Posts from February 27, 2004

More on the meltdown

More on the meltdown
: There’s ever more comment on the Eli Noam piece in the FT that said we’re in an information-industry meltdown. David Isenberg has weighed in twice. Om Malik has more links.

I sent Noam email with links to all the blog comments on his piece and an invitation to coffee. Never heard a thing.


: Isn’t it ironic that at the the same time Clear Channel kicks Howard Stern off their air, it sponsors a screening of Mel Gibson’s Passion, a movie that is being condemned in many quarters for stirring up anti-Semitism.

I’ll defend Gibson’s right to make the movie, anyone’s right to show it or see it, and Clear Channel’s right to sponsor a screening.

But let’s note that many of the same people who are flocking to the movie who are complaining about Stern.

I know my pointing that out will drive some of you nuts so consider that stipulated. I just could not resist pointing out the irony. (And thanks to the reader who brought it to my attention.)

: Jay Rosen says in comments below that whether Clear Channel succumbed to government pressure is a “reportable story.”

Not sure I agree. Clear Channel is not going to acknowledge publicly that it acted sheerly for political reasons and to give it lobbying juice. Nor is anyone in government going to brag about censoring media directly.

But we do know that Clear Channel bumped Stern the day after its executives where called to Woodshed, D.C. to testify before Congress.

We do know that executive acknowledged to Congress that Stern has not changed his act at all but that Clear Channel has decided to change its rules.

And we know that Stern says Clear Channel told him they were doing this because of government pressure.

So sometimes, all a journalist — and, more important, a journalist’s readers — can do is put two and two together. Clear Channel pulled Stern the day before the testimony before Congress and the testimony before Congress comes after the Janet Jackson breast flap and that’s the only thing that has changed; Clear Channel acknowledges that Stern hasn’t.

It adds up to government pressure and a government-induced chill on speech to me.

: Glenn Reynolds (who also rocks) says I am over the top on Stern. Well, I think Glenn’s over the top on the Second Amendment. Different things push our buttons.

Glenn seems to think that this just a matter of a media company deciding to kill a show I like. But it’s not. It’s much more than that. A media company can kill shows anytime — but Clear Channel didn’t. Again, the company acknowledges before Congress that Stern hasn’t changed a thing. The company decided to pull the show only after it came under the thumb of government pressure.

I do not want the government deciding what I can say and what I can hear. Period.

Government interference in free speech does put me over the top. You bet it does. This is not about poop jokes. This is about nothing less than protecting the First Amendment.

You have your amendment, Glenn, my friend. And I have mine.

: Howard Kurtz says: “Does anyone detect a pungent whiff of hypocrisy?”

: UPDATE: Motley Fool agrees with my analysis out of the whole Stern et al flap: Buy satellite stock.

Who’s the devil?

Who’s the devil?

Mel Gibson’s Passion would make me an atheist. Who would chose to believe in the God he portrays — a God who demands such incredible suffering of his own son to balance the sins of man?

Gibson’s Passion would make me a Jew. For if this is his view of Christianity, then maybe it’s wrong and I’d want to revert to the previous version of religion.

Wouldn’t that be ironic if Gibson’s Passion turned people away from God and Christianity? It would do that for me if for one moment I thought that Gibson had some hold on the truth.

But I went to see a very late show of Passion last night and I was appalled. It was more abhorrent and disturbing and disgusting than I ever would have imagined. It borders on hate speech in its portrayal of the Jews and in its effort to whip up hatred. This is a movie the Nazis would have made or at least endorsed.

Now I’m not calling Gibson a Nazi. I’m not sure about calling him an anti-Semite. In his mind, he thinks he’s telling the truth about the events of Christ’s Passion. But that mind is skewed to make this all about violence and vengeance — the Jews’ and ultimately God’s — and apart from a token moment on the Mount and the postscript at the end, nothing about grace and redemption. The result is a truly frightening portrayal of violence against Jesus and of Jews that, I fear, will lead to hate crimes.

Many other reviewers have dissected the movie better than I can or care to. I went to see it (my wife thought I was nuts) just so I could write this after having seen it.

I left the theater angry — not at Jews or Romans but at Gibson.

The RSS revolution!

The RSS revolution!
: Hoder sees the Yahoo RSS aggregator as a powerful weapon against government censorship. When Yahoo — rather than a user in Tehran — gets an RSS feed of a forbidden site and the user reads it via Yahoo, then the mullahs are powerless to block the free flow of information. Now, of course, other web-based aggregators offer the same detour around the censors but Hoder says that Yahoo adds extra oomph because he doubts that the mullahs have the balls to try to block it. Praise God and pass the XML.

I need a subscription consolidator

I need a subscription consolidator
: Reading an out-of-date Fortune at the pool on the last day of vacation today, I was struck by a tech trend in “subscription burnout” and immediately conjured up a new business category:

Subscription consolidator.

Once upon a time, McDonald’s had problems with truck deliveries all day long taking up staff time (first ketchup, then mustard, then pickles…) and so they created a whole new industry: The freight consolidator, who accepts all those deliveries and puts them together so a McDonald’s can accept just one delivery with everything.

Fortune made me think I need the same thing for all my many subscriptions and the benefit could be that it would prevent burnout.

Consider my many paid subscriptions:

– Cable (or satellite) with many channels.

– Internet access (high-speed and dial-up for road trips).

– Internet services (AOL, Yahoo mail, Real video).

– Home phone.

– Mobile phone.

– Mobile phone Internet services.

– Software (licenses for may Treo functions, for example).

– Many newspapers.

– Many magazines.

– Internet content (not much: Wall Street Journal, for one).

– Satellite radio (contemplated, especially if Stern bolts).

– TiVo (contemplated).

– Audible (rejected because of bad customer service).

– And on and on.

: So what about a service that consolidates and bundles many or most of these subscriptions (as a debt consolidator consolidates debt) and offers me great deals (e.g, if you like ESPN, you might like this great online sports service for a special bundled price).

Advantages to consumer: Less hassle keeping track of — and renewing or being harrassed by — so many subscriptions. Less sense of being nickel-and-dimed to death. More sense of control. Better deals, attractive bundles.

Advantages to subcription company: Greatly reduced marketing costs as subscribers are acquired — and renewed — by the consolidator. New marketing channel to new subscribers and for upsells to existing subscribers.

Advantages to content industry: This creates a new channel for testing and launching new products. It could even be used to launch microsubscriptions (as opposed to micropayments): Subscriptions to new online products — yes, even weblogs and RSS feeds — could be sold as an add-on or added-value bundle.

: Take the problem of subscription burnout — and it is a very real problem — and find the business opportunity: Your personal subscription deal-maker.

I’d sign up.

: UPDATE: Forgot to mention that, of course, AOL Time Warner should be the perfect agent to do this since they have pieces of so many subscription products but, of course, they couldn’t figure it out within their own company, let alone without. I was there when it added the Warner and they never could figure out how to spell synergy, let alone do it.

Rafat Ali likes the idea and wants an established company — an Amazon or Yahoo — to fill the role because he doesn’t trust his data to a startup. Maybe. Another question is whether an established company is in a better position to deal with all the other established companies or whether it takes a new middleman; this is a dog-eat-dog world.

In any case, Rafat picks up on the important point: We need to look at this from the consumer perspective. And from that perspective, there is a subscription industry and it needs to get its act together to avoid burning us all out.