Top 10 things I learned from Tack Nail

March 31, 2011

1. Men only think they run the world. Actually, it’s the women who keep their schedules.
2. Rule number one’s corollary: NO women are OVER-appreciated.
3. A good joke is better than either flowers or chocolate.
4. You will never meet a bureaucrat who doesn’t take himself too seriously. (Well, okay. Maybe Mark Fowler is the exception here… And, yes, Dennis Patrick is a George Michael fan. The point being: if you can share someone’s secret passions, OFF the record, they’ll treat you like a human when you’re ON the record.)
5. Nothing goes well with a Kelly green leisure suit. (Nothing.)
6. Nick-names are great – as long as yours can’t be confused with a celebrated anti-Semite. (From Tack, I always preferred “Melinder.”)
7. An afternoon nap really does help focus the mind.
8. The corollary to #6: If you ever have a choice of better compensation or an in-office sleeping couch and a door you can close, take the couch. Life is too short
9. Stand out. Be a character. Wear your curiosity on your sleeve. Pick up the bar tab or “host” the conversation. Shed a little celebrity on the most mundane of industries, and those who really grease the wheels will thank you for it.
10. EVERY truly great news organization is a family – whether they share the same last name or not.

Memorial service for Tack will be at the National Press Club at 6:30 March 31.

Where in the world is Newzmaven?

February 6, 2010

Apologies for a long absence…

January 23, 2010

I’ve been blogging for sometime at Opportunopoly for the NAA. Until I can find a sponsor for this blog — which has been astonishingly popular — I unfortunately have little incentive to continue it. Any ideas for same, by all means pass them along. These days, it takes about 5 minutes to link everything from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter et. al. to WordPress — and vice versa through Posterous.com, so there’s no excuse not to keep this updated.

Is Art Imitating Life — or the Inverse?

June 7, 2009

I’m living in a time warp. About a year ago now, at the height of the presidential campaign, my son and I rediscovered The West Wing on Bravo. I’m building my own consulting business far from my usual newsmaker haunts. Jon is working in retail but has far too much exposure to life on the Washington sound stage from his two “newsie” parents not to appreciate every nuance in the exceptional yet rapid-fire Aaron Sorokin scripts. Neither of us has ever planned our day around television.

Whitman as Lyman

Until lately. We didn’t catch on until the 2005 season Rahm Emanual (Same grey suit?)when Jimmy Smits takes on the persona of Matthew Santos, (D-TX), running for president to succeed Jed Bartlett. Even without the prompt on Wikipedia, we’d long known – or at least suspected – that the Barlett White House Chief of Staff character Josh Lyman, masterfully played by Bradley Whitford, was patterned after Rahm Emanuel. (I mean, just check out the hairlines. Add this together with Lyman’s self-conscious yet ambivalent Judaism, the “take no prisoners” attitude that forced a Democratic defection to the Republican party, and the likeness is unmistakeable.) The fact that Sen. Arlen Specter just made the switch in reverse just fans the flames of this debate.

Of course the parallels became more pronounced as we watched Santos announce for the presidency from the statehouse steps. The speech – which occurred in the 2005 season, mind you – was a dead-ringer for Obama’s announcement paean to “hope” and “change.” In The West Wing, Santos is elected after defeating one of the Republican party’s elder statesmen, who hailed from a state west of the Rockies and prided himself as being a straight-talker. (Alan Alda plays the Republican candidate, Arnie Vinick, who refuses to “take the ethanol pledge” before the Iowa Corn Growers in his stump through Iowa.

This much you might be able to chalk up to the contrived intent to have art imitate life and so heighten the believability of a parallel universe where it was a Bartlett, not a Bush who reigned over the majority of the last decade. After all, DeeDee Myers was a consultant to the show. The Guardian Newspaper even made one of the show’s writers admit that Santos was patterned after Barack Obama

But there are other parallels that seemingly defy coincidence:

• Bartlett’s most controversial appointment to the Supreme Court is a Latino named Roberto Mendoza with a chip on his shoulder about racial profiling.

• Bartlett’s trip to China, late in his presidency, is interrupted by a North Korean nuclear test.

• A European passenger jet goes “off radar” while flying near Iran. (In the fictional world, it’s a British plane and the mishap is due to the Iranian Air Force’s mistaking it for a U.S. spy plane, not a French plane and faulty instrumentation, but you get the drift. This episode aired FRIDAY.)

This may only be fodder for collegiate drinking games, who knows? But how much of what happened in this alternate reality can be attributable to the policy roadmap that lies deep in the heart of the show’s Democratic advisors? We’ll know for sure when:

• Obama gets Israelis and the Palestinians to agree on a settlement that puts 20,000 U.S. peacekeepers on the ground in Jerusalem.

• The “college credit” becomes law.

• Both a conservative man and a “liberal lion” woman are appointed to the Supreme Court simultaneously. (The woman becomes Chief Justice.)

* Health care reform passes with $5 million caps on medical liability.

• Or… What can I say? You’ll just have to watch for yourselves.

(Note to speechwriters: Instead of having Obama speak to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner next year, stage a stand-up between Emanual and Whitman. This, I’d pay to watch.)

Signing On Again in San Diego: SDNN.com Goes Live

March 27, 2009

Ron James never wished the San Diego Union Tribune ill. The venerable daily – the last of the erstwhile Copley chain – was, after all, where James served as managing editor for the newspaper’s web site, SignOnSanDiego.com for 8 of the last 9 years. But, when he, and the senior SignOn managers were laid off in May of last year, he had a decision to make:
• Should he apply to other news organizations in a collapsing market for journalistic talent, and possibly leave the community he loved? Or,
• Should he stay put, exercise his entrepreneurial talent and see whether he could ply his trade as a journalist independently online.

He chose the latter, and the result of that decision, San Diego News Network, went live March 23 as “Beta 2.9” at SDNN.com. It’s being watched with no little angst by newspaper publishers nationwide.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging from MediaXchange in Vegas March 9

March 9, 2009

Follow my tweets @newzmaven, insert their tag: #NAAmxc09.

Isn’t it ironic?

February 23, 2009

I was listening this morning to Don Gonyea’s piece on NPR debating the “Bush Legacy,” and was frankly amazed at their snub of the obvious in seeking a “catch phrase” to define Bush’s presidency. Reaching out to presidential scholars, historians and even Bush’s more or less official biographer, everyone from whom Gonyea sought closure on the Bush term fumbled in an attempt to find that “bumper sticker” slogan that would serve as W’s soundbite for history.

The typical defining moment phrases in presidential memorial were reiterated:

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

John F. Kennedy: “The torch has been passed to a new generation.”

Richard Nixon: “I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Other than Nixon’s assertion, given the lie by truth’s antiseptic, none of these proclamations could be viewed with irony in hindsight. But this one at least opens the door to the obvious Bush declaratory imprint: “Mission accomplished.”

It stands to reason that a generation that popularized the term “whatever” — something that’s always made me cringe for its antithesis of owning up to reality/responsibility — would happily attribute last eight years to a sentiment that reflects the inverse of what was intended.

Unfortunately, in this case the shoe fits. Always ahead of her time, Alanis Morissette wrote the anthem for Bush’s departure in 1995 when she penned “Ironic“. It’s the good advice you just didn’t take, Mr. President. That’s what’s gotten us here.

But America’s too good to wallow in irony. (In my mind’s eye I see the Sunday, Jan. 4 comic Prickly City with the characters atop a giant 2009 asking “is it change yet?“) Change is constant, but those who remark it least are those who work to precipitate it. The one thing that’s got to change, if we’re to grow beyond dyspepsia and truly change America for the better is for everyone to roll up their sleeves and participate.

Belief — living purposefully and in the moment — this is the opposite of irony, and the only way to look back on the Obama legacy with something more than regret for what could have been.

Isn’t it ironic?

Next up: newspaper bailouts?

February 23, 2009

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here; I’m writing more consistently at NAA’s “Opportunopoly” blog site, but I couldn’t pass this one up.

Three CT lawmakers have actually appealed to the Commission or the state Department of Economic & Community Development in Hartford to act to forestall the closure of two Journal Register newspapers, the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press. Besides the loss of jobs, they write, “We are equally concerned about what the loss of these newspapers would mean for our communities. There are many, many important ways that a locally-based newspaper is a central point of information and record about a city.” How can a community rebuild economically without the help of its local press? they asked. “Having a locally-based newspaper is important for public accountability,” as well. “As elected officials, ourselves, we want [the] pubic to have access to independent news about what is going on in government and our communities. We share the sentiments of our nation’s leaders who wrote [in] the Bill of Rights that a free press is an essential part of democracy.” (Letter posted at narbosa.com.)

Certainly the lawmakers need help in editing their letters; maybe they can employ someone from the papers, should they perish, as personal correspondents? But, seriously, a bailout? Does no-one worry about a too-close connection to government of an entity that would be beholden to the deep pockets of the very folks making the policies that the public demands it critique? Why aren’t the locals themselves supporting a free press? Do they not care about democracy?

We on the online side of newspapers have long raged against the machine that is the “mainstream media,” but the conundrum of the small town newspaper is especially taxing. Companies that have endeavored to elevate these markets to the level of a national network have largely failed, mostly because of their too great attention to preserving the print edition in lieu of leveraging both print and online for what they each do best. It takes too much money to sustain the kind of print operation that has existed to date; the news is important, as are the ads, but the delivery is all wrong, and it’s too costly and too cumbersome to continue in its current form.

In light of taxpayers being asked to bailout Detroit, think of it as the economic developers being asked to support their father’s Oldsmobile in lieu of a sleeker, more “fuel efficient” newspaper.

If these papers truly are on the chopping block, what does Journal Register have to lose? Sell the printing press to a local printer and outsource the delivery of a weekly shopper. Use the last edition to announce the sale of a subscription-supported email or even e-Edition newspaper, published twice daily, with optional text alerts for breaking news. Say good-bye to the press guys. (Sorry. Unemployed myself, so I share your pain in the loyalty you bear this industry.)

Make money the hard way, by delivering audience where they live and work. Start now by hosting seminars training your most loyal subscribers how to get the news they need, without the wrapper. Put classifieds online, turning them into personalized alerts, and deliver coupons, ads and everything else possible into people’s inboxes. Charge $4.99/month for an iPhone ap that grants one-touch access to the mobile edition.

And leave the government supported news biz to VOA.

As a couple of side notes, the non-profit Wikipedia is halfway to its goal of raising $6 million in donations to keep the doors open. Meanwile, among the Net’s best, NYTimes.com’s Vivian Schiller leaves to join NPR as CEO. There’s something here to the tune of, where your heart is, your wallet will follow.

Too good to miss

February 23, 2009

Palo Alto, AlwaysOn — There were a couple of companies that didn’t rate a mention in our narrative coverage of the AlwaysOn conference, that are too good to miss.

if you don’t already have a solution for self-service display advertising, look into AdReady. The company offers self-service display advertising from more than 700 templates, sorted by best performing, newest templates and most used. (And, why would any advertiser want to use ads that don’t work?) The New York Times has just launched its self-service platform using AdReady.More…

And there’s even a similar solution for video ads, but Jivox goes the next step and offers to place the video ads users create for free in a geotargeted environment.

Currently, it’s only newspaper affiliate is Brown Publishing, but its network purportedly reaches 40 million users through local TV and niche sites.

“Newspapers are the smallest part of our network but the fastest growing,” said Diaz Nesamoney, company president and CEO. CPMs range around $15, which fee is split between Jivox and the online publisher. The Indian company has raised its series A round and is looking for network partners.

Other very decent technologies or services haven’t managed to make it into our report for lack of space or concentration. We’d suggest that in lieu of a forgettable paperback you invest the time in simply pinging down the list of the AO 250 if only for the entertainment value.

As Bay-area rapper Mistah FAB (http://www.mistahfab.com/) said when asked on a panel what he’d like to see Internet entrepreneurs develop, he said, “Who knows, man? [There are] so many things available to us we may not even be aware of. If you’re smart, you’re smart enough to know you know not much at all… [You gotta] never give up learning. …With the world at our fingertips there’s endless opportunity.”

Mobility makes its move

February 23, 2009

Given the array of truly novel and impressive mobile offerings in evidence at AlwaysOn, it seems almost counter intuitive that its advisors would have ranked the Israeli-based Modu as their mobile category winner. Clearly, they were captivated by the device itself, which was described as “sleek” with customizeable “jackets” and features.

What’s jarring about this is that everything seasoned observers said at the show seemed to indicate that phone makers will have to start looking a lot more like publishers if they’re to survive because the platform itself is becoming a commodity.

Take Nokia. Kamar Shah, Head of Industry Marketing, Services and Software, for Nokia, painted a picture of the future where Nokia sounds much more like a publisher than a device manufacturer. In Shah’s world, social networks become the crossroads of mobility and the Internet. “People, time, place all start to make sense… Equipped with GPS and a mobile camera, you can take a photo and share it in real time instantly with a network.” Advertising in such a space will bring new levels of relevance. Nokia maps will point to services users can find near them. More…

Shah says Nokia bought M-pocket, a mobile advertising and media company, to begin to monetize this new world. “When you buy your Nokia device, it comes with a subscription to music, and you can purchase games.” Since both this and the Symbian platform it also purchased are “open platform,” Nokia hopes others will use these tools to build services for mobile users.

Shawn Conahan, CEO of Intercasting, a company that builds highly specialized mobile interfaces for social networks, said every player in the mobile space aspires to be the ‘google of social networking.’” What worries him a bit if the interfaces are completely open is that anyone will be able to grab the public friends directories off of sites like MySpace and duplicate users’ whole “social graphs,” a prospect he called scary.

Maybe they should call it a ‘Friend’ vs. a ‘Phone’
But if they’re worried about this, consumers don’t show it. Nokia says its own research shows that mobile users are only talking 12 percent of the time, meaning the rest of their mobile connect time is spent sharing photos, with social applications and browsing. And, in more than 20 emerging markets, he added, for most mobile users, the interactive functions of their phone are their first experiences in social networking.

The trend towards opening the platforms where mobile networks live was in part spurred by Google, which said it would spend nearly $13 Billion on wireless spectrum if the Federal Communications Commission forced open mobile operating sytems. The FCC propagated such rules, AT&T and Verizon bought the spectrum, and google will benefit by being able to furnish its Android OS to any phones that connect to these carriers.

Yet Anthony Lewis, VP of Open Development at Verizon Wireless isn’t bothered by the trade-offs. Claiming he relishes the role of “insurgent,” he says opening up the software for cell phones “gives us carte blanche to line up more cool devices” like Kindle. “We’ll take any device and load any device” onto the network, he vowed. He predicted a wave of machine-to-machine devices such as parking meters that could talk to a central hub using more open software. The issue becomes one of pricing and it’s the one fear he has of making a misstep: “We have to be innovative,” he said.

Was this the kind of “open” system Google had in mind? “It’s going the right direction,” said Rich Miner, Google’s VP of Mobile. “We wouldn’t have AT&T and Verizon fighting about who is more open if it weren’t a value to consumers,” he added.

In this new world, the manufacturer sells a device to a consumer, who goes to a certified Web portal and downloads the usage plan of his choice. It’s up to device manufacturers and carriers to make sure the devices and applications they download won’t harm the network, Lewis said.

The whole reason for Android, Miner said, is that mobile developers needed a common platform for which to develop. “The existing fragmented Lynux world was bad for the mobile space.” Now software developers, OEMs, carriers “are all an important part of the ecosystem and are helping us with the requirements.” Beyond some open source compliance testing, Minder forsees extensive freedom in designing the user interface, so long as it conforms to google’s idea of usability.

As for whether news publishers would ever play in that development space, that would depend on their willingness to get out there and play with the tools, but Mark Rolston, chief creative officer for Frog Design said, that Google had produced “a fantastic toolkit and SDK. Already it’s a really elegant environment to work on. “

What this marks for mobile is a big shift in who is influencing the development of the mobile platform, from phone manufacturers and carriers to people who understand software and user applications.

Apple may be credited in large measure for the shift, said Matt Murphy, a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. “The iPhone ap store changed the world in 10 days,” he said. Giving developers a fixed 30/70 revenue share lent a measure of certainty to the environment as well, making the effort of developing to the iPhone worthwhile.

Who will Profit from Location Based Services?
As for who stands to make money with location-based services, most Summit attendees predicted that carriers will take a major share. But with GPS in more than 300 million handsets, the real issue becomes how locally-based information fights its way back upstream to navigationally-empowered users.

Even without its Android operating system installed, google has changed the landscape by making its maps available to mobile users. Where things get interesting is when either carriers make the actual cell-ID location of users available as information to be tapped by potential marketers and information providers, or when landmark recognition databases make even this targeting obsolete.

(That last comment might have whizzed by – as Nokia’s CTO, Bob Iannucci explained it, Nokia is experimenting with landscape recognition software so mobile users in the future might be able to scan in a picture of where they are, and so find things of interest nearby.)

So, who owns the user’s location? The user, said Sumit Agarwal, senior product manager for mobile at Google. “All our applications ask the user whether they want to share their location” to get more information. Today Google’s My Location feature already takes information broadcast from mobile towers nearby and can offer local dining or shopping choices.

“Cell tower information is the property of the carrier, so it would be better if we all saw a way to monetize that and take it out of the closet,” said Iannucci, but panelists agreed that until they see revenue coming their way, carrlers would rather play “cat and mouse games” to mask these location data.

“The question is, how can I create a marketplace for my location information, so I benefit by giving it up?” Ianncci said. “Maybe it’s not just about more targeted ads,” either. Developers have only scratched the surface, he said.

Mobile Favorites
As for what mobile applications that most appealed to me – well this came as a surprise. While mobile video applications like ZipClip (which promises to “fun up” your phone), and GoldSpot Media (mobile industry’s first end-to-end dynamic ad insertion solutions for 3G) captured much of the buzz, it was the personal applications that really grabbed me.

PageOnce is that company that, once you see it, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. Billed as a “personal internet assistant,” PageOnce allows you to compile and consolidate on one page all the Web sites that are important to you, including all of the passwords, codes, access keys etc. for which you may rely on any single computer. Imagine if you were to change jobs… suddenly. Do you know all your log-
ons to the sites that help you run your life? What if you couldn’t ask those sites to email you your passwords because you could no longer access that email address? Now you’re starting to appreciate just 1/10th of the efficiencies PageOnce provides.

It was developed with direct-connects to your account pages using the kind of “military level” security you’d expect from an Israeli-based firm. In fact, once your accounts are organized in one place, it becomes much easier for PageOnce to detect and alert you of fraud in any of your accounts. Now, imagine this application not just on the Web but on an iPhone. CEO Guy Goldstein says the company is planning to extend the platform to other devices soon, but it may not be necessary. His application alone could make a market for the device.

Mind you, it does serve to turn advertising on its head. The way the site will make money is in the “taglines” or custom customer communications that each company may make to their own constituents in the interface. Just as your American Express or Dish bill may contain offers, so will your PageOnce page when you pull up any given site’s data. Sort of gives “direct” marketing a whole new meaning.

The second application you’ll wish you’d though of comes from a company called reQall, based in Moffett Field, Ca. ReQall connects all the ways mobile users communicate in one easy, seamless system, and even works free with the technology you may already use to keep yourself organized. Pulling together IMs, news feeds, to do lists and other reminders, it makes ideas almost magnetic. If you’re the kind of person who often has so many things to do in a given day that it almost doesn’t matter which one you pick, just shake your iPhone – reQall will pick one for you and bring it to your opening screen. (Do not attempt with un-enabled phones.)

How reQall makes money is a bit more elusive, but a sponsorship for Adderal seems a likely fit.


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