Best Business Commentary
November 20, 2007
Buying gift cards? Think twice.
“Gift cards are fast becoming one of America’s favorite presents,” says Marshall Loeb in MarketWatch, but they “aren’t without their drawbacks.” We’ll spend $26 billion on gift cards this holiday season, largely because “giving a gift card is a less taboo way of giving cash.” But they’re not cash. And the “general use” cards sold by banks and credit-card companies aren’t even credit cards—you can’t use them for hotels, rental cars, and other goods and services. Also, you’ll typically pay a $4 premium for a $25 card. And that doesn’t include shipping and handling, depreciation, or the “range of fees” charged to the recipient. Cha-ching.
Losing my free-content religion
There’s “an almost religious belief” in Silicon Valley that “charging for content is bad,” says Jaron Lanier in The New York Times. But some early “Internet idealists” are becoming agnostic as “our new Eden” ages. In the early ’90s we thought “the Web would increase business opportunities for writers and artists,” but “we were all wrong.” Big Internet firms now aggregate unpaid Web content to sell more ads, leaving creative people with none of “the Web’s new wealth.” We “software engineers and Internet evangelists” who created the Web this way “owe it to ourselves and to our creative friends” to make the Internet “affordable” rather than “free.”
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