Will MySpace Lose Their Space?

MySpace is seemingly Lost In Space. They have been losing users at an alarming rate.
To MySpace’s credit, they listened and have introduced new user features (Profile 2.0), revised their music section, and launched a “connect” feature. They also ousted their CEO to bring in former Facebook exec, Owen Van Natta.
Additionally, MySpace is offering a Beta version of ”MySpace Local” which provides some of the functionality of Twitter, like; “Where can I get a great Tuna Sandwich in Kansas City?”

To be honest, other than the music search on MySpace, it’s always been a miss for me.

And the music section, until lately, wasn’t the best: if you sifted through enough dreck, you could find a rare gem. The newly revamped music features on MySpace are far better than what they had, and leagues beyond anything Facebook has to offer.

Yet is it too little, too late? Should MySpace have made these changes mid-year 2008 when they knew Facebook was closing the gap? Facebook overtook MySpace as the largest Social Network in existence this year, and it’s not showing signs of slowing down. (My mother, in her 80s, recently added a Facebook account to keep up with the “grand kids”) So, Facebook’s growth, in addition to the growth rate of Twitter (1300% from 2008 to 2009) leaves MySpace with difficult challenges to overcome.

It’s doubtful in the near term, but it will depend on Van Natta’s leadership, innovation, and speed. MySpace will also need to rollout “MySpace II” carefully, not losing current users while regaining previous members.

The other huge benefit for MySpace: it’s owned by NewsCorp, the same company that owns Fox News, along with the WS Journal and NY Post. With that kind of breaking-news potential backing the site, it’s possible that MySpace may emerge as a pseudo-combination of Digg and Facebook, with an awesome music application, online dating services, and the Twitter-like MySpace Local application.

Another hurdle for MySpace to overcome is the “ghetto” feel when compared to Facebook. Facebook is branded thoroughly on every page of the site whereas MySpace has multiple skins that can be utilized; some from third party vendors that lead to pages not to loading correctly or causing your browser to hang.

Additionally, MySpace is not positioned like Facebook in regard to the “employment” factor. Facebook is setup to “brand” yourself to potential employers…which means that users tend to keep it clean of profanity in the headings, as well as use actual names rather than online IDs.

But, then again, maybe that is part of the MySpace charm. Facebook has experienced their share of problems; they’ve disenchanted some of their members with sweeping changes to their privacy policies (although later rescinded), and have changed the user interface, much to the chagrin of many. In fact, many demand that the “old” Facebook be brought back.

Finally, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg seems to be hold the future of the site solely in his hands, as evidenced by the mysterious departure of Chief Financial Officer, Gideon Yu. CFO Yu’s departure was the latest changing of the senior management ranks at Facebook, “whose employees and investors are anxious about Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s plans for the social-networking site.”

But, Facebook is out in front, leaving MySpace with the challenge of implenting changes quickly; not only to maintain their 130 million current members, but to also reel in former users that broke ranks. According to Nielsen, MySpace and Flixter were the only Social Networking platforms to lose users from 2008 to 2009.

Where is our beloved Xanga?

ATT Profits Rise Due to iPhone.

It’s official: The iPhone is a recession-defying powerhouse, fueling strong quarterly results for both AT&T and Apple.

AT&T, which pays Apple about $300 for every device sold, added 1.2 million wireless subscribers, ending the quarter with 78.2 million. That propelled its first-quarter profit of $3.1 billion, or 53 cents per share — topping analysts’ expectations of 48 cents per share. $300 is a small price to pay for the new subscribers and those subscribers are using a great deal of ATT services.

High-profit mobile data usage jumped 39% to $3.2 billion. Text messages more than doubled to 94 billion. The iPhone drove much of that traffic.

AT&T said it signed up 1.6 million iPhone customers in the quarter — more than 40% of them new to AT&T.

Apple had its best non-holiday quarter: a 15% jump in second-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations. Sales of iPhones more than doubled, to 3.79 million, from a year ago.

Angels and Demons

Angels & Demons Movie Trailer HD – video powered by Metacafe
If you’ve read Angels & Demons, an earlier best-seller by Dan-The Da Vinci Code-Brown, you’re ahead of me in choosing sides on whether the book and upcoming film, both works of fiction, are anti-Catholic.

I am Catholic and usually I am too curious to worry about those issues but some of our colleagues are taking offense.

Defender-of-the-faith William Donohue of the Catholic League calls the book and film “demonic.” In a new round of debunking books (there were dozens when Code was hot) Donohue is selling a $5 guide to its flaws. And he whacked the film (which is not in theaters until May 15) in a Daily News opinion piece Friday.

The piece was chiefly about the new Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan.Donahue writes that Dolan, who is known to engage popular culture, will be challenged because…”Once again, the tag team of Dan Brown and Ron Howard have collaborated in smearing the Catholic Church with fabulously bogus tales.”

Now, director Ron Howard, who did the first blockbuster film of the Code and is about to launch A&D, fires back on Huffington Post:

“Let me be clear: neither I nor Angels & Demons are anti-Catholic. And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is: an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome. After all, in Angels & Demons, Professor Robert Langdon teams up with the Catholic Church to thwart a vicious attack against the Vatican. What, exactly, is anti-Catholic about that?”

Back in 2006, when The Da Vinci Code was the rage, 28.5% of Americans said they had read the book, according to a survey of 1,721 Americans by sociologists from Baylor University. As far as I can tell, the Vatican and the Catholic Church are still standing.

It looks fascinating!

The Real Thing? Mexican Coca-Cola.

After the New Coke debacle did Coca-Cola bring back the original formula when they introduced Classic? In a word, no.

Classic Coke is sweetened with HCFS, before New Coke the original formula used good old cane sugar.

In the 1980s, most major soda producers (and many food manufacturers) switched from using sugar as a sweetener to using high fructose corn syrup because it was both sweeter and cheaper than sugar. Due to the rising price of corn syrup, as well as increased consumer demand – primarily in the name of health – for sugar sweetened drinks, some manufacturers are considering a switch back to sugar. Others, like Jones Soda, have already done so.

As consumers, we don’t always have a choice when price is an issue, but let’s assume for a moment that all of our favorite drinks switch to sugar. Is this a good thing? If you have ever gone out to pick up extra packs of (kosher) Coke during Passover, when the sugar-sweetened version is put in stores, your answer is probably yes. But if you don’t like the taste of the version made with sugar, the possibility of a switch is less appealing.

Why am I just thinking about this now? Around this time of year in America, Coke puts out a special version of its flagship beverage that ostensibly is geared toward the Jewish population as its celebrates Passover. You’d be lucky to find any of it, though. It’s selling out everywhere it appears on supermarket shelves.yellowcoke
It’s not just the Jewish popualtion who love it, because Kosher Coke could actually be better called Real Sugar Coke. The standard American Coke is made with that dietary bugaboo high fructose corn syrup, but because the Jewish commandment is not to eat foods with leavening in them, corn’s out. So for observant customers, Coke (and Pepsi) makes special batches using real sugar. The taste difference is noticeable right away. It’s far better, like the Coke of your childhood.
Because it is the Coke from your childhood. Coke phased out real sugar in the mid-’80s in favor of that industrial-grade, cheap sweeter that clutters our palettes in nearly everything we eat. A major reason New Coke failed is because it was around that time that Coke decided to switch out cane sugar for that processed glob HFCS; part of the disgust Americans felt for the new stuff was due to the fact we had been used to proper sugar before that.

Most times of year, those Coke fans in the know can obtain Coke made with real sugar by getting their hands on bottles made in Mexico. This so-called Mexican Coke is highly prized, and charged at a premium at gourmet stores and Latin grocery importers. In fact, many countries make “real” Coke, and it’s one of the unexpected pleasures of international travel that you can actually taste Coke as Coke was invented to be.
Lots of other countries sell “the real thing,” too, including the United Kingdom — it’s just one more way that traveling Americans don’t realize they’re getting the shaft when it comes to food and infrastructure — but since Mexico is nearer, it’s easiest and cheapest for American consumers to get their hands on that.
If this “healthier” Coke is such a big hit, and it’s clearly turning consumers on, then why doesn’t Coke just make it year-round? The simple answer is that HFCS is cheap. Last year, the Wall Street Journal predicted that higher corn prices would force the soda makers back to sugar, but so far, that hasn’t happened in the standard products, although Snapple recently announced that HFCS would get the heave-ho in a product makeover.

Instead, the soda makers are being tricky, and bringing sugar back mostly to products it charges more for. Pepsi and Mountain Dew have noticed the thirst for beverages that aren’t made with HFCS, and in response, this month it’s coming out with its line of sugar-based Throwback drinks. But like Kosher Coke, they are not promised to stay on shelves forever.

I don’t like HCFS, one of the least inventive and blandest ingredients on the menu, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m insulted when manufacturers think this low-grade sweetener is good for you. (The junk is in nearly every loaf of bread at the grocery store, and even in Newman’s Own lemonade, which you’d think would be more natural.) I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to pay another nickel for my bottle of Coke if it meant it could be sweetened with real sugar. Either that, or I could convert or move to Mexico.

A Snapshot of Women and Interactive

The power of the female customer will not only influence how brands market this year and next; it will define the business and marketing strategies for at least the first few decades of the 21st century.

Women are calling for recognition in the form of consumer parity. They want to be acknowledged as an individual consumer with individual needs, rather than anonymous members of the female demographic. “I know I’m a woman,” she’s saying. “But I’m not like every other woman. Would you please start speaking to me about what matters to me?”

What’s causing this wave of feminism to spread at an epidemic rate? The emergence of the newest form of communication technology – the Internet and smart devices like the Blackberry.

Women are devoting more and more of their highly valuable time to researching, reaching out, and shopping online. It fits their multitasking lifestyle perfectly, with instant access to products, services, and each other – completing a full circle in the purchasing and influencing process.

Technology has made women the mainstream customer base of today and tomorrow. And it’s not going away.

Britain’s Idol Surprise!

Susan Boyle seemed an unlikely candidate on “Britain’s Got Talent,” but her dramatic performance on the reality competition show captured the hearts and imagination of viewers who watched her locally and on millions more on YouTube.

In fact, the clip still makes people cry including my mother. If you’re one of few who haven’t checked out the “Britain’s got talent” performance.

Boyle is frumpy, never-been-kissed and unemployed. The Millionaire Matchmaker has even offered to do a makeover for her..

The goofy music played over her introduction reflects how the judges, hosts, studio audience and even viewers like us did not take her seriously.

They all expected a ridiculous rendition of a song that’s far below her grandiose, delusional perception of her talents.

But Carumba were we all wrong.. As soon as she began “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, everyone was shocked.

You can see, hear and feel the ripple of surprise and delight in the audience. Even the infamous sourpuss Simon made a goofy joke and cracked a smile or in his case smirk..

It’s moving. In a sense, she has nothing except the aforementioned dream. And that dream might just become a reality.

Even Vegas is Suffering!

Recessionary times have forced a wave of cancellations of conventions and business meetings around the country, costing local economies billions in lost visitor dollars since fall.
Among the hardest hit are convention meccas Las Vegas and Orlando, the top two destinations for business events, respectively.

•Las Vegas has seen 402 conventions and meetings canceled from October to mid-March at a cost of $166 million to the local economy, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority reports. That doesn’t include lost gambling revenue.

•Orlando has had 114 meetings scheduled for this year canceled as of late last month. The Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau says the local economy will lose $26 million from the cancellations, with about 146,000 room nights at hotels lost.

Other cities have been hit, too. Attendance at major conventions in Atlanta is down 20% since October, and the number of business travelers for smaller meetings has been cut in half, says Lauren Jarrell of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In addition to the recession, convention industry executives blame cancellations on businesses not wanting to look like they’re splurging when share prices are down, they’re laying off people or being bailed out by taxpayers.

“A double whammy has come down,” says Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group. “There’s no doubt that all types of business travel are paying a heavy price, but meetings and events are paying the heaviest price.”

Instead of traveling, many associations and companies have turned to “virtual” conventions or “Webinars,” in which attendees meet via Internet hookup without leaving their offices or homes.

That’s what about 500 members of the American Society of News Editors are doing instead of gathering in Chicago this month.

Hotels in the USA lost more than $1 billion in the first two months of the year from event and meeting cancellations, the travel association estimates.

The dollar loss to local economies is greater when lost spending on meeting hall space, car rentals, restaurants and local attractions is rolled in.

Steven Hacker, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, conservatively estimates lost convention and meeting revenue at $10 billion since October. That’s 10% of what usually is $100 billion a year worth of revenue to the local economies of the USA and Canada.

Thailand Violence, Very Sad.

Having lived in Thailand and lived through two military coups I realize that the people are easily swayed and when their emotions take over they can’t seem to control themselves. One of my friends was killed in a coup there in 1990 coup. He was a teacher at the International school and was shot leaving a monastery. It was a very frightening time.

I know there is a great deal of corruption in the government there and some of the people have had enough. The violence however makes the economy take a hit and that makes matters worse.
Authorities say one person has died from a gunshot wound to the chest, and two more have been hurt in ongoing protests in Thailand over the ouster of a former prime minister. The fighting was focused around a market in Bangkok, and was between area residents and anti-government protesters, Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said.

News of the fatality and injuries came as Thai soldiers and police struggled to restore order Monday. Meantime, red-shirted anti-government protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails and blockaded the streets of Bangkok with buses and burning tires.

Sometimes the King comes in and the violence stops immediately. But sometimes the King is not even aware of the violence. In one coup the King was informed by Thai’s living abroad!

The unrest continued after demonstrators forced Thailand to cancel an Asian regional summit over the weekend, another humiliating setback for a long-time U.S. ally that markets itself as a friendly tourist destination and an up-and-coming democracy. Just five months ago, another series of protests shut down Bangkok’s two airports, stranding thousands of travelers for a week.

This is bad for Thailand and especially for tourism there. I hope they can sort this out.

One of a kind Fuzzy Zoeller plays his last Masters

I will be sad to see Fuzzy leave the Masters…as a young creative director I was assigned to follow Fuzzy on the PGA Tour after he won the Masters his first time out. He was a character for sure but the renegade in him is what made him so interesting.
That is why my client Maxfli used him in their advertising. He went against the grain even then choosing to use a Maxfli ball over the Tour favorite Titleist.

I wasn’t much of a golfer but I grew to love and follow the game mostly because Fuzzy took all of the snobbish, pretension out of the game and because he gave me my first set of clubs and a few pointers.images-1
He also stated with confidence that I had the natural golf swing of a pro bowler.
I photographed him the morning after he beat Jack Nicklaus in the famous Skins game when he kissed the Golden Bear to Jack’s shock and amazement after sinking the winning putt. That kiss said it all. Jack represented the stuffiness of old golf and Fuzzy represented the new breed.

The best and worst moments of Fuzzy Zoeller’s professional life took place on the same expanse of manicured lawn, a few hundred yards apart.

In 1979, he was the first rookie in nearly a half-century to win the Masters, becoming golf’s equivalent of a made man. Almost 20 years later, the fast-walking, faster-talking, self-styled ambassador cracked an ugly joke on his way out of the tournament that has haunted him nearly every day since.

“Life’s not a bowl of cherries,” Zoeller said on Friday, walking off Augusta National after 30 years as a competitor for the last time. “You know that.”

His daughter Gretchen, one of four children and a former college golfer, was toting his bag. They hugged on the 18th green, where moments earlier; Zoeller was treated to a standing ovation. Both of them were fighting back tears.

It came at the end of a farewell tour that Mayor Deke Copenhaver kicked off on Monday by handing him the key to the city. Ever the funny man, Zoeller couldn’t resist a promise to return, if only because he already knew where the good bars in town were.

“I’m going to be at the mayor’s house tonight,” Fuzzy said. “So I know where his bar is at.”

He certainly did know the bars but he was friendly with everyone in the bars. Many nights Fuzzy’s manager had me make sure I got him back to the room before tee time, I don’t drink so I was for a short time his designated driver.

You won’t find golfers like 57-year-old Frank Urban Zoeller anymore, unless you count his friends on the 50-and-over Champions Tour, and maybe never will again. He was one of the game’s few remaining showmen, a little like Dean Martin, only inside the ropes. He’d throw off jokes between shots during a round, and then throw down a vodka tonic or two afterward.

No one was counting in 1997, when Tiger Woods wrapped up a historic win here and Zoeller, who’d finished tied for 33rd, suggested what Woods should serve at the Champions Dinner the following year, when the defending champion chooses the menu.

“So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here?” Zoeller said then. “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?”

He smiled and walked away, then turned back and added, “or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

Friends have said those 30 seconds obscured 30 years of goodwill. Zoeller lost some sponsors, but even worse, those close to him said he became more guarded, even in their company. You wouldn’t have known that watching Zoeller making his final circuit.

He cracked jokes with the members in green jackets on the first tee and most every one afterward. He lit a cigarette halfway down the first fairway, threw the butt down before skidding a 7-iron to 10 feet below the flag and didn’t bother to line up the putt before narrowly missing.

He didn’t line up any of his putts during his 1979 win, either, but for a different reason. Zoeller hadn’t even seen Augusta, let alone practiced there when he teed off in the first round. But as was the practice in those days, he was paired with a local caddie and followed every direction almost on faith. He described Jariah Beard as a “seeing-eye dog” leading a blind man around the course. It wasn’t far from the truth.

All these years later, Zoeller still doesn’t understand why none of his fellow pros hire a local caddie, a practice that Augusta National officials dropped soon after his win.
On Friday, he walked into the scoring hut and signed for a 76, which left him at 155 and 11 strokes over the cut. “I hope everybody’s had fun, because I’ve enjoyed my ride,” Zoeller said.

With that, he headed off toward the clubhouse and the locker where his own green jacket hangs. He plans to come back for the par-3 contest every year, then take a seat on the upstairs porch next to Arnold Palmer and watch the kids struggling with the wide green jigsaw puzzle that Zoeller put together correctly on his first try.

Whether his memories of the Masters fit together as easily, only he will ever know. But something he said before heading out to play on Friday, knowing it was his last round, suggested he was ready to try.

“When you’re playing well,” Zoeller said, “you remember everything. Maybe that’s the funny thing about professional golfers. They also have the ability to forget the bad stuff.”