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The Roundup July 29

Marijuana leaf
Not only does it make a great tax, it’s pretty cool as a state flag, no?

Nothing says “tax me” like a good joint.

Oakland pot activists, fresh off a victory at local polls on the taxing of medical marijuana, took their first official step Tuesday toward asking California voters to legalize pot.

A proposed ballot measure filed with the California attorney general’s office would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot. Homeowners could grow marijuana for personal use on garden plots up to 25 square feet. . . .

Both ballot measures would be competing with a bill introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

(“Calif. Pot Activists File Ballot Measure,” Associate Press, July 28) Here’s the thing. If you let people smoke pot, not only will they be happy to pay taxes on the pot, you could probably, if your timing is just right, talk them into paying taxes on just about anything. Cheetos. Urinating. Looking at trees. And California ain’t the only state setting its sites on a dooby tax. If you’ve read our completely and totally disrespectful history of taxes and the folks what hate ‘em, then you know that nothing brings out the perverse genius of human creativity as coming up with ways to render unto Caesar what belongs to the rest of us.


Yahoo! and Bing. Not a marriage made in heaven, but a little bit of hell for Google.

Following months of on-again, off-again negotiations, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) on Wednesday unveiled a wide ranging search alliance under which Microsoft’s technology will power queries on all of Yahoo’s Web properties while Yahoo assumes broad sales responsibilities for both companies Internet platforms. . . .

“Success in search requires both innovation and scale. With our new Bing search platform, we’ve created breakthrough innovation and features. This agreement with Yahoo will provide the scale we need to deliver even more rapid advances in relevancy and usefulness,” Ballmer said.

(“Microsoft, Yahoo Finally Ink Search Pact ,” Information Week, July 29) Forbes columnist Lee Gomes penned a must-read article on Microsoft’s strategy against Google. Money quote:

Daniel Sullivan, an analyst at Search Engine Land, say he’s tried for years to learn how much of Google’s revenues come from the top few search fields. The list remains a Google state secret, but the fact that searches tend to be highly concentrated is well known. The business implication is that Google is less a Gibraltar-like fortress than a platform resting on a small number of legs. Kick out one or two and you can cause a significant amount of pain.

Which is precisely what Microsoft is up to with Bing. Though it aims to be the same sort of general interest search service as Google, Bing was engineered to excel in a few popular, high-profit search topics–in effect, Google’s Greatest Hits.

What Gomes doesn’t point out is that the Bing strategy was also aimed at Yahoo! (from which Bing took most of its market share) in order to force a deal. The current deal, of course, is one more flank in Microsoft’s assault on Google. Gomes’ point is that Google’s market share (65%) is relatively meaningless — all Microsoft and Yahoo! have to do is blitzkrieg just a few dozen search terms in order to capture substantial amounts of Google’s search revenues, as opposed to market share.

Here’s how the deal was structured:

  • Originally, Yahoo! was negotiating for a $2 billion check for its search engine, but settled instead for taking a percentage (88%) of search revenue from the combined operation for ten years, valued at $500 million a year.
  • Yahoo! is effectively out of the search business, handing over every piece of cake to Microsoft. This saves Yahoo! $200 million dollars, but it’s also bad news for Google. Why? Microsoft has the kind of money to throw at this project to equal or surpass Google no matter how many years it takes.
  • Yahoo! keeps control of the Yahoo! search experience and advertising revenue. But, for all practical purposes, Yahoo! is now an email, news, and entertainment company.

    What does this mean for small businesses and startups? In the past, search engine optimization could effectively stop at two search engines: Yahoo! and Google. In fact, if you optimized your Web site for placement on Google alone, you were doing fine in driving traffic. And, for the most part, SEO/SEM was a relatively simple matter — you simply optimized for search terms and, if you were limited to a particular area, you also optimized those search terms for local business listings.

    The rules have changed with Bing. It’s a very different creature that offers several different buckets to dump your search terms in, meaning that you have a much better chance of showing up on the first SERP (search engine results page) if you play your cards right. Microsoft themselves claim that Bing offers more opportunities for long-tail marketers than other search engines and our numerous trials with it seem to bear this out. Therefore, because Bing is more of a category-based engine, simply optimizing search terms is only half the picture. We’ve been scouring Microsoft’s own SEO advice to Webmasters and hoovering up all we can find on the Web. So, now that the Microsoft search engine will effectively end up with almost 1/3 of all search traffic in just a few months, today seems like a good day to prepare a post. Look for it!

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  • One Response to “The Roundup July 29”

    1. Steve Monas says:

      I thought that after the February 24th issue with pot no longer on the DEA list of things to fly expensive helicopters over, it wouldn’t take more than 3 years for pot to be legal in california..now it’s a matter of months..that’s one spark of light in a much gloomy recession for state defictit crisis.

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