Category Archives: Business - Page 3

PETA Is Making A Porn Site

A few months ago, the Internet powers that be decided to allow .xxx websites to become a thing, and most companies have been rushing to claim their name, because Walmart for example, wouldn’t appreciate a porn site at walmart.xxx. PETA of course, doesn’t share those sensibilities, as could be divined from their ad campaign a couple of years back.

Well, the whole .xxx domain thing gave them an idea: instead of just claiming their porn domain, they’ll make a porn website. And besides the sex footage, they’re going to throw in — wait for it — random videos of animal cruelty. Because nothing mixes better than porn and animal snuff films. Prediction for what will become their target demographic: 14-year old future serial killers, who are still in the sexual and animal-cruelty stages of development.

Oh, and if you’re appalled at PETA’s continued unethical treatment of women, The Onion covered the disturbing trend some time ago:

 

 

From The Telegraph, via Slashdot

A Netflix Allegory

In case you’ve been deep in the Amazon jungle, Netflix today announced it’s splitting itself in two: Netflix for streaming video and Qwikster for DVD-by-mail (a.k.a., Netflix classic). In other words, they know DVDs are a dying breed so they’re taking a cue from the Eskimos and putting the DVD part of the business on an ice floe so they can focus on the future, in the present. The Oatmeal was quick to respond with a comic making fun of the whole affair:

The best part is calling Qwikster the Friendster of movie rental companies.

From The Oatmeal

Groupon Is In Trouble, For Good Reason

For months now, there have been all kinds of negative stories about Groupon:

  • First, there was the story in Fortune about their shady chairman and largest shareholder, Eric Lefkofsky, who has a history of running businesses into the ground for profit.
  • Then there were a bunch of stories about businesses suffering after running a Groupon due to the large influx of cheapskates that end up costing them thousands of dollars and generating poor online reviews, rather than helping their business.
  • TechCrunch had a very interesting article about Groupon being little more than a fancy loan shark.
  • A bunch of reports about how bizarre their CEO is came out last month.
  • And last week, they indefinitely postponed their supposedly imminent IPO due to concerns about the market, and oh yeah, also because the SEC was concerned about things like their unusual accounting metrics which made the company appear healthier than it actually is.

Following the pattern of bad publicity, Technology Review now has an article about a study by computer scientists at Harvard and Boston University in which they tracked Groupons, their sales, the number of Yelp reviews for the businesses involved, and the score on those reviews, including the score given by people who mentioned Groupon or “coupon”. One of the findings was that people who to mention one of those keywords give a 10% lower rating than people who don’t; people who mention both: 20% lower. Which is just scientific evidence of anecdotal data that’s been surfacing the whole summer. In short, there’s really no reason for businesses to run Groupons, so eventually they’ll stop.

From arXiv, via Technology Review

You Are Google’s Product, Not Their Consumer

There’s been a big uproar around a comment Google’s former CEO and current Chairman, Eric Schmidt, said the other week when asked why they are so adamant that people use real names on Google Plus. His answer: Google Plus “essentially provides an identity service with a link structure around your friends” — and you thought it was just a neat way to see your friends’ photos. Free Software Magazine has a very interesting analysis of the situation via an equally interesting Business Week article, which points out the identity service is not so much to help us regular folk keep spammers and cyber bullies at bay, as it is a cash cow for Google.

Why? Because anonymous user data is much less valuable to advertisers than real data. If they can tie your name and zip code to your Google searches, well the sky’s the limit on what they can learn about you; then they can show you ads that are better tailored to your interests, so that you’re more likely to buy their stuff, making their ad campaigns a lot more effective. And here’s how Google advertises itself to investors:

Who are our customers? Our customers are over one million advertisers, from small businesses targeting local customers to many of the world’s largest global enterprises, who use Google AdWords to reach millions of users around the world.

In other words, Google sells you — the digital shadow of you, at least — to advertisers, and that’s how they make money. So their end goal isn’t to make you happy, but rather to make the people who keep their lights on happy: the advertisers. The only thing they have to do is make sure that people use Google services: the search engine, GMail, Android phones, Google News, etc. And that’s the extent to which they care what you think: so that you will keep using their services, and they can keep selling you to advertisers. The hardest part of their job is probably to walk this fine line between pissing people off enough to leave and keeping advertisers interested in their user data. But as long as they keep creating services that are better or cheaper than anything else, then people will keep coming back to rent themselves out to the advertisers.

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold. — Andrew Lewis

And finally, The Onion had a funny video a while back about Google’s new opt-out program:

From Free Software Magazine and Business Week, via Slashdot

Netflix Loses Contract With Starz

Over the past couple of years, Netflix has had a contract with the cable company Starz to be able to stream its movies and TV shows via Netflix Instant. This gave Netflix customers access to some actually decent movies in Netflix’s otherwise poor streaming library. The deal also included the Spartacus series, Blood and Sand and Gods of the Arena and expires in March, but Netflix and Starz couldn’t agree on a price for the content.

Starz wanted more money, as more people are quitting cable in favor of streaming video via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like, and Netflix wasn’t willing to pay more because viewership of Starz content has declined this year. Netflix has six months until the contract expires, so they have time to replace the Starz content with other stuff. But based on the other stuff they have now, that’s not exactly heartening.

 

Whatever Netflix does, it has to be good now that they’re forcing people to pay a premium for streaming video, in effect becoming the first premium cable channel on the Internet. And maybe Starz is looking to be the third, after HBO went online this summer.

From Hollywood Reporter, via NPR

The Waffle House Index

People come up with some very elegant and down-to-earth indicators of the state of complex systems. The most widely known is probably the Big Mac Index, which has been around for a couple of decades and shows the price of Big Macs in different countries as a way to gauge their purchasing power. But there are others, like the Men’s Underwear Index (men buy less underwear in economic downturns) and the Hemline Index (the length of women’s skirts varies with economic health; better economy = shorter skirts). And according to the Wall Street Journal, FEMA uses the Waffle House Index to tell how badly damaged an area is after a natural disaster: if the Waffle House is closed somewhere, that means it’s serious.

They assign stoplight levels to areas normally served by a Waffle House: green means it’s open and serving a full menu, so there’s little damage; yellow means it’s open, but serving a limited menu, which means they’re running off a generator or gas grill, which in turn means there are significant infrastructure issues with either the power or food supply; and red means they’re closed, which is like DEFCON 1 for FEMA. The reason the agency uses this index is two-fold:

  • The Waffle House is all over the South, which gets the brunt of America’s natural disasters (because that’s how God shows his love: through tribulation)
  • The company has a policy of keeping stores open as much as possible, and if they have to close, to reopen as soon as possible

That policy is apparently a marketing ploy, because it’s not an instant money maker: if you’re the only place in town that serves food to hungry, battered people, they’ll remember that during the good times. So they scramble to get generators and gas and ice to stores that have been damaged, and can generally be the only open restaurant in a devastated area. Along with Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot, Waffle House is at the top of the list of companies with a good history of disaster response. When Hurricane Irene hit the mid-Atlantic, 22 Waffle Houses lost power, and all but one were back in business after 3 days.

From The Wall Street Journal, via Gizmodo

Now *This* Is A Marketing Gimmick

Back in February, the Consumerist reported that a New Zealand clothing store called Superette installed embossed plates saying “Short shorts on sale Superette” at strategic spots on park benches. The idea was that women wearing short shorts would sit on the benches, and because of the plates’ placement, they would leave an indented print in the skin on the back of the women’s thigh.

This is just really brilliant, for a couple of reasons:

  • Even if the whole imprint thing doesn’t happen, they still have ads on park benches that will be seen because people will feel the embossed plates when they sit down. It’s probably a lot more expensive than a print ad, but also probably a lot more effective, due to how unusual it is
  • If the imprints do happen, two things will follow: first, the woman who got branded is likely to notice the ad (even if she didn’t on the bench), and tell everyone about what happened to her. Second, pretty much everyone walking behind her will try to read what it says, without looking creepy. Ergo, free walking models advertising their stuff.
  • If nothing else, they’ve gotten a lot of brand recognition since this went viral

Via Consumerist

Apple Is Nowhere Close To Being The Biggest Company

Last week, Apple made headlines when its market valuation made it the most valued company in the world. What this meant was that investors thought that Apple was worth more than the oil companies, banks and tech giants that have the highest market capitalizations. However, that is just one measure of how big a company is: so how does Apple fare in other measures? Ars Technica addressed this issue back in February and here’s what they found:

  • By enterprise value, which is what another company would have to pay to buy them, Apple was 4th behind GE, Exxon and PetroChina
  • By cash balance, Apple was 82nd, a good dozen spots behind both Google and Microsoft, and really far behind the banks that were in the top five: Deutsche Bank, which was #1, had 974 billion$ to Apple’s 25 B$.
  • By asset value, which is all the physical stuff a company owns, Apple was 931st, again well behind Google and Microsoft. The top spot went to Electricite de France, which had 185 B$ in assets to Apple’s 6 B$.
  • By revenue — actual money they make from sales — Apple was 78th with 76 B$, beating Microsoft and wiping the floor with Google, but being dwarfed by Walmart and its 419 B$ revenues.
  • By cash flow, a.k.a. profits, Apple was 51st, close on Microsoft’s heels and way ahead of Google, but the top company in this category, Barclay’s, had about seven times as much cash flow. The other top companies were also banks.
  • By number of employees, Apple was 460th with 46,600 employees. Walmart again won with 2,100,000.

So Apple is only the biggest company by one measure and close by on a second, but falls way short on the other five. The article goes on to point out that if Walmart were to disappear overnight, the country would be crushed — not only by losing a lot of paychecks to employees, construction workers and maintenance personnel, but by the poor losing the ability to get cheap stuff. On the other hand, if Apple were to disappear, nothing significant would happen.

From Ars Technica, via Slashdot

Apple Is Now The World’s Most Valuable Company

At the close of business yesterday, investors thought Apple had more value than any other company: they were willing to pay 363$/share, making the total of all shares worth 337 billion$. The company from which Apple took the number one spot away was Exxon, who had held it since 2005. It turns out the recent debt ceiling crisis was good for Apple, since Exxon lost value due to the falling price of oil in the past week. However, by revenue, HP is still the biggest technology company: it made 32 billion$ last quarter, compared to Apple’s 30. But, investors must be pretty sure Apple has a lot more growth potential, because HP’s valuation is at about 64 billion$, a fifth of Apple’s.

Photo by Jorge Quinteros

 

Things have changed a lot since 2000, when Microsoft was the most valuable company and Apple was just making it’s way back from the brink of bankruptcy, after hiring back Steve Jobs. In fact, Microsoft and General Electric traded the number 1 spot a few times over the next five years, until 2005 when Exxon took over after the price of oil shot up and the iPod came out. Today, Microsoft isn’t even in the top five. Who is? A Chinese state-owned oil company called PetroChina, the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and an Australian/British oil and gas company called BHP Billiton.

There are two more oil companies in the top 10: Shell (which is officially a British company, but headquartered in the Netherlands) and a Brazilian one called PetroBras. Besides Apple and Microsoft, IBM is the only other technology company in the top 10. And the remaining one? Nestlé, a Swiss company. Five oil companies, three technology ones, one bank, and one food company: that says a lot about what we like as a species. It also says a lot about global pecking order: of the top ten companies, four are American, two British, two Chinese, one Brazilian, and one Swiss.

Via MSNBC

Amazon Prime Expanded Its Streaming Video Library

Probably in an effort to capitalize on Netflix’s recent misstep, Amazon has done a great job expanding its streaming library since then. In the past week, it signed deals with both CBS and NBC Universal so that it’s now has about 9,000 titles in its streaming library. Netflix on the other hand has 20,000, which may sound like a lot more, but considering that, like cable, the vast majority of both of their offerings consist of crap you never want to watch, who knows how competitive or not they actually are. In any case, it’s nice to see Amazon step up their game.

Via Bloomberg