There’s a lot of debate about the job and economic prospects for the current generation of college graduates. The fact that student debt has ballooned so much only exacerbates the tension of whether graduates will be able to find good jobs in a timely manner.

Despite all this, the latest jobs report confirms that folks with a college degree (red line) have an unemployment rate far lower than those who don’t have one (blue line).

unemploymentcollegevsnocollege

 

That being said, it is nice to see that the unemployment rate for those without a college degree took a nice leg down in March, dropping from 7.9 percent to 7.6 percent. In this chart, we zoom in on the blue line above, and we made it a bar chart so you can clearly see the change each month.

unemploymentforthosewithoutcollegedegrees

As you can see, it’s been a good several months for the population that didn’t go to college, though the job prospects for this group lag significantly behind those of people who did graduate.

 

By Joe Weisenthal, Apr. 7, 2013, “Business Insider”

 

 

Elizabeth Warren said that a much higher baseline would be appropriate if wages were tied to productivity gains.

Image: Office worker
Digital Vision-Getty Images-Getty Images

What if U.S. workers were paid more as the nation’s productivity increased?
If we had adopted that policy decades ago, the minimum wage would now be about $22 an hour, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last week. Warren was speaking at a hearing held by the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Warren was talking to Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the issue of minimum wage. “With a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75?” she asked Dube. “It sure didn’t go to the worker.”
The $22 minimum wage Warren referred to came from a 2012 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It said that the minimum wage would have hit $21.72 an hour last year if it had been tied to the increases seen in worker productivity since 1968. Even if the minimum wage got only one-fourth the pickup as the rate of productivity, it would now be $12.25 an hour instead of $7.25.
Some of the news media took this to mean that Warren is calling for a minimum-wage increase to $22 an hour. That doesn’t appear to be the case. She seems to be merely pointing out that the minimum wage has grown more slowly than other facets of the economy.
Warren is taking some hits on Twitter for her comments. One user describes her as “clueless and out of touch” while another calls her “delusional.” But other users are praising her arguments as “compelling,” saying she is “asking the right questions regarding minimum wage.”
By Kim  Peterson

Folks ages 29 to 37 have watched their net worth plummet over the past few decades, and there are several reasons.

Even after a damaging economic crisis and recession, some American households are recovering nicely. If you’re 47 years old or older, you’ve actually done pretty well in the past few decades.
But younger generations are just getting poorer, according to a new study from the Urban Institute. People younger than 47 just haven’t been able to accumulate much money or build up their net worth through homebuying or other investments.
The authors looked at how Americans’ average net worth has changed from 1983 through 2010 and found a dramatic difference between older and younger generations.
Those 56 to 64 and those older than 74 more than doubled their net worth, with gains of 120% and 149%, respectively. The picture was still rosy for those 47 to 55 and 65 to 73, with a rise in net worth of 76% and 79%.
But all that progress comes to a halt with younger generations. Those 38 to 46 saw their net worth rise by just 26%, and those 29 to 37 saw their net worth drop by 21%.
Why are young people getting left behind? One of the study’s authors, Gene Steuerle, says there are several factors:
The housing bubble. Younger homeowners were more likely to have the steepest mortgage balances and the least home equity built up. Consider a home that fell in value by 20%, Steuerle writes. A younger owner with only 20% equity would see a 100% drop in housing net worth, but an older owner with the mortgage paid off would see only a 20% drop.
The stock market. Older investors were more likely to invest in bonds and other assets that have recovered or gone up in value since the Great Recession.
Lower employment. Younger Americans are seeing higher unemployment rates. They’re also seeing lower relative minimum wages.
Less savings. Younger people are seeing a bigger cut of their pay taken out to pay for Social Security and health care.
“Maybe, more than just maybe, it’s time to think about investing in the young,” Steuerle writes.

By Kim Peterson

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) — Some Microsoft Corp. shareholders say the software maker’s $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo! Inc. may backfire and reduce its ability to compete with Google Inc. in Internet consumer services and advertising.

“This is a stupid deal, and I’m not happy,” said Jane Snorek, who helps manage more than $70 billion in assets at First American Funds in Minneapolis. She said the firm began selling much of its Microsoft position yesterday, when the stock dropped 6.6 percent, the most since April 2006. “I’m expecting slow market-share erosion from Microsoft and Yahoo.”

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is attempting the biggest-ever technology takeover after his own efforts failed to narrow the gap with Google. Acquiring Yahoo would still leave Microsoft with a smaller share of the Web search market, and Ballmer would face the distraction of combining the businesses, said Colin Gillis, an analyst at Canaccord Adams in New York.

“Sergey and Larry are going to have no problems sleeping,” Gillis said, referring to Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. “I don’t see them tossing in their beds tonight.”

Gillis recommends buying Google shares, has a hold rating on Yahoo, and doesn’t cover Microsoft. He said he doesn’t own shares in the companies.

Microsoft Falls

The $31-a-share bid of cash or Microsoft stock is 62 percent more than Yahoo’s closing price on Jan. 31. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, fell $2.15 to $30.45 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Ballmer, 51, has presided over a 44 percent drop in Microsoft shares since taking over as CEO in January 2000.

Yahoo, which reported its eighth straight quarter of declining profit this week, had dropped 18 percent this year before the offer was announced. The shares rose $9.20, or 48 percent, to $28.38 yesterday.

Holders of Yahoo stock would be able to choose to take $31 in cash or 0.9509 of a Microsoft share for each Yahoo share. Microsoft will pay for half the purchase with cash and half with stock, the company said.

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, also has failed to break Google’s hold on the market, losing Internet search users and share of the online ad market. The stock had lost almost half its value in the past two years before the deal was announced.

`Struggled Mightily’

“Yahoo has struggled mightily to compete against Google,” said Dave Stepherson, a fund manager at Hardesty Capital Management in Baltimore, which holds about 281,000 Microsoft shares in its $650 million under management. “That is not going to change just because they’re pairing up with Microsoft.”

The price is “incredibly expensive,” and Microsoft may have done better by making smaller purchases to build out its own business, he said.

Ballmer himself told analysts in July 2006 that buying Yahoo wouldn’t help Microsoft improve its search business, because only Google has a better quality product than Microsoft.

“There’s no acquisition path,” Ballmer said when asked whether Microsoft should make a large purchase.

Microsoft’s bid is more than seven times larger than the $6 billion the company paid for AQuantive Inc., its largest previous acquisition. Microsoft doesn’t have the experience to fix and combine Yahoo, said Jon Fisher, a portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management in Minneapolis.

`Fixer-Upper’

“They never bought a fixer-upper before,” said Fisher, whose firm manages $22 billion, including Microsoft shares.

The acquisition will probably face lengthy regulatory scrutiny, said Peter Kadzik, an antitrust partner at Dickstein Shapiro, a law firm in Washington. The U.S. Justice Department said yesterday that it is “interested” in reviewing the proposed combination. Neelie Kroes, commissioner of competition for the European Commission, will also investigate, she said yesterday.

Still, the deal would likely be approved because Google would continue to lead the Internet advertising market after the purchase, Kadzik said.

Google captured 56 percent of U.S. Web queries in December, almost double the combined share for Yahoo and Microsoft, which attracted 18 percent and 14 percent, according to New York-based Nielsen Online.

Microsoft Optimism

Some Microsoft shareholders were pleased with the bid.

“If Microsoft executes well, it could be a really good deal,” said Robert Doll, who oversees $1.3 trillion as chief investment officer of global equities at New York-based BlackRock Inc. The firm owns Microsoft shares. “The ball is going to be in Microsoft’s court.”

The deal also makes sense because Yahoo is strong in Asia, while Microsoft’s Web sites are popular in Latin America and Europe, said Bob Ivins, executive vice president of ComScore Inc., a market researcher in Reston, Virginia.

“When you combine the strengths of our two companies, the result will be an incredibly efficient and competitive offering,” Ballmer said on a conference call yesterday. “We believe now in those benefits more than ever.”

Yahoo said yesterday that it plans to evaluate the proposal “promptly.”

Microsoft’s bankers, Morgan Stanley and Blackstone Group LP, could split about $53 million in fees, and Yahoo’s may get about $80 million, according to Bloomberg estimates based on publicly disclosed fees from about 600 transactions since 2005.

Microsoft had considered paying a per-share figure in the mid-$30s range, before its bid of $31, the New York Times reported. The newspaper also said Yahoo’s investment bankers, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., approached other potential suitors yesterday, including News Corp. and AT&T Inc.

News Corp. spokeswoman Teri Everett and AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg News via phone and e-mail messages. Yahoo spokeswoman Diana Wong declined to comment.

By Dina Bass
To contact the reporter on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net
February 2, 2008

SHANGHAI — China’s latest export is inflation. After falling for years, prices of Chinese goods sold in the United States have risen for the last eight months.

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Soaring energy and raw material costs, a falling dollar and new business rules here are forcing Chinese factories to increase the prices of their exports, according to analysts and Western companies doing business here.

The rise was a modest 2.4 percent over the last year. But even that small amount, combined with higher energy and food costs that also reflect China’s growing demands on global resources, contributed to a rise in inflation in the United States. Inflation in the United States was 4.1 percent in 2007, up from 2.5 percent in 2006.

Because of new cost pressures here, American consumers could see prices increase by as much as 10 percent this year on specific products — including toys, clothing, footwear and other consumer goods — just as the United States faces a possible recession.

In the longer term, higher costs in China could spell the end of an era of ultra-cheap goods, as well as the beginning of China’s rise from the lowest rungs of global manufacturing.

Economists have been warning for months that this country’s decade-long role of keeping a lid on global inflation was on the wane.

“China has been the world’s factory and the anchor of the global disconnect between rising material prices and lower consumer prices,” said Dong Tao, an economist for Credit Suisse. “But its heyday is over. We’re going to see higher prices.”

Chinese imports constitute 7.5 percent of spending by Americans on consumer goods, but they make up much bigger shares of several popular categories, including about 80 percent of toys, 85 percent of footwear, and 40 percent of clothing.

Even when the market share held by Chinese goods is relatively small, their low prices put pressure on other producers to keep costs down.

Whether Chinese factories will succeed in making wholesalers pay more for their goods and whether retailers will be able to pass much of their higher costs on to American consumers is unclear, analysts say.

But companies that operate in China or buy from here are already reeling from mounting cost pressures that they say will weaken their profits and could disrupt their supply chains.

Those supply lines were already called into question by large-scale recalls of Chinese exports last year, involving everything from toys to pet food to tires.

“This is what I call the perfect storm,” said Alan G. Hassenfeld, the chairman of Hasbro, one of the world’s largest toy makers, during a recent visit to China. “We’ve got higher labor costs and labor shortages, plastic prices have gone way up and we’re doing more safety testing.”

While no reliable figures exist on average Chinese wages, experts say that factory wages have risen 80 percent or more in many coastal areas in recent years, with the lowest wage about $125 a month.

Some of the current cost pressures are actually by design — Beijing’s design.

After years of complaints from the United States and Europe about China’s growing trade surplus, authorities here have removed incentives that once favored exporters of cheap goods.
Starting last June, for instance, China removed or reduced tax rebates on hundreds of items for export, including toys, apparel, leather, wood and other goods, effectively taxing those industries.

But the actions are also part of Beijing’s desire to move China higher up the global manufacturing chain — away from the least- finished products, like plastic children’s toys, toward more advanced exports that require skilled labor, like small electronics and even automobiles.

Whatever the government’s motivation, many Chinese exporters say the timing of the rebate cut was disastrous. Their factories had been struggling to cope with problems that included power shortages, higher raw material costs, rising wages and inflation in other areas.

For instance, the cost of some types of plastic has risen more than 30 percent in the last few years because of higher oil or petroleum costs. Plastic is a major component in toys and other consumer goods.

Many Chinese factory owners say a tough new labor law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, complicates the hiring and firing process and threatens to raise labor costs even more, at a time when parts of the country are already plagued with labor shortages. Some factory owners say there have already been strikes and other turmoil over the interpretation of the new law and how it should be applied.

“We have seen lots of brawls between employees and employers,” said Hong Jiasheng, vice president of the Taiwan Merchant Association, which represents investors in China. “We think the enactment of the new labor law is too hasty.”

Analysts say Beijing is also stepping up its enforcement of environmental laws, putting added pressure on factories that had long skirted regulations. Adhering to those often ignored rules increases cost, too.

These changes take place against the backdrop of a dollar falling modestly against the Chinese currency. The dollar is down about 7.6 percent in the last year against the yuan and is expected to fall further this year.

The weaker the dollar, the more expensive Chinese and other goods become when their prices are converted to dollars.
All in all, toy producers are among the hardest hit by the changes in law and prices. They rely on large quantities of plastic. They face heightened regulatory scrutiny after the product safety scandals last year.

Indeed, some toy factories went bankrupt, squeezed between rising local costs and pressures from foreign customers to deliver a better product at an even lower price.

“I’ve been in the toy industry for almost 20 years, but these past two years have been the hardest time,” said Guo Jinshen, manager of the Fenggang Fengyuan Plastic Toys Company.

“Costs are rising, there are recalls, stricter regulation, more complicated inspection — all these things make it difficult.”
To reduce costs, some factory owners are considering moving to inland China, where wages are lower, or to other parts of Asia, like Vietnam and Indonesia.

Li & Fung, one of the biggest companies for supplying products worldwide, says its customers are already responding to Chinese inflation.

“There’s a shift in sourcing driven by higher prices in China,” says Bruce Rockowitz, president at Li & Fung. “We’ve already seen a big move in furniture to Indonesia.”

But while relocating production to cheaper countries could keep prices low for Western consumer goods, moving factories and complex supply chains is difficult. Such changes can take years and cost millions of dollars.

In the meantime, makers of toys, apparel and footwear — highly labor-intensive industries — are being forced to consider raising prices even as growth in the United States slows, a rare confluence of events not seen in decades.

Companies that began outsourcing production to China in the 1990s mostly benefited from lower costs, which translated into both higher corporate profits and lower consumer prices. Now, many Western companies have to rethink pricing.

“Companies are now ordering for the spring of 2009,” says Nate Herman, director of international trade at the American Apparel and Footwear Association, based in Arlington, Va., that represents some big clothing and footwear makers. “Factories are coming back and asking for 20, 30, 40, 50 percent price increases.”

Will importers pass those costs on to consumers? “It’s going to be hard to avoid some increase,” he said.

* By DAVID BARBOZA (February 1, 2008)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush called on Congress on Friday to give the U.S. economy a “shot in the arm” with an election-year package of temporary tax cuts and other measures worth up to $150 billion.

Bush said the United States, where share markets have slumped and unemployment is rising, faced the risk of an economic downturn but that his advisers still expected continued growth, albeit at a slower pace.

He said he wanted Congress to move quickly on a stimulus package that would focus on tax rebates for families and incentives to encourage business investment. The White House said the package could create about 500,000 new jobs.

“This growth package must be built on broad-based tax relief that will directly affect economic growth and not the kind of spending projects that would have little immediate impact on our economy,” Bush said at the White House.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the administration hoped for a package worth about $140 billion to $150 billion, which is a little more than 1 percent of the economy’s size.

Financial markets are reeling amid bleak reports of declining retail sales and rising unemployment on top of soaring oil prices and a credit crunch brought on by a crisis in subprime mortgages.

Bush’s plan failed to reassure investors on Friday as world stock prices fell again, with U.S. stocks tumbling to close out the worst week for the benchmark S&P 500 index in 5 years on fears the White House effort will not be enough to avoid recession.

Economists are talking of a possible recession taking hold before presidential and congressional elections in November and the debate over an economic stimulus has been taken up by candidates campaigning to succeed Bush in the White House.

Bush and the Democratic-led Congress are in rare agreement that a stimulus is needed. But they are still hammering out the details of a plan that is likely to include tax rebates of several hundred dollars each to help spur consumers as well as temporary tax breaks for businesses.

TAX REBATES

Under discussion are proposals to trim the lowest income tax rate and give the money back in a rebate. Lawmakers are also considering allowing businesses to immediately write off 50 percent of their new investments.

Democrats are looking to provide states with some financial aid, extend unemployment benefits beyond the 26 weeks offered by most states and to get some more money for food stamps.

For now, lawmakers are putting aside the bitter partisanship that dominated last year’s session and which resulted in near-gridlock over spending, taxes, health care and the Iraq war.

“I am encouraged and share the president’s view that we need prompt bipartisan action to strengthen our economy,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Only a day earlier, the Nevada Democrat had expressed some disappointment with the results of a telephone conference between Bush and congressional leaders.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said after Bush’s remarks on Friday that the president needed to accept some spending as part of the package.

“We want a balanced package of tax rebates for the middle class and spending stimulus that jump-starts the economy quickly,” Schumer said at a news conference.

Bush predicted that an agreement could be worked out soon. The administration and lawmakers say the outlines of plan could be clear by Bush’s State of the Union address to Congress on January 28.

“I believe we can come together on a growth package very quickly,” Bush told reporters as he visited a lawn mower factory in Maryland on Friday.

Most of the major White House contenders have unveiled proposals for the economy but they differ widely on specifics, highlighting the challenges in getting a bipartisan agreement.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has proposed a $110 billion plan that would target poor and middle-class people, said Bush’s approach would shortchange struggling families.

“I don’t think it does enough,” she said in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. John McCain, campaigning in South Carolina, expressed wariness about some Democratic ideas for a stimulus, especially those focusing on spending.

“I want to see where that money is going to come from,” said McCain, who laid out a proposal on Thursday for cuts in corporate tax rates and incentives for companies to invest in new equipment and research.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan and Donna Smith, additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; editing by Kristin Roberts and Stuart Grudgings)

American consumers, uneasy about the economy and unimpressed by the merchandise in stores, delivered the bleak holiday shopping season retailers had expected, if not feared, according to one early but influential projection.

Spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas rose just 3.6 percent over last year, the weakest performance in at least four years, according to MasterCard Advisors, a division of the credit card company. By comparison, sales grew 6.6 percent in 2006, and 8 percent in 2005.
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“There was not a recipe for a pick up in sales growth,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors, citing higher gas prices, a slowing housing market and a tight credit market.

Strong demand at the start of the season for a handful of must-have electronics, like digital frames and portable GPS navigation systems trailed off in December. And robust sales of luxury products could not make up for sluggish sales of jewelry and women’s clothing.

What did eventually sell was generally marked down — once, if not twice — which could hurt retailers’ profits in the final three months of year. “Stores are buying those sales at a cost,” said Sherif Mityas, a partner at the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, who specializes in retailing.

MasterCard’s SpendingPulse data, scheduled to be released Wednesday, cover the 32-day period between Nov. 23 and Dec. 24. It is based on purchases made by more than 300 million MasterCard debit and credit card users and broader estimates of spending with cash and checks. It encompasses sales at stores, on the Internet, of gift cards, gasoline and meals at restaurants.

The final numbers are in line with MasterCard’s already modest expectations, which were reduced in the middle of the season. But retail analysts and economists, who scrutinize holiday spending for clues about the health of the American economy, are unlikely to be impressed by the results.

Eboni Jones, 32, of Windsor, Conn., epitomized the problem for stores.

A phone company manager, she waited until this past weekend to make a single purchase at a major chain store this season, favoring Web retailers and designer outlet stores with deeper bargains.

“I am on a tighter budget that I’ve ever been,” said Ms. Jones, who walked into the Macy’s at Westfarms Mall in Farmington, Conn., on Sunday morning to take advantage of a sale.

In the past, she easily spent $100 each on her six nieces and nephews. This year, it was more like $50. “If it’s not on sale, I won’t buy it,” Ms. Jones said.

MasterCard found that online spending rose 22.4 percent, a healthy, if not robust, showing, given fears that Web purchases would slow after a decade of impressive growth.

Clothing sales rose a meager 1.4 percent, but there was a stark split between genders. Sales for women’s apparel dropped 2.4 percent. Sales for men’s apparel rose 2.3 percent. Analysts said women complained of dreary fashions.

“Even when the dust settles, women’s clothing is likely to be one of the weakest categories in retail this season,” said John D. Morris, senior retail analyst at Wachovia Securities.

Luxury purchases rose 7.1 percent, as the nation’s well-heeled splurged on $600 Marc Jacobs trench coats and $800 Christian Louboutin shoes. Footwear, at all prices, proved a bright spot for the clothing industry, with sales surging 6 percent.

Weak sales of clothing left retailers jostling for the deepest if not most desperate discounts over the last weekend to drum up interest from consumers. Martin & Osa knocked 50 percent off women’s wool sweaters. Gymboree issued $25 coupons to shoppers who spent $50 on its children’s clothing. Even the markdown-averse Abercrombie & Fitch dusted off its clearance signs, selling $99 faux-fur trimmed-down coats for $79.

The American consumer has perplexed analysts this season. Retail experts confidently predicted that shoppers, uneasy about the economy, would trade down from mid-price chains, like Macy’s and Nordstrom, to discounters with steeper discounts.

To a certain degree, they did, mobbing low-priced chains like T.J Maxx, and Marshall’s. But the discount retailer Target has struggled this season. On Tuesday, it said its sales could fall by 1 percent in December compared with last year, an anomaly for a retailer accustomed to at least 4 percent monthly sales growth over the last three years.

In the end, analysts said, the biggest winners are likely to be Wal-Mart, which emerged as the undisputed low-price leader this season, and Best Buy, which became the destination for competitively priced electronics.

Much of this season’s action appeared to unfold on the Web, which spared consumers a $3-a-gallon drive to the mall. Like MasterCard, ComScore, a research firm, found that online spending rose steadily to $26.3 billion.

ComScore measured spending during the 51 days between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21. The biggest day for online shopping was Monday, Dec. 10 ($881 million), not the Monday after Thanksgiving ($733 million), known as Cyber Monday in the retail world, because consumers typically flock to the Web at work after a holiday weekend of browsing.

Unsatisfied with sales so far, dozens of retailers, from the high-end to the low, will start slashing prices Wednesday morning. Kohl’s is scheduled to hold a 60- to 70-percent off sale; Macy’s is knocking down prices by 50 to 70 percent, and dangling a $10 coupon for purchases of $25 or more; clothing will be 50 percent off at Saks Fifth Avenue between 8 a.m. and noon; and Toys “R” Us is offering a buy-one-get-one-half-off promotion.

* By MICHAEL BARBARO (New York Times; 26 Dec. 2007)

TO its true believers at small businesses, it is a low-cost, high-return tool that can handle marketing and public relations, raise the company profile and build the brand.

That tool is blogging, though small businesses with blogs are still a distinct minority. A recent American Express survey found that only 5 percent of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have blogs. Other experts put the number slightly higher.

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But while blogs may be useful to many more small businesses, even blogging experts do not recommend it for the majority.

Guy Kawasaki, a serial entrepreneur, managing partner of Garage Technology Ventures and a prolific blogger, put it this way: “If you’re a clothing manufacturer or a restaurant, blogging is probably not as high on your list as making good food or good clothes.”

Blogging requires a large time commitment and some writing skills, which not every small business has on hand.

But some companies are suited to blogging. The most obvious candidates, said Aliza Sherman Risdahl, author of “The Everything Blogging Book” (Adams Media 2006), are consultants. “They are experts in their fields and are in the business of telling people what to do.”

For other companies, Ms. Risdahl said, it can be challenging to find a legitimate reason for blogging unless the sector served has a steep learning curve (like wine), a lifestyle associated with certain products or service (like camping gear or pet products) or a social mission (like improving the environment or donating a portion of revenues to charity).

Even in those niches, Ms. Risdahl said that companies need to focus on a strategy for their blogging and figure out if they have enough to say.

“As a consultant, blogging clearly helps you get hired,” she said. “If you are selling a product, you have to be much more creative because people don’t want to read a commercial.”

Sarah E. Endline, chief executive of sweetriot, which makes organic chocolate snacks, said she started blogging a few months before starting her company in 2005 to give people a behind-the-scenes look at the business.

The kind of transparency is a popular reason for blogging, particularly for companies that want to be identified as mission-oriented or socially responsible.

A typical post on sweetriot’s blog described the arrival of the company’s first cacao shipment from South America and how Ms. Endline met the truck on Labor Day weekend after it passed through customs at Kennedy International Airport.

She wrote about climbing aboard to inspect the goods and then praised the owner of Gateway trucking company, who helped her sort through the boxes so that she could examine the product.

“At sweetriot we don’t use the word ‘vendors’ as we believe it is about partnership with anyone with whom we work,” she wrote.

For companies in the technology sector, having a blog is pretty much expected. Still, Tony Stubblebine, the founder and chief executive of CrowdVine, a company that builds social networks for conferences, said that one of his main reasons for blogging is to show that his business model is different from the typical technology start-up.

“Everyone in Silicon Valley is focused on venture capital funding and having an exit strategy,” he said. “Because I’m not focused on raising money, I can focus on my customers, since they aren’t a stepping stone to some acquisition or I.P.O.”

He added: “I’m trying to create a community of help for small Internet businesses like mine. My blogging philosophy is like the open source model in software. It’s sort of a hippie concept. If I can help other people, it’s personally rewarding. And those people will likely pay it back in some ways.”

Mr. Stubblebine said he gets new customers largely by word of mouth, and he uses the blog as a way to share news with friends and people who wield influence in his industry as well as a reference check for customers. “That’s why I cover the growth of the company.”

David Harlow, a lawyer and health care consultant in Boston, said he started his blog, HealthBlawg, as a way of marketing himself after he left a large law firm and opened his own practice. Besides, he said, blogging was easy to get started and the technology was straightforward.

Now, after about two years of blogging, Mr. Harlow said he was pleased with the results. He gets about 200 to 300 visits a day, he said. He has also become a source for publications looking for commentary on regulatory issues in the health care field and has even gained a few clients because of the blog. In addition, he has formed relationships with other legal bloggers (who call themselves blawgers) and consultants around the country.

Many small business bloggers achieve their goals even if only a handful or a few hundred people read their blogs. But some companies aim much higher.

Denali Flavors, an ice cream manufacturing company in Michigan that licenses its flavors to other stores, for example, is a small company with a limited ad budget. It decided to use a series of blogs to build brand awareness for Moose Tracks, its most popular flavor of ice cream.

John Nardini, who runs marketing for Denali and is responsible for the company’s blogs, said he has experimented over the last few years with different types of blogs to see which would generate the most traffic. One blog followed a Denali-sponsored bicycle team that was raising money for an orphanage in Latvia. Another tracked the whereabouts of a Moose character that would show up at famous landmarks around the country.

But by far the most successful blog, in terms of traffic, turned out to be Free Money Finance, a blog that has nothing to do with Denali’s business. Mr. Nardini’s plan was to create a blog with so much traffic that it could serve as an independent media outlet owned by Denali Flavors, where the company could be the sole sponsor and advertiser.

He chose personal finance because it is a popular search category on the Web and because he knew he would not tire of posting about it. And post he does, about five times each weekday.

He uses free tools like Google Analytics and Site Meter to understand how people are finding the site and which key words are working. Free Money Finance receives about 4,500 visits a day and each visitor views about two pages, which means they see two ads for Moose Tracks ice cream. The effort costs about $400 a year, excluding Mr. Nardini’s salary.

The site also accepts advertising, which earns the company about $30,000 to $40,000 a year, all of which Denali donates to charity. “We run ads because it legitimizes the site; it’s really not about the money,” Mr. Nardini said. “We’re hoping people will go into Pathmark, see the Moose Tracks logo and say, ‘Hey, I just saw that on the Web site I go to every day.’ ”

* By MARCI ALBOHER (New York Times 27 Dec. 2007)