Tags: business blog

Internet Television Services Slowly Encroach on Traditional Cable

Internet Television Services Slowly Encroach on Traditional Cable

Beyond • December 14, 2011

Just a few short years ago, cable’s biggest threat was satellite TV. The satellite television providers hit the scene offering a plethora of channels and what seemed like a much better deal at the time. It wasn’t too long before consumers came to the conclusion that both were pretty similar in terms of programming options and price. Cable and satellite TV providers now have something even more in common as both are faced with the ever looming threat of internet TV. Competition Heats up in the Paid TV Business Over the past two years, major cable companies have been reporting record losses in terms of revenue and subscribers. These losses certainly are not the result of people watching less sitcoms, movies and talk shows. They are a reflection of how times have changed and how much the internet has impacted the paid TV industry. And while the acts of piracy and illegal streaming have been factors in the shift, there are plenty of legitimate internet-based competitors for the traditional television providers to be worried about. In 2007, Apple came out with its Apple TV, an IPTV-based (Internet Protocol Television) service that delivers programming content to the viewer via a digital media receiver. Being such a bold step at the time of its arrival enabled this particular service to make Apple a pioneer in the paid internet TV sector. The continuous addition of new programming options has enabled it to survive. Apple TV users can enjoy movies and sports, make rental purchases from Netflix, and even view content from video sharing sites like Vimeo and YouTube. Despite claims of not wanting to enter the TV business, Apple looks to have a very sustainable alternative in its internet-powered television box. When it’s all said and done, Google may be the biggest piece of the internet TV puzzle. Seemingly motivated by the luscious oasis of advertising revenue, Google launched its Google TV in 2010. Though similar to Apple’s product, Google has added some elements that distance it from the competition. Built on the company’s flexible Android operating system, Google TV boasts a Linux-powered Chrome browser, picture-in-picture functionality and integration with Netflix and Dish Network, with HBO and CNBC being among the main content providers. As an added bonus, the consumer can use their Android or iPhone device as a remote control. Despite mediocre reviews and a lukewarm response, there are plenty of reasons to view Google as a legitimate threat in the internet TV game. In fact, some of the traditional media players have been quite aggressive in refusing to support Google on its initiatives. ABC, CBS, NBC and Hulu (ironically, another company in the IPTV business) have all blocked out their programming from Google TV users. Meanwhile, more companies are gearing up to join Apple and Google in the internet television sector to give the traditional players an even bigger run for their money. Reliability a Factor The appeal to IPTV and internet TV technology in general is all in the possibilities. Interactivity with browsers, media players and other apps can create experiences that customers migrating over from conventional services will absolutely cherish. Internet TV definitely appears to be on the rise, but the old industry does have one thing on its side, and that is a longstanding history of reliability. Cable experiences little to no downtime, and satellite has been steadily improving. Though attractive, what the internet has to offer is unproven to the average consumer. With companies like Dish Network actually indulging in IPTV, it could only be a matter of time before internet television becomes a regular fixture in the world of paid programming. Those putting up resistance may just be delaying the inevitable.


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The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin: Evaluating Digital Currency

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin: Evaluating Digital Currency

Beyond • December 13, 2011

At one time, Bitcoin was riding high as the hottest piece of coin in the entire digital economy. That time wasn’t long ago, actually, but unfortunately for the experimental currency, it looks as if it has already run its course. The once promising instant payment method is losing value and its decline appears to have no end in sight. The Ups and Downs of Bitcoin Right now you may be asking, “What the heck is Bitcoin?” It is a few things actually. First and foremost, it is a network that utilizes peer-to-peer technology to allow users to make, track and verify transactions. It is also the name of the software client that facilitates these transactions, in addition to the actual currency used for making transactions over the network. Officially launched in January of 2009, it has come a long way, as there are currently more than 7 million bitcoins in circulation. Bitcoin started to garner attention early last spring, but it wasn’t until Dan Lyons of Forbes Magazine and Newsweek wrote an article in June that the intriguing new concept truly hit the mainstream limelight. It was this mainstream coverage that exposed Bitcoin to whole new audiences of people who never knew such a form of currency even existed. This exposure led to more interest, which resulted in a huge increase in value. Sadly for those involved, something happened along the way, something that according to critics, has Bitcoin on the brink of extinction. The appeal behind Bitcoin and digital currency in general is the promise of an entirely new economy, one with the potential to change the way consumers shop online. Bitcoin in particular was viewed as a currency that would essentially make shopping online safer by allowing consumers to purchase virtually anything without ever having to give up their bank account details, credit card numbers or other financial details. Despite all the potential, Bitcoin’s stock has taken a huge fall and continues to plummet at an alarming rate. Right now, the digital currency is valued at under $7 USD, a far cry from the $32 registered at the height of its popularity just a few short months ago. The Future of Digital Currency So why has the value of the once promising bitcoin taken such a hit? Well aside from the fact that it is still more of a novelty concept at this point, uncertainty appears to be the biggest factor. Although bitcoins are used in industries ranging from the retail sector to the non-profit vertical, which consists of a few organizations that accept donations given in the currency, overall adoption has been slow. Some experts have warned businesses that making a large investment in this new platform is something that should be avoided due to the high risk involved. The fact that Bitcoin has been associated with criminal activity doesn’t necessarily help the cause, either. Back in June, several outlets were running stories detailing how consumers were purchasing illegal drugs from Silk Road, a web-based marketplace often referred to as the “Amazon of illegal drugs.” While Silk Road purchases cannot be made using a credit card or online payment service like PayPal, they can be made using bitcoins, which prompted two U.S. senators to request that the government investigate the currency to determine if it was being used for money laundering. Furthermore, LulzSec, a known hacking organization, openly admitted to using the currency to fund its illicit activities. Considering all the trouble it has stirred up, the days of Bitcoin may indeed be numbered. However, this controversial currency just may have paved the way for the next big thing. This is not the first digital dollar to come along and certainly will not be the last.


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How Facebook’s Privacy Policies Freely Sold User Data

How Facebook’s Privacy Policies Freely Sold User Data

Beyond • December 6, 2011

It’s difficult to feel sorry for mega-zillionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but you have to admit that his social network is in a bit of a bind. With an upcoming Initial Public Offering (IPO) which could value the company on the high side of $100 billion (yes, with a b) its less than stellar history of privacy protection may be placing the 2012 Wall Street debut between a stock and a hard place. On one side are the 800+ million Facebookers who would really rather not divulge every single aspect of what they share on profiles and posts they believe to be private. On the other side are the advertisers who consider every byte of “private” information to be an invaluable data mining motherlode. How deftly Facebook manages to keep these opposing parties appeased may determine the extent of success the stratospheric IPO can achieve. Mysteriously Targeted Ads The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released an investigative report that the agency conducted on the world’s largest social network. The FTC called out Facebook on a number of duplicitous policies violating user privacy after reassuring them that they would do nothing of the sort. The most critical failing was in sharing personal data marked as private with advertisers. Any Facebook user who would innocuously post various key words and phrases on profiles or posts would find that they were now presented with “mysteriously” but very accurately targeted ads. “I love to play hockey [Bauer], jetski [SeaDoo], and jog [Nike], then relax [La-Z-Boy] watching football [NFL] on my big screen TV [Samsung]…” Consumer Deception In announcing a settlement, the FTC stated that the social network \"deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.\" The litany of privacy violations committed by the social giant are outlined within the pages of the FTC report and cover everything from making a vast amount of data that the users had directly specified as private visible to anyone on the net, and continuing to display photos and videos from deactivated accounts. The FTC excoriated Facebook executives for repeatedly stating that they did nothing of the kind but then were caught with their hand in the http cookie jar, so the settlement calls for biennial privacy audits conducted by the government with fines of $16,000 per violation per day. If the fines were levied on each conceptual violation then Facebook could theoretically just consider it a relatively minor cost of doing business. However, these fines will be applied on a user by user basis, so they could swiftly bankrupt the social network. Stalker Apps It seems that Facebook is either consciously or inadvertently missing the point of the FTC accusations. With the introduction of Seamless Sharing, the social network is turning back the clock to 2007’s Beacon service, which was shut down after a class action lawsuit was filed. The differences between Beacon and Seamless Sharing are… actually next to nothing. Facebook’s new/old application will stalk you across the internet posting everything you do and everywhere you go. If you don’t want your friends, family and coworkers finding out that you visited xxx rated sites, listened to polka, watched a chick flick or checked out instructions on how to poison your spouse and get away with it, then Seamless Sharing is not for you. Mercantile TIA Total Information Awareness (TIA) was a project launched by the US government’s DARPA in the dark days following the 9/11 attacks. The concept was to allow the military access to a digital dossier on every US resident: Everyone’s digital tracks would be shadowed down to the mouse click in order to provide the Department of Homeland Security information on potential terrorist activity. Seamless Sharing can be seen as the mercantile version of TIA but instead of keeping our country safe from terrorism, it keeps Facebook awash in billions of advertiser dollars by acting as our social stalker. Facebook’s IPO relies on how well Zuckerberg & Co. are able to dominate the business of personal data, and the implications are nothing less than staggering.


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Searching for Jobs Effectively Online

Searching for Jobs Effectively Online

Beyond • November 17, 2011

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the jobless rate in the United States dropped down to 9.0% in October, which is the first time it declined since July. There has also been a lot of talk about thousands of manufacturing jobs returning from overseas. The encouraging signs are out there for the workforce to see, but try telling that to the millions of people who are currently without a job. According to a poll conducted in a joint venture by The New York Times and CBS News, 50% of jobless Americans reported feeling ashamed or embarrassed due to being out of work. More than half of respondents said they suffer from anxiety, depression or other emotional issues because they are unemployed. The study revealed some disturbing trends that indicate the nation’s unemployment woes are taking a toll beyond financial burden. Hot Job Finding Tips The huge population of unemployed consumers will tell you that securing a job in this economy is no easy feat. On the bright side, and there always is one, it is not impossible. When applied, the following tips can help the jobless find work in spite of these rough economic conditions: Get to Networking Networking has been an effective job securing tactic long before social media came along. You can be the most qualified candidate of the bunch, but as the saying goes, it’s not always what you know, but who you know. It would be great if you could rub shoulders with a few inside sources who can give you some solid information about the companies you want to work for. If not, use whatever resources are available to you. You can come up on some quality leads by simply contacting the people you know and informing them that you’re on the hunt. Turn to the Internet Even in this day and age, several people are strictly traditional with their job hunting methods. While there is certainly nothing wrong with submitting applications in person, job seekers who have the means should be tapping into the internet and its vast amount of resources. Online you can find a countless number of websites showcasing employment opportunities in fields that range from food services and real estate to manufacturing and IT. In addition to the go-to sources like Career Builder and Monster.com, Twitter, surprisingly enough, when paired with LinkedIn can be a great way to generate job conversations. But there are many more options: Plaxo, which integrates with Simply Hired, is a good place to set up a profile and begin the hunt. There’s also Jobster, which functions much like Career Builder but allows you to picture and tag skills. Facebook can be a great way to find out more about jobs you want or keep abreast of a company’s social channel, though it’s not the best place for a resume. More informally, Craigslist is a great way to find contract jobs - though finding permanent or corporate jobs amidst the anonymous and the scammers can be more difficult. MyWorkster is a network devoted to finding jobs for college graduates and alumni, so if you’re still in school or closely connected to your college or university (or even went to college or university), it’s a good place to check out. Then there’s Jobfox, which claims to specialize in connecting seekers to jobs that are the best fit for them. Have Some Flexibility Today’s job market is more competitive than ever. People are finding it extremely difficult to land work, and the seeker to availability ratio is a big part of the reason why. With so many candidates putting their name in the hat, it could literally pay to take a more flexible approach with your job search. In the current state, it may not be wise to turn down an opportunity that isn’t necessarily a dream job. Of course you don’t want to settle, but you also don’t want to miss out, either. Besides, who knows where you can go once you get your foot in the door? ”Finding a job is a job,” but often the experiences and friends you have in stepping stone jobs will lead to a more stable career in the future. Keep Your Head Up Many of the nation’s unemployed will no doubt agree that finding a job these days can be a long, grueling journey. Some people have been searching for years. You may hit a few dead ends in your search, but that is no reason to get down on yourself. What’s important is understanding that you can’t sit back and wait for things to happen. You need to keep your head up and go out there and make it happen. You will.


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New Email Editor Video, Same Classic Weekly Wrap

New Email Editor Video, Same Classic Weekly Wrap

Beyond • November 11, 2011

Had an awesome lunch today with some co-workers. The topic of first concerts was discussed. Mine was the Who doing Quadrophenia (before John Entwistle passed away). Another was Culture Club opening up for the Smiths, and possibly my favorite was Nirvana opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What was yours? Let me know in the comments, when you’re done checking out this edition of The Weekly Wrap. 5 Ways to Add Qualified Techies to Your Business #6: Wait outside of Comicon and lure them with candy, comics and video games. Discover the other 5 Ways to Add Qualified Techies to Your Business. Benchmark Email Video: How to Use the New Email Editor If you’re like me, you hate to read the instruction manual. No reading necessary with this video walkthrough of the new Benchmark Email editor. See it in action in this new Benchmark Email Video: How to Use the New Email Editor. Customize an Email Template for Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day! If you’ve ever wondered what that smell coming out of your fridge was, or found an ecosystem growing in there, I’ve got just the holiday email campaign for you. Before it gets out of control, Customize an Email Template for Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day! Workplace Motivation: Disney’s Electronic Whip Not to Be Emulated I wear a Mickey Mouse watch every single day. I feel naked without it. It did, however, make me a little sad to look at it after reading this post on Workplace Motivation: Disney’s Electronic Whip Not to Be Emulated. Siri Outages & iPhone 4S Battery Woes Sour Apple Fans I discovered this week that I was eligible for an iPhone upgrade. Being the giant child that I am, I wanted a new toy immediately. However, I was given pause due to the Siri Outages & iPhone 4S Battery Woes Souring Apple Fans. State of the Media: Social Media in Your Brand Marketing More interesting to me than the State of the Union, but less fun, since you can’t play a drinking game based on the amount of standing ovations (don’t act like I’m the only one who does this). Francis delivers the State of the Media: Social Media in Your Brand Marketing. Bing Bleeds and Siri Leads: The Future of the Search Engine Wars I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a George Lucas film to me. Read the book (blog post) first. In a world (said in the movie trailer voice), where Bing Bleeds and Siri Leads: The Future of the Search Engine Wars. Online Marketing Tips: How Global Consumers Shop Online Email goes around the world and so should the reach of your business. Do it with some help from these Online Marketing Tips: How Global Consumers Shop Online. Quora: A Dynamic Informational Database for Your Business I didn’t think I’d like Quora. I’m impatient. I enjoy the instant answers that Google offers. However, if you want an answer from an expert to the exact question you posed, ask Quora: A Dynamic Informational Database for Your Business. Social Media: What Comes First: The Impressions or the Profits? Did I miss something? Did we already figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg? Or have we already ‘crossed that road?’ Get it? Thank you! I’ll be here all week. Try the veal! And answer the question, Social Media: What Comes First: The Impressions or the Profits?


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Social Media: What Comes First: The Impressions or the Profits?

Beyond • November 9, 2011

When social media came to the table in 2005, marketers flew into a frenzy trying to create monetization avenues and figure out how to take the most from the opportunity, all while developing new web presence for their business units. Budgets shifted to compensate for potential ad revenue. Full time in-house roles were created solely to oversee day-to-day Facebook and Twitter account posts. Consulting, marketing and tech firms all scrambled to create analytics able to make sense of - and justify - these new online marketing spends. It\'s been six years, and what we do know is that the state of play has undergone a serious paradigm shift. But the jury is still out on the justification: what is the actual return on investment for social media campaigns? The first issue is that analytics have lagged behind technology. Social media is still a neophyte in the marketing arena, and has been indulged in the way most youths are: the future is bright, the possibilities seem endless in such uncharted territory and experimentation has been highly encouraged. Combine that wide-eyed wonder with the meta-nature of digital goods, and the result is social media budgets feel more like monopoly money than real dollars and cents. The second problem has to do with the qualitative modes of evaluation for existing analytics: What is the return on investment for a \"Like\"? When a company creates a viral video, how does a million YouTube views translate to profits? In a space defined equally by innovation and transience, companies are unsure of their objectives: a 2010 study by Internet Retailer Magazine found that 74 percent of businesses wanted social media to drive traffic to their websites, while only 56 percent wanted to use social media to increase sales. In essence, impressions are suddenly more prized than profits in a digital environment. Not that marketers are not trying to develop more accurate methods to capture the impact of their social media campaigns. Early this year, Facebook announced a new \"People Talking About\" metric meant to quantify user behavior with hard numbers. Other metric tools, like DX Social from Data X, are aimed at teasing out the spurious relationships between social media ads and consumer engagement; and the 20-year-old customer relationship management agency Merkle has developed technology to combine a company\'s extant client information with their Facebook interactions, allowing businesses to eventually determine a recipe for successful viral campaigns. But until that time comes, they opt to continue and even increase investments in social media advertising: a recent study from EMarketer projects that 3.1 billion dollars will be spent for these campaigns in 2012. The good news? According to Adweek reporter Erin Griffin, while the formula for viral success is still in its beta stages, it is also close enough to being correct that businesses can more or less identify what it will take to create a potentially sticky campaign. It\'s also clear that no matter what else you do, volume matters - and people value bonuses over brand. Give a consumer a steady stream of coupons and offers and they will continue to patronize your Fan Page. Finally, there is a comfortable similarity between the traditional marketing funnel and that of social media, from reach to engagement, followed by action and next sharing and advocacy. But understanding what all that sharing and advocacy means in real money? We’re not talking monopoly money any more: this is a whole new game, with its own set of rules.


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