A Search-Engine Battle and Twitter Users Get Romantic
BY Kasey Wehrum
The world's richest man. The New Yorker profiles Carlos Slim this week, who is by some counts the richest person in the world (or at least the third richest, behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett). Slim is often portrayed in the press as an opportunistic robber-baron, who made most of his money by acquiring Mexico's national telephone carrier in 1990, but the profile makes clear that there's more to him than that. Slim is the son of Lebanese immigrants who started investing in the stock market as a small child. He lives simply, driving his own car and working out of a home-office, and none of his companies have corporate headquarters or fancy office buildings.
Is Jeff Zucker lying about Hulu's intentions? For those of you who haven't been following the heavyweight v. featherweight story of Hulu and Boxee, here's a synopsis: Boxee is an easy-to-use software that lets you watch online video services on your TV. Hulu, the number three online video service isn't a fan, and has made continual efforts to shut off Boxee's access to its services. There's a Twitter feed for users who have trouble keeping track. Yesterday, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker, who co-owns Hulu along with Fox and soon ABC, told All Things D's Kara Swisher, "We're committed to Hulu being an online experience"--bad news for Boxee. Zucker also announced a new product from "Labs" offerings: software that makes it easy to watch TV on your desktop from the sofa, a "lean back viewing experience." But Hulu's owners, who don't want to cannibalize their ad and subscription revenue, still don't want you to access those videos on your TV. Peter Kafka rightly points out that tech-savvy consumers are unlikely to want to play along. But the latest rumor in the saga is that Zucker was dissembling and Hulu actually intends to release a Boxee-like product of its own.
Candy company turns to Twitter for romantic inspiration. In an interesting marketing effort, The New England Confectionary Company, makers of those heart-shaped candies that are a Valentine's Day staple, is asking Twitter users to submit their ideas for a crop of new messages that will be inscribed on the famous candies. The winning entries, or "sweet tweets," as the Boston Globe puts it, will take their place besides such Necco classics as "Be Mine" and "Forever Yours." Aspiring Lotharios better hurry, the deadline for submissions is May 31. The complete contest details can be found here.
Search war! Microsoft unveiled its new search engine, Bing, yesterday, and said it hopes to peel back some of Google's market share. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company will spend $80 to $100 million marketing Bing. It will be an uphill climb, says the New York Times, partly because Google is so entrenched in people's minds. And then there's also the fact that Google, for all its problems, is really, really good at Internet search. There have been no shortage of search startups over the past few years, but none have seemed to gain any traction. Cuil debuted last year with at least as much fanfare as Bing and immediately sputtered when early reviews panned it. The bottom line: If Bing isn't useful, it probably won't make much of an impression.
Google Wave: handy new communication and collaboration tool. Microsoft's Bing now has even more to compete against. From the Australian brothers behind Google Maps comes another seemingly-stellar offering: Google Wave, an application that runs in a Web browser and creates a shared online desktop that allows multiple users to easily interact—sending emails and IMs, edit rich text documents or drag and drop widgets into Wave to play a game together, reports The New York Times' Bits blog. Even better, you can publish anything resulting from the collaboration to the Web. The only downside we see so far is that it won't be out until late 2009.
A quick lesson in listening to your customers. In times of high stress, research has shown that it is literally harder for people to hear, so says Kare Anderson on the American Express OPEN blog. Given this high-stress economy, that means business owners may be missing out on sales opportunities by not listening carefully to their customers. Anderson offers 13 pointers to help you tune in and "listen people into buying."
The 30-minute entrepreneur. Got a half-hour to spare? On his blog, Quick Sprout, tech entrepreneur Neil Patel offers some pointers he says will help you become a better entrepreneur in the next 30 minutes. While tips like, "Stop innovating and start copying," may not turn you into the next Bill Gates over your lunch break, the post does offer some good ideas on how business owners can set realistic goals for themselves and how they should focus their efforts on achieving them.
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.