Blago on the Daily Show: Great Hair, Zero Credibility

Daily Show BlagoDisgraced former Illinois Governor and thwarted reality star Rod Blagojevich was on the Daily Show with Jon Stweart last night — and Chicago was not impressed.

The Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn wanted it to be more hard-hitting: “Usually nimble host Jon Stewart, like so many talk-show hosts before him, kept the focus on the senate-seat issue — potentially one of the weakest items in the bill of particulars — and let Blagojevich prattle on about how once we hear all the tape recordings we’ll realize he was only acting on behalf of the people of Illinois, not himself, and this is all some ghastly misunderstanding.”

NBC Chicago’s Andrew Greiner thought Stewart let Blago dominate him: “Stewart did his best to keep Blagojevich on the funny — numerous hair jokes were made — but the former governor, for the most part, controlled the segment and hammered home his message of innocence, by touching on many of the themes in his book The Governor.”

Chicago knows better — and they’ve had years of listening to Blago, and an earful of his tall tales. For the rest of us…well, it passed long ago from news into entertainment. Last night’s interview was jovial and genial, partly because it didn’t matter what Blago said — his credibility is nil, we all know that.

But just because it’s not awkward and belligerent does not mean it’s not effective — or entertaining. Here Jon Stewart just let Blago talk — and the full extended interview, below, is just over 18 minutes — and make his case for why he’s innocent. It boils down to “there’s a tape out there that PROVES I didn’t do it!” and despite Zorn’s and Greiner’s exasperation, I don’t think anyone watching that interview was fooled. All they saw was Jon Stewart gently letting him unspool his story, and querying him on known facts and logic along the way. Said Stewart: “I want to believe you! You are a charming dude with the best head of hair I’ve ever fucking seen! So I want this to be real!…But it’s hard to believe.”

The operative part there is “You’re a charming dude” — Blago makes for a great guest, or a funny New Yorker article or whatever, and so he’ll keep on making the rounds to spin his story. As long as he doesn’t suddenly get squeamish about what he’s spouting — and he won’t — then he will be on someone’s couch, or possibly singing Elvis. Unless he’s in jail. Draw your own conclusions about that — Jon Stewart said he’d have Blago back on for a hug if he was vindicated, and I’m sure he meant it. But let’s just say no one expects to see him hugging Jon Stewart any time soon.

Videos below.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Rod Blagojevich Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Rod Blagojevich Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Rod Blagojevich Extended Interview Pt. 3
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests

Gawker’s Nick Denton: I Paid Big Money for “McSteamy” Sex Tape

Earlier this year, Gawker Media’s Nick Denton announced that he was going to start paying for salacious clips, tips and other submissions, but that he hadn’t worked out the details. Looks like he figured it out: Denton says he paid the source who provided his blog network with the so-called “McSteamy” sex tapes that have earned him both a lot of traffic and  a lawsuit.

The not-so sexy video clips, which Gawker published last month, involve Grey’s Anatomy star Eric Dane, his wife Rebecca Gayheart, and former beauty queen  Kari Ann Peniche. How did Gawker get their hands on them?

“Well, obviously we paid our contributor (and from the traffic, you can suppose quite handsomely!)”, Denton told the the New York Times’s David Carr, this morning.

I followed up with Denton, via IM, and he wasn’t much more forthcoming than that. But he did confirm that his blog network gave the money to Mark Ebner, who describes himself as an “award winning investigative journalist” who “has repeatedly positioned himself in harm’s way”. Ebner also runs the gossip site Hollywood Interrupted.

Denton wouldn’t say how much he paid Ebner for the video, and I haven’t been able to reach Ebner himself. But I have a hunch that Ebner hasn’t received as much as, say, a Conde Nast freelancer can get for a feature piece.

The math: In the old days (last year) Denton was paying $7.50 for every 1,000 views, but he has likely reduced that rate as Gawker’s traffic has grown. Even if he kept that rate the same, Ebner would be getting $22,500 for the 3 million views the clip has generated too date. That’s nice money, but not life-changing.

But Denton is paying above and beyond that for the clip: Rather than posting it on the likes of Google’s YouTube (GOOG), which likely would have taken down the video by now, he’s serving up the clip himself. Which means he’s paying every time someone views it. And now, he has legal bills, too.

What’s Denton in for, so far? He won’t say. But here’s the half-serious quip he used to conclude our IM chat: “Hey, this news business is expensive!”

Vevo, Universal Music’s Hulu for Video, Gets a Salesman

david kohlVevo, the music industry’s attempt to create a Hulu-like hub for its videos, is going to attract a lot of eyeballs when it launches later this year. Here’s the guy who’s supposed to attract advertisers: David Kohl, a former Nokia executive who starts work today as the site’s sales boss.

Kohl’s job is a key one at the venture, whose premise is that the music industry can do a better job of selling its video inventory than sites like Google’s YouTube (GOOG). Vevo is a joint venture owned (for now) by Sony (SNE) and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group; YouTube will help power the site and will share in some of its revenue.

In theory, there could be a lot of dollars to go around. When Vevo opens its doors later this year, it is expected to generate some 450 million video streams a month. In theory, the fact that a single company will control the way the videos and displayed and distributed will make those streams more attractive to advertisers.

vevo-logoBut there are plenty of skeptics who think the site will flounder, in large part because the music industry has never figured out how to run a successful consumer business, and the media business has a terrible track record when it comes to joint ventures. In Vevo’s favor: They said the same thing about Hulu, and that has been a success, at least operationally.

Kohl will run a six-person sales team he intends to expand, people familiar with Vevo’s strategy tell me. Up until now, Vevo head Rio Caraeff has been overseeing sales himself — and learning on the job, since he didn’t have any sales experience of his own. Vevo now employs about 45 people.

At Nokia, Kohl ran the company’s interactive ad group; he has also put in time at Viacom’s MTV Networks, Vivendi Universal and Comedy Central.

Tablet Schmablet: How About a Mud PC?

092209ATDgizmodoThe Wondertablet the guys at Gizmodo showed off last night looks cool. But you can’t actually touch one right now unless you know someone very connected at Microsoft (MSFT).

You know what you can touch? Today? How about a PC you control by shoving your hands in a box full of mud?

Seriously. All you have to do is get yourself to New York’s Nolita neighborhood and drop by Gizmodo’s annual gallery show, chock full of cool, weird and often gloriously useless gadgetry.

Among other geegaws on display: An automated pancake maker, some spark-emitting and dangerous-looking Tesla coils, a “Star Trek” tricorder and a videogame that dispenses beer. And, of course, an array of Apple (AAPL) paraphernalia, including some arts-and-craftsy iPhone cases.

The free show, which runs through Sunday, is mostly a labor of love on the part of head gadgeteer Brian Lam. But I gather it’s now making some money, via sponsorships, for Gawker Media’s Nick Denton. (And if that’s the case, I hope Denton uses some of that money to make sure there’s enough power and air conditioning at next year’s gallery. Also maybe some cots for his charges.)

Lam gave me a mini-tour yesterday afternoon, which I filmed with a Flip camcorder. If want to to see for yourself (it’s much less shaky that way), drop by the gallery at 267 Elizabeth Street.

Live From New York: Yahoo Introduces “You”

newyahooUnless I’m told otherwise, I’m only going to do this once. But for the record, Yahoo is going with the following spelling for its new slogan: “It Starts With Y!ou”. I don’t think that’s going to fly with consumers or copy editors, but we’ll see.

Also undetermined: Whether there will be any news unveiled at Yahoo’s press conference to roll out said slogan. But I’ll be here for you just in case. And in the meantime, you can find glimpses of the coming campaign at the bottom of this post.

Boilerplate intro remarks from Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz, followed by CMO Elisa Steele. Steele shows off a venn diagram that shows the intersection of “my world” and “the world”. Yahoo, apparently, is that intersection. “That’s where the Yodel is”.

Steele reminds us that this is Yahoo’s first global marketing campaign. That’s old hat for Microsoft (MSFT), and something Google (GOOG) has never done. Ad campaigns will roll out in 10 countries, branding campaign will be in all territories.

Steele runs through some imagery that will be used in campaign. Yahoo users, apparently, comprise many races and creeds. But all of them are buff and/or skinny. Unless they’re pregnant. A video ad, meanwhile features an upgraded Yodel.

OK. Time for Q&A:
Onstage: Bartz, Steele, EVP Hilary Schneider, Tapan Bhat, SVP Integrated Consumer Experiences, Penny Baldwin, SVP Global Integrated Marketing and Brand Management.

What’s budget for campaign? Steele: “Over $100 million”.

Status of ad market? Also, what *won’t* you sell?

Schneider: Starting to see a stabilization. “Wouldn’t go so far as to say as we’re seeing a full recovery.”

Bartz: We’re still “bumping along the bottom”. Re: sales – dodges/reframes question, talks about “focus” instead. “We’re just revisiting everything… Is there anything you won’t sell? Of course”. But no specifics. Will improve photo, video, “much much better e-mail.”

Please talk about launch of Google Ad Exchange and its threat to you. Schneider: “The reality is that the display marketplace is fragmented”. Our exchange (RightMedia) is biggest, but its intuitive that there will be other exchanges. “We welcome Google”.

Why do a relaunch at all? Are consumers actually unhappy? Or is it just advertisers and press and investors carping? Bartz: “Advertisers follow consumers” and we need to “build circulation.” By doing this approach, “we get really good micro-insights for our advertisers.” Doesn’t explain how that will happen, though.

Steele: “Consumers want more from online advertising”. They’re asking for it. Whu?

What about video plans? Bartz: “Video snacks” crucial to consumers and advertisers. “A big emphasis” inside Yahoo. A “big cornerstone of our strategy”.

How long will campaign run? How will you measure success? Steele: Funded for 15 months, and I expect it will run longer than that. Vague answers about management.

Some chat about search, which formally debuts today.

Will there be product-specific ads? Yes. Steele: Launch of campaign in each market will start with brand, and over time you’ll see more product ads, as “people get familiar with Yahoo again.”

One more time: Is Zimbra being shopped? Bartz: No comment. But “What I will tell you is that Zimbra technology is very very important to our mail system, and that’s one of the prime reasons that Yahoo bought Zimbra when it did….[but] the technology is already integrated into our system.”

How is this campaign different than other campaigns? You’ve had a lot of campaigns in the last 15 years. Steele: I haven’t been here in past, but I’ve reviewed every campaign that has been done, and this is radically different, because it’s more than a campaign. Carol and Carol’s staff are all behind the concept of you. Everyone’s on board. “If this was just a marketing campaign or a slogan, then we’ve really failed.”

Bartz: This should remind of you the past, actually. That’s not a bad thing. On search: Search has evolved from “10 blue links” days. I view background of search much like an Intel chip, which everyone uses. But Dell experience with that chip different than HP experience, etc. We’re stable at 19% of search business, because our users are on Yahoo, and they’re like Yahoo search. “Yahoo search is great. It’s not Bing, it’s Yahoo search… What’s most important is that we drive upstream and provide a great experience, even though the plumbing is down here.”

Do users really like to customize their search (premise behind overhauled home page)? Bahat – core group of 15% of users really into customization. Most other people say they want that, but aren’t willing to do the work. So we’re doing incremental customization on home page. “This will be something that keeps growing over time.”

Will you be integrating text messaging and other short-messaging services into home page? Bahat: Yes.

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AOL: More Org Chart Shuffles Coming; So Are Ad Dollars. But Mum on Microsoft.

092009ATDaolIt’s Advertising Week in New York! Which means that for the next few days, ad sellers will be meeting, greeting and buttering up ad buyers in hopes of prying some of their dollars free. Just like every week in New York.

One difference for the likes of me: Big ad sellers are making themselves very available to the press. This morning, for instance, AOL sent out CEO Tim Armstrong, sales boss Jeff Levick, sales deputy Erin Clift and content boss Bill Wilson to poke at eggs and ignore a plateful of bagels and lox.

Oh, and they talked, too! The big message was that they’re still in the process of overhauling the Internet giant on behalf of Time Warner (TWX), which brought in Armstrong from Google (GOOG) earlier this year and says it still plans on spinning off the company by the end of 2009.

Afterward, I got a brief interview (along with PaidContent’s David Armstrong) with the AOL chief. The video is at the bottom of the post, and you may need to turn up your speakers to hear it. But the takeaways are:

  • AOL is still looking for a chief marketing officer. The search is in the “early stages.” Do you know anyone? Internet experience is not a prerequisite.
  • More org chart moves, like the one that saw COO Kim Partoll pushed out last week, are coming. They’ll be part of the internal review process Armstrong has dubbbed “Project Everest,” which should be complete by the end of the year.
  • So are layoffs. See above.
  • Internet ad dollars are beginning to flow out again–or if they’re not flowing, Armstrong thinks they will be, as big marketers like Procter & Gamble (PG) make permanent shifts in their advertising mixes.
  • Armstrong professes to be surprised by a report last week that he had met with Yusuf Mehdi, who runs Bing and MSN for Microsoft (MSFT). “I know Yusuf. I’ve known him personally for years. So if I saw him I would be happy, but….”

Is YouTube’s Biggest Star Ready for the Big Screen?

fredWho’s going to be the first Web star to make it to the movies? One alarming possibility: Lucas Cruikshank, better known to a staggering number of YouTube viewers as “Fred.”

Fred is one of those weird cultural phenomena, like Rascal Flatts or the Wiggles, that are hugely popular in some demos and unknown in others. So while you may have never seen him, he was until very recently the biggest star on Google’s (GOOG) video site, and has generated more than 300 million views.

And now, a movie? I’ve yet to hear about anyone committing to financing, and/or distributing one, but Tubefilter has found what it says is a casting call for a Fred-based flick. That makes no sense to me, but then again, I thought “Beavis and Butthead” wouldn’t translate to the big screen, and that worked pretty well, in my humble opinion.

Then again, in my humble opinion, this stuff is unwatchable. Be warned: