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Why Your Retail Experience Just Changed Forever — Amazon Swallows Whole Foods

The Whole Foods Market in Midtown New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Friday, AMZN +0.93% sent another shock wave rippling through all retailers. The e-commerce giant announced the intention to purchase health foods grocer Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Share prices for Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Costco all tumbled. The New York Times described Amazon as the “new breed of Silicon Valley conglomerates.”

The size of the deal is atypical. Since listing its stock publicly in 1997, Amazon has acquired nearly 80 other companies, including movie-and-TV information provider IMDB, the video game streaming site Twitch, and the audiobook service Audible, among others. In all earlier acquisitions, Amazon has eschewed big takeovers. The biggest deal thus far has been the 2009 purchase of online shoe retailer, for roughly $1.2 billion — dwarfed significantly by the Whole Foods announcement.

Stranger still was the market reaction. Economists and financial analysts routinely conduct “event studies,” examining how markets react to firm announcement, whether the market views the investment announced by a company as value-enhancing or value-destroying.

To successfully acquire a target company, bidders often resort to paying an acquisition premium, that is, the difference between the estimated real value of the target and the actual price paid to obtain it. Amazon’s offer represents a 27% premium to Whole Foods’ closing price on Thursday. Similarly, when Microsoft MSFT +0.51% acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, it represented a 50% premium. Last year, when AT&T T -1.32% announced their acquisition of Time Warner, it also paid a 35% premium.

In the short-term, therefore, the target tends to win, while the bidder loses. For example, as expected, LinkedIn’s stock rose 47% to $192.21 while Microsoft’s stock fell 2.6% to $50.14 immediately following Microsoft’s announcement. Between October 19 and October 26, 2016, AT&T’s market capitalization shrank by nearly $20 billion, while Time Warner’s surged by $8 billion. Traditionally, that is exactly what happens after a takeover is announced. Except, that is, when you are Amazon.

On Friday, Amazon’s shares jumped by 2.4%, adding another $11 billion to its market valuation, thus making the whole acquisition nearly free. Whole Foods’ stock, meanwhile, soared by 29% to $42.68 a share, the highest level since May 2015. Then on Monday, it closed even higher, at $43.22 a share.

So exactly what is so special about Whole Foods — which has been struggling with a long slump in sales and a recent reshuffling of its top management — that could take Amazon to new heights? Why are investors warm to what CNBC’s Jim Cramer has called “the most disruptive deal in ages?”

Not All Acquisitions Are Alike

In 2001, Harvard Business School’s Joseph Bower wrote an influential piece in the Harvard Business Review where he described how managers often mistakenly lump all mergers and acquisitions (M&A) together, which in fact, represents very different strategic activities, each presenting differing challenges. Mixing them only makes it harder for an M&A to pull off. That explains, in part, the abysmal track record confirmed by nearly all studies: 70% to 90% of mergers and acquisitions fail.

When a CEO wants to boost corporate performance, the most common form of M&A in a mature industry is to consolidate capacity. In May 2016, Nissan acquired a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan said, “We have the potential to be in [the] top three.” Such is the business logic of “to eat or be eaten.” The parent company closes the less competitive facilities, eliminates overlapping functions, shuts down idle capacity, and improves operational efficiencies. The goal is to achieve greater economies of scale to lower overall costs.

Alternatively, top management may use M&As to jump-start long-term growth by embarking on a “geographic roll-up” or “product-market extension.” The parent company lets the newly acquired entity leverage the existing model to turbocharge growth. When Spinbrush was acquired, it gained immediate access to the distribution channels that P&G had nurtured over the years. When VMware was acquired, it tapped into a long list of existing EMC customers. Few changes with respect to strategy or operating models were required on either side. Synergy was immediate and apparent.

Obviously, what may seem a perfect match on paper may not be so in reality. The success of Pepsi-Cola’s acquisition of Frito-Lay, owing to the direct store delivery logistics system which PepsiCo had honed over the years, didn’t translate well when PepsiCo later acquired Quaker Oats. As the latter acquisition unfolded, managers at PepsiCo painfully discovered that its traditional warehouse delivery method had very little in common with that of Quaker’s, and consequently, the acquisition failed to meet the financial expectations.

Most interesting perhaps is the third type of M&A. It entails investing in a company whose business model has yet to be proven. The target company is often an upstart poised to disrupt an existing industry. The acquisition is as much about preempting future competition as it is about buying a disruptive business model. That’s what drove Wal-Mart to acquire for $3 billion in 2016. The same can be said for Unilever’s $1 billion takeover of the Dollar Shave Club, or for General Motor’s $500 million investment in Lyft—made in the hopes of doubling down its ride-sharing efforts. Growth prospects notwithstanding, these startups were far from achieving profitability. However, they offered a promise to pivot the outmoded business of the established companies.

Acquire to Reinvent

Viewed in this light, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is truly in a class of its own. None of the conventional reasons can explain the acquisition. For one, Amazon won’t be consolidating the grocery sector. By the end of 2016, Walmart commanded the lion’s share with 14.45% in the food and grocery market. Whole Foods had a paltry 1.21%, while Amazon’s share was negligible at 0.19%. The product categories between Amazon and Whole Foods are also so distant that it’s hard to imagine a viable “one-stop shopping” strategy. It’s unlikely that quinoa lovers would pick up an e-reader or set of Wi-Fi speakers while shopping at Whole Foods. And Whole Foods itself is definitely not going to disrupt Amazon.


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WARNING: Bullshit alert – how do they get away with this crap? JOANNA GAINS TO QUIT FIXER UPPER AND SELL FACE CREAM

Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper Breaches Her HGTV Contract, But You’ll Never Guess Why


BREAKING NEWS: HGTV has ousted Joanna Gaines for breaking her contractual agreement, not even Chip knew what was going on. News broke of this legal whirlwind just a few days ago. Apparently, things have been going downhill for a while; but now it’s safe to say the boat has sunken.

It all started late last November when Joanna Gaines, host of the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, signed a deal with Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner. The deal states that Joanna’s New Cosmetics Line will be picked up and promoted by the shopping channel QVC. Joanna is very proud of her line. She has been quoted as saying, “This is more than just a beauty line. This is what every woman has been dreaming of for most of her adult life.”

The problem is: HGTV and QVC are rival competitors. There is a clause in Joanna’s HGTV contract that clearly says she is forbidden from promoting or doing business with any other channel or media company. It was later discovered that not even her husband, Chip, knew what she was constructing in the background. When her hidden secret surfaced, it caused a rift in their marriage. Because of this, HGTV has decided to let him carry on the show by himself, without her.

The decision doesn’t seem to bother Joanna at all. She says the show was just a stepping stone to her real dream; which is running her beauty line. When the executives at HGTV discovered she has no intention of canning her cosmetics business, they fired back with a law suit. The law suit claims that she is contractually obligated to request permission of the network before she can start any new business. In response, Gaines has filed a counter suit. She says the only reason HGTV is giving her a hard time is because her miracle face crème really works, and they want to own a portion of her company.

What Is Her Beauty Product And What Does It Do?.

We were able to do a little snooping and found out what this mystery line was all about. The company is called Luminary and it is a cutting-edge Wrinkle Reducer And Anti-Aging Serum. Her product line is becoming so popular, even top beauty experts such as Bethany Mota and Michelle Phan are singing Luminary’s praises.

“Something was just telling me this is the next chapter of my life.” Joanna said in a recent interview. She continued, “There are lots of skin products out there that didn’t work for me… So, I got some of the world’s leading skin experts together to create Luminary. And this one actually works. I truly feel like the show was holding me back from realizing my true potential. But my new path feels right.”

But What About Chip?

Chip is such a great husband that he’s decided to decline HGTV’s offer to do the show by himself. Instead he’s opted to work alongside wife and become the director of operations at her new company.

Since her secret has been leaked to the public, Joanna has decided to break ties with QVC and focus on promoting Luminary herself.

We asked Joanna if she could provide coupons that would allow our loyal readers to try Luminary at a discount. Her response was better than we could have imagined. Joanna went a step further by agreeing to give 150 of our readers a supply of Luminary absolutely Free! You just cover shipping. TRY OFFER FREE NOW

Gaines said she is certain her magical face cream will work wonders for anyone who tries it. And she is so certain, that she is willing to let you try it for free.

So We Decided To Put her rising product to the test

Our interns sent out a companywide email asking both men and women if they’d like to try Luminary for our test. Some wanted to try it, some wanted to see how it worked for other people first. However, nobody wanted to be the first to try it… Except one brave soul. Brenda Talarico, our 54-year-old Senior Editor. She volunteered to go first and give this magical elixir a shot.

Here Are Brenda’s Results:


“It’s just the first day and I could already see a big difference. Within seconds my loose, saggy skin began to tighten and firm up. I could literally feel the difference as soon as I put it on. It was a slight tingle, but nothing over-powering. To be honest it was actually kind of soothing and therapeutic. My husband even took notice, he said I look just like I did when we met 25 years ago! I’m already in love with Luminary and it’s just day one… Let’s see how tomorrow goes…”


After five days of using Luminary, I was shocked at the drastic results.

“Within my first 5 days of using Luminary, I was a total believer. Now it’s day 7 and I’m still seeing my appearance improve daily. I used to have blotchy, dry skin… But now my skin-tone is even, and moisturized. Those yucky fine-lines and dark circles under my eyes are beginning to vanish too. My results haven’t stopped yet, so I’m going to keep going and see how young I can truly look.”


“This is incredible! I ran into an old friend from college and she told me I look exactly the same as I did back then… She went on to ask me which plastic surgeon I used. I explained to her that I didn’t have any cosmetic surgery done, but she didn’t believe me… I had to show her my bottle of Luminary just to prove it to her. Wow! This stuff is truly amazing. Words can’t even begin to describe.”

Brenda’s Final Thoughts:

“I’m only 54 and had already given up skin products… I was convinced that none of them worked… However, I must admit; Luminary has proved me wrong… It has truly improved the texture of my skin dramatically. The dark spots have all disappeared and the puffy bags under my eyes have been deflated. I’m so glad I put my skepticism to the side and decided to give this amazing face saver a try. – Brenda Talarico, Senior Editor – PEOPLE Magazine

The Verdict:

Using the Luminary system has removed over 87% of Brenda’s fine lines and wrinkles. It has also tightened and smoothed out the skin on her face and neck. All while removing the sagging, aging, and dehydration from her skin

Here’s How It Works:

Decades worth of sound science has been used to develop Luminary. This incredible face cream contains high concentrations of Proprietary Biosphere and QuSome, which are well known for their age defying properties. This topical treatment also contains Dermaxyl (better known as a facelift in a jar), and Ester-C (an active anti-aging compound in Biosphere). When these ingredients combine, wrinkles and fine lines stand absolutely no chance whatsoever.

But Will This Work For You?

The short answer is yes. We asked Joanna if Luminary will work for anybody, and here is what she had to say. “If you have a face, and your face has skin, Luminary will work for you. Guaranteed. It doesn’t matter your skin type, skin condition, race, or age. Luminary was created with everybody in mind. As a mixed-race person, that was the first thing I made sure of.” – Joanna Gaines

NOTE: In order to achieve the best results, you have to use the entireLuminary system for a minimum of 30 days.

There are less than 150 free bottles of Luminary left, so act now in order to claim yours. .



Note: Brittany used both Luminary to erase her wrinkles, we suggest to use both products together to get the best results possible.

Update: Only 6 Trials Still Available. Free Trial Promotion Ends: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Receive A Free Bottle Of Luminary

Take advantage of our exclusive link and pay only $4.95 for shipping!
Risk FREE Trial!

This special offer ends: Wednesday, June 21, 2017


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What exactly did happen to Uncle Ed? Or, Fear and Loathing while growing moss between the fingers in the Pacific NorthWest.

What exactly did happen to Uncle Ed? Or, Fear and Loathing while growing moss between the fingers in the Pacific NorthWest.

by Stephen Ulrich

Another beautiful rainy June day in Vancouver.   Washington, not Canada.  For some reason, we live here.  OK, I know why we live here:  Family, friends, Wide Open Spaces, Affordability…… certainly NOT the weather.

The month of February where it didn’t get over 28’F for two weeks, and marked the wettest weather in recorded history, was entertaining in it’s own right.  Not unlike Oakland (where I was born) boasting the Greatest Basketball Team of all time, the Pacific Northwest is smashing records left and right.  Trump be damned (please) we are hellbent on being singularly responsible for refuting global warming…. but I digress.  Suffice it to say that grey weather in the farking winter is just fine, but the middle of June?  No esta’ bien!

While waiting for my Gardner’s aid, helper boy, skilled laborer, (i.e. my hands) to arrive, I find that the caffeine has once again drawn my fingers to the keyboard.  I was, honestly, just stopping by to check the weather to see if it could possibly be drier this afternoon so we could plant the Dogwood.  Dogwoods are a most resplendent ornamental tree, and given the grey nature of the sky in this area, they are a modest accoutrement for an otherwise dreary backyard skyscape.  No wonder the wife has “bedazzled” the interior of our spacious abode with the maximum lighting the square footage would allow.  The photo above depicts the exact amount of light normally required to depilate the nose and body hairs from an adult male homo-sapien.

The weather being confirmed as abysmal for the remainder of the day, the timing of the planting of said Dogwood has become secondary to its placement.  According to those in the know, the root system of a Dogwood is extremely shallow and likely not to require the three-foot pipes full of rocks I was intending to supply to direct the water to a deeper root system.  This is a blessing not to be taken lightly.  What it means is that I really don’t have to install a separate drip line/system for a Dogwood, rather it needs to be insured that the lawn gets watered regularly during those hot dry summer months which are apparently feigning complete avoidance of the entire area, all up in here!

Now my lovely and attractive wife is concerned that the placement of the Dogwood will not only interfere with the Badminton net/players that grace our yard at least twice a year, but endanger our view of the entire sky itself. I guess if we lay down under it?

The trees are gorgeous.  It is 80 degrees in San Francisco and I miss it.  The waterfalls are beautiful here and the trees are green all year long.   Except for the ones that lose their leaves completely. How am I supposed to spend the day in the garage working on my boat to enjoy the sunny lake we are visiting on Sunday when it is raining outside?  Maybe I should eat something.

What DID ever happen to Uncle Ed?



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What did I ever do to deserve this girl?

by Stephen Ulrich –

My wife is the most wonderful, inelligent, strong, loving, attentive, patient, beautiful, sexy, and dependable partner a man could ever ask for. Did I mention that I like her too?  And that her job pays for my health insurance?  It just doesn’t get any better than this.

I must admit I did work my ass off during the selection process.  Being a crusty 30 year veteran of nuts and bolts sales and marketing, I treated dating and like any other sales vetting process. The process was not romantic at all.  I sent out a simple statement “I like your smile” to dozens of probablle matches, and evaluated their responses for creativity and suitability.  There were dozens of meetings for coffee, scores of dates, and not a minor amount of frustration.

The sample population ran from those who wanted to boss me around, those who wanted a sugardaddy, those who wanted a “friend” to those who had a monicum of possibility.  A couple that were really suitable in my mind, did not share that opinion of me, but most never got to the second date stage.

When I first communicated with Mary, I thought “what a lovely, solid, professional girl.”  She had a great job, was quite sharp, was well polished in her commnication and seemed to be honest and of good character.  We had both been on Match for so long that we had pretty much given up the ghost, but felt it was worth “one last try.”

Our first meeting was coffee (per usual) at a Starbucks that ended up beind just below the window of ther apartment building.  Coffee after dinner, turned into another quick snack, followed by a nightcap at one of my local blues bars.  There had been no planning, but my flute happened to be in my car, and the band was on a break.  A quick conversation with the band leader sent me scurring to my car, only to arrive back to the table with a dozen red roses (from a street vendor) and a little black box containing my axe.   A couple of songs later, it was announced that “we would like to invite our friend Steve to come up and sit in on a song with us” and up I went.  They performed “Sweet Home Chicago” in the key of C so it was easy for me, and I’ll have to admit I crushed the song.

Arriving back to the table my date was suitably impressed, we kissed, and the rest is history. The storybook date was followed by her announcement that her entire month of November was spoken for……hmmm. Not the follow-up that I had expected, but it never got me down and the fact that it didnt ended up working to my advantage, as the month long absence never materialized either.  Aparantely there were plans with an old lover in Australia that were far more in her mind than his, but that again was MUCH to my advantage.

As the months, then years flew by I asked her to marry me.  She refused.  I asked again.  She refused again.  I am persistant, and for the sake of brevity in this writing suffice it to say that she did finally relent.  The wedding was as storybook as the first date had been.  

There have been ups and downs.  It is told that I am not the easiest man to live with. There is a certain critical nature, and inate arrogance in my otherwise perfect Arian demeanor that some find less than attractive.  That, and my propensity to consume massive amounts of spirits at even the slightest suggestion of a party, or celebration, or boredom, or frustration, or…  left me asleep on the couch far to many an evening. That, by the grace of a higher power I choose to call God, has been lifted and life has gotten far better as a result.

I have mastered the three words that make a marriage work, “that’s right dear.”  The work on my cynicism is, regrettably, ongoing. It is, however, generally accepted that it’s good to be me.  My wife is as good as they come, my dog is the same, we live in a beautiful home with great family and friends, and our basketball team is among the greatest this planet is likely to ever see.

Then there’s the Vancouver WA weather, but as stated previously, I’m still working on the negativity. 🙂

The secret to a wonderful marriage is simple.  Work your ass off to find the best woman in the world.  Get lucky beyond your wildest expectations. Work your ass off to get her to marry you. Get lucky again.  Work your ass off to keep your head out of said ass, and give FAR more often and far more than you percieve to be the “fair” 50% and there is hope for you yet!


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Facebook Could Give You the Oculus Rift You Always Wanted

by Brian Barrett –

Facebook Could Give You the Oculus Rift You Always Wanted

The news today that Facebook will buy Oculus—the makers of the best virtual reality experience in existence—caused paroxysms of upsetment and surprise. That’s fair! But once the smoke clears, this could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the most promising technology we have.

If you’ve been tracking Oculus since its early days as a Kickstarter project, today’s acquisition is frustrating. Facebook is your trying-too-hard uncle; Oculus is the homecoming queen. Of course seeing them together would give you the creeps.

It shouldn’t. Oculus offered a beautiful dream, but you can only get so far on Kickstarter funds. Facebook offers the financial wherewithal to make the Oculus Rift a truly mass product, to realize its vision beyond just a gimmick-driven game engine. Even better, it looks like Mark Zuckerberg gets what makes Oculus so special.

Let It Rift

We’ve seen Oculus do lots of amazing things so far. It can take you up the Game of Thrones ice wall, or turn Unreal Engine 4 games into something that feels very, very real. Even the Navy leans on it for its next-generation war games.

Neat, right? Also limiting. Virtual reality has historically been applied to gaming, and that’s how Oculus began as well. But VR’s roots—especially the goofy headset version—are from an age that predates the bandwidth we have today, the drive towards connectivity, the densely layered social tissue that Facebook and Twitter and Skype and WhatsApp have spent the last decade cultivating. Despite lofty dreams of a VR internet, technical limitations have made VR games a closed circuit, a way for you and maybe one friend to pretend that you weren’t in the room—or mall concourse—you were actually in. But it can be so much more. Facebook gets that.

In a call today to discuss the acquisition, Zuck said more than once that his company was preparing for “the platforms of tomorrow.” And that’s what Oculus provides: a platform. A place for games, sure, but also for chat, for education, for literally anything that involves human interaction. If it seems farfetched that a goofy headset could achieve that kind of ubiquity, remember that Android and iOS didn’t exist 10 years ago; now they’re all-encompassing.

That Facebook recognizes this not only speaks to its own ambitions—and its manic urge to hedge for the future—but also manages to broaden those of Oculus. Left to its own devices, the company could very well have turned Rift into the absolutely most immersive way to play Left for Dead. There’s value in that! But by pushing past games and into hospitals, and classrooms, and kitchens, and battleships, Facebook will give Oculus every chance to realize its potential.

Facebook Could Give You the Oculus Rift You Always Wanted

Think of it this way. Without Facebook, Oculus’s best case scenario was to bootstrap its way to becoming a real product that gamers could embrace until Sony’s Project Morpheus came along. Still great, but niche. With Facebook, Oculus will go on sale, soon. And when it does, it’ll have ample resources focused on letting you do more than just mash buttons.

The Worst Case

Your worries aren’t totally unfounded, of course. There are a whole lot of complications that come with Facebook owning Oculus. Starting with the biggest concern whenever a big company chews up a small one: Will it disappear and die?

It’s a reasonable question. Google bought Sparrow, now Sparrow’s dead. Yahoo! bought [LITERALLY ANYTHING YAHOO EVER BOUGHT], and now it’s dead or dying. But Facebook, so far, seems to be doing right by its marquee acquisitions. Instagram’s not just going strong, it’s actually adding useful features. The Branch team is still working to make Facebook Conversations better, by all accounts. It’s too early to say anything about WhatsApp, but Facebook has promised to let it act as an independent company as well.

Besides, it’s not like Facebook can subsume a hardware company the way it did, say, FriendFeed. When it says Oculus will continue independently, and that its main goal is to allow it to succeed as a platform, there’s every reason to believe that’s true. Remember, Facebook is buying Instagram and WhatsApp and Oculus not because it wants all of those things to become Facebook. It’s buying them on the off chance one of them becomes what replaces Facebook.

A more rational concern, though, is what the ultimate Oculus experience will be under Facebook. One prominent developer (!) has already jumped ship on the news, and more could follow:

That’s probably a short-term concern; once developers realize that Oculus is the same old Oculus—assuming it is—it shouldn’t have much difficulty attracting enough action to keep you entertained. Especially since it’s currently, for all intents and purposes, the only game in town.

The bigger, longer-term issue might be how exactly Facebook plans to monetize Oculus. Zuck said earlier today that he’s not interested in making a profit off of the hardware (which is good!) but that “there may be advertising” (which is bad!), not to mention various retail pushes. Why go to the mall when you can sift through the sales rack from the comfort of your Rift?

Which brings us to the last question about a Facebook-Rift pairing: What kind of future are we looking at? Virtual reality can bring us closer to people who are at a great distance, but it disconnects us from the world we’re currently in. It’s one thing when you’re just playing a quick game; you’ve got the same blinders on whether it’s a Xbox 360 or an Rift. But attending a lecture? A family reunion? Piloting a drone? It’s miraculous that we’ll be able to do those things from the comfort of our compugoggles. It’s also a little bit terrifying.

Facebook Could Give You the Oculus Rift You Always WantedSEXPAND

But those are questions for society at large, not for Facebook and Oculus. Right now, today, the most amazing technology we’ve seen in years just found a champion that can make it a reality. That’s something to applaud, not scowl at. That’s how this is supposed to work.

Unless you ponied up for that Kickstarter. Sorry, guys, that sucks.



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Narrative Science Launches Free Artificial Intelligence Application for Google Analytics

Automatically Analyzes, Turns Website Data Into Natural Language Reports 

artificial_intelligence_001CHICAGO (Mar. 18, 2014) —Narrative Science, the leader in Narrative Analytics, announces the launch of Quill Engage, a free application that automatically analyzes and transforms Google Analytics data into natural language reports. By quickly and easily explaining what’s impacting site performance, Quill Engage enables organizations to make better decisions about user engagement and specific marketing efforts. Quill Engage utilizes Quill, Narrative Science’s artificial intelligence platform, and can be accessed for free at

“Organizations of every size struggle with getting true insight and actionable information from their website data. Quill Engage provides instant analysis in the form of easy-to-read, written reports that empower people to do their jobs better,” says Stuart Frankel, CEO of Narrative Science. “Quill Engage is a powerful way for any Google Analytics user to experience the speed, scale and personalization made possible with artificial intelligence.”

Quill Engage automatically accesses and analyzes website stats and trends from Google Analytics and delivers users a weekly or monthly report in plain English that’s similar to one written by a professional analyst. Quill Engage includes performance drivers and recommendations and covers key metrics, including content engagement, web traffic and sources, referrals, paid search, and audience segmentation.

“Website analytics are the lifeblood of most businesses, and companies are spending countless hours sifting through website data,” said Andy Crestodina, web strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media. “Quill Engage takes the headache out of deciphering Google Analytics, so you can spend less time interpreting data and more time improving your site.”

Quill Engage joins Narrative Science’s robust lineup of solutions for marketers and agencies, including campaign analysis and communication solutions powered by Quill. These solutions analyze marketing data and deliver insight and advice in natural language, enabling marketers and agencies to accelerate content marketing and more effectively understand campaign performance, audience measurement and advertising effectiveness.

About Narrative Science

Narrative Science is the leader in Narrative Analytics, which helps organizations automatically analyze and transform data into natural language reports. The company’s patented artificial intelligence platform, Quill ™, mines data for meaning and insight to provide people with relevant communications that are easy to understand and produced at an unprecedented scale. Quill is being used by organizations to improve decision making, create new information products and optimize customer communications across many industries, including financial services, insurance, government, sports and marketing services. For more information on Narrative Science, visit



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Will Oracle Eat Cisco For Lunch?


Near the end of Oracle‘s (NYSE: ORCL) conference call last week, co-president Mark Hurd was asked about the company’s ambitions in the telecom space, following its acquisition last month of Acme Packet for $2.1 billion.

“Phone companies have two IT systems,” he said, “One that manages the business, one that manages the network. This was an opportunity to get into the network side of the business.” On Monday the company accelerated the move into that business by buying Tekelec, a long-time provider of network signaling, subscriber data management and policy control software.

The big dog in the telecom space for most of the last decade has been Cisco Systems(NASDAQ: CSCO), which itself has been moving into the cloud space with acquisitions like Solve Direct.

With Oracle and Cisco now on a collision course, who is likely to win?

Telecom Becomes Software

The big trend in this space over the last decade was the dominance of IP networks over old-fashioned analog networks, like those companies such as AT&T had run for 100 years. The new trend is the dominance of software over hardware, exemplified by the rise of Software Defined Networking, which envisions the replacement of specialized network hardware with software housed in commodity systems.

Oracle is moving into a version of this space, but in its own way. The companies it has been buying build software and hold patents that are important to the way fixed and mobile networks run now. Since that old-line business is dwindling, they’re bargains. Oracle hopes to turn these bargains into dominance of the phone industry customers, who still buy billions of dollars in equipment per year and are looking for a way forward.

Cisco until now has been mostly focused on SDN start-ups, and on rivals like Juniper Systems, which have been building their own SDN solutions for IP networks through acquisitions and internal development. They’re adapting their existing fast switching fabrics to the new environment, and figure they have a big moat around the space.

But what if they don’t? Oracle does not think they do. They seem to believe that, by controlling the heart of the old-line software, they can control standards, defining what customers do next.

It’s an audacious idea, but it’s not beyond Oracle’s ability to execute. It started with databases and acquired their applications. Database applications are networked and can easily be translated to telecom networks. Oracle already sells to the phone companies in such areas as billing, so why couldn’t it take over the network operations center?

Who Might Win?

Oracle’s stock has been outpacing that of Cisco for years. Over the last half-decade Oracle is up 56%, while Cisco shares are actually down 15%. Over the last year it’s up almost 10%, while Cisco is flat. While Cisco sells at about 2.5 times its annual revenues of $46 billion, Oracle sells at closer to four times its revenue. That’s after a stock collapse that saw it drop almost $4.50/share on third quarter earnings that came in behind analyst estimates.

Oracle was pounding the table for better results going forward on its call. Analysts were told that the arrival of new hardware probably slowed sales, and that economic uncertainty caused some slop-over of orders from the third quarter to the current one. If you believe that, Oracle is going to go up, and may gain 20% or more by the time the next quarterly earnings are released.

Cisco, meanwhile, is going nowhere fast, and is attractive mainly for its yield and its PE ratio a below-market 12. That’s partly because it’s stuck with the slow-growth telecom market, the same market Oracle is now targeting.

Why would Oracle want a market that Cisco is failing to execute in? Because software margins are fatter than hardware margins, and telecom hardware margins can be fatter than those in the general computing market. Oracle believes it can sell a host of its fastest servers into the network operations space, turn industry standards into software, and bull its way through Cisco’s moat with the lower prices that result.

They’re right on the technology trend, and we know they can execute on profits once they control industry standards.  I’d say Cisco is in trouble. Watch carefully for its own SDN strategy announcements for your clue on how bad the trouble might be.


R.I.P. Internet — 1969-2014
At only 45 years old… the Internet will be laid to rest in 2014. And Silicon Valley is thrilled. Because they know… The Economist believes the death of the Internet “will be transformative.”


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Meatless Monday: Dealing With Abundant Scarcity

Some people believe in abundance, that the universe will provide. Others believe in scarcity, that there’s not enough to go around. I seem to be bi. I am dazzled by the benevolence and bounty in nature. On the other hand, I read the headlines.

Ukraine and Syria have all grabbed our attention lately, but buried in the news is something you’ve probably figured out in your own —higher food prices. Even potatoes, that basic thrift food, cost more now, and beef is just shy of inflation prices, according to the USDA. Staples like wheat, coffee, rice and soy beans — are in short supply all over the world. So we’re all paying more for less.

Every global calamity (Fukujima, anyone?) threatens our food security even further. And political unrest and soaring food prices go together like mac and cheese. Not only has economic hardship played a role in Syria and Ukraine, some historians believe it was the real tipping point in the French Revolution. Even cheap eats like bread had become prohibitive.

So-called cheap food isn’t cheap now, either, with McDonalds raising its prices. Of all the reasons to go meatless, compassion and the environment top the list. But forget ethics (if you can) — decision-making often begins with your wallet. Since beef is expensive and they’re going to boost the price of a burger, anyway, now’s a nice time to explore other options.

With all the hype about greening your life, one of the most basic things you can do happens to be the most important — going for a more plant-based diet. According to a Stanford University study, two-thirds of our agricultural land goes toward raising livestock, while less than ten percent goes into feeding us. And we’re hungry.

Over two centuries ago, that happy guy Thomas Malthus wrote,”The number of mouths to be fed will have no limit; but the food that is to supply them cannot keep pace with the demand for it.” He predicted “famine, distress, havoc and dismay. . . hatred, violence, war and bloodshed.” Clearly, a textbook case of a scarcity believer.

He thought the situation was hopeless. I don’t. I wish I believed in universal abundance. I do believe we’re capable of change, even if it takes something as dire as a global food shortage to make us act. Giving up eating isn’t viable. Eating smarter is. It doesn’t mean stockpiling food like a survivalist, just making the most of what we have and enjoying more meatless meals. Starting now.

Now happens to have a lot going for it. We’re coming into spring, a happy, hopeful time augering new beginnings. My own vegetable garden is closer to a kiddie pool than an acre and isn’t big enough to put a goat on, let alone feed one. However, it’s putting out an abundance (there’s that word again) of arugula, kale, peppers, tomatoes, radishes, mint and thyme with almost no effort from me.

So indulge in spring’s sparkling produce — grow it if you can, eat it while it’s in season. It won’t get any cheaper and it won’t be here forever. You can’t afford to waste. Really.

The Beet Goes On (Gingered Beets and Beet Greens)

Vibrant spring greens and sweet roasted beets taste of the moment and make the most of the entire beet from roots to leafy greens. Since Monsanto scored again with genetically modified beets, organic beets are definitely the way to go here.

Nice by itself for a lightish lunch or pair with a whole grain for a main course.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch organic kale or other seasonal greens
1 bunch organic beets, root and greens
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
2 oranges, juice and zest
1/4 cup dried cranberries
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup crumbled vegan feta, optional

Preheat oven to 400.

Chop beet roots off from the greens. Rinse them and wrap them tightly in foil.
Place on baking sheet and roast for 1 hour.

Remove beets from oven and allow to cool. You may do this bit a day ahead and store the beets wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator.

Wash beets greens and kale well, rinsing away any grit.

Chop greens fine. Stems may be chopped small too. Otherwise compost them or save them to make vegetable stock.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pepper flakes. When they start to sizzle, add greens by the handful. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until greens wilt.

Grate in ginger and orange zest. Stir in orange juice.

Add cranberries and mix together gently.

Place greens and cranberries in a bowl or serving platter.

Toast walnuts at 400 degrees for 8 minutes, or until brown and fragrant.

Meanwhile, unwrap beets. The skins should slip away easily. Dice beets and scatter atop greens.

Top with walnuts and optional feta.

Serves 6.


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Are You On Cloud 9 With Your Data Service?


Being successful in today’s competitive and fast-paced corporate world requires that you include data service as part of your business plan. When you rely on virtual cloud storage services, you will find that your company is more profitable and that you can focus on multitudes of tasks each day without compromising your security or your profitability. However, with more options for this storage coming available each day, you may at some point ask yourself if you are entirely satisfied with your data service. You can answer that question and make the best decision for your corporate needs by considering these possibilities.

Reasonable Storage Requirements

As your company grows and expands, so will your need for sufficient data storage. If your current provider limits the amount of information you can store, you may consider this limitation as a sign that you need to look for a new service. Cloud providers such as QTS, an Atlanta datacenter, should be able to provide the storage space that clients need without penalty or unreasonable limitations. This courtesy can help you grow your company without having to worry about paying for space that should already be available to you.

Good Customer Service

Just as you provide great service to your own customers, you expect this consideration to be shown to you when you approach your provider with questions or concerns. When you are routinely put on hold or have to speak with agents who perhaps are difficult to understand and communicate with, you may question whether or not this company really wants your business. Even more, when your issues seem to be brushed aside or delayed without explanation, you may have every reason to seek a new data cloud company. You are entitled to good customer service just like any other consumer.

Mobile Accessibility

The success of your business could depend greatly on how quickly you can obtain your stored information. Even if you are away from the office, it could be imperative that you are able to log in and get the information you need to serve your customers. Many cloud customers rely on mobile technology to grant them this convenience. If your cloud provider offers mobile apps or other remote accessibility, you can take this as a sign that your cloud service has your company’s best interests at heart and wants to help you succeed.

Security and Monitoring

Your customers and vendors expect you to take good care of their personal information. In turn, you expect your cloud provider to offer you the security and round-the-clock monitoring your company needs to keep your clients’ records safe. A good data storage business should be able to offer you the reassurance that your corporate information is safe and that only authorized parties can log in and access your clients’ data. If your provider has problems with security breaches or theft, you may be well advised to seek out a new company for this need.

Your success, profitability, and competitiveness may depend greatly on how well your data cloud provider serves your company. When you want the assurance that you have chosen a good business in which to store your sensitive records and information, you might feel more confident when you review these qualities. If your provider fails to satisfy any of these requirements, you may fare better to choose a new cloud storage business.

Former Atlanta business owner Nadine Swayne knows the importance of secured data storage. If you need to check out Cloud companies in the “the Peach State”, look online and search the term Atlanta datacenter to find a suitable candidate for your company.


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ISI Predicts iPhone 6 To Be ‘Mother Lode’ Of All Upgrade Cycles

ISI’s Apple AAPL +0.93% analyst, Brian Marshall, published a report estimating that larger screen iPhones could add over $3 in EPS in the second half of calendar 2014 and that the upgrade cycle is not fully reflected in the stock price. He started his note with the widely-held view “Large-screen envy is prevalent among the iPhone installed base” and “we believe a ~5” form-factor iPhone would spark a massive upgrade cycle as well as many ‘Android switchers’ returning back to the iPhone.” (Note that my family and I own Apple shares and I have sold put options, which is a bullish strategy).

Marshall believes that Apple will announce two iPhones this summer with 4.7” and 5.5” screen sizes.  He estimates that in the 2011-12 timeframe about 10%-11% of iPhone owners upgraded in any given quarter and that this has fallen to 9% recently. As the chart below shows the December quarter has had the highest replacement rates since new iPhones are available then but that the upgrade rates have fallen the past two years as there is less reason to upgrade.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 8.00.39 AM

Apple will have sold over 500 million iPhones by the end of this quarter and Marshall estimates that approximately 260 million units (about the past seven quarters) is the current install base. At an Average Selling Price (ASP) of $600 each 1% incremental replacement rate (based on Marshall’s 260 million install base) generates $1.56 billion in revenue. With an estimated 40% gross margin (feels low to me but lets be conservative), a 26.2% tax and share count of 875 million each 1% adds $0.53 to EPS.

Marshall is estimating that the replacement rate can get back to towards its peak of 12%-14% when the iPhone 6 is available. If it gets back to 12% in both the September and December quarters I estimate it would add about $3.18 to EPS (Marshall is at $3.12 based on a higher share count of 889 million) to Apple’s calendar 2014 EPS.

If the iPhone’s gross margin is around 45% (Morgan Stanley MS +0.89%’s Katy Huberty has it at 46% for fiscal 2014 and 2015) each 1% incremental replacement rate would add $0.59 and $3.55 in EPS during calendar 2014. This compares to a $4 EPS increase that Pacific Crest’s Apple analyst, Andy Hargreaves, published last week when estimating that 35% of iPhone upgrades will chose the larger screen iPhone and capture 10% of the large format Android market.

It is hard to argue that larger screen iPhones won’t increase the replacement rate. I have an iPhone 5 and have found the screen size limiting when I’m reading emails or websites. The key question is how high could the replacement rate move up to since much of the recent install base is locked in for two years.

Marshall’s calendar 2014 EPS estimate is $42.50 before any incremental iPhone upgrade assumption and would increase to about $46 if he is correct. While his timing could be a bit off (may not get a full quarters worth of upgrades in the September quarter) its affect would probably shift to the March 2015 quarter and help that years earnings (which he has not published). The Street is expecting $46.26 which probably includes some positive impact from larger screen iPhones.


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