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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Note to readers: Will be taking a few days vacation next week, so will only be blogging and checking e-mail sporadically during that period. Since you're already here, why not take the time to check out some of the folks on the blogroll, or browse around the Corante site? Better yet, visit one of our sponsors and show them some love.
Apparently, Ryan Sager of the New York Post doesn't approve of Eliot Spitzer's crackdown of payola in the music business:
"Maybe Attorney General Eliot Spitzer should simply pay radio stations to mention his name on a daily basis as he gets ready to run for governor. That way, at least, we'd all be spared wastes of time and money like his recent investigation into music-industry payola..."
Sager questions whether Spitzer's crackdown on payola is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot: "The real question New Yorkers should be asking themselves is whether any of what Sony did is actually wrong or harmful to consumers. Payola is as old as recorded music itself. In fact, it's older..." In other words, it's business as usual, so stop with all the naivete. There are so many other ways for musical acts to reach consumers that radios no longer have a monopoly on what's popular. Cracking down on payola only leads to bland, faceless Top 40 formats, says Sager, where DJs no longer have any authority to determine what's played.
The New York Post had an amusing story on Thursday about a new comedy sketch, "Found on Craigslist," from the Upright Citizens Brigade that features hilarious and politically incorrect absurdist classics like "Chelsea Clinton Ski Trip," "What Crawled Over Me Last Night" and "Gays of our Lives." More details at Gothamist.
Just a reminder: this Tuesday at 6:30 is the monthly New York Tech Meetup. The Meetup is "informal and open to anyone - geeks, investors, entrepreneurs, hackers, anyone that wants to see or show something interesting." Kinda like a show-and-tell for the New York tech community, with a high likelihood of a drop-in appearance by the CEO of Meetup.com, Scott Heiferman.
A scary item in Newsweek: at a time when "health officials have been scrambling to stamp out polio around the world," a virologist at Stony Brook University has successfully assembled a polio pathogen from scratch. Why? Oh, come on, that's a silly question to ask a scientist: "The major purpose was to show that it can be done..." In other words, we did it because we wanted to, so leave us alone to spend our grant money however we want to. It's all legit, too, because the War on Terror (cue the spooky-sounding music) gives us the right to experiment with all kinds of ticking biological time bombs in order to protect us from (cue the really spooky-sounding music) the threat of Bio-Terrorism.
Newsweek follows up with a discussion of the trade-offs between biotech research and bioterror. The obvious question on everyone's mind: "If the polio virus can be made in a New York lab, what's next? Mail-order smallpox?" Around the U.S., all kinds of labs are now experimenting with deadly diseases, so what happens if one of these Black Plague-type of creations makes it out into the wild?
We're developing a strange fascination with gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer. Love him or hate him, he's just more interesting than George Pataki. It's already clear that Spitzer will provide considerably more blog fodder than just about anyone else during the gubernatorial campaign because he's not afraid to take on the Establishment (with a capital 'E').
Anyway, Spitzer was in Schenectady this week, trying to win over New York's high-tech leaders. The easiest way to do that, of course, is to bash the governor over the head while he's not looking. According to Spitzer, the governor has shown little or no vision for how to develop New York's high tech sector:
"We are not capitalizing throughout the SUNY system, through our private universities; we're not capitalizing on the opportunities presented by bringing together educational systems and the economy and government to build the foundations we need for our economic growth."
Of course, some would beg to differ with Spitzer: both the nanotech and semiconductor industries have heaped generous praise on Pataki, with many giving the governor credit for making upstate New York a destination site for new R&D work. For now, it looks like Spitzer will try on his new "friend of high-tech" persona in places like Albany - if it helps him, he may bring the act to places like Long Island and New York City.
The New York Post has a warning for all the day traders out there: "Don't make trades on your wireless computer unless you know how to shoot down a new breed of high-tech pirates tracking your accounts." At least, that's the advice of the NASD, which apparently has just discovered the wonderful world of wireless Internet networks. (That happens sometimes with regulators -- they're always the last to know) Small cells of Wi-Fi hackers have apparently infiltrated Wall Street, with the ability to "tap into almost any WiFi network and lift personal information and even transfer holdings into their own hands."
For the blog voyeur in all of us, there's a funky five-minute video of "Lockhart Steele, Big Apple blogger" up at Inman Stories Online. For those of you who don't know him, Lockhart Steele is the founder and creative genius behind Curbed, New York's premier real estate blog. Follow Lockhart around the city as he gets into and out of New York City taxi cabs, walks up and down stairs, and adds a blog entry about Chelsea's proposed High Line development. (Hat tip: Fimoculous)
If you're interested in getting inside the head of another A-list blogger, there's also an interview with Elizabeth Spiers of Media Bistro (and before that, Gawker) over at the 92Y blog. On July 26, Elizabeth participated with a number of media experts, including Bill Grueskin of The Wall Street Journal, on a panel discussion about the future of online media.
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is hunting for more dirt on Dick Grasso, former head of the NYSE, and may have found exactly what he was looking for -- a super-secret second e-mail account that may yield more insider secrets:
"Yesterday, during a routine hearing in New York State Supreme Court, Spitzer's office filed a discovery motion related to an additional e-mail account of Grasso's: email@example.com. A lawyer with the AG's office declined to comment on whether Grasso's primary e-mail account, firstname.lastname@example.org, has yielded evidence aiding their civil suit."
Apparently, Spitzer doesn't realize that there is a third, even more secret, e-mail account that links Grasso to all kinds of phishing scams and viagra rip-offs: email@example.com.
The New York Post opens the kimono of Cablevision Systems: it turns out that the Dolan family's plan to take the company's cable systems unit private in a $7.9 billion deal is already in trouble. New Jersey-based Penn Capital Management, which owns 0.04% of the company (86,000 shares), sued to block the plan, claiming that the buyout offer was "triggered by a family feud" and that "Cablevision should have the corporate opportunity to sell those assets to the highest bidder."
Wall Street deal advisors (who are paid as a percentage of the total transaction size), meanwhile, seem content to let the two sides battle, pushing up all the banking and legal fees. In Wall Street jargon, there's "incremental value that the Dolans' offer has left on the table."
Business Week has a great story & slideshow dedicated to the future redesign of the traditional yellow cab. 2007, after all, marks the 100th anniversary of the New York City taxi, so it's almost time to think about "the cab for the next century." With that in mind, the Design Trust for Public Space, in collaboration with the Parsons School of Design, initiated a project ("Designing the Taxi") to come up with innovative ways of thinking about the yellow cab experience.
Pictured is an airport taxi stand for New York City airports. Weisz + Yoes came up with a high-tech kiosk for travelers: "Not just merely a dispatcher shelter, this version has multiple plasma screens with news on the weather, traffic conditions, and landmark scenes of the city to help orient frazzled travelers. It echoes taxis' yellow color for easy orientation and provides brochures and information for queuing passengers."
Everybody knows that IBM researchers are some of the best in the business. According to the New York Times, Yahoo is now attempting to tap into IBM's talent pipeline, especially the highly sought-after scientists who pioneered an advanced search-engine technology (codename: Clever) at IBM's Silicon Valley R&D facility. The race among search engine companies for the best and the brightest is underway:
"With the defection of a prominent computer scientist, Kai-Fu Lee, from Microsoft to Google last week, the Yahoo recruiting is part of a rush of interest among search engine firms in acquiring research talent that will provide an edge in developing a new generation of search technology."
Here's a prediction: mainstream media publications will scrap their plans for yet another "the best managers in the world are found at GE" for an article claiming that "the best researchers in the world are found at IBM."
Andrew Rasiej, candidate for the office of Public Advocate, continues to come up with innovative new ways to address everyday problems in the city. Yesterday, Gothamist pointed to a new Website created by Andrew Rasiej's campaign team: We Fix NYC. The site will track and document potholes in order to "build a photographic map of where they are and how long it's taking the city to fix them..." Information is then posted to a Google Map.
So, if there's a pothole in your neighborhood, here's what to do:
"Reporting a pothole is easy. Just take a picture with your cell phone or digital camera, and then send the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to include the address or intersection where the pothole is located, otherwise we won't be able to mark it on our map."
The July/August issue of Consulting Magazine has an interview with IBM's Bill Pulleyblank, leader of the team which developed Blue Gene - the worlds fastest computer. Pulleyblank offers a behind-the-scenes look at the company's Center for Business Optimization, which combines researchers and mathematicians with front-line business consultants.
The New York Post is prone to sensationalizing any new story, and the battle over the future of the New York Stock Exchange is no exception. According to the Post, dissident seat-holder William Higgins, who is against the NYSE's merger with Archipelago, apparently received a death threat on his office answering machine. Like something out of a Goodfellas-type movie, an anonymous caller warned Higgins that he "better have somebody start his car if this deal doesn't go through..." According to Higgins, the NYSE has also engaged in a smear campaign against him, both online and in the mainstream media.
A new survey from Salary.com ranked the top 10 "sexy" jobs. No surprises that firefighters (FDNY rocks!) came in #1 or that jobs like lawyer, doctor and CEO also ranked highly on the Top 10 list. However, news reporters came in at a very impressive #3. As Paris Hilton would say, "That's hot."
In the New York Times, there's a look at the new plan by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to experiment with hybrid vehicles. It took a bit of political arm-twisting by the New York City Council and Mayor Bloomberg, but the hybrid vehicles are finally here! (check out the handy graphic comparing horsepower, rear leg room and miles per gallon for different models)
According to environmentalists, hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Accord generally have higher fuel efficiency and fewer harmful emissions than conventional cars. With that in mind, other cities - such as Boston and San Francisco - have already embraced the idea of hybrid vehicles.
It's not official yet, but it appears that Governor George Pataki will not seek re-election in 2006, clearing the way for a possible presidential bid in 2008. The decision by Pataki also means that Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is the clear frontrunner to win election as governor next year, especially since both former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld have basically taken themselves out of contention as a replacement candidate for Pataki.
The New York Daily News claims that the MTA is maintaining a "secret database of people stopped and questioned for filming or photographing bridges and tunnels as part of the agency's efforts to thwart terror." Apparently, the database is under the auspices of the MTA's Interagency Counter Terrorism Task Force, but it's not exactly clear how this information is shared with the Department of Homeland Security or other anti-terrorist agencies.
While we applaud the MTA for doing its share in protecting the bridges and tunnels of the city, it's still a bit creepy to think that the MTA - an agency that can't seem to make the subway trains run on time - has tasked itself with assembling a secret dossier of information on individuals. What's next, the US Postal Service creating a top-secret file of individuals known to have received correspondence from Iraq or Afghanistan?
Long Island-based Computer Associates has acquired California-based Qurb, an email software security provider, in an all-cash deal. According to Crain's New York, the deal will beef up the company's security management portfolio. Security management -- protecting against phishing and other forms of email fraud, for example -- is a market segment with room for growth, as anyone with a PC and an email account can testify. Just last month, Computer Associates also acquired Tiny Software, a provider of desktop firewall technology.
Want a "hot summer beach read" full of intimate details about the dating life of a twenty-something New York woman? You won't find it at Barnes & Noble or The Strand, but you will find it in the blogosphere... The New York Times profiles Stephanie Klein, the "Carrie Bradshaw of New York bloggers. According to Technorati, her Greek Tragedy blog ranks in the top 1% of all blogs, giving her instant name and face recognition in the New York area:
"Today the blog has an international readership with fans who recognize Ms. Klein when they see her gallivanting around Manhattan and the Hamptons, and who find parallels to their own lives in her candid, freewheeling stories."
And that's not all: Klein now has a book deal ("Straight Up and Dirty") and a TV deal with NBC for a 30-minute comedy series.
Venture Voice has posted another in a series of podcasts with entrepreneurs, this time a 30-minute interview with Scott Heiferman of Meetup. Heiferman covers a lot of ground, including the creation of Meetup (Meetups a really stupid, simple idea that couldnt have been done before 2002"), the launch of New York Tech Meetup several months ago, and the role of Oprah in introducing new ideas to the masses:
"Theres one holy grail for anyone who cares about getting anything no disrespect to the blogosphere but Oprah is where anyone should want to be. Weve never gotten there, but if you really want mass America to know something, dont think its anything but Oprah that can do that in 2005."
Good stuff, and thanks for the extensive show notes, Greg.
After three years and $1.2 billion in R&D expenses, IBM unveiled a new line of mainframe computers - the z9 - that is "not only twice as powerful as its predecessor but also intended to make it easier for corporations to encrypt vast amounts of customer information and to bundle the workloads of many smaller computers onto an IBM mainframe." Mainframes represent only a small percentage of revenues these days for IBM, but are an important way to land follow-on consulting work and sell other products and services. Whatever you've heard, the mainframe computer is alive and well, says an industry analyst:
"IBM is doing what it needs to do, which is to continue to invest in the mainframe to take on new workloads, so it's clear it is not an old technology and that the mainframe is not dead,"
InfoWorld has more on the debut of the z9 mainframe line in New York, where IBM executives emphasized three key themes: openness, virtualization and collaboration.
Slate takes a probing look at whether random subway searches conducted by the NYPD are legal. The answer? It depends. There is one basic test that these searches must pass:
"According to legal precedent, a random search is acceptable if it fulfills special needs like public safety. If New York's subway screenings are challenged in court, the city's lawyers could argue that the program's primary purpose is to protect the city from terrorism."
However, as Daniel Engber goes on to explain, proving this is sometimes harder than it sounds. Roadblocks used to screen drivers for drug-related crimes, for example, have been struck down as unconstitutional, as have random bag searches at last year's Republican National Convention in NYC.
Bottom line: even meeting the first test ("special needs") is not enough if the searches are deemed to be an invasion of privacy or if the police unfairly singles out certain people for the screening. And, as Michael Bloomberg found out this week, lawyers can really turn up the heat when bad things happen to good people -- such as when a group of British tourists were handcuffed and forced to kneel on a Broadway sidewalk in the blistering summer sun. As these Sikhs from Britain found out, parts of New York City have become real tourist traps during the summer...
Many New Yorkers are fanatical when it comes to their FreshDirect online grocery service. However, it looks like the honeymoon period for FreshDirect is drawing to a close -- while many New Yorkers still maintain that the grocery service saves them time and money and helps them eat healthier, a small but vocal minority complains about the packaging, about trucks idling in the streets and the "disconnection FD has created between consumers and their food...."
Apartment Therapy is running a quick survey in an attempt to separate myth from reality. Do you use FreshDirect -- and if you do, how often? (Hat tip: Curbed)
Business Week takes a potshot at Barry Diller, CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp, saying that his earlier plans to become "the Internet's first swaggering Hollywood-style mogul" have fallen flat: "Like many Hollywood extravaganzas... Diller's production in the last two years has strayed from its script."
The upshot: while other glamour Internet stocks like Yahoo and Google sizzled, Diller's IAC was a flameout. Now, it's time for Plan B, says Business Week, as Diller bundles together his online travel businesses (Hotels.com, Expedia.com, Hotwire, TripAdvisor.com) into a separately traded company (Expedia Inc.). IAC will remain, holding a "grab bag of companies" like Ticketmaster, LendingTree and Ask Jeeves.
Eliot Spitzer has temporarily shifted his focus from Wall Street to the music industry, cracking down on what he calls "bribes" and "payoffs" paid to influence decision-makers who determine what songs are played on the air. The New York Times has the details of the legal settlement between Sony BMG Music Entertainment and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, in which Sony BMG Music Entertainment agreed to stop providing extravagant gifts, free trips and other giveaways in exchange for airtime for its artists on radio stations.
Expect more on this over the coming months: "The settlement... is the first in a broad investigation by Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general, into incentives that record companies offer to radio stations in hopes of getting airtime that will raise their artists' profiles, increase a song's ranking and, of course, drive up sales."Among the other companies targeted by Spitzer: Universal Music Group, the EMI Group and the Warner Music Group.
If nothing else, we now know why Jessica Simpson and J. Lo - both represented by Sony BMG - get so much airtime in key rotation slots.
The New York Daily News makes this sound more exciting than it really is: shopping from your sofa with a TV remote control. According to a spokesperson for the Electronic Retailing Association, "Interactive television is exploding. There's virtually no end in sight to the possibilities of improving the consumer's shopping experience."
Excuse me, "improving the consumer's shopping experience"? You mean, selling lots of products to brain-dead couch potatoes willing to make impulse buys as they flip through hundreds of cable channels?
One of the leaders in the trend toward interactive shopping via the TV, not surprisingly, is home shopping giant HSN, which has already lined up a number of brand name merchants like Wolfgang Puck, Nicole Miller and singer Patti Labelle. Other companies involved in the push to separate you from your dollars include QVC and Shop NBC.
Crain's New York courts the stoner crowd this week with a behind-the-scenes look at New York execs who like to smoke a little 420 after a hard day's work: "For many of these otherwise law-abiding citizens, taking a few tokes of their favorite illicit substance is simply their preferred way to decompress. Though they might conceal their after-hours smoking from their co-workers, they insist that, used in moderation, the evil weed doesn't have to hurt job performance."
In the New York Post, Christopher Byron breaks down a global stock swindle involving a shadowy financier from India who's wanted by Interpol but may be "wandering around New Jersey even as we speak." As Byron explains, "the swindle that began on the Calcutta Stock Exchange in the autumn of 2000 as a pump-and-dump scheme, spread like an oil slick until it had swallowed a New Jersey-based software company that Dalmia controlled called Allserve Systems."
Byron descends into the dark world of offshore IT outsourcing, investigating a series of phony deals and gray market transactions, only to find that ripples from the stock swindle "now lap at the unlikely feet of two of the American media's best-known business figures: The chairman of the Warner Music Group Corp., Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Philip Geier Jr., the retired CEO of the Interpublic Cos., the global advertising company." (Memo to self: never sit on the board of a company that you've never heard of)
If you tune into Byron regularly, you'll find that he does a great job of turning over rocks, sleuthing around shell companies, and digging through obfuscating financial filings. As this example shows, the paper trail often winds up in some fairly unlikely places.
The challengers to Netflix keep appearing like the heads of a multi-headed hydra that refuse to die. Just when Wal-Mart had exited the DVD rental business, it looks like Netflix will soon be doing battle with another retail giant with a worldwide brick-and-mortar presence: McDonald's. Yep, that's right. Mickey D's is on its way to becoming Mickey DVDs with the creation of a new subsidiary called Redbox Corporation that specializes in automated DVD rentals. So far, Redbox has only expanded to seven states, including five locations in Hartford and 19 in Washington, DC. New York, though, is only a hop, skip and shuttle ride away.
Dave Taylor of the Intuitive Life Business Blog, explains why Redbox could revolutionize the business of DVD rentals:
"It wasn't until I visited their Web site that I knew why this company is one to watch, and why agile little Redbox is going to redefine the entire world of DVD rental... It turns out that Redbox is a wholly-owned subsidiary of McDonald's Corporation, which was a delightful surprise: while McDonald's might not be where I personally go for something to eat, I certainly recognize that it's an omnipresent company with a remarkable reach into both our society and culture. Who better to tilt at the windmill of traditional DVD rental than a multi-billion dollar mainstay of the corporate world beloved by millions of people?"
Craigslist New York went live five years ago, giving New York Magazine the perfect opportunity to reflect on how Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, has impacted a variety of different sectors and markets -- from reality TV shows to vintage furniture to, of course, real estate. The site receives more than 50,000 posts (not visitors) per day. New Jack City is now New Craig City.
Alan Meckler, the CEO of Jupitermedia, admits that he's not a "big fan of the ultimate commercial value of Social Networks," which means that he's less than impressed with Rupert Murdoch's $580 million acquisition of Intermix:
"So what did News Corp. get? Based on quotes from various sources at News Corp. they seem to be most pleased with increasing their Web traffic. One source stated that they had doubled their page views etc. This statement made me wince. Perhaps News Corp. is back in the 1990s and they think the just bought The Globe and Tripod?
I thought that most people had learned since 2000 that traffic does not mean revenue (and or profits). Contrast this purchase with The New York Times buying About.com or Dow Jones' purchase of Marketwatch.com. Both of these media giants paid huge premiums, but they bought real businesses."
With the goal of making cellphone snooping a felony crime, Senator Charles Schumer has introduced new legislation that would effectively close a legal loophole: "Stealing someone's cell-phone records is absolutely a criminal act and the fact that it can't be prosecuted as one has got to change." In addition, Schumer called on the Federal Trade Commission to set up a unit dedicated to the elimination of cellphone scamming.
Following the news that China has revalued its currency, Crain's New York speculates about the impact on New York's economy of a stronger yuan.
According to Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, the move "could help break the political logjam between China and the U.S. and eventually lead to more Chinese investment here... For many global companies based here, China is the most important market for growth. We stand to do nothing but gain."
Among other things, that means more Chinese businesses setting up shop here, more Chinese investment in U.S.-based companies and more Chinese tourists traveling to New York. On the flip side, it also means that goods made in China will become more expensive for Americans (the classic "Wal-Mart effect") and that interest rates could rise (impacting both the U.S. bond market and the real estate market).
Skimming through the latest issue of the Bay News, happened to run across a profile of Flatbush's SHEE, a "hip-hop recording artist, songwriter and, now, an aspiring web game hero." One of the videogames is "SHEE is Sheer Badness," which features SHEE "fighting off her enemies with two guns while wearing high heels and a miniskirt." A big hat tip to SHEE -- she made it out of a Flatbush housing project to become the first person in her family ever to graduate college. Now, she's got a mater's degree from Central Michigan University and runs her own record label, Sheer Badness Entertainment.
The New York Times takes a look at the world of open source radio programs:
"Now a new Public Radio International program, "Open Source from P.R.I.," will test whether the collective intelligence permeating the Web can make not just loud radio, but smart radio. Not only does the program pull from unfiltered voices and opinions found on blogs, Open Source uses its own blog to cull ideas and sources from its listeners."
Thus far, the program is available in two formats: as streaming live audio online and as a podcast. Starting August 1, though, Open Source could begin broadcasting on XM Satellite Radio.
What enraged her bosses most of all was the scandalous tales of corporate perks lavished on anyone in a position to write up beauty products reviews -- items like "Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, yearlong gym memberships..."
Over at her Jolie in NYC blog, Nadine Haobsh (the anonymous blogger) has a few words of warning for other insider types who plan to spill the beans:
"To all you would-be bloggers out there: even if you truly are "just being funny" or "don't really mean it", think before you write. And definitely don't write about your industry: things will absolutely be taken out of context or interpreted incorrectly, and that's just not fun for anybody."
According to Jossip, Ladies Home Journal is now putting in place a blogging policy to dissuade other would-be bloggers to dish out the dirt.
As noted earlier today, three cellphone service providers - Sprint, Nextel and T-Mobile USA - have been sued by the city for allegedly deceptive advertising practices. We use the term 'allegedly' here - but decide for yourself. This stuff seems pretty blatant. The New York Post has some examples of print ads that don't pass the proverbial smell test:
Sprint: "Nationwide long distance included. EVERY MINUTE, EVERY DAY." However, a footnote cites "an additional $0.25 per minute for long distance."
T-Mobile: "FREE LONG DISTANCE" and "FREE ROAMING" but a footnote adds that "billing of roaming charges and minutes of use and services may be delayed" and that "call duration may be limited."
Nextel: "ALL INCOMING CALLS ARE FREE" but read the fine print: "An additional access charge of either $0.10 per minute multiplied by the number of participants on the call . . . or a monthly flat fee."
A big hat tip to the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs for taking on these cellphone companies. According to the Post, Nextel, Sprint and T-Mobile USA are facing fines of up to $500 per violation.
On his campaign blog, Andrew Rasiej recently invited New Yorkers to come up with "21 New Ideas for the 21st Century":
"Were looking for your best suggestions. Got an idea how to make life in New York City better, safer, smarter? How to improve education, or make it easier for people to find housing or health care? Or how to make your community more livable, or your commute more bearable? Send us your suggestions, and well add yours to ours to produce 21 new ideas for the 21st century."
At this point, you're probably wondering: What's in it for me? Well, I'll tell you: if your idea is picked as one of the 21 best, then you'll win a free wireless router and a lunch with Andrew Rasiej. If you really impress Andrew and his campaign staff, one supposes, that lunch just might be at the 21 Club in midtown.
Ever signed up for a cellphone contract after being lured in with promises of free incoming calls, free long-distance, and free cell phones for other members of your family and then found out that all kinds of strings were attached? The New York Daily News has the latest on the lawsuit filed by the citys Department of Consumer Affairs against Nextel, Sprint and T-Mobile USA. In the lawsuit, the city accuses the three cellphone companies of using deceptive advertising to sell wireless services and equipment.
Jonathan Mintz, head of the Department of Consumer Affairs, explains why some of the ads are so tricky: "Theyre telling you one thing in the large print and taking it away in the fine print. Any way you slice it, thats illegal."
MIT Technology Review and Michael Zimmer, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Culture and Communication at NYU, recently got into a minor tiff over the social impact of technology.
Zimmer kicked things off with a withering critique of the magazine:
"Technology Review just doesn't understand the complex relationship between technology and society... At times, they've provided thoughtful insights into emerging technologies and trends, but too often, they seem to ignore many of the social impacts of the technologies they exault. In short, TR too often engages in technological utopianism without properly assessing the social, value and ethical implications of our emerging technologies."
Then, Technology Review fired back:
"It is grossly unfair to accuse Technology Review of utopianism. We are, if anything, aggressively skeptical about new technologies. We worry about whether novel technologies will work as advertised, and we fret about the unintended consequences of such technologies when they do work. We are not fools: we also know that all new technologies are human artifacts and are good and bad in so far as we make them so."
Without choosing sides in this debate, it's fair to say that Zimmer raises a good point: is it really only "social" technologies like blogging and instant messaging that have a social impact on technology? Or do all technologies, in one way or another, influence the way that we interact with each other.
The do-it-yourself media movement -- whether it is blogs or podcasts -- has been gaining momentum recently. Mix in the success of call-in voting on shows like "American Idol" and it's perhaps no surprise that NY1 is creating a do-it-yourself TV broadcast programmed entirely by viewers:
"NY1 News has introduced "The Call," the first television newscast to be programmed exclusively by viewers... The newschannel is providing web users with a tool just like the one NY1's producers use to program their newscasts: A computer-generated rundown of all the stories available for that night's broadcast. Users can drag-and-drop the stories into the order they desire, then submit their personal rundown to the show's producers. The 9 p.m. broadcast will reflect the average of all the rundowns received that day."
Oh boy, I hope that doesn't mean a lot of Jessica Simpson, J. Lo and Michael Jackson on the 9pm news.
Apparently, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to be a successful Wall Street investor... According to the New York Post, a group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and the University of Iowa recently published a paper in a respected scientific journal concluding that "brain-damaged investors are more successful." Brain-damaged investors do not experience fear, and thus, are more able to take risks that rational investors would not be able to take. More risk, more reward.
Jim Cramer (the host of "Mad Money" on CNBC), though, dismissed the findings as "pop psychology," noting that an element of fear is important to any investor -- it keeps you from making some break-the-bank types of decisions. A lack of fear, he says, does not make you a better investor - only a foolhardy investor.
Not to be missed - at the end of the piece, The New York Post takes a gentle swipe at Cramer: "Cramer, who champions rationality despite the fact that he begins every "Mad Money" by being led into the studio in a straitjacket..."
Hot off the presses: The NYPD will begin conducting random searches of packages and backpacks carried by people entering city subways. In the wake of the terrorist bombings in London, it's easy to see why these measures have been enacted by Mayor Bloomberg. Foreign tourists probably won't have a problem with the new policy, but it's easy to see why some New Yorkers may object. The NYPD, acknowledging these concerns, says it won't engage in racial profiling, but let's face facts: that sweet-looking grandmother hobbling down the steps to the subway probably doesn't pose the same threat as a twenty- or thirty-something male from a non-European ethnic background.
Anyway, plan to add 10-15 minutes to the commute. Oh- and leave the bulky gym bags and bulging backpacks at home.
The explosions in London today - coming just two weeks after suicide bomber attacks in the London Underground - remind us again of just how difficult it is to protect any city's transportation system. Earlier this week, the New York Daily News had an update on the MTA's "first wave of major anti-terrorism projects," including the installation of high-tech surveillance systems to protect the underwater tunnels leading into Manhattan:
"The systems will be able to detect intruders entering the 14 subway and commuter rail tunnels leading into Manhattan - sending alarms and images to Metropolitan Transportation Authority police and anti-terror staff in command centers, sources said. Cops would be dispatched immediately to thwart any possible attack."
It's a solid step forward, but the article hints that the MTA has been dragging its feet on the whole process. Despite having access to more than $500 million in funding for anti-terrorism, the MTA has spent only a miniscule fraction of this money -- money that can be used to protect New Yorkers.
Last month, the New York City Council Committee on Technology and Government held another hearing on affordable broadband Internet access for all New Yorkers. Over at Government Technology, John M. Eger (the former telecommunication advisor to Presidents Nixon and Ford) follows up with a concise look at why broadband Internet access is "as necessary as water, electricity and a telephone in an earlier era, and indeed, such broadband Internet service maybe the missing link to reinventing and renewing our cities for the global knowledge economy."
The only problem, says Eger, is that "traditional cable and telephone companies are preventing municipalities from developing their own aggressive broadband strategies. The telecom industry, long dominated by AT&T, now the so-called Baby Bells, together with the large and equally powerful cable communications companies, have joined forces to prevent any municipality from providing wired or wireless infrastructures of any kind."
Curbed points out that The Real Deal is now podcasting: "You're about to absorb a high-powered blast of information about the Manhattan real estate market via The Real Deal's first real estate podcast, with Jonathan Miller of appraisers Miller-Samuel... When you see us at the gym, you know what we'll be rocking out to on our iPod."
Over at Newsday, John Valenti points out that it may soon be possible for New Yorkers to take six-hour defensive driving courses online if legislation drafted by a Long Island politician is signed into law by Governor Pataki. A similar system is now in use in 15 other states, including California, Florida and Texas. The online course would cover standard defensive driving topics: driving techniques, road signs, accident avoidance, alcohol and drug awareness and regulations.
IBM's IT services unit, which now accounts for half of the company's worldwide annual revenue and more than half of the company's global workforce, has grown so big and so unwieldy that the company is splitting the unit into two separate pieces: a unit that will focus on high-end business consulting and another that will focus on the more mundane task of running corporate data centers.
There are a number of other factors at play, as well. Not the least is that a 30-year IBM veteran who was running the IT services unit recently jumped ship for more lucrative career possibilities at a leading private equity firm. In addition, IBM is moving to protect its turf from low-cost Indian outsourcing companies like Wipro Technologies, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.
If you're into podcasting, this is definitely something to keep an eye on: Click&Buy, a Manhattan-based e-payment service for digital content, is putting the finishing touches on software that will allow podcasters to sell content online for a small fee:
"Consumers will be able to pay for podcasts via credit or debit card when using the Click&Buy service. The software also converts currencies, so consumers do not have to pay currency conversion fees if they are buying a foreign podcast."
Other companies -- including iVillage, ABC.com, Kiplinger and Dolphins Gym -- have already used the Click&Buy system to sell digital content such as music and games online.
Under intense pressure to boost circulation and trim costs, John S. Carroll, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, stepped down yesterday. That move, of course, led to a lot of hand-wringing and navel-gazing by the MSM. New York Times editor Bill Keller, who knows a thing or two about newspapers losing credibility, says that the line between newspapers and blogs continues to blur:
"We've only got two things that distinguish us from blogs. One is we have reporting staffs who actually go out and see stuff and are trained professionals. And we have standards which are enforced by editors you double-check things, make sure it's right and all that costs money. If you aren't giving people the basics good reliable news, smart analysis and in-depth investigations then all they're going to see is the same stuff they can get on cable TV."
The Empire Journal has an excellent discussion of how blogs and other forms of Internet communication play an important role in guaranteeing the right to free speech. They enable us to voice our dissent with government and the powers-that-be and prevent the "heavy hand of censorship" from "slamming its fist down on people who dare to express their First Amendment right..."
We agree wholeheartedly with all that. It's a bit harder, though, to understand The Empire Journal's support of former New York City cop Edward Polstein, who was recently fired for putting up an overly-chatty Internet chat board about the NYPD. Now he's filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that he was the victim of retaliation and reverse discrimination.
Is Polstein a do-good whistleblower who is being unfairly punished for publishing a Web site? Or is he an embittered former employee who was given sufficient warnings by the NYPD, violated the terms of his retirement package and willingly sought to humiliate top brass at the NYPD with a series of rants and politically-motivated cartoons? Sometimes, me thinks, it's all too easy to hide behind First Amendment rights.
Which is better, XM Satellite Radio or Sirius Satellite Radio? That's like asking who's better, the Red Sox or the Yankees? With radio, it often depends on the DJ, and with baseball, it often depends on the pitcher. (Even with Melky Cabrera in center and Tony Womack in left, we still like our chances when The Big Unit is on the mound.) The New York Daily News weighs in with its own evaluation of the two competing satellite radio providers in three different categories (oldies, country, popular standards).
Choosing a clear-cut victor may be difficult, but consider that Sirius offers an all-Elvis channel and, starting next year, an uncensored Howard Stern.
Curbed points to the "before-and-(maybe!)-after" images of Apple's Flatiron mini-store. It's not just TekServe that is concerned about Apple's invasion of the Flatiron district, says the real estate blog of the New York Observer: a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission has characterized Apple's new design as "brutally modern, and nothing to do with the context of the neighborhood." A former board member admitted that it was a "great-looking building" but that it was simply "in the wrong place."
Somehow, when Rupert Murdoch promised to unveil a revolutionary new Internet strategy for his global media and entertainment empire, we weren't expecting this: a book blog for the New York Post. Yes, everybody's favorite tabloid newspaper in New York has apparently launched a New York Post Book Blog. Every month, June to November, the paper will recommend two paperbacks: one fiction and one non-fiction. There's also some kind of promotional tie-in, in which books promoted on the blog are also promoted in the paper on Mondays.
For those keeping track, Rupert Murdoch also launched a new Internet unit, Fox Interactive Media, at News Corp. last week. It will be interesting to see how The New York Post, just one link in Murdoch's worldwide media empire, fits into the company's overarching Internet strategy. In June, remember, Murdoch gave a wake-up call to newspaper editors around the world, warning them to embrace the Internet and step forward into the 21st century.
The New York Times takes a closer look at who's watching the city's 14 underwater subway tunnels. Somewhat surprisingly, given their vulnerability, nearly half of the tunnels have not been continuously guarded by the NYPD since 9/11. With the recent terrorist attack in London, though, the police department is scrambling to come up with a solution that will prevent intruders from entering the tunnels. Devising a full-blown strategy won't be easy, warns the Times:
"The question of how best to safeguard the tunnels is among the most vexing for the police and transportation officials struggling to address the many security challenges posed by the country's busiest mass transit system. It involves decisions about money, personnel and technology."
Maybe the idea of combining satellite radio assets with terrestrial radio assets wasn't such a good one anyway... Business Week is skeptical that Sirius Satellite Radio will make a play for Disney's radio assets. According to sources contacted by Business Week after published rumors of a Sirius-Disney radio deal appeared in the New York Post, a far more likely scenario would be a tax-free spin-off of the radio assets to Disney's shareholders. An analyst from S&P explains why a Sirius-Disney deal would not make sense:
"The deal would significantly dilute Sirius' long-term profile. It's not clear to us that there would be compelling synergies that would arise from the relatively incompatible business models for satellite and terrestrial radio."
A new video game due to be released in the fall, True Crime: New York City, claims to have "the most authentic depiction of the Big Apple in a video game." According to Activision, "the streets are accurate as a global positioning system -- and feature real-life things like subways, landmarks and real neighborhoods like Harlem, Chinatown and Times Square."
Judging by an earlier game, True Crime: Streets of Los Angeles, the new NYC-based video game will feature generous amounts of blood and gore, mature sexual themes, strong language and gut-wrenching violence.
Cablevision has already lined up two blue-chip Wall Street investment banks - Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers - to advise on a buyout offer from the Dolan family. In addition, Cablevision's board has formed a special committee to evaluate the offer. In June, the Dolan family offered to take Cablevision private in a $7.9 billion cash-and-stock deal that would lead to the company splitting off its TV networks and sports teams into a separate entity (Rainbow Media Holdings).
Whatever happens at Cablevision is worth watching, especially the continuing twists and turns in the family-son drama between Charles and James Dolan. Is it possible that the Dolan family will really live happily ever after?
Calling all font fanatics! You know, the type of person who isn't entirely pleased with the traditional Times Roman/Arial/Garamond selections in MS Office. Check out the FontHunt, a citywide "typographic scavenger hunt." It's time to get your font freak on. (Hat tip: Gothamist)
Last summer, a mini-scandal erupted when Mayor Bloomberg appeared to condone wine consumption at opera and classical music events in Central Park, but urged cops to crack down on illegal beer consumption at public beaches in Coney Island. It's a double standard, critics charged: why should upper-income wine drinkers be given a free pass?
Now, Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News is opening up that can of worms once again. This time, he calls into question the MTA's support of alcohol consumption on the LIRR, but its decided lack of support for beer-drinking on the city's subway system:
"If it's okay for a beach lover to have double-Johnnie-rocks on the MTA/LIRR Montauk line, a vodka gimlet should be okay on the F train to Coney. What's good for Bay Shore oughta be good for Bay Ridge. So what gives?"
The bar cars on the LIRR are so popular, writes Hamill, that they have even spawned a Web site, BarCar.com, dedicated to them. The site has a retro-50s feel to it -- as well as features like "Overheard on the Bar Car," a classifieds section, and random photos of commuters.
NOTE: A number of readers have written in, pointing out that BarCar.com is not in any way connected with the LIRR. It's a site for commuters on the New Haven line out of Grand Central. Thanks.
Interested in wireless connectivity that goes everywhere you go? The New York Times explains how any small- or mid-sized company can set up a roving Wi-Fi hot spot with the use of the Junxion Box from Seattle-based Junxion.
As part of the (ahem) research for the article, Johanna Jainchill of the Times goes backstage at the filming of an episode of "The Sopranos" at a country club in Scarsdale. By using the Junxion Box, the production company was able to set up a mobile multi-user Internet connection outside of a dressing room trailer. Staff members were then able to tap into the Junxion Box and use their laptops to exchange messages and documents with the production offices at Silvercup Studios in Queens.
Newsday has the details on the New York Flora Atlas, a new Internet-based resource for tracking all forms of flowers, trees, shrubs, and plants "from Montauk to Niagara Falls." According to the director of the New York Natural Heritage Program, the Web-based reference is "designed to give insights into the landscape of New York - not only what grows where, but how rare certain plants are and how quickly invasive species are spreading... We're constantly finding new things in New York, and sometimes we're discovering species that are native and they just haven't been noticed before because it takes a hard-core botanist to pick them out."
This is something that only the blogosphere could produce: a Carnival of New Jersey bloggers. An Internet 'carnival' is not actually a real-world event, explains the New York Times, it's a collection of Web log entries on a shared topic, such as politics, food or sports. In this case, it's Joisey.
And why New Jersey and not New York City or Long Island?
"New Jersey was made for the blogosphere, right down to the Asbury Park Tillie icon on the carnival logo. The state is small enough that whether you live in Bergen or Hunterdon you still have an opinion on the best pizza or sausage and pepper sandwich at the Jersey Shore, drive on the same turnpike, and both contribute to the Jersey Joke syndrome and bristle at it. The politics are so obviously dysfunctional everyone shares everyone else's pain. Everyone has an attitude. And over the past decades, almost without people realizing it, the pop culture New Jersey of Springsteen/"The Sopranos"/"Garden State," etc., has changed the way people think about their state."
The New York Times is pushing the term Halli-blogger into broader use: the paper points to a recent article on Salon by Zachary Roth ("Beware of the Halli-Bloggers'"), which warns of potential loopholes in the campaign finance laws that would enable corporations such as Halliburton to finance political blogs.
In last week's Tempo section, the New York Post profiled 34-year-old Cindy Maria Quezada, a scientist at Rockefeller University on the Upper East Side, who was one of five American women to win LOréals annual Women in Science award. According to the Post, Quezada is already a real role model for Latina women in the sciences. After leaving San Salvador with her family in 1980, Maria is now studying bacteria at the bio-molecular level -- work that could be of immediate value in preventing a bio-terrorist attack.
Anyone passing by the Brighton Beach/Coney Island area this weekend should pick up a copy of Bay News, a local Brooklyn publication that has some great coverage of issues affecting local residents. The cover story is almost impossible to miss: in about 40-point font, the front cover screams "STEM CELL RESEARCH: The Controversy Comes Home to Brooklyn." (Oh, and as a bonus, there's a color photo of Coney Island bathing beauties) Apparently, Representative Vito Fossella, a Bay Ridge-Staten Island Republican, held a press conference at a Brooklyn hospital to raise public awareness of the stem cell research issue. Big props to Representative Fossella -- he's one of about 50 House Republicans who broke ranks with President Bush and voted in favor of expanding public funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Planning on booking a last-minute weekend getaway with Delta? Not so fast, says Newsday. Delta Air Lines yesterday raised some ticket prices by as much as $100, citing "spiraling fuel costs that threaten to push the carrier toward bankruptcy." Bad news travels fast in the airline industry, since three other major carriers - Continental Airlines, United Airlines and USAirways - also decided that, hey, fuel costs are kinda high, now that you mention it. Without giving it a second thought, these airlines also matched Delta's fare increase "almost immediately."
One airline consultant on Long Island expressed surprise at the size of the fare hike: "I was surprised by the $100. I would have guessed a $20 change..." Considering that the price of oil has spiked by about $20 in the past six months, we kinda like that $20 figure too.
The folks at the NYPD have been busy reading Philip K. Dick novels this summer, we see. On Thursday, the NYPD unveiled a new $11 million high-tech crime-fighting center. CBS 2 picks up on the sci-fi/futuristic look of the center: "Mixing elements of Mayor Michael Bloombergs media empire and the science-fiction film Minority Report, the New York Police Department has created a high-tech nerve center to provide officers instantaneous data about crimes, suspects and even convicts tattoos."
"The crime center looks fancy, sort of like a TV control room meets what Hollywood thinks police departments look like (but usually only in futuristic films, like Judge Dredd). Mostly, as much as this is good for the NYPD, this also sounds like the Mayor's answer to CompStat, which was Mayor Giuliani's claim to dramatically decreasing NYC crime."
The Union Square Metronome has been the source of endless speculation in the New York blogosphere, regularly appearing on the pages of Gothamist and Curbed. in the wake of New York's failed 2012 Olympics bid, Curbed wonders whether the metronome is "counting up toward an unknownperhaps unquantifiabledestination. An attempt to reverse the planet's polarity? To slip us into an infinite wormhole? To turn back time and change the inevitable crushing outcome?"
This weekend, Governor George Pataki will be testing the waters in Iowa for a possible presidential bid in 2008, says the New York Times. Iowa, of course, is one of the key states for any Republican aiming for the party nomination. Governor Pataki said in an interview that it was "far too early to decide on a presidential race," but that he would start to finalize his political plans around the end of September.
Marvel must be feeling flush, especially after the box office performance of recent movies starring Spider Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Now, The Motley Fool reports that Microsoft and Marvel have joined forces to put Marvel characters into massively multiplayer online games developed for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. The deal was announced at, of all places, a comic book convention.
The Motley Fool puts the deal into context:
"One of the soundest investment arguments backing Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Marvel is its ability to make its intellectual property work in so many channels. Licensing its characters for videogames is no new thing, [but] this is Marvel's first foray into massively multiplayer online games, which is a particularly promising segment of the videogame industry. As far as Microsoft is concerned, gaining a cache of well-known characters is a logical step as it competes with Sony's PlayStation and Nintendo's Gamecube, not to mention the massively multiplayer online games that are available for the ubiquitous home computer without requiring a console."
Good news for Long Island-based OSI Pharmaceuticals, with Canadian regulators giving their approval for Tarceva, the companys lung-cancer drug. Tarceva, which OSI developed in partnership with Genentech, was approved in the United States last November, and is expected to be approved in Europe sometime soon.
Thinking about launching a new start-up in the New York metropolitan area but not sure where? Try Newark. Yes, that's not a misprint. According to Business Week, "the New Jersey city had a long slide but is now climbing back and luring new businesses with a great location and cultural amenities... A comeback kid of sorts, Newark has begun a promising transformation over the past decade."
In many ways, Newark's rebound is a function of its location -- midway between Philly and New York with easy access to a major airport. There's more going on beneath the surface, though, says Business Week. After a period of neglect, though, will Newark be able to overcome its negative reputation and lure the types of small businesses crucial to its future success?
Thanks in large part to strong growth in iPod sales, Apple Computer reported a blowout quarter yesterday that "far outpaced the expectations of financial analysts." Net income increased to $320 million, while total revenue increased by 75%, to $3.5 billion. Apple reported sales of 6.1 million iPod music players during the quarter, which amounted to $1.1 billion in revenue. That's an increase of 16% compared to the previous quarter and an eye-popping increase of 343% compared to the year-earlier period. For those doing the math, that's about 68,000 iPods sold per day. Business must be brisk at the Apple store in SoHo...
All that hand-wringing on Wall Street about falling demand for iPod players turned out to be overdone. As The Guardian (U.K.) points out, "the third-quarter figures should go some way to allaying fears on Wall Street that the digital music market had begun to cool."
Weblog publisher Jason Calacanis notices that uber-blogger Jeff Jarvis is rockin' out a new look over at BuzzMachine. (Check out the screen shot Jason captured for a hint of what Jarvis might have in mind for his popular citizen's media/politics/technology blog)
Jossip has the details on how Chris Mohney, the creator of the Gawkerist blog, wound up as the editor of Gawker Media's Gridskipper travel blog. Mohney explains on Mediabistro how he landed the blogging gig:
"The 'stunt' I pulled was writing an anonymous blog called Gawkerist that paid an absurd level of attention to Gawker Media blogs and bloggers. Everything about Gawkerist was meticulously, cynically planned, except the end resultactually working for Gawker Media publisher Nick Denton... Since New York media types were always interested in Gawker Media (albeit sometimes begrudgingly), it seemed like a logical topic to attract their attention."
"Eyebeam R&D seeks inaugural fellows to work on creative technology projects in the Eyebeam Open Lab. The fellowship is a unique opportunity to participate in a new kind of research environment and contribute to the public domain. The Open Lab is dedicated to public domain R&D. We are seeking artists, hackers, designers and engineers to come to Eyebeam for a year to develop pioneering work. The ideal fellow has experience creating innovative creative technology projects, a love of collaborative development, and a desire to distribute his or her work as widely as possible."
For anyone who's interested, applications are due by August 15th.
Information Week notes that IBM is preparing a new set of blogging tools for commercial launch next month. According to one analyst who had been formerly skeptical of IBM's dedication to blogging, the release of Weblog Preview is "a big step for IBM as well as for blogging and RSS delivery of collaborative content in general... While blogging may be viewed by the public as a hobbyist's plaything, it is serious for business productivity and IBM - like Apple, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft - is on the bandwagon..."
Mimi New York, who skyrocketed to notoriety with her uninhibited look at the world of New York strippers and the perils of U.S. immigration, explains how to run a sticky blog. Step #1, says Mimi, is to generate some controversy. Then focus on building and cultivating a fan base, link by link: stop by other blogs frequently, respond to fan mail, and self-promote like crazy.
A new study from Helsinki concludes that large companies that are run by women tend to be more profitable than those run by men. There are a lot of statistical problems with the survey (say the men), but the numbers are nevertheless representative of the situation in the business world (say the women)...
The New York Post is speculating that Sirius Satellite Radio is considering a bid for Disney's ABC Radio unit. The asking price, according to initial estimates from Wall Street investment bankers, could be north of $3 billion. Rumors about a Sirius/Disney deal were stoked when journalists spotted Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin and Disney CEO Bob Iger hobnobbing at last week's media mogul conference in Sun Valley.
New York-based Catalyst Group Design, which launched its CoFactors blog earlier in the year, has released a Blog usability report that looks at how basic blog features and design are perceived by Internet users. Not surprisingly, most of these users had no clue whatsoever about RSS. Somewhat disturbingly, though, "few participants even recognized that they were on an actual blog and once they did, had a very different reaction to the information presented." Moreover, "a minority of participants understood how to navigate within the blog itself with most being confused by areas for recent posts, categories, trackbacks and even the comments and archives functions."
What's interesting is that even a relatively mainstream blog operated by a major media company -- like Business Week's Well Spent -- presented more than its fair share of challenges to users. While blogs may have already reached a critical mass, the results of this Catalyst report highlight that there are a number of user-experience issues that still need to be resolved by blog publishers everywhere before blogs truly become mainstream.
"In a move that ackowledges the shift in news consumption from TV to the web, CBS News has announced plans for the launch of a 24-hour, broadband news network which will become the centerpiece of the network's news delivery platform. The new CBSNews.com site will include broadband video, a weblog, called "Public Eye," written by Vaughn Ververs and on-air reporters will produce online segments throughout the day."
According to CBS execs, the move is a nod to the fact that viewers are "increasingly looking for news and information at all times of the day, not just during scheduled periods, and using the Internet for that purpose."
Gothamist follows up on the ringing debate over whether cellphone service should be available in NYC tunnel crossings. In the wake of the London terrorist bombings that involved cellphone-detonated explosives, the authorities-that-be ordered cellphone service turned off in the tunnels. That order was overturned, in part, because commuters want to have cellphone service in the tunnels as a safety precaution. Nobody really knows the full story, with the NYPD and Port Authority involved in a high-level flap about who said what, when.
Looks like all that's required to be a venture capitalist these days is a fat Rolodex, a BlackBerry, and a little curiosity about new technology. The New York Times reports that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is joining legendary Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins as a 'part-time' partner. Both Rudy Giuliani and Al Gore have also dabbled in the world of private equity after stepping down from public office, and so it comes as no real surprise that Powell would be courted by dealmakers in Silicon Valley. At least he's not staying in Washington to work for The Carlyle Group, which is chock-full of former diplomats and bigwigs who invest in defense sector firms.
Time Warner could be ready to consolidate its market position in the cable industry with an acquisition of Cablevision, surmises the New York Daily News. (Although CNN says that any Cablevision deal is definitely on the backburner until Time Warner's Adelphia deal goes through) At a media retreat in Sun Valley last week, Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons hinted that a deal for Cablevision would make sense at some point in the future. In June, the Dolan family offered to pay $7.9 billion to take the company private (about $33.50 a share); a Time Warner bid would be closer to $35-$40 a share, say analysts.
"The imaginative program... allows tourists, technophiles, New Yorkers and budding directors alike to enjoy Samsung gadgets around the streets of New York, creating memories of their experiences in this dramatic city. Visitors can choose from Samsungs newest SportsCam camcorder, a digital camera, or the DuoCam combination Mini DV camcorder/digital camera to borrow for up to three hours at no charge. Once the unit is returned, users have the option to burn the image content they recorded on to a souvenir DVD or to print up to three free photos with Samsungs new digital photo printer."
Samsung says that this innovative "technology loaner" program is the first of its kind in the industry.
A hat tip to Jen Chung, Jake Dobkin and the rest of the editorial staff at Gothamist: while the rest of the city was slumbering away on the beach or in air-conditioned lofts, this Gotham City-based Internet media empire has been rapidly expanding to every corner of the known world -- or at least the parts of the known world that have broadband Internet connections: Paris (July 12), Philadelphia (July 11) and Shanghai (July 11).
According to the New York Daily News, an Internet bulletin board known as NYPD Rant has landed its creator, police officer Edward Polstein ("Polecat") in big trouble with the city's finest. The problem is that the bulletin board turned into a "forum for disgruntled cops," with controversial postings from other NYPD officers that included potshots at top police brass and the police union. After the bulletin board started attracting as many as 60,000 visitors daily, Polstein was notified that Internal Affairs was taking a closer look at the site; yet, Polstein still persisted in some of his antics and provocative tactics (i.e. posting pictures of Adolf Hitler and unflattering cartoon portraits of his boss).
New York Magazine polled 100 commuters outside of Grand Central for their take on the London terrorist bombings and what it all means for the Big Apple. Only 5% of New Yorkers said that they were now less likely to visit London and 62% said that they would be willing to work in the new Freedom Tower.
"He's soliciting entrepreneurs to send him their company pitches on a recorded audio file, which he downloads for later listening on a bike ride. There's minimal hassle: Entrepreneurs simply tag their audio files at http://del.icio.us with an identifier that Wilson subscribes to, via RSS."
Sounds like a pretty cool idea -- and a great way to level the playing field in the clubby world of venture capital. The days of the 30-second elevator pitch are over: say hello to the brave new world of the 3-minute VC podcast.
In case you missed it, mega-convenience chain 7-Eleven opened its first Manhattan store yesterday. (Technically, it's not the company's first store ever in Manhattan -- but the previous store shut down in 1982) Opening the new store on July 11 (i.e. 7/11), of course, was a no-brainer. As The Globe and Mail points out, there was additional symbolism in the choice of date: "The Manhattan opening coincided with the 40th anniversary of its Slurpee beverage, a slushy mix of ice and syrupy flavours, that was first served on July 11, 1966." The big question, of course, is whether 7-Eleven will be able to compete with all the delis and bodegas in the city.
If you follow the financial markets, you're probably familiar with CNBC's Squawk Box crew of Joe Kernen, Mark Haines, David Faber, Steve Liesman and Becky Quick. Anyway, the popular Squawk Box TV program recently launched a companion SquawkBlog using MSN Spaces. SquawkBlog is not updated that frequently (or at least, not as frequently as one might expect from a financial markets blog), but it was first out of the box with several breaking news stories, like the resignation of Morgan Stanley's Stephen Crawford. There's also a daily supply of new photos and a link to Larry Kudlow's Money Politic$ blog.
Anyway, in late May, TVNewser caught up with Squawk Box senior producer Matt Quayle for his take on how SquawkBlog ties in with Squawk Box:
"It's like The Today Show for business -- it's a morning show for business news junkies and investors, and it's the show of record -- it used to be for many many years -- and I want to return it to that. Getting to know the personalities on the show is a very important aspect of that... It's only been a week, but I think it's going pretty well. The goal is interactivity: To give the viewers more access to what I think is the best aspect of the show, which is the talent."
Just when the size and richness of Philip Purcell's $113.7 million severance package was starting to sink in comes word that Stephen Crawford, who served as co-president of Morgan Stanley for a paltry three months, is taking home $32 million in compensation after stepping down from the board. As might be imagined, the arrangement with Morgan Stanley's board is already raising the eyebrows of compensation experts: "CEO's get hired and fired every day, but their lieutenants don't get multimillion-dollar packages to walk away. You have to scratch your head and ask, what was the board doing?"
RCR Wireless News notes that VoIP users are finally able to access 911 in New York City. The move is huge, according to VoIP providers: "The deployment of the VoIP E911 solution in New York City represents a significant milestone in the evolution of 911, providing VoIP subscribers in New York City with the same level of emergency response as traditional wireline service." From the article in RCR Wireless News, it's apparent that a lot of political maneuvering went into the move. In fact, an exec from VoIP provider Vonage called it "four months of Kabuki Theater" in NYC, as the different parties met and argued and debated.
In a 78-page white paper issued last week, New York State's Public Service Commission opined that Verizon Communications' proposed takeover of MCI could produce "significant" consolidation in large- and medium-business markets. The PSC called the potential consolidation "troubling" and emphasized that smaller telecom providers might not be able to provide their services to medium and large customers in the event of a Verizon-MCI combination. Information Week has further details on possible remedies suggested by the PSC that would preserve competition in key market segments.
Verizon, as might be expected, defended its move and called the New York market "robustly competitive."
Boonty, a Manhattan-based distributor of downloadable video games, has raised $10 million in series B venture capital funding. The new investment financing will be used to expand Boontys technology as well as sales and marketing operations in North America, Europe and Asia. In August, Boonty plans to offer a "web-to-mobile game store" that will enable consumers to download games from the Internet to their cell phones.
How much would you pay someone simply to walk away from a business? Try $113.7 million -- that's the amount of money that Morgan Stanley is planning to pay out to deposed dealmaker Philip Purcell in the Mother of All Exit Packages. Here's the breakdown:
Departure bonus: $42.7 million in cash
Restricted stock: $34.7 million
Stock options: $20.1 million
Retirement benefits: $11 million
Medical benefits: $250,000
Charitable donations in his name: $250,000 annually
Plus, Mr. Purcell is entitled to an office space that includes fully paid secretarial and administrative expenses every year for the rest of his life.
The New York Times has another of its "bloggers and photobloggers were first on the scene" articles in today's paper as part of its expansive coverage of the London terror attacks. There's also a mention in the article of the new "citizen's journalism" movement and a quote from Dan Gillmor about the growing importance of on-the-ground bloggers to the traditional news gathering process:
"A lot of what's being done by the citizen-journalist will be most useful as people start pulling together the best images and stories. There was a cliché that journalists write the first draft of history. Now I think these people are writing the first draft of history at some level, and that's an important shift."
Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine has been watching the news reports from London with a careful eye and has a lot to say on the symbiosis between grassroots bloggers and Big Media:
"As I also noted yesterday, it is now reflex for the BBC and the venerable Times of London to solicit stories from the public and to publish them. Of course, they didn't have to ask. All they had to do was go reading their local bloggers... I'm also struck by the new definition of news. As I wandered through the London blogs listed by subway station, I found, again and again, bloggers using their new tool just to tell their family and friends, "I'm fine." That is the news that matters most, isn't it? Also: I found Technorati -- its search and its tags -- useful in finding London bombing news and reaction yesterday."
BrandWeek has a cool story about Ford Motor's creative use of flash mobs to promote its new $18,000 Fusion compact car:
"Ford's effort will use text messaging to give last-minute locales and times for a series of unannounced multi-city concerts featuring emerging artists like Jermaine Dupri, Yellowcard and Fat Joe. The effort, Fusion Flash Concerts, a collaboration with Sony Pictures Digital and JWT, features ten artists doing concerts in ten markets starting next week in New York City followed by Atlanta mid-month... Ads in New York City subways and in phone booths as well as national and local alternative papers will promote."
The Ford Fusion Web site is also building buzz with a collaborative photo-sharing page and a viral e-mail marketing campaign.
"The prestigious competition is open to women journalists, photographers, writers, producers from print, radio and television, and online media in the New York major metropolitan area. Contest divisions include newspapers, wires, photojournalism, radio and television, magazines and Internet media, with subcategories in each. New this year, blogs and Interactive media have been added to the Internet division, and Internet photography has been added to the photography division."
Newsday reports that support for stem cell research in New York lags behind the national average. While approximately 45% of New Yorkers polled by Cornell University's Survey Research Institute said they would support stem-cell research and would approve establishment of a state-funded institute dedicated to that purpose, this percentage is "far below the national average reported in other polls." In other states like New Jersey and Wisconsin, this percentage is closer to 65%-75%.
Leaders within the state's biotech and medical establishment are already predicting a future in which New York relinquishes its lead in scientfic and medical research to other states that are more proactive on stem cell research. The head of the New York Biotechnology Association was puzzled as to the lack of support by New Yorkers: "The only reason I can think of is that stem-cell research isn't yet at the top level of New Yorkers' priorities and there hasn't really been a big push for it yet."
Sony's Wonder Technology Lab in midtown was named as one of the Top 10 free things to do in the city by Deborah Crawford of BellaOnline. In order to attract more visitors to the site, Sony is apparently calling the lab a "free technology and entertainment museum."
Time Warner AudioBooks announced an audio download deal with digital media company MediaBay. A number of other leading audio book publishers -- including Simon & Schuster and Random House -- have also signed on with MediaBay to offer audio books via an "online audio storefront."
The numbers behind the audio download industry are interesting, especially as they impact the evolution of the book industry: Audio downloads currently account for almost 4% of the billion-dollar audio book industry. However, this segment could soon represent 30% to 40% of total sales by 2010, according to MediaBay execs.
In response to the early morning terrorist attack in London, Mayor Bloomberg held a security briefing with Governor Pataki and Police Commissioner Kelly to announce upgraded counterterrorism measures to protect the city's transit system. As a show of strength and solidarity with New Yorkers, the mayor also rode the subway from Grand Central Station to City Hall.
According to 1010 Wins, Bloomberg also called the London terrorist attack a "despicable, cowardly attack'' and offered his support to help Britain catch those responsible.
On the surface, perhaps, the condition of the city's parks and the prospects for economic growth in the city would seem to be two wildly divergent topics. Economists and city planners would prefer to focus on quantifiable facts and economic data. Yet, as anyone who has ever picked up Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" knows, little things can make a big difference, and small quality of life issues can rapidly have a compounding effect on the life and vibrancy of any urban area. To take just one example from Gladwell's book -- former Mayor Giuliani and members of his administration read the book, eager for insights on how small quality of life issues (the infamous squeegeemen, graffiti, broken windows, etc.) could build into something much bigger in a very short period of time. That's when Giuliani & Co. decided to attack graffiti in the city and to shut down the squeegeemen. Each night, they would meticuloulsy scrub the New York subway cars for any signs of graffiti, even going so far as to develop a new graffiti-resistant paint for the subway cars. The idea was to break the morale of the graffiti artists and to inspire hope and pride in New Yorkers.
So, flip the clocks forward to the present time. Now it's not graffiti or squeegeemen, it's public parks that are infested with drug needles, condoms and bodily excrement. Yesterday, Timothy Williams of the New York Times wrote a heart-wrenching account of how City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe is turning his back on some of the parks in the city, like University Woods in the Bronx. The article was chock full of money quotes, like Mr. Benepe arguing that the University Woods park was really just a "vestigial landscape." When pressed about the poor shape of some of the city's parks, Mr. Benepe basically just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Let nature take its course."
Daily Gotham was all over Benepe yesterday, taking him to task for his cavalier approach to city parks. Echoing Gladwell's notion of a Tipping Point, Daily Gotham warned that "those little problems Benepe would like to ignore will become entire neighborhoods in the Bronx, Harlem, Flatbush and Flushing." (Thanks, Dorothy)
Crain's New York hints that maybe Sirius Satellite Radio has been a little aggressive with its willingness to pay top dollar for premium content. Expensive content deals with Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, NASCAR and others have "raised concerns over whether the No. 2 satellite radio service can keep its promise to have positive cash flow by 2007. Any stumbles could mean trouble for its stock price, a possible return trip to the capital markets to raise cash and a boost for rival, XM Satellite Radio."
The deal with Howard Stern is most troubling, says Crain's. In order to earn back the $500 million scheduled to be paid out over the next five years, Sirius will have to crank out new subscriptions at a healthy pace. Sirius doesn't see the deal as an obstacle, though: "The company maintains that its monthly rate of $12.95 means it must attract just 1 million of Mr. Stern's estimated 12 million fans for the deal to start paying off."
Who's responsible for all that adware and spyware clogging up the pipes of your PC? Maybe it's greedy venture capitalists. New York-based advertising software company WhenU has just raised another $15 million in VC financing so that it can continue to install adware on as many computers as possible. That's on top of the $20 million that the company raised in April.
Of course, WhenU claims that it only delivers "contextually targeted ads on the desktop" and that it doesn't engage in user profiling or any other type of activity that would raise the hackles of privacy advocates. Tech Dirt isn't so sure:
"WhenU clearly isn't above being sneaky on its own. Part of WhenU's reform effort was to convince anti-spyware vendors to remove WhenU from their listing, even though the product remained identically problematic -- and most people still had no idea what they were installing. The whole business concept behind adware relies on having those products installed as widely as possible -- which means these companies are always going to be sneaky about what you're really getting. When called on this, they pretend that the real problem isn't about sneaky installs, but that people are afraid they're being spied upon."
These guys waited a long time to cash in on the Internet... Last week, New York City-based software company IntraLinks filed for a $50 million IPO. And it's not like IntraLinks is getting some third-rate Wall Street firm to take them public -- the underwriters for the deal are JPMorgan and UBS Investment Bank. The company is hoping investors will buy into their concept of "secure online workspaces."
Now, flash back to 1999. (It's painful, yes, but try to do it anyway.) @New York ran a short piece on New York City-based IntraLinks, which at that time, had just raised $22 million in VC money and was talking about a $50 million IPO. Back then, though, the company was pushing the B2B mumbo-jumbo, calling itself a start-up that "provides a Web-based information transaction for the loan syndication industry and other business-to-business environments."
Apparently, European physicists have just figured out what any New Yorker has known since Day 1: it's a heck of a lot easier to navigate a city when it's arranged according to a grid. Mindjack points to a new study recently conducted by Swedish and Danish physicists:
"Several physicists from Sweden and Denmark have compared the complexity of finding an address in Manhattan and in several Swedish cities. Not surprisingly, Manhattan, with its checkered grid plan, is easier to navigate than the older European cities. The scientists think their model could be used to allow city planners to see how street changes affect navigability."
The folks over at alarm:clock have put together a great collection of features and profiles of VC-backed companies. One of the companies recently profiled is New York-based BeliefNet, which was founded in 1999 by a veteran of US News & World Report and Newsweek. Anyway, after a long period when content companies were dead on arrival, the company raised $7 million from Softbank's Boston office last month. This was a company that had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after blowing through $25 million in VC money! Alarm:Clock calls BeliefNet the "East Coast version of Salon.com - a heavily funded startup that died and has been resurrected."
Somewhere, Nick Denton and other blog publishers have to be smiling. A blog portal worth $1 billion in cold, hard American cash? Paid Content points to a story from UCLA's Asia Institute on BlogChina's (a Chinese blog portal) plans to list on Nasdaq by the second half of next year with a total market cap north of $1 billion. The company has already pulled in $500 million in seed capital from a Softbank investment fund and is working on another round of funding from US and Asian VC investors.
Maybe it's just me, but those numbers sound just wrong. $500 million in seed funding (the riskiest kind there is) for a blog media company supported almost entirely by advertising dollars? The article from UCLA's Asia Institute says that BlogChina is adding employees at a rate of 50 per month and already has 10 million blog customers, but that still doesn't justify a valuation of $1 billion.
Anyway, Susan Mernit has put together a nice China Media Watch on the latest developments in the frothy Chinese media/blog market.
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Michael Massing argues that "the New York Times pop-culture reporting is ambitious and hip, but manages to miss half the story." While the Times has made huge strides in moving away from its "thoroughly high-minded" approach to culture, the paper has also steered away from any commentary on the broader social impact of pop culture. The paper's coverage of pop culture may "brim with news about boardroom struggles, mogul rivalries, high-stakes dealmaking, ratings shares, marketing strategies, publicity blitzes, technological innovations, branding, and franchising," but there's little or no reflection on what it all means in a broader context:
"The Times has neglected a critical aspect of pop culture its effects on society. With the entertainment world grown so pervasive, with its products so thoroughly infiltrating the nations households, its influence on kids, families, and communities has intensified as well. Yet the Times, like most mainstream news media, pays all that only sporadic attention...."
John Mack, the newly-appointed CEO and chairman of Morgan Stanley, has inked a five-year contract that will pay him as much as $25 million a year for the next year and a half. That may sound like a lot, but consider that the average compensation for a Wall Street investment bank CEO is $25 million a year, and that Mack actually made $27.8 million a year when he worked at the bank five years ago.
Despite a frantic push over the past three weeks that included the high-level support of celebrities and star politicians, New York will not be getting the Olympics in 2012. On Wednesday morning, NYC was the second city to be knocked out of the five-city competition. Instead, the Olympics will go to London, "capping the most glamorous and hotly contested bid race in Olympic history."
A big hat tip to the NYC 2012 team, which worked long and hard to make the Olympics a reality for New Yorkers.
Paid Content has more on Viacom's "digital remake". The media conglomerate is actively looking at ways to leverage its Nickelodeon and VH1 brands and re-purpose its TV content for an online audience. The first new site to debut is TurboNick, which will be chock full of ads for young kids, according to a report by Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal:
"It's all about the advertising. Kids won't be able to view the programs without watching the ad. Mike Skagerlind, SVP & GM, online operations, promises not to "bombard" kids with ads, then follows that with the explanation that viewers will see traditional ads about every five minutes."
Statisticians, economists, and mathematicians are re-thinking the meaning of "risk" within the financial services industry. Current notions of risk -- like beta or VAR (value-at-risk) -- rely on bell curve distributions of financial returns. However, as Benoit Mandelbrot (a Yale professor and the father of fractal geometry) and Nassim Nicholas Taleb point out in Fortune magazine, the financial markets may not actually behave the way that finance theorists want them to behave. Most problematic, bell curve thinking is fundamentally unable to predict big one-day market jumps or drops:
"The professors who live by the bell curve adopted it for mathematical convenience, not realism... The common tools of finance were designed for random walks in which the market always moves in baby steps."
Mandelbrot, perhaps not surprisingly, advocates the use of the Fractal Theory of Risk, Ruin and Return -- a framework that is better able to explain "clusters and lumps" and huge, one-day volatility spikes.
In the New York Daily News, syndicated columnist Richard Cohen bemoans the fact that the Internet has become a permanent memory bank of everything he has ever written as a columnist (about 3,500 columns since 1976). Thanks to Google and Lexis-Nexis, his writings and musings are now open to prying eyes and potential pundits trying to trip him up with something that he wrote 10, 15 or even 20 years ago:
"I yearn for the freedom to be what I want to be. I don't want to lie, but I want to be comforted by my own version of the truth. I want to own my life and not have it banked at Google or some such thing. The trove of letters that unmasks our hero and his pretensions has been moved from the musty attic to sleek cyberspace.
I am imprisoned by the truth, by a record of what I wrote and the public's silly insistence on consistency - a life sentence without hope of parole. For me, the future is the present..."
(Props to Cohen for getting the identity of Deep Throat right in a 1970s column)
In the New York Times, Alex Berenson writes that blockbuster drugs are "so last century." Drug companies are starting to come to the realization that they do an "awful job of finding new medicines." Not only that -- "they rely too much on billion-dollar blockbuster drugs that are both overmarketed and overprescribed."
According to Big Pharma companies like Eli Lilly, the future is "not in blockbuster medicines like Prozac that are meant for tens of millions of patients, but rather in drugs that are aimed at smaller groups and can be developed more quickly and cheaply, possibly with fewer side effects." So will pharmaceutical companies based in New Jersey and New York, many of which have come to rely on the cash flows created by blockbuster drugs, also adapt their business models to the new reality?
High-powered media moguls like Barry Diller and Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons are arriving in Sun Valley, Idaho this week for the big media "schmooze fest" sponsored by Allen & Co. The events are closed to the public, and for good reason -- the media execs use the week of relaxation as a "breeding ground for potential merger deals." According to CNN, Viacom's recent decision to split apart its media conglomerate into two standalone pieces will lead to a lot of tongue-wagging at this week's retreat as media honchos discuss ways to spin off assets.
In his weekly e-commerce report, Bob Tedeschi reports on the ways that online retailers are using blogs to boost sales. Tedeschi says it's all aboard for the blogging bandwagon: "Online merchants are starting to test Web logs... in hopes of giving their stores more personality and giving customers a reason to return even when they're not in the mood to buy."
Among the companies mentioned in the piece: Bluefly.com, eHobbies and Ice.com. What's interesting is that some of these companies are actively promoting the blogs in their correspondence with customers and even hiding coupon codes in their blogs to give people an incentive to visit. These online retailers are obviously hoping that a huge blog audience will translate into additional sales, or at least, additional buzz around certain products.
After running with the Howard Beach hate crime story for a few days, the New York Post has come up with something even scarier than a baseball bat beating involving a Gotti wannabe: the urban iPod slay. Apparently, two Brooklyn teenagers were arrested after stabbing a 15-year-old Pennsylvania boy twice in the chest in an attempted robbery of an iPod in East Flatbush. For the past six months or so, the tabloid press has reported on iPod subway thefts, but this is the first publicized iPod murder in New York.
Here's a way to spend Microsoft's multi-billion-dollar cash hoard -- pay it out to competitors that Microsoft has attempted to steamroll in the past decade. Today, Microsoft agreed to pay IBM $775 million to resolve antitrust claims that grew out of the U.S. government's lawsuit in the 1990s. Over the past two years, Microsoft has spent more than $3.8 billion to settle antitrust claims brought by customers and rivals. Despite the huge payouts, analysts and investors are actually kinda jazzed -- they see the moves by Microsoft as a sign that the software giant is putting its regulatory headaches behind it once and for all. Clean slate and all that.
If you're going to release bad news, do it when nobody's watching. That's what Pfizer must be thinking by releasing news that it is halting development of two promising drugs (one for HIV, one for smoker's lung and asthma) on the Friday before the 4th of July weekend. Maybe all the Wall Street traders will be busy thinking about the Hamptons and will forget about Pfizer when they get back to work on the 5th.
Anyway, Reuters is reporting that Pfizer is dropping the HIV drug capravirine based on the results of two mid-stage trials. In addition, the company is shutting down its development of Daxas (touted as a potential blockbuster) for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Time Magazine's new graffiti billboard in SoHo is already creating its fair share of controversy, says Gothamist. For example, Peter Vallone, a City Councilmember from Queens, is upset that Time seems to be endorsing urban street graffiti: "Time magazine should have spent its money rewarding legitimate artists, not some punk who's been defacing our city."
The billboard, created by Fernando Carlo (aka "Cope2") for $20,000, is actually a clever ad for Time magazine: "Post-Modernism? Neo-Expressionism? Just Vandalism? Time. Know why." Anyone who watched "The Apprentice" last season can appreciate the appeal of grafitti advertising for mainstream companies trying to appear hip. Anyone remember how Donald Trump rolled up in his limo at a Harlem grafitti billboard site (with hip-hop music blaring) to help a videogame company promote a new game?
Thanks to innovations like TiVO and the popularity of Internet-based voting, the end of traditional media advertising is nigh -- and that means companies are looking for novel ways to involve consumers as they think up new marketing campaigns around consumer products like toothpaste. The New York Times takes a look at companies like Crest, Staples and Crayola that are experimenting with consumer-driven marketing campaigns.
According to a brand consultant in New York, "This [trend] comes with the inherent declining power of traditional media advertising. All marketers today are seeking different ways to market their products."
John Mack has been selected as the new chairman and CEO of Wall Street investment bank Morgan Stanley, replacing the ousted Philip Purcell. For Mack, the return back to Morgan Stanley is especially sweet: four years ago, he lost a power struggle with Purcell to head the company.
The return of Mack is good news for the Morgan Stanley Old Guard -- but bad news for loyalists of Philip Purcell, says MarketWatch. Both Stephen Crawford and Zoe Cruz, appointed to the company's board by Purcell, will resign from their director posts. There could be more bloodletting on the way, according to rumors, as Mack re-installs a team of bankers loyal to him.