Not Free: CNN iPhone App

Interesting item in Mediabistro’s Mobile Content Today:

It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between foolhardiness and marketing genius. I still haven’t decided which category to place CNN in with their decision to charge $1.99 for…

CNN Mobile 1.0 (iTunes App Store)

…for the iPhone. After all, everyone else (MSNBC, ABC, Reuters, etc.) are giving away their news apps. It doesn’t even seem to have a push feature for breaking news like the AP News app does. Its one differentiation point is the ability for your to contribute to CNN iReport. This seems a bit backwards to me (paying for the privilege of contributing news).

I also found it odd that CNN’s news app received a 12+ rating with the following warnings:

– Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity
– Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco or Drug Use or References
– Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence
– Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes

Um, this is the “news”, right? Strange. MSNBC and Reuters apps do not have any warnings associated with them. ABC News (owned by Walt Disney) has three of the four warnings CNN received. ABC’s app does not include a warning for “Sexual Content or Nudity” (it is a Disney company, I guess 🙂

Will CNN create an iPhone app paradigm shift by charging $1.99 for its apparently risque content? I suspect not. My guess is people will continue to view their nicely designed free website and continue to use the various free iPhone news apps already available.

Good luck. If Ted was still around, he’d probably call it “awful.”

Power Consumption

Google PowerMeter will be a serious new product introduction, probably by the end of this year.

I like it already.

Microsoft Hohm, naturally, is the “competition.” Bing it on.


Mr. Safire’s obituary in The New York Times is worth reading…

And there were Safire “rules for writers”: Remember to never split an infinitive. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. Avoid clichés like the plague. And don’t overuse exclamation marks!!

Loved reading his columns over the years, especially this one from this past summer.


“Aside from having a lot of experience throwing your weight around, what have you done?”

While purging some of my old work files and boxes, I can across a collection of business cartoons by Charles Saxon, whose work appeared regularly in The New Yorker. The book was published in 1984, so most of these are rather dated. Many, however, are still true today.

Toronto Maple Leaves

Today, dear readers, is National Punctuation Day. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Robert Fulford’s piece in the National Post:

There’s no question that Canada urgently needs a federal Punctuation Improvement Program. The evidence can be found at the heart of our national life, in the logo of the only fast-food chain ever described as a Canadian icon by people who like to call things icons, the so-called Tim “Hortons.” We should face this issue as we celebrate the fifth annual National Punctuation Day, a holiday invented by Jeff (“Punctuation Man”) Rubin of Pinole, Calif., a journalist so appalled by published punctuation errors that he launched a campaign against them.

The chief symbol of our shameful failure as punctuators is the doughnut chain celebrated by the late Pierre Berton as the essential Canadian story, a tale of “success and tragedy, of big dreams and small towns, of old-fashioned values and tough-fisted business, of hard work and of hockey.” And, we might add, of incompetent punctuation.

In a better world it would of course be called “Tim Horton’s,” with an apostrophe where an apostrophe absolutely demands to be. If there were several people named Tim Horton, then “Tim Hortons,” clearly a plural, would make sense. But there was only one Tim, the hockey player who founded the chain in 1964 in Hamilton, Ont.

Early on, his coffee shops used an apostrophe in their name; dedicated punctuation fans claim that even now, in Hamilton, you can find original Horton’s with the apostrophe still proudly in place. These deserve designation as national heritage sites, remnants of a finer, more thoughtful and better punctuated Canada.

Like many traditions, the Horton apostrophe was a victim (so goes the accepted story) of Quebec nationalism. When Quebec decided that commercial signs should eliminate their possessive apostrophes, in the French manner, most companies hurried to comply.

In Quebec, Eaton’s became Eaton, until both Eaton and Eaton’s went out of business. The Tim people went farther. For the sake of efficiency and consistency they decided to have all their outlets carry precisely the same logo, the one required in Quebec. Sea to sea, most Tim outlets meekly surrendered their apostrophes. The tragic result is that young English-speaking Canadians eat their Timbits and sip their double-double beneath signage that defies ancient tradition.

Long ago, this language crime was committed mainly by Americans. Now it’s widely accepted Canadian practice as well. For decades the apostrophe-deprived Caesars Palace, on the Las Vegas strip, attracted the disdain of punctuation-conscious visitors, Canadians included. But since the mid-1990s we have had to acknowledge that our own Caesars Windsor (Ontario) casino exhibits precisely the same insensitivity. And, sad to say, it’s owned by the government of Ontario.
“Hortons” and “Caesars” are only the most public proofs of a widespread breakdown of punctuation skills. Young people, following the unfortunate example of their elders, now fill cyberspace with sentences that are poorly punctuated or, worse, not punctuated at all. This is a defeat for clear expression. The purpose of punctuation is to clarify the written word. Without it, we are less able to understand each other.

Consider the fate of the semicolon, that infinitely useful divider of thoughts. Today, on the Internet, it has been largely supplanted by its inelegant and unsubtle cousin, the brutal dash. A writer in Verbatim, an English magazine, recently noted that the dash has been “colonizing sentences and paragraphs in every conceivable context.” It is “taking over and has virtually imprisoned the semicolon in a faraway island known as Pedantry.” In the hands of some novice writers the dash even supplants brackets, commas, occasionally periods.

Rising to popularity alongside the dash is the exclamation mark, the crutch of every writer who cannot devise language forceful enough to make its own point. “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes,” F. Scott Fitzgerald said. It should be used, at most, once a year. Instead it’s become an everyday tool in the hands of the marginally literate.

Once punctuation was a part of everyone’s heritage, even a part of entertainment. Victor Borge, a born educator as well as a comedian and pianist, turned commas, colons, semicolons, periods and question marks into a TV and night club act he called Phonetic Punctuation. He created a different squawk, squeal or hoot for every punctuation mark and demonstrated their shapes by hand gestures; his elegant wave of a question mark was a small masterpiece. Mr. Borge died in 2000 but his routine lives a glorious after-life on YouTube and his daughter, Frederikke Borge, maintains the family tradition by teaching Phonetic Punctuation to children, currently applying it to Hans Christian Andersen stories at the Andersen statue in New York’s Central Park. We need to recover the sense of punctuation as a vital part of life.

Ottawa should act immediately by establishing a Punctuation Board that will deal with this issue as effectively as the Wheat Board has marketed grain, the CRTC has solved the problems of broadcasting and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has settled the French-English question. And when a new authority is set in place it should undertake a national apostrophe-recovery program, starting at Tim’s.

Well done. Reminds me of the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!”

And, furthermore, hockey season begins next week.

Good Creative

If you were born before 1970, you probably remember the American Tourister TV commercial. Yes, the one with the gorilla.

Not only was it a good idea, but the copywriting was superb…

“Dear clumsy bellboys, brutal cab drivers, careless doormen, ruthless porters, savage baggage masters and all butter-fingered luggage handlers all over the world, have we got a suitcase for you.”

Roy Grace was the art director, who also gets credit for this VW spot…

No, they don’t make them like they used to. However, that doesn’t mean the advertising landscape is barren of good ideas and execution. Take, for instance, the “Mac vs. PC” ads. I love them…

Pabst Blue Ribbon!

Pabst Blue Ribbon is just regular American beer. So why are sales up 25%? Because it’s hip; college kids drink it. And I’m not surprised. The news, via Ad Age:

The answer, wholesalers and beer-marketing experts said, is likely found in marketing activity that occurred long before the current recession. Back in 2004, Pabst executed a highly effective word-of-mouth campaign that made the long-declining brand an “ironic downscale chic” choice for bike messengers and other younger drinkers who viewed the beer as a statement of non-mainstream taste. PBR sales surged by nearly 17% that year, and have climbed at single-digit rates since, until this year, when the recession sent its sales soaring as more drinkers were pushed into the subpremium category.

Think of it as conspicuous downscale consumption, or something like it.

“There’s still a bit of hipness to it,” said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights. “Of all the subpremiums, it’s got a little more cache.”

“It’s an anti-establishment badge,” added a major market wholesaler. “It seems to play to the retro, nonconformist crowd pretty well.”

I’ve seen it myself: people in their 20’s like this beer. Might be rubbing off on others now. In fact, I might try it myself this weekend. $25 for a case of Heineken at the local Costco is a bit much. Time to reset my beer budget.

When I first noticed PBR was hip, I thought it might — MIGHT — have been sparked by its being featured in David Lynch’s 1986 film “Blue Velvet.” That’s good product placement…


One of the more dynamic performers of our age is David Bowie, who consistently presented a new persona with practically every new album. We should change how we approach our work from time to time — especially if you’re in marketing. Keep reinventing yourself.

Most rock n rollers admired what Bowie’s done, and regular people of a certain age would recognize him or his name. A German spider expert is betting on it: he’s named a newly discovered species in Malaysia heteropoda davidbowie to get more attention for his cause:

The Heteropoda davidbowie is distinguished by its large size and yellow hair, and is only found in parts of Malaysia.

Bowie was apparently selected for the honour because of his musical contribution to arachnid world – the 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Peter Jäger, the German spider expert who discovered the Heteropoda davidbowie, said that naming spiders after celebrities helped draw attention to the marginal status of many species as human activity destroys their habitats.

Environmental authorities have traditionally proved reluctant to include spiders on lists of endangered animals, but campaigners like Mr Jäger argue that their decline undermines nature’s genetic diversity.

“It is working against time,” he told The Observer. “We are also quickly losing genetic resources that have evolved over more than 300 million years.”

For those who need to be reminded of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, here’s a clip from 1973…

And the spiders reference, in case you missed it…

So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls
Just the beer light to guide us,
So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?

What’s next? A new bat species named after Meat Loaf?

Music, Surviving and Thriving

Good-bye, satellite radio. I cancelled my subscription last month, a service I loved from the get-go. Had it for four years and I’ll admit it saved me from going nuts while listening to commercial radio stations on my way to work.

Today, in our “reset economy,” I looked for costs to cut. Radio seemed a likely choice for a number of reasons: (1) it costs $12 per month, (2) I wasn’t listening to it as much, (3) the playlists got tiresome after Sirius bought XM and combined channels, and (4) I no longer drive to work every day.

I’ll find a way to survive, I thought. I have my iPod for recorded music, and the iPhone can tune in to Internet radio station. In my area, I’m lucky to receive listener-supported WFMU 91.1 FM on my home and car radios. Fortunately, WFMU is also available in iTunes’ radio (under eclectic), and via on a number of free iPhone apps that feature public radio stations (listened to my favorite show last Thursday while driving on the NYS Thruway). You can also listen directly via iPhone. That’s cool. Out driving earlier and I hear a song on WFMU that I wanted to make a note of. Sounded good; sort of ghetto-tech. Quickly turned to the iPhone and brought up the live stream, where the name of the artist came up: Buraka Som Sistema, from Portugal. The song was Kalemba (Wegue Wegue). The genre is actually kuduro, originating in Angola. Bet you can’t sit still listening to it…

Thanks to listener-supported WFMU, my musical interests are continually expanding. Learning never ends: read more about the group here.