Archive for the ‘multi-media’ Category

Emphasis on ‘New’ in The New York Times

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

UnknownNo one will be shocked by the front page headline of the latest issue of Wired magazine titled: “The News in Crisis.” Equally ‘yawn-able’ infographics in the accompanying article inside show (a) the decline in news jobs for all media (10% in the past 10 years) and a generation gap where only 5% of 18-29 years olds get their news from print newspapers.  Tell us something we don’t know, right?  Yet, a sister article by writer Gabriel Snyder shines a light on how the venerable The New York Times is humping like never before to remain relevant.

Working in favor of the Times and other legitimate news outlets are the very times we are living in.  As, while ‘fake news’ is a ridiculous term coined by the current administration to describe anything it does not agree with, social platforms all too often cater to scribes and sources who put forth opinions and conjecture that is not fact checked and certainly not news. Most rationale individuals want real journalism from credible news sources..  In the wake of the recent presidential election, in fact, the Times reported that subscriptions had surged to 10 times its usual numbers.

To remain viable, however, the Times knows it has to continue to build upon its digital platforms. In 2000, print advertising accounted for 70% of revenues, with digital just 1%.  There was no digital news content at that time. In 2015, both digital and digital news encompassed 12% of revenues (24% total), with print advertising down to 28%.  Since that time, the “paper” has continued to build upon its digital platforms to offer a wide range of multi-media programming.  The centerpiece, or, starting point, is the print subscription. Readers are offered a small bit of ‘free’ content each month but then incentivized to pay for more news, information and fun. This includes a suite of apps, blogs and verticals on a range of topics with original content, akin to a Netflix or Hulu. There is Cooking and Crossword and, soon, Real Estate. Live streaming and text messaging are also utilized regularly for news and sports, and, the Times is also running virtual reality films. Regarding the latter, one early example has Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ben Solomon ‘embedding’ viewers with Iraqi soldiers battling Isis.

Is it working? Early returns are promising as more than 1.5 million people now pay more than $200 million for yearly subscriptions. Overall digital revenue is nearly $500 million.  Perhaps as impressive as the Times on-going informational experimentation to raise readership and revenue, reports Snyder, is management’s willingness to ruffle the feathers of tradition and ‘prim and proper.’ The time-worn mantra: ‘The Times wouldn’t do that’ is headed the way of the Dodo Bird.  And it has to.  The new rallying cry? Evolve or die.  It is a call that should be watched closely and imitated widely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest of All Time

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

muhammad-ali-zoom-cfb97fff-3b5d-4161-b998-6457c965a343Long before there was, “The Great One”, there was, “The Greatest”.  An iconic figure who was arguably one of the most revered and recognizable athletes the sports world (and the world) has ever known.  Why, exactly, was that? What was it that has made Muhammad Ali such an enduring and beloved figure? And why did we believe him when he proclaimed he was, “The Greatest of All Time”? There is much to consider.

First and foremost, he had true talent in the ring.  Outside of it, he was just as memorable. Even as Ali first burst upon the scene in 1960 as an 18-year old Gold Gloves Champ and Olympic prospect, he already possessed charisma and outspokenness along with the skills to back it all up. He would soon elevate heavyweight boxing to new heights – not just with his fists but his wit and uncanny skills at self-promotion. He didn’t just box, he would, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” while also employing the “rope-a-dope”.  And,  his fights were not mere fights, they were the “Thrilla in Manilla” and the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  They all lived up to the hype too, spotlighted further by his constant tongue-in-cheek(?) foil, Howard Cosell of ABC Sports.

Moreover, as Rolling Stone noted this week in a piece by Tim Grierson, Muhammad Ali was also the master of multi-media – and not just your typical magazine covers and sports shows.  Very early on (in 1969), Ali appeared in the Broadway musical, “Buck White”.  He would go on to release a children’s album (1976) and appear in: an animated cartoon series (1977), a comic book opposite Superman (1978) and in an episode of “Diff’rent Strokes (1979).  Biopic movies (in 1977 and 2001) helped fuel the legendary fire.

Perhaps most of all, Ali stood up for what he believed in, without fail nor apology.  Born Cassius Clay, he would object to the Vietnam War and being drafted into it, embraced Islam, changed his name and weathered the firestorm that ensued.  He always believed in himself and encouraged others to do likewise.  It was his ‘brand’ and who he was:  The face he called ‘pretty’.  The mouth he used to call-out his opponents.  The moves those opponents could never seem to figure out.  When they all worked in unison, it was pure poetry in motion. Today, those memories are still indelibly and pleasantly etched – in our minds and in history – and there they will remain.

 

 

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Batman v Superman? How about DC v Marvel

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 6.04.31 PMDespite the fact that DC Comics (originally known as National Allied Publications) has been around since 1935, it has never before featured two of its superheroes – let alone its most iconic – in one feature length motion picture.  In the newly released movie, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which opened in theaters Friday, not only we do we get to see two of comicdom’s oldest and most storied characters, we are also presented with Wonder Woman and, (spoiler alert) a glimpse at Aquaman and (it is rumored) The Flash (I have yet to see the film).  Obviously DC is looking to take on Marvel with a league of its own.

As I have written previously, when it comes to the Silver Screen, Marvel has forever ruled the roost (Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Iron Man) with DC possessing a monopoly on the boob tube (Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow).  Now, DC plans to borrow a page from their cross-town publishing rival’s playbook and release two movies a year over the next five years, building toward their super team team-up.  Where Marvel has the Avengers, DC has the Justice League; but first we have to get to know the players. Wonder Woman will be the next to star in her own film. One would assume Aquaman is next.

What is perhaps even more intriguing about “Batman v Superman” is what the story is based on.  Frank Miller (he of “3000″ and “Sin City” movie fame) is also widely recognized as one of the best comic book writers of our time and, indeed, his top grossing movies were based on his graphic novels.  Along with “Watchmen” (which he did not write), “The Dark Knight Returns” comic book series, originally published in 1984, is hands-down the greatest Batman graphic series ever, featuring an aging, retired Bruce Wayne who confronts a bought-and-paid-for by the federal government Superman.  You’ll even see certain scenes in “Dawn of Justice” that come directly from “Dark Knight” (including this blog’s featured image). The plot might be different in “Dawn” but its foundation is pure Miller.

And that’s a good thing.  Once again, the celluloid creators who have been entrusted to stay true to the characters and their lore are showing they deserve it.  Watch “Arrow” and “Flash” on TV and you will see it: references to events and names and obscure characters that demonstrate show writers have done their homework and respect comic history. It’s basically Marketing 101: know who you are trying to reach and then create and message a product or service that will motivate your audience to action.  If the trailers for “Batman v Superman” are any indication, we are in good hands once again.

 

 

Why Our Books Have Lost Their Spines

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 1.18.18 PMThere have been times in recent months where I almost feel like a kid again; and not in a good way.  I am an avid book reader and always have been.  Yet, if I want to go out and pick up a new book to read my options continue to dwindle. Which rhymes with Kindle. And therein lies the rub.

When a friend of mine recently learned that another Barnes and Noble had closed near her house, she was crestfallen. Until I reminded her that she and I were part of the problem.  She hadn’t bought a book in years, opting to always visit the public library.  I, on the other hand, was choosing the downloading route more and more.

Growing up pre-Internet and before the advent of the big box bookstores, I did have access to books via smaller bookstore chains. Yet, when Borders debuted some twenty or more years ago, the tome-buying experience was taken to another level.  With amazing, seemingly endless selections of new and classic offerings.  As importantly and akin to the Starbucks recipe for coffee enjoyment, there was the experience. Browsing over scones and hot chocolate. Discovering new authors and topics amid a sea of wooden bookshelves with nearly unimaginable magazine and newspaper offerings. Storytellers reading picture books to wide-eyed children.

Today, my bookstore options, and perhaps yours as well, are a good 10 miles away in either direction.  The Kindle, meanwhile (or the Nook is you are so inclined – and at least that benefits Barnes & Noble) is always inches from my fingertips with a selection, available 24-7, that would rival fifty bookstores combined.  It’s how we consume more and more. Like our movement from CDs to MP3, we want what we want, when we want it.  Yet, there’s no denying that something is missing: The sense of community.

It is a dynamic lacking all too often in our society today. It is why we are still drawn to city centers and old-fashioned downtowns like those in Rochester, Ferndale and Plymouth while developers and DDAs continue to work to emulate them – in Wixom, Novi and Dearborn – quite often with mixed results. People still need people and shared experiences; or at least have the option.  Let’s hope that never changes.

 

 

Apple: The Devil’s in the Updates

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

apple-devilAs Apple and the FBI tussle over access to information vs. right to privacy on behalf of the tech giant’s customers, I am struck due to recent circumstance by Apple’s often disregard for customer service and preferences. I’m all about: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Apple on the other hand, seems to adhere to the axiom: if it ain’t broke, change it.  Allow me to provide an example.

I love music. I also love to workout. And, the former is, for me, the perfect complement to the latter.  I download songs to my MacBook Air computer and, from there, to my iPhone.  In the past, I have always been able to manage my music much like a radio station.  When I was a music director back in the day, I chose what songs the radio station played and didn’t play, including when to add a song and when to take one or more out of rotation (resting them). Similarly, I have always been able to go to “My Music” on the laptop and check the boxes of the songs I want to synch and then shuffle through on my iPhone (and automatically past those I want to “rest”).

As of this writing, I cannot do this.  I don’t know what the technical problem is exactly – and I am not alone.  My crack IT man can’t figure it out.  Hours spent on the phone with Apple tech advisors and their supervisors and their supervisors’ supervisors have similarly been unable to bear fruit.  And so I scroll and scroll through my entire playlist, half of which are comprised of songs I currently don’t want to hear right now.

What I do know is that Apple has become, proverbially, “too hip for the room.” New  operating programs and upgrades are often necessary to ensure entire systems run most smoothly, I get that.  But continually changing browsers and tools that many of us would prefer to preserve can be nothing but greed (and perhaps Apple programmer boredom).  A nudge to purchase that new phone or software package.  In my case, I’m convinced this about luring me to Apple Music. I’m not biting.

All in all, it is very disappointing and, I feel unnecessary. Apple prides itself on being tech intuitive but has strayed (why do you think there is such a proliferation of ‘do it yourself’ YouTube help videos posted by other tech savvy laypeople)?  Cool gadgetry may keep your programmers and technophiles frothing at the mouth, Apple, but don’t forget the majority of your customers – and true customer service.

Can “Bullied Mom” Set Precedent For More Positive News Stories?

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 7.50.48 PMHow often do you watch, listen to or read the news and say to yourself regarding a particular story or stories: “That’s news?” A friend of mine recently asked me that very question after watching a Channel 7 story on a woman from Fort Gratiot, Michigan who was bullied by two other women in a coffee shop and then proceeded to do the unexpected: she paid for the women’s coffee.

The story caught the attention of ABC World News Tonight out of New York, while Channel 7 did a more “local” take.  Soon, the story had become a Facebook and internet sensation. News? Absolutely and a welcome and refreshing change of pace from the types of stories that typically dominate the headlines.  In fact, I sometimes quip that the news should be called the “bad news” as, all too often, we are exposed to our society’s lowest common denominator. A car jacking. A shooting. A rape. A murder. A robbery. If one didn’t know better you would think it was unsafe to leave your home for fear of being a victim.  More often that not in our society, people are good and good things happen.  The news does cover them; I would just argue not often enough.

That is why the tale of the Michigan mom is special and deserved attention.  Bullying continues to be a real problem in our society albeit typically involving school kids. And here, rather than the protagonist lashing out against her antagonists, perhaps with verbal or physical violence that is also all too common today, this special women “killed them with kindness” – paying for their coffee and walking away.

Good for her, good for Channel 7 and good for ABC News.  They all proved in recent days that most people are inherently good and that those people deserve to be recognized more often for their example-setting behavior. Hopefully it will help set a trend for positive news coverage that’s also good for business. After all, positive stories get shared as often if not more so than negative ones on social media. That means more clicks, share of audience and, one would hope in the end, a spotlight on more “good guys” and less on bad.

Marketplace Moves New Music Tuesdays

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.50.43 PMIn recent weeks, the official release day for all music worldwide almost quietly moved from Tuesday in the U.S. to Friday everywhere.  Previously, new music also debuted Fridays in Australia and Mondays in the U.K.  The reason, as recently reported by Brian Mansfield in the USA Today, is fairly simple: With music being consumed differently today via streaming and online sources, the old “bricks and mortar” methodology has largely become obsolete. The only real wonder is why this change did not happen sooner.

Previously, retailers could sell through initial demand early in the week and still have time to gauge continuing interest and order more in time for the weekend.  The new model, however, is necessitating these same retailers anticipating that demand in advance and pre-ordering in appropriate numbers accordingly.

Another dynamic, reports Mansfield, is how bands touring worldwide will overcome the challenge of a uniform release date when, previously, according to Keith Caulfield of Billboard, “they could appear in Australia, then Europe, then the U.S. to maximize their visibility throughout the week, as the album was released” via a staggered schedule.

On the positive side, says Tom Becci of Universal Music in the USA Today piece, when a new song leaked on a Thursday or Friday before a Tuesday U.S. release, weekend pirating ramped up dramatically.  A universal Friday debut date, he feels, will lead to more legal downloads and, in turn, less demand for illegal fare.

Like anything else, time will tell and an evolving marketplace will continue dictate what changes and what stays the same – a bit akin to the movie industry where the hottest new movies, forever released on Fridays afternoon/evenings, are now more often unveiled 12-13 hours earlier at midnight, in order to maximize buzz and weekend box office takes. Like anything else in marketing, its all about adapting to demand and to the wants and needs of your audience.

“8 Track” Tale of Past Technology, Modern Application

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 4.59.56 PMIf you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love music, radio and pop culture. You may also know that I wrote a book on all of those things called, ”No Static at All – a behind the scenes journey through radio and pop music.” As such, I have tremendous respect for authors and also count among my great passions writing and reading.

That’s why R.J. King’s new book, “8 Track – The First Mobile App” holds such great appeal for me.  Released in recent days by the longtime, award-winning journalist and dbusiness magazine founder and editor, “8 Track” takes readers through a multi-year journey of invention, innovation and consumer applications, much of which I had never heard of before.

In the mid-to-late 70s, I recall the 8-track player as being as much a temporary media fad as anything else.  Growing up with vinyl – first 45s and then 33 1/3s – the 8-track was an oddity that clicked between cuts and, at one point on each 8 Track cassette, faded out in the middle of a song only to fade back in for its completion, post-click.  My purchases of this medium were few with the Steve Miller Band’s “Book of Dreams” and Kiss’ “Kiss Alive II” being the only ones I can recall.  The smaller, more portable cassette tape (on which we taped music off the radio or record album) would soon catch on to a greater degree with my generation, in particular for mix tapes and car radios.

Ahh, cars.  King’s book recounts with detail how, in the 1960s, the 8-track player was originally perfected and utilized by and for the auto industry in conjunction with competing inventors Earl Muntz and Bill Lear; the latter of Lear jet fame. Lear, in fact, had originally dabbled in the technology for potential use in his corporate jets where radio signals were unusable. Muntz pushed a 4 Track option (again, I had never heard of), Lear the 8.  The technology would soon “wow” everyone from radio stations and record companies to manufacturers, distributors and, of course, the public.  First in automobiles where it outperformed air conditioning as an option then on to the consumer market where it caught on like hot cakes.

The book is obviously a labor of love for King whose dad, John P. King, was hired by Ford Motor Company in 1965 as the project engineer who would see the 8 Track project to fruition, including through collaborations with Motorola’s radio production facility and RCA’s record factory.  The story of the 8 Track is tumultuous and ingenuous, cut throat and cutting edge.  It was a technology whose time had come and would eventually pass but not before leaving an indelible mark on the history of music and engineering. King captures it well, like sound on magnetic tape, to be consumed and enjoyed.

Entrepreneurs: Success Starts With A Solid Foundation

Monday, February 16th, 2015

blue_panel_report_fThis past week was Detroit Entrepreneur Week and, as reported by Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Amy Haimerl, it was seven days filled with resources for recent and aspiring entrepreneurs, most notably through the Michigan Center for Empowerment and Economic Development.  The week’s activities, in fact, included what was termed a “Small Business Legal Academy,” hosted Saturday at Wayne State University Law School, where a track advised attendees on marketing, branding and legal considerations. Amy moderated the panel and I participated.

The room was filled with talented and engaged individuals either on the verge of launching an endeavor or looking to take their enterprise to the next step and questions ran the gamut: How can I determine the best avenue to take – whether PR, advertising or marketing? How do I target my customers more effectively? I have had early media stories on my product, but what should I do next?

With panelists Dan Dalton of the law firm of Dalton Tomich and Trevor Pawl of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the importance of laying the initial groundwork – no matter the initiative or undertaking – was stressed as the best starting point.  Has a business plan been developed? A handbook with legally-binding verbiage protecting the business owner from operational and intellectual concerns? From a branding standpoint, the discussion progressed, attendees were challenged to introspection: Do you know who you are? Who your audience is? What sets you apart from the competition? What is your value proposition?

A woman looking to start a non-profit. A successful snackmaker looking to create a like-minded entrepreneurial community. A bed and breakfast owner aspiring to open another. A tech provider seeking to gain greater awareness for his product.  No matter the project, it was discussed, the key tips and takeaways of the nearly      2-hour session were the same: The exact road to success varies and potential tactics are many, including the ability, beyond stories in the newspaper or on TV, to tell your own stories via social media, video, e-communications and strategic networking; in short, a multi-platform approach based on the best means by which to reach your customers with as many touch points as possible.

Finally, while many in the room acknowledged they needed additional guidance from professionals they were far less sure of how best to go about it from a due diligence and cost-effectiveness standpoint. Our best advice: shop around. Seek recommendations from friends, fellow business owners and the media. That’s right, call a reporter or newsroom and see whom they most respect. From there, narrow the field and conduct one-on-one face-to-face interviews to talk-out not only how they work but also to ensure similar values and ethics and, as importantly, flexibility in billing to meet budgets and expectations.

 

U2, Apple Mark a New (Year’s) Day for Music

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 4.31.01 PMIn 2004, U2 became one of the first rock bands ever to launch a new record via TV commercial as their then-new single “Vertigo” also introduced the iPod “U2 Special Edition.”  In recent days, the band and Apple have taken their relationship to another level, joining forces to provide free, automatic downloads of U2′s long-time-coming Songs of Innocence LP to iTunes subscribers.  And, reporter Catherine Mayer/Cupertino writes in the September 29th issue of Time, there is a method to this seeming madness.

Of course, U2 is far from original in giving their music away.  Prince, Radiohead and others have already tread that once hallowed ground.  Yet, no one has ever taken this approach so grandly and boldly with more money paid in advance and more potential future rewards hanging in the balance.  Consider the following: In 2013, music industry revenue continued its 13-year slide to its lowest levels since 1985, a time where newly minted CDs began nudging vinyl records for supremacy.  And, in an era and to a generation where “free” music is the expectation (via pirating, YouTube, etc.) thia alarming sales trend is only expected to continue. Simultaneously, concert revenue is rising; and the numbers are staggering.  In fact, U2 stands at the top of the list of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time: $772 million over 110 shows for 2009-11, with an elbow-to-elbow 66,110 attending each concert.

No one is confirming how much Apple is paying U2 for this and future collaborations but it is rumored that the digital giant pledged more than $100 million to market Songs alone.  Why does it make sense? For U2 (or any band today) music drives concert ticket sales. For U2 and Apple, the promotion of the first single “Miracle” has caused a major spike in the band’s 30-year catalogue, with music from days past leading download sales charts across the world.  An acoustic version of Songs of Innocence is also coming soon while a companion album, Songs of Experience, is also in the works.

But, perhaps most interesting are reported plans for U2 and Apple to create, as Bono describes it in the Time piece, “an audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated and will bring back album artwork in the most powerful way, where you can play with the lyrics and get behind the songs when you’re sitting on the subway with your iPad or on these big flat screens. You can see photography like you’ve never see it before.” Perhaps it will mark a turning point for positioning music once again as a valuable experience rather than entitled commodity. It appears Bono and U2 are headed that way with Apple - hopefully with rather than without you.