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Monday, December 31, 2020

If your reasons for avoiding avatar-addled hangouts like Second Life is because they come off to you as, well, childish — take heart. The numbers bear out that assessment, as it appears pre-teen kids are more active users of graphically-rendered online social networks than adults are:

[Disney-owned] Club Penguin, where members pay $5.95 a month to dress and groom penguin characters and play games with them, attracts seven times more traffic than Second Life. In one sign of the times, Electric Sheep, a software developer that helps companies market their brands in virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com, last week laid off 22 people, about a third of its staff.

So feel free to flip off some Second-Lifer with a derogatory “Grow up!” the next time they bore you about how rad their online existence is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/31/2007 06:18:30 PM
Category: Internet, Media, Pop Culture, Society
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connect this, bitch
So a few days ago, I got an email from somebody named Fred, who IDed himself as a Grassroots Campaign Manager for interactive marketing firm M80. I’m pretty sure I came across M80 a long while back, but nothing more recent rang a bell.

Anyway, Fred asked me to use my bloggy powers of exposure to take a look at “Connected”, a Web-based television program produced by MTV Networks and underwritten by T-Mobile. In return, I was promised a “prize pack” for my time.

Am I that easily bribed? Not usually. But since this particular pitch dovetails nicely with my interests in Web media and ad/marketing creative, I figured, why not. It’s the end of the year, anyway — why not cash out while I can?

The series is chopped up into 5-minute webisodes — a format designed both for today’s hyper-short attention spans, and for optimal viewing on T-Mobile’s Sidekick phone/communication device. As a result, the phone itself makes more than a few appearances in the show. Go figure.

Here’s a basic synopsis of the show’s plot and campaign promo:

You win some, and you definitely lose some—especially if you’re at The Agency. David Newman is just trying to keep his clients happy, and trying to keep them in his agency! In the mix are: Amy, a teen movie star with a rep for wild partying and drama; Russell, an aspiring comedian who can’t find the right foot to start on; Quincy, a fresh-from-film-school director with a little indie cred and looking for his first big hit; Jane, a budding singer-songwriter who’s looking for an identity; Alex, music producer, best friend, gamer; and Emily, his trusty assistant and eyes and ears. Catch the Hollywood series everyone is texting about!

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s essentially a reworking of “Entourage”, except it’s focusing more on the agent’s-eye perspective. Plus there’s little/no cursing, from what I saw in watching all but a couple of episodes. David Newman is basically a younger, smaller, less-threatening version of Ari Gold — sanitized in order to sell cellphones.

Whatever happened to the days when Hollywood agents doled out free vials of cocaine to their budding clientele? Instead, Newman hands out Sidekicks. “Crackberry” effect aside, it doesn’t carry the same satisfyingly-sleazy touch.

But whatever works. This is all aimed squarely at the under-18 crowd, so I guess it wouldn’t be prudent for T-Mobile and MTV to be glamorizing illegal substances through this vehicle. Plenty of time for that after they head off to college…

I’m crossing my fingers that the promised “prize pack” will include a Sidekick — or, alternately, a serving sample of agent-approved nose candy. Anything to foster a compulsive habit that will make 2008 a memorable new year! (Disclaimer: Only joking about my desire to indulge in drug use; caffeine and alcohol do the trick for me just fine, thanks.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/31/2007 05:30:14 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, TV
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double-o
So now that I’ve cleared up my confusion over “oo”-sounding Web startups, I’m ready to testdrive Oosah.

Which I did earlier today. Basically, it’s a free digital media storage site that gives you 2 gigs of disk space for posting photos, sound files, video files and other stuff. It’s designed to be an access-anywhere Web repository of media files, with a Flash-based file system interface for managing the whole she-bang, and tagging to make it searchable on the public portions of the site.

I loaded up a handful of files just to start out. Uploading was fairly easy and reasonably fast. I ran into a quirk where if you set a file as “private”, you couldn’t view/listen to it yourself — a little odd, as I can’t think of why you wouldn’t be able to experience your own stuff. Setting files to “public”, which adds them to the site’s overall search databases, avoids all that.

Anyway, from what I can see, Oosah does the trick for Web-based media storage. Personally, my needs for such a resource are limited, but sites like Spyonvegas are making extensive use of it.

I’ll wrap up with a basic example: Here’s a video of Blink 182’s live performance at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, embedded-style:

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/31/2007 04:39:20 PM
Category: Internet, Pop Culture
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Sunday, December 30, 2020

fade to orange
Since this likely will be the last time I get to post this vintage Tampa Bay Bucs creamsicle-orange uniform photo of Vinny Testaverde, I’m going take it. Because today’s otherwise meaningless season finale between the Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers at Tampa marked the quarterback’s official retirement from the NFL after 21 years.

It’s too bad the only signifier for it was Carolina sending Vinny in for the final kneel-down to end the game. Given that the site was the same city where he began his career in 1987, I was hoping for something more. If not actual game action for Vinny, then the Bucs should have hauled out some vintage Florida orange, Bucco Bruce-emblazoned uniforms to wear in honor of the occasion.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/30/2007 10:52:05 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Football
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To go along with the tricky financing required for all those supersized mortgages that are now imploding, millions of Americans also have been setting themselves up for heavy debt-loads to buy more car than they can afford:

The longer loans are directly related to the higher balances. By extending the length of loans, lenders keep monthly payments down. But because these loans take longer to pay off, a much larger piece of the principal remains unpaid at the time the car is traded in.

The response of the automotive finance industry? Extend loans further and allow the indebted customer to roll what he owes into a new loan with little, if any, effect on his new monthly payment. In effect, the driver is paying a loan on two — or more — cars at once.

Basically, it’s a cycle that means you never are without a monthly car-loan payment. When I needed to own a car, I remember that you looked forward to finally paying the car off, so that you had at least a year or two car-payment free before getting on the new-car carousel again. Looks like that’s out the window these days.

Instead, we’re left with a perpetual payment model that carries a timebomb of macro-economic proportions. The scenario is certainly dire enough:

It’s not just individual consumers who are at financial risk. Nationwide, an estimated $575 billion in new and used auto loans are written every year by auto manufacturers, banks, credit unions and other lenders. About 30% of the loans that are originated by banks, and 100% of those issued by automaker financiers, are, like mortgages, repackaged and sold as securities, according to the Consumer Bankers Assn.

Analysts warn that just as investors didn’t comprehend the risk inherent in some of the more exotic home mortgages in recent years, they aren’t considering how risky these car loans are. If longer loan terms allow debt on the loans to grow too large, many drivers may simply default, leading to expensive repossessions.

The parallels to the housing bubble are painfully obvious: Cheaper lending rates spur volume growth, with dealerships concerned only with the immediate signings. The longer-term mess is obvious, but is basically being deferred to some miraculous future bailout — a salary raise, whatever.

The missing ingredient here, though, is the valuation speculation. In the housing game, the assumption was that the piece of property bought would rise in value — not an unreasonable assumption, given real estate’s traditional security as an asset. But that notion is laughable when it comes to cars, because common knowledge holds that a vehicle depreciates the second it rolls off the dealership lot. So the constant trade-ins and roll-overs had nothing at all to do even the illusion of building equity — it’s pure consumerism, disguised as upgrades in reliability.

Another reason to savor urban-core living, where parking/garage costs alone make it ridiculous to own a car. Add in this hazardous financial stew — along with the lack of real need for individual car ownership — and it’ll be a long while before I ever again consider car ownership.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/30/2007 02:50:12 PM
Category: Business, Society
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Saturday, December 29, 2020

scripted
A lot is being made out of the success of David Letterman’s World Wide Pants production company in coming up with an interim agreement with the striking Hollywood writers union, the culmination of efforts initiated a couple of weeks ago.

The deal, which restores ["Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"] to business as usual, gives them an enormous advantage over their competition.

GE-owned NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” as well as ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” had already announced they would resume Wednesday without benefit of their writing teams. Similarly, Viacom-owned Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert” planned to return writer-less on Monday, Jan. 7.

But I’m wondering: How big of an advantage will it really be? Will audiences care, or even notice, whether a late-night show is scripted or not? The NBC shows are usually more skit-heavy than the Letterman shows, so maybe the absence of structured segments for Leno and O’Brien will give these new episodes a different feel. And the question of some entertainment-industry guests — movie/television stars and music acts — not wanting to even figuratively cross picket lines might give Letterman/Ferguson a leg up.

But ultimately, audiences have their preferred hosts, and I have a feeling the eyeballs will stick with their usual favorites. As long as the episodes are new, I doubt many viewers will switch.

From that, I’m thinking the studios will use the resultant ratings as ammo against the next round of talks with the writers. The argument will be that the scripting doesn’t have much impact on drawing audiences, and so they’ll be even less inclined to compromise with the Guild.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/29/2007 06:53:18 PM
Category: Business, TV
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buff impact
Until the novelty of playing hockey in a football bowl wears out, it appears the National Hockey League and its teams will have some economic impact numbers to throw around when pitching future Winter Classics:

With four days to go before the puck drops on the outdoor hockey rink in Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Buffalo Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates the New Year’s Day event will generate more than $5 million in direct revenues.

“Our projections tend to be conservative, but based on local hotel reservations, this is going to be a very significant event for Buffalo-area hotels and restaurants,” said the CVB’s Doug Sitler.

If those estimates hold, the Jan. 1 NHL event will top the $4.2 million in spending tied to the multiday slate of NCAA basketball tournament games played in HSBC Arena last March.

Five million bucks is not super-huge when it comes to dedicated major-league sporting events. In comparison, the last Super Bowl was hyped to have generated $298 million for South Florida; even if, as contended, that figure is somewhat inflated, it still points to an entirely different magnitude of dollar volume.

But then, no one is touting the Winter Classic as Super Bowl-caliber. It’s a regular-season game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres that otherwise wouldn’t be worthy of special notice. The venue and date makes it special, and so it’s attracting more visitors and discretionary spending to the Buffalo area. That’s all it needs to do to help the league get exposure.

As long as the NHL restricts these bowl games to once per year, they’ll achieve their purpose, and everyone will be happy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/29/2007 06:19:15 PM
Category: Football, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Friday, December 28, 2020

I came across this little gem of a short film called “My Name Is Lisa” recently:

What’s so engaging about this Shelton Films production is the build-up: It starts off with all the looks of a typically nondescript YouTube jokey video log, but unfolds with deliberate purpose into a deeper and touching dramatic vignette.

It’s certainly not perfect. The music, while serving as a very useful indicator of the shifting timbre of the story, eventually becomes just a bit overbearing by film’s end. The acting is decent, but wouldn’t win any Oscar nods. But it all works well enough to earn a third-place showing in a recent YouTube Project: Direct competition.

One final tidbit: That passage that Lisa is reading at the end? It’s from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”, which significance is hinted at earlier in the film.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/28/2007 07:41:42 PM
Category: Creative, Internet, Movies
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Thursday, December 27, 2020

Anyone else routinely keep one eye on the television and the other on the computer monitor, or the cellphone display, or any other second screen?

You’re far from alone. Jacked.com is building a business model on the idea that more and more eyeballs are thusly divided, albeit still focused on the same overall content (i.e., live sports and the real-time game stats).

Here are the stats to back up this “two-screen phenomenon” premise:

- 70% of people younger than 34 watch TV while being online, according to Park Associates.

- 39.5% of adults regularly watch TV while going online, according to BIGresearch.

- 35% of U.S. college students watch TV while using a computer, according to Burst Media.

- 40% of TiVo subscribers use a PC or mobile device while watching TV, according to TiVo.

I think this has been an evolving phenomenon, only now culminating into mainstream. When I was in college a decade-and-a-half ago, dorm-mating typically meant one room with two television sets close together; and so, we’d wind up with two cable-connected monitors, and maybe at least one with game console hooked up. That was the start of multi-screen media input.

When I’m at home, I’m rarely ever engaged with only one screen. If the TV is on, the notebook computer is on, and of course the cellphone is always at hand. That’s just normal at this point.

But are all those screens displaying related content? Not always, which is actually the point — if I want to focus on one thing, a single screen probably suffices. But surprisingly, there’s plenty of instances when I do, in fact, intersect. Key to Jacked’s goal, I’ll often watch NHL or NFL games, and go to the in-progress game boxes for both the televised game and the day’s other game action, just to see what’s going on. In non-sports, I’ll often call up IMDb in the midst of watching a movie, just to get some background information while it’s top-of-mind.

So yes, the future does seem to be split-screened. We’re becoming media schizophrenics!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/27/2007 10:52:44 PM
Category: Internet, Society, Sports, TV
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As people continue to assess the value of the loot they received on Christmas, this much is clear: There’s plenty of re-gifting as a result, per an eBay survey completed at the start of the holiday season.

And far from being viewed as a burden, re-gifting is actually a preferred option:

Yet for many, unwanted does not mean unappreciated: nearly one-third of all adults (32 percent) would rather get a present that they could re-gift or resell than not get a present at all, the survey found.

It is a lemons-from-lemonade worldview, but also a rather coldly-calculating one: Even if they hate the gift, many still consider a value in it, monetary or otherwise. So they still want it as an asset, to be leveraged in some way.

The reason for the season? Hmm.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/27/2007 10:20:09 PM
Category: Society
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Wednesday, December 26, 2020

Movie posters for current release I Am Legend and upcoming flick Cloverfield are plastered all over the Big Apple, and in both cases, the dominating visuals consist of recognizable New York City landmarks (i.e., the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge) reduced to ruins.

With this in mind, the question is asked: Why is NYC a frequent target for Hollywood-conjured destruction?

The basic answer is that the City is so big and prominent that it serves as a “global shorthand” for conveying apocalyptic impact:

James Sanders, the author of “Celluloid Skyline,” about the history of New York in movies, ascribed the resonance of disaster scenes involving New York to the prospects for special-effects shock. “What would be the point of showing a demolished suburban street? You’d get the point but it just wouldn’t have the punch. You take the most familiar, iconic symbol of civic society in the world — a big city, and for Americans, that’s New York — and that’s where disaster is going to be the most powerful.” He added that New York serves as a yardstick — what architects would call a scale — that illustrates the magnitude for a disaster.

In other words, what would be the point of showing an already flattened-out landscape being destructively flattened? The subtext being that it’s already a wasteland — which might sound like an urban-elitist attitude, and yet that’s how viewers/readers around the world interpret the landscape in this context, by reduction if nothing else. When big buildings fall down, it’s more resonate than if, say, a strip mall or farmhouse gets wasted.

Then again, maybe that’s why those who don’t dwell within urban canyons enjoy watching the big-screen mayhem:

Former Mayor Edward I. Koch, who keeps himself busy by, among other things, reviewing movies for several local newspapers in Manhattan, attributed the persistence of the destruction theme to “edifice envy.”

“They want to see our skyscrapers destroyed because they are envious of them,” Mr. Koch said in a phone interview. Asked whom he was referring to, he said, “‘They’ is the rest of the country.”

But fair’s fair: It’s certainly possible to get across massive disaster on a suburban/exurban scale. Witness this current trailer for the “BlackSite: Area 51″ videogame:

Is this a divide amongst visual mediums: Movies are better at vertical, videogames at linear/horizontal? Either way, plenty of mayhem to go around.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/26/2007 09:56:05 PM
Category: Movies, New Yorkin', Videogames
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Worthy of note: Five key demographic features about the current online social-networking landscape.

This research is courtesy of Pipl, a specialized search engine claiming to focus on the “deep web” for better targeting of person-search queries. Part of that deep-dive involves datamining social networking profiles from Bebo, MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Xanga, and Hi5. Hence the resultant research results.

One more note: It’s not crystal clear just when this was all compiled, which is crucial for context. It’s not even mentioned in the methodology. But if you look really, really closely at the graphs, you can discern a “December 2007″ timestamp; and a little digging confirms a November-December 2007 range.

So, without further ado, the five facts:

1. The Women Are Younger, The Men Are Older - The younger demographic is female-dominant while the older demographic is mostly male.

2. Bebo and Xanga Have the Youngest Crowd - Those two sites are heaviest on teens and young adults, with a marked drop-off in users 30 and older. The other four sites are also dominated by youngsters, but there’s a bit more balance.

3. MySpace Is Still the Largest, By Far - Not surprising, with 184.1 million active users. Supplementing that is an 81.5 percent year-over-year growth rate, also tops.

4. European, Asian and South American Members Are Getting Younger - In contrast to the U.S. user bases, which are actually trending slightly older.

5. More Women On MySpace, More Men On Hi5 - This is actually the current trending: More females are bolstering the ranks of MySpace, while Hi5’s growth consists of mostly males.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/26/2007 05:46:32 PM
Category: Internet, Society
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It’s a pretty obvious joke, to post about Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” while not having read it, nor having any intention of reading it.

But I’m gonna do it anyway.

Partly because this excerpt from the book’s introduction saves me from picking it up. And I’ll go one step further and boil down the intro to this most pertinent portion:

There is a tacit understanding in our culture that one must read a book in order to talk about it with any precision. In my experience, however, it’s totally possible to carry on an engaging conversation about a book you haven’t read — including, and perhaps especially, with someone else who hasn’t read it either. Moreover, as I will argue, it is sometimes easier to do justice to a book if you haven’t read it in its entirety — or even opened it. Throughout this book, I will insist on the risks of reading — so frequently underestimated — for anyone who intends to talk about books, and even more so for those who plan to review them.

A better understanding of a work through non-reading. I wish I could spurn this advice, except that I’m as pressured as the next average reader — always full of the best intentions, but rarely with the energy or time resources to actually crack open the desired book.

So I sometimes resort to faking it. I probably do it far more often with movies, although I readily admit to not having actually caught the flick — the preponderance of preview trailers and buzz make it a lot easier to fill in the blanks for silver screen offerings. And more to the point, there’s less stigma in not having taken the time to gawk at a moving-picture presentation than to have neglected the printed word; the former is more passive, even with serious flicks, while the latter is expected to demand more mental energy.

All that said, I’ve actually got my eye on a couple of tomes to digest over the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep the faking-it advice in reserve for future application.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/26/2007 08:46:57 AM
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Tuesday, December 25, 2020

toasted
In the quirky tradition of Subservient Chicken and Hootie and the Burger King, ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky has launched a new campaign for BK. This time, they’ve moved on from the poultry items to the mainstay meat sandwich: The Whopper, and how customer would reaction if the signature burger were to be stricken from the menu unexpectedly.

Hence, Whopper Freakout.

The premise is that hidden cameras catch the shock-and-awe when customers order their usual Whopper, then get told that it’s been discontinued. A supplementary component is an interview crew that solicits opinions, giving miffed patrons the chance to sound off directly into a camera lens.

And I have no doubt that all this footage is real. And yet…

It comes off as fake, to me.

Don’t ask me why. It just does. The goofy reactions, the weird facial expressions… I’m not searching for an ah-ha moment here which would reveal this whole campaign as being orchestrated. But for some reason, it falls flat.

I wonder if the final product wasn’t over-edited to the point where the authentic reactions lose their original impact. Or if terming relatively tame reactions as a “freakout” is overkill. Or maybe there’s been simply too much of this sort of “raw” footage making the television commercial rounds lately, and what was once a novelty has quickly worn thin. Whatever the reason, I’m quite unimipressed.

By the way: Take a look at the Whopper Freakout movie screenshot above. Anyone else think that Mr. Whopper Wasteoid (the guy on the left) looks like a hit-the-skids version of Huey Lewis?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/25/2007 10:32:21 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture
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Monday, December 24, 2021

To counter the idea that natural childbirth is so painful that it sours a woman on ever having sex again, here’s the kinky-ish pitch behind the upcoming documentary film Orgasmic Birth:

Joyous, sensuous, revolutionary: Orgasmic Birth captures stunning moments of women riding waves of pleasure in the ecstatic release of childbirth.

I half expect this one to be released by Vivid Video

But in reality, this in-production flick seems to be a thinly-veiled sexualized approach to promoting midwifery.

Actually, there’s a porn-flick plot right there: A woman keeps having babies just to feel the sexual rush. Girl-on-girl with the midwife, afterbirth instead of afterglow… I’m sure there’s a fetish niche out there that will gawk away.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/24/2007 07:18:16 PM
Category: Women
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For all the crowing about how the future of Internet content lies in user-generated or “spontaneous” material, a talent rush has cropped up in an unexpected corner: Sports reporting. ESPN and Yahoo! are poaching sportswriters from newspapers and magazines, bulking up on original reporting to feed their Web properties and other media outlets.

Rising demand for star sportswriters, driven by rising television and Internet revenue, coincides with the declining fortunes of newspapers, which has left fewer jobs and less money to go around for most journalists. The paradox is not lost on the lucky few who benefit.

“This hiring at a high level, I know how amazing it is, given what’s happening everywhere else in the business,” said Mark Fainaru-Wada, who uncovered steroid scandals as a San Francisco Chronicle reporter and a co-author of the book “Game of Shadows.” He was recently hired by ESPN. “We just went through a 25 percent newsroom cut at The Chronicle,” he said.

On most topics, nearly all of the news offerings from Yahoo are collected from other sources. But not in sports, where the company has made its first major foray into being a creator of original material. It has more than 20 sports staff writers, up from 4 just two years ago, in addition to sports celebrities who write columns for the site.

Many staff members at Yahoo Sports are less prominent — and less well compensated — than the people signed by ESPN, and many of them cover niche topics like mixed martial arts and fantasy football. But Yahoo Sports has shown it intends to play in the big leagues, hiring David Morgan, former deputy sports editor of The Los Angeles Times, as its executive editor. It is also making lucrative offers to some of the journalists hired by ESPN and Sports Illustrated and signing a few sought-after people like Mike Silver, a football writer who was lured away from Sports Illustrated…

ESPN declines to reveal precise numbers, but in the last 18 months, it has hired at least 15 writers and editors from major newspapers and magazines, most of whom are expected to feed material to all of its platforms. Vince Doria, senior vice president and director of news, says that ESPN has 80 to 100 reporters and producers, not including its many columnists, where “five years ago, that number was closer to 50.”

Why is this happening now? Basically, sports is one of the stickier content wells you’ll find, drawing hardcore online audiences who’ll spend hours staring at game recaps, fantasy analysis, rumor items, etc. Advertisers know this, and are following the eyeballs. I’m surprised that critical mass has arrived already, but apparently it has, and now ESPN/Disney and Yahoo! have the ad money to toss into fat signing bonuses for wayward journalists.

It’s something of an irony, in that sports reporting has always been considered something of a journalism backwater, generally not as worthy of respect as “hard news”. Sports and business news consisted of a ghetto for major newspapers, despite those sections’ popular appeal. So the upside-down economics of the Web now allow sports scribes to cash in; I guess we can expect to see a similar hiring surge for prominent business reporters, although the star system there resides more in magazines and CNBC than in newspapers (even the Wall Street Journal doesn’t have many “name” writers).

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/24/2007 05:49:33 PM
Category: Media, SportsBiz
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As what used to be a no-fly zone for Web access gets un-wired-up, what airline passengers will be doing with that high-altitude bandwith while in close proximity to others is raising concerns.

Panasonic Avionics Corp., a Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. unit testing airborne services on Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd., is designing its high-speed Internet services to block sites on “an objectionable list,” including porn and violence, said David Bruner, executive director for corporate sales and marketing.

He said airlines based in more restrictive countries could choose to expand the list.

The company also is recommending that airlines permit Internet-based phone calls only on handsets with wireless Wi-Fi capabilities — the technology delivering access within the passenger cabin. Bruner said the company believes Wi-Fi handsets use less bandwidth than telephone software that runs on laptops.

Airlines, he said, also could block incoming calls — and the annoying ring tones they produce — or designate periods of quiet time.

Those policing efforts are mainly the province of overseas flights. U.S. carriers are going decidedly more laissez-fair:

“We think decency and good sense and normal behavior” will prevail, said Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell LLC, which is launching service on some American and Virgin flights in 2008.

Decency? Good sense? “Normal” behavior? Obviously this guy has never stood in line at a Starbucks for 5 minutes while surrounded by non-stop cellphone jabberers. Imagine enduring that for a 3-hour trip from New York to San Fran.

Besides that, it’d be a royal pain to scrunch over a notebook computer in a space where even legroom is non-existent. The best alternative would be an ultra-small wi-fi device — like my iPod Touch, for instance! So I guess this would work out well for me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/24/2007 02:47:55 PM
Category: Internet, Society, Wi-Fi
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Sunday, December 23, 2021

The editorial board of the Concord Monitor has yet to endorse either a Democrat or Republican for the upcoming New Hampshire party primaries. But that didn’t stop it from delivering this explicit anti-endorsement of Mitt Romney:

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you’d swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core…

When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state’s first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we’ll know it.

Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no.

Harsh, a bit.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a newspaper has done this before. I can cite one previous example, although it was more in the shape of a non-endorsement: The Tampa Tribune’s decision to withhold support from either Presidential candidate in the 2004 election, which, because of the paper’s conservative track record, was interpreted as a no-support nod toward George W. Bush.

Just as in that scenario, the Monitor’s diss on Romney amounts to a vote of no confidence. And by extension, it’s probably the natural outcome of the failure of the candidates to truly distinguish themselves from each other: Since there’s nothing to commend any one of them, the paper goes after the obvious (and close to local) negative target.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/23/2007 05:34:57 PM
Category: Politics
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Grant Barrett, of Double-Tongued Dictionary and “A Way with Words” fame, favors New York Times readers with the contenders for 2007’s “Word of the Year” crown.

Barrett disclaims this list as being merely partial, and indeed, it’s something of a mixed bag: It includes phrases that aren’t particularly resonating, but instead found their way into the newsstream more than expected. For instance, I don’t see anything noteworthy about “forever stamp”.

I’m not going to dissect the entrants on this list on merit, or lack thereof (although I’m tempted, based on the surprising reaction I got when I dissed the fraud selection of “plutoed” as a WOTY). But I’m going to cherry-pick ones that found their way onto this blog:

1. Astronaut Diaper - A key element in that bizarre NASA love triangle from February. I didn’t focus on the undergarment, but without i, I doubt I would have written about the subsequent movie proposal, which itself took a turn for the weird.

2. Bacn - Non-critical email that you want to receive, but comes across as borderline spam. I found the pig-theming to be most amusing.

3. Crowdsource - A play on “outsourcing”, where you turn to input and efforts from Web-aggregated minds to accomplish a task. I used it to headline the efforts of British fans to pool money for buying a pro soccer team; additionally, this grew out of the “wisdom of crowds” concept that’s been kicked around for a couple of years now.

4. E-mail Bankruptcy - The act of deleting your entire inbox, including read and unread messages, in an attempt to get back to a manageable zero-base for email. Yup, it caught my eye, although more for what it didn’t address (spam) than what it did. Actually, this ties directly back to the afore-mentioned bacn, and the only reason I didn’t cite that was because this bankruptcy concept made the news before bacn did.

5. Exploding ARM - An adjustable rate mortgage with rates that soon rise beyond a borrower’s ability to pay. I missed out on this exact phraseology, but did bite on the alternative, “ARM-ageddon”.

6. -hawk - Catchall for a range of mohawk-ish hairstyles: Sanjaya’s fucked-up ponyhawk, the mohawk/afro hybrid that is the brohawk, and the fauxhawk, which I gave space to.

7. LOLcat - Fun with cat photos on the InterWeb. This one warranted not one, but two posts by yours truly.

8. Make It Rain - With dollar bills serving as raindrops. If it involves strip clubs, you just know I’m going to put a timestamp on it.

9. NINJA Loan - An acroynm for “No Income, No Job or Assets”, for the kind of volume-padding loan that precipitated the now-unfolding housing mess. I noted that it also dovetailed with the “silent but deadly” quality of your average ninja warrior.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/23/2007 02:18:29 PM
Category: Wordsmithing
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Saturday, December 22, 2021

per se
I was just starting to wonder about the status of One Laptop Per Child “Give One, Get One” donation that I made a month ago, when I received an email from the OLPC Foundation this morning.

In a nutshell, they’ve got shipping/supply problems. The main purpose of their message was to let me know that, if I had intended to give the extra laptop I’d be receiving as a Christmas gift, I was outta luck.

As it happens, I had no such intention. I’m getting the second XO Laptop for myself, to satisfy my own curiosity over the design/engineering accomplishment of what was once tagged as the “$99 laptop” (actual pricetag: $188). I reserve the option of giving it away after I’m done poking around with it — it’s not like I need additional stuff taking up space. We’ll see.

I’m not too put off by the delay. The new shipping date for my machine is by January 15th, and the one going overseas is supposed to get into the hands of some kid during first-quarter 2008. I’m in no rush; maybe the kids are.

If anything, I’d like to get that freebie one-year T-Mobile HotSpot wi-fi subscription that comes with the donation going. I’m finding I could use a reliable wireless connection as I roll around town; plus the knowledge that I’ll soon have the access stokes the anticipation.

Anyway, I’d still recommend contributing. I believe the G1G1 promotion was extended through the end of 2007, so go for it!

One minor bonus from the email: I found out the target countries for receipt of the XOs: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia and Rwanda. Nice to know. For me, it gives the charitable act a little more identifiable context.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/22/2007 08:19:35 PM
Category: Society, Tech
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It’s a bit heavy on the agency jargon, but “A Few Good Creative Men” is a most apropos application of the parody-like quality of working within the belly of the ad-industry beast:

Along with the “bigger logo” quip, I really like that “sleeps under the blanket of creativity that I provide” line.

And I can’t think of a more suitable scene for skewering than this one from A Few Good Men. As iconic as it’s become, I actually find it almost comical — I just can’t buy that a political animal like that would lose his cool in such an incriminating way, extreme hubris or not. I’ve never been able to watch the entire movie more than the one viewing I took in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/22/2007 08:04:10 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Creative, Movies
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