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TV News for Early Risers (or Late-to-Bedders)

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The television business, it seems, is learning what the predawn buyers at the fish market already know: starting the day earlier can be a competitive advantage.

Stations in Boston, New York, Washington and other cities are adding 4:30 a.m. newscasts this month, joining a backward march that started in earnest a few years ago. And those are not even the earliest. One station in New York, WPIX, will move up its start time to 4 a.m. on Sept. 20.

In catering to the earliest of the early risers, stations are reacting to the behavior patterns that are evident in the Nielsen ratings. Simply put, Americans are either staying awake later or waking up earlier -- and either way, they are keeping the television on.

In the past 15 years, the number of households that have a TV set on at 4:30 has doubled, to 16 percent this year from 8 percent in 1995. At 11:30 p.m., by comparison, when most local newscasts end, 44 percent of televisions are on, up 10 percent from the levels 15 years ago.

Gourmet Food Trucks in Los Angeles

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Carolyn Lyons:

Meetings of the five-member Transportation Committee of the Los Angeles City Council tend to be rather quiet affairs. But earlier this month, 150 people crammed into Room 1010 at City Hall to debate LA's latest gastronomic craze: gourmet food trucks.

To their fans, the trucks are a welcome addition to the city's food scene, parking outside shops and offices at lunchtimes and congregating on Friday nights to create mini food festivals. To their critics, they are a menace, stealing trade from restaurants, creating litter, lacking proper licences and regulation, and clogging the parking places of entire streets.

"We don't want to shut down the trucks but we do need to work this out," says councillor Tom LeBonge. "Many of the truck operators want free enterprise and don't like government regulation, but we have to act before it becomes a bigger problem."

Do We Still Need Websites?

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So with all this relentless talk about Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages and cool new apps, I have a serious and timely question. Do brand websites still matter?

Yes, I know -- even asking this question is a bit digitally sacrilegious. Websites are to digital strategy as models are to fashion, but do we really need them?

I mean, didn't things seem a tad curious during the World Cup when brands like Adidas and Nike actively promoted their Facebook page -- not their primary website -- at the end of their TV spots? Just this weekend, I saw a similar cross-feed to Facebook for Kohls. Talk about kicking the ball into a different goal.

Think about all the hoops we've jumped through to register proprietary domain names, in every country and business type -- this perpetually rationalized by an almost unstoppable parade of GoDaddy ads (titillation and all). As a domain-name collector myself, it's hard not to feel a twinge of asset deterioration.

But before you start penning the "ditch the brand website" memo, hold your tweets for a moment. Websites are not going away -- they might be more important than ever -- but they serve a different and evolved purpose today, especially in this new "social" context.

Think wholesale, less retail. Think distribution, less destination. Think serving, less selling.

The Financial Times posted several articles on "Google's Black Box" this week:

Richard Waters:

In an office in Santa Monica, wedged between downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, the future of the media industry is being drawn up.

Demand Media is a company created specifically for the Google Age. It tracks the queries entered into search engines to find out what users are interested in, then hires freelance writers at rock-bottom rates to rush out articles to meet the need.

To make sure these articles appear high up in the results when similar searches are done in future, it uses the techniques of search engine optimisation - the term given to the art of designing a web page so that it is accorded a higher ranking by Google's algorithm. It also makes money by displaying adverts alongside its articles from Google's advertising system.

The fact that content factories are being created to ride on the back of search engines highlights an uncomfortable paradox.

Google's search engine formula marks an ambitious attempt to model the real world in mathematics, identifying its users' needs and desires and delivering the best information from the web in milliseconds. But as its influence across the web grows, Google's algorithm is starting to shape the world it describes.

Tom Foremski:
Groups magnify chances of Google hits:
Companies with a high page rank are in a strong position to move into new markets. By "pointing" to this new information from their existing sites they can pass on some of their existing search engine aura, guaranteeing them more prominence.

This helps companies such as AOL and Yahoo as they move into the low-cost content business, says Mr Bonnie. "They can use their Google page rank to make sure their content floats to the top," he says.

Google's Mr Singhal calls this the problem of "brand recognition": where companies whose standing is based on their success in one area use this to "venture out into another class of information which they may not be as rich at". Google uses human raters to assess the quality of individual sites in order to counter this effect, he adds.

I've known about this for several years but wasn't able to get anyone from Google on the record. These Google employees have the power to promote or even completely erase a site from the Google index.
Scott Cleland:
Wow. After a decade of passionate public representations that Google's vaunted search algorithm is "neutral' and unbiased, we now learn it has substantial regular human intervention to discriminate what site gets what ranking, who gets found and who does not, and who wins and who loses in the business of online content.
The explosion in mobile apps, including our broker iPhone/iPad/iPod app, is changing everything online.

The Financial Investigator: Most every day at 802 Southeast Plaza Avenue in Bentonville, Arkansas appears to be a pretty good one.

That's because that address houses the headquarters of Americas Car-Mart, an auto retailer that has found the sweet spot, the intersection where a corporation's business model meets consumer demand and the net income flows like cool, clear water.

Focusing exclusively on the sub-prime auto-buyer, their clean and efficiently-organized used-car lots throughout the south-central and southwest regions offer a stark contrast to the traditionally dodgy experience of buying a used-car; no one at any Americas Car-Mart locale is likely to be mistaken for the Kurt Russell character in Used Cars. The staff is friendly and well-turned out, there is a wide variety of cars, trucks and vans to choose from, the business offices are clean and air-conditioned and, perhaps best of all, the word "no" just doesn't appear to be used all that often.

From an analytical standpoint, the business model appears to be simplicity itself.

Internet Trends

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Mary Meeker, Scott Devitt, Liang Wu: 1.2MB PDF.

Henry Blodget comments:

Some key points:

The iPad is one of the fastest-selling gadgets of all time (1mm in 28 days)

Android smartphone shipments almost now equal iPhone shipments (Apple's app leverage may disappear fast)

Global 3G wireless penetration just hit 20%, which is usually the inflection point to very rapid growth

Mobile app and search usage is up 2X year over year

iPad Internet usage is more similar to desktop usage than smartphone usage (more pageviews)

Japan shows the potential for mobile advertising: Japan mobile ad spending now $11/user, up from $1 per user six years ago.

Japan shows potential for mobile commerce: 19% of Rakutan's sales now from mobile.

Learn more about Main Street and our iPhone app. Cloud & mobile computing from leads to closings, and everything in between!

Self-Fab House

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Beth Weinstein:

I recall the first time I discovered a brand-new book that appealed to my latter-day Metabolist sensibilities: with a title from Talking Heads, Houses in Motion was proposing lean, mean and mobile utopian aggregations. [1] This last decade has seen a groundswell of exhibitions, books and design competitions promoting innovation in small, efficient and readily fabricated or assembled dwellings. [2] It has seen an abundance of critically inclined and exuberantly designed deployable structures born of the chance encounter between between Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House and Krzysztof Wodiczko's Homeless Vehicle on a CNC milling bed. What a fruitful union that has been, with offspring of shockingly diverse genetic make-up distributed across the globe. Today, four U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlons later, and the first European equivalent in the works, it appears that throughout the global architectural community there is a concern and interest, if not obsession, with the development of compact, self-sustaining dwellings.

The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, or IAAC, is making sure to cover all its bases in this department. It is one of 19 contestants in the European Solar Decathlon, scheduled to take place in Madrid this June, and it is also the sponsor of several ideas competitions on the topic of ecologically self-sufficient dwellings. And the IAAC has just published the results of the second of these competitions (a third is on the way), showcasing the work of over 100 submissions by students and young practitioners for the design of a Self-Fab House.

Is Our Fashion Also Our Identity?

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Linda Grant:

It is a commonly held view that fashion and makeup are trivial concerns: Superficial, unnecessary, and concealing by trickery what is held to be 'real' beneath. Fashion is surface, fad, transient. Yet time and again one uncovers moments when clothes and makeup become the things that render us human. Stubbornly, humankind resists the Puritan instinct. In mid-17th-century England, 10 long years of Republicanism, black clothes with no adornment, and the closure of those pleasure pits, the theatres, were forcibly rejected with a return to the monarchy and the adoption of long curly wigs and a great deal of lace and bosom.

The writer is supposed to be above fashion. The writer's eye gazes ever inward toward deep consciousness. The writer cares nothing for how he or she dresses and of course their characters walk about naked, or all they wear is actually described. This myth does not survive the lightest scrutiny. Photographs of Saul Bellow show him in a series of loud checked jackets and snazzy headgear. The history of literature shows that the high-minded denunciation of dress and personal appearance appears to be a late 20th-century phenomenon. Chaucer carefully describes the attire of each of his pilgrims setting out for Canterbury, Shakespeare's Malvolio wears cross-gartered yellow stockings, George Eliot's Dorothea Brooke, on the opening page of Middlemarch, is described as wearing plain dress because she knows it sets off her fine figure.

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 (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.

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 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."

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