Categorized | happenings

The Roundup September 24

Mobile coupons. Read on . . .

Retailer JCPenney has introduced a mobile coupon program for its Houston customers via a partnership with mobile technology firm Cellfire.

The program enables customers to use mobile coupons that are scanned at the point of sale in JCPenney stores. To do so, consumers must first download a special Cellfire tool to their phones, which they can use to access the mobile coupons. These barcoded coupons then can then be checked through point-of-scale scanners in 16 JCPenney stores in the greater Houston area.

(“JCPenney introduces mobile coupons to Houston consumers,” DM News, September 24) Technically, this is old news. A few firms, such as Caribou Coffee, Dominos, A&P, and a couple other grocers have been distributing scannable mobile coupons for a while. As a small business or entrepreneur, however, you should be aware of this. So far, no manufacturer has weighed in on the mobile coupon front. No-one has yet implemented coupons through their own mobile app. No-one has built a cheap, easy-to-use app for small businesses to use to distribute mobile coupons (trust me, Cellfire is affordable only by retailers like Sears and Dominos). No-one has built an app that aggregates mobile coupons buzzing around out there in the mobile cloud. Do you get the picture? It’s at the very beginning of a trend that your idea can be the big money-maker.

And like everything else hawked by Seth Godin, the real question is, “Where’s the “there” here?”

Seth Godin wants to protect your brand from Twitter, for $400 a month. The prolific author, blogger, marketing guru, motivational speaker and founder of web service Squidoo this week launched Brands in Public, a new service which creates “unofficial” pages that aggregate ongoing conversations about brands on Twitter, YouTube and blogs. . . .

Mr. Godin’s new concept is set up as a public dashboard where you can monitor what’s said about your brand. But there’s a twist. For $400 a month, you can “curate” your own brand’s page. And there’s another thing: Mr. Godin is making a site for your brand whether you ask for it or not, which one blogger called “brand hijacking.”

(“Is Seth Godin Protecting Your Brand or Just ‘Brandjacking’ It?,” Advertising Age, September 24) I spent about an hour on the Brands In Public this afternoon and, frankly, I don’t know what the hell it is or why anyone would want to visit (and I’m an expert in this stuff). The user interface is a total, hopeless mess and the information pulled from the feeds are, well, superhumanly unimpressive. Just putz around a bit in the Twitter or blog feed on any brand and you won’t find very many pro or con comments, just a whole lot of nothing (which is to be expected). There’s no question that the target audience are brand owners, since the site has no use whatsoever for anyone else. If that’s the case, what brand manager is going to plough through all this stuff? There’s no data mining, data aggregation, clustering, or any querying tool, let alone, an absolutely necessary tool such as a neural network. So “brandjacking”? Yeah, if you call a four-year old squirting your car doors with a water pistol “carjacking.” Nothing new here, folks, move along.

Make sure your next tweet includes the following words: “stupid rich people socialism.”

Twitter Inc. is nearing a deal for as much as $100 million in new funding that would buy the fast-growing Internet-messaging company more time to figure out its business model, according to people familiar with the situation.

The investor group is expected to include mutual-fund giant T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and private-equity firm Insight Venture Partners, which would be new investors to Twitter. Existing Twitter investors, including Spark Capital and Institutional Venture Partners, are also expected to participate in the round, according to the people familiar with the plan.

The investors are valuing Twitter — which has yet to make a profit — at $1 billion.

(“Twitter’s Value Is Set at $1 Billion,” Wall Street Journal, September 24) Or should we rename the company “Fritter,” as in, “frittering away the wealth of stupid people.” Now that Bernie Madoff has won a lifetime vacation at taxpayer’s expense, investors are looking for the next money-disappearing act. Here’s the thing: Twitter is a monumental success in terms of users. To investors, it looks like no-one can possibly dislodge them in the world of microblogging. But the fact is that they’re not making money. They are using investor money to provide a free (as in “revenue-free”) service to the rest of the world, what I call “stupid rich people socialism.” They’re not talking about being profitable this year or even next, let alone making the kinds of profits to justify a one billion dollar valuation. Think about it. What rational investor would pump in $100 million into a company so that it could have “more time to figure out its business model.” These must be the same idiots who who eagerly pass along the “mail this letter to five people and send me one dollar to each person on the list” scams. Only to pass on this pyramid letter, the cost is one hundred million of those crisp dollar bills.

Worse still, Twitter is not innovating. Let me restate that just so it sinks in. Twitter is not innovating. But Twitter competitors are. “Time to figure out” your business model is a long time in the rapidly-moving technology world, particularly since competitors are already out there building the next microblogging models, and already thinking how to monetize the deal — to avoid the same problem they see with Twitter. Despite its popularity, Twitter is already becoming long in the tooth and the next great social media “thing” is lurking around the corner. Twitter, to my mind, promises to become the next Iomega, but without any of the initial profits and revenues. Iomega totally remade the removable storage market back in the mid-90’s, made a mint, and then . . . they just jumped up and down in the same place while the world moved on to the next great storage technology. Trust me. Twitter has been jumping up and down in the same conceptual place and promises to do more of the same for years to come. Unless Twitter totally remakes the whole microblogging world with a conceptual and technological leap, the second mouse will get the cheese on this one.

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