Friday, February 23, 2007

Hail Fellow Well Met From The Jet Plane Atrium

I’m not even remotely dead yet, just louching out in the Terraces Lounge at JFK, immersing myself in the peculiarities of my countrymen in preparation for a visit to Australia.

I think my absence demands a slightly more involved explanation than normal. It was quite possibly the most sustained and hellish period of work that I’ve experienced for a very long time. A combination of the increasing demands of my work, and my inability to delegate.

Which is a shame, because the Borough of Brooklyn is undergoing a period of profound change, which you can see in everything from the recent election of a Haitian councillor to replace Yvette Clarke, to the fact that Brooklyn condominium developments are now advertising on television. Coney Island will be a vast development site, fourth avenue is turning into Battery Park City, and I haven’t even begun to mention Atlantic Yards.

There’s a certain amount of guilt on my part in writing these words, since much of my spare time, and the reason for my inability to post even at weekends, comes down to my current obsession with house-hunting. Yep, I’m looking at my own gaff, and being an evil gentrifier has given me a different take on the neighbourhood.

Whereas once I’d seen Park Slope as divided between the east of 6th avenue family types, and the Western hipsters, an appreciation of the PS321 school district boundaries has suddenly enlightened me as to why the hell they’re throwing up new condos on somewhat southerly blocks between fourth and fifth.

I even caught Marty Markowitz on television the other day, burbling away at the unveiling of the new ice-rink plans. More in sorrow than anger, it now becomes obvious that the man is an irrelevance, a smiling face on a process of upheaval he can neither control nor comprehend.

I hope to abandon at least some of this rather bleak demeanour as I return to taking constitutionals, start job-hunting, and stop mooching around inside. In the mean time, I’ll try and grab some pictures in Australia to help the reader warm up as much as I hope to.

I haven’t forgotten about my on-going mission to look into corporate nonsense, I’ve just been experiencing such fear and pain operating my scanner that the idea of relying on any computing applications beyond Word, Firefox and iTunes seems too much.

Anyhow, and knowing that I have but a few regular readers, and even they may have stopped bookmarking, hope to reconnect soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is It On?

I've been curious for a while about Fox News's plans for a new business news network on cable. It would, according to its executives, be a little more business-firendly than CNBC, the only incumbent, and would draw heavily on the talents of Neil
Cavuto, a top draw in its time-slot.

The venture looks suicidal because CNBC has proven adept at keeping costs down and sweeping up the limited dollars available from financial advertisers. CNBC made $275 million in earnings in 2006, a respectable number, but hardly up there with the profits available in the more mainstream branches of cable.

There's also the fact that business-to-business advertisers look for evidence of management watching programming. Softball programming might bring in retail investor eyeballs, but why would the more discerning viewer sit through Fox News for business. We know they'll sit through Bill O'Reilly for an hour a day, but that's strictly for relaxation.

So let's assume that the tech and business solutions advertisers, CDW and FedEx and so forth, are less than enthusiastic. I'm not 100% confident in this assertion, since it's possible that Fox might put together something that draws heavily on Inc - heartwarming tales of small businesses run right - but I haven't had any indications of such a direction.

This leaves CNBC in the role off something like Forbes, a slightly strange position for it, because Fox' politics are much closer to Forbes. But Forbes has, in my view, a deserved reputation for biting at the ankles of bad businesses. While CNBC has a clear financial and editorial interest in a bullish stock market, it has a decent line in covering companies aggressively.

Where I can see Fox Business making headway in the market is by targeting aggressively the stock trading outfits, crossed with a decent smattering of lifestyle advertisers. Watching how shameless Fox has been in hewing the Republican agenda, you should not imagine that it will have much compunction in chasing over-the-counter stock touters and any other horsemen of the financial apocalypse. Combining production with the existing Fox assets, they may be able to do it pretty cheaply.

And you know what would kick this off quite nicely? A raid on CNBC for one Jim Cramer. Yeah, him. The guy that jumps up and down and throws things and has the adoring audience of individual investors.

I have no idea how deeply tied into the NBC/GE empire Mr. Cramer is, but there's no doubt he'd be the face of the network. The reason he might do it is that for some weird reason this pretty, sharp and personable anchor called Maria Bartiromo is being hailed as the face of CNBC, while Cramer sits around, all chopped liver and boo-yah. It would probably be a bit more of a commitment than the prolific Mr. Cramer would like, but it's clear that Fox would be well-placed to take care of Cramer's other ventures, such as The Street, although a full-fledged takeover of a $275 million corporation might be a bit of a chunk.

Still, it's always possible that this looming Bartiromo nudge-nudge scandal gets all, um, explicit, and CNBC does, in fact, weaken.

Which reminds me. If there's one thing I can't bear, it's financial advertising, which is odd, because it mays my salary. In any case, as soon as I get the time, I'm going to start scanning and screencapping, and otherwise capturing this drivel for posterity. Seriously, the only good ad I ever saw was for utterly unrelated reasons, and was when Standard Bank London used the same artwork as the New York City Cops-expunged version of Is This It in the mid-90s. I may even track it down one day.