Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fantasy Baseball -- a dream come true?

I know that Fantasy Baseball -- what academics might call Meta-baseball, despite the similarities to a so-called baseball team -- is very popular. There are lots of Fantasy Baseball sites. Thousands of players across the country paying companies regular fees to pretend they're managing a baseball team.

But I don't really understand its appeal. I thought playing pretend was something you stopped doing during childhood.

Apparently it appeals to the rapid fan for whom living vicariously through their favorite team is not enough.

I wonder: when looking at the results of their teams, do Fantasy Baseball managers chew virtual tobacco? If their team doesn't do well, do they virtually fire themselves? Do they have fantasy negotiations with virtual Scott Borases?

Now, as I watch the Boston Red Sox feeble ALCS series, I can certainly understand the appeal of Fantasy Baseball. Right now, I am imagining that the Sox are sweeping the Indians.

It's not really that satisfying a fantasy...since it looks like the Sox have basically given up.

For me, Fantasy Baseball would consist of my playing in the Major Leagues...though I can't decide if it's better to pretend I'm a hard-hitting outfielder or a hard-throwing pitcher.

Because I know I'm probably not ready for Fantasy Baseball, I've been looking into Fantasy Minor League Baseball...which consists of pretending to play for a major market team, traveling first class, and having actual fans -- and best of all, fantasy endorsement deals worth thousands of fantasy dollars. In my Fantasy Minor League Baseball, I also make it to the Majors after one season.

Right now, because I haven't looked for it, I think there's no competition in Fantasy Minor League Baseball, so I think I'm about to win the Fantasy Minor League Baseball World Series (a concept I'm now trade-marking). I can't wait for my Fantasy interviews on the morning shows, where I can say, "It's a great team of guys. We just focused on the day-to-day, but winning the Series is a dream come true."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another reason I don't like October

October has a history of bad news for the economy...with market collapses in 1929 and 1987.

There's been a rising amount of negative news in the business sections, lately, like an "Economic View" column in the New York Times, "Sniffles That Precede a Recession."

Major global banks have been hit by subprime mortgages crunch to the tune of billions of dollars.

There will certainly be more fallout from the subprimes.

The question is: how long will it take for the economy to shake off the subprime blues?

The say J.D. Rockefeller knew to get out of the market when his shoe shine boy gave him stock picks. The same thing happened during the dot-com crash, when everyone was trying to make a killing. It certainly seems familiar, what with easy credit and second mortgages fueling a lifestyle beyond the salaries of most Americans.

Right now, the worst, unimaginable thing is that the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US dollar. When it's too expensive to visit Canada, I think we're in trouble.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not So Noble Wall St. Journal

As everyone knows by now, Al Gore won the 2007 Noble Peace Prize.

You might not know it from reading the Wall St. Journal's editorial page. In an editorial entitled, "Not Nobel Winners," the Journal's editorial team named a lot of worthy people and organizations who might deserve to win, but didn't.

The editorial also didn't mention Gore's name at all.

I'm not judging the Journal's editorial page. Just reporting on it. As its sister media outlet, Fox News would say, you decide.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Network News Program Adapts to the Web

According to the New York Times, "ABC Reshapes the Evening News for the Web," "ABC is the only major broadcast network that is using the staff of its evening newscast to produce a separate and distinct daily program for a Web audience.

"The 15-minute Webcast often features Mr. (Charlie) Gibson (whom the article notes later is the oldest of the network anchors) in the anchor chair, but the similarities end there: the segments can run long, and they purposely look raw and personal, as if they were made for MTV rather than ABC."

The article notes that the Webcast has evolved over the past 20 months, when it had been a Web-only distillation of the regular news. The Webcast includes more pop and tech news than the on-air edition.

In contrast, CBS and NBC repurpose their regular evening news onto the Web.

Makes ABC News a much more interesting media to work with.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yet More about Forbes' James Michaels

The Wall St. Journal also ran an interesting obit on former Forbes editor James Michaels, available at And the Times' Sunday Business section published a column by Gretchen Morgenson entitled, "A Taskmaster Who Changed Business News" (available at

According to the Journal,
  • "As editor of Forbes for nearly four decades, James W. Michaels favored notes short and acerbic: 'This is stenography,' he often wrote of copy that lacked point of view.
  • "'It was entirely Michaels's magazine and his vision and style,' says Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute. While Fortune was known for longer articles and Business Week for a survey of the week's news, Forbes specialized in 'having a fresh take and holding businesses accountable from a small-investor viewpoint,' Mr. Edmonds says, adding that a marker of Mr. Michaels's strength is that 'the magazine is not especially different from what it was when he was editor.'"
  • "One thing he taught was to buck conventional wisdom...'It is always safe to take counter-cyclical positions in a cyclical world,' Mr. Michaels told Ad Week in 1985."
It's worth repeating two items in that paragraph:
  1. "While Fortune was known for longer articles and Business Week for a survey of the week's news, Forbes specialized in 'having a fresh take and holding businesses accountable from a small-investor viewpoint.'"
  2. "The magazine is not especially different from what it was when he was editor.'"
According to Morgenson's "Forbes as the Abuse File," Michaels would say:
  • “This is badly written and badly edited. It would be an insult to foist it on the reader.”
  • “This is a real snoozer, lacking in specifics. Why not just send them a nice lacy valentine and forget the prose.”
  • “I’m sending this one back because the character is deader than a dodo.” Can’t the writer “inject a little life without adding 10,000 words?”
  • “A good story turned into oatmeal by bad organization.”
  • “Please fix this quickest. It lacks most of the ingredients of a Forbes story. The quotes are room emptiers.”
  • “This is the kind of sentence that drives readers to stop reading.”
  • “This is a paid advertisement. Did you forget to say he walks on water?”
  • “If I can’t stay awake editing this, how can a reader stay awake reading it? What’s the point? If it has a point, maybe we can make a story of it.”
  • “I can’t make head nor tail of this. There’s a story buried in all this confusion, but I can’t find it. Fix it or kill it.”
  • “This is a remarkable job of interviewing an interesting and colorful man and getting precisely one quote.”
  • “This is exactly the sort of lazy writer jargon that will put us out of business. Please use the rich resources of the English language.”
  • “Too bloody complicated. That’s not writing. Make it simple and interesting. That’s writing.”
  • “This is so full of holes, it’s like Swiss cheese.”
  • “Here’s another one I can’t understand without help from a lawyer and accountant.”
  • “This is more an essay as written than a Forbes article. It badly needs the concrete images, the real people that will anchor it to reality. It’s called shoe-leather reporting.”

"He regularly banned words and phrases he considered overused. 'Fast track,' 'game plan,' 'bottom line' and 'superstar' were some examples. 'Upscale' was another: 'If I see this word again I’ll upthrow,' he wrote.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Update on when a link is not a link

So I asked BusinessWire about these virtual links -- for example, they've got in the URL, but you can't find them when searching Google or using the search bar.

The response makes some sense but is not completely satisfying: "Business Wire posts a release to over 3500 web portals and databases. If someone signs up for an RSS feed or email alert through on of these sites, your clients release will be pushed to them if your clients release fits the users criteria. This is another great way to reach more people.

"The NewsTrak Posting report that you receive is intended to provide a quick snapshot of your release as available on key portals and news sites.

"In regards to, your release did post to Forbes even though it is not searchable. Public company releases are searchable. "

I guess that means we should have more public companies as clients.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I don't like October

Some people don't like Mondays, but I don't like October. It has nothing to do with the start of another Supreme Court session. Or with the start of baseball post-season -- as a Red Sox fan, things are looking good this year. (But as a lifelong Mets fan, well, sigh, that's another story.)

I don't like October because for the past 26 years, Forbes magazine has published its list of the 400 richest Americans.

And, just like the past 26 years, I didn't make the list.

This year, it took $1.3 billion to make the list, up $300 million from the previous year.

I'm not good at math, but by my calculations, I was just $1.4 billion away from the list. If only I had insisted in getting paid in Canadian dollars...I would've been just $1.3 billion short.

I know I shouldn't feel so bad. There are 82 billionaires who didn't have enough to make the list this year along with 57 slackers who had appeared on last year's list but didn't make it this year.

I wonder if they throw you out of the billionaires' country club if you don't make the list. Or perhaps the others on the list make a show of signing for your bar bill since you've hit tough times.

Then there are the billionaires who lost a ton of money. One guy lost $1.5 billion last year -- which provides some context to the Mets' season.

Interestingly, while consistently I have not made the list, there are 32 billionaires who have made the list every year since 1982. Some are worth approximately the same amount back then as now. I feel badly for them, too. Sure $2 billion was a lot of money in 1982, but it's worth a lot less in 2007.

Kirk Kirkorian can be an inspiration for us. At 79, he earned $9 billion last year -- on top of his other billions, but still. Perhaps when I get to his age, I can have a $9 billion year. Of course, by then, given inflation, the $9 billion might be just enough to pay for private college tuition for a year.

A lot of the Forbes 400 made their money through inheritance. I don't blame my parents. I blame my grandparents. (All I got from one grandfather was my first name.) When I called my parents this week to complain about their parents, I actually got a lot of support.

Others made it on the list through inventing. I can kick myself because I came up with a concept years ahead of its time. I vividly remember watching on TV the splashdown landing of one of the Apollo rockets. My parents weren't around but I thought they'd be interested in the news, so I decided to tape it for them. I brought over my parents' portable wheel-to-wheel machine and held up the microphone to the set's tiny speaker in order to capture the news report. (By the way, I believe my parents still own that wheel-to-wheel recorder.)

In those days, each rocket launch was followed very closely by television news. And those days, we only had three network channels, plus two independent stations and PBS. I remember developing a vision for the future of television, and thinking one day there would be 11 channels on a kind of information highway -- I remember distinctly the number 11 since I think that was how high I could count at the time.

If only I had pursued my vision for a video recorder and expanded choice of programming....I could have made it onto the Forbes 400.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The late James Michaels, and his impact as longtime editor at Forbes

Today's New York Times contained an obit of James Michaels, a longtime Forbes editor.

The article, available at, contained some interesting observations about how Michaels reshaped Forbes' editorial voice. And while I had heard many of them (and more), I think it's worthwhile to hear them again because Michaels' philosophy is ingrained in the Forbes culture.
  • He made Forbes opinionated, interpretive and often indecorous, a magazine that was staunchly pro-business (and, its critics said, pro-wealthy) but did not hesitate to skewer companies and executives it saw as failures.
  • He often refused to permit articles on topics that other publications had covered, no matter how appealing or important, insisting that his staff find good stories ahead of the competition.
  • He strove to make articles shorter and more blunt, with a more clearly stated point of view.
  • He belittled the “on the other hand” kind of balance so many publications strive for as mere wishy-washiness.
  • Former reporters and editors recall weekly story meetings as a trial by fire, when anyone with a proposal had to be ready to fend off a barrage of harsh questions from the editor.
"Mr. Michaels embraced a rough image of the magazine, and himself. When an editor of the rival Fortune magazine was quoted as saying of Forbes, 'They’re nasty, venal people,' Mr. Michaels pinned the quotation to his office wall, and said, 'I just thought it was terrific.'”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The difference between Forbes & Fortune

Each magazine works hard to develop its own personality, to provide information and perspective differently from its competitors.

While Forbes and Fortune have a similar 26-issue publishing schedule and both tend to cover large companies (while devoting one issue per year on small businesses), there are some significant differences.

First, let me say, both publications are terrific, interesting, and are very good at understanding what their advertisers and readers want.

But even given that readers of both magazines have a high net worth, their approach to the same news and the same demographic is quite different.

And I'm not talking about the fact that Forbes does not refer to the group of 500 large corporations as the "Fortune 500." (The same is true of BusinessWeek, by the way, which refers to the BusinessWeek 1000.)

Let's look at the cover stories of both magazines that appeared the same time.

Forbes published its 26th annual list of the richest 400 Americans, known as the Forbes 400. This issue is devoted to the unimaginable wealthy, how they earned it and how they spend it, and claims an accuracy within $100 million. (Apparently my net worth is not even a rounding error.)

On the other hand, Fortune's cover story is devoted to "How to be a great leader." To be fair to Forbes, Fortune cover story from the previous issue was "The business of luxury," filled with items only the super-rich can afford.

In pitching Forbes, the undercurrent is how to get rich.

In pitching Fortune, the undercurrent is how to be a better manager.

This is not a judgment of their editorial missions or approaches. It's just that from a PR perspective, it's important to understand the difference.

By the way, BusinessWeek is totally different. BusinessWeek covers news more closely than either Forbes or Fortune (since BusinessWeek publishes 50 times a year, nearly twice Forbes & Fortune). BusinessWeek is far less likely to devote itself entirely to luxury topics; it's a more serious read than its two competitors. (For example, Fortune runs the humorous Stanley Bing column at the back page of each issue, while Forbes ran a Chris Buckley-written multi-page humorous look at billionaires through the ages going back to the Biblical era. I'm a Chris Buckley fan, but BusinessWeek would never run something so frivolous.)