Entries Tagged as 'Amazon'

What Netflix Needs To Do To Progress Further

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I have both supported, and spoke highly of Netflix.  I’ve also ripped them to shreds when I found their business decisions to be absolutely horrible, and pulled my money as an investor when it started to do things that was not along this side of visionary.  So with the latest announcement of canning the split business scenario, I thought… maybe they’re finally understanding again.  Regardless, Reed Hastings is on the right track although his means to the end was not exactly the best of methods.   So this is what I propose that he starts doing if he’s indeed still pushing for settling on Netflix being a streaming business.

  1. Re-position internal organizations
    Internally, you’ll start splitting your company into two divisions.  One is DVD, one is streaming.  Both would have online teams that work together, but ultimately your sales, metrics, and growth will be separated out.   Timeline? 1-2 years.  I have yet to participate in a major company-wide re-organization that has never taken at least 12-18 months.
  2. Customer service needs to get back on par
    Netflix as a company took their reputation and basically threw it out the window.  That’s a lot of reputation when you consider that it was chucked in three months and the company has been around since 1997.   Get back to doing what you were doing best, which was handling customer service well and providing for those that bring you revenue.   Don’t forget that while people are just means to end, your company is also in the service business.  So service.
  3. Transparency
    I am still amazed that there are people out there that don’t understand that the best online businesses are the ones that have such deep linked inner-workings that have absolutely no ties to what the customer interacts with and how it’s done.  Amazon is a great example of this.  From a consumer standpoint, their website is a shopping area and 2-days later, a product arrives.  But the amount of logistics that went into making all of that happen behind the scenes?  Vast.  AND really none of the consumer’s business.  The fact is that all of this and expansions is made possible because of transparency.  With the Qwikster model, there was absolutely no transparency, and you took a brand and threw it out the window.  Once a business operates in a transparent function, it makes changing the consumer end very simple.  You could sell the online division, or dvd rental without batting an eye since the buyers can see that it can both operate seamlessly or by itself.  That makes your company all the more attractive.
  4. Improve Online UX
    So far, Netflix keeps changing up their UX, but their applications lag behind sometimes and they don’t really improve.  For example, they took away the DVD queues on the iPad app, but that’s something that I want to have access to when I use your “services”.  Which is what I pay for.   I don’t just pay for half of it so don’t just show me half.   That sort of interfacing is an important aspect of both how the consumer feels about your services and how easy it is to work.
  5. Improve streaming
    With more and more content, the price increase obviously is going back into the system. But, I have still yet to see a way to choose different language tracks in foreign films.  I also have yet to see DVD previews and all sorts of other things that could be on a streaming service.  This needs to improve if you wish people to take your streaming business model seriously.
  6. Quit thinking your customers are complete idiots
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the last three months should be a complete eye-opener.  You treated your customers as complete dolts, and then expected them to understand the business and why it was needed.  Then you followed up the bad scenario with another completely terrible scenario.  What may be a good business decision still has to be sold to the shareholders just like any other political message.  Note that the best politicians are great salesmen.   That’s because they can sell you a dream that in reality is a piece of rock.  In the same manner, you need to sell your business models instead of just throwing it out and letting the pieces land where they may.
Customers of services and products do their talking with their feet.  And at the end of the day, especially in bad economics, realize that your product or service is an entertainment expense, not a necessity.   This in itself is a consideration of how you set up and execute the business.   When you’re finished with understanding that (of which I’m not sure what happened in the last three months that you forgot when you remembered the last decade), you’ll be able to continue down the same road that you’ve been trying to go down.  Only then, will you have all the pieces in place to pull off what you were trying to accomplish here in 2011.
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Amazon Tax Not Doing Anything for North Carolina

North Carolina State Capitol.
Image via Wikipedia

Apparently, the online tax for North Carolina hasn’t been bringing in the money that it was supposed to and the thinktank, Tax Foundation, has published a report that says that not only does it hurt the state in the short term, but it also hurts the state in the long term too.

Noooo kidddding.

Amusingly, this is basically the “I told you so” parts where the legislation made decisions on things they knew nothing about and spent budget money that they didn’t have. Again. Nothing new here, folks. Politicians that don’t understand technology and business? Like we’ve never heard that one before.

Interestingly enough, although to no avail, I had spoken about this issue time and again during the time when the “Amazon Tax” during the time period when it was passed and how our legislation thought how wonder it would be to gain some figure in the sky millions in some sort of pot of gold wish.

I mean, seriously. They still continued to budget and spend for this year as if there is this money coming in although there is nary a word from the North Carolina Department of Revenue on whether or not there actually is significant tax revenues coming in due to this tax. I suspect that there is little to nothing, considering they had targeted Amazon, and Amazon cut their ties with North Carolina affiliates and hurt the state in the process. Amusingly, the bad guy that Amazon was made out to be wasn’t so bad and in the end the politicians seemed to have stuck their own foots in their mouth if this study from Tax Foundation has anything to say about it.

From my perspective? Well, one of my businesses just didn’t carry as much revenue this year. Instead of having to pay taxes on the income, it seemed that it was more of a write off this last year. Oh well. Tough cookies for the North Carolina bare coffers.

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How North Carolina Will Go Broke By Stupid Tax Laws

Raleigh NC Tax Day Tea Party Protest
Image by Ivy Dawned via Flickr

I really don’t understand North Carolina state. At all.

The entire legislation is made up of some people that have no idea about technology or how it works. The fact that the final tax bill going to the floor has the “Amazon tax” tells me that not a single one of the incumbents that have pushed this or voted this in is either in the twenty first century, nor know a thing about business law. Mainly, the idea that affiliates are the physical presence for a major online retailer is so ludicrous that it’s laughable by anyone that has done consulting work. I’ll give you an example in the consultation analogy:

According to North Carolina state legislation, if I am an out-of-state corporation, but I have sub-contractors that I have agreements to do work with me, then I am to be taxed as if I operated my business in North Carolina.

Sound good to you? Well, that’s the same agreement that affiliates have with any sort of online retailer that pays them to sell advertisement. I also will be curious as far as when others such as the newspapers (News & Record, Business Journal), magazines, online radio stations, and so on feel this bite since I have heard nary a word from them even though they will technically be hurt by this. I’m surprised that actually no one has even thrown a red flag out there. Oh well, time to bite the bullet with stupid taxing that won’t bring in any money.

Here’s why it’s a stupid idea and totally the wrong way to go about taxing Internet purchases. If you want to chase Internet purchasing taxation, you’ll have to do some sort of an agreement through a payment service. Going after affiliates just allows the retailer to continue with their business and cut their ties to the affiliates (aka small business that do pay local taxes). What you miss out on is all of the taxation that the small businesses were putting into your coffers, and on top of it, you’re not making anything from the online retailer(s). This is expected to $150 million in the next two years?

Who the hell are they joking? With the way it’s written and the ties cut from affiliates, the State will be in the hole more than $150 million. Mainly with all the retailers refusing to pay and cutting their ties, and indirectly jeopardizing any real tax money that would have come into play. I can tell you that one of my businesses will be hurt by this and unfortunately for the state, unless something changes this company will probably be in the red instead of black this year and thus won’t be giving up anything to state coffers. Sucks to be you, eh?

If you want to tax internet retail, you have to move from smaller battles to the bigger picture. But if you can’t understand how to walk, I’m not exactly sure when you’ll achieve dreams of running a marathon.

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North Carolina Still Working On Unconstitutional Digital Tax

associates-logo-small._V265885005_ North Carolina is still pushing that digital tax.

But fortunately, there is another win for Amazon, and another state that doesn’t have legislators that have never fought for small businesses or know how Internet businesses work. Apparently the governor of the State of Hawaii has vetoed HB 1405 and the time has passed for the overturning to occur. So Amazon is re-inviting those affiliates back from that state.

Will North Carolina also break free from those luddites that know no bounds to how much they hurt small business? Perhaps. My guess is that we’re actually not reaching through the thick skulls of the state legislation but I could be entirely wrong. So far, I must say that as an independent voter and business owner, I haven’t been impressed with either the state legislation or our governor in several decisions that are NOT in the best interest in the constituents. Perhaps they will surprise me yet and overturn this one. Call me crazy but I actually like to pay income taxes if they didn’t take a portion of the income from my business.

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Free Movie Brought To You By Roku

Roku.com-The Little Black Box That Streams Thousands of Films! Roku is now bringing you five dollars in credit if you register your Roku box within the month of July and spend the credit before September 30. I personally think that’s pretty neat, although my issue with my Roku box isn’t so much of the content as much as the interface could use a little work. The Amazon interface is a bit better than Netflix, since I’d love to be able to browse, add, and delete to my queue.

Outside of that, this promotion is brilliant since it gives people a chance to try out the $99 box and get a little something extra. They would actually go a bit further if they actually provided this to those early adopters too, as a gift. Just a thought.

In any case, the below is the email that was sent out to those on the mailing list and the Facebook page:

Wanted to let everyone know about an exciting promotion we’re running in the month of July with our partner, Amazon Video On Demand. July is free movie month!

Roku is pleased to bring you a great deal: a $5 credit towards any purchase or rental on Amazon Video On Demand.

In order to receive your credit, you must register your Roku player on Amazon during the month of July. You’ll have until September 30 to use the credit before it expires.

Don’t have a Roku player yet? No worries! If you buy one now, you’ll receive it in July, just in time to get your free movie rental from Amazon Video On Demand on behalf of Roku.

If you already have your Roku player or expect to receive it soon simply register it now with Amazon Video On Demand and you’ll receive a $5 credit to watch anything you want—from a new release movie to an episode of your favorite TV show.

In order to receive your credit, you must register your Roku player to Amazon during the month of July. You’ll have until September 30 to use it before it expires.

How to register your Roku player

Visit the Amazon Video On Demand page (URL below) to register your Roku player. Follow the simple four-step process using the screenshots they’ve provided.


Register your Roku player today!

Amazon Video On Demand offers more than 40,000 Hollywood hits, classic movies and your favorite TV shows—including hundreds in HD—that you can start watching instantly on your Roku player on any TV.


Your friends at Roku

A bit of wishful thinking but I’m just waiting for Roku to support Hulu and we’ll be all set.

Anti-NC Affiliate Tax Gaining Support #ncaffiliatetax

Internet marketers everywhere are rallying behind the flag of social media. Just take a look at #ncaffiliatetax and see for yourself. I personally have written to Pricey Harrison (Guilford-D) about this and how it hurts small businesses and how it can not only put people’s jobs at risk but also put more strain on the state since if these jobs fail, there would be likelihood of more unemployment that the state would have to take into account.

Actions speak louder than words, and those that are pushing this through tell me that they don’t understand the Internet at all as a business source and how affiliate marketing and internet retail work. With this move by Amazon of notification of their NC affiliates, entire businesses will fail if NCGA pushes forward with this move. And here you thought that they were looking out for the citizens’ best interest…

Search for the rallies online. There are plenty to choose from. Write and call your representatives and tell them that your business is in eminent danger due to these bills. Either way? We have to protect our livelihoods and get those that we have elected into office to hear our cries for help.

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NCGA Unconstitutionally Taxing Scheme Will Hurt Small Businesses

The North Carolina Legislative Building in Ral...
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know what the North Carolina Legislation is doing, but I can tell you that they’ll be hurting small businesses.

Crazy? Not at all. In fact, this morning I had to re-read my email twice and make sure that the email didn’t come from some hoax source trying to just get to respond with my email so they could sell me Cialis or Viagra or something.

This morning, I received an email from Amazon that said:

We regret to inform you that the North Carolina state legislature (the General Assembly) appears ready to enact an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with North Carolina-based Associates.

Hmm. They’re trying to collect taxes from Internet companies… again?!? Come on. It wasn’t but yesterday, I watched how Hong Kong’s civil servants take a voluntarily pay cut to help ease economics and taxes for this year. Yet, here we are in North Carolina, where we’re looking to throw up more laws on things such as taxes on cigarettes, driving mileage, even a text messaging ban while driving to try to make the economics jive. Meanwhile? We are not even enforcing the laws we do have in place such as the tint laws, covers on license plates, and all sorts of other things that could be bringing in revenue for the state.

This isn’t just Amazon mind you. Amazon is only the beginning of the companies that will refuse to do business in this state. There have been others and unfortunately the people that need it the most, the small businesses, are the ones that suffer from this move. Contact your media and state legislation right away. And if your business has anything to do with the Internet, we cannot let things such as this go through.

In the words of Gandalf the Grey, “You Shall Not Pass!”

UPDATE (10:18AM): News & Record’s Mark Binker covers some more details.

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Amazon ended its price post guarantee?

If there was a super weepy face, I’d have it.
I had requested a price refund for the difference on an item, and they did actually give it to me, but they also told me that there wasn’t a price post-guarantee. I thought the customer service guy was out of his mind until I got fed up with not being able to find it in their Help section and did a little external research.
What I found was chilling. They had canceled the price post-guarantee as of September 1, 2008.
That’s really sad. Sad for consumers like myself that buy a whole lot from Amazon since it does take away some of their advantage of being that online giant that could provide me pretty much everything and some of my money back if I was paying attention.
Here’s to hoping that Amazon re-instates that policy sometime. It won’t stop me from shopping there at all since they still do have really good customer service and I adore Amazon Prime.
But I do feel sad that it’s gone though. (ToT)

Amazon MP3 downloader supports linux

I know that a buddy of mine will salivate actually hearing this. We’re talking about mouth water, eyes light up, and “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” type of reaction.
But Amazon’s MP3 store now has a downloader that supports linux. Just take a look at what’s quoted in the requirements of the downloader:

“Linux: Debian 4 Etch, Fedora 8, Open SUSE 10.3, and Unbuntu[sic] 7.10 Gutsy”

Yes, you read that right…. even Ubuntu (or for whomever wrote that help file, Unbuntu). So if you’re one of those die-hard DRM-free fans and just get all starry eyed when you hear about DRM-free mp3s, then here’s some more great news for you. For the rest of the world though? Digital music is still purchased via the church of the colorful fruit.

Why e-book readers really haven’t taken off

The first time I heard of Kindle was actually through my buddy. Truthfully, I don’t find it worth the $399 price tag. In fact, it really doesn’t strike me as anything that different from the other ebook readers out there except for the service. Sure it seems like it’s e-ink operated. Big deal.
Here’s why I don’t think it’ll work. Let’s take a look at why most digital formats haven’t taken off and people still rather read books or magazines.
It’s human conditioning.
That’s it. Still don’t get it? I’ll explain. It’s all in the form factor. Current readers make the assumption that human beings are willing to read pages of documents like an LCD screen or monitor. But how many book readers actually do that? Not many. And if you’ve ever tried to page through War and Peace in a PDF, it’s no fun.
So how do you make it a better design? I would probably propose using a book-like display. Think about it. If people are more interested in reading a “book” then the best replacement would start out as a pseudo-book. It’s the same as hybrid cars. The funky designs didn’t really take except for early adopters and as you move towards an actual mainstream automobile body in existence, the more general consumers are adopting the technology. Similarly, if you created a “book-like” design with two displays connected at a hinge, then if you tap the corners to turn the page or what not, you could actually virtually turn pages. That would make the entire e-book two displays thick, but way more usable.
Not that I’m an expert by any means in modern anthropology, but I can tell you that there is a reason why Apple’s industrial designers do a great job. And it isn’t by designing things by going from one thing to another in one huge jump. Just take a look at the generations of iPods to watch the progression of a mp3 player to a media player that plays music. It took five gens. And it wasn’t because the technology wasn’t there.
Similarly the e-book readers will eventually take off. But you have to create something that people will take to currently rather than jump forward and assume that since tablet PCs exist, that everyone will like the whole 1-page format.
Interesting isn’t it, how this one little thing could be the reason why e-books just haven’t had the adoption that it’s been seeking.