Monday, November 26, 2012

Billionaire Buffet Offers Plain Talk Tax Solution

Online viewers watch more long form videos thanks to tablets

Consumers who stream TV shows, movies and sporting events are increasingly tapping their tablets when they tune in, with tablet video viewers watching 54 percent more long-form videos than they did at the start of the year, according to video technology and streaming provider
Ooyala in a new report analyzing video habits of nearly 200 million unique viewers across devices for Q3.

Researchers said tablet owners spent 71 percent of their total tablet video viewing time watching videos 10 minutes or longer.
What’s more, the report said the overall share of tablet video viewing grew 90 percent in the past two quarters, an increase from 46 percent in the first quarter. That’s a significant rise in a short period of time, and suggests that tablets are becoming akin to second TVs for many who have them.

I’m in B2B, so why do I care? You care because your target customers (and their families) are also savvy, device-equipped consumers. Whenever you direct them to one of your webinars, podcasts, thought leadership videos or whitepapers, they’re more likely than not watching them on a tablet or smart phone. And they expect a professional quality experience from you.

Your customers, clients and prospects are watching “TV” more than they’re reading at work at home and on the go. But, that doesn’t mean you can be cheap or careless about what you put into your videos. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. 

Your customers will thank you and be more likely to refer you.

Buffet Straight Talk on Taxes

In a New York Times editorial today, Warren E. Buffett, billionaire head of Berkshire Hathaway, threw out some pragmatic ideas about taxing the ultra-wealthy and a smarter definition of the minimum threshold for “wealthy” in this country (hint it’s not $250K a year). Regardless of the motive for Buffet’s altruistic intentions, we agree with buffet that $250K annual adjusted gross income does not make one ultra-wealthy in many of the places you readers hail from: the Bay Area, Southern California, the Northeast, South Florida……His suggestion for $500,000 is a start.

What we liked more about Buffet’s op-ed is that he argues for Congress to get started on a few pieces of must-have tax reform, rather than straightening out the whole labyrinth IRC which could take years—and give opponents plenty of time to stall and continue reaping aggregious gains.

For instance, Buffet argues for a minimum tax on truly high incomes ASAP—at say 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra-rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.”

Again, we’re advocating the removal of uncertainty—we’re not advocating removal of incentives to get rich and be successful. That’s the American way and it’s in our DNA….just like Black Friday shopping.

Buffet says our government’s goal should be to bring in revenues of 18.5 percent of G.D.P. and spend about 21 percent of G.D.P. — “levels that have been attained over extended periods in the past and can clearly be reached again.” According to Buffet it was about 15 percent in and 22 percent out last year.

“All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.”

Amen to that.

TAGS: Warren Buffet, $250,000, taxes on wealthy, online video habits, tablets, Berkshire Hathaway,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Notes
Don’t get sucked into the pessimism. Why are investors and big business leaders so surprised?
U.S. stocks hit a three-month low yesterday as big business leaders and institutional investors continue to be spooked by the looming fiscal cliff, continued worries about Europe and finally admitting to themselves that they’re facing four more years of a President who may not necessarily be anti-business/anti-wealthy people, but is certainly hell-bent on spreading the nation’s wealth (and financial pain) around.

This didn’t exactly come out of left field like Hurricane Sandy. Duh.

The threat of spending cuts, an end to coveted tax breaks and a financially weak Europe have been issues for a long time. Iranian hostilities didn’t just bubble up yesterday. And the prospect of Mr. Obama winning a second term shouldn’t strike any rational person as a huge upset. Most reliable polls had him as a slight favorite for several months, even before challenger Romney’s ill-fated “47-percent” remark. The only thing that surprises us is the level of surprise. You’d think there might have been a contingency plan or two put in place? They’re not small-mid business owners and B2B marketers like us.

Sure the Dow is off about six percent since the President won re-election, but isn’t this the same administration that held the White House during an 85 percent gain in the Dow during its first four-year term?

If you’re a business owner or B2B marketer, don’t get sucked into the recent wave of pessimism. The macro-problems we’re dealing with have been with us a long-time and we’re still seeing slow but steady gains in hiring, job creation, home prices, consumer confidence, business confidence and more.

Great companies will continue to do well. Great products will continue to sell. And great marketing will continue to create demand for great products made by great companies. It’s those on the margins who might get whacked if they don’t get it together ASAP.

Are things great? Not by a long shot.

The Institute of Supply Management’s business confidence index is at 51.7, just slightly below its historical average of 52.8, but a significant drop from the low-60s it reached mid-year. About three-fourths (73%) of the corporate elite who attended this week’s Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference in Washington said their primary concern was the "fiscal cliff," the federal spending cuts and tax increases that begin in January unless policy makers intervene. Only one in eight (12%) said their top fear was Europe's financial crisis.

The President and Congress are trying to put together a long-term deficit-reduction package that could replace the fiscal cliff, but they have made little progress and have just seven weeks to cut a deal. Experts say the fiscal cliff would raise taxes roughly by $400 billion and cut spending by roughly $100 billion in 2013. Several economists say the measures would cause another recession.  The President and House Speaker John Boehner claim they’re open to compromise and don't want to replay the BS that occurred last year during a fight over raising the government's borrowing limit. But you know negotiations will go slowly, most likely into 2013—i.e. over the perceived cliff.

The Wall Street Journal report that several CEOs at its conference claimed this uncertainty has prompted them to make contingency plans for layoffs and prepare for a sharp economic contraction, which is holding back investment. You know that’s an excuse.

Business leaders and policy makers have known of the fiscal cliff since it was created last year as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling. But few paid much attention to it because they were focused on the presidential race. "The narrative of the country was completely dominated by the election, and that's changing currently," said Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group., a private-equity firm.

Our take: Congress will likely extend all expiring tax cuts for at least another year and make gradual plans to shore up the deficit and even out the tax pain faced by businesses and individuals of all income levels.

The long-term U.S. deficit must be addressed,
Seifi Ghasemi, CEO of Rockwood Holdings told the Journal, but, "I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep if we have negative growth for one quarter in order to solve the longer-term problem."


We’re sleeping OK as well. Maybe not all the way through the night, but at least we’re getting some rest. We’re hitting it hard right now—not waiting till 2013 to find out what may or may not happen. We suggest you do the same.

TAGS: Hurricane Sandy, fiscal cliff, Institute of Supply Management, business confidence index, Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Group, Seifi Ghasemi, Rockwood Holdings


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Wait-Till-After-the-Election Excuse No Longer Valid

Wait-Till-After-the-Election Excuse No Longer Valid
Time to start making (and sticking with) decisions

The elections are over….thank God. Within the next 24 hours we’ll finally get a break from those inane political ads and we’ll most likely found out who the new President is. And now what excuse will you use for procrastinating about your next big hire or capital expenditure? C’mon already.

As we’ve said many times before, campaign promises aren’t legally binding and Congress isn’t on commission and doesn’t have specific deliverables to hit like the rest of us. The election process shouldn’t be taken lightly, but you’re mostly voting on faith…not on hard facts.

Sure, there are significant differences between the two main political parties in this country. But either way, you can be sure we’ll remain a democracy. Either way, you can be sure we’ll be in a slow growth economy for the foreseeable future (emphasis on growth, rather than on slow). Either way your corporate and personal taxes are likely to go up. Either way, major cities in the Northeast will be untangling a hornet’s nest of legal, ethical and financial issues from last week’s storms for months to come.

As for the “fiscal cliff” looming on January 1, don’t expect a series of all-nighters from Congress to solve it in late December. Expect a series of strategic delays and stalling tactics. Again, not much will change for your business and your portfolio exactly on New Year’s Day 2013.

If that’s what’s really keeping you up at night then things won’t really get scary until Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke likely steps down from his term in 2014 regardless of who wins today’s election.

So here’s the deal. We have 55 days left in 2012—about 40 quality work days left. That’s practically half of a fiscal quarter. Be bold and be smart, but by god make some decisions or get the heck out of the way for those who can make decisions.

The on-ramp’s going to be a lot more crowded than the off-ramp in 2013. You better start making some media buys while you can still get quality audiences at a fair price. You better start hiring good people while you still can and you better start filling up that product pipeline fast.

The only certainty for next year is that the pace of business will never be faster and the competition for market share will never be more cut-throat.

Are you ready to get back in the game?