Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 28, 2020

With all the big-development credit dried up, not only is New York City’s skyline likely to remain frozen in place for the next two years, but more than a few of those late-added buildings will sit empty and/or in a skeleton-like unfinished state.

Pretty much like a city-sized visual tribute to what’s becoming the Great Recession.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 05:50pm
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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perfectly round
There’s more than one way to achieve National Football League perfection. The Detroit Lions did it in the negative sense: With their 31-21 loss today at Green Bay, they went a perfect 0-16, winless for the season.

And unlike the anticipation that followed last year’s 16-0 New England Patriots regular-season campaign, there’s no pesky post-season that threatens to banish that sparkling zero in the Lions’ record. Nope, when you go oh-and-sixteen, you stay oh-and-sixteen — no further action required.

So the 0-14 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs have company as the only other team to lose every game in a modern-era season. At least that expansion team won’t see their overall 1976-77 0-26 streak get knocked down…

…Right? Well, technically, the Lions are very well-positioned to make a run for it. Counting Detroit’s 34-13 loss to Green Bay in Week 17 of 2007, the Lions are now officially on an 0-17 streak. If they open 2009 with a string of losses… Well, it’ll get ugly in Motown real quick.

You wouldn’t think it would happen. In the parity-driven NFL, it’s tough to sustain any kind of win-loss consistency, within a season or over the span of several seasons. But then, it was fairly inconceivable that the Lions could have dropped an entire 16-game schedule. At this point, anything’s possible.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 04:55pm
Category: Football
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A peculiar side effect from this dismal 2008 holiday shopping season: Store-brand giftcards, which had become a leading option for hard-to-please recipients, fell out of favor with consumers.

A couple of factors account for this:

Price-conscious shoppers became savvy bargain-hunters, realizing they could give bigger and better gifts by taking advantage of unprecedented discounts rather than by spending a set amount on gift cards, which had been steadily gaining popularity over the past few years. Practically everything took a backseat to price.

That sort of makes sense on the surface, in that deep discounts yielded more physical product, and that the sale price likely was limited-time only. A giftcard in such an environment represents deferred purchasing power — prices might come up again by the time someone cashes in that card, so the idea is that some of that power is lost.

That doesn’t address the chief appeal of giving giftcards, though: The convenience via elimination of selection. Giftcards are supposed to shift the choice of the actual present to the recipient, limiting the options only to that specific store (or range of stores, in the case of mall giftcards or even credit-card imprinted cards). Product-specific discounts don’t address this. The fear that whatever you bought is the wrong thing isn’t offset by a 50 percent discount; I wonder what the shopper psychology is behind the appeal of buying a gift that potentially could be hated — but at least didn’t dent the gifter’s pocketbook as much!

The other factor for the lost appeal of giftcards is more concrete, unfortunately:

Another big concern — whether retailers they got cards from would follow the many others who have filed for bankruptcy this year, jeopardizing the value of their gifts.

This one’s somewhat exaggerated, mainly by fairly recent memories of the Sharper Image bankruptcy and the debacle with its giftcards. Still, as terrible as the retail climate has been toward the close of 2008, it’s likely that many companies will start going belly-up in January. So the fears of buying vouchers that will subsequently be worth less than the plastic they’re molded from is, depressingly, valid.

What does this mean for the giftcard economy long-term? The economy’s going to recover eventually, so the hyper-discounting will go away. I think the idea of variable pricing as an incentive to pass on fixed-value giftcards is shaky anyway — again, it still comes down to applying a purchase to something that the recipient may or may not like, and the odds of likability increase with an all-purpose purchase giftcard. So this season represents a speedbump in the progressive adoption of giftcards, not a derailment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 03:55pm
Category: Business
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NYT’s Jon Pareles laments the corrosive effect of pop music that’s tailored toward commercial messaging:

The question is: What happens to the music itself when the way to build a career shifts from recording songs that ordinary listeners want to buy to making music that marketers can use? That creates pressure, subtle but genuine, for music to recede: to embrace the element of vacancy that makes a good soundtrack so unobtrusive, to edit a lyric to be less specific or private, to leave blanks for the image or message the music now serves. Perhaps the song will still make that essential, head-turning first impression, but it won’t be as memorable or independent.

Thus my referencing of Nietzsche’s aphorism about taking on the qualities of those you oppose. Regardless of how the creative process originates, anyone who’s directing the fruits of their labor toward a wide audience can’t help but be influenced by the reaction, and apply that to subsequent output. If a song becomes popular, it’ll attract higher bidders in the marketing arena, which will in turn lead to an even wider audience; and that will encourage the artist to keep that in mind for the next release.

This applies to creative endeavors beyond music, of course. Popular appeal is the brass ring for anyone putting out content for public purview. If you care at all about sales, airtime, Web traffic, or any other tracking metric, then you’re going to be influenced into playing for the crowd. If something produced independently of such considerations happens to resonate with the audience, it’s a happy dovetailing of interest by both sides of the exchange — but that lasts only as long as both parties are satisfied by the results.

The issue, I guess, is where to draw the line, and if it should even matter. Consider that fans aren’t media-shy, and usually already speak the same language in terms of marketing intake. So the exchange is already based upon common principles. The product is bound to be impacted, but it’s an acceptable development. Why not cash in, assuming both sides are willing participants?

Still, an abyss is an abyss. Gaze all you want, just don’t expect a fulfilling result.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 01:56pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Pop Culture
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Trivial tidbit: The Eiffel Tower, perhaps the most quintessential French landmark, has a German-derived name that, in fact, could have been even more Germanic:

If it weren’t for some French people who found German pronunciation quite hard then the Eiffel Tower could have been called Bönickhausen tower. This was [Gustave] Eiffel’s family name until the early 18th Century, when his German grandfather moved to France and no one could say his name, he changed it to Eiffel because that was where he was from, he was born in Marmagen, in the Eifel hills, a low volcanic mountain range in Western Germany.

So yes, it could have been la Tour Bönickhausen (or Boenickhausen, in umlaut-free form) adorning the Parisian skyline. But that masks the irony that “Eiffel” is also a German name, so either way, the tower has a foreign name. It’s just that “Eiffel” sounds more French, so it flies. The addition of that superfluous extra “f” further Frenchifies the name away from its German original.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 01:06pm
Category: History
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