Monday, January 22, 2007


Yahoo and Newspapers, New Rules of PR, Time Magazine and Orville Deadenbacher

Yahoo! and its deals with newspapers according to BusinessWeek
You can argue that newspapers are dealing with a sworn enemy here, but the reality is more nuanced. The big online players have a horrible record in tailoring products to local markets. ... it's not hard to find examples of some newspaper companies welcoming arrangements that were once deemed unthinkable. MediaNews Group, which publishes more than 50 papers including The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, will soon open a combined print and online national sales office in New York—and is currently discussing involving Yahoo, as well. ... souring revenue scenarios—for both Yahoo and newspaper companies—spur creativity. Yahoo seeks a fix appropriate to its content-centric ways... The world's No. 1 portal is betting that, like Microsoft, it can't do local by itself... It's also betting there is huge upside in the local space for the kinds of display ads in which it still outshines Google. And it's a nod to the reality that advertisers remain more comfortable having their ads around tamer and more traditional media rather than, say, user-generated videos.

Download this eBook "New Rules of PR"
The Internet has made public relations a far more powerful tool than it ever has been. But it's not just an Internet thing... this has been going on for more than a decade. Al Ries (co-author of Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind) has been writing about this for years. The decline in space advertising is not solely Internet related at all. The availability of data bases, new broadcast outlets, the rise of events, promotions, and others are all part of the rise of PR.

The recent layoffs at Time got a lot of media coverage. Here's the letter sent to employees.
NY Post story Ad Age story that explains the $100 million shifted by automakers away from print is a main culprit
This is more a story about the old guard, with tired mastheads and annoying content, and their huge fixed costs and bureaucracies, not adjusting to the marketplace. Employment in non-newspaper publishing businesses is up 12,000 this year. The Time folks will get jobs elsewhere. The current Time employees have a lot more to worry about: their business has to transition. It's easier to start from scratch.
What's even stranger is the leg up that Time and its other properties had online. Remember when "content is king" was the mantra? Nope. Distribution is king. Ubiquity is queen. The botched ownership of/by AOL is a story of failed cross media. Easy to do technically, but entrenched camps of legal issues (music), bureaucracy (bonuses based on print performance, not on destroying old media), and really bad customer relationships (AOL was a horror to deal with, and could not make its own transition to broadband). Time is part of a larger organizational cancer of structural incompetence.

Speaking of transitions, there has been much disgust about the new ad with the dead Orville Redenbacher. His image was created digitally and he appears in a new commercial. As one reviewer put it, he looks like Dana Carvey in bad make-up... come to think of it, that would have been better. One reviewer calls him "Deadenbacher." Ad Age's Bob Garfield has some good insights into why the ad is so disturbing... and why it doesn't work, in his article "Return of the Popcorn-Shilling Zombie."
This was a bit of a casting coup, as Redenbacher died in 1995 -- although apparently not of anything serious. Otherwise, how could he be standing there -- in his trademark horn-rims, vest and bow tie-pitching from the Great Beyond? "These MP3 players get lighter every day," he says, in a geriatric cracker-barrel twang. "Would you believe this little baby holds 30 gigs? But if you want light and fluffy, you've got to try my famous gourmet popping corn." ... Orville Redenbacher is Madison Avenue's first pitchzombie, plodding clumsily forward, not quite dead and not quite alive, like Ashwatthama, of Hindu mythology; Drekavak, the Slavic precursor of Count Dracula; and the Bush administration. ...Big Boss spokesmen have had a rough go of it. Pete Coors got pinched for DUI. Dr. Z flopped for Chrysler. And Bill Ford told the world about the bright Ford future only to draw attention to the miserable Ford present. Even the legendary Lee Iacocca made an ass of himself pitching his old company in a bizarre pairing with Jason Alexander. See the pattern? Those men all have something in common, something that must have contributed to their various spectacular failures. Yes, that's right. They're alive. Why torture those poor bastards when some lucky stiff can do a better job without even, you know, respiring? ... The problem is, the stunt is wrong on at least three levels. It's not only a bit grotesque for the audience but also unforgivably disrespectful of the deceased. It's also not all that well done. Yes, Orville looks marginally more lifelike than the technically undeceased Peter Graves in his spot for Geico, but for all the time and money Crispin Porter& Bogusky spent e-resurrecting Orville, he still looks more like an animatronic Epcot exhibit than a live human being. The lipsyncing is awkward, and (for those of us old enough to remember) the voice is all wrong. For those of us not old enough to remember, it just looks like an ultracheesy commercial with a creepy nerd puppet. Then there's that unbelievably lame opening digression about MP3 players. We're assuming this drivel was meant to embrace the tactic used by kidnappers, who photograph hostages holding the day's newspaper to establish a time frame. Orville's iPod buds prove this is not just some vintage ad footage digitally remastered. They needn't have worried. No commercial from those days was this drop-dead bad.

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