This, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist Dominic Basulto. Dominic is a New York native, has been a senior editor at Corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. Send tips or story ideas to: email@example.com.
About this weblog
Here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in New York City. Impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. What we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. As well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to New York's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them.
Have a "solid, stodgy" product that hip young consumers avoid like the plague? It's time for an online brand makeover. It's a strategy that companies like Ford Motor are using to resuscitate old brands like Mercury. According to the New York Times, Mercury is following the example of other marketers like Amazon.com, American Express and BMW, which have used branded online entertainment ("advertainment") to reach a target audience online. In this case, Mercury has produced a five-part "Webisode" series called "Meet the Lucky Ones." Why go to all this trouble? Well, these young consumers spend a good part of their time online: "This customer, a little bit more female and younger than we have traditionally gone after, uses the Web as an entertainment medium and a social network, spending time chatting, reading blogs, on Friendster..."
New York Magazine raises the very real possibility that the best and brightest medical researchers in New York City will soon leave for California in order to pursue lavishly-funded stem-cell research projects. The stimulus, of course, was the passage by California voters this November of Proposition 71, the "celebrated and controversial ballot measure that could make the state a powerhouse in human embryonic stem-cell research." With Proposition 71, California is essentially "setting up its own version of NIH, offering $3 billion over ten years in funds that the Bush administration has refused to provide. In an unmistakable rebuke of Washington, California is gambling on stem-cell research becoming the biggest, most profitable medical advancement of our agebigger than the discovery of DNA, bigger than the sequencing of the genome. Californias scientists will be untethered in their research, while New Yorkers... must either rely on compromised supplies of NIH-approved stem-cell lines or pass the hat for private donations."
That's not all -- in an extreme "doomsday scenario," New York hospitals will "lose their main profit centers and become like other urban hospitals -- catering mainly to the uninsured and subsisting on shoestring budgets."
It doesn't have to happen that way, of course, but the magazine piece suggests that it will -- unless Governor Pataki and legislators in Albany jump into the mix. Until then, NYC researchers will hunt for "a back door" to participate in the California Gold Rush (i.e. partnering with West Coast institutions in cross-country collaborations) or track down private dollars to fund expensive new research initiatives.
The article is an intriguing read since it puts faces, names and figures to the stem-cell research debate. New York has made tentative strides towards becoming a biotech powerhouse -- but nothing like California. Disaffected scientists and medical researchers interviewed for the article make the point again and again (and again) that "there is no recognition that science and technology is any value at any level to New York City." Governor Pataki treats the issue like a "contagious disease." That's despite the fact that the city is home to a handful of world-class medical institutions and a treasure trove of biotech talent. After all, as long as New York has finance, media and fashion, who really cares about biotech? Maybe the collapse of the Silicon Alley dream has convinced too many people that New York is not exactly the place to incubate new tech companies. There's a great anecdote in the article about Mayor Bloomberg cold-calling the CEO of Novartis and finding out, matter-of-factly, that the company never even considered New York for a possible office.
According to the New York Times, Internet start-ups looking for cheap, flexible real estate space in NYC might consider the turnkey solutions of Sunshine Realty Management, which operates two sites in Manhattan: 45 West 21st Street and 419 Lafayette. Basically, the company leases entire floors of buildings, divides up the space into cubicles and conference rooms and then offers it at affordable monthly rates to budding entrepreneurs. By New York standards, the prices are dirt-cheap: as low as $295 a month for a basic cubicle. But there's a lot of perks included -- the opportunity to have your mail sent to a real corporate address, the use of on-site conference rooms, and the ability to participate in group health care plans.
The New York Times doesn't actually use the word "Internet incubator" (that would be, like, so 1999) -- mostly because the real estate management company doesn't actually take an equity stake in the companies. In fact, it sounds like many of the entrepreneurs aren't even classic tech executives -- they are astrologers or travel agents or furniture designers. The two loft-like floors at 419 Lafayette, though, were formerly used by Internet consulting firm Razorfish.
Most interestingly, it seems that many of the new tenants are interested as much in the "proximity to others" as the low, low prices. In fact, one stay-at-home office worker interviewed for the piece emphasized that, "I need to get out. That was my main draw..." For the Wi-Fi and Lattes generation, there is obviously a trade-off between between working in public, open spaces that lack certain amenities (private meeting rooms) and working in stuffy, closed offices.
New York-based word-of-mouth marketing firm Buzz Metrics is among the leading players in tracking how online trendsetters and influencers can ruin a company's reputation using off-the-shelf technology available at any local electronics superstore. The marketing world calls them "determined detractors," but executives of once-proud brands brought to their knees call them "reputation terrorists." After all, says one advertising executive, "One determined detractor can do as much damage as 100,000 positive mentions can do good."
In one of the best-known cases, two brothers who live in New York City created a Web site complete with a three-minute video clip in late 2003 to protest the fact that dead iPod batteries could not be easily or cheaply replaced. There are countless other examples -- as Internet influencers take on corporate icons like McDonald's, Starbucks and Microsoft. In some ways, these passionate anti-brand efforts are simply a natural backlash against buzz marketing.
Forget about TV, radio, music or books as the place where new buzzwords and slang are coined. As the New York Times points out, everybody knows that the real action is happening online: "Now the great conduit is the blogosphere, both a neologism itself and an uncharted space that, the more we map it, looks more and more like our collective unconscious. It dreams up the new words and disseminates them directly into the language, no longer by IV but by instant messaging - a term, by the way, that may soon require its own retronym: messengered message."
Gary Stein, an analyst at Jupiter Research, takes a look back at his favorite topics of 2004. Not surprisingly, blogs made it to the top of the list. The chattering masses have always loved blogs, of course, but now it appears that advertisers and marketers are also tapping into the blogosphere as a rich source of real-time information: "The ability to tap into consumer conversations is fantastic and powerful. Companies are falling all over themselves trying to figure out how to use the blog phenomenon to their advantage. All too often, they conclude they should use blogs to talk. Please. Brands do enough talking as it is. Use the blog space to listen." (Hat tip: Micro Persuasion)
A portrait of President Bush using monkeys to form his image was banished from the Chelsea Market, but it's now found a new home on a giant digital billboard over the Holland Tunnel. According to Reuters, over the next month as many as 400,000 commuters will see the controversial billboard. It's all for a good cause, too -- a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the original acrylic painting on canvas will be given to the parents of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. For close-ups of the Bush-monkey montage and an explanation of the artistic intent of the work, check out Chris Savido's Workmade.com site.
The holiday spirit is alive and well at the New York Daily News. On the day after Christmas, the paper published two "feel-good" stories about the Internet full of holiday cheer.
Upon discovering that kids in Harlem often lacked books or even access to books (the nearest public library on 115th Street has been closed for two years), a teacher at Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy teamed up with an employee at BarnesandNoble.com to create a Web site seeking donations to buy books for underprivileged students. Within days, the pair had raised more than $500 for new books -- thanks to a helpful plug from fiction writer Neal Pollack's blog.
The other story looks at the online subletting of NYC apartments during the holiday season, with a big plug for Craigslist. During the period December 1 - December 20, there were 8,000 holiday sublets listed for Manhattan and another 1,490 in Brooklyn. Thanks to Craigslist, individuals subletting their apartments earned enough cash for air travel and Christmas presents, while out-of-towners enjoyed a Christmas in New York.
In its list of the 15 people to watch in 2005, the Wall Street Journal has included online publisher Nick Denton. Is 2005 the year that blogging finally makes it big? We'll see: "Mr. Denton is looking to prove that blogging can be a business, building a small but growing galaxy of publications. Mr. Denton, publisher of the Wonkette political gossip blog and others, has become the poster boy for blog start-ups, snagging big-name advertisers with help from his highly targeted audiences. Altogether, his eight blogs, which include Gawker (Manhattan gossip) and Gizmodo (gadgets), pull in a total of more than 29 million page views monthly."
In the final step of its globalization makeover, Chinese PC maker Lenovo Group is relocating its corporate HQ to Armonk, New York (IBM's hometown). Moreover, the company will "essentially hand over management of what will become the world's third-largest computer maker, after Dell and Hewlett-Packard, to a group of senior IBM executives." It's a bit of irony for anyone concerned about the loss of jobs overseas: "American multinational companies outsource manufacturing to China. Why can't a Chinese company outsource management to the United States?"
In the New York Times, James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly reports that IBM may be working on a "third-generation" search tool that far eclipses Google's "second-generation" search technology. In fact, IBM has already released a new product, OmniFind, that is based on a potentially revolutionary new search strategy known as "unstructured information management architecture" (UIMA). Thus far, the results have been encouraging: "The combination of ever-faster computers and ever-evolving programming allowed the systems to succeed at tasks that have beaten their predecessors." Among those predecessors, of course, is Google.
Online gambling site Casino Fortune is willing to pay $5 million to put its name on the Financial District's "Charging Bull" bronze sculpture. City officials have ultimate veto power, and all signs point to Bloomberg & Co. rejecting the sale: they are "uneasy about letting a gaming business put its logo beneath a statue whose image has been closely linked with capitalism and the stock market." Moreover, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has earned a reputation for "making life miserable" for online gambling sites. Whatever the outcome, Casino Fortune won't go quietly into the night: the company recently bid to acquire the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and is apparently looking for other high-profile ways to gain an aura of respectability for online gambling.
On December 29, Cognizant Technology Solutions (based in Teaneck, New Jersey) will be added to the Nasdaq-100 index. As the company's president and CEO pointed out, the company is "the only IT services firm on the list and... the first and only offshore firm to be included in the Nasdaq-100." The announcement actually seems to have made more of a stir in India than in the New York metropolitan area. The story has already been picked up by the Economic Times and Rediff.com.
There's still time to get on Santa's "nice" list if you have a five-year lease in Lower Manhattan: The Empire State Development Corporation is looking to award $45 million to downtown businesses through a small-business grant program that expires on December 31. Since early 2002, the Empire State Development Corporation has awarded $110 million to 1,900 different companies.
After reader feedback suggesting that his "blog" is not actually a "blog," David Pogue of the New York Times admits that, "Im obviously new at blogging, and still finding my way." On the way in 2005: shorter, punchier posts and more opportunities for "real-time back and forth" with loyal New York Times readers.
Thinking of taking a long holiday vacation? Well, don't be surprised if there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mails waiting for you upon your return. Different people have different strategies for coping with this holiday nuisance says The New York Times, which interviews a number of New York office workers about their e-mail habits.
A professor at Rutgers explains the dilemma of holiday e-mail: "Today's reliance on e-mail has changed the nature of vacation. If you do clean your in-box, you're defeating the purpose of vacation, which is to get away from the office and do something different. If you don't, you have to work twice as hard when you come back. And while you are responding to those, new ones come flooding in. In some ways, you are punished for taking vacation, by out-of-control e-mails."
Bloomberg is reporting that Yasser Arafat, via a Palestinian investment company, invested millions of dollars in a number of New York-area businesses, including $2.1 million in Vaultus (software for wireless computers) and $1.3 million in Strike Holdings LLC (the owner of Bowlmor Lanes bowling alley in Greenwich Village).
UPDATE: With the New York Daily News splashing Yasser Arafat's photo all over its front page yesterday and the local news networks covering the story in-depth, it was only natural that Strike Holdings would reassess the million-dollar investment by the Palestinians. Almost immediately, the head of Bowlmor Lanes said that he was "hoodwinked by Palestinian-American money manager Zeid Masri and planned to return the cash and sever all ties with him." A hard-earned lesson, to be sure.
Just a reminder: the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in conjunction with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, has issued an RFP for the re-development of the East River Science Park site as a major R&D campus. If all goes according to plan, East River Science Park will become "the Citys flagship location for companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, bioinformatics, and medical device fields as well as for contract research organizations." The RFP is due January 24.
CBS MarketWatch reports that the IPO market could heat up in 2005. Two big names, Lazard and PanAmSat, recently announced plans to file for initial public offerings and more companies could be set to enter the IPO pipeline soon, according to Morgan Stanley.
On news that IAC/InterActiveCorp was spinning off Expedia into a separate publicly-traded company, shares of IAC rose by as much as 11.7% in early trading on Tuesday -- a clear sign that Wall Street investors approve of the move. By the end of trading on Tuesday, IAC shares were 5.9% higher. By splitting the company in two, Barry Diller is essentially making the job of Wall Street analysts easier -- there will now be an online travel company comprising companies like Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Hotwire and an e-commerce company comprising businesses like Citysearch and Ticketmaster.
Oh, and don't miss the mention of Barry Diller in today's New York Times: "Wall Street is getting a version of Hokey Pokey Elmo, a chief executive who takes his subsidiaries in, then spins them back out."
Cablevision filed with the SEC to sell off its Voom satellite business and three cable networks, a move that the New York Post says "could mark the beginning of the end of the company in its current form." The four properties are part of Rainbow Media Enterprises, which earlier this month had been the subject of spin-off rumors. Instead of spinning off the company, though, Cablevision will search for outright buyers. On the news of the impending deal, shares of Cablevision rocketed more than 13%.
An interesting footnote to the deal: Cablevision has been locked in a dispute with Mayor Bloomberg over a planned stadium on the West Side of Manhattan for the New York Jets.
Advertising agencies like Deutsch in New York (named by Ad Week as "Interactive Agency of the Year" in 2002) are experimenting with entertaining Web sites that promote products subtly. Site visitors sometimes are not even aware of which products or brands are being touted. Among the best-known examples: SubservientChicken.com (Burger King), Slothmore.com (Best Buy), DigitalJoy.com (Microsoft & Intel), and ComeClean.com (Method soaps).
Microsoft is selling off Web 'zine Slate.com to the Washington Post for an undisclosed price -- a move that will surely reverberate throughout New York's Internet media sector. According to the New York Times, Microsoft had two basic reasons for doing the deal -- the company believed that "a Web magazine of cultural criticism and political analysis had little business salience in an age dominated by search applications" and that "the site's small size limited its ability to contribute meaningfully to Microsoft's revenues."
In the end, perhaps, it just makes more sense for Slate to be part of a media company than part of a technology company. As Slate explains, "We will leave the splendiferous House of Gates for the munificent House of (Washington Post CEO Don) Graham." As far as potential owners go, the Washington Post is not such a bad place to wind up.
Others in the blogosphere seem to agree. At New Media Musings, for example, JD Lasica gives his take on the deal: "That's good news for the good journalism going on at Slate. I can scarcely think of a better fit, a more benign editorial presence, and a smarter new media company than the Washington Post Co." In his "Santa Slate" posting, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine is less upbeat, but still concedes that "they fit well together, not unlike Dow Jones and Marketwatch."
Breaking news: Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp announced plans to spin off its Expedia online travel unit. The move will create two publicly-traded companies -- InterActive (non-travel assets like Ticketmaster, MuseumTix.com and ServiceMagic) and Expedia (travel assets such as Expedia.com, AllLuxuryHotels.com and TV Travel Shop). Diller explains the rationale for the move: "We believe greater value can be created in the configuration we announce today than any other, and from this all else flows. This is entirely an elective...there is nothing else that pushed us, no transaction, no inherrent worry that led us to take this course at this time."
John Sexton, the president of NYU, looks into his crystal ball for 2005 and predicts that the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate) will become less important to the future of New York City. Instead, more attention will be given to the ICE sector (intellectual, cultural, educational).
Sexton explains: "We have more students in higher education per capita than any other American city. Too few of us know and celebrate that New York is the leading importer of college students from the other 49 states. This concentration of intellectual activity displays itself vividly in science: over 100 Nobel Laureates in science; 45 active members of the National Academy of Sciences in bioscience alone; the highest concentration of science students and post doctoral students; and more Ph.D.s granted in life science than 48 states. In short, we are the educational capital of the world."
A follow-up investigation from the New York City Council shows that young children can walk into nearly any store selling video games in New York City and purchase games that encourage brutality against women, the shooting of police officers, and the committing of racially-motivated acts of violence. That's not good, and the 45-page report recommends six steps to combat this problem, including new legislation and the creation of a new task force on violent video games. (Hat tip: Gotham Gazette)
Malcolm Gladwell's new book "Blink" is due out in early January, and the buzz is already starting to build. Fast Company, for example, has made him the cover story for this month's issue, calling him the "Accidental Guru." Ever since the publication of his "Tipping Point" book in 2000, Gladwell has been on fire as a "business thought leader," with his speaking gigs reportedly fetching as much as $40,000 apiece. (Gladwell's book tour kicks off in New York City on January 13 at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square)
For one day, at least, the New York Post puts away its tabloid sensationalism to look at what happens when real-world decision makers can't trust economic statistics released by the government. Quite simply, "in the real world, folks get hurt when the official gauges for an economy can't be trusted or when they need to be viewed with increasingly skeptical eyes." Even basic government statistics like employment figures can be terribly distorted or misreported. The lesson in all of this? "Most people are their own best economist. And as they say if an economic number looks too good to be true, it probably is..."
On a related topic: over at Tech Central Station, Arnold Kling tackles the problem of "Dollar Drama, Dollar Delusions" -- how unreliable international economic statistics can impact currencies and trade deficits.
The open source advertising trend continues to gain momentum, says Rick Bruner. Two examples, in particular, stand out: the homemade ad created by a California school teacher for the Apple iPod and the two-page ad for the Firefox browser that appeared in the New York Times (courtesy of donations from 25,000 loyal users).
Crain's New York reports that Nielsen Interactive Entertainment, in collaboration with Manhattan-based gaming company Massive, is launching the first in-game ad auditing service. The new service, scheduled for a mid-2005 launch, "pushes the digital game world closer to being a coherent advertising venue." As might be expected, a sales and marketing executive at one game publisher was enthusiastic about the announcement: "That a viable, respected measuring service is going to start qualifying games data and make it comparable to other media is very exciting..."
In "The Self-Hating Blogger," Tom Watson announces that he is no longer willing to "smooch under the mistletoe of media misunderstanding." He's retiring from the blog business effective today, disgusted by bloggers blogging about bloggers.
Watson is officially calling a top to the blog market: "Blogs are yesterday's news. Dead. Unbreathing. Anachronistic folly of the followers. Mere digital entrails. We're talking lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Fury lay buried dead. The crooked crosses and headstones, the spears of the little gate, the barren thorns, the whole deal. The Dead. Another trendline I've followed to the downward side of the peak..."
Trigger-happer day traders are becoming more active, thanks to a rebounding stock market and an improving economy. It's not the "Joe Schmo trucker" who's trading these days, though, it's the "new breed of day trader": younger, hipper and more aware of the risks involved. One 30-year-old Yale graduate profiled in the story, in fact, claims that he earned $25,000 last month alone while trading for HLV (a small firm wedged into a 1-room office in Times Square). During the Internet boom, some day traders made as much as $30 million a year by rapidly moving in and out of new positions during the course of a day.
If you join the NYC Photobloggers, you can take part in activities like the Vintage Subway Tea Party: depression-era suits, flapper gowns and tea all aboard the vintage New York subway trains rumbling through the city. (Hat tip: Jason Kottke)
Connecticut-based satellite broadcaster PanAmSat is preparing for a $1 billion IPO, according to the New York Post. Just four months ago, an investor consortium led by buyout specialist KKR acquired the company for $4.1 billion. Unnamed sources noted that "the proceeds from the offerings will be used to put tons of cash in the pockets of PanAmSat's current private equity owners."
Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times reports that online retailers are becoming a haven of last resort for "procrastinating shoppers" waiting until the 11th hour to buy and ship gifts. In previous years, online retailers stopped taking pre-Christmas orders around the 14th or 15th; this year, however, Web retailers have boosted their back-office capabilities and have extended the ordering date to the 20th in some cases. However, if promises of pre-Christmas delivery fall short, retailers could be risking fines from the FTC or the "wrath" of consumers and shareholders.
From NewYorkish, the "questionable business concept of the day" -- an online Secret Santa social network called Elfster. Using the tagline "Because it's too big a sack for one man to carry," Elfster is promising to revolutionize the Secret Santa game forever. Obviously, somebody's been spikin' the eggnog a bit early this year.
UPDATE: The creator of Elfster recently contacted me -- turns out that it's not a real business after all. Check out the privacy statement of the Web site, which mentions, among other things, a HoHoHo Ranking... Apologies.
Shares of Long Island-based OSI Pharmaceuticals spiked by nearly 50% in early Friday trading on news that Iressa, a rival lung cancer drug from AstraZeneca, did not prolong patients' lives in a late-stage trial. As described earlier ("What happened to Long Island's biotech superstar?"), OSI Pharmaceuticals has been the subject of intense Wall Street speculation after receiving FDA approval for its Tarceva cancer drug in mid-November. Until the AstraZeneca announcement, many analysts had been skeptical that Tarceva would perform better than Iressa. Shares of OSI are now trading around the $70 mark.
Wall Street boutique Lazard has filed for a $850 million IPO, becoming "the last of the old-line Wall Street partnerships to sell its shares to the public." The House of Lazard traces its pedigree back to 1848.
We still love Rudy, even if the decision to push forward the nomination of Bernard Kerik has turned into a huge fiasco. For the Bush Administration, the problem may have been focusing exclusively on formal networks during the recruiting process, and not enough on unintentional networks. As Cliff Allen explains, it's important to understand how these unintentional networks ("the network of people who know us and talk to others about their experiences without us even knowing about it") can impact reputation. In Kerik's case, the unintentional network did a lot of talking, effectively dooming his nomination.
With that in mind, Allen shares some quick tips for anyone hoping to avoid a Bernard Kerik-like experience: "Do your best to make sure that the people you interact with have a positive experience, or at least feel that you treated them fairly under the circumstances. Also, stay in contact with people in your network and make sure they know they can call on you when they need help, information, or a referral to one of your contacts. You never know when you'll be called upon to be part of someone's unintentional network to help create an opportunity for someone in your network."
David Nasaw (director of the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center): "The ability to use keywords to locate books and documents could save academics travel time and money and ease and broaden the scope of their research."
Kate Wittenberg (director of the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia University): "This all captures people's imagination in a wonderful way. But whether it's right or wrong is not the whole question and not the whole answer. What I've learned is that libraries help people formulate questions as well as find answers. Who will do that in a virtual world?"
Briefly noted in today's New York Post: the Bloomberg Administration is experimenting with online "reverse auctions" for items such as computers. Vendors will bid against each other, with the lowest price winning. Based on the success of similar reverse auctions conducted by the U.S. Postal Service, the move to auction-based purchasing "could save taxpayers millions."
Too bad all those millions saved by hard-working taxpayers will be quickly and efficiently sucked up by the MTA's new fare hikes.
New York-based consultancy Mardis, Aibel & Associates has released the "Biotechnology Framework Study" detailing the reasons why emerging biotech start-ups fail. It all comes down to management. Or the lack thereof. "Balancing solid science with solid management" is essential if a company wants to avoid winding up on the scrapheap of history.
According to the study, "a primary reason for such failures is an ongoing conflict, at many companies, between the collegial, informal, creativity-based management model common to scientific endeavors and one that has more discipline, structure and predictability. As part of that conflict, biotechs tend to hire managers whose expertise is in the science end without management experience, and that can be fatal." In all, the study analyzed 56 biotech companies.
IAC/InterActiveCorp, the online travel juggernaut operated by Barry Diller, now owns a 52% stake in Chinese online travel provider eLong after exercising warrants worth $108 million. In August 2004, the company made an initial investment of $58.7 million in the company. According to IAC executives, the future's so bright in China, you gotta wear shades: "We are excited by the opportunity this provides us to embrace the growth potential of the Chinese travel market. China represents an $87 billion travel and tourism market opportunity today, forecast to grow to more than $300 billion by 2014."
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has selected Unisys Corporation's CommHub (a secure wireless technology) to help its emergency response teams coordinate activities. Over the past six months, a number of other municipalities have also experimented with wireless technologies and now consider them a "critical part in managing emergency response for fire, police, and medical personnel."
CommHub "enables the Port Authority's first response teams to stay connected with emergency operations centers and each other during incidents at airports, bridges, tunnels, bus terminals, seaports and other facilities it manages." The Unisys CommHub can be mounted directly onto an emergency vehicle or hand carried by emergency personnel.
Scandal-tarred Long Island software maker Computer Associates is ready for a marketing makeover, reports Ad Week. It's time to put those nasty accounting scandals away once and for all. The global marketing and advertising effort is expected to span 50 countries at a total price tag of $150 million.
Internet News has the latest scoop on IBM's plans for the RFID market. After setting up a new software division in late September, the company has moved aggressively on a $250 million bet on the future success of the RFID market. The key, says IBM, is focusing on moving power to the edges of the RFID process flow: "What we've tried to do was really move some of the computing power as far to the edge of the network as possible, so we've enabled the RFID readers into technology-enabled smart readers -- readers that can do more than just read a tag."
After two years of hand-wringing, it's now official: according to FASB, companies must now account for stock options as typical business expenses. For publicly-traded companies, the rule will take effect starting July 1, 2005. The FASB's logic: "We believe that recognizing the costs of these arrangements in financial statements improves the relevance, the reliability and the comparability of financial information."
Yet, as anyone who witnessed the tremendous boom of the Internet era knows, it was exactly these stock options that encouraged the best and the brightest to take a bet on the high-flying companies that later became Amazon, eBay or Yahoo. A coalition of tech companies promises to fight the rule change, but it looks like a fait accompli at this point.
After mourning the demise of Ricochet, the article takes Verizon Broadband Access for a test drive. The results are impressive: "Speed-wise, Verizons EV-DO connectivity lived up to its promises. I easily obtained DSL speeds in my home, on the street and even inside some businesses where people were fascinated by Verizons accomplishment. In New York, the Sierra Wireless/Verizon combination worked the first time, every time."
"Time Warner's largest investment is expected to come in the cable arena where Mr. Parsons has shown an interest in joining with Comcast to bid for Adelphia Communications, the bankrupt cable operator. Bids for that company are expected in January, which partly explains why Time Warner has been so eager to settle government charges... Mr. Parsons has also said that his company may be a bidder for Cablevision Systems, should Charles F. Dolan and his family, which controls the Long Island-based company, decide to sell."
Normally we avoid stories about precocious Manhattan kids and leave those kinds of things to Daily Candy or Gawker or whoever. But this story from the New York Times was just too good to pass up: "Computer-savvy children, with encouragement from the toy and apparel industries, are transforming the old-fashioned handwritten wish list into sophisticated computer presentations, complete with hyperlinks to favored Web sites and downloaded images of must-have items."
Fast Company has put out an all points bulletin to find the best VC blogs. We hate to turn this into a West Coast v. East Coast thing, but there are a handful of New York-based venture capitalists who run some pretty cool blogs. So, be sure to put in a vote for Ed Sim (BeyondVC), Steve Brotman (VCball) or Fred Wilson (A VC).
A number of bloggers have recently discovered PubSub's LinkRanks system. In short, LinkRanks are a measure of how many pages link to each particular site, with more weight given to fresher links and to links from a wider variety of pages.
In case you're counting, Corante came in at #51, nestled nicely between Technorati (#50) and NPR (#52). Not bad company, considering that the New York Daily News came in at #71, the New Yorker at #73 and the Village Voice at #100. At #3, The New York Times is still the 800-pound gorilla of the online news space.
NYU's Adam L. Penenberg describes five events he would like to see in the world of online media in 2005 -- Google daring to place ads on its Google News service; bloggers actually breaking news instead of "ruminating over their daily fix of spoon-fed media"; the dismantlement of the FCC; the end of Nielsen and ComScore; and media reasserting its role as government watchdog.
The mistake that cost Time Warner half a billion dollars
Crain's New York reports that Time Warner is set to pay $510 million to settle an investigation into accounting irregularities at AOL -- $210 million to the U.S. Justice Department and $300 million to the SEC.
New York-based Kanoodle is apparently cooking up ways for bloggers to monetize their content: in early November, the company inked a deal with Six Apart (the creators of Movable Type and TypePad) to offer TypePad subscribers the ability to easily add Kanoodle's content-targeted sponsored links to their sites. The new service could be up and running by the end of 1Q 2005. Kanoodle comments on the importance of the deal: "This marks the first time that webloggers will have seamless access to revenue generating sponsored links as part of their publishing toolset."
David Pogue of the New York Times reviews four competitors to the Apple iPod Mini: the Dell Pocket DJ, the Creative Zen Micro, the Virgin Electronics Player, and the Rio Carbon. The bottom line: "The iPod Mini's rivals aren't as elegant or as polished, they're not as thoughtfully conceived, and they may not fill you with as much pure, overwhelming technolust..." (But they're 50 bucks cheaper and each of the four has "some superpower that the iPod Mini lacks.")
From Crain's New York: Queens-based generic drugmaker Eon Labs received final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market a generic version of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s diabetes drug, Glucophage XR.
Writing in New York Magazine, former Internet analyst Henry Blodgett explains how the Internet bust became an Internet boom. It's a bit of an "I told you so" moment for Blodgett, who explains how the Internet "has finally come of age." Any industry, he argues, naturally goes through four distinct phases -- boom, bust, growth and decay -- and the Internet industry is no different. The late 1990s were not an "embarrassment" or a "kindergarten recess run amok" -- it was a necessary period that laid the groundwork for today's current growth.
As might be expected, Google's decision to digitize the library holdings of several major research institutions (including the holdings of the New York Public Library) has generated a lot of buzz and speculation in the blogosphere. Props to The Shifted Librarian (who else?) for tracking down some of the more important commentary. And, for your reading pleasure, three different takes on the deal:
"It's a pure work of persuasion, arguing that popular culture, on average, has been growing more cognitively challenging over the past thirty years, not less. Despite everything you hear about declining standards and dumbing-down, you have to do more intellectual work to make sense of today's television or games -- much less the internet -- than you did a few decades ago. It will definitely be the most controversial of my books, but I think it's also going to be a fun read."
Wireless mergers a big hit for Wall Street investment bankers
Analysts may be mixed on the $35 billion Sprint-Nextel merger and the $41 billion Cingular-AT&T merger, but Wall Street investment bankers are decidedly bullish. Six banks -- Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Lazard, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase -- had a piece of both deals, meaning a very good year-end bonus season indeed.
MTV Networks announced it will create three Asian pop music channels targeting Indian, Korean and Chinese viewers in the United States. The move, one expects, will be a big hit for New York neighborhoods like Flushing, Jackson Heights, and Chinatown. More and more media companies like Viacom appear to be coming to the conclusion that highly-targeted niche content is the way to go.
The decision to launch the new channels was a no-brainer, according to one MTV executive: "We recognize that many young people are bicultural. Many kids have a transcontinental view of life, but they live in the United States. And not only are these channels going to connect with those young people, but they also are going to shine a light on their culture and the artists from these communities."
Of the Top 50 companies, four were from New York: Base One International (grid computing), Healthwave (medical billing services), R&G Corporation (nanotechnology) and Reinsurex (reinsurance brokerage services). The "national winner" of the competition was New Jersey's Remote Play (RFID technology).
Medical DeviceLink takes a look at the key elements that make business incubation a workable model for medical technology companies, including a brief profile of the Long Island High Technology Incubator (LIHTI) at Stony Brook. Since 1988, 71 medical technology companies have participated in the LIHTI program, with 40 of those companies still in business today.
The manager of the incubator, James J. Finkle, shares his views on the importance of intellectual property (IP) for medical start-ups: "The key characteristic that makes a company incubatable is its IP. Sometimes new companies own it outright, other times they license it. But in all cases that I have seen, this is what separates the men from the boys. We no longer take companies that don't have IP..."
The New York Times has already described how it might one day be possible to surf the Web or make a phone call simply by plugging into an electrical outlet. But where in New York is this a reality? While Con Edison has started testing the technology in some high-rises on the Upper West Side, New Yorkers still do not have broadband access via their power lines.
Turns out that several cities in upstate New York are beating their big-city brethren at the high-tech innovation game. There are currently three communities in New York state making this new technology a reality, including the tiny city of Sherrill upstate, which just inked a deal this week. (The other two communities are Solvay and Lakeland). This article from the Oneida Dispatch has details on pricing, too -- approximately $30 a month for unlimited high-speed Internet access or $57 a month for high-speed Internet access AND unlimited local and long distance calling.
Both Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio were added to the NASDAQ 100 index, further proof that the satellite radio revolution continues to gain force. Forbes.com notes that satellite radio listeners are attracted to "a broader spectrum of tunes than the somewhat limited top-40 of free radio... and satellite offers the ever-fascinating theater of extremist politics, round-the-clock sports--and no censorship of naughty words."
At an IT supply chain conference in New York, Todd Thompson, the VP of Information Technology at Jet Blue Airways, indicated that the company plans to allocate 75% of its IT spend to new projects -- mostly as a result of the company having so few legacy IT systems to maintain. (The company launched in 2000) While other airlines are cutting costs and hunkering down, Jet Blue has the luxury of improving its already well-regarded airline service: "Thompson explained that he's focused on investments that improve the customer experience, concentrating on self-service technology, such as airport kiosks and providing better information to flight crews for more efficiency."
Meetup.com, co-founded by NYC-based entrepreneur Scott Heiferman, first exploded in popularity during the early days of the Howard Dean campaign as a way for like-minded individuals to unite around a common cause, have a few drinks and maybe contribute a few bucks to the Internet-friendly Mr. Dean. (Check out this New York Times article from March 2003 featuring young hipsters heading down to the Lower East Side for a Meetup). What was amazing about these early meet-ups was that many of these events were only organized on an ad hoc basis -- sometimes even the very location was not known until a few hours before the event. Since then, Meetup.com groups have formed around nearly every conceivable interest in communities across the nation.
Now that some of the early excitement about Meetup.com has faded, Corante's Stowe Boyd shares some insights from Tom Sander on the implications of the Meetup phenomenon for social networking and emergent democracy. Based on a research study conducted in several U.S. cities, Sander found "low stickiness" for Meetup groups: "Even when people were positive, half or two thirds might not come back. There is a lot of turnover, even with well established meetups." On the other hand, Meetup groups are successful from a "social capital" perspective: "On average, 30% of the people do something outside the meetup with people they met there. 30% found new friends, 23% found 2 or more."
The New York Post has the details on a potential Warner Music IPO that could come as soon as March 2005. Making the deal interesting for Wall Street investors, though, could be problematic: "The company's push for an IPO has surprised many in the industry, who say that continuing problems with piracy in the industry which has decimated CD sales in recent years could put a lid on Warner's valuation on the public market."
Google will announce an agreement today with some of America's leading research libraries -- including the New York Public Library system -- to begin converting their holdings into digital files that could then be accessible to Google's search technology. The goal of the project, according to the New York Times, is to "expand the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections." In addition to NYPL, other institutions involved in the endeavor include Harvard, Michigan and Stanford. The cost of the project is staggering -- upwards of $150 million, according to one estimate in the article.
David Pogue of the New York Times points to a company (iPodmyphoto.com) that will transform any run-of-the-mill digital photo into a vibrant iPod ad for $20. As these samples show, even the mundane act of catching a fish can be turned into a startlingly vivid iPod ad (complete with dangling white wires, of course). According to the company: "For less than the cost of two albums on iTunes, you can have an iPodified image of yourself, friend, family member!"
When Long Island's OSI Pharmaceuticals won U.S. FDA approval for Tarceva (its top cancer drug prospect) on November 18, the company's stock was trading at $64.25. Days before, Newsday had described the company as "standing at the threshold of a huge moment in its young history, paving the way for profitability, recognition and a place on the biotechnology map." After all, Tarceva was the "first homegrown pharmaceutical drug to be discovered, developed and marketed on Long Island."
Smart Mobs reports that Netflix is beta-testing a social networking system: "In its latest move to fend off competitive threats, Netflix will let subscribers invite friends to peek at DVDs they've watched and read their opinions of the movies. If the invitation is accepted, the sender automatically gets reciprocal rights to read the friend's lists and reviews."
How all this plays out in New York is yet to be seen, though. New Yorkers, remember, are particularly prone to Netflix neurosis.
There has to be an easier and cheaper way of doing this... For the filming of "King Kong" next year, director Peter ("Lord of the Rings") Jackson is recreating 1930s downtown New York, complete with Broadway and Times Square -- in New Zealand. As you read this, workers Down Under are busily constructing a Macy's department store.
Jackson explains why the film crew isn't in New York: "A lot of people are thinking that New York in New Zealand is kind of a crazy notion. Why dont we go to New York City and shoot it for real? But of course the reality is that shooting in modern day New York as 1933 is almost impossible. The city is hard to shoot in at the best of times..."
That's not what Mayor Bloomberg thinks -- his administration has worked tirelessly to attract film projects to the city through the "Made in NY" program. New York City's "Made in NY" incentive program offers film and television productions "a slate of opportunities that make it more attractive than ever to shoot in the five boroughs, featuring a combination of tax and marketing credits, along with expanded customer services for production."
According to the New York Daily News, the city agency that regulates pay phones has recently banned ads on all new kiosks in Manhattan below 96th Street. The loss of $25 million in annual advertising revenue could be the death knell for city pay phone operators; moreover, pay phone operators are already threatening that the move could "remove incentives to add new services like Internet phones and Wi-Fi."
The Gotham Gazette has a multi-part feature on the Bloomberg Administration's development plan for 20 key neighborhoods in New York. Areas like Lower Manhattan and the Hudson Yards may garner the lion's share of the publicity, but there's a city-wide development initiative underway that will reach into each of the five boroughs. For example, according to Sandy Hornick, director of strategic planning at the Department of City Planning, regional business districts like Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, Downtown Flushing, and Jamaica, Queens will play an important role in creating new commercial office development opportunities.
New York venture capitalist Steve Brotman argues that every start-up CEO should carry a Blackberry for responding quickly to partners and customers. Quite frankly, he says, "not carrying a Blackberry is stupid." By some estimates, a Blackberry ("the essential CEO tool") could save a high-priced executive close to 40 hours a month. The productivity argument is so compelling, says Brotman, that he's "contemplated making all our CEOs carry a Blackberry as part of our term sheet, no joke."
Speaking at John Jay College in Manhattan, Tom Ridge argued that additional anti-terrorist funding should go to New York. Interestingly, Ridge also discussed the role that colleges and universities can play in analyzing terrorist threats through the development and support of modern technology.
A "disgruntled litigant" in a landlord-tenant dispute in New York City Civil Court took justice into her own hands. She posted a picture of the housing court judge on eBay and offered him for sale to the highest bidder. While the judge was "outraged" at the act, other eBay bidders apparently were not -- the auction attracted 6,400 hits and 21 different bidders over a four-day period. After finding out about the sale, though, eBay promptly took down the posting.
On December 12, The New York Times Magazine published its fourth annual Year in Ideas issue, profiling innovative breakthroughs, out-of-the-box thinking and new approaches to old problems that finally made their way into mainstream public life in 2004.
On December 7, NYC-based Rho Ventures announced the final closing of its fifth venture capital fund, Rho Ventures V, with commitments of $425 million. The fund will make a number of diversified bets on the future of the tech sector, with plans to finance young companies in the
communications, IT and healthcare verticals. Rho has more than $1 billion in capital under management and was an early investor in companies such as Ciena, Commerce One, Compaq, Human Genome Sciences and iVillage.
The article takes a look at the various factors impacting long-term growth in the industry, fleshing out this analysis with intimate portaits of New Yorkers who are abandoning sites like Match.com for "real-life singles mixers." Why? Well, it turns out that "on dates, more than a few of the handsome, rugged, athletic types" turn out to be "more like George Costanza than George Clooney."
New York VC Ed Sim shares a handful of tips on putting together a top-notch executive team at a young start-up company. This doesn't always mean hiring the "best" or the "brightest" in the industry -- but it does mean hiring someone who understands the corporate DNA and who can execute on the strategic direction of the company. Adding these A-list players has another key advantage: it can make it easier to recruit other A-list players. It's all part of what he calls the A-Player domino effect: "When you hire an A-Player, they bring lots of other A-Players to the table."
"Defining the neurotechnology industry will increase the potential for successful exit strategies available to neurotechnology companies and investors," he says. "With the public markets pulling for the latest translation of research into successful treatments, the pool of capital that neurotechnology venture funds will have at their disposal will increase dramatically... If there was a simple way to invest in mental health wouldn't you want 10% of your retirement portfolio focused on neurotech ventures who are creating the next generation of tools for neurodegenerative diseases and mental disorders?"
Every now and again, Corante New York will feature up-and-coming New York technology companies that have popped up on our radar screen. With Web sites like Monster.com revolutionizing the job search industry, it's no surprise that other online job search sites are springing up overnight. One of the most recent entrants is New York's own TheLadders.com, an online job search marketplace catering exclusively to the $100,000+ employment market.
Formed in July 2003, the company recently lined up $7.25 million in expansion-stage VC financing from Matrix Partners, one of the true blue-chip VC firms. So why did they get VC financing when so many other companies have not? For one, there's a top-notch executive team in place -- the founder of the company, for example, is a former SVP at HotJobs.com. Moreover, the company claims an unusually "broad and loyal following" of 200,000 members -- and that means plenty of revenue opportunities.
The company also claims that it has "inverted the traditional business model" -- instead of asking employers to pay for listings, they ask job seekers to pay for access to listings. It's like looking for apartments in New York -- it's the apartment seeker who pays the broker's fee, not the landlord. The end result is a self-selected pool of super-applicants who are really serious about making $100,000+ a year.
Web-based presentations of the immigrant experience
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is currently accepting proposals for Web-based exhibits that will be produced through its Digital Artists in Residence Program (DARP). The exhibits must focus on the "presentation and interpretation" of the immigrant experience on Manhattan's Lower East Side. (Hat tip: reBlog)
News of the city's "pod people" has finally made its way to America's heartland. People in Minnesota will be waking up today and inventing new urban legends about MetroNaps (a 'space-age snooze station') and the pod people who emerge, surprisingly refreshed, from the Empire State Building.
The first Big Picture Summit, hosted by NYU on December 8 and 9, brought together "an eclectic group of artists and scientists that organizers have dubbed the 'dream team' of imaging and visualization." The organizer of the event, Clifford Ross, explains that the goal of the project was "to bring closer to reality his desire to create a "you are there" photographic experience for those who have not personally witnessed the sublime beauty of natural scenes such as Mt. Sopris in Colorado."
You can find out more about the patented R1 camera system used by the project here. According to the article, the R1 camera system recently broke through the gigapixel barrier and has achieved "some of the highest resolution single-shot images ever created."
InternetNews.com has a wrap-up of industry opinion and speculation about IBM's decision to sell its PC division to Lenovo for $1.75 billion. Dell and HP, as might be expected, are trying to sow "fear, uncertainty and doubt" about the IBM-Lenovo deal. Many industry analysts, though, appear to view the deal in a positive light and as a potential market opportunity for IBM.
To see more on why "the Lenovo deal is more about IBM positioning itself for potentially huge future opportunities than it is about exiting a tough and tightening market," see this piece that I authored for Tech Central Station (IBM now stands for Increasingly Bigger Margins).
New York City was ranked as the riskiest U.S. metropolitan area for conducting e-commerce transactions, according to Silicon Valley risk management specialist CyberSource -- "Online merchants tagged New York as the most likely to generate fraudulent online orders made with purloined credit cards numbers and information." Unfortunately, says CyberSource, "Residents of cities cited like this ultimately pay a price for the bad reputation."
But at least we don't live in Nigeria -- ranked as the riskiest location in the world for conducting e-commerce. Nigeria, of course, is the country that practically invented the 419 fraud.
Anyone wonder how Google News actually makes any money? It's a nifty service: computer-edited news that actually is superior (most days) to what you'll find at most other news Web sites. But it's free, and therein lies the rub -- "News publishers would cry foul if Google displayed contextual ads against their content, even if it is just headlines and openers."
InternetNews.com, though, has the inside scoop on a patent application that Google has on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that could change all that: "The application illuminates possible plans by the Mountain View, Calif.-based search leader to enable search of printed material, offer pay-per-view documents, scanned documents with clickable ads and even the ability for print publishers to swap out ads in digital copies of their printed pages."
The online travel industry is going through a tough period -- and that means plenty of restless nights for IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller. While Diller owns a vast conglomerate of 43 Internet properties (theoretically diversifying his risk), 60% of the company's profits derive from online travel properties such as Hotels.com and Expedia.com. The Financial Times looks at the fraying relationship between major hotel chains and IAC/InterActiveCorp as well as the difficulties of managing a diverse portfolio of online companies. But there's help on the way: Jack Welch, who presided over the sprawling GE empire, is now a consultant to IAC/InterActiveCorp.
Sandy McMurray, who writes the Apple industry insider column for Corante, offers his take on why Apple's marketing campaign has been so successful: "The genius of the current iPod ad campaign is its emphasis on the white wires... There are many better earphones than the white buds that ship with every new iPod. Nevertheless, the white buds have become part of the brand. They're fashionable, and they're everywhere, even on non-Apple players. The clever ad campaign that focuses on those white wires makes people see iPods everywhere, even when they're not there."
David Pogue of the New York Times hints that TiVO may be "on a sliding slope": the company plans to add software that will make static ads appear on the TV screen whenever a user attempts to fast forward through commercials. It's just plain "icky," he says.
The Snapple-drinking Mayor Bloomberg announced a $19.5 million deal with the History Channel, which will "work with the city to polish the city's image and at least a few historical landmarks around the city." While $1 million of the total will be spent on the city's lagging public schools, the bulk of the total -- $15 million --- will go toward "luring tourists to the city through network advertising." Moreover, the History Channel will be able to engage in a city-wide promotion campaign using city property (bus stops, lamp posts, etc.). And there could be more -- like a special History Channel trolley and "historical" bus tours sponsored by the History Channel.
For library card holders, that means the opportunity to check out e-books (more than 3,000 titles available), browse an online card catalog from home, and even watch movie trailers. Libraries, quite simply, are reclaiming their rightful role as a vital community resource after years of losing ground to information know-it-alls like Google.
It's the year 2014 and the New York Times no longer exists as we know it. In this eight-minute mock-documentary from the "Museum of Media History," the rise of so-called "citizen media" leads to the merger of Google and Amazon (Googlezon), "eventually spawning a Big Brother-ish information service dubbed Epic that drives the New York Times offline to a print only newsletter for the elite and elderly." 2004 is the "year everything began," and from then on, the way that we create, view and consume media will never be the same. Among the companies making cameo appearances: TiVO, Friendster, Microsoft, Sony and Blogger.
While this notion of "citizen media" remaking the world may seem far-fetched to some, a number of very smart individuals -- like Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine , venture capitalist Tim Oren and John Battelle of Searchblog -- are already speculating about the types of changes already underfoot.
Howard Stern will not be moving to Sirius Satellite Radio any time before 2006. At least, that's the opinion of his boss at Infinity Broadcasting, Joel Hollander. Stern can continue to call him a skunk and a maggot and make non-stop commercials for satellite radio, but Hollander doesn't care -- the way he sees it, Stern is worth $100 million in revenue to Infinity Broadcasting over the next 13 months. "You can meet me in the back of the room and, if you want to give me a check for $100 million, I'll take him off tomorrow," he says. "I have a very strong back, [and] I've been dealing with radio personalities for over 20 years. We don't think we should sacrifice the cash flow right now."
At Tech Central Station, Glenn Reynolds ("Instapundit") shares his views on the changing dynamics of public spaces in large urban centers. Traditional office towers will never go completely away -- but thanks to new technology such as Wi-Fi and a renewed emphasis on "interconnectivity," cities like New York could be witnessing the return of the "18th century coffeehouse."
Howard Dean's embrace of the Internet during his short-lived campaign for the presidency continues to have repercussions for politicians at all levels. Most notably, politicians are exploring online phenomena like blogs as a way to attract new voters and motivate core supporters. Eliot Spitzer, for example, announced his gubernatorial candidacy on December 7 and promptly launched his personal blog, Eliot Spitzer 2006. Within hours, more than two dozen comments had been posted at the site. (Hat tip: Micro Persuasion)
John Valenti of Newsday rhapsodizes about a new e-government offering from the New York State Department of Transportation: an Internet site (www.travelinfoNY.com) that provides information about winter weather travel advisories, road conditions, road closures, construction zones and "all the other factors that can turn a normal commute into one filled with aggravation, exasperation and frustration." A welcome addition for New York commuters often caught in snarled traffic or impassable roads as they make their way into and out of the city.
The New York Daily News has more on the broadband black holes in eight NYC neighborhoods, including six in Brooklyn -- Sunset Park, Williamsburg, Red Hook, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, East New York and DUMBO. Quite simply, says the research director of the Center for an Urban Future, "There are pockets in Brooklyn and across the city where it's still very difficult to get a broadband connection."
According to a random sample of 100 New York City CFOs, there will be a net 5% increase in the hiring of accounting and finance professionals in the first quarter of 2005. Robert Half International, which has been conducting these surveys since 1992, comments on the data: "While still conservative, the hiring outlook is stronger than it was one year ago. In addition to seeking accounting and finance staff to assist with internal audit and corporate governance requirements, companies are also looking for professionals to support future business expansion."
Curbed.com announces that it is rolling out the latest wrinkle in hyper-local New York City coverage: "We're in the process of adding blogrolls to each of our neighborhood pages, including forthcoming Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. If you're a blogger in the five boroughs, send along a link to your blog and the neighborhood you call home and we'll link you up." Curbed.com was voted by the Village Voice as the best new blog of 2004.
If you check out NYCBloggers.com, you can also see 3,546 New York bloggers arranged by subway line.
Manhattan-based pharmaceutical company Innovative Drug Delivery Systems (IDDS) has gone public through a reverse merger and closed on an $18 million private placement. The other company involved in the reverse merger is Intrac, which discontinued operations in 2001 but still trades in the OTC market. In 2002, IDDS had filed for an IPO but subsequently pulled the deal when the market for medical & biotech IPOs soured.
The deal that everyone will be talking about: as rumored last Friday, IBM has agreed to sell its PC unit for $1.75 billion to China's Lenovo, making the Chinese PC manufacturer the #3 player in the global PC market. From IBM's perspective, the deal makes economic sense: "If it goes through, the deal would allow IBM to continue its shift from selling so-called commodity products toward selling services, software and high-end computers. Although it helped make PCs a global phenomenon, IBM makes little profit from PCs and often loses money, despite the fact that it's an $11 billion business for the company."
On December 6, former President Bill Clinton attended the launch party of search engine Accoona at Tavern on the Green. Clinton's role in the venture is unclear, but the article notes that Accoona has pledged an undisclosed amount of money to the William J. Clinton Foundation. If Al Gore once claimed that he invented the Internet, will Bill Clinton one day claim that he invented the Internet search engine?
Clinton's role aside, can Accoona really take on Google and Yahoo! in the hyper-competitive Internet search market? Searchblog doesn't seem to think so, but many details about Accoona's super-secret China deal and proprietary artificial intelligence technology need to be worked out.
The New York energy industry has launched a new brand-building initiative, I Love NY Energy, which is "designed to promote the awareness of the advantages of starting, growing and building energy-related companies in New York state." Apparently, the campaign for "I Love NY Nanotech" was such a hit, that this new campaign was a no-brainer. Hopefully, though, this does not mean that hordes of tourists will soon be wandering around Times Square with cheap $3 "I Love NY Energy" t-shirts.
Michael Dell, speaking at an Oracle conference, roundly criticized the potential sale of IBM's PC unit to Lenovo: "We're not big fans of the idea of taking companies and smashing them together. When was the last time you saw a successful acquisition or merger in the computer industry? It hasn't happened in a long, long time...I don't see this one as being all that different."
Today's New York Daily News ("Sing a Song of Ringbacks") also has an interesting piece on Bronfman's presentation at the conference, which highlighted the growing market for ringbacks. According to Bronfman, "Ringbacks will be a much bigger business than ring tones." Or so Bronfman hopes... Warner Music recently signed a deal with Verizon that makes hundreds of their songs available to Verizon customers for ringbacks. Subscribers pay 99 cents a month for the service and a one-time $1.99 fee for each ringback track downloaded.
For the mobile New Yorker: TCC Teleplex operates a growing number of Web-enabled payphones in Manhattan. In February, the New York Daily News described these Web phones as "streetside portals to cyberspace." Total cost: $1 for four minutes of Internet access. Plus, the phones have wireless capability so anyone within 300 feet can get access to high-speed Internet on a laptop. (Hat tip: NewYorkology)
Well, here's one sector of the New York economy that's poised for growth in 2005: private jet travel. CharterAuction.com, selected as a Rising Star Company for North America by Deloitte Technology in 2003, announced plans to open a New York office at the Westchester County Airport.
First, the good news. In 2005, New York City's economy is expected to grow again for the second consecutive year. Now, the bad news. Total jobs growth, as calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, looks anemic. Overall employment will only grow by 1.1%, as the city adds another 38,000 jobs in 2005. During the economic downturn, the city lost an estimated 200,000 jobs, so there's still a long way to go.
The latest forms of mobile content, says the New York Times, are "micro-lit, phone soap operas and made-for-mobile dramas that can be absorbed in less time than it takes to flick through a book introduction." Among the companies already offering "cellphone-size literature": Wireless Ink of Cold Spring, NY. The article also hints that big New York publishing houses could get in on the action soon, once the early mobile content pioneers provide proof of concept.
The buzz for satellite radio continues to grow, especially with controversial figures like Howard Stern (pictured here handing out free satellite radios in Union Square) making the leap from broadcast to satellite. (Stern's move to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006 could happen sooner than expected)
The New York Daily News provides a full-page review of the satellite radio revolution, focusing on issues of particular concern to New Yorkers (which satellite radio options get the best reception in apartment buildings?). For more on radio shock jock Howard Stern's move, check out Stern finally gets SIRIUS.
More and more shoppers are taking advantage of their high-speed Internet connections to surf the Web for online bargains well into the wee hours of the night, according to the New York Times. The late-night shopping behavior is a new phenomenon, say e-commerce experts, as Internet users experiencing "always on" broadband connections for the first time realize the late-night shopping opportunities offered by the Web. Currently, 5% of all online sales occur between 1 am and 8 am.
DoubleClick will discontinue its own Web metrics product, SiteAdvance, and encourage clients to migrate to Omniture's SiteCatalyst. According to MarketingVOX, "this move is completely unrelated to the company's recent hiring of an investment bank to seek suitors for certain divisions, or quite possibly the whole company."
What do you get when you combine smart mobs, social networking and the first snowfall of the year? SnowballFightNYC.com, an online message board for New Yorkers interested in participating in snowball fights all around the city. Depending on the neighborhood, this could get kinda interesting. (Hat tip: Curbed)
With the Internet "fast becoming the marketing method of choice for smaller wineries to reach faraway customers," it's perhaps no surprise that Internet-savvy wine lovers are taking interest in an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case that could have long-term impact on the future of Internet wine sales. Since New York is the second-largest wine consuming state in the nation, trailing only California, the case has particular local appeal.
In Getting Wine Online, Bob Tedeschi explains the key issues that the court will consider when deciding whether or not small wineries should be allowed to sell directly to out-of-state consumers. Newsday takes a slightly different approach, looking at the case from the perspective of small Long Island wine makers.
Paid Content announces that Tolman Geffs of NYC investment bank Jordan Edmiston Group (JEGI) will author a monthly column "exploring the merger and acquisition side of the digital content economy." In addition to tracking deal flow in the sector, the column will "point out key developing trends" affecting online content, e-commerce and online advertising.
The most important deal during November, of course, was the $519 million Dow Jones/MarketWatch transaction, in which Dow Jones paid 6.5x revenue and over 50x EBITDA -- "one of the highest sets of multiples paid for any sizeable media business over the last two years."
This time, it's Andrew Erlichson (former CEO and co-founder of Flashbase) who has launched a new online photo sharing venture known as Phanfare, which "allows users to share and back up their digital photos in a simple, permanent, polished, and unbranded way."
In Trying to Reach Customers in an Era of E-mail Suspicion, Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times hints that the recent spate of phishing scams and other forms of Internet fraud could throw some cold egg nog on the current holiday season for online retailers. Tom Sullivan, director of e-commerce risk for InterActiveCorp's travel division, surmises that Internet fraud, if left unchecked, could also slow the online travel industry:
"E-commerce sites are also feeling the strain... It used to be that if a cardholder name and some other personal aspect about that person tied together, you could say with some certainty that this is probably a good transaction. But phishing changes that, because the frauds have information that even a good customer doesn't normally provide, and a crook armed with more information about the legitimate cardholder makes our job tougher."
How bad can it get? In July, Corante's Stowe Boyd speculated that we could be seeing the end of e-mail.
After sitting in on a media ethics course at NYU taught be Adam Penenberg, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine ruminates on the future generation of New Media journalists: "I enjoyed meeting these students because I believe they can and will have a greater impact on journalism than any class in my lifetime. They can reshape the relationship of news media to its public. They can be the first of a generation of young people since Hearst who can become media entrepreneurs. They can also help share lessons about standards of professionalism and tricks of the trade with citizens' media..."
James Surowiecki (author of The Wisdom of Crowds) pens a short piece in this week's New Yorker about the relative merits of "location-based incentives." Cities and municipalities, concerned that a big-name corporate tenant may be on the way out, have been ready, willing and able to cobble together enough tax incentives and other goodies to convince them to stay. But does that make economic sense? Especially for a city like New York, where companies can easily pack up and leave for New Jersey or Connecticut? However, as Surowiecki points out, it's not just that "corporate welfare" is no longer economically viable -- it could now be "technically illegal," thanks to a recent court ruling in Ohio.
For the past three days, all eyes have been on IBM's $2 billion PC unit. But what about IBM's "other" businesses, like IT services? InternetNews.com hints that a major announcement could be on tap this week involving IBM and the New York Stock Exchange: "It is most likely a combination of software, supported by IBM's vaunted Global Services division (IGS), to ensure that the NYSE's electronic practice runs at a constant." The piece provides a glimpse of IBM's push into service-oriented architecture (SOA), noting that the company is ready to defend its leading position in the financial services vertical, notwithstanding the increased competition from Sun.
Howard Rheingold's seminal work Smart Mobs continues to spawn new progenitors. On December 8, Marymount Manhattan College will launch the "Art Mobs" project in an attempt to "demonstrate how mobile technologies can affect the way we experience, and communicate about, urban space and art." After viewing the art on display, attendees will be able to record messages using voice recording stations, listen to tours on their iPods or leave text messages on their mobile phones.
Crain's New York has the latest on the feud between online grocer Fresh Direct and its former CEO, Joseph Fedele. According to Crain's, "Mr. Fedele is suing for breach of contract in a dispute over whether Fresh Direct's board is in violation of its fiduciary duties."
Word on the street is that Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo is the leading contender to acquire IBM's PC unit for a price tag rumored to be close to $2 billion. Even the New York Times, though, was left scratching its head about the Chinese company: "Lenovo. Who?" Lenovo may be the world's fastest-growing PC maker and the 8th largest PC maker in the world, but the company is obviously hampered by a lack of brand recognition. Thus, a major consideration for Lenovo is getting access to the IBM brand, and more precisely, the ThinkPad brand -- one analyst interviewed for the article called the ThinkPad a "steppingstone to a global market."
Selling the PC unit to Lenovo is not a done deal, though. According to market rumors, IBM has hired Merrill Lynch to find other possible buyers. Neither IBM nor Merrill are confirming or denying the rumors, though. Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group is dismissive that the deal will actually get done: "The sale of the IBM PC unit to Lenovo is unlikely at this time, and the sale to another unnamed company while possible, is less likely due to the release of this story."
Business Week has a feature piece on the rise of the Lawyer-CEO in corporate America. In NYC alone, the new ruling class of lawyer-CEOs includes Kenneth Chenault (American Express), Richard Parsons (Time Warner), Charles O. Prince III (Citigroup) and Sumner Redstone (Viacom). By some estimates, 10.8% of the CEOs of companies in the S&P 500 are lawyers -- and that number could rise, as troubled companies look to head off nasty litigation or clean up after public scandals.
But do lawyers make good CEOs? "Often unschooled in core skills such as accounting or finance, lawyers start their careers in a strange world where risk is frowned upon, colorful marketing is unethical, people rarely work in big teams, and nobody makes a decision without reviewing stacks of paperwork first... So it is hardly surprising that people do ask questions when a career lawyer becomes a CEO..."
Washington Square News (NYU's daily student paper) has a whimsical look at An Evening With Craig's List: "More than 100 eager audience members showed up for the wild variety show, which opened with a video interview with Craig Newmark, the man behind the booming craigslist.org." Among the so-called "oddball performers" -- aerobics instructors, meditation experts, and yes, "bearded streakers" wearing nothing but tennis shoes. (Hat tip: I Want Media)
Bernard Kerik, the former NYC Police Commissioner who worked closely with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has officially been nominated as the new U.S. Homeland Security Chief. The AP news feed has only limited details about the move, but it surely could signal a change in national security strategy. Replacing Tom Ridge with Kerik could result in the allocation of more federal anti-terrorist dollars to high-risk locations like New York City. Yesterday, for example, New York Newsday reported that NYC was on tap to receive a fresh infusion of $207 million in homeland security funding.
New York VC Fred Wilson tackles the question every blogger wants to have answered: How do I make blog bucks? According to Wilson, it's not the blog networks or the software providers that will be the most successful businesses -- "the action is in the advertising platforms and meta data and content distribution systems that are growing up around bloggings and RSS... The big bucks will be made in scalable platforms that leverage all that is happening in the blog world."
At this point, perhaps it's worth re-reading Clayton Christensen's strategic masterpiece The Innovator's Dilemma for a few ideas on how the next stage of "blog innovation" will play out... One point that Christensen makes clear: truly disruptive technologies never occur as the result of successful companies carrying out sound business practices in established markets. It's always the case that newer, cheaper disruptive technologies start at the low end of the marketplace, evolve quickly over time, and eventually displace high-end competitors. By the time that the entrenched incumbents fully realize what happened, it's too late...
One of my personal favorites is the case study of the small Honda motorcycles (the off-road dirt bikes that are ubiquitous these days). When they were first introduced, nobody gave them much of a chance against the more powerful motorcycles from Harley Davidson and BMW. After all, you couldn't even ride them on the highway, so who'd want 'em? Turns out, a lot of people wanted them.
Lower Manhattan will soon boast a new ultra high-speed wireless network, courtesy of GigaBeam Technology, The Hub at Sixth, and real estate firm Rudin Management Company. The terms of the deal: "The Hub at Sixth, a carrier-neutral co-location and interconnection facility set up in downtown New York by Rudin Management in 2000, will use GigaBeam's technology to deploy a virtual fiber wireless metropolitan area network serving Rudin's tenants, carriers and other enterprises." No financial details were disclosed. (Hat tip: Wi-Fi Networking News)
From October 27 - November 28, the "People's Portrait" project "utilized the Internet as the underlying mechanism to create a global portrait of people, rendered in real time and displayed instantly and simultaneously on various museum websites and massive video walls often seen in cosmopolitan urban centers such as Times Square in New York City and other countries. A viewer in New York City can watch as a picture of himself/herself is displayed, followed closely by portraits of other viewers from Singapore and Brisbane..."
New York-based DataSynapse, which provides commercial grid computing solutions to the financial services vertical, recently expanded its strategic relationship with Goldman Sachs. It's not just one of those hand-shake, hail-fellow-well-met type of strategic relationships -- it involves cold, hard cash. The amount of the investment was not disclosed, but additional investors in the Series D financing round included a number of big names: Bain Capital, Intel Capital, New York City Investment Fund and Silicon Alley Venture Partners.
What's most interesting, perhaps, is that Goldman Sachs will use DataSynapses GridServer® software for deployment in its global risk management area, starting in early 2005. With the deal, Goldman is touting itself as a "leader in leveraging grid-based computing for demanding financial applications."
IBM is planning to sell off its entire PC division in a deal "likely to be in the $1 billion to $2 billion range," reports the New York Times. Frustrated by thinning profit margins and the commoditization of the PC market, IBM "long ago ceded the lead in the personal computer market to Dell and Hewlett-Packard so it could focus instead on the more lucrative corporate server and computer services business." While the move makes business sense, "a sale would nonetheless bring the end of an era in an industry that [IBM] helped invent."
PR Week has the inside scoop on how a "blog relationship" between Topix.net CEO Rich Skrenta and Micropersuasion blogger Steve Rubel turned into something much more. Apparently, an interview on the Micropersuasion blog led to a face-to-face meeting at a conference, which eventually led to high-level discussions about a PR agency relationship. Interestingly, Topix.net was quick to point out that it was not pursuing a "blog PR strategy"; instead, the company is simply leveraging the capabilities of "disruptive online media."
David Pogue of the New York Times chastises "60 Minutes" for a segment on a 12-year-old Juilliard music genius that apparently contained a number of inaccuracies about Finale software. Pogue discounts the existence of any serious flaws:
"What a load of hooey! The program in question is Finale, software with which I'm exceedingly familiar: in Finale's early days, I wrote its manuals, consulted on its development and served as its New York City sales rep. Now, today's Finale has its glitches. But to suggest that it can't keep up with the frenetic typed keystrokes of a musician is naïve at best..."
Interesting factoid from LILSI (Long Island Life Sciences Initiative): 20% of Long Island's 50 largest public companies are life sciences firms. Long Island, of course, is home to a number of high-profile research institutions such as Cold Spring Harbor, Stony Brook and Brookhaven.
New York VC Fred Wilson weighs in on the increasing complexity of getting deals done in today's risk-averse environment. The investment deal that actually gets done is somewhat of an anomaly. Even after navigating a minefield of lawyers, accountants and overly cautious board members, it's still quite possible that one (or both) parties will walk away from the negotiating table.
So what does it take to get a deal done? There are three key factors -- "a familiarity and trust among the participants in the deal," "a competitive dynamic and a deadline," and "intense focus and effort."
Virginia-based Acumen Solutions, a management and technology consulting firm, will open a New York office in order to leverage its domain expertise in the media, communications and financial services verticals. Of interest to potential job seekers: the company was named one of "Washington's 50 Great Places to Work" by Washingtonian magazine.
Briefly noted: the 32nd Annual Media Week Conference, dubbed "the longest running show on Wall Street" by UBS Investment Bank, will kick off on December 6. The conference will "feature presentations by senior management from more than 70 leading advertising, broadcasting, publishing, multi-channel television distribution, entertainment, video gaming and new media companies from the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and Asia."
MediaPost reports that media buyers and magazine publishers hashed out the issues surrounding digital magazine downloads at two separate events in the city. In addition to problems in defining the term "download," there also appear to be significant questions about "what actually constitutes a digital magazine."
After overwhelming reaction to Mark Glaser's piece on "The Media Company I Want to Work For" at PressThink, Jay Rosen puts all the comments & speculation into proper context: "Companies without products. Markets without players. Resumes ready to be sent for in-boxes that do not exist. These and other signs of pre-maturity surfaced yesterday in the reactions to Mark Glaser's plea... It's not here yet-- the media company, I mean." It's a good read to get a pulse on the market for Small Media (or New Media, or Hyperlocal Media or whatever they're calling it now) and to think about the kinds of companies and publications are working to make this hypothetical perfect media company a reality. If nothing else, it's a shot across the bow at Big Media (aka Mainstream Media).
Adam L. Penenberg, an assistant professor at NYU, profiles the growing number of consultants, advisors and Internet enthusiasts who live entirely "on the grid." Their lives are "hyperlinked, searchable and browseable" -- and yours soon may be, too.
e-Government is alive and well in New York City: check out the NYC Map Portal from NYC.gov which "shows the exact location of any NYC street address and gives the option to show nearby trains, post offices, and cultural centers." (Hat tip: Curbed)
For more on e-government initiatives underway at the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DOITT), check out this earlier posting about 311.
The New York Times profiles Bronx inventor Ken Schaffer, who is working on "a way to make home TV reception portable - with high-quality pictures to be watched, and channels to be changed, from anywhere in the world that the Internet can reach." In the article, the lifelong inventor and entrepreneur shares a quiet moment in Central Park while watching Russian MTV on a laptop PC. Within 12 months, a retail-ready version of TV2Me (which will compete with a similar offering from Sony known as LocationFree TV) could be available for less than $1,000.
NASCAR has been invading New York this week, and on December 2, representatives from Nextel Communications and NASCAR will join the 10 drivers who competed in the chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup to open the day of trading on NASDAQ. Oh, and The Donald will be on hand to wave the green flag before "the show cars of the top 10 drivers roar down Broadway, turn left on 42nd Street and finally take a checkered flag at NASCAR's New York office on 52nd Street and Park Avenue." For one day, at least, all New Yorkers will be NASCAR dads.
CNN reports that "blog" was named the #1 word of the year by Merriam-Webster. The word blog, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks," started to enter the popular lexicon in late 2001. In 2004, the word officially took off as Americans "called up blogs in droves for information and laughs" during the presidential election cycle. (Hat tip: reBlog).
Paid Content has a 12-minute interview clip with the Dow Jones business development executive responsible for launching the Wall Street Journal's "first truly branded mobile product," the Wall Street Journal Mobile.
This is generating some big waves in the blogosphere: guest columnist Mark Glaser has posted an original essay at PressThink about "The Media Company I Want to Work For -- Not Someday, but Now." This hypothetical media company, says Glaser, would be a hybrid of Old Journalism and New Journalism -- it would be a news outlet that "creates new content, aggregates the best outside content, and makes sense of everything, presenting it in a clear, simple format for the consumption of everyone..."
Reading through comments posted at the end of the essay, it appears that at least two start-up media companies -- one in Dallas and one in DC -- appear to be putting many of the principles of the "perfect media company" into action. (Hat tip: Buzz Machine)
According to Crain's, The FeedRoom has a new president and CEO, Bart Feder, who will replace the CNN-bound Jon Klein. The company launched during the peak of the Internet boom as an advertising-supported broadband news network but has morphed into a dot-com that helps Fortune 500 companies produce and stream online videos.
It's not too late to sign up for the "Angel Zone '04" conference hosted by youngStartup Ventures on December 7 at Madison Square Garden. The conference will feature "an impressive lineup of active Angel Investors discussing their investment strategies, an exhibit of some of the hottest startups around, live company presentations, and high-level networking opportunities with the most influential angel investors actively seeking new deals." Among the guest speakers will be Steve Brotman of Silicon Alley Venture Partners. If you run into Steve, just be sure that you've done your homework.
In New York Magazine, James J. Cramer interviews Wall Street hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, who recently architected the $11 billion Kmart-Sears deal. Was the deal simply an example of "two drunken sailors, trying to prop each other up"? Or was it something more?
The Center for an Urban Future has released a new PDF report on New York's Broadband Gap. It's an interesting, if not provocative, thesis: "Years after the Internet boom, businesses in several of NYC's largest commercial areas still can't access a reliable broadband connection at prices they can afford." Among the areas cited in the report -- Hunts Point in the South Bronx and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The 26-page report concludes with a host of recommendations, such as the need to explore wireless Internet connectivity options.
A quick note: Zoomedia, a communications agency for the life sciences industry, announced plans to open up a New York office in order to better serve clients along the Northeast corridor (New York, New Jersey, Boston and Philadelphia). Could be a sign that efforts such as the New York Bioscience Initiative are starting to pay off...
David Pogue of the New York Times gives us another reason to love Netflix: an "awesome, humane, sensible policy" when it comes to replacing lost DVDs. With increased competition from Blockbuster and Wal-Mart in the online DVD rental market, it's these little touches that can help Netflix maintain its market leader position.
"Tonight at the high-falutin' Julliard School: the RoboRecitcal, an all-automata concert performance by a player piano (old school) and GuitarBot (new school). GuitarBot, "a stringed instrument that is designed to extend -- not simply duplicate -- the capabilities of a human musician," was created in 2000 by LEMUR (the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots... no joke) and looks like it was designed by Dan Flavin. It will play a program featuring Bach, Mozart, and compositions by J. Brendan Anderson, the Julliard undergrad who coordinated the recital."
Mari Kimura, a faculty member in music technology at Juilliard, puts this event into context: "Are the machines replacing humans? Why is this concert being held at Juilliard, the pinnacle of performing arts studies? I believe this concert is happening exactly where it should: where we are continuing our musical tradition. Long before the last century, composers including Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were versatile musicians who performed, improvised, and utilized the latest musical technology available in their time. In his use of technology on his RoboRecital, Brendan is merely following tradition..."