Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Three Questions

A few weeks ago my friend Jason asked if I would mind answering a few questions for him on my blog. I agreed. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they turned out much more difficult than I imagined. So, after a few weeks of thinking, here they are (still basically half-baked).

1. Certain people were highly offended when The New York Times purchased search keywords related to the Virginia Tech massacre, linking to the paper’s coverage. Now, I can understand the outrage if a political candidate had bought the terms to shove an anti- (or even pro-) gun control message. Or if the University of Virginia had tried to encourage VT students to transfer. But the people were ostensibly searching for news, and news is what The Times provides. While perhaps it’s beneath the Paper of Record, I’m not sure I see a breach of ethics. What’s your point of view?

It doesn’t really bother me. I’m with you, people are most likely searching for news and this is a piece of news. Anyway, profiting on someone else’s misfortune is most certainly not a new phenomena. Newspapers ,and media generally, have been making money off disaster forever. It’s funny, actually, just this morning I read this entry from my friend Josh. In it he quotes Gabe from Techmeme explaining that he’s alright with the site being gamed because the real world is gamed. Josh goes on to point out something I think most people fail to realize on the web: There’s not that much radically new social or cultural interaction going on. More than anything else, it’s all be recorded and exposed to the world. To quote Josh directly, “a major feature of the Web is the recording of human behavior in its many forms. To a lesser extent is the creation of truly new behaviors.”

I actually have this conversation with a lot of people specifically pertaining to blogs. At their most basic, blogs are far from revolutionary, they’re a publishing platform not all that much different than any other. Rather it’s the access, frequency, cost and a number of other factors that make the medium unique.

One more story before I finish answering this one. When I was in college there was a sudden trend of killing yourself in the library. Two or three people did it within a few weeks. One of my friends happened to be there and he took a picture. He then sold that picture to the New York Post. Now I’m not condoning the behavior and the paper didn’t end up publishing the photo in the end, but it is an illustration of profiting off death.

2. For years, I laughed at the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl. But when I needed weeds eaten, I knew of only one brand. Saturday was the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands. I don’t really understand this one. Yum owns chains like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and Long John Silver’s. Generating greater awareness of the corporate “restaurant system” can’t do much for sales. So I guess their target is investors. Is this strategy common? Does it often work? Do you have Yum in your portfolio?

Um . . . I wish I could answer this one. Branding strategies specifically targeting investors is certainly a piece of the puzzle (just ask a big company like IBM or Microsoft). The Yum thing is quite peculiar, though, since in theory if they had named it after Long John Silver’s savvy investors would have connected it to the parent brand anyway. I wonder if Yum has some other idea. I could keep pretending I have an answer to this question if you want . . .

3. I loved the way Roger Clemens announced he was coming back to the Yankees. Reminiscent of the 1987 Piper’s Pit when Andre The Giant turned heel and tore off Hulk Hogan’s shirt. In what other ways could the major professional sports use mid-1980s WWF gimmicks to increase excitement?

  1. Sparks and fire as NFL teams enter the field.
  2. John Madden gets hit by a strategically placed folding chair.
  3. Funny signs are handed out as fans enter the stadium.
  4. MLB Kilt Day ala Rowdy Roddy Piper.
  5. Pay-per-view Superbowl.

That’s about all I got . . . anyone else have any thoughts on these?

May 24, 2007