I have been a customer of iStockPhoto since 2004, in fact I am looking at my first welcome email that they sent me in October of 2004. I signed up using a promotional deal from an advertisement on a website and was able to purchase 20 credits for $10! That amounts to only 50 cents per credit, an incredible bargain at the time. For the next three years I continued to purchase credits from iStock at the standard price, 1 credit for $1.00.

That all changed in 2007 when, for the first time, they raised prices and I started paying more than $1 for each credit. First, they raised prices to $1.30 per credit. Later it was raised to $1.43 per credit. Most recently, they charged me $1.46 per credit. In five years they raised the price per credit by almost 50%! Now, a price increase of 50% isn’t that big of a deal taking into account inflation. Unfortunately, the cost per credit price is NOT the only increase I have seen.

Not only did iStockPhoto raise pricing on credits, they’ve raised pricing on images as well. Until four or five years ago it was possible to locate and purchase a high quality image that was typically priced at only one credit for the smallest available size. With today’s iStockPhoto, those same images are priced at 3 credits or more! When you factor in the increase to the amount of credits it takes to purchase an image, the reality is iStock has raised prices by almost 338% in only five years! An image that used to cost $1.00 now costs, on average, $4.38.

Needless to say iStockPhoto has been a fantastic service. I really appreciate the ease of use of the system, how easy it is to locate the perfect image for almost any project, and the depth of their image collection. With that said, all of their price increases have me looking at other options. iStockPhoto is no longer an affordable solution for most small to medium sized publishers and designers.

I have searched for competitors in the past and every time the available options always came up short. Services such as BigStockPhotoDreamstime, Shutterstock, 123RF, and others have fallen short for me in one or more important areas when doing a comparison. Most alternatives to iStockPhoto are:

  • just as or more expensive,
  • lacking in quantity of stock images,
  • charging bloated monthly subscription fees,
  • or difficult to use.

Since none of the available competitors have ever matched the total package that iStockPhoto provides I stuck around through all of the price increases. Until now.

I have finally found a suitable replacement for iStockPhoto that accelerates in every area, including cost. When I did a full on comparison of istockphoto and Fotolia, I really liked what I saw. Just like iStockPhoto, Fotolio provides a huge collection of stock photographs to choose from. Similar to iStock, they also have stock video and vector images. While I don’t use stock videos very often, it’s nice to know that the credits I purchase can be applies towards more than just stock photography and I can purchase video when needed for my projects.

As a long time iStockPhoto user, I can tell you that Fotolia satisfies all of my needs. I’ve only been a Fotolia customer for a few months, but I can say with certainty that the beat iStockPhoto on selection of stock photos, quality of pictures, and service. Most importantly, they dominate iStockPhoto on price! To show you some sample math, at my current package spend I am buying credits from Fotolia at only $1.08 per credit. In addition, the same quality of images at Fotolia are priced at only 1 credit whereas the same image at iStockPhoto is 3 credits. Remember, credits at iStockPhoto for my package purchasing are $1.46. In a nutshell, the same photograph at iStockPhoto costs me $4.38 and at Fotolia it’s only $1.08!!

Do you feel like you’re paying too much for stock photos through iStock? If you are searching for an alternative to iStockPhoto you can’t go wrong with Fotolia. Feel free to visit them yourself and evaluate price, selection of pictures, quality, and service. The only thing at this point that I miss from iStockPhoto is the ability to search for stock images based on color wheel. For 4x the cost per photo I can do without!

Click here to visit Fotolia or the graphic below.

 

Fotolia

If you’re an existing Ping.fm customer you may have received an email recently from Seesmic with the subject line “Ping.fm closing down on July 5th”. For those of you who have been using Ping.fm on a regular basis, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. We’ve been notified several times in the past that Seesmic purchased Ping.fm and intended to improve the service, close Ping.fm, and ask existing users to make the switch.

The email that was sent today states, in part, the following:

“As previously communicated, we are shutting down Ping.fm.  As of July 5th, you will no longer be able to access Ping.fm.

The new Seesmic Ping, which replaces Ping.fm, is now live, and you can either sign up directly, or between now and July 5th, log into your Ping.fm account and use the wizard we put in place to help you go through the sign up process.”

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the ‘upgrade’ is disappointing. I think Seesmic should reconsider this move and keep Ping.fm open until they improve Seesmic! Here’s where I have issue with closing Ping.fm for the replacement they have available:

  • The upgrade process is not an upgrade process! I logged into Ping.fm then clicked the link to “Continue here to upgrade Seesmic Ping.”, expecting to see all of my account details magically transform into a new and improved service. Instead, Seesmic prompted me to create a new, basic Seesmic account and fill out my profile details all over again. None of my Ping.fm account settings were moved over.
  • If you want to post at any level of volume you’ll need to upgrade to a paid account. I don’t have a problem paying for a tool as long as it is  useful, but this one misses the mark! See below.
  • Even the paid version of Seesmic disappoints when compared to the free version of Ping.fm. There is a fraction of social networks available. The functionality is lacking. The only improvement is the creation of apps, but I’ve always used the web version and the applications aren’t of much value to me. Seesmic is being called an upgrade over Ping.fm but I’m not feeling the love!

Look, I am long-time Ping.fm account holder and have used this service regularly. The bottom line is this, Ping.fm was easily the most powerful service online to take a single status update and blast it to dozens of social media channels all at once. Take a look at the screenshot to the left for an example of the powerful features provided by Ping.fm . This is a partial list of social networks supported by Ping.fm and the ones currently setup through my Ping.fm account:

Ping.fm allows a single status update to be posted automatically to a robust list of social networks, including: Twitter, MySpace, GTalk, Tumblr, LinkedIn, AIM, Indenti.ca, Brightkite, Plurk, FriendFeed, Blogger, Plaxo Pluse, WordPress.com, Delicious, YouTube, Multiply, Yammer, Flickr and even more accounts – many not visible on this list.

When upgrading to Seesmic they give us a total of four accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. Really, just four accounts? See the graphic below:

Why do I need Seesmic at all, let alone a paid version? I can automatically link my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts together easily using other free services being offered. What made Ping.fm really special was the ability to blast dozens of social networks all at once – even those that aren’t necessarily mainstream.

Seesmic should read this blog and consider leaving Ping.fm open until they can make a suitable replacement for it! Ping.fm is an amazing service, there’s nothing like it available right now. I could see myself paying a small monthly fee to use an upgraded version of Ping.fm, one with features such as the ability to post directly to Facebook Groups (not just pages).

Are you a Ping.fm user, have you seen the recent changes? What do you think?

 

Twitter, the popular social networking site, is currently offline as of June 21, 2012. This has been verified by multiple users and websites.

Some comments related to Twitter being offline from the Social Media universe:

Twitter has come back online as of 1:20 PM EST on June 21, 2012. Then went down again later. Then came back up.

So what happened? The official news is a cascading bug took it down. Read about it from various news outlets here:

Tweet on!

 

 

Video from the Phoenix, Arizona Social Media Marketing and Business Social Networking Seminar. May 17, 2012 From http://www.socialnetworkarizona.com

Social Network Arizona is the PREMIER social media and internet marketing training seminar for your Arizona business. We provide B2B networking, social media strategy, and an Arizona Business Directory for our members.

CONNECT your business to success. Our strategy seminar talks about internet marketing, including the social properties Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

For dates and more information about our Social Media Seminar in Phoenix Arizona visit http://www.socialnetworkarizona.com

List Your Business in the Arizona Business Directory:
http://www.socialnetworkarizona.com/member-directory/

Sponsored by seenBEST Web Design Phoenix AZ:
http://www.seenbest-web-design.com

 

The solar eclipse on May 20, 2012 was spectacular! In select parts of the country such as Utah and Northwest Arizona, the sun appeared as a ring of fire when the moon passed through to the center of the sun. Other parts of the country had a partial solar eclipse. The following video of the eclipse was recorded in Mesa, Arizona and captures the eclipse during the sunset.

 

I recommend watching this HD video in full screen!

 

Dear Small Business Owners, here are the details for our special event in May!

The business leaders that comprise Social Network Arizona, www.socialnetworkarizona.com,  look forward to meeting you Thursday, May 17th to help you take your business networking to the NEXT level!

This social media, business networking event & seminar will put you in touch with hundreds of Phoenix and Scottsdale area business leaders… Expand your local network… and increase the online visibility of your company, website, and brand.

To RSVP and learn how you can earn a free Golden Ticket (a $20 value!) visit our event page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/366515473395640/

 

Hosted by Andre Morris
President and Founder, seenBEST Internet Marketing
www.seenbest.com

 

 

Mission: Small Business is a program sponsored by Chase Bank and LivingSocial. These two companies have teamed up and are running a social media contest that will ultimately help up to 12 small businesses across the US. They will be awarding up to 12 grants, valued at $250,000, to selected small businesses who are approved, meet program guidelines, and are selected from the list.

Are you a business owner? Would you like an opportunity to earn a $250,000 grant? It’s easy, all you have to do is visit the official Mission: Small Business website to apply! Click here: http://www.missionsmallbusiness.com/

After your application has been received the Mission: Small Business website informs you that you need to gather 250 votes from around the internet in order for your application to be eligible. Have you already submitted your application and are now looking for a way to get the 250 votes you’ll need? The “how to engage consumers” page offers some good advice to help you round up the 250 votes you’ll need. It says:

  • Use social media to build excitement and make your customers aware that they can vote for your business. That’s a great idea! You should post the link on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ streams. If you aren’t sure where to start, seenBEST Web Design can help you create social media accounts. They provide a free Social Media strategy session, visit www.seenbest.com for more information.
  • Use email to notify your customers that your business is competing in the program. If you don’t already have an email marketing campaign established seenBEST can help you get it going.
Beyond email and Social Media, you can use other methods to get the 250 votes you’ll need to enter your application into the program.
  • You can print up a business card sized ad with a QR code that takes visitors to your store directly to the necessary page, allowing them to vote.
  • You can tell me the name of your business in the system and I’ll give you a vote! Type your business name into the comments section of my blog below.
  • Read through all of our comments in the area below this article. We have posted additional tips that really work in there!

That’s what small businesses are here for, to help each other – right? Thanks to Chase for this incredible offer and GOOD LUCK!

 

How to Vote:
  • Visit https://www.missionsmallbusiness.com
  • Click the “Login & Support” button in the bottom right of the page then accept the Facebook login requests
  • Search for seenbest and vote for us. You can vote for as many businesses as you like, so look for other companies you like and vote for them too.
  • Leave a comment below with the name of your business so that I and other visitors to this page can also vote for you!

Remember, add your business name to the comments below so we can vote for you!

 

 

 

 

There has been a lot of attention recently on the story of Aimee Copeland, a 24-year-old Georgia student who has been attacked by Necrotizing Fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating disease. The disease infects the deeper layers of the skin and is caused by a bacterial infection that typically enters through an open wound. In the case of Aimee Copeland, the wound was caused by a ZipLine accident. Aimee was above a river on a homemade zip line when the line snapped and she fell. The resulting accident left a gash in Aimee’s left calf muscle, and bacteria that was in the water of the river entered her open wound. The bacteria progressed, and doctors were recently forced to amputate Aimee’s leg.

Aimee’s story is a horrible example of how fragile life can be. Aimee was only one semester away from earning her master’s degree in Psychology when the accident happened. After such a horrible tragedy I think it’s a good time to examine the safety record of zip lines. Are ziplines safe? With tens of thousands of ziplines installed as tourist attractions all over the world, is there a way you can check to make sure that you won’t have a similar type of accident?

Are Zip Lines Safe?

There have been several high-profile news stories over the past several years dealing with deaths caused by zip line failure. Like the story  from Maui in 2011 of a man who died after falling 200 feet while testing a zip line, the story of the U.S. tourist who fell 65 feet and died in Honduras in 2008, the 11 year-old boy who died in England, or the story of the 23 year old man in Texas who  fell after the cable malfunctioned.

These stories, along with the story of Aimee Copeland, are all tragic and very sad. While there are even more stories of zip line accidents than the ones linked here, accidents by zip line are statistically very rare when compared to other types of accidents. Certain other types of sports, such as Football, Basketball, etc. have a higher probability of being injured statistically, and the primary cause of injury while riding on a zip line are heart attacks. The majority of  other types of accidents or death caused by zip lines occur when the zip lines are homemade, such as was the case with Aimee Copeland, or when the zipline has not been properly maintained. For the most part around the world, there is no government regulation on zip line companies. That means there are no regular inspections or mandatory maintenance required on zip lines, and the individual companies are responsible for customer safety.

What Precautions Can You Take and How Can You Tell if Your Zip Line is Safe?

People do get hurt on zip lines! If you are planning to try a zip line, you should seek out a professional zip line company. Never ride on a homemade zip line! Make sure that:

  • The zip line company provides an experienced operator, someone who has been doing it long enough to give you necessary training to keep you safe during the ride.
  • You wear all of the necessary safety gear, which probably includes a helmet, harness, gloves, goggles, pads, and more.
  • The company has maintained their zip line and has records that can prove that they perform regular maintenance to inspect the integrity of the lines.
  • Take a quick look at this comprehensive checklist of safety precautions the zip line company should be following, including a checklist of questions you should ask.
  • You never ride a zip line in poor weather or in a place where you don’t fully trust the safety record of the zip line company and staff!
Zip Lines can be a lot of fun when good safety policies are followed… If you aren’t familiar with what a Zip Line is like, watch this video:

 

The long-awaited movie The Avengers is in theaters now!

Check out showtimes for The Avengers near you, click here.

 

If you haven’t heard, The Avengers is a movie based on the Marvel Comics team of superheros and includes the super heroes Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow.

 

The movie just hit the theaters today, with early reviews already raving about this film. The movie currently scores 8.8 on IMDB, which is very high and usually indicative of a must see film.

 

Don’t miss out, this movie lives up to the hype! Watch the official trailer here.

The Avengers Trailer

What do you think about Rajon Rondo of the Celtics being ejected from the first playoffs game vs. the Hawks? The hype in the news is that he chest bumped the ref, but if you watch the video very carefully and watch his feet it’s obvious that his foot got caught up with the official. He claims that the bump wasn’t intentional and I would have to agree! Whenever I trip I make the same type of movement to correct myself from falling.

The speculation is that he will be suspended for at least one game by the NBA. If that happens, based on this video, I think they league will have made a mistake!

 

 

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