Tuesday, June 7, 2011

HuffPo Thinks AOL-Bashing Is HILARIOUS!

Remember when AOL spent $315 million to "acquire" the Huffington Post and then allowed Arianna Huffington to wring as much of the AOLness out of the enterprise as humanly possible?

Well, that image above is kind of a fascinating postscript. It's a HuffPo article by Dean Praetorius collecting what he called the "some of the better reactions from across Twitter (the social network that landed the Congressman in hot water to begin with), including some more comical responses." He refers to Rep. Anthony Weiner's bizarro press conference yesterday, of course.

Now, Praetorious' efforts clearly didn't reach much beyond his own Twitter feed, as the 14 "better" and "more comical" responses he selected are entirely made up of tweets from prominent media sources. They include such brilliant, insightful zingers as these:

So he didn't try very hard or feel like looking, even, through the #weinergate hashtag for actually funny or clever remarks.

But what's more telling is the one Praetorius evidently found the funniest and made sure would be displayed first for readers. It's this:

Yeah, I'm a little defensive because I, too, still use AOL email. And, yeah, I'm mildly irritated whenever I run into any email problem that I reference here or on Twitter or our podcasts and hear from the world how uncool and passe that is. You know, as if Gmail never goes down, right? I guess I've never understood why one email system is better or worse than another or how somebody's preference confers upon the user any credibility as a tech-savvy human. I've had 11 different real addresses and seven different phone numbers since I created my AOL account in 1994; it seemed to me that keeping just one means of being contacted that doesn't change is a sensible way of being reachable.

Oh! One more thing! Rand Getlin, the clever fellow who tweeted that? He's not really one to talk. He's a reporter, after all, for that au courant search engine, Yahoo!

Puck Deploys iPad For Wine List

Well, it's about time.

It's been almost a decade since Charlie Palmer's Aureole at Mandalay Bay started using tablet PCs to make its gargantuan wine list more user-friendly and approachable, and a good seven years since I wrote about it in Newsweek. That was the brainchild of then-wine director Andrew Bradbury, and just two weeks ago I asked Palmer's publicist if they'd upgraded from HPs to iPads yet. She said that was coming soon.

Unfortunately, they snoozed too long. Today, Wolfgang Puck's folks announced they've got 10 iPads at CUT at Palazzo to help diners sort and learn about the 500+ selections of wine. From the press release:

The iPad displays the entire beverage list including wine selections, cocktails and spirits and is delivered to the table when guests arrive. CUT currently features 10 iPad tablets utilizing the wine application SmartCellar designed by the company Incentient. The SmartCellar system offers an interactive approach to displaying the wine list and allows sommeliers to modernize their approach to educating and arming their guests with the insight to help guide their selections and maximize enjoyment of their dining experience.

I actually had been plotting a Las Vegas Weekly column about Vegas technologies that bafflingly hadn't caught on elsewhere. Not sure if this scotches that idea or not -- there were others I had in mind, too -- but it's good to see progress any which way. Bradbury told me when he was still at Aureole that the tablets had spurred a noticeable increase in wine sales, so it seemed inevitable that others would follow sooner or later.

Back in the day, Bradbury and the Aureole crew had said that they could foresee their tablet programs in restaurants all over the world and planned to give diners user names and passwords. That way, you could go to another restaurant, get the tablet and see what you liked the last time. Bradbury also said there would be a way to email yourself or others your wine selections and even order that wine delivered to your home. I don't believe most of those innovations ever happened.

The Aureole version does have one unique aspect that can't really be replicated, the live-streaming webcam that shows the wine angels ascending and descending on winches inside the wine tower. Let's drink to that.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Good, The Bad And The R-J

Many folks have asked for my take on news that disgraced ex-RJ publisher Sherman Frederick has bought weekly newspapers in the rural Nevada towns of Ely and Eureka from his former employer Stephens Media. You'll have to wait at least another day; I've got some calls out on this and am gathering some intel. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, some other media ruminations:

* There's a truly wonderful piece on today's R-J cover by Sonya Padgett about the clown in "O" who has been setting himself on fire twice a night since 1998. It's just perfectly executed, evocative and fascinating. Read it.

* If Padgett's work represents the best of the features section, John Przybys' truly horrendous and incomplete job on Thursday about Vegas smartphone apps reflects the reason why the new regime needs to shake things up in that section pronto and find someone who knows a thing or two about technology. Consider, for instance, that he claims his search took him to various app stores to "see what we could find." Take a look at what he should have found if he had searched "vegas" in iTunes:

The search results come up in order of popularity. And for both the iPhone and iPad, the No. 1 app is VegasMate, the $1.99 mobile guidebook put out by RateVegas.Com's Hunter Hillegas. Yes, I contributed to it and perhaps you can dismiss this criticism on that basis, but the fact is that it's beyond baffling to do a piece on Vegas apps and not write about the most popular -- because it's the most professional, convenient, independent and user-friendly -- one.

Instead, he deems "particularly cool" an app from MGM Resorts called Vegas Reality and then regurgitates some techno-babble from MGM's own app description. Funny thing is, it doesn't actually work all that well. I am seated at the Crystals right now, but look at what it tells me:

Oops! No wonder every review for the app that's NOT written by an obvious MGM Resorts shill is withering.

I'm willing to bet this writer didn't actually try out the apps he described, but what's more important is that this is an example of a Features Section without any edge or currency. A smart Vegas scribe knows that it's at least as valuable to tell people what not to buy/download as what you should. What would be actually useful would be for the R-J to download the top apps and grade them on an ongoing basis the same way they provide reviews of books, movies, TV shows, stage productions and so on. This drive-by schlock is a disservice to everyone and assumes a level of ineptitude among readers that is a carryover from the halcyon days of Al Gibes. Fix it.

* You know what else the R-J needs to fix? It's own mobile site. You may recall, I blogged on May 19 about the fact that it doesn't work, that when you click on story links on smart phones you end up not at the story you wanted but at a main menu. Within hours of that post going up, the R-J folks turned off that automatic bounce, so here's what you get now if you take this link...

and click on it.

You get the story on the normal site, not the mobile, made-to-fit version. And that's fine if they're still working on it, although it shouldn't require weeks and some super-secret new technology to make it work correctly. Nonetheless, the paper seems oblivious to the worthlessness of its offering as it consumes half-pages with this:

* I don't usually pick on Mike Weatherford because he's almost always spot on and he's just so frigging nice, but here's the opening of today's column about the Strip's history of unusual stage appearances:

Who says the Las Vegas headliner tradition is dead?

I dunno, Mike. Who? Nobody I know. If anything, it's fairly well established that we're enjoying another heyday for headliners, both resident (Celine, Garth, Barry, Donny/Marie, Gladys and so on) and top-shelf passers-throughs. But the rest of the piece is quite fun.

* Over on Twitter, the topic of local coverage of our mayoral race arose this weekend because Jeff Simpson was on Nevada Week In Review and really socked the MSM over the paucity of it. He happened to be seated next to Delen Goldberg, who did not respond on TV but did on Twitter after I noted that she didn't say anything back to Simpson. It seemed she took offense and posted this:

Now, at this point neither Jeff nor I had said anything about whether Goldberg ought to "stand by" her reporting, just that we wished there had been more of it. I even acknowledged that the race got drowned out by the important doings in Carson City, which isn't her fault.

But I did find it hard to fathom how she could "stand by" at least one crucial piece she did, the May 11 one in which she reported as news the results of a Giunchigliani poll claiming this is a 2-point race. That number defied any logic or rationality -- it would have required some major event to alter the election's dynamic where none exists -- but there was Goldberg saying the poll was a credible reason to think the race might be tightening. She said pretty much the same thing in radio appearances, and her only source for whether the race had tightened was . . . some data released by a campaign desperate for traction.

It was particularly egregious that the article she wrote didn't even mention that it was a campaign-funded poll until the seventh paragraph, and she never really made a clear point of that.

As it happens, Goldberg had already addressed this in this Tweet, although she did so in the context of an R-J poll that some say is demographically flawed:

But that, ladies and gents, is precisely what is wrong with political coverage in America today. Not all polls are equal and the outcome of a survey is not the same as a campaign ad, which is a reflection of how a candidate is selling herself or defining her opponent. They're completely different things.

Also, here's a news flash: Campaigns have agendas. That's why their polling should never be newsworthy. Ever. Their aim is to alter or create narratives, to manipulate the media. Campaigns can run 20 polls and then pick the one outlier and give it to the press. There's no way for a journalist to know. And if she really wanted to be fair and not provide extra oomph for the ludicrous Giunchigliani poll, her lead would have been something like, "The campaigns issued vastly different polls today, with Giunchigliani's suggesting the race has tightened in dramatic ways and Goodman claiming it's a blowout." That's not how she did it. Take a look.

To blindly "stand by" this, to be impervious and dismissive of legitimate criticism, is the mark of a journalist unwilling to learn from her errors or to even revisit how things went. Goldberg shows a tremendous amount of promise, but to regard admitting an error as a flaw is nothing less than self-defeating and dispiriting.

What's more, check out this tweet:

Can she seriously look at that initial Giunchigliani poll story and say that she did that? Really?

Meanwhile, it's worth reiterating something truly fascinating for every Vegas political consultant to take note: Goldberg just opened up the doors, everyone! If you're running for office and you want her to report some bogus-but-helpful poll numbers you've got, she's just announced she is obligated to do so because, hey, it's how we do it! Whee!

Oh, one more thing. This tweet is nice...

...but be wary, my friend. Jon Ralston only has your back so long as you're working in some form or fashion on his team. Take it from everybody else who once was a member of his mutual masturbatory society and then left it. The journalism universe is littered with such people, none of whom suffered in the long run for being on his wrong side and probably slept better at night, too. It is -- and I suspect he knows this -- the tragic flaw of a brilliant reporter and entrepreneur, but I guess we all must have one. Mine, according to him, is that I co-hosted a pet show. I'm good with that!