Fox television stations, now with added business!

Not content with merely acquiring the businessperson's bible, Rupert Murdoch has been reaching business folks through the cable lines as well. The newly-launched Fox Business Network is positioned to compete with the previously (almost) unrivaled CNBC.

Certainly, Fox Biz Network must be hoping to snipe a few CNBC viewers. But at least based on the first week, it's not wholly clear that they'll attract the same people. CNBC is known for its sometimes, well, overly passionate commentary about the stock market. Fox Biz seems like it's going beyond the minutiae of the market to target a broader audience.

Television news, of course, has a sordid history, to which Mr. Murdoch has contributed his own fair share. The question on people's minds now is whether Fox Biz will do to CNBC what Fox News did to CNN, especially with the power of the Wall Street Journal behind it. Perhaps Murdoch is writing the next chapter in that sordid history.

Why do people give to public radio?

NPR logoNPR logo

Ah, October! With the tenth month of the year comes not only the onset of fall, but also Guilt Week, aka the fall membership drive for National Public Radio.

Public radio is an interesting beast because its finances are unlike not only for-profit businesses, but also other 501(c)(3)s. Through some magical combination of guilt and altruism, public radio stations manage to get lots of people to willingly donate money to something they could get for free. Not only that, but listeners pay based on how much they value the station. Businesses would kill to be able to charge customers like that.

So I propose a discussion topic in honor of Guilt Week: why are so many public radio listeners willing to donate often considerable amounts without coercion? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts? Because they fear their fabulous local station will disappear if they don't? Other reasons? What say those of you who donate to public radio? Why do you give?

The impending death of the used bookseller

A provocative article on recently profiled several industries on the verge of extinction. Among the condemned: record stores, newspapers, and used bookstores.

As the article notes, newspapers aren't really going to die; they're just going to change. But what about those book and record stores? It would perhaps be more accurate to say that independent bookstores and record stores are under threat. Sure, a few widely successful independents will remain. But even iconic independents are finding it harder to stay open.

What do you think? Are independent book and record stores disappearing? Should we even care, in the age of the long tail thrift and accessibility of Amazon and Barnes & Noble? Or will such stores simply adapt like their allegedly-doomed newspaper brethren?

Reference U.S.A.- looking for someone or info on companies?

Reference USAReference USA

So your old friend moved to Nevada but you don’t know where. Try using the library’s research product Reference USA to find them. Reference USA is found on the library’s website under the Research tab.

Another very important & useful feature of this software is looking up businesses by region/etc and limiting the search to specific types of companies. It’s a great resource for sales & marketing leads. My search for info on ICE CREAM & FROZEN DESSERTS (MFRS) in Michigan yielded 40 businesses.

Use Reference USA at any Ann Arbor District Library location or from your home / business computer. Off site usage requires your Ann Arbor District Library card #.

Want Radiohead's new album? Name your price!

"In Rainbows," the latest album by consummate alt rockers Radiohead, is garnering attention. Unlike with the now legendary OK Computer, however, it's not for it's musical brilliance. In fact, the album isn't even out yet. Instead, Radiohead's getting press because they're letting you name your own price to buy it.

Aside from the obvious pricing mechanism, Radiohead is innovating in several other ways. First, the album is only available for digital download on the band's website. Second, the album will be DRM-free. Third, the band is bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of music, the recording industry.

Like Prince's July 2007 scheme with his latest album Planet Earth, Radiohead's actions are likely to anger an industry exec or two. But should they be afraid? Might artists be able to bypass them altogether and get their music out to the masses? Will such promotions only work for musical demigods like Prince and Radiohead? What do you think?

Photocopy a book, improve the Michigan economy?


Have you ever found a great recipe in a cookbook and photocopied it? If you have, then you've been exercising your "fair use" rights to copyright. In other words, even though an artist or publisher owns the rights to that book, movie, or song, you can still do a few things with that book even if you don't own it. Like check it out from a library!

Copyright geeks have been abuzz this month because a new report suggests that those few exceptions to copyright are worth big bucks: $507 billion in 2006, nearly 20% of U.S. GDP, to be exact. Or at least so says the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a business group representing such heavy hitters as Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

Okay, so maybe you copying that recipe didn't really spur the creation of new jobs. But the fact that Google, Yahoo, Ask, and their cohorts can crawl through websites (another fair use exception), even though those sites are copyrighted, certainly did. Which begs the question: should we have more exceptions to copyright? After all, the Copyright Clause of the Constitution is meant to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," i.e. spark new ideas and innovations. Perhaps we should even consider shortening the copyright term? What do YOU think?

Canadian money - Not just for Monopoly anymore

Ever made fun of that weird-colored Canadian money? If you have, Canadians may be getting the last laugh. Yesterday, the loonie was worth as much as a U.S. dollar.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you're Canadian, it means that U.S. stuff is a lot cheaper. If you're from the United States and want some Canadian swag, though, you might not be so happy. It might even mean that Big Macs in Canada won't seem as cheap anymore.

Still wondering why you should care about Canadian money? Why not check out some of these books on exchange rates and other numbers economists worry about? Of course, maybe you'd just rather plan your next Canadian vacation, even if the prices are a bit higher.

The business of charity

We've all heard of successful businesspeople who give lots of money to charity. Indeed, such benefactors have huge impact, such as the library world's beloved Andrew Carnegie.

But is such philanthropy really as good as it seems? A pair of articles from our friends at the New York Times and The Economist suggests otherwise. Those big donations, according to the Times article, net donors some big tax breaks, meaning that money given to little Timmy's private school is money the government can't use for potentially worthier purposes.

And what about all those companies that do good works? Well, as The Economist notes, Robert Reich thinks that focusing on corporate social responsibility misses the point. Businesses, even socially responsible ones, ultimately focus on their interests. We shouldn't get so preoccupied with them that we take the heat off the people who are supposed to be watching the economy: the federal government.

Here's what economist Tyler Cowen thinks. What about you?

Alan Greenspan - Economist, Fed Chairman, Blogger?

He's a legend. A veritable deity in the business pantheon. A man whose words were scripture for bankers and the financial warriors of Wall Street. And now, the venerable former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is blogging.

Well, sort of, anyway. Greenspan's only actually made one entry, and it seems to be primarily to promote his new book. But it not unprecedented for economists to turn books into blogs. Or in some cases, even blogs into books.

Negotiation: not just for businesspeople

Like nearly all such book lists, Amazon's Business bestseller list is filled with the vagaries of the moment. But there are a few titles that have proven to be perennial favorites, and they're not even strictly about business: the somewhat cheesily-named yet useful Getting to Yes and nearly anything written by preeminent Arizona State University social psychologist Robert Cialdini.

I say not strictly business because the books are actually about negotiation. Sure, businesspeople need good negotiation skills to seal a deal. But other folks need them, too. For instance, in Cialdini's latest book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he details how if a saleswoman can get to like her, she's a lot more likely to make a sale, and get you to pay more. And these principles don't only matter for sales. Ever had your significant other point out your inconsistencies in an argument? More of Cialdini's weapons of influence at work.

So whether you're in business or not, don't be fooled by that "business" moniker. These negotiation and influence books will help you whether you're trying to persuade a client or your kids.

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