January 2004 Archives
Over the past seven years or so I have been commenting on Dow Jones and its policy in regard to the Wall Street Journal online edition. First a refresher: Originally WSJ online was free. It went to a paid model several years ago and I believe it has nearly 700,000 paid subscribrs (making it the largest paid circulation publication online).
I commend Dow Jones for attaining this paid subscription level. The question to me has always been the following: "How large would the online readership be if the site was either totally free or partially free (that is, articles available for free for a number of days and then a paid plan)?" And if the readership was 20 times its present size (or greater), "what would the ad revenues scale to in comparison to what they are today?"
We will never be able to answer most of these questions because Dow Jones will never break out some of these numbers. A further aside: "Is the online edition profitable?" It should be, but I do not know.
I got to thinking about all of these issues again during my travels in Europe (I am writing this late at night in London). Yesterday I wanted the American press perspective on the New Hampshire primary. First I went to nytimes.com (The New York Times). Here I found great frustration. I could read the headlines and a few words of each article, but if I wanted to read the whole article I had to register (I hate registering). Then I went to WSJ online. I have been a WSJ subscriber (print and online) for years --- I rarely if ever use the online edition, but it came in handy to read about the primary.
After reading my fill of politics, I decided to jump around the WSJ site. I was impressed! There are numerous articles and columnists that appear only online and many other valuable features. The whole package is mighty nice.
But what would the revenues be for WSJ online if it was both partially open and closed? Is Dow Jones getting the benefits of contextual ad placements and other paid search concepts?
Great stuff to be thinking about at this hour!
One more thing: I read in the International Herald Tribune a column by Joe Sharkey titled "The Phone American Can't use Abroad." (Thursday, January 29, 2004.) Joe mentions that he was shocked that he could not use his Verizon phone from New York City in London because England (and much of Europe) use GSM whereas Verizon is based on CDMA (hope I got that correct). The amazing thing about this admission is that the writer states that he had switched from AT&T Wireless to Verizon before his trip.
"Hey Joe" -- AT&T Wireless in New York City offers GSM phones. Why did you switch if you wanted one phone number that would work in New York
City and London????
Ironically, I wrote about my Treo 600 in this space a few days ago. I switched from Verizon to AT&T Wirelss for two reasons: first was that Verizon does not offer the Treo 600, and second AT&T Wireless offered both the Treo 600 and GSM. In the past seven days I have been in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, New York City, London, Stockholm, Berlin and Paris and I have not had one problem calling anywhere in the United States or in Europe. In addition I have used the Treo 600 for both emailing and checking out weather and stock reports on a variety of Web sites.
It is kind of shocking to read this column by Joe Sharkey --- he really needs help.
I happen to be in Paris on business --- excited, don't be as I arrived here 20 minutes ago after spending most of the previous day in Berlin and Stockholm and I leave Paris tomorrow by noon for London and then back to NYC by Thursday night!
I wanted to give you a thought. I live in New York City. Every night (while walking my two dogs) I see lots of trucks from online grocers delivering their goods. The two companies that I see are xpressgrocer.com and freshdirect.com. I have no way of knowing if these two organizations are making money, breakeven or whatever. BUT, I sure feel like I am witnessing the Webvan idea going well in a local market.
It makes me wonder how many other "local" online grocers are doing business around the USA (and the world).
With the proper execution and local focus, online food shopping could be big.
By the way, for those under 28-years of age, Webvan was a failed Internet company that sank after blowing hundreds of millions of dollars --- there must be lots of entries on google for anyone wanting to read the history.
This brings me back to my rant the other day about the idiots at the private bank in New York City that forced Jupitermedia to walk away from some solid VC investments. I could write a book about these jerks. One day they will realize that they burned their clients bigtime.
Fortunately for Jupitermedia, our basic business lines are thriving so I can sometimes forget about the VC angle and the idiocy of the bankers --- but it is upsetting.
John Patrick has agreed to be the keynoter at the inaugural Internet Planet trade show we are holding in New York City this June. John was with IBM for many years and is considered by many to have been the "father of the Internet" at IBM. When you get a chance check John's terrific blog.
Perhaps more than anyone in the technology world, John Patrick understands where the Internet came from, where it is today, and where it is headed. And of course he believes strongly in the concept of Internet Planet -- namely that any organization (profit or non-profit) requires an Internet presence if it wants to grow.
The keynote will kick off two days of seminars (three tracks) dealing with the many practical issues confronting every organization dealing with growing business online.
The preliminary program will be posted in a few weeks. I might also add that more than 30 companies have already contacted us about exhibiting. I think Jupitermedia has struck a nerve with Internet Planet. We are excited.
My next post wll be about another exciting and important issue confronting any organization in the Internet space --- namely DRM or digital rights management.
Paid search is hardly a secret. Google will have a huge public offering because of paid search. Ah-Ha has filed for an IPO. FindWhat and AskJeeves have had tremendous upswings on the Nasdaq. Even Looksmart, which lost the MSN account, has seen its stock rise lately. Yahoo's recent quarterly results illustrate how important paid search is to this media giant.
Search and paid search variations are developed every week. Check out a company called vibrantmedia to see what I mean. Thousands of small organizations have been formed to help millions of companies better use search and paid search to grow businesses online.
Jupitermedia of course has also been a huge beneficiary of the rise of search. Our Search Engine Strategies shows continue to grow rapidly both on the exhibitor and paid registrant fronts and we continue to add SES shows around the world. Over at Jupiter Research, nearly 70 companies have signed on for our special research services devoted to this field. And our SearchEngineWatch Web site attracts almost 100,000 page views per day.
Things are exciting in the Internet space these days --- but nothing is more exciting than paid search.
A few people have contacted me about my post regarding the Howard Dean Web site. They have pointed out an article that ran in THE NEW YORK TIMES (December 22, 2003, by Glen Justice --- once again if readers want to read this online they will have to purchase it). The article is titled "Political Fund-Raisers Put Convio In the Spotlight."
Convio Inc. makes software "that helps clients set up fund-raising Web sites, create e-mail databases and process and track online donations," according to The Times.
The article is a good read for any organization that is trying to raise funds on the Internet. And as I have been pointing out, we will see more and more of this in the coming years. Hopefully companies like Convio will exhibit our upcoming Internet Planet trade show slated for mid-June at the Hilton New York.
While referencing The Times, I saw another terrific article on December 28, 2003, by John Kimelman titled "How Internet Banks Have Inched Ahead On Rates." The gist of the article is that those looking for the best money fund rates will find them by searching on the Internet for "branchless" banks that do business over the phone and the Internet. An example cited in the article is the Bank of Internet USA.
While on the subject of "credit," I want to mention my Internet friend Jason Calacanis. Many readers might remember Jason as the "Mayor" of Silicon Alley (New York City) from 1996-2000 with his erstwhile magazine SILICON ALLEY REPORTER. Jason is now a Blog-Domo in various capacities and just today launched his latest blog dealing with the Sundance film festival.
I met Martha Stewart when she was just starting out as a caterer. She set up a stand in a clothing store in Westport, Connecticut -- probably about 1974. In fact one of the first parties she catered was my friend's surprise 35th birthday party. Of course we all know how things went after those early days in Westport! We also know that Martha has had some tough times with the SEC etc.
But Martha is fighting back. The fight is in the courtroom, but also on the Internet. Take a look at the Web site she has created to soften her image and tell "her" story about the messy stock problem she faces. You be the judge.
I am a big fan of the movies --- particularly Indies. And there is no better place to see what is new in Indies than at the Sundance Film Festival. Not many of us can spend the time to go to Utah, but many of us do get to Starbucks and that is your online ticket to Sundance doings.
If you have a Wi-Fi enabled notebook computer you can see what is happening at the Sundance Film Festival via Wi-Fi at Starbucks. This is an interesting promotion on behalf of Starbucks and T-Mobile (the Wi-Fi connection network found at Starbucks). If this works, you will see more of these promotions at Starbucks, McDonalds, airline clubs and the like.
The Internet is growing in many ways. More to come.
You cannot get away from reading about the influence of the Internet on politics.
Today's New York Post (article not posted on the nypost.com Web site as of this writing) ran an article titled "W's Wide Web May Zap Dean's E-Machine."
A reading of this article took me back to 1998 when the erstwhile Lycos CEO Bob Davis would periodically issue press releases making claims on how Lycos' traffic was now greater than Yahoo's traffic. Hardly a day went by in those days in which "traffic bragging" was not headlined in the business press.
Let's get back to the above-mentioned New York Post article. Writer Deborah Orin states: "Dean's Web site yesterday boasted of 564,000 Internet supporters, but the Bush-Cheney campaign says its e-mail list is 6 million - a 10-1 lead. That includes 400,000 who have signed up for an active role as team workers."
There is much more in this article with lots of claims from different political camps about Web traffic and related fundraising claims.
I know I wrote about this a few days ago, but it is hilarious to read these comments and not think about similar commercial claims a few years ago. The bottom line is that within a few months, Internet Web sites and traffic claims will no longer be newsworthy as such information will be relegated to the mundane.
Things are on a upward trajectory at Jupitermedia. Even the loss of two of our Jupiter Research analysts cannot stop the positive direction.
But let's analyze "the loss" and see "the gain."
Where did they go? Hired by Tommy Hilfilger to build a Web presence and open a new avenue to grow the Hilfiger businesses. Jupiter Research will shortly fill the positions with equally as good or better analysts, but in the meantime it is flattering that Hilfilger took our people and the action further validates that the Internet is the new frontier for any sized firm if it wants to grow in different directions.
Coincidentally, the department store Bergdorf Goodman recently announced that it was creating a Web presence for the first time ---Why?--- do I need answer my question?!
More to come.
I defy anyone to find a day where the Internet is not credited (good or bad) with causing radical change in commerce or our daily lives. My next few posts will delve into some of these stories.
Let's start with Howard Dean. Politics aside, few days go by without some mention of Dean's trajectory being tied directly into Internet fundraising as well as Internet commmunity. How ironic it is that one of the buzzwords of the late 1990s - "community" - is now a buzzword for the Dean campaign. In the late 1990s any fledgling company could go public if it could convince Wall Streeters that its business model would dominate "some community."
Fast forward to today and Howard Dean is showing how valuable a community can be in the political arena. The Dean campaign is setting records for fundraising and it is all about its use of an "Internet community."
Interestingly the model behind the Dean campaign fundraising is based on a few specific software packages as well as a group of people who know how to design Web sites.
The lessons from the Dean campaign can and will be applied to future political campaigns. But I am sure non-profits and commercial organizations will be studying the Dean operation and apply lessons learned for their respective operations.
This leads me to the theme of our new trade show called Internet Planet.
The Dean campaign is really a variation of "growing business online" (the theme and tagline of the Internet Planet trade show). I will have more on this new show, but in the meantime note the press and the myriad stories about how the Internet is changing everything.
This is a story that is unfolding daily. Think back to a few years ago when internet venture capital flooded the markets. This writer was involved. Our firm created three VC funds. They were small funds in terms of the "big boys" such as Hummer Winblad and the like.
Nonetheless, the investment philosophy we chose was decidedly different than any other internet-oriented VC funds. The idea was not to shoot for investments that could be IPOs, but rather invest in small companies that might one day be significant "players" in niche online content areas.
Fast forward to late 2001. Internet values have been trashed. The stock markets are going down and down. The Internet has been hung, drawn and quartered by the financial press.
The reaction: investors who were throwing their money at VC investments now want their money back! Counter-reaction: Many VCs are forced to close or to have greatly reduced investment dollars.
So what happened at Jupitermedia. Fund I remains operational, but due to incredible obnoxious pressure by individual investors and particularly one large New York City commercial bank, we were forced to cease making VC investments or to nurture along ongoing investments that showed promise.
Fast forward to today: the above-mentioned New York City commercial bank (its private client operation) is surely beginning to realize how ignorant and costly their panic was to the very clients they were trying to protect. Why? Because several of the investments that this private client operation thought worthless are in fact going to be very valuable. By not allowing further investment in some of these operations, the Fund manager (Jupitermedia) was not able to make additional rounds of investments at favorable rates and terms and thus a great opportunity is down the drain.
For example: There is no hotter area for Internet investment than in China. Fortunately several of our investments were made in China in late 1999. Unfortunately, because of the actions described above by this particular bank, we were prevented from gaining a larger position in one of these companies at particularly favorable rates.
I have no doubt that in a few months these "very clever bankers and investors" will be right back in the middle of Internet VC.
Jupitermedia still has interests in a variety of VC investments that will probably prove to have value. This is good for stockholders, but such potential returns could have been much greater.