Making Communications Buzz

Thursday, August 24, 2006

News in Your E-mail Inbox That You Can Still Read for Free

If you would like a good source of news via e-mail that is still free, check out the New York Times Online.

You can receive a daily e-mail of headlines and brief summaries with links to full stories. Set preferences for the sections of the paper you want to read about: Top Stories, World, U.S., Business, Technology, etc.

BizJournals Abandons Search Watch E-mail Alert Access: A Disappointing Decision and Poorly Handled

This week shot itself in the foot by discontinuing access to stories identified by the Search Watch feature of its e-mail alert service.

You can still signup for the service, select keywords and receive notice of stories in the 41 local business journals around the country that contain those keywords, but unless you subscribe to the print edition in the city where the article was published, you can't read the story.

Assuming you would like to read the stories that you get alerts about -- and that stories might come from any of the 41 journals -- you would need to shell out $4,059.00 ($99 x 41) a year for the privilege.

This is disappointing, but what was really short-sighted on the part of and its parent, American City Business Journals, is that they made the switch from free access to Search Watch stories to the prohibitive fee-based "system" without telling customers that they were going to do so.

That is decision-making characteristic of a poorly run corporation. I experienced it from Aldelphia Cable in 2000 and 2001. And I experienced it from Verizon broadband before I switched to another provider.

Monday, August 21, 2006

For Now, Forget About Those Free E-Mail News Alerts From BizJournals. They Were Summarily Nuked

A few weeks ago, I wrote extolling the virtues of BizJournals Business News E-mail Alerts: Free News Alerts from Better Business News. Well, I spoke too soon. BizJournals took away that privilege without even letting people know they were going to do it.

Here's my e-mail to the subscription manager in Pittsburgh.
We spoke about e-mail alerts a few weeks ago on the phone and by e-mail. At that time, articles in other bizjournals besides Pittsburgh (I am a Pittsburgh print subscriber) were available to me when I got an e-mail alert.

This morning it appears this is no longer the case. I received the usual e-mail alert based on my search criteria, but any story I click that is not a Pittsburgh story is not accessible when I am taken to the respective Web site.

Since it would be unreasonable to expect me to subscribe to every bizjournal around the country, the purpose of these alerts appears to have been thwarted by your new subscription policy.

Unless bizjournals intends to offer individual articles for purchase for some nominal fee -- which, in my opinion, would still be a highly unsatisfactory solution -- or perhaps to offer a special subscription that would allow me access to articles other than those in the Pittsburgh edition -- why would I want to receive alerts any longer?

As a matter of public relations, it also would be fitting for a business professional-oriented publication like yours to do a bit more to keep subscribers in the loop regarding these changes. It does not seem like bizjournals values its customers much if it is willing to make dramatic changes to subscription policies and their relationship to your system of e-mail alerts without making any effort to let customers know what changes to expect.

For someone like me who has used the alerts for many years and considers them a valuable resource -- so much so that I recommend them to friends and customers all the time -- the unannounced termination of access to stories outside of Pittsburgh is a slap in the face.

I should add that after using the alerts for about a year, I decided to become a print subscriber. It seems plausible that those I have recommended the service to over the years might have done the same. Obviously, I won't be recommending the service any longer.

Please let me know whether bizjournals has plans to review the current subscription policy with regard to access to articles.
Another case of corporate bureaucracy acting without regard for its customers.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Local Merchants Can Now Offer Coupons for Free on Google

In an effort to promote its local search service, Google will provide coupons from local merchants that list their businesses on Google Maps.

According to Marketing Sherpa, the conversion results of coupon offers using Google Local search was poor in at least one study. But there are clear advantages to making sure that your business is fully listed in Google Maps. For one thing, it appears to help your business' Web site in Google's search engine rankings.

To sign up for an account or for more information, go to the Google Local Business Center.

More on this in today's New York Times online: New at Google: Local Coupons

Google Maps and Google Local were, at one time, distinct. Google Maps can be incorporated into other Web sites in various ways. Google Local search results serve up maps from Google Maps. In practice, you can no longer find a different portal or search page called "Google Local" on the Google Web site. (Click on the "more" link on the Google home page and then on the "even more" link. Find the "Local: Find local businesses and get directions" link on that page and it takes you to Google Maps.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Registering a Domain Name? Don't Pay More Than $10

I just got a very slick-looking HTML e-mail from the marketing department at Network Solutions: "SUMMER SALE: Get 3 or more domain names for just $15 each!"

If you plan to register a domain name, read my post, "Whois Hijacking": Stealing Domain Names After They Are Researched, and check out and

Their prices are under $10 per domain name, all year long, even during those cold winter months. How do they do it? I'm not sure. Everyone knows the price of domain names is seasonal, just like the price of fresh produce and clothing.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Free News Alerts from Better Business News

Here's a very useful service, a free source of news information that you can customize to suit your interests. It's from BizJournals' parent, American City Business Journals, publishes 41 local business weeklies around the country.

Just tell what kinds of stories you want to hear about and you will receive an e-mail each week summarizing the results. I have found the quality of stories to be much better than what you typically get from Google Alerts or Yahoo! News.

You can receive general alerts about a particular business sector like Health Care or Manufacturing. And you can receive a notification any time there is a story with a keyword you supply.

Track a business: "Exxon Mobil", "IBM", whatever. Or track any topic you like: "e-mail", "butter", "robotics", you name it. Be sure to use alternate spellings like "email" to capture all the relevant stories.

This is an extremely useful feature that allows you to receive a whole host of e-mail notifications regarding stories that appear in any of the 41 local BizJournals editions. The stories you have access to via these notifications tend to be of a much higher quality than what you will get from Google or Yahoo! because the latter do not filter their results much.

Most of the alerts I have ever gotton from Yahoo! tend to be highly commercial: they are practically -- if not plainly -- advertisements for some product or other. There's no way I have time to sift through all those results to find things I really want to read. Google is not much better.

BizJournals stories, on the other hand, are never endorsements for a product, and they are not biased toward some product or other. They are just quality business news reports.

And, given the nature of the BizJournals publications, you can get an inside look at a local business environment that's hard to find on a regular basis in national pubs like the Wall Street Journal or any of the business news magazines.

Go to and register. (It's free. No strings attached. They won't give out your information.)

After registering, on the home page, pick any city using the drop-down menu under "Choose Another Market".

Now you should see in the main navigation a button called "SUBSCRIBE". Rollover "SUBSCRIBE", and you'll find "Email Alerts". Select the types of news you prefer, add any keywords you like, and you are ready to go. You can change your preferences or unsubscribe at any time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More Free Stuff: This Time It's College Education at Carnegie Mellon University

Continuing with the "All things free" theme...

Ever wish you had paid more attention in Freshman Physics? How about French? Econ? Chemistry?

Well, now you can turn back the clock and take online courses created by the faculty at world-class Carnegie Mellon University -- for free! Check it out. It's called the Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative. Right now there are eleven online courses to choose from.

Conspicuously absent are courses in Computer Science. Carnegie Mellon's graduate program in Computer Science was recently ranked #1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

But then I guess we are not talking about graduate level course work in the Open Learning Initiative. Maybe some day.

"Whois Hijacking": Stealing Domain Names After They Are Researched

This is a hot story that deserves attention. Ever wonder if someone might be "listening in" when you check to see whether a domain name is available or not? They may well be, so be careful when you check availability of a domain name.

What happens is that unscrupulous people monitor a site that offers a domain name search, and then they go ahead and register the domain name before the person doing the search can do so.

Next they do something called "domain tasting", posting a Web page at that hijacked domain to see whether it is getting any traffic coming from search sites like Google and Yahoo! If it is, they will keep the page and put all sorts of ads and links to other sites there -- basically a trashy form of Web advertising.

Here's the best story I have found on this: Whois Hijacking My Domain Research? by Larry Seltzer at

I spoke to someone at Network Solutions about this, and she assured me that there is no way anyone can monitor domain names researched on their site. Network Solutions is one of the largest domain name registrars, and presumably their employees have better things to do than to try and hijack any of the hundreds of thousands of individual research requests entered into their Web site every day.

For more information about domain registration, check out the WHOIS page at Network Solutions, which functions just like the search on their home page when you enter a domain name.

Want to register a domain name? Check prices at sites like and GoDaddy before you pay $34.99 a year at Network Solutions.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Trends in Online Communication: Not Getting Your Message Across? Insert a Gigantic Graphic Image

McBuzz is still cruising the Web in search of a crystal clear explanation of RSS for non-techies. Robbin Steif does a good job of giving a basic explanation of RSS by emphasizing the fact that most people, even most techies, really don't care what RSS stands for. They need to know what it is good for and how to set it up in a reader. That's it.

But I'm still looking for a nice cogent explanation to use at parties.

Here's one trend I've noticed on the Web. If you are having trouble explaning something, just insert a gigantic graphic image somewhere on the page.

Examples: RSSPECT, Wikipedia, others?

So here you go. It's RSS. Just look at it! Isn't it obvious?