Tag Archive: Amazon


Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence provide for life, liberty and the happiness of pumping our own gas?

There is certain joy that comes from feeling the surging petroleum rocket from the pump directly into my little green chariot. This Freude is kosher in the State of Washington and in California.

But what about that state in between?

Since 1951, it has been Verboten for a mere mortal motorist to pump his or her own gas in the State of Oregon. This antiquated 20th Century law requires petroleum transfer engineers (e.g., popular major at Oregon State University), and only PTEs to exchange fluids in the Beaver State.

What’s that Elon Musk?

Are you saying that EVs could spell doom to the PTEs?

The first affordable Tesla Model 3s are coming off the production lines in Fremont, California (the old NUMMI plant). The initial plans call for 110,000 this year and 500,000 next year.

From $35,000 upwards to $60,000 with all the fixins’, the intrepid all-electric motorist can roar from zero-to- 60 mph in 5.6 seconds with just a tap on the dashboard tablet without omitting one fossil fuel particle into the atmosphere.

Elon Musk, CEO of US automotive and energy storage company Tesla, presents his outlook on climate change at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Paris on December 2, 2015. / AFP / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

How’s that sound green Oregonians?

Even a Prius requires a PTE now-and-then. And despite all the hype and owner strutting, the Toyota hybrid still contributes to Climate Change. The proud owner may still be gluten free, but his or her precious Prius is nonetheless putting CO² into the air.

In contrast, the Tesla Model 3 can travel 220-to-310 miles on one charge of electricity. What does that mean to Oregon’s PTEs (same for New Jersey’s legally mandated PTEs)? Are each of you heading for the same crash landing as those who made buggy whips?

Electronic vehicles make PTEs as uncomfortable as a former sales dude or sales dudette at Borders as the imposing Amazon digital shadow hovered over the bricks-and-mortar store. Did you have that out-of-print book, Borders? Do you sell that obscure concerto, Barnes & Noble? Amazon does (Google “Long Tail” Theory”) as there are no physical restraints on its inventory.

Maybe the Oregon PTEs will unionize (if that haven’t already) and march into Salem (not the one where they burned witches) and ask for a new law requiring ETEs (Electricity Transfer Engineers) to recharge EVs in Oregon.

Wait a minute? Oregon could actually mandate that ETEs recharge your Climate Change friendly EV? Don’t bet against it.

Think of it this way, if the state Legislature in its infinite wisdom for 66 years and counting required PTEs to pump gas into each car and expressly forbids the motorist from doing the same, then what’s to prevent them from requiring highly trained electricity transfer engineers (ETEs) to recharge your EV Tesla, Volvo, BMW, Chevy etc.?

What’s next? Will the state mandate an ETE to plug in your toaster or change a light bulb?

Incentives Today; Taxes Tomorrow

Immediately south of Oregon, the Golden State’s one-party Legislature is weighing adopting the California Electric Vehicle Initiative, which would designate $3 billion for larger rebates for those who purchase Tesla and other electric cars.

In April, the same Legislature passed legislation raising California’s gas tax by 12 cents to 30 cents per gallon.

Let’s see the state is considering incentivizing EVs to the tune of $3 billion. And nearly at the same time raising gas taxes to raise $5.2 billion.

What happens if the EV revolution is real and a precipitous decline in fossil-burning vehicles ensues? Does that mean gas revenues will simultaneously decline? Oh dear.

And does that lead to actually taxing EV recharges even though these environmentally friendly cars have been incentivized by the state?

What’s more important in Sacramento and other state capitals? The environment? Tax revenues?

Seems like a silly question to even ask.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/31/tesla-falls-after-model-3-as-street-thinks-musk-sounded-squeamish.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2017/07/29/i-spent-three-minutes-inside-teslas-model-3-and-im-still-thinking-about-it-a-day-later/?utm_term=.98459e459664

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-it-illegal-to-pump-your-own-gas-in-New-Jersey-and-Oregon

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tesla-model-3-arrives-as-elon-musk-tries-to-manage-expectations-1501234208

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/28/new-bigger-incentives-for-electric-cars-could-be-ahead-in-california/

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-gas-tax-signing-20170428-story.html

 

 

 

 

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“A million dollars isn’t cool. Do you know what is cool? A billion dollars,” – Justin Timberlake playing the role of Napster founder Sean Parker in The Social Networkseanparker

There are problems in America, and much of those aren’t about the sharing economy. Income inequality is rising, and the middle class isn’t better off than they were a decade ago. We don’t need government investment, and we can provide a solution.” – Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder to USA Today

We all have a choice: We can either hate or we can celebrate.

We can resist change and inevitably fail or we can embrace the future.

There are very few that make it to the vaunted three comma club, those with 10 or even 11 figures as their cumulative assets. Nobody has made it to the 12-figure mark … yet.

There are oodles of millionaires, but reaching the billionaire or the three comma club as Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker ($2.6 billion) offered to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ($33.4 billion) is quite a different story.

Some may try to dismiss the select membership of the three-comma club, contending the majority of the wealth was inherited and thus represents just another indicator of income inequality. This contention for the most part is not correct.

For the vast majority of billionaires, as opposed to mere millionaires or multi-millionaires, the difference lies with what Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen proclaims as “disruptive technologies.”

Under Christensen’s theory, existing corporations usually have the edge when it comes to sustaining innovations (e.g., one generation to the next generation; one model to the next model). When it comes to “disrupting innovation,” the advantage lies in the hands of new entrants/first movers into the marketplace. That is where we typically find new members of the three comma club.

Taking a gander at the Forbes annual list of billionaires, one finds Bill Gates in first place at $79.2 billion. Were Bill Gates and Paul Allen ($17.5 billion) game changers? The question almost seems silly. Microsoft became THE software side to the PC equation with its novel Windows operating system and its Word-PowerPoint-Excel business suite. Intel (e.g., Gordon Moore, $6.9 billion) provided the other half of the Wintel monopoly with its Pentium processors.windows10

Joining the celebrated three comma club is an incredibly difficult proposition. For the most part, it means the new member came up with a novel idea that changed not only the rules of the game, but society itself.

Jeff Bezos at $34.8 billion was the driver behind first-mover, digital-retailer Amazon, which transformed the way the world shopped with its long-tail strategy (e.g., 99 percent of all of Amazon’s inventory is sold at least once a year to at least one grateful consumer). Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba ($22.7 billion) is attempting to do the same as 400 million of the Middle Kingdoms’ population moves up into the middle class.

Mark Zuckerberg ($33.4 billion), the subject of the aforementioned The Social Network, invented Facebook in his Harvard Kirkland H-33 dorm room just 11 years/1.4 billion subscribers ago. Facebook has changed how we instantaneously transmit to friends and family the exciting (or not so exciting) developments in our daily lives.

Google co-founders and former Stanford students Larry Page ($29.7 billion) and Sergey Brin ($29.2 billion) pioneered the world’s dominant search engine, another first-mover victory, as well as the Android operating system for mobile devices.google1

Elon Musk (a mere $12 billion) is attempting to make climate change neutral electric cars a reality for the middle class with his publicly traded Tesla. And if that was not enough, his privately held SpaceX is delivering payloads into orbit for NASA.

Disruptive Technologies

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

It’s not the progress I mind, it’s the change I don’t like,” – Mark Twain

Are there those out of sheer jealously, who don’t like reading or hearing about billionaires? Yes indeed. Do some people rationalize these monetary gains as being ill-acquired? Yes again. And then there is the disruptive part of the equation.uber

There are those with mobile devices with time on their hands and cars that can be put to work. Hello Uber and its $50 billion in market valuation. And who is negatively impacted? The cab industry and their drivers, who would be well advised to be fairer and nicer to their riders.

And there are those with mobile devices with houses and rooms to rent, reaching out to those around the world, who just want to couch-surf. Hello Airbnb and its $25 billion in market valuation. And who is negatively impacted? The hotel and motel industry, which soon will be facing downward pressure on its pricing model as a result of expanding supply.Airbnb

For Uber, Airbnb and other privately held “unicorns” (i.e., Snapchat, Pinterest, Dropbox), they are forcing change onto those who do not want to change. The forces of inertia have powerful allies (e.g., New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman). These change agents need effective public relations, marketing and branding to help the on-demand economy to succeed and for society to advance.

Let the storming of the barricades continue.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/08/19/airbnb-ceo-brian-chesky-change-agents-company-targets-new-growth-opportunities/31888851/

http://fortune.com/brian-chesky-airbnb/

http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/3/#version:static

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/attacking-uber/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/war-on-wall-street/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Parker

http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/in-search-of-another-suite-h33-kirkland-house/

 

 

 

 

“We don’t have a strategy yet.” – President Barack Obama asked about a potential U.S. response to the radical ISIS of Iraq and Syria

“We are THE low-fare airline.” — Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines

kelleher

We hear the word all the time.

It is as ubiquitous as “sustainable,” “solutions” and “selfies.”

Here comes another common S-word: “strategy.”

What is this creature?

According to the Business Dictionary, strategy is “1.) A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem or …

2.) The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use. The term is derived from the Greek word strategia for generalship or leading an army.”

As the creator of an upper-division university course, Strategic Business/Financial Communications (my M.A. project), sometimes one can still ask if you appreciate the meaning of the word, strategy. We use it all the time, but do we really appreciate its context?

Does Management Know What It Is Doing?

Rank-and-file workers around the world spend portions of their days chatting around the proverbial cooler or more likely firing text messages or emails across cyberspace asking each other whether the boss or bosses really know what she/he/they know what they are doing?

watercooler

The real question is: Do we have a strategy? And if so, what is our strategy?

Think of the interrogative this way: Any organization has only so much money, so much time, so much manpower/womanpower and so much talent and knowhow. These resources are finite. How will they be most effectively utilized?

The decision is just as much what an organization is going to do with its resources, as it is what it will not do with its limited attributes.

“We’re not serving any damn chicken salad”

The New York Times bestseller Made to Stick, co-authored by Chip and Dan Heath, recounts the story of Tracy, the marketing whiz at Southwest Airlines, suggesting to CEO Herb Kelleher that chicken Caesar salad would be popular with the airline’s customers. The idea went absolutely nowhere because it did not coincide with Southwest’s THE low-fare airline strategy.

madetostick

“Core messages help people avoid bad choices by reminding them what is important,” Chip and Dan Heath wrote in Made to Stick. “In Herb Kelleher’s parable, for instance, someone had to choose between chicken salad and no chicken salad – and the message ‘THE low-fare airline’ led her to abandon the chicken salad.”

Think of what Southwest (NYSE: LUV) does:

The airline offers soft drinks, pretzels and peanuts (and adult beverages paid by credit cards).

Southwest flies point-to-point primarily in the continental U.S., eschewing the annoying jammed “spoke” airports (e.g., Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta) that plague the legacy carriers and their passengers. Southwest only flies Boeing 737-400s.

There are no assigned seats, festival seating for all.

And the flight attendants seem to be having a great time, and really want the passengers to “enjoy” rather than endure their flight.

What does Southwest NOT do:

There is no crummy airline food to purchase.

There are no spoke systems.

Southwest does not purchase multiple models of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. There is one model of aircraft to service.

There are no assigned seats, but a devilishly effective way of boarding it’s A,B and C boarding groups. Southwest makes money when its planes are in the air, not on the ground. The strategy is to get satisfied passengers off the plane, quickly loading another happy group of patrons and sending the plane back into the air heading off to the next destination.

As a public relations, marketing, advertising professional, you want to work for an organization that knows what it wants to be when it grows up. When dealing with external (e.g., conventional and social media, industry and financial analysts, governmental regulators, investors, partners, suppliers, distributors general public) and internal stakeholders (e.g., all-important employees), you want to be sure of your “story.”

If your organization knows what it wants to do, and what it does not want to do (and has the discipline to stay within the confines of its resources), your job is just that much easier.

FedEx will get your package to its intended destination positively, absolutely overnight.

Tesla pours millions into R&D and cap-ex for ion batteries for electric cars at acceptable price points with sufficient range.

Salesforce.com is a pioneer in SaaS or software as a service, allowing customers to pick-and-choose, and then plug-and-play business software from the cloud.

Google is the number search engine in the world, and makes the Android operating system for mobile devices.

Amazon is the number one digital retailer on the planet, and makes the Kindle reader.

The examples are too numerous to count, but these are companies know how to answer the question: “How do you make money?” The answer is a clear strategy.

The vast majority of investors will weigh buying shares in these companies because they know these companies raison d’etre. There is no FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) when it comes to Southwest, FedEx, Tesla, Salesforce, Google, Amazon and many others.

obamastrategy

Alas, a few folks in Washington D.C. are not the only ones without a strategy… yet. And every organization without a strategy – what to do and not what to do — has a big league public relations/branding/marketing dilemma.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/08/28/obama-on-increased-action-against-islamic-state-we-dont-have-a-strategy-yet/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Kelleher

http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/strategy.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_to_Stick

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-does-a-company-make-money-2/

 

 

 

 

“Isn’t that kind of crazy? … Almost one in 20 bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2011-12 was in communications/journalism. Why? I have no idea. Probably not because of the hot job prospects.” – Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post

How analog can you be?

missouri

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of college students taking Communications, Journalism and related programs (e.g., public relations and advertising) has quadrupled from 1.2 percent in the 1970-71 academic year to 4.7 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year. That result even exceeds the percentage increase of students taking business, 13.7 in 1970-71 to 20 percent in 2011-12, and is headed in the other direction compared to those pursuing education degrees, 21 percent in 1970-71 to 5.9 percent three years ago. Yikes!

Mizz Rampell and others with similar sentiments must be wondering what is wrong with these journalism/communications students. Don’t they know that the Internet is killing legacy media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, radio and television)? For example, the Washington Post published Newsweek since the Earth cooled. The planet is still here, but Newsweek for all intents and purposes is long gone, hanging on in digital format.

Yes, I still have trouble sleeping at night.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is no more. The Rocky Mountain News is deceased. The Oregonian has been reduced to a tab. There is example-after-example of the destructive technological force of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Right, Borders? Ready to say ‘goodbye,’ Barnes and Noble?

Even college newspapers are feeling the Internet pressure as the 137-year old Columbia Daily Spectator of Ivy League Columbia University will go from daily to weekly starting this coming fall.

The trend is unmistakable.

And yet more students are enrolling in professional J-Schools 

As an incoming tenure-track assistant professor at Central Washington University and an incorrigible optimist, your author of Almost DailyBrett salutes the students who defy conventional thinking. Their collective thoughts are not to the past or even the present, but focused squarely on the future.

According to the 11th edition of Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, the projections are for 3 billion Internet users worldwide in 2016, more than 40 percent of the world population. Almost 70 percent of the US population will use smartphones in just three years. We send and receive more than 6 billion text messages each day, and about 2.8 million emails are sent every second.

socialmedia1

These numbers are staggering and the pace is increasing.

Why are all of these people on the Internet? Why have 1.1 billion subscribed to Facebook (founded 10 years ago), making its audience the third largest ‘nation’ in the world?

Twitter has 500 million (2006), posting 340 million ‘tweets’ every day.

LinkedIn (2003) reportedly has 259 million members, using the social media site to network and establish ‘connections’ with hiring managers and sales leads. LinkedIn is the social media site of choice for executive recruiters.

All of these impressive stats point to a world in which the demand for breaking news and information has never been greater. The laws of supply and demand do not go away just because we have a relatively new disruptive technology. In fact, the demand exceeds the supply, particularly online…for now.

$5 billion for the Wall Street Journal? 

Rupert Murdoch may not be a hero in all Journalism schools, but he is nobody’s fool. Okay, he shouldn’t have purchased constantly declining Myspace for $580 million in 2005, but not every Rembrandt is a masterpiece.WSJ

In purchasing the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, Murdoch acquired not only the largest newspaper on the planet, but more importantly the number one brand for news and information about global markets for growing investor classes. The WSJ has also proved that pay-for-online content works as more than 900,000 digitally subscribe to the Journal. We should also not lose sight of the acquisition by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos of the Washington Post for $250 million.

So newspapers are not dead overall, at least the big hitters. Newspapers with globally recognizable mastheads and reputable brands will always be in demand, more so in digital format as the years progress.

And just as important is the advent of digital news services. Ever heard of TMZ (The Thirty-Mile Zone)? Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers (Or should we say, formerly of the Los Angeles Clippers) knows all about TMZ. The digital news service broke the story of his racist tendencies and led to his downfall.

The names Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Mashable, Gawker, POLITICO, Drudge Report, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Daily Kos, Red State, Real Clear Politics, Silicon Valley Watcher may not be household names…yet. Some will succeed. Some will not. Having said that, they all have the mission to meet the insatiable demand for news and information around the world through the magic of binary code or the digital ones-and-zeroes.

digitalnewsservices

And just think they need editors, reporters and correspondents.

They need the information provided by public relations professionals.

They are an increasingly lucrative outlet for advertisements aimed at target audiences.

Maybe these students who are seeking degrees in journalism, public relations, advertising aren’t so crazy after all. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/rampage/wp/2014/04/25/over-the-past-40-years-fewer-english-majors-but-more-journalism- majors/?wpisrc=nl%5Feve

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/2013menu_tables.asp

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/in-defense-of-journalism-education/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/why-newspapers-are-toast/

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/media/story/2012-04-22/college-newspapers/54630566/1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LinkedIn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myspace

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wall_Street_Journal

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/washington-post-closes-sale-to-amazon-founder-jeff-bezos/2013/10/01/fca3b16a-2acf-11e3-97a3-ff2758228523_story.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Each Other

“We’ve always taken the view that we have to physically be together from an employee perspective. People don’t work as well remotely … We want employees all in the same physical space to have more collisions. In fact, we’ve done weird things to prioritize collisions over convenience.” – Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

hsieh

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” – Jackie Reses, Yahoo Human Resources executive vice president

Having worked in Silicon Valley for 15 years, Almost DailyBrett gets it when it comes to the Internet. It’s hard to argue with 2 billion users around the world and growing, sending 2.8 million emails every second…and that was way back in 2011.

The Internet was supposed to free us to work any place, any time in any attire (or non-attire) and contribute just as well to our employer or even obtain a degree online.  The Net spawned a wide variety of new acronyms (e.g., SEO and SEM), even some that are getting outdated (e.g., HTML) and others that are gaining steam including MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.

We can digitally communicate and self-publish with a few taps with our mobile device or legacy laptops (desk tops are now so 20th Century) to anyone at anyplace at any time. We can send “selfies” of our mugs and other anatomically parts (right, Anthony Weiner?). We can also use the Internet, whether wirelessly or with the remaining wired devices, to NOT communicate with anyone at anyplace at any time.

And there lies the rub.

Back to the Future; Back to the Office?

Tony Hsieh is seen as a pioneer when it comes to delivering a “Wow” experience to Zappos customers The company name is a play off the Spanish word, Zapatos, naturally sells shoes over the web. Sounds a little dull…until you and Harvard Business Review take a deep dive into the $1 billion-plus business.

Tony (last name rhymes with Shay or Shea) follows the mantra of under-promising and over-delivering. Your shoes are supposed to arrive in three days (e.g., piece of cake for Hsieh et al.); Zappos will get your order to you in two days or less. The customer is happy…real happy. Sounds like a Pharrell Williams song. Tony is real happy too as a result of Amazon purchasing Zappos for $1.2 billion.

Zappos, located in Lost Wages, Nevada,  is continuously ranked as a super place to work and has even adopted the management concept of a holacracy or a self-governing operating system; no more imperial edicts from the corner office to the great masses of unwashed employees.

holacracy

And yet when you weigh the coolness factor of Zappos’ “Wow!” customer strategy and its holacracy management system, it still requires the old-fashioned show up for work and deal with your colleagues approach. Sorry no more working remotely.

What does this message say for the future?

Face-to-Face Communications

“Public Relations helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics.” – Public Relations Professor and founder of “Public Relations Journal,” Rex Harlow

The threat posed by the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Kaplan University, Capella University, Ashford University and other online diploma mills to the traditional bricks-and-mortar universities is real. They are not constrained by space and offer an endless “long tail” to their perspective students.

In fact, you can secure your bachelor’s degree or above from these hallowed institutions. It will just be you, your online instructor and conceivably other students typing away and maybe even Skypeing from remote locations around the globe.

A few questions come to mind: What about building, enhancing and solidifying relationships? What about developing qualitative skills or the ability to interview people and describe their experiences as a result of direct interaction? What about effectively working in teams? And what about the “collisions” mentioned by Tony Hsieh?

zappospeople

 

There is no doubt that MOOCs are here to stay, and even the venerable bricks-and-mortar universities are offering their imprimaturs to one-up the University of Phoenix types. And yet neither the online courses offered by the new kids on the block nor the digital courses presented by the old guys can replicate real face-to-face communications.

This need for direct people-to-people interaction is particularly salient to public relations. The whole notion is relating to the public, particularly difficult reporters and editors. At some point, you have to meet people. You can’t just hide behind your monitor.

Some may seriously disagree with the movement to compel folks out of their pajamas, forcing them into business attire and into their vehicles for the dreaded fossil-fuel commute to the office. And waiting for them there will be colleagues, superiors, subordinates, customers, partners, distributors, butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers.

We have to deal with all of them, like it and be adept at this skill. Digital codes have transformed the world, but only to a point. We still have to learn to interact and co-exist with people, preferably in person as opposed to an impersonal email, tweet or text.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course

http://techcrunch.com/2009/11/02/amazon-closes-zappos-deal-ends-up-paying-1-2-billion/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2014/01/15/making-sense-of-zappos-and-holacracy/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2013/02/26/4-reasons-marissa-mayers-no-at-home-work-policy-is-an-epic-fail/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/curtains-for-bricks-and-mortar-universities/

 

 

 

 

It would be hard to make this up.

Our Club Universe American tour guide to the “Evil Empire” in 1981 was named … Joseph McCarthy.

Over a round of adult beverages in the “office” (e.g., hotel bar), he assigned an unofficial tag line for the state-run Aeroflot, essentially public transportation in the sky: “The Longer the Flight, The Longer the Delay.”

If your flight was about two hours from Moscow to then-Leningrad; now-St. Petersburg, the delay was about two hours. If you were flying eight hours from Moscow to Novosibirsk…Lenin help you.

aeroflot

The in-flight cuisine was Tatiana delivering plastic cups of mineral water. That’s all, folks.

With Aeroflot at the time, you knew what to expect. Yes, there was a consistency of product.

You were back in the USSR; You don’t know how lucky you are boy…

The Soviet Union has now gone into the history books, even though Russia with all of its backwardness and sadness (even with the temporary joy of the Sochi Olympics), still exists.

What also exists are customer expectations and consistency of product. And in most cases that is a “Good Thing” as Martha would say.

Take Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) for example.  The line sometimes goes back to the door. The prices are high. Knowing the author of Almost DailyBrett and $3.70 will result in a Grande mocha with no whip. And yet so many will shell out for their daily fix. The Grande mocha tastes the same in Dublin, Ireland as it does in Ellensburg, Washington.

Some may scoff at McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD), but the company has nailed fast food. You know what you are getting and there is a consistency of product. Yes, a Big Mac tastes the same in Tokyo as it does in Brussels as it does in Hood River, Oregon.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has essentially pioneered digital retailing. The company even acquired online shoe store, Zappos, which built its reputation on under-promising and over-delivering (shoes arrive before their promised delivery date), literally providing customers with the consummate “wow” experience.

Amazon fulfillment center

Digital search-engine leader Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has become a verb, an ultimate sign of success as in “Google this; Google that.”

For flyers of Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), you know what you are getting and not getting. Plan on joking flight attendants, Boeing 737-700s that are habitually on time, peanuts and/or pretzels and a soft drink. Don’t plan on assigned seats or in-flight cuisine. There is a consistency of product, and that speaks to the company’s brand as the nation’s leading low-cost carrier. Reportedly based on percentages of applicants vs. acceptances, the percentages are more in favor of being admitted to Harvard than landing a job at Southwest.

The point is these firms have learned the lessons from failing companies (or companies that should be put out of their misery), including J.C. Penney, Braniff, and Circuit City.

What is the usual customer expectation driving into the parking lot of any state’s Department of Motor Vehicles? There are three absolutes in life: Death, Taxes and DMV.

As you emerge from the car, you can sense your pulse quickening and your blood-pressure rising. Your dog-eared copy of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is ready at your side. Will Napoleon’s Grand Armee drive to Moscow and beat a snowy retreat to France before your number is called at DMV?

dmv

Everyone, staring at the linoleum floors, sitting in the plastic chairs, and waiting for the cheerless bureaucrats, has the same pained look on their collective faces. Are your papers in Ordnung? If your papers are nicht in Ordnung, you will be sentenced to the gulag…another trip to DMV.

Yes, your expectations are being fulfilled, and (alas) there is a consistency of product.

Even though DMV operates in a monopoly position, similar to nationalized industries in the former Soviet Union, would anyone in their right mind invest in this stock: (NYSE: DMV)?

Keep in mind, DMV does not have a corner on the market when it comes to a desultory customer service experience. There is always (drum roll), the United States Postal Service.

How about staking a portion of your life’s savings in (NASDAQ: USPS)?

The USPS reached an all-time peak of volume served in 2006. It has been all downhill ever since. In 2013, the USPS lost $5 billion on top-line revenue of $66 billion. Not only is the USPS underperforming vis-and-vis its private sector competition, Fed-Ex and UPS, but the digital writing is on the wall as the Internet is providing even more reasons (e.g., online bill paying) to avoid costly snail-mail.

postoffice

This reality is evidenced in those selected to provide “customer service” at USPS stores (e.g., post offices). If there is the potential of staffing four registers, the USPS will offer two joyless staffers even though the customer line is stretching out the door.

Yes, there are customers standing in long lines at many Starbucks, but they have a happy ending in the offing in the form of a latte, cappuccino or mocha. At the USPS, joy comes with reaching the front of the line, shipping your package, buying snail-mail stamps and then mercifully…leaving.

To many, the word “corporate” has become a dirty word. And you can see the roots of the negativity, multi-million executive “golden” parachutes, Bernie Madoff Ponzi schemes, Walmarts driving smaller competitors out of business etc. etc. etc.

Having acknowledged the obvious, there is a flip side to the word, “corporate.” The other side of the story revolves around great products, literally millions of jobs, and bursts of innovation. Do we think of Starbucks or the DMV (or even Amtrak) when it comes to a superb product and a super customer experience? When it comes to innovation, would we bet our future on Amazon’s ability to move products or the USPS?

Many are wary of the prospect of DMV-style “service” when it comes to services provided by government, whether it be auto registration, mail delivery or maybe even health care.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroflot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zappos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Madoff

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_and_Peace

Suppose an industry staged an annual forecast and awards dinner (e.g., SIA on November 29), and virtually no one gave a particle?

Considering that I worked directly for the Semiconductor Industry Association for two years, and later for a company run by one of its founders for a decade, it is difficult for me to say this, but I must: Semiconductors are now (and maybe forever) a taken-for-granted commodity.

sleepingaudience1

Would you like some salsa with your chips?

Yes, they power every digital and the remaining analog gadget under the sun just like ground beef, chicken or carnitas are essential for making tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Everyone knows this.

So what else is new?

The semiconductor industry is going to be flat this year at $300 billion. It seems like the industry is always at $300 billion. I wrote a speech in 1996 projecting a $300 billion industry in 2000 or 12 years ago for those of you scoring at home.

One company, Wal-Mart alone at $464 billion in revenues (and growing) is larger than the entire chip industry. This is not news.

Earlier this month, the stately Economist published a cover piece “The Survival of the biggest; The internet’s warring giants” about Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google with peripheral mention of Microsoft.

What happened to Intel, let alone AMD?  They didn’t even make the cutting-room floor.

What happened to the wonders of (Gordon) Moore’s Law (intellectual property content doubling on the same-sized piece of silicon real estate every 18-24 months)? Anyone want to hear that story for the umpthteen time?

What happened to the epic tales of the fight against the evil predatory-pricing, two-headed monster in the form of Japan’s “Business is War” government/industry?

All these stories are now contained in a coffee table book coming to a deep-discount rack near you.

The “Mass Intelligence” Economist references the great technology fights of yesteryear: IBM and Apple in the 1980s in PCs, and Microsoft and Netscape in the 1990s in web browsing. The U.K. popular “newspaper” displays a map, vaguely similar to England, Normandy, Bavaria, Prussia und Dänemark.

England is the “Empire of Microsofts.” Normandy is “Appleachia.” Bavaria is “Google Earth.” Prussia is “Fortress Facebook.”  Dänemark is “Amazonia.” There are small islands occupied by RIMM (Research in Motion) and Nokia, and a nest dedicated for microblogging, “Eyrie of Twitter.” The lowly chip is nowhere to be seen on this map or in the expansive article. Intel is not even afforded a shrinking iceberg.

Some may want to dismiss my musings contending that I am only focusing on one article in one magazine, albeit an incredibly influential publication. They will say the article can be seen as a mere anecdote. These critics could be correct. However, in this case I humbly opine the anecdote represents a trend. For the metaphor types: It is the sick canary inside the mine.

Certainly, there are 250,000 Americans employed in semiconductor innovation and (some) manufacturing. With all due respect to the engineering types in particular, they are mere role players. They are throwing the screens and opening up holes in the line for the superstars: Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.

The chip is essential, but so is the sun. They are everywhere. The sun is there. What is commanding attention are mobile platforms and the software that makes them do what they do. Algorithms über alles!

algorithms

Rarely did a day go by in the 1990s and the post-Bubble era when the San Jose Mercury, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times (not suggesting equivalency of influence) would write another gushing, fawning piece about “The Chip Giant,” Intel. No one could accuse the media of shorting the stock.

Today, Intel is trading at $20.52 with a market cap of $101 billion. Ten years ago on this date, the company’s stock traded at $17.58…sounds like a good stock to avoid. Even with all angst, Sturm und Drang about Facebook’s IPO FUBAR, the company still commands a $28.24 stock price and $60 billion in market capitalization. All things considered, this is not bad for a company publicly traded only since May 18 and which was founded in a Harvard dorm room less than one decade ago. If only Intel could grow this fast.

Don McLean in American Pie asked: If the music would ever play again? For the chip industry, the band could start playing if the industry starts growing again; if it comes up with a new way of making chips (e.g., nanotechnology); if it spearheads a new revolution. Incremental changes won’t cut it. And staying stuck in neutral at $300 billion will elicit the same yawns but only 10 years down the road.

Silicon Valley is called “Silicon Valley” for a particular reason that was germane decades ago. Let’s just hope no one seriously suggests changing the name to “Algorithm Valley.”

http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4374705/SIA-expects-flat-chip-sales-in-2012-

http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/WMT

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21567355-concern-about-clout-internet-giants-growing-antitrust-watchdogs-should-tread

http://www.economist.com/news/21567361-google-apple-facebook-and-amazon-are-each-others-throats-all-sorts-ways-another-game

http://www.sia-online.org/events/2012/11/29/public-event/35th-annual-sia-award-dinner/

http://www.lyrics007.com/Don%20McLean%20Lyrics/American%20Pie%20Lyrics.html

Maybe the dreams of so many will finally be realized.

Instead of the detested Bowl Championship Series (BSC), there really will be a playoff system to determine the national champion. DeVry University will play Capella University in one national semifinal and in the other the Ashford University will take on Kaplan University. The winner will play for all the marbles in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

GlenDale AZ

Sounds a little far-fetched? Right? Wonder if the management of Borders really ever appreciated the nature of the sinister threat to its bricks-and-mortar business model by Amazon and its unique ability to serve the “long tail.”

The local and regional newspapers with their 20th Century dependency on classified revenue really didn’t comprehend the impact of Craigslist until it was too late. They have not recovered and the carnage is just starting; they have not even reached the end of their beginning of the end.

As I start my first day tomorrow as a full-time instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, I am wondering whether I am one of the band members sitting on the deck of the Titanic…BEFORE the luxury liner hit the iceberg.

On the surface everything looks amazingly robust. A college education is now seen as a virtual entitlement for all, not the province of the privileged few. For example, the student population of the University of Oregon has expanded from 19,000 10 years ago to 24,000 now. The average GPA for the incoming freshman this past fall was a record 3.59. The J-School has a total of 2,000 students and the classes for the most part are packed, including the two that I am teaching. There is a reason for the campus wide swagger at Oregon besides the football team winning the Rose Bowl.

rosebowl

In addition, there is the perception shared by some chief executives, even those hailing from the innovative Silicon Valley, that those “attending” online universities are essentially buying a degree, not earning one at a “real” school.

And yet I drive past the shuddered Borders. I remember walking up and down the aisles, checking out books that grabbed my eye or thumbing through CDs. I would take the books over to the in-store coffee shop and peruse them over an overpriced upscale coffee and maybe buy a book or two. Those days are part of the not-too-distant past.

As everyone knows, you can download individual songs, not CDs, from iTunes and instantly load them onto your iPod. Books can either be instantly downloaded to electronic readers or quickly shipped. The bricks-and-mortar model limited the revenues of a Borders because physical space only allowed so much commerce. The “long tail” means that Amazon is not restricted by space and anybody who is looking for an out-of-print book or obscure music beyond the Top 40 can find it at Amazon, but rarely at Barnes and Noble or at now-defunct Borders.

Do these same bricks-and-mortar and ivy-covered walls also maximize the revenue potential of traditional universities, while online universities can teach literally an infinite amount of students on a global scale on a 24/7/365 basis? That may seem like a stretch, but how big of a stretch?

The perception that students are merely buying a degree is a public relations problem that can be solved with time and success stories. What if the public starts to see more-and-more University of Phoenix or DeVry University graduates in positions of power and authority, just is the case for graduates of Ivy League Schools, Stanford, Cal and yes, Oregon? Will we see a president of the United States (POTUS) hailing from an online university before we have a woman president…or will these firsts come at exactly the same time?

A key advantage for on-line universities is their classes never close, there is always a space and they can be taken anywhere at virtually any time. They are highly adaptable. Their non-tenured instructors are less prone as Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote today to advance a social justice agenda and actually teach the course they were hired to teach…maybe even actually helping students find a real job. Bummer: There are no administration buildings to storm and occupy.

For the bricks-and-mortar presidents, administrators and department deans they should be afraid, very afraid of the digital future. Having said that, they have some time…but not unlimited time to devise a strategy to fight back. One important weapon in their arsenal is their well-established brand: a University of Oregon degree carries great weight. The same is true for other major universities.

There is absolutely no reason why these brand names can’t be married to online teaching technology to effectively compete or maybe even outcompete the University of Phoenix et al. crowd. Why can’t English 101 be taught online? Why can’t electrical engineering be taught online by renowned engineering schools? Of course, they can. The analog way of thinking and teaching needs to accommodate the digital reality of the new world.

Are there some limitations to the online teaching model that points to a sustained future for the fittest bricks-and-mortar universities? Sure. This week, I am teaching Public Relations Campaigns. I will be dividing up students in groups of four to work with non-profits on “capstone” projects. They need to learn how to work with others face-to-face, to not love each other but to respect each other. They need to appreciate that not everyone will carry exactly the same load, but that is life…just as long as no one is AWOL.

whiteboard

How can you effectively teach real-time tactile teamwork online? E-mail, texting and social media provides for universal connectivity on an immediate basis, but it does not replace face-to-face communication…in fact it allows introverts to avoid eyeball-to-eyeball contact. That is not what we are trying to achieve in bricks-and-mortar Public Relations Campaigns.

http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/could-many-universities-follow-borders-bookstores-into-oblivion/35711?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://chronicle.com/article/Candace-Thille/130934/

http://www.hattoss.com/ouniversities.htm

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/04/01/ucs_leftist_echo_chamber_drowns_out_diverse_voices_113688.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Tail

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