Archive for June, 2009

Idea for a tv show

June 28, 2009

It seems like television programming is all about appealling to the right demographics. The logical extension of this would be to cater to the only demographic that actually matter: People with Nielson boxes, whose viewing habits are extrapolated out to generate the ratings.

If you made a show about a family with a Nielson rating box, or one of those TV watching diaries, or whatever they use to calculate viewership, mightn’t actual Nielson families be inclined to watch it? Even if you shifted only a small percentage of these people, it would be reflected in the rating as huge jump, alllowing the network to charge more for advertising.

I guess advertisers might be inclined to discount such an increase in ratings, but surely networks could find a subtle way to go about it. Maybe it could be given some kind of ironic treatment, and done very knowingly, like some kind of 30 Rock product placement joke kind of a thing.

Alternatively, if you could create some kind of online community for Nielson people, it would be an idea spot for TV networks to advertise. Why waste millions on billboards and such to reach everyone, when all they need is to get the message across to the thousands of people whose viewership actually matters. How to bring all those people together might be kind of a tricky question, since by definition they’re meant to represent the full spectrum of demographic groups. But it must be kind of alienating to be a Nielson person, always filling in diaries and whatever, but unable to really talk about it to friends or co-workers or whatever who can’t really relate.

Perhaps the ultimate meta realization of this would be to create an online show about a fictional TV network trying to create a show about a family with a Nielson box. Nielson people would hear about the show, they surf over to check it out, and thus create an audience that would be ideal for advertising network TV shows.


The ending of King’s Quest V

June 19, 2009

King Graham sure takes his time checking to see whether Cedric the owl is dead or not. Sure he was a pretty annoying owl, but it still seems kind of cold to be standing making introductions and setting up the plot for King’s Quest VI while Cedric is sprawled out on the ground.

Zack Morris lives

June 11, 2009

This is brilliant. The giant cellphone is the perfect touch.

Craigslist not unbeatable

June 11, 2009

For all the hype about Craigslist, it’s actually less popular in Canada than Kijiji, which seems to be sort of flying under the radar.

You don’t see a lot of stories about how Kijiji is destroying newspapers, even though it’s the 11th most popular website in Canada. Craigslist, even before that whole Craigslist Killer thing, just seems to have a much higher profile.

Similiarly, the search engine, which I’ve never heard of, is more popular the much hyped Bing.

And is more popular that any news site, the most popular of which is

Dogs with bling + Southern California = box office gold?

June 7, 2009

If David Lynch directed …

June 6, 2009

… Three Men and a Baby

… Return of the Jedi

… A Goofy Movie

And, unembedable, Dirty Dancing

A mall on the brink

June 5, 2009



Outside of Sears

Outside of Sears

Technically The Summit, a mall just outside Niagara Falls, N.Y., has been a dead mall for years. By the time it announced last month that it was closing its doors, it was down to 25 tenants in an 800,000 square foot space that once held over a hundred stores.

It was meant to shut down on June 6. But this week a bankruptcy court granted an extension that will allow it to stay open at least until the end of the month.

I hope that it manages to hang on somehow. I know that a lot of people don’t really lament the decline of shopping malls, dozens of which are a danger of going under this year in the U.S., but I like the fact that this mall still exists.


Outside of the Bon Ton

Known as the Summit Park Mall when it opened in 1973, the mall was pretty successful up into the 1990s.

But then, as with so many things in the Niagara Falls area, things kind of fell apart. Some people blame the fall of the Canadian dollar below 70 cents U.S., and the resulting drop in cross-border shopping. The local economy probably wasn’t any great help either.

The middle of the mall

The middle of the mall

Most of the chain stores that you see in any generic suburban mall, the Radioshacks etc., bailed out. But with admirable resilience, the mall soldiered on. It replaced some of the departed stores with local businesses, as well as non-retail outlets like churches and a community college.

Map of the mall

Map of the mall

The potentially fatal blow may have come when discount clothing retailer Steve and Barry’s went bankrupt and shut their store, leaving a big stretch of space in the middle of mall pretty much dead. It also left Subway, somewhat incongruously, as one of the only national chains leasing a location in the mall.

A store selling teddy bears

A store selling teddy bears

I guess the ambiance of 1970s shopping malls isn’t really seen as something worthy of preservation. But this mall had it, and it was a rare thing. Most older malls either fail and are knocked down or succed and are renovated so extensively over time that they retain little of their orginal charm. 

But The Summit, despite some renovations, still had all the feel of a 1970s mall: The floor tiles, the benches, even the retro-looking payphone kiosks. Until last year it even had two arcades, though these were really just empty storefronts full of unattended arcade games from the early 1990s. 

The Bon Ton end of the mall

The Bon Ton end of the mall

The Summit may yet manage to keep going. Its two main anchors, Sears and the Bon Ton, own their own sites at either end of the mall, and plan to stay open even if the vast stretch of mall between them is closed down. I guess there isn’t really anywhere else for them to go; the only other remaining mall in the Niagara Falls area is a much smaller, although very popular, outlet mall. with no space to house department stores.

A local politician wants to have the New York Power Authority relocate to the mall. An earlier pipe dream involved building an Oz theme park nearby to draw in visitors. This may all come to nothing. But I find something hopeful about the idea of a cavernous, mostly empty shopping mall somehow continuing to exist despite some many forces converging to batter it down.




A mural

A mural

A potential problem with trying to charge for online news

June 5, 2009

From Thursday’s Wall Street Journal:

According to a limited study by the tracking service Attributor, for each person who reads a news story on an authorized Web site, five people access the same story on an unauthorized channel.

And that’s with most online news stories being free (though not the one I’m quoting from). Though that number does seem kind of surprising. I don’t know why anyone would go to the trouble of reading news stories on an unauthorized channel, whatever that might be, when they could get the same content at the source. If iTunes were free, I don’t think there’d be many people downloading albums with bit torrent.

Back to the future

June 4, 2009

With the supposed demise of traditional media outlets looming, there’s been a lot of talk about whether blogs and the like can fulfil their old role. And so I was struck by this passage from Matthew Goodman’s book  The Sun and the Moon, which is about the New York Sun and the rise of the penny papers:



“The editor of the 1830 wrote most of the original content that appeared in a newspaper. He also introduced the material reprinted from foreign newspapers, selected letters from readers for publication, and often replied to the letters as well. The editor was the public face of the newspaper, his name often the only one that appeared on a masthead. Editors advised readers about what politicians to vote for, what shows to see, what books to read, even what foods to eat. A newspaper’s fortunes rose and fell on the personality of its editor.”

What strikes me about this is how it more closely describes the role of the a blogger than that of a newspaper editor today. Today’s newspaper editor is an executive overseeing perhaps hundreds of people in producing a product that strives to be comprehensive and objective. People often contrast blogs, with their lack of original reporting and their subjective point of view, unfavourably with traditional journalism, and wonder if they can really hold public officials accountable the way newspaper can.

And yet, for a large chunk of the history of American democracy, newspapers offered heavily opinionated coverage and stories that were often lifted straight out of other newspapers. No doubt New York in the 1830s would have been a better place if it had a huge institution like today’s New York Times employing hundreds of reporters to expose corruption and injustice. But massive newspapers couldn’t exist then because of the limits of printing technology.

A daily newspaper was a single piece of paper instead of a thick bundle of sections, and the presses of the times meant papers could only print at most 20,000 or 30,000 copies a day. Changes in technology and the market have radically altered newspapers since then, and they will continue to do so in the future.