Another damn blog by this guy? Can’t he just SHUT UP?

One more blog not to read if you are trying to avoid me. (Of course if you’re really trying to avoid me shouldn’t you have unfriended me by now?) In theory this blog is about aspects of "print media executives transitioning their business to emedia." In fact it is once again me making up random facts and somehow getting away with it.

Recreating the newspaper experience? I think I’ll pass

by Constantine von… | Tue, 2009-12-01 16:47

The Boston Globe has launched the GlobeReader, an Adobe Air software package that promises to let the weberati recreate the "newspaper experience" online. They launched it with a two-page spread in the A section of last Sunday’s edition. Apparently they think this is only of interest to their dead tree readers, as there is no mention of it WHATSOEVER on the home page of …

OK, what idiot uses an alleged word like “weberati”?


Self-serving attempt at ballot box stuffing

OK, I’ll admit that I like getting pointless awards and such as much if not more than the next person. The voting for blogger’s choice awards is open and I’m up in the humor, business & marketing categories.

My site was nominated for Best Business Blog! My site was nominated for Best Humor Blog! My site was nominated for Best Marketing Blog!

The truth is I will win none of them and shouldn’t given the categories. (I got an honorable mention in marketing when the blog started out as part of CMO magazine). If there was an award for best humor business & marketing blog, I still wouldn’t win but I’d have a shot. That said, I will now beg for your vote in one or all three of the categories above. Click on one of the pictures and it will take you to the site and yeah you have to register to vote so it’s a pain and I’m sorry. And yeah, I know these awards are even less meaningful than a people’s choice award.

All that said, allow me to list my campaign promises in an attempt to win you over:

  • I will or will not (depending on your preference) take a stand on a controversial subject
  • I won’t increase taxes.
  • I won’t raise your cholesterol.
  • I won’t wage a negative campaign — despite using won’t a lot.
  • I will not coddle terrorists.
  • I will not infringe on your civil liberties.
  • I will support your right to bear arms as long you are not an idiot.
  • I will provide universal health care for my dog and office manager Roxxy.
  • I will eat my vegetables.
  • I will offer you a cup of coffee (or tea).
  • I will say thank you and I will say excuse me after I burp.
  • I will say no to drugs — except a few like FlowMax that you really wish I wouldn’t mention.
  • I will put down the toilet seat.
  • I will think a lot about cleaning up my office.
  • I will not start any wars.
  • I will go to Disney World (although not any time real soon).
  • I will brush and floss regularly.
  • I will take time to smell the roses even though they aren’t my favorite flower.
  • I will cackle with glee when the Yankees any team from New York loses. (Heather — is this better?)
  • I will listen to both country and western musics.
  • I will try to have the longest categories list of any blog anywhere.
  • I will not run GM into the ground.
  • I will cry havoc and loose the penguins of irony.

Further proof companies have no idea what a blog is

Found this ad by a company called QualityStocks (“Stock Newsletters For Smallcap Companies – Your FREE Investment Stock Newsletter Tracking Service”)

Pefect job for those who wish to work at home! (Must have experience with the financial markets and good writing skills)
Title of the position: Writer
Department: QualityStocks Blog
Reports to: Communications Director
Overall responsibility: Write articles on stocks. Writing content is provided. Most of it is rewriting information, although creativity is also desired.
Key areas of responsibility: Write reiterations of press releases, Write articles featuring highlights of our clients
Qualifications: Great writing skills, Good computer skills, Good understanding of the stock market, Dependable, Responsible
Pay: $8 an article

So putting aside the whole pay issue … what exactly is it that the reader is getting out of this that would make he or she want to read this thing? Come! Read our warmed over press releases!!! Don’t bother reading the actual releases!!!

Best line: “although creativity is also desired.

Far too many corporate “blogs” are just this: A new place to put press releases for no one to read. A blog is a place where you try and have a conversation with a customer. It’s where you can prove you are on their side. Or its where you prove that you are definitely not on their side and actually don’t want to hear from them. As can be seen in the description above.

Churbuck calls shenanigans on NYT for “Death by Blogging”

Bullshit. Classic piece of sensationalized make-news on the front page this morning.

Synopsis.: Two bloggers died recently and one had heart attack due to the always-on nature, every-minute-is-a-deadline world of blogging.

I know and knew two of the bloggers in Richtel’s piece. Om Malik is a good friend to me, but not to the gym. The fact the guy had a heart attack earlier this year is not because he ignored the surgeon general’s warning on the side of his blog: GigaOm. Marc Orchant died in December. I knew Marc from our work with Foldera, the SaaS collaboration play. Did his blog do him in? Did it contribute to his untimely death at 50?


Best line: As Dan Warner, the nasty editor in chief of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune told a roomful of rebellious reporters (myself included) in 1984: “You want stress? I’ll show you stress. Go work in air traffic control or be a single mother on food stamps.”

The Times’ story reads like one of those stories that leads the local TV news when there is nothing else going on. The only reason this is a story is someone called it a trend among the well-off.

This reminds me of something that happened back in the early 80s when I was an intern with the NYPD for a semester. I was in the 24th precinct — West Side, 103rd st and south. One day all the newspapers were screaming about a young white woman (if memory serves she was a student at Columbia) who had been raped and killed on a roof in mid town. Now I wasn’t exactly Mr. Hardboiled but even I knew something was not quite right here. I remember walking up to the sergeant and just pointing at the front page story. He said something like, “Got me. We had two girls raped and killed up here last night too.” He didn’t have to tell me their skin color.

Bloggers v. journalists, and other false dichotomies

Over at Matt Dickman’s Techno/Marketer blog there’s a good conversation going on about blogs v. journalists, journalism v. citizen journalism and other issues.

Matt asked the following questions:

  • Can a newspaper include blogger content and have editorial separation?
  • Are bloggers and journalists separate anymore?
  • If they are, are they bound by the same code of ethics?
  • Does paying the bloggers create the conflict of interest?
  • Do you think the Plain Dealer would have pulled an editorial piece under pressure from a politician?
  • Can traditional newspapers survive against pressure from citizen journalism?
  • What if no money had changed hands and the bloggers just contributed? Does that change things?

Well, here’s my soapbox … er answer.

A blog is a medium, not a type of writing. Someone is a blogger because they write in a blog. That writing can be as neutral and as fact-based as what we hope for in other forms of journalism or it can be as opinionated and non-fact-based as it wants. These people appear to have been hired because of their partisan opinions not because they are bloggers. If you substitute the word writer for blogger I find that most of these questions answer themselves.

• Can a newspaper include writer content and have editorial separation?

Yep. They’re called columnists. If reporters choose to include content from blogs then they must disclose information about the blog as they would with any source (“a liberal think-tank” “a company spokesman”)

• Are writers and journalists separate anymore?

Let’s ask if you can you be a writer and not a journalist? Yes. A journalist has to be someone trying to discover and publish facts in as honest and balanced a way as possible. Many writers do this, some are journalists and some are not.

• If they are, are they bound by the same code of ethics?

Are all writers bound by journalism’s code of ethics? No. But if a blog writer wishes to have his or her work considered as journalism then he or she has to do whatever is necessary to disclose all possible conflicts of interest. Just like if I’m trying to get a friend to believe me a product is great I make it clear if I stand to profit from the use or sale of that product.

• Does paying the writers create the conflict of interest?

No. It just means that the paper is treating these people as they would any other contributors. Writers should get paid for their work.

• Do you think the Plain Dealer would have pulled an editorial piece under pressure from a politician?

Maybe, but only if was marked as news and not as opinion. If a piece in the paper is clearly marked as opinion and doesn’t contain libel or slander then no paper worth the name would have pulled the column.

• Can traditional newspapers survive against pressure from citizen journalism?

Does this mean that what newspapers publish is non-citizen journalism? As a journalist, I’ve never seen much difference between these two ideas. One person has a branded venue and was hired to work there because his or her employer thinks he or she has the needed expertise to write for them. A citizen journalist is just a journalist who works without someone else’s brand certification. If the citizen journalist is good enough then in time he or she will become known as a brand of quality. Or, as it is also called, a freelance journalist.

• What if no money had changed hands and the writers just contributed? Does that change things?

No. Newspapers make it clear that they don’t endorse the opinions of people whose writing they run for free (the letters page). They also should make it clear that they don’t endorse or support every opinion that is published when they pay for those opinions.

Are the folks who have written all those stupid stories about “Facebook is destroying the economy” journalists? Not by my standards. Are they bloggers? Not unless one turns to a blog for a lack of perspective. Are they paid reporters? Apparently.

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Apple marketing exec ramps up PR for book/blog on brilliance of Apple marketing just as Apple offers case study in how not to do marketing.

Just like comedy, the first rule of marketing is timing. I have no doubt that Steve Chazin and David Meerman Scott both know this. They are the authors of the book & blog MarketingApple (Mr. Chazin is a marketing exec there, so doubtless he knows whereof he speaks on the topic.)

Sadly it wasn’t until the week of what they call the iPology that they started posting regularly to the blog and the press and greater Blogistania tarted to take note. (Love the word iPology. Don’t know if they coined it but it was the first time I saw it.) What are you gonna do? The September 2001 issue cover story in the Atlantic was — if I recall correctly — “The High Cost Of Peace.” Ouch.

The iPhone kerfuffle will soon be forgotten and Apple and the blog will go on, but I’m sure they Chazin & Meerman were even more unhappy about last week’s events than many others at company HQ.

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And now a word from my friends

It’s official: everyone now has a blog. Even my old buddy and former CMO editor in boss, Rob O’Regan. It’s called Magnosticism: Marketing and Media in The Age of Great Cynicism. Now that rolls off the tongue.

But it’s the content that counts and he has that:

The general reaction to the Google-YouTube deal announced yesterday was omigod it’s the dot-com bubble redux. How else to explain Google VP David Drummond’s Valley Girl-meets-beancounter explanation of how the $1.65 billion figure was determined: “We modeled this on a more or less synergistic kind of model.”

This is either a move of incredibly over priced genius or its going to make everyone forget about the AOL/Time-Warner merger.

Elsewhere on the new marketing blog front Ed King and Steve Winokur have launched (deep breath) Closing the Growth Gap: Build Sustainable Top-Line Growth By Closing the Growth Gaps in Your Business. How to Become a Growth-Driven Organization. 

C’mon folks! You can do better than that! That’s not a title, that’s the whole damn manifesto. And it’s not that I’m bitter because Steve and Ed both beat me in our Fantasy Baseball league this year. Well, not too bitter. The fact that they’re both smart and good with numbers and stuff may have something to do with it. As could the fact that I basically drafted last year’s Cubs.


  1. Quote of the day: "Aren’t cheap clip-jobs the province of blogs?” — The New York Observer's Tom Scocca on why weekly news magazines are failing. Damn right they are!
  2. Latest Job Taken By Robots: Cockroach That's bad news for me and Keith Richards.
  3. Dan Sally — whom I've performed with and who even remembers my name — is going to be on Comedy Central.
  4. A genuine article by me. With actual facts!!

Where were you during the war on price gouging?

Hurrah! Washington has heard the call to battle and is taking up arms to protect us all from price gouging.

“Anyone who is trying to take advantage of this situation while American families are forced into making tough choices over whether to fill up their cars or severely cut back their budgets should be investigated and prosecuted,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert, (R-Ill), and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, (R-Tenn), wrote in a letter to President Bush. Of course they only mean taking advantage monetarily, not politically.

What better way to protect us than with a mountain of useless paper? This explains why many, many different bills are winding their way through Congress to deal with this threat. The one just approved by the House would impose criminal penalties and fines of up to $150 million for energy companies unable to distinguish the difference between making money and making too much money.

This offensive against excessive profit continues the trend of declaring war on chimerical concepts that began with our efforts to curb “terror.” Don’t you miss the good old days when we only attacked nouns? The wars against cancer and poverty weren‘t any more successful than the current bunch but at least you knew what the hell we were trying to eradicate.

Just as no one can define terror, no one has any idea what price gouging is either. This fact is made plain in the GOP-sponsored House bill, which leaves it to the Federal Trade Commission “to develop a definition of price gouging.” You have to love a law that is so specific about the penalty and so vague about the crime.

It is imprecise because it has to be. Otherwise it would be totally laughable. Witness the efforts of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) who has proposed a bill that would levy fines of up to $3 million on oil companies, refiners, distributors, or retailers found to be “taking unfair advantage of the circumstances to increase prices unreasonably” or imposing “excessively unconscionable price increases.” This suggests that oil companies and their ilk would have a legal defense as long as they could prove a price increase was either excessive or unconscionable but not both.

The Cantwell bill does offer some guidance on the issue, saying that gouging depends on whether the price charged amounts to “a gross disparity” from the usual price of oil and gasoline. However, it does not give any specific dollar or percentage increase to define what “a gross disparity” would be. Once again the dirty work is left to someone else, in this case that would be the judiciary. (I found out about Sen. Cantwell’s bill while reading a story on MSNBC with the misleading headline: What is price ‘gouging,’ and can it be stopped? It was misleading in that it answered neither question.)

Price gouging, on capitol hill at least, is not unlike the old definition of obscenity – I know it when I see it. Consider this quote by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich):

When we were doing the Energy Policy Act last fall, in the town of Midland, right by my district there, gas went up 90 cents in one day. Now, is that not gouging?

If you take a look at it, from September 2004 until September 2005, refineries have increased their prices 255 percent. Isn’t that gouging?

I mean, I think we all know what gouging is. What we need is a federal standard so we can hold the oil companies’ feet to the fire and make sure we know what factor goes into every gallon of gasoline, so at least the American public will have some transparency and get a fair shake on what goes into a price of a gallon of gasoline.

Well, that certainly clears things up. So if the folks in DC don’t know what price gouging is, does anyone else?

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer writes (in a column which makes repeated references to 9/11 – surprise, surprise) that

“New York State law prohibits price gouging during a state of emergency. The law specifically provides that, in order to prevent any party from taking unfair advantage of consumers during an abnormal disruption of the market, the charging of “unconscionably excessive” prices is prohibited.

New York’s law, like that of most other states, says that price gouging can only occur during a time designated as an emergency by the government. So it IS price gouging if a hurricane hits my state and you jack up the price of duct tape by 1000%, but it is not price gouging if you charge me $2 to conduct an electronic bank transaction that costs you $.002 as a part of normal business. Apparently no one has yet thought to make highway robbery illegal.

That is not just my opinion either. This is from Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard’s testimony to the Senate:

Traditional price gouging laws are not in effect during periods of “business as usual”. Rather, they only go into effect when the normal competitive checks and balances of the free market are disrupted by a disaster or other emergency. When a population is trapped and desperate for essential supplies, like food, water, shelter and gasoline, victims do not have the opportunity to shop around or wait to purchase essential products until the prices go down. Demand is steady regardless of the price, so unscrupulous businesses can and sometimes do take advantage of consumers.

Need a rule of thumb? Then just remember unscrupulous business practices during an emergency = BAD. But unscrupulous business practices under other circumstances = Good.

(Special note should be made of Louisiana’s price gouging statute:

During a declared state of emergency, a merchant is prohibited from selling goods or services at values which exceed the prices normally charged for comparable goods and services in the same market area at or immediately before the time of the state of the emergency. Businesses may raise prices on items for which they incur additional costs, however, these price increases should not be excessive. Price gouging is a misdemeanor and can result in a $500 fine or six months in jail.

Well, if the threat of a $500 fine doesn’t keep Exxon in line what will?)

There are other definitions as well:

The sages at Princeton say it is “pricing above the market when no alternative retailer is available.” Which could be read to mean that any time you have a monopoly, you are a price gouger. So much for an Ivy League education.

My favorite definition is from a site called Neutral Source:

There is no objective definition. Economists–who specialize in price theory and the behavior of markets and can study these things ad nauseum–have no definition for it, either. In fact, economists have avoided the term as if it were a social disease. A review of all the microeconomics textbooks on Neutral Source’s bookshelf reveals that none have as much as an index entry.

…Price gouging is defined by a buyer, generally after the fact, who is deeply unhappy that the price he willingly paid was much higher than the price he would have preferred to have paid. As the gap between actual and preferred prices rises, the buyer’s sense of unfairness and anger towards the seller intensifies.

Equally good is one from a website called Truck and Barter, (which has the wonderful tag line “Where Sympathy and Hedonism Collide”):

Price gouging is the raising of prices 1) far above one’s costs and far above competitors prices, 2) far above what many people think is just, 3) during a human crisis. I disagree with those that state that PG is a non-concept. It is an intentionally vague and deceptive, morally abstruse, and economically harmful concept, but for those very reasons, it must be taken seriously.

Or you could go with the words of some lunatic named Neil Boortz: “What is price gouging anyway? Just a buzzword used by the anti-capitalist, government-educated among us.”

Yep, Bill Frist, George Bush and Denny Hastert – anti-capitalists. I’ll have some of what Mr. Boortz is drinking please.

Anti-capitalists Hastert and Frist have asked fellow Commie President Bush “to direct the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the rising oil prices.” Across the aisle, the Dems are also using the FTC as a whipping boy.

Quoth Rep. Stupak again: “See, when the president calls for an investigation by the FTC into the price of oil to see if there’s gouging going on, it doesn’t do us any good, because the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, has never brought a case for price gouging on petroleum products ever.”

One slight problem: One FTC official, though, told CNN that the trade commission can only look into anti-competitive practices and has no legal authority to investigate price gouging.

The GOP has also floated the idea of hitting the energy companies with a windfall profits tax which has got to be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Aren’t windfall profits the Republican’s raison d’etre? Next thing you know George Bush will be calling for abetter mileage on cars. Oh, wait …

One of these “price gouging” bills will inevitably pass through Congress’ digestive tract and get placed in a steaming pile on the president’s desk where it will promptly get signed. Why not? Our elected officials will be able to say they have done something without actually running the risk of doing anything. This law will never be enforced. If someone tries to it will be laughed out of court.

To really address this issue would require a long and critical look at how we choose to define capitalism or what the late Mr. Galbraith called the “free markets where nothing is free.” But that hasn’t happened since 1931.

There is one simple solution to the problem, but no one in this hemisphere has tried it. It’s called a Bolivian. But remember, simple does not mean good.