This, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist Dominic Basulto. Dominic is a New York native, has been a senior editor at Corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. Send tips or story ideas to: email@example.com.
About this weblog
Here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in New York City. Impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. What we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. As well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to New York's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them.
The New York Times gawks at the impending "duel for the dirt" between Gawker and FishBowlNY, the new media gossip blog launched by Media Bistro's Elizabeth Spiers (the co-founder of the original Gawker site). Given the snarky tone popularized by Miss Spiers and the possibility of bad blood between her and Gawker's Nick Denton, this should be an interesting fight to watch: "The rivalry falls squarely into the grand New York tradition of competing for the juiciest bits of gossip. This being the new millennium, the battle is being raged not in screaming tabloids but in cyberspace."
What's interesting, says the NY Times, is that the rumble in the gossip jungle may pull in a number of other indirect competitors, such as media trade publications, Romenesko, and "anybody who does media reporting." Susan Mernit, for example, thinks that media-centric blogs like Paid Content may be facing a possible competitor.
In one of its 10 predictions for 2005, Greenhouse Associates speculates that public libraries (e.g. New York Public Library) will emerge as content sales channels: "With more people working outside of large companies and with people in those companies generally getting less support from a formal information resource center, public libraries may become a key link between information services and end users. A number of major city libraries and state library consortia have cut deals to allow their patrons free access to premium databases... Importantly, these deals allow library patrons to access the databases from outside the walls of the libraries -- via the internet, with a library card number." (Hat tip: Paid Content)
In a New York Times Book Review essay, Steven Berlin Johnson takes a look at the array of new writing tools available to creative types looking for a little inspiration.
Johnson writes, "2005 may be the year when tools for thought become a reality for people who manipulate words for a living, thanks to the release of nearly a dozen new programs all aiming to do for your personal information what Google has done for the Internet. These programs all work in slightly different ways, but they share two remarkable properties: the ability to interpret the meaning of text documents; and the ability to filter through thousands of documents in the time it takes to have a sip of coffee. Put those two elements together and you have a tool that will have as significant an impact on the way writers work as the original word processors did."
Check out Johnson's blog -- there he has screen shots and more details of the DevonThink program mentioned in the Times article.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is shutting down nearly all its money-losing online and catalog operations. If you were hoping to buy something online after Valentine's Day, forget about it: "A note on marthastewart.com's shopping home page announced the company's final sale and directed customers to look for Martha Stewart products elsewhere."
It's not all gloom and doom for Martha, though. She'll be getting out of jail soon. Plus, there's been talk that The Donald and Mark Burnett are planning a Martha guest appearance on the final episode of "The Apprentice" this spring -- and even speculation that Martha may get her own spin-off of "The Apprentice." Plus, she did make the cover of New York Magazine this week -- not bad for someone doin' time at Camp Cupcake.
In his "The Numbers Guy" column, Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal takes a critical look at a recent study showing that taxi passengers have lost tens of thousands of cellphones, PDAs and laptop computers over the past six months. "Too much precision in a statistic is a good signal to dig deeper into the methodology and the origin," writes Bialik. "In this case, both are dubious." Most damagingly, the survey was funded by Pointsec Mobile Technologies, which claims to protect data on mobile devices in the event they are lost or stolen. In addition, the study relied on extraordinarily small, non-random samples of taxi drivers.
Ouch. Christopher Byron is calling Dow Jones & Co. "Dumb Jones & Co." for its bungled $519 million acquisition of CBS MarketWatch. "Just as Time Warner's ill-fated merger with America Online in January of 2000 marked the boom-ending high-water point of the dot.com era," Byron writes, "So too may Dow Jones's takeover of MarketWatch come in time to be remembered as a similar accomplishment."
Thanks to a new 5% city tax concession, the NYC film industry could be headed for a mini-boom in 2005, according to Crain's New York. The city tax concession, combined with a state tax credit granted last fall, means that New York is now competitive with places in Europe and Canada -- with the result that new films will be calling New York City home soon. Two major feature films --The Producers and The Departed (a Martin Scorsese movie) -- have already signed on to begin production soon.
The proposed merger between SBC and AT&T could lead to a bout of deal-making involving competitors such as Verizon, says the New York Times: "The reunion of two players in the old Bell system could set off another round of mergers in the rapidly consolidating phone industry." The time to act is now for Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg: "A merger of the two companies would pose a threat to Verizon, the largest local phone company... A merger of AT&T and SBC would create the nation's largest phone company and Verizon would be left hobbled, without a significant position in the business services market."
A Manhattan federal judge dismissed a civil racketeering lawsuit against Internet cigarette dealers, in which the city charged that New York lost millions in tax dollars as the result of online cigarette sales. A clear victory for Internet cigarette sellers and a setback for the city, right? Not so fast. Both sides, in fact, are claiming victory. Since the judge also gave the city 45 days to refile an amended lawsuit to address technical issues in the suit, the city's top lawyers are claiming "complete victory." Actually, after reading mixed analyses of the case in Newsday, CNET News.com and the New York Daily News, only one fact is really clear: it's always the lawyers who win.
Speculation continues to build that the New York Stock Exchange could be preparing for an IPO. According to the New York Post, seat owners at the exchange are pushing CEO John Thain to move more quickly from a not-for-profit status to a for-profit status. At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, though, Thain hedged his bets, only noting that the NYSE "may consider an IPO." Talk about an IPO for the Big Board has been around since at least 1999, when Slate wrote that "investors are salivating for a piece of the New York Stock Exchange."
Amazon.com's A9 subsidiary plans to offer a local search service that can display photos of neighborhood businesses - a total of 20 million building photos in 10 major United States cities (including New York, of course). Before launching the new service, A9 sent out an SUV equipped with a digital video camera to Manhattan, where "a driver spent more than a week cruising down streets, capturing images and cataloging the location of each business using a global positioning system receiver." A9 calls the process "bringing the Yellow Pages to life."
Ever had the feeling that you could somehow control the New York City subway system better than the MTA, if given half a chance? Well, NXSYS is a subway simulator that "recreates for you the experience of controlling switches, signals, and trains in the New York City Subway system. Rather than conventional menus and toolbars, NXSYS presents to you the exact same user interface as so-called "Entrance-Exit" "pushbutton interlockings" present to New York City subway towerpersons, except that instead of pressing buttons with your finger, you click with the mouse. And instead of commanding real trains full of people, NXSYS simulates them cybernetically..."
It's a cool idea -- but also a bit spooky, if you think about all the shady characters in the world who appear to bear some kind of grudge against New Yorkers (we won't name names, but they know who they are). Hat tip: NewYorkology.
Om Malik on the rumored merger between Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio: "It should not come as a surprise as both companies despite all the buzz (ala TiVo and Treo) are sucking wind, and losing money. Once together, they can stop spending marketing dollars bitch-slapping each other and instead focus on getting more customers away from terrestrial radio networks."
Sirius Satellite Radio's Mel Karmazin is gearing up to "hawk shock jock Howard Stern to advertisers," according to the New York Daily News. Karmazin has a reputation within media circles as a "hard-charging ad salesman," so it's perhaps no surprise that he's thinking hard about ways to increase ad sales at Sirius Satellite Radio. By the time that Howard Stern moves to Sirius in 2006, Karmazin hopes to have established relationships with a number of big-name advertisers, including Heineken, Snapple and Dial-A-Mattress.
The only problem, hints the New York Daily News, is that the move may backfire if it annoys subscribers who view satellite radio as an "ad-free zone." The company may not have any other choice, though -- in the most recently ended quarter, Sirius posted a net loss of $261 million.
New York State boasts 13 of the 40 Intel Talent Search competition winners, including six rising young stars from Long Island and four from the city. Some of the projects from these kids sound truly mind-boggling, like one high school senior from Long Island who's working on building a quantum computer and one girl from Brooklyn who's using genetic research to find a cure for cancer. While a number of high school principals across the metropolitan area are beaming with well-deserved pride, there may be one school that's not so happy with the results: Stuyvesant High School was shut out of the awards for the first time in 15 years.
Design blogs written by twenty- and thirty-something style mavens are starting to shake up the world of mainstream shelter and design publications, says Lockhart Steele (the new managing editor of Gawker Media) in a New York Times piece. It's a move that only makes sense: "Now that blogs, or Web journals, influence just about everything from politics to technology news, they are starting to transform the once clubby design community." Whether it's for advance word on new design trends, tips on how to find new products, or just chatter about decorators and tastemakers, more people are heading to blogs for the inside scoop.
Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, Staten Island will soon be home to its own gifted-and-talent magnet school for science & tech, along the lines of Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. Currently, Staten Island is the only borough without a specialized magnet high school that can attract kids from all over the city. (Hat tip: Gothamist)
According to the organizer of the Wireless Woodstock project, the free Wi-Fi service "would be ideal for seasonal tourists hoping to pick up their e-mail and access the Web. Like having a cyber-guide at your fingertips... applications such as guided town tours and festival events [could] use wireless signals." In addition, Woodstock plans to roll out a higher-speed, paid service that will appeal to individual businesses in the commercial district. Total cost? A very reasonable $10,000.
Dan Gillmor wonders why more newspapers do not open up their archives to the public: "One of these days, a newspaper currently charging a premium for access to its article archives will do something bold: It will open the archives to the public -- free of charge but with keyword-based advertising at the margins. I predict that the result will pleasantly surprise the bean-counters. There'll be a huge increase in traffic at first, once people realize they can read their local history without paying a fee. Eventually, though not instantly, the revenues will greatly exceed what the paper had been earning under the old system. Meanwhile, the expenses to run it will drop..."
Gillmor compares the San Francisco Chronicle (which does not charge for access to its archives) to the San Jose Mercury News (which does), theorizing that newspapers that open up their archives will become authoritative voices within the community. Gillmor also notes that a recent Harvard conference on journalism and blogging found "a surprising consensus in favor of opening archives."
New York newspaper publishers, take note: Gillmor also publishes a five-step guide for publishers with a pay-per-view archive on how to make the changeover to free archives.
MemeFirst takes a critical view of Henry Blodget's decision to embrace the Chinese economic boom: "Disgraced Merrill tech analyst and reborn Slate hack Henry Blodget has launched a series about the "China gold rush" in which he admits he knows zilch about the place but with a few books and a junket to Beijing, he'll have it all sorted out in a jiffy... Blodget argues that China is the latest fad, on par with tulips, railroads and dot.com companies. Thanks, buddy, I never heard that one before. Reminds me of the story about how John Rockefeller (I think it was he) realized the market was going to crash when he overheard the shoeshine boys trading stock tips. So maybe Blodget has a point, even if he's his own harbinger of doom."
If that doesn't dissuade you from reading Blodget's new series of articles at Slate, check out his first piece on the "China Gold Rush": Go East, Young Man.
AdRants says that the branding campaigns of New Jersey-based Vonage and Massachusetts-based BroadVoice are disturbingly similar: "Maybe it's just us but we wonder if broadband phone company BroadVoice couldn't have made its ad campaign and website just a little bit closer to an exact replica of competitor Vonage's website. From typeface similarity to the use of International flags to the duplication of page layout, there's something strange going on here. Who knows. Maybe the two companies own each other but hat's for the financial media, not us, to worry about. For us, it's just wrong for two different brands to look so similar. It's confusing for the consumer."
There's one company moving into the broadband voice market that won't be confused with either Vonage or BroadVoice, though, and that's Google. As the Guardian (and other news sources) have pointed out, "Google is the latest dotcom business looking to increase its revenues by offering broadband internet users the ability to make cheap phone calls over the web."
The Web Services on Wall Street conference will take place on February 1-2 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. Among the companies or organizations presenting: JP Morgan Chase, IBM, W3C, CSFB, Intel, Oasis and Computer Associates.
Engadget points to a study showing that, worldwide, taxi passengers have lost 200,000 cellphones, 31,000 PDAs and 11,000 laptops in just the past six months. Oh, and 37 milk bottles, a pair of dentures and an artificial limb or two... The good news is that four out of five mobile phones and 19 out of every 20 computers found their way back to their original owners. Cabbies may be rude and may not have the greatest command of the English language, but they're honest -- especially in New York. Just two weeks ago, a Long Island cabbie returned $13,000 that he found in the back seat of his cab.
It's still in the rumor stage, but it looks like Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio are discussing a merger of some kind. Unnamed sources claim that the hiring of former Viacom President Mel Karmazin by Sirius Satellite Radio is additional proof that Sirius is getting, well, serious, about a merger: "Mel is a roll-up guy, a deal guy." The satellite radio industry is currently an FCC-licensed duopoly, so a merger of equals would create a monopoly.
Engadget thinks any merger between Sirius and XM is at least 12 months away: "Doesnt sound like things are too far alongit could take as long as a year before they put together a deal, and there are plenty of technical, antitrust, and FCC licensing issues that would have to be hammered out firstbut given how small the overall market for satellite radio is (especially considering the infrastructure costs), some sort of merger or alliance like this might be inevitable (the big question is whether the Feds would ever allow it)."
It's official: New York City is developing the largest citywide mobile network in the U.S. According to Washington Technology, "New York next month will choose at least one contractor to test technologies as a first step toward building a citywide, mobile wireless communications network. The nine-year project would go far beyond the wireless pilot projects under way in most U.S. cities, creating the largest mobile wireless network at the municipal level in the nation."
It's sure to be controversial, however, with some analysts questioning whether "the Big Apple is doing the right thing by awarding a multiyear deal at a time when the technology is evolving at an extremely rapid pace." The total cost of the project is unknown, with estimates ranging from several hundred million dollars to more than $1 billion. (That figure seems absurdly high, though, considering that Philadelphia unveiled plans for a citywide Wi-Fi network in September at a cost closer to $10 million.)
Manhattan-based video games publisher Take-Two Interactive Software bought all of Sega's sports game development studio, Visual Concepts Entertainment, and its wholly owned Kush Games studio, for $24 million in cash. Take-Two will then turn around and launch a new game label, 2K Games. The story's already been Slashdotted, where readers weigh in on the consolidation of the sports games market. Greg Costikyan, too, has a nice piece on the strangulation of sports games.
Crain's New York reports that IBM will acquire California-based software management firm Corio for $182 million in cash as part of an attempt to expand its market reach to small- and mid-sized firms. InternetNews.com, for its part, views the move as another "on-demand" play for IBM.
Interestingly, the article hints indirectly that the Oracle-PeopleSoft deal may have tipped IBM's hand. IBM spokespersons, though, denied the possibility: "The timing of the acquisition, coming as it did after Oracle succeeded in its hostile takeover of rival enterprise application provider PeopleSoft, was coincidental... The deal was in the works long before Oracle took over PeopleSoft."
ClickZ reports that New York-based Quigo Technologies will launch Private Marketplace, a private-label version of its AdSonar system. The new offering will allow advertisers to buy contextually targeted text ads on individual sites. According to the CEO of Quigo, "Now the publishers get to control pricing, the types of advertising that go on the site, and those that don't."
It's an argument that a number of companies -- including USAToday.com and The Knot -- find compelling. In fact, Wayne Porter suggests that Quigo "seems to be targeting Google's Achilles' Heel - the control and pricing of inventory for larger properties."
After hinting that it might move its corporate HQ out of New York, it looks like Verizon Communications will be putting down permanent roots in Lower Manhattan. The company had put its midtown office up for sale, so it required a late intervention by Mayor Bloomberg (and, no doubt, a bag of economic goodies) to convince Verizon to stay. In fact, from the New York Times article, it sounds like Mayor Bloomberg sat down mano a mano with Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and did a bit of arm-twisting. The bottom line: Verizon may move some back-office jobs out of the city, but there will be no net loss of jobs for New York.
The New York Post profiles Trips123.com, a new Web site from the New York State Department of Transportation that analyzes real-time information from 18 different area transit agencies (including the MTA) in order to create a personalized itinerary for each traveler. According to government officials, the site adjusts itineraries based on real-time information, including any emergencies or accidents that could result in service disruptions. Could be useful, if the MTA continues to experience freak accidents and random acts of arson.
"I'd never really thought about it before, but in some ways, Craigslist helps lots of people build businesses cheaper and more effectively than more "robust", complex, and expensive enterprise software solutions. Movers are just one example. Craigslist can help you find employees for your business. If you've got a van, you can pick up free furniture and electronics around the city, fix or refurbish, and sell it. You can start a business doing computer troubleshooting, piano lessons, buying and fixing up old motorcycles, or escort and sensual massage services."
Suffolk County legislators will vote today on whether or not individual sex offenders must wear a high-tech GPS device (a bracelet the size of a large watch) that would enable law enforcement officials to "track their every movement." According to the New York Daily News, Suffolk County is at the forefront of using high technology for law enforcement purposes: "If the bill passes, Suffolk would be one of the first in the country where judges have the option to electronically monitor newly convicted Level 2 and 3 offenders - or previous offenders who find themselves in court again." Apparently, too many woodsmen have been moving into the neighborhood -- at last count, there were 832 woodsmen in Suffolk County.
Gothamist explains how the MTA was brought to its knees this weekend by a homeless man in the subway tunnels: "Officials say a homeless man ignited a 'shopping cart full of wood' on the southbound tracks, and not only will A service will totally messed up for a while, it seems that the fire 'destroyed approximately 600 electrical devices used to control signals along the Eighth Avenue line...' This is in addition to all the subway problems this past weekend, partly caused by the blizzard (frozen tracks, malfunctioning switches)."
After all the dire warnings about how terrorists could strike in New York's subways -- all the stories about dirty bombs and poison gas and whatnot, and the bungling MTA allowed a homeless guy onto the tracks with a shopping cart full of wood? That doesn't bode well for homeland security. Or maybe homeland security only refers to the "land" and not to the "underground"? It's even worse since the fire took place at Chambers Street, just blocks from the World Trade Center site. Wouldn't that location be particularly sensitive?
In a New York Times article, Gary Rivlin wonders whether social networking site Friendster will be able to make it after failing to capitalize on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2003. At the time, the company was flush with cash, the darling of VC investors and the epicenter of the red-hot social networking world. Now, Friendster is trying to fend off more popular upstarts and has recently experienced a number of high-level executive defections.
Other social networking sites such as Ryze (which once claimed thousands of members in New York City) are no doubt trying to stumble on the magic formula that will keep venture capitalists happy and the 18-to-29 demographic buzzing.
Not only did the New York Post predict the bad news about StemCells, Inc. -- it also listed Manhattan-based Travelzoo as a "cult stock" that investors should avoid. Well, one day later, shares of Travelzoo tanked. Crain's New York reports that shares of Travelzoo fell 22% in early Monday trading after the company announced that regulators were probing insider stock transactions. Travelzoo also reported earnings that missed Wall Street forecasts.
So is this the curse of the New York Post? If Sirius Satellite Radio, Overstock.com or Taser International reports bad news later this week, we'll know. For now, Sirius looks OK -- in fact, it announced on Monday that it would be collaborating with Interscope Geffen A&M Records and its chairman, Jimmy Iovine, to develop new programming.
The finalists in 30 categories have been announced for the 5th annual Weblog Awards ("Bloggies'). Voting will take place between January 24 and January 31, with the winners being announced sometime in March. Please take time to vote for the following NYC-themed blogs: Gothamist ("Weblog of the year," "Best non-Weblog content"), Gawker ("Weblog of the year"), ManhattanTransfer ("Best kept secret") and OverheardInNew York ("Best community Weblog").
In Can Howard Stern now relax? Declan McCullagh takes a look at the legacy of FCC chairman Michael Powell and speculates about who might be next to take on Howard Stern in the public indecency battles: "The question now, of course, is who the president will nominate to succeed Powell. One obvious choice is [Kevin] Martin, who's eager for the job. But that risks tarnishing Powell's broadband and VoIP legacy by replacing a proponent of the free market with someone with a much weaker appreciation of it. Let's hope that Bush is up to the task. If we're lucky, Powell's successor may even appreciate the First Amendment as well..."
Business 2.0 thinks the double-headed dog advertisements popping up around the city are part of a fake viral marketing campaign: "Big expensive billboards going up with this logo on it and on an expensive Website, which can only mean a company with big money behind it is trying to act like a little one with a hip viral campaign. Yawn. That works so well. Remember Microsoft and its butterflies painted all over NYC sidewalks? Consumers are so dumb, those marketing guys must think." Who knows? Could be the re-launch of MTV2.
The high-stakes "bidding frenzy" for CBS MarketWatch eventually won by Dow Jones is just another sign that Internet news sites are making a comeback, says the New York Times. Thought to be "dot-gone relics of 1999," these news sites are now valuable properties for Internet media companies looking to offload advertising inventory: "Publishers are being forced to confront a potential advertising inventory crunch. There is no physical limitation to the number of Web pages, of course, but advertisers want to be placed on the most popular pages and those which cater to their most profitable audiences. And those kind of pages are in shorter supply."
Recent deals involving Internet news providers include Dow Jones/CBS MarketWatch ($519 million), Washington Post/Slate ($20 million) and Viacom/SportsLine.com ($46 million). More deals could be on the way, with rumors already circulating that TheStreet.com and The Motley Fool are being shopped by investment bankers. Paid Content, of course, has been monitoring the Dow Jones/MarketWatch deal since the beginning.
That's the question posed by The Scientist, which looks at whether New York, New Jersey or Connecticut can become stem-cell research hubs and, in so doing, divert some of the attention and resources away from California.
On January 16, New York Senate Democratic leader David Paterson proposed a $1 billion state-funded stem cell research initiative and the creation of a New York stem cell institute -- two big steps that could transform New York into a stem cell leader. If the proposal is approved by the senate, assembly, and Governor George Pataki, New Yorkers will vote on it in an upcoming election. So why is New York lagging behind other states? "The state has a strong lobby that somewhat "unfairly" labels stem cell research as an abortion issue, possibly scaring legislators... New York is known to have one of the most "dysfunctional" state governments, which may have slowed legislators' steps in this direction..."
In November, The Scientist took a comprehensive look at whether NYC will be able to build a life sciences empire. There's a treasure trove of information here, including articles about Big Pharma, venture capital and biotech R&D as well as a number of sponsor profiles. Required reading for anyone trying to catch up with the stem-cell research debate.
IBM's pending $1.25 billion sale of its PC division to China's Lenovo Group has hit a few snags, according to the New York Post: "Members of the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S., including the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security, worry that Chinese operatives might use an IBM facility in North Carolina to engage in industrial espionage using stolen technologies for military purposes." If the Committee on Foreign Investments does not approve the deal (and it has been notoriously difficult about approving China-related deals), IBM would need to participate in a formal investigation by government authorities and then receive the approval of President Bush.
As seen on Engadget: New York-based Wicked Wireless plans to offer "moantones" from adult entertainment star Jenna Jameson to Latin American mobile phone users. What's interesting is that Wicked views the new product offering as just another "consumer-centric brand," similar to its Warner Music Store and its Scooby Doo Mobile Club.
According to Crain's New York, Chicago-based Archipelago, which owns electronic stock market ArcaEx, is interested in acquiring Instinet's electronic communication network (but not its institutional brokerage business) at a price between $2 billion and $3 billion. On news of the rumor, shares of Instinet surged by nearly 10%. This past summer, Instinet, which is 62%-owned by Reuters Group Plc, attracted "a slew of suitors," including the New York Stock Exchange.
Just scroll down the blog entry to "David Marshak's Remarks" and press play on the AudioBlog.com logo. There, you'll find a brief audio clip in which David takes a high-level look at real-time collaboration over the past 20 years and presents his thoughts on the convergence of real-time and contextual collaboration. "Presence changes everything," he says. "The Internet without presence is like having voice mail without having the telephone system."
The blizzard of '05 is introducing us to a brand new weather lexicon. One of the local TV stations has been using the word bombogenisis, a real meteorological term to describe a "big, rapidly developing storm heading our way." That's a mouthful, though, so now us common folk will just refer to it as the bomb.
Howard Stern reacted with glee yesterday to the news that Michael Powell planned to resign as FCC chairman: "Howard Stern did everything but sing 'Ding, dong, the witch is dead' when he learned during his wakeup show yesterday that FCC Chairman Michael Powell is history." Stern had this to say about Powell's legacy at the FCC: "Appointment from his father [Colin Powell], a billion dollars squandered of taxpayer money, ruining the First Amendment [and] putting radio stations in the hands of the few so that you've got five formats now..." We'll assume for now that Michael Powell has little or no chance of ever landing a gig at Stern's future employer, Sirius Satellite Radio.
First Cablevision decided to sell off its Voom satellite TV service. Now, the company is indicating that it would consider a sale of its "crown jewel" -- its cable systems that serve over 3 million metro area households. The most likely buyer would be Time Warner Cable, which could offer as much as $12 billion, say analysts, in order to create a cable near-monopoly in New York. Next up: the company's cable TV networks (American Movie Classics, the Independent Film Channel and WE: Women's Entertainment). We speculate that Cablevision might then change its name to Sportsvision, since it would be left with only a handful of high-profile assets: Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, the Rangers and Radio City Music Hall.
Just a reminder: Vloggercon 2005 will be hosted by the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU (721 Broadway) on Saturday, January 22. A live Webcast will be available, starting at 9 AM. Conference sessions include "Masses' Media," "Content is King," and "Network of the Future."
Fresh from Reuters: FCC Chairman Michael Powell plans to resign today after four years as the chief regulator of the media and telecom industries. His reign has been controversial at times, but there have been a number of highlights: "Among bright spots, he shepherded through a plan to eliminate interference with public safety wireless communications, advanced the transition to higher-quality digital television and promoted high-speed Internet service." In many minds, though, he will always be known as the regulator who attempted to crack down on indecent behavior and conversation in TV and radio. This should keep talking head commentators busy over the weekend, as they rush to assess the potential impact on the New York media industry.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Jessica Mintz takes a look at a possible code of ethics for bloggers. With bloggers "finally moving from the alleys and side streets of the Internet into the mainstream," she writes, there is a real need to ask, "What are the rules of the road?" That's exactly what's happening this weekend at a Harvard University conference, where a small group of journalists, bloggers and media thinkers are gathering to "hash out some of these issues, and kick around the idea of a blogging code of ethics." FYI -- NYU's Jay Rosen will kick off the Harvard conference with a talk on blogging and journalism. Keep an eye, too, on Jeff Jarvis for round-the-clock commentary on the blogging medium and the latest scoop on blogging ethics.
More details of a new nine-month, $1.75 million cybersecurity project for New York State... According to the latest press release, IceWEB and PlanGraphics will "coordinate the design and development of an Internet-based system to allow state officials to search for, locate and visualize information about critical assets and infrastructure for the New York State Cyber Security Project."
Manhattan Pharmaceuticals received U.S. FDA approval to start a Phase 1 trial for its weight-loss product candidate, oleoyl estrone. The company will now be able to move forward with human clinical testing of the drug. On news of the approval, shares of the company rocketed upward by 61%. According to company executives, the first clinical testing of the obesity drug will start taking place somewhere in Switzerland within the next three months.
That was quick. Just days after a high-profile board meeting resulted in a decision to sell off the struggling Voom satellite TV unit, Cablevision announced plans to sell certain Voom assets to EchoStar for $200 million in cash. Under the terms of the agreement, EchoStar will receive Cablevision's Rainbow satellite as well as licensed frequencies, while Cablevision will keep some satellite service elements, including programming and equipment. Charles and Thomas Dolan, the two family members who lost the battle to retain Voom within Cablevision, called the board vote "startling" -- they said it "reflects today's post-Enron regulatory climate, which places great emphasis on the potential legal liability of directors who sit on the boards of corporations involved with new enterprises."
AOL, a unit of Time Warner, announced a new Internet search engine (AOL Search) as "part of an effort to gain a larger share of the online advertising market." The move, of course, will pit AOL squarely against formidable competitors such as Google and Yahoo. In AOL puts a stake in the ground, John Battelle explores the implications of AOL tossing its hat into the Internet search ring, explaining how terms like "media model of search" and "programmed search" apply to AOL and Time Warner.
18 of 32 ain't bad -- but it ain't so hot either, considering that blogs have been all over the news for the past 12 months and that well-heeled New Yorkers queuing up for bagels at Grand Central during peak rush hour must represent a favorable demographic of some kind. I can see now why it must be so frustrating for corporate marketing types to devote millions of dollars to creating a multi-media branding campaign and then find out that most consumers have never heard of the product - or worse, confuse it with a competitor's product.
Glenn Reynolds (aka "Instapundit") makes it clear that Wi-Fi and EVDO should be able to co-exist. That may not happen, though, if Verizon continues to push EVDO as a faster, better alternative to Wi-Fi. Instapundit winds up the article with an appeal for a multi-layered approach to wireless broadband Internet: "It seems likely that services like EVDO and Wi-Fi will coexist comfortably for quite a while, because they're fundamentally different products. That's fine with me, since I'm all for diversity, technological and otherwise. I hope that the Verizon folks will realize that, rather than getting carried away with efforts to "bury" Wi-Fi under EVDO. With multiple approaches, everybody wins."
To get up to speed on the EVDO/Wi-Fi debate, check out Glenn Fleishman's Wi-Fi Networking News entry from January 13 as well as this piece from MSNBC's Gary Krakow, in which he test drives EVDO in New York City.
Looks like the ImClone insider trading saga is winding to a close: "Sam Waksal, ImClone's former CEO, and his father Jack agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle an insider-trading scandal that eventually also landed Martha Stewart in jail." The deal with the SEC means that both Waksals will not be facing any more ImClone stock sale charges. But that doesn't get them off the hook entirely -- Sam Waksal is still serving an 87-month sentence and Martha Stewart won't be out until March. On a related note, the New York Times points out that Martha has been getting a lot wealthier since she went to prison in October.
In the NYU campus newspaper, Jonathan Cipriani warns that New York City is no place to launch an innovative new start-up: "Lots of NYU students would probably like to stay in New York to pursue their careers after graduation - and in the case of budding entrepreneurs on campus, even start up their own businesses here. Unfortunately, a newly released report shows that New York state's economic policies aren't exactly going to make it easy for them. In fact, the business climate in New York can be downright hostile."
Lightwave has all the details on what really happens in the Meet-Me Room on Hudson Street. No, it's not what you're probably thinking... 60 Hudson Street, of course, is a "carrier hotel" for major telecom firms and the Meet-Me-Room "provides customers with seamless and rapid interconnections and with the optimized efficiency and flexibility of a centralized interconnection and colocation facility, operated on a carrier-neutral basis." In other words, telecom giants like AT&T, Bell Canada, British Telecom and Verizon utilize the 60 Hudson Street facility to help interconnect their networks.
It's a sad day indeed when the MTA is so desperate for cash that it needs to sell naming rights to the subway: "In a bid to slam the brakes on future fare and toll hikes, the MTA has hired two marketing firms to help the cash-strapped agency generate revenue by selling naming rights to subway stations and other property." Check out Gothamist for pictures of the "Subway" subway.
Maybe it's the snowy weather outside and the Russian-like cold here in New York, but a quote from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina ("All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way") seems particularly appropriate when reading about the nasty family squabble at Cablevision... Newsday reports that father and son are grappling over what to do with the Voom satellite TV unit of Cablevision, hinting that the matter may only be resolved after a bruising boardroom battle. Right now, the board seems to be in favor of selling or shutting down Voom, meaning that the son may ultimately triumph in the matter.
Verizon is rolling out a fiber-optic network to 13 communities on Long Island that it is touting as "one of the most significant advancements in telecommunications technology in the past 100 years." According to Verizon, the new fiber-optic network will deliver faster data speeds, "crystal clear" voice and a "full suite of video services" to communities such as Garden City, Hempstead, Massapequa, Mineola and Syosset. A Verizon executive comments on the new FTTP ("Fiber To The Premises") project: "We are building the communications network of the future to provide customers unmatched network reliability, incredible speed and exciting new options for voice, data and video connections. Our FTTP project will help stimulate economic development and enhance Long Island as a great place to live and do business."
Good news for Brooklyn biotech: the SUNY Downstate Medical Center's Biotech Incubator Building recently received a $1.5 million grant for Phase Two of its construction. Props to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who made the funding possible. What's cool is that the biotech incubator is located in a place you might not expect it to be -- on Parkside Avenue between Nostrand and New York Avenue. The biotech incubator will help to speed up the conversion of Brooklyn's manufacturing space for biotech use, create job training programs for scientists and technicians, and assist in the creation of high school biotech programs.
Business 2.0, via Josh Rubin's Cool Hunting, has a quick item about Brooklyn-based Neighborhoodies: "Neighborhoodies is the success story of a couple kids running a t-shirt business out of a basement apartment and 2 years later having a thriving 30 person company. As the name suggests, their t-shirts, hoodies and underwear shout out local pride. It's taking I Love NY to down to the street level, recognizing the individuality of different parts of town." Of course, the company has already been mentioned in the New York Times and Time Out New York and there's a retail store at the South Street Seaport.
Over the weekend, there was a Web domain hijacking that left Public Access Networks (Panix), a New York Internet hosting company, without an Internet address. As a result, as many as 5,000 Panix customers reported that they were deprived of e-mail access for 48 hours, starting on Saturday morning. InfoWorld looks into what went wrong, laying some of the blame at the feet of an Australian company that manages Internet domain name registrations. At Panix, there's no panic -- but insiders privately confide that "a permanent fix for the domain hijacking problem won't come without larger changes and cooperation from domain registrars."
From Rare Gallery in Chelsea: PAUSE, "a full-size representation of the Dukes of Hazzard '69 Dodge Charger crashing into the Unabomber's cabin -- two metaphors for lawlessness converging in time and space and providing at least one interpretation of today's geopolitical climate." Cool photos. (Hat tip: Josh Rubin's Cool Hunting)
NYC-based The Knot (which operates the wedding planning site TheKnot.com) will tie the knot with Ithaca-based Great Boyfriends, reports Crain's New York. The Web sites GreatBoyfriends.com and GreatGirlfriends.com, both operated by Great Boyfriends, post information about eligible singles who are "vouched for" by their friends, family members, ex-wives or ex-husbands -- in essence, a referral service for online daters.
There's only one thing better than a Great Girlfriend, though -- it's the Imaginary Girlfriend: "This is a service provided by a real life girl where she will pretend to be your long distance girlfriend by sending you personalized love letters, emails, pictures, leave phone messages (if you want), and provide other girlfriend-like services. This relationship appears real to others that may see these things, but it is not. There will be no actual real life meetings or relationship between you and your Imaginary Girlfriend other than that specified in your order..."
On January 17, Gotham Gazette named Corante New York as one of the best New York business Web sites: "Dominic Basulto, a journalist covering technology and finance, writes this New York-centric blog. Basulto is fairly prolific (several posts each day), and eclectic (everything from New York's biotech brain drain to Dan Rather to Brooklyn's broadband black holes). More than just industry insiders and stock speculators will find interest in this site."
We're thankful for the kind words. As Jamie Foxx said in his Golden Globes acceptance speech: "I wish I could take what I'm feeling right now and put it in the water system, and we would all love each other a whole lot more."
As part of its Future of Wireless series, Corante is interviewing a number of top-flight entrepreneurs and thinkers about how new wireless technologies and applications are affecting everyday life. First up: a chat with the two co-founders of NYC-based dodgeball, the mobile social networking service which aims to coordinate social interactions between mobile users. It's "Friendster for your cellphone" - and it's been mentioned in places like New York Times Magazine, Fast Company, Newsweek and PC World.
Say, for example, that you spot Janet Jackson at brunch one day. That's a prime example of when you'd want to alert your friends via dodgeball: "What dodgeball is really good at is altering the paths you normally follow through the city. We hear this all the time from our users - the first time you get pinged with a dodgeball message telling you that a friend is at the bar across the street or a restaurant you passed 20 steps ago is something that changes the way you experience the city..."
The New York Daily News has a short piece on the lack of high-speed Internet access in Hunts Point in the South Bronx, which is one of the city's now-notorious "broadband black holes." What's interesting is that just last week, Mayor Bloomberg pointed out in his State of the City address that the biggest wholesale seafood market in the nation will soon open at Hunts Point, resulting in 500 new jobs and $1 billion in economic activity. For the city, apparently, low-tech, low-wage fish market jobs are preferable to high-wage, high-tech jobs.
Within 18 to 24 months, it may be possible for radio listeners to download songs from their favorite broadcast radio or satellite radio stations. The New York Post notes, for example, that XM Satellite Radio filed several patents at the end of December that would enable the company to develop music downloading services and devices. An EVP from Clear Channel Communications also confirmed that, "Downloads are definitely on the list..."
From Crain's New York: Manhattan's Imaginova Corp. (formerly known as Space Holdings) has acquired Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, which sells telescopes and other astronomy equipment, for an undisclosed price. Space Holdings, which owns a number of astronomy and science-related properties like Space.com and LiveScience.com, was formed in 1999 during the peak of the Internet boom by CNN business news anchor Lou Dobbs.
Online grocer FreshDirect is "beginning to affect the Manhattan real estate business," according to this week's New York magazine. Many real estate brokers are using FreshDirect as a key selling point in winning over noncommittal buyers, with some buildings even going so far as to place stainless steel refrigerators in the lobby, right next to the doorman's desk and the mailboxes. Quite simply, "persuading New Yorkers to leave established neighborhoods for fringe areas, especially those buyers already struggling to find family-size apartments, has been easier than ever for brokers." FreshDirect has even helped allay concerns about neighborhoods like East Harlem: "FreshDirect changed the game. While were not like the rest of the Upper East Side, buyers cant use that as an excuse now."
McGraw-Hill and Digital Hollywood announced that one of the two headline speakers at the 2005 Media Summit New York will be Mel Karmazin, CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio. That's another feather in the cap for Sirius. Ever since it agreed to terms with radio shock jock Howard Stern, it seems that Sirius has been in the news on a regular basis. Since the theme of the two-day event is "Global Media + Technology Innovation = Communications Revolution," is it extrapolating too much to say that Sirius is helping to lead the Communications Revolution?
When not writing about the "new, happy, fun, grim meathook realities of marketing and advertising," Hugh Macleod at Gaping Void continues to crank out a series of cartoons that are often illuminating, disturbing and just plain laugh out loud funny at the same time. The cartoons are really no more than doodles, but they really capture the "incandescent lucidity" of living in New York.
Consider this cartoon from January 17: "In Manhattan, it's the carcasses that feed on the vultures." That's something for Martha Stewart, Dick Grasso and Sam Waksal to think over.
The New York Times has an amusing look at how Google is cracking down on advertisers who use improper spelling, grammar and slang: "Taking the stance that unorthodox usage and punctuation and slang create a less straightforward searching experience, Google's AdWords division, which is responsible for the contextual ads that appear alongside search results, insists on standard English and punctilious punctuation."
According to one Bronx Democrat spearheading the charge for stem-research dollars: "If the state of New York does not recognize the competitive need, our research scientists are all going to change their tune from 'I Love New York' to 'California, Here I Come.'"
The travel industry is making it easier than ever before for leisure travelers to "stumble upon" Wi-Fi hot spots. According to the New York Times, car rental agencies such as Hertz and Avis are the "latest to jump on the wireless bandwagon." The two companies have both started programs to let their customers surf the Internet in or near the rental car lobbies.
Thinking of traveling anytime soon? The article suggests that you check out Jiwire.com, which maps the locations of more than 21,000 publicly available hot spots in the United States -- including 822 in New York. In fact, according to a handy little chart provided by Jiwire.com, New York City has the world's third largest concentration of Wi-Fi hot spots, trailing only London and Tokyo.
According to Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times, at online travel companies like Expedia, "virtual travel agents are virtual no more." Look for Expedia (a unit of Barry Diller's IAC/InteractiveCorp) to open small kiosks and even retail shops in major tourist centers like New York and Hawaii. It's all part of an effort, say many analysts, to protect profit margins in the increasingly competitive online travel space. By establishing a physical presence in places like hotel lobbies, Expedia hopes to sell more vacation packages and destination services.
The New York Times takes a closer look at how Craigslist is circling the world with online classifieds, one city at a time. After expanding to London and Toronto in 2003, Craigslist added "a flurry of sites" (Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Sydney) at the end of 2004. Now, in 2005, Craigslist has plans to expand to a dozen or more new cities.
In the sense that Craigslist "bills itself as a community-based operation in the techno-utopian spirit of the early Internet," it bears more than a passing resemblance to Google, which emphasizes a "Don't be evil" mindset. As the article points out, Craigslist could easily charge for ads, but has thus far been careful not to. That's a lot of money left on the table, since the global market for classified advertising is close to $100 billion. But, as founder Craig Newmark explains, "Our site is a place to get simple jobs done. Life isn't fair, but we try to be fair to everyone. That's a fundamental value across the world, no matter where you come from."
The MTA is putting out an RFP for bidders to construct a high-speed rail link between JFK and lower Manhattan, according to the New York Daily News. The total cost of the project, which will create a "one-seat ride from the airport to lower Manhattan," could be north of $6 billion. The story points to $2 billion in 9/11-related federal recovery aid that could be used for the project, as well as $1 billion from the MTA and $1 billion from the Port Authority. Hopefully, taxpayers will not be on the hook for the remaining $2 billion...
It's almost guaranteed that Eliot Spitzer won't like this -- high-school and college-age kids from New York competing in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, a no-limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament in the Bahamas. At the tournament, kids who gamble online will match wits with old-time casino denizens in an attempt to snag prizes worth close to $1 million. After some initial resistance, online poker players are now warmly accepted in the real-world casinos: "At first there was really a tremendous amount of skepticism from the brick-and-mortar guys, in the same way they said when the VCR came out, movies would go away. But the industry has come to understand what the online card room component is... Many who start out playing on the Internet move on to land-based casinos, which is increasing the pool rather than somehow taking away."
For now, the old-time casino pros seem to have the upper hand -- but only until the young kids learn the tricks of the trade. In one example cited in the article, a college senior made the trip to an Indian reservation casino in upstate New York in order to refresh himself on the differences between online poker and poker in the brick-and-mortar casinos ("you can't auto-fold in a casino"). In another example, a freshman at NYU organized impromptu poker games in the dormitory to learn the finer points of Texas Hold'em.
The only company bold enough to challenge Starbucks, store-for-store, in New York City is Dunkin' Donuts. That's right, the orange-and-plum-colored donut giant "has begun a major push to expand in Manhattan and across the region. The goal is to create a total of 200 outlets in Manhattan over the next few years, at least matching Starbucks store for store."
However, as the New York Times points out, the newest Dunkin' Donuts outposts will not have wireless connections, cool music or "a sense of being at a destination, a place to hang out." At best, the new locations will have a "few chairs." With that kind of skimpin' on the rent attitude, it'll be hard to win over office workers who use Starbucks as a home-away-from-home. Moreover, in status-conscious New York, the down-market, "working class" image of Dunkin' Donuts is a definite liability.
UPDATE: Actually, it looks like Dunkin' Donuts is giving some thought to wireless Internet connectivity -- Glenn Fleishman points out that the company is experimenting with Wi-Fi in a few Chicago-area stores: "Starbucks, theyre not, but they offer cheap coffee (which is generally pretty good in my experience across the country) and piping hot fresh donuts without the thousand pounds of extra sugar (just a few hundred) layered on Krispy Kremes... Dunkin Donuts would be an interesting addition to the Wi-Fi landscape because their locations tend to be in my travels in parts of towns in which there is less of an accumulation of the kinds of businesses that already provide wireless access."
The Gotham Gazette reports that the L Train, which connects Williamsburg and the East Village, will become the city's first computer-run subway line by July of this year. The $288 million project will eliminate all train conductors along the L line, replacing them with a single computer-savvy (we hope!) employee. Just to give you an idea of the bureaucratic nightmare involved -- as well as the power of the entrenched transit workers' union -- the plans for a computerized subway first got off the ground in 1992. Then, in 1997, the city voted to make the L line the first computerized subway line. Now, in 2005, it looks like the project will finally become a reality.
In celebration of the first computerized train, Gothamist has an idea: "In July, we should plan a trip on the computerized train - we'll do the Robot Dance!"
As New York Jets coach Herm Edwards said, "You play to win the game." And that's exactly what supporters of the new far West Side stadium are doing, by taking on Cablevision with a little help from the Jets. The New York Daily News reports that "the Jets have joined forces with DirecTV, the nation's fastest-growing satellite-TV service provider, in a phone campaign to get New Yorkers to drop Cablevision." What's great is that the Daily News apparently got their hands on the actual script being used by direct marketers to criticize Cablevision: "You know, you don't have to support a monopoly that doesn't support New York City. You have another television choice besides Cablevision. That choice is DirecTV."
In the New York Times, Randall Stross points out the "transcendent greatness" of the Apple iPod commercials: "Their shimmying and shaking have firmly established the iPod as the icon of the dawning digital lifestyle and sped 10 million units out the door. Without saying a word, the commercials present viewers with a choice: orgiastic boogaloo-ing with the in crowd, or standing forlornly out of the picture..." The phenomenal success of the iPod means that Apple "has an absolute monopoly on the asset that is the most difficult for competitors to copy: cool."
The NYC Beercasting Squad, which includes Gregory Narain, will be at One and One on January 18 at 7:30 recording a new podcast. During these beercasts, New Yorkers gather over beers at local watering holes to discuss a wide range of topics, ranging from "what's your favorite hangout?" to politics and technology.
Verizon Wireless has completed the last stages of a $475 million capital outlay to enhance the company's wireless network in the New York Metro area. The $475 million investment included updating cell sites and other technology to improve call quality, increase coverage areas and allow a variety of advanced services such as wireless broadband computing, text and video messaging and other applications.
A senior Verizon executive comments on why the company chose to spend close to $1 billion over a five-year period to upgrade its wireless network: "The New York Metro region is an especially important market due to its high concentration of corporate and business customers and tech-savvy consumers. We're working hard and investing millions every month to be able to satisfy the ever-growing demand for the latest wireless technology."
In an open letter to CBS's Dan Rather, Jay Rosen of Press Think suggests that bloggers could have acted as a "feedback loop and failsafe device" in the CBS newsroom: "I would not go so far as to say that you, Dan Rather, need to write a blog. You don't. But take the money you spend on the person who is sometimes called your spokeswoman, and hire yourself a skilled blogger, to do a Dan Rather Reports blog. Here you post additional source material, put tapes of your interviews, and also explain yourself, react to crtics and follow up on stories aired by 60 Minutes. Participating in debate around the blog and online journalism worlds could be as simple as lose the spokesperson and meet with your personal blogger for 20-30 minutes a day. He does the rest. Morning talks are turned into posts quoting you; your blogger gets the links to go with them and "runs" the blog, including comment sections. Whenever you want to write, you do..."
Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion is launching a new Manhattan Project: "Next Wednesday, January 19, I am going to hit the streets of Manhattan for an hour or so to ask as many consumers as time allows three basic questions: 1) do you know what a blog is, 2) if yes, do you read blogs, and 3) which blogs, if any do you, read." The goal of the project, says Rubel, is to address the "gap between the media hype about blogs and the actual awareness of what they are." Most Internet users take blogs for granted, but there's a big slice of the population that still doesn't get it, according to Rubel: "When I talk about blogs to people who aren't heavy online users, they look at me with a blank stare like I have nine heads."
There's definitely pent-up demand for wireless Internet access in New York City (thanks Gizmodo, for helping to draw attention to the issue). At the same time, there's also a growing realization by elected officials that wireless Internet access can generate economic growth and solve a number of public sector problems. So why aren't more people jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon? The problem is that broadband providers view Wi-Fi as a direct economic assault on their bottom line: "The idea of local governments giving wireless access free to citizens has drawn fire from high-speed, broadband service providers, which believe the move encroaches on their business."
Philadelphia faced a number of bureaucratic problems in rolling out a citywide Wi-Fi network (hint: Verizon wasn't too keen on the initiative), and cities like New York would likely face the same kinds of roadblocks and obstacles if they decide to opt for publicly-funded Wi-Fi access. There is help on the way, though: "New York is on the verge of awarding multiple pilot projects to systems integrators that would serve as the precursor to a full-scale rollout of a citywide mobile wireless network. The pilot projects would be awarded to teams led by IBM, Motorola and Northrop Grumman IT... The full-scale project is estimated to be worth between $500 million to $1 billion."
Malcolm Gladwell kicked off his book tour for "Blink" (which looks at phenomena like "thin-slicing" and snap judgments) last night at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. He's already been featured in the New York Times, Fast Company and Slate, so I figured it was worth taking the time to see what the big hullabaloo was all about...
Judging from the size of the crowd, it looks like the new book will be a big seller, along the lines of The Tipping Point. The only problem is that so many of the observations in the book appear to be, well, obvious. Considering that his last book came out in 2000 and it's already 2005, I was hoping for something a bit more profound. Nevertheless, when I heard that major companies plucked down $40,000 a pop to hear him speak, I wanted to get a taste of the secret sauce. Gladwell started the book talk with a talk about the "snap judgments" that orchestra conductors make when they audition trombone players for new parts, and followed that up with the "spooky" fact that most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are three inches taller than the rest of Americans. In my opinion, it's not the fact that taller Americans make better CEOs, or that boards of directors like to appoint tall CEOs -- it's the fact that athletes have the type of poise, confidence and team-building skills that are in demand for the CEO position. And, well, most athletes are taller than the average person. So what's so "spooky" about tall CEOs?
In a 30-minute presentation, there were three major points made by Gladwell:
(1) So-called "snap" judgments are often extraordinarily complex and contain a number of hidden assumptions that we, as thinkers, may never even suspect.
(2) It is often the case that it is better to make decisions with "less" information, not "more" information. Too much information can lead to a form of analysis paralysis.
(3) While it may be impossible to change someone's opinion or thought process, it is possible to change someone's environment. By changing the environment, it is often possible to produce a very real impact on the final outcome.
Of these three points, #3 is probably the most important from a business perspective, followed by #2 and #1.
Did you buy tax-free cigarettes over the Internet within the past 30 months? Well, you'll be getting a nice little present in the mail quite soon: "Mayor Bloomberg blew smoke in the eyes of city puffers yesterday, saying he has no sympathy for those who bought tax-free cigarettes over the Internet but are just now getting hit with the tax bill." Letters sent out to city smokers will warn of a 30-day window to pay the tax bill for any cigarette cartons they may have purchased via the Internet within the past 30 months. The article notes that some smokers could be hit with tax bills approaching $10,000. Ouch.
The New York Post reports that "the once-glamorous TheStreet.com is on the block after a roller-coaster ride for nine years with its maverick founder Jim Cramer." Immediately after news of an impending deal went public, shares of the company traded up by as much as 20% (of course, at $4/share, there was nowhere to go but up...). It seems like ages ago now, but TheStreet.com had "once been one of Wall Street's hottest media properties in the 1990s dot-com bubble." Anyone interested in the future of the company should check out James Cramer's Confessions of a Street Addict, especially Chapters 17 & 18, where he discusses the company's blowout-the-doors IPO in May 1999.
There's been a lot of talk about "broadband black holes" in important outer borough neighborhoods like Red Hook, the Brooklyn Naval Yard and Hunts Point. Now, the New York City Council is trying to do something about it. At a meeting in Brooklyn, Agostino Cangemi of the city's Information Technology and Telecommunications department mentioned wireless as the "only solution the city can take on." According to a city official visiting from Philadelphia, "Wireless really gives you the opportunity ... to put technology into neighborhoods that could never afford it." Among those testifying at the City Council hearing was the CEO of Tropos Networks, who explained how metro-scale Wi-Fi and WiMAX mesh could help ensure that all outer borough residents and businesses have access to affordable broadband Internet service.
In New York, your personal identity is worth about 30 bucks
When identity theft is an inside job, there's not much you can do about it. Crain's New York reports that a former help-desk worker at a Long Island maker of credit software products was sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing 30,000 credit histories in "one of the largest identity-theft cases on record." The street value of one credit history is about $30, meaning the guy made close to $1 million, according to prosecutors in the case.
Using Verizon as a case in point, marketing guru Seth Godin declares that the position of CMO is nothing but a myth: "The myth of the CMO is the C part. They don't get to be the chief of the stuff that is really what marketing is all about today. CAO, maybe (Chief Advertising Officer) but not CMO... the CEO is the CMO."
And what would Seth Godin do if he were captain of the USS Verizon? "If I were the CMO of Verizon, I'd fix the call centers. I'd fire people with a lousy attitude who aren't afraid to share it with a customer. I'd reward the great ones (like the installer who came to my new office last week) and figure out how to get every one of their thousands of people to understand that THEY are the marketing department. And I'd shut down the outbound phone spam center immediately."
The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg takes the $99 new Apple iPod Shuffle for a test-drive and likes it: "I've been testing the new iPod Shuffle for a couple of days, and, in my tests, it fulfilled -- and even exceeded -- Apple's claims for convenience, battery life and song capacity. Sound quality is so good you can barely believe the music is coming from something so small." Of course, there are a few compromises to get the iPod Shuffle under the $100 price point, but so far, it looks like a shrewd move by Apple to win over more "lower-budget music fans."
The New York Times takes a look at the economic data and concludes that the economy recovery already underway in NYC is taking place without the participation of Wall Street. Instead, the hospitality industry is becoming the new engine of core job growth. Tourism is booming, real estate prices are skyrocketing upward, the ports are bustling, and employment figures are the lowest since March 2000 -- yet, Wall Street employment numbers are flat. Is it just a statistical anomaly (Wall Street historically leads the way in employment growth for the city) -- or signs of a cultural shift in the city brought on by outsourcing back-office white collar jobs to places like Bangalore?
According to one analyst interviewed for the story: "The firms are in magnificent condition... The issue is, that doesn't mean the money is going to filter down to the middle-class guy who used to work in the back office. That guy once could make himself a large salary. He had options, he had stock, he had a fat pension. He is now replaced by a machine or an office in Bangalore, India."
Hibernation season has its rewards, says Michelle Slatalla of the New York Times. While brick-and-mortar stores are cleaning out their racks in order to display their new Spring collections and, as a result, offer only picked-over remainders, "there's still plenty of good post-holiday sale merchandise available online."
Christopher Byron of the New York Post has the inside scoop on how bloggers (and a group of North Carolina newspaper reporters) helped to break up a pump-and-dump penny stock scheme. A group of ruthless stock promoters operated a multi-country, multi-state stock market scam over a period of at least eight years -- and SEC regulators were too undermanned or too overmatched to do anything about it... until bloggers entered the fray. (It's a great story, no doubt; unfortunately, the article doesn't actually name any of the bloggers involved.)
Byron does an excellent job of tracking the many incarnations of the fictional company, as it mutates from an aerospace company to a Chinese import/export specialist to a Hawaiian restaurants company to a company called HawaiiLove.com to an Internet gambling company to a health club company called Absolute Health & Fitness. Confused? Well, so was the SEC. It was a financial shell game, and as soon as regulators got wise to the story, it was too late. As Byron tells the story, "This company has had the lesions of fraud leaking from its every pore for years, and the SEC did nothing at all. Only after newspaper reporters in North Carolina and bloggers on the Internet did the work for the SEC did the commission even notice what was going on. And frankly, that's just not good enough. Shame on them."
P.S. If you're holding stock in a company called Juniper Group of Great Neck, Long Island, guess what? Yeah, you've been scammed -- it's actually a front for a company in Panama and an international villain named Marc Harris.
Noticed over at Craig Newmark's blog -- some brief remarks about charging for real estate listings: "Making sure: charging rental brokers in NY... for rental listings. We're not talking about charging for real estate for sale. Any of this will be preceded by a discussion which involves the community, that'll help us do it right." Charging for real estate listings on Craigslist has been debated for at least the past six months, so it looks like this is more than just idle speculation. For more on the business rationale behind the move, check out Will Swarts' article End to Free Web Ads May be Near. Says one Columbia University professor interviewed for the piece: "The thing thats had a huge impact on real estate is Craigslist. Its been revolutionary, and so interesting. I have seen something almost like fear when publishers talk about losing their classified franchises to the online world."
Which might explain the recently announced online revamp at the Village Voice...
With the NYC subway photo ban looming, New York magazine is calling for submissions from photobloggers: "New York magazine would like to publish a selection of photos from everyday subway-riders. Use your digital camera to take shots of trains, passengers, stations, token-booth attendants, defaced ads, rats in the tracks, supermodels waiting for the downtown local -- whatever captures your fancy underground..." (Hat tip: Gothamist)
ClickZ reports that VillageVoice.com is redesigning its Web site as part of an effort to make news updates available daily, rather than weekly. According to executives at the Village Voice, the changes could boost the site's online ad revenues by 50% over the next 12 months. The online version of the alternative weekly draws 1.6 million unique visitors monthly.
Ahh, the mean streets of Westchester, where one of the biggest quality of life problems is cyberbullies. We're not talking about the kinds of bullies who steal your credit card information via the Internet, encrypt e-mails with viruses and worms, or clog your blogs with comment spam. No, they're much more dangerous than that -- they call you "fat" or "ugly" or "unpopular" online (which, presumably, hurts much more than being called "fat" face-to-face). Not surprisingly, the parents of Westchester are mobilizing -- nobody has the right to call their wonderfully precious children horrible names. There's a - get this - "summit" planned for February 8. If you can't make the summit, at least sit down and watch Mean Girls, so you know who you're dealing with...
In "Old News is No News," Tom Watson does an admirable job of putting the current Blogger Nation v. Mainstream Media debate into much-needed context: "To say that blogs brought this "revolution" about is akin to suggesting that the Internet banished cave drawings as a means of mass communication. Network news half hours began peeling off viewers 20-odd years ago, and those people have never looked back. If bloggers are standing in their triumphant "I'm available to comment on Fox at a moment's notice" stance over the corpse of CBS News, they might glance down to notice that the body has rotted away to skeletal remains, with a bit of putrefied flesh still clinging to the bones..."
The problem, says Watson, is that most bloggers writing about the demise of CBS News can't see the big picture. They're spending so much time blogging about other bloggers blogging, that they don't take the time to glance up from their laptop computers. On that note, Watson's division of the blogosphere into two different groups is priceless: the "under-employed writers and commentators" and the "little nipping terriers from the right."
In the aftermath of the highly-publicized problems at CBS News, MSNBC's Howard Fineman writes about the demise of the American Mainstream Media Party:"A political party is dying before our eyes and I don't mean the Democrats. I'm talking about the "mainstream media," which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush's Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox's canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards. At the height of its power, the AMMP (the American Mainstream Media Party) helped validate the civil rights movement, end a war and oust a power-mad president. But all that is ancient history."
Which begs the obvious question: With mainstream media's reputation in tatters, can Blogger Nation transform itself from an opposition party into the ruling party?
The Gotham Gazette has the text of Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City address. There are only a few tech-related tidbits -- mostly embedded within larger initiatives such as "homeland security" or "economic development":
"During 2005, we're going to upgrade our crime-fighting technology. That includes our multi-year modernization of the 911 system and a major upgrade of CompStat, which will take it to the next level by establishing a Real Time Crime Fighting Center at One Police Plaza."
"Over the last year, some of the nation's biggest corporations gave New York their vote of confidence. Bank of America and Citigroup are building new office towers, and Virgin America Airlines has found new headquarters space in Lower Manhattan. Pfizer brought 1,000 new jobs to our city, with plans to create 3,000 more in the years ahead."
In a few weeks... we'll also select a developer for the East River Science Park. That will capitalize on our world-class health care institutions, diversifying our economy even more, and make us a leader in the growing biotech industry."
News that insurance giant AIG has applied for a dual listing on electronic exchange Arca Ex raises the obvious question: can electronic exchanges really take on the Big Board for stock market listings? The New York Stock Exchange, not surprisingly, claims that the answer is a resounding 'NO': "We do not expect to see any material difference in the trading of AIG. The NYSE will continue to be the primary market for the trading of AIG, for which we have an 82.4 percent market share in trading."
What's interesting is that AIG's decision to list on "electronic exchange upstart" Arca Ex seems to be motivated as much by emotion as by logic. After all, AIG's chairman, Maurice R. Greenberg, has "complained vociferously about the Big Board's market structure" and regulators have been poking around AIG, trying to determine whether there might have been improper trading of AIG shares around the time of a big acquisition. AIG, though, is putting its own spin on the matter: "Electronic markets can provide significant benefits to shareholders for efficient and transparent trading. Many market makers and others are moving toward, and investing in electronic trading platforms."
Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine thinks that, in the wake of the Rathergate flap, Viacom should just sell off CBS News: "The only cure for what ails CBS News is to sell it. I was going to say "kill it." But that would be wasteful. There is still a lot of good reporting coming out of this old, tarnished jewel. More reporting is better than less..." The obvious buyers, says Jarvis, would be other media companies like CNN or Fox News. Interestingly enough, the list of proposed suitors includes a couple of names that you wouldn't expect, like Yahoo and Google.
Venture capital may not be flowing the way that it did during the late 1990s, but deals are still getting done...
On January 4, NYC-based XMPie received $5.5 million in expansion round financing from Israeli VC firm JVP. XMPie's flagship PersonalEffect software "helps businesses get the increased responses of 1:1 marketing by making it efficient to design and produce highly personalized communications, in any media on demand."
On December 30, NYC-based eChalk, "the leader in online communication systems for K-12 schools," received $4.0 million in VC financing from Edison Venture Fund.
On December 23, NYC-based Cyota, "the world's leading provider of security and anti-fraud solutions for financial institutions," raised $7.2 million in fourth-round VC financing.
The New York Post reports that Mayor Bloomberg "may be getting ready to sell his financial information giant to fund a mammoth philanthropic effort after he quits public office." The estimated value of Bloomberg LP is $10 billion, according to investment bankers. That's a big chunk of change, and would allow Bloomberg to realize his post-mayoral charitable ambitions. (Hint, hint: he's mentioned Bill Gates as a role model) Among the rumored suitors for Bloomberg LP: Microsoft, Thomson and General Electric.
Speculation that the New York Times could start charging for online content has generated a fair amount of buzz online. Most people, it turns out, really wouldn't care -- there are so many other sources of information available online, that the New York Times is not nearly as relevant as it was even 12 months ago.
Joi Ito explains the changing business dynamic for publishers like the New York Times: "They have some great stuff and I read the paper version of the IHT and the NYT when I'm offline, like on an airplane, but there are so many free sources of information and ways to get to information online that the incremental value added by the New York Times on my news consumption habits wouldn't be worth the hassle and the price. I really believe there is great value in the brand and the organization that is the New York Times, but I'm not sure what the business model is. I'm sure the world is better off with The New York Times, but how do they survive?"
IBM plans to make available 500 of its software patents to anyone working on open-source projects. What's interesting is that IBM appears to be completely changing the way that it views patents: "The new model for IBM... represents a shift away from the traditional corporate approach to protecting ownership of ideas through patents, copyrights, trademark and trade-secret laws. The conventional practice is to amass as many patents as possible and then charge anyone who wants access to them."
Groklaw weighs in on the issue: "We are in a period of transition. Old business models are dying, and new ones are coming into being. And if there is a way to allow everyone to make money the way they want to, that may be, for now, as good as it gets. This is a creative response to the particular issue that GNU/Linux faces with patents, and I applaud it. In honor of this moment, we have a new category of stories, Patents, so you can find only stories on that topic on Groklaw." For more reaction on the move, check out the comments to the Groklaw piece.
Manhattan-based Zingy, the second-biggest ring tone marketer in the U.S., is making a big bet on future growth in the consumer ring tone market, says Crain's New York. The U.S. now accounts for $250 million of the $4 billion global worldwide market -- and that number could reach $500 million in 2005. While Zingy controls 25% of the U.S. ring tone market, the company's importance as an important middleman between music companies and the major wireless carriers could come under pressure: "Until now, music companies and carriers have been thrilled by the new revenue stream, but as the U.S. ring-tone market matures, they may start to wonder how to leave out the expensive go-between."
Over at PressThink, Simon Waldman comments on The Importance of Being Permanent: "Without permanence you slip off the search engines. Without permanence, bold ideas like 'news as conversation' fall away, because you're shutting down the conversation before it has barely started. Without permanence, you might be on the web, but you're certainly not part of it..."
According to Waldman, the Director of Digital Publishing at The Guardian, "permanence" is one of the most important characteristics of the Net, even eclipsing such factors as "immediacy" and "interactivity."
Gaping Void has some interesting observations on how the world of advertising is changing: "The future of advertising is clients increasingly asking their agencies to help re-invent not just their brands, but their actual companies. The future is agencies being increasingly unable to deliver on this. Out of this wreckage a new industry will emerge..."
Interestingly, the same dynamic appears to be at work in the PR industry, says David Parmet: "There's a similar model in the PR world. We're the gatekeepers between the media and the body corporate. But with blogging it's becoming increasingly impossible to tell where one starts and the other ends... Clients want the results - the media hits from us, the ads from you - not talk. Suits are incapable of giving them results."
It looks like the New York Times could begin charging subscription fees for online content that is currently free. There's no "imminent" plan in place, but there are certainly high-level internal discussions about how to monetize the site's 18.5 million unique monthly visitors. After all, The Wall Street Journal charges for online content, and it is increasingly clear that "many newspapers want to wean readers off free online content and transform their Web sites into paid-only publications."
Dan Gillmor weighs in on the speculated move: "I'd probably pay. Then again, I've been paying for Web journalism for years, for such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Salon and Consumer Reports (I even paid for Slate when it was charging). Part of my motivation has been to support online journalism. But part has been the value I received..."
NYC-based iVillage ("The Internet For Women"), has acquired Healthology, a privately held company that is a leading producer and distributor of physician-generated video- and article-based health and medical information on the Internet. The total price tag is $17.2 million ($15.5 million in cash, $1.7 million stock). According to the CEO of iVillage, the deal will, among other things, enable the company to "monetize the health and wellness space ."
The New York Post says that the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) "isn't just the world's largest annual trade show for consumer technology it's the place where geek fantasies come true." With that in mind, the article takes a look at the Top 5 "innovative, gee-whiz highlights" of the show -- like the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nyko Movieplayer.
As Jim Prendergrast points out in Vegas, Baby, Vegas, the show highlighted the numerous opportunities that abound for truly disruptive technologies: "The rumblings felt here at the Consumer Electronics Show this week were not the fireworks going off on the Strip. It was the sound of old business models crumbling under the weight of competition from new technologies. The disruptive nature of the new products and technologies announced here is a frightening development for long established businesses yet it provides tremendous opportunities for new businesses and consumers."
The New York Daily News has a preview of the upcoming National Retail Federation trade show at the Javits Center, where participants will "unveil a host of new gadgets that could give future shopping a whole different look." Two examples: a "shopping cart assistant" that mounts on a shopping cart and reminds customers about items they should be buying and a "portable shopping system" that scans items as they are added to a shopping cart, enabling consumers to keep track of the tab.
vloggercon 2005 will take place at the Parsons School of Design on Saturday, January 22. Don't worry about the velvet rope -- "Whoever wants to come is now officially invited." Oh, and all sessions will be video streamed on the Web.
According to Crain's New York, BBDO New York has won the advertising account for E*Trade Financial. In 2005, E*Trade may spend as much as $60 million across all media as it overhauls its current Join the E*volution campaign.
There's a difference between a "robust" IPO market and a "healthy" IPO market -- and right now, the IPO market appears to be more robust than healthy. Sure, deals keep getting done (242 in all of 2004), but the companies that are going public have financial profiles that are shaky at best. Consider Marchex -- the Seattle-area company went public when it was only 14 months old and had yet to post a profit. Yet, Marchex shares skyrocketed a dazzling 223% for the year, making it one of the IPO standouts of 2004.
Internet-dedicated mutual funds had a banner year in 2004, but that may not be enough to convince more investors to place their money in the red-hot Internet sector this year, says the New York Times. The main problem, of course, is that the Internet sector is unpredictably volatile -- in one example, an Internet fund was down 24% for the year in August, but still pulled out a 9.3% gain for the year, thanks to a stellar last quarter. These Internet mutual funds are also "incredibly expensive," due to higher transaction and tax costs.
From ipodder.org (via Dave Winer), some big news from WNYC (New York Public Radio): "NPRs On the Media, which WNYC produces, is now available for podcasting. This is the first National Public Radio program to take advantage of this new technology."
Truepictures on the announcement: "As a regular listener of the station, I can say with great confidence that WNYC is possibly the most well-run radio station in New York City. It takes the epitaph of "the medium is the message" combines it with a great production schedule -- in this day of 100% pre-recorded stations -- live programming to create a great package. I think other stations wouldn't be as successful with podcasting as WNYC will be. Another step forward for Public Radio and the sanity of those of us who cannot stand top-pop garbage."
For mobile office workers who find that it's more difficult to order from a barista at Starbucks than a wine sommelier at a fancy French restaurant: Starbucks Drinks Simplified. (Hat tip: Jason Kottke)
So, it looks like Nick Denton's Gawker Media has poached some top talent from Curbed and is reloading for 2005... Gothamist reports that Lockhart Steele will become the new managing editor of Gawker Media. "In this capacity," says Gothamist, "he will presumably parcel out fame and fortune, and crack the whip at his many blogger underlings..." There are worse things in the world than working for Nick Denton -- the Wall Street Journal recently named him one of the Top 15 People to Watch in 2005 -- ranking him alongside such luminaries as Kofi Annan and Apple's Steve Jobs.
On January 10, City Councilmember Gale Brewer tackles the issue of a possible broadband gap in Brooklyn at a hearing on technology issues held at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. Brewer is the chairperson of the City Councils committee on technology in government.
There's more about the Time Warner turnaround story at Forbes where investment manager George Putnam recommends purchasing Time Warner at $25 a share (the company's stock is trading at around $19 now).
Malcolm Gladwell's new book "Blink", which examines the science of split-second decisions, will be one of the most talked-about books of the year, yet a New York Times book reviewer takes him to task for "naggingly bad grammar."
Well, the end of the holiday season means that it's finally time to start checking the visitor stats again. More visitors mean more sponsors, preferably sponsors with really deep pockets. We usually use SiteMeter to check our statistics, but reBlog points out that there's another way to play the Web site statistics game: VisitorVille.
"VisitorVille is software that takes a new visual approach to web analytics; instead of representing website visitors simply as numbers or graphs, it displays them as real people in a real environment. You can watch your site traffic as if you were people-watching in a big city. VisitorVille brings your website visitors to life as animated characters in real time."
Wired Magazine calls it "SimCity for Traffic Nerds," while Lockergnome raves that "VisitorVille takes your normal, boring traffic and brings it to life."
The NYPD's Auto Crime Division helped to break up a national car theft ring that "chopped up hot wheels and peddled the parts on eBay." A spokesperson from eBay, though, quickly pointed out that, "If you are a criminal, eBay is one of the worst places to fence stolen property because the sellers have to give information about themselves."
New York VC Fred Wilson shares some exciting news about his portfolio company iBiquity Digital, which is at the forefront of HD Radio technology: "The leading radio broadcasters, 21 station groups in all representing the vast majority of radio stations in the US, have agreed to an aggressive rollout of a digital signal using the HD Radio standard. These broadcasters have specifically agreed to convert almost 2,000 stations in the coming years. These are the big stations, the ones with most of the listeners across the country. This committment is real and backed up with significant capital. But the most important thing about this deal is it says to the rest of the industry that digital is here and its the future of broadcast radio."
The announcement is ground-breaking, according to Wilson: "It's a new day for the radio business. We will see new devices, new services, new programming, and new listeners as a result."
Others like Atmaspheric, though, do not agree -- they see rivals like satellite radio continuing to chip away at the market dominance of broadcast radio: "I just cant see ever upgrading my radio to HD. Eventually it will be installed in cars at the factory, but Ill choose Satellite radio any day to get the diversity of programming and commercial free stations. Its well worth the subscription price of a CD per month. Just because its new and digital does not make it better. HD Radio is more like adding a new and improved burst to a box of detergent than anything else."
Finding a power outlet to recharge cell phones, laptops or other high-tech gadgets is a high priority when ducking into public places like Starbucks, says the New York Times. "Every day, millions of people are finding themselves scurrying about in search of wells of electricity they can tap so their battery-powered mobile devices can remain mobile. Dependence is growing on laptops, cellular telephones, digital music players, digital cameras, camcorders, personal organizers, portable DVD players and the latest hand-held gaming devices - most of which operate on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries - and finding available electrical outlets away from home and office has become more urgent."
Sometimes these mobile device users will take extreme measures -- the article cites the example of one Upper West Sider who "used to plug his laptop into an outlet hidden behind a large framed picture."
From Crain's New York: IBM is teaming with six major technology companies (Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, Infineon, AMD, Charter) to spend $1.9 billion on an expansion of chipmaking at its East Fishkill plant. Thanks to Governor Pataki, New York state will kick in another $150 million in financing for this project.
The New York Daily News discovers the new SmartSign Media photo exhibition at the Port Authority: "Operating on the notion that New York deserves art where it least expects it, SmartSign Media is presenting a month-long exhibition of images from Magnum Photos, the legendary photojournalism collective, on its 1,300-square-foot digital sign some 60 feet up the transportation hub's facade at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street." There are the iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X, of course, as well as recent photos from tsunami-devastated Indonesia and war-torn Iraq. SmartSign Media is calling the exhibition a "New Year's present" for New York. (Hat tip: Amy's Robot Links)
"New York has now had sustained job growth for more than a year and our private sector job count has increased in 13 of the last 14 months. Today, our unemployment rate is the lowest since September 11th and well below that of the nation. Site Selection Magazine ranks New York second in the nation in business climate and in new corporate facilities and expansions. And just recently New York was ranked second in the nation in "in-sourcing" attracting jobs from foreign-based companies..."
"On Long Island, OSI Pharmaceuticals just received FDA approval for a new cancer drug and will expand its operations, with the potential to create 1,000 new jobs during the next several years."
"Through our Centers of Excellence, we continue our unprecedented journey that has put us at the forefront of the global high-tech revolution. Already, our investments in these centers are paying off with new attention from companies both nationally and globally."
Sirius Satellite Radio has officially announced plans to offer video services for cars in 2006, using software from Microsoft. According to Engadget, it is just the most recent example of how Sirius has beaten rival XM to the punch: "This just after Sirius got Ford, Eminem, and Howard Stern? Its looking rough for XM, man, looking rough.."
Preaching to the converted is no fun. The real challenge is converting those who have absolutely no interest in a product, service or technology. In the case of blogging, the real challenge is converting the suits of Corporate America to the blogging religion. One blogger who is making waves is Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion. Not content just to write about the blog business, he's actually headed out on to the road to evangelize about blogs. He'll be in Greenwich, CT on January 12, in New York on January 21, in Florida on February 8 and in San Diego sometime during April. Oh, yeah, and he'll also be part of this year's Super Bowl halftime show. (Did I read this correctly? Or is this some old-school Gonzo Marketing?).
For more on converting the masses to blogging, check out Rubel's piece about The Silent Blogging Believers: "Deep inside some of America's largest, most well-known companies is an army of hundreds, perhaps thousands of influential blogging believers. They read weblogs, monitor them, analyze them and fully buy into their marketing potential. They come from different professions some are PR professionals/marketers, others are webmasters or IT gurus, while even more are corporate executives. What they all share in common, however, is silence..."
In the category of stupid neighbor tricks: a 38-year-old New Jersey father of three has been accused of pointing a high-powered laser device at two small aircraft near Teterboro Airport. For the past month or so, reliable news sources across the country have been reporting "similar incidents involving lasers... prompting warnings from terrorism watchdogs about the possibility of the devices being used to bring down planes." Whew. I guess we can put another crazy "terrorists are about to strike" plotline to rest.
The New York Post reports that State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has "turned his attention to Internet cigarette sales by warning credit-card companies to block orders from tax-free online tobacco companies." That means Web sites like Cigs4free.com and 00Taxfree.com/Indiansmokeshops.com will no longer be able to ship to New York customers without risking the wrath of Spitzer and his legal SWAT team.
It's unclear from the article whether Spitzer has the legal right to declare open war on Internet cigarette sales -- Cigs4free.com, for example, has apparently found a loophole and could start accepting credit card orders as early as today. A spokesperson for Spitzer clarified the matter, stating that only "letters of guidance" were sent to the credit card companies. Knowing Spitzer, though, it would probably be best to take heed of those letters...
NOTE: Just a word of caution -- if you actually try to visit Cigs4free.com, be forewarned. A message popped up in my Firefox browser window, warning that the site was being hijacked. Or something like that. Maybe it's just Spitzer playing around.
Looking for some fascinating post-holidays reading material? David Pogue of the New York Times suggests checking out Cinefex, a quarterly magazine dedicated to movie special effects technology. Each issue of Cinefex "describes how the effects were done in three or four movies, often taking 30 to 50 pages per article. Interviews with the effects artists, behind-the-scenes photos and anecdotes about failed approaches and abandoned plotlines make the proceedings even more interesting."
Jason Kottke suggests that "The Gates" project in Central Park (think saffron-colored fabric draped all over the park during a two-week period in February) will be "the most photoblogged event ever." The $20 million public art project is an attempt to create "a visual golden river appearing and disappearing through the bare branches of the trees, highlighting the shapes of the footpaths."
The Wall Street Journal kicks off its Las Vegas trade show coverage with a (free) article on why HDTV hasn't arrived in many homes. Manufacturers would love to meet the demands of tech-savvy consumers, of course, but "shortcomings in existing products, battles over technical standards and fear of video piracy" tend to limit the deployment of many cool new technologies -- including HDTV. Help could be on the way since "progress in speeding the delivery of digital content and technology will be a major theme among industry giants converging at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."
Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at NYU and the author of The Synaptic Self, shares his thoughts: "For me, this is an easy question. I believe that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness, but neither I nor anyone else has been able to prove it. We can't even prove that other people are conscious, much less other animals. In the case of other people, though, we at least can have a little confidence since all people have brains with the same basic configurations. But as soon as we turn to other species and start asking questions about feelings and consciousness in general we are in risky territory because the hardware is different."
The New York Times has an advance preview of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (January 6-9). With over 130,000 "techno-fashionistas" expected to attend, the event is a must-attend for any company making gadgets and gizmos.
Over the weekend, Blockbuster launched its latest salvo at online DVD rental king Netflix with a $50 million marketing campaign promising the "end of late fees." Yep, no longer will users have to pay late fees on their DVD rentals -- or at least, that's what Blockbuster wants you to believe. How else can they compete with Netflix's policy of "keep it as long as you want"?
With $50 million already sunk into the effort, it's no surprise that Blockbuster is touting the plan as the greatest thing since VHS rentals. "It was a great weekend," Blockbuster's New York regional director of operations Ken Crivello told the New York Daily News. "The response from customers has been spectacular."
But read the fine print -- it may be the end of "late fees," but not the end of "re-stocking fees" or the end of "penalties." If a consumer fails to return a DVD within 9 days of the due date, guess what? He or she will be forced to buy the title at standard retail price, less the rental price.
New York-based GuruNet has launched a new Web site, Answers.com, that will yield "succinct information" on any term in any document. Answers.com is a kind of "answers on demand" service, a broad-based "super-encyclopedia" of knowledge. Despite the superficial similarity to a search engine, the new service is not being positioned as a direct competitor to Google -- search engines return links, while Answers.com will return, well, answers. The CEO of GuruNet explains: "We believe sometimes you don't want to search for Web pages, and what you want is a quick definition. Sometimes people want information very quickly and that's not Google's strength. We are not competing head to head with any of the search engines. We complement or supplement their offerings. Google is in a league of its own."
As if that wasn't clear enough, CNET takes another approach in explaining how Answers.com differs from Google: "The key difference between GuruNet's Answers.com and a search engine like Google is that Answers.com offers an array of editorially produced reference materials, while search engines list Web pages their algorithms deem relevant to the search term."
There might be a few kinks to work out, though. A quick search of "Corante" at Answers.com resulted in a very polite, "Did you mean courante? " No! Corante is not a "17th-century French dance"!
Ever had one of those frustrating moments when cell phones go off at inopportune times during movies or other events? You know, the kind of moment when Mr. Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man pops up? Well, "a barrage of cell phones and walkie-talkies erupted during an appearance at a Queens school," and Mayor Bloomberg was not so pleased. In fact, he immediately promised to ban cell phones at any and all upcoming appearances. (The mayor's press secretary later clarified Bloomberg's position -- he would not ban cell phones outright, he would only request that reporters place their phones on "vibrate.")
Everyday citizens are "gushing with praise" about New York City's new 311 information service. But labor organizers, apparently, are not. In fact, they're a bit miffed. According to the New York Sun, they are now alleging that King TeleServices, a private company that employs 150 call operators in Long Island City to handle nearly 20,000 daily calls to 311, has launched a "vicious anti-union campaign" in an attempt to keep organized labor out. The company, however, denies that it has attempted to intimidate its employees.
Not sure about the math, but it looks like the privatized portion of the 311 service is fairly efficient. 150 employees to handle 20,000 calls per day? That breaks down to 133 calls per employee, or about 16-17 calls per hour per employee (assuming an 8-hour day). That's one call every 3.75 minutes!
Pull up a chair and grab a big cup of coffee -- Jay Rosen of Press Think has posted the Top 10 Ideas of 2004. As always, Press Think has some provocative thinking about wide-scale changes happening in the world of New Media. While the subject headings below tell much of the story, there's a lot more to mull over at the Press Think blog:
1. The Legacy Media.
2. He said, she said, we said.
3. What the printing press did to the Catholic Church the blogging press does to the media church.
4. Open Source Journalism, or: "My readers know more than I do."
5. News turns from a lecture to a conversation.
6. "Content will be more important than its container."
7. "What once was good--or good enough--no longer is."
8. "The victory of affinity over geography."
9. The Pajamahadeen.
10. The Reality-Based Community.
The New York Times takes a look at the trade-offs facing any Internet-savvy business traveler -- on one hand, it's nice to travel with as many gadgets and gizmos as possible; on the other hand, too many of these gadgets can overload bags and make transportation a tight squeeze. It's a choice between power and weight, says Susan Stellin. The article includes some nice tips on what to bring -- like Wi-Fi signal indicators, cable locks for the laptop, and thumb-sized flash drives.
Sirius Satellite Radio announced that it successfully broke through the 1 million subscriber mark in 2004, ending the year with 1.14 million subscribers. At the beginning of the year, the company boasted only 260,000 subscribers. The company's plans for 2005 are no less ambitious: to double its satellite radio audience to 2 million.
The site RateMyTeachers.com is now allowing parents to add comments, according to the New York Post. Parents will now be able to judge teachers in New York-area middle schools and high schools on a scale of 1 to 5 -- a move that the site's co-founder claims will force teachers "to engage parents as well as students."
Well, the honeymoon didn't last long, did it? Blogs and bloggers were the toast of the town in 2004, but just three days into 2005, there are signs of a blog backlash, says Gothamist. Legacy Media is not happy. More specifically, the New York Times is not happy. All those bloggers covering the tsunami in South East Asia are apparently disposed toward "crackpot theorizing" and "political smackdown" -- and in the process, blog readers could be getting a distorted view of the picture.
The AP reports that more bosses than ever before (even those in low-tech industries) are using GPS technologies to track workers and vehicles. The goal is simple: improve productivity and customer service while optimizing labor costs. Workers may complain about privacy issues, but managers maintain that GPS is all about "managing the business" and not "tracking people."
The head of a waste disposal company that does business in Connecticut and New York explains why it's worth the trouble to install GPS technology inside his fleet of garbage trucks: "If you're not out there baby-sitting them, you don't know how long it takes to do the route. The guy could be driving around the world, he could be at his girlfriend's house. Now there's literally no place for them to hide."
"I have been using Skype for the last 6 months and can honestly say that it not only saves a ton of money but more importantly allows me to end the phone-tag game with my porfolio company CEOs and easily communicate with them. Sure VOIP is great from a cost-saving perspective, but having presence is even more important in my mind. I know when someone is available to speak and when they are not-no more wasted time with voicemails or I'll call you back later..."
Hedge fund manager Peter Siris predicts a wave of "corporate marriages" in 2005, rippling through every sector in the economy, from healthcare to energy to financial services to tech. After all, "many companies are sitting with lots of cash and limited growth opportunities." Instead of paying higher dividends or launching stock buyback programs, many companies will head out on to the acquisition trail. In the software sector, that means more mergers like the Oracle-PeopleSoft deal; in the Internet sector, "companies with huge market valuations (Google, eBay, Yahoo) will snap up companies with attractive technologies or market niches."
On Sunday, the New York Post posted a list of 25 New Yorkers to watch in 2005. Mostly fashion/entertainment/sports names, but coming in at #11 is Malcolm Gladwell:
"The author and New Yorker magazine staffer's new book Blink is poised to be a best-seller. It's about how we make decisions all day long without even knowing we're making them. Look for it mid-January, and expect a crowd when he reads and signs this month at the Union Square Barnes & Noble..."
As much as we like the sound of music, the sound of money is even better. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Seems that some Wall Street financial pros are playing around with new auditory display software that translates market fluctuations into sound. A few Dartmouth grads figured out a way for "an orchestra pit full of instruments to convey complex information" about financial market fluctuations and then turned that idea into a company. Hear that clarinet or harpsichord? Could be a trade involving a large quantity of short-maturity treasury bonds. (Hat tip: Kottke.org)
Two hundred Upper West Side residents are slated to participate in Con Edison's Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) experiment. The idea is charmingly simple -- computer users in Manhattan should be able to plug into a power outlet in the walls of their buildings and receive broadband Internet access. For power companies, the tough part is convincing consumers that they should consider BPL instead of DSL or cable. According to the New York Post, this might not be as hard as it sounds: "Since power lines run everywhere, BPL has the potential to reach more customers, while eventually helping to drive down the cost of broadband Internet access."
Without a doubt, 2004 was an exciting year for the blogosphere. ABC News, for example, named bloggers as its "People of the Year" while Merriam-Webster named "blog" as its "word of the year." By some estimates, 27% of online adults now read blogs -- and that percentage will only grow over the next 12 months.