Flawed business plan revealed!

Pearls Before Swine, 4/20/09

Gee, when you put it that way, it does seem kind of silly. Where was Goat when we needed him?

Labels: ,


Josh Feese succeeds with unique sales pitch

Radiohead made headlines in 2007 when they allowed fans to pay whatever they wanted to for their new CD, and several other artists followed suit. That was a great thing, for it was a fine example of offering choice to consumers. Rather than assume they would steal the music if given the chance, the band let consumers decide what the music was worth.

Drummer Josh Freese is building on that notion with his second solo album, Since 1972. He is offering packages that cost between $7 and $75,000. The low end price gets you a digital download, the top end gets you a five-song EP written about you and your life, recorded by Freese, one of his drum sets, "take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL's Lamborgini," and Freese's membership in your band for a month (plus much, much more).

It seemed like an inventive lark when it was announced earlier this year. But then a funny thing happened: People took him up on it. In a post on the Nine Inch Nails message board, Freese writes that "I have sold 150 of the $50 of the packages and all 25 of the $250 packages (those went in the first 24 hours.) In less than a week I have sold 4 of the $500, 2 of the $2,500, 2 of the $5,000, and the big old $20,000 package!"

The $20,000 package sale has earned Freese some press. Wired.com's Underwire blog has the story. It seems fan Thomas Mrzyglocki had some inheritance money and a desire to get away from things for a while, so he bought the package and hung out with Freese for a week. According to Wired.com, Freese said, "I really do like the kid and know that it's a bizarre experience for him."

Meanwhile, Freese has earned unbelievable press for an album that would likely have garnered a handful of reviews had it come out through traditional means. Giving fans a choice, and being willing to go well beyond the norm, has earned him some fans, some notoriety and some cash. Though, he tells Wired.com, it's not about that: "I've made a little bit of money," he said, "but I'm not out shopping for cars, you know what I mean?"

Labels: ,


CBJ magazine round-up

Originally published in the April 13-19 issue of the Corridor Business Journal.

The cover of this month’s Portfolio is either a few months too late or a couple of years too early. Either way, it’s odd to see one-time Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in thick coat and jeans staring somewhat defiantly at the camera. The cover story is about Ms. Palin’s plan to build a $40 billion gas pipeline out of Alaska, and how and why the plan has been derailed. Of more interest is a companion piece about Exxon and what are expected to be its battles with the Obama administration over environmental issues.

Another interesting piece looks at “the Steve Jobs Economy,” estimating the Apple CEO’s worth to the economy. Adding not only the sale of its products but also software and ancillary products sold for them and the products of competitors spurred by his innovation, it estimates a value of $30.8 billion.

Wired this month looks at the nation’s power grid and the challenges we face because of it. The piece suggests seven ways to fix the grid, and expresses hope that the Obama administration is poised to do so. The suggestions include generating power anywhere possible, storing it in “super batteries” and pushing conservation efforts more aggressively.

The issue also includes a fascinating article called “The Brain, Revealed,” that looks at efforts to more fully map and study the organ that controls it all. It’s a comprehensive look at what we know, and what we have yet to discover.

Fast Company’s cover this month profiles Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook who was instrumental in creating the MyBarackObama.com web site that is credited with helping to connect Mr. Obama’s supporters, raise $30 million and form 35,000 volunteer groups. Just 25, Mr. Hughes is given considerable credit in the piece for Mr. Obama’s election. Regardless of the accuracy of such plaudits, he was clearly a factor, and that success shows how, in the right hands, social media can be a very powerful tool.

The issue also has a list of 10 ways to fix the auto industry. No. 1 on the list? Let Mr. Obama take over. Some critics would say that already has occurred. Stay tuned for the results.



Web is killing the business of journalism

Jeff Jarvis is angry again, because of course he's right and others are wrong. This time his ire is targeted at those who responded to a very unscientific survey of " prominent members of the national news media" by The Atlantic for a piece about the affect of the Internet on journalism. According to the piece, 65 percent of those surveyed believe journalism has been hurt more than helped by the Internet.

This, of course, has Jarvis hopping mad: "Restrain me," he writes.

Alas, The Atlantic probably errs by not presenting the question more effectively, and Jarvis, myopic as always, errs because he's not savvy enough to see the real question and answer behind the piece. You see, the Internet has damaged journalism. There's no question. What Jarvis is angry about is that this would seem to indicate that web-based reporting is inferior. Most of it is, but that's not the takeaway here. It is that the Internet has damaged the business of journalism. Of that, there is no debate. Other factors have played a part in the demise of newspapers and other newsgathering organizations, everything from greed and managerial incompetence to the rising cost of newsprint. But the web is what has so thoroughly slammed newspapers. If the rest were the first small rocks to slide down the mountainside, then the web is the thunderclap that triggered the landslide.

Many wags have compared newspaper companies to buggy whip makers. Whatever. But using that analogy, the newspaper folks are saying that cars have damaged the business of making and selling buggy whips. Again, there is no debate there. But the Jarvises of the day would say, "How dare you say carmakers can't make a quality buggy whip!" That's not the point, is it? In that case, buggies and cars conveyed people, but they were very different. In this one, newspapers and the web both convey information, but they are very different. And yes, the car killed the buggy just as surely as the web is killing newspapers.

Now, The Atlantic doesn't ask, nor do the queried journalists respond, with answers to this exact question. But that is the overarching Q and A in this discussion. Sure, they say that reporting suffers, that attention spans are being shortened. But what they are really saying is that the way we once did business has been irreparably damaged. For some reason, this rankles Jarvis, who continues to push for the demise of print products despite the fact that some of us still prefer to have that option in the mix. Anything that gets in the way of that seems to make him see red. Too bad that so clouds his view.

Labels: , ,


What is killing newspapers? Not what you think

Finally, a look at the real reasons newspaper companies are failing. Yes, revenues are down everywhere because of a soft advertising market and a loss in subscription revenue as readers flock to the web, but, as Daniel Gross writes today in Slate, "not every newspaper company in the country has gone bankrupt as a result. And the failures may say more about a style of capitalism than an industry."

He cites the examples of Sam Zell, who put down 4 percent of the $8.2 billion asking price for the Tribune Co., somehow leaving it with an impossible-to-manage $13 billion in debt. Other, slightly less egregious examples are cited as well.

This proves, of course, that the calls from this corner and elsewhere that publicly traded companies should be prohibited from owning newspapers is not the answer. I still think it's a start. taking papers out of the hands of public companies that put profit gains before all else would surely help. A bill introduced by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin that would allow newspapers to more easily operate as nonprofits is worth following.

Of course, you can't legislate stupidity, so problems like those brought on by Zell and others are hard to avoid unless the marketplace does a better job of stopping such maneuvers.



Peabodys recognize online work

This year's Peabody Awards reflect the ramped up online shift undergone by media in the past year, as YouTube, the Onion News Network and the New York Times web site.

The 36 winners of this year's award were announced today by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which oversees the awards. The awards recognize "the best in electronic media for 2008."

"The works recognized by the Peabody Board this year not only reflect great diversity of content and genre, but also true technical innovation and the varied roles of new distribution systems," said Peabody Director Horace Newcomb, in a release. "The list of winners this year clearly indicates a changing media environment that will continue to require judgment and evaluation through the Peabody Awards process."

In addition to the usual spate of television shows and documentaries, the awards this year reached into cyberspace to recognize digital excellence. The organization called YouTube "the video-sharing web site that puts a boundless array of video artifacts, from historic political speeches to cell phone videos, at every Internet user's fingertips," in honoring it with an award, while the Onion News Network was noted for it's "video parodies of newscasts and newsmakers (that) are so shrewdly conceived and produced that they're often hard to distinguish from the real thing."

The latter is a strange one coming on April Fool's Day, though it is not unprecedented -- Stephen Colbert has a Peabody or two as well.

"We recognize the great transformations affecting dissemination of news and information," Newcomb said in the release. "The variety of choices available to citizens does in fact range from the best traditional journalism expanded for the web, to sharp critiques in the form of parody and satire. Both can achieve a level of excellence that reaches the Peabody standard and both require citizens to respond with careful analysis of their own."

Labels: ,