2 Million Americans Cut the Cord in 2013

cut the cordDid you cut the cord last year and get rid of your cable bill for good?  If you did it seems that you are not the only cord cutter out there.

According to an article in Consumer Reports 2 million Americans cut the cable cord in 2013.  Here is what they said;

all pay TV services—cable, satellite, and telco (traditional telephone companies that offer television service)—lost about a quarter of a million subscribers, cable operators took the hardest hit: They lost about 2 million customers, while satellite and telco TV services posted modest gains.

The article continues;

There are always seasonal fluctuations in pay TV service subscribers, but this is the first time that the number dropped over a full year. While there was an uptick in pay TV subscriptions across all types of providers at the end of the year, the last-quarter gain of about 40,000 subscribers—plus the yearly increases posted by satellite and telco companies—weren’t enough to compensate for the number of cable subscribers who cut the cord.

Total subscribers for basic cable TV in 2013 was estimated around 54.4 million households and compared to 2012.  That means there were 2 million people that cut the cord in 2013.  Does this mean Americans are finally getting tired of paying high cables bills for a bunch of channels they never watch?  Will we see a mass exodus of cable TV subscribers?

Cord cutting is gaining popularity because of internet streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Video, M-Go, Crackle, and many others.  These services allow you to watch what you want whenever or you can or feel like it.  Often times without the hassle of a lot commercials too.  What’s made utilizing these internet TV services easy is streaming internet boxes and devices like the Roku and Apple TV have had strong sales the last few years.  Recently Google has come out with the Chromecast which is a small Wi-FI USB receiver that can be plugged into your TV to push content to from your laptop, tablet or phone.  Amazon is also getting into the hardware TV streaming game with the new Amazon Fire TV as a Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV competitor.

Lots of US homes are also now using over-the-air antennas to receive local channels for free and in HD (high definition).  So why pay for local channels if you can get them for free and in HDTV?  Especially if most of the TV shows you want to watch are on Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, or PBS.  While your digital TV reception and signal quality will vary depending upon where you live most cities, towns, and suburbs should be able to receive decent signals.  Since the 2009 digital TV transition picture quality is clearer and crispier with digital signals.  Cut the cord and get buy an HDTV antenna.

Even with all these new streaming internet TV services and devices that have hit the market in the last few years and wider use of over-the-air HDTV antennas there’s still a massive amount of people that have traditional TV bills each month.

As stated above Satellite TV subscriptions from companies like DirecTV and DISH gained Gained 170,000 subscribers in 2013.  By the last estimated count there are 34.3 million Satellite TV subscribers in the US currently.  Telco companies and services which includes AT&T U-verse, and Verizon FiOS TV gained 286,000 subscribers and it’s estimated that there are 10.7 million households with Telco TV services.

If we assume the numbers above are accurate add them all up and there are still 99.4 million Americans that pay for some form of TV service.  That’s still almost 1/3 of all US households.  So obviously telecom giants and cable TV companies still have a huge US subscriber base.  Are people still not ready to cut the cord?  Basically yes, it seems cutting the cord still doesn’t appeal to a lot of households.

While a lot of people still pay for cable TV I believe the more internet savvy people become, the less likely they are going to want to open their wallets.  People are getting used to watching videos and content online for free and from low cost providers like Netflix.  Most people complain about rapidly increasing cable bills each month with bad and supbar service.  In addition basic cable gives you a lot channels you never watch and really don’t need.  There’s no A-La-Carte options in the US that cable TV companies offer, at least that I’m aware of.  Many people would prefer to pay for only a select few cable channels.  Some major league sports have realized the opportunity and now offer live streaming subscriber options.

Have you cut the cord?  Why did you cancel cable and do you feel good about the decision personally and financially?  I’d love to hear comments from cord cutters and anyway that’s cut the cable cord recently or in the past few years.

6 Free Email List Management Software Tools to Consider

If you are looking to start an email list or perhaps take over an existing email newsletter, I’m sure you’ve been surprised, frustrated, and confused by the high costs and confusing service some email newsletter management companies charge.  Is there another way?

There actually is.  Technically you can run your own email list management software on a shared hosting, or VPS (virtual private server), or dedicated server you or your company and organization already pay for.  (Assuming you have a website up.)  I’ve compiled this list of the free and open source email newsletter managers which can be downloaded and installed to run on a server and be used via a graphical interface in browser.

PHPList

phplistPHPList is probably the best known and most popular open source email management software that’s available today.  While it’s probably not going to win any awards from design snobs the email software works well.

PHPList has a lot of nice features like click tracking, bounce management, list segmentation, PDF documents, RSS integration, HTML templates, and more.  Most importantly PHPList has throttling and batch processing capabilities.  This means you can control how many  emails are sent out in say 1 hour, which is why most people use it in shared hosting environments.  This is also why the majority of major web hosting companies recommend PHPList, since they don’t want you going over their shared hosting email limits.

If you don’t feel like using your own server there is a phpList Hosted service where they handling sending out your email newsletters from their servers.  I have not used phpList hosted but the pricing looks competitive and might be an ideal option if your email list is large and you don’t want to switch to using another email program.

There is a new community manager for PHPList and Tincan, the company behind phpList, seems quite committed to continually improving it.  They recently updated their community portal and Anna, the phpList community manager, will be releasing tutorials videos this year along with better documentation.

As a side note, something I find personally pretty funny is the PHPList documentation list uses Mailman, see below.

Dada Mail

dada mailDada Mail is a great email list management software that is ideal for anyone.  The interface is clean and everything is pretty straightforward on how to use it.  I wrote about Dada Mail before on this blog and said it was much easier to use than MailMan or phpList in my opinion.  You should be able to install it and get going within a few minutes without having to read too much in the Dada Mail forum or documentation.  (Although it’s always a good idea to.)

Dada Mail comes with nice features which includes closed loop-opt-ins, email message archiving, sharing via RSS feeds, individual subscribers can edit their profiles, email analytics, and more.  There is a fairly active support forum and Justin, the developer, tries to answer questions readily.  So if you are having an issue you can get help easily.

The major disadvantage here is that Dada Mail is open source and free… but only if your email newsletter is under 1,000 subscribers.  After that you will need to buy a Dada Mail Pro License for $74.95, which is a one-time fee.

OpenEMM

openemmOpenEMM (open e-email marketing manager) is an open source email list management software I’ve not personally used.  However, from what I’ve read OpenEMM is stable and seems to to have a nice interface from these videos.  It has all the functionality of phpList and Dada Mail (from what I can tell).  It even supports many languages outside of English.

There’s great documentation for OpenEMM and in addition to an active support form.  On the website OpenEMM’s developers boast that major corporations use use the e-mail marketing manger such as IBM, Daimler, Siemens and Deutsche Telekom.  If it’s good enough for them it is probably good enough for you.

MailMan

mailmanMailman, or GNU Mailman, comes pre-installed in most cPanel installations to my understanding.  Mailman is used by a lot of colleges and institutions since it is quite stable and reliable email newsletter software.  It has several advantages over other email managers, specifically you can setup Mailman so that any user on an email list can respond or start threaded discussions.  Thinks of how Yahoo Groups works.

This is why a lot of documentation email lists for open source software use Mailman, like PHPList’s documentation list.  As far as I know this the group communication feature it Mailman’s best feature actually.

Even though Mailman is on this list I wouldn’t recommend using it if you are a “regular person” as it’s quite hard to use and has a high learning curve.  I couldn’t even figure out how to setup and send an email newsletter, and I consider myself fairly technically inclined.  It’s really for people that love coding and hate graphical interfaces I guess (ie hardcore Linux users).  Still I had to mention it on this post for email list management software options.

Pommo

pommo

I’ve put Pommo (Post Modern Mail Manager) on this list tentatively as I have not used it and the developers stopped supporting the email newsletter manager several year ago.  Thanks to the magic of Github Pommo has been able to live on.

People have clung to Pommo since it’s got a dead simple interface and is easy-to-use.  From what I’ve read it doesn’t have batch processing handling like Dada Mail, PHPList, or OpenEMM and lacks some other features.  Still people are using Pommo.

I did actually tried to install Pommo on a shared hosting server I use just for testing out things like this but there was an PHP issue I tried to install Pommo.  It won’t work with the current version of PHP installed on most shared servers and throws an error code.  There are some workarounds but honestly I haven’t had time to figure to figure it out and fix it.  Unsure if I really want to considering the other options above are supported.

If you have money, time, resources, and skills feel free to find developers to resurrect Pommo.  I’m sure a lot of people would be really happy.  Unfortunately I don’t but it would be nice to have Pommo as a usable option.

Sympa

sympaSympa, like Mailman, is a popular email list management software used at colleges and institutions.  I’ve read on some forums people have successfully installed this on shared servers and VPS hosting environments but most people seem to use Sympa on dedicated servers.

Sympa supports Galician, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, and German in addition to English and they are working on translating more languages.  Sympa features that other email newsletter managers don’t have is users can review each other, you can upload pictures, and more.

If you are going to use Sympa it does have a fair amount of documentation but it’s a bit hard to understand if you are not a computer geek.  For that reason it’s probably best if you stick with another email manager listed above especially.  It’s mainly used for college classes and sport groups as far as I can tell.

Email List Management Software Options

If you got to the end of this article you are probably wondering, “What email newsletter software should I go use?”  My recommendation would probably be to stick with PHPList or OpenEMM.  Dada Mail is also an ideal option even if you have to pay for a pro license.  I listed Mailman, Sympa, and Pommo merely as email list management software options you could consider just for kicks.  I just don’t really recommend people use them.  PHPList, OpenEMM, and Dadamail are all actively developed and have documentation that can be understood by normal human beings.

I hoped you liked this list and round-up.  If you have anything to add or have any comments please leave them below.  Do you like or hate any of these email list managers?  Have a suggestion of a newsletter manager I missed?  Let me know below.

Happy Birthday Internet, Here’s to Another 25 Years [VIDEO]

happy birthday internet

Happy Birthday Internet!  In case you didn’t know today is the world wide web’s 25th birthday.  That’s right the internet, web, net, whatever else you like it call it is 25 years old.  So Happy Birthday Internet, net, web, etc!

While that seems like a long time, isn’t it incredible to think that internet has only been around for 25 years?  To me it seems like it’s been around for a long time but I still remember a time when there were computers that did not connect to the internet and all you could really do with them was play computer games.  At least at the time that’s all I thought computers were good for.  Who would want to use a word processor? :)

To celebrate and mark the occasion Tim Berners-Lee, the man who came up with and built the internet, wrote a guest post on Google’s Official Blog.  (There was no mention of the ex-Vice President, Al Gore, as having created the internet.)  He talks about his experiences of coming up with the idea while at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) writing a paper “Information Management: A Proposal” 25 years ago on March 12th, 1989 and the software project developed.

Though CERN, as a physics lab, couldn’t justify such a general software project, my boss Mike Sendall allowed me to work on it on the side. In 1990, I wrote the first browser and editor. In 1993, after much urging, CERN declared that WWW technology would be available to all, without paying royalties, forever.

Imagine if CERN had charged for technology that servers run on?  They could have been Google, Facebook, IBM, like 100′s time over.  The internet is arguably the most game-changing invention in history.  Of course there could be an argument between that and indoor plumbing though.  What do you think?

first web server

Berners-Lee continued in the Google guest post on the way the web he built is structured.

 By design, the underlying Internet and the WWW are non-hierarchical, decentralized and radically open. The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don’t need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination.

Tim Berners-Lee continues in the guest post.

So today is a day to celebrate. But it’s also an occasion to think, discuss—and do. Key decisions on the governance and future of the Internet are looming, and it’s vital for all of us to speak up for the web’s future. How can we ensure that the other 60 percent around the world who are not connected get online fast? How can we make sure that the web supports all languages and cultures, not just the dominant ones? How do we build consensus around open standards to link the coming Internet of Things? Will we allow others to package and restrict our online experience, or will we protect the magic of the open web and the power it gives us to say, discover, and create anything? How can we build systems of checks and balances to hold the groups that can spy on the net accountable to the public? These are some of my questions—what are yours?

Incredible to think that so many people around the globe still don’t have internet access.  Also we need to consider that a lot of those people don’t speak English.  I also think it’s interesting he touches on the NSA spying and metadata collection.  Some groups like Stop Watching Us have fought back with DC Rallies but it’s clear he feels we need to mindful.

On the 25th birthday of the web, I ask you to join in—to help us imagine and build the future standards for the web, and to press for every country to develop a digital bill of rights to advance a free and open web for everyone. Learn more and speak up for the sort of web we really want with #web25.

Will you take up Sir Tim Berners-Lee challenge?  Let me know your plans to change the internet and make it a better place for everyone.

25 years old is a good age to be for the internet.  Here’s to another 25 years.  How will you celebrate the web’s birthday?  What do you think the internet will look like in 25 years?

Happy Birthday Internet!

[Image Source - Google Blog]

Are Affiliate Marketers just Spammers?

affiliate marketersRecently I was reading a book on SEO (search engine optimization) and I noticed the author used the term “Affiliate Marketers” in the book.  He was not using the term “Affiliate Marketers” in a positive way though as he used the phrase in place of “spammers” when referring to people that utilize Black Hat SEO techniques to rank websites in Google and other search engines.

Usually when I read SEO books, report, or material I see the terns such as spammers, black hatters, link spammers, etc.  The author of this SEO book decided the correct term was “Affiliate Marketers” which from what I could tell meant he had an extremely negative opinion of people that refer to themselves as Affiliate Marketers.  In addition he didn’t seem to believe that affiliate marketing provided that great of an ROI (return on investment) and does not provide value for small to medium eCommerce businesses the majority of the time.  (Unless they have the resources to manage an affiliate program.)

I don’t want to reveal what the book I was reading was and who the author is but I find it interesting that well respected figure on SEO would take this stance.  Since attending Affiliate Summit I would have to agree with the author though.  Honestly there were lots of successful affiliates there that make tons of money being spammers basically.  Their goal is to make the most money and they will use as many Black Hat SEO methods to rank in Google (and Bing I guess) as long as they work.  They don’t produce content so their usually course of action is to scrape it from other blogs or websites, throw the text into an article spinner, and then run some scripts or automated backlinking software to rank a site for 1 week to a few months.  The affiliate link laden deal or coupon sites then earns a shitload of money before the affiliate company knows they are victim of affiliate fraud or the site gets de-indexed by Google.  Often times though Google’s search engineers are too idiotic to actually read search results (because they are math nazis) and take down a spammy website until it’s waaay to late though.

Do I think affiliate marketing is completely bad?  No, not at all since I use affiliate links on this site.  I just do it in a way that’s reasonable and I’m completely upfront when I use affiliate links.  I’ve build mini-sites before but after Penguin 2.0 I’ve found they don’t do well.

While I think there’s a middle ground in terms of Black Hat and White Hat SEO techniques, affiliate marketers can’t legitimately got to conferences like Affiliate Summit and complain about the bad reputation you get in the business.  Most of my assumptions about people that engage heavily in affiliate marketing were really only confirmed and cemented.

Do you think it’s fair for Search Engine Optimizers to have such a negative opinion of Affiliate Marketers?  If you do affiliate marketing and consider yourself an “affiliate marketer” why do you think most internet marketing professionals have the view that you are just spammers?

MichelleObama.com sells for $3550, Is it Worth More?

The first lady’s name as a domain name, meaning MichelleObama.com, was sold several days ago for $3,550 dollars in a Godaddy Expired domain auction.  I got the screenshot to prove it.  michelle obamaAs you can tell from the screenshot the expired auction for MichelleObama.com closed on February 23rd, 2014 and had 62 bids with the winning bidder willing to shell out $3,550 for the domain name.  I wonder… is there another Michelle Obama out there and did they win this auction?  What are the chances of that?

Like most domain auctions the bidding for the domain seems to have heated up in the final day.  Another screenshot I took when the MichelleObama.com domain auction was active on February 21st, 2014 shows that the price at $1,075.  The valuation is only at $60 though and has a traffic score of 248.

michelleobama.comIt’s surprising to me that Michelle Obama’s public relations team is this f$^&ing stupid for not trying to buy MichelleObama.com themselves.  I mean seriously what are you paid to do?  It’s not like you Washington DC assholes have anything better to do with your day except move really slow and get nothing done.  In addition to wasting a bunch of money.

What surprised me more though is that the domain didn’t sell for more money.  Wouldn’t you think the first lady’s name would be worth more than $3,550?  If Michelle Obama saw this I bet she would be slightly offended.

Currently MichelleObama.com displays a GoDaddy parked page.  It will be intersting to see what the new owner will or won’t do with the domain.  Assuming it’s not Michelle Obama who owns it.

I guess this raises the question what do you think your name is worth?  We all know that AdamYamada.com is worth millions of dollars. ;)

Facebook Fraud and Problems Exposed [videos]

The other day someone told me about these 2 videos by the science Vlogger Derek Muller where he asks, “What is the value of a Facebook like?”  The answer, which I’ve known for awhile, is basically… next to nothing.

Muller, who goes by the handle Veritasium on Youtube, posted a video entitled Facebook Fraud on February 10th.  As I write this the 9 minute video currently has about 1,460,000 views.

facebook fraud

Muller spent money on Facebook advertising to try to boost his Likes on his Veritasium Facebook page.  The result?  He got tons of fake Likes using Facebook advertising from countries like Indonesia, Egypt, and Bangladesh which are “click farm” countries.  This means he got the same result paying for Facebook advertising as he would have gotten if he had gone to a third party provider and bought Facebook likes.  He pointed out that he has 80,000 likes on the Veritasium Facebook page from the countries mentioned but those accounts add up to a paltry 1% engagement.  Since he currently has over 100,000 likes this means that 80% of his page is useless.

virtual catHe also created a stupid and useless Facebook page called Virtual Cat which was supposed to only show the most annoying and mindless drivel.  Using Facebook Advertising he STILL got likes.  Checkout the video below.

Facebook Fraud

Evidence Facebook’s revenue is based on fake likes.  I know first-hand that Facebook’s advertising model is deeply flawed. When I paid to promote my page I gained 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn’t care about Veritasium (but I wasn’t aware of this at the time). They drove my reach and engagement numbers down, basically rendering the page useless. I am not the only one who has experienced this. Rory Cellan-Jones had the same luck with Virtual Bagel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-…

The US Department of State spent $630,000 to acquire 2 million page likes and then realized only 2% were engaged. http://wapo.st/1glcyZo

I thought I would demonstrate that the same thing is still happening now by creating Virtual Cat (http://www.facebook.com/MyVirtualCat). I was surprised to discover something worse – false likes are coming from everywhere, including Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. So even those carefully targeting their campaigns are likely being duped into spending real money on fake followers. Then when they try to reach their followers they have to pay again.

And it’s possible to be a victim of fake likes without even advertising. Pages that end up on Facebook’s “International Suggested Pages” are also easy targets for click-farms seeking to diversify their likes. http://tnw.co/NsflrC

Later in the video he says, “Wherever you are targeting, advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money.”  Not something social media consultants want to hear but from my experiences I’ve found this to be true.  When I used to work for a website that had 1+ million visitors a day and 150,000 likes on the site’s Facebook page, you want to know how many people clicked through to the website each day when a post was sharex?  A few thousand, if we were lucky mostly less.  The site got more referral traffic from RSS feeds than Facebook click-through’s. They did not pay for likes or use bots to my understanding.

 the problem with facebook Another interesting video Muller posted last month on January 14th is “The Problem with Facebook” on his 2Veritasium channel.  He points out that it is hard to figure out what the value is of Facebook interactions compared to a platform like Youtube where it is much more clear what a view means.  He argues that the values of Facebook are out-of-whack as well.

The Problem With Facebook

Facebook is a complex ecosystem of individuals, creators, brands and advertisers, but I don’t think it serves any of these groups particularly well because its top priority is to make money. Now, I don’t think making money is a bad thing, in fact I hope to make some myself. The problem is the only way Facebook has found to make money is by treating all entities on the site as advertisers and charging them to share their content.

This business plan backfires because 1) not all entities ARE advertisers and 2) it was the content from these people, specifically friends, family, and creators that made the site worth visiting in the first place. Now the incentives are misaligned:
- individuals want to see great content, but they are now seeing more paid content and organically shared content which appeals to the lowest common denominator (babies, weddings, and banal memes)
- creators want to reach fans but their posts are being throttled to force them to pay to be seen
- brands and advertisers have to pay once to advertise their page on Facebook, and then pay again to reach the people who have already liked their page. Plus Facebook is not a place where people generally go to buy things.

Almost every single publication that covers tech or social media has written articles or editorials about Vertasium’s Facebook videos.  (Specifically the Facebook Fraud one.)  It has sparked quite a lot of discussion about whether Facebook has lost control and raised into question whether it is a sinking giant.

Maybe since I deleted my Facebook Account of course I don’t expect many others to do that.   The reality is I didn’t feel like I got value out of using the service personally or for my businesses.  The other problem with Facebook is the demographics are changing.  You might remember that I asked the question on this blog “Is Facebook for Old People” since that seems to be the main demographic on there nowadays, much to the dismay of Facebook executives.

What’s always been surprising to me is that the even those who are supposedly engaged with social media will just share things without even really taking the time to look at them.  For instance Dave Kerpen shared my review of his book Likeable Social Media, even though it was a less than stellar review.  This has led me to the conclusion that a Forums are better than Social Media.

I hope you watch Derek’s videos and let me know what you think of them.  Is Facebook Fraud a real issue and does Facebook have real problems they have not addressed?  Will you continue to use the platform for your personal use, your business, or your brand?  Let me know as I’d love to hear feedback.

[Image Source - From Videos]