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Battle of the Brands

Automotive Journalist Still Loves His Mazda Miata

Rumor has it that the details of Mazda’s next-generation Miata will be officially confirmed at the forthcoming New York International Auto Show. And that’s just fine with Tom Voelk.


Back in 1990, the future automotive journalist bought one out of the gate, based on a cover endorsement from Car & Driver magazine. A decade later, when the Seattle-based Voelk needed a second car that could better accommodate full family needs, it sparked a sideline career:

The Ford Focus was bought from an auto writer who prophetically stated “you could easily do car reviews for the TV station you work for.” This was a revelation. My useless command of car knowledge could actually be applied to something. Two weeks later I shot my first review. My automotive writing career had begun.

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Lauren Berger Writes New Book for Young People Entering "Real World"

Lauren Berger Welcome to the Real WorldCareer Expert, Lauren Berger, releases her second book, Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job Into Your Dream Career (Harper Business), on April 22nd. In this book, Berger shares everything she wishes someone told her after graduation. Her book is the essential guide to anyone starting their first, second, or third job. She encourages readers to be fearless, step outside of their comfort zones, and go after what they want.

‘Dumb Starbucks’ Makes Venti Media Waves

DumbStarbucksLogoWhatever the nature of the bizarre coffee shop that opened Friday at 1802 Hillhurst Avenue in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz district, it’s brewing up – two days later – some very impressive east coast coverage. Following an initial report by LA public radio station KPCC, the “Dumb Starbucks” has today been written up at Gawker, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. With no doubt more such coverage to come before the java-jig is up.

From Luke O’Neil‘s Gawker dispatch:

The odds are that this is some sort of dumb viral marketing stunt or other, and the fact that Dan Harmon of Community and Rainn Wilson were among some of the first to post about it on social media suggests a dumb TV show angle. Further casting suspicion are the dumb store’s dumb disclaimers on their dumb FAQ, where they qualify themselves as a work of parody art in order to circumvent the very, very likely trademark infringement suit they could be subject to.

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Tao Nightclub Targets Next Generation of Drinkers

According to the latest Nightclub & Bar magazine rankings, the top three grossing nightlife establishments in the United States are all located in Vegas. No surprise there.

But even when you’re pulling in between $60 and $70 million annually, there’s no rest for the wicked. Las Vegas Review-Journal business reporter Laura Carroll has the skinny [margarita] on an ingenious campaign devised by third-ranked Tao Nighclub for U.S. and Canadian residents about to turn Nevada legal-drinking age:

Those who soon will be 21 write in to Tao’s website and tell the club their birthday and when they’re coming to Vegas. Tao then will create a birthday party Evite for the guest of honor to post on social media sites.

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For SoCal Porsche Lovers, This is the Only News That Matters

According to UK publication Auto Express, Porsche’s new Macan SUV will get its first preview at this fall’s Los Angeles Auto Show, ahead of a spring 2014 release. Which makes sense, since the U.S. is the auto maker’s number one market and, within that territory, California leads the state pack.

You’ll have to click through to see four exclusive pictures of the Macan. And read here to learn what the name means. The good news is that this SUV has a very reasonable MSRP of around $47,000 U.S. From the Express report:

The Macan will be based on the same modular MLB platform that underpins the Audi Q5, but with greater use of aluminium components. This will mean a weight saving of 130kg over the Q5 – more than the reduction the Audi A3 and other compact VW Group models achieved by adopting the MQB platform.

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Just in Time for Summer: Two New Marilyn Monroe Vintages

In this particular case, decanters are arguably a woman’s best friend. So as to properly pour and let breathe two offerings released this month by St. Helena, CA’s Nova Wines.

Let’s start with the 2012 Norma Jeane. For a suggested retail price of $13, this young Merlot offers an experience “rich in color with a youthful hue. Dark berry flavors and moderate tannins complete the package.”

Also priced well below the millionaire bachelor threshold is the 2012 Sauvignon Blonde (SRP $16). When the cork comes off, the aromas are a “combination of ripe stone fruits with a light herbaceous undercurrent typical of Sauvignon Blanc wines. The flavors are fruity, soft in the mouth with a lingering finish.”

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Bay Area Firm Claims Last Laugh with Jason Gambit

The auctioned switch of one Jason Sadler‘s name to Jason officially took place January 1. A month later, the company that paid $45,000 for these goofy one-year naming rights is claiming victory:

“The money we paid to buy Jason’s last name equates to $900 a week, or $125 a day,” said company president Mike Faith. “That’s incredibly cheap for the $6 million value of [media] coverage we’ve already had on this. We’re calling Jason our Six Million Dollar Man.”

The company, founded in 1997 and specializing in headsets for office telephone systems, says that in addition to stories by outlets like, TechCrunch and The Huffington Post, their investment has triggered close to a quarter million in additional sales. The six-million figure comes via a study commissioned from Universal Information Services.

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San Diego Among NPR Advertising Campaign Test Markets

We pretended briefly this morning to be a “stamp-collecting body surfer” who had just driven by a billboard in San Diego for NPR and followed up by visiting the targeted Web landing spot. Here’s what the website told us when we punched in that info:

Based on our highly scientific RADIOTYPE collaborator, the shows below are just a a few of the things we think you’ll love on KPBS FM 89.5: Weekend Edition Saturday, Here and Now, Travel with Rick Steves, TED Radio Hour, Fresh Air, Marketplace

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Starbucks Goes Stealth for SoCal Testing of Beer, Wine Sales

We can only imagine the sophisticated levels of market analysis that preceded the decision to start testing “Starbucks Evenings” beer and wine sales in California at just two SoCal locations: Calabasas and Rancho Santa Margarita.

OC Register restaurant reporter Nancy Luna recently checked out the latter location with the newspaper’s “Good Libations” columnist Paul Hodgins. It’s not clear if the chain’s after-4 p.m. alcoholic-beverage options will be in future more prominently featured on the menu and advertised. For now, Luna notes that Starbucks is approaching it very subtly:

The barista counter does not showcase any bottles of beer or wine. A few small signs promote the upscale ["Small Bites"] food and wine list, but they are easy to miss. Paul and I agreed that the uninformed visitor would never know the cafe is selling alcohol.

Read more Decks the Internet with Really Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Have you yet attended an “ugly Christmas sweater party?” If today’s press release for the November 23 launch of Pleasanton, CA based online retailer is to be believed, these gatherings are an of-the-moment strand of the North American hipster social fabric:

“Ugly sweater parties are hot right now, but to really stand out you need more than just a gaudy Christmas tree or flashing reindeer nose. That’s where we come in,” said founder Shawn Nohr. “Whether it’s a gift for yourself, a friend or for the White Elephant gift swap, calling these cheeky sweaters a ‘conversation piece’ is an understatement.”

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Newhouse Alum Seeds Ambitious ‘Social Commerce’ Student Track

Jim Weiss, founder of strategic communications firm WCG, graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 1987. Twenty-five years later, he’s committed to helping a new generation of students navigate a marketing world upended by digital, social and mobile media.

Weiss and his Alma Mater have formed the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce, seeded with a $100,000 personal gift and anchored to WCG’s San Francisco-based parent company. The goal is to help students learn the rules of “social commerce,” the ever-changing confluence of online content, commerce and social connectivity:

The partnership will provide opportunities for Newhouse students and professors to rotate through the various W2O Group offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, New York and London, interact with the firm’s clients, and learn from experts in analytics, digital, social, corporate, technology and research areas. In return, senior W2O Group leaders will guest lecture at Newhouse and work with the university’s faculty to create new courses and update existing ones.

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