The Price of Charlie Sheen's Radio Tirade

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The LA Times tabulates exactly how much money Charlie Sheen's on-air meltdown MIGHT cost Warner Bros. in the form of lost royalties and fees from Two and a Half Men episodes:

Warner Bros., which produces the show, has the most to lose if "Two and a Half Men" is over. Currently, CBS pays about $4 million per episode for the show. Warner Bros. uses that money to make the show, pay the cast, etc. But there is always money left over to keep in its pocket. Given that eight episodes won't be made this season, that translates to $32 million in lost license fees, several million of which would have been pure profit. People close to the show say Warner Bros. would lose about $10 million in profits from the four episodes alone

Contractually, CBS is on the hook for one more season after this one, so if Sheen's character has indeed drank his whiskey and bedded his last broad, then that is an additional $96 million or so in license fees gone -- assuming that 24 episodes would be made next season. Then there is the rerun money. The cable channel FX pays about $800,000 per episode. That's $3.2 million right there that's gone for the episodes that won't be made this season. If the show is gone for good, then that number jumps to more than $22 million after factoring in the 24 episodes that would have been made next season.

Just based on the numbers above, they are already looking at well over $130 million in losses, assuming the show gets canceled. That this many livelihoods and this much money can be subject to the whims of one notoriously unstable man seems the height of ridiculousness. But hey, that's show business baby.

Tina Fey on Feminism and Comedy

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Jezebel's piece from awhile back about the lack of female talent at The Daily Show really must have struck a nerve with Tina Fey. Fey devoted a substantial amount of time to addressing some of its criticisms in last night's episode, and Rebecca Traitster at Salon has written up a staggeringly insightful response to it that describes how Fey manages to have her cake and eat it too:

Mesmerizingly, practically the whole half hour of network television was dedicated to slicing and dicing nearly every angle of the arguments that crop up any time anyone tries to talk about gender, popularity and perception. It was a testament to the fact that these arguments have been cropping up ever more frequently in recent years, thanks in no small part to the ascension of Fey and her generation of talented (and very often beautiful) comedians, as well as the rise of a critical and popular feminist-minded blogosphere that keeps a celebratory and often cutting eye on the gender history being made in media, politics and entertainment.

Emily Nussbaum also has some background details in her write up over at New York.

It used to be about the skillz

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Speaking of Slate, they've just published a piece on the lost art of pickpocketing. It makes a good, interesting point, but it seems odd to glorify any sort of crime that deprives people of their money and probably instills a significant degree of psychological distress.

How Realistic is 'The King's Speech'?

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Nathan Heller has written one of the most powerful, moving pieces of 2011 (already!) by describing The King's Speech through the eyes of a stutterer:

Stuttering, in my mind, is a word that conjures beiges and grays: the feeling of always being lusterless and square in conversation; of woozy headaches brought about by gasping through my sentences; of childhood boredom in stuffy, cork-tiled offices where speech therapists told me to slow down and read long lists of words aloud. Somehow, I never wanted to slow down, and still don't; and in this respect stuttering also signifies a bargain I have spent adult life trying not to make. The disorder is not what might be called "a given" from birth for me, though it's been a looming specter for as long as my memory reaches. I started speaking in sentences shortly before turning 1. At 3, those sentences first met with some resistance on my tongue, the way a car moves off asphalt, onto dirt—and then, finally, across rocks that jolt the tires and make it hard to track where you are headed. Today, I am still being jolted, and the jagged terrain behind bears the track marks of my own innumerable small humiliations. In the seventh grade: A substitute asks the class to read out loud, and when I stumble over my first sentence, she inquires of the other students whether I'm "OK" and "always like this," and while I continue fighting with a pr sound, my ears tune in to every judging shudder in the room—the creaking chairs, the restless exhalations, the uncomfortable shifting, in the desk beside me, of a girl with many colored pens who seems to me in some way very beautiful. In high school: A medical assistant taking down my charts asks whether I just have a problem with my speech or whether there is mental retardation, too. ("As far as I'm aware …" my answer begins.) In college: I slow down several seminars trundling through fragile language meant for clever tongues. And so on. In each case, what I feel most impelled to explain to the people who can hear me is just: This is not my voice.

A Q&A with the Creators of IBM's Watson

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Reddit has a fascinating Q&A with the guys who created the machine that will one day enslave us all, AKA Watson. The most interesting part of this discussion is how Watson interacted with the buzzer. I've seen lots of accusation on the internetz about how unfair it was that humans were being pitted against a machine in terms of knowledge AND response time. Here's what the creators had to say:

Jeopardy! and IBM tried to ensure that both humans and machines had equivalent interfaces to the game. For example, they both had to press down on the same physical buzzer. IBM had to develop a mechanical device that grips and physically pushes the button. Any given player however has different strengths and weakness relative to his/her/its competitors. Ken had a fast hand relative to his competitors and dominated many games because he had the right combination of language understanding, knowledge, confidence, strategy and speed. Everyone knows you need ALL these elements to be a Jeopardy! champion.

Both machine and human got the same clues at the same time -- they read differently, they think differently, they play differently, they buzz differently but no player had an unfair advantage over the other in terms of how they interfaced with the game. If anything the human players could hear the clue being read and could anticipate when the buzzer would enable. This allowed them the ability to buzz in almost instantly and considerably faster than Watson's fastest buzz. By timing the buzz just right like this, humans could beat Watson's fastest reaction. At the same time, one of Watson's strength was its consistently fast buzz -- only effective of course if it could understand the question in time, compute the answer and confidence and decide to buzz in before it was too late.

The clues are in English -- Brad and Ken's native language; not Watson's. Watson analyzes the clue in natural language to understand what the clue is asking for. Once it has done that, it must sift through the equivalent of one million books to calculate an accurate response in 2-3 seconds and determine if it's confident enough to buzz in, because in Jeopardy! you lose money if you buzz in and respond incorrectly. This is a huge challenge, especially because humans tend to know what they know and know what they don't know. Watson has to do thousands of calculations before it knows what it knows and what it doesn't. The calculating of confidence based on evidence is a new technological capability that is going to be very significant in helping people in business and their personal lives, as it means a computer will be able to not only provide humans with suggested answers, but also provide an explanation of where the answers came from and why they seem correct.

Also, this:

Watson contains state-of-the-art parallel processing capabilities that allow it to run multiple hypotheses – around one million calculations – at the same time. Watson is running on 2,880 processor cores simultaneously, while your laptop likely contains four cores, of which perhaps two are used concurrently. Processing natural language is scientifically very difficult because there are many different ways the same information can be expressed. That means that Watson has to look at the data from scores of perspectives and combine and contrast the results. The parallel processing power provided by IBM Power 750 systems allows Watson to do thousands of analytical tasks simultaneously to come up with the best answer in under three seconds.

The Case Against Federal Funding for Public Broadcasting

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Alan Mutter argues compellingly about why PBS and NPR should man up and stop taking federal funding:

Although the loss of federal largesse initially would stress the nation’s 368 public television stations and 934 public radio outlets, these generally well-funded, well-known and well-established organizations for the most part could carry on, because only 15% of their backing on average comes from Uncle Sam. While an instant 15% drop in revenues would ruin anyone’s day, it pales against, say, the nearly 50% plunge that newspapers have suffered in ad sales in the last five years.

So, yes, public broadcasters would have to retrench. Yes, they would have to step up fund-raising from foundations, from corporations and from listeners and viewers like us. And, yes, that would mean more pledge breaks. But it would be worth it, because public broadcasters would gain the independence they – and viewers and listeners like us – deserve. Once and for all, the broadcasters could concentrate on broadcasting, instead of worrying about the next budgetary challenge from Capitol Hill or the White House.

/Film and The /Filmcast Improve People's Lives

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In the past two weeks, I've received news from two colleagues on how their association with my work at /Film has helped to provide them some valuable professional connections:

  • My friend Dan Trachtenberg is now represented by the super-prestigious Great Guns talent agency in the UK. The Great Guns rep first heard of Dan on our "Top Soundtracks of 2010" podcast, in which Dan casually mentioned that he's a commercial director. This off-handed remark led to a contract being signed between the two of them. Congratulations, Dan! 
  • A while ago, I interviewed Gen Ip, the creator of the amazing Filmography 2010 video. Last week, I received an e-mail from a major trailer-editing company in LA, which actually cut several of the trailers in the video! The representative was looking to hire and asked me if I could connect him with Gen Ip. After checking with Gen, I e-introduced the two of them this morning. I assume great things will come of it.
I'm grateful that the platforms I've worked in can provide people with new and exciting opportunities. It's a testament to the caliber of our listenership and readership that these opportunities exist. It's also a sign of the sheer talent and greatness of the people willing to associate themselves with /Film and the /Filmcast.

So there you have it folks! Agreeing to talk with me will clearly improve your professional life in ways you can only dream of. Just know that my door is always open. Because seriously, it's so lonely over here...

In Which I Receive An Award For Something I Wrote

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The ecch, "a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the case method of learning," has just handed out its yearly awards for excellence in case-writing (for those of you who have no idea what "cases" are, go here for more info). This year's award recipients include a case I helped to write about Facebook and its "Connect" Platform, which is currently taught at Harvard Business School's MBA program. Here's the full press release:


21st ecch case awards go global: winners represent three continents

The winners of the first global ecch Case Awards (succeeding the annual European Case Awards) have been announced.

Harvard Business School, where the case method was first developed, was victorious in four categories and also scooped the overall award with Apple Inc. in 2010 by David B Yoffie and Renee Kim.

One new award and two new case writing competitions were added to the traditional ten categories*. 

Outstanding contribution to the case method was awarded to Kamran Kashani, Professor of Marketing and Global Strategy at IMD (for full biography see notes for editors below). 

Case writing competition new case writer was won by Franco Quillico and Gregory Moscato,International University of Monaco, (a first time win for their school) with their case Tango vs Victor, a case about the proposed acquisition of a French soft drinks company by a pan-European private equity fund. 

Case writing competition 'hot topic' case: This year's subject, Renewable and sustainable energy, technology and development, was won by George Kohlrieser, Francisco Szekely and Sophie Coughlan from IMD with their new case Playing to Win: Leadership and Sustainability at ESB Electric Utility a case about a 95% publically owned Irish utility's plan to become carbon neutral by 2035 while remaining competitive. 

IMD also won awards in two further categories: Production and Operations Management, and Marketing, with the latter being won with a case authored by Kamran Kashani himself, together with Inna Francis. 

London Business School was the third European School to be represented among the winners taking the Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour category with the case Richard Murphy and the Biscuit Company (A) by Michael Jarrett and Kyle Ingram. 

Thunderbird School of Global Management was the second US school to make a first-time winning appearance, scooping the Finance, Accounting and Control category with the case Southwest Airlines 2008 by Andrew C Inkpen. 

The Indian based IBS Center for Management Research, scored a first for Asia by winning the Knowledge, Information and Communication Systems Management category with the case Knowledge Management Initiatives at IBM by Vivek Gupta, Indu Perepu and Sachin Govind. 

Commenting on his award, Kamran Kashani was "honoured and humbled" to be selected by ecch's executive committee to be the first-ever winner of the Outstanding contribution to the case method award. "This takes a special place in my 37 years as a management educator, because, for me, the case method isn't just a pedagogical 'tool' but represents the fundamental position I take towards my students: it is a respect for their points of view and a profound belief in their capacity to learn from each other."

Richard McCracken, Director of ecch said "The new 2011 Case Awards are a resounding endorsement of what we hoped to achieve by making them global, delivering winners from three continents in the first year. The results in the new case writing competition categories have demonstrated that case writing is flourishing worldwide. We were delighted with the response, receiving a remarkable 120 entries from 103 places of learning in 29 countries." 

The hot topic identified by the ecch Executive Committee for the 2011/12 case writing competition will beSocial Media and Change, looking for cases that focus on how companies are using social media in their business development and strategy formulation. (Entry details at: www.ecch.com/casecompetition

For further press information please contact:
Emma Simmons: e.simmons@ecch.com

* Overall winner; Economics, Politics and Business Environment; Entrepreneurship; Ethics and Social Responsibility; Finance, Accounting and Control; Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour; Knowledge, Information and Communication Systems Management; Marketing; Production and Operations Management; Strategy and General Management 


The results in full

Outstanding contribution to the case method
Professor Kamran Kashani, IMD 

Overall winner
Apple Inc. in 2010
David B Yoffie and Renee Kim
Harvard Business School
Ref no 9-710-467 

Economics, Politics and Business Environment
Philips versus Matsushita: The Competitive Battle Continues
Christopher A Bartlett
Harvard Business School
Ref no 9-910-410 

Entrepreneurship
Facebook's Platforms
Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, Thomas R Eisenmann, David Chen and Brian Feinstein
Harvard Business School
Ref no 9-808-128 

Ethics and Social Responsibility
IKEA's Global Sourcing Challenge: Indian Rugs and Child Labor (A)
Christopher A Bartlett, Vincent Dessain and Anders Sj√∂man 
Harvard Business School
Ref no 9-906-414 

Finance, Accounting and Control
Southwest Airlines 2008
Andrew C Inkpen
Thunderbird School of Global Management
Ref no A07-08-0008 

Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour
Richard Murphy and the Biscuit Company (A)
Michael Jarrett and Kyle Ingram 
London Business School
Ref no 408-083-1 

Knowledge, Information and Communication Systems Management
Knowledge Management Initiatives at IBM
Vivek Gupta, Indu Perepu and Sachin Govind 
IBS Center for Management Research
Ref no 909-018-1 

Marketing
Xiameter: The Past and Future of a 'Disruptive Innovation'
Kamran Kashani and Inna Francis 
IMD
Ref no IMD-5-0702 

Production and Operations Management
Lego: Consolidating Distribution (A)
Carlos Cordon, Ralf W Seifert and Edwin Wellian 
IMD
Ref no IMD-6-0315 

Strategy and General Management
Google Inc.
Benjamin Edelman and Thomas R Eisenmann 
Harvard Business School
Ref no 9-910-036 

Case writing competion 'Hot topic': Renewable and sustainable energy, technology and development
Playing to Win: Leadership and Sustainability at ESB Electric Utility
George Kohlrieser, Francisco Szekely and Sophie Coughlan
IMD
Ref no IMD-4-0302

Case writing competition: New case writer
Tango vs Victor (A & B)
Franco Quillico and Gregory Moscato
International University of Monaco
Ref no 110-062-1 and 110-063-1


Notes for editors

ecch is the largest single source of management case studies in the world, with more than 68,000 items in its catalogue, available through www.ecch.com. An independent, membership-based, non-profit organisation, ecch has offices at Cranfield University, UK and Babson College, USA. ecch is dedicated to supporting authors and users of case studies and promoting the case method of learning. It provides the interface between the authors of cases and the educational institutions and businesses that use them for teaching and learning. ecch has an international programme of case writing and teaching workshops and events. 

ecch Case Awards are presented annually to recognise worldwide excellence in case writing and to raise the profile of the case method of learning. The Awards (formerly the European Case Awards) have been presented since 1991. Awards are made in up to nine management categories; for one overall winning case; two case writing competition categories for a case by a new author and for a newly authored case on a 'hot topic'; and to recognise the outstanding contribution of an individual associated with the case method. www.ecch.com/caseawards 

Outstanding contribution to the case method: Nominations are collected by ecch and the executive committee, and the committee votes for a winner from the shortlist. 

Kamran Kashani is Professor of Marketing and Global Strategy at IMD. He teaches topics in marketing, strategy and innovation. He is currently researching marketing innovation in large global companies. An Iranian and Swiss national, he graduated from the University of California, UCLA, and gained his Doctorate in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Professor Kashani's articles and books in marketing and management have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is the winner of several awards for best paper and case writing. He has researched and written more than 50 case studies and has won four ecch Case Awards (marketing category 2011, 2001, 1995 (runner up) and 1993) and two EFMD awards (marketing category 2005 and 2003). As a coach to teachers in the art of case method, Professor Kashani has been presenting ecch case writing and teaching workshops workshops since 2000, reaching over 220 educators worldwide. He has been a faculty member of ITP (International Teachers Program) at London Business School, UK, New York University, USA, SDA Bocconi, Italy and IMD, Switzerland where he co-directed the programme. kashani@imd.ch

Case awards and competition judging criteria 
ecch identifies winning cases through an objective process - cases are judged anonymously. 

Overall winner and nine category winners: All cases registered with ecch during the last five years are put forward for consideration. The winning case in each category is the one that has achieved the highest growth in popularity among peers worldwide, based on the number of individual organisations ordering and teaching the case during the last calendar year. A case that has won a category award in a previous year cannot win again, but is eligible, once, for the overall award (eg the 2010 overall award winning case won the marketing category in 2009). 

Case writing competition categories: All submissions must have been tested in the classroom, completed in the specified time frame and be in English. They may be compiled from field research, published sources or generalised experience. Authors may submit a single case or a case series. The case, or case series, must be a maximum of 5,000 words, excluding exhibits and annexes. Each submission must be accompanied by a teaching note for which there is no word limit. 

Hot topic: For 2011 cases were invited that feature a business situation within the area of 'Renewable and sustainable energy, technology and development'. Judging panel members:
  • Stephen Evans, Professor of Life Cycle Engineering, Cranfield University, UK
  • Michiel Leenders, Professor Emeritus, Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada
  • Richard McCracken (Chairman), Director, ecch, UK
  • Stuart Read, Professor of Marketing, IMD, Switzerland
  • Giselle Weybrecht, Author of The Sustainable MBA: The Manager's Guide to Green Businesswww.thesustainablemba.com
New case writer: Submissions must be the first teaching case in any business subject area, prepared by the author(s) in a format that can be used by other case teachers. Judging panel members:
  • Jamie Anderson, Professor of Strategic Management, TiasNimbus Business School, The Netherlands
  • Geoff Easton, Professor of Marketing, Lancaster University Management School, UK
  • Jim Erskine, Professor Emeritus, Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada
  • Kamran Kashani, Professor of Marketing and Global Strategy, IMD, Switzerland
  • Richard McCracken (Chairman), Director, ecch, UK
The case method of learning was pioneered in the early 20th Century at Harvard University. It has become the favoured teaching method of most of the world's leading business schools. 

Sony "Hacker" Raises Legal Defense Money In 18 Hours

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The Escapist has a cool piece on PS3 hacker Geohot, who asked for and quickly received money from the internet in his defense against Sony:

Geohot, aka George Hotz, firmly believes that he has done nothing wrong. When he and the hacker group known as fail0verflow posted the PS3 rootkey online, allowing saavy consumers to install any operating system on the game console, he was not breaking any laws because he paid for Sony's hardware and doesn't have to follow their EULA. On his website Geohot claims that Sony is trying to use his case as a warning and has a team of five lawyers ready to rake him in court to send a message to other hackers. He also points out that other hackers have lost court battle not because they were wrong but because they lacked the money to mount a defense. When pressed with legal fees beyond his means, but a large amount of internet celebrity, Hotz's only recourse was to ask the masses to donate to his cause. Geohot may have underestimated the number of people who support his fight against Sony, as he received enough money for the first phase of defense in about 18 hours.

When your enemies (AKA your CONSUMERS) are able to easily raise money from an anonymous public to fight you, in a case where they're trying to make your product more useful, you're doing it wrong.

Why Dwight from 'The Office' Is Wrong About the Body's Immune System

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Salon has a cool new column debunking health myths in pop culture. The first target? Dwight Schrute:



What's wrong with this picture?

The first problem with Dwight's take on the hygiene hypothesis is that he is confusing immunity against infection with protection against allergies. The second is that by the time you're old enough to eat phlegm-drenched toast for breakfast, it's too late to confer ironclad immunity against infection or allergy, because you need to develop it in early childhood. (Perhaps, in his toilet-side collection of medical journals, Dwight confused the hygiene hypothesis with a recent study showing that infants and toddlers in daycare who get sick a lot tend not to get sick as often once they hit kindergarten and beyond. Details, Dwight. Details!).

The biggest problem, though, with this pop culture view of the hygiene hypothesis is that in two decades of research since Strachan first made his comments, things are turning out to be far more complicated than anyone imagined. In short, research is showing that exposure to some bugs and allergens at an early age can protect us from allergies, while others do the opposite, triggering your body's immune system to go haywire and exacerbate allergic symptoms. Why one trigger would protect while the other irritates our bodies probably has everything to do with how our immune system reacts and is regulated, though many details are still beyond our scientific grasp.

Detroit to Close Half Of Its Public Schools

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A sad reminder that sometimes there are bigger funding needs than Robocop statues:

State education officials have ordered Robert Bobb to immediately implement a financial restructuring plan that balances the district's books by closing half of its schools, swelling high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidating operations.

Arrested Development

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Kay S. Hymowitz, on how 20-something men are kinda sucky at being men (via Maria Popova):

Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This "pre-adulthood" has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.

/Filmcast Encouragement

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I really appreciate it, guys.

What Went Wrong with Borders

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Edward McClelland has a nice retrospective on how Borders lost its soul:

Borders ended up caught between the variety of the Internet and the intimacy of the independents. Its outlets could never stock as many books as Amazon. Nor could they duplicate the native flavor of the corner bookstores, with their local author readings and folk music nights.

A Random Dude in Massachusetts

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There's a lot that's encouraging and amusing about the fact that Detroit was able to raise enough money to erect a Robocop statue in 6 days. But my favorite bit in this NYTimes story is how this whole thing began:

The unusual fund-raising effort sprang from a question posed to Detroit’s mayor on Twitter last week by “a random dude in Massachusetts,” who proposed that the city celebrate “RoboCop” the same way Philadelphia does “Rocky,” according to the project’s Web site. The first-term mayor, Dave Bing, replied: “There are not any plans to erect a statue to RoboCop. Thank you for the suggestion.”

Hey! I'M a random dude in Massachusetts too! I can only hope that one of my off-handed tweets ends up one day capturing the nation's imagination.

What It's Like To Let Down Humanity

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Legendary Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings writes on what it's like to lose to a machine (via Linda Holmes):

Indeed, playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face. Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It's very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman. But unlike us, Watson cannot be intimidated.

Further Thoughts on Making Money Through Podcasting

4 comments
Thanks for all the feedback to my Turning Point blog post! Even though I was characteristically loquacious in that post, I still have a lot to say on the topic.

This morning, I received an e-mail from a listener and media professional who I'll call Dee. Below is an edited version of our e-mail discussion, posted with permission. I thought people might find the details instructive.

***

Dave,

I think you need to refresh your view on your entire situation. You are in the rare position to actually have a large, passionate audience that actually gets mad if you post the podcast late, or if you don't post an After Dark (see, I'm a regular listener, I hear you). While you may know some others with a similar passionate user base, the fact is that this is EXTREMELY RARE. What you have is valuable. Your statement here is key to your problem: "the money that we get does not come anywhere close to equalling the amount necessary to sustain a person for a living (nor should it, really)." YES IT SHOULD, actually. You need to realize you are in a great position that is hard to attain outside of major media. Buckle down, realize that no matter how uncredentialed you think you are, or how busy you are, you have a real BUSINESS at your fingertips that is simply not monetized. Buckle down and find a salesperson and get AD SPONSORSHIPS. It is no longer credible to say you can't get Ads when major directors and critics are coming on your show and you have studios treating you to viewings as they would mainstream publications. Stop ignoring the fact that yes, if you take the Filmcast seriously as a business, you will prosper, but yes, it will likely cease to be a hobby and take on a smell of a job.

Also, I see that you have a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of $7,000 to fund your personal photo project. This makes no sense after reading your post. As far as I know, you are not a well known photographer, so anyone donating to that project would be doing so probably because they know you rather than because they think you are great photographer. So rather than using Kickstarter for that, why not use it for the Filmcast??? Hellooo? Make your goal $50k to start (no, you can't pay Devindra and Adam, hard choices need to be made). I would bet anything that you reach $25,000 in less than 6 months. If that happens, then that should be enough to convince you to stop thinking fatalistically about the Filmcast and GO OUT AND GET SOME SALES PEOPLE!

I love you guys. I don't always agree, but I love your show. I grew up with Ebert and Armond content, I prefer Filmcast. If you are considering letting it die on the vine simply because you didn't want/or could not conceive of approaching it like a business, then I feel on some level you are betraying the loyal patronage of your passionate users, but most of all you are betraying Yourself.

***

Dee,

Thanks for your e-mail. I've thought a lot about some of the factors that you describe.

I've thought about your Kickstarter idea but there are a number of problems with that plan. I agree with you: I am pretty sure I'd be able to raise $30,000, $40,000, maybe even $50,000 to do the /Filmcast for one year. But that is not a sustainable way to do things. Kickstarter has this thing where if you don't reach the funding goal, you don't get ANY of the money. I definitely wouldn't be abe to live year to year with that amount of uncertainty. And giving up my life for a year to do the /Filmcast would be fun and rewarding, but what would I do afterwards? I need to be looking towards a future, where there is hopefully a wife/family/mortgage coming up.

With regards to Devindra and Adam, I want to honor them, in the sense that we came into this enterprise together and I would not want to cut them out of any financial arrangement. Ironically, this desire to not be a dick to them will probably one day end up leading to the end of my involvement in the /Filmcast: In the most ridiculously optimistic circumstances, the podcast can probably make enough money for ONE person to survive off of. And since, in my mind, any money made from the show would have to be split three ways, I probably would rather see my involvement with the show end than deal with any attempt of my own to retain full monetary benefit from the show. There are more important things to me than seeing the show continue, including being a decent human being (side note: On the other hand, if Devindra and Adam were to give their blessing to any sponsorship/kickstarter arrangement, that would change things, obviously).

As for getting an ad sales person, it's a real chicken-and-the egg problem: We don't have enough money to pay an ad sales person because we don't have ads. We can't get ads because we don't have an ad sales person. And so on.

As for people not knowing me as a photographer, my hope was that people would see the Kickstarter campaign who know me from all my other pursuits, and try to help me out out of the goodness of their hearts. This is typically the way a lot of Kickstarter campaigns work, only oftentimes, people DON'T know the people they're donating for at all! Tons of people are paying completely unknown people to make documentaries and create albums. But, apparently my plan hasn't worked in your book :)

Sincerely,
David

***

Dave,

Agree with all your points, sounds like you have a clear perspective on the matter after all. I do think your great co-hosts would be willing to go without pay on a trial 12-month basis if you presented it to them the right way (particularly if they understand that a future alternative may be no podcast at all).

As for the Ad salesperson issue, good point. I've worked as an editor in various levels of publishing. Even at the lowest levels, the salespeople get a base salary of about $1,500 plus sales commission (typically 10-15%) per month. Without a base salary, it would be hard to get someone, but in your case you might be surprised. There are tons of salespeople selling inventory they don't like, or that's too hard to sell. You have the numbers, high profile, and celeb guests, I think offering a salesperson a larger upfront commission (say 35%) on a trial 6 month basis would actually get you a good number of candidates. Contract that 6 months trial in writing. After 6 months, if you have healthy Advertiser interest, you renegotiate the salesperson's commission. If you don't know where to start looking my suggestion (other than posting an ad on Craigslist--which still works great) would be to poach talent from someone else in a similar vertical. Salespeople are always looking to move to a better deal/product, and the deal I described + plus your strong brand/penetration makes a pretty attractive deal...

***

I am open to your thoughts, questions, and suggestions in the comments.

Making Light of Sexual Assault

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CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was brutally assaulted in Egypt. Mary Elizabeth Williams has a handy guide of what NOT to say about the situation:

In a stunningly offensive blog post titled "Lara Logan, CBS Reporter and Warzone 'It Girl,' Raped Repeatedly Amid Egypt Celebration" for LA Weekly, writer Simone Wilson managed to mention Logan’s "shocking good looks and ballsy knack for pushing her way to the heart of the action" before getting to the assault itself. She then went on to imagine how it happened: "In a rush of frenzied excitement, some Egyptian protestors apparently consummated their newfound independence by sexually assaulting the blonde reporter." Well, sure, what other motive for an assault could there be, given that Logan is, in Wilson’s words, a "gutsy stunner" with "Hollywood good looks"? And how else do Egyptians celebrate anyway but with a gang assault? It's not like she deserved it, but well, she is hot, right?

Borders Files for Bankruptcy

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A sad sign of the times. When even faceless corporations can't keep bookstores open, you know there is trouble ahead.

Turning Point

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The recent death of the IFC News podcast has gotten me thinking a lot about my own endgame and what it will look like. I currently host and produce two major podcasts (plus one side project). On top of this, I work a full-time job and am getting my Masters degree part-time. I am fortunate to have had bosses/professors that are pleased with my work, yet understand that my other pursuits consume a great deal of my time. But my current arrangement cannot last forever.

The fact of the matter is, it is very difficult for me to justify these podcast pursuits as anything more than a hobby. They will never make me a full-time income. I am grateful for countless of people that have donated money to the /Filmcast to keep us alive, in addition to the sponsorship offers we have gotten. They have provided significant help during a time of need and have helped to justify the amount of time that goes into the podcasts.

But the money that we get does not come anywhere close to equalling the amount necessary to sustain a person for a living (nor should it, really). And that goes double or triple when you're splitting the money with other people. I surmise that the only people on the internet who ARE able to make a substantial amount of money from podcasting are people who a) have a large enough audience to attract major sponsorship dollars (e.g. Adam Carolla), b) broadcast daily, so as to multiply the number of impressions generated (e.g. Adam Carolla again), or c) make a sustained fundraising effort each year (e.g. The Sound of Young America, which wouldn't be successful if (a) were not also true for them). I would not be opposed to broadcasting daily, but don't currently have the numbers to justify it. Carolla (and people like him) built his empire on the back of his broadcasting career. I don't have such a history or reputation yet.

For most people, including me, podcasts are something that people do for fun and/or because they're passionate about it. And as a result, like the IFC News podcast or the Scene Unseen podcast or countless other fun, lovable podcasts before them, they can end at any time.

Having podcasted for a couple of years now and spoken with several of the best podcasters/broadcasters in the country, I've learned that often times what ends up happening is podcasts get too big to quit, but too small to derive any significant financial benefit from. They suck up massive quantities of time and cause untold amounts of stress, but do offer some rewards in return: the pleasure of interacting with an engaged fanbase; the pride of producing quality work; the various other perks that come with being a known quantity in your particular field.

In my own experience, I've been blessed to receive thousands of e-mails from people writing passionately about my podcasts and about the subjects that they cover. I've been able to see a lot of movies for free and to meet some of my heroes in the filmmaking industry. All of this has been incredibly gratifying. But it's also exceedingly evident that the overwhelmingly vast majority of fans have no conception of what my life is like. And there are far more people that complain when one of the 4-5 hours of free content I put out onto the internet each week isn't precisely on schedule, than people who say "thank you" when it comes on time.

The world of broadcast media has instilled an attitude of entitlement in all of us. We expect our media to be free and for there to be an excess supply at all times. These entertainers should do what we want! Dance for us! Play us the music that we love! Discuss interesting topics! In the world of podcasting, the expectations are the same as for radio and TV, but the financial rewards for the people involved are infinitesimal by comparison.

I hope that my podcasting projects will survive the transitions my life will go through over the course of the next few years. But the purpose of this post is to say that for me and for many other podcasters out there, the podcasts we produce exist and continue to exist because we love doing them. The things that keep podcasts going are frequently subject to the whims of fate. If you have podcasts you do love, be grateful while you have them.

Government Programs Infect Every Aspect of American Life

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American idiots calling for less government have no idea how much government they depend upon (via NYTimes):

The most comprehensive data appear in the Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Report for Fiscal Year 2009, but the data is very aggregated and doesn’t tell much about how many people benefit from various programs or to what extent. The most recent study I could find that tried to do that was published by the Tax Foundation in 2007. It found that in 2004, a typical middle class family in the middle income quintile received $16,781 in benefits from the federal government.

Reminds me of this piece on the Tea Party by Matt Taibi:

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They're completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I'm an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I'm a radical communist? I don't love my country? I'm a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

Because you don't need a $3000 camera to do legitimate photography

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Damon Winter took a series of amazing photos using the iPhone's Hipstamatic app, and created a feature that won third place from Pictures of the Year International. Naturally, this has led to a lot of unwarranted bitching about whether or not the photos are legitimate. Winter's written up a thoughtful response:

I have always loved shooting in a square format. This program allows you to shoot and — most importantly — compose in that format. I could not have taken these photos using my S.L.R. and that perhaps is the most important point to be made about the camera phone in this story. Using the phone is discreet and casual and unintimidating. The soldiers themselves often take pictures of one another with their phones and that was the hope of this essay: to have a set of photos that would almost look like those snapshots — but through a professional eye.

The beauty of a new tool is that it allows you to see and approach your subjects differently. Using this phone brought me into little details that I would have missed otherwise. The image of the men resting together on a rusted bed frame could never have been made with my regular camera. They would have scattered the moment I raised my 5D with a big 24-70 lens attached. But with the phone, the men were very comfortable. They always laughed when they saw me shooting with it while professional cameras hung from my shoulders.

I've always defended iPhone photography since the outset. It's good to see someone with actual credibility doing so as well.

Gawker's Sources Have Problems Staying Anonymous

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Joe Coscarelli has a great summary of the problems that Gawker sources have in staying anonymous after they give the blogging empire a massive scoop:

[I]t's not that the Gawker Media reporters hoped to have their sources outed. It happens to every news organization. But the way Gawker's narrative sensibilities work, the account of the unnamed is crucial to the storytelling, thus littering the features (which also often include photographic proof with faces barely edited out) with clues. Then the entire internet latches on to the anonymity and won't stop until they have their own piece of the pie. In some cases, like the Christine O'Donnell leak, it's because the anonymous source comes off like an ass, and the hive mind is out for revenge. In others, like for Callahan, it's merely a thirst to have the knowledge which has been withheld -- a good detective-like hunt for any hungry journalists. In an age when almost everyone has something of an online trail, it's not even very difficult! But Gawker tends to make it even easier.

I'm fascinated by this stuff every time it happens. What are the consequences for people like Dustin Dominiak, who has to live with this Google search any time he wants to land a date from now until forever? I'd like to know...Maybe a future episode of The Chencast? Either way, the price of that can't be worth the $5,000 he was paid for the story.

Incredible Video of the Egypt, Post-Mubarak Resignation

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Bye Bye Mubarak from Ramy Rizkallah on Vimeo.

Because If An Actor Doesn't Toe the Line, It's Clearly a Journalist's Fault

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Myles Mcnutt has a thoughtful, detailed response to Sons of Anarchy showrunner Kurt Sutter's latest outburst, this time targeted at Fred Topel from Screen Junkies:

While I think that Sutter could criticize the interviewer for pissing off his star, even if that still might seem a tad bit overblown, to then position this smaller site as the cause rather than the symptom of his larger problem is highly unrepresentative. Sutter’s kneejerk responses are rarely particularly nuanced, often lumping together large swaths of individuals (often critics) when only a small subsection are actually at fault, and this seems another example where the real story gets buried beneath a larger crusade.

There are problems with this interview. There are problems in entertainment journalism. However, the problems with this interview are not necessarily the problems which exist in entertainment journalism, and they are not grounds on which to suggest any sort of malicious intent on the part of the individual in question.

She Married a Murderer

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Amy Friedman has written an article for every one of us who's ever heard of a woman marrying a convict in prison and wondered, "What was she thinking?"

I don't regret it, but being married to Will was hard and painful. Being a prisoner's wife requires mighty resistance -- to the mind-numbing, bureaucratic prison system itself, but even more, to those who so casually dismiss us as less than, those who see us not as people who deserve support and respect but who deserve contempt.

It's a touching, well-written piece that certainly does a lot to inform my conception of these marriages. But I feel like the story was just getting interesting right as it was ending. Still, worth your time.

I'm Not Dead, But I Play Dead on TV

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The WSJ has an in-depth look at the life of working stiffs:

The Screen Actors Guild doesn't keep figures on corpse roles, but currently, seven of the top 10 most-watched TV dramas use corpse actors, including CBS's "CSI," "NCIS" and spinoff "NCIS: Los Angeles." The new ABC series "Body of Proof" revolve1s around a brilliant neurosurgeon turned medical examiner who solves murders by analyzing cadavers.

It all means more work for extras, casting agents and makeup artists who supply corpses in various stages of decomposition. Matthew W. Mungle, who won an Oscar for his work on the 1992 film "Bram Stoker's Dracula," does special-effects makeup on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "NCIS."

The Real-Life Story of Scumbag Steve (AKA Blake Boston)

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You may not have even known that Scumbag Steve was a meme, but Blake Boston certainly does; it's his photo that has appeared on countless internet message boards, bearing occasionally amusing messages about what a douchebag he is.

Now Know Your Meme has an interview with Blake Boston in which he describes the real-life horrors of being an internet meme.

Q: On the down side of internet fame, I hear you’ve been getting harassed by Anonymous pranksters left and right. How’s that going? I imagine you’re in a glass case of emotions right now.

A: Sucks man. I guess people can’t separate the meme from the real me in some cases. Like people got my name, my phone, my Facebook, started callin’. Callin’ me all kind of racist shit, callin’ my girl and my family all hours of the night. Some asshole put up an ultrasound picture of my unborn kid and wished it would die. How fucked is that? My girl cried all night. She felt molested by that. Lot of racist shit being said, lot of haters. But truth is man, even with d-bags like that, I have it good really cuz I’ve got my family and my friends who know me. And no one can break that.

AOL Acquires The Huffington Post

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This should go well. Because Arianna has consistently demonstrated that she's interested in supporting high-end premium brands like Cinematical, a support demonstrated through the Post's lavish payments to its multitude of talented bloggers, right? Right?

Om Malik has a take that I agree with:

AOL’s moves are much like the ending scene from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Surrounded by the Bolivian Army, Dos Hombres have no choice to make a gallant dash to their horses, guns blazing, hoping against hope as thousand guns blaze around them. The ever-increasing web inventory is like the Bolivian Army firing on AOL and others who have not yet come to terms with the futility of chasing page views...

In a chat with The New York Times, charming and always quotable Armstrong quipped “I think this is going to be a situation where 1 plus 1 equals 11.” Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, for in this case one plus one ends up equaling none – as we might soon see!

Time will tell.

My Favorite Commercials from Superbowl XLV (2011)

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I'm not going to include any of the movie trailers, because we've covered them much better at /Film (my take: Super 8, Transformers, and Battle: LA were great. Thor was not). Excluding those, here are some of my favorites

CarMax - Takes a turn of phrase and expands it until its breaking point. Fun visuals.



Chevy Volt - A beautiful commercial for what I've heard is a legitimately revoluationary car.



Bridgestone - Hilarious take on the accidental reply-to-all phenomenon. Love the "Do Not Attempt" subtitle at the bottom.



Volkswagen - Sure it already has over 13 million views and was released prior to the game, but that doesn't make it NOT adorable. That child(?) actor does a ton of emoting from behind a mask.



And some of my least favorites:


Chevy Cruze - For those who can't even wait to get home to begin the stalking (side note: Why the hell is she updating her Facebook status about him when they're Facebook friends?)



Doritos - Creepy.



Pepsi - I want to say this ad is slightly racist, but I'm afraid that that might make me slightly racist? Love the ultraviolence though.

Larry Wilmore on Black History Month

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"White people have to pretend to care about black people. Black people have to pretend to care about history. It's a lose-lose."

Video of One of the Last Uncontacted Tribes on Earth

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Wired has an incredible video of the Panoa Indians in Brazil, one of the last uncontacted tribes on Earth. Love the near-catatonic female voiceover.

When They're Gone, But Not Yet Passed

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Lillian B. Rubin has written a heartbreaking account of what it's like to live with her husband who suffers from severe dementia:

[M]ourning a real death is quite different from mourning a living one. Whatever one believes about death -- it's a passage into a kinder world, it's entry into nothingness, or anything in between -- it's still an undeniable fact. Death is finite; life, as we know it, is over. Yes, I know, people awaken with visions of visitations, but eventually we come to accept death as an end to life. But when the brain dies and leaves the body intact, there is no end.

It's Amateur Hour Over at Flickr

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Here's one of those horrifying stories that serves as nightmare fuel for those of us who are passionate about photography:

Major, major stumble from Flickr today—a Zurich-based photoblogger says Flickr deleted his account by mistake and lost his 4,000 photos. Mirco Wilhelm has the original files saved elsewhere, but the photos from his extensive Flickr collection had been linked to from all over the web, including the official Flickr blog. Those links will now point to deadspace.

I also quite enjoy the apology e-mail that looks like it was written (very poorly) by a lowly support slave:

Unfortunately, I have mixed up the accounts and accidentally deleted yours. I am terribly sorry for this grave error and hope that this mistake can be reconciled. Here is what I can do from here:

I can restore your account, although we will not be able to retrieve your photos. I know that there is a lot of history on your account-again, please accept my apology for my negligence. Once I restore your account, I will add four years of free Pro to make up for my error.

Please let me know if there's anything else I can do.

Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.

Both photographer and account deleter must have had a really, really bad day.

Update: Apparently, Flickr has restored Wilhelm's account and given him 25 free years of Flickr Pro. Also, they're extremely sorry about this mixup, y'know.

"Google Is The World's Largest Information Thief"

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Google recently accused Bing of cheating by stealing its search results. Bing responded by basically saying "kind of, but it's not a big deal." But my favorite take on the subject is by Daniel Eran Dilger, who runs down the litany of Google's offenses:

Google is the world’s largest information thief, steamrolling partners, content creators and competitors alike under its concept of the wheels of progress, justifying its dealings as being a free remix and expression of ideas. That’s all fine and good if you don’t complain about other people also taking the information you publicly offer without a license and then remixing it themselves.

The Facebook Profile That Stole a Piece of Her Soul

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Susan Arnout Smith writes compellingly on how some very, very bad people created a fake Facebook profile for her and destroyed her will:

I pressed the link. There are moments that are burned into the heart. I saw my face. It was a photo taken off one of my websites. I saw my name. The persona they had created, using my name, my face, was pornographic, trolling for sex. I pay good money. I sat stunned. There had to be a way of connecting to a real person, somebody who could help me get this removed.

But the saddest part is the moral of the story, which is that the same exact thing can happen to any one of us, and for no reason at all.