Troubling times at the NYTimes?
â€œWe canâ€™t get this halfway right or three-quarters of the way right. We have to get this really, really right.â€, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chair and publisher of the New York Times.
The New York Times today announced it would begin charging frequent readers of its website access fees starting in early 2011. Site visitors will receive an amount of free content each month before charges kick in with print edition subscribers receiving full access as part of their subscription.
Despite announcing their intention to charge for access, NYTimes executives are as yet unable to disclose details of their pay-for-content plan. No information is currently available regarding monthly fees or how much free content will be made available each month.
The announcement could be the beginning of an end of an era of free news information and content online as publishers struggle to build a profitable digital business model. With a substantial decline in advertising and classified revenues pushing the bottom line lower and lower each month, traditional media outlets have posted record losses for several years in succession. The difficulties faced by traditional media in transitioning to digital delivery has forced the closure of several large operations over the past five years and contraction within nearly every news gathering organization.
The results of the NYTimes decision to begin charging for content will be closely watched by other publishers. As Internet users have been loath to pay for information they can usually find for free elsewhere, publishers have been hesitant to charge for content. Nearly all previous experiments in paid-content delivery, including one by this media outlet, have failed. Even the Wall St. Journal, which still charges fees for some content, have backed away from a paid model, offering free access in several instances.
The closest existing model is used by the UK based Financial Times which offers non-paying users 10 free articles per month.
Unfortunately, traditional revenue sources have shrunken significantly and advertising revenues are far lower than those enjoyed in the first five years of this decade and throughout the twentieth century. Revenues generated online have not translated into sufficient income to keep the presses printing into the foreseeable future.
With over 17 million US-based users per month, the New York Times is by far America’s most popular online news outlet. Huge user numbers however, do not necessarily mean huge subscription rates. A previous attempt by the NYTimes to charge for online content, TimesSelect, failed due to low subscription numbers. Approximately 210,000 people subscribed, paying $49.95 per year for full access. TimesSelect was phased out in 2007 in the hopes that increased online advertising would generate greater revenues.
Publisher Arthur Sulzberger suggests the paid-content model is the future of online news but, at the same time, doesn’t think charging subscribers for access is the panacea needed to push revenues above the bottom line. Quoted in the New York Times, Sulzberger said,
“This is a bet, to a certain degree, on where we think the Web is going,â€ Mr. Sulzberger said. â€œThis is not going to be something that is going to change the financial dynamics overnight.”
Other news organizations are attempting to introduce paid-content models and actively discourage non-paying access to that content. News Corporation has actually threatened to sue bloggers and aggregators who link to their content. It is also developing a pay-for-content system for its properties which include Fox, WSJ.com, the NYPost and the (London) Times.co.uk. The New York Times appears to be developing their own paid system independently of other organizations.
As the NYTimes goes, so will other news outlets. The business of gathering, researching, verifying and printing news information is a costly discipline. The plan to charge for content is both necessary and fair according to NYTimes executive editor Bill Keller who was also quoted in today’s announcement,
“It underscores the value of what we do – trustworthy, aggressively reported professional journalism, which is an increasingly rare and precious thing. And it gives us a second way to sustain that hard, expensive work, in addition to our healthy advertising revenue.”
With consumers able to access content from an increasingly diverse variety of digital devices, the days of free content appear to be numbered. Watch for the rise of digital information fees as a trend in the coming years.
The person who first sounded public alarm bells at Yahoo!, former Sr. Vice President Brad Garlinghouse, was recently hired by AOL as President of Internet and Mobile Communications. Answerable to CEO Tim Armstrong, Garlinghouse enters AOL in what appears to be a resurgent period for the once (and future?) Internet powerhouse.
Tapped to head AOL’s team in Mountain View, Garlinghouse will immediately take over AOL’s popular instant messenger application and email system. He will also head up the west coast offices of AOL Ventures, the venture capital division of AOL.
Garlinghouse was the author of the November 2006 memo, The Peanut Butter Manifesto. Conveniently leaked to the Wall St. Journal around the same time it was mass forwarded throughout Yahoo!’s then enormous executive team, the Peanut Butter Manifesto marked the beginning of this long and depressive phase of Yahoo!’s corporate history.
When publicly published, the Peanut Butter Manifesto caused a wave of analysis of Yahoo!’s business, direction and planning. The memo identified three specific problems Yahoo! faced as a conglomerate type of corporation.
1/ “We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company.
I’ve heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular.
I hate peanut butter. We all should.”
2/ “We lack clarity of ownership and accountability.
The most painful manifestation of this is the massive redundancy that exists throughout the organization. We now operate in an organizational structure — admittedly created with the best of intentions — that has become overly bureaucratic. For far too many employees, there is another person with dramatically similar and overlapping responsibilities. This slows us down and burdens the company with unnecessary costs.”
3/ “We lack decisiveness.
Combine a lack of focus with unclear ownership, and the result is that decisions are either not made or are made when it is already too late. Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis.”
The memo went on to suggest several cures to Garlinghouse’s dire prognosis. Unfortunately, the only point that appeared to stick was the one calling for “… a radical reorganization”. Yahoo! experienced several re-orgs in the 2.5 years following the leak of the memo. History shows, those re-orgs did not work.
Garlinghouse’s manifesto ended on an upbeat note which could easily apply to his new position as it did to his former one.
We may have fallen down, but the race is a marathon and not a sprint. I don’t pretend that this will be easy. It will take courage, conviction, insight and tremendous commitment. I very much look forward to the challenge.
So let’s get back up.
Catch the balls.
And stop eating peanut butter.
Best of luck to him in his new (AOL) Venture(s).
eBay has sold 65% of Skype, the free online and inexpensive web-phone application to a consortium of investors led by Silver Lake Partners. Other investors consortium include Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.
Expected to close near the end of 2009, the purchase values Skype at approximately $2.75 billion. eBay continuing to own 35% of Skype which it bought from original developers Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis in 2005 for $3.1 billion.
eBay has been trying to unload Skype for over a year now. Though the application makes just under $600 million per year, it has not been the boon to eBay merchants it was originally expected to be. Earlier this year, eBay mused about a Skype IPO which would have effectively spun the application into its own company. There is no word from the new majority owners if IPO plans remain on the table.
Three interesting side notes:
1/ Andreessen Horowitz is partially owned by Marc Andreessen, the developer who made the original Netscape web-browser and led the development team that created Firefox.
2/ Index Ventures was one of the original investors in Skype in early 2003.
3/ With approximately 410 million users, Skype added about 8% of eBay’s $835 Billion in revenues last year. Sold for 2/3 of what eBay paid for it in 2005, Skype should pay for itself three to four years from now.
It has been an intense two days for the staff and show hosts at WebmasterRadio.FM. Somewhere around 6pm Eastern we learned that the MSFT/YHOO rumors we had been hearing all afternoon were in fact true and that a major announcement was to be issued early Thursday morning. A leisurely summer’s afternoon had suddenly turned into a frantic 36-hours of news gathering, phone calls and show planning.
Here is a run-down of WebmasterRadio.FM shows and posts covering the Bing – Yahoo Search deal.
We worked quickly to get a special presentation together and by 9pm, we went live-to-air with a Bing/Yahoo analysis panel made up of Sarah Lacy from BusinessWeek & TechCrunch, Disa Johnson and Jim Hedger, which was moderated by Daron Babin. –> “Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal Imminent”
Thursday morning, Yahoo and Microsoft CEOs Carol Bartz and Steve Ballmer held a joint press conference at 5:45am Pacific announcing the details of the Microsoft Bing / Yahoo Search deal. After hearing the details, I wrote a blog post, “The Benefits of BingYa!” as a short examination of who in our industry most benefits from the deal.
Thursday afternoon, WebmasterRadio.FM shows Webcology and Office Hours with Vanessa Fox covered the deal.
Webcology (2PM): “The Benefits of BingYa!-The Microsoft Yahoo Search Deal”
Office Hours with Vanessa Fox (3PM): “Yahoo Microsoft Deal Effect on Owners, Developers and SEOs”
To cap our coverage of the Bing – Yahoo thing, the original pioneer of search coverage, Danny Sullivan and Marshall Sponder from the New York Times dedicated nearly 90-minutes to a special edition of Danny’s popular Searchcast on WebmasterRadio.FM –> “Understanding the Microsoft Bing and Yahoo Search Deal”
That’s a lot of coverage in what amounts to a 36-hour period. Special thanks to everyone involved. We will continue following this story as it develops.
Danny Sullivan joins New York Times SEO Expert Marshall Simmonds on a special SearchCast tonight at 7PM Eastern (4PM Pacific) on WebmasterRadio.FM to discuss the Microsoft Bing – Yahoo Search agreement.
Dominated by Google for most of this decade, search advertising is a multi-billion dollar a year business. Google has commanded such an overwhelming share of the search advertising market for so long, Yahoo, Microsoft and others have been unable to present any credible competition and a sense of stagnation in the search marketplace set in.
Microsoft has been trying to strike a deal with a very reluctant Yahoo for over a year. Its attempts to acquire all or part of Yahoo was one of the defining events in tech in 2008. Yesterday’s announcement from Yahoo and Microsoft is the start of what will unarguably become one of the greatest shifts in the history of search.
To better understand the impact of yesterday’s announcement, Join Danny Sullivan and Marshall Simmonds live at 7PM eastern this evening (July 30) on WebmasterRadio.FM for a special episode of SearchCast.
There’s no beating the feeling of waking to a lazy Sunday morning, especially one that demands no urgent work, phone calls, a quasi-mandatory dinner with the parents or anything else but my own private exploitation of the diminishing personal space I call my life. Yesterday was one of those mornings. Even Hypertext the Cat could sense I wanted to luxuriate like she does all day, an appreciation that stopped her from waking me by batting at my head as she does most mornings. Two interesting things happened in quick succession yesterday morning to dispel any luxury I might have felt at having a lazy day of quiet contemplation. The first was a special report on citizen journalism by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The second was an instant message from Chicago based web analytics management consultant, David Dalka relaying comments on “saving the media” from a former University of Chicago professor (now US federal-court judge) of his, Richard Posner. Both events happened within minutes of each other. Clearly the universe was conspiring against the concept of me taking a day off, even on a lazy Sunday.
I listened to the CBC show over morning coffee while trolling the half-dozen or so online newspapers I frequently read. The show probed the value of online journalism vs. traditional journalism, falling heavily on the side of traditional news gathering organizations. It was a smart and well researched episode, one Canadian listeners have been conditioned to expect from our federally funded broadcaster. The CBC was one of the first major media outlets to take advantage of the Internet to widen and grow its international audience. The corporation continues to use the Internet to distribute its high quality of national and international news though in recent months it has suffered sever funding cutbacks, an ironic equalizer that brings the CBC’s budgetary problems in line with those of commercial broadcasters and other news gathering organizations. There is simply not enough money coming in (whatever the source) to cover the enormous costs associated with professional news gathering and high quality reporting.
During the CBC broadcast, David Dalka forwarded the URL of a blog post from a former University of Chicago professor of his who is now a federal court judge, Richard Posner. Posner writes on media, society and IT. Like many other public policy thinkers, Posner is deeply concerned with the sustenance of a professional media, considering it one of the bedrocks of a democratic society. A few years ago, Posner predicted the current financial state of the mainstream media. Yesterday’s post postulates a solution, making webmasters receive permission to link to stories in the traditional news media, likely with payment attached. Before dismissing the idea as ludicrous, consider that others see this as a valid revenue model as well, most notably Barry Diller, head of IAC corporation and his arch-rival Rupert Murdoch, owner of NewsCorp.
For experienced webmasters, the idea of paying for a link that brings no commercial benefit is so obviously silly it is easy enough to dismiss however, news aggrigators such as Google News and Yahoo! News do see commercial benefit from stories researched, written and published by traditional news gathering organizations such as television, radio and newspaper reporters. It isnâ€™t the presence of paid-search advertising that attracts me to Googleâ€™s news aggregator though it is those pay-per-click links that monetize thus sustain the service. What attracts me are the stories, none of which have been researched, written or originally published by the news aggregators. One can fully understand the frustration of major publishers and broadcasters watching their bottom lines push them into positions that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.
It used to be said that publishing a newspaper was a license to print money. Local businesses and services had to advertise their wares somewhere and the daily paper was one of the places most adults in a community would look at least once per day. Similarly, local television and radio were advantageous mediums for advertisers, allowing the traditional media to charge whatever rates they felt necessary to sustain news gathering operations. In many cases, those operations spread across the globe bringing a diversity of well researched opinions on virtually any international issue or event. Today, foreign bureaus are long gone from most news rooms and even the biggest news organizations such as the NYTimes, CNN, the Globe and Mail and the Times of London are pulling back on their commitments to find, research and report stories about international affairs.
I am old enough to remember a time when newspapers published multiple editions per day in order to keep the general public as well informed as possible. In my family, it was not unusual for two editions of the same newspaper to be brought into the house each day, one delivered early in the morning, the other coming home from school or work with myself or my father. While I recently moved to a city blessed with four major daily newspapers, most other communities I could have chosen to live in are not as fortunate. In the city I moved from, the single daily newspaper ceased publishing on Mondays to save money. In Denver, a city I visited less than two weeks ago, one of the major dailies stopped publishing altogether a month ago.
Are we any less informed than we were a generation ago? In some ways yes, in others not nearly. Perhaps the best example of this contradiction comes from the streets of Tehran where a sizable portion of the population risked violence, arrest and continued harassment to protest what they believe to be an election stolen by hardliners in their government. As the protests grew, the Iranian government moved to expel foreign journalists though a few were somehow able to remain and report. For most of us, news from Tehran was relayed straight from the streets via the social networking application Twitter and the burgeoning citizens’ TV portal YouTube. While the veracity of such reports can rarely be confirmed, it is easy enough to argue we in the west would have known far less about the democracy movement in Iran without citizen journalists with access to web technologies.
Another example is recalled from a few years ago when CBS news carried a story on the National Guard record of former President George W. Bush. The story was supported by papers said to have come from the Texas National Guard showing the former president had neglected to even show up for the weekends he was supposed to serve while avoiding fighting in Vietnam. The papers CBS relied on were forged, a falsification uncovered by bloggers. Dan Rather was forced to resign as anchor of the CBS News team over the incident. In this case, citizen journalism worked to vet a falsity which would otherwise have been reported as fact.
At the same time, the quality of critical analysis of events in Tehran, Washington, London, Beijing, Ottawa or Timbuktu is eroding rapidly. While we can read broad strokes, we are left without the fine touches only a professionally edited writer with dozens of unimpeachable sources can offer. Because most citizen journalists are writing about topics they feel passion for, we lack the clarity of the dispassionate observer. This is good for issue identity groups but very bad for democracy as a whole.
Sadly, it all comes down to money. While many will suggest if the newspapers don’t want people or news aggregators to link to their stories, they should simply not publish on the web. That’s a rather silly suggestion considering a growing percentage of the audience is increasingly using the Web exclusively to get information. The problem for Internet publishers is complexly simple. Ad revenues derived from Internet sites tend to be far lower than those drawn from traditional mediums. That’s why the medium-market news organizations are unable to properly serve their markets any longer.
Is the idea of paying to link to traditional news gatherers a good option? Probably not. The web doesnâ€™t work that way, at least not today. While Posner’s comments are less than useful and more than insulting to a University of Chicago grad worrying about the respect his or her degree might receive when their professors make foolish comments, at least someone is trying to brain their way through this mess. More of us should as well. We need good journalism as badly as we need a freely accessed Internet. As one commentator on the CBC said yesterday, “I doubt weâ€™ll see any citizen journalists devote their time to civic agencies, boards and commissions. The next fifteen years will be a heyday for corrupt municipal politicians without a free media covering their actions and decisions.” He may be right but I’m not thinking about corrupt local politicians skimming or swaying millions of dollars. I’m more concerned about major information corporations and the billions of dollars to be made off the distribution of knowledge to a global society.
Those sorts of thoughts get me thinking about what we are trying to accomplish with WebmasterRadio.FM and how the experiment is working from a media for the masses perspective. We have an unwritten responsibility to provide honest, reliable and timely information which I think we’re managing to exceed. There are no real rules governing what we’re doing on-air beyond the common rules of nicety, respect and decency.
WebmasterRadio.FM is a pioneer in the online space. Until WebmasterRadio.FM hit the scene five and a half years ago, there was no radio format content dedicated to the business and people of B2B marketing. We made a radio network devoted to webmasters and the business of doing business online. We’re likely an example of the near future, the micro-focused media.
Because we draw a surprisingly diverse but reasonably specific audience, WebmasterRadio.FM is able to exist serving a set of rather large niche communities. The number of people involved in the B2B (and now, B2C) markets we cater to is enormous and will continue to grow rapidly. You know how there seems to be a print magazine for literally every topic you can imagine? The ability to broadcast digitally created content via the web allowed us the ability to ape those magazines via podcast to the online B2B and B2C worlds.
Our advertisers tend to like that sort of thing which stands to reason considering the groups that listen to us tend to be most likely to consider our advertisers’ offerings. Niche marketing on a macro scale.
Our show hosts are experts their fields, business leaders but not trained journalists. Our audience, for the most part, doesn’t need us to provide a lot of journalistic content beyond the top-of-hour newscast. Our audience is looking to hear voices they can relate to from their business, marketing, PR or technological standpoints. That’s what we deliver and that’s why our audience numbers are growing so quickly. Such is the nature of popular niches.
This brings us back to the topic of the mainstream media and the importance of settling the money trap the mainstream media model has become. Conflicting problems are inherent in the mediums used to publish content.
For traditional broadcasters and print publishers, getting information to consumers is expensive and labor intensive. Advertising rates were priced to cover the costs associated with each medium used to communicate with the public. TV and radio relied on local, regional and national advertisers to sustain their operations while newspapers could rely on local businesses and voluminous classified ad sections. For generations, the ad-driven model worked as a tightly regulated and difficult to access business that ostensibly served the public good.
The Internet has obiviously destroyed the foundation supporting the traditional media business model. The Web has eliminated many of the labor, material, and distribution costs of getting information to the people. It has also (almost) eliminated the concept of information boundaries. There is a lot of content to place ads around online and virtually no limitations to entry for new content publishers. In a classic example of the laws of supply and demand, advertising rates online are far too low to sustain large news gathering operations.
WebmasterRadio.FM feels the pinch doing our form of news gathering. We feel it is our responsibility to cover large marketing conferences, events and conventions because those are the places where virtual-world news makers and industry leaders meet in person. It’s expensive to gather news in person but even in a virtual world, that’s the best way to get the job done.
So what to do about citizen journalism, the failing foundation of an out modded model, and the inability to figure out how to pay for professionals? Who the hell knows…
WebmasterRadio.FM does a great job of webcasting and making podcast content available for download to a definable set of diverse niche communities. We’re experts, and we make what sounds to me like good talk radio for our audience, we’re not journalists in any real sense of the word.
Aside from the content, what makes us interesting from a media perspective is that we’re one of the few online radio stations who are actually making a successful go of the advertiser business model. That’s why I suggested earlier that the WebmasterRadio.FM network is actually a pioneering venture in the web space. We’re demonstrating a working ad-revenue model as webcasters and podcasters. We’re a likely example of how to make media work in the new-world web environment.
That doesn’t put food in the bellies of traditional journalists and that’s what these meanderings were all about to begin with. Sundays rock eh?
Restraining content is an option but it is an odious one. The web is about getting and distributing information for free. Free is good but free often means no pay. Creating better copyright rules and giving content creators means to exercise their rights sounds like a good idea but even the brilliant compromise of the Creative Commons licensing experiment doesn’t put food in the bellies of most content creators.
Writers used to find refuge in newspapers. Not so much anymore and blogs don’t pay the bills. I find prolonged attempts to think how newspaper publishers solve a problem like Craigslist can make one’s head feel funny after a while so let’s not even go there.
In a world where quantity defines the part of problem, quality becomes part of the solution. The other part of the problem is the perceptual divide between the virtual and the real sides of the world we live and work in. Quality content can attract good online advertising revenues if distributed to the right communities. It’s all about targeting. That’s a lesson the mainstream media will have to learn but one it takes at steep peril because the mainstream can not be directly targeted online. Whatever the Internet mainstream is, it is too big and too factionalized into micro-interest communities to be truly definable, a major strike against traditional news gathering operations operating online.
The people need to stay reasonably sharp if our thousand year old experiment in western democracy and personal liberty is to survive and prosper. We all need to be well informed on general news items as well as on our personal interests and professional specialties. The job of keeping us well informed has traditionally fallen to the free media which, as any publisher or broadcaster will tell you, is far more expensive than it is free. To keep itself honest, reputable media has developed a well honed system of checks and balances including editing and the right to respond for readers and news subjects. That model is broken and the issue has come to a head.
I wish I had words of deep wisdom beyond noting how WebmasterRadio.FM’s ability to fill the needs of several niches is wonderful and cool and probably an example of the model we’ll see more of in the future. I love what we’re doing and think it is good for the web marketing industry but I’m going to miss being as generally well informed as I am and I worry about who, if anyone, is going to attend the next civic planning meeting on my behalf.
In a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, Time Warner signaled its intention to rid itself of its beleaguered AOL division.
In a quarterly report to investors released late yesterday, Time Warner wrote, “… the Company currently anticipates that it would initiate a process to spin off one or more parts of the businesses of AOL to Time Warner’s stockholders, in one or a series of transactions.”
AOL absorbed Time Warner just over nine years ago in an all stock deal that exposed the absurdity of the exuberance of the early dot.com era. The transaction which was at the time the largest deal in business history was supposed to help each company find synergies between new and traditional media. Unfortunately for Time Warner investors and fans of AOL, it had the exact opposite effect.
Constantly under performing, especially as the Web matured, AOL has been neglected by Time Warner. It recently received due attention with the hiring of former Google business developer Tim Armstrong as AOL’s CEO
Armstrong is expected to push for innovation and inventiveness, a signal he sent early when he told staff that AOL’s Dulles TX office would be a hot-spot for innovation.
Today is Earth Day. The concept of putting aside a day to think about the Earth is not as oxymoronic as it seems at first glance though a true win for ecologists would have every day considered Earth Day. Taking any time to think about the impact our society has on the planet is a good thing, especially considering the exponentially enormous impact of humans on what was once considered the natural environment.
For most of us under the age of 40, this is a particularly poignant Earth Day as it is marked during the first full year of a severe and sustained economic downturn, the first most of us have faced in our professional lives. Perhaps it is a good day to think about the inevitable economic recovery and how we will behave as consumers and as business leaders, if only to stave off what appears to be another set of inevitable circumstances, localized and widespread ecological collapse.
The world, as we know it, is in trouble. It doesn’t matter if you subscribe to the urgency of former Vice President Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth or if you believe the corporate marketing myth of clean coal, the fact that human activity is increasingly disrupting global ecosystems is irrefutable in all but the most ignorant circles.
Collectively, we are responsible for the future and collectively, we have a number of very difficult but very necessary choices to make. Ironically, many of these choices will actually save us a lot of money in the long run though they come at the expense of our false sense of entitlement and the false security of convenience.
The first choice we have to make is one of identity. Here in North America, we have grown fat (in both our heads and our stomachs) on the ideal that our individual right to do whatever we please supersedes our responsibility to our neighbors both near and far away. We no longer see ourselves as parts of a much greater whole and tend to act as singular republics of one. This is reflected in our overall lifestyles as exemplified by consumer choices, living arrangements and transportation options. It is perhaps best reflected in our unwillingness to help others (and ultimately ourselves) through taxation and the equanimity that comes with a sense of equality. In short, we have to stop acting as if we are the only ones that matter. All life is precious, everything is connected and all life is equal. If we don’t wrap our heads around that simple set of ideas today, our grandchildren will not enjoy the diversity of life on Earth tomorrow. It really is that simple.
If we can accept that we are, in fact, parts of a much larger collective, we can begin to make reasonable and wiser choices as individual consumers and as business leaders.
Perhaps the most important change we can make on an individual and business level is the rejection of plastics in packaging. Plastic never goes away. Even when it breaks down, its molecular structure stays intact. The oceans are awash with plastic and that plastic is working its way back into our own bodies as it moves up the food chain from plankton to fish to bird, bear and human. We even use plastics in the delivery of the most basic of human needs, water. As the plastics in the bottle leach into the water, often making that water less healthy, tap water is known to be far healthier (read, less contaminated) than bottled water. As business leaders, perhaps we can reconsider our use of plastics in over-packaging the products we offer consumers. Perhaps we can insist our staff drink the perfectly safe tap water (the safety of which we all pay for through civic and state taxes), instead of paying good money for potentially bad bottled water. The culture of disposable convenience needs to change and that change starts with individual choices, most of which are very real cost savers.
Another set of choice changes we can make as business leaders and as individual consumers involves transportation. Do a quick mental survey. How many people in your work environment drive themselves to a central office each day? Are there other options such as telecommuting or car pooling that could be explored and rewarded? If not, could the length of their trips and gasoline consumption be cut through time-shifting? Are there public transit options that could be pursued? Each option is safer, less wasteful and ultimately less expensive for both businesses and workers.
Another major issue in transportation is the environmental impact of long-distance travel. In 2008, I personally spent over 2.5weeks of my life in airports or on airplanes moving across North America to cover over a dozen conferences or to attend dozens of meetings. Most of the conferences I attended had 500 or more other attendees. The only major conferences I went to that did not involve air travel were ones near my home and the eComXpo show which takes place over the Internet.
While I can not reasonably suggest business leaders stop attending conferences as there is great value in meeting face to face, there are a few ways to drastically cut the environmental impact of air travel. The first is simple. Make sure your flights are direct and do not involve multiple stop-overs. Next, try to travel as a team to reduce the chances of multiple flights. Thirdly, book travel in such a way that one avoids unnecessary flights by moving to two or three cities between conferences (which are often booked back-to-back) instead of flying back home to touch base with the office before heading back on the road to the next town.
Lastly, as webmasters and IT businesses, there is a lot we can do to save energy in our daily operations. One simple way is the use of the ROBOTS.TXT file. Have you ever considered how much energy Google, Yahoo or Microsoft use to crawl the web? If every webmaster used ROBOTS.TXT files to direct bots through their sites, the cumulative effect would be equivalent to the recent Earth Hour exercise. Another way webmasters can help save energy is to minimize the use of extraneous servers as much as possible. A third way is the simplest of all. Unplug stuff that is not being used such as the cell phone charger that is constantly plugged in even when the phone is fully charged and unattached to the cord.
Today is Earth Day. Its not getting as much publicity as it did in previous years, mainly because we have a more immediate problem to deal with, an economy that appears to be teetering on collapse. The truth of the matter is, economy is a human construct. The environment is not. Our choices and actions effect both but ultimately, the economic cost of environmental collapse will make this period look like a picnic. Let’s be sure we don’t die of over consumption or the only living beings left to enjoy the picnic will be ants and other insects. Though the choices might be hard, the consequences of avoidance will be a far harder reality.
Oracle has agreed to purchase Sun Microsystems for approximately $9.40 per share in a $7.4 Billion cash purchase.
The two companies have been closely allied over the past two decades but the purchase comes two weeks after IBM declined to buy Sun Microsystems.
“Oracle and Sun have been industry pioneers and close partners for more than 20 years,” said Sun Chairman Scott McNealy. “This combination is a natural evolution of our relationship and will be an industry-defining event.”
In previous years, Oracle and Sun had worked very closely together though recently, Oracle has shifted its business towards other hardware manufacturers. The purchase substantially alters the landscape in the software/hardware business putting renewed pressures on companies as varied as IBM, Dell and HP.
The deal is subject to a Sun shareholder vote but is expected to close in the early summer. Over the weekend, the Sun board of directors unanimously approved the deal.
“The acquisition of Sun transforms the IT industry, combining best-in-class enterprise software and mission-critical computing systems,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in a press release. “Oracle will be the only company that can engineer an integrated system – applications to disk – where all the pieces fit and work together so customers do not have to do it themselves. Our customers benefit as their systems integration costs go down while system performance, reliability and security go up.”
AllThingsD is reporting that Yahoo and Microsoft have been in discussions around forming an advertising partnership for several weeks now. According to Kara Swicher’s article, “Yahooâ€™s Bartz and Microsoftâ€™s Ballmer Finally Talking About Search and Advertising Partnership“, the talks have included meetings between the CEOs of two firms.
Search industry watchers have long expected some sort of unity from the two companies but hostility, recession, reorganizations and restrictions have always seemed to stand in the way. With Google enjoying more of the marketplace than most marketers are comfortable with, an advertising deal between Yahoo and Microsoft would be almost universally welcomed by the digital marketing sector.
Speculation on an advertising deal might be radically premature. Meetings between Yahoo and Microsoft teams are a regular occurrence and have been since Microsoft’s passive-aggressive take-over bid failed. With Bartz’s recent reorganization of Yahoo’s management structure, structural obstacles to tighter relations between the two might have been removed, reorg’ed or otherwise rescinded.
It would make a great deal of sense for Yahoo and Microsoft to develop some sort of deal together. Both have contextually delivered advertising networks that only lack the absurdly enormous distribution scope of their much larger shared rival Google. Put the two together however and add a lot of creativity and contextual advertising distribution channels can grow exponentially for both.
As always with the ongoing Microsoft – Yahoo saga, the future of these will be certainly interesting enough to write about (
perchance to dream) but observers shouldn’t hold their breath too long lest their faces turn from blue to purple and back again.