Showing posts from May, 2006

Well, You Can't Hit 'Em All.... or Any of Them

Just a take a look at who this VC firm decided NOT to invest in .

You're So Vain

Word for the day: GRAVANITY Meaning: Marketing used to convince people that it's really all about them.

This Town Ain't Big Enough for The Both Of Us

I like to think of myself as an optimist, so when I hear that some real estate professionals are scared that Zillow and Trulia will take money from them, I think they need to figure out how to make lemonade. That being said, Redfin is a direct assault on traditional real estate sales: If you find a home you like and want to place an offer, Redfin will represent you in the buying process (they have a call center with licensed real estate professioinals to guide you). Here’s the good part: They reimburse you 2/3 of the buy-side real estate fee directly on closing. The average amount reimbursed to the buyer is $11,402 (and that is based on relatively low Seattle home prices). Redfin is also testing a seller-representation model, called “Direct for Sellers”, that will handle all aspects of a sale for a flat fee (currently $1,350). On a $500,000 home sale, this saves the seller $13,650. The local real estate market is not impressed : Everything isn’t rosy for Redfin, though. They

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Cartoonist Scorned

Dilbert - which I always love - was even more fun than usual in May, as Scott Adams poked fun at the folks from Google . Turns out, though, that Adams had his own reasons for not feeling the love for Larry and Sergei. For a great story about brand preservation, logo tweaking and famous names, just go here , scroll back to May 18th, and keep reading forward.

Pavlov Moves Into the Cellphone Industry

With the cost of mobile phone calls already dropping sharply, Virgin Mobile USA plans to announce a way that people can talk for no money at all. They will, however, have to pay with a chunk of their attention. The program, called SugarMama, lets people earn one minute of talking time by watching 30-second commercials on a computer or receiving text messages on their phones, then answering questions to prove they were, in fact, paying attention. Read more here .

What's NXT?

I'm wondering where this week went - between our technology unexpectedly(!) being featured in the NY Times in conjunction with a MySpace promotion and our planned release on the state of the digital publishing industry , it's been a wild one. Still, I hope you enjoy the weekly update!

The Death (and Birth) of the Press Release

Anyone who works in marketing knows that the press release is a somewhat outdated item. Often little more than a block of copy, they're often sadly linking in rich media content, rich is one of the great things about the Web. Via Shel , we learn about a company which has designed a template for the NEW Press release, which leverages the power of the Web. The company, SHIFT Communications, makes use of the template here . As I commented on Shel's blog, I'm thrilled with this new template. But while I think it's perfect for new media, I'm concerned about some of the more traditional outlets. Simply put, the new press release isn't quite as copy-and-paste friendly, and will require some honest journalism to turn it into a story. I'm curious whether time-strapped writers of b-to-b pubs will prefer the better, more interactive, but more labor-intensive format.

Today's Worthless But Fun Link

More information about your birthday than you ever wanted to know can be found here .

When Geeks Get Carried Away...

One of the cornerstones of Google's innovation is the freedom given to their engineers: 20% of their time may be spent on anything they wish to develop. However, as Google get's bigger and badder, there's some speculation this privilege may be going away: Here's some fuel for your fire: a couple weeks ago, at a regular engineering all-hands, Larry Page went on a half-hour rant that left the entire engineering team wondering if he's gone nuts. He spent a long time lecturing everyone about how we're not smart enough to pick the right projects to work on, and he singled out a couple of projects (in front of hundreds of engineers) to complain about because they weren't using shared infrastructure components. Then he announced that he doesn't want people to use 20% time to work on new ideas -- yep, Larry has suddenly decided that the only good way to use 20% time is to work on someone else's project. So don't expect to see any products like Google

Fifteen Minutes of Fame Shrinking for Best-Selling Authors

"The life-expectancy of a bestselling novel has halved within the last decade, according to a long-term study of fiction bestsellers. It has fallen to barely a seventh of its level 40 years ago.... The average number of weeks that a new No. 1 bestseller stayed top of the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List has fallen from 5.5 in the 1990s, 14 in the 1970s and 22 in the 1960s to barely a fortnight last year -- according to the study of the half-century from 1956-2005. In the 1960s, fewer than three novels reached No. 1 in an average year; last year, 23 did. "The blockbuster novel is heading the way of the mayfly," says Bob Young, CEO of, referring to the famously short-lived insect." You can read more about the study here , but Seth perhaps sums up the moral best: "If your marketing strategy requires you to hit #1 in order to succeed, you probably need a new marketing strategy."

Genesis of a Viral Marketing Campaign

Ever since I started with NXTbook , I've been actively seeking ways to get the NXTbook format into readers' hands, simply because unbiased users are the best way to figure out if your product features make sense. While we typically do test-cases with most of our clients, it's not exactly the same - Sometimes, the publisher already knows what they want the results to say. Other times, there are certain questions they don't want asked. Most importantly, they tend to frown upon experimentation with their customer base, and I don't blame them. So how do you get honest open feedback? At NXTbook, we decided to launch The NXT Big Thing - a publication produced for us by us. This way, we can tweak the format how we like and get feedback from a more diverse group of people. The bonus is that readers get treated to some outstanding writing, totally free of charge. We just launched our first issue, which features Rajesh Petty, well-known blogger of Life Beyond Code fame. He gr

Never Trust a CEO With a Book in His Hand

The following story is true. Names have been removed because – frankly – they have more lawyers than I do. In late ’03 and early ’04, “outsourcing” was all the rage. Companies, particularly those still trying to shake the dot-com blues, sent lots of work overseas, hopeful that the promises of all the brilliance at a quarter of the price would be fulfilled. In April of ’04, noted writer Thomas Friedman signed a contract with Random House to write, “ The World is Flat ,” a nonfiction piece which said – in several hundred pages – that virtually everything could be outsourced, quality would not suffer, and corporations would have higher profits. Or at least, it would say that, but not until it was published nearly one year later in April of ’05. By that time, judging by the Google Trend chart , smart corporations had finally learned the truth – while some stuff could be outsourced, it wasn’t really that easy to replace overpaid American workers, for many reasons (good and bad), which I won

Today's Cool New Product

Those busy beavers at Google are at it again. Just this morning, they released Google Notebook . In a well-written nutshell : The idea behind it is that you can use it to takenotes about web pages , and copy snippets from those pages, and keep them in notebooks, whichyou can keep private, or make accessible to the public. A link to the page where you found the material makes it easy to return to the source ofthe information. Notebooks can be organized into sections, and can contain images as well as text. The program can be accessed from more than one computer, which means that the information contained within it is stored by Google rather than on your own computer. While I’ve seen other products that do a similar sort of thing, the fact that Google has it means there’s a greater chance of traction. To view my own public notebook, just go here .

Lifestyles of the Somewhat Rich & Famous

Sometimes this Internet is a crazy crazy thing. By combining the use of two totally free tools, I was able to snoop out some relatively interesting personal stuff about famous people. For instance, anyone who Googles dynamite author Harlan Coben can find out pretty easily that he lives in Ridgewood, NJ. But it only took me one step further to find out his house is worth around $963k, which isn't so great appreciation, considering someone paid $885k for it 12 years ago. Then again, the place is nearly 100 years old, so maybe appreciation slows down. It's a nice looking joint, though.

Need an Ad Agency?

A good friend and former boss of mine is in the market for a new agency. I wonder if he'd like this firm : Our female staff members are all hot, so, even if there's nothing to meet about, we'll sit and flirt with them, and charge you for the time. When one of our new-age marketing gurus or design experts or consultants has an idea, the rest of us look at him or her with serious expressions and write stuff down on paper.

And I Thought Telling My Wife I Bought a Car Was Hard...

"I practiced for about an hour on how I was going to break this to Jen," Weber said, "because when you come home to tell your wife you're buying a hockey team , like, that's an ugly hill to climb. So I worked on it and then I came home and I sat her down and I got her a glass of wine... Read more here .

Next Up, We Go After Wal-Mart

I'm always amazed when start-ups try try to make waves in an industry where the industry leaders are - frankly - pretty good. Today, opened for business. Snap is a search engine, kinda like those Google people, and the Yahoo people you may have heard about? Snap has a preview window, which is admittedly kinda cool. But in the dozen or so searches I did, the search results weren't even close to what Google and Yahoo did. The preview window is the sizzle, but the search results are the steak. My advice is that Snap sell the sizzle to Google and Yahoo and move on.

Internet Claims Another Victim

Late last week, Bowker announced that US book publishing numbers were going to be down 18% from '04 to '05. My first reaction upon hearing this was to think that some of the leading self-publishing firms were responsible for the hit, since they'd gotten plenty of credit for the increased numbers in '02, '03 and '04. But looking at the detailed chart provided by Bowker, it appears that there is no silver bullet to be found: we're just buying less books of all kinds.

Been Scared Lately?

I've just been informed by Cutting Block Press that an anthology featuring a story I wrote will begin shipping next week. While I'm not a horror writer, per se, my story "A Hell of a Deal" appears in Horror Library Volume 1: An Anthology of Terror. My story is about a Real Estate Open House gone tragically wrong. Order it from the publisher here . And be sure you attend Open Houses well-armed.

How Big is Back to School for Futons?

We often hear that August-September is the hot season for futon and this Google Trends report confirms it. Search activity during this eight week window is twice that of the rest of the year. Notice, unfortunately, that the peak wasn't quite so high in '05 and, more importantly, didn't last as long. By the way, if you click on that link, you'll also see the most popular cities for futon searching! If you're a retailer in one of those cities, and you don't know how to do Google Adwords specific to your city, drop me a line. For the amount of profit you make on the sale of one nice futon sofa, I'll help you set up a Paid Search account specific to your city for this small window of opportunity.

On Google, Trends and Latex Mattresses

Here's the next head-scratcher from Google Trends . I decided to run a comparison between memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses. The graph on the right is what we got. It shows that in mid-2004, there was enough interest in latex mattresses to put the term on the map, but interest eventually settled in to be somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 that of memory foam mattresses. Both terms have slumped a bit this year - chalk it up to either people being less interested in premium products or people already being educated. It looks to me as if memory foam mattresses have enough traction to stay on the map. The question is, "Does latex?"

A Catalog for Every Person

I'm just back from the ACCM Show in Chicago. The great thing about cataloguers is that they totally get the concept of successful niche marketing. Oh sure, we met with some of the big guys, but we also had the opportunity to learn about the Avocado of the Month Club , too. Now, if that's not laser-like focus, I don't know what is. All in all, a great show, marked by smart marketers, great food and really cool pens from the Google girls.

But Seriously, How Do You Really Feel?

Linked from Inc . "As a principal and founding partner of a consulting firm that eventually grew to 600 employees, I interviewed, hired, and worked alongside hundreds of business-school graduates, and the impression I formed of the M.B.A. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face while using phrases like 'out-of-the-box thinking,' 'win-win situation,' and 'core competencies .' When it came to picking teammates, I generally held out higher hopes for those individuals who had used their university years to learn about something other than business administration."

Ten Smart Moves to Improve Your Business

Lifehacker pointed this one out to me and while all ten (there's actually 11) are great, you gotta love #1: Start a blog: I can attribute at least six figures of income to my blog (that doesn’t include the two decimal places!). Can you afford not to try it for yourself? Twice in the past two weeks, I've had people tell me they thought they needed a newsletter. "Nope," I said, "You need a blog." By posting articles to a blog, including an RSS feed and pushing them out via an e-newsletter service like Zookoda , you serve three masters: 1) Website visitors who read the blog and the more who will come as you inevitably help your search statistics. 2) RSS geeks, who are growing larger every day. 3) The 90% of us who don't surf all day or sit on RSS readers but will read a great e-newsletter when it comes.

Why We All Use Arial

Arial is everywhere. If you don't know what it is, you don't use a modern personal computer. Arial is a font that is familiar to anyone who uses Microsoft products, whether on a PC or a Mac. It has spread like a virus through the typographic landscape and illustrates the pervasiveness of Microsoft's influence in the world. Arial's ubiquity is not due to its beauty. It's actually rather homely. Not that homeliness is necessarily a bad thing for a typeface. With typefaces, character and history are just as important. Arial, however, has a rather dubious history and not much character. In fact, Arial is little more than a shameless impostor. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki for the link to this very interesting story .

Sometimes Being Average is Better Than Average

Seth has an interesting riff on marketing to the "average crowd." Okay, it's true. In every category, in every profession, half the people are below average. This matters to marketers. It matters because if you expect your customers to be smarter than average, you've just lost half the potential market. It matters because if succeeding in a project requires exceptional effort, you better realize that not just any team member is going to make it work--actually less than half of the pool might. Same with the consultants, designers and yes, lawyers that you hire. Mass marketing works best when it assumes that everybody in the entire chain is just plain average. Or even a little bit less. Sorry to lower your expectations. Read more here .

What Did You REALLY Think of my E-mail

Lots of chatter this AM about SalesGenius , which tracks the links your contacts click so that you can see how they're navigating around your site when you send them emails with links. It's a cute little package, to be sure, and I might use it as a way to test certain messages. But it's lack of integration into my other analytical and marketing tools prevent it from being a game-changer for me. There's also a reasonable amount of questions regarding the ethics of what's going on here, since the product is basically using an evil technology (phishing) for good (market research). I see no ethical problem, here, myself - cookies do essentially the same thing. But I'm expecting to add it to my tool-kit for sporadic use.