Is the "Check In" Era Nearly Over?
Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today.
Is the "check in" nearly dead? Could location-aware check-in services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places have already jumped the shark? Blasphemy, you say? Well, ReadWriteWeb's guest author Mark Watkins performs a pretty in-depth analysis of user bases, traffic, and check-in rates for Foursquare and Facebook Places—and the numbers might just speak louder than your sniffles, social-media junkie. Watkins, who is the founder of a "fun-things-to-do" recommendation engine, writes that while Foursquare has shown impressive year-over-year sign-up growth, "this means check-ins per user declined from 0.5 per person to 0.4. It also suggests that many of those five million users aren't active." Think about it: How many of your friends actually check-in regularly and post that on Facebook? Is it about 1 percent? Are check-ins going the way of the Hacky Sack and the eight-track?
How to get stuff done. In the latest podcast for the Harvard Business Review, the hyper-efficient Bob Pozen speaks with HBR's Justin Fox about how to be highly productive. "Let's concentrate on results, not on hours clocked," says Pozen, a business leader who wears hats in finance, academia, and on numerous corporate boards. Pozen's principles for higher productivity include think before you read (i.e. don't read randomly; read with an agenda in mind.) He also says you must know your comparative advantage—that is, what does your organization most need from you specifically? For example, if your company relies on you for PR or sales or recruiting, you should look to see a., if you are good at these tasks, and b., anyone else can do them just as well. Do what you and only you can do.
Rent too high? Blame the start-ups! From the days of the Gold Rush in 1849 to the technology boom in the 1990s, San Francisco's consumer-driven economy has long provided a haven for business opportunity and innovation. However, the influx of new start-ups and Silicon Valley firms to the city proper has caused a spike in rent costs, GigaOM reports. The average asking price for a loft space in the SoMA (South of Market) district, a hotbed for tech start-ups, has nearly doubled over the last year. "Everyone wants these creative spaces," said Blake Luger, a broker at Kidder Matthews, a commercial real estate firm based in Seattle. "But demand is growing and the supply is not." We can't help but wonder: Is this really start-up gentrification of the cool neighborhoods?
"Secret sauce" for jobs. You know Uncle Sam is looking at you, entrepreneurs. For Tim Kane, it's not rocket science: Cutting taxes will help entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs will create more jobs, more jobs will boost the economy. Kane spelled out this theory in a lengthy Huffington Post column yesterday. He writes: "What's the secret sauce for job creation? Step one is to identify who actually creates jobs (hint: entrepreneurs), and it seems like all parties in Washington finally agree on this one. Step two is to find the best way to, if you can forgive the term, stimulate them." Stimulate them, indeed. Kane calls for a less progressive tax system to limit the tax burden on entrepreneurs with sole proprietorships or LLCs, a solution which he claims is "sure to please no one." Still, he draws from his own paper to prove that start-ups create 150 percent of new jobs in the United States. As existing firms lose an average of 1 million jobs, start-ups create an average of 3 million. But are lower taxes really the answer? Inc. investigated that theory last month.
Who cheats on their taxes? University of Chicago economist Casey B. Mulligan writes in the New York Times today that "some people pay taxes not because of fines that the I.R.S. might levy, but because a tax conviction would harm their professional reputation and that, in turn, would lower their income." He posted one of the most amusing charts we've ever seen on the subject of taxes, placing various professions along a graph measuring importance of integrity in profession against net tax misreporting percentages. Guess what, sales professionals and techies? You apparently, in Oscar Vela's data supply, rank lower in misreportings, and higher in integrity than us media folks (although you don't hold a torch to lawyers. Analyze that).
Who lags in tech adoption? According to an annual study conducted by the World Economic Forum, we do. The United States is behind other countries when it comes to communications technology and computing use. The study ranks the U.S. at fifth, behind Sweden, Singapore, Finland, and Switzerland (in that order). The New York Times notes that the study compares results from 138 countries and actually began after the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2001. It also notes that the U.S. had a lot of "uneven" results when looking at its technology economic competitiveness, one which ranked the country 76th in the rate of mobile phone subscriptions. Can you hear me now?
The double-sided future of smartphones? First we had giant phones. Then flip phones came around, only to be ousted by single-sided touch-screen smartphones. Now, it seems, the next big thing could be a combination of all three: Giant, flip, touch-screen smartphones. Seriously. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the new Kyocera Echo from Sprint, which, at first glance, looks like a typical (albeit "chunky") flip Android. But when the top half is opened, it reveals another screen, giving the phone near-tablet size proportions. But will it stick? "Using two screens at once makes sense from a productivity standpoint," the Journal notes. But "I'd wager many people will use just one screen most of the time, since revealing the second screen requires the clunky step of folding back the top screen with an awkward hinge." In a broader sense, perhaps the real question that this phone begs is one of identity, that is, can a phone function as a tablet, and can a tablet function as a phone? Weigh in below with your comments and/or philosophical sentiments.
Newsweek chairman dies at 92. Less than a year after acquiring the struggling magazine, businessman and philanthropist Sidney Harman died Tuesday. He had been suffering with acute myeloid leukemia, according to The Daily Beast, the news website also owned by Harman. He made his fortune with Harman Kardon, an audio equipment manufacturer he co-founded in 1953. As The Daily Beast writes, "His stereo was a monster hit—the iPad of its day. Soon every educated music-lover in the country had to have a Harman Kardon and static became a thing of the past." He used that success to support the arts, education, and, in August 2010, to buy Newsweek from The Washington Post Company for $1. When he did so, his daughter Barbara told The New York Times "He's a man who needs a project…He will die working—if he does die—and he'll love every minute of it, because he'll pick things to do that are worth doing."
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CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer
Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.