Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Is there anything iTunes Music Store can’t do? It’s made digital music into a legitimate business, it’s practically re-oriented Apple’s business model, and now, it’s helped revive the stillborn micropayment model for ecommerce.

Actually, iTunes isn’t the only thing helping to popularize nickel-and-dime transactions on the Web; PayPal and similar services share some of the credit. But even PayPal acknowledges that Apple helped kick it all into high gear:

For officials at eBay’s online transaction subsidiary, PayPal — who say the company is already handling millions of low-dollar transactions-it is clear that digital content represents the most promising opportunity for immediate growth in micropayments. Peter Ashley, director of business development for San Jose, Calif.-based PayPal, believes that with iTunes, Apple drew up a template that many other companies will try to emulate.

“Once there is ability for more companies to facilitate smaller charges, going as far down as pennies, nickels and dimes, without incurring the same sort of credit card transaction fees you see today, new businesses will open that simply could not exist in the past,” Ashley said.

The executive envisions transaction systems soon allowing e-commerce companies to process any transaction, no matter how small, letting people creating new kinds of digital content, such as games or ring tones, to more profitably market their wares. Ashley said that PayPal’s role as an established leader in online transaction processing will give it the ability to watch other firms test the waters with different micropayment systems before it begins more actively pursuing the market.

To get around the prohibitively high credit-card usage fees, companies wishing to employ micropayment transactions needed sheer sales volume to compensate. The popularity of digital music as a commodity was established with the fileswapping movement; when iTunes demonstrated how that movement could be monetized (not a sure thing, but definitely aided by tying it to the iPod), that volume was realized. Similar digital products like ringtones and games are natural extensions for this market.

Of course, small-scale transactions aren’t necessarily a means unto themselves:

“Subscriptions are what every vendor wants to sell, but you have to start somewhere with the consumer, and the other types of micropayments can allow companies to do get in the door with buyers,” said [Mercator Advisory Group analyst Nick Holland]. “A lot of content companies are going to look at micropayments as a stepping stone to future subscriptions.”

I see that as a short-term approach, since subscriptions are still the easier model to pull off. Not that subscriptions will ever go away. On the contrary: As more media products are offered through ecommerce, subscriptions will be the desired delivery method, much as they are in old media (periodicals). But, as with old media, expansion of micropayment capabilities will mean that subscriptions won’t be the only way to sell. Just as newsstand sales prime the pump for more profitable subscriptions, so will micropayments for ecommerce.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 11:36:32 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Yesterday, I mentioned how my neighborhood Target benefitted from the pent-up need for Frances shut-ins to run out and start spending. This phenomenon wasn’t restricted to my little stretch of St. Pete: Shoppers all over the Bay area, even all the way up to Citrus County, indulged themselves.

Looking at this behavior as a release from, and reaction to, hurricane fatigue would be interesting enough. Looking at it as an example of how modern-day American consumer culture expresses itself, regardless of extraordinary factors, might be even more interesting.

The continuing theme among those interviewed was not so much a need to buy particular goods, but simply to get out of the house. It’s classic shopping-as-a-hobby behavior. The term “socialize” was even used.

But does running out to Wal-Mart qualify as socializing? That anyone believes so is, in a way, a testament to the continuing efforts by retailers to create customer-friendly environments in their stores — the marketers have won! I think it’s a stretch, though, to consider taking notice of other shoppers in the aisles as a truly social activity. Most of the time, you’re not even talking to anyone else. It’s like socializing minus the interaction.

The fullest manifestation of this is the traditional mall, and the subcultures you’ll find within: Mallrats, mall strollers (popular among Florida seniors), window shoppers, marathon shoppers, etc. Malls have striven to maintain comfortable, welcoming atmospheres for decades, and, despite recent backlash, have done a solid job of it.

All this suggests that the much-reviled consumerist streak in America is, perhaps, more ingrained into the American character than anyone guessed. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a bad thing. Like anything, people can overdose on it. But blended social-retail settings are acceptable for things like eateries; it’s not that much of a stretch to expand that to other retail outlets. The companies that pull this off are the ones that will be successful.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 10:44:36 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Society
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The only way I buy this lovely Danville, California home is if those delightful doggies, in the third picture down, are part of the deal. (Look closely, out the window.)

(Via Stupid Evil Bastard)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 09:56:32 PM
Category: Comedy
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we are the world
I’m watching tonight’s World Cup of Hockey North American quarterfinal between the U.S. and Russia. Pretty good game so far. I’m impressed the Americans are doing so well through two periods; I didn’t think they looked very good even in their win against Slovakia, and wasn’t sure they could get it together enough to win this elimination game. The Russians are far from done, though.

It took me until the halfway mark, but I finally noticed something unusual about the Russians’ uniforms: The names on the jerseys are written in Roman alphabet, instead of their native Cyrillic. It’s even more odd because the double-eagle crest on the Russians’ chests includes the word “Russia” in Cyrillic (roughly “Poccia”).

I guess it’s the influence of uniform maker Nike. If they’re going to sell official player-style jerseys, they want to make sure North American fans — the biggest market for such merchandise — can read the names on the back.

Accordingly, I’d say this represents the final nail in Russian socialism’s coffin (as if it needed it).

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 08:43:42 PM
Category: Hockey
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70s stylin
I guess I know the next Xbox disc I’ll be buying (or getting as a gift). “Atari Anthology” is coming, a collection of 85(!) ancient games from the ’70s and ’80s, part of a wave of retro-gaming products the latter-day Atari Inc. is preparing to release.

Oldschool videogaming rules. As it is, the only games I play on my Xbox anymore are Robotron: 2084 and Joust, off the Midway Arcade Classics disc.

Yes, I still have the same Atari 2600 from my childhood, along with a mess of cartridges, and they all work. And I can get plenty of Java/Shockwave versions of these games off the Web. But it’s all about convenience, and that’s well worth the $20-30 this disc will cost.

“They are not easy to master,” [Atari CEO Bruno] Bonnell said. “Some people believe that because they are old games they will finish them very soon. But I think people will be sweating to finish.”

The concept of “finishing” games is one of the key things that separate these old-timers from latter-day and modern games. You were never finished with a game like Centipede or Moon Patrol — that was the point. These games were built for the arcade, and the object for gameplayers back then was to shoot for a high score; therefore, the game never ended, it just kept going to higher and higher levels. I think when game structures evolved to include a game object that eventually ended, something was lost.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 05:30:16 PM
Category: Videogames
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There are plenty of accounts of what us water-logged residents in Tampa Bay did this weekend. Jen at Crazy Island and Rachel* at SoHoTampa have a couple of representative samples, and Josh at A Beautiful Accident has a nice roundup of others (including me). Doubtless, you can find plenty from other parts of the state, too.

That covers us blogging nerds. What about those who don’t blog the body electric? Here’s a quick rundown from my office (names withheld to protect the embarrassed):

- One girl uncharacteristically baked a bunch of brownies and cookies, and brought them in for everyone to eat.

- Another girl got bit on her knee by a spider, and was developing a nasty-looking welt from it. Her husband’s been bit a couple of times by these spiders and gotten bad infections, so she’s nervous.

- My boss took off for her home state of Mississippi, a trip that was unrelated to the hurricane: Her dad was celebrating his 80th birthday. Unfortunately, the storm cancelled her return flight, so she can’t get back into town until late Wednesday.

- One guy hosted his parents, who evacuated from Sarasota. They managed to drive him and his wife crazy.

- Many parents were stuck in the house for 36 or so hours with a bunch of kids who were, in alternating turns, bored/frantic/destructive/lethargic.

- Lots of people lost power, for long periods of time (anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, with many still dark). Makes me feel like I got lucky for experiencing only a half-hour outage yesterday.

- Finally, a very pregnant co-worker gave birth in the middle of this mess! She was due any day, so it wasn’t a surprise. Her chief worry: She didn’t want to give birth on her own birthday, which was on Sunday. It was a close call, as she went into labor at 11:30PM on Sunday (Happy Birthday!); fortunately, the 7-pound bundle of joy didn’t join the world until 5:30 Monday morning. I suggested ahead of time that the baby girl’s middle name should be Frances, given the circumstances; mommy wasn’t going for it.

A hell of a weekend.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 04:45:21 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Weather
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down the drain
Rack up another fatality from this hurricane weekend. My office pet, Phil the Betta, gave up the ghost; I found him stuck in the plastic plants this morning.

In fitting tribute, I had sushi for lunch. (No, I didn’t turn him into lunch; the spicy rolls came from the downtown Publix. I even had to request a pair of chopsticks, because unfortunately, I haven’t gotten my pair of sushi specs yet.)

Phil had fallen ill a couple of weeks ago. He appeared to have a severe gastrointestinal illness. He got tremendously bloated, and wouldn’t eat for an entire week. That made treating him a problem. So I just crossed my fingers that it would pass. I didn’t think it would; he stopped swimming around in his usual frenetic pace, and only moved to scrape his bottom across the gravel. Didn’t help, obviously.

He had a pretty good run. We had him in the office for nearly two and a half years; assuming he was only a couple of months old when we got him, I’m guessing he lived the typical lifespan for a betta. So it’s all good.

We must move on. This afternoon, I bought a new betta. This one’s blue. I think I’ll name him Sushi, as cutesy as that is. He’ll make a fine replacement.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 04:08:26 PM
Category: General
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