My friend Meg linked to this site SEO moz that I had heard about but not kept up with and they had a web 2.0 competition of sorts not too long ago and the list of winners and runners up is an interesting list of sites to explore on a Friday afternoon. I have not been through all of them yet, but I am interested to continue surfing because there are so many I have never heard of. (and I am on the web at least 8 hrs a day) So, for the new emerging web and some old favorites I recommend heading over to the seo moz site and taking a gander at their list. Not so much for the sake of who got what award, but for the general discovery of new sites that you might like and be able to use. It’s always interesting here on the internet.
I am not the most technically inclined but when something can help me find information faster or get work done faster I am interested. Remote Access is something I had not considered before for my computer but now that I am working from home and work alternately it seems that I forget things on either computer that I need when I am at the alternate one. This is a bit silly when you can get access to any conputer remotley now through a service called remote PC. I had not thought about it before but it could be very useful if you travel for business or have more than one place where you work and if you don’t take the same computer with you everywhere you go. I have a laptop at home a desktop at work and my work gives me a loaner when I travel also. So between the three there could be a lot of file sharing. But I haven’t signed up just yet. It costs about 5 bucks a month, so I would need to know I am going to travel a lot before signing up. But I think that there is a good idea here, and I think more people are going to want to access their PCs from anywhere via the web just like they access web sites from anywhere. It is definitely going this direction.
This post has been sponsored by Remote PC
Ebay’s MicroPlace.com is a new site where you can invest small amounts of money (starting at $50.00 and $100.00 in some funds) in a 3rd world country and help individuals start their own businesses and help reduce the rate of poverty there. It’s free market profitable charity? If that makes sense. It is piggybacking on the consumer idea that started with a site called Prosper where individuals loan to other individuals at different levels of risk and get bigger returns than a bank would pay in interest on your money. This is profitable for Prosper because they take a cut of the profit first and then the loan gets its interest. Even with the lender and Prosper’s cut, its still a lot less interest for someone to pay back than payday loans or other super high interest loans.
The idea that small loans (which make interest and are repaid on a regular schedule) to individuals in impoverished countries that allow them to start small businesses has been a popular idea of the past few years. The University of Chicago economist and author Jeffrey Sachs wrote about it in his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Timein 2005. It was a best seller and landed him on Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people list. Muhammad Yunus also got critical acclaim for his micro lending company Grameen Bank and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
On MicroPlace.com anyone can try to end poverty. You can choose a region of the world and a country and research some statistics about the population there. Then look through an read up on the programs available to invest in. There are risks involved in these investments, like in all investments. These MicroPlace invetsments specifically have these risks you should be aware of before investing:
1. They are not FDIC insured
2. The interest rate is lower than you would get in a bank or an average index fund rate over time. (I saw 2% listed)
3. You can’t purchase these funds in Pennsylvania (it says so on the prospectus)
4. In the investment world the ones who loan the least get the smallest rewards, so $100.00 may do some good, but you won’t get rich from it.
I think these programs have succeeded in their limited trials so far because of a few reasons. They are starting small in areas where this has never been available before. The newness of the opportunity seems huge and people are so excited about repaying because they have never had an opportunity for a loan before. Over time this will wear off if they are available to everyone everywhere and the payback rates will drop. (look at home loan defaults right now in the U.S.) They also don’t have competition in a lot of the new businesses they start, so the success rate is high when no one else has a loan yet or a new business. I also think that Americans are very into the popularity of charity and giving to help poverty right now, and are eager to donate and invest. (sometimes instead of investing in their own 401K plans, paying off credit card debt or donating to communities at home) Over time if rates of return don’t stay high, and change doesn’t happen the popularity will decline also. And lastly the idea that “free market capitalist economies can save the world” is very popular right now. As this expands and shows the pluses and minuses long term (America has a lot of poverty too you know, and no one seems interested in ending it here) may change our thinking. But for now it’s Laissez Faire for everyone.
I applaud Ebay for their efforts, because they are trying to do good while doing business. But, over the long term I think these programs should stay small and primarily offline with more involvement in the venture by the investors to help supply the knowledge needed to make these new businesses succeed. (because money alone can’t create a successful business) Commoditizing this process as an investment opportunity for all is probably going too big too soon and at an unmanageable level and will not return gains on investments or really help end poverty in the long term. (in my opinion)
I am always running accross new sites that do neat things on the internet, check these out for some fun this weekend:
Kaneva – discover an engaging 3D world where your media, online entertainment and imagination come to life. Create a profile, unique 3D avatar, 3D home and teleport “in-world” to explore and connect with others.
MocoSpace – you can meet new friends and stay in touch with old friends anytime–anywhere, directly from your mobile phone. It’s a social community made up of more than a million registered users in the US and around the world. Sign-up is quick and best of all, it’s free. Stay connected while on-the-go, all the time. It’s myspace for your phone.
Auction Pal – selling your “stuff” has never been so easy. Have an item you want to sell? Find out how much it’s worth with auctionPAL’s calculator. Don’t stop there! To help make selling easy, auctionPAL has three different services, each designed to meet the needs of a different type of seller. Just pick the one that’s right for you. Could this be the next Ebay?
GrayBoxx – search locally for the top neighbor-recommended businesses and services. Grayboxx’s innovative technology translates the everyday interactions people have with businesses into meaningful expressions of popularity and quality. This has been tried before, local search never works. But yet they want to try it again…good luck guys.
I am amazed all the time at the number of really professional sites that I find with good content. (no wonder newspapers are worried, other people can write too) and I ran across the DivineCaroline.com’s Body and Soul site that had a good article about HPV, of which I posted about earlier today. They also focus on providing a lot of articles on staying healthy and women’s fitness. Which I am interested in also. I also really like the look of this site. It has a wall street journal feel to the interface and everything is easy to navigate and find. The information and writing is good too, but I have found that there is a lot of good writing out there. You can also read comments from the community and comment on ideas and stories yourself. Of which I think is great, being a blogger. I always like it when media is willing to interact with real people. It shows that they are in touch with reality and want to know what we, the readers, think too. I will add this to my daily list of sites to visit, because it is a great site with news and info that I can really use.
Ok, I am a marketer for a living, but I am an online marketer really more of a media analyst, so I don’t get into packaged cosumer goods or distribution processes. I am thinking though that I may have to go into a career change because these marketers have found a way to double their sales of items and it’s very coy. Most people don’t even realize it.
Most grocery stores in the 80′s were very organized, all the items that were made from that same food types or materials were categorized together. (paper products, dairy, meat etc…) and people knew where every thing was, and got in and out of the store quickly and efficiently.
Then in the 90′s it started getting hard to find things. I found myself looking for english muffins and not finding them where they used to be, in the bread isle, but in the refrigerated case next to the eggs. What the f are they doing there? I didn’t think too much about it, because there weren’t too many items that way and we all re-learned the layout of the Jewel and Dominicks and went about our way.
Since then they seem to rip appart the grocery stores about once a year just to re-organize them so that they are all confusing again. You find yourself taking an hour or more to do your grocery shopping, when it used to take maybe 30 minutes. About this time I began to suspect this disorganization was intentional and an article in TIME magazine about the monetization of space in retail stores confirmed it.
It pisses me off to be taken advantage of when I have to buy something other than what I need, because I can’t find what I want and the thing I do find that is similar, is priced twice as much. But hey, the marketer that thought of all this is probably promoted to VP by now, and sitting fat and happy, so what does he care? Anyway here are some of the things your grocery store does to cheat you out of more money than you want to spend.
1. They place basic necessities in the back of the store (milk, eggs, meat) so you have to walk by everything else to get to them. Marketers know that some of you will see the stuff you’re walking by and toss it into your shopping cart even if you had not intended on buying it until you saw it at that moment.
2. They group things together that often are used in making the same dish or meal to increase sales. The english muffins were not in the cooler with the eggs because they needed refrigeration. They were there because the marketers know that people make eggs and english muffins together a lot. And the ones in the cooler are the most expensive english muffins in the store. You see them, you think that would be good together, and in the cart it goes. You never hunt down the other brands that are a dollar or more less in the bread isle or wherever they are hiding them now. You just buy the expensive ones because of proximity.
3. The biproduct of this re-organizing is that people don’t know where the products are that they want and they spend double the time in the store wandering around looking for them. Marketers have also found that people see and buy a lot of extra stuff when they are wandering around the store looking for that thing on their shopping list that they can’t find. Its the see it, toss it in the cart method of raising the total average sale of the consumer. So they rip up and reorganize the store with even less efficiency each year. Just to get you to buy more stuff.
4. Placement on the shelf is usually decided by bids with manufaturers and distributors. The most profitable place on the shelves is the one at eye level. That costs the most to put your products there. The top and bottom are less expensive, but if you look there as a consumers you will find the better deals because the most expensive groceries are at eye level.
5. Latley they have also started adding flat screen TV’s to the checkout isle. This not only entertains people as they wait it is full of ads that get you to buy more. I think the other thing it does is it makes the consumer complacent about what they are ringing up. They don’t see that their kid just threw 2 handfulls of candy from the shelf by the checkout on the convayer belt and they get bought. They also don’t watch to see that the items they are buying get rung up properly and are priced what they were labeled as. So the stores get away with more and have less complaining customers when things go wrong.
Granted, the grocery business is a low margin business with maybe a 2% profit margin from what I have read, and any increase in sales helps them cover the damaged, rotted and spoiled food that happens in the store at a total loss when they have to throw it away. But something about this is just so decieving and I always resent someone who purposly builds a bad, inneficient and deceptive process to extract more time and money out of consumers. It’s just bad ethics, and at some point will backfire. Maybe when we all order our food over the internet.
There has been a lot of talk about TV viewership declining in the last few years to people who come home and go on the internet all evening rather than watch the big 3 networks or cable on their couch. This isn’t a big deal for us consumers because we are just doing what we want, and chatting online with friends or blogging is better time spent than being a zombie in front of the TV. The thing is, the networks are really worried that they might loose those advertisers who pay up to 350K (on big events like the Oscars) per 30 second spot for TV commercials if they can’t prove that as many people are watching. They might have to sell an oscar commerical spot for a discounted 300K instead, and that is revenue loss.
Revenue Loss Bad! Revenue Gain Good! Grumbles the cave man CEO.
They are trying to prove that people watch their shows online and go to their web sites and all kinds of stuff, but the truth is that we are in an age where consumers determine what we want to do for entertainment, the networks do not. And even more than that, the advertisers do not. We will ignore millions of dollars of ad placement for a Friday night new movie in theaters, in favor of going online for a WoW match which did $0 in advertising. This pisses big companies off. They no longer have a reliable model for getting people to see, recognize, remember, buy and prefer their product anymore. Any shakeup in their billion dollar system that may make their quarterly return to shareholders less than anticipated will get people fired, will get people promoted and get more money spent. So, as someone who realizes that media planning is more fragmented than ever before and that demographics of each of your emerging properties changes monthly, I realize that there is a huge opportunity here to reformulate things more efficiently and make advertising a lot more relevant. But that probably won’t happen. We will probably still see ads plastered on non-relevant things, at un-relevant times and continue to forget them immediatley.
I always love new stuff. (I can’t always afford to be buying new stuff, but that is beside the point.) And I can’t decide if it’s the discovery type kid in me or the marketer in me that goes “oooohhhh neat!” when I discover new cool stuff that I like. (and there is plenty that is new that I don’t like too.) Springwise is a newsletter that gives me updates to everything their spring spotters network finds. Some weeks its a hit and others its a miss with the newsletter but this week there were a few hits:
New women’s targeted drink from Heineken: Charli. It is a cider, which I liked a lot before I could stand beer, and its in a lot more girly of a bottle. (or unisex)
And a new company called Halfshare that offers fractional ownership of second homes to share the investment risk and the reward.
I was reading an article today that cites that 80% of people know what a blog is and of that 80%, 50% (40% of the total) of them read them regularly. This was a survey of 1,000 people by Marketing Daily. It suprises me because a lot of what the web has produced as “the next big thing” over the past 5 years hasn’t lasted long. Remember Plaxo? Podcasting? RSS? Bloglines? PubSub? Furl? All these things had big buzz and we were sure that they would change our lives like Flickr did. They all still exist today in some form, some are very utilitarian like RSS which is still very important, but it didn’t change things like we thought. Blogging has changed what we read on the internet. It has allowed ordinary people to publish their views and information and compete in a relativley flat world with huge media companies. Never has this happened before. I think that newspapers and traditional media outlets are still utimatley more valuable as news sources though, because they have the staff to research, travel and report firsthand on news. All of us bloggers have an even playing field in the publishing side, but not the reporting yet. That is still something best done by the original reporters who become the source for news.
A friend of mine is changing careers and is interested in fufilling her dreams of being a writer. She has been attending a writers circle group every week that gives her feedback on her work and she really likes it. I am not as talented as she is, but even someone like me has interest in improving my writing and getting new ideas and feedback. These groups are great for networking as well. There are online versions of these round table writing groups too. The writer’s circle at http://www.mywriterscircle.com/ has been going since 2005 and has thousands of members online. I am going to take a look and see if there is anything on the bulletin board that is a help to me too.
I was on LOL Cats, I can has cheezburger today. (chekin out my katz) And saw a little shiny widget showing how many people were on the site at that moment. It was like 1,700. Crazy, no wonder the download time is so slow! Well it is from a site new site that has a fun interactive tracker that shows this information for free. How companies can get the server space and bandwith to offer these little analytics packages is unknown to me. (why do analytics companies charge so much? soon we will all be analytics experts) So if you go to http://whos.amung.us and add your site, choose your colors and paste into the sidebar of your site or blog you can see how many people are there at any one moment. Kool huh? Next they will be offering website builds and hosting for free too. (sarcasm)
The blogging tips I was writing about from a Google talk have been really interesting. The second one I thought was a good thing was that he recommended using word press. I am glad I use them because they were smart building a lot of good usability and SEO features into the software. I also know that there are SEO plugins that help tag and gather meta data even further but that is only for self hosted blogs where you can upload those plugins yourself. My experiments with chicagoweekendfun.com have taught me a lot about SEO already. Blogging is a lot more difficult than sitting down to write every day. It takes some strategy and a lot of technical knowledge too.
I live in Chicago and it has been raining for the better part of the last 3 weeks. And the big storms that came through Chicago on Thursday took out the power of about 300,000 people in the area. I have many friends without power right now, and they say it will definitley be a week to fix most of it.
What is even worse than loosing power is loosing part of your home to flooding damage. I have heard about friends and neighbors who had just redone their basement with 30K worth of work and then it flooded and they lost it all. The insurance only covered 5K. That sucks. One way you can protect your basement is with a good sum pump and a backup sum pump with a generator in case your power goes out.
If you have done that then the last step is the B-Dry system especially if you have a french drain system. It is a patented sealing process with plastic polymers that has been used in thousands of homes to keep water out of your basement. With all these steps hopefully your basement will be protected no matter where you live.
Last year I had access to the preview DVDs that upfront media buyers get when they lock in their millions of dollars of ad buying in June for the fall season that started in September. I watched a lot of the shows and posted about them. Most I was not a fan of. Most of the new shows that started last fall were cancelled either immediatley or within a few months. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip only lasted till the end of the season because of the contract they had with Aaron Sorokin and a devoted high income audience. It has been canceled now too. I firmly believe that these expensive development projects for fall premier season son’t work about 85% of the time. Yet, the mid season replacements and oddball reality and game shows that they just launch mid year work about 75% of the time.
That success rate would lead me to run a network not on flagsips but on fun oddball stuff that appeals to the mainstream and is cheap to develop and promote. I am sure that 85% of the shows you see being advertised on TV, busses, billboards, Radio and the Internet will be gone by November. Its sad mostly for the actors, since many of them have to take this leap5 or 6 times before they get a series that sticks. And we all know what kind of a pyramid it is to climb if you are trying to make a living as an actor. I wish for their sake more of this was solid anc concrete. Like if a series is developed, it is committed to running all the way through. Rather than being yanked and more episodes of the singing bee are inserted there instead.
I was curious when Netflix said they had DVDs you could rent with these same pilot episodes on them that the big time media buyers get. Well I saw the first one the other day for Californication. with David Duchovny. We all loved him in the 90′s with the X-Files. So many of us were into him then. Somehow he has survived on doing voice overs for dog food comercials and a few odd movies inbetween. (his wife tea leoni works more than he does, although he does have kids that he is probably happy to spend time with rather than working all the time)
Californication isn’t really clear what it is about or what kind of show it wants to be. I was suprised that it seemed to just be a show about sex that this one guy was having. Do they think that many people are still in lust with a character from the 90′s that we would just tune into Showtime to watch him have sex like 7 times with toppless women in the pilot episode? Does this happen every week? Why would I watch a character I neither admire or identify with? Plainly I thought the show sucked. I almost couldn’t watch the entire thing. David Duchovny plays such an unlikable guy you don’t want to watch him. He is a self centered self loathing writer that just picks up any woman he wants and has sex with them. All the while his divorced/seperated ex shows up from time to time to scold him about how he isn’t a good man or father. This isn’t the guy you keep hanging on to, this is the guy you walk away from and never speak to again if it’s reality. And of course he has all this carefree fantastic sex without stds, without cervical cancer, and without any regrets. I’d call it womanizing, but the women are just as frivoulous about it regardless of the danger and enjoy showing off their boobs the whole time. I did learn though a lot about other women’s boobs that I didn’t need to know.
So in summary, watch Californication if you want to watch a soft porn show with gratouitous sex and a completley unlikable character. I expect this series to last longer than most because it is on cable, but maybe till December at best. Weeds is about 100 times better.
I was shopping the other day at the State Street Macy’s store (formerly Marshall Fields) and saw all the Martha Stewart products that they are carrying now. I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the materials and the designs were just ok, and not as fabulous as you would expect from Martha Stewart, but I found out something interesting while talking to one of the sales people. They said that Martha Stewart was commissioned to do the Marshall Field’s Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room this year. She mentioned it because the Christmas department of Macy’s was being unpacked right now and they expected it to be open to the public by September. Then in November they have an official Walnut Room Christmas tree lighting ceremony the week before Thanksgiving in November and Martha Stewart is supposed to be the guest of honor and light the tree. I think she must be doing ornaments and tree decorating designs for all the Macy’s stores, but it is nice that Martha will fly all the way out here for the ceremony at Macy’s. I wasn’t to keen on her housewares, kitchen utensils or bedding linnens this time, but I am hopeful that she will do some vintage beautiful designs for the enormous Walnut Room tree.
Marshall Field’s Walnut Room has been a tradition for many families for years. Macy’s was nice and left it pretty much the same when they bought the store and you can still see the giant tree in the middle of the room. The Walnut Room is a nice restaurant (with wood paneled walls of course) in the middle of the department store. It is on the 7th floor, on the opposite side of the food court. There you can take a break from your shopping trip and have an elegant lunch or dinner in their dining room. They have a lot of favorites there that have been on the menu for years. For the Holidays and Christmas they take the tables out of the center under the 3 story cathedral celing and assemble a giant 3 story tree. Then a special designer like (Martha Stewart in 2007) is asked to decorate it with custom designed ornaments specially for Marshall Fields and now Macy’s. You can buy the special ornaments too to take home for your tree. The last ones done for Marshall Fields in 2005 were from Swarofski and I bought one because it was the last year we would see the tree as Marshall Fields. Last year was the first year the Walnut Room was open with Macy’s ownership and we went and it was nice. Wedgewood china was the designer of the tree last year in 2006. The entire tree sparkled with twinkling lights and had light baby blue and white ornaments on all the branches. The dining experience at the Walnut Room hasn’t changed much, it was still good. I recommend the pot pie and the Pointsettia drink. (champaigne and cranberry juice) The service is good and the prices are reasonable considering this is downtown Chicago on State Street.