Monday, June 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

A page-turning narrative about Marissa Mayer's efforts to remake Yahoo as well as her own rise from Stanford University undergrad to CEO of a $30 billion corporation by the age of 38.

When Yahoo hired star Google executive Mayer to be its CEO in 2012 employees rejoiced. They put posters on the walls throughout Yahoo's California headquarters. On them there was Mayer's face and one word: HOPE. But one year later, Mayer sat in front of those same employees in a huge cafeteria on Yahoo's campus and took the beating of her life. Her hair wet and her tone defensive, Mayer read and answered a series of employee-posed questions challenging the basic elements of her plan. There was anger in the room and, behind it, a question: Was Mayer actually going to be able to do this thing?

MARISSA MAYER AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE YAHOO! is the inside story of how Yahoo got into such awful shape in the first place, Marissa Mayer's controversial rise at Google, and her desperate fight to save an Internet icon.

In August 2011 hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb took a long look at Yahoo and decided to go to war with its management and board of directors. Loeb then bought a 5% stake and began a shareholder activist campaign that would cost the jobs of three CEOs before he finally settled on Google's golden girl Mayer to unlock the value lurking in the company. As Mayer began to remake Yahoo from a content company to a tech company, an internal civil war erupted.

In author Nicholas Carlson's capable hands, this riveting book captures Mayer's rise and Yahoo's missteps as a dramatic illustration of what it takes to grab the brass ring in Silicon Valley. And it reveals whether it is possible for a big lumbering tech company to stay relevant in today's rapidly changing business landscape.

MY REVIEW:

Have you ever asked yourself, "What IS Yahoo?"  This is a question Yahoo executives have been trying to figure out for more than a decade.  This was one of my favorite quotes from the book:
He said "Google.” People wrote down “search.” He said “eBay” and they wrote “auctions.” After a few more companies, he said “Yahoo.” He collected the thirty pieces of paper on Yahoo. Everybody had a different word. What was Yahoo trying to be? No one inside the company knew anymore.
It was an aha! moment as I was reading.  It wasn't just me.  Nobody knows what Yahoo is anymore, including the employees!

Carlson takes the reader through the history of Yahoo - from the very beginning when it was created as a website directory by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 to its rapid growth and time period when Yahoo practically was the Internet to its long-term struggle to maintain relevant as the Internet seemed to grow up around it.

Although "Marissa Mayer" is in the title, this book is really about the history (and current state) of Yahoo.  Once all of that is laid out chronologically, including Yahoo's history of CEO failures, Carlson takes the reader through Mayer's personal background (including dating Larry Page, cofounder of Google), her beginning days at Yahoo where employees pinned up posters of her face with the word "HOPE" to the end of that honeymoon period and the beginning of her real struggle to keep Yahoo alive after Alibaba's IPO.  [If you just asked "What is Alibaba?" and/or "What is IPO?" This is all explained in detail in the book, but basically Alibaba is what has kept Yahoo afloat for the last several years.]

The book is not flattering toward Marissa Mayer, and yet it is not all out negative either. To me, it feels unbiased and realistic.  There is no doubt that Mayer is a hard worker and extremely talented.  But does she have the ability to "save" Yahoo?  Nobody knows yet, but Carlson keeps the reader on the edge of their seat the whole time.  The book is an easy read (even if you know very little about business).  I highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in business and particularly Yahoo.

Monday, June 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can't help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming were it not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question, "What are you smiling about?" but I already know the answer: "It just gets better from here." 

-- from Always Looking Up

MY REVIEW:

I listened to the audiobook format of this book, and I almost cried through the entire first chapter.  I have fond memories of Michael J. Fox from my childhood -- watching him in Family Ties, Teen Wolf and all of the Back to the Future movies.  I remember when the news came out about him being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (or "PD" as he refers to it throughout the book).  It was shocking and sad.  What made me cry through the first chapter, though, was not the sadness of it, but instead my own guilt over his optimistic outlook on life.

Despite suffering from PD since the age of 29, Fox is upbeat about life and thankful for everything he has (including a beautiful wife and 4 children, fond memories of his childhood and an amazing career).  His attitude is simply infectious.

After the first chapter, Fox delves into the politics of stem cell research, which was something I knew nothing about previously and it seems to be a pretty controversial subject.  He also talks a little about his religious beliefs, but then goes back to more autobiographical content.  The stories kind of jump around to different times in his life, so they are not in chronological order, but more theme-based.  Overall, the book is quick and lighthearted and very inspirational.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard L. Brandt



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Amazon’s business model is deceptively simple: Make online shopping so easy and convenient that customers won’t think twice. It almost can be summed up by the button on every page: “Buy now with one click.”

Why has Amazon been so successful? Much of it has to do with Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO, whose unique combination of character traits and business strategy has driven Amazon to the top of the online retail world. Richard Brandt charts Bezos’s rise from computer nerd to world-changing entrepreneur.

Through interviews with Amazon employees, competitors, and observers, Brandt has deciphered how Bezos makes decisions. The story of Amazon’s ongoing evolution is a case study in how to reinvent an entire industry, and one that businesses today ignore at their peril.

MY REVIEW:

The subtitle could not be more appropriate.  "One Click" is a fascinating look at Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon.com.  I never knew much about Jeff Bezos other than the fact that he started Amazon.  He's always seemed to exist behind the scenes.  This book offers insight into Bezos's background, beginning with his childhood.  From being adopted by his step-father to his passion for reading in elementary school to his early entrepreneurial ventures, Bezos almost becomes a likable person.

For some reason, before reading this book I had in my mind that Bezos was not a very likable person. Brandt also shows the reader the ruthless (ugly) business side of Bezos - from the various lawsuits Amazon has been involved in to Amazon's PR/marketing war against Barnes & Noble to Bezos's own poor people management skills.

Whether or not Jeff Bezos is a likable guy, however, it's clear that he is a truly amazing person in what he was able to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time. His story inspiring.  If you're interested in Jeff Bezos and/or the business of Amazon, I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

An update of one of the bestselling blogging books, written by two of the world's most successful bloggers 

There's a reason why the first two editions of this book have sold thousands of copies worldwide. Written by two of the world's most successful bloggers, it's one of the clearest books out there on how to earn an income from your blog. This new edition gets you up to date on the very latest changes that affect the blogging-for-business landscape. Featuring new material on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn; plus new ways and tools to grow your audience and expand your business beyond your blog, this professional blogger's bible is better than ever.

  • Helps novices choose a blog topic, analyze the market, set up a blog, promote it, and earn revenue 
  • Gives aspiring bloggers proven techniques and the tools they need to succeed in building a business from their blogs 
  • Reveals 20 key ingredients for a successful blog post 
  • Offers solid, step-by-step instruction on how bloggers actually make money, why niches matter, how to use essential blogging tools and take advantage of social media and content aggregators, how to optimize your advertising, and much more 
  • Includes techniques for attracting and growing an audience and how to mine new business opportunities beyond your blog 
Written by two fulltime professional bloggers, this exciting, updated edition of ProBlogger tells you exactly how to launch and maintain a blog that makes money.

MY REVIEW:

Authors Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett are accomplished bloggers who have compiled their years of experience into this extremely helpful guide for bloggers.  Whether you blog for fun and simply want to grow your readership or you want to learn how to earn real money from blogging, ProBlogger will walk you through everything you need to know.  From the design of your blog to the content of your posts to social media marketing - Rowse and Garrett cover it all in great detail.

This book is an amazing resource that all bloggers should read.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: What the Plus! by Guy Kawasaki


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Learn how to master Google+—the world's fastest-growing social-media service

Attract followers. Engage enchanting people. Promote your brand. 

The former Chief Evangelist for Apple knows a superior product when he sees one, and he sees one in Google+. Hands down. In What the Plus!, Guy Kawasaki explains how to get started, create an enchanting profile, optimize for social searches, share posts and photos, conduct hangouts, and gain followers.

MY REVIEW:

I read this book as I was doing research for the book I am writing on the topic of book marketing (if you are interested, I am blogging the content for that book here: www.bookmarketingwithsocialmedia.com).

I have been on Google+ since 2011 but I hadn't really understood Google+...until now.  Although I learned a lot from this book, the biggest take-away for me came down to one phrase: "Google+ = Passions."  When I thought about that in reference to the comparisons Kawasaki presented (Twitter = Perceptions, Facebook = People and Pinterest = Pictures), it was like a lightbulb went off for me.  I thought about what I was passionate about and suddenly I understood how to post on Google+.

If you have any interest in growing your Google+ community for any reason, this book is a must-read.  Guy Kawasaki will help you see the benefits of Google+. His passion for it is infectious.  And he will walk you through every single thing you need to know about using this social media channel. This book can be read in just a couple of hours, but be prepared to take your time as you read it so you can follow Kawasaki tips as you go.