Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed List Clothed in Irrelevance

bdl-obama-0909-ps01 Vanity Fair has released its 2009 Best-Dressed List. Does anybody care? It wasn’t that long ago that these sorts of lists, from publications like Vanity Fair, were powerful measures of a star’s clout, or their clout-to-be as the case may have been. Vanity Fair in particular had a sharp sense of the zeitgeist and was once very good at plucking young stars out of the mix just before they hit the big time.

These days Vanity Fair’s strength, such as it is, lies mostly in its ability to recap some golden era that is still only available to the public through the TimeLife photo archive. To wit: The best-dressed VF archive that is also now online is far and away the more interesting read! Come to think of it, you know who should really do a best-dressed list? The Sartorialist! That would be a great read.

Anyway, best-dressed! Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni top the list. Okay, I take it back, I am not yet tired of looking at pictures of Michelle Obama. But Kelly Ripa is also inexplicably in there. Along with various, mostly uninteresting European royalty. Also, Brad Pitt, Alicia Keys, Anne Hathaway, oh and the President! Well he is well-dressed, it’s true. Oh, by the way you can vote on these, should you manage to make it all the way through. However, by number 17 or so it becomes clear why TMZ has had such great success. Yawn. Far more interesting is this slide show of the ‘Chosen Ones’ which includes the likes of Babe Paley, and Audrey Hepburn. If VF.com did a slide show like this every week we would come back for more.

Changing of the “Worst Persons” Guard: Olbermann Debuts Lou Dobbs Caricature

dobbs_8-5Keith Olbermann’s Fox News bashing in the face of a supposed ‘truce’ lasted one night, before changing topics.

Instead, last night he turned his attention to CNN’s Lou Dobbs as the “Worst Person in the World.” There was a new voice, a new caricature and a new vitriol. Almost enough to make you forget all about that Bill-o guy.

On Dobbs’ radio show he called him the MSNBC host “off his meds Olbermann” and a “liar.”

Well this didn’t sit well with Olbermann: “Meds, Lou? CNN’s fading…soft-focus, birther-embracing former star, a man who during the week makes millions off bashing immigrants and especially Hispanics, even though his wife and kids are Hispanics?”

This certainly sounds personal. But beyond the comments, it was the voice and tone of the segment that should be noted. Olbermann’s Dobbs caricature (which sounds like a mix between Kermit the Frog and Darth Vader) is something he hasn’t used when he has previously named Dobbs to his “Worst” list.

Olbermann’s attacks will be scrutinized now in the face of the supposed deal between his and O’Reilly’s networks. This strong tone taken against Dobbs – of course from CNN – could signal the beginning of a new era, and a new cast of opposing caricatures, on Countdown.

Check out the segment:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

ZuiTube is YouTube for Kids

Kidzui, the company behind the child-safe web browser of the same name, extended its online video experience with ZuiTube, a kid-friendly video destination site.

ZuiTube features a collection of 60,000 videos that have been approved for child viewing by Kidzui’s network of 200 parents and teachers from around the country. The videos are pulled from YouTube using its APIs. Kidzui monitors search and play activity through its service to determine what kids are interested in, from there it will go out and find kid-appropriate videos that match kids’ interests.

zuitube

The company’s in a bit of a bind when it comes to content. Kidzui doesn’t have relationships with any of the big kids media companies like The Kid’s WB or Nickelodeon, so it’s video content is dependent on YouTube. If a video gets taken down from the video sharing giant, Kidzui no longer has access to it.

Videos have been a part of Kidzui’s downloadable web browser prior to this, but ZuiTube is its own destination and does not require the user to install and launch Kidzui. Since launching its browser in the spring of 2008, Kidzui says that it has generated more than 12 million video plays and that more than 70 percent of the videos available have been watched.

ZuiTube, like Kidzui is free to use. The company makes its money by selling premium memberships that give parents deeper controls and kids more personalization tools and virtual goods.

Other players in the independent kid vid space (i.e. companies not affiliated with a major media outlet like Nickelodeon) include Totlol, which had to put up a registration wall in order to stay in business, and Kideo, which is a browser-based video player that pulls up random clips on a continuous cycle.

Based in San Diego, Kidzui has 30 employees, was founded in Sept. 2006 and has raised $10 million in funding to date.


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Twitter Ban Continues: ESPN Bans its Reporters From Sports-Related Social Media

Picture 3An internal memo released yesterday by ESPN outlined a rigid new policy toward the use of social media by its on-air talent and writers. The new guidelines immediately sent shockwaves around the sports world and raised questions about the ownership of one’s personal thoughts and comments and how they can be published — via Twitter, Facebook or apparently any other digital means.

How did the news break? On the personal Twitter feed of ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher of course.

Yesterday afternoon Bucher tweeted, ”The hammer just came down, tweeps: ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN. Kinda figured this was coming. Not sure what this means butI…I’m probably violating some sort of policy just by telling you. In any case, stay tuned.” Bucher’s tweet was initially noticed by theBigLead.com, and was eventually picked up across a multitude of other sports-related blogs and websites.

This comes on the heels of a series of news items in which the use of Twitter (and other social media) has been banned by the military and professional sports organizations. Are we seeing a new trend of bans on social media? Three stories in two days seems to indicate as much.

When contacted for comment, ESPN Spokesman Paul Melvin offered: “We have been active in the social media space for awhile. As our mission is to serve sports fans, we will continue to be active. We are now merely getting smarter about it by providing guidelines to commentators and reporters.” (The full text of the memo can be found below.)

But is it smarter? The reason we tune in to watch ESPN (or go to ESPN.com) is to hear or read the opinions and insight from their staff. In fact, the reason that these people were hired in the first place is because of their unique access and analysis. If such comments are now prohibited on Twitter, won’t the viewing audience seek new sources for opinions, wit and commentary?

Take for example Bill Simmons – perhaps the biggest single “name-brand” writer on ESPN.com. He has legions of followers on Twitter (over 550,000) and personally believes that it is the biggest story the media has missed this year. In an interview with Mediaite published on July 22nd, he offered this:

3. What’s the biggest story the media has missed this year?

The potential of Twitter. Old-school media doesn’t get Twitter at all. A lot of people still think it’s a fad and it’s totally not a fad. Cocaine was a fad. The Osbournes were a fad. Auto-asphyxiation was a fad…. well, unless you were David Carradine. If anything I think we are just scratching the surface of Twitter for better and worse: it started breaking stories last spring and over everything else, that’s why it won’t go away. Now reporters are posting scoops on Twitter before they send the finished stories into their employers. People are not seeing what is happening here. Facebook is a social network; Twitter is a media/marketing vehicle disguised as a social network. (Read the entire interview here)

So what was Simmons initial reaction to the ESPN Twitter ban? “@sportsguy33 – My take on the great unspoken: Ultimately it’s good if (redacted) incorporates (redacted). Had to start somewhere. I trust @rfking. So there.”

For the rest of the evening he walked a fine line between ignoring the new corporate dictum and tweeted about his beloved Red Sox, commenting on Boston Manager Terry Francona’s post-game interview and dinner plans. Is that sports related? Where does one draw that line?

Simmons is an excellent example of this new and uncharted territory we now find ourselves in with Twitter feeds, corporate contracts and intellectual property. Surely ESPN deserves some credit for creating the national platform that’s helped create the digital star, but what makes Simmons so appealing to his fans is all him — his thoughts and words, not those of ESPN.

What we love about him is not just his takes on sports — but how he inextricably ties his insight to pop culture with just as salient metaphors. Take the sports away from Simmons’ pop culture reference? Its like taking the chocolate away from a Reece’s peanut butter cup — all that’s left is the partially hydrogenated filling they try to pass off as peanut butter.

Deadspin has done a terrific job of covering this story, and recently added this vague and mysterious update: “UPDATE: Hmm. Bucher might be in trouble? Developing…”

Where can you find Simmons take on Bucher’s initial tweet? Why on Twitter of course:

@sportsguy33: A clip from Robert DeNiro’s upcoming movie, “The Ric Bucher Story.”
He then linked to the following clip:



ESPN’s Internal Memo:

ESPN’S ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR SOCIAL NETWORKING
ESPN regards social networks such as message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter as important new forms of content. As such, we expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. This applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.

ESPN Digital Media is currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously on ESPN.com, SportsCenter.com, Page 2, ESPN Profile pages and other similar pages across our web site and mobile platforms. The plan is to fully deploy these modules this fall.

Specific Guidelines

  • Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted
  • Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head
  • ESPN.COM may choose to post sports related social media content
  • If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms
  • The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content
  • Assume at all times you are representing ESPN
  • If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t tweet it
  • Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans
  • Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven’t been posted or produced, interviews you’ve conducted, or any future coverage plans.
  • Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors
  • Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines
  • Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared

Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.

SplashCast Closes Shop

SplashCast, a Portland, OR-based social syndication startup that had been running on fumes for a while now, has shut down, CEO Mike Berkley posted today on the company blog.

SplashCast originally launched as QMIND in 2004 to offer enterprise e-learning, and in 2007 changed tack to distribute user-generated content through embeddable multimedia widgets. In the last two years the company focused on music, branded content and online TV in turn. But none had enough momentum to attract funding or bring in profits, so it was time to throw in the towel. Berkley writes,

“At each turn, we moved from what ultimately proved to be a declining market opportunity to a larger opportunity. Our product team’s ability to quickly adapt allowed us to maintain product leadership at each step. Our business development team aligned us with the biggest players in the space. Our sales team ultimately found validation in a promising business model, closing advertising campaigns with some of the largest brand advertisers in the world: Nissan, Jack In The Box, Right Guard… We demonstrated that premium content applications in Facebook and MySpace can be monetized effectively with high-end display advertising. But that final chapter in the company’s history came too late, given our inability to convince the VC community to bet on us.”



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