Daniel Kjellsson

thoughts on the evolution of media, marketing and mankind

June 8, 2014

Jeff Widener on his iconic Tiananmen Square photo


When Jeff Widener looks at the most important photograph of his career, it makes him think about failure. Like most news photographers, Widener is often worried that he will be absent during a critical moment and miss a critical shot.

Like many of the most important photographs in history, Widener’s “Tank Man” almost didn’t happen. “I don’t have it on my wall,” says Widener, “because every time I look at it, it reminds me how close I came to messing it up.”

In 1989, Widener was a picture editor for the Associated Press in Southeast Asia. As political turmoil and student protests heated up in Beijing that spring and summer, Widener was dispatched to China cover the melee. Day after day, he would leave the AP bureau inside the U.S. diplomatic compound in Beijing and ride to Tiananmen Square to shoot pictures. At first, the assignment seemed relatively safe.

Time has got Jeff Widener – in text and video – talking about the picture that made him famous and the world a little better.

June 8, 2014

Brands like Atari don’t die easily

For many people, the Atari name lives on as little more than a retro cool brand name affixed to T-shirts. All but the most dedicated gamers are probably unaware that Atari is still alive as a company.

Early last year, the company filed for bankruptcy protection, with the goal of selling off its portfolio of games in auction. Atari parted with a few of the games through that process, but most of them did not attract high enough bids. So the company held on to them. It emerged from bankruptcy protection in December and since then has been piecing together a plan to resuscitate its business.

Leading the turnaround is Frédéric Chesnais, a French game industry veteran and former banker, who became a major shareholder of Atari and its chief executive. Mr. Chesnais said the company was now focusing on mobile and Facebook games, rather than on the far riskier console market, where development budgets are much higher. Atari has announced plans for a social casino game that will exploit vintage Atari games like Asteroids, Centipede and Breakout within slot, poker and blackjack games.

As Warren Buffett once said, turn-arounds seldom turn, but on this very occasion I wouldn’t mind if the “Oracle of Omaha” was proven wrong.

Read “Snatching Atari Back From the Grave, Again” on The New York Times.

June 1, 2014

Rupert Murdoch’s most trusted lieutenant

Ken Cowley was once one of the most powerful men in Australia. He used to sit at the right hand of billionaire media baron Rupert Murdoch and was one of his most trusted lieutenants.

Yesterday (May 30), Financial Review published an interview with Cowley, now 80, with the man reflecting on life, death and his career. It’s a good read for anyone interested in global media empires in general and the Murdoch family business in particular.

It is spectacular to learn how Cowley looked at the responsibilities of the conglomerates various newspaper editors, decades before buzzwords such as “native advertising”:

Cowley saw the editor as a person who could work with him to make a profit and involved them in briefing advertising agencies, customers and clients. He got editors involved in budgets and made it clear that any initiative they wanted to pursue had to be costed and demonstrated it would make money.

Read the full story “Ken Cowley’s judgment day” on Financial Review.

June 1, 2014

Your health records are worth more than your credit card

I’ve been using the Jawbone fitness band for about six months. Without heading into any kind of in-depth review I’ve sort of lost interest at this point and I keep coming back to the conclusion that to have to wear (and charge, sync, etc) anything more than my phone is a hassle.

The data we collect and share (with these products), though, is golden. According to a recent research report from IHS Electronics and Media, on the black market, electronic health records can be worth 20 times as much as stolen credit card data.

There’s really no richer source of personal information about a person than their medical chart. It may include insurance details, past home addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, as well as a patient’s entire medical history — plenty enough to commit insurance fraud or identity theft.

Yahoo Finance has got the story “Risks of using fitness bands and apps”.

January 26, 2014

Superheroes and superbloggers: The blockbuster personalities of our time

I pass this store on my way to work; it’s something like a nerd’s nest with a careful selection of books, films and records. Unsurprisingly, the store owner also seems to have a weak spot for comics. Lately, both 75 Years of DC Comics – The Art of Modern Mythmaking and Marvel: The Untold Story have been sitting front row in the store window.

These almost historical blockbuster personalities (Captain America alone is 73 years old) still capture the attention and fascination of new generations. In a time when a youngster’s attention is tougher to crack than crack itself. Sydney Stockholm – the digital publisher we run – has got one sole core target: Create and commercialise influential individuals. The blockbuster personalities of our time. But why are we all continuously so fascinated by them?

Photo: JD Hancock

Last year Anita Elberse, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, effectively explained the commercial aspects of this in her book Blockbusters. It looks at what drives success in the entertainment industry and how these lessons can be translated into other sectors.

According to Elberse, the notion of smaller bets being safer is a myth. It is safer to make bigger bets because they are likely to have bigger outcomes. That’s not to say that every effort to make a blockbuster succeeds but rather that scale brings marketing advantages. Additionally, the blockbuster strategy fits the way consumers behave – they want to be able to talk with others about what they watch, listen and read.

Likewise, companies seeking spokespeople are better off betting on the A-list stars. Pepsi paying Beyoncé $50 million for a multi-year “partnership” is, in fact, a safer bet than recruiting a less expensive B-level star. But that move makes it more pressing for the strategy to succeed. Elberse finds, that in most cases, these “big bets become self-fulfilling prophecies” because companies and individuals understand how high the stakes are and are more driven to produce great outcomes.

In the world of bloggers and social media stars, we often encounter what I call the “candy store strategy” – brands approaching us with the ambition to collaborate with a certain influencer on one piece of content, one Instagram update or similar. Small bits and pieces here and there that usually lead to nothing. They all risk being merely small, scattered and unnoticed bets in a very crowded space.

Combining those small bets into one large and focused investment, however, will allow everyone involved to roll up their sleeves and dig in. This is happening all around you already; the biggest clubs can afford the biggest DJ’s, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show has turned into a blockbuster event thanks to a roster of blockbuster personalities and Red Bull is, well, sending a blockbuster guy to freaking space.

November 1, 2013

Me and my Stan Smith’s

I dress remarkably shoddy for someone who’s spent his life in and around fashion journalism. My only supporter for this “shabby chic” thing I’ve got going on is FELLT contributor and Harper and Harley creator Sara Donaldson, although it might very well be pity.

But not even she approves of these sneakers.

Adidas Stan Smith

I love my Adidas Stan Smith’s, though. Older than I can remember, holes everywhere, glued together at certain places and they’ve bared with me through a bunch of affairs. I ran away with Common Projects, was swept away by Buttero and flirted with Converse.

But I always came back and truth be told, no one ever came close to these bad babies. They’re not even the same colour; the left one is green and the right one is blue (more about that in the story linked below). But you can’t really tell anymore, anyway.

These once-white Vietnam made compadres were recently featured on sneaker blog I Dig Your Sole Man. My thanks to Lester Jones for, combined with his everyday coolness, also encouraging the weak.

September 13, 2013

The No Cluetrain Manifesto: Getting things wrong, missing points

I was just about to write an immensely analytical piece (yeah, really) about the future of journalism. It was handed to me on a silver plate, too. Some days ago David Weinberger (Harvard researcher, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, etc) was live-blogging from a Digital Riptide forum.

Tim Armstrong (AOL), Caroline Little (Newspaper Association of America) and Arthur Sulzberger Jr (The New York Times) were all on stage in a panel discussion and a no-status media fanatic like yours truly couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to piggyback off of other people’s thoughts and ideas.

Weinberger started off his reporting with this note:

Live blogging: Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

I should use that as this blog’s official tagline. More importantly, after having read that note, nothing that followed was relevant. A little “young people don’t seem willing to pay on the web”, some pieces of “authority is about accuracy” and the obligatory “are bloggers journalists?”.

But Weinberger had already showed us what’s really the challenge for traditional media; personality. Or their lack thereof. Someone to connect to, relate to, befriend. The future of journalism doesn’t belong to media brands but to personal ones.

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