February 2005 Archives

As bloggers become the media

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MarketWatch: Why the bloggers frighten me (a little) -- Commentary: I still can't trust them to be accurate or fair.

The danger is that bloggers are going to embrace the worst aspects of tabloids. That means, as the saying goes, they'll throw their content against a wall, and if it sticks, they'll publish it, no matter how wild or trivial it might be.
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Ultimately, the best of the bloggers are as legitimate as their print counterparts at newspapers and magazines - and they're performing a public service by beating their peers to big stories. They can offer just about as much immediacy as radio and television news outlets, and that keeps traditional media on their toes.

Books -- Feb. 28

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Current:

"The Motley Fool Investment Guide" by David and Tom Gardner

"A New Song" by Jan Karon

Finished:

"Citizen Girl" by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

"Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink, A Newberry winner

"The Last Juror" by John Grishman

Wall Street Meat: My Narrow Escapefrom the Stock Market Grinder" by And Kessler

"Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson


Audio Books

Current:

"Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow

Finished:

"7 money mantras for a richer life [how to live well with the money you have]" by Michelle by Singletary.

"The essential 55 [an award-winning educator's rules for discovering the successful student in every child]" by Ron Clark

"A short history of nearly everything" by Bill Bryson

Good reading from ACBJ -- Feb. 28

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Atlanta Business Chronicle -- Not the first time for ChoicePoint: Company has faced at least 11 lawsuits

Business First of Buffalo -- Women run the show at most credit unions

Cincinnati Business Courier -- Procter/Gillette merger leaked? Investors reaped profits on options trading just before announcement

The Denver Business Journal -- Hidden danger: Air cargo security remains elusive in United States

Kansas City Business Journal -- Misplaced trust often plays a big role in embezzlements

San Francisco Business Times -- Gap trying on new sizes: Rollout of 'Petite' stores, 'Plus' line an attempt to better fit customers

How valuable is a cyber footprint?

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Wired -- Whither The Wall Street Journal? and PressThink -- A Little Detail in the Sale of About.com to the New York Times both touch on the view that because neither of the WSJ or NY Times show up high onsearch engines, they are losing their standing in the evolving media world.

Adam Penenberg in Wired: "Since most people refuse to pay for WSJ stories, most bloggers are reluctant to link to them. It also has an impact on anyone who uses the web for research -- and there are a lot of us. As importantly, the next generation of readers is growing up by accessing news over the internet, and one place they are not surfing to is WSJ.com. With their habits being formed now, there is little chance the Journal will become part of their lives, either now or in the future."

Jay Rosen in PressThink: 'More and more, we hear about a big battle that is either here or coming inside the Times over whether to charge users for online access, as the Wall Street Journal currently does. If that happens and the Washington Post remains free, the paths of those two great news organizations will, I believe, diverge."

Related piece in Forbes -- Stopping The Presses. "The Internet has changed the economics of the publishing industry in a way commercial television never did. The price of news and information has irrevocably been pushed way down the supply/demand curve. The Web has also destroyed the functional monopoly of the local daily newspaper with the very high barriers to technical entry. Anyone can be a publisher, and, it seems, these days, most anyone is."

A Martian sea

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NY Times -- Images Suggest 'Recent' Ice on Mars Sea. Ancient sea boosts confidence that bacteria may still live on planet. Also Space.com -- Ice Packs and Methane on Mars Suggest Present Life Possible, European Team Says

How hardy are bacteria? LiveScience -- Creatures Frozen for 32,000 Years Still Alive

The interactive Army

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The New Yorker -- Battle Lessons: What the generals don't know. Using email and web sites, U.S. Army officers are swapping information quickly, improving their ability to resolve issues and learn. Much of this has occurred without direct approval of higher officers. "Instead of looking up to the Army for instructions, they are teaching themselves how to fight the war. The Army, to its credit, stays out of their way." Tip: edcone.com

Trouble with spelling

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Washington Post -- Why Stevie Can't Spell:
After more than three decades of mangling words, a mortified writer sets out to get some answers

Being humiliated by spell-check is pretty much a daily occurrence for me
It isn't confusing just for bad spellers when there are at least a dozen ways to spell the long e sound: peel, key, tea, phoebe, tangerine, protein, fiend, she, people, ski, debris and quay. The bizarro spelling makes English incredibly difficult to learn, particularly for adults studying it as a second language, and acts as a drag chute on efforts to boost literacy. Ever since a 13th-century monk named Orm, no doubt tugging his halo of hair in frustration at the unholy mess he was forced to transcribe, became the first evangelist for spelling reform, men of letters have called for some serious tidying up of the English lexicon. They've included Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, the editors of the Chicago Tribune and George Bernard Shaw, who famously pointed out that "ghoti" could logically be pronounced fish using familiar English letter combinations (the g-h from rough, o from women and t-i from motion).

Also he discusses recent studies showing poor spellers could have a form of dyslexia.

10 good tips on successful blogging

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Good tips on having a successful blog from Dave Briggs at The Closed Circle. I especially liked suggestions Keep notes on everything and Make sure your presentation is good.

Good reading from ACBJ -- Feb. 21

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Baltimore Business Journal -- Comcast to unveil 'ads on demand'

The Business Journal of Milwaukee -- Wisconsin a test site for Volkswagen's offer of free car insurance

St. Louis Business Journal -- Switzer brothers' relaunch of licorice empire tops $2 million in sales in first three months

Washington Business Journal -- Ana Marie Cox: After a year of deflating the pomp and circumstance of Washington, political gossip Ana Marie Cox, aka the Wonkette, talks about blogging, bad-mouthing and getting paid for it

Media business model changing

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Washington Post: News Media Grope for the Right Formula

It will take years of experimentation, involving companies of all sizes and vintages, for the news media to refine the new models and settle into a sustainable new structure. No doubt great fortunes will be made or lost in the process. But in the end, I suspect, our industry, like most others, will come to be dominated by a handful of national and super-regional news organizations that can offer readers and advertisers a full range of differently priced news products through a variety of media.

How blogs change lives

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Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine is collecting stories of how blogs have changed people lives. The comments are quite interesting including half brothers finding each other through a blog.

Live Science -- Drivers on Cell Phones Kill Thousands, Snarl Traffic. New study finds that 20-year-old drivers using cell phones have the reaction time of a 70-year-old. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, publisher of the journal of the study, estimated that cell phones caused 2,600 deaths and 333,000 injuries a year in the United States. That estimate is from a 2002 study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Tip: Buzzworthy

Now just put cell phones drivers into an S.U.V. for a real threat.

Seattle Times plagarism guidelines

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A plagarism scandal last year led to The Settle Times creating a subcommittee to address the issue. The result -- Seattle Times Plagiarism Guidelines -- were posted on its web site Sunday. Tip: Poynter E-Media Tidbits

Marketing Social Security reform

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MSBNC -- Social Security: A Daring Leap -- President Bush makes his proposed private accounts sound like the opportunity of a lifetime. But the fine print shows they pose great risk for you—and the nation. Newsweek's Alan Sloan takes a look at the numbers behind the push for Social Security reform and finds there has been more success in marketing the reforms rather than proposing reforms that equitable reform it.

If the president really wants to fix Social Security rather than pick a political fight — and the Democrats feel the same — it wouldn't be difficult. They'd compromise by putting more money into the system by raising wage taxes a tad, taking less out by increasing the retirement age and trimming benefit formulas and setting up private accounts funded by wage earners, not by government borrowings. Put a few willing negotiators in a room and a deal's done in a month. I won't hold my breath, though.

Bush has marketed the pants off the Democrats by setting the terms of debate. Do you want to pay higher taxes or lower taxes? Clearly, lower. Do you want to pay estate tax or not? Do you want private accounts, or don't you? He's done a fabulous job of showing the goodies—and of hiding the costs. People, naturally, have opted for the goodies. The Bushies are in full sales mode, including sticking recordings on Social Security's phone lines preaching that the system has to change. In the name of empowering my kids, he's asking them to pay full freight for my retirement and for trillions in new borrowings, while forking over the same wage taxes for lower benefits. If he can sell this one, the Marketing Hall of Fame should start planning his induction ceremony.

Evaulating what is found online

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NY Times -- Course Correction: Teaching Students to Swim in the Online Sea. Learning how to use search engines is a skill many have learned, but Geoffrey Nunberg says too many people have not learned to be skeptical about the material they find online or the ability to judge the credibility and accuracy of that information.

Good reading from ACBJ -- Feb. 14

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The New Yorker -- Gross Points: Is the blockbuster the end of cinema?

The movie Troy is considered a failure even though it grosses a half billion dollars. Sideways is considered a success with a gross of $22 million. The business of movie making is as fascinating as the special effects.

Interesting points in the article, which looks at several recent books about the industry, include:

* Foreign box-office receipts has exceeded domestic receipts since 1993. The entertainment industry is the second largest US export.

* Marketing is the major juice for movies. Average marketing costs have risen from $2 million in 1975 to $39 million in 2003. The push is to generate the buzz for the first weekend.

* It's the first weekend that counts -- typically 25 to 40 percent of its total gross is from the first weekend. Studios book the movie in thousands of theaters and keep 90% of the gross. Theaters don't mind because they get 100% of the concessions, which is about 35% of their total revenue. Typically a movie will do only half the receipts in the second week.

* DVD sales, television rights and merchandise contracts are major sources of revenue for movies

* TVs hurt movie attendance. In 1947, average weekly movie attendance was 90 million It fell to 15 million by the 1970s and has risen only a little since then. Number of movie released a year has fallen to 200 in 2004 from 700 in 1946.

Tip -- How to Save the World: How the 'Free' Market Ruins the Entertainment Media who has a comparison chart of 1946 and 2004.

Bandwidth guilt

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BBC -- Why I'm giving up broadband


Gradually, though, the novelty of a fast connection has worn off. Disillusion has set in. I've slowly come to a terrible realisation: there isn't really that much I can do with broadband.

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Having nothing much to do with your broadband gives rise to a curious sensation that could be termed: "bandwidth guilt". When I'm not using it, I feel like I should be. I keep trying to find ways to utilise its sheer power - and justify the £30 a month fee. I feel bad if I don't.

Looking at the article's comments, he's not the only one.

Tip: Techdirt

New Yorker -- Fear and Favor: Why is everoyne mad at the mainstream media

Article focuses on how both conservatives and liberals have become so angry or disappointed in the media. Editors quoted in the story said it was frustrating because do much of what a newspaper publishes has becomed questioned for bias.

A better understanding of conservatives seems manageable, but there is another possibility, which is much more worrisome, at least to journalists who work in the mainstream media. It is that during the years of heavy shelling—through impeachment and the Florida recount and then the rough 2004 campaign—what they consider their compact with the public has been seriously damaged. Journalism that is inquisitive and intellectually honest, that surprises and unsettles, didn’t always exist. There is no law saying that it must exist forever, and there are political and business interests that would be better off if it didn’t exist and that have worked hard to undermine it. This is what journalists in the mainstream media are starting to worry about: what if people don’t believe in us, don’t want us, anymore?

Maybe the journalists should read JD Lasica's Why Newspapers Still Matter, but they should avoid this -- Is watching the news bad for you? -- but, of course that's TV news, not print news.

Science fiction author advances

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Tobias S. Buckell asked science fiction writers how much they typically receive as an advance for novels. His first published novel will be out soon.

The typical advance for a first novel is $5,000. The typical advance for later novels, after a typical number of 5-7 years and 5-7 books is $12,500. Having an agent at any point increases your advance. There is some slight correlation between number of books and number of years spent writing as represented in the 5-12.5 thousand dollar advance shift of an average of 5-7 years. Charting individual author's progressions, which I will not release to keep anonymity, reveals a large number of upward lines at varying degrees of steepness for advances, some downward slides.

Some authors noted that they'd gotten large advances in the 90s but were being paid less now.

Tip: Boing Boing

NY Times: PowerPoint Goes to the Fair

Technology is rapidly changing the world of science, but it is only now starting to change the world of the science project, a ritual of the academic year. Now that computers are second nature to many students, some teachers are abandoning the traditional cardboard displays in favor of electronic files. Some are even creating PowerPoint templates to make it easier for students to produce a smart-looking showcase.

You can't tune them out

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WiredNews -- You Can't Ignore My Wrath Researchers in Switzerland discover that, despite our best efforts, humans cannot escape anger as long as it's within earshot.


The brain appears to place a high priority on processing urgent sounds, like angry voices, that might indicate a threat is present. So, try as we might, when someone is angry the brain cannot avoid noticing, regardless of what the fuss is all about.

Tribune considers online access fee

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E&P -- Chicago Tribune chief says online subscription being studied

For the online audience we are going to program the site for breaking news, classifieds, retail, and online shopping — that will be open access. For another set, our view is that they use it as an enhancement to their newspaper. We are going to have another portion of that site as subscriber-only.

Ask Jeeves to buy Bloglines

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Business Week reports that Ask Jeeves has bought Bloglines, my RSS reader of choice. Other bloggers are reporting it too. Tip from Susan Mernit's blog.

Update: Susan Mernit -- Bloglines/Jeeves: The scoop on the acquisition. The leak of the story on Napsterization is creating its own discussion about whether bloggers can keep a secret. Here's the official note from bloglines.

The cost of a digital lifestyle

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Om Malik, senior writer with Business 2.0, notes his digital lifestyle costs him $305 a month -- more than he spends on groceries.

Top 10 online retailers in Dec. 2004

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From Internet Retailer:

Visitors in millions for Dec. '04, Dec. '03, and change.

* eBay, 50.9, 49.9, 2%
* Amazon, 42.5, 37.4, 14%
* Wal-Mart Stores, 23.8, 16.7, 42%
* Yahoo Shopping, 22.6, 21.5, 5%
* Shopping.com, 19.1, 17.1, 11%
* Target, 17.5, 13.9, 26%
* Dell, 17.5, 12.7, 38%
* Best Buy, 17.3, 12.9, 34%
* Overstock.com, 14.7, 8.6, 71%
* Expedia, 12.7, 11.4, 11%

Time on the site was interesting. Time on eBay: 1 hr. 48 min.. Time on No. 2 Amazon, 27 min. Tip: Susan Mernit

Good reading from ACBJ -- Feb. 7

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Boston Business Journal -- The condo speculators are back: New generation of investors bets on quick appreciation, but this time developers are setting limits

Puget Sound Business Journal -- Living on an island is not always life in paradise

St. Louis Business Journal -- Lee marches on St. Louis

Yelvington.com: Guardian launches branded RSS reader. Guardian's product is called NewsPoint. Piece also says Advance and LA Times also considering it with same company Guardian is using Consenda, a company based in the United States and Switzerland.

This editorsweblog.org piece mentions the Guardian plans to follow the LA Times and use its RSS reader to deliver classified advertising.

Knight Ridder Wasinghton Bureau -- Latest book puts Crichton on hot seat with scientists: Washington has embraced a Michael Crichton novel that says global warming isn't a problem, but climate scientists say the novel is poppycock.

Sixteen of 18 top U.S. climate scientists interviewed by Knight Ridder said the Harvard-trained author is bending scientific data and distorting research.

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Three scientists -- (Martin) Hoffert, physicist Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California, and NASA's James Hansen -- told Knight Ridder that Crichton distorted their research in the novel.

and Knight Ridder Washington Bureau -- Scientists respond to Crichton's use of global warming data, studies

The Earth Institute at Columbia University -- Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion. Article includes several specific references to studies Crichton referenced in the novel.

In summary, I am a little disappointed, not least because while researching this book, Crichton actually visited our lab and discussed some of these issues with me and a few of my colleagues. I guess we didn’t do a very good job. Judging from his reading list, the rather dry prose of the IPCC reports did not match up to the some of the racier contrarian texts. Had RealClimate been up and running a few years back, maybe it would’ve all worked out differently…

Also NY Times -- 'State of Fear': Not So Hot

Liberals, environmentalists and many other straw men endure a stern thrashing in ''State of Fear,'' but Crichton's primary target is the theory of global warming, which he believes is a scientific delusion. In his zeal to expose the emperor's nudity the author cites, ad nauseam, actual studies that seem to contradict the conventional wisdom on global warming.

Ayn Rand at 100

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NY Times: Considering the Last Romantic, Ayn Rand at 100. Interesting view that the heros Roark and Galt were so ill-suited for the democratic ideas she espoused. My interest in her books waned when I could not resolve her heros to the world. This column did make me think about the villains again. "But her villains have the best names, the most memorable quirks, the whiniest or most insinuating voices."

Good reading from ACBJ -- Jan. 31

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Baltimore Business Journal: State to divert tobacco money --Governor: Money needed to fund strapped Medicaid

Charlotte Business Journal: Duke eyes rate base to pay for broadband

Puget Sound Business Journal: Got metal? Better check -- it's going fast. "Driven by the rising prices of scrap metal, thieves have stolen high-school aluminum bleachers, highway and overpass guard rails, copper power lines and phone cables, airplane and ship propellers, street signs, aluminum manhole covers and just about any metal it's possible to steal."

South Florida Business Journal: Arts center lacks money for seats, lighting, curtains

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Motor homes marketed to resist threats of bioterror, allergens

ID Theft declining and offline

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WSJ: ID Theft Is Declining And Mostly Offline, New Survey Finds. Almost two-thirds of id theft occurs from information obtained offline. Info obtained online accounted for less than 12 percent. Also interesting was that in cases where the perpetrator's identity was know, half were committed known by the victim.

The original study is here, which includes an online identity theft quiz. The Sacramento Business Journal also did a story on the report -- Report: Identity theft more common offline than online.