LA Times Downsizes

uh yeah, not enough time… that’s exactly why I don’t get a hardcopy newspaper anymore. I’ll sidestep the quality issues that have faced the LAT as well as the charges of liberal bias, and get to the core. The problem facing big metro newspapers isn’t too many stories (pages btw drive ad inventory, which makes this statement from the LAT a little incoherent), it’s the web and a regional footprint in a flat world.

The moves the LAT are making are good, merging the online/offline and downsizing the print side, but these are the symptoms. Better syndication, increasing the effectiveness of display ads, presenting related content from a variety of sources, and creating a social dimension through better profile management and community functions will all come together to do far more to turn the LAT around than simply reducing the amount of newsprint they put out each day.

Lastly, I would encourage any comments to be constructive instead of gloating about online beating offline. The fact remains that a lot of people are losing their jobs in an industry that simply is not growing new jobs.

“The number one reason that people cancel the L.A. Times is, they tell us, they don’t have enough time to read the paper that we give them every day,” Stanton said. “We’re going to be more picky about the stories we choose to write long and a lot more picky about the ones we write shorter.”

[From LA Times to cut 250 jobs, including 150 news jobs: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance]

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Che Defeated Again

So now we’re down to 785 hostages that Columbian narco-terror group FARC is still holding. A great amount of the commentary on FARC has centered on 45 high profile hostages they were holding, but this number is paltry when compared to the conservative number of 3,000 hostages the group is responsible for taking. Hostage taking is a big business for FARC, who long ago abandoned any notion of revolutionary objectives instead focusing on their lucrative hostage taking racket, including over 300 children, and drug manufacturing and trade.

FARC is a loathsome group who are no better than common criminals except for the uncommon size of their criminal business. This year has been bad bad bad for FARC, with leaders captured or killed by Columbian President Uribe, and their Venezuelan financial backer, Hugo Chavez, run off after his bag man was captured by the Columbian military. Eight laptops were seized that contained extensive information about the activities of FARC, as well as linked the group to U.S. Congressman James McGovern (D-MA), who coincidentally ran point on Congressional opposition to the Columbia Free Trade Act.

That 3 American hostages who had been held for 5 years, more than any other American around the world, is great news but let’s not forget the misery that is the unknown fate of all the other FARC victims who are as of today unaccounted for. But it’s a good day and the part of the story that made my smile turn outward is the report that the military rescue team was disguised as aid workers wearing Che Guevarra t-shirts.

French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three Americans and 11 other hostages held for years in jungle captivity by Colombian guerrillas were rescued on Wednesday by troops posing as aid workers.

The bold rescue — without a shot being fired — was a huge blow to Latin America’s oldest insurgency, already badly weakened by President Alvaro Uribe’s U.S.-backed campaign to defeat the rebels and the cocaine trade fueling the conflict.

[From WRAPUP 6-Colombia rescues Betancourt, 3 US hostages | Markets | Markets News | Reuters]

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The Long Tail: They are Both Right

Theories like The Long Tail regularly get taken to extremes in this business, often elevated to the stature of law on the basis of will power alone. What is happening now is a natural correction that pulls back the scope and reapplies the learnings for a better outcome.

I think we all intuitively know that there is a lot more value in niches as a result of the web, but at the same time we know that our behaviors only change incrementally as a result. We have new channels to take advantage of but our consumer behaviors are largely the same.

Whether Anderson intended it or not, the Long Tail is spot on in predicting that social behaviors would amplify as purchase determiners on the web. Having said that, socially enhanced shopping has not transformed retail into a mass market of niches and brand companies and retailers alike still spend proportionately about the same on customer acquisition costs as they historically have.

The other book that deserves scrutiny is Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which as it has turned out is a phenomena a lot less predictable to replicate.

It’s all goodness and we should all consider ourselves fortunate to be in an environment where these concepts are being developed and established brands are willing to push aside the old rules to try new things.

Prof. Elberse looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink.

Mr. Anderson responded on his Long Tail blog, thelongtail.com, saying much of the difference between his analysis and hers involved how hits and non-hits, or “head” and “tail” in the book’s lingo, are measured. Aside from that, he was generous in praising the article, and said he welcomed the sort of rigorous scrutiny the theory was getting.

[From Portals – WSJ.com]

Charlene Li Leaving Forrester

For me, Charlene IS Forrester. Sad to see her leave, but at the same time it’s not hard to understand why.

Forrester has bent over backwards to be accommodating and flexible, but in the end, I have decided that I need to have greater control over how I allocate my time between work and family. As any working parent knows, there’s no such thing as balance – only a series of compromises on both the work and home front. For me and for now, that compromise needs to happen on the work front, so I have elected to leave Forrester on July 18th to have greater control over exactly when and how much time I devote to work and travel. This was a difficult decision for me to make and I’ll be taking a few weeks off this summer to figure out my next step — it is my goal to remain involved in this space, in a manner yet to be determined.

[From Why I’m leaving Forrester]

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Starbucks Bailout Plan in Congress

The slope is indeed a lot more slippery than it looks…

Rep. Pelosi’s bill would subsidize the 600 money-losing Starbucks locations by giving away millions of taxpayer dollars in so-called ‘Venti Vouchers’ to residents of these hard-hit neighborhoods. If the effort fails to revive the flagging stores, Rep. Pelosi said Democrats would “seriously consider nationalizing the coffee industry to ensure the free flow of java at fair prices.”

[From Congress to Halt Closing of Unprofitable Starbucks]

Marketing Triumphs

Toyota is brilliant, their success as branding themselves as the “clean and green” car company and leading people to dismiss General Motors as some wheezing dinosaur of the rust belt is just about as big a marketing success as getting people to buy tap water in a plastic bottle. Furthermore they have done this while running nonstop advertising for the Toyota Tundra that highlights how big and powerful the truck is…

According to the EPA, Toyota’s average fuel economy across their product lineup is 22.8 MPG vs GM’s 19.4 MPG average. Take out the Prius, which skews the numbers up for Toyota and their average fuel economy starts looking a lot more sober.

Speaking of the Prius, Toyota recently passed the 1 millionth delivery after 11 years on the market, which sounds impressive until you realize that Toyota sells 9.3 million vehicles every year so in terms of altering their fleet makeup I think they have a ways to go. Personally, I signed up to get a Chevy Volt if for no other reason than it actually looks good.

In a reversal of recent trends, Toyota trailed GM in June with a 21-percent sales decline, reflecting a 31-percent drop in sales of its trucks like the Tundra pickup.

[From U.S. auto sales hit 15-year low | Reuters]

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PIN vs. Signature Networks

I admit it, credit card processing networks are a complete mystery to me. Having said that, whenever anyone talks about mobile payments the first thing I think about is those little keypads that are standard POS devices now. How exactly would these schemes work? Does the POS device need to be upgraded or is it a network upgrade?

When a customer uses the debit card as a signature card, the transaction is processed over Visa’s network, but if the customer uses a PIN with the same card, it is processed over a separate network.

The signature waiver has reduced transaction processing time, the department said, potentially giving Visa’s signature network an unfair advantage over PIN networks.

[From Visa rescinds debit card rule]