Monday, July 31, 2006

Myspace ... for Old People

Wall Street Journal reporter Kelly Greene has an interesting piece on media entrepreneurs who are focusing their attentions on the aging baby boom generation. Mentioned prominently is a new site,, which bills itself as a social networking site for those older than 50.

Unlike a lot of business reporters, Greene includes a nice dose of skepticism about the venture, noting that many past attempts to cater to aging boomers have failed. It will be interesting to see what happens in this case. I wonder if Eons could have picked a worse name for a web site targeting people who already are apprehensive about getting old.

Jeff Taylor, founder of, is spending $10 million to build an online social network. But he couldn't care less about teenagers, college students and 20-somethings, the biggest users of such Web sites. Instead, he wants their parents and grandparents.

Taylor, age 45, is launching, a kind of MySpace for the 50-plus crowd. He hopes it will one day become the online "center of gravity" for the 78 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964.

"If you are over 50, please join us . . . to start living the biggest life possible," a notice on the Web site says.

A growing number of new ventures are targeting aging baby boomers, their obsessions in the final third of their lives — and their $2 trillion in annual spending power. Start-up magazines with titles such as GeezerJock, Grand and What's Next are beckoning to boomers with advice on triathlons, grandchildren or new careers.

(Gracing the cover of recent and coming issues of Grand: Donny Osmond, Martin Sheen and Goldie Hawn.)

Retirement Living TV, started by a retirement-development operator with $50 million, is set to hit cable TV screens in September.

Advertisers of everything from autos to electronics have traditionally preferred to link their brand images with younger consumers, and they revelled in baby boomers as children and teens in decades past. Now, with the oldest boomers turning 60 this year, the new ventures raise the inevitable question: Will marketers have any use for them when they're 64? Taylor thinks so.

"A lot of corporations have openly embraced (the idea) that most of their customers are over 50, but they've never said that publicly," he says. "There's been this sensitivity to not wanting to skew too old."

He says advertisers won't worry about the image fallout if they are seen on, because the Web site's self-selecting audience will be made up of people 50-plus.

History suggests that it won't be easy: The magazine industry tried once before to cash in on boomer demographics, when the oldest boomers started turning 40 in the 1980s. New Choices. Second Wind. The titles all failed.

Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi, recalls back then helping a student sell an idea for Grandparents magazine to Meredith Corp., the Des Moines, Iowa, publisher. The upscale magazine aimed for a circulation of 500,000; it quickly folded.

"People didn't want to be reminded that they were old enough to be grandparents," Husni says.

Some media entrepreneurs this time around are slicing and dicing the interests of older adults into smaller niches. A magazine and Web site in development at Looks Media Inc., a Laguna Beach, Calif., start-up, plans to focus on health, beauty and fitness for boomer women.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Open Quote

I just discovered something about Google today. If you're searching for an exact phrase with quotation marks, you don't need to close the last phrase.

Thus "howard dean" = "howard dean

However, this only works with the last phrase as I mentioned

"ken mehlman "republican national committee"ken mehlman" "republican national committee

From the Department of Duh

Lance Bass, the former 'N Sync heartthrob, reveals that he is gay in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE.

"I knew that I was in this popular band and I had four other guys' careers in my hand, and I knew that if I ever acted on it or even said (that I was gay), it would overpower everything," says Bass, referring to bandmates Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake.

"I didn’t know: Could that be the end of ’N Sync? So I had that weight on me of like, ‘Wow, if I ever let anyone know, it's bad.' So I just never did," he says speaking about his sexual orientation for the first time with PEOPLE.
HT: Ace who has exclusive insider details on what the magazine was originally going to run as its cover but changed at the last minute.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Movie Critics Are Losing Their Jobs, Should This Matter?

If an MSM movie critic reviews a movie in an empty forest, will anyone care? That is the question posed by newspaper film reviewer, Steven Whitty who seems agonized that the general public and the movie industry increasingly regard him and his colleagues as irrelevant:

[Helping end the days when MSM critics matter more] has been Hollywood's increasing reliance on pre-sold titles, saturation advertising and action franchises aimed at teenage boys.

"When I started at Paramount in the '60s, you opened a picture in four theaters and hoped for good reviews," says the former studio exec. "Nowadays, when you open a movie on 4,000 screens, spend $80 million on ads -- well, you're not exactly dependent on word of mouth."

No argument there, and no news to veteran critics.

"I think the studios have finally realized they have all this power, so why don't they use it," says Dave Kehr, who reviewed films for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and the New York Times before switching to a DVD column for the Times. "They don't need us. People like Adam Sandler have demonstrated that you can treat critics with open contempt and it doesn't make the slightest difference."

There's a lot of truth in Whitty's analysis so far. Since most people no longer read newspapers, it stands to reason that they'd stop consulting critics working in their employ. And he is certainly right about Sandler, whose cinematic corpus delicti demonstrates contempt not only for critics but for anyone with an IQ higher than 70. Unfortunately, this is about all our erstwhile critic gets right.

After a brief discussion and complaint about corporate media behemoths using their empires to cross-promote products, Warner Bros. films being plugged in Time, etc., Whitty's analysis begins to veer off-track as he complains about how critics like him often are not allowed to watch a movie before its general release (quel horreur!) before getting into the inevitable bashing of his internet competitors for having the temerity to write about film without consulting him:

Another jolt to mainstream critics has been the rise of the Internet, a phenomenon that has studios buying online ads and mainstream media rethinking their approach. Some Web site critics brag that they have more readers than their local paper; some papers worry that their print reviewers won't appeal to the online generation they're trying to reach.

And so the Village Voice, once the bastion of long-form, serious reviews, has made room for shorter, snarkier and shallower critiques. Entertainment Weekly has been redesigned to look more like a Web site, crowded with trivia, inconsequential lists and personal Q-and-A's. [...]
Many Web sites, however, operate like personal fiefdoms. How do you know that the anonymous rave you saw wasn't posted by a publicist? How can you be sure that the blogger you've bookmarked isn't plugging only film festivals that comp her expenses? [...]
It's also endemic. Sure, there are cyber critics who post detailed critiques rooted in an appreciation of cinema's history. But sometimes it seems as if they're outnumbered -- or at least outshouted -- by hundreds of Comic Book Guys, all hurling invective and tediously explaining how every other reviewer is wrong.

"The Internet has given a huge number of young people the chance to write criticism and yet so many of them are imitating the worst aspects," says Kehr, who keeps a hand in at "It just seems as though there are an awful lot of people getting up on their hind legs and yelling. If you disagree with them you're an idiot. And if you choose not to continue the disagreement endlessly, you're a coward."

While it's certainly clear that there are plenty of web sites where a PR person can be operating in sock puppet fashion, it's worth noting that Whitty provides no examples of this, nor does he establish how exactly a blogger "plugging only film festivals that comp her expenses," is any worse than Time magazine shilling for a corporate sibling-produced movie. One could even argue that Whitty's fictional blogger is more ethical than editors, reporters, and critics who willingly give free advertising to awful or mediocre films like "Fahrenheit 9/11," "American Beauty," or "Brokeback Mountain" simply because they promote left-wing values.

The essence of Whitty's complaint is essentially the same as many others emanating from many MSM critics who are irritated and even upset that people no longer have to jump through the hoops of the media establishment in order to get their voices heard.

"But people will get it wrong!" goes the refrain. Absolutely. Some will. But some will also get it right. What complaining old media types fail to realize is that bloggers and journalists deal in the same coin, credibility. And credibility is something that has to be earned and maintained. Most people are smart enough to extend it to anyone who consistently turns out intelligent and fair content about films or anything else. The rest will watch Adam Sandler despite what anyone says.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Democratic Quandary

I normally don't think much of CBS's Dick Meyer's work but his piece today on the problem of democracy within the Muslim world is thoughtful, balanced, and ought to sober up those who think democracy is the solution to all the world's problems. His deconstruction of several myths about the region is also wrong in a few ways. I'll have something on it later today but in the meantime, here's an excerpt:

The current round of violence was partially but substantially caused by America's campaign for Arab democracy.

Obviously, since the administration's democracy campaign is primarily public relations, the Bush doctrine could not be a material cause of the current war.

Bush's opponents on the left ingenuously are trying to blame Bush for the current crisis. So are some of his conservative critics, like George Will, though with more honesty, if not accuracy. The argument goes like this: Hamas gained state-based power through semi-legitimate Palestinian elections encouraged by the Bush Doctrine. Hezbollah gained power because a genuine popular protest — the so-called Cedar Revolution — pushed Syrian military forces out of Lebanon, leaving a power vacuum in the south for Hezbollah to fill; Hezbollah then won parliamentary seats and thus legitimacy in free elections supposedly fostered by the Bush doctrine. This vastly overstates the power administration's magic wand of democracy has in the region.

More fundamentally, Hezbollah and Hamas clearly don't need elections to help them kill Israelis and continue a crusade to annihilate the Zionist state. That is their whole mission.

Can free elections and the political openness they entail be destabilizing? Of course. Can totalitarian, theocratic or tyrannical parties paradoxically gain power or legitimacy through democracy and open elections? Of course. Should the United States be the one to balance these competing pressures in other countries and regions? Of course not. America must pursue its interests and security and not be so un-humble as to decide what other nations "ought" to want — that is actually the classic American conservative foreign policy.

Arab and Muslim nations and peoples are not "ready" for democracy.

This is a matter of great debate, and intellectually it's a fascinating issue. President Bush for years has argued it is a form of racism or prejudice to think that Iraqis, Muslims or Arabs are not "ready" for democracy. He believes democracy is good for everyone. Others believe that certain societies, many of them Muslim, are not ready for democracy. They think that forcing democracy onto a society that isn't ready for it is dangerous, as proven by today's fighting.

The mistake here is in thinking about democracy anthropologically, even biologically. Democracy is not a human capacity like sadness or empathy. Democracy is an invention; it is an idea and a practice.

Yahoo, Google and MS's Dirty Secret

Internet giants Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft have come under fire today from Amnesty International for actively complying with the authoritarian government of China's attempts to censor the internet in that country.

These companies came in for withering criticism as part of Amnesty's campaign to raise awareness of political censorship throughout the world by highlighting its impact in China where internet suppression is more widespread and effective largely because American tech companies are "particularly willing to cooperate with the Chinese government," the group said in a statement.

"The internet can be a great tool for the promotion of human rights -- activists can tell the world about abuses in their country at the click of a mouse. People have unprecedented access to information from the widest range of sources," the statement continued. "But the internet's potential for change is being undermined -- by governments unwilling to tolerate this free media outlet, and by companies willing to help them repress free speech."

If you don't feel like reading the China report PDF, see my post on this subject at NewsBusters for some excerpts. For a look at web censorship in India, read this from Michelle Malkin.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The final word on illegal immigration:

Will Text Messaging Really Replace Email?

I'm dubious about the premise of this breathless article from AP reporter Martha Irvine that text and instant messaging is set to replace email for younger internet users.

It's certainly true to an extent but the real emerging technology of the future will be universal messaging, the same email, the same buddy lists, etc.

I have it right now with my Motorola Q and a little bit of hacking. Once push email becomes common for non-business users (as every wireless provider is desperately trying to make happen), so will everyone else.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Barry Manilow, Law Enforcement's 'Secret Weapon'

Whenever I go to Virginia Beach for the weekend, I can't help but notice the city's strategy of playing classical music in spots on the street where they don't want people to congregate. It seems an Australian city likes the idea but with a different twist, using Barry Manilow and Doris Day music to drive loiterers away. Obviously the thinking here is to play "old people music" in the hopes that young loiterers won't stick around.

I'll bet it works better than classical music. I'd go nuts if I lived there.
SYDNEY, Australia - It could be magic for some, but the use of loud Barry Manilow music to drive away late-night revelers from a suburban Sydney park is getting on the nerves of nearby residents.

In a move reminiscent of U.S. efforts to drive former Panama strongman Manuel Noriega from the Vatican Embassy where he took refuge in 1989, the local council in Rockdale, in Sydney's southern suburbs, started a six-month trial of high-volume hits by Manilow and Doris Day to chase away car enthusiasts who were gathering on weekend nights at Cook Park Reserve.

"Barry's our secret weapon," Rockdale Deputy Mayor Bill Saravinovski told The Daily Telegraph newspaper, four weeks after the start of the effort. "It seems to be working."

But some people living near the park are less than enthralled. They say the barrage of "Copacabana," "Could It Be Magic" and "Que Sera Sera," blasting from 9 p.m. to midnight every Friday, Saturday and Sunday is driving them crazy.

"I don't know how I will cope," said Moya Dunn, describing how the songs have invaded her house. "I just can't sleep when it's on, and to think there's going to be another six months of this."

Officials have given in a little, agreeing to turn down the volume a bit after residents complained.

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Employers Start Scouring Online Community Pages

Nothing is sacred any more. OK well, online sites like Myspace and Facebook never were actually supposed to be sanctuaries of any kind. Still, this is getting a little too obsessive on a potential employer's part. People have the right to act however they wish away from the office.

Some employers apparently don't think so, though:

At least one Washington intern is glad she did not post unprofessional information about herself on the social-networking Web site Facebook: A potential employer asked a past intern to look up her profile.

Started in February 2004 as a Web site for college students to list their interests, communicate with friends and meet people, Facebook now boasts more than 8 million registered members from universities, high schools and workplaces across the country.

As the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking Web sites grows, employers are signing up and logging in to perform background checks on job and internship candidates, or asking employees who are members to do so.

"The Internet's fair game," said the intern, an upcoming junior at Barnard College who asked not to be named because she didn't want to identify the D.C. nonprofit think tank that looked up her posting. She turned down the position offered, she said, but not because of the employer's actions.

The intern said she created her Facebook profile fully aware of the Internet's public nature.

"There were no pictures of me drunk on the floor in the bathroom," she said. "I feel it's like checking a reference. You just want to make sure you look good."

A poll released last week found that 26.9 percent of employers check the backgrounds of job applicants by using Google and social-networking Web sites. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed 254 organizations in the services, manufacturing and government-nonprofit sectors.

Of the employers who said they use Web sites, 41.2 percent reported occasional use, 35.3 percent said their use was infrequent and 7.4 percent called it standard practice.

Monday, July 17, 2006

No Nudes is Good News

This surely belongs in the "idiots" category:
Minus the nudes, an exhibition of works by illustrator Burton Silverman will open later this month at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

Silverman, who chuckled about the church-owned university eliminating his nudes from the show, said he began doing nudes by visiting burlesque houses.

"Nudity in public life is relevant," he told the Deseret Morning News.

BYU officials said nude illustrations are irrelevant to the exhibition that will open July 29.

"The purpose of the show was not to show a retrospective of all of his work," museum spokesman Christopher Wilson said.

Rather, the exhibition is to show how Silverman, whose works have appeared on covers of Time and Newsweek, captures the human face and the essence of humanity.

"We picked works that reflect what we wanted to show about Burt's work," Wilson said. BYU officials told Silverman which pieces they plan to exhibit.
Nudes don't fit the theme of the exhibition titled "The Intimate Eye: Drawings by Burton Silverman," he said.

The museum will exhibit 33 of Silverman's life drawings. Many were preliminary to paintings, while others were commissioned.

Silverman's work, which spans four decades, has appeared in a variety of national publications, including The New Yorker magazine.

The university, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, does not use nude models in art classes and has some nude works in the past.

In October 1997, the university attracted attention by hosting an exhibit of the works by 19th century French sculptor Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin, but leaving in the crates four pieces, including the famous work, "The Kiss."
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Return of 'Rome'

American TV critics really have a great setup, they get paid to watch TV and every few months, they get wined, dined and fed information by the people they cover.

On the current tour, HBO announced that it will be debuting the second season of its fantastic show "Rome" early next year. It will be the show's last, however, because it's so expensive to produce (and very well done).

I'm dissappointed but partly happy because that keeps "Rome" from devolving into the recycled nonsense that "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" turned into.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Message from the Self-promotion Dept.

I was on MSNBC earlier this afternoon. Video, transcript, and screenie are up at NewsBusters.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Phone Books Another Old Media Relic

I don't have a phone book at home. I don't use them pretty much ever. Nor am I alone in this. The telephone directory business of communications company Verizon is facing some serious hurdles, especially when it comes to moving its print advertisers over to its online side.

The WSJ and Rich Gordon have the details.

Tech Bits

I'm not sure when they did it since I was on vacation until this week, but it seems Technorati has added trend images to searches, allowing you to track how popular a term has been in its blog index for the past 30 360 days. It's something rivals IceRocket and Blogpulse have had for a while.

Myspace seems to become more and more filled up with scammers lately. I keep getting spams from random profiles asking to be added as friends. Naturally, when you go to the profiles, they're hardly anything more than random links to "take surveys for money," and all the usual suspects.

On a related note, reports on how the adware and spyware company Zango is using Myspace to get unwitting users to promote its software.

UPDATE 14:15. I didn't notice but Technorati's chart goes back for 360 days. Very nice.

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A Different Kind of Bounty Hunter

Sick stuff:

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the ultra Orthodox Edah Haredit rabbinic court and a leading opponent of the planned Gay March in Jerusalem, said Tuesday that he was opposed to violence against homosexuals.

"We must protest the desecration of the Holy Land," said Sternbuch in a phone interview. "But we must do it nonviolently."

Sternbuch was responding to a pamphlet distributed in Jerusalem that promised a NIS 20,000 bounty for killing a homosexual. In addition to the bounty offer the two-page pamphlet also provided directions complete with hand-drawn diagrams how to construct weapons that could be used to attack homosexuals.

The three preferred weapons were a Molotov cocktail, a rock-filled sock and a nail-studded stick. The Molotov cocktail was nicknamed a Schlissel special and the stick was called a Schlissel spike. Both were named after Yishai Schlissel.

During last year's Gay March Schlissel a haredi resident of Jerusalem used an 18-centimeter knife to stab three people, two 18-year-olds and one 50-year-old man. One was moderately wounded and two were lightly wounded.

The Edah Haredit's rabbinic court has issued several notices or pashkevilim calling to "do everything in your power" to stop the Gay March. However, Sternbuch denied that this implied the use of violence.

Don't let anyone fool you that only Christians can be violently intolerant.

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