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"Bill Gates, did you or did you not build intrusive little user prompts into ever square inch of Word?"

"Bill Gates, did you or did you not build intrusive little user prompts into every square inch of Word?"

My business partner, Gerry Giambattista, and I both want to be named hanging judges if there is ever an international war crimes tribunal assembled to consider the cumulative havoc that Microsoft has unleashed on the world since its inception. We have a long list of questions for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, which we will present as intrusive yellow pop-up panels, not unlike those that used to populate a Word document whenever the masters in Redmond, WA wanted to anticipate which word you were attempting to type, so they could replace it with another. Forget all the people Microsoft employs in all its divisions. Forget all the good that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done around the globe. Forget the excellent X-Box gaming platform. This is personal.

Admittedly, we are long-time Apple products users, so we should probably recuse ourselves. However, we have both harbored long-time grudges against the software industry, Microsoft specifically, and would like a chance to settle the score in a Hague-like setting.

We know of no other industry that is allowed to operate so capriciously, integrating itself into the daily operations of essentially every business on the planet, then forcing users to routinely jump through crazy hoop after crazy hoop, because of software incompatibility (often between different versions of the same product), security issues, constant debilitating updates and key feature changes with little logic behind them, all with few other options for workarounds.

My teeth are set grinding every time I hear a commercial on my car radio for the Business Software Alliance targeting employers who run unlicensed copies of software or who pirate programs. How about if the software industry starts policing its own myriad of customer and tech service issues before spending millions to get employees to rat out employers for possible violations. Normally, I appreciate the bravery of whistle blowers — here I envision an entire accusatory industry dressed as Captain Hook. Pot, kettle, black.

This is also an industry that devours its own. Competitors are routinely driven out of business or marginalized, not because they are lackluster, but because they make a better product that is harming the product that the bigger company makes (usually Microsoft). Case in point is Word Perfect, which many eons ago was the preferred word processing software for virtually everyone operating a business. Then, along came Word, which Microsoft bundled as an enticement with Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage or Outlook as an Office suite. It took many years for Word to resist its urge to interrupt users every other keystroke with “innovative” efficiency-enhancing features. We all had to endure years of that nonsense. Today, Word Perfect is still available from Corel, but it appears to be a niche product for legal professionals.

Anyone remember Netscape Navigator? It was the preferred web browser of many users during the 1990s until Microsoft did everything possible to torpedo it with Internet Explorer.

That brings me to a moment of great personal satisfaction that will have to suffice until that international tribunal is assembled. Advertising Age was good enough to spotlight a parody last week of Microsoft’s self-congratulatory Internet Explorer TV spot. In this case, the parody does a better job of delivering truth.

 

 

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A roof over your head. Seems like such a basic concept, but ironically, what is the term for the biggest group of expenses of any business (the expenses that constantly get cut in order to maintain profitability)? Overhead — employee salaries and benefits, office or commercial space, utilities, taxes, insurance to maintain that office or commercial space. So, as businesses struggle to make payments, and often have to layoff staff, so do the many individual employees affected by such cuts. And with all the holes in the safety net of government assistance, more and more people are losing homes and without employment unable to find affordable housing. Vicious cycle, as they say.

Homeless is a term that says it all. You have hit rock bottom economically and you have the cold hard pavement as a pillow each night. A few weeks ago, our blog talked about the politics of cancer and how some forms were politically incorrect and less sympathetic (notably, lung cancer thanks to tobacco stigma). The same rules apply to the homeless and make them easy to dismiss — when you have a group that includes the mentally ill (many off meds or untreated), the drug addicted (alcohol, prescription, and/or illegal drugs), and the criminal (serving your time does not guarantee you a roof over your head upon release), many are going to be quick to write off the problem of homelessness as unsolvable or throwing good money after bad. But the group also includes people who can’t find work in a tough economy, entire families, veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other wars, and the poor who work but don’t earn enough to pay for housing.

Real life is seldom ever neat and tidy, however. I was reminded of this when hearing the latest presidential campaign tussles over 47% of Americans not paying federal income tax and some other percentage receiving government assistance. Regardless of which candidate you support, those numbers should disturb you. A lot. For me, they underscore that too many Americans are on the handout side of some kind of weighted scale and not enough are on the working and earning enough to pay federal taxes side.

One Step Away is a new newspaper sold by the homeless in Philadelphia to help the homeless.

One Step Away is a new newspaper sold by the homeless in Philadelphia to help the homeless.

That is why I was heartened by a casual event when I was down to the Pennsylvania Convention Center last week. I was approached by a street vendor selling a newspaper called “One Step Away.” It is a new publication designed for a noble purpose— to incentivize the homeless to earn money and get themselves on a path toward a roof over their heads.  Each homeless vendor pays 25 cents a copy but sells the paper for $1. That means every paper purchased puts 75 cents in their pocket. Most salespersons I know would kill for a 75% commission; however, we’re not talking about an easy-to-sell product in the digital age. In fact, I just saw a story about how newspaper revenues had dropped to 1950s levels. So, “One Step Away” is properly structured on a basic free enterprise level and the homeless vendors have a great carrot to help themselves. They have skin in the game, unlike a significant portion of those 47% who aren’t paying federal income taxes but receiving benefits.

“One Step Away” gets its name from the truism that too many of us are only a missed paycheck or a lost job or a medical crisis on the plus side of the homelessness ledger. That is a sobering thought.

If you would like to help the “One Step Away” mission, I encourage you to visit OSAPHILLY.ORG to donate, support, advertise. This video will introduce you to some of the many homeless vendors you will be helping get back on their feet.

Philadelphia once captured national attention about the problem of homelessness when an 11-year-old boy named Trevor Ferrell from one of America’s richest suburbs, Gladwyne, challenged his parents, his church, and a whole lot of other fellow citizens to help out. I am glad to see that TrevorsCampaign.org is still carrying on his mission. It was a little bittersweet to read this account and learn that the adult Trevor elected not to leverage his fame into a career and is now dealing somewhat anonymously with adult challenges like the rest of us — meeting financial obligations and trying to make a good life for his own family. We all have skin in this game.

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Last week, my family went on a New England road trip and I brought along my laptop and iPhone to stay connected with the office and clients. It is the norm for many businesspersons these days (and not much different from typical weekends). The downside of technology is that you are always connected. Fortunately for me last week was quiet and the digital side was a huge help in managing projects in progress.

I mention all this because my family’s trip was a wonderful educational trip mostly along the coast of New England. It underscored for me how much life, especially working life, in America has changed over our relatively short history. It was humbling on many levels.

The Morgan docked in Mystic, CT is under major restoration but still tourable.

The Morgan docked in Mystic, CT is under major restoration but still tourable.

In Mystic, we had a chance to tour the Morgan, the only remaining wooden whaling boat left and currently under major restoration. On a hot AC-less day, its cramped quarters underscored that a long time at sea was a very long time. Especially at a time deodorant wasn’t invented yet.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI, is a glimpse back to the Gilded Age.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI, is a glimpse back to the Gilded Age.

With class warfare in full political mode, a visit to Newport, RI and the summer homes of the Vanderbilts and others underscored that at times the gulf between the haves and have-nots was much greater. The American middle-class didn’t exist yet. It is a testament to capitalism and free-enterprise that a middle ground evolved and thrived in the last century. Even if it feels like we are at another tipping point.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA tells the amazing story of whales and the men who hunted them.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA tells the amazing story of whales and the men who hunted them.

The whaling museum in New Bedford, MA is a treasure chest of knowledge and exhibits about what was New England’s principal livelihood for many years. I learned why every whale hunted was such a vital collection of valuable resources, principally oil used as a fuel for lights, which extended American’s day on average by an extra hour after sunset. However, the hard work and danger to successfully hunt, kill, and bring back a whale was beyond daunting. It must have taken a certain kind of bravado or crazy to sign on for this duty. Ironically, it was the discovery of oil in the ground in Titusville, PA that signaled the beginning of the end for whale-hunting as an industry in New England.

Up close and personal with a humpback whale from the deck of the Seven Seas tour boat.

Up close and personal with a humpback whale from the deck of the Seven Seas tour boat.

Happily, the whaling industry is thriving in a new way now — tourism. Whale sightseeing boats out of Gloucester are doing an amazing job of introducing landlubbers like me to these amazing creatures. On the Seven Seas, we saw a dozen humpbacks during an afternoon voyage off Cape Ann. And as these awesome natural wonders put on a show on the surface of the Atlantic, they are unaware they are helping to support all the shops, restaurants, and motels in the area that depend on summer vacationers. There were close to 150 on our ship, times twice daily, times many other similar tour boats. Talk about an unlikely ecosystem.

A Lowell textile mill reimagined dollhouse size.

A Lowell textile mill reimagined dollhouse size.

On the way home, we headed inland to Lowell, MA for a different take on the New England economy of yesteryear. The once thriving textile mills there are now a working museum run by the National Park Service. They have done a terrific job of presenting the relevant-today story of cheap labor in service of manufactured goods. The Lowell mills were populated by a steady stream of ever-cheaper-to-compete labor pools. Ironically, most were women. First, farm girls from New England. Then, immigrants were brought in, from one nationality or country at a time, always in search of remaining competitive. Lowell went from being one of America’s brightest stories during the Industrial Revolution to finding itself fighting for its economic life, first against other cities in New England, then in the southern US, and finally, in countries around the world. The work in the mill was hard, loud, monotonous, long, and often dangerous. In those early days, there was no OSHA and there were no unions, although both would come later.

The Lowell lesson is an instructive one — if America wants to compete in today’s global markets, we face tremendous challenges in terms of costs, regulations, worker/union expectations, technology, and governmental cooperation with the private sector. With Lowell’s mills closed in the early 90s, the city is now retooling in another direction — tourism. I encourage you to avail yourself of this instructive link to our past (and hopefully, future).

The late great Ron Rotelli (center) helping to manage a Time and Parking Controls seminar at the National Constitution Center.

The late great Ron Rotelli (center) helping to manage a Time and Parking Controls seminar at the National Constitution Center.

My vacation ended on a very sad note with an email from Kevin Elsesser, GM of Time and Parking Controls — his longtime associate Ron Rotelli passed away in his sleep during a family vacation. Ron was a man of many talents, he made friends instantly with everyone he met, and he balanced work with a love of family and a long list of personal interests, especially music. He was one of the least likely people to have his life cut short in such abrupt fashion, which just underscores the age-old Carpe Diem message for the rest of us. That he will be sorely missed by so many was brought home by the endless line of friends, family, and co-workers inside and outside the Donoghue Funeral Home Thursday evening.

 

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Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

Hooters is looking to expand their demographics.

I consider myself a red-blooded American male, but I have a confession to make. I have never set foot inside a Hooters restaurant. Timing was always bad when male friends gathered at one for a round of drinks. I sure never felt unselfconscious enough to drop by alone for a beer and plate of wings. And I knew I might have an uphill battle convincing my wife that we should have a family dinner there. However, I always assumed I was in the minority. This article in Advertising Age about a new campaign suggests otherwise.

There was a time that Hooters totally owned the tacky territory of well-endowed waitresses in skimpy uniforms. They even extended the brand briefly to an airline (no flotation device jokes, please) and to supermarkets with their signature brand of wings hot sauce.

Now, the market segment Hooters invented has a name — breastaurants — and the chain has smaller chain competitors in Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt. Truth be told, there are very few male-dominated bars in America that don’t follow the Hooters hiring model in selecting waitstaff.

Incredibly, the new consortium of private-equity firms that owns Hooters since the death of its founder in 2006, has brought in a new management team with new ideas. Unfortunately, from the Ad Age story, it sounds like they may know the chain restaurant business, but not the dangers of tampering with brand equity. Hooters, if it can be believed, is in the process of reinventing itself. The chain wants to expand by appealing to “younger people and women” and by becoming “an option for more dining occasions” (maybe now I can convince my wife about family dinner).

But just wait a wing-dipping minute. First of all, you can’t be all things to all people. Hooters is a place guys go to drink and eat man cave food with buddies, while enjoying the politically incorrect outfits of the waitresses. Most women, other than Hooters waitresses, have a visceral reaction when they hear the name Hooters and would never consider entering the establishment unless it was as part of a pitchfork mob. How you suddenly convert this chain into a place for date night or another Dave and Buster’s or Olive Garden is beyond me.

So, whom did the chain turn to in order to tackle this seemingly impossible assignment? Their first lead agency, Fitzgerald & Co., and Jody Hill, the director of that HBO-exclusive Shakespearean drama “Eastbound and Down” have collaborated on new commercials that create an inner dialogue a potential customer might have in his head (or on his shoulder) between an angel owl and a devil owl reminding him of the virtues of Hooters. Sounds funny, and it is clever, but the results are edgy and still seem aimed at the male funny bone. Media buys on ESPN and Fox Sports also skew heavily toward the testosterone crowd.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2Iv7N5qfVY&feature=relmfu

I am pretty damned sure that this new campaign is not going to change anything in the minds of Hooters key demographic —guys who like to ogle while they eat and drink. The danger is that by adding 30 different salads and probably bringing in a decorator who likes ferns but not big screen TVs or just big Ts, the new management team could be tampering with Hooters DNA. If I didn’t know better, I’d say NYC Mayor Bloomberg was behind this politically correct plot.  I promise to keep you updated on this tempest in a D cup.

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No more super sizing in NYC.

No more super sizing in NYC.

Cheers. I would like to drink a toast to your health (with the beverage of your choice), as well as to the land where you are still free to make that choice (sort of).  There is a free enterprise battle being fought, and it is the subject of late night talk show jokes, but it could not be more serious. It is slow. It is insidious. And it is under the auspices of best intentions, but it is really about power and control.

I am referring to the current and pending over-regulation of food and drink by local, state, and federal government officials who say they are interested in controlling obesity and reducing healthcare costs. That sounds like something we should all be willing and glad to get behind. However, all of us individually can do that now for ourselves, and once government starts telling businesses how to run their business, things never end well.

The fast-food industry has been under considerable pressure for years to add healthier choices to their menus. Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” documentary vividly demonstrated the dangers of a recurring fast-food diet. Often when restaurateurs do introduce more nutritious fare, these items wither away from lack of sales — the market speaks in each case. Today, if you want to eat healthy, there ARE lots of options. Mobile phone apps like EAT THIS, NOT THAT are available to steer you away from calorie bombs and into best alternatives at individual national chains.  But if you want to pig out on an occasional basis, you still can (or should be allowed).

The recent decision by the Bloomberg administration in NYC to ban supersized soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces is regrettable. One segment was targeted (for now). Notice the mayor wisely decided not to try to limit over 16 ounce beer sales. He has admitted that he just wanted to make a point and get people to think.

This video produced by NYC.gov tries to make that same point and is disgustingly over the top and again at war with a single segment (the soft drink companies, plus unintentionally, all the small food businesses they help support). It ends with a push toward healthier drinks like water or milk.

So Bloomberg’s office has arbitrarily set 16 ounces as a limit. But concentration and perspective matters.  Even water, if you drink enough of it, can kill you by flushing vital minerals and nutrients from your system. So no more Deer Park cooler bottles. SOMEONE out there could harm himself.

Next up, kid cereals. This week’s Ad Age covers the increasing pressures that cereal makers find themselves under and how the industry’s ad spending is even being closely tracked (now, we are into regulation of free speech, admittedly commercial, but closely regulated). If there are two things government nanny-staters hate, it’s sugar and carbon (or maybe they secretly love them, because they open worlds of regulatory possibilities).

The government has a similar love-hate relationship with tobacco. It loves to vilify the cigarette companies for causing cancer, but would never think of banning this product, because it is so badly addicted to the tax revenue it receives from the sale of each pack and carton.

If the government would limit itself to educating the public about various health risks and requiring food and drink companies to label products clearly so consumers understand immediate and potential long-term risks and benefits, we would all be better off. Unfortunately, when industry fails to lead, the government will swoop into the resulting vacuum. Then, all bets are off. Once again, here’s to our collective health. And to a healthier business climate and national economy.

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Adopt-A-Highway is one way to get some outdoor brand exposure and positive PR.

Adopt-A-Highway is one way to get some outdoor brand exposure and positive PR.

There are a lot of ways to contribute to the community and get some positive PR out of it. One that many of us see every day is the official sponsorship of a stretch of roadway under the local highway beautification program. However, this article gave me serious pause about government standards, slippery slopes, and whether every entity is a good candidate for this kind of citizenship initiative.

It’s going to take a lot more than litter clean-up for the Ku Klux Klan to overcome all the negatives associated with it. There’s some very bad history involving lynchings, cross burnings, and mob intimidation. A couple bag-fulls of fast food trash and tossed cigarette butts are not going to overcome people’s memories of racial hate crimes and white supremacy drives. I don’t care what kind of bleach you use in washing your sheets. Not all good PR is capable of overcoming really bad PR.

Interestingly enough, Adopt-A-Highway, the local PA arm of highway cleanup, Sponsor-A-Highway program, has a statement addressing the KKK story out of Georgia. They are obviously concerned about any associations with Grand Wizards, racial intimidation, and highway cleanup. Meanwhile, whenever I am stalled on the Schuylkill Expressway (which is often), I often find myself ruminating on the subject of who is and who isn’t a good sponsor of highway cleanup. For instance, I am often struck by the sign spotlighting Risque Video for their efforts. Of course, I am never stranded in traffic when scantily clad young ladies are out picking up trash on the side of the road. It is always burly looking guys in orange jumpsuits that I see.

Still, highway cleanup is a terrific cause and unless you are long associated with racial strife, most enterprises can benefit greatly from having their names on an outdoor sign heralding their support of this positive effort. It’s been a long time since a first lady focused the nation’s attention on our litter problem, but I will forever appreciate Lady Bird Johnson for helping to stem the trash tide.

Of course, the other association most people have is with this iconic TV commercial featuring a Native American who is profoundly saddened by the way his land is being mistreated.

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Anyone concerned about the imminent decline of Apple following the passing of its visionary leader Steve Jobs can go back to worrying about climate change or the Mayan calendar doomsday. This week’s quarterly earnings report blew the doors off investor expectations: profits up 94% over a year ago; highest ever Mac, iPhone, iPad sales in a March quarter; cash above $110 billion; it’s Camelot in Cupertino.

Even Iron Man in the new Avengers movie sustains more damage than my aluminum MacBook Pro.

Even Iron Man in the new Avengers movie sustains more damage than my aluminum MacBook Pro.

Apple has been top of mind a lot lately. I recently recounted my self-administered laptop damage travel fiasco that occurred at SmartPark (I know, right?). Incredibly, despite running over the edge of my MacBook Pro when the laptop case flopped over as I parked, the tough aluminum case was bent but not broken. The CD drive, which looked to be affected, wasn’t. The display was compromised but only in the upper right corner. Less than 24 hours at the Apple Store restored it to pristine condition. Can you name another product that can take that kind of licking and keep on ticking?

While my Mac was in for repair, I spent the weekend in Manhattan and had the chance to visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. It is just below ground, but by the stairs or glass elevator that take you down, it feels like you are entering the Starship Enterprise. This is a company that knows how to fire the public’s imagination and desire for all things digital.

Beam me down, Scotty, to the planet Apple below Fifth Avenue in NYC.

Beam me down, Scotty, to the planet Apple below Fifth Avenue in NYC.

I am not a huge cellphone guy, but I have had an iPhone for about a year and it’s wearing me down. I don’t need to be on it  all the time, but I find myself using it for so many different things. In the car, it’s my GPS and my iTunes feed. In a long line at the store or restaurant, it’s my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter access. In bored moments, I find myself downloading really useful apps like the Flipadelphia cup flipping game from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Obviously, with the explosion of iPhone and iPad users out there (including a burgeoning market in China), Apple’s future is looking mighty rosy. Even a Justice Department investigation over possible book publisher collusion on digital book pricing is little more than a minor distraction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azBzUEFZIss&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5Dt0YlN2nM

The cool factor has always been there in Apple advertising. From 1984, through the PC and Mac guys, and the iTunes tunes, Apple has managed to capture attention, set trends, and create demand for its amazing products. Now comes two new TV spots featuring celebrity users of the latest generation iPhones with Siri capability. Although Apple has enough cachet on its own, it doesn’t hurt to trade on the current popularity of Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel. Neither spot is ground-breaking, but both are fun and play to the strengths of the actors at quiet moments at home with their digital personal assistant.  The reviewer from Advertising Age found them somewhat misguided and with the strategy adrift now that Steve Jobs isn’t captaining the ship. Still, the spots are scoring well with consumers. Right now, I think you could replace Jackson and Deschanel with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Snooki and it wouldn’t have any effect on Apple sales or popularity. The economy might be hurting, the California economy in particular, but in Cupertino, it’s the gold rush all over again.

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Don't tread on me — somehow my Macbook Pro survived being run over by only upper display and case damage.

Don't tread on me — somehow my Macbook Pro survived being run over with only upper display and case damage.

My trip to the ISC West Security Expo this week didn’t start out on a winning note when I went to straighten my car in a parking space at the airport car park. My laptop case flopped over at the worst possible moment and I managed to run over the edge of it. Despite a creased screen, my Macbook Pro and mental state survived a very bad hand. From there, I found myself having a fun, never less-than-entertaining time in Sin City. I’m not a gambler, so I can usually limit the damage on a Vegas trip to electronica.

Things off to a great start with the chance to catch up with old Newton friend, Don Shook, who now heads Merit Media Relations in Vegas, a PR firm specializing in the packaging industry. We worked together with Don years ago when he handled corporate relations in-house for Graphic Packaging, the folding carton giant, and then a unit of Coors. Don has been a great many things in his career, including law enforcement in CO, a news video editor at Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV when Larry Kane was anchoring there, and a world-class punster. All that and this photo of us in the lobby of the Venetian with a statuesque blonde should more than qualify Don to succeed Ricky Gervais as host of the Golden Globes.

The author and old friend Don Shook, the gold (leaf) standard in media relations.

The author and old friend Don Shook, the gold (leaf) standard in media relations.

The rest of my short stay was no less memorable. It consisted of a whirlwind Thursday calling on two Newton clients exhibiting at ISC West and walking a very packed Sands Expo Center.

The folks at 2GIG Technologies continue to lead the industry in security and home automation with panels that emphasize elegant ease-of-use design and do things no one is even thinking about. They use the Alarm.com platform, which was featured in a full page ad in the US Air magazine on my flight in.

The 2GIG booth was demo land at ISC because everyone wanted to get a preview of the new Go! 2.0 panel.

The 2GIG booth was demo land at ISC because everyone wanted to get a preview of the new Go! 2.0 panel.

Powerhouse decided that "the force is with 2GIG" and used a Star Wars theme to promote the Go!Control Panel.

Powerhouse decided that "the force is with 2GIG" and used a Star Wars theme to promote the Go!Control Panel.

The Powerhouse Star Wars suit featured a fully armed Go!Control Panel from 2GIG Technologies..

The Powerhouse Star Wars suit featured a fully armed Go!Control Panel from 2GIG Technologies

I got a demo of 2GIGs new Go! 2.0 panel and it is quite frankly mind-blowing what they are building in. No wonder their booth was packed from start of show till finish. Also why even their distributors like Power House can’t get enough of this product line — they took to the floor in Star Wars gear with the original Go! Control panel affixed to the front and back of the Imperial Stormtrooper uniform. That’s just terrific trade show buzz-generating fun.

Expertly piggybacking on this Z-Wave of home security functionality is Secure Wireless, another Newton client specializing in the industry’s top wireless transmitters and sensors (compatible with every major manufacturer’s line) plus OEM lines developed for these same makers. Secure Wireless has built a solid business by being even better than the equivalent units by the manufacturers.

Secure Wireless is the one of the leading developers of RF based transmitters and receivers in the world.

Secure Wireless is the one of the leading developers of RF based transmitters and receivers in the world.

The rest of ISC was a blur of very different but always interesting exhibits and statements.

Probably not a good idea to use your products (CCTV cameras) as mini golf hazards in a trade show booth putting green.

Probably not a good idea to use your products (CCTV cameras) as mini golf hazards in a trade show booth putting green.

Bosch decided to emphasize inventory. Hence an exhibit made entirely out of CCTV packaging.

Bosch decided to emphasize inventory. Hence an exhibit made entirely out of CCTV packaging.

Assa Abloy was a big presence at ISC West (including a booth big enough to house a tractor trailer).

Assa Abloy was a big presence at ISC West (including a booth big enough to house a tractor trailer).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capping the day was a chance to catch up with a few old friends at the Nine Fine Irishmen pub at New York, New York. Great Celtic fare for those of us who missed Saint Patrick’s Day, as well as an awesome high-energy house band, Sin E Ri Ra.

And the most amazing groupie I have ever seen.

The Irish know how to have a good time. So do the folks who built and now maintain Las Vegas as one of the world’s great destination cities for business and pleasure.

It's hard to beat Vegas as the 24/7 fun time capital of the world.

It's hard to beat Vegas as the 24/7 fun time capital of the world.

 

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My deep-rooted belief in the American free enterprise system, also known as capitalism, has made it harder and harder to enjoy political statements thinly disguised as entertainment from Hollywood, TV, and the music industry because so many movies, songs, shows, and performers are insistent on bashing business and evil corporations as if they were piñatas filled only with ill-gotten profits.  Especially painful is having to balance my love of the music of Bruce Springsteen, a local hero from college days, whose politics seem to lean increasingly far left toward non-existent Utopias of fairness, equal outcomes, and overreaching government control known as socialism and communism.

Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" Hits Hard About Lost Work

Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" Hits Hard About Lost Work

With the release of Bruce’s ambitious new album  “Wrecking Ball”, I have had my usual concerns whether I could balance any one-sided sermonizing with music and musicianship that is always engaging and risk-taking. I wasn’t encouraged by this interview in Rolling Stone, in which the exceedingly well-compensated New Jersey sons, Jon Stewart and the Boss, spoke unironically  about income disparity in the USA.  Both guys are wonderful examples of the American Dream. They need to stop feeling guilty about their success. Each one is an industry unto himself, employing a long list of people wherever he goes. Bruce especially sells a lot of records, concert tickets, memorabilia, clothing, and concert concessions, all in the name of rock and roll art. On top of that, he is an extraordinarily charitable guy, always giving funds and support and time to national and local causes. He has nothing left to prove, yet he still seems to be bothered about now living in a “Mansion on the Hill”.

When I finally picked up a copy of “Wrecking Ball” at the ultimate evil retailer, Wal-Mart, I wasn’t surprised to hear songs of anger directed at greedy bankers and corporate fat cats. However, upon repeated listenings, I have found myself moved by  another recurring message from Bruce — that work is what gives each of us a purpose (as well as income) and it is an essential thread that holds our communities, states, and nation together.

I encourage you to listen to songs like “Jack of All Trades”, “Death To My Hometown”,  and “Rocky Ground”, in which Bruce eloquently speaks to a middle class devastated by job loss and by the sickening realization that prospects ahead look bleak and bleaker. It does not have to be this way, however. While it is troubling that too many still put their faith in politicians to create and manage commerce, and that others are looking for special favors for their companies or industries (crony capitalism, not to be confused with actual capitalism), the free enterprise system here is still alive and just needs to be left alone to work.  And so that a lot more Americans can get back to work.

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Earlier this week, I was distressed to read (online) that long-time b2b publisher Penton had made a decision to give up on print. At first, I thought the move to all-digital applied across the board to each and every Penton trade magazine. Turns out it is strictly their tech group titles. With the cost of paper, ink, and press time combined with the explosion of tablets and e-readers, it is mighty tempting for publishers to give up on their print properties, especially if pages are down and advertisers are off.

I’m a print guy and always will be. I’d far rather hold a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, than strain my eyesight scrolling, adjusting screens, and absorbing pixels. Also, as our art director pointed out this week, doctors and hair salons are never going to fill their waiting rooms with stacks of Kindles and iPads.

However, some publishers are making the most of digital platforms and they are making it harder for print to keep up. QR codes and MS Tags are being used (some would say overused) to link ads to relevant online content and measurability. Meanwhile, ICIS and others are producing digital platforms that integrate rich media. Our client, Graham Engineering, was able to run a full page ad in the print issue. Then, we adapted it for their digital issue on the Ceros platform, integrating an extended video clip within the space of the ad (see page 6).  Sure beats banner and pay per click advertising.

The other way to look at this is for publishers being in the content business and connecting with readers (viewers?) in the way(s) that each prefers — print publication, digital version of print publication, web site, video clips, e-newsletters, webinars, in-person at events (and virtual events), and of course, all the flavors of social media.

It can be done and it is working . I had that reinforced by Michael Pitts this week, a hard-working ad sales rep doing his job the old-fashioned way, making face-to-face appointments with new prospects. What was he selling? The Philadelphia Tribune Media Group properties. Yes, the oldest, continually running African- American newspaper (since 1884) is still going strong. It was thrilling to hear that weekly print circulation is at 221,977, the vast majority of delivered to subscribers’ front steps. That’s a loyal and engaged readership.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Tribune hasn’t been content to rest on its considerable laurels either. In recent years, it has launched Metro editions taking it to specific Philly neighborhoods, as well as the Delaware and Montgomery County suburbs. It has also added special print publications like the Sojourner, a quarterly visitor’s guide to the region, and the Tribune magazine, with special editions on the Most Influential African Americans, Top African American Attorneys, and Women of Achievement.

Of course, like most newspapers, the Tribune has made its web site its 24/7 news platform, off which to build content for print via what is happening right now, what is engaging readers, and what demands the longer, more thoughtful coverage that print allows. Also, getting two-way conversations going via social media community pages. As Michael noted, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston has generated the kind of interest locally that it has nationally. PhillyTrib.com offers some outstanding run of site ad opportunities, as well as rich media ad units that are going to reward sponsors generously.

I tire of the debate that digital is killing print. I’d far rather see examples like a 125-year-old newspaper continuing to successfully publish by delivering great content that doesn’t divide print and digital, but balances it instead.

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