Ziff Davis Enterprise Will Change Name in Q3

The B2B media and events company Ziff Davis Enterprise will change its name in Q3, according to CEO Steven Weitzner. Speaking on the new Scribe Media 'Print to Digital' show, he noted the confusion over the name (for the record, I had that confusion -- check out his memo on the topic), and that he knew something had to change when three clients asked him about matters pertaining to Ziff Davis Media.

The latter, Media, is the publishing company, probably best known for its PC Magazine, that is moving to emerge from bankruptcy, on what may be a  faster than expected timeline.  They sold Ziff Davis Enterprise to Insight Venture Partners in 2007.

Weitzner, who joined in January, oversaw a re-org in April after installing a new management team and hinted there might be more changes afoot. Though he did say there is room for people who want to write long-form articles and not necessarily do lots of digital, blogs and the like -- albeit fewer than in the past. He didn't say what the companies new name would be, even when pressed by host Matthew Schwartz.

ZD Enterprise calls itself an "integrated media and demand generation" company -- meaning, basically, lead generation in the tech space. Its well-known brands include eWeek and CIO Insight. Weitzner talked, too, of having events in virtual reality, something they've experimented with in the past.

While we're on the topic of Scribe Media and shows: The show I'm hosting, which my company Teeming Media partnered with Scribe on called "Naked Media" launched on Tuesday and will be available on demand soon. Our next guest is Dave Morgan, former head of Tacoda, June 4 at noon ET.

In Mobile: Sex Sells (And SEO Will)

Adult content is a big application for mobile search, says Farhan Memon, senior product manager of AOL Mobile Search. Speaking at a iBreakfast meeting in New York, Memon noted that AOL blocks terms that would look for illegal content (think "teen" or "underage"), but is looking for ways to appropriately allow other searches, and monetization of the search, for adult content. Mobile is "about things that are not meant to be consumed in public," he said. Pressed privately, later, he wouldn't say how much of search adult counts for.

Other things discussed:
  • PPC -- Pay Per CALL (not click) ... in other words, someone clicking on an ad on their phone to call a number. Something only phones can do.
  • Localization on phones. Geographically targeted ads can be served because a lot of queries on phones are geographically specific -- what times the movie here, or where's a restaurant. Phone numbers can be correlated, too, though they're less reliable for obvious reasons (people move around and take their numbers with them). Can't yet triangulate location based on cell towers because the carriers aren't allowing it. One targeted ad from a company called Apptera let a singer, Rianna, tell folks who'd asked for a message from her tell them that she'd be in concert in their city (New York).
  • No single form of advertising is enough to cover the cost of content. That's why AOL is putting as many as four different kinds of ads on mobile search pages (SERPs), according to Memon.
  • There's a burgeoning market of women over the age of 35 using text messages to communicate with their children, according to Randy Haldeman of Apptera.
  • Mobile is 99% spam free, he says. (Carriers are the main culprits, he says, while blocking spam in general.)
  • Mobile search takes off at the time when computer-based search lessens. IE, as people leave their desks at the end of the day and on weekends, they're using their devices, instead.

On the last point: I wouldn't be surprised if mobile content takes money away from computer based search over time -- if people doing localized ads in Google and Yahoo start to put them into mobile in a couple years. In fact, I think it's fairly likely that it will. Which is probably one of the reasons Google is coming on strong in mobile. (And it's not talked about a lot, but Yahoo already has a big presence.) Today, mobile search has not developed to where folks are finding mobile sites serendipitously -- so a lot of marketing is being done to get folks to use the mobile sites that are created. That will change, over time, and I bet we'll start to see SEO and SEM for mobile sites.

What’s the Twitter Impression I'm Leaving?

Twitter is a fascinating experiment. Fascinating how personality is coming through over time from these 140-character posts on the fly, often with a link. There's a sense of the person, and a conversation -- though it can be voyeuristic, and perhaps a bit self-indulgent.

People who used to blog incessantly now Tweet all the time. Will someone invent a shorter version. Will 70 characters become the new 140? Some things I've obsered (so far), each in less than the requisite 140 characters:
1. Rafe Needleman* is good at finding the graceful app. that will show you how to IM or Twitter from our desktop (Twihrl)
2. Erin Byrne sometimes shows her professional soul on her sleeve.
3. Jason Calacanis is a one-man promotional vehicle.
5. Peter Kafka spends a lot of time in Brooklyn, and at his laptop computer. He brings his own food to the airport.
6. David Cohn is a Twittering (and blog and ...) animal, sharing everything remotely related to work.
7. Jay Rosen tweeted about a blog post on Scott McClellan's new book he had yet to post
8. I'm still learning about Twitter, and wish I had time to read all the help and tutorials (and hack new code)
9. Fred Wilson has a Tumblr blog called Fredwilson.VC.
10. Brian Stelter is a travelin' man.
11. Some of us will someday regret Tweets we’ve made.
*These are all names of people you can search in Twitter or other places, and so you can look them up if you don't know them or of them. They're all in media and I've met all but Wilson, and am friends with some. I hope I have offended none of them by writing these things. Wanted to be specific rather than mask it, because it was more intelligible that way.

NYU's New Journalism Innovation Program

Waiting for the on demand edited version of the Naked Media show from Scribe Media, but in the meantime can say a few things that came of it beyond Jay Rosen gamely and graciously trying to come up with business models for the new journalism:
- New York University is launching a new program, in Fall of '09, that somehow mingles innovation with journalism, perhaps in a business or tech way. It's not an entrepreneurial journalism program. Rosen didn't want to say too much more.
- Talking Points Memo is profitable, and something he holds up as a model of journalism in the new era -- very lean, involving its like-minded even opinionated community of a half-million readers or so in information gathering and parsing. He also doesn't consider it a full developed model, yet.

Sick of My MacBook Pro Freezing

My MacBook Pro laptop has frozen, AGAIN. I wiped it entirely clean and spent a Saturday rebuilding the damn thing a week ago. And now I'm staring at a frozen screen, and will have to type up a long document I was working on but (stupidly) hadn't saved in the Pages word processing software. (Word at least saves drafts automatically -- Pages could do that, without having to overwrite the previous.)

Running a monitor, Twihrl, few browsers, Pages and a sync program or two ... yes, it's a lot, but it shouldn't just freeze like that without warning. It's been about 20minutes, and NOTHING is happening. Got it to "beachball" (same as hourglass) a few times.
Typing this on my Windows XP laptop.

I don't want to say that Apple sucks -- it doesn't,really -- but it's not like I'm doing CGI or something. The computer shouldn't lock up like that. Apple Store was nice enough, but didn't really have the solution, beyond rebuilding the thing.

NYTimes Magazine and Emily Gould. Not Shocking

Replying here to Susan Mernit’s post about the New York Times magazine, cuz BlogHer won’t let me log on to comments.

NYT magazine, though it has “New York Times” in front of the “Magazine” part of its title, behaves like a magazine and goes for what’ll get the most people to pick it up.

... Shocking.

A woman in her 20s who worked for Gawker
a) was perhaps naive about the effects her performance has on others (in Gawker and to a male colleague), and trying to find sexual identity
b) can’t quite give up the desire for attention.

... shocking, again!

You’re right, Susan, that perhaps the most shocking thing is that what used to be the Gray Lady is trying things to bring itself into a more competitive era. The magazine in a Web era has to compete in a way it never had to when, only in print, it

Sure, it’s a bit like Vanity Fair, which tucks its impactful reportage inside issues that sport fawning stories of Hollywood celebs on the covers. But that’s the game, and it supports the quality journalism. And now, it’s a game the Times is trying to play.

Oh, and by the way, if I hadn’t been told I wouldn’t have known it was the cover story -- I read it -- quickly -- online, via a link.

Twitter-nalia: A Cloud Burst is Forming

I’ve been thinking a lot about Twitter, recently. (Twitter, in case you’re not in the thumbs-of-steel set, is a technology that allows people to send short bursts of text under a unique logon about anything they want.) Sometimes, it’s journalism -- an executive just said “this!” Other times, it’s banal musings about what someone -- even journalists from The New York Times -- are doing with their day: laundry, eating dinner, riding a bus.

Someone on a blog I contribute to called Rebuilding Media poo-pooh’d Twitter, saying the audience was miniscule compared to blogs. Others have said Twitter won’t be around in a few years because there's no business model. I don’t think it matters if Twitter, itself, survives, what the business model is. What Twitter represents, though, will survive. There’s an information cloud forming. What if in the stadium when the Pope was talking, if you could have a few hundred or a few thousand people Twittering their observations on what was happening, and then somehow assemble them into a cohesive whole. You could get a more meaningful and perhaps more accurate read of what the crowd felt or the “mood” than any single journalist could provide, whether with camera, microphone or by writing.

On Rebuilding Media I suggested that If you’re going to Twitter for the benefit of others, you should do it intelligently, consider Twitter a medium, figure out how to do it intelligently, not waste their time. But maybe that’s not necessary. Blogs have lots of good information and tons of drek. The good comes through. As this cloud of micro-bursts of information forms, and more people link to and reply to the other bursts, ways to sort and sift and retrieve will -- I hope -- form. Useful information will start to coalesce around a whole. Artificial intelligence will -- again, I hope -- get better, good enough to sort and sift for me, and keep me from having to go through it all myself (but still allow me to do so when I want to spend a serendipitous 20 minutes or so).

There’s not only Twitter, but all the offshoots of Twitter or things that interrelate to it and all other kinds of information feeds -- FriendFeed, and Twirhl and Twitpic and Tumblr and Twitterfeed and more I’m forgetting -- all applications that let you decide what to read from whom and assemble them in one place and perhaps intercorrelate them, distribute or aggregate them as you wish.

In one way or another this all will survive, and inform how we relate and interrelate and handle information and relationships with each other, and commerce and information.

Be International, Apply for Awards

Yes, I'm a committee member of the Online News Association's International committee. And yes, I'm shilling. Apply! Three days left to get in for the ONA's awards.

General Excellence in Online Journalism, non-English. At http://journalists.org/awards/archives/000510.php .

The Problem With Video ...

... is that it's linear ... there's no real way to skim ... I can't be told easily what paragraph to look at (though I suppose I can be told to access a video at X minute or Y). Just finished the Naked Media show, first one, with Jay Rosen, and it will be available On Demand soon on Scribe Media (thanks to those of you who watched live and participated).

This will be solved by technology, I believe -- searching, scanning and parsing will come. Everything do-able for "print" will be do-able for video. But not now. I don't, thus, quite understand the fascination with video ... there's a lot of great stuff. For example, a lot of information (in the usual Calacanis bloviation method) in this conversation Jason had with Loic Lemeur. But, it ranges back and forth, and even though it's a great conversation, it's hard to know where to access.

He talks about Nick Denton as a liar. Wikipedia as a closed loop. Mahalo, his search engine, as a place where human intelligence is added to search ... really, we need a transcript of all this, with BOLD text or some other signifier to tell where the entry points are.

Jay Rosen on Naked Media!

Dave Morgan has had to postpone his visit to the new Naked Media show, but we've lined up Jay Rosen, who graciously accepted our invitation over the weekend. Tune in Tuesday at 10a, ET and ask questions then -- or now.

Rosen is, of course, the NYU media scholar who writes the provocative PressThink blog, and is a frequent visitor to conferences and confabs considering the future of media, especially journalism.

American Media Wants a Partner with Money

Considering the current debt load due for American Media Inc.,  it's not surprising that CEO David Pecker at today's Magazine Publisher's of America breakfast said he'd be glad for a partner like Elevation Partners, who got a reported 40 percent of Forbes for a reported $250-$300 million. Keith Kelly wrote in the NY Post that Source Interlink and AMI have been in discussions.

Pecker was answering a question from MPA chief Nina Link about whether he'd like to have strategic partners. Pecker said not a magazine company who's also in the celerity space; the seven biggies are very proprietary and protective of their brands and material, and it's not clear what synergies could be achieved, he said. But a financial partner -- show me the money! -- or a company that has expertise AMI might not, such as a TV production concern, could be a great partner, he said. He earlier had mentioned a TV company AMI was talking with about producing a series of events for, I believe, Muscle Fitness, around the country, taking a single show they've done and making it into a traveling series.

The Coming Shakeout in Video Distribution

One big impression from the Streaming Media East show I got today: There are going to be shakeouts:
 - in content distribution networks, CDNs. There are too many to be supported by the market, even if the market IS growing 30% per year. How many do you need. There's Akamai. And there's Limelight. And then there are more than two-dozen others, about half of them with venture funding (too much  VC $$$, according to one person -- see Twitters in right column ), all claiming one niche or another. But those niches can't support it all.
- in standards. H.264. Adobe. Silverlight. These are all schemes for making videos and then getting them to the Web and into a browser or some other player that you can watch on your computer. But it's difficult to create in one and post in another. There's a rumor Microsoft will have Silverlight be agnostic, adopt H.264, and allow posting from all kinds of media into it, which could -- in the words of one observer -- revolutionize the industry. (Wouldn't that be something? Microsoft being the open ones.) for now, though, creators of the content are locked into different not terribly overlapping universes and the skills are not really transferable. 
- In video advertising. A bazillion schemes. Only some will survive.
- In video intake and display through the competitors to YouTube -- everyone from Revver to Veoh to Brightcove to Daily Motion. Fewer than exist today will survive.

Talked a bit, too, to show chief Dan Rayburn, who said part of the reason there might be less of a representation of revenue, and more of technology, than previous years at the show, is because he's got his ear to the ground -- and no one is really making money in video, while there's been the explosion of CDNs.

- Getting Nerdy (Online Minute)

My buddies at Scribe Media (who are doing the Naked Media show with my company and me as host) produced Streaming Media's video and will have it live in a couple days. 

Same Story, Twice on NYTimes.com

Same story, by my former colleague Ken Chang, running in two different spots on NYTimes.com -- except one has a few more words and phrases.

Blogs Are More Than All That

Riffing on SAI's post on eMarketer's analysis of how much ad money blogs actually get. One of the commenters pointed out a strength of blogs -- that they're optimized for search, and are a powerful publishing software. Here's my take:

Blogs are optimized not only for search, but also for all kinds of other exchange, import, export, sharing, "clouds" and so on:  tagging, comment sharing across blogs, integration with all kinds of feed readers and bookmarking systems, easy feeds through RSS and the like, import into Widgets, trackbacks and pings that tell folks when you've linked to them, integration with Twitter and other third party apps, including some yet to be built.

Not to mention posting of all forms of media, easily, by a single individual -- video, audio, podcast, Flash (if the file's been built), images, graphics, etc. etc. And the individual needs next to no HTML experience on many of the platforms.

They allow for easy categorization and tagging, are optimized for flexible templates with CSS that allows changes throughout at a whim, with -- depending on the platform -- easy integration with email blasts and ads and on and on.

Blogs are a CMS, a publishing system, yes, but I would argue a publishing system that by their interactive and flexible and easy sharing and cross postin are much more likely to create what I'll call a three-dimensional network of media and information than other systems. They can be one-to-many, many to one, many to many, machine to many and many other permutations and combinations.

Yes, regular old Web sites can be build to do all the things I've said above. But one person with a minimal amount of coding expertise can do everything I've specified above. Not true for other kinds of sites I'm aware of.

Is Yahoo Messing Around with MyYahoo?

I use Yahoo for a few things, including some of my business (the main site for TeemingMedia is hosted by their Small Business service), an old personal email account, a MyYahoo page I don't look at as often as some other aggregators, a MyWeb account that dates from before DIGG and Delicious got traction, Flickr, and I'd use the Overture keyword finder if it still existed. I sometimes use Yahoo Groups, which is still, I think, superior to Google groups, although it requires users to have a Yahoo logon. (A flaw with a lot of the Yahoo services; they essentially require you to become a Yahoo to use them.)

Twice today, and a couple of other times in the page week or two -- using Macs with OSX and a Safari and perhaps Firefox browser -- I've been redirected from the Yahoo service I wanted to the new Beta MyYahoo page. One time, I was trying to access the business emails to set up a new email account, another time, I was trying to log into my business email. Both times, I landed on cm.my.yahoo.com. (I was able to access my mail from that page.) In the bad old days of jacking up numbers, I would have put this off as an attempt to drive people through a certain page to jack up its numbers. Couldn't be that. Could it?

How to Make Money When Copyright's Not Protected

Shelly Palmer asks at JackMyers.com today how one can make money from content in a copyright free zone like China. He’s in Shenzen, the town that’s literally a subway ride a way from Hong Kong, and has gone from a pig- and farm town with dirt streets to a bustling metropolis in less than two decades. (I saw the tail end of the pig days. If you think New York changes quickly and has constant construction, you ain’t seen nothing; the changes are stunning.)

Here’s an answer: The content becomes an upsell for something else. Hard to justify making millions of dollars of material as a marketing play, but it’s done very successfully in multiple venues. Bloomberg, for example, almost gives away its news product -- and did, literally do so for years -- to help sell its proprietary stock and bond market terminals and information. Reuters, now part of Thomson, also gets a minority of its budget from news, which it sells on its own but also feed its proprietary terminals. For mediabistro.com, the editorial product gets membership and attracts ads, but it also helps attract users to the big kahunas: jobs and classes.

What, though, if you produce entertainment, TV shows or movies and the like? How can you make money from a drama that’s cost millions to make, and you want to sell, if everyone gets illicit digital copies? That’s a tougher one to answer. Perhaps, if ads are embedded, the ads are paid for even if the program is copied and distributed free. If you give the programming away, or make it tremendously cheap, the counterfeiters can’t outsell you. You can take a brand you’ve created and launch ancillary “products,” as
Disney’s done with the Miley Cyrus concert tours (no way to counterfeit a live concert). Add enough value to a the paid experience through a controlled distribution channel that people will want to pay for those additions.

CBS Buying CNET Makes Sense?

CBS buying CNET might make sense financially and the chart they released (see bottom of post) showing the various properties makes a good case for "synergies" of adding unduplicated audience in various verticals. CBS Chief Les Moonves, in PaidContent interview, makes a good case for the assets and how they all fit.

It's the operational part -- integrating the two -- that will be a challenge. Very different cultures, even if CNET is one of the more traditional-style companies in its space.

Widgets as a Productivity Tool

Widgets to spread content, or ads -- we've considered that.

But as a productivity tool, to communicate with the team, right on their desktops -- intriguing.

Movies Done by Research? Fie.

“Everybody has all this research being done and yet I don’t see any higher percentage of hits being made ... Instinct is at almost always better than all this computerized data and pretesting of titles and this ridiculousness that makes everyone feel secure but shouldn’t.” -- Brad Bird, winner of the WGA’s lifetime achievement award, and writer and actor for Pixar, on KCRW’s The Business, May 5 (a rerun)

"The business school graduate wants to feel there's a repeatable, dependable set of circumstances that is always a hit.... but it's all made on a very instinctive, childlike level. I hate them trying to impose business school logic on something as dreamlike as film."


Twittered that Summize might have traction and today see that Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Land loves their mashup with Twitter that allows searching by region.

Managing Media for Profitability

Yeah, Zucker said he was managing NBC for profitability. But what's so wrong with that-- isn't it profitability, more than audience, that matters? Sounds kinda B2B, but media's media, and business is business. Maybe he's not just talking to The Street.

Pulver Breakfast: Recommendation Engines and 3-D Information

Some ventures I learned of at today's Jeff Pulver breakfast:
  • Wizario. An Israeli-led recommendations engine for consumer electronics based on someone's personality.
  • Semavo. Represents information in 3-D fashion "like a galaxy." Differs from something like LivePlasma because the user defines the "galaxy" that will be at the hubs. So, of someone's interested in a given actor or musician, they can find the links to that person with a 3D representation.
  • Matchmine: A media  recommendation engine that's supposed to learn a user's preferences as they surf (or serf) their partner sites and carry those preferences in a unique "MatchKey." So, over time, the engine learns that you like cowboy movies and education blogs and smooth jazz. When I said it seemed like a good match for behavioral targeting -- serve ads to people based on knowing their preferences -- bizdev director Ken Gellman said they'd been thinking of that based on what others had said and that it was in New York, not the Bay Area, that he heard such advice on ads . Out West, he hears a lot of questions about the underlying technology and how to differentiate itself from other such engines. Different mindsets
Jeff Pulver, VOIP entrepreneur and co-founder of Vonage, now spends his time investing money (13 seeded ventures at the moment), writing a blog, throwing breakfasts, doing a Web TV show, and generally being as energetic as he can. (Though he did tell me he has a lot of time.) Today's breakfast, at Friend of a Farmer near Gramercy Park, brought together a few dozen entrepreneurs, and tech/media types, including a bunch of Israelis.

Twitter Technology

Today's note from Twitter. (Or this moment's.) The other day, I thought they knew I spoke Japanese, until I saw that someone else was talking about how they were getting Twitter in Japanese (!).

Twitter Journalism

What do you think are/should be the rules of Twitter journalism?

A few folks have been using Twitter as a kind of live-blogging mechanism, so folks following a Twitter feed can read what a reporter has to say about an event or news scene as he/she types it in a handheld device. That can be perfectly valid, but it’s important -- as with any medium -- to consider the audience, and how they’re likely consuming what’s being provided.

A lot of the Twittering I’ve seen reads as if you have to be at the event to understand what was said -- you have to be so much an insider that you’re already on the inside. If that’s the case, what’s the point? To be pedantic about it, some questions:

Do your readers need more information? Should you give a full name of whom you’re talking about?
  • Shouldn’t you say specifics rather than just allude?
  • Can you sum up, or should you quote?
  • Yes, it’s only 140 characters, but as Mark Twain might have said: I wrote a full article because I didn’t have time to Twitter. Writing intelligently in 140-character bursts is a hard thing to do.

What else?


Jeff Pray of Starcom in front of a water tower on the VoodooVox roof, just outside their offices (which belonged to Amp'd Mobile, before they went bankrupt and left in a hurry.)

These days folks excited about mobile technologies and media are usually thinking of visuals and cool apps -- video, photos, Twitter, ads, widgets, text links and so on. All of us caught up in 3G, iPhone, click-to-pay, bar-code-ism sometimes forget that cellphones and Blackberries and smartphones are, well, phones. They’re used to talk, have, y’know , the linear human form of communication known as a conversation. That’s often their primary function.

Some startups have not forgotten, though, and there appears to be a small if vibrant community of them trying to tap in to the new/old telephony. VoodooVox, which I wrote about this week, convened an “in-call media summit” yesterday that for some of the day filled a room of about 200 people in a Manhattan penthouse. The presenters included companies like SayNow (which I gather is a phone-to-music recording service), Starcom (which buys “in-call” media, ads that play while you’re on the phone , say, calling into a favorite radio station), and FreeConferenceCall.com, which claims to have five percent of the conference call market, if I understood correctly.

Investors, including Alan Patricof (who invested through a company he was with before Greycroft) and David Min of Steamboat Ventures and Eric Hippeau of Softbank were there, showing that the space is attracting money from the same kinds of folk who fund sexy Web 2.0 ventures. And we learned about revenue models as easy-to-understand as in-call advertising and as complex as FreeConferenceCall’s typical telecom technique of taking a cut of the money you spend to call into their service via a telecom revenue trade mechanism that’s been in place for decades. (When they, say, route a call through Nebraska, that Nebraska phone switching system gets money for the call from your provider, and the Nebraska company shares that with FreeConfCall.)

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener, though -- in addition to a roomful of folks in a swank Manhattan building excited about telephone calls, and the amazing VoodooVox offices -- was some AT&T ads (YouTube montage here) about the “future” that the company made in 1993. They said that some day “you will” do things like: borrow a book from thousands of miles away, send a fax from the beach, drive across country without asking directions (pictures of a GPS-like device on the dash), pay a toll without stopping, buy concert tickets from an ATM, call into a business call with your shoes off, carry your medical history "in your wallet", watched movies on-demand, distance-learned on a screen. I don’t remember whether the ads seemed futuristic then.

What would be the ads for “some day” from now that will actually come true 15 years from now? Bio-chip implants to help us connect without devices? Computers the size and thickness and flexibility of a placemat, or the size of pens we can stick in our pocket and project onto a table? Ads that know us so well we never get something we’re not interested in? Add your guesses to the comments.

The Message Controls the Medium

Reading Jeff Jarvis' riff on Vin Crosbie's despair over the resistance to change, and came across this gem from Jeff:

We realize that we are teaching change [to students]. ... The structure of the industry changes and with it their jobs. And the structure of narrative changes as we have new ways to tell stories. So we are also teaching our students choice. They no longer pick a medium at the beginning of their careers and stick with it. Now, every time they tell a story, they have to make choices about the best ways to do that for their audience and for the story itself.

So, instead of McLuhan's "medium is the message," we have to do something I've been trying to educate myself to do for a generation: choose the appropriate medium for the message at hand. Hozzanah.

Oh, one more thing: I'm jealous of the offer Jarvis' journalism school makes to educate its students in the new tools forever: "As the tools of journalism continue to evolve in the Internet age, they can return to the school throughout their careers to update their technical and professional skills." I live in terror that my MBA (like Jarvis' school, part of the City U of NY) is rapidly decreasing in relevance, though it be a year old, and wonder when someone will supersede WACC and APV with some other way of valuing a company -- as just one example. So, c'mon educators: follow suit, will ya?

An Odd 'Business'

Had lunch today with a leading publisher and found myself asking aloud: Is there another for-profit business in which the consumer provides the main value, but does not provide the main revenues? In the vast majority of businesses, the company need worry primarily in its daily operations about satisfying the needs of the people consuming the product, be it hamburgers, cars or cranes.

But in media, it's an odd triangle of presenting a product the consumer wants, then delivering that consumer via ads to the real PAYING customer, and yet that paying customer can exercise influence (often very minimal) but not control.

So, is there any other such business? Help me out, here.

Targeted Ads -- For Phone Cards, of All Things

I used to joke that there isn’t enough advertising in the world. Why, I asked, can’t someone put an ad under your eyelids so every time you blink, you get to see their message? Or, perhaps, a sponsorship of each ring on your phone. “Ring ... eat at McDonald’s ... Ring... special sale today at Macy’s ... Ring ...”.

Only, now that second one’s not a joke. A company called VoodooVox is targeting ads to people who use phone cards to call internationally, part of what they call “incall media”. You may know that today you can at stores and stands and kiosks all over the world for a couple or five or ten bucks pick up one of the cards that lets you have inexpensive calls overseas using VOIP technology. The cards also come with various kinds of fees and penalties if you don’t use them quickly after activating them.

The targeting comes in because there are a bazillion offerings and permutations and combinations: cards that are cheaper from New York to Mexico, or from U.S. cellphones to Haiti, or the Philippines, or France, or between London and an African city and on and on. If someone in the U.S., say, is buying a card that’s written in Spanish and has great rates to Mexico, there’s a good chance got strong ties to that country. So, if, when dialing in to activate and use the card, an ad comes on that gives special offers to someone with an affinity for Mexico, that would be pretty decent targeting. JetBlue could advertise a special deal on flights to Puerto Rico for people using a card likely to be interested in that offer. VoodooVox has partnered with IDT and other long-distance providers to try to offering and plans (today?) to release a study from Millward Brown that shows the ads have been effective in reaching the Hispanic community.

I do see a few potential downsides: The folks buying the cards are often immigrants without a lot of disposable income. People buying the cards might get annoyed at having to listen to ads (I have been, on occasion, annoyed at an in-call announcement when I’m paying already). As easy as it can be to navigate, it’s very counterintuitive to jump away from a phone call to activate an offer, and you may not remember the offer after the call. Is there enough scale, over time? Will there be enough people calling Puerto Rico on specially identified cards to make it worth JetBlue’s while?

But it is a way of thinking about targeting ads that uses both technology and smarts to reach a targeted audience in a way that’s not all about the latest set-top boxes, or Web 2.0 applications.

Ellies Observed

Disney execs Anne Sweeney and Rich Ross give Miley Cyrus a smooch for the pages of Portfolio magazine long before the Variety pictures come out.

Liveblogged coverage of the Ellies, the National Magazine Awards, at Fishbowl and Folio.

Few quick observations from way in the back of the orchestra:

Prompter-vision. Three actors from “30 Rock,” who presented the award for Leisure Interests, opted not to read the joke on the teleprompter taking off on the Miley Cyrus photo imbroglio, instead ad-libbing on about Tom Cruise. “She’s only 15,” one of them said to me later, conjecturing that Cruise was better because Cruise would be on Oprah on Friday. Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi went off her prompter script to talk about “fire in the loins,” likening it to magazine editing. Lenny Dykstra, former Met and Philly, reads slowly from the prompter and gets big laughs. (Good coverage of lawsuit involving Dykstra and Doubledown, publisher of his new magazine for pro athletes, from Jeff Bercovici.)

Engage me: American Society of Magazine Editors Executive Director talked about how magazines have “endured in their ability to engage” audiences for many years. It’s all about engagement, advertisers, hear that. Outgoing ASME president Cindi Leive says magazines gave us the “first developed form of journalism three centuries ago.” Second person in a row to talk about magazines and centuries.

Other than that, the usual bejeweled, be-gowned and be-tuxed crowd, nibbling everything from lobster tail cocktails in a martini glass to pretzels and pineapples drenched in chocolate from flowing chocolate fountains.