Thursday, July 31, 2008

Conde Nast Portfolio Profiles "Last Media Tycoon" about the Washington Post

There may be a real market for taking a Vanity Fair magazine approach to journalism and applying it to business journalism.

If that sounds interesting to you, check out the current Conde Nast Portfolio, which includes two such articles. The first is "The Last Media Tycoon: Katharine Weymouth tells Condé Nast Portfolio how she plans to save the family's flagship brand and—she hopes—reinvent the industry,"which provides an profile of Weymouth and the challenges she faces.

There's an interesting chart from the article that highlights one particular challenge.

Weymouth seems to understand the industry's issues that have been discussed many times on this blog. Not sure about her solutions, but showing the influence of sister publication, Vanity Fair, the article also includes a number of photos of the attractive Weymouth in different outfits and a two-page spread of Weymouth with her attractive children.

I don't believe we'd see a similar spread of photos of a male executive in different, flattering attire or a photo of him with his kids.

The article still was interesting, but the photos were unnecessary. (I kept expecting that the captions would include fashion notes about the designers.) This is more about Conde Nast Portfolio than about Weymouth.

The other Vanity Fair-meets-business article was "Cold Case: Tom Carvel's ice cream empire churned up a substantial estate and a bitter, Dickensian fight over his money. Now a lawsuit asks, was he murdered?" It contains lots of smoking guns, claims of betrayals and fraud, but hard to figure out why it ran now -- when many of the elements have been going on for quite some time. Perhaps if Carvel had been more attractive (he wasn't), the article would have fit in better in the pages of Vanity Fair. The article was interesting, but it wasn't much of a business article.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No One Covers the Travails of the Wealthy Like The NYT, Part Trois -- Byt the Wall St. Journal is Trying

The New York Times continues what seems to be a series of articles about the plight of the super-rich. (Check out Part Duex, Part Une, and the one that started the series, "Shrinking Expectations of the Super Rich.)

In the latest installment, Challenges of $600-a-Session Patients, the Times notes that not only do the super-rich have problems -- and those who do often see their therapists twice a week -- but the therapists themselves have issues with their clients. For the uninitiated, the therapists themselves have therapists.

The bottomline in the article is that the rich have problems, too.

I'm just not sure of the news value of that revelation -- although I felt much the same after watching a performance of Igor Stravinsky's opera, "Rake's Progress." I sat through the opera for hours, only to hear characters on stage announce the moral of the opera as being "For idle hearts and hands and minds the Devil finds a work to do." (I saw "Rake's Progress" in college, but I'm still annoyed that I could've saved four hours if only they had announced the moral at the beginning.)

I'm guessing the Times is devoting so many resources to the travails of the super-rich as a marketing ploy to keep them reading the Times. The editors may feel that how the economic downturn affects the super-rich is a story seldom told, and therefore is worth telling.

I see it as a symptom of a glam-focused news environment, in which celebrity births, illnesses, arrests, rehabs and divorces get lots of attention while real news gets shut out. Already, I'd bet there's a producer out there, who having seen the Times article, is pitching "Therapists to the Stars" as a reality TV program. Perhaps by the time I post this, Bravo or E! Television will have already bought the concept. (You read it here, first.)

Meanwhile, the Wall St. Journal seems to have picked up the Times' gauntlet in terms of who can write more about the problems facing the super-rich.

Submitted for your perusal (as a Rod Serling CD is entitled):

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

25 Things That May Disappear -- Can You Guess Them All?

WalletPop, part of AOL, just published a list of "Top 25 Things Vanishing From America."

Some of the items are disappearing because of the Internet -- like the yellow pages, classified ads, hand-written letters, personal checks, and dial-up access (my mother is a holdout) -- or advancing on telco technology -- like landlines and answering machines.

Those, plus VCRs, analog TV and incandescent light bulbs, all make sense. But the list isn't comprehensive; there are more things that will disappear, such as the cassette tape (see Funeral for a Friend: The End of the Line for Cassette Tapes).

"News Magazines and TV News" came in at No. 3, noting: "While the TV evening newscasts haven't gone anywhere over the last several decades, their audiences have. In 1984, in a story about the diminishing returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all three network evening-news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast forward to 2008, and what they have today is half that." Read the full posting here.

The Future of News is an important (but not the sole) topic for this blog, so check TheFutureofNews by Steve Boriss, who eaches the class “The Future of News” at Washington University in St. Louis.

Monday, July 28, 2008

If Newspapers Readers Are Departing, What Should You Do? Raise the Newsstand Price

Newspaper circulations and advertising are dropping, so after layoffs, shrinking the page size and reformatting the paper to offer more charts, and less actual reporting, along with other cost-saving initiatives, what should newspapers do? Raise the newsstand price.

So if readers are feeling they're receiving less value...the New York Times and Wall St. Journal are both raising their prices. Check out: "N. Y. Times to raise newsstand price to $1.50: Increase in Monday-Saturday newsstand cost will take effect Aug. 18."

By the way, last week, the Wall St. Journal said it will raise its newsstand price to $2.00 -- up from $1.50 -- starting July 28. The reason: higher costs and new content. Not sure what the new content is, but the Journal also raised the annual subscription rate to its online version earlier this year from $49 to $59. Not sure what higher costs are impacting the online version -- can't be newsprint, gas for delivery vans, etc. Please let me know what the new content is...

Funeral for a Friend: The End of the Line for Cassette Tapes

According to today's New York Times, "Say So Long to an Old Companion: Cassette Tapes," the cassette tape is dead. Though long anticipated, the end came quickly.

The cassette is survived by the CD (which is not doing well) and the LP (which has recovered because audiophiles prefer their sound).

The death of the cassette follows the death of 8-track tape in the 1970s, and the 45 in the 90s.

Apparently, new music is not released on pre-recorded tapes anymore or barely anymore. Just 400,000 pre-recorded tapes were sold in 2007. And new cars rarely have factory-installed tape players; just 4% of 2007-model year cars had cassette decks as compared to 23% for the 2005-model year.

According to the Times, the only interest in cassettes has been to make mix tapes, to listen to those mix tapes, and to listen to books on tape. One of the best things about books on tape is the ability to listen in your car, pop out the tape to listen to at home, and be able to pick up at the same place -- something CDs can't do.

But that wasn't enough.

Last year, sales of cassette tape players fell to 480,000, down from its peak of 18 million in 1994.

For other insight into cassettes, check out the Freakonomics blog, "Where Do People Still Use Cassette Tapes?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

With Limited Resources, Should You Spend Them on Social Media or Media Relations?

Check out Experimenting with Twitter: How Newsrooms Are Using It to Reach More Users.

The article, published Sept. 2007, makes the point that "news organizations aren't just writing about Twitter -- they're using it as a publishing resource for readers and journalists. "

For some clients, the real question isn't whether or not you should use Twitter, establish a Facebook page, etc. and maintain a corp. blog, but how to measure the investment and return on the use of resources necessary to generate any kind of "traction."

A good social media campaign takes as much, if not more, time to generate results. For example, you might get followers on Twitter and visitors to your blog, but that same time could be used for media relations that could secure an article.

The people you're most interested in targeting may not read blogs. Or they may not read newspapers.

The answer of the most effective means depends on who you're trying to reach and what media they consume, how they consume it and where.

We've been telling clients to consider repurposing content across different channels. But recently, a client said he never listens to podcasts -- which actually led us to an interesting discussion. In some corporate settings, computers don't have audio cards and don't have iTunes loaded on them, so they can't easily download podcasts.

The question -- whether to allocate resources to a social media over media relations or vice versa -- comes down, for now, to a "it depends."

Of course, last year, the answer was mostly media relations.

What will next year bring? Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Pew Study Backs Up PRBackTalk's Position on Newspapers & Format Changes

Another interesting article about the sorry state of newspapers by the New York Times' Richard Perez-Pena, "As Papers Struggle, News Is Cut and the Focus Turns Local."

Findings of a new Pew Research Center survey include:
  • 64% of newspapers have reduced foreign coverage.
  • 10% of editors think foreign news is "very essential."
  • 57% of papers reported a decline in the amount of space allocated to national news.
  • One-third of papers are allocating less space for business news.
  • Three/fifths of papers have less space for news overall.
  • Large papers are reducing space given to business, arts, features and opinions -- topics that smaller papers generally don't give much space to in the first place.
  • 85% of large papers have seen a decline in the size of their news staffs. Overall, there's been a 59% decline, which means smaller papers have been a bit more resilient.
Makes it a very difficult time for journalists and PR executives.

Also check out an interesting article in the July Conde Nast Portfolio, "The Romenesko Empire: How the first media gossip site inadvertently ushered in the era of fact-free journalism" by former top NY Times editor Howell Raines. Apparently, Romenesko is being supplanted by Gawker the same way traditional print media is being supplanted by blogs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jason Calcanis Claims Blogging is Dead; Here's Why Email is on Life Support

I think Jason Calcanis' now-famous proclamation that blogging is dead is wrong for one specific reason: he thinks the replacement for blogging is an email distribution list.

Here are reasons I think email is dead:
  • Email is slow -- other technologies provide instant access and response.
  • Email is unreliable -- your messages might not make it through to the recipient. I regularly get and receive calls to make sure an important email has arrived.
  • Spam -- like college tuition and the price of oil, spam increases, despite new so-called solutions to fight spam. I don't think we'll ever win the war on spam. But other communications tools, like instant message and contact via social networks, can reduce --- but not eliminate -- the quantity of spam. (Case in point: TwitterSpam: people who select thousands of people to "follow" on Twitter in the hopes that people will "follow" them in return in the hopes they'll check out whatever it is the TwitSpammers are trying to sell.
  • Email tends to overwhelm "in boxes" with information users didn't need. A much better way is to subscribe to RSS feeds, resulting in less clutter, less guilt.
  • Email, for most of us, is less likely to have significant impact beyond our immediate friends and family. And every time someone forwards the email, the meat of the email gets pushed lower and lower on the screen, formatting changes, etc., diluting the impact it could have.
The other reason I think blogging is not dead yet is that you're reading this on a blog, not from my email distribution list.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Are Bloggers Helping or Hurting Society? Watch Author Andrew Keen on The Colber Report

I think Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today's user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values, makes an interesting case. Especially in regards to why we need professional journalists. 

Meanwhile, since I've used this blog to talk about the future of print media, check out media pundit Jeff Jarvis' recent tweet: Natl Newspaper Assn's "Imagining the Future of Newspapers" blog last updated in May? Worried, yes. Surprised, no.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Entry Has Not Been Printed at Government Expense

Got a call and a fax -- remember faxes? -- from the Business Advisory Council today. Apparently the BAC wants to include my name in the Congressional Order of Merit and to representing Massachusetts on the BAC.

First, I am not a member of the political party that sponsors the BAC. So while I may be honored I'm not sure why they'd ask me -- nor why they continue to ask me. This is probably the fifth time I've been asked. (I am always polite on the phone, by the way.)

Second, I did a quick search on the Business Advisory Council (I won't link to them here since this is not a political blog and because I'm sure the other party has similar initiatives) to find out whether I should join. I certainly have ideas about how the government should adjust the playing field to make it more level for small businesses, and would be happy to share them (but this is not a political blog so I won't share them here). The criteria to joining the BAC is not surprising really, though I was anyway. They've got an application form you can download, but the only questions they ask are: name, company name, complete company address -- and, oh yes, information about your contribution. In fact, while the BAC's main page calls it a "printable application form," the form itself says it's a contribution page while the document's electronic name is pledge.pdf.

So as Groucho Marx famously said, "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. "

Third, I keep wondering (but do not ask) what it means to represent Massachusetts on a Business Advisory Council. Do I have to wear a sash? Is there a swimsuit competition and a talent portion? I don't think I can, should or could compete in either category.

Fourth, the follow-up fax I received had tiny print at the bottom of the letter that said: "Not printed at government expense."

I thought: Of course the fax wasn't printed at government expense -- it was a fax. It was printed at my expense! For all I know, the letter was prepared electronically and distributed through an e-fax application.

So I'm left wondering: can I write of, as a contribution, the cost of my paper and toner and depreciation of my fax machine the portion used to print this fax?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Web 2.0 -- How Personal is It?

For all the Web 2.0 language about conversations, friending, following, linking, and connecting, social networks can be rather impersonal.

We post, tweet, friend, poke, and rate others without knowing them, hearing the voice, seeing the expressions on their face as they react to what they see online...which makes it easier to make snarky comments.

It's the End of Blogging as We Know It, Part II

The interesting coda to Jason Calcanis' "retirement" from blogging because he says blogging is dead.

In addition to his new email outlet, he continues to use Twitter.

I guess Twitter, or microblogging, is not dead -- yet.

Until something else supplants it.

Here's an additional point: it's taken a long time for print to get to its current stage: on-the-edge-of-doom. But it might not actually die, and go the way of buggy whips.

Radio continues to survive long after it was written off with the advent of TV.

But I'd bet that Twitter and other Web 2.0 sites vanish before print and radio do, if only because print and radio have a long tradition. Although they tend to be older, there are lots of people who like the feel of the ink smudging their fingers as they flip the pages of their morning paper.

I use Twitter, but Twitter is the latest trend. There's not much heritage to it yet, and while people who use it can seem to be obsessed with Twitter, the vast majority of people even in the tech sector are not using Twitter. Perhaps Twitter adoption is still in its infancy.

But if blogging is dead, how much longer can Twitter expect to live? Or, if it does survive, with its limit of 140-character messages, what does that say about our attention span?

(PS: I don't think blogging is quite dead yet.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Do we have a case study deficit?

We've must be in the midst of a case study deficit. Or how else to explain two iPod mentions in one issue of Entrepreneur -- and I'm only half-way through the issue.

Don't get me wrong. I like my iPod, but is it really the only positive case study people cite? There's got to be something else.

And don't say the iPhone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's the End of Blogging as We Know It, According to Jason Calacanis

Blogger Jason Calacanis has retired from blogger, saying blogging is dead. He's now shifting to email. Read about why in TechCrunch's Jason Calacanis’ First New Email Post.

Here are Calacanis' main reasons for saying blogging is dead:
  • "Folks are so desperate to be heard–and we all want to be heard that’s why we blog–that the effort put into being heard has eclipsed the actual hearing."
  • "Bloggers spend more time digging, tweeting, and SEOing their posts than they do on the posts themselves."
  • Five years ago, to be a successful blogger, you had to “show up every day.” "Today? What’s required is a team of social marketers to get your message out there, and a second one to manage the fall-out from whatever you’ve said."
  • "Excelling in blogging today is about link-baiting, the act of writing something inflammatory in order to get a link."
He also provides an explanation why he thinks communicating by email is more personal. TechCrunch says it expect Calacanis's objective in switching to email "will not achieve what he has set out for - and that is to have a conversation with the top slice of his readers." And I agree with TechCrunch.

Why? Here's what TechCrunch says: because "You will likely see his emails re-published, probably on a blog and probably with comments and everything else."

Just like I've done here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Media coverage addressing "why monitor blogs" is always negative -- managing customer complaints

Blogs and microblogs are about conversations. Too many stories about why companies should monitor blogs focus on putting out fires of customer complaints. Latest example is from the Boston Globe: "Hurry up, the customer has a complaint; As blogs expand the reach of a single voice, firms monitor the Internet looking for the dissatisfied."

The reason coverage focuses on the negative may be because it can be a more dramatic story to tell.

But B2C companies should be thinking about a blogger campaign to get ahead of the problem, to be a participant in online communities before something happens.

The same is true for B2B companies, which may have more specific niches that could actually make it easier to implement.

The current mindset, however, seems to be putting out fires rather than working ahead to ensure there are no fires. Dell, which started out putting out fires, seems to have done well being proactive.

I hope to talk with Richard at Dell to get additional insight from him.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Death of Old Media Predicted

As a media junkie, I am concerned about the future of print media. And while I do think traditional media's future may be a death by a thousand cuts, I do think that predicting its near-term death may be like premature reporting in 1897 that Mark Twain had died -- to which he famously responded, "The report of my death was an exaggeration."

The latest example is Marc Andreessen at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference. According to the New York Times, "Sun Valley: The Old-Media Death-Watch Continues" by Andrew Ross Sorkin. According to Sorkin, Andreessen said, "If you have old media, you should sell."

People said the same thing about radio, but it's still around.

I do think traditional media has a dim future unless it finds a way -- a format, approach, business model, delivery mechanism, something -- to evolve. But I don't think print will totally disappear.

When I did a search, I found predictions of the death of old media going back a decade. Hasn't happened yet. What has happened is that the impact and influence of print may have diminished -- certainly advertisers seem to think so -- but that's not the same thing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Media coverage trends & backlashes

With every media trend, you can count on a backlash to that trend.

The media is looking at all aspects of the impact of rising gas prices...on stay-at-home seniors, on rising online academic courses (instead of commuting), etc.

This is one trend that won't see a backlash, I'd bet.

Today's iPhone Release May Be Big News -- But the Continued Drop in Ad Sales Has Bigger Implications

According to major media, along with the social media world like Twitter, today's big news is the release of the latest iPhone 3G.

The iPhone has certainly had a significant impact on the cellphone handset business. But the latest version is an iteration, not a revolution. It will be replaced next year with more of the same -- no doubt cool stuff, but more of the same.

Bigger news, I think, was reported on page 5 of today's New York Times' business section: "In Deepening Ad Decline, Sales Fall 8% at Magazines: The decline is led by automotive and technology ads" by Richard Perez-Pena.

The current business model of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. is based on advertising. Without advertising, a U.S. magazine won't survive -- even if it maintains a high circulation base. In the past year, magazines with circulations of several hundred thousand have folded merely because advertisers had dried up.

That doesn't mean that readers had given up on the magazine. Just advertisers. In contrast, European magazines typically charge higher subscription fees, which are used to underwrite a greater proportion of a print outlet's costs. Presumably, in Europe, a magazine with a high circ. could survive an advertising downturn.

Not so in the U.S., where news and some business mags were hit by the continuing slump. BusinessWeek's ad pages dropped 14.8% and Forbes dropped 12.6 for the first half of 2008, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, which tracks this information.

Even some of the biggest circ. magazines were hit, including Reader's Digest, Cosmo, Ladies' Home Journal and Family Circle.

Things are so bad here that Thomas J. Wallace, editorial director at Conde Nast, told Perez-Pena, "The joke here is, 'Flat is the new up.'" (Translation: that just having flat advertising sales is great in this environment.)

The implications to the news is that there will be more layoffs at magazines and newspapers, which are having an even more difficult time. Many of those layoffs will come from editorial for two reasons:
  1. You can't cut the advertising dept., because you people to sell space to advertisers.
  2. The decline in ad pages by 14.8% brings with it a drop of at least 14.8% in editorial pages. That means magazines don't need as much content, which means they can cut reporters without much impact.
Over the past year, BusinessWeek and Fortune updated their formats. Expect more to follow suit. When they do, a letter from the editor or publisher will say that the new format is designed to better help readers, but don't be fooled. The new formats are designed to convey that the magazine continues to be relevant.

But after cutting reporters and editors and bringing more charts and graphics, that's probably not the case. Skimpier content is not more relevant. Meanwhile, in announcing format changes, a number of newspaper chains have said they will be adding more charts and graphs, as the Boston Globe's business section has done.

Unfortunately, these changes have not stemmed the exodus of readers or advertisers.

The iPhone is great. I would consider getting one if the carrier had better coverage in my area. But the news about the ad declines is unlikely to be cyclical, and means bad news for traditional media.
to attract advertisers .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Are we losing our ability to think deeply -- interesting WSJ & BusinessWeek articles

I've been thinking a lot about information overload, especially after coming back from vacation. I've got no answer or solution to how to best handle information overload -- despite asking my so-called followers on Twitter.

Meanwhile, L. Gordon Crovitz at the Wall St. Journal wrote an interesting article, "Unloading Information Overload: Are we losing our ability to think deeply?" As he wrote, "Consider the rest of this article an 800-word test of your ability to maintain attention."

I can wait.

Did you read it?

There are days (like this one) when I am convinced all our technology is undermining our ability to think.

Of course, there are some in the tech sector who see a simple solution. No, it's not turning off IM, limiting time on email. The solutions is (drum roll, please) more technology. Check out "May We Have Your Attention, Please? With the workplace ever more full of distractions, researchers are developing tools to keep us on task," a recent BusinessWeek article.

Here are some interesting stats:
  • 28% -- Percentage of day average U.S. worker losses to interruptions.
  • $650 billion -- The annual toll interruptions take on productivity.
  • U.S. knowledge workers apparently can focus on one item for only three minutes before turning to something else.
For those who have read this far, thanks!

On the other hand, I've got to get back to work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How Fox Plays Hardball -- Fox News Media Relations, that is

Fascinating story by David Carr about the challenges when Fox News is part of a reporter's new beat. Check out "When Fox News Is the Story."

The article lays out the aggressive, political-campaign-like tactics that Fox News deploys against reporters who it thinks has written negative articles about the channel. My favorite tidbit: According to Carr, despite repeated calls by Timesman Jacques Steinberg for a recent article, "the public relations people at Fox News did not return his requests for comment. (In a neat trick, while they were ignoring his calls, they e-mailed his boss asking why they had not heard from him.)"

The reason for playing hardball? According to the head of Fox News' Media Relations, Brian Lewis: “Yes, we are an aggressive department in a passive industry, and believe me, the executives and talent appreciate it,” Mr. Lewis said, adding that with the 24-hour news cycle and the proliferation of blogs, a new kind of engagement and activism was required."

The article is filled with anecdotes about how Fox News media relations operates. An interesting coda is that the online version of the article has a correction in it: Carr had referenced TV Guide as being owned by News Corp. when in fact News Corp completed its sale in May.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How Much Longer Will "Front Page, Above the Fold" Be an Important Designation?

Just described the significance of an article in that it was published on the front page, above the fold.

For traditional PR, that kind of placement in a newspaper would be a home run. You couldn't do better than that for a newspaper.

Don't get me wrong, getting that kind of placement in a newspaper would be a great, but for some clients, getting your news on a key website's home page and highlighted in the publication's newsletter is a home run.

I wonder how long that "front page above the fold" will be a relevant designation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What Does It Take to be a Blogger Star?

Check out "So You Want to Be a Blogging Star?" from The New York Times by Paul Boutin.

It includes some interesting tips, including:
  • Write about what you want to write about, in your own voice, according to Ted Dziuba, a software engineer at Persai.
  • “Blog about your passions. Don’t blog about what you think your audience wants. Post because you have something you are dying to write about,” according to Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What Are You Doing Reading Blogs on the Fourth of July?

As Matthew Broderick said at after the credits in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off": "Are you still here?"

Turn off the computer, go outside, and spend time with family and friends.

The blogs will still be here tomorrow -- though I'd suggest waiting until Monday to go back online; that's my plan, anyway.

Happy Fourth!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

When Social Media Stars Complain...About Information Overload

When people whose careers are based on social media/Web 2.0 start complaining about information overload, what does that mean for people who have, um, real jobs?

Anna Marie Cox, the former Wonkette blogger, recently wrote a Tweet that struck home with me on what is otherwise supposed to be a vacation week:

"I have 390 unread msgs, 91 friend requests, 2 deadlines, an unholy outstanding expense acct & a blog to feed. Def time to clean the kitchen."

Social media certainly makes it easier to keep in touch than traditional media, but it also significantly adds to my information overload.

I probably shouldn't post this -- but -- I am checking email during vacation as a defensive measure. Which means some people will expect me to respond to their emails. (Of course, I could claim that I posted this entry earlier in June, had it scheduled to be published today, and once on vacation decided against checking email. Ya never know.)

Yet if I don't check email, I will be inundated with a thousand unread messages -- and it's hard to relax knowing that's what awaits you after vacation.

I'd love to hear better suggestions as to how to cope with information overload.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Two things I hate about Websites

Here are two things I hate about Websites:
  1. So-called Welcome screens with ads on them instead of the content you want. Is that really the kind of welcome you'd want? This being the web, if you had really wanted information on that product, you would have clicked onto that site first. Imagine the reaction if flight attendants greeted you that way, "Welcome to the 6:30am Delta Shuttle, but first check out stuff you don't really want." (Actually, that could be a great new revenue stream for airlines.) A real welcome would be getting me to the actual content -- and fast. A 15-second ad is waaay too long. If I had wanted that kind of wait, I'd go back to dial-up.
  2. Sites that automatically load audio or video without giving you the option to listen to their audio or video -- and then make it hard to mute. I mean, it's one thing when you go to YouTube, and are expecting that video content. But when you go to a magazine's website and get bombarded with loud content -- that can be extremely disruptive when you're on a conference call, or so I'm told.
I will not identify some of the offending sites -- but only because there are too many of them.