Linkedin Offering Free Coffee in Union Square

March 31st, 2011

The ever continuing fun with marketing continues..

Linkedin offered very welcome free coffee in Union Square today.

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Marketing

Visa is planning to launch a PayPal like service.

March 16th, 2011

Visa planning to launch a service that allows you to send money to a card number, or email address. The service has not yet launched. There is not timeline and there is no place to register an interest yet. Some of this will happen as institutions roll out the service but some consistency and information about the features of merchant interfaces would be very useful for developers. The service is apparently already available over Visa for some customers of institutions outside the US.

Bank customers of participating financial institutions will have the option to select a Visa account as the destination for funds when making a personal payment. By simply entering the recipient’s 16-digit Visa account, email address or mobile phone number, consumers can send funds directly from their bank account to a recipient’s Visa account. This makes sending money to a niece for her birthday or to a son in college simpler, faster, and more convenient than before.

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Finance

We Pay for Distribution not Goods Themselves

January 5th, 2011

I was musing again today on the cost of distribution having shopped for a replacement cell phone battery. I found it both online and at the local Best Buy electrical store, but the price disparity was surprising. Online video camera and cell phone batteries quote a list price of $35 to $50 online but are discounted online down to $2.50 to $9.50. This is to accommodate the higher price that local stores want to charge as the recommended price.

Best Buy were of course charging $38 for the same battery that I just ordered one from Amazon for $1.38 and which will be delivered for below $4.50. We can fool ourselves with all the justifications used to explain the premium to us. Brand, Service etc. but in reality it was the availability and convenience at the end of the street that provided justification and the cost of running and stocking that store that needed to be paid for. Manhattan rent and staff to find things for us, as oppose to the online search and automated pick and ship warehouse in a cheap location with cheaper staff.

Twenty years ago I designed under contract a simple single chip circuit which a games vendor sold as a plugin component to a games console. The electronics trader in Hong Kong charged 50c per unit. The Chinese manufacturer probably received around 30c. The games vendor sold the units packaged at around $10 to a US distributor who sold them to Game Stop at below $20 who retailed them at $39.95 to the consumer. One could consider it to be a markup of ridiculous proportions but in reality it is the distribution and productization (Branding, selection, packaging, marketing, advertising, placement)  that is being paid for. I did make a mental note to myself to try to be the middle man next time around! Such a next time alas didn’t occur.

In rearranging my apartment recently I found myself selling books, DVDs and furniture that I had purchased at retail, or auction in the case of the furniture. The reality is that the value of these possessions when redistributed by me is negligible. Even worse the furniture has a negative value if I have to pay for it to be stored or removed as identifying a ready buyer is no mean trick even in a world of online markets. I have given up on letting Craigslist people visit the doorman.

All of these experiences remind me yet again that so much of the value is about where something is and identifying somebody who wants it. It is one thing for the shopper to be able to find the object on Amazon but quite another for the object to find a buyer. That is the side of the equation that most of the sales, advertising, brokers and agents work on. This is also the area that GroupOn attacks — being partly marketing to new customers and partly a method of clearing perishable supply. There is still plenty of money to be made in improving this life-cycle. Distribution to the right buyer, not the product itself, is what we are really buying. The distribution and not the product.

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The New York Times iPad Application

April 6th, 2010

It is interesting to note that the user interface on the iPad is not as effective as in iFlex due to the limited range of control provided by the original iPhone gestures list. On the iPhone the swipe gesture was only used to spin through a list. As a result the only swipe gestures provided are either horizontal or vertical to spin through a displayed list. You can not swipe up and down in a list that is displayed as sequence of horizontal screens.

In the iFlex user interface the user moved within an article by using the arrow keys to scroll vertically and with the left and right keys to scroll to the next article in the section. This provided a great user experience as scrolling down within an article was natural and scrolling left to right to skim the above the fold view of each article provided ideal article surfing.

With the restriction to a single left right swipe for the scroll through a list, the developers have been forced to only allow scrolling through an individual article, and then forced the user to use a very awkward button to return to the front page. Pressing a button is not directional, so doesn’t allow the next or previous article to be selected, and interrupts the surfing experience with the need to press a small button instead of using a swipe.

In the absence of multi-dimensional swipe, the iPad has a drag gesture which would allow movement both vertically and horizontally with gestures. It isn’t clear if the iPad presentation layer would allow this to be used to flip to the next item rather than providing a location for a moved object but this may provide an interim solution. The long term solution would be to switch to a swipe gesture which allows movement in both dimensions and a return to an elegant surfing of the content.

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Society, Technology, Video , , , , , , , ,

iPad Launch

April 3rd, 2010
Apple Center, 86th and Lex

Apple Center, 86th and Lex

Apple Stores and every Best Buy with an Apple Center released a stock of iPads today, and as of 10am this morning some were still available for sale. There were 2 left at the 86th Street store in Manhattan.

The initial reaction from many was that they had imagined it being larger. The overall dimensions are just under 7.5 by 10 inches with the display area being smaller within that (9.7 inches diagonally). People seemed to have assumed that it would be letter sized (8.5 x 11 inches) and one can indeed imagine a larger display working well.

The general look and feel is the same familiar interface as the iPhone which somewhat undermines the newness of the experience but nevertheless it seemed to work extremely well. There was a snappy response to the touch screen, and the improved viewing area provided an excellent effect with Google maps and the fantastic photo pile representation in iPhoto allowing sorting of piles of photos.

The onscreen keyboard won accolades from the majority of people trying the iPad. Several commented that they had worried about the keyboard size and people seemed to be using the keyboard in landscape (Where it is significantly larger) and in portrait orientation without a problem.

On one 16GB model there appeared to be a recurring problem with the accelerometer not displaying applications in the correct orientation. The display models were one each of the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models with all of them appearing to have equally excellent speed.

The iBooks feature was launched in the iTunes Store this morning and there is a free application to read them which can be downloaded (Presumably also on an iPhone), though it requires registration with an Apple account which prevented the iBooks feature from being demonstrable in the store this morning.

Video displayed smoothly without a jitter while streaming over WiFi. The display of video was nearly full screen in some cases but within a frame from others such as CNN. The 3G version of the iPad is not available until the end of April. Streaming video over 3G is likely to be more constrained by the network itself than the iPad.

Most of the purchasers had, of course, arrived when the store opened rather than being persuaded in the store. I have an idea that selling online in the same way as the Kindle is a better model than in store for some new devices as the actual usage, as in the case of the Nook, can give rise to further questions and indecision.

The iPad experience was definitely positive, with a lot of interest from random passers by. One visitor from Australia spent some time with the iPad but felt it wouldn’t be good for use in Australia because of the US branded applications for CNN and others that were installed. In reality the WiFi version should work well in any location and the promise is that the 3G version will not be locked to its SIM so would be usable with local SIMs when traveling.

Most people will probably have to imagine over several days how the device would fit into their lives. This ambiguity of purpose is likely to slow down sales and it isn’t clear how many people will want to put money down on the device if it doesn’t appear to be work or study related. In this respect devices like the Kindle have a simpler sales story as they have a single purpose. The experience for those who do purchase the device does deliver and we can definitely expect the models in stores this morning to be sold out by now.

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Technology , ,

I Love TED

March 9th, 2010

Some favorite TED bookmarks:

No message but you should watch these three humorous minutes by Renny Gleeson on social phone use; or some game theory regarding Iran; or even using house plants to provide air quality.

My all time favorite is the discussion of the developing world illuminated by some great graphics.

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Technology, Video

Murdoch: Reality or Nostalgia?

February 25th, 2010

Rupert Murdoch was much derided for his attempt to promote the use of pay walls (The requirement to pay before receiving access to the site), but the New York Times and others are singing the same tune with their support of Steve Brill’s Press+ paywall software. The New York Times have announced they are going to use it for some of their blogs though they haven’t announced which blogs yet.

Rupert Murdoch described two kinds of readers. Those who arrive through search engines, about which the content provider has minimal information, and loyal readers. He has difficulty monetizing the fleeting search arrivals and relies on the demographics of the loyal readers to sell advertising opportunities to those with significant advertising budgets. The resulting conclusion that this search traffic must be behind a pay wall was derided by many commentators as nostalgic nonsense.

Maybe Mr Murdoch is just dealing with the reality that search driven traffic comes with insufficient data to allow advertising to pay for the cost of paying journalists.

While loyal readers and advertising may pay for the lower costs of digital content for main stream content there is going to be a section or category of content which can’t raise, say $200 per story, and for these more specialized articles to be written by paid journalists there needs to be some kind of pay wall model. It is easy to imagine this for specialized trade press particularly targeting high margin businesses such as financial services but what isn’t yet clear is how large the paid market is under main stream brands such as the New York Times or the New York Post.

Outside of high volume advertising based model, and the paywall model, the remaining models are of sponsorship, subsidy, pro-am journalism and advertorial where there is no attempt to make significant revenue directly from the content. The recent comments by Jeff Jarvis regarding hyper local content and CUNY’s venture with the New York Times are leading in this third direction with a combined pro-am and advertorial flavor maintained with minimal advertising revenue.

All of these models will inevitably exist for different kinds of content both for separate publications or combined within different sections of the same publications. We just need to let things settle out and see how much content is going to be consumed under each model.

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Management, Marketing , ,