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March 2006 Archives

March 15, 2006

Watch, Look, and Listen

You don't want to laugh at the dead, and you don't want to make fun of the disabled. But it just strikes me that if you're deaf and walking along active train tracks, you really ought to make sure that you're

a) walking against traffic

b) walking far enough from the tracks that a passing train won't hit you, and

c) paying attention to your surroundings.

Text messaging when you can't hear what's going on around you (whether being deaf or listening to your iPod -- a pre-deafness condition for many) is not being aware of your surroundings. If it was in New York, it probably would have been a cab or a bike messenger instead of a train. But the lesson's the same.


March 27, 2006

We're not talking about the Valdez here...

Maybe it's that good PR for oil companies is so rare that they don't know what to do when they get some. That appears to be the case for Shell Oil, which looks like it'll get a billion people looking at its logo during the World Cup soccer tournament -- more or less for free.

The Trinidad team will be accompanied by 10,000 steel drum players, according to Bloomberg News. (And you thought they were noisy in the subway...) Steel drums, you may not realize, are made from discarded or otherwise liberated 55-gallon oil drums.

"For many of the world's estimated 35,000 panmen, the sweetest-sounding music comes from the 55-gallon, 20-gauge red steel oil barrels made in Shell's lubricant mixing plant on Barracones Bay in Trinidad."

This means that the billion people tuning in to the World Cup have an excellent chance of seeing the Shell logo in a fun upbeat setting. Great product placement.

The trouble is, there are Rules about reusing oil drums. If Shell says Yup, those are ours and isn't it great, they're polluters. If they say, Nope, we have no idea how our logo got on those instruments, they look Dumb. Which is why you get quotes like this in the same story:

" `It's officially against corporate policy for us to hand out oil barrels,'' the 37-year-old [Gerard] Mitchell  [country head of shell Trinidad Ltd.] frets. ``We really don't know what to do about all this.'''


"Suppressing a grin, Rosales, Shell's barrel superintendent, says, ``I know we make the best musical oil drums in the world.'"

 The story's great fun, with lots of detail you didn't know you cared about. Check it out.

Failing with a 20 percent margin

I love Molly Ivins, but I wouldn't go to her for business advice. Still, her column today reminds anyone who's interested of a very good point about the recent sale of Knight-Ridder newspapers: that far from being failing businesses, the papers had a 20 percent profit margin.

Lots of business would kill for that kind of margin. Then why did the KR board bail? Because newspapers are seen as a "failing" business, one "in decline." It's true that they're losing circulation, but that could be perfectly good thing: why spend oodles of money reaching the N+1th reader who doesn't see the value in your product? (Propping up circulation, by the way, is what killed Life magazine; circ acquisition and retention was costing more than the marginal rate increase the ad sales people could charge per reader.)

Of course, seeing a newspaper as a local branded information resource rather than a bunch of pulped pine trees might extend profitability. But that would require looking at a financial enterprise as more than a quarter-to-quarter business. As Molly says:

Continue reading "Failing with a 20 percent margin" »

About March 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Over the Edge in March 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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