Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, September 15, 2021

ownedAfter several years of trying to rehabilitate itself of its media-piracy beginnings by fruitlessly offering up a legit digital music subscription service, Napster is finally throwing in the towel. Best Buy is next up to throw good money after bad at the former file-sharing renegade by buying it for $126.8 million.

With around 700,000 users on Napster’s subscriber rolls, that amounts to a per-customer acquisition cost of around $181. Pricey for an also-also ran in the online music biz. I guess the Napster brand still counts for something these days, but it’s fading fast.

Not fast enough, though, for some interested parties:

“When you tell people they should get Napster, they say, ‘What are you trying to do? Get me arrested?’” fumes Thomas Sailors, 49, manager of personal investment holding company Cloverdale Investments, who is running for a [takeover-attempt] board seat with [fellow Napster shareholder Kavan] Singh. “That tells me management is doing a poor job of communicating what this company does.”

That communication breakdown is now Best Buy’s problem. Although I don’t see them burning too much energy trying to revitalize Napster. This is strictly a convenient method of entry for Best Buy, a retailer with no real digital prowess; they want the established user base and infrastructure (especially the mobile platform, as underdeveloped as it is), and everything else is just necessary baggage. They’ll leverage the Napster name for as long as it makes sense, but eventually — let’s say within five years — they’ll mothball it, and another Web pioneer will be history.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/15/2008 06:02:16 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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By the way, the American financial system is going up in flames:

In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer.

The humbling moves, which reshape the landscape of American finance, mark the latest chapter in a tumultuous year in which once-proud financial institutions have been brought to their knees as a result of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses because of bad mortgage finance and real estate investments.

Oh for the days — not long ago — when weekends signaled a deadzone for business news…

What to make of billion-dollar firms keeling over like they were Ponzi schemes? It means that the popping of the housing bubble isn’t going to be “safely” limited to just some foreclosures, personal bankruptcies, and an eventual upswing restoration. It means that the risk that fueled the hyper-growth in real estate permeated practically all level of the financial systems — and its collapse will hit that entire system as well. Plenty of casualties to go.

Which makes the idea that only the oldschool equity firms like Lehman and Bear Stearns are vulnerable, while the multifaceted banks are in the clear, so laughable. The Bank of Americas and Citigroups of the world had a fair amount of exposure over the past decade as well. They’re far from out of the woods, even with the opportunistic government-brokered deals they’re now landing. As it is, Washington Mutual is starting to slip, which could be a harbinger for other mid-sized banks, with the trickle-down effect being a tighter credit market than anyone in this age of (formerly?) easy plastic can remember.

It’s ironic is a way. Some fifteen years ago, the U.S. chastised Japan during its economic crisis for not undergoing the necessary corrective pains, arguing that Tokyo was propping up too many “zombie companies” simply because they were deemed “too big to fail”. Fast forward to now, and it’s Washington that’s in the corporate-zombie business.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/15/2008 04:50:43 PM
Category: Business, Society
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I guess everyone can use a refresher course on how not to do things, and Sitemeter provided that object lesson this past weekend. No sooner did they roll out an ill-advised, Flash-powered overhaul of their web traffic reporting system, than they (temporarily) junked it in the face of near-universal backlash.

The new interface wasn’t received well by many SiteMeter users… There were login problems, reporting problems, interface problems, and just plain problems.

Only hours after several sites posted news stories about the update, SiteMeter rolled back to the old interface. That seems to have been more than a trivial job, because they shut down the whole SiteMeter.com Web site for several hours to make it happen. It’s an embarrassing retreat.

Yes it is. It’s doubtlessly cost Sitemeter a fair number of users, both existing and prospective. As I ruminated yesterday, I have a feeling this was by design, even before the decision to revert back to the Classic platform, simply to root out non-paying users and simultaneously lighten the load on their servers. Although honestly, in light of this hamhandedness, it’s probably optimistic to imagine the Sitemeter braintrust being competent enough to orchestrate anything like this — the truth is, they probably just fucked things up on a grand scale. Their previous screw-up regarding the IE7 bug points to an endemic cluelessness.

Regardless of the motives, they’ve lost me as a user. Just like everyone else, my Sitemeter account is back to its familiar version, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s dead. The main reason why is because this restoration is actually temporary, as indicated by Sitemeter itself:

The first thing we need to do, moving forward, is to roll out new product releases in parallel to our current platform. This will give everyone a chance to try out, evaluate, and comment on our new concepts.

I’m reading this as meaning that the new Flash/Flex interface won’t be gone forever. Rather, it’ll be phased in gradually, in the hopes that users will warm up to it. That would make sense, since you can assume that Sitemeter wouldn’t completely abandon a redesign that was months in the making and probably cost a pretty penny to complete — they’re not going to just write off that financial commitment, regardless of user reaction.

So yes, they’re eventually going to move back to the Flash version. As I stated yesterday, that’s not going to work for me simply because I won’t be able to access it on my iPod Touch. And even if the iTouch does somehow get Flash-enabled in the near future, I wouldn’t want to mess with them anyway. They’re nothing but overkill for displaying basic traffic logs — a phony attempt at selling robustness. No thanks.

Plus, I’m not particularly willing to aid Sitemeter with this proposed beta testing toward reintroducing a service that I’m not going to like, regardless of its final form. I can’t imagine who else would be willing either, since their actions to date indicate they don’t have much patience for pacing themselves according to user feedback and preferences. Frankly, I see them doing nothing more than wasting time over the next several months, paying lip service to beta-test feedback, and then wind up re-installing the same garbage that was on display this past weekend. Again, no thanks.

For myself, I took the opportunity to switch over to StatCounter. It was a fairly trouble-free registration and installation procedure; there’s even a WordPress plugin for it, although I haven’t used that method yet. StatCounter’s web-accessible stats provide everything that Sitemeter’s did, and probably more. I’m mainly concerned with the referral/visitor paths, and that’s easy enough to target.

(Something else that’s encouraging: StatCounter has a corporate blog worthy of the spirit of blogging, i.e. regular communication and open commenting; versus Sitemeter’s blog, which is updated every couple months and only when disaster strikes, plus is defaulted to not accept comments. The contrast speaks volumes on how differently the two services operate, I think.)

It’ll take some time to get comfortable with StatCounter’s look and feel, but I’m happy enough in the early going. As far as website disasters go, this one was pretty minor. At least for me — for Sitemeter, I suspect it’s a bit more severe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/15/2008 02:23:20 PM
Category: Bloggin'
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