Internet Marketing – Ensure Your Business Survives the Recession

Dollars are scarce in today’s economy. Phone book advertisements, radio spots, billboards, and other forms of advertisements have not become any cheaper in recent times, and in fact, costs are on the rise. In uncertain financial times, it can be very uncomfortable to sign a contract binding your business into a predefined term that commits you to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars over the next several months to a year. With no guaranteed results and no way to effectively measure return on investment (ROI), most business owners would prefer not to be bound to such contracts, especially since such contracts usually include stiff exit penalties for early termination. But what are the alternatives?

We live in an Internet world today, and most people are familiar with finding what they want through search services like Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. As consumers, we’re all familiar with the concept of typing a few words in the search bar and clicking the search button to explore our options. As business owners, however, the process on how to achieve a prominent placement in the search engine listings is often a murky, undefined, seemingly “random” process. Additionally, it can be very confusing when telemarketers and solicitors call on your business with various conflicting packages, promising to deliver “guaranteed” results but at a steep price tag. Many times, the lip service is gone once you sign the contract.

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Using the Internet to advertise your business is a viable way to cut costs, focus marketing efforts, and deliver incredible results, but there are a few key points that you must know in order to protect your interests. Here are a few deceptive practices and myths to be careful about if you consider marketing your business online:

Deceptive Practice #1: Guaranteed Placement

There is no such thing as “guaranteed” placement on any of the major search engines. I wish there were, but if you think about it, such guarantees don’t make sense. It’s always possible that someone else might be willing to pay more for higher placement in the sponsored links area of search engine results. In the organic (or natural rankings) area of the search results, there is only one “number one” spot, so if someone offers you a “guarantee” that they can get your website to the number one spot, you’d have to question how they can possibly do that for your business when other unscrupulous sales people are making the same guarantees elsewhere. And what if they approach another business in the same industry as yours? Are they guaranteeing your competitor the #2 spot? I doubt it. What about the sales person four states away that is pitching their prospective client that they “guarantee” the number one spot? How can that be? In short, it can’t. Individual telephone or marketing companies may own their own, propriety search services in which they may guarantee placement within their own listings, but you must consider how narrow or wide-reaching their services encompass, and whether the price is worth the exposure for the number of people who search through them versus the major search engines. Regardless of how many angles someone tries to play it, there is no way to ethically guarantee a particular placement on the major search engines. If someone makes such a claim, show them the door.

Deceptive Practice #2: “We work closely with the search engines”

It sounds great, and it would be quite the cozy situation if it were true, but again, no one has the “inside scoop” on how to tip the scales in your favor by “being in bed with” the search engines. Every professional, competent Internet marketing provider keeps up-to-date on current changes, but to say “working closely with” is, at best, misleading. If someone gives you a sales pitch that they have an inside track with Google, Yahoo!, MSN or any other search service, they’re blowing smoke and trying to “sell” you on a relationship that simply can’t exist. Why can’t it exist? Because search engines would go out of business if they compromised the integrity of their ever-changing algorithms. (Their “algorithm” is the formula they use to rank and score websites based on weighted criteria, and it is “super-double-top-secret”). True, experienced search engine companies stay very familiar with updated materials and guidelines that search engine companies make public, but nobody has the executive privilege of calling up a particular search engine and saying “Hey, I’ve got a client that needs to be ranked number one for a particular keyword. Can you ‘hook me up?'” Anyone who says that “they’re in bed with the search engines” is making promises in the dark.

Deceptive Practice#3: Flat Rate Offers for Search Engine Submissions

Buyer beware. You may receive solicitations in the mail that appear to be billed but the fine print reads, “This is a solicitation. This is not a bill. You are under no obligation to pay this amount.” Elsewhere in the correspondence, in much more conspicuous print, you will see the words, “Remit the following amount by (some date).” It’s a legal scam. How can it be legal, yet still be a scam? Quite easily, actually. They will deliver EXACTLY what they advertise, which is often some number of keyword phrases submitted to some number of search engines on some periodic basis over the next year or so. If they do what they promise they’ll do, it’s legal. However, submitting a website to search engines without properly preparing it (called “optimizing”) for submission and marketing to the search engines produces virtually zero results for you. Therefore, taking your money for something that will knowingly do nothing for you make it a “scam,” at least in my opinion.

Deceptive Practice #4: Using a Name to Define Itself

This is a common ploy that capitalizes on the unsuspecting and the unknowing. It’s pretty typical (although not guaranteed) that a company will appear in the number one spot on search engines when using the name of the company as the search term. It makes sense that a company’s name will be the best fit for search results when searching using the company’s name. (Sounds redundant, right?) Do not let anyone fool you by telling you that they worked hard for the money to achieve great results by showing you that your company comes up prominently when you search for yourself. Such results often happen almost “automatically,” with no effort at all. Plus, how many people really search for you by company name? The goal in search engine optimization and marketing is to get your company “found” by searching for your products, services, manufacturers, etc.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Marketing (SEM) is like the Wild West. Technology has expanded much faster than laws have been able to keep pace, and therefore there are plenty of opportunities for fraud and deception. The burden of maintaining integrity in the system has fallen largely on the individual search service companies like Google, Yahoo! and MSN, which explains why those companies need to continually update and refine their algorithms to keep the riff-raff out. In true “Western Movie” style, the terms to describe “good guy” practices is dubbed “white hat SEO/SEM” while the “bad guy” practices are labeled “black hat SEO/SEM.” It sounds over dramatic, but the “good guys” engage in industry best-practices and adhere to ethical approaches, whereas the “bad guys” try to subvert the search engine algorithms and are usually the ones who engage in deceptive practices while preying on the ignorance of unsuspecting business owners.

Someday, there will undoubtedly be legal controls in place to support SEO/SEM malpractice lawsuits, much like how consumers are protected from medical or legal malpractice. I look forward to that day because it will “clean up” the industry. As it stands now, the search engine optimization and marketing industry is the only one I can think of in which:

  • there is no way to ethically guarantee results
  • SEO/SEM practitioners can collect money with the disclaimer of “no guarantees”, and
  • after collecting money for no-guarantee work, SEO/SEM companies can legitimately deliver “no results”.

Of course, reputable SEO/SEM companies that engage in fair practices will likely take measures to make a happy customer, but the overall big picture allows for a lot of dubious practices in the market place. The few “bad apples” that leave a trail of destruction spoil it for the bunch who are honest, white hat SEO/SEM service providers.

How can you protect yourself? How can you be reasonably assured of not being ripped off? First and foremost, get references. Secondly, check those references. And finally, apply common sense to the situation, resisting the urge to take the bait of anything that seems “too good to be true.” Any company that offers to provide you with SEO/SEM services should be able to provide you with qualified references. Even so, be sure to contact their actual clients to ensure a couple of things:

  • is the company easy to work with?
  • are the clients happy with their results?
  • are the results producing traffic?
  • would the clients recommend the company?

Remember, the level of service you get will differ based on what you pay. SEO/SEM efforts, done properly, are based on data but are somewhat subjective. In other words, there is more that one way to achieve positive results, and different SEO specialists can achieve comparable outcomes by employing different techniques and strategies. This often makes it difficult to compare “apples to apples” as a business owner when you are trying to determine the best company to hire for your search engine project. Here is another scenario to consider:

Let’s assume you have a typical seven or eight-page website in a moderately competitive market. You can interview three separate companies regarding the same SEO/SEM project, and you may receive three dramatically different prices for the same job. One bid, for example, may come in at $200 to optimize your site, while the others come in at $1200 and $3000 respectively. Is the $200 bid the best value? Is the $3000 bid overpriced? Not necessarily. All three salespeople can look you in the eye, shake your hand, and tell you that they will optimize your site for their respective prices. The confusing part is that they are each being honest with you.

The person who quotes you $200 to optimize your site may do so by doing some cursory research to select a few keywords, and then use those same keywords on each page of your website while also adjusting basic information in your web page titles. Can that person legitimately say that your site has been optimized? From the “something is better than nothing” department, yes. In such a scenario, your site has been optimized– to a degree.

In comparison, the $3000 bid would likely be much more thorough of a job. There may be several hours of detailed keyword research conducted, including an in-depth analysis of each of your top competitors’ websites to define the best quality words and phrases to use. Then each page of your site might be individually optimized using specific sets of keywords to maximize the effectiveness of each keyword, including changes to the textual content on each page to include strategic placement of keyword phrases throughout. Additionally, pictures on the site might be annotated with descriptive labels (called alt-tags) on each page, and additional characteristics involving fonts, links, descriptions, etc. may be adjusted to refine the page characteristics so that search engines “smile upon” the website when your site is indexed. Certainly, you can be confident that your website was optimized in this case.

The individual that quoted you $1200 would likely involve something in the middle, perhaps with less market research and a universal selection of keywords on each page, but still including alt-tags and other content adjustments to improve the website’s merit with the search engines.

In all three instances, your site would be optimized. The difference would be the level of detail involved with the job. I wish it were just that simple, but the story continues…

It’s true that you can do too little to achieve any worthwhile results. For example, if your budget is only $50 to optimize a website in a highly competitive market, spending the $50 on optimization would probably do nothing for you, and it would be better to take the money and treat yourself to a nice dinner. It’s also true that you can wastefully spend too much money without seeing any improvement. For example, if you do achieve page 1, number 1 results in the organic rankings on Google consistently with a $200 budget for a particular set of keywords, increasing your budget to pay for more marketing efforts using those same keywords won’t yield any better results. (i.e., you can’t get better than #1.) In between the “too little” and “too much” areas, there is a very large “gray area” of spending that will produce varying results in varying time frames.

Optimization is a part of marketing. It is the preparatory work to ensure that your site is ready to be promoted, much like how producing a television commercial is the preparatory work in getting the commercial ready to be aired on TV to the public. The other part of the equation is the actual marketing of the site itself. Marketing the site, which involves submitting it to search engines and then promoting the site on an ongoing basis, is akin to broadcasting the television commercial. If you only air the commercial once, you might see some short-term results from it, but in the long term, the money spent to produce the commercial would be wasted because people would forget about it. Likewise, if you only market your website for one month, your site will not gain visibility in the long-term. Search engine marketing is an ongoing process. You need to establish a budget for it, just as you would for a phone book ad, magazine ad, radio spot, etc.

The good news: Actively promoting your website to the public is much less costly than traditional methods of advertisement, as long as it is done correctly. The end result of effective SEM is that you receive focused, pre-qualified buyers for your goods and/or services, and you can measure your ROI by reviewing which keywords are working, how long your visitors stayed on your site, knowing which pages they visited, and seeing when and where they left your website.

The bad news: There are obviously a lot of “small parts” to the SEO/SEM puzzle which poses a “choking hazard” to the non-technical business owner. Consequently, the process of actually getting the job done can be confusing, frustrating, and (for the unsuspecting) expensive. This is where a little bit of information and education can save you a whole lot of grief and time.

What most people do not realize is that the quality of your website’s optimization (the SEO part of marketing) often directly affects the costs of the ongoing marketing costs for the site. For example, when Google indexes your website (which means that it “takes inventory” of your site’s contents), it assigns a quality score to the merit of your keywords based on the content and construction of your site. If you participate in a marketing campaign using a pay-per-click service like Google Adwords, the higher your quality score, generally, the lower the cost per click for a given keyword selection. This means that you can end up paying less per keyword than your competition, but actually achieve higher placement in the sponsored links area of the search results.

In the example scenario above, the $200 bid for your job would probably not yield the same quality score impact as the $3000 job. However, if your budget doesn’t support the more expense, detailed work, then it may be more comfortable for you to pay a slightly higher price per keyword (in a pay-per-click campaign), but spend less money on the optimization efforts for your site.

In many ways, you can compare SEO work with putting a heating system in your home. To equip your home with a heating system, you can pay more up front for a geothermal system, and realize a monthly cost savings over a long period of time. Or, you can put in a heat pump for less money up front, but your electric bill will be somewhat higher on a monthly basis. Either system will heat your home, but the break even point will be very different depending on the choice you make. Detailed versus general SEO works much the same way, and the variables that you must consider are 1) when do you want to start seeing results, and 2) how much do you want to spend monthly or quarterly on an ongoing basis?

The key to remember is that your website should first be optimized (to whatever degree you can comfortably afford) prior to marketing it. There are some search engines (and search related services) that will place your site (or a business listing that represents your company) in their search results for a “raw dollar amount” without your site being optimized, but such services can typically only do so within their own service networks. If your customers generally do their searches via major search engines instead of the phone company or private industry search sites, then the dollars you spend for top placement within a marketing service’s proprietary system may not be worth the cost.

What NOT to say: When discussing your project with a search engine optimization and/or marketing consultant, avoid asking the question, “What placement will I get on the search engines if I hire you?” It reveals that you aren’t familiar with how search engines work, and it tips your hand that they might have “low hanging fruit” to make a sale. Of course, if you are savvy to how search engines work (and the limitations that SEO/SEM companies are subject to in achieving results), then asking this question may be a qualifier/disqualifier for the sales person who solicits you, depending on their response.

What to ask: It’s reasonable (and shows insight) to ask an SEO/SEM consultant how involved their SEO efforts will be for the price. You may not have a good feel for what a reasonable budget is, so you can ask them to provide a “Good / Better / Best” proposal that outlines what they would include for different levels of optimization, so you can make a “best fit” budget decision for your business. With regards to marketing efforts, ask about the number of blog posts and/or article publications that can be expected for the money (for organic marketing), or what keyword selections (and their corresponding popularity demand) would be used for pay-per-click advertising.

I’m a firm believer that a company’s SEO/SEM strategy needs to be customized to their specific market (local, regional, national, etc) and industry within that market. To illustrate the point, the roofing repair market in Seattle, WA, is much different than the roofing repair market in New Orleans, LA. In both cases, companies in roofing repair would likely focus on local search results within 50 to 70 miles of the business location. Priorities, word choice, and economic factors in each market will have a different impact on the best choices for keywords to use in each. Yes, of course, there will be some overlap. But in the big picture, the competition within each market is limited to the local area, so there would be a much more narrow approach to addressing the competition in order to achieve the best search engine results.

Comparatively, a health and nutrition company that wants to be competitive nationally for vitamin sales would involve a much different strategy in achieving desired results. The amount of time and effort, and consequently the costs involved with doing the job right will be completely different.

Therefore, if you are presented with a one-size-fits-none “package” deal to promote your business at some flat price, you might think twice about the quality of results you can expect for the money, given that many companies are “very good” at living up to the no-guaranteed-results nature of search engine marketing. Spend your money wisely. Ask questions. Get references. Check them. There is no “free lunch”, and unfortunately in the search engine arena, you may not get what you think you pay for.

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Qualifying Your SEO/SEM Provider

The biggest challenge you will face in achieving positive results via Internet marketing will be finding a capable, competent, ethical, experienced search engine company. In your interview process, if the sales person seems more interested in pitching you on their product rather than learning about your needs, beware. If you feel pressured into “closing the deal” by time-sensitive “now or never” discounts, or if you don’t get straight answers to your questions, walk away. Sometimes the right answer to a question is “it depends,” but such an answer should be followed by a reasonable, understandable explanation. Your prospective search engine optimization and marketing provider should be more interested in providing you with an education than in taking your money.

What to Expect if it’s Done Right

Again, based on the ethical issue that no one can guarantee placement, your best indicator will be checking out references from different potential providers to get a reasonable assurance that a particular company has delivered for customers in the past. A proven track record is a good indicator that you have found a reputable, reliable company. Why is this so important? Because you will have to trust them to look out for your company’s best interests in an ever-changing, no-guarantee environment, so you want to have some peace of mind that you aren’t overpaying for their service, and they will not be using your business as a guinea pig to experiment. By talking with their references, you can also assess whether a client’s prominent search engine placement is short-lived or consistent. Short-term and intermittent placement on search engine results may be (but not necessarily) an indicator of black hat SEO techniques, rather than white hat best practices that yield more consistent results. Realize that there is little to no correlation between what one customer paid for their SEO/SEM work versus what another customer might have paid. The amount of money it costs to do the job is typically tied to the amount of time involved, and it will vary widely based on industry, market, and each client’s goals.

All things considered, when you find an SEO/SEM provider you are comfortable with, trust, and can afford, you can expect your costs to be a fraction of what you pay for traditional advertisement while yielding better results. This allows you to cut your advertising costs while increasing revenues. As more revenues flow in, meaning better cash flow, you can pare back your traditional advertising (meaning, reduce but not discontinue), and redirect the additional funds to additional internet methods for compounding effects.

Budget permitting, you can even use the Internet to measure ROI on your traditional marketing methods. For example, by securing multiple domain names (which are inexpensive), you can target your marketing efforts by individual source (such as billboards, magazines ads, etc.) and measure the traffic from each source. There are many ways to creatively and cost-effectively use the search engine and Internet methods to measure, monitor, adjust and control the marketing success of your business.

How to Lose Money on the Internet

I decided to name this article “how to LOSE money on the Internet” simply because that’s all most of the online money-making programs out there let you do. You lose money when you buy them, and maybe even, like me, when you register a site to put their “winning secrets” into practice. (They say “write about what you know” after all…)

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First off, I can sympathize with the desire to buy one of these ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Who wouldn’t want to make money at home, working when you want and how much you want, with extra cash and time to do all the things that make life great? Taking vacations, staying home with the kids, buying a cottage, going out to dinner whenever you want… Sounds pretty good…

In fact, it sounds SO good to me that I’ve been burned more than once on ‘get rich quick’ schemes. I won’t tell you how many times – it’s too embarrassing. Suffice it to say I’ve been through the grinder more than once. And when I say ‘getting burned’, I’m not just talking about getting my dreams crushed and my soul stepped on… I’m talking about losing money, time, and my faith in humanity…

But, the optimist in me is determined to make something good out of it all. So I’ve put together some rules to keep in mind when you decide to enter the internet world of money-making programs.

The RULES:

The Darker Side.

#1 – No matter what they say, it’s old and outdated.

Think about it. If someone’s telling you exactly how they got rich, it’s because the idea’s time has passed and the author is on to something new. Treat what you see online like the financial pages – by the time it’s in print, it’s old news and the real players have already made their money and moved on.

That’s not to say that there aren’t ways to make money out there… just be realistic about it.

#2 – Paid survey sites are garbage.

I don’t know how the owners of these sites can look themselves in the mirror after promising people “$200/day!” filling in surveys. It’s complete bunk. You can make money, but only very small amounts. There are two primary reasons for this – one, you only get asked to do a survey if you fit into the often very narrow required demographic (e.g. unwed Indian men aged 35-45 living in New Mexico with at least 3 Hyundai’s); and two, you usually get paid less than $5 per survey. So for the 1 or 2 surveys you may actually qualify for, you may be looking at a whopping $10 over a week (or even month). Don’t get scammed – paid survey sites are pretty much useless. (Trust me – I’ve subscribed to 2 of them)

#3 – It costs money to get traffic.

The days of ‘organic’ internet traffic is over. Google, bless their soul, has made it so you actually have to have something IMPORTANT and USEFUL on your site to get listed on a Google search (what a concept). While this is good for us as information consumers, it’s bad for us as internet business people… because even with great, useful information, it can take many months to build up any traffic organically. So we have to buy that traffic, and there’s a variety of ways to do it. But it’s not cheap – it can very easily cost into the $$ thousands per month!

#4 – You’re going to have to work.

Despite what ANY of these programs say, even the best ones, you’re going to have to work. A lot. Sites don’t magically appear, magically get top listings and magically get updated constantly. It takes people (read: you) and hours (read: many, many hours). So unless you have thousands of dollars to pay for people to do everything, be prepared to put a lot of time into any online venture.

The Lighter Side.

#5 – Good info is out there if you can find the source.

Many of the “programs” being offered out there are just copies of one successful idea somebody published a while ago. When a program comes along that actually does work, it gets copied so many times, with the hyperbole being jacked-up each time, that you may only be seeing offers for what are now essentially scams. So find the original if you can, and avoid the copy-cats.

#6 – Be innovative.

The internet’s still a wide-open playing field, where fortunes can be made! Try being unique and innovative. Don’t just copy the old “secrets” (see above). Use your own imagination!

#7 – Be honest.

Some of the “programs” out there are really just instructions for pulling thinly-veiled scams on other people. Like using a great sales pitch to sell a basically worthless program with a money-back guarantee that doesn’t kick in until 30 or 45 days are up. The author is counting on most people forgetting about the guarantee by the time it’s up. While this does unfortunately work at some level, you will never be a real success this way, in business or in life.

#8 – Focus on what you know.

If you focus on a niche area that you know a lot about, you can create a unique competitive advantage that can separate you from the rest. And, it gives you something to market and promotes to help drive traffic. There are still lots of niche opportunities on the internet – don’t be afraid to avoid the herd!

#9 – Take your time.

Fools rush in… in this case, literally. Take the time to plan. Run your ideas by a friend or colleague. Map out your business plan, competitive focus, product/service offering, and site map. Doing so ahead of time will save you money and hours of heartache!

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Okay, so those are my 9 rules. Take them or leave them, but I’m giving them to you so you can avoid making some of the mistakes I’ve made.

So can you still make money online? Yes, you can. $50,000 per month? Probably not. But if you keep your expectations realistic and are prepared to put in the hours, you can make good money on the internet. Remember, if was really as easy as they say, everyone would be doing it.

Examples of “Business Opportunities” From the Internet World

Income Earning Offers By Mail
I send you an unsolicited e-mail and guise it as a business offer. I do my best to make the opportunity sound like a dream come true. I talk about the wonderful house you will own, the expensive car you will drive and the lavish holidays you will be able to afford. Can you but trust me to send a measly amount of ($SUM) so that I can reveal to you the secret.

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This comes in many guises. For example, I fool you into thinking that I have the perfect formula for beating the odds in some gambling venture. Or that I have made many thousands of dollars using this or doing that. You will be surprised to hear me say that all this may, in fact, be true. However, an offer received in this way (i.e. unsolicited mail) has virtually no chance of being genuine. But, if you are really tempted and want to be sure, just do a search on the name or the company. If no name or contact information is given then you can forget it straight away. Most scams of this nature are however clever and they will provide you with this information.

If your search reveals nothing about the contact then forget it. If there are many references to the name or the company, dig a little more to find what people are saying. If all these checks reveal positive results, then the next plan of action is to reply to the mail (this should be standard practice even if you asked to be included on some mailing list) and ask as many questions as possible and wait for a reply. If the reply comes quickly (a day or so), is not an automatic response and all your questions are satisfactorily answered, you can probably go ahead. But never hurry to give your money away.

Income Earning Offers Over The Net
The most notable types of offer you may come across are Home Working, Multilevel Marketing (MLM), Affiliate Programs, Reselling and Surfing for Cash.

Now if you do come across any of these sites, particularly after having done a search engine query, the chances are that you are looking for some kind of opportunity. You are testing the water, as it were. It is the same as looking through the classified section of small adverts in a national or local newspaper. The chances also are that you are looking for a second income or even a complete change of work for whatever reason. You might be fed up with your boss or the pay is too small or the hours are long or the people are unfriendly. Most of us have done the job thing and I think we all know the feeling of how each of those things eats away at your happiness. Whatever your reason is, it means you are vulnerable. You are impressionable, especially if you are relatively new to this sort of thing on the net.

These are not words of discouragement. They are words of caution because you will need to exercise sizeable quantities of it in order to avoid slipping into a scam. The plain reason is that it is often difficult to see the difference between a scam and a genuine offer. However, there are certain signs that you will be well advised to look for.

Let us first try to address some questions that the prospect will almost certainly be asking before I list the danger signs.
In general, people I speak to or converse with on this subject ask me the following questions (often in the order I present them below):

Q1. Is it really possible to earn some kind of income on the net?
A1. The answer is an emphatic YES. The reason for this answer is a direct result of how the question is posed. The word possible is used. So, after some thought, the question is rephrased.

Q2. Can anyone earn some kind of income on the net?
A2. The answer is the same, YES. The question is really no different from the first one. But just to appear a little more sociable, I may add that anyone with patience, a reasonable intelligence, and a natural disposition to hard work can make money on the net. By adding this extra bit, I save the next question which is: “Could I earn some kind of income on the net?”

Q3. How much are we talking about?
A3. Very difficult to say. It depends on a lot of things. First, it depends on what type of activity, what type of business, what type of good or service you are offering. But obviously there are people who are making lots of money and there are those (the majority) who are making very little. The range averages from $30 per month to $20,000 per month.

The answer to question three quickly separates prospects into two categories. The get rich quick people and the I am ready for hard work and to be patient people. So the moral of this story is that if I advise you that you can earn $20,000 per month by working an hour a day, I am not lying to you but I am misleading you. I am giving you the impression that this can be achieved quickly, i.e. within days or weeks or even months of having set up your Internet home-based business. The truth is that all successful people who have made very large amounts of money on the net have spent a lot of time refining, rebuilding, changing, learning, reading and gaining valuable experience in the process.

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Consider a business on the high street. A small grocery shop does not make as much money as a supermarket. Even if the volume of customers were the same, people would come in, look around, not find what they want and make their way to the nearest supermarket. The point is, any business, even an Internet one, has to be built gradually. Your customer base has to be established, your reputation has to grow, the popularity of your site has to flourish and you have to keep working at it (even when you think you have the perfect site). The good news is that if you adhere to all of the above, the work really does get less and less.

 

The Current Status of World Hunger

Where does starvation exist in the world today? What are some of the causes of world hunger? Are citizens of developed countries donating monetarily to the ongoing relief efforts? In this article, I will address these questions with the hope that by creating an understanding of the current world hunger situation, morally conscious individuals will do their part in contributing to an eradication of this unseen suffering.

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It is a well-known fact that there is enough food in the world to feed every human being on earth. Sadly, malnutrition and hunger still afflict one out of every seven people in the world today. Or, from a slightly different statistical perspective, the current world population is 4,712,200,000. The number of malnourished is 797,900,000. Therefore 17% of the world population is currently malnourished or starving. No matter how you examine the issue, a current crisis is at hand. Why is this so?

The causes of starvation are complex, but there are some common threads that seem to be associated with this problem. First and foremost, starvation is caused by poverty. To address the problem of world hunger then the problem of global poverty must be addressed. Therefore, the question that we should examine is what are the causes of poverty. A thorough discussion on the causes of global poverty is outside the purview of this article. Entire textbooks have been written on the subject. For our discussion, it suffices to say that one of the major causes of poverty is governments pursuing policies that inhibit self-sufficiency.

Areas of starvation are also characterized by persistent problems in cultivating food from lack of seed, arable land, and tools. Those that can grow food, must deal with insects, drought, floods, and war, which can result in complete destruction of crops. Historically, areas of Africa have experienced periodic locusts infestations, which can completely destroy crops.

Other causes of world hunger are related to the globalized system of food production. The globalize system of food production and trade favors a reliance on export crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and subsistence crops. Many third world countries export out too much food while concomitantly not keeping enough food to sustain their own people.

AIDS is a significant cause of hunger. In societies affected by AIDS, famine is more deadly and difficult to combat. Why is this so? AIDS attacks the most productive individuals within society. Fewer productive people within the society means fewer individuals to work the jobs that involve food production. This is one contributor to the starvation currently taking place in Africa.

Weather plays a major role in terms of the prevalence of starvation. Areas of drought lead to non-useable land with subsequent famine. This is well known. But less well known is that floods can also lead to starvation. Crops can be flooded and therefore destroyed, which in essence produces the same result as drought. In both cases, weather can produce a complete lack of self-sufficiency.

Military conflicts, both internal and between neighboring countries, can lead to starvation. These conflicts can result in the destruction of crops. Government money is directed at funding the conflict at the expense of the starving people. Funds are diverted from social and economic development. Military conflicts can also result in the displacement of large groups of people, removing them from their farms and their way of life. People can end up in refugee camps, completely dependent on relief aid.

The causative factors of world hunger are numerous, and certain factors change from year to year, therefore at any given time, some areas may be more prone than others. The extent of drought, flood, internal conflicts, and war with neighboring countries can vary over time. Therefore, these factors incorporate a variable effect on the degree to which inhabitants of susceptible countries suffer from starvation.

A combination of these causative factors in a particular region is a formula for disaster. When this occurs, large scale starvation can take place. A case in point. The Horn of Africa has seen severe drought coupled with internal conflicts. This is leading to the development of a tragedy. In this region currently 11 million people are on the brink of starvation.

Historically, certain areas of the world have had a high prevalence of hunger and starvation. These areas are the central region of South America, large areas of East, Central, and Southern Africa, and regions of South Asia. As of 2006, the current hot spots, those areas which are suffering the greatest degree of starvation, are as follows:

Niger:

This area in central Africa has been struggling to cope with the devastating impact of drought and locusts infestations.

Haiti:

In this region, extreme poverty has been further exacerbated by a political crisis, floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes.

Horn of Africa:

An estimated 11 million people in the Horn of Africa “are on the brink of starvation” because of severe drought and war. Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia need food aid, water, new livestock and seeds. This is a major hunger crisis in development.

Afghanistan:

Poverty in Afghanistan, made worse by drought, has contributed greatly to their hunger problem.

Pakistan:

The recent earthquake coupled with a severe winter has produced starvation conditions. Recently, mudslides have hampered relief efforts.

North Korea:

Food insecurity caused by the countries economic problems is compounded by unpredictable and severe weather conditions. To date, the North Korean government has failed in its duty to provide for its starving people. The North Korean government has actually refused foreign aid.

Columbia:

A 40-year civil conflict and the illegal drug trade have caused mass displacement and poverty.

Democratic Republic of Congo:

3.4 million people have been internally displaced as a result of a continuing internal conflict.

Mali:

They are struggling to cope with the devastating impact of a recent drought.

Southern Africa:

Erratic weather, lack of seed and fertilizer, chronic poverty, and AIDS have been contributing factors to starvation.

These are the areas of the world which are currently suffering the highest levels of malnutrition and hunger. With this understanding of where relief efforts are needed, we must address the question of individual responsibility. Are individuals of developed countries donating to relief efforts? Most morally conscious individuals donate to relief efforts when the problem is presented to them.

A major problem in the relief effort is the general population of developed countries not knowing about the current hunger crisis. News organizations, more specifically television news, are not giving enough attention to the global hunger situation. While an in-depth discussion as to the reasons for this is outside the purview of this article, a few points can be made.

internet news

Evidently, the American TV news organizations, do not think world hunger is much of a story since starvation is a daily occurrence. I suspect, from the perspective of these news organizations, that 24,000 people per day dying from hunger is not a big enough news story. When 1,386 people died from Hurricane Katrina, the news coverage was enormous. Five months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, TV news organizations were still squeezing all they could out of this story. Granted this was an obvious tragedy, but an even bigger tragedy, much bigger, is going on in Africa and the general public does not even know about it.

I have seen little to almost no coverage given by American TV news organizations on the devastating hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. I have only learned of this crisis through RSS feeds on the Internet. Television news organizations such as CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC are thus far not reporting on this crisis. Hopefully, this will change.

It is evident that the American TV news organizations do not really provide total and complete news, rather they screen the events and only provide what they feel may be interesting to their audience. News organizations should present the news and concomitantly maintain high journalistic standards. Maybe these news organizations need to incorporate a higher level of moral obligation into their decision-making process when deciding which stories to cover. In any case, people can not donate if they do not know the problem exists.

We have addressed some key questions in order to characterize the current status of the world hunger situation. We have examined where hunger is the most prevalent in the world today, and we have identified some of the causative factors which contribute to malnutrition, hunger, and starvation. We have concluded that most morally conscious individuals would contribute to the elimination of hunger if they knew about the crisis. Finally, we have observed that the degree of world hunger coverage by TV news organizations is very much lacking.

Even though TV news organizations have not been covering the current world hunger crisis, by reading this article, you have developed an understanding of the degree to which starvation is prevalent in the world today. If you are reading this in a developed country, which is highly likely since you are reading it on a computer which has Internet access, you have a moral obligation to donate either time or money to help in the elimination of unseen suffering. Winston Churchill once said, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” We must all do our part to eliminate world hunger.

Is the Internet Killing Your Business

Pretty powerful title eh?

The truth is that we are entering an era where if you are not careful the use of the internet will detract you from your work, and if you are a boss you will be losing massive hours from your office staff or anyone who has access to an online computer. There is no way you will be able to stop this completely, so perhaps it may be better to control it.

world

Let’s go back to the beginning: There is the huge shift taking place in our society and most people have not even noticed, they are acting just like the boiling frog. That, for those of you who don’t know, is the phenomenon of putting a frog in cold water and then bringing it to the boil. Because the temperature rises slowly, the frog adapts and stays in the water until it boils and then obviously dies.

This is exactly what is happening with time spent on the computer, we all convince ourselves that we are working, but in reality, we are continually distracted and more often than not do not even complete the original task and worse still we are not noticing what is going on around us.

We now think that we have less time, but in fact we are squandering time by literally pretending to be busy. While people are being distracted they are not noticing the things that are changing and they carry on doing the same things that they have always done.

Most of you are still playing by the old rules and because you have been just going with the flow, a whole new world has entered the equation, and you have not noticed.

Everything is changing so quickly that if you blink you miss that part of the development. So that you can utilize all the new internet changes you must learn the rules and accept that things are different.

Dependent on your age, the changes that you have experienced will be different, the younger you are the easier you will adopt the changes.

Over the last few decades communication has been totally transformed, from the humble landline being the only real telecommunication, through pagers, faxes, mobile phones, text messages, email, webinars, Skype, etc… Our time and privacy have been invaded and we all seem to accept being available at a moments notice at any time.

What happened then was that we could not really plan anything because we were allowing interruptions, and that has now got to the point where we actually are accepting it as normal. This is the hurdle that you have to overcome if you are going to survive what is happening now.

With every man and his dog are bombarding us with information, special offers, get rich quick schemes, internet businesses and a myriad of other stuff, we are actually now sorting through our emails and making judgement on the contents, based entirely on the subject line of the email.

How many times have we lost or not opened an important email?

What happens now is that we are so protective of our time and our attention that the whole thing becomes totally confusing.

It will be the companies and individuals that apply their attention correctly that will have an advantage over everyone else. Imagine telling your staff that they can use face book at work. “What” I hear you say, Well if you structure the use of Facebook and have a trade off with your staff to be creative and during their time on Facebook enhance your companies branding, that is a classic win-win situation.

As we discussed earlier you will not stop people surfing the net and going on social media sites, but if you have set rules and you get a branding boost out of them doing it, that is much more preferable than them doing it behind your back.

By structuring a person use of the internet and not allowing haphazard access and intermittent secretive use, you can actually harness the power of the new social media marketing.

One other problem that we have is we all tend to get information about things that before we had no interest in, or would not have even heard about and all of a sudden, because of the amazing reach and speed of the internet, we are trying to keep pace in real time with events from every corner of the earth.

What happens then are we store anything we cannot get to at the time in our ‘I will get around to that later file’ in our million gigabyte remote hard drive. The problem then is the fact that very rarely do you manage to follow anything up because your time is becoming even more precious as you find more irrelevant information that might be important or interesting.

Be honest with yourself and work out what you actually achieve when you go on one of these, this leads onto that and that leads onto this missions. I must admit they are usually fun and you can never be bored ‘researching’ Mongolian sheep farming for beginners. But what have you achieved?

The bottom line is that you must be strict with when and how you use the internet. This is going to be even harder because it is now a very mobile thing that it is totally mobile on our phones, not only can someone get you at any time, but you can now be alerted that Britney Spears has gone shopping in LA, in real time.

This sounds funny and I suppose it is, but all of a sudden you are filling your mind with so much more STUFF, that before you did not have to decipher and file and that will eventually put stress on you.

Where are the people who told us that computers would free us up and give us more time and let us work less, did they really imagine what was going to happen?

The strangest thing has evolved now and that is that we are all desperately trying to produce content and information, to promote our business or tell someone about a new product, we are told that we should create a blog to establish a brand,we are told that we need a page on Facebook and loads of other sites, we are told that videos are required to keep us in the race etc..etc..

In effect we have all become information and news generators, creating content and information for people who have not even got time to read or digest it, because they are feverishly creating their own publications and broadcasts.

As the people who are still not aware of the fantastic shift in the use of the internet become aware, where will the audience be to read and take notice of your message? It is the people who are still gathering and receiving your info because they still have a bit of time, who are your customers.

An interesting fact here is ‘who decides what is news’ Reuters the world news agency receive 25.000 bits of news per second from around the globe. News distributors than just pick a minuscule selection to create their publication or broadcast. So do you think you are being informed about what is going on, I don’t think so.

It used to be that ‘the news’ was served up to us by someone who had limited access to all what was going on and then presented it in a lovely format such as a newspaper or magazine and we in a very leisurely way used to read it while we relaxed. Hmm… do you remember those days?

Now by the time a newspaper is printed and circulated every thing in it is ‘old news’ we have access to everything instantly. Now considering that Reuters get all that information and someone selects a few bits to create a buzz to sell their publication, do you think that ‘news’ is an essential part of your life, or do you think that it just satisfies our curiosity.

This is the first way you can reclaim some time if the news is just the act of selecting gossip, do you really think you need to search for it or spend anytime reading or watching it? If the answer is no, just limit your intake of gossip and use that time to do other things.

The question now is, because we have so much information and knowledge at our fingertips, “What do we do?” We are not fully equipped to know how to use so much. Never in history has man had access to so much information and we really now need to rethink what we do with it and even consider “Do we really need it?”

I think what is happening now is that because there is such easy access to information and we are bombarded daily with more, we seem to have devalued information and we have to really debate whether what we receive is worthwhile or not.

internet news

So in conclusion of this first part of coming to terms with the internet; Decide how much news you want and be strict about the time you give to it. Secondly, structure a set time to handle your social media and be very conscious of wandering of in search of the Mongolian sheep farmers. Thirdly make sure that you set a goal or target of what you want to achieve each time you sit at your computer. Fourthly have a separate email that you use to sign up to various sites, that way your prime email will be easier to control. Deciding which email to open and which ones to ignore, is very draining on time.

Should Your Child Watch TV News? Surprising Opinions of Top Anchors

KIDS AND THE NEWS

More than ever, children witness innumerable, sometimes traumatizing,
news events on TV. It seems that violent crime and bad news is unabating.
Foreign wars, natural disasters, terrorism, murders, incidents of child abuse,
and medical epidemics flood our newscasts daily. Not to mention the grim wave busy makingof recent school shootings.

world news

All of this intrudes on the innocent world of children. If, as psychologists
say, kids are like sponges and absorb everything that goes on around them,
how profoundly does watching TV news actually affect them? How careful do
parents need to be in monitoring the flow of news into the home, and how can
they find an approach that works?

To answer these questions, we turned to a panel of seasoned anchors, Peter
Jennings, Maria Shriver, Linda Ellerbee, and Jane Pauley–each having faced the
complexities of raising their own vulnerable children in a news-saturated
world.

Picture this: 6:30 p.m. After an exhausting day at the offibusy making
front ofdinner. She parks her 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-oldfront of
the TV.

“Play Nintendo until dinner’s ready,” she instructs the little ones, who,
instead, start flipping channels.

Tom Brokaw on “NBC News Tonight,” announces that an Atlanta gunman
has killed his wife, daughter, and son, all three with a hammer, before going on
a shooting rampage that leaves nine dead.

On “World News Tonight,” Peter Jennings reports that a jumbo jetliner with
more than 300 passengers crashed in a spinning metal fireball at a Hong Kong
airport.

On CNN, there’s a report about the earthquake in Turkey, with 2,000
people killed.

On the Discovery channel, there’s a timely special on hurricanes and the terror
they create in children. Hurricane Dennis has already struck, Floyd is coming
.

Finally, they see a local news report about a roller coaster accident at a New
Jersey amusement park that kills a mother and her eight-year-old daughter.

Nintendo was never this riveting.

“Dinner’s ready!” shouts Mom, unaware that her children may be terrified
by this menacing potpourri of TV news.

What’s wrong with this picture?

“There’s a LOT wrong with it, but it’s not that easily fixable,” notes Linda
Ellerbee, the creator and host of “Nick News,” the award-winning news
program geared for kids ages 8-13, airing on Nickelodeon.

“Watching blood and gore on TV is NOT good for kids and it doesn’t do
much to enhance the lives of adults either,” says the anchor, who strives to
inform children about world events without terrorizing them. “We’re into
stretching kids’ brains and there’s nothing we wouldn’t cover,” including
recent programs on euthanasia, the Kosovo crisis, prayer in schools, book-
banning, the death penalty, and Sudan slaves.

But Ellerbee emphasizes the necessity of parental supervision, shielding
children from unfounded fears. “During the Oklahoma City bombing, there
were terrible images of children being hurt and killed,” Ellerbee recalls. “Kids
wanted to know if they were safe in their beds. In studies conducted by
Nickelodeon, we found out that kids find the news the most frightening thing
on TV.

“Whether it’s the Gulf War, the Clinton scandal, a downed jetliner, or what
happened in Littleton, you have to reassure your children, over and over again,
that they’re going to be OK–that the reason this story is news is that IT
ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS. News is the exception…nobody goes on the air
happily and reports how many planes landed safely!

“My job is to put the information into an age-appropriate context and lower
anxieties. Then it’s really up to the parents to monitor what their kids watch
and discuss it with them”

Yet a new study of the role of media in the lives of children conducted by
the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that 95% of the nation’s children
ages 8-18 are watching TV without their parents present.

How does Ellerbee view the typical scenario of the harried mother above?

“Mom’s taking a beating here. Where’s Dad?” Ellerbee asks.Perhaps at work,
or living separately from Mom, or absent altogether.

“Right. Most Moms and Dads are working as hard as they can because we
live in a society where one income just doesn’t cut it anymore,”

NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver, the mother of four–Katherine,
13, Christina, 12, Patrick, 10, and Christopher, 6–agrees with Ellerbee: “But
Moms
aren’t using the TV as a babysitter because they’re out getting manicures!”
says the 48-year-old anchor.

“Those mothers are struggling to make ends meet and they do it because
they need help. I don’t think kids would be watching [as much TV] if their
parents were home organizing a touch football game.

“When I need the TV as a babysitter,” says Shriver, who leaves detailed TV-
viewing instructions behind when traveling, “I put on a safe video. I don’t mind
that my kids have watched “Pretty Woman” or “My Best Friend’s Wedding”
3,000 times. I’d be more fearful if they watched an hour of local news.That
would scare them. They might feel: ‘Oh, my God, is somebody going to come
in and shoot me in my bedroom?'”

In a move to supervise her own children more closely since her husband,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, became Governor, Shriver
scaled back her workload as Contributing Anchor to Dateline NBC and set up
her office at home: “You can never be vigilant enough with your kids,” she
says, “because watching violence on TV clearly has a huge impact on
children–whether it’s TV news, movies, or cartoons.”

This view is shared by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, which states: “”TV is a powerful influence in developing value
systems and shaping behavior…studies find that children may become immune
to the horror of violence; gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems;
and resort to anti-social and aggressive behavior, imitating the violence they
observe.”

Although there are no rules about watching TV in 49% of the nation’s
households, TV-watching at the Schwarzenegger home is almost totally
verboten:

“We have a blanket rule that my kids do not watch any TV at all during the
week,” she notes, “and having a TV in their bedrooms has never been an
option. I have enough trouble getting them to do their homework!” she states
with a laugh. “Plus the half hour of reading they have to do every night.

According to the Kaiser survey, Shriver’s household is a glaring exception to
the rule. “Many kids have their own TV’s, VCR’s and video games in their
bedroom,” the study notes. Moreover, children ages 8-18 actually spend an
average of three hours and 16 minutes watching TV daily; only 44 minutes
reading; 31 minutes using the computer; 27 minutes playing video games;
and a mere 13 minutes using the Internet.

“My kids,” Shriver explains, “get home at 4 p.m., have a 20-minute break,
then go right into homework or after-school sports. Then, I’m a big believer in
having family dinner time. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting at the
dinner table and listening to my parents, four brothers, and my grandmother,
Rose. We didn’t watch the news.

“After dinner nowadays, we play a game, then my kids are in bed, reading
their books. There’s no time in that day for any TV, except on weekends, when
they’re allowed to watch a Disney video, Sesame Street, Barney, The Brady
Bunch, or Pokemon.”

Beyond safe entertainment, Shriver has eliminated entirely the option of her
children watching news events unfolding live on TV: “My kids,” she notes, “do
not watch any TV news, other than Nick News,” instead providing her children
with Time for Kids, [Teen Newsweek is also available], Highlights, and
newspaper clippings discussed over dinner.

“No subject should be off-limits,” Shriver concludes, “but you must filter
the news to your kids.”

ABC’s Peter Jennings, who reigns over “World News Tonight,” the nation’s
most-watched evening newscast, emphatically disagrees with a censored
approach to news-watching: “I have two kids–Elizabeth is now 24 and
Christopher is 21– and they were allowed to watch as much TV news and
information anytime they wanted,” says the anchor. A firm believer in
kids understanding the world around them, he adapted his bestselling book,
The Century, for children ages 10 and older in The Century for Young People.

No downside to kids watching news? “I don’t know of any downside and I’ve
thought about it many times. I used to worry about my kids’ exposure to
violence and overt sex in the movies. Like most parents, I found that although
they were exposed to violence sooner than I would have liked, I don’t feel
they’ve been affected by it. The jury’s still out on the sex.

“I have exposed my kids to the violence of the world–to the bestiality of
man–from the very beginning, at age 6 or 7. I didn’t try to hide it. I never
worried about putting a curtain between them and reality, because I never felt
my children would be damaged by being exposed to violence IF they
understood the context in which it occurred. I would talk to my kids about the
vulnerability of children in wartime–the fact that they are innocent pawns–
and about what we could do as a family to make the world a more peaceful
place.

Jennings firmly believes that coddling children is a mistake: “I’ve never
talked down to my children, or to children period. I always talk UP to them and
my newscast is appropriate for children of any age.”

Yet the 65-year-old anchor often gets letters from irate parents: “They’ll
say: ‘How dare you put that on at 6:30 when my children are watching?’ My
answer is: ‘Madam, that’s not my problem. That’s YOUR problem. It’s
absolutely up to the parent to monitor the flow of news into the home.”

Part of directing this flow is turning it off altogether at meal-time, says
Jennings, who believes family dinners are sacrosanct. He is appalled that the
TV is turned on during meals in 58% of the nation’s households, this according
to the Kaiser study.

“Watching TV during dinner is unforgivable,” he exclaims, explaining that
he always insisted that his family wait until he arrived home from anchoring
the news. “You’re darn right they waited…even when my kids were tiny, they
never ate until 7:30 or 8 pm. Then we would sit with no music, no TV. Why
waste such a golden opportunity? Watching TV at mealtime robs the family of
the essence of the dinner, which is communion and exchange of ideas. I mean,
God, if the dinner table is anything, it’s a place to learn manners and
appreciation for two of the greatest things in life–food and drink.”

Jennings is likewise unequivocal in his view of junk TV and believes parking
kids at the tube creates dull minds: “I think using TV as a babysitter is a
terrible idea because the damn television is very narcotic, drug-like. Mindless
TV makes for passive human beings–and it’s a distraction from homework!

“My two children were allowed to watch only a half an hour of entertainment
TV per night–and they never had TV’s in their bedrooms.It’s a conscious
choice I made as a parent not to tempt them…too seductive…”

Adds Ellerbee: “TV is seductive and is meant to be. The hard, clear fact is
that when kids are watching TV, they’re not doing anything else!”

Indeed, according to the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the
Office of Research Education Consumer Guide, TV plays a bigger role in
children’s lives now than ever before. Kids watch TV an average of14 to 22
hours per week, which accounts for at least 25 percent of their free time.

“Dateline NBC” Anchor Jane Pauley, intensely private, declined an interview
to discuss how she and her husband, cartoonist Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”)
handle TV-watching with their three teens, two of whom are fraternal twins.
But in a written response, she agreed that kids need to be better protected
from the onslaught of violence: “I was a visitor at a public elementary school
not long ago, and was invited to peek in on a fourth-grade class on ‘current
events.’ The assignment had been to watch the news and write about one of
the stories. Two kids picked the fatal attack on a child by a pit bull and the
other wrote about a child who’d hanged herself with a belt! They’d all watched
the worst blood and gore ‘News at 11’ station in town. The teacher gave no
hint that she was as appalled as I was. My response was to help the school get
subscriptions to “Time for Kids” and “My Weekly Reader.” People need to be
better news consumers. And tabloid TV is very unhealthy for kids.”

On this point, Ellerbee readily agrees:”I really do believe the first
amendment STOPS at your front door. You are the boss at home and parents
have every right to monitor what their kids watch. What’s even better is
watching with them and initiating conversations about what they see.If your
child is watching something terribly violent, sit down and DEFUSE it. Talking
makes the ghosts run…and kids can break through their scared feelings.”

Adds Pauly:

“Kids,” she maintains, “know about bad news–they’re the ones trying to
spare us the bad news sometimes. But kids should be able to see that their
parents are both human enough to be deeply affected by a tragedy like
Columbine, but also sturdy enough to get through it…and on with life. That is
the underpinning of their security.”

“I’m no expert on the nation’s children,” adds Jennings, ” but I’d have to say
no, it wasn’t traumatic. Troubling, shocking, even devastating to some,
confusing to others, but traumatizing in that great sense, no.

“Would I explain to my kids that there are young, upset, angry, depressed
kids in the world? Yes. I hear the most horrendous stories about what’s going
on in high schools from my kids. And because of the shootings, parents are
now on edge–pressuring educators to ‘do something.’ They have to be
reminded that the vast majority of all schools in America are overwhelmingly
safe,” a fact borne out by The National School Safety Center, which reports that
in l998 there were just 25 violent deaths in schools compared to an average of
50 in the early 90’s.

Ellerbee adds that a parent’s ability to listen is more important than
lobbying school principals for more metal detectors and armed guards: “If
there was ever a case where grown-ups weren’t listening to kids, it was
Littleton. First, don’t interrupt your child…let them get the whole thought out.
Next, if you sit silently for a couple of seconds after they’re finished, they’ll
start talking again, getting to a second level of honesty. Third, try to be honest
with your kid. To very small children, it’s proper to say: ‘This is never going to
happen to you…’ But you don’t say that to a 10-year-old.”

Moreover, Ellerbee believes that media literacy begins the day parents stop
pretending that if you ignore TV, it will go away. “Let your kid know from the
very beginning that he or she is SMARTER than TV: ‘I am in control of this box,
it is not in control of me. I will use this box as a useful, powerful TOOL, but will
not be used by it.’ Kids know the difference.

“Watching TV,” Ellerbee maintains, “can makes kids more civilized. I grew
up in the south of Texas in a family of bigoted people. Watching TV made me
question my own family’s beliefs in the natural inferiority of people of color.
For me, TV was a real window that broadened my world.”

Ironically, for Shriver, watching TV news is incredibly painful when the
broadcast is about you. Being a Kennedy, Shriver has lived a lifetime in the
glare of rumors and
televised speculation about her own family. Presenting the news to her children
has therefore included explaining the tragedies and controversies the
Kennedys have endured. She was just eight years old when her uncle, President
John F. Kennedy, was assassinated: “I grew up in a very big shadow…and I
couldn’t avoid it,” she admits. “It wasn’t a choker, but it was a big
responsibility that I don’t want my own children to feel.” Yet doesn’t her 15-
year marriage to megastar Schwarzenegger add yet another layer of public
curiosity close to home? “My kids are not watching Entertainment Tonight–no,
no, never! And I don’t bring them to movie openings or Planet Hollywood. I
think it’s fine for them to be proud of their father, but not show off about him.”

How does she emotionally handle news when her family’s in it? “That’s a line
I’ve been walking since my own childhood, and it’s certainly effected the kind
of reporter I’ve become. It’s made me less aggressive. I’m not [in the news
business] to glorify myself at someone else’s expense, but rather to report a
story without destroying someone in the process. A producer might say: ‘Call
this person who’s in a disastrous situation and book them right way.’ And I’m
like: ‘Ahhhh. I can’t even bring myself to do it,’ because I’ve been on the
other side and know the family is in such pain.”

A few years ago, of course, the Kennedys experienced profound pain, yet
again, when Shriver’s beloved cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was killed in a plane
crash, with his wife, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette. A blizzard of
news coverage ensued, unremitting for weeks. “I didn’t watch any of it…I was
busy, ” Shriver says quietly. “And my children didn’t watch any of it either.”

Shriver was, however, somewhat prepared to discuss the tragedy with her
children. She is the author of the best-selling “What’s Heaven?” [Golden Books],
a book geared for children ages 4-8, which explains death and the loss of a
loved one. “My children knew John well because he spent Christmases with us. I
explained what happened to John as the news unfolded…walked them through
it as best I could. I reminded them that Mommy wrote the book and said:
‘We’re not going to see John anymore. He has gone to God…to heaven…and we
have to pray for him and for his sister [Caroline] and her children.”

Like Shriver, Jennings is personally uncomfortable in the role of covering
private tragedies in a public forum: “In my shop, I’m regarded as one of those
people who drags their feet a lot at the notion of covering those things,” he
explains. “During the O.J. Simpson trial, I decided not to go crazy in our
coverage–and we took quite a smack and dropped from first to second in the
ratings. TV is a business, so when a real corker of a story like Princess Diana’s
death comes along, we cover it. I think we’re afraid not to do it. We’re guilty of
overkill, and with Diana, we ended up celebrating something that was largely
ephemeral, making Diana more than she was. But audiences leap up!

“I was totally opposed to covering John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s funeral, because I
saw no need to do it. He wasn’t a public figure, though others would say I was
wrong. On-air, I said: ‘I don’t think the young Mr. Kennedy would approve of
all this excess…’ But we did three hours on the funeral and it turned out to be
a wonderful long history lesson about American politics and the Kennedy
dynasty’s place in our national life.

“Sometimes,” Jennings muses, “TV is like a chapel in which we, as a nation,
can gather to have a communal experience of loss.We did it with the
Challenger, more recently with JFK Jr.’s death and we will do it shortly, I
suspect, though I hope not, with Ronald Reagan. It’s not much different than
what people did when they went West in covered wagons in the last century.
When tragedy struck, they gathered the wagons around, lit the fire, and talked
about their losses of the day. And then went on. Television can be very
comforting.”

In closing, Ellerbee contends that you can’t blame TV news producers for
the human appetite for sensational news coverage that often drags on for days
at a time:

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“As a reporter,” she muses, “I have never been to a war, traffic accident, or
murder site that didn’t draw a crowd. There is a little trash in all of us. But the
same people who stop to gawk at a traffic accident, may also climb down a well
to save a child’s life, or cry at a sunset, or grin and tap their feet when the
parade goes by.

Internet and Cable TV Shake Up Democracy

Very rarely are we given the opportunity as citizens to participate in a revolution. The citizens that founded our republic participated in a revolution that has affected every corner of the earth for more than 200 years now. Our grandfathers and fathers participated in a revolution during World War II when we successfully ridden the world of Adolph Hitler and his technology of death that was sweeping civilization.

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Finally we all participated in a quiet revolution when Communism fell to its knees a little more than a decade ago, and went out with a WHIMPER. It didn’t have to be that way. Millions could have died in Eastern Europe and in the USSR itself. Very quietly, this brutal totalitarian dictatorship that sought to enslave the planet quietly disappeared, and more remarkably, they all became capitalists. What a wild world we live in.

I submit to you that we are on the eve of a new American Revolution, perhaps as powerful as the birth of our democracy in the 1700’s. What has happened is that the power in this country is in the process of being redistributed to the people themselves who are the voters. We were born as a Republic, remember the words, “And to the Republic, for which it stands,” in the Pledge of Allegiance. We are fast becoming a Democracy based on the information dispersion created by the Internet and cable television as a tool in everybody’s home.

Granted there is tremendous noise on the Internet, meaning that there is an abundance of useless information, but in the universe there are many gems, and they are on the Internet as well. Think about what has happened in just a few short years? It wasn’t so long ago, that mainstream media had a 100% liberal bias. Clearly, an objective look at ABC, NBC, and CBS would reveal their liberal orientation. From their origins to their story topics, the media always played it to the left of center. Richard Nixon would NEVER have had to resign from office if the either the Senate or the House was Republican and the media was neutral.

Today, with the Internet and Cable television, the tide has certainly evened up, and maybe swung to the other side. Dan Rather of CBS broadcast a disparaging story on George Bush and the National Guard which may have been correct, but Rather knew he couldn’t prove it. In an attempt to influence the election two weeks before the election, he broadcasted it anyway. The Internet blows up his 40 year career and forced his resignation. The bloggers were relentless in attacking Rather and it resulted in the disgraceful behind the scenes, to date never revealed story of the firing of Dan Rather. Without the Internet and Cable television, Dan Rather would still be representing his liberal bias on prime time television every night.

Traditional media and print journalism can’t stand what has happened with the Internet and cable revolution we are participating in. When Republican Congressman Foley committed political suicide by writing inappropriate sexual e-mails to young pages, you and I were able to get on the Internet and read the e-mails for ourselves to determine the guilt of innocence of this man. We didn’t need anybody with a POLITICAL AGENGA filtering it for us, and therein lies the REVOLUTION.

We are able to filter stories for ourselves. No longer do I have to listen to Dan Rather tell me what’s right or wrong. I can listen to Rather, read the NY Times, and go to the Internet and Cable TV to get additional information that the liberals refuse to divulge to me.

The following will amaze you. A month before we invaded Iraq there was a former weapons inspector on television giving an interview in which he spoke in an explosive voice. He was ranting and raving that “There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we aren’t going to find any.” I thought he was crazy, but I also said to myself, this is former weapons inspector who was THERE. He’s not a recently released patient from an insane asylum.

Now the reality is that he was right, and the President was wrong, the CIA was wrong, the military was wrong. How was this guy right, and knew he was right, and a 300 billion dollar a year war machine couldn’t get it right? I have never seen or heard from this individual again. Has he been hushed up, why no interview, articles, or books? After all, he got it right, and we all got it wrong.

The Internet is leveling the playing field. If you want to know why John Kerry lost the national election, look to the Internet. The guy was being defined by the Internet before he could define himself. I know Governor Pataki was making a joke when he said that “John Kerry has to Google himself every morning to see where he stands on the issues,” but he wasn’t so far off the truth in retrospect.

If I could have one prayer answered in politics, and I believe it’s going to be answerd, this would be it. I would like to see every candidate, liberal or conservative raise 100% of their financial backing from the Internet and be free from these Special Interests and Lobbyists that are DESTROYING the democratic basis of our country. I don’t want the drug companies to dictate pricing to Medicare for drugs for senior citizens. I also don’t want teacher’s lobbies dictating education in this country.

Did you know from kindergarten through senior year of high school, our education system ranks 16th in the world? On a college level, we rank number one and there is no one even close. Why you ask? It’s because the college system is private, and the public system is not. Even on a college level when you have public colleges like the University of California system or State University of New York system, they are world class only because they have to compete against a private system. Our public school system doesn’t compete, and therefore it is allowed to remain mediocre in the face of 15 superior systems throughout the world.

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It is time for the Revolution to continue. By 2012, we will not recognize the political system in the United States as the dispersion of information shifts unfiltered to the people through the Internet’s power. We should all welcome it, and thank God for it. What a wonderful thing that we will be alive to see it.

The End of the Open Internet?

There was the time when nobody took anything you said seriously in an email or SMS message for that matter. From a legal point of view, most companies included a release which included a waiver of liability message at the bottom of each email stating that they don’t enter into contracts by email and if the message was sent to the incorrect recipient then please delete it.

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The average office was awash with politically incorrect emails circulating around the corporate world. Sometimes they were amusing, often offensive but generally good-natured, whatever the content we just deleted them and got on with our day. However, as the transition continued from printed to electronic media, the responsibility of the written word also changed.

Social and Electronic Media
Today, electronic media has become the noose in which to hang ourselves. In the old days, if you had a bad day at work you would sit down and bash out an angry resignation letter to your boss. Then think about what you had just written while searching for an envelope, and completely change your mind before you made the fatal mistake of leaving it in his or her in a tray. Even if you did so, and changed your mind once you got home, you could still arrive extra early in the morning and retrieve it before damage was done.

But not today, as soon as you hit the send button you have just committed the message to the ether and nothing can save you. Politicians, sports celebrities, you and me, no one is immune, there is no second chance. The situation has become exasperated with the growth of social media. For politicians, celebrities and the like, social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides instant feedback from a huge number of people as to how you are performing. But make the fatal mistake of sending the wrong tweet, or uploading the wrong picture to your Facebook page and suddenly both your professional and personal life takes a tumble. Behave irresponsibly on a night out and you can almost guarantee someone has snapped tell all pictures and uploaded them to a social media site which is pushed out to thousands of followers, even before the party has finished. This does almost seem like George Orwell’s 1984, but played in reverse. It’s not that electronic media is contractually binding, or implies an obligation on the part of the individual in any way, but sets a trend of behavior expected by a jury of your peers.

Freedom of Speech
The Internet as we know it today is a transport mechanism. It doesn’t distinguish between good or bad. The foundation of the applications which were developed to run on top of this transport was always intended to be a based on freedom of speech and free of censorship restrictions. So why is there so much talk today about censoring and controlling the Internet with litigation?

Before the social media revolution, most governments (in the west at least) were reluctant to impose any sort of controls on the Internet. Most politicians thought of the Internet as a large electronic encyclopedia, a research tool, or a source of dirty pictures. But along came social media which allowed splinter opposition groups to grow, become organized, and before long coordinated riots broke out across the United Kingdom and governments in Egypt and Tunisia tumbled. The U.S state department reeled in response to the leaked interoffice cables published by Wikileaks, and the Internet demonstrated its power to motivate people and bring about change in an entirely new way.

Western governments have always enjoyed a certain amount of control over the media. Carefully chosen press releases are fed to news organizations, who are either dependent on advertising revenues or are part of a large multinational conglomerate, who in turn have their own political agenda. Whatever the case, mainstream news is very guarded about what is reported and when. But the Internet allows news to be broadcast instantly, anonymously and without prejudice. The mainstream news organizations are often forced to play catch up on viral Internet news, or risk appearing redundant.

Internet Piracy
The days of needing physical media for either listening to music or watching a movie have the pretty much-given way to on-line media. Before Internet piracy, police would raid illegal VHS or DVD duplication operations seize equipment, individuals, and the content owners could rest easy that their intellectual property was safe. Today, content piracy is rife; media is replicated across the Internet minutes after being officially released. Indeed, both music and video stores have all but vanished from the high street, and on-line music and digital media stores have replaced this revenue stream altogether, however, the industry is losing millions, if not billions each year to the file sharing pirates.

It is this guise of Internet piracy protection in which governments are using as the catalyst to put in place controls on content, which make service providers, search engines, and anyone else in the path accountable for maintaining links or transporting traffic of an illegal nature. This is a battle which if successful would erode into the margins on service providers and content search farms alike. Hence lobbying from both sides is intense.

The piracy argument will be the catalyst for controlling the Internet, but the real reason will be curbing social media networks from organizing chaos. A strategy based on creating legislation which makes social media networks and service providers accountable for the activities of their users reduces the burden on the governments to moderate and monitor user activity. Regardless, most governments today whether they admit it or not, have in place Internet kill switch contingencies, so if the situation arises, stopping the Internet is akin to blowing up the radio transmitter during the wartime days of the early 20th century.

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The controlled Internet
What we are risking is a repeat of the mid 1990’s where organizations like AOL and MSN realized that a global Internet portal with structured content governed and controlled was the answer to the unstructured, untrustworthy pages of information on the Internet, which allowed both AOL and MSN to thrive during the early years of the Internet. Of course, once the rest of the Internet became better organized it was quickly realized that unlimited flexibility of the Internet was far more desirable than the rigid structure of these portals. But ultimately this is what we face as the alternative if censorship on content, activity, and opinions are successful.

Going underground
If this did happen there is a real risk of parallel Internet’s being created?
With the advent of VPN technologies designed to connect remote workers back to their corporate offices, VPNs could also form the basis of private Internet rings where users circumvent protection mechanisms put in place by connecting to private server resources which would become the foundation of the underground Internet. This would become a cat and mouse game where authorities would infiltrate the private ring, attempt to shut it down and then the passphrase or security token changes, or a new ring is created and the process starts again.