Survival stories from rural entrepreneurs. From the pages of The Oklahoman comes a reminder to big-city entrepreneurs that their rural counterparts may operate under a different set of circumstances, but they still have some important lessons to teach on how to run a business. Becky McCray, an entrepreneur from Alva, Oklahoma, who owns a cattle range and a liquor store with her husband, speaks to the newspaper about how small-town entrepreneurs have learned to adapt to limited income streams, tighter budgets, and fewer customers. As McCray explains, "The market, your income, the value of your house or your business, these don't always go up. Small towns don't forget this. We are too close to farming. That changes the way a rural entrepreneur does business. We plan with a long-term perspective." McCray even has some thoughts on the value of social media. "With social media, all your customers can talk to each other. This has always been true in a small town where everybody talks to everybody else. We know that if all our customers can talk to each other, we must treat every customer very well, similarly but not the same."

Longtime Yankees owner dies. George Steinbrenner, a former shipping executive who bought the New York Yankees for $10 million in 1973 and transformed the struggling franchise over his tumultuous reign into a seven-time World Series champion worth $1.6 billion that fans either love or hate, died this morning at 80, The New York Times reports. His first taste of business came as young boy, raising chickens and selling their eggs. Over the decades of his ownership, Steinbrenner was perhaps best known for his meddling and impetuous nature and his free-spending ways. "A pioneer of modern sports ownership," The Times writes, "Mr. Steinbrenner started the wave of high spending for playing talent when free agency arrived in the mid-1970s, and he continued to spend freely through the Yankee's revival in the late '70s and early '80s." He was twice suspended by Major League Baseball and often feuded with managers and star players. "In many, many instances, George will follow my advice," his longtime publicist Howard Rubenstein told Inc. in 2004. "Sometimes he doesn't." But Steinbrenner will also be remembered as an owner committed to spending whatever it took to ensure a successful team and franchise. Under his leadership, the Yankees brought in significant revenue through the creation of the YES television network and marketing deals, such as a 10-year agreement with Adidas, The Times writes. Steinbrenner was also a generous philanthropist, explains the St. Petersburg Times, giving to many charities in Tampa, where he lived much of the year.

Hugh Hefner's bid to take Playboy private. Still swimming against the tide, formerly of federal anti-obscenity laws, now of the outbreak of IPOs, Hugh Hefner made a proposal to purchase outstanding shares of Playboy and take the company private (via Daily Finance). A release from the company reveals that Hef's motives are based on his concern for the editorial direction of the magazine and for Playboy's legacy. Despite his eagerness to retake control, the pajama-clad entrepreneur may face some stiff competition. The Wall Street Journal has announced that Penthouse's parent company, FriendFinder, plans to make a competing offer.  

What Google could learn from Apple. By now, you've probably seen those sappy iPhone 4 ads on TV, showing off the phone's new FaceTime feature. Cheesy? Perhaps, but according to Fast Company blogger Henrik Werdelin, these emotional "experiences" that Apple offers its users are exactly what set it apart from the competition (via Fast Company). Werdelin says other tech giants, like Google, need to put less emphasis on the usability of the tools they offer and spend more time providing customers with an experience. He says the new generation of tech consumers is looking for solutions to their problems, not tools that can fix a problem. "People never lack a screwdriver," he writes, "they need to hang a painting on the wall." To drive his point home, Werdelin points out the stark difference between the official videos for Android 2.2 and the iPhone 4. See for yourself.

The Inevitable Recall of the World's Greatest Smartphone. Speaking of the iPhone, Consumer Reports is sending mixed signals to potential iPhone 4 buyers this week. On the one hand, Cult of Mac says that in light of the agency's tests, released yesterday, showing that antenna issues are hardware-related, Apple will be forced to recall the iPhone 4. Apple initially claimed it was a result of the way the phone calculates signal strength and put out a software fix. After Consumer Reports said yesterday that it can't recommend buying an iPhone 4, crisis management expert Larry Barton told Cult of Mac, "They are in danger of betraying customers' trust and hurting the brand, which is infinitely more valuable than any one product." So how does all that jibe with Consumer Reports ratings of the same device? Not well. In its newest ratings, Consumer Reports gave the the latest iteration of the iPhone 76 out of 100, two points ahead of its closest rivals, reports AllThingsD. "In short, the iPhone 4 is hands-down the best smartphone available today, but Consumer Reports advises against buying it." (via Techmeme)

Skype and Fring's blog battle. Last week, mobile Internet-based phone service Fring announced a new feature that allowed users to video chat using the iPhone 4 over a 3G connection. (The iPhone currently requires WiFi for its FaceTime video chat.) The feature was so popular that Fring said it had to temporarily reduce support to Skype. That didn't sit too well with Skype, who announced that it was blocking Fring members from using its service. Fring fired back with a blog post calling Skype "cowards" and accusing them of trying to "muzzle competition, even at the expense of its own users." The logo of Skype on Fring's website is now (rather comically) crossed out with the words "Banned" appearing below. Skype responded that Fring's accusations are "untrue." The New York Times sums it up best: "The latest Silicon Valley squabble sounds like an unusually esoteric episode of "Gossip Girl." My Web Page

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