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Archive for April, 2005

iJacking

by henrycopeland
Friday, April 29th, 2005

Ken Layne, hater of all things new, spawns the evil idea of “iJacking.”

How does it work, you ask? Simple. These days, people often share songs with their pals, which is a terrible crime known as Piracy or Felony Child Endangerment. Find out what kind of music your victim enjoys. If it’s your wife, for example, you might casually ask, ‘Lady, do you enjoy music? If so, please list three musical acts that would interest you, especially if I said I just downloaded secret new bootleg music by these acts.’

Then you offer to put this secret music on her iPod.

And then you load a cornucopia of awful things onto said iPod.

What kind of awful things? I’d stay away from traditional ‘songs,’ because they tend to be several minutes long ‘ giving the victim time to skip the song and find out its title ‘ and there’s always the chance your victim will actually enjoy whatever crap music you install. Instead, just put a bunch of Deeply Wrong short audio clips, things that flash by with great weirdness & violence, leaving your victim confused and agitated. Did I really just hear that?

Here’s some fine material I found on the Google in just minutes: animal sounds, police sirens, scary guns, utterly devastating Kentucky Fried Chicken employee-training tapes, etc.

Another good idea is to record yourself yelling at the person, or record strangers yelling at the person to do something, like ‘Duck!’ or ‘Hands up, Creep!’ You will need to be creative when recording these tiny mp3 files. HOT TIP: Use a stereo microphone for these bits and stand to the left or right of the mic when yelling; it’ll sound much more realistic when your victim is jogging or whatever and suddenly hears an angry voice in one ear. If your victim is religious, get somebody with a creepy British accent to say godly stuff, very personal. God is ashamed of what you did with that guy, etc. Got a bug-phobic buddy? Try a swarm of bees! Let the victim’s unique personal fears and shame help you choose the perfect sounds!

Ken, the master of nasty tricks and disinformation, elsewhere claims that he and I learned about podcasting at the same time. I swear I knew about it at least five minutes before Ken. Speaking of Ken and (lower on the page) Business Week, Ken reminds me of the time a bunch of stuff Ken had written online for one publication magically migrated into an article by someone else in Business Week. (See clenched teeth editor’s note at the bottom of this story… iJacked as it were.) And speaking of iJacking, try this gorgeous ballad on your iPod.

TVGuide a go go… and a new network arises

by henrycopeland
Friday, April 29th, 2005

A good article from the NYTimes about the crumbling franchise TV Guide, trying to keep up with TV and its myriad audiences.

In a presentation to Gemstar’s biggest investors, the company identified a quandary for TV Guide, 95 percent of whose circulation is by subscription: a large portion of the subscribers are “traditionalist,” “older, 65-plus” and “more analog,” compared with those who are listed as younger and “digital.” Mr. Loughlin did not say what percentage was in the “older” category, but he conceded that TV Guide’s subscribers were unlikely to impress the advertisers in a more upscale publication like, say, Vanity Fair. “It’s a mass book,” he said of TV Guide. “It isn’t Traditional Home.”

In its 2004 annual report, Gemstar acknowledged a “substantial decline” in program advertising – the ads for particular movies and shows in the listings. It added that the decline of these ads, the core of TV Guide’s ad revenue, “could be permanent.”

I always admire the courage of Times reporters who dig into corporate publishing maladies that are so darn close to home for their own livelyhoods.

Meanwhile, blogger Michael Prieve spun the dial today and built a neat network of TV blogs. If you want to support their new network, drop this link in your HTML:

<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/tvblogs_ad_network/order>Advertise on TV weblogs</a>

Here’s the great logo Michael concocted:
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Two great writers

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Steven Berlin Johnson, one of my favorite writers, has a new contrarian book coming out about how television shows, and their watchers, are actually becoming smarter.

All of what Johnson says about TV has to be learned by advertisers too. I can’t summarize his arguments well enough, but here are some hints from an article in the Sunday NYTimes magazine.

“Since the early 80′s, however, there has been a noticeable increase in narrative complexity in these dramas. The most ambitious show on TV to date, ‘The Sopranos,’ routinely follows up to a dozen distinct threads over the course of an episode, with more than 20 recurring characters. An episode from late in the first season looks like this.”

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“The deliberate lack of hand-holding extends down to the microlevel of dialogue as well.”

“If early television took its cues from the stage, today’s reality programming is reliably structured like a video game: a series of competitive tests, growing more challenging over time. Many reality shows borrow a subtler device from gaming culture as well: the rules aren’t fully established at the outset. You learn as you play.”

“You have to focus to follow the plot, and in focusing you’re exercising the parts of your brain that map social networks, that fill in missing information, that connect multiple narrative threads.”

And, in the same issue Michael Lewis writes a wonderful portrait of the battle between other people’s expectations and your own identity, between being perceived “in” and struggling for recognition. He closes:

In Anaheim that afternoon, Brendan Donnelly quickly got ahead of Teahen, 0-2, and then tried to put him away with a pitch on the outside corner. Teahen reached out — and when he reached he traveled backward in time . . . he was reaching not for Brendan Donnelly’s fastball, he was reaching for . . . a Wiffle ball and trying to flick it over the left-field wall. He was reaching out as a small, fast high-school middle infielder who was not designed to hit home runs . . . he was reaching the way a small boy who doesn’t know he will grow into a big man reaches, just hoping to poke the ball into the hole between third and short and beat it out. He was reaching out the way he had always reached out. They had tried to stop him from reaching out. To teach him power. They had tried to sever his game from its roots. And he didn’t let them. And that was why his bat made hard contact with Brendan Donnelly’s sinking fastball. That’s why he was here now. In the big leagues. Standing on first base. Safe.

One-two punch for Walmart

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

If you read print newspapers, you may have seen a full page ad last week in the New York Times or today in USA Today taking Wal-Mart to task for relying on cheap Chinese labor and depending on US taxpayers to fund its worker healthcare.

And if you read blogs, you’ve seen ads like this. The ad is a little busy for my taste and I’d love to see some links in the text, but the overall message is strong. Walmart Watch, the group running those ads, has a community website packed with information and a blog. Here’s their post about the USA Today ad . And the post about the NYTimes ad.

The latest obituaries for an industry that doesn’t yet know it is dead

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

Straddling the line between elderly media and online, Jeff Jarvis continues to excel as the go to man for the latest obituaries. Today’s post contains this chart excised from a Mary Meeker presentation at Adtech (where I’m on a panel tomorrow about blog advertising if you feel like stopping by.) This chart and others in Meeker’s presesentation presentation that traditional media gets far too much ad revenue relative to its mindshare.

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Another great brandname buys blogads

by henrycopeland
Monday, April 25th, 2005

Levis, one of the great brand names in retailing, has bought blogads on a bunch brand name blogs. Fittingly, the ad is all about simplicity and authenticity. What better media than blogs to convey that message?

Business Week’s cover: the kiss of death

by henrycopeland
Monday, April 25th, 2005

Yesterday a friend who runs a hedge fund reminded me of the Wall Street maxim — “sell when Business Week’s cover says buy.”

I’m pretty sure Business Week is right about blogging but wrong about its own role in the game. More thoughts in the blog post below.

But first, its kinda fun to look at the tortured history of Business Week covers. The most famous example of this, of course, is the 1979 Business Week cover “The Death of Equities.” Paul Kedrosky has that cover and a great graph of the next 20 years bull market. Some facts from the article: Baby boomers won’t save. Gold is a safe long term bet.

How could Business Week be so wrong? Precisely because the publication’s staff does a wonderful job. Each cover is a finely tuned encapsulation of conventional wisdom. The magazine’s editors and staff cannot afford to go out on a limb and highlight truly revolutionary ideas or un-heralded companies — they might be wrong and look idiotic. They are not paid to be visionaries or speculators, they are paid to report. Covers can be done only if enough of the “right” people agree on something and are willing to be quoted.

So, for the savvy patient investor, Business Week covers can be a contrarian gold mine. As the few examples below show, Business Week often jumps on the bandwagon just as it goes off the cliff. Though every article contains a few qualifiers, bold declarations on Business Week’s cover are a good sign that the opposite will soon happen.

(So what should blogging entrepreneurs think about Business Week’s cover story: “Blogs Will Change Your Business: Look past the yakkers, hobbyists, and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up…or catch you later.” Is blogging over? Or is it is possible that this article is actually ahead of its time, since it clearly represents the first hand discussions and biases of editors, journalists and managers within Business Week, rather than just third hand ideas gummed to death by experts and conventional wisdom. Again, more thoughts below.)

Only time will tell. Anyway, this morning I spent an hour combing the index of Business Week covers looking for wrongheaded calls. Here are some classics:

October 1997: “NETSPEED AT NETSCAPE How the hottest software startup in history plans to outrun Microsoft and remain master of the Web.” (You remember Netscape, right?)

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November 1997: “THE NEW ECONOMICS OF OIL: With technology dragging down the cost of finding and producing the precious stuff, prices won’t rise–even as demand soars.” (Here’s nice chart of the subsequent steady rise in oil prices.)

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December 1997: “Now that you know there’s limited upside potential for stocks, what to do?” (See graph at bottom.)

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December 1998: “So investors shouldn’t count on being carried aloft by a sharply rising market. Instead, they’ll have to be highly selective to make money. First, they should survey the landscape–check out what economists are forecasting, what the pros are doing, who’s shorting what, and the latest from BUSINESS WEEK’s fearless forecasters.” (See graph below.)

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October 1999: “The Internet Age.” Sample headline: “A New Era of Bright Hopes and Terrible Fears
Companies that can ‘blast you out of your place’ abound.”

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December 1999:
“Internet mania paid off big time for investors in 1999, and incredibly, the dot.coms have more room to run in 2000. Despite a prolonged midyear sell-off that ran from April to August, Internet stocks are up an incredible 154% this year through Dec. 10, as measured by the Dow Jones Internet Composite Index of 40 stocks. Investment pros doubt that Net stocks can repeat this kind of performance next year. Still, they see huge growth ahead for the Internet and believe that Net stocks will continue their drive north.”

February 2000: “Special Report: After 107 months, the American economic juggernaut is still going strong. What went right?”

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Here’s a graph of NASDAQ before and after the “boom” cover:
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Business Week predicts corporate takeover of blogs

by henrycopeland
Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Yipee. Business Week does a cover story on blogging and predicts that publishers will soon dominate the field.

The article makes many bold and valid claims (see below) about the blogging boom and then slips in this astonishing prediction: “Mainstream media companies will master blogs as an advertising tool and take over vast commercial stretches of the blogosphere.”

Before we get to that brash claim about the coming triump of their employer’s business model, lets watch the BWers drink the blog coolaid:

Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business — including yours. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shipping paper clips, pork bellies, or videos of Britney in a bikini, blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite. (And yes, that goes for us, too.)…

How big are blogs? Try Johannes Gutenberg out for size. His printing press, unveiled in 1440, sparked a publishing boom and an information revolution. Some say it led to the Protestant Reformation and Western democracy. Along the way, societies established the rights and rules of the game for the privileged few who could afford to buy printing presses and grind forests into paper.

The printing press set the model for mass media. A lucky handful owns the publishing machinery and controls the information. Whether at newspapers or global manufacturing giants, they decide what the masses will learn. This elite still holds sway at most companies. You know them. They generally park in sheltered spaces, have longer rides on elevators, and avoid the cafeteria. They keep the secrets safe and coif the company’s message. Then they distribute it — usually on a need-to-know basis — to customers, employees, investors, and the press.

That’s the world of mass media, and the blogs are turning it on its head. Set up a free account at Blogger or other blog services, and you see right away that the cost of publishing has fallen practically to zero. Any dolt with a working computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the 10 minutes it takes to sign up.

Sure, most blogs are painfully primitive. That’s not the point. They represent power. Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like ours print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art — like how to get other bloggers to link to them — they reach a huge audience.

This is just the beginning. Many of the same folks who developed blogs are busy adding features so that bloggers can start up music and video channels and team up on editorial projects. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.

How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher? A vast new stretch of the information world opens up. For now, it’s a digital hinterland. The laws and norms covering fairness, advertising, and libel? They don’t exist, not yet anyway. But one thing is clear: Companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their message. Now they’re losing control of it.

Want to get it back? You never will, not entirely. But for a look at what you’re facing, come along for a tour of the blogosphere.

So far, so good, eh? Wow, everything is changing. Particularly publishing. To repeat: “The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.
How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher?

Sounds pretty grim if you are a publisher, doesn’t it? In an astonishingly unself-conscious piece of solipsism, the mag cover says “Blogs will change your business,” but the following article would better be titled “Blogs will change OUR business,” since lots more is said about the changes blogging will wreak on publishers than any of the thousands of other industries in America.

Which brings us to BW’s punchline/backflip.

A prediction: Mainstream media companies will master blogs as an advertising tool and take over vast commercial stretches of the blogosphere…. Take a look at blog advertising today, and it’s hard to see a glittering future. Sure, enterprising bloggers make room on their pages for Google-generated ads, known as AdSense, and earn some pocket change.

Umm. Guys? A number of indie bloggers already make more each month than you make. And their year-over-year growth trajectory is a lot greater than yours. And they don’t have to worry what the boss thinks. And they’ve each got a brand name people adore. And they’ve got the lowest overheads in the publishing industry. Who do people want to work for — your failing industry, or themselves?

Allow me a prediction: indie bloggers are going to kick corporate ass.

Yes, blogs could be advertising nirvana, admits Business Week:

Still, blogs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media’s core concern: the splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast blogocaf√©, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to individuals — and their friends. That’s every marketer’s dream.

But never fear, says BW, the corporates will reclaim the field:

The big companies have what the bloggers lack. Scale, relations with advertisers, and large sales forces. They can use these forces to sell across all media, from general audience to bloggy niches.

Ahh, salesforces. Expensive, inept, lazy salesforces. Bosses. Managers. Lots of flowcharts.

This assumes, of course, that blog advertising is like advertising on MSNBC or BusinessWeek.com. Take it from somebody who registered the name “blogads.com” in March of 2002… it isn’t. If you think publishing has been transformed, don’t you think that its twin sister advertising is also being turned inside out? While traditional advertising is about megaphones and cheerleading, blog advertising is about conversing, listening as much as you talk. Think that the 20-management-tier command-and-control structure of conventional advertisers is going to be comfortable with crawling into this bee-hive?

Scale? Who has more scale than the blogosphere?

Relationships with advertisers? (Remember the “relationships” that buggy makers used to have with their customers?)

To take on bloggers, large publishing corporations (themselves slowly collapsing) will have to re-allign their cost structures, organograms, sales channels and mentalities.

Worst of all, they are going to have to cannibalize their own sales. They won’t do it.

It is not just publishing that is changing. Corporate publishers are going to have to change their relationships with advertisers. Heck, advertisers are going to have to change their relationship with advertising. (Quick, reread http://www.cluetrain.com/#manifesto.)

Periodical publishers didn’t start making money from Gutenburg’s invention until 50 years after his invention, in BW’s words, “sparked an information revolution” unrivalled until the invention of blogging. Publishers are three or more years late, just catching on to the ideas we were babbling about three years ago. Publishers haven’t caught up– they are still three years behind.

BW writer Heather Green (more on her in a minute) a quote from Clay Shirky that didn’t make it into the story: “I am a member of a church of the reform normative, whenever I concentrate on what things should be doing, I miss what things are doing.”

Here’s a parallel factoid that Virginia Postrel www.dynamist.com included in her NYTimes story about innovation last week: a 3M study “found that product ideas from lead users generated eight times the sales of ideas generated internally – $146 million versus $18 million a year – in part because lead users were more likely to come up with ideas for entire new product lines rather than minor improvements.”

In entrepreneurship, there’s a constant and healthy tension between dreaming about the next decade and focusing on today’s nitty gritty. The advantage bloggers (and their vendors) have over traditional publishers is that they ARE the users and the lag time between idea and execution is weeks rather than years. And the feedback loop is measured in minutes rather than years. So the innovation cycle is exponentially faster. As regular readers of this blog know, I don’t envy the corporate publishing incumbents.

Now about Heather Green — Heather was the first journalist to call about Blogads clear back in September ’02 when we sold our first few blogads. The story didn’t make it into print.

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New blogad networks… as classies crumble

by henrycopeland
Thursday, April 21st, 2005

Welcome to the new foodies blogad network catalyzed by SliceNY‘s Adam Kuban. Great logo Adam.

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Most of the foodblogs have already pulled an interesting ad from PBS for its upcoming “Cooking under fire ” series, which debuted this week. I’m sure more like this will follow.

The foodies join the first mininetwork, Amy Langfield‘s federation of New York City blogads sellers.

Created and supported by bloggers in the same niche or locale, each network’s infrastructure and sales nitty gritty are powered by Blogads. Help juice fellow bloggers by posting a linking to their networks:

<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/foodblog_ad_network/order>Advertise on food blogs</a>
<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/new_york_city_blogads/order>Advertising on New York blogs</a>
<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/evangelical_alliance/order>Advertise on Evangelical blogs</a>
<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/sportsblogs/order>Advertise on sports blogs</a>
<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/gay_blogads/order>Advertise on gay blogs</a>
<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/baseball_blogosphere/order>Buy baseball blogads</a>
<a href=http://www.blogads.com/advertise/new_england_arts_and_entertainment_network/order>Advertise on New England arts and entertainment blogs</a>

If you want to organize a network, drop me a line and we’ll wire you up. (For my few fellow blog-theory-geeks, this is officially called “the revenge of the long tail.” For more perspective, here’s author Chris Anderson ‘s blog.)

As new businesses sprout, old businesses rot and fall, making room and mulch for the seedlings. Reports AdAge:

Newspapers’ long-secure classified ads business has already eroded noticeably and could ultimately cost newspapers about 9% of its total ad revenues by 2007, two executives from consulting giant McKinsey & Co. told attendees of the Newspaper Association of America’s annual conference yesterday. …

Luis Ubinas and Jochen Heck warned that newspapers could lose $4 billion of “highly profitable” classified revenue by 2007 — or around 20% of newspapers’ 2004 classifieds revenue and just under 9% of the $46.6 billion in total newspaper ad revenue last year — if trends that afflict help-wanted classifieds spread to automotive and real-estate classifieds.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of classifieds to newspapers’ bottom lines. Those pages of pure agate type are so profitable that, according to Mr. Ubinas, one newspaper executive said classified ads were a “better business than printing dollar bills.”

But the proliferation of online sites as diverse as monster.com, realestate.com and craigslist.com has substantially complicated newspapers’ hold on the format. “Once upon a time, classifieds was the exclusive property of newspapers,” said Mort Goldstrom, the NAA’s vcie president of advertising. “That time is over.”

The chilling part, Mr. Ubinas said, is that the key problem is not the competitors but rather what their pricing is doing to the entire classifieds model, calling it “price destruction.”

Another chilling fact: “Online is capturing all the growth,” he said.

A McKinsey analysis, Mr. Ubinas said, showed that an “Internet effect” began affecting help-wanted classifieds as early as 1995 and has resulted in an ever-widening gap between what historical trends would portend as expected help-wanted linage and what help-wanted’s true results were. In 2003, Mr. Ubinas reported, help-wanted classifieds were off 50% from levels that would be expected had decades of previous trend lines held true. …

My friend Jeff Jarvis spends lots of time badgering publishers to “get the Internet religion” and magically transform themselves. I think Jeff is wasting valuable pixels and breath. You can’t teach a pig to fly. A business is a carefully constructed ecosystem, each piece and person supporting and depending on the others and a web of customers and suppliers. Businesses are hard-wired to do certain things. Newspaper execs and owners can’t change an entire value chain, organogram and cost structure just because some consultants tell them to.

Spaces redux

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Some Spaces bloggers (or members?) are annoyed that I’ve referred to their cohort as as “nobodies.”

I apologize for hurting people’s feelings. I used “nobodies” because that is what, in the eyes of Madison Avenue, most Spaces members are. The word “uninfluential” is kinda obtuse, so in the interest of polemical fury, I stuck with something blunt. (Hell, I’m a nobody too; only about 200 people read this blog a day.) But lest “nobodies” becomes a sticking point, let’s call all us generic bloggers with 1-200 friendly readers a day “uninfluentials.”

The “uninfluentials” point is more or less conceded by a Spaces developper Matt, who says in the comments to this post, “Most blogs on Spaces have a small readership, and that readership is mainly comprised of the author’s friends and family. This has been the product’s intention all along, encouraged by associating IM contacts with their Spaces etc.”

Mark, another Spaces blogger, suggest that I’m upset that Spaces bloggers are ” newbies.” Frankly, the only newbie who worries me is Microsoft, newbie to the game of selling blog advertising. Does anybody out there — hi Mom! — think Microsoft isn’t a newbie to be worried about? This the company that believes in 99% market share.

To restate my case, peddling ad space on “4.9 million!” nobody-or-nothing blogs, Microsoft is taking money out of the pockets of great independent bloggers and muddying their pitch to advertisers who are looking to access “influentials” through blog advertising.

Microsoft could single-handedly move blogging back to the traditional industrial paradigm in which publishers capture 95% of the revenues and writers get the crumbs. With sufficient traction with advertisers and a dash of predatory pricing, Microsoft could strip influential bloggers back to the state in which publishers have tried to keep them for the last 400 years: peonage. Then they’d be peons… hmmm… nobodies… excuse me… uninfluentials.


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