This, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist Dominic Basulto. Dominic is a New York native, has been a senior editor at Corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. Send tips or story ideas to: email@example.com.
About this weblog
Here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in New York City. Impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. What we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. As well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to New York's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them.
"Someone just wrote a book about me. It's the biggest pile of garbage I've ever seen, written by a highly questionable and, some people say, disgraced reporter named Tim O'Brien. I looked up O'Brien on the Internet and found stories comparing him to Jayson Blair. Blair was The New York Times' infamous reporter, who was fired in shame after he was found guilty of fabricating stories, sources, and quotes. Jayson Blair almost took down The New York Times, and now the paper might be taken down by Judith Miller, who's just as bad as Jayson Blair...
The fact is The New York Times is going to hell. They published a major story about me on Sunday that they knew was wrong... The paper's editors knew the story was wrong, but they wanted to try and sell newspapers. The New York Times was once a great newspaper, but it's not worth the paper it's printed on anymore. Changes have to be made. The New York Times is now reeling from so many huge mistakes by reporters and management that people are saying it's one of the worst newspapers in America."
If you happen to cross paths with Donald Trump this week, it's probably best to change course and start running in the opposite direction - at least until things simmer down. And don't mention the hair, whatever you do.
Well, if it's November, it's almost time for newspapers, magazines and Websites to start publishing their holiday shopping lists, which will no doubt feature prominently items like the iPod Nano and the video iPod. On Friday, the Direct Marketing Association kicked off things with a preview of the upcoming holiday shopping season, estimating that Americans will spend $299 billion on holiday gifts this year. Internet retailers, rejoice! The trend is your friend:
More than two-thirds of Americans (70%) will shop from home, buying from catalogs, over the Internet, over the phone, or through the mail
Books/Music/Videos are the most popular online purchases, with 55% of online shoppers buying these items on the Web
63% of shoppers cite convenience as the reason they shop via catalogs, the Internet, mail, or phone
Oh, and 97% of Americans plan to shop for holiday gifts in 2005. The remaining 3%? Well, they're either waiting for the holiday discount sales in 2006 or they're just plain Grinches.
The Online News Association (ONA) had its annual shindig in New York last week (October 28-29), and commentary from the conference is starting to filter in from all the usual suspects:
Susan Mernit has details of a session on blogging best practices that included a senior CBS.com executive asking for advice on how to improve the quality of a blog and tips from a producer on how to get the newsroom involved in a blogging initiative.
"This is perhaps the most exciting time to be an online journalist, at the most exciting time in the media sphere. Yet, at ONA, where was the passion? Where was the excitement about working in the most innovative time in the history of media? In its place what I see is self-doubt, existential crisis, a siege mentality. The media companies, yes, they're threatened, but for them, the bottomline matters, and in most cases, growing. But it is the people who work in those media companies, these journalists, who feel the most direct effect of things like blogs, the blogs beating them up, and generally, the increasing attention competition they have from all other forms of media.
At ONA, you could feel all of that."
New York's "urban heat island" effect is a byproduct of several factors, including the black, tarred rooftops made of asphalt and concrete that trap sunlight and heat, raising the temperature in the city by as much as 10 degrees. There has to be a better solution, and over at Gotham Gazette, Sam Williams examines two alternatives - the white roof and the green roof. A "white roof" is simply a roof that has been treated with a basic coating of light-colored water sealant, while a "green roof" is a roof that includes a garden (usually, plants or trees atop a layer of soil).
According to the executive director of Manhattan-based EarthPledge, “Roof tops are an enormous wasted resource" in New York. What's more, as Williams explains, there are a number of environmental benefits to green roofs - they tend to limit storm water runoff and they have the ability to filter pollutants and to remove carbon dioxide via photosynthesis.
Be sure to check out the stunning array of "green roofs" from Greening Gotham. There are examples of Japanese gardens, Miami Beach-style roof terraces and stunning views of the city.
"The podcast --available at RunnersWorld.com and on Apple's iTunes-- is being sponsored by the sneaker company Asics and will consist of advice for those 35,000-plus participants set to run the marathon on Sunday, November 6. Runner's World staffers will contribute, including editor in chief David Willey, who will talk about what makes the New York Marathon special, and senior editor Jane Hahn, who will discuss pre- and mid-race nutrition. A total of eight segments are currently planned, with more content planned as the race approaches."
"The Retractable Bollard is a post (diameter 12 inches) made of concrete, stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron or other durable material, that creates an above ground obstacle, limiting vehicle access to a specific location that is reserved for pedestrians most of the time. This post can be lowered when passage is authorized, by any type of access control device (RF, card, key, etc.), or at any time in case of an emergency. When in the lowered position, the top is flush with the pavement or asphalt, and completely hidden."
So, the next time you're walking around the city and one of your colleagues mentions the "post" or the "barrier" or the "obstruction" in front of a fortified building, kindly correct them: "No, silly, that's a bollard."
Don't miss Columbia Journalism Review's interview with Elizabeth Spiers, the [soon to be former] editor-in-chief at Mediabistro.com and the original editor of the media & celebrity gossip blog Gawker. Spiers discusses her new book deal, analyzes the recent blogger firings at Conde Nast and CNN, clarifies the "incestuous and confusing" links between bloggers at Mediabistro and Gawker, and weighs in on whether or not the "15 minutes of fame" for bloggers like herself have ended:
"Regarding bloggers' 15 minutes -- I think the media focus on the format is dying down, which means it's maturing. I'm on record somewhere in 2002 as saying that the blog bubble was going to burst any minute, and Nick Denton is on record agreeing with me --and that was well before we started Gawker. But you're not going to stop hearing about blogs; they're just going to become such a fixture that they're no longer unique and they're no longer portrayed as an isolated media phenomenon."
Song, Delta's discount carrier subsidiary that was positioned as a worthy rival to JetBlue (anyone still remember the cool launch party for the Song store in SoHo?), is no more. The airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September (at the same time that Delta filed), and now Delta has announced that it will discontinue service on the airline and incorporate Song's fleet into Delta's regular service by May 2006. That means new paint jobs for the airplanes and a few structural changes to the insides of the planes: Delta plans to refit the single-class Song airplanes to include first-class seating to make the planes conform with Delta's regular service. Does this mean the end of leather seats, free personal entertainment systems, and the Song Bistro?
The Dolans have officially taken their $7.9 billion Cablevision buyout offer off the table. Newsday has the details: "In the latest twist in a year of dramatic turns for Cablevision Systems and the family that controls it, the Dolans said they had withdrawn a $7.9-billion offer to take the cable company private and to spin off its New York Knicks and Rangers, TV channels and Madison Square Garden." In their offer, the Dolans valued the company at $33.50 a share. On news of the withdrawn offer, however, Cablevision's stock price fell by $3.54, to $26.24.
While investors roundly criticized the decision by the Dolan family, some Wall Street analysts actually upgraded the company's stock on the news. For example, Banc of America Securities changed its rating on Cablevision from "neutral" to "buy" and upped its target price to $33, while Stifel Nicolaus changed its rating from "market perform" to "market outperform" with a new price target of $35. The conclusion, apparently, is that the Dolans were actually offering fair value ($33.50 a share) for Cablevision.
"By now you've heard that I, David Lee Roth, have been appointed Howard Stern's successor for the Howard Stern Radio Show. Maybe some of you read about it in the papers; others of you may have just seen me renovating Stern's office, replacing his furniture with six Marshall stack amps I like to call my "musical desk," and his iMac with a collection of vintage guitars I plan on assembling into the shape of the internet... You have nothing to worry about with me, and things aren't going to change at all. I may not be the King of All Media, but I am the King of Allmusic. Take a look at that website and type in "David Lee Roth"--yeah that's right, I've influenced over ten different bands.
And after several hours of discussing this with some EMT friends of mine, I've even decided to keep calling the show the "Howard Stern Radio Show." I know that sounds incredibly modest, especially after considering several fantastic suggestions, including " The Howard Stern Radio Show presented by David Lee Roth," the "David Lee Rothio Show," and my personal favorite, "Diamond Dave's Diamondz..."
A big hat tip to Optimyst Systems of West Islip: the Long Island-based company was the winner in the "Medical Devices" category of the Wall Street Journal's Technology Innovation Awards 2005. The company won the award for a new device for applying eye medicines that is easier and less wasteful than traditional methods. The Optimyst device uses ultrasound to turn medications into a fine mist that can be sprayed into the eye, delivering medications more efficiently than eye droppers.
In the current issue of City Journal, Steven Malanga (author of The New New Left) tries to get a handle on Bloomberg's new-found pessimism when it comes to economic development in the city. As Malanga points out, Bloomberg's recent negativity about the prospects for Ground Zero are a jarring disconnect with the upbeat, pro-growth message he has been sharing on the mayoral campaign trail:
"What’s strange about the mayor’s position, though, is that for months his campaign has bombarded us with commercials celebrating how vibrant the city’s economy is supposed to be, thanks of course to the mayor’s policies. The ads have declared that the city has revived from the effects of 9/11, supposedly creating tens of thousand of jobs in the process. In announcing his new economic development package recently, the mayor boldly predicted that he would create 250,000 more jobs.
But how can we possibly square these messages with the mayor’s sudden admission that New York may not be able to support 10 million square feet of new office space in Lower Manhattan, which would house only about 40,000 jobs? Can it mean that candidate Bloomberg is guilty of a bit of hyperbole about the city’s economy?"
It's hard to argue with Bloomberg's pro-business credentials, but it's also a bit disheartening to see what's happening in Lower Manhattan. It's been four years now since 9/11, and thus far, the only tenant the city has found for the World Trade Center site has been the developer responsible for bringing in other tenants. And now, even Larry Silverstein has apparently been given the boot by Bloomberg. 1,504 days later, and we're back to square one.
Adam Balkin of NY1 takes a behind-the-scenes look at a new technology from Cisco Systems that will make it easier for emergency responders to coordinate their actions: IPICS (Internet Protocol Intercommunication Solution). The new technology was created in response to a common problem faced by police, fire and other emergency responders - some are using cellphones, some are using push-to-talk phones, and nearly everyone is on a different frequency. Balkin explains how Cisco's IPICS technology can solve this problem:
"It’s a solution that allows even the most antiquated walkie-talkies to communicate easily with even the most state-of-the-art cell phones. IPICS essentially connects them all through a private IP network - think of it like a mini-Internet set up just for first responders. Then, certain individuals with security clearance, like a fire chief, can use a laptop to drag and drop different units in and out of the emergency response dialogue."
The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, a volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing waterfront access and education to the public, is holding a Gowanus Canal fundraiser party on Thursday, October 27:
"Please come help us celebrate the end of our sixth season and the beginning of our boathouse fundraising. There will be delicious food from Schnack, fabulous live music from Hank Plank and the 2 by 4s!!, comic entertainment by Billy Bones the Friendly Pirate, moonlight canoeing, lots of wonderful raffle prizes and exquisite art from Brooklyn artists in the silent auction. All this takes place at the end of 2nd Street and the Gowanus Canal (aka The Jewel of Brooklyn)."
Remember: You'll never tour a more grateful urban canal than the Gowanus Canal. During the past season, there were more than 2,000 trips made down the Gowanus Canal, a sign that more New Yorkers than ever before are taking urban renewal seriously.
In the BreakingViews column in last weekend's Wall Street Journal, there was extensive speculation that Mayor Bloomberg could sell his 79% stake in Bloomberg LP, his closely-held financial information business, if he wins re-election as New York City Mayor next month (which is all but a done deal, we hear). According to BreakingViews, "nothing motivates Michael Bloomberg more than philanthropy," but in order to get into the "charitable realm of a Bill Gates," Bloomberg needs to cash in his shares and convert his paper wealth into cold, hard cash. Then, he can start handing out dollars like there's no tomorrow.
Which led the folks at BreakingViews to do a few back-of-the-envelope calculations:
"Although Bloomberg's finances are not public, one can extrapolate a value for the firm. It has 200,000 clients paying around $21,000 a year, implying revenue of about $4.2 billion. Put that on a multiple of three times (in line with rival Thomson) and it's worth $12.6 billion. Vector in a 30% control premium and it could sell for about $16 billion, with nearly $12.64 billion for Hizzoner."
Who would buy Bloomberg LP? According to the WSJ, maybe Dow Jones or Reuters, but not likely. Probably Thomson, Reed Elsevier or McGraw-Hill. Or maybe, just maybe, a big Internet player like Yahoo, Google or Microsoft.
His media company may be splitting in two, but that doesn't mean 82-year-old Sumner Redstone plans to take a more laissez-faire approach to overseeing the twin pillars of the new Viacom media empire. In an interview covered by the New York Daily News, Redstone reminded the media world that, "I never said I would take my hands off the wheel. I said I would share the wheel with the two companies' CEOs." In fact, Redstone also said that he plans to keep working "another 20 or 30 years." That would make Mr. Redstone, well, 102 years old. You'll have to pry his cold, clammy fingers off Viacom at that point.
That may not be good news for investors, who have already punished Viacom's stock this year and have grown disenchanted with Redstone's efforts to boost Viacom's stock price. Redstone is convinced, though, that splitting the company in two will unlock shareholder value and, quite possibly, assure his legacy in the world of conglomerate media.
The New York Post reports that Sirius Satellite Radio is ready to launch a 24-hour Bruce Springsteen channel called "E Street Radio" on November 1. The launch date of the new satellite radio channel is no accident - it's about two weeks before the release of an anniversary box set of the album "Born to Run." It also coincides with a recent "blockbuster" record deal that Springsteen signed with SonyBMG's Columbia Records label, rumored to be worth close to $100 million.
In a survey of the best NFL fan blogs, Deadspin honors the three best New York Jets sports blogs:
"JetNation.com. You gotta love a football blog that posts nearly every day, keeps tabs on the entire league, uses four writers and says things like: “Herman Edwards is good for handing out Shrek ears.” We’re not sure what that means, but it’s still funny.
The Cockpit. They don’t post as often as we’d like, but they keep a sharp eye out for all things Jets, and exhibit a healthy skepticism that is required to be a Jets fan. Great news site.
The Jets Blog. Worth the trip just for the Fan Confidence Meter alone. The ultimate word in Jets Blogdom, with daily posts, an eye on all Jets media and a green-tinted outlook that may or may not reflect nausea."
JetNation is particularly impressive - just hours after the Jets lost to the Falcons on Monday Night Football, the JetNation blog had a full, position-by-position report card for the Jets. The marks, as might be imagined, were not so good - Coach Herm Edwards, QB Vinny Testaverde and RB Curtis Martin all received F's.
On the surface, Donald Trump would appear to be worth several billion dollars - or at least, that's what he'd have you believe. In reality, his net worth may be significantly lower. Forbes recently pegged his net worth at $2.7 billion, making The Donald one of the 100 richest people in America, but a sure-to-be controversial book due out on Wednesday says that there's a big difference between "verbal billions" and real, tangible wealth. On Sunday, The New York Times published an extended, seven-page excerpt from the book (TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald) that dug deep into Donald's finances and found a lot of "funny money":
"Forbes, in bestowing a $2.6 billion fortune on Donald in its 2004 rich list, credited him with owning 18 million square feet of Manhattan property, which certainly is an impossibility... Between 2000 and 2004, Forbes allowed Donald's verbal billions to grow by $1 billion. The jump came during a period when the stock market bubble burst, Donald's stake in his casinos - one of his most valuable assets until "The Apprentice" came along - had fallen in value to $7 million and, despite Manhattan's red-hot real estate market, he owned much less real estate there than he let on. Donald said his casinos' myriad problems - no profits, suffocating debt, disappearing cash - did not mean that he had failed in Atlantic City. Instead, he described his management of the casinos as an "entrepreneurial" success, defining "entrepreneurial" as his ability to take cash out of the casino company and use it for other things."
Dawn Eden, who writes the "Blog On!" column in the Sunday New York Daily News, is a bit puzzled as to why so many liberal bloggers in New York City are "soft" on Mayor Bloomberg. After conferring with other bloggers and political pundits, a few theories emerge as to why "Bloomy-bashing blogs" are having such a tough slog of it:
"Liberal bloggers focus on national politics to the exclusion of local issues" [Daily Gotham]
"Political organizations... lack an understanding of blogs' power" [Daily Gotham]
"The majority of Ferrer's constituency is not online" [onNYTurf.com]
There might be another reason: Bloomberg has assembled a state-of-the-art, well-financed campaign steamroller that has very little chance of being defeated. Be like Mike and maybe you won't get run over.
According to the New York Daily News, New York's East River will become the test site for a "revolutionary method of generating electricity with underwater turbines." The project is the brainchild of Virginia-based Verdant Power, which claims that the new hydroelectric system will be the first of its kind in the world. It certainly sounds interesting: "Verdant's plan calls for six submerged windmill-like turbines - each with three 8-foot-long blades - to be installed just north of the Queensborough Bridge. They'll supply juice to a Roosevelt Island supermarket and parking lot." If the 18-month tryout proves successful, one hopes that the project will be expanded on a greater scale.
A big hat tip to the scientists at NYU, who first designed the windmill-like turbines. Now let's just hope that the project makes it over the final regulatory hurdle - approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Pointing to the efforts of politicians like Andrew Rasiej and City Councilmember Gale Brewer to bring free- or low-cost Internet access to every corner of New York City, Marcus Banks in the Gotham Gazette makes the case for universal broadband Internet access in New York City:
"Only an estimated 38% of New Yorkers currently have broadband access, but an ever-higher percentage of Internet content (such as video) requires this capability. The “digital divide” between higher and lower income communities may never be closed completely, but municipal broadband and wireless initiatives represent a concerted attempt to narrow this gap..."
According to Banks, there are at least three key reasons why universal broadband Internet access could bridge the "digital divide" and lead to an overall improvement in civic life in New York City:
"More timely access to life-saving information for emergency responders, who could download this information over wireless networks en route to the scene of an accident... Greater involvement of residents in the work of city government... Better ability of children to study at home, and to communicate with their teachers about what they discover online."
All true, no doubt, but Banks sometimes seems to mix "municipal broadband" and "wireless Internet" and "universal Internet access" -- it's one thing to offer low-cost broadband Internet access to low-income communities (e.g. cable or DSL), and it's quite another to build a massive citywide wireless Internet network (i.e. Wi-Fi).
Ever wondered what The New York Times planned to do with About.com? Well, here's an idea: an online travel portal for New England that would aggregate content from The New York Times and About.com (and any other media properties owned by the NYT) and then sell vacation packages to loyal readers. Here's a brief excerpt of a press release from The Boston Globe (which is owned by The New York Times Company):
"The Boston Globe and Boston.com announced today the launch of ExploreNewEngland.com, a one-stop travel guide to the New England states with award-winning content from The Boston Globe, Boston.com, The New York Times and About.com. The site allows readers to get everything they need to plan their next adventure, from lodging to dining to things to do and attractions. And like the region's weather, ExploreNewEngland.com will change for the seasons, with deep packages dedicated to fall foliage, skiing/snow sports and beaches."
Apparently, the site will also include message boards and blogs - for that local, all-knowing touch.
With the $1.85 billion acquisition of Ask Jeeves earlier in the year, speculation started to mount that Barry Diller - the accidental dot-com mogul - was up to something. As New York Magazine's John Heilemann explains, there has always been "the nagging sense that, if anyone was going to figure out this new-media thing, Barry would be the one." Just as Diller took on the Big Three TV networks and won, there's now a chance that Diller (armed with $3 billion in cash at InterActiveCorp) will take on the Big Three Internet giants (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo) and win. So what could Diller possibly have planned? Heilemann thinks Diller is cooking up an out-of-the-box strategy to take on Google:
"The point, as Diller understands, is that he can't make headway by trying to out-Google Google- he needs to counterprogram. This was Diller's genius at the Fox network, remember. With The Simpsons, In Living Color, etc., he fashioned an alternative flavor of programming, and with it a distinctive brand. In the realm of search, however, the notion of programming falls outside the idiom. So what Diller says he's seeking, in the lingo, is "differentiation."
Differentiation means many different things to many different people, but there are a few ideas that make sense, given Diller's background in Old Media: a melding together of Old Media and New Media, video search, or the use of Ask Jeeves as a gateway to IAC's other Internet properties.
Verizon Communications is coming under fire by state politicians for its selective roll-out of new, high-speed broadband technology in the greater New York metropolitan area. In fact, State Senator Nicholas Spano accused Verizon Communications of engaging in "technological racism" by avoiding low-income areas when deploying the new broadband capability. Thus far, Verizon has only rolled out FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) in relatively affluent areas, such as northeast Yonkers and similar areas in Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Is this just good business practice (selling a higher-priced, premium product to higher-income communities) - or is it symptomatic of a growing digital divide between the haves and the have-nots? Does Verizon have a moral and social obligation to bring broadband Internet access to households that may not be able to pay for it?
Verizon, as can be imagined, is trying to downplay the issue as quickly as possible: "Frankly, Verizon's outraged and offended about this. Senator Spano doesn't know what he's talking about," In Verizon's defense, the company said that it was trying to deploy FTTP technology in lower-income areas of Yonkers, but that the city issued a stop-work order.
Time Warner's AOL unit is slimming down ahead of a potential deal with an Internet suitor, reports the New York Post. AOL is shedding 700 jobs, most of them from the dial-up Internet business - the same business that companies like Google and Yahoo have expressed little interest in. While the cuts represent only 4% of the company's worldwide workforce, this is AOL's largest corporate downsizing since December 2004 and marks a new seriousness in Time Warner's efforts to find a partner or acquirer for AOL.
The Media Giraffe Project, sponsored by the journalism program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, hopes to find and spotlight the hundreds of individuals across the nation who are "making innovative, sustainable use of media (old and new) to foster participatory democracy and community." As part of this effort, the Media Giraffe project is asking people to email them if they happen to spot a media giraffe in the wild.
And, indeed, a few media giraffes have already been spotted in New York City... According to the Media Giraffe database (free to browse), the following individuals have already been tagged as media giraffes: Michael Bloomberg (yes, that Michael Bloomberg), Nick Denton (Gawker Media), Scott Heiferman (MeetUp.com), Nicholas Kristof (New York Times), Andrew Rasiej (Personal Democracy Forum and Wi-Fi advocate), Joshua Schachter (del.icio.us), Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) and Noah Winer (MoveOn.org).
"Surfing the New York blog Gothamist a few days ago, stopping every few minutes to marvel at the magnitude of information available, I wondered when we might have something comparable for Indian cities. Not just a static, sporadically updated website but a living, breathing resource on the city run by knowledgeable people... Gothamist is one of the most comprehensive blogs around. Even if you haven’t been to New York, or don’t plan a trip there anytime too soon, you might easily get addicted to it."
Maybe the biggest compliment came at the end of the piece, where Jai Arjun Singh expresses hope that there will soon be an Indian version of Gothamist: "Incidentally, Gothamist has expanded into a network of blogs that cover 11 cities, including London, Shanghai, San Francisco and Paris... We’re awaiting Delhiist.com and Mumbaiist.com."
In its "Best of NYC 2005" issue, the Village Voice handed out the "Best URL-Turned-Verb" award to the popular site Flavorpill: "Take a crowded going-on and an honest attendee and you'll learn, truth is, it was probably flavorpilled."
Since the wireless network at the Copa only worked sporadically during the conference, blogging around the event was less than one would expect from laptop-toting blog enthusiasts -- for now, it's been mostly authors plugging books they've recently published, pundits covering the same ground they covered at earlier meetings, and blog widget-makers trying to sell new widgets to the same people. Who knows? Maybe I just need to take another swig of the Blog Kool-Aid...
Joel on Software has posted a mini-essay on why New York's tech scene comes up short when attempting to emulate Boston's can-do, entrepreneurial vibrancy:
"Visiting Cambridge for a party at Y-combinator made me jealous about how much more vibrant the hacker/startup scene is in the Boston area than it is in the New York area... Is New York just lame compared to Boston? Or does it just seem that way? Why is that... is it because of MIT? or all the other high tech stuff going on there? Is it the high cost of living in New York? Or the fact that we have too many distractions, and it's not a good place to concentrate on making a startup? Or maybe it's because investment banks, hedge funds, advertising agencies, and media companies suck up all the oxygen?"
Anyway, it looks like Joel Spolsky (aka Joel on Software) is up to something - I noticed that he's meeting with Union Square Ventures in New York on the 20th. Might that be a sign that Fog Creek Software is thinking about lining up some VC backing?
"They surf Websites, at all hours. Our diaries confirm one piece of conventional media wisdom: The computer screen is the future of reading. Most of our subjects spent more time browsing than turning pages, and they directed their computers to every corner of the Internet, from blogs to foreign newspapers."
The sample skews young and skews educated - but here's a representative rundown of which Websites made it on to the list - it's the weekly web-surfing habits of a 32-year-old producer of TV promos in New York: Okayplayer.com, ESPN.com, NewYorkTimes.com, CNN.com, DrudgeReport.com, IMDB.com, Aetna,com, CBS.com, Playbill.com, RottenTomatoes.com, SternFanNetwork.com, SkyDivetheRanch.com, Turntablelab.com, AllHipHop.com, HipHopSite.com, eBay.com, Yankees.com, Strasberg.com, BET.com, DamienMarleyMusic.com, Amsterdam.info, BackpackingEurope.com, Flycollar.com, VillageVoice.com, Judaism.about.com, Corcoran.com, Nerve.com and TheRedMist.blogspot.com.
At the BlogOn social media summit in New York on Monday, McDonald's took the hamburger wrapping off a new corporate blogging program. ClickZ has more details on the McBlogs:
"Last week, the company began an internal program that introduced corporate blogs, available only on the corporate intranet, behind the firewall. While this is seen as a small first step, it's an important one in a company the size of McDonald's... Using a publishing platform from iUpload, McDonald's has initiated a program for several departments and executives to begin blogging. It kicked off the program last week with a live blogging session by McDonald's President and COO Michael Roberts. Senior executives gathered around to watch as employees were given the chance to ask Roberts questions during the two-hour session."
As Barbara Hoffman of the New York Post explains in today's NYP@Work section, "firing isn't easy for anyone - even when you do it once a week, on reality television." Like Donald Trump, for instance. With a big, half-page photo of The Donald as a backdrop for the article, Barbara Hoffman provides some tips and advice for anyone in the uncomfortable position of having to fire someone. The first step, says Hoffman, is to "document, document, document." Or, as we like to refer to it, CYA. Oh, and as an added bonus, a work/life consultant explains in an accompanying sidebar why "only wimps fire people on Friday afternoons."
The Wall Street Journal's new, smaller tabloid-sized format went live in Europe and Asia today - a change intended to "make its articles more accessible to readers." The change to a smaller format could save the paper $17 million a year. The Wall Street Journal is playing down the cost savings, though, and touting the greater readability of the paper - there will be shorter news stories, a slightly new design, more color and a jazzy new typepace. That means more readers and, it's hoped, more advertisers. It's a sign of what's to come in the U.S. market, where the WSJ recently unveiled a new weekend edition and announced plans for a smaller-size format for the paper beginning in 2006.
In its "Best of NYC 2005" issue, The Village Voice hands out a number of awards to local New York bloggers. In fact, sometimes it seems like you can't turn a page of the issue without mention of a blog. So, without further ado, some of the best blogs in the Big Apple:
Alan Meckler, CEO of Jupitermedia, writes that the deck chairs of the media Titanic are being arranged at a faster pace than ever before. If you thought traditional media was threatened by the Internet iceberg way back in 1999, you ain't seen nothin' yet:
"The deckchairs are being rearranged at an even faster pace today. Every Google announcement (or speculated announcement) causes acute consternation amongst fellow Search companies, WiFi organizations, media conglomerates and the advertising industry in general.
And if Google did not exist, Internet angst would still be so acute that the deckchair dance would still be at fever pitch. The future of music, television, radio, newspapers, movies, games and related industries is up in the air. Readers and content users are moving to the Net in droves so much so that media empires could be gutted overnight. Thus we have the traditional media companies making big bets once again on Internet properties that may or may not help replace "traditional revenue streams" and market share."
Take, for example, Time Warner's sudden fondness for its AOL property. Just a month or two ago, one would have been forgiven for thinking that Time Warner had finally disposed of that unsightly little blemish. Now, AOL is front and center in any discussion of building shareholder value at AOL. What's more, now Google, Microsoft and Comcast are knocking at Time Warner's door, asking for a piece of the AOL action.
GattoMedia is launching its GattoBroadband "High-Speed Internet on Wheels" service in New York next week. According to GattoMedia, satellite vehicles will be "on-call, ready to be dispatched to breaking news stories, live events, news conferences, remote locations and areas that are under-served by current Internet access methods." Tony Gatto, president of GattoMedia, explains why the service would have value for news teams - or just about any other organization working off-site for a limited period of time:
"GattoBroadband provides a truly self-contained mobile newsroom and Wi-Fi hotspot option for breaking news stories and remote events. We hope to provide a solution for organizations that need immediate broadband Internet access, but may not have the means to do so through traditional methods."
As a demo of what's possible with the new service, the company is arranging free Wi-Fi service for customers of the New York Waterway's ferries to Manhattan at the Port Imperial Terminal in Weehawken next Tuesday.
We all know that New York is #1 when it comes to media, finance, fashion and just about any other category you'd care to think up. Well, New York now ranks #1 as the "Most Logistics Friendly Metro", according to a poll of the Top 50 Logistics-Friendly Cities in the U.S. The study, which looked at 362 metropolitan areas in the U.S., used a combination of ten different factors - road infrastructure, road congestion, road conditions, interstate highway access, vehicle taxes and fees, railroad access, water port access and air cargo access - to come up with the final rankings. Other cities in the top five included Houston, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.
Not only is Microsoft considering a bid for Time Warner's AOL unit - now it appears that Google and Comcast also are talking to Time Warner (off the record) about a potential deal. Google and Comcast, though, want nothing to do with AOL's dial-up business - they just want access to AOL's web portal and content. According to the New York Times, "the development means that Time Warner, which has long been under pressure by Wall Street to sell off its AOL unit, now finds itself in the enviable position of having multiple suitors, which may drive up AOL's value." Somewhere, corporate raider Carl Icahn must be smiling - he's been pressuring Time Warner to do something - anything! - to unlock shareholder value.
Is tech news really that scarce these days? NY1's Adam Balkin takes a closer look at new high-tech sewing machines that feature all kinds of interesting features and doo-dads - like the Brother-Innovis 4000D, which enables users to program over 80 different Disney designs, or the Singer Quantum Futura, which accepts photo scans of artwork.
Smack dab on the front cover of the New York Post: the new video iPod. The paper calls it Apple's "most jaw-dropping iPod yet... a super-sleek gadget that plays music, videos and some of the hottest shows on TV like "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." A 30-GB version will retail for $299 and a 60-GB version will retail for $399. At the Apple launch party, Steve Jobs offered an ecstatic review of the new video iPod: "This is the best music player we've ever made, We're doing for video what we've done for music — we're making it easy and affordable to purchase and download, play on your computer, and take with you on your iPod."
Interesting item in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal: Martha Stewart has launched a plan to create Martha Stewart McMansions around the country. Apparently, Martha Stewart has entered into a deal with KB Home (one of the nation's largest home builders) to make near-replicas of her various homes - including the infamous home in Bedford, New York where she spent time after her prison sentence. It's all part of a broader plan to boost revenue for her media company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which will share in the revenues of the deal based on a pre-existing formula.
"Martha isn’t content with your kitchen or your bedroom anymore, she wants to be in your whole house. It has been announced that America’s neatest jailbird will design new homes in an agreement with builder KB Home. The first group of Martha branded homes will go on sale in Cary, North Carolina and will be known as the “KB Home Twin Lakes: Homes Created with Martha Stewart.” Additional Martha domiciles will be coming to Houston and Atlanta. The North Carolina houses will be inspired by Martha’s manses in New York and Maine. She will select the flooring, faucets, cabinets and other fixtures for the buyers to choose from. Prices will range from the low-$200,000s and the mid-$400,000s for 1,500 to 4,100 square feet of space."
According to media mogul Barry Diller, the high cost of compliance with some of the more onerous provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) is having a significant negative impact on U.S. businesses. While Diller agrees that senior executives should be held accountable for the reliability of their companies' financial statements, he took particular exception with Section 404, which he called "ridiculous" and "incredibly wasteful." In short, says Diller, "Congress has a duty to revisit Sarbanes-Oxley, to see what was smart about it and what wasn't, and conform it to sensible and current practice,"
It's been more than six months now since The New York Times acquired About.com for $140 million. In his MarketWatch "Media Web" column, Jon Friedman weighs in with what the deal means - both for the New York Times, which is attempting to court Internet advertisers, and About.com, which is attempting to become one of the top five destinations on the Web. The other top four sites - Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL - account for 70% of all ads on the Internet, so it's an exclusive club indeed. What's interesting is that Wal-Mart has become a big advertiser on the About.com site, and there are signs that other big advertisers could sign up soon. What's even more interesting, perhaps, is that there's nary a peep about the new TimesSelect premium content offering on the About.com site. What about all the synergies?
Ben Smith of ThePoliticker blog writes in Newsday that the Internet has "yet to come of age" as a real force in local New York City politics. While there's plenty of demand for blogs about real estate, fashion, and celebrity gossip, there's little or no demand for passionate political discourse on a daily basis:
"The number of visits to political sites is a tiny fraction of the traffic that the dominant New York Web logs attain: The media-gossip blog Gawker, for instance, draws hundreds of thousands of readers each day. Curbed, a real estate blog, reigns over a vibrant universe of smaller sites on the same topic. The lesson of New York is that blogs aren't about politics - they're about passion. New Yorkers are passionate about real estate, gossip and fashion. The paucity of political blogs is the online reflection of the city's dismally low voter turnout in city elections: We're not passionate about our politics."
Even politicians who somehow manage to capture the hearts and minds of the blogosphere have a tough time translating that virtual support into real, tangible votes. Consider the recent campaign of Andrew Rasiej for New York City Public Advocate. The Technorati Candidate won only 5% of the vote, despite widespread blogger support. And, as Ben Smith points out, even big-name politicians like Fernando Ferrer haven't figured out how to tap into the power of the blogosphere: "The Ferrer blog's only audience, unfortunately for him, appeared to be Mayor Michael Bloomberg's opposition research team..."
Curbed points out that Staten Island's first-ever Apple store is opening this weekend. There may not be the same type of hoopla surrounding the new Staten Island store opening as there would be for an Apple store opening in midtown or the Flatiron district, but it's still a newsworthy event. Within a week or so, there will no doubt be an upsurge in Staten Island ferry riders sporting white iPod earbuds as they commute into Manhattan each day and a brief article in The New York Times dutifully documenting this micro-trend.
The Wall Street Journal is getting smaller -- and not just in terms of shorter articles and fewer market quotes. By January 2007, the paper will physically shrink to a narrower width. Anytime you can trim $18 million a year in costs from the annual budget by getting rid of things nobody notices anyway, I guess it's a good thing. Although I'll miss the current size and heft of the Wall Street Journal, executives from the newspaper insist that commuters in cities like New York will embrace the smaller, narrower version of the WSJ: "The change... reflects consumer preference for smaller newspapers that are easier to read while traveling on crowded buses or subways... Readers do like smaller products, particularly in commuting markets, and the Journal is to large extent a commuting newspaper,"
For the price of two movie tickets and a bucket of popcorn, JetBlue will fly you from JFK to Boston
New Yorkers can now fly to Boston for the low-low, introductory price of $25 one-way, thanks to JetBlue. According to the New York Post, the new fare deal is meant to "trumpet the expansion of service from JFK to points around the country, including up to 10 new daily flights between The Big Apple and Beantown." The fares are good for the period November 8 - December 14, not including Thanksgiving.
In a deal reached with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, eBay has agreed to block the sale and shipment of stun guns to New York residents. As part of a sting operation that involved 16 eBay sellers, Spitzer's office found the eBay users were easily able to buy stun guns through the online auction site. Over a two-year period, eBay power sellers were able to sell 1,100 stun guns to New Yorkers - including the state-of-the-art $400 "Air Taser" that delivers a 50,000-volt disabling shock. New York is now one of only seven states that bans the sale of electric stun devices.
Christopher Byron of the New York Post has an excoriating piece ("End the Martha-thon") on Martha Stewart and the precipitous drop in shareholder value at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. According to Byron, Martha Stewart is nothing more than a glorified ex-con and a national embarrassment. But he saves the biggest pie in the face for the "media elite" -- the misguided souls at NBC who are responsible for putting together the reality TV disaster known as "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart":
"For the aforementioned [reality TV guru] Mark Burnett bloke to have begun cobbling together a celebratory knockoff of his Donald Trump reality TV show for Stewart even before she headed for the joint, may have seemed at the time like a clever, if cynical, way to capitalize on her rapidly spreading notoriety, if not fame. But for NBC's Zucker to take Burnett's fatuous drivel about Stewart and her business smarts, and power-spray it every Wednesday evening into millions upon millions of American homes, is arrogance and cynicism of a sort one rarely encounters even on Sixth Avenue. This isn't "The Beverly Hillbillies," it's a reality TV fraud show about a woman pretending to be a paradigm of business virtue when she's actually a recently released white-collar jailbird."
As seen in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend: former Merrill Lynch equity analyst Henry Blodget has entered the blogosphere with a new blog called InternetOutsider. The blog provides "informal" analysis of Internet companies and technology trends, but steers clear of actually offering personalized investment advice. (You know, the whole SEC "banned for life" deal) In his most recent post, Henry Blodget mulls over the valuation of the Time Warner/Weblogs Inc. deal. Apparently, he's learned a lesson or two from the wild days of the dot-com boom and bust...
If you're interested in what's happening at the New York Times with TimesSelect and About.com, it's worth checking out the profile of New York Times Digital CEO Martin Nisenholtz over at adBUMb. Nisenholtz defends the decision by the New York Times to introduce a premium paid content feature:
"Defending the company’s turn to paid content - which has been the topic of great debate on the web (not all of it positive) - Nisenholtz assures us that the outcry is misplaced. “97% of the Times website remains free after the launch of Times Select. The Times is not putting its website into a pay window. It simply created a tier on top of the free site, and it is a way for us to package more stuff for subscribers to The New York Times.”
"The business model that most Internet publishers have is very simple. It’s the number of unique visitors, times the times they visit you during a given period, times the amount of pages they view per visit, times the rate per page. It’s not rocket science. It’s basically a straightforward formula that all of us live by, whether you’re the New York Times or Weblogs, Inc."
That's cool - the New York Times and Weblogs, Inc. in the same sentence without any touch of irony.
Verizon's efforts to popularize its broadband wireless Internet service (EV-DO) are coming at the expense of city Wi-Fi providers, according to the New York Post. As Internet users and municipalities around the country continue to embrace the idea of citywide Wi-Fi networks, Verizon has been working overtime on a plan to protect its market position in the battle over wireless Internet access. Apparently, Philadelphia's recent decision to deploy a citywide Wi-Fi network - essentially turning the city into a giant Wi-Fi hotspot - was a final wakeup call. In response, Verizon has launched a new advertising campaign that plays up the advantages of EV-DO while taking a few "not-so-subtle" shots at Wi-Fi:
"In one TV spot now airing in the city, a man at a Starbucks-like coffee shop is shown trying to get online using a Wi-Fi hotspot while annoying customers hover around him and an even more annoying folk singer garbles in the background. "Don't get caught in a not-so-hot spot," the narrator warns. And a full-page print ad that ran last week in The Wall Street Journal screamed, "Wi-Fi? Why Bother? Get Broadband Access Instead."
Verizon's new ad campaign has not gone unnoticed by ardent Wi-Fi supporters in the city, such as Andrew Rasiej, who recently ran for Public Advocate on a platform that called for citywide Wi-Fi access. According to Mr. Rasiej and others, the cable and DSL incumbents are scared to death of Wi-Fi and will do whatever they can to cripple the municipal Wi-Fi movement.
Amanda Fung of Crain's New York notes that Manhattan-based video blog companies like Rocketboom and blip.tv are starting to experiment with subscription fees and paid advertisements, "marking a big step in extending Internet-posting software to a wider audience." Until now, both companies have provided free services and relied on word-of-mouth advertising, but have generated little or no cash flow. By charging subscription fees and experimenting with paid advertising, though, the companies may alienate some vbloggers. According to Rocketboom's Amanda Congdon, "Ads are trickier because visitors don't want to see a bunch of text links on the Rocketboom Web site. Our audience is sensitive to text ads so we are going to be careful."
Just in time for Halloween: since Friday, the New York Daily News has been keeping constant tabs on some ghoulish goings-on at cemeteries and funeral homes around the city. Concerned that a team of "body snatchers" has been carving up dead bodies in order to sell body parts (i.e. bones, ligaments, skin, tissue) in the transplant market, the Brooklyn DA has ordered a probe into the activities of Fort Lee, NJ-based Biomedical Tissues Services and funeral homes around the city. As part of the probe, more than 30 bodies will be exhumed at a Brooklyn cemetery. It's all a bit sickening, but it appears that the head of Biomedical Tissue Services "personally performed the harvesting procedures on corpses."
Last week, The New York Times ran a fascinating piece on Korea's high-tech utopia - a man-made island off the South Korean coast, about 40 miles from Seoul, that has embraced the notion of ubiquitous computing. This city of the future is being built from scratch and, if all goes according to plan, will become a real-life urban metropolis boasting a ubiquitous computing lifestyle (a so-called "U-Life") by the year 2014. In this U-City, all major information systems will be hooked together into a vast network, and computers will be built into houses, streets, buildings -- basically anything that can be wired for computing.
So what are the characteristics of the U-City? Well, there will be "public recycling bins that use radio-frequency identification technology to credit recyclers every time they toss in a bottle," in addition to "pressure-sensitive floors in the homes of older people that can detect the impact of a fall and immediately contact help" and "cellphones that store health records and can be used to pay for prescriptions." There will even be a central park in the middle of New Songdo modeled on New York's Central Park. According to a research director at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, a similar type of urban metropolis of the same scale has never even been contemplated in the States: "There are really no comparable comprehensive frameworks for ubiquitous computing. U-city is a uniquely Korean idea."
Who knows? Maybe one day, New Yorkers will wake up to RFID tags on garbage dumpsters and vending machines operated by cellphone.
New York venture capitalist Ed Sim explains that the sales team of a young start-up company needs to be hungry, motivated and unwilling to take "no" for an answer. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, the salespersons need to be out making orders, not just taking orders:
"One of the fundamental criteria that any startup needs to look for is hunger. If you are a sales rep at an early stage company with no name, no brand, and an unproven product, you better be hungry, make your calls, schedule your meetings and not take no for an answer. What this boils down for me is the difference between "order takers" and "order makers"... So whatever you do when you hire your next group of sales reps, make sure they have the qualifications but more importantly make sure that they have the hunger and desire to win. Make sure that you have "order makers" and not "order takers."
That reminds me of one of my favorite films from the early 1990s, Glengarry Glen Ross (based on the play of the same name by David Mamet), in which Alec Baldwin plays a hyper-manic salesman who tells his underlings that the secret of being a great salesman is as easy as A-B-C: "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing." (There are so many other great Mamet lines that it's hard to pick the best one - "The leads are weak." The leads are weak? The f*** leads are weak? You're weak").
Well, it looks like the terror alert level in New York just got ratcheted up a notch -- there's a "credible threat" that terrorists plan to attack the New York subway system using tactics and lessons learned from the London subway bombings. According to the New York Daily News, the terrorists plan to hide the bombs in baby carriages and briefcases and strike sometime during the Columbus Day holiday weekend:
"Up to a dozen terrorists planned to come to the city and assemble into cells of suicide bombers who would attack the subways - hiding explosives in strollers and briefcases. The terrorists envisioned a series of attacks that would be "London-scale, not World Trade Center-scale." They'd be terror strikes instead of spectaculars."
What's troubling is that a tipster in Iraq (not New York) apparently gave the information to U.S. officials, leading to the arrest of two potential terrorists in Baghdad (not New York). So, there's one cynical way to view all of this: President Bush's approval ratings have been sinking fast, and he has been facing increased criticism about the handling of the war in Iraq. So what if - and this is just idle speculation of one blogger - the Bush Administration wanted to scare the public back into submission by exposing a dastardly terrorist threat striking at the heart of the New York subway system? And what if that threat were being generated by terrorist thugs in Baghdad? Wouldn't that make the whole war in Iraq seem once again important and timely?
Mark Glaser of Online Journalism Review says that Yahoo has emerged as "public enemy No. 1" of the mainstream media. Like it or not, old-time media conglomerates better start thinking of Yahoo as a media company:
"Yahoo is a media company; it has designs on doing original news and entertainment content tailored specifically for the Web; and it's time for old-line media companies to think hard about how they're going to compete. News Corp. and Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp have already showed their hands, rolling up all the Internet content they can buy. But the MSM is caught between a rock and hard place, because dozens of news outlets have licensed content to Yahoo News and rely on Yahoo and Google to do their online search, paid-search advertisements, and contextual ads."
Acorda Therapeutics, a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical firm that develops products to treat disorders of the central nervous system (i.e. multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury), has filed with the SEC for an $86 million IPO. The Hawthorne, New York-based company's one marketed product is Zanaflex, which is used to treat involuntary tension, stiffening or contractions of muscles. Acorda also has a promising product in late-stage clinical trials, Fampridine-SR, which is used to help improve walking ability for people who have MS.
Yes, you read that correctly - the Bryant Park ice rink. According to the New York Daily News, Bryant Park will become "an ice skater's wonderland" within the next month or so. Admission to the new Olympic-size ice rink will be free, so that means free ice skating AND free Wi-Fi. (We're not getting greedy here, are we, if we also ask for free hot chocolate?)
Over at Tech Central Station, I've written an article that takes a closer look at the reasons why so many people are afraid of financial derivatives. Most people are OK with the idea of common derivatives like options and futures -- but they tend to get a bit more bent out of shape when it comes to exotics like collateralized debt obligations or housing market derivatives or interest rate swaps. One basic problem is "folk finance" -- the tendency for people to take refuge in misguided, intuitive beliefs anytime that they don't understand the financial markets. As a result, they turn to the mighty hand of government to regulate away these perceived risks. Anyway, there's a double meaning to the title ("Derivative Thinking"), since part of the essay derives from some very fine thinking by one-time Corante blogger Arnold Kling.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:
"While regulators should be applauded for their attempts to make market participants more aware of the risks of using derivatives, these fears are overstated. As TCS Contributing Editor Arnold Kling pointed out in part six ("The Proper Attitude Toward Financial Regulation") of an earlier six-part series on financial markets, regulators and laypersons alike tend to approach the issue of risk from the wrong perspective. They do not always recognize that new-fangled financial instruments like credit derivatives, instead of creating risk, are actually a response to risk that already exists within the economic environment. Derivatives allow investors to re-allocate or transfer away diversifiable risk in ways that make financial markets more transparent, more efficient and more liquid... Derivatives seem to be pesky little creatures that always appear in all the riskiest markets. That makes sense, of course, if you believe that financial derivatives do not create risk -- they are a response to risk."
After reading through Freakonomics, the wildly popular New York Times bestseller that has edged economics into the mainstream, I'm reminded of a saying attributed to Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Well, if Mark Twain were still living today, he'd probably amend that to say, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and Freakonomics." After all, instead of being a serious book about economics, Freaknomics is really about the art of statistical data-mining. The forward to the book even admits that there's no unifying theory that holds the entire book together -- it's like Malcolm Gladwell on steroids (big on anecdotal evidence and pop culture references, little on rigorous academic thought). The two co-authors come up with a whole number of "freakish" conclusions by sifting through mounds of statistical data. In the process, they conclude that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns, that sumo wrestlers behave like cheating schoolteachers, and that most drug dealers - far from being blinged-out millionaire gangsters - are actually minimum wage foot soldiers who still live with their mothers.
That's where the "why bloggers are like drug dealers" reference comes in. Consider this interesting passage from "Freakonomics" (page 106 of the hardback edition):
"In the glamour professions - movies, sports, music, fashion - there is a different dynamic at play. Even in second-tier glamour industries like publishing, advertising, and media, swarms of bright young people throw themselves at grunt jobs that pay poorly and demand unstinting devotion. An editorial assistant earning $22,000 at a Manhattan publishing house, an unpaid high-school quarterback, and a teenage crack dealer earning $3.30 an hour are all playing the same game, a game that is best viewed as a tournament.
The rules of a tournament are straightforward. You must start at the bottom to have a shot at the top... You must be willing to work long and hard at substandard wages. In order to advance in the tournament, you must prove yourself not merely above average but spectacular... And finally, once you come to the sad realization that you will never make it to the top, you will quit the tournament. (Some people hang on longer than others - witness the graying "actors" who wait tables in New York - but people generally get the message quite early.)"
There you have it - entry-level bloggers tapping away on their keyboards at $500 - $1000 a month are like entry-level crack dealers making $3.30 an hour and hoping for the big score. Just like there are no 30-year-old crack dealers (according to the authors of Freakonomics), it also makes sense that most bloggers toiling in obscurity are below the age of 30. Thanks to Freaknomics, it's now possible to understand the basic business model of the blogosphere!
Adam Balkin of NY1 takes a look at some award-winning inventors - the "Thomas Edison’s and Alexander Graham Bell’s of today." The inventors were recently honored at Popular Mechanics Magazine's annual Breakthrough Awards Ceremony. Among the inventions noted by Balkin: a "rocket bike," the Slingbox, and several advances in assistive technologies - "work that could someday help those with spinal-cord injuries regain their movement... or allow severely disabled people to operate computers with their minds."
This weekend, take time to check out Open House New York, a rare opportunity for the public to check out thousands of places of architectural and historic interest across the city. According to the press release for the event, there will be "a preview of the new headquarters for The New York Times, exclusive entry to MoMA’s Conservation Lab, the first public tours ever of Ellis Island’s historic hospital grounds and much, much more." Last year, more than 50,000 people attended Open House New York, making the Target-sponsored event "the largest celebration of architecture and design in city history."
In Tuesday's New York Post, there was an interesting article about a social networking site for frequent fliers. Apparently, high-powered business execs are buying into the idea of meeting like-minded fellow travelers while airborne. Can't really blame them: "In the Russian roulette world of airplane travel, the person sitting next to you is, too often, a woman looking to discuss her painful divorce, a screaming baby - or a middle-age man with a tenuous grasp on basic hygiene."
AirTroductions, started by a 33-year-old entrepreneur who owns a New York PR agency, is trying to change all that: the networking site attempts to match frequent travelers with people who might have similar business or personal interests. In fact, the New York Post calls it "Air Friendster, or MySpace with oxygen masks and aisle seating."
Oh, and for those of you with dirty minds, AirTroductions is not some kind of online Mile High Club -- although there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that steamy romance can result later, after a grueling four-hour, Coast to Coast flight.
"This partnership with Verizon Wireless is indicative of the optimism businesses have in the Bronx, and another great example of the unprecedented economic development that has been taking place in our borough in recent years. The Bronx has experienced the lowest unemployment rate in the last four years, and since the launch of the Bronx At Work program last year, over 20,000 Bronx residents have found jobs."
According to a new report prepared by a professor at Ball State University, "the average American spends a staggering nine hours a day tuned in, plugged in, online, on the phone, scanning a newspaper or using some other form of media — more time than he or she spends sleeping," And three of those hours are spent multi-tasking - surfing the Web while watching TV or talking on the phone while watching TV. At times, the report manages to sound like a Kinsey study: "Men seek media contact of "short duration and instant gratification" while women are interested in "longer, more thoughtful" interaction."
The "nine hours" cited in the report is an attention-grabber -- but consider the following scenario... You wake up, check e-mail and news in the morning on the PC (1 hour), head to work where you read the newspaper on the subway (30 minutes). Then, you work at your computer or make phone calls to clients all day (4 hours). Afterwards, you head home and read a magazine on the commute home (30 minutes). After a nice takeout dinner from Zabar's, you turn on the TV and watch the Yanks beat the Angels (3 hours). That's 9 hours, real easy.
"The Real Deal, the only monthly magazine exclusively covering the New York City real estate market, is searching for freelance writers. We are looking for someone who is excited about business reporting, who sees the possibility for great stories in the most competitive real estate market in the world, and who is willing to go up against media rivals for scoops. Negotiable per-word payments and opportunities to grow with 40,000-circulation, fast-expanding trade magazine that the New York Post labeled "the hot new real estate glossy" and that recently launched the nation's first real estate Podcast."
CNN/Money summarizes what we've all known for some time now: media conglomerates like Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corp. and Time Warner are all experiencing tough times while, at the same time, companies like Google, eBay and Yahoo have shown a surprising ability to reinvent themselves and uncover new growth opportunities. A sluggish advertising market and weaker than expected box office results for Hollywood films - these are just two of the factors why investors have soured on Big Media stocks over the past nine months (shares of these companies are down more than 11% through the first nine months of 2005). So, is there any upside potential for these media stocks?
"Some professional investors are starting to think that the sell-off in the media sector has been overdone. Despite all the short-term concerns, analysts expect the four leaders to post earnings increases of at least 16 percent in 2006 and more than 10 percent annually for the next few years. Yet, the stocks all trade in a range of 16 to 21 times 2006 earnings estimates. That's only a slight premium to the broader market multiple of about 15.6 even though earnings for the S&P 500 are only expected to be up 7 percent next year and 9 percent over the next few years."
Using the hype surrounding the economics bestseller Freakonomics as context, New York Magazine has a feature article ("Freakonomizing") on Columbia University's attempts to build a Freakonomics-friendly economics department. Apparently, there are all kinds of world-class, but largely anonymous, economics researchers in the world coming up with Freakonomics-type findings, and Columbia made a one-time, blow-out-the-doors effort to attract 13 of them within a two-year period.
Only four years ago, explains the article, Columbia was nothing close to being a hot destination for rising stars in the economics world: "The once-formidable economic department at Columbia University was stuck in a rut. Its stars were aging... and the few first-rate faculty still in their prime faced a constant pull from rival schools."
That all changed once Columbia devoted its attention and resources to building a first-rate economics department. And it came with a bang, not a whimper. Columbia decided that the only way it could compete with the likes of Princeton or Yale would be by hiring ten to fifteen star economists within a 24-month period - a "game-changing move designed to alter people’s perceptions."
What's interesting is that the school scrapped efforts to go after high-profile "names" like potential Nobel Prize winners. Instead, the university focused on lesser-known world-class economists who were coming up with novel ideas like those found in Freakonomics. The university also made it a point to go after "people who had reasons to want to work together—co-authors, people with similar interests, etc." Once the first economist accepted, then the next one accepted, and so on, and so forth, until all 13 had accepted.
It's an interesting article - the only problem is that New York Magazine claims (in quite some detail) that the impetus for Columbia's unprecedented move was something called "Sunspot Theory." Are you joking? That theory has long been discredited. Check out what Economy Professor has to say:
"Advanced by English economist William Jevons (1835-1882), sunspot theory is a trade cycle theory stating that trade is linked to the regular occurrence of solar flares, or spots, which affect the earth's climate and agricultural output. Critics, while acknowledging the cyclical nature of the sunspot activity and that of agricultural production, view the theory as unduly simplistic. Consequently, it has little validity today."
Maybe that's why Columbia was able to attract 13 professors so easily -- would a real economics department like Harvard or MIT or Princeton really give tenure to someone spouting off about a 200-year-old theory about the sun and moon?
Martha Stewart knows just what to buy the prisoner on your Christmas shopping list
Maybe Martha thought this up while doing time in the Big House... Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Sony BMG are teaming up to offer a series of Martha Stewart-branded compilation albums for holidays and special occasions. (We're fairly confident that these albums won't include a cover of "Jailhouse Rock") According to Crain's New York, the first in the holiday series, “Martha Stewart Living Music: The Holiday Collection,” will be a three-disc box set that includes traditional, jazz and classical favories -- in addition to recipe cards, decorating tips and craft ideas.
Alicia Colon of The New York Sun looks at what it's like to be conservative and online in New York City. As everyone knows, it's tough being a pro-Bush Republican in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans something like 5:1. (subscription required to access site)
It seems like everywhere you go these days, the opportunity to gamble is omnipresent. There are OTB offices in every corner of the city, constant reminders about lotteries and mega-millions on the evening news and the local bodega, and all kinds of sports betting info in the daily papers. Oh, and Atlantic City is just a hop, skip and bus ride away. Well, there's more... The New York Post reports that Wall Street trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald is moving into the online gambling business with a new online gambling site, Cantor Casino. At the Cantor Casino, it will be possible to play roulette, blackjack, video poker, and video slots. To avoid all kinds of pesky regulations and rules in the U.S., the site will be operated by a separate subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald (Cantor Gaming) based in the British Channel Islands, and will not be available to U.S. consumers.
Anyone still doubt that Wall Street is just a giant casino?
Brooklyn's Steven Berlin Johnson (the author of Everything Bad is Good for You) explains why the current version of the Web is more like a rainforest than a desert. The Web 2.0, supported by a thriving blog ecosystem, "does a brilliant job of capturing the energy that flows through it." According to Johnson, understanding the role of information within this ecosystem is key:
"Think of information as the energy of the Web’s ecosystem. Those Web 1.0 pages with their crude hyperlinks are like the sun’s rays falling on a desert. A few stragglers are lucky enough to stumble across them, and thus some of that information might get reused if one then decides to e-mail the URL to a friend or to quote from it on another page. But most of the information goes to waste. In the Web 2.0 model, we have thousands of services scrutinizing each new piece of information online, grabbing interesting bits, remixing them in new ways, and passing them along to other services. Each new addition to the mix can be exploited in countless new ways, both by human bloggers and by the software programs that track changes in the overall state of the Web. Information in this new model is analyzed, repackaged, digested, and passed on down to the next link in the chain. It flows."
Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, the co-authors of the bestselling Freakonomics, have a bit of fun in the New York Times, as they use their new-found celebrity as an opportunity to chatter on about the economics and social incentives of dog poop in New York City. Since dog owners are only fined $50 for a failure to pick up after their pooch in NYC, the two authors find themselves asking the inevitable question: "Why do so many people pick up after their dogs? This would seem to be a case in which social incentives - the hard glare of a passer-by and the offender's feelings of guilt - are at least as powerful as financial and legal incentives."
"Here's an idea: DNA sampling. During the licensing procedure, every dog will have to provide a sample of saliva or blood to establish a DNA file. Then, whenever a pile of poop is found on the sidewalk, a sample can be taken to establish the offender's DNA... Once the fecal DNA is matched to a given dog's DNA file, the dog's owner will be mailed a ticket. It might cost about $30 million to establish a DNA sample for all the dogs of New York. If people stop violating the law, then New York has spent $30 million for cleaner streets; if not, the $30 million is seed money for a new revenue stream."
Oh, and here's the real kicker -- the two Freakonomics guys suggest that the city should pay dog owners for licensing the mutts (it's all about incentives, ya' know). On top of that, the city should then expand its police force to keep a close eye on dog poop and to conduct spot checks of dog licenses.
Dude, this makes no sense. It's a bunch of mumbo-jumbo economics talk of rational behavior and incentives and other economics keywords that make you sound all smart... New York City would spend $30 million to create a DNA sample database for dogs, and then pay 1 million dog owners some kind of payment for licensing their dogs (so that's another 10 mil or so), and then pay police officers to hunt down dog poop? If the city won't spend $40 million to install a city-wide Wi-Fi network, it's not gonna install a dog DNA sampling database.
In the Globe and Mail, Peter Svensson test-drives new in-ear headphones in the New York subway system. The idea being, of course, that if the sound quality is OK in the roaring, snarling, screeching New York subway, it'll be OK in some bucolic wonderland in Flyover Country:
"My testing ground was the New York subway. It not only provides plenty of bass rumble, but brakes that squeal like pigs having their backs waxed. In the middle range of notes, there's the yakking of my fellow New Yorkers, God love them. This is a very trying environment for ordinary headphones — I usually have to raise the volume really loud to understand a spoken-word recording, and the bass gets lost in music no matter what I do."
Svensson tested the Shure E4c ($299), the Shure E2c ($109) and the Etymotic 6i ($149) - all of which are a cross between iPod earbuds and standard earplugs - in addition to two noise-canceling headphones "of the more common kind, the bulky type that goes over the ear." The conclusion? Svensson says that the in-ear headphones are effective at dampening high-pitched noises as well as other noises over the full spectrum, but he's put off by the idea of ear wax remover. (ew!) He also mentions something about bodily orifices, and about putting things where they don't belong, especially if the fit is too tight. Way too much information, Peter, although big props for the advice about ear hygiene.
As part of a special guide to Manhattan home design, New York Magazine profiles origami cabinetry - "a now-you-see-the-laptop-now-you-don’t approach to the home office." Here's the inside scoop on this Upper West Side original:
"Some find solace in media, others in the absence thereof. But for the owner of this Upper West Side study, balance was achieved by wrapping computer, stereo, and television in an envelope of rice paper—pairing moving screens with his collection of antique Japanese scrolls. “It’s where he does his e-mails and his writing away from his family,” says the designer Johannes Knoops... “It developed into this idea of origami, because that would be sympathetic to the scrolls. It is in the Japanese tradition of the scholar’s study.”
After providing some enthusiastic booster-ism for another new blog added to the Jupitermedia universe, Alan Meckler pauses to reflect on the synergies provided by blogs:
"[The new Datamation blog] is another fine blog added to the stable of Jupitermedia blogs that we have launched in the previous 20 months. I have written about the great response we have had to the JupiterResearch bloggers ---these continue to thrive in terms of readership and feedback. This is blogging at its best in that readers get solid information and thoughts and the company gets greater bonding with pressent and future customers."
If you've ever watched Seinfeld (or any other sit-com about New York), then you probably know a few words of Yiddish and didn't even know it. Here's a list of common Yiddish expressions and what they actually mean. "Schmoozing" is talking about nothing in particular, "oy" is a disapproving sigh, and "mentsh" means a decent person. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's head down to the Lower East Side for some bagels.
It's not only East Coast papers like the New York Times that are coming to grips with the fact that they might be ink-stained dinosaurs. The Los Angeles Times, still one of the best newspapers in the country, is undergoing some major financial problems and a lot of soul-searching about its future. According to the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper's bigwigs have decided that the only possible way to boost circulation and bring in more advertisers is to pander to their readers: "After five years of sagging circulation and advertising, new managers at the Times are pushing for more coverage of Hollywood and celebrities. They want shorter stories and more regional reporting in the intensely competitive bedroom communities around Los Angeles..."
Hmmm... celebrities, gossip, soft news, short punchy items. Sounds like the LA Times is being Gawker-ized. Or, at least, Defamer-ized.
Speaking of Gawker, the New York Observer recently had an interesting feature on Nick Denton, the so-called Gawker King. ThePoliticker called Gawker "the combination steroid and tonic that both inflates and slaps down societies in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, as well as the borderless society of Web-porn fans." (memo to the LA Times: you forgot the porn)
Oh, and there's a great quote from Denton that sums up the basic problem facing all newspapers as they attempt to hang on to readers:
"You can’t pretend to yourself that people actually have highfalutin taste... Nobody ever searches for ‘Inequality in America.’"
Co-founder of Blogger tempts fate with new subway logo design
Meg Hourihan, one of the co-founders of Blogger, has redesigned her personal blog to include a funky New York subway logo design. With the MTA cracking down on intellectual property recently (iPod subway maps, anyone?), we just hope that the new logo doesn't cause any problems. (Meg herself notes that she "may be taking the NYC transportation theme too far")
Town Sports International, the holding company for New York Sports Clubs, is ready to proceed with a $172.5 million IPO, according to the New York Post. The health & fitness company is owned by a private equity firm, which has been negotiating with other private equity firms over the past few months about a potential sale. However, all of these bids were eventually rejected in favor of an IPO, which would bring a higher valuation for the company. Town Sports International, which has 140 clubs and 400,000 members, is currently valued at between $600 million and $700 million.