June 2006 Archives
Like many readers, I am plagued by spam. So it is with great pleasure that I post about a neat piece of software that our tech department installed the other day that appears to be elminating 70 percent of the daily spam. The software is intelligent. It quickly learns what is spam and what is acceptable email. Therefore I expect my spam elimination stats to improved markedly over coming weeks.
The software is called "inboxer." I make no guarantees but feel to check out what appears to be terrific software to combat the worldwide spam plague.
I have often said that travel, while sometimes laborious, is also a good time to reflect on my own business but also on Internet doings.
I happen to be finishing a long weekend to Italy for a wedding in the Puglia region. I am about to head back to New York City.
On the flight over I read about the 1000th article on social networking. Earlier in the week I heard about the 1000th proposal for a new social networking site.
Based on my observations of Internet history (for me going back to 1990), once you start to become numb from an Internet concept, it probably means that the concept is about to die. I could be wrong, but don't bet the ranch on social networking concepts.
Most do not make money today and never will make money.
Another way you can tell it might be over for social networking is that more and more large media companies are jumping into the social networking game. This is a sure sign that I might be correct.
Patricia Widyn, VP and Art Buying Manager at the Wunderman Agency wrote an interesting piece in About The Image. For those interested in the stock photo business this is worth reading. There are some solid insights about what agencies look for in selecting images amongst Corbis, Getty and Jupiterimages. Her comment about customer service is important and I dare say that Jupiterimages runs circles around the other guys in this important area. When you are number three you have to try harder.
As I travel around the country and the world (too much) I am always surprised and flattered by the number of people who tell me that they read my posts.
I sparked lots of interest with my early experience with my BlackBerry 8700 (purchased in early March). The problem I outlined was never really solved.
However I can report that BlackBerry and Cingular have just launced version 2.0 (for Cingular) that alleviates my problem of having to go online to delete email "buildup" so that I can continue to receive emails.
But progress on such matters sometimes comes with a dose of aggravation. RIM and Cingular launched the new version without warning (I only found out because my 8700 had a different home page one morning). For about 6 hours all was well, but then over the weekend emails ceased being delivered. This was particularly aggravating while spending the day in Baltimore yesterday. Fortunately the RIM tech team jumped into action last night and cleared up my problem with 60 minutes on the telephone.
If all goes well, I can hopefully say I have a terrific all around phone, email machine and PDA.
Our sales team reports regularly on image buyers' suggestions for search engine features that can help them do their jobs. This week we replaced the Jupiterimages.com search engine with a new one that let us incorporate some of those suggestions. And less than a week after launch we're already getting great feedback from our customers that they like the new features.
Jupiterimages search now makes it easier for customers to find images with and without people and by gender, age and ethnicity. It also incorporates the subjects' emotions (whether they're angry, content, frustrated, happy, laughing, sad, serious or worried), whether the images is shot indoors or outdoors and whether the subject is looking at the camera or looking away. That last one, according to our sales team, is a common request from clients that we're happy we could incorporate.
Other new search filters let customers find images with no nudity, images available on CDs and images that are 50 MB or larger, which are better for those who specialize in print production.
And a new tabbed layout lets customers jump quickly between royalty-free and rights-managed search results.
Finally, a particularly intriguing feature of the new Jupiterimages.com is a new way to zero in on the best imagery by browsing through the various filters. This new browse capability lets users include and exclude various choices and see the results change dynamically.
Stay tuned for even more exciting enhancements in weeks to come as we work to show image buyers that -- to paraphrase our tagline -- their "search ends here."
Some readers might remember that I was involved in VC funds from 1999-2001. I was the so-called Managing Member of three VC funds known as Internet.Com Funds I, II, and III. The first two funds were small at $5 million and $15 million respectively. Fund III had $75 million.
Our investment philosophy was simple but original for those times. We made investments in Web site ideas that had a vertical subject focus. The idea was that these Web sites would ultimately be acquired by large media companies for a multiple of the original investment value.
Things looked good for our VC funds until the Internet valuation crash which started in the spring of 2000. We were conservative investors. Therefore we were shocked to learn in 2001 that our largest investor in Fund III, a private client part of a giant bank, decided to withdraw most of our funding.
While we had once been wined and dined by this private client group, all of a sudden we were accused of incompetence and dishonesty. The bank did this to justify their demand to take away our funding. Rather than fight the bank, we agreed to their demands and closed Fund III. Shares in about a dozen different investments were distributed to all participants in Fund III. The lead bank got the most shares in each investment.
My parting shot at the bank was that they were frontrunners and would regret "running for the hills." The retort of the bankers was that the "Internet was dead and that yours truly was a poor investor." Ultimately the bank sold their positions in the VC investments, as I understand it, for $150,000 to an investment group.
Fast forward to last week. One of the investment companies in Fund III was sold for approximately $10 million (our total investment was about $400,000 for 30 percent of the company). Fund III at one time owned a good percentage of this portfolio company. The group that bought out the bank probably made about 10x on their investment of $150,000 (and this group still has shares in another 11 or so companies - nice return!).
My erstwhile banker friends probably do not care about their decision. But they sure had things wrong.
Dateline Madrid. I head back to New York tomorrow after 8 days in several European cities. The business highlight of my travels was seeing so many of our 300 distributors at the CEPIC conference in Biarritz, France. We hosted a lunch and presented our plans to distributors for the coming months. It was also a good time to visit with many of our key personnel from all over Europe including the heads of our French, German and UK operations.
One thing to note was that many image companies are following the latest craze of launching high premium Royalty Free brands. I think this is an interesting idea, but one of necessity when an organization does not own many RF images and or brands. Thus the necessity of having to cover up this shortfall by launching a "premium" RF brand. With so many launching such brands, I think the concept loses its impact as the buyer will ultimately see premium brands as just one more commodity in the growing array of RF offerings.
I had time to kill over the weekend so I visited the Guggenheim Museum (designed by Frank Gehry) in Bilboa, Spain. Many know that this is a striking building inside and out - it did not disappoint. The odd thing was listening to the recorded tour. I could have sworn that the voice on the tour was none other than that of Jonathan Klein (CEO of Getty Images). By the way, Jonathan or whomever does a great job.
Now back to the USA.
I write this from Biarritz, France. I am attending the CEPIC conference that attracts nearly 1000 organizations from around the world that are in the stock photo business.
So what does Biarritz have to do with PayPal? Aggravation is the answer.
Recently our stockxpert.com started to offer PayPal. Things started off great. But soon PayPal's filters decided that there was something amiss with our use of PayPal. I will not bore readers with the details other than to say that we have had over 20 phone calls with PayPal customer service representatives in order to rectify the situation. The reps are always attentive and friendly. But the situation never gets resolved.
PayPal's problem is simple. One never gets the same customer service representative twice. Therefore, you have to explain the situation from scratch every time you talk to a rep. Each rep has a computerized file, but for some reason no rep has been able to solve a very simple problem even though we are assured after each call that service will be restored in less than one day.
Based on our experience I can only reach one conclusion: PayPal has huge customer service problems.
I sure hope one of my readers knows somebody at PayPal and let's them know about this post. I would relish getting the attention of an executive at PayPal to let them know what a terrible customer service system they have developed. eBAY, the owner of PayPal, should be very, very concerned.
Today we announced that we have acquired Workbook Stock and its prized rights-managed image collection. Workbook Stock is one of the best collections worldwide dealing with rights-managed photos. By combining Workbook's photos with what we already offer at Jupiterimages, we have placed ourselves as an equal with any other image company in the world.
Many readers know that we only moved into the rights-managed arena in a large way with the acquisition of PictureArts last July. Subsequently we have acquired several other fine collections including, but not limited to, Stock Image and Beauty Archive. It has taken us about one year to become a leader in the rights-managed world of stock images.
And all the while we continue to grow our leading world position in the royalty-free arena of stock images -- not to mention continuing to expand our leadership in the areas of flash movies, flash animations and clipart.
We have more plans to roll out before year end. These are exciting times for Jupitermedia. Some of these plans will be presented this week at the CEPIC event in Biarritz, France. We are running a lunch for hundreds of our distributors from around the world and I will be presenting as well as several key members of the Jupiterimages team. This promises to be an exciting day for our company as we further push the Jupiterimages brand worldwide.
Many of you know that Jupiterimages has an investment in a micropayment site called stockxpert.com. We made this investment in early January. It is fascinating to watch the development of this business in the micropayment area.
It is too early to talk about financials for stockxpert, but progress is being made and we put out a press release on this progress yesterday. What is amazing is the number of photos submitted daily to the site and the ultimate number that are selected for sale.
In a very few months stockxpert has attained a level of 120,000 images.
On the business side the site now can be read in a variety of languages and the payment service PayPal has been added.
From time to time I will keep readers abreast of stockxpert developments. In the meantime, stay tuned as this seems to be a very promising business.