Idea of iPhone Games Attracts Only a Handful of Brands


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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Brands playing with iPhone apps are still trying to get game -- video game, that is. Because while branded utility apps, such as store locators and bank-account managers, and established video-game brands, such as the Sims and Bejeweled, took off early in the iTunes App Store, branded game apps, or advergame apps, are off to a much slower start.


Armstrong: Think of AOL Like Disney, a Company ‘That Delights You’


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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's been 100 days since Tim Armstrong leapt from Google to become CEO of AOL. He's spent the better part of those days on various planes, visiting the company's offices around the globe as part of a crash-course in all things AOL.We sat down with Mr. Armstrong last week to talk about what comes next.


Cenk Uygur: What’s Wrong with the Media?


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Two different articles came out today on healthcare reform. One is in Politico and the other is in The Washington Post. They both do two things that are inexplicable and inexcusable.

First, the president's healthcare reform package is thrown into doubt in both articles. Will he be able to pass it? Is he floundering? Is this reform effort in trouble?

When you read the articles, however, you don't get any reason why these assumptions are made or these questions asked. There are no poll numbers to indicate that the American people want healthcare reform any less - or that they are more skeptical about Obama's version. In fact, we know the opposite is true. There have been many different polls that show the public is overwhelmingly in favor of Obama's version of reform, which includes a public option (for example, a CBS News/New York Times poll had 72% in favor and even a poll done by healthcare reform opponents showed 83% in favor of the public option).

Those are unreal numbers and indicate that Obama has the public clearly behind him on this issue. So, what does the media do? They write an article about how Obama is in trouble on this issue. Their evidence? He called a "hastily scheduled" press conference on Friday that Republican Senator Chuck Grassley was not in favor of. Are you kidding me?

But mainly they almost seem to rejoice in pointing out that he is having trouble getting some of his fellow Democrats on board. That is true. And that gets us to point number two. Throughout both articles, they credulously point to conservative Democrats concerns about how quickly this is all proceeding or how much the plan will cost.

Did it not occur to these reporters that some of these so-called conservative or centrist Democrats might be against this reform effort because their primary financial benefactors are the same healthcare companies that are desperate to kill this bill? Would it not have given the reader a better and more informed perspective to at least mention this possibility? Or do you want to just take these politicians at their word?

Look, we all knew the healthcare industry was going to try to kill this reform effort, especially the public option provision. How did you think they were going to do it? Did you think they would just walk up to the media and announce, "We have bought these six to eight senators and they will vote our way because we paid them."?

These senators are not against Obama's healthcare effort because they want to have time to study it more. How credulous and sadly naïve and misinformed about politics can you be if you think that's what's happening here? Please don't tell me that you grizzled DC reporters are that pathetically unaware of how politics is actually played.

The "centrist" Democratic senators and congressman should more accurately be called "corporatist" Democrats. There is nothing conservative about being against more competition in the free market, which is what the public option does. But that is certainly in the best interests of the existing corporations - to limit competition. There is all the difference in the world between being a capitalist and being a corporatist.

I get why the politicians are corporatist. Those are the guys who pay their bills, fund their elections and allow them to hold on to their power. That's no big mystery. That's exactly the battle we were waiting for in trying to do healthcare reform. What I don't get is why the media goes along with this theater?

What's the motivation of Politico and The Washington Post to help the healthcare industry fight back against Obama's proposals by: a) painting the effort as failing and losing momentum (if this idea sticks, maybe Obama will panic and just get reform done without a public option - which is exactly what the industry wants) b) pretending that the "centrist" politicians are on the level and totally unconcerned about where they get so much of their political funding?

It leads to the same question we unfortunately run into about the media so often - are they incompetent or complicit? The Washington Post healthcare salons give you a sense of why they might be financially motivated to play ball. But I can't get myself to believe that they are that craven and compromised. Maybe I'm being sadly naïve.

I tend to think that they suffer from DC bubble disease. They have forgotten that they are supposed to challenge politicians. They have been captured by the power interests in the capital and they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. They have become convinced that politicians generally mean well and the only acceptable way to challenge a politician is if you have an equal and opposite politician demanding that you do (because presumably he must mean well in offering up this challenge -- after all, it is not a legitimate opinion if it is not offered up by someone in power in Washington).

There is one more layer here. If one side is being bought by corporate interests and their opposition to another politician is not genuine or based on principle, you must not under any circumstances let the public know what game is actually being played. Pretend everything is on the level - everyone's job depends on it (though I'm not sure that it does; if that is The Washington Post's calculation , I think they have gravely miscalculated).

The final move by the established DC media is - step aside, call everything 50-50, do not fight for anything - let alone the truth. You must resign yourself to covering the process and "politics" of any issue, which is so ironic because they never, ever tell you what the politics is really about (when's the last time you so an expose on how a politician voted a certain way because of corporate or lobbyist money he was given? shouldn't you see an article like this nearly everyday given how much money lobbyists pour into Washington?).

You must never dare to look into what the substance of an issue is (would The Washington Post ever dare to try to show whether the public option would in fact be less expensive for the average American - no, heaven forbid they should be accused of lacking neutrality if they try to actually figure out which side is right about the facts).

You must never let on that these respected politicians who you see everyday in fact are bought and sold on the open market by lobbyists who give them most of their money. There might be a vague article here and there about lobbyists in general, but when is the last time you saw an expose about which lobbyists bought which politicians?

Of course, if you say Ben Nelson or Orrin Hatch are frauds who vote based on the money and not their principles it will be awfully uncomfortable at the next cocktail party (for the record, I use "cocktail party" only as a symbol for the symbiotic relationship reporters have with politicians these days; I don't think Ben Smith and Orrin Hatch are necessarily knocking back appletinis together). It would be so ghastly impolite to challenge your friend and source like that. Better to lie to the American people and pretend that all that money never influences a soul.

Watch The Young Turks Here


paidContent Quick Hits: 19.07.09


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»  Ascend Media, the B2B publisher, is on the block. Good luck in this market. [Btobonline]

»  Internet is dead as an investment option. No it is not. [Fred Wilson]

»  Comcat is using Move Networks for TV Everywhere trials. Quincy is not happy. [Contentinople]

»  MTV is close to launching a Rock Band marketplace, which will allow anyone to submit songs for possible inclusion in the game. [Billboard]

»  Big surprise. Carl Icahn now wants a search deal between Yahoo and Microsoft. [Reuters]

»  Wikipedia’s controversial video player coming soon. [News.com]

»  Best Buy is trying really really hard. [NYT]


Will Bunch: Walter’s Choice –Cronkite’s Lesson for Today’s Journalists


This post is by Will Bunch from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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I have to start with a confession -- I did not grow up in a Walter Cronkite household. I'm not sure why -- I was just a kid and didn't have control of the remot...I mean, knob...back then. One fact that's been buried in many of the obits that marked the news legend's passing on Friday at age 92 is that during the 1960s, NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report -- which is what we watched -- had higher ratings, and it was was with them, and not "Uncle Walter," that I watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and learned that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Then, a few months before I graduated from college and became a full-time journalist myself, Cronkite left the stage for his retirement. That was 28 years ago.

But today, as we mourn Cronkite's death and celebrate his remarkable life, I would have to say that no other newsman has had as great an impact on me, and on what I have come to believe about the role that journalists must play in American life. It was only years after the fact that I learned more about -- and came to grasp the remarkable significance of -- what should be held up this week as the crowning moment of Cronkite's career. It took place on Feb. 27, 1968, when Cronkite -- after days of agonizing about how to balance his roles as a leading journalist and as an American citizen -- aired an editorial calling for a negotiated end to the war in Vietnam, an action that he realized posed enormous risk to his career as a newsman.

It was not a choice he made lightly, but only after traveling to Vietnam in person and balancing what he saw and heard on the front lines with the official government spin. In taking the courageous and difficult stand, he undoubtedly -- as my friend Greg Mitchell noted the other night -- saved many lives. But he also offered a roadmap for saving American journalism -- a lesson that was sadly lost on most of the profession when it most needed to be heard, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the time that the nation so desperately needed another Walter Cronkite, but there was no one of his stature to be found.

Cronkite was very much a product of his generation, the so-called "Greatest Generation" that faced dual challenges in the Great Depression and World War II that still tower over any crisis that followed. It was a special time to become a journalist, as new technology -- culminating in the rise of television -- could reach millions of people at one time, placing a greater premium on accuracy and fairness than ever before.

But at the same time, the unprecedented events of the mid-20th Century, especially the rise of totalitarianism and fascism in Europe and the war and genocide that followed, made Cronkite's generation keenly aware of the thin line between "the way it is" -- his signature nightly sign-off -- and the dystopian way that things could be. In fact, one of Cronkite's most memorable assignments as a newspaperman for United Press was covering the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals, where -- he wrote decades later -- he'd argue over nightly drinks with his journalist colleagues of the importance of holding top officials accountable for their actions.

Twenty years later, Cronkite was the anchorman for CBS News, and the big story was the war in Vietnam; for several years, the veteran newscaster was no different from most of his colleagues, reporting the story from the framework that had been laid out by Lyndon Johnson 's White House and the Pentagon, that the conflict was a winnable war, necessary to prevent a string of vital nations from flipping Communist like a set of dominoes. But as the U.S. death toll rose sharply in early 1968's Tet Offensive, Cronkite's instincts told him it was critical that he see for himself what was really happening halfway around the world, and that he report his findings honestly to the American people.

And what Cronkite found in early 1968 shocked him, as best recounted by another greatly missed journalist of that era, the late David Halberstam, in his book "The Powers That Be." Early in his trip, Cronkite went to the South Vietnamese city of Hue, which U.S. generals assured the newsman had been "pacified," only to find himself in the middle of a deadly firefight, finally airlifted out of the city with the body bags containing 12 young American GIs. Halberstam wrote that Cronkite was "moved by what he had seen, the immediacy and potency of it all, the destruction and the loss and the killing, and the fact that it was begetting so many lies, first by the command here in Saigon and then by the Administration in Washington."

Halberstam told of a conversation that Cronkite held on a hotel rooftop, as artillery fire pounded in the background, with a young CBS correspondent Jack Laurence, that...

...he understood how restless and frustrated a young man could become with the bureaucracy of journalism and what seemed like the insensitivity of editors; he had undergone similar frustrations in World War II, the difficulty of communicating with older man thousands of miles away who were not witnessing what he was witnessing. Laurence was touched. He was left with the strong impression that Cronkite had been moved by the war and by what he had seen.

So for a man who cherished his objectivity above all, Walter Cronkite did something unique. He shed it, and became a personal journalist. He had already talked it over with his superiors in New York and they all knew the risks involved, that it was likely to be a blow to the reputation for impartiality that he and CBS had worked so hard to build, that it was advocacy journalism and thus a very different and dangerous role...It was not something that he wanted to do, but it was something he felt he had to do.

The impact of one lone journalist's decision was monumental. At the end of his special report that aired on CBS, Cronkite told viewers that "[w]e have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds." Then he explained that it seemed certain that "the bloody experience in Vietnam is to end in a stalemate," ending his editorial this way:

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory, conclusion. . . . [It] is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could. This is Walter Cronkite, good night.

President Johnson famously told aides that "if I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." A month later. LBJ stunned America with the news that he would not seek another term and peace talks began shortly after that. There was no Hollywood ending -- U.S. combat dragged on for five long years, but the fulcrum had tipped with Cronkite, as the main focus turned to ending the war rather than expanding it. A few years later, Cronkite saw a similar gathering threat to the American body politic in the Watergate scandal, and CBS was alone in devoting two lengthy reports to that abuse of power, well ahead of the competition. Cronkite never lost his journalist's instincts for thorough reporting, but he also understood something very important, much as his CBS predecessor Edward R. Murrow had shown with Joe McCarthy a generation earlier.

Cronkite understood that the ultimate role that journalism can be forced to play in democracy is, quite simply, to fight to preserve democracy itself, and that the greatest threat to our republic was when elected leaders choose to lie to the American people. That didn't mean abandoning the core principles of journalism -- aggressive fact finding, which includes first-hand observation and talking to all sides, as Cronkite did on his trip to Vietnam, or an innate sense of fairness and justice. But he knew that journalism was more than rote stenography --parroting the untruths that LBJ and the Pentagon said about the war and finding a political opponent to quote deep down in the story for "balance." He knew there could be a time when the only way to inform the American people of a higher truth was to step outside the straight jacket of objectivity.

To turn a famous phrase on its head, Cronkite realized there are times when a true journalist does yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater...when there is an actual fire. It is not an easy call to make, but Cronkite did the right thing, displaying real courage years before his colleague Dan Rather turned "courage" into a weird catch phrase. Because of what Cronkite did in 1968, some people who would have perished were able to get out alive.

Walter Cronkite lived on for a long time, long enough to see the consequences when there was no one with his bravery and his journalistic principles in a similar position of influence. And so when a new generation of American leaders lied yet again to the citizens, about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and phony ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, none of the nation's most powerful journalists left the cocktail-party cozy confines of the Beltway to "pull a Cronkite" to uncover the real facts, let alone try to speak the broader truths to the American public (and the handful of grunts who did try were shunted aside).

This time, lives would be needlessly lost, because no top journalist would speak up with the simple American virtue that Cronkite displayed in 1968. In the two days since we learned of Cronkite's death, so much has been written about the man, about his rare tone of authority, about the avuncularity and comfort offered to couch potatoes by their "Uncle Walter," about the incredible events that he reported from moon walks to the Kennedy assassination. All those things are true, but they also tend to miss how he was willing to risk all of that because he felt his responsibility to his country and to the truth was more important than his career. That he could make such a choice was the true meaning of Walter Cronkite.

The good news here is that, in my opinion, all is not lost. The failure of journalism in the 2002-03 run-up to the Iraq War may have been a bottom. In the years since then, we've paid a little more attention to the people who got it right like Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, we've seen conventional journalists radicalized into truth-to-power speakers like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, we've been blessed with exciting young talent like Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, and we've seen journalists using media that didn't exist in Cronkite's day -- bloggers like Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo -- using the Internet to create a whole new way of story-telling with the goal of a broader reality.

Our world is very different from 1968, and it's not clear if any one newsperson could have the amount of influence that Cronkite could have for one night (or whether that would even be desirable). But on many canvasses, great and small, where journalists are engaged in a quest for real truth and not an artificially manufactured one, the spirit of Walter Cronkite is still very much alive today.


Gad-ZookZ! Antigua’s Would-be Cash Crop: Digital Content


This post is by Liz Gannes from NewTeeVee


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You might call it a loophole, an imaginative reading of the law, or perhaps just a freak situation. In 2007, the country of Antigua was awarded $21 million a year in trade sanctions on U.S. intellectual property by the World Trade Organization. It was intended as a sort of reparation for the loss of business that ensued after the U.S. banned online gambling, much of which was being hosted on the island nation. An Antiguan company called Carib Media is now interpreting the decision to mean it can disregard U.S. copyright laws and make available a cheap and compelling subscription digital media service.

What do we mean by compelling? Well, Carib’s new site, ZookZ.com, launched July 15, offers unlimited downloads of movies or music for $9.95 per month, or $17.95 for both types of media. All content is DRM-free.

ZookZ has a library of some 50,000 MP3s and 1,500 movies, and plans to add 10,000 songs and 300 movies per week. It says it will do its best to get any content requested by members available on its site within 14 days of the request.

ZookZ’s site design is pretty terrible at this point, without even a simple index of available content. Most sections are unavailable to new users until they input their personal information and sign up. A company representative said improved search and discovery functions are due in the coming weeks. But once I was signed into a test account, it was easy to search for and download a copy of Slumdog Millionaire. The transfer wasn’t especially quick, but ZookZ delivers all its files from its own servers in Antigua, and this was a 702 MB movie. The company says its standard movie resolution is 640×480 DPI, and that it utilizes a 100 Mbps pipe that can burst up to 1 Gbps.

Carib is the first company I’ve ever heard from as a reporter that offered up its legal counsel for interview as part of its initial pitch. So I took them up on it. “This business is open because there’s an unusual legal foundation for the conduct of the business,” said ZookZ legal adviser William Pepper. Our phone interview came a day after the site launched, at which point it had signed up 100 members.

Pepper and other ZookZ representatives said repeatedly that they obtain the site’s content through “legal means.” The company also makes efforts to ensure that all the content it’s distributing is from the U.S. Also on the call was Marlie Hall, head of corporate communications, who said that for some content ZookZ will actually buy a physical DVD and rip it into a DRM-free format to distribute. That can’t be legal, I said.

“It’s an Antiguan company based in Antigua conducting business in Antigua — it’s different,” replied Pepper. Until ZookZ and any competitors bring $21 million in revenue combined within a year, the company thinks it’s just realizing what’s been set aside for Antigua by the WTO.

Yet the site is actively seeking international business; Hall and the company’s PR firm are both based in the U.S. I am, too, so I have to pray the powers that be — if and when they clamp down — understand that I was only trying out the service in the interest of my readers.


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Andy Ostroy: The Passing of Walter Cronkite


This post is by Andy Ostroy from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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2009-07-20-cronkite_w_bio1.jpg
The year was 1983. I was a boy from Queens, NY, in the final leg of earning a Journalism degree. Like so many other students of the Fourth Estate I had my idols. The role models whose greatness I aspired to someday emulate. I studied the work of perhaps the most famous newsman ever, Edward R. Murrow. I thought Watergate reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were true American heroes. And I was completely awed by Walter Cronkite, who had assumed the anchor desk at CBS just the year before. He was the silver-haired, staccato'd voice of reason whom everyone trusted and took very, very seriously, especially our nation's presidents.

There are many moments in Cronkite's career that will always be remembered. When he choked back tears as he announced officially the death of President John F. Kennedy, America cried with him. When the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the surface of the moon and astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off, Cronkite was speechless; as awestruck as a 15-year-old meeting Miley Cyrus. And Cronkite's power and influence was never more on stage than in 1968 after he returned from Vietnam and all but said the war was a lost cause. Then-president Lyndon B. Johnson lamented, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

It's hard to imagine any one journalist in today's vast maze of broadcast and print news outlets having such devastating impact on presidential politics. But Cronkite was tough, he was courageous, and he spoke the truth from his heart and his soul. Sadly, those virtues are gone from the news business today. Makes one wonder what would've happened during the George W. Bush years if the media had someone with a pair of balls like Cronkite to challenge him on Iraq, torture and Hurricane Katrina for example. Instead, the press was utterly neutered during those eight years, more concerned with preserving its White House gala invites than reporting the news in the take-down mold of Woodward and Bernstein. I'm convinced Cronkite would've single-handedly prevented Bush's second term from happening had he been on the air.

Years after Cronkite retired he gave an interview where he spoke of the young John F. Kennedy Jr.'s salute to his father's coffin as it passed during the funeral procession after the Nov 22, 1963 assassination. Cronkite broke down, attempted to compose himself, and through tears smiled and sheepishly offered, "Anchormen aren't supposed to cry." But what Cronkite really taught us was that true leadership and inspiration doesn't come with cowboy swagger and machismo. It comes from being so in touch with the populace that your emotion, your humility, your courage and your strength becomes theirs. And that's what Walter Cronkite gave America during nineteen of the most tumultuous years in our nation's history.

Just a few short years ago I had the thrill of sitting a couple of rows behind Cronkite at several youth ice-hockey games at NYC's Chelsea Piers, where my now 17-year-old son and his grandson played for the same Cyclones team. I was much too scared to approach this living legend, and would've babbled some incoherent gibberish had I done so. But I didn't need to. It was simply enough just to be in the same room with him.

R.I.P. Walter. There will never be another like you.



Memo Details Who’s Who In Armstrong’s AOL: Includes Partoll, COO, Cahall, CTO; Nelson, Asia-Pacific


This post is by Staci D. Kramer from paidContent


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For all of the leaking from AOL (NYSE: TWX), a considerable amount of info has stayed tight, including the full details of Tim Armstrong’s leadership team. paidContent has obtained Armstrong’s June 19 memo that lays it all out, including the promotion of Kim Partoll to COO from EVP, access, business intelligence & new ventures, and Ted Cahall to CTO from president, products & technologies. Partoll keeps access and business intelligence, adding business development, consumer and brand marketing, mobile and global. Those last two are ingredients that are supposed to be included in everything AOL does from here out, hence the reason for putting them in operations instead as separate businesses in the content and revenue area.

Biggest slots still open: global head of communications (overseeing the AIM/ICQ, e-mail and SMS services), head of European operations, and CFO, replacing departing Nisha Kumar. Also, John Kannapell is listed as “acting head” of Local and Mapping. Jon Brod’s role as head of AOL Ventures is outlined here.

Going global: The memo stresses the need for AOL to think and act globally. Part of Partoll’s COO portfolio calls for heading a Global Operating Council; that group includes Phil Nelson, the new head of Asia-Pacific, with representation from Israel, Canada and other areas.

Tim Armstrong Memo / June 19
AOL Leadership Team

O&O Content and Monetization
Content: Bill Wilson will continue to lead our growing content efforts, having already done a remarkable job of expanding the reach of our audience and identifying ways for AOL to quickly scale our content and content platforms to delight AOL consumers across the globe. Bill and his team have a well-known and long history of delivering great content and innovative experiences to the millions of consumers we touch everyday.

Monetization: As we’ve already announced, Jeff Levick will be working with global agencies and advertisers to create brand experiences that take advantage of our premium content and valuable audience. Jeff and his team are working hard to deliver creative solutions as well as analytics that put AOL in a unique value category for our marketing partners.
Advertising.com – Global Display Platform and Network: In addition, Jeff Levick will be responsible for scaling Advertising.com and rolling out our self-service advertising platform. Jeff and his team’s charter is to make our platform the best global display ad technology with world-class products, targeting solutions and a leading global network. From Ad.com to ADTECH, AOL is in a strong position to execute on this vision.
Local & Mapping: I’ve asked John Kannapell, who has overseen AOL’s search and local initiatives, to serve as acting head of Local & Mapping. Local is a white space area on the Internet and John has led large cross-functional teams to success at AOL. John is one of the most knowledgeable people in our industry on local, and we will be counting on him to execute our migration into a deeper principal position in local on the Internet.
Communications: We will be opening up a search for a global head of communications. Between AIM/ICQ, e-mail and our SMS services, we are in a strong position to grow our market share and offer partners services that let them stay connected to their base of consumers. We see several short-term opportunities that will require a leader who can span many countries and operational challenges. We will be looking for a diverse and global-minded executive.
Ventures: As we talked about at our All Hands meeting, with AOL Ventures, we’re creating a new model for internal and external start-up success, and Jon Brod has agreed to lead this breakthrough effort for us. Jon, who comes to AOL via our acquisition of Patch, has more than 15 years experience with media and technology companies and has a valuable entrepreneurial skill-set to help cultivate a high success rate for our Ventures start-ups. Jon has been a senior executive with the NBA, IAC (NSDQ: IACI) and several successful start-ups. He knows the venture space, entrepreneurialism, as well as the operations of Fortune 500 companies.
Executive Staff

Chief Operating Officer: Having proven herself an outstanding operating executive, Kim Partoll will take on the role of COO of AOL. In addition to continuing to expertly manage the Access business and the Business Intelligence group, Kim will focus on the “must haves” underlying each of the five strategic areas – ensuring everything we do is global, mobile, data-specific and cost managed. Kim will oversee Access, Mobile, Business Development, Business Intelligence, Consumer and Brand Marketing and a new centralized Product Experience function, which will make sure all our products consistently meet standards for quality, globalization and platform reach, as well as tap employee innovation through a company-wide internal innovation program.
AOL needs to transition from a U.S. company with international operations to a global company. To start this process, I have asked Kim to lead a Global Operating Council as part of our governance. Phil Nelson will be taking on the role of head of Asia-Pacific, representing our operations across that region, and we are starting a candidate search for a leader to represent our European operations. Israel, Canada and other International areas will also be represented on the council.  In addition to securing the right global leadership, we are currently setting up a schedule of global reviews and operating processes so that non-U.S. regions gain more speed and autonomy in delivering consumer and partner value. We will be holding all regions, including the U.S., accountable to unified technology platforms and product performance.
Chief Technology Officer: Ted Cahall will be our CTO. In just over two years at AOL, Ted has proved himself an extremely capable technology leader, able to both set a vision and strategy for his team and drive execution. For example, Ted was instrumental in the creation of DynaPub, our fast and efficient publishing system, as well as the recent U.S. geo-distribution of AOL Search. Going forward, Ted will be the company leader in making sure everything we offer our consumers and employees is outstanding from a technology perspective.

Chief Financial Officer: As announced on April 30, Nisha Kumar, AOL’s CFO, has decided to step down from her role. We are actively looking to fill this position. In the meantime, Nisha is continuing to work with us during this process, and her professionalism and dedication have been instrumental in getting us to where we are now.  We are conducting a global search for a new CFO and have a number of strong candidates. 

General Counsel: Ira Parker will continue as General Counsel. In addition, Ira’s team will oversee our separation process from Time Warner, working with the leadership teams from across the company. Ira will also continue to oversee corporate development, privacy, and government and industry relations.

Human Resources: Dave Harmon will continue to lead our HR efforts, including the very important task of crafting benefits and compensation suited to our new status as an independent company.

Corporate Communications: Tricia Primrose will continue to manage our external public relations efforts, as well as employee communications, with a special focus over the next six months on telling our strategy story leading up to the separation from Time Warner. Tricia also oversees our company’s philanthropic efforts.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion: Tiane Mitchell Gordon continues to lead our Office of Diversity and Inclusion. As I mentioned at the All Hands on May 29, diversity is a crucial element to our future success as a global Internet business. Through the leadership of the grassroots Business Resource Groups, there is great evidence of how critical it is that diversity continues be a core element of our DNA as a company.

Business Conduct and Compliance: Kimberly Strong will continue to serve as our Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, upholding our high standards of integrity in everything we do. At the epicenter of all that we do at AOL is an unwavering commitment to integrity and a high standard of ethics by which all AOLers should be defined.
Chief of Staff: Maureen Marquess will officially take on the role she’s been handling since coming to AOL as Chief of Staff, overseeing executive strategy and planning, including our weekly reviews of partners, deals and updates from the executive team. Maureen is also working with legal, finance, HR and communications to coordinate efforts relating to the separation.
Also, I am fortunate to have Shannon Goldberg, a 10-year veteran of AOL, as my Executive Assistant. In addition to overseeing the numerous logistics involved in keeping our plans on track, Shannon is a partner to the entire executive team and our organization in the coordination of our new weekly operating schedule.
We’ll have plenty more to announce in the weeks ahead – including details on how we’ll operate, the metrics we’ll be using to measure progress, our company’s global mission… so stay tuned …


Interview: AOL’s Armstrong First 100 Days: ‘People Are Missing The Real AOL Story’


This post is by Staci D. Kramer from paidContent


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Sixteen cities in ten countries, from Baltimore to Bangalore, Denver to Dublin. 26 Town Hall and All Hands meetings. 71 product reviews. 51 partner/customer meetings. The numbers charting Tim Armstrong’s 100-day immersion course as the latest chairman and CEO of AOL (NYSE: TWX) sound impressive but what do they add up to for the company on the verge of separating from parent Time Warner? Nothing as meaningful as in the next 100 days and the 100 after that as Armstrong and his team follow through on the consumer-centric strategy that emerged as he covered all those miles:

—Expand AOL-owned content through Media Glow [Translation: Don’t screw up what’s working.]
—Grow advertising.com and third-party network [Translation: Platform-A didn’t work.]
—Push local and mapping [Translation: Don’t forget we own MapQuest]
—Focus on AOL e-mail, AIM and ICQ [Translation: People Networks didn’t work.]
—Start AOL Ventures with focus on innovation [Translation: Avoid becoming Island of Misfit Toys.)

Where are mobile and international? They should be part of everything AOL does, Armstrong told paidContent in a lengthy interview as he spent the last of his first 100 days trying to set the stage for the phase that starts this Monday. We talked about unwinding People Networks and Platform-A; giving Bebo breathing room; the reasoning behind AOL Ventures; TMZ’s future; whether more layoffs are inevitable and much more. (Our sister site mocoNews has more on mobile.) Edited excerpts follow. We also have Armstrong’s 100-day memo to the staff and a memo detailing who’s who on his staff.

Staci D. Kramer: Is there anything you like about AOL or liked about AOL the way it was before you came in?
Tim Armstrong: There were several things. That’s part of the reason why I came. One is I actually thought AOL had done a nice job of improving the content on AOL so there was starting to be a better user experience. By the way, I’ve been a longtime fan of Engadget and some of the other AOL properties in general; so I actually saw some kernels of things I actually used or looked at, at least, on a regular basis before I got here. One surprising thing when I got here is there were more things, especially in the content space, that were stronger than I had thought.

Do you feel like AOL wasn’t doing a good job of getting the message across that they had these good things or of letting these good things get the attention they needed at the company?
I think there is a clear and clean split between what gets written about … In the business community, which happens to be what a lot of us read who work in this industry, there’s the favorite story about AOL, which you know and I know—Time Warner AOL deal, did it work well, did it not work well; AOL subscriber base, did it work well, did it not – what I would call the normal AOL stories, which got the vast majority of attention. The good thing is there are a bunch of stories which never got written, which is where some of the strengths of the company are: great content, very scaled ad system, big distributor in local, growing communication properties around the globe, other properties like WinAmp or ShoutCast, which are big in specific categories—especially in international regions. A lot of people in the business world know the traditional AOL story; I think what people are missing is the real AOL story, which is what we’re starting to tell and think about now.

Some of the things Randy (former CEO Randy Falco) and Ron (former COO Ron Grant) did picked up Jon (former CEO Jon Miller) and his team; you’re getting some credit for some of the things that were already well in place when you got there. I just saw a Bloomberg story that said you’ve been adding niche content and they were adding niche content.
I would say are there things in the past that worked well and we’re continuing to do? Yes. I think that would be an injustice not to do those things. I think the one thing that was missed on the content side of the equation, which is an important part of the future of the internet is the scale of the content. They had a niche strategy but they didn’t really have a scale strategy.

How does what you’re going to do differ from that?
We’re much more focused on the technology underneath the content than just the content.

Can you give me an example?
I don’t want to go into too much detail here but we are looking at different ways to scale the content technology.

To scale it within AOL or to do it so it can be used outside of AOL as well?
I would say we’re looking for overall scale.

When I heard about Relegence (shutting down the product side), I wondered if there was a way for other people to make use of that technology.
By the way, I think Relegence is a company within AOL that had really lost a lot of prominence and had been put on the wayside. Relegence is one of the companies that is a little more core to what the future strategy and plan is.

More core when it comes to the technology but not to the concept of the business itself?
More core to the overall platform strategy.

Do you plan to continue things like the lifestreaming efforts, the direction the home page was headed in?
When I came in here, the strategy was People Networks, Media Glow and Platform-A. I think after being here 100 days and listening internally and externally, that our strategy has changed a little bit on the People Networks front. We’re not combining instant messaging with social networking right now, which was actually happening when I got here. We’ve sort of unwound that because it wasn’t successful for consumers. We’re looking at communications as more of e-mail, IM and SMS. On the content front, Media Glow is a core aspect of what we’re doing but we’re thinking about technology in a different way with Media Glow. On the Platform-A side, I think there was a construct to put owned-and-operated inventory and mix it directly with network inventory and I think that we are unwinding that as well.

I don’t mean to sound really dense about this but I still don’t get the technology change with content. When you talk about Media Glow as the core aspect, using technology in a different way …
We would expect to have a very sophisticated and scaled content management system under Media Glow.

So taking what had been building for a while, say Blogsmith or the other things that were there, but building something more robust and sophisticated?
Let me describe it a different way. Technology around content management systems has been here. It has not been a central focus and I don’t think it’s been a singular focus in terms of the singularity we’re putting on it, having a very robust content management system. I’m not trying to be swerving around your question here, but it’s also a core strategy so I’m not going to get more detailed on it.

Platform-A, Ad.com & TMZ

Does Platform-A go away?
I think one of the things we’re actively looking at right now is what is Platform-A. My general sense of a platform is it’s one system, everything’s hooked together, it works seamlessly together, and it’s integrated well. Many parts of Platform-A are there but we’re not there as a total whole yet. I think also the notion of Platform-A in the marketplace was this integrated approach integrated nicely across the high-quality inventory, the user-generated inventory and that is an area we’re actively looking at. The Platform-A strategy is something we are changing right now into more of an owned & operated focus and more of a network focus.  Is the Platform-A brand name going to be around in the focus? I don’t know the answer to that right now but it’s something we’re actively discussing.

Are you going to go back – or go ahead – to a point where you have Advertising.com,  and other advertising is broken apart more than trying to show it as a seamless effort?
Let me just be really direct about this: Ad.com is the largest-reach network in the United States. It’s a big opportunity for this company and it’s a big opportunity for our advertisers. That platform in relation to how it deals with very high-branded, high-integrated advertising, it’s really – if you think about our owned and operated, it’s really more experience-based advertising and integrated advertising in a lot of cases, and the network is more about scale. We’re concentrating our efforts on Advertising.com from a technological-reach perspective and we’re looking at the owned-and-operated properties from a more deeply integrated, experience standpoint for advertising.

Are you disappointed that AOL is no longer selling advertising for one of its own properties, TMZ, and is that something that might happen more?
No. As a matter of fact I think we have to look at TMZ from an ownership perspective so if you ask me is TMZ selling their own ads a good thing or not a good thing in relation to AOL, I would say, ‘If the value of TMZ increases, it’s a really good thing for us.’ I would also say that TMZ has a television property and an online property and, as you know, the properties that have television plus websites tend to sell more integrated packages. AOL currently does not have a real strong foothold in TV so if TMZ’s able to sell that, that’s beneficial to us. I know the TMZ people well, I’ve talked to them multiple times and I think that’s a partnership we’re happy with. The second piece, we have a substantial property in Popeater that’s maybe twice the size of TMZ from a traffic perspective so we are very focused on monetizing Popeater and the entertainment properties. If you take a step back and look at the marketplace of how TMZ maximizes revenue and Popeater maximizes revenue with TMZ having television. I think it makes sense that TMZ may be better off selling on its own.

Is there anything that could change with the TMZ ownership as a result of AOL spinning off?
That’s a joint venture so I don’t know yet how the ownership of TNZ will change if we spin off but that would strike me as an era we’d have active discussions with TMZ and Time Warner on.

Too many brands?

Can AOL have too many brands?
I would say only if they don’t work.

By having all these different brands, are you getting past that image some people have of not wanting to have anything that says AOL on it?
No, no, no. First of all, I think we have a basic philosophy here, which is the web is going to get more fragmented over time. People are going to figure out how to serve unique audiences in faster, better, more concrete informational ways and that is a strategy that fits very well with what we have been looking at with Media Glow properties and other things. Fragmentation on the internet is good for us. We believe in it and we’re riding that trend. The second piece of it is the AOL brand and AOL properties tend to be very large properties … say AOL were a restaurant and we put a sign outside our door, there are restaurants that people want to go eat in that don’t have an AOL logo on their door. That’s just reality. If you take Black Voices or Spinner or WinAmp, is it helpful to consumers to have AOL connected to these things? In some cases yes, in some cases, no. What we’re trying to do is put the right sign outside our establishment so the right audience understands what each different brand means and spends time there.

Some people like the Cheesecake Factory and some people want to go to that cool new restaurant that just opened.
I don’t know what the span of restaurants are in the United States where people spend money but there are major chain restaurants that make a lot of money; there’s other places that are niche establishments that serve a specific clientele and that’s one way to think about how we’re serving our consumers.

Web + ISP = 1 business

Do you see AOL with the web business and the ISP business as two businesses or one business?
I look at it as one business. I look at the access business as a paid-for membership base that actually uses our products and services so it’s really distribution.

Do you see yourself getting out of the distribution business any time soon?
I hope not.

It still throws off a lot of money.
Actually, the money is less important than the distribution. It’s an incredibly engaged audience with a very high household income, very good demographics. They spend money on things, they look at our content, they convert, they shop, read. I think we are in a good space with those consumers now to actually improve their experience. 

Do you have any sense of when advertising revenue will make up for the ISP decline?
I have no clarity on that right now. The first concentration we have at the company right now is getting the products and services improved. That relates to the ISP business as well to the revenue business. Our first strategy now is getting the strategy, structure and products correct—and then that will have an outcome on the revenue and the access business.

Do you feel like traffic is growing organically or is it being propelled by other aspects?
There’s a spectrum of things at AOL that get traffic from other places. The properties that have grown up here as web-based services get a lot of organic traffic, a lot of traffic from search, they look like the most sophisticated internet properties. But there’s other areas which we know haven’t been updated to the level they should be, which we’re working on – they should be getting more of their traffic from the access business or other distribution that AOL has done historically. That’s a great form of distribution and right now we’re augmenting that towards more web-based distribution as well.

AOL Ventures

What does a unit have to do to be part of AOL Ventures? What is AOL Ventures?

We’re still deciding what goes in there. (AOL later confirmed that Bebo, as expected, and Userplane are moving to AOL Ventures.) AOL Ventures serves three purposes: one, to connect us with the innovation community across the globe. Ventures is not just a U.S.-based thing – it will be European, Israel, India, Asia. The second thing, assets we have inside the company that were acquired or started internally which had a purpose of some synergistic relationship with things inside the company and either the synergy wasn’t executed or the synergy has changed over time but they’re still great businesses. We’re trying to give them kind of a corral where they can live and grow and really act like a start-up without being constrained to the larger strategy the company has. Number three is, we’re looking for areas of business that we’d like to support the strategy areas or other areas we think are going to be important and do seed level or Round A investing in startups and universities to make sure we have a pipeline of potential acquisitions, innovation and partnerships. … We will take investments from outside sources in the current businesses we have if it will help improve and prosper those businesses.

How does Bebo fit into that?
Tim Armstrong: Bebo is in an incredibly competitive space. Bebo has a stronghold in certain countries around the globe but I think the Bebo team in general could benefit from being in an environment where they can purely focus on Bebo and growing Bebo. There have been distractions for Bebo in the past, which have been closely tied to trying to integrate it and the integrations haven’t always worked well. We are in the process of letting Bebo focus on what Bebo is really good at.
Why didn’t that integration work well? Was it a bad idea to begin with?
I wasn’t here for the history of that. In every business, if there’s things you don’t try and don’t do, you don’t learn anything. I think the company has learned a lot from just figuring out the overall social networking and the communications area has worked.

$850 million is a pretty expensive way to learn, though.
The $850 million was not spent to make IM more successful. It was spent to make social networking more successful at AOL. The $850 million acquisition was not an experiment. It was AOL getting into the social networking arena. … I don’t want to cast it as an experiment.

Now that you’ve inherited it, do you see ever getting the money out of it?
I think in general from a strategy standpoint, Bebo offers a strong foothold in the social networking space. Right now, I don’t think there’s any current plans to try to monetize Bebo. [ie Sell it.] We certainly are interested in Bebo growing and having great products and services but I’m not interested in what the company acquired it for last year and you can sell it for today. We’re interested in what the consumer experience is with Bebo and how it fits into the larger landscape of the internet and with AOL’s properties.

Does Bebo get a new CEO or a new head?
No. We don’t have any announcements to make now.

Would (video search engine) Truveo be in there?
Truveo would be another potential company in there. We’re still finalizing. There’s not tons of finalization around these things.


Still working out the details

I think people were sort of expecting you to appear fully sprung from the head of Zeus on Monday with a 20-plage plan about everything that was going to happen to AOL from here out. It sounds to me what we’re actually hearing is here are the areas we’re going to focus on; we’re not laying out definitive plans yet.

There are definitive plans and I think we will be rolling those out. We will clearly be making announcement when we’re ready to make them but the 100-day process was really about listening and deciding our strategic areas and I think we’ve done that. The 100-day play was really listen internally and externally, figure out where the strengths of the company and our partnership strengths are, create a strategy around those areas and new areas we could be successful at, and really get into the structure of the company and the actual financial planning from a revenue and cost standpoint. We’re at the stage right now where we have the strategy set, we have a lot of the structurals things set and we’re ready to start doing more of the structure and planning.

Are more layoffs inevitable?
I don’t think we have a lot of comments to make on that right now.  As I just said, we went strategy structure and then financial structure around revenue and costs. We’re going through that process right now and we don’t have any specific things to talk about right now but we’re going to be working hard on those areas in the next two months.


Cablevision sucks


This post is by Jeff Jarvis from BuzzMachine


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Well, but that’s not news, is it? Everybody knows that.

But that hit home – again – tonight when I returned after three days away to find our internet not working. I called Cablevision and after a few obvious steps, I’m told they can’t see the modem and they offer to send someone out … in three days.

Three days?!?

I’ll spare you the Dell Hell details. But what ensues is amazing, even to me. When I said I wanted someone here tomorrow because I’m paying for service and it’s not working, the tech, “George” – I assume they use phone names – told me they have lots of customers without phones, internet, and cable ahead of me. Well, I said, that’s shocking: lots of customers waiting days to get their internet, phone, cable. I asked him point blank and three times whether if I had my phone service with them they’d also make me wait. Seems so. He asked me why I think I should get service tomorrow and get ahead of a 90-year-old lady without a phone. I asked him why he thinks that lady shouldn’t have had her phone fixed long since!

I got a supervisor, “Marc with a c.” I told him that I’ve had to have a vice-president come to my aid before to get service, that I used to work with Cablevision and his boss, Chuck Dolan (back when I had the misfortune to be around at the start of News 12 NJ), that I saw Dolan at a meeting a few weeks ago (where TiVo’s Tom Rogers, who does fix customer problems, was speaking with a small group), and that I planned to call his office in the morning to report the quality of service I was getting from his people.

“Marc” replied, “I don’t see you listed as a VIP.” I can’t believe he said it either. So you only give decent service to VIPs? He said he was going to tell his management that I was calling myself a friend of Dolan’s. Friend? I said I was going to call the boss to tell him about your service. Maybe I should be his friend. Every customer should be. In fact, in any decent company, every customer is a VIP. But not Cablevision. Apparently, only friends get service.

I also said I planned to call Verizon as soon as they finish cabling my street so I can switch. Cablevision didn’t seem to give a damn.

When I had problems with Dell, I waited weeks and then resorted to a blog post. Now is the age of Twitter. So I vented my frustration there (using my iPhone and its AT&T connection, not my Cablevision wifi, of course; that’s how I’m writing this).

Here’s the funny part: Cablevision didn’t answer my tweets. But Frank Eliason, aka @comcastcares, did. He said he’d just been emailing with an EVP of Cablevision and that he’d email him about my problem. Get that: Comcat doing a better job at Cablevision service than Cablevision. Too bad Comcast couldn’t come out to fix my internet. Eliason later tweeted: “I think you & I agree that social media will force that to change for companies, & service by all must improve in the new world.” Amen, but how long will it take companies like Cablevision to learn that?

But there’s another punch line. I got a tweet from John Czwartacki (@cz), Verizon’s policyblogger

And then I heard from John Czwartacki, policyblogger for Verison, who tweeted: “Jeff, Verizon is ready when you are! DM or reply and i’ll get things rolling Monday morning. Hope we earn your biz!” A few DMs later, and he’s checking with his colleagues to get my street lit and get my business.

Comcast cares. Verizon cares. Cablevision doesn’t. But then, that’s not news.

(P.S. If somebody from Cablevision actually does anything tomorrow, I’ll send a free copy of What Would Google Do? to my good buddy, VIP Chuck Dolan. I’ll put a bookmark on the Dell Hell story.)

Public Radio Dangerously Close To Making Public Radio Obsolete


This post is by Rafat Ali from paidContent


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The Public Radio Exchange has just released the 2.0 version of its iPhone app, which aggregates almost all the public radio stations in the U.S. This tuner is a collaboration by some of the biggies in the public-radio space: NPR,  Public Interactive, American Public Media, and Public Radio International (PRI). The 1.0 version of app has already gotten some rave reviews, but the 2.0 version, released this weekend, goes a lot further: besides streams, it has started showing what’s on right now on those stations, a seemingly small but game-changing move.

And, as it previously promised, it has added podcasts/downloads of the major shows as well, another important addition that will only increase the usage of the app. It has also added various search and directory listing options, on top of what the previous version had. The new version also allows for streams to be played on the slower Edge network, if Wi-Fi or 3G are not available. The new version is a bit buggy: it wiped out my favorite stations after upgrading (not a big issue for me since I didn’t have many), and is freezing up frequently, and I am hope the latter issue will be solved soon. The app is closing in on 2 million downloads, and likely will continue to be among the top apps for the iPhone.

So here’s why I think this is one major step to making public radio listening on radio obsolete:

I don’t own a radio (except in the car), and have been using the iPhone to listen to KPCC—the local station here in LA—ever since I bought it a month ago (there’s the whole other issue of sucky iPhone battery life, but that’s for another post). Now with the addition of what’s playing on my favorite stations right now, I have a lot more choices in one screen that I had previously: so instead of enduring “A Prairie Home Companion” on the weekend (not my cup of tea), I could try “On The Media” on at the same time on WBEZ Chicago public radio. And if I happen to join a show after its start, chances are I can get the latest edition of the show on demand (helpfully linked from the live version). In the car, where a lot of public radio consumption happens (especially in SoCal) with one of the options to connect the iPhone to the radio speakers, it makes the local public radio station redundant, to a large extent. Of course you can argue this is only true for the 20 million or so iPhone users, but you can see this playing out on other smartphones like Android and others, when the same app launches of their platforms.

All of this adds to the issues surrounding local public radio funding in the digital age: if a large number of iPhone app users are not necessarily listening in to the local station, then loyalties start to shift, or even fade away, which in turn affects donations to the local stations. This isn’t necessarily a new concern, and has been around since stations started streaming their feeds online, but with the new iPhone app, it becomes a lot more urgent. I am all for it, but the organizations behind it better be thinking of various ways to monetize, including perhaps charging a small amount for the app.  NPR CEO Vivian Schiller tackled some of these issues in an interview with Staci last month.

In related news, NPR is close to relaunching   its website in the next week. And NPR’s journalists are almost done with their digital training, done in conjunction with Knight Foundation.


Frank McCourt Dead At 78


This post is by The Huffington Post News Team from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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NEW YORK — Frank McCourt, the beloved raconteur and former public school teacher who enjoyed post-retirement fame as the author of "Angela's Ashes," the Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of woe about his impoverished Irish childhood, died Sunday of cancer at age 78.

McCourt had been gravely ill with meningitis and recently was treated for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. He died at a Manhattan hospice, his brother Malachy McCourt said.

Until his mid-60s, Frank McCourt was known primarily around New York as a creative writing teacher and as a local character – the kind who might turn up in a New York novel – singing songs and telling stories with his younger brother and otherwise joining the crowds at the White Horse Tavern and other literary hangouts.

But there was always a book or two being formed in his mind and the world would learn his name, and story, in 1996, after a friend helped him get an agent and his then-unfinished manuscript was quickly signed by Scribner. With a first printing of just 25,000, "Angela's Ashes" was an instant favorite with critics and readers and perhaps the ultimate case of the non-celebrity memoir, the extraordinary life of an ordinary man.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. I think I've proven him wrong," McCourt later explained. "And all because I refused to settle for a one-act existence, the 30 years I taught English in various New York City high schools."

A native of New York, McCourt was good company in the classroom and at the bar, but few had such a burden to unload. His parents were so poor that they returned to their native Ireland when he was little and settled in the slums of Limerick. Simply surviving his childhood was a tale; McCourt's father was an alcoholic who drank up the little money his family had. Three of McCourt's seven siblings died, and he nearly perished from typhoid fever.

"Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," was McCourt's unforgettable opening.

"People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty, the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests, bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years."

The book was a long Irish wake, "an epic of woe," McCourt called it, finding laughter and lyricism in life's very worst. Although some in Ireland complained that McCourt had revealed too much (and revealed a little too well), "Angela's Ashes" became a million seller, won the Pulitzer and was made into a movie of the same name, starring Emily Watson as the title character, McCourt's mother.

The white-haired, sad-eyed, always quotable McCourt, his Irish accent still thick despite decades in the U.S., became a regular at parties, readings, conferences and other gatherings, so much the eager late-life celebrity that he later compared himself to a "dancing clown, available to everybody."

"I wasn't prepared for it," McCourt told The Associated Press in 2005. "After teaching, I was getting all this attention. They actually looked at me – people I had known for years – and they were friendly and they looked me in a different way. And I was thinking, `All those years I was a teacher, why didn't you look at me like that then?'"

But the part of it he liked best, he said, was hearing "from all those kids who were in my classes."

"At least they knew that when I talked about writing I wasn't just talking through my hat," he said.

Much of his teaching was spent in the English department at the elite Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where he defied the advice of his colleagues and shared his personal stories with the class; he slapped a student with a magazine and took on another known to have a black belt in karate.

After "Angela's Ashes," McCourt continued his story, to strong but diminished sales and reviews, in "'Tis," which told of his return to New York in the 1940s, and in "Teacher Man." McCourt also wrote a children's story, "Angela and the Baby Jesus," released in 2007.

McCourt was married twice and had a daughter, Maggie McCourt, from his first marriage.

His brother Malachy McCourt is an actor, commentator and singer who wrote two memoirs and, in 2006, ran for New York governor as the Green Party candidate. At least one of Frank McCourt's former students, Susan Gilman, became a writer.


Joe Trippi Apologizes For Blogging Without Revealing Clients And “Sockpuppeting”


This post is by The Huffington Post News Team from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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In early 2003, when no one believed in the Dean campaign, there were two individuals and two online communities in particular that were there from the start and were instrumental to any success we achieved - Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong were the two individuals and DailyKos and MyDD were the two vibrant communities that breathed life not just into our campaign - but into a new kind of politics that led to progressive victories across the nation in 2006 and 2008.

I personally owe this community a debt of gratitude, and know to my core that much of what we see today in the success of the progressive community, on and offline, started here and continues here.


James Warren: This Week in Magazines: Vanity Fair Tries to Figure Out Symbols of the New Sophistication


This post is by James Warren from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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Our adoration of economists is a vivid reminder of the frequent gulf between fame and performance; in this case generally dismal performance.

So last week the Wall Street Journal informed us about all the economists who are stars of the blogosphere, generating gazillions of page views as they generally sit in the academic or think tank peanut galleries opining at any length. Now comes July 16 Economist to cut to the real chase in "What Went Wrong with Economics": "Of all the economic bubbles that have been pricked, few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself."

A few years ago, the dismal science was being acclaimed as a way of explaining ever more forms of human behaviour, from drug-dealing to sumo-wrestling. Wall Street ransacked the best universities for game theorists and options modellers. And on the public state, economists were seen as far more trustworthy than politicians. John McCain joked that Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve was so indispensable that if he died, the president should "prop him up and put a pair of dark glasses on him."

Now, the wonderful, generally right-leaning weekly does ultimately pull back from the broadsides at the profession, while conceding a need to re-examine macroeconomics and financial economics as it calls for "reinvention." Economists must "reach out from their specialised silos: macroeconomists must understand finance, and finance professors need to think harder about the context within which markets work. And everybody needs to work harder on understanding assets bubbles and what happens when they burst."

All well and good but still a bit unsatisfying. What's obviously needed is the equivalent of batting averages for economists, starting with Obama administration officials, who've been arguably way off in the jobless projections underlying their stimulus plans. Treat them like Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols.

Give us every prediction and how each is faring. And when they slip below a certain average -- say .250, perhaps to be called the Greenspan Line -- ship them off to some community college for several years of re-education. And, please, no blogging.

---August Vanity Fair caused a modest ripple with Todd Purdum's "It Came From Wasilla," an examination of Sarah Palin's vice presidential campaign odyssey rife with too many spineless Republicans not willing to have the writer use their names as they attacked Palin and John McCain. But that piece was just part of an excellent issue, including a melancholy take on actor Heath Ledger's life and last movie; Michael Lewis' excellent profile of one Joe Cassano, key figure in the A.I.G. debacle from his perch in the firm's London office; Michael Wolff on the perhaps double-edge sword of the political website Politico.com's success; and Christopher Hitchens on the Nixonian aspects of the disastrous leadership of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But the most interesting opus may be James Wolcott's "What's a Culture Snob to Do?" It raises the rather befuddling matter of how we'll demarcate social and intellectual sophistication and snobbery in a digital world. If people turn to Kindles and iPods, rather than showing off what books they're reading or what albums they've collected, what will be the emblems of the high-brow? And, though he doesn't mention same, what about a world in which a traditional symbol of being a smarty-pants, namely reading a newspaper, doesn't amount to much at all?

This gets at the traditional notion that material possessions can define who we are. Thrown in, too, the democratization of luxury, with Tiffany-branded products available to the masses, and this can be a most confusing time for snoots.

---It's hard not to read the July 13-20 double issue of Business Week without a sliver of ghoulishness, given word that its owner is putting it on the auction block and that there may not be a long line of bidders. It's all rather sad since it continues to do a fine job even amid the plunge in financial advertising. The best here is a fine section on trends in retirement savings (including a look at IBM's very successful 401(k) and "Will Tax Breaks Boost Jobs?" a cautionary note about the downside of states battling one another to favor companies with tax breaks and other goodies, such as cheap land.

---Nostalgia buffs can feast on the July 13-20 double issue of Sports Illustrated, with its annual "Where Are They Now" look at starts from the sporting past. So what is Monica Seles up to and how has she ultimately dealt with real trauma? What great pitcher on the Amazin' Mets of 1969 just got into hot water with the Internal Revenue Service? And what baseball icon has never heard of the book Moneyball? As many sad tales as one finds, there are enough uplifting ones to remind one that there can be great achievements beyond the spotlight of athletic fame.

---Distinguishing the August Cosmopolitan's "Hot Issue" from its usual ingenious, libido-driven fare may well be a distinction without a difference. But we do have a sex pool of a group clearly not targeted previously by Pew or Gallup, namely "6,000 horny guys." Be informed that the "girlie look" they go for most is "the girl next door: casual, not a ton of makeup, ponytail." As for a woman's "no-fail move" to turn them on, a steamy kiss barely (pun intended) beats out the cerebral alternative of "when she grabs my crotch."

---August Smart Money makes clear that Warren Buffett's acolytes would be turned on by vastly-improved performance by the Omaha savant who oversees Berkshire Hathaway. "Buffett: Waiting for the Bounce" details his dismal performance of late, with some claiming his buy-and-hold modus operandi is anachronistic. Great reputation aside, "Over the past decade, the average North American stock-oriented hedge fund earned 9.7 percent a year after fees, compared with 2.9 percent for Berkshire, according to research by asset-management firm Lyster Watson & Co."

---And, finally, if you still have money to travel, July-August Business Traveller rates the "50 Top Airport Lounges," sticking KLM's in Amsterdam as the top in Europe and American Airlines' and United's lounges at O'Hare as the top of the U.S. heap. The sofas, massage chairs, rock garden and prayer rooms at Turkish Airlines' lounge at Istanbul Ataturk International get praise, too.


Interview: AOL’s Levick Looks To Tear Down Ad Unit Silos


This post is by David Kaplan from paidContent


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Efforts to integrate the various companies of Platform-A (NYSE: TWX) over the past year haven’t gone far enough, AOL global ad chief Jeff Levick told paidContent. And while the Platform-A brand might stick around, at least for the time being, some of the names of the units might not, Levick implied, as he talked about various ways of instilling greater cohesion at the company. He spoke about the changes on the ad side, including the removal of most ads from the AOL home page, and how it fits in with the new corporate strategy from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Levick’s former Google (NSDQ: GOOG) colleague.

Solving display: Apart from the wider industry ad pullback in display, AOL’s weakness in the space has been due to its limited scope, Levick said. “We want to be the world’s biggest platform for display advertising. The way to do that is to open it up to all advertisers and publishers large and small. Ad.com’s growth is limited to our ability to strike exclusive relationships with publishers and to work directly with advertisers. We want to have a self-service interface, so people who access display advertising can do that through Ad.com ... Today, the business has been limited to large advertisers and ad agencies. We want to open that up. And besides, if you’re going to do something, you might as well go big.” In other ad moves, Levick pointed out that all advertising inventory has been removed from the home page, except for one spot, saying that one of the best ways to attract advertisers is to ensure a better user experience. Separately, Armstrong’s 100-day staff memo also amplifies the reduction of inventory elsewhere, highlighting that roughly
60 percent of MapQuest’s ads have been removed from “some important pages.”

Platform-A here to stay (for now): It would be an understatement to say that AOL’s advertising operations have had a great deal of upheaval since it formed Platform-A in late 2007 to house a panoply of ad acquisitions. But Levick suggested that some advertisers and agencies may find the current structure unwieldy. When asked if Platform-A would be abandoned as a brand, Levick said that there have been no decisions one way or the other.

Getting holistic: The same was true when it came to whether the current brand names like behavioral targeter Tacoda or contextual targeter Quigo would continue, and he was particularly resistant to say definitively which was he was leaning or when a final decision could be expected. “It’s definitely something that we’re looking at,” he said. “The overarching goal is to make sure we are the easiest company to work with for advertisers and agencies. I think it’s less about what we call ourselves and more about what we deliver. I don’t want to get hung up on nomenclature.”  In general, Levick and Armstrong are promising to take all of AOL’s far-flung businesses and make them more complementary. But achieving “holistic-ness” has has been a constant goal at AOL—a goal that has been thwarted just as often has it has been promised.


How “Hacker Croll” broke into Twitter


This post is by Simon from Bloggasm


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The Anatomy Of The Twitter Attack

“Hacker Croll” is a Frenchman in his early 20’s. He currently resides in a European country and first discovered his interest in web security over two years ago. Currently in between jobs, he has made use of the additional time he now has, along with his acquired skillset, to break into both corporate and personal accounts across the web. His knowledge of web security has been attained through a combination of materials available to the public and from within a tight-knit group of fellow crackers who exchange details of new, and sometimes unknown, techniques and vulnerabilities. Despite the significance and impact a successful attack has, the cracker claims that his primary motivation is a combination of curiosity, exploration and an interest in web security. There is almost a voyeuristic tendency amongst these individuals, as they revel in the thought of gaining privileged access to information about the inner lives of individuals and corporations. The “high” of access and gaining unauthorized knowledge must be big enough to carry a cracker’s motivation through the long hours, days and months of effort it may take to hit the next pot of gold.

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Glenn Greenwald: Journalists Celebrating Cronkite Ignore What He Did


This post is by The Huffington Post News Team from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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[...] So, too, with the death of Walter Cronkite. Tellingly, his most celebrated and significant moment -- Greg Mitchell says "this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million" -- was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn't trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false. In other words, Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do -- directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won't even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.


Jeff Jarvis: Charity or collaboration for The Times?


This post is by Jeff Jarvis from Media on HuffingtonPost.com


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The New York Times has accepted free stories from ProPublica. It has endorsed a journalist getting help from the public via Spot.US to underwrite a story that might appear at NYTimes.com. And Poynter's Bill Mitchell says the paper is even wondering about foundation support for its work (but for perspective, I suspect one could safely say The Times is wondering about any possible economic model of support).

All this is being viewed as charity: giving The Times gifts directly or indirectly to produce journalism in its pages, physical or digital.

I think that's looking at it - and at The Times - the wrong way. I prefer to think of it as a few of many possible forms of collaboration to create journalism that may or may not appear in the paper (and to which it may or may not link). I prefer to think of the paper as the organizer of networks of journalism.

Thinking that way, then when The Local, the hyperlocal blog at The Times, asked for a volunteer to cover a meeting it wasn't planning to cover, you could say that it was asking for a charitable act. I'd rather say The Times was opening up to collaboration.

And let's say that a local blogger covers the meeting and reports on it on her own blog and The Local takes advantage of that by aggregating, curating, quoting, and/or linking to that report. The net result is the same but that's not charity. It's cooperation.

Go one step farther: Say that The Times lends a video or sound recorder to that blogger so she can better report on the meeting and provide more coverage to her and The Local's readers. Is that support an act of charity to the blogger? No, it's collaboration. (By the way, this will be happening when CUNY provides equipment and training to members of the communities in The Local's footprint as part of a Carnegie Corporation grant we just received.)

When we define The Times solely as a commercial institution that produces and controls an asset - the news - then any provision of money or effort to it appears to be charity.

But when we define the news as the creation of a larger ecosystem and The Times as just one member of it, then help - money, effort, equipment, training - instead appears to be collaboration.

And once one looks at the ecosystem through the lens of collaboration, then many other things are possible: then The Times (or any other member) could organize many members to work together to produce journalism no one of them could do alone. Then we start to account for the value of the work of the entire news ecosystem not based solely on the size of the staff of the last newsroom standing in the community; we open up to volunteer and entrepreneurial effort that can expand the scope of journalism far, far past what that one newsroom could do.

So I say that The Times and other papers opening up to the work of others supported by others is not an act of begging and charity if it is one bit of evidence of opening up to collaboration.

Now having said all that, I'm aware of the issues that are raised by giving of any sort and Clark Hoyt's and Bill Mitchell's columns address many of them: the potential for influence from the donor leading the list. There can also be tax questions (only a gift to a 501c3 is a charitable deducation and when is value received by a for-profit company taxable income?). There are labor delicacies when volunteer take on the work formerly done by staffers (there's one of the reasons that professional journalists sneer at citizen journalism; it's not always about high standards but instead about self-interest).

Still, I say it's important to open up journalism and its institutions and players to many kinds of collaboration in a new ecosystem. That cooperation should extend to the commercial - revenue - side of the equation as well, as advertising and ecommerce networks enable each member of the ecosystem to gain more value together than they could alone. This is a key assumption of our work at the CUNY New Business Models for News Project.

One more caution: As we debate and explore the opportunities for charitable and volunteer support of journalism, it is important - critical - that we not declare surrender against the hope that journalism can be sustained in profitable enterprises. This is the keystone of our NewBizNews work at CUNY. We will estimate how much charitable support is possible in a market and what it can buy. We will also emphasize the importance of including volunteer effort in viewing the value of the ecosystem. But we also stipulate that none of that - not foundations, not the goodwill work of bloggers and neighbors - will support the level of reporting and journalism a community needs. And we believe that the market will support journalism - even the growth of journalism - commercially. We are working on models to examine how both the revenue and efficiency of enterprises in the ecosystem - news organizations to bloggers - can be optimized (we'll be putting out models as we get closer to our first August deadline).