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Monday, September 29, 2008

Bloodbath

OK, enough is enough.

RIMM is down another 13.5%, and GOOG is down 9.1% to this point today.

BUY!!

Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. Do your own due diligence and plan your investments with an appreciation for your own risk tolerance. The expression "BUY!" refers to a dollar-cost averaging strategy that in this case means "begin buying". The strategy refers to solid, profitable, "blue chip" growth tech stocks only.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Will Not Be "Jackified"

To continue the off-topic nature of recent blog posts...

Whenever I tune into a radio station like 92.5 JACK-FM ("Toronto's best music mix," one of several similar best music mixes available), I'm reminded of why I hate it when somebody is so overtly trying to target "people like me".

Sure, if you had to target "people like me," I guess you'd try really hard to follow up a song from Green Day with some bad Platinum Blonde. On paper, I like both -- or have, some days, liked both at the same time. It's the "trying to target me" effort on the whole that's bound to fail. Many days, I don't feel like being me... all over again. Or I was never "me." If me means that "old" dude in the Diet Pepsi ads who is advised to "stick to his Diet Pepsi" because it's definitely not time to get wild and crazy with a shag-carpeted van with Whitesnake painted on the side, with "Your Daddy Don't Know" by Toronto pumping out the window.

It's easy to spot one of these train wrecks of a radio station: every 10th song, they'll slip in a song from The Boss. Everyone likes The Boss! Don't they? Hey, nothing against the guy, but I pretty much never want to hear a song by The Boss.

By refusing to be Jack-ified, I guess I'm ruling out hearing some of my very favorite songs, like I Can't Stand Losing You by The Police. But for reasons that should be obvious to any reader, there are far better ways of including what I like, while making sure that I never, ever, ever, again have to listen to The Boss. To say nothing of the commercials for the Pontiac-Buick dealership, or The Keg Steakhouse.

How do these Perfect Music Mix stations stay in business in this day and age? Arggh. The bank of commercials just ended. I'm supposed to want to hear this Ozzie Osbourne tune right now. I'd rather tune into Alice Cooper's syndicated ramblings, albeit sadly overtop of a similar music mix.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PR Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Today I heard that The Killers are now pronouncing that they will soon supplant U2 as the world's most important, significant, dominant, or highest-grossing band.

Given that they allowed themselves to be compared with The Beatles when they first came out of the gate, this cannot be an accident. It must be a "PR strategy."

Seems like a shame that a popular act would make itself into a laughingstock by attempting to either resemble or compete with immense, unassailable pop culture icons with bodies of work a mile deep.

Maybe PR spin is counterproductive in these kinds of cases. Or even just plain dumb. Especially given the fact that musical longevity is often associated with perceived integrity.

Then again, given that the comments spewed from the mouth of Killers frontman Brandon Flowers (not to be confused with a practice squad wideout with the 49'ers), it could be just bad droogs talkin'.

Doesn't it remind you - just a bit - of the mistakes Powerset made, allowing their launch and the associated spin to be too much about "Google killing"?

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm Feeling All "Not Meta" This Week

I don't know about you, but right now:

  • I don't want to read an article about YouTube, I want to view a video there.
  • I don't want to talk about search, I want to go and do a search.
  • I'm not interested in the vagaries of the content business today. I just want to read stuff.
  • I need more Wall Street news like I need another hole in the head. I run a company. It is small, and it is not melting down. I just have to get myself and our clients from A to B. Really! Not only is the task simple, it's fun. I don't have time to worry about everyone else's problems. Especially the ones Wall Street foisted on itself, causing untold damage to millions of families.
In hard times, the only way anyone has ever dug themselves out is to start digging. Simple as that.

How's your week going?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, September 13, 2008

On the Sourcetool Imbroglio

The New York Times' Joe Nocera reviews a legal case emanating from a site, SourceTool, that felt hard done by Google's Quality Score algorithm.

Sourcetool's owner suspects that Google simply doesn't like the site because it is "another search engine," or because it competes with Business.com, a Google partner.

I doubt this is it.

Anyone with experience in the game can sense what Sourcetool is, and that sense would be augmented or confirmed by a peek at the mix of destination URL's within the AdWords account, no doubt: it's pretty much straight click arbitrage.

Recall that straight click arbitrage is a business model that is all but banned by Google.

It does bring up another point. I just completed a fairly extensive discussion of this here in Winning Results With Google AdWords (2nd ed.), but that won't hit the shelves for a little while, so the capsule summary is this. Yes, there are muddy middle grounds, since many businesses are making a living off arbitrage in one form or another and you can't shut everyone's ads off! And there are cases of mistaken identity in the thin-slicing that an algorithm does to attempt to catch bad guys.

But here, Google isn't just stereotyping or rushing to judgment. Google knows who the person is, knows what the site does, understands the strategy fully, and has consciously decided to ban him from advertising, at least at regular prices. That's not an algorithm talking. It's Google's policy. And antitrust law or not, I believe this is their right.

In short, Sourcetool is in good company -- or in Google's eyes, bad company. It isn't being harassed because it's a "search engine," it's being harassed because it's a scraper-cum-arbitrage site. It contains little or no unique content, and the means of creating a high volume of pages is automated. Google does not feel that these are valuable kinds of sites, and that's been confirmed right out of Eric Schmidt's mouth, to large gatherings of journalists, since 2005 at least.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, September 07, 2008

Insider Thinking Still Grips Promotional Products Industry

Companies in all industries are still not getting the point about full coverage of the "keyword torso," preferring to wallow in high bids on core terms, rounded out by improbably long lists of tail phrases. Some companies are doing pretty well, but their economics could be improved significantly by just doing the basics -- nothing fancy.

Check out the other ways of saying "promotional products" (the term those in the industry itself seem to use most often): logowear, logo items, schwag, swag, and so forth, and the number of Google advertisers drops precipitously. In Canada, the use of alternate terms drops to near zero - leading the all too familiar "unmonetized SERP". Yet there are scores of leading logowear companies vying for those leads... aren't there? You wouldn't know it by doing a search -- especially north of the border.

In their defense, maybe some advertisers in the B2B arena find that pop terms like schwag are generating too many consumer-based queries looking for free stuff, leading to untargeted clicks or low CTR's. I just use this as an example. Surely the masses aren't searching for "logowear."

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Will Chrome Make Other Browsers Better?

Of all the responses to the Chrome announcement, three stood out for me.

1. The most obvious approach is to download it and try it, as I've just done. If you like it, predict world domination for Chrome! The thing is lightning fast, and bound to improve. So the commenter on the previous post, Mark, makes a compelling case when he argues: "...while my [Twitter] friends are hardly a representative sample of anything other than agency technogeeks, so far they are blown away with Chrome's speed. Having found Firefox agonizingly slow lately, I would be wary about making negative assumptions about its [Chrome's] popularity." To me personally, this is a compelling argument. I've only been using Chrome for ten minutes, and already I feel some reluctance towards returning to plodding with Firefox. But the question remains, does this matter in terms of market share. 

2. So as a reality check, we have the "it's all pie in the sky" position that reminds us that this creates further chaos in the marketplace but may not be a widely adopted solution. This is Hank Williams' "IE 6 still has 25% share" argument. Inertia is enormous, goes this argument. So Chrome won't pick up share from incumbents, is the logical extension of this argument.

3. An intriguing third possibility opens. Now I am with Hank that the mad dash for Chrome is only going to add up to so many users, at the end of the day. I think many of us early adopters have sort of had our fill of wheedling folks to switch: from Hotmail to GMail, from IE to Firefox, from AOL to anything but, etc. A little voice inside us says: hey, let them surf more slowly. Let their system crash. I'm tired of being the advocate for things that are obviously better (to me). You can lead a horse to water... until even the effort of leading gets too onerous. But what if those horses, sticking with their incumbent browser, could get most of the benefit of Chrome anyway, because new versions will incorporate Chrome's best open-source code elements? That's sort of Dana Blankenhorn's take. Other browsers will use the code, and get better, too. For this scenario to play out in a way that keeps Firefox's share where it is, though, Firefox will need to release a Chromey version 4 in fairly short order, or risk bleeding users over to Chrome. Meanwhile, it is hard to imagine that Microsoft would make major changes to IE to make it suck less in a meaningful way, especially not adopting Google's code elements. So the potential scenario is in place where the performance gap between IE and all other browsers in the marketplace becomes so significant that most of the inertia, non-power-users see the gap and switch out of IE. Are inertia products like Hotmail and IE really just going to hang onto share forever if the gap in functionality is so wide? Hmm, probably for a fairly long time for anyone over the age of 50 (or with a stick-in-the-mud mindset). What we have is the real prospect of a divided user base -- half the world using stuff that sucks, the other half using something that's obviously faster, better, and less error prone. Inertia is indeed that powerful. Luckily for some of the inertia people, all browsers stand to improve based on the new thinking Google has brought to bear on the browser market.

Conclusion: no dominant browser will emerge, and Microsoft's share won't plummet to 20%. But the part of the world that is eventually willing to actively switch to a significantly better product is now closer to half (let's call it 25-30% of the app-using public) -- it's not going to remain an obscure "preserve of the tech elite". And I think that also goes for products like GMail. Their growth is not done yet, and the fact that Google can continue to cross-promote its products gives all of them many second chances for market share gains. So, I'll stick with my second prediction -- that Chrome will reach 7.5% to 16% market share by 2010 -- not higher mainly because I think that improvements in Firefox and Safari will be enough to satisfy those users.

More nuanced viewpoints on Chrome also point to integration with Android and mobile browsing. No doubt a very important point in its own right. But if we're all going to spend all our time browsing on a smart phone, what are we going to do with all of these 23" monitors on our desks?

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Bulk Face Naming On Picasa!

This is one you just have to cheer, for the "hey, cool!" factor. Today Picasa is set to release a feature that will recognize a series of faces in your collection as being the same person, and offering the ability to tag them all quickly. Now that's sharp!

I sort of stumbled into using Picasa as it was one of the first photo organizers I used seriously - Flickr notwithstanding.

I'm glad I stuck with it. They keep adding features and I find it a joy to use. If they could teach me to take better photos, we'd be all set... but like many, I find that it's pretty easy to remain a "talented" amateur in these days of smart cameras, smart organizers, smart editors, and now, smart tagging apps.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, September 01, 2008

Google Chrome: What Share?

Now that news has leaked that Google is set to release a browser, time to ask the business question: what market share will Google Chrome top out at over the next 2-3 years?

Firefox has been surprisingly robust, but it took a long time to get to the 10-15% share area. That said, that growth would have been inexorable in my opinion. It's at 40% - equal to or ahead of IE - for some websites I see analytics data for. The cool (and not-Microsoft) factor was bound to keep spreading.

That said, Safari still doesn't have huge share, but arguably it might keep adding.

So will a new browser actually get adopted? My gut reaction was to say no. It's a tough fight to get people to switch. But then I saw some of the promises being made - such as shielding tabs from one another to prevent rogue applications from crashing the browser, and a variety of performance improvements that we can only assume Google can deliver on, and it seems like the product will just flat out sell itself.

That said: I am no fan of change when it comes to browsers, and for most of the population that aversion to changing platforms is times ten. I am also no fan of big monopolies - but of course that is why so many of us felt relief that Firefox had momentum, so we wouldn't have to use Microsoft's product.

Either Chrome will wind up like GMail -- eventually rising to 15% market share even though everyone *you* know seems to use it -- or it will surprise everyone and go up to about double that, as people defect from both IE and Firefox in favor of a much improved experience (fighting inertia and anti-Google paranoia in the process).

Here's the call, then: by this time in 2010 I am guessing Chrome's browser market share in the US will be above 15% but no higher than 32%. This assumes that Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all about equally savvy about the various carrots, tie-ins, and inducements they can use to increase browser market share, which I think is the case.

Will I use it? Probably yes, for the same reasons I switched to GMail after initial skepticism. If it makes the experience that much better, faster, and less error-prone, then that is the bottom line for me.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




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