses and people. They sell these ideas, as businesses. They take a lot of meetings. And most of the time, maybe over 99% of the time, the answer at the end of the day is No.
"You have to turn it into an opportunity," my friend said. You do that by finding someone else -- a money source, another business -- who will either run with your idea, finance your idea, or buy it outright.
And you keep moving.
The difference between entrepreneurs and other businesspeople is that most businesspeople are in the yes business. In a going concern you mostly hear yes. People do come in the door, people are satisfied, you do create systems that wind up giving value for money. If you're not doing this, you're out of business quickly.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are constantly being told no. It's only when they get the yes that they have the chance to build that business they were describing, and this is usually the end of a long, long process. Yet the businesses an entrepreneur launches are often much better than those run by businesspeople, because they've been tested, vetted, and designed to grow fast.
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April 25, 2005
Today I want to introduce you to another new member of our blogroll.
It's Tom Abate, whose blog is called MiniMediaGuy. He doesn't post nearly as often as I do, but his posts are always thoughtful.
Tom's blog is in the media space. He's constantly brainstorming about how the "minimedia" of blogs and mobiles and podcasts can succeed against Big Media types who are constantly looking for new ideas.
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April 20, 2005
The success of Google has been based on the fact that technology drives its train. Technical success is the most-sought value.
This is becoming a problem.
In many of the new businesses Google has launched, technical values (while important) are not going to be the sole drivers of success. In blogging, in RSS, in Google News, in Google Desktop, in Google Local, and in other areas, other skills are required.
Business skills. Marketing schools. Journalism skills. Political skills. Artistic skills.
Leonardo DaVinci (celebrated above) could not get a job at Google today. In a well-rounded company, his genius would find a place.
The need for these various skills will only increase with time. Google must find a way to recruit these skills, and to reward these skills, without giving the people with these skills control of the company.
This will not be easy.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | blogging | e-commerce | marketing
Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?
Get an MBA.
Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.
Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.
In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.
More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.
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I have written before about advertising being inserted into RSS feeds, and that is increasing. (Image from Case Western Reserve.)
I'm not just talking about RSS items that are in fact links to ad pages, but RSS items that, while containing links to stories, have additional ads inserted into them.
Now there's another, far more dangerous abuse of the RSS system, phony links.
Phony Links are RSS items from registration-only sites. Most U.S. newspapers are now requiring registration. RSS feeds from these sites now go to sign-in pages, not to the stories themselves. In other words the link is a bait-and-switch. It doesn't go to content, but to a sales pitch.
The AP is abetting that requirement by demanding royalties for online content.
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April 13, 2005
One problem journalists have with blogging is it does away with gatekeepers.
Printers are gatekeepers. They cost money and make you think before you publish.
Editors are gatekeepers. That's their job. They assign stories and edit them carefully so you don't mispel words.
Publishers are also gatekeepers. Traditionally their role has been to shield the poor, innocent journalist from the nasty world of business.
Mark Glaser of OJR examined this today without reaching any conclusions (as good journalists are taught to do). (The recent picture of Nick Denton is from the OJR story.)
Glaser interviewed three people whose blogging companies seem to be bringing in bucks -- Denton (of Gawker, Wonkette, etc.), Jason Calacanis (of Weblogsinc) , and Rafat Ali (of Paid Content) -- about how they pay people who work for them.
By the month, said Calacanis. By the story, said Ali. By the reader, said Denton.
Shock! Shock and dismay, responded the folks at Slate and Salon, representing the traditional industry.
To which I respond, huh?
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April 10, 2005
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March 31, 2005
The cost of making something good is directly proportional to the complexity of the tools needed to create it. (The picture is from Freeadvice.com.)
This blog item is quite good. The tools needed to create words are very cheap. Even if the tools were more expensive, as they were when I began writing, my cost to create this text would not go up much. And the likelihood of its being of high quality would be just as high.
If I read this on the radio it would not be as good. The tools needed to create a Podcast require knowledge of radio or music production values. Even if Podcasts were as cheap to make as blog items, the proportion of good ones would be smaller than they are for blog items.
And so we come to the latest moves by Microsoft and Sony to deliver consumer video.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | Moore's Lore | Podcasting | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising
March 28, 2005
The demonization of Google has begun. (Image from InternetWeekly.org.)
It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.
I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.
With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasnt doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human. And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.
But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News wont even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders hate sites.
And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.
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March 25, 2005
This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.
Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.
Correct and double correct.
I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)
The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.
But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.
The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.
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March 24, 2005
You may have caught the nasty 509 error which hit this site yesterday.
Here it was no big deal. It was a technical problem. It was fixed.
But it did occur to me that, finally, the market for core bandwidth is starting to turn around and Web hosts are finding themselves in the position of restauranteurs. (Thus, we're repeating our picture of Italian restauranteur Mario Batali.)
You may now think about Parmesan Reggiano, some nice Balsamico, the cool breezes of Tuscany, an artisanal bread and a fine bottle of red. I'll explain.
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March 21, 2005
Throughout the dot-boom Barry Diller stood aloof. He promised he would never overpay for "Internet real estate," that he would grow his business by finding bargains. (The picture is from this Wired article where he displays far more wisdom about Internet valuations than displayed today.)
For several years he stayed true to that. You can justify the prices paid for Home Shopping Network, Expedia.Com, Hotels.Com, and Ticketmaster based on revenues and earnings. They sold stuff -- toasters, travel packages, concert tickets -- and earned real money.
But $1.85 billion for an outfit with trailing year sales of $261 million? That's over 7 times sales, about 40 times earnings.
Sorry, Barry, you finally drank the Kool-Aid.
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Whatever idiot at Agence France-Presse is pushing to keep its stories from being linked widely might want to do a re-think after reading this.
AOL is far more powerful than Agence France-Presse. At one time its walled garden was the most powerful force online. Its shareholders took 45% of Time Warner's equity in 2000, and while that's now worth a fraction of what it was (thanks to the fact they weren't really worth the price), it's still a lovely parting gift (and thanks for playing our game).
Well, after spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.
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The war against 802.11 hotspots, which I predicted last week, has already begun.
I don't expect free access to survive it.
The fact is that a hotspot without registration allows hackers to insert viruses undetected, allows criminals to hack into databases undetected, and allows spammers to spam undetected.
The New York Times had a feature this weekend , picked up by the Financial Express, alleging half the crooks caught in a recent sweep dubbed Operation Firewall were using public hotspots.
A recent piece from the Medill News Service (my j-school alma mater), picked up by PC Advisor, suggested that people should never conduct personal business through a hotspot, for fear it is actually an "evil twin" set up by a hacker to grab passwords from the unwary. An IBM spokesman also detailed this scam for Newsfactor.
Here are the facts:
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March 17, 2005
One of the biggest problems we face in cellular data is the lack of MMS interoperability.
If I'm on Cingular, and you're on Verizon, and our friend is with U.S. Cellular, in other words, we can easily exchange short text messages. But exchanging, say, photos or music is nearly impossible.
CTIA didn't answer that challenge, but it turns out CeBIT in Germany did . An outfit called conVISUAL in Oberhausen, Germany (near Dusseldorf, in the Ruhr, the heart of the Bundesliga), did.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | cellular | e-commerce | online advertising
Back in the 1990s (not that there's anything wrong with that) a lot of companies drew a lot of venture capital promising to target ads based on who you were rather than what you were looking at.
The ploy failed. It turned out the cost of targeting exceeded the premium advertisers could charge for the space.
On the other hand context-based ads, targetting based on the content of a page or a search, continued to draw premium prices. It still works.
So Microsoft actually took a step backward this week when it launched adCenter, which targets based on users' use of Microsoft resources, plus Experian credit scores.
They also, once again, didn't do a complete trademark search. Finding this particular example, which I don't believe has any affiliation with Microsoft, took me all of 10 seconds. (On Google.)
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March 13, 2005
Of all the American entrepreneurs you read about a decade ago, which do you think is doing the best today?
Which one, do you think, is kicking back, living the life, doing what he wants, and bringing in tons of money on something that's relevant to 2005?
The answer: Thomas Dolby Robertson. He blinded them all with mobility.
As Thomas Dolby (his oeuvre is at ArtistDirect, along with this picture), Robertson had a brief vogue on the pop charts in the early 1980s. He even had a pop hit, She Blinded Me With Science.
Then, a decade ago, he morphed into an entrepreneur, doing stuff at the intersection of virtual reality and gaming. The media left him behind and left him alone. (I met him at a few trade shows during the dot-boom. He should have been a pathetic figure. He wasn't.)
It seems Robertson has a talent rare among entrepreneurs, the ability to make lemonade out of lemons. He explained what happened to the Onion AV Club. It was a piece of blinding entrepreneurial insight.
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March 11, 2005
Note: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, now in its 9th year. Join us -- always free.
The last time I wrote about Permission Marketing (from the book by Seth Godin, right) I described the "permission tree" and urged you to audit all levels of permission so you could make use of them.
Now I'm going to tell you how to apply permission to the highest levels of personal transactions, the selling of homes and cars.
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March 07, 2005
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March 06, 2005
Intel says its Wireless USB is going to eliminate Bluetooth. (Bluetooth image courtesy Babok Farokhi.)
It's faster, has less interference, and it's just better.
Uh-huh. Maybe that's all true. But even if it is, that will take time.
Bluetooth has taken over a half-decade to reach its present level of prominence, and many mobile phones still don't have the capability -- despite cool applicationsl like Hypertag being written for it. (Thanks to point-n-click and Billboard for that link.)
I have headlined this Moores Law of Market Acceptance because, again, there is none. (It's like Moore's Law of Training.) Market acceptance is a human process, involving many actors.
The rate at which a new technology is accepted and replaces an old one depends on how revolutionary it is, how nimble its sponsors, and how rapid is the replacement within the older market.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Moore's Lore | cellular | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
March 02, 2005
I have written several times about RSS in this space, often wrongly.
But now I have something which, I hope, will prove non-controversial. (For those who want to know more about RSS, O'Reilly has a fine book out on the subject.)
If your story is behind a registration firewall, don't put it in your RSS feed.
Many newspapers today routinely run RSS feeds on all stories, often through Moreover. Many also have registration firewalls. If you're not willing to deliver your personal data (and remember a new password for each publisher) they don't want to see you.
Well, I don't want to see them, either.
Fortunately, there are solutions.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | e-commerce | online advertising
February 28, 2005
Back when e-commerce was new, some Girl Scout troops decided to get a jump on their neighbors by offering their wares online.
The national organization successfully snuffed out this form of e-commerce. Check out Google on any keyword relating to the cookies (which go on sale soon in your neighborhood and mine) and you won't find any outlets.
The Girl Scouts got away with this restraint of trade because, frankly, it wasn't fair for the non-savvy girls to see money flowing only to those whose parents knew the online ropes. Money raised from sales is shared, after all, between the national organization, the local troop, and its community organization.
What does this have to do with kidneys? Plenty.
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February 25, 2005
Podcasting is the trend of 2005.
It's driven by simple facts.
- 6 million iPods today, 2 million sold last year.
- The average music collection is 10 Gigabytes, total. Of this most people listen regularly to about 1 song in 10.
- Even the smallest iPod has 4 Gigabytes of space.
- We don't just want to listen to our own music, y'know.
The result is millions of units and millions of hours waiting to be used by someone.
What else is the result?
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February 23, 2005
As of now, all class action lawsuits must go through the federal courts.
The Bushies may be sorry they made this change, because a very big class action is likely to head their way very soon.
The action will be against ChoicePoint, which managed to sell 145,000 credit dossiers to criminal gangs.
That's a big class. Every single victim may have had their identity stolen, either now or sometime later. At minimum, each victim faces a daunting task to re-establish their identity, and the impact of this theft is likely to follow them for years.
That's what lawyers call an actionable tort.
So far only one lawsuit has been filed, an individual suit in California. Expect many more.
The press coverage of this scandal has, so far, been horrendous. Most stories, like CNN's, act like the victims here somehow did something wrong.
They didn't. This was a deliberate act by a company too greedy to take proper care. They deserve whatever the legal system can dish out -- which right now is a lot less than it was a few weeks ago.
And that's the problem.
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February 22, 2005
With Bluetooth viruses causing all kinds of havoc, and forcing millions to close the open ports on their phones, it seems strange to be writing about a "Bluetooth Network" connection.
But that's Wideray.
Here's the deal. Wideray customers put kiosks in the stores, and when someone comes over with a Bluetooth device they can feed whatever they want -- games, demos, product details. (It also works with Infrared or WiFi.)
I have used the system at trade shows, and its effectiveness is limited by the client device. If the device has limited power and storage, the effect of the download is minimal.
But, with even Nokia Symbian phones attaining the power and storage of older PDAs, this is changing. Wideray now supports Microsoft and Symbian, as well as Palm devices.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | B2B | Business Models | Business Strategy | computer interfaces | e-commerce
February 10, 2005
Middleware was a very big buzzword a few years ago. (Image from the Southern Regional Development Center.)
By middleware, vendors meant software that let people below take advantage of resources above. Queries that delivered reports to managers on how stores were doing, or that placed real corporate data into neat little graphs.
But every organization of any size is based on human middleware. School principals are human middleware. Store managers are human middleware. Party committeemen are human middleware.
These people sit between the decision-makers at the top and those who carry out orders on the bottom. When we like them we call them "sir" or "ma'am." When we want to disparage them we call them bureaucrats.
America has the greatest bureaucracies in the world. We have done more for our human middleware than people in other societies. (Try getting your driver's license renewed in Mumbai if you don't believe me.)
But we can do much, much better.
Software can be part of that solution, but it's only a part.
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February 04, 2005
I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)
I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."
My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."
And what is my problem?
My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.
As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.
Recently C|Net profiled two of these start-ups, Bloglines and Rojo.
What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.
Corante is interested in this as well.
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February 03, 2005
Many companies re-sell cellular capacity. It's a simple branding exercise.
Earthlink is the first to enter this business with a vision. The vision comes from founder Sky Dayton, who kept the chairman title for years after leaving for Boingo, but has now relinquished it to run this new joint venture, SK-Earthlink. (Glenn Fleishman interviewed Dayton and has a great story on him.)
Dayton's vision, since the beginning, has been based on the idea that spectrum is plentiful, that WiFi can be connected, and that a telecom firm doesn't consist of wires and switches but software and marketing.
Earthlink itself is based on the idea of re-sale. Its dial-up service rides on top of the existing phone network. Its DSL offerings are based on the same networks. It's not a stretch.
So, what's the vision? Jump over there with me and I'll tell you.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Models | Business Strategy | Investment | cellular | computer interfaces | e-commerce
January 24, 2005
A "blogger" named "Oscar" has dozens of blogs on Blogger, which seem to have no purpose other than to to churn out spam. (Like the image? It's from Rhetorica, which was talking at the time about comment spam.)
Blogger does have some fine features for the spammer. You can set it to e-mail everyone on a list whenever the blog is updated. So if you're a "master spammer" all the little spammers get the updated script simultaneously.
New entries also act as "RSS spam," as in this example, "Oscar's" cell phone "blog."
Google, which owns Blogger, is either blind or willfully complicit to what's going on here. (I'm guessing blind. It's a big virtual world out there, and Google does try to get things right.)
The more significant point is that what's going on is the systematic destruction of RSS as a medium for conveying thought. Already it's becoming impossible to maintain a "keyword" RSS feed. By that I mean that if I tell Newsgator, "send me everything on cellular," I'm going to get a lot of junk, not just from Oscar, but from direct sales sites, resume sites, and "wrap" sites, which place their ads around other sites' content and broadcast it via RSS. (What I need, Newsgator, is a way to create keyword-searches while at the same time blacklisting specific URLs -- then I wouldn't be able to write items like this one.)
But that is not all, oh no, that is not all. Because wherever crooks go unmolested, honest businesses are going to follow.
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January 17, 2005
Hartmut Neven, who does research in computer vision at USC, dreams of using cameraphones to build a database that would essentially Google the world.
Take a picture of a painting and get an audio recording, through your phone, all about it. Take a picture of a restaurant and get a review.
There's even a sound business model for such a plan. But, as Google's local service illustrates, there's also one big hurdle toward creating it.
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January 01, 2005
When my lovely wife took her present job, many years ago, she said she was happy to be working with programs that actually did something.
She works in transaction processing. Back then each time her program ran her company made a nickel. It's a service business.
The point today is she was way ahead of her time. Still is. Let me explain.
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December 24, 2004
A recent New York Times feature, re-printed at C|Net, creates a phony controversy over new e-commerce sites.
The idea is that some companies are using entertaining Web sites, at URLs not affiliated with their companies, to sell products with humor and games. The clear implication of the article is there is something misleading or nefarious about all this.
The article cites sites from Burger King, BestBuy, Alaska Air, and a joint Microsoft-Intel shop. Only the Alaska Air site is at all misleading -- everyone else has their sponsor posted clearly on the front page (although the BestBuy logo is small and inconspicuous). And the Alaska Air site follows up on a TV campaign, so even there we find no attempt to mislead.
So what's the problem?
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December 08, 2004
I have a confession to make.
The one thing I would really love to have for Christmas, the one thing I'm least likely to get, is a bottle of the old family wine.
It turns out that a distant branch of my family tree runs a winery in Baden, in Germany, barely a draft notice's toss away from the Swiss border. Weingut Blankenhorn (I think it translates to good wine by the Blankenhorns) is run by Rosemarie Blankenhorn (known as Roy), who is about my age. In addition to the usual German varieties they also make a Chardonnay and a Merlot and a Cab.
But unless I can scrape up airfare and meet Ms. Blankenhorn in person (another life ambition), my chances of trying her wines are slim and none. This is because the winery is fairly small, so that only a big importer would be able to do a deal with her, and also because state laws in the U.S. keep big out-of-state importers from serving Georgia, even by mail or Web.
But that may be about to change.
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December 07, 2004
There is a lot of wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on about ESPN entering the mobile phone business, through an agreement with Sprint.
It's not that big a deal. Sprint made these co-branding deals, called MVNO in the biz, a big part of its strategy. Virgin, Carphone Warehouse and 7-Eleven are signed-up, and Wal-Mart is reportedly taking a look.
What do you need to become a Big Time Mobile Phone Brand?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Investment | cellular | e-commerce | online advertising
November 30, 2004
I was hammered here recently for a piece in which I warned of what I called RSS Spam. (The image is from the home page of Geekzone, and it's a Clue to what comes next.)
Well it's my own fault, I figured. I'm looking for everything on a specific keyword, and if some store is keyed to that word I'm going to get their stuff. Yes, a good RSS editor should be able to filter-out that stuff, allowing me to unsubscribe to anything that I don't like, but still...
But now that trend has taken another step, so I feel compelled to come back to the subject of my humiliation.
If you don't want to hear about it, don't click below:
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November 27, 2004
I don't know how it is where you live, but I've been struck lately by the growing number of independent coffee shops and DVD houses in my neighborhood.
Maybe Starbuck's (the coffee giant) and Blockbuster (the video rental giant) are just off their game in this part of Atlanta. Both have outlets here, but perhaps there are also lessons here about technology, about how it's changing, and about what consumers want from it.
So step inside.
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November 26, 2004
A new survey from the UK shows the home LAN market retains high potential, even if you're still doing the same old things. (The picture is from this year's production of A Christmas Carol in East Brunswick, NJ.)
The MORI survey showed 90% of home PC owners were getting into arguments over who would use the PC, and when. The kids nearly all say they're doing homework (90% of them), but 43% of users admit they're playing games. (Hey, games can be educational.)
The survey struck me because, at the Blankenhorn house, everyone has their own PC and the TV spent much of Thanksgiving turned off.
We all have our own obsessions. I write, my wife works, my daughter reads and my son plays historical games. It's a far more productive use of our down-time than would be any shared experience before the "boob tube."
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November 17, 2004
Has "the fat lady sung" for Opera, the Norwegian Web browser?
Opera's parent company reported a wide loss for its last quarter. Internet Explorer is losing share, but the share is being lost to Firefox, not Opera.
The question is no longer, do we need an alternative browser? The question is, do we need another browser company?
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October 15, 2004
Over at Wired, Adam Penenberg (left, by Richard Dean, from Penenberg's own site) complains that the FTC is doing nothing about click fraud, the false generation of clicks on ads meant to generate revenue on the advertisement without generating anything for the advertiser.
It's a big problem, a growing problem, but the answer doesn't lie in government. It lies in the medium, in free enterprise. In this case, it lies with Google.
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October 14, 2004
Corante is taking it to the next level. We're going to be doing more marketing, we're going through a redesign, and we hope to bring in advertisers who will keep this candy store operating.
Turns out our timing is pretty good. Whats New Online says blog advertising is efficient, powerful, and good for you, too.
Who am I to argue? Following the fold is what we in the journalism business call the "nut graph:"
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September 10, 2004
Remember CueCat? (The picture is from the University of North Texas.)
Let me refresh your memory. This was essentially a bar code reader, attached to your computer. You could read bar codes all around you, input them to the computer through the reader, and get deals on things you bought regularly.
Well, a version of that idea is back.
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August 30, 2004
From Marc Canter (pictured from his blog) comes a new concept that he says originated with Ross Mayfield -- Open Listings.
Here is how it works. An ad goes on a Web site. Next to it you have terms and conditions. I want to be on this kind of site, and I'll pay this much for each clickthrough.
Sites download the code (as on AdSense), they paste it on their pages, and trackbacks handle the rest. The ad runs until the money runs out, and then it disappears. Or the owner can re-load it with more budget.
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August 24, 2004
I don't know about US out of the UN, but I know one thing for sure.
Microsoft out of the UN. (Illustration from UN/Cefact.)
Microsoft has quit UN/Cefact, the UN's standards-making effort for e-commerce, via e-mail. It cited "business reasons."
What it means is that the standards body wanted protection for patents on technologies thrown into the pot. Microsoft wouldn't give it.
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