December 2007

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Strike Two


I think the Writer’s Guild of America strike is going to end very shortly. Why? Because a number of shows like Colbert, Letterman, Leno and The Daily Show are going back on the air without writers. And when these show do well and media companies realize that, economically, less can be more, things will start to change and snowball fast.
 
Do you really believe the aforementioned talk show hosts can’t pull off 60 or 90 minutes of interviewing without a bullpen of writers feeding them jokes? I’m betting between the entertainers’ smarts and the smarts of the people they interview we’ll see some fine television. Who knows, maybe some of the drama producers and actors will pick up pens and bang out a vamp or two. 
 
We are close to the end of the strike. Happy holidays all!
 

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There is an MIT physics professor by the name of Walter H.G. Lewin who broadcasts his classes to the masses over the internet. The videos are available on iTunes U and http://ocw.mit.edu
 
Professor Lewin is a “one percenter.” That is, he is in the top one percent of his craft. Because Mr. Lewins courses are so powerful, well-crafted and thoroughly demonstrative, his kids learn physics with ease. Check out the article in today’s NYT at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/education/19physics.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
 
This presents a dilemma for MIT. Right now the online lectures are free. But once they become in such great demand (they are currently being viewed in India and China) and student prefer professor Lewin to their own college professor, MIT may find itself educating everybody. Unrestricted, kids could use the internet to find the best college professors in the world and choose to learn from them. What would that do to all the professors who are mediocre, tired and/or simply awaiting pensions?
 
Sadly, MIT and other courseware providers of this ilk are soon going to have to restrict this type of free education. So get this stuff while you can. 
 

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“Free Professor Lewin”
 
There is an MIT physics professor by the name of Walter H.G. Lewin who broadcasts his classes to the masses over the internet. The videos are available on iTunes U and http://ocw.mit.edu
 
Professor Lewin is a “one percenter.” That is, he is in the top one percent of his craft. Because Mr. Lewins courses are so powerful, well-crafted and thoroughly demonstrative, his kids learn physics with ease. Check out the article in today’s NYT at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/education/19physics.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
 
This presents a dilemma for MIT. Right now the online lectures are free. But once they become in such great demand (they are currently being viewed in India and China) and student prefer professor Lewin over their own college professor, MIT may find itself educating everybody. Unrestricted, kids could use the internet to find the best college professors in the country and just simply learn from them. What would that do to all the professors who are only mediocre, tired, and/or waiting on their pensions?
 
Sadly, MIT and other courseware providers of this ilk are soon going to have to restrict this type of free education. So get this stuff while you can. 
 
Walter H.G. Lewin, MIT, whats the idea, New York Times, iTunes U
 
 
As fast as Facebook is growing and as many smart decisions as it has made technologically, I am amazed by some of its miscues. The latest is to passively allow a research study of an unnamed East Coast college over Facebook. Conducted by Harvard and UCLA, this study will report on users’ social networking values, behaviors and attitudes. 
 
I work for a social computing property called Zude. Our reason for being is to promote user freedom, so internally we often find ourselves in discussions about what we should allow users to do on the site. We most always decide in favor of freedom. So, were this research project to take place on Zude, you would think I’d be okay with it. Wrong.
 
In my view the project should be allowed, but the users should be alerted they are being studied. Let them decide whether or not to participate. As far as I can tell from the press the Facebook study has received, the unsuspecting college students don’t know they are being monitored and that is an invasion of their privacy. 
 
Shopping malls let research people in to conduct research but you see them coming a mile away. Would they allow researchers in with surveillance cameras? I think not.
 
Facebook, college kids are your franchise. You have just found another way to piss them off.
 

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Cap This!

 
CapGemini is a very good IT Consulting company. A large chunk of its revenue is tied to outsourcing. I have had the pleasure of working for Cap as a marketing agent and they have always had a good product and a good strategic angle but their communications strategy, especially in the U.S., has faltered. It is nowhere more evident than in their latest outsourcing print ad campaign.
 
This stuff is “we’re here” advertising at it very worst. “We’re here” advertising explains what business you’re in and gives customers a way to get in touch. No selling. No art. No emotion.
 
In today’s ad, adjacent to a cartoon of a hotel employee dressed in desert fatigues collecting car keys from a couple getting out of a car is the headline “In our hands, your system will never get out of hand.” The metaphor, apparently, is “your car is in good hands, while in the hotel.”  OMG! The copy prattles on about outsourcing giving you the freedom to do what you do best, or some such nonsense.
 
I did some planning for the outsourcing group at Cap and they are way smarter than this. The top bosses may not be, but the line general certainly was. This is a disgrace. Who would want to outsource their business to a company who can’t communicate clearly.
 
In case anyone is reading the business press: Capgemini is in the outsourcing business. Woo hoo!
 

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Kids growing up in the U.S. today are listening to rock and roll and so are their parents. That cultural divide is behind us. But a divide still exists in the area of technology and media consumption.
 
It is for this reason that boards of directors at large consumer companies need to begin including younger blood. Most boards need at least one 20-something member to add a more contemporary worldview. And they need to listen to them. The time has long passed when women and people of color were added to the “wild eyebrow” set, now it’s time to get younger.
 
If kids in their twenties are capable of building new media empires with billion dollar valuations, I figure they are old enough to sit at the table with 20th century captains of industry.
 

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I’m a brand guy. I like to know what a brand stands for and what its mission is. If people on the inside know what a brand stands for, presumably people on the outside will too. The Wall Street Journal has always stood for financial reporting and analysis. Rupert Murdoch, as it was reported in the New York Times this morning, 
 
has been pondering upping the content on hard-hitting news and political reporting in the Wall Street Journal when the News Corp ownership becomes formal. Indeed, he is considering the removal of the Marketplace section of the paper next year.   Marketing is a component of financial news — certainly a driver of it, in many cases — so that section of the paper is on message and on brand. Replacing it with something more general, in my mind is a mistake. Competing with the New York Times and other more generalist media properties will water down the WSJ mission, also a mistake. Mr. Murdoch’s new plans might make the “Journal” (yes, there have even been discussions about removing “Wall Street” from the title ) more profitable near-term, but it is not be a good long-term solution. 
 
Should they to move this route, in will step The Financial Times to fillthe void and the Journal will get really dinged. Stay tuned.
 

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Are you one of those people who really, really loves to fly? One of those people who has never had the thought that the only things keeping you from free fall at 30,000 feet are a bunch of nuts, bolts, wires and metal? If you say “yes” then read on. 
 
Following are some heart warming quotes from the lead story in today’s Wall Street Journal about the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This may be one of those cases where it would have been better for Boeing to have gone all George Bush and keep this information from the public. (Please note the use of some of some very special verbs and adjectives.)
 
“Boeing Scrambles To Fix Problems With New 787. Hostage to Suppliers. Fuel-sipping jet. Build much of the plane from carbon-fiber plastic instead of aluminum. The first jet in Boeing’s 91-year history designed largely by other companies. To lower the $10 billion or so it would cost to develop the plane solo, Boeing authorized a team of parts suppliers to design and build major sections of the craft, which it planner to snap together at it Seattle-area factory. The supplier problems ranged from language barriers to snafus that erupted when suppliers themselves outsourced chunks of work. The first Dreamliner to show up at Boeing’s factory was missing tens of thousands of part….”
 
Stewardess, another beer please?  
 

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Badvertising

 

Is it possible to strengthen a commitment to generate value and sustainability by changing a brand? Yes, it is possible.
 
CVRD is now Vale. This new name speaks to the company’s globalization and mineral diversification today. However, our values and policies have not changed; our commitment to ethics, corporate social responsibility, discipline in capital allocation and risk management remains strong and steadfast. The constant quest to transform mineral resources into essential elements present in the lives of its communities is Vale’s passion. Learn more about Vale at www.vale.com
 
This has to be one of my favorite headlines ever typed (see bold.) Written would be an overstatement. The ad ran today in the Wall Street Journal and must have cost in excess of $100,000. I clicked though on the URL for giggles and the homepage was in another language. Quite fitting. 
 

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TV is for Geezers.

 
Want a snapshot of U.S. media habits? Broadcast TV is for Geezers. Cable is for kids. Magazines are for women/girls. DVDs are for teens and college kids. CDs are for suburbanites. Music downloads are for the hip-hop crowd. And Box Office Movies are for the young and old with a big donut hole in the middle.  
 
So says Nielsen Media Research, M:Metrics, Screenline, Internet Movie Database, Mediaweek and Nielsen SoundScan/Billboard.
 
Did someone turn off the radio?
 
 

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