Covid 19, Tech, And The Global Economy

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A massive virus takes hold of one of the most populous countries in the world. More than 1800 people have died so far and the death count continues to rise. There are more than 70,000 reported cases in China alone.  This sounds like the start of a bestselling thriller on bookshelves of bookstores everywhere. But it’s not, it’s reality. A reality happening right now with Covid 19 (aka. the Coronavirus) with the epicenter in Wuhan, China. Covid 19 Enter Stage Left Covid 19 isn’t just scary because of the havoc it's causing to people in China and across the...

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The Death Of Digital Marketing

Editor Note: Shawn Swaim is the brain behind Shawn Swaim Consulting and Shawn The SEO Geek. The self-proclaimed “king of the internet,” Shawn has more than 12 years of experience in the digital marketing space. He has helped both small and large companies get a presence online and loves doing e-commerce search engine optimization.

After being in the Digital Marketing Agency world for 12 years, I can confidently say I’m a little jaded. Personally, I cringe when I see people doing and saying things we said 12 years ago. Not because anything is necessarily inaccurate, but because the times have changed.

12 Digital Years is like 147,892 regular years.

After reflecting on key differences between the Digital Marketing space of 12 years ago vs today, one concept comes to mind about what’s changed the most.

That change is integration.

12 years ago, our cell phones were still a novelty. You could have probably heard someone ask “Do you have a cell phone?” and it wouldn’t have been weird.

Today though, having a cell phone is expected.

Beyond that, our phones are a part of our lives.

I’ll spare you the data about addiction and changes in behavioral patterns. Rather, I’ll share what it means for marketing.

12 years ago, Digital Marketing Disciplines were siloed. This was because of the novelty effect. We made it an event to “Google” something or look something up on Facebook/etc.

Now, our digital presence is simply a part of life.

The novelty of “Facebook on the go” (on your phone) is the norm instead of the “once in a while” thing.

And it’s not just Facebook.

People use their cell phones as a lifeline for everything in their lives.

This creates a great opportunity for businesses. However, it does mean you have to eliminate the traditional “digital marketing process” in order to be successful with it.

Start this process with a super high-tech pen and paper.

Then, ask yourself these questions:

“What is my potential customer looking for when they need my product/service?”

“Where do they ask their questions?” (Facebook/Google/Etc.)

“What steps do they take before they make a decision?”

Once you have that information, your job is to create content that answers those questions and plant it along your customer’s buying journey.

For example, if someone were looking to invest their money, they may start by asking Google “What are the best ways to invest money?”.

Your job is to have content on your website that answers that question.

Then, they may hop to Facebook to research your company reviews/etc.

There, you’ll want to make the effort to have some reviews and more valuable content.

As they say, 80% of the battle is showing up. These tactics are not hard, it’s simply a matter of showing up where you audience is already looking for answers.

9 times out of 10, your customer will go with who makes it easier the fastest.

So, stop thinking of Digital Marketing as a standalone thing, because it’s not anymore. It’s all marketing. Your job is to be there while someone is looking.

Top 10

Weekly Top Ten #4

It’s Friday. To celebrate (and like we do every Friday), here are our Top 10 finds for this past week. Oh and Happy Valentines Day to those who choose to celebrate.

Editors Note: There are two links in here that go to PDFs. They are clearly marked. We just wanted to give advanced notice.

  1. Facebook payout a rallying cry for privacy backers (Protocol)
  2. Our.News fights misinformation with a ‘nutrition label’ for news stories (TechCrunch)
  3. Why Dead Sonos Speakers Mean You’ll Never Own a Driverless Car (OneZero on Medium)
  4. Tech companies target your sanity (Axios)
  5. Google’s next news investment (Axios)
  6. Senator Josh Hawley wants to overhaul the Federal Trade Commission due to how they handle “big tech” (Sen. Hawley’s site PDF)
  7. Interesting data from Ofcom in the UK about childrens’ usage of technology (Ofcom’s site PDF)
  8. Docker Registries Expose Hundreds of Orgs to Malware, Data Theft (Threat Post)
  9. Google Chrome will be blocking non-secure downloads via the browser (Threat Post)
  10. Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We’ll Eat on the Journey to Mars (Wired)

Do you have something interesting we should know about? Email us


Do We Really Want Our IOT Devices Always Listening?

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I’ll admit I like the idea of having a smart device with a speaker available to play music or search the web for something when my hands are covered in raw chicken while I'm cooking dinner. But the idea of these devices always listening for context to help me, before I ask, kind of scares me. Stacey Higginbotham, who is the expert of all things internet of things, wrote in her latest newsletter about this very topic. She writes: Take a moment to listen to the world around you. Maybe you are listening to a podcast or the sounds...

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Guest Post

Entrepreneurship – The Ultimate Balancing Act

Editor’s Note: Jason Craparo is the founder and CEO of HIO Social, an app for iOS and Android that allows users to network from wherever. A graduate of Babson College, Jason won two of the institution’s top awards, the Roger W. Babson award given to the best all-around student in a given year, and the Sorenson Scholar, the award given to the top academic student. Before  he left campus, he raised $250,000 from an angel investor for what would become his networking startup.

Disclaimer From The Author: This is what’s working for us right now. It’s only working because of specific goals we’ve set. This is not applicable to everyone and is probably not sustainable long term.

I met my wife in 2009 in San Diego. We lived there for six years without children and for the most part without a care in the world. I was able to volunteer with nonprofits and local government committees. Life was great.

In 2015, Lara and I got married. We decided to relocate to the Philadelphia area. Soon after we welcomed our first child — a son. Then in 2017 we welcomed our second — a daughter, then in 2019 another daughter.

Friends and strangers alike have always joked that I must be exhausted having three children under 5 years old and running a startup. 

Many ask for advice on work/life balance. I usually don’t think about it, but it’s an interesting concept and not a topic one you find many books or blueprints for. 

Is There Such A Thing As Work/Life Balance?

What does it look like to be good at work and life? The truth is, to achieve balance 100% of the time is not practical, but sticking to priorities is something entirely doable. 

I knew when we had our first child, that I couldn’t let my career get in the way of my being a great father. 

I didn’t have a father growing up, so this was my mindset from the start. Being present was a big one because for the first few years of the company. I was the only person in the company, which meant if anything was getting done, I was the one doing it. I knew I’d have to evolve as a professional and a parent in order to be the best CEO, husband, and father I could be.

Entrepreneurship is a grind. The moment you take capital from an outside entity, your definition of success is limited to one single event in the future that may or may not happen: a successful exit (sale or an IPO).  Meaning you sell the company to another company for more money than you took in from investors, or you go public and your investors can cash out to some extent. 

The work never stops, never slows, only gets increasingly more important as you take on more and more capital, hire employees, and get your product or service into the hands of your customers. 

There are no awards for 2nd place in business. You either succeed at it or you don’t. 

A System To Balance Work & Life

I’ve worked out a system that is by no means the best, but it has allowed me to thrive at home and at work. I’ve tried all types of strategies and techniques, and failed many times to achieve this “work/life balance.” 

The system is based on priorities. Family first! In a world where the divorce rates for entrepreneurs is almost 50%, how can entrepreneurs keep their marriage, their family, and their future intact? It’s tough out there. Finances, work stress, lack of balance… they all contribute to this divorce rate. 

For the first few years, entrepreneurs don’t make a lot of money. Building a business requires you to put money back into the business, which can make spouses very uncomfortable. Likewise, many entrepreneurs get married before they start their business. 

Spouses didn’t sign up for entrepreneurship, the entrepreneur did, but the spouse ends up feeling the stress just as much as the entrepreneur. The spouse is left with the smallest sliver of time from an entrepreneur and that can easily lead to resentment. 

A Need For More Hours… How I Do It

About a year ago, out of necessity to get more hours in the day, I found the schedule that works best for my family. When we wake up in the morning, it’s breakfast, packing lunches, getting the kids dressed and ready for the day; and then dad usually does the drop offs. 

It’s a great way for me to start my day –  playing songs and laughing with my kiddos in the car and sending them off. The moment I get home, I work straight until 5pm, leaving my desk only to use the restroom and grab food, which I eat over my desk. 

At 5pm we gather the kids and I take a break from work. We all eat dinner together as a family at the table. After we eat, we play with the kids, have bath time, stories, and put them to bed. We all go to bed together… only I don’t go to sleep. 

Once my family is asleep, I head back to my office and start my “night shift.” I usually work from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., which is particularly helpful because there is no one awake and no interruptions. Sometimes it’s earlier; midnight or 1 a.m., and sometimes it’s later; 3 a. m., 4 a.m., etc., and then start back in the morning again. 

This time schedule allows me to be present with my children almost every moment they are in our home. Also, we moved my mom near us and she babysits every Friday night so my wife and I can have a standing date night to connect and enjoy each other’s company. 

It’s not perfect, it doesn’t always work out the way I’ve described: emergency meetings come up in the evenings while the children are home, deadlines need to be met, kids get sick, travel for work, etc. But for the most part it’s been working quite nicely. 

Prioritizing Not Just Family But Work

I prioritize not only my time with my family but also my attention and my efforts. 

As unprofessional as it may seem, my children sometimes make cameos on my software demos, they’ve been to meetings I’ve had with clients (I signed our biggest client while my son was sleeping in a stroller next to me in the office), they have been to investor get togethers, and of course they say hello to my team on group calls when they’re home from school. We don’t try to hide them, per se, we just have children, it’s par for the course. 

With All This Has Come Success

We’ve now raised a total of $2.5 million dollars from 11 different investors. Our team has grown from 1 to 14, with six internal sales and marketing folks and eight software developers through a partner firm. We are now one of the fastest growing event networking companies in the world. Our products are live, we have achieved product-market fit, have exclusive two-year contracts with the world’s largest networking companies and have paying customers.

The Six Simple Tips

I am confident that our business would have failed a long time ago if I didn’t do and follow the following simple tips. Here they are in order of importance. 

  1. Choose the right partner for the journey. I’m very lucky to have my wife in my life. To make entrepreneurship and children work, you need the help of a superhero much stronger than yourself. I have that in my wife, Lara, a full time Clinical Research Associate. She is the CEO of our house and the reason the system works and the reason our company still exists. You could not find a harder worker, a more loving mother, or a more supportive person anywhere in the world. 
  2. Prioritize family over work, there is no work/life balance. It’s tough… the meetings, the emails, crunching out work, building your product, selling it, marketing, networking, events, bookkeeping, producing results… people needing you constantly. I get it, but I’ve heard way too many people tell me “you’re going to miss these days” or “they grow up fast, hold them now” to let these wonderful moments with my kiddos slip away while I’m tied to a desk.
  3. Choose the right investors for the journey. I could not have asked for better, more supportive investors. My investors have believed in both the product and me from the start and they understand the grind that I go through. They encourage me, cheer me, push me, push back on me, and are always there as a sounding board and thought partner. They know I have children, and most of them have children, and they want me to be there for my kids. They themselves have a strong belief in tip #2 above. 
  4. Work your ass off. Your family is prioritized, your investors are onboard, so what now? Use the precious, finite time you have and crush your goals. Work on only the tasks that will move your goals forward. No games, no excuses, no crutches, no bitching.. just work. Work like someone’s trying to take it all away from you. People may be smarter than you, have more capital than you, be further along than you, but time is the great equalizer. No one can tell you what time to wake up, what time to go to bed, or limit how hard you work in between. It’s all you.
  5. Create a work system that works for you. I work from home – Zero commute. Everything I need right here. All our employees and partners are remote. This allows me to pull the best talent from anywhere in the world. We invest in software that helps us do our job easier and allows for face-to-face interactions. I’ve been to almost all my children’s doctors’ appointments, and every single school function from casual “cookies with dad” functions to Halloween parties and more. I never regret anything because I’m always there. Always there for my family, always there for my company. I live up to every single obligation because I commit to far fewer things these days. Which leads me to my last tip: 
  6. Say no to almost everything else. To achieve this work/life balance people talk about is a losing proposition. I recommend you don’t try. Prioritization is key, and prioritize family first. Entrepreneurs are in high demand. People want to you speak, teach, mentor, coach, attend, visit, and give. Don’t let them take from you. Do only what you can in the context of this list, and please say no to the rest. People will understand. You’ll never remember the crowd, the class, or the event. I’m a big believer in being where you need to be, and for many of us parents, that’s home. 

I no longer actively serve on any non-profit boards, no Government commissions, no Rotary Club, no service programs, no formal volunteering engagements. But I still help people all the time, both smaller and larger engagements, but only when I truly can. 

I teach at local universities a few times a year, I attend some functions when I can, and I mentor a handful of other startups when it works out and I intend to do more when my children are older.

Most of the time I’m busy with my three beautiful children or working my butt off trying to bring my company closer to an exit. 

All with no regrets.

Top 10

Weekly Top Ten #3

It’s the first full week of February and according to Punxsutawney Phil Spring is fast approaching. To celebrate (and like we do every Friday), here are my Top 10 finds for this past week.

  1. How to Change Your Off-Facebook Activity Settings (EFF)
  2. The Biggest Apple Maps Change Is One You Can’t See (Wired)
  3. SEO for 2020 (Moz)
  4. Jimmy Iovine Knows Music and Tech. Here’s Why He’s Worried. (NYTimes)
  5. Apple Engineers Propose Standardized Format for SMS One-Time Passcodes (Mac Rumors)
  6. Can synthetic media drive new content experiences? (BBC)
  7. These corporations are quietly bankrolling Congress’ top climate denier (Popular Info)
  8. The Earn It Act: How To Ban End-To-End Encryption Without Actually Banning It (Center for Internet & Society)
  9. How startups die from their addiction to paid marketing (Andrew Chen)
  10. A New Tech Manifesto (Baratunde Thurston)

Do you have something interesting we should know about? Email us


Paywalls, Advertising, And No Good Solution

I recently wrote an article, when Insights on Tech was strictly a newsletter about how paywalls not done right really anger me.

I called out a few publications doing it wrong. (The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Digiday and Wired). I also pointed out how the New York Times and the Washington Post do it much better.

The more I think about the paywall model vs. the advertising model, the more I realize there is no prefect solution. As a publication you’re going to anger people with ads and pop-ups and you’re going to anger them if you put you content behind a paywall in any sort of way.

It’s a lose/lose. But ultimately you as the producer of the content need to get compensated for the time it takes to write the content and get it out to the masses.

So where do we stand? I’m not really sure. Insights on Tech has a Patreon and those who support us get perks. But, my goal is to still provide good content that is widely accessible as well.

So I’m going to explore more and I will report back.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts? Post your thoughts in the comments below. I’ve left this post free to all so have at it.

Photo by brotiN biswaS from Pexels


End-To-End Encryption Is Under Bipartisan Fire

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End-to-end encryption keeps your messages, documents, and files private and out of the prying eyes of strangers and the government. It has many good uses as well as some nefarious ones. There is currently a bipartisan push in the U.S. Senate to break end-to-end encryption citing the more nefarious uses and ignoring the beneficial reasons for it. The U.S. government claims that bad actors use these services to plan terrorist attacks and do other bad things. To some extent this is true. But the politicians are missing a critical piece of the argument. There are many legitimate uses for...

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Cookies Make You Fat, Slow and Dumb As A Marketer

Editors Note: This is the first of the Monday guest posts. Martin, aka “Marty,” is a jack of all trades. Having been in the technology space for 35 years, Marty has seen it all when it comes to tech. Martin is the VP of Advisory Services at Ness Digital Engineering and the studio manager at Stacks Media Space an audio/visual recording space located in the heart of Doylestown Borough in historic Bucks County, PA.

The Digital Cookies As We Know It Is Going Away.

3rd Party Cookies are not going to be supported in future versions of Chrome.  

It’s the end of the automated, fraud-ridden, creepy stalking, society-destroying junk-space that is programmatic AdTech, right? Well, yes, to a degree. But what about “legitimate marketers?” I hear people say.  “We are a <insert sympathetic adjective> company and we rely on digital advertising for our revenue!”   

That’s OK, you didn’t say you rely on (digital) cookies for your revenue. So, you’re OK. Take a different view. 

Cookies were aptly named – having some is good but making them the main part of your diet will leave you bloated, slow and sick.  

Get back to the basics.  

Are you selling a good product or service? Are you keeping your customers happy? Are you spending on a good mix of “classic” and social media marketing? Are you investing in creating and publishing great digital content? Are you keeping track of what’s going on in your industry and sector?  

These are all basics, and for the most part, you don’t need cookies to do them.  

Yes, 3rd party cookies helped with some of the ad placement and tracking for automated programmatic advertising, but remember – the programmatic digital ad world is full of fraud so relying on that cookie-dependent model may not be the best way to spend your money anyway.  

Put the cookies on the shelf. Start working harder for your clicks and sales. It’s worth the effort.


News Pay Walls

Update 2/6/2020

It’s not lost on me that I’m now producing my content behind a paywall. My goal is to provide content for those who want to support me as well as the masses. I hope my endeavors will be considered like the Times and the Post and not like the WSJ and the FT. As always, I encourage your comments.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

With the state of journalism in flux. Many news organizations have taken to the paywall as a solution to garner subscribers from their readership.

Many of these papers do it quite well. The New York Times and the Washington Post to name just two of them. Some do it terribly — The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. These last two don’t let you read without subscribing.

The Hybrid Model

Some online publications, like Business Insider and TechCrunch have a hybrid model, which seems to be working. They release quite a bit of of stories for free, but put the deeper, more in-depth articles behind premium memberships. This make sense. The more in depth, the better the content “should” be. And therefore should be put at a premium.

Missing The Point

What I’ve noticed is that some outlets are just missing the point of letting some of their content out for free.

Digiday and Wired are two great examples. These two, and I know there are a lot more out there, give readers a certain number of articles a month to read before subscribing. Then they block them from reading anymore without a subscription. This in my opinion misses the boat completely. Why punish the reader for wanting to read your content?

In the case of Digiday. I went so far as to unsubscribe from their newsletter. I did this for two reasons. One, because of how they approached asking me to subscribe. At no point did they make it clear that I had a limited number of “free” articles to read. Second their subscription price was way too high for what I needed from them. I liked the content they were putting out, but the price point was just way to high. Also with subscriptions galore, they making the cut for me. In the case of Wired, they have a low price point to subscribe and well, guess what? I did exactly that.

Another thing that irked me about Digiday as they were trying both the limited articles model and the premium content model. Some content was always behind a wall for premium subscribers. That made sense until they limited access to the “free content.”

I don’t know what the solution is, but I feel like there’s got to be subscription fatigue out there. Everything is a subscription now-a-days. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But there are good ways of doing it, bad ways of doing it, and ugly ways of doing it.