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Date posted: September 30, 2013

My article about how Paragon Software Systems’ route planning tool helps dispatchers at George’s appeared in the September issue of Inbound Logistics. This B2B case study examines how Paragon’s scheduling solution helps poutry supplier George’s deliver meaty efficiency gains.

 

Date posted: September 25, 2013

A development in web addressing that occurred last year hasn’t received a great amount of trade press coverage, but the implication for web-based marketing— B2B and B2C both— may be quite significant. A series of articles in the Washington Post have covered this well.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that regulates the naming of Web addresses, has opened up the generic top level domain name string (gTLD)— what appears to the right of the dot in an URL (e.g., .com, .net, .edu)— to include hundreds of new endings which may relate directly to what a company does or brand represents.

ICANN has expanded domain names before, but, as Brian Winterfeldt (an attorney for Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, DC) notes in a Washington Post article by Catherine Ho, this is the first time there is a large-scale opportunity for companies to apply for whatever they wanted. (Winterfeldt has helped companies apply for gTLDs like .coach for the handbag manufacturer and .hbo for the cable channel.)

As the article notes:

Having exclusive control of a domain would give a company an edge over competitors by claiming a space to market products or services that their competitors cannot enter. If the parties can’t agree amongst themselves, it will go to an auction process before ICANN, and the highest bidder will win.

The proceeds of the auction go to ICANN, which has already made $350 million from the applications that cost $185,000 each to submit. According to Winterfeldt, who is also a member of ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency, a group within the organization that advocates for brand owners, there is no limit to how much a company can bid.

Fallout from the development is being seen on multiple fronts.

One area is in brand protection, where companies are moving to protect their brands as they new domain names become available. As Ho points out in a subsequent Post article: “The race to snap up a fresh batch of Internet addresses is spawning a new round of disputes as businesses scramble to secure exclusive rights to words that represent their brand — or at least prevent their competitors from doing so.”

A good example of this is Dish Network’s (Dish) attempt to claim .direct as a gTLD. DirectTV challenged that bid, claiming that its use by Dish would confuse consumers seeking their services. Their challenge was upheld by the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which rejected Dish’s attempt to claim the tag.

Among Internet industry officials, many are raising a red flag at this expansion of domains, contending that it could cause widespread disruptions. Craig Timberg has addressed this on the Post’s Technology section:

Particularly troubling is the possibility of widespread “name collisions” that could happen when domains used by internal corporate computer systems — such as “.corp” or “.home” — get assigned to the Web more broadly. This could cause systems to fail, blocking access to e-mail or other internal programs, and also could open sensitive information to theft, some experts say.

Timberg notes that ICANN and its supporters dispute this, saying that the potential problems have been long understood and will be resolved before new domains are approved. He quotes ICANN’s chief security officer, who says that as the new domains will be released gradually, over the course of months, there is ample time to manage problems if they arise.

For businesses of all sizes, it behooves consideration of what is coming. Webmarketing continues to become increasingly strategic, and the possibility of promoting one’s brand— or having it attacked— via web domain will give many pause.

“What’s in a name?” The Bard would perhaps be astonished at how many dollars and hours are being thrown at that question in today’s digital age. Some are going to come out of this smelling sweet; others not so much.

Date posted: September 19, 2013

A recent post by Timothy B. Lee on the Washington Post’s The Switch blog details the new breakthrough by researchers at the University of Michigan which enables scanning of the Internet— yes, every address on the entire Internet— in just 44 minutes using an ordinary server. At the Usenix security conference in Washington, the research team announced ZMap, the new tool that enables this feat. (Previously, the process took two to three months.)

For a technical explanation of how ZMap does this, we suggest that you go to Lee’s post, but what caught our eye was some of things the Michigan team was able to glean from a scan. Lee cites four of these, two of which are below:

  • The increasingly encrypted Web More and more Web sites are using the encrypted HTTPS version of the Web’s fundamental protocol. How quickly are organizations switching? In the past, getting even a single estimate was a slow and expensive process. But ZMap not only answers the question in under an hour, but through regular scanning it can track the growing popularity of HTTPS over time. Using ZMap, the Michigan researchers found that over the last year, HTTPS use by the top 1 million Web sites has increased by about 23 percent, and the number of HTTPS overall increased by almost 20 percent. 
  • How
    hurricanes damage the Internet 
    When major natural disasters strike, they can force computers offline. That provides a clever way to measure the extent of damage. From Oct. 29-31 of last year, as Hurricane Sandy was pounding the East Coast of the United States, the researchers conducted Internet-wide scans every two hours. After linking IP addresses to geographic locations, they could observe which areas saw the most severe disruptions. 

For us, the story was one of technology catching up to technology, or perhaps of how zealous we humans are in searching out the unknown. Sometimes the Internet seems to be expanding at universe-like dimensions, but ZMap, like the Hubble telescope, shows our doggedness in devising means of understanding what at first apprehension seems almost
unfathomable.

Date posted: September 11, 2013

In an interesting post on the Fast Company blog, Lisa Lacour calls out five ways to craft a killer B2B content marketing strategy— without creating any content.

While she acknowledges that original content sets the tone for content marketing efforts, she points to two factors that mitigate the angst that often accompanies the idea of that creation: one, that the investment of time and money it takes to create great content doesn’t have to be a barrier to entry for businesses; and two, that the sheer amount of free content online makes activities like curation arguably more important than content creation itself. “The key is the way you distribute and supplement (original content) with other, lower touch tactics,” she says. Here are five she recommends as among the best:

  1. Seek Professional Help While it’s important that at least one person in your organization is creating content, outsourcing some of the work is an easy way to supplement your overall output and incorporate new perspectives. Consider adding the skills of a professional B2B writer to augment your internal resources.
  2. Repurpose Earned Media If you’re already investing in PR or getting coverage in the press, you should absolutely be getting extra mileage out of media placements. An incredibly easy way to do this is by including coverage on your blog (check the original publication’s reposting guidelines first). Also, you can drive traffic to it through content recommendation tools that will link to placements on other relevant sites.
  3. Curate, Curate, Curate The role of curation is becoming increasingly important as the sheer amount of information continues to proliferate. As a business, you’re in an ideal position to help your customers make sense of all the content on the web, particularly if you’re in a highly specialized market.
  4. Partner Up The basic idea: get guaranteed eyeballs for your content by leveraging someone else’s audience. As more brands and businesses get involved in content marketing, a content ecosystem has developed that opens the door for creative partnerships among non-competitive businesses. Cross-promotion through social media and email marketing, content sharing, and exchanging of ad space are all examples of potential partnerships that can help expose your content to a new audience.
  5. Crowdsource It Similar to earned media, you should be incorporating crowdsourcing into your content marketing strategy if you’re already investing in social media. Storify is a great tool for this purpose— it enables you to turn social interactions into beautifully designed content. So conversations with your Facebook or Twitter followers can easily be repackaged for another channel.

These are excellent ideas. Send us an email if you’d like some more from our B2B content creation experience and perspective.

Date posted: September 9, 2013

My article about how the CDC transports temperature-sensitive flu vaccines to developing countries appeared in the August issue of Inbound Logistics. The case study discusses CDC’s selection of UPS to ship the vaccines and the strong working relationship between Walgreens and UPS.

This is my fifth article for Inbound Logistics in 2013.