John

Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

Monocle: Print media’s rather clever black sheep

In magazines on June 26, 2008 at 4:21 pm

monocle

I recently read a really interesting Mediabistro interview with Tyler Brule, the publishing Lothario behind Wallpaper and Monocle magazines.

Brule is a contrarian, and he’s smart about it. He seems to enjoy doing the exact opposite of conventional publishing wisdom with Monocle. It’s not so much about Monocle’s editorial direction – the writing, design or photos, which are all good. Brule’s shrewedness shows up in his business model.

A summary of key features:

Distribution: The mag is thinly but widely distributed internationally, with 24 distributors listed on its website and magazines shipped to 79 countries. Bruele says it has 5,000 paid subscriptions with a “dream” circulation of 200,000. Not high. The Economist’s circulation (probably the closest publication in terms of demographic targets) is 1.3 million a week.

Revenue structure: It costs more, not less, to buy a Monocle subscription. We are all familiar, thanks to those horrible little slips of paper stuck in magazine pages, that magazines always slash per-unit prices for subscriptions drastically, usually 50% or more. It costs US$10 an issue and US$150 for 12-issue subscription. Ballsy move. Read the rest of this entry »

Ice On Mars: It’s Confirmed, With Pictures.

In News on June 20, 2008 at 3:11 pm

(Pic from NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University)

Ever since the Phoenix landed on Mars, there has been speculation on whether or not there is ice beneath the Mars Lander. It could’ve been salt, but pictures of a sublimating patch proved it to be frozen water. It’s the answer everyone’s been waiting for since the day we created Martians in Sci-Fi.

From Phoenix Mars Mission:

Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it.

“It must be ice,” said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it’s ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can’t do that.”

The Collapse of Yahoo!

In News, Online on June 20, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Three weeks away from the blog, and so much shit has happened in between that I don’t know where to start with this mountain of information staring at me. Oh, BTW, Firefox 3 just rocks my pants off, whatever that means.

Once again, in a week following the strange Yahoogle deal between Yahoo! and Google to essentially let Google Ads run on Yahoo! searches, the knives are out for Jerry Yang more than ever. Dvorak has made a bleeding heart petition for shareholders to lay off Jerry Yang in his latest Marketwatch column, calling out so-called “investors” who want the company to be sold as mere speculators. Here’s an excerpt.

If you’re an investor in Yahoo, my guess is that you’ve chosen to invest in a company, its employees and its future. Selling out to Microsoft only assures a pathetic end of this investment.
And you all seem so pleased at the idea that Yang, the founder with nothing but good intentions, would, at the drop of a hat, take his life’s work, the top Web site in the world, a site full of tools used by millions of people, and sell it to Microsoft just because Microsoft wants it.
Oh, and let’s not forget the thousands of people who productively work for Yahoo. Who cares about them?
Did I also mention that Yahoo is an important and famous American institution?
So Yang wants to keep Yahoo as Yahoo. And you are all stunned, indeed flabbergasted by this.
How sick and greedy are you?
While he does have a point in not letting the likes of Carl Icahn take over the company so that Yahoo! can be sold to Microsoft for the “shareholders’ interest”, it’s increasingly unwise to let Jerry Yang continue to run Yahoo! It’s a critical time for the company, when strong leadership and direction is needed–and Yang is obviously not the man to steer the company in the right direction. As one of the comments pointed out, it’s Jerry Yang who hired Terry Semel, the person who made Yahoo! the shambles that it is today, so Yang isn’t the faultless saviour-to-be here.
Compound this with the recent departure of Flickr’s founders, Stewart Butterfield and Catrina Fake, from Yahoo! and you have all the signs of weakening leadership. Butterfield sounds so jaded and confused by what was going on with Yahoo!. He writes in his resignation letter:
“When I joined Yahoo back in 21 it was a sheet-tin concern of great momentum, growth and innovation,” Over the decades, as the company grew and expanded, first into dies and punches, into copper, corrugated steel, synthesized rubber, piping, milling equipment, engines, instruments, weaponry and so on, I still felt at home, because tin was the core of the business.

“By the time of the internet revolution and our expansions into Web Sites, I have been cast adrift. I tried to roll with the times, but nary a sheet of tin has rolled off our own production lines in 30 years!”

“I don’t know what you and the other executives have planned for this company, but I know my ability to contribute has dwindled to near-nothing…”

So 1,000 jobs slashed, a cost-cutting move from UK to Switzerland, and the loss of their top brains, including vice president Bradley Horowitz, who left for Google. Yahoo! sounds like it’s crumbling fast. And there’s hardly word on what the plan is to save the company: Team up with Google? Blah. That’s a pittance.

The latest TWiT episode had me pumping my fist into the air when Wil Harris summed it up: “What Is Yahoo!?” I don’t think the company knows: is it a portal, a social networking site, a search engine, a platform? What does it intend to be? Unlike Google, which has a long-term future idea of “Cloud Computing” or Facebook and MySpace destined to be a “Platform,” no one knows what Yahoo! is or will be.

It’s a pity that Yahoo! is crumbling the way it is. Yang won’t be there for long.

Reuters: Google and Amazon Will Pwn The Internets

In News on June 4, 2008 at 4:20 am

So just who are the long-term survivors of the Internet in the near future? Internet analyst Jeffery Lindsay published a 310-page report on speculating the future thrivers and losers, coming out with the conclusion that Google and Amazon will prosper, while Yahoo! will drop our of the game and be acquired.

One of the key reasons for internet companies losing out, he says, is losing their grip on their core competencies–a point that was argued about in Douglas Rushkoff’s excellent book, Get Back In The Box: Innovation from The Inside Out. You can read an interview on him regarding the book here.

From Reuters:

An Internet analyst for a major Wall Street firm argues in a new report that Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc will be long-term winners, while Yahoo and IAC InterActiveCorp fall by the wayside and eBay Inc becomes a merger target.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay argues in a 310-page report entitled “U.S. Internet: The End of the Beginning” to be published on Tuesday that Google and Amazon are best placed to withstand the current economic downturn.

“We expect two players to continue to perform strongly, Google and Amazon,” Lindsay writes. “Both Google and Amazon.com are still racking up annual growth rates in the 30-40 percent range, with only a relatively modest slowdown in sight.”

Lindsay reiterates his previous positions that Yahoo eventually will be sold to Microsoft Corp and that Barry Diller’s IAC e-commerce conglomerate will go ahead in August with its five-way split-up, as planned.

“Arguably the weakest players have strayed furthest from their original competences and have been operating largely as conglomerates,” the Bernstein analyst says of Yahoo and IAC.

Because [REC] Is Seriously Scary Crap.

In Videos on June 3, 2008 at 10:45 am

Was doing up my movie previews for the month of July, and came across this Spanish horror flick that was touted as the “Blair Witch movie of 2007”. Though the handycam style has long lost its novelty, this film has enough moments that will make you wish you could run out of the theatre ASAP. Rottentomatoes gave it a 91%, so it should be excellent.

Like one commenter said of the clip above:” At first, not so scary.

Then HOLY FUCKING SHIT!”

My sentiments exactly.

Clay Shirky’s Keynote On The Media Revolution

In Online, Videos on June 3, 2008 at 6:11 am

A little while back I posted a note on Clay Shirky’s keynote address at the Web 2.0 Expo held in late April this year. It’s a lengthy speech to read on text, so here’s the 15-minute address presented in two seperate YouTube clips.

and Part 2:

It’s an amazing look into the future about how the internet has (not will) changed the way media is consumed and shared, and why Old Media control freaks are helplessly lost in trying to understand new trends in media consumption.

What struck me most about his keynote address was how social and participatory media is here to stay, and not some phase that will wear itself out. Like Linda Stone, a former VP at Microsoft, I used to believe that the explosion of social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace will cause people to burn out and give up because they can’t find the time to devote their attention to maintaining their social profiles, blogs, AND twitter accounts. That’s obviously not the case now.

So how do they find the time? Simple: it’s because the new generation of media consumers control their media to suit their time tables.

The media revolution caused by the internet has caused a fundamental shift in the way we consume media. Where once broadcasters could force us into channels, making us rush home at 8.30pm sharp for another episode of McGyver, it is we who now control how and when we want to watch our TV. Read the rest of this entry »

Think Your Work Hours Are Bad? Go To South Korea

In News on June 3, 2008 at 4:32 am

(Pic from MeHere)

A couple of weeks back, Forbes analyzed the results of a survey carried out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on The World’s Hardest Working Countries. Surprisingly, Malaysia is not noted on the list, despite our bitching about how terrible the working hours are. The No. 1 on the list are the South Koreans, who clock in an average working time of 2,357 hours per year, or an astounding 6.5 hours for every single day of their life.

Funnily enough, there’s a notable lack of Asian countries on that list, with Greece listed as No. 2 on the list and the freakin’ Italians are No. 8–“because of their large number of self-employed citizens”, according to the article. I wonder if workers there consider their siesta period as “work hours”.

On the opposite end of the scale are, shockingly enough, NOT the French–who knows, maybe they consider strikes as working hours–but rather the Dutch (insert getting stoned reference here), who clock in an average of 1,391 hours per year.

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

If you thought you worked long hours, consider 39-year-old Lee from South Korea. A civil servant at the ministry of agriculture and fisheries, Lee gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day, gets dressed and makes a two-hour commute into Seoul to start work at 8:30 a.m. After sitting at a computer for most of the day, Lee typically gets out the door at 9 p.m., or even later.

By the time he gets home, it’s just a matter of jumping in the shower and collapsing into bed, before starting the whole routine all over again, about four hours later. This happens six days a week, and throughout almost all of the year, as Lee gets just three days of vacation.

That’s right. Three days.

[…]

Greece comes second in the OECD’s rankings with 2,052 hours worked on average each year, and just behind is a trio of Eastern European nations: Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The U.S. is also above the OECD average of 32 nations, coming at No. 9, with 1,797 hours worked on average each year.

Ice On Mars!

In News on June 2, 2008 at 2:49 pm

For you space junkies and extraterrestrial life believers, it’s confirmed: there is indeed ice on Mars. The Mars Phoenix Lander has amazingly landed on a patch of ice directly underneath it, which was exposed thanks to the retrorockets used for Phoenix’s soft landing.

According to Fox news, the pictures taken on Sol 5 (the fifth day on Mars) “shows one of the craft’s three legs sitting on coarse dirt and a large patch of what appears to be ice — possibly 3 feet in diameter — that apparently had been covered by a thin layer of dirt.”

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Sharp new images received Saturday from the Phoenix lander largely convinced scientists that the spacecraft’s thrusters had uncovered a large patch of ice just below the Martian surface, team members said.

That bodes well for the mission’s main goal of digging for ice that can be tested for evidence of organic compounds that are the chemical building blocks of life.

Team members had said Friday that photos showing the ground beneath the lander suggested the vehicle was resting on splotches of ice. Washington University scientist Ray Arvidson said the spacecraft’s thrusters may have blown away dirt covering the ice when the robot landed one week ago.

“We were worried that it may be 30-, 40-, 50-centimeters deep, which would be a lot of work. Now we are fairly certain that we can easily get down to the ice table,” said Peter Smith, a University of Arizona scientist who is the chief project investigator.

A Tweet from Marsphoenix reveals that “The ice is very solid. It would take months, maybe years for it to sublimate,” and the lander will begin to scrape the ice shortly.