Archive for October, 2008

Fear The Valley Of Darkness

Many among us are too young to remember The Stepford Wives, an early 70s movie and novel that chronicled the lives of once independent women turned mindless, follow – the–herd housewives in the fictitious cold coast town of Stepford, Connecticut.

Well fast forward 35 years and cross the country to Silicon Valley. If you agree with the premise of this outstanding piece by Tom Foremski in the Silicon Valley Watcher, a similar phenomenon has unfolded out west as it relates to the VC community. Tom is one of the smartest, yet most grounded (not to mention most approachable) journalists/bloggers in the game today. He shows it yet again with this piece. He’s also a pro in every sense of the word who understands the story is not about him, but about the companies, entrepreneurs, investors and yes, sometimes even the marketers who are making it happen in the tech community every day.

In his latest piece, Tom essentially takes to task not so much the folks at Sequoia Capital, but others in the SV VC crowd who aren’t exactly thinking and acting independently these days when it comes to funding and working with their portfolio companies through this current down cycle. Tom gives Sequoia their props for its considerable influence among the rest of the VC crowd. But he also shows he believes in the next upturn and is urging other investors not to follow the crowd and “act like sheep.”

Tom’s prescription for start ups and the investors that fund them is refreshingly simple:

Think long term – 2-5 years is what matters most to young companies, not what is happening right now.

Don’t just cut for the sake of cutting. Be smart about building your businesses and don’t get bloated in the first place.

It is a great time to be at start up because things will get better; those who have kept or increased their investments in their best people and invested in their brand – through PR, social media, marketing – will emerge in a much stronger position.

One can only hope that if entrepreneurs and their investors are looking to follow someone’s advice it is Tom’s.


The Paper Chase

Call me “Old School”, but I like a good old fashioned hard copy of newspaper in the morning with the morning coffee or breakfast. Not that I am breaking any news here, but I was pretty disheartened to hear (on the radio very early this morning) my first news nugget of the day: local newspapers continue to feel the pain with shrinking circulations. The Boston Globe saw an 10.2 percent drop in circulation over last year while the Heralds’ fell by 9.9 percent. Their Sunday numbers looked only slightly better by about two percentage points. The trend also played out nationally with consistency at the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times all saw paid circulation figures drop. Only the Wall Street Journal and USA Today were about to share any positive news here: they both held circulation figures with no changes reported. I’ve been hearing people say of late “flat is good.” I guess so.

Add it all up and it is not good news for anyone –advertisers, consumers, news media junkies, PR people. But let’s face it – the Web has also killed the 30 minute broadcast news segment and the “news” paper is an oxymoron. But what are the good folks at New York Times Co. and other conglomerates to do to slow down their pace of extinction and keep their print properties afloat? Certainly it is not going to come from dramatically increased ad rates as subscriber numbers area headed in the wrong direction. And, it is still all about the eyeballs.

So, here are a few thoughts.

Turn back the clock. Many Web outlets attempted to charge for premium content back in the mid-90s and failed miserably. Yet, the WSJ has figured it out. I’d pay for something exceptional, rare and really great writing. Heck, does it with its “Insider” content and I’m sure that model works for them to be able to underwrite their high priced editorial talent.

Hit up the “Out of Towners” up for a few bucks. Do you pay more to get your Boston Globe when vacationing on Cape Cod or the Islands? Or your NY Post or Daily News when just have to read the latest Yankee bashing or celebrity gossip? I have to think that the legions of displaced Bostonians across the country who still want their “local” news and views on the Sox, Celts, Patriots, not to mention the latest on Beacon Hill, would fork over a few bucks a month for premium content delivered via RSS feed, video feed or email.

Monetize video. Most publishers have. Again, can’t someone figure out a way to price this type offering at a decent rate and still make some money? Think the GameTracker and how many folks in Orange County, San Francisco, Chicago and Texas tuned in on their laptops to follow the Sox in the playoffs online.

Create an affiliate ad or marketer network. Hello? Has this been done? How many restaurants, ski resorts, clubs, theaters and other sports, arts and entertainment venues need to stay top of mind with consumers? Work out some ad placement deals with discounted meals or tickets for subscribers and everyone wins. Who wants a half empty house of patrons? Who wants to pay full price for anything in this economy?

I hope some fixes come along soon. What else will we line or bird cages with or wrap our fish in? Old laptops, Blackberries or smart phones?

AIGA Gain 2008

Thanks Tim, for the warm welcome. I’m thrilled to join BluePoint, this is a fantastically creative and talented team, and I’m honored to be here. I began my first week at the Proginet offices, and ended the week out at the AIGA Gain conference in Manhattan. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the AIGA, they are the national organization of design professionals in the US, with 62 active chapters across the country. I’ve been a member since my days as a Graphic Design student at Mass Art. The theme of the conference this year was Business and Design. Amidst a very prestigious cast of speakers, the ones that stood out most to me this year were Tom Kelley, General Manager at IDEO, Jeffery Zeldman, Founder of Happy Cog Studios, Chris Bower, Manager of Retail Strategies at Saturn, and Udaya Patnaik, Principle at Jump Associates.

One recurring theme this year was the need to keep up with your market, or help your clients keep up with theirs, as the case may be. Tom Kelley spoke about the race to keep up with the marketplace, and used a great visual analogy of the Red Queen’s race from Alice in Wonderland. Jeffery Zeldman had deep insights into what makes user experience truly successful on the web, I wish he’d been given a longer allotted time to speak, we only got to hear 1 of his 10 keys to successful web design.

Chris Bower and Udaya Patnaik spoke about their work together on the Saturn retail experience. They stressed the importance of staying ahead of your competition, not just with new products but with new ways of engaging the consumer, and new ways of challenging your market. As you may know, Saturn became known for their radical no-hassle no-haggle approach to the car-buying experience. (As someone whose first car was a Saturn, I can attest to how effective this is!). However as you might expect their competition quickly began to copy this approach. So they are now in the process of rolling out a completely new in-store experience across all their retail locations nationally. This was the culmination of what Chris described as a very involved and complex process of innovation and collaboration with their retailers. One thing that really struck me was Chris’ comment that when they got push back from some retailers when they introduced the new in-store experience, he saw this as a good thing. He said he figured that if his progressive retailers resisted these ongoing changes to the standard car-buying experience, then his competition would have a nearly impossible time following!

I thought this was a refreshing perspective, regardless of the industry that you work in. For me it was a reminder to push myself to see outside the proverbial box, and strive for excellence even when it means making my team or my client uncomfortable in the short-term.

— Posted by Liz Moise

Moving Forward

It’s been a scary couple of weeks. The Wall Street roller coaster continues. Pink slips are being issued at Yahoo and countless others in the media world. Job losses at the big financial services firms will dwarf those in tech. Even B2B and consumer tech stalwarts like SAP and Apple are starting to talk about “poor visibility” in the quarters ahead. Here at BluePoint we’re not naïve to think that we won’t see the impact of the larger economic downturn. At the same time, we are optimistic (notice I did not say cautiously) about where we are headed, but having been through a few other “dips” in the past couple of decades, we aren’t delusional about what 2009 will bring. We’re fortunate to be working with some really solid clients and since we know we need to prove our worth every day, we’re hardly standing still. In fact, we’re adding to our team. Just this week we welcome Manager of Account Services Liz Moise to the fold. We’re really excited to be adding someone of Liz’s caliber and background. She has really diverse skill set that we know will be a big addition to our current marketing, PR and social media expertise. Even better, Liz brings a design background, including some great experience in art direction- both in-house and on her own. She comes to BluePoint from the open innovation company, InnoCentive, which is a crowd sourcing play. As Marketing Communications and PR Manager, Liz and her team did some great work with national media, social media and bloggers and built up an amazing community of “Solvers” to tackle global design, manufacturing and engineering challenges in the areas of science, IT, clean tech and healthcare. She also launched and maintained their first corporate blog as well as engaging their Solvers through twitter and Facebook. Liz also has some excellent mobile experience. She spent two years art directing and account managing at Nokia Interactive Advertising (formerly Enpocket) for mobile clients including Verizon, Ford, Pepsi and others.

Welcome to the team Liz. Looking forward to your contributions to BluePoint and our clients!

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