Archive for the "Business" Category

Sustainable business models, and why ABC has LOST their way

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

lost-logoIf you’re wondering about sustainable business models, bear with me while I rant about ABC’s free episode streaming, or just skip the first bunch of paragraphs to the Sustainable Business Models heading.  Ohterwise bear with me, I’ve got a couple lung-fulls to spend talking about why I’m not having the best time I could be having finally watching LOST.

After years of resisting, I finally decided that I should watch LOST and catch up on everything I’ve been missing (that damn near everybody’s been telling me about).  I’m watching it straight through from Season 1 on – and I’m afraid I have a few complaints about how they’re handling their free episodes.


Why is Twitter all the hotness all of a sudden?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

twitter_logoJust today I was told my brother was working on a Twitter project for his company.  They are trying to leverage the recent popularity of the service to have yet another opportunity to announce what otherwise would be newsworthy content – in this case really good deals on really good stuff.  However, from what I heard from him, they’re hindered by the fact that Twitter is a completely public service, with no restrictions on who reads and consumes the information people post to it.  I’ve heard lots of disdain for Twitter’s lack of groups or some other sort of tool to manage access to messages meant for a specific demographic.  However, the real question is, what exactly is Twitter meant to be – a megaphone or a private line to a certain group of people?

The answer of course is that its already a megaphone.  There are competitors or perhaps you could call them “co-habitants” of the same vertical, or whatever you like.  There’s a few companies creating offerings for businesses that allow employees to “tweet” only to the ears of their co-workers.  And Twitter seems content to remain the megaphone desipite this competition.  Honestly, I’d like to say Good For Them.  They’re focused on what they’re trying to accomplish, and despite the complete lack of success in trying to monetize this impetus besides venture capital, at least they’re doing what they like and what they want to do.

The reason people are talking about Twitter so much recently is that they are realizing that its a tool to reach a broad spectrum of loyal listeners.  The reason the listeners are so loyal is the mechanics of the service – you can’t force users to listen the same way you can with an email address.  You can’t send promotial emails to a follower on Twitter – if they don’t want to listen, they can cut off that relationship relatively quickly.  Additionally, the way Twitter works respects the way people want to regulate the bandwidth of their attention span.  If they are getting too much info, they’ll stop following, that’s all there is to it.

So what Twitter has is a megaphone that only people that want to hear have to put up with.  That’s genius.  Facebook has recently tried to achieve the same kind of ubiquitous streaming “Nirvana” if you will.  But thats not what the site is meant for.  A social network is meant to bind friends, aquaintances, and the like together.  Twitter is meant to bind people that say things and people that want to hear those things.  While the two audiences may sometimes overlap, they are probably never the same.  I follow TechCrunch on Twitter, but wouldn’t think of adding anybody that works there as friends on Facebook.  I guess that won’t stop Facebook from trying to employ the same dynamic that Twitter has achieved, and so be it.

Regardless of all that, the reason I am using Twitter now is because I can broadcast to everybody that wants to listen a stream of remarks, links and the like, with relative ease.  Additionally the Twitter Facebook app allows me to do the same to my Facebook friends without any hassle.  And the Twitter Tools plugin for Wordpress allows me to store my Tweets in a persistent format of my choosing in my blog.  Best of all worlds so to speak.  I’m sure Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey give a lot of validation to everybody for their attention to Twitter, but the important part is that it serves a need and does it relatively well at this point in time.  I’ll use it till I find something bettter at doing what I want to do. Hopefully they’ll figure out how to monetize their business before then – right now its really swell of them to provide this service without expecting anything in return.

Talk to Chuck

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

charles_schwabJust read an article on AdAge about Charles Schwab putting their accounts on review.  Omnicom Group’s PHD is who has the business now.  Nice folks over there, I worked on their “perspectives.” corporate blog a couple years ago, which included a couple trips to their office.  I hope they manage to keep the contract. The “Talk to  Chuck” campaign is definitely pretty good, and take a look at this quote:

A number of media agencies are going to get the chance to “Talk to Chuck” about his $100 million media-planning and -buying account in the next few weeks. Charles Schwab, one of the only financial-services companies not to take any federal bailout money, has put its traditional and digital media business up for review.

How about that, here I go and talk about AIG like they’re the devil.  And now there’s some contrast for you - one of the only financial-services companies not to take any federal bailout money – excellent.  So there IS a way to run a financial-services company without needing handouts from the government!  That’s what they should be talking about in their advertising campaigns (unless they also have humility listed as a corporate virtue, in which case they’re pretty much saints).

Wolfram Alpha

Monday, March 9th, 2009

wolframalphaspikey-stillI just read Nova Spivack’s post about Wolfram Alpha on Twine.  It looks like Stephen Wolfram has been operating a stealth-mode company that has built a natural language question answer and computation engine.  It launches in May 2009. Its a system that can answer factual questions, using computation to generate some of the answers based on information it knows or can pull in.  Interesting concept, although not new as some of comments have pointed out.  True Knowledge is a company that has a working version of this already. And there’s the START Natural Languange Question Answering System which has been “on-line and continuously operating since 1993″.

google_gorilla03What’s interesting about Nova Spivack’s spin on the project is that he compares it directly to Google and how Google is a lookup engine whereas Wolfram is a computation engine.  I don’t think Google is behind the curve on this issue though – seems like they’re either waiting for somebody to solve this problem well and then they’re going to get gobbled (or googled) up and bought.  Or perhaps they have a system of their own that does this sort of stuff and they’ve just been waiting for the appropriate time to launch it – when their stock needs a big boost or something :) )  At this point Google is a company with almost infinite resources both computationally and financially.  There are very few companies that can be compared to them in a functional way.  What Google is doing is not competing in a very obvious way.  They’re competing in a very smart way – undoubtedly there are things being worked on at Google right now that are foundations for some very exciting applications – some of them could be monetizable, some of them may not be.  But what they’ve been revealing are tools that are molding the web into a better business platform for them and for everybody else.  Its hard to be mad at an 800 pound gorilla standing next to you in a crowded room passing out free drinks.  What I’d like to see is how Wolfram Alpha is going to monetize their business – are they going to run Google Ads or are they waiting for Google to buy them?

Carnegie Mellon effected by the recession

Monday, January 26th, 2009

lvl_carnegiemellon_logoAccording to a story by the Associated Press, Carnegie Mellon is feeling the recession. CMU’s endowment investments dropped in value about 30 percent, and preparing for the long-term effects of this drop, the University froze salaries and hiring, and put capital projects on hold.

This is definitely troubling.  I suppose we’re just starting to see the long-reaching effects of the recession, but I didn’t think it would be this devastating for educational institutions.  I’m not sure if other educational institutions are feeling this – I’m sure some without gigantic endowments will be feeling it quite a bit.  I wonder how institutions like MIT, Harvard, Columbia and NYU are faring?  There’s typically an increase in NIH funding for education and research under a Democratic presidency, but Barack Obama has some tough choices to make if he’s going to get the economy back in shape, and hopefully keeping the NIH budget won’t suffer because of that.

I suppose we’ll see.  Hopefully we won’t see any educational institutions going out of business without getting the bailout treatment the industrial and financial sectors are getting.