Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

My Conflicted Feelings about Bree Tanner

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 at 9:47 am
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 24:  Author Stephenie M...

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Here’s the thing. I don’t think Stephenie Meyer is a very good writer.

I know I’m not her target audience but, in my own defense, I am a voracious reader as happy with a fun, well-written young adult book as I am with an engrossing Russian novel; as happy with JRR Tolkien as I am with Lorrie Moore.  I love reading.

So, when Twilight first came out and shot up the best seller lists, I was curious. And I really wasn’t all that impressed. But, I figured maybe it was just me, maybe it was my mood at the time. And as the subsequent books came out, I gave them a chance.

And each time, I found them — eh.

Now she’s out with a new novella in the same series, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and I also found it, eh.

And I’m not the only one.  The Guardian said the book is “woefully, leaden-footedly pedestrian throughout.”

Indications are that even Meyer may be close to having had her fill of vampires.

It’s really all besides the point, though.

As The Washington Post pointed out: “The satisfaction of “Twilight” novels cannot be measured by such terms as “good” and “bad.” This goes double for “Bree,” which was not originally intended as a stand-alone novel and which all fans will read and all haters will skip regardless of the reviews.”

And the numbers back that up.

“Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight Saga, has yet another smash hit on her hands,” the Associated Press wrote earlier this week, reporting that Bree Tanner had sold more than one million copies since being published June 5.

And really, that’s the important thing. Meyer has written a series of books bought by millions, which means that millions have been reading. And I think that’s great. Maybe she’s not the world best writer. Big deal. She’s got people reading and, as far I’m concerned, for that she deserves a medal.

Because maybe those people reading her books will then move on to other (and hopefully better) stuff.

After all, it’s the reading that’s fundamental.

If Only Rolling Stone had had a McChrystal Ball

In Entertainment, Media, Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 11:15 am
General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of US Fo...

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Rolling Stone, which last week published the profile of General Stanley McChrystal that got him removed as the head of the US war effort in Afghanistan, received a lot of criticism over how they had handled the story on the web.

I mean





And, to some degree, they certainly deserved it, right? They had the scoop of year, maybe, and they failed to handle it in a way that guaranteed it would drive people to their website. People were somewhat apoplectic that much of Rolling Stone exists behind a paywall accessible through a subscription.

And why not charge for their content? Rolling Stone’s not a charity, a not-for-profit employing people who donate their time putting the magazine together.

Rolling Stone chief Jann Wenner apparently believes that it cost some investment to create the content, it’s not unreasonable to ask people to pay a little — and really is a bit of a bargain. For less than the cost of one issue every month, you get two issues and online access to the complete archives.

And it’s not like Wenner’s some freak out in the wilderness on this. The New Yorker’s David Remnick believes that charging people for content is not unreasonable.

So, here’s my question: is it possible that maybe there was something else behind all of this criticism, some sort of ulterior motive, perhaps?

Probably not — at least on purpose.

What the reaction to the article does show is just how lousy a job the media’s been doing in general (no pun intended).

Pretty much all of the reaction to the story has been about the most salacious quotes in the story — about how McChrystal and his aides personally criticized President Obama and others — and whether the quotes were on the record or off the record.

CBS’s Lara Logan even slammed Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings, saying he’s “never served his country the way McChrystal has.”

It’s almost as if none of these critics have actually read the piece — just the prurient quotes that have been pulled out.

And why do I think this?

Because if you read the story, you might find that the most disturbing part is not that a general and his top aides are occasionally outspoken and maybe not all that politic.

The most disturbing part is that you get the sense they seem to have doubts about the war itself.

“If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” one top aide tells the magazine.

And while much has been made of McChrystal’s supposedly close relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the article makes it clear, the relationship ain’t perfect.

Hastings recounts how the day before the “doomed offensive” in Marja, the general needed to talk to Karzai but was told he was sleeping.

“After several hours of haggling, McChrystal finally enlisted the aid of Afghanistan’s defense minister, who persuaded Karzai’s people to wake the president from his nap.”

A lot of reporters, perhaps upset about being beat or perhaps upset by a freelancer writing something a lot of beat reporters haven’t written (see Politico’s now infamously deleted: “And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks”), chose to ignore the substance of what Hastings wrote and focused on the titilating.

And, if you have any doubt that the thing about the paywall is a red herring, for weeks Rolling Stone has been running astoundingly detailed pieces about the failure of the Interior Department to do its job, the pieces have been free on the website and really, no one’s picked them up.

People should not be surprised that Rolling Stone does great reporting.

And maybe they should do a better job of promoting their own stuff.

But let’s be real about what this is all about. People would rather focus on salacious than substance (I’m not saying everyone, clearly there’s lots of great, great, great reporting going on) and, as a result, sometimes they miss stuff and they’d rather have people not notice so they engage in misdirection.

Managing Mailer

In Entertainment, Media, Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 9:16 am
Norman Mailer, Miami Book Fair International, 1988

Image via Wikipedia

In 1969, Norman Mailer – already a successful novelist and somewhat notorious character – decided to run for Mayor of New York with the already legendary columnist Jimmy Breslin as his running mate.

The brilliant Joe Flaherty wrote a marvelous memoir of the campaign called “Managing Mailer.”

While the title is technically correct since Flaherty was the campaign manager, reading the sadly out of print book (excerpts can be read here), it quickly becomes clear that there really was no managing Mailer.

When I interviewed him in 2007, he said of that campaign:

“Looking back on it, there was something highly comic about the whole thing,” he said. “Not at the time, of course. Breslin and I worked as hard as we ever worked. One of my favorite remarks at the time was that my mother didn’t raise me to work this hard. The press thought it was a lark, but it wasn’t a lark. It was a bone-depleting journey.”

“What is comic about it, what I find comic about it, was how little political sense I had compared to how much political sense I thought I had. What I didn’t understand was that a freshman doesn’t run for president of the fraternity.”

I bring this up because there are two books out that deal with managing Mailer later in life. One by Norris Church Mailer, his sixth and, as she likes to point out, last wife. She was with him for about 32 years, pretty much longer than he was with his other five wives, combined.

Her book, A Ticket to the Circus, is a loving though very honest memoir of those times. It’s not always pretty but even when she writes of Mailer — or her — having an affair, there is no question that the bond that held them together was love (though, as she makes clear, sex was also a part of it (“No matter the circumstances of our passions and rages, our boredoms, angers and betrayals large and small, sex was the cord that bound us together”).

It was a relationship apparently few thought would succeed. After all, when they met, he was a 52-year-old literary giant and she was a 26-year-old single mother from Russellville, Arkansas.

“Bella Abzug gave me her phone number and told me to call her, at any hour of the night, if I needed to get away from him, and she would come get me,” she writes of an encounter soon after moving to New York.


“His clear blue eyes lit up when he saw me,” she writes of their first encounter. And she was leaning toward smitten as well. “He had broad shoulders, a rather large head (presumably to hold all those brains) with ears that stuck out like Clark Gable’s, and he was chesty, but not fat, like a sturdy small horse.”

It was clearly a complicated relationship.

During the publicity swing for his novel Harlot’s Ghost — a time when she figured out Mailer had been having an affiar — Sam Donaldson was doing a story about Mailer and he asked her what it was like to live with him:

“Well, Sam, it’s kind of like living in a zoo, One day, Norman is a lion; the next he’s a monkey. Occasionally he’s a lamb and a large part of the time he’s a jackass.”

She tells of their trips, their love letters, their children, their grandchildren, their tender moments and their fights, which could be just awful.

As The New York Times put it, “A Ticket to the Circus is not a tell-all memoir; it’s a tell-enough memoir.”

Meanwhile, the other book about Mailer, Mornings with Mailer: A Recollection of a Friendship by Dwayne Raymond who worked for him the last four years of his life, helping as he wrote his last books, is surprising.

Picking it up, it’s hard to escape a first impression of someone who worked for Mailer, probably didn’t know him so well and is trying to cash in.

But then you start reading it and you quickly see how much Raymond not only cared about Mailer but was involved in his life the last few years (a point of view, I later discovered, is fully supported by Norris in her book).

Raymond had been a waiter in Provincetown when the Mailers convinced him to come work for them, helping Norman as an assistant but also doing the cooking and shopping and helping Norris who was battling cancer.

While Raymond had had the writing bug and was a reader, his knowledge of Mailer at the time was thin.

“I had no basis for what to think about Norman Mailer. I knew he lived in town, but I’d never seen him and knew nothing about how he lived. I figured if hew as crazy enough to stay here all winter long, he was probably a fairly regular guy.”

And, if you only knew Mailer from Raymond’s book, that’s probably the Mailer you would know: a fairly regular guy who, while maybe having some eccentricities, loved his family and cared about those around him.

“To look back on my time with Norman now is like peering through a kaleidoscope: vibrant images churn in imprecise order. What emerges as I shadow more than a thousand days with him should be clear but that is not the case. The memories that do rise to the surface are often as inexplicable as the fog that gathers over the harbor of our town.”

Okay, maybe a little purple but it’s hard not to see it — and the whole book — as a heartfelt, loving portrait of Mailer. And while Norris’s book gives us Mailer the Man, Raymond’s book really is about Mailer the Writer, taking us into his office as he crafted his final work.

Spending time with either book is time well spent. Spending time with both gives you a a deep portrait of a man, a writer, who while not always loved, was clearly a giant who was not always so well managed.

Conde Nast Introduces Gourmet the Zombie

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 4:34 pm
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 05:  Copies of Gourmet maga...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

So, today Conde Nast — which I generally approve of as they regularly provide quality content and keep several people I know gainfully employed — showed just how shallow they can be.

Some eight months after they shuttered the venerable publication, Conde Nast announced this morning, the magazine would return — sort of — as an app.

“By focusing on a new way to meet consumer needs, tap into our deep branding, and approach our content differently, we came up with a product that re-imagines Gourmet and revalues engagement,” said Conde Nast President and CEO Charles Townsend.

In other words:

They’re taking all the archives — the great articles, the brilliant photography and scrumptious recipes — from the magazine’s 68 years and repackaging them so they’re available in app form.

And here’s the key part of the release — “It will be free to download, with registration required, followed by paid content options.”

If you want to see a sort of creepy sounding video of how great life will be with the new app (it really does sound like something out of a science fiction movie, listen to the voice), go here.

So, unlike — Conde Nast’s great website with all the recipes from Gourmet, Bon Appetit and their other publications — which is free and, I suspect, on its way out given today’s announcement, Conde Nast plans to charge monthly for content that you’ve probably already paid for at least once (more, if you’ve bought the cookbooks).

And, the best part yet — there’s no indication that they’ll actually be providing new content!!

So, all those writers, editors, photographers… they’re pretty much still looking for work.

At the press conference, this new Gourmet was compared to Wired Magazine’s brilliant app edition, the first issue of which was downloaded more than 90,000 times.

One of the key differences, of course, is that Wired contained new content, not repackaged old content.

This is not the future of publishing. I suspect a lot can be read into the fact that they highlight in the press release that the app is being developed in collaboration with a strategy and technology consulting company.

This comes across as a somewhat craven attempt to make an extra buck. Yes, I’m aware they are also promising it will have a social network component. My feeling is use Epicurious as much as possible before they close that, too, and join Facebook.

If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.

And what of Ruth Reichl, the brilliant writer and editor who had helped revive Gourmet, she apparently wasn’t even mentioned at the press conference.

On Twitter, though, she had this to say:

“They’re reviving the brand, not the magazine. Pity.”

They’re creating a zombie. Taking something that had been killed and reanimating it. Only without its soul.

Apple and Amazon Likely Winners in Price Wars

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on June 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

As I wrote yesterday, Barnes and Noble introduced a new Wi-Fi only Nook and dropped the price on its 3G Nook, undercutting Amazon’s Kindle. As a result, Amazon then dropped the price of the Kindle, undercutting the Nook, if only by $10.

It’s a price war kind of started by Apple when it introduced its iPad.

The iPad, which is not cheap — priced between $499 and $699, started the war because suddenly everyone started questioning why they should be paying hundreds of dollars for devices that are pretty much just e-readers when for a bit more they can have something that does so much more.

By lowering the price of the Nook and the Kindle, Amazon and Barnes and Noble are conceding that point, admitting that while there are people who want to be able to carry large amounts of books with them and really focused on just reading, it’s probably not the majority.

Lowering the price brings the Kindle and Nook much closer to being a legitimate impulse buy.

But is it too little too late?

Barnes and Noble (and Borders, which is about to introduce its Kobo) is a great, old-fashioned, brick and mortar retailer. They’re not a technology company. So, while the Nook with its color screen and ability to lend books is a pretty good device, I can’t imagine they’re making a fortune from it or that they even think they’re going to make a fortune from it.

It seems that the world is moving more toward tablets that do more than just allow you to carry around the complete works of Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, John Updike and a dozen others.I think when it all shakes out, we’re going to see Apple and Amazon at the top of the pile.

Why? I’m not saying Nook and Kobo and the Sony Reader and these other devices won’t be around. I’m just thinking they won’t be playing at the same level as Amazon and Apple.

First, you have Amazon, which everyone already associates with online retailing, especially books. I mean, they weren’t the first but I bet if you ask most people they would guess Amazon was. Second, as I’ve pointed out before, Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform that operates on several devices.

And it’s actually a really good bit of software.

The funny thing is that while there’s a lot to be said for Kindle the device, it’s really hard to beat Kindle for the iPad when it comes to a pleasant reading experience (despite what Ray Kurzweil thinks).

I think Amazon’s too entrenched in the minds of people to go anywhere and the fact that their software works on several devices will keep them around for quite a while. At the same time, Apple keeps showing they’re building devices to lead the pack. And with the iPad, they’ve created a device that allows for designers to turn books into apps that are fun, creative, interactive (see Alice in Wonderland).

What about Apple’s online bookstore and software, iBooks? One, it’s good but not quite as good as Kindle and two, for now it only works on Apple devices, which limits its growth.

What could change that is if Apple decides to send iBooks out into the world the way did with iTunes, making it available for Windows devices.

The Great Debate: E-Reader or Tablet?

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on June 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm
Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

Image via Wikipedia

There’s been a lot of talk — including here — about Kindle vs iPad.

On Monday, in a move guaranteed to make sure they are a more prominent part of that conversation, Barnes and Noble announced a new, cheaper version of its Nook e-reader offering wi-fi but not 3G connectivity.

Priced at $149, it offers all the features of the regular Nook — color touchscreen, E-Ink, the ability to “loan” people books — except, of course, the 3G. In the same release, they announced they are lowering the price on the 3G version to $199 from $249.

Perhaps most importantly to Barnes, it offers them a chance to seriously undercut Amazon, which sells its Kindle for $259.


The Associated Press puts the Barnes and Noble announcement in the context of how can Barnes charge more when there are devices like the iPad out there that do so much more.

And that’s really the crux of the debate: are people going to be satisfied with devices that are just readers or are they going to demand more. This isn’t really a new issue (in fact, I just touched on it a couple of weeks ago).

There’s at least one person who thinks that, for all the competition, iPad, Kindle, Nook…. they’re just amateurs when it comes to presenting material to be read electronically.

Erstwhile inventor Ray Kurzweil told The New York Times last week that he’s developed software that “displays colorful images and varying fonts with formatting similar to what people find in physical texts” and that the software will run on all sorts of devices.

Kurzweil promises that once his Blio E-Reader is widely available it’s going to be bad news for Amazon and Apple an company because “publishers will not give things with complex formats to these e-Reader makers. They destroy the format.”

Maybe Kurzweil’s right, maybe he’s wrong. In the meantime, companies on both sides of the debate keep moving forward.

There’s today’s Barnes and Noble announcement. Apple’s new operating system for the iPad and other devices is available for download, Amazon’s new Kindle should be out later this summer.

And Borders is about to enter the e-reader market, shipping its long-awaited Kobo later this week.

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Down Goes Mantel! Down Goes Mantel! Down Goes Mantel! Literary Rivalries Real and Imagined

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 at 1:57 am
Cover of "Wolf Hall: A Novel (Man Booker ...

Down Goes Mantel! Orange Upset

Okay. Maybe it lacks the drama of Howard Cosell’s call of George Foreman knocking down Joe Frazier but there was certainly a bit of wow when Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna beat out Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall to win this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction.

“The Lacuna was the surprise winner,” reported the LA Times.

“There is a sense of surprise and deflation around Barbara Kingsolver’s win,” commented The Guardian.

Even Kingsolver, herself, said she was “stunned and thrilled.”

There were several factors including that Mantel’s story of life in the Court of Henry VIII in 16th Century England was clearly the hometown favorite and that just two months before, Mantel had bested Kingsolver to win the closest-ever Tournament of Books sponsored by The Morning News.

Here’s the thing… why are we so concerned with which book is better? Which author is better? Now, admittedly sometimes a book that maybe few had heard of  will win a prize opening it up to a whole new audience such as happened with this year’s Pulitzer.

But really. Can’t we judge each book on its own merits? The Tournament of Books is a clever idea but isn’t writing more comparable to golf than basketball? Aren’t you really competing against yourself?

I mean, The New Yorker’s recently released list of 20 writers under 40 to watch is interesting but by giving us the list they’re telling us their special, perhaps more special than others, which is really something that we should be able to figure out by the fact that most of them have received great reviews in places like The New York Times and have written best sellers?

After all, it wasn’t that hard for The Millions to come up with a list of 20 more who are just as worthy.

Time Magazine critic and author Lev Grossman said lists like this are “a unique artifact of late-20th-century popular criticism — as crass and lame as earlier eras of human civilization were, I can’t imagine critics of an earlier era being crass and lame in quite this exact way.”

I think that lists like this and prizes can be useful if they lead to feuds like Norman Mailer-Gore Vidal or Hemingway ad Fitzgerald or Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. There have certainly been literary feuds worth following over the years — enough to inspire a book. (I’m being sarcastic).

Show me a list of writers I haven’t heard of that I should read. Give big prizes to writers that deserve more recognition.

Stop trying to make writers into college basketball teams and let them be judged against themselves. Judge the work for what it is not based on what else has come out.

Knight Foundation Grants Offer Hope for Journalism

In Media on June 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

Yesterday for the fourth year in a row, the Knight Foundation offered up millions of dollars as part of its News Challenge to people and groups with ideas about how to keep journalism relevant.

The 12 projects, which will split $2.74 million, include: new tools allowing bloggers and journalists to illustrate raw data; a planned marketplace that will allow people to pitch story ideas to local public radio stations and to help pay to have them produced and a video-editing studio that will exist in a “cloud.”

“Until someone figures out the next big thing — the next killer app that might provide blockbuster connectivity and information sharing to masses of people — we can use the Knight News Challenge to experiment with ways to learn how to think in different ways about information sharing so we might discover the future of news,” said Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen.

And that’s really what it’s all about — looking for the next big thing.

It’s not exactly a secret that newspaper circulation has been declining in recent years. What doesn’t get talked about quite as much is the fact that when it comes to e-editions, newspapers have seen their circulations climbing; up forty percent the first three months of this year when compared to the same period last year.

The Financial Times is a good example. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week the paper has been looking for other streams of revenue such as online — some 126,000 people have paid $299 for online access, a 15% bump from the year before — and hosting FT branded conferences.

As a result of their online strategy, the Los Angeles Times reports, the FT expects one third of their revenue will come from digital work by 2012 while most publishers struggle to see that number hit 10% and that “the company expects this year that direct payments for its journalism will exceed print advertising revenue.”

FT CEO John Ridding is quoted as saying: “Advertising alone is not going to sustain the kind of professional newsrooms that news organizations need and that readers expect.”

That’s at least part of the reason you’re going to see The New York Times start a paywall next year and why they’ve been pushing their store and continue to expand their online efforts.

And while revenue was probably not the motivating factor behind the Miami Herald’s decision to make a documentary about the earthquake in Haiti, it is a good example of a paper looking beyond print.

Meanwhile, the push to make the most of iPads and its tablet cousins continues unabated.

The Poynter Institute just concluded a two-day seminar: “The Power of Tablets: How the iPad and Others are Reshaping the Digital Revolution.”

According to Staci Kramer of paidContent, that in his keynote address, famed newspaper designer Mario “Garcia told news organizations they are already behind if they don’t have or aren’t planning a tablet edition” and added “Does it mean print is on the way out? Not at all… The tablet is the brother or sister to print like online never was.”

The lesson is that newspapers may be having issues but news isn’t.

As Ibargüen said in announcing this year’s Knight Challenge winners: “The free flow of shared information is essential for communities to function in a democracy.  More each day, that information flows through and because of digital technology.”

Don’t give up on papers and, certainly, don’t give up on news organizations. They are hopefully continuing to look for new ways to present the news and engage their readers.

Happy Bloomsday to You and Isn't it Time to Stop Censoring?

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on June 16, 2010 at 8:32 am

Still Being Banned

Today is Bloomsday, the day that the fictional Leo Bloom wandered around Dublin until he met Max Bialystock who introduced him to Sarah Jessica Parker and together — along with Buck Mulligan — they stopped NORAD from launching a thermonuclear war because a computer told them to.

Actually, it is the day that James Joyce recounts in his masterpiece, Ulysses, one of the most influential works of literature not just because of the text but because of how it’s been received over the years — being banned in the United States when it was first published before a judge finally ruled it wasn’t obscene.

Which brings us to today’s lesson.


You see. Almost 80 years after the book was first banned, it’s still encountering closed-mindedness.

This time, though, instead of government opposition, it was Apple deciding that a graphic novel version, Ulysses Seen, of the classic was, well, too graphic.

As The New Yorker pointed out the issue was some nudity — a statue of a goddess and one of the characters naked as he went to take a bath,

“Honestly I never expected we’d have problems with regard to nudity in this first chapter, and the last thirteen pages (still not up on the Web site) have some frankly naked Buck Mulligan,” co-creator Robert Berry told the magazine. “He’s going in for a bath, after all. I’m not sure we’d be able to make later sections of the novel under these rules Apple has set. It’s really kind of surprising since “Ulysses” won such a landmark case in censorship and public decency way back in 1932. it seems that the more things change some mindsets stay the same.”

Berry added that having to make the changes was “artistically debilitating.”

And while Apple reversed its decision, that they requested the changes at all is just the latest of a disturbing series of episodes with dark implications for the future.

First, at the same time they were censoring Ulysses Seen, Apple was also censoring — and reversing itself — a version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

There was the report late last year that they were keeping apps involving the Dalai Lama from being sold in China.

And, of course, there was the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who couldn’t get his app sold in Apple’s store.

The short of it is that we live in a somewhat dangerous time where while information is more available than ever before, so is the ability to wall off that information or even censor it.

The American Library Association’s Banned Books Week is sadly still around. You would think, hope, that by now people understood banning books really isn’t a good idea. No such luck.

Apple. Amazon, Barnes and Noble… everyone who is selling digital content… censorship isn’t not going to work and trying it doesn’t really accomplish anything other than building resentment.

I am thankful that companies are developing devices to speed the delivery of information and make it easier for people to obtain not just raw information but books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, billions of chances to experience lives other than their owns.

While I am thankful to those companies, I implore, beg, plead, — however you want to put it — with them not to censor. People aren’t perfect but I really do believe that the more information that we share, the better we are at dismissing the crap. I know it’s a little naive but I really think that if we treat people like adults, they will act that way.

There’s no need to censor. Let people make decisions for themselves and they will be able to separate the crap from quality.

I would like to direct Apple and their corporate brethren to three versions of the same sentiment.

For movie fans (from Spiderman)

With great power comes great responsibility.

For Christians (from Luke)

From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked

and, for government geeks (from a British Parliament debate in 1817)

The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.

Newsweek, Newspapers and Magazines: Not Undead (Yet)

In Entertainment, Technology on June 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

So, on Monday — for people in the know, or at least those who might have been surfing — Newsweek’s website offered an experience that crossed the line from entertainment to metaphor.

Readers who typed a secret code were greeted with a large headline declaring “Zombies Attack!” and a series of stores chronicling an attack of the undead on the East Coast. There was a timeline, speculation about how the attack started and advice on fighting the zombies (aim for the head).

And while Newsweek’s staff posted a note stating “this isn’t some sort of commentary on our current ownerless limbo…” it’s hard not to see it that way.

The Washington Post Company announced last month that the magazine for sale and there’s been a variety of groups looking to take it over. In the meantime, the magazine is losing staff.

The question is are print publications like Newsweek already a bit undead?

A report out Tuesday from PricewaterhouseCoopers states that the Internet is set to overtake newspapers as the second-largest advertising medium, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The report points out that in the past five years, broadband penetration in the US has grown to 64% from 34% while newspaper revenue has declined almost fifty percent during that time.

And with the growing popularity of tablets and smart phones, PricewaterhouseCoopers sees the mobile ad market also growing, expected to quadruple by 2014.

While there are indications that magazines and newspapers will be able to capitalize on this emerging market, getting as much as five times as much for ads in iPads than they do for print — and that digital versions of magazines could help expand distribution, allowing for the delivery of issues in places where it’s actually easier to send a digital file than a print copy — it’s far from certain all of this will be enough to make a difference.

In the meantime, mobile ad giants such as Apple and Google aren’t taking any chances, battling to dominate the market and grab whatever advertising is to be had.

Of course, as with all competition, this is one battle that’s not exactly filled with polite niceties and it’s already attracted the interest of the Feds.

Maybe publishers such as Wired, GQ and The Wall Street Journal will find ways to make it work for them and develop significant revenue streams allowing them to survive.

Or maybe it’s already too late.