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A New Economic Indicator and How to Stop Office Bullies

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What your printer toner says about the economy. Here's an unusual economic indicator: Office supplies. According to Office Depot CEO Steve Odland, better times are still a long way off for small businesses. As he told Reuters, "We're very pessimistic about the chances for a big bounce recovery." Odland reports that sales of low-price items like printer toner and paper have improved, but big-ticket items are sagging. "The office furniture business is dead," he said. "People are not buying office furniture." Sound familiar? Back in April we spoke to a number of small business owners about the difficulties of forecasting in this volatile economy. Steve Israel, co-founder of Complete Office, a Seattle-based supplier of office products, echoed Odland's statement, saying, "If people are buying lots of supplies, then businesses are doing well. If they are buying new office furniture, then they are doing even better. Our furniture business has dropped by about half."

The science of office bullying. Why do office, um, jerks, act the way they do? Because they feel incompetent, a new study says. New Scientist reports on research conducted at the University of Southern California that shows that people who feel insecure tend to dole out stiff punishments, while those who feel competent and secure are more beneficent. The article suggests a way to temper aggression when promoting an employee: "[E]asing leaders into new positions of power, or telling them that it's natural to feel daunted, could prevent future outbursts," New Scientist says. (Hat tip Huffington Post)

How to escape the office. WebWorkerDaily has collected its best posts about working from home, tackling issues like how to stay motivated when you're not surrounded by colleagues or employees and the best software applications to stay productive. The 33-page e-book is now free to download.

An internet man's tequila. He created the programming for MTV. He served as COO of AOL. And over the past few years, Bob Pittman has invested in Web hotshots such as DailyCandy, Thrillist, Zynga, and iLike. So what's Pittman excited about these days? His new "sipping" tequila, he tells All Things Digital's Kara Swisher in this video interview. At $275 a bottle, Tequila Casa Dragones better be good.

Is MySpace in trouble? Just a year ago, MySpace looked like it was on solid footing. It was profitable and its founders, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson were talking about taking over the music industry. Today, DeWolfe and Anderson are gone and times are tough, with MySpace losing ground to Facebook and Twitter. Revenues are down 15 percent compared with last year, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the site is "trying to reignite the brand." Michael Arrington smells trouble. He notes that MySpace will throw a party next week--a possible attempt to whitewash over bad news--and points out that the social network has suffered sharp page view declines. Arrington concludes, "At that point, there's no way MySpace will continue to be profitable unless even more serious layoffs are made."

Competition heating up in online video. It's been a banner week for video-on-demand. On Tuesday, TiVo added Blockbuster's video on demand service to its DVR players. Yesterday, Sonic Solutions closed a deal to bring its own VOD, CinemaNow, into inexpensive electronics available at Walmart. And today, select Samsung HDTV owners can now stream content from both Blockbuster and Amazon. According to PC Magazine, Blockbuster's service provides access to 7,000 streaming movies, and Amazon's catalog includes more than 50,000 movies and TV shows. That doesn't even take into account Netflix, one of the first to offer this kind of service. The real question, says NewTeeVee, is this: "When movies are available everywhere who wins? After all, if every movie service is on just about every device, and they're all offering the same titles (for the most part), how do you choose?"

Reed Hastings puts on a new face. Speaking of which, Netflix founder Reed Hastings is partnering with B-Movie granddaddy Roger Corman to make an online mini-series titled Splatter. Viewers will vote to determine whether the characters live or die, and the series will stream online for free on October 29th, November 6th, and (uh, oh) Friday, November 13th. Netflix isn't going into movie-making on an ongoing basis, just trying to create a bit of buzz for its streaming services, according to Fast Company.

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Last updated: Oct 16, 2009




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