The Wearing of the Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Well it truly is a day for the wearing of the green. In honor of Ireland's patron saint, Bono uh...St. Patrick, I am wearing my new green bow tie which I had shipped in from Vermont just in the nick of time!. That's pretty well as far as I go on this day as I am not one for green beer or spending all day drunk in a pub.[Certainly not all day!] Of course, being Irish-born, that is one of the stereotypes one has to face in life. Sigh....

I attended an event on Parliament Hill the other day, courtesy of the Irish Ambassador to Canada, the always impressive Declan Kelly, to recognize the work of the Ireland Fund working to bring closer understanding and support in Northern Ireland to advance peace. It came on the heels of the shooting of two British soldiers and a policeman. The fact that all parties were instantly united in their disgust at those killings tells us that they have come a long way and don't intend to fall back on the bad old days. It looks like whatever those murderers intended has completely backfired on them.

In honor of this special day, check out this YouTube edition of "There's Nothing as Irish as Barack O'Bama", written by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys. I had sent this on a while ago to a few friends. Good for a laugh as we all cry in our beer for AIG's execs and their bonuses. [On that issue, notice how the White House has finally drawn a line in the sand on what happens to the bail-out money? There is something to be said for the power of public outrage.]

Sing along.....


March is often a crazy month - what with seminars and travel and trying to spend some time on March break with the kids.....I was in Dallas last week for a seminar and managed to take in the Sixth Floor Museum. If you've not seen it, it's well worth it - respectfully done and a sobering reminder of what was and what might have been. Oliver Stone was nowhere to be seen.

Before the end of the month I will be in Newark, New York City, Vancouver and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. So I am bringing lots of reading material with me and next post I will make my reading recommendations.

Quote of the week

My favorite quote this week came from the New York Times, attributed to John Kenneth Galbraith (but apparently was actually from the late Stanford economist Ezra Solomon]:

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

Hope you get a March break because already 'Spring is in the air'! [Did I tell you that the Irish are eternal optimists?]



Welcome to Oprah-land...

Welcome back;
It's still winter! Does anyone know what's going on with the weather? This winter's best-before date expired a long time ago, don't you think?
I nearly froze to death in beautiful Chicago last weekend, but I really didn't care - it was worth every minute.

Oprah - the Queen of Television, Elector of Presidents & Taste Maker.... Welcome to Oprah-land!

Laura and I went to the heart of the Obama miracle....Oprah! She first dubbed him 'The One' after all, and he owes her big time. Attending the show gave a fascinating glimpse into how the Oprah brand has been nourished and enhanced to the point where she literally does have the power to influence elections, book sales, consumer products, trends and everything in our popular culture.

Attending an Oprah Taping
Thanks to a friend of ours, who is a friend of Oprah, we arrive at about 10:45 a.m. for Show 'B', which is the afternoon show that tapes at 1 pm. [Show 'A' tapes at about 10 a.m. but ticket holders are advised to show up between 7 and 7:30.] They are considerate- you don't have to wait outside in a long line. Pretty soon we were security wanded [all bags, cameras are held until after the show.

They make full use of fairly tight space for the audience holding rooms. Our names were called at noon, along with about a dozen others. We weren't sure why, but heck who were we to complain? We were given pretty decent seats and soon the studio was filled. I counted about 400 audience members.

Following a pre-show warm-up with a young lady named Stephanie, who rehearsed the audience in the protocols of asking questions [raise your hand; when called stand up and wait for the microphone person to come along; state your name; make your comment or ask your question].

Before we knew it, Oprah was onstage minutes before the show started, telling us about the show [three 'celebrity chefs' which quite honestly I had never heard of because I don't watch the Food Network. Of course I kept quiet about that!] But the audience clearly knew them and they applauded and cheered their every utterance.]

Oprah looked tired and after kibbitzing with the audience in an easy-going manner, told us that she had to speak at a Convention in town immediately following the show, so she would not be available to do her Web-based post show Qs and As with the audience.

It was a fun show and moved quickly. She took a page out of the Obama playbook [you know where you get inundated with emails asking your views on everything and what to do to make your voice heard?] by asking the audience for suggestions on how to give away the phenomenal kitchen set that was being donated to a worthwhile charity. Someone suggested an auction, with the proceeds going to a worthy charity. That seemed to gather favor, but Oprah still hadn't made her mind up as we went back to 'air'.

The two-minute breaks at home for commercials are really about 15 seconds, allowing the show to move right along. And it certainly did!

Of course, many went to the Oprah store, but we didn't as we moved back out to the Windy City.

The Rest of the Story...Paul Harvey, R.I.P.

Speaking of Chicagoans making themselves into "brands" (people such as the late Harry Caray, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Second City, Ann Landers come to mind) Chicago's own Paul Harvey passed away during the weekend. There was a broadcaster who became larger than life - over 1200 stations carried his newscast (and 400 Armed Forces stations) as well as his signature "The Rest of the Story". At age 82 he signed a $100 million dollar 10-year broadcasting deal, so why should he have retired? I know he was corny, but you couldn't stop listening! He'll be missed.

Anyway a great weekend all around in Chicagoland - following a fun seminar on 'Message Development' in Rockford, IL on the Thursday before.

That Recession Just Keeps on Hurtin'....
Check out an interview I did earlier this evening on CTV Ottawa regarding the shut-down of the news programs on Ottawa's 'A' Channel. An outside double-ender in this weather is more of an endurance test, but as you will see the subject of cutting back on local news is on a lot of people's minds.

What's behind all the News Media Cutbacks?

With the loss of the Rocky Mountain News, San Francisco Chronicle and other major newspapers....newsroom lay-offs in conventional media outlets, what's really behind all this?

I suggest several reasons:

1. The economy has hurt advertising dollars.

2. Local news outlets tend to work this way...the market news leader does disproportionately well in attracting advertiser dollars, and largely hold their own. However, the second, third and fourth market share news programs tend to get disproportionately less advertising support, as most want to put their commercials where the majority of viewers are. However, due to the consistency of audience watching the market leading newscast, advertisers are more sparing with their media buys on that newscast. So even it gets hurt to a certain extent also.

3. Changing demographics and consumer patterns. Younger audiences aren't watching broadcast television nearly as much as their older brothers and sisters of ten years ago. Instead they devote up to four hours a night Face-booking, Twittering or downloading programs, IM etc. They are not watching traditional broadcasts at the time they air (hence the TIVO). That means they can zap out those pesky commercials. Older audiences (25 and over) do watch television but increasingly through TIVO, and increasingly on those pay cable outlets or specialty channels. Their demand for local news in television and print have been flat for years.

4. The cable and satellite providers get almost all the revenue from their subscribers -even though they really don't purchase or produce programming. The conventional broadcasters don't get any of that revenue, and have to rely on advertising instead. The business model appears to be dead. Every 40 years it has to be over-hauled as technology evolves. The broadcasters are pressing for pay-for-carriage so that the playing field can be levelled. Should the ISPs also pay a fee for programs it carries so their subscribers can download? Canada's regulator, the CRTC, is holding hearings right now on the ISP issue and pressure is on them to revisit the pay-per-carriage isue again this year rather than wait until the originially-scheduled 2010 hearings.

Until next time, please, if you must TIVO it or download it, watch the commercial and keep your local broadcasters employed.....