Monday Must-Reads

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. Ready for another week at the office?

Of course, I use the term “office” loosely. I imagine that – for many of our writers and clients – the office is wherever we make it. I like cafés as much as the next blogger, but I tend to stick to the nook in my apartment where I’ve set up shop.

I’ve got my headset, French press, WiFi, plenty of peace and quiet to write and a decent sixth-story view of Brooklyn, complete with a giant tree so I can tell the season. When the leaves turn green, I will finally go outside.

I bring all this up because telecommuting is suddenly the subject of surprisingly intense debate, with Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, axing work-from-home as an option for the tech company’s employees.

Which brings us to Item No. 1 on the weekly reading list.

  1. Where do you stand on telecommuting? Slate offers both sides of the debate. Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo writes that work-from-home is awesome. Katie Roiphe begs to differ.
  2. On to a topic only slightly less controversial: social media and ROI. eMarketer reports on a recent study showing that Twitter generates the most leads for small to mid-sized businesses, while Facebook generates more traffic. Social media itself only accounted for 5 percent of sales leads in the survey of 500 businesses.
  3. In other social news, this via The New York Times, Facebook is set to display targeted ads around the Web with its acquisition of Microsoft’s Atlas Advertising Suite.
  4. Of course, our passion here at iCopywriter is organic search, so if you need a refresher, this column in Entrepreneur has five simple strategies that just about anyone can use to improve their SEO. It’s a good primer for SEO newbies.
  5. And, finally, the Girl Scouts of America has pulled the plug on the ecommerce ambitions of reality television star Alana Thompson – known as Honey Boo Boo – saying she can’t sell the cookies over Facebook because it defeats the purpose of selling the cookies.

Other than dispensing tasty treats, the cookie program is meant to help young women gain confidence and business skills. I’m sold. Now, where can I find some Tagalongs?

That might be worth leaving the office for.

 

Freaky Friday: Weird of the Day – Tri-Freakta – The Hermit Kingdom Revisited, Smart Silverware and Digital Parenthood

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Man, 2013 is off to a weird start. So weird, in fact, that we’re bringing you a triple dose of FreakyFriday, all crammed into one freakishly compact post.

1. Google chief searches North Korea

First, the seriously freaky: In our last episode we touched on Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s visit to North Korea. As an update, Schmidt did right by Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” credo and called on the Hermit Kingdom and its leaders to embrace the Web.

I don’t know if anyone is hopeful that the world’s most authoritarian regime will find much use in supplying its people with a massive, open source of information that encourages personal expression. But, hey, somebody had to say it to Kim Jong-un’s face, because I don’t think the guy has a Facebook. Either way, Eric Schmidt walked around North Korea looking at things, which is apparently what you do in North Korea if you’re important, at least according to Tumblr.

2. The age of smart cutlery is here

The gadget powwow 2013 International CES was held in Las Vegas this week. In the last couple years it has actually been just as popular to write about why CES isirrelevant – and there is a strong case when Apple and Microsoft don’t even bother to attend – but, all the same, it’s usually good for at least a few interesting tech curios.

Our favorite this year: the smart fork. Yes, the HAPIfork is a utensil designed to help you lose weight by letting you know when you’re eating too fast. The HAPIfork is making at least some people sad. The news and culture site Salon declared that the smart fork is a sign that civilization is doomed. We’re not prepared to go that far, but hey, the fork goes back to at least the eighth or ninth century, and it’s been working pretty well ever since.

You should probably stick a fork in this idea, and into some healthy food, if you want to really lose weight.

3. Parenting 2.0

This is destined to become a question on Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me. A Chinese father, tired of his son playing video games instead of looking for a job, hired virtual hitmen to assassinate the kid’s character in online video games – the idea being that eventually he would get tired of constantly losing and quit playing.

It’s an ingenious example of crowdsourcing, but, alas, it didn’t work.

Google vs. Bing – The Battle Gets Heated

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It looks like Microsoft is taking the fight for search traffic directly to Google – just in time for the holidays – with ads explicitly calling out the Web giant as a terrible place to shop.

This is according to a recent article by The Associated Press. Microsoft, of course, wants to drive eyeballs to its own search engine, Bing, which is a far-off second to Google when it comes to traffic.

Microsoft’s main issue – and it’s fair game – is that Google is charging merchants to appear in its special shopping listings. This of course goes against Google’s overall ethos as the fairest and best source of information on the Web. Microsoft has set up its own site as part of the ad campaign: Scroogled. The site doesn’t shy away from saying that the Google guys are basically hypocrites, using their own words against them to pretty devastating effect.

Although, as Danny Sullivan, an editor at SearchEngineLand.com, tells the AP, even though Microsoft’s attacks on Google are more or less fair, Bing isn’t exactly innocent. It takes its own cut from listings provided by Shopping.com, though the majority of Bing’s shopping listings aren’t paid for.

My initial reaction is that tech companies like Google are going to keep looking for ways to drive new revenue – like any company would – except that the Web is so ridiculously competitive. And the margins are so low that we really shouldn’t be surprised if Google starts balking on some of its idealistic promises. Witness Facebook’s recent changes to its business pages, which more or less force users to pay to promote their posts in order to reach their full audience.

After all, giving away the world’s information is expensive, especially if you’re doing it for free. The question is how much companies like Google and Facebook can get away with before they compromise their brand – and drive away users.

On the Web, you’re only as good as your audience. My sense is that Google messing around with its shopping listings isn’t much of a game changer. There are a ton of other price comparison apps out there; people will gravitate toward the one that actually finds the best prices. If Google can’t do that through paid ads, then people won’t use the site.

But if Google starts fooling with its actual search page – which is about as close to sacrosanct as you can get on the Web – well, then it’s time to have a whole new conversation.

How do you feel about the Microsoft/Google dust-up?

Photo Credit: michperu

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Boston May Allow Voter Registration Via Facebook

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

In order to reflect its status as what Boston City Council member Tito Jackson calls “a high-tech city,” with local Facebook and Microsoft offices, the city is considering allowing its citizens to register to vote via Facebook, according to unofficial Facebook blog AllFacebook.

An app called MyVote, which is already used in Washington State, lets would-be voters sign up through their Facebook pages. The app was developed by Microsoft, with help from Facebook employees.

According to Jackson, the cost of registering a voter on paper is $0.08; it would cost just $0.03 to do so online, meaning savings for the city.

Jackson also notes that Boston should make it as easy as possible for people to register to vote, and we at iCopywriter are inclined to agree.

No mention of privacy or identity verification issues was made, but we’re sure those considerations have been taken into account, or will be as the details of the program are ironed out.

What do you think? Is registering to vote via Facebook a great and über-convenient idea, or does the whole thing sound a little loosey-goosey?  Let us know in the comments!

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately? We can’t register you to vote, but we can provide you with the best custom content for your site.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net