Archive for the ‘Marketing’ category

“Off The Cuff” Internet Winners

12-08-07

You’ve got a room full of venture capitalists in Half Moon Bay, Ca., not too far from Silicon Valley.  What do you do?  Guy Kawasaki, tech marketer and a VC fund CEO himself, decided to torture them with the personal testimony of four hugely successful web entrepreneurs who did it all without any VC money! From Dean Takahashi’s blog on the San Jose Mercury News’ site:

The highlight of the AlwaysOn Venture Capital Summit was Guy Kawasaki’s panel, “Why Take Venture Capital At All.” It was hilarious from the get go as venture capitalists watched the young entrepreneurs on the panel inside the swanky Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay resort. Kawasaki rounded up four people who were at the right place with the right idea at the right time. By making money with virtually solo operations, they are the lucky ones who make it look so easy. So much so that they didn’t really need much funding at all. In other words, it’s the people everybody loves to hate because they make the rest of us look so bad and unlucky.

Kawasaki asked everyone at the outset how much traffic each of the young entreprenuers were getting. Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark.com, said he has managed to get 52 million page views a month from four million unique visitors. I enjoy Fark myself. It’s basically news of the weird that makes you laugh. People submit ideas for funny stories to him and he and his crew put the best ones on the site. Curtis lives in Kentucky, drinks beer, and plays a lot of soccer so that he counteracts the effects of the beer.

He got the idea for Fark.com as a “complete accident” back in 1999. “I did it because I was annoying the people I was sending the stories to,” he said. Curtis said the site is just a single page that you click on to go to the stories. Once it gathered momentum, the bottom had fallen out of the dot-com market so Curtis didn’t raise any money.

“Still, it was basically my own personal web site,” he said. “It’s almost on auto pilot.”

They get about 2,000 stories a day and then sort through them. He notes that every single late-night talk show and comedy show uses stuff from Fark.com but they don’t credit it. He reads through them from 7 am until 5 pm, when his soccer game starts. He says he is usually so drunk at night that he signs off early, he said.

“I’m having trouble feeling sorry for you, hanging out in Kentucky,” Kawasaki said.

Curtis said that four friends help him do the sorting because they have the same kind of sense of humor that he has. Sometimes he disappears and no one notices. Acting the social critic, Kawasaki asked, “What does it mean that a lot of people get their news through Fark? It’s not exactly NPR.”

“It comes down to the way the younger generation reads the news,” he said. “Most males 18 to 35 get their TV news from the Daily Show. It’s a different filter.” He is worried that Fark has been around nine years and it will be “screwed” if the younger readers don’t adopt it. But he said the younger readers are still coming.

(more…)

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MSN Bets on Laziness

11-29-07

At the Consumer Technology Innovations conference in San Francisco yesterday, Joanne Bradford, Corporate Vice President & Chief Media Officer of Microsoft’s MSN, said the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube proves that web portals continue to be viable, despite the trend toward extreme individualism encapsulated in the expression “long tail.”

From CNET’s post about the conference:

For Bradford, who was interviewed on-stage at the conference by Wall Street Journal reporter Kevin Delaney, we’re in a new era where Web users want data and information filtered for them.

“People want you to do it for them,” she said. “They’re lazy. It’s a society of convenience.”

Fortunately, she suggested, MSN is here to help.

And in doing so, Bradford seemed to suggest, MSN is helping to create a dynamic where the most important and relevant information is presented to users, rather than relying on the long-tail to satisfy large numbers of users who want less popular information.

And by presenting the most important information in a way that is accessible and relevant, MSN is hoping it can benefit by similarly attracting top advertisers.

“The growth is still there,” she said. “Advertisers want the head. Advertisers will still pay 10x for the head instead of the tail.”

And from internetnews.com:

Asked if portals were “dying a slow death,” Bradford said quite the opposite. “Everything is looking more like a portal these days if you look at Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. I think there’s a reverse portal phenomenon going on where you stuff the tail back in the head and make it mean something.”

In other words, while a lot of social networking sites carry more personalized, user-generated and long tail content (referring to the theory of niche sites creating their own markets), they’re all trying to organize content like a portal does.

“People want things filtered for them and put together in a way that’s meaningful to their life, whether that’s around friends or items you want to buy,” said Bradford. “We really think people want you to do it [organize content] for them.” Bradford further claimed that most consumers don’t want to set up home pages, such as iGoogle, myYahoo or even feeds on Facebook. “There’s a great unanswered consumer need there,” she said, to automate the process of giving users the content they’re looking for.

To which I observe: Boy, that Microsoft culture sticks to its people like lint! Bradford’s head shot makes her look young and perky, but she already talks like an old-timer.

People are lazy?

People want things filtered for them?

MSN knows what’s “meaningful to (my) life?”

Really? (more…)

Searching for Deep Meaning in Starbucks’ Ad Campaign

11-18-07

What does it mean when a company and brand that has sustained incessant growth for more than a decade strictly on word-of-mouth and in-store marketing decides to launch its first TV ad campaign? Let’s have a virtual symposium:

Only fair to give Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ chairman, the first bite. The Wall Street Journal has this quote:

“We need to recognize that the category is evolving,” Mr. Schultz told analysts on a conference call Thursday. “And as the leader, we have an opportunity to make sure that our voice is heard through the all-important medium of television.”

And this, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,

Without mentioning by name rivals McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, Schultz said consumers over time would not be satisfied with a “commoditized experience or flavor” and they would trade up to the company that built the industry.

“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Starbucks,” Schultz said. “You can be assured we are deeply, passionately committed to preserving our leadership position.”

This is the classic marketing paradigm. Build a brand through PR, defend your citadel with advertising.  The McHordes are coming!

Investor-focused bloggers see ominous signs, however. Blogging Stocks says:

Investors should be extremely skeptical of this move. Generally, a company embarking on a strategy that it has resisted for decades is a sign of desperation. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) grew without acquisitions forever — now, desperate for growth, the company is becoming a buyer. (more…)

Friday Dolan Media on My Mind

11-16-07

Long Island Business News’ publisher John Kominicki uses the announcement of FTC fines against telemarketers that defy the Do-Not-Call list to illustrate the maxim No good deed goes unpunished:

To be honest, it’s the not-for-profits that bother me the most. My wife and I give to many causes, but we like to do it locally and as anonymously as possible. Our thanks is often a steady stream of calls asking for more.

Let that be a warning to you: Give a dollar over the phone to the vets, Civil War widows or public television and you will be hounded without mercy.

The typical call goes something like this:

“Hello, Mister … Kernacko? No, wait … Kamikoko?

“It’s Kominicki.”

“Yes, I’m calling on behalf of Channel 437. Last year, Mr. Kackinocki, you pledged $250 and we sent you the fabulous three-DVD set Judy Garland: The Demerol Years.”

“Yes, I remember that. But I already sent you $250 this year – just last month, I believe.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Kimchinicki, but you know the cost of providing wonderful, commercial-free programming like ours goes up and up and we’re wondering if you’d be willing to send us an additional $500.”

“Didn’t Ray Kroc’s widow just leave you, like, $700 billion?”

“Thank you, Mr. Komatahari. We’ll charge the credit card we have on file, and as our way of saying thank you, we’re going to send you the new Yanni CD.”

“Yanni has a new CD?”

“Thank you again for supporting Channel 437. We’ll be sure to call next year.”

Meanwhile, New Orleans City Business‘ publisher Mark Singletary warns the Orleans Parish school system, faced with a massive post-Katrina reconstruction project to “be on the lookout for the infamous New Orleans ‘consultants.’ These ‘consultants,’ woven into the fabric of nearly every New Orleans public contract, have long stifled progress and promoted corruption.” Singletary urges that the new schools to “conform to community standards–hopefully another community’s standards….”

Minnesota Lawyer Blog is following a highly politicized controversy over U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose, with the most recent posts here and here. Blogger Marc Cohen’s view is Paulose’s youth and inexperience has left her vulnerable to cagey veteran prosecutors who know how to play the media to make their boss look bad. The Paulose case has become a national story, with the young prosecutor seen by the NY Times as a symbol of ex-A.G. Alberto Gonzalez’ reign….

In Portland, according to DJC, some 257 architects and designers entered the Courtyard Housing Design Competition, which is what it sounds like. To enter, you draw a design for housing that includes a courtyard. Courtyard housing is “a style deemed more attractive to families with children than stacked condos without open spaces would be.” The winners were announced Wednesday night….

The University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival was honored yesterday by President Bush, reports the IBR. The festival was one of seven winners of the National Medal of Arts. Among this year’s other honorees: Legendary jazz guitarist Les Paul. The festival goes back to 1967 and has featured jazz legends as well as a student jazz competition….

Is this normal? Next Tuesday, the University of Colorado’s Presidential Search Committee will hold a meeting in Colorado Springs, according to CSBJ blog, to find out what kind of president residents want after the incumbent retires next spring….

Today, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens celebrates his 87th birthday, reports Kimberly Atkins in DC Dicta, making him the second-oldest person to serve on the nation’s highest court. Click here to see who was older….

Judith Regan Flips the Script and Enjoys a PR Turnaround

11-15-07

simpson-and-regan.jpg

Judith Regan, one of the most successful publishers and editors in the book business, saw her career come to an ignominious end late last year after a controversy erupted about her plan to publish a peculiar memoir by O.J. Simpson, If I Did It, as well as an erotically-charged novelization of Mickey Mantle’s life. During a December 2006 conference call with HarperCollins’ attorneys about the Mantle book, Regan allegedly uttered a epithet so offensive — reportedly anti-Semitic — that HarperCollins fired her the same day.

A few months later, writer Michael Wolff published in Vanity Fair a memoir/feature about Regan, in which he reported Regan was

telling people that something has changed at News Corp. It’s not the same company anymore. Murdoch himself has changed. His third wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, is part of the problem. It’s her craving for respectability that has made Murdoch weak, according to Judith. She might even be … liberal. Peter Chernin is … a Democrat. Gary Ginsberg worked for Clinton. Murdoch is forsaking his tabloid heart in the quest for mainstream, yuppie respectability. The greatest, most audacious media company of the age had become like any other—pitiably concerned about what people think. News Corp. is selling out. Judith Regan isn’t.

There might be something to this. Murdoch, over the last few years, has certainly morphed from a dark, ruthless, diabolical figure into a more complex, thoughtful, and, as he aged, vulnerable media sage.

Judith, the tabloid monster, is, in some sense, the skin he’s shed.

So, by that point, Regan had managed to pretty much destroy her reputation from a PR standpoint. She was the publisher who wanted to pay O.J. millions. Who used anti-Semitic epithets. Who was too “tabloid” even for Rupert Murdoch.

Regan’s defamation lawsuit, regardless of its legal merits, is a brilliant PR tactic, designed to replace her toxic PR image with that of someone far more compelling in this election year: The woman who knows secrets about a leading presidential candidate.

Most of the indictment is a series of who-shot-John accounts of events leading up to her firing, in which the Regan claims Jane Friedman, HarperCollins’ CEO defamed her by spreading the story of the anti-Semitic slur, which Regan denies, and by making Regan the scapegoat for the OJ Simpson book fiasco despite her claims that Friedman, Murdoch and other company executives approved its publication.

But have you read the press coverage? Here’s how the New York Times played it:

Judith Regan, the former book publisher, says in a lawsuit filed today protesting her dismissal by the News Corporation, the media conglomerate, that a senior executive there encouraged her to lie to federal investigators about her past affair with Bernard B. Kerik after he had been nominated to become homeland security secretary in late 2004.

The lawsuit asserts that the News Corporation executive wanted to protect the presidential aspirations of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Kerik’s mentor, who had appointed him New York City police commissioner and had recommended him for the federal post.

In the first six paragraphs of the AP version, O.J. Simpson isn’t even mentioned:

One-time book publishing powerhouse Judith Regan filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit Tuesday saying her former employers asked her to lie to federal investigators about Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner who was once her lover, and tried to destroy her reputation.

Regan, who worked for HarperCollins Publishers LLC, said the smear campaign stems from her past intimate relationship with Kerik, who was police commissioner under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and from the political agenda of News Corp., the parent company of HarperCollins.

Regan, 54, says in court papers that News Corp.’s political agenda centers on Giuliani’s presidential ambitions. It was Giuliani, a Republican, who appointed Kerik police commissioner and recommended him to President Bush for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik had to withdraw his nomination after it was revealed he had not reported the wages he paid to a nanny.

Regan says “it is now widely accepted” that one of Giuliani’s vulnerabilities is the 52-year-old Kerik. Because of Regan’s affair with Kerik, court papers say, a senior News Corp. executive told her he believed she had information about Kerik that could hurt Giuliani’s campaign and she should lie to federal investigators.

Court papers say another executive told Regan, a HarperCollins editor for 12 years, to withhold documents that were clearly relevant to the government’s investigation of Kerik.

giuliani-kerik.jpgThe Kerik-Giuliani claims are right up front in the suit to make sure you don’t miss them. The substance of the claim is that Regan told an unnamed News Corp. executive about her affair with Kerik in 2001, at which point a “covert smear campaign” was initiated against her.

In 2001.

She was fired in 2006. In between 2001 and 2006, Regan had her own TV show on the News Corporation’s Fox News Network, and was granted the opportunity to move her imprint, ReganBooks, to Los Angeles in order to expand into synergistic arrangement with other media. She also had her contract with HarperCollins renewed and compensation increased in 2005.

Regan’s suit, however, would have us believe that the News Corporation signed that contract in 2005 fully expecting to fire her before the contract ran out, having worked on a scheme to do so since 2001. (more…)

Red, Purple and Blue TV

11-14-07

Conservatives and liberals don’t just differ on political candidates. They prefer different TV shows, movies and videogames, according to a new survey by the Zogby Institute. USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center commissioned the study, and its director, Marty Kaplan, blogged about it at Huffington Post, concluding

(W)hen it comes to entertainment, conservatives are way more PC than liberals.

People on the right — and that characterization of them comes from their answers to 24 questions designed to reveal their political values — don’t like to consume entertainment that doesn’t reflect their worldview, and they feel that way about a lot of it. But people at the other end of the political spectrum are voracious in their entertainment consumption. They enjoy watching, reading and listening to plenty of stuff that runs counter to, even offends, their political values. Over 80 percent of liberals say they’re entertained by material that’s in bad taste, but over 40 percent of conservatives say they’re never entertained by it.

Conservatives don’t just love Fox News; they also prefer the Fox network, home of 24, but also smart-ass shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Generally, conservatives prefer action/adventure shows, business and sports programs. Liberals don’t like any of those genres much, but they enjoy comedies, drama, documentaries and arts programming — all of which turn off conservatives. Liberals and moderates both prefer NBC (so how come it’s usually third or fourth in the ratings?)

The liberal audience is 57 percent female, the conservative audience 57 percent male.

Moderates — “purples” — like Fox News, too; 27 percent of them watch it daily. They like police procedurals, game shows, other daytime programming and children’s shows. The survey checked out musical tastes, too. Moderates dig the rock ‘n roll, conservatives prefer classical, followed by country and rock, and liberals “enjoy almost every musical genre.”

Wired News reviewed the study for information on videogames. Conservatives “are not big fans of videogames, but when they do play, Madden NFL and Mario are their favorites.” Moderates, similarly, prefer Mario, Donkey Kong, and Madden. Liberals “tend to play more videogames than the other groups, with Mario and The Sims being particular favorites.”

So, Mario is one big winner in this survey.  The other across-the-board favorite?  Football. (more…)

Is There Still a Music Business?

11-12-07

Warner Music Group was trading at $27 per share a year ago. Since then, it’s been all slide, until Friday, when it closed at $8.08, after having scraped $7.25. Fox News’ Roger Friedman said Friday the stock had “collapsed,” a colorful description that got picked up all over the Internet.

What’s wrong with Warner Music Group? It’s not downloading. It’s lack of music, no artists, no signings, no development of new artists, as well as wildly overpaid executives and bad business deals.

For example, a $30 million investment in Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment has turned up nothing of value. And another multimillion dollar investment, in a private luxury concert business this summer in the Hamptons, was a bust.

At the same time, WMG has been hit by defections. Madonna has left for Live Nation after 25 years with WMG. The company could no longer afford her. The Eagles, whose entire career was spent with the old Warner Music, now have their own label with Wal-Mart. They sold 711,000 copies of their new album this year.

Warner also passed on the “Hairspray” soundtrack, which turned out to be a hit for New Line Cinema. And those are just the big public embarrassments. The smaller ones, the ones we don’t know about, are probably even more alarming.

For pop music fans of a certain age, the struggles of the company that once housed Warner Bros. Record and Reprise, the affiliated labels are another reminder of how much water has flowed under that proverbial bridge. Warner/Reprise used to be bursting with genre-defining musicians, from Frank Sinatra to Jimi Hendrix, from Peter, Paul and Mary to the Ramones. (more…)