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day permlink Wednesday, 7 August 2002

permlink janis ian

If you haven't read these articles by Janis Ian already (and if you care about music), you should:

The Internet Debacle - An Alternative View
...let me remind you of something: the music industry had exactly the same response to the advent of reel-to-reel home tape recorders, cassettes, DATs, minidiscs, VHS, BETA, music videos ("Why buy the record when you can tape it?"), MTV, and a host of other technological advances designed to make the consumer's life easier and better. I know because I was there. The only reason they didn't react that way publicly to the advent of CDs was because they believed CD's were uncopyable...

Who gets hurt by free downloads? Save a handful of super-successes like Celine Dion, none of us. We only get helped [through increased exposure].

Please note that I am not advocating indiscriminate downloading without the artist's permission. I am not saying copyrights are meaningless. I am objecting to the RIAA spin that they are doing this to protect "the artists", and make us more money. I am annoyed that so many records I once owned are out of print, and the only place I could find them was Napster. Most of all, I'd like to see an end to the hysteria that causes a group like RIAA to spend over 45 million dollars in 2001 lobbying "on our behalf", when every record company out there is complaining that they have no money.
FALLOUT - a follow up to The Internet Debacle
Do I still believe downloading is not harming the music industry? Yes, absolutely. Do I think consumers, once the industry starts making product they want to buy, will still buy even though they can download? Yes. Water is free, but a lot of us drink bottled water because it tastes better. You can get coffee at the office, but you're likely to go to Starbucks or the local espresso place, because it tastes better.

Emails received: 1268 as of 07-30-02 (does not include message board posts)
Winner of the Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is award: Me. We began putting up free downloads around a week after the article came out. We will attempt to put up one free download a week for as long as we can - and leave them all up.
Change in merchandise sales after article posting (previous sales averaged over one year): Up 25%
Change in merchandise sales after beginning free downloads: Up 300%
Number of emails disagreeing with my position: 9
Number of people who reconsidered their disagreement after further discussion: 5

[from correspondent Kevin] "...they should take a tip from the movie industry and modern DVDs, which so overload the consumer with clear and compelling value that even those who wouldn't bat an eye about downloading a CD and not paying for it...have no motivation to spend dozens of hours downloading and piecing together all the value and quality available in a $25 DVD. I've bought DVDs for $20 where the movie was the tip of the iceberg--music tracks, documentaries, interactive presentations, audio tracks, stills, screen tests, and on and on... Who could, or would, want to spend the time reproducing all that via downloading?"
The CD people should really go have a talk with the DVD people, because the DVD people are making them look incompetent and greedy beyond measure... We recently saw a store window with assorted DVDs (2 hours of video, custom-programmed features) on sale for $11.99 and assorted CDs (40-70 minutes of audio) on sale for $13.99. There's something very wrong with that picture. permlink  

permlink ego-googling

Am I the only one who doesn't get various folks' fascination with making oneself the top hit for one's own first name in Google? (And, even sillier, tracking your progress publicly on your site as though anyone but you gives a toss.)

I shan't be the top Steve ever, I would imagine, there being plenty of big-name Steves who get talked up on the web (Jobs, Ballmer, Wozniak, Forbes...), but even if I could, I don't see why I would try, or care.

Is Google a self-marketing contest? (Is life a popularity/googularity contest?) Should there be one person you think of when you hear 'firstname' out of all the thousands/millions of them on the planet? And does having the top rank today mean you've "won" (whatever that means), or do you need to keep the top rank thereafter to still feel good about yourself? Someone else will eventually get it, even if you have it now; so what? Why is it worth any energy?

I understand companies wanting to be prominent in search results for their products and related keywords, but caring about first-name searches strikes me as ego- and fashion-based wankery, just another way to see who can pee furthest; silly and pointlessly vain.

Or am I missing something?

Added clarification, noting Brad and Anita's responses: I agree; checking on it once in a while can be entertaining as long as you don't take it too seriously, and if you are the top name, well, good on ya while it lasts. My annoyance is with folks who are clearly bothered by their not being the top and who spend their energy (and try to get others' assistance) to change it. permlink     6 comment(s)  
I don't take it seriously, but it was just a nice little bonus resulting from being on the web early, to be able to tell folks "just search for Anita" rather than tell my whole url (especially before getting my eponymous domain name).
      ...posted by Anita Rowland on August 7, 2002 1:40 PM
I don't take it at all seriously, although I do think it's a harmless and fun way to sort of see the Google weighting mechanism at work, and I'm not above a little jocular crowing when I hit the top.

Of course, I can say this, 'cause it's good to be king.
      ...posted by TheBrad on August 7, 2002 2:31 PM

re: your comment: "ego- and fashion-based wankery, just another way to see who can pee furthest; silly and pointlessly vain."

Agree, and sadly, this observation can too often be applied to the broader subject of "weblogs." The same term is used for "this is my site, with stuff I'm interested in and my observations about various things" and "LOOKIT ME LOOKIT ME I'M COOL BUY ME SOMETHING FROM AMAZON!"

Sites of the latter type are more likely to indulge in the GooglePlay you describe, in my opinion. I propose the term "melog" for those kinds of sites.

      ...posted by James McMurry on August 7, 2002 2:38 PM
Heh. Thank you for the link to my first name, thus helping to fortify my supremacy over the esteemed Mr. Templeton. Alas, we seem to trade the top spot more or less monthly. Sic transit gloria mundi, and all that jazz.

      ...posted by TheBrad on August 7, 2002 4:31 PM
I was going to say what Anita said, so sign me up for a "me too". I thought it was cool when I could encourage people to find me by searching for obvious things like "seth ai" or "seth unicycle", but one day I noticed I was top for "seth", and people tend to remember that (and are impressed). There are a few of us that bounce around at the top these days, so it's no longer reliable, but it's still fun. My coworker Lucas pointed out that all it means is that no one named Seth has ever done anything important, like say, make some really popular movies.
      ...posted by Seth on August 7, 2002 5:50 PM
I don't make my name prominent on my site at all. But my weblog is in the first page of Google results for my nickname, anyway.
      ...posted by Mrs. NowThis (aka Medley) on August 8, 2002 8:32 AM
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permlink short no more

This is a really good example of "lifestyle journalism" from this morning's Washington Post, complete with actual research and interviews (which I don't see in that many weblogs...). Starbucks' ubiquity means that its menu sets buyers' expectations, which then influence other coffee shops. In this case, 'small' has been redefined across the coffee industry. Lots of interesting bits in it, but I'll try not to quote too much:

At the Coffee Shop, It's Always a Tall Order by Christina Ianzito [Washington Post]
[Starbucks] once included "Short" on its menu, along with Tall (12 ounces) and Grande (16 ounces) ... but the Short mysteriously disappeared from the stores' repertoire about five years ago, around the same time the Venti (20.5 ounces) hit town. ... To get the elusive Short, which is $1.43, you have to (a) know of its secret existence and, apparently, (b) order it by its proper name. Remember: small = Tall (12 ounces); Short = small (8 ounces).

"Are you kidding?" a Cosi employee says when I ask if anyone ever requests an eight-ounce cup of coffee. "People want an even bigger size than the 20-ounce. They want 30 ounces."

"How big is small?" [Roger] Scheumann [president of Quartermaine Coffee Roasters] asks, wryly. "It's all relative." His two stores in the area have eight-ounce cups, but they're now called "kids' size."[!!]

"You never list sizes by fluid ounces," [Kathy Deignan of Sweetheart Cup Co.] adds, explaining the marketing strategy of the takeout coffee business. "Twenty ounces sounds like so much." Venti means 20 in Italian, but who knows Italian?

Deignan says, "It's amazing how you can increase your profitability" by giving the customer a few more ounces and charging 20 or 30 cents more for it.
permlink     1 comment(s)  
Just wanted to say that coffee shops are not the first to do this. I worked at a Dairy Queen many years ago and they were one of the few fast food restaurants to have a soda cup that was 8 oz. This was considered the "kid size". I began to notice that it was impossible to buy less than 12 oz of soda from a restaurant. Now it's happening with sodas from gas stations. It's practically impossible to buy a 12 oz can of soda while on the road. Retailers may make more money doing this, but I find it incredibly aggravating and the end result in my case is that I carry water with me and try not to buy drinks while I'm out.
      ...posted by Joni on August 8, 2002 7:59 AM
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