HeresHow Gadget Talk
No matter which side of the political landscape you sit upon, it's hard to argue that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has not experienced his fair share of very public blunders: getting the TTC to ditch customers for his rain soaked football team; falling over when attempting to play quarterback; the recent conflict of interest case; and walking face first into a TV camera.
Now critics, foes, voters, media outlets, and late night talk shows are waiting to see if Ford is in fact smoking crack cocaine in a mobile phone video with some shady Toronto-area folks. Certain reporters of the Toronto Star have seen the tape, as well as American news outlet, Gawker. Both believe that Ford is indeed smoking a crack pipe.
Thus far the video in question hasn't been made public, as the owners of it are looking to cash in first. The price? According to Gawker, $200,000 is what it'll take to own the footage.
Perhaps knowing that owning and subsequently airing such an allegedly damning video of Ford could come with hefty bragging rights and branding opportunities, Gawker has decided to go after the footage. No, it's not opening its vault, instead it is asking the public to fund this endeavour through crowd-funding Website indiegogo. The campaign is cleverly called Rob Ford Crackstarter. Nice!
At the time of this writing, more than US$115,000 had been pledged, with five days to go before the campaign closes. Many incentives have been offered to those who donate, including a dinner with Gawker staff for a US$1,000 pledge, or for one person who bids $10,000, the actual phone in which the footage was captured upon. (Click here to learn about the full conditions at play here)
By this point, one has to wonder just how nervous Ford truly is. So far, he's doing what many politicians do when faced with harmful allegations against them: deny, deny, deny, and hide, hide, hide. However, if the money gets raised and the tape goes public, things should get ugly fast.
Right now, the masses should go with the guilty until proven innocent idea until the footage actually surfaces and shows us what we've been told is there. Until then, Ford has only allegedly smoked crack cocaine while in power.
Considering this politician's ability to make a spectacle of himself, though, it's hard not to assume that he's been busted.
If the worst-case scenario proves to be true, Toronto will be embarrassed; Canadians will be embarrassed; and voters will be embarrassed (apart from those who believe in forgiveness and second chances).
Instead of laying into Ford here (we'll save that for if the video in fact features him doing something wrong), let's applaud Gawker for employing the mightily popular digital trend of crowd-funding to provide the world with what could prove to be a very dirty chapter in the Mayor Ford story.
For years, media outlets have dished out big bucks for exclusives. As a journalist, such a tactic disgusts me. But, as someone who understands the competitive nature of media outlets, I can see why certain publications would be okay with signing a cheque with many zeros.
What Gawker has essentially done here is ask the public to decide if this story is worth putting money towards. Do enough people care if Ford did or did not get high on camera? If $200,000 is reached, then the answer is absolutely yes.
This is a brilliant concept that could encourage other news Websites or print formats out there to truly gage reader interest in a story that won't come without a big price tag. In this business, gaining a substantial readership while staying financially secure is paramount. If Gawker successfully pulls this off, it'll have achieved both goals in an epic manner.
I don't pay for many newspaper or magazines largely because it's hard to always tell if what's in the pages will be worth the cover price. However, if down the road my fellow readers can have this much of an impact on what news is reported, then colour me intrigued and, perhaps, invested.
Photo by: Gawker
Labels: rob ford, gawker, public, video, toronto, footage, outlets, media, price, story, embarrassed, crack, allegedly, crowd, truly, money, worth, doing, perhaps, campaign, funding, certain, camera, first, interest, mayor, voters, shows, phone, cocaine, smoking, believe,
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It's no secret that retailers are making efforts to diversify their product offerings. The reasons are to attract new consumers, but more so to help offset declines in certain categories due to declining sales, dropping average selling prices, and shrinking margins.
Given this, I haven't been all too surprised to see packages of single-serve coffee and tea up front at my local Future Shop store, or baby strollers being sold through its e-tailing site. Nor does it turn my head when I find the odd cell phone case in a bin up front at Winners or Marshalls. Heck, in the latest issue of Marketnews, we even dedicated an entire feature on how adding some small appliance categories to a traditional CE retail/custom shop is a logical step to help boost the bottom line. But the latest move I've come across really came as a surprise.
Initially, I thought Best Buy Canada had just added a Cover Girl Store to its online e-tailing presence. That's right, you can shop at your local electronics specialists for makeup, including powders, lipsticks, mascara, lip gloss, eyeshadow; you name it. But that's not all.
Further investigation when clicking on "all Home and Lifestyle" under product categories reveals that Best Buy has delved much further than into just makeup, adding several new "departments." There's now everything from skin care to hair care and oral care. Check out the new baby section and you can buy everything from potties to diapers and even cribs! Best Buy may not have gotten fully into the apparel game just yet. But it does sell accessories, like scarves and bracelets, watches and handbags. And I haven't even yet touched upon the nutritional supplements and energy bars. A small tagline at the top of the page states: "new expanded selection. Shop more than just electronics."
As noted, there's something to be said for diverting slightly from one's core offerings, especially in this economic climate. And for CE retailers especially, considering that products like HDTVs are selling below cost, iPod sales are barely leaving any money in retailers' pockets, and consumers are increasingly discount shopping through online majors like Amazon.com. But shouldn't the products still make some kind of sense for your brand? When it comes to CE retail, there are some categories that are passable as technology products. Kid's electronic toys, strollers (have you seen the 4moms Origami stroller? There's no questioning its relevance to tech!) single-serve coffee makers, high-end and high-tech vacuum cleaners. Even neat electronic toothbrushes have their place. But makeup? Diapers? I just can't wrap my head around finding that stuff at Best Buy; watching dad buy his electronics toys while mom stocks up on the household toiletries.
Truthfully, the reasoning is a no-brainer. Makeup, toiletries, baby gear, are all high margin items, so why not toy with them? And these product categories are arguably recession-proof. If money is tight, we may not splurge on that new TV, or Blu-ray player, or digicam. But we'll always buy our hair care and skin care products; and can't do without diapers or a crib for the upcoming bundle of joy.
But this means the very essence of Best Buy is changing. Will it become a closer competitor to Walmart and Target and London Drugs, and less a competitor to 2001 Audio Video and The Source and Audio Video Unlimited? Might we start seeing even further diversion from tech, with groceries, and full-blown selections of apparel? And will we start seeing these items in stores, or will they remain online-only selections?
There's nothing wrong with being a one-stop shop, and stocking vitamins in one aisle and digicams or CE accessories in the other. London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Costco, Walmart, Target, all do it. But Best Buy, and its sister brand Future Shop, have always been the core CE-only big boxes in Canada. Clearly, that is about to change.
The chain's name does lend itself to a greater selection of offerings. Everyone, after all, wants the best buy possible in any category. So why not get something from every category at Best Buy?
What are your thoughts?
A recently release study out of London claims that toddlers and children who are exposed to a few hours of tablet use per day can require a heavy digital detox, and experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those felt with drug or alcohol addictions.
Noted in the British newspaper The Mirror, the study author, psychiatrist Dr. Richard Graham, is reportedly treating a four-year-old right now, and alleges that if she continued the same four-hour-per-day iPad access she was used to for the next seven years, she could eventually require in-patient care. Take this with a grain of sale, considering that the psychiatrist offers this "digital detox" program himself, and it runs upwards of $24K per month to "wean" the kids off digital devices, much like one would be weaned off drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes.
Regardless of the level of truth or elaboration in the study, however, it does beg the question: are kids using too much technology, or being exposed to it at too young an age?
As a new parent myself, I find that it would be impossible, and perhaps even counter-intuitive, to try and shelter my son from technology. It's the foundation of virtually every facet of life. It'll be required in schools, required in work, and required as part of every day social interactions going forward. I do agree, however, that parents should not be shoving an iPad, iPhone, Nintendo DS, or countless other electronic devices, in front of a child's face as a go-to tool to keep him busy.
Full disclosure here: my almost 16-month old is an expert at the iPad/iPhone. He knows how to swipe to unlock it, how to navigate through screens and photos, how to click on an app, then click out of it. If we're at a restaurant and he's getting bored, I won't hesitate to let him play one of his educational alphabet or number learning apps for a short time. But what I don't do is replace this for personal interaction. I try to limit his tech involvement to 20-30 minutes per day. And when I see signs of him needing a "fix;" i.e. throwing a small tantrum, crying and pointing, or trying to reach for it, I know it's time to set some boundaries and keep him away from it for a while.
But it isn't his fault. His father and I are constantly connected, on our phones, our iPads, our laptops. His grandpa is an iPad fanatic, constantly on his, too. Everywhere he goes, in fact, he sees people with smartphones and tablets in their faces. So how is he to understand? It's like holding a scrumptious chocolate cupcake in front of your child, savouring every bite, licking the icing, picking off the sprinkles and eating them one by one, but telling your child "sorry, none for you."
So what do we, as a society, do? Parents need to limit the amount of exposure children have to technology, no matter what age. But they must also lead by example and limit their own use. Ask any half-sensible dietician, nutritionist, health care professional, and they'll tell you anything is OK in moderation. You don't need to shield your children from technology, especially when it's going to be such a big part of their lives as they get older. But you can put limits on it, just like you'd put limits on how many times your kids can eat McDonalds, or have chocolate, or how late they can play outside with their friends, how much TV they can watch (yet another tech culprit,) or how many turns they can have on the Merry-Go-Round.
Most important, however, is that you can, nor should, ever replace the intimate, tech-free time you spend with your kids. If your kid spends 20 minutes playing with the iPad, you'd better be sure to spend twice or three times that playing with him one-on-one. In fact, try interacting with him while he's engaged with the technology, so he realizes the importance of social interaction as well, no matter how entrenched technology is in daily life.
According to Dr. Graham, not getting that balance right can be "very dangerous."
Those dangers are already apparent as you attend social gatherings, and see kids with their eyes and hands glued to portable gaming devices, never interacting with others. Or stroll the streets and shopping malls and spots kids playing on an iPad whilst in their strollers. I'll reiterate: there's nothing wrong with either. As long as the kid can easily put down the device, too, and understand that balance. But mom and dad, you need to understand it, too. And you don't need a detox program to get it. Just a little bit of common sense.
For years, concertgoers would have to take special measures to sneak a camera into a show. However, smaller digital cameras are now allowed, and venues don't confiscate smartphones, thus leaving bands to take matters into their own hands.
At a recent performance at Webster Hall in New York, rock group Yeah Yeah Yeahs opted to post a sign that encouraged fans to keep their eyes on the stage, not on their handheld screens. It read:
"Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that s#@t away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian. Much love and many thanks! Yeah Yeah Yeahs." For those unfamiliar, Nick Zinner (guitar), Karen O (vocals), and Brian Chase (drums), make up this excellent trio.
Instead of letting it sit there, O reinforced the point after the first song, and offered a bit of a compromise: snap some footage for a few minutes, and then put the devices away.
Music publication SPIN, who first reported the sign, noted that many respected this request, but a few continued to keep their screens glowing.
(Photo by: SPIN)
I've been to countless shows throughout my life, and must admit that while it's incredible to have the power to capture quality images, and so-so videos at concerts, I support what Yeah Yeah Yeahs are going for here...especially in terms of trying to stop attendees from blocking the sightlines of others by holding a camera or phone above their heads and (in some cases) panning, in order to capture the experience.
It also doesn't help that, at least in terms of photo taking, documenting a concert is challenging. If you're in an arena, stadium, or outdoor venue at night, it does take some time to dial in the correct settings on a camera and even a smartphone. When someone in front of you is continually attempting to get this right, and wants a lot of shots, it can make for a long, annoying night. Not everyone just knows how to do this...unfortunately.
Perhaps the biggest thing that these wannabe documenters are doing here is missing out on the experience of a concert. Now, many will have differing opinions regarding what a concert "experience" should consist of, but to me, something gets lost when you spend a chunk of the night attempting to view it upon a handheld screen. Sure, it's nice to have stored memories to look back upon, or to share and brag about via Facebook, but important stuff can still be missed.
Now it can be argued that Yeah Yeah Yeahs are causing themselves a bit of harm here by asking fans to keep all screens down. In the digital era, the sharing of such content grabbed by such devices over social media sites, blogs, and YouTube can help expand the profiles of certain bands, which could and should lead to more ticket and album sales. To try and cut this down is a ballsy move by a ballsy band.
Yes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new point of view may alienate some, but it's not really a new thing. Many venues pounce (so to speak) on people attempting to capture footage of their favourite bands in action. Unfortunately, with thousands of fans on any given night having a photo- and video-ready device in hand, implementing zero tolerance policies is a nice idea, but more so a waste of time.
Just enjoy the show.
Anyone who's seen Seinfeld knows of this iconic line. The owner of the local soup shop barks these four words and refuses to serve anyone who questions him about his scrumptious creation, or utters anything but the basic order for the hot, ample goodness in the desired flavor, the way it should come. Ah, if only business were booming so nicely that one could take such liberties today. It seems, however, that some companies are using equally harsh tactics in order to combat the tough economy.
They aren't refusing customers, but in a way, they are. The Vera Wang boutique in Shanghai, China is asking customers to pay almost $500 just to book a 90-minute time slot to try on wedding dresses. In Brisbane, Australia, a specialty food store has decided to make customers pay a $5 fee for "browsing." In both cases, the fee will be discounted should the customer make a purchase. The specialty food store owner says she made the decision because she found herself giving advice, tips, and loads of valuable information to customers who then would take it and buy elsewhere.
It's called showrooming; the act of touching, feeling, and price checking in store, then buying elsewhere, typically online. And it's affecting retailers of all kinds, clearly right from apparel down to food.
It's a hotly-debated topic. On the one side, retailers don't want to share their precious knowledge and experience, and take the time to educate and inform a shopper only to have him buy elsewhere. On the other, the customer is always looking for the best deal, and if he can get it elsewhere, who can blame him for doing so?
But is charging customers just to browse the answer?
As a store owner, apply the logic to the job of the manufacturer/distributor salesman pitching his product to your store buyer. Imagine if he says he has the latest line of TVs, or mobile phones, or tablets, or digital cameras, or whatever, to show you. But here's the catch: you have to pay him $100 to hear the pitch. If you sign a purchase order, you get that back. If not, well consider the money a fee covering his time and energy.
Aren't these the very kind of fees we as Canadians have fought to eliminate from things like mobile phone carrier contracts? That pesky "admin fee" that essentially covers the time it took for the customer service rep to talk to you and run the purchase through or call up your account details? Isn't this part of the job? Since when have sales come with a guarantee? Wouldn't it be fantastic to guarantee sales every time you walk into an encounter because the shopper is being forced to pay just to look at what you have? Businesses would be booming across the country if this were the case. That, or the exact opposite: shoppers would just be more inclined to buy online, where they can click a button and do so for free, without even leaving the home.
On the extreme high end of the market, the entrance fee strategy might work. But chances are if I'm a wealthy client walking into Vera Wang, the store likely knows who I am, and wouldn't dare ask me to pay money to browse. For those who aren't so well known, they might view it as a sign of prestige to pay. But can you imagine such a strategy at a local big box, or independent CE store? Customers would be outraged (as they apparently already appear to be out in Brisbane) at the gall, the arrogance, the ignorance of the store. How dare you put yourself on such a pedestal to assume your product knowledge and demo is a waste of time if I decide not to buy? What if I pay only to encounter a sub-par salesperson? Will the store pay me for wasting my time?
There's a fine line between an ignorant customer and one who legitimately wants to research a product before buying; or might research and find that it isn't right for him. Likewise, there's also a fine line between a salesperson who doesn't want to divulge his vast knowledge only to have the customer shop elsewhere, and one who's just plain lazy and doesn't want to waste his oh-so-precious time on a sale that doesn't line his pockets. (Oh, if only sales were so easy!)
The strategy seems to be taking combating the showrooming issue a step too far. What's next? Bouncers out front checking shoppers' credit cards, limits, and financial status before determining if they're worthy of entering?
Here's something to consider: the Brisbane store owner claims that her store's pricing is competitive with others, but customers don't realize this. Customers aren't stupid. And if they aren't taking her "valuable" information then shopping elsewhere on the basis of cost savings, why are they doing it? She, like many other retailers, need to find the answer to this question. And if, as she claims, the customers really don't realize her pricing is competitive, why isn't she doing more to advertise this? To make customer's aware? Surely in her detailed conversations with these supposed showroomers where they walk away after stealing her vast knowledge, she must be able to find 15 seconds to convey that she offers competitive prices, and perhaps even that she's willing to match pricing should the customer believe he can find something elsewhere for less.
Retailing was never easy, but it's arguably never been tougher. Traditional bricks and mortar stores are not only competing with the retailer down the street. They're now competing with the World Wide Web. And smartphones that make it easy for a shopper to, within minutes, find another store, Website, or even a friend selling the very item he seeks for less money.
The no soup for you browsing fee might be a model that works for some. But most retailers should approach the strategy with caution. Most shoppers will likely respond by simply heading back home, or to the local grocery store, where a quick bowl of piping hot chicken noodle can be acquired within minutes.
In the 1997 Seinfeld episode The Nap, George Costanza needed some extra sack time during the day and thus hired a contractor to help convert his office desk to a sleeping space, complete with a slot to place an alarm clock. While this is a brilliant thing for a TV show to conjure up, it's hard to imagine a non-fictional boss being open to implementing something similar in his office space.
However, while this kind of behaviour is probably frowned upon throughout many segments of the corporate world, the idea of instituting on-the-clock napping spots in office spaces continues to exist. Recently, New Jersey-based Nationwide Planning Associates investment firm revealed that it offers workers the ability to sign-up for two 20-minute nap periods a week.
No, these folks don't have to recline the seat back in their cars to do this, or curl up under a lunch table, they instead have access to a remodeled closet that consists of a recliner, fountain and bamboo rug. Classy!
From an employee point of view, it's hard not to be all for this. Although hour lunches are common place and breaks come in many forms nowadays, sleeping (in the office and not comfy mall chairs) sounds way more inviting. What kind of worker wouldn't mind the option of stepping back from the eye-burning monitor and intimidating stacks of paper to catch some ZZZs?
We all experience burnout from time-to-time and can usually ballpark which days of the week a quick snooze in a designated spot would be needed. Weekends are tough to recover from occasionally, so perhaps having a 20-minute sleep slot confirmed on Monday ahead of the 4 p.m. energy crash would be strategically smart. Wednesdays can be a tough hump to get over, so why not schedule a 1 p.m. siesta?
Using Nationwide Planning Associates' strategy as an example, it is attempting to add 40 minutes of sleep time to each employee's week. While that might sound miniscule, it's essentially giving workers an extra eight minutes of sleep a day, which could usually come in the form of someone hitting the snooze button each morning and running the risk of being late for work.
Needless to say not every employee would reap the same benefits from this plan as his cubicle neighbour, but even still, an extra 40 minutes of concentrated in-office rest time has to equate to some sort of swing in employee happiness, stamina and productivity.
From an employer angle, the downsides are obvious, with the most obvious one being those workers who try to take advantage of such company luxuries. Sure, a chunk of people will abide by the time limit offered and the scheduling practices, but who is to say that the other chunk won't ‘accidentally' forget to set the alarm, or sneak into the space during a time that's not scheduled.
What's more, if the boss is away, what's stopping employees from taking extra naps and/or doing, ahem, very personal things inside of these types of rooms? (Use your own imagination here folks.)
Then there's the trust factor. Some staffs could be completely loyal, dedicated, respectful and not interested in manipulating the systems put in place by management, but have said management unable to trust that its staff's intentions are as good as advertised.
As we've learned recently via Yahoo! and Best Buy in the U.S., the working from home matter is a real contentious one at the moment, and the debate has become widespread. Sure, the technology is in place to make such arrangements possible, but not all bosses want to go that route. Sometimes hybrid concepts like these take time to become accepted on a widespread level, but there will always be holdouts who will always believe that being in-house more often than not is better than someone being at his own house during office hours.
Thus, as that debate continues to rage, it's hard to imagine (in spite of the obvious benefits) that this napping at work concept will become a widely accepted idea embraced by companies. I don't think that a lot of business leaders are ready to extend themselves this far...yet.
It's a nice dream to have, but alas, we can't all be George Costanza.
No, this isn't a cute reference to furry bunnies and the upcoming Easter holidays. Fox Broadcasting Company is hoping to block the sale of DISH Network's Dish Hopper with Sling technology, stating that the integrated technology that allows users to skip ads whilst watching TV programming violates contracts.
Naturally, Fox believes that making it so simple for consumers to skip advertisements during live TV programming (from what I gather, it's a simple "ad skip" button versus the slightly more cumbersome capability to fast forward manually with a standard PVR) will negatively effect its advertising base, from which the network relies on heavily in order to provide programming. Indeed, CBS, NBC/Comcast, and ABC/Disney have also filed suits against the company for the Dish Hopper.
Fox also isn't fond of the feature that allows for watching programming on "second" screens, like mobile devices, using the Sling technology. This includes both live programming that's "place-shifted," as well as offline content that's transferred for later viewing on an iPad. According to the firm's filing, this capability could effect relationships with providers like iTunes and Amazon, both of which pay for the rights to offer Fox programming in video-on-demand, commercial-free formats to customers.
It's a contentious issue for the industry as a whole. On the one hand, the whole "second screen" phenomenon is a growing one across all areas of entertainment. Consumers want, and arguably should be able to, view programming to which they subscribe via various mediums. Transferring a program to watch on the iPad because your spouse wants to use the living room TV to play video games isn't a negative for the industry, nor the networks. If anything, it promotes further engagement with programming, not to mention sheds light on the forward-thinking networks and devices that allow for a multitude of viewing options.
On the other hand, however, networks must look after their best interests. Without advertising support, the programming you love wouldn't be possible. And if consumers can so flippantly disregard the 1.5 minutes of commercial breaks every 10 minutes, advertisers may look to other mediums to spend their dollars.
However, in this day and age, the idea of "live" television is slowly becoming passé. Personally, I can't remember the last program I watched live. Even highly anticipated events, like the Grammy's earlier this month, enjoyed that little red record button on my PVR, allowing me to not only pass by the commercials, but also the portions of the show itself I wasn't interested in viewing.
The reality is that TV advertising has taken its own shift toward product placements (some far more vomit-inducing then others), in-show mentions; even ads integrated with the content. Popular family sitcom Modern Family had an entire episode surrounding the Apple iPad. The Sony Xperia TL is known as the "Bond" phone, because it's the device Daniel Craig holds close to his hip in the latest flick Skyfall. Several episodes of teen drama 90210 have seen Microsoft laptops and tablets pushed blatantly, but worked into parts of the show's storyline. And as much as this often makes me cringe, it's a necessity for the industry. Because like it or not, time-shifting is a reality. And whether consumers have a Dish Hopper with Sling, or a regular ol' PVR, they ARE going to watch shows how they want and when they want.
That said, for now, networks like Fox will continue to fight what it feels is the good fight.
"Paying Dish for a satellite television subscription does not buy anyone the right to receive Fox's live broadcast signal over the Internet or to make copies of Fox programs to watch ‘on the go' because Dish does not have the right to offer these services to its subscribers in the first place," reads the amending file from Fox, which was presented to Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court for California's Central District.
Does paying for a music CD, then, not give the consumer the right to play it on his stereo at home? In the CD player of his car? Or to take it to his friend's place and play it there? One could argue these issues are very similar.
In Canada, many providers have embraced the multiple screen strategy, arguably in large part due to the fact that they control all sides. Rogers, for example, embraces customers viewing programming online through its own Rogers On Demand Online portal, or via its mobile TV service. Ditto for Bell with its partner options. In fact, Bell just announced this week that the Academy Awards would be streamed live this Sunday over CTV (which Bell owns) and via the Mobile TV service.
Funny enough, last month CNET came under fire after it was revealed that the company's editors had voted in the Dish Hopper with Sling as a Best of CES device, only to have reportedly (and controversially) kept that vote under wraps after receiving pressure from parent company CBS to remove it from the list due to pending litigation.
As for blocking the Hopper, there's a hearing scheduled for March 22. For now, the Dish Hopper with Sling has already found its place within more than two million American homes...and counting.