April 24, 2008

Pimp my ride at Yahoo! Brickhouse

Filed under: fun, random, web 2.0 — Rakesh Agrawal @ 10:25 am

Web 2.0 has brought a lot of innovation in how we connect with people. Sites like flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube have unleashed the creativity of hundreds of millions of people across the planet. People have struggled to come up with new ad models to monetize all that traffic.

Web2.0Expo brought an ad model I hadn’t seen before: wheelchair advertising. The jive ad you see below is on a 6-foot wooden sign attached to a wheelchair.

Wheelchair advertising

About these ads

April 16, 2008


Filed under: random — Rakesh Agrawal @ 9:35 am


It seems that every time I walk through an airport, I walk by a plane with a destination more interesting than mine. This is what I saw when I landed in Seattle yesterday. The 757 that brought me there was bound for Kona.

I’m always tempted to walk up to the more interesting gate and hop on. One of these days it’ll happen.

April 15, 2008

Testing Calais

Filed under: search, seo, web 3.0 — Tags: — Rakesh Agrawal @ 11:44 pm

This post is to test a new semantic tagging tool from Reuters. The information in the post may or may not be true; I’ll follow up soon with the results.

I love the Eagles’ Hotel California.

I flew United from SeaTac today after a full day meeting in Kirkland.

Lipitor has been recalled by the FDA.

California will be hit by a giant earthquake according to USGS.

The Princeville is my favorite hotel in Kauai.

The Eagles played the Jets last night.

DoubleClick is one of the largest display ad networks.

April 15 is tax day, make sure you get to the post office.

CNN, AOL, Mapquest and Entertainment are all part of the same company.

Jimbo Wales is a co-founder of Wikipedia.

Occasional reader – Pennies, GPS, bribing Congress, Nats opener

Filed under: consumer electronics, elections, fun, gps, local search, mobile, mobile search, random, reader, weekly reader — Rakesh Agrawal @ 11:00 pm

Some interesting stories from the last couple of weeks:

Stupidest product of the year

Filed under: media — Rakesh Agrawal @ 10:47 am

It’s only April, but I’m ready to crown a winner for stupidest product of the year: Hawaii IPTV.

I love most things Hawaii, so I was intrigued when the email hit my Inbox. I’ve written before about how IPTV will allow us to personalize our experience well beyond what’s available on satellite and cable. I could watch Hawaiian television content from the mainland.

Sounds great, but there’s a big but. Instead of just delivering content that works with existing hardware, Hawaii IPTV requires that you purchase and install a separate settop box. For only $125.

Imagine having to have a separate box for each channel you like: ESPN, CNN, Comedy Central. And don’t forget the remote for each of those.

At least Vudu and MovieBeam had a broader audience base. This thing has no chance. Did I mention that the service is an additional $21.50 a month?

Illustration of Hawaii IPTV

April 8, 2008

Grumble. Saaaaaaad. The hell?

Filed under: fun, personal — Rakesh Agrawal @ 8:37 am

As I was checking out of the spa at Princeville a few weeks ago, the receptionist said “You Welcome,” exactly the same way my friend Wanita does. It got me thinking about the distinctive ways we express ourselves.

There is another distinct Wanitaism: she expresses mild dissatisfaction with “grumble.” Not actually grumbling, but saying the word grumble. (She expresses strong dissatisfaction more directly.)

Many of these things we do without realizing it. Tricia expresses sympathy with a drawn out “saaaaaaad”. Wanita and I pointed it out one day and she had no idea she’d done it hundreds of times.

Doris expresses confusion with “the hell?,” omitting the “what.”

Jon keeps his own list of Darrenisms, weird sayings by our friend Darren. My favorite is “astrocity” to refer to a satellite dish on a neighbor’s house.

In a post like this, it’s only fair that I share my own. (As shared by my friends, because I don’t necessarily notice.)

  • My “no”s and “yes”es are sometimes unclear, coming out as “nyep.” My poker buddies hated this.
  • It can be hard to read my facial expressions as the expressions for indifferent, sad and angry are the same.
  • Apparently I have a communications superpower that some of my friends are jealous of. Revealing it would dilute that power, so I won’t.

April 7, 2008

The Post packs in the Pulitzers

Filed under: journalism, media, newspapers — Rakesh Agrawal @ 11:19 pm

The Washington Post racked up some very impressive results today, winning six Pulitzer prizes, a record for The Post. The winning stories included an expose on miserable conditions at Walter Reed, coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings and reporting on private American contractors in Iraq who operate under a different set of rules than American forces. Columnist Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer-winning piece about violinist Joshua Bell performing to indifferent crowds in a Metro station is a personal favorite.

These stories are what make the Post one of the nation’s best newspapers. In his letter to shareholders in The Washington Post Company’s annual report earlier this year, Don Graham wrote:

[The Post] is a news organization full of reporters and editors who’ve shown they are willing to look hard and long for important stories — information people do not want you to know about.

Graham specifically called out the Walter Reed coverage:

We also publish a newspaper that does a good job of telling the news and works occasional wonders: last year, Dana Priest and Anne Hull broke the story of the mistreatment of some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at Walter Reed (alongside the excellent treatment for which the hospital is known). The Army’s immediate response (including the resignation of the Secretary of the Army and a change of command at Walter Reed) improved the wounded soldiers’ care and demonstrated the impact of the stories.

Unfortunately, great coverage doesn’t sell newspapers like it used to. Paid circulation is off more than 10% in the last four years, despite continued population growth in its distribution area. The Post, like many newspapers, is offering buyouts to newsroom employees.

One of the Post’s greatest assets is its industry-leading Web site. Weingarten’s piece is significantly enhanced online by the video of Bell’s performance and an online discussion. The site also allows the Post to reach readers that the print edition never could. Weingarten writes in his online discussion, “My favorite global letter so far, came from Marnie Smith of Des Moines, Iowa, who was alerted to this story in the Washington Post through an email from her daughter, who lives in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.”

The Post reaches more than 7 million readers a month through its Web site. But those readers are much less valuable than a print subscriber.

As an investment, Washington Post stock is down only 9.58% over the last year. That’s outstanding, compared with a 46.53% drop for Gannett and a staggering 65.73% decline for McClatchy.

Newspaper stocks

How’d it pull off that feat? Despite its name, the The Washington Post Company isn’t really a newspaper company — the bulk of its revenues come from the Kaplan education division; the newspaper division only accounted for 21% of revenue. From the company’s annual report (pdf):

Fifteen years ago we were accurately described as a media company. Over that time Kaplan has grown into a powerhouse, a multidisciplinary and increasingly international education business unlike any other education company in the world. For the last six months of the year, Kaplan’s revenue was almost half of the company’s, at 49%. Kaplan will continue to grow stronger in 2008. The Washington Post Company is now an education and media company (this isn’t “re-branding”; it’s reality), and the accent on education could get a lot stronger in the future.

These numbers are only going to get more lopsided. In the fourth quarter, newspaper revenue dropped 6%, while education revenue increased 21% (including acquisitions). Compared with 2006, online revenue increased 11%, but was still beaten by Kaplan (+21%).

Again, from the annual report:

As the company has grown, The Post’s business results are no longer as significant as they once were. This is both bad and good: it’s bad for shareholders that the newspaper no longer provides the profits it once did. It’s good that the money the newspaper made went into education and cable investments, most of which have proven successful.

If Wall Street had its way, the company would likely be split in two. Investors cheered when Scripps announced such a separation.

The Post’s ownership structure, with the Graham family controlling a majority of the seats, makes such a separation unlikely.

Disclosure: I worked at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive and at the Star Tribune (a formerly McClatchy newspaper).

April 3, 2008

Nats + flickr + PicLens = wow!

Filed under: flickr, journalism, media, newspapers, photography — Rakesh Agrawal @ 1:08 am

Check out the great pictures on flickr from opening night at the Nats’ new stadium. This crowdsourced collection is much more captivating than the skeletal slideshow at For best effect, install the PicLens Firefox extension.

See also: Flickr vs. The Washington Post

Nationals opening night as captured by flickr photographers and viewed with PicLens

April 2, 2008

Occasional reader – WSJ, GPS, food orgies, tax rebates

Some interesting reads from the last few weeks:

  • Wall St. Journal Makes Politics Its Business (Washington Post) – Media critic Howard Kurtz takes an in-depth look at changes at the Wall Street Journal since its takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The biggest change is the increase in political coverage amid one of the most interesting political campaigns in recent history. The Journal, a rarity among newspapers, is increasing its news hole thanks to its new benefactor. via Howard Kurtz
  • Steered Wrong: Drivers Trust GPS Even to a Fault (WSJ) – For all their convenience, portable navigation devices and online mapping still have one big problem: the world’s road network is constantly changing and digital mappers can’t keep pace. Some countries in Europe even have signs at tricky intersections telling drivers to ignore their GPS’ instructions. Yet many drivers put their faith in technology and blindly follow their GPS’ instructions. Perhaps this is because their accuracy is oversold; a TomTom TV ad (see below) shows a couple driving across a bridge during the ribbon cutting ceremony. The typical map on a PND is a year old the day you take it out of the box. via Doris Truong
  • Eating away the innings in baseball’s cheap seat (USA Today) – What’s more American than baseball and Cracker Jacks? Possibly stuffing yourself silly. Faced with anemic attendance, some teams have come up with a new way to generate revenue: all-you-can-eat sections where you can eat all the hot dogs, french fries and soda you can stomach. At the Braves’ Turner field, the “typical all-you-can-eat customer downed: 3.35 hot dogs; one 20-ounce soda; one 7.9-ounce bag of peanuts; one 3-ounce order of nachos and 32 ounces of popcorn.” In unrelated news, the average seat at the Mets’ new Citi Field is 21 inches wide, 2 inches wider than those at Shea.
  • IRS making sure your rebate gets spent (Marketplace) – One of the big concerns about the “economic stimulus” package is that people will do something silly with it — like save it or use it to pay down debt. I suggested that the rebates be issued as VISA debit cards. Apparently the IRS is using lifestyle analysis to determine what taxpayers want and spending their $600 rebate checks for them. One couple received an air conditioner instead of the check they were expecting.

April 1, 2008

Ho`omaika`i Honolulu Advertiser

Filed under: journalism, media, newspapers, travel — Rakesh Agrawal @ 11:39 pm

The Honolulu Advertiser has done an absolutely terrific job with its saturation coverage of the abrupt shutdown of Aloha Airlines. The coverage is exactly what local papers should be doing on big local stories.

In addition to in-depth news stories, the coverage includes extensive photo galleries and videos. Relevant historical stories are highlighted. There are active reader forums as well as tips for travelers and a job search board with ideas for laid off employees.

Honolulu Advertiser coverage of Aloha Airlines shutdown

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