Sunday, March 21, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 12: The Economist on Data, Children's Publishing, Marvel, Librarians, Holmes.

In their Feb 27th issue, The Economist takes a look at Data in an article titled Data, data everywhere and it is well worth a read. I won't paste in too much since it is an 18page insert however here are some nuggets (The Economist):

In the article A Different Game: Information is Transforming Business
  • Best buy a retailer, found that 7% of its customers accounted for 43% of its sales, so it reorganized its stores to concentrate on those customers needs
  • Cablecom a Swiss telecoms operator. It has reduced customer defections from 1/5th of its subscribers a year to under 5%
  • By examining more than 2m transaction records the RSA (Royal Shakespeare Company), discovered a lot more about its best customers: not just income, but things like occupation and family status, which allowed it to target its marketing more precisely.
  • Nestle found improving the quality of its data to be as important as the analysis: For just one ingredient, vanilla, the company was able to reduce the number of specifications and use fewer suppliers saving $30mm per year.
  • Most CIO's admit their data are of poor quality: In a study by IBM half the managers quizzed did not trust the information on which they had to base decisions
  • Companies are increasingly moving to analyzing real time information flows
  • Wal-Mart's RetailLink, enables suppliers to see the exact number of their products on every shelf of every store at that precise moment
  • New tools make working with data sets easier: Visa, in a recent trial with Hadoop crunched two years of test records, or 73bil transactions amounting to 36 terabytes of data. The processing time fell from one month with traditional methods to 13mins
There are many other interesting points I noted as I read the section but I'll leave with this one for all you data geeks: In a short article titled Needle in a haystack,
  • Metadata are a potentially lucrative business. "If you can control the pathways and means of finding information, you can extract rents from subsequent levels or producers."
That's why when I was at Bowker we moved the business in the direction of data analysis and there's still more to be done there.

A future of Children's publishing (WaPo):
That may be good for the bottom line at children's publishing houses, but entertaining the kids with the printed page seems to grow more difficult by the year. Children's appetite for cell phones, computers, video games and television far exceeds that for books. In January, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that the time spent on all entertainment by kids from 8 to 18 rose from 6.5 hours a day five years ago to 7.5 hours a day. But only 25 minutes were typically spent reading a book. The Department of Education found that in 1984 only 8 percent of 13-year-olds and 9 percent of 17-year-olds reported that they "never or hardly ever" read for fun on their own. By 2008, the percentage had jumped to 24 percent for both groups.

"The budget of most video games rivals that of Hollywood blockbusters," said Kinney, who worked on the "Wimpy Kid" movie that opened over the weekend. "The kid gets to be the star of the story, and it's really tough to compete with that."

Yet several publishers are making the attempt. Scholastic launched a 10-book international mystery series called "The 39 Clues" in the fall of 2008. Scholastic hopes it will appeal to 8-12 year olds, an age group they have successfully captured in the past with titles such as "Goosebumps," "The Babysitters Club" and, of course, "Harry Potter." Much of the action takes place online, however, where kids amass hundreds of collectible cards and compete for prizes. According to Scholastic, they have 760,000 registered users.
What of Hollywood Reporter and Variety? Insiders are baffled by their business strategy and wonder whether they will survive (LABusiness):
In a cost-cutting announcement that shocked insiders earlier this month, Variety said it had laid off its chief film critic and chief theater critic.

“The decision to fire Todd McCarthy and David Rooney is a profoundly significant move for a paper like Variety, considering that reviews were such a core function of what they did,” said Sharon Waxman, a former New York Times reporter who runs TheWrap.

“It’s almost bewildering in a way that they would do this.”“History may record the dismissals as a seminal moment,” said Hollywood publicist Michael Levine of Levine Communications. However, he believes Peter Bart’s decision to step aside as Variety’s editor in chief a year ago was more important.

“Many people working at the Hollywood trade papers are as anxious as a hemophiliac in a razor blade factory,” Levine said
At the same time, Hollywood Reporter has been plagued by rumors that it would kill its print edition and go Web only. In December, the paper, along with seven other sister publications, was sold by Nielsen Business Media to e5 Global Media LLC, a company chaired by New York media figure Jimmy Finkelstein, for an estimated $70 million.
A librarian speaks: In OP Ed in the LA Times a librarian laments that without people like her - now, pink-slipped - students won't know what they don't know (LA Times):
As a librarian in the Pasadena Unified School District, I teach students research skills. But I've just been pink-slipped, along with five other middle school and high school librarians, and only a parcel tax on the city's May ballot can save the district's libraries. Closing libraries is always a bad idea, but for the Google generation, it could be disastrous. In a time when information literacy is increasingly crucial to life and work, not teaching kids how to search for information is like sending them out into the world without knowing how to read.
Instead of laying off librarians, we should be studying how children think about information and technology. We need professionals to advocate for teaching information literacy from an early age. We need librarians to love books -- to inspire kids to turn off the screen sometimes and get caught up in a story -- but we also need them to train students to manipulate search engines and databases, to think about them in a fresh way.

Instead of closing library doors, we need to give librarians the time to teach what they know: basic research survival skills that are as important as reading, writing and math. If we don't teach our kids to take charge of information, they will get swept aside by it.

Sara Scribner is a librarian at Blair International Baccalaureate School, a public middle and high school in Pasadena.
On the back of the Marvel comics acquisition by Disney, the comic book industry is bracing for a copyright battle with possible wider implications that focus's on whether work done by one of Marvels finer creative artists was 'work for hire' or not. (NYTimes):
The dispute is also emblematic of a much larger conflict between intellectual property lawyers and media companies that, in Mr. Toberoff’s view, have made themselves vulnerable by building franchises atop old creations. So-called branded entertainment — anything based on superheroes, comic strips, TV cartoons or classic toys — may be easier to sell to audiences, but the intellectual property may also ultimately belong in full or in part to others.

“Any young lawyer starting out today could turn what he’s doing into a real profit center,” Paul Goldstein, who teaches intellectual-property law at Stanford’s law school, said of Mr. Toberoff’s specialty.

Mr. Goldstein said cases like the one involving Marvel are only the tip of an iceberg. A new wave of copyright termination actions is expected to affect the film, music and book industries as more works reach the 56-year threshold for ending older copyrights, or a shorter period for those created under a law that took effect in 1978.

Mr. Toberoff is tackling what could be one of the most significant rights cases in Hollywood history; it’s certainly the biggest involving a superhero franchise. Unlike his continuing fight with Warner Brothers over Superman, Mr. Toberoff’s rights-reclamation effort against Marvel involves dozens of stories and characters from about 240 comic books.

Complicating matters are licensing agreements Marvel has made over the years with rival studios for characters Mr. Kirby helped to create. Sony holds long-term movie rights to Spider-Man; 20th Century Fox has the equivalent for the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Universal Studios holds theme park rights to Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. And more films stemming from Mr. Kirby’s work are coming: Marvel is spending hundreds of millions to bring Thor and the Avengers to theaters.

If the Kirbys succeed in their reclamation effort — and that’s still an enormous if — they would be entitled to a share of profits from new works based on any of the copyrighted material.

Taking Sherlock Holmes and Watson into the 21st century (Observer):
A bored Holmes once complained to Watson that "life is commonplace; the papers are sterile; audacity and romance seem to have passed forever from the criminal world". Gatiss has set out to prove that this is not the case in 2010. A lifelong devotee of Conan Doyle's original stories, published in the Strand Magazine from 1891, Gatiss said they provided him with an escape from a dreary childhood in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
An interview with Sam Shepard (Observer):
Sam Shepard opens up With a new collection of short stories to his name and two of his plays currently showing in New York, the notoriously private Pulitzer prize-winner discusses masculinity, his battle with drink and his 'tumultuous' relationship with Jessica Lange
From the twitter (@personanondata)

Sara Paretsky: Interview - Telegraph "Sara Paretsky tells Jake Kerridge about her headstrong heroine, VI Warshawski" Telegraph

From the best travel show on tv (@noreservations) Anthony Bourdain is back with sequel to follow Kitchen Confidential The Bookseller

Jacket Copy (LATimes) Publishing lessons from SXSW Interactive: A publisher refects on "SXSWi" LA Times

Focusing on WorldCat, OCLC Sells NetLibrary to EBSCO, Thins FirstSearch - 3/17/2010 - Library Journal

BBC News - JD Salinger letters shine light on a recluse. On display at the Morgan Library.

Chelsea stutter and MU remain rightfully at the top and I ran a decent half marathon with reasonable room for improvement.

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