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September 2009


ESPN practically killed my U.S. Open buzz

Posted on Mon Sep 14 2009


Tennis fans are pretty easy to please. Roger, Rafa, Monfils. Clijsters' comeback. The surprise story of Melanie Oudin. I can count on the trifecta of Johnny Mac, Dick "Moxie" Enberg and the velvet-voiced Mary Carillo for insightful color commentary. Apparently, ESPN was not aware of this. I'm not sure who in the name of Bristol was the calling the shots over the past two weeks, but we weren't feeling the love that the USTA had promised. Celebrity interviews at the Open conjure warm thoughts of Billie Jean King and Andre Agassi. A tense Mary Jo Fernandez interviewing an uncomfortable Alec Baldwin or a defensive Jeremy Piven at mid-point of a Williams match is still giving me nightmares. (Note to ESPN: New York is not very fond of Jeremy Piven right now.) As for the commentary, Monday Night Football's Mike Tirico for night matches? Makes perfect sense! Or maybe John Madden declined. (One more note to ESPN: Dick Enberg and Nascar would make a great team.) I have this nagging feeling that ESPN is not really sure who its audience is, and tennis is a big, scary sport to take on. Maybe we're not very easy to please.

—Posted by Cindee Weiss


Lots of extreme nastiness propels FX's 'Sons of Anarchy' to record ratings

Posted on Mon Sep 14 2009

There's just not enough gang rape, oral sex, brutal murder and white supremacy on the tube these days. At least, that's one conclusion to draw from the eye-popping ratings posted this week by FX's Sons of Anarchy. The drama, about a gun-running motorcycle gang in the fictional Northern California town of Charming, pulled in 4.3 million viewers for its second-season premiere. Now here's the real kicker: that's a 95 percent gain over the launch of season one in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo, the biggest leap for any show in FX's history, according to our brother blog, The Live Feed. There are a number of contributing factors, as far as I can see, including the cable network's relentless on-air Sons promotion during buzzworthy shows like Rescue Me. There's the content itself, of course, which earns a mini-alphabet of parental-warning letters (TV MA, L, S, V) and the addition of punk-rock pioneer Henry Rollins to the cast. And, thank God and FX's elastic standards, there's star Charlie Hunnam without a stitch of clothing. Did I mention I'm a fan? Check out Mediaweek's interview with Hunnam and co-star Katey Sagal, who works her best Lady Macbeth-as-steely-motorcycle-mama. And catch the show on Tuesday nights.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


Why are the smallest magazines the ones using the best recycled paper?

Posted on Fri Sep 11 2009


Once again, Barnes & Noble is giving special promotional space to magazines that use recycled paper. And once again, the month-long promotion is as much a shout-out to those titles with environmentally friendly practices (Natural Home, Mother Jones and The American Prospect are among the 10 featured this year) as it is a slap at their bigger brethren that don't. Since the promotion launched in January 2008 with Green America's Better Paper Project and Next Steps Marketing, the biggest publishing companies' titles have been conspicuously absent. There could be factors other than their commitment to being green (only magazines that voluntarily submit information on their recycled-paper use are considered for the promotion), but publishing companies have long complained that they can't afford to print on recycled paper. So ... publishing giants can't afford to use recycled paper, but indies like Mother Jones can? Somehow, that doesn't pass the sniff test.

—Posted by Lucia Moses


Obama's speech to kids doing fine online, but could use a skateboarding pug

Posted on Wed Sep 9 2009

So, Obama's speech to America's kids is on YouTube, and so far it's generated more than 160,000 views. Not bad, but not exactly "Chocolate Rain" or "Evolution of Dance" type numbers. Arguably, the most interesting thing for YouTube viewers of the speech isn't the content (see if you can find any Socialist messages!) but the comments below, many of which are lovely. Lots of the n-word, and talk about penis size. Isn't the empowerment and democracy inherent to social media just wonderful? Meanwhile, the parodies are already starting, including this one featuring Hitler and this one using JibJab-styl animation.

—Posted by Mike Shields


Sorry, Lifetime, I won't be sticking around for anything besides 'Project Runway'

Posted on Tue Sep 8 2009

Dear Lifetime,
  You can try, but you will not convert me. I know what you're doing with your promos for Drop Dead Diva, that new Sherri Shepherd sitcom and some spiffed-up women-in-peril flicks under a soapy "September Secrets" banner (there's a contest!). You think you can make me a regular viewer, but I'm not biting. I'm just dropping by your chick-centric network because you're the new home for the wildly addictive Project Runway, which is doing wonders for your ratings. Sure, you want to capitalize on that. I understand, really. But like the Bravo-loving gays who've migrated with me for that single prime-time hour, I'm not your demo. Well, technically, I am your demo, if I'm not lying about my age. But I'm not your psychographic. In fact, if Nielsen's number-crunchers tracked my TV-watching habits, they'd guess there's a whole passel of couch potatoes living in my house, including a few 16-year-old boys. (Not the case). Hey, I love wrestling and South Park. Don't judge me! I'm immune to your Grey's Anatomy repeats and commercials for Centrum Silver for women over 50. (I'm not that old.) And sorry, but I won't be tuning into the Georgia O'Keefe movie of the week, despite its Oscar-pedigreed stars. Be content with the time we do spend together, and don't be offended when I don't watch the second season of Rita Rocks. (Missed the first one, too.) But keep up the stunt casting, like Rosie O'Donnell and Liza Minnelli in an upcoming Drop Dead Diva, and maybe you'll have better luck with the gays.
  See you Thursday!

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


Does the universe need another Twitter?

Posted on Wed Sep 2 2009


So, Yahoo! is launching a Twitter wannabe called Yahoo! Meme? Not quite sure why they'd want to do a me-too version of a service that no one's figured out how to monetize, that has churn problems, that's disliked by teens and that is sure to see its red-hot buzz fade any day now. Plus, Yahoo! has tried and failed on the social-media front before. Anybody remember Yahoo360 (born 3/29/05, died 7/13/09, according to Wikipedia)? Or when Yahoo! Video was supposed to be a challenger to YouTube? Sure, Yahoo! Mail and Messenger are huge, but they've never been huge moneymakers. Besides, now that the Microsoft search deal is behind it (at least the negotiations part), we thought Yahoo! was all about concentrating on what it does best. That's being a really successful digital media company, in our minds at least. Hasn't CEO Carol Bartz promised to be more focused?

—Posted by Mike Shields

Well, does Disney like magazines or not?

Posted on Wed Sep 2 2009


Is the House of Mickey finally paying attention to its magazine business? You'd think being part of the Walt Disney Co., with its vast promotional opportunities, would give Disney FamilyFun a big leg-up. Yet, as the sole survivor of a shrinking magazine unit, it risks getting lost in Disney's sprawling empire. And since Disney sold its retail stores to The Children's Place in 2004, the title has gone missing from the chain. That's expected to change in 2010, however, now that Disney has bought back the stores. In a step in that direction, FamilyFunwhich added "Disney" to its title earlier this year to capitalize on the famous name—is selling its first newsstand special in the top 69 Disney stores. The $9.99 Halloween special, sponsored solely by the "Got milk?" campaign, will also be distributed in Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart and elsewhere. The retail presence could help FamilyFun grow its single-copy sales, which account for less than 1 percent of its total circ. Still, FamilyFun hasn't done too badly on its own: It was one of the fastest-growing magazines in the first half of this year, with its total paid and verified circ increasing by 17.4 percent to 2.15 million.

—Posted by Lucia Moses
TV Abroad

Michael Jackson is not still alive, despite what you may see on YouTube

Posted on Tue Sep 1 2009

Who says the Germans have no sense humor? First they gave us bratwurst, then Heidi Klum, and now this great Michael Jackson hoax video. German TV station RTL produced the clip, which shows a King of Pop imposter exiting a coroner's van. The station tells CNN: "We sent out a press release before we did the video to alert everyone that it was fake, but once posted it spread really fast." Yeah, big surprise there. The video has well over 1 million views on YouTube, and people are still energetically debating its merits, even though it was uploaded under the user name "michaeljacksonhoax." RTL says it was just an "experiment" to warn the public not to believe everything they see on the Web. Well, I read that explanation on the Web and I'm not believing it. I suspect the desire for free publicity also played a part. Jim Morrison agrees with me. He works here in the mailroom. Man, that old guy likes to party. Not much of a singer, though.

—Posted by David Gianatasio


Is Facebook rubbing you the wrong way?

Posted on Tue Sep 1 2009


The New York Times Magazine says some former Facebook junkies are breaking up with the mega-popular site. There's not a ton of hard evidence to support this theory (the writer, Virginia Heffernan, mostly seems to just ask around among her friends), but some of the anecdotes are illuminating. One particularly irate ex-Facebooker named Leif Harmsen is said to be galled by the site's increased level of commercialization—particularly the influx of advertising. "It is not 'your' Facebook profile. It is Facebook's profile about you." Well, duh. Leif, I don't know if you realize this or not, but Facebook is free. You didn't drop a dime to use it. Harmsen's attitude once again points out a major challenge that Web publishers, marketers and vendors face: People don't necessarily understand the inherent value exchange online, where you get free content or services in exchange for viewing some ads. Instead, people feel entitled to products on the Internet in a way they don't offline. Nobody pays for social networking or e-mail or photo sharing (unless you have some kind of souped-up pro account). Yet they get mad when marketers mess with those products too much. I've railed against the useless, dorktastic forum that Facebook typically devolves into (even though I hypocritically contribute to it often). But you have to at least understand that this is a business, even though Facebook doesn't always act like it wants to be.

—Posted by Mike Shields




  • Katy Bachman
  • Marc Berman
  • Michael Burgi
  • James Cooper (co-editor)
  • Anthony Crupi
  • Alan Frutkin
  • Will Levith
  • Lucia Moses
  • Tim Nudd (co-editor)
  • Craig Russell
  • Mike Shields