Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tricky Dick, Spamazon, and 10 Other Media Failures of 2011

Now that just about everyone else is done publishing their annual feel-good "Best Of" lists, it's time for Dead Tree Edition to remind us what a crappy year we just stumbled through.  Here’s a look back at some of the media world’s unsung losers and overlooked failures of 2011:

Spamazon: Amazon, once known for its uncanny ability to send emails promoting just the right products to the right person (See An Amazon Approach to Selling Magazine Subscriptions), decided to enter the deal-of-the-day business. But it turns out the big web retailer is better at algorithms than maps: Several readers report being deluged with irrelevant offers, including ones for car washes, hair salons, and the like that are more than two hours from where they live. By the time Amazon realizes the damage it has done, I’ll bet millions of us customers will have relegated its missives to our spam folders.

Georgia: Forbes recently announced the launch of its 20th “local language edition”, Forbes Georgia. Yat's raht, them good ol’ boys in Jawjuh fahnly had to abandon WDCHYDIUN (We Don't Care How You Do It Up North) as a business strategy and realized they need someone to explain the ways of Wall Street and other Yankee business practices to them in their own language. (What? There’s a country called Georgia? Sheee-it, I thought Georgia rejoined the Union just a few years after the War Against Northern Aggression.)

Candace the Caribou
Cari-booted: It was bad enough when Dead Tree Edition suggested in 2008 that environmental groups replace Candace the Caribou with Rudolph the Homeless Reindeer as the spokesbeast for protecting the boreal forest. (See Losing the Name Game.) Now ForestEthics itself has apparently retired Candace to make way for a new mascot, Sammy Smartphone. Not sure who’s the bigger loser, Candace or ForestEthics.

Sammy Smartphone
Hipper Than Thou: It was sad to see aging brands try desperately to connect with the youth market by including QR codes in their ads and articles. Epic fail: In a recent study of American college students, only 21% successfully scanned a sample QR code, and 75% said they are “not likely” to scan one in the future.

Fools’ Gold: Another sad sight was watching so many magazine publishers chase the iPad gold rush, only to find there ain’t much money in them there apps.

They like me, they really like me: Saddest of all were the publishers whose entire social-media strategy was to accumulate as many “likes” on Facebook as possible. Seth Godin summarizes this simple-minded approach as, “increase the number of fans, friends and followers, so your shouts will be heard. The problem of course is that more noise is not better noise."

I’ll bet the phone really sucks: Vivid Entertainment, a leading “publisher” of porn sites, engaged in a silly waste of legal fees by sending a cease-and-desist letter to the maker of a new cell phone called The Vivid. (While they're at it, why don't they charge Merriam-Webster with trademark infringement for using "vivid" in dictionaries?) Unless that phone has a really strong vibrate setting, it’s not likely to be much of a competitor to the porn giant.

And now for some awards:

The Hard To Believe Award goes to Don Fulsom, a former White House reporter for UPI, for his forthcoming book suggesting that President Richard Nixon was gay. C’mon, what self-respecting gay man would dress like a color-blind bank VP and go on prime-time TV with a 5 o’clock shadow? Still, it does make you wonder about that infamous 18-minute gap in the audiotapes. You don’t suppose Tricky Dick had a private meeting with J. Edgar . . .?

The Clueless Award goes to publishers and so-called publishing experts who talked incessantly about “digital media” when referring to anything that’s not in print. Any publishing company that hasn’t figured out that the web, email, apps, and Facebook are nearly as different from each other as they are from print is in for a rough 2012.

The John Adams Award: “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three or more become a Congress!” Adams is quoted as saying in the musical 1776. 2011 was the year that the mainstream media and general public started realizing how useless and damaging Congress' oversight of the allegedly independent U.S. Postal Service has been. Up for the award were the scores of Congress members who floated various "reform" proposals that mostly seemed designed to make matters even worse. The winner is Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), whose proposed legislation would place such restrictions on USPS as allowing only 10% of its downsizings and post-office closings to occur in rural areas. Just what we need – even more Congressional micromanaging of the Postal Service.

The Adams Award runner-up trophy goes to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who said we should stop closing postal facilities and just get people to write more letters. Let’s see, if we could persuade every American adult to mail one additional letter per month, it would be freakin’ miraculous – and barely dent the Postal Service’s budget deficit.

The Small Fortune Award goes to investors in paper companies, who once again demonstrated the old adage that the best way to make a small fortune in the paper industry is to start with a large fortune. Bankruptcy filings of companies like NewPage and White Birch grabbed all the headlines, but even the survivors didn’t fare so well. Verso and Catalyst stockholders saw their investments drop by as much as 85% and 95%, respectively, during the year. (All of Catalyst stock is worth $13.4 million, which is the value of the products it makes during a typical four-day period.) Even the Chinese struggled in 2011 despite their huge new world-class machines. Chinese mills added 1.6 million tonnes of coated-woodfree capacity during 2011, according to RISI, only to realize that it’s hard to compete when your country has leveled its forests, the West is running out of recycled fiber, and half the world’s markets are closed to you.


SkyeShepard said...

Yeah to John Adams! Boo to our congressional lawmakers!

Anonymous said...

How about the "Downtime Award"for all those in management that still hold on to suspect jobs that were given to them by "friends" years ago.