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.
In its Media & Politics section, New York Press explains why Brownstoner is worthy of a daily read:
"[The] web site is a refreshing breath of homespun air in the slimy world of real estate blather... While similarly minded Web sites like Curbed (2004's Best Blog to Feed Our Real-Estate Whore) attack the housing market with a cynical wink-wink, Gawker-style nudge, Brownstoner purveys a plain-talkin', no-nonsense approach. It kind of feels like a bearded, know-it-all dad discussing his favorite subject. Namely, brownstone Brooklyn."
"ChainHotels.com has compiled a national list of over 2,000 hotels that offer guests free Internet access at no additional charge. These hotels let you fire up your laptop and get online either through a wireless connection (WiFi) or direct connection through the Ethernet port. This is a very useful list to road warriors and vacationers who want to find a hotel and be sure it offers free access to the Internet..."
Among the national hotel chains now offering Internet access in rooms at no additional charge: Baymont Suites, Best Western, Comfort Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Homewood Suites, Microtel, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, Staybridge Suites, Townplace Suites, and Wingate Inn. Not sure how many of these are in New York City, but it's still good to know if you're packing off for a business trip somewhere in Flyover Country.
The latest economic data for New York is out from the National Association of Purchasing Management, and it's perhaps no surprise that higher energy costs are slowing down economic growth in the city. However, the impact of higher energy prices has thus far been much less than expected: according to the New York Report on Busines, non-manufacturing activity was 65.5 in September, only slightly lower than the level of 66.2 recorded in August. In addition, purchasing managers are currently more optimistic about the future than they have been at any time in the past four months: "The outlook index, which reflects expectations of business conditions six months from now, stands at 70." (Any number above 50 is an indicator of economic growth)
On his blog, Donald Trump weighs in on the need for high school business courses (some of them, presumably, offered by Trump University online). According to The Donald, these high school business courses could go a long way in preparing high school kids for college - and for their future careers in the business world:
"I know that school systems have a lot of educational ground to cover in those four critical years, but I think they're leaving something out if they're not offering a good introduction to business course in high school. Plenty of schools offer basic accounting skills if students already profess an interest in that area, but I'm talking about broader-reaching, all-encompassing classes that would really get students ready to tackle serious business prep once they hit college... Imagine the advantage that these future business leaders would have if they had the chance to develop business skills early on in their education. I think it's never too early to introduce students to business concepts. High school would be the perfect place to start."
In today's New York Times, personal tech guru David Pogue reviews the new ThinkPad from IBM. Oops, make that the new ThinkPad from Lenovo. (The first four paragraphs of the product review deal with the "identity crisis" faced by Lenovo as it attempts to market the new Z-series ThinkPad.) The new ThinkPad, which is the first laptop to offer built-in EV-DO, also bills itself as the "thinnest and lightest" on the market. Overall, it's a winner, says Pogue:
"The Z-series laptop is an extremely attractive wide-screen model, loaded with features, cleverly engineered for light weight and reasonably priced. Some of its virtues, like the famous keyboard and the built-in EV-DO cellular Internet, aren't available from any other company. If its design and concept are as successful as they deserve to be, even Lenovo may soon grow comfortable with the phrase, "Lenovo ThinkPad."
Check out the satellite maps on the Central Park Web site. When I first saw the maps, I thought they were part of some kind of GoogleMaps/Central Park mashup (maybe it was the red Google-like balloons on the map), but the credit under the maps specifically mentions Zoomify. Anyway, it's still all good. With the interactive maps, you can zoom in/out and zero in on specific landmarks (Wollman Rink, Belvedere Castle, etc.) around the park.
Anyway, take a moment to check out the Central Park Web site. There seem to be a lot of interactive features on the site, like the ability to rate photos of the park. There's even a big shout-out to the Jaunted travel blog, which mentioned Central Park recently.
That's the question asked by Joe Sharkey of the New York Times. Sharkey is "getting fed up with being charged $9.95 or more in an expensive hotel for broadband Internet service" - especially when there are free Wi-Fi networks all over the city: "The next time an expensive hotel tries to jack me up with an Internet surcharge, I'm grabbing my laptop and heading for the park."
According to ZDNet News (via Reuters), most Brits have absolutely no idea what blogs and podcasts are: "A survey of British taxi drivers, pub landlords and hairdressers - often seen as barometers of popular trends in the United Kingdom - found that nearly 90% had no idea what a podcast is and more than 70% had never heard of blogging." The results were tabulated by DDB, a unit of New York-based advertising group Omnicom. The lesson here is clear: the next time you hail a cab on the streets of New York, be sure to mention your blog. (As in, "Take me to the corner of 59th and Fifth, that's where I'll be blogging from today").
AXcess News reports that executives from Bodisen Biotech, "the first bio fertilizer company from China ever to be listed on an American stock exchange," rang the opening bell at the American Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Bodisen became an AMEX listed company on August 26, and even before that, had attracted the attention of U.S. institutional investors. In fact, earlier this year, Forbes ranked Bodisen as one of the 100 fastest growing companies in China.
However, there has to be a joke in there somewhere. I'm not sure at what I'm more amused by -- that Bodisen touts itself as "the first bio fertilizer company ever to be listed on an American stock exchange," that the company's ticker symbol is BBC, or that when I ran a search on Google News for "New York biotech," this is what I came up with.Yo, back in the day, we used to call bio fertilizer a four-letter word. Does that mean Bodisen Biotech is full of bio fertilizer?
How is it still possible, asks Murray, that real estate middlemen are able to pocket 5% on every transaction? The answer could be that real estate brokers are dipping into their bag of dirty tricks to fend off Internet competition. At a time when middlemen have been squeezed out of the online travel business and out of the stock brokerage business, real estate brokers are making record windfalls. This, at a time when technology (in theory) is making their work easier. Murray explains:
"It's remarkable that in today's economy, this classic middleman business model survives -- and not just survives, but flourishes, like a hardy breed of insect. There are more Realtors out there today -- 1.2 million -- than there were a decade ago. Compare that with what happened to stockbrokers, a similar breed who saw their commissions fall from dollars to pennies over the course of three decades. Or look at the even more dramatic fate of travel agents, whose commissions on airline travel plummeted from 12% to nothing between 1995 and 2002. In an age when information was scarce, Realtors could claim big commissions, because they controlled the gold -- the information on houses for sale. But in an age when information is ubiquitous, it's hard to understand how they continue to rake in such fees."
As Howard Stern prepares to make the move to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006, Infinity Radio has been scrambling to find a replacement. Or, as the case may be, replacements. The latest word, according to Crain's New York, is that Infinity Radio will use "five or six people" to fill in for Howard Stern. In the process, Infinity passed on a number of other high-profile entertainment personalities:
"[The head of Infinity Radio] said his team began brainstorming Stern’s replacements starting back in December and that “we went to a lot of people from Jon Stewart to Whoopi Goldberg to Geraldo Rivera… but we decided not to try to replace Howard with one person and try to hit a grand slam..." CEO Joel Hollander declined to name the talent signed but said that some of the media reports were accurate and some were not. Adam Carolla, David Lee Roth, Erich “Mancow” Muller, Danny Bonaduce and Jonathon Brandmeier have all been floated as potential replacements."
In Central Park, Adam Balkin of NY1 caught up with Tiger Woods, who was in New York for the launch of his new videogame, Tiger Woods 2006. Tiger explains the newest features in the latest version of the game:
“We try to make it more realistic each and every year. We try and make the trees move with the wind, the grass move, the shadowing, try and get as the sun goes up during the day the greens dry out and get a little faster. It does the same thing in the game. I was a gamer all my life, going back to the Atari 2600 days and the 52, Nintendo, Pong, and I thought that was the coolest game ever then. We thought the graphics were incredible when Donkey Kong came out, so to see it now with the facial features, you didn't ever think that would happen."
Oh, and EA Sports has now included Central Park as a "new kind of fantasy course." EA Sports explains:
"In the past we've done locations such as Japan or the Caribbean where we bring in aspects of that country and do whatever we want, just making sure it kind of feels like that country. With Central Park, we've actually laid out the park, so the park is real. The bodies of water are all where they really are, the statues and monuments and all that stuff is where it belongs, and we just built a course around it."
Over at ZDNet, Russell Shaw notes that Google is now a sponsor of Bryant Park's Wi-Fi Network. According to Shaw, Google could be working on a new system for delivering Google Ads, based on one's physical location:
"Powered by Google." Hmm. Makes you wonder what they are up to. Maybe Google Ads, tied to mobile presence? Say they know you are in NYC's Bryant Park. Bryant Park is right next to the main branch of the New York Public Library. That's a place frequented by lots of educated readers, computer users, researchers - and hmm, Google users, too. OK, let's think about it some more. Maybe if I am a Google salesperson in the NYC office, I visit nearby merchants and sell them Google AdWords? Google AdWords or Google AdSense tied to mobile presence? Definitely."
Or, it could just be the fact that Google's corporate offices in New York are located about a block away. Maybe it's all part of Google's "Don't Be Evil" philosophy -- supporting wireless Internet in the parks is just a way of doing good in the world.
Ever wonder how the cartoonists over at The New Yorker consistently come up with humorous cartoons, week after week, year after year? At the Cartoonists Unleashed event at last week's New Yorker Festival, the secret formula was revealed (and later uploaded to Flickr).
In Column A, there is a list of words: grim reaper, robber, cat, pig, boss, shrink. In Column B, there is a list of words: dog, naked people, santa, receptionist. In Column C, there is a list of possible destinations: beach, business meeting, office, cocktail party, etc.
Then, all you do is combine Column A with Column B and Column C... A dog is talking to another dog at the office: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
An innocent comment by Fernando Ferrer on his mayoral campaign blog ("I was educated in public schools for most of my education") has generated a minor firestorm of controversy in the race for New York City mayor. As it turns out, Ferrer was actually educated in Catholic schools. While Ferrer has dismissed the discrepancy as "minor," the Bloomberg campaign sees it otherwise:
"Bloomberg's people today pounced on this - they said Ferrer is either lying about his resume or lying about who writes his blog. If you ask the Bloomberg team, this latest flap goes to the basic honesty of Freddy Ferrer."
The Ferrer campaign team has apologized, saying that the blog was "inaccurately edited." (Which, of course, leaves open the question of whether Mr. Ferrer actually posted the entry to the blog, or whether it was a low-level campaign staffer who posted it as "Fernando Ferrer.")
Eli Noam, a professor of finance and economics at Columbia University, has penned an interesting column in the October 2005 issue of Communications of the ACM: "Why the Internet is Bad for Democracy." Point-by-point, Noam deconstructs the principal arguments of those who say that the Internet promotes better democracy. In the process, Noam discusses why the Internet does not raise the level of political dialogue, why direct access to public officials is nothing more than an "illusion to access," and why the Internet does not necessarily facilitate political participatory action. Noam concludes by putting the Internet into historical context:
"The Internet does not create a Jeffersonian democracy. It is not Athens, nor Appenzell, nor Lincoln-Douglas. It is, if anything, less of a democracy than those low-tech places. But, of course, none of these places really existed either, except as an ideal, a goal, or an inspiration. And in that sense, the expectations vested in the Internet are a new link in a chain of hope. Maybe naive, but certainly ennobling."
Mr. Noam has been giving the same type of talk for years, so apparently little or nothing has changed in the past five years or so. From the Columbia University Web site, I found a link to a 2001 speech by Noam called "Will the Internet Be Bad for Democracy?"
According to Yahoo News, German department store chain KarstadtQuelle has started giving away free flights to New York with the purchase of a special edition winter coat (the $240 "puffer jacket"). The department store claims to have sold 4,000 puffer jackets already, with plans to sell a total of 20,000 jackets by the end of the promotion. Now other German stores are getting into the act with a number of "copycat offers." Does that mean that the streets of New York will soon be overtaken by German tourists in expensive puffer jackets? (Hat tip: Fark)
Monday marked the debut of NYP@Work, the new 12-page supplement in the New York Post devoted to professional lifestyle issues. There are stories on beating the CrackBerry addiction, comfortable shoes to wear to work during the morning commute (sorry fellas, this one is for the ladies), and trendy office supplies to turn you into a "professional powerhouse." Quite frankly, not a lot of meat the first time out. Despite a full-color BlackBerry picture on the front of NYP@Work that lured us in, there's not much inside to keep our attention.
Too bad. It's just the latest sign that traditional business news doesn't bring in the advertisers - look at the Wall Street Journal's new weekend edition and all the various changes at the New York Times. What brings in advertisers is product-oriented fluff (Hey, look at the cool new desk lamp from Target!).
A humorous item from Macworld (UK): UK's South Yorkshire police force claims that it had the first-ever "police podcast," not the NYPD. Across the pond, the South Yorkshire police force was "a bit shocked to read that NYPD were believed to be the first law enforcement agency to release a podcast, especially as we released ours a good while before they did. We launched our first podcast on August 2, we have eight under our belt so far."
"Crain's reports that Frank Gehry will be designing jewelry and tabletop items for Tiffany & Co. This is a big deal, as it's the first new designer Tiffany has "hired" in twenty-five years (Paloma Picasso was the last), but Gothamist is thinking one thing: Uncomfortable. While we expect Gehry to design something pretty awesome-looking like a hammered metal necklace or a warped vase ("Mr. Gehry...will work with precious metals, stones and wood"), we're not so sure it'll be practical. But that's not the point is it? Well, Gothamist would certainly buy a titanium Guggenheim-Bilbao shaped salt-and-pepper shaker set..."
In his weekly column for Wired, NYU assistant professor Adam Penenberg asks a question on the minds of many bloggers: Is it possible to strike it rich while blogging? Penenberg digs around several weblog publishers, looking for answers.
At Weblogs, Inc. (the weblog empire run by former New York-based Internet promoter Jason Calacanis), bloggers make anywhere from $200 to $3,000 a month - "about a quarter to half what a mid-level editorial job would pay, without the daily office commute." The standard deal appears to be $500 for about 125 entries a month ($4/entry).
At Gawker Media, the figures are a bit higher: "The amount floating around the internet is $2,500 a month per blogger plus traffic bonuses." Not satisfied with this estimate, Penenberg does the math and comes up with a number of wildly-inflated numbers for the various bloggers at Gawker Media: $5,000 a month (Gawker), $7,000 to $10,000 a month (Defamer), $7,000 to $8,000 (Gizmodo) and $7,000 to $8,000 a month (Fleshbot).
As it turns out, New York Magazine had the final say. In last week's issue on "Who makes what" in New York City, Jessica Coen of Gawker admitted to making $30,000 per year . That works out to about $2,500 a month.
Newsday reports that Long Island-based Computer Associates is signing a lease for a new midtown office in Manhattan. The company reassured investors, though, that it will continue to have a "large presence" on the Island. The new 67,000 square foot office at 520 Madison will become the new home for about 120 employees in February. Computer Associates explained the move: "Certainly Microsoft and everybody else has offices here, so it's not out of the question. For most companies, especially those of larger size, there's a need to have a presence in Manhattan."
The New York Post got us all excited this morning with the first sneek peak at the new subway cams. (see pic) According to the Post, contractors have been busy testing the cameras at a platform along the West 86th Street No. 1 line station in Manhattan and the 161st Street-River Avenue station, near Yankee Stadium.
As of Monday afternoon, though, it's unclear how things stand. Crain's New York is linking to an AP wire report stating that a deal between the NYPD and a private sector security and surveillance equipment maker has been scuttled. The report says only that the pilot project with MSGI was "improperly authorized" by an NYPD inspector. (In corporate lingo, that's known as "rogue spending.") The shares of MSGI have been on a rollercoaster ride over the past two trading days -- on Friday, rumors of the new subway video surveillance system deal sent shares up 41%. On Monday, shares closed 17% lower as investors reacted to the bad news of the aborted deal.
MSGI offered only a dry formal statement via e-mail: ''While MSGI has received no notice of cancellation from the NYPD Transit Police, we understand that the project is on hold so that the issues relating to internal police protocol can be properly addressed... There was a degree of miscommunication within the Police Department.''
Last Thursday, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the launch of the second annual New York City Green Building Competition. It all went down at Solar 1, a green-designed facility located under the FDR Drive. (An environmentally friendly structure located under the FDR - who knew?) According to a press release from the city, "competitors explore designs that incorporate less toxic building materials, reduced water and energy consumption, planning for transportation and vehicle alternatives, improved air quality, incorporation of the City’s land and streets to promote environmentally beneficial growth, and general preservation of natural ecosystems."
Last week, IBM announced a plan for some of its employees to teach math and science classes in New York City classrooms. Now, the company has even more good news - it's helping college students find jobs in the IT sector: "The new initiative allows students from accredited colleges and universities worldwide to post resumes to an online career center that will be made available to thousands of IBM clients and business partners that are hiring technology workers." The only catch is that students taking advantage of the service must possess at least one IBM professional certification.
A senior IBM exec interviewed by The Journal News explains what makes the initiative unique: "By linking business partners, customers and universities, we are taking the next logical step by connecting this talent with the information technology jobs of tomorrow,"
Who's a Rat claims to be nothing more than the "largest online database of informants and agents" that assists lawyers and criminal defendants who may lack more traditional resources, but the Web site's detractors say that the site could lead to reprisals against "stool pigeons," snitches and even undercover cops. Since the site was started by a Boston resident who was busted on marijuana charges, it's quite likely that the "Who's a Rat?" Web site is about more than just truth, justice and the American way -- it's about putting the lives of undercover NYPD cops at risk.
Christopher Byron of the New York Post must have spent the weekend sharpening his axe, since he came out Monday hacking away at the hedge fund industry. While we applaud Byron for his weekly exposes on criminal malfeasance and graft in the world of Wall Street, it appears he's overstating matters a bit in his denunciation of the hedge fund business. (Or, as he prefers to call it, the "hedge fund racket.") He also calls it the "murky and crime-infested world of hedge funds," where the latest case of hedge fund fraud is seemingly just around the corner.
For another take on the hedge fund industry, check out my article over at Tech Central Station ("Don't Trim the Hedges"), which makes the case that hedge funds actually play an important role in the international financial markets, supplying liquidity and promoting market efficiency. In terms of actual fraud cases filed with the SEC, the hedge fund industry is actually doing better than one would expect -- It's just that the media tends to focus on cases like Bayou, and not on the bigger picture. As I wrote earlier, hedge fund managers are not "James Bond villains with MBAs."
Stephen Bainbridge also agrees that the hedge bet is no winner, when it comes to the rule requiring hedge fund managers to register with the SEC:
"...Mandatory disclosure does not prevent fraud. Securities managers who are going to commit fraud will not be deterred from doing so by government disclosure rules -- they will simply use the approved disclosure form to do so. Hence, rigorously enforced proscriptions of fraud seem far more important than mandatory disclosure, insofar as one is the sort of thing that allegedly happened Bayou Securities."
According to the New York Daily News, New York State Senator Frank Padavan has launched a new Web site ("Get Back to the Train") that includes a petition for New York subway riders to call on the MTA to roll back recent fare hikes. The logic behind the petition is simple - the MTA should do its part to help commuters cut back on gas consumption, and lower fares could be just the ticket to help motorists kick the car habit:
"Restoring transit fares to their 2004 levels would save transit riders $38 million - an average savings of about 7% off the cost of a monthly commuter rail ticket - and encourage them to leave their cars at home... An immediate fare cut would save money, encourage the use of alternate transportation and lend to a better, cleaner, more cost-efficient New York."
The cash-strapped MTA, as might be expected, responded by stating that there was no way that it would consider a fare rollback. That's the unfortunate thing about "temporary" fare increases to balance a budget shortfall -- they are rarely, if ever, rolled back to previous levels.
The Wall Street Journal recently looked at the "etiquette quandaries" caused by Bluetooth-enabled wireless headsets. Not only do people wearing the headsets sometimes look ridiculous ("you look like a half-assimilated Borg"), social mix-ups are now commonplace, especially in busy urban environments like New York. If you happen to bump into someonone and are not aware that the other person is wearing a "robotic-looking" phone headset, the chance encounter could quickly turn into a comedy of errors. Anyway, these Bluetooth-enabled headsets range in price anywhere from $30-$150, and now there are even super high-end headsets for the fashion-conscious that are closer to $300 each. In fact, Oakley and Motorola recently teamed up to make a wireless bluetooth headset that clips on to Oakley's sunglasses.
Over at Tech Central Station, I wrote a follow-up on Andrew Rasiej's unsuccessful campaign for New York City Public Advocate ("The Technorati Candidate"). Despite a technology-centric platform that seemed to resonate with tech-savvy voters, the Rasiej campaign team nevertheless barely managed to win more than 5% of the popular vote:
"In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore found out that it was possible to win the popular vote, and still lose the electoral vote. In last week's Democratic primary for New York City Public Advocate, Andrew Rasiej found out that it was possible to win the blogger vote, and still lose the popular vote.
For the two months leading up to the primary election on September 13, Rasiej captured the hearts and minds of bloggers like no other candidate since Howard Dean with a technology-centric campaign that included a plan for citywide wireless Internet access, a video blog (in addition to a regular blog), and a plan for making 911 calls from the NYC subway. On the day preceding the election, in fact, "Rasiej" ranked as one of the ten most popular search terms on the blog search engine Technorati. Anyone convinced of the power of the blogosphere to determine the fate of political careers (Trent Lott, anyone?) would surely have guessed that Mr. Rasiej was on the cusp of sweeping into office with a broad new mandate to revolutionize politics."
Alas, it was not to be. So... will the blogosphere ever be able to elect one of its own? Are candidates like Howard Dean and Mr. Rasiej on the right track, or are all bloggers collectively participating in some kind of mass delusion?
There's also "the city's own pizza blog," SliceNY: "We're Big Apple-based, with a special affinity for New York-style pies, but we're wild about pizza in general. We're even warming up to the idea of deep dish." In a follow-up posting, the editor of SliceNY explains that the site is not a "for-profit enterprise, modeled on corporate-owned blogs like Gothamist," as the New York Daily News implies:
"Well, if we're "clearly a for-profit enterprise," the ad sales team down on seven here at Slice corporate apparently didn't get the memo. I'll have to talk to HR about poaching some of the Gothamist Corporation's sales reps..."
Last week in the print edition of the Wall Street Journal, there was an article on "Bridging China's MBA Gap." Apparently, more than a few Western universities are pairing up with Chinese universities to offer international MBA programs. Two New York-area universities were mentioned in the piece: New York University, which has partnered with China-Europe International Business School and Tsinghua University School of Economics & Management; Fordham University, which has partnered with Peking University.
Then, later in the week, the Wall Street Journal appeared to contradict itself, running an article about the value of home-grown business talent in China. The gist of the story was that VC firms looking to fund new businesses in China are overlooking Western MBAs with slick marketing skills in favor of long-time China veterans with gritty (and more practical) business plans.
According to the chairman of Time Warner, bolstering the financial performance of AOL is a "priority" and the strategic key to unlocking shareholder value at the media giant. The New York Times points out that these comments from the Time Warner executive suite signal "a tweak in strategy and a belief that the stigma of the AOL-Time Warner merger is finally a thing of the past." What's strange is that if you read the first half of the article in the New York Times, it sounds like Time Warner is trying real hard to improve things at AOL and that AOL is definitely part of the long-term future at Time Warner. Then, if you read the second half of the article, it sounds like Time Warner still is thinking of selling off AOL to the highest bidder, whether it is Microsoft or Google or Yahoo.
Anyway, in early January, I wrote a piece for Tech Central Station ("The Internet Company That Time Almost Forgot") about all the reasons why AOL could have a big year in 2005. Maybe it's time for Mr. Parsons and Mr. Icahn to take a look.
Idle Words has an extensive narrative (with photos) of what it's like to journey down the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. The canal, still an ecological nightmare, somehow has managed to find a special place in the hearts of Brooklyn residents everywhere:
"Like so much in life, the key to enjoying the Gowanus is lowering your expectations. The canal has been through a lot, and it has been hurt before. It knows that it is no supermodel waterway, it knows that it needs a good dredging and possibly a Superfund grant just to get itself halfway into decent shape. It does not pretend to be some golden-haired World Heritage estuary filled with cranes and egrets. Then again, neither is it the Cuyahoga. Given half a chance, aesthetically speaking, it's the hardest-working body of water in New York City, and you'll never tour a more grateful urban canal."
A must read for anyone concerned about urban renewal and the impact of economic development on the environment.
Google is planning to build out its own fiber optic network and become a top-tier player in the Internet telephone and wireless businesses, so it only makes sense that the company is looking to lease space in one of New York's telecom carrier hotels, says the New York Post:
"The company is reportedly in talks to lease a whopping 270,000 square feet in the former Port Authority Commerce Building at 111 Eighth Ave. at W. 15th Street. The massive building is one of New York's most important so-called telecom carrier hotels home to thousands of Web servers and other critical technology infrastructure."
Google spokespersons offered no comment on the pending deal, but the Post article has plenty of speculation about what Google is planning:
"111 Eighth Ave.'s concentration of interconnected networks would allow Google to offer its new voice-over-Internet service, Google Talk, more efficiently and at lower cost because it would be able to connect directly to the networks of many of the world's leading telecom firms that are also housed there."
Crain's New York notes that "a prominent hedge fund manager is urging Citigroup to break itself up, arguing that the financial conglomerate is too large to grow significantly and snap its stock price out of its slumber."
Over at Bankstocks.com, the hedge fund manager (Thomas Brown) lays out his future vision for Citigroup:
"When the new crop of bigwigs at Citigroup sits down and starts to consider what direction the company should take, heres one alternative we hope they seriously consider: break Citi up into a group of constituent businesses, and let the value bloom. I should say up front I was never a big fan of the supermarket strategy that was behind the 1998 creation of the Citi monolith in the first place. Huge scale doesnt count for much in financial services, for one thing. And in financial services, smaller, focused players tend to outcompete large, diversified ones..."
The four units would consist of Citibank (retail banking); a revived Salomon Brothers investment banking juggernaut; a Smith Barney brokerage unit; and an international banking arm known as CitiGlobal. According to Brown, "The Citi is sleeping - break it up!"
If this doesnt sound like a page ripped from Malcolm Gladwells Blink, Im not sure what would: Wednesday's print edition of the Wall Street Journal has a front-page story on Procter & Gambles efforts to win over the consumer at the FMOT (first moment of truth):
Despite spending billions on traditional advertising, the consumer products giant thinks this instant [the FMOT] is one of its most important marketing opportunities. It created a position 18 months ago, Director of First Moment of Truth, or Director of FMOT, to produce sharper, flashier in-store displays.
Within P&G, FMOT is referred to casually as EFF-mot. Moreover, the Director of FMOT commands a 15-person team to develop the type of store displays that can win over customers in the first three to seven seconds of the shopping experience. Its an all-out war to win the battle for shelf space and convince shoppers to buy ever more Tide, Crest and Pampers. Alas, the article goes on to explain the business of in-store marketing (which has grown to become an $18.6 billion a year industry) without referencing Malcolm Gladwell at all. Instead, the article goes on to explain the importance of Wal-Marts in-store TV network.
Anyway, Malcolm Gladwells book Blink was all about the importance of the first few seconds in making decisions and the value of rapid cognition. Most people claim that the book was nothing more than an apology for snap judgments and intuition. But the book went beyond that it showed that too much information may actually hamper the decision-making process. Snap judgments are only useful if they contain an analysis of the two or three most important facts needed to reach a decision. For example, if doctors are given two or three highly relevant details in an emergency room operating environment, they can make much more effective decisions than if they were flooded with lots of minutiae.
It sounds like P&Gs head of FMOT is actually following some of these ideas. According to the director of FMOT, in-store packaging should interrupt the shopping experience and answer very succinctly three basic questions: Who am I? What am I? Why am I right for you? This is Gladwellian thinking, eh? If the consumer has to think too much, he or she will move on to the next aisle or decide that maybe its not worth the effort to buy toothpaste today.
On Monday, I received a small note from the head of Community Affairs/Media Relations at The New York Times about the new TimesSelect "premium content" offering. Towards the end of the correspondence was a mention that "plans are in the works for some Op-Ed columnists to produce weblogs."
Apparently, FishBowlNY received the same memo, and was just as surprised to find out about the new op-ed blogs:
"Excuse me? We're getting 8 brand-spankin' new blogs? I haven't seen this anywhere else but the mind frankly reels. MoDo, we'll link to you if you link to us! Details as we have them..."
JetBlue has posted 18 straight quarters of positive earnings, and now that streak could be in jeopardy, due to (even) higher fuel prices brought on by the threat of Hurricane Rita hitting somewhere along the Gulf Coast. Now, we've always been a bit skeptical of consecutive-quarter positive earnings streaks (the numbers usually look too perfect), but JetBlue is an exception -- a well-managed company that doesn't have to resort to a lot of creating accounting tricks to pad the bottom line. Anyway, the CEO of the Queens-based low-fare carrier all but admitted that Hurricane Rita is "going to put the final nail in this quarter..." In the first six months of the year, the five largest U.S. airlines posted $4.8 billion in losses. And there was the ugly bankruptcy at Delta, and so on, and so forth.
Information boards providing train arrival and departure times will soon be added to 131 subway stations over the next year, according to the New York Post. (Actually, the article says "stations" but I think it actually means "subway station platforms" or "subway station lines." Hence, the busy Times Square station would probably count as about 10 stations, for the 1,2,3,9,N,R,Q,7 and S lines.) The MTA's Chief Transportation Officer explains what it all means for New Yorkers:
"The new system gives date, the time of day and this one will have more detailed information about where the next train is, how far is it... It's a better system than we have today."
Anyway, it's a bit of clever psychology on the part of the MTA, actually. For the same reasons that some banks post waiting times and some delis hand out numbered tickets to customers, it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that customers are willing to wait a significantly longer amount of time if they know "how long" they'll actually have to wait. So now, the MTA will have little or no guilt about admitting that the N and R lines are now running on the W line, and that means that the Q line is now running about 45 minutes late. Anyway, a big one-handed round of applause for the MTA.
Do you have a lot of loose change in your pockets or piles of pennies at home? Well, Amazon.com and Coinstar are linking up with a unique offer to get coin hoarders to spend the money online instead: "Under the new offer announced [last week] with Amazon, Coinstar will now allow users to convert their loose change into Amazon Gift Certificates that can be used online at Amazon.com." Even better, Coinstar won't charge an annoying transaction fee. In other words, $5 in pennies means $5, not $4.50 or $4.25 or anything else.
According to Coinstar, it's a win-win for everyone involved:
"Everybody wins, consumers get a fee-free transaction and Amazon can now offer their customers an easy and convenient way to use cash online. Coinstar attracts new users by providing a no fee transaction and the host retailer (supermarkets) benefits through increased store traffic."
Actually, I guess that's a win-win-win-win for everyone involved.
The New York Daily News reports that six New York City residents have received $500,000 "genius grants" from the MacArthur Foundation. Among the winners: "a Bronx activist fighting to revive Hunts Point, a Brooklyn writer who waxes lyrical about Boerum Hill... a Manhattan painter who is redefining abstract art... and Brooklyn documentary filmmaker Edet Belzberg." A big hat tip to each of these winners.
For any Wall Street types out there -- three former Oxford students have launched a new Web site, ConsensusView.com, that allows professional traders to post their forecasts on stocks, futures and currencies. After posting their forecasts, these traders can see the consensus views of all other contributors. Each month, the site will award a prize of $1,000 for the most accurate forecaster.
On the op-ed pages of Monday's Wall Street Journal, Chris Mayer, a real estate professor at Columbia University's B-school, and Todd Sinai, a professor at Wharton, explain that the "Chicken Littles" of the real estate market have it all wrong:
"Yet basic economic logic suggests that this apparent evidence of a bubble is anything but. Even in the highest-price cities, housing is, at most, slightly more expensive than average. Here's why: While house prices over the last decade have gone through the roof, the annual cost of owning a house has not."
According to the two B-school professors, "the annual cost of owning, not the price of the house itself, is what homebuyers should (and do) consider when contemplating a purchase."
In other words, forget about skyrocketing housing costs (the traditional method for determining whether a market is overheated or not) and, instead, focus on the annual cost of owning. As calculated by the two B-school professors, the annual cost of owning a house is "the net cash outflow required to own a house for a year - namely, the after-tax cost of financing the purchase price either by borrowing or through the lost risk-adjusted return on the equity tied up in the house, plus carrying costs such as maintenance and economic depreciation - less the expected depreciation on the property."
Now, we're not ones to question the math (although this mathematical definition did cause our heads to spin), especially since the two B-school professors had their results published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. But, doesn't all this re-defining the terms of the debate sound strangely like the logic used to defend the Internet stock boom?
When Internet companies failed to show any kind of earnings whatsoever, analysts talked about future expected earnings and discounted cash flows. When that logic failed to assuage investor fears, analysts talked up all kinds of funky earnings numbers, like EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, and Depreciation, and Amortization)? Or, as some Wall Street wags liked to joke, "earnings before all the bad stuff"? Remember all those claims about it "being different this time"? Remember how companies came up with all kinds of theories about "first mover advantage" in order to justify multi-million-dollar Super Bowl ad spots?
Thankfully, the New York Post reports that MBA students aren't falling for it anymore:
"In the first poll of its kind, MBAs say they'd rather buy stocks than residential houses because housing prices aren't based on realities the way office buildings are. The booming residential housing market also faces a big tumble, said the survey of more than 1,400 MBA graduates of Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business. MBAs overwhelmingly said they'd avoid buying houses as a growth investment over the next five years, with 76% giving it a thumbs down. Instead, 94% said they'd prefer to buy stocks for growth over the next five years."
"It's a shame that the center of the media industry has moved to Silicon Valley and nobody told New York :-) I should write Mayor Bloomberg a letter about that. It would point out that many Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Ebay, are in fact media companies. They are technology enabled media companies. They publish digital rather than paper pages but they carry content and advertising just like a newspaper or magazine paper page.
And our media industry is growing like gangbusters while New York's is not. Our media industry is hiring like crazy (Yahoo has 700 new positions to fill, Google a similar number) while New York's media industry continues to cut jobs and budgets..."
David Lidsky of Fast Company has some unkind words for the new Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal:
"Here's why the Journal's Saturday paper is dead on arrival: There are no surprises whatsoever. At least at this point, there's no evidence of a single fresh idea, or even the deft execution of a well-worn chestnut of an idea. It's a focus-grouped, advertiser-friendly confection with nothing that I can't get in hundreds of other venues. What the Journal seems to have fallen victim to is the kind of insular thinking that kills so many entrenched enterprises: It seems to believe that there's value in the information being delivered by the Wall Street Journal, as if that were enough to carry the day. The decided lack of splash here is also another tale of the downside of hype. If you can't live up to it, the backlash isn't going to be pretty."
According to Lidsky, the "Pursuits" section of the Weekend Edition was especially odious -- what he called "a juiced up version of Personal Journal that's basically a cliche of every entertainment or general-interest magazine's front of the book and every "weekend" section of a major-market daily newspaper."
Unfortunately for Mr. Lidsky, it appears that he doesn't take much of an interest in the financial markets, since there were more than a few new features that got my attention. In the "Money & Investing" section, there was a first-rate article on "New Tools to Hedge Your Home." In the "Pursuits" section, we agree that the article called "When Tough Guys Want Comfy Shoes" was a bit on the cheesy side, but there was also a book review of a new book about Google. The Money & Investing section also has a brand-new column ("Green Thumb") on matters of personal finance. There's also expanded coverage of Friday's financial markets performance and a new "Breaking Views" column that has insights about Wall Street inside dealings (this weekend, it was speculation as to whether Carl Icahn's takeover bid would impact Time Warner's stock price).
When you mention the South Bronx, probably the last thing you think of is telecom. IEEE Spectrum has a nice feature on Urban Telephone and Video, a telecom company based in the South Bronx that competes with Time Warner and Cablevision in offering cable TV, broadband Internet access, and Internet telephony services to New Yorkers:
"In an office building in the heart of the 'hood, on a bustling commercial thoroughfare lined with small grocery stores cheek by jowl with shops studded with large, hand-scrawled signs hawking the latest bargains on household goods and electronics, exists one of the city's original broadband franchisesand the industry's most unlikely success story. The company, Urban Communications Transport, which does business under the name Urban Telephone and Video, has been making a profit in an endeavor that has defeated not a few telecom industry giants..."
A bit of news from last week: according to the New York Post, Viacom's MTV Networks and Comcast are working on a joint venture that will create several new cable networks. An unnamed Comcast source says that the new offerings will include "several lifestyle channels on topics such as cars and wealth as well as video-on-demand and e-commerce." Reps for both MTV Networks and Comcast were tight-lipped about the move.
Jason Kottke points to the work of Ji Lee, who is in the process of pasting 50,000 empty speech bubble stickers over advertisements, signs and movie posters on the streets of Manhattan. People then fill them in with random quotes, and Lee returns to photograph the results.
Flickr has some great photos from Robert Smithson's Floating Island barge art exhibit, which set off a "frenzy of photoblogging not seen since The Gates back in February." The Floating Island is actually a 30'x90' man-made island towed by a tugboat around Manhattan. The Floating Island will be making its journey around Manhattan everyday until the 25th, so there's still time to snap a few digital pics. (Hat tip: Curbed)
Alan Meckler of Jupitermedia is none too pleased to find that many of the brilliant op-ed columnists of the New York Times are now hidden behind $49.95-per-year subscription walls:
"Readers know that I feel that the Times continues to make a big mistake by getting more restrictive with their free offerings. I guess they feel their purchase of about.com, a free site, gives them license to make the quality Times content an increasingly closed environment?"
Daily Kos also weighs in on the decision by the New York Times to put op-ed columnists like Paul Krugman behind bars (oops, walls):
"I'll be sad to lose Krugman. I also think the Times might be making a mistake here - not only will they be removing their op-ed columnists from the ever-growing "discussion" in the blogosphere and the online world in general, but Krugman's columns are almost always some of the site's most popular pieces. I'm sure they've crunched the numbers and have decided the subscription fees will outweigh the loss in traffic and ad revenue, but only time will tell."
This was only a matter of time: a market for cellphone pornography within the US. In Europe, after all, consumers spend tens of millions of dollars on cellphone porn. The New York Times provides details:
"With the advent of advanced cellular networks that deliver full-motion video from the Internet - and the latest wave of phones featuring larger screens with bright color - the pornography industry is eyeing the cellphone, like the videocassette recorder before it, as a lucrative new vehicle for distribution."
As might be imagined, some advocacy groups are already mobilizing their forces to fight any effort to make pornography available via phone. The FCC, too, is taking steps to keep the worst of the smutty material away from minors.
From Saturday's New York Post: IBM has launched a new project to help up to 100 of its computer scientists become math and science teachers in city public schools. For now, the project will involve IBM employees in New York City and North Carolina before being rolled out nationwide. According to details provided by the company, IBM will pay employees looking to leave their corporate jobs for a teaching assignment up to $15,000 for tuition and stipends while they earn their state certification. An IBM executive, speaking in the East Village, commented on the plan: "We think it's the right thing for business and we know it's the right thing for schools."
"Government workers are far more likely to drive cars to work in Manhattan than private-sector workers... 33% of government workers drove to work in Manhattan compared to 11% of private workers. The reason: many government workers have free parking... If government workers commuted by public transportation or other means at the same rate as others, there would be 14,000 fewer cars coming into the Manhattan central business district each day."
Donald Trump says that, at heart, he's really a small business kind of guy. Forget everything you've heard about billion-dollar real estate deals and huge corporations. Small business is where it's at: "I have incredible respect for small business owners. There are millions of them in the United States, and they are a powerful force, driving our economy."
The exotic foreign land otherwise known as Brooklyn
The New York Times takes a look at a wild, undiscovered travel destination in this week's edition of "36 hours" (a travel feature that appears every Friday)... Yeah, Brooklyn. Does that mean the gawking, fanny-pack crowd will now be emboldened to make the trip to Williamsburg and Fort Greene? Stay tuned.
This may look like a scene from Gitmo, but it's actually a promotion for Fox's new TV show "Prison Break" in midtown Manhattan. Dead Programmer's Cafe explains:
"Right now Fox is promoting a new show, Prison Break. Recently they turned a little raised plaza in front of the Newscorp Building into a "Fox River State Penitentiary", complete with signs, a barbed wire fence, and a whole bunch of dudes in prison jumpsuits handing out nailfiles and fake tattoos with the show's logo. here were also free henna tattoos as well as free buzzcuts. I was very much surprised at how popular the buzzcuts were with the office crowd."
As seen on Ad Rants: the Bangkok subway wrapped in iPod advertisements. Could this ever become a reality for the New York MTA? Instead of History Channel and Snapple deals, maybe Mayor Bloomberg could speak to the folks at Apple?
Jason Kottke points to Paragraph, a workspace for writers in New York (we assume noisy, keyboard-clacking bloggers are welcome). The Union Square space is kinda like an incubator -- for writers. At $132/month, it's cheap. You get a private workspace, a lounge, a kitchen, and a locker. Plus, there's free Wi-Fi access throughout the facility. And, as a bonus, there's a fireplace (non-working).
The New York Post has the inside scoop on a rumored deal involving Time Warner and Microsoft:
"In a deal that would unite two of America's corporate giants as partners in the Internet business, Time Warner is in advanced discussions to sell a stake in America Online to Microsoft... According to two sources familiar with the matter, Time Warner is in talks with Microsoft about selling the stake in AOL and then combining it with Microsoft's Web unit MSN."
Anonymous sources also report that Time Warner is shopping AOL to Yahoo! and Google at the same time, so the odds are high that Time Warner is close to washing its hands of the Internet unit. Could this be the result of pressure from Carl Icahn and his barbarian hordes? In addition to pushing for a seat on Time Warner's board, Icahn has been making noise about spinning off or selling outright various units of the media/Internet giant.
In raving about the iPod Nano, New York Times personal tech guru David Pogue predicts that Apple will soon control more than 80% of the global marketplace for digital music players -- a feat that many on Wall Street didn't think was possible. One analyst cited by Pogue, in fact, earlier stated that, "Nobody can sustain an 80% market share in a consumer electronics business for more than two or three years. It's pretty much impossible." The iPod Nano could change all that: "To see one is to want one. If you hope to resist, lash your credit card to your wallet like Odysseus to the mast."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly - an iPod fan - is now pushing the NYPD to experiment with podcasts, according to Newsday:
"While iPods and similar devices are largely the domain of teens and 20-somethings, Kelly said the NYPD foray into podcasts - believed to be the first by a law enforcement agency - is another way for the department to reach the public."
The first NYPD podcast includes information on street closings during the UN General Assembly meeting, an interview with a police captain about identity theft, and another interview with a police chief sent to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The Wall Street Journal has been preparing big-time for the launch of its new weekend edition on September 17. A brief item in Tuesday's print edition tipped us off that the company BreakingViews will be supplying financial news and opinions for the WSJ Weekend Edition. (In fact, it looks like a larger collaboration might be involved -- a week or two ago, I remember seeing an op-ed piece on hedge funds from a BreakingViews contributor).
Here's the tagline from the BreakingViews Web site:
"Breakingviews leads the way in international financial commentary. Where other websites provide only news, we bring you views: pithy, sophisticated opinion on the top financial stories, as they break. Now we're bringing our unique brand of journalism to America, with a dedicated US edition launching at the end of the year... At a time when people are being deluged with information, breakingviews cuts to the chase. Short, punchy articles. Real-time analysis, delivered while the markets are still open. And above all views, not news.
There are a few other plugs on the company's site touting "real-time comment on the big US and global stories" and "agenda-setting commentary." Of course, it's all hidden behind subscription walls, so most bloggers and Internet surfers are probably blissfully unaware of the existence of the company.
Without taking anything away from BreakingViews (maybe it's my deep-seated inferiority complex when it comes to the Brits), is this type of "real-time commentary" anything different than what's supplied by the various Corante contributors or by other bloggers? Don't bloggers provide "real-time comment" and try to create "agenda-setting commentary"? Bloggers provide views, not news, so what's so achingly different about BreakingViews? Is the Wall Street Journal afraid to call a blog a blog?
"The Morgan Stanley stock analyst, who rose to notoriety in the 1990s with her bullish calls on Internet shares, Monday released a 118-plus page report titled "China Internet," and along with fellow analyst Richard Ji launched coverage on seven China-based Internet stocks, six of which are listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market."
One of Meeker's top picks is Netease.com, or as some refer to it, NetTease.com... If Ms. Meeker spoke Mandarin or some other Chinese dialect, we'd be a bit more upbeat about her leap into the deep end of the Chinese Internet sector. But, as it is, it just looks like a lot of hype and false market assumptions. Deja vu all over again...
Consider for a moment that Baidu.com -- billed as the "Google of China" only weeks ago -- has just been given the kiss of death by Goldman analyst Anthony Noto. Shares of the company traded around $114 at the beginning of the week, but Noto thinks "fair value" is somewhere between $27 and $45 a share.
A funny item from Bloomberg: Ontario-based textbook company Apollo Publication filed for a $3.6 billion IPO with the SEC, but a few items within the registration statement tipped off regulators that something might be amiss -- like a "dream team" of directors that included U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, a former Canadian PM, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and Washington insiders James Baker, Joseph Lieberman, Paul O'Neill and John Snow. Oh, and the company claimed that shareholders in the company included Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. In fact, everything about the deal smacked of either fraud or just plain lunacy -- like the claim that the company served a market of 70 billion people.
According to the New York Daily News, free Wi-Fi networks are being installed at 10 parks across the city, including Central Park and Prospect Park. The Wi-Fi networks are being installed by Manhattan-based Wi-Fi Salon. An executive with Wi-Fi Salon explains why the wireless networks are important to the future of the city: "We're the media capital of the world, the cultural capital of the world. There should be a wireless umbrella over the whole city."
Newsday reports that a Long Island-based company (Insource America) is setting up an online job board for Hurricane Katrina victims. Job seekers along the Gulf Coast can either use the Web site or use a toll-free number to find new jobs. According to an executive from Insource America, people can call from the field, post their resumes online and search for jobs over the phone.
Andrew Rasiej, who ran a valiant campaign for Public Advocate against incumbent Betsy Gotbaum with a technology-centric platform, ended the night with a little more than 5% of the vote. The final tally in the race for Public Advocate:
Betsy Gotbaum: 48.04%
Norman Siegel: 30.36%
Michael Brown: 9.09% Andrew Rasiej: 5.17%
Jay Golub: 4.78%
Damon Cabbagestalk: 2.56%
It was a disappointing finish (did Michael Brown even participate in the debates?), but all is not lost, according to Andrew Rasiej:
"I dont consider this to be anything other than a victory speech We changed the whole notion of what the Public Advocates office could be It doesnt matter what the percentages are, we created a real debate about what the Public Advocates office could be and we raised a lot of important ideas In case you didnt hear, today the New York Parks Department announced that they will be giving free Wi-Fi in most of the citys parks today...
I dont believe that one politician can solve the problems of 8 million people, but I can certainly buy everyone here a drink lets drink to our future, lets drink to our citys future, and lets drink to the future of idea(s)!
The New York Post reports that Carl Icahn is "tightening his famous raider's grip on Time Warner chief Dick Parsons in hopes of quicker profits on the media giant's anemic shares." Icahn is currently angling for one or more seats on the company's board of directors, and to do so, he's "pulled together a posse of other investors." Since Parsons took over the helm of the company in May 2002, Time Warner shares have actually fallen 4%.
The BlogOn Social Media Summit comes to New York in mid-October. The event is the place to meet for anyone working in the world of blogs, social networking, or RSS. With a month yet to go, a number of big names have already signed up to give presentations at the conference - including Jeff Jarvis, Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion and Seth Godin.
OK, now ignore the boilerplate for a moment and focus on the essentials: the conference will take place at the Copacabana in New York City. (time to cue the Barry Manilow music) The Copa. The Copa-ca-ba-na... It's gonna be a mad hot blogroom once those bloggers show up at the Copa:
"Forget stuffy hotel ballrooms and conference centers! BlogOn 2005 will be held in style at the legendary Copacabana in New York City, on October 17-18, 2005. Were transforming the upscale supper club complete with palm trees into a social media hub for two days of keynotes, conversations, panel discussions and networking that will be as entertaining as it is informative. All conference sessions and activities will take place at the Copacabana."
Corante is a media sponsor of the event, so look for upcoming announcements about cool things planned before and during the two-day event. Oh, and if Barry Manilow decides to make an appearance, we'll let you know.
In his campaign for New York City Public Advocate, Andrew Rasiej has highlighted the ability of technology - in all its forms, not just wireless Internet access - to empower ordinary citizens and to make government more responsive and more transparent. Technology is not some kind of wonder drug that will make all the ills of society disappear overnight -- we're all a lot more aware of that after the dot-com collapse. Yet, nobody can deny that technology provides some powerful tools to make everyday life easier.
Over at Flickr, Esther Dyson explains why the Andrew Rasiej campaign, which has made technology a centerpiece of the debate over Public Advocate, is so important to the future of New York. Not just to the future of elitist, tech-savvy New Yorkers - but to all New Yorkers:
"His message is much more than WiFi for the People. He wants transparent and responsive government, which should lead to people feeling they *can* make a difference and getting motivated to do so. The Net and broadly available WiFi are just a means to that end. As someone once said, "Your responsibility does not end with complaining." Andrew is taking up the cudgel and trying to prove all that stuff - the empowering Internet, the changing balance of power, citizen involvement - can actually happen not just in Silicon Valley among the elite, but in New York City among real people...."
Apparently, a New Jersey-based life sciences firm ran into quite a bit of trouble from animal rights activists on the day of its IPO last week. According to the Wall Street Journal print edition, the NYSE announced that the company's IPO would be postponed indefinitely as the result of action by animal rights groups:
"The exchange is reviewing the company's business practices in light of a blistering critique by animal-rights groups who accuse Life Sciences and its operating unit, Huntingdon Life Sciences, of hurting animals as part of their testing for large drug and chemicals companies. Indeed, a blast e-mail sent to thousands of activists by a group called Win Animal Rights (WAR) managed to marry high-volume rhetoric with knowledge of the less-tony neighborhoods of the stock market: "Help us send these puppy killers back to the pink sheets."
Newsday hints that the WAR activists may have even threatened an attack against the New York Stock Exchange. One employee linked to LSR referred to the attacks by Win Animal Rights as a form of "domestic terrorism."
In the debate over citywide Wi-Fi networks, one place to tune in for more coverage is the Community Wireless blog, started by NYCwireless executive director Dana Spiegel. As most of you probably already know, NYCwireless is a non-profit organization that advocates for and enables the growth of public wireless networks. (In fact, the first time that I ever connected to a public wireless network, it was through a free wireless node provided by NYCwireless.)
"About 60 percent of New York City doesnt make use of broadband, and 90 percent of low-income people have no broadband. The reason for this is that most communities have only access to one or two big providers, and broadband cant be had in New York for less than $50 a month."
While most people agree that broadband Internet access is turning into a "basic human right" - just like electricity - the debate over wireless Internet access gets nuanced really fast. For example, it appears that NYCwireless is interested in "improving broadband accessibility and affordability, but not making it a public utility." In other words, muni wireless is not the same thing as community wireless, and government involvement in the build-out of a wireless network might do more harm than good if it is not handled properly. Yet, that doesn't mean that government shouldn't be in the business of providing a public good if private sector providers fail to step up to the plate. Singapore, for example, offers an "effective model for how government could get involved," according to muni wireless proponents.
About a week ago, Tom Watson posted an item about the 10-year anniversary of @NY, the first-ever Internet newsletter in New York City that was founded by himself and Jason Chervokas. The newsletter initially went out to a subscriber base of approximately 300 people and was meant to chronicle the Internet subculture as it evolved in the city. Eventually, the @NY newsletter grew to a circulation of 100,000 and was later sold to "empire-builder" Alan Meckler. Watson explains the excitement of those early years:
"As anniversaries go, this one isn't significant to many people besides Jason and me: we founded @NY that summer of 1995 to chronicle what we thought was a great story that needed to be told. The usually under-employed class of writers, designers, artists, photographers, editors - and their pals in sales - had created a tiny but fascinating new class of entrepreneur in New York City, leveraging the commercial dawn of the Internet browser to create a new medium. We came to the story during the preceeding year or so, attracted by art-based Websites, by email lists of interesting young people, and by the parties."
"All along, the idea that user-created content - conversations - was the life's blood of the Internet guided our reportage. And that pose was clearly out best: tested by time, it has proven solid as a rock. @NY's legacy is a tiny one outside of a small circle of people. But it was entirely emblematic of its times, and, in retrospect, part of a the movement of citizens media we're all participating in now..."
While Corante New York may not be as hip, as cool, or as popular as @NY, we like to think that we too are trying to chronicle the same tech culture in New York. Maybe 10 years from now, we'll also have a chance to look back in the same way... Congrats, Tom and Jason, and thanks for blazing the trail as an Internet pioneer in the city!
Love him or hate him, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is still an intellectual rock star with an international following. Fortune magazine explains:
"He dazzles crowds. He brews conventional wisdom. He charms CEOs. And he drives some people crazy. Meet Tom Friedman, the oracle of the Global Century."
At a recent event in Aspen, Friedman sold out an audience of 1,700 with tales of global politics and insights into the world of tomorrow. Seemingly, everybody wants a piece of Friedman these days -- including all manner of politicians, celebrities and A-listers from Hollywood to Washington to Wall Street. In fact, says Fortune, "The last newspaper columnist of comparable ambition and influence was Walter Lippmann, who from World War I through Vietnam guided Americans through their nation's transformation from isolationist island to global superpower."
An eavesdropper at the Internet Garage in Williamsburg posted this item at OverheardInNewYork:
Guy: Your copy machine is out of cards.
Store dude: Yes, I'm sorry.
Guy: Can I just pay you to make copies?
Store dude: It's out of cards, I have no way to make it work.
Guy: Can I use this one?
Store dude: That one's just for color copies. Sorry, I don't make the rules.
Guy: You sound like a real loser.
Store dude: And yet, I'm about to complete my objective--which is to tell you to f*** off--while you still don't have your copies.
In addition to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, there's another major tournament taking place in the city today and Saturday: the U.S. Finals of the World Cyber Games. At the Hammerstein Ballroom, videogamers will compete for $34,000 in prize money, as well as possible corporate sponsorships and a trip to the World Cyber Games Grand Final in Singapore in November.
The New York Post goes behind the scenes to look at the types of New York-area teens competing in the event -- like the 19-year-old New Jersey-based Verizon repairman who just happens to be one of the world's best players of "Counter-Strike." Or the Manhattan College sophomore who made $30,000 playing videogames last year. All told, there will be 16 teams from around the nation playing a wide range of different videogames in front of "thousands" of spectators.
There's a humorous cartoon in the Wall Street Journal every day (or nearly every day) called "Pepper... and Salt." Anyway, yesterday's cartoon was worth clipping for anyone involved in the dot-com boom of the '90s (unfortunately, couldn't find a link to it on the Web):
Two guys in suits walking down a street, both holding briefcases, one with long hair, one with short hair. The short-haired guy turns to the long-haired guy and says:
"You're the only guy I know who didn't cut off his ponytail after the dot-com bust."
Anyway, if you think this is just a smidge funny, check out Science Cartoons Plus (scroll down the page for examples from the Wall Street Journal).
In the last Public Advocate debate, there was a bit of disagreement among the candidates as to what should be the proper role of the Public Advocate in New York City. Is the role of the Public Advocate to act as a watchdog over the Mayor and city agencies? To act as an ombudsman for the people of the city and to protect their interests? Or to serve a more expanded role -- to find new ways to empower New Yorkers through technological innovation? (e.g. citywide wireless networks that would provide low-income New Yorkers access to the Internet)
In a best case scenario, the Public Advocate should be able to empower ordinary citizens to use technology as a lever to move the vast, imposing rock of public bureaucracy. Consider the case of LaLa Wang and MLX.com... In 1993, the company created a single, open real estate marketplace where buyers, sellers, renters, landlords, and brokers could find one another. The open marketplace gave consumers more choices and made apartment hunting less expensive and time-consuming. That is, until the entrenched real estate interests (i.e. large brokerage firms) in the city got together to throw up roadblocks to the further operation of MLX.com. The New York Department of State eventually got involved, enforcing an outdated Apartment Information Vendor licensing law to prevent MLX.com from offering to renters many of the services that it originally intended to offer. (For more details on the case and a link to a public petition to state and federal officials, check out LaLa's Website).
In the first type of role (as Mayoral Watchdog), the Public Advocate probably would pass on this type of case since it doesn't involve either the mayor or a city agency. Moreover, the role of Watchdog would focus on cases of gross malfeasance or wrongdoing, not on cases of a fossilized bureaucracy.
In the second type of role for the Public Advocate, the case of MLX.com might have been accepted -- but more likely, there would be 8 million other citizens also clamoring for attention, and the case of MLX.com would simply be moved to the end of the queue. Is it really the job of the Public Advocate to solve the problems of all 8 million New Yorkers? With a $3 million annual budget, that's not too likely.
Now, consider what would happen if the Public Advocate took a proactive role toward technology and understood its ability to empower citizens. In the case of LaLa Wang and MLX.com, it would be clear that government bureaucrats were acting to suppress innovation in the real estate market -- innovation that benefits consumers. Instead of interfering directly, the Public Advocate would provide the types of technological tools and resources that would enable a company like MLX.com to take on the entrenched interests. The Public Advocate would also have an eye out for ways that city agencies could become more efficient and productive through technology.
This week's New York Magazine - in addition to having a lovely cover photo of Gwyneth Paltrow for its Fall Preview edition - features a preview of a far different sort inside: a look at all the reasons why the Wall Street Journal could be up for sale by the end of the year. The likely bidders in any kind of deal would involve some of the biggest names in the media world: the Washington Post, News Corp. and The New York Times. The article is not one of those pump-and-dump articles churned out by hedge fund manager James Cramer for the magazine -- it's an eight-page dissection of all the reasons why the Wall Street Journal is a "beleaguered" newspaper desperately trying to right a sinking ship. So, without more ado, a list of the 10 reason why the WSJ could find itself with new ownership sooner rather than later:
(1) The newspaper's new "Weekend Journal" (due out on September 17) is nothing more than a panicked, bet-the-house attempt to bring in more advertising dollars from companies that usually do not advertise in the Journal (i.e. Coach, Ralph Lauren, Best Buy and "importers of Ligurian olive oil").
(2) Even with the new advertisers, the new "Weekend Journal" will do little to add to the newspaper's bottom line -- the new venture is "so expensive and complex" that the costs outweigh the benefits
(3) Content at the Journal has been becoming more advertising-driven than at any time in the paper's history, thanks to an increasing diversion of resources to "Personal Journal" type of articles (e.g. "the rising number of home chefs using dishwashers to cook fish"). As a result, the newspaper's reputation for sterling, well-researched pieces has taken a hit.
(4) Demographics -- the readers of the Journal aren't getting any younger
(5) Bad management and horrendous corporate governance
(6) High staff turnover, as even the individuals responsible for shepherding through the "Weekend Journal" are jumping ship at the first opportunity
(7) The CEO of Dow Jones (Peter Kann) and the publisher of the WSJ (Karen Elliott House) are husband & wife -- what New York Magazine calls "an obvious managerial idiosyncrasy." Hint: employees of the WSJ sometimes refer to Karen Elliott House as "Karen Elliott Spouse."
(8) A failure to diversify the WSJ brand into other media-related ventures
(9) A failure to keep up with the Joneses (the Dow Joneses, maybe, but not the Joneses). According to New York Magazine, the managing editor of the WSJ (Paul Steiger) "wears a faded tie and a yellow shirt that looks as if it slid off a Brooks Brothers shelf twenty years ago..."
(10) Management succession questions - both Paul Steiger and Peter Kann are set to retire two years from now, which could lead to the mother-of-all-board-battles for control of the WSJ.
All that being said, though, I can't think of a better-written newspaper in New York, and it would be a shame to see the Wall Street Journal snatched up by someone like Rupert Murdoch (who also publishes the New York Post). A reporter for the WSJ sums up this sentiment perfectly at the end of the New York Magazine piece:
"As the companys advertising crisis continues, with few signs of abating, these reporters have found themselves with no choice other than to root hard for Kann to pull off an eleventh-hour victory with the Weekend Edition, to ensure that the company retains its independence. After one reporter angrily itemized his grievances against Kann, he took a deep breath and sighed. On the other hand, hes all that separates us from Page Six and Bill OReilly. May God bless him and keep him safe."
A-Rod explains why he's launching a new Website now -- as the baseball season is nearing to a close, and the Yankees zero in on another World Series championship (wishful thinking?):
"The reason I've created my own Web site is simple. I wanted to create a place where there are exclusive programs, photos and opportunities for you to enjoy. We will be working constantly to bring you new and exciting features that are not available anywhere else. And I wanted to be able to communicate all of this directly to you -- the fans. This Web site is my way of being able to reach out to each of you, and also a way you can communicate with me."
The Wall Street Journal takes a closer look at the competition between a handful of companies - including Technorati, Feedster and BlogPulse - to become the "Google of blogs." Since Google and Yahoo are not always able to track the information appearing in millions of blogs in real-time, these smaller upstarts see a real opportunity. However, says the WSJ, these blog search engines will never displace Google and Yahoo until they can work out a few problems:
"The new services, some of which are less than a year old, aren't without their glitches. The technology is still evolving and companies are still looking for the best way to track and sort blogs. Some services miss large numbers of blogs, while others pull up irrelevant sites."
One telling statistic for anyone overly concerned about Technorati ratings and other new-fangled ways of tracking popularity:
"The new blog-search sites draw only a sliver of the visitors that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN do. Most of them didn't have enough traffic in July to register on the radar of Internet-tracking firm Nielsen/NetRatings. Technorati did, with 642,000 unique visitors. But its traffic still made up less than 1% of Google's visitors that month."
Trying to find gas at under $3 a gallon is becoming close to impossible in New York City. Thanks to NewYorkGasPrices.com, though, it's still possible to track down the handful of stations that are offering gas at $2.99 a gallon. (Hint: you can forget about Manhattan -- these stations are in Brooklyn, the Bronx or Long Island)
NYU is hosting a day-long conference (Impact '05) on "the dramatic transformation of traditional media and the emergence of non-traditional media channels" on September 15. Already, the conference has assembled an all-star speaker lineup, including the Wall Street Journal's Ron Alsop, NYTimes.com editor-in-chief Len Apcar, AOL editor Lewis D'Vorkin, Yahoo! general manager Patrick Houston, Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh and Technology Review editor-in-chief Jason Pontin. It'll cost about 500 bucks, though, to get this close to these leading media luminaries.
Park Slope-based photoblogger Travis Ruse has a great series of photos from the New York subway, including this snapshot of a guy holding an unmarked box wrapped in brown paper at Brooklyn's Jay Street station. Hope the NYPD checked this out -- something tells me that if he weren't dressed in a suit and tie and if he were a different ethnicity, the other folks on the subway platform would have scurried off to a different train a long time ago. Hey people, if you see something, say something.
OnNYTurf has created an interesting mash-up involving Google Maps and the NYC subway map. For those making their way out to Jersey, the mash-up also includes PATH train routes. Last week, NY1's Adam Balkin had a feature on Google Maps mash-ups.
Vanity Fair has released its annual "powerbroker ranking," which lists the two founders of Google (Sergey Brin, Larry Page) at #1, followed by a number of big-time media moguls such as Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone (#3) and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch (#4). As the New York Daily News points out, "The young Google guys have toppled the old-line media moguls," marking a changing of the guard in the world of media and advertising.
Think you know a lot about the future of media? Well, I Want Media is offering its readers a chance to win a free copy of Veronis Suhler Stevenson's 2005 Communications Industry Forecast. All you have to do is submit a brain-busting question about the future of media and communications by September 19:
"For your chance to win, submit one question about the publication to I Want Media. Jim Rutherfurd, executive vice president and managing director of Veronis Suhler Stevenson, will answer the most intriguing question submitted, and his response will be posted on I Want Media.
The reader who submits the selected question will receive a FREE copy of the 2005 edition -- a $1,995 value. The private equity firm's annual publication is a "must-have" tool for media executives, according to USA Today."
For hints about what kinds of questions to ask, check out Veronis Suhler Stevenson's press release. Hint: four years from now, the worlds of media and advertising will have likely experienced massive transformations.
My guess is that the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal -- coming to a doorstep near you on the 17th of the month -- will be a bit weightier than most people are predicting. Consider an article from today's print edition of the WSJ: "How Not to Eat Like a Power Broker: Time-Pressed Dieters Try to Alter Habits." It looks at the eating habits of on-the-go Wall Streeters, and advances the notion that "Wall Street Eating Syndrome" (no breakfast, small or light munchies during the day, over-the-top dining and drinking at night) leads to obesity.
In contrast, says the WSJ, French women don't get fat: they eat balanced meals throughout the day and don't snack. So there you have it -- a practical piece of dieting advice for both men and women, mixed together with insights from daily life on Wall Street, a pinch of mass consumerism (that best-selling book about French women) and a dollop of pop psychology. Hopefully, there will be more of the same from the weekend WSJ.
As if we didn't have enough to worry about these days, the New York Times reminds all of us to lock our gas caps. If the anecdotal evidence is true, then it looks like stories about gas siphoners who raid unprotected gas caps will replace stories about iPod muggings in the subway:
"With the price of gas in the city hovering at $2.60 a gallon in recent weeks and rising to an average of $3.25 a gallon and up in the wake of the disruptions that followed Hurricane Katrina, many New York drivers are steeling themselves against the rise of a certain kind of petty criminal: gas siphoners."
In some parts of the Bronx, apparently, sales of gas caps are running 70-75% above normal. The NYPD, though, has yet to report a single documented case of gas siphoning. About a week ago, the USA Today published a story called "Is no gas tank safe?", evidently prompting the reporters of the New York Times to fan out into the boroughs, in search of the mysterious gas siphoners.
"With housing prices continuing to rise into the far reaches of the stratosphere, there's a lot of talk about a housing bubble on the brink of bursting. Scared at the possibility, industry watchers have been preaching impending doom, warning house shoppers to be wary of the real estate market.
As long as interest rates stay low and the dollar stays weak--which is an unfortunate situation, but it happens to be good for real estate--then there will be no burst in the current housing bubble. If interest rates go up precipitously and the dollar gets stronger, then there will be some reduction in housing prices."
So, if I'm reading this correctly, Trump acknowledges that there is indeed a "bubble," but that this one won't go "pop." It will be one of those Greenspan-esque soft landings, where prices decline in a nice, orderly fashion. Is that why Ivana Trump is now building luxury skyscrapers in Las Vegas?
Just in time for the September 13 primary, Gotham Gazette has a handy endorsement grid to figure out who's backing who in the mayoral race. As might be expected, The
New York Times is backing Fernando Ferrer in the Democratic primary, as is New York Magazine. But there are a whole lotta endorsements that are less obvious. In fact, sometimes it feels like George Bush's "coalition of the willing," whose ranks were swelled with a bunch of stalwart - yet largely unknown - nations.
Look at who's lined up behind Mayor Bloomberg -- the only newspapers to back Bloomberg thus far have been the Ecuador News, the Ecua Times (yo, Ecuador in the house!) and Sing Tao (the newspaper, not the beer). Granted, a whole host of everyday people who make the city run on a daily basis - plumbers, taxi drivers, construction workers, electricians, paramedics, doctors, building workers, security guards and civil servants - have also lined up behind Bloomberg, but what does it say when no major New York newspaper has endorsed Bloomberg?
In this week's issue of New York Magazine, hedge fund manager and Wall Street talking head James J. Cramer says that Google is a steal at $280 a share. Who cares that shares of the Internet search company have more than tripled in just the past 12 months? According to Cramer, shares of Google will be trading at $350 by year's end. In fact, the only thing holding back Google, says Cramer, is the wet blanket that New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer stands ready to throw on any kind of Wall Street speculative bubble:
"You can blame Eliot Spitzer if you missed out on the last 200 points of Google. You might even be able to blame the New York State attorney general if you miss out on the next 70 points of the great search-engine stock, which I now expect to soar from $280 to $350 by years end. You can point the finger at Spitzer, because Wall Street analysts have become so timid, so downright apologetic and fearful of prosecution, that they have failed to get behind arguably the greatest stock of the young 21st century..."
Greenwich, Connecticut already boasts more hedge fund managers and CEOs per capita than just about any other city in the U.S. Now, the mean streets of Greenwich are home of the metropolitan area's most sophisticated golf swing analysis tool: the Body Motion System. BioSport Technologies in Greenwich is pioneering the use of a wireless motion tracking vest developed at MIT that can help golf instructors point out all the flaws in the mechanics of a golf swing:
"It's looking at tracking the golf motion in real time, specifically the hips and shoulders in terms of the range of motion of the hips and shoulders, how fast each body segment is moving. This will quantify the motion in terms of how fast each body part is moving and how much. Video doesn't do that... With the quantitative information you know just how far the shoulders turned, how fast they turned, and what sequence, so there's no guesswork. And the body is moving so fast in golf the naked eye can't see it. Even on video you can be fooled at times as to what's going on, so this is kind of like taking an x-ray or MRI on a golf swing and looking deep inside the motions..."
Gizmag has more details on various wireless capture systems and how they can help golfers of all skill levels discover their inner Tiger Woods.
Crain's New York provides an update of the New York-area businesses that are sending checks to help out with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort:
News Corp.: $1 million in cash, plus up to $1 million in employee matches Fox Networks Group: $5 million in free air time Siemens: generators, telecom equipment, heart monitors, water filtration items Pathmark Stores: cleaning disinfectant and water
A big hat tip to the executives and employees of these companies that are providing much-needed assistance to the battered Gulf Coast region.
Sirius Satellite Radio has locked up another key content partner: Cosmopolitan magazine:
"The satellite radio provider said the ''Cosmopolitan Radio'' channel will feature talk shows covering topics of interest to women with guests including magazine Editor-in-Chief Kate White and other editors and writers. The channel also will play pop and other music."
No word yet as to whether the new satellite radio channel will feature some of the racier bits from Cosmo ("10 hot new bedroom tricks," "secret sex cravings") or whether it will stick to the standard fare of fashion, career and beauty.
Heading into the Labor Day weekend, I had a chance to browse through Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff, a how-to marketing book for anyone trying to get people to start a conversation about a new product or service. The thought was that a few tips and tricks from Mark Hughes -- the marketing maestro who convinced the town of Halfway, Oregon to rename itself to Half.com -- might be enough to help me pump up readership of this blog (which, ahem, even made the Top 30 list at Blogdex last week).
Hughes doesn't claim to offer the key to the mysteries of the universe, but he does get to the heart of the matter: how to move product in a world in which most people view marketing as the work of the devil. People don't want to be pitched, or sold, or deceived into buying something they don't want. And, with the proliferation of new technologies like TiVo, they won't even sit around long enough to listen to a message unless it's somehow fresh and mildy irreverent.
The answer to the problem, says Hughes, is buzz marketing. Quite simply, companies can dramatically boost sales and name recognition by attracting customer evangelists who will spread news of the product by word-of-mouth. For bloggers looking to boost page views and snag subscribers, all the advice you need is found on page 80 ("The Five Most Frequently Written Stories"):
Similar in many ways to giving consumers something to talk about - you've got to give the media something to write about. The media's appetite for what's newsworthy is slightly different from the consumer's. Year after year, the five most frequently written news stories are the following:
The David-and-Goliath story
The unusual or outrageous story
The controversy story
The celebrity story
What's already hot in the media
If you can create a story with any of these story angles you're going to capture the media attention. Create a story that packs two, three or four of these angles, and you've got a grand slam!"
As noted in an earlier post, the New York City Office of Emergency Management has dispatched an urban search-and-rescue team to Mississippi to help out with the post-hurricane disaster recovery process. Our hearts and minds go out to the brave members of New York Task Force 1, which will be spending the weekend at Camp Shelby in Mississippi taking care of business while the rest of us grill burgers and spend some time at the beach. On this Labor Day weekend, let's not forget the men and women of New York Task Force 1 who are working so that we don't have to.
the OEM site also has details on how to donate to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
Not sure what the poll numbers in the race for New York City Public Advocate look like, but bloggers and other intellectuals continue to flock to Andrew Rasiej's campaign for Public Advocate, drawn primarily by Andrew's support of a citywide Wi-Fi network for New York.
The New York Sun's John Avlon calls citywide Wi-Fi one of the best ideas advanced by any Democratic candidate, while New York intellectual Douglas Rushkoff also lavishes praise on Rasiej: "I'm supporting Andrew Rasiej because he gets that a city today - even one as centralized and powerful as New York - is no longer a Renaissance-era city-state to be dictated from the top, but living network that breathes, spreads, and self-repairs from the periphery."
In The L Magazine, Brian Diedrick also has a rousingly positive profile of Andrew Rasiej, even going so far as to implicitly compare Andrew Rasiej to legendary American patriot Patrick Henry in "Give Me WiFi or Give Me Death!" Diedrick explains that Andrew Rasiej "would like to do for the New York City Public Advocates post what Eliot Spitzers done for the state Attorney Generals desk. Where many see an office worth not much more than a pitcher of warm spit, Rasiej sees an opportunity to wire New York for universal WiFi access..."
UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after we posted this entry, the New York Times came out with a profile of Andrew Rasiej and his plan for citywide high-speed wireless: "A Man With a Vision for Getting New York Wired." Methinks, though, that the title should have used the term "unwired," not "wired," eh?
In life, there's the carrot and then there's the stick. For businesses thinking about moving to Lower Manhattan, Governor George Pataki is offering the carrot. Newsday has more details on the newest tax breaks and incentives to lure businesses to the World Trade Center and other destinations downtown.
For example, all tenants south of Canal Street will no longer have to pay a 3.9% commercial rent tax for the next five years, and companies renting space at the World Trade Center site will have that tax permanently eliminated. In addition, there's a relocation program for companies adding jobs south of Houston Street as well as a host of incentives for companies leasing space at 7 World Trade.
The only question, say skeptics, is whether all these incentives will really work:
"It's been demonstrated that tax incentive programs don't provide enough benefit for [companies] to really alter their investment and location decisions. The most effective method of nurturing economic growth in lower Manhattan is to address infrastructure, security and community amenities."
In today's Wall Street Journal review of the new Toulouse-Lautrec show in Chicago, New York art critic Karen Wilkin calls Montmartre the "Williamsburg of Paris..." Usually, it's the other way around, right? As in, "the Harvard of the West" or "the Venice of the North." Maybe Williamsburg really has arrived...
It's not quite as dramatic as humans defeating robots in a Terminator flick, but Gothamist points out that human train operators are returning to the L subway line, displacing the robot operators. In other words, it's the end of the robo-train experiment:
"Hipsters, rejoice: An arbitrator said the L train conductors must go back to work because removing them violated a labor agreement. The MTA had removed conductors from L trains, in hopes of taking advantage of technology (the special, shiny robot trains) and trying to reduce costs (and start removing "excess" conductors from other train lines), giving riders the One Person Train Operation instead during nights and weekends - and then all the time later this year."
The New York Times calls it a "significant defeat" for the MTA since the third-party ruling means that the MTA will be hard-pressed in the future to eliminate the jobs of conductors from other city subway lines.
We like the new Con Edison print ads, as seen in this week's Wall Street Journal. There's a picture of a young female technophile (sorta resembling Devon Aoki, one of the sultry vixens from Sin City) with an MP3 player and a laptop computer, accompanied by the tagline "We made room for the Next Big Thingamajig even before you did."
Apparently, Con Edison is tired of the banal slogon "On It" and is trying to show New Yorkers that the company is not only "on it," it's "with it," too. From the new Con Edison ad:
"Whatever the next thingamabob that's on everybody's ears or shelves, we've been expecting it. Over the next several years, Con Edison is investing billions to keep our system in sync with the growing energy demand, including installing 2,000 miles of new cable to keep New York running 24/7."
On today's Wall Street Journal op-ed page, Andy Kessler weighs in on the debate over Philadelphia's municipal Wi-Fi ("Mu-Fi") experiment. It's hard to choose sides in this debate, says Kessler, mostly because both sides are being a bit disingenuous about what's at stake. On one hand, the city of Philadelphia is contextualizing its Wi-Fi initiative as a way to help the city's poor and disadvantaged bridge the Digital Divide, while Verizon complains about the meddling of "public sector bureaucrats" in what should be a private sector affair. In reality, though, companies like Verizon view Mu-Fi as a radical threat to their domination of telecom and cable, while the city of Philadelphia actually views the municipal Wi-Fi experiment as a way to save $2 million each year on its citywide IT budget. Confused yet? (No wonder that the public Wi-Fi debate in New York has confused so many people...)
The IBM-Lenovo deal was just the beginning, apparently, of a growing relationship between Chinese companies and the New York metropolitan area. Expect more link-ups between New York companies and Chinese companies over the next 12-to-24 months. Crain's New York is reporting that a huge Chinese real estate company is seeking up to one million square feet of office space in Manhattan to create a center for Chinese companies establishing operations in the U.S. New York officials are pushing for the Chinese to occupy 7 World Trade Center, but a move to midtown is also a possibility.
According to insiders, the Beijing real estate company would actually lease the space, and then sublease offices to Chinese companies that want a headquarters in New York City. The company would also provide those companies with support services such as conference facilities and translators, making it all sound much like a business incubator.
Currently, 68 Chinese firms have a presence in New York. Of China's 32 largest companies, 13 have a presence in the city.
In his Trump Blog, Donald Trump bucks the conventional wisdom when it comes to IT outsourcing. According to Trump, outsourcing actually creates jobs in the long-run:
"We hear terrible things about outsourcing jobs--how sending work outside of our companies is contributing to the demise of American businesses. But in this instance I have to take the unpopular stance that it is not always a terrible thing...
Last year, Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Lawrence R. Klein, the founder of Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, co-authored a study that showed how global outsourcing actually creates more jobs and increases wages, at least for IT workers. The study found that outsourcing helped companies be more competitive and more productive. That means they make more money, which means they funnel more into the economy, thereby, creating more jobs."
Reports are coming in that Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp is making a push into the real estate brokerage business. (Didn't he get our housing bubble memo?) Currently, Barry Diller's online real estate empire consists of LendingTree.com and RealEstate.com, which together provide mortgage and property listings for the residential real estate market. For now, it appears that the move into the real estate brokerage business will primarily occur through New York-based RealEstate.com. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has details:
"IAC/InterActiveCorp, the television and Internet-service company that spun off Expedia this month, plans to enter the U.S. real estate brokerage business next year to expand beyond its current Internet offerings of property and mortgage listings. The New York-based company's RealEstate.com business will open brokerage offices in the Pacific Northwest in the first half of 2006. The company has yet to decide how much to invest, whether to buy related businesses or if it will expand the service nationally."
Analysts thus far have been less than impressed with the move, pointing out the pitfalls of entering an over-heated market segment: "IAC may be entering the game late. Growth rates are moderating in the real estate market."
"Following the success of the first Pret a PSP in March, Sony today announced that they will be hosting another Pret a PSP fashion show in New York on September 10. The show will be held at Skylight Studios in West Village and feature PSP accessories designed by Tommy Hilfiger, J. Mendel, Earnest Sewn, Lulu Guinness, adidas Respect M.E. by Missy Elliott, and more."
A Sony marketing honcho comments on what it all means for the PlayStation Portable crowd, "We are pleased to be working with these elite designers as they showcase the true portability of PSP and establish it as a must-have accessory for today's mobile lifestyle where fashion and technology go hand-in-hand."
Everybody do the robot. Or something like that, anyway. It's the first annual Robot Parade in Greenwich Village. It all kicks off at 11:00 am at Washington Square Park on Sunday, September 18. According to the planners of the Robot Parade, participants must "be a robot, accompany a robot, or dress up like a robot."
In addition, "all robots must be human and robot friendly. That means no robots spitting fire, throwing knifes, or engaging in other activities harmful to humans and robots. Other than that, any device conceived with some sort of autonomous behavior in mind counts. We are an inclusive robot parade. Works in progress are welcome. And if you can't build or borrow a robot, dress up like one!"