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Archive for April, 2005

Rhyming slang

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

I stumbled into watching Charles and Camilla wed, and was surprised by their grizzled candor in selecting lines from Wordsworth’s Ode to Immortality:

O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That Nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest;
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:–
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!

In another random poetry note, the London suburb Slough is the home of The Office. I once visited a newspaper in Slough trying to sell Pressflex services. I met an wonderfully supercilious and self-infatuated IT guy and came away unimpressed by Slough. (Meeting this character was another turn in my pilgrimage to the conviction that most newspapers are doomed.) So I got a good chuckle when later discovered John Betjeman’s poem Slough:

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs, and blow to smithereens
Those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town —
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week for half-a-crown
For twenty years,

And get that man with double chin
Who’ll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women’s tears,

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It’s not their fault that they are mad,
They’ve tasted Hell.

It’s not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It’s not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sports and makes of cars
In various bogus Tudor bars
And daren’t look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Political bloggers overview

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

Political blogs explicated inin PDF and
and in HTML.

Click for images of top political blogs. (more…)

Old media, old new media and latest new media

by henrycopeland
Monday, April 18th, 2005

Obsolescent media: LAT circ rev down more than 9% in Q1: Reuters:

Tribune said circulation revenue fell 9 percent in the first quarter, with the sharpest declines at Newsday and the L.A. Times. Company executives said in a conference call with analysts that they expects all of the company’s papers to report lower circulation when data for the six months ended in March are reported next month.
The L.A. Times’ circulation struggles have been triggered by factors such as a new federal law limiting telemarketing as well as a deliberate decision by the newspaper to cut back on bulk sales programs.

Without Newsday and the LAT, the numbers were down “only” 4%.

Old new media: raising money and hiring a programmer and salesman. In a game in which longevity, extremely patient investors, perfect staff synchronization and low overheads are key, I don’t envy San Francisco based Battelle. (Thank you Amy.)

New media from an old new media pro covered by old media: Markos Moulitsas’ sports blogs covered by the NYTimes. “I realized that blogs were really effective for partisan audiences. One of them is sports. Sports is huge – where you’ve got your Red Sox and Yankees situation – and religion is another,” said Mr. Moulitsas. “But in religion, people kill each other, so I decided I’d rather stay away from religion.”

Back to The Office

by henrycopeland
Friday, April 15th, 2005

The last time I worked in an office, GHWBush was president and I was living in Manhattan. That was 14 years ago.

Since then, I’ve worked as a journalist and then an entrepreneur in basements and bedrooms and the dusty corners of friends’ offices. Since 1998, I’ve also spent lots of time in my company’s Budapest office.

But last month, having hired Anthony and with another hire on the way, I rented a small office. A very small office. I cut my capitalist teeth in a Wall Street bond trading firm where all the partners and staff were crammed elbow to elbow in a space some firms would devote to a single executive’s washroom.

Sitting elbow to elbow, we listened to learn and we learned to listen. And we had more fun.
So, as you can see, we’ve adopted pretty much the same attitude here. Here’s a photo taken by Peter, who is visiting from Budapest.


This week I’ve been watching the BBC version of The Office. I haven’t laughed harder in years. David Brent, the completely solipsistic boss is astonishingly true. He’s the caricature of the Cluetrainless company. All talk, no listen. All power, no touch. All smiles, no joy. All toadies, no friends. God save Blogads USA from David’s fate as we move into our own little office.


Volvo whiplash

by henrycopeland
Friday, April 15th, 2005

Some Spaces bloggers are accusing me of elitism and jealousy for flaming Volvo about sponsoring Microsoft‘s vulgarity-strewn blogging service Spaces, according to a link forwarded by a friend of a friend at Microsoft. (Here’s yesterday’s post for those of you arriving via a direct link.) Spaces blogger Ed writes:

Blogads seems to have a bit of jealousy over MS’ recent deal with Volvo to be the premier sponsor for Spaces. Henry Copeland dregs up the worst of Spaces to make his point… without mentioning such great blogs as Paul Britton’s, Mike Torres, CanadianHawk’s, and The Psychedelic Circuit, all of which are on my blogroll. And I know I’m forgetting thousands if not millions more.

Ahh, yes, thousands if not millions more. My apologies to those four bloggers and their readers, and to the “thousands if not millions” of other great blogs at Spaces that Ed can’t quite recall the names of right now.

Come on Ed, make my day: take a few hours and name, off the top of your head, 20 Spaces blogs who have more than 100,000 page views a month.

While you get started on that, I’ll do five minutes of research on the number of Spaces pages where Volvo’s brand has joined words like: fuck: 15,400, cunt: 536, nigger: 48, faggot: 86, turd: 111, shit: 20,900, tits: 609, ass: 17,400, bitch: 8,540.

Jealous? Heck no. We’ve got hundreds of cool, smart advertisers. I’m angry. I’m angry to see blogging — which I revere for empowering excellence, autonomy and self-expression — debased by Microsoft into another exercize in corporate mass-market drek marketing. I’m angry Microsoft has diverted money out of great blogger’s pockets. I’m angry that anyone as smart as Steve Rubel can utter words like “MSN Spaces/Volvo Deal Shows Big Blog Advertisers Crave Safety” without noting that they’ve gotten the opposite.

My harping on the vulgarities among Spaces blogs makes Ed’s friend Ben ask: “Do we want free speech or not?” Hell yes, Ben. I’m just sure Volvo does not want to be associated with blogs like those it is now sponsoring with Microsoft’s able assistance. Let’s have some quality control baby. At Blogads, we make sure to steer certain advertisers away from profane blogs… and to steer other advertisers into those blogs. No matter what Microsoft told Volvo, the blogosphere is not a big barrel of content that can be bought sight unseen because it has a Microsoft label on it. As I said yesterday, individual bloggers themselves are the best guarantors of quality.

Finally, Ben accuses me of “blogging elitism.” Thank you Ben. Guilty as charged. I believe some bloggers are brilliant and others are idiots. If I were an advertiser, I’d glue my brand to the Einsteins and let Volvo chauffeur the cretins around.

Sure there are some smart people blogging at Spaces. But why didn’t Volvo just didn’t buy advertising on their blogs and actually pay those bloggers, rather than Microsoft?Again, to restate my case, blogging is about individualism, personality and self-expression. It’s about human automomy.

Volvo, buying ads across an undifferentiated anonymized corporate- conceived network full of dreck, emptiness and a few scraps of intelligence, has bought blogging’s worst qualities and quantities and very little of the best. For shame Microsoft and Volvo.

Volvo buys safety, gets dreck

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

There’s been some huffing about Volvo’s purchase of ad space atop Microsoft’s “Spaces” blogging environment.

In an article titled “MSN Spaces/Volvo Deal Shows Big Blog Advertisers Crave Safety” in Webpronews
Steve Rubel wrote that a big brand “craves safety, as the Wall Street Journal noted last month. They are skittish about advertising on blogs. As a result, they will gravitate towards teaming with the larger players when it comes to experimenting with the medium.”

(In fact, only one ad executive in the WSJ’s article mentioned safety as an issue and the only ad “pulled” from a blog so far by an advertiser was running on a property of one of the “safe” corporate blog publishers Rubel highlights.)

Whatever. Volvo is getting a raw deal.

As Steve Hall of Adrants notes that most of Spaces blogs are “empty, useless, pointless weblogs.” “A quick review of weblogs listed as recently updated on MSN Spaces revealed few, if any, containing more than a post or two. Many simply state, ‘There are no entries in this blog.'” (Steve wrote asking what I thought of the deal — my reply to him seeded this post.)

To expand on Steve’s point, Volvo is, at best, paying to appear above MSNSpaces bloggers who are writing about random stuff, blogospheric noise. Spaces bloggers are newbies on the fringes of the blogosphere. Microsoft may well have promised Volvo 100 million page impressions a month, but these are impression seen by nobody — or more exactly “nobodies” — people who are viewed as influentials only by their moms and ex-girlfriends.

Sure Volvo’s brand is all about “safety” and Volvo may have felt safer buying blog advertising from Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft Spaces appears to censor profanity from blog titles and URLs, as Boingboing documented.

Buuuut… Volvo is still cozying up to the raw humanity of Microsoft Spaces bloggers writing

All sponsored exclusively by Volvo. pic You go Volvo!

If you are a brand manager craving safety and premium audiences, wouldn’t you rather sponsor name-brand bloggers like Markos Moulitsas, Glenn Reynolds, Dave Winer, Jeralyn Merrit, Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Wil Wheaton, Jessa Crispin, Duncan Black, David Gutowski, Hugh Hewitt, Matt Haughey, John Sickles, Daniel Drezner, Howard Bashman… and hundreds more revered bloggers devoting themselves to themes like law or politics or music or religion or baseball? You can get ’em all here.

Why advertise on the blogs of the anonymous once-a-month-bloggers when you can associate your brand (probably at much lower cost!) with intellectual stars, folks who have national reputations in their respective fields and who are hubs for rabidly loyal communities? And why inrich Bill Gates’ another 0.0000000027% when you can put money directly into a smart blogger’s pocket?

Blogging is the ultimate meritocracy and the name brand of Microsoft (or any other traditional publisher) is no guarantee of quality or safety. On the contrary, corporate umbrellas are increasingly havens for publishing mediocrity. Rushing to be trendy, Volvo has bought the wrong end of blogging and ignored the only name brands that mean anything: the bloggers’.

(Update: as a humorous coda, I drive a 1992 Volvo 240 wagon and my colleague Anthony drives a ’95 Volvo 940, pictured partially below:

The vanishing breed versus the breeding horde

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Jeff Jarvis: “The American Society of Newspaper Editors just reported that the number of newspaper journalists in America fell from 56,393 to 54,134 over the last four years.”

Tony Pierce comments: “how about this exercise: count how many print journalists you can name in three minutes. then count how many bloggers you can name in three minutes.”

You want to see the revenge of the long tail ? When it comes to creation of interesting local content, the tail whips here .


by henrycopeland
Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Just had lunch with Alex Macris, with whom we’ve done some business over the last year. He’s updated his agency’s website www.tapin.com which gives a pretty brilliant description of a certain slice of the folks advertisers are trying desperately to reach. Here’s a snippet:

Today’s young, digitally-savvy consumers have developed strong resistance to conventional advertising, even as they have become a favorite target of marketers worldwide. We call these consumers the NetSet’ ‘ and they are our audience.

NetSetters are off-beat contrarians who pride themselves on their innovation and individualism. They read Nietzsche, but watch cartoons. They work hard to differentiate themselves from the societal norm, but they do so in packs. They post their private thoughts and feelings into anonymous online journals to be read by the public. They hate being the target of advertising, but are always on the look-out for the ‘new-new thing.’

Macris just turned 30 and comes from an intense gaming background, as well as an unfortunate stint a law school in Boston. He’s among the handful of people I deal with who glimpse the future: advertising will have to engage rather than proposition consumers.

Welch eviscerates senile LAT “columnist”

by henrycopeland
Monday, April 11th, 2005

I love Welch when he’s mad at pompous torch bearers for mediocre corporate journalism. Here Matt dissects LAT columnist David Shaw’s assertions of journalistic privilege to shield laws versus the blogger rabble:

the culture of newspaper jobs is a culture of scarcity, over-editing, editorial circumspection, office politics, and both the good and bad tradition of modern-day newspapering. The culture of blogging is one of abundance, lack of editing, exuberance of expression, home offices, and both the good and bad “tradition” of a new and dynamically evolving medium. Are the differences between the two camps enough to deprive a journalism-producing weblogger the protections afforded a journalism-producing newspaper columnist? [Shaw writes]:
When I or virtually any other mainstream journalist writes something, it goes through several filters before the reader sees it. At least four experienced Times editors will have examined this column, for example.

Now there’s a walking advertisement for newsroom cuts…. Snark aside, it is not “filters” that make something “journalism,” it is the work itself. I can only speak for myself, but the act of writing without filters makes me much more careful in the treatment of facts and the truthfulness of words, because there’s no Copy Desk or Legal Department ready to vet the danger and check spelling. I’m slightly less careful only in the quality of the writing, and even then I assume that vomiting out verbiage sometimes produces net style positives compared with agonizing over every verb. Also, as someone who has written for a dozen newspapers, I’ll let the filter-awed readers in on a little secret: In every publication I’ve written for more than once, I’ve had final drafts published without so much as a moved comma. Some errors (few, thankfully) have passed through undetected, others have been edited in. Copy editing and especially fact-checking, at least in my experience, are the most overrated and wasteful aspects of modern journalism.

Read the whole thing please.

Meanwhile, academics are researching the personalities and demographics of bloggers. “We know that bloggers are not representative of Americans in general in certain respects,” Halavais says. “They tend to be younger, more urban, more educated, more technologically adept. They’re also early adopters and more willing to speak publicly about certain issues than other Americans, most of whom do not blog or even read blogs,” he adds.

Audi3 ads context: the Heist

by henrycopeland
Friday, April 8th, 2005

A number of bloggers and readers have been asking “what the heck is up with those Virgil Tatum ads?” One reader called him “an obnoxious egomaniac.” A magazine writer inquired about profiling him. An agent asked about representing “Nisha,” the art theft recovery expert linked by another of the ads. Well here’s one gamer’s overview of the context of “Heist,” the Audi A3 advertising narrative that weaves it all together.

We here at ARGN prefer to see this particular instance of “blog advertising” for what it really is: the tip of the ARG iceberg. Props to Audi for joining the ranks of those who realize the potential of Alternate Reality Gaming. In true automotive spirit (as it is in Alternate Reality Gaming), the ride’s the thing, so get behind the wheel, buckle yourself in, and get ready for a trip you won’t soon forget.

Or as another gamer put it, offering a compendium of all the pieces to date

Heist is what we like to call an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). Simply put, it’s an interactive story told using real life events, character interactions, and Internet websites. We know that Heist is sponsored by Audi, but don’t think of it as a marketing campaign. Take it for what it is – a very fun and enjoyable game which you can participate in for free.

This campaign reminds me one of those four page ad fold-outs you get in the New Yorker or Vanity Fair that invite you to imagine yourself within a slightly Daliesque alternate universe inhabited by exotic brunettes, fast cars and melting clocks. Only in this case, the ad can be folded out to hundreds of pages and the reader can actually live a little of the fantasy both online and, even, offline.

But it goes beyond the individual’s experience, the solitary pleasure of reading a magazine. What is amazing about this multi-ad campaign is its synchronization with the blogosphere’s collectivist approach to information gathering, its unique ability to piece together a narrative. This is an ad campaign that is best experienced with others.

An interesting aside for bloggers — this is the biggest single blogad campaign yet, representing as much revenue for bloggers as the entire Q1 of 2004. (Don’t worry, with total US ad spending at $250 billion, there’s still plenty more growth ahead.)

Some broader context: I drank the blog CoolAid nearly four years ago late one Thursday afternoon, but am more convinced every day that something fundamental is happening here that exceeds our current rational understanding of community and social engineering. The point isn’t the individual blogger. It’s the collective, known to friends and enemies as the blogosphere, wired together at the speed of light for the first time in history.

Folks are repeatedly amazed that these “disorganized” “unemployed” “biased” “untrained” bloggers are regularly thrashing corporate media at its own game. (Need more fuel? See Ed Morrissey’s scoop that has set maple leafs aflutter and CampusJ‘s upending of a NYT story.)

The fact is that top-down organizations are vastly overrated and don’t stand a chance about organically evolved multi-party collaborations. The best MIT engineers have never come close to building a structure as elegant and efficient as the hive that 10,000 bees, with an average IQ of 22 and no boss giving directions, can build together in a week. Why doubt the enormity of the hive that 10,000 humans, with an average IQ of 125 and empowered with some new tools, can imagufacture together? What are Google’s 10,000 servers compared with the collaborative mind-power of 10,000 humans, each with at least 100 billion neurons?

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