Tag Archives: media

Mobile Apps and Advertising for Small Businesses

Bryan Howe
April 1, 2013 by

At MasterPlans, we’re focused on the needs of small business owners. In today’s technologically saturated world, most small business owners use the internet on a daily basis. Many depend on smartphones to help them run their businesses while staying connected to friends, family members, and colleagues.

Yet new research conducted by The Boston Consulting Group suggests that small businesses are much less likely than larger businesses to promote their products and services online. On March 19, Adweek reported that businesses with fewer than 100 employees spend only 3% of their total advertising dollars online. Bigger companies, in contrast, spend as much as 16%. While most of these small businesses have websites, experts think that small businesses are too focused on getting products off the shelves to put much energy and time into long-term advertising strategies. (If you’re a small business owner, this might sound familiar.) Since online advertising can have a big impact on a business’s chances of success, this represents a huge opportunity: both for businesses and for advertisers.

Increasingly, however, mobile app developers are focusing on the needs of small businesses, just as we do at MasterPlans. Foursquare, the social networking app that allows users to “check in” at local businesses, is courting small businesses with a brand-new mobile app. Designed specifically for small business owners, this app will allow businesses to “push” specials and updates to customers on the go. Over a million businesses already use Foursquare to connect with their customers, but this app allows small business owners to alert customers to a new menu item or a great spring sale through the palms of their own hands.

Interested in other apps that can help you manage and promote your small business? Check out Forbes’s list of 10 Brilliant Apps Small Businesses Should Use. And remember to keep in mind the needs of today’s increasingly mobile-minded consumers when you put together your products and services.

PR PSA: How Not To Write A Press Release.

April 29, 2009 by

If you’re like most entrepreneurs starting a business, your operation is likely a one-man show. You not only write the checks, you make the sales, answer the phones, and maybe even clean up at the end of the night. Chances are you’re probably also responsible for your start-up’s public relations too. That’s where things can get tricky. While writing a solid business plan is one thing, crafting press releases that actually get the job done is entirely another. The biggest problem with most press releases we’ve seen is that they’re either 1) irrelevant to anything the publication would write about, 2) poorly written, 3) nonsensical, or 4) overly self-promotional to the point of parody. But few come close to this—the Mother of all crappy press releases, which we spotted today over at Gawker. While it obviously takes a certain type of person to come up with something this unbelievably inane (and we doubt any of you have that in you), it’s still a spot-on example of everything that’s wrong most press releases all balled up into one. Gawker breaks it down step-by-step (which is the only way to tackle this monstrous thing), and we’ve done the same, but with our own commentary:

Press release sez: “The news reports coming out of Mexico City are downright scary this week, as more than 100 deaths in the country are being investigated as possibly tied to the swine influenza virus outbreak that’s gripping North America. Reports of the illness in Mexico come at a tough time for the country’s tourism industry, which is already reeling with negative publicity about drug cartel fueled violence. But renowned Life Stylist Blair French (www.blairfrench.com), a New Yorker who has lived in the beautiful and charming town of San Miguel de Allende-about three hours north of Mexico City – for two years, says it’s time to take a “siesta” on the negativity and turn it into a “fiesta” for a lifestyle you can’t find anywhere else.”

We say: Huh? While starting off with a news hook to get a journalist’s attention is usually a good idea (journalists love topical relevancy—it’s called a news peg), none of this makes sense. Refer back to reason three (above) that most press releases suck.

Press release sez: “The multi-faceted dynamo attests that despite the health scare and reports on the drug cartels, Mexico is 99.9 percent safer for Americans than living in the U.S. She believes the media has used these news items to fashion a misleading portrayal of Mexico as a third world country.
“The government has taken measures in preventing the further spread of the Swine Flu by administering antiviral drugs to the population,” she says. “I’m sure that Mexico will overcome this and is fully aware of what needs to be done to protect its citizens.”

We say: The media’s stirred this whole thing up! Wait – isn’t this press release going to the media? Whoops. Secondly, don’t ever, ever, EVER call yourself a “multi-faceted dynamo” or anything else that’s going to prompt people to start looking for evidence to the contrary. This gets to that “overly self-promotional to the point of parody” thing we were talking about. Also, none of this makes any sense. And it’s poorly written.

Press release sez: “French, who in her business blends all aspects of a person’s life together – health, fitness, food, fashion, entertainment and decor – helps create a lifestyle for someone that is uniquely one’s own. She also does catering and event planning and loves to learn about other countries and cultures.
Corroborating French’s optimism is Dr. Julio Frenk, the former Mexican national health minister and new dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. Explaining that Mexico had built up substantial supplies of antiviral medication, he believes the outbreak will be brought under control because of the integrated network of specialists in the U.S., Canada and the WHO.”

We say: You have to give someone credit who’s managed to somehow connect “health, fitness, food, fashion, entertainment and decor” with swine flu. And then you have to laugh at them. Long and hard.

Anyone have questions on how not to write a press release? We think it’s now pretty clear.


NY Times: Will Trade Food For Business Plan.

April 9, 2009 by

Speaking of bizarre-o business plan news, media gossip blog Gawker.com received a copy of an internal memo from the New York Times today that indicates just how bad things really are over at the Old Gray Lady: free food! That is, if you offer up some ideas for a revamped New York Times business plan. From the memo:

“…To make sure all corners of the newsroom have a voice, at the start of the year, we began organizing regular lunches with newsroom employees at all levels to offer their money making (and saving) ideas – large and small – for the Times. This is all about ways to better capitalize on our journalism.

Summaries of the lunches have been forwarded to the business side. The ideas have ranged from ambitious multi-paged business models (in one case by a Harvard MBA who is a reporter here) to practical cost-saving notions like cutting back on paper in the newsroom.

If you have an idea – any idea – that you would like to share with the news and/or business management, forward it to me and I will make sure it gets to the right person at the highest levels…And if you are interested in attending one of our upcoming brainstorming lunches, let me know.”

We’d like to rib them for sending out such an obviously desperate plea for help to its newsroom, but we have to give them credit on one count: at least the Times gets how important a business plan is.


Here’s Proof You Shouldn’t Drink Whiskey Before Noon.

April 3, 2009 by

Sure it’s Friday afternoon, and yes, we’re feeling a little bit itchy too. But someone over at the Wall Street Journal either took happy hour a little too seriously today by starting at breakfast or just has a strange sense of humor. Here’s the headline to an article on a dip in Canadian venture capital:

“O Canada VC We Stand On Guard For Thee.”

To be sung in the tune of “O Canada?” Sure things have gone downhill since Murdoch took over, but just wow.


CNN: You Don’t Need A Business Plan – You Need Pills.

March 9, 2009 by

Jon Stewart should have included CNN in his tirade against business and financial reportage for this recent piece: “Brain-boosting drugs: ‘Entrepreneur Pill.” The lead is priceless:

“So you want to be an entrepreneur? Today the first step is a solid business plan. Tomorrow it could be a bottle of pills.”

The best part? They’re 100% serious. Scientist in a Cambridge University study “suggested” last November that an “entrepreneur drug” that “might someday” replicate the brain chemistry of successful small business owners. Nevermind that the science isn’t there yet (please see “suggested” and “might someday”) or that the brain chemistry is slightly more complex than that, CNN’s not letting this non-story go. They jump in with hard questions for the study’s lead researcher: “What could drugs do for small business owners?” and “What would it take to make an entrepreneur pill widely available?”

Ignoring the first question (because, really), we think we can take a stab at the second: said pill would actually have to exist. And then there’s that little problem of the FDA and its regulations: “It would be very helpful if the regulatory bodies allowed the pharmaceutical industry to market cognition-enhancing drugs,” said lead researcher Barbara Sahakian. Of course, it’d also be very helpful if the government didn’t force us to pay those pesky taxes or follow certain laws either. Translation: don’t hold out for the pills.


Why Newspapers Continue to Flounder.

March 9, 2009 by

There’s no question that the newspaper industry collectively needs a new business plan—and fast. Ad sales are down across the board, and between bankruptcies, layoffs, and some newspapers shuttering their doors, it seems like there’s no good news these days for print media. Wisely, newspaper publishers are scrambling to find ways to boosts revenues and stave off what’s increasingly looking like a long, slow descent into irrelevancy. The trouble is that the ideas they’re coming up with to save themselves are about as antiquated as their original business plan to begin with.

Take this bit of genius, courtesy the MediaNews Group, the fourth-largest newspaper chain in the nation. They plan to test a customized news service this summer that allows readers to select the stories they’d like to read—and then print them out at home in a “custom newspaper” format. The first problem is that readers can already customize what stories they receive via Google and other sites. The second problem is, um, a printer? Really? While they haven’t revealed the details regarding the “technology” as yet, the New York Times says that it will be a proprietary printer that would receive and print a subscriber’s custom newspaper.

The lynchpin in this whole operation is the targeted advertising that will print out with the custom newspaper. The idea is that with this targeted advertising, marketers will get a better return on their investment, thus driving more ad dollars to newspapers. Simple! That is, except the part where subscribers are required to purchase, set-up, and use a clunky piece of equipment in their home that will likely require tech support and maintenance. We’ll stick with iGoogle, thanks.


Further Proof TV News Is Brain Rot.

March 9, 2009 by

We’re a few days behind the curve on this one, but last week on the Daily Show host Jon Stewart led a hysterical, 8-minute long rant (that’s a lifetime in TV) against financial network CNBC that rails against everything we hate about television business news. Not only does he go after the myriad of rosy (and oh, flat wrong) predictions the station has made, but he makes light of their ridiculous CEO interviews, which feature questions like “How does it feel to be a billionaire?” (Just terrible, we’re sure.)

Stewart’s tirade was in response to CNBC reporter Rick Santelli (who’s currently experiencing his 15 minutes for various rants and ramblings against preventing foreclosures) cancelling his appearance on the Daily Show. While Santelli’s probably regretting his decision not to show, we’re thrilled he snubbed Stewart. Otherwise we wouldn’t have this:

(Via The Daily Capitalist)

Captain Obvi – Er, Business Week To The Rescue!

February 26, 2009 by

Just in case you weren’t aware yet that the market sucks, start-ups are hurting, and that, yes, VCs are tightening their belts, BusinessWeek decided to print a facsimile of story we’ve read in their magazine ten times already:

“Venture Capital and Startups Feel More Pain.”

Er, gasp?

But really BusinessWeek, slow news…year?


Another “Clean Tech Is Awesome” Story? Sweet.

February 11, 2009 by

We all know the expression: same story, different day of the week. But has anyone noticed that since the economy took a swan dive, this has become the mantra of business news coverage? They’re just replaying the same tired old stories day in, day out with Jim Cramer screaming out the words. We can’t blame them entirely, though. It’s tough to dig up fresh news stories every day (and hey, we’re guilty of getting stuck in autopilot too). But seriously, if we have to read yet another article about how solar and green technology is still hot in Silicon Valley, or how venture capital funding is still down, we might beat our head against a brick wall.

So with that being said, here are the top five business news stories we’d be completely thrilled to never see again:

Clean technology businesses can still get funding!

Yes, we’re responsible as any other news outlet for shilling this story repeatedly. Amidst a lot of dark, dour news, it just sounds good. But let’s face the facts: most of you out there toiling away on your business plans aren’t developing the next great solar power technology. You’re just trying to start a pizzeria in Atlanta. We get it. Consider this story killed (for now).

Small business confidence is up. No, wait. Down. We think.

It seems like every week another survey comes out about small business confidence. One week, entrepreneurs are apparently blissfully optimistic. The next, confidence tumbles, sending spirits to “record lows.” First conclusion: survey respondents should consider Zoloft. Second: these reports are worthless.

The second Great Depression is on its way!

Yes, the economy is in serious trouble right now. But until we seem unemployment figures hitting the double digits (it was as high as 25% during the Great Depression) or a massive run on the banks, can we please give this a rest? As the Washington Post pointed out yesterday: “If the economy isn’t already in a depression, Americans themselves are likely to be if they’ve been hearing their leaders drop the D-bomb again and again.”

The venture capital system is in serious trouble.

Again: times are tough. And sure, there hasn’t been a venture-backed IPO since last August. But that doesn’t mean the venture capital system is about to collapse. Plenty of start-ups are still getting funding, and while some firms have struggled to fill their own coffers, others have had great success. Accel Partners, for instance, announced last month that they raised more than $1 billion for their investment funds. Now deep breath.

There’s a dearth of small business loans.

It’s true that it’s not easy to secure a small business loan right now. But that doesn’t mean we have to hear about it every single day. Until something actually changes, or until someone has some good suggestions on how to finesse a banker into writing entrepreneurs checks, let’s put this one to bed. Please.

Anyone else have any particular news stories they’re tired of seeing on repeat?

Are Newspapers A Dying Breed?

December 22, 2008 by

First to tank was the mortgage industry. Then came financial services, followed by insurance behemoth AIG and the Detroit automakers, all of whom went to Washington with palms out. So who’s next? More and more it’s beginning to look like the media industry—specifically newspapers—that about to get their turn.

Earlier this week the Tribune Company, which owns papers including the LA Times and the Baltimore Sun, as well as 24 local TV stations and cable and radio networks, announced that they’re filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Other newspaper conglomerates aren’t doing well either. Gannet and McClatchy have seen their stock prices plummet, and according to the New York Times, their respective enterprise values are about 55% of their value a year and a half ago. Even the venerable New York Times is struggling, and rumors are swirling that they may be next on the chopping block.

The bottom line is that things are bad for the newspaper industry—and they’re probably only getting worse. The trouble for most newspapers and their parent companies is that they haven’t tweaked their business plans to respond to changes in the industry. Not only do they rely heavily on advertising—which online sites like Craigslist continue to take a huge bite out of—but subscriptions have been falling and many of these companies have taken on substantial amounts of debt. Much like the auto industry, it looks like newspapers haven’t done much in the way of long-term planning for profitability. Unlike the auto industry, though, newspapers won’t get any checks from Uncle Sam. So, for many, their only hope of survival is a revamped business plan. The question, of course, is how to do that. Going increasingly digital, reducing the amount of papers they print, and consolidating with other media groups appear to be the primary solutions as of right now.

If major changes don’t happen, newspapers as we know them may change dramatically. It’s not that the LA Times, or the Baltimore Sun, or even the New York Times are going to disappear. It’s just that they may end up online-only or print by subscription-only. Just last month, the iconic newspaper the Christian Science Monitor announced that they’re killing their print version, and the Pulitzer Board is now accepting online-only pieces. Other papers are reducing the frequency with which they print, going from daily publication to weekly or bi-weekly. It’s not as far-fetched as it may sound.

So, for this week’s survey question, we’d like to know what you think about the newspaper business. Would you mind of newspapers went online-only? Or are you someone who needs to hold the Wall Street Journal in your hand as you ride the train to work?