Tuesday, March 29, 2005

PPR - Pay Per Rap Advertising

[McDonald's] is willing to pay rappers $1 to $5 each time songs with the plug hit the radio, according to today's Advertising Age. McDonald's hopes to have its signature sandwich in several songs by summer.
I like the ingenuity displayed here; it's a cool idea from an advertising standpoint. If this catches on, I'm sure it will initially run to an extreme with product mentions and placements becoming obvious and annoying. Afterwards, I'm sure artists will figure out interesting ways to get the products involved in their work without being overly commercial. Or I hope they will.

the relevant link

Monday, March 21, 2005

Amazon Raising Prices of Items in My Cart

Whenever I hear of an interesting book that I think I might like to read, I immediately go to Amazon and add the book to my cart. That way, it's saved for the future and I can also come back to review all my prospective purchases and determine which ones are priorities. Recently, I noticed that the items are frequently increasing in price (I have yet to see one decrease) while in my cart. For instance, the book "The Age of Federalism" has increased from $18.15 to $19.77 (or 9%) since I put it in my cart, which I believe was less than two weeks ago.

Given that this is the 5th or 6th time it's happened recently, and that I never noticed similar frequent price increases before, I'm curious as to how Amazon's pricing strategy is changing. They're already being undercut by a fair margin on a number of products by competitors like Overstock. Anyway, it's a huge deterrent to purchase to return 1-2 weeks later and find that a number of the items I am interested in have become more expensive.

'The Office' Star Working on a New Show

The NYTimes has a quick profile on Ricky Gervais played David Brent, the boss from the BBC version of The Office.

He's working on a new show that sounds promising: "Extras" follows a group of unfulfilled actors on fictional big-budget films starring the likes of Kate Winslet, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Stiller, who play variations of themselves à la "Larry Sanders." Mr. Gervais portrays one of the losers, a preening misanthrope with a colossal ego who believes that the world is full of idiots who inexplicably cannot appreciate his genius."

And he's clearly got good taste: "Lately Mr. Gervais has also realized a comic dream: writing an episode of "The Simpsons," which is to be recorded in the next few months. He has also pledged to appear in the next season - if there is one - of his current favorite sitcom, "Arrested Development."

the relevant link

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Once Again, It Seems the Best Way to Start a Startup is to Start One

If there is one message I'd like to get across about startups, that's it. There is no magically difficult step that requires brilliance to solve.
You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. Most startups that fail do it because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed.
In particular, you don't need a brilliant idea to start a startup around.

The author addresses his advice to technical students but most of the advice seems widely applicable. The more I read and hear from those who have successfully started a company, the more it becomes apparent that these people agree on the principles listed above. The hardest part is convincing yourself to make the leap.

the relevant link

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Long Tail of Complaining: Using Search Engines to Exact Revenge

Until recently, the response set to a bad customer experience was fairly limited because the costs for an individual to retaliate were high. A letter written to corporate headquarters disappears into the ether. A sole proprietor doesn’t care about customer service. A complaint to the manager (in front of other shoppers) is embarrassing. And word of mouth is hard to start; it's inefficient to mention each negative experience to every friend and acquaintance since they may not be potential customers of the service and will quickly tire of your grumblings.

Search engines, however, can change the economics of complaining. Google, Yahoo, and MSN pick up information on all topics and serve them only to those who are interested. Writing a quick online review (on a blog, Yahoo Local, or elsewhere) has a real chance of impacting a person actively searching for information on that topic, someone likely to be in the process of a purchase decision.

This method will work best for smaller businesses and services since the reviews will rank higher on search engines for those businesses referenced online less often. That's fine. Word of mouth reviews form more readily on large entities since more people experience their service. Everyone knows to avoid Sprint wireless service if possible but how would you know to avoid a particular dry cleaner – who has an annoying habit of breaking every button – when in LA on business.

That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, I decided that I would no longer suffer bad service without revenge. I now plan to start a blog that will chronicle any particularly terrible customer service experiences, particularly with small, local, or online businesses, and will include specific business information. I think (and hope) that as the number of posts increases and others link to my site that its page rank on the major search engines will rise. At that point, my revenge will be complete.

Joining me in this venture will be my friend Will who, in a stroke of what is admittedly genius, came up with the same idea. His first venture into the space is a review of Docuharbor: Docuharbor is a Bad Service.

Look for a new consumer report blog coming soon.

Monday, March 07, 2005

For the Record: I Didn't Intend to Topple Carlos Mesa

I knew that I dominated Bolivia last week but I didn't know I would topple President Carlos Mesa's government. I am pleased though that, in just a few nights, my dancing could inspire so many.

the relevant link

Switching to Firefox

I have been testing the Firefox browser for almost two months now. I originally planned to use it once or twice a day in order to keep current on its features and so that I could assess its implications for IE, Google, etc. However, since I started testing it I have completely converted. Tabbed browsing is a feature without which I can no longer live. It makes browsing and reading the news much simpler, easier, and more enjoyable by allowing you to load interesting stories and pages seamlessly in the background while you finish reading the current story. You can then proceed to the next, without having to negotiate tens of browser windows. Now, if more sites would support Mozilla/Firefox, I would never need to open IE.

the relevant link

The Man Behind Deadwood

Perhaps because my success in creative writing was fairly limited in school, I always wonder how authors go about their day. And what about screenwriters; is the medium of the silver screen or the TV inherently less planned? When writing fiction, do they write the same type of outlines that 8th grade english teachers advocate? Or do they just write a stream of conciousness that is, or isn't, edited later?

Salon's interview with David Milch, creator of Deadwood (the 2nd best show on TV after AD), shows that at least some TV writers are putting a lot of thought into their work. Interestingly though, Milch says that despite his copious amounts of research, he doesn't plot out the storylines before writing them. A third way! He used to teach literature at Yale so I'm not sure how representative he is but it's still a fascinating interview.
I had proposed to HBO a series about the city cops in Rome at the time of Nero. What had interested me was the idea of order without law. The Praetorian Guard, who were the emperor's guards, understood how they were to proceed. But for the city cops, who were called the Urban Cohorts, there was no law at all. So they were sort of making themselves up as they went along. I wanted to focus on that idea of how order is generated in the absence of law. They [HBO] were already doing a show about Rome in the time of Caesar, so they asked if I could engage the same themes in a different setting, and that was how I decided to do the western.
No, I don't plan any of the episodes. They just sort of happened. I sit down each morning and the scenes sort of declare themselves. When you do research, you study and study and study. And then, if you're a storyteller, you try to put all of that in your preconscious, then you forget the research.

the relevant link

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Annals of the Moderately Amusing (pt. 1 in a continuing series)

The fragmentation of media continues: pictures of celebrities blinking.


The lack of recent posts was due to a vacation in Peru and Bolivia. Email me if you want to see more pictures.

Sunset in Copacabana Posted by Hello

On the World's Most Dangerous Road Posted by Hello

Above Macchu Picchu Posted by Hello

Waterfall on the Inca Trail Posted by Hello

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