poelog: Commentary, thoughts and opinions on the web, ebusiness and marketing -- a web log by Rob Poel
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Friday, September 28, 2001

New weblog / news / current events search engine:Daypop. Daypop indexes over 3400 of the best news sites and weblogs on the net every day. It even has a timing component to it that allows you to search for news that has been indexed within the past 3 hours (via Blogger).

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Amazon again leverages its ecommerce platform and customer base by expanding into the online travel business with opening of its travel store. And, as usual, the market punishes its stock. Sure the timing may not be ideal based on the recent plunge in travel related to the WTC attacks but I still don't get why investors are so short sighted. The margins on deals like this one (similar to those signed with Toys R Us, Target and Circuit City) are so much better than that of its core book, music, and video business. In addition, the new category provides for great cross-selling opportunities (need an audio book or new travel alrarm clock for your trip?). I suppose time will tell. Foolishly or not, I'm holding on to my AMZN stock (what little is left of it, that is).

Making an ad larger or more "in your face" will not save the online ad industry! It used to be easy .. 468x60 ads on the top of the page along with several buttons or text links along one side. Since then we've seen a whole host of new, ever-more annoying ad formats. We have the "skyscraper" 800 pixel high ad, the pop-up, the pop-under and now ... I'm not sure what they'll be labeled ... Salon brings us the full-page, flash, force us to watch it before getting to the intended article, ad. This ad interrupted my path from a home page article excerpt to the "full story." Yes, I'm sure initial "response" to the ad will show excellent "click-throughs" but over the long haul, as the novelty wears off, performance will decline.

So, you ask, what are online ad-driven companies supposed to do? Good question. I think ad revenues can be a slice of almost any online business. The important word there is "slice." As part of a diversified revenue model advertising can be an important contributor to a company's coffers. Companies that rely soley on advertising, however, will continue to face a slow death. And just making an ad more obvious, and hence annoying to a reader, will not solve the puzzle. It will only allienate your existing customer base.

Monday, September 24, 2001

Fast Company: Good to Great - Excellent primer on Jim Collin's latest book of the same title. The premise: Start with 1,435 good companies. Examine their performance over 40 years. Find the 11 companies that became great. Now, here's how you can do it too.. One highlight and key nugget from the article, is that good-to-great companies know how to simplify a complex world into a single, organizing idea -- the kind of basic principle that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions. Collin's labels this the hedgehog concept (read the article or book to find out why). You'll know that you're getting closer to your Hedgehog Concept when you align three intersecting circles that represent three pivotal questions: What can we be the best in the world at? ( And equally important -- what can we not be the best at? ) What is the economic denominator that best drives our economic engine ( profit or cash flow per "x" )? And what are our core people deeply passionate about? Answer those three questions honestly, facing the brutal facts without blinking, and you'll begin to see your Hedgehog Concept emerge. I don't know about you but I find this type of business advice, backed by extensive research, to be fascinating. And you'll be surprised ... the 11 companies that made the jump from good-to-great are a relatively unheralded bunch.

Friday, September 21, 2001

Red Herring Catch of the Day: Finding life - Interesting tools / companies that could aid in searching for survivors in the rubble.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Times are tough for my employer: Slow Furniture Sales Hurts Steelcase

Slate: Truth or Consequences - My last post referenced an article from an African paper in which the attacks were framed as consequences (right or wrong) of our actions as a nation. This article almost seems to be written as a direct response. ... No law of nature compels them to blow up buildings when they're angry. We don't have to accept their violent reactions to our policies. We can break that causal chain. How? By turning consequentialism on its head. We can dictate what happens to people who attack us. The article closes by referencing comments made yesterday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: The terrorists who struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Center "are clearly determined to try to force the United States of America and our values to withdraw from the world. We have a choice: either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable; or to change the way that they live. And we chose the latter." (link via Metafilter).

Daily Mail & Guardian: No challenge to US - We may think we have the rest of the world on "our side" but this editorial from an African newspaper, while in now way condoning the recent attacks, communicates that we 'had it coming', so to speak, based on how we have mishandled our world power in the past. (link via Camworld).

55 hours! At 5pm on Monday, 9/17, I made a post that referenced a BW article on Google. 55 hours later, at 12am in the morning today, Thursday, 9/20, my referrer logs reveal that someone searched Google for that article and my post was the 5th result (the first 1 of course pointed directly at the article at Business Week). When Google gets down to having results available in 24 hours I may begin to look to them before the news sites when I'm interested in a specific news story.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

E-Commerce News: Reassessing The Value of Digital Content - Brings me back to my economics classes in college and the basics of supply and demand. The thing is ... those classes all focused on physical objects. They didn't consider the realm of the digital. We are entering a time when information, in and of itself, will be so common and easy to get that it has no innate value.

Insider Information: There have been rumors that those involved with the WTC attacks shorted the market before the attacks, in turn reaping sizable returns when the markets tanked on Monday. If so, you wonder if they also had the foresight to go long on stocks like Visionics and Viisage Technology Inc. The stocks were up 93% and 142% respectively on Monday. Both companies make systems that cross-check surveillance-camera footage with criminal mugshots. Rafe Needleman, in his latest Red Herring Catch of the Day labeled this field, biometrics. As you may expect, the industry is in its infancy, but it definitely sounds promising.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

ClickZ: Connecting With the Reader New writer for the formerly named CRM Strategies column (now called "Connecting witht the Consumer.") In his initial piece Joseph aptly defines relationship marketing: Relationship marketing is so very far from the renting of lists of so-called targeted consumers. It's about establishing (acquisition), building (conversion), solidifying (retention), and protecting (attrition) the bond or connection between marketer and consumer.

A week ago I started reading Built to Last, a book that identifies 18 "visionary" companies and sets out to determine what's special about them. THus far I'm really enjoying it. Today, I just got an email from Amazon that included a link to the latest book by James C Collins and Jim Collins - Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... And Others Don't. Sounds like another winner. Even though it doesn't hit the store shelves until mid October it's already #145 in Amazon's Sales Rank.

Monday, September 17, 2001

Business Week: Why They're Agog over Google - Another business pub is drooling over Google (as you may have noticed I enjoy commentary and analysis on Google as I like web sucess stories). When this economy recovers you just know an IPO will happen ... unfortunately it will probably act like net stocks of old and hit the moon on the first day never to see a valuation that I'll be able to be comfortable given the recent melt-down on over-priced net stocks.

Doc takes it to another level: markets are relationships. Exchanges > Conversations > Relationships. This really dovetails with Seth Godin's principles of Permission Marketing .

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Those that think we should go to war with Afghanistan may change their mind after viewing this Time Photo Eassy on Afghanistan. Don't get me wrong, I want justice/punishment for those involved in the terrorist acts, including corrupt governments that harbor the terrorists. We must, however, do all that we can to not attack innocent (and in this case, impoverished) civilians. Yes, they killed thousands of innocent US civilians but an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth attitude will not further the cause of peace in this world. (link via Doc).

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

While many of my blogging friends feel the need to provide commentary on this earth-shattering, tragic event, I find myself numb ... unable, and thoroughly uninterested ... to blog and offer my opinion on the past 24 hours. There are countless blogs, diaries and news sites all cross-linking and providing unending coverage of the Terrorist Attacks ... and at this time I don't feel like adding to the mix.

A brief email from my dad says it all:

America will never be the same. I worry about the future for my children and grand children. --Love, Dad

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

10:45 am - 2 hours since 2 high-jacked planes crashed into the WorldTrade Center in New York. This followed by a 3rd plane crashing into the Pentagon. Both World Trade Center buildings have since collapsed. A state of war has been declared -- with whom, we don't know yet. Not since Pearld Harbor has their been an attack on American soil as severe as this one.

Monday, September 10, 2001

HBS Working Knowledge: The Negotiator's Secret: More Than Merely Effective - This article sums up 6 common negotation blunders, focusing on #6 - Failing to correct for skewed vision.

Traffik: Google Wins by Not Hiding the Banana - To put it another way - they focused. They made it extremely obvious what they were doing and they made sure they did it (search) better than anyone else. Good recipe for success.

Fool.com: Why Japan's Crash Won't Happen Here - Good piece on the Fool that reassures me we don't have to worry about following in Japan's woeful economic missteps. If you check out this chart you'd think otherwise ... but when it comes down to it, it's the US's strict adherence to capitalism that ensures we probably won't crash like Japan.

Looking for a flick to rent? Tired of walking up and down the aisle of new releases, trying to settle on something that looks half-way decent? Try what my wife and I did this weekend and take a look at IMDB's List of Top 250 films. We selected #11, Memento, a low budget mystery, thriller that was easily the most intricately, well-thought out movie I've ever seen. If you're into just vegging and not thinking very hard during a movie, skip this one because the way the movie was constructed causes you to have to pay attention 100% of the time (even then we missed some things). I thought the movie was excellent - my only critique is that even now that the movie is finished there are still a lot of unanswered questions. A well-written review / commentary at Salon helps dissect the movie but even the author of the review has many unanswered questions -- and he watched the movie 5 times!!

Friday, September 07, 2001

The Fool adds their usual dose of sanity to the myth of the housing market bubble. I hope they're right. I watched my net stock portfolio hit the moon then crash ... I don't want to see the same thing happen with my house.

Saltire : Gonzo Marketing In Action? - Pepsi goes gonzo with CodeRed.

Thursday, September 06, 2001

Found another quality online business resource: HBS Working Knowledge (HBS stands for Harvard Business School). Topic areas include E-Commerce & the Marketspace, Leadership, Strategy & Competition, and Marketing (via SherpaBlog).

Business Week: Six Secrets of Successful E-Leaders - Here they are:
1) Create the future rather than a better status quo.
2) Create a "teachable vision."
3) Follow a strategy your customers set, not you.
4) Foster a collaborative culture.
5) Think globally.
6) Thrive on information.

strategy + business: Seize the Occasion! The Seven-Segment System for Online Marketing - Interesting article and corresponding research that uses session length, time per page, site category concentration, and site familiarity to come up with seven web usage occasions: quickies, just the facts, single mission, do it again, loitering, information please, and surfing. The article says that by relying solely on demographics and pyschographic information internet marketers are missing a hugh opportunity to exploit the web's unique strengths for marketers. Instead, "occasionalization" needs to be considered when conducting online marketing. In other words, advertising / marketing messages need to be served based on the occasion information (session length, time per page, etc.) since the occasion best determines whether someone is open to your marketing message. Their research and logic makes sense but the problem is (and they admitted as much at the end of the article) the technology of today is not able to fully recognize usage occasions in real time and thus modify marketing messages accordingly. Still worth the read though.

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

ClickZ: The Cluetrain Indicator - My portfolio hopes Norlin is right in predicting that Just as the release of "Cluetrain" marked the top of the Internet bubble, so too the open sourcing of the text will mark the bottom of our current economic malaise.

Monday, September 03, 2001

Isn't the US already the most obese nation in the world? I can't see this changing now that American researchers claim eating chocolate is healthy. In fact, it contributes to a healthy, well-balanced diet. My son will now grow up thinking "a Hershey's a day keeps the doctor away." I wonder what his dentist will say.