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The Roundup August 17

It may not be “business,” but it’s not like there’s any news on Fox News, either.

The News Corporation needs television viewers to find the Fox Business Network, and it thinks the cowboy-hat-wearing radio host Don Imus could help. . . .

So far the upstart’s audience is measly. Nielsen Media Research estimates that in June, Fox Business was watched by an average of 21,000 people from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., the hours Fox deems its “business day.” That month, CNBC had an average audience about 11 times that size. . . .

According to people close to the Fox talks, who requested anonymity because the deal is incomplete and could fall apart, “Imus in the Morning” could be shown from 6 to 9 a.m. on Fox Business. Mr. Imus would displace the network’s current morning show, “Money for Breakfast”. . .

(“Fox Business Needs a Lift. Could It Be Don Imus?,” New York Times, August 17) Or they could hire Howard Stern. Or they could show porno movies. This “finding an audience” thing is only challenging when you have the bar set pretty high. Like two inches off the ground too high. Supreme Quiptificator of Blogland, Brad DeLong, has a particular fondness for the sorry state of journalism in this country, particularly in regards to economy and business, so Don Imus as Fox Business’ resident expert in business and economy rings true to the hisview of media as this fin-de-siecle hothouse of degradation and decline. But, hell, as the title says, there ain’t no news on Fox News, why should there be business on Fox Business?

The bad news is that the good news is worse than we thought.

The wounded U.S. economy has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. But many economists, who were caught off guard by the brutality of the downturn, are accentuating the negative, bracing for head winds that could cause the recovery to be weak. . . .

Typically, a deep downturn is followed by a robust recovery, as happened with the steep recession of 1981-82, the most severe since World War II, which was followed by explosive growth through the rest of the decade. Many — but not all — of the world’s top economists doubt that a boom will follow this time. . . .

Downturns caused by financial crises play out differently. The machinery of the financial system grinds to a halt; people cannot get credit to buy things and businesses cannot borrow money to expand.

According to an analysis of 14 financial crises around the world by economists Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the unemployment rate rises an average of seven percentage points in a downturn (this one has increased the U.S. jobless rate by only 4.7 percentage points), and the crisis lasts an average of 4.8 years (this one is at the two-year point).

(“The Signs Don’t Point To a Typical Recovery,” Washington Post, August 17) The signs pointing to a slow and painful recovery include the likelihood that credit will remain tight for years, the dramatic change in consumer spending (more saving and paying down debt rather than buying), the general weakness of other national economies, and the unlikelihood that Obama and the Democratic legislature can keep throwing money out of helicopters for too long. But historically, very bad recessions bounce back with very heated recoveries. So what should you be doing? If you’re in a credit-dependent business, such as home remodeling, don’t expect the doldrums to end soon. And by “soon,” I mean in the next two or three years. If you’re not in a credit-dependent business, retooling your business and customer offering to provide real value for a customer’s money is your defense against both the downturn and a slow recovery. And “real value,” in case you were wondering, includes spectacular customer service.

If your business in any way depends on SEO, now’s the time you should probably be taking Bing seriously.

Bing launched to the public on May 31, when Microsoft held 8.0% search marketshare. Over the course of June and July, the site has gained nearly a full percentage point — it’s up to 8.9%, and growth was actually higher for July than for June, when the site was getting all of its launch attention. . . .

Once again, it looks like Bing’s gain comes at Yahoo’s expense, at least to some extent. Since May, Yahoo has dropped from 20.1% to 19.3%. Google has dropped a more modest .3%, from 65% to 64.7%.

(“Bing’s Marketshare Continued To Creep Upwards In July,” TechCrunch, August 17) Don’t be fooled by Google lovers who state the obvious about Bing growth only barely making a dent in Google market share. As far as market share is concerned, Microsoft is targetting the highest revenue keywords from Google. Some search words make Google a whole lot of money and some search words make no money. The folks at Microsoft understand that market share is cool, but making money is even cooler. And no-one, except Microsoft and Google, are measuring how much Microsoft is eroding (or not) Google’s market share in the search terms that make a lot of money (and there’s only a couple dozen). I think we can confidently assert that Bing is now a serious player in the SEO market and likely to become a make-or-break player. So it’s time to sit down and start rethinking your (Google-friendly, most likely) SEO/SEM strategy and figuring out what the new bruiser on the block likes.

It costs almost $60,000 more than the Volt will, but it’s the first to hit the road.

“Fisker Automotive is only 19 months old, and we’re already as far along with the Karma as General Motors is with the Volt,” company spokesman Rusell Datz told moments before COO Bernhard Koehler took to the track ahead of a pack of vintage Porsche 908s and 917s.

The Karma is a lot like the Chevrolet Volt, and it uses the same basic technology as the Volt. Fisker just wraps it in much sexier bodywork. . . .

“That car is 99 percent of what you’ll see rolling off the line in May. The big difference is that car is handbuilt,” Fisker told us, referring to the Karma parked near Turn 5 of Laguna Seca. “But everything is there.”

(“Fisker Karma Plug-In Hybrid Hits the Track,” Wired, August 17) Why doesn’t everybody use solar power? Because the dangnabbed thing costs too much. Here’s what the average person says when sticker-slammed by a solar power estimate, “I could buy a bloody house with that much money!” Okay, that explains why normal people don’t have solar power. Why doesn’t every rich person have solar power? Because they don’t need it. They can afford their electric bills. It’s really simple. Solar power is too expensive for the folks what need it, and the folks what can pay for it, don’t need it. So why, in heaven’s name, does Fiskar think that people who could afford a $90,000 Fiskar EV car would ever want to buy one? I live right next to a guy who stopped counting his money years ago, he has so much of it. You know what he drives? A truck-sized hummer. Which he replaces every year. Does he care that it costs him $10 in gas just to buy a gallon of milk at the local grocery store? He wouldn’t be replacing that Hummer gas-burner every year if he did. You want to sell plug-in hybrids? Price it so that the people who need one can afford one. You want to not sell plug-in hybrids? Price it so that only those who don’t need or want one can afford one. What mushrooms are these people eating?

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