Posts Tagged economy

RIP, Geocities

My second thought upon reading the news that Geocities will be shut down later this year was: that’s kind of bittersweet. My first thought, of course, was: wait… Geocities is still around?!

Apparently, it is. For now, at least. Geocities was purchased by Yahoo! in 1999 for 5 billion dollars. Kara Swisher has a fab retrospective (along with her original article about the purchase) at All Things Digital. While most of the discussion of Geocities’ death this week has revolved around its implications for VCs and the current crop of Web 2.0 investments, the thing that struck me more immediately was the contrast between the hyper-literal Geocities Internet of 1999, and the “everything ends in R” Internet of 2009. Indulge my memory for just a moment…

Geocities began as a personal website hosting service in 1994, in a period of time when most people’s understanding of the Internet relied very very heavily on literal interpretations of analogies. Consider: “world wide web,” “information superhighway,” “bulletin board systems (BBS)”… (this was before the “series of tubes” framework had gained widespread acceptance, by the way).

Accordingly, Geocities took a highly literal approach to peddling web sites – sorry, home pages – by offering users addresses modeled on actual neighborhoods, streets, and house numbers, grouping pages on similar topics in the same neighborhood. I know of no technological justification for this, but I do know that in 1994 it was totally normal to be the only one among your friends and family who had a website, and to explain, “It’s www dot geocities dot com, slash SouthBeach, slash Sands, slash 8990. You can see all my favorite quotes from Friends there and listen to MIDIs of Hootie & The Blowfish songs.”

To Yahoo!’s credit, they discontinued the neighborhood-based structure shortly after purchasing the site. A pretty bold move coming from a company whose original purpose was to create a static, manually-updated directory of all web sites. For nostalgia’s sake, though, here is a list of Geocities neighborhoods of yore. Farewell, Geocities. You were adorable while you lasted… and boy did you last.

Any other cute or hilarious memories of the 1999 Internet? Share in the comments. My own favorite Geocities eulogy so far is by a designer/writer/artist named Atherton Bartleby, and can be found here.

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M&A returns. Time to sell your T-Bills.

I am not an economist. So please don’t come screaming back at me if, after reading this you decided to drastically change your investment strategy and in three months time your portfolio doesn’t look like you’ve just won the lotto.

Because it won’t.

That said, there are some encouraging items in the news recently to indicate that our hobbled economy is at the very least beginning to stabilize. And, moreover, if you take a closer look, for certain industries it may already be back on the rise.

I am told that one of the indicators that an industry or economy is on its way out of a recession is that merger & acquisition activity begins to take off again. Basically, the companies that fared the best through the worst have taken a look around again and found they are in an advantageous position relative to many other companies, and that now would be a good time to buy while the market is still pretty cheap.

So I found it heartening, when, earlier this week I ran a query for the term “acquire” in Google News, and found quite a few items.  And from immediately recognizable names: Sanofi Aventis, General Steel, Cisco.

The hi-tech world has been a-buzz with the possible Sun-IBM merger.  This, of course, has now crashed and burned in spectacular style, but the thing to note here is that, at least it was being explored.  As a slight aside, I have to share the best e-mail subject line to hit my inbox this week – it came from VON Magazine, paraphrasing (I’m sure) the departing words between the two companies after negotiations fell through: “IBM to SUN: ‘Drop Dead’.” Priceless.

But more encouraging words came from NYT BITS columnist Claire Cain Miller, who reported that venture capitalists’ confidence is creeping back. Quoted in Claire’s piece is Mark V. Cannice, executive director of the University of San Francisco Entrepreneurship Program, who said that he doesn’t think an upward trend has begun yet, but that the economy in general seems to have broken its downward spiral.

The Telecom industry in particular seems to have kept moving along steadily, and M&A activity has also begun again.

Maybe don’t put all the cash you’ve squirreled away back into the market yet, but after a long winter, things do seem to be looking up.

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Twitter While You Drive?

onstar_twitter 

Image courtesty of Jalopnik.com

Several outlets are reporting that General Motors and Twitter are exploring partnership options that would integrate Twitter with GM’s OnStar system.

Technically, this is brilliant.  For many reasons.  Firstly, voice-to-text technology, like Microsoft’s SYNC (which has been available in Ford vehicles for some time now), is nothing new, but it took until fairly recently to get it to work properly.  So in terms of high-tech, if this is going to be able to translate speech onto a web-based application, we are right there.

Secondly, GM, if you haven’t heard, is in something of a bad way these days.  So tying themselves to something as popular and ubiquitous as Twitter may well help with brand recognition, and may even help sell a few more portly Escalades.

Thirdly, Twitter itself is quite excellent as a social media tool.  Capable, possibly, of having a new journalism format grow from it. We’ll even be launching a new section of PR Nonense to help guide newcomers through the process of gettinga active in the world of social media, and will include some great tools to help get started with Twitter.

GM’s OnStar system would allow Twitter users to update their “what are you doing,” sections simply by pressing the button and talking.  No doubt there are some kinks to be worked out as, with only a limited number of characters allowed for each tweet, pronunciation-to-spelling accuracy would become essential:

You want to say: “Goin 2 the Sox game 2nite. Beckett’s hurlin Ks”

But you tweet: “Going to the socks game tonight. Becketts her linkays”

What is a linkay?

So, beyond the obvious reasons of accuracy in what a person is trying to say, the system appears to be quite simple to use. But I wonder – should we consider driving-while-tweeting a social media “do” or a “don’t?”

I have to admit, as one of those people who likes cars and enjoys driving (wait, why are you all backing away slowly?), my first thought was that this might be just one step too far.  I mean, technically, it’s hands-free, so no state or potential federal law would prohibit use of the service while driving.   Most of us can still legally talk on our phones while driving, and most of us still do.  Myself included. But I try to avoid it, and lots of people would tell you to do the same.

So, I can’t help but think that this might be another unecessary distraction from the more-immediately important job at hand.

It kind of reminds me of Scene 34 from the timeless classic Monty Python and The Holy Grail when the knights find Joseph of Aremathea’s writings on the cave wall:

KNIGHT:  What does it say?
  MAYNARD:  It reads, ‘Here may be found the last words of Joseph of
      Aramathea.  He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail
      in the Castle of uuggggggh’.
  ARTHUR:  What?
  MAYNARD: ‘… the Castle of uuggggggh’.
  BEDEMIR:  What is that?
  MAYNARD:  He must have died while carving it.
  LAUNCELOT:  Oh, come on!
  MAYNARD:  Well, that’s what it says.
  ARTHUR:  Look, if he was dying, he wouldn’t bother to carve ‘aaggggh’.
      He’d just say it!
  MAYNARD:  Well, that’s what’s carved in the rock!
  GALAHAD:  Perhaps he was dictating.

Perhaps he was. What do you think?  To tweet-while-you drive, or not to tweet-while-you-drive?

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90,000 Sign-In For First Online Presidential Town Hall

CNN is reporting that more than 90,000 web users sent in questions to President Obama during his online town-hall meeting, which started today at 11:30am EST on the whitehouse.gov website.

That’s a lot.

It’s no secret that part of the Obama team’s success during the campaign was their proficiency with online and social media platforms to reach a key demographic of the voting population.

Regardless of the surmised habits of at least a portion of said demographic (“Obama answered seven of the most popular questions, according to a CNN tally. That includes those from several people who asked if legalizing marijuana would improve the economy.”), the huge turnout  in such a short time period is indicative of how active the online community has become.

As one of the many, many people who spend most of their day connected in one way or another to the web, I for one am quite happy to see that both the government and the people of this country are finding a way to get more involved in their government.

I think this is profound, though, for a much more important reason than the fact that the White House has (finally) become a member of the worldwide online community, and that clearly so many people have been waiting for it to happen.  

Short of an enormous (and logistically-nightmarish) conference call, the web is really the only way that issues relevant to people in Atlanta could be given the same opportunity to be heard as those important to people in San Francisco.  Mainers and Minnesotans, Californians and Carolinians (I think I butchered that), Nevadans and Nebraskans, all got an equal chance to share their thoughts.

There has been a feeling for some time that the web could be a great equalizer. It might not be there yet, but this seems like a step in the right direction.

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Are You a “Recessionista”?

Tired of all the depressing news around the economy?  Being in PR, we’ve seemed to cover the issue from every angle.  The latest one to grab my attention-pushing those $$ blues aside and adopting a cheap-chic attitude.  Here are some interesting, positive tips from around the blogosphere:

 My personal favorite-making sure my library card gets more exercise than my credit card.  What are you doing to become cheap chic?

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What happens in Nice…

March client TM Forum has a great program planned for its flagship event, Management World 2009, taking place May 4-8 at the Acropolis Convention Center in Nice, France.  More than 3,500 leaders from the information, communications and entertainment industries will converge to discuss business opportunities, challenges, strategies and tactics the industry faces in the current economic climate.

Among the prominent keynotes and speakers:

  • Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon.com
  • Matt Bross, CEO, BT Innovate
  • Dr. Hossein Eslambolchi, Chairman and CEO, 2020 Venture Partners
  • Sanjiv Ahuja, Chairman, Orange UK
  • Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group
  • Simon Wright, CEO, Virgin Entertainment
  • Kevin Peters, Executive VP Global Network Operations, AT&T
  • Albert Hitchcock, CIO, Vodafone Group Services Limited
  • Nick Heller, Strategic Partnerships, Google
  • Olaf Kroll, Director Business Development Europe, MySpace.com
  • Kevin Obi, Formerly Senior VP, Digital Assets, NBC Universal International

Our very own Martin Jones and Nate Hubbell will be attending–give a shout if you’d like to meet up!

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Are economic woes giving rise to owner-driven global PR networks?

I spent two days in Milano with 30 PR professionals from around the globe.  We all belong to the GlobalCom network – a network built by passionate owners of specialist agencies across the world.

During our time together, we asked each other what implications the recession has had on our clients’ businesses and the growth of the network.  Since the network is made up of agenices that specialize across the IT, healthcare and travel and tourism industries, all our clients are feeling the pinch and taking precutionary measures.

One trend we identified was the move toward owner-driven agency networks.  A number of our clients recently moved from the well established global networks most of us have spent time in.  They tell us the ROI is stronger and more quickly established with global networks that are made up of specialized and experienced teams that more often than not have the agency owner participating.

With a number of pitches on the boil and big conferences in the coming months, we weren’t short of discussion points to take us away from the gloom and doom of the recession.  I had the honor of presenting a case study my Tideway team so successfully implemented during WEF in Davos, Switzerland.  I simply showed how Twitter can be a useful tool when trying to reach influencers that are all in one place.  I have to be honest, if it weren’t for this Twitter experience with Tideway, I wouldn’t rate it.  I just don’t get why people want to follow me or why i should follow others.  Do I care what people are eating for breakfast, what city they are in, or their most recent thought?  May be but I think not.

Anyway, Milano was amazing.  I loved the wine, the food and especially being with 30 PRs who get it.  Most people would find the thought of being surrounded by 30 PR people frightening.  I am not like most I guess.

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