Friday, September 05, 2008

I can't help it. I've made three bets already on the general election.

I wanted to share this quick piece about a slippery slope that's long past been violated.


Turning A Blind Eye To Crossing The Line

It's happening in front of our eyes. Paid ad placements, inside the garden walls protecting traditional media values, are poisoning the grounds where Henry Luce and our publishing forefathers first drew "the line" separating church from state. Today's media-buying demand for a "big idea" required to earn a media commitment, combined with a softer and more competitive environment, all driven by a sales force that has no idea who Henry Luce is, have publishers doing things not done before.

The New York Times magazine recently selling its cover to an advertiser is a symbolic symptom of this self-inflicted disease. The shock wasn't the cover being sold, but rather, that a traditional magazine publisher veered onto tracks laid by dot-com publishers over this past decade.

Print publishers are guided by ASME guidelines designed to protect the integrity of their product and the interest of their readers so there is zero confusion between what is edit and what is advertising. Dot-com publishers are guided by their creative abilities to cross this line.

Case in point: UGO.com. This entertainment network of sites bought by Hearst a year ago is notoriously creative at blurring the line. In one example, they sold an ad campaign to the breakfast chain Denny's. A co-branded Leaderboard ran on the site with a visual of a grand slam breakfast covered with copy that reads "Movies: Part of a Balanced Breakfast." When you click on the ad, you land inside the site's editorial channel dedicated to "Film & TV" and a custom section reviewing the top movie breakfast scenes. There is no mention this section was driven by advertising. Check please line crossed.

Case in point; Yahoo.com. This portal knows no boundaries when it comes to promoting the interests of an advertiser at the expense of editorial integrity. The examples are many and the most blatant one I encountered came back when the movie "Me, You and Dupree" first opened. Highlighted on the home page that opening Friday was a "feature story" with a picture of Owen Wilson and a headline that read "How to Evict a Freeloader" followed by a subheadline that read, "A married couple is besieged by a real life Dupree." What are the chances of this news story breaking the same day a movie about a freeloader who won't leave opened? Pass the popcorn, hold the credibility, line abolished.

Case in point: Newsweek.com. This example can make the case maybe it's OK to blur the lines if the interests of the advertiser and the reader are met simultaneously. For the last nine months or so, a Rolex watch face has been affixed to the home page of this newsweekly's web site. The watch not only tells the user what time it is, but what if they wish to know what time it is in Denver or Dubai, they can click on an arrow and the watch face changes to the exact time in those time zones.

Online is famous for its ability to track and report the actions of its users, but what we can't track is the erosion of our credibilility. This happens over time and inside the collective minds of those we are meant to serve. Isn't it time buyers stop pretending requests for this kind of "creative" integration serve everyone's interests? Isn't it time we institute and uphold firm ASME guidelines for online publishers, and publicly punish those sites that ignore them? Isn't it time we take a look at what we are ignoring before we have nothing left to look at?

The GOP's cheerful viciousness


"More politically damaging still is the absence of any truly stinging attacks on John McCain. Even Joe Biden's speech -- billed as the "attack dog" event -- almost completely avoided any criticisms of McCain the Person, who will emerge from the four days here as a Wonderful, Honorable, Courageous Man -- a friend to Democrats and Republicans alike -- who just happens to be wrong on some issues. The Republicans will spend the next four days mercilessly ripping Barack Obama's character to shreds, as they did to John Kerry in 2004. . . .

The GOP's attacks on Kerry in 2004 were mocking, scornful, derisive, demonizing and deeply personal -- in speech after speech -- and they were also highly effective. They weren't the slightest bit deterred by the fact that Kerry was a war hero who was wounded multiple times in Vietnam while George Bush and Dick Cheney. . . . weren't. Has there been anything remotely approaching those attacks on McCain by any of the prime-time Democratic speakers?

The GOP assaults on Barack Obama will be -- have already been -- even more vicious and personalized, which means by the end of their Convention next week, John McCain will be, by all accounts, an honor-bound, principled and courageous patriot (who, at worst, is wrong on some issues), while Barack Obama will be some vaguely foreign, weak, appeasing, super-ambitious, exotic, empty-headed, borderline un-American liberal extremist. Democrats seem to be banking on the fact that the agreement which most Americans have with their policy positions, along with widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of things, will outweigh the effects of this personality war -- a war which they, yet again, have allowed to be one-sided."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Microsoft is apparently getting into the UFC/MMA sponsorship game. You heard it here first.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wow, I figger I better put something up here in lieu of just twittering it, as is my MO these days.

I just read a really interesting article over at Time about the business philosophies of Kip Tindell (ceo/co-founder of The Container Store) and John Mackey (ceo/co-founder of Whole Foods Market). The article was purty good but I really found the transcript of the conversation between Tindell and Mackey fascinating: John Mackey and Kip Tindell talk about poker, retailing, and the limitations of shareholder capitalism.

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