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February 2006, Week 2 Marketing Archives

Friday, February 10, 2006

Bootstrapping An Internet Startup

I haven't got time to read this crap!You know it's been a while since I last posted but I figured I'd give you guys an update on what's going on in my world. The only question is where do I begin and how much do I actually tell you. Cause I don't want to give away too much and ruin the surprise that is our next big THING. Yet at the same time I don't want to be too stingy with all the stuff we're working on at Labitat.

Whoa, what was that?! Dang, it was caution! It totally just jumped out of my arms and into the wind. I guess the seal has been broken.

What are you working on?
We're working on some good stuff that will help us gain insight on niche vertical markets from many perspectives. One of our biggest initiatives is data mining. So we're working on pieces that allow us to gather information that's actually useful to people trying to make a living online and those who don't ever go online. Cause even people that never go online are affected by what happens online... think about our last Presidential election and how a no-name candidate got a ton of funding from an orchestrated grass roots blogger movement.

Who's funding Labitat?
Bwahaaa, that's a good one. We're doing this thing old skool style. Straight up bootstrapping it. What is bootstrapping it you ask? Bootstrapping means that we're not putting any money into the business and that the only money available for salaries, development, rent, health insurance, soft drinks, travel, research, computers, cell phones, internet access and every other expense incurred when running a business is paid for 100% in full by revenue the business generates.

That means if the business doesn't generate any revenue then it's employees don't get paid. You heard me straight. We're not taking on any investment capital (though we've been offered it many a time already) and forcing the business to make money whether it likes it or not.

Isn't it unnecessary to bootstrap when funding is available?
NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!! Bootstrapping a business is the only way I will allow Labitat to build. It's an organic process and those who've never been backed into a corner and told that the business has to make money or they'll lose everything could never understand what I'm saying.

Bootstrapping is like growing your own vegetables. It's not for everyone but there's something so gratifying about knowing you made it work. Just ask Evan. Jan 24 I had to call him and tell him there was a good chance he wasn't going to get all of his paycheck on the 31st because Bank of America was holding a check and not going to release the funds because of a new rule they implemented on all new business accounts. How well do you think Evan and I slept that week? Because it wasn't an option to not pay Evan I was forced to make Bank of America release our funds so we could run payroll. I had to get creative and find a solution to our problem and I did. When the funds are a plenty you don't get those opportunities to build your own confidence and to realize how much you can accomplish when failure isn't an option.

Yes bootstrapping is not easy but even Evan will agree that 6 months from now it was all worth it.

What does Labitat do?
Unfortunately right now I can't give up our services but I can say that we're committed to making a lot of noise and launching no less than 10 new products between now and December of this year. They'll be geared towards online marketing, market research, search analytics, blogger relationship management, hamburgers, surfing and parenting.

More to come.

Will you ever be a regular contributor to Mshift?
Right now my main focus is making sure the Labitat technology platform is solid as a rock and blogging comes after that. It's actually been quite a cleansing experince not blogging every day and I'm thankful for my boy John Gartner and his initiative. I'm also thankful for Evan Roberts and his commitment to the company as well as a couple kick-ass attorneys I know.

I'll be posting from time to time but even when I'm not posting you can be sure I'm pointing the fellas in the right direction.

Thanks to everyone that's been reading. Our stats have been off the chain. We're pushing 30k readers a month from natural search results alone and it's growing every day... thank you to all of you.

Bootstrapping An Internet Startup By Jason Dowdell at 06:18 PM
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Travel Sites Sued Over Taxes

The next destination for travel sites Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Cheap Tickets, Orbitz and Priceline is the courtroom. The city of San Diego claims that the sites underpaid the accommodation charges for booking rooms there.

The lawsuit alleges thatExpedia et al paid its tax based on the wholesale price of rooms, even though customers may have paid taxes based on the full price of a room.

Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia have also filed similar lawsuits, which are all pending in court. Don't they have computers and programs that should be able to automate this process? "We have a room for you with an excellent view of concrete and three meals per day included."

Travel Sites Sued Over Taxes By John Gartner at 03:33 PM
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The TivOlympics

The 2006 Winter Games marks the first time that digital video recorders will be used in substantial numbers to watch portions of the Olympics. Both TiVo and NBC could capitalize on viewers recording events televised at odd hours to widen the viewing audience.

For example, the first USA women's hockey game is on at 3 a.m. Saturday here on the West Coast, which means that only the chemically enhanced are likely to be watching. Many events are on in the early morning hours, so NBC should encourage people to record them, and have special promotions tied to viewers watching the commercials in between.

NBC could offer a trip to NYC and extra role on Law and Order for people who pick up the "clues" embedded in ads, which would require people not to use the fast forward feature. TiVo is offering an online programming guide to help people to schedule their DVRs via the Internet, but they could use TV ads to reinforce that recording events is the only method of making sure you don't miss the Skeleton or Luge events.

NBC is delivering some news to mobile phones, but they should have partnered with iTunes to sell downloads of the games. Perhaps their contract with the Olympic Committee prevents any other distribution method, but they should have a plan for making webcasts and downloads essential parts of their strategy.

Speaking of sports marketing, I received an email from MLB.com offering the latest album from Train, which included links to an interview with the band from the MLB studios. Paraphrasing Steven Colbert, a tip of the cap to MLB for trying to find revenue streams during the off-season by presenting a band that may be of interest to me, but a wag of the finger because there is no baseball-related tie-in whatsoever.

The TivOlympics By John Gartner at 10:08 AM
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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Software Knocks Off eBay Counterfeiters

Fake goods dealers have been having a field day on eBay, selling tens of thousands of illegal items on the popular portal. The company is battling a lawsuit from Tiffany & Company that alleges that eBay isn't doing enough to fight the trafficking of bogus bartering.

In addition to Tiffany's, Microsoft, sunglass maker Oakley, and many others say they have found thousands of illegal auctions.

MarkMonitor released software that identifies fraudulent items for sale on auction sites by tracking illegal use of logos, images and text. The Auction Monitoring system is a dashboard console that ranks the auctions that could most severely harm the true brands.

The company has worked with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to find illegal copies of DVD and videos floating around the web using software for scouring the general web, and this is their first application aimed at auction houses.

There is no bulletproof method of preventing the existence of gray and black markets online (just like there will always be click fraud) and offline, but the technology for preventing mass fraud must keep pace with the vehicles that simplify commerce. Companies that profit from illegal sales should be held accountable, and the courts will soon clear up the gray area of their responsibility.

Software Knocks Off eBay Counterfeiters By Jason Dowdell at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Google Takes Auctions Offline

Google is moving the AdWords auction model to print. The company is working with several magazines to auction off ad space, and companies only pay if they win the auction.

Google's attempt to penetrate old media will be interesting as print is anxious to restock its flagging inventory of ads, but changing a well-establishd model is like landing a plane without the gear down.

Print ad budgets have traditionally been allocated months in advance without leaving things to chance, so those playing will likely be folks who have only worked online before. The risk here is convincing folks who are used to measurable ROI and conversion rates that print is worth the investment.

Google Takes Auctions Offline By Jason Dowdell at 05:40 PM
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Bad Behaviors

While looking for splog I came across one blogger who reprinted an entire eight paragraph post of mine, but provided attribution and a link back. I posted a comment on the guy's website telling him to knock off stealing my content, and he became infuriated that I dared to point out his abuse of content.

He believed that because he provided the link and attribution, that he was entitled to take the entire contents of a post. He told me he thought he was doing me a favor: "Were I stealing your work that would be one thing. I was simply giving you a larger audience."

This goes to show that giving a monkey a keyboard doesn't make him a writer. Taking the entire contents of a post gives the reader no incentive to read the original article. It's like illegally downloading an album, and playing it at a party, and then telling the cops "I was just giving them an audience." Book 'em Dan-o, that's stealing.

Blog publishing sites should post in clear language the requirements of respecting copyright and a practical guide to bloggers ethics (even though for most folks it is common sense). They may have reference to prohibited behavior in their terms of service (see Bloglines for an example), but it's usually far down on a list and written in lawyer lingo. Newbie bloggers should have an easier method of understanding what is correct.

I also got a call yesterday from a telemarketer with a strong Indian accent offering me a new credit card service. The woman introduced herself as "Carolyn Jones," which leads me to believe that they must be a big fan of the original Addams Family in Dehli.

Why oh why do telemarketers from outside the U.S. claim to have cutesy American names? It's not like we'll remember them after we get off the phone, and pretending to be something you're not is an insult to the intelligence of everyone involved.

Bad Behaviors By John Gartner at 10:18 AM
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Someone Stop the Sploggers

The problem of splog (or splam blogs) seems to be getting worse instead of better. Opportunists are scraping content from multiple RSS feeds and combining them into faux blogs whose sole raison d'etre is to generate revenue from Google ads.

If you search for one of the blog engines (Feedster, Blogspot, Technorati, etc.) for the name of a blog, you'll find dozens to hundreds of websites generated by bots, and of course the blog writers see zero revenue from that. For an example of folks who are pilfering the MarketingShift feed, click here.

It's a serious problem that is costing advertisers money, and something has to be done about it. Feedster president Chris Redlitz says that its everyone's responsibility to put these clowns out of business -- the blog companies (Blogger et al) that allow the sites to be published, the companies that provide the ads (Google, Yahoo, etc.) and the search engines that generate the traffic.

"They muck up our index," says Redlitz, who says that Feedster is working on technical solution for cleaning out the splog.

RSS makes it easy to distribute content, and I'd hate it if publishers are forced to protect the feed subscription process by requiring registration to prevent bots from stealing content, but it may soon come to that. Splogging may be technically legal, but it's certainly not ethical and must be addressed.

Someone Stop the Sploggers By John Gartner at 09:57 AM
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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It's Up, and It's No Good

When it comes to maximizing exposure online, the mega-corporations who spent millions on Super Bowl commercials were for the most part like Seahawks kicker Josh Brown -- wide of the mark.

Many of the advertisers didn't post web addresses during their commercials or execute search engine optimization to make sure that consumers looking for more information found them, according to Reprisemedia

While Ford paid Disney to have everyone's favorite frog pitch it's new green hybrid vehicle, GM bought the keyword Kermit, stealing any online bounce Ford may have gotten from its ad. Reprisemedia produced a Super Bowl scorecard that also chastised the advertisers for not creating custom websites for their campaigns.

You would think that after spending all this money to produce and distribute the ads that the companies would know better by now. My personal favorites were the FedEx spot, Leonard Nimoy pitching Aleve, and the Budweiser magic fridge The Burger King ad was just awful.

It's Up, and It's No Good By John Gartner at 09:27 PM
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Libraries Offer Free Downloads

The digital revolution continues at libraries as book lenders across the country are now offering audiobooks that can be downloaded to PCs and portable music players.

Libraries in Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland and Los Angeles allow members to check out audiobooks that include digital rights management software from Overdrive, Inc. Alas poor Mac and Linux folks, it only works with Windows Media Audio devices.

The system allows only one copy of the audiobook to be checked out at a time, which could limit the potential negative impact on audiobook sales. The service appears to be popular, as every title I investigated at my library has a waiting list (who knew so many people wanted to hear Paradise Lost)?

Perhaps the upside for audiobook sellers is that more people will become familiar and comfortable with listening to books and the DRM software that prevents copying. On the other hand if the software contains any Sony-esque covert tracking (such as comparing the songs on a person's computer against the library database), then it could turn off users.

Libraries Offer Free Downloads By Jason Dowdell at 02:25 PM
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Monday, February 06, 2006

Something Wiki This Way Comes

One of the limitations for niche publishers that offer web searches is that the top results often don't match the match the content of the site. For example, if you do a web search (Yahoo) on Sports Illustrated's football site for Bush, none of the top search results mention running back Reggie, but you do get links about the band and the President.

Enter the "swiki" from Eurekster, an adaptive search engine that re-ranks results from Yahoo based on the searches performed on that site alone. Over time the results that are most frequently clicked on will rise to the top, according to Eurekster CEO Steven Marder.

Marder says that swiki's improved results can double the use of search on a site. Publishers can exclude competitors or other domains from showing up in the results. Swikis also generate"buzz clouds" of popular search terms. The software is available as a free download for small publishers or as a hosted service.

A natural extension would be for the contextual ads generated to also match the filtered search results, and Marder says that integrating advertising is in the works. People don't object to ads, but "irrelevant advertising is the problem," according to Marder. Eurekster currently works with Yahoo and Miva, and does a revenue split with its customers.

Speaking of things wiki, a group of Wiki enthusiasts met in Portland this weekend to brainstorm about where to take the fledgling technology.

Something Wiki This Way Comes By John Gartner at 12:17 PM
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Amazon + Adsense = AmazonSense

That's right bloggers and web masters you will soon have another choice to help you monetize your blog or website. Amazon is entering the contextual advertising sector, so no longer will you be limited to Google Adsense, Yahoo Publisher Network, and the 3rd tier engines. Amazon is testing their program on an invite only basis and when/if I get invited I will report back to the people of mshfit. The little that I do know is that Amazon will not just be pushing it's own products but will be offering an Adsense-like network, which gives us advertisers more places to put our advertising dollars. I expect this network to offer a good bang for your buck as the prices will pretty low until the network gets more popular. Stay Tuned!

Amazon + Adsense = AmazonSense By Evan Roberts at 10:58 AM
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Lycos Giving Up on Search?

Our man John recently posted commentary about Lycos trying to hang in there in hopes of someone acquiring them. Well it seems like they are trimming the fat and have laid off their entire Search Department. There is a comment on John's post that I have confirmed with a friend who works closely with Lycos that they have in fact fired the entire search department. I'm assuming this means the natural and paid search departments, so what do these Lycos layoffs mean for them? Are they giving up on search? Going to partner with the Evil Google? Yahoo? or just wait and hope they get acquired?

Good luck to all the fired Lycos people. On a positive note, it shouldn't be too hard for them to find a job in this booming search industry.

Lycos Giving Up on Search? By Evan Roberts at 10:44 AM
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SimpleFeed Secures RSS

Today at the DEMO conference SimpleFeed announced new services for folks looking to deliver information to partners or consumers via RSS. SimpleFeed Secure distributes RSS feeds over a secure (SSL) connection and will work with browsers such as IE 7 that support password protected URLs.

SimpleFeed wants to tap into the financial services sector by offering RSS as a simpler method of distributing secure information to clients, or to give sellers an option for providing "deep information about products," according to CEO Mark Carlson.

For smaller companies looking to dip a toe into RSS, SimpleFeed announced technology to automatically convert an HTML page into an RSS feed, as well as a web interface that uses templates to automatically generate feeds.

Perhaps publishers such as the NYTimes or iTunes will begin to RSS to distribute protected feeds, or develop subscription services that send out entire articles or programs via RSS. RSS could become a value add that offers publishers a chance to earn more revenue than what is generated by feeds linking to their websites.

I'm really surprised that Google hasn't started to offer RSS feeds yet of its growing database of products and podcasts. Let's get with it people.

SimpleFeed Secures RSS By John Gartner at 10:16 AM
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« February 2006 Week 1 February 2006 Week 3 »

  • Week 1 (7 entries) February 1-4
  • Week 2 (13 entries) February 5-11
  • Week 3 (21 entries) February 12-18
  • Week 4 (18 entries) February 19-25
  • Week 5 (2 entries) February 26-28

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