Oct 092014

Book Short: Way, Way Beyond Books

Book Short:  Way, Way Beyond Books

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone, was a great read.  Amazon is a fascinating, and phenomenally successful company, and Jeff is a legendary technology leader.  The Everything Store is a company and personal biography and totally delivers.

Forget about the fact that Amazon is now almost $100B in revenues and still growing like mad.  I find it even more amazing that a single company could be the largest ecommerce site on the planet while successfully pioneering both cloud computing services and e-readers.  The stories of all these things are in the book.

As a CEO, I enjoyed reading more of the vignettes behind the things that Amazon is reputationally known for in the tech world – doors as desks, their unique meeting formats, the toughness of the culture, the extensive risk taking of growth over profits, and what works and does not work about Bezos’ authoritative and domineering style.  And it’s always great to be reminded that even the biggest and best companies had to cheat death 10 times over before “arriving.”

This is good fun and learning for anyone in the business world.  It reminded me most of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs ,which I wrote about here, although it’s more of a company history and less of a biography than the Jobs book.

Filed under: Books, Entrepreneurship

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Jun 242009

On the Other Hand…

On the Other Hand…

A couple days ago, I wrote about how crummy the customer service experience was with Clear going out of business with no notice and no apology. 

Today my inbox revealed the exact opposite experience:

Greetings from Amazon.com.


You saved $1.40 with Amazon.com’s Pre-order Price Guarantee!


The price of the item(s) decreased after you ordered them, and we gave you the lowest price.

I didn’t even know Amazon had a Pre-order Price Guarantee.  They could have gotten away with not giving it to me, and I would have never even thought about it.  Great experience!

Filed under: Business


Sep 152005

RSS Advertising

RSS Advertising

This is two-day-old news by now, but in case you missed it, we just announced than we – Return Path – are partnering with Feedburner to take RSS advertising to the next level (coverage here, here, and here).

As you probably know if you receive my feed or other ones, Feedburner has been doing some experimenting with ad units at the bottom of feeds for months now, first using Amazon and more recently Google AdSense to serve up ads.  And as you may know if you look at ads closely, neither of those services has done a great job making the ads truly relevant.  I can’t tell you, for example, the number of times I write a posting about a book, and the ad has absolutely nothing to do with books, let alone the book or author I’m writing about.  My favorite one was a posting Fred wrote called “Why a Conservative Turns Liberal,” with an ad called “Meet Conservative Singles” — probably not Fred’s intent, although it certainly brought a smile to my face.

Anyway, what we’re doing with Feedburner is very simple.  Our Customer Acquisition Solutions group sells lead generation products to hundreds of advertisers each month in the form of either email list rental or web-based lead gen based on categories of interest expressed by consumers who sign up with our Postmaster Direct service.  Feedburner has categorized a number of the 100,000+ feeds they publish as “Consumer Electronics” or “Computing and Technology,” which are two of the strongest categories we have, both in terms of consumers and in terms of advertisers.

So our salesforce is going to add “RSS” as an option for our advertisers in those categories, and we will work with Feedburner to insert demo-targeted ads into select feeds.  We and Feedburner both acknowledge this is an experiment, but we’re very optimistic about the results: the demographics should line up perfectly and provide our advertisers with a new channel as part of their existing campaigns.  I’m sure Dick or someone else at Feedburner will blog about it as well at some point, and if we learn anything  truly interesting after the first few months, we’ll let the world know!

Filed under: Email

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Aug 082005

A Ball Bearing in the Wheels of E-Commerce

A Ball Bearing in the Wheels of E-Commerce

As an online marketing professional, I’ve long understood intellectually how e-commerce works, how affiliate networks function, and why the internet is such a powerful selling tool.  But I got an email the other day that drove this home more directly.

When I started my blog about a year and a half ago, I set myself up as an Amazon affiliate, meaning that any time someone clicks on a link to Amazon from one of my postings or on the blog sidebar, I get paid a roughly 4% commission on anything that person buys on Amazon on that session.

According to the email report I just got from Amazon on Q2 sales driven by my blog, I am responsible for driving traffic that buys about $2,500 worth of merchandise from Amazon every quarter, which yields about $100 to me in affiliate fees.  All I really link to are business books that I summarize in postings, although people who click from my blog to Amazon end up buying all sorts of random things (according to my report, last quarter’s purchases included a Kathy Smith workout DVD and a new socket wrench set in addition to lots of copies of Jim Collins’ Built to Last and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.

This is a true win-win-win — Amazon gets traffic for a mere 4% of sales, a relatively low marketing cost; I get a small amount of money to cover the various fees associated with my blog (Typepad, Newsgator, Feedburner), and people who read my blog pay what they’re going to pay to Amazon anyway – and maybe get something they otherwise wouldn’t have gone out to get in the process.

My blog is certainly not a top 1,000 blog, or probably not even a top 10,000 blog in terms of size of audience.  This is merely a microcosm that proves the macro trends.  If I’m driving $10,000 per year of business to Amazon, now I REALLY understand how there are now approximately 500,000 people who make their LIVING by selling goods on eBay, and how probably another 500,000 people are making good side money or possibly even making their living by running offers and affiliate marketing programs from their web sites.  I’m like a little ball bearing in the finely tuned but explosively growing wheel of e-commerce.

If my quarterly affiliate fees keep growing, I’ll find something more productive or charitable to do with them than keep them for myself.  But for now, I am covering my costs and marveling on a personal level at how all this stuff works as well as it does.

Jul 202004

Grandma Goes Broadband

I’ve always thought my grandmother was a remarkable person. At age 92 (sorry to publish it, Gma), she is pretty hip — drives a Lexus, plays a mean game of bridge, carries a cell phone, and until recently, used WebTV.

She was getting tired of the slow connection via dial-up, so Mariquita and I gave her an old laptop we had and installed a cable modem (I have to commend Cablevision of Westchester/Optimum Online on a very smooth and easy installation process), so now she’s the world’s newest computer user. Those of us who work with computers every day take some of the basics for granted, but if you’ve never used Windows or a mouse before, this stuff is not easy to learn.

But I’m proud to say that Grandma Hazel, after three short days, is using Outlook, used Return Path to announce her change of email address to her address book, set up 1-click on Amazon and bought a couple books, read my blog, and even subscribed to receive email alerts when I post.

After 5 years of WebTV, I think she’s in for a real treat with how fast the web can be and how much there is to explore out there. And if anyone can figure out how to use this stuff, it’s her. Welcome to the web and to blogs, Gma!