The branding of cities may be popular. But fading corporate approaches don’t work when it is time to capture the true character and competitive value of a place.
Category: Government & Politics
The term "Guggenheim Effect" used to denote the positive role the brand played in Bilbao's resurgence as a destination site. It became well accepted vernacular, not only in the museum community, but among the wider community of brand and marketing experts. In recent weeks, however, the term has been re-appropriated by European media and citizens to express a much more negative and even sarcastic view of the cultural institution.
LeBron could manage and leverage his announcement as he did not just because of his remarkable talent...not just because of the dynamics and finances of the trade...not just because powerhouse stars can now "go direct" to fans. He could do so because our present cultural moment requires a new king, an elevated god, and triumphant hero.
In 2007, I lauded BP's rebranding for its aesthetics and the company's willingness to position itself at the forefront of social and cultural debate. But I questioned its ability and willingness to "walk the walk" of its "beyond petroleum" talk. Sadly, the Gulf of Mexico spill will prove an excellent case study on the perils of disingenuous branding.
Last month a brouhaha emerged when US Supreme Court justices had a hard time differentiating between the technologies at the center of an important privacy case. Now, no one would reasonably expect a Chief Justice to know the nuances of Twitter as well as Lindsay Lohan, but Roberts allegedly inquired after the difference between email and pagers. Other justices needed a basic lesson in texting. This might seem amusing, except: how is it possible to responsibly adjudicate the issues of the 21st Century without a working knowledge of the platforms that pervade our social and working lives? Being conversant in these items, my dear sirs and ladies, is absolutely part of your job.
One need not stretch too far, nor have particularly partisan views, to accept arguments that ours is a culture marked by institutional collapse. Confidence on Wall Street and in capitalism itself slipped with the tarnishing of names AIG, Lehman and Merrill Lynch (among others) during the Great Recession. Trust in the U.S. government eroded along party lines, calling into question the integrity of the democratic process, on the path to health care reform. Faith in the Catholic Church continued to fold just last week under the weight of yet another round of scandal fueled by priests preying on the most vulnerable. On somewhat lighter fronts: there is no longer a "most trusted man in news" when every adman is a newsman, and so many newsmen an advertisement (or plagiarist). Science is more politicized than ever, the clarity of its objective truths clouded by a climate of competing interests. If our cultural institutions are not as strong as they once were, where is one to place belief?
In December, Davis Brand Capital announced the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking. Toyota ranked #8 overall and was the top-ranking automaker. Since the release, Toyota has issued a series of historic recalls, and the brand has suffered a precipitous fall from grace. So far, the recalls affect more than eight million vehicles worldwide, with Toyota considering still more for its best-selling Corolla. And recall-related malfunctions have caused an estimated 34 deaths since 2000 in the U.S. alone, according to government data released this week. Beyond the direct financial, legal and ethical implications of the recalls themselves, Toyota faces a crisis of consumer confidence comparable to the Tylenol cyanide murders or the Ford Explorer/Firestone fiasco. Rebuilding consumer trust will require much more than a public relations war room and marketing blitz. Toyota faces a fundamental brand challenge that extends deep into its culture, its operations and its core meaning. As the story unfolds and an embattled Toyota hunkers down for the onslaught, important lessons from the crisis are already coming to light.
GE (NYSE:GE) captures the number two spot in the Davis Brand Capital 25 for 2009. The world's largest company, GE has rebounded from a transition period and one of the most challenging years in its history -- one that saw its stock plunge to record lows. The company's nimble and effective management of its brand capital is helping it tackle new market paradigms and position itself to lead into the future.
Regardless of one's political affiliation, one thing is clear. Both sides of the aisle and their respective mouthpieces, as well as special interest groups, are leveraging public relations and other tools of persuasion to the best of their abilities in order to advance their sides of the health care story. However, as usual, the Republicans are winning the word war.
CNN and sister network HLN face a difficult brand challenge. As Teri Schindler noted in her recent post on the branding of broadcast networks, CNN is caught between a rock and a hard place with MSNBC’s liberal bent and Fox News’ right-wing “reality."
Noam Cohen wrote in the New York Times this weekend -- Twitter on the Barricades -- analyzing the impact of Twitter on the events of the last several days in Iran. There is no question that Twitter has been influential in transmitting and spreading what is happening on the ground there. But focusing solely on the Twitter-effect misses the larger and more consequential communication story. Any one communication tool in a web of such tools does not act alone in producing tremendous social network effects. What is especially noteworthy in the information transfer that is occurring around the dramatic events in Iran is how utterly dispersed yet interwoven and mutually reinforcing the various expression and transmission outlets are -- both analog and digital.
A fairly brilliant spoof of GM’s “re: invention” spot is making its way around the Net. It’s easy enough to make fun of GM from A to Z (A is for Aztec...B is for Buick...C is for Cimarron...), but this spoof points to something broader: a complete distrust of GM’s voice, message and methods. Any advertisement that begins with “let’s be completely honest” is setting itself up for mockery (and failure), especially in a networked world. Shame on IPG’s Deutsch and McCann agencies for letting that line make the spot, much less lead it.
Last week I spent a day walking around Washington. The weather was glorious and it was bustling. In the Newseum, an older woman examined photos with her friend from Scotland. At the White House, a family from Idaho asked me to take their picture. Near the water, the tables at Sequoia’s were full of international tourists. On the Mall, packs of school kids tried to buy lemon ice before they hit the lines at the National Air and Space Museum. As I carefully navigated the crowded steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I started thinking. The District of Columbia provides a beautifully rendered narrative of our nation’s history. But, for all those gathered here, what story does it tell of our future?
The tourism industry certainly is not immune to the challenges of the current economic environment. Yet a recent review of a study commissioned by The Ontario Government Ministry of Tourism shows that the industry is as much of a challenge to itself. Just as they did more than a decade ago (when I attended the Ecole Suisse de Tourisme), most destinations still focus on competing on the functional benefit of “quality.” Certainly, iconic buildings, a vibrant night scene or natural beauty are assets that indicate quality and add to the “must visit” factor of a destination. But those just add up to the price of entry for the tourism industry.
The gloves are off (and the hand sanitizer, on). While the world searches for the latest facts and figures on the swine flu, some are singling out Twitter for drumming up global panic and spreading misinformation. Have the old media dinosaurs exposed a genetic flaw in the new social media species, or are they bellowing in vain as they sink deeper into the tar pit?
I used Wordle to generate tag clouds for both President Obama’s and President Bush’s first addresses to Congress. They share a common political lexicon, with the expected partisan differences, but a few words in particular merit comment.
There’s a lot being written about the merchandising of this inaugural moment. For a sampling of what’s available, check out Amazon. Or any newsstand around the world.
Oh that’s a trick question – you MUST have seen it because I watched it on your air.
It was no surprise that during the 2008 presidential election the candidates were compared to brands and perceived as brands. And yes, the final two candidates did have trademarks. But does that really make them brands?
Regardless of your political persuasion, it is difficult to deny that brand Obama made participating in the political process cool again. MC Yogi is just one of many who took Obama’s voice, messages and logo, mashed it up and made it their own. The result: a malleable, inspiring brand that was expressed in myriad unique ways by the people, for the people.
Regardless of the results Tuesday night, the biggest loser of the 2008 election was third party politics. Bob Barr and Ralph Nader certainly deserve respect, but neither could provide true third party legitimacy or offer a remedy for a two-party system that continues to corral diverse voters into one of two catch-all ideological tents. Obama and McCain had the star power, change message, and political climate to finally do so, but in the end they chose to offer American voters New Coke and Pepsi Clear when we desperately need the Un-Cola.
As the country winds down from the election night parties and the selection of Barack Obama as president-elect of the U.S., UE takes a trip through time to November 9, 1960. This video of the acceptance speech by President-elect John F. Kennedy is amazing not only in its historical significance, but also because the same speech could be given today. Without the wire from Nixon, of course.
What will Barack Obama do with the first presidential social network once he manages to get elected?
In brand strategy we talk about the necessity of giving people a reason to believe. That intangible aspect of a brand that causes one to pause, consider and ultimately feel right about their choice. People are turning out in droves this election to support their political brand of choice, their reason to believe. Whether it’s Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin, there is passion and belief in the intangible aura that surrounds these candidates.
You saw the original here last month. Now, Hollywood is back to encourage you not to vote...unless you care about the future of our country. It's Nov. 4. Have you voted yet?
In 2007, a friend and retired international campaign consultant predicted this about the 2008 presidential campaign: “The Democrats will do anything to get elected. But the Republicans will do everything to get elected.” Indeed he was prescient, since we have since witnessed yet another sleazy Republican campaign, a tradition going back to Watergate and continuing on with the George W. Bush stolen election in 2000 and the swift boat ads against John Kerry in 2004.
Senator Barack Obama visited Google's headquarters nearly one year ago to announce his innovation agenda, speak with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and take questions from Google employees. Senator John McCain also participated in a similar session as part of the company's Candidates@Google series.
Rather than provide advice that executives can use to guide their brands through devastating financial times, the overwhelming response, much like the GOP, is simply to spend more on image.
After witnessing the successful swiftboating of Sen. Kerry in the 2004 election, many pundits anticipated a flurry of devastating 527 ads in 2008. Surprisingly, stricter regulation and admonition from both candidates have limited television play. The ads have not, however, disappeared completely. The most notable (and powerful) spots of 2008 linger online, and the liberal groups who produced and distributed them have learned from and improved upon the 527s of elections past.
While it’s too early to know for sure which words or phrases will go the distance, I offer for debate a few predictions of how word meaning may change as a result of 2008 political usage, as well as a couple phrases that will be ever-linked to Campaign ’08.
Hollywood is turning out in force, saying “don’t vote.” Because not voting is still a vote.
I subscribed to satellite radio for the programming. Little did I know that with my paid subscription they would throw in a Walmart-worthy makeover.
President Bartlet of "The West Wing" appeared at last night’s 60th Anniversary Emmy Awards, delivering an eloquent, bipartisan reminder for audiences to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. During this presidential race, pundits have said much about the power of Barack Obama’s words to move crowds, but little about Sorkin’s, and how his idealized American President inspired voters to reconsider the qualities they demand in a candidate for the country’s highest office.
With 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, we see a China that is a powerhouse of contemporary, iconic architecture. We see a China that is global host, not a walled world. We see an entire culture struggling with freedom, technology and the environment. From this view, China is a massive case study -- a window into -- the global future.
America has a troubling brand portfolio quandary. Internationally, it seems America is a branded house, with the parent brand operating from the position “military strength.” Domestically, America strikes me as a house of brands, in which each sub-brand (i.e. state) is not necessarily chained to the militaristic meaning of the American parent brand.
I’d like to offer an alternative interpretation of Barak Obama’s recent reinvention of the presidential seal.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama spoke today in Chicago in front of a seal surely meant to convey a presidential image and his readiness for the job at stake. Instead, he made me giggle.
Love him or hate him, Obama has finally put his campaign money where his mouth by opting out of the public campaign financing system.
(Originally posted November 2007) Former White House Press Corps punching bag Scott McClellan cried victim yesterday, leaking excerpts from a new book confessing what most pundits and news junkies believed already: that as press secretary for President Bush, he lied to the media regarding the Valarie Plame leak investigation.
We've avoided politics, largely, until now, when there is a question of brand to explore. Much has been said already about "Brand Obama" and "Brand Clinton," and which is more compelling or divisive to the Democratic party. That's not a question I'll approach to answer here, but I would like to ask which of the two is actually a brand at all.
There’s something about Svedka’s Svedka_grl that creeps me out. Maybe it’s because Daryl Hannah made me feel a little funny as the, um…acrobatic android in Bladerunner when I was far too young to know why.
Let’s role play. You’re a pharmaceutical company who (allegedly) covered up the dangers of your last billion-dollar drug, for which you’re mired in costly and reputation-damaging litigation. You’re eager to launch a new, ground-breaking drug you can legitimately claim prevents cancer, and you want to avoid a barrage of articles comparing your new rising star to its fallen predecessor. You also need to break through consumer hesitation to early adopt, given your less-than-glowing track record. The new drug vaccinates against an STD. What do you do?
No, not the lil’-minded leader of our great nation. We’ve given him enough chances. I’m talkin’ ‘bout “Lil’ Bush,” the animated series on Comedy Central.
Karl Marx said “Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.” This is the premise of the noticeably slimmer Michael Moore’s latest exposé, Sicko, which pulls back the curtain on one of the most profitable (and, he argues, immoral) industries in America: health care.
India is the first country to have corporate social responsibility (CSR ) legislation, mandating that companies give 2 percent of their net profits to charitable causes. Innovative? Perhaps on a policy level. But some small-medium size enterprises within India have already embedded social impact into their company ethos.
The long overdue exercise (the last one was in 1990) nearly doubled the country’s economy pushing GDP up to $510bn from $270bn. There is a general consensus among economic analysts and commentators that the changes are merely cosmetic — they certainly do not affect the daily lives of most average Nigerians, and their timing might be politically motivated given the upcoming 2015 elections which are expected to be highly contested. However, from the perspective of managers and CEOs operating in Nigeria, there are some important implications.
Optimism Is on the Rise, But Challenges Remain
US President Barack Obama recently called for a return to an era when workers could have steady jobs in durable industries. The trouble is, there are no more durable occupations that offer long-term job security. What’s more, most people would not want to go back to that era, for the age of disruption has created many benefits we have become accustomed to and opened even more opportunities.
Between the massive shifts occurring today among marketers in the use of digital versus “traditional” media (i.e., television, radio, print) – and the associated questions of the relative effectiveness of each – one can’t help but wonder if the use of digital media in politics is actually advancing the political process.
Net neutrality is an incredibly important issue, but it’s hard to know what to pay attention to when people throw around jargon like “common carriers” and “reclassification.” It doesn’t help that people who tend to be united in their reaction — everyone from techno-libertarians to VCs – seem divided about the gutting of the FCC’s net neutrality rules this week.
Walk the halls of the International CES and listen to tech titans like Cisco’s John Chambers and it’s easy to believe that the Internet of things is the next big thing and that it’s all but here. But while the tech industry may be embracing it, Washington policymakers, fretting over data security and privacy issues, still aren’t sure what to do about it.
There’s an election in 2014, and lawmakers, particularly those in tough races, need to show they are pursuing legislation on myriad topics, some of which could impact media and marketing.
Perhaps at no time more than today—the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination—will those words take on a darker dualism. This is especially so for the city’s business community, which must wrestle with a highly unusual mix of emotions: optimism over the thousands of tourists due to come to town, and dread over the reason why they’re coming. While Dallas’ residents come to terms with emotions ranging from guilt to anger, the proper stance for Dallas—the brand—to take is harder to determine.
Who’s more powerful: the omnipotent head of a corroding but still feisty superpower or the handcuffed commander in chief of the most dominant country in the world?
Distributed citizen groups and nimble hackers once had the edge. Now governments and corporations are catching up. Who will dominate in the decades ahead?
In Areas Recovering From Government Abuse, Data Privacy Is Considered a Right.
The Supreme Court is being asked to decide when an online threat becomes worthy of prosecution, in what could be the first internet speech case to reach the high court’s docket for the 2013-2104 term beginning next month.
Ever heard of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act? It gave birth to the social web. Here's why we need more laws just like it.
The United Nations just released its second World Happiness Report, which ranks countries according to happiness levels.
In cities and states across the country, two forces are engaged in battles with major consequences for the future of the Internet and the U.S. innovation economy.
Which countries have the best reputations? What does that even mean?
The European data protection activists behind the Europe v Facebook (evf) campaign group, that has long been a thorn in Facebook’s side in Europe, have filed new complaints under regional data protection law targeting Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype and Yahoo for their alleged collaboration with the NSA’s Prism data collection program.
The Supreme Court ruled this week that naturally occurring genes can’t be patented, which should be a boon for the host of emerging gene testing and patenting companies that are coming out of the Valley.
San Francisco federal judge tells Mountain View company to comply with FBI's warrantless National Security Letter requests for user details, despite ongoing concerns about law's constitutionality.
Who cares if products are “Made in America”? Fewer people than you might suspect.
Despite its smoggy reputation, China is doing better than the United States. Much better.
Could a recent push by the Congressional Budget Office to include data visualizations in their complex reports drive more nuanced, informed thinking?
Since Change.org began focusing on its petition tool in 2011, it has offered just two actions for supporting a cause: Create a petition; sign a petition. Now the company is expanding that list.
Killer robots are a real threat to our future and must be outlawed now, according to a campaign launched in London on Tuesday by five international NGOs, led by Human Rights Watch.
Data is becoming a very expensive topic on Capitol Hill.
For the time being, America remains the destination of choice in the global economy. But talented individuals can now also find very attractive opportunities in other countries around the world.
This year 12% of IKEA's content for the Web, catalog and brochures were rendered virtually; that number will increase to 25% next year.
Arguing against immigration policies that force foreign-born innovators to leave the United States, a new study to be released on Tuesday shows that immigrants played a role in more than three out of four patents at the nation’s top research universities.
That headline is a big promise. But here it is: The economic history of the world going back to Year 1 showing the major powers' share of world GDP, from a research letter written by Michael Cembalest, an analyst at JP Morgan.
Why are investors engaged in a “dash for cash” (or a flight into any havens that they can find)? It is not hard to think of reasons: doubts are rising about the future of the eurozone, the underlying developed world economic data are grim – and in the US there is concern about the prospect of a “fiscal cliff”, or new debt debacle. Ever since the computing revolution took hold on Wall Street and the City of London in the 1970s, finance has been treated not as an art but a science – and banks have operated as if computer models could not just explain the past but predict the future, too.
Innovative digital journalism played a starring role in the wake of a massive document release during an inquiry into British media ethics. Three major news organizations sifted through the information and collaboratively covered the investigation stemming from British journalism’s biggest scandal in recent memory.
In January 2012, we sit again on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution. Information technology has entered a big-data era. Processing power and data storage are virtually free. A hand-held device, the iPhone, has computing power that shames the 1970s-era IBM mainframe. The Internet is evolving into the "cloud"—a network of thousands of data centers any one of which makes a 1990 supercomputer look antediluvian. From social media to medical revolutions anchored in metadata analyses, wherein astronomical feats of data crunching enable heretofore unimaginable services and businesses, we are on the cusp of unimaginable new markets.
Barbara Scott just hit the trifecta of computer security breaches. Since the New Year, Ms. Scott has been a victim of three separate cyberattacks. Two weeks ago, the online auction site eBay said in an e-mail to her that there had been suspicious activity on her account. On Monday, she received an e-mail from Zappos and another from 6PM, two online shoe retailers owned by Amazon. Both messages alerted her that — once again — her information had been compromised.
Customers, employees, shareholders and taxpayers hate large corporations for many reasons. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a lengthy list of corporations for which there is substantial research data to choose the 10 most hated in America.
While there are many theories for the underlying reasons for the the riots — social inequality, the economic crisis, gang culture, opportunism and the failings of capitalism to name a few — but there is little doubt that technology and social media were the great enablers of the rioters and the criminality that ensued.
Microfinance has come under fire in the past 18 months, triggered in part by SKS Microfinance's IPO. Critics complain that the institutions supporting microfinance have become too greedy, and many are using this as an argument to deeply regulate or, even more, cut support to microfinance operations.
On this 100th International Women's Day, it is right to reflect on how women have become the heart of the microfinance industry. It is easy to forget that the initial motivation for microfinance roughly 30 years ago was, to a great extent, gender neutral.
In recent months, business leaders been embarking on a new conversation in the U.S. about how our business, government and consumers will meet challenges around the environments, infrastructure, and of course, the economy.
Design is an inescapable dimension of human activity. To adapt one of my favorite quotes by Reyner Banham, like the weather it is always there, but we speak about it only when it is exceptionally bad or exceptionally good.
If you want to be a 21st century company (or economy), if you want to survive and thrive during this Great Stagnation, you've got to to have the courage, foresight, and determination to step up to a higher rung on the ladder of innovation. It's time to master what I sometimes call "I-squared": the art and practice of institutional innovation.
Elizabeth Warren has begun her leadership of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") with calls to top bankers and a meeting to begin developing new mortgage disclosure rules. She explained her mandate at the mortgage meeting: "It is no secret to this group that consumers need good information so that they can make good decisions, and that's what this undertaking is about. It's about how it is that we think about what information consumers needs, and when they need it, to make the best possible financial decisions." Good luck with that.
The internet has been a great unifier of people, companies and online networks. Powerful forces are threatening to balkanise it.
Can companies do well by doing good? Yes—sometimes. But the idea that companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed.
If you surf the web, congratulations! You are part of the information economy. Data gleaned from your communications and transactions grease the gears of modern commerce. Not everyone is celebrating, of course. Many people are concerned and dismayed—even shocked—when they learn that "their" data are fuel for the World Wide Web. Who is gathering the information? What are they doing with it? How might this harm me? How do I stop it?
Wired asked Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle, the creators of the Web 2.0 conferences, to debate the issues raised in our Web RIP cover package. Over a number of days, Tim and John traded emails with Wired magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson, who wrote one half of “The Web Is Dead.” Surprisingly, Tim agreed that the Web is the “adolescent” phase of the Internet’s evolution and that we are seeing a shift toward a more closed phase in the networked age’s cycles. John, however, was having none of it…
Most business executives likely have never come across the concept. Yet despite its limited reach to a small audience of policy wonks, President Obama made it a campaign issue in 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is determined to make it the law, and industry analysts are concerned that its passage would undermine investment by Internet service providers (ISPs). A recent pact on the subject between Google and Verizon — the largest representatives on both sides of the debate — made the covers of the nation's major newspapers this week. What's the fuss over this thing called "net neutrality"?
The Internet is a medium that is evolving at breakneck speed. It’s a wild organism of sweeping cultural change — one that leaves the carcasses of dead media forms in its sizeable wake. It’s transformative: it has transformed the vast globe into a ‘global village’ and it has drawn human communication away from print-based media and into a post-Gutenberg digital era. Right now, its perils are equal to its potential. The debate over ‘net neutrality’ is at a fever pitch. There is a tug-of-war going on between an ‘open web’ and a more governed form of the web (like the Apple-approved apps on the iPad/iPhone) that has more security but less freedom.
In an emerging battle over regulating Internet access, companies are taking sides. Facebook, one of the companies that has flourished on the open Internet, indicated Wednesday that it did not support a proposal by Google and Verizon that critics say could let providers of Internet access chip away at that openness. Meanwhile an executive of AT&T, one of the companies that stands to profit from looser regulations, called the proposal a “reasonable framework.” Most media companies have stayed mute on the subject, but in an interview this week, the media mogul Barry Diller called the proposal a sham. And outside of technology circles, most people have not yet figured out what is at stake. The debate revolves around net neutrality, which in the broadest sense holds that Internet users should have equal access to all types of information online, and that companies offering Internet service should not be able to give priority to some sources or types of content.
It's 2010, and we still don't know how to describe the archetypal magnates of the next economy. We don't have a word for it, so we resort to awkward neologisms, like "information entrepreneur" or "green mogul." It's as if we're still not quite sure just what kinds of "capital" tomorrow's tycoons will be "ists" of. What are the kernels of tomorrow's prosperity?
Google and Verizon announced a joint proposal on Monday that would allow ISPs to offer premium content bundles over an unspecified global network — an unexpected gambit that would seem to call for separate and unequal internets. The two companies say the guidelines would ensure that no internet traffic of any kind is prioritized over any other kind (with the exception of viruses, spam and the like).
Mark Anderson, the high-tech industry’s most accurate prognosticator, foresees an economic landscape still under the stress of too much liquidity — and decision makers still in denial.
Silicon Valley folks have a tendency to frame industry lobbying campaigns as morality crusades--instead of recognizing them for the self-interest they are. The latest of these causes, "net neutrality," calls for Internet Service Providers to be legally forced to treat every bit sent over the Internet the same as every other bit--i.e., be prevented from offering "premium" tiers in which some folks can pay to have their bits delivered faster than other bits. The Silicon Valley champion, Google, has long stumped for this concept. And Google is now being savaged for apparently betraying that stance and becoming "evil" by discussing a premium-tier deal with Verizon.
Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege. The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.
When Peter Eckersley recently clicked on to one of America’s biggest online job sites, he was not alone for long. Using software to monitor programs running on the page of CareerBuilder.com, the researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, saw data identifying his computer being whisked off to at least 10 outfits that track where people go on the internet. More troubling was his inability to tell what the companies did with the data. His experience goes to the heart of a battle that could shape the future of life on the web – while also having very real knock-on effects in the physical world. The digital dossiers that companies are building from the browsing, searching and other habits of ordinary web users are becoming increasingly refined. At the same time, a deluge of personal information has been unleashed publicly on the web, with Facebook’s 500m users at the forefront. With rapid inroads on both fronts being made into many traditional expectations of personal privacy, the results could prove explosive.
A couple of months or so after becoming Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron wanted a few tips from somebody who could tell him how it felt to be responsible for, and accountable to, many millions of people: people who expected things from him, even though in most cases he would never shake their hands. He turned not to a fellow head of government but to…Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and boss of Facebook, the phenomenally successful social network.
It wasn't a multi-million dollar television campaign for a Fortune 50 company, nor was it a digital media program for some new-age service. Instead, the Grand Effie award was given to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) for a very simple, and cost-efficient word-of-mouth program to encourage student enrollment. Here's what they did.
BP PLC, under intense legal and political pressure from President Barack Obama, agreed Wednesday to put $20 billion into a fund to compensate victims of the Gulf oil spill, and said it would cancel shareholder dividends for the first three quarters of this year to offset that cost. BP said it would pay another $100 million to a separate fund to help oil-industry workers sidelined by the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Quick: Think of a Chinese brand name. Japan has Sony. Mexico has Corona. Germany has BMW. South Korea? Samsung. And China has . . . ? If you're stumped, you're not alone. And for China, that is an enormous problem.
Sometime in the next few weeks, Facebook will officially log its 500 millionth active citizen. If the website were granted terra firma, it would be the world's third largest country by population, two-thirds bigger than the U.S. More than 1 in 4 people who browse the Internet not only have a Facebook account but have returned to the site within the past 30 days.
Toyota showed resilience in the face of its recall crisis on Tuesday by reporting a Y112bn ($1.2bn) net profit for the three months to March, a period when the carmaker’s reputation appeared to be crumbling under the weight of safety problems with millions of its vehicles.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday outlined a proposal for regulating the Internet that he described as a "third way," or middle ground between "heavy-handed" regulation and a do-nothing approach that could hurt competition and leave consumers unprotected.
Consumer groups have been fighting what they see as the prevalence of online tracking, where online advertising is selected for a certain user — perhaps because he once visited a company’s home page, perhaps because he showed an interest in automobiles or baby products, or perhaps because he is a middle-aged man. As opposition has intensified, companies like Google and Yahoo have adjusted their own privacy policies in response to consumer concern. Industry groups, while arguing that free Internet content depends on this type of sophisticated advertising, have issued their own self-regulatory principles.
U.S. antitrust enforcers are taking a keen interest in recent changes that Apple Inc. made to its licensing agreement with iPhone application developers and are likely to open a preliminary investigation into whether the company's actions stifle competition in mobile devices, according to people familiar with the situation. The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, which are jointly tasked with enforcing federal antitrust laws, are holding discussions over which agency would hold the inquiry, these people said. Apple, the FTC and Justice Department all declined to comment.
Tony Hayward thought he had finally slain all of BP PLC's demons. Now a new one has reared up, and it's the size of Puerto Rico. BP's chief executive is coming under mounting pressure over the vast spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico, which was caused when a giant drilling rig there caught fire and sank, with the loss of 11 crew members. The oil, still spewing from the well on the ocean floor, threatens to blacken the Louisana shoreline, and BP's reputation.
Journalists are already getting warmed up for the next big Apple event, the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, where they will most likely get a look at the next generation of the iPhone. But there might be fewer people lined up, and not just because we got a peek inside the new model when photos of a prototype were leaked on a blog two weeks ago. We also got an unflattering peek inside the company itself.
Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into trading at Goldman Sachs, raising the possibility of criminal charges against the Wall Street giant, according to people familiar with the matter. While the investigation is still in a preliminary stage, the move could escalate the legal troubles swirling around Goldman.
The legal and political consequences of the complaint brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Goldman Sachs have drawn most of the public's attention, but it is the cultural fallout that will be the more meaningful legacy of the case. The fuzzy link between a real asset like a home mortgage and a synthetic collateralized debt obligation is hard to grasp for people focused on Roth IRAs and pretax health care expense accounts. By ignoring the need most of us have to see how investments are linked to tangible assets, Wall Street generally, and Goldman Sachs specifically, have given us ample reason to believe the truth of the charges.
With so much discussion — even panic — about privacy today, I fear that we risk losing the benefits of publicness, of the connections enabled by the internet and our interconnected world. If we shift to a default of private, we lose much and I argue that we should weigh that choice when we decide what to put behind a wall — and there are too many walls being build today. But we’re not discussing the benefits of the public vs. the private. I want to spark that discussion.
Around the time that Apple Computer was making it big in California, Andrey Shtorkh was getting a first-hand look at the Soviet approach to high tech: he guarded the fence keeping scientists inside Sverdlovsk-45, one of the country’s secret scientific cities, deep in the Ural Mountains. Today, he is the publicist for an improbable new venture. The Russian government, hoping to diversify its economy away from oil, is building the first new scientific city since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even more improbably, it is modeled, officials say, on Silicon Valley.
Even as prospects for the American economy brighten, consumers are about to face a new financial burden: a sustained period of rising interest rates. That, economists say, is the inevitable outcome of the nation’s ballooning debt and the renewed prospect of inflation as the economy recovers from the depths of the recent recession.
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission exceeded its authority when it sanctioned Comcast Corp. in 2008 for deliberately slowing Internet traffic for some users. The unanimous decision is a blow to the FCC, which argued it had authority to police Internet providers and prevent them from blocking or slowing subscribers' Internet traffic. The victory is likely to spark efforts by the FCC and Congress to impose new rules on Comcast and other Internet providers. Major Internet providers will likely oppose such moves, particularly any effort by the FCC to apply rules to their Web services that were originally enacted to promote more competition in the land-line phone industry.
The premise of this essay is that the explosive growth of mobile communications can be a powerful tool for addressing some of the most critical challenges of the 21st century, such as promoting vibrant democracies, fostering inclusive economic growth, and reducing the huge inequities in life expectancy between rich and poor nations. The benefits of mobile communications are particularly profound for developing countries, many of which are “leapfrogging” the traditional fixed telecommunications infrastructure. As a result, billions of people in developing countries are gaining access to modern communications of any sort for the first time.
It's a sign of the times when The Economist, the house journal of the global business elite, holds a conference in London on 'design thinking' (official Big Rethink site here). Having attended the conference, produced in association with The Design Council and held over 11-12 March, I was left wondering one thing: why is design thinking such a hot topic with business leaders, given that it leaves so many designers cold?
Should we be surprised that the biggest fight over freedom of expression in years involves Google, a company that produces algorithms rather than articles? Probably not. Google executives struck a blow for free speech in China last week when they announced they were moving their service to Hong Kong after a series of mounting conflicts with the government over the privacy of its users and the free flow of information. That would seem to put Google in league with newspapers, television news divisions and other outlets that look to protect information from government control. But no, Google insists, it is definitely not a media company.
Starbucks has lately found itself in the middle of a debate between advocates of “open carry” gun rights and of gun control; the former have held armed meet-ups at several of its locations, and the latter have demanded that the coffee chain prevent this from happening. Seeking to duck these fresh salvos in the long debate over how firearms fit into American life, the company has issued a statement that such matters ought to be worked out “in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.” Well, sure. But drawing a line between official institutions of lawmaking and the daily sphere where citizens move about is not so easy. And one thing the pistols-and-Frappuccino moment has demonstrated is that this is acutely true for a business with an image carefully devised to blur the line between public space and commercial space.
In 1900, an American man could on average expect to live until he was 45 years old. By 1940, that life-expectancy number had jumped to 62 years, while for women the average number increased from 51 years to 66 years. That unprecedented advance in public health was largely the result of the spread of disease-fighting technologies like vaccines, antibiotics and improved sanitation. A similar “very auspicious moment” is at hand in public health, according to Thomas Goetz, executive editor of Wired and author of a new book, “The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine” (Rodale, 2010). This time, the potential revolution in public health, Mr. Goetz said in an interview on Friday, will be led by digital technologies that enable people to live healthier lives and make better treatment decisions.
This is a nation that builds dams, high-speed rail lines and skyscrapers with abandon. In newly muscular China, sheer force is not just an art, but a bedrock principle of its seemingly unstoppable rise to global prominence. Now China has tightened its grip on the much more variegated world of online information, effectively forcing Google Inc., the world’s premier information provider, to choose between submitting to Chinese censorship and leaving the world’s largest community of Internet users to its rivals. It chose to leave.
Since March 2007, when Viacom first accused Google in a $1 billion lawsuit of profiting off thousands of unauthorized copyrighted clips that once appeared on YouTube, most of the conflict had smoldered out of public view. Once the case documents were unsealed on Thursday, all the spite roared into the open. Google attacked Viacom for chopping up e-mails from YouTube's founders in an obvious attempt to invent sinister-sounding messages. In Viacom's motion for summary judgment, the parent company of Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures railed against Google and YouTube for developing "serial amnesia" during depositions and also for failing "to preserve and produce" key documents--a no-no in civil proceedings. So, is this just legal gamesmanship, or have both sides gone too far?
When the Walt Disney Company agreed in August to pay $4 billion to acquire Marvel Entertainment, the comic book publisher and movie studio, it snared a company with a library that includes some of the world’s best-known superheroes, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four. The heirs of Jack Kirby, the legendary artist who co-created numerous Marvel mainstays, were also intrigued by the deal. Mr. Kirby’s children had long harbored resentments about Marvel, believing they had been denied a share of the lush profits rolling out of the company’s superheroes franchises. They spent years preparing for a lawsuit by enlisting a Los Angeles copyright lawyer, Marc Toberoff, to represent them. When the Marvel deal was struck, Mr. Toberoff — who helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of Superman profits to heirs of one of that character’s creators — sprang into action. Pow! Wham! Another high-profile copyright fight broke out in Hollywood, and this one could be the broadest the industry has yet seen.
The global economy has shattered. The fossil fuels that propelled an industrial revolution are running out and the infrastructure built with these energies is barely clinging to life. Worse, more than two centuries of rising carbon emissions now threaten us with catastrophic climate change. If that were not enough, we face a massive loss of social trust in economic and political institutions. Everywhere people are venting their frustration and increasingly taking their anger to the streets. What is happening to our world? The human race is in a twilight zone between a dying civilisation on life support and an emerging one trying to find its legs. Old identities are fracturing while new identities are too fragile to grasp. To understand our situation, we need to step back and ask: what constitutes a fundamental change in the nature of civilisation?
If a stranger came up to you on the street, would you give him your name, Social Security number and e-mail address? Probably not. Yet people often dole out all kinds of personal information on the Internet that allows such identifying data to be deduced. Services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are oceans of personal minutiae — birthday greetings sent and received, school and work gossip, photos of family vacations, and movies watched. Computer scientists and policy experts say that such seemingly innocuous bits of self-revelation can increasingly be collected and reassembled by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes down to the Social Security number.
A top Chinese minister warned Google Inc. "will have to bear the consequences" if it stops filtering its search results in China, suggesting there is little room for compromise in the high-profile showdown over censorship. Friday's remarks were the sharpest words yet in an unusual duel that could set a precedent for international business in the country and could escalate tensions between the U.S. and Chinese governments.
With embarrassing vehicle recalls and testy congressional hearings behind it, Toyota Motor Corp. is planning an assault next week on its critics as the company digs in for a mammoth legal battle. In a media event planned for Monday and a Tuesday address to 1,000 suppliers, the Japanese auto maker plans to defend its electronics systems. It will roll out independent experts like the head of Stanford University's auto-research center to discredit a study that suggests electronics are to blame for sudden acceleration in some Toyota vehicles.
At a time when other financial services firms are rolling out flashy multi-million dollar advertising campaigns aimed at rebuilding consumer trust, Citigroup is unveiling something that seems far more simple: a blog and videos featuring top executives. The company this week launched a new branding campaign including a fresh Web site, new.citi.com, and print ads directing people to it. The Internet roll-out features personal blog posts from Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, as well as testimonial videos from CitiMortgage President Sanjiv Das and CitiRisk's Chief Risk Officer Brian Leach. By featuring the executives, the company aims to position Citigroup ( C - news - people ) as a more transparent, accessible and conversational corporation.
“On the Internet, the First Amendment is a local ordinance,” said Fred H. Cate, a law professor at Indiana University. He was talking about last week’s ruling from an Italian court that Google executives had violated Italian privacy law by allowing users to post a video on one of its services. In one sense, the ruling was a nice discussion starter about how much responsibility to place on services like Google for offensive content that they passively distribute. But in a deeper sense, it called attention to the profound European commitment to privacy, one that threatens the American conception of free expression and could restrict the flow of information on the Internet to everyone.
Financial crises stink. In their wake, public debt explodes. Nations default. Economic growth falters. Taxes rise. Unemployment lingers. The current financial crisis is no different. The U.S. will have to produce 10 million new jobs just to get back to the unemployment levels of 2007. There’s no sign that that is going to happen soon, so we’re looking at an extended period of above 8 percent unemployment. The biggest impact is on men.
Nathan Myhrvold wants to shake up the marketplace for ideas. His mission and the activities of the company he heads, Intellectual Ventures, a secretive $5 billion investment firm that has scooped up 30,000 patents, inspire admiration and angst. Admirers of Mr. Myhrvold, the scientist who led Microsoft’s technology development in the 1990s, see an innovator seeking to elevate the economic role and financial rewards for inventors whose patented ideas are often used without compensation by big technology companies. His detractors see a cynical operator deploying his bulging patent trove as a powerful bargaining chip, along with the implied threat of costly litigation, to prod high-tech companies to pay him lucrative fees. They call his company “Intellectual Vultures.”
The leader of Britain's Conservative Party says we're entering a new era -- where governments themselves have less power (and less money) and people empowered by technology have more. Tapping into new ideas on behavioral economics, he explores how these trends could be turned into smarter policy.
The opinions of young adults--which today have solidified into values--are not to be ignored. Not only are people in their 20s powerful voices within their communities, but they're also consumers. These first adults of the millennial generation (roughly, the people born between 1981 and 2000) are bellwethers for a group that's already estimated to earn more than $200 billion a year, of which they spend about $127 billion in the U.S. alone.
In Davos, signs of recovery for the economy — but it's not the same old world.
Documentary films could have been created the way books were, with writers using clips the way historians use quotations (that is, with no permission at all). And likewise, books could have been created differently: with each quotation licensed by the original author, with the promise to use the quote only according to the terms of a license. All books could thus be today as documentary films are today--inaccessible. Or all documentary films today could be as almost all books are today--accessible. But it is the accident of our cultural history, created by lawyers not thinking about, as Duke law professor Jamie Boyle puts it, the “cultural environmental consequences” of their contracts, that we can always legally read, even if we cannot legally watch. In this contrast between books and documentaries, there is a warning about our future. What are the rules that will govern culture for the next hundred years? Are we building an ecology of access that demands a lawyer at every turn of the page? Or have we learned something from the mess of the documentary-film past, and will we create instead an ecology of access that assures copyright owners the incentive they need, while also guaranteeing culture a future?
Public confidence in companies, governments and non-governmental organisations has staged a recovery since last year's "trust Armageddon", but the rebound is patchy and fragile, according to data to be presented at the World Economic Forum tomorrow in Davos. Trust in business has risen from 49 per cent to 53 per cent around the world year-on-year, says the annual "trust barometer" of well-educated, highly paid and engaged "informed publics", conducted by Edelman, a communications consultancy.
Flouting the efforts of lobbyists to shut down his plan for a consumer protection agency, the newly combative President Barack Obama is digging in his heels. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said last week that it’s something Obama “is not willing to give up.” Thus, we open another round in the brawl between Obama and business groups that claim the bill covering mortgage and credit-card lenders is a death sentence for small companies, expensive for consumers, and will “change the way Americans do business forever.”
The U.S. Supreme Court's sweeping ruling on Thursday that invalidated large chunks of campaign finance law arose in part from an unlikely source: the rise of Facebook, YouTube, and blogs and the decline of traditional media outlets. A 5-4 majority of the justices concluded that technological changes have chipped away at the justification for a law that allows individuals to post their opinions about a political candidate -- but threatens the ACLU, the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, a labor union, or a for-profit corporation with felony criminal sanctions if they happen to do the same on their own Web site or blog.
In May 2009, Absolut Vodka launched a limited edition line called "Absolut No Label." The company's global public relations manager, Kristina Hagbard, explained that "For the first time we dare to face the world completely naked. We launch a bottle with no label and no logo, to manifest the idea that no matter what's on the outside, it's the inside that really matters."
Yahoo’s Chinese partner issued a scathing criticism of the US technology company at the weekend, calling it “reckless” for publicly supporting Google’s threat to quit the country in protest over a wave of Chinese cyberattacks. Alibaba Group, in which Yahoo holds a 40 per cent stake, said it had “communicated to Yahoo that Yahoo’s statement that it is ‘aligned’ with the position Google took last week was reckless given the lack of facts in evidence. Alibaba doesn’t share this view”.
On the desk of Jim O’Neill, chief economist for Goldman Sachs, stand four flimsy flags. They look out of place among the expensive computer terminals of the investment bank’s plush London office, like leftovers of a child’s geography homework or cheap mementos from backpacking trips to exotic parts of the world. But these flags hint at a more interesting story – of the latest way in which money and ideas are reshaping the world. The small scraps of fabric are pennants for big countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. And almost a decade ago, O’Neill decided to start thinking of them as a group – which he gave the acronym Bric.
In the post below, on Google standing up to China over its spying on dissidents and censorship, I note how Zeit Online calls Google a quasi-state — in a post under the headline “The Google Republic” — and Fallows says Google “broke diplomatic relations with China” as if Google were a nation. What this says, of course, is that the internet is the New World and Google is its biggest colonizer: the sun never sets on Google.
U.S. government officials and business leaders were supportive but wary of taking sides in Google Inc.'s battle with China, a sign of the delicate tensions between the growing superpower and the West. The White House said it would wait to comment until China responded to Google's threat to bolt from China, over censorship and alleged cyber spying. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke called Google's charge that it and dozens of companies were hacked "troubling" and encouraged China "to work with Google and other U.S. companies to ensure a climate for secure commercial operations in the Chinese market."
Google’s stunning declaration that it would stop cooperating with Chinese Internet censorship and consider shutting down its operations in the country ricocheted around the world Wednesday. But in China itself, the news was heavily censored. Some big Chinese news portals initially carried a short dispatch on Google’s announcement but that account soon tumbled from the headlines and later reports omitted Google’s references to “free speech” and “surveillance.”
UBS AG Tuesday issued an employee code explicitly banning staff from helping clients cheat on their taxes, as part of the Swiss bank's effort to restore its reputation after a messy U.S. probe into hidden offshore accounts. "We do not provide assistance to clients or colleagues in acts aimed at deceiving tax authorities," according to the code, which is prefaced with remarks from UBS Chairman Kaspar Villiger and Chief Executive Oswald Grübel. The code, which also addresses issues such as financial crime, competition, confidentiality and diversity, is meant as a response to wrongdoing in UBS's U.S. offshore arm, which has since been shuttered.
Time Warner Cable Inc. and News Corp. traded barbs on Wednesday as they face a New Year's deadline in their landmark fight over TV-programming fees. If the fight remains unresolved it will threaten millions of cable-TV subscribers with the loss of Fox broadcast programs, including big football games, in coming days.
The US Treasury will become the majority shareholder of GMAC, the former lending arm of General Motors, as part of a restructuring announced on Wednesday. GMAC is to receive $3.8bn in new government investment via the troubled asset relief programme, the Treasury said, in the final stage of filling a capital hole identified in the “stress tests” on banks earlier this year. The deal brings to a close a busy end to the year for the Treasury’s $700bn Tarp scheme, with most elements of the bail-out programme winding down and companies such as Bank of America and Citigroup racing to repay the government and escape restrictions on pay and hiring.
Last year, most Americans felt as if they had been hit in the head by a 4-iron. Wall Street nearly collapsed. The economy plunged into its deepest recession in decades. As housing prices sank, many homeowners realized that they owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. Millions lost their jobs, and even those who didn’t hunkered down, burying their wallets in the backyard. This year — with more than a few bumps along the way — the situation brightened. With that, here’s a look back at five of the biggest business stories of this year — and what to look for in the next 12 months.
Google faced increased global resistance on Friday to its plan to digitise books when a Paris court ruled that the internet group had violated the copyright of authors and publishers by scanning French books held in US libraries without consent. The court ordered the group to stop scanning without prior authorisation titles published by La Matinière, the company that brought the case, and instructed it to pay €300,000 ($429,000) in damages and interest. Google said it would appeal.
European regulators dropped their antitrust case against Microsoft on Wednesday after the software maker agreed to offer consumers a choice of rival Web browsers. The settlement averted a second costly legal battle for the American software giant. The agreement, announced in Brussels by the European competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, calls for Microsoft to give Windows users a choice of up to 11 other browsers from competing companies, including Mozilla, Apple and Google.
Sunday was the second anniversary of the sale of The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. At that time, a chorus of journalism church ladies (I was among them) warned that one of the crown jewels of American journalism now resided in the hands of a roughneck, and predicted that he would use it to his own ends. Here we are, two years later, and The Wall Street Journal still hits my doorstep every morning as one of the nation’s premier newspapers. But under Mr. Murdoch’s leadership, the newspaper is no longer anchored by those deep dives into the boardrooms of American business with quaint stippled portraits, opting instead for a much broader template of breaking general interest news articles with a particular interest in politics and big splashy photos. Glenn R. Simpson, who left the newspaper back in March, is not a fan of the newsier, less analytical Journal.
Bowing to calls for restraint in tough economic times, Goldman said that its most senior executives would forgo cash bonuses this year. Instead, the 30 executives will be paid in the form of long-term stock — an arrangement that means they will not get big year-end paydays, but one that could turn out to be enormously lucrative if Goldman’s share price rises over time.
Google is stockpiling a wealth of user data. With its search engine, its advertising services, its applications, its new free DNS service, and more, the company has an incredible perspective on exactly what users are looking at. Many fear that Google could abuse this information or allow it to be abused, either for profit or to prosecute citizens who aren't necessarily guilty. In short, fears that "Big Brother is watching you" have been replace with fears that "Google is watching you". Google's recently responded to such doubts, blasting those that would harbor them. Google CEO Eric Schmidt commented to CNBC, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
The economy seems to be stabilizing, and this has prompted a shift in the public mood. Raw fear has given way to anxiety that the recovery will be feeble and drab. Companies are hoarding cash. Banks aren’t lending to small businesses. Private research spending is drifting downward. People are asking anxious questions about America’s future. Will it take years before the animal spirits revive? Can the economy rebalance so that it relies less on consumption and debt and more on innovation and export? Have we entered a period of relative decline?
From Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Center, NBC brought Milton Berle, Jack Parr and Johnny Carson into the nation’s living rooms, then broadcast local news to New York City for decades. Last Thursday, it was a stage for a cable takeover as Comcast announced a plan to acquire NBC Universal. There, in Studio 6B, a town hall meeting for NBC employees opened with Jeff Zucker, the NBC Universal chief executive, introducing “our new friends from Philadelphia,” and closed with a formal welcome to the Comcast family by Ralph Roberts, the cable operator’s 89-year-old patriarch. Mr. Roberts received a standing ovation. For employees of the oldest and most storied part of NBC Universal, the broadcast network, one question lingered: will we fit into this cable family?
Today we’re not at all surprised to hear names like Chris Matthews and Lou Dobbs tossed around as candidates for higher office. And while it used to be that only political aides of notable talent, people like Bill Moyers and Pat Buchanan and George Stephanopoulos (and, well, Chris Matthews), could make the tricky transition from politics to TV news, now it’s the politicians themselves — Joe Scarborough, Mike Huckabee — who find themselves ensconced as hosts on a cable-TV set. The door between politics and television news now isn’t merely revolving; it spins so fast and so continuously that a fair number of people no longer seem to belong neatly on one side or the other. Is Sarah Palin, at this point, a politician, or is she the star of some “frontier family” reality show? In fact, she seems to realize that the changed environment allows her to be both at the same time.
There’s one thing that Rupert Murdoch, Arianna Huffington, Steve Brill, and I agreed on yesterday – and and there’s probably nothing else one can imagine this group would ever find consensus around. At the two-day Federal Trade Commission “workshop” (read: hearing) that asked how journalism will “survive” (their word) in the internet age, we all told the commissioner to kindly butt out.
Governments can best help the news industry save itself by getting out of its way, Rupert Murdoch said on Tuesday, as he used a Washington podium to call for a relaxation of US media ownership rules. Unsuccessful publishers should be allowed to fail just as “a carmaker who makes cars no one wants to buy should fail,” the News Corp chairman and chief executive said, adding that government assistance “subsidises the failures and penalises the successes”.
It is no secret that the real world in which the designer functions is not the world of art, but the world of buying and selling. For sales, and not design are the raison d’etre of any business organization. Unlike the salesman, however, the designer’s overriding motivation is art: art in the service of business, art that enhances the quality of life and deepens appreciation of the familiar world. Design is a problem-solving activity. It provides a means of clarifying, synthesizing, and dramatizing a word, a picture, a product, or an event. A serious barrier to the realization of good design, however, are the layers of management inherent in any bureaucratic structure. For aside from the sheer prejudice or simple unawareness, one is apt to encounter such absurdities as second guessing, kow-towing, posturing, nit-picking, and jockeying for position, let alone such buck-passing institutions as the committee meeting and the task force. At issue, it seems, is neither malevolence nor stupidity, but human frailty.
The good news: data from governments and other organizations is increasingly open and online. The bad news: it's rather dull. The result? A booming interest in data visualization, which can transform boring stats into compelling graphical presentations explaining our world. "Institutions, governments and companies more and more are releasing and making publicly available their own data sets," notes Manuel Lima, an interaction designer and data visualization expert. But while "we are collecting data like maniacs," he adds, "our ability to gather data is much greater than our ability to make sense of that data."
It's the hot design company hired by Apple to create its first mouse, (and by Microsoft to create its second), by the Post Office to rework the postbox, by Muji to create its wall-mounted CD player and by Procter & Gamble to reinvent toothpaste tubes. It made the Nokia N-gage, the Palm V and the Head Airflow tennis racquet. Now IDEO is being retained by Barack Obama's White House to help to reinvigorate the American civil service; by the government of Iceland to help the country to innovate its way out of financial crisis; and by the Kellogg Foundation to reinvent education. It might seem bizarre that a company used to designing products is now solving country-sized problems, but it all comes down to the technique it pioneered and preached to its clients. It calls this philosophy "design thinking".
Noreena Hertz had to seduce Bono. The Cambridge University economist was writing a book on the developing world, and Bono's personal saga of getting the U.S. government to cancel more than $400 million of debt was just the pop-culture bridge she needed to move her ideas beyond the wonkish corridors of academia. After all, Hertz's motive for The Debt Threat -- a deep dive into the debt trap that, she argued, would have global consequences for all -- was to juice the campaign that had been building slowly in activist ranks. The book itself would be a battle cry (a postcard inside made it easy for U.K. readers to urge the prime minister to cancel billions owed by the world's poorest countries), and its release was pegged to hit before the 2005 G8 meeting. Hertz sent Bono an email, unsure if it would find him. To her astonishment, it did: "I'm so glad you got in touch," read the rock star's reply. "I'm a real fan of your work. Bono."
Fees from telecoms bills or internet service providers should be diverted to a fund for local news akin to the National Endowment for the Arts, according to a new study of future models for ensuring the survival of “accountability journalism” in the US. The report by Len Downie Jr, who spent 17 years as executive editor of The Washington Post, and Michael Schudson, professor of communication at the University of California, was commissioned by Columbia University. “American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting,: the authors argued, calling for support in the form of tax breaks, philanthropic donations, university partnership and funds diverted from other areas.
How Sean Maloney and brand guru Deborah Conrad are helping Intel's first carpet-dweller CEO reengineer the company once known as Chipzilla -- and free the bong.
I happen to think that the folks who were in charge of the Olympics branding strategy in Rio de Janeiro did a phenomenal job of differentiating Rio's promise from the other cities in contention, and then clearly establishing its relevance to the IOC. In other words, the "Brand Rio" team followed a couple of the basic rules of smart brand management and came out the category leader as a result. There is almost no brand category that isn't awash in choices. Whether cars or cosmetics, beverages or baby carriages, there is a lot of stuff out there and most of it is pretty similar. The competition for consumer attention is fierce and it can't be won on table stakes. The only way a decent brand can ever hope of becoming the chosen brand is to make a promise that's completely different from any its competitors' and ensure that this difference is meaningful to its target audience. In an ever-expanding global marketplace, this is getting harder and harder to do.
It is well know that Keynesianism deals with flow variables, looking to current income or GDP, current consumption, current savings and current investment. Income and interest rates are largely the adjusting variables. The presumption is that we want to maximize consumption subject to various restraints because that maximizes utility. Stock variables like wealth and total debt are out of the loop and are not really considered. That is why Keynesian economists are so willing to run big current deficits to stimulate the economy and hopefully increase GDP and consumption, even though it means incurring more public debt, and why they do not worry about the consequences of that debt. Keynesians, of course, have their critics, me included, but our criticisms have obviously been less than effective.
The Federal Trade Commission just released rules to regulate product endorsements not just in advertisements but also on blogs. (PDF here; the regs don’t start until page 55.) It is a monument to unintended consequence, hidden dangers, and dangerous assumptions. Mind you, I hate one of its apparent targets: Pay Per Post and its ilk, which attempt to co-opt the voice of bloggers. But I hate government regulation of speech more. And mind you, I am all in favor of transparency; I disclose to a comic fault here. I think that openness is the best fix for questions of trust and advise companies and politicians and certainly governments to become transparent by default as enlightened self-interest. But mandating this for anyone who dares speak online? Foolish.
The financial markets' collapse and a growing distrust of global leaders both public and private has increased the importance of thinking strategically about communications and its impact on reputation. Government officials, political candidates and all those operating in the public realm are increasingly asking how they can measure with greater certainty the dynamics that drive their communications performance. With upcoming battles in the US on climate change, healthcare, Supreme Court confirmations, financial reform and a new Middle East peace initiative, among others, there is ample opportunity to evaluate communicators’ ability to drive public opinion. The corporate sector has been measuring the impact of communications and reputation for some time, using the results of these analyses to determine how their allocation of resources and themes affect financial outcomes such as stock price, P/E ration, revenues and profits. The earliest iteration of measurement centered on clip counts and evaluations—the most basic tenets of media relations—but has since evolved to include more robust scientific metrics. This is spurred by the diminishing effectiveness of traditional advertising. One recent survey revealed that only 13% of respondents believe advertising claims.
Publishing “top 10″ lists is unfortunately a staple of modern journalism. But alas, writers must drive readers’ eyeballs, even when discussing serious topics like the government. And so we find a new list that mixes Web 2.0 with the government: “Top 10 agencies with the most Facebook fans.” For the record, this list is topped by the White House with 327,592 fans, followed by the Marine Corps, Army, CDC, State Department, NASA, NASA JPL, Library of Congress, Air Force, and Environmental Protection Agency. Congratulations to all these hard-working agencies. But what exactly are we celebrating here?
"My Administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." U.S. President Barack Obama felt compelled to speak these words to the leading U.S. bank CEOs at a White House gathering to which they had been summoned on April 9, 2009. Driven by public anger at the financial crisis, the President employed a metaphor invoking images of "peasants with pitchforks" rising up to demand better treatment. That Iranian students, indigenous Peruvians and Somali pirates feel similarly inspired to take violent actions affecting global businesses reinforces the point. Based on recent polling data, it is would seem that his uncharacteristic use of alarmist imagery was not misplaced. According to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, 49% -- or fewer than half of the people surveyed in an annual assessment of US attitudes -- support an independently functioning free market.
Students starting school this year may be part of the last generation for which "going to college" means packing up, getting a dorm room and listening to tenured professors. Undergraduate education is on the verge of a radical reordering. Colleges, like newspapers, will be torn apart by new ways of sharing information enabled by the Internet. The business model that sustained private U.S. colleges cannot survive.
I recently gave a talk titled Free the People! at the Potomac Forum’s Government 2.0 Leadership, Collaboration, and Public Engagement Symposium in Washington, DC that generated enough interest for me to post my slide deck and write a summary for a wider audience. These thoughts constitute some of my early ideas about “offensive social media” for organizations (this talk was particularly geared towards a government audience, but the fundamentals apply to the private and public sectors more broadly).
Far be it from me to lament the ability for anyone to build or publish virtually anything now that the age of the consumer and age of information have intersected so gloriously. We are truly blessed to live in a day when, with a little time and instruction reading, even the tech-tarded can have their own blog or website and publish anything they want. The more adventurous and creative, or all-night code-bender freaks, can build platforms and tools and toss them out there to see if the public bites.
Open source technology and lead user innovation: two subjects very much in evidence across a diverse number of business sectors today. But how can they help companies grow, and what can we learn from the likes of open innovators ranging from small communities of windsurfers to digital giant Google?
Why should we fear Google? There's an easy, obvious answer to that, particularly if you're a media or marketing person: because Google is killing us. It is, duh, blatantly steamrollering the business models of countless business sectors, from Madison Avenue to print media. (Despite all the Bing hype, it appears that Microsoft's refreshed search engine -- er, decision engine -- isn't making a dent in Google's dominance.) Annoyingly, it's a cute monopoly -- with a cute logo, a cute motto ("Don't be evil"), cute executives and a cute corporate culture -- that bewitches a lot of people into somehow doubting that it's a monopoly, and prompts even otherwise cynical media people to be unnecessarily polite about it.
Mike Masnick on techdirt points us to some dangerous and incomplete thinking from Judge Richard Posner on his blog. Posner is not just trying to mold the new world to old laws – which is issue enough – but is trying to change the law to protect the old world and its incumbents from the new world and its innovators. He is willing to throw out fair comment and free speech for them. That is dangerous.
Years after cracking the very code of the Web to lucrative ends, Google may be in the midst of trying to conjure the most complicated algorithm yet: to wit, can goodness, or at least a stated intention not to be evil, scale along with the enterprise?
It soon will be - if it not already is - known as the Twitter revolution in Iran. But I’ll think of it as the API revolution. For it’s Twitter’s architecture - which enables anyone to create applications that call and feed into it - that makes it all but impervious from blocking by tyrants’ censors. Twitter is not a site or a blog at an address. You don’t have to go to it. It can come to you.
While news from Iran streams to the world, Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.
Three times in the last month, government agencies have targeted Google for antitrust reviews. An outstanding private lawsuit alleges that Google tried to kill a business-to-business search engine with predatory pricing. And during the waning months of the Bush administration, soon-to-be Obama antitrust chief Christine Varney declared that Google "has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising." Last month she asserted that the Bush administration had been too lax in combating monopolistic behavior and that the Obama Justice Department would no longer "stand on the sidelines." This should explain why Dana Wagner, a former Department of Justice antitrust lawyer hired by Google just last year, is rapidly becoming one of the company's public faces.
For those of us familiar with the strange land that is Washington, DC, it’s tempting to snicker a bit at the sudden star turn of the field of behavioral economics in our nation’s capital. Books like Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s Nudge, Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, and George Akerlof and Robert Shiller’s Animal Spirits are being passed around like samizdat. Human beings, the thinking goes, bear little more than a passing resemblance to the “economic man” of classic econ textbooks. We’re messy creatures, not altogether skilled at maximizing value, or efficiency, or all those other things our self-interest is supposed to drive us to attain.
Say goodbye to surfin' dudes and babes, the amoral party that is Hollywood, and any fashion or legislative references that might imply peace, love, or pukka shells. California is rebranding itself. Yesterday, its Supreme Court upheld the voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage by a 6-1 margin. The state has a seriously (and frighteningly) direct, participatory democracy thing going on, which allows the ballot box to directly set legislation and regulations (they decided they didn't want to pay too much in property taxes a while back, for instance, so a referendum made it so). It turns out that a simple ballot initiative can also make verbatim changes to its constitution. California has been crowdsourcing its government for years.
Marketers consistently pick up their best lessons in times of crisis. We think differently about ROI. We act more intuitively. We become more agile and flexible. We "sense and respond." We really don't have much of a choice but to act and not allow yesterday's rules to justify complacency. Two weeks ago, for example, many in the marketing community got their first exposure to the massive power of online video via the disgusting Domino's video by (former) Domino's employees on YouTube and, later, the pizza chain's president's highly effective video apology. There's no question that hundreds of C-level memos crying out "we need a social media strategy" flowed from that crisis.
Today, with the pillars of capitalism falling all around us, it might seem odd to wonder what world-changing shifts this Great Recession will help bring to life—what Next Big Thing is just around the corner. But moments of rupture such as these are precisely what true innovators seek to exploit, creating new paradigms and leaving a trail of winners and losers in their wake. Companies, technologies, and ideas that survive this latest tide of creative destruction will emerge sharper, stronger, and more resilient for it.
The Transportation Security Administration might be America's least favorite federal agency. For every discarded 4-ounce bottle, dropped laptop, or missed flight, a furious traveler stands ready to heap abuse on the next TSA employee he sees. And it is the job of Bob Burns, official TSA blogger, to take it.
Obama for America wasn’t just the most successful online political campaign; it was arguably the most successful Web 2.0 deployment to date. Here’s the inside story of how it all worked.
We have big problems in this country. Wall Street played recklessly with our money. Banks made bad loans. Insurance companies guaranteed stupid risks. People took out unrealistic mortgages and borrowed too much to buy things they couldn't afford. Companies are going out of business and laying off workers. And, the government is bailing people out and billing our kids. It would be easy (and tempting) to go on. But we have one more, deeper problem that's making all these other problems worse. No one is apologizing. No one is taking responsibility for what they did to contribute to our problems. They're all blaming someone or something else. We have a kindergartener's problem and it's tearing us apart.
The emerging war we’re seeing now is over change. I’m not talking about the post-9/11 resurgence of debate over Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations - though that’s certainly a front in this war. Instead, I’m talking about the clash over change within civilizations, the attempt by some to forestall its inevitability, and their attacks on those who enable, predict, and embrace change as if any of those actions cause change. It’s actually rather fatuous to set up a dispute between those who want and don’t want change, those who think change is good or bad. Change is inexorable. The question is not what you think about it but what you do about it.
Web 2.0, meet dot-gov. Dot-gov, this is Web 2.0. Or at least that's the plan, now that the Government Services Administration inked landmark agreements with several new media companies that clear up legal issues surrounding liability and government sunshine rules — thus easing their use by government agencies' websites.
Executives view their economies as bad but, in a change from recent months, do not see them getting much worse. Government actions have helped, many say. Companies are hanging on, and many are taking long-term actions to cope with economic turmoil.
Since the world became aware in the summer of 2007 of an imminent financial crisis, people have asked why so few experts saw it coming. There have been many calls for an early warning system for the world economy – but little has been said about how to build one.
Feb. 12 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Considered by most historians as the greatest American President, Lincoln was also the first President to grasp the benefits and power of telecommunications. Barack Obama has been an avid admirer of his fellow Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln.
Thank goodness, now the recession’s here we can forget all that nonsense about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and get back to trying to make some money. Admit it, the thought had occurred to you. There may have been much talk of (newly rediscovered) responsibility in Davos last week. But for most managers the biggest responsibility of all will always be to make a profit and stay in business. The good news is that serious CSR types understand this.
The combination of a new administration headed to the White House, along with our country's established leadership in innovation, has us standing at the crest of a trail that could ensure we never enter this chasm again. Let's get back on our feet and remember what we are made of.
Steve Forbes believes "capitalism will save us." You know he speaks on behalf of a generation of businessmen who believe that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the system; that what we're seeing right now is simply another of those cyclical periods of correction and Darwinian winnowing of the weak.
Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.
But we still need to save them.
To judge from a hysterical press, one might think the apocalypse was already upon the media industry: rolling cuts this month at Time Inc., the hallowed magazine group; a new catchphrase among advertising pundits, flat is the new up; and revisions even of the internet advertising that was supposed to be the salvation of the media industry.
Country second. Political expediency first. Strategic rigor about 18th. My friends, what a terrible campaign.
When he arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama will have not just a political base, but a database, millions of names of supporters who can be engaged almost instantly. And there’s every reason to believe that he will use the network not just to campaign, but to govern.
From 'SNL' to Facebook, a look at some of the winners and losers and what it means.
Four years after delivering the speech called "The Audacity of Hope" that would launch him toward the White House, Barack Obama has become a case study in audacious marketing, an object lesson on why you should forget inherited notions of whom your audience can be.
In the wake of Obama’s victory, we must rise together and manifest a cultural shift.
There is a lesson in president-elect Barack Obama’s calculated win for all media and advertising players struggling to crack the targeted demographics code: Know your constituents.
Two critical assumptions turned D.C. conventional wisdom on its head and helped provide Obama with a major strategic advantage over McCain. Here's how.
Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in history as the biggest day ever in the history of marketing.
The Illinois senator built his decisive win on three leadership principles: a clear vision, clean execution, and friends in high places.
The tumultuous 24 months of presidential campaigning feels like an eternity. It has been bound by digital interactivity that has played an unprecedented role intensifying voices and votes and will continue to redefine American politics and democracy. That is a bipartisan victory for all the people.
As an “independent conservative,” I’m expected to see liberal media bias lurking everywhere, but it’s not just me — and it’s not just conservatives. I know liberals, including newspaper editors, who think the “news” pendulum had swung dangerously far to the left.