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Mazda: We’ll Do Anything to Cut Thru Clutter July 21, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Sponsored promotions! I love it – it’s almost too meta.

    Critics of creeping commercialism in American culture usually complain loudly about branded entertainment deals, particularly when they are centered on adding products or brands to movies, TV series, Web site content or song lyrics. Here, though, Mazda North American Operations – part of the Mazda Motor Corporation controlled by Ford Motor – has chosen to embed the new models within promotions rather than include them in programming, as it has in the past with agreements to feature products in series like “Fear Factor,” also on NBC.

“Critics of creeping commercialism” should be a new Comedy Central series.

Why NYT Arts Coverage Is No Longer A Must-Read, Part XXXVII July 21, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Sometimes you just say, “huh?” I’m talking about Times music critic Kalefa Sanneh’s over-the-top yet strangely naive and apparently irony-free review of Jessica Simpson’s hybrid hip-hop/teen popstar diva/country cover of a Nancy Sinatra song keyed to the upcoming movie version “re-make” of “Dukes of Hazzard”. (You may begin to see my point….)

    In short, this is a song put together not only for a blockbuster film but also like one: carefully (and expensively) assembled with an eye toward capturing the attention of a few target demographics…In mainstream music, unlike mainstream movies, genre still counts for a lot…(HUH?)…You can’t have genre-scrambling pop songs if you don’t have genres, and that’s the paradox of “These Boots,” which gets its charge from the fact that there are genre lines to blur. Which is to say that anyone repulsed by the success of this song should take heart: songs like this just might be helping to make themselves obsolete.

Some Bloggers Should Stay on Topic July 20, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Now there’s some analysis: let’s change government energy policy not because kids will have to wait for school buses in the dark, or people’s circadian rhythms will be mucked up, but because most PCs have pre-set clocks! Remember Y2K and computer dating systems? Heck, the world nearly ended!

Good grief. That’s like saying “Let’s not make music CDs digital because people might copy music on their PCs….” Oh yeah, heh heh, oops…

Perhaps a better analogy is “Change your organization’s tried and true workflow policies because the ERP package already has its rules set in stone.” Damn, is that another oops? Let me try one more.

“Since Windows uses a (stolen) files and folders UI metaphor, let’s never, ever make another innovation in how people interact with information.” What, you say I’m batting 0 for 3? Who’s in charge here, anyway?

Yahoo 2Q05 Highlights July 20, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The stock market continues to baffle me. Yahoo had another great quarter. Ad revenues (less fees paid to network partners) were up 7% sequentially and 43% year over year to $716M. Fees and Listings (consumer and small business, Hotjobs and directories) were up 7% sequentially and 45% year to year to $159M. The sequential growth in fees appears low, as Q1 was boosted by a Japanese royalties settlement. Yahoo slightly raised its overall guidance for 2006. Tidbits from the earnings call:

Advertising

– Gross revenues were $1.094B for the quarter, up 51% year to year
– Big advertiser display ad spending grew faster than that 43% figure cited earlier
– Yahoo more or less confirmed a questioner’s estimate that display advertising grew 10% sequentially – i.e., at a greater rate than paid search
– Yahoo said it would outgrow someone’s (not ours: we don’t do global, and we’re not quite finished with our 2005 forecast)34% forecast growth for WW online advertising. Jupiter agrees that Yahoo is indeed outgrowing the market, and that it is already the Number One company in online advertising. I guess that’s a good reason to hammer the stock.
– Auto, CPG and Financial Services were very strong
– Yahoo continued to refuse to comment on dollars per search or click through rates or any of the traditional paid search metrics. It says the averages are too dependent on changes in mix: new advertisers coming onboard with a different collection of keywords, seasonality, etc.
– Yahoo said new products in self-service platforms for advertisers and publishers, and contextual targeting within the Yahoo network were high priorities

Paid Content & Services (Fees & Listings)

– 181M active registered users, up 23% year to year
– 10.1M paid relationships, up 1.2M from the previous quarter and up 3.7M year to year. That’s big growth sequentially (it was only 200K net adds last Q), and I believe it’s more from broadband bundles and fantasy baseball than from music
– Biggest category in paid relationships remains access bundles, accounting for over half of business, with small business, personals, fantasy sports, and music doing well
– Yahoo launched its new Music subscription service, but only as a beta, and is delaying the big launch along with big marketing spending, till Q3. Last quarter, if my math was correct, Yahoo expected up to $15M of incremental Music revenues in Q2. It appears, again only if I’m interpreting correctly, to have hit $12 to $13M. Yahoo also said paid downloads were above expectations
– Yahoo didn’t give any hard numbers guidance on paid subscriber growth for the year – although it said it was ahead of plan, and implied its high-end target of 12M was probably in order
– Yahoo also didn’t make its usual comments on ARPU, other than to say they were flat to down slightly, but not dramatically (the broadband bundles produce less $/user for Yahoo than other services). It also said that even in the face of broadband price competition, its contracts with BSPs were “broadly protected”

Yahoo CEO Terry Semel described the company several times as a “social media company” or “social media environment.” A new tagline? Its pillars are search, community, personalization, and content (“whether licensed, original, or user generated”). Semel also made a comment about recruiting superior talent, including “visionaries” and “scientists.” I won’t speculate whether this was in response to the Wall Street Journal story on executive defections, or just a “we’re keeping up with Google” quip.

Jack: Blame Canada? July 17, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Amusing story in the Times on the “DJs” – I use the term very loosely – voicing many of the Jack format radio stations. Jack is a random grouping of mostly mainstream hits from the ’70s through the ’90s, usually featuring a bigger playlist and fewer ads than most formats, interspersed with non-local, supposedly ironic commentary. The Jack format, and the similar Bob, first went over the airwaves north of the border, though most “credit” US Webcaster Bob Perry with the original.

    “If we do our jobs well,” said Rob Barnett, the president of programming for Infinity Broadcasting, which has nine Jack stations, “then Jack is a persona that is dedicated to having fun, both at the sometimes uptight nature of radio programming, and having fun with popular culture.”…

    Mr. Cogan, 40, the voice of Jack, is based in Toronto and has been with the Jack franchise since it was begun in Vancouver in 2002. A voice-over actor for Canadian television and radio ads, he developed the Jack manner using the “undersell” approach of TV commercials, the opposite of the usual stentorian bombast of radio. “I said, maybe we should try this on radio,” he said, “as opposed to where everybody is doing the oversell, dramatic ‘voice of God’ all the time.”

    Mr. Cogan described Jack’s attitude as “a little indifferent and even.” He added: “He doesn’t get too excited. He’s unaffected by life.”

At Least I’ve Got the Book July 16, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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So, last time, I made mild fun of Barnes and Noble’s Potter Midnite Madness. This time, my experience was so miserable that I left, walked down the street and paid an extra $3 at a nice, friendly bookstore, Shakespeare & Co.

I suppose I should know better – I live in the East Village for goodness’ sake. At B&N there were almost no kids, they didn’t take numbers, you had to wait outside, and they wouldn’t even sell you any books other than Potter! Is that retarded?

I’ll wait for Schatsky’s report from the Upper West Side. He had a kid with him.

Two Aggressive Moves from WashPo July 15, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Two interesting announcements from the Washington Post’s Internet group. First, they’re going to split their home page into local and national editions, based on zip code (users can also set their preference). At the same time, the Post is going to insert ads into its RSS feeds.

I like both ideas, though I’m a little wary of the home page approach. The print edition of the Post has unheard of market share in its local market, so chances are print subscribers who really want their Post at work will be very happy. Of course, like most quasi-national papers, the Post’s online audience is probably 80% non-local, so they won’t be risking too much front-page traffic loss.

There’s a nice editor’s note explaining what’s going on, and it’s easy to re-set. At least today, the differences are pretty subtle. There’s a slight shuffling of above-the-fold stories. On the local edition there are graphics-highlighted modules above the lead stories that are more local (weather, dining guide, and real estate today). The national edition has one of those modules on the far right – today it’s movies, entertainment, and interactive highlights.

Music Bits from Apple Qly Earnings Call July 14, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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As usual, Apple didn’t spill any secrets at its quarterly earnings call. Some music-related tidbits:

– Apple sold 6.155 million iPods during the quarter, up from 5.3M the previous quarter and 860K a year ago
– iPod revenues were $1.1B, up from $1.0B last quarter, and $250M a year ago. That means average price is down only 6%. I’m not sure those Shuffles are flying off the shelves as much as some people thought they would be
– iPod gross margins are close to 20%. However, last quarter had favorable pricing for flash memory, something Apple says is changing. It also said hard drive price declines would slow due to shortages. It wouldn’t say how this would affect product development

– HP was responsible for a little less than 8% of those shipments, up from 2-3% the previous quarter. That’s as big a share as HP has ever had
– iPods are in 25,000 stores worldwide, up from 21,000 (the increase is due to the fact that 95% of Wal-Marts have Shuffles, while 25% have select models of Minis and White iPods)

– The ratio of cumulative iTunes songs sold to iPods sold is holding steady at about 20. No reason to change our forecasts so far
– The iTunes store was “above break-even.” “Other music products” which includes downloads and iPod peripherals had $241M in sales, up from $216 last quarter, and $73M a year ago

The Value of the Internet Measurement Business July 13, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Besides the fact it’s already been corrected, you might want to take a good hard look at some of the assumptions in this Marketwatch story.

– US online advertising will be closer to $12B than $15B this year
– Nearly 60% of the total is either Classifieds or Paid Search. Paid Search measures itself, and no one really buys Classifieds based on ratings
– So be wary of thinking that a measurement company that isn’t even a monopoly would have sales approaching 1.5% of total online ad spending

But, hey, I don’t get paid to write about the stock market.

The Reason for Subscription Music Services July 13, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I think I’m late to the party, but I’m listening to Paul Anka cover “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “Blackhole Sun.” (Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Lovecats” and “True” work.) Full orchestra. Strings, but no electric guitar. It’s, it’s, it’s…I can’t really describe it. Better than Shatner! WashPo review:

    At first, I thought “Rock Swings” was a joke. After all, what could be more square than ’50s teen idol and “My Way” composer Paul Anka doing songs by Van Halen, Nirvana and Billy Idol in a big-band format, with trumpets, strings and the full old-man treatment?

    Then I listened to it. It took about four beats of Anka’s tough, swaggering version of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” to knock the smirk right off my face. Borrowing the exuberant flavor of Quincy Jones’s mid-’60s arrangement of “The Best Is Yet to Come” for Frank Sinatra, Anka and his chief arranger, Randy Kerber, earn the right to strut.