Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Throwback direct mailer joins the daily deals fray. You've let their envelope sit on your kitchen counter for weeks before opening it and rejoicing over the two-for-one chicken parmigiana coupon for your local pizzeria hidden deep in the pack. Now traditional coupon direct mailer Valpak is announcing a move into the crowded field of daily deal sites with the launch of ValpakDeals.com. Rather than launch initially in big cities, the company is first taking on Long Island, New York, Omaha, Nebraska, and New Haven, Connecticut.
Progress made on small-business aid bill. The Senate moved one step closer to passing a small-business aid package which includes a $30 billion lending fund and $12 billion in tax relief for small businesses when they voted 61-37 in favor of the bill yesterday. As the Washington Post reports, a longstanding logjam over the legislation was ended when two Republicans, George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.), crossed party lines and gave the Democrats the 60 votes needed to overcome a possible filibuster. The Democrats have estimated that the legislation could create as many as 700,000 jobs, leading Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to describe it as "the most significant thing we've done since the stimulus bill."
The Twitter takeover. Twitter's rolling out a new web interface, which, according to Mashable, will include both photo and video capabilities. The microblogging site has also teamed up with 16 new partners, including Flickr, Justin.TV, Vimeo and YouTube, virtually eliminating the need to leave the site to access most multimedia. The revamp raises questions about the sustainability of Twitter offshoots like Tweetie and TweetDeck, though Twitter CEO Evan Williams maintains that 78 percent of users are already logging in directly to Twitter to access their accounts. The changes also make Twitter operate a whole lot more like Facebook. As Mashable writes, "Last year, the story was all about the 'Twitterification' of Facebook. Today will be about the 'Facebookification' of Twitter."
Pop-up books: move over. With the popularization of e-publishing, Ruckus Media Group LLC will seek to deliver a hi-tech facelift to the concept of nighttime reading. The interactive digital media house, founded by the former head of kids' books at Simon & Schuster, will deliver apps to smartphones and iPads that are more than just e-books of popular kid's titles. According to the company's website, they will contain pictures, music and dynamics that utilize touch screen technology to help kids "expand their imaginations." Jeffrey Trachtenberg, writing in the Wall Street Journal, points out that a child may soon be able to "tickle a character, record her own voice reading or complete a maze" using these apps. He also notes that because kids' books generally rely heavily on rich colors and graphics, they have been slow to hit the handheld digital market. Now, it seems, with the proper platforms in place, digital children's books will cast an imposing force on the publishing landscape.
The start-up job machine. For a long time we've known that small businesses account for much of the thrust behind job growth in America. Two-thirds of new new jobs are created by companies with fewer than 500 employees. A closer look at the numbers reveals that not all small businesses are responsible for creating jobs, however. Research reported by the New York Times found that once the age of the business is taken into account, there is no difference in the job-producing output of small companies and big ones. Despite the apparent good news, it still remains a cautionary tale for young companies. Start-ups have equal potential to destroy jobs as they do to create, and the government will need to focus on the proper business and policy steps to nurture these successful upstarts, The Times writes.
The Google social network. Yesterday, Google's Chief Executive Eric Schmidt described the company's foray into social networking as working in "layers." Google has made a series of small to mid-size purchases lately, including a $182 million deal to take over social networking firm Slide, and media reports have pegged them as developing a new product dubbed Google ME to compete with Facebook. Though Schmidt has adamantly denied the announcement of a flashy new product, he did speak with Reuters Tuesday about his company's recent acquisitions. He says he doesn't expect a "double dip" recession and that the high-tech sector will benefit from new product cycles and lots of new investments like the ones Google has made.
JASON DEL REY was a senior reporter covering technology, branding, and company culture for Inc. magazine. Before joining Inc., his work appeared in Newsday, The (Newark) Star-Ledger, and the Staten Island Advance, and on ESPN.com. He lives in New Jersey. @DelRey