Here’s a handy bunch of findings from LinchPinSeo, about how you can hone your Twitter engagement. I am not sure how sound their numbers are, but it’s food for thought.
Here’s a handy bunch of findings from LinchPinSeo, about how you can hone your Twitter engagement. I am not sure how sound their numbers are, but it’s food for thought.
HMV went into administration today, after 91 years selling music on the high street. It’s a real shame, aside from all the people who are going to lose their jobs. I have fond memories of getting lost in the Oxford Street store on Saturdays, when I first arrived in London.
But, the company should have seen it coming. Philip Beeching wrote an insightful blog post in August about his time working with HMV. Read it, if you have the time. Here, Beeching describes a 2002 meeting with HMV management:
The relevant chart went up and I said, “The three greatest threats to HMV are, online retailers, downloadable music and supermarkets discounting loss leader product”.
Suddenly I realised the MD had stopped the meeting and was visibly angry. “I have never heard such rubbish”, he said, “I accept that supermarkets are a thorn in our side but not for the serious music, games or film buyer and as for the other two, I don’t ever see them being a real threat, downloadable music is just a fad and people will always want the atmosphere and experience of a music store rather than online shopping”.
And while HMV messed around, startups like Play became retail giants:
“We were just waiting for HMV to turn their big guns on us but we just kept on going and getting bigger and bigger, and thinking they must be going to get their act together soon and come after us but they never did”.
Although the current Facebook interface sometimes seems as ill-thought out as a platypus, it is nonetheless user-focused, and provides a maximum return from advertisers.
But Nerby’s design blows it out of the water for the sheer aesthetic pleasure it offers. I particularly like the slide show pages, which would offer a richer experience.
If Facebook don’t “acquire” Nerby, I wouldn’t be surprised if they steal a few tricks. It wouldn’t be the first time.
You can see the whole thing at Behance.
Behold Chief Keef. Within one year, the teenager has gone from living under house arrest in South Chicago, to become this decade’s most hyped rap artist. Some classy lines from Chief Keef’s breakthrough track, I Don’t Like:
A fuck nigga, that’s that shit I don’t like, nah
A snitch nigga, that’s that shit I don’t like, nah
A bitch nigga, that’s that shit I don’t like, nah
Sneak dissers that’s that shit I don’t like
Welcome to the death of hip hop. How could it possibly get any worse? I mean, seriously – did he use a Microsoft Word gangsta template?
To put this into perspective: I’m 34, but I’m old. I learned today that Nirvana’s Nevermind is as far in the past as The Beatles’ Abbey Road was to Nirvana. Gangsta rap – as it is known – is a quaint concept to the children of this great recession. The teenagers following music today, were born years after Tupac was buried. The four elements, narrative and message are things grandparents do.
Chief Keef – Keith Cozart, to his nan - is flagbearer for a style of hip hop called drill, which consists of ultra-minimal beats and threats of violence directed at rival gang-affiliated youths. Fewer bitches and bling; simply guns. If you’re a keen fan of The Wire, think of this as music made by the little hopper who killed Omar.
While he was under house arrest for pointing his gun at a police officer in 2011, the 16 year old recorded several mixtapes* which became sensations in Chicago’s public schools. It was only a short matter of time before the music went viral online, and the major record labels started calling. Keef signed a deal with Interscope worth $3.5m, which includes film rights, his own label, and a line of Beats by Dre headphones.
Keef’s debut album Rich at Last, was released last Tuesday, landing squarely in the middle of America’s fierce debate about firearms. We’re sure to hear a lot about him in 2013, as he pisses off parents nationwide.
Thanks to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, there is no longer an ”underground” when it comes to music. Not like there used to be, anyway. The joy of discovery has changed; and it sometimes seems that record labels are tapping into the last remaining pockets of subculture.
On the other hand, music from the bedroom of a kid in a housing project, can find its way to your eardrums, anywhere in the world. It feels exciting and dangerous, watching videos of drill music on YouTube, recorded – without interference – by hoodlums. Although Keef’s rhymes make Soujah Boy sound like Lord Byron, for sheer toughness, he also makes NWA look like The Wiggles.
It’s raw stuff. I’ve already seen the photo Keef posted of himself on Instagram, receiving a blowjob, and the video of his collaborator Lil Reese (who appears in the video above) beating a girl senseless at a party. Keef got into trouble when he took to Twitter to mock the death of a rival. And this stuff is no longer confined to Chicago, as crews in places as far afield as Atlanta, point their guns at their iPhone cameras to warn Keef and Reese not to step foot on their turf.
The best place to see the worst of this kind of content- and the site which was first to bring Chief Keef to a wider audience - is World Star Hip Hop – the self-styled “ghetto CNN”. WSHH’s biggest “mainstream hit” – which you might have seen – is the video that went viral of a bus driver bolo-punching his passenger. There are grim delights to be found on WSHH, which is a smorgasbord of brutality, sustained by wannabe rappers paying to promote their content. But it is compulsive viewing for lower income black Americans.
At this stage, fellow Chicagoan Kanye West had taken notice of Keef and had flung together an I Don’t Like remix, but before the record labels stepped in, Keef would be packaged into a form that would reach all the way onto the front page of iTunes.
Pitchfork.com is the mothership of American hipsterism, famed for breaking new acts. Pitchfork made Interpol and Arcade Fire’s careers by offering glowing early reviews. The site took Keef from Kanye’s mixing desk and put him in front of an audience who love nothing more than than to bore their friends to death boasting about listening to genres like freak folk before anyone else. And what a backstory!
Pitchfork promoted Keef as hip hop’s “credible” new superstar, but then acted like twats when they got him stoned and took him to a firing range to freestyle for a video. Now, all of us white, middleclass geeks love hip hop for its danger. But there is something incredibly distasteful about fetishising the ghetto so nakedly. The site came across looking like a pack of Nathan Barleys; obnoxious hipsters with little regard for that which happens on their own doorstep.
Nearly 500 gun-related homicides have occurred in Chicago in 2012 - more casualties than the American military has seen in Kabul. Pitchfork is based in Chicago, but clearly not Washington Park, where Keef is from. The video caused a fire-storm locally, and they eventually yanked it offline, but not before bumping Keef up a few controversy-notches.
Now, I’m not qualified to comment on the racial dynamics at play in the creation of Chief Keef. I’m not sure if I quite agree with the Chuck D/Malcolm X analysis of black urban culture as something controlled by white slave masters.
*To clarify: The “mixtape” wasn’t literally a cassette tape. It probably wasn’t even physical media.
This is riveting. Out of the blue this past week, William Ackman, from Pershing Square Capital Management, revealed to the financial press that he considers Herbalife Ltd – the nutritional supplement supplier – a pyramid scam. He has shorted $1bn USD against it and intends to destroy the company, donating all of the “blood money” to charity. On Thursday, Ackman took to a Manhattan stage and presented a 342-slide presentation to support his position. He’s effectively sprayed Herbalife with shit, and dared any investor to touch it.
Herbalife (pronounced Eerbalife, if you’re American) is a multi-level marketer, like Avon; relying on independent distributors, rather than retailers. Basically, its distributors are lower middle class and working class people supplementing their income selling Herbalife to friends and family. The company offers a dream-like pitch, where any average schmo can become a Bentley-driving millionaire, simply by becoming a distributor and working through the system the company has devised.
I have a recollection of Herbalife as a 10-year old child in suburban New Zealand, A friend’s father had received his Herbalife t-shirt, and was excited about the fortune he was going to make selling the products, so the family could escape boring old Wainuiomata. That didn’t quite work out for them. I hadn’t realised the company was around anymore – let alone listed on the NYSE with a $4bn market cap – until I heard about Ackman’s shorting.
Herbalife boasts higher sales than leading consumer brands like Energizer, yet spends next to no money on advertising or research and development, and the nutritional supplements themselves are sold at a much higher price than comparable products. Ackman began his presentation by asking who, in the audience, had ever bought a Herbalife product.
No, Herbalife’s products are as good as sand, according to Ackman. The company is selling a business opportunity, with money being made by the people at the top from the losses of the people at the bottom. His presentation went into forensic detail explaining the complexities of a business model which rewards distributors for recruitment, and forces them into buying thousands of dollars worth of product (Herbalife supplements get offloaded to eBay at a fraction of the RRP).
The mechanism behind Herbalife’s expansion is described as “Pop and Drop”. There is an initial rush of distributor interest when the company enters a market (the “pop”). But, once that market is exhausted of distributors willing to pay themselves into the pyramid, demand diminishes. The company then moves into a new market, and uses crafty accounting to conceal the dropped one from analysts. New Zealand, I’ve been told, popped years ago. Now Herbalife has reached Ghana and is fast running out of markets to expand into. It has taken several decades to reach this point, and the vultures have begun to circle.
I’m not generally interested in Wall Street matters, but I found the presentation utterly absorbing, Ackman looks kind of like a haimisher Anderson Cooper; a silver fox, oozing cool charisma. (You can see what I mean by watching this YouTube primer he made about investment).
He’s also very much the buccaneer capitalist, but with socially-conscious leanings. He spoke of Herbalife’s exploitation of poor communities, and the profits from this trade will go into his charitable foundation, which supports rock-solid liberal causes like Human Rights Watch and The Innocence Project. Maybe this is what George Soros was like 40 years ago.
Herbalife – naturally – is freaking out. 20% of the company’s value has been wiped out since Thursday. Its CEO, Michael O. Johnson, made an aggressive media appearance, menacingly saying that “the United States will be better when Bill Ackman is gone”.
Tomorrow we’ll see if the hemorrhaging continues.
Update: Business Insider has posted the slideshow from Ackman’s presentation.
Adam Mansbach, author of the worldwide publishing phenomonen, Go the Fuck to Sleep, has shared with Salon some amusing anecdotes about his rollercoaster year. He has a few choice words for Bob McCoskrie, New Zealand’s very own professional killjoy. Under the heading, The right-wing, freedom-hating zealots of New Zealand. Mansbach writes:
I had this persistent fantasy that Michele Bachmann was going to crusade against the book, because she seemed like the most desperate and batshit-insane of the GOP presidential hopefuls, but it never happened.
Instead, the most entrenched attack – and the only one that developed into a full-throated attempt at censorship – came from New Zealand. This seemed, and continues to seem, incredibly random.
The organization pushing booksellers to take “Go the Fuck to Sleep” off the shelves was called Family First New Zealand. They were Christians of some kind. Their press release was awesome. I have it framed in my office. It reads, in part, “While we appreciate that in an adult context, the book may be harmless and even amusing, we have grave concerns about its effect on aggressive and dysfunctional parents.”
Is that right, national director Bob McCoskrie? Your rubric for banning shit is whether or not aggressive, dysfunctional parents can handle it? Are you also proposing to ban spoons, since those too could pose a grave threat to children in the hands of aggressive, dysfunctional parents? How about canned food? Should we pull that off the shelves as well?
Mansbach goes on to point out that McCroskie is a one-man band, and describes how his Australian audiobook reader gave him the smackdown.
As a Kiwi, I feel very relieved that the author took it all in good humour. And McCroskie should feel pleased that he’s managed to achieve international recognition for being crazier than Michele “Vaccines Cause Retardation” Bachmann.
There is – or, was – a nobility to journalism. The word journalist evokes a fearless professional whose words mean something. Prestige was given by the work of people like Woodward and Bernstein; Jeremy Paxman, even. Superman is a journalist.
We all understand what a journalist is supposed to do: give us honest facts; provide a voice for the voiceless; speak truth to power. If someone introduces themselves as a journalist, you might presume they are involved in some way with “hard” news, even if the only media you consume is Perez Hilton.
But what does it really mean to be a journalist? There is a public mistrust of the profession. After all, it was journalists who hacked the phone of a murder victim and everything else we’ve spent this past year discovering. However, journalism was in decline for decades before phone hacking and Leveson and the internet.
Michael Cole in the Press Gazette:
I am sad to see the BBC in crisis but not surprised. The rot set in years 30 years ago when the Oxbridge clever dicks ousted the seasoned journalists who had made BBC News trusted around the world.
I saw it happen. When I joined the BBC in 1968, the senior journalists were people who’d learned their trade on regional and national newspapers. They would rather have died than broadcast an unchecked story, as Newsnight did, disastrously.
There was once a recognised path to becoming a journalist in the UK. It was a craft trade, and journalists began as teenagers, working as rookie reporters in regional papers. Now, it appears that most people working – even in junior roles – within the national press, hold advanced university degrees with very little experience of industry best-practice.
The decline has been such that the job title is becoming meaningless. If you can’t be arsed training to be a doctor or plumber, then just become a journalist. Bang. You’re Tintin; shorthand not required.
That’s why Leveson presents an opportunity for journalists to reclaim their craft for the digital age. Leveson wrote that the difference between online and print media was that the public held print to higher standards of reporting. That’s debatable, but why shouldn’t standards reside in journalism’s heart?
Alex Andreou states it perfectly:
You constantly complain that you are under pressure from social media and blogs; that yours is a dying art. But if you do away with sub-editors so your copy is poor, if you refuse a system of accreditation and regulation, if you refuse to subscribe to strictly enforced professional standards, the only thing that will distinguish you from those bloggers and tweeters will become the smudge cheap ink leaves on my thumb.
Have you stopped to consider that the system proposed might, just might provide you with the unique selling point you have so longed for? In most other industries consumers are prepared to pay a premium for an approved kitemark which guarantees excellence. Knowing that a news story complies with strict professional standards and is procured ethically can produce immense reputational and financial benefits.
Sort it out, press! Buzzfeed is climbing the inner curtain, and it won’t take any prisoners.
Like everyone interested in what Lord Justice Leveson would say about digital media, I cut straight to page 736. Here’s the relevant passage (emphasis mine).
[...] Putting to one side publications such as the Mail Online which bind themselves voluntarily to the Editors’ Code of Practice (and which is legitimately proud of the world-wide on line readership that it has built up), the internet does not claim to operate by any particular ethical standards, still less high ones. Some have called it a ‘wild west’ but I would prefer to use the term ‘ethical vacuum’. This is not to say for one moment that everything on the internet is therefore unethical. That would be a gross mischaracterisation of the work of very many bloggers and websites which should rightly and fairly be characterised as valuable and professional. The point I am making is a more modest one, namely that the internet does not claim to operate by express ethical standards, so that bloggers and others may, if they choose, act with impunity.
The press, on the other hand, does claim to operate by and adhere to an ethical code of conduct. Publishers of newspapers will be (or, at least, are far more likely to be) far more heavily resourced than most, if not all, bloggers and websites that report news (as opposed to search engines that direct those on line to different sites). Newspapers, through whichever medium they are delivered, purport to offer a quality product in all senses of that term.
So, what he is essentially saying, is that printed news is a different kettle of fish to the digital stuff. He’s half correct, I suppose, but I simply cannot agree with his assumptions about what consitiutes a credible news source.
Of course my little blog should be treated with less authority than, say, The Financial Times. But, if one is presenting oneself online as a reliable news organisation, then why shouldn’t one be viewed the same as any newspaper? Everyone reads news online and the internet still exerts influence, doesn’t it? Leveson sounds like such a Silver Surfer, here, who thinks that the internet is mostly animated cat GIFs, and any decent online journalism comes in spite of it.
On the other hand, I’m also relieved he didn’t delve too deeply into online conduct. As Sunny Hundal has written, bloggers have proven themselves much more adept at self-policing than the newspapers.
After a month of beta testing, The Guardian has rolled out its new layout, optimised for smartphones and tablets. Although their main site is not “responsive” in the strictest sense of the word, users with mobile devices will get a much lovelier experience.
The amount of users accessing the Graun from mobile devices has risen from 10 to 30% over two years. A responsive approach might mean less emphasis is placed on their smartphone app, which would be a wise move, IMHO.
[...] no industry ever cut its way to success. And the question, as newspapers mark six-plus straight years of contracting revenues, is what, if anything, they are going to do to turn things around. The nearly universal answer we have heard from editors and publishers is that they are going to transition from print to digital publishing.
That is the right answer. But the objective record shows that, to date, they have manifestly blown the opportunity.
In other words; an utter failure to innovate over the past six years.
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