Friday, March 28, 2008

The Brick and Byte Play

In comparison shopping land, we like to throw some big numbers around. Stuff like the market for online transactions reached $175 billion in 2007 and is expected to reach $335 billion by 2012. The shopping comparison game is simple - we provide a service that makes it easy for consumers to compare prices and decide where they want to buy. When they click through to the retailer after conducting the research on our site, they are more likely to buy from that retailer than the consumer who has not done the price research first, say by simply searching for the product in Google or Yahoo. The retailers gladly pay us back for sending these pre-qualified shoppers their direction and we earn our cut of the $175 billion.

How many of us, though, research online and purchase offline? Plenty according to an Accenture study. 67% in fact. In other words 2/3 of us are more likely to conduct research on sites like Pronto and then purchase the product in a retail store. So how to get a slice of that bigger pie and provide ever more useful searching for you? Start including local results in the search results.

Disclosure: I, of course, work for Pronto and yes, I know, local is the new global so we are not alone here. Dig around though, and see the future. Brick and mortar is becoming brick and byte.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ways to Limit Free Speech on the Web by Promoting Free Speech

Paul Kapustka formerly of GigaOm now with his own cutting blog, Sidecut Reports, has an excellent post up regarding some fake "news" created as a PR effort by internet providers to suggest that there is a grass roots movement against network neutrality on free speech grounds.

He was particularly bemused that mainstream media outlets picked up on it as news rather than the flogging it actually was. However, it is worth noting here that the free speech implications of the network neutrality debate are particularly pointed. At only one time in our history have we let our government restrict speech in public communications and that was for over the air broadcasting. In particular, the FCC believed that over the air broadcasting a) was in the public interest to promote and b) utilized a scarce resource (wireless spectrum). As such, they believed that they had to create strict rules on what broadcasters could and could not say in order to ensure that the scarce airwaves were used to their maximum public benefit. Without the scarcity of the airwaves, all things that wanted to get published to the airwaves, in theory, would have been.

Those who argue that P2P file sharing creates scarcity on the internet and thus limits the freedom of speech are playing right into the public interest/scarcity trap that gave the FCC the right to regulate speech in the 1940s to the present day. And that, my friends, would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
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