About one month to Opening Day!
At first glance, you might say that there is nothing in common between Yahoo! and the New York Yankees. Well, they both begin with the same two letters - OK, that's a stretch. When I was growing up, the Yankees had struggled through a series of lean years after decades of being the best in baseball. The championship or near-championship years of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Ford, Berra, Mantle, and others had given way to seasons far distant from any pennant race. Attendance at Yankee Stadium generally was low. In the early 1970s, George Steinbrenner became principal owner. It wasn't too long before the Yankees were in the headlines on an almost-daily basis. Sometimes for great things - post-season heroics by Chris Chambliss and Reggie Jackson, and the amazing 25-3 record by Ron Guidry come to mind. "We Are the Champions" became a hit song, still as popular as ever over 3.5 decades later. But the Yankees of the 1970s and 1980s had their share of controversial press. Jackson and Billy Martin arguing with each other in the Yankees dugout. Steinbrenner firing and rehiring Martin so many times, the two of them decided to do a commercial together making light of it.
So again you ask, what does this have to do with Yahoo!? Not too long ago, Yahoo! was arguably the premier search engine. These days, however, you don't hear anyone saying that they are "Yahooing" for information. To "Google" something has become a very commonplace expression. YouTube, which is owned by Google, is another incredible source of information (sometimes worthwhile, sometimes junk) - according to one report, more video is uploaded to YouTube in two months than was created by the major networks combined in six decades.
What does Yahoo! need to do to retain and improve its position as a search leader? That is up for debate, but this writer would like to suggest that the controversy itself may be behind the recent decision by CEO Marissa Mayer to end the option for employees to telecommute. Although Yahoo! trails only Google and Chinese site Baidu in terms of search queries, the gap is extraordinary - in November and December 2012, Google had 114.73 billion queries, versus 14.5 billion for Baidu and 8.63 billion for Yahoo! While that is still a lot of hits on the Yahoo! website, that is only 4.9% of the queries. For better or worse, this past week, Yahoo! has gone from being an afterthought to being top-of-mind. Personally, when I was working on the corporate side, I found the flexibility to work from home when my wife and I adopted our daughters to be very important. It enabled me to often put in longer workdays by not sitting in traffic for several hours each day, and to be productive when one of us was under the weather. That being said, I think there is a case to be made for informal interactions at the office. There is a certain energy that may be difficult to replicate when working from home. My guess is that once Yahoo! weathers this storm, there will be some modification of the new policy, primarily due to competitive necessity. With so many major technology-based companies in Silicon Valley, there would seem to be a risk of losing not just those who were abusing the telecommuting option, but also those very productive employees for whom it was a welcome benefit in the work-life balance spectrum.
By the way, whether you search on Google or Yahoo!, you will find the late Yankees shortstop and announcer Phil Rizzuto with the query "holy cow baseball announcer". (Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray also appears in both search results.)
TV's still popular, but making room for tablets & smartphones
It is mind-boggling at times that in just the last generation or two we have transformed the way we consume information, sports, entertainment, and more. At one time, you were lucky to be able to listen to your favorite baseball team on a transistor radio that had decent reception (but filled with static) on the AM band, or by watching on a bulky television. These days, we see cable companies launching apps that allow their customers to view content on mobile devices in their home network and, in some cases, on the go as well. If you have one or more iPhones or iPads or other mobile devices in your home, you may be increasing the number of screens you can watch without buying another television. Some consumers are forgoing cable programming completely, and are opting to purchase and download content via streaming devices. While the audience actually doing this may be comparatively smaller than those subscribing to cable or satellite programming, the flexibility of giving people the content they want, when they want it, and in their preferred format should not be underestimated. Just yesterday, Nielsen announced that it was modifying the way it measures TV households by including those who get their content via the Internet without the benefit of cable or satellite. Nielsen also said it would start counting TV viewers on iPads and other mobile devices in the future.
It would seem likely that the trend toward increased portability of devices will result in even greater consumption of content on mobile devices. According to a press release yesterday from the research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), tablet usage skyrocketed in 2012 while smartphones also continued substantial growth. Between 2011 and 2012, desktop and laptop PC's declined in use, while tablet usage grew by 78% and smartphones by 46%. Mind-boggling to say the least!
To say the least, the weather in the Northeast has been interesting the last few months. Starting with Hurricane Sandy at the end of October, it seems that mother nature has been throwing some curveballs. This past weekend, parts of Long Island and New England were measuring snowfall in feet. In Hamden, Connecticut, even a yardstick fell short of the 40-inch accumulation.
The good news is that spring is in site. In less than five weeks, we will have the vernal equinox. And speaking of curveballs - another sign that warmer weather is on the way - pitchers and catchers are now reporting to spring training. Derek Jeter is running again after a playoff-ending injury in 2012. Mariano Rivera also is working on coming back from an injury that ended last season very early for him. Opening Day this year features the Red Sox vs. the Yankees, with Kevin Youkilis on the Yankees! So what does this long-time Yankee fan do to get ready for the season? Of course, he takes advantage of a great sale yesterday for the Mets vs. Marlins in early April. Citi Field is much more fan-friendly than the old Shea Stadium ever was.
Starting in August, these will be empty on Saturdays
In half a year, there will be a change in the delivery of mail that is perhaps not dramatic, but is nonetheless significant as it suggests a megatrend that is reflective of the modern electronic age. Free mail delivery, including Saturday service, started 150 years ago. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln was President and he had then just issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an historical event recently commemorated with the release of a new Forever stamp. Thomas Edison was a teenager, still about a decade away from gaining fame for his invention of the phonograph, followed by decades of other major inventions. One can only assume that Edison would have been thrilled to see smartphones and tablets being the modern-day result of many of his efforts.
The big change from the U.S. Postal Service is that starting in August, there will no longer be Saturday delivery of first-class mail, although packages will continue to be delivered and post offices already open on Saturdays will remain so. The USPS reports that over the last five years, there has been a 37% decline in the volume of first-class mail, in large part due to the prominence of e-mail and social networking. The decline in revenue plus the cost of retiree health benefits has resulted in major cost-reductions. The post office is looking to trim just under 200,000 workers from its payroll without resorting to layoffs. While first-class letters have been in decline, the rise of e-commerce has meant an increase in package deliveries by 14% over the last two years, according to the USPS.
So for the foreseeable future, expect to see more deliveries by the USPS, not to mention Fedex, UPS, and others. Mobile smartphones and tablets are making online purchases easier than ever before. Convenience to the consumer should not be underestimated.
Blog Author - Ken Felsher
With over 25 years of writing, editing, and research experience. I enjoy sharing with my readers my love of working with content on a variety of subjects.
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