Category Archives: WSJ

Behind the Curve

Partially because I deigned to watch football the last three weekends and partially because I have the annoying habit of taking on more stuff than I’m comfortable with, I’m behind in watching stuff on TV, reading the paper, etc.

That two-hour Haiti special, the album for which is the first #1 album that exists without an actual physical product? Haven’t watched it.

The State of the Union – read the reviews, but not heard the actual address. The chat Obama had with Republicans that went so well for the President that FOX News stopped showing it 20 minutes in – plenty of places to read it or watch it, including here but hasn’t happened yet. Still, I think Evanier’s right when he notes: Once you tell your constituents that everything Obama does is evil, you can’t meet him halfway on anything without appearing to be compromising with evil. You can’t even support him when he does things you like. I think that’s a lot of our problem right there.

Of course, being behind has its benefits. After Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for US Senate, there’s been this revisionist message that the Democrats only dumped on her because she lost. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows two and nine days before that election, it was clear that the Democrats, though muted in their criticism – she was still their candidate – suggested that she did not run the robust campaign she ought to have. Yes, in answer to her rhetorical question, you DO pass out fliers in front of Fenway Park.

Some stories I missed altogether, such as the death of Pernell Roberts, the eldest son on Bonanza who later became, in some bizarro world spinoff, Trapper John in the CBS drama Trapper John, MD. It was not a great show, though it was the jumping off point for now-Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell.

I plowed through a couple weeks of the Wall Street Journal and came across this story of Scarlett Johansson’s debut on Broadway as well as a very positive review of “Gregory Mosher’s revival of ‘A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s
1955 play about love and death on the Brooklyn waterfront.” “Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance. You’d never guess that she hasn’t acted on a stage since she was a little girl.”

Other stories I just didn’t know what to say. I noticed that Kate McGarrigle of the singing/songwriting McGarrigle Sisters, and also mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died of cancer at the age of 62 back on January 18. The best I could come with is a link to an obituary for Kate written by her sister Anna. I was listening to Trio, an album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this week. There’s a Kate song called I’ve Had Enough, about lost love, but feels right here.

Love it’s not I who didn’t try
Hard enough, hard enough
And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Love you don’t see
The pain in me
That’s plain enough, plain enough
You’re never here to catch the tears
I cried for us, I cried for us

I’ll take my share but I’ll be fair
There’s not much stuff
Easy enough
And if you choose I’ll break the news
This part is tough, so very tough

I’ve tried and tried to put aside
The time to talk, but without luck
So I’ll just pin this note within your coat
And leave the garden gate unlocked

And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough

Her funeral is today in Montreal.

Little Boxes theme from Weeds by the McGarrigle Sisters.

ROG

Musical Coolness and Lack Thereof QUESTIONS


There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about Tom Petty: Rock God Or Mere Mortal? “As Tom Petty prepares to release a career-spanning anthology next week, an attempt to determine where he falls in the music pantheon.”

The basic premise is that though he sold a lot of records, maybe because he was prolific with the pop hook, he just seems to lack the “cool” quotient. I’m thinking the way Huey Lewis & the News, even in the height of their success, was uncool. Whereas the late Johnny Cash, on whose second American Recording Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played on, was “cool”.

This has less to do with talent or chart success as it does with the artist shaking things up musically, as Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen were known to do.

There was a chart on the page suggesting coolness, from uncool to very cool, which looked roughly like this (there was also a loudness axis): Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel (sorry, SamuraiFrog), John Mellencamp, AC/DC, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Pretenders, Eagles, Jimmy Buffet. Carlos Santana is about in the middle. Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Neil Young, Nick Cave.

First, do you agree with the ranking? I always thought Pretenders were cooler, and James Taylor, not so much. Neil Diamond put an album with producer Rick Rubin a couple years ago, which always seems to enhance the cool factor; it certainly worked for Cash.

Secondly, where would you place Petty on the list? He’s played with George Harrison, Dylan and the aforementioned Cash. He put together his old band Mudcrutch and put out a decent album a couple years ago. I’d say he was at least as “cool” as the Stones, who would be cooler without most of their output of the last couple decades.

Finally, what other artists do you think fall on the “uncool” pantheon unfairly, or on the “cool” list unjustifiably? Let’s face it: Jeff Lynne, even as a Wilbury, has never been particularly cool. But I always thought Linda Ronstadt, who moved from genre to genre, was more cool than she was given credit for.

ROG

Not So Fast QUESTION

There is an article in the Wall Street Journal online – it was in the paper last weekend – by John Freeman, adapted from his book “The Tyranny of E-Mail,” that really spoke to me. It was titled: “Not So Fast: Sending and receiving at breakneck speed can make life queasy; a manifesto for slow communication”.

Cogent points:
1. Speed matters…
The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our com­munication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjust­ments our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.

This is a disastrous development on many levels…

2. The Physical World matters.
A large part of electronic commu­nication leads us away from the physical world. Our cafes, post offices, parks, cinemas, town centers, main streets and commu­nity meeting halls have suffered as a result of this development. They are beginning to resemble the tidy and lonely bedroom commuter towns created by the expansion of the American interstate system. Sitting in the modern coffee shop, you don’t hear the murmur or rise and fall of conversation but the con­tinuous, insect-like patter of typing. The disuse of real-world commons drives people back into the virtual world, causing a feedback cycle that leads to an ever-deepening isolation and neglect of the tangible commons.

This is a terrible loss…

3. Context matters

We need context in order to live, and if the environment of electronic communication has stopped providing it, we shouldn’t search online for a solution but turn back to the real world and slow down. To do this, we need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from effi­ciency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships. We are here for a short time on this planet, and reacting to demands on our time by simply speeding up has canceled out many of the benefits of the Internet, which is one of the most fabulous technological inventions ever conceived…

This is no Luddite screed but a cautionary observation: “This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, work­place meltdowns, and unhappiness.”

But what do YOU think? I think that *I* need to turn off the computer for a while and go for a walk.

ROG

Online Comics QUESTIONS

I get e-mails:

Lacking for material to write about? No, of course not. But I’d be interested in your take on this subject. Do you think Cory Doctorow is right?

The main point of the story, titled “Boom! comics’ new series available as downloads on the same day as in stores” is that “comics publishers should — at a minimum — put up downloadable comics after they disappear from the stands, so that people who are coming to the serial after it starts can catch up. The trade paperbacks help here, but usually there’s a 2-3 issue gap between the collection and the singles.”

Well, I have no idea. In my days of retailing comics (1980-88 and again in the early 1990s), the business model was very different. I do know that a customer coming in in the middle of a story was/is maddening. I do know that dealing with back issue comics was often a pain. But does the online page of back issues solve the problem?

There seems to be an overriding premise in the piece that almost everything that comes out as singles (his term) or floppies will turn up in book form eventually, which I don’t believe to be true, any more than every TV show eventually coming out on DVD.

I also don’t buy the premise that the “publisher could spend approximately $0.00 and post downloadable singles 30 days or even 60 days after they hit the stands.” To do a quality job online does not cost nothing, assuming you have to pay someone to do it. And what of the creative team? How are they getting paid for this, beyond the flat page rate? Or should it just be considered “promotional? (Shades of the AMPTP!)

I would really like to know, from comics collectors and especially retailers: does the online model stimulate new readers, and more importantly, new spenders, or are folks just reading product online for free? What is the general quality of the existing products – easy to use or not? Of readable quality or full of eyestrain? What’s the best of the current crop, and what’s a must to avoid?
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Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal gave a plug for HowToons, an interesting site. It does have a link to a book for sale on Amazon, but I don’t know how else it makes money, if in fact it does.

ROG

A Couple Interrogatives

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal this week that I found quite disturbing, but true. Here’s the abstract:

Moving On: Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?
Jeffrey Zaslow. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 23, 2007. pg. D.1

When children get lost in a mall, they’re supposed to find a “low- risk adult” to help them. Guidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage them to look for “a pregnant woman,” “a mother pushing a stroller” or “a grandmother.”

People assume that all men “have the potential for violence and sexual aggressiveness,” says Peter Stearns, a George Mason University professor who studies fear and anxiety. Kids end up viewing every male stranger “as a potential evildoer,” he says, and as a byproduct, “there’s an overconfidence in female virtues.”

TV shows, including the Dateline NBC series “To Catch a Predator,” hype stories about male abusers. Now social-service agencies are also using controversial tactics to spread the word about abuse. This summer, Virginia’s Department of Health mounted an ad campaign for its sex-abuse hotline. Billboards featured photos of a man holding a child’s hand. The caption: “It doesn’t feel right when I see them together.”

So, as the article notes: The implied message: Men, even dads pushing strollers, are “high-risk.” “Very sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. What are your thoughts? Anyone wanting the whole article, please let me know.
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On a much lighter note, Jaquandor tagged me with 7 Things, but added a twist; one of these is false. Which one?

1. I had a nosebleed so bad that I was hospitalized.

2. I enjoy sushi.

3. I’ve talked with a Supreme Court justice.

4. I was terrible as a percussionist in my junior high school orchestra.

5. One of my favorite books is “Growing Up” by Russell Baker.

6. I’m cited in two books.

7. I’ve never read, never even started, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
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My Fortune Cookie told me:
You will risk becoming eternally dependent upon misguided bishops.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

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Amazon has on sale a Mel Brooks box set. It features one of my favorite films of all time, Young Frankenstein, and one of my least favorite movies of all time, History of the World, Part 1.
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I own only about a half dozen Lyle Lovett albums. He has a new one, which he describes here.
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I thought there were only eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination for President. I was wrong.
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Oh, yeah: according to my previous poll question, 13 of you have already seen the Simpsons movie, 3 will in theaters, 3 will on DVD.
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Albanians: listen to WMHT-FM (89.7) tomorrow, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 6:00 p.m. — they are broadcasting Albany Pro Musica’s ‘s March 2007 concert, “From Holocaust to Hope.”

ROG

Playing The Whole Album?

Interesting stuff in this past Friday’s Weekend Journal of the Wall Street Journal, even if Murdock IS buying it.

One piece was Hollywood Report: Up Next — Your Favorite Album; In Concerts, Bands Play CDs, First Track to Last; Battling the iPod Effect by Ethan Smith. WSJ. Aug 3, 2007. pg. W.1

Abstract (Summary)
The impetus behind the current wave of live album concerts comes from England, and in particular from Barry Hogan, the 35-year-old London-based founder and director of an influential music festival called All Tomorrow’s Parties. “When you see a band you love, how often are you sitting there thinking, ‘Why are they doing this new stuff?'” Mr. Hogan asks. And after having asked himself that question one too many times, he decided to do something about it. In 2005 he launched a concert series, related to All Tomorrow’s Parties, called Don’t Look Back. That series has presented around two dozen alt-rock artists playing beloved albums in their entirety — from Iggy Pop’s Stooges playing 1970’s “Fun House” to the Cowboy Junkies doing 1990’s “The Trinity Session.”

Despite sellout crowds, Mr. [Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick] acknowledges that in some ways, the concerts were “goofy.” For one thing, the order in which songs appear on an album might not make sense in concert. “If the producer didn’t think there were 10 or 12 killer songs, he’d top load the sequence” with potential hits, Mr. Carlos says. That means that in concert, a band might end up closing with the weakest material of the night. Another problem: There were some songs on the albums that the band had never played live, and they struggled with them. A few were rearranged as acoustic numbers, to give themselves a breather. “We were young men when we did ’em originally,” Mr. Carlos says.

Other artists have taken a more maximalist approach. For the just-completed European tour during which he played his 1973 album “Berlin,” [Lou Reed] was backed by a 30-piece orchestra. Mr. Reed played a brief series of “Berlin” concerts in New York last year, but his manager, Tom Sarig, says he is unsure whether the rocker will perform the album elsewhere in the U.S.

Besides Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Cheap Trick, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters has played live versions of “Dark Side of the Moon”, and Sonic Youth hit the road to play “Daydream Nation”.

This fall, Lucinda Williams will play a week in NYC and LA with each night featuring a complete performance of one of her five most prominent albums, such as 1998’s “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” But during a second set, she’ll play selections from her 2007 release “West.”

Interesting. I’ve know of other artists, notably Phish, playing a whole album, but not the actual artist, except once in 1989 in Albany when I saw Joe Jackson play the entire first half of Blaze of Glory, then some other tunes, then the entire second half; the audience was unfamiliar, and therefore not very happy, as some folks walked around the Palace Theater, somewhat bored.

Another piece, on sports: By the Numbers: The Best at Keeping Batters Off Base
Allen St. John. WSJ: Aug 3, 2007. pg. W.3

Abstract (Summary)
In the American League, the BABE list also is topped by two young pitchers, each of whom were crucial pieces in big trades. Dan Haren of the Oakland A’s, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for Mark Mulder, has posted a .378 BABE. (Underscoring Billy Beane’s acumen in identifying promising young pitchers is the fact that A’s draft pick Joe Blanton is third in the AL with a .393 BABE.) Behind Mr. Haren is Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox, who’s rewarding the faith that General Manager Theo Epstein displayed when he traded two prized prospects to the Florida Marlins for the hard-throwing righty.

One thing that the BABE list shows us is how volatile the pitching side of the game is. The BOP list of top hitters tends to be quite consistent from season-to-season, with such players as Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez keeping their places at the top alongside sleepers such as Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers. But many of the league’s top pitchers are pretty far down on the BABE list this season. Last year’s National League BABE champ, Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamonsbacks, is 14th on this season’s list with a .406 mark, two slots behind John Maine of the New York Mets (.402). Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays, the 2003 AL Cy Young winner and last year’s AL runner up in BABE, is 18th on this year’s list — behind journeyman Ted Lilly of the Chicago Cubs. And Oliver Perez of the Mets (.421, 23rd), who a year ago was demoted to the minors by the pitching-starved Pittsburgh Pirates, ranks ahead of two-time Cy Young winner, and defending AL BABE leader, Johan Santana (.423, 25th).

The writer talks about BABE, or bases per batter. BABE starts with a pitcher’s total bases allowed (the sum of his hits allowed plus one extra point for each double, two extra for each triple and three extra for each homer). When you add in walks issued and batters hit by a pitch, the sum is Grand Total Bases. Divide GTB by the number of batters a pitcher has faced, and the result is BABE. The lower that number, the better a pitcher has been at minimizing the number of bases issued to opposing batters.

There’s a third article in that edition, about a Indie Film festival in New Zealand. Also, in the Saturday edition, there’s this: “New Labor Moves: Belly Dancing Hits Delivery Room; Connection to Childbirth May Have Ancient Origins”, which I sent to our Bradley instructor, our doula, and the only belly dancer I know personally; the former, at least LOVED the piece. If you’re interested in the full text of any of these pieces and can’t access them, e-mail me.
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It’s sports Hall of Fame season. First the baseball event with a record 75,000 in Cooperstown, then football in Canton and horse racing in Saratoga. Jaquandor provided not only the football story about a guy who played for the only team in NYS, but directed me to a story about Barry Bonds, which pretty much covers my position. The Buffalo guy also notes: “As for people who suggest that his record carry an asterisk in the record books, wouldn’t any batting title from the steroid era also require an asterisk?…Hell, if as many players took steroids as are commonly supposed, shouldn’t the entire yearly standings of Major League Baseball carry an asterisk in that period?” But I know mine’s a minority opinion; in some AOL instant “poll”, 65% were shocked, shocked I tell you, that Barry Bonds should get any kudos at all.

ROG

The Great 28

Twenty-eight years ago today, Lynn Moss made an honest man out of Fred Hembeck, a story he’s written about here (June 23), here (June 23), here, and ESPECIALLY here. Kudos to you both. Go to Fred’s MySpace blog and send them your best wishes.
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And speaking of Mr. Hembeck, he e-mailed to remind me that Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia are set to appear on Larry King’s CNN show June 26 (9 pm Eastern, 8pm Central) to discuss the first anniversary of Cirque de Soleil’s Fab-inspired “Love” show. Incidentally, my wife went to the Cirque de Soleil show “Delirium” this week in Albany with a friend of hers, while I stayed home with Lydia. She said it was very good, but that she needed to watch some more MTV or something, because of all the frenetic movement.
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The other music-related thing I’ll be taping this week is “Paul Simon: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song”. On my local PBS station, it airs Wednesday at 9 pm, and features a bunch of folks singing the songs of Simon. It was taped last month.
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I’ve never golfed in my life, yet I was intrigued by last weekend’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, The Problem With ‘Par’; If players at this weekend’s U.S. Open can’t hit the target score, who can? by John Paul Newport (June 16, 2007). Specifically, this paragraph:
“The notion of par has always been somewhat mushy, and is further confused by the word’s other English-language usages. In most PGA Tour events, for instance, subpar scores are par for the course. Unless, of course, a pro is feeling physically subpar, in which case he might shoot above par. On the other hand, only amateurs with decidedly above-par skills can ever hope to post subpar scores.”
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If I lived in the Los Angeles area, I think I would apply for this job out of sheer curiosity:

The following position is available at E! Networks:
Job Title: Researcher
Organization: Research
City: Los Angeles
State: CA
Full-time position with benefits providing research, public records and ready reference.

Description: Provide entertainment research in support of all Comcast Entertainment Group units (E!, Style, G4, E! Online, International) including the following:
* Supply in-depth story and background research to assist writers and production staff.
* Locate court documents for legal backup.
* Access public records to locate individuals and track assets.
* Review copyright and trademark records to establish ownership and locate rights holders.
* Answer “ready reference” questions.
* Vet scripts for accuracy and perform fact checking.
* Help maintain both conventional and digital archives and databases.
Skills: College degree required; experience working in a library, archive or research setting; excellent organizational skills; extensive understanding of online databases, particularly Lexis/Nexis; excellent writing, spelling and grammatical skills; ability to work well under pressure; interest or experience working in the entertainment field a plus.
E! Networks is proud to be an equal opportunity employer.

Contact Gina Handsberry at E! Entertainment. Please direct all inquiries to her at ghandsberry@eentertainment.com. She writes, on a listserv I access:
“This is not a media research position (i.e., we do not analyze Nielsen data). Rather, it is a show research position (we provide content research for the programs on the network) and would be well suited for a librarian, information professional, or anyone who has experience doing research for journalistic endeavors. It’s not an easy position to fill, so I thought a post here couldn’t hurt!”
ROG

It's All About Me, You, Us

Happy Ash Wednesday! Wait a minute, it’s Lent…somber and reflective Ash Wednesday. (Or is that just a function of post-Mardi Gras hangovers?)
Where are my Requiems? I need to play Requiems during Lent – Faure. Rutter. The German by Bach. Of course, Mozart. Gets me in the mood.
At least in the tradition in our church, we usually end the service with Allelujah, Amen, but during Lent, just the Amen until Easter.
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Snow removal in Albany-ha! I’m not talking aboout the street snow, for which the city has justifiably been criticized, but the sidewalks, which after nearly a week of warming temperatures are still often impassable. Yeah, the city can fine people, but I’m talking about the social contract. I’ve been out at least thrice since the snow stopped to continually widen the path in front of our house. Meanwhile, there are people who seem to believe that the spelling of snow removal is s-p-r-i-n-g. We’re Northeasterners, people, we should know how to do this.
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In re: this comment: “Two hours of television a week for me, dude! The Net is where it’s at!” – what’s the diff? User-Generated Content on TV (see Doritos’ Super Bowl ads). TV on the web (see the vast majority of newtork programming. It’s the message, not the medium.
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And speaking of television, I find myself, disturbingly, agreeing in part, with former Reagan special assistant Peggy Noonan. She has a weekly column in the weekend Wall Street Journal called Declarations. This past weekend, she wrote a piece called They Sold Their Soul for a Pot of Message about the early Presidential race; the title reference is a play on words re: Esau in the Book of Genesis selling “his soul for a mess of pottage.”

The most dismaying thing I’ve noticed the past 10 years on television is that ordinary people who are guests on morning news shows — the man who witnessed the murder, the housewife who ran from the flames — speak, now, in perfect sound bites. They also cry on cue. They used to ramble, like unsophisticated folk, and try to keep their emotions to themselves. Anchors had to take them in hand. “But what happened then?” Now the witness knows what’s needed, and how to do it. “And when she didn’t come home, Matt, I knew: this is not like her. And I immediately called the authorities.”

Why does this dismay? Because it’s another stepping away from the real. Artifice detaches us even from ourselves.
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Primary Research Group has published a new edition of The Survey of College Marketing Programs. The 170-page study presents more than 650 tables of data relating to college marketing efforts, exploring trends in television, radio,newspaper and magazine advertising, direct mail, college viewbook and magazine publishing, and use of web ads, blogs, search engine placement enhancement, and other internet related marketing. The report also looks closely at spending by colleges on marketing consultancies, market research firms, and advertising and public relations agencies.

The data in the report is broken out by enrollment size, type of college, public/private status, and even by the extent to which colleges draw their applicants from the local area. Fifty-five colleges completed an exhaustive questionnaire. A list of participants is available at our website.

Just a few of the study’s many findings appear below:

• 17.65% of the colleges in the sample make payments to search engines for higher search engine placement in searches. More than a quarter of private colleges make such payments, but only a bit more than 10% of public colleges do so.

• 15.69% of the colleges in the sample have used podcasts as a way to market the college. Podcasts were used most by the research universities in the sample.

• Close to 86% of the colleges in the sample publish a viewbook; all of the private colleges in the sample and three quarters of the public colleges in the sample publish viewbooks.
The mean number of (traditional print) viewbooks distributed by the colleges in the sample in 2006 was 12,954.

• 29.41% of the colleges in the sample offered a PDF version of the viewbook.

• A shade more than 23% say that they are printing fewer and fewer viewbooks each year

• More than twice as many colleges in the sample said that their volume of direct mail for marketing the college had increased over the past two years than said that it had decreased in this same period.

• About 61% of the colleges in the sample include a virtual tour of the college campus on the college website. Larger colleges were somewhat more likely than smaller colleges to have a virtual tour of the campus on the college website. Only 20% of the community colleges in the sample had a virtual tour of the campus on the college website.

• The colleges in the sample received a mean of 53.5% of their applications through the college website, and this figure ranged from 0 to 100%.

• 20.45% of the colleges in the sample have an employee on the college enrollment, marketing, public relations or admissions staffs who is assigned the role of responding to comments about the college or otherwise providing information about the college to bloggers.

• 13.7% of the colleges in the sample use any form of paid advertising service from Google

• Mean annual spending on advertising agencies was $28,800 with median spending of $5,000.

• More than 75% of the colleges in the sample published their own magazines about the college.

• Close to 80% of the colleges in the sample have advertised on the radio; both public and private colleges use radio advertising and college size is not a major determinant of radio advertising use.

• 26.42% of the colleges in the sample have advertised on cable television within the past two years.
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In the same vein as TIME Magazine naming me, I mean YOU, as the person of the year last year, Ad Age named The Consumer as Ad Agency of the Year. So this book review I came across interested me:

Let the Seller Beware by Frank Rose. Wall Street Journal. December 20, 2006, p. D.10

“Citizen Marketers” [By Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba; Kaplan Publishing, 223 pages, $25] offers a solid, sometimes insightful explanation of how the Internet has armed the consumer — which is to say, everyone — against the mindless blather of corporate messaging attempts. The stories it tells are not all negative by any means: For every vengeful YouTube posting there are countless blogs that celebrate products as diverse (and unlikely) as Chicken McNuggets, Barq’s root beer and HBO’s “Deadwood.” The author of a blog called Slave to Target confesses that the thought of shopping at Target stores makes her “simply feel orgasmic.” The point is that in the current era of blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, mashups, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace and whatever is coming next week, corporate decision-makers are losing even the illusion of control. It’s a buyer’s world. Caveat venditor, as [the authors] note: Let the seller beware.

Last March, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 48 million Americans — roughly one-sixth of the population — were posting something or other to the Web. Given that this is a nation of consumers, much of what they’re posting involves some form of comment on consumer products, none of it authorized by the product maker. As the authors note, business people will find this “either astoundingly cool or somewhat alarming.”

The real story of “Citizen Marketers” is the rise
of the activist amateur — “amateur” meaning not only a nonprofessional but also, in the original sense, one who loves. We’re seeing a fusion — a mashup, if you will — of two formerly distinct spheres, the private and the public. Privately held brands are being defined not by their owners but by unpaid, and often unwanted, public guardians. In an age when most discussion of the public weal can be filed under “commons, tragedy of,” this is a remarkable development.

Pepsi, Please

I read an interesting story last month: “How Pepsi Opened Door to Diversity; A 1940s All-Black Team Targeted a New Market And Broke a Barrier” by Stephanie Capparell, in the Wall Street Journal: January 9, 2007. pg. B.1., adapted from her new book The Real Pepsi Challenge: The Inspirational Story of Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business.

Here’s the article abstract:

Their jobs turned most of the men into Pepsi fanatics. Said team member [Jean Emmons]: “All of my friends had to buy Pepsi. I kept stockpiles of Pepsi in my house. All the places I went had to have Pepsi. If I was out with someone and they ordered Coke, I might have thrown a glass of water in their face. . . . My wife would say, ‘I think you’re going crazy — Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi!'”

He launched three major press campaigns from 1948 to 1951. For the first, he found accomplished African-Americans to profile for a “Leaders in Their Fields” series — about 20 names in all. The campaign compared the professionals with Pepsi, a “Leader in Its Field.” It began in April 1948 with United Nations diplomat Ralph Bunche. That series was complemented in the upstart Ebony magazine by a seven-ad series drawn by award-winning African-American cartoonist Jay Jackson, known for his biting satire of racists and red-baiters. For his third series, Mr. Boyd took a crew to the campuses of black universities to photograph top students enjoying Pepsi.

All the way, they continued to break down color barriers to their careers. Mr. Boyd proudly takes credit for helping open the door to diversity. “It was a contribution to social progress,” said Mr. Boyd of his work at Pepsi. “I didn’t make that much of a dollar. I wasn’t paid on the basis of other executives. It was at the beginning.”

However, as the article noted, it wasn’t easy. Pepsi’s decision to go after the black consumers, based on the assessment that they were missing out on a part of a $10 billion market, was done somewhat quietly, lest they offend some of their white Pepsi drinkers. The team of black employees hired to promote the beverage were not only paid less, but suffered not a few indignities.

If you’re interested in reading the whole article, please let me know, and I will make it available to you.

Not so incidentally, the picture is from Pepsi’s diversity timeline webpage. The little boy in the photo is the late Ron Brown, who would grow up to be Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton.
“PEPSI and PEPSI-COLA are registered trademarks of PepsiCo, Inc.”

Sports and Race QUESTIONS

Unrelated forward-
Note to Tom the Dog: Now that you are a game show maven, perhaps you can be a source of pithy quotes on other cultural matters. For instance, an Albany-area woman made it onto the next round of American Idol – a show I’m not currently watching, BTW – but had to keep it a secret for a few months, until the program aired this week. Hey, let’s find other folks who’ve had similar experiences, like that guy who was on JEOPARDY! eight years ago! Voila!
***
1. Here’s an excerpt from Boss Talk: ‘Welcome to My World’; NBA Commissioner Stern Gets Kudos for Expansion But Has Share of Problems
Russell Adams and Adam Thompson. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jan 17, 2007. pg. B.1
WSJ: It’s often been said that when brawls break out on the court in the NBA, everybody makes a big deal out of it, even though other sports frequently have fights among players. Why?

Mr. Stern: My own take is the burden of the fans being so close to the stands. Because of the spectacular view of our game from courtside — which is the closest to the action of any game, and it’s replicated by a camera, and increasingly by high-def, the prospect of players, in any shape or form, crossing the barrier between them and the fans — that’s a problem that we have and no one else has.

WSJ: Do you believe it also might have something to do with racial attitudes in this country, that the NBA is judged more harshly for that reason?

Mr. Stern: Well, I choose not to dwell on it, but you may be on to something. We were the first sport to be identified as black. And, despite the fact that the starters in other sports like football could be equally, percentage-wise, black, our guys are [visible] out there. We can see them, they don’t come encumbered by hat, helmet, long sleeves and pants. You just touched on the global conversation, which is the role of race, and certainly, I would not be fully honest if I didn’t say it’s always there, in some shape or form.

Yes, the NBA is 80% black. But the NFL is about 70% black. Is race a factor in perceptions of NBA players, or is it the proximity to the stands, the fact that, unlike football players, they don’t wear helmets, and that changes the dynamic?

2. Much has been written about the two head coaches in the Super Bowl being black. What’s your reaction? This is my take on firsts in everything: Firsts are important when they get us to the point where it doesn’t matter anymore. Doug Williams, the first black Super Bowl quarterback was important, but I couldn’t tell you the second or third. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby were important, but one doesn’t make note of every black baseball player, as Ebony magazine did in the 1950s and 1960s; interestingly, black baseball players at the major league level is declining.

Once upon a time, I could tell you the name of every female U.S. Senator, but now there are 16, and I can’t; it’s not enough, but it’s a start. However, I can name all of the black members of the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, since there have been only three: Brooke, Moseley-Braun, and Obama.

Progress is measured when you stop having to measure.

***
Unrelated postlude;

From May 4, 2004 WSJ

A Better PDB?

Jessica Mintz writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“The presidential daily brief titled ‘Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US’ triggered a political firestorm. But for Greg Storey, what was most striking about the document was its lack of style.
“‘Why is it that the president puts up with these horribly written and laid out documents to assess the threat against our nation?’ wondered Mr. Storey, a 33-year old Web designer.
“So he set out to do something about it.”

Here’s Storey’s blog item explaining what he did and why.