Jul 27

The newspaper is dieing. For the baby-boomer generation, that may be a sad thing. For my generation (X), that’s a “huh” sort of thing, and for Generation Y, they’re almost asking, “What’s a newspaper?”

Why is the newspaper dieing? There are many theories and reasons I’m sure, but the one that is obvious to me is because publishers focused on the means to the end (the actual, physical paper), and not the end itself.

There’s a great question to ask yourself to make sure you’re on the right track with your business. “What business am I in?” The famous response to this question came from Ray Kroc, who at the time was the head of McDonald’s, said, “That’s easy. Real Estate.” Most people may scratch their head, thinking the answer should have been hamburgers. But if you think about it, the reason for McDonald’s success is because you can find one almost anywhere you need one. And they locate themselves in the most convenient location to make it easy to get in and out.

Publishers actually thought they were in the newspaper business-putting ink on paper and distributing that paper to something they call subscribers. So when the internet came along, they defended their glorious little papers to preserve what they’ve been doing for 100 years.

If they would have realized they were in the advertising business and not news and not newspaper then they would have done what any logical company has done. They would have seen the trend of the internet and embraced the new technology to expand their advertising service online. Some have done so, though it may be a little too late so save the entity.

On one-hand its sad to see the newspapers go, but on the other it’s exciting to see the world evolve and progress.

The bottomline: Ask the hard question, “What business am I in?” And then ask yourself how you’re using or going to use the web to further your true business.

Picture Credit: The Economist, Who Killed the Newspaper?

Jul 21

So it’s fabled we have 3 seconds to make a first impression on our web visitors when they first visit a page.

10 seconds, if you believe the stats, to convey what it is you do. What better way to do that than through a pictorial story instead of, ugh, words?

Below are three great sites that do an extraordinary job at doing this:


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Each of these web sites could have easily told you what they do with words, lots of words. Instead, they chose to simply tell you with a few words and some pictorial story telling.

Bottomline: For greater effectiveness in communication what it is you do, use images to tell your story on the web.

Jul 07

This weekend I rented a movie from Blockbuster, and I couldn’t think how the web has completely changed their game. Truth be told, it was probably Netflix that made the movie giant change their distribution model, but nonetheless, Blockbuster has masterfully used the web to do so.

Think about their old model of
1) Go to the store
2) Walk around for 15 minutes trying to find a movie you want
3) Rent the movie (if it’s in) and then pray to God you don’t forget to bring it back on time
4) Return in 1-5 days with the movie.

Now its:
1) Browse online in the comforts of your home to find the movie you want
2) Read reviews from other people to decide if you want to use it.
3) Add it to your queue
4) Movie shows up 1-2 days later
5) You return it whenever you want
6) And oh, if you want another movie NOW, simply take your movie to the local Blockbuster and exchange it for an in-store rental.

With one fell swoop, Blockbuster made mom-and-pop rental stores obsolete, made Netflix one-dimensional and dominated the movie rental business once again. But, Blockbuster better not get too comfortable because another web distribution model has arrived (and has been trying to make a breakthrough for sometime): the online, download-it-now-and-watch-it model.

Apple’s iTunes movie rental and other services are coming. Blockbuster even has its own service, Movielink, which it acquired in 2007.

Either way, the web is rapidly changing how businesses do business. Look at your current distribution model. Can the web change how you distribute your products or services?

Bottomline: Leveraging the web can completely change your company, if not your industry. Don’t be changed, change it yourself.

Jul 02

The web gets a lot of bad press. Porn, stalkers, phishing, scams (i.e Nigeria), hoaxes, spam and on and on.

Human nature is wired to focus on the bad. It takes a little effort to think about all of the good on the web. Here’s a list of why the web is great:

-Kiva.org. The online community that funds third world entrepreneurs via micro loans. Economic Development Goodness.

-Donorschoose.com. Teachers post their needs/projects and people from around the country and the world make micro donations that add up. Kids, parents and teachers say thank you.

Free Usefulness
-Craigslist.org - No charity per se, but it’s a free way to buy and sell. The newspaper killer if you will (in a good way). I’ve posted before, but I’ve bought and sold cars, Clemson tickets and all good stuff. Incredibly helpful and good.

-Wikipedia.org. Come on, who doesn’t use this web site? The community rises up again to help the greater good. You can know anything-and if you have a cell phone with internet access, you can win an argument anywhere that relies on obscure factual data. Try it.

Truth Spreading
-Snopes.com I wish everyone who types in all caps and uses blue font would know about this web site. Anything that sounds fishy gets run through snopes. Hoaxes are lies and simply spread fear. It all stops with snopes.

-Rageagainstthehaze.com. South Carolina’s anti-smoking initiative, created by Greenville’s own Brains on Fire. Award winning goodness.

This is just a smidgen of web sites doing good. Please, add to the list in the comments section.

Jun 11

Google’s Map Street View has been out for awhile now, but available in only major metropolitan areas. Now it’s available in Greenville. The photo is of downtown Greenville-hey, that’s Merge’s office! (how ’bout that?).

To see the technology in action, visit Greenville, SC in Google Maps and click in the “Street View” in the upper right hand corner.


Mar 31

Today I’ll be at Clemson University playing in a golf tournament (forecast: 45 degrees and rain. Fun). I briefly thought about turning on my out-of-office auto-reply for my email, but then I thought, Why?

My faithful blackberry will be with me. I’m sure to glance at it now and again, definitely at the turn and the first thing I’ll turn my attention to at the conclusion of the match.

One could argue, in and of itself that such a scenario is sad. Today, people can’t stay unconnected for more than ten minutes. I can’t argue with that logic, as some time I take up that position myself. But today I think, “Because of technology, I can be out of the office playing golf, but still connected to the office.” Isn’t the web great?

The world doesn’t have to stop for me to get back from the tournament. We’re no longer out of the office because the office is becoming less and less of a physical place. Business can go on (though somewhat limited) and I can still enjoy a round of golf. The out-of-office reply is dead.

Mar 04

This past week, Merge partially funded an entrepreneur in Nicaragua. He is a grocery store business owner who was raising capital in order to buy additional inventory.

The terms of the loan? Interest free, paid back over 24 months. So far this week Kiva.org has raised over $650,000, $25 at a time. As the $25 loans are paid back, most Kiva lenders roll it over and fund another entrepreneur.

Kiva.org is taking the American dream and the great American advantage-access to capital-and has created the most efficient “lending” machine in the world. All thanks to the web.

Their moto: “Loans that change lives.” Help out a 3rd country entrepreneur today. Join Kiva.org.

Isn’t the web great?

Feb 18

On numerous New Year resolutions lists published by the business magazines this year was “Backup Data.” This is something I’ve been doing for awhile, but I’ve been backing up data to an external hard drive. Although I’m ahead of 98% of the crowd when it comes to backing up, I still have some risk:

What happens if I go to lunch and somebody comes in and swipes not only my laptop but also my external drive? Sounds far fetched? It happened to a business just down the road from me, here in quaint ol’ little Greenville, South Carolina.

The solution (and the solution for several other scenarios): Online Backup via JungleDisk.

My concerns regarding online backup were the following:

1. Cost (because I’d be backing up several Gigs)
2. CPU Utilization (e.g. did it bog my computer down while operating)
3. Did it work (as you know, a backup solution that doesn’t work is not a backup solution)

So far, JungleDisk has delivered on all three. They only charge $.15 per GB/month for storage. It should cost me less than $5 per month for online backup. The automatic backup feature runs seemlessly and quietly in the background. And the coolest feature, is for $1 more per month, JD will backup only parts of large files, like my Outlook PST file, that have changed. So it’s not going to upload all 1.5 GB of my Outlook file every time (because the file itself changes daily).

Make your New Year resolution come true today. Go download and run a trial version of JungleDisk. You might not be as thrilled as I am now, but when you’re hard drive crashes, you’ll thank me then.

Feb 07

The web is great for a multitude of reasons. Here are a few of what it stinks at:

  • Greeting Cards. Received several of these this week. Though appreciated, NOT a good substitute for the real thing.
  • Emotionally Charged Emails. If you are questioning whether you should send the email…don’t. Pick up the phone and call.
  • Thank You’s. A well timed Thank You can be very effective. Don’t ruin your chance by sending a Thank You email. Take two minutes and handwrite your thank you. You’ll stand out like no other.

Obviously, the theme here is personable communication. The web is not great for that. It still can’t beat the “personal touch.” As we get more and more indoctrinated in the web, you’ll stand out if you interact in the ol’ fashioned way. Where companies rely on e-newsletters, send a paper one. While people will shoot off a thank you email, send a handwritten note on your stationary. Instead of telling an employee via email how they’re not measuring up, buy them a coffee and have a heart to hear. The web IS great. But not for instances where the personal touch is necessary.

Feb 02

The future is almost here: I predict there will be a day that our phones are our ‘laptops.’ The scenario:

You will have a docking station with keyboard and monitor at home and at the office. When you are at work, you put your phone in the cradle. Everything-I mean everything, from Application to data reside on your phone. You’ll use the docking station just as you would a desktop computer, to type and view the contents on the monitor. The only difference is, your phone IS the computer. You uncradle the phone and head home.

Later that night, you wanted to work on Photoshop and Outlook. You put your phone in the cradle at home, and you have your entire work environment. No hauling around laptops. Those are so 2009. Going on a trip? So is your computer, because it’s also your cell phone.

Sounds cool? You can basically do it with an Application called MojoPac. This allows you to replicate your desktop on your iPod (or USB device), plug your iPod into another computer, and your PC’s desktop-applications and all-are there for you to work on. The only thing you need is a spare PC at your current location. So if you’re going to be visiting the folks, visiting a friend or going to a client’s office, you don’t need your laptop. Take your iPod or iPhone with MojoPac on it and you’re good to go-as long as they have a PC there of course.

Isn’t the technology great?

More about MojoPac from Lifehacker.