Friday, April 29, 2011

Bloomberg Grows Increasingly Relevant on the Media Landscape


Bloomberg LP doesn't get nearly as much attention among the chattering class as it deserves. When was the last time, for example, that you read on TVNewser something brilliant occurring on Bloomberg TV? Me neither. And yet Bloomberg -- by virtue of its high profile hires and its business strategies across multiple platforms -- is a serious media player.

For some time now, this blogger has been impressed with Bloomberg, the media company. As legacy media organizations carefully navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of this digital age, Bloomberg LP, which has a hefty war chest from the days when their terminals alone carried the day, is making smart, carefully calibrated manuevers. In January I wrote, for eMediaVitals:

Not long ago, Bloomberg's media segment accounted for less than 10% of the company's estimated $5.4 billion in overall revenue. Bloomberg's reevaluation of its business model came primarily as a result of the recession, which caused great uncertainty among many financial services firms, the main customers of Bloomberg's terminals. At that time, a startling 85% of Bloomberg's revenues came from the terminals. The financial meltdown of 2007 was a powerful wake-up call to think beyond terminals.

For a little over two years now, Bloomberg has been in the process of unlocking the potential of its multimedia businesses across different platforms.
Here are five particular ways Bloomberg is unlocking that potential across its various platforms:

Bloomberg Delivers Vital Content

Bloomberg generates and delivers a tremendous amount of content over Bloomberg Radio, on Bloomberg TV, at its two magazines, at (which is now, increasingly, partnering with blogs) and on its terminals to an affluent demographic that includes CEOs, thought leaders -- men and women with a high household income and net worth.  The media organization draw on a large number of locally-based journalists -- more than 2,300 news and multimedia professionals in 146 bureaus across 72 countries -- in an era where journalism is in jeopardy.

Bloomberg delivers vital content because the subject matter is actionable, it pays for itself, presumably making its consumers more money. Even as legacy media organizations are thinning their ranks, cutting back, Bloomberg has a strong position in video, audio, print articles, blog posts and reports.

Bloomberg Amps Up On Informed Opinion

If platforms like The Huffington Post and NewsCorp and MSNBC champion passionate opinion, then Bloomberg is becoming a serious player in the field of informed opinion. That dovetails organically into their philosophy of delivering vital, actionable content. Bloomberg talking heads are not partisan, they are -- if anything -- profoundly competent people. Bloomberg is building trust in the  From Keith Kelly's Media Ink:
 "Bloomberg News contin ues to collect talent for its soon-to-launch opinion section, bringing author William Cohan, Ron Klain, former chief of staff of vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, and Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter, and a host of others on board to pump out opinion pieces for Bloomberg View.
In an announcement expected today, Bloomberg will launch the home of its opinionated bunch sometime in late May.

The Bloomberg View editorial board will include Michael Kinsley, the former Slate and New Republic editor, and George Anders, former news editor of The Wall Street Journal.
The move into the opinion business is just the latest expansion move by the business data provider, which years ago entered the business and general news game and last year jumped into the baseball statistics business.
Bloomberg View will produce daily editorials, columns and op-ed articles.

Michael Bloomberg, NYC's Mayor, who may or may not have a powerful behind-the-scenes influence over how the business is run, is well known as a non-partisan political pragmatist who hires the most competent people. The line where New York City begins and Bloomberg LP ends is sometimes blurry. And it seems as more than just an interesting coincidence that the company the Mayor no longer influences perfectly parallels his governing philosophy. The company's social media policy forbids advocating on behalf of a particular issue or agenda.

Sounds a lot like the Mayor. Just saying.

Bloomberg TV is more relevant than ever

The importance of Bloomberg TV during the day, on weekdays, when the markets are open is a no brainer. The weekends, however, have always been a bit of a dead zone for the company's television station.

Still, on Bloomberg TV, Political Capital has become as much a part of my weekend media diet as Meet the Press or Reliable Sources. The show's host Al Hunt, is socially as powerful as you can get in Washington society without a top cabinet position. Further, Monocle TV was/is quite interesting, if almost pretentious and highly stylized enough to merit an SNL parody. But that's not their fault, it is just their highly polished and supremely surfacy subject matter (which incidentally I find interesting). Laurel Touby, one of the most important members of the New York tech scene, recently Tweeted that she was talking to Bloomberg TV about doing something for them. Interesting and smart move on the part of Bloomberg if that actually pans out.

Bloomberg is aggressive, non-idealistic

Bloomberg LP comes out of the culture of business and delivers vital content, by and large, to businesspeople and the affluent. Successful business types and the wealthy are not particularly idealistic types. And because it is a part of the business culture, Bloomberg is an highly competitive organization. Legacy media news organizations like the New York Times, are not nearly as aggressive or as business savvy as Bloomberg LP. There was an idealism to old media and its editorially-focused business model that saw itself as a delivery device for noble journalism. It remains to be seen if there is even such a thing as a highly profitable business model in the digital age for noble journalism. Bloomberg, by contrast, it seems to me, is in the business of information.

Bloomberg is not just pragmatic and effective in its approach to delivering information, it is also deceptively aggressive. They are in the process of taking on the Forbes List, another business organization not know for its dewy-eyed idealism. They are not just taking on the Forbes franchise, but they are doing so with one of its overseers, Matthew Miller, whom they lured away. Hows that for capitalist tooling! From the Wall Street Journal (another organization not known for weak-kneed liberalism) in January:
"Bloomberg on Monday said it is hiring Forbes veteran Matthew Miller as part of an effort to expand its coverage of the wealthy. Mr. Miller will help Bloomberg launch a global rich list sometime in 2012 or 2013, though the details and exact schedule are still uncertain. Mr. Miller spent seven years at Forbes and was the editor for the Forbes 400 list and co-editor of the Forbes World's Billionaires list until 2010.

Rich lists have become big media franchises as publications compete to feed reader fascination with the money and lifestyles of the super-wealthy. There are now rich lists in China, the U.K. and Australia, with several more on the way.
In other words, the Forbes franchise is in serious jeopardy. Another example that Bloomberg LP is becoming increasingly relevant across all platforms.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Demand and supply certainly matter. But there's another reason why food across the world has become so expensive: Wall Street greed. It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there's value, there's money to be made. In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI). For just under a decade, the GSCI remained a relatively static investment vehicle, as bankers remained more interested in risk and collateralized debt than in anything that could be literally sowed or reaped. Then, in 1999, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission deregulated futures markets. All of a sudden, bankers could take as large a position in grains as they liked, an opportunity that had, since the Great Depression, only been available to those who actually had something to do with the production of our food." (ForeignPolicy)

"Vanity Fair threw its annual star-studded Tribeca Film Festival bash on the steps of the State Supreme Court downtown Wednesday night -- but this time, Graydon Carter's party was cocktails-only as it's become too difficult to corral power players into dinner. Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Tommy Mottola, Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein and Quincy Jones all worked the scene to the hilt. Zach Braff told us about his new play, All New People, debuting in June. Christopher Walken wandered behind a column, muttering, 'Nothing, nothing . . .' when we asked him about his next project. But the question on many lips was: Who invited the pony-tailed twins in heels, miniskirts and motorcycle jackets and sucking on cherry Blow Pops? Romanian actresses Gabriela and Mihaela Modorcea were guests of Doron Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation." (PageSix)

"Aaron Sorkin's upcoming HBO pilot, currently titled More As the Story Develops, centers on a pursuit not necessarily thought of as noble but that is approached as such here (cable-news broadcast), a passionate leader (its anchor), and the talented, idealistic staffers around him. In other words, we could have just said 'It's an Aaron Sorkin pilot.' The show is still in its extremely nascent phases, with only Jeff Daniels nailed down as the lead character, anchor Will McCallister. (Marisa Tomei, Alison Pill, and Olivia Munn are also in talks.) Vulture has obtained the script, and even this early in the game, it's easy to suss out MAtSD's Sorkin DNA by flipping through it. The Plot The pilot all takes place within one day — a day of crisis, naturally, when all of a sudden Will's support team has proven disloyal and unworthy and it's time for a new guard to join to help him out! It's a new guard with familiar faces from Will's past; there have been complicated entanglements, but there's also a common goal to do good things. 60 percent Studio 60: A show in post-crisis mode, with returning righteous ex-employees, network bureaucracies, and the honorable desire to bring a sense of ethics and passion to television." (TheVulture)

"For those unaware of Vanity Fair's MO, the magazine made clear what it stood for at its annual Tribeca Film Festival party last night. On the guest list: Hollywood heavies (Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Ron Howard), media moguls (Rupert Murdoch), fashion insiders (Diane von Furstenberg), and even sports stars (John McEnroe). As if to drive the power point home, each front-facing column on the New York State Supreme Courthouse colonnade was adorned with a red block letter, together spelling out Vanity Fair—sort of like the New York version of the Hollywood sign. 'If I don't get a good gift bag tonight, I'm going to steal the 'V' and give it to my mom,' Denis Leary joked. The actor was a juror in the narrative short film category this year, a post that he described as 'more difficult than I expected.' Lauren Hutton, part of the crew judging new documentary films, also had some tough decisions to make. She remained mum on leading prospects, but was proud that the festival, celebrating its tenth year, represented the neighborhood at its best. 'Downtown has definitely always been hipper than uptown,' the model said. 'You only go uptown for the 3 M's: money, museums, and men.'" (Style)

"The ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel at Grand Central was packed last night with gala-goers (over 700 to be exact!) for the 33rd Annual AAFA American Image Awards, benefitting the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Scores of the fash crowd turned out to celebrate the evening's honorees including Mark Weber, CEO of Donna Karan International, who nabbed the Man of the Year award and Ruben and Isabel Toledo, who picked up the Fashion Maverick award from presenter Whoopi Goldberg. Goldberg drew a crowd on the red carpet with throngs of journalists speculating on the popular star's relationship with the design couple. The real story? 'We work together with DIFFA quite a lot. I had a big fundraiser at my house and the Toledos came. I thought they were extraordinary. I couldn't get enough of them!' Goldberg explained, while clutching a mysterious noir coat. 'Oh, my coat! Isabel made me this but it's too hot to wear it. She looked at me tonight and said, Take that off - you're sweating! But I'm holding it. I love my coat' ... The AAFA American Image winners also included Neiman Marcus for Retailer of the Year, William Rast for Brand of the Year, and David Koch, EVP of Koch Industries, for the Humanitarian of the Year." (TheDaily)

"David and Charles Koch, the conservative oil industrialists, are now feuding with the American Society of Magazine Editors. The brothers are apparently still fuming over an article, 'Covert Operations: The Billionaire Brothers Who Are Waging War Against Obama,' by Jane Mayer that ran in The New Yorker last August and is now up for a National Magazine Award in Reporting from ASME. Koch Industries Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mark Holden said in a letter to ASME board members that it is 'inappropriate' for Mayer's piece to be considered for the award because her article is biased. 'Her article is ideologically slanted and a prime example of a disturbing trend in journalism, where agenda-driven advocacy masquerades as objective reporting,' Holden said in a letter sent to ASME CEO Sid Holt and several ASME board members. 'Given these facts, it would be inappropriate for ASME to give Ms. Mayer's article an award in reporting.' Aside from family feuds and dirty laundry, Mayer's article detailed how the brothers -- who control the second-largest privately held company in America, with sales estimated at $100 billion -- were backers of a wide network of conservative think tanks and groups that helped spawn the Tea Party revolution. Mayer told Media Ink that the Koch brothers had turned down repeated attempts to be interviewed." (Keith Kelly)

"This past Tuesday night at Capitale, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), North America’s oldest and the world’s largest organization devoted to archaeology, its Annual Gala. It was an Irish-themed affair with the evening exploring the country’s archaeology, as well as an Irish ale and whiskey tasting, a contemporary Celtic feast created by native Dubliner and James Beard Award-winning Irish chef Cathal Armstrong, and live music and dance performances. There were auctions, of course, both live and silent, featuring archaeologically-themed items including once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences—a chance to dive to an underwater shipwreck, dig at Pompeii, and sail the Emerald Seas around Ireland following the route of 7th-century seagoing monks—along with dazzling jewelry, Celtic treasures, and more ... The evening’s pledge drive also gave guests the opportunity to directly support the preservation of threatened ancient sites in Ireland. The 2011 Bandelier Award for Public Service to Archaeology was presented to George F. Bass, the father of underwater archaeology ... The evening was hosted by Gabriel Byrne, the acclaimed actor and Irish Cultural Ambassador. The focus was on the culture and history of Ireland. Mr. Byrne’s interest in the ancient past stems from his studies in archaeology and linguistics, along with his excavations in Ireland, Italy, and Greece." (NYSocialDiary)

"Fifteen years ago, a single mother named Libia Gomez converted part of her modest cinder-block house into a shop selling sundries ranging from pencils to toothpaste. The location was hardly ideal. Gomez lived in Santo Domingo Savio, a onetime squatter community on a steep, forested slope overlooking the Colombian city of Medellín that had evolved into a permanent slum. Santo Domingo had grown so violent that even the police would not dare to enter. Gomez could see Medellín's city center, a mere two miles to the south, from Santo Domingo, but getting there safely was nearly impossible because traveling down the hill into town would have required crossing multiple zones controlled by rival armed groups. The rest of the city was not much better: Several years after Pablo Escobar, kingpin of the Medellín cocaine cartel, had been gunned down by police while fleeing across the rooftops of the middle-class barrio Los Olivos, Medellín remained the world's most violent city. Today, Gomez is able to look down on the once impassable route from aboard the Metrocable, a ski-resort-style gondola system that carries residents of Santo Domingo high over the cityscape of red-brick buildings to the metro linking them to the rest of Medellín. Her shop sits in the shadow of the Parque Biblioteca España, an ultramodern library complex that presides over the city like the Spanish citadels of 500 years ago. The surrounding community has become one of the city's most popular tourist draws. 'In the old days, my son would be afraid to walk to school. Now he walks freely,' Gomez told us." (Francis Fukuyama and Seth Colby)

"PRIVATE-EQUITY executives have spent the past few years half-apologising for their exuberance during the buy-out boom. 'I analogise it to sex,' said David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a large private-equity firm, describing his industry’s attraction to huge, leveraged deals at a conference in 2009. 'You realise there were certain things you shouldn’t do, but the urge is there, and you can’t resist.' On the face of it, Carlyle has started fooling around again. It completed the most deals and spent the most money of any private-equity firm in 2010 (see table). In January it bought AlpInvest, a private-equity fund of funds that manages €32.3 billion ($43.3 billion) on behalf of two Dutch pension schemes. The deal will close in the next several weeks, making Carlyle one of the world’s two largest private-equity firms, with $150 billion under management—neck-and-neck with the Blackstone Group, and more than twice as big as Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts (KKR). Size certainly matters for Carlyle, since the firm is expected to go public soon. The more assets and sources of cashflow it has, the more attractive it will be to potential shareholders. But this is not a return to the promiscuity of the boom. Carlyle likes to do things differently. It eschewed the obvious buy-out hubs of New York and London and has its headquarters in Washington, DC, a few blocks from the White House. And whereas most big firms concentrated on billion-dollar 'mega-funds' before the crisis and have only recently begun raising smaller, more focused funds, Carlyle has been doing things that way for years. It has 84 active funds, many of which have narrow mandates, like investing in Mexico or energy companies. KKR, in contrast, has around 12 active funds." (TheEconomist)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video Subscription, In the Hour of the Wolf

Its an interesting time to be a video subscriber.

In the digital age, consumers want access to content on their own terms. There will never again be another "Must See TV Thursday," that significant 90s cultural artifact that attracted movie advertisers eager to reach the eyeballs of young, affluent viewers just before weekend box office openings. That era is done.

Remember when Sunday nights belonged to The Sopranos? And this is not just TV snob nostalgia articulating itself. Cable consumers no longer have to watch premium content like Top Chef or Justified or Game of Thrones on the nights that they originally play. Thus the cable industry now finds itself competing for video subscribers with all manner of new digital players, not the least of which being the movie rental and streaming service Netflix, which just reported a doubling of first quarter profits to over 22.8 million subscribers. "The advent of powerful browsers, Flash, Silverlight, Netflix, Amazon, increased broadband access, smart phones, tablets, laptops, and media solutions like Roku, Boxee, Apple TV, Google TV, Playstation, Xbox and Wii has deposed television from its place at the top," writes Lee Yi, CEO of Drund, shrewdly, in Business Insider. "Before, there was order and simplicity for both cable companies and content creators; now there is chaos."

What comes after cable TV chaos? In the future televised content will be indistinguishable from all other forms of digital content in that it will be readily accessible via laptops, mobile devices and tablets. Ron Frankel, CEO of Synacor, writes about this digital evolutionary process on Mashable:
It’s no secret that consumers are starting to control when and where they watch television or film content. Jump on a subway in New York City and you’ll likely see several people catching up on a TV episode from the night before on their portable device: iPhone, tablet or laptop.

Still need evidence? In a 2010 survey, more than 20% of Internet bandwidth used during prime time in the U.S. was attributed to Netflix, which recently became the largest subscription entertainment business in the country. Consumers are getting their content in many different forms and increasingly creating their own viewing schedule — one that fits better into their busy lives.

Time Warner Cable (TWC), Comcast, Charter and other cable companies are rallying around an industry initiative called TV Everywhere, with the goal of providing a complete end-to-end online streaming video experience for TV programming and web video. TWC recently debuted an iPad application that enables consumers to watch 32 live television stations from anywhere in their homes. Since the release, TWC customers have downloaded the application more than 300,000 times, but content owners have been fighting TWC over complex rights and compensation issues.

These battles are complicated because every kind of programming — sports, TV shows, movies, etc. — has a different set of viewing rights.

Difficult, but not insurmountable. There is also the problem of cord cutting. The Great Recession and the fragile recovery are two factors that have led many former subscribers to simply "cut the cord" on cable TV to some degree.
Time Warner Adjusts to the On Demand Lifestyle
What about these cord cutters? "In my own case," writes Matthew Moskociak on CBS MarketWatch, "I used to pay more than $100 a month to the cable company; now I pay about half that for a combination of streaming, downloaded, and over-the-air content." Cable programmers and operators need to be as nimble as Netflix in adjusting to the new on demand lifestyle of cord cutters. Time Warner Cable, the number two cable operator in the United States, lost 65,000 video subscribers due to cord cutting during the first quarter.

"Authenticating consumers has never been a problem for Netflix," notes Frankel. "With more than 20 million paying subscribers and apps available on almost any device, it is a major disruptor in the industry and is betting on consumers shifting to a more on-demand lifestyle." Netflix, quite frankly, is here to stay. It seems as if the big players now accept that fact. Witness Jeff Bewkes who used to be the most vocal Netflix critic. Bewkes's recent about face on Netflix at a Tribeca Film Festival chat with Charlie Rose suggests that the future of Time Warner may not be all about HBO-versus-digital-subscription-services-with-premium content. Then again, Time Warner is not your usual media company in the cable business in that it is both a content creator as well as a content provider. They can afford to experiment.

Its an interesting time to be a video subscriber.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The rumoured bid of Donald Trump as a Republican candidate for US president may seem more implausible than most candidates coming out of the business world, but follows in a line of political bids by private sector executives. These include H. Ross Perot, who received almost 19 per cent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election, and, more recently, Meg Whitman of Ebay and Carly Fiorina of HP for governor and senator from California, respectively. These individuals can, of course, make runs at office because they are independently wealthy. But they are also admired by many Americans for their entrepreneurial energy, toughness and bottom-line focus. Executives running multibillion-dollar companies do many of the same things a president does: set strategy, make budgets and manage large bureaucracies. But the successful business executives seem to do so with a ruthless efficiency that is rarely achieved in the public sector ... But while this yearning for businesslike efficiency is understandable, it betrays a failure to understand the nature of the American presidency, and how completely different the skills required for the latter position are from those of a corporate executive. An American chief executive exercises authoritarian powers of which a politician could only dream ... An American president, by contrast, occupies an office which is weak by design, limited by the framers of the constitution by checks and balances that prevent the exercise of strong power. The president shares powers with Congress, which is often in the hands of the other party." (Francis Fukuyama)

"President Obama will meet with Eva Longoria and other 'influential Hispanics' Thursday to discuss immigration reform. The White House said Obama would meet with 'influential Hispanics from across the country to discuss the importance of fixing the broken immigration system.' It said the discussion would focus on fostering 'a constructive national conversation on this important issue as we work to build a bipartisan consensus in Congress.' Besides Longoria, the star of 'Desperate Housewives,' others invited to the gathering include actresses Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera, Univision hosts Don Francisco and Maria Elena Salinas and Telemundo anchors Vanessa Hauc and Jose Diaz-Balart. Los Angeles-based Spanish-language radio host Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo will also be attending. Sotelo, who had a contentious interview with Obama last year, is staunchly in favor of immigration reform. Obama senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe will also attend the meeting along with Melody Barnes, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council; and Cecilia Munoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs. The president is looking to revive immigration reform as a salient political issue as he launches his bid for reelection, despite the fact Congress is unlikely to pass a plan before the 2012 contest." (TheHill)

"I had lunch down at Michael’s with Judy Price and Beth DeWoody. We were celebrating Beth’s birthday (which was last Saturday) ... The Michael’s Lunch. Wednesday. Michael Douglas strolled in to lunch with Dennis Miller, looking great and looking like the movie star that he is. Gil Schwartz of CBS was celebrating the publication of a new book on Table 1 in the bay with Matt Hitzig and David Hershey. Next door table was occupied by Peter Brown and then Steven Rubenstein. Next door to him Aryeh Bourkoff was lunching with Harvey Weinstein. And next to them Charles Grodin, whose signature baseball cap has the same incognito effect that dark glasses have. Even moreso: you don’t recognize him. Until of course you begin to recognize him by his cap. Moving on: Stan Shuman and guest at the next table; across the way John Sykes with Andrew Fisher and Dennis Crowley ...After lunch Beth and I walked a few blocks up Fifth Avenue. President Obama was in town and there were extra policemen everywhere as well as metal sidewalk barriers being set up along the avenue. Evidently he was making a speech somewhere, or meeting with somebody. But before that he was going up to Barbara Walters’ apartment on Fifth Avenue. I don’t know the occasion, although Walters is a woman who knows everybody who is anybody." (NYSocialDiary)

"President Obama is in town today, bulking up his war chest with a fund-raising party at the Waldorf Astoria and a private reception for wealthy donors. The reception — which will be held at the Fifth Avenue apartment of the wife of former New Jersey governor (and ex–Goldman Sachs CEO) Jon Corzine — will be attended by about 70 thick-walleted supporters, each of whom will cough up $38,500 for the honor of kicking Obama’s reelection efforts into gear. President Obama's Manhattan schedule has been taken by some as a sign that his once-testy relationship with New York's financial elite is on the mend. A source told the Post that the reception on Fifth is 'a real indication that there's a lot more support on Wall Street and in New York for Obama this time around.' But is it really? A front-page article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal said exactly the opposite: Hedge-fund managers — the orca of the finance food chain — have been staging a slow exodus from Obama's inner circle and giving their millions to Republican candidates who will, presumably, treat them more kindly. Obama may be able to get reelected without Wall Street's support, but his fund-raising schedule indicates that he'd rather not have to. Here, we draw a rough list of the finance types he can hit up for money, the ones he can't, and the ones who should probably be on the receiving end of a presidential muffin basket pretty soon, if you get our drift ..." (NYMag)

"The end of zoning has eliminated an important elite tool for managing Nigeria's myriad divisions. Under zoning, the PDP alternated its presidential candidate every eight years between the north and south. If the presidential candidate was a Muslim, then the vice-presidential candidate would be a Christian. In addition to zoning, the Nigerian political system ensured that the PDP presidential candidates were always placed in office. Nigeria's current crisis was precipitated by former President Umaru Yar'Adua's prolonged absence. Throughout most of his presidency between 2007 and 2010, Yar'Adua was ill, and in November 2009 he went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. While Yar'Adua was out of the country, he had no contact with his government, which all but ceased to function. In February 2010, the National Assembly extraconstitutionally designated (Goodluck) Jonathan, then vice president, as acting president, perhaps to forestall military intervention. Jonathan became the fully constitutional president only in May, when Yar'Adua died. Zoning was damaged, but not yet dead. Early on, Jonathan insinuated that he would honor the zoning agreement and return the presidency to a Muslim from the north in 2011. But when it came time to select the PDP presidential candidate, he used the power of incumbency to defeat his northern Muslim challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, for the party's nomination. (It is credibly alleged that Jonathan paid 'expenses' of $7,000 per person to party delegates, while Abubakar reportedly offered only $5,000 each.) By ending the alternating arrangement, Jonathan's nomination as the PDP presidential candidate effectively killed zoning. This worried many Nigerians, particularly those in the north." (Foreign Affairs)

"For all the media hoopla surrounding the upcoming nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton—which, if you haven’t already been told a zillion times already, happens tomorrow, April 29, at Westminster Abbey—few people have bothered to ask the really interesting questions. We’ve heard ad nauseum about the wedding dress and the celebrity guest list and how much the bloated ceremony will probably end up costing (thanks again, British taxpayers). But do you honestly give a shit? I’d rather find out if any of the guests will be drunkenly doing the Electric Slide during the reception, or if the court jester will be invited to sit at the head table, or if the royal family even employs a court jester anymore. I called India Hicks, the model and occasional host of Bravo’s Top Design, to get the lowdown on the details that matter. Hicks is something of an authority on Royal Weddings, having been a bridesmaid in the weddings of the Duke of Westminster, Lady Joanna Knatchbull, and most famously the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana. She’s also technically royalty, both a second cousin and goddaughter to the Prince of Wales. Depending on which Google result you believe, she’s either 495th or 521st in the line of succession to the British throne." (Vanity Fair)

"With heavy rain expected in London on Friday, the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton could be a meteorological disaster. Rain or shine, it could also be a political catastrophe for the Arab royal families attending as guests. The affair will feature a total of eight Arab royals. By comparison, when the groom's father, Prince Charles, married his long-time 'close friend,' Camilla, in 2005, there were only four Arab royal guests. When Charles married Diana in 1991, there were just two.  With an estimated 2 billion people watching on television across the world, and another 400 million on the Internet, the royal wedding also promises to be a bold statement of defiance against the Arab Spring -- and clear proof of how much the Arab royals are out of touch. So far, the anti-autocratic trend sweeping the Middle East has only overturned the leadership of republics -- Egypt and Tunisia. The governments next in line to fall are similarly non-monarchies -- Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Ignoring the fact that this could be a distinction without a difference, apologists for Arab royals have discretely argued that kings and emirs 'know' how to rule, and that traditional methods of the open-court 'majlis' have made royals aware of public discontent before it boils over. Of course, the fact that they enjoy access to massive revenues from their energy deposits has also ensured that this process remains well-oiled, so to speak." (ForeignPolicy)

"Longevity is not a word often associated with fashion models. These days most of them are the living breathing equivalent of the seasonal 'it bag'. Walking the catwalk and grabbing the big ticket advertizing contracts for a season, ok maybe two seasons, and then they fad away like a beautiful dream that you can’t quite remember. But there are a handful of models that, just like some dreams, return over and over again. They have become familiar friends that you begin to rely on for continuity and comfort. Stunning signposts that subtly mark the passage of time as they elegantly age on the cover of magazines or crop up as the 'new' face for a beauty productWhat makes these particular models timeless? What do Kate Moss, Naomi Cambell, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, and Amber Valletta or Kristen McMenamy and Stella Tennant, for that matter, have that thousands of other super model hopefuls don’t? Looking at their divergent careers there is not one facial feature or fashion moment that secured their place in the pantheon of style. Their success has more to do with the woman behind the model mask than a picture perfect pose, new hair color or toned physique. These women are unforgettable because they are able to convey to the world the life they have lived via their entrancing eyes at every photo shoot, catwalk show and product launch. Of all these women Kate Moss and Naomi Cambell are the one that have truly seared their images into the fashion psyche partly by never leaving its spotlight." (Jessica Michault)

"(Howard Stern) said he has been reading Annie Liebovitz's book (A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005) and he likes that. He said she's a brilliant woman. He said anyone can run around taking pictures but she's different. Howard said Annie was there when Nixon resigned. He said a bunch of people took pictures but she hung around and waited when everyone else left. He said she took a shot of the three marines that rolled up the red carpet that Nixon walked on. Howard said that's a very interesting picture to him. She had some cool pictures of Hunter S. Thompson too. Howard said they're not necessarily great pictures but they capture a mood. He said she's able to do what a reporter does with just a picture. Robin said they tell a story with a picture ... Howard said Annie was working at Rolling Stone and Mick Jagger told her to come work for them while they were on tour. Howard said Annie thought about that and said she had to go do it even though she might not have a job if she wanted to go back to Rolling Stone. Howard said he admired that she went off with them. He said she had access to the Stones like you wouldn't believe. She was part of the scene. She got some great pictures but her favorite one was one after Mick Jagger would get off stage and he'd be wrapped up in towels after sweating on stage. Howard said she took a picture of him in an elevator and she thought it was the best one. Howard said he's looking at the picture and it is captivating. He said it's Mick Jagger and it's how you've never really seen him. Howard said Annie got some great pictures of the band in concert but she wasn't even into that stuff. She talked about how dangerous it was to be in the crowd back then. They would surge forward and people would crush you. She didn't think it was very innovative for her photography either. Howard said she didn't think that all of her pictures were that meaningful but the stuff back stage is what she liked." (Marksfriggin)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On The Inverse Political Relationship Between the President and The Donald

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Gore Vidal 

President Obama's greatest worry for 2012 would involve an opposition candidate to the Center as well as to the Right of his own political position. All incumbent Presidents, of course, want to own the Center, America's most valuable piece of political real estate. From the Center back to their own particular political position -- whether Right or Left -- incumbent Presidents cobble together a winning coalition.

At present, though, President Obama appears to not have a worry in the world. Since December, after the shellacking President Obama took in the mid-term elections, Obama has tacked to the sensible Center from his previous position on the Pragmatic-Progressive side of the spectrum (Pragmatism, we cannot fail to note, is the first indigenous movement of philosophical thought to develop in America).

Obama is popular enough on the Left -- as Bill Maher continually reminds us weekly on his show -- that he will not get a credible Progressive primary challenge. The President may still get one, but whomever that challenger is, they will even not get one-third of the primary vote -- the tipping point established by Pat Buchanan when he ran against George Bush the Elder in 1992, revealing fissures in the then-sitting President's strength with his base. That leaves Obama to worry about the American political Center, where the bulk of the votes in the country exist. Obama already has the Progressive Left on lock.

Enter: Trump

That's why Donald Trump is theoretically good for Obama. The more of an amazing spectacle he makes of himself the more suburban moms and independent voters are spectacularly turned off. Remember that it was "No Drama Obama" that beat the various public dysfunctions of the Clintons. The President's even temperament -- perhaps gained in school in Indonesia -- is his biggest political plus in campaign mode. Plouffe and the Obama team ought to do everything they possibly can to trump up Trump's thus far alleged candidacy. In fact, that might be precisely what the Obama Camp strategy is at present doing. Today, for example, Obama's presser interrupted the cable networks coverage of Trump's rambling dissemination of half-truths in New Hampshire. Call it: Duelling Pressers. You see, not only is Donald Trump an erratic, Dickensian-named parody of a barely credible political entity, he is also the visible face of bigotry and farce. His abrupt about face on the Birther issue, changing the terms of the debate to one of Obama's college transcripts -- ! -- at Occidental College, render him a non-serious political entity. Unfortunately, vis-a-vis the Republican Party, Donald Trump is a very serious candidate indeed.

Then again, if the Obama Camp truly wanted to buoy a Trump candidacy they would have held onto the principle of privacy and never revealed his birth certificate, thus allowing the Donald to ride that issue to maximum effect.

On the Inverse Political Relationship

An inverse or negative relationship is a mathematical relationship in which one variable, say y, decreases as another, say x, increases. An inverse political relationship exists between Trump and Obama. In short: Every time Trump makes the front pages or achieves the top of the hour on the cable news broadcasts for some stupendous feat of irresponsible rhetoric, he actually makes the President more acceptable to independents, to the Center. There is, to be quite frank, an inverse political relationship between Trump and President Obama. Trump as the most visible and -- according to a very hasty poll -- the "most likely" GOP candidate in 2012. And according to a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 39 percent of Republicans named Donald Trump when asked about which potential presidential candidate they’ve heard the most about of late.

Obama is right now one fixed variable in the 2012 political and Trump, as frontrunner, can only be properly construed, at least until someone surpasses his polling numbers, as a tentative second variable. As the dissonant and mouthy Trump campaign achieves critical mass, the more the President appears to be the voice of sanity, a man firmly in the political Center with both feet grounded in reality. Trump, by contrast, appears grounded in reality television.

Why Trump is Relevant

The main problem of the Republican Party is ennui. The big guns are not running (Christie, Rubio, Daniels and even Barbour have opted out) It is simply not an exciting field (Pawlenty? Newt?); then again, nothing could be as exciting as the Hillary-versus-Obama smackdown that was the summer of 2008. From Public Policy Polling:
Trump's ridden the controversy about Barack Obama's place of birth to the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011.
Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.
Among that 23% only willing to vote for a birther Trump is cleaning up even more, getting 37% to 13% for Huckabee and Palin, and 10% for Romney and Gingrich.

Trump speaks *crazy,* the language that appeals to the wild-eyed people who tore up the Town Hall meetings during the health care debate.

Next week's GOP debate should be about as interesting as watching plants produce oxygen. Trumps oily charisma makes him a giant in a field of midgets. "A latter-day P.T. Barnum with an insatiable appetite for attention and a knack for getting it, Trump has capitalized on two defining and interrelated features of the political-media landscape in the Obama era: the symbiosis between political provocateurs and traffic-conscious news organizations and the rise of a conservative constituency that hungers for voices that will attack President Barack Obama in sharp and unapologetic terms," wrote Jonathan Martin in Politico. Truer words were never written. This populist Trump moment is, in fine, a confluence of some very baleful events.

May we live in interesting times.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Supposedly tomorrow is the day when all the personnel changes at the top of the national security establishment will be rolled out. To me, the question is: What does President Obama think he is gaining from these moves? Defense Secretary Panetta: Yes, another alumnus of Congress. Ugh. But Panetta has a reputation of handling the CIA well, and that is not an easy job, as the place has the nasty rep of either undermining or capturing its outsider chiefs. I think this move signals that Obama plans to take the defense budget way down, and that Panetta's expected job will be to hold the place together and sell the spending cuts to the few remaining hawks in Congress. CIA Director Petraeus: Honestly, I am a bit puzzled by this. Smart, hard-working, etc. But why this man for this job at this time, especially at a time when there is already reason to worry about the militarization of our foreign policy and diplomacy? Well, it gets him out of Afghanistan. Cynics think it also keeps him from being critical during next year's presidential campaign, but I actually don't think Petraeus has political ambitions, or even much of a desire to participate in electoral politics." (Thomas Ricks)

"In its annual rite of spring, Time magazine tried to round up the world's top 100 most influential people at its black-tie gala last night in Manhattan. With competition from the royal wedding drawing some media stars elsewhere, this year's Time 100 gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center seemed to have a heavier literary bent than usual ... The most literary table of the night was Table 1, where MSNBC anchor and sometime writer Chris Matthews talked up a storm with 'Freedom' author Jonathan Franzen and singer Patti Smith, whose memoir was a best-seller. Insiders, however, know it is usually Tables 6 through 11 that are the white-hot center of the action. The always buzz-worthy Table 6 included 'The Fighter' star and director and Time 100 honoree Mark Wahlberg, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Time Editor-in-Chief John Huey, now part of the governing troika of Time Inc., along with his boss, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. Republican Congresswoman and Tea Party leader Michele Bachmann was breaking bread with the always witty Brian Williams, anchor of the 'NBC Nightly News,' with Time International Editor Michael Elliott looking on at Table 8." (KeithKelly)

"Royal wedding anchors including ABC's Chris Cuomo, Piers Morgan, CNN's Kiran Chetry and ABC News President Ben Sherwood, threw back quite a few drinks last night at Morgan's London pub, Hansom Cab. Others at the 'networkpalooza' included Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jane Seymour, 'Britain's Got Talent' judge Amanda Holden and Morgan's executive producer Jonathan Wald. After a jolly time that ended near 11 p.m., 'American Morning' anchor Chetry was the last anchor standing, a witness reports." (PageSix)

"Last night I was a guest of Toni Goodale at the annual PEN Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History. This is a favorite annual event of mine, as I’ve written here before. Mainly for sentimental reasons: it’s about writers and the business of being a writer in the community. There is something oddly heady being in a social environment dominated by the presence of writers. You could call it sentimental. There are always a lot of writers at this dinner, and at least one or two at each table – although this year the two at my (Toni Goodale’s) table were no-shows. This is a dinner evening of speakers. The difference is the speakers are often distinguished by the achievements as writers. This year’s welcoming remarks were made by Anthony Appiah, the President of PEN ... This year’s recipient (of the 2011 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award) was Nasrin Soutoudeh of Iran, a writer, a human rights lawyer and activist. Her award was accepted by Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ibadi. Nasrin has been sentenced to 11 years for 'propaganda against the state and conspiracy to disturb order.' You know when a government gets to that level of prosecution of its citizens, they’re desperate. Jailing Nasrin Souteoudeh for what she reports and says highlights the politicians' weakness. Too bad for Iran and its people. It was a big crowd of several hundred last night. I sat between the two Honorary Chairs, Annette Tapert and Toni Goodale. Tina Brown was the other." (NYSocialDiary)

"In a southern Indiana banquet room last week, Republicans dined on pork chops, listened to local politicians, then cast an informal vote in a race on all their minds: next year’s re-election bid by six-term Senator Richard Lugar, one of their party’s senior members of Congress. Lugar lost the Pike County Republican straw poll, with 11 votes to 42 for primary challenger Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer. Mourdock, who is courting support from Tea Party activists, was the keynote speaker at the April 21 dinner. Lugar was on a family vacation on Sanibel Island, Florida. At this point, Lugar 'has to be regarded as the underdog,' and his decision to take time off during Congress’s April recess is surprising, said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. 'It seems to reflect what I see as a failure to understand the environment out there, and possibly his unwillingness to see the difficult political shape that he’s in.' The Pike County results provide a glimpse of the challenge that Lugar, 79, faces from the influence of anti-government, anti-tax Tea Party supporters." (Bloomberg)

"'I don't have anything to say!' Jay McInerney giggled. The Bright Lights, Big City author and Gossip Girl actor hosted revelers at his Greenwich Village penthouse apartment Monday evening to celebrate the release of Candace 'evilminkster' Bushnell's latest book, Summer in the City, which details the formative years of Carrie Bradshaw in Manhattan. Mr. McInerney recalled early memories of Ms. Bushnell, back before her Observer column made her rich and famous: 'She was always the funniest person in the room! I couldn't predict for sure that was going to lead to international fame. I used to take her home at 3 a.m. and carry her up the stairs to her walk-up apartment!' ... Asked how his life at The Wall Street Journal as a wine columnist is working out, Mr. McInerney laughed: 'Beats having a real job!'" (Observer)

"Howard (Stern) asked Kim (Cattrall) if she was ever approached to do the casting couch type of thing. Kim said she had that. She told Howard about how this guy Sam Spiegel, who was very gross, had auditioned her. Kim said that he told her to come over to his desk and put his hands behind her and tried to put his tongue in her mouth. She said she ran out of the room and got into her car. She said her agent was driving and asked her what she did. She said she didn't play into it. Kim said she got an invitation to go to San Francisco with him even after that. Howard asked how she goes on after that. She said she knows that it exists so she just deals with it ... Robin (Quivers) asked what happened to the agent who asked what she did with that Sam guy. She said she got rid of her eventually. Kim said that the agents work for you and not the other way around. Howard got a picture of Sam Spiegel and said he was gross looking." (Marksfriggin)

"Early morning, Brooklyn. I arrived into New York late last night from Paris and my body clock doesn’t know what time it is yet. Breakfast with my friend Jonas at his studio, a large print from his 1972 footage of Elvis at Madison Square Gardens, hangs in the window by my desk. It’s a good image to start your day with. It’s the first day of the Tribeca Film Festival. Tomorrow night we premiere the new feature film Lotus Eaters, a crazy ride through the minds and lives of a group of London friends, with all the highs and lows, parties and paybacks of their existence. I’ve been coming to New York since 1998. It’s the city of my heart. It’s given me so much over the years in inspiration, opportunities, friends and adventures. I’ve studied here, worked here, escaped to here and longed for here ... First appointment of the Lotus Eaters press schedule is a Magazine shoot and interview over on West 20th Street and a much needed strong cup of coffee! Everyone’s there, cast and director, excited and buzzing. Adrenalin and coffee. I got a good luck postcard from my friend Lhaki in Paris this morning, with my favorite Prévert poem written on the front, he knew how to say it!!!" (film director Ben Northover)

"As the U.S. and China prepare to meet on Wednesday and Thursday for their annual Dialogue on Human Rights, Beijing and Washington have begun sniping at each other mercilessly. Beijing has blasted America's wars in Afghanistan and other countries as human-rights abuses and warned the White House not to 'position itself as a preacher of human rights.' The Obama administration, meanwhile, has emphasized the growing crackdown on rights activists across the People's Republic, publicly chastising Beijing even before the dialogue begins. Far from being a cause for concern, the sniping is a positive sign that the Obama administration has learned that its toothless approach to China over the past two years has failed. Its also an indication that the president has come to understand something that previous administrations knew very well—namely, that Washington can criticize the pragmatic Beijing regime on human rights while continuing to work with it on other important global issues." (TheDailyBeast)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Piers Morgan Tonight Should Become a Social Media Show

Piers Morgan Tonight is, if anything, nimble. But it is also at a new low in ratings, 77,000 viewers in the all-important A24-54 money demographic. Piers Morgan Tonight has fallen to fourth place behind Dr. Drew on HLN in that demo. Not a good look.

How did Piers fall so far behind?

Piers Morgan Tonight began as something of a continuation of the old Larry King formula for television: untaxing, pre-taped interviews with celebrities like Howard Stern and Condi Rice, who bring along solid fan bases and thus ratings. Morgan's first interview, with Oprah, was the show's peak with 2.99 million viewers. But the Larry King formula of softball sit-down interviews with stars is quite outdated in the age of blogs and reality train wrecks who are far more forthcoming about their own private lives (Isn't that why CNN gave King the hook in the first place? Isn't that why celebrity gossip magazines now feature train wreck's on their covers?).

As the media savvy Howard Stern told Piers during their interview (captured via NYMag), "The first week is great. You have Oprah, you have me. What's going to happen three months from now when you're interviewing Scott Baio? Who's gonna care?" Who indeed?

What, in fine, was Piers Morgan's post-Larry King strategy?

Then Came The Revolutions

Then came the revolutions in the Middle East and the Magreb, which gave CNN -- and every other news organization -- focus. International news and quite literally foreign news bureaus were in serious decline. That, and the strengthening lead-in by the hard hitting, news oriented In the Arena with Elliot Spitzer precipitated, perhaps more than anything, in Piers Morgan Tonight's evolution. The program, as a result, has gotten more newsy, much more smart and become more of an organic fit with the network's programming. And that's why I care about what happens to the program. Morgan even did a show on location in Israel in March the heat of the revolutionary fervor (Prime Minister Netanyahu was a guest). Something clearly was going on in the Arab world and it was a no-brainer that CNN, the global news network, should be on top of it.

But how?

Al Jazeera Got There First

If Piers Morgan Tonight is nimble, Al Jazeera English is beyond nimble -- it is the zeitgeist. Out of nowhere Al Jazeera English became the go-to platform for the revolutions in the Middle East and the Magreb, with a laser-like focus on relentless and fearless on-the-street reporting with people of all ages and occupations. By the end of January, Al Jazeera English occupied roughly the same position that CNN had during the First Persian Gulf War, when Patriot missiles looked not unlike video game weaponry on the screen.

In a few days at the beginning of the revolutions in January Al Jazeera English web traffic had increased 2,500 percent, sixty percent of which is coming from the United States. The demographically-challenged Piers Morgan Tonight should be aware of those numbers. At the time much was made of Al Jazeera's "CNN Moment" among the chattering classes. From the New York Times on January 31st:
Al Jazeera English, however, is indisputably unique. In recent days, the channel, an offshoot of the main Arabic-language Al Jazeera, has gained attention for its up-close, around-the-clock coverage of the protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities in Egypt.

While American television networks were scrambling to move reporters and producers into Cairo, the Al Jazeera channels were already there. The other networks have noticed: on the roundtable portion of ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Sam Donaldson looked at an Al Jazeera reporter and said, “Thank you for what you’re doing.”

OK, so Al Jazeera English has a good strategy for this revolutionary era. What about CNN? And what, more specifically, about Piers Morgan Tonight?

What Piers Morgan Tonight Can Learn from The Stream

A funny thing has happened to Piers Morgan Tonight in its evolutionary process in this revolutionary era. The show has, of late, been veering in a more "social" direction. There is the studio audience, which adds several elements to the show, not the least of which includes giving Piers crowd reactions to play off of, something he does well. There is also much conversation about Twitter on the show, much moreso that in its first few weeks.

Enter: The Stream, which is Al Jazeera's social experiment. "A hybrid of high-velocity online conversation and TV analysis, The Stream’s TV component will broadcast out of the Newseum, starting in May, four days a week," says Jared Keller at the Neiman Journalism Lab. "And it will be complemented by a continuous online operation that will mine the social media ecosystem for stories of global importance."

There are many things that Piers Morgan Tonight can learn from The Stream. The Stream is intelligent, informed, global, highly relevant and connected -- all of the things that CNN once was and that Piers Morgan Tonight aspires to be. Plus, The Stream is profoundly social. The CNN show should give a larger role to social media reporting, a larger role to their blog; Piers Morgan Tonight should become, essentially, a social media show. Social media reporting is a good way to build a community is a good way to bolster the meager 77,000 viewers in the all-important A24-54 demographic, which brings in higher ad revenues. Community feedback should be a major factor in the show's further evolution.

The Stream is a community that just happens to have its own TV show. Very new media, that. Maybe Piers Morgan should think about his program in this same manner, rather than the other way round. "These days, plenty of cable news shows tack on a social media component," writes Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post. "An anchor, perhaps, will read a few tweets before heading to commercial. But AJE is turning that model on its head. Wright, who was formerly a producer at CNN, described 'The Stream' as "social media show that just so happens to be on the television as well."

Social media, social media, social media

Steve Krakauer, who runs social media at the Piers Morgan Show, is a hugely competent guy (Full disclosure: Steve and I worked together at Mediabistro a while back) that ought to be given a much larger and more on-air role.

Further: rather than relying on the tried-and-true formulaic cable TV approach to segments, maybe Piers Morgan Tonight could take their topic cues directly from the online community. Less middle man, more direct interaction with the community to build engagement. CBS -- in that grand failed experiment "The Public Eye" -- briefly let members of the online community pick a segment on Friday nights. It was an brilliant idea spawned in desperation (CBS was, and still is, third in the ratings) that Piers Morgan should take to heart. Imagine how much more engaging it would be if the Piers Morgan online community could pick a story out a few choices offered several times a week?

Something to think about.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"This winter, the kitchens of the Middle East took to the streets. In Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, men demonstrated wearing frying-pan basinets. Tin-pot cervellieres. Water-bucket shakos. The green, plastic chain mail of a wastebasket. A young man trussed a rumpled trio of empty water bottles to his head with a swatch of torn bed linen. A protester in Sanaa taped two baguettes and an unleavened pancake of chapati to his skull. None of these impromptu helmets would have stopped a bullet. Few would have softened the vicious blow of a rock hurled in anger. They were not so much body armor as expressions of grassroots desperation. Yet there was nothing laughable about men who had dressed for combat in their sculleries and, taking a page from a Palestinian cookbook, dabbed their keffiyehs in table vinegar and sniffed onions to counter tear gas. Their ad-lib battle-rattle bespoke a kind of sincerity, an innocence of purpose. And it was apropos: The high cost of food was one reason people protested in the Middle East and Maghreb." (ForeignPolicy)

"Speaking of gentlemen, Sir Tom Stoppard dropped in for a visit in New York a couple of years ago. He’s erudite, friendly to all and sundry, and never shows off his vast knowledge outside his plays. His son Ed Stoppard plays a lead part in yet another British triumph which recently arrived in these shores, the new version of Upstairs Downstairs. Fans of the British aristocracy will like this one as much as the 70s oldie which ran for years in Blighty. I remember it well. All England would stay home to watch the weekly dish, and the characters became part of the language—so much so, that someone took the actor who played Lord Bellamy to White’s Club, introduced him at the bar as Bellamy, and for a while got away with it. The story was told to me by the actor’s son, Andy Langton, who eventually became a member of White’s. Upstairs Downstairs appears on Sundays on PBS. The other British gem is Downton Abbey, whose creator has just been knighted by the Queen for making the aristocracy look so good for a change." (Taki)

"A film’s success rises or falls on the smallest of details. And so it was that the director of this month’s medieval stoner comedy Your Highness found himself in a boardroom with the suits at Universal Studios, discussing every last facet of his minotaur’s manhood. How to light the half-man/half-bull’s prosthetic appendage? How large should the dimensions be? And what would the anatomy suggest about the beast’s religious leanings? 'We took the leap, culturally, and we circumcised him,' the director, David Gordon Green, explains. Yes, much has changed in Hollywood since Clark Gable pushed the boundaries of taste by appearing without an undershirt in 1934’s It Happened One Night. For decades the dividing line between an R and an X rating was decidedly phallic-shaped. Not anymore. Male genitalia are getting unprecedented screen time at the multiplex and all over premium cable. 'Male nudity has a humorous value because it’s taboo,' says Green, whose film garnered an R. 'There’s a gracefulness to the female form that’s subject to this Last Tango in Paris, Jayne Mansfield–type of adoration. Where guys just don’t get the same shot. So that, for me, is where it’s ripe to come in and pull the pants down.' Full-frontal dude-ity isn’t limited to visual punchlines in comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and this summer’s The Hangover Part II. Male genitals (or, to use the now popular Hollywood vernacular, 'peens') are cropping up across the cultural grid, on cable shows like Starz’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand and HBO’s Game of Thrones, and in blue-chip Broadway fare like Equus, where Daniel Radcliffe showed he’s more than just Harry Potter. Over the years, A-list actors like Richard Gere, Tom Cruise, and Ewan McGregor have also played the full-monty card to establish their dramatic bona fides, but the full-frontal shots were fleeting. Now nude guys get much more hang time." (TheDailyBeast)

"Last night I went over to Martin Luther King Jr. High School on Amsterdam and 66th behind Lincoln Center. I’d never stood in that specific spot with that particular vista to the east and the back of Lincoln Center. It’s a very new area, new in my lifetime. Sleek and substantial. I’d never been in the high school building before. It’s a beautiful building. I was going to the Stir, Splatter and Roll 11, the annual spring benefit for Publicolor, the organization that teaches leadership to young people, especially young people who are underprivileged or disenfranchised or experiencing the deprivations of poverty. These are poisonous times for young girls and boys in city who are under the duress of those situations. Ruth Shuman came up with this idea – years ago now – employing something which seems simple, and even manageable ... Their specific objective in painting is to paint the interiors of these schools with colors chosen by the kids who attend school there. This is the first step of Ruth Shuman’s brilliant contract with the kids ... Last night they were honoring the Estee Lauder Companies’ volunteers ('for their steadfast support of Publicolor students'), and Soledad O’Brien for her work in reporting on unreported communities in America. In forming this organization Ruth Shuman brought together a broadly diverse group of New Yorkers including many people in the arts as well as business. Last night’s roster including 'honorary team leaders' and 'team leaders': Christo, Mark di Suvero, Philip Glass, Harold Koda, Meredith Monk ..." (NYSocialDiary)
"My previous post showed that a lot of media company bigwigs have pay that's out of whack with the other 4 top executives whom the SEC requires these corps to list. Now I want to show the flip side -- CEOs that don't set off alarm bells with corporate governance experts. Top dogs like News Corp's Chase Carey, Comcast/NBCUniversal's Steve Burke, Cinemark's Alan Stock, World Wrestling Entertainment's Kevin Dunn, Dreamworks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dish Network's Charlie Ergen, Netflix' Reed Hastings, AMC Entertainment's Gerardo Lopez, Regal Entertainment Group's, and National Cinemedia's Kurt Hall make no more than 3 times as much as the average for the 4 other top executives whose compensation is listed in the annual proxy statement to shareholders.  Let's be clear: We aren't saying that the executives below are fairly or unfairly paid. But they work at companies where the boards of directors at least seem to recognize that multiple people deserve the credit for the company's performance .." (Deadline)
"Howard (Stern) asked if (Gilbert Gottfried) was trying to hold on to that Aflac gig. Gilbert said he was in a daze and he's not sure what he was doing. He said he was shocked that of all the things he's said in his career that it was this thing that got him in trouble. He said none of them had apparently heard of Howard's show.  Howard said it wouldn't have been anything if 75 percent of Aflac's business wasn't in Japan ... Howard asked how he got fired. Gilbert said he found out through his agent. Howard asked if the agent told him to do damage control. Gilbert said he did. He said the media was reporting that it was comments and remarks that he made and not 'jokes.' He said if they had said 'jokes' then it wouldn't have been a big deal. Gilbert said the two first days on Twitter were like psycho emails saying that they were going to kill him and his family. He said after that it was an overflowing of fans saying that he was just joking and that's what he does. Howard asked if he composed the apology himself. Gilbert said that came out of a machine like 'Apology 176, okay, lets use that.' Howard said that Gilbert is all about himself and he's not thinking about other people. The apology was obviously not written by him. Howard said Gilbert has been Tweeting other jokes about the Tsunami since then. Howard said his income must have been cut down by a lot. Gilbert said of course it was. Howard asked if he'll be able to get more commercial work now. Gilbert said it's a funny thing. He said he realized that the tsunami was on the news every minute but then one day he woke up and Chris Brown throwing a chair had taken over." (Marksfriggin)

"While the chattering class wonders if there’s an upper limit to Facebook’s valuation (and throws around that 'bubble' word again) our LAUNCH analysis suggests the company is holding back on the throttle. We believe they may actually be under-monetizing by a factor of three or more.If so Facebook’s true 2011 revenue could potentially blow away the ~$4B figure that’s been widely leaked by as much as 3x -- for a truly staggering $12B. Carrying forward to 2012, $6B in revenue could actually be closer to $18B. That would put the then 8-year-old company at nearly half of Google's 2012 projected $40B. Assuming a 35% margin, this would imply net earnings of $4.5B in 2011 and $6 billion plus in 2012. Combine that with a 20x forward-looking EBIDTA multiple, as appropriate for such a fast-growing company -- and Facebook cruises neatly to a $120B valuation. And that’s just next year, 2012. Suddenly the question of why Goldman’s a buyer despite the $50B valuation (not to mention rich civilians paying even more on the secondary market) may make a little more sense. Remember guys, this is Goldman we’re talking about. They never spend more on an acquisition then they have to of course (cf. rules #001-003)." (Launch)

"Haley Barbour had his presidential announcement plan lined up: A May 2 launch, followed by a fly-around to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and Florida, before winding up in in Jackson on Saturday the 7th for a big home-state fundraising bash ... For weeks, the insider betting had been that he was a lock to get in the race. One of his closest advisers said that after talking to the governor following his trips earlier this month to South Carolina and New Hampshire, it seemed clear that a declaration was only a matter of when. With next week’s announcement tour in the works and the New Hampshire leg of the trip already disclosed, his presidential campaign seemed a go. But even as he was taking all the usual steps – calling donors, visiting early states, hiring operatives – there were signs that the Mississippian wasn’t all in. As he traveled the country testing the waters over the last few months he had begun privately using the same phrase to describe his intense exploratory schedule: he called it his 'death march,' a Republican who heard Barbour use the term recalled." (Politico)