Scenes from an apartment in Brooklyn: the Mets

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Item One. On things being over.
The Yogi Berra quote “it’s not over until it’s over” has a special place in my heart. Where some take it as a “damn the torpedoes” shot of never-give-up affirmation, as a Mets fan I know the stark, unvarnished truth: the Mets are up by six in the eighth inning? Yeah, well…it’s not over ’til it’s over. The Mets would have to lose an improbable, unprecedented percentage of the remaining games in the season to lose their lock on first place? Uh-huh…but see, it’s not over ’til it’s over. Such is the nature of the Mets.

Item Two. On the significance of things being over.
Autumn 1983, Shea Stadium. The Mets lose by a wide margin. Again. The crowd starts shuffling out of Shea, about as quiet as it is possible for 30,000 people to be. By the time I get to the stairway leading to the 7 train, all 30,000 people are cheering and chanting “We’re number SIX! We’re number SIX!”* at the top of their lungs. Such is the nature of Mets fans.

Item Three. It’s totally not over.
That’s all. Game time.

Item Four. Update.
Holy crap, is it ever over.

* For non-baseball fans: there were six teams in the National League East in 1983. It is not generally considered a good thing to end the season in last place.

“Kind of like Mission: Impossible”

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That’s what NBC’s Jeff Gaspin has to say on the network’s efforts to offer a compelling video download service after thumbing its nose at iTunes. From the NY Times article:

Under the new NBC service, called NBC Direct, consumers will be able to download, for no fee, NBC programs like “Heroes,” “The Office” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on the night that they are broadcast and keep them for seven days. They would also be able to subscribe to shows, guaranteeing delivery each week.

But the files, which would be downloaded overnight to home computers, would contain commercials that viewers would not be able to skip through. And the file would not be transferable to a disk or to another computer.

The files would degrade after the seven-day period and be unwatchable. “Kind of like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ only I don’t think there would be any explosion and smoke,” Mr. Gaspin said.

Seriously. This is NBC’s answer. Since you may have already seen the Times article, I’ll give you a bonus for reading seamonkeyrodeo…I have exclusive access to a leaked copy of a resolution that NBC is trying to put through in the state of California. Enjoy:

Resolution

WHEREAS customers have in the past proved so very receptive to digital “time bomb” content that they can use only for a limited period of time; and

WHEREAS customers have in the past proved so very receptive to network efforts to mandate the viewing of commercials; and

WHEREAS customers have in the past proved so very receptive to digital content that they can only access when, where, and how the network deems such access appropriate; and

WHEREAS Digital Rights Management software has in the past proved so very effective in enforcing the usage limitations recited above, and such DRM is never, ever broken within a short period of time; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED that it is hereby declared that NBC will offer the download service known as “NBC Direct” to its customers, and that October 2007 be declared “NBC Direct Month;” and

IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED that NBC expects overwhelmingly positive response.

Email Notes: Two Good Ways to Fuck Things Up

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It’s funny: I don’t both to write much about email these days. For the most part, that’s because most of the email that I see these days falls into the great undifferentiated pool of average…neither particularly good nor particularly bad.

But then we have times like this weekend, when examples just jump right up and wave at me, saying “Hi there! the organization that sent me hasn’t given any actual thought to email since early 2000!”

Exhibit One: Content
SiteMeter has started sending out an email newsletter good for them. Good for them, also, that they had the good sense to send multi-part emails. Less good, however, that no one at SiteMeter appears to have heard the phrase “images blocked by default,” nor that it’s absurd and irritating to use donotreply@yourdomain.com as the from address. Are you really that opposed to hearing from your customers?

So I’m sure that the creative was attractive and engaging, but—alas—the entire HTML creative was images, which are blocked by default in my email reader. All that I saw of the newsletter was the unsubscribe link, which I then used:

email-disaster.png

Exhibit Two: Reputation
Apparently much of the email sent to AOL and MSN/Hotmail subscribers by Truthout.org is not getting through. On their Web site, truthout notes that “the Microsoft-Hotmail administrators inform us that they are blocking our communications to Truthout subscribers on their systems due to what they describe as our ‘reputation.'”

While it’s not entirely clear, Truthout.org’s communications on the issue suggests to me that they believe that the “reputation” in question is their political reputation, and the idea that they might have a reputation as an email sender is entirely new and strange to the organization.

It’s possible that I’m misreading the situation, but since the org’s first response was to call for subscribers to put pressure on the ISPs involved, it appears that truthout may only now be learning the ins and outs of sending email in the modern world. And for an organization that depends heavily on email, that’s a very, very big issue to have overlooked.

Let’s talk brand, shall we?

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Over on CNET, Elinor Mills appears to have been wildly unimpressed with the conversational marketing summit. While there’s some interesting stuff to chew on in what she has to say, I’m surprised and a little taken aback by how aggressively Mills rejects the idea that brands are conversations:

And what’s this with the slogan of the conference—”Brands are conversations”? No, they aren’t.

The phrase “brands are conversations” is shorthand. Unpack the catchy soundbite a bit and you get something like this: the tools of mass communication are no longer limited to one-to-many broadcast, but rather support a many-to-many network. Furthermore, that network undercuts companies’ ability to “own” their brands as they could in a purely broadcast world.

Thirty years ago your company had the only megaphone in the room, and it could drown out conversations. Today? Well, you’ve still got that megaphone, but people are sitting in that room browsing the Web and texting one another as you talk. And it’s good odds that they’re talking about you and your dumbass megaphone.

Put in the most mercenary terms, “brands are conversations” acknowledges that people are getting input regarding your brand from a lot of sources that aren’t you these days, and that your best chance at shaping your brand now comes from listening to—and then trying to work with or gently guide—that public exchange.

Failed marketing stunts like the ill-fated Chevy Tahoe campaign that Mills cites are a dramatic expression of this dynamic, but it’s something that happens much more quietly every single day. The idea that companies even have the option of not “giving Internet users a way to ‘interact’ with a brand” is absurd.

Just go ask Sony. Or Microsoft. Or Noka

Inside Sony’s “ringle” decision-making process

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Reuters article: Music industry betting on ‘ringle’ format

As the recording industry wakes up from its summer slumber and starts thinking about what will motivate the consumer for the holiday selling season, the major labels are getting ready to launch the “ringle,” which combines the mostly defunct single format with ringtones.

Each ringle is expected to contain three songs — one hit and maybe one remix and an older track — and one ringtone, on a CD with a slip-sleeve cover. The idea is that if consumers in the digital age can download any tracks they want individually, why not let them buy singles in the store as well? It also enables stores to get involved in the ringtone phenomenon.

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Notes Related to the Apple Special Event

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  1. Oh, the irony of it. Just yesterday I emailed Starbucks PR, asking whether there was any additional public information available on the Starbucks music download stations that Howard Schultz had teased at the start of this year. I guess I know why I didn’t hear anything back, now.
  2. I just walked back into the lobby of our office building with a sandwich; the maintenance guy just waved a distracted greeting to me, because he and some suit were busy talking about the iPhones that both were holding. But, of course, we all know that iPhone sales have been disappointing, so I’m not sure what to make of it…
  3. Did anybody else notice that the Zune just got shafted? Again? More on that when I have a little more time.
  4. My decision to give a miss to an immediate iPhone purchase? Totally vindicated. Totally. How do you like them apples, George?