Monthly Archives: May 2010

How do you spell chutzpah?

If nothing else, the folks driving the pay-wallification of The Times of London and The Sunday Times have the courage of their convictions, recently making it clear, PaidContent,org reports, that not only are they putting up the wall, but they’re also planning to turn search engines away.

That means the sites – which are fine, focused products - could be passing up their greatest customer acquisition opportunity: their content itself. Non-members who reach a story page are greeted by a Times+ sign-up and login overlay, obscuring the article; there’s no taster, no excerpt and no way that anyone will find those articles via search sites.

In poker, they call that “all in.”

Mutter to local TV: You’re next


Alan Mutter has a message for local TV stations: What happened to newspapers is probably about to happen to you next.

Once it becomes as easy and satisfying to view a YouTube video on your 50-inch television as it is to watch “Two and a Half Men,” audiences will fragment to the point that local broadcasters will not be able to attract large quantities of viewers for a particular program at a finite point in time.

This will shatter the mass-advertising model that has served local broadcasters so well since the advent of the medium that some stations in the best of times were able to pocket pre-tax profits as high as 50 cents for every dollar of advertising they sold. While profits nowadays are running at a more modest 20% to 30%, they are well ahead of the pre-tax earnings of such corporate behemoths as Wal-Mart and Exxon.

The challenge to the lucrative local broadcasting model will have a direct impact on the quality, such as it is, of local television news – the medium that approximately 70% of the population counts as its primary source for news. This is a matter of great concern, for which no clear solution is evident.

The quote comes from the first of two posts adapted from testimony Mutter is scheduled to present at a Media Ownership Workshop being conducted Friday by the Federal Communications Commission at Stanford University. Definitely worth reading.

Photo: Creative Commons licensed from flickr user Tjflex2.

“Don’t tell anyone,” but it’s easy to search everyone’s Facebook status


In theory, I’m okay with Facebook being more open to the world. But that assumes that the people using it realize they’re likely talking in public, not just among their friends.

Thanks to openbook, you can now see how that’s working out, by searching Facebook statuses of lots of people – not just the people in your circle of friends.

The site defaults to a random-rotation of potentially embarrassing phrases (“don’t tell anyone,” “playing hooky,” “rectal exam”), but I’m sure you can come up with better on your own.

“We’re from the artists’ collective, and we’re here to help”


If I sneak into your yard and paint a picture on your wall, do you now own my painting? Or, as the artist, do I retain ownership of the painting and its context?

What if I paint the picture on seemingly abandoned property? Does the bank now own it? The municipality? What if you like it so much that you decide to cut the art out of the wall — to protect it, of course — and move it to your gallery? Have you just become an art thief? And, if so, did you steal from the property owner, or the original artist?

These questions, and more, are playing out in Detroit, where famed street artist Banksy recently splashed his overnight guerrilla art on the crumbling wall of a shuttered factory. The art was promptly rescued from the scene by a “feisty grassroots group” of artists connected with an art gallery, who preserved it by sawing it out of the wall and trucking it to their gallery where, presumably, it now stands preserved like a piece of that other Wall that once bisected Berlin.

I have to admit that Banksy has been, at best, a slow burn for me, and I have very real concerns about art that appears on private property without permission, but there’s no question that his current cross-country-America meanderings have been entertaining and have had the beneficial side effect of opening up discussions about art in the public sphere. For instance, in this case, if an artist creates a work specific to a place — ignoring its legality for the moment — isn’t it better to leave it there, where it speaks for itself, rather than move it to a room with hardwood floors and refrigerated air, where a small, tasteful card explains exactly what “all this” refers to?

As is often the case, the most astute commentary — from both sides — can be found on the inevitable Metafilter thread about the art heist:

“This can only legally be described as one thing: Theft of a wall on which an act of vandalism has been committed.

“I love Banksy’s stuff – it’s everything art should be. It’s interesting, relevant, controversial, and it’s highly visible. It’s accessible. Is it supposed to be permanent? Of course not.

“However, I also agree that it’s obviously vandalism. It’s part of the discomfort that makes his stuff so interesting. Is the act of vandalism more accepted because of the works? Is it more valuable because he’s famous? Is it more relevant because it’s discussed? When does it cross the line?

“There are no right and wrong answers to these questions – only legal ramifications. But when something is in the public realm, and it’s not your property, you have no right to take it. As soon as 555 did that, they ruined the piece.”

Felt wisdom

Why is it that the pundits making the most sense these days are either fake or puppets?

RE: The stolen iPhone prototype, Mosspuppet says:


“My question to you various idiots is: What the hell did you expect them to do? If someone steals your stuff, you call the cops.

“Imagine for a moment that someone broke into your house and stole your television. Would you be guilty of manipulating the system if you phoned the police and reported them? No, of course not, you’d be doing the only reasonable thing you could do. Would you be benevolent if you let it slide and didn’t file an official report? No, you’d be a colossal idiot!”