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 21, 2006
News that David Edmondson, the CEO of Radio Shack, had to quit after a week because he phonied-up his resume was sad to read.
The more I thought about the story, the sadder I got.
That's because Radio Shack had every opportunity to be a dominant player in the computer space. Back in the early 1980s, when investors thought Microsoft CEO Bill Gates needed "adult supervision," a Radio Shack executive named Jon Shirley was hired to provide it. Before that, Radio Shack was one of the very first PC makers,
Its TRS-100 was still one of the best portables I ever had -- $400, an internal modem, a decent keyboard, 4 pounds in weight, and enough storage to deal with most writing assignments. During a 1984 documentary on the failed Gary Hart campaign, "The Boys on the Bus," the TRS-100 stole the show. As time went on the boys started ignoring the story around them and gathered around the machine, exchanging tech tips.
Even after leaving the PC business Radio Shack remained a very vital retailer, surfing from PCs to cellphones to satellite dishes, and keeping up its quirky stock of electronic parts -- batteries, headphones, etc. In many small American towns, in fact, Radio Shack is the only game in town.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | History | marketing
February 17, 2006
Slate has another of those "blog bubble about to pop" stories out. (The doll's name is pimple, available here. We are not into grossing y'all out here at Mooreslore.)
As a business story it may be 100% accurate. As a barometer of blogging itself, it's dead wrong.
Blogging is not a separate business from the Internet. Blogging is simply another way of producing a Web site. It brings coherent, regularly-updated Web sites within the budgets of every business, every individual, everywhere.
Blogging can be journalism. A blog can be a personal journal. A blog can be a store. A blog, like a Web page itself, can be anything you want it to be.
So when someone writes "blogging bubble about to pop" and cites a few business case studies involving the creation, purchase and selling of companies involved solely in blogging, I laugh. Because that's not blogging.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Internet | Investment | Journalism | blogging | marketing | online advertising
February 10, 2006
Spam is back in politics.
But this time, the industry insists, it's different. This time it's e-mail marketing.
Leading the charge is an outfit called Advocacy Inc., headed by Roger Alan Stone (he uses Alan so you won't confuse him with the OTHER Roger Stone). Their client list includes a large number of names and organizations from the left side of the aisle, including Tim Kaine, who won Virginia's governor's race last year.
What makes it different? Stone insists his company is using all the disciplines of the old paper direct mail business to trim lists down to names of real prospects. That means he prospects from existing lists, like those of Moveon.org, which he knows are opt-in. And he limits his mailings further through targeting, so liberals don't get e-mail about Oregon candidates if they're living in Georgia.
Had the e-mail marketing business been doing this 10 years ago today's spam problem would not have happened. But it did, and it did. As a result, any list to which people are sent e-mail without notice is considered spam by most users.
But not the government. In writing the CAN-SPAM Act the government was very careful to make itself (and the politicians who work for it) immune from the legal charge. What Stone is sending is spam-that-is-not-spam. It is legal.
But is it ethical?
The National Journal Hotline has a feature up on Stone today, which conflates Stone's story with those of other folks, notably Tim Yale of VButtons Inc., who are actually in different businesses. (In VButtons' case, it's embedding webcast ads in Web pages.)
What they wind up doing is merely confusing the issue.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consulting | Internet | Politics | ethics | marketing | spam
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
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 10, 2006
Too bad it's not my government.
The Korean government has jawboned an agreement from that nation's mobile operators to get rid of the walled gardens and make mobile Internet service, well, Internet service.
Mike over at TechDirt picked up this story yesterday and noted that Helio, formerly SK Earthlink, could use the lesson to pick up some market share here. He's right.
But the example shows just how far away we are from rational government policy in the U.S., and how easy it would be to make radical improvements with just minor changes to that policy.
If the Bush Administration would put its foot down and DEMAND network neutrality, the Bells would quickly shut up about violating the policy.
If FCC chairman Kevin Martin were to go to the March CTIA convention and say, for instance, that walled gardens are wrong, and that the industry would be wise to do away with them, it would have a major impact. Especially if he were willing to back up his soft words with a big stick.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | law | marketing
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
December 30, 2005
I have long believed that the Internet makes us all journalists.
By that I mean all of us -- as people, as companies, as institutions -- have an account called credibility. You build that account slowly, through words and actions. But withdrawals from that account can be sudden and total. You protect your credibility, it's your reputation, by getting in front of trouble, even over-reacting to it, acknowledging fault quickly, making amends, using it as a learning opportunity.
Never was this more true than in 2005, as Mike at Techdirt reminded me this week.
Let me make Mike's point with a few words.
Each leaves 2005 with a quite different credibility value than they entered it with, all based on how they responded when they were attacked. Google and Apple responded aggressively, with an eye toward alleviating problems. Sony and WalMart acted defensively, grudgingly.
The proof is in the market. Apple Computer, which at the beginning of this decade was worth a fraction of what Sony Corp. is worth, is now worth 50% more. (Wal-Mart is still worth more than Google, but the margin is now less than 2-1. At the start of the year it was over 4-1, and Google was considered overvalued at that price.)
It is inevitable that success brings jealousy. It is true that those who disparage you may have impure motives. But how you respond matters, too. If you respond with petulance, you increase the number of enemies you have dramatically, and this damages your credibility, which will eventually impact your growth rate.
In line with that, let's look at what must be the stupidest decision of 2005.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Investment | marketing
December 23, 2005
Just in time for Christmas, Atlanta blogger Mingaling (right) offered me (and therefore you) access to a great family fun game for the holidays.
It's actually the beta test for something called MyHeritage. It will act as a genealogical research site, helping folks find relatives based on facial characteristics.
The beta test lets you input a mug shot into the site, and have it select, from a collection of 2,000 celebrities, who you most look like. I know of one family where the father looks like Donald Rumsfeld (supposedly), the mother looks like Shirley Temple (supposedly) and the kids look like Muhammed Ali (also supposedly). And they're not even black!
Mingaling looks like Luci Liu (lucky girl). Who do you look like?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Internet | fun stuff | marketing | 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
December 19, 2005
Like an addict going into a bar after just getting out of jail for their last bender, Time Warner is going for the Internet funny money again.
This time it's Google, which has promised to rescue Time Warner's AOL investment by valuing the failing online service at $20 billion.
For Google, this is funny money. When your stock is like gold, while you know it's water, it's easy to give everyone a drink. Bubble companies always go through this phase. Yahoo did, Microsoft did, and now Google could buy Time Warner about five times over so why not toss it a bone?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Internet | Investment | marketing | online advertising
December 16, 2005
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 29, 2005
Maxell is planning to release a holographic disk next year that can hold 300 GBytes of data, and transfer it at speeds to 160 Mbps. (The animated chicken is from Krittercards. Get yours today.)
Meanwhile, Sony and Toshiba are continuing to play competing standard games with Sony's Blu-Ray and Toshiba's HD-DVD.
While they've been competing to be "the next standard" for optical storage, in other words, they've been leapfrogged by a better, faster, more data-intensive technology.
They've both lost what I'll call the game of Moore's Chicken. Neither blinked. Neither compromised. Both fought this out over years while the technology clock ticked, and Moore's Law of Optics continued to run.
And they both got leapfrogged. They both lost.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors | marketing
November 21, 2005
Where competition is limited, service sucks.
Competition for mobile services are limited by government fiat. Services have to buy the frequencies they use. In fact, most service is held by a small oligopoly, often Verizon on one side, Cingular (soon to be AT&T) on the other. Sprint and T-Mobile are secondary players.
The limited number of suppliers have complete control of their channels. It's hard for a consumer to know whether the store they're in is company-owned or a franchise. And it doesn't matter. Customer service is terrible regardless.
Want proof? NPD says only one-fourth of consumers, 24%, are satisfied with their mobile phone retail experience. This despite the fact that the service has become so essential in modern life that just about everyone has a phone.
The biggest problem? Turnover. No one knows anything. There are no incentives in place for anything except getting contracts signed. And since sales remain strong, there seem to be few incentives for anyone to get better.
This is a general problem throughout the chain retailing industry. Everyone wants to be Wal-Mart and keep costs as low as possible. No one has any ties to the community or loyalty to the customer.
Yet this doesn't have to happen.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | cellular | marketing
IPMediaMonitor is trumpeting Microsoft's latest agreement with CableLabs as the Next Big Thing. (Bigger than the Sony Rootkit fiasco? Yep.)
The story, by Cynthia Brumfield, is that next year's version of the Media Center PC spec from Microsoft will support a digital set-top card from CableLabs, meaning the PC can double as a cable television.
A few simple questions are all that's needed to knock this one down like a last-second Hail Mary:
- The Media Center PC spec has been a market failure.
- Nothing here about who's going to make these boxes. Notice?
- TV displays, in the age of HDTV, have moved miles from the standard PC aspect ratio.
The fact is the actions of watching TV and using a PC are different. With a TV, you're mostly passive, except for that remote in your hand (and we know who you are). With a PC you're constantly active.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Futurism | computer interfaces | marketing
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 15, 2005
Sony says it's (sort of) sorry. They say they'll take the CDs back (although they don't say how they will find the things). They say they won't do that again, exactly, but might do something close to it.
Wired estimates the "rootkit" (a virus kernel) distributed without notice by Sony's BMG Music now affects a half-million networks. Microsoft says it will have its security software disable the virus.
Not enough. Because by this action Sony has done more to encourage the piracy of intellectual property than a million real pirates could have. Sony has also poisoned its entire sales channel, and for years to come. How many small used CD stores are going to go out of business over this?
A CD is not like most products. CDs have an active after-market. Since you can't tell which CDs have the virus, all CDs are suspect. So Sony hasn't just ruined its own business, but the businesses of its competitors. It has destroyed their goodwill, and made the entire industry out to be a bunch of crooks who don't care about their customers. (And by the way, why haven't we heard from the RIAA on this issue?)
This is not an honorable company right now. Sony's honored ancestor and great founder, Akio Morita, is spinning in his grave over this.
At the very minimum Sony CEO Howard Stringer MUST BE FIRED. NOW. If he's not then some district attorney somewhere is going to come up with a piracy charge that will throw top executives in jail. And deservedly so. If anyone else had mass produced a virus precursor and infected CDs with it, they would be in jail. Just because Sony claims a clean motive doesn't change the facts of the case.
Unless Stringer is fired, and restitution is paid, this scandal is going to destroy the company. They're still behind the curve, and they will remain behind it until they make a clean break with the policies that got them into trouble in the first place.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | ethics | law | marketing
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.
+ TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Investment | Journalism | blogging | e-commerce | ethics | fun stuff | marketing | online advertising | personal
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.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Futurism | Software | Telecommunications | e-commerce | marketing
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.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce | marketing
October 28, 2005
Wal-Mart is under fire for its lack of benefits. It's running ads where an employee calls the company her "support system" after a liver transplant. Oil companies are under fire for price-gouging. They run ads claiming to be green. Mutual fund operators who've pled guilty to stealing from customers run ads saying they've earned our trust.
This is par for the course in corporate America. Advertising is used to make people forget. As the press moves on to other stories, it often works.
But it doesn't work in the blogosphere. There is no business model corporations can use to induce forgetfulness among bloggers who oppose corporate actions.
That's why Forbes has placed, behind its registration firewall, a front-page feature on "dealing with blogs" through lawsuits and intimidation. There have long been powerful weapons employed against whistle-blowers and individual muckrakers. Forbes suggests these be deployed against individual bloggers.
But there is a problem with that, the same problem that befits the copyright industries. Copying.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | marketing
October 25, 2005
The naming of Chris Anderson as AdAge's "Editor of the Year" caps one of the biggest comeback stories in publishing history.
While Wired wasn't tjhe biggest boom-and-bust magazine story of the 1990s (The Industry Standard holds that honor) its sale to corporate America was seen as an ending. I (and many others) wrote often that Wired is Tired, using a cliche from the magazine's own pages. The magazine's horizons shifted inward, from revolution against the corporate system to service on its behalf.
Under Conde Nast, Anderson has turned that around. He has made Wired relevant again. He did this in part by thinking big thoughts himself, as in his own Weblog-book The Long Tail. But this is a team event. Anderson built a great team, which managed to produce many articles that turned heads.
I have great respect for this award, and new respect for Anderson, because I once wrote for AdAge and I know the process that goes into making this kind of announcement. AdAge's staff is putting its own prestige on the line by honoring Anderson. It does not do this lightly.
Congratulations, Chris. You obviously earned it. You're obviously Clued-in. Keep up the good work. And best of all, you're a Truly Handsome Man.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | Journalism | marketing
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::
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Economics | Futurism | Investment | Linux | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
October 13, 2005
Nothing, per se.
Technically, it's fine. Strategically, it works in the Great Game against Microsoft.
But it's not something I want. It breaks the first law of the original design.
Quite simply it's an attention hog.
The older iPod, with its clickwheel design, required you to look at it only on occasion, when you wished to change the order of your songs, or find a new one.
The new one, with its insistent color screen, demands your full attention while the device is playing.
This is not a problem with Apple. It's in the nature of video. It requires full attention.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Moore's Lore | computer interfaces | marketing
October 06, 2005
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.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
October 03, 2005
The big news in the recording industry's results today are not the growth of digital sales, or the continued fall in CD sales.
It is that the industry has become addicted to lawyers in order to maintain its business model. And those lawyers will bleed the industry dry long before pirates can.
Here is the money quote from John Kennedy (no relation), who chairs the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI):
"Without the legal crackdown, it would be a different situation. You certainly have to have the legal services to make it all work."
In other words the industry assumes that without the terror of lawyers its current success would be unsustainable.
Which is precisely why it is unsustainable.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | law | marketing
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?
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Copyright | Internet | Journalism | Telecommunications | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
September 21, 2005
Well, nearly, judging from the latest re-org news coming out of Microsoft.
The retiree in this case is Jim Allchin (right), who has been the Windows guru there for years. What struck me was his age, 53.
I'm going to be 51 in January. And I'm launching a start-up.
Seriously, Microsoft is going through the middle-aged crazies, and the solution is in many ways typical. That is, push decision-making down the stack, toward younger managers. Let a hundred flowers bloom and all that.
The other big headline in here is that Ray Ozzie, the former Lotus executive who joined Microsoft last year as a chief technical officer, is being given line responsibilities for what's called the "software-based services" strategy.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's middle-aged trouble goes a little deeper than that.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Investment | Software | fun stuff | marketing
August 28, 2005
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Internet | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
August 22, 2005
Where Bill Gates bests Steve Jobs, and always has, is in his willingness to build ecosystems.
Windows is an ecosystem. Microsoft is the biggest fish in that ecosystem. Since 1995, Windows has been eating the other fish in that ecosystem, but fish do that. It's still an ecosystem.
Apple has never been comfortable with living in an ecosystem. Apple builds products, not ecosystems. There were never any second-source Macintosh hardware producers with Jobs in charge, and they were all killed off when he returned.
You will never see Steve Jobs, or any of his lieutenants, jumping around a stage yelling "developers, developers, developers, developers." It's not going to happen.
But if it did, if Jobs ever learned to share, imagine the threat he'd be then?
Here's an example of how he can.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Podcasting | computer interfaces | marketing
Krystal restaurants (think White Castle with mustard, Kumar) have finished a full year with their free WiFi hotspot program, and have decided to extend it to all 243 company-owned restaurants (as well as recommend it to their 180 franchises.)
The evidence of increased sales are anecdotal, but CIO David Reid told CMO Magazine he has already tracked a bottom-line advantage.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | marketing
August 18, 2005
Verizon has begun selling one of the dumbest machines I've ever seen, a "DSL modem," (their term), wireless router and cordless phone combination dubbed Verizon One.
Essentially this ties together the obsolete telephone network with the Internet Verizon is actually selling and tells customers it's the same thing. It pushes fancy PBX capabilities on residential customers who don't need them. (Just to make things a little better, it locks them into its cellular service, too.)
The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) can be easily seen in the phrase "DSL modem." DSL is a digital service. It doesn't need modulation or demodulation to trick an analog line into taking a digital connection, which is what a modem does. It is an oxymoron.
Dave Burstein wrote in to say this is a Westell device. Westell has a long history of making things on-demand for phone companies, so Verizon gets all the "credit" for this piece of nonsense.
What's ironic is I happen to know Verizon was talking to Netopia two years ago about a massive contract for DSL gateways that would have been far superior to this piece of nonsense. (Here's a 2001 press release, delivered in the early days of the relationship.) I have one of these gateways in my house now, a review unit. What would have made them powerful was a promised co-branded service providing full security to home users, saving them as much as $200/year on "security suites" from various software vendors. (There are currently no Netopia press releases, going back to 2002, referencing Verizon.)
More on what a truly clued-in person feels after the break.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Internet | Investment | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | marketing
August 15, 2005
A post card came in the mail, from a Keller-Williams agent. (Is it just my imagination or have they taken over the market lately?) It was about the Gary house, down the street from me.
The asking price is $334,900.
I remember the Garys, from back in the day. Nice people. Salt of the earth. He was a deacon at the church. She loved him desperately. The mantle was already filled with pictures of grandchildren when I met them, in the early 1980s. I went there regularly for block meetings. They said we were crazy to pay $49,000 for our house.
Mr. Gary passed away in the late 1990s. (God rest his soul.) She finally moved out with some of those grandchildren, a few years later.
They had gotten an unbelievable offer.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Investment | marketing
August 08, 2005
Intel holds the telecommunications balance of power in its hand.
Here's how The Register puts it, with its usual hyperbole:
Intel is throwing its financial, technical and lobbying weight behind the rising tide of municipally run broadband wireless networks, seeing these as a way to stimulate uptake of Wi-Fi and WiMAX and so sell more of its chips and increase its influence over the communications world.
And Intel is not going to back down. As ZDNet notes today, there's money to be made.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | law | marketing
July 30, 2005
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Investment | marketing
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:
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | B2B | Business Models | Business Strategy | Futurism | Internet | Investment | Software | computer interfaces | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
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.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Internet | Investment | Journalism | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising
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
I was pulled from a deep sleep this morning by another reporter, from CBS Radio News, asking for lessons from the latest H-P lay-offs.
Since Mark Hurd left NCR to run the mess Carly Fiorina made of Hewlett-Packard in March, he has been fighting to turn the old boat around. The company turned in solid numbers in May, he hired away Dell's CIO, Randy Mott, and now he has the credibility with his board needed to prune the deadwood.
H-P has a lot of deadwood.
In buying Compaq, her signature move, Fiorina took on a lot of old, tired, even worthless brands, like DEC and Tandem. Compaq's latter-day strategy had been to buy these outfits for their book of business, and Fiorinia's deal was the apotheosis of this old-line industrial strategy. She insisted at the time there would only be a few survivors of the PC wars, and buying Compaq was the only way to make sure H-P would be one of them.
She was wrong. What works in steel does not work in tech. A book of business is worthless, because computers are short-term capital goods. It's not what you did for me, or even what you did for me lately, but what you're going to do for me tomorrow that counts.
But enough about the past.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Moore's Lore | marketing
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 13, 2005
E-mail service here may experience some delays as I undergo a personal trial by spam.
In this case it's a Joe Jobber, most likely a spam gang, that has grabbed both my e-mail address and my server's IP address to illegally sell prescription drugs without prescription.
For the last few days I've been firing off myriad alerts to email@example.com, the government's address dedicated to fighting fraudulent spam, with no response.
A domain registrar called Yesnic is apparently cooperating with this spam gang. They're the registrar of record on every Joe Job in this bunch. Most of the registrations, on investigation by me, seem to be made-up, but two carry the actual name, and a legal address, fo someone in Columbia, SC. This criminal should be easy to find if someone is interested.
Meanwhile, we learned today that the most popular anti-spam technique, like the so-called CAN SPAM Act that enables spam in the U.S., is in fact becoming a spammer favorite.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | ethics | law | marketing | medicine | spam
July 12, 2005
A reporter can make a good living just covering Microsoft.
This is not a good thing.
One fact that attracted me to technology journalism in the first place was its social mobility. I often write about companies I call "Clueless" and find they have disappeared practically before I can get the piece into digital print. Those that are "Clued-in" can also fall quickly, corporate management in this space being much like tightrope walking.
Intense competition makes for rapid evolution. Call this Dana's First Law of Competition. Markets in India and China are intensely competitive. You can't let your guard down for an instant. This is a very good thing.
It's not what human nature wants, of course. As people we want to relax, to enjoy our lives, to set the competition aside sometimes so we can, say, raise our families, get more education, or retire with dignity.
Both Microsoft and the government had opportunities to prevent this, to re-ignite competition. They chose not to take these opportunities.
Bill Gates had one vision for Microsoft, but the company has gone beyond it. He was wise to pass the baton to his majordomo, Steve Ballmer. Ballmer is all sales, all the time, a whirling picture of aggression. (He's also, admittedly, what we call on this blog a Truly Handsome Man (grass don't grow on a busy street) but looks ain't everything.)
Ballmer's vision isn't really about technology. It's about exploiting advantages and making money.
So at Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis (Minneapolis?) we got headlines like these:
- This used to be about software partners. Now it's mainly about hardware partners, like tablet PC makers. This is an important change.
- Microsoft continues to eat its young, entering profitable small business niches, aimed at engulfing and devouring them.
- Ballmer told his software developers to "stick it to IBM" even while Microsoft sticks it to them.
- Microsoft is telling its partners to "push Office ugrades," more evidence that the idea of Windows as a "software ecosystem" are ending.
This is just one corner of the news Microsoft made last week.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: B2B | Business Strategy | Economics | Investment | Security | Software | 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
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 10, 2005
This is a note to the nice people at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Some of your money has gone astray. Specifically, it has gone to George Washington University for something called the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, formerly the Democracy Online Project.
GWU put a woman named Carol Darr (right, from the Center for National Policy) in charge of this group, and she has proven to be, well, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot. Clueless, in the parlance of this blog. To be blunt about it, she is using money given for promoting democracy on the Internet in order to destroy it.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Internet | Journalism | Politics | law | marketing | online advertising
June 06, 2005
Not only is Apple switching its chip supply contract from IBM to Intel, but it is moving to Intel processors in the bargain.
In making the announcement this morning, Steve Jobs said he didn't see how he could continue making great products beyond next year "based on the Power roadmap."
Right after his speech he had a cagey interview with CNBC's Ron Insana. "Its not as dramatic as youre characterizing it," he insisted.
"This is going to be a gradual transition. Hopefully a year from today well have Intel-based Macs in the market. Its going to be a two-year transition.
"As we look into the future, where we want to go is different (from IBM's product roadmap). A year or two in the future Intels processor roadmap aligns with where we want to go.
"I think this will get us where we want to be a year or two down the road." Jobs refused repeated requests by Insana to explain what he meant by that. (Jobs is also shaving even more closely than this picture shows. He's down to tiny stubble around a a still-brownish moustache. Hey, Steve, I'm 50 too.)
What I think he means, simply, is video.
Beyond this, most of what I wrote last week holds. This deal is not material to Intel, which continues to face loss of major market share to AMD among Windows and Linux users.
But there are also vital lessons here for followers of Moores Law, lessons I need to impart.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors | marketing
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 01, 2005
When we count the costs of spam we usually think in terms of bandwidth, the hours spent clearing it out of our systems, and (sometimes) the cost of our anti-spam solution sets.
But there are other, uncounted costs to spam which dwarf those.
One is the loss in productivity we get from being unable to get in touch with people when we need to. On my ZDNet blog for instance I did a piece today on EFF chairman Brad Templeton (right), based on something he'd written on Dave Farber's list.
I e-mailed him as a courtesy. I had no questions. I just wanted to thank him for his wisdom and let him know I would use it.
What I wound up facing was Brad's spam filter, a double opt-in system dubbed Viking. Apparently I didn't respond quickly enough to Viking's commands, because its response to my opting-in again was to send me a second message demanding an opt-in. (All this was done with the laudable goal of proving I'm a man and not a machine.)
The bottom line. We never connected. I had a deadline, and used Brad's words. Perhaps there was no harm done.
But frequently there is harm done in these situations. I've had occasion to accidentally delete someone's note in my Mailwasher system, and then call the person in question asking for a re-send.
What if they're not in on that call? What if they sent something I needed? What if I were disagreeing with Brad in my Open Source post, or he decided after publication I was twisting his words?
The point is this sort of thing happens every day. People can't be reached in the way e-mail promised they would be, due to spam. This raises the cost of doing business for everyone, and the mistakes that result can be catastrophic -- to people, to companies, to relationships.
Now, in honor of the man formerly known as Deep Throat, I'm going to offer yet-another anti-spam solution.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Journalism | ethics | law | marketing | online advertising | spam
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 20, 2005
"One of our regular posters here (OK, it was Brad) suggested that our piece yesterday on changes at Google were just a way to track clickthroughs.
We both underestimated it. In the biggest change since the service launched Google will scrap its small clean interface and, just for you (because they like your smile) let you produce a personalized My Google page all your own.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Internet | marketing
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 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.
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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.
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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:
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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?
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May 02, 2005
It's true. There are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies and statistics. (The picture is that of a statue of dramatist Friedrich Schiller, in Kaliningrad, Russia.)
Market research companies specialize in the third kind of lie, namely statistics. While these companies were originally created to help clients deal coherently with the market, that's no longer the sole source of income.
The process of market research has been corrupted by paid research done on behalf of:
- trade groups
- political interests
Yes, the categories do overlap. More, and what to do about all this, after the break.
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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
Now that dual-core chips are a reality (to be followed in time by four-core, eight-core, etc.) software companies face a dilemma on pricing. (Picture from AMD.)
Traditionally software companies have priced per-processor. But if a single chip has multiple processors, which could be doing different things, then shouldn't you require two licenses?
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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.
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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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April 15, 2005
A friend introduced me to a blog I'm adding to the blog roll, one that is only marginally about technology.
Seth Goldstein runs Majestic Research, a New York outfit that produces very high-end (and I hope very expensive) reports on trends for hedge fund managers. Before that he ran Site Specific. He advises Del.Icio.Us. He's smart.
His blog consists of long essays, published at long (for me) intervals, on a wide range of subjects. Recent pieces include one relating client Del.icio.us to German essayist Walter Benjamin, whose Frankfurt School was overwhelmed by the horrors of the Hitler era, another calling APIs "the new HTML," and a third seeking a system of PeopleRanking, very similar to my own piece Finding the Good Stuff.
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April 14, 2005
Sun's plan to release Solaris under its CDDL open source license got a boost yesterday with an endorsement by...The SCO Group? (This cute Linux penguin keychain from Promotion Potion doubles as a stress ball.)
"We have seen what Sun plans to do with OpenSolaris and we have no problem with it," is the way eWeek's Steven Vaughan-Nichols quoted SCO's Darl McBride in a conference call yesterday.
The question is, with friends like these, does Sun need enemies?
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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 12, 2005
In a nice commentary about how Wired is now Tired, David P. Reed (left) got me thinking about what today's key economic good might be.
The answer is attention. The world is entering an attention economy.
In many ways this is not news. What's news is how we're bifurcating our attention -- splitting it into parts -- and how media must now compete for slices of it. (Would this item get more hits if I called it The ADD Economy?)
It's a worldwide phenomenom because cellular or mobile service is worldwide. Mobile service competes well in the Attention Economy. Watch people chat on their phones while driving. (It's like elephants tap-dancing -- what's amazing is they do it.)
More after the break.
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April 03, 2005
Eric Rice (left), responding to Dana's Law of Content, asked a real good question yesterday:
And who will be the ultimate judge of what is and is not good and compelling?
The short answer is you would. Not you, Eric. You. The person reading this. And you. And you.
The biggest problem blogging faces right now is it's hard to find the good stuff. Oh, much of the good stuff does get found. And, of course, what constitutes good stuff is all in the eye of the beholder.
What do we do about this?
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March 17, 2005
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 14, 2005
Digital Rights Management is a conspiracy.
Once someone breaks it, it's broken.
That's the view of Cory Doctorow, a short version of what he told TheFeature recently.
There was a similar conspiracy against TV in the 1950s, he noted. None of the studios would produce programming for TV, and anyone who worked in TV was blacklisted.
Then one brave company broke the chain. Disney. Walt Disney needed money to open his amusement park, TV offered it. The move gave him an enormous competitive advantage, as big as Ted Turner's advantage in using satellites 20 years later.
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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 09, 2005
Yahoo is what it has been since 1997, a portal. Google is a search service. Now, with the rise of the Mobile Internet (we're still at 1994 with this, in fact) Yahoo is gigging Google and calling it "limited."
This is not just rhetoric. Yahoo has long been a leader in mobile services. And it's extending that lead with a new games service.
But this does not mean, as Business Week writes, that Google is a "one-trick pony," that its offerings are "limited." This is pure spin from Yahoo's PR people.
Forrester (via the Pondering Primate) offers some better suggestions. Provide other ways in which people can use Google to search for things outside the Web.
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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.
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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
Many different types of solutions go into creating an Always On world.
Ive talked here often of medical applications for Always On, where you wear a monitor (or have it implanted) that connects to the network and can alert you (or others) to dangerous changes in your physical condition, thus saving your life.
I have also talked of inventory applications for Always On, in which RFID tags or bar codes give you a ready inventory of your stuff. This lets you, for instance, find your keys, or check the fridge to see what you need for tonights dinner.
But the low-hanging fruit lies in automation applications. CABA (it stands for Continental Automated Buildings Association) is one of the trade groups involved here. They work mainly with landlords who want to save money on utilities, provide security, and keep track of whats happening in lots of space so as to minimize labor costs.
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February 17, 2005
Forbes, for once, has a great idea today.
Draft Wayne Gretzky (right) as NHL Commissioner.
Incumbent Gary Bettman must be thrown over for losing the season, regardless of the merits. His replacement must be, as Michael Ozanian notes, someone of integrity, who loves hockey, and who can find some common cause with the players.
Gretzky works on all those counts. But there's more.
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There are numerous reports that New York City is trying to trademark the phrase "The World's Second Home" as part of its effort to win the 2012 Olympics.
An AP lead states baldly the city is dropping its current nickname, "The Big Apple."
There is no evidence of this in the story, which states only that Mayor Bloomberg is big on trademark, copyright and patent protections. That does not mean New York is getting rid of the Apple trademark.
But just in case he were thinking that way, I offer him what Atlanta did in the grip of a similar Olympic fever. (Sad, isn't it?)
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