Advertising and Marketing Articles

Contextual Counter Branding: Your Pizza is My Pizza – Why Search Engines Want to Sell Your Trademark to Your Competitors

ARTICLE: While the subject of contextual branding against other company’s trademarks will not be a new issue to some people, and I had been aware of the problem from the past couple of years of litigation between major companies and search portals like Google and Yahoo!, nevertheless I was a bit surprised when my brand was targeted by an upstart competitor.

Pay per click (PPC), and pay for position (PFP), advertising was pioneered by the folks at (which became Overture, now part of Yahoo!), then picked up as a good idea in different flavors by companies like (disclosure: I was on the FW launch team), Google, and MSN. It’s a great concept, type in a search for tennis shoes and you might find an ad for my favorite online shoe store, or type in computer parts and you might find a popular PC parts vendor

That’s great for advertisers, and great for online shops and sellers. It is called “contextual advertising,” where ads which are related (in context) to what somebody is viewing, are shown. Makes total sense. If you’re doing a search about guitars, why shouldn’t you see advertisements about guitar shops and online music stores?

Contextual Counter Branding Where this process gets a bit contentious, and in some cases downright ugly, is when you type in a search for a major brand, or even a registered trademark, and competitors can bid to buy a spot higher than you, under your own brand. Imagine looking in the white pages of your phone book and right above the listing for Pizza Hut (alphabetically), there would be a boxed add for Domino’s Pizza. Might this not cause confusion, or be some kind of unfair competition?

You might think so. However did you pay for that white page listing? No. Similarly you and I are not paying Google to list our site in their directory (arguably if you’re paying Yahoo! to be listed this could be treated differently, as we’ll see later). So, in effect, Google’s builders believe that they can do anything with what is in their system and your trademark, brand, personal name, or product, is fair game to any advertiser.

Well, isn’t that free enterprise? Sure. But what got my nipple nuts in a twist was the placement of Google’s AdWords advertising and Yahoo! ads within other sites’ content under my registered trademark — my brand which I’ve spent seven hard years building into a respected entity in the PR business.

Mixed Messages in Advertising Placement
For instance, not long ago I happened to be looking on Technorati for my site’s submitted content under our brand, Send2Press�, and I was a bit surprised to see an advertisement for some newbie upstart in my industry called Mass Media Distribution with an ad right above my content listings, and then again in the middle halfway down the page. I thought… “W.T.F.” then said it aloud for personal emphasis to mine own ears.

I contacted Technorati, and was told they couldn’t do anything about it since it was Yahoo! ads being served based on the keyword or searched term. (Note: coincidentally, about a month after my complaint, Technorati changed their page layout, and the contextual ads don’t sit within content listings for tag searches, but do still sit atop results for “in blog posts” results. Oddly, when I checked today, they have now switched to Google ads in place of Yahoo! results.)

So, I trundled (virtually of course) off to Yahoo! and tracked down the page on their website to issue a complaint about unfair use of my precious U.S. registered trademark. Yes, steam was coming out of my ears, but admittedly, partly because I’d been caught with my pants down by somebody who found a loophole in non-traditional advertising and was trying to put their brand name front and center in front of my clients and audience. All I could think though, was “Damn dirty apes!” and let my fingers stab at the keyboard while hunting down where Yahoo! hides such information in their advertising system.

First thing to do was go place a bid in Yahoo!’s ad system, and suffer the indignity of having to outbid some upstart company for my own trademarked brand. Done. Then I went again in search of the page on Yahoo! to address this. Luckily, since Yahoo! does offer paid inclusion in their search, they do have to respond to this kind of issue since it’s arguably a conflict of interest to sell inclusion, and then let somebody bid on an advert that will run above your listing in their search engine. Or, at least that was my thinking, which could be blind hope on my part as to what’s right and what’s wrong in this mixed-up world of online advertising.

So, I was unable to locate the trademark page, but I did put in a query with their information request form, and they sent me back a personal response and link to the trademark page: “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. So that we may properly investigate this issue, please go to the appropriate page on our Web site, as outlined below and provide some additional information: Once there, please review our trademark policy and provide us with the information. Please send the information directly to the e-mail address given on the Trademark Information page: trademarkconcern-ysm”

One minor amusing point is that all of the emails back from Yahoo! on this matter all came from the Overture mail system. Hasn’t it been a couple of years since Yahoo! switched Overture’s brand out of the mix?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that three days after sending in my concerns and proof of the problem, my trademark status with the US PTO, and heartfelt ramblings, I got this letter back from Yahoo’s support:

Dear Chris:
Thank you for your correspondence. This email will serve as our response, you will not receive further notification from us.

Yahoo! Search Marketing does not approve of or condone websites that infringe trademarks. However, we generally have no control over the content presented by the advertisers who list their websites on our search engine. Yahoo! Search Marketing does require that each website be relevant under our guidelines. To summarize, we allow advertisers to bid on a search term that may be the trademark of another party so long as their listing meets one of the following conditions:

1. Reseller: The advertisers site must sell (or clearly facilitate the sale of) the product or service bearing the trademark (for example, an online shoe store that sells Nike shoes on their landing page would be allowed to bid on the search term nike).

2. Information Site, Not Competitive: The primary purpose of the advertisers site is to provide substantial information about the trademark owner or products or services bearing the trademark, AND the advertisers site does not sell or promote a product or service that competes with the trademark owners products or services (for example, a site that provides product reviews may bid on the brand names of the products being reviewed, and a site that provides news information about a company may bid on the company name as a search term).

3. Generic Use (Non-Trademark Related): The advertiser is using the term in a generic or merely descriptive manner unrelated to the trademark owners goods or services (for example, we would allow an advertiser that sells apples to bid on the search term “apple,” whereas an advertiser in the computer software/hardware industry bidding on the term apple would be required to have relevant content regarding the Apple Computer, Inc. brand of computer products and comply with our policy as described above).

For additional requirements and information on Yahoo! Search Marketing’s policy on trademarks as search terms, please visit our Trademark Information page at:

While we are not in a position to arbitrate trademark or other intellectual property disputes between third parties, if a trademark owner brings a website to our attention that it believes does not contain relevant content, we will review the website for compliance with our guidelines. Therefore, we will review the search results returned through Yahoo! Search Marketing’s search services on the search term(s) in question, and the corresponding websites, and will take appropriate action. Please note that it may take up to ten (10) business days for the results of our review to become effective in our search results. You will not receive any further notification from us.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We hope that we have addressed your concerns.
Thank you.
Trademark Department
Yahoo! Search Marketing

First, I was happy to get any response from Yahoo!, since other queries to the company over the past few years related to content and branding proposals have gone into a black hole of doom (aka the round file). And, about two weeks later, the little varmint who had been buying ads against my brand on Technorati was no longer included. Yahoo! had gone with the side of right and helped protect the big guy from the little guy.

Yahoooo oooooh! (How do you do the Yahoo! yodel in print?)

The Goo the Bad and The Ugly at the Googleplex
Whew! Now, onto the Google side of this story. At about the same time, I went and bid on my own brand on Google AdWords, which I’d never had to do before, except when my main company changed its name from Mindset to Neotrope® at the end of the ’90s. I still run an ad for Mindset, so that my old customers and friends can track me down, since the business was known as Mindset from 1983-1999. That’s where contextual advertising really comes in handy. (Ahem, ironically, the companies now calling themselves Mindset might complain, but since they are part of the reason I changed the company name to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars to litigate them, I will state that I have every right to be doing the exact thing I’m complaining about, in this particular instance).

Just for laughs, I went and did some test searches, and it seems like the Mass Media Distribution folks are trying really hard to let everybody else know about them by buying ads under every major player in the news distribution business: Send2Press®, Business Wire®, PR Newswire®, Market Wire, and even the outfits that resell PRN services such as eReleases®.

To mess with these Mass Media Distribution folks a little bit for a couple of months in response to their activities, I bought a keyword against their company name so when you typed in “Mass Media Distribution,” you would see one of my ads next to their Google listings. Tit for tat, baby. Seems like eReleases had the same idea, since they’re buying ads under “mass media distribution,” as well. I’ll probably stop, since it’s a waste of money in my opinion.

On the other hand, to take things a step further, since my company has been one of the leaders in SEO since 1996, I started to do some “keyword seeding” in our ContextEngine™ system under “mass media distribution services” and my site now comes up as the second organic site listed in Google out of 12.1 million results. And this was without even trying. Since their brand consists of three common words, it is not particularly challenging to build content around those words. They will also have issues trying to trademark their dotcom business name, since it’s so generic.

It’s all about competition in the marketplace, right? Where I think this gets really annoying is that if you build a brand called “Mary’s Wedding Dresses of Santa Barbara” another seamstress across the street could buy ads and even outbid you for your own company name, if not your own personal name, simply by buying an ad on Google.

What is Google’s response? First, their form is hard to find, is badly implemented, and states you need to fax or mail them the information, which it seems you do not, since once the form is submitted, they tell you you’re done and need do nothing else. Their trademark form, which you will have to search for here:, requires you to list a number of things such as the trademark, registration number, and ownership info.

The canned response reads like this (Jan. 8): “Thank you for using our online trademark complaint form. We have received your complaint and have queued it for review. Once our investigation of your complaint is complete, we will send you an email confirmation. Please note that we receive a high volume of trademark complaints and address them in the order they are received. We appreciate your patience.”

About a month later (Feb. 6), here is the final response: “Thank you for sending us your trademark complaint letter. Your complaint has been processed and the ads in question no longer include your trademark: SEND2PRESS. Please note, we only processed the exact trademark you submitted. If you would like us to investigate variations or misspellings of your trademark, please supply us with a list of the exact variations or misspellings and we will review them. If you have additional questions, please ask.”

Thanks Google. But hey, guess what. Now there are three companies bidding against my trademark, which includes a sister company to MMD, called PRbuzz (well, of course by company, I mean a website), and I’m no longer the highest bidder. Not that I plan to get into a bidding war for my own company name. One study suggests that actually being the lowest bidder on the right in Google ads, when there are less than four advertisers, is actually more visible to viewers, since if somebody reads down the page in organic listings, then reads back up the right side, the lowest advert is actually seen first. But that’s minor comfort.

It turns out that Google’s trademark policy turns out to only protect brand holders from advertisers using the brand in their actual ads. So, this means that the Mass Media Distribution and PRbuzz people can buy ads which appear under my trademark, and even outbid me for placement all over the Internet for Google AdSense placements, but they cannot use my brand in their ads. So, they couldn’t have an ad reading “We will Send2Press your press release.”

Perhaps this is better than nothing, since it does provide some protection from a company saying “We have better services than mass media distribution,” or “Why settle for a ‘prbuzz’ when you can get real coverage with a legitimate newswire.” Of course, those “brands” are not registered U.S. trademarks, so under both Yahoo! and Google’s rules, I could conceivably use those brand names in my own advertising. Maybe I should do something like “get the REAL prbuzz here” or “Send2Press offers the best mass media distribution since 1983.” But that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?

pay per click attacks
ARE YOU SURROUNDED? Examples of counter branding: 1) buying the top spot in Google AdWords, which appears above the organic listings; 2) secondary bidders against a brand term or trademark; 3) organic placement using SEO methods against a brand name.

Confusing the Consumer for Fun and Profit
I personally find this irritating, not simply from a competitive standpoint, but from a “confusing the customer” perspective. I run into customer service calls all the time from people who don’t understand how to use search engines, what the information being presented to them really means, or where they are being sent when they click links.

I had one person call me last year who complained I was spamming them about my PR and press release services. I replied that we never send spam to anybody, ever, and it’s our corporate policy to never send promotional emails about our company or services. She said I’m seeing your page right here on my screen, and I said where did you get that URL from? And she said your promotional email. I said what company sent you the email, and she rattled off some no-name start-up news spammer claiming to send 10,000 people a press release for $50. Stupidly, they had put a Google AdSense box across the top of the page which was feeding ads from all other press release services firms, one of which was my site. So, since it was at the top of the page (above the logos and navbar for the site), she assumed it was my site and that I had spammed her. She clicked the link from that site in the ad box, which sent her to my site, which is how she got my phone number.

Ironically, she ended up becoming a customer once I showed her that we were a real 24-year old PR and brand identity company and not a dotcom sending out spam to try to sell questionable bulk email services to people wanting to send press releases to the media. And this woman was a veteran PR professional, not a first time Internet user.

With this example in mind, I am worried that easily confused potential customers who type in my company name in Google — perhaps after seeing one of my many interviews in Entrepreneur Magazine, or my inclusion in a new business book for women business owners (Career and Corporate Cool™ by Rachel C. Weingarten, ISBN-10: 0470120347), or similar — and then see a new competitor’s ad in a featured box above my organic listings, might thus cause my customer to be directed elsewhere than to me. While my new competitors want exactly this kind of thing to happen on Google and elsewhere, I do not. (I use the word “competitor” loosely, since I don’t expect them to steal much business after looking at what they do, but you never know.)

Planning for Contextual Counter Branding
When planning any contextual marketing and PPC or PFP program, the issue of counter-branding such as MMD is doing, is something every company should take into account. Much like buying up alternate domain names to protect your brand identity from “typo squatters” it now seems more important than ever to include a budget component for PPC against your own brand and product names to ensure transparency with potential customers as to who is whom.

For search engines this is, of course, a win-win for them in getting more advertising from both sides of the counter-branding arena. So, there is no great incentive for them to change, unless the lawyers get involved.

One easy way to check if your brand or product names are at risk is to log-in to your advertising account with any major search portal and do a bid against your company name or product brand, and see if there are other bidders. Depending on the bid preview, you may have to enter the smallest acceptable bid and see if somebody else would have a higher position. Simply checking the search engine by typing in your brands may not always reveal everything, since all contextual ad accounts allow for budgeting, such as “stop when it reaches $100” so it might be that you have a competitor whose ads only show for the first week out of every month, or only show up on content sites and not the main search engine results.

Using SEO practices to counter-brand can be tricky since litigation can ensue for mis-use of a trademark. For example if MMD started putting my registered trademarks within meta tags of their site pages simply to show up in search results under my brand, they would get an immediate cease and desist from my lawyer.

It seems more important than ever to spend the money and get yourself a trademark attorney (I use a fellow by the name of Matthew J. Booth, and register any brand you consider viable and which is not simply a dotcom that you’ve thrown up to stick your toe in the water. With some search portals, like Yahoo!, having a registered trademark can be critical to removing potential confusion by way of keyword brand bandits.

And, of course, the best solution is to simply do a better job than your upstart competitors. Strong deliverables, long-term stability, credible management and staff, and proof of performance for any service business will still always put you on top in any marketing program.

Article is Copr. © 2007 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Story originally appeared on All trademarks, service marks, and registered trademarks in this article are the property of the respective mark holders, and are acknowledged.

Articles Music and Recording

Christopher’s Savvy Guide to Podcasting – Part One: Introduction

ARTICLE: INTRODUCTION — Podcasting is only the latest social and economic trend to be born on the Internet, which over the past decade has brought online shopping, auctions, dating, movie rentals, and blogs to individuals and businesses who need nothing more than a PC (personal computer) and a phone line to get access to this more-and-more interconnected global village.

Want to create a Podcast? This series of articles will walk you through the process. What do you need? In reality, all you will need to create your own show is a PC, an Internet connection, a microphone, and this article series or comparable book (and, naturally, something to say).

This series is written for both the savvy business person who wants to explore ways to add Podcasting to a marketing or customer support program, and for anybody who is interested in understanding not only what a Podcast is, but how to create, enable, and even market one to an audience. For musicians, this guide will help showcase some interesting “quick start” options available online today through social networks and music posting sites, that can help side-step the learning curve of yet another software application — using instead a simple web browser and file upload and click-point procedures.

blue snowballIf you’re a Gen-Y, or Gen-Z, you can even print this out and give it to your parents so they have a clue what you’re up to in your bedroom, spending so much time online while wearing a headset mic and brandishing a “Quiet – I’m recording” sign on your bedroom door (an eBook will be available will all the series parts, for easy reading/printing).

What is Podcasting?
What is Podcasting? In the simplest possible terms it is a way to put audio or video content onto the Web, and through a subscription mechanism called RSS (Really Simple Syndication), provide a way for interested parties to find, subscribe to, retrieve, and listen to or view such content on a PC or portable media device (like Apple’s iPod, Sony’s PSP, and multimedia telephones than can play MP3 files).

But, in a very real sense, Podcasting is actually a misnomer. While the advent of what we call Podcasting, a combination of the words iPod and broadcasting, was inspired by folks who wanted to generate and listen to audio programming on Apple’s iPod media player, you don’t actually need an iPod, or even any portable device to enjoy a Podcast program — all you need is a PC and some software, sometimes called a “Podcatcher,” which allow you to subscribe to a particular program and listen to or view it.

A Podcast can really be any type of programming. A talk show, audio blog (Web + personal log = Blog), newscast, a music performance, or any combination of these things. A Podcast is not “live” as with AM/FM radio, or the nightly TV news, and is really more akin to “on demand” programming you might find with your modern Cable TV company.

podcatcher devices
Modern portable media devices that can play Podcasts include Apple’s iPod, Sony’s PSP, and Web-enabled mobile phones (L-R). Image is courtesy and © Christopher Simmons.

Podcasts can be almost any audio or video file format. For audio, content will most often be MP3 (technically MPEG-2 Layer3) audio file. For video: either H.264 video or MPEG-4 format video, which are compatible with video-capable iPods and Sony’s PSP (the helpful glossary provided as part three of this series can help you sort out some of this tech jargon, but I’ll provide short explanations where appropriate to keep your mouse button finger from getting chaffed zipping back and forth).

If you are a TiVo user, you’ll understand the concept of subscribing to a Podcast immediately, since it’s almost identical to a “season pass” for a TV series, except you’re using PC software to set-up your “subscription” to the Podcast. Since TiVo has announced support for moving video content to iPods, it’s likely by the time you read this that you will be able to subscribe to Podcasts with the TiVo ToGo service if your TiVo has a Cable Broadband connection.

If you already have an iPod, and/or have Apple’s iTunes software on your PC, then you have a Podcatcher, and may already have explored Podcast programs by clicking the Music Store link in your library menu, then the Podcasts link from the “Inside the Music Store” menu. If not, the next edition of this article series will explain what “Podcatching” is and how to get started in exploring the world of Podcasts.

What makes this series different from others is the overall view of creating a program, and helping to get you past the tricky bits, including the pitfalls of actually hosting your Podcast on the Web, and “getting the word out” about your show. I call it a “savvy” guide to Podcasting, because once you finish reading it you will be “more savvy than the average bear” (with a nod to Yogi Bear) on everything related to Podcasting!

A Blip or a Movement?
While I was writing this series during a period that starting in late 2005, and much of 2006, a number of Wall Street and venture capital types began to weigh in on Podcasting as a blip in the business and entertainment culture, versus a true movement of change. I, and many others who have been at the forefront of past technology shifts, strongly disagree with this view. I remember being on the launch team of an e-commerce Web site in 1995 and then going to business seminars in 1996 where various business and financial opinion leaders were stating emphatically that online shopping would not take off, and cited the example that women preferred to lay on the couch and dog-ear pages in fashion catalogs — which could not be done online. Ten years later, I think that notion has clearly been disproved. (Many online sellers did add “wish lists” to their stores which is a definite response to the dog-eared page crowd.)

Podcasting is not simply a label for yet another marketing buzz concept, but the first step in a different kind of social movement for creating and sharing ideas and content, and making it easier for people to find the content without relying on branded search portals like Yahoo! or Google, or an entertainment empire like Time-Warner or Disney, to control who sees what and how.

Certainly some are using Podcasting as a way to troll for money to start new ventures, which may or may not be viable business models, but entrepreneurs looking to spend other people’s money on a business gamble is nothing new, and this is not the core of the Podcasting movement.

Because the RSS mechanism that makes Podcasting work can be used in so many different ways, virtually anybody can set-up their own directory, and even create “re-casts” of content from favorite sources. This is so far outside the established mechanisms of TV, Cable, or print subscription models, that it’s too soon to even speculate on how far this will go, except to say that there are now millions of folks who are expressing themselves and getting their message in front of the exact same audience that normally would only see something from a major corporate conglomerate — this is both freedom and power for “the little guy” (and girl).

Because video is now cheap and easy to make, even with some cell phones, the video blogger is spreading “vlogs” of their ideas, music, and extemporary thoughts, onto social networking sites like and, and mini-celebrities are being made every day. The distinction between a video blog (or “vlog”) and a video Podcast is subtle, but technically both use RSS feeds to help people to subscribe to recurring content from the same place. Video which doesn’t include an RSS feed would simply be a video, and neither a vlog nor a video Podcast.

Podcasts are really “food” for portable devices like the iPod, just like a DVD is food for a DVD player.

As I write this introduction, Apple has sold well over 60 million iPods worldwide and will likely surpass 100 million in early 2007 (the U.S. has about 300 million citizens). That’s no “blip” by any sane measurement.

To further illustrate the popularity of the iPod, one need only look at online auction sites like, where in any given week, the iPod was in the top ten most searched for terms; in fact, during the week surrounding Mother’s Day 2006, the #1 most searched for item on eBay was for used iPods.

There is no age range or social class that defines the Podcasting culture, either on the producer or listener side, and that is what makes it such a compelling social change.

Who is Creating Podcasts?
As you might expect, those folks with an expertise in some area are doing Podcasts about what they know; whether it’s tending to a sick pet, or how to custom build a “Gamer” PC. Others are creating interview programs with industry experts and celebrities, much like a radio talk show. Museums are adding Podcasts for walking tours, and at some museums you can even buy the iPod on your way out of the building.

Still others are creating audio diaries for world travel tours or other adventures using phone-in free hosting services like And, as you might expect, commercial interests like traditional radio and TV broadcasters have joined in with their own original and repackaged content.

On my own Podcast, I interview unusual people doing interesting things, whether it’s writing a book about pop culture, or being a counter-culture champion (see:, which is being rebuilt as I write this, so depending on when you read this it may be a dull page or a flashy one – relaunch ETA is Spring 2007. You can find one version of the show in the site where you’re reading this article, here: ).

To give you an idea of how widespread this movement has become, in the first 60 days of Apple adding Podcast support to the iTunes Music Store in August 2005, over 15,000 programs had been added to their Podcast Directory. A year later, the numbers had tripled. For example: 2,600 Business Podcasts, 3,300 Comedy Podcasts, 7,700 Entertainment Podcasts, 7,200 Music Podcasts, 3,000 News Podcasts, 3,900 Talk Radio Podcasts — and this is just a tiny sampling of the programming available.

During the past year and a half some “home brewed” Podcasts have even broken into the mainstream, and have acquired advertiser support from corporate America. Others have become so popular that they have moved from being “free” (as most Podcasts are), to being offered to paid subscribers only. Other entrepreneurs are creating subscription fee-based video Podcasts for education and teaching purposes, and replacing the old-school (pun intended) CD-ROM delivery model for on-the-go e-learning.

Some quick examples of notable Podcasts:

    * “Five Minutes with Wichita” — hosted by amateur bluegrass musician Wichita Rutherford, features interviews with Nashville performers (created with a Mac notebook, two microphones, and an online Podcast hosting account). Between March and November of 2005, his audience grew to 200,000 regular listeners (

    * “MommyCast” — features two mothers from Virginia, Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger, talking about child rearing topics for 20 minutes per episode. This program gained some notoriety in late 2005 for acquiring a corporate sponsor, the Dixie Company (makers of Dixie cups) — one of the first privately produced Podcasts to acquire major sponsorship. The MommyCast site had 200,000 downloads per month at the end of 2005. In 2006, they added a MommyCast Music Show (

    * “This Week in Tech (TWiT)” — is a Podcast from the former hosts of TechTV’s “The Screen Savers,” Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton, along with Kevin Rose. The Screen Savers, which was arguably the best ever program on cable TV for people who wanted to know things like how to “overclock” a PC, or change the system registry of Microsoft Windows, was sorely missed by many when G4 took over TechTV and retired the show. TWiT brings back all the good things about their show, and is one of the most popular “techie” Podcasts out there (

    * “The Ricky Gervais Show” — is one of the most popular celebrity-fronted Podcasts, hosted by actor Ricky Gervais (of “The Office”). This show became so popular in February of 2006 (the #4 most downloaded Podcast on iTunes), that it moved from the free space of most Podcasts, and became a “paid subscription only” program powered by the Audible network. The second season of the show was offered at $1.95 per episode, or $6.95 for the entire season.

    * National Public Radio — Daily and weekly Podcasts from NPR and member stations ( I particularly enjoy “World Cafe” from WXPN in Philadelphia, hosted by David Dye, that combines new music with interviews and often features guests as diverse as David Bowie and Yo Yo Ma.

These examples illustrate that the fundamental “success” of a Podcast is the same as with any entertainment medium: content that comes from the heart, as well as developing and sustaining an audience. For an instant look at many diverse kinds of Podcasts being created by people around the world, visit

Using this Series
This series is organized, and may be approached, in several ways. If your interest is in learning how to create a Podcast, then you can explore the series chapters on creating content, and getting a program onto the Web (chapters will be posted every other week starting March 2007). If you already have a program and want to get an audience for your Podcast, then this series will help you there, too, with how-to help on advertising and promotion. If you’re a marketing VP or work for an agency in the advertising or entertainment fields, this article series may help enlighten you on the whole process to better explain to clients or to prepare an internal company proposal for launching a Podcast.

The “chapters” have been organized based on the path one might take in first formulating and developing an idea for a Podcast, to choosing how to create a program, to optimizing and encoding for the Web, creating the feed file, and publishing on the Internet (note that “Web” and “Internet” are used interchangeably in this series), to promoting a program, to measuring who your audience is.

Also, throughout this series we will consider PC to mean “personal computer” and not a Microsoft Windows-based computer.

Coming up next:
* What is Podcasting
* Podcatching 101
* The Difference Between Internet Radio and Podcasts
* Where Did Podcasting Come From?

Continued in the next part:
CHAPTER ONE: The Basics (click to continue)

Copr. © 2005-2007 Christopher Laird Simmons – all rights reserved. This article series, including text and images, charts, and glossary, is protected under U.S. and international copyright law – unauthorized reproduction or republication, online or offline, in whole or part without express written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. Blue Microphones graciously provided a review unit of their wonderful Snowball USB microphone (“mic”) which has been used during the creation of this article series.

Articles Interviews Music and Recording

Interview: Peter Frampton Talks About ‘Fingerprints’

INTERVIEW: In September 2006, Peter Frampton released his first all-instrumental album, called “Fingerprints.” For the project he was able to bring together not only many of his contemporaries and peers, but also a couple of his long time “heroes” and inspirations, Hank Marvin and Brian Bennett of The Shadows. The album showcases many influences, including the rock beats Frampton is known for along with “quieter” instrumentals with a jazz sensibility, and even blues.

The following is a transcription of a phone interview which took place on Nov. 17, 2006 between rocker Peter Frampton and author/musician Christopher Simmons.

Chris: Well, first off, let me say real quick, that I’m a fan, love the new album (“Fingerprints”), (and) thanks for taking the time today to talk about it.

Pete: You’re welcome. Thank you very much.

Chris: And, thanks for all the music.

Pete: You’re welcome.

Chris: My first question is: You have talked a lot in other interviews about your influences in learning to play the guitar like The Shadows ( For this album, “Fingerprints” (, did you have any “I’ve arrived” moment in a musical way while you were in the studio with Marvin and Bennet — or maybe an odd feeling to be working with your heroes. Could you talk a little about that?

Peter Frampton Pete: Well, it was a surreal day in many ways. I’d just flown in from New Zealand the night before. Because Hank had just finished the tour with the Shadows with Brian and Mark, the bass player, and two nights before Hank wanted to… needed to go home and he lives in Australia. So, we should have met somewhere in the middle.

Chris: Right.

Pete: The thing was that, obviously, in London, Mark Knopfler ( lent me his studio which was very nice of him.

Chris: Yeah. Cool.

Pete: And, Hugh Pageant (engineer) came along as well, which was an added bonus. So, it was too perfect not to do it there. So, the whole day was pretty surreal. I think when Hank said “What do you want me to play here?”

Chris: Right. Play whatever you want!

Peter: I said “How about some Hank Marvin?” You know I can’t tell Hank Marvin what to play. He said, “Yes, you can.” He said “I need some input here.” It was wonderful. It couldn’t have been any better. I think not playing well I did end up playing in it. Hank had found out from his tech Lionel, that I’d been talking with Lionel the day before setting up and he knew – he let me touch the guitar – you know, Hank’s guitar. So, Hank said “What’s your favorite number?” Well it has to be “Wonderful Land” which is a ballad with strings, just for its melody and sound. When we finished recording, I noticed that Hank and Brian were – something was happening – and Brian went back out to the drums and Mark went back to the bass and then I said “What are you doing. Did I not get the message or memo? “Oh no,” Hank said, “We’re doing our recording now.” So, he was joking and they were waiting for the machines to roll and then they played “Wonderful Land” for me. And then like half way through the first verse he said “I need a rhythm guitar player.” That was the moment I realized I had come full circle and I connected the dots all the way.

Chris: Great.

Pete: And here I was after hours and hours of learning to play the guitar and play Shadows numbers and here I was playing it with them! You know the only one who wasn’t there was Bruce. It was a pretty spectacular day.

Chris: Do you think there is a chance you will do another project with them or an album?

Pete: Hank has mentioned when he does his next project that he is thinking of doing something along the line of a “jangoesque” gypsy jazz thing himself – an acoustic thing – and he and I have a common interest. So he said “Would you be interested in playing on my record, and I said yes.” Who knows? It took me ten years to get this one together. So, I don’t know how long it’ll take Hank. But it better not take that long because I’m getting on there.

Pete with Shadows
Shadows – Hank Marvin, Brian Bennett, Mark Griffiths. Photo – Denis O’Regan.

Chris: Yeah, I think we all are! Yeah, when you start getting to that age you start looking around and saying, “Let’s see, what haven’t I done yet?”

Pete: Right.

Chris: What do I still want to do that I better get started on?

Pete: Exactly.

Chris: That actually leads me to my next question. What haven’t you done yet that you still want to do creatively?

Pete: Career wise, musically?

Chris: Creatively, whether its painting, or movie sound tracks.

Pete: Yeah.

Chris: Or building a bridge somewhere.

Pete: Yeah, like anything. Well, I think that I would love to do a …. I’ve always wanted to do a film score. But I don’t know if I could work as fast as that. I guess you’re put in a position you do it. It’s a very, very tedious situation, even for the big guys. You know a piece will get rejected by the producer or the director and you got to scramble and get it redone in two hours and, you know, uplink it to this and whatever. And, I don’t know if I could work that way. So, I guess I’m talking myself out of a job.

Chris: (Laughs.)

Pete: But, I’d love to do it because I use to hang with Jan Hammer. We both used to live around the corner from each other in New York while he was working on that Miami Vice thing. So I’d see him do that and work on it. He was phenomenal with that.

Chris: Yeah. He was kind of one of my influences in doing music in the eighties. I had the same Linn9000 drum machine that he had.

Pete: Don’t we all!

Chris: I ended up doing that style of music. That was really popular back then. That’s how I got my first little sound track gig doing a TV cable series in California.

Pete: That’s great!

Chris: I couldn’t make the transition doing film because, of course, like you said, there is a lot of that. It’s almost an art in itself.

Pete: Yeah.

Chris: Quick turnaround and trying to second guess what the directors or producers are seeing in their heads and sometimes that’s very different from what you are seeing in your head.

Pete: I’m not sure that would work well for me. Because it’s like I have vision of something and that’s why I think it would have to be the absolute perfect marriage of director and myself to work on a piece. When you consider I just saw “Flags of Our Fathers” – I don’t know if you have seen that?

Chris: Yes, I have.

Pete: It just blew me away that he did this incredible job again and the music is him “plinking” around on his piano and his sons tape it. I don’t mean… it’s very good, that’s what I’m saying. It turns out that it is very simplistic, but it has passion and it invokes the feeling he wants at that particular time in the movie and it’s almost like you don’t notice it, but you notice it. It really works. It’s very clever.

Chris: Right. He brings out the emotion without overpowering it like a (Jerry) Bruckheimer movie where the music is 50 percent of the experience.

Pete: The way he does it just taps into it a little further, into the emotion of what you are seeing visually, and I think it’s brilliant.

Chris: A lot of people I know forget of course that “Play Misty for Me” – he did that. People forget he did the music.

Pete: Yeah.

Chris: It’s not something he just decided to dabble in.

Pete: No. He has been doing it for a long time. Didn’t he do a blues and jazz documentary or something where he was talking to piano players? (Editor’s Note: this was “Eastwood After Hours,” a jazz documentary of a 1996 concert held at historic Carnegie Hall.) He is really involved in music and has been all is life. So, anyway, that would be a dream situation to work with somebody that you are simpatico with.

Chris. Right, that you’re on the same wavelength with.

Pete: Or, some project that took awhile, but I had some time to build it that way. That would be great. I would love to do that.

Chris: This is kind of an ad industry question because I also run an online advertising magazine. One of the questions we have been bandying around… You definitely have locked into it with this album and a little bit with the last one – with all this alternative marketing. Has this been an interesting process? You are doing a lot of this sort of thing – like hand delivering albums from and doing podcasts.

Pete: Right.

Chris: Kind of like what we’re doing right now.

Pete: Right.

Chris: Who the heck is this guy you’re talking to- you know? How has this process been for you? Anything weird about it, or anything different (from the traditional process of album promotion)?

Pete: Everything is changing in the record industry. It used to be that touring would sell records. It is now the other way around. The few that buy the record, then decide that they will go see the show. Things have changed drastically because people are stealing the music which is the record company’s fault because they didn’t embrace the technology right away. They treated it like the enemy. If they had their head screwed on, we would be in a completely different situation right now. But they didn’t and so it hit them like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, the by-product of that is that songwriters — they are the ones that get hit the hardest – the ones that don’t perform. People that write songs, hopefully, sell records. The percentage that it’s down in the last 10 years is like incredible. I don’t know what it is, but in the last nine months it went down another 15 percent in record sales.

Pete and Stones
Peter, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts. Photo: Denis O’Regan.

Chris: You don’t have the kind of radio air play that there was say 10 years ago, especially, or 20 or 30 years ago where something would get played and played in rotation and the songwriter would be saying “there’s another ten cents and another 10 cents.” You know? You played it three or four times an hour on a high-powered FM station — that sometimes would pay for the house.

Pete: Right. Exactly.

Chris: And now, you know a lot of people don’t even do the radio. They’re doing the subscription stuff.

Pete: Right.

Chris: And you got the online stuff of course, like, the legal version of Napster where you got people paying 10 bucks a month. How much can songwriters be making off of that?

Pete: Unfortunately, it’s diabolical what is happening for people who make a living out of writing music and recording music. But, you know, the cat’s out of the bag and you don’t want to cry over spilled milk — how many more can I use here?

Chris: (Laugh.) Has there been anything that you have run across doing this sort of alternative — the whole buzz marketing thing? Is there anything you have run across that is kind of fun or surprising that you did not expect from this non-traditional stuff. And, I am not talking about your appearance on “Duets.”

Pete: Right. Right.

Chris: Which we are all trying to forget.

Peter: I was worried he was going to body slam me!

Chris: You thought that you were signing up for “Duets,” but it was actually “Celebrity Death Match”.

Pete: That’s right. Yeah. At least they don’t have me on “Come Dancing” or whatever it’s called. I would probably have been so bad that I would have outlived Jerry. So, anyway, I can’t really think about anything fun about marketing.

Chris: You know I do it for a living and so I try to find those little nuggets where you can try to have a little bit of passion somewhere, but there is still that kind of … you are telling your own story over and over again. Well then, as along as it doesn’t hurt too much, I guess that’s a good thing.

Pete: No. You try and do as much as you can. You do have to do more than you did before, but first of all, you are not getting the air play like we talked about. You have to rely on more visible things – like we were on Fox News in the Morning- we got a lot of hits from that. And then, the other night I was on Jimmy Kimmel Live and sat in with the band. That was good. But, he said that the record was called “Fingertips.”

Chris: (Laughs.)

Fingerprints CD - Peter FramptonPete: That wasn’t great, but then he said “Fingerprints” a couple more times afterwards, so that was good. This instrumental record, you know, before you even turn any form of recording equipment on, that you’re potential of sales was diminished in a diminishing business. I didn’t do this expecting to make a lot of money. I did it because I have a passion for the guitar and I haven’t done an instrumental record and I better put my money where my mouth is — finally — and at least make a start. So, I knew that’s what it would be — it is amazing that TV is just not interested — if you know what I’m saying.

Chris: Yeah. I was thinking about that the other day. Since I’d seen Beck on Saturday Night Live, which has kind of revitalized itself this year from being a kind of a crap fest for a couple of years now and I was kind of going “Why isn’t Peter Frampton on here?”

Pete: Right.

Chris: You’re right. There isn’t. VH1 is showing wacky TV shows and you have to go off — way off center to find anything like — oddly enough, I think you have been doing a pretty good job with this sort of alternative (stuff) — because of the Web – you know the Internet has become almost like a portal for entertainment now like TV was in the 70s.

Pete on SoundstagePete: We did (PBS) Sound Stage ( ) — now that was one of the first gigs that we did of the tour with the new five piece band. That is coming out in February, I think, or late January. (Editor’s note: part one aired Jan. 18, and part two airs Jan. 25, 2007.)

Chris: Fantastic.

Pete: It’s already on some HD thing — I don’t know how you get it. I think it is on Direct TV or something or one of those DISH networks. You can catch it if you have that certain dish.

Chris: You have to have the right satellite hookup.

Pete: You have to be with the right company. It definitely is on PBS in HD in late January, early February.

Chris: Well, fantastic. Since you have a limited amount of time, let me ask you one more question. What do you consider to be success today? What puts you in a happy place creatively? Is it live concerts, getting feedback from your peers on your new album? Is it the fans’ reaction?

Pete: I think there are two levels. There’s a personal level and a creative level. For my professional level; they are linked creatively. It’s been this record — making it and putting it out there, and playing some of it live and seeing the reason has been liberating for me. I feel that if anyone had doubts about where my passion lies, that should go out the window. If they care to look and find this record. I think this, hopefully, is almost it — the happiest of times — but we know that doesn’t happen all the time. But right now, I am happy because this has done wonders… this record for me as a player, has definitely really pushed me to work hard on this and the playing and everything so — it has been very satisfying to know that the end results were well received as well.

Chris: I think that there is a lot of interest in what you’re doing today even if you’re not in the same consciousness level with Britney Spears and all that kind of malarkey.

Pete: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: I don’t know if you read the review I had written on one of our web sites. It’s amazing – just that review on our web site has been read something like 160,000 times.

Pete: Wow! Which review did you do?

Chris: I did the one that was on ( ) and also the site we’re re-launching,

Pete: When did that one go up?

Chris: I think around the 20th or 21st of September (on eNewsChannels).

Pete: OK. I’ve got it. I know I’ve got it.

Chris: One of the things I mentioned is the passion of what you do comes out in this and I think that, not just the fans, but other musicians can pick up on that.

Pete: Oh good.

Chris: I think you’ve pulled it off.

Pete: Well, good. The main thing was I had the most fun making this record mainly because I didn’t have to write any lyrics.

Chris: (Laugh.)

Pete: But no, no, no, it was just great to, well, okay, there’s no vocals here, so how do I make the second verse as interesting as the first verse? You know what I mean?

Chris: Yeah.

Pete: I enjoyed the creative path that it’s put me on. You know it was really, really a lot of fun.

Chris: Do you think that you’ll do another instrumental album or go back to the conventional wisdom or mature vocal type album?

Pete: There will vocals on the next one. But it will be as different as this album was for me. As different as I can make it from any other. I just don’t even want — I got the bug of doing something new or really pushing myself to the limit of expressing some other part of me. Do you know what I mean?

Chris: Right.

Pete: It worked out to actually put me on a limb, where I should always be. I’m not saying that I’ve been lazy before, but I’ve enjoyed going where no Peter has gone before.

Chris: That’s how you learn. It’s the adversity thing. Nobody learns how to change a tire on their car until they have to.

Pete: Exactly. It definitely was an eye opener all around and definitely great for me as an artist. Knowing the feeling I was getting it as I was doing it. I will never forget that feeling. I know I’ve got a benchmark feeling for knowing that I think I’m right here. I think that is really good. I know that feeling can equate with other people as well. Not that I think of other people while I’m doing it, but it’s nice to know that what I like about what I do or can do- other people are picking up on too. You can’t ever feel like “well today I’m going to write a hit song.” It’ll probably be the worst song in history.

Chris: (Laughs.)

Pete: And, it probably won’t be a hit. So, you can’t plan a hit record, you know? I guess there are some people who can, but those are the sort of songs I don’t listen to.

Chris: Exactly.

Peter Frampton 2006Pete: It’s all about passion. At least, that’s what I feel. Some days I got it, some days, I don’t. It’s great. I love that part too. Some days I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere and the reward is two days later, you do something that you dreamed about that you could never do. And, that downtime is always a learning time. It’s always preparation time and I realize if I can’t write or can’t get it right, it’s because I am practicing. The practicing I do will make it sound good tomorrow, but not today. I leaned a lot making this record.

Chris: Well, great. Is there anything else you would want someone to know about the project that maybe no one has asked you about? Anything you had in the back of your mind? Like, boy, I really wanted people to know this about the album, but I didn’t have the chance to say it.

Pete: Gosh, not really. I think we’ve covered just about everything. I’m giving it a good try but can’t think of anything.

Chris: Well, I know sometimes I’ve interviewed people about stuff and they say “well, no one asked me, but…blah, blah, and blah.” People get in the rut of asking the same sort of questions like “how did you get the idea of using a talk box?”

Pete: Right. Right…

Chris: Or, what’s your favorite song on the album? What kind of clothes do you like?

Pete: Yeah, I know. This has been different.

Chris: Well, I was trying.

Pete: Yeah, it’s been great.

Chris: Trying to come up with something different from the perspective of someone who is into what you do versus the contractual obligation interview you have to do.

Pete: Right. Exactly.

Chris: Well great. I know you have got to get on to doing some other stuff this morning so I really appreciate your taking the time and I will let your team know when we’ve got this up on our website so you can check it out.

Pete: Fantastic, Chris.

Chris: Great talking with you and like I said, I have been a fan since the 70s, obviously. This album was right on. I’m your target audience. I’m into the guitar instrumental albums, so when this album came across my desk, I was like “hey,” how cool is that?”

Chris: Best thing I can possibly say is thanks for all the music, buddy!

Pete: Oh well, thank you.

Chris: It’s been great and can’t wait for the next one.

Pete: Alright, thanks a lot.

More information on Peter Frampton’s music, history, upcoming concerts and appearances, and much more can be found on his website, at:

Article is Copr. © 2006-2007 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Story originally appeared on, and was originally intended for my podcast. Note: images for this interview were sourced from the website, and are the exclusive property of the copyright holder. Image from PBS/Soundstage is the property of PBS. All rights reserved.

Advertising and Marketing

My Baby was Possessed by the PlayStation 3 – Next Gen Game Consoles Take Different Approaches to TV Commercials

ARTICLE: After seeing one of Sony’s debut TV spots for their new PlayStation, I’m sure I was not the only one slightly freaked out by the toy baby who comes to life, starts to cry, then laugh maniacally before flashing demon red eyes… all while pawing the air toward the floating black slab of a PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Maybe they should have called it the PlaySatan? I think the message here is “Parents, keep baby away from the PS3 or they’ll be possessed!”

Copr. (c) 2006 SONYThe second TV spot prior to launch, promoting the Cell Processor which is inside the PS3, shows a floating Rubik’s Cube that explodes to fill the room with color. To me this ad smacked too much of the flawed launch spots for the Infiniti Q which featured mood music and somber scenery with nary a view of the actual car.

Contrast this with the lively first TV spot for the other nextgen console competitor, Nintendo’s Wii, that shows a typical gamer dude playing the game and showing off the innovative controller putting him into the middle of a shooting game, sword fighting game and actually showing the game play on a TV.

From these varied commercials, I was impressed by the game play of the Wii which had the very cool concept of putting the player into the action rather than old-school thumb mashing. I had seen some previews on G4techTV, E3, etc., but it still looked really good. The strength of the Wii commercial illustrated many of the features and benefits of the new Nintendo console, whereas the initial Sony spots were just plain weird.

Not that this is a bad thing – a heck of a lot of people have been remarking about the demon baby commercial (do a search on the Web for “PlayStation baby commercial” if you’re curious). I can tell you it’s even freakier late at night on my 61-inch DLP TV while on an HD broadcast channel. Yikes.

The second batch of PS3 commercials include a wall breaking away to show one of the launch games “Resistance: Fall of Man” (which I’ve played – outstanding) and another “sensory” commercial showing the Sixaxis controller tilting to and fro to make eggs roll across the room where all the spots have lived, obviously inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s still a little odd with black crows coming from the wall and follows the PS3 launch theme of “play b3yond.” The “beyond” theme actually reminded me a lot of the Showtime Beyond channel intro/outro spots between programs.

A second Wii spot should start this week and it will be interesting to see what they do to counter the PS3 approach. Of course, with both consoles sold out everywhere as of this writing, the commercials are practically unnecessary to sell the products.

Still, it’s interesting that the PS3 has taken an edgier approach — which historically worked well for Sega — while Nintendo seems to be taking a fun, hip, friendlier approach to court both new users and their core audience. I bought my PS3 this past Friday, got it on Saturday, played it on Sunday. I hadn’t thought of buying a Wii, but the commercial makes me more interested.

Another neat feature of the Wii for the party gamer is that it’s far more affordable than the PS3 and will likely return in quantity to retail stores more quickly than the way “under produced” PlayStation (Sony blames slow production of the blue laser diode for the Blu-ray player as the major hold-up).

According to varied business reports, over 32,000 of the new Sony consoles were sold on eBay from Friday through Sunday, with the average price being around $2,000 – $3,000 for the 60GB/wireless model. I paid close to the low end of that range, admittedly, but I think a lot of gamers have been similarly “possessed” into buying one, regardless of cost.

Thankfully, my eyes haven’t yet turned red. Hopefully if there’s evil built into the new PS3, maybe it only works on babies. But, I left the light on in my living room last night, just to be safe.

Article is Copr. © 2006 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Originally appeared on

Articles Music and Recording Reviews

Music Review: Peter Frampton ‘Fingerprints’ (2006)

REVIEW: I was pretty excited to hear about the new disc “Fingerprints” (A&M/New Door/UMe) from Peter Frampton, a seminal guitar god from the ’70s who became enormously famous for his “Frampton Comes Alive” album and for his formant-tube guitar “talk box” sound on that record 30 years ago. I hadn’t really thought about him much lately except when my iTunes jukebox cycled around to his tunes. So, getting the new disc was like hearing from an old friend again.

Peter Frampton 2006What makes the album intriguing is that it’s an instrumental album, where Frampton teams with many musicians he is friends with, or who he’s always wanted to work with. The press materials have a great paragraph about the disc which I could reword to make my own, but I think it speaks well of the line-up of talent found on the album:

“Fingerprints features Frampton having exhilarating musical conversations with a who’s who of the pop world, including Rolling Stones Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Matt Cameron, original Shadows Hank Marvin and Brian Bennett, Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule slide slinger Warren Haynes, Nashville pedal steel virtuoso Paul Franklin and gypsy guitar maestro John Jorgenson. In addition, Frampton band mate, Gordon Kennedy, who co-wrote many of the originals as well as co-produces the album, is prominently featured as a guitar companion.”

When I mentioned to a couple of friends I was reviewing the new Frampton album, inevitably one smart remark came up which was “Frampton is still alive?” which, although a jest at the expense of Pete based on the title of his mega successful “Alive” underscores how many of the truly talented musicians of the 60s, 70s and 80s who don’t subscribe to the “hit factory” school of music can fall from the public’s consciousness. The last I’d really heard from Frampton was in 2000, when he earned a “Best Rock Instrumental Performance” Grammy nomination for “Live in Detroit” and I bought the 2003 “Now” which earned this review from an Associated Press writer: “When it comes to fiery, guitar-drenched rock, Frampton delivers.”

Unlike many of his rock contemporaries, Frampton has traditionally not done collaborations to raise awareness of his albums, or to stay current with the so-called gen-x and gen-y crowd. Carlos Santana has always been an instrumentalist who brings in guest vocal talent and lyricists for the current decade, and this has helped him sell CDs to new generations who would not otherwise have known who he was.

With solo artists like Frampton, who does both the playing and is the front man on vocals, it’s actually harder to stay fresh in a world filled with boy bands and overly sexed teen pop princesses. Without directly catering to “boomers,” it’s difficult to compete with “My milkshake brings more boys to the yard” or the latest Beyonce video, or the crop of pop-rock bands who provide the soundtrack for just about every youth oriented TV show and movie currently made. Ironic since he was one a pop idol, movie star and as recognizable as any music celebrity. But, he’s always a little overshadowed by that one big album that is still considered the best selling live record of all time (with 16 million copies sold, it’s also one of the best selling records of any decade in any genre).

Personally I think it’s a really ballsy, and possibly brilliant, idea to do an instrumental album and concentrate on both the playing and the vibe that comes from good rock, blues and even the pop-jazz music of sax players like Dave Koz. I am likely the target audience for this disc, since I buy every album that Joe Satriani puts out, since I dig his guitar playing, and the rock and melodic hooks over which he can then noodle or riff without worrying about whether the vocal performance or lyrics mean anything or not.

For Frampton, I think the instrumental CD was also a brilliant idea since it’s a little later in his career to be singing of first loves, riding that pony to the rodeo, or any of the other pop music clichés that are recycled for each new set of tweens and teens. Even rock and metal have their clichés, and it’s often easy to fall into that. Even Paul McCartney suffered from some pretty unremarkable work during the long decline of his wife Linda, and the subsequent album when she had passed was filled with the emotion of that, and then his work when he found new love was a major rekindling of his gifts lyrically and musically. But major life events like these are not always fodder for good music, and few can bring emotion to their craft in quite that way. The point is: the “voice” you bring to an album is most notable when it’s from the inner workings of your soul, your psyche, or your experiences. With this disc, Frampton gets to play guitar, which is his core happy thought when it comes to music. And he’s a great player.

Fingerprints CD - Peter FramptonSo, how’s the album? A little bit mixed on first listen, then I really got into it. I really like most of the songs, particularly, “Cornerstone” with Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones, and “Shewango Way” which is co-written by and features Frampton band mate, Gordon Kennedy.

The Soundgarden hit “Black Hole Sun” with Pearl Jam guitarist McCready and drummer Matt Cameron became the ear-worm of the disc for me, stuck in my head while doing other things like laundry or washing the car. It’s also one of the two tracks to feature some moderate and very subtle signature talk box work by Frampton. On “Sun” it almost sounds like a vocoder sample and actually helps the tune since I found my brain filling in the words on the chorus anyway.

Frampton said in the press materials, “I’ve known Bill Wyman for a while and played with him before. He was one of the first people I asked to play on the album. He said yes, and then I asked if Charlie would come in too. We all jumped in and came up with this song (Cornerstone) that started off with me playing a riff.”

The one song that didn’t really grab me is the first one “Boot it Up” with a guest sax player, Courtney Pine, who was recommended to Frampton by his pal David Bowie. I think another guitar would have been better than the sax, but it does give the record label a song to target toward the smooth jazz radio stations, although “Double Nickels” fits into that milieu just fine and features licks by pedal steel king Paul Franklin.

The songs I liked more each time I listened to the disc, was “Grab A Chicken” (with Kennedy), which has a little bit of the talk box as well as sampled instructions from Internet cooking programs about how to cook a chicken; and “Blowin’ Smoke” (with McCready and Cameron). The latter has likely become my favorite song and the one I’d happily pay for if I were forced to “buy only one” from a music download service.

I liked the little homage riff to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” at the start of “Double Nickels” which also has a bit of a country music feel to it and some great Q&A playing between Frampton and Franklin.

The interesting thing about the album for me was that I kept thinking I’d love to hear an entire album with just Frampton, McCready, Cameron and Kennedy. The material from the four Kennedy collaborations and the two songs with McCready and Cameron were the real stand-outs for me.

Unlike some guitarists who have one signature sound, perhaps like the afore mentioned Carlos Santana, Frampton gets a wide variety of tones and sounds from his collection of guitars and amps and so each song stands on its own. He plays a Tacoma Acoustic C2 Chief, Gibson Les Paul Classic (1960), Les Paul Peter Frampton Model (*ahem* – signature sound, of course), G&L ASAT, and Les Paul JR (1958). With the guests playing their own guitars the mix of duets between players is quite lovely to hear.

I saw one comment from a buyer on that it might have been better to have the separate players panned left/right to make it more clear who was playing what, and this has been done on other duet-style instrumental gigs; but I think in this case it would have detracted from the overall mixes which are very nice on both the home stereo, the iPod and in the car.

It’s interesting that Frampton recently guested on the premiere episode of the FOX TV series “Celebrity Duets,” which was a bold experiment for the 56 year old rocker. Sadly he was paired with Chris Jericho of the WWE, which must have been the bad luck of the draw there. It’s unfortunate that VH1 no longer has the series “Storytellers” which is right where I would like to see Frampton showcased for an album like this one.

For Frampton, the sweet spot for the project had to be his getting to work with two of his long time heroes from the Shadows, drummer Brian Bennett and guitar slinger Hank Marvin.

According to Frampton, the bluesy “My Cup of Tea,” came together via intercontinental swapping of ideas by mp3. Once the group convened in a London studio, his dream was fulfilled. “I was beaming ear to ear,” Frampton says. “Hank is the reason why I play the guitar. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Frampton traces the genesis of Fingerprints to two experiences: catching the fever of British instrumental rock music at its birth in 1960, when the Shadows scored a pop hit with the tune “Apache,” and then 35 years later when Shadows’ lead guitarist Marvin came backstage at a Frampton concert and affirmed that indeed one day he’d love to cut a track with him. “We spent an hour asking each other questions and talking about guitars,” says Frampton. “My idol even asked me what kind of strings I used.”

According to Frampton, at the beginning of his career, he had one thing on his mind: playing the guitar like the Shadows’ Hank Marvin and Elvis Presley’s Scotty Moore. “I didn’t want to sing,” he says. “I wanted to be the guy behind the singer playing solos. I’d listen to Elvis songs but my focus was on Scotty. People like Hank and Scotty set the template for me.”

Frampton brings a poignant epilogue to the project with the second to final track on the album, “Oh, When” written for his late father, Owen (hence “Oh When”). Frampton played the song at the funeral, recorded it on a small recorder when he was in England, then returned home and tracked it. Frampton says that Fingerprints is a testament to his father’s encouragement in playing the guitar. “The whole album is dedicated to him,” he says.

Overall, a worthy addition to Frampton’s career and if you’re at all into instrumental guitar, melodic rock, and even something to listen to while you’re working in the background, this disc fits into all those spaces rather well.

“Fingerprints” is released on the A&M / New Door Records label, a division of Universal Music Enterprises (UMe). New Door Records is primarily dedicated to producing new music from historically significant UMG recording artists. Artists from all genres such as Styx, Smokey Robinson, Todd Snider, Joe Cocker, Nanci Griffith, Tears for Fears, The Temptations, Billy Ray Cyrus, Alien Ant Farm, and a brand new signing, Joseph Israel, have made New Door Records their home for their new recordings.

Fingerprints is available everywhere you can purchase music and was released Sept. 12, 2006.

Rating for “Fingerprints”:

    From 1 to 10: 8.5
    Musicianship: 9
    Replayability: 7
    Desert Island Keeper: 4
    Number of EarWorm Factor Songs: 2

More information:

    Peter Frampton’s Website:

    Universal Music Entertainment:

Article is Copr. © 2006 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Originally appeared on

Articles Business 2.0

What Can Brown Do for Identity Theft?

ARTICLE: Companies need to do a better job of policing themselves when signing up new customers on the Internet and through mail campaigns, otherwise they risk contributing to an already serious epidemic of personal and business identity theft. Certain companies are making it a little easier for crooks to get a foot in the door due to a lack of safeguards and common sense. And guess what? It just happened to my company.

I’ve never been particularly fond of the current UPS (United Parcel Service) ad campaign, “What can brown do for you?” – it sounds too much like something that is associated with a bowel movement than a reason to ship your packages with them. In fact, part of the reason I shake my head when I hear the UPS ad phrase, is that it’s a bit too much like the slogans used during the last drought here in California to save water “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, wash it down.”

So, my first reaction when getting a bill for almost $2,000 in the mail from UPS at the end of May, addressed to “Peter Gabriel” at my company address was a four letter word starting with “s” and ending with “t” and with “hi” in the middle.

Apparently, UPS allowed somebody using the name Carol Washington, shipping from an apartment in Plattsburgh, N.Y., to set-up a shipper account over the Internet using my company name and billing address here in California, with a contact name here of “Peter Gabriel” (why not Elvis Presley, or Kylie Minogue?), then ship dozens of overnight letters to people and companies all over the U.S.

What astounds me is they didn’t stop and question somebody in New York setting up an account for a company in California, ask for some kind of payment confirmation such as a credit card before accepting almost two thousand dollars worth of overnight letters, or do (it seems) any due diligence in checking with anybody listed as a principal or point of contact at our company that we actually set-up the account.

So, here comes the mailman with my mail and a nice fat billing statement from UPS for all the packages shipped using “UPS Internet Shipping.”

Did I mention there were 16 undeliverable packages out of the huge pile this person sent, which indicates he or she was likely doing some kind of phishing scam by overnight letter or some other bit of criminal evil. So, UPS was nice enough to show a credit of $312 on the bill. Nice of them.

As you might expect, my second reaction after making a scatological exclamation was to call the toll-free number on the bill, be put on hold, and then finally speak to somebody. I explained the situation, and made it clear the account should be cancelled, their fraud department should get involved immediately, and that we were not (obviously) going to pay any UPS bill related to this account. The nice young lady told me they would take care of it, commented that the person who set-up the account used a valid e-mail address, and that the fraud department would call me by the next day. I said great, hung up, got on with my day and helping my own customers.

Two days later and no call or contact from UPS, their fraud department, an apology letter, or anything. Sigh. Whatever. Great customer relations, people!

A week later and I’ve moved on with my life, and guess what comes in the mail … another missive from the folks in brown. My chirpy optimistic nature is thinking maybe it’s a “Dear Customer, We’re sorry we let somebody ship packages under your name and then sent you a bill. We’ve cancelled the account and are hunting down the source of the evil with our crack team of brown-powered parcel police.” However, it looks like a bill, feels like a bill, and it’s still addressed to the old sledgehammer himself Peter Gabriel.

Yep. It’s a bill for $53.16 “after adjustments.” And in case I have any other ideas, “UPS payment terms require payment of this bill by June 7, 2006.” ShaTizzle!

Another phone call to the brown people, lovely on-hold music, and then a live person picks up. This person looks up the original call, sees my original contact (I am mildly impressed they have any kind of CRM system running), and then informs me she will cancel the account. As I grimace, I ask why the account wasn’t cancelled when I called previously. The person didn’t know, but she made sure it was now cancelled. Then she mentions that on the bright side it wasn’t actually a bill, but a credit letter informing me that the $312 had been applied to the account. Rather than argue that it was in fact a bill showing $53 due after the “credits” had been applied, or the fact that I could care less about credits since it’s not my account, I just said thank you and hung up.

Again, being an optimist I’m thinking maybe they let the account stay active to try to catch the person in the act of dropping off or shipping more packages. But why didn’t the anti-fraud department (assuming they actually have one is what my pessimist side is thinking) contact me. Even a form letter would have been appropriate. After all, they are wasting MY time, not the other way around.

I also wonder why somebody would choose my company name to set-up an account, since I have not offended anybody greatly enough, and have no interaction with the typical person or persons who would perpetrate such a scam. On the other hand, I do have some pretty prominent news and entertainment websites that are easily found in search engines and my company name is found at the top of every page of every site. I think it more likely this fraud outfit or person chose us at random, or might be going through companies alphabetically and we’re not the first or last company to have this issue at UPS.

Fast forward to the first week of September. Yes, you guessed it … another letter from the brown brigade. Smaller envelope, one sheet inside. Hey! Maybe they are sending me a follow up letter. But no, it’s a “COLLECTION ALERT” for the $53 from the May 27 invoice. “If payment is not received within 5 days, we have no alternative but to audit your account for further collection activity.”

Hmmm. My first call is to my lawyer (who I call maybe once a year to say hello), to say what kind of negligence suit or other “kick these brown bastards to the wall” type action can we take. He laughs and says maybe I should try calling them first. I laugh and say, it hasn’t done any good this far, and I wasn’t really serious about the lawsuit, just venting. Lawyers love those types of calls about as much as I like getting bills from UPS.

I do want to mention that the UPS drivers down here in Southern California are always super nice, pleasant, and even though they are more likely than FedEx to leave boxes on my front porch that advertise expensive electronics are inside, they do a good job. I asked the FedEx driver about leaving boxes marked “20-inch LCD Monitor” on doorsteps without even knocking, and he said “We always ask for a signature with anything that is clearly expensive electronics.” I was pleased to hear that. Even the DHL guy will “drop, knock and run,” to let me know a parcel is on the welcome mat. UPS guys do tend to not bother to even knock and just leave stuff unless it has a “signature required” sticker on it. But I’ve never had anything stolen.

So, I call the new number on the UPS collection letter, and I’m forced to input “my” account number before I can talk to anybody (little bit of entrapment there if you ask me), so when I speak to somebody, she asks for my account number, and I tell her I have an account number I can give her but it’s not mine. She asks why it’s not mine. I explain the situation, and she says she needs to forward me to the accounting department, and I go right to hold music, and after about ten minutes it drops me into a voicemail system where I’m to leave my number and somebody will call back. Oh joy.

As I write this, I have yet to hear from anybody at UPS.

Now, to their credit, it is difficult to verify each and every person who signs up for an online account, but there are simple business practices that many companies (like mine) follow. For instance, we use I.P. tracking to double check where somebody is actually from; if they put their billing address as Texas, and the I.P. (Internet Protocol) is in Florida, we double-verify information.

Other security practices include: When we take credit cards, we use AVS (address verification system) to ensure the billing information provided matches what is on file with the credit card company. When the name on the card is different from the person placing an order, we require a faxed authorization with signature and the security code off the card a second time (we won’t accept any online orders without matching security code), and phone number from credit card, which we call and check. We also check the phone number to ensure it’s really for the card company. And if the order is from Peter Gabriel, Danny Elfman, or Avril Lavigne, we really check everything (we did get an order from actor Richard Hatch once, and his assistant forged his signature … but that’s another story).

If the card is from an international bank that isn’t supported by AVS, we require a faxed photocopy of card front and back where we can see the name and security code. And if any order is over a certain dollar amount, we use other methods to validate authenticity of the person, company and payment information. And, even if somebody completes checkout successfully online, they cannot use our system to actually do anything until a live person allows it on our side. We had one person use over 20 stolen credit card numbers to get into our system one Sunday last month; they finally had a card with correct billing info, security code, and other data, made it to our support area, and were stopped by the fact they still need to have us personally approve anything they do there. Fraud stopped. Stolen card reported. I.P. addresses blocked from reaching our Web servers.

We had one of our own online customers actually complain that we required her to put in her correct billing information because “your competitor didn’t require that.” I pointed out that just because some other company doesn’t care to have security practices in place, we do, and that she should know what the billing address for her credit card was. She had to call the credit card company to figure out what they had on file and then when she put in the correct information in our order system, the order went through without any trouble. After more than ten years on the Web, it astounds me that companies still don’t “get it” about online fraud and security practices, and even more that people who do business online actually get offended when we use such procedures.

But some big companies do have some clue. With many online businesses which provide online sign-up, account holders have only provisional access to services until their billing information is verified, or they do a test billing of $.50 or similar to authenticate the payment method is legitimate before extending credit.

What seems truly illogical to me is that UPS allowed somebody to set-up an account with completely fraudulent information, with the exception that they used an actual company for the billing address (mine), and then let them ship a large number of overnight letters from a different state (and from an apartment no less) without any kind of check and balance in place, or provisional limitations, or payment validation/verification.

Simple limitations might have included: a limit on shipment amounts of $50 until payment is verified, no use of shipper account number from other locations until account is verified or some kind of limit of no more than one package pick-up, no drop-off of packages until payment and account info validated – pick-up only to authenticate the shipper address. I could go on and on.

Another very simple method of online anti-fraud screening might have been to hold for validation any company/corporate account set-up that uses a different email address from the actual company name. We do this here when we get a client claiming to be from an existing company but they’re using a free e-mail account like AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail. Most “real” companies have a domain name that in some way resembles their business name, like, oh, If somebody signed up on our website and claimed to be UPS, Inc., and used an email of, we would double check this account before allowing them services.

It has gotten harder to use I.P. tracking for some kinds of scams, particularly with portals like AOL, where all the mail comes from the servers in one state, so anybody using a email account is a bit harder to track. But we flag these to check too, because of that. Sadly, AOL used to be a pretty safe and secure place to socialize and hang out, circa 1994-6, until they opened up the 1,000 free hours with no credit card or checking account needed. Then it went to hell. If you can get 1,000 free hours to send spam, attempt fraud, or just do bad things online, well then the bad guys had a pile of free account CDs coming in the mail every week from the AOL folks. I jumped ship on that whole place in 1997. Seems I’m not the only one. Of course, you can still get free AOL email.

Quite stupidly AOL also has a number of anti-spam features set-up, like ISPs and hosting companies being required to register their mail servers with the AOL postmaster system to avoid being “spam blocked,” and they allow people with AOL accounts to register any message as “spam” even if they requested it. We had to block anybody using an AOL email account from signing up for our online newsletters because the people would sign-up then when they got a newsletter, they’d say it was “spam.,” and AOL would send a “violation of our terms” warning – but hide the email of the complaining party, so that you couldn’t actually remove the person from your mailing list, that they double-opted into. The only solution was to block all AOL sign-ups since AOL doesn’t seem to have a clue how to manage email communications in a logical way, at least based on my own experiences. But then, this overall lack of savvy is just one of many reasons why people have left AOL behind in droves for the “free” Internet or for broadband connections that don’t suck. Time-Warner really lost out on that whole AOL acquisition deal.

While the above security practices may seem like common sense, many companies don’t follow any or all of these kinds of procedures, and this contributes to the online identity theft problems.

Another oddball is the Advanta credit card company ( I get letters here from them, offering my staff credit cards with my company name on it. What makes this incredibly unwise is the fact they are addressed to the employee, but not the company or HR person. So, in effect, they are trolling for employees to sign-up for a credit card, which would also have their employer’s company name on it. That’s going to cause a lot of headaches for companies since they might not approve or allow such cards being issued, but (without reading all of the fine print, it would appear) the employee need not tell their employer. Can you say “class action lawsuit waiting to happen?” This is particularly bad for ex-employees, too, since a malicious employer has all of the employee’s personal data such as social security number, home address, date of birth, and the like. So, a particularly evil manager or spurned lover could, in theory, set-up a credit card account for the ex-employee with malicious intent. Aside from all of that, the stupidest thing is that Advanta is sending credit card offers here to people who have not even worked for us for more than two years!

Ironically, they offer a Fraud News Alert on their home page about how identity thieves are trying to steal your information, and their Identity Theft Toolkit page proclaims “Identity theft is a serious and costly business! And while you can’t completely prevent identity theft from occurring, at Advanta we believe that knowledge can help minimize your risk and access can help you restore your credit if you are ever victimized.”

So, as you can see business and personal identity theft is not going to go away any time soon, particularly when major corporations continue to focus on shareholders, the stock price, and showing growth in their customer base and incremental revenue. But unless these corporations do a better job of policing who they allow to become clients and develop stringent practices and procedures to thwart fraud — and not contribute to fraud — they are only jeopardizing their potential relationships with legitimate customers.

Hey! Next time you need to ship a package, ask yourself:
What can brown do to you … er … for you?

Article is Copr. © 2006 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Originally published on

Music and Recording

Phishing Scams Target Musicians Bidding on eBay for Used Gear

ARTICLE: Just when you think it’s safe to go shopping on eBay for used gear, like a vintage tube mic, or analog keyboard, the phishing artists have to ruin my day. Phishing, is the practice of trying to fool you into going to a website pretending to be a legitimate site, like a bank or eBay, or to contact somebody about a product or service through “real looking” email communications.

I had this happen perhaps twice in six years and over 300 transactions on eBay, many for buying or selling old gear, but three times in the past 10 days — targeting me with phony “second chance offers” to buy music gear — definitely shows a concerted effort. In asking around, I found this was not an isolated case, and every musician I asked had received such an offer in their email. So, musicians need to be a little more watchful in email they get from eBay right now (well, really all the time, sadly).

Here’s how the scam works: you bid on an item, like a used Dave Smith Poly Evolver keyboard, or an Oberheim OB-12, and you lose the auction to another bidder who outbid you. You are the second highest bidder. The next day you get an email that “looks” like it came from eBay, with all the correct text, faked reply-to, legal notices, auction item number, but addressed to you. I got one second chance offer apiece after losing out on both of these items this month, so these are actual examples from real auctions.

The email offers to sell you the item and uses the actual text you would have gotten from eBay in a legitimate second chance offer:

    Good news! The following eBay item on which you placed a bid for US $825.78 on Sep-03-06 09:42:25 PDT is now available for purchase:
    Your Price: US $825.78
    Offer end date: 5 business days

    Second Chance Offer
    The seller is making this Second Chance Offer because the high bidder was either unable to complete the transaction or the seller has a duplicate item for sale.

Now I have received legitimate second chance offers before, but I’ve learned that you MUST go to your “My eBay” account, by going directly to, and not any link in any email, and once logged in, ANY legitimate message (meaning not phony) will show up in your My eBay panel under “messages” (usually at top of your My eBay panel once properly logged-in). If you do NOT see an email from the seller there for the second chance offer, it’s a scam.

The scam works in one or both of the following ways:

    1) an email account found in the phony message will use a free account like hotmail, gmail, yahoo, or similar and offer to sell you the item by “sending money” to PayPal — if you send money to this person’s account, you will never get it back, and never get the item!

    2) the email will have a phony website address link for you to follow and then log-in to your real eBay account and give away your username and password.

Eeven though it’s exciting to perhaps get a second chance at buying something you wanted, you need to be careful in ANY email that offers to sell you anything online.

A quick way to determine if the email is a phishing scam, is to look at the email “headers” in your mail software (e.g., Eudora, Outlook, etc.), which is a good skill to learn to use, where you would see something like this: (from the scam emails I got)

    Delivered-To: [my personal email address was here]
    Received: (qmail 21400 invoked from network); 8 Sep 2006 00:53:30 -0700
    Received: from (

As you can see from looking at the headers, it reveals where the email actually came from by both a mail server and I.P. address. By looking at this it’s pretty darn obvious that a message from a U.K. mail server isn’t really from eBay in the U.S.

However, what makes it look legit, is what you normally see in your mail software without looking at the headers:

    Subject: eBay Second Chance Offer for Item 110026433335

Now, contrast this with the headers from a “real” email from eBay, in response to my forwarding the fake email to (which is the address you should forward ALL suspect eBay email to):

    Received: (qmail 26862 invoked from network); 8 Sep 2006 07:47:10 -0700
    Received: from (HELO (

Identifying Fake eBay Emails and Websites
eBay provides the following information regarding this issue, which is worth a read to become savvy at spotting this kind of scam:

The best defense against fake emails and Web sites is learning how to spot them. You can learn more about fake emails and Web sites through our Spoof Tutorial at the following Web page:

Tracking Down I.P. Addresses
If you feel particulary pissed off about getting this kind of email trickery, you can complain to the hosting company where the email originated. You do this by looking at the headers, and finding the I.P. (Internet Protocol) number, and then enterting that into the ARIN Whois system, found at:

Example, if we use the I.P. in the phishing email, which was Put that into the ARIN search, and we get back the owner of that I.P., which happens to be Everyones Internet in Texas. In most cases there will be an abuse contact, where you can forward the entire scam email (including the long headers), as in this case:

    OrgAbuseHandle: ABUSE477-ARIN
    OrgAbuseName: Abuse
    OrgAbusePhone: +1-713-579-2850

One caution is that, in some cases, smart spammers and phishing farms, will “spoof” the I.P. as well which might look something like domain (hello and then later a real I.P. — point is, when you see more than one I.P., it’s usually the second one that is real and the first one faked. Complaining to the owner of the first number won’t do any good. Or, you can just forward the email(s) to eBay and let them deal with the hosting provider directly. Which they will do.

Well, there you go. Hopefully this will help keep your online eyes and ears open, and not get ripped off while trying to buy that cool piece of gear on eBay.

Article is Copr. © 2006 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Originally appeared on

Advertising and Marketing Reviews

When Product Placement Goes Too Far

ARTICLE: Product placement is considered a necessary evil and potential savior for the advertising industry, but sometimes the concept gets in the way of the art form. I don’t usually mind subtle placement of products into entertainment, such as Apple’s notebooks being found in almost every TV show of the past decade, or the iMac showing up on every desk in Dawson’s Creek, but the recent creative and financial flop The Island took the concept way too far.

Beyond the fact that the movie was a stinker, and a hodgepodge of better movies like Logan’s Run, one of the most annoying things that kept kicking me out of my suspension of disbelief was the raft of illogical and blatant product placements. Apparently clones meant for the slaughter need brand identification of the fact they’re drinking Aquafina water, or wearing Puma athletic shoes.

Most notably jarring was the giant Microsoft XBox backlit logo signage in the common area for the clones for their “evening fight games,” where they have been raised to think they are in a protected nest in a post holocaust world where the air outside will kill you. So, it made absolutely no sense for a giant XBox logo to be found on the walls in a faux future where corporations don’t exist and the world is a shambles.

When the lead characters use a callbox in the city, and the “MSN” logo comes up to float in mid-air, it’s not unreasonable to assume that might happen. Although, the likelihood of most of the movie’s near-future tack-ons are illogical at best (we will not have floating holograms, flying hover bikes, or sky-high monorails within the next 15 years by any stretch of the imagination). I’m also a bit doubtful that MSN will be the default search tool for phone directories at public phones (ahem, if there are still public phones on street corners at all in 15 years); but “wishful thinking” product placement in a bad SF movie isn’t that heinous, compared to the rest of the package.

Hit the Gas Pedal and the Story Runs on Fumes
At least in Minority Report the futuristic car from Lexus didn’t exist in a world where cars were obsolete. Similarly the futuristic Audi in I Robot didn’t kick your brain out of the story and served to show off a really cool “grab it and rack it” parking structure (too bad the rest of the movie didn’t live up to Asimov’s vision). But, back in The Island we see every police outfit in the city driving 2005 model Dodge Magnums; presumably in the year 2019, the police will be driving 15 year old vehicles while the rich citizens have flying speeder bikes. Vehicle placement in television is a long-standing tradition, and helped sell a heck of a lot of Pontiac Firebirds during the run of Knight Rider, but the shameless product placement of cars in movies has really gotten to be a distraction. Certainly Michael Bay is known for car chases and shooting TV commercials for same, but his creative-whore practice of bringing his commercials into his movies has become a negative trademark to his films.

In Bad Boys II, the lead characters actually commandeer the car of a sports celebrity “test driving” a new Cadillac, which the Will Smith character suddenly finds to be just as good a chase car as his Porsche or Ferrari – not because it serves the story, but because it gets the car into a scene which plays to the masses. Sadly, the sorts of folks who are likely to be brainwashed by this kind of product placement are not buying Cadillacs. They also drive by a perfectly posed brand new year model Chevy Tahoe (or so it appeared) just sitting there washed and the same camera angle used in car commercials. Similarly, in The Island, the clone and his original lovingly adore a 2009 Cadillac with 500 horsepower, which looks a lot like the GM show car possibly planned for 2008 production.

GM might disagree with my complaints since their sales of cars under the Cadillac brand are up 35% over the past four years, due to making better cars and higher visibility in films like the second Matrix movie and the Bad Boys sequel.

As a car guy, I really found it very distracting in The Island to see Chrysler Crossfires parked at the front of a row of cars on a street, Dodge Magnums, and other Chrysler branded products in almost every scene where there was a vehicle. Either a new GM vehicle or Dodge is shown throughout, even in the scenes with traffic driving through intersections.

product placementAnother gratuitous placement in a bad movie was the giant weight loss product truck that just happens to be driving through the back roads in Terminator 3 (photo at right). We’ve long seen Pepsi or Coke trucks get side-swiped in TV shows and movies, but now we’re getting long lingering camera shots of trucks with brands highly visible on the sides.

Lexus has taken a more restrained approach, providing 2006 model year cars to TV shows like Las Vegas, and 24 (all the bad guys drive the nicest cars in 24).

Placed Products Get the Best Close-ups
Smart folks might already know the connection between both Bad Boys II and The Island; being produced by the same film makers — and so the annoyance level in both films is not coincidental. The makers of both movies are more focused on “product” over “art” and shamelessly build product around a marketing plan, not on the longevity of the story or performances, or for film critics. Ultimately, this leads to bad movies, and the overt product placement is only one of the elements contributing to this.

Film makers should look at well-done examples of placement, such as Minority Report, where the character going into a futuristic GAP store fit in with the storyline and served to make a statement about “personalization” with a video/holographic A.I. sales “greeter” welcoming you to the store by name and asking about your prior purchases. The retinal-scan personalization and identification aspect allowed clever placement for all kinds of products, like American Express and digital ink newspapers from USA Today.

I love movies, watch a lot of TV, and don’t mind the product placements in most cases (like Lexus in this season of 24), but these “punch you in the eyeballs” tactics in some projects are really starting to detract from enjoying even “bad” films.

If content creators, film makers, TV producers and others wish to retain some level of credibility with their audiences and to not permanently punch holes in their work with dated products, there needs to be some thought given to more subtle approaches that serve both the needs of the budget builders and the art form.

Article is Copr. © 2006 by Christopher Simmons – all rights reserved. Originally appeared on

Articles Business 2.0 Public Relations (PR)

Top Mistakes of Online Writing – Tips for New Media Authors

ARTICLE: I am often asked in my daily gig of copy-editing other folks’ work (my company has an online publishing network, and also runs a respected newswire service) if there is “tip sheet” of common mistakes to look for when writing online copy, be it a company bio, or articles for Internet journals. Since there are a number of things I coach or caution folks on all the time, it seemed a good idea to share these tidbits.

Since many online journals no longer use trained copy-editors, and most of the new “newswire” services and online posting sites have no editorial staff to filter bad writing, these tips might help you keep the most common mistakes to a minimum.

First, the most common mistakes I find in business press releases include:

It’s vs. Its: “It’s” is short for “it is” or “it has” (“it’s raining”), whereas “its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “its coat.”

You’re vs. Your: “You’re” is short for “you are” (“you’re not going to like this movie”), whereas “your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your shirt has a hole in it.”

There vs. Their: “There” is a place (“let’s go over there for a boat ride”), whereas “their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their boat sure is big.”

Insure vs. Ensure: The term “insure” should be considered related to the insurance business, whereas “ensure” means “to make sure.” So you would “ensure people make it to the wedding on time” rather than “insure” they get there. UPDATE 2011: This has changed quite a bit, where even the Concise Oxford now considers “insure” to be an acceptable U.S. use of “ensure.” However, most journalists still prefer more specific usage of each word for clarity. As in “I need to ensure I have paid up on our insurance, and that State Farm will insure the stuff in the garage in case of damage.”

Watch for other like-sounding words – it’s all about the i and e: Some of the most common errors come from words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have subtly different meanings. Much like insure and ensure, the same problem arises with premier and premiere, and compliment and complement.

Brand Names: Many people don’t understand that certain brands are spelled a certain way, or Initial Capped (first letter of word capitalized) a certain way. And some brands are not generic terms for a type of product. For instance Kleenex is a brand name, not a generic term for tissue. Xerox is a brand name, not the term for photo-copying. Some brands have letters capitalized in certain ways like iPod or YouTube, or PayPal. So, using pay pal or paypal would be incorrect. Wi-Fi is actually a trade name and is not “wifi.”

Consistent Company Names: Too often I see companies that don’t seem to know their own legal name. Throughout a press release, one should be consistent with use of WidgetWoo, Inc, or Widgetwoo, Inc. or WidgetWoo Inc (check your letters of incorporation if you don’t know proper use of commas and periods in your company name and whether the inc has a period at the end or not – and which letters are initial capped).

Know what acronyms actually mean: Many people don’t understand what acronyms are or what they stand for: an acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of other words. A common mistake is ATM, which stands for Automated Teller Machine. Technically, if you write “ATM machine,” that is redundant, and is like saying automated teller machine machine. Other similar errors might be “USB bus” or “DVD disc.” Acronyms must always be written all upper case, “atm” is wrong, as is “usb” or “dvd.” Computer tech items based on acronyms are often incorrectly used, and these include: ROM, RAM, CD, PC, RAID and LED.

Punctuation and Quote Marks: Commas separating a direct quote from the rest of a sentence should be placed inside the quotation marks. The same is true for periods. Question marks should be inside quotes only if they are part of the quote. So for instance: “Life is a lovely bunch of chocolates,” said Jane Smith, CEO of WidgetWonk LLC.

Ellipses (…) vs. Em Dashes (—): Ellipses indicate something was removed from the text and should not be used to separate a thought — that’s a job for the em dash (so named because in traditional typography, the dash was the same width as a capital M; this has also now been carried over to Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, for HTML, used to specify increments of letter and line spacing). Since the em dash often requires an embed of what’s called a high ASCII character, it’s often represented by a double hyphen. Here, the em dash is used to set off text that defines the sentence’s subject: “My wife the wedding planner — the one who asked me to give this presentation — is not here today.” In this next sentence, the words “the one” were replaced by an ellipsis: “My wife…who asked me to give this presentation is here today.” Also, when a quote or sentence ends with an ellipses, a further period is required, as in: “The world of garp is full of tarp if only ….”

The ellipses is technically used most often when quoting or citing a reference, say a review of a product, and taking part of the sentence or overall quote, and cutting out something in the middle, and that is where you would have the ellipses to indicate something has been removed in the quoted information.

It’s generally considered acceptable in some online content such as press releases to use a single hyphen versus a double hyphen to simulate the em dash, as so: “There’s trouble brewing – not coffee, mind you – around the tracks, back by the barn.”

In traditional print writing, you would not actually have spaces on either side of the em dash, either, but for readability and line breaks online, the space on either side of an em dash has become acceptable usage.

For both press releases, and for Web journalism, some of the most common mistakes are in not actually proofing (proof reading) what you’ve written. Here are some tips for checking your work:

View your document at 125 or 150 percent (“zoom”) in your word processor (such as Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, OpenOffice, WordPerfect, etc.) so you can better see what you’re reading and more easily spot errors.

Switch your font (typeface) to Courier, a mono-spaced font (looks like old typewriter text and not book text), to break the brain’s typical pattern recognition. This makes it easier to catch mistakes, because it forces you to pay closer attention to the text including elements between words such as punctuation.

Don’t just skim. Take the time to really read what you’ve written, word for word, line by line, as if you’ve never seen it before.

When possible, read your work out loud. Hearing the text may help you spot errors you might not see, as another part of your brain might think, “Hey, that didn’t make sense.”

Print your document. You can often catch mistakes on paper that you’d miss on the computer monitor. If you’ve ever noticed an error in something you’ve posted to a blog, after it’s live, and you’ve gone to read it “on the page,” this is same principal, except you’re checking before it’s been published.

Have somebody else read it. Another pair of eyes can be the magic bullet in finding errors, as different people see both text and information differently. However, this will more often find thematic or grammatical issues than pure punctuation. Obviously, if the person checking you doesn’t know what an ellipses is either, it won’t catch that kind of mistake.

And finally, why not actually use your word processor:

Give the pesky grammar checker in your word processor a try. The latest and greatest software applications are much improved from the clunky software of the last century. Microsoft Word will often give you ideas on how to fix fragmented sentences, or replace a phrase. You don’t have to follow their advice or example, as often it’s quite wrong, but sometimes it can make you re-examine something that actually does have an error in usage.

MS Word will even underline suspect words and double spaces to fix. Sometimes it’s just a word not recognized, and you might add that to the built-in dictionary. Sometimes, it will catch an obvious item like a missing apostrophe, or repeated words. If you’re using a word processor, why not actually use it to do more than be an on-screen typewriter?

These tips won’t make you a better writer, as you still need to have something to say, or clearly communicate what you want somebody else to understand, but perhaps these tips will help you find and fix some of the mistakes I see made every day, and how to avoid them yourself.

Article is Copr. © 2006-2011 by Christopher Laird Simmons – all rights reserved.

Articles Books and Publishing

The Present and Future of e-Books

ARTICLE: For this “roundtable” we’re discussing the future of e-books (electronic books). The question posited to our panel is this: “Do you think e-books will ever catch on, and if so when, and if not, why?” Or, even more simply, “What do you think about the future of E-Books?”

Backgrounder for this Brainstorm:

E-books (or eBooks) have had a long history, yet slow growth as a consumer product. It’s been 10 years since e-books began to show up online in places like AOL, before the dawn of the “world wide web,” and a decade later e-book sales are but a blip in a single NY Times Best Seller’s revenue sheet. According to the Open eBook Forum, a trade group for electronic publishers, sales in the first quarter of 2004 were $3.23 million, a 28 percent jump from the prior year. Over one million units were reported sold in 2003.

The Future of e-BooksArguably the widest “distribution” of e-books is actually facilitated through unauthorized conversion of printed books into electronic format using OCR (optical character recognition) software and a scanner, or Adobe Acrobat’s “capture” feature. Thousands of books are now being circulated without any compensation to the author or publishers, which is evidence of legitimate concern for the need of digital rights management (DRM) technologies before major publishers make e-books a staple of their marketing. And, ironically, as the market continues to present itself, some online book sellers have stopped selling e-books in favor of only offering print-on-demand (POD) versions of small press titles.

For the average joe or jane, however, e-books are still in need of the comfortable reading device, that’s either affordable, or disposable/recyclable in the form of some type of digital paper with activated ink capsules. With new technologies coming around the corner, the growth of “electronic reading” online, and the proliferation of portable multimedia content devices, e-books have the potential to “take off” finally, but it’s unlikely they will ever replace printed books and the “joy of reading” which is so dear to so many. What then is the future of the e-book?

–Christopher Simmons, Oct. 2004.

About Our Roundtable Panel for This Discussion:

Christopher Laird Simmons is the founder of Neotrope® Press (formerly Mindset Press). He has been a self-publisher since a teenager in the 1970s, and produced his first e-book in the nascent Common Ground format in 1994. He has also written widely on the subject of portable electronic document formats and digital rights management (DRM) for national magazines like Print on Demand Business, and has been interviewed by TrendWatch for reports on the PDF industry.

Beverly West is a best-selling author whose series, Cinematherapy, the Girls Guide to Movies for Every Mood, has spawned six sequels and daily TV show in primetime on WE, Women’s Entertainment, as well as a weekly column in Hampton Jitney Magazine. In addition, Bev’s cookbook, Culinarytherapy, The Girl’s Guide to Food for Every Mood is now a weekly column with Knight Ridder. Bev has also written for many national magazines including Self, Redbook, Body and Soul, and TV Guide.

Michael Archer is the founder of Firebomber Publications, a small press dedicated to providing exciting firefighting fiction to the general public. Fifty percent of the profits from the sale of Firebombers Incorporated books and merchandise go to firefighting relief agencies supporting the families of injured and fallen firefighters.

Ron Pramschufer is one of the founders of RJ Communications; a New York City web based publishing services company which operates at BooksJustBooks .com. Ron has over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industries. He is the co-author of the book, Publishing basics – A Guide for the Small Press and Independent Self-Publisher and edits the monthly publishing oriented newsletter, Publishing Basics (PublishingBasics .com).

The roundtable:

Bev: I do see a growing market for e-books as the public becomes increasingly accustomed to on-demand entertainment, that doesn’t require them to reach any further than their remote control or their internet screen to acquire the media they are looking for. So the immediacy of e-book is a big selling point, however I also believe that reading online is a very different experience than holding a book and reading in a comfy chair while sipping tea with a cat on your lap.

Chris: Right now I think e-books have their place, but it’s not yet a broad-appeal form of delivering book content. I think it is a great way for first-time authors to put their work out there, and it’s also a great replacement for the traditional “fanzines” which were popular in the 70s and 80s (I published a whole bunch of these in the late 70s). While the “blog” is turning into a catchall for many types of opinion publishing, competent fiction and non-fiction books, and those gorgeous coffee-table books are not in jeopardy from the e-book format.

One great use for e-books, which has only become a recent phenomenon, is for libraries. Some librarians which have PDF-enabled collections now, can “loan” out copies of rare books which could not otherwise be provided to the public.

I also think the Open eBook Forum’s sales figures are a good “indicator,” but are not in any way complete, as they only count those reporting sellers, and don’t (yet) take into account many e-book aggregator sales sites. And they are not taking into account the thousands of home-brew e-books being sold off personal websites with PayPal enabled ecommerce, or the “free” books that solicit donations, that are a notable grassroots movement the media is unaware of.

Ron: Most of those who know me are quite aware that there is very little grey area in my opinion on just about any topic. My opinion on E-Books is no exception. In my opinion E-Books are a waste of time and effort and only detract from the small publishers’ main goal of selling “books.”

Back in the 90s, when the venture capital money was flowing faster than Niagara Falls, the e-book industry “PR Machine” predicted a “Revolution” during which time the printed book would quickly go the way of the dinosaurs. I remember attending various trade shows during this time and seeing huge exhibits of the e-books publishers as well as other e-book suppliers recounting their success stories. While I had never actually seen an e-book, it sure seemed like something I was missing out on.

The way these e-book vendors made it appear, I was the only person in the universe who was not buying books in their format. It was really making me feeling old having let such a dramatic event pass me right by. However, once I left these exhibit halls and re-entered the real world I couldn’t find an e-book anywhere, or even anyone who even knew what one was. The truth about this e-book “revolution” is that is was simply a figment of the imaginations of those in the e-book industry and the “revolution” only existed as long as the venture capital lasted. The venture capital ran out some time ago.

The concept of sitting at a computer, or other similar device, reading a book never made sense to me. Looking something up on the Internet or downloading a sample PDF chapter is one thing, but a whole book? I just don’t see it. And I am not alone.

Chris: As an experiment, I read the first Harry Potter books in “unauthorized” e-book format (I own the hardcover editions as well), on my little HP notebook in Winter 2002/3. It was actually not unpleasant because once I determined the right color scheme (i.e., white text on blue background) and a size that was comfortable, margin width that didn’t hurt my eyes from scanning too far left-right over and over, it wasn’t so bad. Of course, I was doing this curled up on the couch, in front of the fireplace, to complete the experiment. I can’t say it made me want to give up printed books, but I can see my kids (not yet born) finding it to be “normal.” If I had a tablet PC, I would almost find it – dare I say it – comfortable. It was nice to be able to make the typeface larger, as my eyes are not what they were as a youth and I’ve been too stubborn to get contacts or glasses.

Michael: E-books are a great idea for those who don’t work behind a computer all day, or who don’t mind curling up with a good computer in front of the fireplace, but generally, I don’t know that they will ever really catch on. At Firebomber Publications, we tried marketing our first novel, “Firebombers Incorporated,” as an e-book before segueing to paperback and the resultant demand was underwhelming. Once the paperback version came out, many more copies sold in that format than the e-book style.

I decided to send some reader response material out about this and found out some interesting things. First, people were not really enthused about having to read a book on a computer after spending all day at work on a computer. The only exception was one engineer who read the e-book on his work computer during his lunch break, but his reading time was so limited with this approach that he had a hard time remembering all the plot details from week to week.

Ron: I ride the train each morning, to my office in New York, along with about 400,000 other commuters. I made it a point to start observing what people were doing with their time riding to and from the city. The morning trip is dominated by people reading the newspaper or catching up on a little sleep. The seats on Metro North were designed to comfortably seat 2-5 pigmies so you can imagine what the rush hour commute is like. Add to this, the image of all these people trying to read the newspaper.

You would think this would be the perfect setting for the use of a bunch of e-book readers. The commute home is a little different in that many of the morning newspaper readers have turned into book readers and the morning sleepers are reading the newspaper they didn’t read on the trip in. In all the years of riding the train I have only seen one e-book reader. I was so shocked when I saw it, I moved over to the person to ask him about it.

As it turned out, he worked for and had been given the reader at no charge. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that if it were up to him, he would not have it. Years later, the commute is still pretty much the same. A few people are sprinkled here and there watching movies on DVD players or laptops, and a few more talking obnoxiously on their cell phones to who knows who, but there are still no signs of anyone reading an e-book.

Michael: Another problem is that people like to take paperbacks to the beach or on trips and few if any really want to invest in the portable readers to make the e-book truly mobile. Some people like to collect books and aren’t enthused about the prospect of having a signed CD in their collection. In selling my books, I tried including some illustrations with my CD to add features that couldn’t be included with a paperback, but, since people could access these images from my website as well, that incentive went nowhere.

Chris: I think it’s very valid that the must-have e-book reading device does not yet exist. There is no Apple ePod, or iBook that has both the cool factor and usability to take the world by storm (although the new Sony Librie is pretty nice) and I think will succeed where the Rocketbook/Gemstar eBook device failed – the problem with the last Gemstar was that it wasn’t different enough from simply reading a book on your notebook or PDA to warrant the purchase. I think RCA came out with a new iteration under $300, but I’d find this hard to justify versus a PDA.

Certainly some people are now reading the bible on their iPod, but little snippets of wisdom fit well into the tiny window, while a full fledged book would not be practical on such a small device. I’m hoping that the digital paper/ink formats will be the panacea that digital book companies have been awaiting with baited pixels. It’s estimated we’ll see some practical devices in late 2006 (the Sony Librie is somewhat based on this technology, and is available in Japan only), so that’s when I think the next bump will come in electronic books people can “read” versus simply reference.

Michael: When I first decided to try an e-book format, there were a number of booksellers on the web who dealt with practically nothing but e-books. Since that time, I’ve noticed that more and more of these vendors have either gotten out of e-books for the most part, or have required those who market e-books through their web stores to also sign up for Print-On-Demand (POD) programs with limited (and expensive) print runs. I suppose that’s the only way they can make any margin on the less-popular e-book version of the tome.

Chris: I don’t think that e-books will ever replace printed books. Even with the various digital ink solutions, the permanence of organic ink on paper has many attractive features. It’s unlikely a future archeologist will be able to even read the data off a hard disk or optical disc buried in the sands of time, but books, scrolls, and manuscripts have survived hundreds of years. A well printed, well-bound hard cover book can last for much longer than digital media (as far as readability). So, for collectors and those who enjoy reading with a visceral experience, a book is still unique.

On the other hand, I think some forms of published media like newspapers are ultimately doomed because of the time-lag in information delivery, and the inherent temporary nature of the format. A recent study shows newspaper circulations dropping in general. In fact, I cancelled my LA Times subscription because I was not reading it. There was nothing compelling enough for me to keep getting it, and they mangled the Calendar section from a magazine to just another news section. I can get news online or via cable TV “right now” and my morning read online has news from the past hour, not the past evening.

Bev: I definitely see that e-books have an increasing place in the personal libraries of America, I do not think that it will ever replace hard copy completely.

Michael: Until a user-friendly reader is made affordable enough to compete with paperbacks (or even hardcover books), e-books simply won’t go anywhere.

Ron: I have a personal theory on this whole paper vs. E-book thing. I believe it was Freud who said your personality is developed by the time you are two (or something like that). With that in mind, take a look at your children or grandchildren under the age of two. Do you sit down or lay down with them and read them a nice picture book or do you lay down with them and read them a nice e-book? A book is more than just words on paper, especially to a child. The touch and feel, even the smell and, to a one year old, the taste makes a book unique. By the age of two, these children are “book” people and will continue to be book people as long as they are alive. Don’t believe me? Look how many kids under two are set in front of a television to be entertained. Mine were no exceptions. Wee Sing, Sesame Street, Wiggles or the Care Bears have babysat more then one child. Are these kids now TV people? You bet they are.

Chris: It’s funny, though. Ten years ago when I was working to help launch a couple of mail order catalog companies, (MacMall right before the Mosaic “web” browser came out, and then DirectWare) the popular argument was that online shopping would never replace traditional print catalogs, because women would always prefer to curl up by the fireplace and dog-ear fashion catalog pages or circle items. Certainly the online store we launched in 1995 died because it was too far ahead of the curve to succeed against printed catalogs, but now there is a critical mass of people online. This has greatly impacted the publishing world for direct mail and catalogs. I get about 1/10th the holiday catalogs that I did ten years ago even though I and am on more high end customer “lists.” When I was a kid, we’d circle things in the Sears wish-book; now kids have online tools to help them prepare a wish list for santa complete with price comparisons and photos, and where to buy for parents.

I think there will ultimately be some form of electronic book that works – like for technical information that changes every six months. I recently started using a product called Cakewalk Sonar XL in the summer of 2003. At the end of 2003 it went to version 3.0, and now in October of 2004, it’s at 4.0. I bought a couple of “expert books” for the program, but they were out of date in as few as five months! An e-book and an inkjet printer output would make more sense to me today, then recycle the paper when a new “book” comes out. With a decent e-reader device, you could have a hundred books “online” in his or her hand.

Spending $30 for a book that is obsolete in six to eight months makes no sense. This has also been a problem for people who buy books for topics like learning Macromedia Flash, which went through three versions with substantial changes in about the same timeframe as Sonar. I have two $35 Flash MX books on my shelf, which don’t have the information on MX2004 which came out a few months after MX. I won’t buy these kinds of books ever again! I would buy the ebook for $15 because I can print the chapters I need, or look something up, the dispose of it when the new “edition” comes out. This makes a lot of sense to me.

For research e-books are the clear winner, since they can be searched internally, can be searched via the web (Google searches and archives Acrobat PDF content), and support bookmarks, and note taking in the document.

So, for me, this means that currently the ideal type of book that can work for the format is likely technical or time-sensitive, and not the great American novel, or latest socio-political thriller.

With the eventual arrival of digital paper and ink, e-books and such content will become more viable. Other future tech that will make e-books more popular will be better voice synthesis and the ability to have smart media in your car or portable phone, which can read the contents of a book out loud in an audio-book fashion.

Ron: e-book people are still touting e-books. A recent article proclaims that “Record E-book Sales Recorded in First Quarter of 2004.” Sounds like the “revolution” is alive and well until you figure that the 1st Quarter “record” of 421,955 copies for the entire e-book publishing industry is just about equal to what the “Swift Boat” guys sold of their printed book in a couple days. While better than a “poker in the eye,” it’s a long way from the predicted “revolution.” I guess only time will tell.

Remember, it took a while for the laser disc to morph into the DVD. Keep your eye on those one year olds. The day you don’t see any printed books on their bookshelves and their parents reading stories to them from a computer, it is time to jump on the e-book bandwagon. Until then, my money is on the printed book.

* * *

Additional comments on this subject by Doug Powles, CEO of Colligo Corp.

The article is aimed the average Joe or Jane. But let’s Include Sally, who is blind, Ken who has severe dyslexia, Ramon, who grew up using English as a second language and Fred who cannot read past a grade 5 level.

Take all the Sallys, Kens, Freds and Ramons and you are talking over one third of our population….so there is no average.

Nothing Gives You a Greater Life than a Book.
But a printed book is not accessible to these folks.
26 states have passed the accessible textbook act, giving the content in accessible format or e-books.

With available software, these people can now enjoy what the average Joe or Jane enjoys.

But the publishers are dragging their heels and will not come into the 21st century.

However, new laws, the copyright law of 1996, Fair Use Act, Sec. 508 and others will drive the antiquated publishers out of business. These laws mandate that all information be available to all people in an accessible manner…an e-book is that manner. This pertains to any agency talking public funds, from libraries to schools, court houses and more. Further, the 26 states will not buy from publishers who do not supply accessible formats.

The publishers just don’t get it, why don’t they compromise and put a CD in the back of their books — it’s a win win for everybody. They seem to forget that their next generation of readers is the kids who are the computer generation and more and more schools are going completely digital.

eBook Resources:

(A more detailed list can be found in our “Resources” center.)

Open eBook Forum
Industry Trade Group, has e-book “best seller” list.

Adobe Digital Media Store
Digital books in PDF formats.

ebookwise (fictionwise)
Offers $99 ebook reader (rebranded GEB1150) with $20 content credit. 7,500 titles priced about the same as printed books. – the digital bookstore
20,000 titles in 50 categories.

uBook Reader
Simple, lean FREE ebook reader for Windows and Pocket PCs that can read HTML, TXT, RTF, PDB, and PRC (not secure) formats.

University of Virginia Library
1,800 publicly-available ebooks from the UVL Etext Center in MS Reader and PALM format.

OverDrive(R) ReaderWorks
Free eBook authoring and conversion tools for creating MS Reader format eBooks from MS Word documents.
Acrobat PDF resources online publication from Ziff-Davis.

BiblePlayer(tm) for iPod

Important Note: The above list was prepared Fall of 2004 and may be obsolete by the time you read this, due to the fast-paced changes in the field and the World Wide Web.

This article and all content is Copr. © 2004 by Christopher Laird Simmons. All Rights Reserved. Originally appeared on