Zazzle Dazzle

Zazzle is a company that may very well be on the verge of greatness. Founded in 2005, Zazzle specializes in providing on-demand retail platforms enabling consumers and major brands alike to provide customized merchandise for their customers.

In English, that means Zazzle gives those who sell the ability to offer merchandise modified for customers’ needs by providing artist Web sites, blogs and MySpace pages a technology platform for selling on-demand merchandise to fans.

Zazzle’s focus is on music, entertainment and fashion, and promises a 24-hour turnaround on orders.

Zazzle recently launched their technology-powered platform and three new features – Model Realviews, Dark Apparel 2.0 and Name-Your-Royalty – designed to make fulfilling customized merch orders as easy as clicking a mouse.

Model Realviews enables users to design apparel online by uploading images and designs directly onto real models. For example, a band can design its own T-shirts, upload the designs and see how they look on real human beings by choosing from hundreds of models in all demos, sizes and ages.

Zazzle describes Dark Apparel 2.0 as the "first ever on-demand manufacturing of dark apparel that is better than screen printing." Zazzle says users can upload images and designs with "millions of colors" as opposed to the limited number of colors available with screen printing. What’s more, Dark Apparel 2.0 merch can be sold just hours after finalizing the design.

Name-Your-Royalty pretty much functions as implied by giving users more control over merch income streams by enabling them to name royalty rates on every product sold, and real-time reporting of sales and royalties earned.

How promising is Zazzle? So promising that the company has reached an agreement with News Corp.’s MySpace giving musicians on the popular social-networking site an easy way to sell customized merchandise to fans, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Aside from the ease-of-use factor, Zazzle’s technoloy gives music fans the ability to order a band T-shirt, but customize it so that only the fan’s favorite band members are on the shirt – and have it the next day.

"These technologies will dramatically change the game for online retail," said Zazzle’s chief strategy officer, James Heckman. "The innovation is remarkable, and Zazzle’s platform with the proprietary tools could allow any retailer or designer, regardless of size, to conduct business with similar distribution, inventory strength and the ability to market, as a major brand."


Following Radiohead’s Lead

With Radiohead marketing its latest album, In Rainbows, directly to fans and letting them decide how much to pay, many speculated that Trent Reznor would soon follow a similar path. After all, Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails is currently without a label, and Reznor has never been known to follow anyone else’s tried and true method to success.

Sure enough, on October 25 Reznor posted a message about a new album on the Nine Inch Nails Web site. However, the album Reznor described isn’t a NIN album. Instead, it’s a new album by Saul Williams called The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of Niggy Tardust.

"As many of you know, I’ve been working closely with Saul Williams on his new record," wrote Reznor. "We’ve spent many hours together in hotel rooms, busses backstages and studios around the world working on something we knew was great. This is the most involved I’ve been with any project outside NIN since AntiChrist Superstar, and I’ve been impatiently waiting for the chance for you to hear it."

Reznor then directs readers to where fans wanting to pre-order downloads of the new Williams album have two options

The first option is a box labeled, "I want to directly support the artists involved in the creation of this music." Clicking on this box pre-orders the album for $5.

The second option is labeled, "I’m not concerned about that. I just want the music." Clicking on that box orders the album for zero cost.

What’s the difference between the first box and the second? That is, other than $5?

If you cough up $5 for the album, you can choose three different formats – 192 Kbps MP3, 320 Kbps MP3 and FLAC lossless audio.

Those clicking on the free option get only one format – the 192 Kbps MP3 download.

Both options include a PDF with artwork and lyrics. All files are described as "100 DRM free" and can be played on any device.

While Reznor does admit that there are "obvious similarities" between Radiohead’s latest marketing strategy and how the new Saul Williams album will be sold, he also points out a few differences.

"One thing that is very different in our situation is that Saul’s not the household name (yet!) that Radiohead is, and that means we need your support on this more than ever," Reznor writes. "If you like what you hear, spread the word."


Must See Hulu TV?

The screen promises current TV shows like NBC’s "Journeyman" and Fox’s "The Simpsons" and "Prison Break," cable fare like "Inside The Actors Studio" and late-night talkers such as "The Tonight Show starring Jay Leno" and "Late Night With Conan O’Brien."

But this isn’t any TV network Web site. It’s not or Instead, it’s a new joint collaboration between between Fox’s corporate owners – News Corp. – and NBC / Universal called Hulu, which debuted "test" form on October 29th.

Hulu is an advertising-supported site offering free, full-length viewings of TV programs and movies. In addition to current TV programming like NBC’s "30 Rock" and "My Name Is Earl," Hulu will also offer ghosts of TV past such as "Lou Grant" and "Lost In Space."

Because Hulu is about video with backing from two major media companies, it would appear the new site is meant to compete with YouTube. But NBC / Universal CEO Jeff Zucker says that isn’t necessarily accurate.

"Hulu is about quality, premium video," Zucker said while speaking at Syracuse University over the weekend. "It’s a safe haven for advertisers. Advertisers want to know where they’re placing their ads. It’s a lot easier to place your ad in an episode of ‘The Office’ than it is on the cat on the skateboard."

In addition to presenting TV and movie content on Hulu, the programs and films will also be distributed to partner sites like AOL, MSN, MySpace, Yahoo and Comcast. Hulu will also provide tools allowing bloggers to embed video, including advertisements, into their own Web sites.

But is Hulu all that big a deal? Probably too early to tell since the site is currently available in beta form and won’t finalize its look and feel until a few months from now. But it does give audiences another choice when it comes to authorized TV and movie content on the Net.


Your Cash Ain’t Nuttin’ But Trash

The Beatles sang "Money Can’t Buy Me Love" and now you can add iPhones to the list of desired objects that can’t be had for cash.

Apple announced late last week that the company no longer accepts cash for its cell phone / media player / status-symbol gizmo. Furthermore, Apple is limiting customers to two iPhones per person.

Restricting one of the most popular electronic gadgets of the year to credit card and debit card sales may sound ludicrous, but Apple says it is trying to stop iPhone secondary sales where unauthorized resellers are hawking the devices. What’s more, many secondary sales involve hacked iPhones enabling the devices to work with carriers other than AT&T, the only official wireless provider for the iPhone.

Along with trying to limit sales to authorized sellers, Apple is also trying to appear consumer-friendly by saying the two-phone limit is to help guarantee everyone has a chance to own an iPhone.

Apple has sold more than 1.4 million units since iPhone’s June 29th debut and estimates that 250,000 of the units sold went to people planning to unlock the devices to use carriers other than AT&T.