Sunday, November 30, 2008

Check out Snapshot Adventures: Secret of Bird Island

This is an awesome little computer game for PCs let's you find out what it's like to be a bird photographer. The goal is to photograph birds in this cross-country adventure. Armed with nothing but a standard 35mm camera and a field guide, you must capture portraits of birds in close-up, in flight and perched in trees in order to complete your life list - the total list of all the birds you've ever seen - and solve the mysterious disappearance of your grandfather.

The game teaches observation and id skills, fun for kids of any age.

If you go to the company's website, you can download a free 60 minute trial (if you go beyond 60 minutes, they charge you). Once you start playing, you'll be hooked. Also, if you have played it, that will help you sell to customers in your store.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Corn Prices Are Set To Come Down

From Minnesota Public Radio:

The collapse of VeraSun Energy is costing hundreds of Minnesota farmers millions of dollars. The Sioux Falls ethanol company filed for bankruptcy three weeks ago after losing almost $500 million since last summer. Now the company said it will terminate many of the corn contracts it signed with farmers. That's taking revenue away from farms as falling corn prices hurt their ability to make up for lost income.

VeraSun built two ethanol plants in southern Minnesota, but the bankruptcy made it impossible for the company to open the faculties near Janesville and Welcome.

Neither has produced a gallon of ethanol. But, in the months before bankruptcy, the company laid the groundwork to start the plants. VeraSun contracted with nearby farmers to buy millions of bushels of corn.

Now, it's refusing to pay on many of those contracts. Richard Guse said he has a half dozen VeraSun corn contracts. He said if the company breaks them he stands to lose a lot of money.

"I'm going to say my potential loss is two hundred to three hundred thousand dollars," Guse said.

Guse said under the contracts VeraSun agreed to pay him anywhere from about $5.00 per bushel to almost $8.00 a bushel. Since he signed the deals, corn prices have fallen sharply, to just over $3.00 a bushel."

Read or listen to the full article here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making The Most Of Online Sales

Business Week's Small Business Section has two interesting articles on selling merchandise online. From the article Determining Where To Sell Online:

"There's no one-size-fits-all answer, though e-commerce experts tend to agree it's worth listing on multiple sites. The e-commerce market is huge, with $60 billion worth of goods traded on eBay alone in 2007, according to the company. More than 85,000 businesses primarily operated as electronic or mail-order retailers in 2006, according to the latest U.S. Census data, and 77,000 of them had no employees. Finding the best platforms for your company depends on what you sell.

You also need to consider how today's Web has changed since the early days of e-commerce: It's much more social (, 2/20/08). Setting up a storefront alone and listing on marketplaces may not be the most effective way to generate sales. Instead, Amy Joyner, a former eBay seller and author of The Online Millionaire, an e-commerce guide, suggests that those serious about selling online write blogs and comment on others, join social networks, and participate in online communities. "If you're out there and you're delivering content and interesting information, there's no way it can hurt," she says."

You can read the entire article here. Did you catch the link to the Feb. 20, 2008 article about social e-commerce? Here's an excerpt from this interesting article:

"First, a few numbers. There are some 9 million blogs out there, Yes, there were 9 million, but how many of them were active? Probably only a fraction. In early 2008, says Technorati Chairman David Sifry, the search company indexes 112 million blogs, with 120,000 new ones popping up each day. But only 11% of these blogs, he says, have posted within the past two months. That means the active universe is closer to 13 million blogs."

Blogs are different. They evolve with every posting, each one tied to a moment. So if a company can track millions of blogs simultaneously, it gets a heat map of what a growing part of the world is thinking about, minute by minute. E-mail has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private. Most blogs are open to the world. As the bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation.

Picture the blog world as the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. Hunched over their laptops at one table sit six or seven experts in nanotechnology. Right across from them are teenage goths dressed in black and thoroughly pierced. Not too many links between those two tables. But the café goes on and on. Saudi women here, Labradoodle lovers there, a huge table of people fooling around with cell phones. Those are the mobile-photo crowd, busily sending camera-phone pictures up to their blogs.

The racket is deafening. But there's loads of valuable information floating around this cafe. Technorati, PubSub, and others provide the tools to listen. While the traditional Web catalogs what we have learned, the blogs track what's on our minds.

Why does this matter? Think of the implications for businesses of getting an up-to-the-minute read on what the world is thinking. Already, studios are using blogs to see which movies are generating buzz. Advertisers are tracking responses to their campaigns. "I'm amazed people don't get it yet," says Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice-president who heads up search. "Never in the history of market research has there been a tool like this."

Read the full article on Social Media here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weed Seeds In Bird Seed Mixes

Be prepared for customers to ask questions about weeds in bird seed.

As mentioned earlier in the blog, the Weed Science Society of America released information that many noxious weed seeds can be found in bird seed mixes--seeds not intended to be ingredients in those mixes.

News organizations and sites are picking up on the story:

The Post-Bulletin
The Christian Science Monitor
The Akron Beakon Journal
The Leader-Telegram

The story is gaining legs and customers will be asking if your bird seed is treated to be non-germination. Be sure to ask you seed distributors what they know about the story, how their seed is treated, do they know if any of their mixes were used in the study. The WSSA is offering tips for preventing weed seeds from growing:

Use a tray attachment under your feeder to keep seeds off the ground. (Because birds like house sparrows never kick seeds around in tray causing them to spill to the ground).

Select foods that won’t sprout, such as sunflower hearts, peanuts, peanut butter, raisins, mealworms, and plain suet cakes.

Buy only treated wild bird food mixtures. Many manufacturers are now baking their products to kill weed seeds, using guidelines established by the US Department of Agriculture. So read product labels carefully to make certain you select a treated brand.

Keep an eye out for weeds under your feeder and pull them before they can flower and spread.