Google may be about to purchase GrandCentral. If so, congratulations go out to the guys at GrandCentral. They worked extremely hard to build a superior service. I recently used GC in my search for employment and it was completely reliable. The "phone number for life" concept is a real winner and GC's feature-rich service allows for advanced customization and configuration of your telephony experience. Plus, you never have to give people your "new phone number" again.
Obviously, if the acquisition goes through, then it strengthens Google's hand for office services, and it could be a central player in a suite of killer web-based apps. Again, if it happens, big time congrats to GC!
Mahalo, Jason Calacanis' new startup search engine, is implementing a fascinating approach to search engine results. Instead of going the way of the algorithm - the automated scoring process for determining search engine results pages (SERPs) that appear after a query is tendered - Mahalo's SERPs are hand-crafted. Every page of results is created, reviewed and maintained by actual people. Yes, humans!
On the surface this may seem contrary to the way we do things these days. Typical SERPs are slaves to the algorithm, but they lack the fundamental human-only wisdom that separates splogs from real content, ad-farms from actual indexes. The Mahalo editors can literally review every link they post. That factor alone results in higher quality SERPs because the trash gets separated out and the good stuff stays in. Mahalo then takes it a step further and appropriately groups the results so you can find the exact type of information you're looking for related to your query. The grouping adds massive value to the search results.
Here are examples from two topics I am very passionate and very knowledgeable about.
As an aficionado on both topics I can tell you that Mahalo's results for both queries are superior to Google's. Mahalo's results provide context and clarification. They separate signal from noise. I don't have to do a lot of digging to find the right stuff, the stuff I'm looking for. Whether I want Grateful Dead music, news, video - whatever, the results are properly packaged and presented, saving time, keeping frustration at bay and filling me with the a feeling of, well, "Mahalo."
High quality aggregation is carrying the day, and even more so in the days to come. If Mahalo is able to aggregate the top 10,000 internet search terms better than anyone else, it could be a huge victory for web users and for Calacanis' dream of a private jet.
We've all learned alot about "people-ready" businesses in the last day or so. Now, along comes a great parody site complete with quotes from MSM stars. Although most of the A-Listers involved in this controversy will never admit that what they did was improper, Wipe Ready shines the light on what would happen if you follow the snowball effect downhill. I like Geraldo's quote the best.
A weekend fire-storm is brewing over the issue of A-List bloggers who were paid to participate in an advertising campaign. Microsoft wanted some social media coverage and buzz for its products and services. They took their desire to Federated Media who roped in publishers on its advertising network to participate. So far, so good. Things took a turn for the worse when those publishers were asked to gin up quotes about how their businesses are "people-ready." The quotes were then integrated into a web-based advertising campaign the result of which you can see for yourself. Bloggers who have spent years building credibility and audiences were reduced to paid corporate spokespeople. They traded at least a portion of their credibility for a quick buck and crossed a major ethical blogging line-in-the-sand. They were paid to produce content that would be posted only if it met with their corporate sponsor's approval. True journalists like Om Malik immediately realized the error of their ways. Others whom I greatly admire are digging themselves in for a fight stating that they are simply "part of the conversation" and this is how "new media" works. Problem is, there is nothing "new media" about getting paid to make a statement that you would not otherwise make. They're only "part of the conversation" because they got paid to have their voices heard. That's not a conversation. That's PayPerPost for A-Listers.
Om Malik wins the Title of the Day award with this one: "Apple + Google: Now That's Hot." The posts focuses on the announcement expected early next week from Steve Jobs regarding new products/services and a partnership with Google. The idea of Apple hardware running Google OS and accompanying software is a marvelous thing and the announcement will be watched closely.
Regardless of the specifics of the Apple/Google announcement, Malik's post jumped out at me among many others on the same topic in my reader simply because of its title, pegged to the news of the day and perfectly capturing the essence of a potential Apple/Google project. Nicely done.
Geography and location are huge on the web. With the ubiquity of mobile devices, localized information is becoming even more vital to the daily lives of individuals. Startups, investors and users are flocking to hyper-localized content. But who are the up-and-coming players, and how will the data be meaningfully sliced, diced and delivered in the next few years? Where 2.0 will be a great indicator of, uhm, where things are heading in this space.
I recently took my 1997 Cadillac DeVille to Kachina Cadillac for servicing. The family is taking a trip to Grand Canyon this weekend, so the car has to be in perfect running condition. I had the necessary repairs done then something strange happened. When I was picking up my car and paying my bill the cashier gave me a CD along with my receipt. It had my name on it and a label stating that it contained information regarding the work I just had done to my car. Instinctively, I popped the disc into my car's stereo as I drove away and was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of the technician that actually worked on my car. She went into detail about the issues my car was having, her assessment of those issues and the repairs that were done. I was given a complete audio tour of my car's repairs, and I was thrilled with it.
This dealer is trying to establish closer, more long-term relationships with their customers. That's smart. They've gone so far to realize this strategy that their repair techs are doing audio recordings of the work they just completed! Needless to say, the mechanics are not natural orators, but their in-your-front-seat rundown of the work they just did on your car is nothing short of brilliant. The blow-by-blow from the technician gives the impression that someone took the time to fully inspect your car, do a thorough job of diagnosing the problem, then carefully repaired the vehicle. Of course, the disc also contained a short commercial for the dealership which I was more than happy to listen to as I sat in appreciation of this newly established personal relationship with my mechanic.
The dealership made me a more loyal, dedicated fan of their business; and now I'm providing some bona fide word-of-mouth marketing for them. Great move, Kachina Cadillac - I'll be back soon.
My family was recently involved in a brief taping of a Dateline episode. The producers were unsure of when the episode would run so I went to Dateline's Web site to try and find out. I figured that signing up for their email newsletter would yield the intended results. Boy, was I wrong.
I found the sign-up box, entered my email address and clicked submit. I was then told I needed to log-in to my .Net Passport account to sign-up for the Dateline newsletter. Huh? I'm trying to keep abreast of an NBC show to make sure I don't miss a particular episode and I need to register with Microsoft? No thanks, not interested.
It's stunning that a supposedly savvy Web property like MSNBC.com could be so out-of-touch with basic marketing, best practices on the net and their customers' experience.
Come on, MSNBC. Liberate your newsletters from the shackles of Passport now!
The public relations industry is booming, especially as more companies realize that traditional, old-school advertising campaigns are risky, expensive and potentially ineffective. Those bloated advertising budgets should be slashed and strategically re-deployed to enhance brand awareness through the use of public relations. Backing up this argument, rPath CEO Billy Marshall states:
"PR is one of the cheapest and most effective forms of building awareness around the company and its products."
The folks at BuyMyCigars were very receptive to my suggestions about their blog. They quickly responded to my post and even blogged about it. Good for them! The company is being very proactive in addressing some of the issues (read "opportunities") they are experiencing, and their blog, and bottom line, will be better for it.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em!
Why is it that we only hear from companies when there is bad news for them to announce or respond to? Effective communications and public relations means being proactive in good news cycles and bad. Proactive communication allows you to set the terms and frame the discussion while also appearing responsive and in-touch with customer concerns. Constantly being in reaction mode amplifies the perception that you are hiding something. So get out there and be heard - in good times and bad!
The perfume industry goes to extremes when designing bottles for their product. What exactly is the bottle saying to you when it is plucked off the shelf?
The nightmare at iFulfill.com continues
to unfold for merchants who had their product stored at the now-defunct
fulfillment company. Companies go out of business everyday - no big
deal. Heck, I had a company that had to shut its doors. The challenge
(or opportunity) is how you deal with current clients when closing the
doors on a business venture. The proper thing to do is to establish
relationships with a few of your competitors, determine which of your
clients would be best with certain companies and refer/recommend them
to the competitor. Next, help them move their business to the new
supplier and assure that they have an as-smooth-as-possible transition.
iFulfill.com did not choose this path. Instead, owner Paul Purdue sent an email to clients last week informing them that iFulfill was going out of business immediately and Purdue would contact folks later regarding how they can pickup their pallets of product! Wha?!?!?! Seething iFulfill client's are voicing their disapproval and Purdue is nowhere to be seen (nor heard from). It seems that iFulfill just does not understand the true impact of their poor choices, and quite frankly, may not care.
Yet, in the ultimate display of poor taste the company is still offering free quotes (woohoo!) to prospective clients. You can also check the About Us page and read how Purdue got the idea for iFulfill. He is even brazen enough to end that portion of the copy with this gem: "Eat your heart out Amazon."
And here's the sealer for all you prospective new clients - Paul closes his About page with this message:
"Sign up today and we'll send you an autographed photo of me in a bunny suit for your desk or night stand."
Lesson learned (one of many): all the personal-sounding,
over-hyped and over-priced web site copy in the world won't help you if
it's all a bunch of bullshit. Customer service (that boring old idea)
is what keeps companies afloat, or sinks them to the murky depths of
The booming popularity of used book sales is being perceived as a threat to the publishing industry.
Anytime an upstart marketplace gains ground in an established industry
the old-liners can usually be found grumbling about those young