Rocket Bomber

B&N's Nook as differentiator

filed under , 28 February 2014, 10:13 by

B&N is clinging desperately to Nook.

Not as a hedge against Amazon (a battle that has been lost, I think) or in any sort of attempt to compete with Google, Apple, or Samsung — even with the balls and ego that B&N Chairman Leonard Riggio still has (at 73) I don’t think he’s delusional.

B&N needs Nook as a way to differentiate themselves from books-at-Costco and the remaining independent booksellers, and as a bulwark or backstop against the decades-long slide in reading.


[data from The Consumer Expenditure Survey that I last futzed with back in 2011; no, I’m not going to do a new chart. Per the source, aggregate spending on reading in 2012 was $13.6 Billion, so the trend line holds]

It’s not about competing with Amazon — instead, it’s about retaining the physical book fans.

Having a digital option for their customers, even a piss-poor implementation like Nook, is magnitudes better than not having a digital option. B&N is the largest bookseller (physically, if not in absolute terms anymore) so as the leader, they need to offer something more. Appearances count more than the reality of the situation, and B&N’s target customers are the ones that won’t convert to digital. Even if no one buys the Nooks (and the sales numbers point in that direction), the Nooks are there — given prominent placement in the front of the store — and lend the impression that B&N is doing something about digital and so the I-only-buy-REAL-books-customer feels better about the chain and their physical book purchases.

Many book customers know they’re luddites, and perhaps take some pride and enjoyment from the fact, and from their bookshelves, and from the whole tactile and physical aspects of their hobby — even if, when one is lost in a book, it all fades to the background anyway. This customer may not want an e-reader device, even if they are otherwise technically savvy — but since they are technically savvy, they also appreciate a bookstore that speaks to that part of themselves as well. Yes, I’m cutting an awfully fine distinction here; let me phrase it in the form of a question: Do you buy build-it-yourself furniture from Target and Walmart, or do you drive to Ikea and get something with a fake-Swedish name? Perception of the brand has a lot to do with customer decisions, whether the customers admit it or not.

Every book store occupies a niche — you can be small and artisanal, like the corner bakery serving up cronut knock-offs. You can be warm and neighborly, like the little sandwich shop that has great coffee and nice tables. You can be hip and trendy, like the pizza parlor that always experiments.

Or you can be big. Most of us buy food in a grocery store. The supermarket has a deli, bakery, and pharmacy — and a meat department because no one can go to the local butcher any more, and a produce department because no one even knows what a ‘green grocer’ used to be. We don’t all live within walking distance of a corner cafe or bistro — or indie bookseller — but we all know where the local supermarket is.

Barnes & Noble has to be the book supermarket, and that means departments, and that means DVDs and CDs, board games and jigsaw puzzles, blank books and bookmarks, cheap gift crap that no one buys — and yes, Nook.

[Would B&N do better if they got rid of the crap and just sold books? Gods, yes, I’ve been making that argument for years. But B&N sees more of a future in the crap than in the books, and the idea of being a department store is perhaps anchored deeper in their big-box-DNA than the books themselves are.]

B&N needs Nook, because they need the stage prop, the show of being Amazon’s equal.
I’m not sure if this propaganda effect is worth $60M or $100M or $200 Million a year (~$1.4 Billion to date) but B&N certainly thinks so, and is set to release yet another tablet.



How to Build a Better Block

filed under , 27 February 2014, 11:34 by

It is with some sadness that I relate the ‘death’ of an online video: previously hosted on Vimeo by The Municipal Art Society of New York (where there is still some great video), I regret to inform you that The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – The Street Corner from William H. Whyte (author and pioneering urbanist) was taken down following a copyright claim.

Ordinarily, it wouldn’t matter (even to a ‘fan’ like me) but I had embedded the video in a past blog post and used it to illustrate several arguments on how people actually use public space.

Fortunately, I was able to track down a pair of YouTube videos that, while lacking the charm of Whyte’s 1980 film, managed to communicate the same points. I very rarely edit six-month-old posts—heck, I’m hard-pressed to do more than fix typos—but the “Lifestyle Destination” post is one of my longer essays (and one that still gets incoming traffic off of Google) so I felt it needed the addition-slash-correction.

Since you’re not necessarily going back and reading my archives, though, I thought the new videos might be worthwhile to pull into a post of their own:

George C. Stoney’s How to Live in a City (1964), “architectural critic Eugene Ruskin guides us through unique locales which illustrate the fine line between organic and sterile urban spaces. It all depends on a place’s ability to attract and sustain, even if only momentarily, a sense of community.” (18.3min)

George Morris, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Market Square (12.2min)

I only used those two to plug the gap — but why stop there? This may come as a shock for those who think YouTube is only a resource for skit comedy, cat videos, and music*, but at this point everything is on YouTube — well, everything except 1980’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – The Street Corner by William H. Whyte. And Game of Thrones.

While I was on the urban-studies-kick, here are some other short films, presentations, and documentaries I found:

Urban Design for Successful Cities: Alexandros Washburn, September 2012 TEDx talk (25.4min)

How To Build a Better Block: TEDxOU – Jason Roberts, January 2012 TEDxOU talk (18.2min)

- great title. you might have noticed, I stole it.

A City Is (Not) A Tree: New Models of Urban Space, Gino Zucchi, April 2013 (1hr57min)

Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature – Douglas Farr, 2009 (1hr20min)

* Isn’t it amazing that the most popular and widespread ‘digital music service’ is actually YouTube, and it’s free? I know because I spend *hours* on YouTube looking for music – it’s like a research tool — strike that, it *is* a research tool, as this post and others of mine capably prove.



Donald Fagan, Jazz Piano

filed under , 27 February 2014, 10:50 by

This “Sunday Morning Music Docs” mini-feature (Yes, I know it’s Thursday, but I’m playing a bit of catch-up here) was posted to my twitter a few weeks back — it’s not a long, multiple-video slogfest with commentary like the last two outings I reblogged here for your enjoyment, but it is 126 minutes of shop talk and piano jazz featuring Donald Fagan (of Steely Dan).

Not everyone’s cup of tea (or slug of whiskey) but for those who like this sort of thing: well, we like this sort of thing -

Donald Fagen Concepts For Jazz/Rock Piano

Steely Dan & Marian McPartland – Piano Jazz (audio only)



The Fallacy, and the Truth, of "Big Publishing"

filed under , 25 February 2014, 20:35 by

[blockquote]

“In the last 20 years, two multi-billion-dollar bookstore chains rose — and one fell. A hell of a lot has changed in 20 years.
“In 1994, Viacom owned Simon & Schuster and was buying Macmillan USA; now in 2014 Macmillan (via the original UK root) is back in the US book business – but under the imprimatur of privately-held German firm Holzbrinck. Viacom spun off S&S, as the publishing arm of CBS. Hachette Book Group USA (Hachette Livre being the bookish face of French multimedia conglomerate Lagardère) was born in 2006 with the French purchase of Time Warner Books — and more recently Hachette has also added on Disney’s Hyperion. (Hyperion, I’ll remind you, was built by Disney from scratch in 1990.)
“Rounding out “The [old] Big Six” – HarperCollins is only 25 years old, assembled from parts by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation over the course of the 1990s. And everyone is shadowed by the Randy Penguin merger: the imprints of Random House already read like a directory of 1947 New York publishing houses; added to Penguin’s haul the new Penguin Random House is set to publish half of all adult trade books (or more). That merger isn’t even a year old yet.”
[/blockquote]
Forbes: Please Hire Someone Who Understands Books, or Math, or Both : Rocket Bomber, 11 February 2014

Up until last year, we used to talk about The Big Six – the six largest US publishers: Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan — In 2013 The Big Six became The Big Five (or alternately, Randy Penguin and the Following Four) after Bertelsmann and Pearson came to an agreement to merge their subsidiaries (incidentally, the two biggest US publishers), Random House and Penguin Putnam.

OK, first: Randy Penguin and the Following Four is a great band name. But more importantly: what [now] gets referred to as The Big Five are just the publishing arms of major international multimedia conglomerates — so far in this post I’ve name-checked Viacom, CBS, Holzbrinck, Lagardère, Time Warner, Disney, News Corp, Bertelsmann, and Pearson — the publishing houses get handed around like poker chips by media giants who [editorializing here] just don’t give a shit about print anymore, but hey, it’s still a multi-billion-dollar industry and everybody else has one “so I guess we need a publishing arm, too”

Publishing is worth (rough numbers) $27 Billion, but that’s only in the very-low-two-digit-billions, so to a Viacom or 21st Century Fox or Time Warner, the whole book thing just isn’t worth futzing with. Each of those entities has—when given half a chance—sold, spun-off, or otherwise dumped a “Big Six” publisher and retained the ‘real’ media assets … in 2013 Disney bought Marvel (technically a publisher) but the $4 Billion price tag was for characters and “IP” and what is now a blockbuster movie studio, not the floundering funny-book business. The year after Disney bought Marvel, you might have noticed they sold off their actual book division, Hyperion, in favor of concentrating solely on ABC/Disney (and soon-to-be Marvel and Lucas) tie-in product. Fox has similarly shed its News Corp skin, taking the TV and Movie studios and leaving the publishing behind. CBS is stuck with S&S only because they were cast aside with them back when Viacom split. Time Warner (which has been Time Warner since 1990) (and which sold off Little, Brown and Time Warner Books in 2006) even has plans to spin-off the Time Inc. magazine distaff branch and soon (mid- to late-2014) the last vestige of dirty, dirty print will be purged from Warner Brothers’ balance sheet — except for Batman and the other ‘DC Entertainment’ characters.

##

From 1989 to 1998, if you mentioned “the Big Six” to someone working in publishing in New York, they’d assume you were talking about accounting (or maybe poetry). The Big *whatever*, as a term, is too recent — and definitions are fluid.

[source: Google Ngram]

“New York Publisher” was (and occasionally still is) the disparagement of choice when talking about corporate inflexibility, but more and more we were actually talking about media giants and corporations, not about publishers per se. The Big Six emerged in the late 90s (note, not a historic and ever-present phenomenon) and were part of the larger media consolidation then taking place between movies, TV, cable… and yes, the internet and video games, too: AOL Time Warner and Vivendi Universal, anyone? Man, the aughts were weird. Book publishing, as ‘ur-content’, got swept up into the whole mess. The fit was often bad.

Books, newspapers, comics and magazines—what we call publishing—are the red-headed stepchildren of media, of note only in context. HBO gets all credit for Game of Thrones, Harry Potter is a Warner Brothers property, Lord of the Rings is New Line Cinema, Walking Dead is an AMC TV show. Marvel Studios had an immaculate conception in 1996, springing forth from nothing, whole and wholly-formed, into a super-hero movie desert and eventually becoming so popular that there were even popular comic book adaptations of the movies.

On the TV side, we also have Justified, Bones, Orange Is the New Black, and House of Cards — and hell: Roots, Shogun, this is nothing new. Masterpiece Theater has the occasional original story (nod to Downton) but for decades its bread-and-butter was literary adaptation.

This is a looooong aside (and trivial, or trivia, or both – you can skip it), but having done the research I had to include it: Two-thirds of all books that hit #1 on the bestseller list for the past century were made into movies — another 10% made the jump to TV, so three-quarters have been adapted.

The exceptions are kind of fun to note:

  • Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells, 1917
  • Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith, 1944 (eventually, an Oscar® nominated short in 1978, but not a feature-length adaptation)
  • The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier, 1946
  • The Source by James A. Michener, 1965
  • Trinity by Leon Uris, 1976
  • Chesapeake by James A. Michener, 1978
  • The Covenant by James A. Michener, 1980
  • The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum, 1979 (…is in development hell – though at one time both Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington were attached)
  • The Partner by John Grisham, 1997 (optioned)
  • The Testament by John Grisham, 1999 (optioned)
  • The Litigators by John Grisham 2011 (optioned)

There’s a batch that haven’t been adapted, but we could argue that doesn’t matter because others in the series* have been:

  • The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1977
  • The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel, 1985
  • The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy, 1988
  • The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel, 1990
  • Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, 2001

And the TV movies and mini-series:

  • Wheels by Arthur Hailey (Book 1971, on TV in 1978)
  • Centennial by James A. Michener (1974, TV 1978)
  • Noble House by James Clavell (1981, TV 1988)
  • It by Stephen King (1986, TV 1990)
  • The Tommyknockers by Stephen King (1987, TV 1993)
  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley (1991, TV 1994)
  • The Street Lawyer by John Grisham (1998, TV movie 2003)
  • For One More Day by Mitch Albom, (2006, TV movie 2007)

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub (1984) was being developed as a mini by TNT but never made it to air

Out of the whole list (and for more info on that, I’d direct you to Matt Kahn and his site, where he not only lists the Publisher’s Weekly #1 Bestsellers for each year, he’s also slowly reviewing each and every one) there are only four I couldn’t find more information on:

  • The Brethren by John Grisham 2000
  • The Summons by John Grisham 2002
  • The Broker by John Grisham 2005
  • The Appeal by John Grisham 2008
    …but it’s Grisham, so I’m sure these have been optioned even if it wasn’t internet-link-generating-news at the time.

And of course, there are the pair of bestsellers from the early 1980s: the bestselling book in each of these years were novelizations of movie scripts: E.T., The Extraterrestrial in ’82 (by William Kotzwinkle) and Return of the Jedi in ’83 (by James Kahn). If pressed for a date when publishing died, I’m picking 1982.

My point — yes, I had one — is that books and publishing are, in the corporate view, just the minor leagues. Even big names like Stephen King, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling are just the ‘farm team’ for the real business, which is making movies and TV. Books are a static property to be strip-mined, not a resource to be conserved — or hell, a vibrant product that can be nurtured and will multiply if given even the slightest bit of care and feeding. The major media companies, and the publishers they’ve hobbled, can’t be bothered.

Amazon gets some credit here. But…

Well, Amazon gets credit for throwing Miracle-Gro® on a field of weeds and wildflowers — the seeds were there already, there was even some minuscule growth — indeed, this was a field that used to be tended by the pulp magazines and rack paperbacks.

[And honestly, I’d feel better about e-books and the new self-publishing Revolution if it were like the pulps of decades past and not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Conglom-o. But that’s my bias…]

##

We talk about Traditional Publishing like it’s a single thing, a single model, or a single company. It’s not. To claim that all publishers are the same is to equate The Big Five with Osprey, Harlequin, Regnery, and Soft Skull. The big “New York” publishers are actually run out of Gütersloh, London, Paris, and Stuttgart — of the two remaining “New York” publishers, one is more concerned with their (Hollywood-based) TV programming and the other’s major asset is financial information firm Dow Jones.

If anything, Amazon has managed to flourish because first, consolidation squeezed the publishing industry practically dry, and then the new corporate owners criminally neglected it.

##

For perspective, check out Publishers Weekly’s list of The World’s 60 Largest Book Publishers, 2013 – which not only is a global list but also incorporates the huge educational/textbook and financial reporting sectors (Reed Elsevier, ThomsonReuters, and Wolters Kluwer are the major players you’ve never heard of, each with about ~$5 Billion in revenue — not gross sales, revenue) — and we really should be talking about Scholastic as one of the [new] Big Six — and Europe and Japan are massive book markets, and the eventual digital book solutions in both might impact the digital book market in the US. Of Course Amazon is a player, but not the only one. (The side battle in Brazil is also of note)

I’d love if some of the “new book” self-publishing evangelists addressed the Fall of Publishing (1982-2006) in their arguments, and perhaps would explain why their new corporate overlord is in any way better than the old ones. It would be one thing if we were advocating for a creators’ collective to advocate rights for all designers/producers/writers against the many companies and web sites who seek to exploit authorship – but instead I only see efforts to pit the new model against the old one for internet ‘points’.

Who owns a kindle ebook? More importantly: what happens to a kindle ebook if Amazon stops hosting it? Prodigy and CompuServe were the shit in 2000, and in practical terms, were also ‘the internet’ for their user base. Amazon seems different (but awfully similar) but once again we’re looking at a walled garden and 2015 in practice isn’t all that different from 1985.

Dollars are great, I need more myself. But if the discussion is about business models and propagation of books, I need more than hagiographies of KDP and some by-the-way statistics based on web-scraping. Let’s talk about the future of publishing, not the panning-for-gold in the effluvia of a commerce-site-cum-social-network. Talk to me about how this all works in 2024, or 2034. Amazon is Fantastic, but can’t be the only player: tell me what’s next, and how to participate.

If your imagination fails at KDP, then your imagination fails. If “big publishing” is what you’re against, then tell me what you are for. Howey, what’s next?



Post-instrument Music

filed under , 23 February 2014, 11:45 by

[This batch features creative personalities & modern music, so fair warning: occasional bits of NSFW language are lurking in the links ahead. Don’t play YouTube videos at work.]

Once upon a time, I was a snob — still am in some ways, about some things — but the starting point for today’s excursion is the bias I used to have for “real” music, over electronics and sampling.

From the age of seven, I studied music. I wasn’t all that serious about it, and I wasn’t overjoyed about practicing, but I took lessons for 4 years until I was old enough for the school’s band program, and then I was a band geek for 14 years (yes, that includes 5 years of college). I play saxophone (I started on violin, but that’s a different story) and from jr. high on I played in jazz band and started a parallel ‘education’ by listening to the original versions of the swing hits and jazz standards we were murdering in class. Once you start digging, Jazz is deep – and Jazz also didn’t stop in 1958 or 1962 or whatever, it kept going (and keeps going). Jazz left the small smoky clubs, went back to the dance floor, responded to the rock-music-thing, picked up some R&B, and became Funk.

You can argue with me on that one, I guess, but it’s true. Free doctoral thesis here kids: Listen to anything with a horn line, and that music is a direct descendant of 30s swing – the instrumentation is the same, the only thing that changed was the definition of ‘popular dance music’.

Anyway – I was a musician, and kinda proud of it even though I’d never be a professional, and I like the output of other musicians. I listened to a lot of Soul, and Funk, and when some of the first Hip Hop albums came out, with the scratching and snipped-bits and ‘recycling’ and I thought, “Hell, there are a lot of session musicians out there, why don’t they hire some already? It can’t be that hard to get some guys into the studio for an hour to lay down some tracks to rap over.”

I was so wrong about the music, and where it was coming from. I feel so white.

##

In the 30s, there wasn’t recorded music in clubs, they needed live music. So you could pick up a cheap horn in a pawn shop and get some gigs (no matter how bad you were) and learn on the job and if you were good enough, you could eke out a living.

In the 50s and 60s, you could pick up a cheap guitar in a pawn shop, learn 4 chords and fool around, maybe fool around with friends in your garage and form a band and try playing the tracks you heard on the radio.

Imagine being so poor you can’t afford a guitar. Imagine living in a highrise or brownstone and not having a garage to practice in. Imagine living in a neighborhood so poor your schools don’t have music programs, and in 80s Reagan America where no one gives a flip about how poor your schools are. Imagine loving music and not having an outlet for it.

All you have is excellent taste, a huge stack of your parents’ 60s soul and 70s funk records, and a turntable. You become a DJ, spinning the old tracks of other people — because the clubs still need ‘live’ music even if they don’t need the big band anymore. And then, over time, and with the introduction of the crossfader — we see the invention of a new ‘musical’ instrument.

Even if you’re biased for ‘real’ music from ‘real’ instruments and see Hip Hop as derivative, merely recycling the best bits of older, ‘better’ music — the best bits of the music are still there and if you open your ears and listen you’ll find the art in the transformation. If you go see a live DJ, there’s no mistaking that what these musicians are doing on the turntables is a performance.

Add in some new electronic tools and digital sampling technology to automate some of the ‘loops’ and now we can really stack and rock it: Two turntables and a drum machine become a freakin’ orchestra. Layering tracks in a studio or on a laptop may be more like composing music, as opposed to playing it, but there’s no denying the music part.

I used to be a snob. I came back around. Enough of me talking about me, though: Let’s check out the music.

##

I’m going to ramp you into this slowly

Early, 1988 Documentary about Sampling (8.6min) – YouTube source is apparently Aussie TV, but I hear Kurt Loder so we can be pretty sure this was originally produced for MTV News and might predate ’88 by a year or two:

If there is such a thing as ‘Sampling 101’ the first class of the course is on the Amen Break, “the world’s most important 6-sec drum loop” (18min)

A short track (3.5min), Eclectic Method’s Brief History of Sampling, with plenty more examples — inputs and outputs from several decades and genres

Still up for more?

Scratch, “A feature-length documentary film about hip-hop DJing, otherwise known as turntablism. From the South Bronx in the 1970s to San Francisco now, the world’s best scratchers, beat-diggers, party-rockers, and producers wax poetic on beats, breaks, battles, and the infinite possibilities of vinyl.” (1hr28min) — it’s the longest documentary in this post but if you only have time to watch one, watch this one:

The skills of the DJ are more than just scratching, something that gets glossed in the Scratch doc; it actually starts with beatmatching, syncing two tracks (adjusting speeds/tempos and matching bar patterns) so one can be played seamlessly into another, or in the case of a mashup, one played over another (which, with skill, can be done live — the mashup was born in the dance club, not on YouTube).

Quick Beatmatching – DJing For Dummies (5min)

The Scratch doc led me to a new appreciation for what the DJs and turntables can do, and the amount of work, preparation, and music education required — oh, it’s not about reading music anymore, you have to know the music. Following a few more links, I found a YouTube show called Crate Diggers — the folks from Fuse get a DJ, get them talking about the music, get them talking about the records, and follow them around inside their vinyl collection.

I couldn’t pick just one. Have five:

Evidence (12min)

DJ Babu (12min)

DJ Toomp (13min)

RJD2 (17.5min)

DJ Jazzy Jay (15min)

Thanks for reading. Hope you liked. One more video to play us out — Eclectic Method again — this track is called Cultural Funking Overload



"Do you miss being a bookseller?"

filed under , 20 February 2014, 20:56 by

“Do you miss being a bookseller?”

I miss the books. I miss the stacks and stacks of new books, the bookcases, the odd-and-original finds that can only happen when you’re surrounded by 50,000 titles and even though you’ve worked there for years you still haven’t quite seen everything yet.

I miss my co-workers: booksellers are the most interesting people. Some of them are so introverted you have to practically corner them to get a conversation started; others are so extroverted you can’t get them to shut up. But they all have something to say, something to add, and they all read books.

On rare occasions, I miss the customers.

But do I miss the business of bookselling? Hell no.

##

Ah. One other thing I miss is the income. And searching for a job in this economy is still rather difficult.

[if you have any leads, please drop something in my email inbox.]



Not sure about some of the casting choices in this Firefly reboot

filed under , 19 February 2014, 15:27 by

Still not sick of this joke yet.

Eventually, someone with access to sources will do an official mashup of these two – well, I take that back: after 8 seconds I found a way to download the Marvel trailer, and even I could do a simple mashup given YouTube’s built in video editing tools, but then I’d have the Disney Evil Empire breathing down my neck for posting an unauthorized trailer. So no.

Edit: OK, so I went ahead and did it anyway:

original post follows, because like I said: I expect this mashup to be short-lived on YouTube

Until someone else does it, we just have to double up:
[for best result, I recommend muting or turning the volume way down on the Marvel trailer]

YouTube Doubler

Have a link to share : http://youtubedoubler.com/bKss



Average words for average people

filed under , 18 February 2014, 12:09 by

“And I advised them to consolidate their brands into a single web shop. Because when you sell average products for average people, it’s practically impossible to achieve any usable conversion rates for each brand on their own, but combined you can create scale.”

“Note: The opposite of this, of course, is to be a niche channel from the start, during which you use your uniqueness to make people feel special, which in turn allows you to connect and leverage your market. But you can’t do this with without cool products.”

Thomas Baekdal (whom you all should be reading anyway) said this as part of a much larger discussion of how digital adoption (and the lack thereof by older folks) is creating a generation gap — Not a new point, mind you, but Baekdal expresses it well and we all need a reminder anyway. If you spend all your time online, sometimes you forget that even though Grandma is on Facebook she uses the web, and technology generally in a way that is very different. Grandpa uses his iPhone to make phone calls (can you imagine) and there’s the old saw about how neither of them can program the VCR, which is kinda true but also a joke made obsolescent by things like Tivo-style DVRs and Netflix.

…which is all beside the point – or at least the point I’d like to make.

The reason I pulled those 4 sentences out of Baekdal’s article and presented them out of context is because I think he’s saying something important about writing, too.

Book authors and bloggers need to think about what the product is, and who’s “buying” (literally buying or just reading). “Average products for average people” describes many, many blogs on the internet, no matter what the subject or focus is. What we write about can be the most amazing thing you guys, really the best but the writing itself is merely average. Informational. Journalistically bland, short because it needs to be short and not boring, but boring in its own way because too much style-for-its-own-sake obscures the meaning and makes your blog unreadable.

“And I advised them to consolidate their brands into a single web shop. Because when you sell average products for average people, it’s practically impossible to achieve any usable conversion rates for each brand on their own, but combined you can create scale.”

I think this is why we see blogs staffing up and why someone ever thought “platisher” was a term that had to be coined. [aside: No. – longer aside: A so called platisher is just another publisher, though one that is smarter about how readers read and prefer to interact with their content. The blogging platform is nice but has as much to do the with bones-and-bolts of writing and publishing as glossy magazine paper.]

The new publishing companies that are attempting to settle in the unpopulated space between blog and magazine are consolidating brands and voices to produce usable scale.

Keep that in mind. Now go read Baekdal’s post, “The Generational Divide” because I know you passed over the link the first time. Good, thought provoking stuff there.



The Electronic Sound

filed under , 16 February 2014, 14:01 by

I’ve gotten into the habit of sharing music documentaries on my Twitter account on Sunday mornings — a youtube-version of the “long read”, or perhaps more like the magazine insert in the Sunday paper. In my never-ending quest to find suitable blog content, I thought I’d repurpose the material to post here — and no doubt, some of my readers might prefer the convenience of a single bookmark (for later listening) even if they’ve already seen the links in my twitter feed.

This week I was inspired by the TR-808. Roland is bringing the legendary box back, after a fashion, as part of their new ‘Aria’ line. If you haven’t heard of the TR-808, that’s fine, just give a listen below:

“Roland’s genre-defining trio of sound boxes”, BBC Radio 1 feature (1hr), the TR-808, TR-909, and TB-303. (If you only have an hour today, I’d queue up this one.)

Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer gear demo (6.6min)

Roland TB-303 Documentary – Bassline Baseline (19.8min)

The 808 and 303 were not initially successful upon their release. Roland made about 12,000 or so 808s from 1980 to 1983. The technology was quickly “superceded” by other, newer units from various manufacturers, and the 808 was priced about a third as much so in some ways meant the Rolands were seen as ‘cheap’. The initial unpopularity and quick obsolescence actually built the ground for later success: The 808, 909, and 303 were sold used, and (while still hundreds of dollars) were much more affordable for struggling musicians.

Listening to the output of the 808 actually send me down a research-rabbit-hole than ended up with sampling culture and vinyl collectors — which I’ll post next weekend. On another tangent, though, I was inspired to learn more about the analog synth technology of the 70s and 80s:

The Shape of Things That Hum first aired by Channel 4 in the UK during 2001. (1hr22min)

The Museum of Synthesizer Technology (51.7min)

Moby’s Drum Machine & Synth Collection (12min)

Adrian Utley (Portishead)’s Synth Collection Tour (12.1min)

The last couple of links are from Future Music Magazine. They have a fantastic YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/FutureMusicMagazine and if you’re still interested in the topic, I’d watch of few of their’s and start following links in youtube’s right sidebar

Memetune Studios in London, UK (13.8min)

“Watch as Benge creates modular magic using his amazing stash of vintage and rare, modular synthesizers” (22.6min)



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