Archive for the ‘Internet/New Media’ Category
Thursday, April 10th, 2014
By Allan Maurer
UPDATED! ATLANTA – If you haven’t heard about the nasty Internet bug dubbed “Heartbleed” by now, you should immediately find out about it because you probably need to take action. So do IT administrators, likely in a time-consuming job that has to be done by hand, says , Adam Allred of the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) in Atlanta.
In brief, a major security flaw in the way many web sites – including Gmail, Yahoo, Tumblr, and many others means hackers potentially had or have access to users personal information – which may include credit card numbers, log-in passwords, and more.
It also means you’ll probably have to change some passwords to be safe. Experts say change Yahoo right away, as well as gmail, although both have since patched the problem.
Amazon, Evernote, Microsoft, and others were not affected. Mashable published this “Heartbleed Hit List” of which sites were affected and which passwords you may need to change.
Reports this morning (Friday, 4/11/2014) say the bug is also in Cisco and Juniper Network routers, firewalls and networking equipment used by many businesses. The necessary fixes could be long and one source says, “A trip to the trash can and Best Buy.”
Allred says the question he’s been asked most today as a computer security expert is “How important is it really? Is it really that bad?” What makes it so important?
We’ve gotten used to these security breaches cropping up almost daily, but this one really is different, Allred tells the TechJournal. Why?
“Because,” he says, “It’s logistically difficult. People have to do more work by hand to get the problem solved, patching alone is not enough.”
Also, and probably the scary part, is that the flaw in the Open SSL security allows the theft of private keys, Allred says. They can be exposed anonymously with the user none the wiser until consequences show up. They can do this via just this one ezploit, which makes it worse, he adds.
“On many servers that used Open SSL today, if you can obtain the private key, you can use it to decrypt any information every encrypted on that server.” Yikes!
Does this have to keep going on? These terrible security breaches affecting not just millions of people but in this case, almost anyone using the Internet. There is security process that would prevent this particular sort of problem.
That’s “Perfect Forward Secrecy.” It uses a temporary set of keys for each user session. A hacker might conceivably obtain one key, but it wouldn’t work on every thing ever encrypted and would only affect one person, not everyone who came along in the past.
“It’s already found in many modern browsers. Firefox, Chrome and Explorer all have the capability. It’s relatively new in encryption and requires changes on the server side. But there are already concepts and ideas that would help. We just have to turn it on everywhere.”
In general, though, coming up with a “forever solution, and whoever is able to write that solution will be a very popular and rich person.”
Forbes had this to say on Heartbleed. “Avoiding Heartbleed Hype.”
If you want to avoid hype and hear the real deal from digital thought-leaders from brands including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Huffington Post, but also tech icons such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, check out the Digital Summit Atlanta, May 20-21.
Monday, September 9th, 2013
Mike Elliot of Noro-Moseley Partners
RESEARCH TRIANGLE, NC – The CED’s annual Tech Venture Conference has acquired new energy with a format that speeds about 50 young startup companies through lightening demo rounds, says Noro-Moseley’s Mike Elliott, a managing partner in the Atlanta venture firm.
“You spin through a number of presentations and never have a chance to get bored,” he says of the three-minute rounds. “They leave you wanting just a bit more.” For a startup, that’s a good way to initiate contact with an investor: leave them wanting more.
Set for September 17-18 at the Raleigh Convention Center, the annual event draws some of its new energy from the vibrant and growing early startup hubs in the Triangle’s three cities.
Bustling startup hubs in the RTP
“Today, especially in downtown Durham, but also all over Raleigh and Chapel Hill we’re seeing tremendous activity from early-stage startups,” says Elliott. That fact has shaped this year’s focus, as well, he adds.
“What both the startups and investors need is to take companies to the next level and we tried to theme the conference in that direction this year,” says Elliott. “You’re up and running, how do you kick it into growth,” he adds.
To bolster that theme, the event features “A number of CEOs who began life at very early stage companies and were able to find the right switches to hit and push them into high growth mode.”
Those include Mike Cote, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based SecureWorks, which was acquired by Dell in 2011; David Morken, co-founder and CEO of Triangle-based Bandwidth; and Mark Norman, president of Zipcar.
Elliot, however, points out that the entrepreneurs and investors will also hear from top corporate development people from Red Hat, Google and other firms, to “Get a clear picture of the characteristics they’re looking for in partners or acquisitions and how you can set your company up to grow inside a company like theirs.”
Monday, August 26th, 2013
Get ready for action: best-selling author and e-commerce marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk returns to keynote the 2013 Internet Summit at the Raleigh Convention Center November 12-13.
Vaynerchuk, called “the king of social media,” rocks an event crowd with his powerhouse energy, sharp humor, and non-stop insights into how to market using today’s tools.
Vaynerchuk had the audience with him at IS 2012 as he explained his concept of the “Thank-You Economy,” the title of one of his best-selling books.
A massive cultural shift
Social media is part of a “massive cultural shift,” and marketers better pay attention, Vaynerchuk told the crowd that packed all three ballrooms at the Internet Summit that year.
He grabbed the audience with a funny but take-away laced talk that filled the Twittersphere with praise for his performance. He speaks primarily from actual experience with his highly successful winelibrary.com site and his own social media marketing, not from theory. His message regarding social media is that engagment, not sell, sell, sell, is the key.
“But no one wants you to pound their commercial down their throat on their Facebook page,” he said the 2011 IS.
“Most businesses are not good at social media and they make the same mistake a 19-year-old dude makes talking to a woman the first time. They try to close in their first conversation.”
Vaynerchuk has appeared on numerous national television programs as a wine and marketing expert, including Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Today Show, The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Dr. Oz Show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CNN’s Your $$$$, and CNBC’s Power Lunch.
More than 100 thought-leaders headed to Raleigh
He’ll join more than 100 other speakers at this year’s event, the premiere digital marketing conference in the Research Triangle.
Other speakers confirmed for this year’s Internet Summit include:
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of reddit and author of “Without Their Permission.”
Brian Herd, Director of Southeast, Twitter. Herd, who began his career at Yahoo in 1990 won the firm’s “Super Star” award in 2001 and is currently responsible for all Southeastern revenue and business relationships for Twitter.
Simon Heseltine, director of Audience Development, TechCrunch/Huffington Post/AOL. Simon and his team are responsible for organic search, social and training across all AOL properties, including TechCrunch, HuffingtonPost and AOL.com. Heseltine spoke about “Search and SEO,” at the DallasSummit, another TechMedia event, last year.
Duane Forester, Senior Product Manager, Bing. Forester has 15 years experience in search and social and is the author of How To Make Money With Your Blog and Turn Clicks Into Customers, through McGraw-Hill.
Those are only a few of the speakers already confirmed. See the full list here.
Register early for the best event rate and reserve your seat. The event, which draws 2,000, generally sells out.
Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
So what’s next on the cybercrime front? Persistent speak phishing, say researchers.
The American public and businesses today are under a constant, ever-growing threat of attack from cybercriminals attacking as many people and businesses as quickly as possible in order to access large amounts of sensitive information.
In the first half of 2012 alone, there was an average of almost 33,000 phishing attacks per month, with an estimated worldwide loss of nearly $700,000,000 from phishing scams alone (1). Internet security awareness training firm KnowBe4 has long spoken out about the rise of cybercrime, and is now predicting an unprecedented level of hacking—persistent spear phishing.
Usually conducted by criminals
Spear phishing consists of a phony, but authentic-looking, e-mail designed to target a particular individual or organization, in an attempt to “fish” out valuable information for financial, business or military gain.
It differs from traditional phishing attacks in that it is not typically initiated by indiscriminate hackers, but rather is more likely to be conducted by criminals out for financial gain, trade secrets or military information.
Recent government inspired cyber attacks on US businesses, organizations and government entities reportedly used this technique successfully.
KnowBe4 founder, Stu Sjouwerman, says that criminals are now becoming relentless in their attempts, and will continuously attack the same target until they get the information they seek, an act he has coined “persistent spear phishing.“ And these attacks, per Sjouwerman, leave both businesses and the general public at risk of being targeted:
- 45% of banks have seen an increase in spear phishing attacks targeting employees over the last year;
- Criminals target consumers by relying on personal information collected from public posts on social media sites and blogs, as well as with data collected from other breaches, to make the fraudulent e-mails appear legitimate. They ultimately convince consumers to click links that take them to spoofed sites which contain malware, or to provide login usernames and passwords that allow the attackers to compromise online banking accounts (2).
“Spear phishing creates a domino effect—once a business has been infiltrated, a hacker potentially has access to everything,“said Sjouwerman. “At that point, all the company can do is attempt to halt the attack and recover any stolen information. But the best bet is to prevent these incidents from occurring in the first place.”
Avoid Becoming a Spear Phishing Victim
Sjouwerman insists that businesses and the public can limit their risk of falling victim to persistent spear phishing attempts by remembering the following:
- Be wary of e-mails that appear to be genuine but redirect to strange or unknown links.
- Never click a link to a website contained within an e-mail—always enter the URL manually instead or through a bookmark.
- Legitimate businesses will never request personal information via e-mail. Never reply to an e-mail providing any sensitive information—if in doubt, contact the business directly using a verified telephone number.
- Keep the Operating System, third party applications, firewalls and antivirus software constantly updated. Many browsers come with phishing filters, and these should be enabled for better protection against attacks.
Employee awareness training may help
In addition to the above tactics, Sjouwerman suggests that business owners consider educational resources for employees.
“For business owners looking to introduce security awareness training programs, engaging employees with an actual encounter of being spear-phished by sending out mock spear phishing e-mails is often an effective measure,“ said Sjouwerman.
“Imitated persistent spear phishing e-mails present a memorable and highly relevant experience to employees, and also train them to properly react when a spear phishing attempt arrives in their inbox. Employee education and heightened awareness are more important than ever.”
KnowBe4 provides an extensive collection of free cybercrime education resources so that executives and system administrators can arm themselves and their staff against cyberattacks. The company also offers a free phishing security testto help business owners and managers determine what percentage of employees are Phish-prone™, or susceptible to phishing attacks.
For more information, visit KnowBe4 online at www.knowbe4.com.
1. “Phishing in Season: A Look at Online Fraud in 2012.” RSA.com. RSA FraudAction Research Labs, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. blogs.rsa.com/phishing-in-season-a-look-at-online-fraud-in-2012/.
2. Kitten, Tracey. “FBI Warns of Spear-Phishing Attacks.” Bankinfosecurity.com. Bank Info Security, 02 July 2013. Web. 25 July 2013. bankinfosecurity.com/fbi-warns-spear-phishing-attacks-a-5878/op-1.
Monday, August 5th, 2013
This is scary, but it’s no wonder Chinese and other hackers are so successful at breaking and entering Enterprise networks.
Lancope, Inc., a leader in network visibility and security intelligence, has released a survey indicating that many enterprises possess an unrealistic confidence surrounding the security of their networks. According to the survey, more than 65 percent of IT/security professionals did not think, or were unsure whether, they had experienced any security incidents within the last 12-18 months.
While we can understand confidence if deserved, we question how much confidence they should have it they don’t know or are unsure if they have had a break-in.
According to Lancope’s director of security research, Tom Cross, such confidence is not likely. “Any system you connect to the Internet is going to be targeted by attackers very quickly thereafter,” he said. “I would assert that if you’re unsure whether or not your organization has had a security incident, the chances are very high that the answer is yes.”
A third think security violations did not affect them
The survey also revealed that 38 percent believe recent security incidents had no impact on their organization. According to Cross, “even the most basic malware infection has some financial cost to the organization, even if it’s just the cost to clean infected machines. Not to mention the additional serious consequences that can result from a breach, including data loss, customer distrust, regulatory fines and many others.”
We’ve had our own problems with the explosion of malware attacks at the TechJournal and controlled it only via continual pro-active effort. Those attacks can cripple your SEO and harm your reputation.
Nearly 18 percent of respondents did admit to recently suffering from malware, and 16 percent said they had been the victim of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. It is possible that many of these organizations have also suffered from other, more stealthy attacks and are just not aware. Insider threats, for example, can be difficult to detect because attackers have authorized access to the data they are looking to steal. Advanced, external attackers can also fly under the radar by constructing attacks that are likely to evade commonplace network security solutions.
Organizations were more realistic when evaluating the potential risk of insider threats to their infrastructure, with 32 percent naming it as one of the greatest risks. However, this concern was far overshadowed by fears associated with BYOD and mobile devices, coming in at over 50 percent. Because traditional security strategies cannot be easily applied to employee-owned assets, enterprise security professionals suffer from a lack of network visibility when it comes to mobile devices. This blind spot is obvious; but what about the blind spots that organizations don’t realize they have?
Areas of blind spots within the typical enterprise are many, including applications, network traffic, network devices, user activity, virtualized appliances and data centers, to name a few. Lancope was encouraged to also see “lack of visibility” top the list of greatest risks identified by survey participants, as well as “monitoring user activity” designated as a key challenge. Technologies like NetFlow can provide the much-needed visibility that many organizations currently lack.
“Organizations need to make sure that, when faced with the inevitable, they can identify an incident as quickly as possible,” said Cross. “With new attacks making headlines on a nearly weekly basis, it’s time for organizations to take a more strategic, holistic approach when it comes to network security.”
To access the full Lancope survey, go to: http://www.lancope.com/files/documents/Industry-Reports/Lancope-Security-Report-2013.pdf.
Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Which digital marketing tactics work best in the travel industry? For clothing retailers? For selling vehicles? In media and entertainment? A new survey by Lyris, Inc. (LYRI), conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), shows differences in digital marketing strategies and consumer preferences across industries. The survey also indicates what consumers want from brands in different industries and what is influencing their purchasing decisions.
The EIU industry survey executive summary can be viewed here www.lyris.com/EIU.
Travel: Email Ranks Highest for Initial Product Introduction
- For initial purchasing decision for travelers, email ranks the highest channel of influence (37%).
- Cultivating influencers is a leading marketing objective (20%), likely due to personal referrals among travelers, which has the largest influence at final assessment (31%).
- Strategies have shifted from disseminating messages across multiple touch points (reduced from 32.5% to 15%) toward conducting deep analysis of consumer data (from 17.5% to 30%); 87% deem data analysis very important or moderately important.
- Marketing executives cite repeat purchases and value of the transaction as moderately or very important (85%). Not surprising, given 77% of consumers seek travel price comparisons.
Clothing Retailers: Consumers Want a More Tailored Shopping Experience
- 66% of consumers say that many personalized messages are annoying because “attempts at personalization are superficial.”
- 71% of consumers said they receive so many messages that use of their name no longer makes a difference. However, when they receive a message that includes details of previous transactions or other personal details, 25% say they take it more seriously.
- 75% of consumers seek information about pricing/promotions through branded digital channels over third party sites; not surprising, considering the clothing retail market is very price driven.
- Expanding/diversifying the customer base has grown in priority to 33% compared to 24% five years ago.
Banking: Big Focus on Customer Retention
- As banks try to regain trust, customer retention is now cited as the top marketing goal (42%), a significant jump from 23% five years ago (and much higher than the all industry average of 28%).
- 6% of consumers prefer to engage with banking brands using mobile apps, which is double the all-industry average, yet investment is less than in other industries.
- Banking lags behind other industries in moving beyond personalization to individualized offers, with difficulty interpreting Big Data cited as the biggest obstacle (44%).
Automotive: Among Top Users of Consumer Data Analytics
- Automotive is the most advanced industry in integrating different sources of data and in predictive analytics.
- Among automotive executives there is an increased emphasis on individualized offers (up from 13% five years ago to 50% today – 10% higher than all-industry average which is 40%), most likely as a result of the high value of the purchase.
- Social media/blogs rank second highest after websites and personal referrals for purchase influence; automotive is also the most invested in branded social media, with 45% of respondents citing a 25% investment of their budget.
Entertainment: Trailing Other Industries in Digital Marketing Investment
- Online channels are seen as the most important, yet surprisingly executives are investing very little in branded social media pages (56% invest only 1-10% of their budgets) and similarly for mobile (66% invest only 1-10% of their marketing budgets).
- Marketing executives in entertainment have increased their focus on retaining customers and investing more in deep analysis of consumer data (from 20% five years ago to 27% today) and, subsequently, marketers are also presenting more individualized offers (cited by 46% of executives, up from 26% five years ago).
Media: Takes Shotgun Approach to Awareness with Reduced Investment in Consumer Analysis
- 45% list the ability to use data analysis to extract predictive findings as a key marketing skill. However, the importance of conducting deep analysis of consumer data has fallen by 7% over the last five years.
- Email (28%) is the second preferred method for consumers to engage with brands in the media industry, subsequently, 12% of marketing executives spend 76-100% of their budgets on email.
- 74% of media marketing executives say online channels have gained importance for building brand awareness, which could explain why disseminating messages across multiple touch points is their most important marketing strategy (38% today, compared to 21% five years ago).
Monday, July 29th, 2013
Plug “thought leader architect” into the title field of a LinkedIn search and only one name pops up: Mitchell Levy, CEO of THiNKaha and author of the new book,
“The truth is, a lot of people are trying to become viewed as ‘thought leaders’ because they recognize that being a well-publicized, well-respected expert in their field is good for business,” Levy says.
“But most people have a hard time figuring out how to do it on their own.”
Levy, who works with corporations to develop thought leaders among employees, says CEOs recognize that the wide availability of information on the internet has changed how customers do business.
Customers can spot a real expert
“Customers are quite knowledgeable, and they get that way by using the resources available online,” Levy says. “It doesn’t take long before they know enough to spot a true expert – someone with vision; someone with a strong track record of success; someone who knows their field so well, they can tell you where it’s going, and where it should go.”
When we had only the traditional media and its well-guarded access, our thought leaders tended to be people who were already in vaulted positions, such as elected officials, CEOs of major corporations and entertainment personalities, Levy notes.
Today, thanks to the egalitarian nature of social media, anyone can become one. But many people don’t know where to begin.
Levy offers these suggestions for developing your reputation as a thought leader.
• Start by zeroing in on an area of your field in which you excel. Focus on one area of your business or profession that excites you. Rather than stepping out as the consummate expert on a broad range of topics, choose one slice of your expertise that you enjoy – that you love to talk about. The beautiful thing about social media is that it caters to niche interests, which is a great way to start building your following. The more focused you can make the space you want to be a thought leader in, the easier it will be for you to reach your audience.
• Develop your own message and share it in a distinctive style. Think about who your audience is and what they want and need – remembering that they don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Are there better ways to do something that everyone has been doing the same way for years? Can you solve problems or foresee trends that others seem to be blind to? Craft a message that will resonate with your audience. Share it in a distinctive, authoritative voice. Don’t be afraid to show some personality. Do you need to be bigger, tougher, louder, stronger, wiser? You don’t need it all, but you do need to set yourself apart.
• Create useful, valuable content that people can use. Online, you can write a blog; create video tutorials on YouTube; share nuggets of information on the various social media sites. Write a book on your topic! By constantly sharing information that solves problems for users and readers, you begin developing a reputation as knowledgeable, helpful and reliable. This should be an ongoing process – which is why you need to be passionate about it! Thought leaders make it look easy, but they work at it every day.
Mitchell Levy, Thought Leader Architect and CEO at THiNKaha, has created and operated 15 firms and partnerships since 1997. Today, he works with companies who are active in social media to leverage their IP and unlock the expertise of their employee base to drive more business. He is also an Amazon best-selling author with 18 business books, including the new “#Creating Thought Leaders Tweet.”
Levy is a frequent media guest and a popular speaker. In addition to the companies and joint ventures he has started, he has provided strategic consulting to more than 100 companies, has advised more than 500 CEOs on critical business issues through the CEO networking groups he’s run, and has been Chairman of a NASDAQ listed company.
Friday, July 26th, 2013
Want more online shoppers? Make it easier and faster for your customers to buy your goods or services. How fast? Five minutes or less.
Survey results released today show that over four in ten (44 percent) consumers would shop more online if it were faster to make a purchase, while nearly three-quarters (72 percent) agree that the overall experience of surfing the web could be better.
The vast majority of online shoppers (84 percent) expect an online transaction to be completed in five minutes or less. Website optimization and testing platforms make the conversion funnel quick and help businesses realize online revenue faster than ever before.
The survey, conducted online between June 4-6, 2013, among more than 2,500 US adults by Harris Interactive, kicks off an effort by Optimizely,a global website optimization platform, to educate online retailers about current trends in online shopping behavior.
The company launched a new website and infographic to help their customers and online businesses use an A/B testing tool to build a successful testing strategy in preparation for the holiday season. Optimizely has over 5,000 global customers including GoDaddy, Foot Locker, and Electronic Arts.
- Nearly half of consumers would shop more online if it were faster to make a purchase (44 percent)
- The vast majority of shoppers expect an online transaction to be completed in 5 minutes or less (84 percent)
- 72 percent of consumers agree that the overall experience of surfing the web could be better, while 39 percent agree that many of the websites they visit feel outdated
- Younger consumers (aged 18-34) are more likely to strongly agree (29 percent) that the overall experience of surfing the web could be better, when compared to those ages 35+ (18 percent), and male consumers are more likely to strongly agree with this than women (25 and 16 percent, respectively)
- Younger consumers (ages 18-34) are more likely to spend more time on websites that feel fresh and new than those ages 35+ (70 vs. 50 percent)
- Overall, 93 percent of US adults indicate that they shop online
Online retail undergoing radical change
The findings suggest that online retail is undergoing some radical changes, and encouraging online merchants to differentiate themselves in more meaningful ways. Today, consumers’ time is now worth more to them; they need more compelling shopping experiences, unique or personalized product selection, or better customer service.
Personally, as a longtime ecommerce shopper, we gravitate toward the sites that make buying quick and easy (such as Amazon, Tiger Direct). We have and continue to abandon attempted purchases at sites that are slow, where the buying process is complicated, convoluted or time-consuming. This study does not address this particular point, but some ecommerce sites even hide their buy buttons – if I have to hunt for how to buy, I buy from another retailer. (Editor, Allan Maurer).
“Just two percent of visitors across the web convert into customers,” says Dan Siroker, CEO and co-founder of Optimizely. “That means there is a massive opportunity to convert the other 98 percent. Increasingly, online retailers must differentiate by providing a superior web experience. With Optimizely, they can use data to streamline the shopping experience and engage consumers by making it more enjoyable and hopefully increase revenue as well.”
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
If you write it, will they really come? Today’s marketing directors and VPs know they need to create regular blogs and eBooks for their marketing programs and SEO, but with increasingly shrinking resources, where do you start and how do you keep up a pace that makes a difference and helps drive traffic? And equally important, most people understand blogs, but how do eBooks fit into the marketing mix?
“Simply put, ebooks are an evolution of the old white paper, but they’re way more user-friendly and not weighed down with lots of data,” says Rachel Christianson, director of fulfillment at social media marketing company HipLogiq. Christianson works with HipLogiq’s customers to produce eContent and manages a team that produces more than 250 blogs and eBooks a month for clients. And, she helps patrol opportunities on Twitter to help distribute the pieces directly to interested customers.
Driving leads, meeting goals
“Blogs and eBooks are an active aggressive part of any campaign, and clearly play a strategic part in driving leads and meeting strategy goals,” says Christianson. “One of our clients is currently yielding a 28 percent conversion rate on their offer landing page solely from traffic coming in from the blog. Another is yielding a 46 percent conversion rate on their eBook downloads coming from blog traffic alone. In fact, their entire HipLogiq campaign, including Twitter conversations, blogs and eBooks, has generated 824 leads.”
“These days, when people have a question, they turn to the internet,” Christianson says. “When someone has a question, Google answers it with your eBook or blog. You aren’t directly selling your product or service, but providing help around a topic related to your industry, therefore instilling brand loyalty. It’s a great way to get consumers to take a closer look at your product or service and try it.”
Whether you’re working on a blog or eBook, remember Christianson’s easy five:
1. Crisp, concise content. In the age of tweets and text messages, people are looking for information, and they want it quick. Make sure your blogs don’t get too lengthy. If you have more info to share, consider the way you format it. Make it easy to find information throughout if someone is just skimming your text.
2. Lists, tips, how to’s and questions. The HipLogiq team has found that blog posts and eBooks formatted in these styles receive more views, shares and “likes” on Facebook. Think of these as the modern day self-help manual.
3. Clear call-to-actions. Readers have read your content, now what? You must have a clear call-to-action to get them to take the next step. For example, “Liked what you read? Contact us for more info” or “Want to learn more, sign up here!”
4. Personality. Your content should have a “voice.” And that voice should reflect the personality of your business. You don’t want there to be any disconnect.
5. Relevant content. Sure, you may have an opinion on the latest election, but if your business isn’t politics, you shouldn’t talk about it. Make sure your content aligns with the overall goals of your business.
To help with topics, Christianson says to put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Someone is at home trying to fix a leaky sink, and they jump online looking for a step-by-step do it yourself. A quick Google search might bring them to a tool company’s website that has a library of home repair eBooks. Or a hospital might have a web section with eBooks on different health topics.
“Hard copy manuals and brochures will probably always be around, but increasingly, a large number of customers are migrating to online resources,” says Bernard Perrine, CEO and co-founder of HipLogiq. “And if you aren’t online, you are missing those customers. Blogs and eBooks give businesses an easy way to connect with customers online. If someone hits Google, Facebook or Twitter with a question, your brand needs to be poised, ready to provide information.”
Thursday, July 18th, 2013
Angel investment round sizes are trending upward to a median of $680 per deal, according to the Q1 2013 Halo Report from – The Angel Resource Institute (ARI), Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and CB Insights. Pre-money valuations remain stable at $2.5 million, the report says.
The sectors getting funding remain concentrated in Internet, healthcare and mobile, with 72% of completed Q1 deals in these categories.
While we’ve reported another trend – increasing syndication of angel investment deals across wider geographics to fund larger deals – the report says 81 percent of deals over the last 12 months were done in the angel groups’ home states.
We should also note that the Angel Capital Association warns that if new US Securities and Exchange Commission rules on verifying angel investor status go into effect, it could have a chilling effect on the angel investment community.
US angel investment continues to be dispersed nationwide, and in the first quarter entrepreneurs in the Southwest region of the country received a slightly larger share of dollars than startups in California, for the first time.
Most Active Angel Groups
Based on total deals, the most active angel groups in Q1 are (alphabetic order) Alliance of Angels, Desert Angels, Golden Seeds, New York Angels, Sand Hill Angels and St. Louis Arch Angels.
Angel group investment deals are more evenly distributed across the US than in years past. Seventy-three percent of angel group deals are now done outside California and New England, although 30% of dollars are invested in these regions.
The Southwest region edged out California for the first time, with 18.1% share of angel group dollars. Year over year, companies in the Great Plains region and New York saw the largest increase in angel group deals. Declines of equal proportion are in New England and the Southeast over the same time period.
Monday, July 15th, 2013
While many new markets related to technology show slowing growth year over year, that is not the case with mobile advertising, according to new research from Mintel.
The Mintel study shows that three in four (76%) of mobile web users in the US have seen an ad in the past month, including 91% of 18-24-year-olds and 83% of those aged 25-34, a total audience of about half (49%) of all adults (when those without smartphones or Internet access are taken into consideration).
“Typically, nascent markets related to technology show slowing growth each year,” says Billy Hulkower, senior analyst, technology and media at Mintel. ”
However, in the case of mobile ads, consumers will still be acquiring their first smartphones and tablets through 2015, suggesting that sales growth deceleration will not occur at the same pace that would be seen for a hardware market—instead, sales may accelerate further as the audience for mobile media expands.”
As you might expect, the ads most commonly viewed are banners. About half of the 18-34 olds saw mobile display ads in an app, banner, or mobile game, and about four in 10 also saw a video ad or heard an Internet radio ad in the last month.
That actually sounds low to us. If you use a streaming digital radio service such as Pandora, you’re likely to hear an Internet radio ad every time you tune in. And many online videos run their ad roll before you can see what you came for, so they’re increasingly common.
Mobile: where the most desirable consumers are
“The majority of adults and teens now own a smartphone, including more than three-quarters of the youngest adults and highest-income groups. Advertisers may feel squeamish about the personal nature of the phone and its small screen size, but it is now where the most desirable consumer audiences lie.
“Growth is likely to continue rising rapidly as more consumers adopt both smartphones and tablets, with the late majority boarding these hardware platforms for the first time.” Billy Hulkower said.
Furthermore, it seems mobile couponing in particular presents a clear opportunity for driving sales via mobile ads. About one in six adults (18%) have redeemed a mobile coupon, including over 20% of respondents from households with more than $100K in annual income.
Want to increase mobile ad viewership? Mintel says giving mobile consumers free access to streaming media or apps that usually require a small fee can potentially boost ad viewing substantially. More than one in four (28%) mobile web users are willing to receive ads that support free usage of a mobile app, with this sentiment distributed somewhat evenly across age groups (albeit favoring 18-24-year-olds where the willingness increases to 34%).
Friday, July 12th, 2013
Online and mobile mergers and acquisition deals increased by 7 percent in the first half of 2013, but value decreased 29 percent, from $32.54 billion in the second half of 2012 to $23.16 billion.
The median revenue moved from 2.3x to 2.1x, while the median EBITDA multiple increased from 10.0x to 16.0x, according to the Berkery Noyes mid-market investment bank, for the first half 2013 mergers and acquisitions trend report
Yahoo!, with 13 transactions, was the industry’s most active acquirer in first half 2013. Aside from its $1.10 billion acquisition of Tumblr, Yahoo! has mainly focused on small, mobile-based transactions this year.
Tumblr was Yahoo!’s largest deal in the Online & Mobile Industry since 2003, when it acquired search and internet advertising company Overture Services for $1.63 billion.
SaaS & Cloud was the most active market segment and underwent a 15 percent increase in volume, totaling 291 transactions year-to-date. M&A activity in the Communications segment improved 22 percent since second half 2012, making it the sector with the largest half-to-half year increase. One notable Communications transaction in first half 2013 was Dropbox’s acquisition of mobile email application Mailbox.
Mobile a strong driver
In addition, acquirers are looking to add mobile solutions that aggregate relevant content in relation to individual users, as news is shared in real-time.
There were several deals over the past six months that focused on news summary and content sharing, such as LinkedIn’s acquisition of Pulse for $90 million, Google’s acquisition of Wavii for $30 million, and Yahoo!’s acquisition of Summly for $30 million.
“Mobile continues to be a strong driver of M&A activity in the information marketplace,” stated Mary Jo Zandy, Managing Director at Berkery Noyes. “Content delivery methods are evolving, and acquirers in general are showing more interest in semantic technologies that improve the end-user experience.”
Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
While digital advertising ranks second only to TV now and is critical to any comprehensive marketing effort, many advertising and marketing pros apparently don’t understand digital ad costs nearly as well as they do TV.
Tarrytown, NY-based SQAD, which reports and forecasts real cost advertising data, conducted a survey of ad and marketing pros that revealed a majority (58%) could correctly identify the prime-time TV show with the higherst 30-second ad price (American Idol), but three quarters could not identify the website category with the highest cost per thousand in 2012 (Finance/insurance/investment).
Most of those polled thought the Entertainment category had the highest CPM, but it actually is less than half the CPM of the Finance/insurance/investment category at an average of $9.50 vs. $22. The Finance/Insurance and Investment category features notable sites such as CNNMoney, Bloomberg.com, Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.
“We are finding that many ad buyers are still in the dark about how much they should be paying for display ads, despite the proliferation of online advertising over the past decade. The opposite is true with broadcast advertising,” said Neil Klar, CEO of SQAD.
There is a solution to this, SQAD suggests.
“The industry needs to make display ad costs more transparent so advertisers can make the right the marketing decisions.”
Friday, June 14th, 2013
The growth rate of app users has been 251 percent (CAGR) over the last 5 years. It has outpaced the growth of the stationary internet users worldwide by an astonishing factor of 15.
Stationary internet user base is still more than two times bigger than mobile app user base, but its growth rate (CAGR =16 percent) looks rather deplorable compared to mobile. There are 4 major implications every company has to deal with.
There are many reasons for the massive growth of the app user base.
Where does it all lead?
The wide range of Apps is one of the main drivers. Apps and smart mobile devices create a win-win alliance that goes beyond the software-PC alliance. Apps provide the intelligence for smart devices to be used as a tool for almost every daily activity.
The mobile device provides the technological basis but more important provides the context in which the app creates value for its user. There are no other mass market devices that users carry around 24/7, that are as personal and that provide location information at all times.
Where does it all lead to? We continue our discussion on the impact the app-eco system has on the industry by highlighting 4 consequences this rapid market growth will have.
1. The number of mobile app users will overtake stationary web users: This seems evident as there is no end in sight for the growth of mobile app users. Eventually a great part of today’s 7 bn (international Telecom Union) mobile subscribers will possess a capable device and will make use of apps.
The biggest challenge will be to tap into the developing countries with their 5.2 bn mobile subscribers. It will be only a matter of time until the industry will pour out cheap capable mobile devices for far less than 100 USD to allow monthly subscription plans with ARPUs of around 5 USD.
2. IT development will become mobile: If private and business users are mobile, IT solutions will have to follow. Mobile app development business has already become a multi-billion dollar business (see report: The Market for Mobile Application Development Services), but this is just the beginning.
Enterprises will mobilize their IT solutions to provide e.g. mobile access to company databases as well as to reach out to their customers for marketing, sales and service purposes.
Hundreds of thousands of IT developers will have to be trained in mobile programming languages as well as in GUI design and user flow. The IT service industry is about to realize these changes and the business opportunities this development will have in the next 10 years.
3. The mobile channel will become a key strategy element for every company: There is no industry that is not affected by the new mobile channel. It will be a challenging task to create, develop, maintain and manage hundreds of mobile services on an increasing number of platforms and for a diversity of internal and external user groups. This task is not being addressed properly in the majority of the company strategy and operation units at the moment.
4. M&A will become hot: Because of the speed the market developments and the time it takes to implement changes within an organization, companies will open their pockets and start to buy apps and mobile service companies to keep up with the pace of the market.
The first specialized service providers like Apptopia have jumped on the train and offer matching services for buyers and sellers of apps. Apple’s new App Transfer service also facilitates the ownership changes of an app business.
These market developments emphasize the importance of formulating a mobile strategy that is covering all app strategy dimensions from mobile use case definition, platform selection, target group prioritization, decision on the proximity to core services, selection of open or walled garden sourcing strategy to organizational implementation of mobile into the existing company structures.
Regardless of the time scale, this inevitability makes your mobile/app and web strategy in the long run more important than your PC/web strategy.
To get the stats behind these market changes, read research2guidance’s “The Smartphone App Monitor Vol. 10”, the comprehensive source of app market analysis.
Friday, June 14th, 2013
Mobile consumers are knocking at the door of small merchants, but many of those businesses are not ready for them, according to a newly released research report from TransFirst, a provider of transaction processing services and payment enabling technologies, and ControlScan, a payment security and compliance solution provider.
The mobile payment acceptance survey, Small Merchants and Mobile Payments: 2013 Survey on Technology Awareness and Adoption, examines the business impacts of widespread mobile device use and the accompanying sudden increase of mobile-friendly applications.
According to the survey, 82 percent of ecommerce merchants don’t know whether a purchase on their website comes from a mobile device or a PC — yet data from those who do indicates that mobile site visitors are representing a significantly increasing portion of online sales.
Another key finding of the survey shows 49 percent of ecommerce merchants know their websites are not currently optimized for mobile devices and an additional 17 percent say they don’t know or are unsure about their site’s current status — revealing that as many as two-thirds of these merchants may be putting up roadblocks to the growing number of mobile consumers.
A plan of action needed
Ten percent of respondents to last year’s benchmark Mobile Payment Acceptance Survey said they were using a smartphone or tablet to accept credit card payments. That number has almost doubled to 17 percent in less than one year’s time.
“The mobile consumer is knocking at the small merchant’s door,” said Craig Tieken, Director of Product at TransFirst. “Business owners who aren’t already up to speed with mobile payment acceptance need to have a viable plan of action to get there.”
“The mobile payment survey findings show that small merchants have a real business need to effectively adapt to mobile technology trends,” agreed Dave Abouchar, Sr. Director of Product Management for ControlScan.
Now is the time
“Now is the time for ISOs and acquirers to embrace these trends with innovative offerings that guide their merchants toward business growth and increased revenue.”
The survey was sent to small to mid-sized businesses representing service areas such as retail and consumer goods, healthcare and human services, personal and professional services, and restaurant and hospitality. Responses from more than 1650 merchants were collected from March 18 to April 18 of this year. Three-quarters of survey respondents’ businesses have 10 or fewer employees.
The full report is available now for download. In addition, Tieken and Abouchar will present an expert review of the survey’s findings in a June 27 Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) webinar entitled “Small Merchants and Mobile Payments: Measuring Current Technology Awareness and Adoption.“
Friday, June 14th, 2013
A growing number of U.S. workers are creating a second source of income by starting their own businesses while also working a full or part-time job, a trend known as “moonlighting.”
Analysis by e-commerce platform Bigcommerce.com over a three-month period this year found an unusually large amount of activity being logged by “indie” online retailers outside of regular office hours.
Bigcommerce sampled nearly 20,000 of its U.S. stores and found that roughly 30-35 percent of all activity took place between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. CT, with a surprisingly large amount occurring after midnight.
Looking at various segments of time throughout a given workday, the data shows that at noon – the peak time for activity on Bigcommerce stores – nearly 80 percent of online retailers were found to be working on their stores.
At midnight, there were still more than 49 percent actively working. At 3 p.m., nearly half of online retailers were working, with 25 percent still burning the midnight oil at3 a.m.
Regionally, the breakdown of moonlighting Americans paints an interesting picture of the state of the U.S. job market:
- The data found that 33 percent – the largest group of moonlighters – are based in Southern states (with Florida, Georgia and Texas having the highest concentration in the region).
- 27 percent are based on the West Coast (led by Arizona, Colorado and California).
- 24 percent of the U.S. moonlighters are in the Northeast (led by New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.).
- 15 percent are located in the Midwest U.S. (led by Michigan, Illinois and Ohio).
“The data paints a new picture of the modern day entrepreneur,” said Bigcommerce co-founder and co-CEO, Eddie Machaalani.
“Through daily conversations with our clients and monitoring this trend over recent years, we understand that many of these small business owners are pulling long hours to run their business and work a full or part-time job on top of that, but these numbers provide us with hard stats and evidence.”
What’s causing this change?
Machaalani believes this change in behavior can be attributed to either longer hours being worked by business owners, or a greater number who prefer to work late because they are busy during the day, an indicator that they have another job.
So are more Americans sticking to their day jobs and becoming budding entrepreneurs on the side? That is an interesting question considering a recent study by the U.S. Labor Department. Their data showed that fewer Americans are quitting their jobs and more are staying in the same job longer – 53% held the same job for at least five years. Bigcommerce on the other hand, is seeing things differently.
“Opening an e-commerce business is relatively easy in today’s marketplace,” explained Machaalani. “These days, all you need is a few minutes, a credit card and an Internet connection to get a fully operational online store up and running. These passionate entrepreneurs show that it’s possible to start and grow your own business while also maintaining an additional source of income.”