Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!

If you are designing or launching your web site, this is a must read check-list from SearchEngineGuide

Monday, November 09, 2009

Different Kind of Real Estate Crash

via Mish's blog

Here are some images Bill Hopen, my sculptor friend sent me regarding a real estate crash in China.

Yes, It's a 12 story building lying flat on the ground.

(1) An underground garage was being dug on the south side, to a depth of 4.6 meters.
(2) The excavated dirt was being piled up on the north side, to a height of 10 meters.
(3) The building experienced uneven lateral pressure from south and north.
(4) This resulted in a lateral pressure of 3,000 tons, which was greater than what the pilings could tolerate. Thus the building toppled over in the southerly direction.

If the buildings were closer together there would also have been a domino effect.

Note the hollow concrete piers.

Synopsis of Event

Bill Hopen writes:
Mish, this photographic image is so metaphorical, it could only have been more symbolic if a domino effect had occurred. I think of the financial collapse of the families that own these condos and the impact to the bank underpinning the construction loans, then I think of the whole city collapsing without the buildings physically falling over.

All my young in-laws are rushing in to buy condos putting life savings down as well as laying down additional borrowed family cash down and then paying way more to buy each month than it would cost them to rent. It's as if the boom crash in the west never happened and they believe themselves immune.
For more from Bill Hopen please see Inside China: A Sculptor's View

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spinvox in a spin over privacy worries

Spinvox in a spin over privacy worries

Spinvox in a spin over privacy worries

UK-based speech to text specialist Spinvox has been caught up in controversy this week over its data protection standards, as well as questions about the company's finances.

It has long been known that Spinvox uses people to transcribe messages under some circumstances; when the translating software fails to understand the message, for example. But recent claims by employees past and present go so far as to say that in fact the majority of messages are transcribed by call centre staff in Africa and Asia.

This has raised questions over data protection, and it now appears that the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is breathing down Spinvox's neck over the firm's claim that it does not transfer any data outside of the European Economic Area.

Despite extensive funding, it is the burden of running these call centres that is understood to be putting a strain on the company's finances, and it emerged last week that Spinvox staff had been asked to take share options in the firm instead of some or all of their paycheck for July and August. The firm is also known to be looking at other "cost cutting measures," which many take to mean job cuts.

The BBC on Thursday reported that Spinvox has also been locked out of a London data centre over payment issues, which lends credence to the speculation that the firm is under financial pressure.

Rapid growth has been blamed for the company's financial problems, and it should be noted that this same rapid growth was once a source of pride for the upstart firm. In June, the company signed a deal with Spanish carrier Telefónica that will see its text voicemail service made available to Telefónica's entire Latin American customer base. The carrier has almost 125 million customers in the region.

Telecoms.com spoke to one of Spinvox's partners, BestBefore Media, which uses the Spinvox API to do audio transcriptions as well as offer a service it describes as the "twitter of the spoken word," known as AudioBoo.

Mark Rock, CEO of BestBefore said that his firm used Spinvox because they were impressed by the quality, but added that he was surprised to discover that people managed most of the transcription manually. "The line we were spun is that humans were only used where necessary," he said.

Rock's greatest concern also centres on privacy issues as his firm offers transcription services used by journalists which may involve sensitive information, leading him to "look into the data protection issues." However, Rock noted that Spinvox is not mission critical and that there is "always somewhere else to go" if Spinvox were to run into trouble, financial or otherwise.

FlyCast Raises $2.1 Million For Mobile Radio

clipped from mail.google.com

Joseph Tartakoff02:00 PM

FlyCast Raises $2.1 Million For Mobile Radio

Radio streaming service FlyCast has raised $2.1 million in a round of funding, according to an SEC filing. A spokesman would not say who had participated in the round or detail the company’s plans for the new cash. Earlier this year, FlyCast hired radio industry veteran David Kennedy as its CEO.

keep reading »

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Shiny New Business

via Start-Up Blog

Have you ever had a new girlfriend? You can't stop thinking about her. You want to make it work. So you start putting in an extra effort to give this relationship the best chance of success. You start buying new clothes, ensuring you look your best, maybe even start going to the gym everyday. In this situation everything matters. You want to spend every waking moment with her, because it is so enjoyable, so much fun, the future looks so bright, the whole thing is so new. At this time we can't imagine the joy of being involved in this thing ever diminishing.

Eventually, the emotions driven by newness wear off. It doesn't necessarily mean we love our new girlfriend less, we might even love her more. It's just a different set of emotions. And this new set of emotions often mean we, are less enthusiastic to prove ourselves, and or make it work – she moves from a chase, to a catch.

new GirlfriendPhoto by Sami

A new startup isn't much different. Just re-read the above two paragraphs and think back to when you got going on your latest startup. It was a lot like the new girl friend. It was love. The emotions and behaviour have a strong analogy. What matters as entrepreneurs, is having the ability to keep up the momentum when the newness wears off. And there is nothing more certain than this. It will become less fun, less exciting and more arduous. It's especially evident when we need to undertake administrative tasks with our start up – or keep door knocking after many rejections. It's our ability to stay focused on 'old projects' that will determine our ultimate success.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Start-up Cost Projections For First Time Entrepreneurs

Q: At a pub in Los Gatos, CA a casual conversation with some young, first time entrepreneurs lead to an interesting comment:
"...the business plan outlines our estimated (operational) expenses but how do I know an investor is not going to look at these numbers and say...'are you f'ing kidding me' and  right then and there we can loose this guy (his interest)..."How can an entrepreneur build these projections most accurately and in a way that will maintain credibility with potential investors?  What could be defined as the "best practice" for entrepreneurs dealing with this subject?

A: (Brad) As I've said in the past, I've never met a financial plan for an early stage company where the revenue side was correct.  However, I've met plenty where the cost side was correct (or – at least – appropriate).  The key here is simple – you want to have a cost structure that makes sense, covers all the bases, but doesn't assume a big revenue ramp to be supportable.

If you are in the very early stages (e.g. a few people and an idea), recognize that your investor is likely going to be funding you for about 12 months to see how things play out.  The biggest mistake first time entrepreneurs make is that they fall prey to the idea that they need to put together a five year P&L forecast and cash flow projection.  I can guarantee – with 100% certainty – that this model will be wrong.  As an investor, I don't really care about this; rather I want to see how you are thinking about getting to "the next stage" of your business.  You get to define the next stage, what it'll cost you to get there, and what things will look like when you get there.

If you are a first time entrepreneur, go find an experienced entrepreneur to act as a mentor.  She can be a first line of feedback your cost model and likely will know a few "financial people" that can help you put together a simple, yet credible model.  In addition, when you spend time with potential investors, don't try to bluff.  Tell them it's your first time building a model like this and that – while you had help – you know you lack experience and are looking for feedback.  Try to engage the investor in the process. Listen the potential investors feedback and iterate on your model.

Simple message – don't be afraid to ask for help.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Origins Of Text Messaging

By Tricia Duryee - Mon 04 May 2009 02:41 PM PST

With U.S. cellphone owners now sending an average of 357 messages a month, and Twitter pretty much standardizing thoughts of around characters, it makes you wonder how the technology ever got started?

The LA Times answers that question today after interviewing Friedhelm Hillebrand of Bonn, Germany, who helped usher in this new era of communication. Hillebrand's research stretches back to 1985, when he used his typewriter to compose random sentences to determine that messages of 160 characters were "perfectly sufficient." He also found that often postcards contained fewer than 150 characters, and messages sent through Telex, a popular telegraphy network for business professionals at the time, were also usually about the same length, he said.

After determining a message's ideal length, he had to create a market. As chairman of the nonvoice services committee within the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), a group that sets standards for the majority of the global mobile market, they decided that all phones and providers must support short messaging service (SMS). Next, since networks didn't support data at the time, Hillebrand needed to figure out how they would be sent. He thought to leverage a secondary radio channel that had been used only to alert a cellphone about reception strength and incoming calls. Hillebrand told the Times: "Most of the time, nothing happens on this control link. So, it was free capacity on the system." Initially, they could fit only 128 characters, but with a little tweaking, they squeezed out room another 32 characters to hit the perfect number.

The LA Times reported that today Hillebrand, who lives in Bonn and manages Hillebrand & Partners, a technology patent consulting firm, never got rich from participating in the concept. Although if it's any consolation, he does get an honorable mention in the Wikipedia entry on "SMS."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

6 Tips for Taking an Enterprise Company to the Masses

via Found & Read

6 Tips for Taking an Enterprise Company to the Masses

Posted: 29 Mar 2009 09:04 AM PDT


Ed Mallen, President and CEO, TimeDriver

One of the key sales criteria in the enterprise application space -– and one of the greatest development challenges -– is the ability to scale. At TimeTrade Systems we have met that challenge, creating a successful business selling SaaS-based applications that enable very large organizations and businesses to schedule and manage millions of appointments.

So, when we saw an opportunity to leverage our technology and deep scheduling knowledge to help individual web workers, it was a no-brainer. From a development standpoint, we'd already solved the scalability problem, and we felt designing a web-based personal appointment scheduler should be easy – and tailor-made for viral distribution. Through the process of designing, supporting and marketing TimeDriver, a Web-enabled personal scheduling solution, we've learned some interesting lessons. Here are our recommendations for any company looking at similar opportunities for growth.

  1. Focus, focus, focus. Carving out a separate development team was the best way to initially develop the product. Trying to leverage our enterprise developers on a "part-time" basis for the web 2.0 product would have meant that both products suffered.
  2. Balance ease of use with true business value. We had an imperative to create an easy-to-use solution that would also empower individuals to personalize their appointment invitations. In addition, we needed to ensure that users knew that the solution was not a toy and would help them better manage and drive their consulting or small businesses. Describing a range of use cases proved tremendously useful in helping users understand ways to apply TimeDriver.
  3. Be prepared to face the challenge of changing the norm. We were asking end users to adopt a new way to book appointments. To drive rapid acceptance, we made the product available on free trial. Even though we see our new approach as easier, there's always resistance to adopting a new way to perform an old task. We found that providing live support encouraged the early adopters –- which included a broad mixture of recruiters, HR professionals, lifestyle coaches, faith-based groups, insurance agents and sales people — to make TimeDriver their business appointment scheduler.
  4. Listen to feedback from end users. Web 2.0 end-users are very vocal and very passionate, eager to share their feedback and experiences. We've leveraged their feedback when considering new features and applied them to our enterprise product, as well. There are no bounds to end-user creativity and ingenuity, and being prepared to listen will help direct new capabilities and leverage new sales opportunities.
  5. It always takes longer than you think. We leveraged Web 2.0 technologies for development, and some delays in the process were simply out of our hands. For example, we chose the Dojo toolkit to ease the development of cross platform, JavaScript/Ajax-based applications. As Dojo is Open Source, we ended up waiting for releases to support certain functionality. Be prepared to allow for extra time in your development cycle, especially if leveraging open source tools.
  6. Pick a "no turning back" deadline. Software is never perfect and every development team has a natural tendency to want to continue to "tweak." We decided to launch TimeDriver at DEMO '08, so we had to be ready for prime time by then. This strategy had dual benefits. Not only did it provide a definitive date to development, but the developers also received very public recognition for their efforts.

Ed Mallen is the President and CEO of TimeTrade Systems, 25-year software industry veteran, surfer for many decades and an avid cyclist and runner.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

100 Exciting and Innovative Lectures for Every Kind of Entrepreneur

via http://onlinecollegedegree.org/2009/03/18/100-exciting-and-innovative-lectures-for-every-kind-of-entrepreneur/

100 Exciting and Innovative Lectures for Every Kind of Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurs are a special breed of people with endless drive, passion, optimism, and determination. The following lectures address these folks with ideas on what entrepreneurship is, experience versus education, career advice, tips and skills, examples from personal entrepreneurial journeys, and advice for getting started. Browse through these video lectures, some only a few minutes long and others lasting an hour, to find information from professionals who share their experience and expertise.

Defining Entrepreneurship

Learn how these entrepreneurs define entrepreneurship with these videos.

  1. What is Entrepreneurship?. Jeff Hawkins discusses what an entrepreneur is and how to use being an entrepreneur as a tool for success instead of as a defining characteristic.
  2. Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Danny Shader describes the difference between those who are "product picker" entrepreneurs and those who are not.
  3. Who are Entrepreneurs?. Tim Draper describes his view of what entrepreneurs are.
  4. Mercenaries and Missionaries. Take a look at this definition of what entrepreneurs are and what they are not.
  5. What Kind of Person Are You?. Are you a private or public person? Examine your personality as it relates to what it means to be an entrepreneur.
  6. The Reality of Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship should be done out of love and passion, not a drive for money.
  7. What is an Entrepreneur?. Gordon Ringold shares his simple idea behind what an entrepreneur is.
  8. Qualities of an Entrepreneur. Elon Musk offers his description of an entrepreneur.

Experience and Education

The great debate over whether education or experience matters most for entrepreneurial success continues with these lectures.

  1. Experience is Overrated. Guy Kawasaki shares his unpopular view that the best entrepreneurs are young and inexperienced.
  2. Real World Learning. Trip Hawkins discusses his first venture as a teenager and describes how success comes from failure and real-world learning.
  3. To Get an MBA or Not?. Consider this position of not getting an MBA, but learning to manage through hands-on experience instead.
  4. Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?. Fern Mandelbaum gives her answer about what can and cannot be taught.
  5. Successful Entrepreneurs. Understand why compelling ideas are more important than the desire to be an entrepreneur and how education plays a role in this idea.
  6. Balancing Science and Business. Learn what Marc Fleury says about embracing more than one type of education to improve your success.
  7. The Global Future. Learn what John Doerr says are the important areas to study to ensure success in the global environment.
  8. Finding Your Strengths. Vic Verma discusses getting a technical education as well as what type of education may best serve you as an entrepreneur.
  9. To MBA or Not: Technical Degree or MBA?. Find out what Gajus Worthington says about this question based on his experience.
  10. The Value of Business School. Find out this entrepreneur's opinion about the best part of business school and why it is important.
  11. Education: Importance of Peers. Understand why making friends and maintaining relationships during school is important for entrepreneurs.
  12. To Get an MBA, or Not?. Vinod Kholsa explains why an MBA is not the only way to get the necessary experience to be a successful entrepreneur.
  13. Importance of Experience. Find out what Jeff Hawkins says about why having experience is important.
  14. Starting a business during undergraduate study. Joe Liemandt explains why this time of life is an excellent time to start a business.

Career Advice

Many successful entrepreneurs started first in a more traditional career. Find out what career advice some of those entrepreneurs have to share.

  1. Career Advice: Five Takeaways. From taking risks to integrity, find out what John Roos says are the most important points for a successful career.
  2. Career Advice. Debra Dunn and Randy Komisar offer their advice for graduating students that includes following your passion, continuing to learn, and learning to overcome fear.
  3. Career Advice. Michael Goldberg describes how successful entrepreneurs follow their passion and never stop going forward and what areas he believes will be successful in the near future.
  4. Career Advice. Brook Byers advises entrepreneurs to work with a company that will provide them with the experience necessary for their solo success.
  5. Career Advice. John Doerr offers several specific pieces of information that he feels are invaluable to creating a successful career.
  6. Pyramids, Not Ladders. Learn how making a lateral career move can be as valuable as making an upward one as you gain more experience and knowledge before moving up.
  7. Creativity vs. Control. Learn what experts say about mapping out career decisions versus taking opportunities that come up along your career path.
  8. Growing with Hewlett Packard. Debra Dunn explains why she decided to get her MBA and work with HP as a stepping stone to her success.
  9. Lessons for Failure. Karen Richardson relates how her failures throughout her career have shaped her success.
  10. The Career Path to Becoming a Venture Capitalist or an Entrepreneur. Learn why you should start your career at a company in sales and why you should never go into investment banking at the beginning of your career.
  11. Career: Learning from Failure Early On. Failure and persistence are often important to success and are the keys to how this man succeeded.

Advice for Success

Take this advice from successful entrepreneurs who have gone before you.

  1. Stay Interested. Learn how you become an interesting person by being interested in what is going on around the world.
  2. Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs. Evan Williams suggests to start small and go bigger and explains why he believes this is the best way for entrepreneurs to get started.
  3. Following Your Gut. Geoff Davis instructs students to go for big dreams despite any lack of money.
  4. Persistence and the Notion of the Big Idea. Trip Hawkins advocates sticking to your beliefs and stepping away from what everyone else is doing to find your success.
  5. Adding Value to Companies. Bill Campbell describes how adding value to companies at every stage of their development is important.
  6. Following Your Goal. Passion, good judgment, and having fun are among the key elements discussed here to achieving your goal.
  7. Work/Life Balance. Roger McNamee discusses why entrepreneurs cannot ignore family along the way.
  8. Passion and the Customer. Vic Verma uses real-life examples of why it's important to consider the customer when building your business.
  9. Overcoming the Fear. Randy Adams discusses preparing for the worst in order to deal with whatever may happen along the path to becoming an entrepreneur.
  10. Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur. Mitch Thrower discusses entrepreneurship and details what you can develop to make the most of your success.
  11. 10 Business Secrets. Mitch Thrower lectures at University of San Diego and shares his ten business secrets important for making it big.
  12. The Value of Broad-Based Leadership and Experience. Understand the importance of bringing together a leadership team with a broad set of experience and all of whom have a passion for what they are doing.
  13. Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs. Networking and learning from those within your network are the focus of this advice.
  14. Importance of Family In Building a Start-up. Find out what Frank Levinson says about keeping family among the top areas of focus when you begin your business.
  15. Tips for the Entrepreneur. Larry Page offers five tips including don't settle, have experience, and it's okay to solve hard problems.

Skills for Entrepreneurs

These videos offer many important skills for entrepreneurs.

  1. Skills of an Entrepreneur. Leadership and a dynamic management style are the keys to being a successful entrepreneur, according to Chong-Moon Lee.
  2. How Do You Find Your Passion and How do You Pursue It?. Entrepreneurs looking for direction should watch this lecture to learn how to focus their energies.
  3. Perseverance: Sticking to Your Beliefs. Entrepreneurship can be a struggle, but Guy Kawasaki explains how perseverance and passion will give you what you need to succeed.
  4. Challenges for an Entrepreneur. Learn the value of understanding yourself and recognizing faults as a key to success as an entrepreneur.
  5. Self-Awareness. Entrepreneurs must be able to look honestly at their strengths and weaknesses in order to succeed.
  6. Passion for Work. Learn how a passion for what you do translates to entrepreneurial success.
  7. Persistence Pays Off. Repeat long enough and you will be in the right place at the right time because of your Persistence
  8. Learning to Take Risks: A Personal Story. Larry Page relates his personal experience of learning to take risks in order to achieve success.
  9. How Do You Teach High-Tech Entrepreneurship?. Learn what education and abilities are best developed and how to develop them for entrepreneurial success.
  10. Choosing the Path that is Right for You. Jeff Raikes describes attributes that are important for career success–among them, passion and the ability to get things done.
  11. Creativity. Learn how you can find your creativity as an entrepreneur with this seminar lecture.
  12. What Special Factor Makes an Entrepreneur Successful?. Learn what qualities Fern Mandelbaum feels are important for entrepreneurs.
  13. 5 Critical Skills Entrepreneurs Need. Jerry Kaplan details the five skills he feels are important, including leadership, communication, and being a team player.
  14. Skills for Social Entrepreneurship. Learn what Debra Dunn says about collaboration between non-profit and for-profit to help address social issues and the skills each brings to this joint venture.

Learn How Others Succeeded

These lectures offer the real-life stories of successful entrepreneurs.

  1. The Founding of AgraQuest. Pam Marrone discusses how she turned her lifelong love of bugs and her upbringing in a green environment into her successful business.
  2. Strengths of Silicon Valley. Find out what John Roos says about how Silicon Valley was built upon diversity and being allowed to fail.
  3. Silicon Valley: Changing with the times. Roos discusses how Silicon Valley's ability to keep up with the changing times has promoted its ongoing success.
  4. Silicon Valley: An Ecosystem. Successful entrepreneurs should tap into the ecosystem of knowing all the people involved and learning and growing from each other that has been a key element to the Silicon Valley's success.
  5. Coming to Silicon Valley. Lee relates how he went from his family business in Korea to Silicon Valley and his eventual success in business.
  6. Savi Technology Creates the Internet of Things. Vic Verma details how he went from being a graduate student at Stanford to President and CEO of Savi Technology.
  7. The Early Career of a Serial Entrepreneur. Randy Adams discusses the beginnings of his career as an entrepreneur.
  8. The Career Path of a palmOne Executive. Ken Wirt details his career history that lead to his leadership at palmOne.
  9. Video of Cory Doctorow's talk. This Cambridge Business Lecture video features this accomplished journalist who speaks on Digital Rights Management, copyright, piracy, and his experience in business.
  10. Matching Interest with Business Opportunities. Learn from this real-life example how matching opportunity with interest and ability is an important aspect to consider.
  11. From Start Up Coach to Venture Capitalist. The experience here is an important reminder to young entrepreneurs to always keep options open and stay in tune with what is going on around them.

Female Entrepreneurship

Find out how female entrepreneurs have succeeded in a typically male-dominated environment with these lectures.

  1. A Member of the CEO Minority. Understand what it's like to be a woman CEO in a male-driven environment.
  2. A Girl Among Geeks. Karen Richards describes growing up among men and engineers and how that affected her role as a female entrepreneur.
  3. Women and Entrepreneurship Introduction. Linda Hill, a professor at Harvard Business School, discusses HBS's the real-life business models it uses as case studies.
  4. Joline Godfrey: Social Worker to Entrepreneur. Learn how this woman went from non-profit to for-profit while keeping the business of educating young women at the forefront.
  5. Taran Swan: Business Development at Nickelodeon. Follow the success of this woman's journey.
  6. Donna Lopiano: Women's Sports Foundation. Ms. Lopiano describes the entrepreneurial journey of Billie Jean King as she founded several ventures important for women in sports.
  7. Enterprising Women Exhibition . Meet four successful business women and learn how they made it big in the world of business.
  8. Women and Economic Development. Study women entrepreneurs across time and in various countries with this video lecture series. There is also a close examination of the women in India who developed the Self-Employed Women's Association.
  9. Founding of Teach for America: Entrepreneurs Envision What Others Say is Impossible. Kim Smith describes how she and her partner overcame adversity to create a successful non-profit.
  10. Examples of Social Entrepreneurs. Kavita Ramdas describes examples of successful female social entrepreneurs.

Getting Started

The following lectures offer helpful advice on getting started.

  1. The Role of Networking to Find the Best Resources. Learn how Komisar relies on his network for resources, and then how he gets to know the people to determine if he wants to commit.
  2. Starting out as a Sole Founder. Michael Goldberg discusses the disadvantages of starting out on your own as well as what it takes to make a shift from venture capitalist to entrepreneur.
  3. Establishing Credibility. Learn how establishing credibility can be difficult, especially as a non-profit working with foreign governments.
  4. Establishing Culture and Values Early On. Find out why, as an entrepreneur, it is important to establish the culture and values early.
  5. The Role of a Consultant vs. the Role of a Virtual CEO. Discover what Randy Komisar says about the differences and why these roles, and the differentiations, are important.
  6. Personal Connectivity Cycle. Judy Estrin discusses the importance of connectivity on an individual level and what it means to entrepreneurs.
  7. Data Sources. This lecture at Georgia State University describes where entrepreneurs can find important data when gathering information for their businesses.
  8. Testing New Ideas. Entrepreneurs can find ways to test their ideas prior to going out with them, and this lecture discusses how.
  9. Business Structures. Learn about the different types of corporate structures in America.
  10. Start Up Steps. Find out what important steps you can take to get your start-up business going.

Funding and Marketing

These lectures discuss funding and marketing your ventures.

  1. Investment Timing: Early, Late or In-between. Janice Roberts discusses investment timing for entrepreneurs from a venture capitalist's perspective.
  2. Selling the Dream. Find out how Guy Kawasaki approaches marketing your idea by evangelizing what you have.
  3. Bootstrapping. Learn how to creatively raise money to get your business going.
  4. Angels, Banks, & VCs. Explore these three ways to raise money for your entrepreneurial venture.
  5. Finding Partners & Market Entry. Explore funny market blunders as an introduction to entering the marketplace and also discover how best to find a partner for your business.
  6. International Supply Chains. Learn how to get your product from you to the customer on a large scale basis.
  7. E-Marketing. Internet marketing and the entrepreneur are closely linked, so learn how best to take advantage of this opportunity.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Cheapskate’s Guide to PR

via http://danieldurazo.com/the-cheapskates-guide-to-pr-a-review-of-free-press-release-distribution-websites/

The Cheapskate's Guide to PR

With Apologies to Warren Buffet: 

A Review of Free Press Release Distribution Websites

 The major news release distribution services have done a great job of creating "feeds" into the websites of major news organizations.  These feeds provide the illusion that the news websites have "published" or covered a news release because it was newsworthy.  For better or worse, that's not the case.  Thanks to agreements the newswires have with these sites, just pay your money and your mediocre story can live happily on msnbc.com where, for a few days anyway, you can show-off your brilliant media relations triumph to unsuspecting superiors and clients alike.  These "hits" provide you with some great "clips" for your electronic or printed collection of media relations "results."  Now just sit back as the kudos come pouring in.  And all of this can be yours for ten clicks of your mouse and a few hundred dollars.  What a deal!

But what if you don't have a few hundred dollars?  What then?  Never fear cheapskate, for I am no doubt cheaper than thee (or is it thou?) and I have researched the free press release distribution websites so you don't have to.

Here's the deal:  There are a number of websites out there that would like to publish your press release.  Most of them are fairly easy to use and work pretty well.  Some will try to up-sell you to a paying service, others are content to have your content so their site will have the keywords needed to generate google adsense pay per click ads.

While I have no doubt that the major news release services do send your release to the media you select, I doubt very much that the "free" guys send your stuff anywhere.  The free sites are good for one thing and one thing only: getting your news release onto the web so that it shows up in search engines when someone google's your client's name.  And for that, they work astonishingly well, given that you're getting quite a bit more than you paid for.

The rub is that each free site works a little differently and you need to figure out these little quirks in order to put each site to its best use (and avoid paying anyone anything).  If like me, you decide one day to send a release out to each of these sites and haven't used them before, the combined registration and submittal process may take you half a day.  After that, releases can be sent out relatively quickly.  Warning:  Most sites ask for your email address as part of the distribution process and some will mask your email and some won't.  Be careful, these releases can generate some significant spam for you if they publish your email address.

One last tip;  If you're not a public relations professional and don't have experience writing and distributing news releases, I strongly suggest that you do not attempt any of this.  You'll just make a mess that may live on the web for what will seem like forever.  The free sites are only useful to people who know what they're doing and should not be used as a substitute for more effective media relations tactics.  So there.

Now that the disclaimers have been disclaimed, here's my review of a whopping 13 different free press release distribution websites.  You're welcome!



I found this site to be quite user friendly and once I completed the process, the release posted immediately.  There's nothing better than free instant gratification.  I had to cut my release down to fit their 3K character maximum (no problem for a crack editor like myself) which took a few tries because I didn't see a character counter.  I liked that I could use html coding to bold, italic, etc. and that they sent me a confirmation email that the article had posted.  Bonus:  The Free-Press-Release.com story showed up on a google web search of my client's name almost immediately and was near the top of the results.  I liked how you can easily delete a release if you need to and the handy "members area" shows how many "hits" your release has received.


Free Press Release Center

The process was very straightforward and fast.  I liked the fact that I could pick a keyword within the article and create a link from it to my client's website.  I also like the cheap upgrade option.  For just $2.99, I can buy a top position on their website for 7 days, make my release available in PDF and add second and third keyword links.  I know from past experience that the upgrade also buys immediate posting, but I was "queued for approval" when I chose not to buy the upgrade.


Newswire Today

The process was quick and easy.  The website includes lots of little tips sprinkled around that may come in handy if you don't know what you're doing.  But if you don't know what you're doing, I wouldn't suggest doing this in the first place.  The site offered me a number of optional paid upgrades that were free on other sites, so don't you bite.  I didn't like the fact that they would not let me include a link to my client's website in the release and then prompted me to remove the one I tried to sneak in.  How dare they! I promptly received an email that my release had been received and that I would receive another email when my release was published.


PR Compass

I think these guys may have the slickest looking interface.  I liked how the site invited me to upload up to three images, but as I experimented with what worked best, it wouldn't let me delete any of the images.  I kind-of fixed the problem by uploading a client logo which wasn't really the right size but worked okay because it opened up completely when clicked.  I tried to upload two client photos, but they wouldn't post.  So I was left with the "okay" client logo.  Be advised, you may not be able to remove what you upload.  I was offered the option to "enhance the placement, display, and interest of your press release by purchasing votes," up to 100 votes at $1 per vote.  I'm not really sure how that works, but I passed on the opportunity.  I could also target specific publications at a buck-a-pop, but alas, again I passed.  Finally, for just $2 I could edit a very generic "pitch message" to customize it with my own witty prose, but being the cheapskate I am, again I passed (witty prose is hard to come by).  I saw an immediate preview of my release as it would appear and I received a quick email saying my release had been received and had been queued for approval.  Closer examination showed they had not masked my email address (keep a sharp eye out for this) but a link in the email allowed me to edit my release to change the email address to a generic "info@" spam bucket here at the agency.  I left my phone number in the release in case anyone wanted to prank call me.  The next day my release was approved and posted and they even provided me with a handy short URL to link to.


Press Method

This was perhaps the fastest entry form of all.  After submitting my release, I received 9 upgrade options priced between $5 and $74.  For $29 the release would be sent to google news, for $39 it would go to google news and all the major search engines and so on.  I'm cheap so I chose "free."  Submitting the release took me to an overview page which listed my releases, allowed me to view the one I had just submitted, allowed me to modify or delete my release and also gave me a "times viewed" counter for all my releases.  I couldn't tell if the release was "live" or queued, but I assumed if it wasn't live, it would go live soon enough.  I particularly liked that my email was masked.  The layout was very clean and didn't include any images or other bells or whistles.


PR Leap

This site annoyed me right off the bat by randomly generating a password that you'll never be able to remember.  I became even more annoyed when I noted that my last news release (I really should follow up more closely) had never been posted.  I couldn't really tell what the problem was, whether they wanted me to buy a $49, $99 or $149 upgrade or if I'd just been stuck in an approval queue for two weeks. Being the trooper I am, I persevered and submitted my new release anyway.  After submitting my release, I was prompted to select an upgrade or change the date of my release to two days after the date of submission to obtain free distribution.  I changed it to three days to be on the safe side.  My failure to follow directions the first time probably moved my release to "wrong date/no upgrade" purgatory.  I was glad I didn't make the same mistake twice.



This was probably the fastest submission process of them all.  They had saved my information from my last use and it uploaded with the release.  No bells and whistles, just fast and efficient.  I like this site.  I received an email shortly thereafter, informing me that my release had been posted and that the process took a short 15 minutes.  The release looked great, the contact information was well organized and my email address was masked (hallelujah!).  A google web search for my client's name turned up the press release shortly after I submitted it.  Later, it showed up prominently in Yahoo! search, was the top item in an Ask.com news search, was the top and only relevant result in an MSN News search and was the top result of a google web search.


My Free PR

I was initially excited to see this site had formatting options available for the text of my release (bold, italics, etc.) as most similar sites don't allow this.  When I tried to highlight the text and push a button to bold it, nothing happened.  Maybe you'll have better luck.  I was also excited when the site prompted me to upload images to the headline and body copy areas of the release.  I uploaded my client's logo to the top, a photo of the CEO to the body.  There is no "submit" button and the first time I tried to upload a release I couldn't figure out how to do it.  Then I noticed a clip-art image of a disk located on the right side of the page with no markings.  That's the submit button.  When I uploaded my release this time, it started to upload, then got stuck.  I let it sit for a few minutes, thinking that uploading the images would take some time, but then I gave up and hit the disk icon again.  This time I got a message that said my images were in a format that was not supported.  They were jpegs, so I don't know what the problem was.  I resubmitted without the images.  The release posted immediately (the way we like it).  Microscopic icons on the right side of the page allowed me to produce a text only PDF, print or email my release.  A row of 24 social bookmarking links lined the bottom of the page.  Nice touch.


Press Release Point

Once I remembered my log in information, the submit process was very simple.  Unlike almost every other site, this one did not provide a space for a sub-headline.  That's okay.  My headlines can stand on their own. A line prompted me to upload an image or link.  I successfully uploaded my client's logo, but I couldn't figure out how to upload a link.  Press Release Point offers tons of helpful suggestions for people who don't have any idea what they're doing.  They suggest that "press release must be written like third person reporting your news story," and do not "include 'advertising' or 'hard sell' language…"  Sage advice indeed.  Also be advised that "users ignoring above instructions will be banned with their posts purged from this site."  These guys remind me of an old journalism professor.

When I hit the "preview button," I received a mean red warning message that I must include "PressReleasePoint" in my slug.  I hadn't included a slug, so I went back in and included one along with Press Release Point.  I previewed again and got the same message.  The problem turned out to be the spaces I included between Press Release Point (it's one word of course).  I removed them and I was able to submit.  The release posted immediately and I was provided with some nice, inexpensive upgrade options.  $8 moved me to the front page, $12 moved me to the front page AND submitted to 50+ free press release websites.  (You mean I could have had all of this done for me for $12?!)  I'm cheap so I  passed anyway.  They even provided me with the HTML code to link to the press release from my website or blog.  Nice!  I liked that my client's logo appeared at the bottom of the release and I also had the ability to add a comment, download a PDF version, Search PR Sites and produce and printer-friendly version.  The printer-friendly version had a box to email it to a friend and the Search PR sites brought up links to other websites where the release had been posted.  I also received a prompt email that included a link to my release.  Very handy!  The release showed up on the second page of a yahoo search and was the 5th and 6th results of a google web search,


1-888-press release

Once I logged in, the site remembered me and submission was easy.  I cut and pasted the headline, subhead and body copy fields and then checked the automatically generated contact information.  I changed the contact website from my agency's to the client's.  When I submitted the release, I moved to a preview site and everything looked good.  The site had generated a slug for me (without location) and my client's URL was intact at the bottom of the release.  I then moved to an upgrade page that provided me with four upgrade options that cost $10, $25 and $50.  There were 15 items listed in the upgrades, several of which (uploading a logo or images, ability to download a PDF, etc.) are available for free on other sites reviewed here.  After figuring out I needed to select "free," I got this message: "Your press release has been submitted. 1888pressrelease.com will begin the process of distribution shortly. Most press releases are approved with in 48-72 hrs depending on the queue. For more immediate approvals please upgrade to the 'Gold Plan'. This email is to acknowledge that we have received your press release and will be reviewed within a few business days depending on the current queue. Thank you for your support and have a wonderful day."  I really liked that they wanted me to have a wonderful day. My day was pretty good because this post landed me on the 2nd page of a google web search.


Page Release

I went immediately to the "submit a release page," no log in required!  Yahoo!  I mean, hooray!  I really like the user interface for this site.  I laughed when I saw the suggestion to, "Make it Descriptive and Compelling," next to the headline field.  I think I can handle descriptive, but compelling is far more challenging, particularly with my clients.  There was a link to google results for a search on how to write a headline.  Another link told me where I could read an article about "how to write a press release."  Maybe I should read those articles.  There was a very handy spell check feature in every field and the HTML formatting worked great.  The best part was a live preview in a box on the same page where I could check my HTML formatting as I went. I got my hand slapped for including more than one link (ouch!), so I removed the offending link and submitted the release for approval.  I immediately received a confirming email.


24-7 Press Release

After logging in, I moved to a page that asked me to select my press release plan.  The plans started at $349 (wow!) for mass media distribution, $89 for search engine professional, $49 for search engine plus, $20 for Top Position or "free," where releases were not even guaranteed to post.  I chose free anyway.  When I agreed to the terms and conditions and breezed past the coupon box (coupon?), I was informed that there were 57 releases ahead of me.  For $49, I could move to the head of the crowd.  Fortunately, I'm very patient.  I cut and pasted my release and after filling in some of my contact fields (I was so sad they didn't have that information already filled in), I previewed my release.  Everything looked great! I was able to include plenty of keywords and the industry selections fit great.  I loved how my email and website were masked.



It's kind of astonishing that no company of substance owns the URL "PR.com."  I would have thought that one of the big PR agencies would have jumped on it.  Then again, they tend to be cheaper than I am and may have thought it wasn't worth the money.  Their loss.  When I logged into PR.com, I jumped to a page that showed the status of my previous release and I submitted my new release from there. The cutting and pasting was very straightforward and I was offered the opportunity to include links in the body copy.  Hooray!  I included one link to my client's website.  Unfortunately, closer inspection caused me to discover that they wanted me to pay $29.95 for the pleasure of including each link.  Boo, Hiss! I guess they don't know me very well.  I removed my link using the handy "remove link" button reserved no doubt, for cheapskates like me.  I was offered the opportunity to upload an image for the low, low price of $60.  I passed.  As I scrolled down, I noticed my contact information had already been filled in.  I edited the contact information to point to the client's website and then included the "info@" spam-bucket email address because this site failed to mask my email address, so be aware.  The last box offered me the opportunity to upload a file to be associated with this release.  I was unsure of the benefit of doing so, but I uploaded a PDF of the release anyway.  Previewing the press release took me to an upgrade page where I could choose "Visibility Enhancements" that cost $30, $50, $60 or $100.  I chose "other."  I hit SAVE and surprise!  That file attachment I uploaded just cost me $30!  Slightly annoyed, I hit the link to edit my release and I was able to easily remove the attachment.  I hit SAVE again and was informed that if I wanted the client's URL to be active, it would cost me $29.95.  I selected the "no active hyperlinks" option instead.  Hitting submit informed me that I still owed them $60.  I went back and saw that next day distribution would cost me $30 (I don't know where the other $30 came from) so I changed the distribution date to 48 hours from now and that seemed to do the trick.


That's it.  All of these press release distribution sites worked as described when reviewed, but given their revenue models, don't be surprised if they tend to come and go or change how they work over time.

Now go forth and be cheap!

The Top 7 Things Newspapers Need to Do to Survive

via Daniel Burazo's Blog

The Top 7 Things Newspapers Need to Do to Survive

I was having coffee the other day with my friend Tim Loughran, general manager of Centro de Richmond, a Spanish-language weekly produced by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  The topic was how newspapers will survive and thrive during a time which does not seem to favor them.  That same day I noticed Jon Newman's piece on the future of newspapers. All of this got me thinking, "what is the future of newspapers?"


As you've probably noticed, newspapers and their holding companies are struggling to ride out the current economic storm and some have resorted to filing bankruptcy  to stay afloat while others are shutting down completely.  I'll blame the economy as the primary culprit for the current situation, but it's no secret that newspapers were struggling before the current downturn.  In fact, they have been thrashing around for more than a decade trying to find a profitable business model in the digital age.  So far they have failed to find one.

Newspapers are frequently their own worst enemy.  I have a journalism degree and I'm aware of the struggle between those on the publishing side who are trying to pay the bills and those on the journalism side who constantly worry about the Chinese Wall dividing publishing and editorial.  Perhaps this is a valid struggle, but if the newspaper shuts down in the middle of the struggle, who wins? Certainly not the readers.  In this environment, the journalists and the publishers need to finally come together.

But that's a relatively small thing compared to this:  When newspapers began publishing digital editions online and (for the most part) giving their content away for free, they sent a strong message to their customers that will be extremely difficult to take back.  Here's the message:  "The price paid for subscriptions and newsstand copies are to cover the cost of the newsprint and the distribution.  The content itself does not have any value and that's why we're giving it away it for free online."  I'm sure this is the last thing newspapers wanted to communicate, but that's in fact what has happened.  It may be possible to stuff that cat back in the bag, but it's gonna be tough.

Newspapers are "media" companies, but you wouldn't know it.  Newspaper philosophy works like this:  Hire some reporters and editors and have them develop some content.  Hire some ad sales peoples and have them sell some ads.  Combine the editorial and the advertising (separately of course) into one nice looking publication and deliver it.  Do it again tomorrow.  Maybe it's those daily deadlines that have blinded newspapers to the reality that every media company must know:  The number one job of newspapers is to connect people to the world around them.  Newspapers connect readers to their community and they connect advertisers to their customers.  The better newspapers understand this, the more successful they will be.  Newspapers are not the only ones guilty of not understanding their business .  Ad agencies often think their job is to create memorable ads and PR agencies may think their job is to crank out pithy press releases.  In fact, their job is also to connect people.

Unfortunately, newspapers have completely missed the boat when it comes to utilizing technology to connect people.  Bloggers, social media and niche media have steadily siphoned off consumers and advertising revenue in a game that newspapers were well poised to win.  That's because "new media" understands what "old media"  seems blind to.  Connecting people is where the real value is derived.  

Here's what newspapers need to do to survive.

1.  Jump on the social media bandwagon.  Newspapers are the medium best positioned to connect people who are interested in similar topics.  Social media "microsites" for local communities, for business, for sports, for real estate, etc. will help build the newspaper's brand while establishing a sense of community among its readers.  Advertisers will surely follow.

2.  Embrace the bloggers.  Bloggers know that their post is only half of what interests readers.  Reader comments are the other half.  Newspapers still don't understand this and relegate comments to micro-print at the bottom of an online story if they allow comments at all.  Comments and feedback are valuable content.  Why not highlight excellent comments by dragging them into the body of the story instead of relegating them to no-man's-land?  Why not enlist well known bloggers to lead the discussion?  The fact that readers care enough to comment should be welcomed and celebrated and will help keep interest in the story going long after it's publication.

3.  The 24-7 news cycle is killing newspapers.  If you know the newspaper business, you know never to pitch a story to a newspaper reporter after about 3pm, because they are often on deadline for the next day's edition.  Reporters filed once a day and that was it.  That's changing quickly as online editions try to keep up with breaking news, but it's still deeply ingrained into the business.  Reporters need to report the news faster and worry less about the polish.  Newspapers need to deliver the news faster in non-traditional ways.

Speaking of non-traditional delivery of the news, here are some suggestions.

4.  Twitter:  Many traditional media outlets are now using twitter to promote stories that have already been written, but they need to use it to deliver the news as it happens in real time.  Forget the links, just send out the tweets until the story has been written, then link to it.

5.  Mobile devices:  The fact that Hearst is launching a wireless e-reader hints that they don't "get it."  I can read the news on my iPhone just fine, thank you.  Give me an app fine-tuned for your publication and I will download it and even pay for it if it's a good one.  Create mobile websites for your advertisers so the content can be linked to the advertising.  Utilize text messaging to deliver editorial and advertising content to readers who are accessing your content on any platform.

6.  Audio:  Every news story of substance should be bundled with advertising into an audio file for download onto an MP3 player for listening in the car or anywhere else.  Webacasters are already creating content for nice audiences that are available live on their websites or can be downloaded for later listening.  

But besides content delivery, this is what's most obvious and most lacking among newspapers.

7.  Newspapers need to become a marketing partner.  For many local businesses, newspapers may be their only advertising vehicle.  But few newspapers do more than just take ad orders.  Newspapers should be helping their advertisers by hunting for new ways to drive those customer relationships.  Why not offer a free "marketing audit" to make sure Joe's Lamp Shop is following marketing's best practices?  Why not offer seminars to businesses on social media, mobile marketing and all the other ways they can drum up business.  And have a product to offer in these areas.  Newspapers have a special and unique relationship with their customers which they they must exploit.

Newspapers are the king of content.  They need to be the king of all media too if they are going to survive and flourish.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dear Mr. President, With All Due Respect....

From Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis ... my favorite reading lately....
Also could be found on MyVocal as audio (TTS for now) - http://www.myvocal.com/catalog/items/3703204

Dear Mr. President, With All Due Respect ....

Dear Mr. President, I read your New Era $3.6 Trillion Budget Proposal. I also listened to your speech Tuesday night. You made a great campaign speech. However, the campaign is over. You won. And the reason you won is you offered hope as well as a promise of change.

With all due respect Mr. President, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke are offering the same policies as President Bush and Secretary Paulson. Those policies are to bail out banks regardless of cost to taxpayers. Mr. President, it's hard enough to overlook Geithner's tax indiscretions. Mr. President, it is harder still. if not impossible, to ignore the fact that neither Geithner nor Bernanke saw this coming. Yet amazingly they are both cock sure of the solution. Even more amazing is the fact that solution changes every day.

With all due respect Mr. President, Geithner and Bernanke are a huge part of the problem, and no part of the solution and the sooner you realize that the better off this nation will be.

With all due respect Mr. President, your budget proposal is the same big government spending as we saw under President Bush. The only difference is you promised more spending and bigger government, while President Bush promised less government and less spending and failed to deliver on either count.

With all due respect Mr. President, it is impossible to spend one's way out of a problem, when the problem is reckless spending.

With all due respect Mr. President, you and Congress want to force banks to lend when banks (by not lending) are acting responsibly for the first time in a decade. Mr, President can you please tell us who banks are supposed to lend to? Do we need any more Home Depots? Pizza Huts? Strip malls? Nail salons? Auto dealerships? What Mr. President? What? And why should banks be lending when unemployment is rising and lending risks right along with it?

With all due respect Mr. President, we were hoping your administration would not carry on the war mongering policies of your predecessor. Instead we see amazingly that you Seek $75.5 Billion More for Wars in 2009. Mr. President, do we really need another $75 billion for wars? Was there nothing in the military budget that could be cut?

With all due respect Mr. President, The United States spends more on its military budget than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined; The United States accounts for 48 percent of the world's total military spending; The United States spends on its military 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. Isn't that enough Mr. President?

With all due respect Mr. President, the downfall of every great nation in history has been unsustainable military expansion. Mr. President, the US can no longer afford to be the world's policeman. You act as if we can. Mr. President, can you please tell us how we can afford this spending?

With all due respect Mr. President, Fannie Mae Reported A Fourth Quarter Loss Of $25.2 Billion. Can you please tell us where you draw the line on taxpayer bailouts of Fannie Mae? Freddie Mac? AIG? Mr. President is there a line anywhere, on anything? If there is, we would appreciate knowing where it is.

With all due respect Mr. President, how can you talk about reducing the budget deficit while proposing the biggest budget in history?

With all due respect Mr. President, how is it possible to talk about reducing health care costs while proposing to increase the health care budget?

With all due respect Mr. President, you have talked about "hard choices". Can you please tell us what hard choices you have made other than to throw money at every problem? Sure a few programs have changed but Bush orchestrated the biggest Medicaid/Medicare package in history and you upped it. You upped military spending. You criticized McCain for cutting programs that amount to peanuts, and all you can find to cut out of the budget is peanuts.

With all due respect Mr. President, your "Era of New Responsibility" is nothing more than a continuation of the Bush administration Era of Irresponsibility. Mr. President, we hoped for more and deserved more. Yet, behind the charade of campaign messages of hope and change, we essentially see the same fiscal irresponsibility and misguided policies as before. Oh sure Mr. President, your budget priorities have shifted a bit, sadly the irresponsible spending did not.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock