Archive for October, 2010

Sat 30 Oct 2010 3:34 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, TV

Some thoughts on the Jon Stewart speech

I just finished watching the broadcast of Comedy Central’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” from Washington D.C. I think a lot of people weren’t sure what to make of it (Is it serious of funny? Political or agnostic? Cynical or sincere?) but I thought of it as a smart marketing promotion for two very good TV shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. And as expected, the rally came off as a funny and well-produced live variety program.

The YouTube Moment came at the end, when Jon Stewart devoted about 10 or 15 minutes to a serious speech. He spoke about how, unlike what you see on cable TV news and in Washington politics, Americans are mostly people who work together to solve problems.

On a windblown stage on a sunny afternoon, Stewart tried to make himself the voice of reason in American media. I think he succeeded, but in doing so I’m worried he ignored the role that passion—irrational, rude, confrontational passion—plays in making American work.


Thu 28 Oct 2010 10:15 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, TV commericals

These ideas are crazy!

Here’s the best campaign ad I’ve seen this year:

I love it because it goes in for the kill with just five brutal words: “John Raese’s ideas are crazy!”


Wed 27 Oct 2010 10:26 pm   //   Posted in: In the news

“Send the next governor Andrew Cuomo a message”

This is real—an actual mailer for Kristin Davis, the former prostitution madam who is running as a fringe candidate for governor of New York. This is easily the weirdest political ad I’ve ever gotten in the mail. Who is paying for this?


Wed 27 Oct 2010 8:14 am   //   Posted in: Media, New York is different

“Our diversity is our greatest strength.”

I saw this ad on a bus shelter last night:

Our diversity is our greatest strength ad new york

The full text of the ad is:

Our DIVERSITY is our greatest STRENGTH.

When any New Yorker is atacked for who they are, what they believe or whom they LOVE it is a crime against all of us.

Keep our City strong.


This is a totally on-pitch PSA that makes me proud of the city. To the best of my memory, this is the first time I’ve seen the slogan “Love love. Hate hate.” That’s a seriously good tagline. Also impressive is how timely this PSA is—the text seems to allude to recent hate crimes against a Muslim cab driver and several gay men in the Bronx, fresh wounds against the city. The campaign was launched October 14, not even 2 weeks after the Bronx attacks. The ads are produced by NYC & Company, the city’s public affairs division; more information in this press release.

Sun 24 Oct 2010 4:14 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Technology

Phrase of the year: It Gets Better

The It Gets Better Project is so good, so spot-on, that it ought to be celebrated as a triumph of Internet video, social media and even the English language. I can’t find one damn reason to be cynical about it.

You’ve probably seen at least a piece of this campaign. It’s an online media project started last month in response to a series of suicides by gay youth who were bullied in school. Writer Dan Savage started a website and YouTube channel seeking videos of adults counseling kids to hang in there, it’s going to get better. Savage recorded the first video with his husband, and promoted it in Savage Love, his nationally published sex column.


Fri 22 Oct 2010 12:00 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Stray data

Chart: How much tax money do we spend on NPR, anyway?

Every few years, it becomes smart politics to attack public broadcasting and call for Congress to stop funding it. This week, following the Juan Williams debacle and just a few weeks before the midterm elections, National Public Radio is taking an especially hard beating from the right.

  • Mike Huckabee: “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left…. It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR.”
  • Sarah Palin: “If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for ‘National Public Radio’ to become ‘National Private Radio.'”
  • Some dude on Huffington: “It’s clear that NPR would rather play consistently to the left than reach a balanced audience. And for that, they deserve to be pushed away from the public trough.”

I’ve never been a big fan of using tax money to support media programming; its too close to the state-run media in countries with less freedom of speech. But the truth is, in the U.S., public radio hardly gets any tax money. NPR gets no tax money directly. Most of NPR’s revenue comes from private donations. Federal money is funneled through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which doles out grants to local stations, which can use it to pay their NPR dues. How much did the CPB budget for radio this year? $90.5 million. That’s nothing.

I’ve become interested in data visualization, so just for fun, here’s a quick and dirty chart illustrating the amount of tax money spent on public radio compared to a few other choice areas. I threw News Corp’s annual revenues in for good measure. All numbers (except the TARP spending) are from FY 2010.


Wed 20 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Facebook and freedom

The other day at work, someone spotted a customer complaint on a social network that I don’t use. I got started setting up a profile so I could respond to the customer and try to put things right. (This is a big part of what marketers do these days, in case you were wondering.) It felt like a million steps. The web site demanded a profile picture, and insisted that it be a photo of an actual person (not a logo), or else your messages would be deleted. I also noticed this site already had two entries for our company, under two slightly different names, both with an incorrect address and phone number. It soon became clear I would need to set up 3 profiles, one for each incorrect version of the company, and one for myself (since you can’t send messages from a company to an individual, which was all I really wanted to do in the first place).

I might have been better off just letting it go, but I wanted to do the right thing. Unfortunately, it became a huge frustration rather than a positive communications experience. Basically, I was letting a company I heretofore never cared about suddenly push me around, demanding my picture and phone number and a big chunk of my time. (You may have already guessed that the site I’m talking about is Yelp.) How annoying!


Mon 18 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, Stray data

Think outside the swan

OK, let’s get started. Chicago, can you hear us on the speakerphone? Fine, fine.

Good morning everybody. I hope you read the file we sent out before this meeting, but in case you didn’t, here are the highlights: Q3 revenues were off 38%. Customer satisfaction is at an all-time low. Frankly, we also expect corporate to implement redundancies before the holidays. I know this is a bitter call to swallow. But it’s also a wakeup pill.

Team, it’s time to think outside the swan.

What does that mean? First, reach for the low-hanging eggs. Seek out the black baskets. For too long, we’ve been putting all our fruit in one box. That changes today.

Second, be nimble. Drive in the fast shoe. Keep lines of communication open. There’s an old saying that goes, a lane can travel halfway around a fact while the world is still putting on its lies. I find it helpful to always keep that in mind.

And finally, adapt. Feed the cloud, and starve the lining. You can’t stop the losers, but you can learn how to ride. And when the surf gets bumpy, remember that every winner has a sugar wave.

I look out at this room and I see a lot of potential. I know we can meet our goals if we all do our best work. But I’m not going to silver-coat the situation. Our chips are to the wall. It’s hard to turn around a table. But we’re going to put our best backs forward. And we’ve put all our bucks on the battleship. I know I speak for all of management when I say, the foot stops here.

Now I’ll open the floor. Any questions?

Tue 12 Oct 2010 11:54 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, New York is different

Reader reaction to my post about leaving Brooklyn

I received a lot of feedback on my post this morning, “On leaving Brooklyn.” It turns out I hit upon something a lot of people wanted to talk about—how Park Slope has spiraled downhill. Some of the responses are below.


Tue 12 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, New York is different, Over!

On leaving Brooklyn (retracted)

A retraction, October 22, 2014: Four years ago I wrote this grouchy blog post about Brooklyn, and got a lot of attention for it. In hindsight, it was mostly just whining. In particular, I’m sorry I fed into the negativity aimed at young people and parents in Park Slope. In about 2 weeks we move back to Brooklyn, because it’s a nice place to live. I’ve left this post published, but I’ve set it in strikethrough type to signify that I don’t stand by it any more.

* * * *

Two Saturday mornings ago, I was shopping at the C-Town on 9th Street in Park Slope. In the snack aisle I walked past a guy intently studying two bags of potato chips. He looked a lot like me, only with a shaggy beard and an untucked flannel work shirt, a popular look here. Next to him, an elderly lady asked for help reaching a box of garbage bags on a high shelf. “Just a second,” said the bearded guy, lost in his potato chip labels. “When you have a chance,” the woman said patiently.

I did the obvious thing. Since the other guy wouldn’t, I got the box for the woman. But I also had a very visceral reaction. I wanted to turn to the bearded potato chip scholar, get up in his face, and hiss, “Dude! What the fuck is wrong with you?!

Fortunately, I didn’t act on that impulse. But the next time I might. And that’s why it’s time to leave Brooklyn.