Updates from October, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Greg Collier 8:22 am on October 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Craigslist lucks out again! 

    In light of the latest Craigslist ruling, I feel it is necessary to  assess and reflect on how business owners operate in today’s society. As a business, you have an obligation to protect your consumers and their interests. Such a concept does not evaporate into cyberspace. We hold our pharmaceutical companies to a standard that ensures medicines we take are safe. We require vehicles we drive to be equipped with safety devices to prevent harm to ourselves when things go wrong. Why shouldn’t we demand the same sort of safety precautions of the online businesses we deal with and communities we join? It shouldn’t have to be a demand, it should be a given. 

    Craigslist’s inclination to rely on their luck instead of protect their users is apparent in their refusal to remove their Adult Service sections. Craigslist has continued on, in spite of the damage, harm and devastation their Adult Services has caused. Common sense is not a given when it comes to Craigslist. 

    Craigslist may have gotten lucky, again, but their users, as seen on multiple occasions, have not been so lucky. How long can a company go on with such reckless disregard for those that keep them afloat?

  • Greg Collier 11:42 am on October 26, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s not your job to create content for Google. 

    By Derek Powazek


    Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.

    First came the web, and it was a mess. Servers went up everywhere, the net connected them all, pages bloomed like flowers, and no one could find a damn thing.

    Then came the search engines. First primitive indexes of dumb keywords, then Google with its rankings of most-linked pages, we were finally able to find the pages we needed, mostly.

    The ascendency of Google has meant that, if your goal is to get the most eyeballs possible (as any ad-supported media business’ goal is), then prominent placement in the search engine results became a top priority.

    And so, like the goat sacrificers and snake oil salesmen before them, a new breed of con man was born, the Search Engine Optimizer. These scammers claim that they can dance the magic dance that will please the Google Gods and make eyeballs rain down upon you.

    Do. Not. Trust. Them.

    The problem with SEO is that the good advice is obvious, the rest doesn’t work, and it’s poisoning the web. I’m going to tell you about the problems, and then tell you the one true way to generate traffic on the web, based on my own 14 years of hits and misses.

    1. The good advice is obvious, the rest doesn’t work.

    Look under the hood of any SEO plan and you’ll find advice like this: make sure to use keywords in the headline, use proper formatting, provide summaries of the content, include links to relevant information. All of this is a good idea, and none of it is a secret. It’s so obvious, anyone who pays for it is a fool.

    Occasionally a darkside SEO master may find some loophole in the Google algorithm to exploit, which might actually lead to an increase in traffic. But that ill-gotten traffic gain won’t last long. Google changes the way it ranks its index monthly (if not more), so even if some SEO technique worked, and usually they don’t, it’ll last for a couple weeks, tops.

    And when they do reindex, if they determine that you’ve been acting in bad faith (like hiding links or keywords or other deceptive practices) they’ll drop you like a hot rock. So a temporary gain may result in a lifetime ban.

    In the end, you’re sacrificing your brand integrity in a Faustian bargain for an increase in traffic that won’t last the month. And how valuable was that increase, anyway? If you’re tricking people into visiting your site, those visits are going to be bad experiences.

    2. SEO is poisoning the web.

    Google’s ranking algorithm is based on links. So the most effective way to game their system is to plant links on as many sites as possible, all pointing to your site, linked from specific keywords. This is called Google bombing.

    SEO cockroaches employ botnets, third-world labor, and zombie computers to blanket the web with link spam. 99% of spam comments to blogs are these kind of links. The target of these links is not the blog readers, it’s Google.

    SEO bastards are behind worms that attack blog services like Blogger, WordPress, and Movable Type. Some hack into the blog templates themselves to insert links that are hidden from the readers of that blog, but visible to a Google crawler.

    And they create programs to grab expired domain names, automatically create websites, filling the pages with content stolen from RSS feeds, creating billions of bad results for users.

    It’s a game, and every link is a score for the SEO jerkwads and their disreputable clients. And every time they win, those of us trying to create quality work and good experiences on the web lose.

    Worse than the hackers are the competent journalists and site creators that are making legitimate content online, but get seduced by the SEO dark side into thinking they need to create content for Google instead of for their readers. It dumbs-down the content, which turns off your real audience, which ultimately makes you less valuable to advertisers. If you want to know why there’s so much remnant advertising on online news sites, it’s because you’re treating the stories like remnants already.

    Remember this: It’s not your job to create content for Google. it’s their job to find the best of the web for their results. Your audience is your readers, not Google’s algorithm.

    The One True Way

    Which brings us, finally, to the One True Way to get a lot of traffic on the web. It’s pretty simple, and I’m going to give it to you here, for free:

    Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.

    That’s it. Make something you believe in. Make it beautiful, confident, and real. Sweat every detail. If it’s not getting traffic, maybe it wasn’t good enough. Try again.

    Then tell people about it. Start with your friends. Send them a personal note – not an automated blast from a spam cannon. Post it to your Twitter feed, email list, personal blog. (Don’t have those things? Start them.) Tell people who give a shit – not strangers. Tell them why it matters to you. Find the places where your community congregates online and participate. Connect with them like a person, not a corporation. Engage. Be real.

    Then do it again. And again. You’ll build a reputation for doing good work, meaning what you say, and building trust.

    It’ll take time. A lot of time. But it works. And it’s the only thing that does.

  • Greg Collier 11:14 am on October 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Geebo.com Now Provides Users with Greater Safety 

    I have taken note of the news stories about crime, even violent crime, associated with Craigslist ads — and I hear many stories — from jobseekers and people selling household items to employers posting jobs — who are wary of associating themselves with Craigslist for that reason. In response, I have not only maintained, but strengthened, our commitment to staff monitoring of posting activity on Geebo.com. By doing this, my hope is to position Geebo as a safer, friendlier alternative…  READ FULL PRESS RELEASE

  • Greg Collier 10:27 am on October 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    New York Times Moves to Trim 100 in Newsroom 

    New York Times

    The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8 percent of the total — by year’s end, offering buyouts to union and nonunion employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.
    The program mirrors one carried out in the spring of 2008, when the paper erased 100 positions in its newsroom, though other jobs were created, so the net reduction was smaller. That round of cuts included some layoffs of journalists — about 15 to 20, though The Times would not disclose the actual figure — which was the first time in memory such a layoff had happened.

    Times executives said this year that they did not anticipate — but would not rule out — the news staff shrinking in 2009, except through attrition. In fact, when employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year, it was meant to forestall any staff reductions. But hopes for a year-end turnaround in the newspaper business have faded.

    Third-quarter results reported in the last few days by the Gannett Company and the McClatchy Company indicate that the industry’s steep drop in advertising barely slowed in the third quarter. The New York Times Company will report its results for the quarter on Thursday. The ad slump has caused newspapers to consider charging readers for online content, a topic of heated debate within The Times this year.

    “I won’t pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation,” Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, wrote in a note to his staff. He added, “Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.”

    The paper has made much deeper reductions in other departments than it has in the newsroom, but the advertising drop pummeling the industry has forced cuts in the news operation as well. Besides the staff pay cut, the newsroom has eliminated some sections of the paper and lowered its budgets for freelancers.

    In addition to the newsroom cuts, The Times said Monday that it would offer buyouts to Newspaper Guild-represented employees in other departments, including advertising. But the paper says it is not seeking to eliminate a specific number of jobs among those workers.

    The Times’s news department peaked at more than 1,330 employees before the last round of cuts. The current number of workers is about 1,250; no other American newspaper has more than about 750.

    Nearly all metropolitan papers have been cutting their news operations for years, and some have fewer than half as many people in their newsrooms as they did a few years ago. The Los Angeles Times has dropped to about 600 news employees, from more than 1,200; The Washington Post to about 700, from more than 900; and The Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times Company, to close to 300, from well over 500.

    The Times will mail buyout packages to the entire newsroom staff on Thursday. The employees have 45 days to decide whether to apply for the buyout. Under the Newspaper Guild contract that covers most newsroom employees, buyouts generally offer three weeks’ salary for each year of service; nonunion employees are offered two weeks for each year.

    In a question-and-answer session with Jill Abramson and John Geddes, the managing editors of The Times, several newsroom employees asked about the possibility of using another pay cut, furloughs, part-time work or other measures to avoid layoffs, but Mr. Geddes said such steps could not address the paper’s financial problems in the long term.

    He said there was no plan for distributing the cuts among news departments or job descriptions — termination decisions, he said, could be largely dictated by who applies for buyouts.

    The announcement and staff meeting came before the close of market trading. Shares in the Times Company rose 5 percent during the trading day and fell slightly after hours.

    Also on Monday, Gannett reported third-quarter net income of $73.8 million, down from $158.1 million a year earlier. The company’s newspaper ad revenue fell 28.4 percent in the quarter, an improvement from the 33.1 percent decline over the first half of the year. That was similar to the 28.1 percent drop that McClatchy reported last week.

    Industrywide, ad revenue fell 28.6 percent in the first half of this year, and analysts and industry executives recently predicted that the pace of decline would slow to 25 percent or less in the third quarter. The reports from Gannett and McClatchy, two of the largest publishers, suggest that such estimates were a little too optimistic.

  • Greg Collier 5:08 pm on October 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    The outlook for U.S. real estate 

    By Kenneth R. Harney
    Realty Times

    Realtors, home builders and consumers hoping not just for an extension of the $8,000 tax credit, but an expansion to all buyers in 2010, shouldn’t hold their breath.

    That’s because it’s looking more likely that Congress will only agree to a continuation of the current credit beyond its scheduled November 30 termination date.

    But that’s not bad news. Just a few weeks back the key question was: will Congress extend the credit at all? Now that looks like a pretty safe bet.

    When it comes to tax issues, you’ve got to follow what New York Congressman Charlie Rangel is saying. He’s the chairman of the Ways and Means committee, and no tax legislation has even a chance of getting anywhere without his say-so.

    On the other hand, bills he supports, they just about always make it at least to the House floor, and usually beyond.

    Here’s what Rangel told reporters last week about the housing tax credit: “There’s no question I think it should be extended,” he said. How long, I haven’t discussed.” Rangel also said he doesn’t thing that “eligibility should be expanded beyond the first-time home buyers,” according to Dow Jones Newswires.

    That’s probably the kiss of death for lobbyists pushing for an increase in the maximum credit to $15,000, and expansion of coverage to nearly all buyers of homes in 2010, and an increase in the income limits for eligible purchasers.

    The National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders have been the most outspoken advocates of a year long extension and expansion of the credit, up to a maximum $15,000.

    Informed of Rangel’s comments, home builders president Jerry Howard said he’s no longer as “optimistic about expansion” as he once was.

    But, on the other hand, chairman Rangel’s endorsement of an extension of the credit — for a yet-to-be specified period of months — has got be a lifesaver for thousands of buyers who’ve been worried they’d miss out on this year’s credit because they can’t close their transactions by November 30.

    The politics of the tax credit, and the likely rejection of a bigger credit, are all about the budget deficit. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are looking for ways to cover the multi-billion-dollar revenue costs of an extension of the credit. Some estimates go as high as $15 billion.

    One idea advanced by Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson: tap into some of the unspent economic stimulus bill money still sitting in the $800 billion economic stimulus bill.

  • Greg Collier 2:09 pm on October 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Gannett Profit Falls 53% 

    By Mark Fitzgerald

    Gannett Co. said Monday that its third-quarter profit fell 53 percent on continued weak newspaper advertising and impairment charges on the value of its properties. But Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow noted the results “exceeded the high end of previously announced estimate ranges for revenue, operating cash flow, and earnings per share.”

    Gannett said it earned $73.8 million, or 31 cents a share, compared with earnings of $158 million, or 69 cents a share, in the same period in 2008. The 2009 quarter included asset impairment charges and other unusual items of about $29 million. Excluding those charges, Gannett said it would have earned $104.1 million, or 44 cents a share.

    Overall revenue was off 18 percent in the period to $1.34 billion.

    Publishing revenue fell 23.5 percent to $1.0 billion. Print newspaper advertising revenue fell 28.4 percent to $699.6 million on across-the-board weakness.

    Retail advertising fell 22.4 percent, national was down 25 percent, and classified plunged 36.9 percent.

    The drop is classified, while steep by any measure, reflected a slowed decline. But all major categories were down in the quarter: automotive by 35 percent, real estate by 37 percent—and employment by 56 percent.

    U.S. advertising revenue fell 26 percent, while advertising at Gannett’s British chain Newsquest was down 28.7 percent measured in pounds.

    Like its peers, Gannett’s third-quarter results reflect deep cost-cutting in the past year. Operating expenses fell 14 percent.

    “Our operating expenses were significantly lower in the quarter reflecting substantially lower newsprint expense as well as our continued success in lowering costs across all of our businesses,” Dubow said.

    The CEO also said Gannett “finished the quarter on a stronger note with better than anticipated results due primarily to better trends in advertising and greater efficiencies across all of our business segments.”

    He said Gannett is “encouraged by the revenue trends.” Third quarter year-over-year comparisons of publishing advertising revenue were “a few percentage points” better than year-over-year comparisons for the second quarter and “September was our best comparison month of the year.”

  • Greg Collier 11:57 am on October 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: robin wauters, rust consulting, techcrunch,   

    Yahoo! Reaches Settlement In Pay-Per-Click Class Action Lawsuit 

    By Robin Wauters

    mobA class action lawsuit brought in 2006 by several Yahoo! pay-per-click search advertising customers has been settled, one of the parties involved who received an e-mail about the settlement informs us. In the e-mail, administrator Rust Consulting lets the concerned parties (”all persons that purchased, directly or indirectly, Yahoo! pay-per-click advertising in the U.S. marketplace”) know that the court has granted preliminary approval of the Settlement and has provisionally certified the Settlement Class.

    The lawsuit (PDF) alleges that customers contracted for targeted ad placements through two products, “Sponsored Search” and “Content Match” (and predecessor products provided by Overture and GoTo.com) and that Yahoo! breached its contract with its customers by allowing Yahoo! ads to be displayed in spyware, domain name parking sites (bulk registration sites), pop-ups, pop-unders and typosquatting sites. According to the message, which is reproduced on a dedicated website about the case, plaintiffs brought claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, and unfair business practices.

    Interesting tidbits about the lawsuit:

    During the course of the Action, Yahoo! has produced over 1.5 million pages of documents and hundreds of gigabytes of data. Yahoo! employees testified at deposition. The plaintiffs or class representatives did much of the same. Yahoo! has apparently entered into the proposed settlement to avoid further expense, inconvenience and the burden of drawn-out litigation.

    In addition, the Sunnyvale company has agreed to launch a new filtering option for ads, and to make some other modifications to the way it handles disclosures and click fraud investigations:

    Yahoo! has agreed to develop and offer a new ad placement option that will enable Yahoo! Ad customers to control where their Yahoo! Ads appear. The Ad Placement Option will allow Yahoo! Ad customers to specify that their Sponsored Search ads should be displayed only on websites and other Internet properties owned or operated by Yahoo!, and the websites of certain “Premium” distribution partners. According to the docs, Yahoo! has agreed to make best efforts to launch the Ad Placement Option as early as the first quarter of 2010, but in no event later than September 30, 2010. Yahoo! will maintain the Ad Placement Option for at least two years from the date of its launch.

    Yahoo! will post enhanced disclosures on the “Traffic Quality” portion of its website about where Yahoo! Ads may appear on the Internet. These disclosures will provide information about the Ad Placement Option, including a link to a Yahoo! webpage with instructions for using the Ad Placement Option. The company will also modify its click investigation request tool to allow advertisers to ask questions or request investigations regarding certain Yahoo! advertising partners. Yahoo! will also add language to the Traffic Quality section of Yahoo!’s website notifying advertisers that they can request investigations of partners.

    As part of the settlement, Yahoo! has also agreed to pay pay a $20 refund to eligible Class members who are out of business (I’m sure they’ll be relieved). Claims forms must be submitted to the administrator by March 22, 2010.

    One thing is for sure: the lawyers have won this case.

    Yahoo! will pay the costs of notice and claims administration, as well as the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs, and service awards to the Class Representatives. The attorneys’ fees amount up to $4,170,000, plus reimbursement of expenses of approximately $100,000, and for service awards to the three Class Representatives of $10,000 each. I’m convinced the lawyers are yodeling all the way to the bank.

    For your reference: Google settled a similar case back in March 2006 for $90 million.

    You can access the court documents here.

  • Greg Collier 3:47 pm on October 6, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    A Kinder, Gentler Hyperhood 

    This is the second in a series of three video clips we recently produced.

    More on “hyperhood” coming soon 🙂

    Please send us your feedback – good or bad!

  • Greg Collier 12:22 pm on October 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: mcclatchy,   

    McClatchy Announces Presence on Three Social Networks 

    newsrackI’m not sure this “announcement” is worthy of a press release.

    Some newspaper groups still seem to be a little behind the times.

  • Greg Collier 2:08 pm on October 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , gary wolf, , , jim buckmaster, wired   

    Craigslist Is Such a Mess 

    Craig NewmarkAfter reading The Tragedy of Craigslist in the September issue of Wired magazine I felt compelled to share some thoughts on CL and the people behind it.

    I applaud Gary Wolf and Wired for the well-researched article on the anomalous characters and odd decisions going on behind the scenes at Craigslist. For a business with this much traffic and this much income, the problems its users encounter day after day, post after post, are really beyond comprehension. They make enough money to fix this stuff, folks – and they refuse to do it!

    And that’s not all they refuse to fix. Over the last few years, newspapers and television news stories across the country have been reporting stories about victims – from theft to rape to murder – whose only mistake was responding to a Craigslist ad. Note to Craig: telling us that “most people are good,” is not a sufficient answer! For years, law enforcement agencies have been fighting with Craigslist to clean up the obvious illegal activities on the site – and Craigslist has repeatedly balked or stalled.

    The word is spreading that Craigslist is a dangerous place to buy, sell, or look for a date. This is sad state of affairs in an era when technologies exist to ferret out much of the illegal activity, and good old fashioned monitoring can clean up much of the rest – and yet Craigslist resorts to a flag system that, as your article points out, benefits troublemakers as readily as legitimate users. Yes, the criminals are in the minority; I’ll give Craig and Buckmaster that. But the problem is this: more than on any other site I’ve ever seen (and I work in this industry), criminals flock to Craigslist.

    Buckmaster’s analogy to GM seems an effort to confuse the issue. Autos come with safety ratings, and manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure their cars’ safety ratings – because people’s lives are at stake. And that’s just the point. Craigslist users have every right to expect that their safety come before some abstract concept of “democracy.”

    This is probably the most important difference between Craigslist and the community classifieds site I operate. At Geebo.com, we monitor our community classifieds to make every experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.

    We pay attention to our users, and we are constantly improving our technologies and systems. Given how hard we work at this, it’s hard to watch the arrogance and nonsense that go on at Craigslist. When users run into problems there, they get a haiku? Give me a break! Why would anyone intentionally create a system where users’ concerns are mocked rather than addressed?

    People aren’t fools: as long as Craigslist refuses to evolve, the site will increasingly be defined by bugs, scams and illegal activities – risks and frustrations that fewer and fewer users will be willing to put up with. Please let your readers know that there are alternatives to Craigslist – including ours. I welcome every Craigslist user to surf on over to Geebo where we work hard to make yours a safe, easy, enjoyable and successful community classifieds experience.

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