"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 25 September 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run CI


[so my car is going to be okay ... luckily my boyfriend works in an autobody shop ]

While product differentiation is

the current vogue for upscale

marketers seeking to maximize

high-ticket purchases like

superdeluxe refrigerators, on

the more prosaic level of

consumption a reverse trend is

in effect. Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up

recently announced that it's

changing 7-Up to give it a

crisper, fruitier flavor;

according to the industry trade

publication Beverage Digest,

this will make it taste more

like category leader Sprite. And

on the burger front, McDonald's

is now serving Whoppers while

Burger King is dishing out Big



Ironically, it's the

availability of too many

different products that has led

to such copycat strategies.

While the battle for what the

food-and-beverage industry

pundits call "throat space" is

waged more often on TVs, radios,

and movie screens than in R&D

kitchens, the inevitable

consequence of such warfare

shows up in the final product:

If your competitor has poured

millions into overcoming the

public's gag reflex for a

particular item, the smartest

response is to give them more of

the same.


[i'm going to make a go of riding a bike for the first time since college]

Too many choices is also the

reasoning behind CNET's US$9

million entry into the already

crowded AOL-clone market. But

while Snap Online debuted

earlier this week with the

promise to give "context to the

confusion of the Internet," the

most confusing thing about the

Web these days is why so many

companies believe that providing

a friendly, co-branded default

homepage for ISPs whose clients

don't get that whole "set

preferences" thing is this

quarter's surefire road to

riches. Sure, CNET's brainstorm

of combining phallic icons with

dickless content is a nice

in-joke for the art department

to high-five over, but it isn't

exactly the sort of value-add

that seems likely to establish

Snap as a viable AOL killer, or

even distinguish it much from

all the other sites plotting

that very same crime. Frankly,

we're waiting for the site that

tells us which of this

ever-growing group of upstart

content aggregators is the best

before we open our throats on

this one.


[in preparation, i am going to a spinning class today]

Sue everyone! was a favorite

Jerky Boys line back when their

product circulated as free

bootlegs rather than free Bud

Light ads. Jim Barksdale adopted

his own Johnny-and-Kamal

intonation - Free everything! -

last week as he hinted that

Netscape would start giving away

free NCs and PCs "within a

year." Many wondered if the man

who oversaw successful cell

phone giveaways at McCaw had

gone goofy, pushing the strategy

of gobbling market share via

loss-leading handouts to its

final, absurd conclusion. The

idea, vaguely, is to load up

some relatively hollow machines

with Communicator and a host of

partners' software in the hopes

of raking in ad, subscription,

and Net-commerce revenues, all

while engendering brand loyalty.

But of course this begs the

question: If your content, your

browser, and your silicon are

all on the house, who will have

any revenue to pay for the

advertising that's supposed to

support the giveaway? Though it

remains axiomatic that in

technology, as in crack, the

first taste should be free,

giving away computers may prove

as impracticable as finding a

distributor for another Jerky

Boys flick.


[this is a blessing in disguise and my call to GET BUFF!]

While Microsoft's partnership

with esteemed arts panhandler

PBS ensured both a high-minded

press release and a high price

for the product driving that

relationship - a

hardware-enhanced Barney doll

that will actually receive

signals from a TV broadcast,

enabling it to talk back to

specific episodes of Barney and

Friends - we can't help but

think that this technology is

far more suited to the

take-one-it's-free distribution

model that Barksdale envisions

for set-top boxes. Which is

simply to say, how long before

Microsoft strikes a deal with

Budweiser to make interactive

versions of the mega-brewer's

popular spokesfrogs? Instead of

charging for these persuasive

plush toys, the company could

simply give them away to loyal

Bud drinkers. Then, all

throughout the various sports

contests it sponsors, it could

broadcast sales messages through

these new frog buddies, without

ever having to interrupt the



While the educational aspects of

this technology seem limited -

why usurp an imaginative kid's

chance to make his pet dinosaur

"talk" himself? - its

promotional potential is

undeniable. Indeed, we'd

probably even be willing to pay

for a Lil Penny doll who would

entertain us with stories about

his new Nikes during slow

moments of next season's

basketball games.

courtesy of the Sucksters

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