Employees had the perfect excuse for snoozing on the job today. It's National Workplace Napping Day. No lie.
Created by William Anthony, founder of advocacy group The Napping Company, the commemorative day intends to promote napping as a healthy pastime, even at work. Countless surveys (so many it puts us to sleep) indicate that Americans aren't getting enough rest, which negatively affects our moods and productivity. So, your boss should appreciate it if you nod off under your desk for a while.
Let's just hope pilots, taxi drivers, and carnival ride operators decide to boycott the holiday.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Google in the Crosshairs
- Quote of Note
- CEOs Get Richer
- Shameless Plug: Free Stock-Picking Advice
- Amazon's Trivial Pursuit
- Discussion Board of the Day: Amazon
- Quick Takes: The New York Times Co. , Alcoa, pet emus, more
- And Finally...
When you're so good at what you do that your brand becomes a verb, the competition starts to notice, big time.
A Nielsen/Net Ratings study from February 2003, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, found that Google attracts more users than either Yahoo! Search or Microsoft's MSN Search, and that those visitors hang out longer on Google's site. An estimated 40.3 million users logged on to Google for the month, versus 36.5 million for Yahoo! and 35.1 million for MSN. Google visitors stuck around for 25 minutes, compared to 11 minutes for Yahoo! and eight minutes for MSN.
Given those disparities, Yahoo! and Microsoft see an opportunity to take market share from Google. Bob Visse, director of marketing for MSN, said last week that Microsoft "... view(s) Google more and more as a competitor." And although Google has actually powered Yahoo!'s searches for some time, Yahoo! signaled its desire to control the search game when it bought search infrastructure company Inktomi in December 2002.
Today, Yahoo! unveiled its new and improved search engine, which is supposed to better connect Yahoo!'s various services, such as news, weather, and local directory listings. The technology delves into Web pages and extracts information for users, much like Google does, rather than just answering a search request with a list of URLs. Registered Yahoo! visitors can also customize results, as on Google. Yahoo! will still make money off sponsored search results.
Microsoft's plans are more embryonic. The software giant is investing heavily in improving its search capabilities, but nothing concrete has been announced. When Microsoft calls you out as a competitor, though, you better believe it means business.
Google has smartly remained mum about Yahoo!'s and Microsoft's search plans. Surfers trust Google to give them the best results possible, and "Googling" has become an entrenched part of many users' experience. Convincing them that Yahoo! and Microsoft can offer the same or better results will require a significant shift in thinking. Any huge market share gains by either Microsoft or Yahoo!, then, will likely be a long time coming.
"Seeking to know is only too often learning to doubt." -- Antoinette du ligier de la Garde Deshoulieres (1638-1694), French poet
If you're in the mood for a little outrage, several recent stories about executive compensation should be enough to get your water boiling:
A CNN/Money article cites a study that shows cash compensation to chief executive officers rose 15% last year. Since the value of stock options has plummeted along with our retirement funds, executives now expect cold, hard cash in the form of a median 6% higher salaries and 21% higher bonuses.
A survey by Bloomberg columnist Graef Crystal found similar results: executives being granted more cash in the form of raises and bonuses, as well as an increased granting of free shares of stock (as opposed to stock options). Crystal compiled a list of the most egregious examples of CEOs getting more money while their company stock foundered. At the top of the list: Disney
(NYSE: DIS)CEO Michael Eisner, whose compensation increased 498% in FY 2002 while Disney stock declined 18%.
The CEO of UAL Corp., the bankrupt parent company of United Airlines, and the CEO of Delta Airlines
(NYSE: DAL)voluntarily cut their salaries by 14% and 15%, respectively. These come on the heels of attacks by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was outraged that executives could be awarded millions while the companies lose billions, thousands of employees lose their jobs, and the airlines come begging to Congress for emergency aid.
Don't cry too much for these CEOs. They have been awarded millions in bonuses and retirement packages over the past few years. For example, last year, Delta put $25.5 million in a protected pension trust for Mullin and 32 other executives. When hired, Mullin was credited for 22 years of service, entitling him to a much larger pension.
Being credited with years of service from Day 1 isn't as uncommon as it is absurd. Look no further than Treasury Secretary John Snow for another example. As CEO of CSX
(NYSE: CSX), Snow was credited with 44 years instead of his reality-based 25, which results in an annual pension of $2.5 million rather than "just" $1.4 million. (Also, according to this Fortunearticle, Snow saw his compensation rise 69% to $10 million annually from 1997 to 2001, while the company's stock underperformed its peers by 24%.)
- And don't get us started on how mutual fund directors have given themselves 8% pay raises, while individual investors collectively lost billions of dollars.
Outraged? We thought so. What can you do about it? Start by staying on top of compensation issues and being an active and vociferous shareholder. After all, every dollar that goes into a bonus, pension check, company jet, or company-paid country club membership is one dollar less in earnings.
Try out our premier stock-choosing subscription product, The Motley Fool Select, for 30 days, absolutely free! Every month, our writers produce outstanding analysis on companies worthy of your investment consideration. For a limited time, we're offering you a sneak peek, because we're that convinced you'll be hooked! And even better, we'll include a free report, Companies on the Road to Ruin.
Riddle us this: How does the world's best-known online retailer become an even stickier site? Give up? Well, it seems as if the question is the answer with Amazon's
The popular site has added some interactive flypaper -- a daily assortment of multiple-choice trivia puzzlers. Registered users can log in and go through four questions, earning a nickel for each correct reply. Don't worry -- the queries are as simple as they are self-serving, as they typically relate to Amazon's wide range of stores and product offerings.
Not sure whether Amazon's magazine collection goes from Aardvark to Zymurgy? Stumped over how many pairs of shoes you can find at the site's apparel store? Each question comes with a hyperlink hint that spills the beans, cleverly sending the visitor deeper into the Amazon storefront.
Few know about the trivia right now, and the company hasn't issued an actual press release touting the latest welcome wrinkle. But it's there, and if it doesn't show up when you first hit the site, a resourceful netizen on our Fool Community's Coupons N' More discussion board posted the direct link.
It's a beautiful marketing tool. Trivia winnings can be used only for purchases on the site, and can make up only 10% of the ultimate buy. They also don't apply to the Amazon stores run on behalf of third-party vendors, such as Target
Well done, Amazon. As the trendsetter that eventually expanded from books to just about every facet of general merchandise, the company has been rich in innovations, like its 1-Click Technology. But you can't patent a simple quiz-show format, so look for online rivals to drum up similar addictive promos soon.
Can you fathom the day in which you log into Fool.com and answer a half-dozen personal finance stumpers to earn FoolMart credits? Of course you can.
You can do far worse than following Amazon's lead. The company that many pundits pegged as debt-toppled toast has prospered over the years. Last year, it produced $135 million in free cash flow on nearly $4 billion in net sales. Its shares have tripled to a recent two-year high.
Will Amazon.com Trivia help the company achieve its modest projections of just 15% in sales growth this year? We think you already know the answer.
Do you think analysts have trivialized Amazon? Is the stock overvalued, undervalued, or priced just right? Is free shipping on all orders over $25 a sound strategy? All this and more -- in the Amazon discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Our own LouAnn Lofton (TMF Bling) said it would happen, and it did. After The New York Times Co.
There were a couple o' bits of good news for the airline industry today. First, a study by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Wichita State indicated the service of most major airlines has improved over the past year. One of the co-authors noted, however, that with fewer flights and fewer passengers, it probably wasn't hard to improve. Also, airline stocks flew higher today as the price of oil hit a four-month low.
In local news, the country airport finally reopened after Buster Swenson promised to stop letting his pet emus roam free. The three flightless birds seemed jealous of the crop dusters that take off and land this time of year, and constantly harassed pilots trying to climb into their planes.
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- What happens when fast food slows down? Rick Munarriz takes a closer look at the burger wars.
- Contrary to popular belief, growth and value can come hand in hand. Matt Richey explains.
- Buy, Sell, or Hold: Stocks for the Long Run author Jeremy Siegel on tax cuts, international investing, and oil.
- Will recent bull markets prove fleeting in the face of a weaker economy?
- The L.A. Kings give a fan a view of their books. His verdict? They're losing millions.
- In Fool's School, the ABCs of your 401(k).
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim