Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seth Godin's Malcolm is Wrong

Seth Godin wrote a great follow up to the Gladwell & Anderson debate that I spilled a lot of ink on last night. As  always, Seth writes it better than anybody else. Read it if you are interested.

Gladwell, Anderson & Me on Free

Great article by Malcolm Gladwell on Chris Anderson's book, Free. I saw Anderson speak about a year ago and wasn't convinced by his arguments. What he should be saying is that Free is the future for products that either, 1) Have a way to subsidize the production cost of whatever they are giving away, or 2) Perfect Substitutes (or at least close enough to be hard to distinguish) that must price at zero to temporarily ensure distribution until a choke point that offers pricing is available or they figure out a subsidy scheme.

The first case is where Google Search and Gmail fall. Google wants as many consumers to use Search as possible because they can subsidize the cost of that service with their integrated AdWords advertising product and still make a profit. Google has studied it and the bigger the funnel for the service the more money they can make on AdWords. So Google doesn't charge to ensure there is no barrier. What would happen if they charged $1/user? Lot's of people would drop out and they would make less. The second way they ensure a big funnel is by making the product the best available in the marketplace. This is often overlooked when talking about Google but it's very important. They differentiate the product.

The second bucket is where the Dallas Morning News (DMN) falls into. What is the difference between a recap of the Dallas Mavericks game between the DMN or the AP? Very little. I'm sure Mavericks fans enjoy the insight provided by a beat writer close to the team, but how big is that population? The DMN has a problem differentiating its product and doesn't have a choke point to enable charging. Paper used to be the choke point. Only a few papers in each metro could afford the printing and delivery costs, so a natural monopoly developed that ensured pricing. With the web, that monopoly is gone. Amazon, Apple and other device manufacturers with large market shares now own the choke point (their device). Google also owns a choke point on searching and finding the article at the DMN site or in Google News. Those parties have all earned the choke point by spending $ billions on R&D and finding a better way of delivery. If the DMN doesn't play the game and removes itself from the Google network or don't take Amazon's deal, how many people will care? Not enough and they will be replaced in consumer reading habits quickly.

The DMN and others find themselves in a temporary position where they must take what the Device & Web Services offer but if they re-engineer their business into something different or, gasp, build a better brand through focus (on the Mavs and 5 other core subjects for example), they will earn the audience and right to pricing power. The DMN and others like it have a difficult time seeing this though because they are competing against forces they've never had to worry about before. The paper monopoly was won long ago and they view the distribution monopoly as their right and not something that must be re-won (is that a word?).

Anderson wrote a good rebuttal of Gladwell and used the blog GeekDad as an example of a site (smallish) that produces popular content for a community, generates revenue, pleasure and recognition that can be monetized by a book deal (a subsidy). GeekDad earned its audience and now controls the economics of its Wired advertising deal.

Here's a more tangible example. Journalists have to eat right? They shop at supermarkets like all of us. In recent years "private label" goods have become very popular. These are knock-off goods sold at a lower price points with the supermarkets label. Consumers know that they are pretty close to the branded consumer goods sold by P&G, Clorox, etc. Some consumers aren't persuaded by the brands marketing efforts to differentiate so they buy the cheaper private label goods. As Gladwell says, $0 is just a price point, and in this example, private label products are not $0, but they are significantly cheaper. Free or cheaper is conceptually the same thing, it's the spread that matters. Why do the supermarkets get to offer private label products next to the branded goods? Because they differentiated by building their own brands, sinking $ billions into store infrastructure, and most likely, establishing a local neighborhood monopoly. Brands face the same dilemma as the Dallas Morning News, but they've been dealing with it longer, have learned how to co-exist and most importantly, don't own media outlets that give them the audience to complain about their problems.

Journalism is important and expensive, but it too is getting cheaper. Athletes are breaking news all over the place. How expensive is it to take what they say and re-package it? This trend will continue and make journalism even cheaper. I crack up everytime I see CNN reading Twitter feeds for breaking news. Where's the value add? CNN and other news agencies are in the process of being dis-intermediated. Happens all the time in the tech world. Editorial taste and opinion pieces still have significant value though and brands like the DMN need to focus on that. Let Twitter, the AP and everything else cannibalize the low-end of the news business and focus on building branded, higher value content that leads to a loyal audience. The audience will become their leverage against Amazon and others. Just as the P&G's of the world pour money into higher quality and brand building and deal with smaller market shares, so must journalism.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Silver Springs Staredown

The Sports Guy recommend this Silver Springs clip because of the stare down between ex-lovers Nicks & Buckingham. Pretty epic. Love this song too. Hope it treats you right after the great weekend everyone had.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Bakeoff

During my last couple quarters at Kellogg, I wasn't exactly the model student. I didn't do my reading as much as I should but I knew there would be time to catch up down the line. So when I graduated, I went through all my old packets from my favorite classes, and pulled out things that looked interesting, but that I hadn't read. I've been slowly making my way through these articles the last year or so.

This week, I read the Bakeoff, by Malcolm Gladwell. It's the story of making a healthy cookie and Gladwell chronicles three different approaches to the problem: 1) the Superstars, 2) Open Source, and 3) Slow & Steady Small Team. It's a great read and if you are building teams, it's a must.

Old School Pepsi Ad

Great, old ad.

Friday, June 26, 2009

One More from MJ

I remember watching this version of MJ's Man in the Mirror when I was a kid. What a great song. Cheers MJ.

via Frangry (who is hilarious and is a good Reader add).

Friday Chill Music (June 26, 2009)

We're saluting the King of Pop on Friday Chill Music. I always felt bad for MJ. I know he did some bad things in life but he was a sympathetic character warped by fame and his family. He'll be missed at Kenny Kellogg Headquarters where we regularly request MJ at every wedding we attend. Tip of the cap to you, MJ.

First up is Beat It. Unfortunately YouTube disabled embedding but click through for the awesome video.

Next is Thriller. This song was soooo big back in the day. Just amazing and so was the video. Reaching back in the memory machine, I remember when this song was played at the Golden Skate, my Friday night hangout in San Ramon from ages 10 - 13. The lights used to go off, the black lights turned on, and it was party time on roller skates for little Scotty. (A little trivia: I went by Scotty my whole life until I met Scotty Fausel sophomore year of college. He got the "Scotty" handle and I became "Orn.")

Third is Rock You. I've always loved this song. It's kind of sensitive but no apologies from me.

Fourth is Billy Jean. Perhaps the greatest beat of all time. A tour de force. One of the best songs of all time.

I'll end with one of my favorite Pearl Jam b-sides, All Those Yesterdays, from the Single Video Theory DVD. Seems oddly fitting for MJ...

Dont you think you oughtta rest? 
Dont you think you oughtta lay your head down? 
Dont you think you want to sleep
Dont you think you oughtta lay your head down tonight? 

Dont you think youve done enough? 
Oh, dont you think youve got enough, well maybe..
You dont think theres time to stop
Theres time enough for you to lay your head down, tonight, tonight

Let it wash away
All those yesterdays

Bonus points if you recognize that earlier this decade I drove the same kind of Volkswagen 1970 Fastback that Eddie pulls up in.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

USA Soccer Dream Team

I played soccer from age 7 through 15 and really enjoyed the sport. However, basketball was my first love and the seasons conflicted once I got to high school so I quit playing soccer. I still love the game though and watch games on ESPN a lot. I was really happy to see the USA team beat Spain, what a big win to beat the #1 team in the world.

I love to play "What if" with soccer because in the U.S., our best athletes play hoops, football and baseball. They never get introduced early in life or they quit like I did when they are teenagers. What if soccer was our national sport? What would our lineup look like? Here's my hypothetical USA Soccer Dream Team.

Goalie - Tori Hunter - MLB Outfielder - Amazing hands, speed & quickness and anticipates the ball perfectly.

Sweeper - Lebron James - Hoops Forward - Fastest 6'9' human ever created. Can swoop in and be physical when needed. No one would get by him. Great on headers from corner kicks.

Fullbacks - Carl Crawford & Matt Kemp- MLB Outfielder - Both are strong, skilled and incredibly fast. They're exceptional outfielders who can anticipate where the ball is going. Crawford could hang with the less physical forward from the other team and Kemp could take their big boy.

Stopper - Patrick Willis - NFL Middle Linebacker - Freakish speed and incredible strength. Used to reading the field and seeing a play develop. Sets a physical tone for the defense.

Center Midfielders - Baron Davis & Chris Paul- Hoops Point Guard - Incredibly strong and quick feet with explosive short bursts. Would control the center of the field.

Outside Midfielders - Allen Iverson & Rajon Rondo - Hoops Point Guard - Lean & can run forever. Good size and exceptional speed. Can burst up to support the strikers.

Forwards - Terrell Owers & Randy Moss - NFL Wide Receivers - Some of the fastest humans on earth and both go 6'3' to 6'5'. Would be deadly on free kick headers and could out run any defender for a free ball in the corner.

Who did I miss?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

JibJab Creative Process

JibJab has put up a bunch of blog posts on the creative process behind the making of He's Barrack Obama. Really interesting stuff from the creation of the storyline to the graphic design. This is a great "how to" series and aspiring creative type should read through it.

Full disclosure: I have a professional relationship with JibJab.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mad Men Tidbits

Great interview of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner by Melissa Maerz in Rolling Stone. Mad Men is my favorite show and I can't wait for it to come back on. Weiner is amazing.

Thanks to Alex Bain for the link.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my dad, Gary, and my stepdad, Jack.

I figured this image from a Durex ad courtesy of badbanana is something they would appreciate. Thanks for the tip Alex Bain.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran, The World is Watching

Very powerful press release from the White House on Saturday on Iran.

"The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights."

JibJab's Barack Obama Satire

JibJab nailed it again. Enjoy.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Chill Music (June 19, 2009)

Hope everyone had a good week.

First up is Grizzly Bear's Two Weeks. This is a great song and I'm lucky enough to be going to see the band this Sunday night. Can't wait.

Next is the National's song, Sleep All Summer. I discovered this band via a song they did with Bon Iver, called Big Red Machine. This is one of my favorite songs right now. Definitely check it out.

And finally, I'm embedding the latest from Jeremy Downs "In Case You Were Curious." It's an epic list, but my favorite is Bat For Lashes' Daniel, which I've posted here before. Check it out and read his blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There is No Substitute for Starting

One lesson I've learned over the last year with my side projects is that there is no substitute for starting. If you have an idea, you need to start where you can and let the project unfold as you go. I was reminded of this on Wednesday when a friend sent a link to a new business that had just started which was identical to something she's been telling me she wanted to do for over a year. If she had just started, no matter how small, she would have made so much progress. The day you start, it becomes real to you.

Even better, you never know who will help you along the way. I was reminded of this second part today when I logged onto AVMSurvivors.org, a patient support site that I help Ben Munoz with, along with our other sites, LivingWithTN.org and LivingWithAtaxia.org. I never could have anticipated that a guy like Winters3 would put our logo on his drag racing car to help publicize the site, but when you're doing something that people connect with, they inevitably help you out.

I hope you read this and begin whatever you are passionate about today.

Max on Colbert

My buddy Max just got a gig writing for Stephen Colbert. It's been a wild ride for him as he got married 2 weeks ago and then had to pick up and move to New York City. Big congrats to Max on the wedding and for sticking with his writing. He's made it to Colbert, and on his second night there, he made it on air. He's the very convincing lawyer in this sketch.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Croatia's Biggest Jeans World Record
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq

Thanks for the heads up Scotty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That Explains It

As a commuter with the drive wearing thin on me, I found this video from Paul Kedrosky really interesting. I always wonder why traffic stops for no reason. Now I know.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reblog: Monsters of Folk

It's with great pleasure that I reblog I'm All Ear's post Monsters of Folk. Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst, M. Ward and Mike Mogis are coming out with a record together. I'm huge fans of these guys and can't wait for the record to drop in late September. Here's a version of Bob Dylan's Girl of the North Country they did together a few years back.

M Ward, Jim James & Conor Oberst - Girl Of The North Country (Bob Dylan)

Iran & Twitter

I've been following the election gone bad in Iran. For a long time I've been reading about Iran's demographic changes. According to Wikipedia, 22% of the population is under 14 years old, and even more startling, the median age of the population is 26 years old. Contrast that with the median age of the United States at 35 years, and that is from the 2000 census. Iran is a very young country, and young people want change.

Over the last few days Twitter has become the communication system of choice for rallying people for protest inside the country and for keeping the world in the protest news flow. I've been following #IranElection but there are many more search terms that are aggregating 1st hand accounts from inside the country. It's reasonable to think that without Twitter, the protests would not have had the staying power and the powers that be would have retained control. Now, all bet's are off.

This is fascinating. Technology is accelerating social change like never before. We live in a very special time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Toxic Message

Excellent article in Vanity Fair by Joseph Stiglitz on how America doesn't practice what it preaches in difficult financial times. We're currently running the largest economic stimulus in the history of the world, in the hope we can grow our way out of the debt crisis. However, in the past when developing nations have had economic problems, we've put pressure on them to cut spending and balance their budget. It's the exact opposite of what we are doing.

What allows us to rack up debt when everyone else has to cut spending? The dollar is the reserve currency of the world. This allows us to print money at will to pay our debts and it's exactly what the Fed is doing right now, "monetizing debt." Essentially, the government runs a deficit and sells bonds to finance it. If foreigners don't want to buy all the debt, the Fed (a branch of the U.S. government) buys the debt by crediting the government with the cash and putting the debt on it's balance sheet as an asset. The Fed has effectively printed money, albeit electronically. This is a very dangerous practice and is not sustainable. It has me very worried and holding a lot of gold.

Stiglitz puts it well in this quote. Definitely read the whole article.

The dollar has long been the reserve currency—countries held the dollar in order to back up confidence in their own currencies and governments. But it has gradually dawned on central banks around the world that the dollar may not be a good store of value. Its value has been volatile, and declining. The massive increase in America’s indebtedness during the current crisis, combined with the Federal Reserve Board’s massive lending, has heightened anxieties about the future of the dollar. The Chinese have openly floated the idea of inventing some new reserve currency to replace it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The A's in San Jose?

Interesting LA Times article on the ramifications of a bankruptcy sale in the NHL for the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants. The Giants have territorial rights down to San Jose and the A's have tried to move there multiple times. The Giant's have successfully fended off the advances to date, but a court may open the door for the A's.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jim Grant on CNBC

Awesome interview with Jim Grant, a financial genius, on CNBC. He covers, Gold, Inflation, Fed Policy, Bailouts and everything else under the financial sun.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reblog Himmelsblog on Red Bull Pit Stop

Himmelsblog posted this fantastic video of a Red Bull pitstop in Times Square. Red Bull has the best marketing.

Friday Chill Music (June 12, 2009)

Lot's of music on today's Friday Chill Music. You may have to dip into your weekend to listen to everything. First up is the incredible Dark Was the Night concert captured by NPR. I recommend starting at minute 50:00 when Bon Iver comes on stage and staying through about 1:15. The first song is Bon Iver with the guy from the National who put everything together. From there, it's just an incredible concert.

John Hamilton reminded me how awesome Jenny Lewis' acoustic version of Silver Lining was at the concert last week. Find the acoustic version here. You need to turn up your speakers but it's great.

I can't stop listening to this song called James from Camera Obscura. Fantastic.

Great Fleetwood Mac link from the Sports Guy on Twitter. He puts it perfectly, "Rhiannon" in '76 + Stevie Nicks hits 102 on the radar gun."
If you don't fall in love with Stevie Nicks after watching this, I don't know what to say.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kedrosky on Venture Capital

Really interesting piece by Paul Kedrosky on Venture Capital. His argument is that VC is overfunded, leading to too many "me too" deals, high early stage valuations and low exit multiples. He thinks the industry should contract and provides some powerful charts showing fundraising efforts that greatly exceed historical norms. One quick criticism is those numbers should be inflation adjusted, but that is splitting hairs. He's probably right. I'm biased here, but I think the best firms are going to continue to raise money and continue to provide strong returns.

However, I think this raises a bigger question. If the VC world still hasn't normalized 10 years after the tech bubble, how long will it take the housing and mortgage markets to normalize? Those bubbles were even larger than the tech world and greatly influenced the broader economy. Something to think about when all the experts on TV start calling for housing to come back...

Karate Kid

One of my all time favorite movie scenes set to the music of Bat for Lashes, a great new band. Thanks Papilicious! 

By the way, this just convinced me to get tickets for Bat for Lashes on Saturday night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ed Helms on Letterman

I absolutely love Ed Helms and saw this via MollyMutt and Alex Bain. I can't wait to see the Hangover.


I'm fine with companies sending me newsletters for products I like. But don't put ads in the emails. I'm doing you favor by even viewing the newsletter. Don't take advantage of the favor. Someecards.com did just that below. Just plain selfish.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Can't Touch This

Found this on the excellent, I Am Fuel, You Are Friends blog.

Reblog: Aggregating Kellogg Blogs

Reblogging Papilicous' post about Kellogg Faculty blogs finally being aggregated in one spot. I wish Kellogg profs were more (new) media savvy. So many smart people with incredibly interesting viewpoints. Find the post here.

P.S. How long until references to blog posts start showing up in Admission Essays? If I was a prospective student, I'd be scouring those posts to find something interesting. Great way to show "you get it."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Killing My Lobster

Dave Hegarty invited me to go see the comedy troupe, Killing My Lobster, on Friday night and it was a blast.

There were two acts and about 6 skits in each act. I had some clear favorites like Stuck in Traffic on the 101 and Lord Humongous' S&M Winery, but the whole show was a lot of fun. Definitely go see it next week, as it's the last week of the show.

It's full of subtle humor and a great example was the survey they asked us to fill out. When stating your relationship status, there were four choices, 1) Single, 2) Married, 3) Divorced, and 4) Cougar. What a great touch.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Making of Zach G.

Epic article on comedian Zach Galifianakis in the New York Times. My favorite quotes:

"As often happens, however — especially to ambitious young men in their 20s — his true vocation found him in spite of himself. And it found him by way of a girl."


“This tractor is painfully slow, but whenever you let your guard down, it screws you,” Galifianakis yelled over the whine of the engine. “My comedy is like that. You can put that in your article, if you want.” He was dressed like a gentleman farmer, in boots and a herringbone blazer, but his enthusiasm made him seem like a 12-year-old boy." 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Bonus Music (June 5, 2009)

Epic acoustic version of Jim James singing Gideon. Courtesy of Bryan Kenna.

As a sidenote, this concert took place at Austin's SXSW in 08'. Belloni and I were in line and couldn't get in because the little church it was performed in was jam packed. M. Ward did an acoustic set opening for Jim James. I will never, ever forgive myself for missing this concert.


Can you tell I had my first sip of coffee in a month this morning?

Friday Chill Music (June 5, 2009)

Today's Friday Chill Music centers around an article titled Boys' Choir by Sasha Frere Jones in the New Yorker . He discusses the new trend in more harmonic sounding Indie rock through a profile of Grizzly Bear.

"Within the genre of indie rock, the move toward more singing done by more voices in a more articulated harmonic framework began somewhere in the early aughts, with artists like Sufjan Stevens, who became known for records like “Greetings from Michigan” (2003) and “Illinoise” (2005); both feature elevated, multilayered vocals. (His 2006 collection “Songs for Christmas” dramatically altered the well-known harmonies of Christmas carols.) In the past several years, St. Vincent, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and Beach House, among others, have found vitality in massed vocal arrangements that sometimes have little to do with rock, and even less to do with a masculine rock voice."

Bon Iver & the Fleet Foxes are two of my favorite bands and I've recently discovered Grizzly Bear. I love this genre and thought I would share some selections with you. I hope you enjoy.

Grizzly Bear - Deep Blue Sea

Bon Iver - Creature Fear

Fleet Foxes - Blue Ridge Mountains

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Love the Bomb"

Short but good Stephen Colbert article from the LA Times. I loved the quote below about embracing "the bomb".

But a certain fearlessness is a job prerequisite. "The first director I had at Second City said, 'You have to learn to love the bomb,' and I didn't know what he meant for a very long time," Colbert says. "But there's something nice about getting to the point where you enjoy the feeling that people aren't laughing. Imagine a child drinking beer for the first time and they can't possibly understand why you like it, and you can't possibly explain why it tastes good. But there's a buzz to failing and not dying."

While at Kellogg, I was on an interview panel for 1st year students and this was pretty much my exact advice. If you aren't bombing a few interviews, you aren't stretching enough. Some people came to school knowing exactly what they wanted to do, but the vast majority (like me) were exploring. I did a lot of interviewing across industries to figure out what made companies special and see what made the interviewers tick. They're a great proxy for the personality of the company. My favorite interview was Jim Down of Becton Dickinson, which I took as a flyer. He was thoughtful, interesting and we had a great chemistry, so that is where I went to work. I loved working there.

I think this advice extends across a career and I thought it was cool that Colbert lives by that philosophy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


"In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Mr Geithner told politicians and academics in Beijing that he still supports a strong US dollar, and insisted that the trillions of dollars of Chinese investments would not be unduly damaged by the economic crisis. Speaking at Peking University, Mr Geithner said: "Chinese assets are very safe."

The comment provoked loud laughter from the audience of students."

Aging Sluggers

Great article on aging sluggers by ESPN.com's Bill Simmons. My favorite quote:

That's what happens to beefy sluggers on their way out: Their knees go, they stiffen up, bat speed slows and, in the blink of an eye, they're done. Beefy sluggers are like porn stars, wrestlers, NBA centers and trophy wives: When it goes, it goes. You know right away.

Note, you can follow Bill Simmons on Twitter. He's really funny.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mayan Resource Exhaustion

Mind blowing post by Paul Kedrosky on a paper that explores whether resource exhaustion was the real reason the Mayans disapeared. I've always been interested in the Mayan's so it really touched a nerve, especially with the speed at which we're exhausting the global environment.


an excerpt from Bruce Jenkin's 3 Dot Blog on the Giant's stud, second year pitcher:

"Why Tim Lincecum is the best: As some 8,000 Little Leaguers had AT&T Park to themselves around 10 a.m. yesterday morning, Lincecum was among several Giants who answered their questions. As the session drew to a close, a tiny boy, maybe seven years old, took the microphone and asked Lincecum, "Can I have a hug?" After the laughter died down, Lincecum stepped down and gave him one. Priceless."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pearl Jam on Conan

Pearl Jam is playing Conan O'Brien's first show tonight. It just so happens they've been working on a new studio album. According to I Am Fuel, You Are Friends, they were practicing at Seattle's Showbox earlier this weekend and busted out some new material, so Cameron Crowe could film them. Cool Stuff. Click through to hear the new song, although it's not the greatest quality.

Can't wait to see them tonight on the big stage.

This Really Happened

Next door to Ashish's rehearsal dinner we found this: