Guide Red Herring: Private Eyeball

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In its 25th year, Ferns N Petals has a bouquet of nine verticals but is betting on weddings for growth. Are slowdown blues making consumers burn more points?

When Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana was rolled out three years ago, insurers were excited and made a beeline Published on December 29, This article is closed for comments. Please Email the Editor. The last herders of Pushkar A low turnout at the famous Puskhar fair highlights the declining interest in the once-popular profession of Tapping the customer's entire address book is more valuable than just reaching their best friend. The typical viral entry strategy is to minimize the friction of market entry and proliferation with an eye to building in hooks and barriers to switching for customers.

If the service is trying to blatantly monetize its subscriber base in every way imaginable, new users will be reluctant to spread the word. Therefore, many of these services are free and light on the revenue generation in the early days of their rapid proliferation.

When we first invested in Four11 and Hotmail, we could not say with certainty how they would ultimately monetize their subscribers. We brainstormed several possible scenarios for how they might eventually exploit their large audience and market position as a communications hub. But in the viral growth phase, the simple banner ad seemed the most innocuous. In an extreme example, prior to their acquisition by America OnLine, ICQ's CEO took delight in the fact that they not only had no revenue, but had no current plan for revenue.

This is not to say that businesses without revenue prospects are necessarily attractive - just that people's attention or "eyeballs" have proven to be monetizable in every media. A company that can choose to delay revenue maximization e. This is one of the reasons so much VC money flows into these Internet start-ups.

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The Internet is a wonderful substrate or petri dish for the proliferation and replication of intellectual property. A good idea can spread more quickly over the Internet than had ever been possible before in the physical world, where manufacturing and distribution fundamentally limit the rate of product adoption. Especially in the Internet era, a company's competitiveness seems to depend on its velocity of thought and action. Companies can grow more rapidly than ever before, but so too may they suddenly die from obsolescence.

The critical differentiator is whether the company has built in switching barriers for its customers and barriers to entry for its competitors. Rapid growth is of no value without customer retention. Whenever we consider an investment in an Internet startup company, we strategize about customer switching barriers, and the impact of the inevitable arrival of competitive imitators. We have witnessed a particular entrepreneur that has used an offshore development team to quickly copy one of our portfolio companies' lead into a new market - three times in a row! First they copied Four11's directory services, then Hotmail's free email, and now Kana Communications' wildly successful email-based customer support software.

The Internet supports an ecology of organisms, and the "fast follower" is a classic form. The ability to rapidly recruit subscribers creates market value - but only if a company can retain these customers over multiple visits to their site.

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Investors and bankers are approximating the lifetime economic value of these subscribers discounted back to the present day. How many ad dollars will they generate over lifetime? How much will they buy? A huge variable in this economic equation will be the customer retention rate.


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Are you like a subway station with banner ads flying by the commuters who are just trying to get to their destination, or are you like a cafe where customers mingle and feel like they belong? Web communities, e-mail, personalization, contact lists, calendars, personal web pages - these are all "sticky" applications that help retain customers. This is where most of Yahoo and the other portals' energy has gone in the last two years. An interesting side effect of geometric growth is that by the time a virus spreads to the point of being an epidemic, its growth curve relative to a new entrant is somewhat daunting.

Hotmail was doubling in size each month, but it took several months to reach one million users. Until then, they were under the radar screen of many potential competitors and acquirers. By the time the industry came to realize that free web-based email was indeed a hot idea, Hotmail was adding one million new subscribers per month, and that growth rate was accelerating.

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A new fast follower would start small and have to grow for several months to reach one million subscribers. But in that same time, Hotmail would have grown to 10 million subscribers. So although Hotmail's followers grew geometrically as well, the absolute difference in subscriber bases widened every month while the ratio remained approximately constant. Absolute size matters.

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One significant effect of Hotmail's absolute size is that their efficiencies of scale allowed them to be the lowest-cost e-mail provider on the planet. Server utilization and bandwidth pricing improved with growth. Also, the perceived gorilla in a category tends to get the dominant share of the business and financial partnerships.

Red Herring Hotmail Photoshoot for the original Viral Mark… | Flickr

Many advertisers and media companies do not want to spend time with sub-scale properties. All of this makes it tougher for the smaller new entrant. It also skews the make vs. A similar buying frenzy is currently underway for "community-building" web sites, such as Tripod, PlanetAll and Homestead.

A challenge for the hyper-growth gorilla is scalability. On a technology level, server scalability is a critical concern. Fortunately, companies like Hotmail are turning software into a service. What was sold as email servers and clients is now offered as a web-based service where the customer need only have a standard web browser. This makes product upgrades a lot easier; Hotmail can upgrade its server software several times a month without involving or in many cases, even notifying its large customer base.

The customer still uses the same browser. But once one problem is solved, hyper-growth tends to uncover new scalability bottlenecks. Often the young Internet company finds that its growth is constrained by its ability to hire good people. This is why many of these companies try to engineer around people-intensive elements of their business. New companies are often the primary beneficiaries of new distribution channels, as Dell has shown in the PC industry.

Dell just passed Compaq to become 1 in desktop PC shipments. Compaq's legacy channel partners prevent it from entering the lower-cost mail order channel. For many businesses, the Internet is a still lower cost channel of distribution. By lowering prices or offering free products, and employing a "market shrink" strategy, the new entrant can make it very painful for established companies with established distribution relationships to follow them.

Although the new market size may be smaller, driven by Internet price efficiencies, the new entrant can gain significant share by restructuring the basis of competition. There may be less revenue in a free email market, but it's tough for Eudora and companies based on selling client software to follow Hotmail's lead. Viral Marketing provides a new distribution channel for almost any Internet application. Strength coaches need to decide that they are responsible outside of the weight room. Sport specific is a direct pipeline for rehearsal of the sport or just general training that is closer to demands than other options.

Higher-level sports care becomes about winning today, not about what may happen down the road. When coaches devise training programs for athletes, they first get into what they feel is effective for their own circumstances. I agree that the core fundamentals of getting athletes to do a well-rounded, structurally balanced program are great, but unmotivated coaches seem to hate doing more than just recycling the same template year after year.

The issue is that there are not enough qualified coaches or coaching hours, and not enough time to design training. Some software programs are good at making it easier for coaches, but nobody has shown me anything that is a game changer. This is the reason automation is everything with AMS products ; automation allows coaches to enhance their vision and thinking, not replace them.

The reality is to accept that you will miss out on slightly better results by not programming deeper or just accept that private coaches will get better results simply because they have the time advantages. The transfer of training is a muse for many researchers and coaches. A classic question coaches want to know is will it make the boat go faster? What type of training is likely to be more effective, and how does this evolve over a course of a career?

Image 2. Countless arguments can be made for the value of specific types of training, so look at the benefits of modifying training variables. For example, sled workouts can be adjusted for countless needs of a training program. For example, if you want to get an immediate ROI return on investment , some specific training like resisted sprints is gold.

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Yet, what happens after a few years is also important, because athletes with poor training backgrounds who just piecemeal Nordic hamstring curls, Copenhagen adduction exercises , and a few specific strength exercises may reduce their ceiling in year three and on. This is why I care about general training and total training exposure metrics more than just team testing. Those who train better, even if it does not transfer that much, develop capacity that means something. Resilience and robustness are buzzwords, but we should probably think about capacity as the ability to rebound from high stress instead of managing training load like a scared gatekeeper.


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  • In fact, I think the coaches who are afraid of injury are the ones likely to hold back an athlete from being their best or create injuries because their fears are contagious to the athlete. If training does transfer it may come with problems, specifically baggage with injuries.

    The SAID principle is a double-edged sword—it helps and harms. It seems that for every specific strength exercise, a sport-specific injury pattern emerges. Things that transfer may carry over, but be careful of what may be hitching a ride. An example? Neck training rarely makes someone a better athlete, but it may keep someone in the game longer, especially in collision and combat sports.