A Nation of Bloggers, Thought-Tweets, and Finding a Bank
BY Max Chafkin
Don't watch the stock market. Doomsaying economist Nouriel Roubini throws a bit of cold water on recent predictions of an imminent economic recovery. He says that recent stock market gains are a dead cat bounce, and cautions that stock market recoveries rarely mean the economy has turned around. "[I]n the last two years, the stock market has predicted six out of the last zero economic recoveries -- that is, six bear market rallies that eventually fizzled and led to new lows," he writes in his newsletter. Roubini predicts that the downturn will slow this year and that economic growth will be anemic through 2010. (Via Henry Blodget.)
Choosing the right bank. In the midst of a credit crises, choosing the right bank is a critical decision for any business. Columnist Lynette DeNike of the Washington Post offers her advice for making the best of your banking relationships. She also offers ten questions to consider, from whether the bank conducts most of its business online, to whether it will be able to keep up as your company grows. For more information on banking and loans, check out Inc.'s coverage here.
From your brain to Twitter, no hands. A University of Wisconsin doctoral student posted a 23 character message on Twitter just by thinking about it, reports Valleywag. It's part of a growing field of research that's trying to find a communications system for people who might be physically impaired, but whose brains function normally. The Wisconsin student twittered by wearing a cap studded with electrodes that detect electrical signals in the brain and translate them into actions. Justin Williams, the student's adviser explains, "The way this works is that all the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually. And what your brain does is, if you're looking at the 'R' on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the 'R' flashes, your brain says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Something's different about what I was just paying attention to.' And you see a momentary change in brain activity." Check out David Freedman's cover story from our December issue about a company called Emotiv that created a headset that reads your brain waves and lets users conjure up entire worlds with just their minds. Kind of like your own personal SecondLife.
1.7 million paid bloggers in the U.S. Mark Penn, writing for the Wall Street Journal, has compiled some shocking numbers on the size of the blogosphere in the U.S. There are good reasons to be skeptical of some of the numbers. For one, Penn claims that there are more people in the U.S. who earn a living from blogging than from firefighting. (And remember Penn's highly accurate prediction that America would never, ever elect Obama?) Still, the piece emphasizes why marketers are increasingly courting the blogosphere: "Demographically, bloggers are extremely well educated: three out of every four are college graduates. Most are white males reporting above-average incomes. One out of three young people reports blogging, but bloggers who do it for a living successfully are 2% of bloggers overall." Meanwhile, TechCrunch put together a much-needed treatise decrying the blog hype cycle.
Brands not long for this world. The current recession has already put an end to Circuit City, Linens and Things, as well as numerous banks and homebuilders. But what brands may be in next to go? 24/7 Wall Street dug into the question and came up with 12 picks for brands that could disappear within the next 12 months. Topping the list are Avis and Budget car rental, Borders bookstore, and Crocs, the maker of those funny looking plastic shoes. (Via MediaBistro.)
About those Microsoft ads. In its new television campaign, award-winning agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky used an age-old aphorism--it's so easy a child could do it--to convince viewers that Windows was a cinch to master. Slate's Seth Stevenson wags his finger at the agency's approach, calling it misplaced. "How are these whiz kids, who've been plugging in USB cords since they left the womb meant to reassure anyone over 12 that Windows is easy to use?" asks Stevenson. The point could be better made with senior citizens, he adds, a campaign Microsoft put online, but refuses to air, perhaps out of fear that "an old-person stink might rub off on the brand." But Stevenson admits it hasn't all been bad news. Crispin's "I'm a PC" campaign was a smart response to Apple's smug schtick. In 2005, we named Crispin managing partner Chuck Porter, one of the country's 26most fascinating entrepreneurs.
Battle over VCs at the SBA heats up. Venture capital investors are pushing the SBA to open up a grant program to the companies they back, the Wall Street Journal reports today. The investors are also agitating for government seed funds to help bolster early-stage investing, which has fallen precipitously since the recession began. But small business owners aren't happy. One told the Journal that if the new SBA chief Karen Gordon Mills, a former VC, accedes to the demands of the industry, it will "squash us like an ant." Investors argue that they help small businesses create jobs. What do you think?