Archive for July, 2008


Fisher’s Peak
Originally uploaded by Jerry W. Lewis

Although I’ve driven by Trinidad on I-25 before, I’ve never really spent much time in the area. I suspect that is true of many travelers heading down to Santa Fe or coming up from New Mexico to the Denver area. 

This past weekend, a friend and I went to Trinidad to play the new Cougar Canyon golf course there, designed by Jack Nicklaus.

From the course, you get some great views, including this look at Fisher’s Peak, which was a landmark for travelers along the Santa Fe Trail. The peak overlooks the entrance to Raton Pass between Trinidad and Raton, N. M.

Lately, I’ve been reading more history on both the Boulder area and Colorado, and the story of the Santa Fe Trail, of course, is an important part of how trade developed in the West, and involved economies of New York and even London.

The golf course, while challenging with shots across canyons onto tricky greens, is certainly worth visiting. Right now, the course is offering a “stay and play” package for $99 each day (does not include cart fee.)

We played two days, and that gave us some time to explore around both the city of Trinidad and surrounding areas a bit. There’s a good variety of museum, shops, etc. in the historic downtown area.

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Maybe
I shouldn’t have MarketWatch as my laptop’s opening page. A big yellow smiley
face could be a better way to start out checking the day’s news.

Lately,
those “bear” headlines indeed make me want to go hibernate someplace. “Dow
enters bear market; stocks slide.” 
“Bear market run spells trouble for Wall St.”

While
I’ve written columns before about a consistent investment strategy,
including  “dollar cost averaging”
– investing regularly and not trying to get caught up in the nearly impossible
game of market timing — a real bear market – defined as an overall 20 percent
decline or more – does give one pause.

Investors,
in my way of thinking, need to be awake to clear signs that lead up to a
serious market pullback like we’re now in. It’s been a “perfect storm” of a
sub-prime market crisis, unprecedented Wall Street company meltdowns and a
consumer canceling vacations in favor of coupon clipping and shopping at Dollar
Stores.

Who
could have predicted that the worst hit stock group would be the financials
with their revelations of their own high-risk bets gone bad. I thought they
were the smart guys. We’re watching stocks of well-managed companies that
investors have loved – such as Whole Foods – tumbling because of consumers
cutting back.

Who
needs scary horror flicks for entertainment; just read the Wall Street Journal
every day.

I
don’t envy brokers and advisers dealing with clients in times like these.       We’ve all
been through bear markets before, and for a long-term investor, most experts
agree, it’s a mistake to sell out of fear. But I’m finally hearing some
advisers – and in my opinion, many did not say it soon enough – discussing
“risk control.”  If you have cash
to invest,  a money market, CD or
savings account  — despite low
returns  – might be boring but not
crazy.

Realtors
use a downturn to tell you there’s no better time to buy a house. It’s a
buyer’s market. But has the home market really hit bottom?

Duke
Rumely, a Boulder financial consultant with RBC Wealth Management, says, “We’ve
been sitting in a cash position, and we have not been hoodwinked back into the
market.” Rumely ran off a string of reasons for sideline sitting. Major
investment firms are raising cash, and he would not be surprised to see another
“go the route of Bear Stearns.”

International
stock markets like China and India are sinking, too.

Relief
or so-called “opportunities,” like some market analysts tout, may not be just
around the corner. In the U.S., Rumely says investors may “need to wait for
home prices to rebound.”

Boulder investment adviser Dan Day
says he continues “to advocate what I have preached for 28 years.

“Time
in the market, not timing the market … with a client specific / centric asset
allocation, consistent with their planning time horizon and risk tolerance will
continue to be effective and consistent.”

Day,
who represents Russell Investments at his Boulder company, Dan Day &
Associates
, pointed me to commentary by Noel Lamb, chief investment officer for
Russell:

It might help to remember that what is happening today,
while unique, is not unprecedented.

In fact, there are similarities
between how the market is behaving today, and how it behaved during third
quarter 2002. And if you look at what happened after third quarter 2002, you gain perspective
about why our managers maintain their bullish views about what lies ahead.”

Peter
Braun, first vice president of investments for UBS Financial Services in
Boulder, advises his clients if they do decide to make changes in their
portfolio to make “minor” changes rather “than jumping out of the market and
then trying to get back in later.

“I’m
trying to be cautious but optimistic for the long term,” he says. For those
with money to put into the market now, he urges slower dollar-cost averaging.

It
may be time to look at sectors “that have been eaten up,” rather than plays in
oil or commodities.  Are financials
a sector to think about now? I asked. In that category, he said, “I think there
is still some potential for bad news out there.”

The
day after I talked to Braun, the Dow sunk 236, largely due to more bad news in
the financials.

I’m
filing this column for the Boulder County Business Report on Friday, July 11. The Dow has just hit a two-year low and
fell below 11,000. Today it’s worries about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with
some Iran missiles tossed in.

I
do have one bit of  good news. It’s
Friday, the market will be closed for two days.

      

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Jul
20

Memorial to 58,000

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Flower on Vietnam Wall
Originally uploaded by JerryLewis

I drove out Sunday to visit the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall, which was here in Boulder. Names of 58,000 men and women who died or are missing in action are inscribed on the wall. Because I had never seen the actual wall in Washington, I wanted to visit the traveling Wall while it was here.

I’ll never forget watching the draft lottery as a sophomore in college. I got number 171; my roommate got a low number in the 20s, and joined ROTC that week. My draft board stopped at number 170.

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About two years ago, I wrote about listening to the founder of this odd thing called Twitter speak to a blogger conference in Boulder. Founder Evan Williams admitted the site, where users text messages to each other of no more than 140 characters, was created “more or less on a whim.”

I’ll admit that at first I really didn’t get it all. Yes, it seemed like a quick way to find out what friend was in what bar, but other than that, it didn’t grab me at all.

This week, at a New Media Summit here in Boulder organized by Metzger Associates, I started to hear how companies and organizations are now using Twitter, from everything from customer service to firefighters telling displaced homeowners the location of wildfires.

One Colorado telecom company, EMBARQ, uses Twitter for customer service, reaching out proactively if a customer tweets about a problem they’re having. So that’s one new thing I learned — there’s a search engine for Twitter, called Summize. Turns out, the day after the New Media Summit, Twitter bought Summize for around $15 million, according to Silicon Valley Insider.

Twitter pretty much is creating its own vocabulary, with one site at Twittervision.com, showing where everyone is the world is “tweeting” from. Here’s a fun site with a long list of new words from Tweeple, or Twitter members. Alltop.com is a site covering all of the “Twitterati” or top twitters. Attendees at the summit were invited to a Tweetup at The Cup coffeehouse in downtown Boulder later that night.

What else did I learn?

Here are a few sites and tidbits that I jotted down in my notebook that I still have to check out some myself:

* Wordtracker.com, a paid site but you can sign up for a free trial. Good for active Web marketers, helping them find: “What are people searching for on the Web?”

* Kwmap.net, a site described as “a keyword map for the while Internet.” I have not really dug into this one, but it looks interesting.

* More and more companies, and it turns out, even countries, are creating a Facebook page. Did you know that Italy has a Facebook page? Talk about having a lot of “friends.”

* I sat next to Lisa Everitt, a former Rocky Mountain News reporter now doing independent writing and PR. Just a few days earlier, I had connected with her on Linkedin. This is what is good about meetings like this, sometimes you gather good info from meeting people vs. listening to speakers. Lisa is writing a retail blog on BNET, a management resource with videos, podcasts and tools. 

* To no surprise, the numbers are getting bigger on what will be spent on mobile marketing, and an entire panel was spent on the topic at the Summit. Worldwide, $16 billion will be going toward reaching users of mobile devices by 2011. But that’s another entire blog.

* A final panel at the Summit included Daisy Whitney, a contributing columnist for TelevisionWeek, who writes a lot on the convergence of TV onto the Web. Naturally, she has AppleTV and watches quite a few Web shows. She’s also doing her own videocast, New Media Minute, a good source to check out. Her favorites right now? 

Internet SuperStar on Revision3

Popsiren, also on Revision3.

And she like ABC’s The Circuit, watch a trailer on YouTube here.

At one point, there was discussion by Monica Maeckle, vice president for New Media for BusinessWire, about just how many links one should include in their blog. Linking is important to bloggers, and she said as a general rule, one link per 100 words is a minimum. 

I put in 15 links in the blog, inspired by what I heard at the Summit. They can be a bit of a pain while you’re blogging away, but I’ll leave you with this quote from the Summit, “You’re nothing if you’re not a link.”

For more about the summit, visit Metzger’s Media in the New Millenium blog. There, I just added another link.







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(Originally published in June issue of Boulder County Business Report.)

Can Boulder be weird but still maintain a strong business environment? 

Despite ongoing discussions about jobs, transportation and housing, the question always comes up, and the debate surfaced again at the Economic Summit organized by the Boulder Economic Council. 

One thing’s for sure about Boulder’s “weirdness.” Being weird has helped create very large companies and millions of dollars for their founders. A guy wandering the foothills looking for herbs to make tea, another guy mixing up this strange looking stuff called tofu. How about weird plastic shoes with holes in them?

People sometimes ask me “How did you get to Boulder?” “In a VW bus, how else?” I tell them with a weird grin.
Traveling, I’m drawn to places that people might consider weird. Maybe a better word is “odd,” “strange” sometimes even a little “dangerous.” I’m writing this column from the Laughing Goat coffee house.
Why? It’s kind of weird, and that’s why it’s full of customers most of the day. 

A news career meant finding weird stuff all the time. My favorites lately: The Boulder Starbucks robber who handed the clerk a demand for “vanilla latte” and “the $.” Even weirder, he actually got his latte.
How about the two men who tried to settle their parking lot argument recently shooting each other with Tasers? Police called it “kind of a bonehead deal.” 

Sometimes weird translates to plain stupid.
Businesspeople can get antsy with weird, but the smart ones work it to their favor. At the summit’s session on natural products and outdoor industries, a Boulder tourism ad showing a young “hippie” girl frolicking in a field of flowers drew some criticism. Is that really the image Boulder needs? 

The fact that “we’re still weird” is probably a good thing, said Sylvia Tawse, president of The Fresh Ideas Group. “It’s part of our brand, so to speak.” But Tawse also called for more marketing input from “local thought leaders … to get the brand right.”

Look at the immensely successful Bolder Boulder. What other road races have gorillas chasing bananas, men in tutus and mud slides in front yards around the course? Weirdness makes the Bolder Boulder a blast, while at the same time attracting world-class elite runners. 

Boulder’s niche for extreme athleticism helped create a thriving outdoor industry here. Panelists described how REI sent top managers for team building climbing on the Flatirons. Wholes Foods gathered vice presidents at Chautauqua’s cottages. On their agenda: tomahawk throwing. Weird? 

Outdoor Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer created a stir at the summit by revealing how regional states like Utah are aggressively recruiting some of Boulder’s top outdoor businesses, including the publishing group Mountain Sports Media. 

We’re far from being the only city with this new creative culture “mojo,” experts said. Many cities, in fact, are strategically working to create their own “weird” factor. Here in Boulder, Tawse said, ‘We’ve been taking it for granted.”
Boulder Chamber President Susan Graf pointed out “Every single Western city is now selling quality of life.” 

So the question remains – as one summit attendee asked: “What should Boulder do to combat its image of the People’s Republic of Boulder?”
Are we so business-unfriendly, we’re doomed to watching an exodus of growing companies? Does our “keep it small” mentality spell doom to larger companies creating high-paying jobs? 

Boulder Mayor Shaun McGrath tried to put it in words: “It’s not a battle of if you’re pro-business vs. pro-environment. It’s not one or the other.” 

Economic Council Director Francis Draper said for many entrepreneurial companies, it’s indeed the “physical” place that becomes the draw. Boulder’s growth limits, its steadfast dedication to open space, bike paths and new “green” initiatives has put us on the map like no other city in Colorado.
You have to remember, however, that weird goes both ways. 

Tawse told the story of how she took a high-profile exec from a leading cosmetics company for tea at Boulder’s Pekoe Sip House. So enamored with the city’s weirdness, she was considering moving headquarters staff here to inspire product innovation. But she also wondered by the teahouse wasn’t offering a loyalty card to customers. 

Tawse had to explain how the city decided to tax that 11th “free” drink, chipping into small business profits Weird? Or just plain dumb? 

One more note: Some of Boulder’s best business minds recommended a strategic plan for downtown Boulder in 2005. The top two recommendations: “First Hour Free” parking pricing and “ Build a downtown conference center.” Three years later we have no-mercy $1.25 an hour parking meters and city leaders hoping the University of Colorado might do their job for them and build a conference center. Weird?

 J
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Several small conferences exploring New Media, blogging and other Web 2.0 technology are taking place this summer along the Front Range, and I love the name of one I found out about today — the Thin Air Summit. 

I guess that’s a warning to anyone coming into Colorado, and with the Democratic National Convention here this summer, indeed there may be even less air to breath.

The Thin Air Summit is scheduled for Nov.7-9 at the Colorado Art Institute, and organizers presently are looking for presenters. Preliminary plans promote the meeting as part education, part film festival for Web videos and part “envisioning.” Not sure if folks will be “envisioning whirled peas,” but we’ll see.

Experts predict huge growth in video advertising on the Internet, growing sevenfold from $500 million in 2007 to $3.8 billion in 2012, an annual growth rate of 49.4 percent. I spoke recently to the Boulder Press Club on the topic of if traditional print publishers will survive the onslaught of new Web technology, and my basic presumption is yes, they will, but a good majority of print media are way behind the eight ball in getting onboard with new social networking ideas for the Internet products. 

In my mind, video is probably one of the weaker areas for traditional print publishers. Although they’re all creating blogs and using new ideas like reader-generated news, few are doing much in the Web video world. The New York Times is one strong exception to that. 

The Thin Air Summit says it will explore where social media is headed, asking how to get beyond the early adopters and choosing which good characteristics need to be preserved or even further promoted.

A summit right here in Boulder coming up fast is Metzger Associates third annual New Media Summit, sponsored by Business Wire. I’m planning on attending this meeting, which will be 2 to 7 p.m., Monday, July 14 at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder. The conference fee is $50, and you can register by e-mail to info@metzger.com by July 11. Monika Maeckle, vice president of New Media, Business Wire, will head a panel including speakers from AdWeek Magazine, TelevisionWeek, The Denver Post and Metzger.

Meetups and other local conferences like these are great venues to meet people, listen to their ideas and hopefully stir up some creative thoughts of your own. Maybe I will see you there.


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