Ready, Fire, Aim! - Mihail's Public Blog

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Google stock's meteoric rise continues, but for how long?

When will Google stock get too close to the sun and come crashing down? I've been a suspect since the beginning but its share prices continue to soar. However, I'm not sure that Google can continue to generate more revenue from small and larger businesses -- with higher and higher priced ads -- while delivering less in revenue for the advertisers themselves. Google's success depends on its customers -- the advertisers that advertise via Google -- being successful.

So if this revenue growth for Google is at the expense of Google's customers, Google may be in trouble sooner than it thinks. And it may be only a matter of time that businesses take their advertising dollars elsewhere...and with Yahoo! and Microsoft nipping at Google's heels, that may not be as difficult as it used to be. According to this WSJ story (subscription required):

Google reported Tuesday that its profit rose eightfold as revenue doubled to $1.03 billion in the fourth quarter, exceeding even investors' high expectations. The Mountain View, Calif., firm's shares jumped 10%, or $19.71, to $211.61 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The stock has more than doubled since it began trading at $85 in August after an unusual auction-style offering.

...Since Google's business is growing more quickly and enjoys higher margins than Yahoo's, it also boasts a bigger market capitalization. Based on Tuesday's closing prices, Google's market value was $54 billion, while Yahoo stood at $48 billion. That's because investors are willing to pay nearly three times as much to own Google shares. Google trades at roughly 146 times its 2004 per-share net income, while Yahoo trades at 62 times per-share earnings.

Amazon's free 2-day shipping for annual fee

According to this WSJ story (subscription required), Amazon.com has introduced a new shipping program that gives you free 2-day shipping for a fixed annual fee...kind of like the getting DVDs-via-Netflix model. Amazon will also continue to offer its free "super saver" shipping (which takes 5-9 days) via UPS ground, I believe, on most orders over $25. This was a promotion that was made permanent when Amazon realized it was significantly helping sale volume.

The Seattle Internet retailer said on its Web site Wednesday that the program, dubbed "Amazon Prime," will charge $79 a year for "all-you-can-eat" express shipping. Members of the program get unlimited two-day shipping for free on more than a million items, and can upgrade individual orders to overnight shipping for $3.99 each.

The company normally charges $9.48 for two-day shipping on a book and $16.48 for overnight. Shipping charges on electronics and other items can be higher. Amazon said members will be able to share the benefits of the program with up to four household members.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Google Mini

Interesting stats on the percentage of Google revenues coming from its enterprise search solution and its launch of a smaller business/website search solution. According to this WSJ story (subscription required):

The Internet search company is selling the $4,995 Google Mini, which includes a computer server and software, exclusively through its online store. Organizations can use the Google Mini to let staff search for shared documents and information on internal Web sites and permit the public to search their external Web sites.

Google says it has over 800 customers for the Google Search Appliance, a more powerful but similar product. The Google Search Appliance, with a minimum price tag of $32,000, represented less than 2% of Google's $2.2 billion in revenue during the first nine months of 2004.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Holiday online sales up 25%

According to this WSJ story (subscription required), holiday online shopping between November 1 and December 26, increased 25% to $23.2B from a year earlier (and excluded travel sales such as airline tickets).

One possible sign that consumers are more comfortable shopping on the Internet is that sales of jewelry on the Web more than doubled to $1.89 billion from $888 million last year. Jewelry can be a big-ticket item and is one that consumers often want to see in person before purchasing.

Jewelry was the biggest percentage gainer year over year, according to the survey. Jewelry's online sales growth was also likely helped by the sale of clothing over the Internet, Ms. Dougherty said.

Online shoppers spent the most on apparel during the holiday season, with the category accounting for 16% of total online revenue during the period. Consumers shelled out $3.76 billion for clothing, compared with $3.73 billion last year [followed by toys/video games, and consumer electronics].

Deals du jour

I had never heard of this website that provides you information about great deals and is now raking in $1M in revenues just with affiliate marketing fees. Founded by a young UNC-Chapel Hill student (like my younger brother), Brad Wilson dropped out to start dealsdujour.com according to this WSJ story (subscription required):

Mr. Wilson was still in college when he scored the flat-screen set for $360 by shrewdly combining a sale item with an e-coupon discount and a free shipping offer [on Amazon.com in 2001]. After friends harassed him to find similar bargains for them, he and his younger brother, Campbell, created a rudimentary Web page to list all the good online deals they found. Retailers began paying commissions on sales generated off the page. And thus with little more than a Compaq desktop computer, Mr. Wilson was in business as an "affiliate" marketer -- an online concierge who earns money by referring visitors to products or services sold elsewhere.

...Last year, dealsdujour.com took in $1 million in revenue after generating some $20 million in sales for 545 retailers such as Sharper Image Corp., Omaha Steaks, Best Buy Co., Avon Products Inc., and Origins, a seller of natural beauty and health products. A review of major discount- and deal-oriented sites by comScore found that dealsdujour.com was among the top 20 such sites in November, with 286,000 unique visitors.

If you blog, get ready to play "dooceball"

According to this BBC story (thanks to this WebProNews article that pointed me to it), "This year, "blog" was included for the first time in the US Merriam-Webster dictionary. It entered the Oxford English dictionary last year, reflecting its entry into mainstream language."

A new term has emerged as a result. According to UrbanDictionary.com, to be "dooced" means "losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, website, etc."

With so many bloggers and readers of blogs it was only a matter of time before there came to be a term that describes your being fired because of what you've blogged about your job (or even your life?) -- from the Friendster engineer to the Delta flight attendant, there's a trail of fired bloggers already.

So if you blog, get ready to play dooceball...my term for what one legal expert calls "dooce dodging"! :)

And more bloggers could be "dooce dodging" in 2005 as employers wake up to the technology, warns legal expert Nick Lockett from hi-tech law firm DL Legal.

There are several very serious legal issues which employers will be increasingly turning their attention to, he says.

Laptops getting grounded?

So I'm in the market for a good laptop now that my Dell died (what is it with Dell quality these days? I'm done with Dell for good) and the several years-old Toshiba laptop that was sitting around is nearing its end as well. So I'm looking for a laptop that's heavy duty enough to use as my main computer but also light enough to travel with me -- whether it is to a Starbucks hotspot down the street or across the country.

So I started looking for reviews and found some interesting although not very promising information in this Washington Post story that says that laptop development is on hold as most laptops appear to be serving as replacements for desktop computers rather than lightness and mobility that is important to a much smaller group of people:

"First-time buyers are not necessarily interested in weight or battery life, or functionality above and beyond e-mail and Web browsing," said Mike Abarri, product manager for Sony's Vaio line.

Last year, laptop computer sales exceeded desktop sales in total dollars for the first time, though not in terms of units sold.

...These often heavier laptops, many powered by processors engineered for use in desktop computers, now make up about 80 percent of the consumer laptop market. They don't cost much more than desktops and offer about the same level of utility.

Plaxo's new CEO

The investors in the relatively hot Silicon Valley company, Plaxo, have found a CEO for their company according to this WSJ story (subscription required). This comes several months after the VCs in typical fashion pushed out the founder (a previous co-founder of Napster).

Mr. Golub, 36, was previously senior vice president of marketing and corporate affairs at Internet infrastructure provider VeriSign, Inc. Mr. Golub worked at VeriSign for eight years where he supervised various facets of the company's world-wide marketing efforts including government and industry relationships. More recently, he managed the company's security services and corporate security businesses.

Plaxo offers consumers a way to manage their computer-based address books. The Mountain View, Calif., company provides software that lets computer users store and back up their address books, calendars, and notes on secure server computers. It also allows them to send out e-mail to acquaintances to requests help in updating their contact information.

Ford gets Sirius

Following in the footsteps of BMW and Daimler-Chrysler, Ford will now offer Sirius as a factory-installed option starting this summer according to this WSJ story (subscription required). Audi seemed to have both Sirius and XM installed on various models...and we're enjoying our XM radio immensely although it doesn't seem to have as many niche (gay & lesbian topics  or Howard Stern etc) radio channels as Sirius is focusing on.

The deal steps up competition with Sirius archrival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which has factory-install agreements with General Motors Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. Rivalry between the two satellite radio companies has been extra fierce since Sirius, the smaller of the two in terms of subscriber numbers, signed radio shock jock Howard Stern late last year.

Ford said Tuesday it expects to generate up to one million Sirius subscribers for 2006 and 2007 models after it starts factory installing the service next summer.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Friends let friends know what they're watching

Here's a great example of social networking applied to an existing business. According to this New York Times story (registration required), online DVD-rentals pioneer Netflix is testing a new feature that lets friends recommend movies to friends, helping many of us find good movies that we otherwise have a tough time finding due to Netflix's somewhat trying interface...I had started keeping a list of movies that I read reviews about and then searched directly for those titles when I'm setting up our queue.

Essentially, Netflix is trying its own form of the social networking made popular by sites like Friendster and Tribe.net. Netflix Friends works by letting members invite other members to join their network.

The system works in two directions. Once a network of friends is created, each person in it can view the ratings and comments of others about specific films. Each member of a network can also share ratings and comments about movies with any or all of the others in the network. The more films each member sees and rates, the more value each brings to the network.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

New York's best days

14 prominent New Yorkers -- from the Rev. Al Sharpton and comedian John Leguizamo to Yoko Ono and architect Robert A. M Stern recently on the witness stand for the Disney/Ovitz trial -- were asked in this New York Times story (registration required) to define the best days of New York city. Here's an excerpt from writer and Vanity Fair contributing editor, Fran Lebowitz:

My youth was spent in New York in the 70's. We could live in Manhattan with no money, and we didn't mind. It was O.K. to live in a crummy apartment; that's what sent us outside. Who could stand to be inside a freezing place full of roaches? We used to stay out all night, and then see movies at noon at the Museum of Modern Art.

Today the city is preoccupied with food. In the 70's, we were preoccupied with sex. It was a moment of total hedonism with no consequences, no AIDS. And there was birth control and little thought of getting married. Now, a 25-year-old knows 70 kinds of sushi, but at what expense? A youth spent on restaurants is a youth misspent.

Wine wars on film

According to this New York Times story (registration required), a new documentary titled Mondovino is causing a stir amongst both wine lovers and film goers (and is due to arrive on US screens this Spring):

The film landed amid a wine crisis: consumption in France has been dropping, and some native producers feel threatened by an invasion of wines from abroad and pressured to make more universally accessible wines. More than a wine documentary, "Mondovino" is a passionate defense of the individuality of small wine producers in a more standardized world. Its unflattering portrayal of advocates of homogenization has angered some in the French wine establishment, but Mr. Nossiter, who calls "Mondovino" a "militant" film, insists that he was fair and respectful toward all of the participants.

...The wine world is a microcosm of the world at large, he added, and "Mondovino" is above all an old-fashioned look at the nature and uses of power. "If you'd made a wine film in the fourth century B.C.," he said, "you would have observed the end of the Greek empire and seen the Greeks trying to colonize their last,Iraq-like gambit in the Sicilian expedition at the end of the Peloponnesian War - planting vines, making war. Act of civilization, act of imperial power. I think this is still true today."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Firefox takes on Microsoft

According to this New York Times story (registration required):

Published by the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit group supporting open-source software that draws upon the skills of hundreds of volunteer programmers, Firefox is a Web browser that is fast and filled with features that Microsoft's stodgy Internet Explorer lacks. Firefox installs in a snap, and it's free.

Firefox 1.0 was released on Nov. 9. Just over a month later, the foundation celebrated a remarkable milestone: 10 million downloads. Donations from Firefox's appreciative fans paid for a two-page advertisement in The New York Times on Thursday.

...Microsoft has always viewed Internet Explorer's tight integration with Windows to be an attractive feature. That, however, was before security became the unmet need of the day. Firefox sits lightly on top of Windows, in a separation from the underlying operating system that the Mozilla Foundation's president, Mitchell Baker, calls a "natural defense."

For the first time, Internet Explorer has been losing market share. According to a worldwide survey conducted in late November by OneStat.com, a company in Amsterdam that analyzes the Web, Internet Explorer's share dropped to less than 89 percent, 5 percentage points less than in May. Firefox now has almost 5 percent of the market, and it is growing.

Watch out Amazon.com, here comes Google

According to this WSJ story (subscription required):

In a dramatic expansion to an existing Google service that makes books searchable online, the Mountain View, Calif., company will scan the entire library of the University of Michigan, which includes seven million volumes. It also will make available online large parts of the libraries at Stanford University and the University of Oxford, as well as books from Harvard University and the New York Public Library.

The initiative has the potential to change the way people view their libraries, as they are able to find information from books without ever setting foot in the library itself. It also intensifies Google's competition with Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc., which itself offers a service for searching within books.

Friday, December 17, 2004

From Blog to Book!

It was only a matter of time before publishers start to discover writers who've been blogging away without a book deal. According to this New York Times story (registration required):

One of the first to make the transition was Baghdad blogger known as Salam Pax, who wrote an online war diary from Iraq. Last year Grove Press published a collection of his work, "Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi."

In June a former Senate aide, Jessica Cutler, whose blog documenting her sexual exploits with politicos dominated Capitol gossip in the spring, sold a Washington-focused novel to Hyperion for an advance well into six figures, said Kelly Notaras of Hyperion.

Meanwhile, a British call girl with the pseudonym Belle de Jour, who had created a sensation with a blog about her experiences, has signed a six-figure deal with Warner Books to publish a memoir, said Amy Einhorn, executive editor at Warner Books who bought the book.

For the holidays, trade unreliable boyfriend for alarm clock!

According to this WSJ story (subscription required), bartering is big this holiday season: "As the holidays approach, hundreds of cash-strapped Web users are adding a twist to online shopping -- armed not with cash, but with offers to swap their talents for gifts."

The barter category of Craigslist, an online bulletin board, attracts four million page views per month, according to Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster. The number of listings on the barter section, which was set up in 2000, has climbed 70% in the past year, to 12,500 in November. "Bartering is fun, a bit of an adventure, and often a way to network with other 'birds of a feather,'" says Mr. Buckmaster.

Online swappers post notes on message boards describing what they have and what they want, sometimes including dollar values and often adding personal pleas that are absent from typical classifieds listings. To be sure, some of the ads are less than serious -- a San Francisco woman recently posted an offer on Craigslist to trade her unreliable boyfriend for a reliable alarm clock -- but for the most part listings are sincere.

The 527 advocacy groups and the elections

While Republican 527s had only spent a few hundred thousand by May of this year, they quickly began to spend tens of millions of dollars -- especially the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- once they saw that the 527 committee was here to stay and having an impact on the election according to this New York Times story (registration required):

As a leading pro-Bush force, the group, originally known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, spent $22.4 million, the report said, a total that exceeded by $1.2 million one of Mr. Bush's greatest tormentors, the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, a 527 that made enormous use of the Internet to attract a lot of small donations.

Referring to the saturation of television advertisements during the campaign, Mr. Lewis [founder and executive director of the Center for Public Integrity] said that "none probably had a bigger impact" than those from the Swift boat veterans, who suggested that Mr. Kerry was untruthful about events during his years of service. Mr. Lewis described the veterans' campaign as "incendiary character smear" and "factually flawed."

But it proved effective, he said. "In terms of political impact," he said, "the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads were easily the most successful amid the overwhelming din of paid propaganda throughout the year."

David B. Magleby, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University and senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy who contributed to the report, called the Swift Vets' campaign masterly and added, "Bush got the best of both worlds because he could decry 527's and benefit from their activities at the same time."

New York apartment hits record high

News Corporation (which owns Fox Broadcasting and Twentieth Century Fox) chairman Rupert Murdoch is expected to buy John D. Rockefeller's son, Laurance Rockefeller's Fifth Avenue co-op penthouse apartment at 834 Fifth Avenue for an all-cash asking price of $44M -- one of the "five best" apartments in the city --according to this New York Times story (registration required):

If the deal is completed, the sales price would surpass the record $42.25 million that the financier David Martinez paid last year to create a single apartment from two condominium units in the south building of the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

...Mr. Murdoch is buying one of the city's most opulent apartments on one of the most elegant stretches of Fifth Avenue. The apartment is on the 14th through 16th floors of a building designed by the architect Rosario Candela and completed in 1931. It has 20 rooms making up about 8,000 square feet and about 4,000 square feet of terraces spread over the three floors. The monthly maintenance is $21,469.07.

Monday, December 13, 2004

You've got a friend in the President

The George W. Bush White House has broken all previous records set by themselves in sending Christmas cards to all their friends and acquaintances and even volunteers on the campaign (paid for by the RNC at the tune of $600,000 in postage alone) according to this New York Times story (registration required).

The White House at Christmas is always a little like Grand Central Terminal. This year at 15 holiday receptions from Dec. 2 through Dec. 21, Mr. Bush and the first lady will shake hands and pose for pictures with 6,500 guests. Since each reception lasts at least two hours, that amounts to some 30 presidential hours in a receiving line.

What's new this year is that so many people from the campaign are passing by Mr. Bush like a diorama of the last 12 months. For the humming White House political machine, the holiday parties are an efficient way of spreading thanks. For Mr. Bush, it is the campaign that never ends.

...Of course, not all 1.4 million Bush campaign volunteers would fit in the White House this season. For them, there were Christmas cards - many, many Christmas cards. The Bushes broke another personal record this year by sending out two million cards, continuing a trend of Christmas card inflation. (The first couple sent out 1.3 million cards in 2003, 1 million in 2002 and 875,000 in 2001. In contrast, the Clintons sent out 400,000 Christmas cards in their last year in the White House.)

Dividing the DVD revenue

According to this New York Times story (registration required), negotiations are currently underway to change how revenue from DVD sales and rentals is divided between all the players that help make and distribute a movie:

In 1996, the year before the home DVD player was introduced, consumers spent $6 billion buying VHS tapes, and $9.2 billion renting them, with the studios taking in 75 percent of sales and 20 percent of rentals. In 2004, according to Adams Media Research, consumers will spend $24.5 billion buying and renting DVD's and VHS tapes. Almost $15 billion of that will be in DVD sales, and nearly 80 percent of that will go to the studios through their home entertainment divisions.

The explosion in DVD sales has changed the calculus of the Hollywood hit. Last year, "Finding Nemo" sold $339.7 million in tickets when it was released to the nation's movie theaters. It went on to capture a greater amount - $431 million - in home video (including DVD) retail sales and rentals.

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