Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
A new way to read. Rumors have been swirling for some time, but today, the search giant formally unveiled Google eBooks. According to a company blog post, users who access the eBookstore will be able to "browse and search through the largest ebooks collection in the world with more than three million titles including hundreds of thousands for sale." The store is accessible from any device, be it a tablet or a desktop, and users can buy books through Google or through any of its participating booksellers. According to our friends at Fast Company this business model may save indie bookstores that have been excluded from Amazon and Barnes & Noble e-reader-only stores. As one Portland, Oregon-based bookseller tells Fast Company, Kindle and Nook are formidable technologies, but they're islands. There are so many [devices and readers] outside those islands. What Google does is fill the oceans between them.
FTC proposes new online privacy restrictions The Federal Trade Commission recently proposed a do-not-track privacy mechanism, which, if instated, could prevent online advertisers from profiting off of data derived from a user's browsing history. The New York Times reports that the proposal could "cause major harm to...small and midsize publishers and technology companies like Yahoo that earn a large percentage of their revenue from advertising that is tailored to users based on the sites they have visited." One of the major points of contention among advertisers, marketers, and retailers, is what the FTC exactly has in mind for the mechanism. At this point, the "do-not-track" button is fairly vague, prompting many to ask what information will be trackable, and what information won't.
The organic food movement's next big name. Look out Whole Foods, The Washington Post has the story of Scott Nash, the man behind MOM's Organic Market, a $50 million chain of six organic grocery stores in the Washington D.C. area. The article charts Nash's unlikely rise to business success, including dropping out of college in the middle of his sophomore year. As he explains, "I tried to be a business major, but I didn't have good grades." High quality organic produce and an attention to customer service has made MOM's a big local success, and the company has plans to double its number of stores by 2012.
Groupon to Google: No thanks. The group-discount site walked away from Google's $6 billion buyout offer over the weekend, and hedge fund manager James Altucher couldn't be happier. Among his reasons why this is good for the universe, as detailed in Business Insider: "the hegemony of Google is over," since it has failed at developing--or even buying--new products that have contributed significantly to revenue. "More chances for me-too companies," since venture capitalists now know that big firms like Google and Yahoo are willing to snap up Groupon copycats. And the next wave of internet IPOs will be upon us, since "Google has now been rejected by Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Yelp and others. Next step for these guys, the public markets."
Want to steer clear of WikiLeaks? Hey, we're all for the free flow of information and free speech and all. But with so much seemingly random communication ending up in the WikiLeaks files, maybe a bit more privacy seems appealing. The New York Post writes that e-communications software VaporSteam creates and transmits messages that aren't stored and can't be saved, printed, or forwarded to others. Even taking a screen shot of the message won't reveal its sender, since the header is separated from the message itself. The best part? Now you can send e-mails that say "this message will self-destruct in five seconds."
Investing in goodwill. For many small businesses supporting local charities may seem like an unwarranted expense in our current economy. Yet, as the L.A. Times points out, giving can be an excellent way to spread goodwill about your company and connect with the community. "More and more businesses are waking up to the fact they want to have a charitable tie-in that makes sense for their business and helps their bottom line," says Holly Hall, an editor at the Chronicle of Philanthropy in Washington. The article notes that businesses must make sure their efforts are acknowledged by the nonprofits on websites, in newsletters, and at events. The support needn't always be cash-based either, as businesses can donate free products or volunteer time with the hope of seeing returns in the future. But be careful: you need to fit those expenses into your financial structure, so you can stay in business and continue to give the next year.
Beyond "I can't believe it's not butter." Much has changed in the way food products are marketed over the past three decades. What's hot right now? Bringing classic ingredients out of their comfort zones, The New York Times writes. Olive oil for baking? That's the strategy Pompeian, an oil and vinegar brand, is adopting. In a new ad campaign, the company tells consumers, "Better baking starts with Pompeian Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil,' emphasizing the health advantages olive oil has over butter. Kraft is taking a similar approach with cream cheese, pushing the product as an ingredient for main course dishes, not just bagels. According to the ad agency Block & DeCorso, which managed Pompeian's ad campaign, "If you can get consumers to use olive oil where they're not using it now, then that's incremental growth."
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