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

Monday, March 8, 2004

Blogs as social networks

Makes a lot of sense. While many people use blogs as easy self-publishing without letting you comment on their blog. Or not responding if they do allow you to comment. But as we've seen here on Blogit for all ages of members, according to this UCLA's Daily Bruin story:

Blogging appeals to college students because it solves the problem of how to quickly form a social network, said communication studies Assistant Professor Francis Steen.

Because knowing about someone's past is often an integral part of forming a friendship, blogs, which let readers surf through past journal entries, are an ideal medium for adding substance to new friendships, Steen said.

"You don't have a history – how do you get to know these people fast? ... These weblogs have become a way for people to deepen their relationships," he said.

Bush approval lowest ever

About time that we woke up to the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush. He has continued to do more damage than good on every front. And now Americans are beginning to realize it according to this Washington Post story:

A majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- say they want their next president to steer the country away from the course set by Bush, according to the survey. Bush's standing hit new lows in crucial areas such as the economy (39 percent support him), Iraq (46 percent) and the budget deficit (30 percent).

Bush's overall support, 50 percent, was unchanged from February and equal to the lowest of his presidency; only the war on terrorism continues to garner Bush the support of more than six in 10 Americans.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Your memoir...published and sold by Borders

Borders is getting into the self-publishing market according to this New York Times story (registration required) and pitching its shelf space as an incentive. Since September is has been conducting trials in six Philadelphia-area stores:

"It's easy to publish your own book!" the "Borders Personal Publishing" leaflets proclaim. Pay $4.99. Take home a kit. Send in your manuscript and $199. A month or so later, presto. Ten paperback copies of your novel, memoir or cookbook arrive.

Fork over $499, and you can get the upscale "Professional Publication" option. Your book gets an International Standard Book Number, publishing's equivalent of an ID number and is made available on Borders.com, and the Philadelphia store makes space on its shelves for five copies.

Hypocrisy with high production values?

The first Bush re-election advertising campaign was launched today. They'll be spending a whopping $10M on the first set of ads to be focused on Nascar fans etc. According to this New York Times column (registration required):

Mr. Bush continues to imply that we should be scared because we're not safe, so we need to keep him to protect our national security. Which seems like a weird contradiction. If he's so good at protecting us, why aren't we safe?

The president doesn't hesitate to exploit 9/11 in his ads, even as he tries to keep 9/11 orphans and widows in the dark about what really happened.

Mr. Bush's ad flashes a shot of firefighters removing some flag-draped remains of a victim from the wreckage at ground zero even as he prohibits the filming of flag-draped remains of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. You might call the Bush ads, an homage to Ronald Reagan's famous ads, "Mourning in America."

Nothing like hypocrisy with high production values.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Domain names are hot again

Domain prices are on the rise again with certain URLs such as Truck.com and Beef.com selling for over $100K, and Men.com and Whitehouse.com -- which housed an adult site -- selling or about to sell for more than $1M according to this New York Times story (registration required). We should know since we just acquired Blogit.com a few months ago! :)

The improvement in domain name prices actually began last fall, said Ben Turner, vice president for naming and directory services for Verisign, the company that manages the database of domain names ending in .com and .net and assigns numerical addresses to those names. In the fourth quarter of 2003, the number of active domain names handled by Verisign increased by more than 1.7 million, to 30.4 million.

...Owners of Web sites are also renewing their .com and .net domain names at record levels, Mr. Turner said, with 70 percent renewing in the fourth quarter of 2003, compared with a record low of 45 percent in the first quarter of 2003. "More people are actually using their domains," Mr. Turner said. "Used to be, less than half of the 60 million domains in the world had e-mail or a Web site associated with them. Now it's more than 60 percent."

Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp buys social networking site

A small "social networking" site for business networking, ZeroDegrees has been acquired by IAC according to this New York Times story (registration required):

Some 218,000 people have signed up since the site for the service was introduced in August 2003. Business people looking to share their address books to make new contacts and executive recruiters seeking new hires are the site's biggest users.

....ZeroDegrees joins InterActiveCorp's stable of Internet networking sites such as Match.com for dating and eVite.com for party organizing. IAC also owns citysearch local directories, TicketMaster, Expedia Inc., HotWire and Hotels.com for travelers and home mortgage broker LendingTree.com.

While ZeroDegrees is IAC's first solely business-focused brand, it represents a natural extension of the parent company's travel-related sites, officials said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

His teeth were there. Was he?!

Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau's very amusing proposal on Slate:

Are you as weary of gutter politics as we are here at the Town Hall? Then whatever you do, don't click here. Instead, help us flush out an authoritative witness to President Bush's tour of duty defending the skies over Alabama -- and put this tired, recycled AWOL story to rest once and for all.

For the past twelve years, George W. Bush has had to endure charges that he didn't take the final two years of his Guard service as seriously as duty required. (For updated timeline, click here.) And the two witnesses who have come forward in support so far haven't exactly cleared things up. We at the Town Hall believe that with everything he has on his plate, Mr. Bush shouldn't have to contend with attacks on the National Guard, which is serving so bravely in Iraq. And we're willing to back up our support with cold, hard cash.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Low-carb mania hits mainstream

Interesting how even I've become so aware of carbs being bad for you over the last year, even though I'm not on any of the diets currently in vogue: Atkins, South Beach etc. An interesting New York Times story from a couple of days back on the big business in our low-carb obsession:

Low-carb mania has spread beyond the millions of low-carb dieters. Food industry analysts say a far greater number of people are now "carb aware," even carb-phobic, cutting out those foods not as a way to lose weight, but because of a general sense that they are unhealthy. That is prompting changes in the way food is made, packaged and sold like nothing since the early 1990's, when even nondieters began loading their carts with low-fat yogurts and snacks..

...Last month, representatives of 450 companies, including Kraft, Con- Agra and Wal-Mart, gathered at a two day Low-Carb Summit in Denver to discuss how to take advantage of what some analysts predict will be a $25 billion market for low-carb products and services this year: everything from low-carb pasta to low-carb European barge cruises and hotel "get a-weighs."

"The exquisite pleasure of a simple piece of boiled meat!"

The way I like good food, too! :) An amusing New York Times story (registration required):
"AFTER endless luncheons in smart restaurants, endless tastings, endless talk about food," James Beard wrote as he approached the end of a long life, "one inevitably develops a certain antipathy toward elegant cuisine. How I have longed, after a week of rich and complicated foods, for the exquisite pleasure of a simple piece of boiled meat!"

I'm with him, like a lot of people all over the world, epicureans and mere chowhounds alike. Escoffier, who ate more fancy food than Beard, described the French boil-up pot-au-feu as "the symbol of family life, a comfortable, thoroughly bourgeois dish that nothing may dethrone."

George W. backtracks on new jobs, anointed the "permanently surprised" pres

I meant to post this a couple of days ago. As the Democrats pummel George W. in the polls with both Senator John Edwards and Senator John Kerry shown beating him if the elections were held today, the previously teflon-White House run by Karl Rove and the gang tripped once again...big time according to this New York Times story (registration required):
President Bush distanced himself Wednesday from White House predictions that the economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year, the second embarrassing economic retreat in a week and new fuel for Democratic criticism.
 
...House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said, ``President Bush is rapidly becoming the permanently surprised president. He is surprised that every economic prediction that he and his administration make does not pan out.''

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

An almost $13B business of the heart

This Valentine's Day on February 14, Americans will spend almost $13B on gifts for their valentines according to the Center for Media Research:

The NRF 2004 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that the average consumer will spend $99.24 on Valentine's Day, up from $80.44 last year. In all, Valentine's Day spending is expected to reach $12.79 billion this year among 59.8% of American consumers who will celebrate Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Whitehouse.com up for sale

According to this AP story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

The owner of the Whitehouse.com Web site, one of the best examples that the Internet isn't always what it seems, is getting out of the pornography business.

Daniel Parisi, 44 years old, said he plans to sell the Web site he started in 1997. Its name is easily confused with the official government site, whitehouse.gov.

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Power of the media, combined with the Internet

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

On a lark last month, Mr. Williams agreed to chronicle his recruiting trips to big-time college football schools to Manny Navarro, a reporter at The Miami Herald. Such diaries are standard stuff in local newspapers nationwide; empty of all but the most polite observations, they are usually buried in the backs of sports sections, to be sniffed out by only the most obsessed fans.

But Mr. Williams decided to tell his tale differently. In a personal style — part Dennis Rodman, part "Nanny Diaries" — he pulled back the curtain on the world of private jets, police escorts, squads of cheering co-eds and a conveyer belt of steak and lobster tails that has come to characterize big-time college football recruiting. As many Americans were Googling stills of Janet Jackson's exposed breast at the Super Bowl last Sunday, Mr. Williams's experiences were already spreading like a virus. They were sent by e-mail from fan to fan and posted on Web sites, and they eventually sluiced into the electronic white water that flows between friends' e-mail boxes during the long work day.

Online copyright issues the adult industry way

Copyright issues online are being dealt with differently by the online adult business which is now seeing sales of $2B/year according to this New York Times story (registration required):

Thousands of Web sites are putting Playboy magazine's pictures on the Internet - free. And Randy Nicolau, the president of Playboy.com, is loving it. "It's direct marketing at its finest," he said.

...Companies are finding that free images can be a selling point, and not just a problem. Playboy pays Webmasters $25 or more for every subscription they funnel to Playboy.com and provides sales and marketing tools to help make the free Web sites more effective. Mr. Nicolau of Playboy.com said that the subscription business grew 74 percent in 2002 and that the company's revenue growth in 2003 was expected to be as much as 60 percent.

Unlike the music and film industries,

...the pornography industry has been dealing with Internet copyright issues since the 1980's. By comparison, the movie and music businesses are relative newcomers. Mr. Hymes said companies in his industry had come to realize that suing consumers and promoting "draconian laws" were not the answer. "No law written can stem the tide," he said. And so, he said, companies are seeking ways to live with the technologies that threaten them and are trying to turn them to their advantage.

Network TV makeover

About time. Network TV is rethinking how they program (with NBC putting The Apprentice on Thursday nights at 9 pm rather than its Must-see TV line up of comedies) according to this New York Times story (registration required):

Network television — battered by years of audience defections to cable channels and fearing the devastation that personal video recording machines like TiVo could wreak on advertising, its only revenue source — is beginning to embrace tactics considered heretical just a few years ago as it struggles to keep viewers tuned in and attentive.

Network executives now say they are moving toward abolishing the traditional television season, that 35-week period from mid-September to mid-May that confers bragging rights on the network with the highest ratings. In a plan designed to reduce or do away with repeats, new shows will increasingly be introduced year-round rather than in the typical mid-September and midseason slots.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

The persistent John Kerry

Insights on Senator Kerry from Governor Weld who lost to him in the last election for senator and Tip O'Neill's son according to this New York Times story (registration required):

"Everyone smells blood in the water or a weakness when they go up against John Kerry," said Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., son of the former House speaker, like Mr. Kerry a former lieutenant governor and now a public relations strategist here. "What people do not get is that nobody answers the later rounds better than John Kerry. All of a sudden he sees that people are underestimating and taking him for granted and he will spring on you. He's going to be so unrelenting that you're not going to know what hit you."

Mr. Weld agreed, in somewhat less effusive terms.

"When John was flat on his back and reporters were calling me from Iowa and New Hampshire to throw the last handful of dust on his grave, I said, `Wait a minute, I was five points up in September and I ended up losing by eight points,' " the former governor recalled in an interview. "This is a guy who can take a punch and who can overcome being behind, and those are important qualities."

Friday, February 6, 2004

Recording industry raids on Kazaa offices

I haven't been following this story recently but I'd thought that Kazaa had somehow managed to sidestep any responsibility in contrast to the way Napster had been held responsible because of inherent differences in the way this P2P service was set up. According to this AP story on the Wall Street Journal site (subscription required):

Investigators from the Australian record industry Friday raided the Sydney office of the company that owns Kazaa, the world's largest file-swapping network, in a bid to uncover evidence of alleged copyright infringements.

The Federal Court gave five major Australian record labels permission to raid 12 premises in three Australian states to collect evidence against Kazaa, said Michael Speck, general manager of the Music Industry Piracy Investigations, a group is owned by record companies Universal, Festival Mushroom Records, EMI Music, Sony Music, Warner Music Australia and BMG Australia.

Interesting lunch with Reid Hoffman, John Doerr talk

Been busy this week. Had lunch at Chef Chu's with Reid Hoffman, the man behind LinkedIn and an investor in so many social networking/software companies that it is hard to keep track of them. He's also on the board of Grassroots, which was our previous company's first customer.

My conversation with Reid combined with a John Doerr talk (he's now also on the board of Friendster besides Google that tried to acquire them) I attended last week makes for some interesting social networking insights. More on that in the near future! :)

Stanford basketball

#2 behind Duke won last night as expected over Arizona State.

We had incredible seats thanks to Gray who used to work with us at Electrifier. We were in the very first row behind the Stanford team. Thanks to Rahul for putting the evening together. Was a nice welcome to Palo Alto!

Sunday, February 1, 2004

80% of consumers hate Flash

From an interesting AD:TECH writeup on how the vast majority of folks out there can't stand the use of Flash for fancy intros that most of us simply want to skp so we can get to the information we are there for in the first place:

Time to face facts, people: consumers hate Flash.

"If you must offer a 'skip intro' option, shouldn't your better judgment kick in?" asked Anna Murray, President e*media inc., during a panel on Marketing to Women at last week's AD:TECH conference.

...But, don't fool yourself into thinking it's slow Internet connections that causes people to hate Flash. In fact, the respondents who had cable or DSL disliked the Flash intro by more than 80%.

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