Category Archives: News

Ad Blocking Backlash – Can the User Tell Good From Bad?

Been reading a lot about the new ad blocking feature in iOS 9 and this post from John Gruber at Daring Fireball stood out. He comments, “Are we fighting ads, or are we fighting garbage?”

John, I would argue that we are fighting the latter, the problem is that for the layperson, they don’t know the difference since they can’t tell which ad service is doing nefarious things and which are good (like the one you use). Therefore, with this new feature, users are opting to just block everything since they have no way of knowing the difference.

Cor.kz is Released For Sale in the iPhone App Store!

So a couple of friends/buddies/partners and I have done an iPhone App (opens iTunes) called Cor.kz… It’s all about wine! It is a front end to the worlds largest repository of wine data, vineyards, bottles and reviews and doesn’t just give the ability to lookup wine info, but you can also manage your cellar if you want.
We have gone to great lengths to try to incorporate all the stuff that you would want in Cor.kz, ’cause this is an application that is designed for, and by the people that use it (the three of us have extensive wine collections, but we’re working on making them bigger!) But we also understand that not everyone uses software in the same way, and there are some features that are in the works that will be available in the next release (coming in a couple weeks or less, hopefully).
So please, go out and buy Cor.kz, use the app, give us feedback and tell us what you think or what you want in the next version that we haven’t thought of yet :-)! We really do want to know, are totally consumer centric and will do our best to incorporate all feasible requests :-).
It’s pretty cool right now, we think… not only does it do all the lookups and display reviews, prices and ratings from CellarTracker.com, but it also is set up to “announce” what you are drinking to Twitter if you use that service too. So your friends can watch what you are drinking in real time, and drink with you :-)….
I hope you enjoy Cor.kz and find it as useful as we do!
By the way, the name of the application is the same as the domain, so you can go to http://cor.kz and learn about it there!

Police to Manage Film Location Security

There is an article in today’s Los Angeles Times about security on film set locations. It mentions how most of the officers that you see around town doing security and directing traffic on sets are retired, no longer active members of the police force.
Personally, I find this quite disturbing! While I live in Santa Monica, which is an independent city (Los Angeles is an amalgamation of lots of little cities inside a great big one), we have similar issues. And if you read my posts from the past, you can see that filming in Santa Monica can be a problem.
You might ask, “What’s the problem with this?” Well, the problem is that often times they “protect” the filming. Go and read the article, it talks about how they (the filming) often work past hours that they are allowed, create excessive noise and other things that disturb the surrounding neighbors/neighborhoods. The officers aren’t there to protect the filming, they are there to enforce the rules and protect the neighbors/neighborhoods.
If they aren’t doing their jobs by protecting those that are effected, then what are they doing? Are they just there impersonating a police officer? They wear police uniforms and ride police motorcycles even though they aren’t police. Isn’t this against the law? Can I dress up as a police officer and provide security…? I didn’t think so, and just because you are retired doesn’t give you the rights to put on the uniform again and act like police, especially when you are allowing film crews to not abide by the rules (time limits, parking issues, security, etc., i.e. breaking the law!).
Again, go read the article and you will be as shocked as I am… The LAPD sent out officers to spot check and found that often there are violations, which is why they are now looking to oversee these folks that do film security, impersonating officers! I say go to it!!!! The film folks say that it will raise costs, increase hassles and make them move filming elsewhere…. Then go! There is no reason that a film crew/comapny/industry should not have to follow the same rules that the rest of the public does.
A rare occurrence in LA, where the police have been investigated by the FBI, etc. I say go LAPD :-)!

TechCrunch50 Judged by Someone Who Committed Securities Fraud

So the TechCrunch50 is about to happen in early September. One of the judges that will be rating/reviewing the companies is Henry Blodget. While Mr. Blodget is a smart man, no denying that, he has also committed securities fraud and has been banned from the securities business for life!!!!
Mr. Blodget did settle without admitting guilt, but if you didn’t do something shady, why would you settle and take a lifetime ban…? What did he do… well, he said one thing as an analyst, and in emails said the opposite (good investment by mouth, bad investment by email). So if he’s been caught doing this before, why would you trust him? Kind of like the old “bait and switch”….
What makes matters even worse is that no where on the site for TechCrunch50, in the blurb, or even in the CrunchBase listing does it tell the truth… It does espouse about his accolades in the securities business, but it doesn’t mention that although he was voted/rated/ranked as one of the top analysts, he is now banned from the securities business for life…. That’s not a good thing!

Under the Heading… “Good Luck, But Don’t Hold Your Breath!”

So I am reading the usual sources today and I come across this article at News.com. It’s about a group in the U.K. that wants to share in concert ticket re-sale revenue. Basically, they want a cut from the broker/secondary/scalper market…. Good luck :-)!
This is a market, while despised and not giving back to the artist/group/promoter, they really aren’t doing anything that is illegal. And when they change the law, they find a way to work within it to still achieve their end results.
Both sides do make valid arguments however, and I find myself in agreement with both…. The Harry Potter book example I can identify with, but then again, tickets aren’t a right, it’s the rental of that seat space. Not to mention that there is often fine-print “legalese” that puts limits on what can be done with the ticket: Not for re-sale unless through an authorized agent, Not for promotional use, Not responsible for injury or harm, etc…..
So what are these promoter/venue people thinking? They’ll just walk up and ask nice for a piece of the profit and the secondary market will gladly hand it over…? If you really want to change the way the ticketing business works and to bring profits back in-line for those that are out there taking the risks (artists/groups/promoters/venues), it’s not about how they can grab money from others, it’s about how the business models can change.
In the world of ticketing, there is a way to make it a much larger profit center for the risk takers mentioned. They will have to have some faith and take a bit of risk too, on a new company, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before and in return for that, they will have a much higher income stream from ticketing….
Now I just have to find someone to fund my ticketing company idea so that we can provide the service that will help all of these promoters/venues…. 🙂

The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour

I had the opportunity to attend yet another fabulous Town Hall Los Angeles event today. This one was really quite important to all, but most don’t know about it. It has even been the subject of a 60 Minutes segment and is having a documentary made about it, it’s that important! It is called the “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” and is headlined by David M. Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States. Here is a picture of my mother (the President of Town Hall Los Angeles) with David Walker (I’m standing next to them taking the pic with my iPhone)

First, you should know that the Comptroller General of the United States is a non-partisan appointed position with a term of 15 years. The position is the nation’s Chief Accountability Officer and head of the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

This was an amazing event…. There were three other people on the panel with David Walker, the Comptroller General: Robert L. Bixby, the Executive Director of The Concord Coalition; Alison Acosta Fraser, the Director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy; and Isabel V. Sawhill, a Senior Fellow at The Brooking Institution. You can read more about them and their bios here (pdf).

What was so amazing about this event was that they explained such a complex situation that is really, really important in such a plain and interesting way. They even put a bit of humor into it. I have also scanned as pdf’s the handouts that went along with their presentations (be warned they are pdf’s and while not huge, not tiny either).

When you look at these slides, and if you heard the talks that accompanied them, you were scared. And you should be! What they showed is that we are heading for bankruptcy as a nation. There is no question about it, and no one from either party or organization has/will/or can argue these numbers. They are hard facts! I encourage you to look at the slides and pay attention. One of the things that they all said that was so important was that it’s not just us, but the generations to follow that will be burdened by these entitlements and the bankruptcy to follow.

The all said that there is no way to grow our economy out of this predicament. There is no way to change the course we are on without hard political decisions. They all suggested calling, emailing, faxing and especially writing our Congressmen/women. They all also suggested that any politician that says that they won’t touch entitlements is tacitly agreeing to bankrupt our country! Of course, they had the numbers to back up all of these statements….

There was also complete agreement on another topic that I had heard but that doesn’t really sink in…. Social Security is the “easy” one to solve. It’s the smallest of the bunch. Medicare and Medicaid are multiple times the size spending and therefore problem wise. This is where the tough decisions are going to have to be made and people are going to have to sacrifice and work longer and harder to afford these benefits! Again, I encourage you to look at the slides, read the 60 Minutes link above, and to talk about this with your friends. We have to do something about this debt that is hanging over our head or else!

I go to a lot of these types of events. This was the best I have attended! Not just because of the topic (which I am interested in, and you should be too), but because the speakers were so good. It’s readily apparent that they understand the importance of this topic and are trying to make it easier for the lay-person to understand, while not scaring them to death and inaction. It’s also obvious that they have given this speech/talk a gazillion times before and practiced it that much even before that. They are very good speakers that get their point across well, unlike our President. I would encourage all to listed to this talk should you have an opportunity to do so. Go seek it out, Google for it, find it and attend!

I also got seated next to me Morgan Fairchild, which didn’t hurt :-)! At one point, the photographer took a picture, and because of the angle, of course I was in it. I causally leaned over to her and said, “Because of you, now I’m going to be famous.” She replied that “We’d be on the cover of The Enquirer tomorrow…”. And of course I had to comment back, “That’s good for my ego, but maybe not so much for yours”, and that got a laugh :-)….

Breakfast with Christopher Cox, Chairman of the SEC

Wow, he’s really smart!!!!

I had an opportunity to attend a breakfast at which Christopher Cox, Chairman of the SEC, spoke this morning. While many will say, “So what, you and 200 other people!” it does matter because he came to speak at a function (the breakfast) held by the organization that my mother runs, Town Hall Los Angeles. So connections are important, I get to meet and be introduced, etc. It’s a very cool thing :-)! And the event was spectacular. Of course I’m biased, but having attended a lot of these types of events, this one was fabulous. Everything went well and if there was a problem (I didn’t notice any) it was handled and not seen. Even the food was edible, which is a rarity at these types of gatherings!

What can I say about Chairman Cox… again, he’s a really smart guy! Have you ever been to a meeting where you sit around hear people talk and then the person that’s been quiet opens their mouth and speaks… and says what others have been trying to say but does it in such an eloquent and direct way that everyone not only understands it, but takes it to heart? That is how Chairman Cox spoke.

He came to speak, and was a bit late because he decided to give a speech that actually had market implications, not just to give a canned speech (in my family, many of us have had to give a lot of speeches, so when asked, “What did you talk about this time?” and it’s a canned speech we’ve given before we say something like “Oh, I gave speech 112-B.”) So why was he late? He had to release the speech publicly prior to giving it and had trouble doing so. It was explained that he had some problem with his Clipper Chip and the computer. In the end, he had to go and use another computer and was on his hands and knees under the desk fixing it so he could release the speech and then give it. Very funny to imagine the Chairman of the SEC under a desk fixing a computer, but it happened :-)!

What did he speak about… Municipal Securities. I’m sure you will hear a lot about it in the news later today/tomorrow. As I said, it had market implications (according to him and his “handlers”). He started by explaining a bit about what municipal securities are, even though it was a room filled with lawyers and accountants from all the big firms, etc., but it was good for us lay people. He explained that they aren’t just bonds and securities offered by governments for roads and the like, but also those bonds issued by said municipalities for funding things like stadiums, convention centers, etc. He also threw out some statistics on how large the municipal securities market was. Let’s just say it’s huge, larger than the GDP of China, about $2.4 trillion. Wow, that’s a really big number!

Net, net he talked about how the rules for municipal securities were different from corporate offerings. While that was all well and good when Securities Laws were enacted over 70 years ago and the municipal securities market was in a nascent state, these days it’s huge and has serious implications for investors (he gave figures here too, something that something like 25% of all muni-securities are held by individuals at small dollar values and another huge chunk held indirectly by individual through mutual funds, etc.). Chairman Cox said that he was fighting for the small guy, the individual investor, and even showed his humor by referencing local baseball by saying, the SEC goes after the Dodgers, but cheers for the Angels ;-)! Basically, Chairman Cox eluded to the need for reform in securities law to be able to act before there is a “meltdown” such as with New York City’s bankruptcy in the 70’s, Orange County California’s debacle of the 90’s and what San Diego went through recently. His other funny analogy was CalTrans (California Transportation) and that they put up signs that say “Bridge Out Ahead” instead of just having an ambulance at the bottom of the ravine, waiting.

So again, I say a very smart man that I really enjoyed hearing speak. He really appears to have the individual investor at heart, not just the large or institutional investors. He understands that the aggregate of small investors is a large sum and they need to be protected and be able to understand the documents. Hence the desire to make changes in such a huge securities market that has opened up to smaller/individual investors these days. So look for changes to come in the laws regarding filings and disclosures in the municipal securities market!

eBay buys StubHub for $310 million

News.com: Online auctioneer eBay has agreed to buy sports ticket reseller StubHub for $310 million in cash, the companies said on Wednesday, confirming an earlier report the deal was imminent.”

What an interesting purchase. On one hand, I totally understand it. EBay acquired the largest in a field that they weren’t themselves. What I don’t understand is the love of the secondary ticketing market. But then I am a “primary ticketing” guy, being a founder of Ticketmaster.com, etc.

Michael Arrington has said it very well in his posting on TechCrunch. Just look at the title he uses, “…Dirty World of Ticket Scalping”.

There is no doubt that the scalping world and secondary ticketing market is shady, and that’s being polite. What the internet has done for these worlds is shown some light on them, but does that make them legit?

The other thing that really comes into question for me is how long these businesses are going to last (the electronic secondary market that is)? I am obviously very familiar with a Ticketmaster contract, having negotiated a few in my day :-). Basically what it says is that Ticketmaster is the exclusive computerized ticketing source. Not to mention the rules printed on the back of a season ticket (which are often sold in the secondary market), which often states that it can’t be resold.

One of these days, contracts/rules, etc. are going to be enforced and there are going to be a lot of invalidated tickets out there. There are going to be a lot of very angry customers. And legitimate businesses that were doing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue will be left with very little. The secondary market is a very, very fine line!!! (I need to write more about this…)

So was $310 million worth it? Sure was if you were on the StubHub side! And I know a lot of these guys too, it kills me. How many ticketing opportunities have I lost because of my “primary market ethics”…? Jerry Seltzer was my first boss at Ticketmaster, I know his parter as well. And when I developed the first commercial version of Ticketmaster Online, we used Starwave (we were both “Paul Allen companies”) and I met with Mike Slade just about every Wednesday for almost a year. They would have been good coat tails to ride… :-). Chalk that up as a learning experience!

So congrats to the StubHub guys for making a lot of money with a good idea and great execution! To eBay, I say congrats too, and good luck… 🙂

Ticketmaster and Their Change of Heart Regarding the Secondary Market

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (article and video, $ site) about Ticketmaster and what they are doing about their rivals selling tickets in the secondary/brokerage market.

The crux is that Ticketmaster is finally getting competition for services, but I don’t think that the article hit the nail on the head. I have some experience in this area, and I don’ think that this is the real issue…. Ticketmaster isn’t going to lose a whole lot of business to folks reselling tickets. This has been an issue for many years and the only difference between today’s digital age and the past is that the digital age has done a lot to legitimize the business. So the secondary market isn’t as shady as it was…

Who cares?!? Re-sales of season tickets and the secondary is small compared to the number of tickets available. Ticketmaster is even rolling out these services (the article even comments on this). Clients don’t want to have to deal with multiple inventories, so if you are a Ticketmaster client, there is very little need for StubHub (and their use would be a violation of the Ticketmaster contract, from what I know), and you’ll most likely use the same services offered by Ticketmaster.

So what is Ticketmaster’s greatest threat? In my opinion it’s the internet itself. In years past, what made the ticketing industry is that they aggregated a fractured market and provided distribution…. Customers (the public) could go and get tickets at outlets/phones/internet (i.e. tons of “touch points”) and clients got a service and a potential revenue center (money sharing of service charges, etc.). But that aggregation and access is now done by the internet itself. And with today’s branding and marketing push, why would a company let another take that away from them?

Staples paid millions of dollars for the naming rights of The Staples Center in Los Angeles, and yet all the ads for shows say, “Get your tickets at Ticketmaster”. With the advent of the internet, where even Ticketmaster is selling 60-70% of their tickets online, why isn’t the tag line, “Get your tickets at StaplesCenter.com“?

So what is Ticketmaster’s biggest threat… branding!

And I Saw Ann Richards Recently….

I grew up in Texas and my family was involved in politics (kind of…), having an opportunity to meet/talk with Ann Richards on more than one occasion. She was an amazing woman….

But I just saw her at the beginning of the year while I was traveling in India. We were both in Delhi for the “Beat the Retreat” parade/celebration (sorry, no pictures, cameras weren’t allowed due to the dignitaries and their security). She looked healthy enough, not that white paste look that you get when you are really ill…. Sorry to hear of her passing.