Sears Roebuck Invented Mail Order, but Amazon Ate Its Lunch, and Now Brick & Mortar Retail Suffers

Sears Roebuck was a hot stock when it held its IPO in 1906, and ninety years later its shares had grown 434,552 percent. But by 1973, when it opened the Sears Tower (at that time the tallest building in the world), it apparently had lost all or most of its entrepreneurial instrincts, and it let Amazon get started in 1994 and overtake it, apparently without any counter-offensive.

But Sears isn’t the only retailer who missed the resolutionary changes in retailing. Most department store chains are suffering from changes in people’s tastes and how and where they shop. And many shopping malls are shadows of their former selves. It will be very interesting to see if Amazon can innovate in the grocery category.

“Fair Use” of Copyrighted Material Gets (a Little) Justice

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Did Stephanie Lenz make a bag of money from her video that Universal would otherwise have made? It seems that actually Universal and Prince got a lot of free advertising out of it starting in 2007, no? A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal has just struck a blow against the hubris of music publishers such as Universal who send out takedown notices at the drop of a hat. If every YouTube (or Vimeo et al) video that borrowed a little, or even a lot, triggered so much legal argy-bargy, there wouldn’t be enough lawyers and judges on the planet to deal with it all. Similarly for the print world, and look at all the examples of “the pot calling the kettle black”:
-Google violated copyrights wholesale by scanning millions of books; but didn’t that provide a service to humanity by making intellectual content available for out-of-print volumes?
-Facebook was essentially a college Freshman Register; could it have been sued by thousands of universities collectively?
-Amazon’s Kindle refuses to let owners copy even one word. So all students writing term papers are back to the archaic 3×5 cards in the digital age. How stupid can they be, especially in the days of the Turnitin plagiarism checker technology?

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Anything is Funny if it Didn’t Happen to You

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But though most people can recover from having their credit card data compromised (or perhaps weren’t personally affected by it), they might not recover so well from having their marriage destroyed, so perhaps the most poignant of  recent hacks was the one of the Ashley Madison extramarital affair website. Most recently Ashley Madison users filed class action lawsuits in Canada and the US, which will almost certainly destroy the company and at a minimum disgrace its parent company Avid Life Media  Ironically, the hackers had originally not tried to destroy the whole thing but to force more ethical behavior on it, and when the company stonewalled the hackers carried out their threat of disclosure. Another example of hubris … which has at a minimum forced  the CEO of Avid Life Media to resign.

Is Any Organization Perfect Enough to Stop Listening?

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We thought that every website and publication worth mentioning had some form of “Contact Us” or “Letters to the Editor”. Apparently not. We have recently tried to bring to the attention of Trip Advisor an incorrect listing of an establishment in Antigua, Guatemala, but could find no one to send it to or place on the site to post it so that future travelers would not be misled as we were. And we could add a comment to an article in the most recent  AARP Magazine correcting some serious mistakes in their editorial content (which obviously was not fact-checked), but our correction really should be included in an Errata in the next issue; but again there was no apparent place on their website and no email address to deal with it. These organizations, and we suspect that many others, too, only talk and don’t listen. We suggest that web surfers or magazine readers choose alternative sources, ones that LISTEN to their users or readers.