Sunday, December 30, 2007

How Girls Gone Wild Became A $100 Million A Year Empire

Joseph R. "Joe" Francis (born April 1, 1973) is the founder of Mantra Films, Inc., which produces the Girls Gone Wild and Guys Gone Wild DVD series. Francis, who grew up in Laguna Beach, California, graduated from the University of Southern California in 1995 with a degree in Business Administration. He also completed USC’s Entrepreneur Program.

After graduating from USC, Francis worked in various capacities in television production, eventually landing a job as production assistant for TV series Real TV, which aired footage of unusual events not routinely covered by mainstream network news at the time. While working at Real TV, Francis learned of a compilation video which was popular with the production staff containing footage that was considered too extreme for network TV viewers, including those of Real TV. Francis believed that there were commercial possibilities with a video of that kind and edited the video tape and named it Banned from Television, which featured (among other things), a little girl and her mother being struck by a speeding train. He used a business direct-marketing plan he created in college and sold individual video cassettes of the title.

Banned From Television was considered a commercial success and it spawned other sequels. One of the videos which Francis had licensed, contained footage of female college students flashing their breasts during Mardi Gras and Spring Break. Seeing the marketing appeal, he titled that footage Girls Gone Wild (GGW). He eventually stopped licensing the materials and began producing it himself.

The videos have themes such as Girls Gone Wild: Ultimate Spring Break or Girls Gone Wild: Sexy Sorority Sweethearts and are marketed to young adult men. They are chiefly sold via television mail order and are frequently advertised on late-night television infomercials, with a brief "warning" message as a disclaimer before the commercial begins.

In 1997, at the age of 24, Francis founded Mantra Films, Inc. Building on the discovered premise that he could film college-age women "going wild," including baring their breasts for the cameras at spring breaks and other locales, Mantra became a company with over 400 employees and has recorded sales in excess of $100 million per year. Mantra also spun off the Guys Gone Wild DVD series.

In the world of pop culture, Francis' Girls Gone Wild is regularly referenced in today’s society and pop culture atmosphere and was recently cited as an example of "sexualization," number 23 on USA Today's list of the "25 Trends that Changed America".

As a public figure, Francis has attracted his share of controversies, including allegations of conspiracy to use minors in sexual performances, and allegations in the Los Angeles Times of violence towards women. In a well-publicized case, Francis was kidnapped from his Bel Air home by an assailant who also tried to blackmail Francis. The assailant received a 10-year sentence.

Francis is often criticized by social commentators and third wave feminists for perpetuating what some consider "the new double standard" which equates the objectification of women with sexual liberation.

Mantra films has come under legal attack on a number of occasions. Recurring allegations include that women engaged in sexual activity were used without the consent of the women, that Mantra films engaged in sexual exploitation of minors and that incomplete records were kept of participants in GGW videos. Today the videos, which sell for as little as $9.99 apiece, contribute to a total sales figure of almost $100 million per year for Mantra Films, Inc.

Rules of Seduction - Cool BBC Documentary On British Pickup Scene

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The Sedona Method - It’s Weird But It Works

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ever Heard Of Lester Levenson Or The Sedona Method?

"I was born July 19, 1909 in Elizabeth, New Jersey into a middle class family as a very shy person. I tried to do things the way they were supposed to be done -- doing the right thing, getting a good education, and being the best in my field. My natural inclination was towards science. Especially the science of the world, and of man himself. I graduated from Rutgers University in 1931 as a physicist, after which I worked 20 some years in physics and engineering.

"I also went into various businesses, including restaurants, lumber, building and oil, intertwined with engineering, wanting to make money-- wanting to make it in the world. At that time, I did not know what I now know -- that what I was seeking was actually the answers to life itself. And nothing that I had worked at would give me that answer. As the years went by, I became heavy with depression and with sickness. By 1952, I had been through constant illness -- I even had jaundice three or so times a year. I had an enlarged liver, kidney stones, spleen trouble, hyper and hypos acidity, ulcers that perforated and formed lesions, and to top it off, I had at least 10 years of migraine headaches.

"This all culminated in 1952 when I had my second coronary thrombosis."

"After the second coronary, I was told I would not live much longer -- that I might die any day and shouldn't make the effort to take so much as a step unless I necessarily had to. I was extremely fearful of dying, but I said to myself, "You're still breathing, Lester -- there is still a chance." So I sat down and began thinking on an "around the clock" basis. I had been considered a very smart boy. I always made the honor roll. I had been the recipient of a four-year scholarship to Rutgers back in the days when not many scholarships were handed out. But then being told after my second heart attack that I wouldn't live, I said to myself,

"Lester, you are stupid, stupid, stupid."

"Having lived 42 or so years, and having reached the end of the line without happiness, without health -- therefore all this knowledge you have accumulated is of no avail. I had studied Watson's behavior in the 30's and Freud's in the late 30's and early 40's. I had studied the philosophies. I had studied logic. I studied economics. I studied all the major fields of man, and with all that knowledge there; I was at the end of the line. This made me realize that...

"The Accumulated Knowledge of Man Was of No Use."

"So I decided to start from scratch. Forget all that knowledge. Begin from point 0 and see what you can pick up. So, I posed some pretty basic questions and asking myself what I really wanted out of life.

"I began to get some answers. Investigating further, I made some startling discoveries. And I started getting better.

"I began correcting all my thoughts and feelings in that direction. And in that process, I discovered I was getting happier, freer, lighter, and feeling better in general. I continued until all the ailments I had in my physical body corrected. All my miseries dropped away. And I ended up in a place in which I was happy all the time, without sorrow.

"Not that the world stopped pushing against me -- it continued -- but I was at a place where I could resolve things almost immediately. Having cleared out the negative fears, all the negative 'I can not's,' I would focus right on the answer to every problem, and get it very quickly.

And so,

My whole life turned around from being depressed and sick, to being happy and in perfect health all the time!

"One of the things that happened in this process was my identification with others. I saw that we are all related we are all inter-connected -- each mind is like a radio broadcasting and receiving station. That we are all tuned into each other unconsciously -- that we are just not aware of it. That life was meant to be beautiful... meant to be happy all the time with no sorrow. And to be with perfect health. And so after reaching that high point of understanding in 1952, I have wanted to help others to discover what I had discovered."

"I Believe If I Can Do It, Anyone Can Do It."

Over the remaining 42 years of Lester's life, he attracted thousands of students to his work - not because he spent time and money marketing his discovery, but because he was a living example of the possibility you and I possess when we learn to set our ego aside.

The reason so many of us fail to reach our goals is not due to a lack of effort. It is because we produce in our outer world what we hold in our inner world. If I desire more money, I reaffirm in my mind that I don't not "have enough", and it is lack that I create.

Positive thinking alone does not change this. You must learn to release the associated feelings. And when you do, you also learn to let go of the thousands of thoughts you have associated with the feeling. This frees you to see more opportunity, to experience greater happiness regardless of outcomes and literally attract into your life what you want.

It is our desires, our wants, that prevent not only happiness, but our producing the results we seek in our life.

The results include:

* Less stress
* More financial abundance
* Deeper, more loving relationships
* Better health, wellness and vitality
* Career success
* Peace, happiness and more

Happiness and success in life have nothing to do with hard work, education or what you "have" to begin with. Happiness and success are equally available to everyone when you learn how to "release" the blocks, the thoughts and feelings, of limitation you hold. It is literally as effortless as holding a pen and letting it fall to the floor!

Don't take my word for it; Discover Lester's work, The Sedona Method, for yourself. Click here for your free introductory tape.

The Man Who Found Zen (Sedona Method)

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Amazing Story Of Offbeat PR Guy

Hi, there. Hope you are well. We thought you'd like some information for an interesting feature. It's about a Kansas public-relations professional who has carved a unique niche for himself by sending the nation's media outlets thousands of copies of news releases for "practical yet peculiar" consumer products.

He's Todd Brabender -- whose clients include the SummerSled (it works on grass) and Litecubes (the glowing ice cubes). His latest PR pitch, for the Fish 'n Flush toilet fish tank, begins: "It's a unique new product whose decorative appeal could turn the bathroom into the most talked about room in the house."

Mr. Brabender, who is 41 years old and a former media person himself, is the kind of PR guy journalists hate to love -- but love nevertheless. An old-fashioned press agent with newfangled powers, he blasts emails far and wide from the basement of his flagstoned mid-American home. Media elites may fume over coverups and spin, but for reporters with holiday news holes to fill, a bulletin about guppies in the toilet is cause for elation.

As Lisa Reicosky wrote in the Canton, Ohio, Repository: "Sometimes in this business we receive press releases we just can't ignore." That was the first sentence of her story on the Fish 'n Flush. "The toilet fish, yeah, that caught my eye," says Ms. Reicosky. "I'm part time. I need the PR people to give me my ideas." The Repository (circulation 65,000) gave the Fish 'n Flush 241 words.

At least 500 newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations -- online and off -- have taken this bait in a year, says Mr. Brabender. He figures it would have cost the makers of the Fish 'n Flush a million dollars to buy that kind of advertising. As it is, except for Mr. Brabender's $2,500-a-month fee, they haven't spent a penny.

"It's all Todd, generating PR for us," says David Parrish of AquaOne Technologies Inc., in Orange County, Calif. AquaOne designs leak-control hardware and uses a clear-plastic showroom toilet tank to display it. "We were standing around one day," Mr. Parrish recalls, "and I said, 'Wouldn't it be fun if we had fish in it and you flushed it and the fish didn't go down?'"

Thus the Fish 'n Flush came to be. A Web site went up with a mail-order price of $299. Somebody who knew somebody put AquaOne in touch with Mr. Brabender. His release went out and orders came in. With no advertising and a "how did you hear about us" box on the site, AquaOne could draw a straight line from media plugs to sales.

"We see the geographic pattern," says Mr. Parrish. "If we get orders from Bangor, we know Todd's done something in Bangor." Sales have reached 1,000. Now Mr. Brabender has launched a second Fish 'n Flush campaign. The vehicle isn't a new story, just new reporters.

"There's such turnover in the media," he said one workday morning, "we'll hit people who missed it last time." Clean-cut and clear-eyed, he sat at his computer fielding Fish 'n Flush queries: the DIY Network, Exceptional Parent Magazine, the Muncie Star Press. Said Mr. Brabender, "We're out on the dance floor one more time."

It's a crowded one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts roughly 100,000 Americans in journalism but 235,000 in public relations, most of them in big organizations. But technology has not only given rise to mobs of small shops between the coasts, it has also turned the humdrum news release into a reviled variant of spam.

For reporters offered a chance to disseminate "relationship advice" from a porn star-rocker power couple, or to cover "the top 10 reasons label printers make great gifts," the delete button is never far away. To survive the cull, a pitchman needs a gimmick.

Mr. Brabender's: "funny yet functional," a newsroom natural. That's why CNBC's "The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch" wanted Michael Daoud on the show. Mr. Daoud invented the Xshot -- a stick you screw onto a camera to take pictures of yourself -- and on the day of the New York taping, he got on the phone to Mr. Brabender for a pep talk.

"Don't sound like a circus hawker," Mr. Brabender told him.

"Right, right," said Mr. Daoud.

"Keep an eye on Donny," Mr. Brabender said. "If he glazes over, wrap it up. Don't spew. Be a well, not a fountain."

"A well, not a fountain," said Mr. Daoud. "Great advice, Todd."

After hanging up, Mr. Brabender said, "My goal is make it easy for the media. Media people like easy stories. I know. I'm a former media guy myself."

From 1988 to 1994, Mr. Brabender worked at 6News, a Lawrence TV channel with two daily newscasts and long stationary shots of traffic on a Kansas River bridge. He grew up in Rock Falls, Ill., where his father was a salesman for Senco nail-guns. ("It's a great nail-gun," says Mr. Brabender.) His "blood boiling" to be a newsman, he came here to the University of Kansas, got a journalism degree and then went straight onto the crime beat at 6News.

"Bike thefts were up one year," he says, but when his wife got a job at more pay for half the hours, he quit to stay home with their two kids, and signed on with a service that monitors mentions of corporate names on TV. "I saw stories about new products," Mr. Brabender says. "I thought it would be neat to be a person who got the media interested in stories like that."

He says he had thought most successful PR types lived in New York or Los Angeles, but in 1996 a friend of his, Cathy Hamilton, dreamed up a gag gift -- Boyfriend in a Box -- a set of sham snapshots and love notes to help women fend off advances. She asked Mr. Brabender to publicize it. He did. The gag went over big, and the next thing he knew, Mr. Brabender was founding Spread the News PR, his own firm.

To start, his research tools were a yellow pad and a chair at the public library. Now, for $850 a year, he logs on to ProfNet, where reporters looking for sources tell PR people what they're up to. For $3,500, he gets MediaSource, a list of reporters that he uses to make sure his release for SingingCoach learn-to-sing software, for instance, doesn't go to somebody who covers national security.

Mr. Brabender doesn't want to be a pest. He doesn't send out samples, except on request (and hardly ever sees, much less uses, any of the products himself). And he tries never to send a release to one reporter more than three or four times.

He doesn't pitch himself, either. Weird clients just attract weirder ones, enough this year to pull in fees of $300,000. Not that the play Mr. Brabender gets them is totally ecstatic. In November, Esquire magazine consigned the Cone-i-Vore pinecone picker-upper to its "things we won't be covering this month" column. On the other hand, Lena Fiore can barely believe what he did for Toilet Tattoos.

"People say PR is a frill, but it's such a necessity," says Ms. Fiore, who is 43 and lives in Macedonia, Ohio. The Toilet Tattoo, a decorative toilet-seat appliqué, was her invention. "I have a white commode," she says, "and I wanted to cover it without using a germ-harboring rug." She has them manufactured in Minnesota.

A friend led Ms. Fiore to Mr. Brabender. "There was a sincerity about him," she says. He blasted out his release in September, announcing "a unique new bathroom decoration." By his count, the news has filled 1,229 inches of space in 131 newspapers, including six inches in the Oconomowoc Enterprise of Oconomowoc, Wis.

"People are skeptical of advertising," says Ms. Fiore, who doesn't do any. By itself, she says, Mr. Brabender's release has brought half a million Toilet Tattoo sales to her Web site, at $9.95 apiece. "I don't know what it is about newspapers," says Ms. Fiore. "When people read about something, maybe it's more real to them. They seem to believe it whether it's true or not."

[Via -]

Additional Resources For Creative PR Approaches:

PR Idea Book: 50 Proven Tools That Really Work

Unleashing the Power of PR: A Contrarian's Guide to Marketing and Communication

PR on a Budget: Free, Cheap, and Worth the Money Strategies for Getting Noticed

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How To Get Free Books From Amazon.Com

I’ve just got a fat Amazon.Com gift certificate and I’d like to share it with you – my loyal readers (gosh, the daily readership of this blog is already in the low thousands – and it keeps growing every day despite the fact that Google dropped Page Rank for the blog from 5 to 0).

So here is what I am going to do. I believe that the following five books are INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT, if you want to be a successful online entrepreneur. Take a look at the list and pick the one that you want and I’ll send it to you free (limited to US and Canada, sorry, no international orders, these cost more than the books themselves).

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas: An Entrepreneur's Guide

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition

Selling Sucks: How to Stop Selling and Start Getting Prospects to Buy!

Think Two Products Ahead: Secrets the Big Advertising Agencies Don't Want You to Know

Is there a catch? Of course there is. You’ll need to interview me first. For that you’ll need a blog. And not just any blog – your blog must have at least 50-100 daily readers, be updated regularly and be indexed with Google. Basically, I’m bribing you with a book.

What’s interview going to be about? That’s entirely up to you. Let me just give you some background information about me. My name is Dmitry Davydov and I am Russian. When I was 15 years old I moved to Northern California. I’ve graduated from Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, then attended Sierra College in Rocklin, CA, until getting my BS in Microbiology from University Of California in Davis, CA. I’ve worked for a year at Dade Behring Microscan in West Sacramento when it hit me – WORKING FOR THE MAN SUCKS BIG TIME!

And basically I’ve never worked for anyone since, although I did hold a few jobs for fun – I was once a local TV news reporter and a freelance journalist for the local daily (local TV sucks too, by the way, ain’t nothing glamorous about the job like it seems at first glance).

So my best guess about the interview is that it should be about making money online. Here is my path. When I returned to Russia to see my old classmates, I learned that two out of my three best friends became programmers. And one of them created a game that he was going to sell as shareware. That was 2001, I believe. So I was struck with the idea of a startup that used Russian game developers to make games for the western markets. My startup eventually failed, but some of my Russian friends, like the founder of Alawar.Com, became multimillionaires within two or three years.

I didn’t give up on shareware and after working closely with Russian shareware community I launched Deprice.Com with a partner. Deprice was an instant hit. It was the easiest $100K I ever made. Better yet, the site still keeps making me money even though I and my partner haven’t touched it in over a year. If you want to talk about making money with shareware discounters – we could do that.

Next, I was hit with the AdSense mania. Remember, two to three years ago AdSense was all the rage. While I do make enough money with AdSense to feed me and my family (by the way, I forgot to mention that I have a wife and a baby boy and a paid off mortgages on two properties, even though I am only 28 years old), AdSense wasn’t as fun or profitable as I thought it would be.

However, AdSense was my entryway into the world of commercial blogging and affiliate marketing. Commercial blogging is the opposite of regular blogging. You do it for the money. Most often the content is not original, but it has to be interesting and niched. I have way too many blogs to mention. The two about weird ways people make money online and offline are Uncommon Business Blog and NicheGeek. Then there is wildly popular Madconomist (43K visitors yesterday alone!). Then there is BadCyclopedia.Com and I’ll just stop there. These are just my recent blogs, but I have over 40 different sites.

The reason I decided to develop a network of blogs isn’t just to milk AdSense. Like I said, AdSense is pretty boring. However, I quickly realized that if I was going to launch online businesses on a regular basis, I’ll have to find a way to drive traffic there.

Building a network of blogs was the smartest decision I’ve ever made. Now, when I launch a new online venture, be that TestedAdSenseNiches.Com (which never made me much money) or, I have all the free traffic I need to test the market. PickyDomains.Com has become a big success too and if you want to chat about making money with domains, either the way I do it or the way Shawn Casey does it – we can do that as well.

OK, this post is already getting too long, but before I let you go, the last two topics we can discuss is affiliate marketing and copywriting. These are my current favorites.

Alright, I am waiting for your questions. Don’t forget to mention which book you want to get for free and do include URL of your blog along with the questions.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

WeMoveSeniors.Com - Another Great Example Of A Niche Business

Seniors are among those most likely to move, as they downsize or head off to sunny retirement digs. Yet moves can be especially hard on them, with heavy lifting and countless details to deal with, from emptying an attic to reconnecting an entertainment system. Adrienne Simpson, founder of Smooth Mooove, has staked her claim in what could become an attractive new industry.

Like so many entrepreneurs, she recognized a business opportunity after personally discovering a need. While moving her parents from Georgia to Michigan, she searched without success for a specialized company that would be able to help. Thanks to Simpson’s hard-knocks lessons, Smooth Mooove’s clients can now choose from a lengthy menu of services within three basic moving plans.

Services range from cleaning up vacated homes once all household items have been loaded on a truck, to hanging drapes and shopping for new items for a client’s new home. Although any move is costly, Simpson says Smooth Mooove can actually save time and money. Since family members often have to take time from work to help a parent move, the company isn’t just marketing its program to seniors, but also to corporate clients, as an employee benefit for children of aging boomers.

Smooth Mooove, based in Stone Mountain, Georgia, joins a growing list of concierge-like services focused on seniors, including other moving companies that are starting to serve this market. As populations age throughout the industrialized world, the need for similar services will expand, creating plenty of room for new competitors to differentiate themselves through innovative services or by segmenting the senior market in any number of ways.

Plush retirement communities, for example, might contract with a moving service as an added inducement to buyers. In the end, the success or failure of moving companies for seniors—as with any high-touch service enterprise—will hinge on how well they manage the details. And, equally important, on the respect, consideration and care given to their clients in the process.

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Low Cost Franchises

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Studentbeans.Com Success Story

I was recently at a school in North London delivering a young enterprise session to a group of 15-year-olds when I asked what they were going to do once they finished their GCSEs, on chorus they responded to get A2s, to go to university, to get a degree and then to get a job.

It was much to their surprise that I was standing in front of them at the age of 24 as a director and co-founder of my own business, the leading student offers website. It was refreshing to see their reaction and inquisitiveness to what it meant and how it was possible!

While I was doing my degree in Birmingham, (something not typically associated with many entrepreneurs), with so much time on my hands I saw an opportunity to get involved and make the most of time outside of my studies.

Over the three years during my course I became involved in AIESEC, the world’s largest student run organisation that helps people realise their potential. Through the organisation I went to conferences with students from across the world and went on sponsored work placements to the Philippines and Colombia in the first and second summer respectively.

At the end of my first year I was on the summer ball committee responsible for securing sponsorship for the event and fundraising. Over months of hard work I ended up getting over 30 brands involved in the event ranging from STA Travel to Starbucks.

In my second year of university I was a brand manager for The Yell Group – responsible for promoting their 118 number. This gave me a fantastic insight to how large businesses work and the importance of a brand and its values.

When it came to graduating, while many people were showering me with advice to get some experience behind me, as my business was related to the student market I thought, what better time to start? My biggest fear was leaving university and becoming cocooned by the normalities of daily life and not being able to have an impact.

Work experience and working for other people all have their place but to really learn and understand what it means to run a business, no one can do it for you, it is up to you to set the ball in motion. Once you start it is addictive, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What happens to so many people with ideas is that they never take that step, as they are afraid of failure. Some of my peer group are working in jobs they always thought they wanted but when reality hit, and they realised they’re just a cog in a wheel, it has been really disappointing for many of them. Remember, life isn’t a rehearsal, if not now then when? The most important question to ask yourself is what is the worst thing that can happen?

Richard Branson said: “Three months of running a business or trying to set up a business and you will learn, I suspect, as much as you can learn in three years at a business school."

While Branson didn’t go to a business school, I agree with him that you learn more by running a business in three months. University however was for me exploring what I was interested in, meeting some amazing people, discovering what I wanted to do and learning along the way.

James Eder is the director and co-founder of

The Gossip Queen

One Mean Boat

$90 Game Sells For Over $9000 On EBay

Free Online Scrabble Tournament - $250,000 Grand Prize

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Money In Domains

Looking for a cool domain name, but can’t think of one yourself? Think all the good domains are already taken? You’ll love

Here is how it works. You deposit $50 and give us your specifications. Our contributors start submitting their domain name suggestions. When you see that perfect domain, you just register it. If none of our suggestions worked for you – you just get your money back. See, there is no risk involved.

How good are we at picking cool domain names? We are awesome. Go ahead and Google ‘’. Read what major US newspapers like The San Francisco Chronicle have to say about us. Read testimonials. Talk to people who’ve used our services before. Our celebrity client list includes Aaron Wall of SEOBook, Wendy Piersall of eMomsAtHome and Yanik Silver.

If you are new to PickyDomains, here are detailed instructions. After you deposited $50, we need to know your answers to these questions:

1. What is your site going to be about.
2. Does the domain name has to be in .COM zone or other extensions are desirable.
3. What keywords are critical for your domain name.
4. Is there a limit as to how long your domain name has to be (in
5. Dashes or no dashes.
6. Give us an example of existing websites in your niche that you really like.

Once we get answers to these questions, we’ll send you an e-mail with your login and password. You’ll start receiving your domain name suggestions within 24 hours (sometimes as fast as 10 minutes).

Your job is to check suggestions periodically and mark them as ‘Liked’ or ‘Disliked’ to help our contributors. We will soon add an option that allows you to comment each domain name suggestion, if you choose.

Once you see that perfect domain name suggestion, simply mark it as ‘Picked’. This will complete your order (we’ll forward $25 to a contributor who made the winning suggestion).

Rarely a client doesn’t get a name that he or she really likes. But this does happen from time to time. All you do in this instance is simply close the order and ask as for refund.

Like we promised, it’s risk-free, fast and it works!

So What's The Question?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Old Guys Rule. No Really, They Do And Have Millions To Prove It.

Vital Stats Thom Hill, 40, of Old Guys Rule in Ventura, California
Company Apparel featuring vintage-inspired graphics
Projected 2008 Sales $8 million

In 2003, professional surfer Don Craig was riding high, thanks largely to inspiration he drew from his father, legendary surfer Doug Craig. As a tribute to his dad, Don crafted some bumper stickers that said "Old Guys Rule." The saying struck a nerve with the general public--especially the 40- to 65-year-old set--so Don slapped the phrase on T-shirts and put them in several Southern California surf shops. They sold out immediately.

Seeing the potential but not wanting to helm a big business, Don enlisted Thom Hill, president of sports apparel company Coastal Classics, to take over. Meanwhile, Don promotes the brand as a national sales representative. Says Hill, "With the aging boomer population being as active as they are, we jumped on it and created a lifestyle brand for people who were still active and have discretionary time and money."

When gift-giving women unexpectedly emerged as the primary customers, Hill followed the current by educating retailers and choosing appropriate store placement. Still, inspiration for new designs and accessories is never far away. "Our lead designer, our sales manager, Don and I get together two or three times a year, rent a house somewhere in Mexico, go out in the water and come up with a bunch of ideas," says Hill. "It's all about having fun."

Today, the brand has come to symbolize a state of mind popular among surfers, golfers, bikers and boaters. While the company has vibed well with retailers in coastal communities, it will gain more momentum this year as Hill partners with specialty chains and lifestyle department stores nationwide.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How To Win $250,000 Playing Free Games Online

Playing free games online can be a profession. A number of sites are giving out cash prizes and the size keeps growing. It first started with modest amounts, like $100, to attract gamers, but now payments balooned to $250,000.

Here is a list of free games you can play and win fat cash prizes:


Bejeweled 2

Family Feud


Big Money


Have fun and good luck!

Monday, December 17, 2007

How To Make A Bag And $3 Million Along The Way.

"Those bags end up in a landfill," says Keller. "It's a waste of natural resources." As the founder and CEO of The ChicoBag Company, Keller, 34, has made it his mission to get others to follow his environmentally friendly example. "I want to help humanity kick the single-use bag habit," he says.

The concept for Keller's company is incredibly simple: He sells reusable shopping bags. But while he's the first to admit that this isn't a new idea, Keller says he has a twist on it that has helped his company take off: His bags are made of nylon and can be folded small enough to fit in a glove compartment, backpack or even a back pocket. "Reusable bags, like the typical canvas bag, haven't been convenient," explains Keller. "People are always forgetting them at home, so they're not around when [shoppers] need them."

Keller started the Chico, California-based business in 2005 after being laid off from his job in software sales. He had gone to a local landfill to dump some trash and was taken aback by how many plastic bags he saw in the heap. "I wanted to save some of the bags before the tractor went over them," he says. Instead, he bought a used sewing machine at a local thrift store and made a prototype for a reusable bag. Taking the sample to some local retailers, he listened to their feedback and created the ChicoBag.

The bags are now manufactured overseas and sold at stores across the country as well as through the company's website. Keller, who expects sales of $2 million to $3 million this year, says his sales have gotten a boost from recent efforts by San Francisco officials to ban plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets. "The plastic bag problem has been in the news a lot, and it's helping raise awareness," he says.

Keller is also doing what he can to educate people about the problem with using plastic bags. He has launched a program with schools to sell the bags as fundraisers. "Having the kids sell bags instead of candy bars not only helps the school meet financial goals," says Keller, "but we also provide them with lesson plans and information to educate the students on the environment."

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

How To Write A Profitable Blog Post

Get this – even if you don’t finish reading this post and don’t click a single link, I’ll still make 10 cents off you. That’s because the post has eCPM of a little over $100, meaning I get hundred bucks for every 1000 impressions (as long as most traffic comes from US). I’ve actually tested this post for two weeks on my other blog that deals with weird business ideas and eCPM there was in the $96-$112 range.

While “The $100 eCPM Blog Post” might have been more accurate, I’ve decided to name this post “World’s Most Profitable Blog Post” because I am a marketer and we marketers LOVE to tweak headlines (and yes, a great headline can generate a shitload of traffic just out of curiosity). However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised that this particular blog post really does have the highest eCPM in the world for blogs.

So how did I do it? Testing, testing and then some more testing. It all started when I read that if you make money with AdSense, you can make 10X as much, if you add affiliate links. This blog makes me $20-$30 in AdSense revenue every day, so 10X would be $200-$300 a day. That ain’t bad, considering that this is just a hobby blog and my other online businesses (PickyDomains.Com, SoftwareJudge.Com, Deprice.Com) are my primary income source.

So I started reading some books on affiliate marketing. I’ve read Online Marketing Success Stories: Insider Secrets, from the Experts Who Are Making Millions on the Internet Today, Street Smart Internet Marketing - Tips, Tools, Tactics & Techniques to Market Your Product, Service, Business or Ideas Online and Affiliate Millions: Make a Fortune using Search Marketing on Google and Beyond.

The good thing – these books are awesome. The bad thing – for some strange reason the act of reading a smart book about how people get rich online did make me all that smart or rich for that matter. More over, after some testing I found out that the traditional affiliate marketing model doesn’t work all that well. The traditional model says – here, sell this crappy e-book for 100 bucks and we’ll give you 50. The problem is that nobody buys all that crap. People are reluctant to buy even good things from trusted vendors. Fifty percent from nothing is still nothing.

So, if you want to make good money as affiliate marketer – don’t sell stuff. Confused? Great. Here, click this link called Shawn Casey's Business In A Box (if you live outside US, you’ll be rerouted, sorry about that – there is nothing I can do).

As you see, it’s a free e-mail course on marketing (pretty good one, too). While most people probably not very interested in internet marketing and don’t know who Shawn is (a marketing genius), my site is about internet marketing, so my opt-in rate is very high. One in very eight people who click the link do register and I get $1.30 for every registration.

So here is your first lesson – do find affiliate offers that don’t require selling but pay per lead (lead is usually free sign up or registration) that match the topic of your blog. Here are some other examples of what offers convert well on blogs similar to the one you are reading – how to turn $60 in $1000 flipping domain names and the list of low cost franchises (guess how much this one pays per registration – over six bucks, because it’s so specialized, and this one pays even more - $35). Another example of getting paid for not selling anything is this - I get $25 for every person who becomes publisher or adversiter.

How do you get access to those affiliate campaigns that pay for NOT selling stuff? I’m going to tell you shortly, but I first want to stress the difference between getting paid for lead and getting paid for sale.

Merchants who pay you a percentage of the sale are lazy. They don’t want to take any risks. Essentially, they are saying – if you bring me 10 bucks, I’ll let you keep 5. Let’s say a person is selling 20 dollar widget that costs $10 to produce. So his or her profit is $10, right? So your affiliate commission is likely to be $5 max. Otherwise, there isn’t much profit left. The risk is all yours. If you drive good traffic, but the offer is bad, you get nothing.

Lead based commission works differently. Let’s say a person is selling that very same $20 widget. Let’s say it’s some iPod accessory. Lead based marketer knows that a customer is his major asset. So he sells that accessory and puts the customer on his mailing list. He knows that, statistically speaking that customer is likely to keep buying for two years, make X transactions and generate Y dollars in profit (much more than $10 made in profit from the very first transactions).

So lead-based marketers make more money, they know what their customer is worth to them and they can pay you more. He knows that just a name on the list is worth $3 to him, so he'll pay you $2 per name and address of any person who owns a particular model of iPod. It’s a concept pioneered by Jay Abraham and described very well in Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, so my advice is to stick with campaigns that pay for lead, not sale (be careful, some merchants label their campaigns as pay-per-lead, when they really pay for sale). There are some exceptions to this rule, as you'll see in this post.

Ok, so where does one go for pay-per-lead campaigns? CPA networks. I’ve worked with a number of them and the two I am working with right now are Copeac and MaxBounty. Not all CPA networks are created equal. For example, Commission Junction hasn’t made me any money, while it’s probably one of the most famous and well respected CPA networks. Copeac made me over $10K right away. Why the difference? I have no clue. CJ just doesn’t convert. Amazon pays measly 6-8% (my monthly Amazon earnings are just a little over $150 a month, even though I do promote their books heavily, since I am an avid reader myself).

A rule of thumb is that you should be able to make money with CPA network within the first week, after trying 30-50 different campaigns. If you don’t – move onto a different network. I highly recommend that you only join CPA networks that have referral programs (also known as two-tier programs). Both Copeac and MaxBounty do, one 2%, another 5%.

Referral programs are very important. Currently, 50% of my affiliate income comes from actual leads I generate and 50% comes from referrals (it does take a long while go get to that point, it took me almost six month). The way I fight referrophobia (avoidance of clicking ref links) is that I help my affiliates. If they register with the links I gave, I’ll see their ID. So they can send me a question with their ID and I’ll give them the answer. The only change that I’ve made after getting several hundreds affiliates to register under me is that I require people to first do some testing on their own. I do, however provide a list of tested offers that convert for me.

Now, I’ve earlier given you examples of affiliate campaigns that make money on blogs that write about making money online. How about generic blogs? For generic blogs two types of affiliate campaigns work well – contests and free giveaways.

My two contest winners are getting paid for playing Scrabble online and $1000 prize for writing the best short poem.

As far as freebies go, my money makers are 250 free business cards, free $500 grocery card and free health product samples.

So, if anyone asks you if it's possilble to have $100 eCPM for a blog page - this blog is the living proof that it is. Sure, I had to cramp in a shitload of affiliate links and put in several weeks worth of testing which pay-per-lead offers work best. But honestly, I'm proud of myself.

What’s a big deal about $100 eCPM? There are people who sell Rolls Royce’s on the Internet and their eCPM must me astronomical. 100 arab sheiks visit the site, 2 of them spend half a million dollar each – boom goes eCPM into the stratosphere.

Here is the difference (you’ll appreciate it, if you do business online). If you are a Rolls Royce guy doing online advertising, you have to bid only on certain keywords that are directly related to Rolls Royce. There is just no way you can bid on ‘Britney Spears’ and make sales. Not gonna happen. But suppose you did? You’d be just burning your cash, essentially. Wasting money.

This isn’t the case with this very blog post that you are reading right now. I’m going to make 10 cents from every reader no matter what (statistically speaking), so as long as I buy traffic for less then 10 cents, I make profit.

This is a very important difference in two advertising models. The more money Rolls Royce guy spends on his ads, the less profit he makes. The more money I spend on ads the more money I make.

Let me give you a quick lecture on PPC ads. Just to be fair – all I know about making money from PPC ads I learned from Perry Marshall. There is a lot of free information on the subject on his website scattered around – or you can just buy his book on Amazon, it’s less then 17 bucks and has more information than $200 PPC training courses that some of you may have bought. The only thing that I did not learn from Perry is the three cent secret which is the PPC Coach thing (it’s a company that specializes in PPC ads for affiliates – essentially they show you how to stop losing money with PPC ads and start making money with PPC ads).

Essentially, there are two ways you can set up your PPC ads when it comes to affiliate marketing. Let’s say your niche is adult dating (my winner here). You bid on keywords like ‘adult dating’, ‘adult personals’ may be some brand names like, Ashley Madison. And your ad reads something like:

Adult Dating
World’s Biggest Adult Dating
Community. Join Now For Free!

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

You make $2.50 per free registration, your conversion rate is 1 to 10, your keywords are really expensive, so pretty soon you start losing money. Why is that? Because your ad is keyword dependent. But after you get coached by PPC Coach you get smart. You write an ad that says

One Night Stand Only!
No Marriage, No Relationship, I Just Want
“It”. The More Kinky The Better.

Now you can run this ad on the content side of Google. You can bid on names of country music singers. Your ad will appear on sites where men are. Or you can bid on Nascar racing related terms. And your ad will appear on sites are. All of a sudden, you don’t want to be found on search engines, because your ads aren't very relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Now you want your ad to be run on AdSense network. People will read it and the ad, not keywords will be the qualifier. If it resonates with them, they'll click. If it does not - they will not.

This is a rather critical distinction because now you understand that the ability to make money comes from your ad writing skills.

By the way, if you are totally new to ‘Google Cash’ way of making money (promoting affiliate offers via PPC), let me tell you what’s going to happen to you. First, you’ll read about it and you’ll be excited. Then you’ll try it. You’ll be writing dumb keyword-dependent ads and losing money. Most of you will give up here.

Some will get smart and learn to write keyword independent PPC ads and use Google’s contextual side (AdSense) to its full potential. All of a sudden, your ads will be breaking even and – get this – EVEN MAKING YOU A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY!

Then ‘It’ will happen. You’ve added 100 new PPC campaigns. 90 of them generate no traffic whatsoever. Two or three makes you a few bucks a day. Some lose you a little bit of money. And then one campaign starts making you over a hundred bucks a day (for me, it was this campaign from Omaha Steaks which now produces less then 5% of what it used to. It's one of the few pay per sale campaigns that worked great, probably because Omaha Steaks is such a great brand).

You start jumping. Holy shit! Google Cash does work! I’m going to get rich! I’m going to get rich. You can see yourself making six figure income online. Maybe even a million dollars. Or more. But then all of a sudden, you start getting less and less money and then it your winner campaign stops working at all.

Sorry, such is life. If you have a working ad, doesn’t mean that you have a working business. By no means do I mean to discourage you from using Google Cash method. I still use it. But it’s kind of like Forex. There are successful Forex traders. And they make money. George Soros made over a billion dollars with Forex in a few months, when he crashed British pound. But that was a one time event.

It’s the same thing with your ‘winner campaigns’. They’ll make you money (sometimes a lot of money). But when something changes or campaign is cancelled – that’s it, you are screwed.

Don’t sweat – there is a solution to this as well. Just like it’s possible to make your ad keyword independent, you can become independent or lesser dependent on particular affiliate campaign. This very post is an example how this is done.

There are some advantages to linking your PPC ad directly to affiliate campaign, skipping your own landing page. Conversions are usually better. However, you don’t have any control over other people's landing pages. Offer stops producing and you no longer make any money. The solution is to create your own landing page (like the one you are reading right now).

Listen carefully, guys. The only reason for creating your own landing page is TO MAKE MORE MONEY and become OFFER-INDEPENDENT. That’s it.

This page is 100% under my control. That page isn’t. Let’s say I run a PPC campaign with ‘make money online’ theme. Can I increase profits from this page? Sure I can. I can add more affiliate links. Or more AdSense blocks. Or a new service that I created. I could start selling links. I could start promoting some sort of guru consulting services, like Brian Tracy's. Sell real estate related products. And if one offer suddenly stops working, I could easily replace it.

Not so with that page. There is nothing I can do with it. It’s not under my control.

When you create your own landing page, you should be OBSESSED with the idea of making it more and more profitable. And it’s not because of greed. This page makes me 10 cents per visitor. So I can pay Google 5 cent per visitor and still profit handsomely. But if it made 15 cents per visitor (and believe me, I’ll tweak the hell out of it so it eventually does), I could pay Google 10 cents. That would mean a hell of a lot more traffic and a lot more profits.


That’s how the game works. After you learn how to make your ads keyword-independent, you start learning the art of creating profitable landing pages. Let me give you a few pointers just like I did with pay per click ads.

You’ve got to understand that NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, 90% of folks who read your landing page will do NOTHING. It’s the same for this post as well. Heck, this far into the post, I’ve lost most readers. And it’s not my fault or anybody else, for that matter. It’s just the way it is. The profitability of your landing pages that you create in the hands on the 10%. Remember that.

So the first thing that you should do is duplicate your best converting links, like I did with Shawn Casey’s free internet marketing course. You might have noticed this on your own – sometimes, when you come across the link, you don’t click it. But if you see it again, you decide to click it for some reason. It’s weird, but it’s true. I told you that I have several online businesses. My first one was Deprice.Com – selling downloadable shareware online (I could tell you about that business as well if you’d like). You’ll see that I have two Download and Buy links for each product. Why? Because sales increase by 12% if I have two links.

The second important concept is pre-selling your links. Pre-selling is simply explaining your reader what’s going to happen when they click the link or what the offer is about. Let me give you an example.

There is a site called e-Poll Surveys. It’s rather old and well-known. What they do is they pay with Amazon coupons and free prizes for you to take surveys. You’ve really got to be bored out of your mind, because it takes several dozen completed surveys to get a free book or a free CD. But unlike other survey sites this one is real, legitimate, proven and has great reviews from Epinions.Com.

I’ve promoted e-Poll on MadConomist.Com with and without explanations (pre-selling). Difference in conversions – 400%. It does pay to explain.

(to be continued).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

SkinnySongs Success Story

A chocolate chip cookie changed Heidi Roizen's life.

Roizen, 49, is one of Silicon Valley's best-known venture capitalists. She has been a pivotal player in the valley for years, and counts both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among her friends. In the 1980s, Roizen co-founded a software company with her brother, and then came up with the idea of selling clip art--mini pictures in software. Clipart made money for her firm--and eventually became a staple of the Internet.

In the mid-1990s, Roizen joined Apple to try to rekindle enthusiasm among software developers for writing for the Mac platform. Roizen did it with flair, marching onto the stage at a developers' conference clutching a briefcase stuffed with cash to show how much Apple wanted to support developers. She helped orchestrate one of Microsoft's biggest acquisitions, the $1.1 billion purchase of Great Plains software.

But in May, Roizen scored a much more intimate big number. She climbed on the bathroom scale and watched as the numbers hit their highest value ever. Although she tried working out and dieting, the campaigns had fizzled. Worse, she was on her way to a board meeting at a startup company located next to a chocolate chip cookie factory. The meeting would feature delightful, fresh-baked cookies. It always did.

"Can't touch those cookies," she thought grimly, as she drove to the board meeting, flipping through the music choices in her car's system to find something to cheer her on. In past years, as she headed into difficult board meetings, she'd treat herself to a blast of defiant music, such as Pink's "18 Wheeler." But on this particular day, nothing suited her mood.

"I need that kind of music to lose weight," she thought. "I need chick empowerment music. I'm going to fit into my skinny jeans. And I wanted the music to be really cool!"

That's when the entrepreneur in Roizen kicked in. Another person might have just made due with, say, the theme song from the movie Flash Dance. But that wouldn't do for Roizen.

Over the next few months, Roizen, who majored in creative writing at Stanford University, scribbled lyrics for a handful of songs, naming the first "Skinny Jeans." Her words were laced with country music-style irony:

From the moment that I saw you, hangin' out at the mall
I had to own you, your rhinestones and all…
For years we were together, every Saturday night,
we'd go out dancin', you'd hold me in tight,
but you were unforgiving and you wouldn't let me grow
Now I can't put you on--but I can't let you go…."

Friends liked them, but electronic musician Thomas Dolby sat her down and asked her if she was just playing, or if she was serious. "He said: 'Is your goal 15 minutes of fame on YouTube?'" Roizen recalled.

Along with penning lyrics, Roizen started researching the business of weight loss. She encountered another set of big numbers: The Food and Drug Administration reports that about 50 million Americans typically say they're on a diet at any given time. About 76% of Americans say they'd like to lose weight.

Doctors told her the biggest challenge for dieters was finding a community that encourages and supports them. But music specially geared at helping people lose weight tended to be meditative or reflective--or worse, simply depressing about how rotten life is on a diet.

All this suggested to Roizen that her mission wasn't to get on the radio--but to develop a new market. "The niche is women who'd like to lose weight and who listen to music," she says. "It's a big, honking niche on the Venn diagram."

A recording goes "platinum" when it sells a million copies. But Roizen realized there are entire collections of recordings that churn out platinum-level sales without ever airing on the radio, namely boxed music sets for children. Roizen didn't want to be a pop star. She wanted to create a successful business. "I've done the math," she says. "I figured that if I was the publisher and lyricist and I owned the 'record label,' I can make the economics work."

Even so, Roizen recognized that the operation was a big gamble--and so decided to fund it entirely herself.

As soon as she realized she wanted to build a business, she started to hire professional help. With guidance from professional music producers, she zeroed in on well-known Nashville music producer and writer David Malloy. Malloy has had 40 songs picked as "No. 1" by various music tracking groups, like Billboard, including, "I Love A Rainy Night." He has worked with singers such as Tanya Tucker and Billy Gilman.

But write music for songs about losing weight? "At first, I thought it was crazy," Malloy admits.

Malloy's friend, recording industry veteran George Daly, "said a lady he had met approached him about some idea of writing song lyrics about losing weight and would I be interested in anything like that," Malloy recalls. "I said, 'I don't want to write songs about losing weight! That's not what I do!'"

Daly persuaded Malloy to give Roizen's lyrics a look.

Malloy read them and was charmed. "I thought the lyrics were really well-written. I could imagine putting some music behind them," he says.

Over the summer, Malloy and Roizen launched into a spirited collaboration: He wrote the music, she honed the verses. They had artistic tussles--she tried to slip the word "liposuction" into one song; Malloy refused.

"Some words just don't sing well," he points out. "'Liposuction! Liposuction!' Come on, I'm already tired of it."

Roizen nixed the liposuction.

Malloy put in "ear candy," including a background chorus singing something about: "I want to wear something sexy, something that barely fits me…."

Roizen objected. "I don't think my target demographic wants to wear something that 'barely fits me,'" she complained.

"Why is it always about your 'target demographic'?" Malloy shot back.

"Because that's what the album is about," Roizen retorted.

By autumn, Roizen and Malloy had put together a collection of 10 songs with musical styles that varied from country-western and pop to rap. Malloy signed up-and-coming musicians. At first, they hesitated about the idea of singing about weight loss, but the music and lyrics won them over.

"There were no strings attached to this project--no radio format. The only criteria I had was: Did the music make me feel good? Did I have fun with it? Was it the kind of music I wanted to play again?" Malloy says. It was, he says, the most artistic freedom he had had in years.

Roizen kept a tight hold on the business side. "There's a big piece of this that's exactly like any other business," she says, ticking off her to-do list: Get incorporated. Invent a catchy name. Hire the specialists. Work on the economics. Push the contributors to make their deadlines. Roizen created a Web site to sell the music (and in the future, possibly other merchandise, such as T-shirts). She got the music registered on iTunes.

By the end of the year, Roizen will have put "several hundred thousand dollars" into creating the Skinny Songs recording. She resigned from Mobius Venture Capital. Her husband even wound up writing this year's family holiday letter, because Roizen was too busy getting the CD ready to ship.

What remains to be seen is if her bet was a smart one--businesswise. Skinny Songs is just going on sale now, first on her website, then on iTunes. Roizen is also deep into plans for partnerships and promotions, particularly with health clubs.

Would she have funded someone else if they came to her, the venture capitalist, and pitched the idea of starting a music company that would produce music that inspired people to lose weight? "I don't know," Roizen concedes. "I see a lot of women my age, waking up and saying, 'I want to do something personally meaningful to me.' I say to them: 'Is this about personal gratification? Or is it a real business?"

Whatever the outcome of Skinny Songs, the entrepreneur in Roizen has no regrets. "I woke up and said, 'This is what I have to do--even if it fails.'" she says. "This idea is just too compelling for me to let it slip by."

And unlike the usual startup experience of late nights and pizza that pack on the pounds, this time, the entrepreneur lost weight. Roizen says she's down a full 30 pounds since that day in May.

Malloy admits he lost weight, too. "Don't you think I had to?" he asks. "You can't work on songs like this and not lose weight!"

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Making Cash With Napkin Ads

NapAd, which just launched this fall, uses what it calls high-definition napkins to bring marketers' messages directly into the hands of urban consumers when they're relaxed and uninterrupted by other media. The photorealistic, 5-by-5-inch cocktail napkins are distributed free to NapAd's network of bars, nightclubs and lounges; in exchange, the venues serve them with drinks to their patrons, who can then be exposed to the messages printed on them for hours at a time.

Targeting is customizable within NapAd's network, so that if an advertiser wants to reach males aged 18 to 34 in Garden City, Kansas, for example, NapAd might tap into a network of sports bars in the area. The company is currently focusing its program on Manhattan, but it's planning to add five more markets in 2008 and can serve areas requested by clients as well. A typical New York City campaign with 1 million NapAds starts at about USD 27,500.

NapAds is part of Maryland-based guerilla marketing firm JI Worldwide, which was founded by 28-year-old Jay Jaber, a finalist in the 2007 Wall Street Journal’s Creative Leaders Challenge. The company (which also sells its napkins under the name HDN—High Definition Napkin) is now seeking distribution partnerships with major airlines, cruise ships, bars and lounges, and is also interested in hearing about other collaborative opportunities, Jaber says. It's a big world out there—so many bars, so many patrons, so little time… ;-)

Check This Out - The Most Profitable Blog Post In The Entire Blogosphere

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

City Tours For People Interested In Art And Fashion

You can't be all things to all people, as the saying goes, and guided tours are no exception. Now Urban Gentry is offering a set of customized, insiders' tours of London for those interested in art, fashion or other elements of style.

Featuring a team of guides that includes artists, designers, journalists and trend spotters, Urban Gentry serves up small, specialist tours that take participants well off the beaten path. The focus of each tour can be chosen by theme—"Creative London," for example, or "London Close Up"—or by interest, such as art, fashion, interiors or shopping. The Art Insider half-day tour, for example, starts in London's hip east end enclave of Shoreditch, "the epicentre of contemporary bohemia," and continues further east into Bethnal Green, winding its way through artists' works and exhibits. The 7-hour Home Style tour, on the other hand, takes participants through London's interiors and furnishings shops and studios, highlighting the eclectic choices on offer. Pricing is GBP 159 for half-day tours, GBP 269 for those lasting a whole day. Personalized tours are also available.

Urban Gentry just launched earlier this year. For style-minded consumers with the resources to afford them, its tours will offer a fresh, new way to learn about the parts of London that interest them most. This is customization at work once again, creating a new niche market for an old type of service. Who will take Antwerp, L.A., Sydney, Hong Kong...? The sky's the limit on the opportunities for this one. Just pick a city and a target audience.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ePoll Success Story

The E-Poll Market Research Panel was founded in 1997, and has a primary focus on gathering research on consumer attitudes and behavior towards entertainment and media. Members are invited to take mostly entertainment and media related surveys, and membership to the panel is free. Members that complete these online surveys are rewarded with points that can be redeemed for gift certificates from online retailers like

I know that I promised an update here and now I can add one, I redeemed my points 3 weeks ago for a Ben and Jerry's certificate for a free pint of ice cream and I have now gotten it in the mail. So it took me three weeks to get that from them and I don't consider that to be too bad of a wait. The redemption process was very simple, they verified I did own the account by asking my password and then I selected how many points I wanted to redeem and then selected my price and verified my address. So overall that was a simple process. They say that it could take up to 6 weeks for you to get your reward, which I'm sure they add in case it does take longer.

But overall I am pleased with the results.

This Blog Has Made Over 10K With Copeac (With Affiliate Links Like This One) . Do Ask Me For Tips, After You Register And Play Around With It A Bit (Include Your Copeac ID In Email So That I Know That You've Used My Ref Link).

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Monday, December 10, 2007

What Is Thummer Anyway?

In 2000, Jim Plamondon quit his job at Microsoft and embarked on an obsessive quest to invent a new musical instrument. His brainstorm: an odd keyboard variant with stubby joysticks and a honeycomb of buttons he dubs the Thummer.

Among the last new instruments to be widely adopted were the synthesizer and electric guitar more than a half century ago. But Mr. Plamondon believes his Thummer has a shot. One of the instrument's key features is a smarter keyboard that he says makes playing music more intuitive.

Mr. Plamondon is part of a subculture of musical inventors all vying to be the next Adolphe Sax (he invented the saxophone). They range from composers, such as an MIT professor who built a high-tech "hypercello" for Yo-Yo Ma, to basement tinkerers, including a piano player in Traverse City, Mich., whose "friction harp" resembles a TV aerial.

They demonstrate their instruments at conferences and niche music festivals. They upload videos to YouTube and sites like, which catalogs roughly 10 new instruments a month, including the "symphonic house," a home in Michigan outfitted with walls of resonating strings. Occasionally, their wares are adopted by big stars. Recent concerts by the singer Björk have featured a futuristic device called a "reactable," built by a team in Spain: Players issue eerie electronic tones and rhythms by moving glowing blocks across its table-top surface.

The bulk of new instruments rarely get played outside small circles of loyalists or early adopters. One big obstacle is the high cost of producing experimental instruments, which are usually built one at a time. Seasoned musicians who have spent years mastering an instrument also are reluctant to start over with a new one, while beginners gravitate to what they see on stage or in the orchestra pit. And most of the immense repertoire of Western music, from Bach to the Beatles, was composed for traditional instruments.

"The hardest thing to do is sell something to someone who doesn't perceive the need for it," says Roger Linn, who is credited with inventing the first digital drum machine in 1979. "I've seen the trail of bodies of inventors who have tried and died."

What sets the Thummer apart from other musical inventions, says Mr. Plamondon, isn't the way it sounds but the way it is played. It consists of two keyboards, each about the size of a paperback book. They can be played piano-style on a tabletop or sandwiched together and held aloft.

To play a three-note chord, for example, you press a cluster of three buttons. To play the next three-note chord, you keep your fingers in the same shape and move to a different group of buttons. Mr. Plamondon says this design makes the Thummer easier to learn than instruments like the piano, which require players to learn many more chord fingerings.

The Thummer doesn't make any noise on its own. It must be plugged into a computer or synthesizer, which uses software to mimic other instruments. To adjust volume and pitch, players thumb a pair of joysticks mounted on the side -- hence the instrument's name. Like the Nintendo Wii controller, it has an internal motion sensor, so players can also adjust the sound by moving the instrument around as they play it.

Marc Rossi, a synthesizer specialist and professor of piano and jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, says the Thummer sounds like a good-quality synthesizer. He says the internal motion sensor is what's truly innovative: "That could be a whole new world."

While veteran players would have little use for a new keyboard configuration like the Thummer's, Mr. Rossi says, "it could be very useful for kids and for people learning music who want less technical demands than a keyboard."

Mr. Plamondon, 47 years old, hasn't played an instrument since quitting the tuba after high school. He studied geology and computer science in college and later sold storm windows over the phone. He spent most of his career in the computer industry, taking on a series of software-writing jobs before landing at Microsoft in 1992, just as the company's Windows operating system was becoming ubiquitous.

He spent eight years persuading third-party developers to create software for the Microsoft platform, then left the company to take some time off and later pursue his own projects. He says he exercised his Microsoft options and invested in a portfolio of stocks valued at $2 million. He bought a beachfront home on the southwest tip of Australia and moved there with his wife and two children.

Most people designing new instruments are musicians. For Mr. Plamondon, financial need was the mother of invention: Shortly after moving to Australia in 2000, almost half of his assets were wiped out in the dot-com crash. He saw the Thummer as a way to start making money again.

After years trying to get his project off the ground, his family is strapped for cash. The two kids have put their college plans on hold, hoping that in a couple of years their father will be able to help pay tuition. The family doesn't have health insurance.

Mr. Plamondon says he needs to raise up to $1 million to engineer a final prototype, finalize patents and manufacture a first run of instruments.

The idea for the Thummer began when his wife and daughter both quit piano lessons after only six months. His wife, Patti, complained that learning to play separate lines on each hand "was like reading Spanish with one eye and French with the other," she recalls.

He began reading up on music theory and researching why piano keys are arranged as they are. He wasn't the first to hunt for an alternative. In the 1880s, Hungarian Paul von Janko patented a configuration that made fingerings identical in any key. A similar idea was developed for the concertina with an 1896 patent by a Swiss inventor, Kaspar Wicki.

In the fall of 2003, as Mr. Plamondon was playing the videogame Halo, he says he realized he could use thumb sticks like those on his Xbox controller to shift sound effects. He created a company (Thumtronics), hired an engineer to build prototypes, leased an office above a music shop and brought in nearly $500,000 in a first round of fund raising. In 2005, after outside funding for the Thummer dried up, he mortgaged the family's home for about $1 million.

"Things got really tight," says Ms. Plamondon. For a time, she says the family relied partly on the paychecks her then-18-year-old son brought home from his computer-store job.

For many on the tech-savvy side of the music world, sweeping change seems overdue. One of the last breakthroughs to catch on in a major way was the saxophone -- invented in the 1840s. During the past century, most inventions have only gained cult followings. The Stick, for example, is a bodiless guitar with strings that players tap instead of strum. Inventor Emmett Chapman has sold about 6,000 of them since 1974.

Mr. Linn, the drum-machine designer, calls the Thummer "a very good idea," but stops short of predicting its commercial success. Instead, he groups it into a broader category he calls "new little organisms in the Darwinism of musical instruments."

The music-products industry faces a mixed outlook. Retail sales fell in 2006 to $7.5 billion, down 4.2% from a record high the year before, according to the International Music Products Association, a trade group. And while the category of computer music products fared best last year, growing by about 15%, sales of some more traditional instruments suffered, such as pianos, which dropped more than 18%.

The Plamondons live in Austin, Texas. They moved there in April from Australia, seeking affordable housing and a music- and tech-friendly city. They bought their home online for less than $200,000, using some cash from the sale of their Australian home as a down payment.

In Austin, Mr. Plamondon started over, working up the entrepreneurial food chain at conferences and coffees; networking with think tanks and professors; fishing for endorsement blurbs that he posts on, where he writes a blog to build online buzz. He co-authored a paper on the Thummer that was published in the peer-reviewed Computer Music Journal.

The funding hunt has been more of a challenge. He recently targeted a pair of Austin investors, Fito Kahn and David Peterman. On a Thursday afternoon in October, Mr. Plamondon walked into Mr. Peterman's office eager to make a deal. His geek tendencies were on display: He set the alarm on his wristwatch to beep, prompting him to announce when there were 10, five and two minutes remaining. As the three men sat down around a table in straight-backed chairs, Mr. Plamondon eyed the papers in Mr. Kahn's hand. "What's in the folder? Is that a checkbook?"

It was -- but it wasn't going to be used on that day. The two potential investors had questions about patents and the prospects of manufacturing the Thummer in China. Mr. Kahn said they also want a sleek new look for the Thummer, in part to make it appealing to a younger audience: "We imagine the Thummer as Guitar Hero, only you're learning an instrument as you play," referring to a popular videogame that uses a guitar-shaped controller to simulate the rock-star experience.

Mr. Plamondon left with assurances that a written offer would be ready for their next meeting. Waving as he headed toward the door, Mr. Plamondon said, "I look forward to getting a check from you next time."

Following their October meeting, Mr. Kahn emailed a proposal to Mr. Plamondon. Instead of the lump sum Mr. Plamondon sought, the investors offered him $2,000 a month for six months and a promise to cover expenses involved in securing manufacturing deals in China. In exchange, they asked him to set up an advisory board and submit more business plans and other "benchmarks."

Just after Thanksgiving, Mr. Plamondon turned them down in an email to Mr. Kahn: "I'm going to wait for a better offer," he wrote.

None are currently forthcoming. He recently hit a wall at a local venture-capital firm, Gefinor Ventures. Wes Cole, a principal in the firm, says he was impressed by a video of someone playing "Summertime" on the Thummer, but he has reservations. "This is a market where you've seen no successful investment ventures, that I'm aware of."

With a handful of working prototypes, Mr. Plamondon is continuing to search for investors and gain a consumer audience. Taking stock of his savings, he says he has about six months left before he'll have to find a full-time job. At that point the Thummer will be relegated to an evenings-and-weekends enterprise, he says, "and that's the death of a start-up."

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Panera Success Story

He started college thinking he would end up working in politics. But after he was falsely accused of shoplifting and then kicked out of a convenience store while still a student, Shaich launched a rival shop - and his business career. Twenty years later, Shaich made a name for himself as the owner of Au Bon Pain, an East Coast bakery chain he grew from three stores into a $200 million a year company.

Many thought Shaich was crazy when, in 1999, he sold Au Bon Pain to concentrate on developing Panera (, its small bakery division. But today Panera is the country's 17th-largest food-service company, boasting some 1,115 U.S. locations and annual revenue of $1.9 billion.

Shaich met with FSB at one of his bakery shops near the company's headquarters in Needham, Mass. After busing a few tables he talked about his journey from that first general store to the top of the food chain. This is his story:

My first interest in life after high school was politics. I worked on George McGovern's campaign in 1972 and majored in political science at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Then during my sophomore year I was unjustly accused of shoplifting and got kicked out of a Worcester convenience store. To fight back, I opened a rival shop nearby on campus, and it became quite successful. Everyone said I should go to business school, so I went.

Two years after I earned my MBA, I took a job working for a chain in Boston called the Original Cookie Co. I wanted to open a store downtown, but the company preferred suburban mall locations.

One thing led to another, and I decided to quit and open my own cookie place, with a goal of creating the kind of company I had always wanted to work for.

I requested a third of my inheritance from my father. That way, if my idea didn't work, I'd still have two-thirds left over to try again. My father, who was a CPA, thought I was nuts but gave me $75,000. I combined his money with $25,000 in personal savings and opened the Cookie Jar in downtown Boston. I ended up subletting a store from a jewelry store owner who wanted to consolidate his two locations.

I'll never forget that first day: Our doors opened at noon, and I had two employees. I can't remember ever working that hard. I was the baker, mixer, chief salesman. I think we made $400. The first six months were stable, and I was making a nice living, but I wasn't satisfied. A business is like a sculpture: It's about creating something that's three-dimensional. And I wanted more dimensions.

At the time, Au Bon Pain was a Boston pastry chain that was having problems expanding and had taken on a lot of debt. The business was founded in 1976 by a French oven manufacturer and later sold to a venture group headed by a man named Louis Kane. After I realized that people don't buy cookies before noon, I decided to add French pastries to the Cookie Jar's menu to attract a morning crowd.

Louis always said he remembered me as a kid walking into his office with flour on my shoes. I told him I wanted to buy his business (at that moment I had no idea how troubled his company was). Louis was a real estate guy; he had no one running his place on a day-to-day basis. He saw me as a "concept guy" who could help turn the business around. So we merged Au Bon Pain's three locations with my cookie store.

Over the next three years I observed Au Bon Pain's shops and identified problem spots. Many had to do with employees who just didn't care. I remember walking into a store in Faneuil Hall and watching as a cashier put money from a sale into his pocket. I also fired about six bakers I caught doing cocaine in the middle of the night. After I let those guys go, they chased me in a car through the parking lot. It was a mess! It wasn't about building a company back then - it was about survival.

I also made efforts to retain the good employees. I wanted to take care of the folks who cared about my business. One night when I was on a date in that same Faneuil Hall location, I discovered the assistant manager's wife washing dishes because the store didn't have enough personnel to handle cleanup. So for about two hours my date and I helped clean dishes. The girl on the date is long forgotten, but that assistant manager is now a Panera executive.

We grew Au Bon Pain into a 250-store chain by paying close attention to our customers. One day in 1984, I was working behind the counter waiting on customers (which I still do today). A woman walked in and asked me to cut a baguette for a sandwich. Then she pulled out a bag of lunch meat from the grocery store and threw it on my bread. You didn't have to be a Harvard MBA to figure out that there was an opportunity in sandwiches. That same year, we expanded our menu and became one of the first companies to create an urban bakery, selling high-quality meat on fresh bread along with soup and salads.

Around that time Pepsi, Sara Lee, and several others all tried to acquire us. We resisted and took the company public in 1991. By this point Au Bon Pain's profits were growing about 30 percent annually. We had 250 stores and were opening about 50 new shops every 12 months.

Au Bon Pain worked best in really dense marketplaces like Boston, New York City, and Washington, but we felt that growth was limited in smaller cities such as Cleveland, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. We needed a concept that would work across America in a wide range of communities.

One day in 1993, an investment banker I knew asked me for some advice that he could relay to the owner of a Midwestern bakery chain called St. Louis Bread Co. I met the owner, Ken Rosenthal, and we developed a nice relationship. (Little did I know that this would be the beginning of Panera.)

Six months later I flew back to St. Louis and offered to buy his company for $23 million. Its success in smaller cities made it attractive as an additional vehicle for our company. Rosenthal had incredibly loyal customers, and we wanted to preserve what made the brand so special.

For two years we traveled the country, talking to customers and employees and observing buying patterns. We were trying to figure out how the world of fast food was changing. Rosenthal loved to say that even he didn't understand the St. Louis Bread Co. as well as we did! He must have trusted us, because he used his proceeds from the sale to buy our franchises in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Denver. Today Rosenthal's Panera franchise is four times bigger than the company he sold to us.

I concluded from our research that the St. Louis Bread Co.'s customers weren't looking for commodity food. They wanted to feel special in a world in which they were not. I grew up outside Newark in the 1950s, when folks frequented the neighborhood Italian bakery, the local beer brewery, the independent coffee roaster. Everything was local. What happened to all that? Post-World War II, the only bread option was three loaves for 99 cents at the A&P. Coffee came from a Folgers can. And fast-food chains became self-serve gasoline stations for the human body.

By the early 1990s, Americans wanted to feel good about what they ate. There was a big opportunity for businesses that could deliver that. In our eyes there was no more powerful platform than artisan bread. Other entrepreneurs had opened independent bread shops, such as Amy's Bread in New York City. We decided to build a company selling freshly made salads, sandwiches, and soups. In 1995 we sat down and wrote a vision for how we would compete.

During the first year, we opened a few new locations. Growth was very slow; we tried to make sure that the ground was solid. In 1996 we rolled out a breakfast menu built around bagels.

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