April 2010 Archives

Erick Schonfeld:

The Huffington Post is taking on more of the trappings of a social network. Borrowing from Foursquare, today it will start giving out badges to loyal readers who share a lot of HuffPost stories via Facebook and Twitter (the Networker), comment like crazy (the Superuser), or flag inappropriate comments (the Moderator). The site also redesigned its user profile page to better highlight each user's comment stream, and her friends, fans, or followers.

Last summer, the site launched its HuffPost Social News network, allowing readers to log in with their Facebook IDs, and friend, fan, and follow each other on the site. It later added Twitter, Google, and Yahoo as login options. "We want to incorporate the best of social media," Arianna Huffington tells me. "It is important for the growth of the site so far, and even more important for the future growth."

The Huffington Post is already fairly huge. Five years after she launched it as a politics blog, it now attracts 23 million readers a month in the U.S. (comScore, March, 2010), which is more than the NYTimes.com (13.3 million). And the site now covers 20 different news categories, including media, entertainment, sports, business, and local city sections for New York, L.A., Chicago, and Denver. An art section is launching next month, and after that a travel section. Politics now represents less than a quarter of the HuffPosts's traffic.

Linking Customer Loyalty With Social Networking

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Stephanie Clifford:

PEPSICO wants to sell its customers sodas whether they are near a grocery store, a restaurant or a gas station. With a new partnership that weaves its loyalty program into the location-based network Foursquare, PepsiCo gets a live notification when its customers are close to those sites, and can present offers that get them into the stores.

"Being able to drive foot traffic into our restaurant partners and our retail partners is a huge opportunity, because that's where our product is sold," said B. Bonin Bough, director of social and emerging media for PepsiCo. "Ten blocks mean a lot."

Through smartphones that signal someone's location, stores and brands like Starbucks, Tasti-D-Lite, Macy's and Pepsi are getting live information about when and where people are shopping. Some companies are turning Foursquare into a virtual loyalty-card program, while others are creating their own location applications, offering customers discounts or other rewards for shopping.

What Men And Women Are Doing On Facebook

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Jenna Goudreau:

"The world's gone social. And women are more social than men." --Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Facebook, the largest social networking tool in the world, is dominated by women.

According to BrianSolis.com and Google Ad Planner, the 400-million member site is 57% female and attracts 46 million more female visitors than male visitors per month. Plus, women are more active on Facebook. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says women on Facebook have 8% more friends and participate in 62% of the sharing. "The social world is led by women," she concludes. And they're leading that charge online.

Where Do Women Social Network? Top 10 Sites

Women are the majority of users on many of the biggest social networking sites, including Twitter, MySpace, Bebo and Flickr. Men, meanwhile, are most active on sites like Digg, YouTube and LinkedIn, which are more content-oriented and promotional than discussion-based.

However, women don't just visit different sites from men, they use social media differently than men. Experts believe the difference between how men and women operate online mirror their motivations offline. While women often use online social networking tools to make connections and share items from their personal lives, men use them as means to gather information and increase their status.

"We're women--we like to talk about things. Women use social media as a way to connect," says Jodi Kahn, the head of iVillage. A recent joint study from BlogHer and iVillage supports her theory, reporting that three-quarters of women use online communities to stay up to date with friends and family, and 68% use them to "connect with others like me."

The Economist:

THE city most comparable to Portland might be Vancouver in Canada, reckons Sam Adams, Portland's mayor, although "we look to Amsterdam, Helsinki and Stockholm" for ideas. Ethan Seltzer, a professor of urban planning in Portland, thinks little Freiburg, in Germany, is the best comparison, with its similar obsessions about recycling, sustainability, public transit and bicycling. Others pick Zurich, which, like Portland, has a view of snow-capped mountains, orderly (bordering on staid) streets with trams, even the same peculiar fondness for direct democracy and tolerance of assisted suicide.

This might seem odd for a city on the American West Coast that once was the terminus of the Oregon Trail and has a cowboys-and-rodeos heritage. The locals, in fact, enjoy feeling odd: "Keep Portland weird", say bumper stickers on the city's cars, which all seem to be hybrid-electric vehicles. "Keep Portland sanctimonious," mumble a few contrarians, while others savour the irony that Portland had to steal the slogan from Austin, Texas. But on the whole, Portlanders not only love their city but believe that it is, and ought to be, a model for the rest of America.

Mr Adams has personally contributed by becoming the first (though no longer the only) openly gay mayor of a big American city, and even surviving a recall attempt after a sex scandal (he is now confronting another). Mr Adams has a vision of progressive urbanism: a city where most people cycle or ride the streetcar, recycle what they consume, exist in harmony with nature and live in communities rather than the suburban sprawl of cities like Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix or Atlanta.

Mike Arrington:

I sat down with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman and investor/board member James Slavet to talk about the continued success of the Seattle-based company. Warning in advance - the interview was done at the end of the day and we were drinking beer from our new kegerator, and we rambled at times. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon viewing, in my opinion.

Kelman announced in the video that Redfin is now on a $30 million revenue run rate, up from $15 million last summer (and at that point they were profitable.

Facebook to target ads based on users' trail

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David Gelles:

Facebook has laid the ground for a new system that would track its users' behaviour as they visit other sites around the internet, using the information to deliver highly targeted advertisements to them on the social networking site.

So-called "behavioural targeting" is widely used by companies such as Google but, on Facebook.com, the move is likely to provoke a new round of criticism over incursions into users' privacy.

In order to make the system work, Facebook is planning to unveil this week a content-sharing button that other websites can embed on their pages, according to marketers briefed on the plans. Similar to buttons from Twitter and Digg that let users share content with their social networks, the Facebook button will allow users to signal the content they like on sites around the internet.

However, data from these interactions would be used to target them with related adverts once they return to Facebook.com

Jon R. Katzenbach and Zia Khan:

A few years ago we were studying a dozen front-line supervisors at a large telecommunications company in North America. These supervisors had been selected because of their widely recognized ability to motivate the people they worked with -- emotionally as well as rationally. Their people simply did not ever want to disappoint them. The managers counter-intuitively simplified the guidance they received from HR into a singular focus on making people take pride in their day-to-day work. As we came to understand what they did that most "good managers" did not do, we realized that this was a learnable skill. What they did could be captured in a few simple behaviors.

When we shared these behaviors with the CEO, he became impatient. "This seems pretty straightforward -- so why don't more supervisors do this stuff?" he asked. At first we suggested the obvious: faulty recruiting, selection, training, incentive and performance management programs. His response stopped us in our tracks:

David Gelles:

Facebook on Friday announced another round of changes to its privacy policy, including amendments that could allow the site to share user information automatically with third-party websites.

Certain websites could soon be "pre-approved" by Facebook, so that if a user is logged into Facebook and then visits the third-party website, it would receive information including the "names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting" of a user and his or her friends.

The sites might be able to retain that information "to the extent permitted under their terms of service or privacy policies".

Facebook said it would introduce the feature with a small group of partners and offer new controls for users to opt out.

However, the company could face resistance by users and advocates who see such a move as another invasion of privacy.

Brokers and others have mused the mining potential of Facebook's data.

Gelles has written a followup article on Facebook's privacy issues:

For example, when Facebook users post a new piece of content, they can decide whether to share that with an individual, a group or the entire web.

Facebook's motives are not hard to grasp. By making more personal information publicly accessible, it is improving its ability to target users with highly-specified adverts. "They are pushing the envelope because it is in their financial best interest to do so," says Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester Research.

However, Facebook - and the rest of the social networking industry - is facing the prospect of increased regulation in Europe and the US, its biggest markets.

Morgan Stanley 2.5MB PDF, Mary Meeker / Scott Devitt / Liang Wu:

  1. Wealth Creation / Destruction is Material in New Computing Cycles - Now in Early Innings of Mobile Internet Cycle, the 5th Cycle of Last Half Century.
  2. Mobile Ramping Faster than Desktop Internet Did and Will Be Bigger Than Most Think - 5 Trends Converging (3G + Social Networking + Video + VoIP + Impressive Mobile Devices).
  3. Apple Leading in Mobile Innovation + Impact, for Now - Depth of App Ecosystems + User Experience + Pricing Will Determine Long-Term Winners.
  4. Game-Changing Communications / Commerce Platforms (Social Networking + Mobile) Emerging Very Rapidly.
  5. Massive Data Growth Driving Carrier / Equipment Transitions.
  6. Growth / Monetization Roadmaps Provided by Japan Mobile + Desktop Internet.
Learn more about Virtual Properties' iPhone app here.

Review: Joel Kotkin's "The Next Hundred Million"

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Tim Oren:

(This blog has been suffering its usual fate during California's spring. Neglect, that is. I've been out putting some miles on my hiking boots, thereby completing my rehab from getting the metal out of my leg. I'll try to unload a few things from the blogging queue before heading East to Virginia for vacation in a couple of weeks.)

I first noticed Joel Kotkin through bumping into links to his regular Forbes column. That led me on to the New Geography blog, where he's a frequent poster. A feed well worth following for those, like myself, looking for data and analytic points of view on location options.

For any who follow Kotkin at all, the main theses in this book - subtitled "America in 2050" will come as no surprise:

Tom Foremski:

With the demise of "mass media" the old rules of having a media presence have changed. Here are some notes on why companies need to develop some of the same skills that media companies have, in generating great media.

- Large companies have had an advantage in hogging the media limelight because of their large teams of corporate comms people and use of large PR agencies. They worked with a relatively small number of journalists in print, TV, and radio.

Over time those journalists were educated on the company/clients and it was possible to establish a large media presence across different platforms and channels.

- This traditional approach is fairly expensive and it takes many well paid professionals to create and maintain media relations. It's not something that was available to smaller companies.

Richard MacManus:

Three years ago we reviewed Martha Stewart's women's lifestyle website, marthastewart.com. At that time, April 2007, the site had just undergone a web 2.0 facelift. Martha Stewart 2.0 included more videos, blogging and general community features such as recipe swap functionality and message boards. It planned to add further personalization and community features over 2007.

We thought it would be interesting to take another look at Martha Stewart's website, to get an indication of how mainstream websites have evolved over the past 3 years.

The design of marthastewart.com hasn't changed much since we last checked. It has the same pastel green color scheme and is organized in much the same way, around lifestyle categories: Food, Entertaining, Holidays, Weddings, Crafts, Home & Garden, Pets, Whole Living, Community.

However if we look more closely, several things have taken more prominence on the site compared to 2007.

The Economist:

GREAT storms and floods have a way of altering landscapes. Once the waters recede, some of the changes are obvious: uprooted trees, damaged property, wrecked roads. Later come further changes, as people seek to avoid a repeat, erecting new flood walls or rebuilding elsewhere.

As in the physical world, so in the economic one. The financial deluge that broke over America has passed and the recession it caused, the worst since the 1930s, is ebbing. This year the American economy is expected to grow by around 3%, after shrinking by 2.4% in 2009. Rainbow-spotters hope that employment is at last beginning to grow again. And the economy emerging from recession is not the same as the one that went in. There is obvious damage: high unemployment, millions of foreclosed homes and a huge hole in the public finances. Less obviously, a "rebalancing" is under way: from consumption, housing and debt to exports, investment and saving. As our special report this week argues, this is enormously promising for America and the world; but it is far from assured. A lot depends on politicians--and not just the ones in Washington.

America has relied for decades on its consumers' willingness to spend, borne up by borrowing and the false comfort of bubbles in asset prices. Now Americans are saving more and borrowing less because the collapse in home prices has eviscerated their wealth. Bankers and regulators who once celebrated the democratisation of credit now ration it. Businesses from General Electric to Citigroup that prospered from the consumption culture are rethinking--and often shrinking--their loan books. Property developers are building smaller, simpler houses. The country's geography is changing. Recession has slowed the rush to sun and sprawl. People are moving out of Florida and into North Dakota. Foreclosures and costlier commutes have laid low the distant suburbs, or exurbs.

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