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Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Everything must go!
Today, we were out shopping and spending the day in Austin celebrating Lilly's birthday (by dumping her at daycare; to be fair, she LOVES it there. And she was starting to miss her friends).
I got a message from a friend at work saying that a mandatory meeting had been called for the entire building.
If you work at a newspaper, you know that getting that e-mail these days usually means it's Buyout/layoffs time.
The timing seemed off to me -- it was only a few weeks ago that our editor had told us that we're in a much better position financially than a sister paper that had recently had a bad financial spell. I didn't think that they'd go back on that news so quickly.
I waited for word to trickle out. It finally did around 3 p.m. My newspaper is up for sale, along with all the other Texas, Colorado and North Carolina properties owned by Cox Newspapers.
Huh. My first reaction was relief. I spent lunch seriously wondering what I would do if I was offered the kind of buyouts that have been given out in Atlanta and in Palm Beach. Now I don't have to worry about that, at least for the time being.
On the other hand... we're for sale? Who's going to by us? Will they buy all the properties or just the Texas ones? Who has money to buy a bunch of newspapers right now?
Someone said that this is going to be a time of great uncertainty for us, and that's one Hell of an understatement. But I also feel this weird kind of optimism, rolled together with a feeling of sadness that we're, to be blunt, getting dumped by the company I've worked for more than 11 years.
It does me no good to speculate on the reasons why or to try to shake out more news: I was out of the newsroom, so I missed all the discussion. More savvy minds than mine have disseminated a lot of this info, and right now, my brain is kind of in vacation-jelly mode.
But strange times. The next year is going to be really wild, I think.
Click here for the Flickr.com version.
I knew this day would come, but nobody told me it would happen in only 365 days.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Forgot to mention -- I had a story in the Sunday Life & Arts section about the crazy things that can happen to photos you post online. Talked to a few people who have had remarkable success with their images getting picked up online.
I've had a few pictures I've posted to Flickr either get picked up for free by community news organizations, and in one instance, a travel publication paid me $50 to use a photo. That's where the idea for the story came from.
If nothing else, it was an excuse to chat again with Trey Ratcliff from Stuck In Customs, whose photos may be becoming some of the most recognizable throughout the world from an Austin artist. His stuff seems to be everywhere.
I'm on vacation this week, which is no big deal, except that it's the first real one I've taken since Lilly was born.
I'm trying to figure out how to balance disconnecting from work with staying connected to all the things I do outside of work (Videogamey, posting on Twitter, etc...) and that's been a bit of a challenge. Should I have taken a complete vacation away from everything, or is it enough that I'm not on the clock and driving to Austin to work?
While I was considering all this, on a Saturday night, I logged into Facebook. I have some PR and marketing people as Facebook friends/contacts, but since they don't send me pitches through Facebook for the most part, it's been fine.
But then my little Facebook instant messenger prompt pops up with a guy from L.A. I'd never met before, Jay, who works in online marketing, according to his profile.
It went like this:
Jay: whats up
Omar: not much. You?
(See how I'm trying to stay neutral? I have no idea what this person wants.)
Jay: looking at something new
(New is good! What could this be? I bet it's awesome. Curiosity!)
Omar: what's that?
Jay: heard of ZenZuu
Omar: I have not.
Jay: kind of facebook + ebook
(Uh oh. This is starting to smell like a marketing pitch.
Omar: ah. a startup?
Jay: but the kicker is they are going to share the ad revenue to the users. sounds interesting.
Omar: nice of them. Do you happen to represent them?
Omar: imagine my surprise.
Jay: lol ... listen I like the idea; if I didn't I wouldn't be promoting it
Omar: well so far, it's been a pleasure hearing about it.
Jay: what could be down, facebook is always trying to get us to invite friends but not offering to cut us checks...
(While Jay is talking, I go take a look at ZenZuu's Web site. Alarm bells of all kinds start ringing. It really just looks horrible. I decide to be honest.)
Omar: OK, first off, they need to do something about that web site. It screams SPAM. SCAM. PYRAMID SCHEME. and that popup asking you to get email notices before you can even read the site: also annoying.
Jay: getting better all the time
Omar: and, I don't really use social networks to make money off my friends. If that's their message, it's going to be off-putting to a lot of people. So where should I send my consultation invoice? Do you have a home address, or a business addy?
Jay: not the message at all
Omar: That's what it looks like based on the home page. And that's what I'm going to see before I decide to sign up.
Jay: everyone's sharing in the revenue... I don't see a scam
Omar: "our leading edge technology allows you to make money by signing up your friends and receive revenue sharing. Seize your opportunity to cash in on the trillion dollar internet economy of social networking and global commerce with ZenZuu"
Jay: your right, It isn't what it will be yet
Omar: I'm not sure social networks are making trillions, btw. not even billions.
Jay: agreed the trillions is hyperbola
Omar: No, it's not hyperbola, it's a lie. there's a difference. I also count 12 ads before I see any photos of real person.
Jay: but not billions?
Omar: If I see that and I know it's not true, why should I trust anything else about the site? I think if you took all the social networks combined and added all their profits, you still wouldn't get to billions. YouTube=not profitable yet. Facebook=no profit. MySpace=small profit.
Jay: I don't see any ads yet (really, I wish I did)
Omar: Ad spaces. Giant, gaping ad holes.
Jay: facebook not profitable?
Omar: All their money has been from venture cap/investments. Not from real money. They're bleeding quite a lot of money, looking for ways to monetize.
Jay: thanks for the enlightenment
Omar: No problem. We didn't talk a whole hour, so I will only bill you 1/2.
Jay: your saying this group can't get the numbers neccessary for threre to be real Ad revenue?
Omar: Should I send the invoice to (misspelled e-mail address deleted)?
Jay: can try... lol have a great day
Omar: If they're paying you to pitch something on a Saturday night, they must have deep pockets.
Jay: no ones payiong me anything
... and there you have it. A tale of late night Internet woe. I wonder when I'll get my check.
Baby, with a chaser
Lilly turns a year old on Wednesday.
I took the whole week off from work to mark the occasion, but the actual little adult-people party we threw took place on a Saturday. It was just relatives; we wanted to keep it small so as not to freak her out, and we'll do something with other kids next year.
Even so, it was a wash of digital camera flashes as everyone tried to capture the moment.
I've already expressed enough "She's growing so far!" "Where has the time gone!" sentiments to bore myself, so I'll just say that I'm amazed she's gotten through her first year without major incident. She's only been sick once to my knowledge, last December, and she's avoided the bumps and bruises most kids seem to get as they learn to crawl and walk. Her teething has been less than traumatic. And she seems really happy, giddy really, most of the time. It's nice.
Earlier in the week, I picked her up at daycare. There used to be days when she'd be teary-eyed when I got there because she's usually one of the last kids to be picked up. She would see the mostly-moms pick up their children one-by-one and think, "What the fuck? Where my peeps?" and start crying.
That hasn't happened in a few months. Now when I get there, even if she's the last kid in the room, she's deeply absorbed in some toy, looking down at it, face down, really determined to have some fun.
Then she notices me, squeals and crawls at me with lightning speed.
The other day, we went through the routine, but halfway across the room, she suddenly stopped, turned around and crawled away from me.
I chased her.
She kept crawling. She ran out of space in the room, so she turned around again and crawled toward me. Then she crawled past me.
She stopped and looked around, right at me, to see if I was following. When I moved toward her, she sped up again, away from Daddy.
Lilly invented a chasing game.
I don't know what it means, but her daycare watchers say she's clever. She expects milk if she sees the fridge opening. She's learned to differentiate colors of food. Right now, she won't eat anything green unless you trick her by hiding it behind something orange or brown. Even then, she'll make a face when she realizes she's been duped.
We have a little pink plastic Hello Kitty chair in her room, and she's made a game of climbing on it, sitting down, and then climbing right back down, over and over, just to show us she can do it.
I don't know what I'd have done without this last year. The timing was a little too perfect for me to believe it was anything less than meant-to-happen.
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