Online shopping barriers

U.S. retail e-commerce sales reached almost $35 billion in the third quarter of 2007, according to the Census Bureau. But only half of Americans have ever bough a product online, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which surveyed what it would take to increase these numbers. Widespread fear of identity theft is the biggest problem that has to be overcome. Also, broadband connections are needed by those who still subscribe to dial-up for the online shopping experience to become more compelling. If the three-quarters of internet users who agree that they don’t like sending personal or credit card information online felt more confident about doing this, the share of the internet population shopping online would be 7 Read More ›

Chasing the Long Tail’s Virtuous Circle

The Internet has already deeply affected business models across the spectrum, from supply-chain management to consumer level e-commerce. But it will take real broadband to truly disrupt the visually oriented movie, television, and education industries. James Surowiecki of the New Yorker, in “Disk Averse,” adds to the growing literature focusing on the “Long Tail” economy. Last fall Wired editor Chris Anderson wrote a groundbreaking article by that name showing that digitally oriented content sellers, who were not constrained by the physical scarcities of shelf space or spectrum, earned between 25 and 50 percent of their profits from unpopular products. The volume of niche content (books, movies, songs) is so large, Anderson showed, that it matches or excels the sales and Read More ›


When I was in Shanghai in the fall of 2003, I met with Jack Ma, the fast speaking Chinese entrepreneur who founded Alibaba.com. At the time, as we met atop the world’s tallest hotel, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai in the Jin Mao Tower, Alibaba’s chief business was an online supply-chain platform that connects China’s many thousands of manufacturers, component and commodity handlers, and import-exporters. Now Alibaba also competes with eBay with a consumer online auction site and online payments (a la PayPal). Today, Yahoo! is paying $1 billion for a 35 percent stake in Alibaba and will turn its Chinese operations over to Alibaba. eBay and Barry Diller’s Interactive Corp. had already made deals to enter the Chinese ecommerce market. Read More ›