Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's NEVER Too Late To Stop The Presses In The World Of E-Mail

Maybe it's just me, but this seems like a really, really (can I say this word) stupid thing to do.

This morning, the news media was buzzing with how Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling Brothers Barnum And Bailey Circus, was fined $270, 000 by the United States Department of Agriculture for their treatment of animals.

Now, I personally have nothing against Feld Entertainment, they've been good partners and friends for over 30 years.  BUT, it would seem that when your name is plastered all over the place, you might want to lie low for a day or two.

Well, that didn't happen. Just this afternoon, I got an e mail from Feld Motorsports, a part of the Feld Empire, inviting me to an event in Chicago, which is a bit far from home base in St. Louis, but that's another story. Pardon the funky formatting, their e mail is a little wide for this space.

Having trouble viewing this email? See it online. Please add to your address book.

Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam®
makes its annual return to Chicagoland
at the Allstate Arena from February 10-12, 2012!
Last year, all five performances sold out,
so be sure to get your tickets early
to make sure you don't miss the action!
With back to back sellout years, be sure to get your tickets NOW!
Save $5 on Adult tickets
by using code JAM*

Ticket Prices:
VIP - $55, Gold Circle - $30, Mid Level - $20
Adult tickets are just $10 to opening night
(Friday, February 10 at 7:30PM)

Kids' tickets are always just $10!
Act fast before everything sells out!
Get your tickets at or call 1-800-745-3000.
Visit for complete event information.
*Discounts do not apply to VIP or Gold Circle seats.
Discount does not apply to Friday, February 10 at 7:30PM show
where tickets are already just $10 for Kids and Adults.

You are receiving this e-mail because you provided Feld Entertainment® with permission to contact you at this address about special offers from The Feld Entertainment Family of Companies, including its licensees and co-branding participants when you purchased tickets or subscribed to receive e-mail newsletters from one of the Feld Entertainment properties.
Feld Motor Sports®, producer of Monster Jam®, Monster Energy® AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, AMA Arenacross Series, Freestyle Motocross, and Nitro Jam® adheres to a strict no-spam policy. Your e-mail address is never used for any reason other than for you to receive special offers and announcements relating to Monster Jam®, Monster Energy® AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, AMA Arenacross Series, Freestyle Motocross, and Nitro Jam®. We apologize if you received this e-mail in error.
Mailing Address:
Feld Motor Sports
Attn: Internet Dept.
4255 Meridian Parkway
Aurora, IL 60504
To continue receiving special offers from Feld Motor Sports, do nothing.
To change your e-mail address or to no longer receive e-mail about Monster Jam®, Monster Energy® Supercross, AMA Arenacross Series, and Freestyle Motocross or Nitro Jam®, visit: change e-mail/unsubscribe
Yes, the Motorsports Group doesn't put on the circus, but look how many times "Feld Entertainment" is mentioned in the e mail.  Do I want to patronize a company that just settled with the USDA for 270 LARGE without admitting guilt?  Uh, that's kind of like pleading "no contest", isn't it?

If I were handling the e mail at the Feld Empire, I'm thinking I'd hold off on this mailing for a day or three.  Let the stink of the animal abuse situation go away and then invite families out for a night of big giant trucks crushing things.  Just because an e mail blast is scheduled doesn't mean it can't be REscheduled. 

Am I missing something here?  Please, I'd love to hear your comments.
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy National Cake Day! — History of Cake [INFOGRAPHIC] | Foodbeast

In between our news on fast food, bacon and the latest shows on the Food Network, we can’t leave you without an occasional food history lesson. November 26th is National Cake Day, a holiday that reminds how wonderful dessert can be, and how truly colorful a history our favorite cakes have.
Instead of boring you with an essay on the origins of carrot cake, we’ve visualized a walk through the decades and pointed out everything you need to know about the cakes we love to consume in this infographic:

Publisher // // Twitter: @eliepoo
A hearty THANK YOU to Elie and the gang at for the reminder that today is indeed National Cake Day! I'll celebrate with my favorite cake of all, Chicago's very own Eli's Cheesecake, thankyouverymuch.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We All Have Our Thanksgiving Traditions. Here's Mine

We all have our own traditions around Thanksgiving.  Yours may involve making a huge meal, yams, football, or something your family has done for generations.  For me, it's "WKRP In Cincinnati" Season 1 Episode 7, first aired on October 30, 1978.  The episode was called "Turkeys Away", and any radio person or WKRP fan knows the story. 
The show was written by the late, great Bill Dial and features one of the great quotes in the history of sitcoms:

As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly

Enjoy this great piece of history as you unbuckle your pants Herb Tarlek style.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm Turkey

I figured I needed to have some kind of Thanksgiving post since I'm seeing that anyone who can give me a job has either physically or mentally checked out for the long weekend, and it's only Tuesday afternoon.  So, with great thanks to "The Sleep Doctor", Michael Breus, MD, time to debunk a big Thanksgiving myth.  And yes, I do feel like one of the Mythbusters.  Probably Adam Savage.

The Truth About Turkey

Ever wonder about Thanksgiving and all those sleepy feelings after the meal? Was it the tryptophan in the turkey? It's time to bust that turkey myth. While turkey does have tryptophan in it, which is a precursor to Melatonin, the key that starts the engine for sleep, you would need to eat a 46 pound turkey to get enough tryptophan to make you sleep. Not only that, tryptophan does not work in the presence of large amounts of protein, so even if you could that enourmous turkey, the protein would probably make it less effective.
So why so tired after that meal? The likely culprits are the stress with traveling, making the big meal, and possibly visiting with all those relatives.
There are some sleep friendly foods if you are looking for a a good snack before bed. Meals or snacks high in carbohydrates, with  a small amount of protein, eaten one and half hours before bed, seem to help induce sleep. Perfect examples include cheese and crackers or a small bowl of non-sugar cereal, or even a very small piece of cheesecake.  If you are more into fruit as a natural healthy snack then think about tart cherries or tart cherry juice. Studies show it has more natural melatonin than any other fruit and lots of anti-aging antioxidants as well.
To you and yours, best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving weekend! If you run into someone who can give me a job, please tell them I'm home for the holiday and ready to take their call.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Document Trove Exposes Surveillance Methods-Wall Street Journal


Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal open a rare window into a new global market for the off-the-shelf surveillance technology that has arisen in the decade since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The techniques described in the trove of 200-plus marketing documents, spanning 36 companies, include hacking tools that enable governments to break into people's computers and cellphones, and "massive intercept" gear that can gather all Internet communications in a country. The papers were obtained from attendees of a secretive surveillance conference held near Washington, D.C., last month.
Intelligence agencies in the U.S. and abroad have long conducted their own surveillance. But in recent years, a retail market for surveillance tools has sprung up from "nearly zero" in 2001 to about $5 billion a year, said Jerry Lucas, president of TeleStrategies Inc., the show's operator.
Critics say the market represents a new sort of arms trade supplying Western governments and repressive nations alike. "The Arab Spring countries all had more sophisticated surveillance capabilities than I would have guessed," said Andrew McLaughlin, who recently left his post as deputy chief technology officer in the White House, referring to the Middle Eastern and African nations racked by violent crackdowns on dissent.
The Journal this year uncovered an Internet surveillance center installed by a French firm in Libya and reported that software made by Britain's Gamma International UK Ltd., had been used in Egypt to intercept dissidents' Skype conversations. In October, a U.S. company that makes Internet-filtering gear acknowledged to the Journal that its devices were being used in Syria.
Companies making and selling this gear say it is intended to catch criminals and is available only to governments and law enforcement. They say they obey export laws and aren't responsible for how the tools are used.
Trade-show organizer Mr. Lucas added that his event isn't political. "We don't really get into asking, 'Is this in the public interest?'" he said.
TeleStrategies holds ISS World conferences world-wide. The one near Washington, D.C., caters mainly to U.S., Canadian, Caribbean and Latin American authorities. The annual conference in Dubai has long served as a chance for Middle Eastern nations to meet companies hawking surveillance gear.
Many technologies at the Washington-area show related to "massive intercept" monitoring, which can capture vast amounts of data. Telesoft Technologies Ltd. of the U.K. touted its device in its documents as offering "targeted or mass capture of 10s of thousands of simultaneous conversations from fixed or cellular networks." Telesoft declined to comment.
California-based Net Optics Inc., whose tools make monitoring gear more efficient, presented at the show and offers a case study on its website that describes helping a "major mobile operator in China" conduct "real-time monitoring" of cellphone Internet content. The goal was to help "analyze criminal activity" as well as "detect and filter undesirable content," the case study says.
Net Optics' CEO, Bob Shaw, said his company follows "to the letter of the law" U.S. export regulations. "We make sure we're not shipping to any countries that are forbidden or on the embargo list," he said in an interview.
Among the most controversial technologies on display at the conference were essentially computer-hacking tools to enable government agents to break into people's computers and cellphones, log their keystrokes and access their data. Although hacking techniques are generally illegal in the U.S., law enforcement can use them with an appropriate warrant, said Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School and former computer-crime attorney at the Justice Department.
The documents show that at least three companies—Vupen Security SA of France, HackingTeam SRL of Italy and Gamma's FinFisher—marketed their skill at the kinds of techniques often used in "malware," the software used by criminals trying to steal people's financial or personal details. The goal is to overcome the fact that most surveillance techniques are "useless against encryption and can't reach information that never leaves the device," Marco Valleri, offensive-security manager at HackingTeam, said in an interview. "We can defeat that."
Representatives of HackingTeam said they tailor their products to the laws of the country where they are being sold. The firm's products include an auditing system that aims to prevent misuse by officials. "An officer cannot use our product to spy on his wife, for example," Mr. Valleri said.
Mr. Valleri said HackingTeam asks government customers to sign a license in which they agree not to provide the technology to unauthorized countries.
Vupen, which gave a presentation at the conference on "exploiting computer and mobile vulnerabilities for electronic surveillance," said its tools take advantage of security holes in computers or cellphones that manufacturers aren't yet aware of. Vupen's marketing documents describe its researchers as "dedicated" to finding "unpatched vulnerabilities" in software created by Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and others. On its website, the company offered attendees a "free Vupen exploit sample" that relied on an already-patched security hole.
Vupen says it restricts its sales to Australia, New Zealand, members and partners of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The company says it won't sell to countries subject to international embargoes, and that its research must be used for national-security purposes only and in accordance with ethical practices and applicable laws.
The documents for FinFisher, a Gamma product, say it works by "sending fake software updates for popular software." In one example, FinFisher says intelligence agents deployed its products "within the main Internet service provider of their country" and infected people's computers by "covertly injecting" FinFisher code on websites that people then visited.
The company also claims to have allowed an intelligence agency to trick users into downloading its software onto BlackBerry mobile phones "to monitor all communications, including [texts], email and BlackBerry Messenger." Its marketing documents say its programs enable spying using devices and software from Apple, Microsoft, and Google Inc., among others. FinFisher documents at the conference were offered in English, Arabic and other languages.
A Google spokesman declined to comment on FinFisher specifically, adding that Google doesn't "tolerate abuse of our services."
An Apple spokeswoman said the company works "to find and fix any issues that could compromise [users'] systems." Apple on Monday introduced a security update to iTunes that could stop an attack similar to the type FinFisher claims to use, namely offering bogus software updates that install spyware.
Microsoft and Research In Motion Ltd., which makes BlackBerry devices, declined to comment.
The documents discovered in Egypt earlier this year indicated that Gamma's Egyptian reseller was offering FinFisher systems there for about $560,000. Gamma's lawyer told the Journal in April that it never sold the products to Egypt's government.
Gamma didn't respond to requests for comment for this article. Like most companies interviewed, Gamma declined to disclose its buyers, citing confidentiality agreements.
Privacy advocates say manufacturers should be more transparent about their activities. Eric King of the U.K. nonprofit Privacy International said "the complex network of supply chains and subsidiaries involved in this trade allows one after the other to continually pass the buck and abdicate responsibility." Mr. King routinely attends surveillance-industry events to gather information on the trade.
At the Washington and Dubai trade conferences this year, which are generally closed to the public, Journal reporters were prevented by organizers from attending sessions or entering the exhibition halls. February's Dubai conference took place at a time of widespread unrest elsewhere in the region. Nearly 900 people showed up, down slightly because of the regional turmoil, according to an organizer.
Presentations in Dubai included how to intercept wireless Internet traffic, monitor social networks and track cellphone users. "All of the companies involved in lawful intercept are trying to sell to the Middle East," said Simone Benvenuti, of RCS SpA, an Italian company that sells monitoring centers and other "interception solutions," mostly to governments. He declined to identify any clients in the region.
In interviews in Dubai, executives at several companies said they were aware their products could be abused by authoritarian regimes but they can't control their use after a sale. "This is the dilemma," said Klaus Mochalski, co-founder of ipoque, a German company specializing in deep-packet inspection, a powerful technology that analyzes Internet traffic. "It's like a knife. You can always cut vegetables but you can also kill your neighbor." He referred to it as "a constant moral, ethical dilemma we have."
—Paul Sonne contributed to this article.
Write to Jennifer Valentino DeVries at, Julia Angwin at and Steve Stecklow at
This, in a word, is some scary stuff. Not only can the government use these things, companies and even individuals like you and me can. For the details on the items, check out
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SOPA Hits The House Wednesday. Digital wars, Round 2: Killing the golden goose-The Hill

A decade ago, the digital music world was at war, and since then times seemed to have changed for the better. Thankfully, the conflict between technological innovation and the established entertainment industry has evolved from an all-out war to a more productive (if occasionally challenging) dialogue between artists, producers, distributors and industry. And everyone agrees that resources should be brought to bear against the distribution of unlicensed physical product and the worst of the worst in Internet actors. Still, the delicate d├ętente among the players has to be kept in perspective as debate continues regarding how we treat copyright, ownership and intellectual property online.
Unfortunately, two weeks ago content owners declared a new war on the technology industry with the House introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This bill effectively draws new battle lines in the ongoing struggle over content online, with both sides — owners and providers — manning the barricades over the best way to protect content while maximizing consumer access.
Never before has technology changed the music business in such profoundly important and overwhelmingly positive ways. The new model has revolutionized the business of distributing content, expanding revenue streams for artists and labels and providing virtually unlimited access to music for consumers. This isn’t about upsetting the old regime — that’s already been done, and there’s no turning back. Streaming and “the cloud” represent the future, and such open platforms as Grooveshark — which work with artists, collection agencies and content partners — allow artists to have their music heard across the globe without ever giving up their rights of ownership.
What’s missing from the debate is an appreciation for how technology has opened the markets to more content than ever in our history. Today, thanks to such platforms as Grooveshark, YouTube and Facebook, as well as hardware manufacturers and software providers, artists are empowered to create high-quality music for millions of listeners around the world with only a few hundred dollars and a quiet basement.
The cost of production has never been lower. The cost of promotion has never been lower. The barriers of access to distribution have crumbled. There are more artists than ever before, creating more music then ever before, and it’s being heard by more people in more places at lower prices than ever before — a direct result of technology and innovation. And yet, many have been slow to participate.
We launched Grooveshark to turn these new technological paradigms into a reality and deliver on the promise of the open Internet while providing a new, legal alternative to piracy. Because of these new paradigms, the music world is now more vibrant than ever — all while our technology enables content owners to stop album “leaks” and remove unauthorized material from a centralized location.
But all of these achievements are meaningless if rights holders refuse to participate in the process. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 — drafted with a fair share of input from content holders — struck a careful division of labor after years of negotiation. SOPA dismantles DMCA overnight, cutting off websites from payment and ad services without even a judge’s review, solely on the basis of a rights holder’s allegations — choking off income until they wither on the vine and die off. This is bad for the country and worse for artists.
Last week, the Future of Music Coalition (FMC) voiced its opposition to SOPA, dealing a critical blow to the bill’s credibility. Unlike the other organizations that oppose the bill, the FMC unscrupulously represents the interests of artists, proving that the “job protection” claims of SOPA proponents are a red herring.
Yet, the industry is still trying to force SOPA through, posing great threats not only to the new music paradigms but to democracy and legal due process as a whole. In addition to strangling the flourishing online music ecosystem, SOPA would give the government broad ability to shut down what it loosely deems “rogue websites.” This alone has formed an unlikely alliance of anti-SOPA advocates, from the liberal Demand Progress to the conservative RedState — two outlets that don’t often see eye to eye.
SOPA has declared a new war on the very technology companies that are combating piracy while providing ways to ensure that artists and other content owners realize new alternative revenue streams for their work. We believe in protecting intellectual property rights, but over-reaching legislation such as SOPA will stifle the now-vibrant music economy, silence consumers and American businesses without due process and create an Internet security hole that could just as easily have been avoided.
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures put it best on his AVC blog last month: SOPA would kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Technology has delivered us such an animal. No, it’s not just artist royalties anymore — it’s in an entirely new music ecosystem that is not being exploited by those with the greatest control. Legislators are now in a position to encourage compromise, to step back and think about the broader implications of such an expansive piece of legislation or, conversely, to fast-track SOPA and set the clock back 20 years on American ingenuity.
Geller is senior vice president of external 
affairs at Grooveshark.
Paul Geller's very insightful look at all that is wrong with the SOPA Bill, going to the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. I've spoken out enough about this ruling, just read the piece and think for just a moment as to how bad this will be for the tech and content creation industries. This bill has to be stopped in it's tracks.
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Great Radio Job That I'm Not Qualifed For, But Maybe You Or Someone You Know Is

I'm in the midst of looking for a job right now, and most of the things I see are straight commission sales "opportunities" or something that I take an hour to fill out an online application and get an automated rejection letter in two days.  THAT is another blog post.
I came across this listing, and while I'm not qualified to do the job because of the whole lots of sales experience thing, this could be a tremendous opportnity for someone who is ready to plant roots and do REAL radio.  Here's the listing:
Do you love small market radio? Are you known as a street fighter and problem solver that leads by example? Would subordinates praise your people skills and leadership abilities? Would superiors commend your work ethic, character and ability to produce results? Is one of your dreams to live in a beautiful area like the Northwoods and Lake Country of Wisconsin? Heartland Communications Group has an exceptional opportunity for a great General Manager to lead WERL-AM and WRJO-FM in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Email your resume in confidence with contact information and references to Dave Martin [EOE]
I hope you ro someone you know finds this job of interest.  Good Luck!

Oh yeah, if you hear of anything for yours truly, feel free to drop me a line at or call 773.336.2753.  Thankyouverymuch!
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sprint Provides AWFUL Service, Could Take A Lesson From AT&T

Via The Consumerist:
Melissa couldn't get any reception around her home on her iPhone, despite living only 20 minutes from downtown Chicago. Zero bars. It wasn't just annoying to always miss calls, it was also damaging her rental business. But thanks to a detailed, and snarky, email to the CEO of AT&T, she was able to get the wireless provider to reset its towers and fix the service around her house.
At first AT&T told her the problem was with her phone. All the problems would disappear once she upgraded from her iPhone 3G to an iPhone 4. She did, and they didn't. Then AT&T tried to tell her that it was her car that was interfering with the signal. But she would step out of her car and there would still be low reception. Since she could drive to her parent's remote lake house and have perfect reception, it really seemed like the problem was localized around her home. (If you have a low vulnerability to motion sickness, you can watch this shaky and blurry Flip cam video of Melissa having zero bars inside her house. The text on the screen, referring to the speed of the text messages, says "They go fast inside. Just can't hear you.)
It wasn't until she sent the following email to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson that she got real action:
Dear Randall,
I know I said yesterday I would stop with the emails but today was not a good day for me and the iPhone 4. Also I would like to mention that I spoke with Katria this morning. I would like to say that the phone conversation was very pleasant, funny and very, very helpful. Seriously. I really mean that. She was very very helpful.
So here is what's going on today. Maybe this will help your tech's figure out the problem. Maybe there is actually a problem. I still believe it's New York all over again where you had to stop selling them. The Apple store even said that but no one at AT&T will admit that.
loading1.jpgTaken in Munster, IN (25 miles from downtown Chicago). These are taken today and the time is CST. This was while sitting in my car outside. Maybe my car is at fault.
loading2.jpgYep, still in Munster IN in my car. Still won't load. Again, maybe it's my cars fault.
loading3.jpgWow, look it loaded finally. And hey, congrats to my brother on getting that barfly badge on yelp. I told him to add it to his resume. It shows commitment and follow through. BTW he posted that to his Facebook yesterday so really no new news. Still in Munster IN.

loading5.jpgStill in Munster IN. Still not updated. Still really proud of my brother. BTW he's 25, I remember being 25. Good times.
notupdated.jpgWow, have to be connected to a network, that's shocking! Still in Munster IN.

justgotmy.jpgNow please let me explain that the doctor is really not asking her to sample actual shit. It was pills to make her back feel better. I would never recommend a doctor that makes you sample that. Back in my home town of Whiting IN.
Also had a great call with my lawyer today at 12:29pm again I believe maybe Munster or Highland IN. They couldn't hear me. BTW lawsuit has nothing to do with you. I was injured. I'm not suing. Just want my phone to work. Anyway, again, another important phone call while driving and THEY COULDN'T HEAR ME!
Also Randall, My cousin Amy who is not taking the what we talked about before came over last night and we put our iPhones side by side. She had sent me a text message that never came through. I was unable to take a picture of this. I'm going to suggest to Apple that their next new iPhone model can connect two of them together and some how take a picture. Randall, I suggest if they do make this product you only sell it on the moon. I believe they may have good reception there.
So here we go again. Another day, more lost calls and texts. But I just want you to know I sleep good at night that I upgraded and you got that money and I added internet to my second line and you get that money. I really really really hope you spend it on jet fuel to get around. That would mean a lot to me.
All My Love,
After she sent this out, AT&T called her to tell her the information in it had helped them diagnose the problem. They were going to reset several towers in her area. Melissa noticed a change. She had more than one bar on her phone and people were able to hear and understand what she said in phone conversations. Amazing! AT&T also credited her $79.99 for her troubles.

Interesting. I'm having a very similar problem with Sprint, and they have been unresponsive, failed to meet commitments to even call me back, and have ignored a score of e mails like this lady sent. I wonder if the people at Sprint even care about customer service. I have the private emails of most of their top execs, including CEO Dan Hesse, but NONE of them have ever written back. Sure doesn't seem like it. And yes, The Consumerist has copies of all my emails and calls. 

SO here's the question: Should I post all the e mails and legally recorded phone calls I've had with Sprint? The call where the dude I'm talking with freaks out when I inform him the call is being recorded and read him the Missouri and FCC laws about recording calls is worth the price of admission alone. Classic corporate meltdown. 

What do YOU think?
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Government Approved Censorship Could Be Coming To The Internet. STOP SOPA, SAVE THE INTERNET - Boing Boing


By at 8:51 am Friday, Nov 11
Tiffiny from Fight for the Future sez,
Google knows it. Viacom knows it. The Chamber of Commerce knows it. Internet democracy groups know it. BoingBoing knows it. But, the Internet hasn't been told yet -- we're going to get blown away by the end of the year. The worst bill in Internet history is about to become law. Law is very real here in the United States and legal language is often different than stated intentions -- this law would give government and corporations the power to block sites like BoingBoing over infringing links on at least one webpage posted by their users. Believe the EFF, Public Knowledge, Google when they say this bill is about much more than copyright, it's about the Internet and free speech everywhere.
The MPAA, RIAA, Hollywood knows that they have been flying in CEOs of as many companies as possible, recruiting people to get petition signups at malls in California, and here's the big point-- they know they have gotten their message through to Congress -- the worst bill in Internet history, the one where government and their corporations get unbelievable power to take down sites, threaten payment processors into stopping payment to sites on a blacklist, and throw people in jail for posting ordinary content is about to pass before the end of this year. The only thing that is going to stop Hollywood from owning the Internet and everything we do, is if there is a big surprise Internet backlash starting right now.
PROTECT IP (S. 968)/SOPA (HR. 3261) creates the first system for Internet censorship - this bill has sweeping provisions that give the government and corporations leeway and legal cover for taking down sites "by accident," mistakenly, or for NOT doing "enough" to protect the interests of Hollywood. These bills that are moving very quickly through Congress and can pass before Christmas aim to give the US government and corporations the ability to block sites over infringing links posted by their users and give ISPs the release to take any means to block peoples' sites, including slowing down your connection. That's right, some say this bill is a workaround to net neutrality and is bigger than net neutrality.
This is the worst piece of Internet legislation in history - the lawmakers who have been sponsoring (Leahy, Lamar Smith, Conyers) this bill need to be shamed by the Internet community for wasting taxpayer dollars on a bill that would break the very fabric of the Internet, create an Internet blacklist, kill jobs and great startup companies, huge blogs, and social networks.

Everyone, the entire Internet community needs to stand together if we don't want to see this bill actually become law. Internet and democracy groups are planning an Internet-wide day of protest called American Censorship Day on Wednesday, November 16th for the day Congress holds a hearing on these bills to create the first American Internet censorship system. Every single person with a website can join and needs to.
Boing Boing, Grooveshark, Free Software Foundation, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, Demand Progress, Open Congress/PPF, TechDirt, Fight for the Future and dozens of other sites have created this day to ask you to join them to stop S. 978 and HR 3261, as hard as you can. Write them, protest, call them, protest, support your favorite sites, protest, sign a letter, block out your site, protest.
Many public intellectuals who are often the ones to help win the public interest over and over are about to come out to lead the charge to stop PROTECT IP/ SOPA - they have to when they learn that the House and Senate will be working to pass this bill before the Christmas. From those doing work on the hill, it's very clear we have been stacked comparatively lightly. The House bill has 40 co-sponsors and major industry support. The only thing that will change the dynamic now is if Congress gets a knock on their door by CEO"s of small and large tech companies, blogs, and news sites and if Internet users start piling on, one by one, and protest.
Tech companies, blogs, news sites are already in a death-do-die battle cry -- listen to them -- it's a few days before the hearing on this bill. But, we need more tech companies, blogs, new sites before the hearing on this bill. Help get them.
I've been trying to think about whether or not the world is going to end if this bill passes like it's supposed to -- and the answer is, "kind of yes". When small sites, and it's the small sites that get turned off in the night and no one for the most part notices, say my friend's political blog or news site gets blocked by the US government and she has no way to get it back up even though everything she did was legal according to current law, and no one can help her except she can choose to file suit to defend herself, I feel like I die inside a little. Living in a country where you are being shut out and left powerless to really defend yourself is like living in another country, the ones you hear about. Life starts to feel shot when that happens, especially to our friends or our favorites sites.
Every site who has user-generated content, posts links or videos to anything copyrighted in it could face new legal threats.
If a copyrights holder disliked links you have on your site, they could simply file a complaint with a payment processor (Visa, PayPal), who would then have 5 days to respond to their request or risk legal ramifications. If bills like this are allowed to pass, we'll be spending another $47 million dollars every year to help corporations fill out and enforce Internet blacklists.
Sites that would be legal under the DMCA and its safe harbor provisions would now risk losing everything for allowing user generated content. It also has added in the streaming felony bill that would make it so ordinary Internet users are at risk of going to jail for 5 years for post any copyrighted work that would cost $2,500 to license. And because copyright is so broad, that means videos with copyrighted music in the background, kids in a school play, people singing karaoke could all be a risk.
Because the law affects almost every Internet user and the sites they use every day and have come to love, and because granting sweeping blacklisting powers is just sickening to almost everyone, we need your help -- if you can encourage your favorite site to join the protest, and help drive the maximum number of people to contact Congress on November 16th (until the bill dies), please help.
These bills represent a major blow to openness and freedom on the Internet, free speech rights, and the fabric of the Internet itself. If SOPA is allowed to pass, the Internet and free speech will never be the same again.
SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets A Chance to Break the Internet (EFF)
House takes Senate's bad Internet censorship bill, tries making it worse (Ars Technica)
Protect The Internet (Brad Feld)
Protecting The Safe Harbors Of The DMCA And Protecting Jobs (Business Insider)
S.978 - Commercial Felony Streaming Act
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This isn't the wild ravings of a small group of activists. This is a serious threat to content providers and regular people who use the internet every day. The RIAA is the only organization I have had personal experience with in regards to abuse of copyright laws, and they are simply EVIL. If this bill becomes law, they and other industry groups will be able to have almost anything taken down from the web at their whim.
We don't need this kind of censorship in the name of copyright or protecting artist's rights. I believe in protecting artist's rights and that artists should be compensated for their work. I don't believe in "industry organizations" acting like brown shirted Storm Troopers yanking anything they think threatens their ability to make a profit from the internet.
America may be the land of opportunity, but it should not be the land of censorship or prior restraint. Please do what you can to make ure this bill doesn't become law.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011. Nigel Tufnel Day 11/11/11

Today is a special day, a day we dedicate to the legendary rock star Nigel Tufnel. Today is Nigel Tufnel Day!
If you are unaware of Mr. Tufnel's body of work, you need only look at his Wikipedia bio or watch this video clip of his brillianace: ; Sadly, the Copyright Police will not let me embed this masterpiece for your viewing pleasure.  If they haven't taken this down, you might want to look at this video for a HI DEF understanding of the importance of this day.

A day like this comes only once in a lifetime, and I for one will be celebrating it by turning MY life up to 11.  I hope you will do the same.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Is Local Radio Dead? In Some Ways It Is, But Owners Don't Know It Yet

I came across a post on LockerGnome, Chris Pirillo's website about all things tech and geek (and I say that in only a good way) posted by Matt Ryan that asked if local radio was dead.  Chris's conclusion on a video that was part of the post was that it was but it just doesn't know it yet, and it got me to thinking about the industry I've been involved with for most of my life, its past, and most importantly its future.

According to the ratings service Arbitron, local radio reaches 93 percent of Americans 12 years and older in the average week.   I certainly have had my disagreements with Arbitron over the years, especially since they've introduced the PPM as the way to measure radio listening, but I do believe that local over the air radio still touches almost everyone almost on a daily basis.

For now.

The PPM, or Personal People Meter, is a means to electronically measure what listeners are hearing and it has forced many broadcasters to drastically change the way they program their stations so they are more "PPM Friendly".  That means stations have had to move commercial breaks to "better play the PPM game", tell talented Air Personalities to cut down the amount of talk they do on the air, and make it easier to import generic programming to local stations.

Those changes have led to mixed results and hundreds of lost jobs in the radio industry in the last month alone, (FD) including mine.  PPM wasn't the only reason for the layoffs, big radio companies had to cut expenses because of lower revenues, and even one large company said the layoffs were designed to make their stations better.

All that is just background for the meat of this post.  The people who own radio stations, whether they are the big companies or the smaller operators, simply do not understand that the way they deliver "radio" has to change, and they have to get out in front of the change.  

CourtesyTom Bosscher
Those big giant towers in the middle of cornfields and cemeteries, those 50,000 watt legendary AM stations, those HD Radio channels that nobody is listening to, they are losing value and necessity every day.  Broadcasters think all those things are trophy's, somehow showing how "heavy" they are in the industry.  Going forward, all that hardware and early 20th century based technology will mean very little to listeners or advertisers.

Wireless device usage is exploding, and now there are more wireless devices activated than there are people in the United States.  Most of those devices have the ability to play audio, whether they be iPhones, Android devices, tablets like iPad or Kindle Fire, or gadgets we haven't even heard about yet.  Yet, broadcasters continue to do a second rate job of serving those devices and don't see the future where people can receive the radio station from their home town, Spotify, Pandora, or a local radio station in Turkmenistan on the same device WITHOUT using AM, FM, HD Radio, AM Stereo, FM Quad, or any of the other failed and antiquated technologies that broadcasters have tried to force on consumers.  Toyota is rolling out a car with Pandora and I Heart Radio in 2012, making it even easier to not listen to local radio.

image via
The days of wireless delivery platforms and complete parity for any kind of audio or video stream are here, and American broadcasters are not prepared for the migration from those old school technologies they've relied on for almost a century to the wireless, personalized experience that listeners will discover, adopt, and almost certainly use to replace traditional broadcasts.  As media guru Fred Jacobs wrote almost a year ago, being local matters, no matter how the content is delivered.

Local matters.  While consumers may enjoy renting movies from Netflix, buying toaster ovens from Amazon, bidding for cars at eBay, or creating custom music channels on Pandora, that doesn't mean they've lost interest in what's happening next door, down the street, and in the heart of where they live.
 Jacobs isn't the only one who sees the future, The brilliant media strategist David Martin wrote this blog post in August of 2004 about the future of music radio.
It is time to admit it - we are operating in a fundamentally different business environment; the rules of the game are changing and so must we.
Speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit last month, KCPB's Mary Meeker showed the growth of mobile usage and the fact that Pandora, the online radio network, is already getting 60% of it's traffic from mobile devices. Those people listening could be listening to traditional broadcasts, but they're turning off AM and FM and turning on digital streams. 

Radio companies will tell you they have a "digital strategy".  Here are real live examples of those strategies in action at some of the major radio companies right now.
  • A major radio company has moved all its stations to its own app for smartphones and tablets, but after testing the Android app on six different devices over three carriers, the app was only able to stream listenable audio on two of the devices.  Android now commands 40% of the U.S. smartphone market, but this company's stations can't be heard on a majority of those phones and many Android tablets.
  • Clear Channel Media Holdings, the country's largest radio owner, has recently hired Bob Pittman to run the company.  Pittman is a very smart man and understands the future of content delivery as shown by the company's huge investment in I Heart Radio, their streaming and station creation app.  Unlike the above example, this app works on every Android device I tested it on, as well as devices on other platforms.  They may have some of the right ideas, but have eliminated hundreds of jobs in the last month as they add more centralization to their programming, completely ignoring the fact that being local is one of traditional radio's most important ways to differentiate itself and keep listeners, regardless of how the content is delivered.
  • Most other radio companies let each station create their own digital presence, controlling the overall look of websites, but using a myriad of vendors for streaming and mobile applications.  Most of the reason for this is that the companies either refuse to acknowledge the future of mobile while they concentrate on those big towers in the cornfields, streaming a single station (often badly), or trying to make people care about HD Radio.  One major company will let any station have an iPhone app, but the station has to wait until a certain number of iPhone apps are downloaded before they can have an Android app.  Looking at the penetration of Android, it is clear this company does not understand how listeners use streaming or even what they listen with.
All of this brings us back to the topic of this post.  Is local radio dead?  Not yet, but in most cases the people who own local radio stations don't realize that their properties are dying slowly in a hospice called AM and FM.

These broadcasters, notorious for spending their lifetimes in perhaps the last industry to see the world as it really is time after time, need to get their brands on life support by coming up with a well thought out, forward thinking strategy that involves delivering audio how and when people want it, making local information available no matter where the listener is (how many radio executives really understand the power of GPS and location based application development?) and adding a strong social and interactive component to their brands.  The benefits will be immediate, and will keep their brands viable for years to come.

There once was a radio in the kitchen
Almost a decade ago, these same broadcasters began to see the number of people using radio in the morning begin to decline  Traditionally, the morning show was the most listened to and most profitable daypart for radio stations.  Where did the listeners go?  Directly to television, because TV figured out they could give all the local information and much of the entertainment people were getting on the radio and add pictures to it.  Morning radio listening continues to decline, especially among listeners under 40, and some of the most successful local TV morning shows are produced by former radio morning show producers.  Yet, the radio industry for the most part has done little to fight the migration of listeners to television.

A recent story in the Chicago Tribune talks about how FIVE local TV stations are doing local morning newscasts starting at 4:30AM and two of them continue locally after the network morning shows start on affiliate stations.
The moves reflect a national trend that has reached critical mass over the past two years. Most large-market stations now broadcast local news at 4:30 a.m., with at least one station starting that early in all of the top 50 markets, according to Steve Ridge, president of the media strategy group for Frank N. Magid Associates, a television consulting firm.
"Thirty years ago, we had to beg stations to get into the morning news business," Ridge said. "Now, it has become the most lucrative daypart in local television."
I for one do not want to be a pall bearer at local radio's funeral, but I'm afraid that I'll live to see that day.

What do you think?  Comments are welcome!

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