New Zealand's most successful blog celebrated its fifth birthday this week as it closes in on achieving a coveted top-10 global blogging ranking.
Wellington IT professional Richard MacManus started the Read/Write Web blog in April 2003 and has quietly developed it into a leading international source of news and reviews for anyone with an interest in Web 2.0 innovations.
The site now has more than 200,000 subscribers to its daily RSS feed and is ranked the world's 11th most read blog by aggregation website Technorati.
Last month finance news website 24/7 Wall St ranked Read/Write Web 13th on a list of the world's 25 most valuable blogs. 24/7 estimated Read/Write Web was pulling in US$1.7 million ($2.1 million) a year in advertising revenue and valued the business at US$5 million.
And while the tale of MacManus' rise from hobbyist blogger to global web identity is compelling and inspiring for other Kiwi web entrepreneurs, the man himself has always cautioned that professional blogging is hard work and the rewards can be slow to arrive. Read/Write Web was into its third year before MacManus could quit his day job to become a full-time blogger.
PAY THE MACHINE
Here's encouraging news for anyone who has endured the frustration of spending a lunch break queuing to pay the power bill. New Zealand Post plans to try out self-service bill payment kiosks at some Auckland PostShops from September.
NZ Post acts as a bill payment agency for a number of companies including phone, power and insurance businesses, and also receives vehicle registration and road user fees.
Under the automation plan, customers paying bills by eftpos will be able to skip the queue to have payments processed by a teller, and settle their accounts at the kiosks.
NZ Post is talking to potential suppliers about the technology options. If the trial goes well, it wants to eventually install kiosks across its network of more than 300 PostShops and franchised outlets.
However, this isn't a scheme to replace human tellers, apparently. Rather it's a way of "providing improved and additional ways for customers to interact with NZ Post".
"Cyber slacker" employees, those who spend the work day unproductively surfing the web, are costing businesses dearly in lost time increased internet usage charges, says IT security company Mako Networks. Mako has been keeping tabs on internet traffic through 2700 of its small-to-medium business client companies and says Google, Facebook and Trade Me were the top three most accessed websites during business hours in March.
"The question businesses have to ask themselves is how much work is actually going on during work time?" says Mako chief executive Bill Farmer. And if the answer that comes back isn't appealing, Farmer would be happy to pitch for business.
Mako's technology "helps companies monitor network usage and make adjustments to improve efficiency and productivity, particularly in SMEs where cost control is critical".
MOBILE DATA HOPES
This week's announcement from TelstraClear that it is re-entering the mobile phone market with some reasonably priced plans for business customers has raised hopes that sky-high mobile data prices may fall.
Mobile data - accessing the internet via cellular networks - has been prohibitively expensive for "casual" users who don't sign up to the monthly data plans offered by Telecom and Vodafone.
While Telecom has been charging casual users $8 a megabyte and Vodafone $10, TelstraClear's new casual rate undercuts both at $3 a megabyte (all rates exclude GST).
It remains to be seen if TelstraClear's move will be enough to force the other two players to drop their prices, but it is encouraging.
Mobile data is a great service and a huge productivity enhancement tool for business but even at $3 a megabyte, casual access is prohibitively expensive for anyone using the cellular network for anything more than minimal internet or email access.
All three phone companies offer much more reasonably priced access through monthly plans. The catch is you typically need to sign a two-year contract.
In other markets where competition is fiercer, such as the US, some phone carriers now give away mobile data to subscribers free.