Tech NewsJune 2009 Companies that rush to get involved in the latest cool social site can end up losing out warns Yomego MD
The latest craze is for Twitter and Steve Richards says that while its potential power has already been very cleverly demonstrated by some brands, others could be disappointed. These warnings follow recent reports of a mad dash by companies including Comcast, American Airlines and Web Solutions all signing up to undertake lucrative marketing campaigns using the Twitter platform.
Richards believes that new ideas are continually being introduced and the consequence of this is that for every new ‘big thing’ this year, another will emerge and overtake it a year later. Brands wanting to join in should do so with care.
He says: “The nature of this wonderful new world of social media is that it changes rapidly. New platforms are launched almost daily.
“The Twitter craze follows the clamour for brands to engage with
Facebook, and before that Myspace. Even before that, there was Alta Vista, Boo.com, Netscape and Friends Reunited. All were good products and heavily invested in, but they have all now been left behind.
“As with all of the ‘next big things’ the excitement isn’t born out
of a long term strategy or vision but out of short-term knee jerk reaction to what is cool and trendy, often from those with very little, if any, expertise in these platforms. There is nothing wrong with any brand wanting to use a new platform but there is harm in a brand using a platform just for the sake of doing so.”
Richards also points out that while Twitter may be in the news constantly at the moment, it isn’t that big yet. In February 2009 Compete.com estimated that Twitter had six million unique visitors a month, compared to the Guardian, which registers 25 million unique users per month on its site. Sooner or later, he says, it is highly likely that Twitter will cease to exist, or get bought or change into something else.
“Social spaces are not websites to the people who inhabit them. These spaces are places for their users to express themselves and connect with people. If brands want to join in with the engagement then they must be mindful of this. Any activity must be able to provide a benefit to the community, not simply attempt to sell them something.
“Quite simply, companies should not fall for the latest craze.
Connecting with an audience in a social space is not about finding the next thing everyone is talking about or the coolest bit of technology. It is about understanding who your audience is, where your audience is and what benefit you can bring to that audience. Get these three right and social spaces can and will work for you.”
NEW IMAGE LIBRARY FOR EDITORIAL PROFESSIONALS LOOKING FOR GIFTS, ACCESSORIES & WEDDING PRODUCT IMAGES.
29 June 2009
On Monday 29th June, a new image library website launches to the press and media.
Big Desk Media allows editorial professionals and picture desk staff to download high-res, print ready product images from the Gift, Accessories and Wedding sector to their inbox for free.
The website also allows them to view latest press releases and press events from retailers.
Visit http://www.bigdeskmedia.com to register for full access, or email [email protected] for further information.
ONLINE E-PUBLISHING EXPERTS: ALL TEXT BOOKS TO BE PUT ONLINE
22 June 2009
Award winning digital publishing provider, YUDU Media, has come out in agreement with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision and declared that all text books should be put online now.
The e-publishing company, which produces eBooks and digital publications for some of the world’s leading educational publishers and establishments, says that versions of nearly all text books will be online by 2020 on current trends anyway.
The company states that Schwarzenegger’s decision is backed up by both the research and cost equations.
Launching its new education eBook entitled ‘Enhancing Education through Technology’, YUDU Media’s CEO Richard Stephenson says: “it is not just education providers who save money, but also the students. With a 2005 US Government Accountability Office report putting the average cost of textbooks at $900 per year, it is estimated each student will save $100s each year by putting text books online.”
Stephenson continues, “recent research also shows conclusively that readers prefer electronic sources as the top method of finding out more information on any given topic. Combined with eBooks
environmentally-friendly credentials, the technology makes a stunning case for any education professional.”
YUDU Media’s new education eBook shows how education professionals can use the technology to its fullest potential. Alongside embedded video and other rich media content, the eBook demonstrates features designed to assist students including a contextual search tool, online page highlighter, page tabs and digital bookmarking.
The user-friendly publications let students instantly print pages with one click, zoom and even save for offline reading. They also allow for a parallel text-only version that can integrate with screen readers for the blind.
Lisa Moore, Marketing Manager of YUDU Media, says: “this technology is useful not just for text books but also prospectuses, syllabuses, theses – essentially any material or collateral published in an educational environment. We feel strongly that eBooks can not only cut costs in education but also seriously transform the learning experience.”
HUDDLE.NET MAY BE ‘THE NEXT GOOGLE’, SAYS BUSINESSWEEK
22 June 2009
Huddle.net has been named one of 50 technology promising start-ups by BusinessWeek. The global list represents BusinessWeek’s pick of early stage companies that have the potential to become ‘the next Google.’
Less than three year-old Huddle.net has been listed amongst strong IPO or acquisition candidates such as Ning, RockYou and Slide. The company has been previously named as one of the most promising tech start-ups in the UK by the Financial Times.
For its ‘The Next Google’ article, BusinessWeek teamed up with market researcher YouNoodle to identify 50 tech start-ups ‘flying under the radar.’ With most of the featured companies hailing from the Silicon Valley, Huddle.net is one of only 12 headquartered outside the US.
BusinessWeek has written: “Our list includes fledgling tech companies – most started in 2005 and later – from the US, China, India, Israel and Russia that are attracting some early buzz and are poised to grow beyond their regional or niche-market origins.”
The last two years have been a roller-coaster ride for London-based
Huddle.net. Founded in 2006 by Alastair Mitchell and Andy McLoughlin, the company grew from five to 31 staff within a year and a half. It now counts Nokia, P&G, Samsung and UNICEF amongst its enterprise customers and is used globally by hundreds of thousands of small businesses and government organisations.
Described by BusinessWeek as ‘a new way to move your shared work online’, Huddle is a network of secure online workspaces where users can share files, collaborate on ideas, manage projects and organise virtual meetings. Its aim is to replace disparate collaboration, communication and project management tools by providing a single platform to work better together.
Huddle.net milestones include:
• November 2007: Received $4 million Series A funding from Eden
• April 2008: Participated in the WebMission 2008 and 2009, organised by the UK government and introducing the best UK start-ups to the US
• April 2008: Launched DrinkTank, a meet-up for tech entrepreneurs with 800 registered members
• October 2008: Became the only non-US company to have launched on LinkedIn’s application platform alongside Google and Amazon
• November 2008: Named in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social
• January 2009: Named a top 10 UK start-up by the Financial Times
• February 2009: Signed a deal with InterCall, the world’s largest
conferencing provider giving it access to 1 million customers
• March 2009: Named as Gartner’s Cool Vendor in Social
• March 2009: Named a Government Innovations Partner
• April 2009: Named one of 100 European companies in the Red Herring 100 2009 Awards
• June 2009: Named as one of 50 global tech start-ups to watch by
6 TOP TIPS FOR INCREASING ONLINE SALES CONVERSIONS
22 June 2009
For businesses that have identified their potential customers, targeted their marketing, have a brilliantly designed website and have managed to get potential customers onto their website, the next crucial part of the process is to make sure the customers then buy the product or service!
Problems with website checkout processes constitute the principal loss of income for the majority of e-commerce sites, with lengthy processes and pressures on customer’s time being the main issues. Research from Web Conversion specialists Lost Ferret has found that on many occasions checkout abandonment rates have exceeded 80 per cent, meaning only two out of 10 people who visit the checkout will actually buy anything.
Allies Computing Ltd, creators of the PostCoder® range of addressing software ideal for adding address lookup to web forms, offer some simple tips that you can employ on your website to ensure that potential customers don’t abandon you at the checkout:
1. Remove registration from the checkout process – Research from
Econsultancy indicates that registration pages at the beginning of the checkout process contribute to checkout abandonment as this can be time-consuming, off-putting and often tedious for those who have forgotten their username or password.
2. Don’t ask customers to duplicate information – if a customer has
keyed in their name and email address, make sure this data is populated automatically as the default value if the information is needed in another part of the order process, for example for billing and delivery.
3. Use additional services to make it easier for the customer, such as automated address lookup. This can reduce keystrokes and save time by up to 80 per cent.
4. Don’t collect data you don’t need – have a valid business reason
to collect the data
5. Make sure the layout is simple and clear, with any steps to purchasing labelled and progress clearly visible. If you have more than five steps, you probably have too many.
6. List all the relevant information such as delivery costs and times, on the main part of the website to ensure there is no interruption to the buying process and no nasty surprises when payment is finally required. Hidden charges are another reason customers may abandon the checkout.
Is your website already in good order? A quick review and testing will identify any holes in your processes to make certain you are not loosing out on valuable sales.
East Anglia’s leading independent DIY home improvement company, Godfrey DIY, has seen significant improvements to their website conversions as a result of using an online address validation tool. Barry Godfrey, Managing Director of Godfrey DIY says “Now we have address lookup functionality added to our site I am very confident that we have minimised the possibility of customer drop-off at the checkout. I regard it as a very effective tool in protecting us against failed deliveries due to addressing errors.”
By taking simple steps to improve the usability of your website’s order pages, the impact on sales could be quite significant so it’s definitely worth some consideration when next reviewing your website.
See http://www.postcoder.com/tt for more information.
INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR LAUNCHES UK’S FIRST ONLINE ACCOUNTING SYSTEM DEDICATED TO FREELANCERS
15 June 2009
Brighton-based entrepreneur Darren Fell has launched www.Crunch.co.uk; the UK’s first online accounting system aimed solely at freelancers.
Fell, who previously built and sold email marketing firm Pure for $7.8m last year, has been working on his latest project for the past 18 months.
Crunch.co.uk allows freelancers to manage their entire accounts, invoicing and expenses on a secure and user-friendly website, with the benefit of having an accountant at the end of the phone. It’s the first time traditional accountancy has been combined with the experience of a new media team to build one online package dedicated to freelancers, for a fair monthly price.
Customers receive an initial healthcheck with one of Crunch.co.uk’s
accountants when they first join, and have a team of accountants available to talk to for ongoing advice. One advantage of using Crunch.co.uk is that it helps to convert Sole Traders, which freelancers are often classed as, to a Limited company set-up – by doing this it looks to save users on average £2,000 to £4,000 each year in taxes. Limited companies can use a tax efficient dividend method while Sole Traders are taxed at full rate on
“Our research has shown that freelancers’ accounts cost well over
£1,000 per year, while we will do the same thing and more for £59.50 per month,” said Darren Fell, MD of Crunch.co.uk. “This seamless integration of software and human has not been done before – with ongoing advice and support available as part of the online package, Crunch.co.uk offers the most cost-effective and unique accountancy service for freelancers, contractors and one person businesses.”
Crunch.co.uk will be updated every month, in a rapid expansion of its features. An iPhone application will also be released.
Fell continued: “There are currently 1.4 million self-employed people in the UK* so we have a big target market. We’ll be releasing some very exciting features that will simplify and join accounting processes together – things that should have been connected years ago, and that will make accounting ridiculously easy for freelancers. We’ve been completely supportive of this community since we launched advice and networking website www.FreelanceAdvisor.co.uk in February last year, and the site now
attracts 10,000 followers each month. The interest in Crunch.co.uk shows that freelancing is surging – in the current climate more people are being made redundant and deciding that the freelancing lifestyle is for them.”
Crunch.co.uk is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
*Professional Contractors Group (PCG) research released September 2008
iPHONE PROCRASTINATORS ARE THRILLED WITH NEW ‘TO-DON’T LIST’
11 June 2009
Spiffing Apps announces the release of “Put Things Off,” the laid-back to-do list for iPhone procrastinators that helps busy people get things done. Eventually.
iPhone and iPod Touch users now have a fun way to focus on what’s important and put off what’s not, thanks to a new application called Put Things Off.
The brainchild of British developer Nick Cernis, Put Things Off helps busy people manage vital tasks while putting the rest off until later. For less than £2/$3, the app lets iPhone and iPod Touch users defer tasks into a virtual tray marked ‘Put Off’. The app automatically moves deferred tasks back into a ‘Today’ tray three days later, and users can mark the task as done or put it off again.
“It’s a bit like having a nagging girl- or boyfriend,” says Cernis. “Only with Put Things Off, you can turn the sound off.” With arguments over chores among couples as frequent as ever, there’s no doubt that a laid-back to-do list could be a saviour for many.
“I designed the app because my other half often nagged me,” Cernis remarked. “Now I just point to my iPhone and say, ‘Look – it’s on my to-don’t list!’ And, sure enough, the furniture’s normally built three days later. Unless I’ve put it off again,” he jokes.
Though the app is perfect for procrastinators, it’s designed to boost
productivity too. Put Things Off aims to reduce stress levels by letting users focus on important tasks without worrying about forgetting scheduled ones. “When faced with a mountain of tasks, people tend to feel overwhelmed,” Cernis states. “The app lets them organise their tasks and relax so they can get the important things done.”
The app flew into the top 20 productivity apps for iPhone on its launch day. “I wish I hadn’t sat on the idea for so long now,” Cernis reported. “The feedback’s been great so far. One user told me I should have made it ages ago.” Reviewers have praised the app for its simple design, appealing graphics, and the attractive animations lacking in other electronic lists.”
NEW DEVELOPMENTS TAKE E-PUBLISHING TO THE NEXT LEVEL
10 June 2009
The Digital Publisher, a pay-as-you-go online solution for converting
documents into dynamic page-turning publications, has announced three new developments to the award winning technology.
The company, which lets users upload any PDF or Word document and see it transformed into a visually stunning page-turning Digital Edition, is now providing:
• Media Browser – this application allows readers to view and
browse a series of images, audio, video and flash from within the
publication using a new media display menu. The advantage of this is that users can go direct to the rich media content simply and quickly.
• Animated Flipbook Icon – this allows users to embed a small
thumbnail animated version of the page-turning Digital Edition, thereby drawing attention to the publication on a website or blog. The thumbnail is then linked directly to the Digital Edition providing swift access.
• Reader Highlights – this allows readers to add yellow highlights
to areas or articles of interest within their digital publication. This is
a particularly useful tool for students who need to be able to mark and highlight text for learning purposes.
Each application is provided free of charge to customers of The Digital Publisher ensuring that the company’s e-publishing solution remains highly price competitive.
Ian Jackson, Head of Digital, says: “The Digital Publisher is constantly enhancing and refining the technology on an ongoing basis. Developed and powered by YUDU Media, these three new applications take e-publishing toanother, more advanced level and provide publishers with yet more applications to assist their users.”
UK PARENTS CONCERNED THEY ARE LOSING CONTROL OF THEIR KIDS ONLINE
09 June 2009
Over half of all parents admit to not knowing who their kids are talking to Parents in the UK are becoming increasingly worried about the amount of time teens are spending online and admit to having little idea of what their kids are doing when they log on. A survey*
released today by internet security firm Trend Micro has revealed that, despite more than 50 per cent of parents claiming not to have a clue about what’s going on in their teens’ digital world, only three per cent of them actually monitor their kids’ online behaviour.
The survey, which polled 1,000 teens and parents across the UK, also revealed that parents fear their kids are no longer using the internet to learn. Over half (55 per cenyt) of parents said they wish their kids would spend more time learning than on social networks and nearly three quarters of those surveyed said they were worried that under-18s would lose essential face-to-face and English language skills as a result. This comes at a time when text and social network-speak is the norm amongst Generation Y.
But it seems that, while the majority of parents do have these concerns, they don’t wish to – or don’t know how to – enforce controls on their kids. Ninety seven per cent admitted they still continued to leave their kids in an uncontrolled environment.
“The best way for a parent to overcome their fears about technology and what their children are up to online is to take the time to have a look at the technology their children are using,” said Will Gardner, CEO, Childnet. “Better still, get them to guide you through it. A conversation on how to keep safe and look after others online is a must.”
“Social interaction online is evolving at a constant and rapid rate and the digital generation know all the tricks of the trade,” said Rik
Ferguson, security expert at Trend Micro. “With the summer holidays fast approaching, parents should put simple but effective measures in place to ensure their kids do not fall victim to unnecessary dangers. Parents need to become more tech savvy first before they can start educating their kids on what’s right and wrong.”
Top tips for protecting your kids online:
• Keep all computers in common areas.
• Agree to time limits for using the Internet and all social
• Keep software security up-to-date.
• Talk with your kids about entering personal information online.
• Run a manual scan with your software security and check browser
• Set profiles on social networking sites to private.
• Encourage children to be respectful of others.
• Teach children to have multiple passwords that are NOT
associated with names, nicknames or commonly found information over the
• Most importantly, keep informed about the latest outbreaks and
dangers on the Internet.
WEBWATCHER KEEPS KIDS SAFE ONLINE
08 June 2009
Web-based software allows parents to remotely monitor and control all PC activity from any online computer, at anytime.
Recent media reports show that an increasing number of young people are being exposed to inappropriate material over the internet, either accidentally or due to their inquisitive nature. The net can be a fabulous tool for learning and sharing knowledge. It can, at the same time, be a significant danger, offering unsavoury content to underage children and the real danger of personal contact with an undesirable internet ‘friend’. It is therefore understandable for parents to be concerned about the safety
of their children online.
WebWatcher, a parental control software being marketed by Security IP of Oxfordshire, provides parents with safety countermeasures for their child’s online activities. Once installed on the computer that you wish to monitor, WebWatcher begins to invisibly record all data (Instant Messaging/chats, emails, websites visited, etc) on the PC. This data can then be accessed by the parent from any computer via a standard web browser – there is no need for further physical access to the monitored PC.
The software, developed in the USA by Awareness Technologies Inc, is completely invisible on the monitored computer. Both sides of all
communications can be read by the user and screenshots of activity on the monitored PC can be taken to highlight any unauthorised use.
WebWatcher also enables users to block or allow limited use of applications and websites. All keystrokes can be recorded and ‘alert words’ can highlight communications containing sensitive information.
All of the recorded activity is sent to an online account and can be viewed by logging in to the easy to use interface, from any computer.
Andi Robinson, Managing Director of Security IP comments, “Sadly there are many risks to children online. Parents can monitor their child’s online activities to some extent when they are at home, but this is difficult if the parent spends a lot of time away at work or elsewhere. WebWatcher gives parents, no matter where they are located, the peace of mind that their child is using the internet safely.”
A widely-publicised example of how WebWatcher can be used to protect children online occurred in 2006, when an ice hockey teacher was jailed for four and a half years after being found guilty of having sex with an under-age girl. He was only caught after the teenage girl’s father installed WebWatcher onto her PC. The emails and instant messages recorded by WebWatcher between the girl and the man provided enough evidence for the police to make an arrest.
BT BUSINESS LAUNCHES ONLINE STARTER KIT
08 June 2009
BT Business has launched the Online Starter Kit, a service designed to help small businesses promote themselves online, offering a professionally-built web site and profile in the BT business networking community for £199 including 12 months of web hosting*.
For the first time BT Business has brought together all of the essential ingredients for creating an online presence into one low cost bundle. For businesses looking to combine this with their broadband commitment, the Online Starter Kit is also available at just £5 per month with BT Business Total Broadband Option 3.
The bundle includes a web site design consultation and professional website build, logo design, advice around web site copy and keywords, web hosting, domain-based webmail and a BT Tradespace profile – all designed to work together to boost a business presence on search engines such as Google.
One in five small businesses don’t have their own web site, despite £78 billion – 25 per cent of UK retail spend – in this year projected to come from online sales. According to BT Business research the vast majority that do are also not getting the most out of their websites or using them effectively to attract customers. Just one in over 3,000 web sites use keywords in the content they post on their sites, despite the use of keywords increasing the chances of search engines picking up web pages. 42 per cent have websites with bad pages containing broken or invalid links.
“Every business needs an effective online presence that works well with search engines, but this can sometimes be a daunting step for start-ups,” said Jerry Thompson, Director Business Products and Online. “By bringing everything together in one low-cost bundle BT is helping small businesses take the vital steps to getting online hassle-free. 20 per cent of small businesses now also use social networking sites to win new business, so getting your company web site to work more effectively with social business networks such as BT Tradespace is becoming more and more important.”
BT Tradespace is a dynamic online community for sales and marketing and offers a comprehensive directory of small business products and services. It allows members to use the latest social media tools – podcasts, videos and blogs – to promote themselves, engage with customers, partners and suppliers and sell goods to consumers over a secure and safe trading platform.
WI-FI: A CHEAP SOLUTION TO THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
02 June 2009
Community Wi-Fi broadband networks are the solution to the government’s Broadband For All scheme, according to Top
The government faces significant obstacles in fulfilling its aim of every household having access to a broadband connection of at least 2Mb by 2012 as part of its Digital Britain project. Chief among these is the expense of the scheme, with Whitehall set to shoulder £750 million of the estimated £2.5 billion cost.
However, as is taking place in the London borough of Islington, a
cost-effective solution for helping broadband have-nots in urban areas is at hand in the form of a council-sponsored community wireless broadband scheme.
Research conducted by Top 10 Broadband shows that when employed in high-density urban areas, a mast-based wireless network is much cheaper to implement than other broadband networks. Furthermore, Wi-Fi does not necessitate disruption to transport networks that the underground installation of fibre-optic cables and traditional ADSL broadband networks require.
Islington Council project manager Andrew Barker said: “Providing free external internet access along what’s now known as the Tech Mile has been a huge success for Islington Council.
“That’s why we’ve continued to build on the project and are now targeting service delivery into the homes of social housing residents using broadband over powerline.
“We’ve fielded amazing feedback from residents who have already benefited from free broadband access in their home and, as a result, we aim to deliver the service to an increasing number of targeted residents.”
Jessica McArdle, marketing manager at Top 10 Broadband, said: “It seems ludicrous that in an age of mobile technology we’re contemplating digging up roads at huge expense and inconvenience to install networks when a cheaper solution may be at hand.
“Wi-Fi is cheap, has been shown to be a proven technology and is perfect for ensuring universal access to broadband in cities.”
Council-sponsored broadband schemes can also help to tackle the Digital Divide that means that millions of broadband have-nots in the UK’s poorest cities are at an economic disadvantage.
The viability of such projects is evident in the success of the Digital
Mile in Islington. Established and funded by the forward-thinking council five years ago, the scheme serves 3,000 of the area’s least well-off consumers in social housing on the Ashby House and the Marquess estates. Currently, the scheme has 4,000 registered users, and records some 20,000 unique sessions per month.
Ms McArdle continued: “Islington’s scheme was the first of its kind in the country. But after its success it’s staggering that no other London council has followed suit, especially since Wi-Fi community networks could be the social glue that keeps under-pressure communities together.”