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Archive for July, 2003

On the road again

by henrycopeland
Thursday, July 17th, 2003

Offline in Boston today. Reachable on mobile at 413 441 3098.

US follows Japanese rates higher, stranding US economy?

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, July 16th, 2003

Some economists say we shouldn’t worry that interest rates have jumped a full percentage point in the last six weeks. They rationalize: while this rise will undoubtedly stifle the booming housing market — the only sector keeping the economy afloat for the last 18 months — rates must be up because the rest of the economy is finally recovering. No worries.

What these guys don’t appreciate is how much the rise in rates may be driven by other forces. First, the federal budget has swung to a massive deficit: the Treasury will need to borrow nearly 1.4 trillion dollars more in the next two years than the last two years. That’s a boatload of bonds, and plentiful supply means lower prices: higher interest rates.

Second, much of the recent jump is driven by massive Japanese dumping of long-term US treasuries. Over the last decade of Japanese depression, Japanese banks have made a habit of borrowing yen at nearly 0% and buying US treasuries.

But the Japanese stock market is up nearly 30% since June. As Japanese ten year bond yields have risen 100% in recent months, from 0.5% to 1%, the yield arbitrage from Japan to the US has become less secure, and a major buyer of treasures becomes a big seller: ergo higher rates.

My bet is that Greenspan is more worried than ever.

No-frills ads for no-frills companies…

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, July 16th, 2003

Reading today’s Wall Street Journal article about the no-frills inhouse advertising produced by budget airlines Ryanair and Easyjet reminded me that part of what makes a blogad good — spontaneity, cheapness and even a little human roughness — can be part of what makes a company good.

“‘Amateurism is definitely part of [a budget airline’s] charm,’ said Guy Abrahams, director of strategy at media-consulting firm Carat Group. ‘[Cheap advertising] is to maintain their brand-name image as a no-frills airlines as much as or possibly even more than to save money.’ Although companies in other sectors are starting to do ads themselves, David Fletcher, head of research at mediaedge:cia, says he doesn’t see it as a major trend. Do-it-yourself advertising is for companies — such as mail-order firms or direct-response advertisers — that don’t need to produce high-quality ads and have business models in line with a no-frills philosophy, he says.”

It’s worth remembering that eBay and Google have always gone out of their way to appear simple and human-scale. No doubt, advertising on blogs — p2p, cheap and cheerful, spontaneous, risk-friendly — can help reinforce a brand’s association with those qualities. In short, glitz and blogads don’t mix.

Ben Franklin on offensive ads

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, July 16th, 2003

Lee Barstow pointed me to Ben Franklin’s Apology for Printers, something Franklin wrote in 1731 after an advertisement he’d taken in his Pennsylvania Gazette offended some churchgoers. He wrote: “Being frequently censur’d and condemn’d by different Persons for printing Things which they say ought not to be printed, I have sometimes thought it might be necessary to make a standing Apology for my self….”

Franklin continues, “I request for all who are angry with me on the Account of printing things they don’t like, calmly to consider these following particulars: 1) That the opinions of men are almost as various as their faces… 5) … that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former almost always is an overmatch for the lattter: Hence [printers] chearfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute.”

Finally, my favorite part: “That I got Five Shillings by [the ad]. That none who are angry with me would have given me so much to let it alone. That if all the People of different Opinions would engage to give me as much for not printing things they don’t like, as I can get by printing them, I should probably live a very easy Life; and if all Printers were every where so dealt by, there would be very little printed.” (Franklin’s essay linked from this page.)

Flash: Google is 150% of search market

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, July 16th, 2003

Today’s WSJ profiles the Google’s awesome power and leads with analyst comScore‘s estimate that Google does 32% of the roughly four billion searches done online each month.

The only problem with this: Google itself says it does “more than 200 million searches a day.” Which means Google accounts 150% of each month’s searches. 🙂

Frankly, I think that the 200 million number is still low, but I guess it serves Google well to leave its competitors and analysts so deeply in the dark. No doubt, Google will make a nice splash declaring that “the search market is actually twice as big as you think” when the company eventually goes public.

For a brief chronicle of the trouble journalists have had thinking critically about Google’s numbers, read this post.

Sharecropping content…

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, July 15th, 2003

Tim Bray urges software developers to avoid being sharecroppers, people who farm someone else’s land using tools and seed provided by the owner. The sharecropper gets a share of the crops, but has little control. “It’s a lousy position to be in, because you’re never going to make much, and if the land’s owner finds something better to do with the land, you’re history.”

Are You a Sharecropper? If you’re developing software for the Windows platform, yes. Or for the Apple platform, or the Oracle platform, or the SAP platform, or, well, any platform that is owned and operated by a company. They own the ground you’re building on, and if they decide they don’t like you, or they can do something better with the ground, you’re toast. They can ship their own product and give it away till you go bust, then start charging for it; and use secret APIs you can’t see; and they can break the published APIs you use. All of these things have historically been done by platform vendors.

On the other hand, “You’re not a sharecropper, especially not a sharecropper, if you’re building on the Web platform. If you can define your value-add as a series of interactions via a browser, or an interchange of XML messages, nobody can whip the land out from under you.” (Thanks to Kevin Burton of Newsmonster for pointing Bray’s article out to me.)

This metaphor is very relevant for content providers now getting paid per click to run Google-mediated text ads. Google is turning publishers into sharecroppers. Google owns the relationship with the client — the advertiser — and has reduced the value of content to its “clickness.” Whether you are the New York Times or Joe Blog, you don’t have a brand anymore as far as Google advertisers are concerned, you are an anonymous provider of clicks. You can’t demand a premium for the quality of your reader — he’s just another anonymous clicker. You can’t demand a premium of the quality of the community you’ve worked so hard to meld — its just a disaggregated bunch of eyeballs.

You are only as good as your clickthrus and Google can always find someone else’s reasonably relevant content to piggyback if you don’t like the terms Google offers. After all, where else are you going to go to find 100,000 context-relevant advertisers?

How much did Google tell you they are sharing from that clickthru? They didn’t say? Oh, sorry.

Another Amherst blogger

by henrycopeland
Monday, July 14th, 2003

Welcome Lee: “I am excited to have this new facet of identity. I’m also excited to have the forum since, as my family, friends, and acquaintances will tell you, I have more to say than anyone wants to hear.”

Democratic, amazing and so cool…

by henrycopeland
Friday, July 11th, 2003

Greg Beato writes: “One of the great benefits of blogads is that they essentially democratize media buying. It’s expanding the number of venues where small advertisers can afford to run ads.”

Oliver Griswold writes: “Thanks for all this amazing technology!”

After ordering an ad, Ginger Mayerson writes: “This was great fun! Blogads are so cool, they need sweaters.”

Crooked lumber: academic grumbling

by henrycopeland
Friday, July 11th, 2003

Finally, a blog my father might enjoy: Crooked lumber. Now, if I can find something for Mom.

Adrift in an ocean of tears

by henrycopeland
Friday, July 11th, 2003

A message from the past.

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