Printing Presses Dead Again

That phrase Dead Again comes from an article in the New York Times about the present status of printed books.  As is mentioned, the same kind of language was being used 20 years ago.  The latest news is that Amazon is selling more ebooks than printed books online in the UK so perhaps it is more serious this time around. Continue reading

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ESOMAR Congress 2008 Montreal

ESOMAR chooses Monopoly’s #1 choice, Montreal

ESOMAR opens its 61st annual congress on September 22nd in Montreal. That was a heading in a message I was most pleased to receive from Amy Gregus of Edelman.

The details certainly sound impressive:

Theme: FRONTIERS Pioneering thinking and ideas

  • Over 1,000 participants from 60 countries and global program with over 100 speakers from 20 countries
  • Largest international industry trade show with more than 100 exhibitors
  • Disclosure of topical research results such as: Wal-Marts regional adaptation in the Qubec market; Climate change and the rise of the green consumer; and How digital media has changed consumer expectations

Prestigious keynote speakers

  • Kate Adie, BBC, UK
  • Hernando de Soto, Institute for Liberty and Democracy, Peru
  • Richard Eisermann, Prospect, UK
  • Grant McCracken, Cultural Anthropologist, USA and
  • Alan C. Middleton, Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada

This is the first time that the annual conference will be held outside Europe. It all was a great confirmation of the place of Montreal in the online world. Another significant confirmation this week was that Montreal is the top property in a new Monopoly game.

Montreal has been voted the most expensive property to buy in a new international version of Monopoly, edging out major tourist destinations like London, Paris and New York. The new board game, called “Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition,” is using cities rather than streets. “We are thrilled that the first-ever global game board includes an interesting mix of cities that showcases the dynamic cultures, sights and history of the planet,” Helen Martin, Vice President of Global Marketing for toy and game-maker Hasbro, Inc.

The ESOMAR announcement had particular echoes for me, particularly when I noted that Alan Middleton is an ex-JWTer. Early in my career, I spent some years in market research and was involved with the Market Research Society in the UK, which is almost as old and as illustrious as ESOMAR.

With members in more than 70 countries, MRS, founded in 1953, is the worlds largest association serving all those with professional equity in provision or use of market, social and opinion research, and in business intelligence, market analysis, customer insight and consultancy.

The importance of the market research function can be evidenced by the early MRS Presidents: Sir Arthur Bowley, Lord Piercy, Viscount Chandos, Sir Ronald Edwards, Sir Claus Moser, Dr John Treasure and Sir Harold Wilson. Indeed the associated statistics are an important measurement tool for any branch of government and for the major players in the national economy. My personal association with The J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) is that John Treasure hired me to work on advertising research with Andrew Ehrenberg at the Head Office of JWT in 40 Berkeley Square in the West End of London.

I was struck by the ESOMAR Overview

As the world is transforming, each new day presents uncharted frontiers. With knowledge, creativity and experimentation, the Congress will explore how research explores and advances new business and societal paradigms, sets the trends and responds with new and better solutions. It will challenge the status quo, focusing on everything that is cutting edge, innovative, creative, and business unusual.

The biggest sea change in all of this is the Internet. Before the Internet, one was hard-pressed to get the right data. Only the family dog watching the TV in the Nielsen sample family was the epitome of the difficulty of knowing what was really happening in the population as a whole. The principal problem was how to get good data on what people were doing and thinking.

It might be thought that, with the infinite choices that any individual now has via the Internet, it would be even more difficult to discern mass trends and understand exactly what is going on. That is not the case. Everyone leaves indelible footprints as they move around from web page to web page. With the appropriate coding it is possible to know in minute detail what every individual is doing. The problem is no longer too little, inaccurate data. If there is a problem, it is knowing how to extract the right summary and draw actionable conclusions from the plethora of data. It’s a much more stimulating problem to have.

We hope the ESOMAR visitors to Montreal enjoy their stay and find ways of responding to these new and different challenges.

Related Books:
For information on interesting Montreal places to visit, see
Frommer’s Montreal & Quebec City 2009 Guide (Frommer’s Complete)
or
Montreal & Quebec City For Dummies (Dummies Travel)

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Pétromont Will Close Its Two Petrochemical Plants In Quebec

As Robert Gibbens, seasoned observer of the Canadian industrial scene, reports today in the Montreal Gazette, Pétromont will be shuttering its Montreal East and South Shore Varennes plants indefinitely on April 30. About 300 will lose their jobs, including 176 unionized workers. The two key reasons are the Canadian dollar at par, up from 87 cents U.S. in a year, and feedstock prices based on oil at $91 U.S. a barrel, up from $54 U.S.

The threat of this happening has been there almost from the beginning. Pétromont and Co. LP was formed in 1980 when Gulf Canada, Union Carbide and SGF (Société générale de financement du Québec), the province’s equity investment arm, formed a limited partnership to operate certain petrochemical plants.

SGF

SGF

Gulf Canada
Gulf Canada
Union Carbide
Union Carbide

 

John Dinsmore was the founding president of Pétromont and I was the third employee as V.P. Marketing and Business Development. Given the economic pressures of running a modest-scale petrochemical plant on heavy naphtha and gas oil feedstocks from overseas, survival was a constant battle.

Pétromont
Pétromont

 

Gulf Canada, the original owner of the Varennes ethylene plant, almost immediately wanted to leave the partnership and very soon did so. Gulf Canada was acquired by Conoco and exists no longer. Union Carbide continued and brought in some of its other petrochemical activities. However Union Carbide eventually succumbed and was acquired by Dow. The limited partnership is now owned equally by Dow Canada, part of U.S. multinational Dow Chemical Co., and the SGF.

Pétromont had annual sales of about $750 million. The Montreal East plant makes polyethylene resins sold mainly in North America, while the Varennes plant produces basic petrochemicals. The headquarters, including marketing and administrative staff, is at Varennes. Another pressure on Pétromont’s continuing survival was Basell‘s decision last year to close its polypropylene (PP) plant in Varennes (originally built by Hercules Inc.), which was supplied propylene feedstock via a pipeline.

Pétromont spokesperson Louis Rail said that both plants will be mothballed, in case market conditions change or there is serious outside interest, but with no dismantling of equipment. Hope springs eternal ..

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A Brewery That Montrealers Can Be Proud Of

Montrealers can be proud of many things. Its breweries certainly rate highly on the list. If you had to choose the brewery you were most proud of here in Montreal, which would it be. It’s a tough choice.

Molson Export

You could go for the oldest brewery in Canada. That was founded by John Molson on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Montreal in 1786. In a January 18 letter to an English relative, John Molson wrote: “My beer has been universally well-liked beyond my most sanguine expectations.” The modern version of the Molson brewery is still to be found at 1500, rue Notre-Dame Est. Molson is one of Canada’s oldest consumer brand names and North America’s oldest beer brand.

 St-Ambroise

Since then the city has seen many other brewers set up shop. One of the most successful has been Peter McAuslan. McAuslan Brewing began operations in January of 1989 and is now located at 5080 St-Ambroise Street in Montreal’s St-Henri district. It bills itself deservedly as Quebec’s foremost microbrewery.

There are several places where you can find a list of the many microbreweries in Montr?al. Two of the more complete are the Canadian Beer Index’s list of Microbreweries in Quebec and the best beer places in Montreal. You can also find there the names of some that have not survived, since this is a tough marketplace.

The Montreal Gazette tells us today of one that seems likely to be a real success. That’s Bierbrier Brewing Inc., an independent brewery situated in the heart of downtown Montreal at 370 Guy Street, G9. The brewery seems to be making a name for itself among Montreal beer aficionados. It was founded by Charles Bierbrier, whose last name fittingly means ?brewer of beer’.

Brasserie Bierbrier

According to the website, the beer label demonstrates the tradition of Bierbrier, reinvented in the city where it is now brewed. A contemporary beer symbolizing Montrealers of today: urban, spirited, authentic and plugged in to the world around us. One part of Charles Bierbrier’s mission is to create a brewery that Montrealers can be proud of. Three-and-a-half years into the venture, the operation is bursting at the seams and Bierbrier says his plan is to expand into adjacent space. It seems to be a fitting candidate for Montreal’s pride.

Related Books:
For information on interesting Montreal places to visit, see
Frommer’s Montreal & Quebec City 2009 Guide (Frommer’s Complete)
or
Montreal & Quebec City For Dummies (Dummies Travel)

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Bagels In Montreal

Bill Brownstein of The Gazette this week has been weighing in on a heresy that is being promoted in the fair city of Hamilton, Ontario. Fortino’s has been selling a distinctly American/Ontario-style bagel covered in cinnamon and sugar and calling it a Montreal Bagel . The whistle was blown first on the Chowhound blog with a post entitled, Protection of the “Montreal Bagel” designation.

Ryk Edelstein, a major Montreal food-booster, took up the cudgels and sent off a letter of protest to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. R. John Dolbec, CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce replied: “I do hope and trust that your email was tongue in cheek – anyway, I will presume so. As a Montreal native myself (I grew up in Rosemount, with some time in Park Ex), I have indeed a very intimate familiarity with (and am truly a tremendous fan of) ‘Montreal-style’ bagels. I do think it is somewhat unfair of you to penalize a whole city for the actions, appropriate or not, of just one merchant.”

Nevertheless this clearly has got a large number of Montrealers incensed. There is even now a Facebook group calling itself, The Society for the Preservation of the Montreal Bagel. They plan to build a Bagelmobile complete with wood-fired oven, long paddles and honey water dip, and to drive cross-country to educate Canadians on what a REAL bagel is supposed to taste like.

It’s not surprising they should come up with such a plan. After all Saint Viateur Bagel, one of the two bigger bagel bakers in Montreal, has an online website that can ship bagels all across Canada.

St-Viateur Bagel

For myself it’s more than just the taste of the bagel. It can be a total Montreal bagel experience. Just pop into the Fairmount Bagel Bakeryand buy a dozen sesame-seed bagels.

Fairmount Bagel Bakery

You will find the atmosphere inside there totally captivating. As you drive home chewing on one of the hot bagels, the aroma from the others in the open paper bag on the back seat will remind you of the store. There is no better way of enjoying Montreal bagels and it happens only in Montreal.

Related: Montreal Bagel Blog

Related Books:
For information on interesting Montreal places to visit, see
Frommer’s Montreal & Quebec City 2009 Guide (Frommer’s Complete)
or
Montreal & Quebec City For Dummies (Dummies Travel)

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FacebookCamp Montreal, A Cool Hotspot

Watch out Google, there goes Facebook

Roberto Rocha of The Gazette has an article on a Montreal conference that covered a current hot topic, social-networks. This was FacebookCamp Montreal, organized by Sylvain Carle. The main topic of conversation was of course Facebook. The conference provided guidance to local developers and marketers on how they could hopefully profit from this burgeoning social network scene.

Facebook has launched a new targeted ad system that pushes commercial messages to members based on their behaviour on the site. Since May, the social networking site has encouraged external software developers to create applications for users. These mini widgets let users, for instance, create slideshows, share movie tastes, and play Scrabble against each other. No fewer than 5,000 developers have signed up to create Facebook applications. Users can choose from thousands, ranging from useful to completely pointless. Tim O?Reilly, a top technology pundit, analyzed the 200 most popular Facebook apps last month and found that it?s a highly exclusive club. Out of 5,000 applications, only 45 boast more than 100,000 users. In fact, 84 applications claim 87 per cent of usage.

Despite this, it would seem that Google is concerned by this potential competitor. That may be the reason for Google starting its OpenSocial initiative with much fanfare. This is meant to encourage social network applications by using open source software. Tim O’Reilly finds this somewhat overplayed. The key issue here is who owns and manages the personal data on each individual. Given privacy concerns, this is an essential part of the equation. As yet there is no indication on how OpenSocial will tackle this.

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Strong Loonie, Opportunity Or Threat

A strong loonie is a mixed blessing

The current historical high for the Canadian dollar, currently at $1.07 US, delights some and terrify others. As Eric Beauchesne points out an economic think-tank is warning that Canadian cross-border shoppers will rob the Canadian economy of billions of dollars in economic growth. The surge in cross-border shopping due to the strong dollar … could knock nearly three-quarters of a percentage point off growth in the Canadian economy, says Action Economics, an online research firm. What is an opportunity for consumers is clearly a threat for manufacturers here in Canada.

Peter Hadekel in the Montreal Gazette this week felt that Montr?al would be feeling the heat from this strong loonie. This affects particularly Montreal’s manufacturing base.

The stronger dollar means that manufacturers are less competitive in their principal market, the USA. More than 77 per cent of the region’s exports head south of the border. The lobby group Manufacturers and Exporters Quebec, or MEQ, estimates exports to the U.S. market are down three per cent vs. last year and Canadian exporters have lost 20 per cent of their market share in the United States.

The reverse side of the coin is that it is now cheaper to buy new manufacturing equipment from the US. This could reduce the manufacturing cost. However this does not compensate for the much bigger effect on sales volumes. The MEQ points out that 130,000 manufacturing jobs have gone in the last two years. For each one percent rise in the exchange rate, the impact on Quebec manufacturers is about $400 million.

A study by Informetrica, an Ottawa-based economic think tank, estimates that for Canada the positive impact of a $10-billion, or 3.3-per-cent increase, in manufacturing exports over four years would generate 67,000 new jobs directly plus 48,500 spin-off jobs, three quarters of which would be in the services sector. It says a decline of that magnitude would have the same effect in the other direction. Clearly any concerted actions that can reverse the drop in exports for manufacturers are highly beneficial. However the strong loonie makes that quite a challenge.

Related: Strong loonie may lead Canadian economy to collapse – Pravda

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A Quebec Speciality, the Whippet

You can’t beat a Whippet.

No that’s not the dog, it’s a somewhat decadent chocolate-coated treat with a marshmallow-topping, which is more than a century old. Viewing Quebec from a distance of 4000 km, it’s sometimes difficult to find the more intriguing news items. The Digital Gazette is one way of searching and the RSS news feed lists most of the items of interest. However I found this particular item in the fine blog written by Kate McDonnell in a piece entitled, The Whippet Cookie’s Role In Our History.

The cookie in question made its debut in 1900 in Montreal and was cooked by the Whippet and Viau Biscuits Corp. Charles-Theodore Viau had started the enterprise in a small bakery in Montreal’s east end in 1867 and created the “Village” cookie – a plain, but hugely popular shortbread that Quebecers loved to dunk in their tea. Viau became history in March 2004 when the company was sold to Kitchener, Ont.-based Dare Foods Inc., another family-owned business, and the factory was closed. Apparently the original Whippet is still the second bestselling cookie in Quebec today. The No. 1 cookie in the province is the Dare Foods’ “Bearpaws,” a popular molasses cookie. Dare markets the “Viva Puff,” a similar cookie to the Whippet, in Ontario. However the Quebec Whippet has “real” chocolate while its counterpart is made with a “compound” chocolate.

You can find more about the Whippet in the Viau: Cookie History exhibition at the Ecomus�e du fier monde, a small museum in Montreal’s east end. The exhibition is open until March 23, 2008. For more details, see the press release, Decadent chocolate-coated cookie contributed to Montreal’s growth.

Related Books:
For information on interesting Montreal places to visit, see
Frommer’s Montreal & Quebec City 2009 Guide (Frommer’s Complete)
or
Montreal & Quebec City For Dummies (Dummies Travel)

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Canadian Business – Changed Perspectives

Canada
True North, strong and free.

For over twenty-five years, the ‘other bloke’ has been involved in and observed Canadian business from a Montreal base. For at least the last ten of those years, the physical location has become less and less important to businesses and the online presence plays a much bigger role in what identifies a company. This is complemented by the staggering advances in Information Technology (IT) and in telecommunications. For so many businesses, they can if they wish participate in a global economy and enjoy the global opportunities. Whether they wish it or not, they are also subject to global competition.

These deep reflections are triggered by the fact that the ‘other bloke’ has now moved from Montreal and will be living in Langley, BC. That in no way affects the bloke’s online presence. Strategic Marketing Montreal will continue to function as before and its North American customers will see few changes apart from some e-mail addresses that will change. Montreal has a big footprint in the online world and there is much to observe and comment on. Standing back ‘a little’ will allow a more dispassionate view of what is going on. It can also be better seen in a pan-Canadian context.

Moving from Montreal to Langley, BC, we followed the TransCanada Highway all the way with a U-Haul trailer containing our treasured belongings. Following that highway is an experience that no Canadian should miss. It’s the only way to fully experience the size, grandeur and the beauty to be found in Canada. Although the journey was fairly rapid, it also gave an opportunity to meet folk along the way and get brief glimpses of what’s important to them in their very different communities.

Now we’re settled in Langley, which is a most welcoming community surrounded by the natural beauty of the Fraser Valley. It’s a very different physical location, but we’re back to that same online world with even greater opportunities to be aware of the evolving scene. We hope our faithful readers will find that the Other Bloke’s Blog continues to improve as we observe Canadian business online.

Some Relevant Books

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High-tech BeanBag Chairs

High-tech beanbag chairs would seem to be an obvious oxymoron. However if you are a beanbag chair manufacturer, you’ve got to keep up with the times. That’s exactly what Montrealer, Harvey Brinberg, decided to do and the result is the iBeanbag?. This Audio Beanbag Chair is a stereo you can sit on.

iBeanbag

The website describes some of the features:

Control all the features of your iBeanbag? from the comfort of your chair with our sleek, integrated control panel. Here you can plug in your headphones, connect to your favourite music or movie and adjust the volume and bass without ever having to leave your seat. Now that?s comfort!

No more musical chairs ? you have finally found the best seat in the house. Two, built-in speakers and sub-woofer deliver over 20 watts of rich, powerful sound. Enjoy dialog or music with unparalleled depth and clarity. Our speakers provide a true audio experience.

Building the best mousetrap in the world is not very rewarding, unless you can sell it. That’s where Brinberg has been very astute. Kids, teens and young adults are the target audience for the product. We’re now in the era of social media marketing. It’s all about creating a buzz and getting your clients to spread the word through Facebook or their other favorite community site.

Apple has been very successful with its popular i-products. Whether it’s the iPod or the iPhone, everyone is talking about such products. There is no possibility that the iBeanbag could be confused with either of these. Nor can Apple trademark the letter i. Nevertheless everyone will make the obvious connection. Hopefully the i-buzz will fuel incredible sales for this intriguing Montr?al product.

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