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Archive for September, 2007

Jarvis: back to the future

by henrycopeland
Monday, September 24th, 2007

Jeff Jarvis, the greatest student and teacher of post-media journalism, has returned to Blogads. Huzzah.

Lobbying the lobbiests

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I’ve spent today in NYC, gently lobbying one of the biggest (and smartest) PR firms and its influential guests for more ad spending on blogs. I made sure everyone here read John Aravosis’ post about the pernicious impact of blogger relations by PR firms.

Liberal non-profits, political operations, and companies interested in reaching either a progressive audience or an inside-the-beltway crowd wouldn’t think twice about spending $60,000 on a Washington Post ad, spending a good chunk of change on an ad in The Hill or Roll Call, or paying a PR firm a $20,000+ a month retainer to get their news on the blogs, among other venues (NOTE: the very best way to get me NOT to cover a story is to have a PR firm contact me). But the notion of spending $800 (or hopefully, several thousand dollars) on a blog ad gives them serious pause. Then they turn around and expect favors.

Welcome back Dork!

by henrycopeland
Friday, September 14th, 2007

One of the great expat writers of 20th century Central Europe, previously traveling under the pen-name Dork Zygotian in Rick Bruner‘s legendary Budapest Week, is now blogging as Dumneauzu.

Frisco bound

by henrycopeland
Friday, September 14th, 2007

San Francisco’s going to provide health care for all uninsured adults starting November 1. Officials believe ensured folks won’t abandon their current coverage for a free ride. “Because the coverage is not portable, officials believe that people with private insurance will have little incentive to drop their policies to take advantage of the city’s cut-rate services.” They hope to enroll 45,000 people in the first year.

It’s a noble goal, but ignores the fact that Americans who are already sick and unisured will soon going be migrating to San Francisco… by the millions.

Bloggers R Stooped?

by henrycopeland
Thursday, September 13th, 2007

The frequency with which journalists poke fun at bloggers is a measure of journalists’ insecurity about their own skills and/or industrial future. Recall Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray, who had the temerity in early 2002 to declare that “blogging is an ephemeral fad, destined to burn itself out in a year or two.” Bray later became a blogger and, in 2004, was shredded by not-yet-extinct bloggers for his perceived abuses of blogging culture.

The days of blogger-bashing are on the wane, though, as the publishing industry’s plummeting ad sales prompt many journalists to consider hanging out their own blog-shingles.

So it was a bracing splash of deja vu to find Washington Post’s Richard Cohen taking a potshot at bloggers. In his post Labor Day “list of major news events that you might have missed,” Cohen wrote that “a survey of political bloggers showed that 94 percent of them had never been out of the country or read anything other than a Harry Potter book.”

Bloggers took the bait. Writing in the Atlantic, Matthew Yglesias called the column “totally unfunny” and Cohen “weird.”

Markos Moulitsas went ballistically anecdotal, detailing both his own and his son’s numerous passport stamps.

Duncan Black matched Cohen’s attempted satire with the real thing, leding with “TEH BLOGGURZ ARE TEH STUPIDDDDDZZZZ!!!!!!” (You have to visit Icanhascheezburger to understand the weird vein of pure i-silliness Duncan’s tapping.) Duncan then proceeded, as always, to shred the underlying logic:

The idea that beltway journalists are uniquely experienced or informed about anything other than what it’s like to be a beltway journalist is absurd, and of course says quite a bit about what beltway journalists actually know about the world.

He could, of course, have added:

“>128298508615001250urtheoryhasme.jpg

So what’s is the real data? First, the Blog Reader Project (surveying 180,000 readers of more than 1400 blogs at last count) found that 60-70% of blog readers have passports, versus just 25% of all Americans. Here’s the graphic indicating that nearly 70% of DailyKos readers have passports. (Last I saw, roughly 40% of the Washington Post’s reader have passports, though I can no longer find this figure sourced online.)

Who has the highest brow? In other words, “who reads Dave Eggers and Malcolm Gladwell versus JK Rowling?” Well, 79% of DailyKos readers are college graduates, versus just 72% of Washington Post readers.

But Cohen’s article was satire sprinkled with irony, and some of his jibes skated beyond being humorously absurd to being wishfully constructed inversions of reality. (“People magazine admitted that there is no such person as Lindsay Lohan.”) So, if Cohen’s true intention was, in fact, to celebrate blogging’s intellectual ascendence, maybe the joke is on us dumb bloggers after all.

Flag this!

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

A North Carolina school barred students from wearing American Flag t-shirts on 9/11. Hundreds of commenters are enraged:

“I think I am going to puke, I can understand banning foreign flags but why the hell would you ban the red, white and blue flag for any reason! It is the end of the world as we know it!”

Ya ask me, pretty soon we’ll all be singing the Mexican national anthem and saluting the Mexican flag.

Time to parents and students to put on their best red white and blue clothes and enter the school and DEMAND this rule to be changed…. time to stand up to stupidity…this is the USA….

Sounds like it’s time to pull all their Federal school money! What fools!

Never mind that the American Legion website reminds us, in the “Respect for Flag” section, that “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel…”

Creeping to collapse

by henrycopeland
Thursday, September 6th, 2007

The stock market keeps gyrating as news of the obvious slowly percolates into the public consciousness: a) too many Americans have borrowed money, b) too many Americans wrongly believed real estate prices can only go up and c) too many Americans depend on the real-estate commercial complex for their livelyhoods.

The implications of these three facts spiral outward to cast a chilly shadow over broad swaths of the American economy — banks, builders, realtors, fund managers, department stores. Though commentators can focus on any one sector, banking for example, and weave convincing arguments that “things aren’t too bad, this is only one part of a fundamentally sound sector and things will soon return to normal,” the total picture is bleak.

The odds are far higher that a chain with 10 weak links will bust than a chain with just one weak link.

Fly over the outermost suburbs of most American cities and you inevitably discover physical evidence of our national ponzi scheme: a new subdivision filled with homes whose buyers plan to make their money building/selling/financing homes in the next subdivision. Once that chain reaction reverses, a lot of dominoes will fall backwards.

What can be done to keep 20 years of momentum moving forward? The Fed can lend money, but that won’t force banks to lend it on to home buyers. And home-buyers losing money on one house won’t rush to pay through the nose for another house. And people with too much furniture won’t need more furniture as they downsize into a more affordable home.

The real-estate merry-go-round, which has powered an estimated 40% of the economy as interest rates tumbled over the last 20 years — has stopped. Twenty years of eager habits have to be unlearned and twenty years of excess La-Z-Boys need to be dumped on the curb.

The fact that the merry-go-round still whirls on in so many commentators’ minds suggests just how ugly things may get in coming months. And years?

Update: In Sunday’s NYT, Ben Stein takes a look at depression-anxious hysterics like me. Beneath the headline “It’s Time to Take a Deep Breath,” he pens what could be a parody of the denial party line: “Yes, there are real problems: housing, mortgage defaults, losses at financial firms, rot in hedge funds. But over all, things will be fine. Unless there is a genuine dollar crisis or a devastating recession (very unlikely), things will work out. This economy is very big and very solid. It cannot be derailed for long by anything we have seen lately. If I were the editor of the business section for just one day, I would run one immense headline: ‘Everything Is Going to Be Fine. Go Back to Work.’”

A sidenote on rhetoric. Stein indulges in a few classic polemical tricks in making his case that everything will be fine.

First, he spends 85% of his article reciting the bad news. So if he is wrong that “everything’s OK,” most readers won’t notice.

Second, though the Pollyannaists are still vastly in the majority, Stein imagines a massive, monolithic straw-man of depression-mongers, then bravely takes exception to their landslide consensus. In a market that’s up 20% versus a year ago and just 10% of historic highs, this “everyone’s bearish and I’m being a brave contrarian” position is silly.

Finally, just in case he is wrong, Stein slips in this absurd hedge: “unless there is a geniune dollar crisis or a devastating recession (very unlikely) things will work out.” Take sober note, jittery ignoramuses, Unless the Patient Dies, the Patient Will Live, So There’s Nothing to Worry About.

It will be fun to watch what Stein writes when the Dow is plumetting towards 8,000, rather than 13,000.

PETA blogads contest

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

PETA, one of the smartest blog advertisers we’ve dealt with, has launched a contest to get its fans to design a great blogad. Here are the
details.

PETA offers this overview:

It is often said that blogs are journalism in its purest form. We believe that blog ads might just be advertising at its best. A little bit of text and a single image is all you have to work with, and while it sounds simple enough, it takes amazing creativity and skill to stand apart from all the noise on the Internet.

First round ends September 24, with finalists announced October 24.

Macbooks hard-drives fail?

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

We’ve got seven Macbooks in the office. In the last month, three of their hard-drives have failed. The oldest was 18 months old, the youngest was 53 weeks old, just a week out of warranty.

The local Macshop says replacing the hard-drive on the latest machine is $285 takes 3-5 days.

We were thinking about buying another 3 or 4 MacBooks both for new staff and to replace some old IBM Thinkpads. (Old as in been around 3 years and never had a day’s trouble.)

Helloooo IBM.


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