Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

The Future of News is Curators Not Reporters

Friday, April 16th, 2010

It’s no secret that the Newspaper Industry is hurting badly since it has failed to adapt to the internet fast enough and has found its market share and revenues erode greatly.  Their current strategy is the plan to erect pay walls for their content, which users won’t pay for.  The problem is that users don’t go to one source to get their news online; they browse multiple sites to get the whole story, from multiple angles.  That behavior not only hurts the pay wall plan, but leads to less time on site for the newspapers, so less advertising dollars.

The problem is that the Newspapers are overvaluing their reporters.  Yes, there is a difference in quality in newspaper reporters and many homegrown sites, but there are also many ex-journalists who have been laid off due to the industry’s decline and are now working for other sites, so there are still plenty of free news sites with quality journalists.  Additionally, even if a paper’s reporter is the most knowledgeable about a story and has the most interesting facts and take on a major story, it is too easy for other journalists to learn those facts from reading the story and then write their own story leveraging that info.  So the newspaper pays more for the story than competing sites, which puts it at a disadvantage.

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Improving Online Dating Sites Step 1 – Move Beyond the Static Profile

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Dating sites seem stuck in the past and follow basically the same blueprint: User creates a profile talking about themselves and their interests and can then search for other people based on what those users wrote about themselves.  There are niche sites that act as a preliminary filter (senior citizens, trekkies, farmers, dog lovers, etc) and there are sites that try to collect different data and do matchmaking based on a variety of factors, but they all work the same at the fundamental level.  Online Dating is one of the verticals that doesn’t act anything like the offline version.  There are many things that the sites can do to improve the experience and make it more natural, engaging and effective, which I’ll discuss over multiple posts.  For this one, I’ll focus on the centerpiece of the experience: the user profile.  Dating site profiles have the following problems:

  1. Users have to write about themselves – Not everybody likes to write.  Even fewer people like to write about themselves.  It is awkward and hard for many to figure out what to say that will portray who they are.  So many profiles end up looking very similar.
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Cable TV can have Relevant Content as well

Monday, April 5th, 2010

You’ve probably heard that Iron Man 2 is coming to theaters next month.  It’s not the only sequel to a major movie or movie series that will arrive in 2010.  Wall Street 2, Shrek 4, Toy Story 3, Little Fockers, Sex and the City 2 and new Twilight and Harry Potter movies are but a handful of sequels or remakes set to release this year.  The weeks surrounding the debuts of these movies are a prime time for people to watch the movies that came before them in the series, either for the first time or as a refresher.

However, over the years I’ve noticed, regardless of the cable company, that the earlier movies do not make it to On Demand during this time period.  If I go to the local Blockbuster, they are inevitably out of their handful of copies of the earlier movie.  Maybe there is a reason that cable companies seem to miss this revenue opportunity dozens of times per year, or maybe they are just too focused on new releases to notice.

I did a little research online and found that Professor Thorsten Hennig-Thurau, of Cass Business School in London has studied sequels in depth and found that dvd sales of the earlier movie do indeed increase when the sequel is released in theater.  People want related content; the internet may have pushed relevancy to the forefront, but it’s always been important to us.

Gas Stations Can Leverage the Internet to Increase Profit

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Gas Stations make most of their money on retail sales, not gasoline.  In fact, for many gas is a loss leader and sales inside the convenience store are what keep them afloat.  For some stations, most of their traffic comes during rush hours when people are not price sensitive and when people are in a hurry to pay at the pump and leave, not go inside and find a snack to eat.  So perhaps incorporating some Revenue Management techniques could help the station to bring in customers during the slower times, which also may coincide with the hours that people are more likely to have a snack craving.

Say a station currently charges $3.00 a gallon for gas at all times. They could decide to lower the price to $2.95 from 1-5 each day.  However, although the station is in a busy part of town, the road it’s on isn’t very crowded during that time of day, so the store sees only a 10% increase in customers, which doesn’t do much for the store’s bottom line.  The increase in customers doesn’t increase retail sales enough to make this a profitable play.

In order to fully realize the plan, the gas station could login to gasbuddy.com at the start of the discounted period and update their price to $2.95, making them the cheapest gas station in the area.  Now the price sensitive customers in the area will go a few streets out of their way to get the discounted gas and the gas station could see a much higher bump in traffic during the afternoon.  Gasbuddy is a free marketing vehicle for savvy gas stations, allowing them to leverage their discounted rates into a lot more traffic than relying solely on passersby to notice the cheaper gas and stop.

In the past, business owners would have to pay to broadcast sales to customers, but today there are online avenues to freely broadcast sales, no matter what category of business.  Gasbuddy.com is focused on gas stations and gas prices specifically, but sites like fatwallet and slickdeals can be leveraged for product and service sales on a local or national level.

Ease the Pain – Priority Baggage

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

In my previous post, I discussed finding Sweet Spots by figuring out ways to ease Pain Points.  The following is an application of that framework:

Two major pain points for Airline Travel are the time spent at the airport before and after the flight.  Over the past few years, focus has been on easing the pre-flight pain with ticketing kiosks, online check-in and the Trusted Traveler Program.  I haven’t seen much progress or innovation in easing the pain of the post-flight baggage process.

Baggage claim and exit sign in an airport

The delay from landing until the luggage arrives at baggage claim is a major pain point for many travelers.  Some choose to not check any bags in order to bypass the wait, but that’s hard for longer trips and especially now that you can’t take more than 3oz bottles of liquids on the plane.  So why not look at how another industry solved the same pain point?

I mentioned in the previous post that time was a pain point for mail.  Priority Mail and Fedex were offered to help ease that pain point and a similar solution could be implemented for checked luggage.  The airlines could offer ‘Priority Baggage’ which would be taken off the plane first and expedited to the baggage claim ahead of the other bags.  Customers that are on a tight timeline or just hate waiting for baggage would pay extra for this service.

Customers would instantly get the benefit of this service as they already realize that time = money and are familiar with priority mail services.  They are also now accustomed to paying for baggage check now that almost every airline charges for checked bags.  The airports already tag oversized and odd bags separately and even route them to a special area in the baggage claim for pickup.  Adding a priority baggage check service would increase revenue and customer satisfaction, and would be a competitive advantage that would gain some travelers choosing the airline solely for this service.

Digitizing the Real World: Virtual Cookie Jars

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

In my previous post, I discussed a framework for thinking up new products based on Relating to Offline Experiences. The following is an application of that framework:

A low-tech method of saving money is the cookie jar, or envelope, system in which you take multiple jars and label each one: Car, Down Payment, Vacation, Christmas, Clothes, etc. Then you save a designated amount of money in each jar, building up the money over time so you can pay for your vacation directly from the Vacation jar as opposed to putting it on credit, taking money from savings, or trying to fit the vacation into the monthly budget. This system has been repopularized in recent years in the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker. However, if one wants to use this system but prefers to keep their money in a bank for security and interest, then they would have to open, and manage, multiple savings accounts. And each would have to be setup to auto-deposit the specified amount of money from their checking account each month.

It would be much easier to manage if I could have one savings account and break it into as many virtual ‘cookie jars’ as needed. I could use a form similar to the following to setup transfers to my cookie savings account:

Add Funds to Cookie Jars

And then when I want to withdraw for Christmas shopping and a Winter Ski Vacation, I would do so with a form like this:

This savings account functionality would allow users to save money like they do without banks and software. The concept is simple for users to understand and see the value. Major banks like Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, etc could allow this very easily by building an interface like above and a very simple database structure. This functionality would differentiate them from the other banks offering the same paltry 1.24% interest right now. They have already demonstrated that they have the desire and capability to innovate savings accounts with programs like Way2Save. Why not allow people to have one savings account at their bank with all of their cookie jars rather than having to open multiple accounts at multiple banks to satisfy their needs?