Blogging since 1998. By David Wertheimer

Month: November 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

Its own timely demise

I shuttered Timely Demise today, 18 months after conceiving it, 16 months after launching it and three months after I generally lost my taste for publishing melancholy.
By most measures, the site was a success. I gained a ridiculous amount of knowledge about retail trends and the mechanics of restructuring. I received some fun press coverage. I developed a regular readership that, as of this writing, is still tuning in for news.
Google News added me as a source. I got the inestimable Choire Sicha to be my guestblogger. I began receiving anonymous tips, including one from an angry creditor pointing me to his debtor’s bankruptcy. And I had one actual news scoop hand-delivered by a company’s public relations firm.
I knew all along that this would be a tough subject to cover neatly. After all, I work for and with retailers; how can I be associated with bad news? So I tried to keep the blog objective and matter-of-fact, and that was usually enough. Yes, I know it had a rough name and a difficult topic. But at launch I felt a bit of provocation was appropriate for its moment in time. (See also: It Died, among others.)
Mostly, I found it all fascinating, as did my readers. I am much wiser about retail now than I was a year and a half ago. I suspect we all are.
A few months back, I registered with plans on shifting my focus toward expansion and profit statements. But I found that much harder to track from Timely Demise’s dedicated angle, which focused on consumer-level impact and not corporate maneuvers. Stories of 90-year-old corner stores closing make for better (and more trackable) journalism than Applebee’s #1997 opening in the local mall. I began running short on news.
So, three hundred and fourteen posts, five hundred fifty thousand page views, and eighty-nine dollars in ad revenue later, I’m hanging up my tough-news journalist’s hat. We’ll see if I can brew up something new–and more upbeat–for 2010.

92nd Street

As I walk my dog this morning a man appears ten paces or so in front of me, walking a bit unevenly. He’s the kind of person who talks to anyone and anything, unafraid of confrontation or judgment. He reminds me of Chris Tucker.
Walking toward him, I can tell that he’s going to talk to me. (How do I know this? Because he is presently talking about the trash bags at 194 Riverside to, well, nobody.) Conversations with loopy strangers are not on my morning to-do list, but I sense he’s non-threatening. He is clean-shaven and decently dressed, with a keychain hanging off his waist, so I suspect he’s not homeless or a beggar. Then again, he’s slurring his speech at 8:30 in the morning, so one never knows.
He spies me and Charley and turns around. “Good morning!” he says with abundant cheer.
I decide to go with it. “Mornin’.”
“Walkin’ the dog, ah?”
“Yes I am.”
He turns away, says something I don’t hear, then spins back and approaches me.
“Hey, can I ask you a question? First of all, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and I wish you the happiest of holidays.”
Great, I think, here it comes. “Sorry, man, I’m not carrying anything.”
He pauses for a split-second, breaks into a huge grin, leans toward me, and continues:
“Can I borrow your dog?”

On metal

So I’m watching the new episode of “That Metal Show” (yeah, I watch That Metal Show, and I’m home on a Saturday night, and I knew the show was on in advance and am appointment-viewing, what’s it to you? you think I’m not metal?) and I’m taken with the question Eddie Trunk posed to his panel: where is the next generation of arena rock going to come from?
Trunk asked the question as a reference point to Aerosmith’s rumored woes. The big metal bands of the 1970s and ’80s are either rapidly aging or no longer a draw for stadium-sized venues. Metallica is probably the only remaining heavy band of the era big enough to fill Giants Stadium.
The show used this question as a lead-in to Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta. One of the hosts said to Jasta, “Your band Hatebreed appeals to everyone, from metalheads to punks to hardcore.”
And therein lies the rub. Today’s metal is rarely pop music. In my halcyon quasi-mulleted days, metal was top-40, and everyone from Warrant to Winger had hit songs on Z100 and power ballads for crossover success. That doesn’t happen anymore. “I’m not gonna get a lot of radio play,” Jasta said on “That Metal Show.”
Indeed, the pop landscape is a mix of hip-hop, power pop and country crossover these days, which creates a ceiling that hard-rock and metal bands rarely cross. The Billboard Hot 100 2009 top 10 hit tally has a grand total of one hard-rock song: “New Divide,” by Linkin Park, which as a touring band spends most of its time in multi-headliner tours. Foo Fighters, for all their success, have had only three top-40 songs in their career and no top-10s.
So where does that leave the genre? A bit marginalized, I suppose, and cherry-picking its successes. Let’s not forget that Linkin Park has sold 50 million albums, although they didn’t come to mind on “That Metal Show.” Foo Fighters are a heck of a rock band, too, but point taken: Dave Grohl is 40. The show spoke of “resurrecting the genre,” which is an interesting question–it’s certainly not the mainstream force it once was, although it’s certainly not dead, either. (Just look at guys like me, holding the metal lighter, rocking hard to a talk show on a Saturday night.)
So perhaps it’s better to wonder how pop music can embrace hard rock in 2010 like it did Van Halen and the like in the 1980s. The shifting music business is always creating opportunities, it’s just a matter of being creative with them. Imagine: metal night on “American Idol!” Why not?

On taste

Maclaren is recalling a million strollers after receiving 12 reports of children slicing off part of their fingers in the side hinges of numerous models.
The recall form for ordering new hinge covers is online. The last item in the form is an opt-out to avoid joining the Maclaren email marketing database. Oh my.

Plus, there’d be butts strewn in the grass

A history of baseball and chewing tobacco in Slate. How things change (emphasis added):

The sudden decline of former batting champion and career .308 hitter Michael “King” Kelly–he
hit just .189 in 1892 and was only able to play 78 games–was attributed
to his longtime habit of smoking while patrolling the outfield.

Never mind the chaw. Can you imagine Johnny Damon, chilling out in left field, with a cigarette dangling from his lip? How does a guy shag flies while smoking?

Everything old is new again: Facebook and AOL

Steve Rubel: Five Incredibly Useful Things You Can Do Without Ever Leaving Facebook. “I am discovering that it’s becoming a one-stop shop for many of my day-to-day activities,” he writes.
The post strikes me as a retrograde observation. Not because Steve Rubel is any kind of Luddite, but because the online industry has, for more than 20 years, been trying to create a one-size-fits-all website. It still is. Indeed, it seems every big site aims to recapture the glory days of America Online.
In the 1980s, Compuserve and Prodigy and the like created online dialup communities. The winner in this space, of course, was AOL, which dominated for years. It became a destination for users and businesses alike. Every company in America needed an AOL presence and someone who could code in Rainman.
As the web’s ubiquity overtook AOL, websites began cropping up that attempted to reinvent the paradigm by … emulating AOL. Yahoo and MSN (and many smaller peers) created integrated online presences where features and options abounded and stickiness became the prime measurement.
Then search came to prominence and splintered people’s site use. Google’s success as an ad platform allowed Google Labs to create dozens of experimental services, all of which served to make Google more of a catch-all, and more like … the old, closed-wall AOL, just with outbound links.
Which brings us to 2009, where Facebook has captured the exact same mindspace as, yep, AOL. What makes Facebook interesting these days? Basically the same things that made AOL a star a decade earlier.

  • private messaging without an external email client: just like AOL!
  • live chat: just like AOL!
  • integrated games and shopping: just like AOL!
  • every company feels a need to be there: just like AOL!

And here we are again, with consumers converging on a single site and companies clamoring to capture their attention.
AOL was eventually done in by a lack of openness and charging for options that were free elsewhere. So far, Facebook has avoided those mistakes. It will be interesting to see what social and economic forces drive its future–and whether it ultimately becomes something other than The Next AOL.
This is a cross-post from aiaio.

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