business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB user Jon Mellor:

Your first letter writer in today’s Your Views, on the healthcare situation, writes about her husband, “Since he is unemployed, he is reluctant to spring for the test himself, which means he may go longer between such exams and run the risk of a future polyp having time to get dangerous. That is called health care reform. Go figure.”

The conclusion this person comes to is so emblematic of the confusion that reigns in this debate, thanks mostly to the people who are against reform and are creating confusion.  She has pinned her husband’s loss of coverage on reform, when reform A) hasn’t taken place yet and B) would, most likely, fix the problem!   This isn’t too far removed from the people who say that they want “government out of healthcare -- and by the way don’t change anything about my medicare.”   How can there be a winner in this situation?

I didn’t read her email that way. I thought that what she was saying is that some insurance companies have crappy priorities and crappier policies. (My adjective, not hers. But I feel strongly about this.)

What she was saying, I think, is that we need a health care system that focuses more on prevention than treatment, and that is affordable and available even for those in financial straits.

I have no problem with that position.

We got a lot of email about Michael Sansolo’s piece about how the Yellow Pages may be an analog solution in a digital world.

One MNB user wrote:

It’s not like they are completely behind the ball, their is quite user-friendly and incorporates ‘popular searches’ and categories, while their mobile site is actually one of the better ones I’ve used, complete with an application for my new Droid phone. The main site has does in fact incorporate maps, user reviews, and directions. I’m usually one to blast print media as well, but there are still a large amount of people who like having their ‘directory’ in hand. Just giving credit where I feel its due; I think Yellow Pages is one of the more adaptive companies in adjusting to an increased digital age.

MNB user Aaron Algazy wrote:

I have used and will still use the ‘analog’ Yellow Pages for many reasons.  First: The kids are or seem like they are on the computer when I need it.  Second: I can write information on the pages when calling the place of business, i.e. how much a new radiator is going to cost.  You can’t write on the PC screen…well I guess you can, but it’s not the smartest thing to do.  Third: What if your PC or Internet is down?  Not everyone has an iPhone (like my wife and millions of others) or a Crackberry (that’s a Blackberry for those going through or needing to go through a 12 step program).  For a business to have one on hand is also helpful; when a Customer (or potential Customer) needs to look up a correct address because Google Maps sent them 100 miles (or more) in the wrong direction; oh, and their GPS is in their other car with their iPhone plugged in because the battery is dead.

I understand what you are saying regarding being in a digital age and companies need to continue pushing forward with technology.  But in regards to paper books of the Yellow Pages, there are many different books by different companies, and many, many more Internet type Yellow Pages sites.  The difference is that the “Yellow Pages” are always on and never crash.

MNB user Frank Urbaniak wrote:

Michael raises interesting points that support the presentation that I co-presented with the Clinton Keay, the CIO from Sobeys at NRF this year on "A Fresh Future". Amazon and other leading multi-channel retailers have raised the bar on information that customers expect as part of their item selection process.  Thought leaders in grocery like Sobeys,  with their strong commitment to fresh, are considering the implications of the GS-1 Item Selection process:

Product information-price, promotion, compare to other items, COOL, ingredients
Health and Wellness-Is it good for me?
Environmental/Ethical-is it good for the world?
Certification-norms, organic, kosher
Advice-how do I use it
Community-what do others think of it
After use-was I satisfied and will I buy it again

The challenge for supermarkets, typically lagging behind other retail channels in multi-channel competency, and under-invested in technology,  is  and how to integrate their systems to support item information at whatever point the customer is encountering associates using technology, or standalone systems like kiosks, self-weighing scales and shopping assistants to support their shopping experience.  This requires a 'fresh roadmap' with 'fresh' thinking that many grocers have yet to address.  But you know that if Amazon were to open a 'fresh' store they would provide the customer with that information throughout the shopping experience.

Another MNB user wrote:

Funny, I used the Yellow Pages yesterday. I needed the number of an orthopedic. I had forgotten the name and had not entered it into my phone, so the only other option I had was to go upstairs to the computer, boot up, go on line, go to Google and search for it. Of course, if I had a smart phone with internet, I wouldn't have to boot up, but I don't think it's worth the added cost. Using the yellow pages, I got the number in about 30 seconds.

The point is, while I agree, to remain relevant, retail must adapt to new technologies, "old fashioned" processes don't necessarily become obsolete. Sometimes we need to use both wisely.

My argument would be that while the Yellow Pages may have a certain relevance now for those of us who need orthopedists (and need glasses to read the absurdly small print), the larger point is that it will not be that long - and sooner than you think - before their traditional form will be obsolete.

For a previous MNB column along the same lines, click here.

Finally, we got a number of emails about our comments about the passing of author Robert B. Parker.

MNB user Steve Ritchey wrote:

There will be one less thing to look forward to every few months, soon, there will be no more of Parkers novels.  Another of life’s little pleasures is gone now.

MNB user Chris Esposito wrote:

I too loved the Spenser series.  While I enjoy others in the genre  (Connelly, Rankin, etc.), Parker’s Spenser novels were, as it says, addictive.  They were an easy read, but they were also something you could relate to.  He seemed to pick up on the nuances of everyday life, enjoying a beer, walking in a park, fixing a meal, etc. that other writers never touch upon.  It made the novels personal both from the perspective of the characters and to the readers.  I too will miss his stories.

MNB user Patricia Berry wrote:

I cannot express my sadness at the passing of Robert B Parker.  I loved his writing and own every book he has ever written.  I will truly miss him and all the characters he created that seem like family to me at this point.  I am so glad you talked about your interview with him, it confirms that he was truly a good guy too.  Thanks for the story.

MNB user Bill Jensen wrote:

Kevin, this is very sad news indeed. Over the weekend I rewarded myself with re-reading a few of his older Spenser novels, and have enjoyed the characters he brought to life. Even Pearl the wonder dog.

I will raise one in his honor tonight, and crack open yet another one of his older books to revisit those rich characters.

I did the same. I was thumbing through his first book, “The Godwulf Manuscript.” And I would recommend that anyone who wants to read first-rate detective fiction should go to “Early Autumn,” which I keep on my Kindle as a reference point.

I noted yesterday that in an interview about our new book today, I’m going to treat the journalist interviewing me the same way that Parker treated me as a young journalist some two decades when I interviewed him. Which led MNB user Theresa Ruppert to write:

What a touching and moving tribute!  Your comments brought tears to my eyes.  As an everyday reader I thought you could no longer surprise me.  That young journalist will never forget you either.  Thank you for the story and completing the circle of life.

And MMNB user Chris Weisert wrote:

One can only hope that your influence on this young journalist will be as lasting as Parkers on you. Hopefully the young journalist has the ability to understand  the weight of this opportunity as you did.

Well, to paraphrase a well-known statement, “I knew Robert B. Parker. And I’m no Robert B. Parker.”

But he was a man, it seems to me, who while he may have a sardonic world view that he expressed through his characters, he also was someone of personal kindness and generosity.

Traits to which I can, and do, aspire.
KC's View: