John

Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

Rummy’s best defence against war crimes

In Videos on November 16, 2006 at 10:48 am

Because, as human beings, you can’t send someone who does origami at press conferences to jail for war crimes. That’s just inhuman.

Does MySpace suck?

In Online on November 15, 2006 at 11:23 am

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Looking back over the past month, there’s been a growing voice of dissent against MySpace and, if you are to believe the naysayers, the rather imminent collapse of MySpace. The number of unique visitors, report the WSJ, fell 4% to 47.2 million from 49.2 million in August. The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that the length of time users spend on MySpace hit a high of 2 hours and 25 minutes in October last year, but dropped to 2 hours and has plateaud since then.

“I think it’s definitely going down,” says Jackie Birnbaum, a high-school student interviewed in the Washington Post article “a lot of my friends have deleted their MySpaces and are more into Facebook now.” E.J. Kim, another interviewee, says that she spent four hours on her MySpace page to deleting the whole thing, saying she’s grown “tired of it.”

Now, I’ve never been a fan of MySpace. It’s too bloody ugly, too impersonal, and basically one big spam machine. I’ve opened up a MySpace account, but never really saw any benefit to it aside from getting requests of a couple of relatively unknown authors to be my friend. And it didn’t surprise me, and many other people, when Trent Lapinski, writing in Valleywag, said that MySpace was designed by Intermix Media to be one big spam machine, disguised as some altruistic, cool social networking site. So no, Tom is not your friend.

The way you made “friends” is basically one way of connecting you to more marketing spam. Wander around MySpace and you’ll find phony profiles, profiles of inanimate objects like the iPod Nanos are online, book authors tout there books by asking you to add them as friends, bands that want you to check them out. It’s a very impersonal publicity machine there.

And here’s the thing about young kids today: They won’t be taken for fools. Kids these days are brought up in an age of media overload, so they’re media savvy enough to smell spam when it comes. Add to that 1) the fickle behaviour of their target audience who constantly seek the next “cool” thing, 2) the zero cost of ditching the account, and 3) the zero cost of signing up for another, better managed social networking account (one that gives you more control over friends, less spam, cleaner interface, etc.), and what you’ll get is a very real opportunity where MySpace can collapse.

But the way I see it, MySpace has two things going for it that will save its life–sheer inertia, and their online music. For all the negative publicity, MySpace is a juggernaut, and any downslope reaction won’t happen overnight; 125 million people don’t just ditch their profiles within a month, or even six. The slight downward slide of the stats support this. The voice of dissent, though growing, is still a relatively lonely one, and two hours spent on a page is still long compared to many other websites. And their online music component is a tremendous way of discovering music–just ask any music artist there, and they’ll agree with you. But that side of MySpace needs work–there’s such an overwhelming choice of music that people don’t know where to start.

Murdoch is in treacherous waters; to save MySpace, he’s got to do it subtly, without pushing in-your-face ads to users. After all, this is “My Space,” so there is a sense of ownership to the profile pages, and much like owners, they hate to see unwanted solicitors forcing them to hear an ad pitch. But then again, when you’ve spent $580million, you sure want to see larger profits. Welcome to Web 2.0, where loads of money is dished out for a startup that hasn’t figured out a way to turn a tidy profit. It’s an interesting time for Rupert–is he the poster child for new media adaptation, or just someone performing old tricks on a new platform?

Ellen Feiss and the Switch

In TV on November 14, 2006 at 11:10 am


Last week, news broke out that Justin Long (aka Warren Cheswick from Ed) won’t continue being the Mac guy in Apple’s latest ad campaign, followed by all the comments that pretty much equated to “thank fuck he’s gone!”. While the whole Mac vs. PC (okay, let’s not beat around the bush–Windows) spot was funny and true, I always had that unsettling feeling whenever I saw it, and I guess I wasn’t alone in thinking that the Mac dude was a smarmy, cooler-than-thou, Oooh-look-at-me-I-got-no-virus!-hands-in-pocket guy that was a parody of the typical Mac user (haven’t met one yet? Come to the office).

A couple of days later, Dvorak rediscovered and posted up this Ellen Feiss Apple ad campaign (above), which was made a couple of years back but never shown to a wide audience. Not sure why not, because this Ellen chick (later dubbed “Stoner girl”) is too cool for school. If I’d seen this ad, I’d really consider switching. And five minutes later, work on my Windows PC. Hey, 95% of the computing world can’t be wrong.

PS: Latest news, according to Mac Rumours, is that Justin hasn’t been fired. That’s like… a bummer.

So, you say you want to digitise your magazine?

In magazines on November 11, 2006 at 1:39 pm

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Here’s an interesting development in the magazine world taking on the new media world–skip the print and go directly digital. Jon Fine, a media columnist with BusinessWeek, picked up on the launch of Viv, “an independently published health-and-wellness play with certain New Age overtones aimed at women 35-plus.” Due to launch on December 1, Viv Mag is solely available through the Web, and viewable through Zinio Systems’ online reader.

Now, I know that there’s been a lot of talk surrounding the whole issue of traditional print media trying to embrace the web, but I don’t think this is the way. It’s a gutsy move, no doubt, as Fine put it: “The notion of doing an entirely digital magazine has been frequently discussed among the halls of major magazine publishers, but none have taken a leap like Viv. (Time Inc. did try the Web-only Office Pirates, but it was operated as a straight Web site and in any event died a fairly quick death.) I’d be telling a very big lie if I said Viv’s success was guaranteed, or even likely.

“But I can’t help but think this: I just returned from the American Magazine Conference, where a bunch of top execs once again made the argument of how magazines are embracing the Internet, oh yes, we truly get it now, whatever ‘it’ is. And yet it takes someone far outside from any big magazine company to try something that smacks of the next-generation magazine.”

It’s a gutsy leap of faith by Viv, but it doesn’t make sense. There’s no solid ground to land on when it arrives. I’ve always held firm by the argument that one media trying to integrate itself into another is doomed from the start. Print media, being traditional, doesn’t mean it’s outdated; it’s got merits that can’t be emulated by plonking your whole magazine onto the Web. “A woman’s magazine that you can’t flick, fondle or flaunt is no woman’s magazine at all,” writes David Hepworth in his column for Guardian (again. I know, I quote him often, but he’s an awesome columnist for MediaGuardian.)

And that’s the thing: you can’t feel a magazine on the web. You can’t take it to the bathroom with you, take it to the beach, to the cafe, slip it in your bag and read it on the train. There’s a sensual pleasure in a magazine, from the cover lamination, to the paper grammage, to the dog-earring the pages you want to catch up on. I can’t imagine booting up a computer just to read a magazine. Try it for yourself–The Fader has a completely free downloadable pdf file of its entire issue, and it’s a horrible experience reading 100 pages of it on the computer. Different forms of media, different purposes. I hope Viv does well, but I’m not hopeful.

Magazine Covers of the Year

In magazines on November 11, 2006 at 12:47 pm

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It’s been awhile since the last blog posting, but be patient while I try to get my ass writing regularly about this stuff. Quite a bit of news and events have since passed by, so I’ll start off with this surprising winning candidate of the Magazine Publishers of America‘s (MPA) recent announcement of its first-ever awards for magazine cover of the year. The choice for best celebrity cover went to Harper’s Bazaar featuring Julianne Moore–and the surprise was that it was green. Yep, the colour green has taken its fair share of prejudice and neglect, after showing that it never sells magazine covers.

“A cover,” writes David Hepworth, the head honcho of publishing company Developmental Hell, ” must appeal to a moron in a hurry, which is why none of the following works: anything ‘intriguing’, green, anything illustrated, anything downbeat apart from an obit, anything with the words ‘part two’.”

Now, while it is true that Vanity Fair’s “Green Issue” was quite an unattractive one, this Julianne Moore cover, on the other hand, is different. Green suits her well, as you can see, and I’m glad that the editor took the gutsy move to go all green for the cover, from the masthead to the dress, down to her glorious green eyes.

It just goes to show that while there are some rules when applied to the science of covers, there are always exceptions to the rules that we cannot neglect. It takes a good editor with guts and instinct to know when to make that exception.