Thursday, September 29, 2011


                On this trip, we visited the New York office of eMusic, an online service of downloading music.  This was the first trip we had that was not to a place associated with NYU-Poly.  We all came to hear a few words from Max Smith, CFO, and Richard Caccappolo, CTO, about how an online company makes money. 
                Probably the first thing we noticed was the office.  It was hidden away on West 13th Street in Manhattan, but when we got inside, it was like a totally different planet.  This place had hard-wood floors, glass walls, fancy overhead lighting, and everything modern under one roof.  I kind of envy the people that come in to work here every day. 
                Our presenters were also very experienced in the field.  Max was the co-founder or Talking Media Group (TMG), an and also led growth initiatives with Warner Music Group, LinkShare, TechRepublic, Gartner, and World Color Press.  Rich was one of the founders of iVillage Inc., and presided over the sale of iVillage to NBC Universal. 
                Max and Rich started the presentation by discussing how internet advertising works.  According to them, there are three ways to gain profit from internet advertising.  The first, Cost Per Thousand (CPM), is where an advertiser pays a publisher a set rate for displaying their ads to online readers, with pricing done on a “per 1000” basis.  The second, Cost Per Click (CPC), is where advertisers pay a publisher on a per-click basis, and the publisher runs the ad with no guarantee of payment except the possible user clicks.  Finally, there is Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), by far the riskiest method.  This is where the advertisers only pay when a user is directed to their site from a publisher’s site and completes a transaction directed by the advertisers.
                Max and Rich also talked about how a similar company, the New York Times Media Group, functioned.  New York Times generated revenue of over $2.052 billion this past year, with the newspaper alone generating revenue of $1.646 billion.  Their average circulation is around 1,137,429 subscriptions a year, and each subscriber was valued at around $1,448. made $15 million from display ads and estimated total revenue of $150 million.  The site also averages around 14.6 million unique visitors each month, and the per-thousand-visitors values were estimated at $7.81 each.
                The marketing strategy of eMusic itself is focused on five dimensions of music experience.  First, the user discovers the music, then they share the music with their friends.  Then everyone is listening to the music, and eventually owning it.  It isn’t long before the users are buying the music.  They also focused the consumer types along the axes of Mainstream-to-Offbeat and Leaders-tp-Followers.  This way, they know exactly how to market their music.
                I never knew how an online business really carried out their operations and made a profit.  Like most people, I just assumed that there was absolutely no thought going into it, where in reality, it’s like studying society itself.  If I ever start my own company, I hope I follow a similar path, because the path eMusic has taken has lead them to success.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Reflection on Delivering Happiness

                In his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profit, Passion and Purpose, Tony Hsieh looks at one of the biggest thoughts behind starting a company; “Will it make me happy?”  This is a really difficult question, and something that can’t really be answered by a simple “Yes” or “No”.  However, from reading this book, and seeing how Hsieh went from Harvard slacker to multi-billionaire, I can see that even he asks this question to himself.
                This book starts off with a basic biography of Tony Hsieh’s life.  It starts at the beginning, when he’s growing up in the Bay Area, California, and how he started thinking of ways to earn money even as a kid.  It then follows his journey to high school, where he tricks a phone sex line in the computer lab into thinking him and his buddies are over 21.  It even explores his college years, of him finding the best schedule to get good grades without much work, and how he even ran his own kitchen in his Harvard dorm. 
                After his early life is explored, Tony Hsieh discusses the things that were immediately contributory to his success.  After graduating Harvard, Hsieh got a job with Oracle, which he left after five months to start LinkExchange, an ad service that gave companies a presence on the internet.  Several years of hardship and struggle passed, and before he knew it, the company became a huge success.  He starting getting job offers from companies like Yahoo and NBC, but it was eventually sold to Microsoft for $265 million.  Afterwards, Hsieh realized the joy of starting a company from the bottom up, and decided to continue on to his most famous, and his most successful, venture; Zappos.
                When discussing Zappos, Hsieh really went in-depth on what he envisioned his company to be about.  He was pitched the idea about an online shoe sales company, and before he knew it, Zappos was born.  It started with only drop shipments to the few customers they had, but eventually, with the more customers they received, they were able to expand exponentially.  Further on in the book, Hsieh discusses things like poker and raves in relation to business.  Admittedly, they both seem completely different from business, but he finds a way to incorporate the nature of both into Zappos, albeit with a few fire alarms thrown.
Throughout the end of the book, Hsieh discusses the business practices and philosophies that he learned from his experience.  He speaks of how he kept his principle of focusing on customer service, and even focused on phone sales and inquiries when other companies were cutting back their telemarketing departments.  He also talks about how he made Zappos a community, and how he got all personnel involved in the company’s functions.
                Of course, there weren’t always good moments.  Several events, like the dotcom crash of 2002 and the later housing crisis of 2008 really hit Zappos hard.  There were several points where Tony Hsieh nearly lost his company, along with everything else.  However, through intuitive solutions, sound business practices, and a bit of money from his pocket, Hsieh eventually persevered, and lead Zappos to their “marriage” to Amazon on 2009.
                 Starting my own business wasn’t really the first thought I had in my mind when I started here at NYU-Poly.  However, after reading Tony Hsieh’s book, and how he started, I must say I’m inspired.  Maybe with a group of dedicated people by my side and a little bit of luck, I can start my own Zappos!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Varick Street Incubator

This week (Friday, September 16, 2011), as part of my Media Organizations class at NYU-Poly, I visited the Varick Street Incubator in Manhattan.  Here, several small business can get their start-ups and hopefully succeed in this troubled economy.  It was started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYU-Poly in July 2009, as part of the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan.  

We were first greeted by Steven Kayun, Operations Manager at the Incubator, who gave us a basic rundown on what goes on at the incubator.  He also discussed how one can start a business at Varick Street, and how several other students and entrepreneurs began there. 

Also present were three representatives of three different start-ups housed there.  Sai Punjabi, MIT alum and CEO of Baba Apps, spoke of how he started his mobile applications developer company.  Amanda Moritz, Social Media officer of Brainscape, introduced the many aspects of a technology start-up.  Philip Estrada Reichen, CEO of Local Uncle, spoke about the benefits of starting a technology and media company. 
There were several bits of advice that the speakers gave us.  One bit that was very important was the idea of working with a team.  They all agreed that it was far better to start a company with a dedicated team of people than to start one alone.  While several great entrepreneurs have done so, it is always a gamble, even if it is successful.  All of the companies represented had about six employees.  They had a CEO, a designer, a back-end developer, a front-end developer, a content manager, and a marketing manager/social media specialist, with several freelancers and interns contributing as well.
Another important bit of advice was to be comfortable with complete chaos.  This is a key quality that anyone wanting to start a company must have.  There may be times where there’s going to be less clients than usual, or even no clients, but you have to remain calm even when things look bad.  I admit that I do have a bit of experience in this.  I have been in situations where I was the only one in the office at the time, and I had to learn on my feet pretty quickly.
Personally, I never really gave much thought of starting my own company.  I mean, I always thought of how great it would be to work for myself, and I always wanted to be in a position where I can actually make a difference in an organization, but I just always figured I was going to end up doing menial, stable work at a larger company.  Now that I heard from a few people in start-ups, I can honestly say that I am definitely reconsidering this path. 
 This was an amazing trip.  I heard from people in the industry, and I have been presented with a new option for the near future.  I have a lot of respect for the guys at the Varick Street Incubator.  They put everything on the line for these small start-ups and came out strong.  Doing something like that takes ambition, bravery, and perseverance, three qualities that I find very admirable. 
That’s it for this week.  Next week we’re going to eMusic!

Friday, September 9, 2011


Welcome to my new blog!  You're probably wondering what this is all about, and why you should care.  Well, I could just say that this is part of a few courses I'm taking in Grad School, but that wouldn't be entirely truthful.

In reality, this blog is meant to showcase my journey into the world of digital media.  Every Friday, I plan to post a small excerpt about what I have learned about my field of study, my current skills, and my future career.  I will have several scheduled trips to companies famous within the field, and will comment on what I have to learn from them.

I will also utilize this blog for interaction design.  Part 

Servus Visionis roughly translates into "Servant's Vision" (anyone with knowledge of Latin, feel free to prove me wrong!).  It reflects what this blog is about; someone in a low position in search of a new vision that will inspire him to do great things.  Through this blog, I hope to at least take another step in that direction.

This shall be the first post of many!  Tune in each week to see what life has in store for me!