Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, May 05, 2021

Will Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites put Google AdSense out of business? It’s not such a far-fetched notion, if the results from a new online retailing survey bear out:

The study involved 117 online retailers polled between Feb. 18 and April 1. The companies, which [study sponsor] Shop.org didn’t name, reported scaling back hiring and their increasingly expensive search marketing programs, which include paying for top billing in the results consumers see for their Web searches. Online merchants whose business is beating expectations will likely fuel much of the e-commerce investments in the coming months, the survey found.

“Online retailers want… to be more efficient in getting a bigger bang for the buck,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org.

Developing social media marketing requires some investment in personnel, he said, but many merchants see big opportunities to spread a positive message about their brand for relatively low cost.

In other words, why pay Google an inflated price for prime keyword placement atop a long list of hit-or-miss search results, when you can get low/no-cost bloggers/tweeters to spread goodwill directly to a focused audience?

Ultimately, it’s about hitting the same channels as your potential customers, and current search engine marketing (SEM) does an imprecise job of that. Pimping amongst Facebook pokes isn’t necessarily the most effective method either — the previously-cited “seat at someone else’s table” sales pitch — but because it’s so cheap, there’s less risk involved.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/05/2021 07:31:57 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet
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Monday, May 04, 2021

It took me all day to figure out that not only was today Star Wars Day, but also just why today, of all days, is Star Wars Day. (Hint: Take another read of this post’s headline, and, if necessary, use The Force.)

And then, celebrate the occasion with Richard Cheese’s Copacabana-soundalike “Star Wars Cantina”:

Just the right bouncy lead-in to tomorrow’s Cinco de Mayo.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/04/2021 11:39:24 PM
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Encouraged by the (seeming) success of Amazon’s Kindle, newspaper and magazine publishers are ready to bet the farm on next-wave e-readers with larger and richer displays:

Unlike tiny mobile phones and devices like the Kindle that are made to display text from books, these new gadgets, with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper, could present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print. And they might be a way to get readers to pay for those periodicals — something they have been reluctant to do on the Web.

This reeks of editorial-side wishful thinking. Publishers are focusing solely on the advertising-display advantages — that is, the ability to run display ads that simply don’t fit on phones and other handheld devices. That’s the critical missing ingredient to commanding the big-dollar ad rates that current online and digital content can’t command.

That’s great for the business side. But what’s the advantage for the audience? It’s a bigger field of pixels to gawk at, which is nice — but at what price? Not just the cost of buying get another dedicated piece of hardware, but the hassle of lugging it around and making space for it at home/office. Basically, the consumer is being asked to invest in yet another screen, on top of the TV, primary computer, phone, e-book, etc. I see this as a very tough sell, especially considering the locked-content (i.e., non-Web) model that’s at the heart of these e-readers.

This all comes back to my skepticism that any of these dedicated screens, including the Kindle, will seriously challenge the iPhone/iPod Touch. What I said before applies:

I don’t see how the e-book readers can compete, frankly. Why lug around an extra, oversized display screen when you can carry around your library in your pocket? Obviously screen-size is sacrificed, but most people are accustomed to reading off their phone screens by now. If anything, I see the Kindle, [Sony] Reader, et al becoming niche products, for those who can’t do without large-print reading; everyone else will do their e-book reading via iPhone/iTouch. The disruption comes from including the e-book capabilities in the price of the device, versus shelling out a few hundred dollars for a separate reader.

When your third screen is already in your pocket, why bother with another one that you have to carry under your arm?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/04/2021 10:37:34 PM
Category: Publishing, Tech, iPod
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Despite favoring its distinct absence in Roberto Bolaño’s “2666″, it’s clear that Geoff Nicholson, the blogger of Psycho-Gourmet, actually gets off on the culinary detailing of food in novels.

It’s all very well for Bob Cratchit and his family to sit down to a Christmas goose whose “tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness” were “the themes of universal admiration.” But since I’m likely to be reading this while sitting alone on the couch sustained only by instant coffee, I tend to develop a bad case of food envy. It’s a lot like sex, I think. I don’t want characters in novels to eat better than I do, any more than I want them to have better sex lives than I do. I’ve realized that the moments of literary eating I like best are the ones in which the characters suffer because of their food.

For me, unless it’s particularly germane to the story, such minute enumeration about what’s on a character’s plate comes off as boring. I put it in the same category as my general disdain for overwrought physical or facial descriptions in the written narrative — it tends to bog down the plot for what I feel is an unnecessary attempt at fleshing-out the character. So since I feel that way about actual walking-talking story elements, you can imagine how much of a waste of letters I consider a deep-drilled description of breakfast, lunch, or dinner would be.

I suppose this is, once again, “a failure of synthetic imagination on my part”, to quote McInerney, dovetailing with my general indifference toward elaborate foodstuffs. I’m not sure which of my palates I should work on first: My gastronomic or my literary.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/04/2021 11:48:18 AM
Category: Creative, Food, Publishing
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Skate Canada has deemed that the flamboyancy that is male figure skating needs some straightening out (pardon the pun):

“It’s just as tough as football,” said Canadian figure skater Jeremy Ten, ranked third in Canada. “We aren’t tackling each other, but we are hitting the ice pretty hard. We’re hitting the boards; we’re scraping our shins and cutting ourselves.”

Along with the more masculine presentation, skating officials say it’s also time to throw away the frilly, sequin-clad outfits in favor of simpler, more uniform looks.

The attempted rebranding of the sport has outraged many gay advocacy groups, who say it’s nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on skating’s sizable gay audience.

Did the sport’s governing body just now figure out that the decades-long standard of multicolored spandex garb might not gibe with male sports fans? What happened, did SC get ahold of a copy of Blades of Glory or something?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/04/2021 11:02:58 AM
Category: Movies, Other Sports, Society
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Sunday, May 03, 2021

Imagine my amazement to find out recently that Straight Edge, basically a Puritanical strain of punk attitude that originated at the start of my teen years, somehow is still around a couple of decades later.

I never would have bet on the nonconformist abstinence from drugs, alcohol, sex, and general fun persisting for so long. For what it’s worth, when I was growing up, teen Straight Edgers paradoxically tended to be an unstable lot: They’d adhere to their strictures all right, but with a practically addictive mania that made you figure they’d snap at any given moment (and they often did).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/03/2021 08:16:33 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Society
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I pride myself on having enough hipster cred to have recognized just who was being described in this New York Times mock-memo to Hollywood studio heads:

You all keep trying to make Rock Hudson-Doris Day-style romantic comedies with the golden guys and gals of the moment, and the results are sexless, subtextless, bland career-girl-in-search-of-Mr.-Right retreads. Meanwhile, a bunch of hungry directors with digital cameras, time on their hands and not much money are making free-form studies about tentative hookups and long conversations among actual, overeducated, undermotivated young folks.

Hollywood, it’s time to co-opt those dudes! Give them enough money for song credits and some production values and let them reinvent movie romance for this age of diffident couplings and vigorous social networking. And dudes, remember: you’re never too young or too hip to sell out.

Although maybe typical development hell and mumblecore ethos simply don’t mix:

But Hollywood may not have the patience for Bujalski, Swanberg and the others. Their stories need room to stretch. They don’t scream big box-office weekend, but more like a patient platform release. And while the fits-and-starts of awkward conversation are the tools of their drama, they themselves may have no patience for the confusing, black hole conversations involved in some studio development. These filmmakers want to keep making films, not conference call about it endlessly.

And I would bet that many of these filmmakers have gone down this intensely frustrating development road with Hollywood and, quite rightly, figured that they could have made a movie in the time they were waiting for a call-back.

I guess none of that really matters, since it appears that mumblecore played itself out a couple of years ago anyway.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/03/2021 04:27:49 PM
Category: Movies
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Having been exposed to an inordinate amount of inspirational/motivational quotations of late, I’ve somehow absorbed and re-synthesized them into an original aphorism of my own.

At least, I’m pretty sure it’s my own original. I’ve search-engined around and can’t find anything close to this, so somehow, despite what I consider to be an obvious sentiment, I’m the first to express it. Here it is:

A promise is the only thing in the world that is easier to give than it is to keep.

Feel free to spread this wondrous word, assigning full credit to me, of course.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/03/2021 11:28:10 AM
Category: Creative, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, May 02, 2021

credit
So I finally got my swag from running that No Fear “Earn Some Cred” contest: A 12-pack of double-shot cans of No Fear Energy Bloodshot and a black No Fear t-shirt.

I have to say, I was anticipating just giving away both prizes. I’m not much for chugging energy drinks, and No Fear’s branding is really a better fit for someone 10-20 years younger than my 37-year-old hide. Such concerns were why I originally had misgivings about taking Tara up on the offer of hosting the giveaway.

But, now that I’ve got the stuff in my hot little hands, I do think I’ll keep it. I tried a can of Bloodshot, and I like it. I figured the blood orange (blood orange, bloodshot — get it?) and dragonfruit flavoring would be citrusy-bitter enough that it would suit my palate, and I was right. It doesn’t taste nearly as sugary-sweet as Red Bull or the other ultra-caffeinated fizzy drinks. It’s definitely not for everyone — for instance, the inimitable Marvo of The Impulsive Buy gave it a thumbs-down. But I like it. Which I’m sure means that it’ll fail to catch on and be discontinued soon enough, much like the similarly-flavored and long-extinct 180, which I also liked.

As for the t-shirt, I was pleasantly surprised by the super-stylized No Fear logo on it. If you squint, you can see it on the contest image above (the third shirt on the right). For some reason, it comes off as less skateboarder-ish than the standard skull-and-wings orange-bordered version. So I can see myself wearing it, and so I will. Besides, at a Large size, it’s too big to hand down to my 8-year-old nephew, so I might as well make use of it myself.

No telling how long either the t-shirt or the 12-pack will last me. Maybe long enough until the next trinket giveaway comes my way.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/02/2021 01:59:23 PM
Category: Fashion, Food
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a third
It’s a ridiculously thin excuse for a news piece (is it supposed to be a quick-hit item, or an unfinished article spec?), but this Fortune Tech Daily piece on positioning the iPhone and its apps as more small-business appropriate than BlackBerry contains an interesting measure of how people stretch the capabilities of mobile devices:

[Jason Miller, owner of San Diego construction and design company Wise Man, says] his managers travel among construction sites, and they use an iPhone app called Air Sharing to trade blueprints and time-tracking software TSheets to monitor workers’ hours. The GasBag app helps the team find the lowest fuel prices in San Diego County. Miller, who says he has spent about $100 on iPhone software, personally does about 30% of his “computing” on the iPhone, the rest on an office desktop.

I can relate, because I estimate that I also do about a third of my daily online work via the iPhone platform — but, crucially, I use my iPod Touch. The chief limitation I have is dependence upon a wi-fi connection to accomplish my tasks, unlike iPhone users who have their data/phone connection. If I had an iPhone, I’d be able to get even more done; if Verizon Wireless and Apple really do link up, I’m probably there. As it is, since I’m in New York, finding a wireless connection while on the go isn’t too much of a hassle (although again, not as automatic as having a built-in signal).

It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who makes use of his pocket-sized device so effectively. Among other things it tells me that netbooks probably have a short lifespan.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/02/2021 12:40:11 PM
Category: Business, Tech, Wi-Fi, iPod
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Friday, May 01, 2021

So much for television reporters filling the void resulting from the collapse of the newspaper industry: Even though many local stations are expanding their newshours, they’re cutting back on staff and other essential resources.

Resulting in a fairly shallow product:

So how do you fill more hours of news with the same or fewer people to do the work? [KMGH-TV Denver news director Jeff] Harris suggested many will begin looking more and more like cable news, with the same stories repeated and repackaged - the idea being viewers come and go during a two-hour morning news block instead of watching the whole thing through.

Seems like an extremely shortsighted strategy. It’s super cheap to extend airtime for local TV news because it’s a particularly attractive buy for advertisers; therefore that additional airtime is offset by more easily-sold ad dollars. But that works because the advertisers presume they’re getting placement before rapt eyeballs watching breaking/relevant news. Putting the same (or less) amount of content into a supersized package just diutes the product. Eventually the audience and the advertisers are going to figure that out, the ad rates will decline, and the on-air presentation and infrastructure will follow.

And aside from the business considerations, this is yet another symptom of the drying up of origination reporting, i.e. the “headwaters” of the news biz. I’m still waiting to hear what’s going to replace the much-maligned ink-and-paper crowd when it comes to uncovering stories, because obviously the boob-tubers will be too multitasked to do it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/01/2021 01:08:57 PM
Category: Media, TV
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I captured this little yellow skeleton/totem-like stickman on my cameraphone while waiting to cross Bowery in SoHo (Flickrized here). He’s situated near the street corner (that white patch in the upper-left is the pedestrian crossing line), and is painted on the asphalt with road-grade paint. So whoever planted him intended to have him stay there for a while.

The thing is, he’s completely standalone — no accompanying words or symbols to give him context. So he’s a bit of a mystery man. If anyone knows what he’s selling, let me know. Not that I’ll lose any sleep over it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/01/2021 12:15:33 PM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Photography
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Even before the porkish community prompted a renaming, the spread of the dreaded “swine flu” brought to my mind my old “Suicide Swine” post, with the accompanying pig self-slicing image.

Frankly, I think the CDC et al missed the boat. They could have repurposed this cheerfully vintage sausage ad placard into some sort of health-crisis warning. Just so long as they stayed away from the French-to-English ad copy translation.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any comparable H1N1 virus imagery to share. Probably wouldn’t be nearly as festive.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/01/2021 11:26:45 AM
Category: Comedy, Science, Society
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