Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, September 30, 2021

I guess it speaks to how central prominent videogames have been in my life when a National Weather Service hurricane-generation program brings to mind the old SimCity game, with its option for tossing disasters at your fledgling metropole (although hurricanes aren’t among the acts of God available; tornadoes are, though).

Given the current increased sensitivity to hurricane disaster, Tom thinks the existence of this online plaything might spark protest.

I doubt that. Now, if the NWS were to introduce a giant-lizard disaster scenario, ala SimCity — that might raise some eyebrows.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/30/2005 08:17pm
Category: Videogames, Weather
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News from the lightweight division undercard for the big Tarver-Jones III boxing match at the St. Pete Times Forum:

[Almazbek] Raiymkulov has been known by his nickname, Kid Diamond, since turning pro in 2001, but said he was now going by Dr. Evil.

Both of Raiymkulov’s parents are doctors, and evil has a meaner ring to it than Kid Diamond, presumably.

I wonder what the Doctor’s getting paid for his fight with Nate Campbell tomorrow? Oh, of course: “ONE MILL-I-ON DOLLARS!”

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/30/2005 02:22pm
Category: Movies, Other Sports
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Thursday, September 29, 2021

A little while ago, I took a survey about a television show concept. It was a Western, based around a couple of cowpokes who were doing their thing in the territory between Oregon and Montana in the late 1800s. Along the way, they run into some bad guys who are smuggling a group of five or six Asian sisters, intending to sell them into prostitution. The cowpokes rescue the sisters, and wind up taking them along on their rustic adventures.

Part of the survey included a list of four proposed titles for this hypothetical series. I don’t remember what three of the title options were; but I sure remember the fourth one: “Daughters of Joy”.

Which, considering the traditional use of “joy” as a euphemism for female sexual procurement, brings to mind everything from the Nazi prostitution camps dubbed “joy divisions” to the British post-punk band Joy Division (re-christened New Order, just in case the irony of the first incarnation wasn’t obvious enough).

So, if this mediocre idea ever does make it to the small screen, I’m really hoping that it’ll get the title “Daughters of Joy”. If only to witness the minor firestorm when, inevitably, someone makes the connection.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/29/2005 11:58pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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Congratulations to John Roberts, who today was confirmed by the Senate, and subsequently sworn in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States.

An aside to the new CJ: Seventeen just happens to be my lucky number. So, by all means, do it justice (pun intended). You’ve got a couple of decades to do so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/29/2005 08:07pm
Category: Political
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Wednesday, September 28, 2021

I happened to catch last night’s episode of “My Name is Earl”. Fairly amusing.

I especially enjoyed the part where Earl got whacked in the head by the old lady toting her giant Bible.

I did occur to me later: Do you suppose the show’s writers got that idea from that “she’s hittin’ him with her Bible” Internet legend/hoax?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/28/2005 11:13pm
Category: Comedy, Internet, TV
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Wal-Mart’s trying to give itself a high-fashion makeover.

Tommy Hilfiger Corp. is looking for a buyer.

Yup. An unholy marriage appears to be in the making.

I bet those fashionistas who scoffed at my suggestion of a Sean John-Tommy merger are having second thoughts now. Who would you rather have helming your house of style: Sean “Diddy” Combs or some yokels in Arkansas?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/28/2005 10:39pm
Category: Business, Fashion
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From “This Was A Man”, Benjamin Alsup’s interview with Donn “Cool Hand Luke” Pearce (which is categorized online as being in the September 2005 issue of Esquire magazine, but is actually in the October 2005 print issue):

“In Raiford,” Pearce says, “there was this old guy, an old newspaperman, an obvious drunk. And he said, You’ll write a million words before you publish your first thousand. That always stuck in my head.”

I’m sure I’ve come across similar advice before. And really, in broad terms, it covers just about any sort of endeavour: Professional, creative, whatever. But especially apt for all those aspiring writers out there.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/28/2005 10:00pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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My orgy of ad-placement continues, as I’ve expanded to now include Google AdSense, stage left.

Why? Frankly, CrispAds‘ performance has been dismal — zero clickthrus, despite tons of impressions. To see how much of that is due to placement on the page, I’m using AdSense more-or-less as a test control. If the results are just as bad, then I can think about possibly moving the ads around. If AdSense starts performing, then I can ditch CrispAds without any misgivings (assuming it remains moribund, even in its new location further down the sidebar).

As for AdBrite, the third ad delivery system I’m using: It’s been fair so far, enough so that I’m going to see if it grows. I have a feeling that the tip-top-of-page placement has a lot to do with it.

As always, if anyone notices any slow-loading pages or other problems, and suspects the ads as the culprits, I’d appreciate a heads-up on it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/28/2005 10:55am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin'
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Tuesday, September 27, 2021

Blockbuster merger in the health insurance industry today as Indianapolis-based Wellpoint announced it’s buying New York-based WellChoice.

Meanwhile, Tampa’s WellCare Health Plans is unaffected.

I’m seeing the shared thread of a single business consultancy running amok in the health insurance field, pitching the word “well” as some sort of powerful brand concept. As though all those companies aren’t cookie-cutter enough.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/27/2005 09:35pm
Category: Business
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Here’s an interesting observation from media research firm Magna Global on the early-season resurgence of the situation comedy:

A study released this month by media buying agency Magna Global found that despite the conventional comedy-is-dead wisdom, viewers actually are watching slightly more comedy programming on TV these days per week than they did 10 years ago (or 4.58 hours per week per household last season, compared with 4.14 hours per week in the 1994-95 season, to be specific.)

The big difference is the source of those laughs. Ten years ago, most comedy viewing stemmed from first-run broadcast network programs. According to Magna Global’s study of Nielsen Media Research data, nowadays the majority of time is spent on repeats of vintage and contemporary shows — think “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Home Improvement” and “The Simpsons” — via cable and off-network syndication.

As Magna Global analyst Steve Sternberg notes in his “Comedies on Television” report, viewers haven’t given up on the notion of small-screen yucks, they’re just spending time with their favorites while “waiting for a new one to join the club.”

This is very telling, because it reflects my own sitcom watching pattern for several years now: I’ll take a rerun of “Seinfeld” or “Sex and the City” over the first-run slop anytime. I never imagined this was a widespread phenomenon, though.

Am I expecting something new this year to lure me back? Maybe. I’ve already detected something stirring on the tube this season, although it’ll take more to regularly schedule my butt on the couch. And, in contrast with the early buzz noted in that article, “Everybody Hates Chris” left me decidedly underwhelmed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/27/2005 09:01pm
Category: TV
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in the bye and bye
Answers.com is the new kid on the online search/knowledgebase block. Thus, they’re eager to please.

Undoubtedly drawn here by this post, I got an email from Liz Cohen, who sports the title of “Official Answers.com BlogWatcher” (who figured you could paid for blog-gazing?). She invited me to add my info to Answers.com’s blog directory.

So I did. And in exchange, I got my very own Answers.com descriptor page.

Yeah, I know: Links and aggregators are a dime a dozen (if that). But Answers.com and parent company GuruNet is generating some decent buzz as the Next Big Thing, so it doesn’t hurt to get in on the ground floor. And exposure is exposure. Besides, the interface looks professional and well-designed, indicating it’s built for the long haul.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/27/2005 07:54pm
Category: Bloggin'
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Monday, September 26, 2021

We’ve all heard about Hollywood celebrities’ dirty little secret: Their cha-ching work for Japanese ad campaigns on television and other media. Unfortunately, it appears the market for their pitchmanesque services is drying up, as Japanese audiences are gaining an appreciation for Chinese, Korean and homegrown celebrities.

While the article emphasizes a lessening of interest on the other side, I’m wondering if the American stars aren’t voluntarily giving up the jobs. After all, with the Internet and sites like Japander disseminating these formerly limited-exposure pieces all over the globe, this shill work is no longer a delicate secret. Since part of the appeal of such work is the ability to do it on the down-low, the lessening of the discretion probably is keeping the celebs from wholeheartedly diving in.

Whatever the cause, I think we, as a culture, lose out. Imagine: No more ultra-bizarro Arnold Schwarzenegger ads pushing Alinamin energy drink! I shudder.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/26/2005 11:01pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity
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Oh, of course I’m kidding — everybody just loves The Big G.

But do they love it enough to want to watch a UPN rerun on it? Last week’s premiere episode of “Everybody Hates Chris” is available as a streamcast on Google Video. It’s a test drive for Google that could become a paradigm shift in its dealings with TV networks, and perhaps with the entertainment industry in general.

Aside from this being an indication that Google’s smartening up when it comes to dealing with content providers, it also tells me that the company’s continuing its predictable shift away from its core mission.

As for “Chris”? I caught it last week, and if you didn’t, I wouldn’t bother with this repeat. I was pretty disappointed, since I’m a big Chris Rock fan.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/26/2005 09:49pm
Category: Internet, TV
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Flablog has proclaimed Tampa Bay to be the blogging capital of the Sunshine State.

How did the Bay area get this tag? Mostly because of the recent local media attention, and the dearth of a large concentration of bloggers in Florida’s other metro regions. So it’s an anecdotal call.

Perhaps the more pertinent question: Why Tampa Bay? Do we have a whole lot more time on our hands than the rest of the state? Are we that much more dissatisfied with the local media (not to say that creating traditional media alternatives is the only reason for blogging)? Are we more tech-savvy? Exposure-hungry?

I have a feeling we’ll soon see local-blogger stories coming out of the media outlets in Jacksonville, Orlando, south Florida and other areas, though. So the statewide picture will become a bit more complete. I’d be really surprised if there wasn’t a good amount of blogs zooming out of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metroplex, given the its population of 5-million (Flablog itself is based there).

In the meantime, I’m not sure there’s any way to check on Tampa Bay’s claim. Globe of Blogs categorizes just under a thousand Florida-based blogs, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to break that down by city or region (and besides, it doesn’t look like it’s an especially accurate or up-to-date directory). Sticks of Fire maintains a list, but it’s pretty much all Tampa Bay-centric.

I’m thinking this could be a job for one of those Google Maps hack jobs. I’m not volunteering — I wouldn’t have the first idea on how to do it. But if anyone else wants to take a crack (hack?) at it, go on with your bad self.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/26/2005 03:16pm
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin', Media
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Sunday, September 25, 2021

qualifyingGotta throw some shine on my paycheck source, Florida Trend, this month, because of Mike Vogel’s cover story on International Speedway Corp.’s push to take NASCAR into Seattle and New York City — the final frontiers for stock car racing.

How bad does ISC want a track built on Staten Island? In exchange for entry into the number one media market — and the sponsorship gravy that flows from that — it’s willing to turn the big-league sports stadium game upside-down by paying its own way, and then some:

If the company can get into New York, says [William Blair & Co. analyst Bob] Simonson, “there will be a halo effect that will be phenomenal.” An example: Sponsors entertaining customers and clients at a Cup race in the rural South might well have to lodge their guests in a moderate hotel chain a long bus ride from the race. In New York, the sponsors could lock up rooms at the Waldorf, host a dinner at a fine restaurant and treat their guests to the race and other New York amenities. NASCAR and International Speedway also hope New York will bring new business sectors, such as financial services, into the sponsorship fold.

One measure of the company’s hunger for New York is that it isn’t asking for special government financing, just approval. The potential payoff to the sport and the $100-million land cost have made winning over [New York City Councilman James] Oddo and his constituents imperative. Aside from lobbyists and other experts, [ISC president Lesa] France Kennedy has hired Gameday Management Group, an Orlando company that engineers moving people in and out of events like the Olympics, to devise a way to get most of the fans to Staten Island without their cars. The plan depends on requiring 80% of spectators, when purchasing tickets, to commit to coming to the race by bus or ferry.

Not that the oft-suffering borough is playing along — yet:

“Deeply flawed,” Oddo says of the traffic plan. “The world hasn’t seen that many people moved by small boats since Dunkirk.” He says two other council members representing Staten Island are just as skeptical, and he can’t envision the project being approved over the objections of the local representatives. Says Oddo: “If this is the final plan, it’s dead on arrival.”

Regardless, France Kennedy is optimistic that gearheads will be New York stylin’ by 2010.

Of course, just getting a track built among the bright lights of the big city won’t guarantee market acceptance. Remember the lack of sufficient Windy City buzz for this year’s Chicagoland race, which NASCAR brass took as a shortcoming in getting ingrained into the national sports scene. But it’s better to have a place at the table and therefore a chance, rather than being absent.

There’s lots of supplemental information in the article, including ISC’s revenue breakdown comparison between 2000 and 2004 (TV revenues doubled in that time, from $164.3 million to $334.9 million) and how the broadcast money gets divvied up between ISC, NASCAR, non-ISC tracks and the race teams/drivers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 10:07pm
Category: Other Sports, SportsBiz
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Last week, the New York Times unveiled Times Select, a pay-for service where much of the paper’s unique content — mainly staff columnists — will now reside.

As happens whenever formerly free (“free” in a sense — see below) online stuff converts to paid, there’s been a lot of bitching. Eric at Off Wing brings up some good points against the move, including a comparison with another national newspaper’s recent Web moves:

In marked contrast, check out what the Washington Post is doing. Working with Technorati, they’re providing a list of blog trackbacks for many of their bylined stories. It’s a very blogger-friendly move, and one the Post ought to be congratulated on.

Indeed, I lauded the Post’s move, and noted that it’ll encourage me to point to their stories more often.

Of course, it’s important to note that neither the Times nor the Post offer completely unfettered access to their sites. Both require free registration — free as in money, if not in the personal information you have to give up (assuming you don’t cheat with fake info, or use BugMeNot). And linkrot sets in when stories convert into archives after a couple of weeks, although again, there are ways around that too. But overall, it’s been a reasonably friendly system for reader and blogger.

As another alternative to the rollout of Times Select, he also points to the Wall Street Journal’s model, which started out with 100 percent paid-subscription-only access but now teases effectively with free stuff:

But because they started out tight, the Journal can now afford to loosen things up, so when they do provide free content, folks are likely to praise them instead of knocking them for keeping the vast majority of their content behind a subscriber wall. And once exposed to this free content, a reader is more likely to become a paying subscriber.

As the Web guy for Florida Trend magazine, the online pay/free debate occupies my strategic planning. I’m well aware that Trend’s registration requirement is a turnoff for many potential readers, and so is subject to constant reassessment.

Ultimately, though, there’s a very good reason for the Times to start charging, and it has to do with the difference between “readers” and “subscribers”.

Simply put: For content producers, high levels of online traffic don’t really mean anything unless you can extract some money from it. That connection is often lost on observers, who trumpet how many eyeballs cruise onto a Web page, but it’s fundamental to how professional media works. Someone’s got to pay the writers/actors/musicians, and offering access to a targeted audience’s engaged attention is a juicy morsel.

Advertising is the obvious option, but difficult to aggregate online to the point where it produces enough revenue (syndicating advertising, like Google does, is a different story). Repackaging exclusive content into archives and special reports is another avenue, but not especially high-volume.

After that? Getting money directly from the enduser emerges as the moneymaker. As with the print product, subscriptions are the most reilable revenue stream for a media concern. Not only does it bring in hard cash over a proscribed period of time, it also creates a valuable channel: A subscriber’s information can be used for related marekting pitches, paying for itself several times over.

That’s the key. For the Times and its website, a paying customer is far more valuable than a regular visitor. As much as they might lose in traffic by putting up the Times Select fence, they’ll gain subscribers, which is the acceptable tradeoff. It really is trading quantity for quality.

Beyond that, I happen to think the part-free part-pay model works, much like it does for the Journal. I doubt that Times Select will ever grow to encompass the entire website, because so much of what’s reported in the Times can be found elsewhere on the Web (with varying degrees of coverage and focus, but still). But it’s ingenious to charge for the Times’ columnists — those unique content producers whose work represents the Times brand more than anything else. That can’t be reproduced elsewhere, and that makes it valuable, and thus worth paying for.

As for the rest of the site? The more general news articles serve as the teasers. Advertising can be sold there, and plenty of links can point to the enhanced coverage to be found in Times Select to convert a few more readers into subscribers. But this model only works if it’s applied to that content that’s unique to a particular new organization, whether it’s columnists, market analysts, etc.

The reason Times Select created so much noise was because the Grey Lady is something of a bellweather for online news media practices. If Times Select is successful — and I think it will be — it’ll be emulated by others. That’ll tick off bloggers and others used to the free linkage, but it’s hard to argue with a monetization strategy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 07:27pm
Category: Internet, Publishing
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Two days, two protest gatherings in DC: Anti-war demonstrations that drew upwards of 100,000 on Saturday, and the pro-war response today, with around 400 in attendance.

Quite the disparity.

I think the conservative crowd can stop disregarding the rotten poll numbers. They can also stop referring to themselves as a silent majority, or even an invisible majority. Call it what it is: An imaginary majority.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 04:48pm
Category: Politics
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Does anyone else take a small bit of childish delight in pronouncing “Numb3rs” as “numb-threers”?

And instead of using a snippet of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” as the theme music, wouldn’t “Murder By Numbers” by The Police make more sense?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 03:32pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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on the spot
I didn’t get into the big tbt* blog cover story, so as consolation, I get to be in the Times’ Blog Spotlight this week.

Score! Check it out yourself.

I wish there was a direct, archived permalink for that Spotlight spot. Since there’s not, I’ll record the cutline that Steve Spears wrote up for the occasion, because I rather like it:

The buzz: The name comes from the liner notes of The Police box set. Smartly written, keenly designed.

I’d have accepted “Keenly written, smartly designed” as well.

I guess now I’ll find out if there’s any traffic spike from being in that spotlight.

I guess I picked an opportune time to feature photos of pop-music babes in a top-of-page post. Makes for a more colorful screenshot, anyway.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 02:50pm
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin', Media
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Saturday, September 24, 2021

It’s been two years since both Jewel and Liz Phair simultaneously attempted to restart their moribund careers in similar fashion: By sexing themselves up and shooting for a more mainstream demographic than their previous niches. Both received a bit of flak over the move, mainly over the anti-feminist tones in their approaches.

So, what became of these reinventions?

It looks to me like they went absolutely nowhere. Phair, after a brief spurt of celebrity-circuit exposure, has faded back into an anonymous background. Pretty much the same for Jewel, aside from some non-news about her unpublished poetry.

So much heat, only to cool off just as fast as it was generated.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/24/2005 08:38pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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Jason, a coworker, told me about an interesting little superstition his mother had used on him while growing up:

If you leave the house, then realize you forgot something and have to re-enter to get it, you must sit down down for a full minute before exiting again.

If you don’t follow this precept? Bad things, I suppose.

This sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t really remember if I’d ever heard of it before now. Jason claims it’s Irish in origin, but I can’t find anything about it along those lines. Anybody out there ever hear of it?

The underlying purpose of this is obvious, especially when you apply it to a kid. To avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to go through the one-minute sit:

- It encourages you to become better organized before setting out, thus saving time;

- Failing that, it could instill resourcefulness, in that even if you do leave something behind, you figure out a way to do without it, or else improvise.

In Jason’s case, neither skill developed. So much for ritual.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/24/2005 06:51pm
Category: General
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