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    Published on: October 12, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    There was an interesting and, I think, relevant piece in the New York Times over the weekend about the "new viewing patterns" that "challenge old ways of doing business" in the television industry.

    Bear with me on this.

    The story makes the point that technology puts the industry in danger, as well as providing it with enormous opportunities.

    "The peril and promise are byproducts of television’s truly becoming a digital medium," the Times writes. "Internet services such as Netflix and YouTube deliver video programming to screens large and small, in living rooms and on smartphones - and it is sent 'over the top,' in industry jargon, via the Internet, sidestepping the TV industry’s accustomed control point, the set-top box. In addition, digital recording services, now offered by cable and satellite TV operators, allow programs to be recorded for later viewing.

    This means that "the TV market is fracturing and becoming less predictable, undermining the main appeal of traditional TV to advertisers: its ability to deliver mass-market audiences." But ... "as TV embraces digital technology, it opens the door to targeting television ads as never before, much as is done with advertising on the web."

    The story makes the point that "until recently, TV-audience information used by advertisers has come mainly from samples of viewers and surveys, conducted by Nielsen and other market-research companies. The monitoring made possible by digital technology can be far more detailed — down to the household level — not only covering what is being watched but, when combined with other data sources, also predicting behavior and buying habits."

    In many ways, I think this has some structural similarities to the retail business. And, the analysis offers some lessons.

    Think about it. Traditional retailing has been a mass market business, but technology has created an environment in which marketers can and should be much more targeted in their approach.

    Think about it this way: Retailing is fracturing and becoming less predictable, undermining the main appeal of traditional retailers to consumers because of a growing inability to target shoppers to the degree that companies like Amazon can.

    It is a challenge, and an opportunity. It certainly can't be ignored.

    And I guess that I would suggest to people who are dubious about the degree to which retail is changing in fundamental ways to think about how they consume television programming ... and especially how their kids consume it.

    It should be an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    Caught up with a piece written for the New York Times last week by business and leadership expert Tony Schwartz in which he suggests that employers need to invest more time and effort in their employees' happiness.

    An excerpt:

    "When I ask business leaders whether they believe that their employees perform better when they are happier, healthier and more fulfilled, the answer is always yes. When I then ask if they systematically invest in making their employees happier, healthier and more fulfilled, the answer is almost invariably no.

    "The truth is that most leaders don’t think much about what the people who work for them are feeling or how meeting their needs influences their productivity.

    "What fuels people at work is deceptively simple. We want to feel valued and valuable — cared for by our bosses and colleagues and encouraged to develop and express our talents.

    "We want to matter and we also want the work we do to matter. We hunger to make our own mark and to be a part of a larger community engaged in a mission beyond ourselves."
    KC's View:
    Click on the link above and take a look at this column ... I think Schwartz makes some valuable observations about the importance of feeling valued and valuable, with some interesting examples of companies that have followed this path.

    I know there are some folks who think that this ought not be the purview or a high priority of companies ... but I always wonder if these folks are so blasé about their own need to feel valued and valuable, and all that is required to make them feel that way.

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    Bloomberg reports that in the UK, Tesco is taking a new approach to price matching, "giving Britons immediate discounts off their shopping bill if they buy branded goods that could have been purchased for less at one of the supermarket chain’s main competitors."

    This new approach, the story says, "intensifies a price war" and is a shifty away from Tesco's previous approach - to give customers a voucher to use on future purchases if their entire shopping basket could be purchased for less at the competition.

    However, Tesco is defining "competition" very specifically - as Walmart-owned Asda, Sainsbury, and William Morrison, but not as Aldi or Lidl, the two discounters that have roiled the marketplace, building market share while eroding the business done by the fig four supermarkets.
    KC's View:
    It is a little dangerous to define the competition the way you want tom and the way that suits your purposes ... as opposed to the way that the competition really is, and the way that really matters to the customer.

    Reminds me of when bricks-and-mortar retailers decide to price match against other bricks-and-mortar retailers, but not against e-commerce companies such as Amazon. Such tactics, it seems to me, are all hat, no cattle.

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    The New York Times has a story about a Greenwich Village coffee shop called Fair Folks & a Goat, where to get a cup of coffee, you have to be a member: "$25 a month gets you unlimited coffees, teas, lattes, espressos and lemonades."

    According to the story, "Its members come and go, but have included an emergency-room doctor who moonlights as a trapeze instructor, a Chinese scholar translating Allen Ginsberg into Mandarin and a 74-year-old psychotherapist who invited members to her house two doors down for a cross-generational chat. There are also lots of regulars — Apple clerks, N.Y.U. students (the law school seems to be well represented) and a bevy of start-up programmers." Its membership averages about 1,000 a month.
    KC's View:
    Now, Fair Folks & a Goat sells more than coffee - it also sells art, clothes, home design pieces, and beer and wine, and you don't have to be a member to buy that stuff.

    But I've always been a fan of the subscriber model ... I think that it is a great way to engender loyalty, create tighter relationships with customers, and actually take consumers out of the marketplace when it comes to specific products or services.

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    In the UK, This Is Money reports that four US pension and investment funds have filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Tesco, charging that "Tesco ‘recklessly disregarded’ facts and ‘dramatically overstated’ profit by improper recognition of charges to suppliers," and asking "for the recovery of money lost through the purchase of the shares as well as ‘treble and punitive damages’."

    The lawsuit goes back to he accounting scandal at Tesco that came to light in 2014, when it was revealed that the retailer had systematically overstated revenue and understated expenses as a way of driving up its share price.

    The suit was filed by the Western and Southern Life Insurance Company, Western & Southern Financial Group, Integrity Life Insurance and Touchstone Strategic Trust.
    KC's View:
    Yet another problem - among many - that current CEO Dave Lewis has to clean up ... and raising more questions that former CEOs Philip Clarke and Terry Leahy ought to be forced to answer.

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    Salon has an interesting excerpt from a book entitled "The Master Algorithm: How The Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World,"

    An excerpt:

    "Society is changing, one learning algorithm at a time. Machine learning is remaking science, technology, business, politics, and war. Satellites, DNA sequencers, and particle accelerators probe nature in ever-finer detail, and learning algorithms turn the torrents of data into new scientific knowledge. Companies know their customers like never before. The candidate with the best voter models wins, like Obama against Romney. Unmanned vehicles pilot themselves across land, sea, and air. No one programmed your tastes into the Amazon recommendation system; a learning algorithm figured them out on its own, by generalizing from your past purchases."

    The story goes on to say, "These seemingly magical technologies work because, at its core, machine learning is about prediction: predicting what we want, the results of our actions, how to achieve our goals, how the world will change. Once upon a time we relied on shamans and soothsayers for this, but they were much too fallible. Science’s predictions are more trustworthy, but they are limited to what we can systematically observe and tractably model. Big data and machine learning greatly expand that scope."

    It is an interesting story because algorithm-driven retailing - as defined most effectively by Amazon - is such a threat to the companies to compete with it.

    It means that one has to figure out how to make algorithms work for one's business ... or, figure out the most effective ways to compete with companies that do have them.

    At their most basic, algorithms are about knowledge. They aren't the only way to analyze and act upon knowledge ... but they certainly set the bar high.

    And they can't be ignored.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that "disappointing results from a recent bankruptcy auction could mean another 6,000 workers will join the line of former Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc. employees at the unemployment office by Thanksgiving, court papers indicate.

    "That estimate is based on about 70 stores that went unsold, with an average of 80 jobs per store. It is in addition to the jobs lost when 25 stores were closed by the troubled chain, and an unknown number of jobs lost at stores being sold to buyers that won’t be operating grocery outlets. Less than half the stores sold last week involved deals for employees, or at least agreements to talk to employees."

    • In California, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will bar meat producers in the state from routinely feeding antibiotics to livestock.

    Reuters writes that "the move from California, known for its leadership on public health and environmental issues, comes amid growing concern that the overuse of such drugs is contributing to rising numbers of life-threatening human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as 'superbugs' ... Veterinary use of antibiotics is legal. However, as the number of human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria increases, consumer advocates, public health experts and investors have become more critical of the practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to chickens, cattle and pigs."

    • The Lakeland Ledger reports that Publix "is in talks to open its first college campus store at the University of South Florida ... The proposed store and 150 parking spaces would occupy about 3 acres at the site, which presently houses part of the school’s Andros dormitories."

    "We are excited about the potential partnership with USF,” said Brian West, a company spokesman. “Both Publix and USF are in the due diligence period.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    • Walmart announced on Friday that Steve Bratspies has been named chief merchandising officer for US stores, overseeing all merchandise categories across more than 4,500 Walmart stores in the US.

    The retailer also named Charles Redfield, executive vice president of merchandising at Sam’s Club, to be executive vice president of food for Walmart US.

    In addition, John Furner, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Walmart China, was named executive vice president, merchandising for Sam’s Club.

    Walmart also said that Brett Biggs, executive vice president and CFO of Walmart International, will succeed Charles Holley as the corporation's CFO, effective the end of the year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 12, 2015

    In the Major League Baseball Divisional series...

    In the National League, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals are tied at one game apiece, as are the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers in their best-of-five series.

    And in the American League, the Houston Astros hold a 2-1 series lead over the Kansas City Royals, as do the Texas Rangers over the Toronto Blue Jays.

    In Week Five of National Football League action...

    Bills 14
    Titans 13

    Browns 33
    Ravens 30

    Bears 18
    Chiefs 17

    Seahawks 24
    Bengals 27

    Rams 10
    Packers 24

    Jaguars 31
    Buccaneers 38

    Saints 17
    Eagles 39

    Redskins 19
    Falcons 25

    Cardinals 42
    Lions 17

    Patriots 30
    Cowboys 6

    Broncos 16
    Raiders 10

    49ers 27
    Giants 30
    KC's View:
    I was looking at the NFL standings, and noticed that the Detroit Lions are 0-5 ... which makes me think that they ought to reach out to Chase Utley for help ... since based on his behavior over the weekend, he'd clearly rather be playing football than baseball. He should trade in his LA Dodgers jersey for a Lions uniform.

    The marginally good news, as far as it goes, is that Utley has been suspended for the next two games of the playoffs ... which is the very least that baseball could do.