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30.11.07

Delta Goodrem isn’t marrying Brian McFadden; oh, yes she is 

[Cross-posted] I spotted the below on Ninemsn today and thought, ‘Poor Brian.’

Delta Goodrem news 1

   I clicked on the first link and found quite the opposite:

Delta Goodrem news 2

   It’s not as embarrassing as the network, and the Murdoch Press, reporting on the Miranda Kerr incident two years late and getting the venue wrong, but it’s still an about-face.
   Netizens will be able to work out that the first link came about because the Ninemsn website reported that Delta Goodrem turned down boyfriend Brian McFadden’s marriage proposal. Then, the site’s staff found out more and had to instantly change the piece, but due to caching or the way the Ninemsn site is structured, the headline link on another page had not changed.
   This is not abnormal and at least the link goes to an accurate item of news.
   And Ninemsn was not alone, as Murdochs did the same thing:

Delta Goodrem news 3

   It all makes me wonder about the wisdom of such immediacy when it comes to the gossip press. Usually, the items are of little significance. They are disposable news, so what harm is there with a brief delay to get the facts right? The contrary argument is that since these items are inconsequential, then why should the facts need to be dead right?
   I realize that’s not the way celeb-based factoid-reporting works, and on the web, even more rules get chucked out in the quest to be the first on to Google News with the headline.
   But we are representatives of the media. We are, supposedly, journalists and editors and publishers. And as the fourth estate, we have a duty to the public.
   Call me a traditionalist, but I would prefer to get everything straight before committing to press in any medium, even if it means a delay.
   After the Miranda Kerr embarrassment, propagated by Sky, news.com.au and The Daily Telegraph (Australia) newspaper, I have had to conclude that I can’t trust Murdoch Press items at all. Before this week I took only The Sun and News of the World items with a grain of salt (remember all the speculation about who the next James Bond would be?), but am saddened to have to apply the same doubts across more of the Murdoch Press. Especially since the chief himself, Mr Keith Rupert Murdoch, has (thank goodness) vowed to up the journalistic standards at papers such as The Wall Street Journal.
   Maybe I should not lecture since I have never been on dailies, but my feeling is that the damage to goodwill across a group is too great when this sort of misreporting starts happening regularly.

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Shift your thinking eastward 

These are sobering statistics to those operating online and targeting the US principally:

And the U.S. is only part of the story. He noted that North America now accounts for just 16% of worldwide Internet users, down from 35% in 2000. “[Red] China has more Internet connections than the U.S., and most of them are on their phones … If you’re building products and services just for the U.S. market, you're giving up 80% of the market,” he told the audience. Even though the global potential for online services is huge, he doesn't see enough business plans that have “an international vision of globalization.”

   I remember when our websites were getting 70 per cent or more of our traffic from the US, and that was in the late 1990s. Today, the picture is remarkably different: high access in the US does not equate to what is considered high traffic today. Web presences need to be globally relevant, and that includes blogs like this. Those who are multilingual have an advantage—especially if one of those languages is Chinese.
   The above is from AOL’s Ted Leonsis, quoted in the latest Knowledge@Wharton. Mr Leonsis believes now is the best time to be an entrepreneur, based on what he has seen in his life. He may be right: the opportunities are there. We just have to be globally minded (and this means east and west) enough to seize them.
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28.11.07

Vote for Journeyman at the People’s Choice Awards 

If you have been reading my non-work blog over at Vox, you’ll know I’m a huge Journeyman fan. While the 12th episode might not even air and the Writers’ Strike means the ordered 13th might not even be made, wouldn’t it be ironical if it won a People’s Choice Award after NBC cancels it?
   But seriously, if you feel it’s the best new American TV drama, do have your say, and in doing so, you’ll prove to us outside the US that you’re not only churning out reality TV and football games. This is a smart show that’s the equal, if not superior, of what British TV is offering, and puts a sizeable dent in the negative stereotype of the average US viewer.
   All Scots should vote for this show, too, given the birthplace of Kevin McKidd, its lead actor. (OK, I know that’s not great enough a reason on its own, but with its trampled-by-CSI ratings, I’m trying anything.) Since it’s shot in San Francisco, maybe we can get Mayor Newsom to vote, too? (Anything.)
   For the Brits who are starting to watch Journeyman on Sky One, here’s your chance, too.

People's Choice Awards
Go to PCAVote.com
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Miranda Kerr v. Paris Hilton: this happened in 2005, not 2007 

[Cross-posted] Quite a few people will have caught the gossip that Miranda Kerr, the Australian model, was upset when Paris Hilton waltzed in to a Heatherette show in 2005 and chose a pink dress that Kerr was scheduled to wear on the catwalk. The organizers obliged and Kerr decided she would leave the matter to karma. Karma delivered in the form of Naomi Campbell, who wanted the same outfit, and Hilton was given the same treatment as it was reassigned to the supermodel.
   I caught the item on Channel 9 (Australia) this morning, two years after the incident (this is news?). And according to one report, the source was not the Murdoch Press or even Reuter, but Kerr’s own blog.
   In fact, nearly everyone is reporting this as an incident that happened at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show earlier this month.
   If Kerr’s blog had been the source, I was all prepared to note how blogs can be the source of news for the MSM. This presupposes that the news itself is reasonably trivial—I have noticed through experience that some “journalists” (and vain bloggers) cannot handle irony or humour more sophisticated than a fart gag. Good manners prevent me from naming them publicly.
   But as I read about Kerr posting in the ’sphere, could I find links to her official blog to double-check the article? No. Not even the places that say she blogged the item linked it.
   The reason is that I don’t think Miranda Kerr has a personal blog, at least not one that can be readily found.
   So rather than this post being about the growth of the blogosphere as a news source, it’s turning into one about gross misreporting.
   The only place that seemed to have cited and linked the correct source is Sassybella, naming Pedestrian.tv:



   I applaud Helen at Sassybella for getting her facts right and for being the only journalist (that I have found) to point out that this was a two-year-old incident—something lost on a lot of (re-)reporters this week, including the Murdoch Press.
   I also applaud my friends at Heatherette. Richie and co. could have gotten publicity out of the incident but they chose to stay mum about such matters.
   Conclusion: the blogosphere and MSM are becoming closer and closer. The good bloggers getting their facts right are few and far between, and there seem to be fewer journalists upholding traditional standards among the mainstream media. This has become a news item that has been broadcast on TV and appeared online, with everyone but Sassybella (based on my searches) getting the show and date wrong. And getting the time and place wrong is just plain negligent for a journalist.

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It’s not ‘Volante’, but I still read it 

[Cross-posted] I spotted the Australian Travel & Leisure when in Sydney and I’ve noticed now the word Australia has become the words Australia & New Zealand very quietly. And being an American Express card member here (wank factor time: Platinum) I am going to be getting these babies free for the next year.
   The funny thing is, being a big (American) T&L fan, I can’t bring myself to like the localized edition as much. Maybe my travel habits are more American—I have been checking out some places long before they were fashionable among my peers here. The other issue is that the best articles are re-runs from the original. I like the mixture in the American Travel & Leisure, the tips, the awards, the top 500—stuff like that.
   I feel like a tosser writing this because what is localized and brought to you by John Fairfax in Aussie T&L is actually really good, and I am on good terms with many folks at Fairfax on both sides of the Tasman. However, I’ll still be supplementing my freebie Aussie editions with the American ones.
   The big winner is American Express Publishing in the States and all the advertisers as I have been suckered into twice as many ads.
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Learning about nation branding in 2008 



Nation branding is probably going to be one of the most talked-about subjects among everyday people in 2008, if new developments in that area are anything to go by.
   On the 6th, my friend and colleague Simon Anholt alerted me to a great new addition to the blogosphere: his blog. Simon is putting down his thoughts on an area where he has become the most recognized practitioner, and it’s a very valuable read. Italy, Kenya and Latvia are covered in recent posts, and Simon’s blog is one of the very few that come from a branding expert who deals with nation branding as his main gig—rather than the part-time approach I have to it.
   Simon’s written his blog in an easy-to-understand fashion but if you want greater clarity, then another friend and colleague has worked some magic, too: Keith Dinnie. Keith has written a book called Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, published by Butterworth Heinemann.
   What I love about this book is not just the fact that Keith has gone around interviewing folks like Simon and me through 2007 to keep it all current, but he explores the different schools of thought about nation branding, the country-of-origin effect (a good complement to this is Eugene Jaffe and Israel Nebenzahl’s National Image and Competitive Advantage: the Theory and Practice of Place Branding) and greater strategic questions, and backs them up with case studies. Other luminaries who were approached include João Freire, Leslie de Chernatony, Chris Macrae and Stephen Brown, and a whole heap of other smart people whose names keep popping up in the academic journals.
   Looking through those schools of thought, it’s scary to note that I can be pigeon-holed theory-wise!
   I should not overlook the expertise of Keith himself: not many people could have put a book like this so expertly together, and I take my hat off to him. He has a heap of knowledge on the area already and Nation Branding is a superb effort in getting so many supporting authorities into one work.
   If you want to know anything about the area, these are two of the best places to start.

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25.11.07

Air New Zealand v. Qantas v. Pacific Blue: the first month’s analysis 

In the past month or so I have had the pleasure of flying all the main New Zealand airlines: Air New Zealand, the national carrier; Qantas, the Australian airline that has fairly comprehensive services within this country; and Pacific Blue, the Toll–Virgin venture that launched with cut-price services nationally this month.
   From a branding POV, Qantas is the one that interests me most. The new Qantas identity, created by Hans Hulsbosch (whom I have had many good chats to recently) and his team, is being rolled out over here and began appearing on the boarding passes at Christchurch Airport (Queenstown Airport has not yet caught up). The evolution is very gentle, and I didn’t notice the change on the passes till I got home.
   But taking that aside, how do the airlines fare for the business traveller? All have online booking, so that at least puts them evenly as far as the computer-savvy folks are concerned.

Air New Zealand
It’s fashionable inside New Zealand to diss the national carrier. I’ve even heard from staff who have a patent dislike for their uniforms, crafted by none other than my friend Elisabeth Findlay of Zambesi. One standing joke is that they are reminiscent of the garments of International Rescue and stewardesses may hear passengers asking where Virgil Tracy is. It may be a bit cruel. And not all is down at the embattled airline.
   Pros: service has improved markedly, probably because of increased competition. Air New Zealand will sometimes carry double-booked passengers from other airlines. Internationally, they have been pretty good with excess baggage charges. Also, the electronic check-in gadgets are easy to use.
   Cons: legroom is the worst of the three based on a subjective analysis, and the cramped conditions now extend to the Airbus A320s doing the trans-Tasman crossings.

Qantas
Qantas seems to do no wrong these days and it does have a famous Sweathog as a goodwill pilot.
   Pros: in-flight magazine is a good read, and the snack (of varying quality) is free. Excellent service. Free newspapers at Christchurch Airport, though it is just The Press.
   Cons: in-flight movies tend to be Australian shows; legroom is better than Air New Zealand but it’s still not the best. I still miss the vegetarian chips from 2002–3. No electronic check-in, though Qantas will roll this and its CityFlyer service out in New Zealand in 2008.

Pacific Blue
The airline has launched into New Zealand with cut-price fares beginning at NZ$39. This isn’t dissimilar to the last price war we had in the early 2000s where I was flying with reasonably good legroom for NZ$79 regularly.
   Pros: humour—Eddie, on the Wellington–Christchurch service, is air travel’s Gopher Smith. The magazine is great. The legroom on the 737-800s is amazingly good and the best in the country—so much for the expectation of “budget”. I remember flying Pacific Blue in Australia and having a good dinner—the menu’s the same on this side of the Tasman and you can get lighter food for these short flights. Internet check-in is a good idea, as well as the ability to change your seats from your desktop.
   Cons: scheduling and queues. The planes are almost always late based on the four flights we sampled as a company. Rumour has it that Air New Zealand and Qantas have priority at airports. The queues, being the cheap airline, were very long, even for those of us who had checked in via the internet the day before. (In Wellington, those needing boarding passes were quicker than those doing a simple bag drop.)

   For now, I’m going to have to advocate saving a few bob and flying Pacific Blue. Sure, I don’t get my miles credited with my other loyalty programmes, but for better legroom and new 737-800s, it seems a better deal. If Qantas and Air New Zealand were to charge even $79–$89 and give me back the legroom I had in 2002, I would be happy to pay the premium over Pacific Blue to get points credited to my Asia Miles or United accounts.
   Conclusion: paying less does give you more and other than the delays, budget does not really have its true meaning in New Zealand skies.
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23.11.07

Condé Nast Portfolio is worth the $60 a year 

Condé Nast Portfolio November 2007[Cross-posted] Every now and then, there’s a magazine that captures my imagination. In 1988, it was Autocar; by the early 1990s, it was Wired, then Fast Company by the end of the decade. Now, the magazine (other than any I publish!) is Condé Nast Portfolio.
   I’m annoyed that, like Business Week, Portfolio is next to impossible to get in New Zealand, though Advance can count on me as a subscriber now. As a business magazine, it is intelligently written and beautifully presented: think of it as Business Week meets The Atlantic Monthly. Design-wise, it’s a tad over-ornamented and olde worlde American, but that text typeface is beautiful and I could read it all day. It is intelligently written, but not in an inaccessible way—like the Atlantic.
   Lucky Yanks can subscribe for a dollar a month whereas I have to pay the full US$60 to get them Down Under, but at around NZ$7 an issue, it’s not a lot to ask. Postage alone won’t cover that seven bucks, and I should know.
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That time of the year again 

I can’t believe that nearly a month has gone by without a blog post here. Actually, I can. I have been travelling but the odd thing is that I have said, numerous times in the last four weeks, ‘I’ll have to blog about that.’ And I don’t.
   Not everything can be blamed on Blogger being less easy to use than Wordpress or my lack of time in shifting this blog on to that platform. Nor can it be blamed fully on my jet-setting. What it can be blamed on is how I view blogs as suffering from a lack of civility as a medium, the sort of thing that happened to email when the spammers got in.
   You wonder why anyone would spam these days. I have SpamKiller and I venture to say that many others have similar tools. The very popular Gmail has great spam filters, I am told. So there seems little point to engage in damaging a business’s goodwill by sending unsolicited commercial email.
   Similarly, there seems to be little point to be a dick as a commenter on blogs, but yet plenty of people are willing to do that. This year seems to have been a banner year for that, based on this blog alone, though many that choose to express their viewpoints in a less than civilized way have only their IP addresses to give up. They are anonymous, but they simply make those who disagree with them ignore them for a severe lack of credibility and, possibly, some mental condition.
   The blog fanatics out there swear by this medium because it gives them a chance to exchange viewpoints. I agree that once upon a time, blogs were pretty good for doing that, provided that sender and receiver were prepared to keep an open mind and, in case of rifts, agree to disagree. Most of the time, this blog is still pretty good as a viewpoint-exchanging tool, especially among regular readers. You guys are great, but you are also connected to me elsewhere. Therefore, some days I just can’t be bothered, especially on days when I feel I am being a slave to the technology instead of vice versa.
   Hence, November 2007 was not a great month for my blogging: I simply was having more fun living my life, notifying friends through Facebook where a mere status update replaced a fully thought-out post. It is either the dumbing down of the internet or the realization that we only have so much time in our lives.
   The other reason I see blogs as being less effective than they were mid-decade is that fewer private citizens will be out there expressing themselves as corporations move in to the ’sphere. We saw that with websites, initially something that the hobbyist hacking HTML was quite happy to do, then corporations saw a chance to commercialize the medium. I know: I commercialized it the best I could, too, when starting to build international businesses using the World Wide Web.
   I’m no longer interested in reading, for the most part, someone re-reporting the MSM. Why don’t I just read the original report? True, many times I wouldn’t even have known of the original article if it were not for the blogger. But I prefer my own analysis and I have no desire to be one of those commenting assholes debating for the sake of it, just because someone else recorded her or his opinion in the blogosphere before I did. Unless it’s something that strikes a nerve, I don’t really want to blog about it myself.
   Perhaps it is just an annual thing. Twelve months ago, I expressed similar dissatisfaction but still managed to get through a few months in 2007 where I was blogging 30-plus times per month. That’s still over a post a day. Maybe summer means I am outside, enjoying life, and being selfish about that enjoyment by not sharing it.
   Who knows? I might be a hypocrite and get back to my earlier output by February 2008. For now, I am feeling blasé about blogging, as I have done most of this month. It might pass—unless it doesn’t.
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Note

Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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