Archive for the ‘Hard times’ Category

Wed 1 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, Technology

Impressions officially recognized as currency

NEW YORK, N.Y. April 1, 2009 — Bowing to pressure from technology companies, major currency exchanges announced today that they will recognize the Impression as a form of money.

Google, Facebook and numerous media companies were expected to immediately switch their accounting systems to Impressions.

“We believe recording Impressions, rather than traditional accounting, is a true measure of our business performance,” said Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL. “Also, effective immediately, we will begin paying our employees and suppliers by driving them Impressions, rather than writing them checks in U.S. dollars.”

Since the Web 2.0 boom began in 2006, programmers, designers, bloggers, writers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and other content creators have been gradually transitioning to an Impression-based economy. That is, the only payment they earn for their services is massive amounts of viewers visiting the Web sites they create.

“Under the economic model we pioneered, we generate Impressions by aggregating content, and we compensate the content providers by driving traffic to them,” said Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. “The audience dictates whether work is valuable. What could be more democratic?”

Huffington also noted that the new model sidesteps the old-fashioned problems of contracts, taxes and labor relations, since no money ever changes hands.

Through a process known as “linking back,” a site that amasses a wealth of Impressions can drive traffic to other sites, continuing the cycle. A thriving economy has emerged in trading Impressions, but until now it has been difficult, and in some cases impossible, to convert Impressions into any other currency. Some bloggers reported that despite generating thousands of Impressions for their work, they were earning less than $1 a day in advertising revenue, barely enough to pay for the electricity that powers their computers.

Some economists warn that the popularity of free Internet content will lead to rapid Impression inflation. “Web sites can effectively mint impressions,” cautioned New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a Twitter update that almost instantly generated 250,000 Impressions.

Wired editor-in-chief and leading Internet thinker Chris Anderson said the new Impression-based economy will yield rich dividends, including a limitless supply of free information available to everyone everywhere. Under the “freemium” business model Anderson has advanced, the economy was already on track to converting Impressions into dollars organically. “Declaring Impressions are a new currency is only formalizing an inevitable shift in the economy,” Anderson said. “Just give it time. Yes, more time. I don’t know, a few more years? After the recession! Gimme a break here!”

Some naysayers note that workers are still unable to exchange Impressions for goods and services, leading many media employees to move back in with their parents or eat nothing but Cheerios and ramen noodles.

Fri 27 Mar 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, New York is different

Also, don’t bother run the spell check.

(Seen this week at an office building on Lafayette Street in the city.)

Wed 25 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Hard times, Music

John Rich, Detroit, and the culture of blame

There’s a country song out right now called “Shutting Detroit Down.” It’s a sad song by a singer-songwriter named John Rich about the economic crisis in Detroit. And it’s good! Except for one line in the chorus:

“While they’re living up on Wall Street
In that New York City town
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down”

I don’t want to hear your damn song blaming Detroit’s problems on New York. There are no car companies in New York. The rusting of Detroit (and Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Gary, etc.) is a decades-old story about Amercia’s shift away from a manufacturing economy. Kid Rock and Eminem have been singing sad songs about Detroit for ten years. “Roger and Me” came out in 1989.

That said, the economic crisis is bad and calls for a little populist outrage. Go ahead and blame financial services companies for the credit crisis. But to your list of cities to hate, add Seattle (Washington Mutual) and Charlotte (Wachovia, Bank of America). Do you think people are “living it up” in Seattle and Charlotte?

Here in this New York City town, 270,000 people are expected to lose their jobs. These are working people with bills to pay. I’ve watched several of my friends get laid off. City services are stressed, storefronts are going dark, and a feeling of malaise is settling over Gotham.

Detroit deserves a sad country song, and its people deserve help from places that are better off. But nobody’s climbing out of this hole if we keep blaming the other people in it.

Tue 10 Mar 2009 6:29 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Hard times, Technology

Embrace the fail whale

As I write this, Digg is down. Two weeks ago, chaos ensued when Gmail went offline. On Saturday and Sunday, at least 12 hours passed when I couldn’t log into Facebook. TinyURL had a service outage yesterday. Twitter gets overloaded so often that it’s error page has it own fan club.

As they say in the news business, five items make a trend. (Or is it three? Do we still say that? Who knows any more.)

Any computer system is bound to have some unannounced downtime. But these free Web 2.0 services have become such a part of our daily communication that even a little bit of downtime becomes a frustration.

One thing Digg, Facebook, Twitter, TinyURL and Gmail have in common is that there is no conceivable way they generate enough revenue to cover their costs. (We know Digg loses money, Facebook almost certainly does, Twitter generates no revenue, TinyURL might make a trickle of paid advertising, and Gmail is probably a loss leader for Google given the awesome amount of computing power and memory it requires.)

Money is running out. Get used to outages!

Wed 4 Mar 2009 7:50 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, Movies

The economy needs you to watch the Watchmen

“Watchmen” is a tentpole. Some big movies are so important that they’re expected to generate enough money to prop up countless smaller, riskier movies that won’t be as popular. “Watchmen” (which opens Friday, and which I haven’t seen) is so huge and so hyped that it practically has to support an entire media empire.

If “Watchmen” flops, Time For Kids might go out of business. (I’m exaggerating, but only a little.)

Problem is, “Watchmen” looks disappointing. Maybe not a flop on the scale of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” but quite possibly as bad as “V for Vendetta.” I was excited about the movie about a month ago when I read the comic book and wrote a story about a photo book connected to the film. But for several reasons, my enthusiasm has waned. Part of it was reading the last few pages of the comic and not wishing to see those appallingly violent scenes translated to a big screen. The blame also lies with my short attention span: I can’t stay interested in a movie for more than a couple of days, and a month of pre-opening publicity is three weeks too much. The reviews haven’t helped, though bad reviews alone are not a reason to avoid a movie. Either way, my current sentiment is this: I will probably see “Watchmen,” but if I don’t, oh well. I expect many of you feel the same way.

To this, I say: Buck up! Our economy needs us to spend money! A few million $12 movie tickets are quite possibly the only things standing between 86,000 Time Warner employees and the unemployment line. Go see this mediocre film! Watch the Watchmen – for America!

Mon 2 Mar 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, Media

Plan B

Everybody who works in media is talking about what to do when there are no more media jobs. Here are some ideas:

  • Teach SAT prep courses. Apparently this pays handsomely and is in high demand. And finally, a chance to show off that we know words like unctuous and ossify.
  • Tend bar. Until recently, this was becoming a very hard job. Bars were starting to employ “mixologists,” who would have a short conversation with a customer and then recommend the perfect $12 cocktail. Well, that’s over! Now all you need to do is uncap $3 bottles of Miller High Life.
  • Health care. Because people keep getting sick. Except none of us are doctors or RNs. Um, can we help out with your web site? Clerical? Janitorial?
  • Count people for the 2010 Census. Then do whatever it is census-takers do nine years out of ten.
  • Open a pie shop. Unfortunately, the pie craze I keep predicting seems less likely now that ABC has canceled “Pushing Daisies.”
  • Dog breeder. People are always willing to spend money on pets. And dogs like doing it! Easy!
  • Be a repo man. Surely a busy industry these days.
  • Porn. We can edit it!

Fri 27 Feb 2009 8:07 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, In the news, Music

The last CD store

Virgin Megastore is closing its locations in Times Square, Union Square and San Francisco.

I have spent many hours in the Virgin Megastore, because it’s near my office and it’s a reliable place near a big subway stop to meet up with friends. With all those movies and CDs and listening stations, it’s a fabulous store for wasting time. However, I can’t remember the last time I actually bought something there. So now we know you can’t run a store on the free-content model, either.

Fri 19 Dec 2008 8:53 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, New York is different

What do we do if New York starts to suck?

One reason New York City could afford to be ambitious in the 2000s is that we got so much tax money from rich people in the financial services industry. Well, that’s a wash. Since October the mayor has cut a lot of important city services. The governor has proposed taxing everything (taxis, soft drinks, you name it) and cutting money for schools and hospitals. The MTA expects to cut service and raise the cost of the 30-day MetroCard from $81 to over $100. And importantly, a lot more people are out of work and things aren’t looking up for them.

We know from history that New York City runs in boom and bust cycles. The time I’ve lived here (since 2002) has been a pretty good run. And the city, no doubt, has better days ahead. But we’ve all heard stories about the junked-up, broke, crime-ridden New York City of the 1970s and 1980s (or at the very least we’ve seen The Warriors). Yikes!

Suppose 2009 gets ugly.

Like a lot of New Yorkers, I love this city, but I’m not from here. I’m here because, on its merits, New York City is the best place to live that’s still within a few hours of my family. I have a real job, a solid community, and a lot of good friends here. This is still the best city in America.

But I’ve talked to a couple of New Yorker friends recently who are doing what I’m doing: A small part of my brain is quietly formulating a contingency plan for what to do in case New York starts to suck.

Thu 11 Dec 2008 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times

Give give give

Please pardon this unusually preachy blog post. I promise this won’t become a habit.

This holiday season, many nonprofit organizations are preparing for financial shortfalls. Corporate giving is down and it’s a bad year for investments. At the same time, demand is high for charities that help disadvantaged people or otherwise provide comfort in hard times. Donating your coats and food and toys is helpful, but the way we solve most problems in our world is with money. If you can afford it, give a little more this year. You probably know of some worthy organizations that could use the help. Here are a few I’m familiar with:

  • Church World Service. A no-nonsense aid group that works to fight poverty and hunger.
  • The Doe Fund. A New York organization that helps homeless people achieve self-sufficiency.
  • The Lance Armstrong Foundation. A source of hope for people affected by cancer.
  • If you have one, consider giving to your house of worship, or to one you attended as a child or as a student.
  • Think about a moment over the past year when you were moved by a work of art or performance. Consider supporting one of the many arts organizations that enrich our lives.

Thu 4 Dec 2008 8:45 am   //   Posted in: Hard times

Car trouble

Last night I watched “Roger & Me,” Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary about the sorry condition of Flint, Michigan, after General Motors abandoned the city. One of the movie’s messages is that a corporation has no concern for individuals – only for making money for the corporation’s owners.

This is true. The one thing a corporation is good for is generating wealth for its shareholders, ideally more this year than last. The General Motors of “Roger & Me” is a ruthless profit machine.

Seems quaint now, doesn’t it? The General Motors of today, in addition to being a soulless corporation with cavalier concern for the factory towns it built, also now fails at the task of making money. What about this enterprise is worth saving?