Thursday, June 29, 2006

MySpace & The Media Revolution

You know Tom, from MySpace? He's the annoying guy who's automatically your friend when you started your profile. Well, his name is Tom Anderson, and he and his partner Chris DeWolfe are now $580 million richer than you are. was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., a global media monster. News Corp. is MASSIVE, owning $23.8 billion in every media channel there is, from TV, cable stations and movie studios to radio stations, publishing and on-line business.

Viacom, MTV's parent company, had been haggling with MySpace at $50 million before News Corp. offered a whopping $580 million for the site. Google could have paid half that 3 months before, but according to Mr. Murdoch himself, were arrogant and didn't see the site as anything so special they couldn't build themselves.

Media companies traditionally create content to attract viewers, and then advertisers. The special thing about MySpace is that it is run by its users, each page unique to the individual it represents. News Corp has invested $20 million to prevent the technology hiccups that crippled Friendster before it.

News Corp. hopes to use the site as a youth marketing company that gives them the "ability to look inside and understand how hits get created, spot hot niches and identify trends at their beginnings. MySpace grows at 280,000 news users per day. MySpace reaches more kids each day that MTV sees in a week.

This is critical to keeping up with the changing market. All date shows that Internet has signaled the end of the mega-hit. Unlike all other forms of media, which are one-way (viewer reads/watches content with no immediate feedback mechanism), the Internet is peer-to-peer, with "as many senders as receivers...spread out across geography and time."

This means that more of the market will be segmented to meet the specific needs to independent groups, with fewer big hits reaching a mass audience. In 1953, 72% of TV households watched I Love Lucy on Mondays. Today, only 18% watch American Idol. (Of course, AI is probably bigger at 18% than Lucy ever was at 72%.) "It will take decades for our entertainment industries to internalize the lessons of this shift."

But this is the same for all revolutionary media formats. "Before the Industrial Revolution, culture was mostly local, with the distances dividing people giving rise to regional diversity." Railroads, then mass-produced newspapers, radio, and TV changed the world. Suddenly, there entire country knew what was going on. Today, Seattle gets the same news as Miami with London sharing the same Associated Press articles.

This is a powerful change in human culture that we all take for granted. The Internet has continued to facilitate the global village. Is this leading to increased isolation in America? Maybe, but that's another blog. (Shout out to Mom for that article.)

For further reading, see these 2 articles in the July 2006 Wired Magazine: "His Space" & "The Rise and Fall of the Hit." The second article was written by editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, who has an amazing blog and a soon-to-be-released book "The Long Tail" detailing the fall of the mega-hit and the rise of niche marketing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Universe in Scale

Hakan's Space Balls

Happy & (un)Healthy

I’m looking for a way to eat bachelor food while still eating somewhat healthy. I’ve been dying for Buffalo wings recently but thought I’d try something different.

Last night, I pan-seared a chicken breast (using minimal oil) that I had marinated in wing sauce overnight. I then sautéed some garlic with celery & carrots as a side dish to the chicken and served it all with a ranch dipping sauce. It was healthier than wings, had the same flavors but a fraction of the fat. I felt pretty proud of myself.

But... it didn’t work. There’s no substitution for the real thing. I want fried foods now more than ever. And my homemade lunch of sautéed broccoli & white beans in pesto sauce isn't helping satisfy that craving. I don't know why I'm drawn to these foods. Maybe fried food stimulates a chemical release in the brain that gives me some kind of emotional high?

Soon, I will be getting wings. I may go to the gym to help offset the effects of eating such a fat-filled meal, but I may be too “tired” for that.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Desktop of the Future

Check out this video demonstration of Bumptop 3D Desktop, the latest in computer interface design. It's really cool looking, turning all desktop items into dimensionalized objects that can be tossed aside or neatly stacked.

Personally, I don't like it. Sure, it looks cool, but it doesn't help me organize my files any more efficiently than I already do. Seems like this will only mimick the clutter most people already have on their desks instead of facilitating and maintaining a more orderly system on its own. For these reasons, I don't think it will catch on. Give me "Sort by Name" or give me death.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Strongest Brand in America is…

Reynolds Wrap? According to a Harris Interactive survey, Reynold’s aluminum foil has the strongest brand equity in the U.S. The top 10 was filled with unsexy package-goods staples in commodity categories, like Ziploc Bags, Windex, and Clorox Bleach.

Reynolds was able to top the list with only $7.5 million in media support last year. Compare that to $27.9 million on Clorox Bleach, $413,800 for Heinz, and $25,400 for WD-40 (the lowest spender of all).

Icons like Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, Nike, even the ultra-cool iPod couldn’t crack the top 10, listed here:
1. Reynolds Wrap
2. Ziploc Food Bags
3. Hershey's Candy Bars
4. Kleenex Tissues
5. Clorox Bleach
6. WD-40
7. Heinz Ketchup
8. Ziploc Containers
9. Windex Glass Cleaner
10. Campbell's Soup

I have no idea how much Coke spent on marketing last year, but it must be astronomical in comparison. Still, transferring brand equity into profit is a hard challenge. Brands that didn’t make the top 10 are probably raking in huge amounts of cash compared to the smaller players that did.

Why do the brands with the strongest equity seem to spend the smallest amount in advertising? Does their heritage to pull them to the top, or do they just have very little competition from other products? I don't know, but it’s time for me to go get lunch.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ben & Jerry's in Israel

I did not make these up (but wish I had).

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream is now available in Israel in the following flavors:

Wailing Walnut
Mazel Toffee
Oy Ge-malt
Mi Ka-_mocha
Soda & Gamorra
Bernard Malamint
Berry Pr'i Hagafen
Choc-Eilat Chip
and finally... Simchas T'oreo

All these flavors come in a Cohen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Soccer vs. Football: Field Size

How big is a soccer field compared to US football field? Both are about the same length, though soccer is about 20 yards wider. And there's a lot more running in soccer.

Soccer is played by two teams of 11 players each. The field for international matches is in the range of 110-120 yards long and 70-80 yards wide. The length must always be greater than the width.

American football has 11 players per side. The field is 120 yards long (100 yards of playing field with two 10 yard end zones) and 53 1/3 yards wide.

I would love to play soccer, but I'm still trying to break the 10-minute barrier on the treadmill. 90 minutes would kill me.

The Afternoon Before Lincoln Was Shot

Here's a great article in Smithsonan Magazine that gives a really good depiction of Washington D.C. the day Lincoln was shot. It surprising how normal a day it was, given the extraordinary circumstances of the times (i.e. the Southern Army had surrendered only a month agao and the Confederacy wouldn't officially end for another month). Little things show the human side, like Lincoln wearing size 14 shoes and people not getting along with his wife give a depth to the story that keeps it facisnating.

April 14,1865, was Good Friday, not a big night to go out, traditionally. It’s hard to imagine today, when an invitation from the president of the United States is tantamount to a subpoena, but the Lincolns had a hard time finding anyone to join them at the theater that night. His own secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, declined. (Mrs. Stanton couldn’t stand Mrs. Lincoln.) General Grant also begged off. (Mrs. Grant couldn’t stand Mrs. Lincoln.)

Lincoln was subsequently turned down by a governor, another general, the Detroit postmaster, another governor and chief at the War Department (an Army major named Thomas Eckert). Finally Abe turned to another Army major, Henry Rathbone, who said to the president, in so many words, OK, OK, whatever. The image of the president pleading with an Army major to sit in the president’s box is the final tragicomic vignette we have of Lincoln. It’s of a piece with his humanity and humility.

Wow, isn't Lincoln a cool name for a little boy?!?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Dark Crystal Meets Star Wars

I'm a Dark Crystal-geek. I found this great unofficial homepage with this amazing little tidbit. Who knew??

I'm part of a small group that collects rough drafts of Star Wars screenplays. One of the most interesting was the Third Draft of the original movie (the shooting script was the Revised Fourth Draft). In this draft, the familiar concept of the Force is embodied in a large, dark crystal on the Sith planet of Alderaan. The Sith have all the fragments except one, which is in the hands of the ancient Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke Starkiller uses this fragment of the Kiber Crystal to guide his torpedos down the shaft of the Death Star in the final space battle sequence.

Sound familiar? Lucas cut out the Sith subplot (Darth Vader was a Dark Lord of the Sith) and decided to make the Force more ephemeral, eliminating the need for a crystal manifestation.

Okay, you're saying. Dark Crystal (or at least parts of the plot) seem to be based on an early draft of Star Wars. Where's the connection? Gary Kurtz produced both. As I recall, Dark Crystal was a pet project of his that he pursued shortly after parting ways with Lucas after Empire Strikes Back. Kurtz was one of the very small circle of people (including conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie) to be involved in Star Wars in the rough-draft stages of the story.

When Obi-Wan hands Luke the Kiber Crystal shard, the scene immediately cuts to the Crystal Chapel on Alderaan, where Darth Vader and two other Sith Lords suddenly feel a great disturbance in the Force. "Darth, did you feel that?" one asks. There is something just like this scene in the Dark Crystal ("So, my hand...").

In fact, it might be even more helpful for those interested to go to This is the official Jedi Bendu site. It currently focuses on the Second Draft, but there is a link to the Third Draft somewhere on it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Power of Coke in Madagascar

Madagascar is the world's largest producer of Vanilla in the world. In 2005, they produced over 40% of the world's supply. India was second, at 27%, followed by China at 14%. Mexico, the native country of the vanilla bean, only produced 3% of the world supply, the same amount as Turkey.

The Coca-Cola Corporation is the world's largest customer of natural vanilla extract. When New Coke was introduced in 1985, the economy of Madagascar crashed, and only recovered after New Coke flopped. This is because New Coke used vanillin, a less expensive synthetic substitute, and purchases of vanilla more than halved during this period. It's amazing how dependent an entire country can become on 1 company.

By 2002, the company introduced Vanilla Coke. In 2004, sales of Vanilla Coke dropped from 90 million cases its first year to only 35 million. Diet Vanilla Coke went from 23 million cases to just 13. Both producta were discontinued in Nov. 2005 in the UK and US. But don't worry Madagascar, they've just introduced Black Cherry Vanilla Coke.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Mentos: The Explosion Maker

Watch this video, then read on. A 2-liter bottle of soda explodes when you drop a roll of mentos into it. Amazing, isn’t it? There are hundreds of clips like this all over the web right now (like this one). And they're all made by bored kids in the suburbs. Apparently, diet works better than regular. Maybe because of the artificial sweetener, but no one knows.

Why does this work? The debate is raging, but here's the hypothesis:

"Water molecules strongly attract each other, linking together to form a tight mesh around each bubble of carbon dioxide gas in the soda. In order to form a new bubble, or even to expand a bubble that has already formed, water molecules must push away from each other. It takes extra energy to break this "surface tension." When you drop the Mentos into the soda, the gelatin and gum arabic from the dissolving candy break the surface tension. Each Mentos candy has thousands of tiny pits all over the surface. These tiny pits are called nucleation sites - perfect places for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. As soon as the Mentos hit the soda, bubbles form all over the surface of the candy. Couple this with the fact that the Mentos candies are heavy and sink to the bottom of the bottle and you've got a double-whammy. When all this gas is released, it literally pushes all of the liquid up and out of the bottle in an incredible soda blast."

Next time I see my nieces, they are SOOO getting a science lesson!!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Tony Awards - The Aftermath

UPDATE 6/12/06 - Once they got started, the Tony's weren't so bad. The scenes from the musicals were great, expecially Sweeny Todd and The Color Purple. Most amazingly is that I actually missed High Jackman as host but I guess he's tied up with Xmen III publicity.

Wow - only 364 more days until I can relive that joy. I'll try and keep my enthusiasm to myself.


I have to watch the entire show. All the pre-shows, from 5:30 to 9. Then 3 fun-filled hours of the actual show itself. I am SOOO BORED!!! Harley will tell me "We watched Walking with Cavemen and I didn't complain!" I made you watch 30 minutes of a 2-hour show. This goes way beyond that. I know she loves it, and I wouldn't want to take this away from her. But we have a very small 1-bedroom and there's no where to go. At least I have one thing to look forward to... meatloaf. Mmm.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Everyone Happy Over Zarqawi’s Death

Everyone is America is happy that the most visible leader of the insurgency was killed yesterday in a US military air strike. But how did the Arab community take the news? According to the Arab TV coverage of Zarqawi’s death, it’s good news. Thank God we can all agree on something!!

Iraqi TV stations broke into their regular schedules at 0741 GMT to bring their viewers the news conference live. The children's cartoons on al-Sharqiya TV stopped and al-Iraqiya TV interrupted its regular cookery programme. The scene switched to Baghdad, as Iraqi networks ran the news conference live. Viewers saw Prime Minister Nouri Maliki make the announcement at 0742 GMT: “Today al-Zarqawi has been killed.” The announcement was followed by applause and cheering.

Al-Iraqiyah TV went to the street in Iraq to assess the popular reaction to the killing. All of those interviewed expressed joy at the news. We consider this a great delight to the people because good has got to prevail," said one. "We congratulate the Iraqi government on this great achievement because it has cut off the snake's head," said another.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Our Pagan Past

The Christian holiday of Good Friday marks the execution of Jesus, so why is it called “good” Theologians’ best guess is that the name derived from “God’s Friday” (the same way “good-bye” came from “God be with ye”). In some countries Good Friday is known as Long Friday, Silent Friday, or Holy Friday.

Easter is the Celebration of the resurrection of Christ, but the name “Easter” really comes from Eostre, the dawn goddess of Anglos-Saxon myth. Before the advent of Christianity, she was honored with an annual festival at the beginning of spring. It was also an ancient pre-Christian tradition to give people decorated eggs-a symbol of rebirth and resurrection-as gifts in the spring. Today, we call them Easter eggs.