poelog: Commentary, thoughts and opinions on the web, ebusiness and marketing -- a web log by Rob Poel
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Tuesday, May 29, 2001

If a site engages in "mouse-trapping" I make a point to never return.

Sidetrack ... Unbelievable:Teen vaults to international stardom with record mile. A 3:53 mile ... by an 18 year old. I ran the mile in high school and college so I have some perspective on what an incredible feat this is.

Monday, May 28, 2001

Meet the Future: the 'X Internet' - I kinda get sick of analysts and "experts" trying to come up with the next net buzz word. I can't see this one catching on. In this case the "x" stands for "executable" as in download Java and XML that "enhance the user experience." Wasn't it a few years ago that we read this same sentence: " ... the World Wide Web will soon be replaced by a richer, interactive Internet." I'm guessing we'll read the same thing a few years from now.

Friday, May 25, 2001

It's amazing how far former web / new economy darling WebVan has fallen. They are now in the unfortunate position of having to auction off a good chunk of assets that were going to be used for an agreesive west coast expanstion. If anyone was going to make online grocery delivery work it would have been WebVan. Supposedly if they can raise another $25 million they'll be able to make it to profitability. I'll believe it when I see it.

Thursday, May 24, 2001

Another recommendation on how to save cash-strapped, revenue light, ad dependent content sites. I'm not sure if "banding together" is the answer. Instead, I think I agree with Jakob Nielson's proposal for micropayments that he introduced way back in January of 1998. I would have no problem paying a penny to read a decent article on the web. To make it happen, however, the payment process would have to be seamless and extremely quick ... I don't want to add an article to a shopping cart. Also, I'd have to be given a good excerpt or article summary ... and even possibly a user rating of an article ... before I'd agree to pay. Since FREE or advertising supported content is continuing to have troubles and only a handful of sites are able to make the subscription model work ... it seems like there has to be happy medium somewhere in between.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Will Apple Buy Handspring? I think this would be great ... but my gut tells me it won't happen.

We encountered the"Better Mousetrap Is Not Enough" scenario at iBelieve.com. Our projections for converting eyeballs to customers was WAY too aggressive. Although in many ways we were a first mover ... ie no one before us had provided the one stop destination for content, community and commerce for the Christian market ... we underestimated the effort involved in getting people to our site, getting them to spend a long time there once they arrived , and most importantly, to purchase products once they found something that met their needs. In short - customer acquisition and retention is tough work and if you're working on a business plan be extremely conservative in your projections.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

This could be big. Both my Grandma Poel and my Grandpa Petersen died from Alzheimer's.

If I owned a DVD player I think I'd be a Netflix customer.

Sunday, May 20, 2001

Pay It Forward

Friday, May 18, 2001

For us to be successful in our eProcurement rollout we HAVE to be able to demonstrate ROI. This article explains that that has been difficult with the early adopters of eProcurement.

Eric Nolan has started writing for ClickZ. His first piece:Warning: Explicit Lyrics, is great. I think the ClickZ audience will find his voice refreshing. My main take-away: Speaking with a real voice means appealing to fewer people. A loyal, smaller audience is better than a passive, disinterested large audience.

You know that this is just one step of many to come in the years ahead in which Amazon.com figures out innovative ways to monetize its 28 million + customers.

Just discovered peterme.com.

Michael Porter of Harvard's Business school had some excellent comments in the latest issue of Wired. He was commenting on the need for companies to "reinvent the Value Chain."
The Value Chain is the series of activities required to produce and deliver a product or service that enables a company to offer unique value. Competitive difference hinges less on what you do than how you do it. Only by enmeshing suppliers, subcontractcrs, partners, and customers in a web of real-time communication with internal operations can companies evolve guickly and sustainably.
Most companies don't spend near enough time focusing on activities that will lead to "unique value." This concept gets so lost in day-to-day, run-the-business activities that by the time someone in the company realizes it's time to focus on these activities ... it's too late. Some new, upstart competitor has already eaten them for lunch.

The line about "how you do it" rather than "what you do" is a good reminder for me. In my aspirations to start my own business I've been so focused on the "big idea" ... that new, killer app or business modeal ... that I've been blind to the fact that I could start a business that utilizes my experience and just focus on doing it better than anyone else out there.

If there is a company that is truly achieving the "enmeshed ... web of real-time communications" with all relevant audiences than I'd like to know who they are ... perhaps they're hiring. It would be amazing to actually see that

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Interesting cover story in Business Week on Yahoo's fall from grace. I was amazed to learn that Yahoo was actually deep into negotations to buy eBay until Yahoo President, Jeffrey Mallet, put the deal on the skids claiming that eBay's culture wouldn't "fit" with Yahoo's. Boy, talk about a mistake.

In addition to pointing a finger at Yahoo's ad dependant business model the article also points to arrogance and infighting among Yahoo management as a reason for the slide. From my dealings with Yahoo while at iBelieve I definitely can attest to the arrogance. Yahoo got away with charging outragious CPMs while also being the least flexible in contract negotiations. From a performance standpoint they still beat out all the other search engines but over time we found ourselves spending more and more of our online ad dollars with smaller, niche sites that were hungrier for the business and willing to partner in innovative and creative ways. It appears that Yahoo's arrogance from a year ago has been replaced with a newfound eagerness to serve its advertiser base as it has to rebound from a 1st quarter in which revenues plummeted 42% from a year prior.

Despite Yahoo's difficulties I still love Yahoo, the online destination. I spend more time on Yahoo! Finance and My Yahoo! than all other web sites combined. I also find Yahoo! Maps and the Yahoo! Yellow Pages invaluable applications. Like it did from day one, Yahoo still "gets" the web and it continues to find ways to extend its brand and reach ... I'm eager to follow its journey in the months and years ahead.

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Blogger Blog of Note:XPLANE's bBlog. XPLANE makes those great illustrations you find in Business 2.0. They do an unbelievable job of explaining complex concepts or issues in a visual, storyboard-type way. They call these illustrative visuals XPLANATions.

Topica post by Eric Nolin on Net Perceptions (link discovered at Doc Searls Weblog). I've followed this company for a while now ... it's sad to see that their once revolutionary personalization software is now directed at mass marketing rather than one-to-one marketing.

Great broswer add-on.

Monday, May 14, 2001

Jakob: Search: Visible and Simple

The annual RedHerring 100 list is out. Its public company list is a great source of current investment ideas and its private company list serves as a great indicator of what up-and-coming companies and industries could change the technology world in the years to come. One of these days ... when perusing a list like this for inspiration ... that brilliant business idea I've been waiting for will come to me in a rare ah-ha moment. Some think I'm a dreamer ...

Over lunch I spent some more time learning about Groove and I like what I'm hearing. The Groove site has a great set of white papers that both help explain the benefits of peer-to-peer computing while also providing an overview of the Groove platform. TheFAQs also answer a lot of the questions I initially had when I heard about Groove.

I think the tail end of their answer to the question "Is Groove similar to a browser?" sums up the pupose of the tool and the scope of their vision:

If a browser is the means by which people interact with pages on Web sites, Groove is the means by which people interact directly with other people, through shared spaces. Over time we hope that everyone who uses a PC or "network appliance" to connect to the Internet will have three primary tools: email, a Web browser, and Groove.

I need to spend some time gaining a better understanding of groove networks. This past weekend while relaxing at Schuler's I read a good Fast Company interview with Ray Ozzie, Groove's founder (and former programming guru behind Lotus Notes). Groove is getting a lot of buzz now, both in development circles and from the popular press. Without further examination it's hard to say whether it's truly a revoluationary tool for enabling communication and collaboration or whether it's another overhyped technology like "push" was a few years back.

Friday night was the first time I ever ordered food on the web. Rather than call in our order like I typically do I decided to try Papa John's web site. For the most part I was pretty impressed ... they had online specials that I couldn't find "in store" ... and now that my account is created I could log in next time and order our usual (X-Large, 1/2 with pepperoni and bacon, 1/2 with onion and green pepper) with one click.

There were a couple things with the online experience, however, that could use improving. First of all, the "order online" button on the first page wasn't very obvious to me. Second, and someting that almost caused me NOT to order, was the glaring omission of any time estimate BEFORE I submitted my order. Only after I ordered did I get an email saying it would be ready in 20 minutes. Even just listing an "average wait time" would have helped ease my concerns.

The one feature I would really suggest they add would be the ability to order and specify a time that you want to pick up the order. A feature like this would really make this an application that beat the phone. They could simply time-delay the email to go out 20 minutes before the my desired pickup time. Without a killer app like this ... something that enhances the convenience factor ... along with the fact that I don't have a persistent, always on connection at home yet leads me to think that I'll probably still order most of my pizza by phone.

Friday, May 11, 2001

I'm on idiot. As my post from two days ago reveals ... my stop loss on STOR was triggered. In hindsight it looks like I set it too high. It triggered at 14.9 almost at its low for the day. Since then - it's risen 40% and trades at 20.9 as I write this post. @#^$@!! My analysis on STOR was right ... I just messed up in taking advantage of it.

RH Catch of the Day covers Trellix's recent licensing arrangement for Blogger in: Diary of a deal. I'm very curious to see how Blogger evolves going forward.

Created my first home QuickTime movie last night using Apple's iMovie software and my iMac DV SE. Very intuitive. It only took me a matter of minutes to capture a clip from my digital camera and then export it as a small QuickTime movie that I emailed to my family. Very cool.

Sounds like a very interesting documentary: Startup.com follows two friends as they soar and crash with the dot-com wave. Salon's write-up brings back iBelieve.com memories. It was a wild ride but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, May 09, 2001

Speaking from my experience at iBelieve.com: I agree - "One of the best ways to spend your email marketing dollars right now is to place a sponsorship text ad in a targeted e-newsletter.

RedHerring.com | Catch of the Day: Brand police - Interesting idea. Hundreds of companies probably have some ad-hoc, patchwork solution for managing marketing/branding assets as a part of their intranet or extranet. In a large company like ours I could definitely see value in implementing Artmachine's ASP solution.

My stop-loss sell order triggered on my StorageNetworks stock. Looks like I caught the top of the wave. If I had got in a couple weeks earlier I could have possibly snagged a double, instead I gained only 6.5% in 4 days. One thing I've learned about investing: don't let a trade turn into an investment ... or an investment into a trade. I'd have saved myself a lot of money over the years if I'd held myself to that principle. I'll still watch this stock going forward though ... sounds like venture capital is still keen on network storage start-ups.

Monday, May 07, 2001

Personal Portfolios: baskets of 15 to 50 stocks personalized to the investment style, goals, and values of individuals. Less risk than individual stocks, lower fees than mutual funds. I can see this becoming a popular investment vehicle.

Sunday, May 06, 2001

Like Alsop ... I'm betting on Amazon.com

Friday, May 04, 2001

eBay announces yet another initiative to strengthen their lead in the person-to-person ecommerce market. I love their site and their business model.

Very cool. In my Net Bank transactions list I can click on a check number and it will bring up an actual scan of the front and back of the check. I wonder how they cost-effectively manage a process like this.

Thursday, May 03, 2001

The web content site business model debate has been interesting to follow. The current opinion states that content companies HAVE to diversify their revenue streams, or to put it another way, stop relying solely on ad revenue. Many sites, like Salon.com, have begun trying to charge subscriptions to either premium content, or ad-free content. One content site I think will figure out a way to survive is The Motely Fool. I've already spent $25 with them to take part in an online seminar and although I'm not quite ready to shell out $49 per year for investment ideas I think a good number of people will.

Just bought some shares in Storage Networks. Althought I think the data storage market has great long-term potential I'm buying this stock more as a momentum play. Its chart for the past week shows significant appreciation on increased volume - a bullish sign. Hopefully I'm not too late to the party.

Wednesday, May 02, 2001

Just finished reading the latest installment of Larry Chase's Web Digest for Marketers newsletter. Its format consists of 10 - 15 suggested sites along with a one paragraph description as to how the site is valuable for the marketing professional. Over the past couple of years it's unearthed a wide variety of useful web sites for me.

Talk about change. Corning has successfully transformed itself from the "kitchen ware" company to the #1 maker of optical fiber. And it isn't the first time they've reinvented themselves. A lot of companies talk about change ... very few ever do anything about it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Well ... here goes my first post. It's funny it's been only in the last few weeks that I've been drawn to this weblog phenomenon. It all started when I came across Camworld. A few links later and I found myself browsing Dan Bricklin's and Doc Searls' log. What I liked about these sites was that they were real. They possessed so much more character than the many news sites I've surfed for the past years. Or ... to put it another way they had voice.

My interest in web logs also lined up with the beginning of my reading the Cluetrain Manifesto. I received the book for my 30th birthday in early March but hadn't had the time to start it until just a couple weeks ago. Although a bit redundant at times I'm thoroughly enjoying the book. The Cluetrain Manifesto's main takeaway is that "markets are conversations." I decided I wanted to take part in that conversation ... in fact, through this web log, I wanted to lead a conversation.

It seems like a majority of the web logs I've come across are slanted toward the programmer/developer ... heavily focused on technology. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that - in fact, I enjoy reading these logs to stay current and technologically up-to-date. I wanted, however, to start a conversation that's a bit broader. I enjoy business strategy, entrepreneurship (I aspire to be one but just haven't had the right idea yet), marketing and technology. A majority of the posts in this log will be on one of these topics. You'll also, however, see posts on investing, sports (I love playing and watching hoops), my family, my faith and anything else that I feel like talking about or linking to.

So what's my background you ask? Well, I've spent a majority of my life living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. While majoring in economics at Calvin College I met my wife, Lucinda. We married right out of college in the summer of 1993 and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I worked four years at Baron & Company, a small marketing and communications firm in Bellingham, Washington. We then moved back to Grand Rapids where I spent 2 1/2 years in business development / project management at Fusionary Media, a web site / interactive development firm. From there I spent a fast and furious 10 months at iBelieve.com as their Marketing Director, until, like many dot-coms over the past few years, we ran out of moneyand had to shut the doors. I now work at Steelcase, the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world.

And that's where our journey begins ...