Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, November 23, 2021

While economic analysts predict a disappointing 2007 holiday season due to U.S. recession fears, retail is getting a compensatory boost from across the borders on the official kickoff of the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. Thanks to a weak dollar, today’s Friday is the new black for foreign visitors hitting the malls:

But for those who are enjoying the strength of the euro, pound, yen and other currencies against the moribund dollar, Black Friday provides an added reason to go on a shopping binge. Tourists not only get more bang for their buck, so to speak, but also get to buy things at the steep discounts for which Black Friday is known…

Whether or not increased sales to shoppers from outside the U.S. will be enough to make Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season a success, in light of all the concerns about the health of the U.S. consumer, remains to be seen.

But retailers certainly should be prepared to say “gracias,” “danke,” “arigato” and thanks in many other languages if fourth quarter sales turn out to be better than expected.

In addition to the cheeky translations for “Black Friday” — Vendredi Noir (French), Schwarzer Freitag (German), Viernes Negro (Spanish) — let me contribute the Greek version: Μαύρη Παρασκευή. That’s on behalf of that smattering of Helenes tossing down their Euros, most likely in Manhattan somewhere.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/23/2007 08:21:45 PM
Category: Business
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Thursday, November 22, 2021

In a clever color-coordination designation with Black Friday, the widening trend of Thanksgiving Day retail openings is being dubbed “Gray Thursday”.

I like it. Especially the implication that the preceding days of the year are somehow pure/white, with the impending blackness of hardcore consumerism seeping in on Turkey Day to create some preemptive dinginess.

I should point out, though, that while the “gray” syncs well with the “black” syntax-wise, it veers off the true ledger-book definition. The “black” in Black Friday refers to traditional accounting terminology, where black ink was used for profits while red ink was used for losses. The underlying theory behind Black Friday is that it’s the first day of the year that retail businesses get in the clear of deficit or break-even, and make their annual profit — out of the red and into the black (hopefully).

So based on this — a blending of red and black, instead of white and black — I guess the proper color to signify a big-sale Thanksgiving Thursday should… Some sort of dark red? Maroon Thursday? Let’s stick with “gray” instead…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/22/2007 09:56:39 AM
Category: Business, Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, November 21, 2021

When it was pointed out how Facebook’s new Social Ads program likely is playing fast-and-loose with users’ privacy and consent, I considered the issue to be, ultimately, too abstract to faze the majority of Facebookers. As long as it didn’t detract from user experience, the behind-the-scenes swapping of sensitive demographic info between Facebook and other companies wouldn’t register.

Well, it turns out the process isn’t so behind-the-scenes, thanks to a marketing-feed app called Beacon:

The new program lets companies tap ongoing conversations by alerting users about friends’ activities through the feeds. About 40 Web sites have decided to embed a free tool from Facebook, known as a Beacon, to enable the marketing feeds.

The idea is that if users see a friend buy or do something, they’d take that action as an endorsement for a movie, a band or a soft drink.

But it also raises privacy concerns.

Mike Mayer, for instance, saw a feed item saying his boyfriend, Adam Sofen, just bought tickets to “No Country For Old Men” from movie-ticket vendor Fandango.

“What if I was seeing ‘Fred Claus’?” said Sofen, 28. “That would have been much more embarrassing. At least this was a prestigious movie.”

Embarrassment is one thing. But I’m betting these social-network butterflies would get even more peeved at the prospect of a spoiled surprise:

“People should be given much more of a notice, much more of an alert,” said Matthew Helfgott, 20, a college student who discovered his girlfriend just bought him black leather gloves from Overstock for Hanukkah. “She said she had no idea [information would be shared]. She said it invaded her privacy.”

This is what it’ll come down to: Dead-simple practical examples of what happens when your online persona is tracked. If Facebookers find out they can’t buy something — a present, a book, whatever — and not have their online friends find out indiscriminately, then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they’re going to start leaving the site.

I figured the online generation knew no boundaries in their disregard for personal disclosure, but this episode looks to be the virtual brick wall. Facebook is practically sabotaging itself out of relevance by sticking with this format, and I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t move quickly (i.e., the next few days) to start implementing opt-outs to quell this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/21/2007 09:42:59 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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Sunday, November 18, 2021

Riding on its late momentum, Facebook launched its Social Ads initiative to demonstrate how it can make money in an innovative, seemingly user-friendly (even user-engaging) way.

Aside from questions about the legality of auto-recruiting members into advertising campaigns, some are now criticizing just how Facebook is rigging the default user settings to build an essentially shanghai-based ad network.

To give you an idea, when Leah Pearlman announced SocialAds on the Facebook blog, she claimed that Facebook would never “sell any of your information”. But… hmm… aren’t my demographics *my information*? Isn’t what type of movie I like *my information*? Who is Facebook to determine what my information is? Even though companies can’t identify me personally, they are paying Facebook for my age, my interests, and other things about me that make me who I am.

And really, does Facebook think that Blockbuster doesn’t have my identity here? I need an account to rent a movie… so obviously Blockbuster knows who I am. So Facebook is kind of saying “we’re not going to give any identifiable information to 3rd parties… as you’ve already done that”. It really doesn’t matter that Facebook doesn’t give up my email… that’s a cop-out. What they’re doing is connecting the dots… in an under-handed way.

On one level, Facebook is no different from every other software application, on the Web or off. Everyone knows (or should know) that a program’s default settings determine the vast majority of usage patterns. For instance, how many billions of Excel files are floating around out there with the standard three worksheets within the workbook — even though only one of the worksheets has any actual data on it? Even experienced users don’t bother diving into options menus to change settings unless there’s a really compelling reason to do so. In that sense, Facebook isn’t doing anything particularly new, and thus not particularly malicious.

The tricky part is that “connecting the dots” business. If Facebook really is serving as a bridge to deliver key trigger information to its partners, then that’s a serious breach of trust. It’s as though Facebook is pooling fragments of user demographics with other user-frequented sources, thereby building a data-mined version of marketing cryptography.

This is mostly speculative, but given the capabilities of software aggregation databases, not at all out of the range of possibility. If the goal is to build consumer profiles toward which to target the most refined marketing pitches possible — the greatest bang for the buck via honed audiences — then Social Ads could be the glue that helps all the other elements stick together.

I haven’t joined up on Facebook yet. When/if I do, I’ll have to cook up a bunch of fake personal info. No sense in helping them build a more-perfect machine.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/18/2007 11:37:39 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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Here’s a shout-out post to Bryson Nobles, who’s just launched his personal entrepreneurial blog, CEO Swagger.

I’ve been working with Bryson on The 8trk Project. Since I encouraged him to keep a blog in support of that venture, I’ll take partial credit for putting the bug in his ear to branch out to his own site. I think the new blog will highlight his drive to carry out Web-based business concepts, from idea-germination through to functionality, and beyond.

Hopefully, the swagger will start soon enough with 8trk, as soon as that site is ready for public unwrapping a few weeks from now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/18/2007 06:18:03 PM
Category: 8trk, Bloggin', Business
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Wednesday, November 14, 2021

How big of a believer in the new free-for-all Facebook is Lee Lorenzen? Enough so that that he’s starting a venture capital fund available exclusively to developers producing Facebook applications/widgets.

What does he expect the return-on-investment to be?

Lorenzen, based in Monterey, Calif., has founded several companies, including Shop.com, and is unfazed by criticism. He truly believes Facebook will be huge and that it is the first mainstream social operating system, taking a page from the playbook of Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former self-proclaimed evangelist.

Lorenzen thinks Facebook will eventually become a massive Web-based mall, but with much more value because people are shopping based on their friends recommendations, with Facebook as their main portal.

The first step in that evolution was the company’s introduction last week of its Social Ads. The idea is that a purchase made by a Facebook member on other Web sites can be listed on their page, allowing their friends see, for example, what book they bought on the other site.

Is Facebook the long-awaited critical-mass online hangout? I really don’t see it. In the popular consciousness, MySpace is probably a stronger, more recognizable brand. Facebook’s stolen the thunder in terms of buzzworthiness, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way — especially not with the synergies possible at MySpace parent company News Corp. Add in the innate fickleness of social networking participants, and I’m secure in my skepticism.

If anything, I’d have guessed some VC — Lorenzen or someone else — would have anointed Second Life as the messianist online community, just by virtue of all the marketing efforts directed there. Not to mention that SL’s wholly graphical interfaces, with animated avatars and rendered landscapes, make that site that much more inviting than Facebook’s text-based format.

I’m sure Lorenzen will burn through a sizable hunk of cash before it becomes apparent that he’s bet on the wrong pony. If his fund has anything left over, maybe he can use that to seed the next Big Thing Online.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/14/2007 10:58:18 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Monday, November 12, 2021

Not long ago, I noted how the formerly chic “e” prefix used for early-wave Internet entities — think eBay, E*TRADE, even email — had been supplanted by the new-wave “i”, as in iPhone and iGoogle. I also absently wondered which would be the next letter to come along and signify bleeding-edge Web with-it-ness.

It looks like a less-obvious and more reductive answer has emerged: Instead of adding a letter, the new style is to remove a pesky vowel or two to achieve latter-day branding power.

That’s the methodology used to update fusty old eProject, first named in 1997, to its current re-brand of Daptiv:

Daptiv is a good choice because “it sounds very current,” [Catchword principal Burt Alper] adds, noting the trend “to alter spellings to create distinctions,” citing the Motorola Razr cellphone and the photo-sharing Web site Flickr.

“But since Daptiv is based on a real English word,” Mr. Alper says, “there’s also a sense of stability” that may be missing from more fanciful coined words.

“It’s also short and easy to pronounce,” he adds, “and the dot-com domain was available for registration.”

It’s actually something of a miracle that any semi-sensible URL is free for the picking, what with domain-squatters scooping up speculative letter combinations.

I’ll note that I, myself, am currently working with a prime example of this vowel-less phenomenon: 8trk. Yes, I’m part of the problem (or the solution, depending on your perspective).

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/12/2021 10:45:55 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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Thursday, November 08, 2021

Here’s the scene from this morning, 9AM-ish, as I walked in front of the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

Yes, the television writers’ strike has hit the Big Apple, with the Writers Guild of America, East making their presence felt.

You can make out the barricade barriers that surround the strikers. The whole group — probably about a dozen by my count — were corralled into this little patch of sidewalk. There was no way to not notice them, with that giant inflatable pig fronting them. But they definitely looked like they were caged in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/08/2021 10:32:33 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin', TV
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Monday, November 05, 2021

Gee, I didn’t see this one coming. Acknowledging that he’s cobbled together the corporate equivalent of a Frankenstein’s monster, Barry Diller announced that IAC/InteractiveCorp will be split into five separate companies, in order to pull the old “unlock the entities’ stock value” maneuver.

Diller’s other motivation: To get John Malone off his back.

Here’s the shape of things to come:

When the transaction is complete, the five businesses will include:

* IAC — This unit will own Web sites such as Ask.com, Match.com and Excite as well as several other Internet properties including Bloglines, Citysearch, Gifts.com and CollegeHumor and investments in sites such as Active.com, Points.com and Brightcove.

* HSN — This unit will be comprised of IAC/InteractiveCorp’s current retailing businesses that include HSN TV, HSN.com and Cornerstone Brands as well as a portfolio of catalogs and retail stores.

* Ticketmaster — Includes properties such as Admission.com, Biletix, Billetnet, BillettService, LiveDaily, TicketService and TicketWeb as well as investments in Frontline and iLike.

* LendingTree — The parent’s financial arm will be spun off to include the LendingTree.com business as well as RealEstate.com, Domania, GetSmart, Home Loan Center and iNest.

* Interval International — This unit will also include CondoDirect, Resort Quest Hawaii and VacationSource.com.

It always amazed me that shareholders and partners went along with Diller’s years-long un-strategy of simply throwing money at anything that sorta/kinda hinted at online business. I guess nothing lasts forever. Let’s see if he can resist a repeat of the mish-mosh acquisition approach when he’s in charge of the reduced IAC remnant company.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/05/2021 10:52:14 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Media
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Saturday, November 03, 2021

Apparently, banks are making big money by collecting on bankruptcy-discharged debts, based on outdated information on credit reports:

Legally, the issue is murky. Bankruptcy law bans efforts to collect discharged debt, but BusinessWeek says the courts are divided on whether a lender’s failure to update a credit report can be considered an improper attempt to collect. That ambiguity opens the door for lenders to pursue payment on obligations that in theory should be worthless.

Here’s what I don’t understand: If those obligations are worthless, then who gets the money collected on these phantom debts? If no one is legally entitled to that repayment, then isn’t the latter-day recipient — i.e., those collection agencies who bought the debt paper — essentially shaking people down for money by threatening to inflict black marks on a credit report? If anything, the paper acquirer would have a fraudulence claim against the financial institution that sold them the misidentified debts; but that would then be a business-to-business issue, and shouldn’t involve the individuals.

The whole system is shady. I can’t believe these databases can be so sloppily maintained. Every other aspect of the financial system — especially when it comes to corporate banking — are meticulously checked and re-checked for accuracy. But personal financial information is allowed to remain error-marred for years? I’m thinking there’s loads of culpability to go around here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/03/2021 08:12:43 PM
Category: Business, Society
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Tuesday, October 30, 2021

Daylight Saving Time sorta sneaks up on us this year — a week later than usual, AKA this coming weekend. That’s causing problems for software and (especially) electronics that are on the old schedule:

It’s devices that aren’t connected to a wired or wireless network — including many wrist watches, alarm clocks and VCRs — that need extra attention. These often are the devices that need to be reset after a power outage, said Jenny Pareti, spokeswoman for [the Consumer Electronics Association].

“Anything that isn’t connected to a network or a broadcast source will need to be manually reset,” she said. If the product was made before August 2005 and it uses an internal calendar, owners should disable the daylight saving time feature and/or change the time manually, according to the group.

To me, this indicates that manufacturers of digital clocks and the like are due for a healthy spike in sales, as people junk their outmoded, non-patchable devices rather than put up with the hassle.

And that’s just one of the tangible business benefits of DST:

Of course, the candy manufacturers are likely happy about the change too, [Tufts University professor Michael] Downing said.

“They’ve been pushing for it for 30 years,” he said, adding that candy manufacturers think they’d be able to profit enormously if kids stay out an extra hour trick-or-treating.

It’s a possibility: When a month of daylight saving time was added in the 1980s, both the barbeque industry and the golf industry saw increases in sales due to the extra hours of light people had after work, Downing said.

So I guess this is all grist for the mill for those clock-conspiracy theorists out there.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/30/2007 10:22:54 PM
Category: Business, Tech
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Saturday, October 27, 2021

As soon as I find out that a giant third Apple Store in Manhattan is going up in the Meatpacking District (I was actually tipped off by a colleague), I learn that Apple is scouting out yet another new location.

Manhattan store #4 is likely to be on W. 34th Street, across from the Empire State Building. That’s primarily tourista territory, although if they really wanted to scoop that market, a storefront in Times Square would be more to the point.

As if that’s not a veritable bushel of Apples, Brooklyn is being rumored for the site of yet another Macs-and-iPods outlet.

All that’s not even counting the other existing Apple store in the five boroughs, in Staten Island. Memo to Steve Jobs: NYC is fairly covered, thanks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/27/2007 07:04:41 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin', Tech
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Tuesday, October 23, 2021

What do you do when you’re accused of indiscriminate and fatal paramilitary blunders in Iraq?

Naturally, if you’re Blackwater USA Worldwide, you roll out a less-threatening, more professional-looking corporate logo.

The rifle-scope crosshairs so obvious in the old Blackwater logo have been reduced to a set of horizontal elipses that bracket, but no longer enclose, the paw print, which has also changed to more closely resemble an actual bear-paw imprint. The original Blackwater logo had thick white serif lettering draped over the crosshairs on a menacing black field. The new logo separates the image and the letters, which now appear in buttoned-down sans-serif black and slightly italicized on a white field.

Though the red elipses in the new logo retain the horizontal crosshairs, the overall look is far less “kick your butt” and much more “quarterly report,” some branding experts said. The new logo, which began to appear on some Blackwater material in late July, may also speak volumes about the company’s desire to begin its second decade on a more anodyne note.

“I would say it’s a highly significant change; they’re repositioning themselves,” said Lauren Miller, the owner of MDesign, a graphic design firm in New York. “The old logo suggests that they’re targeting people. The new logo is a more ambiguous, more safe corporate logo.”

The new look may indeed be a more high-tech, truer-to-real-life crosshairs scope, but it certainly comes off as less specific. It almost looks like the paw is surrounded by parentheses.

I don’t know if this is intentional, but the Blackwater site’s favicon image retains the old killer-sights look, as shown here in the second image above. The shoddier Web-design outfits routinely overlook this subtle element of a website, so I’m assuming that’s what’s happened here. If, by chance, they come across this critique, I’ll go ahead and help them out by pointing them toward Chami/HTML-Kit’s FavIcon Generator, where they can quickly correct their oversight.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/23/2007 10:52:48 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Politics
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Monday, October 22, 2021

In an effort to ease the chronic delays at New York’s chronically-congested three international airports, governmental authorities are cooking up a plan for a voluntary scale-back of the volume of flights in and out of the metropolitan area.

I’m curious: I see no mention in this planning of the role of Stewart International Airport, which is slated by the Port Authority of NY/NJ to become the region’s fourth major airport.

In fact, the Port Authority is taking Stewart under its operational umbrella (effective November 1) specifically to take the overflow of air traffic from the three airports to its south. So if that’s the plan, why bother with this reduction plan? Is it strictly a short-term move, until Stewart is up to speed in its safety-valve role?

Of course, I’m of the belief that Stewart’s never going to see a bunch of passenger flights diverted its way from Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark. The Orange County airfield, owing to its location near interstate crossroads, makes more sense as a destination for much of the air-cargo flights that now head into the boroughs and New Jersey; that would free up plenty of gates for passengers closer to Manhattan.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/22/2007 10:57:01 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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Thursday, October 18, 2021

In response to findings from the University of East Anglia that say cursing in the workplace promotes employee stress-relief and team-building, all I can say is…

Wait for it…

FUCK YEAH! Finally, a work-related program I can fucking well get with.

Oh, shit shoot. I’m not currently at work. So I guess I should desist with the foul language.

What am I saying? I’m a consultant, damn it. I’m always working. Damn right. Damn hell ass kings right.

With that out of the way:

This reminds me of a specific cursing-related workplace incident, when I was in the newspaper biz, on the St. Petersburg Times sports desk. A new copy editor had joined the staff, bringing with him a professional but decidedly rough-around-the-edges demeanor. Even in a room filled with daily deadline pressures, where swear words flew with fair frequency, his foul mouth stood out.

Apparently, what was tolerable on the paper’s third floor wasn’t kosher on the second floor, where the physical paste-up of pages took place. One night, said editor took his turn downstairs to help manage the flow of stories. It was a typically hairy night of right-up-against deadline scrambling, with a few dozen mini-crises to resolve.

At one point, a phone call came from the paste-up area. Apparently, the editor let loose freely with his blue language, not specifically toward anyone but at the situation in general. The result was a shell-shocked group of paste-up artists, who were sufficiently rattled that they requested someone else come down as a substitute.

It was the only time in my several years with the paper that I remember language being an incident. I found it pretty funny, as I came into the field expecting the pressure-valve spewing to be part of the terrain.

Anyway. That copy editor didn’t last very long. I don’t think his propensity for cursing necessarily did him in. As for the rest of us, we kept up our own four-lettered pace. And I have to say, it did serve as a bit of a bonding agent, especially when we’d get a laugh out of a particularly well-delivered profanity.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/18/2007 11:17:30 PM
Category: Business, Publishing, Society
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Wednesday, October 17, 2021

Silly money is once again pouring into Silicon Valley startups, which signals the onset of Dot-Com Bubble 2.0, to be followed by Dot-Com Burst 2.0.

Or not. Because this time around, the inflated valuations are coming — and indeed, being solicited — from a different source:

The greed bubble collapsed like a Ponzi scheme. It turned out that these companies had spent all the money they raised on Super Bowl ads, robotic warehouses, and gleaming offices to hold hundreds of people. Yet there just wasn’t enough money to pay the bills, especially since the biggest source of revenue for many Internet companies was advertising from dot-coms that had just raised a round of venture capital or gone public. Most of these companies were so overextended they couldn’t adjust to the new reality: The Internet may change everything, but it takes a while.

The fear bubble has a completely different dynamic. The main drama revolves around the slowing growth of the winners of the last round — Yahoo, eBay, AOL, Microsoft. They are mainly worried about how Google is sucking up all the consumer attention and advertising money. They also worry that some little start-up will turn into the next Google.

So out of fear, these companies are trying to regain their youthful growth through acquisitions — lots of little companies like Flickr and some big ones like Skype and Avenue A.

That’s a somewhat convoluted way of saying that the merger and acquisitions market is creating the value of the average Web 2.0 startup. The stock market plays more of a secondary role, in the fluctuations of established companies’ share prices; therefore, initial public offerings don’t come into play.

Which, actually, is nothing new. As far back as 2005, it was recognized that the new start-up strategy wasn’t to achieve an IPO and stake out territory as a going concern. Rather, the idea was to position the company as a rapid-growth niche player, to the point where one (or, ideally, more) of the existing Web giants would take notice and come knocking with a buyout offer.

Presumably, this latter-day Buyout Bubble will pop as soon as the stock market starts penalizing the Googles and Yahoos for writing multi-million dollar checks for, essentially, phantom companies. That means relying on the wisdom of the financial crowds — a dicey proposition if I ever heard one.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/17/2007 11:29:56 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Following the lead of Starbucks and its coffeebar-distributed recording label, Victoria’s Secret is finding its musical synergy with the Spice Girls, in the form of becoming the exclusive retail distributor for the re-formed group’s greatest hits album.

Girl Power with garters? In this case, it’s a match — a marketing-manufactured match, given that both sides of this equation owe more to hype than to actual quality.

Which brings to mind a particularly telling Chris Rock joke from his movie I Think I Love My Wife (I’m paraphrasing from memory, since I can’t find the exact quote online):

“I’m buying records in a record store, while I still can. With Starbucks selling music, pretty soon you’ll have to go to a liquor store to buy gangsta rap CDs!”

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/17/2007 10:51:00 PM
Category: Business, Movies, Pop Culture
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Monday, October 15, 2021

legal tender
Despite the dribs-and-drabs pace, I’m overall fairly satisfied with my Google AdSense revenue generation hereabouts.

But after seeing the ridiculous dollar amounts some law firms are paying for choice keyword bids, I’m thinking I ought to start up a “Legal” category on my blog.

“Christmas recipes,” for instance, was going for 54 cents per click the other day. “Britney Spears” cost 36 cents, and “Britney Spears nude” only 21 cents.

But “Oakland personal injury lawyer” cost $58.03. “Asbestos attorney” cost $51.68. And “mesothelioma attorney Texas” — mesothelioma is a kind of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos — cost $65.21.

I’ve come across comment-board rumors of folks lucking into such a mega-clickthru; I think the publisher nets something between $10-$20 from it. I wouldn’t mind experiencing that kind of single-click payout just once — or twice!

Is this really shyster territory? To the extent that these lawyers shoot for quantity over quality, yes:

Ted Frank, the director of the Legal Center for the Public Interest at the American Enterprise Institute, said the fact that some personal injury lawyers were willing to pay $60 a click was telling, particularly given that relatively few of those clicks would bring in actual business.

“These lawyers don’t really litigate cases — they settle cases,” Mr. Frank said. “And they need a big inventory of cases. The only job of the attorney is to come up with the clients.”

“There is nothing wrong with what Google is doing,” he added. “There is nothing wrong with advertising for clients. It’s just fascinating that clients are worth so much.”…

The market for Google search terms says something, then, about the market for plaintiffs’ lawyers. For reasons that baffle economists, personal injury lawyers all charge roughly the same amount for their services, typically a third to 40 percent of any recovery.

“What explains this puzzle?” asked Alex Tabarrok, who teaches economics at George Mason University. “No one knows.” It may be, he said, that offering to work for less might be thought to signal that you are a bad lawyer.

In any event, Mr. Frank said, the high prices on Google are a direct consequence of this economic anomaly.

“Instead of competing on price,” he said of plaintiffs’ lawyers, “they compete on Google.”

Like I said, too bad I’m not writing about legal matters, like How Appealing. Of course, I did just publish this very post, laden with legalese… So, let’s see some action!

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/15/2007 11:45:34 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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I’ve made note of the proliferation of bank branches in New York City, both in terms of breadth and by their uneven distribution between rich and poor neighborhoods.

The same mushrooming is taking place in other U.S. metros, and those two trends are reaching a breaking point in the nation’s capital. Metro Washington DC is mulling measures to restrict the opening of new branches across a commercial landscape that’s already perceived as saturated.

In [the Adams Morgan area], Wachovia is taking over space once occupied by shops that sold electronics and antiques. The neighborhood’s crossroads already offers five banks. “We’re becoming a neighborhood of bars and banks,” said Brian Weaver, an advisory neighborhood commissioner.

That’s better than the trifecta of Starbucks, Duane Reades and banks, as is the case in Manhattan…

It’s amusing to think of banks as retail-choking city scourge, as one Windy City politico does:

The rise in branches has prompted some cities to devise controls. A Chicago alderman became so alarmed by the proliferation that she drafted a law requiring that banks obtain permits to open within 600 feet of one another.

“We had them in every block,” said the alderman, Vi Daley. “They were destroying my streets.”

One would presume that if the banks couldn’t make money at their high-rent locales, they’d just close up shop. But maintaining their physical outlets is obviously paying off, if they’re so hell-bent on expanding.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/15/2007 10:40:06 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin', Society
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Sunday, October 14, 2021

It’s time to lift the veil, such as it were.

I’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes work with the team starting up The 8trk Project, chiefly on the business-development and marketing side. That’s recently included a smattering of posts to the official blog. I chose “free_agent” as my moniker there, a double-entendre referring to both my role with the venture and my relationship with regards to “head coach”, who’s one of the founding partners.

What’s 8trk about? As I’ve alluded in previous posts here, it’s an attempt to bring the worlds of social networking and music enthusiasm together. How we bring that together is already an evolving process, and it’s fascinating to see how all the pieces are falling into place — in both positive and not-so-positive directions, depending on everyone’s perspectives.

As the post just prior to this one indicates, I’ll start cross-posting entries from the 8trk Blog to here. I don’t know that I’ll do it consistently; while I plan to markedly increase entries there, they won’t always be a good fit on PopStat. Besides, in the short time that I’ve been posting there, I’ve tried to cultivate a different, more off-the-cuff blog voice for 8trk, so it makes sense in my mind to limit the crossover. We’ll see.

More details as I deem appropriate. It’s my first real experience with a Web startup — let alone a Web 2.0 startup — so I’m really soaking things in at this stage. Where it goes is almost besides the point right now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/14/2007 10:14:54 PM
Category: 8trk, Business
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Saturday, October 13, 2021

Considering how government-run lotteries rely upon the lure of the big-purse payout to sell tickets, there’s some irony in how some states are regarding the privatization of their lotteries as billion-dollar jackpot opportunities.

“I think there is so much potential there,” [California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger] told reporters. “We have gotten numbers all the way up to $37 billion. So I think the question really is, should we not really start thinking creatively here?”

Like shoppers at convenience stores who can’t resist placing bets when lotto jackpots get big enough, government officials in at least a dozen states are considering lottery privatizations — what would collectively amount to the biggest privatization of a government enterprise in American history.

In addition to California, investment-banking proposals for lottery-agency buyouts have been prepared for Indiana, Florida, and Texas. Other states, including big ones like New York and Illinois, are strongly considering the move.

The social issues are well-known: Lotteries, regardless of their best-intentions positioning as fundraisers for education, are essentially regressive taxes, and they appeal disproportionately to those who can least afford to sink money into them. And the fundamental issue is whether or not states should sell a high-profit margin operations for one-time lump sums, or else lease them with restrictions that would devalue them in the eyes of prospective investors.

But what I find most interesting is the appeal this concept holds for small-government proponents:

“It appeals to the governor because the state can get out of the gambling business,” says Robert Black, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

Which is ludicrous, since even a wholly-privatized lottery would still be subject to some degree of regulation, just as parimutuel gaming and casino licenses are. But the idea that a divestiture, at any level, could be presented as a cleansing from direct involvement in games of chance, is what makes this palatable for some statehouses.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/13/2007 07:42:56 PM
Category: Business, Politics
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