Get ready for this weekend's annual
-- the expensive and often audacious "Hey, world, look at me!" TV spots presented by Web sites during the
. Especially after last year's smash
Super Bowl spot -- which drove the job-hunt site's searches up from 600 per minute precommercial to 2,900 per minute afterward -- getting an outrageous spot in the Super Bowl lineup has become something like a blood sport for hungry new Web companies.
The economics are daunting. Companies with tiny capitalizations spend into the millions for these spots -- and often, it becomes a bet-the-company move. But the results for the winners can be dramatic.
This year's 135 million Super Bowl viewers will see at least 10 dot-com spots, some more than once. At up to $3 million per 30-second slot, this is big-time gambling for the intrepid advertisers. We'll see some predictable names here --
and, once again, Monster.com -- and also some you've never heard of, such as a tiny Orlando online wedding-invitation printer,
TSC message boards.
I thought many of the dot-com spots during last year's broadcast were pretty lame and wasn't surprised at the success of the Monster.com commercial: It was clearly the best of breed.
Monday I'll give you my rankings of this year's dot-com ads.
Furthermore, OurBeginnings.com, which has several spots running during the pregame-through-postgame blur, made one spot that
refused to run because of its language and unspecified "antisocial behavior." Beginning Sunday, you can view that censored spot on the company's eponymous Web site, where you can also register to win $250,000 in cash. Good luck!
I try to avoid getting caught up in computer arcana here, but I can't resist passing along a tip on an enormously useful, if almost unknown Web site ... and, just maybe, an early heads-up on a company worth following toward an IPO:
One of the most vexing problems for many PC users is the occasional need to transfer a large file from their computer to another, over the Net. It's easy enough to attach one or more moderate-sized files to email messages, and if the files aren't too large, they'll usually get through just fine.
But it's a little-known fact of emailing life that most email systems gag on files larger than about 600 KB to 700 KB. The recipient will wait forever for them to download, but then the download doesn't work, and the big file doesn't make it through in a useful form.
Computer whizzes use a special file transfer protocol, or FTP, for moving large files -- up to many megabytes -- around on the Net. It works well, but it's proved way too complex for many PC users.
(I should say that I rely on FTP Voyager, a very professional shareware
, for FTPing, and it works well, largely because it can automate the process. And
, the geniuses who made local PC-to-PC file transfers easy with LapLink, has a free
downloadable product, LapLink FTP, which makes transfers fairly easy, too. Still, even with Voyager or LL-FTP, using FTP can be a daunting task.)
rides to the rescue, with a "safe-deposit-box" Web site that allows you to upload and temporarily store files, which can then be downloaded by your intended recipient. The process is very Webby, very easy and very safe and secure. And, by the way, free.
The site is worth a look if you sometimes have to ship big files around. And though the company is tiny, and a public offering is distant, this may be a company worth keeping an eye on.
We've been seeing nibbles of interest in upping the ante in DSL, with free-DSL service for PC users who want broadband access but don't want to pay the tab. This is an inevitable step; a couple of years from now the notion of free 56-kbps dial-up access will be a funny anachronism, but keep your powder dry for now.
The first "free-DSL" notion was trolled in front of Southern California PC users a month ago by
Broadband Digital Group
, an outfit in Orange County. CEO Ryan Steelberg was also a founder of Web shops
, so he brings a little credibility to the table.
Few details were released, and the service had a "coming-soon" sign hung on it, but as reporters looked into the deal, it became clear users would have to give up a great deal of personal information -- and probably put up with a great deal of ads and junk mail -- to get the service.
Which, even worse, wouldn't have been quite free, after all.
, which says it will use its "focused information retrieval services" (what a wonderful example of techno-babble!) to send people who sign up for its new free-DSL service a barrage of advertising.
CEO Steven Daum said this week that Smart World will have 1 million-plus free-DSL users by the end of the year. It's starting by proselytizing among its current 300,000 free dial-up-access customers.
Sounds interesting, but I want to see some meat on this bone before I bite.
As a follow-up to my
mention earlier this week of problems with
AOL 5.0 software, the company's lawyers are jumping on the 15-year-old Webmaster at
, who has posted an unauthorized but apparently legit
downloadable copy of AOL 6.0, known in the business as K2 (or "Karakorum," on his Web site).
AOL hadn't intended to release this preliminary build even to beta testers until at least May, with an early release to AOL employees only, for more in-house testing, scheduled for next week. Public shipments are due in August.
The company says distribution of AOL 6.0 by kenton.org hurts AOL's interests, and argues (somewhat confusingly) that:
prerelease of the 6.0 materials that you have posted wholesale on your site are AOL's internal confidential property. These materials are not available to the public. You can only have obtained them from someone who breached their employment agreement with AOL or from someone who illegally hacked into AOL's system.
It's common to portray companies that attack kids' Web sites as big, bad meanies. But AOL has a clear and legitimate interest in protecting its works-in-progress, and I'm not offended by AOL's attempts to get "Kent" to take the files off his site.
But this does illustrate, for the 11,984,558th time, just how tough it is to control distribution of digital data --
A tip of the hat to
, who made a
good call -- better than
mine -- Wednesday night, after the
preannouncement analysts' call, on the nonimpact of its bad news on tech-stock trading Thursday. Dell was down about 2 1/2 at Thursday's close, and while the
as a whole was down a little Thursday and some tech stocks got haircuts, the market seemed largely to shrug off Dell's problems.
Nice, TaskMaster, nice.
Jim Seymour is president of Seymour Group, an information-strategies consulting firm working with corporate clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and a longtime columnist for PC Magazine. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. At time of publication, neither Seymour nor Seymour Group held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Seymour does not write about companies that are current or recent consulting clients of Seymour Group. While Seymour cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites your feedback at