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Monday, August 31, 2009

Is Google Sitting on the Clock of eBay?

By The Wall Street Journal

Is Google the next eBay?

Maybe. There are some worrisome parallels between Google today and eBay in 2005-06, as the online-auction company's growth was faltering.

Consider this history: In August 2004, then-Chief Executive Meg Whitman said she didn't believe eBay was approaching anything like saturation. Just six months later the company issued a weaker-than-expected forecast that in hindsight was the end of its red-hot growth phase. EBay's stock is now trading at less than half its December 2004 level.

googleThrough 2005-06 some hoped that eBay's PayPal unit, acquired in 2002, and Skype, in 2005, would prove to be new growth engines, along with international markets. As it turned out, of course, after writing off much of the Skype purchase price, eBay now is looking to jettison it. And growth at PayPal and internationally hasn't been enough to stop eBay's top-line growth rate from decelerating.

When it comes to Google, there also are hopes for international growth. YouTube has some similarities with Skype, high user traffic but relatively low revenue. Whether YouTube can live up to its promise as a big ad platform is uncertain.

Another of Google's potential growth engines is Android. But its ability to help Google expand in the mobile-ad market remains unproved.

Certainly, Google can claim lots of phones soon may be using the Android operating system. Unfortunately, they don't include the two phone brands that account for much of the growth in the smart-phone market, Apple and Research In Motion's BlackBerry. Google also is banking on expanding into display advertising.

While investors wait for these new initiatives to prove themselves, growth is slowing in the core paid-search ad business. Google's revenue growth rate has fallen from 93% in 2005 to 31% in 2008.

The recession has demonstrated the Internet company isn't immune from pressures other ad-dependent businesses face. Revenue growth dropped to 3% year on year in the second quarter.

Moreover, as U.S. revenue growth was only 1.6%, it is possible that Google's core search business actually shrank in the U.S. when contributions from newer businesses like mobile advertising are excluded.

Google's revenue growth will certainly accelerate coming out of the recession. The issue is by how much and for how long.

In the short term, growth will be sparked by "price reinflation of key words," said Majestic Research Managing Director John Aiken. Prices fell during the worst of the slump. Assuming demand returns, price per clicks should rise again.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of GoogleBut that won't sustain growth long term. That rests on several other variables, including where consumers go to search the Internet and how many searches they do.

Competition from Microsoft's revamped search engine, Bing, is showing signs of life. Search marketing reported this month that Bing had lifted its paid-click market share 44% since the beginning of June. It still is only 4.9%, but Microsoft's share will rise assuming the deal with Yahoo is completed.

It would be foolish to predict that Google won't have another business success, of course. Microsoft managed to leverage its strength in PC operating systems into a stranglehold over the word-processing and spreadsheet applications.

But investors should be careful buying on such hopes. With Google's medium-term revenue growth likely to fall toward 10%, it is hard to justify paying 25 times 2009 consensus earnings, including the cost of employee stock options. Google may itself discover the next Google-like business.

But until it proves that case, investors may want to wait for the stock to retreat.
By The Wall Street Journal

Google Faces Suit Over On2 Purchase

Google Inc.'s acquisition of video compression software maker On2 Technologies Inc. has been challenged in court by On2 shareholders who claim the deal's $106.5 million price tag is "unfair."

The complaint, filed in Delaware Court of Chancery on Monday, seeks class action status and a permanent injunction blocking the deal. The plaintiffs also demand that the defendants, which include On2's board as well as Google, account for all damages caused.

Google declined to comment on the complaint. On2, which produces software that makes high-definition video playback possible on mobile devices, wasn't available for comment.

Under the terms of the deal, each On2 share will be converted into 60 cents in Google stock -- a 57% premium over the closing price for On2's shares the day before the deal was announced.

The complaint argues that prior to the transaction, On2's stock had been trading "well in excess" of 60 cents, hitting 65 cents as recently as May 13, and reaching $1.16 in 2008.

The complaint alleges that On2 management and Google rushed to announce the deal just one day before the small software company reported its best quarterly financial results in six quarters.

On2 last week announced a loss of $224,000 for the quarter on $5 million in revenue.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why AT&T Killed Google Voice

By The Wall Street Journal

Earlier this month, Apple rejected an application for the iPhone called Google Voice. The uproar set off a chain of events—Google's CEO Eric Schmidt resigning from Apple's board, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigating wireless open access and handset exclusivity—that may finally end the 135-year-old Alexander Graham Bell era. It's about time.

With Google Voice, you have one Google phone number that callers use to reach you, and you pick up whichever phone—office, home or cellular—rings. You can screen calls, listen in before answering, record calls, read transcripts of your voicemails, and do free conference calls. Domestic calls and texting are free, and international calls to Europe are two cents a minute. In other words, a unified voice system, something a real phone company should have offered years ago.

Apple has an exclusive deal with AT&T in the U.S., stirring up rumors that AT&T was the one behind Apple rejecting Google Voice. How could AT&T not object? AT&T clings to the old business of charging for voice calls in minutes. It takes not much more than 10 kilobits per second of data to handle voice. In a world of megabit per-second connections, that's nothing—hence Google's proposal to offer voice calls for no cost and heap on features galore.

What this episode really uncovers is that AT&T is dying. AT&T is dragging down the rest of us by overcharging us for voice calls and stifling innovation in a mobile data market critical to the U.S. economy.

For the latest quarter, AT&T reported local voice revenue down 12%, long distance down 15%. With customers unplugging home phones and using flat-rate Internet services for long-distance calls (again, voice is just data), AT&T's wireline operating income is down 36%. Even in the wireless segment, which grew 10% overall, per-customer voice revenue is down 7%.

Wireless data service is AT&T's only bright spot, up a whopping 26% per customer. How so? As any parent of teenagers knows, text messages are 20 cents each, or $5,000 per megabyte. After the first month and a $320 bill, we all pony up $10 a month for unlimited texting plans. Same for Internet access. With my iPhone, I pay $30 a month for unlimited data service (actually, one gigabyte per month). Is it worth that? The à la carte price for other not-so-smart phones is $5 per megabyte (one-thousandth of a gigabyte) per month. So we buy monthly plans. Margins in AT&T's Wireless segment are an embarrassingly high 25%.

The trick in any communications and media business is to own a pipe between you and your customers so you can charge what you like. Cellphone companies don't have wired pipes, but by owning spectrum they do have a pipe and pricing power.

Aren't there phone competitors to knock down the price? Hardly. Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and others all joined AT&T in bidding huge amounts for wireless spectrum in FCC auctions, some $70-plus billion since the mid-1990s. That all gets passed along to you and me in the form of higher fees and friendly oligopolies that don't much compete on price. Google Voice is the new competition.

By the way, Apple also has a pipe—call it a virtual pipe—to customers. Its iTunes music service (now up to one-quarter of all music sales, according to NPD Market Research) works exclusively with iPods and iPhones. The new Palm Pre, another exclusive deal, this time by Verizon Wireless, tricked iTunes into thinking it was an iPod. Apple quickly changed its software to lock the Pre out, and one would expect Apple locking out any Google phone from using iTunes.

It wouldn't be so bad if we were just overpaying for our mobile plans. Americans are used to that—see mail, milk and medicine. But it's inexcusable that new, feature-rich and productive applications like Google Voice are being held back, just to prop up AT&T while we wait for it to transition away from its legacy of voice communications. How many productive apps beyond Google Voice are waiting in the wings?

So now the FCC and its new Chairman Julius Genachowski are getting involved. Usually this means a set of convoluted rules to make up for past errors in allocating scarce resources that—in the name of "fairness"—end up creating a new mess.

Some might say it is time to rethink our national communications policy. But even that's obsolete. I'd start with a simple idea. There is no such thing as voice or text or music or TV shows or video. They are all just data. We need a national data policy, and here are four suggestions:

• End phone exclusivity. Any device should work on any network. Data flows freely.

• Transition away from "owning" airwaves. As we've seen with license-free bandwidth via Wi-Fi networking, we can share the airwaves without interfering with each other. Let new carriers emerge based on quality of service rather than spectrum owned. Cellphone coverage from huge cell towers will naturally migrate seamlessly into offices and even homes via Wi-Fi networking. No more dropped calls in the bathroom.

• End municipal exclusivity deals for cable companies. TV channels are like voice pipes, part of an era that is about to pass. A little competition for cable will help the transition to paying for shows instead of overpaying for little-watched networks. Competition brings de facto network neutrality and open access (if you don't like one service blocking apps, use another), thus one less set of artificial rules to be gamed.

• Encourage faster and faster data connections to our homes and phones. It should more than double every two years. To homes, five megabits today should be 10 megabits in 2011, 25 megabits in 2013 and 100 megabits in 2017. These data-connection speeds are technically doable today, with obsolete voice and video policy holding it back.

Technology doesn't wait around, so it's all going to happen anyway, but it will take longer under today's rules. A weak economy is not the time to stifle change.

Data is toxic to old communications and media pipes. Instead, data gains value as it hops around in the packets that make up the Internet structure. New services like Twitter and other social media sites promoting top search engine placement don't need to file with the FCC.

And new features for apps like Google Voice are only limited by the imagination. Mother-in-law location alerts? Video messaging? Whatever. The FCC better not treat AT&T and Verizon like Citigroup, GM and the Post Office. Cellphone operators aren't too big to fail. Rather, the telecom sector is too important to be allowed to hold back the rest of us.
By The Wall Street Journal

Media Firms, Advertisers Study Nielsen Alternative

A dozen major media companies, advertisers and ad agencies are banding together to find new ways of measuring television-viewing habits, a move that could create fresh competition for Nielsen Co.

Dubbed the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, the consortium plans to explore ways of using TV set-top boxes from cable and satellite companies and other tools to measure TV watching, according to people familiar with the matter. The effort aims to measure audiences across TV, the Web and mobile devices, the people said.

Media companies involved in the consortium include General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, News Corp., Time Warner Inc., Viacom Inc., CBS Corp., Discovery Communications Inc. and Walt Disney Co., according to people familiar with the matter. News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.

The consortium's plan could be a shot across the bow of Nielsen, which has seen an increase in the number of challengers to its dominant position in the business of gauging the audiences commanded by TV shows. The coalition will explore options that include working with those competitors, creating a new competitor or even working with Nielsen as a data provider, some people familiar with the matter said.

The effort is still preliminary and wouldn't immediately create a replacement for Nielsen, people familiar with the matter said.

"We are not responding to something that's not yet announced," said Karen Gyimesi, a Nielsen spokeswoman.

Nielsen uses a panel of U.S. households to estimate how many people watch TV shows. Networks and advertisers then use the Nielsen data to set advertising rates. Nielsen charges both networks and advertisers for access to the data.

TV-network owners and ad agencies have long chafed at Nielsen's tight control over quantifying TV viewing. In the late 1990s, TV networks teamed up with advertising agencies and planned to spend tens of millions of dollars to launch a rival to Nielsen, dubbed Smart. That effort fizzled in part because of the high cost.

But network executives have continued to complain that Nielsen doesn't measure their audiences accurately. In May, Nielsen fanned those worries when it told networks that some people in Nielsen households hadn't been following instructions to push buttons that register who in a household is actually watching TV, possibly depressing its viewer estimates.

The new coalition is also an effort to address the growing use of the Web and mobile devices to watch TV, say people familiar with the matter. Nielsen and other firms track some of that activity, but network executives have argued that a lack of standardization has hindered their ability to make money on new ways their shows are being seen.

The plans were reported earlier by the Financial Times.

Advertisers in the group include Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever, Dell and AT&T Inc., people familiar with the matter said. Advertising firms including WPP PLC's GroupM and Publicis Groupe SA's Starcom Mediavest are also participating in the group, those people said.

NBC Universal has been one of central proponents of the coalition, say some people familiar with the matter. Jeff Zucker, the company's chief executive, reached out to major advertisers such Unilever and ad buying giants such as Starcom Mediavest earlier this year about a forming some sort of alliance to find a new ways to measure viewership across different media, some of these people say.

Last year, in a bid to promote its broadcasts of the Beijing Olympics, the company also cobbled together a group of measurement companies to tally the event's audience across various media, including video-on-demand, TV, cell phones and the Web.

"Management said to me we have to figure out a way to go beyond Nielsen to measure this stuff," Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal's president of research and media development, said at the time.

The agreement to create the coalition itself has yet to be finalized, according to some people familiar with the matter. The companies had been set to announce it in early August, and a press release announcing the effort has been readied, these people said. But that plan has been delayed, in part as lawyers review the project for possible anti-trust or collusion concerns because so many competitors are involved, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Other people cited the difficulty in coordinating such a large number of participants as a reason for the delay.

Over the past few years, Nielsen's grip on the media-measurement business has loosened somewhat. Companies such as WPP's TNS Media Intelligence and TiVo Inc. have started offering advertisers and network more granular data on TV viewing by using data from cable set-top boxes. Some of the services can estimate how many people are watching in different parts of a commercial break.

Nielsen has responded by with its own new services. Last year, the company began offering a new service that uses information from cable set-top boxes in approximately 330,000 households in Los Angeles. It gets the data from cable operator Charter Communications Inc.

Nielsen is also using a test-bed of households to refine techniques for extending its TV ratings to cover at least some TV shows that are watched on the Web, executives said in an interview last month. The technology is separate from its existing services to measure traffic to Web sites and for online video.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Apple in hot water in France over 'exploding iPhones'

Half a dozen new cases of "exploding iPhones" emerged in France on Wednesday, as Apple faced an official inquiry and calls to come clean over possible risks linked to its wildly popular smartphone.

apple iphone explodesAn 80-year-old pensioner from the Paris suburbs said Wednesday his iPhone screen cracked up in his hands, a day after a supermarket watchman claimed he was hurt in the eye when his screen suddenly shattered this week.

Ten French consumers have now come forward saying their iPhone screens exploded or cracked without explanation, according to an AFP tally, including a first case in mid-August in which a teenager suffered an eye injury.

Apple is accused of trying to hush up 15 cases of iPod music players heating up and bursting into flames in the United States and in one similar British case, all apparently due to overheated lithium ion batteries.

None of the incidents has caused a serious injury but Apple was forced to defend the safety of its flagship smartphone before the European Union this month, insisting the exploding screen cases were "isolated incidents".

The US technology giant, which has sold 26 million iPhones and 200 million iPods to date, said it been informed of the French cases, but would not comment until it had examined the damaged phones.

"We are aware of these reports and we are waiting to receive the iPhones from the customers. Until we have the full details, we don't have anything further to add," Alan Hely, head of communications at Apple Europe, told AFP.

But France's official competition, consumer affairs and fraud watchdog, the DGCCRF, has launched an investigation to find out whether the Apple smartphone could pose a threat to consumers.

"An investigation is under way. We have been alerted to the problem and we are looking into it closely," a spokesman said Tuesday.

France's consumer rights group, UFC-Que Choisir, also called on Apple to come clean about possible faults with its iPod and iPhone devices.

"We want to know if this is an isolated incident as they claim, or a real problem involving the iPhone -- in which case, what are they planning by way of compensation and to prevent it happening again?" said a spokesman.

In the British case Apple came under fire for allegedly asking the young girl's family to sign a confidentiality agreement -- slammed as a "gagging order" -- before it would agree to refund her.

In the latest French incident, Rolland Caufman, a pensioner from the Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Sec, says his iPhone screen broke up on July 21, the week after he bought it.

"I went out shopping, with my iPhone in my left pocket, when I suddenly felt it heat up and start vibrating -- even though I never use the vibrate setting.

"I took it out of my pocket and held it to my ear -- and saw the screen crack up like a car windscreen," he told AFP.

Caufman says Apple initially refused to believe him, before finally sending him a free replacement.

On Tuesday, 26-year-old security guard Yassine Bouhadi, claimed he was hit in the eye with a glass shard when the screen of his iPhone cracked up. He said he would seek a full refund and file suit for damages.

French mobile phone operator Orange said it had been contacted by two customers with shattered iPhone screens, out of 1.2 million iPhones sold.

The European Commission has asked all 27 EU nations to keep it informed of any problems, under the community's rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products, known as RAPEX.

Commission spokeswoman Helen Kearns said "Apple has been very cooperative", stressing that RAPEX alerts were issued every week -- sometimes leading to mass product recalls, but at other times with no consequence.

"We're not there yet. We just need to monitor closely now and see if these are isolated incidents," she told AFP.

"We'll be vigilant and if necessary we'll take further actions. But we need to examine the situation better."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

YouTube Pumps More Ads Into Lineup

YouTube SEO

Google Inc., which has struggled for nearly three years to turn YouTube into an advertising platform, is aggressively pushing new ad formats and ramping up deals with media companies for the online video site.

YouTube said Wednesday it will distribute a range of short clips from Time Warner Inc. properties such as CNN and the Cartoon Network. The agreement follows similar deals struck with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC and ESPN and a number of Hollywood studios earlier this year.

Such content is one piece of YouTube's new money-making emphasis -- a sweeping effort the company has tapped Google veteran Salar Kamangar to oversee. More professional shows help it attract higher ad rates. But to get the content, YouTube has had to push a range of new ad products to generate enough revenue to share with partners.

YouTube has recently added larger ad formats, shown a greater variety of ads against user-uploaded content and promoted videos that draw higher ad rates more than other videos.

While YouTube continues to lose money, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette recently told analysts he was "really pleased" with YouTube's revenue growth and said it will be profitable "in the not long, too long distant future." Some Wall Street analysts estimate YouTube's revenue will roughly double to about $500 million this year.

Many changes at YouTube have been spearheaded by Mr. Kamangar, who since September has jointly run the video site with its co-founder and CEO, Chad Hurley. YouTube's other co-founder, Steve Chen, left his role at the site to work on other Google projects around that time.

Mr. Kamangar, who joined Google in 1999 fresh out of Stanford University and helped build Google's AdWords search-ad system, has pressed YouTube to be more aggressive with online ads and advocated promoting more content from media companies on YouTube's homepage.

One of Mr. Kamangar's first priorities was moving more Google engineers to YouTube's offices in San Bruno, Calif., about 25 miles away from Google's headquarters in Mountain View. He completed the shift of YouTube's video-serving operations onto Google's infrastructure, reducing video-serving costs and allowing the site to roll out features faster.

In an interview, the soft-spoken 32-year-old said the push for new ad products is driven by YouTube's need to make more money for premium video creators, whose content is increasingly among the most popular on the site.

"We can't be successful unless our partners are successful and making money," said Mr. Kamangar, a Google vice president of product management, who has stayed out of the public spotlight.
YouTube SEOAdvertisers are noticing a difference. YouTube is "definitely being more creative," said Nick Bomersbach, vice president of e-commerce for J.C. Penney Co. The retailer is making YouTube "a much more important component of our marketing campaigns," he added, after a campaign it launched in July to promote its new clothing line from professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler was more successful in directing traffic to the retailer's Web site than its previous YouTube campaigns.

YouTube has mostly been a distraction since Google bought it for $1.7 billion in 2006. The Internet giant hasn't been able to turn a profit from the video site even though YouTube has grown into a massive destination, with 428 million unique monthly visitors in June, according to comScore.

As a result, YouTube has fueled doubts about whether Google can profit off anything other than search advertising, which generated the majority of its $21.8 billion in 2008 annual revenue.

YouTube has also embroiled Google in a legal battle with Viacom Inc., which sued in 2007, contending the video-sharing site violated its copyrights. Lawyers for both sides are currently building their cases and a trial date has yet to be set.

Last year, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt admitted that making money from YouTube was "taking longer than I thought."

Mr. Schmidt made turning around YouTube a company-wide goal and Mr. Kamangar was chosen to jointly run YouTube with Mr. Hurley.

Mr. Kamangar, who was among the first dozen people hired at Google, had most recently overseen Google Web applications, including Gmail and Picasa, Google's photo-sharing service.

Mr. Hurley, 32, credited Mr. Kamangar with improving YouTube's "focus and understanding" on "the advertising side," as well as smoothing communications with headquarters.

"We're going through the process of still learning the ins and outs [with Google], even though it has been two years, and he's helping us navigating the waters," said Mr. Hurley.

Mr. Kamangar has pushed YouTube staffers to take more risks. Last November, he overrode some executives' concerns about whether a feature that allowed people to watch video in high-definition was ready to launch. The feature went live three hours later.

This spring, after being told YouTube hadn't sold an ad on the home page for a few days, Mr. Kamangar advocated taking video ads that appeared on other areas of the site to fill that prominent space. Revenue from the home page increased, the company said.

Friday, August 21, 2009

By The Associated Press

Veterans Start Over as Colleges Ignore Experience

Twelve years of military service left Donald Spradling highly trained in satellite imagery, nuclear engineering and foreign intelligence analysis. None of that made a difference to the University of Missouri.

When the fall semester begins next week, the 33-year-old father of five will be taking largely introductory courses with the rest of the school's freshmen.

Nearly half a million veterans are expected on college campuses this year as part of the new GI Bill. The surge is leading to a call for schools to re-examine their policies of declining to grant college credit for military training and service, along with offering them veteran scholarships.

An estimated one in five colleges and universities do not offer military scholarships or give academic credit for military education, according to a recent survey of 723 schools by the American Council on Education that is believed to be the first systematic measure. Even more of the schools, 36 percent, said they don't award credit for military occupational training.

For Spradling and others, that can mean spending more on tuition, stretching financial aid or GI Bill scholarships and delaying their entry into the work force.

In most cases, it's simply an academic decision that they're not going to award any credit for learning acquired outside a traditional classroom.

It may be very practical skills acquisition, but that may not be what university education sets out to do. Universities are looking to build on a framework, a foundation of knowledge.

At Boston College, a private school, the standard has always been to accept credit only for institutions of higher education.

Many college-bound veterans said military recruiters often offer an unrealistic portrayal of what awaits in academia, suggesting their military coursework and training will count for college credit.

Some advocates also fault a campus climate where military training is poorly understood. They say many schools underestimate the quality of their education, and unlike community college credit or Advanced Placement classes, it's not easy to measure.

Because of their lack of knowledge of the military, they don't equate it as the same as being in the classroom. But, some colleges are promoting their credits for military work as a way to recruit veterans.

School's are starting to establish college scholarships for veterans and have established two degree programs geared specifically for service members: an emergency medical care degree for Special Forces medics and an emergency and disaster management degree for civil affairs personnel. Both accept military training and transfer military training for credit for other degrees.
By The Wall Street Journal

Medicare For All Isn't The Answer

With Congress now in recess, the debate over health-care reform has moved to each member’s home district. The American people have rightly been asking elected officials many probing questions. While few Americans deny we need health-insurance reform (too many people lack adequate coverage), most believe we receive the best quality health care in the world and do not want to see it compromised.

Several advocacy groups and members of Congress want a individual health insurance plans, modeled after Medicare, to cover all Americans. They say Medicare works to provide health care to seniors, so the government should extend the program to Americans of all ages. Others want to create a government-run plan, sometimes called a "public option," which they say would compete with private insurance but would only be two steps away from individual health insurance plans.

There are more than 1,300 insurance companies competing for business without unneeded competition from a federal government plan. Backed by tax dollars, a government-run option could offer artificially low rates without regard to profitability, or even meeting operating expenses. That would push businesses to move employees to the public-option plan, ultimately putting private insurers out of business and leaving only individual health insurance plans run by the government.

Individual health insurance plans may appear attractive to some. But as someone with more than 30 years of experience running a leading hospital company with international operations, I have firsthand knowledge of the hidden costs.

Medicare reimbursements to hospitals fail to cover the actual cost of providing services. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent congressional advisory agency, says hospitals received only 94.1 cents for every dollar they spent treating Medicare patients in 2007. MedPAC projects that number to decline to 93.1 cents per dollar spent in 2009, for an operating shortfall of 7%. Medicare works because hospitals subsidize the care they provide with revenue received from patients who have commercial insurance. Without that revenue, hospitals could not afford to care for those covered by Medicare. In effect, everyone with insurance is subsidizing the Medicare shortfall, which is growing larger every year.

If hospitals had to rely solely on Medicare reimbursements for operating revenue, as would occur under a single-payer system, many hospitals would be forced to eliminate services, cut investments in advanced medical technology, reduce the number of nurses and other employees, and provide less care for the patients they serve. And with the government in control, Americans eventually will see rationing, the denial of high-priced drugs and sophisticated procedures, and long waits for care.

Advocates of individual health insurance plans say that hospitals would survive if they learned to operate more efficiently. While we are always looking for ways to improve efficiency, the economic conditions of the past few years have already forced most institutions to reduce expenses and increase efficiency as much as possible.

The reality is that Americans have come to expect the best health care in the world, and to provide that, hospitals must continue to invest in advanced medical technology, salaries for well-trained nurses and technicians, and state-of-the-art facilities. If hospitals were required to operate solely on revenue from a single-payer system, they could no longer afford to provide the care that Americans deserve.

Most people in America are satisfied with the care they receive, so it is important that we take the time to fix only the parts of our system that need repair. Let's not destroy a system that works well for most Americans. Let's judiciously change only the areas in need.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stand Out With Your Jewelry

Unique jewelry gifts can change an outfit dramatically. Unique jewelry can either be huge, tiny or even unnoticeable. Your desire to select a wedding jewelry that would perfectly fit your dress. In choosing the right jewelry in a specific occasion, you must know what kind will match your dress, your shoes, your skin tone and even your eyes. You can definitely collect a perfect jewelry for your dress, from dolphin jewelry to plumeria jewelry, you're sure to find something to complement your dress.

You really don’t need to be a celebrity or a superstar to be the center of attention in a gathering. You can have a unique style of your own by wearing estate jewelry that will make you stand out from everyone else. You have to pass through many hardships, practice and studying in order to establish a style of you own.

Vintage jewelry is an ever-increasing trend and lots of women are going further than just dolphin jewelry and plumeria jewelry, and wonderful wedding jewelry that will complement any dress.
Story by The Wall Street Journal

Yahoo Searches for an End to Its Dog Days

Is it time to let Yahoo out of the doghouse?

The Web portal alienated much of Wall Street with the terms of its search deal with Microsoft. But, with the shares now off 16% since the deal was announced, investors may want to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Despite all the turmoil at the company, the number of unique monthly visitors to Yahoo sites continues to grow. It rose 10% in the year to June to 154 million, according to comScore, 79.5% of the total U.S. Internet audience and only a little below Google in terms of reach. Microsoft, No. 3 in reach, is well below, at 66%. Most of Yahoo's departments, including email, news, Yahoo Answers, sports, finance and entertainment also are growing in double-digit percentage terms. Internationally, Yahoo's traffic is up although not as much as the overall Internet audience.

YahooMaximizing the revenue potential of that huge audience is a challenge that has bedeviled Yahoo as much as other big-audience Web sites like social networks. It would be foolish to bet that the challenge can't be overcome.

After all, people spend 34% of their media time online, compared with 35% watching TV, according to a recent study by Forrester Research. But TV's percentage of ad spending is 31%, while the Internet draws only 12%—of which paid-search advertising is close to half.

Yahoo's potential is in boosting the share accruing to display advertising. Part of that means getting more big "brand" advertisers to spend money online., an ad firm, estimates that only 5% of brand-focused advertising dollars has moved online, compared to 30% of direct-response ad dollars. Changing that requires better performance measures for display ads and better targeting for specific demographic groups. Standardized formats for video ads would be helpful, too.

The biggest challenge may be the oversupply of inventory that has helped depress prices for display. But Yahoo's hefty audience should prove a draw for big marketers.

So how much of this potential is built into Yahoo's current share price of $14.46? Not a lot. Consider: Yahoo has roughly $2.75 a share in cash and marketable securities. UBS estimates Yahoo's stakes in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group are valued at another $5.81 a share, discounted 20% for tax and illiquidity. This figure is probably conservative, given the growth of Alibaba's Taobao Chinese e-commerce site. UBS values Yahoo's search business at $6.05 a share, assuming 10 times 2010 projected search earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $855 million. And that's before the impact of the Microsoft deal.

There may be no way around the reality that a more traditional media business built on audience and display advertising isn't going to be as high-margin as search. But Google has so far got search locked up.

Yahoo already has been punished for squandering the chance to squeeze a big premium from Microsoft. But that is done. Investors might now focus more on the potential. The deal with Microsoft could make a stronger competitor to Google, giving Yahoo upside on its share of search revenues. It will let Yahoo avoid trying to keep up in the technology-spending battle with deeper-pocketed rivals. And, although Yahoo is taking the risky step of losing control of its destiny when it comes to search, management will at least be able to focus exclusively on trying to crack the lucrative code for display advertising.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bing Showing Growth

When it comes to search, there is little change month to month, but the little changes are beginning to add up. At least a little. According to the latest report from Nielsen Online Google still leads the search pack with nearly 65% share of searches. However, newcomer Bing continues to show strong growth.

Here is the breakdown: Google leads with a 64.8% share (3% increase over June), Yahoo is next with a 17% share (11% increase) and then Bing with a 9% search share (8% increase). Rounding out the top five are AOL (3% share) and (1% share).

Bing SEO

Googlers conducted 6.8 billion searches while Bingers conducted nearly 10 million. Although that is a very large difference, we must keep repeating that Bing only launched a few weeks prior to June and already it is in the top 3; being a part of Microsoft is part of the rapid growth, but consumers are coming back to the engine.

In a related report search advertising network Chitika found that Bing could be outperforming Google when it comes to searches. Researchers found that consumers using Bing were 55% more likely to click organic search listings that they were to click on Google's organic listings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Google Working on Faster, More Caffeinated Search Engine

Google announced today that it has been working on a faster search engine that will improve results for web developers and power searchers.

Google CaffeineDubbed Caffeine, the new project focuses on next-generation infrastructure and seeks to improve performance in a host of areas including size, indexing speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness. Could this also be seen as a step towards improving access to the Deep Web?

For now though, developers are being asked to go and check out the and try a few searches with it. Then, compare those results with those found on the current Google site.

If a "Dissatisfied? Help us improve." link displays, click on it and type your feedback in the text box along with the word caffeine.

Since it's still a work in progress, Google engineers will be monitoring all feedback.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Story from The Wall Street Journal

Yahoo Renovates Its Home Page

Makeovers are always fun to watch. Someone swoops in on an unsuspecting fashion “don’t,” improves him or her with a new hairstyle, makeup and wardrobe, and presents the finished product to overjoyed friends and family.

Last week, Yahoo unveiled the results of its latest makeover: the revamped home page. Carol Bartz, the company’s relatively new CEO, has said that Yahoo’s home page needed just such a makeover. After not changing significantly since 2006, the home page fits the role of a fashion don’t. And consumers, like family and friend observing the aftermath of a makeover, will either be overjoyed or nonplussed by the finished product.
Yahoo's New Home Page

I’ve been using this new home page for over a week now and I can report that Yahoo followed one of the most important makeover rules by doing more with less. Gone is the busy screen saturated with advertisements and clutter. The new home page is clean and easier to absorb.
Favorite ‘Apps’

Yahoo’s home-page makeover goes beyond surface improvements. Its most useful feature is a Yahoo SEO list called My Favorites, which contains a variety of Web sites from within and outside of Yahoo. When your cursor hovers over one of these entries, which Yahoo calls “apps,” a pane opens with a preview of content from that site. This turns your Yahoo home page into an aggregator of information, bringing glimpses of information to you in one place so you don’t have to waste time navigating to other sites.

But if a greater number of these apps were more robust, you would be able to do more right within the hover pane, like watch videos or play a game. Currently, the hover preview pane only lets you see content, update social-network statuses and enter search terms, the results of which are shown on a new Web page.

This makeover comes at an interesting time in the world of online news aggregation. Competitors like Google and Microsoft incorporate data from all over the Web into and, respectively. And the concept of the home page as a starting point isn’t as popular as it once was: Many people now start browsing the Web by first clicking on a link in an email or in one of many social-networking sites, like Twitter.

Traffic Driver

Of course, Yahoo plans to use this redesigned home page to drive traffic to the company’s own sites like Shine, Answers, Health and OMG (a celebrity gossip site). These Yahoo sites make up half of the 65 apps designed especially for My Favorites. Yahoo says that its apps for other sites were made by Yahoo and the outside company running the Web site. An ad runs on the hover preview page of each app and the revenue for this ad goes to Yahoo, not the content provider.

Yahoo will use your list of My Favorites apps to learn about what sites you use so as to target ads at users. This proved true for most of the ads I saw on my home page, but strangely, the app displayed ads for Mars chocolate and Del Monte fruit snacks rather than technology products.

Module Thinking

My Favorites is fixed on the far left of the Yahoo home page and a large search box sits prominently at the top of the home screen.

The top middle section of the screen shows a carousel of images and current news that Yahoo calls the Today Module; below this is the News Module, which houses tabs labeled News, World, Local, and Finance. The Local and Finance tabs can be customized by entering a ZIP Code and stock tickers, respectively. The Today and News Modules can switch positions if you click on a small arrow.

The revamped home page will serve as a starting point for the Yahoo Application Platform, or YAP. Sometime around late September, Yahoo will open its YAP (no pun intended) to software developers so they can make all kinds of apps with a variety of functions for the home page, not just apps that are tied to Web sites.

You can customize the home page for style or content changes if you sign on using a user ID and password. Changes should appear the next time you log in. But this didn’t work as well as it should. I set my page to display in a tangerine color, one of six colors offered for customizing the page, but the home page wasn’t tangerine-colored the next time I logged in.

Some Problems

I had trouble logging into my Gmail account using a special Gmail app, but this and the color problem were fixed by the time this column went to press.

Some apps didn’t work at all, like the Facebook app, which couldn’t connect to my Facebook account. Yahoo said the problem should be fixed this week.

The home page seemed to have a longer memory when it came to the list of My Favorites. I edited my list, adding more pre-made apps and creating some of my own using a built-in tool that lets you enter a Web site. Yahoo has preloaded icons for some popular Web sites such as; otherwise, it will use a generic star.

Permanent Apps

Two apps are permanent fixtures at the top of the My Favorites list: One shows a list of all Yahoo sites and the other shows Yahoo Mail. Everything else can be deleted, added and moved around in the list. One of my favorite apps was for, the food and recipe site. When I hovered over the Epicurious app, images of food with recipe names appeared in the hover preview pane. One click on an image sent me to the Web site for the full version of the recipe.

After adding many of my own apps to My Favorites, I wished Yahoo had a one-click tool for converting my browser bookmarks into apps. Yahoo says this is something it hopes to introduce in the future.

Mobile Rollout

This week, Yahoo started rolling out a mobile Web site made to run on the iPhone’s Safari browser that coordinates with the more robust version of the home page. I used this Yahoo home page on the iPhone and liked that it immediately pulled up the My Favorites list I had carefully constructed on my computer. Similar offerings will soon be available for other mobile devices.

The new Yahoo home page, powered with Bing SEO search results, is a refreshing way of bringing content to you rather than you chasing around the Web looking for it. The My Favorites apps need a little more power to be truly useful and to encourage people to use the Yahoo SEO home page every day, but Yahoo hopes to solve some of that problem in a couple of months when it opens the site to developers.