Rockonomics

I’ve greatly enjoyed Alan Krueger’s “Land of Hope and Dreams: Rock and Roll, Economics and Rebuilding the Middle Class” speech given at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past June.

In the speech, Krueger compares the economics of the music industry to what is happening in the U.S. economy as a whole. It puts the major shift in the average cost of concert tickets right next to changes in the US income distribution.

It features details from a clever study (.pdf) that measured the impact of luck in combination with merit on the success of artists in a system for downloading music. It also puts forth proposals from President Obama’s economic agenda for addressing the dangerous consequences of a winner-take-all economy.

I’m an avid concert-goer and watched ticket prices climb in the late 90s and 2000s. Later I ran a Dave Matthews Band fan website where we were so regularly bombarded by requests to run advertisements from scalpers we had to take a stand.

Not surprisingly, my favorite portion of the speech focuses on the concept of fairness:

If artists charge too much for their tickets, they risk losing their appeal. In this sense, the market for rock ‘n roll music is different from the market for commodities, or stocks and bonds.

Considerations of fair treatment exert pressure on how much musicians can charge, even superstars.

Along these lines, one of my favorite performers, Tom Petty, once said, “I don’t see how carving out the best seats and charging a lot more for them has anything to do with rock & roll.”

This is a major reason why there is a market for scalped tickets.
But many artists have been reluctant to raise prices to what the market will bear for fear of garnering a reputation of gouging their fans.

They also protest when tickets sell for a higher price on the secondary market, and often try to prevent the secondary market entirely. And it is considered scandalous when performers sell tickets on the secondary market themselves.

This behavior can only be explained in light of fairness considerations. Singers want to be viewed as treating their fans fairly, rather than charging them what supply and demand dictate.

Indeed, you can think of market demand as depending on the perception of fairness.

Read The Economist’s digest of the speech or Download the text of the speech (.pdf)

 

Creating Compelling App Descriptions for iTunes and the iOS App Stores

When you submit an iOS application for review, you’ve got to make sure your ad copy is tight.  The app description may be the last thing holding back a tap to buy your app.

Apple doesn’t give much guidance on this important chunk of text. “Write your Application Description with a focus on what makes the functionality or design of your app unique.” was a tip from this past June from the App Store Tips blog.

We know that 4000 characters is the limit.  And App descriptions are made up of simple text, including unicode symbols like checkboxes (✔) and more (♣☢☂).  Apple takes your unicode text and formats it for display on the web via Web Preview, in iTunes and on the iOS devices themselves (the app store).

Since you probably have very specific points you want to get across, and users have a very short attention span, you need to pay attention to how Apple will format what you write.  In this entry I discuss how to create app descriptions that look great everywhere Apple publishes your app description.

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When Business and Personal Life Collides – New Facebook Privacy Settings and the Status of Tiger Woods’ Endorsement Contracts

Exactly what counts as private personal details has been a major theme underlying discussion in new media and old media in the past few weeks.  Here are two interesting examples of how business and people’s personal details are colliding right now.

New Media: Facebook’s Privacy Settings Updates

Facebook has made major changes to how it handles privacy settings for users.  Most likely you are familiar with the outcry and acceptance around Facebook’s push to make your updates more transparent.

Facebook was conceived around the idea of sharing detailed content like photos and notes only with your social net, which was supposed to represent your core group of friends in the meatspace.  Twitter’s growth has been in addressing the extreme opposite: sharing 140 characters worth of insight with the entire world instantly.

Facebook relies on deep engagement with its users in order to get its advertisements clicked on.  Facebook was forced to change its strategy because it was losing opportunities for interaction with its users to Twitter.  In addition, Facebook is missing out on buzz because Facebook it is seen as lacking the real time relevance of Twitter.

The update to Facebook’s Privacy Settings is a tactic in the company’s strategy to get more Facebook users to share their updates with the public or at least make it obvious that users are welcome to do so.

The problem is that average internet users are not capable of building and utilizing a set of sophisticated privacy settings.  The result is that many are unwittingly sharing what they believe is private information.  Rafe Needleman makes a great point that the initial user interface designed to guide Facebook users does more to guide them to exposing their information rather than creating the controls they want.

If these ideas are to be accepted, it suggests that Facebook is knowingly creating conditions where the details of user’s personal lives are made public because it will lead the company towards greater market share and profits.

Old Media: Tiger Woods Endorsement Contracts

Let it be known that I am not a huge fan of old media.  To be clear, this includes broadcast and time shifted television advertisements, magazine advertising and  just about any electronic sign found in sports arenas like the Rose Garden. (Go Blazers.)  My reasoning is that old media too often lacks any real context and is more about blanketing the masses with the critical six exposures rather than seeking to engage individual interests.

Celebrity endorsements or testimonials are a classic tool of old media and I couldn’t help but notice the full page advertisement for Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, which features their “official partner” Tiger Woods.

Woods is currently deep in allegations of adultery, and after being dropped from Accenture this past Sunday the Tag Heuer made the statement that Woods’ personal life is “not our business.”

Tiger Woods Tag Heuer Celebrity Endorsement So I had a closer look at this big magazine advertisement and the text reads: “I first swung a golf club when I was nine months old…Since 1996, my Foundation has inspired more than 10 million youth…Together with TAG Heuer, I’m helping young people believe in themselves.”

My question to Tag Heuer is if you’re going to have a representative for your brand make claims about his ability to connect with and inspire children, is your representative’s personal life really not your business?  It is one thing if you are going to depict your representative as a an accomplished athlete and another if he is going to be talking about his influence on kids.

Closing

I selected these to examples because I was interested in them.  Facebook is social media, which I enjoy and Woods’ sex scandal has become interesting because of the business aspect and the general extent of what he’s described as “transgressions.”

But the greater comment I’m after is that it is easy to say that Facebook or major media has taken away people’s right to privacy.  Or to believe that there is complete compromise in participating in social networking or great accomplishment that puts you in the public spotlight.

However, who controls your personal information and the judgement of exactly what is a constitutes “personal life” is a moving target.  New technologies and dollars and cents will affect what you get to keep private as much as evolving social mores.

Strong Conversational Variation via Gmail Yields Interesting Contextual Advertisements

chicken coop poultry houseI was emailing with a friend of mine in an exchange over some travel plans and the coming holiday.  Normally, I block all advertisements in Firefox using Adblock, but I had whitelisted Gmail for some reason recently and so I was seeing the contextual advertising displayed on the right side of the web page.

Since I rarely see advertisements, I hardly ever investigate contextual advertising.  But given the sheer variety of products and services, I had to check out some of these: