May 2005 Archives
Google keeps moving ahead. Virtually every week Google announces a new search initiative. Nothing seems to stop Google. Bill Gates fired a warning shot across the "Google Juggernaut" at Walter Mossberg's Digital Conference on Monday warning that Google will soon start falling back to the pack and that Microsoft's MSN will help with the slowdown. Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal had articles on Gates' comments in their respective Tuesday editions.
And then there is Exalead from France. This new French search engine got a solid review from Mary Ellen Bates in searchenginewatch.com (a JupiterWeb property). It is worth noting that while Google is in the lead, competition in Search is coming from far and wide. Whether it be Microsoft or Exalead, great efforts in manpower and money are still in the hunt to slow down or surpass Google. This means that the Search field is alive and well and has many miles and many years to run.
Noted economist Robert Shiller has written another book exploiting the term "irrational exuberance." The new tome entitled "Irrational Exuberance, Second Edition" (Princeton University Press, 2005) attacks present day housing market valuations. The previous Shiller book using the same title (a term coined by Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1996) dealt with Internet valuations.
I am certainly not an economist (only a Ph.D. in American history) and will not add my two cents to the housing bubble debate. But I offered an extremely critical analysis of the original Shiller book in August 2001 that has proved, over time, to be largely correct. I felt then, as now, that the Internet was still only at the beginning of its effect on world commerce and information. Shiller's did "not get the Internet" in 2001. He played on the rampant investment fears of the time and parlayed this into a best seller.
Based on Shiller's analysis of the future of the Internet, I would suggest that his new book is probably as clueless as the original.
(By the way, please note my mistake about who coined the term "irrational exuberance" in the article linked above. Alan Greenspan, noted above, was the creator.)
Nytimes.com has added a significant paid subscription feature called "TimesSelect." Nytimes.com has had several paid areas for several years including archives and the crossword puzzle areas of the site. I will not bother describing TimesSelect, but am providing a link of an article from crack writer Tim Gray of internetnews.com which gives you all you need to know about this nytimes initiative.
I applaud the New York Times on continuing to use a mix of paid and free content on nytimes.com. The strategy is a clear winner and one that Dow Jones should have employed 8 years ago when they took wsj.com to a totally paid subscription environment.
Sites that have the cache of nytimes.com can get away with adding paid subscription areas. It comes down to the concept of "like to have information" vs. "need to have information." Internet users will only pay for "need to have" information. And that is trick and the risk. If a publisher is going to take previously free information and turn it into paid information, that publisher best be sure that the material in question is "need to have."
Time will tell if the New York Times' TimesSelect service is "need to have." I like the idea of the mix of paid and free, but I am not sure TimesSelect is really "need to have" information.
It is a good time to be a wine merchant on the Internet. Several states had laws blocking wines to be shipped by out of state Internet wine merchants. No more. The United States Supreme Court on Monday ruled that such restrictive and protectionist laws are unsconstitutional. Now we have a wide open marketplace for any and all wine merchants. The local wine store in New York, for example, now has to worry about competition both locally and long distance. The Internet once again will help the consumer as pricing competition is sure to hit wine dealers across the United States.
Perhaps the next legal hurdle to be overcome is the control of entrenched residential real estate companies that prevent, via protectionist laws, Internet real estate agents from offering lower commission deals to consumers?
The previous few years have not been good for CNN in the cable TV wars. CNN was once dominant in cable TV news, but no longer as FOX has become the new dominator in cable news.
In the Internet news arena, CNN.com is the leader with 22.4 million unique visitors per month. And where is FOX news online? FOX comes in with a mere 5.5 million users a month.
Much of this information was in the financial press on Monday. My reason in writing about this topic is that the one area that Rupert Murdoch has not mastered in the media world is the Internet realm.
I can remember back to 1994 when Murdoch had an online community called Delphi ---if anyone else remembers Delphi let us know?
In those days I predicted that there were would be three or four dominant community sites including AOL and of course Murdoch's Delphi.
Within a few months of that prediction, Murdoch pulled out of Delphi and to a degree abandoned the Internet. The next time the Murdoch name appeared in the Internet arena was during Spring Internet World 1997 when it was rumored that the Murdoch interests were going to buy Pointcast. Pointcast was into a gimmick called "push" technology and the Pointcast owners (the brothers Hassett(?) turned down a Murdoch cash offer of about $450 million. "Push" soon died and so too Pointcast.
Fast forward to now: FOX is a dominant in cable TV news, but a laggard in the Internet space. And CNN has lost its cable TV position, but dominates in Internet news. I love the irony. And I still wonder when and if the Murdoch interests will ever figure out the Internet?
I get about 300 emails per day. Spam comprises about 35 percent of the daily load. I have about 40,000 emails in my "messages sent" outlook file. Until recently finding an old or recent sent message was a nightmare. Not anymore. Google's desktop search application is terrific and actually fun to use. Give it a try!
Things are hotting up in the online download music arena. Most readers probably know of the Yahoo announcement yesterday that they are offering a one million library of songs for $4.95 per month or $60.00 per year.
We have certain winners in the online music space today, but will the strong brands of today be the winners in two years? Regardless, the clear winner is the consumer. The price wars have started. Prices will come down and the winner is the consumer.
The exciting thing in all of this is the opportunity that online distribution affords to the various competitors. Offers and pricing can change with the wind. I am sure that we will all get dizzy watching and reading the multitude of price changes and offers that will be coming at a rapid pace as the contestants fight for market share.
I am amazed that my post about my problems with FTD.com brought more comments to me than any other post in the two plus years of this Blog.
I presume the reason is that readers are heavy users of ecommerce sites and can relate to the problem I had with FTD.com? Notice that I said "problem I had." I never heard back from FTD.com via email or by phone to resolve the non-delivery issue. Thus today I resorted to the phone to try to get a refund. After a 22 minute wait, in which I repeatedly heard that FTD.com was having a "holiday problem", a customer service rep admitted he had no idea why the flowers were not delivered and that he was refunding my money.
Alas, enough of FTD.com. I might try Proflowers.com in the future, but that might take more courage than I can muster!
My post of April 15 speculated that both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal would consider going to tabloid style production in the coming years. Lo and behold, Dow Jones announced yesterday that both their European and Asian editions are changing to the tabloid layout. This is a clever way to test the waters on ultimately going to a tabloid style for the USA edition. Dow Jones can use the Asian and European editions as test beds to perfect the tabloid style before making the change with the USA edition.
I had a horrible Mother's Day experience. I live in New York City. Florists abound. I always buy my wife flowers from a local flower shop. But being an Internet person, I decided "why not buy flowers online this year?"
I searched on Google for online florists and went with a venerable brand - FTD.
What a huge mistake!!!!!!
The registration and ordering process went fine. I got an email confirmation with seconds of ordering. As for the delivery process - a nightmare.
Here it is early on Monday morning and my wife's flowers have not been delivered. I called FTD.com on Sunday at noon to inquire about the delivery time (first I inquired online and filed a complaint, but 12 hours later nobody has replied other than an automated response that things were busy over at FTD.com due to the holiday and that they would get around to responding --my question: "of course they were going to be busy on Mother's Day-what did they expect?"!!!). Back to the call: after 23 minutes, a clerk responded and told me that this was a busy day, but for sure the flowers would arrive - now 12 hours later, as stated, no flowers.
Perhaps I will order flowers online in the future, but I would never use FTD.com. I will let readers know if the flowers are ever delivered. Based on my experience with customer service over at FTD.com, it will be difficult to get my money back -- the response will be an automatic: "sorry, but we are very busy due to the holiday" or some such silly excuse.
In the meantime I hope Google and other search engines pick up this post so that searchers can be warned about FTD.com.
Walter Mossberg had a terrific primer on RSS feeds today in The Wall Street Journal. Many readers may be familiar with the ins and outs of RSS, but I am sure others are confused. Mossberg also does a solid job on describing how Microsoft's browser is not RSS friendly in comparison to other browsers such as Firefox and Safari.
The New York Times today had a neat article by Kim Stevenson entitled "The Little Coffee Shop Around The Corner."
The gist of the article is that some friends wanted to find a conventional coffee shop instead of a Starbucks. The idea prompted the creation of a Web site called Delocator.net. The site is thriving.
Think back a few years when such a whim could never become anything more than a dream. The beauty of the Internet is that ideas can become blogs or Web sites overnight. Not everyone of these ideas gets a following, but at least democracy surrounds the Net --- everyone can be heard or be a publisher. The trick, as always, is a good idea works and a bad idea flounders.