What’s behind Amazon acquiring Whole Foods?

Rod Campbell
Lennox Research Analyst, Technology

Bold move by Amazon today. Hard to tell if its brilliant or crazy, but if Amazon can’t save retail, then no one can. It does show that Amazon has gotten the memo that Apple, Disney, etc. have gotten that you have to service the rich in order to be profitable. The dying middle will always be looking for subsidies and deals, and that is never profitable.

Current work: 3-part survey of the status of broadband

Our most current project has been a three-part overview of the status of U.S. broadband today. Separate projects produced reports summarizing recent developments in rural broadband, broadband competitors in urban areas, and broadband’s expanding role in healthcare. The research, still in pre-publication, was funded by a major research institution, where it is still in peer review at this early-April 2015 writing.

As a general conclusion, what we found was an ongoing tug of war: well-intentioned techies, activists, users and government agencies versus profit-maximizing carriers. In many cases, the broadband utopia envisioned by the dreamers and the PR people is not being realized in the day-to-day life of people who could greatly benefit from reliable, affordable high-speed Internet access — not exactly a surprise to those who follow the field. Idealists can hope for a better tomorrow. Cynics can shake their heads or shrug their shoulders.

Boulder awaits big Google expansion

Some are thrilled, others are disturbed, by Google’s plans to expand its footprint in Boulder from 300 to an expected 1500 by yearend 2016. A major complex at the far east end of downtown Boulder will begin construction soon. I dug through some secondary sources to compile an overview of the facts and opinions on the topic. See my 1600-word piece on The Boulder Reporter.

Publishing via apps versus websites

There’s a provocative debate on the website Paid Content about whether publishers should focus on delivering their content via websites or iPad apps. In the latest installment, author Ashley Norris opines, in part:

The price of producing iPad mags is falling so quickly that very soon a whole slew of indie publishers will have iPad mags ready to roll and once again the mainstream publishers will have missed the boat.

And…

I don’t think people will be paying for iPad magazines in two years time, so, like the web, ad revenue will become crucial. That means magazine publishers have a shortish window of time to establish themselves as iPad magazine brands.

Interesting. In my opinion, publishing’s future is all very much in flux. Apps are much like magazines; you enter them and you’re in that publisher’s world. And you develop strong loyalties to certain apps (they’re “sticky”), unlike the typical website-cruiser, who can flit off to another site at any second.

Business idea: a tool for stringing together one’s various prized Bookmarks and iPad apps into sort of a slideshow that you could easily be escorted through. As it is, the two formats aka platforms (websites and apps) are getting confusing. I have maybe 30 places I tend to visit via a group of Bookmarks I maintain that I call my “Morning News” and about 10 apps (“CBS Evening News” et al) I get to when I remember to — two different (un)walled gardens.

I recently heard a publisher opining on a blog to the effect of, “Why would I do an iPad app when it only reaches a tiny portion of my target audience? I’m better to stick with a website. It can reach everyone, at least if it’s standards-compliant (i.e., no Flash, etc.).” True, the 5 million iPad users are an engaged and affluent bunch. But they’re still a subculture, for now. The rest of the year should tell us a lot about the spreading ubiquity (or not) of tablets in general (the iPad and all the Android tablets). I’ve believed all along that they will become the dominant publishing platform for former newspapers and magazines, with the only wild card being the timing. Still, the tension between publishing on a website and on an app will remain. I think a standards-compliant website, viewable on an iPad and other tablets, is the best strategy, at least for the next few years. For that matter, a reader can use the iPad’s “Add to home screen” option to create an icon for a favorite website. Most users would view and use this icon as the functional equivalent of an app anyway. I know I do.

Don’t forget the content!

Acclaimed British web designer Paul Boag, creative director of the firm Headscape, writes about a funny phenomenon: how often companies redo their websites, spending lots on design and development, and all but overlook content. The headlines, the text. Funny, isn’t it. Unless you’re paying the bill and not getting the payoff. He writes, in part:

Next time you redesign your website don’t think it is enough just to employ a web design agency. You also need to consider your own responsibilities. … Ask any web designer and they will tell you that the single biggest point of weakness in any redesign project is late delivery of content. As a website owner it is easy to forget that although your web designer can create you a new website they cannot populate it with content.

Rewriting all of the content on your existing site is a major undertaking and without adequate resources it will simply not happen. What happens instead is that content is copied and pasted from your website, printed material or any other ad hoc source that can be found. This not only leads to a horrible Frankenstein mix of content, it also makes relaunching the website pointless.

Read the rest of his very interesting post here. I’m such a fan . . . gush! And I especially like the emphasis he puts on content, since we consider it our strong suit at Lennox: thinking through, organizing and writing the content that really works for clients and for our own projects.

Social media can be a “next step” in courting customers

No, social media isn’t the quick cure to marketing ailments, but it can invite prospective customers and clients to get to know you better, writes Jay Baer in his interesting blog, Convince&Convert. I particularly liked this point:

Social media is the perfect conversion half-step. Not sure whether you’re ready to buy a Toyota? Visit us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, or read our blog, or watch our videos. Each of them will show you what our brand is REALLY like, and you won’t have to wade through all this pesky navigation and flash movies to get what you need.

You may find value in reading the whole post.