Earlier this week, I wrote of John McGraths Facebook group as part of his campaign to become Mayor of Wellington. I dont know if its the ﬁrst in Wellington, but as a challenger, it makes a lot of sense. If I were running, Id have one, too.
But what if you were the incumbent? Facebook may be a walled garden, as Dennis Howlett so aptly put it yesterday, but it does encourage dialogue among members. That dialogue may well include negative attacks on the incumbent: anyone already in the position, with a record for better or worse, will receive these. And as weve covered in this blog before, the nutters outnumber the smart ones, inside and outside the asylum. The Greater Internet F***wad Theory adds to that on the blogosphere and in Web 2·0 spaces in general.
You need a mixture between both. Places where comments can be approved and vetted by campaign staff, so that you look good. Places like MySpace (where I note Gavin Newsom has a page) and Bebo.
And therein lies the problem. Politics is such an image-based game. Transparency should, in theory, be a good thing all round. Its what I advocate continually, because one has to stand up to ones critics. Even in politics.
But people believe any kind of gossip, and if it were to be found online, it can get propagated, even when it is totally left ﬁeld. Anyone with any sort of a proﬁle has found that: assumptions, gossip-mongering and outright libel fascinate the nutters. Even Sﬁst has continued its gossip on my friend Jennifer Siebel, saying that she had broken up with Gavin earlier this month, only to be proved totally wrong days later by a blogger who had the courtesy to ask her. And that was propagated.
Even a denial is not believed, because the type of people who have the sort of mental problem that forces them to make negative remarks have a complex. They need to be heard. They need the feeling that they are bettering someone who is, well, obviously better than they are. (What they write would violate Socrates test for gossip, which I read on Mandi Kayes blog yesterday, and one which would be pretty good to follow.)
So there must be an intermediate way to manage them on social networks, which I believe are very important to modern politics and for personal brand management.
The most immediate answer is, probably, to censor those that are potentially harmful while addressing them. I think its not a bad idea to answer ones critics cleverly and truthfully, but not publish the original comment. It shows an acknowledgement of the issue (if it is valid), nipping further gossip in the bud, while creating as much transparency as possible in the real world where, sadly, ideals do not always operate.
If ever we manage to become more civilized, then I say open the forum up to everyone. Or, if we become more sensitive to ﬁguring out which are the nutters with an axe to grind, then let them have their say, too. I am not sure if we are there yet, and thank goodness our campaigns are not as cut-throat as presidential politics in the United States. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:45
Ten years ago, I was probably among the ﬁrst regular people to hear that Diana, Princess of Wales had passed away after her car accident in Paris. New Zealand, being 11 hours ahead of French time, heard the news in the late afternoon. I wrote an entry at CAP Online about it—I suppose these days, one would say that I blogged about it—and submitted it to Excite, which at that point had an instantly updated search index. It was quickly a highly ranked page.
The lines on the internet were quickly crowded. Internet speeds were down the next day as people searched for news. I got a lot of feedback that day—mind you, most of it came through a feedback form as there were no comment links on our web pages.
One stood out more than most. I can’t remember the author without going back through our archives, but he wrote, ‘She’s not dead. She’s being hosed down by Elvis as we speak.’
Even at times of tragedy and international mourning, we found time to laugh. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:31
A few of my friends and acquaintances are running for Mayor of Wellington, challenging incumbent Kerry Prendergast, whose campaign has already cleverly started. Billboards celebrating Wellington have suddenly sprouted campaign messages for Kerry, and it seems she’ll be taking the usual route of mass media. And it might work. The colours are bright, the campaign is optimistic. It even feels grass-roots, even though it isn’t.
Meanwhile, restaurateur and occasional Lucire reader John McGrath has said he will enter the race. It’s not so much that John has entered the race, but that a Facebook group exists to help campaign. That at least will make him more appealing to the modern generation, in theory, as it gives him potential to interact with his potential constituents.
The thing is: he hasn’t yet. He has set up a website, and has put up downloadable videos for starters. His Facebook page has a strange American misspelling and other oddities. He’s also put up a “blog” with no comment links. So I have to ask, with the greatest respect to John, who has shown up to a number of my dos, and to whom I have given money so I can enjoy the food at his joints: how is this campaign different from Kerry’s? It’s the same, one-way campaign, just with different channels.
I did joke with Dick and Diana Hubbard that perhaps I could run for the mayoralty in Auckland, to show that a Wellingtonian with no interest in living in the larger city could get more votes than Mr Steve Crow, whom I understand is known best for peddling adult material and known less for making the odd lewd comment to my female friends. Let’s say I’ve considered politics. But I would turn this blog into a campaign one—I mean, why not talk to the people who might put you in power? Get a reputation. Let Wellingtonians nickname you Mayor McHottie as San Franciscans do with Gavin Newsom. And keep the blog going into the mayoralty: provide real behind-the-scenes stuff.
I would like to see Wellingtonians get to know the candidates, but right now, everything is just too old-media, protecting them in their bubbles. This, naturally, favours Kerry, who has more photo ops and a sense of the familiar. In such a case, it is better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Politics, it seems, remains an old-fashioned game in this mayoral race, with new media (so far) used as old media always had been. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:36
The pessimist’s view: with globalization and companies buying up western brands, Made in USA will cease to mean anything.
While there are Chinese ﬁrms like NAC buying up MG or Acer eyeing Gateway, manufacturing can still survive if the higher-cost nation innovates and ﬁnds ever-higher-tech things to make, before the technology is transferred to the lower-cost one(s). The problem with the capitalist system is that the money is not so much going back to innovate and develop, but being returned to stake-holders as short-term proﬁt. Oftentimes, companies hide behind brands rather than truly innovate.
This is happening in New Zealand, where manufacturing, especially in textiles, is departing these shores. Meanwhile, Japan and other nations have held on to some of their textile manufacture through innovation (e.g. seamless garments), creating things that many cheaper nations cannot—yet.
In Information Week, Rob Preston notes that the US remains the leader in high-tech production—so much for everything being outsourced. While Red China has increased from 1 per cent in 1980 to 9·3 per cent in 2003 (the latest year for which ﬁgures from the Global Insight World Industry Service database are available), the US has stayed reasonably stable at 42·5 per cent, marginally down from 43·1 per cent in 2002.
Mr Preston adds:
In comparison, the European Union’s share of global high-tech manufacturing peaked around 1980, at about 34%, falling to 28% in 1990, 20% in 2000, and an estimated 18.4% in 2003. Japan’s share of global high-tech production peaked in the early 1990s, at around 25%, trending downward each year until 2003, to about 12%.
And if you examine who the biggest R&D spenders are for 2005, there are plenty of American ﬁrms, according to Booz, Allen & Hamilton: ‘Ford, Pﬁzer, Toyota, Daimler Chrysler, General Motors, Siemens, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, IBM, and GlaxoSmithKline.’
Globalization works when the parties are ethical and long-term-focused. The trouble is that short-term greed gets the better of many corporations—which means that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way they operate. Otherwise, western countries risk losing more jobs through “offshoring” when people are placed behind short-term stock prices and proﬁts. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:34
During my last trip to Auckland, I was telling a lot of people this: Ride with the Devil, premières TV2, September 4, 11 p.m.
This is a new TV show that stars my friend Caleigh Cheung, an occasional correspondent with Lucire. It’s her ﬁrst major role in a networked drama, I believe, but with this desire of New Zealanders to see themselves on screen in decent locally made dramas, why the heck is this scheduled at 11 p.m.? And what is on in prime time? My House My Castle? Fear Factor?
I am ﬁnally allowed to talk about the show and it is very indicative of modern New Zealand. Directly from the release (please excuse the strange capitalization of the title that seems to vary):
Ride With The Devil, (screening Tuesday nights, 11pm on TV2 from Sep 4th) is based around new-Asian youth Lin Jin (Andy Wong, Shortland Street) and the friendship he forms with bad-boy racer Kurt Williams (Xavier Horan, The Market). Written and directed by Murray Keane (Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune) and produced by Rachel Jean (The Market) for Isola Productions, Ride with the Devil was made with money from the New Zealand On Air Innovation Initiative.
From a race point of view, it is the ﬁrst time that Chinese New Zealanders have been shown as regular Kiwis in principal roles. Even the United States has not managed to give the Chinese people that—the nearest it got was Margaret Cho’s sitcom about being Korean–American. The only other way Korean–Americans can get in to US media with any regularity is when a judge sues them for losing his pants.
There is some adult material, which does explain the later timeslot, but I understand that even 7 p.m. soaps like Shortland Street shows characters in sex scenes now. So why not 9 p.m. or 9.30 p.m.? Perhaps TVNZ will care to explain, but as an outsider (phew) I can say that it is once again symptomatic of the lazy and unimaginative management that is driving this country on to the rocks. Hang on—that was from another car thing.
Keane promises verisimilitude and that the stories have been taken from real life. Caleigh had shown me some of the pics taken on set (including her stuntmen—yes, men) and it does show they have the rice burners (see left) properly souped up.
It also sees the return of Shortland Street’s Angela Bloomﬁeld.
I do hope this gets renewed for a second season even if it sounds like it mixes suburban Auckland with The Fast and the Furious, for it really does seem like a drama that will strike a chord in New Zealand. And my radar with trends is seldom wrong. I just tend to be ahead.
And if that still doesn’t work in getting viewers, I think the men and some women in this country will be rather impressed with our Cal, who tells me her character is rather chameleon-like. That is an euphemism for sexy. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:15
Al-Jazeera English’s Meenakshi Ravi has very kindly asked me to appear once again on Listening Post, so I thought I should sort out my thoughts before I committed them to camera. The problem is that Logitech has not been able to solve the problems with my software—there’s still interference and the recording software still gives up the ghost after a minute or so. (The camera works with Skype perfectly, so we know the unit works—so if anyone has better software to suggest than what came with the camera, give me a shout.) I’ve heard from Randy Thomas that he experienced the same problems with his Logitech camera, so the company’s claim that my issue is isolated doesn’t ring true to me.
But to answer some of the issues outlined, I don’t think the US media is actually trying to make a case for attacking Iran—not in the basic way people think. If they are, they should know that they will fail, because certain ingredients are missing: (a) the “excuse” of 9-11; (b) partisanship in Congress. They may well be trying to make the present administration look bad, even though everyone from the President to the Secretary of State have said that they will seek a diplomatic solution with Iran. (Plus President Ahmadinejad loves these diplomatic games. Sneaky bloke.)
The media often see themselves as a force to change governments, and it doesn’t matter who is in power. In the 1990s, we heard about conservative biases in New Zealand in the news. Now we hear of liberal bias. Rule: if you show yourself to be antiestablishment and anti-government, then you are showing you have power—you have something to use against politicians. Every western government feels that the media are trying to get them out of power. It doesn’t matter if you supported Clinton in the 1990s (the Monica Lewinsky scandal) and Bush in the 2000s (the War on Terror): the media are the baddies. That conclusion is not totally wrong.
This next point is connected: if they are trying to stir things up, then it’s solely for ratings. The media business has got to the point, in some areas, where sensationalism triumphs over journalism—something one of my team discovered this weekend when she found something about her misrepresented (though she was not named). The long term does not matter to the business, trying to drive the stock price up for the quarter.
These explain such illogical editorial decisions as publishing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of the prophet Mohammed (peace be unto him), even when the consequences are very, very predictable.
Christiane Amanpour, the Iranian-born journalist working for CNN, told David Letterman on his show earlier this month that certain terrorist groups and militia now target her colleagues for murders and kidnappings, whereas once upon a time, they were seen as noble and impartial. Perhaps these groups see how the media have become tools of corporations and share prices, rather than any ill education on their part. Add in the fact they can be paranoid and they are armed to the teeth, and the profession is going to ﬁnd things harder unless things begin changing.
If the US media are trying to state a case for war, then it’s only to prolong their own cause. Many Americans want their troops home, regardless of the commanders’ judgements, and in the battleﬁeld the only parties that would want the US to remain in Iraq are actually the nation’s enemies. Why not see the Yanks stay and spend all their money, weakening the country? The Americans and their allies help the terrorists justify their attacks: even though many terrorist bombings are founded on hatred of various Muslim groups, the Americans, the British and others are far more convenient a target for blame. ‘We are bombing so the inﬁdel will go home.’ It is also simpler to get new recruits: images of destroying Black Hawks and tanks are more powerful and easier to market than blowing up innocents. These media and the terrorists are, unintentionally, united, for very different reasons.
It just so happens that all this coincides with President Bush’s belief that retreat will cause greater harm to the United States, strengthening an enemy that reaches from Afghanistan to Iran and creating a base from which his country can be attacked. There are elements of three different sides that are keeping this war going. The anti-war movement can only hope that its own elements can rival the pro-war ones.
If the Americans and other allied nations accede to this request, the bombing will continue—just that Americans won’t see it on TV as often. It’ll be like the 1980s, when we saw plenty of carnage in Lebanon, but it never affected most of us in the west, unless you had Lebanese roots. When Reagan pulled the Marines out of Beirut, the Hezbollah got a lot stronger—and are continuing on their cause 20 years later. Just that no one outside the region knew. That might, fortunately, change with the globalization of Arab media—al-Jazeera, which is not subject to quarterly share price reporting, is the best example of this. There is an alternative. It’s just a pity few Americans can get this excellent alternative which, ironically again, helps their desire for transparency and objectivity in reporting.
War is founded on ironies. It either indulges in them or exposes them. War is the game where everyone says what they think will unsettle their audience, but never what they mean. The media are not immune to that. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:10
Perfect for those rhythmic ceremonial rituals. Mickey Maloof informed me today that his McFly 2015 Project, where he is trying to get Nike to produce the shoes that Michael J. Fox wore in Back to the Future Part II, has gained more headway: Kanye West is in on the act as his new album cover for Graduation displays the shoes. ‘Japanese artist Takashi Murakami designed the album packaging (he's best known for his work with Louis Vuitton),’ he wrote. Good on Mickey for inﬂuencing Murakami’s decision—which I am sure he did.
Earlier this month, Mickey informed me that Nike had indeed taken out a patent on the Marty McFly shoes:
These shoes may well make it into production at this rate. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:05
[Cross-posted] This Canadian campaign has caused people to be up in arms—well, those who didn’t see that it is satire raising awareness of the use of child soldiers in war zones all over the world.
It was sent to me by Helen Cameron, a long-time reader of my blog. She sent one link which showed that there were members of the public so incensed by this that they tore down posters advertising Camp Okutta.
But that is perhaps the reaction that the producers of the ad, WarChild Canada, a registered charity, wanted.
When we are confronted by images of kids with AK-47s—and, let’s be frank, they are usually African kids in an African jungle—we ﬁnd that there is some distance between us and them. WarChild Canada has been clever by setting Camp Okutta in Canada itself, using kids of different races in a local setting. It brings home the message far more effectively than a street campaign or one founded in reality.
Have a glance: it certainly made me think about the issue in a different way. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:54
[Cross-posted] On the MyLinkedinPowerForum Facebook group, I responded to a thread about LinkedIn and how it affects one’s bottom line. But to get there, I did take a tangent and examined how Facebook might play a part in networking. This post is adapted from that.
Facebook gives one greater insight into a person. LinkedIn does not really reﬂect the roundedness of an individual, and business connections are best formed with people with whom you have some non-business commonality.
People are almost forced to become more human in Facebook if they frequent it. They personalize a page, they put up statuses, they join groups. On LinkedIn, it’s easy to put up a résumé and the only thing that might indicate the quality of a person is his or her amount of endorsements. There are, I am saddened to say, a lot of well meaning, but perhaps big-mouthed people on LinkedIn, who give the impression of being able to do a lot, but cannot deliver. There are also those who actually can deliver, but have very limited time. Both these categories are not the majority, but they are there—and can make LinkedIn less powerful than it should be.
Facebook at least shows that if you go to someone with an idea, whether they will grab it by the horns or not. You will be able to reﬁne a pitch a bit better, for example.
LinkedIn has not yet, to my recollection, helped my bottom line, though I have found some great people with whom I am negotiating a few things. It may help my future bottom line. But when I really think about it, those ‘great people’ I mentioned came from one of the LinkedIn groups at Yahoo!, including Vincent’s—which furthers my point that LinkedIn in isolation is not that effective. These negotiations only came about because the groups gave us an added dimension.
But on the whole, it is a good store for a résumé but, in 2007 and age of social networking, it needs to be complemented by other active methods. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:42
Lee Kin Mun, a.k.a. Mr Brown (or mrbrown if one follows his site) is making the rounds here in New Zealand media. This is very deserving for one of the best online satirists Ive come across and today, he featured on Kathryn Ryans show on National Radio. His interview can be found here.
He talks about the mainstream media in Singapore and how censorship comes not through oppression, but exceptional caution. However, he does highlight problems where bloggers have been charged under Singapores sedition laws; in his case, his humour has got him into trouble with the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA). He and others, he believes, ﬁnd an outlet through the internet and on the blogosphere.
I understand that he is venturing south to Wellington, so I hope our paths will cross again. For those new to Mr Brown, the radio interview is probably as good an intro as any to him and to the nature of the mainstream media and censorship in Singapore. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:36
MG fans were shocked yesterday to learn that the personable Paul Stowe, NAC MG’s Quality Director, tendered his resignation at the Chinese company.
This was a surprise, considering that yesterday I had paid my ﬁrst visit to MG New Zealand and chatted to operations’ manager Kerry Cheyne about the prospects of the brand here. Even in my speech last weekend, I referred to MG. I was dead serious about helping it wherever I could.
Kerry was very positive and optimistic about the brand’s chances and pointed to some of the successes that Dodge was experiencing in New Zealand as a performance marque. He spoke highly of the work done at Nanjing and was conﬁdent that the cars would be of better quality than what left Longbridge. The Red Chinese, said Kerry, tended to make a target date and deliver.
Although I had felt that cooperation with SAIC was a good idea, it does appear that Red agencies such as the NRDC may have been ﬂexing their muscles a bit more when it came to NAC’s independence. A takeover is not what I wanted to see happen here, for the many reasons I have outlined over the last two years about SAIC’s behaviour. Paul reported that he had spotted SAIC personnel at the NAC factory tours earlier in August, so something was up even back then. In his own blog, he reported yesterday: ‘ﬁrstly the impact of the SAIC takeover is still echoing around the walls of NAC’s facilities, and has thrown conjecture and chaos into some of the future planning.’
Paul is a diplomat—the non-Chinese media regarded him as an ideal front-man, as did the public who relied on the honesty of his blog—so we may have to read between the lines till he is comfortable (and legally able) with sharing more about the situation. But we can probably guess that the Politburo has little knowledge about brands and is reverting to its humans-as-production-units mentality, SAIC has plenty of allies inside the various agencies, and NAC is being treated rather poorly. The amount of politics that Chinese companies can generate is pretty intense and one has to remember, in spite of creating western-style products, this is still an authoritarian Communist régime.
I can’t even begin to examine what issues Paul faced in the last few weeks but I am interpreting this as SAIC being an impudent bully—we saw some of its tactics with the British during the last year of the MG Rover Group and in its attempts to undermine the bidding process—and the consequences have made life more than tough for him, Zhang Xin (NAC general manager) and, I would guess, Yu Jiang Wei (the chairman) himself. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:09
Bananas was great. Despite my earlier concerns (the July post I referred to in my speech is here), I have to say I departed proud and optimistic about the future of my culture outside China. The stats shown by Prof Paul Spoonley about the future trends in Chinese migration (and its likely shift into becoming an immigrant nation itself in 30 years time) were fascinating. Who would have thought that my ﬂu-ridden weekend in late March would produce so many positive things?
I also got to enjoy and laugh at some of the Podcasts from Mr Brown, a.k.a. Lee Kin Mun, the controversial Singaporean blogger. The man has real wit and is an embodiment of someone who has taken the best parts of a lot of cultures to aid his free expression.
Wong Liu Sheungs summing up was considered and thoughtful and, with Kai Lueys formal closing, really brought a good ﬁnish to the conference.
I had the duty of being the last speaker, asked to liven things up. It wasnt the original planmy name was third to last. But I had to become the motivational speaker to conclude things and, interestingly, was quite calm when the change was announced just before our session started. I was pretty happy with how things went and I hope the audience felt the same.
For those who want my notes, they are available on this website: just go to the speeches page and theres a pop-up box linked from there. Time permitting, I may put them on the blog itself.
Please bear in mind I never follow my notes religiously. They have as much relation as a James Bond movie to the original novel. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:14
On the second day of the Bananas New Zealand Going Global conference, Charlotte Glennies speech touched on human rights, pollution, corruption, the clinging on to power by the Communist Party, and how she does not subscribe to the fact that the Reds are there to make things better. It was a real-world speech delivered by a journalist based in Beijing itself that struck a chord with me. The gap between rich and poor has never been wider, she reported. There are 30 million more illiterates in Red China. She spoke of a 16-year-old girl who fell ill through overwork: something she had to do because her family could not afford her education, a story in contrast to the economic miracle image that the Politburo wants to show.
While Charlotte looked at the positive side of things as well (China makes 80 per cent of the worlds photocopiers. One town makes a third of the worlds socks), I am glad that she was balanced about things. The conference is about Chinese culture globalizing, but until we as a people deal with our own problems, we arent doing it from a position of strength.
Listening to her live, I have to say that this woman was too smart for TVNZ, who disbanded the Asia bureau she set up in Hong Kong for cost reasons. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. snapped her up as its Beijing correspondent and she has been based there for 14 months, in a position to truly see the changes that will impact on the world in the next decade. Naturally, the New Zealand television media have to buy up stories from her and from other overseas companies now.
More from the conference later: I need food after giving my talk, the notes from which I will put on this site soon. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:32
At the Lucire Facebook group and on the Lucire reader forum, Ive started a thread on the demise of the global fashion story. While there are big chains such as Hennes & Mauritz trying to market their wares on a multinational basis, the stories that had international interestsuch as the same brands use of Kylie Minogue in 1998 or Hélèna Christensen a few years laterseem to be fewer in number.
When I started Lucire in 1997, there were stories that seem to be geared to the international market-place. The mood just seemed to be more global. Never mind if the product featured was available only in the Netherlands or in New Zealand.
When we ran a story on the 10th anniversary of the Elle Macpherson Intimates brand in 2000at the time, even British exports had not begunthere was international appeal. We even had men wanting to buy items for their girlfriends and wives emailing us.
Similarly, we brought the world stories on Panos Emporio, so it became better known outside its core Scandinavian and Thai markets. ID Models became better known outside the United States.
But the only fashion stories left with that same global appeal seem to feature models from the past. Some exceptions might be the ever-present best-dressed stories or those involving celebrities. Where are the stories on the new fashion line that has global appeal, even if it is available in one country only?
Todays online Lucire has a story on Heidi Klum, which supports my theory: its about a model, at her height in the 1990s, and her latest advertising campaign for Jordache.
I mentioned this a modelling agency yesterday and its CEO agreed. Fashion seems to have become more regionalized.
Is it the Zeitgeist? In the 1990s, there was a feeling that we, as a human community, could globalize. Corporations had done it, so why could we not create a global community ourselves? Have we lost that steam in the 2000s? There even seem to be fewer designers wanting to cross borders and show in a foreign country, and the fact that New Zealand Fashion Week switched to a September date a few years ago—conﬂicting with London, but better suited to regional buyersis yet another sign.
But ﬁrms are continuing to globalize, so is the relative absence of such stories an attempt to hide that? Posted by Jack Yan, 10:41
It’s ofﬁcial: the Journal that I had been working on for a few days—actually a bit longer if you count the research into Wordpress and getting it to work (considering I had next to no web server database set-up expertise). The release is below.
It’s relevant to all branding practitioners, and it’s free to the public at medinge.org/journal.
I knew most of my colleagues at Medinge are smart and know them very well, but when I got into the nitty-gritty of these papers, they still managed to blow me away. The French one, by Pierre d’Huy, was tougher to get into, considering it’s my third language, and double-checking Stanley Moss’s translation (excellent, incidentally) gave an added perspective.
If you feel the branding posts most of us make in the blogosphere are ﬂaky, it will be worth checking out more rigorous papers in the Journal. My 2006 online branding one is included, as is one of the late Colin Morley’s last papers on social responsibility and corporate conscience—though I am sure he will go on to inspire many more.
International think-tank announces The Journal of the Medinge Group
Stockholm, Seal Beach, Calif. and Wellington, August 15 (JY&A Media) The Medinge Group, a Stockholm-based think-tank on international branding, today launches its new yearly online publication, The Journal of the Medinge Group at <http://medinge.org/journal>. Exclusively digital, the collection of essays and thought provides a window into the think-tank’s evolving vision of humanistic branding.
Medinge is closely watched in the business community for its vanguard thought. In 2003 the group inaugurated the yearly Brands with a Conscience award, which is frequently cited in international media. Medinge’s gurus are sought after for their cross-category expertise.
The ﬁrst issue of the online Journal contains articles by 10 members of the group, on interdisciplinary subjects ranging from internet branding, strategy, PowerPoint, design, place branding to innovation. There is also an article authored by the late Colin Morley, a Medinge member who died in the 2005 London Underground bombings, and whose 2004 ‘On Conscience’ is considered a seminal essay on the topic.
The ﬁrst issue consists of:
by Malcolm Allan
Places—countries, regions and cities—are increasingly developing strategies for brands. This is because they ﬁnd themselves in competition with each other to retain and attract talented and creative people, innovative businesses, investors and consumers. The goal: offer valuable services and meaningful experiences to those they seek to inﬂuence.
Business, Brand, Innovation and Design
by Ava Maria Hakim
This article looks at the design system and its impact on value creation, business and brand. Several informative diagrams and charts included.
PowerPoint—Rhetoric Machine (French)
by Pierre d’Huy
Is PowerPoint an aid to communication or destructive force in the art of rhetoric? This essay in French deconstructs the controversial Microsoft presentation program from the point of view of a mediologist, making references to works by Roland Barthes and Régis Debray to support its conclusions.
PowerPoint—Rhetoric Machine (English)
translated by Stanley Moss
Pierre d’Huy’s commentary of the ubiquitous application, tailored to English speakers.
Giving Strategy Some Momentum
by Patrick Harris
Many strategies built by organizations are ineffective. Organizations tend to build snapshots instead of harnessing momentum.
by Nicholas Ind
This paper argues that rather than relying on the abstraction of research to get close to the customer, brand managers should work at building genuine relationships with customers by opening up the boundaries of the organization.
by Colin Morley
An historically signiﬁcant article written in 2004 examining the intellectual and semiotic underpinnings of brands with conscience. It is published with the permission of the estate of Colin Morley; his vision helped shaped Medinge’s yearly Brands with a Conscience awards, inspiring our yearly presentation to an NGO, named in his memory.
by Ian Ryder
Organizations often experience failure, either because of a ﬂawed vision, or a shortfall of values. How then do we align internal and external communications to create sustainable competitive advantage as a route to a strong brand reputation?
by Jack Yan
In the world of Web 2·0, the process surrounding vision, research, exposition and image differ slightly, even if the ingredients of brand equity remain the same. Loose vision, informal research and tapping into consumer advocacy all play a critical role.
Images for this release may be downloaded from <http://jya.net/070813pr0.htm>.
About the Medinge Group
The Medinge Group was founded in 2000 as a not-for-proﬁt collective of brand professionals, dedicated to innovative thought in the promotion of humanistic branding. In 2002, the Medinge Group published a Brand Manifesto of eight statements encapsulating a vision of healthy brands for the future. In 2003, the group authored a collection of essays entitled Beyond Branding (London: Kogan Page) which explored the ways in which brands could add value within alternative business and social models. In 2004 the group established the annual Brands with a Conscience list. In addition to the ongoing BWAC initiative, in January 2005 the Medinge Group launched an online, automated speakers’ and experts’ bureau accessible through its website, www.medinge.org. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:45
After my earlier disappointment with the new Blogger, I did download Wordpress for the new Journal of the Medinge Group, which will be announced this month. It has a lot of great features, but for someone who can occasionally hack some HTML—I was, after all, one of the earliest web designers in this part of the world—it proved limiting.
For example, Wordpress will sometimes miss hard space characters, it will get confused if you manually feed in your own span class tags, it will take out some of your hard returns in your code—things that the everyday user won’t ever need to bother about.
When designing and editing the Journal, it was important to have a very high level of control which, ironically, despite its amateur image, Blogger allows. The Blogger crew has also ironed out a lot of the things that frustrated me at the time of the (forced) changeover. They obviously listened, but the fact they did so ex post facto is annoying: I should never have encountered the bugs. As a layman, I still don’t see much of a gain with new Blogger from the old, other than the auto-save.
I love the Wordpress interface, the ease of customization, the tidy comment forms, the ability to add pages that are not to do with the blog, the incredible community, the support—all the things that have made it the blogging platform of choice for so many.
I’m going to leave the Journal on Wordpress as it is the right choice for it, especially as it allowed me to make contents’ pages for the articles. I still don’t consider myself that “serious” a blogger to require non-blog pages published using the program here, so it looks like there’ll be no change on the back end at this work blog.
Therefore, based on my limited experience so far:
• Blogger: good as a beginner’s tool and pretty good if you have your own web design skills and can do your own non-blog pages. CSS stylesheets aren’t as tidy and you are stuck with a very boring Blogger comment form;
• Wordpress: great for everything, especially adding non-blog-entry pages, but is a bit smart-alecky on its interpretation of HTML code. Great community, easy-to-use interface, really a great choice as an all-purpose, robust tool—and new versions don’t seem buggy;
• Vox: limits comments to other Voxers and the look and feel are limited to the templates they provide, but a great way to share videos, music and books without any knowledge of code. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:54
Last year, I was pretty critical of the US over the Dubai Ports’ deal. And New Zealand, despite the Labour Government’s objection to the war in Iraq, is pretty much now ﬂushing its goodwill away among Arab nations (especially the Gulf Coast countries) with Minister of Trade Phil Goff’s remarks opposing the sale of Auckland International Airport to Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.
I have heard from a friend in the UAE who has drawn a parallel between the two incidents. Apparently, this is not lost on the media there. And New Zealand just looks as anti-Arab xenophobic as the United States is perceived in the Middle East right now. The past fortnight has not been good on this country’s international perception, with the satire ban already the butt of jokes in the US.
In 2006, US Democrats went all xenophobic when they could not get past the word Arab in United Arab Emirates, and the US Government eventually forced DP World to sell its American ports after it fairly acquired them from P&O. So much for all these Democratic candidates saying they will be fairer toward the Arab world when compared to President Bush and his Cabinet. I wrote last year:
By all means, attack this UAE company [DP World] if it can be found that it was complicit in terrorism or any other crime, and stop this acquisition. But maintain the American tradition of guilty till proved innocent.
The United States has made much of its headway through acquisitions of foreign companies, and the UAE is playing by the same rule book. The legal system in the UAE is actually a combination of traditional Shari’a, Egyptian law, the civil law tradition and common law—the last concept being shared with the US. In other words, it’s a pretty global legal system that is adhered to well.
What next? Get all foreigners to divest their US interests and sell up? It’s the message being sent around the world in non-US media: we can’t see beyond your ethnicity.
In the Fairfax Press today:
Shares in Auckland International Airport fell 7 per cent on Monday after Mr Goff was reported as saying the government was opposed to a takeover offer for the airport by Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Ltd.
while in the Gulf News:
The New Zealand government is against the proposed sale of the airport to DAE, the newly-formed $15 billion aviation conglomerate, and its trade minister said the deal could be “against national interests,” reported the New Zealand Herald yesterday. …
Last week, Foreign Minister Winston Peters told Reuters the proposed sale was “commercially shabby” and against national interests.
I have never thought Mr Goff to be a smart man, but certainly a politically shrewd one. Mr Peters is an opportunist, willing to score domestic points whenever possible. This is playing to the crowd, but on the whole, some opposition and debate is better than an unconsidered, anything-goes sale. It is, sadly, this sort of ill-considered hyperbole that gets New Zealand into trouble and a real foreign minister—you know, one that does his homework—would have chosen his words more wisely.
I put the whole matter into context for my friend, in replying:
This one is a bit different because I believe anti-Arab sentiment is not behind it. New Zealand had a history of selling off state assets, but that is now deemed highly unpopular as it has weakened the country. New Zealanders balk at the idea of foreign ownership of any asset in which the state had control, so even if the bidder was from a western nation, the same thing would have happened.
I think it is a fair evaluation: the Fairfax article points out, ‘local polls show the majority of Aucklanders oppose the deal,’ and I would like to think that a multicultural city like Auckland would not be xenophobic. It is a reaction against the monetarist policies of the 1980s which have widened the rich–poor gap in New Zealand, a country that once prided (and still attempts to pride) itself on being a fair and just nation.
However, I can well understand just how these actions are seen in the GCC, as this government puts its foot in it once more, with some ridiculous antics that do not pass muster in the international sandbox in which it wishes to play. Internationalists, our politicians are not. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:56
Suzuki, a former client at Lucire, has reported that its Suzuki Swift model is now the second best selling car in New Zealand, based on July 2007 registrations.
Before you think it’s because we love subcompacts, think again. New Zealand has been a traditional full-size car market, with the Holden Commodore topping the charts year after year. It is still number one.
Rising fuel prices have a lot to do with Suzuki’s success, selling the sort of little car that Honda and Toyota used to. But with both companies pursuing the compact and mid-sized sectors—even the intermediate one with the Accord V6 and Aurion—Suzuki has really reaped some major rewards.
The important thing is that the Swift is a Japanese car with a European sensibility to its design, something that gels well with a country that is still largely Caucasian, with European tastes.
Previous Suzukis never fared this well. Even at the height of the oil crisis in the 1970s, you didn’t really see locally assembled Cervo and Fronte (Alto) models trounce the trifecta of Ford Escort, Ford Cortina and Ford Falcon. The Suzuki was too Japanese, too dinky.
We knew from the beginning this was a hit and meetings I had with Suzuki’s ad agency, Promotus Advertising, were optimistic.
What I never expected was to see the Swift overtake the Toyota Corolla and Auris—sold here as a Corolla, too. For most of the 1980s, the Corolla was the top-selling car in New Zealand.
And therein lies one of the problems with the car industry, plaguing it for years: each generation of car grows a little. The Toyota Corolla is now wider than the 1993 Corona. The Civic is now bigger than a 1980s Accord. All that happens is that the manufacturers start ever-smaller model lines, while deleting the ones from the top.
Ford of Europe has had this happen, with the Mondeo now the range-topper. The lineage which saw the Zodiac, Granada and Scorpio died some years ago when big Fords fell out of favour. Even Stateside, the full-size Ford—the Crown Victoria—is on its last legs.
Trace the Mondeo back and the Book of Genesis was the Ford Consul Cortina of 1962, which made do with a 1,198 cm³ engine.
The cycle will be nearly impossible to reverse: in its quest to beat a competitor, an automaker will upsize each generation, claiming that it has “more car”.
Only the Koreans and Italians keep a better lid on the growth of their models—not that that strategy served Fiat particularly well when it carried over older platforms for the Bravo, Brava and Marea in the 1990s. The Koreans, meanwhile, play a game of diminishing returns: Daewoo positioned the Nubira as a mid-sized alternative to the Opel Vectra and Ford Sierra. The car that descends from that, the Lacetti, unsuccessfully ﬁghts the Opel Astra and Ford Focus, both smaller cars.
There is no easy solution. Suzuki succeeded because in New Zealand, there was no continuity in the Swift name—it disappeared for a few years before coming back for the 2005 model year. And perhaps that is a clue.
Automakers are keen to show there is a lineage from one model to the next. This makes perfect sense: Volkswagen is unlikely to call its compact—now more mid-sized—Golf anything but, at least outside the US. In its ﬁfth generation, it seeks to capitalize on those who have always bought Golfs. It’s only when a company sees a radical change, or when the previous model gains a bad reputation, that the name changes—Ford’s Escort became Focus in 1998; Nissan ended its long-running Pulsar name this decade.
What if it brought forth the ideal car—and many New Zealanders obviously thought the Swift was an ideal, to make it number two—without that lineage, but revived an old name?
Holden could bring in the Opel Corsa D, for instance—in many respects exactly the sort of car New Zealanders seek, if the Swift is anything to go by. It has the right styling: chunky, sporty, solid. It is probably the best handling subcompact, the Fiat Grande Punto aside. Give it a new name—or even use Corsa (I realize the objections to coarser). Or ﬁnd an old name from the Holden archives. Slot it in above the Daewoo Kalos, or even replace the Lacetti.
In some ways, Ford did this with the original Taurus—while it might have ﬁlled the market gap of the old LTD, it was an all-new car designed to ﬁt the needs of the American market. I doubt many could claim that the Taurus was really an LTD successor.
Sometimes, not having a model lineage, especially in this unpredictable car market where things are changing as they did in the 1970s, can be an advantage, something that Suzuki cleverly identiﬁed with the Swift. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:01
Online, the ways we communicate have proliferated. While we put back the Lucire reader forum earlier this year, it isn’t as popular as it was when we ﬁrst launched it four years ago. And no wonder: there are readers hopping off to Facebook and the like, or frequenting the blogs that Summer Rayne Oakes or I do—though at some point, I imagine we’ll ﬁnd that we are getting too distracted and want a single site that does it all.
I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t feel comfortable putting Lucire on to MySpace as it would make us look like a Murdoch Press outpost. No disrespect to Mr Murdoch—maybe I am a tad too proud. Or that I just can’t navigate MySpace, so if I can’t, then I have selﬁshly judged that no one else can. (It didn’t stop me from acceding to requests and setting up a page, trying to tidy the darned thing as much as my limited knowledge allowed.)
However, I am not too proud to put Lucire on to Facebook. The increase in users can’t be ignored and it seems better geared toward the sharing of ideas than MySpace. Facebook has plenty of special-interest groups, from one trying to get 1,000,000 people against Hillary Clinton (it’s not just for Republicans: it encourages Barack Obama supporters to get on board, too) to ones dealing with new media or graphic design.
The group has been there for a few weeks but it’s in the last few days that I asked friends to join, so the membership has climbed quickly to nearly 100. I’d love for more readers to come on by and have organized a tiny link on the Lucire web edition home page.
To me, it is an experimentation in Web 2·0 but there is a genuine purpose. Both Sylvia Giles (Lucire deputy ed.) and I frequent Facebook, so if you want to suggest stories, we will genuinely consider them. It is an idealized democracy—you know, one that actually works, where the people running the place will listen to your suggestions. Feel free to pop by. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:23
[Cross-posted] Fjohn got in more quickly than I did in comparing Facebook with LinkedIn. These days, I am spending more spare time on the former, but it is merely a social network. It’s to peer at friends that I haven’t seen for years. There is a voyeuristic quality to it, seeing whom is connected to whom. LinkedIn, to me, has always been quite focused as a business network, one where we make connections and look for prospective opportunities either for more work or for collaborations.
He’s also right when he identiﬁes the youthfulness of people on Facebook—and Bebo, and MySpace, and the like. Facebook even has a group called Unlike 99·99 Per Cent of the Facebook Population, I Was Born in the 1970s. There, 1970s’ babies talk about how young people do not know how to use rotary dial phones or remember The ‘A’ Team the ﬁrst time around. Even that is interesting for a while, with special-interest groups for those who want to waste even more time. I should know: I even have one for Lucire.
Bebo seems to have started in a big way among my Māori and Paciﬁc Island friends before any other race. MySpace seems to have attracted extroverts because the word MySpace is just part of the vernacular. As you go through the lists there, you ﬁnd some very provocative poses from men and women. I even found a self-admitted porn star on there today—not that I was looking. (She was a friend of a friend, OK?)
But these networks ultimately come down to a ﬁrst simple question: do they serve you? If you ﬁnd they waste your time and you become unproductive, then they are probably not for you. In fact, you’re serving them. Which is what they want you to do.
I decided quite early on that MySpace did not serve me. I might have 60-odd friends on it but being a publisher for part of my week, there was something just not right about being on a Murdoch Press site. I have resisted putting any of my magazine titles on there. Facebook serves me a little more, since it encourages work networks, and I can put some of my Facebooked staff on to them. But neither is geared to making the sort of connections that LinkedIn is. In fact, one recent connection told me that she saw LinkedIn as being for work, Facebook for play.
While Facebook does have work networks, I just don’t see it as that pure for business purposes. Those of us who go to LinkedIn usually have some professional goal in mind. And that must, in some way, bring us to the second question: does the network ﬁt in with how you want to be seen?
Whether we like it or not, we are partly judged by the company we keep. MySpace links us to porn stars. Facebook links us to people born after 1980 looking for friendly networking. LinkedIn is positioned in a way that makes us seem more professional, more focused. At the end of the day, the world is big enough for all of them, but you need to consider which will beneﬁt where you’re heading. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:50
Last year, I applauded Tata’s efforts to make a sub-$2,500 car. Fellow blogger and designer Rohan at Rainscape informs me from his base in India that that is going to happen. A 1,000-acre greenﬁeld site is being built near Calcutta, and even Renault’s Carlos Ghosn has said that he would like to get in on the act, too, with another Indian company, Bajaj Auto.
As I said in 2006, it could revolutionize Asian transportation—and one hopes that it might have something other than an internal combustion engine choking up more of the atmosphere. It seems wise for Tata to try to revolutionize transportation with something more rugged than a Sinclair C5, and I believe it’s in Renault’s best interests to examine the case, too, eventually growing consumers toward Dacia Logans and more expensive models. It might even have export potential.
The latest reports are that Volkswagen is going to show a cheap rear-engined car (sounds familiar) at the IAA in Frankfurt am Main this year called the City Expert, slotting in below the Fox in Brazil and effectively replacing the old Fusca, and even BMW is thinking of a microcar, going back to its Isetta times.
The Japanese aren’t considering this. Honda and Suzuki believe they would sacriﬁce their brands’ quality to enter the ﬁeld—quite a reversal considering their roots in 360 cm³ vehicles many years ago. General Motors is not thinking about it, either, instead introducing the Daewoo Tosca to the Indian market as a Chevrolet. That is well and good, but Indian and Chinese consumers who may buy the Tata could well stay brand-loyal. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:14
I had the pleasure of interviewing a prospective intern here, aged 18. She’s very smart and business-like, and when you are 18, you do have ideals. You see the world and the bad shape it’s in. And you think: something can be done.
Every generation, I think, sees this, and after a while society or the sheer lack of change drives some to despair. Go back to, say, my father’s generation. He went through WWII as a kid and saw how the postwar institutions tried to create a more peaceful world. Things like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights attempted to say to the world: there are minimum standards. Slavery is bad. The idea of one group over another, limiting their free will, leads to ruin or bloodshed.
But go back through history and it seems to be human nature. Slavery has often accompanied economic success: slavery in pre-Civil War US, guest-worker programmes in certain Middle Eastern nations, and even in occidental nations today, (illegal or legal) immigrants who have fewer rights than full citizens doing the tough work. Globalization has narrowed the distance at which certain corporations or individuals can have control over another group of people who may work for less than a dollar a day.
This upsets us because we pride ourselves on being civilized and because we know that no one should be without dignity. What this reminds us of is the fact that we are closer to the Darwinian ape than to anything civilized, as we struggle to narrow the gap between rich and poor on our planet. We have enough food and certainly enough weapons to blow ourselves up many times over, yet we can’t feed nations. For all the coolness of causes such as ending poverty or hunger, where are we?
I imagine that as people hit middle age, these questions ﬂash across their minds as the planet looks remarkably similar to the one a generation ago, albeit with higher water levels, warmer temperatures, more motorists and SUVs.
So what is the solution? There are good blogs out there with very wise ideas—many are linked at the right of this page in my blog roll—but I know it is dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yet the establishment is often clueless, particularly political establishments that seem to have shorter collective memories than even the population.
Labour in New Zealand moans about the high Kiwi dollar when it has done little to encourage business or exports; instead, our companies are being acquired left, right and centre or are forced to outsource to Asian countries. That is a digression, but it highlights that the weak dollar that we had in 2000 (versus the US, the Kiwi was at $0·40) and the strong dollar we have now (which looked perilously close to $0·80 in July) can be linked to a lack of direction and economic inaction. This is just seven years, yet the government has forgotten what conditions we had a short time ago. (The Opposition still seems equally clueless, because this is a heck of a big target that Clark and Cullen have painted on themselves—perhaps John Key needs glasses, or does his ignorance suggest something more sinister?)
What we do know is that the technocratic way of managing our planet has not really worked. The growth of globalization and the creation of nations of underclasses to be exploited can’t really meet a healthy end. Idealists may point to the potential of equalizing incomes as outsourcing continues, which is not totally incorrect. I, too, believe in healthy and ethical trade as a means of addressing some of these concerns: as Simon Anholt wrote in Brand New Justice, it is possible to give second- and third-world nations branding techniques to help their products be marketed in ﬁrst-world nations, the price premium going back to boost local economies and communities.
Simon’s is not a technocratic solution; it is not the sort of thing that Robert McNamara or the Whiz Kids might have come up with for President Kennedy. Yet we keep listening to the technocracy when I am not terribly convinced that it has had the answers. The US, for instance, has the most unequal distribution of income among richer nations, yet its political–economic model is followed. Can any New Zealander who can think back to the pre-Rogernomics, pre-Ruthanasia days honestly say that society appears more stable, or that we have proportionally fewer murders? We have grown an underclass.
I was just chatting to someone at Clemenger BBDO who had been to Spain. She reports that while Valencia shopping isn’t what it should be, Spain is a lovely place. Many of us can remember post-Franco Spain being a pretty run-down sort of place, even if Franco himself had attempted to modernize the nation during his time in power. But His Majesty King Juan Carlos I and his governments have turned the nation around, brought it into the EU as a successful economy—without following too many of the monetarist theories that have been oh-so trendy since the 1980s here. I remember how Spain overtook the UK as a car producer many years ago—as a child, that prospect would have been unthinkable.
Spain was in bad shape after Franco and even the centrist government could not do much to deal with the oil shocks. When Felipe Gonzalez’s government took over in 1982, inﬂation was running at 16 per cent. It closed the big, unproﬁtable SOEs. It introduced energy policies that were more efﬁcient. It did encourage private capital investment. But by the early 1990s, unemployment reached a horrendous 23 per cent, but by all accounts, as measured by the globalists, Spain is now in good shape.
Look more closely, however, and Spain has done a lot to bolster the middle class, not just the wealthy. It abandoned low-cost manufacture as its claim to fame in Europe; today, Spanish brands are often trendier than those from the more brand-developed economies. Spain went to more skilled enterprises, its standard of living and cost of living—taxation was needed to ﬁnance many of its programmes—both steadily rising over the decades.
When I think about it, the most stable, growing economies these days are not the ones that go for the ﬂash—the ones that create millionaires and billionaires at the expense of others. The enduring ones have bolstered their middle classes, allowing many to share in the nations’ growing wealth. And domestically, I don’t think I have seen that for a while: certainly not the last National Government, which followed the technocrat’s playbook, and Labour, with its good intentions in 1999, has not narrowed the rich–poor gap. The middle class is disappearing because it is no longer the politicians’ focus: there are better photo ops alongside celebrities and the wealthy in an age of party-marketing. As with Wall Street, celebrity CEOs get more headlines than the ones who have continued to steer an organization quietly into its ﬁfth decade of growth.
Even our own Department of Labour paints this grim note:
From 1986 to 1991, work-poor households grew from 13% to 20%. Yet when the economy and job growth picked up in the early 1990s, the proportion of these households declined only a fraction, to 19.4% in 1996.
as does the Department of Statistics:
the bottom half of all households had considerably less of the disposable income in 1996 than 14 years before (31.1% as compared with 27.8%). Conversely, the top 10% of households saw their share of the disposable income rise from about a ﬁfth to over a quarter.
What politicians need to decide is whether there is a long-term vision for our planet. If we can get our own doorstep right, then maybe we can begin to inﬂuence the rest of the world.
I am not sure if our present government knows if we are to be an exporter or a net importer. If we were to be exporters, then the favourable economic climate in 2000 should have been maintained, and growth in intellectual capital-intensive industries encouraged (which was the National Government’s plan in 1999). Yet there has been every sign since the Labour Party’s election that that was not desired as imports have been encouraged more and the currency strengthening in accordance. In 2000, an exporter could have made NZ$2·50 for every US$1 earned. Now, that same exporter would make just over NZ$1·25 on the same sale. That company is less able to put its proﬁts to beneﬁt its workers—assuming it hasn’t got rid of all of them because of our draconian employment laws. I think it is pretty clear based on this simple analysis by a layman—I would never proclaim myself an economist—where this government’s priorities lie when it comes to exports.
Instinctively, I am sure its tax take has lessened in real terms from our businesses, despite a rise in the rate soon after its election in 1999, with less going back into our institutions. I have not checked but with so much foreign ownership of our enterprises and proﬁts ﬂowing to, say, Australia (Grifﬁn’s) or Eire (the New Zealand Listener), should I need to? Perhaps someone better versed in this can do the sums and inform me.
I believe in strong businesses. I also believe in those businesses acting ethically and putting something back into their communities. I welcome the good parts of globalization: the connecting with people halfway around the world, learning their specialities and collaborating with them. If we are to take one more step, let us ensure it is not one that seeks to create yet another divide between the haves and have-nots. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:03
We’ve been hit by a few annoying ads for SystemDoctor, Winﬁxer, ErrorSafe and DriveCleaner lately. If you see these at any of our properties, do not click on them. From my surﬁng around, they do not look like things that should be on your computer. Some accuse these products of being spyware.
However, tracing what caused these ads proved difﬁcult. There were some pages that hinted that smaller ad networks were behind these, but our investigations showed that it was one of the better ones. We notiﬁed that network on the 3rd, but I don’t think they were able to trace it. When you go down their client list, it all looks very innocent, with some solid international brands there. We approached a few of the others, too, once we narrowed down which networks were on the pages that triggered the ads.
Not that that was 100 per cent certain: sometimes, these ads can come from other websites and be triggered minutes after you leave. Even Google has a notice to that effect on its site.
Today, after being hit by those pop-ups again—they, in fact, seize the whole page and in the case of IE7, close the browser—my blood was up. Bear in mind that I am a layman who seems to encounter computer problems more than the average person. However, they are usually errors that regular tech support excuses can’t solve: I am the person who seems to ﬁnd fault ﬁrst, is dismissed, and then, many hours or days later, is proved to be correct all along. Maybe it’s because I am not a geek that I don’t use computers in the normal way and ﬁnd these issues.
My investigations showed that the potential-spyware ads usually came after an ad for CareerBuilder.com, which I take to be a very credible ﬁrm. In particular, the CareerBuilder.com ad would be hosted by a domain called 2mdn.net. A quick search shows that there is some connection between 2mdn and these products.
We’ve had to remove some of this ad network’s code from the more highly trafﬁcked pages on our sites, though not all—we’re going to give them the beneﬁt of the doubt that its folks will remove CareerBuilder.com from their rotation ASAP, now that we have narrowed down the problem and if it is indeed the cause. However, if it is not done quickly enough in the next few hours—and it is the 5th now—we may have to replace all their coding with other networks’, just in case we are right and to protect our readers. We can then see whether the ads still come up.
It does make me wonder if the other publishers at this network’s other sites even know—or if the network has genuinely been duped and cannot trace or replicate the problem.
PS.: The more I read about it, the more certain I am about replacing all the code. This should be completed as I type this.—JY Posted by Jack Yan, 01:57
[Cross-posted] Some Americans already think that PM Helen Clark is Ms Photo Op, without the substance. That was the ﬁrst thing that came to mind when this pic came through from the Ford Motor Company.
Considering that New Zealand had natural gas-powered cars when I was a youngster in 1980 (until the National government thought they might be bad for us in the mid-1990s and really pushed us toward good, healthy and cheap petrol) and Todd Park was experimenting with a methanol-powered Mitsubishi in 1983, you can see why I am not terribly impressed with news that we have this revolutionary, new biofuel pump serving E10.
Little compares with our having a 20-plus-year lead on the rest of the world with LPG and CNG, something this country fails to acknowledge time and time again. Probably to cover up its own inadequacies and lack of vision.
E10, phooey. Sure it’s a step in the right direction, but such a little step compared to the advances we were making against OPEC in the late 1970s. We should be crying about how our lead and knowledge have been ﬂushed down the toilet, and how no one other than regular citizens gives a toss. The politicians seem to want to cover up the fact that this country has been an innovator, preferring to show that these far tinier steps are signiﬁcant and their brand-new idea all along. The media are willing allies. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:14
Rupert Murdoch’s pursuit of Dow Jones has been successful. And I know there are doom-and-gloom predictions about the man who brought us Fox News, the revamps of the News of the World and The Sun in the ’60s, and the about-face of the New York Post in the ’70s.
Murdoch, above all, is a pragmatist. I even think he views things through brands, but in that unpopular capitalist way, but he is a brand strategist nonetheless. He knows (and has said) that The Times, another one of his properties, can become a global newspaper: the days of capturing single countries are long gone. It can set the UK agenda but its name is so well known that it can go global, with the internet and with printed foreign editions (in the vein of the International Herald–Tribune).
But no newspaper in Murdoch’s News Corp. sets a national agenda, unlike The New York Times. He is likely to keep his promise of pumping money to reverse Dow Jones’s The Wall Street Journal’s decline and make it into an agenda-setter. From the point of view of a media magnate, it is a sensible move, essentially replicating his Times acquisition across the Pond. This tendency has been there, initially with his positioning of The Australian as a national paper (when it was not in the early days), and later his acquisition (and subsequent sale) of the South China Morning Post.
Just when you think the playbook has been played, Murdoch comes out with a few billion more, gets what he wants, and will now, more than likely, create a national, if not global, brand out of The Wall Street Journal—injecting more non-business bits and trying to compete (even if it is hard to believe) on quality journalism, and across more than one medium. The synergies in Dow Jones’s other media are relatively plain to see, too.
Disclaimer: The Wall Street Journal has advertised in JY&A Media properties. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:47
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