Branson’s iPad-only Magazine Project Hints at the Future

Once every few weeks, I write a blog post for Idea Peepshow, the official blog of Fast Horse Inc., the consumer marketing agency where I’m currently an intern. Today, I wrote about Project, Richard Branson’s iPad-only magazine:

Actor Jeff Bridges is featured on the cover of Project's premier issue.

Turns out all the banter about tablet devices and the future of publishing wasn’t just conjecture. Finally, we’ve got something promising.

Project, the iPad-only magazine backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, hit the iTunes app store on Tuesday. Described as a “revolutionary multimedia magazine, ” Project includes lush video and images paired with audio and interactive content to create a media-rich experience.

Of course, we’ve already seen plenty of traditional magazines come to the iPad, but most of these are essentially PDF replicates of their hard-copy editions. Project isn’t the first iPad-only magazine as Branson claims, but it is dazzling. Here’s the requisite video demo:

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Rappers Give Blueprint for Better Blogging

Every few weeks, I write a blog post for Idea Peepshow, the official blog of Fast Horse Inc., the consumer marketing agency where I’m currently an intern. Today, I wrote about the commonalities between blogging and rapping and how Drake’s career provides the model for aspiring bloggers:


As an intern at Fast Horse, I spend a lot of time researching and compiling lists of blogs so we can make pitches on behalf of our clients. When doing so, I’m most concerned with a blog’s content, the frequency of its updates and what it’s doing to create a buzz. Bloggers who are most conscious of these three areas continually put forth the best product, and that’s where we want our clients to be seen.

I’m an unabashed fan of rap music, but I also read about 20-25 blogs per day. That’s no coincidence, because rappers and bloggers have a lot in common – chiefly, a perceived narcissism, but also the desire to innovate, the struggle for mainstream relevance and tons of competition. Rap music and blogging, as media, have endured through years of doubt and dismissal, but remain viable, both commercially and creatively.

If a blogger is looking for inspiration, they shouldn’t look to an Arianna Huffington or a Matt Drudge, but to someone like Drake, the 23-year-old rapper from Canada and arguably the brightest pop star of 2010. (That’s him above.) Drake’s young career is based on a series of brilliant calculations that could provide a blueprint to aspiring bloggers and seasoned hacks alike.

Show swagger. So many blogs seem apologetic over their very existence. Too often, I see taglines like “A few musings and random thoughts from a suburban housewife.” That inferior, bashful tone does nothing but undermine a blogger’s authority. (Even before Drake released his first album, he rapped, “Last name: Ever/ First name: Greatest.”) Focus less on what inspired a blog’s existence and focus more on convincing your audience you belong on their bookmark bar.

Stay fresh. In fairness to your audience, you have to stick to a posting schedule that’s both regular and realistic. You can’t drop a full-length album every day, but maybe a single here or mixtape there is manageable. Consider guest appearances, too. If there’s a blogger you follow who might benefit from being exposed to your audience, offer the opportunity to post as a guest. Create a clear expectation of how frequently your readers can expect new material.

Come correct. It’s easy to get caught up in templates and promotion, but the most important part of any blog is the content. Make sure social media, widgets, and plug-ins all take a backseat to sitting down and writing something worth reading. Think of your content as rapping a cappella – can it stand alone? What happens when you turn off the lights and music? Would your audience still read?

Google-Verizon Proposal a Threat to the Net

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, once a net-neutrality advocate, helped introduce a Google-Verizon proposal that could threaten the future of the Internet.

It’s not often I call for boycotts or protest, but hear me out:

In summer 2006, Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote an open letter to Google users imploring them to contact their representatives to voice concerns over net neutrality. Schmidt wrote,

Today the Internet is an information highway where anybody – no matter how large or small, how traditional or unconventional – has equal access. But the phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block the on-ramps for those who can’t pay.

Four years later, “they” is “we,” because on Monday, Google and Verizon laid out a plan that maintains neutrality through wire-based communications, but not mobile devices. According to Bloomberg, “The compromise as described would restrict Verizon from selectively slowing Internet content that travels over its wires, but wouldn’t apply such limits to Internet use on mobile phones.”

What does this mean? In short, if you were a website concerned with boosting traffic, ad revenue and the overall user experience — you know, a website that wants to be successful — Internet service providers like Verizon could charge a surplus to give your website prominence over other sites.

That’s a problem for guys like me who operate a blog 100 percent free of subscriptions, ads or other revenue-generation devices. That’s not my point here. I don’t want to make money. But that doesn’t mean you should have to suffer because I can’t afford to pay for high-quality delivery. (I can’t even offer high-quality content.)

The reason we love the Internet is because every website — my blog, Huffington Post, even Google — starts from the same point and races down the same straightaway track all of its existence. Some make it farther, faster, than others. Without net neutrality, the Internet turns into a circular track, and sites with deeper pockets would get a head start and the inside lane. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past two decades, it’s that the Davids — Daily Kos, Drudge Report, Gizmodo — can compete with the Goliaths, so long as the playing field is even.

Google and Verizon want to tilt that field, and we’re the ones who suffer.

So, here’s what I’m asking you:

  • Keep an eye on the story. I don’t care what your source is, just read up and understand this complex matter.
  • If you feel strongly, consider what contributions you make to Google and Verizon. Do you use Google searches? Google ads? Google Reader? Are you a Verizon Wireless customer? Subscribe to Verizon FiOS? Are you OK with supporting two companies who are attempting to obliterate the Internet as we know it?
  • As Schmidt encouraged Google users in 2006, call your representative. Voice your opinion. Corporations already own cable, phone and the newspapers. Don’t let that happen with the Internet.

iPhone 4 Issues Now an Issue of Trust

Steve Jobs at the iPhone 4 presentation in May.

Amid growing complaints about the reception on its iPhone 4, Apple has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow to address issues. Analysts predict the final outcome to be either a product recall or free bumper cases for any disgruntled users. (The bumper cases are believed to fix the issue, but they run $29.99 a pop.)

I picked up my iPhone 4 exactly two weeks. I used it throughout our drive from Portland to Minneapolis. There were certainly areas with little to no reception, but that’s because of AT&T’s limited coverage across, say, rural Montana. For the most part, reception has been great. I haven’t experienced any of the notorious antenna interference issues. I’ve found the 3G speeds – yeah, laugh it up, Droid owners – to be snappier than previous versions of the iPhone. I’m pleased.

I’m probably among the majority, too. But Apple’s issue is no longer about the reality, but the perception. This is a company that’s built its reputation on epic releases and game-changing technology. They may continue to load future versions of the iPhone with all the bells and whistles they want, but the anntenna issue paired with the perceived negligence on behalf of developers has led even the most devout Mac addict to question the thoroughness of Steve Jobs & Co.

In all likelihood, Apple will roll out some program that leaves everyone feeling warm and fuzzy. However, any existing skepticism will show come the next major release, be it the next iPad, iPod or iPhone. Problems like these make one less likely to wait 18 hours in line to spend $500 on a dud.

Another Apple Product, Another Frenzy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs pauses during his iPhone 4 demo to think about all of the clowns who'll waste precious hours of life just to be the first to get his latest brainchild.

When Apple released the iPad on April 3, I took to Pioneer Square Mall in downtown Portland to interview fellow Appleholics to see what all the fuss was about. What I found was an exhaustive, winding line of overeager early adopters who just had to have an iPad to fill the device void they never knew they had.

Somehow, lemmings come to mind when I think of them and the thousands who lined up at Apple Stores around the world yesterday to purchase the new iPhone 4.

Confession: I found out around noon yesterday I was actually eligible to get the iPhone 4 as an upgrade from my iPhone 3G for just $199 instead of $499. Of course, I did more research and found Steve Jobs & Co. might’ve screwed the pooch on the first run of the iPhone 4. The good folks at Mashable summed up most of the early issues in this info graphic:

Regarding the reception issue — the most troubling issue of all — Apple released this statement:

“Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”

How serious is the reception problem? Apparently not that serious (or uncommon) at all. An article posted on Engadget today indicates similar issues occurred with the iPhone 3G when users gripped the phone “wrong.” So, this fuss may be about nothing.

But maybe it is something because we’ve come to expect so much from Apple. Aside from U2 tickets and Twilight sequels, what else leads perfectly rational people from around the world to spend countless hours in anticipation of a product release? On a Thursday, no less? Chew on that one for a bit. Here’s the answer: Nothing. No other company sees its consumer base show up in droves for each product release. It’s ridiculous and awesome and it should leave MBA professors across the country mesmerized.

If we – and by “we” I mean people more patient than myself — are willing to use vacation hours to spend an entire day in a mall to purchase a smartphone, shouldn’t Apple show more vigilance in catching these problems before the release date? Apple has one of the most loyal consumer bases of any technology company in the world. Where’s the reciprocation?

I still intend on getting the iPhone 4, but I can wait until Apple irons some of the early kinks. (They’re usually pretty good about that kind of thing.) Even at 6:30 p.m. last night, I saw a TwitPic showing the line at Pioneer Square Mall Apple Store still stretched hundreds of people outside of the store. I might check it out again today, but I’d be shocked if the store had any phones left in stock.

When it comes to capturing the obsession and lunacy from yesterday, though, I think this tweet about sums it up:

Was it? 18 hours? Really?

Uh-Oh. My Mom Has Facebook

I knew it was only a matter of time before my mom friended me on Facebook.

She was kind enough to send a message in advance to warn she’d opened an account and understood if I though it would be too weird to be Facebook friends. Even my mom knows it’s sticky territory.

Isn’t it strange how someone you know so intimately can seem like the most awkward person to befriend through social networking, yet more than likely, there’s a few dozen people on your Facebook friend list you’ve never even met before?

I was once connected to her by an umbilical cord. Why should Facebook feel awkward?

OK, truthfully it’s not awkward at all. Over the past few years, my Facebook profile has dulled down quite a bit. After graduate school applications, job applications and maturity (I suppose), my profile has been diluted to the point where I’ve got nothing to hide. I could make my profile completely accessible to the public. I’m not going to, but I could.

Think of how cool it must be to be 51 — but not look a day past 34 — and all of the sudden, you’ve got a way to connect with all of your high school friends, your friends who’ve moved away and friends you’ve completely lost touch with?

When I got Facebook, I used it to communicate with roommates. It was also a great way of keeping up with friends who’d gone to college elsewhere, friends who had stayed in my hometown and connecting with people I’d just met. College is already a hyper-social environment. Facebook was like kerosene for that fire. I’m not surprised my mom got Facebook. I’m surprised it took this long.

My mom’s going to become addicted. My girlfriend and I probably haven’t done our best job of sending home pictures, but now my mom can just check out my profile. Have a quick question, Mom? Message me. Quick reminder? Use my wall, please. Comment all you want on photos of my girlfriend and I, but keep it reasonable.

The same reason I’m OK with my mom getting Facebook is the same reason Facebook isn’t that much fun anymore. At the ripe old age of 25, most of my peers have watered down their online profile by no longer adding photos, videos, status updates or, well, anything. They’ve grown stagnant (and bored) with Facebook. So, it’s not like my mom’s crashing the party. The party is over. Everyone’s sober. The house has been cleaned. All of my wild friends went to AA. Have I exhausted this metaphor yet?

I used to think Mom joining Facebook would be the impetus for me saying farewell. As if I’d know what to do with an extra two hours each day. As if I could kick it cold turkey. As if I could get by on Twitter alone.

Please.

The same person I’ve been to my friends is the same person I’ve always been to my mom. I’ve never felt the need nor have I ever been asked to censor myself in her presence. If anything, now my mom gets a better take on what’s going on with my life here in Portland. No big deal.

Sorry, AT&T — we won’t be needing you as much anymore.

The iPad Hits Portland, Apple Fans Rejoice

Throngs of customers showed up this morning at the Pioneer Place Apple Store in Portland, OR for the iPad release.

My love affair with Apple is well-documented. Two laptops, four iPods and one iPhone since I first made the conversion from Microsoft, I can say I worship at the Church of Apple and pray at the altar of Steve Jobs.

I’m not 100 percent on board with Apple’s iPad. Not yet, anyway. My jaw hit the floor in January when Jobs first introduced the device, but I hesitate to buy one because I can’t get over what it’s lacking: no camera, no video, no multitasking, no Flash, no GPS. The iPad has left me feeling like something of heretic.

Forgive me, Steve.

I went to the Pioneer Place Apple Store in downtown Portland today to speak with those who were taking the dive headlong into uncharted waters. I can’t imagine spending $500-$800 for a toy I’ve never played with, but Apple has earned the trust of its worshippers through a decade of innovation and followthrough.

To the Pioneer Place Apple Store’s credit, the roll-out was excellent. It’s hard to guess a number, but a crowd of 25 at 7:30 a.m. swelled to a line of nearly 400 when the 9 a.m. release came. Eager shoppers were treated to free Starbucks coffee, bottles of Smart Water and Pop Tarts by Apple employees. Thumbing away at their iPhones, even hopeless shoppers at the back of the line seemed OK with the wait. These types of consumer spectacles don’t always go so well (See: Black Friday), but Apple did well by their legions of loyalists.

So, who among you is reading this on your iPad? What’s the early review? And if you’re like me, why are you hesitating to drink the Kool-Aid?