01 Jan

Subtraction.com – Subscribing to The New York Times

The total customer experience here is haphazard at best, and, at worst — I hate to say this because I am still friendly with many people at the company, but in truth there’s no way around it — it’s insulting. It shows a certain amount of disrespect to customers for a company to choose not to present a full accounting of available offers, displayed plainly and in an easy-to-compare chart, so that anyone can fully understand all of the options and decide quickly.

Why would it be so hard to be as explicit that? I ask that rhetorically, but from my experience as an employee I remember exactly why: The Times as a business remains both in thrall of and a prisoner of its old print mathematics, wherein pricing for delivery of the physical newspaper was complicated and subject to frequent and fleeting special promotions. By design, print subscribers were never sure if they were getting the best deal on their subscriptions, and that mentality has transferred over to its digital business. The result is sadly hostile to those looking to subscribe digitally, and gives the unmistakable impression that the company is gaming its customers.

Just for comparison, here’s how some other digital businesses price their products: Netflix is US$8 a month. Spotify is between US$5 and US$10 per month. Evernote is US$5 per month or US$45 per year. Birchbox is US$10 per month. Hulu Plus is US$8 per month. Flickr is US$25 per year. MLB.tv is US$25 per year. And so on. There is really no good reason that pricing for The New York Times couldn’t be as simple as that.

via Subtraction.com – Subscribing to The New York Times. Media companies respect their customers or maybe not.

12 Dec

Adblock Plus – Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus

Starting with Adblock Plus 2.0 you can allow some of the advertising that is considered not annoying. By doing this you support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way. And you give these websites an advantage over their competition which encourages other websites to use non-intrusive advertising as well. In the long term the web will become a better place for everybody, not only Adblock Plus users. Without this feature we run the danger that increasing Adblock Plus usage will make small websites unsustainable.

via Adblock Plus – Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus. I’m all onboard with this, in fact I’ve even written my own Adblock Plus filters to enable ads that are both interesting and un-intrusive.

03 Oct

FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post

Ouch. It looks like if you say anything that the BBB deems “aversely affects (their) public image” you’re out. Not much of a fair system.

Since launching that investigative post, we’ve had a lot of resonance with other small businesses who had similar concerns about the BBB. Heed this warning: it seems that any critique of the BBB will result in losing accreditation. For many small businesses, this would be terrible news, as consumers still see the BBB as an moral organization acting with their interests in mind.

via FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post. I’ve always felt the Better Business Bureau was a little scammy, nice to know they can’t take criticism as well.

02 Oct

NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants

Just a few months ago, daily deal coupons were the new big thing. The biggest dealmaker, Groupon, was preparing to go public at a valuation as high as $30 billion, which would have been a record amount for a start-up less than three years old. Hundreds of copycat coupon sites sprung up in Groupon’s wake, including DoubleTakeDeals, YourBestDeals, DealFind, DoodleDeals, DealOn, DealSwarm and GoDailyDeals. Deal sites were widely praised as a replacement for local advertising.

Now coupon fatigue is setting in. Groupon’s public offering has repeatedly been put off amid stock market turmoil and internal missteps; the company says it is back on track, but some analysts say it may never happen. Dozens of copycats are closing, reformulating or merging, including Local Twist in San Diego, RelishNYC and Crowd Cut in Atlanta. Facebook and Yelp, two powerhouse Internet firms that had big plans for deals, quickly backed off.

Even the biggest Web retailer, Amazon.com, has had trouble gaining traction in oversaturated New York, where it started offering deals with great fanfare a month ago. There are at least 40 active coupon sites for the city, according to LocalDealSites.com.

Shopping coupons have a long history, and they will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in local merchants’ efforts to attract customers. But what has become apparent is a basic contradiction at the heart of the daily deals industry on the Internet.

The consumers were being told: You will never pay full price again. The merchants were hearing: You are going to get new customers who will stick around and pay full price. Disappointment was inevitable.

Some entrepreneurs are questioning the entire premise of the industry. Jasper Malcolmson, co-founder of the deal site Bloomspot, compares the basic deal offer with lenders’ marketing subprime loans during the housing boom.

via NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants. Oh yeah, right now is starting to look like a bad deal.

19 Sep

Ars Technica – Google Wallet now available for a select group of users

As of today, Google’s Wallet service is officially available, according to a post on the official Google blog. Now that the program is live, owners of Sprint’s Nexus S 4G and a Citi Mastercard will be able to process payments through Google with a tap of plastic on plastic. It’s a small audience, but one Google plans to quickly expand.

Google Wallet works through near-field communications (NFC), a system that uses RFID tags to communicate between two capable devices. Once logged into the system, users who have connected their Citi Mastercard to their Nexus S 4G phone will be able to pay for items by tapping their phone to a card reader at participating stores.

The launch is not only limited to certain customers, but also to specific retail partners. The primary base of retail stores includes pharmacy chains like Rite Aid, CVS, and Duane Reade, with some representation in stores like New York and Company, Footlocker, Best Buy, and Home Depot.

The release of Google Wallet is more a signal of intent than a real step into a payment processing arena that contains a number of competitors that haven’t yet tangled themselves with NFC, including Square and PayPal. What Google’s NFC and Google account integration will bring to the fight is not only convenience, but also the opportunity to track customers even more closely.

With a program like Google Wallet, Google can track the offline spending and shopping habits of its users as closely as those online. While outlets often try to target customers by doing things like collecting e-mail addresses to send coupons and ads, Google could offer even more seamless ad integration by connecting the offline retail outlets consumers favor with their Google profiles, even affording competing outlets positional advantages. This has been referred to as the “closed loop,” where no consumer purchase escapes the eye of the banner ad, to the delight of retailers, market researchers, and everyone in between.

While the launch is extremely limited, Google states that Wallet will eventually “hold many if not all of the cards you keep in your leather wallet today.” The page goes on to say that Google Wallet will also replace loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, and “even your keys.” Hopefully you don’t keep your own address in your phone, or if you do, you at least keep the screen locked.

via Ars Technica – Google Wallet now available for a select group of users. I’m a fan of anything that possibly limit the amount of stuff I need to carry especially in my wallet. That all being said there are definite privacy implications as Google stretches itself more from the digital world into the physical world.

05 Sep

Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

I get a lot of e-mail from writers starting out who want to know whether it’s worth trying to get published by major houses. The odds are poor – only a small fraction of books find a home in mainstream publishing – and the process can be slow and frustrating. We’ve all heard horror stories, both legit (‘‘Why is there a white girl on the cover of my book about a black girl?’’) and suspect (‘‘My editor was a philistine who simply didn’t understand the nuances of my work’’). And we’ve all heard about writers who’ve met with modest – or stellar – success with self-publishing. So why not cut out the middleman and go direct to readers?

There’s not a thing wrong with that plan, provided that it is a plan. Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).

I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.

via Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? Cory Doctorow who certainly doesn’t seem to need traditional publishers, penning a nice piece in favor of publishers.

31 Aug

The Ad Contrarian – Advertising And The Future Of Apple

After Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple last week, speculation about the company’s future began immediately.

The consensus seemed to be that Jobs built a strong culture, hired smart people, and taught a way of thinking that will serve Apple well in the future. The story line went like this– while Jobs will be missed, he is no longer essential to the future of the company and it will go on brilliantly without him.

I don’t buy this for a second. Genius is non-transferable.

via The Ad Contrarian – Advertising And The Future Of Apple. Not a bad negative outlook of Apple post Steve Jobs, it starts with a pretty good premise but the conclusion doesn’t jibe. For instance I don’t think anyone argued Apple would stay the same or even that it should. Apple will change. The larger question and worry is, is Apple still the innovative company that it was under Steve Jobs? Would such innovations as the iPad (creating a whole new market) or the iPod (dominate per-exisiting market with superior technology and design).

The argument that genius doesn’t transfer is a smoke-screen, it’s a stupid question with a stupid answer, and doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Is Apple able to remember the lessons of Steve Jobs and maintain it’s identity in the face of the man who created that identity no longer present? That’s the real question and the only one that matters.

If Apple is able to maintain it’s identity then it won’t ever hire people without vision and taste and turn into something other than maker of products at the intersection of Liberal Arts and Technology.

15 Jul

Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More

You’re not stupid, but you can be fooled. For millennia, the best salespeople have known how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the human mind. In the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, we’ve begun to give precise names to the mental weaknesses that make us all susceptible to a well-crafted pitch. Drawing on the insights of psychology, behavioral economists have explained why we buy more stuff at $0.99 than at $1.00 (the “left-digit effect”), why we commit to gym memberships we’ll never use (“optimism bias”), and why we don’t return things we buy as often as we should (“post-purchase rationalization”). The giants of the web, from Amazon to Zynga, use similar tricks to keep us coming to their sites, playing their games, and buying their goods. In fact, that’s how they became giants in the first place. Here’s how they game us—and how, in some cases, we wind up gaming ourselves.

via Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More. Always neat seeing psychology at play especially with companies that excel at it.

22 Jun

NYTimes.com – Capital One’s Response to Outrage Over ING Direct Purchase

We here at Bucks wondered if this outpouring of emotion gave the folks at Capital One pause, so we asked them some questions that seem to be on customers’ minds. The bank declined to provide “yes or no” answers to queries about specific changes, saying it was too soon to do so. But the spokeswoman Tatiana Stead did offer the following responses via e-mail.

To us, it looks like they’re at least leaving open the option of adding fees and minimum balances and subsuming the ING Direct brand altogether. Do you feel reassured by the responses below?

via NYTimes.com – Capital One’s Response to Outrage Over ING Direct Purchase. Not much here to read, but it interests me. Capital One dances around answering any real questions beyond acknowledging that ING Direct generates strong feelings from customers.

01 May

Campaign Monitor – Successfully building brand awareness with email marketing

When folks ask us about how to justify spending money on email marketing, we’re pretty quick to respond with two words – it works. With email returning $42 on every dollar spent in 2010 (by far out-performing catalogs and direct mail), it’s a very attractive marketing tactic with immediate impact. However, hip pockets aside, what’s largely overlooked is its ability to develop brand awareness.

via Campaign Monitor – Successfully building brand awareness with email marketing. Email marketing defiantly works to get me interested in purchasing a product.