Archive for January, 2008

TechCrunch Site Redesign

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

TechCrunch logoMost of the top technology blogs on the Internet have undergone a site redesign over the past year or so. These include Read/WriteWeb, Mashable, and GigaOM to name a few. In spite of this, arguably the most popular tech blog, TechCrunch, has yet to follow suit.

This struck me as somewhat surprisingly. Every time I return to the TechCrunch site, I expect to see a new look - but it hasn’t happened. I still think it would be a good idea to mix it up and introduce a fresh look. This would revive the look and feel of the blog.

From an opposing view, I can also see why TechCrunch would NOT want to introduce a new look. Perhaps the current design is working just fine. As they say in the old adage, ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. A new design might bring with it a learning curve for readers. New navigation and layout changes may create confusion. Perhaps even, TechCrunch remains focused on the content itself and other initiatives such as the Crunchies, TechCrunch 40, TechCrunch Tech President Primaries, etc… This may not leave much time for a redesign.

One last thought - maybe a redesign is underway right now and I just don’t know it. It’s a long shot but hey, I’ve surprised myself a number of times this year… 

Pandora: An International Nightmare

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Pandora logoI love Pandora. I used to use the service everyday until they were forced to shut down in Canada in mid 2007. It was truly a sad day. Now, TechCrunch is reporting that the service will be shut down in the UK as well. After failing to obtain a licensing agreement, Pandora is going to block all UK traffic as of January 15 - not a very good start to 2008 for the company.

Pandora knew that this day might come, but it held on to the hope that it could strike a deal with the appropriate parties and continue providing the service. This didn’t happen. The RIAA has stepped in and pulled the plug. It truly is a pity for UK users. I know this because I had the same thing happen to me.

This move will likely boost the traffic of competitors, most notably, in the UK region. Ironically enough, is located in the UK, hence the reason it hasn’t had as many problems as the US-based Pandora.

As a side note, there is an interesting article from TechCrunch on how to access Pandora, Hulu, and other serivces from outside the US: Accessing Hulu, Pandora And Other Sites From Outside Of the United States.

Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Conrad, the CTO of Pandora, at Gnomedex in August 2007. He was a true gentleman and assured me that the company was doing everything in its power to make a return to Canada. I guess they can add another country to that list. Good luck Pandora. I’m rootin’ for ya.

What is a Blog? - An Essential PR Tool (PART 2)

Monday, January 7th, 2008

MegaphonePerhaps one of the most obvious uses of a corporate blog is as a PR and brand-building tool. When a company wants to let the world know about an update, bug fix, or any material change, a blog is a great place to do so. I’m not advocating against press releases - I just think there is a time and place for them.

In my opinion, press releases should only be issued in a situation of substantial change - i.e. new launch, partnership agreement, or management change, for example. Small updates and changes do not merit such treatment. In addition, press releases usually lack two-way communication, a definite downfall.

Companies can also announce special achievements, milestones, and awards on their blog. Such events don’t usually precede a press release (in most cases). What about company outings and happenings? A blog may provide an outlet to the world, informing about the inner-workings of the external facing entity. This concept of “humanizing” the company is extremely effective when it comes to building trust and loyalty. Credit goes to Robert Scoble, formerly of Microsoft, for pioneering this notion. Customers and readers are introduced to “real people” in a ”real company”. This has traditionally been condemned, as companies prefer to amplify their profile rather than diminish it. But more and more we are finding that such a strategy isn’t always the most effective.

All in all, corporate blogs (as a PR tool) are a great way to increase exposure and raise profile in a given industry. For a small investment, a company could be introducing itself to new investors, new customers, or even a potential acquisitor. Thus, it seems like a small price to pay for such huge benefits.

Do you have any stories about blogs being used as a PR tool? Have you leveraged one as such? Let us hear your stories.

What is a Blog? - PART 1

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Instead of spewing out another assortment of posts, I thought I’d take a step back and really mull over the concept of a blog. What is it? What does it accomplish? Why do we take the time to publish them? To many, these answers seem obvious. But upon further inspection, I think that there is more to this concept than meets the eye.

A blog isn’t a one-dimensional tool. It has multiple uses (which I will explore in later posts). But for now, let’s take a look at the definition of a blog from some highly respectable and reliable sources. 

Wikipedia’s definition:

“A blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order.”’s definition:

“A website that displays in chronological order the postings by one or more individuals and usually has links to comments on specific postings.”

Merriam-Webster’s defintion:

“A Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.”

Interestingly,three different sources provide three separate views, especially the last one. Here are some key points to note:

  • The most traditional source (M-W) provides the most dated definition.
  • The concept of a ‘journal’ or ‘diary’ in real life does not provide entries in reverse chronological order.
  • A blog doesn’t necessarily have to have a comment section (ala Seth Godin). Some may argue this point.

All of sudden, what seemed like a clear definition becomes unclear. From my perspective, I think that Wikipedia’s definition, although somewhat vague, provides the most accurate and safe representation. A blog is essentially a “series of posts in reverse chronological order”. End of story. Whether the blog is personal, contains numerous authors, or has a comments section is irrelevant.

How would you define a blog? What do you think constitutes such an entity?

Note: In upcoming posts, we will explore the multiple uses of a blog, as well as the underlying motivation of bloggers.

NetFlix Shifts Focus From Offline to Online

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

NetFlix logoToday, NetFlix announced the launch of a new service that will limit its dependence on physical mail. The company plans to partner with numerous electronic manufacturers in a new initiative that will send movies from the Internet to your TV. An initial partnership with LG will get the ball rolling later this year. The service will be offered in HD and may include a limitation on the number of movies viewed per month.

Currently, NetFlix offers over 6,000 movies and television shows online for free, but this new service will extend beyond the PC to the TV. The company does acknowledge a threat from the video-on-demand space, but believes that such a system is incapable of reaching its full potential without the power of the web.

The company has ambitions to become the preeminent movie channel on all Internet-connected devices, including gaming systems, wireless devices, DVD players, and set top boxes.

I can understand the benefits of such a system for both the consumer and the company. It saves time, hassle, and money. I’m just not convinced that consumers will be rushing out to buy a NetFlix-enabled device. Having said that, I do think this a step in the right direction. However, the company will need to partner with as many electronic manufacturers as possible to really make this work. Furthermore, NetFlix will need to establish itself as the name in the space, as everyone from Apple to Amazon is jockeying for position.

As a side note, this looks like yet another hit to Blockbuster. The old-school video rental company has taken a butt-kicking over the past few years. The introduction of ‘no late fees’ did provide a bit of light, but only for the short term. It may only be a matter of time before…

What do you think of this move? Is it worthwhile or worthless?