The passing of an icon

Steve Jobs passed away two days ago. He was only 56.

He has been lauded as the man who invented the 21st century. He is considered a genius for giving the world products like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. He was an indisputed a man of vision.

He was also a man of faults. Earlier in life he fathered a child out of wedlock and refused to recognize her and leaving his child and mother to resort to welfare. He also was infamously hard on his employees.

At the same time, he could be generous to strangers and was known to have intensely loyal friends. When he did marry, he stayed married and had 3 more children with his wife.

Steve Jobs drive and vision in business was not the only mark of the man, but will be what is remembered as his legacy. And that is probably as it should be. Everyone has faults. Their achievements are not lessened by their shortcomings.

Great work if you can get it

Marketing genius Seth Godin recently sold access to a small group coaching session to be held next month. Attendees are told to bring their marketing, business model or other challenges to work through.access to the the best marketing mind in the country was available for the bargain price of $3,200 per person.

That is a high price for most people. So I’m going to do one better. Act now and you can get tickets to the Always Jason small group coaching session for only $1,000 per person.

Not only will you get some great advice, you will have all the comforts of home, because I will host this session in my own living room.

The event will even be catered. My wife makes great finger foods. We’ll even throw in dinner and cocktails. I’ll fire up the grill in the backyard. Tempting?

Act now. Tickets are limited.

Disposable or not?

In an article about employee training, Techcrunch makes a sad but true observation.

American corporations consider their workforce to be disposable — like ball-point pens and cigarette lighters. Gone are the days when a company would train a factory worker to become a computer programmer or offer lifelong employment. It’s all about quarterly revenue and profits now.

And this is exactly why you should read Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin.

What is a “Holiday Tree”?

Whole Foods Market near my house is selling so-called Holiday Trees.

What is a holiday tree?
What is a holiday tree?

And be sure not to forget your “Holiday Wreath”.

I have noticed that there is only one holiday for which retailers sell fresh cut trees. I have never met any Jewish people who decorates for Hanukkah by erecting and decorating a tree in their home. I have also not met any Muslims who prepare from Eid al-Adha by making sure there is enough space for their prayer mats next to the newly trimmed tree in their living room.

I also cannot help but notice that there are no trees for sale during the times leading up to Hanukkah or Eid al-Adha when those holidays do not fall during the Christmas season. For example, Hannukkah was on December 5 in 2007 and Eid al-Adha was on December 8, 2008. I did not see any “Holiday Trees” lots in front of Whole Foods for sale in early November the last two years. In fact, Whole Foods Market only stocked trees right after Thanksgiving, just in time for the Christmas season.

That tells me that Whole Foods Market knows that the only people who buy trees during the “Holidays” are people who buy them to celebrate Christmas. Sad that Whole Foods Market wants to profit from selling Christmas products but refuses to acknowledge the reason its customers by those products.

Hey Whole Foods. Americans celebrate Christmas, not generic holidays. If you are afraid of promoting Christmas, then don’t sell the products at all.

Holiday Trees? Come on. Really?

Motivation seminar

I went to a business seminar yesterday held at the Pepsi Center in Denver that was supposed to get people motivated. The arena holds about 15,000 people and it was nearly full. Apparently the motivation business is good.

Laura Bush, Colin Powell, and Rudy Giuliani were some of the speakers. Tamara Lowe is one of the organizers and wrote a book on motivation. During her talk, she told how she was a drug user and dealer as a teenager. At the end of her presentation she explained how the change in her life was the result of finding Jesus. The “sinner’s prayer” she offered was typical of the altar call prayers I have heard growing up in evangelical churches.

Her invitation did get a mixed reception which did not surprise me. I heard some grumbling around me but there were also quite a few cheers. The seminar was billed as a business event but I did like how Tamara Lowe and Zig Ziglar did not shy away from the issue of faith even though I no longer subscribe to their specific beliefs.

A friend of mine asked me if I felt motivated after the seminar. I tend to go into these things with low expectations. I found their methods to be very similar to churches I’ve been in with the way they try to create an emotional response. I know that they do it to get people to act to buy the programs they were selling but I learned a long time ago that acting on emotion is generally a bad reason to do something. That is why I see the majority of altar call conversions as being the seeds sown on the stony ground (Matthew 4:16-17). It was interesting to see the altar call style invitation during the same event that was trying to sell me other programs. The methods for each were strikingly similar and the implicit connection between faith and financial wealth left me cold.

They told us “this seminar will change your life” at the beginning of the day. I thought the presentations by Bush, Powell, Giuliani, and Ziglar were the best though they were the least emotional – probably because they were not trying to hawk something to get me to sign up right then.

“Motivated?” No. But some of the speakers did provide some food for thought and reviewing priorities in life is never a bad thing. I’ve known for a while that my life’s goal is not financial wealth. A couple of the presentations confirmed that for me even though that was the opposite message they were promoting.

I’ve bought my last EA game.

Last week about protesters demonstrated in front of the Electronic Entertainment Expo against the release of Electronic Arts video game Dante’s Inferno.

The protesters, who came from a church in Ventura County, held signs with slogans such as “trade in your playstation for a praystation” and “EA = anti-Christ” as they marched and handed out a homemade brochure that warns, “a video game hero does not have the authority to save and damn… ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE. and he will not judge the sinners who play this game kindly.”

See? Those crazy Christians are radicals. They get all offended over a video game. No reason to take them seriously. In fact, you should go out and buy this video game just to show them how backward their beliefs are.

But wait a minute. Yesterday, EA revealed that they were behind the protest. They hired a marketing company to create a viral marketing campaign. They even created a tacky web site and paid the E3 protesters to pose as Christians and act outraged.

I can’t help but notice that there was so little concern from Christians over this game that EA had to manufacture the fake outrage. Religious bigotry has come so far that one of the largest video game producers embraces it as a tactic to sell video games. But how backward is that?

Christians are a huge market segment in this country. Why not embrace them? Dante’s inferno uses the most famous Christian epic poem in history for its inspiration. The idea of the video game is to battle and defeat demons. Sure, the game will not have much theological value, but the idea of defeating evil is one that appeals to Christians. Instead of making Christians into villains to exploit, EA should view them as potential buyers. EA has shown me what they actually think of Christians and it isn’t a good picture.

Newspapers: “We’re not dead yet.”

When I see stories about the newspaper industry trying to save itself, I picture the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail were a man is walking down the street of a plague-stricken town with cart, hitting a small cymbal and yelling, “Bring out yer dead.” One man tries to put a body on the cart but the man over his shoulder says, “I’m not dead.” That not-quite-dead man is the newspapers.

The increasingly fast decline of the newspaper business is the clearest sign of how rapidly technology is changing and how it changes business.

Last week, newspaper executives colluded, er, met in Chicago and came up with a strategy to keep the industry alive. Here are their “five doctrines.”

  • True Value. Establish that news content online has value by charging for it. Begin “massive experimentation with several of the most promising options.”
  • Fair Use. Maintain the value of professionally produced and edited content by “aggressively enforcing copyright, fair use and the right to profit from original work.”
  • Fair Share. Negotiate a higher price for content produced by the news industry that is aggregated and redistributed by others.
  • Digital Deliverance. “Invest in technologies, platforms and systems that provide content-based e-commerce, data-sharing and other revenue generating solutions.”
  • Consumer Centric. Refocus on consumers and users. Shift revenue strategies from those focused on advertisers.

Problem is, they are starting with the wrong premise. The newspapers aren’t loosing readers only because the content is free online. The problem is that the newspapers publish yesterday’s news. That makes it even less valuable.

We subscribe to the newspaper for one reason. Coupons. We don’t read any of it. By the time I get the paper in the morning, I’ve already seen the news online. My wife is the coupon queen. We currently save more money with the coupons than we do on the subscription price for the paper. That may soon change.

Lately, we have been getting the grocery store weekly circular in the mail. Not much need to pay to get it again. And last Sunday, there was no coupon section in our paper. There are also now plenty of places to get grocery coupons…online.

On top of all that, newspaper publishing is just not economical. Business Insider figures that the NY Times could save money by giving every subscriber a free Amazon Kindle rather than deliver a printed version for a year. Printing newspapers is not a viable business model in the electronic age. They are going the way of the Dodo and the 8-track tape.

Just found this via HotAir:
Teamsters threaten to shut down Star Tribune

I hope someone tells the Teamsters that a vote to strike is a vote to lose their jobs. Talk about biting your nose to spite your face. The labor and distribution costs are exactly why the newspaper business is not sustainable. The Teamsters are only helping to speed up the process killing an industry.

Tivo customer service

Isn’t it disappointing when a great company goes bad?

I have been a Tivo customer for four years. At the end of last year we bought our third Tivo (this one to upgrade our first box). Our nightmare began when we went to activate the third box. When we ordered the box, my wife paid for a lifetime subscription (offered to customers who had previously purchased lifetime subscriptions).

The subscription on our first box was due to expire in February so we waited to activate the new box. Come February, we set up the new box and activated it. Problem was, Tivo charged our credit card a second time for the lifetime membership when we did the activation. Yeah, that sucked. It took a few days but they fixed it.

Now for the second problem. Tivo automatically renewed the monthly subscription on our first box. We called the following day explaining we did not want to renew that box because we were replacing it with the new (third) box. The rep cheerfully told us they would refund that monthly subscription.

After numerous follow up calls asking where our money is, they still have not refunded it. Today, the rep said she sees four pending transactions but for some reason they aren’t going through. At that point she tells my wife that the problem is not their fault because they are doing everything they are supposed to do. She didn’t seem to understand that they did everything except for actually refunding our money.

So once again we are told that they will contact their accounting department to release the request so the refund will be processed and that we should wait up to 14 days. We’ve already waited more than 14 days.

Arrrgh. I hate it when a company I liked becomes so non-responsive. I’ve also discovered this is a sign of a company on the ropes. Looks like we’ve bought our last Tivo box.