Dog Days

  |  August 25, 2000   |  Comments

Late August afternoons are called dog days. The days are hot, and the air's still, except for mosquitoes; everything slows to a crawl. Take Internet commerce: The stock plunge and a consolidation trend have slowed interest in this area. Now's the time to learn who's here for the long haul and who's in for the money. Big questions yet to be decided; lots of technologies yet to reach their markets. Ten questions to ponder over a nice cold glass of iced tea.

For me, this has always been the hardest time of the year.

Late August afternoons are called dog days for many reasons. It's hot, the air is still, except for the mosquitoes, and everything seems to slow to a crawl.

That's true in the freelance writing business (I'm currently available for weddings and bar mitzvahs), but it's also true in the Internet commerce business. The fall in stock prices last spring, coupled with a "consolidation" trend favoring brick-and-mortar merchants, has greatly slowed interest in what we're doing here.

Now is the time when we learn who is here for the long haul and who was just here for the money. Because there are still big, big questions left to be decided - lots of technologies have yet to reach their markets.

Here are 10 questions to ponder tonight over a nice cold glass of iced tea (Long Island or otherwise):

  1. Will the recording industry drive music lovers completely underground? File sharers have been successfully branded as "thieves." Software and even links have been successfully enjoined in court. Even if the industry loses there, it's vowing to fight on the technology front. Will sales rise or fall as a result?

  2. Can popular laws that everyone supports be enforced online? With each pedophile arrest, it seems their activities are becoming more "mainstream," Wired says.

  3. If such laws can be enforced, does that enforcement threaten all our liberties? New technology that can find file signatures anywhere on the Net were not written against pedophiles, but music sharers.

  4. Will Amazon be a survivor, or will it be kicked off the E-commerce Island? The stock price is up 25 percent in the last month, and it's now selling cars. How long before "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch does an Amazon ad?

  5. If no one can see the Olympics online, will it really happen, and will we really care? Even IBM is backing away from the rings, and, as of now, it has the only outlet for the Sydney games.

  6. Will open source survive, not just in software but anywhere? Or will the copyright police stamp out innovation with laws and lawyers? Peter Wayner recently asked this question in The New York Times, and I find it fascinating.

  7. Will online purchases always cost less than offline? More and more online sites are selling at full retail, and when you add in tax and shipping, it costs more. Can we survive at higher prices?

  8. Do people really want to buy stamps online? Both E-Stamp and Stamps.com are worth more dead than alive.

  9. Can we convince users to trust their data to us with an ad campaign? Can such a campaign possibly succeed as more and more people are fired for their use of online resources at work?

  10. Are the links in this story legal? If software and links can be declared illegal, and authorities can enter any computer legally to find files they don't like, can the online world survive?

Once you finish daydreaming about these stories, it will be Labor Day, and we can get back to serious business.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.

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