License Plates

Renewed our car’s registration online yesterday, and paused for a moment when asked whether I wanted a special one. No, I don’t need one of those. Vanity plate? No, thank you. Although people can get pretty creative. Locally, there’s a commuter who drives U.S. Route 1 in the Princeton area that some of us have seen with “IH8RT1.”

But this one is in poor taste, via Jalopnik and Andrew Ross Sorkin…

Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of the book “Too Big to Fail,” brings us this personalized license plate belonging to Morgan Stanley Vice-Chairman Rob Kindler who thought it appropriate to make a joke of the current financial mess.

If I were him, I’d change it promptly. This is not good P.R.

Remember the John DeLorean joke from the early 80’s? He used to make cars, now he’s making license plates!

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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.”

Digest-Size Debt Load

Reader’s Digest is filing for bankruptcy? Why? Such a strong publishing organization, it practically had a license to print money. Well, then again, so did many other print media.

Was it the cost of paper and postage or was it the Internet revolution? Partially, yes. I’d think most would agree the company was overly leveraged:

I remember wondering why it was a good idea to take a struggling company and load it up with leveraged buyout debt. But buyers were there for the debt, at interest rates that were not very high, and the deal was done.

Today Reader’s Digest said it will skip interest payments on a bond issue and file a prepackaged bankruptcy. The deal will give equity to some creditors, and slice debt from $2.2 billion to $550 million. The L.B.O. investors are wiped out, and creditors take large losses. Some creditors have agreed to put more money in. The publication will stay in business.

Add “The Digest” to the modern pantheon of P.E. failures.

Duh, Yellow Pages

R.H. Donnelley filed for bankruptcy cited a “drop in ad revenue.” [Not R.R. Donnelly, the huge commercial/contract printer of periodicals and probably everything else — not that their revenue isn’t down.]

I never use the “yellow pages” any more. Go online and get a map, too. And quickly. Publishing directories is an outdated business model. The irony? Their creditors, according to Bloomberg:

“We have a very good business model; operations continue to be good,” Chief Executive Officer David Swanson said in an interview. “We never anticipated the economic downturn and the condition we find the financial market in today.”

The 30 largest creditors without collateral backing their claims are owed about $6 billion, according to court documents. The biggest unsecured creditors are Bank of New York, as agent for holders of senior notes, with a claim of $3.6 billion; U.S. Bank NA, also as agent for holders of senior notes, with a claim of $2.4 billion; and Google Inc., with a claim of $2.4 million.

R.H. Donnelley, through its units, publishes more than 600 print directories with a combined circulation of about 80 million, and provides advertising services to about 600,000 businesses in 28 states and the District of Columbia, according to court papers.

The case is In re R.H. Donnelley Corp., 09-11833, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Are there enough local souces to fill the gap should the local directories go away? I think so, especially if most people have Internet access.

Typo City

When using stock photography of a city skyline, it never hurts to take extra care to make sure you’ve got the right city. The story, via Philadelphia City Paper:

On Monday, R. Bradley Maule put us on to the sad fact that SEPTA had placed NEW YORK’S SKYLINE on its special Philly Beer Week passes. (Good for one day of unlimited bus, trolley and rail rides, the $9 passes are being offered to discourage people from getting behind the wheel during Beer Week, which runs March 6-15.)

Brad:

But seriously. New York? No one noticed this. Not the graphic designer who put the pass together in Quark or InDesign. Not the supervisor who approved the job. Not anyone in the office who they showed the pass to: “hey, come check out the Philly Beer Week pass we made.”

Not a good look.

Thank God SEPTA has updated the pass.

Hey, I’ve had my share of typos, but, luckily, not too many. One of the most embarrassing was a job we were printing on a 60-inch press and an intern from Germany noticed the typo — while we were on-press. Everybody missed it up to that point, so we agreed to split the make-ready and press time cost three ways (client, designer and printer). The blue-line was good, but the color proof (matchprint) was bad.

Philly Beer Week.  Nice.

Space Crash

This isn’t supposed to happen, but it did. Thanks to AGI for the cool video simulation.

Two low-earth orbit spacecraft — Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 —  collided this week and were destroyed:

A few minutes before 5 a.m. GMT on Wednesday, a US Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian military communications satellite smashed into each other, creating at least 600 pieces of debris that each could strike other satellites. It was the first time that two intact orbiting spacecraft have crashed into each other, say officials.

For its part, Iridium, whose network of 66 satellites – make that 65 – provides global coverage for handheld phones, denies that the collision is their fault, and says that any disruption in service will be brief and should be completely remedied by the end of the week.

The Associated Press quotes Russian space journalist Igor Lisov, who wondered why Iridium, whose satellite was perfectly functional and could maneuver, didn’t try to move their bird out of the way.

According to the Voice of America, the official external broadcasting service of the US government, Russian officials say that debris from the collision pose no threat to the International Space Station or its three crewmembers, who are orbiting about 270 miles below the crash. The Pentagon says that it has not yet identified any threats to its own satellites, but added that tracking small objects in space is very difficult.

Reuters quotes Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former head of the Pentagon’s space operations, who warns that those with satellites will “have to play a little bit of dodgeball for many tens of years to come” to avoid debris from this collision. General Cartwright says that the good news is that the orbit of this debris will be predictable, eventually; the bad news is that the fragments of the satellites cover a large area.

Expect space insurance rates to increase.

I’m surprised there wasn’t more cooperation between the two operators. Government agencies and/or commercial operators usually set aside any differences and share any data related to spacecraft expected to pass near others. Same for orbiting debris — they all know where it is and where it will be at any point in time. Now we’ve got more debris to deal with.