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Archives: January 2011

One Writer Finds An Attempt At Working For Groupon Is A Sure-Fire Path To ‘Special Disappointment’

Editor’s note: Writer Rebecca Golden‘s attempt to create copy for Groupon ads ended in not success, but “serious rejection.” Her take on what happened appears below.

Ever need serious rejection for your head blob? Try applying to write ads for Groupon! Today’s special disappointment is the hope that you will no longer have to have three part-time jobs, one of which involves cleaning toilets. For just a few hours of your time, you can write sample ads about opera and bowling and learn that getting the voice of one of the most popular web businesses in America is lot trickier to master than you might expect.
So I learned when I tried to write ads for Groupon. My initial sample, for a deal involving kayaking, used a joke about how paddling skills could save you in the inevitable zombie apocalypse. We all know it’s coming, but so few of us have workable plans. While cardio and weapons skills are clearly not my bag, I do have a cunning mind and certain amount of ruthlessness where my own survival is concerned.
I decided long ago (okay, two months ago while watching AMC’s The Walking Dead) that the best plan would be to gather a group of survivors, all the gasoline and firearms our convoy of RVs and Hummers could carry, and head for the Lake Erie shore. Once there, we would loot a boat and go to South Bass Island. Zombies cannot operate machinery. They are not able seamen. So once we clear the island of any remaining zombies, we can start the human race anew with ample access to fresh water, fish and arable lands. I imagine we could clear zombies very effectively by scaling the Perry Peace monument and shooting them from a safe remove. Using the peace monument for this is rather a sad irony, I know, but human survival must come at any cost.
With this plan in mind, I wrote a snappy sample about paddling and the zombie apocalypse. Also, there was a joke about how customers are advised to bring a snack, though they might opt for granola and not braiiiinss!!!. I made it to the second round, where they asked for a sample about cheap box seats at the Pittsburgh Opera’s production of Carmen. The dangers of second-hand cigarette rolling have never been more delightfully enumerated. I also mentioned my surprise at the idea that Pittsburgh’s greatest cultural offering was not, in fact, ballet danced by welders who sometimes strip. The feedback for this ad was pretty good, though I was warned to be less aware of my jokes and that even hinting that the item on offer was in some way good was too “sales-y”.
For my final sample, I wrote an ad about bowling. Groupon frowns on pop culture references. Still, I burned to write about rolling on the shabbos. I knew references to “(expletive deleted) with the Jesus” would never fly, but when I think bowling, I think of Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and nihilists having their ears bitten off. My cat’s name is Lebowski, and he’s an avid bowler (if you count batting dead things around dark corners of my apartment as bowling). I restrained myself. I led with the fact that the sphere doesn’t get the respect reserved for other geometrical objects. Cubes get to be televisions, and pyramids are pyramids, but spheres? Well, now you can bowl with them, and that’s the best thing in the world.
After a tense weekend, I got the news: while I’m “a great writer”, I just don’t mesh with the Groupon style. I would receive payment for my samples (a decent and generous policy, I admit) and the company would continue with some other lucky candidate. I felt awful. I’d felt some conflict about taking the job to begin with. I like to imagine that I am a serious writer, and serious writers do not talk about stuffing things in your head hole (one Groupon style guide tells aspiring writers that this is a good way of describing a human mouth). Still, the money would have meant giving up cleaning houses (one of three jobs I do to support my writing). And even commercial writing is creative and fully compensated work.
Rejection is not a new phenomenon for me. I’ve had editors tell me (via my lovely and devoted agent) that I wasn’t funny enough, or too funny, or that my memoir (which sold and was published in England) wasn’t sad enough or real enough or that it lacked enough grotesque, terrible detail about various childhood miseries I endured. Having someone reject your actual life should feel worse than having someone reject your ability to write snappy, faux-hip adverts for cut-rate sushi and pole dancing cardio classes. Still, I thought about the difference that job would’ve made in my life and felt like someone had punched me hard in the head hole.
I soldier on. I write. I devise master plans for 2011. I have declared it my year. I will sell the book here (so that people don’t have to buy it on foreign offshoots of Amazon). I will lose more weight (like everyone else plans to do in January). I will apply to grad schools and learn to play one Ben Folds song on the piano (no, I don’t actually know how to play the piano). And when the Groupons come to my mailbox — today’s deal is half off on a 60-minute massage — I plan to make use out of at least one of them. While having strangers touch me for money has never appealed to me, I do like cut-rate sushi and cheap tickets to the symphony. Despite the rejection, Groupon will likely be part of my life for a long time. That’s the deal, and (so long as it doesn’t involve crazy amounts of physical exertion or intimate body waxing) I’d be a fool not to take it.

Rebecca Golden, a frequent contributor to Salon and the Times of London, lives and writes in Toledo, Ohio. She is currently working on an America-friendly adaptation of Butterbabe (Random House UK), her memoir of enduring school bullying and overcoming extreme weight issues.

New Study Casts Doubt On Viability Of Mobile Ads, And By Extension, All Those Mobile Jobs

App Store
A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 47 percent of mobile app users click on ads accidentally more often than they do on purpose.

We can understand that. Smartphone screens are not that big and our fingers are not that small and accidents happen.

But if those ad click rates are totally overinflated because a quarter or more of clicks are unintentional, what does that mean for the mobile industry?

By the way, these numbers aren’t just proving some well-worn trope about old technophobes making mistakes on their shiny new devices. Sixty one percent of mobile app users in the coveted 18-34 demographic click on ads more often by accident than on purpose.

Earlier this month Folio: reported that the Financial Times has generated $2 million in ad revenue from its iPad app, but that other publishers haven’t yet found the sweet spot. And without any reliable third-party measure of ad success for mobile and tablets, advertisers may have no choice but to take the Harris survey at face value.

Behind NPR Exec Ellen Weiss’s Departure

The Post has a good story in today’s paper about what was going on at NPR when news executive Ellen Weiss quit/was pushed out/left the broadcaster in the wake of her firing of Juan Williams.

The results of an internal investigation into Weiss’s firing, writes the Post’s Paul Farhi, found that “the reasons behind [NPR boss Vivian] Schiller‘s ultimatum to Weiss were more complex” and touched on more than just the Williams firing.

“More than a dozen NPR employees, including some of its well-known hosts, aired long-standing grievances to investigators about Weiss’s management style, particularly the way she had carried out a series of layoffs and terminations in 2008. Weiss’s decision to fire Williams without benefit of a face-to-face meeting sounded familiar to those who recounted similar episodes, according to people who spoke with the investigating team.”

And, according to NPR sources, Weiss may have even fired Williams before getting Schiller’s OK.

But Weiss supporters said that Juan Williams’ contract was already slated not to be renewed, so what was the big deal? “‘If Vivian wanted more consulting [on Oct. 20], she would have and should have said so,’ said one person close to the situation. Blaming Weiss, this person said, was merely a smoke screen that helped Schiller keep her job and appease critics inside and outside NPR.”

180 LA Hires | Rolling Stone Editor Endelman Joins Food & Wine | And More Yesterday’s News

The Daily’s A Week Away

News Corp’s iPad newspaper, The Daily, will launch Wednesday with a party at the Guggenheim.

The staff of 100 (including such luminaries as Richard Johnson and Jesse Angelo of the New York Post and the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones have surely been working like crazy to get to this moment.

Will it work? Will people pay a buck a week? Will people even read that much on their iPads? Will The Daily’s social media strategist, Abigail Jones, have any luck Tweeting out links to stories if they’re unavailable to anyone but subscribers?

Until next Wednesday, nobody will know the answers to these questions. But we can’t wait to find out.

Photogs, Art Directors Join Together To Ask You To Stop Kvetching About The State of The Industry

An anonymous photog asked A Photo Editor laments the state of the industry in a whine cleverly disguised as a question.

The question:

Can you write an article about the true reality of the photo industry across the board in LA, NYC, Dallas, and Chicago, or wherever? It seems most ad agencies don’t view books in person, only online. Art Buyers are looking for work, photography jobs are being over run by secretaries, moms, dads, facebook friends, interns, and college kids out of school who just decide one day to pick up a camera.

A Photo Editor, who is actually Rob Haggart, the former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine, got a number of photogs and other industry pros to weigh in. Almost unanimously, they all said the industry is not dead.

A print producer:
“I know that photography as content will always be needed, regardless of the the constantly changing medium to which it is applied. ”

An agent:
“We can freeze up, get pissed about all this or we can jump in and look towards the wonderful new possibilities.”

A designer:
“No matter how much people complain, I have a lot of busy clients, they are just really good photographers. Yes, hustling a little more due to the economy, but still working and doing great work.”

A photog:
“I’ve personally chosen to embrace these changes and focus on what is rather than what once was. To be honest I only see opportunity.”

There’s ever ever so much more at the original post but meanwhile we wonder how much of this would still ring true if you replaced “photographer” with “journalist” or “PR pro” or “copywriter” or any of our titles? Probably a lot.

In The 21st Century, ‘Byline Doesn’t Take Credit For The Work’

Gawker has found something terrifically interesting about Men’s Health editor Dave Zinczenko: apparently he is “recycling” his writers’ old Men’s Health stories for his “Eat This, Not That” column for Yahoo! Health.

And putting his own byline on them.

“For instance,” writes Gawker’s Maureen O’Connor, “check out Zinczenko’s recent “15 Worst Health and Diet Myths.” Myths 1 – 5 are ripped verbatim from Men’s Health writer Alan Aragon’s “The Truth Behind 5 Food Myths.” Zinczenko didn’t even bother changing the order of the myths.”

Gawker then found seven bylined articles that Zinczenko borrowed and ten without original bylines that also appeared in his column.

A Rodale spokesperson contacted Gawker later in the day after the first article appeared crying foul, explaining:

Rodale owns all rights to the majority of the content that appears in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Eat This, Not That! and other branded products. Our editors use that content to promote Rodale and its various properties across all media. As the editor for the Men’s Health brand, it’s Dave’s job to promote the magazine and its extensions. The byline doesn’t take credit for the work, but serves as an overarching tag used in conjunction with the logo to indicate that the material has been written, assigned or edited by the brand (i.e. Dave and his team) at some point. That is why the Men’s Health logo appears on this particular blog.

Now before anyone gets their torches and pitchforks ready, it should be noted that employees of a company often produce all their work “for hire,” meaning that staffers don’t own their own work and it’s completely legal for the company to reuse it with a different byline on it. If a freelancer signs a similar “work for hire” contract, same goes for the freelancers.

But while it may be completely legal for Rodale to do what it’s done, does that make it right?

Media General’s Quarterly Profit Plummets While Revenue Ticks Upward

Media General (MEG) today reported fourth quarter net profit of $9 million, down from $27.4 million a year ago, due mainly to taxes and interest, the company said.

Revenues were up 7.2 percent to $189.9 million, driven by a 29 percent increase in Media General’s broadcast revenues. That huge jump “reflected strong Political advertising and an overall firming in broadcast transactional business,” the company said.

Publishing revenues fell 8.4 percent to $86 million, while digital revenues were nearly flat at $11 million.

Media General owns papers such as the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Tampa Tribune, and the Winston-Salem Journal, and 18 TV stations mostly in the southeast.

Last year it announced plans to consolidate the copy editing and design for all its papers in order to save $1 million per year starting in 2011.

More: Media General Narrows Q3 Loss

Snow Gives Jobless Claims A Boost

The reason jobless claims were so low last week? Blame the snow, experts say.

When snowstorms last week kept workers at home, new claims couldn’t be processed and the newly laid-off were skipping the trips to the unemployment office. This week, despite the snow that pummeled some of the mid-Atlantic yesterday, those claims have been re-added to the queue for a total of 454,000 newly unemployed, an increase of 51,000 from the previous week.

“I’ll buy that it can be blamed on the weather. But it does show that the recovery is growing in fits and starts,” Peter Tuz, president at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia, told Reuters.

The number of people receiving any kind of unemployment insurance the week of January 8, the most recent week these figures were available, fell 223,826 to 9.4 million. That includes 3.7 million people who had been unemployed long enough to exhaust their state’s regular benefits (around 27 weeks but varies by state).

Jim Cramer’s New Contract | Heidi Klum And AOL, BFFs? | And More Yesterday’s News

“Mad Money” Jim Cramer to give up a nearly $2 million salary in exchange for royalty payments…Heidi Klum will write about (among other things) parenting for AOL….Newsday’s priorities are clear based on their new hires…and more from yesterday…