Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is a struggling social network to do?

Before the emergence of Facebook, Myspace was once the 800 lb gorilla of social networks. While everyone knew that Facebook had been outpacing Myspace’s growth for quite some time, some observers felt that the Company had found its niche as a music centric social network.

But the headlines over the last few weeks have not been kind to the Los Angeles based Company as their CEO, Owen Van Natta was terminated two weeks ago, followed by a number of other high level executives following him out. A recent story on TechCrunch also outlined how an entire project team (5 people) at Myspace was recently let go. What was this project team tasked with? Just a complete re-design of the Myspace web site. The crazy part of the story is that one of the new co-Ceo's that replaced Van Natta (Mike Jones, who was the former COO) has decided to completely scrap the project team’s work, even though the team spent close to 9 months and significant capital in creating this new web site. All of this begs the question, why would a Company like Myspace spend a lot of money and the better part of a year on a project that they didn’t intend to use? Such is life at a Company when there is not a clear corporate strategy.

For the past two years, Myspace has been on a journey to “find itself” but more specifically, find a niche that would differentiate itself from Facebook. Because lets face it, the war is over, Facebook won a long time ago. So what is a struggling network to do? It’s clear that Myspace has been trying to differentiate itself through its close connection with music. But is that enough to kick-start the growth of the Myspace? Probably not, hence why all of the inner turmoil at the Company. But they do need a clearly articulated strategy that conveys to the user why they are different than Facebook…or why users should come to their social network as opposed to others.

It’s worth noting that I have never setup a profile on Myspace. My Friendster experienced traumatized me for several months after I closed it down and by the time I was considering a move to Myspace, Facebook was already the preferred destination. What would it take for someone like me to setup a profile on Myspace? Hard to say as I don’t really feel the need to join another social network at this point. But one thing seems clear at this point, Myspace is suffering from an identity crisis and need to do something to create a niche for themselves. If they want to be a music site, then they should fully commit to that plan and drastically change their marketing strategy. But they need to do something quickly, before the only people left on their site are affiliate marketers hoping you click on the latest “Acai berry diet” offer.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Social Media for YOUR Stalker

Along the same lines of my celeb post earlier, and the foursquare comment below - there is tons of information about you online.

Do a google search on yourself every now and then - what do I find - loads of information on me, with the most dangerous from social media
and what do you find -
- Twitter feeds
- Facebook page and pictures (you MUST opt out of making your page searchable)
- GetGlue Page- a rating service I signed up for in exchange for getting freebies.
-yelp reviews
- amazon reviews.

In fact anything I entered using my real name somewhere, its on there. Social media allows an amazing amount of collaboration and participation. Just beware - when it's not "anonymous", the whole world will know.


Social Media for Celeb Stalkers

Nowadays, you don't need to pick up Hello magazine for the latest headlines about your favorite celebs. Now you can open up your browser to gossip blogs like Perezhilton, TMZ, Gawker's Defamer to name a few.

Not in front of the computer - don't want to listen to someone else's commentary about what your celeb is doing.. Voila - Twitter to the rescue.

The other day I did a search and I realized - I can FOLLOW my celebs. You'd think they were simply their press agents publishing info about them. You're wrong!

Check out @Kimkardashian
She's been praying about the Tsunami warning in Hawaii.. earthquake victims in Haiti... those suffering in .. Chile and oh, what's this - she's on her way to Vegas and she convinced the pilot to let her into the cockpit.

Other celebs with bonafide real tweets
Kevin Smith - screen writer of Dogma et al
Kirstie Alley - Fat Actress/Cheers
Jordin Sparks - American Idol star

Wanna know if your celeb tweeter is real - go to and test it out.
What do you realize from all this? All people are boring, even celebs.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Foursquare for Dummies

One of the things I've learned from this class is just how out of the loop I am, in terms of what's new (and not so new) in the online world. I hadn't ever heard of Groupon, Foursquare, or a bunch of other seemingly well known and popular services. And acrossair seemed like something out of The Matrix. Below is a basic guide to Foursquare for others like me.

The four major steps to understanding and using Foursquare:

Check-in: Once you've signed up for a free account, you can "check in" wherever you are, using the iPhone's GPS to locate your venue. With its mashup of services like Yelp, Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare allows you to peruse restaurant and bar reviews, get tips from regulars - and even shout out to your friends to come join the party. That's just the beginning, though; what makes Foursquare stand out is its function as a real-time, real-world competition. Which brings us to ...

Points: Every time you sign in to a venue - be it a club, pub or even your best friend's apartment - you're awarded a certain number of points based on how many times you've been there, your number of stops that night or how many nights in a row you've been out on the town. For now, all this gets you is bragging rights and a spot on the online leaderboard - but Foursquare's Web site hints that more is on the way.

Badges: Besides points, your travels can also earn you badges. Sign in to the same place three times in one week and you get the "Local" badge; sign in late on a weeknight and earn the "School Night" badge. There are already a ton of badges, both obvious and obscure, and if you have an idea for a new badge, you can submit it online.

Becoming mayor: Our favorite Foursquare feature. If you've signed in to a venue more times than anyone else, you become the "mayor" of that place. Your status not only makes you a mini-celebrity among Foursquare users - your profile pops up whenever someone signs in at that venue - but some savvy businesses have begun to advertise special discounts to their mayors. Still, you have to be vigilant; other users can swoop in and take your crown. And gloat about it.


A New Use for Smartphones: Radios (with Pandora app)

While I've never even used Pandora on my computer, I just read about how Pandora just became available as an app for the Android system. Apparently, it's already available for iPhones, Blackberries, and Pres (does anyone really have a Pre?) While admittedly I'm somewhat behind the technology curve as it seems most people already use Pandora on some level, I'm going to give it a try on my Blackberry. I doubt the sound will be that great, but I can probably figure out how to hook up some small external speakers that I can throw in my bag...

Pandora, which runs a popular streaming radio Web site, on Wednesday released its application for phones running the Android software from Google. It's available for download in the Android Market. Pandora is available on the iPhone, BlackBerry and Palm Pre. Of the 65,000 people who register for a Pandora account each day, 45,000 do so on mobile phones, said Tim Westergren, above, Pandora's founder. ''I'm beginning to think that our future is going to be more mobile-centric than I had even thought, and sooner,'' he said.

The biggest surprise -- and success -- of Pandora's mobile applications has been the way people plug them in to speakers in their homes and cars, Mr. Westergren said. Those two places have historically been where people listen to 80 percent of radio. ''It's giving Pandora access to the two big pieces of the radio market we've never been able to reach before,'' he said. ''It really allows us to become a much more serious and viable alternative to broadcast radio.''


The Difficulty in Tracking Web Traffic

There is a lot of debate over how to accurately measure web traffic. While the average consumer isn't super worried about how accurately web traffic is measured, those who purchase and sell advertising space care a great deal about these numbers. If a site's traffic is not being fully measured, that site will not be able to charge advertisers as much as the advertisers would be willing to pay if the traffic was recorded at higher levels. And advertisers obviously want to be able to have confidence in the size of their target audience before shelling out money on advertising agreements.

Web-traffic measurement, despite recent advances, remains fraught with conflicting numbers. The Internet's inherent accountability, stemming from the digital trace left by every Web site visit, has spawned a multitude of measures, but little clarity.

For big sites such as Facebook and Yahoo, the differing numbers might matter chiefly for bragging rights. Smaller sites, though, say that mismeasurement of their traffic could cost them when advertisers seeking a broad reach dismiss them because of their seemingly paltry audience sizes.

Bob Bowman, chief executive of MLB Advanced Media, the Major League Baseball digital arm, goes further. "Our numbers are wildly different from what comScore and Nielsen are showing, to a point where it's materially damaging to our business."

ComScore and Nielsen say such criticisms reflect a misreading by Web sites of their own user base, which is reflected most often as a tally of monthly unique visitors. Online publishers typically can gauge their own traffic through logs on their Web servers recording every request for the site, or by assigning unique tags, known as cookies, to each Web browser that visits the site.

Both of these techniques, though, tend to overestimate visitors, for several reasons. For instance, the same person might visit from home, from work and from a mobile device, and be counted as a different user each time. (A computer also might be shared by several people, which could lead to an undercount.) Another problem arises because many people frequently delete their cookies, so they are counted multiple times. And then there's the problem of search engine bots that view web pages multiple times, further inflating the traffic count.

ComScore recently introduced a new tool to address some of these issues. Clients that add a comScore cookie to their site are now having their audiences counted using both comScore's panel and their own direct traffic counts. ComScore starts by scrubbing the cookies of bots and international visitors. Then it uses its own panel data to attempt to correct for cookie deletion and repeat visitors.

While several ComScore clients have reported jumps in traffic from this new approach, many smaller sites still complain that they are being left out. ComScore has offered to measure nonclients' traffic for a $5,000 fee that covers six months. This has made small firms feel that they need to pay to prove the true level of traffic their sites receive.

The issue of measuring web traffic accurately is one that will likely be fought by all parties who have a vested income in the reported numbers. Hopefully, new methods that can be more universally agreed upon to measure web traffic will be created.



Target Market takes aim at buyers and sellers, renters and homeowners, brokers and other real estate professionals, harvesting an average of 8.2 million unique users monthly seeking “for sale” information, valuations and real estate advice.

The site scores points for seriousness and dedication to their informational mission and loses points for accuracy of that information. Whether you are visiting Zillow to see what your property might be worth in the marketplace or pricing a prospective purchase, keep in mind that the data is both culled from public records and submitted by owners, brokers and other interested parties. This leads to accurate information in some cases and misleading or surprisingly random approximations of reality in other cases.

Another audience for Zillow are prospective advertisers. The site unabashedly woos brokers and mortgage companies. The prominence of the mixed advertising and informational message muddles the credibility of the site, although the variety of clickable options may yet keep the visitor pushing through to their research objective.

The promotional pitch to buyers and sponsors is implicit in Zillows’s touting of its superiority over competitive sites, (“88% of our users do not visit"; "3/4x better click rate than Google”); year-over-year growth (19%); comprehensiveness (“4 million listings”); median household income of site visitors ($90,518); and iPhone App downloads (900,000).

Prospective mortgage company advertisers will be drawn to the claims that one million Zillow visitors are planning to purchase in the next month and they have an average credit score of 755. But to maintain that 55% of home buyers visit before purchasing seems a bit of an imaginative calculus. And the statistic that 5.8 million Zillow visitors are planning to buy or sell their property in the next 1-2 years does not seem to be a sufficiently short term selling point to banks and brokers, even if it were a reliable metric.


Zillow knows who its customers and users are and wants them to know who Zillow is. The range of clickables reflects that mission:

The seven home page banner tags are labeled Home, Mortgage, Advice, Directory, Local  Info, More and My Zillow. The heart of the functionality for the home researcher is the drop down Sale, Foreclosure, Open house, Rental, and Recent Sales categories. Before clicking the drop down, however, it is advisable to enter an address in the Find Homes address bar (any address in the chosen zip code will do). Otherwise, you are apt to be at a loss as to how to begin a search, since the home page is suffused with extraneous information about celebrity foreclosures (do you care that Wayne Newton is in foreclosure?), iPhone app updates, stats and graphs on the mortgage marketplace and homes for sale in Deruyter, New York (Where? Why? Did I ask for this information?).

Once the zip code is entered, however, the system will post more geographically relevant listings in your neighborhood and the fun begins. A Bing aerial map appears with the familiar fun options to zoom, scan and home in with a street overlay on the target property.

Below the map are the listings, sortable by price, size, living area, lot area or days on Zillow. The left border tower offers selectivity by price and size as well, but adds home type (single family, multi-family, condo, coop, etc) and selling type (broker, FSBO, foreclosure, new construction, open house).

The page layout and functionality work, but none of these listings services will be able to show all available properties. There are always properties your broker knows is coming on the market, houses the neighbors think might be for sale soon, or owners who believe their home valuation is inaccurately low or unrealistically high.

The directory tab for real estate agents could be useful if it were organized in some comprehensible fashion. If the prospective purchaser is looking for an agent in a designated locale he should be able to enter the zip code and immediately see an alphabetical listing of agents in the designated area. Whether the visitor is intending to browse for an agent or looking for a particular agent, the process is haphazard and frustrating.

Zillow is proud of its Home Value Index, but this is one of the less useful features of the site. It is simply too difficult to create systems which understand the market without experiential interpretation. The way to determine present value is by blending local knowledge of recent sales, current values, awareness of prospective buyer capabilities, and community conditions.

Verdict on functionality: It works, but if you are on site to suss the market, stick with the home search tabs. Other tabs lead to ad-influenced sequencing of agents and services which may be useful, but depart from an objective presentation.

Overall, don’t rely on Zillow, but start with Zillow.


Zillow works from an ad revenue model. Sponsors are agents, brokers, owners, landlords, lenders and national advertisers. The ad environment is uncluttered, although presenting paid broker ads in classified listing format is always misleading to buyers and sellers seeking to select from the universe of available servicers.

Featured listings and Showcase listings tier the ad buy, and can be targeted for specific zip codes. E-mail newsletters and display ads offer additional revenue opportunities for Zillow.

The low barrier for access to property information (no subscription fees to search) enlarges the visitor base, which enhances the value to sponsors. Zillow has got their ad act together.


-Everett Sherman


A 17 years old student astonishes the U.S. with an article pro downloads

The young Canadian Kamal Dhillon could never have imagined the impact his school paper for ethics class. The students from Balmoral Hall School wrote an essay on downloads of copyrighted content on the Internet and Dhillon's article won the contest. The article, entitled "Not bad, only illegal," was published by the local newspaper in Winnipeg, Canada, and then jumped the rest of the country and the U.S. thanks to news aggregators, blogs and social networks. The article, among other things, states that sharing music is not worst than lending a book to a friend or to many friends, and argues that people understand that and do not respect the law. In other words, if there are hardly any consequences for something illegal and people do not perceive that it should be illegal, people will break the law.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shopping online?

There are so many retail e-commerce websites out there selling clothing and accessories. It makes me wonder if there will be a huge dip in brick and mortar retail stores.

I say this as I am someone who two years ago would have never bought something online. However, with sites like and, I am really incentivized to do more shopping online. I can get the same product I can buy at Bloomingdales or Saks for 30% of the price - I love it!! I am a bargain hunter and I never realized how easy it is to find bargains when they are all sitting in one location: the world wide web.

There are also talks about virtual world shopping that would enhances the online retail shopping experience. This will allow people to communicate with their friends or shopping mates as they browse and shop online. All of this means that more and more people will flock to the online and are less likely to shop in store.

I don't know if this is a good or bad thing - but I do love knowing where I can get a deal at all times! :)


The Immigration Visa

The recently proposed immigration legislation seems like the perfect way to get the US economy back on track. This legislation grants a two year visa to any immigrant who launches a startup company and raises 250k with 100k coming from a qualified US investor or VC. If the entrepreneur can raise additional 1m of capital or hire five employees or have 1m of revenues, they will become a legal resident.

Some people will definitely question the Startup Visa Act. They will probably argue that this will open up the door for more immigrants to steal American jobs. I don't agree with this. I think if people want to develop these companies in the US they should be given the chance to do so. New companies will be the ones that create jobs for this country. If these young foreign entrepreneurs aren't given the chance, they will return to their home countries taking with them the jobs they would have created. Let's pass this legislation so that the US economy can continue to grow.


Finally Quality Gaming

Square-Enix has just released Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II on the iPhone. If you're not familiar with the game franchise, it's the best role-playing game series out there. Even though these two games are just remakes of the original titles that debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System, I can't help but rejoice to see that the iPhone is starting to have more quality developers and publishers interested in its market. The games will cost $8.99 and probably won't appeal to average gamers as much as the nostalgic hardcore gamer, but at least it will start to take a market share from the pathetic social games that currently dominate the iPhone...


Bloggers Open an Internet Window on Shanghai

PARIS — Within two weeks of starting his personal blog in 2002, Wang Jianshuo noticed something peculiar. A post he had written about shuttle services to and from the Pudong airport in Shanghai was getting a lot of traffic. In fact, it was getting so much traffic that Google ranked it first when searching for the words “Pudong airport.”
The explanation turned out to be simple: Mr. Wang’s post was almost the only information available online in English about an international airport then serving 11 million travelers a year — now almost 32 million.
Since his first post, Mr. Wang has devoted about half an hour a day to updating his entries. He said he liked to focus on “useful things,” like tips about transportation or places to visit in Shanghai. In the process, the blogger, who in his day job is the chief executive of Baixing, eBay’s online classifieds Web site in China, has offered the English-speaking world a window into the daily life of a “new China” citizen.
Mining the hundreds of posts he has written over the past eight years, readers can follow Mr. Wang through his apartment moves, on visits to various countries — when he worked for Microsoft he made several trips to the United States — and even watch his son, Yifan, grow from a mere idea to a chubby-cheeked 3-year-old playing with Legos with his dad.
Mr. Wang talks about how to dodge the Chinese government’s efforts to control the Internet by using tunneling software to gain access to Facebook and Twitter, and he shares his anxiety about which school Yifan should attend to prepare him best to compete with his peers 20 years from now.
Aficionados of Mr. Wang’s blog, which according to him gets about a million page views a month, say that it is still one of the richest sources about contemporary Shanghai available in English. But his is no longer a lone voice.
Want to find the best find hot pot in Shanghai? Or pizza? Or Irish pub? Check out the Shanghaiist, part of the Gothamist network of city-centric blogs founded in New York in 2003.
Want to know what people in mainland China think about the one-child policy? Or what teenagers are saying about the gaokao, the national university entrance exam? Go to the blog ChinaSMACK. Need three dozen cupcakes for a 7-year-old’s birthday party? There’s a blog for that, too. Get in touch with Emily Lopez, of Emily’s Adventures in Shanghai and Emily’s Cupcakes.
John Pasden, a 31-year-old native of Florida, is the man behind the blog Sinosplice. He planted himself in China, first in Hangzhou, then Shanghai, 10 years ago, starting his blog as a way to tell the “folks back home” about his life in a place that was then little known to most Americans. Thanks to Sinosplice, he has become a go-to person for all things related to life in Shanghai and learning Chinese.
Other first-wave mainland China bloggers include Kaiser Kuo, a Chinese-American rock star, writer and media expert, and Brendan O’Kane of, an Irish-American who speaks flawless Mandarin and is reputedly one of the best Chinese-English translators around.
Those early bloggers were “focused on the idea of ‘telling it like it is,”’ Mr. Pasden said. “Back then hardly any other Westerners were blogging from China, but we knew that our friends and family back home had no clue what modern China was like.”
The blogs filled a void in information about the country, he added. “We knew the media wasn’t educating them either. China to the average American, at least, was still some murky outdated vision of Mao’s China.”
Mr. Pasden, like some of the other early bloggers, has made the transition from personal blogging to a professional online job — his blog started his career as senior product manager at ChinesePod, an online Chinese language school.
This pattern is in keeping with an overall trend, said Marjorie Dryburgh, a lecturer in modern Chinese studies at the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield in England. In the past five years, blogs from China have “moved some way beyond the quieter, personal type of work that you might associate with the blog-as-online-diary,” she said. Now, there are more blogs about self-help and stock market advice and more official blogs, she said.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center, a state-run nonprofit group, there were 182 million personal blogs and “personal spaces” in China as of June 2009, of which a third were being updated at least once every six months.
Fauna, the online alias of the blogger behind ChinaSMACK, shines a spotlight on “the real China,” at least as it appears online. The Shanghai native, with a small team of contributors, translates Chinese blog posts and comments from popular online forums about juicy, gossipy and very Chinese topics that the average mainland city dweller might discuss around the dinner table.
Through these translations, English speakers can get a perspective on what people think about Chinese men who buy brides in Vietnam; Chinese university students in Australia who tote Louis Vuitton bags and drive BMWs; and a new trend in which teenage girls sport slashed wrists (though it is unclear whether the wounds are real or faked). According to Fauna, ChinaSMACK received more than 500,000 visitors last month, of whom a quarter logged on from the United States, while more than 10 percent were local.
The topic of censorship is a popular one for those dealing with the media in China, but none of the bloggers interviewed said they had ever been shut down. Access is a greater issue, resolved with the use of virtual-private networks, or VPNs, to get around online fire walls created by the Chinese government. Many bloggers, however, said that they self-censored by choosing nonpolitical topics. Because of the nature of what she covers, Fauna, in an interview conducted by e-mail, said she never revealed anything about her identity, beyond her gender.
Professional journalists are also blogging. James Fallows, a correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, blogged while he was stationed in Shanghai, and Adam Minter, an American freelance journalist, runs a frequently referenced blog, Shanghai Scrap. He says he gets 22,000 to 77,000 hits a month on his site, depending on who is counting.
Mr. Minter chose to make Shanghai his home because of “all of the money sloshing down these streets,” a testament to the entrepreneurial vibe that pulses through the city.
Though he makes no money from his blog, Mr. Minter said he maintained it to force himself to write regularly and as a place to put story ideas he found that were too small or too obscure to sell to publications elsewhere. It also gives him additional exposure to the public.
“I’ve received tips, leaks and invitations purely on the basis of information published on the blog,” he said. “That’s an unexpected boon.”
This set-up-shop spirit has drawn, according to the Chinese government, 4.7 million migrant workers into this city of 18 million to walk along the same streets as 120,000 foreigners looking for their piece of the pie. Ms. Lopez, a San Francisco native, is among them, writing a blog and making cupcakes for something to do, but also for profit.
In China, “anything is possible, but everything is difficult,” she said. Starting her business required little more than the idea, a health license and a business license. For her, Shanghai gives people “a chance to be creative and do something that would take more money or wouldn’t be as easy to get started in your home country.” She knows other women entrepreneurs making everything from jewelry to specialty paper goods.
Mr. Pasden said the English-language Shanghai blogosphere was dominated by foreigners, an imbalance that made the work of bloggers like Mr. Wang and ChinaSMACK specially valuable. Mr. Minter said that voices from Shanghai’s huge migrant population were particularly lacking.
“The Chinese migrant experience to Shanghai is going to be as important to the future Chinese self-image as the New York immigrant experience was to the American self-image,” he said.
But whatever its gaps and the limits, Mr. Wang said, the broad rise of blogging has meant a welcome increase in available information; and more information means a better idea of what is really happening in the city.
“Everything in this world is just like the elephant in the blind men and the elephant story,” he said, referring to the tale of blind men confronting a strange beast, trying to identify it by touching different parts and each giving a different answer. “As a blogger, I’m just one of the blind men to feel this elephant. I am very sure that I write everything that I know and I never write anything that I know is not true, but this does not mean that my article is the whole Shanghai.
“Blogging provides a way for all the blind men to sit down together and share whatever they see,” he added, “and when more and more people blog, we can understand this world better from many different perspectives.”



In class we have been listening to people talking about Twitter all the time and how they create some much buzz around trends, and how they can make or break a movie’s weekend box office. I think that the concept is very interesting for companies that want to understand more in depth how their brand is viewed by users, and what the latest trends are. As a company you can extract a lot of information and analytics that can help you improve your product offering and target different customer segments. But as a Twitter user, what do you really get that you cannot get elsewhere online?

I just don’t understand why you would want to follow anyone on Twitter when you can meet them in person or talk to them on the phone. Also taking into account all the issues with privacy and companies trying to market their products to you, it is a turn off. I am just not interested, but on the other hand, I guess I must not be their target segment.


Metrics: Marketing vs. Finance

Steve Blank, a professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford and serial entrepreneur, has spawned something of a cult over the last couple years. His book is widely read among entrepreneurs and startup philosophers. (Bias alert: I own it, and I'm a big fan of his.) One of the basic kernels, from which Blank derives chapter upon chapter of insights, is that startups are not just smaller versions of big companies. Rather, he argues, they are fundamentally different beasts with radically different challenges and imperatives.

In a recent post, No Accounting For Startups, Blank argues that the board meetings for a startup should NOT focus on the usual financial statements. What should? (Hint: this is a marketing course, and I'm trying to tie a topic that interests me back to this course...) Marketing metrics, essentially. Which metrics? Blank points the interested reader to Dave McClure.

Dave McClure is someone every startup online marketer ought to follow religiously. Check out his Startup Metrics for Pirates for a good intro.


Zain and Mobile Marketing

India's biggest mobile operator is in the process of revamping it's business in Africa. Bharti Airtel is the largest mobile-phone operator in India with 118 m subscribers, and they are looking to extend their reach in Africa by purchasing Zain. Zain is a Kuwaiti telecoms firm in 15 African countries, with about 42 m subscribers. Bharti feels that by purchasing Zain they would be able to operate in a market that only has 3 other competitors as well as take advantage of the increased mobile-banking in Africa. A huge opportunity for marketers lies in the expansion and re-introduction of Zain to the African market. This opportunities lies mainly within the reaches of small and medium enterprises.

Currently most entrepreneurs in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria do their banking via programs such as Zap (which is offered by Zain), which allows customers to conduct various financial transactions, including purchasing groceries. With the increased reach of mobile devices in these regions, entrepreneurs can and should take advantage of marketing their products utilizing mobile phones. While Zain offers services such as "Bulk SMS" which allows mass text messages to reach a designated audience it has yet to utilize it's platform "Zain Create" in many African countries. This platform allows for video and music downloads but would transform the businesses in Africa if businesses were able to create Applications that took orders for products as well as linked customers in other regions with their products.

Bharti intends to begin outsourcing the IT of Zain and with less competition they will be able to earn more revenues per user. With their infrastructure and ability to increase revenue they could do a lot for African businesses by focusing on mobile to mobile marketing.

Commercial for Zain

Source: The Economist: Low Cost Bundle - February 20-26th 2010


Tea in an Augmented World

I came across this video posting on Twitter that provides a glimpse of what the future may look like with Augmented Reality. In this video the user is going through the simple act of making tea, but what is fascinating about this depiciton is how entirely possible this is with currently available technology. With accurate GPS tracking, a compass, an accelerometer and an external set of glasses capable of overlaying video on what is in the field of view and voila... you have a space that is fully augmented with the virtual world. If you can further enhance this with technolgies like the forthcoming Natal from Microsoft and add 4G coverage with bandwidth capacity of 30 MBps +, people may actually be able to exist in a hybrid world of the real and the virtual and fully interact in this world.

In this augmented world you will not only be able to look up contextual information based on physical location, you will be able to control your physical environment through virtual interactions. This could very well be the emrging interface of the 21st century. As this video demonstrates, the user was actually able to turn on the tea pot with a virtual motion from a pop up interface that appeared in his field of view. He also was able to quickly change his application view to a Social Network that could be viewed in three dimensions. This is all very cool stuff and not very far fetched. I can't wait for my iPhone 5G to arrive. It may only be a few years out.


Virtual Goods are Becoming Real Money Makers

While virtual goods don't actually exist, people in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in Asia, are spending real money to "purchase" these goods. And these purchases add to up big money, with very significant margins.

So-called virtual goods, like a $1 illustration of a Champagne bottle on Facebook or the $2.50 Halloween costume in the online game Sorority Life, are no more than a collection of pixels on a Web page.

But it is quickly becoming commonplace for people to spend a few dollars on them to get ahead in an online game or to give a friend a gift on a social network.

Analysts estimate that virtual goods could bring in a billion dollars in the United States and around $5 billion worldwide this year — all for things that, aside from perhaps a few hours of work by an artist and a programmer, cost nothing to produce.

“It’s a fantastic business,” said Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that has invested $10 million in several virtual goods companies. “Because it’s digital, the marginal cost for every one you sell is zero, so you have 100 percent margins.”

The companies that create and sell virtual goods, including Zynga, Playfish and Playdom, three online gaming start-ups in the San Francisco area, say they are recording significant revenue and profits, which have been elusive for many Web companies.

Virtual goods have been popular in Asia for years. In the United States though, only ardent video game fans spent money on them, mostly for swords and spells in virtual fantasy realms. That is rapidly changing, driven by the popularity of widely appealing games for social networks like Facebook and mobile phones like the iPhone.

“The people playing these games on social networks don’t define themselves as gamers — they are just killing time, having fun,” Mr. Liew said.

In Restaurant City, a game by Playfish on Facebook, 18 million active users manage their own cafe and stock it with virtual casseroles and cakes. In Zynga’s game FarmVille, 62 million agrarian dreamers cultivate a farm, plant squash seeds and harvest their crops with tractors.

These games and many others have casual gamers reaching for their wallets, along with a few rationalizations, as they make the peculiar purchase of pixels on a computer screen.

It definitely seems like the monetizing of virtual goods is here to stay. The next question is what new virtual goods will the marketers think to sell next?


Apple has competition from new App Store, called Wholesale Applications Community

Some of the world's largest telecommunications companies have teamed up to create an apps store of sorts that they say will rival Apple's and those of other smartphone makers.

AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and 24 other companies have formed what they're calling the Wholesale Applications Community, they announced Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The store will be designed to encourage developers to create mobile and online applications for all smartphones and operating systems, according to a written release from the GSM (Global System for Mobile) Association, which hosts the conference.

The group aims to create an open platform.

"For customers this means a broader choice of innovative applications and services available on a wider choice of devices than ever before," the group said Monday morning.

Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG Electronics also are part of the group.

The groups said their site will give app developers a simple route to publishing and marketing, and will offer smartphone customers new apps quicker and a wider selection than anyone else.

"This is tremendously exciting news for our industry and will serve to catalyse the development of a range of innovative, cross-device, cross-operator applications," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association.

As of now, Apple has had control over all apps that officially run on its iPhones, offering them through the company's official online store. Users with the ability are able to "jailbreak" the phones to run other apps, but the overwhelming majority of them come through Apple's store.

By creating a new platform, the Wholesale Applications Community would theoretically let developers write programs that would be usable on multiple smartphones instead of just one.

Currently, Apple apps must be written specically for the iPhone, making them unusable by other phones.

Many application developers have complained that Apple is sometimes slow to approve their work and has rejected apps for what they call arbitrary and confusing reasons.

Systems like Google's Android have been more open, but the project by the mobile companies will be the biggest push yet to lure developers away from official outlets to a third-party distributor of apps.

Other global companies in the group include China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Vodafone and Wind.

The group says that combined, the companies have access to more than 3 billion customers worldwide.

There was no word Monday on how long it will be before applications become available from the consortium. But it's expected to take a while.


Chatroulette - the next Internet phenomenon?

So I was introduced to Chatroulette ( for the first time a few days ago at a friend's place. We were bored, and she thought it would be a funny way to kill time. Was it funny? Certainly. Was it also really really bloody weird? Absolutely. Chatroulette is a new website that brings you face-to-face with an endless stream of strangers via webcam. Think of Skype, but way simpler and with complete strangers that you can sift through randomly.

While the site is pretty perverse thus far (i.e. several people tried to solicit my friend for cyber tomfoolery), there's some relatively normal people on it too. And, for some strange reason, the site is oddly addictive. It draws on the awesome power of the Internet to connect random strangers and make things that shouldn't be fun, fun. Thus far, the site has garnered a rapidly growing cult following. Apparently it started in December '09 with only 300 users, and quickly grew to 10,000 by the beginning of Feb '10. Even Ashton Kutcher (the celebrity sponsor of Twitter) has been on it, showing his support (

The site, the brainchild of a 17 year old Russian boy who was literally bored and wanted to do something new, has no revenue model to speak of, and is built off spare parts. Nevertheless, there is a growing buzz about the service, and I predict that in the next few months, we'll be hearing a whole heckuva lot more about it. Could it be the next Twitter? Possibly. In any case, I'm sure this phenomenon isn't going away any time soon.


The Dangers of Power

At the beginning of the week Apple banned sexually explicit content from its App Store. This move got a lot of attention from the press and blogs and put Apple on its heels to justify its moves. For those who aren't familiar with what happened, Apple, without notification, removed about 5,000 applications from its store because they contained sexually explicit content. Apparently Apple was responding to numerous complaints from customers about the inappropriate content. As we all know, selling applications has become a big business, so the removal of applications has serious repercussions for the developers who make money of the apps they created. Businesses also loose any customers their app might have generated, like the company who sells swimsuits whose app was removed during the purge. Playboy share holders shouldn't worry about this post because the Playboy app was not removed from the store. Apple decided that Playboy was ok, but a swimsuit company was not because Playboy is an "established brand."

I believe this episode, which may be resolved by the creation of an explicit app category, reveals the hole in Apple's armour. The company has been incredibly successful selling devices because of the content that is available for those devices. How popular would the iPod have been without iTunes? What about the iPhone and iPod Touch? I haven't seen sales figures, but I'm willing to guess there was a large increase in sales when Apple allowed third party apps onto the devices. The app store shifted the balance of power towards Apple in a dangerous way by making it the content gatekeeper. Pre-App store Apple would sell whatever the major labels would let it and supply wasn't really an issue. The App store was the first time Apple had to screen content, and put the company into the position of gatekeeper.

By removing apps without explanation or notification Apple sent a message to developers that their rights were secondary to the ideology of the company. Not removing Playboy also sent the message that Apple looks out for the big guy more than the little guy. If you were an App developer do you want to spend the next few months coming up with an app for iPhone, or would you prefer to invest your resources into an open platform like Google's Android? In the long run, my money is on Android. If there is no gaurantee from Apple that your app will be 1. accepted to the store or 2. remain in the store long enough to turn a profit, why would you invest your time and energy? Most of the developers are not large "established brands" either. They are small one and two man shops taking a risk that their time investment will pay off.

The danger of the power that Apple now holds as gatekeeper is that its small actions like the one this week, will lead the very people that keep it alive to leave. Apple does not have a monopoly on the computer, music, movie, or app business and it must remember that. No matter how nice their products are, they are nothing without content to put on them. Content is king. Loose the content, and you loose the power, and the profits.


Facebook Updates in Google

Google recently announced that is integrating Facebook page updates into its search results.

This is interesting to me on a few fronts:
1. Google only has updates from Pages - not individual users (Bing gets updates from any user who marks their update available to everyone). It would seem eventually Google will get the full feed.

2. Facebook is giving their feeds away for free, while Twitter is charging. Assuming Facebook is able to get an increasingly large set of its users to open their updates to everyone, will Twitter have to give up any hope of monetizing its Firehose through search engines?

3. I'm going to get really annoyed if I have to look at different buckets of Twitter vs. Facebook updates when I'm doing searches. I can't imagine how this won't create unattractive, and often useless, clutter. What will the solution be? Will only one ultimately win? Will some other solution step in to aggregate all of the personal "updates" floating around the web?


Internet Ethics in Italy

The news today from Italy that an Italian court has convicted four Google execs of criminal charges, based on a disturbing video uploaded to Google's pre-YouTube video site, Google Video, has major implications for the online space. The video -- of an autistic teen being insulted by bullies at school -- was viewed 5,500 times in 2 months before it was taken down by the Italian government. Very obviously, it came under fire by the child's parents and activist groups alike.

However, Google's VP and deputy counsel calls the verdict "astonishing" and must of the tech community has come to Google's defense. It is clearly a very loaded, very complex issue that brings both ethics and the future of the internet into question.

Ethically, I cannot imagine a situation where anyone would argue against the negative reactions to this video - and I am sure all would agree to the cruelty associated with both the act itself, as well as the public posting of the occurence.

However, it raises a major set of issues around the role of intermediaries or hosts (like Google), globality in the online community and really, the future of the internet. With blogs, videos and other user-generated content expanding rapidly (and being associated with increased opportunties for monetization), the notion of legal risk being placed on the host or intermediary is incredibly impactful. You can imagine what this may do regarding limiting content -- though the notion and feasibility of policing the online community seems pretty overwhelming. Particularly when thinking about the "long tail" -- where the focus is not on the most popular items but on the value of all of the small parts -- this seems like it would have major implications for discouraging intermediaries and hosts from supporting them, particularly if prison time is the consequence. Additionally, in the event that hosts are forced to shoulder responsibility, I can imagine a trickle-down effect in regards to advertisers. If the hosts can be punished -- what about the advertisers present on that site? Can they take legal recourse against the publishing site that has placed their ad amidst such terrible content? Or, could the party taking legal action also file against the advertisers? The globality issue is also huge here - as this would not have lead to any sort of punitive recourse in the US. Particularly in light of the recent issues in China with Google, it seems like the time may be ripe to begin developing some sort of international code -- though again, I am not sure I can imagine what such a thing would be.

This will definitely be an issue to continue to follow - the implications are huge and, the stakeholders at hand are so diverse (publishers, advertisers, bloggers, passive users etc) that the solution -- should one exist -- is likely to be challenging and controversial.


Dinner Spinner Pro has hit the nail on the head with their new launch of a premium version of their free mobile app. The free version has 2.8 million subscribers (myself included as an avid fan!) and already has a great interface that allows access to 40,000+ recipes, as well as cooking tips. This newest version, Dinner Spinner Pro, clearly listened to what their consumers wanted as the app now allows users to save recipes, integrate grocery lists across recipes and interact, in several ways, with fellow cooks.

For three key reasons, I find this launch to be both highly interesting, and extremely timely. The first is the increased ability focus on user-generated content. Not only does this premium version allow for rating and sharing recipes -- but it also allows for mobile upload of photos of these recipes. As AllRecipes has over 50 million unique vistors annually, many from international locations, and, as such, is viewed as a focused social networking site as well as a recipe depot -- this new mobile functionality should really continue to increase user interaction. Secondly, this platform seems like it will, at some point, be ripe for interesting monetization opportunities. I can imagine a variety of different scenarios -- restaurants able to advertise based on cuisine preferences in recipe searches, grocery stores able to build in locations/deals/store layouts and, potentially even cooking-based retailers (eg, Williams-Sonoma) able to target chefs/bakers based on their AllRecipe behavior. Finally, this launch jives perfectly with the iPad. One in five cooks brings their laptop into the kitchen to follow a recipe (mobile phones are often too small for this purpose) -- but this poses a major risk of spilling and damaging the computer. The iPad, with its optional protective covers and display set-ups, will be the perfect device to pair with this app -- both in the grocery store and, once at home, in the kitchen.


With Their Powers Combined...

With Twitter clocking in at 55 million monthly visitors in October of 2009, and businesses all but christening it the future of the real-time news industry, Yahoo is following Microsoft's Bing and Google in being the latest of the search engines to strike a partnership with the blooming social media giant. The Yahoo homepage already allows users to update their status on the other major social networking sites of Facebook and MySpace, and the new partnership will allow users to access Twitter feeds and update their personal tweets all through Yahoo. The search engine is also adding an additional feature: if a user has allowed certain actions such as commenting on or rating articles to appear on Yahoo Updates, those same actions have the ability to automatically be shared on Twitter.

In addition to allowing easy access for updating users' personal accounts, Yahoo is allowing its News, Finance, Entertainment and Sports sections to be updated with the latest news from Twitter. In a way, with these moves, Yahoo is acknowledging the risk that Twitter poses to the internet search engine. With Twitter's ability to present news, trends and topics in real-time, Yahoo's partnership may be an attempt to avoid the risk of users turning away from Yahoo and towards Twitter in their online searches for real-time information.

Check out the article here:


Why PowerPoint will be replaced by Wikis

PowerPoint is a great tool for making presentations or presenting a team’s final output, or recommendation. But what about situations where a deliverable is a living, breathing document?

At Columbia Business School we’re constantly working on teams to complete projects with long time horizons. Powerpoint and Word, unaided by Microsoft’s expensive and arcane collaboration software, are terrible for team collaboration. This software proves even less useful when a team is charged with producing collective research rather than a collective deliverable.

Enter Wikis and cloud computing. It’s not news that cloud computing is facilitating team collaboration at an impressive rate. What I’ve learned in business school, however, is how powerful these resources are for harnessing collective brainpower, and what roadblocks exist that might prevent them from taking more share from Microsoft Office.
  • A wiki is a powerful tool for team collaboration because:
  • Users can enter the document and change it at their leisure
  • Users can be notified in real time when changes have occurred
  • With reach features such as folders and tags, and search Wikis scale very easily from the basic to the complex
  • New users can ramp up very easily by sifting through Wiki content, rather than sniffing around the office for content that’s stored on local hard drives
There are, of course, a number of challenges:
  • Control and responsibility are disintermediated in a wiki environment. It’s hard to point fingers on a Wiki. Documents can be edited, added, or deleted without anyone having a final say
  • Security is hard to control in a Wiki. Corporate shared drives are typically protected by security shields which make it exceedingly difficult to accessing content without authorization. Wikis are typically protected by a password that is shared among many users, all but guaranteeing the possibility of a security breach.
  • Training is a must, and most people have the bandwidth to understand only one “Office”-like product. Microsoft’s key advantage, in my opinion, was that Office became ubiquitous so early-on in history of personal computing. Learning this software (especially at a professional level) is not a trivial endeavor. As a result, switching costs to competing products are high, which makes the Office Suite extremely sticky.
So far, no single wiki platform has achieved sufficient dominance to make it sufficiently worthwhile for professionals to learn as a rule. Organizations, such as Columbia, should pick a specific Wiki platform to support, and encourage users to jump on it. With that organizational innovation, I believe we’d start chipping away at Microsoft Office’s dominance and perhaps even see the end of PowerPoint.


59% of Indians and 60% Pakistani Prefer Online Dating

Online dating businesses will likely benefit from targeting niche markets in India and Pakistan.

NY Daily News
report that a recent BBC World Service global study that 30% of 11,000 user across 19 countries surveyed believe that online dating is a good place to find your soul mate. 30% in itself is a good number but not necessarily large enough ratio for the number of online dating sites that are in business these days.

Online dating businesses may want to keep in mind that 59% of Indians and 60% of Pakistanis felt that online dating was a good source of meeting a mate while a the comparably small, 20% of Americans and 16% of Koreans believed that cyber-dating was acceptable. The Brits and French are slightly more inclined with 28% and 27%.


Are new Internet laws limiting freedom of speech?

For many people, the Internet has opened a whole new world of freedom, including the freedom to express themselves in ways that they could not do so before, and actually be heard. A lesson however that some have learned the hard way is that as defamation and libel laws are slowly invading the internet, one needs to be just as careful as they would be anywhere else, if not more, when speaking their minds online.

While the Communications Decency Act has made Internet Service providers immune from liability for content that their members post, this by no means extends to the members themselves. Even if a user seems to be anonymous, this mere fact does not insulate his identity nor protects him from lawsuits (an example being that Calloway Golf Company was recently able to subpoena the records of Yahoo and find that a competitor was behind several negative comments posted about the company). This is a concern of being liable for defamation, is one that before the growth of online forums and communications did not exist outside the media world. However, with libel and defamation laws applying to online content in the same way they apply to newspapers and TV stations, it seems that this freedom of speech and ability to reach large audiences that the Internet offers does not come without a price. Quoting a former Federal Communications Commissioner, “the same technology that gives you the power to share your opinion with thousands of people also qualifies you to be a defendant in a lawsuit”.

It is unquestionable that since the trend has started, the number of online libel and defamation lawsuits will only keep increasing. What remains to be seen is if this number will be increasing steadily or if there will be a sudden explosion of lawsuits. Whatever the case, with case law being relatively limited meaning not enough precedents set to cover a wide spectrum of scenarios, the boundaries of what constitutes online defamation and libel are not yet clear and it is advisable to err on the side of caution. For instance, while the legal community believes that for a plaintiff to win a case he would need to prove actual malice from the part of the defendant, malice is then defined to include negligence, a concept that has yet to be defined in the context of cyberspace. Bottom line? To be safe, make sure that whenever you publish a post that can potentially be harming someone’s reputation, you make it clear that you are stating your opinion, and if possible, make sure you are also stating the facts on which your opinion is based. Otherwise, even a bad restaurant review could arguably get you into trouble if expressed in the wrong way.


Your brains on Social media

I am not sure how I missed this interesting piece by Shelly Kramer, but I did. And if it hadn't been for @lizasperling giving me a far too gratuitous shout out, I might have missed it entirely. Shame on me! I was just crawling into bed for some much needed shut eye when I, as always, checked my twitter. This article, tweeted directly at me, set my mind so firmly into motion that I was forced to pull out from under my haven of warmth and put my currently turbie twist covered head to work.

I agree with nearly everything Shelly Kramer shared, but I think there was a little something missing. I suppose that something is the perspective of how men and women cognitively approach things different. As much as I would like to say men and women are equals in everything, it's not quite the case. Fundamentally our brains are wired differently, thus making certain things more appealing/ intuitive based on our gender. I am not by any means saying that a women is not capable of doing everything a man can. Simply, that we might have to fight little against our cognitive tendencies to do some of those things.

What is the Difference between the Male & Female Brain

A neurological study on brain mass found that in the male brain the cerebral cortex it is slightly more likely (60%) to be non-symmetrical. What might be the male advantage of a lopsided brain? Well a thick cortex can suggested increased functionality of the brains processing. Things that are function based, like staking claim to things & defending territory, may benefit from the increased thickness. Women on the other hand have a more symmetrical cerebral cortex which suggests an uneven thickness in neither the right or left side of the brain. Since the a female brain is naturally more symmetrical, the thought processes which require multi-directional processing are more easily developed.

Another study in cited Psychology Today found that the male brain is characterized by systemizing tendencies and mechanistic thinking. “Systemizing” is just a fancy way of saying they have natural tendencies to analyze, explore, and construct a system. They intuitively figures out how things work both literally and figuratively. In contrast, the female brain is characterized by empathizing tendencies or mentalistic thinking. Empathy is the "the drive to identify another person’s emotions and thoughts", and to respond to them appropriately. Mentalism, the other strong component to female thinking, is the ability to understand people and what drives them.

So from this understanding of the brain, what can we deduce? Let's make it simple: Women naturally do well with multitasking, cross-topic organization, community development, and communication. Men naturally do well with promotion (territory claim), self preservation, concept exploration & system development .

How Does this Alter the Way We Look At Women in Social Media?

Research has shown us what I think we already knew subconsciously was true, women naturally are more focused on conversation, men are naturally more focused on self survival (promotion). This doesn't mean that all women are capable of is girl talk or task management. Nor does this mean men are only capable of tooting their own horn and exploring undeveloped concepts digitally. I am simply saying that advance science shows that each gender has a natural tendencies to certain skill sets. Naturally men will promote themselves more, whether they intend to or not. Likewise, women are more likely to engage in a community, whether ore not they set out to do so. All this put into perspective, it make sense why the "biggest" names in social media are predominately men. It's not they are any better or more talented than the lovely ladies of digital community, solely that they got prepackaged with a little more natural intuition on how to put themselves top of mind in the field.

In order for any of this to change and for more women to get credit for the more than excellent work they do, us ladies need to focus a little more on self-promotion & industry presence. I know it's counter-intuitive, it's uncomfortable, and frankly it seems a bit "used-car salesman like". Hell, we've got thousands of years of evolutionary developed cognitive processing fighting hard against us. If we can go a little against our intuition and do a little more to promote our work , women-in life & in social media- will be better. Here's just a few ideas of simple things we can do to promote women in social media.

1. Endorse Female Conference Speakers- Until the landscape at conferences becomes a little bit more balanced, it's going to be harder for women to get the social media street cred they deserve. There is no reason more women shouldn't be speaking at conferences & Shelly Kramer's post had a list of women who are more then capable of delivering an excellent workshop or speech. Frankly, I'd enjoy some more balance in things; It would not only add some spice to the current conference rosters, but also produce new insights & program management ideas. Plus, it's getting old not seeing women on panels or giving speeches. While the world ~50% female, conference speaker lists make it seems as if we are going extinct!

2. Boast just a little- If you've got accomplishments, share them. Chris Brogan doesn't hesitate to mention he's a NYT best selling author, neither should you. And if you know anything about Chris, he never comes off as a self promoting jerkwad. He's balanced in his approach. He balances promoting his events & speaking engagements partnered with vocalizing his legitimacy , all while maintaining a more than active conversation with the public. I think one of the women who may be doing this best in social media is Liz Strauss. Mingled in with her day to day conversation she still takes time to mention her events and do a little healthy self promotion that never comes off as excessive or in your face.

3. Schmooze, Chatter, & Network- If we're naturally better suit to create dialogue based communities we should use our strength to help overcome our brain-based weakness. The sum is greater then the sum of all the parts, right? If we can create positive social media orgs for women, then as women break through the barrier, they can mentor and train the next generation to over come the same challenges. There's a lot of insight and drive here, we just need a little more organization.

This networking function goes beyond just connecting with other women in the industry. Network with the men who are currently leading the charge! I am sure you'd be surprised how many of them also think that women are unrepresented in the scene ( especially at the events). If they know who the talented women are, that their intentions are honest, and that their work is superior, then it is likely they were use a little of their social capital to help these women out.

In Short: Women are doing excellent work. I am confident we can & will lead advanced social thinking & dialogue, but to do so we need to start fighting our intuition and step into the portion of the spotlight we deserve.


Blogging for Money - Harsh Reality or Livin the Dream?

So, let's face it, most blogs DO NOT make money. You must have compelling content, tons of followers, relevant ads you want to click on and brilliant design. It's unlikely, that even this blog (with tons of MBAs blogging every semester) makes much.

Now there are a host of services to encourage you to buy into this dream of becoming a millionaire blogger.

AdSense for one, the google service that allows you to run relevant ads on your website. Turns out some sites - do actually make money on this... but those are ones that are specific with highly monetizable and useful content (SMU). Just the other day I found out about a website about Gerbils that shows up in the first page of Google Search results (search gerbil) that does pretty well (it doesnt look well designed, but apparently that doesnt matter when your content is SMU).

There are also bloggers for bloggers.

Pro Blogger tells you how to optimize each post -
Remarkablogger is a Blogging consultant -

I also ran into the other day a website where we as USERS can make money by helping websites with their content/look and feel. lets users test and speak their thoughts about various client sites for about $10 for 10-15 minutes. Not bad.

If you think about pursuing the blog for money approach, please consider consulting the resources above. Good luck and let me know if you have any thoughts on this.



Hot Dogs vs. Burning Puppies

After reading the recent Wired article regarding how Google has updated its algorithm over the years, I found this image on Techcrunch to be pretty interesting . . .

Google's algorithm is able to tell the difference between hot dogs and burning puppies (which is quite a challenge), but I wonder if it would have also been able to catch the link between an advertisement for a mail-order red meat purveyor and a story about a heart attack (not exactly a great ad context for them).

If an AdWord ad were purchased for Omaha Steaks against "Dick Cheney," would the algorithm know not to serve it against this?


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

F.C.C. study finds that one-third of Americans are still without high-speed Internet at home

Recently the Federal Communications Commission conducted a survey to learn the patterns of Internet connectivity and usage in the United States. Surprisingly, almost one-third of the population, or around 93 million people (80 million adults, 13 million children), are not connected with broadband at home. A small number of them use dial-up access, or connect at places like their offices or libraries, but the vast majority simply do not connect anywhere.

The F.C.C. was mandated by Congress to produce a detailed plan with specific recommendations to hasten the national adoption of broadband in the U.S; the plan is expected to be unveiled in mid-March. It will recommend, among other elements, an expansion of broadband adoption from the current 65% to more than 90%, according to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the F.C.C. Mr. Genachowski is promoting faster and more pervasive broadband infrastructure as a tenet of economic growth and democracy—the free flow exchange of ideas is essential to our future development and freedom. John Horrigan, who oversaw the FCC survey, claims that in a world of digital information, the non-users are “at a distinct disadvantage.”

Previously the gap in access was between slower dial-up and faster broadband, but that has disappeared: only 6% of Americans still use dial-up while the vast majority of those online use broadband. “Overall Internet penetration has been steady in the mid-70 to upper-70 percent range over the last five years,” Mr. Horrigan said in an interview. “Now we’re at a point where, if you want broadband adoption to go up by any significant measure, you really have to start to eat into the segment of non-Internet-users.”

When asked about the reasons for not having high-speed internet access at home, almost half of respondents claimed it is due to prohibitive cost, while another 45% answered “yes” to the statement, “I am worried about all the bad things that can happen if I use the Internet.” A smaller number said that surfing the web was simply a waste of time (clearly these people have never known the joys of spending hours watching random video clips on YouTube…). So, in order to “eat away” at the segment of non-Internet-users, the plan that the FCC submits needs to combine elements of making access more affordable, enhancing cybersecurity for those who connect, and generally providing education and training so people know better how to navigate the Internet safely and productively.

Some interesting highlights of the study:

• 78 percent of adults are Internet users, whether that means broadband, dial-up, access from home or access from someplace other than home; 74 percent of adults have access at home.
• 67 percent of U.S. households contain a broadband user who accesses the service at home; 65 percent of adults are broadband adopters (the discrepancy of two percentage points between household and individual home use is due to survey respondents who are nonbroadband users living with someone who, at home, is).
• 6 percent of Americans use dial-up Internet connections as their main form of home access.
• 6 percent are Internet users but do not use it from home; they access the Internet from places such as work, the library, or community centers.
• College educated Americans earning $75k+ are most likely to have broadband while the lowest penetration is in folks over 65+, those who live in rural areas, and those with household incomes of less than $50,000.


FourSquare and Bravo

FourSquare and Bravo have announced recently a new joint marketing effort, where Bravo viewers would be encouraged to use FourSquare in Bravo related locations.

There is no mention of actual money changing hands here, and I actually assume this deal is more about generating awareness for FourSquare and getting some hip image for Bravo, as well as increasing viewer engagement.

This deal looks like a win-win for the short term. FourSquare will literally get some TV commercials, Bravo will self promote and appear innovative.

In the long term, however, FourSquare would have to try harder in its effort to monetize its service properly. Joint efforts with cable TV networks, as cool as they are on paper, will not sustain them forever.

Jonathan Shulman


iPad is off to a great start

A recent survey conducted by RBC and ChangeWave suggests that iPad is off to a great start. Indeed, demand for iPads is higher than original demand for iPhones, and even exceeds Apple's projections.

The survey was conducted with a sample of 6,200 persons.

Overall demand patterns are:

Demand by version is:
Intended uses of the iPad include:
Analysts name the good price points Apple selected as being responsible for this promising start.
And some estimate that sales in CY'10 will reach 5 million units for a revenue of $2.4 billion.
Way to go...


Is this Web 3.0 Online Shopping?

Last week in class we discussed changes in e-commerce and how many online retailers are trying to mitigate the risk of buying online by improving customer service and offering a more sophisticated shopping experience. I have a minor (well, maybe major) online shopping problem and was intrigued by an article I read on VentureBeat about a company called is a visual shopping engine and owns several other shopping related websites. For example, is a social platform that enables users to shop cool “street wear” outfits and they recently launched Many people expect “Web 3.0” to make the transition from flat websites to a more 3-D, realistic world. Couturious appears to be ahead of the trend with a focus on 3-D photo-realistic styling and helping users figure out how to, not what, to wear.

VentureBear provides a good summary of the sites functionality: “You pick a photo of a model (you can choose from a variety of races and body types) and then style the model accordingly with clothes from over 100 different brands.’s computer vision technology allows your to dress a fairly realistic model and actually style them. So you can tuck pants into boots, adjust the folding of a scarf or have the model wear the shirt with top few buttons open. And you can purchase any of the items that are styled and share your styles to Facebook and Twitter.”

Because of my aforementioned shopping problem and a blog-writing block, I played around on the site for a while and was impressed by the functionality for the most part. The avatars still look a bit cheesy but creating an outfit with several lines I fun and it was easy to shop the different products. It will be interesting to follow the site as the carry more products and generate more user (i.e. stylist”) traffic.


The Internet: TV's best Friend

The NY Times recently ran an article suggesting that the internet is actually driving traffic to television networks. The argument being that viewers are using social networks to to interact while watching programming. Indeed, the article sights a Nielson report that one in seven viewers of the olympics or superbowl were simultaneously on social networks.

This is a pretty amazing fact given that the internet was supposed to be the downfall of television. Why even have a TV when most of the content would eventually end up online? I wonder if it is too early to make a final decision on where the internet and tv dynamics will play out? Is there any reason Facebook could not buy a production company and begin playing television shows in Facebook? At some point will facebook or google be in the entertainment industry.

Given the prevalence of both programs, it is always easy to wonder where they will go from here, but being that they are both secretive and creative nothing is really out of bounds. I agree that producing and distributing media is not their prime business, but why let users split their time between tv and the internet when you can capture all of them. It is unlikely that Television networks can introduce any element of social networking, so there may be a one sided advantage.

Imagine, watching television one the top right hand corner of my computer screen, while using facebook below that, and using search on the top left, while reading news on the bottom left. This almost seems like the ultimate vision that media and tech companies are assimilating to. It may be too early to suggest that television has a bright future ahead of it.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scott Galloway is an idiot

At least, that will be the consensus opinion from anyone reading Deadspin's description of the way that NYU Professor Scott Galloway totally disproportionate flaming of a student who tried to take his class at NYU Stern. Story on Deadspin (also picked up on New York Magazine) is here. The full exchange is copied below.

There are two lessons here for would-be marketers. First, be self-aware. In sending the email to his students, Galloway possibly thought the typical student response would be something like, "hmm, kind of harsh, but I appreciate that this professor cares about my professional reputation enough to really tell it like it is." The reality is, his students opened the email, thought "what a self-important d**k," then tried to make the email as viral as possible to maximize Galloway's embarrassment.

The second lesson is tough for Galloway: negativity in a small brand (e.g. a university professor), is more hurtful than it is in a large brand and much more difficult to repair. No one would be surprised to find a web site or yelp comment bashing a huge consumer brand (say, Ford) or individual (ex. VP Biden). The criticism comes with the fame. But if you were to come across a web site, news article or yelp comment trashing some unknown brand, you'd probably be more influenced by the negativity, since you're less likely to have had a personal experience with whatever is being reviewed (ex. "stay away from Foster's Frosted Flakes, they taste like soot!). Galloway is a small brand.

To close with a healthy dose of irony.... Professor Scott Galloway teaches brand strategy.

Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback

Prof. Galloway,

I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.


MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business

The Reply:

—— Forwarded Message ——-
To: "xxxx"
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedback


Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.

Just so I've got this started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which "bothered" you.


You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow's business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It's with this context I hope you register pause...REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance...these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility...these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It's not too late xxxx...

Again, thanks for the feedback.

Professor Galloway


Twitter to launch advertising platform

Today, reported that the much anticipated Twitter advertising platform will be launching in about a month. This announcement comes less than six months after Twitter raised $100mm at a rumored $1bn valuation.

I’m wondering what types of ads might accompany aplusk’s insights (aplusk is Ashton Kutcher’s handle, folks). Somebody notify the makers of ShamWow.

Most of what is twat (okay, tweeted) into the tweetosphere is probably mindless garbage, but Twitter will soon be turning such waste into cold hard twash. On Monday, Twitter posted a compelling graphic on the company’s blog that illustrates the explosion in tweets per day. The company is currently running at 50mm tweets per day. According to an October study, the average twitter has 42 followers. It’s difficult to put a number on the advertising opportunity, but just for fun:

It will be interesting to see what advertisers will pay for. Even if a mere fraction of tweets can be monetized Twitter can very quickly turn a tidy profit.