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February 2009 Archives

February 2, 2009

Nice Algorithm You Got There

Google would like you to believe that it's all automatic, that there is this army of search spiders that digs out every last page and image on the Web and decides which is "better" for any given search term. It's true, as far as it goes, but the company tends to carefully elide the human element that goes into its search result. Until something goes horribly wrong, as it did Saturday morning. For an hour, Google said every site on the Net was dangerous -- itself included.

Continue reading "Nice Algorithm You Got There" »

February 3, 2009

Not all Lego constructions have to be complicated

Very cute. Minimalist Legos about New York.

http://niemann.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/02/i-lego-ny/

More and more, I love the NYTimes's blogs. Great writing and imagination, in a form and format that's not right for print but perfect for online.

February 9, 2009

Newspapers cut 9 percent of staff in 2008

Ow. Ow. Ow.

From AdAge:

The U.S. advertising and media industry slashed 18,700 jobs in December, bringing industry job losses in this recession to 65,100...

Continue reading "Newspapers cut 9 percent of staff in 2008" »

February 10, 2009

New words for 2009

Susan Bray, the former Philadelphia talk show host now running a B&B in Australia, sent along a list of new words for the new year. Dunno where they came from but most of them are quite good, though a few don't translate perfectly from the Aussie. My favorites:

Continue reading "New words for 2009" »

Onion: SONY debuts new technical gear

The Onion "covers" a new product release from SONY that, ummm..., well, it promises to be really cool.

Jason Perlow sent this along first. The language is a bit -- well, a lot, really -- rough. You may want to use headphones.

(I can't seem to get the Flash embedding to work. Here's a link to the original.)

February 19, 2009

Public propriety

This may be one for the etiquette mavens among us. Or maybe it's just a matter of common courtesy. Or cluefulness.

The other day, I was flying with my family -- myself, my wife, and two 7-year-old boys -- from JFK to SFO. I was sitting with one kid, my wife a few rows back with the other. The plane was a 767, in a 2-3-2 configuration. I was on the aisle, a kid in the middle, a stranger on the other side of him.

About an hour into the flight, said stranger pulls out a laptop and fires up a movie: "Slumdog Millionaire." My immediate thoughts, in rough order:

  1. That's not on DVD yet; the SOB is watching an illegal download.
  2. He's watching an R-rated movie -- one that features graphic scenes of little kids getting maimed -- in full view of a 7-year-old.

Continue reading "Public propriety" »

February 23, 2009

MPA cans annual magazine conference

One of the more glittery events in the consumer magazine business has its plug pulled for this year. The Magazine Publishers Association has canceled its annual American Magazine Conference.

Given that Hachette, AMI and New York all pulled out of the MPA recently, and given that tens of thousands of people got axed in the magazine business last year, this might be a bad time to be planning a big-ticket shindig. Maybe by the time the AMC season comes around this fall, all the remaining publishers can just have lunch in a phone booth somewhere in midtown...

February 25, 2009

Newspapers are fine. Their owners, however...

Fascinating piece in AdAge this week. It turns out that newspapers, as a business, are doing quite well -- kicking out 10 to 20 percent returns, which ain't chopped liver.

On the other hand, the companies that own newspapers are debt-laden swine. They took on too much debt in fat times, as national chains swept up local owners. If you can keep using cash flow to pay off debt service, you're cool. But anyone who's played Hot Potato knows what happens when the buzzer goes off.

Compare and contrast Hearst and Philadelphia Newspapers. The latter went Chapter 11 recently -- too much debt -- while saying operations are fine. But Hearst's apparently imminent closings of the San Fransisco Chronicle and the Seattle Times, shows that media companies will have a choice: kill the papers or restructure their overall operations. Since the latter runs the risk of wiping out equity, expect far-flung media companies to impose pain on their newspapers. But smaller companies, focused on their own papers, may turn out just fine.

February 26, 2009

Kosher bacon?

This is just so wrong....

And, not only is it kosher, it's either parve or dairy.

To cap it off, the first round of funding came from a second-place finish on America's Funniest Home Videos.

February 27, 2009

RIP, Rocky Mountain News

It's not news anymore when a newspaper closes. But it's especially sad that Scripps has killed the Rocky Mountain News. Today was its last edition.

(I'm not going to link to the RMN, because God only knows how long the links would be live.)

For many years, it was the strongest newspaper between the Mississippi River and California. It was the scrappier and more fun of the two papers in Denver, an energetic voice of the Rockies. It was 156 years old, and Scripps -- the one-time owner of UPI that did so poorly by its crown jewel -- decided it wasn't worth the financial drain. The thing is, the RMN wasn't even the weaker of the two papers.

After the jump, there'll be two pieces from RMN writers. Full text, because the links will probably expire sooner rather than later. The first is from a sportswriter. The second is an awfully good obit, explaining why newspapers are important -- and how a great paper gets that way.

Continue reading "RIP, Rocky Mountain News" »

Computer Shopper Goes Online-Only

You could have seen this one coming a mile away. Computer Shopper, once the biggest and one of the most profitable magazines in the United States, announced today that it's going online-only.

The days of 1000-page tabloid-sized issues are long past; Shopper went to a slick paper and normal trim years ago. Back in The Day, I was a senior editor there, responsible for about 100 of those pages a month. That's a lot. And while Shopper may not have been the best thing I'd ever done professionally or the most fun or the most formative, it was undoubtedly in the Top 3 for all of them. It's surely where I learned the magazine business and where I started to learn how to be a manager. It's where I met my best man. It's why I moved into New York City.

And it's where I forged personal and professional relationships that have lasted decades. I'm sad to see it go. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a friend and once one of my writers, wrote a tribute in Computerworld. Read to the bottom.

There are too many Shopper stories than can be told here; you'll have to buy me a beer or two -- and I know that my short time at Shopper is only a thin slice of a very long story.

There's an old poster that shows a genealogy of British blues bands. Every band that's worth a damn could trace its way back to the Yardbirds, for one member or another at one point or another. In the tech press, Shopper was the Yardbirds. Glad I got to play

About February 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Over the Edge in February 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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