Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
Time for another weekly dose of fun, crazy or just plain scary stuff from the wierd
world of the web.
If you're one of the many who can't afford (or are too sensible) to drive an
exotic supercar, then this is the site for you.
And if you think those guys have had bad day, check out what happens when
the Navy gets it wrong:
nice landing -- uh oh,
was that supposed to happen?
Here's a perennial favourite that never fails to raise a chuckle or two. Yes,
it's a collection of Engrish signs.
Now this is a scenario
that I think many in the IT industry can relate to. Show it to your boss and
tell him it's not a joke. Update: Apparently you have to go here
first so that the site doesn't complain about remote linking
Salon: Get Back To Basics
I'm sure that all Aardvark readers will know of
Salon.com, one of
the oldest magazine-styled websites on the Net.
Like most ad-funded online publications, Salon was bitten hard when the
dot-com bubble burst in early 2000 and it has been struggling ever since.
As advertising revenues dried up, they took the bold step of shifting
some content to a subscription-based model in the hope that loyal
readers would cough up cash.
Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, it appears as if this move
hasn't been the overwhelming success they'd hoped -- and now they're
struggling to survive.
Given Aardvark's own recent brush with death, I can understand and
empathise with their predicament.
Salon has been lucky enough to raise quite a significant amount of operating
capital during its lifetime, and even generated over $7 million in revenues
a couple of years ago -- so what's gone wrong?
Well in a decidedly paradoxical twist, it could be that Salon simply hasn't
embraced the Net adequately.
A look at the most recent figures show that the company showed a US$11.3 million
loss in the last financial year.
That is a serious amount of money for a web-based publication to lose and
you really have to wonder where it all went. Salon is a nice site with some
great content -- but I honestly think something is very wrong when their
expenses total almost US$15 million in a single 12 month period -- that's
over US$1 million per month!
Well perhaps I do know how they're losing all that dosh...
When "investors" took control of 7am.com back in 1999 I was astonished to
see the monthly outgoings increase almost twenty-fold.
Was there more or better content being published as result? Not really.
Was their more revenue generated as a result? No.
Virtually all of that money went into non-essential expenses (much to my
annoyance). Offices, staff that sit around waiting for the phone to ring,
sales people that play computer games behind the closed door of their
offices, fancy stationery, international travel, "consultants", poorly
conceived, managed and implemented software projects, etc.
What the folks at Salon have likely forgotten is that every penny saved is
the equivalent of three pennies earned.
Before 1999, 7am.com was a perfect example of the "virtual business" -- it
had no offices (therefore paid no rent). Those who helped provide the content
all worked on their own computers, in their own homes, filing material through
the Net. When a meeting was necessary, we just got online and used our keyboards --
there were no expensive conference calls or air fares involved.
Phones were answered by me -- but this could have been done 24/7 on a rostered
basis with calls being automatically forwarded to whoever was on duty at the
There were no company cars, no high-paid game-players, no coffee machines,
no "perks" -- it was a lean, mean, publishing machine.
This is what a virtual business is all about. Strip out those massive
costs and overheads associated with the traditional physical burdens
of business and use the Net.
Although I have never visited Salon, I suspect they have very nice offices,
filled with people stuck behind divider screens. These people are probably
paid a nice salary and spend 2 hours per day commuting to and from this
lovely office. I'm sure the executive staff have very nice chairs, expensive
company-supplied PCs, maybe even company cars.
Well, if Salon wants to survive, I'd recommend that they ditch the offices --
they can always hire a conference room or office by the hour when necessary.
Get all your writers teleworking -- you'll save them a whole day's worth of
commuting time every week. Let them buy their own PCs (if they don't already
have one), and tell the CEO to drive his own car.
Give me a sharp knife and I'd carve a way a huge chunk of that $15m in
expenses without sacrificing the quality or quantity of the content. Yes,
I'd use the Internet to replace all that dross and superfluous expense.
One of the problems with companies that have had the benefit of large sums
of investment capital is that they often forget the "lean and mean" strategies
that made them successful in the first place. They accept the myth that
to be successful you have to look successful.
The reality -- as so many dot-com companies are learning all too late, is that
the only real measure of success is the colour of the ink on your balance sheet.
Adapt or die Salon -- spend more time working and less time combing your hair.
Aardvark's sponsor has launched a new online service called (who was responsible
for this name?) The Gooey.
I'd like to hear what readers have to say about the concept and implementation
of this site. I'm in the process of doing my own review (no mercy will
be shown) that will be published next week, but it's always nice to have
What's good? What's bad? Would you subscribe? Why? Why Not?
Have Your Say
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