The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I quoted novelist and playwright W. Somerset Maugham in yesterday's post, and I'm going to do so again here, but relative to a different topic.

In his memoir The Summing Up, he explains the need for writers to "cut, cut, cut" their work:

Maughamsmoking"To do so now is more than ever necessary, for audiences are at once quicker-witted and more impatient than ever before in the history of theatre... Audiences in the past seem to have been willing to sit out scenes that were elaborately developed and to listen to speeches in which the characters fully explained themselves. It is very different now, and the difference has been occasioned, I suppose, by the advent of the cinema. Today, audiences... catch the gist of a scene in a few words and having caught it, their attention quickly wanders."

This was published in 1938. Isn't it amazing...he could be describing the shift from traditional broadcast and print media to the Web.

iPad Advertising: The Jury’s Still Out

On the heels the iPad achieving one million sales in just 28 days (considerably faster than the iPhone, which took 74 days in 2007 to reach this milestone), the frenzy over how this device will change the face of content distribution and consumption reached an all-time high.

The iPad has been touted as a “savior” for print publishers who have seen declines in circulation and ad revenue, and a “game changer” for advertisers desperate to find the next new way to connect with buyers.

But is it really either of those things?

Head on over to the PARTNERS+simons blog to read my take.


eBay's Inside Source

I love what auction giant eBay is doing with it's new trendspotting publication, The Inside Source.

When I first read about it back in November, I promptly checked it out, subscribed to their enewsletter, and shouted out some praise (to which The Inside Source promptly replied - they are on trend in more ways than one!).

The goal of the site & newsletter is to showcase the trendiest items for sale on eBay - things that "savvy" and sophisticated" shoppers may not even realize are available on the auction site...and it does a good job.

Today, I received this promo for Valentine's Day, which features a variety of items currently for sale, packaged up in nice little bundles to make selecting a gift for your Valentine a snap. Among them:

  • Red Romance, full of your traditional hearts and lace.

EBay Inside Source

The shopper in me looks forward to receiving The Inside Source for its editorial, as much as its product features. I bundle it in with my other favorite fashion reads, like DailyCandy, Haute Weekly, The Zoe Report, Net-A-Porter, and ShopBop.

And the marketer in me is impressed with the strategy and execution of this program - yes, I now visit eBay more than I ever used to :)

Boston Book Fest

The rain certainly didn't slow down the Boston Book Festival held in Copley Square yesterday, with all sorts of publishers, authors, and producers of various book-related products milling about under tents and in buildings between the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church.

Paris review I headed down specifically to catch Book Worms and Net Crawlers, a panel discussion of "the ubiquitous Internet and the explosion of social media" but in my wanderings beforehand I scored a first-edition, 1958, 5th Anniversary issue of The Paris Review, complete with an interview of Ernest Hemingway by George Plimpton, a story by Philip Roth, drawings by Alberto Giacometti, and fantastic old-school ads for Hennessy cognac, Christian Dior parfum, and Pan American airlines. Can't wait to read through it all.

As for the main event, the Book Fest assembled a fantastic group of authors to discuss how the 'net has impacted modern culture:

  • Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks - a look at the mainstreaming of online gaming. Ethan's work is reminiscent of Second Skin (which I mentioned to him, and he acknowledged having met the creators of the film), delving into the roles of gaming and fantasy in the modern world. In short, participants love online games because they provide opportunities not available in the physical world (e.g., the socially awkward can be "popular" and the wheelchair-bound can run, jump and dance). This desire to escape physical world confines contributes to the wild popularity of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft (13 million players-strong) and perhaps even social networks like Facebook, which allow people to put their "best face forward" by constructing public profiles that make them look their most fascinating, witty, and attractive.
  • Ben Mezrich, author Bringing Down the House and The Accidental Billionaires, among others; the latter has earned him the nickname "the Jackie Collins of Silicon Valley." I actually just read Billionaires, a fun romp through Harvard University with Mark Zuckerberg and friends (now enemies) as they try desperately to overcome their own social anxieties by creating Facebook. The irony of it all is that Mark Z. has remained famously closed off & tight-lipped, despite having created a world-wide phenomenon that encourages people to share the most banal details of their daily lives with anyone & everyone. It's a great story (fast, too) - run out and read it before the film version (starring Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker) hits theaters. Yes, another big-budget production in Boston! Catch Ben Mezrich in person if you can, too - he's wildly entertaining.

  • The insanely high-energy David Pogue - NYTimes tech columnist and author of The World According to Twitter, his own experiment with crowdsourcing leveraging the popular microblogging service to tap into the collective wit and wisdom of his 500+ followers. I actually picked up a copy of this laugh-out-loud little book, which David was kind enough to sign for me. In it, he illustrates how Twitter (like other social apps) can be a great information source: pose a question to a group of trusted peers and you will get near-instantaneous responses to your query. He's a big advocate of Aardvark, the new social search app which identifies "experts" in your social sphere and solicits answers from them on your behalf.

There was also a brief discussion at the end about technology's impact on the book publishing business, including marketing and distribution of new "books" in the age of the Kindle and other e-readers. I'd love to see this topic in a future panel (and I'd love to participate, given my experience with blogger outreach and emarketing). These authors could learn a thing or two from Paolo Coelho.

PS: there were no signs of the SCORPIONS at the book fest, which makes me question their commitment to the written word.

And Then There's This

Andthentheresthis Continuing with the social media overload theme from my last post, I went ahead and read Bill Wasek's book, And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture.

The book examines the ever-shortening life span of stories in our culture - whether it's news, gossip, or the latest best-seller - among the onslaught of email, RSS feeds, blog posts (sorry, I'm adding to that), and Tweets. He describes a world in which we have become so accustomed to a constant stream of new information, and so wary of always-encroaching boredom, that we tell stories about our society and ourselves, even when there is nothing new to say.

Besides the information glut, shortening attention spans, and overall exhaustion this creates, the really good content gets lost after its fleeting 15 minutes of fame (if that). And despite the broader array of news and opinion available to us, we have not necessarily broadened our horizons, but rather self-segregate ourselves into smaller & smaller niches of like-minded individuals.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

"Breaking news, fresh gossip, tiny scandals, trumped-up crises - every day we are distracted by a culture that rings our doorbell and runs away. Stories spread wildly and die out in mere days, to be replaced by still more stories with ever shorter life spans.

The rapid appearance and disappearance of young writers is a byproduct of niche sensationalism...the young writer comes into the public consciousness like this: he or she becomes the one must read just then, not because his or her work is good, but because it represents something about the moment, or about the youthful cohort from which the writer has sprung.

We like to fill our minds with information that confirms what we already believe; this information in turn doubles down our already existing support of what we think or dismissal of what we disbelieve. It is in this regard that the Internet and confirmation bias are conspiring to erode what remains of reasonable political discourse in this country. The Internet allows the like-minded to find one another so quickly, and with so little exposure to other points of view. Indeed, in this regard, the forward march of search technology threatens to balkanize our politics even further: the ability to ever more agilely find what we are looking for, while excluding the rest, is exactly what a citizen does not need in making his or her political choices.

This is a common meme-maker's lament: viral projects spread through decontextualized blog links and email forwards, and so viewers tend to pay no attention whatsoever to the domains that actually host the material - they never learn anything about the creators who entertain them.

In the Internet circus, a seemingly infinite cast of clowns, daredevils, and freaks each step into the spotlight, enthrall the crowd for thirty seconds or so, and then exit back into the dark with barely a bow.

We love our nanostories, their birth and death thrill us, and yet we know that they are devouring us."

The same themes were picked up in a Financial Times article last week, which noted that for many, social media has become "a more personal filter to the infinite world of the Internet." Where people use to turn to traditional portals like Yahoo! or AOL as their entry point, they are now turning to Facebook or their preferred feed aggregator, reading just the news & information that comes in from friends or other trusted sources. Ray Valdes, a media analyst from Gartner is quoted: “We are moving toward a world of ‘snackable’ news that can be shared like pieces of candy or a pack of gum...Unfortunately, we run the risk of losing substance and nutritive value.” 

Wasik closes his book with a brief look at some of the "solutions" to Internet fatigue. Among them:

  • Writer & editor Jake Silverstein's proposed Internet Ramadan, where people go offline for a month
  • NYTimes writer Mark Bittman's Secular Sabbath, an experiment in going offline for a mere 24 hours
  • Chip maker Intel's Quiet Time, where employees are encouraged to go offline each Tuesday morning in order to think (and work) more deeply

There are countless articles with similar themes:

Should we be concerned? Or is our fast-paced lifestyle just the new norm, and the attention-getting books & headlines just another example of the trumped-up crises we crave?


I've seen references to "LOHAS" twice in as many weeks. So it's time to take a look at what it means:

LOHAS stands for "lifestyles of health and sustainability."

You may not be familiar with the acronym, but you're likely familiar with the concept: it refers to that segment of the population that is looking for balance (in their diets, budgets, lifestyles) and mindfulness (through self help books, yoga practice, or eco-tourism, for example).

And as you can imagine, the LOHAS market represents big business for a variety of products and services related to good health, eco-consciousness, meditation, yoga, and holistic wellness. In fact, it was worth an estimated $209 billion domestically in 2005 — equal to the value of the aerospace industry and more than the food services industry. Last year, Americans spent $5.7 billion on the yoga subset alone — including equipment, clothing, vacations and media — which was an increase of 87% since 2004.  And here's something else of interest: while yoga practitioners may be a relatively small group (~ 7% of US adults), they are a relatively affluent one, with 44% reporting incomes of $75K+ and 24% with$100K+ (read: a marketer's dream).

Today, LOHAS consumers are estimated to account for one-third of the U.S. population (63 million adults) and over $230 billion in sales annually.

Apparently, I'm a Lohasian and I didn't even know it! Here's why:

Yoga I love my yoga practice at Charlestown Yoga. Nothing beats an hour of Hatha Flow after a stressful, desk-bound day in the office.

Ode I recently discovered (and subscribed to) Ode Magazine, a magazine and Web site "written for intelligent optimists” that focuses on ways to sustain "ourselves, our minds, our energy, our planet, our society." In fact, as part of your paid subscription, Ode will plant a tree to help stop global warming.

Source I've raved about The Source to numerous people. It's Dr. Woodson Merrell's guide to integrative medicine, including tips for better eating, exercise, and social connectivity.

And there's probably more.

While I don't consider myself an activist like, say, the other Stephanie Rogers, I would say I'm much more conscious of health and sustainability than I've ever been. And I'd venture to say that the general population is heading there as well.

Watch for the current green marketing fad to shift subtly in order to encompass simplicity and inner wellness for the consumers, not just the environmentally-friendliness of the products.

[Note: I have no affiliation with the above products and services, other than being a happy customer.]

Toyota's Solar Flowers

This one's a bit dated, but I still wanted to blog about it because I think it's great.  

Automaker Toyota is "planting" giant, solar-powered flowers in various cities across the country (including Boston, but I missed it due to the Colorado trip; thanks, Ed, for bringing it to my attention!).

The flowers generate electricity for up to 10 people at a time to sit and recharge their mobile devices, and provide free WiFi for other passers-by.

It's all part of a marketing blitz for the upcoming launch of Toyota's 3rd generation Prius hybrid vehicle, and the flowers are meant to depict the Prius theme of "Harmony between Man, Nature, and Machine." I'm anxious to see the new model; we got to drive a 1st generation Prius while on vacation, and while it didn't break any zero-to-sixty records, its gas mileage was superb, averaging 45 miles/gallon.

Here's a photo of one of the flowers in front of Boston's Prudential Center; they have since moved on to the next leg of their road trip, which includes New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles (not surprisingly, some of the cities with the highest market potential for green vehicles).

Prius harmony 

See more photos in the Prius Harmony Flickr set and catch upcoming tour dates on the Prius Facebook page. It looks like Xtension Marketing is the agency behind this; kudos to a job well done.