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Archive for Business – Page 2

The Slow Death of the Record Industry

The recording industry is heading the way of movie rental stores. Still embracing a business model akin to Blockbuster’s—one that has barely changed in decades—it seems it is only a matter of time before Billboard charts and Soundscan numbers are relics of the past, as the demand for physical albums has been replaced by a digital marketplace.

2014 has provided more damning evidence of the recording industry’s peril, as it is the first year that no artist’s album has been certified as platinum. Lorde and Beyonce are the closest to reaching that coveted million-mark, yet neither has even eclipsed 800K in sales. The eulogy for the era of albums has been read, and record industry execs only have themselves to blame for failing to identify the shifts in the market toward online streaming services and instantaneous downloads.

Napster’s inception in 1999 changed the music landscape, even after Lars Ulrich and his band of RIAA lawyers threatened to sue any and everyone who used the music-sharing service. Heralded as a massive victory for the recording industry when Napster and similar downloading programs were shut down, the win would only be short-lived. The success of digital music and its online services proved that the album was moving from the boom box to the laptop.

The environment was rapidly changing, and stridently sticking to a now outdated business model, the recording industry refused to adapt. Most physical album purchases are made by record enthusiasts and audiophiles looking to expand their collections or revel in nostalgia. This failure to recognize the new frontier of music has a fixture of global culture facing extinction, as our CD racks have mainly been replaced by the likes of Spotify and iTunes.

Obstinacy has led to the elimination of many a company and corporation. The recording industry refused to recognize and integrate consumer trends into their business model, and as such, they are experiencing a steep decline, one which will inevitably render them obsolete.

Walmart Disregards Public Perception

When you’re the largest retailer on Earth, I imagine there is palpable hubris to public perception in the executive level; A sort of, “You may disagree with us; you may not even like us, but our greeters will see you this week anyway” frame of mind. Walmart doubled-down on their company-wide disregard of bad publicity with their latest bold move, blaming Tracy Morgan for the injuries he received in the fatal crash involving one of their semi-trucks.

The crash that occurred in June led to the death of fellow comedian, and was purportedly the result of a Walmart driver who had not slept in over 24 hours. Tracy Morgan was hospitalized for several weeks recovering from severe injuries.

On Monday, attorneys representing Walmart in the resulting lawsuit filed a brief alleging that because the passengers were not wearing seatbelts in the limousine they were partially to blame for the death and injuries.

Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

Walmart is a lightning rod for bad press for such issues as low employee wages (while simultaneously providing information as to how to take advantage of government assistance), and their (soulless) domination of family-owned businesses. But with all of the Walmart-focused controversy, the worst aspect is that they don’t seem to care at all. As long as they continue to churn out astronomical profits, the folks at the top couldn’t care less what you think of them or their company. It’s like their C-Suite is comprised entirely of Mr. Burns clones.

Their army of attorneys is presumably attempting to establish leverage to bring to the lawsuit settlement table, while adding to their negative reputation in the court of public opinion (which they don’t appear to mind.)

The public’s view of a corporation should be an integral aspect of their operations strategy. When it appears that a company pays no mind to this, you should immediately question their motivations. Walmart knows they will continue to rake in profits, and until there’s an impact to their bottom-line, their decision-makers will continue to disregard their public standing.

The Yelp Shakedown Racket

Review websites are now the primary resource when making decisions such as where to eat, where to reserve a room and where to shop. Sites and apps like TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon and of course, Yelp, are fixtures online; but there’s a growing group of the population committed to their demise—particularly Yelp—accusing the outlet of ratings manipulation and shakedown tactics to sell advertising.

Yelp, like many of the flourishing social sites, exists as a free service because of its reliance on advertising. Businesses are encouraged to augment their presence in the form of ads to boost their visibility—and the Yelp sales department has become increasingly aggressive in their attempt to fill blank space. Cold calls to local restaurants and businesses lead to guarantees of higher ratings should they decide to purchase advertising—which defeats the purpose of an aggregated review site—but also intimates the opposite should they choose to decline.

If that sounds like an online shakedown, it’s because it is—and a recent court ruling just deemed it completely legal. The Ninth Circuit Court of San Francisco ruled in favor of Yelp, creating an even wider chasm between small business owners working to gain a foothold in their market and the corporation looking to create advertising revenue.

This development brings the entire existence of Yelp into question. As a go-to resource when deciding where to spend your money, the fact that they are now legally allowed to raise or lower ratings renders it inaccurate at best, and fraudulent at worst. As a consumer, a tool like Yelp is invaluable—especially when traveling—but results-manipulation lends credence to business-owners who have long accused them of running an online-racket that affects their profit-line.

Reviews and ratings should always be taken with a grain of salt, but with the legal rubberstamping of Yelp’s right to adjust ratings based on advertising sales (or lack thereof); consumers should take heed when utilizing their service as their primary guidebook.

Bitcoin is Dead

Anarcho-Socialists and Orwellian doomsday revelators alike: tune your tinfoil hats to the proper frequency, because Bitcoin is dead, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The nascent, decentralized crypto-currency suffered a massive setback in its evolution, as Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange organization, announced that it had effectively lost $500 million of its customers’ money and would be filing for immediate bankruptcy.

$500 million. Gone.

Bitcoin gained widespread notoriety over the last few months, most notably for the FBI shutdown of the virtual open-air drug market Silk Road, and subsequent arrest of its founder Dread Pirate Roberts. Bitcoin values plummeted upon the announcement of the website’s seizure, and provided a revealing look as to the unpredictable nature of an anonymous and unregulated online currency – and the news of Mt. Gox’s failure is only a further indicator that the world does not have the Internet infrastructure and safeguards in place to deal in digital cash.

As with any new venture, an integral component to its success is gaining the trust of the public and providing a tangible level of confidence and consistency. The thought of handing over your hard-earned income to a bank must have seemed ludicrous after the economic collapse that led to the Great Depression – but then FDR established the FDIC, insuring an individual’s assets in lieu of financial disaster.

Bitcoin flew too close to the sun in its infancy, and whatever shreds of legitimacy it retains will not put it over the hump in terms of gaining a foothold as a viable alternative to centralized money. In a society where hackers and online miscreants live for the thought of screwing up John Q. Public’s day, the idea that one’s life-savings is floating ill-protected in cyberspace is not one that will lend to mass global support.

While the Mt. Gox implosion may have been the death knell for Bitcoin itself, it does not necessarily spell doom for the crypto-currency archetype altogether. It’s entirely possible that we experienced the first wave – the rise and fall – of online currency, and with technology constantly pushing itself to the limits of invention, another incarnation may be waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum.

Another Day, Another Facebook Acquisition

If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em. This seems to be the modus operandi of Zuckerberg and his cohorts, and it’s a formula that continues to prove lucrative for Facebook.

It was announced last week that Facebook had acquired the international messaging application WhatsApp for a colossal $19 billion, continuing the company’s purchasing pattern that has included Instagram and the short-lived social media outlet, Friendster – among numerous others.

By acquiring WhatsApp, the brain trust at Facebook added another profitable tech weapon in their ever-expanding arsenal, and provided their shareholders with further confidence in their commitment to corporate growth in areas not fundamentally central to their social media platform. They also subsequently announced a new international voice-calling functionality for WhatsApp, putting it in direct competition with other such services as Skype.

With their continued spending spree that involves buying out potential competition or acquiring intellectual property for their own use, it’s entirely conceivable that Facebook may soon have their fingerprints on a variety of different businesses, and create an even larger-looming corporate shadow.

I believe that many years from now, Mark Zuckerberg’s company will be viewed as one of the heritage American businesses, along with General Motors, IBM or Apple; a company that trumpeted the arrival of the Social Media Age and redefined our understanding of interpersonal communication and interaction. Their acquisition of WhatsApp only reinforces their dedication to altering the communication landscape, and bolstering their dominion over the technological world.

-Carter Breazeale