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Instantaneous Demand

We live in a world where consumer demand is changing constantly.  Companies are always looking for ways to predict where future demand will be, but it is difficult to guess what is going to be in highest demand in the future.  Mixx, Digg, and Delicious may not be able to predict the future, but they are assessing current demand in a very powerful way.

Stock traders gesture while negotiating in the iBovespa future index pit at the Mercantile & Futures Exchange, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Global stock markets posted solid gains Wednesday, with investors buoyed by prospects for global interest rate cuts to help the world economy resist a slide into recession.

Mixx, Digg, and Delicious all use popularity in some way to suggest to users content that they might be interested in.   When a user checks out the content they can agree or disagree, which will affect others view of the content. 

These sites have harnessed technology to essentially get up-to-the-second reports on the popularity/demand for a product.  They are able to quantify market signals and determine the demand for these sites at this very moment.

If a business can’t predict the future demand, perhaps the next best thing is up-to-date measurements of demand.  Companies should study Digg, Mixx, and Delicious to see just how they measure demand and break it into different market segments, and then apply it to their companies in order to be able to better assess market demand.

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Kiva Teams

Can anything new be said about Kiva?  Probably not, but not too many people seems to know or talk about Kiva Lending Teams, so let’s explore them.

The beta version for the Kiva lending teams came out in late August of this year, and now there are 5,553 teams.  The lending teams do not actually lend the money, individuals lend their own money, they can just said that this money goes towards the Australia lending team’s goals, or whatever team they choose.

Setting up teams seems a little peculiar at first, but after looking at the teams for about a minute, it made perfect sense.  Why would a team make sense when they do not make any decisions?  Well one reason is competition.

Many of the top groups are very politically charged groups, for example:  “Kiva Christians,” “Team Obama,” and “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious.”  If you are a competitive person, like me, and you see that the Atheist group has lent more money than the Christian group, you are going to want to loan more money.

To join the Kiva Christian group and donate money was my first thought, but by the time I scrolled down to the bottom of the page I was laughing at myself.  If the Christian group loans more money than the Atheist group, does that prove anything?  No.  It’s foolish to think that for even a second.

I think that the Kiva teams encourage more loans and probably have some very functional uses, but I think that it is important to check you motives when you join one.

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fmylife.com: and you thought your life was bad?

I’ve taken a bunch of entrepreneurship classes, read a bunch of articles, and heard a lot of people talk about entrepreneurship and they all say that the best ideas are the simplest ones.  They are the ideas that people get as soon as you explain it to them.  Fmylife.com is the perfect example.

Fmylife.com is a blog to post humorous recollections “of everyday anecdotes likely to happen to anyone.”  People post short stories about unfortunate events that happened to them that day.  Here’s an example, “Today, I was walking my husky when she saw a cat and bolted toward it.  I coudn’t let go of the leash because my hand was tangled up.  Forced to run along, I ran into a parked van at full sprint.  I lost my dog, broke two ribs and have to pay for the dent in the van.  FML”

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I can’t tell you how many people have told me about fmylife.com in the past week, it’s unbelievable.  It is especially incredible considering the site was launched in English in January and by March 6, the Wall Street Journal reported that it had one million visitors daily.  As of today, fmylife.com’s site rank is 3,275.

Fmylife.com is a spin off of the French site VieDeMerde.fr.  This site was developed by two French entrepreneurs and launched in January 08.  They have now published a book in France with their VDM stories, have one of the top ten most visited sites in France, and are publishing a book in English with FML stories that is coming out this summer.

Fmylife.com is an incredibly simple site; it is just a blog.  Not only that, but it isn’t even that asthetically pleasing (this site far surpasses it).  Fmylife.com makes money through advertising, through publishing books, and all of their matterial comes from the user.  All fmylife has to do is maintain the site and weed through the stories users submit to find good ones to publish. 

Not only is the cost of running the business low, but contributors are able to laugh at the bad stuff going on in their lives, and readers are able to laugh at their own troubles seeing that they often do not compare to others issues.  What a great business!… or is it?

While much of the content on the website is truely funny, if you haven’t guessed so far from the name of the website, which stands for f*** my life, much of the content is also very crass and vulgar, and this is a question the entrepreneur needs to look at.  Just because there is a great way to legally make a lot of money, does that mean an entrepreneur should do it?   …more on that in weeks to come.

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Riding the Waves in a Sea of Competition

Kayak.com is one of the newer online airline ticketers, and in my opinion is the best.  Kayak is simple to use, seems to find the best prices, and it displays only the final price of the ticket (unlike some sites which give you the price of the ticket, but doesn’t add in the tax and other fees…it’s unbelievably annoying). 

Not only do I find Kayak better than its competitors when they offer the same services, but Kayak sees the future of online travel, particularly for young travelers.  On a traditional site, you have to search for tickets to a specific location and on specific days, but not with Kayak. 

For many people the most expensive part of their trip is the airline ticket itself, they don’t have specific dates they have to fly, and sometimes they don’t care where they go.  But in order to find tickets on a normal travel sight, one needs to know the dates they are flying, where they are flying out of, and where they want to go.  Insert Kayak Buzz.

Kayak Buzz allows you see lowest prices people have found in the last 2 days to a certain destination.  Sometimes these prices aren’t available anymore, but it gives you a good idea of what the prices could be, or what days to search for flights.  You can also search for the lowest prices found in the last few days to regions of the world, like the Caribbean, Europe, etc without specifying dates.   This way if you have a general idea of where you might want to go or when you might want to go, you can find the best ticket prices possible.

Kayak Buzz isn’t perfect, or exactly where the online travel industry will end up, but it is headed in the right direction and is ahead of its competitors. 

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Ad Tracking Hurts Online Businesses

Internet users are now used to getting many online services for free, like facebook, or online dictionaries, or just about any information that someone could want.  These services are free to the user because of online advertising.

Advertising is used ubiquitously off of the internet to reduce cost to the consumer and increase profitability for the business.  Some examples are advertisements at sporting events, advertisements in news papers, advertisement on TV, etc.

The effectiveness of online advertising can be measured with ease which is a blessing and a curse.  It is great for advertisers because they then know how effective their advertisements are and they have a bargaining chip in reference to the cost of advertising.  

With most other forms of advertising it is difficult to track how effective advertisements are.  In the online sector, impression advertising has been on the decline, and click-throughs has been on the rise, precisely because you are paying for effective advertising.  If offline advertisers had a similar system to the click-through ads, I think we would see a demise in advertising.  Thus, I think that tracking the effectivity of ads has made profitability in the online sector very difficult.

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