Standard Oil and Anti-Competitive Laws

Standard Oil is the classic example of what people point to when they talk about anti-trust litigation. The company is well known as the world’s largest producer of oil and kerosene, but the story of how it gained prominence provides a philosophical lens into anti-trust law. Was the government right to break up this monopoly?
Most economists would agree that the anti-trust litigation set in motion by Standard Oil is a positive guiding principle. The company, the story goes, used secret back room deals to gain an advantage over smaller competitors.
Standard had a problem. Rockefeller had grown the company substantially, finding customers all over the United States, but getting oil to them was an expensive prospect. As a youth, John had become adept at estimating transportation costs and what he would find later as an adult was that it would be cheaper to offer a rebate to transportation providers. So Standard Oil gave a rebate of what is equivalent to fifteen cents on the dollar for transportation costs, effectively sharing the burden.
Because Rockefeller had scaled his business well during the early years, reinvesting his cash reserves to improve infrastructure and increase production, he was in the position to take a small loss for long term gain.
Standard Oil also dramatically undercut competitors, sometimes taking losses or only a very slim profit, to ensure that smaller companies would not be able to thrive.
In point of fact, Standard Oil was reacting to legislation at the time. The company did establish a monopoly, which is well documented fact, but the government made it difficult for companies like Standard to incorporate in various states. Owning smaller businesses was one of the only ways the company could effectively grow.


Pierce Arrow: Art and Car Design in America

By Samuel Phineas Upham

It’s hard to believe that the company that produced some of the most artful automotive designs in American history began its life producing gilded bird cages. Originally known as Heinz, Pierce and Munschauer, it was George Norman Pierce who bought out the others and decided to branch into other forms of industrial design.

Pierce added his name to the company and began to produce bicycles in 1896. Wanting to move into automotive design, perhaps a bit prematurely, Pierce even attempted to build a steam-powered motor car. The result was a single-cylinder two-speeder without a reverse function. As you might imagine, it was not a hit. The second iteration, nicknamed “Arrow,” added a second cylinder and gave Pierce enough motivation to pursue the luxury auto market.

Pierce focused his efforts on growing the luxury market, and he produced “The Great Arrow.” The four-cylinder quickly became Pierce’s most successful product, winning the Glidden Trophy in 1905.

The Great Arrow became a status symbol for Hollywood elite and royalty around the world. Pierce became one of the classic car afficianado’s “three P’s of motoring,” with the other two being Packard and Peerless.

The company even approached its advertising with a mantra of design first, portraying the car in the background of elaborate scenes. This understated approach to advertising helped associate the car with elegance. Typically, only a portion of the car was showing and the ad would depict some grand event the driver was attending.

The car was so sturdy and rugged that fire departments would use the chassis and engine to build fire trucks with.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn.


Major Positive Impacts in Digital Advertising

Ads are an integrated part of a website, and the two work hard to serve content as fast as possible. Both work on different connections, and both are trying to show the user something quickly. As a result, new technology has been developed to speed up content delivery. Coding can deliver colors and shapes now, reducing the need for assets that bog down loading times. That puts pressure on Internet service providers to create faster connection speeds. The demand for the Web, on desktop or mobile, is surging.

Better Quality

When people click the ads on their favorite blogs, they enable editing teams to spend more time critiquing work. They enable webmasters to accept guest posts for money, which attracts writers willing to put time and effort into researching posts with scholarly resources.

Advertising dollars also fuel development in other ways. If you use an application on a mobile device to access a website, for instance, that application was made possible because that site is able to generate revenue through advertising. Subscription based models can work, but they are very rare. Even Hulu must show commercials to subscribers who have paid for their service, and the New York Times has developed a similar model. Subscriptions help fund publications, but they can’t keep the lights on forever.

Even when a publisher attempts a subscription-based model, they find themselves using ads to supplement the income brought in by subscriptions. The print industry used free editions to try to entice users, the same way blogs of today use free content.

As CEO of engage:BDR, Ted Dhanik is a technology evangelist and digital advertising expert. Ted Dhanik offers his insight on media and business growth to prominent blogs like AdAge and Venture Beat. Ted Dhanik drives innovation in digital advertising with the team at engage:BDR.


Tips on Designing Video Ads for Mobile

As smartphone adoption rates rise, and video upload rates increase right alongside, the video ad is going to be an important aspect of the media landscape. We already see companies investing more money into mobile advertising and location-based targeting. Video ads are just the next logical step. They provide an outlet for a sales pitch, they can be intimate and they are effective at telling the story of a brand or its product.

For your video ads to be effective, you’ll need to master a few basic concepts and execute them well.

Have a Plan

Will your video explain the product, or will you show the product in action? Are you going to demo the product, or simply show a use case? Deciding how you want to display your product is the first step in creating a video. Try to think of videos as fitting two distinct categories for now: explainers and demos. Explainers do exactly what they sound like, they tell users what a product does and how a service works.

Demos let the user see the product solve a problem, and they can be powerful associative tools.

Get to the Point

A pre-roll ad only offers you about 10-15 seconds of time to get the user’s attention. Even if you purchase a viewable impression worth 15 seconds of time, you’re not going to stay in the user’s mind if your ad doesn’t have a hook and get to its point quickly. Try to keep that in mind as you craft ads. Keep it simple and execute one idea masterfully.
Ted Dhanik writes on behalf of engage:BDR, where he is CEO and co-founder. Ted Dhanik is passionate about the practice of digital advertising, and blogs frequently about the changing industry. Ted Dhanik, and his pets, are based out of Los Angeles where he actively mentors start ups.


Robert Adams and the First Solid-Frame Revolver

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Robert Adams made a name for himself as a gunsmith. He held the patent for the first double-action revolver. Born in 19th century Britain, he would create revolvers used in wars all over the world. Including the American Civil War.

Adams spent his professional career managing the London-based arms manufacturer: George & John Deane. He tinkered in the workshop during his off hours, and eventually came upon a new design for a revolver. He had the gun patented on August 22, 1851.

Hi gun was a five-shot percussion revolver, which utilized a cap-and-ball system, with a spurless hammer. It is also notable as being the first revolver with a solid frame construction. The revolver relied upon a double-action mechanism, which meant that the external hammer did not need to be thumbed back to cock itself. By pulling the trigger, the force of the pistol would cause the gun to cock itself for the next shot. This was one of the first semi-automatic weapons in existence, far more effective than the widely used single-action Colt revolvers.

Robert’s design was first showcased at the Great Exhibition of 1851, which got the British army interested. The Small Arms Committee approved purchasing the weapons shortly after. The East Indian company put them to use in their cavalry, a deal that made the Deane Brothers (original owners of the company) willing to make Robert Adams a partner in the firm.

Adams offered an improvement to his design in 1845, which made the grip a bit more comfortable.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Twitter.


Getting Positive Results from Your First Campaign

Display advertising accounts for a significant portion of big brand spending, meaning that companies like MasterCard are still investing heavily in placements on websites. For those just getting into the business, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to get your ad in front of your audience, but launching is no simple task. Before you begin trying multiple offers, follow these steps to be sure your campaign will get off to a good start.

Determine the Quality of Your Offer

A good offer presents the user with a value proposition up front, and sells a product or service that solves a problem the user is experiencing. In order to sell, the landing page has to look convincing. A solid offer should be made, multiple benefits stated and a firm call to action with specific language should be used. Instead of “Click Here,” try “Buy Now” or some other phrase that accurately describes what the user will be doing. Reduce the number of fields until you are requesting bare minimum from the customer if your landing page utilizes a form. Start with a path you can refine, don’t try to do too much your first try.

Continue to the next phase once you have a strong landing page that directs a customer toward an action.

Identify Targeting Opportunities

The next phase deals with your target audience, so you need to perform some market research to form a clear picture of your ideal customer. Google Trends is a good place to start. You can use this tool to search keywords related to your topic and get an idea of the buzz and interest surrounding your subject. This informs a lot about your target market. You’ll get an idea of what blogs they are interested in, what other topics they read about and begin to form a clearer picture of their browsing habits.

Use this data to inform your targeting decisions. Some specifics to look out for include:

  • Geographic location
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Web browser
  • Device (tablet or desktop)

Once you have some idea of how you want to target your audience, move on to the final phase before launch.

Purchase Quality Traffic

Advertisers depend on targeted traffic in order to get their messaging out into the wild. Quality traffic can be judged with a few key metrics, like conversions and clicks. You must also consider size of potential inventory, and which offers are popular at the moment. You can have the most interested buyers in the world, but if you’re not selling something they want, you’re wasting money.

Bio: Ted Dhanik is a digital marketer with experience in display and video advertising. Beginning with MySpace.com in the early 2000s, Ted Dhanik has built brands online. Ted Dhanik is the CEO of engage:BDR, a digital advertising company headquartered in Los Angeles.


Howard Schultz: From Rags to Coffee Mogul

By Phineas Upham

Born in July of 1953, Howard Schultz was the son of a US Army truck driver and his wife. Schultz had a poor upbringing, and sports were basically his only release as a kid. He took to them well and earned a scholarship for Northwestern University while playing for his high school.

That was the springboard that turned him into the first person in the Schultz family to go to college. He enrolled at Northern Michigan University His time at northwestern was spent studying for a bachelor’s degree in Business, but he also joined the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

Upon graduation he took a sales job at Xerox Corporation, where he received a promotion and did fairly well. His next job was as the general manager for a Swedish drip-coffee maker in 1979. Schultz had visited Starbucks in 1981 to ask them why they were ordering so many cone filters from his stores. He was intrigued by what he saw there. The company was well-versed and seemed to have a strong knowledge of coffee.

Schultz formed a relationship with Starbucks’ founders and joined the company properly in 1982. His role was Director of Marketing, and that’s where he got the idea to add espressos and other beverages in addition to the usual Starbucks lineup. As you may have guessed, the idea was a smashing success. He eventually rose to become the company CEO, a position he held until 2000. Schultz is ranked as one of the richest men in America, and he owned the Seattle Supersonics from 2001 to 2006.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn page.


How to Improve Your Yelp Reviews

By Pierre Zarokian from RepEngage

The secret is out: Yelp is not the bastion of honesty that it once was. Countless businesses are finding themselves at the mercy of Yelp reviews that may or may not have any authenticity to them. The system is open to gaming, and Yelp can control your ratings by rearranging reviews. If you’re one of the many businesses hanging up on Yelp sales calls while watching your ratings plummet, read on for some valuable insider tips to improve your image.
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4 SEO Strategies to Focus on in 2015

2015 presents new challenges for businesses, especially on the web. With the rising use of mobile devices compared to all other devices, the target audience has changed. SEO has specifically gotten much tougher, specially with the new Google algorithms in the past 3 years. Google is purposely making hard for sites to rank better with SEO, mainly to cut down spam, but many legit sites are having trouble getting rankings. The following strategies might help you boost your SEO initiatives in 2015. Continue reading


Checklist for hiring a good web designer

If you’re building a website or want to update your existing website and you decide to hire a designer to help you can quickly get overwhelmed. There are thousands of Web designers. How do you decide what makes one designer better than another designer?

Experience Isn’t Everything

Most people will tell you that the most important thing is experience. A designer who doesn’t have a lot of experience, they’ll tell you, can’t give you the quality that an experienced designer can. I don’t agree. While experience can be useful, it can also be a drawback. Just because a designer has less experience doesn’t mean that he or she can’t build a beautiful site for you.

Take Note: If a designer says they’ve been building websites since before 1995, they are almost definitely exaggerating. When I started working on the Web in 1995, very very few people had even heard of the Web, let alone had set up a business. I was working at an Internet company, which is the only reason I was involved with it at that time.Before you base your decision solely on how many sites they’ve built or how long they’ve been in business, think about this:

  • Many long-time designers are stuck in their habits and might not be willing or able to give you a cutting edge website (if that’s what you want).
  • Younger designers are more likely to have gone to school to get a Web design degree. While this isn’t vital either, it does tell you that this person has academic knowledge that an older designer might only have through practice.

Ask to See Their Portfolio

While experience might not be important, having a good portfolio is. You shouldn’t be as concerned with whether the portfolio is made up of live sites, so much that the examples show diversity and range for the designer. Ask to see the portfolio online so that you can see how the websites they’ve built actually work. This is especially important if you’re looking for a designer to build any type of interactivity for your website.

Some people will tell you that the way the potential Web designer’s personal site looks is a good measure of how good a designer they will be. But I disagree with this too. While I do think having a good Web design business site is important. I don’t think that it’s a good indicator of how well they would design your site. Most designers design their business site when they’re not working on paying jobs. And if they have tons of time to modify their business site, then they don’t have a lot of experience, do they? But they might have a good portfolio. So you have to judge for yourself.