Daily Roundup for 2008-03-11

  • The HowTo team at Mahalo has been an amazing surprise effort. We didn’t plan on making howto articles, but when we built various how to search pages we realized that many howto articles were, well, lacking. So, we started building select ones where we thought we could help. This one on how to save money is very good.  I’ve got a bunch of tips on how to do this for business.
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s highly anticipated keynote interview with BusinessWeek’s Sarah Lacy at the South by Southwest Interactive conference was panned by the audience here — and in near-real time in the blogosphere.  That the social-media circus turned against its reigning ringmaster had more to with Ms. Lacy’s meandering questions and diversions into anecdotal tales of her previous interviews with Mr. Zuckerberg than it did with the Facebook CEO’s answers. Indeed, at one point he even suggested to her that she ought to ask questions — as opposed to sharing her thoughts — prompting the restless SXSW crowd to burst into applause.

  • Product line extensions. New and improved flavors. Mass customization.  Sometimes it seems like giving consumers choices is what marketing is all about. It’s part of why manufacturers and service providers put so much information online for consumers.  Yet researchers at the University of Iowa recently found that people who have only a little information about a product are happier with that product than people who have more information.
  • A start-up run by former Microsoft Corp. employees said it has made a tool to combat growing security risks on the Web.  Haute Secure Inc. introduced a free online service (www.hautesecure.com) that it says will let consumers detect and stop Internet-borne computer code designed to steal private information.  The Seattle company, whose name is pronounced "hote," said it will offer a paid service to businesses to regularly scan their Web sites for potentially damaging code.
  • Ok, so IPTV isn’t exactly television delivered over the Web. It is usually delivered over a closed network and not the public Internet, and connected to a standard TV set, not a PC.  Still, it’s television content sent through broadband, and its popularity is rising as Internet connections get ever-faster. AT&T and Verizon are offering IPTV to many subscribers of their fiber-based Internet service.
  • Virtually anyone can edit an entry on Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia. But its founder is finding it’s not so easy to cover his tracks after a messy breakup with a TV personality and a dustup over his expenses began playing out on the Web.  It’s not the first time that Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s de facto leader, has found his behavior questioned — especially since no subject appears too arcane for dissection by Wikipedia’s passionate community of users. The latest episodes, however, reverberated beyond the usual die-hards.  A former lover — political pundit Rachel Marsden — let out steamy and embarrassing online chats with Wales, and dumped his clothes on eBay.
  • PayPal recently announced a streamlining of its payment flow process that doesn’t require a PayPal account to use. In other words, you can "check out" via PayPal, reap the security benefits of the merchant store not knowing your financial details, and pay for your item without having created any long-term relationship with PayPal (although they wouldn’t mind).
  • Everyone wants to optimize. If you’re like most companies, you have a laundry list of things you’d like to do with your site. You know instinctively that all the items on the list are of equal value. You know some might have more impact than others. You also know these items require different amounts of effort and resources. So the obvious question is, "Where do I begin?"  You’re likely familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which states that human beings must first prioritize basic needs, such as food and shelter, before they’re able to seek higher needs, like social interaction and self-actualization needs. What good is owning a Harley-Davidson or finding the perfect outfit for a trip to a club if you’re starving to death?
  • The long tail is famously good news for two classes of people; a few lucky aggregators, such as Amazon and Netflix, and 6 billion consumers. Of those two, I think consumers earn the greater reward from the wealth hidden in infinite niches.  But the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist’s works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales.  Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?
  • Women’s suits. Mickey Drexler has women’s suits on the brain. It’s a Tuesday afternoon in SoHo in Manhattan, and Millard S. Drexler — Mickey, as he is universally known — is in a Madewell store looking for customers he can talk to. Mr. Drexler, as you may know, is the chief executive of J. Crew — a job he took in 2003 after being summarily bounced from the Gap, the company he had led for 16 years, transforming it in that time from an $800 million midsize retailer into a $14 billion Goliath. Madewell, which he’s visiting today, is a brand-new J. Crew offshoot that sells hip, casual clothes. It’s a little like the way Mr. Drexler started up Old Navy to offer clothes that were less expensive than the Gap’s.
  • We’ve already covered several examples of intention-based real estate sites in the Netherlands, Finland and elsewhere. For those not yet convinced, another shining example just surfaced in Australia—this time with the addition of social networking features.  Love That Place, which just launched earlier this month, is a social network designed to let users search, discuss, rate and register interest in property, whether it’s for sale or not. Property owners begin by creating a page and uploading photos of their place—simply to gather feedback and advice, or to test the market and see what other people think. Members of the site can leave comments or send private messages (forums are coming soon), and admirers of a particular property can even send a virtual "door-knock" to see if the owner would consider selling. If the owner is interested, the two parties can negotiate privately or through a facilitated process with an agent.
  • How do you start from scratch yet create a top-ranked marketing blog in less than a year? If I had anything close to a foolproof formula, I’d be making an infomercial right now rather than writing this article. Nevertheless, I can share some tips from my own experience to help you achieve success with your marketing blog.
  • A famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993 showed two dogs at a computer, with one saying to the other, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” That may no longer be true. A new analysis of online consumer data shows that large Web companies are learning more about people than ever from what they search for and do on the Internet, gathering clues about the tastes and preferences of a typical user several hundred times a month. These companies use that information to predict what content and advertisements people most likely want to see. They can charge steep prices for carefully tailored ads because of their high response rates.
  • Traffic at EyeBuyDirect.com has increased between 10% and 15% since the online discount eyeglass retailer added a social networking hub to its web site about five months ago. The new feature is now the main engine driving traffic to the site, ranking above search and other marketing efforts, says EyeBuyDirect CEO Ron Hessel. About 20,000 consumers have added pictures of themselves sporting nearly 500 different styles of eyewear to EyeBuyDirect.com’s “Wall of Frame” social network.
  • New eBay recruit and social media veteran Richard Brewer-Hay will launch a blog next month that aims to give eBay’s users a direct, unfiltered communications link with the company. Can he repair the company’s battered relations with its users?
  • Two years ago, I ran a series of posts about Top Bloggers’ Share Their Essential Research Tools. Since then, information overload has become information tsunami and multi-tasking 24/7 had become as natural as breathing for a lot of knowledge junkies like me and my Twitter community. (Follow me at twitter.com/whatsnext ) Yet some top bloggers find ways not only to keep up, but to keep on top of information, trends, sources, and news. I thought it was time to revisit the question, with some of the bloggers who answered previously, and some who’ve since become prominent on my radar.
  • User-generated content is a hot topic. Analytics and ROI (define) remain as critical as ever. Yet very few organizations are linking the two. If Sam Decker, CMO of Bazaarvoice, had his way, there would be no disconnect.
  • Has your brand got a compelling story to tell? The best ones do or make sure they unearth one says Katrina Michel. I love the story of Romeo and Juliet. It has everything. Internecine warfare between two proud and competitive families, love at first sight, duels, dirty talk and ultimately a tragic ending. We are left wondering what might have been and whether those remaining will manage to bury the hatchet.
  • Whether you’re selling clothing, car parts, luggage, or even cameras, your approach to link development matters most. Let’s face it: most e-commerce sites primarily consist of a shopping cart on steroids. That’s why I often hear statements such as, "Who would want to link to my camera site?" Replace "camera" with whatever product you sell and you get the idea. A basic shopping cart does nothing to distinguish one site from hundreds of other similar sites. Unless the shopping cart adds value, such as in-depth consumer reviews, then it’s not adding value to the Web. How do you develop links then?

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