Friday, April 30, 2010

before grande there was regular and everyone drank from the same cup

Why you should never ask me for stock advice: Twenty years ago, when Starbucks announced they were on their way to New York, I predicted a fail, sure that New Yorkers were waaaay too savvy to pay premium for coffee when they could get fine brew in this cup for a mere fifty cents. In 1994, when the first Starbucks opened on Broadway, 500 million Greek coffee cups sold each year. A decade later, that number was down more than half, to 200 million. (And my tipster friends in Seattle were laughing all the way to the bank.)

The creator of the 57-year old cup was Holocaust survivor Leslie Buck (born Büch), a paper-cup salesman attempting to break into the New York diner market in 1963. Noting that most owners of diners were Greek, he concocted a design based on the image of the Greek vase known as an amphora. The cup soon became ubiquitous on the streets of New York, standard-issue at diners, coffeeshops, lunchtrucks and coffee carts, a requisite item not only for coffee-toters, but for propmasters for TV shows and films set in the city.

Buck passed away Monday, but died knowing that his Anthora (the altered name, due to his Eastern European accent) survives, albeit too often in the hand of the person next to you on the subway, who you hope keeps it upright as the train takes a curve.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

defining His and Hers in digital space

A recent article in Forbes reports that users of Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are predominantly women while men are heavier users of YouTube and LinkedIn. "Facebook, the largest social networking tool in the world, is dominated by women," it says. Then the piece goes on to explain that women use social media to "make connections and share items from their personal lives, men use them as means to gather information and increase their status."

I read the article a few times, searching for evidence upon which to base this conclusion which implies something I've heard a few times before: that women's use of social media is family-oriented and frivolous, while men's use of it is to get ahead in the world.

I could find no real evidence in the article to support the statement, which, curiously, the writer seems to have based upon:

1. A recent joint study from BlogHer and iVillage which reports that 75% of women use online communities to stay up to date with family and friends...and that 68% of them use them "to connect with others like me." But can't those statistics apply to the same women? And isn't "connecting with others like me" what men do when they use social media to gather information?

2. Berkeley Professor Lorrie Thomas says men use social media as an "interactive Rolodex" storing contact info for future use. But the same could be said of women users, the majority of whom use online communities for connections.

3. Jodi Kahn, the head of iVillage, says women want to learn about real people experiencing similar conflicts. (Don't men seek the same thing?) The conflict she unfortunately chooses to use as example is "potty-training." "If I'm a mom who is about to start potty training," she says," it's important to me to hear how other real moms are doing it." But no study shows that women talk mostly about potty training online, or even the broader topic of parenting techniques. Kahn might have just as easily wondered, "If I'm a woman juggling motherhood and management, it's important to me to hear how other real women are doing it."

5. Sherry Perlmutter Bowen, a gender and communication professor at Villanova University, says she's seeing men use social media to gather information and boost their influence. But as commenter to a response post on Jezebel noted, aren't these just less girly terms for "gossip" and "making social connections?"

Interestingly, another source interviewed for the article, Elisa Camahort Page, cofounder and chief operating officer of BlogHer, observes that "both men and women report that their most common blog topic is 'my life.' " The writer, however, finds this observation "surprising."

I'm not trying to argue that there are no differences in the way men and women approach social media. I'm just saying we need to be careful about how we define differences and assign norms, or risk perpetuating biases that have long created problems in the IRL world. Irin Carmon, who wrote a balanced response piece to Forbes on Jezebel, notes that online "there may be a chance to build a culture from scratch, but so far the Internet often simply perpetuates the [culture] we already have."

The writer of the Forbes piece responds in the comments. To save you the jump, here it is:
I am the writer, Jenna Goudreau, on this piece and am pleased to see an active discussion on its contents. I’d have to disagree with this writer’s assessment that the article was meant to prove that “women’s use of social media is family-oriented and frivolous.” Rather, as the many experts in the piece confirmed, many more women than men are using social media to connect with others on a more personal level. That might mean that they are online discussing their families, and it may mean they’re online discussing their careers. The point, here, is that they are discussing more in general. I don’t believe that makes the group inferior, or that it’s true for all women or all men. It’s a pattern online that may reflect a gendered pattern offline.

cover letter train wreck

I've posted on clueless cover letters before, but here's a disaster of epic proportions. Writer's in for a shock when Mom and Dad stop paying the bills.

via Len Kendall

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

on the internet no one knows you're an ad

No wonder we have to spend government funds to alert our kids to advertising's ubiquitousness. Imagine how many Facebook readers mistake this landing page for a news site, as I did for a moment, until noting links to "the most credible and trustworthy supplier on the market." And mice type citing "Advertorial." (Just try to find it, Waldo.)

The "expose" states that the amazing concoction helped a News 7 reporter lose 25 lbs. Hilariously, that's not all it reduced. Elsewhere in the piece, she works for News 6.

When will DDMAC discover the interwebs?

Monday, April 26, 2010

from actual conversations in real life

Upon paying too much for a suit for a one-time event, a friend says, "Oh, well. Now I have something to wear to my funeral. Although after the ceremony, I'd like to be redressed in fuzzy PJs and socks."

I tell her to pack a bag and I'll ride with the casket. Unless I precede her.

"I hope I'll precede YOU!" she says, emphatically. Which is sweet, I think, until she adds, "Because I think you'll say something really great at my service and I am sorry I'm gonna miss it!"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

last chance to see Tim Burton at MOMA

In case you've been meaning to see Tim Burton's show at MOMA, you've got just 30 hours. Museum is staying open until 8:45 tonite and tomorrow to accommodate procrastinators. Tickets are sold out (of course) but become a member and you can walk in anytime.

NSFK? The exhibit might appear to be kid-friendly, judging by the huge inflatable "Balloon Boy" in the lobby and the show's monster-mouth entrance. But it's only for kids in the way that his Alice in Wonderland is--that is, for kids who don't mind a trip to the dark side.

What I like about the collection is one thing the New York Times apparently didn't: it includes many drawings from his teenage years at Cal Arts and the four years when he worked as an animator for Disney. Interesting to see how his work develops, though his theme never veers from "revenge of the nerd" in brilliantly executed characters like Stainboy whose superpower is leaving powerful stains, Toxic Boy whose fumes burn the beard off Santa, and of course, Edward Scissorhands. There's paintings, sculptures, photographs and short films on flat screens. And, oh yes, a topiary deer in the garden.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Algonquin roundtable turns virtuous

If you're a lover of books (electronic or otherwise) you probably know about the Algonquin Roundtable where Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and other New York literati of the 1920's lunched daily for ten years, dubbing themselves "The Vicious Circle."

Yesterday, "The Virtuous Circle" gathered there, a group of tweeting authors, editors, publicists, publishers and book marketers, many meeting IRL for the first time, greeting each other with exuberant "You look much better than your avatar!"

@BettyDraper and I were honored to have a place at the table with circle organizers Bethanne Patrick and Denise Berthiaume, along with writers distinguished in mediums calling for far more than 140 characters: Susan Orlean, Martha McPhee, Jason Pinter, Erin McHugh, Julie Klam, MJ Rose. (And others, I'm sure. There wasn't one table, but several.) Prix fixe menu was surprisingly good and for several hours, the room reverberated with clinking glasses and buzz about publishers (how few are left), bookstores (ditto), readings (one writer had been dismayed to look down at a signing and realize he was wearing two different shoes) and, of course, e-publishing. Which turns out to account for just 5% of book sales these days, not the larger numbers I'd heard. Everyone in the business is trying to figure out how to make it make money. "The actual physical book--the printing and binding--is the least expensive part of publishing," an editor told me. "The real costs are the writing, the editing, the sales and promotion which don't change, whether the book is handheld or virtual."

Along with dessert, a book exchange. Kind of like a not-Secret Santa, in which I nabbed Road Trip. Other takeaways: I learned that Dorothy Parker tweets from the grave. And, on the way to the ladies, made the acquaintance of the hotel's most famous resident- Matilda, a glamorous cat who not only has the run of the place but her own email address.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

92nd St Y + 140 characters + 2 days=ROI

Bleary-brained from two days in the frenetic "State of Now" as Jeff Pulver calls his 140 Character Conferences which are unlike any others I've attended, not only because they bring together people from such disparate fields as fashion, music, publishing, real estate and medicine, but because
1. Speakers are limited to too-short-to-be boring 10 minutes, panels to 20 minutes
2. All sessions take place in same room, so by choosing one, you won't miss others
3. It's not a trade show.
The last is the most remarkable difference to me. No one on stage is out to sell you something. (Well, almost no one.) Vibe is about sharing vision and ideas and concrete examples of how adoption of social communication platforms is actually, in real time, changing the world. All sessions were streamed and available here.

Ann Curry talked about how twitter saved lives in Haiti, connecting victims with the help they needed in the US. (video)

Jennifer Preston (Social Media editor of NY Times--yes! they have one) talked with newsgatherers about how geo-based platforms (FourSquare, Gowalla) are changing the way reporters get news. (video) Later, founders of those platforms, Dennis Crowley and Josh Williams, discussed surprisingly prevalent use in heavily-censored China. (video)

Comic Book creators from Marvel and elsewhere talked about the excitement of bringing their characters off the page and onto small screens. (video)

Transmedia producer Tish Shute introduced the concept of collaborative Augmented Reality Worlds as easy to contribute to as a Wiki page. (video)

There were plenty of other worthwhile sessions, including ones from media elites David Carr and Joan Walsh and twitter brand names like MC Hammer, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jessica Gottlieb. But perhaps my favorite presentation was by unknown 13 year olds who demonstrated a breakthrough idea in education conceived by their teacher George Haines: they came to appreciate Animal Farm by tweeting the characters. Each took a turn in the classroom channelling Clover, Snowball, Napoleon, Muriel, even Orwell himself and followed barnyard conversation on a twitter list. A simple, replicable idea: combine literature with computer technology to make both more appealing to kids who "thought the book was boring until we started tweeting it." They ended their preso with remix of Lady Gaga's "Brave Romance" ("Boring Class") and got A+ from the crowd--a rare standing ovation. (Vid below)

"Twitter Will Endure" illustration by quickdraw Johnny Goldstein

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hungary? Treat yourself to a sausage commercial.

Hilarious, even if you don't speak Hungarian. They don't shoot spots like this anymore. Except maybe in Bollywood.

Thanks to Laurie Gwen Shapiro for the, um, link

Friday, April 16, 2010

want to sell more stuff? offer fewer choices

A book review in today's Wall Street Journal confirms what parents of toddlers already know: humans often fare better if presented with fewer options, not more. In "Art of Choosing" Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar discusses research that suggests arranged marriages are, ironically, often more loving than love marriages; children play more enthusiastically when forced to choose only one toy from an array of many; and--here's where it gets interesting for marketing types--the more varieties of a product there are on the shelf, the less apt shoppers are to commit to a decision to buy it. Better pull the plug on those line extensions.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

twitter donates your tweets to Library of Congress

Better lock up your Twitter if you don't want posterity reading your posts. Announcement today from Twitter at its first conference for developers: it's donating access to all but privatized tweets to the Library of Congress, going back to the first tweet dated March 21, 2006 from co-founder Jack Dorsey: "just setting up my twttr." The mission of the Library, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is to "sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations." A post on the Library's blog says it now holds 167 terabytes of information culled from the Web since 2000. Fittingly, it announced the acquisition in a tweet sent out to its 53,000 followers. Pity the poor dweeb whose job is to assign Dewey call numbers.

tip of the tricorner to Bill Green

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

good housekeeping brings down the house at city center

When I was growing up, reading Good Housekeeping was a source of titillation to me because my mother had declared it off-limits to kids. (Presumably not for its recipes, but because of its frank advice on marriage and other womanly topics that these days are included in lower school curriculums.)

Because of this, and also because I've been a longtime cheerleader of women making their mark (in prehistoric 90s, I helped launch the first Take Our Daughters to Work Day) I was gratified that @BettyDraper and I had the chance to attend Good Housekeeping's 125th anniversary celebration at City Center where glitterati gathered last night for "Shine On: Celebrating 125 Years of Women Making Their Mark", a benefit to build the first National Women's History Museum.

On stage, Meryl Streep channeled Susan B. Anthony; Marlee Matlin delivered a tribute to Helen Keller in sign language; Fran Drescher stole the show with her grab bag of impersonations, including a human rights worker from India, a young Latina with stage-fright, and a Jewish grandmother to whom a desktop is "a place to put your napkin." The program included songs, performances and video tributes from Jessica Simpson, Jane Alexander, Kristen Bell, Candice Bergen, Hilary Duff, Nora Ephron, Marlo Thomas, Martha Stewart, Ann Hampton Calloway and wrapped with a rousing rendition of "Respect" from Aretha Franklin who received a standing ovation for belting it out while floating across stage in what appeared to be a gown of white feathers.

The show was actually branded entertainment, sponsored by Maybelline which donated $50K to the cause and did a bit of sampling while offering free makeup touches to the incoming audience. The one-night production honored women from all walks: from oft-lauded names like Sally Ride and Margaret Mead to lesser knowns like Joan Ganz Cooney (founder Children's TV Workshop) and Virginia Apgar (neonatologist) to names I'd never heard of, pointing up to me the need for a commemorative museum.

Perhaps as a sign of recessionary times, no party bags, natch, just giveaways of the latest issue which honors 125 women in a special section sponsored by Maybelline. (A choice of two covers. One featuring a headshot of Michele Obama so enthusiastically photoshopped that it has evoked a bit of foam in the twitstream.)

Branded efforts for a publication across multiple platforms might seem like a post-millennial concept but, as Stuart Elliott reminded recently, it harkens back to the 1970s, when Fortune magazine hired the cabaret act Weeden, Finkle & Fay to write and perform travelling shows to generate goodwill for its advertisers⎯and additional ad pages.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

transmedia wins new title at the *other* PGA

In a historic meeting last night at Producers Guild of America (significant because the PGA rarely approves new credits) an amendment was approved in which executives who expand storylines onto multiple platforms will receive official credit as "Transmedia Producers". One of the authors of the amendment and a driving force behind it is Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment and producer of transmedia projects for Mattell, Hasbro and Coca Cola (Happiness Factory) and film projects. Full article on Deadline Hollywood, where the story broke, here.

Last night's vote was a huge win for new tellers of story. When I first saw the news on twitter, my brain did a high-five. But upon close read of PGA's definition of Transmedia Producer I was dismayed to see that the title applies only if the story has three (count em) storylines. Three? Isn't the meaning (and beauty) of transmedia that one, single story is proliferated across platforms? Three works for franchises. But franchises aren't the only type of transmedia project, as Christy Dena, a Melbourne-based PhD in transmedia points out on her blog:
What about all the transmedia producers for special television episodes that include the web in a special two-screen experience? Gosh, simultaneous media-usage with TV shows especially created to work with the web or mobile are one of the biggest growth areas in broadcasting. And books with websites or DVDs? The minimum-of-three rule applies to franchises easily, but it shows how little these people know about how big the area is.
Perhaps Gomez and others pushing for this reform knew vote would go through only if it was explained in marketing speak: franchise. And that amendment won't be limited to strict adherence. Because to do so would limit the vastness of the field first envisioned by Henry Jenkins in the Jurassic Period (early 1990s).

Your turn now, WGA. Transmedia Writer?


Jeff Gomez kindly comments with clarification: Transmedia Producer credit relies on three story threads, not storylines:
"To clarify, the three storyline rule stands for at least three narrative threads, not three completely different and separate stories. It's specifically aimed at producers and designed to prevent repurposing, which has run rampant in the age of new media."