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    Back Issues, Weekly
    Week Ending: May 04, 1996
    May 4, 1996
    Privacy is an ongoing issue in electronic commerce. Services like Yahoo's People Search offer the capability to find bits and pieces of information about individuals without their permission or knowledge. It isn't really any different than having access to phone directories. The issue gains some intensity because the capability, once reserved for well heeled investigators and marketers is now widely available to anyone with a modem.

    Using the service, you can look up someone using their phone number only.

    Phone: (###-###-####)
    Yahoo's People Search is a modest and unthreatening tip of the iceberg. More potentially sinister applications exist already. Informus, a Mississippi based information service can provide the following data over the web.
    • Driving Reports (MVRs) Nationwide
    • Workers' Comp Searches in 40 States
    • Criminal Record Histories Nationwide
    • Previous Employment Verifications in 72 Hours
    • National Credit and Address Information
    The service is used by employers trying to perform effective background checks on potential employees.

    Expect a storm of protest to emerge as the search mechanisms get increasingly sophisticated and comprehensive.

    We tend to view the increased consolidation of information as an incredibly democratic and useful thing. Capabilities once reserved for a wealthy technical elite are now in the hands of everyone.

    Broadcast media and mass production gave us an interesting 150 year reprieve from the intense scrutiny of small town life. In an ironic twist, net technology, with its emphasis on customer-centric information, is restoring the small town feel to our so-called "global village"

    Privacy is a relative thing. To buy a well tailored suit of clothes, the tailor must know much more about you than a salesperson selling clothes off the rack. We think that there is an inevitable (and positive) tradeoff between personal disclosure and customization. The idea that this trend is inherently ominous is misguided.

    May 3, 1996
    History shapes our perceptions in powerful and subtle ways. In the beginning, hypertext was developed as a potential solution for information overload. It was designed as a sort of super cross-referencing tool. Early descriptions compared hypertext to multi-dimensional library card catalogs. Hyperlinks were pointers to deeper information and (ideally) a way to integrate human understanding.

    Partly because of this history and partly because the process of making a hyperlink is so technical, we think that links are terribly misunderstood.

    It's a shame that there isn't a better word than paradigm to describe the trouble caused by continuing to look at something based on its history. We think that there's a larger context from which links can be understood. We like the term symbolic link because of the mystery it contains.

    Mass media and mass production have a percentage orientation to customer satisfaction. Businesses were made and broken on the basis of their ability to make a single product fit a variety of circumstances. For thousands of years, though, business success was a function of referral and repeat business. Reputation was central to business success. We think that those days, with their emphasis on personalized attention and deep customer satisfaction are returning.

    From our perspective, a symbolic link is an institutionalized referral. It's much more than a "pointer" or a cross reference. It's an actively working customer testimonial that includes the directions to your operation. It sounds so simple to say, but is seriously overlooked by most web marketers. In it's simplicity, this is an incredibly powerful idea. A link is an instituitionalized referral.

    Anyone with a solid sales background knows how hard and important it is to generate referral business. It requires that you actively engage your clients as partners in the development and growth of your enterprise. It requires that you ask for their help. It requires that you define a return for clients who are willing to make an additional investment in your success. The web makes the job of providing a referral easier for the referrer. And it lasts a long time.

    We tell our clients to expect that a single link will generate 20 weekly visitors on average. Advertising is a solid and reliable way to build brand awareness and introduce customers to your offerings. We think, though, that a solid web advertising plan has to include link development as a measurable consequence. Without links, advertising and promotion generate burst traffic that dissipates. With links, advertising can be used to build a traffic foundation.

    May 2, 1996
    In our office, there's a sign that says: One web year = 2.5 months. In this new landscape, a calendar year is an eternity.

    For a solid year now (calendar, that is) , The David Siegel Project has been surveying the web for sites that match their concept of design excellence. While we have some quibbles with their criteria, the fact is that a tour through the past winner's gallery will get your graphics juices flowing. The reviews are engaging and focus clearly on site design.

    Knowing, as we do, the rigors of routine poublishing on the web, we're delighted to remind you of their tireless work and congratulate them on navigating a year of uninterrupted publishing. Many ventures make unfilled promises about routine publishing. The David Siegel Project goes to great lengths to define and demonstrate excellence in Web publishing. Put them on your bookmark list and look at the weekly winner each Wednesday.

    May 1, 1996
    This Just in:
    Electronic Advertising Company
    Sues America Online over "Junk E-mail"

    By Joseph A. Slobodzian
    The Philadelphia Inquirer
    Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business

    In what lawyers say is the first lawsuit of its type, an upstart electronic advertising company in Philadelphia sued America Online Inc. in federal court here yesterday. The company, called Cyber Promotions Inc., contends the online service tried to drive it out of business because AOL is opposed to ``junk e-mail.''

    Cyber Promotions went into business as Promo Enterprises early last year at 1255 Passmore St. to send advertisements by e-mail, the suit says. It signed contracts with three computer-service companies to connect it to the Internet and send the advertising.

    The suit insists Cyber Promotions is not merely dumping thousands of unwanted e-mail messages into the Internet. The suit says the company selects its recipients ``based on certain criteria or profiles'' to target those most interested in the products or services it advertises.

    The suit says that in the first two paragraphs of each of its e-mail advertisements, Cyber Promotions informs the recipients that they can be removed from the list by sending the company a return ``take me off'' e-mail message.

    The company also offers to reimburse anyone who has incurred telephone charges from receiving and reading an unsolicited e-mail message it sends, the suit said. ... The suit contends America Online collected all the undeliverable e-mail messages sent by Cyber Promotions, altered the computer-return address and in February, and earlier this month, sent the messages en masse to two of Cyber's Internet-service providers.

    The alleged tactic caused the crash of the computers of UUNET Technologies of Fairfax, Va. and Voicenet in Ivyland in Bucks County, the suit contends, and resulted in both companies terminating their contracts with Cyber Promotions. The parent company of the third provider, Comcat Inc. of Doylestown in Bucks County, was allegedly threatened by America Online with an e-mail bombing if they did not break their contract with Cyber Promotions.

    In addition, the suit maintains, America Online has threatened to terminate the online accounts of any company who uses Cyber Promotions' e-mail advertising.

    As our email basket slowly fills with bulk information, we wonder how long things will stay the same. Our bet...email software will begin to get smart about handling the problems. We think the noise surrounding "junk email" is a function of the fact that email is as easy to respond to as it is to throw away. We imagine that junk postal mail would receive the same response if responding were easier. In the meantime, expect the visibility of the "junk email" issue to heat up.

    The quoted article is ©Knight-Ridder

    April 30, 1996
    It doesn't have to be glamorous to be useful. Poulton Associates, Inc are an insurance company. (We're at least as surprised as you are that we're mentioning an insurance company!) Their site includes a useful tutorial on the legal and liability risks of web publishing. They also offer Web oriented liability insurance (minimum $2500 annual policies).

    April 29, 1996
    Online marketing isn't just about setting up and operating a website. It's very difficult to really tell who your competition is because manufacturers are becoming publishers, publishers are becoming marketers, marketers behave like distributors and so on. Role definition is topsy-turvy in this new channel.

    Editor and Publisher Interactive offers a single source for staying abreast of the developments in the traditional news publishing industry. It's liable to be the case that you'll have to invest some of your marketing budget in ads in a news service of some kind (The more things change, the more they stay the same!). Editor and Publisher Interactive is a way to keep an eye on who's targeting your audience.

    April 28, 1996
    Interactive Age Daily continues to be the Best source of up to date insight into the major industry moves affecting marketers. If you're not going to Internet World in San Jose this week, it is the place to stay abreast of the changes.

    Try Freeloader

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