Media shifting not just for the young

Merrill Brown and Carnegie Corporation’s new report “Abandoning the News,” about how 18-34 year olds are moving away from traditional sources of news, is getting some attention in digital media circles. Looking at my own news and entertainment media preferences (and, admittedly, as someone about a dozen years removed from the high end of the report’s target demographic), I think the report could go even further.

I’ve replaced watching live, unfiltered broadcast and cable television with TiVo — two TiVos, actually. I have a hard time imaging not being able to pause live TV, rewind to catch something I want to see again, or see a menu of shows, based on my preferences, ready to be viewed whenever I want. If there is a significant news story, I can replay a live feed. It is almost painful to watch raw TV in hotel rooms when I travel.

I’ve replaced broadcast radio with XM Satellite Radio. Continue reading Media shifting not just for the young

When tech toys attack

This is the first holiday season in seven that I won’t be reviewing tech and other toys for TV, radio and/or print. It’s mostly a matter of time and focus on my part; I did, after all, go to Toy Fair in February and followed the introductions of many new toys through the fall.

While this means I won’t be able to share several cool toys I’ve seen (I’m particularly fond of Tyco R/C’s Terrain Twister, for example), I can share a handful of general tips on what to avoid in tech toys this holiday season — based on seven years of bad luck with a few hits and many misses.

Beware the hot toy. This season there doesn’t seem to be a single “must-have” toy, and that’s a good thing — scenes of people fighting at Toys ‘R Us, with the exception of those involving bankruptcy lawyers, are never fun. The problem with many hot toys is that they are high-concept toys, easily understood immediately, but don’t necessarily stand up to repeat play by kids. They’re like the clever hit song on the radio that you like at once but sicken of by the fourth or fifth replay (I was a DJ when Disco Duck was released; I know). Continue reading When tech toys attack

‘Tis the season

We are entering that time of year, that marvelous season, the season that frequent travelers dread. Not the holiday season. Amateur season.

The hallmark of amateur season is travelers who fly only once a year, and only during the summer or over the holidays (Santa Claus excepted, of course). You can spot the amateurs a concourse away: No idea where their driver’s license is when they get to the security checkpoint. No idea where their boarding pass is. Expressions of childlike wonderment when the TSA asks them simple questions, such as, “Did you realize hunting knives aren’t allowed in carry-on luggage?”

And yes, as a frequent business traveler, I’ve seen all of the above. Continue reading ‘Tis the season

When dinosaurs ruled the airwaves

The following originally appeared as a “State of the Art” essay in Analog Science Fiction & Fact’s July 1992 issue. Portions were later excerpted in the Seattle Times in October 1992.

Though 2004 is a dozen years later and some of the names of the players have changed, much of the game being played remains the same today. When it comes to news and the human capacity to make sense of it, filters are important since more broad-based information gathering and dissemination mechanisms — up to and including the latest darling, Web logs — don’t change the limits of the human attention span. And mass media continue to have increasingly less mass.

Back in 1992, this was considered farsighted heresy. Now, it’s happened. Continue reading When dinosaurs ruled the airwaves

Life at 35,000 feet

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you know we’re in the midst of the busy summer air travel season or, as I like to think of it as, amateur season. It’s a time when things which worked marginally smoothly during the first half of the year self-destruct like baggage on an airline conveyer belt.

I’ve just wrapped up six months of being on the road nearly every week for clients and conferences. Twenty-six roundtrips give one ample time to reflect on things one should have known before, say, having to choose between the ham and turkey sandwich. (Tip: They taste identical. I know, because when I asked the Northwest flight attendant, that’s what she told me.)

So while I haven’t written as many tech analyses and commentaries as I’d like since beginning my journeys, I can offer hard-earned advice for the infrequent business traveler: Continue reading Life at 35,000 feet


Partisans either in favor, or critical, of blogging seem to have an awful lot in common with the three blind men asked to describe an elephant. Depending of the part of the elephant they touched, each envisioned an entirely different type of creature.

After my essay of a month ago, I’ve had a similar experience … only with a lot more emotion.

My intent with “Blog No More” was to pen a cautionary tale for would-be bloggers — detailing two realities of creating and maintaining a personal Web log that I’d discovered in the year since beginning and abandoning my own (and while, simultaneously, writing this blog as a tech Web newsletter and contributing to a group blog in a different industry).

It was designed to counter the hype that many in the mass media had heaped upon blogging in the wake of its use in politics and by entertainers. As Rob Greenlee of WebTalkRadio said to me, too much hype and unrealistic expectation and blogs become this decade’s equivalent of personal Web pages — easy to set up and just as easy to let sit idle and watch die a slow, neglected death. Continue reading Love/hate/blog

When companies collide

(The following essay originally appeared as a Special Letter in the March 4, 2004 issue of STRATEGIC NEWS SERVICE, published by Mark R. Anderson. For more information on the SNS newsletter, please visit

Pop quiz: What is a computer? For extra credit: What is a consumer electronics device? What is a toy?

Or, more to the point: define what makes a firm a computer company, consumer electronics company or toy company.

This would have been an easy quiz a decade or even five years ago. Computer companies sold big, expensive ($2,000 and up) multifunction boxes with microprocessors inside. Consumer electronics companies sold single-purpose devices at sub-$200 price points. Toy companies sold stuff that was fun to play with, usually for under $100, and rarely had any advanced technology in it (unless, like me as a kid, you were fascinated with how an Easy Bake Oven could actually cook anything edible). Continue reading When companies collide

Blog no more

Let me let you in on two dirty little secrets of blogging. First, for every blogger, there is probably a handful of readers.

That’s right. Just because you put a Web log in front of the hundreds of millions of people with Web access worldwide doesn’t mean that most, many or even some of them will read it. Hell, they may never know about it. One way to make sure your blog will be read by the largest possible audience would be to check out an unlimited web hosting site such as Certa Hosting. They can help improve your blog so that it no longer stays at the bottom and instead becomes hugely popular.

New figures from the Pew Internet and American Life Project bear me out. Pew finds two-to-seven percent of adult Internet users write blogs, and only about eleven percent read blogs.

Eleven percent, you say. Not bad, considering how many people are on the Internet. But think again. Those eleven percent aren’t reading every blog, most blogs or even many of the blogs authored by those two-to-seven percent. They’re mostly reading blogs of friends. Not yours.

Assuming you’ll find a mass audience simply by doing a blog is akin to assuming your Great American Novel will reach best-seller status if you throw it on a Manhattan sidewalk. Continue reading Blog no more

Sam the polydactyl torby

This morning, I went though my usual routine: Make coffee. Open freezer. Grab ice cube tray. Remove one tuna cube and place in bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds. Add cold canned mystery chicken parts mix from refrigerator. Microwave for 10 seconds. Grab container of lactulose, measure 2cc into a syringe, and release over tuna-chicken mixture.

Give to wide-eyed feline. Did I mention wide-eyed, radioactive, occasionally-exploding feline? Continue reading Sam the polydactyl torby

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