Category Archive 'Internet'

Economist: special report on internet advertising

Business & entrepreneurship, Internet

The Economist has a special report in this week’s issue (July 8th-14th 2006) called highlighting internet advertising trends. Much of the content will be familiar to webmasters and bloggers, but here are a few interesting tidbits:

  1. The man behind the famous quote “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half” was named John Wanamaker, who also invented department stores and price tags
  2. Bill Gross, founder of Overture, was the original inventor of the concept behind Google Adwords (e.g. putting relevant advertising next to search results), and it might be noted, “not at all bitter” about Google’s success
  3. Bay area startups such as and are using a model similar to Adwords, creating “pay-per-print” coupons and “pay-per-call” phone numbers, respectively, and also tied to relevant websites and search results.
  4. Branding’s next step might be to infiltrate online gaming, for example, letting players’ characters in role-playing games buy a Nokia cell phone and later upgrade, or a Coke can that imparts new powers if he drinks or uses it.
  5. Internet advertising allows segmentation to be split into ever finer definitions since there are just as many publishers and affiliates out there as advertisers. Moreover, advertisers no longer have to pick and choose flagship products to advertise, but can present the whole gamut of their products in some form or another to the public this way.

To me, the most eye-opening point was the bit about online gaming, just as how the news about Entropia’s ATM network surprised me, too. Not being a gamer myself, I find it impressive how much of a role it’s seen playing in our lives and economy.

Tips for selling coupons on eBay

Internet, Tips for saving money

To wrap up my recent series on auctions, I decided to try my hand at selling something on eBay: a Dell coupon. Here’s a frugal tip: if neither you nor family (or friends) needs a coupon like this, why not sell it? The coupon in question came with two codes, one for 35% off Dimension and Inspiron systems above $999 and one for $35 off electronics and accessories orders above $250. Selling it on eBay wasn’t an entirely smooth process, so I thought I’d list a few things I learned here:

  1. Time your listing: Coupons will obviously sell better when there are fewer of them out there. In this case, Dell had issued similar coupons whose valid dates overlapped each other. Techbargains is a good place to check if there are other deals that might be combinable with your coupon, thus increasing demand. Coupons may also be in higher demand near their expiration dates, but if you go this route, make sure you plan your auction and delivery time correctly.
  2. Hold a shorter-length auction rather than the normal 7 days: This works better with time-sensitive nature of coupons, and in case you run into a bad buyer (see below)
  3. Know that you must physically send the coupon per eBay rules: eBay pays attention to manufacturers’ coupon rules (the coupons must be transferable, etc.) and won’t allow the seller to simply e-mail coupon codes for discounts. You can offer to email the codes as soon as the auction’s over, but you still must mail the physical coupon to the winner.
  4. Restrict buyers: Again, due to the time-sensitive nature of coupons, if you run into an invalid buyer, the process for disputing the purchase will reduce the amount of time you have left to sell the coupon. Last week, several sellers (myself included) got their coupons bought by someone who had no intention of paying for the coupons.

    My guess is that it was just an unethical pre-emptive strike by another seller who only wanted his listing shown, so he bought up all his competitors’ listings. Ebay has an option that allows you to disallow bidders based on feedback and history, and while this may limit the number of bids you receive, it’s better than not being able to sell a coupon because it expires before you can disentangle yourself from actions by a fraudlent buyer.

Of course, the usual good tips for selling apply: be honest about the item, include pictures, any wording or official verbiage from the manufacturer, etc. In the end, my coupon sold for $25.50, including $1 for shipping. eBay made $2.78 from my listing (including $1.04 from PayPal) or 11% in fees. For those who don’t know, in order to use PayPal with eBay, they make you “upgrade” to premium or business status, which just means you get charged fees for receiving funds. Bummer.

It’s against eBay policies to do this, but I finally realized all those people who were charging $0.99 for the coupon but $35 for shipping rather than the other way around were doing it in order to avoid fees, and not (necessarily) screwing with bidders. Since the coupon was free, cost me $0.39 to mail (and again, ignoring the time spent listing the item), the lesson and experience in selling on eBay was pretty fun and worthwhile, and the money I made will no doubt be put to better use on a more necessary purchase elsewhere.

Benefit from recent developments in cheap travel

Business & entrepreneurship, Internet, Tips for saving money

Here’s a spate of new sites and services to keep an eye on (or use, if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities they serve):

  • : figure out the best way to get around a new city by foot, bus, or metro. Currently in beta release, HopStop currently serves San Francisco, NYC, Boston, and DC, with other cities coming soon. Like Mapquest, you simply enter in your current location and destination, only this site tells you how to get there by foot and public transportation, not by car!
  • Buy your airplane ticket now, or wait and hope the price drops? Figure it out using : Good news if you live in Seattle or Boston. This company just launched a public beta a few days ago to serve these two cities (though it plans to include all domestic airports by year-end).

    If you’ve ever wondered whether you ought that plane ticket now now or wait ’til later and hope for a price drop, Farecast will help you make that decision. The company uses complex modelling algorithms to predict trends in airfares and advises you whether to wait or buy now, along with confidence levels about the accuracy of its prediction.

    The downside is that only two cities are being served at the moment, and low-cost airlines like Southwest and JetBlue aren’t included. They offer a dizzying array of graphical analysis and displays (which might need to be simplified for the average consumer). Another site offering related services is FareCompare.

    Both these websites are pretty new, but it’s always nice to see another service that creates better-informed consumers.

  • Traveling to Europe? Consider : This Irish airline serves several smaller airports all across Europe, much like Southwest does for the US. In fact, it’s even more profitable (22% margins) despite its low-cost emphasis. Not only that, but it aims to offer to everyone in the near future, and it’s not too far-fetched: 25% of its passengers already fly free. When we were living overseas, Ryanair would offer promotions like flights from Ireland to anywhere in Europe for 1&#8364.

    The way Ryanair operates is to charge a small fee for amenities (like food, checking in baggage, etc.), and to drastically cut any costs and unnecessary features from its planes that it can. It also offers advertising on the side of its planes to large corporations (sort of like an Internet model, where content is free because advertising pays.) Other low-cost airlines in Europe include and . Just in case you get tired of using a pass.

  • POLL: What’s the most you’ve ever spent on an item on eBay?

    Internet, Personal finance

    I’ve decided to dedicate a few posts this week to the topic of : what kinds there are, how they work, how they’re used in business. To kickoff the fun, I’ve created a simple poll on the right sidebar: What’s the most you’ve ever spent on an item on eBay?

    I’ll keep the poll open until the end of June, and if you’d like, you can leave any details about your purchase in the comments below. Assuming I get responses, I’ll be happy to summarize them and report results after the poll closes.

    I’ll start. We’ve bought a total of 10 items on eBay. Most of these were replacement parts that we needed for small electronics like cell phones and computers, and their pricse ranged from $5-$50. But the most we’ve ever spent on eBay was for an Art Deco pate de verre and wrought iron table lamp from France by Rethondes.

    It was not a frugal purchase: including shipping, exchange rates, an int’l wire transfer fee, and import tax into the US, the total cost ran somewhere near $700. Actually, the item originally didn’t sell because its reserve hadn’t been met, and we made an offer to the seller afterward for its reserve price, which he accepted. He listed the item for a second time for us using “Buy it now” for the agreed-upon price.

    Did we overpay? Possibly. Will the lamp prove to be a good investment? Maybe not. We haven’t taken it to an expert to have it valued, but at least comparable pieces sold by dealers seem to be going for more. Besides, my husband loves the thing, it was certainly an uncommon item, and the transaction went well, so we don’t have buyer’s regret.

    So now it’s your turn. What’s the most you’ve ever spent on an item on eBay?

    It’s eBay, advertising, and bartering rolled up in one

    Business & entrepreneurship, Internet

    Thought you needed something silly like money to buy a house? Maybe not. Kyle MacDonald at is his way there. He started with a paperclip and has traded his way up to the current one of one afternoon with Alice Cooper, and it appears he’s about to reveal what he’s traded that for, soon. The reason I say it’s advertising is that I think there’s a bit of trading-for-fame aspect to this; otherwise, people wouldn’t have traded up for a doorknob, or a fish pen. As the site gets more exposure, the incentive to trade more high-value items might be higher. I haven’t figured out how he selects his next trading item, but as he’s trained as a journalist, I’d guess it’d have to be fodder for a good story!