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business 2.0

Dear Apple: Names Are Important

by anna on January 28, 2010

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The introduction of the new Apple tablet, the iPad [cough] was made by Steve Jobs and a bunch of other men, and anxiously anticipated by a bunch of other men, and enthusiastically applauded yesterday by several other men. Women? We were busy wondering if men would be willing to be sent to the store to buy us our iPads.

Now, listen. We know that the tech industry is dominated by men. We know this is true of Apple in particular, in fact. We know this and buy our Apple products anyway because for the most part, Apple makes great products, and besides, if we wanted to buy tech products made by industries with equal female representation, we’d probably be typing on Smith Coronas or using feather pens. But still, talk about telegraphing the fact that you’re made by men! Maybe men live in a world where the word “pad” means “tablet of paper” or “home” first, and “menstruation product” several definitions down. But for me, a “pad” unmodified by the additions of modifying phrases like “of paper” or “come on over to my” means the inferior menstruation management product that I rejected when I was twelve and never looked back. And, oh look! there’s already a late-night comedy sketch made about it, even before it was launched.

Jamie from Design Milk had this to say:

“Yes, it is finally here, the Apple tablet, named the iPad. I think it’s an unfortunate name, clearly not coined by a woman, but it’s quite lovely to look at. I hope it lives up to the hype. For now, I’ll stick with my iPhone/Macbook/Kindle trifecta until I read some reviews.”

Linda at from All & Sundry on Twitter

CNN reports that (male) tech writers are sure that the iTampon iPad will be popular in spite of its name, choosing to believe that Apple could serve up a plate of broken glass and shit and call it “champagne” and people will buy it.

Marketing is only one part of a product’s success. But it can be a HUGE part of it. What does this name tell me? It tells me that Apple is not consulting very many women on its marketing team, or in its design. It tells me that Apple doesn’t even have any women in its focus groups, or else it is not listening to what they say. It tells me that Apple it is not a company terribly concerned with the fact that the name they’ve chosen might have other connotations to a woman than to a man. Apple was concerned that the product’s earlier proposed name, the iSlate, would have connotations too closely associated with older technology and “the Flintstones.” For a company that wants to reposition itself at the intersection of liberal arts and technology, Apple should know that the juxtaposition of the cutting edge technology of their tablet product with a name of technology from a simpler time is exactly the kind of thing we liberal arts people get excited about. DUH.

And are those things enough to make me boycott Apple? Probably not, let’s not kid ourselves, I love Apple. But my distraction with the name is enough to make me think about whether or not I really need this product. It’s enough to allow me to evaluate it without the rose-colored lenses of the Apple fanboy.

Right now I’ve got three devices that the iPad is supposed to replace with just one. In theory, that would be great, if it didn’t appear that the iPad only promises to perform the tasks I use each device for with less precision than the original. You want me to get excited about a gadget with an unfortunate name that I’m having a hard time getting over and not notice the fact that it is just a bigger iPhone without phone service, a Kindle with a backlight that strains my eyes, a laptop without the keyboard that requires me to learn how to type without my thumbs? I’d rather stick to my three buddies here.

If you want to be at the intersection of liberal arts and technology, you might want to consider thinking like a literary critic thinks. In that world, nothing about word choice is accidental, and everything is always already overdetermined. This product makes me think about something you put in your underwear when Aunt Flo comes for a visit. Is that what you want me to think of your product, even as a secondary definition? Oh, I guess it didn’t occur to you what I would think about it.

What The Dooce/HGTV Deal Means For Us

by anna on January 24, 2010

If you watch the goings on of the bloggerati as closely as I do, then you have probably heard by now about Heather Armstrong’s content partnership with HGTV that was announced on Friday. The terms of the deal are somewhat unclear (e.g. what does “development deal” and “convergence programming” mean?), but there’s no question that this is a big move — for Dooce View definition in a new window, but also for the rest of the blogging community.

Now, listen. This pissed me off. I’m not going to lie to you. It pissed me off almost as much as finding out that Momversation had been nominated for a blogging award (psst: Momversation is a commercial, people). In turn, I got even more angry with myself for letting something like this bother me, since I don’t even watch HGTV and I don’t want to be on TV myself (except perhaps to test out my weight loss theories). I suppose we can trace my weakness here to the fact that there are still, even for me, those days in which I feel like the responsible older sibling who is fed up with the prodigal sibling’s tantrums being met with reward instead of censure. But this is the world that we live in, folks: Jay Leno gets the Tonight Show, an inexperienced Republican gets Ted Kennedy’s seat, and Dooce gets HGTV.

We will not let this make us into cynics. Er, we won’t allow this to make us more cynical. Enough! of this wallowing, I say, because we are here to grow our businesses, and we don’t do that by sulking. No! We shall pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and figure out how to make this HGTV move work for us and not just for the Armstrong Dynasty. And this is why I say that, upon reflection, I think we should all applaud this move, regardless of how we feel about Dooce, because whenever a blogger moves into another form of mainstream media, the scope of the blogosphere’s influence expands and brings along with it opportunity for everyone. So, brava! But you’re probably still wondering what this deal means, exactly, and what kind of opportunity it could bring for anyone else. So here’s what I’ve worked out so far.

  1. They Are Going To Pay For Dooce To Fix Up Her House, And Then Film Her Doing It.
    What, exactly, will Dooce will be doing with HGTV? Well, she says “I have signed an exclusive development deal with HGTV,” and they say that her “exclusive programming development deal” will involve her working with “HGTV’s online and on-air production teams to create innovative convergence programming for the network.” So what does all this corporate PR bullshit speak mean? My guess is that “convergence programming” means content that exists where the worlds of “online” and “on TV” meet — i.e. webisodes of Dooce and her family and all the zany madcap adventures they have.

    .

    Though a cursory review of the materials released by HGTV and Dooce suggest that she’s going to be some kind of creative consultant, I think this is deliberately misleading because the value that Dooce offers HGTV is the audience she brings and her ability to bolster their online presence and credibility. It isn’t that they cannot find creative consultants with penchants for Charley Harper and Target elsewhere. Besides, you don’t need a press release to hire a new creative consultant: you send out a press release to notify people of a new on-air personality. And you don’t put Heather Armstrong View definition in a new window in the capacity of hosting a show (please cf. her appearances on The Bonnie Hunt show, Oprah, and Dr. Phil for why you don’t do this) — you use her to create content. The only content she creates concerns her life at home. Ergo, this partnership means that HGTV is going to pay the Armstrongs to fix up their house and film them doing it. (Here’s my suggestion for the first project they might tackle.)

  2. Dooce Wants To Be A TV Personality. In the HGTV press release, Heather Armstrong says that she has been “looking to grow [her] business beyond its online presence, and having been approached by other media brands before [she] can confidently say that that there is no better partner than HGTV to help [her] take this step.” What does “growing her business” beyond its online presence mean, given that she’s already published a book? Unless she has some hidden desire to be a radio personality, it has to mean TV or movies. The only content she creates is about her family and her dogs, so I am thinking a full-fledged television reality show cannot be far behind, unless she wants to make a movie based on her life.
  3. Whether She Succeeds Or Fails, This Leads To More Deals With Other Bloggers. There’s no question that Dooce is good at what she does. But she doesn’t have a huge range, kids: there are only so many objects to balance on a dog’s head, and only so many husband/children/appliances about which to complain in all caps. A great run for a sitcom is 7 years, and even if Dooce manages to milk that out of the arachnophobia of her children, other companies will be looking to use bloggers in similar capacities for their own brands. And if the show doesn’t work, this still another experiment in how bloggers can be used as brand representatives, and as more companies do this, there will be more deals to be had, more advertising opportunities for other bloggers, more of a presence of blogging in the popular imagination, et cetera.
  4. Whether She Succeeds Or Fails, This Means More Bloggers And More Blog Readers. The mainstream population still does not read blogs or understand blogging as a business model, which means there is a huge audience out there waiting to find out about our blogs and how great they are. The inclusion of a blogger in any capacity on television increases our visibility with the mainstream population. Regardless of who the blogger is, the good news is that this will lead to more blogs being started and more blogs being read, more eyeballs for us.
  5. Whether She Succeeds Or Fails, This Is Part Of A Gentrification Of The Blogosphere. Think of the blogosphere in the early days as being like the meatpacking district of NYC in the late 70s: it was still a very industrial and largely abandoned landscape, despite the fact that a few shady characters were starting to set up shop in the abandoned factories, and a few trannies were turning tricks on street corners late at night. But then, you find out that a few gay couples have bought up some properties because they could get a lot of space, cheap, and they’re fixing things up. Next thing you know, there’s a bunch of converted lofts and they’ve opened up a few Starbucks, and before you know it, you’ve been priced out of the neighborhood and are happy to rent a broom closet in an apartment that now sells for $2.5 million. This is online property we’re talking about, of course, but the amount of time and effort you put in to your property has a lot to do with its value: as more people come into the market, your property value increases proportionately.

I will be watching this move with impatience, and not wholly disinterested motives. Go forth, ye Armstrongs, with your new media adventure. I will be here to write about it.

How To Start An LLC Without A Lawyer

by anna on January 18, 2010

I’ve been meaning to incorporate ABDPBT for a while now, but I only recently actually bit the bullet and got it done. There are a bunch of reasons why you might want to incorporate a small business, and I’m not really going to go into those reasons in detail today — suffice to say that there are tax benefits and liability benefits that you might want to consider for your small business as it grows. (By the way, if you’re wondering if incorporating is for you, you can consult with a tax attorney or look at any of the eleventy billion web resources available on the topic). The purpose of this post is simply to show you how to do it, provided you’ve already decided to do so, because it’s not very difficult and there’s no reason to pay an exorbitant fee to a lawyer if it’s not necessary.

Why did I chose an LLC for my own personal business, rather than an S-corp or C-corp? Here’s the deal, you basically are not going to want to ever be a C-corp unless you are like IBM or something. That’s for really big ass companies with tons of employees and other moving parts, and the odds are that this is not you, because if it is you, you probably should be hiring a lawyer because it’s way more complicated than something that can be solved by an internet tutorial, particularly an internet tutorial written by somebody who is not a lawyer. (Yes, did I menetion that? I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take legal advice from me.) Anyway, we’re forgetting about the C-corp right now because it’s too crazy complicated and it would be like using a sledgehammer to kill an ant. We’re dealing with the question of whether to form an LLC or an S-corp, and there are pros and cons to both, but my understanding is that an LLC offers more flexibility than an S-corp and involves less red tape at the beginning to get it started. LLCs offer the same personal liability protection as a corporation, but with fewer of the stupid corporate hoops to jump through, like creating “shareholders” and having corporate meetings with minutes. With an S-corp, you don’t have to pay self-employment taxes, but you do have to give yourself what is considered a “reasonable salary” of fully taxable income, which can get tricky and expensive. Legally, ABDPBT View definition in a new window can either be an LLC or an S-corp, but I’ve decided to go with LLC because of increased flexibility, and your mileage may vary. (That’s my totally layman’s take on it, please bear in mind that I am not a tax attorney or a CPA so please don’t take my advice on anything if you want to stay out of jail, &c.. )

Now, if you’re still with me, you might be confused about me wanting to avoid taxes, given that I’m a bleeding heart liberal. Yes, yes, I know: the thing is, I don’t anticipate there being any social security left by the time I retire, and I may be a bleeding heart, but I’m also a capitalist. So screw the baby boomers: here’s how to set up an LLC without paying a lawyer to do it for you. Go capitalism!

  1. Make sure you’re doing the right thing. The only way to know for sure that this is the right thing is to go to a trusted professional and have them evaluate your business and give you advice. Depending upon the amount of confidence you have in your own research skills, you can also look up the guidelines for each type of corporation here and decide which one you want to use.
  2. Check for local laws. Let’s say you’re me, and you’ve already determined that an S-corp is the right choice for your venture, and confirmed that your business is qualified to be an S-corp. Now you have to determine what your local state laws for incorporating are. I’m in California, so I’ll be giving you the steps for California, by the way. Here is a place to check for procedures in other states. Once again, if you’re not sure that your business qualifies as an LLC, you are going to have to check with a lawyer. Please do not ask me, because I don’t know, and you shouldn’t listen to me about anything. (Yes, I’m just going to keep on with the disclaimers indefinitely.)
  3. Check to see if the name you want is available. What? You mean you cannot just name your corporation willy nilly? No, sir. You need to make sure it’s available in your state. Here’s how you can do it for free in California: mail a Name Availability Inquiry Letter to the California Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento. California is lame, so you can only do it by snail mail, but you can also check name availability by establishing an acocunt with the Secretary of State.
  4. Reserve your name. Just because you’ve searched for a name doesn’t mean you’ve reserved it. The only way to your name doesn’t mean that you’ll get the name when you actually incorporate. If you’re worried about somebody taking your name before you get a chance to get all the paperwork done, you can file a Name Reservation Request Form to hold it for you. This can be renewed according to the guidelines listed here.
  5. File Articles of Organization (Form LLC–1) With Secretary of State. You can download the California form here. The fee is $70, plus an extra $15 (ratfuck) fee to have them handle a form delivered in person in Sacramento. Make sure to use separate checks for these fees, by the way. The agent for service of process on the corporation must be a California resident.
  6. Mail in the form and wait.It will probably take about six weeks to hear back.
  7. Obtain a Federal Tax Employer Identification Number. And now we get to the reason we’re actually doing all this crap: the EIN. We need to get this number so that we can start sheltering our income from taxes (a little bit). This number is like the social security number for your business, and once you’ve set up your business in your state, you can obtain your EIN online through the IRS website during the following hours: Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Eastern time; Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time; and Sunday: 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern time. Once you’ve completed everything, the system will give you the EIN right then and there!
  8. Change everything over to the EIN. Once you have your EIN, you need to go to all of the ad networks, affiliate programs, and/or bank accounts and update your information. You probably have entered your personal social security number in order to be paid by these various entities, so you’re going to want to start switching over to the EIN and doing your business’ accounting separately from your personal accounting from now on. Good luck!
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