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Two Signs o’ the Times January 15, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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NBC is going to launch its new fall season early, to captialize on the Olympics but in flagrant disregard of sweeps, or Nielsen-defined seasons. While traditional teevee scheduling fragments, and DVD sales perk along, don’t be surprised to see more British TV-style short-arc shows. You already know my disdain for current TV measurment tactics.

And Omnicom is hiring Robert Riesenberg away from Interpublic to head up a new branded entertainment group. Even though I’m bullish on sponsored programming, I’m less sanguine on in-house program production at agencies. The model risks missing out on the creative tension of studios, networks, and sponsors.

More important, contrary to what AdAge reports as Omnicom’s objective, these shows are unlikely to provide rich incremental revenue streams to the agency – that’s like trying to re-sell an infomercial. Unless there is real money, the talent will spin off & go the studio route, as they always have.

Mooning Suckers January 12, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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I’m thinking that this is Where the Suckers Moon all over again.

Subaru is tweaking some parts of the Outback sedan and wagon this year to meet the specifications of a light truck, the same regulatory category used by pickups and sport utilities. Why? Largely to avoid tougher fuel economy and air pollution standards for cars.

…Subaru’s strategy highlights what environmentalists, consumer groups and some politicians say is a loophole in the fuel economy regulations that has undermined the government’s ability to actually cut gas consumption. The average fuel economy for new vehicles is lower now than it was two decades ago, despite advances in fuel-saving technology.

“This is a new low for the auto industry, and it would make George Orwell proud,” said Daniel Becker, a global warming expert at the Sierra Club.

As I recall, Subarus are extremely popular with the crunchy granola set. Those folks that avoid SUVs because they’re conspicuous in their consumption. I can’t wait to see Subaru try to spin this to them. Colossally stupid.

Movie Market Research from Heavy Hitters January 8, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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You know my entertainment discipline – or lack thereof – theme. Maybe this will help. Direct marketing and market research for entertainment. What a concept.

Major media conglomerate veterans Bob Pittman and Strauss Zelnick are are close to finalizing a deal to buy market research group OTX from online film site iFilm, said sources familiar with the matter….

…OTX, which allows marketers to test film trailers, commercials and consumer products online, adds to Zelnick’s steadily-growing investment portfolio, which includes Time Life, acquired earlier this week, and Columbia Music Entertainment, a record label based in Japan.

MSN Redesign January 8, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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I like the MSN front page redesign a lot. MSN used to be very badly cluttered. Now it does a fine job of promoting lead stories & offers, while conforming to expected navigation conventions (left-hand channels & tasks list that finally makes sense).

MSN’s front page also has a much more pleasing graphic aesthetic to it now. Cooler than Yahoo. The new look and layout learns wisely from the AOL Welcome Screen. Rotating lead stories, but no auto-loading video. Bad artists copy; great artists steal.

I love top movers and popular search topics right upfront. Puts back some fun & whimsy in the Internet. Remember What’s Cool? Sigh.

However, from a design & nav perspective, the individual MSN channels are still all over the place, with almost no common conventions. When you have partners like ESPN and MSNBC that’s one thing, but there’s no excuse for Shopping, Games, Health, Entertainment etc. etc. It’s a tough call, I know, whether to enforce commonality or allow specialization. For instance, MSN Entertainment is a best practices case study in mixing content and utility.

I’m still getting used to the MyMSN customization. More later.

Could This Be a Plant? Noooo January 7, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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This ran in the Journal:

Q: Are Microsoft’s “butterfly” ads working? I find them annoying, and think the ads should portray Microsoft as “cool,” like America Online’s “Running Man” ads do.

–N. Bernstein, Silver Spring, Md.

Silver Spring? That’s about, what, 40 minutes from Dulles? Golly, even Microsoft is slyer.

Yahoo Replacing Google? No Kidding January 6, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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The Journal says Yahoo will begin phasing out Google technology. It probably already has. Search on “digital camera” on Google and on Yahoo. You get different listings in both sponsored and organic results, suggesting Overture and Inktomi are already in place.

Our paid inclusion forecast is here. We predict that either Yahoo or MSN will embrace it, driving the US market to over $200M in 2005. But that’s after a collapse in 2004, when the market shrinks from its 2003 total of $165M due to the discontinuation of the MSN/Looksmart deal.

Retailers Screw Up DVRs January 6, 2004

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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Yet another reason why Jupiter has always said DVRs will be more successful sold as part of a cable or satellite offering than as retail consumer electronics. The Journal’s story tells how Replay is going to have to make good on free service because retailers messed up:

Retailers, however, got confused in the pre-Christmas rush. Many Circuit City Stores, CompUSA and RadioShack outlets sold Replays at the new lower price of $149, but didn’t tell buyers that the monthly service wasn’t included anymore. To make matters worse, the boxes holding the devices had stickers that said that three years of service was included in the purchase price, which wasn’t true anymore. The boxes also had notices inside saying the service was free of charge.

Internet profiteers also added to the confusion.

Online “Sources” January 4, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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I’m never shy about taking shots at the NYTimes (you always hurt the ones you love), so how about this “trend” Times arts writers seem to be embracing? I’m talking about using postings , and both email and IM messages , as bases for reporting.

Back in the dark ages when I was a reporter, I wasn’t allowed to use e-mail messages as a source, on the assumption that digital identity was sketchy. Sketchier than phone interviews? One wonders. I’ll give the Times the benefit of the doubt and assume they confirmed that the posters and IMers were who they said they were. (Although I’m very suspicious about 15 year-old Kelly – notice (s)he isn’t identified by gender.)

And to me, using message boards is lazy, although I guess it’s no less representatitve than man in the street interviews.

Note that the “reporter” who used IMs and postings in the same story, isn’t a Times staffer, or even a real reporter – “rock journalism” doesn’t count, snark, snark. However, the good man has a degree in Latin, which I sort of do, too.