Archive for June 29th, 2006
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
Fox News with Brit Hume covers Guantanamo, and the New York Times Leak.
CNN with Larry King covers Star Jones.
Is it any wonder why nobody watches CNN anymore? What happened to CNN? It feels like I’ve tuned into Dr Phil. Honestly, I wish I was making this stuff up.
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
My last Google post, if you caught it after I first published it, was a little rough and had some opinion in it I later changed my mind on. This is something I always do and it annoys the hell out of me. I’ve set this mental rule that after writing a post, it has to sit in my drafts folder for at least one hour before I publish. This of course is a pain in the ars, because you have to remember to go back and publish the article. Also, ‘Saving as Draft’ just doesn’t seem to have the same “It’s going to go out to the world” mental weight as ‘Publish’. (And sometimes I just break my own rules.)
I think I finally found a pretty good answer thanks to this blog. Essentially, WordPress allows you to queue a post for publishing using the timestamp information. Now all I have to do is edit my WordPress PHP scripts so that the time displayed as the default timestamp is 1-2 hours ahead of current time and I’m set. Nice!
I also need to figure out how to set things up so that anything I publish on a Friday or Saturday night between the hours of 11p.m. and 4a.m. goes directly into the trash bin.
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
The hype is intense as usual over a new Google feature – Google Checkout. Overall I’m impressed, but also a little bummed, I was hoping for a system that makes the process of selling products simpler. As a part-time shareware developer I’ve stayed away form sites like PayPal for two reasons – One, they require the user to create a PayPal account to make a purchase, and two, the job of integrating a site with PayPal is complex, especially if the resulting purchase requires an email response with a license key. This nixed PayPal for me and Google Checkout as well for this use case.
Aside from this niche case however, Checkout does have some interesting possibilities. First though I’d be interested in knowing how many people actually purchase a product after clicking on an ad in a search engine response. Although the Google Blog seems to claim this is common, personally I’ve never done this myself. People tend to be comparison shoppers, so finding a product by visiting a search engine and clicking on an ad seems a bit of a stretch. I think the big win for a service like Checkout comes from vendors who have products for sale that get indexed in comparative sites like NexTag. If these sites support Checkout this makes it simple for a user to purchase products from these sites. But in this case, is Checkout really a PayPal killer? Given the choice of clicking on a PayPal button and a Google Checkout button when purchasing, I’m at a loss as to why I would sign up for a new service if I already have an account at PayPal. So Google stands to increase it’s Checkout accounts only if the user is signing up for the first time with some sort of payment system. In this case, the better margins are what PayPal should be worried about, since Google has undercut PayPal with a 2.0% vendor surcharge on purchases compared to PayPal’s 2.9%. If PayPal has any brains at all they’ll drop their rate tomorrow, possibly even lower to say 1.9% to compete. After all vendors faced with the task positioning payment buttons on their sites are going to give precedence to the payment service that makes them more money.
The other chance Checkout has is in the case where the vendor only supports Checkout and not PayPal. Although I think the number of vendors doing this voluntarily will be slim, Google can easily write checks to help tip the scales. A good example would be Buy.com, which does not support PayPal. In this case the consumer will choose Buy if they already have an account with that site. If not, it’s a choice between Google and Buy.com. I’m curious if the perception will be that going with Google means your sharing your personal data with two companies? Regardless, I think there will be uptake for Checkout in this case. Personally I would probably go with Google, not knowing much about Buy.com.
Others have also commented that this is an Amazon killer. In general I think this is mostly hype, with no real substance. Sites like Amazon are a first destination for shoppers looking for a particular product because Amazon has already built up consumer confidence in it’s brand. For example when I buy a book, CD, mp3 player, xbox 360, or even my favorite kind of socks, I’m not going to go to a search engine, search for the brand, and click on an ad. I’m going to go directly to amazon.com. In these cases comparison shopping isn’t needed, so I just go directly to the site I trust. Even if I do find a product via a search engine, odds are there will be an Amazon link on the page. With Amazon’s free shipping discounts for mixed orders, I’d still go with Amazon over a smaller vendor.
Beyond the hype, I think Checkout will have reasonable growth. If eBay knows anything about business 101, they’ll know that getting undercut on vendor surcharges needs to be dealt with quickly. Deal with that, and the only thing Google has going for it is a nice button and their name. In this case it comes down to consumers choosing which brand they trust more – PayPal, or Google. Who wins that battle is anybody’s guess, contrary to everything you’ve read today. In time though I imagine consumers may adopt both systems. Then it comes down to who can cut the best deals, and provide the best incentives to sellers. eBay has been king in this business forever, so they haven’t been forced to compete at all. Look for big changes overall in the PayPal system going forward from everything to customer service to seller services to technology. One of the hallmarks of Google is they force positive change, in this case sellers stand to benefit.
Overall, I have to say that this product, without a doubt, is the smartest thing Google has done since Search. Eliminate every crappy product they’ve produced in between except maybe GMail and Maps (good PR plays but lacking in any substantial business model) and you have what appears to be a very smart company. I’m just surprised it took so long.