Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Twitter Can’t Stem the Fallout This Time

August 28, 2009

Picture 67Whole Foods was built on the back of left-leaning consumers who not only liked the experience of shopping at the over-priced (but very posh) stores but also their community mindedness and seemingly progressive policies.

Whole Foods’ brand took a bit of a hit last year when CEO John Mackey was “outed” in early 2008 for more than 1,000 anonymous postings on Yahoo! Finance message boards that promoted Whole Foods and Mackey himself and “trashed” competitors or those who criticized his company. (See this post for more background on that scandal.)

But the brand is now really under pressure in the wake of a WSJ editorial that opposed the Obama health care initiative. Among other things in the piece, Mackey said:

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system.

In response to these positions, which emerged as a shock to many Whole Foods shoppers, a Facebook boycott has formed and the Whole Foods brand had taken a fairly substantial hit this time.  Now Whole Foods investors are calling for Mackey’s removal:

The CtW Investment Group called on the Whole Foods Market board to remove CEO John Mackey as Chairman and to begin the process of naming a new CEO in a letter to Whole Foods’ lead independent director, Dr. John Elstrott, yesterday afternoon. Citing the risk to Whole Foods’ brand reputation caused by Mr. Mackey’s editorial opposing President Obama’s proposed healthcare reform, CtW urged the board to take immediate action to prevent continued damage in the face of a quickly-growing boycott by Whole Foods’ progressive customer base . . .

Events of the past week establish yet again that John Mackey’s lack of personal discipline makes him a liability for Whole Foods Market, Inc. Despite past indications that the board needed to exercise independent oversight of Mr. Mackey and supervise his external communications closely – most notably his postings on the Yahoo! Finance bulletin board, which led to an SEC inquiry – you and your fellow directors failed to take meaningful action to prevent Mr. Mackey’s uncompensated brand and reputational risk to our Company.

Certainly Mackey is entitled to his political opinion but given his controversial history and the clientele Whole Foods caters to, the fallout now happening was somewhat predictable. It’s either arrogance, naivete or pure stupidity on Mackey’s part to have not had some foresight bout this. Now his company is paying in diminished brand equity and potential lost sales.

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Reading of the Dec. of Independence

July 3, 2009

I listened to the reading of the Declaration of Independence on NPR this morning. Aside from one unfortunate characterization of Native Americans it’s a remarkable document, written by one person: Thomas Jefferson. And the reading by all the NPR reporters is both interesting and powerful.

Listen to the whole thing; it’s only about five or so minutes.

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Happy 4th of July.

Layoffs in the Era of Twitter

December 10, 2008

Matt McGee posted on the Yahoo layoffs, happening today. Here’s Jerry Yang’s fairly standard-issue post as well.

I know some people at Yahoo and don’t know whether/how many are being laid off. Sometimes misfortune in the near term turns out to be a blessing over the long term.

Stepping back from the human part of all this, which is sad, an aspect of this that’s really fascinating is the way in which it’s being broadcast “live” by people on Twitter. Silicon Alley Insider has a bunch of Twitter posts from those being laid off and those staying:

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Silicon Valley companies are perhaps uniquely susceptible to this sort of thing, but it occurs to me that no corporation is ever going to be able to have the same sort of “top-down” control over information that once existed.

Obama and Zune

December 4, 2008

picture-1Zune has struggled to make inroads against the dominant iPod. And recently we heard rumors of a forthcoming Zune phone.

But if a rumor that Obama uses a Zune is true, it could be a “hipness” boost for the device. Gizmodo is the source of the rumor/assertion.

Whether or not you voted for him Obama is the “coolest” incoming president since JFK and will influence young people in particular.

I’m being serious that awareness of him using a Zune would add greater pop-culture “legitimacy” to the device, which has heretofore been largely seen as a wannabe iPod.

‘Fireside Chats’ Updated: Obama on YouTube

November 17, 2008

More evidence of the new era that we’re in: President-elect Obama has begun to do direct-to-voter YouTube broadcasts, which have been likened to an updated version of FDR’s depression-era radio addresses. 

It makes complete sense and gives Obama direct reach into the hearts and minds of voters in ways that other forms of mass communication cannot. 

Why Not a Newspaper Bailout?

November 14, 2008

BusinessWeek colunmist Jon Fine offers a “tongue & cheek” [sic] suggestion of a bailout for the newspaper industry. In a way, why not? It’s being discussed for GM.

Fine says:

This industry employs over 52,000 journalists, thousands of other workers, and it faces unprecedented challenges. It takes more than a quadrennial sales spike from a closely watched election to save newspapers. Also, the bailout money is there, and—ask any struggling retailer or chain of hair salons soon to claim that they, too, are banks—it won’t be there forever.

Of course it’s not going to happen.

But why are autoworkers and the auto industry (which was greedy and failed to plan ahead) more worthy of Washington’s financial aid than the newspaper industry and journalists?

Flickr, the Election and Social Media

November 8, 2008

Silicon Alley Insider points out another thing that is suggestive of a new era: “Behind the scenes” photos of the Obama and Biden clans watching election-night returns, uploaded to Yahoo’s Flickr within a little over 24 hours of being taken:

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What a great thing Flickr is. And note how seeing these images on Flickr “flattens” everything: Obama seems much more a “normal” person, much closer to the person looking at these images than he and his family would in Time or even People.

If you have time, look also at some of the comments that are associated with each picture — many of them from outside the US. This is a form of “democracy” too; people are “participating” in responding to these photos. 

As has already been pointed out Obama on Facebook is the largest Facebook group. But the larger Internet-based “community” that the Obama campaign created is, in one way of looking at it, now a “social network.” 

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Obama & the Internet

November 6, 2008

Using technology and “new media” (including mobile) in ways that were unprecedented for a political campaign helped Barack Obama win the White House. Now the question is will he dismantle that “infrastructure”? Don’t bet on it.

I will predict that Obama will maintain a “private” network online that he’ll use — separate and apart from the official White House website and other formal US channels — to communicate with and influence supporters and interested parties, including his website, Facebook and YouTube.

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And he may continue to raise money in the “off season.”

We’re in a new era folks.

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Update: here’s the new site: change.gov.

A Moment of History in ‘Real Time’

November 5, 2008

People rarely get to see “history in the making.” It’s only in retrospect that we can see the developments that contributed to historical change. People also rarely perceive social and cultural transitions between decades, let alone centuries.

In the Biblical book of Exodus Moses asks to see God but God effectively says to him “You can’t see my face . . . you can only see my back.” This has been interpreted to mean that only in retrospect can we perceive the work of God or, perhaps, the significance of history (for those who are secular).

Arguably 9/11 was the psychological and cultural beginning of the 21st Century. But if it wasn’t then last night surely was. For all the reasons that have already been discussed and that we can imagine: the literal and symbolic demise of racial barriers, the innovative and highly sophisticated Obama campaign and the role the Internet played in both the campaign and the coverage of the campaign.

We’re now clearly in a new era. And we’re seeing it unfold — in real time.

Passing of the Torch: TV to Internet

November 4, 2008

This election has been discussed as a seminal one for many reasons: historical firsts among the candidates, more sophisticated organizational strategies and data mining, use of mobile messaging, etc. But from a consumer perspective it also represents a “passing of the torch” from TV to the Internet.

While people will be watching TV tonight in the US to monitor election returns, as many or more people will be using the Internet to view video and keep tabs on real-time developments. Many people will be watching TV in the background while they’re online or bouncing back and forth. But for many if not most people between the ages of 18 and 50 in major US metro areas, the Internet has replaced TV as the primary news and information source — certainly for this election. 

To that end Matt McGee has a great post about all the search resources online to discover election results when the polls start to close later today. 

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Feel free to contradict me if you think I’m wrong.

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Check out Google Hot Trends from today: 

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Whatever Your Persuasion: VOTE!

November 2, 2008

Regardless of whether you’re on the right or the left, you should vote on Tuesday. The process and participation is as important as the outcome of the election itself.

If you’ve already voted — great and thanks. If you haven’t please make sure you do, even if you have to skip work to do so.

Bored and Obsessed at the Same Time

October 29, 2008

I think I’m in need of a long vacation, which isn’t forthcoming. My obsession with the election and general boredom with most technology news of late has diminished my posting. I’ve got more pitches than ever coming at me and they’re less and less interesting. 

Part of that is because they fail to acknowledge the economic situation; and all the bloated claims that typically attend these missives are rendered more hollow against the backdrop of the recession. The ability to embed 3D landscapes in your blog or site is just not as interesting or relevant when survival issues come to the fore. 

Maybe coffee will help my attitude 🙂

Can Search Predict the Elections’ Outcome?

October 23, 2008

Search queries have been famously called a “database of Intentions” (a term I believe was coined by John Battelle). It has been suggested that the history or pattern of search queries can be used for all sorts of product planning and development as well as myriad other predictive uses.

One question Search Marketer Tim Cohn (a frequent commeter on this blog) asks is: Does Google already hold data that show how the US presidential election is likely to turn out?

It’s a complex question because search queries are often triggered by news events, but longer term trends may indicate the likely outcome of the election. Cohn compares traditional polling data with Google search query data and concludes that relative Google query volumes are tracking presidential polls.

Here’s comScore data (Jan-June) on relative search query volumes for the candidates:

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Related: Obama like Google, McCain like AOL . . .

Google Helps You Get to the Polls

October 23, 2008

Mike Blumenthal alerted me to the fact that Google’s poll place information is now live:

If you don’t already know, plug in your address and find out where to vote.

Google Trying to Get Out the Vote

October 1, 2008

Google has a number of get-out-the-vote and voter registration initiatives:

Google posted about these efforts and said: 

We’re working closely with state and local election officials, the Voting Information Project and the League of Women Voters to centralize official voting information. 

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Mike Blumenthal points out that Google’s now got a new voter info widget.

Off Topic: VotefortheMILF

September 29, 2008

I saw this on the Twitter elections site and I couldn’t believe it: VotefortheMILF.com. You’d think this was some sort of joke or parody site. No . . . it redirects to MaCain’s site, complete with a video of Palin making a pitch:

I guess they’re “making lemonade” here. But life and political satire have truly switched places.

I’d like to see the mainstream news TV coverage on this one: “Parents you may want to remove your children from the room . . .”

And for those who may have missed it, here’s the recent Couric-Palin SNL skit featuring Tina Fey.

Dueling Mac-PC Campaigns Mirror Election

September 18, 2008

The NY Times has a longish article about the next phase of the Microsoft “take back the brand” campaign. Gone is Seinfeld and up next are ordinary people, a range of celebs and a John Hodgman lookalike:

One new Microsoft commercial even begins with a company engineer who resembles John Hodgman, the comedian portraying the loser PC character in the Apple campaign. “Hello, I’m a PC,” the engineer says, echoing Mr. Hodgman’s recurring line, “and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

The strategy to use the Apple attack as the basis for a counterstrike is typical for the agency behind the campaign, Crispin Porter & Bogusky.

What’s fascinating about this — as the Times points out — is that it resembles the fall election campaign: PC has been “defined” by the “I’m a Mac” campaign and now Microsoft is trying to “regain control of the narrative.”

I liked the Seinfeld ads, though most did not.

In the earlier Democratic primaries Hillary Clinton was a PC to Obama’s Mac. Now Microsoft appears to be taking a more “populist” approach in its ads, taking “offense” at the impliedly elitist Mac campaign. In this way these dueling ad campaigns shadow what’s going on with the US presidential election.

How will the Mac campaign respond?

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Into the Abyss . . .

September 15, 2008

I’ve been doing a bunch of regular work and neglecting blogging over the past week. But every time I go to write something about this or that technology development this morning it all seems insignificant. I’m struck by the economic crisis that we’re in — and the Wall Street collapse today.

Let’s make no mistake: this financial crisis is due to chronic neglect and corruption in the Bush Administration and the unwillingness to impose even modest controls on the private sector. It’s almost as simple as this: The mortgage industry cynically wrote a bunch of bad loans that were borderline fraudulent; they were “securitized,” bought and sold by the financial institutions, which had to write off billions in losses. We know the rest.

Everything has been compounded by the loss of confidence in the markets, evidenced by the sell-off this morning. It’s very bad.

Obama’s Local Online Ad Spend

September 6, 2008

ClickZ’s Kate Kaye has a nice analysis of where the Obama campaign is spending its money online:

According to Federal Election Commission report expenditures compiled by ClickZ News, nearly 59 percent — more than $3 million — of Obama’s campaign coffers have been doled out to Google. At a distant second is Yahoo, which garnered just under 12 percent, or approximately $618,000 between January and July. The two top earners indicate the importance of search advertising, and to a smaller degree, targeted display advertising to the Democratic hopeful’s Web strategy.

About 10% of the spending went to local, through Centro:

Another major recipient of Obama bucks was lesser-known firm Centro. The local ad company has made several ad buys on local newspaper, TV station and radio sites on behalf of the campaign. Though some of the $512,550 paid to Chicago-based Centro may have gone towards services and fees costs, the bulk of that money went to display ads targeted to voters in specific states or regions.

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Here’s more on the online advertising battle between the candidates from comScore.

Palin and ‘Wikigate’

September 1, 2008

The NY Times has an article that details how someone altered Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia entry in the 24 hours before the VP announcement. The changes provided much more detail and greatly enhanced the bio — for the positive:

Beginning at 2 a.m Eastern time on Thursday, a Wikipedia user with the name YoungTrigg began an overhaul of the article, adding compelling stories about her upbringing, including that “she earned the nickname ‘Sarah Barracuda’ because of her intense play” as point guard for her high school basketball team and that she and her father “would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school.”

Many details were culled from, and footnoted to, the book “Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment on Its Ear,” by Kaylene Johnson.

Soon enough, YoungTrigg pivoted from the biographical to the political, adding that Ms. Palin had high approval ratings as governor and that, as mayor, she had “kept her campaign promises, reducing her own salary, as well as reducing property taxes 60 percent.”

As governor, YoungTrigg wrote, her “tenure is noted for her willingness to take on oil companies” and that she has been called “a ‘politician of eye-popping integrity.’ ” Both of those statements were attributed to a profile in the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.

In total, YoungTrigg — whose user name is a reference to Ms. Palin’s infant son, Trig — made 30 “edits” to the article, all positive and largely unnoticed . . .

Nobody knows the identity of “YoungTrigg” (named for Palin’s youngest child). If it’s not a Palin relative, it’s a likely bet that it’s a McCain campaign operative (not even members of Palin’s staff and reportedly all but a tiny few McCain insiders knew of the announcement ahead of time). So it’s unlikely to be some random, prescient editor.

One of the reporters I saw on TV (CNN) shorly after the VP announcement said, “I didn’t know much about Sarah Palin, I must admit that Wikipedia has become my friend this morning.” Clearly the envisioned and intended result: to influence the public perception and early news coverage of Palin.

Wikipedia is the top entry for Palin on the result for her name search:

Should we call this “Wikigate”?