In keeping with the onset of summer, be warned that some of our blogs may be more like "Traffick Lite" than "Yahoo Serious."
It's never wise to underestimate the fun one can have with the network effect as it intersects with searchability. Interesting people read my uninteresting comments from time to time, which can be shocking until you realize that there is a lot of ego surfing and corporate intelligence surfing going on.
So awhile back I made some harmless and no doubt inaccurate offhand remark that Daimler Chrysler might soon hit a spurt of growth before the competition knew what hit them. My reasoning was more convoluted than you might think, but it obviously involved the meshing of two big corporate cultures (and car cultures) and the potential to convince more Americans than ever to buy Mercedes at various price points by calling them Chryslers.
(I immediately began second-guessing that as I decided that the new Chrysler Crossfire was a bit of an awkward "Homer-mobile" - and pretty much hate every other car Chrysler's coming out with these days.)
Bewildered by my bullishness, someone very close to the action at the automaker emailed me to ask me where I was getting this stuff, because as far as they knew, sales were weak and there was a fairly long list of reasons they'd continue to be weak. I gulped and admitted that it was pretty much an offhand opinion that I no longer even hold.
But maybe the wacky-looking Crossfire was just a false start. Perhaps it's the Chrysler ME Four-Twelve that signals a new era of excitement in the post-merger automaking world. Designing a car that every boy would want has to be a better idea, at least from an image standpoint, than hiring Celine Dion as your pitchman in an attempt to sell the same old declining stuff.
Or to put it another way -- traditional megabuck marketing doesn't work anymore. And although most folks aren't in the market for a twelve-cylinder race car, a good way to get their attention is to prove you can make better products. At a top speed of 248 mph, and a power-to-weight ratio unparalleled outside the insect world, this car poses a serious threat to the short-hop airline business.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
A couple of years ago, I wrote that Yahoo was "no longer good," in part because they showed too many ads that were too intrusive given the loyalty of the users they were showing them to:
"As I scroll through Yahoo message board posts, I must wait as enormous ads are served on every page. When I try to use my mailbox, I'm hammered again with huge rectangles of low-CPM disrespect. Some days it seems as if parts of Yahoo are entirely taken over by creepy ads for hidden cameras."
I've regularly blogged about my disgust with the fact that Yahoo continued showing ads to Yahoo Mail users even after they paid $40 or $50 for the premium inbox.
The fact that the largest premium inbox at 100 MB was still too small was made even more obvious when Google rolled out GMail proposing to give users 1GB of storage... for free.
Today, that's all changed. Premium users of Yahoo Mail (the customers who pay for a bigger inbox and more features) no longer see any ads at all! The increase in speed and the decrease in distraction are going to be significant. And the inbox is 2GB, twice what GMail offers.
My significant other down the hall reports that her Yahoo Mail box now offers 1GB, absolutely free, although it does continue to harbor ads, as one might expect.
Hey, don't misunderstand me. I'm not one of these deficit-budgeting schnooks who wants to get more than he pays for. It's not gimme, gimme, gimme, just "give me choices." I'm going on record as saying I'll pay up to $100 a year for the premium Yahoo Mail, just as long as they continue to respect me.
With the competition emanating from the Googleplex, that seems like a probable outcome.
Having gotten so used to Yahoo Mail, and finding it suddenly so in tune with my needs, something suddenly occurs to me: is there now any reason to switch to GMail now that Yahoo Mail runs faster, has a huge storage capacity, and doesn't distract me with big banners? I'm at a loss!
The little voice down the hall just called out: "GMail is still cooler." Perhaps, but one senses that Yahoo has adroitly played this one to a stalemate.
Yahoo's promised summer upgrade to Yahoo Mail has already come to fruition. Members of Mail Plus now have a stupefying 2 gigabytes of storage now, and free mail users have 100 megabytes.
Of course, this comes on the heels of the 1 gigabyte of storage and bevy of improvements on webmail features introduced by Google's Gmail, which has essentially left its beta period. Tens of thousands of AdWords customers are now receiving invitations to sign up. That should increase the number of Gmail users to 100,000 in a matter of weeks.
Other improvements for Mail Plus users include the purging of all graphical ads. Andrew should be pleased by this one, having argued convincingly for years that it's ridiculous to force paying subscribers to view those annoying giant Flash ads. Well, problem solved, Andrew!
Yahoo also polished up a new interface for Yahoo Mail. But, it appears to mainly consist of slightly improved tweaks to the Yahoo Mail stylesheet, and a nicer color palette. The interface update is probably the most underwhelming aspect of these welcomed changes.
I think these changes are great, and I have no doubt they will make my e-mail experience more enjoyable. But, I don't think the 2 GB of storage will make that big of a difference to most Yahoo members who want to try Gmail. After all, Gmail's 1 GB of storage is free, compared to Yahoo's comparatively skimpy 100 MB.
Both Google and Yahoo are winners in this battle. But, as with most competition in business, it's the consumer who really wins, and that's good.
Monday, June 14, 2004
By Andrew Goodman
For the past year I've been trying hard to hammer home the point that Google's lead in terms of search referrals is greater than it ever was, and greater than you might think. Never argue with the marketplace.