Tuesday, November 24, 2009

As God is My Witness...

I was going to write about turkeys masquerading as SaaS online storage solutions, but decided I'd rather just offer the above classic of TV comedy (if not radio promotion). Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Failure is Not an Option...

At WebbyConnect NYC last week, Steve Wax, managing partner of marketing firm Campfire, stated his companys' business philosophy: "The Greatest Success Comes from Failure."

Not everyone can afford to fail, though, which may be why the far more popular phrase (662,000 Google results vs. two) is "Failure is Not an Option," used by the very best business brains, as shown in the clip above. And why most of us prefer to say that we learn from our mistakes, rather than that we succeed from our failures.

I discovered a couple of my own mistakes during that same WebbyConnect confab. As BermanBraun's Lloyd Braun was about to extoll the virtues of MSN's Wonderwall (it scrolls horizontally, not vertically!) and other examples of branded entertainment, I checked on this blog and discovered that nobody was reading my latest post, Survival of the Couch Potato! Why? The explanation had to be that I had posted in the evening and then sent out my social media notifications in the early morning -- while my audience is basically a 9 to 5 crowd.  

So I've learned from my mistakes. This is being posted at a decent time (just ignore whatever time it says below -- Google's Blogger, my host, has apparently decided I'm on the West Coast, and I'll let them have final say in the matter).

As for failure, the day after WebbyConnect, my hard drive died. Thanks to the great work of the folks at Tekserve, the problem was fixed by the next day. I'm still waiting for my greatest success.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Survival of the Couch Potato

So TV isn’t dying after all!  In fact, it turns out that Americans are watching more TV than ever, according to Nielsen

The average household now watches 20% more television than 10 years ago, when the first Internet pundits had already been predicting the death of the older medium. Oops, did I say 10 years ago? Let’s go back 20 years, pre-Internet, to George Gilder’s book Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution In Economics And Technology, which actually included a chapter titled “The Death of Television.” "In an age when computers will be responsive to voice, touch, joysticks, keyboards, mice and other devices,” Gilder wrote, “television is inherently passive, a couch potato medium.”
Old dogma dies hard. Just a day before Nielsen’s latest report, TG Daily ran the following headline: “AMD Claims TV Couch Potatoes are Dead." Bad timing aside, Jonathan Seckler, senior manager for the computer hardware company more formally known as Advanced Micro Devices, declared, “Television is a fad and the end of television can be seen. Entertainment has become much more visual [sic] intense. People do things now with all that video. People take entertainment with them and don't just go home and watch what happens to be streaming through the air at that time. You can see the end of couch potatoes."
Except that Americans have an awful lot of couches. And they have more TV sets than ever, so where there’s a couch, there’s bound to be a television. They have more channels to choose from than ever.  They have high definition pictures. They have on-demand services. They have DVRs, the ultimate time-delay device. All this means that nobody ever says anymore, “There’s nothing on TV.”
Note also that primetime viewing is actually flat from a year earlier. The average family no longer plops down in front of the master TV and watchew together anymore. Household members come in and out all day (or night) and construct individual TV schedules based on their own lifestyles. 
And the Nielsen numbers don’t even take into effect the TV shows being viewed on Internet screens via Hulu and its ilk, or on iPods, or on mobile devices.
Credit for at least some of the increase in TV viewing must also go, ironically perhaps, to the promotional power of Web tie-ins and social network buzz.
Of course, social networking and Internet use are also up in American households, often being done at the same time as TV viewing. The former activities provide the interactivity that the Gilders, Secklers and other pundits have been expounding on over the years. And, judging by the continuing failure of interactive TV schemes, the TV set provides the passivity that Americans seem to take as their birthright.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's My Line?

At a Freelancers Union workshop I attended last year, Smart Networking guru Liz Lynch stressed the importance of a strong opening line when forging strategic relationships.

But am I a freelancer? A consultant? A small business? All of the above? Or one of dozens of other possibilities?

Earlier this year, doing PR on behalf of IAC-EZ, which provides online bookkeeping services to freelancers and the smallest of small businesses (three or less employees), I wanted to reach journalists who might cover trends involving the company’s target audience. So I began tracking relevant keywords.

Some journalists were indeed covering freelancers, consultants or small businesses. But I needed to add entrepreneurs and home-based businesses…self-employed, sole proprietors, independent workers, contract workers and independent contractors…even microbusiness, solopreneurs and homepreneurs. And I know I’ve forgotten a bunch.

As I pondered how to define my line of work for my line of introduction, the classic TV game show What’s My Line? came to mind. Looking for an appropriate video to lead off this post, I settled on the above clip from the very first episode in 1950 – due to its tidy tie-in to the World Series later that year, the only one to feature the Yankees and Phillies until this fall.

But while Yankee great Phil Rizzuto made sense to me, the celebrity panelists did not. Gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen was present. But not long-time panelist Arlene Francis. Certainly not Soupy Sales! And who were those three other, rather boring men?

I began to investigate. One panelist was soon-to-be-blacklisted poet Louis Untermeyer. Two were named Hoffman, although unrelated: Harold, a soon-to-be-scandalized ex-New Jersey governor – and Richard, a soon-to-be-forgotten neuropsychiatrist.

Unlike his fellow panelists, Dr. Richard Hoffman has earned no Wikipedia entry. His lasting claim to fame, based on my initial Google search? Appearing as a panelist on the first three episodes of What’s My Line?

But surely he must have done something to merit that slot. So I dug deeper, discovering that the press called Dr. Hoffman a “Park Avenue” psychiatrist, meaning his clients were rich – and often famous. Indeed, Dr. Hoffman was sort of the Dr. Phil of his day. He made the society pages by attending fancy parties. Decades before Lorraine Bracco on The Sopranos, he treated famed mobster Frank Costello. Other clients included actress Gloria Swanson and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was “resident psychiatrist” on a network radio series. He wrote books and contributed to Reader’s Digest.

He also provided expert testimony at celebrated trials, including what, pre-OJ, passed as the “Trial of the Century”– the 1930s case against Bruno Hauptmann for kidnapping and murdering Charles Lindbergh's baby, where Dr. Hoffman testified on behalf of the prosecution. But, once Hauptmann was convicted in that New Jersey-based case, guess who led the fight to overturn the verdict. Yes, the state's governor at the time -- the other Hoffman on the What's My Line? panel! (A tale of two Hoffmans, foreshadowing Abbie and Julius and yet another “Trial of the Century” some 20 years later!)

For whatever reason (lack of posthumous PR perhaps?), Dr. Richard Hoffman and his life's accomplishments have faded into obscurity. Fame, of course, can be fleeting. But so can entire occupations. And not just neuropsychiatry, which long ago split into psychiatry and neurology.

Watch the complete episode of the first What’s My Line? and you’ll see that the first two contestants were a hat check girl and a diaper service executive. But fashions change. Soon, men would stop wearing hats, and babies would go disposable.

As for the third contestant before the mystery guest? Well, veterinarians would seem to be forever.

So will the current trend of independent, self-employed, freelancing, home-based, entrepreneurial consultants prove as enduring as the family pet – or is my line destined to follow Dr. Richard Hoffman into history’s footnotes?