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Sign of the Apocalypse: From the Mouths of Babes...

Wef_home_logo_2This just in from Davos ... (registration required)

The first English word out of the mouth of babies in Cambodia is 'Google', according to Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of MIT's famed Media Lab.

In the US, a baby's first word is often the name of a Disney franchise. I wonder if this augurs anything for our future competitiveness?

NewBeauty Mag Launches

NewbeautymagazineBoca Raton-based Sandow Media has launched NewBeauty Magazine, "the ultimate cosmetic enhancement guide,'' tapping a rapidly-growing audience looking for information about cosmetic surgery procedures and a growing competition among doctors and health spas. The magazine is launching as 13 regional and one national editions, each about 300 pages.

Profit-hungry newspapers and magazines have recently begun looking at the world of "custom publishing" more closely, engaging advertisers in conversations (subscription required) to find out what kinds of editorial they would be interested in sponsoring.

Demographics are going to accelerate interest in well-established health-related industries that have until now stayed under the radar of the average consumer, ranging from homeopathic medicine to acupuncture. I think that magazines and newspapers should consider publishing special editions featuring editorial, directories of accredited practioners, how-to guides, in combination with a bimonthly email newsletter and practitioner rating program to gauge ongoing interest.

Link: NewBeauty magazine website

Online Merchants Get Real

Bcg_retailingexhibit6Leasing agents at shopping centers may soon get a shot in the arm from an unexpected source: online retailers.

In 2002, the Boston Consulting Group published a analysis of the most effective marketing methods (click on the chart for a full-size image). In-store marketing was cited as one of the most effective yet seldom-used methods.

As online clutter has grown, online retailers like Amazon and eBay have begun their offline strategies: Amazon.com with its Circuit City connection, and eBay with drop-off locations nationwide.

Link: BCG Retailing Online report

NPR Interview: Cities Strain to Cover Budget Gaps

NprThanks to Camille Gerard for referring me to today's story on NPR's Morning Edition. Don Durfee, research editor of CFO Magazine talks about today's antiquated tax structure and the struggles that many American cities like Pittsburgh and Buffalo are having with budget shortfalls. Don mentions Atlanta, San Diego and Chicago as cities with growing problems. Later, he specifically cites the sales tax as a critical factor.

Link: Listen to the NPR Interview

Amazon, the Retail Store

Amazon_1Amazon has launched an in-store pickup service that lets you order online at Amazon and pick up the item at Circuit City. I wouldn't be surprised if the next step is Amazon as a store. 

I think an Amazon in-store experience could leverage cheap LCD high-def screens, theatre-quality sound, and intimate knowledge of shopper desires to create an enormously compelling shopping experience. Like Build-A-Bear, whose success has come from placing the process of product selection front and center, an Amazon store along these lines would make it fun for consumers to explore new and unfamiliar brands and products.

Amazon could get faster time-to-market by working closely with malls and mall retailers. Amazon could cut deals with retailers and brands without storefronts to "cache" inventory, to be sold at one price to retailers, and at another price if resold through the Amazon storefront. Brands like Levi's or Nike could use the combined Amazon/mall infrastructure to satisfy three audiences simultaneously: sales through department stores and mall retailers like The Buckle; sales through the Amazon store; and same-day delivery on online sales to consumers close to the mall. This could be a huge boost for malls, if it is successful in attracting brands that are not currently leasing in malls.

Link: Amazon In-Store Pickup

Integrity For Sale

Michelin_1Guide Michelin announced it is recalling its 2005 Benelux Red Guide (subscription required) because it claimed it had reviewed the Ostend Queen in Belgium and awarded it a "Bib Gourmand," even though it only opened after publication of the guide. Michelin estimates it will take two months to publish replacement guides.

Ostend Queen restaurant owner Fernand David said he got into the guide because of the "good relations" he had with Michelin, and because he was sponsored by an established three-star chef. The restaurant opened only three weeks after the guide was published.

In a fully-connected era, shoddy practices like payola are coming to light faster than ever. Will media companies need their own special version of Sarbanes-Oxley to audit how they publish reviews...or will publishers have the courage to demand accountability from their ad sales departments?

Sharing the Wealth in the Genetic Lottery

Poolphoto30finger184_1I feel that people on both sides of the aisle want what is best for the country. This feeling may be so strong, sometimes, that it is hard for us to see the perspectives of others.

No major issue in American history has ever passed without strong disagreement. I think our collective ability to have these disagreements  and still remain willing to move on and live another day is one reason why America continues to be so great.

My grandfather's land was seized one hundred years ago because it was illegal for non-whites to own property in Denver. But despite it all, he loved his adopted country and he passed on a deep sense of civics and responsibility to his children. In a way, anyone who lives in America, today, is truly a winner in the genetic lottery.

Think of today's vote in Iraq as sharing our prosperity with others. I think we should salute true heroes - like Colombia-born Carlos Valenzuela, the U.N. election organizer in Iraq - who has, for 13 years, organized fair elections in Iraq and other dangerous places around the world. I hope that we can all find it in our hearts to be happy for those  people in Iraq who are trying to do a very big thing...and like my grandfather, dare to dream of a better life for their children.

Let freedom ring, indeed.

"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." (T.S. Eliot)

Link: Democracy in Iraq blog

Yahoo Launches SMS Service

0276274526327141Yahoo! has launched a new addition to their local search service. When you search for a restaurant or retailer on Yahoo! local search, it will send the phone number and address of the destination to your mobile phone. (Of course, you need to first configure your Yahoo! profile properly.)

It saves you from having to print out the page or jot the information down after you do the search.

ConnectMe has developed a simple add-on which adds this kind of SMS functionality to local web sites. In addition to local search, it also includes support for directions and events.

The Coming Tax Crisis

Wef_home_logoOur leaders need to spend more time thinking about local tax and less about frivolities like an international tax, proposed this morning by Jacques Chirac at Davos, a gathering of the world's leaders that included Bill Clinton.

Local taxes pay for the education for our children, for the quality of our roads, and to train and adequately equip the police that protect us. While times were great, I'll bet the city you lived in built all kinds of beautiful new buildings. Now that times are poor they can't even afford to reimburse city workers like Denver Deputy Sheriff George Gatchis for the injuries he suffered off-duty when he was trying to save a child from a fire.

Local taxes are primarily derived from sales taxes. What is our strategy for collecting local sales tax in twenty years, when more online commerce is done with places like China and there is software that eliminates the language barriers that currently exist? Governments would like to pretend there are no problems: how else can you explain why so many people insist there are no future problems with Social Security at the same time that company pension plans are in such deep trouble?

As a small business person and a Republican, I'm against new taxes. However, we will reap a whirlwind if we fail to manage the fair collection of existing taxes.

2005 Predictions for Email

ExactTarget released a list of predictions for 2005.

On top of the list is relevance. With the costs of email campaigns being what they are (postage costs are essentially zero), there are no excuses for catering to your best audiences by developing customized editorial for each audience.

Want some suggestions for key audiences? Professionals at local businesses. Moms. People that just want to stay in shape.  Your tenants and their employees. Teens. Tourism professionals. Managers at local transportation companies.

The key for each audience is to set penetration targets and then finding the right frequency to remain ichiban - that means Number One.

Link: 2005 List of Predictions

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