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21 posts from March 2006

Running Out of Time?

The Wall Street Journal featured this article (subscription required) today about Time magazine. According to the article, Time Inc. is about to take another shot at becoming “a leading web player.” One of the key steps they’re apparently taking is to tear down the walls between the web and print operations. To be honest, I would have thought they took care of this step long ago, thanks in large part to the extremely time-sensitive nature of most magazine content.

The article also talks about how Time is serious about this effort, despite the fact that they’ve produced mediocre results from previous attempts. They cite the success of, which is another Time-Warner property and apparently has been heading in the right direction. The funny thing is I couldn’t really say whether is making progress or not. I never go there…I’m an guy. Sure, I subscribe to Sports Illustrated magazine, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to their website. I also subscribe to Time magazine but I’ve never been to either. I get the vast majority of my news off Yahoo and Google.

I think it’s going to require some extremely innovative new services to turn into the type of destination site Time-Warner has in mind. I didn’t see anything in this article that got me excited enough to think they can really turn it around.

Is it possible that brands such as “Time” and “Sports Illustrated” will always connote “print product” in the minds of most consumers? As hard as it might seem to justify, I wonder if Time-Warner wouldn’t be better off trying to create new online brands for their content.

General Motors presents an interesting parallel: Did anyone ever really buy into the notion that “it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile”?

Book Summary Services

It was about a year ago that I made this post talking about my wish for a great book summary service. I tried one summary program, was greatly disappointed and never looked back. Earlier today I learned of another service called getAbstract. I visited their website, downloaded their two free samples and just finished reading one of them tonight (Bare-Knuckle Negotiation).

Based on this one sample, I would give getAbstract a much higher grade than the other service I tried a few years ago. In fact, I’m tempted to sign up for one of their subscription options, which is saying a lot given how disappointed I was with the other service. Does anyone out there have any experience with getAbstract’s summaries?


In addition to the great Sprint phone I got last week, I was also recently offered a free Excel tool from a company named Intellitabs. Why have so many people switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox? Tabbed browsing. That’s the same feature Intellitabs brings to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

If you’re like me, you wind up opening multiple documents by 9AM. Even though I use Firefox all the time, I never stopped to think about how nice it would be to have a tabbed interface in Excel, for example. Now that I have Intellitabs for Excel installed I can see what I’ve been missing. Rather than dropping down to the taskbar and finding the right entry to click on, I just go to the top of the Excel window and quickly switch from one spreadsheet to the next. It’s one of those little UI tweaks that saves more time than you might think.

It’s a great tool and all, but I wouldn’t want to have to pay full price for it. According to the Intellitabs website, a single license for any of the three products (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) costs $79. A bundle of all three runs $299. Although they offer discounts on multiple licenses, the lowest per seat price is $55. I think that’s too much to pay for a simple add-on like this. Again, great tool, but I hope they reduce the price and expand their audience.

Warcraft Legal Battles

Here's an interesting story about a fellow named Brian Kopp and his battles with the makers of World of Warcraft.  It seems Mr. Kopp has been trying to sell an unauthorized guide to the game, upsetting the game's publisher, Blizzard Entertainment.

For what it's worth, if the book does not include any copyrighted text/storylines from the game and makes "fair use" of some screenshots, as Kopp's complaint says, it seems as though he should be able to sell the book without being hassled.  I'm curious to see how this one plays out...

Happy 10th Birthday Palm

Or, as I considered calling this post, “Wow, you guys are still in business?!” I was one of the first and most loyal of Palm’s original customer base. I was fortunate enough to see the original product at DEMO ’96 and I ordered one on the spot. Why? Someone finally invented a portable device that was just the right size and, more importantly, did just the right things.

Over the course of the next few years I wound up buying at least two of their next generation products as well. I thought I was a customer for life…and then came Microsoft. In typical fashion, Microsoft’s hardware partners came out with products that offered more features at a better price than Palm’s lineup. In 2004 I finally jumped ship and bought an HP iPAQ. As I mentioned last year, it was a great product but was victimized by a lousy upgrade policy. I learned my lesson and decided I wasn’t going the HP route again. In fact, I was so turned off that I didn’t know where I’d go next…until I got my first Blackberry.

So, a great product (Palm) gets crushed by the Redmond monster (PocketPC) which then gets trumped by awesome usability and feature set (Blackberry).

Happy birthday Palm. Even though you’re a shadow of your former self, we have you to thank for the rebirth of the PDA marketplace. (Remember the Apple Newton?! Yeah, that’s right…Apple isn’t immune to poor product design!)

IDG’s TechWords

Why should Google have all the fun? More importantly, why should they get a cut of the advertising revenue when you can build your own AdWords/AdSense engine?

IDG apparently feels that way as they plan to roll out their TechWords program this Spring.  Interesting and brilliant, if you ask me.  They already get all the eyeballs and can create an auction-based system to sell the keywords.  Sure, Google has a lot invested in their technologies, but it’s not rocket science.

Kudos to IDG for proving that disintermediation is alive and well!  I’m surprised we’re not seeing more and more of this popping up, at least on the sites that are part of a larger network within one parent organization.

On Being a Sprint Ambassador

I mentioned the invitation I received last week for Sprint’s Ambassador program. A quick Google check indicates there are lots of other Sprint Ambassadors out there (examples here and here). The phone arrived two days after I accepted their invitation. All I can say is “wow!”  What a phone and what a service. Yes, the price is right (six months free as a participant in the program), but I’d be all over this if it weren’t for the fact that I’m already addicted to my Blackberry.

What do I love about this service? The #1 feature for me is all the multimedia functionality built in. Digital camera? That’s yesterday’s news, although this one also does a worthy job of recording video as well. No, what really caught my eye are the ways it can serve as a television or radio on top of being a very reliable phone.

The Ambassador program features Samsung’s SPH-A90 phone (available for $99.99 as an online special at Sprint’s website) that is a bit bulkier than the Nokia phones I just upgraded to for my family’s service plan. The extra weight and size are well worth it though. You might wonder how hard it is to make out the details on a TV screen that’s reduced to the size of a cell phone. Samsung has done a fantastic job with this phone though – I haven’t struggled at all watching the video feeds, and I’m now at the age where I have to wear reading glasses from time to time.

I really love the fact that Sprint offers several Sirius satellite radio stations via subscription for the phone. I’ve been holding out waiting for Samsung and Pioneer to release their next generation XM Radio devices. Thanks to the Ambassador program, I can enjoy satellite radio today while I wait to see if the new XM devices are better. The phone has two tiny speakers on each end of the clamshell hinge. They sound OK, but the bundled earbuds provide a far better listening experience. I listened to Sirius for about 3 hours yesterday and only heard a couple of very minor hiccups. As you might expect though, listening to the radio tends to drain the battery – I went from 3 battery bars to 1 over the course of the afternoon.

I’ll continue to play around with this and report back on the pros and cons. For now though, I’ve got to hand it to Sprint for not only a great product but also for having the wisdom tap into the PR and marketing power of blogs.

The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel

I finally finished reading The Case for a Creator. It took me much longer than I originally thought, mostly because I got halfway through it, let it sit for awhile, then picked it back up again a couple of weeks ago. I also found that the first third and the last third of the book were the most interesting. It took me a lot longer to work through the middle third of the book.

Don’t let my slow reading mislead you… This is a great book. Regardless of your beliefs, you owe it to yourself to read this one. Through the use of “expert witness” interviews, a model that Strobel uses in other books, I learned quite a bit along the way.

SEO and the Tech Book Publisher

Former colleague (and all-around great guy) Erik Dafforn offers this post about search engine optimization in the tech book publishing segment. He makes several good points about things we can and should be doing today to improve our search engine results. I’m off to send the link to our website team to see what we can do about improving our results…

P.S. – It’s always a treat to see your own blog pop up first on a Google search. Thanks to tips from Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, this blog is the first link to appear when searching for “publisher blog”.