January 28, 2021

Media Decoder Blog: The Verge Hires Writer Who Quit CNET in Protest

Greg Sandoval, the CNET senior writer who resigned in protest when the site’s parent company, CBS, interfered with its editorial coverage last month, has been hired by The Verge, the Web site that first revealed the full extent of CBS’s involvement.

Mr. Sandoval will be a senior reporter for The Verge when he starts in a couple of weeks. He said in a blog post that he had received a “written guarantee from management that nobody from the business side of the company will ever have any authority over my stories.” The post, which he published Sunday night, also said, “Long before I arrived, The Verge committed itself to editorial independence.”

The Verge, a technology-oriented Web site, is a little more than a year old. It is owned by Vox Media, the parent of the sports network SB Nation and the new gaming site Polygon, and edited by Joshua Topolsky and the other writers who migrated en masse from AOL’s Engadget in 2011.

Mr. Topolsky, the editor in chief of The Verge, said of Mr. Sandoval: “When we started talking about what he could do here, I think we both felt there was a huge opportunity for growth as well as experimentation in what he does as a reporter. He’s obsessed with getting the news — the real news — and I find that kind of energy infectious.”

Mr. Sandoval’s move was prompted by CBS’s decision to prohibit the staff of CNET — the longtime sponsor of the annual Best of CES Awards at the International Consumer Electronics Show — from giving the “Best of Show” award to an innovative product it deemed illegal. CBS is battling in court with Dish Network over the legality of the product, called the Hopper, a digital video recorder that allows users to automatically skip all the ads on prime-time network television shows.

CBS required the CNET staff to exclude the Hopper from competition and vote for a new award winner, the Razer Edge gaming tablet. The company would not let CNET disclose what had happened. But Mr. Topolsky found out and wrote about the second vote on The Verge a few days later, provoking widespread criticism of CBS by journalists and academics.

Mr. Sandoval announced his resignation via Twitter on Jan. 14, less than an hour after The Verge published its report.

CBS sought to portray its involvement as a one-time incident. In a recent statement, the company said: “CNET is not going to give an award or any other validation to a product which CBS is challenging as illegal, other networks believe to be illegal and one court has already found to violate the copyright act in its application. Beyond that, CNET will cover every other product and service on the planet.”

Last week, the organizer of the Consumer Electronics Show cut its ties with CNET and reinstated the Hopper as the winner of the Best in Show award.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/the-verge-hires-writer-who-quit-cnet-in-protest/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: A Digital Kingdom and the Future of TVs

The Breakfast Meeting

What’s making news in media.

Walt Disney World plans to begin introducing a vacation management system called MyMagic+ in the coming months that will drastically change the way Disney World visitors — some 30 million people a year — do just about everything. Visitors will wear rubber bracelets encoded with credit card information allowing them to buy everything from corn dogs to Mickey Mouse ears with a tap of the wrist. Smartphone alerts will signal when it is time to ride Space Mountain without standing in line. The ambitious plan, as Brooks Barnes reports, moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal data collection. Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but parts of MyMagic+ will allow Disney to track guest behavior in minute detail for the first time.

The future of the television will be on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where television makers like Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic will try to grab the attention of convention attendees otherwise occupied with the latest smartphones, laptops and tablets. To answer the challenge, the television makers will display new products with supersize screens and quadrupled levels of detail in their images. As Brian X. Chen reports, the manufacturers will also continue to push the idea of “smart” sets by adding applications and other interactive elements. For the electronics industry, the television is an important but increasingly difficult product to sell.

Obscure cable channels are feeling the heat from major cable distributors that increasingly are talking about dropping underperforming channels from their lineups. As Brian Stelter reports, distributors have talked for years about belt-tightening, but two things are different now: potential Web competitors are creeping up and programming costs are soaring, particularly for sports channels and broadcasters. Independently owned channels are more imperiled than low-rated channels owned by media conglomerates like the Walt Disney Company and Viacom. VH1 Classic and ESPNU are not going away any time soon, but on New Year’s Day, Verizon FiOS yanked Youtoo TV, a fledgling channel that features videos submitted by viewers, and Time Warner Cable dropped Ovation, which bills itself as an arts and culture channel. At the same time, in a move criticized by the programmers of some low-rated channels, distributors continue to give new and unproven channels a chance. Time Warner Cable, for example, started to carry BBC World News and RLTV, formerly called Retirement Living TV, in the last few months.

Edward Wyatt reports that the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to drop its two-year investigation into Google has drawn criticism from some observers who believe the commission’s inquiry focused on the wrong area. Instead of considering harm to people who come to Google to search for information, Google’s competitors and their supporters say the government should have been looking at whether Google’s actions harmed its real customers — the companies that pay billions of dollars each year to advertise on Google’s site. In its reports, the F.T.C. did not detail how it defined harm or what quantitative measures it had used to determine that Google users were better off. But interviews with people on all sides of the investigation — government officials, Google supporters, advocates for Microsoft and other competitors, and antitrust experts and economists — show that many of the yardsticks the commission used to measure its outcomes were remarkably similar to Google’s own. Not surprisingly, they cast Google in a favorable light. F.T.C. officials said they considered data from a wide range of sources — those with interests aligned with Google as well as against it. The officials also bought quantitative data about Internet usage and conducted interviews with experts who were independent of all sides.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/the-breakfast-meeting-a-digital-kingdom-and-the-future-of-tvs/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Ultrabooks Embraced by PC Makers at C.E.S.

They are doing what they have done so many times before: taking a sidelong glance at what Apple has done. They have reason to take notice. Data from the research firms IDC and Gartner shows that the PC shipments of Hewlett-Packard and Acer, two of the world’s largest PC makers, declined in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year ago. Shipments by Apple, on the other hand, rose roughly 20 percent in that quarter, according to estimates from both research firms.

Helping to drive Apple’s growth is its MacBook Air, a laptop computer that measures less than an inch thick and weighs under three pounds. In late 2010, Apple reduced the base price of the Air to $1,000, down from its original $1,800 price tag.

So what did the PC makers introduce last week here at the International Consumer Electronics Show? Ultrabooks, thin laptop computers built with a new Intel low-power chip and solid-state storage that replaces the bulkier mechanical hard drive.

Intel had about a dozen Ultrabooks on display in its booth from manufacturers including Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG and Asus. And Intel, which holds the Ultrabook trademark, expects 70 more notebook designs will arrive in 2012, according to Anand Lakshmanan, Intel’s Ultrabook product manager.

Most of the Ultrabooks cost upward of $900, though Intel wants to work with manufacturers to bring the average price down to $700, Mr. Lakshmanan said.

Some Ultrabooks are aiming to outdo the Air, if not on price then on abilities. Dell’s XPS 13 is a $1,000 laptop with an aluminum shell and a 13-inch screen; it weighs 2.99 pounds and measures less than an inch thick. Acer’s S5 Ultrabook, which does not yet have a price, weighs less than three pounds and measures 0.59 of an inch at its thickest point, making it even thinner than the MacBook Air, which is 0.67 of an inch at its thickest point.

To Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, the Ultrabook is an obvious defense against the MacBook Air and the iPad. “It’s reacting to Apple, a company who sets design standards that many people will follow,” Mr. Dulaney said.

Manufacturers are finding plenty of ways to distinguish their Ultrabooks from one another — and from Apple’s Air. Hewlett-Packard’s Envy 14 Spectre, for example, is a $1,400 laptop with a shiny glass body and a high-resolution screen. Its $900 Folio is a 13-inch Ultrabook with special security features for business customers.

The manufacturers’ enthusiasm for the Ultrabook begins to put Intel back in a position of strength. The chip maker’s processors are nowhere to be found in popular tablets or smartphones. Most mobile devices run on processors based on a chip architecture licensed by ARM, a British company. Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia have grabbed the fast-growing market from Intel.

AMD, another chip maker and Intel’s major rival in PC chips, has plans for a low-power chip that can be used in thin laptops. The company said at C.E.S. that it was developing a class of processors called Trinity, which will power “ultrathin” laptops that will cost as little as $500.

Manufacturers, still smarting from being caught unaware on tablet computers, are loath to give Apple any credit for creating the category. “Let’s not give too much credit to the folks at Cupertino,” said Mike Hockey, an H.P. spokesman. “We’ve always had those thin and light PCs.”

He said H.P. introduced the Envy 133, a notebook that measured 0.7 of an inch and weighed less than three pounds, in 2008. But few of the previous thin computers caught on. Toshiba in 1996 released the Libretto 20, a 6.1-inch notebook with a weak processor that weighed less than two pounds, which was discontinued by 1999. And in 2009, Dell released a thin, lightweight notebook called the Adamo priced at $1,800, which was discontinued in 2010.

“We’ve been chasing this idea for a long time of a small, portable and affordable system that doesn’t make that many compromises on power,” said Darren Gladstone, blogger in chief of The Next Bench, a blog operated by Hewlett-Packard’s public relations department. “I think stuff like the Ultrabooks get us to that place.”

Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD, says that the rise of the ultrathin laptops has less to do with Apple setting a trend than it does with the general decline of the PC industry.

The big push toward the power-sipping thin laptops is an industrywide effort to raise the average price of a mainstream PC notebook to improve profit margins. The average consumer spends less than $500 on a laptop, and most notebooks above that price are high-performing laptops for professionals or gamers, he said. “They have gotten into a price spiral that they need to find a way to adjust against.”

An Ultrabook pushes the mainstream consumer to a higher price, he said.

“They’re trying to make products for mainstream consumers that have the right look and feel, and gives them the incentive to spend more money on the computer,” Mr. Baker said.

Ideally, for Ultrabooks to be a broad hit, manufacturers must reach a price of $500 to $700, Mr. Baker said. And while that’s not feasible now because of the costs of parts, it’s likely that these prices will decrease over time.

“Let’s not kill the product before it’s had a chance to get in,” he said.

“Just because it’s not the exact right price right now doesn’t mean it won’t be soon.”

For Intel, thinner notebooks are just the first step. The company says its long-term plan for Ultrabooks is to fuse together a compact laptop with a tablet. That means in a few years, an Ultrabook will most likely be a thin, lightweight laptop with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet. Lenovo, the Chinese computer maker, is already working toward that idea: Its IdeaPad Yoga displayed at C.E.S. is a “convertible” laptop that transforms into a tablet.

“It’s a response to the research we’ve done and where we really see things going in the future,” said Bryan Deaner, a brand manager at Intel.

Intel believes that tablets still aren’t as powerful or capable as regular computers, he said, so it wants companies to combine the two categories into one with the Ultrabook.

“How you bring the tablet plus laptop together in a meaningful way, I think, is going to be the Ultrabook,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=00364b5d3cc80c9cefe54b77d40c57e7

The Boss: He’s Got Magic to Do

I started doing tricks for the kids at school. My father, an executive with a consumer products company, said I should start putting on magic shows and charge for them. I needed to stop asking my grandfather to buy me tricks.

At the time, I was delivering shopper newspapers. My dad suggested I go through the paper, see what performers charged for birthday parties and discuss with him what I found. He was really having me do some market research. Then I developed a spreadsheet and called likely prospects for my shows. When people would ask how old I was, I’d tell the truth. But then I’d say: “Age is nothing. I do it with proficiency.”

I started performing at bookstores, V.F.W. and church halls and retail stores. At 16, I was conducting direct-mail campaigns. I designed an ad that looked like an invitation; it was aimed at corporations and trade show planners, among others.

During my junior year at Boston University, I studied in Spain. I’d perform magic tricks at Retiro Park in Madrid, attract a crowd, then make balloon animals and give them away. Then I’d say I was a poor college student and ask for donations.

After graduating with a business degree in 1983, I worked as a sales representative for an audio and video company. Then I created a company called Fantasma that incorporated technology like holography into consumer products that I licensed. I sold the products to mass merchandisers and retailers.

At a consumer electronics show, I caught the attention of a Disney executive and interested him in a watch with a hologram. Soon I was creating private-label products for several Disney entities.

We were in the process of going public when a consumer products company bought us. Then I worked briefly for an international toy company.

In 2001, I started Fantasma Toys with Mark Setteducati, a friend who is now a consultant to the company. Today the company has four divisions. We’re known for our magic sets and our remote-control toys. Top-selling toys come along infrequently, so all toy companies need an evergreen product. Ours is magic, which allows us to experiment with technology in our other divisions.

Our Manhattan store, Fantasma Magic, is my playground and a place to share my collectibles with visitors. I sometimes perform magic in the store, and we have a Houdini museum there. Houdini has been a big influence in my career. I’m fascinated with him — not as a showman, but as a marketer. We also have 20 concessions around the world, in stores like Toys “R” Us and F. A. O. Schwarz. I hire magicians to perform at these locations and to sell our products.

The key to my success has been passion. I get paid to play. My friends compare me to the Tom Hanks character in the movie “Big,” about the young boy who wakes up in an adult body. I even have a fortunetelling machine in my office; I’m an antique toy collector.

If I could have done one thing differently, I would have aligned myself from the start with an accounting firm that had access to venture capital. Initially, we grew more quickly than our working capital could support. I was fortunate to have an angel investor who’s a magic collector.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=1a31dc2fa8ef7f6ade5a097dede95315