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Posts Tagged ‘Craigslist’



Happy 2010: Oy Vey, an Election is Breaking Out

Friday, January 1st, 2010

HangoverThe hoariest cliché in the news business – besides  Where Are They Now, the Irrelevant Anniversary yarn and frying an egg on the sidewalk during a heat wave – is the end-of-year Top 10 list.

And at Calbuzz, we’re nothing if not hoary clichés. Or maybe clichéd whores. Whatever.

As you find yourself face down in a bowl of gelatinous guacamole this New Year’s morn, trying to remember why you’re wearing rubber underwear and Raider wrist bands, here’s the Calbuzz Top 10 stories of the year, a 2010 primer for those who got drunk and missed 2009.

dianneworried2

Difi (Hearts) D.C. Calbuzz launched March 16, with a hiding-in-plain-sight perceptual scoop saying flatly that Senator Dianne Feinstein wouldn’t run for governor. Despite her septuagenarian coquette act and unstinting effort to keep a few moldering embers of interest flickering about a late-entry campaign, Difi’s demurrer was the biggest 2009 factor that shaped the race, which we’ve handicapped with updated analyses here and here. (This just in: she’s still older than the Golden Gate Bridge.)

jerryflippedThe re-incarnation of Jerry Brown.  Casting himself as “an apostle of common sense,” Brown sent a clear signal he was in it to win it when he gave Calbuzz an extended interview discussing the governor’s race, then promptly retreated to his tent to insist that he was  reviewing all his options. Right. While at least one would-be analyst suggested that Crusty the General cleared the field, he did no such thing: Brown’s singular status as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee emerged from the collapse of erstwhile rivals Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa as  the Philandering Twins proved to be little more than a sideshow.

Why Rich Guys Don’t Win Elections. Back before it was fashionable, we reported on the sorry history of wealthy folks trying to buy top-line offices in California, a bit of Calbuzz conventional wisdom that will be challenged in 2010, with three zillionaires running for governor or Senate.caveman

Where did all the cavemen go? Way back in March, we noted the oddness of a California Republican primary race for governor without a true-blue movement conservative in the field  and, beginning with Arlen Specter’s party switch, we’ve tracked the way the Tea Party’s national purge movement is manifest in California.

Why won’t this woman go out with us? Win or lose, eMeg’s campaign is poised to become 2010’s most entertaining show for fans of politicmegs as spectator sport. With an imperious manner not seen since Catherine the Great, a campaign budget bigger than the GDP of Belize and an army of consultants the size of the U.S. Postal Service, eMeg has already provided the cognoscenti lotsa laughs with a smash hit performance about her voting record, her messy corporate divorce from Craigslist  and her passionate bid to win the hearts and minds of people who don’t vote in California. That this titan of industry apparently lives in mortal fear of sitting down to Dim Sum with Calbuzz  just adds to the general hilarity (memo to legal dept: check on residuals and copyright for Calbuzz “eMeg” coinage).

outrageThe voters are outside, and man are they pissed. From the May 19 special election debacle to the real-life terror of living through a withering recession, Californians are in a foul mood for the ages. The electorate is changing and they want change, but no one now in the arena seems to know exactly what that’s supposed to look like.

Why California can’t be governed. The flip side of populist anger at Sacramento is the inconvenient truth that voters themselves are largely responsible for tying state government into knots, having approved three decades worth of low-tax-high-spending initiatives and a series of crackpot  reforms, from term limits to  the tyranny of minority rule, which add up to Capitol policy makers lacking the tools or clout to do what needs doing.

What does rsinclairpainteform look like? The upside of all the doom and gloom about state government is that it’s yielded some of the most interesting reform measures since Hiram Johnson was chewing on Abe Reuf’s leg. Despite the collapse of tax reform, led by the screw-the-pooch performance by Friend of Arnold Gerald Parsky, the seriousness and substance of policy questions being raised by advocates for a constitutional convention and for the California Forward reform measure are complex, intriguing and important – even when they get deep, deep into the weeds on issues from Prop. 13 to the crucial Sinclair Paint decision.

Environment vs economy. California’s economic decline has reignited a long-simmering debate about the economic impacts of the state’s sweeping environmental protections. eMeg has already thrown down the gauntlet, calling for a roll back of the landmark AB32 climate change legislation, which is likely to become a big deal in the election this year. The other environmental debate that just won’t go away is the bitter dispute about the Tranquillon Ridge offshore project, an issue whose weeds Calbuzz never tires of whacking.

calbuzzartThe Calbuzz Haiku Contest. Amid all the political and policy fun and games, the best thing about Calbuzz’s first year has been getting in touch with a community of highly informed readers, thoughtful commenters and roster of triple smart guest writers (thanks Penny Elia, Merv Field, Steve Maviglio, David Ferry, Jon Fleischman, Fran Gibson, Ron Kaye, Fred Keeley, Linda Krop, Greg Lucas, Mark Massara, Bob Naylor, Mark Paul, Heather Reger, Susan Rose, Jean Ross, Richie Ross, Marc Sandalow, Tanya Schevitz, Dan Schnur, Don Sipple, Phil Ting, Evan Wagstaff, Anthony Wright and the late Msrs. Dylan Thomas and Mark Twain, as well as the members of the Calbuzz Board of Anonymous Advisers – you know who you are and we promised not to say).

See you Monday.

Hump Day: Tom C, Tony V & eMeg’s eMails

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

tomtwirlWhen speculation began about Tom Campbell possibly switching from the governor’s race to the U.S. Senate contest, the instant conventional wisdom said such a move would help Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Stonehenge,  now tied with former HP CEO Carly Fiorina in Republican primary polls.

That idea rests on the notion – fueled by some knuckle-draggers on the right –that Hurricane Carly is a squishy, Silicon Valley moderate masquerading as a fiscal conservative. And, the argument goes, because former U.S. Rep. Campbell is also a Silicon Valley squish, he’d naturally draw votes from Carly, to the benefit of DeVore.

But wait! Facts intrude. Or at least, what we like to call potential facts, suggested by the recent Los Angeles Times/USC Poll in which DeVore and Fiorina were tied at 27% each.

As Calbuzz reported more than a month ago, DeVore voters favor Campbell over eMeg Whitman 42-35% in the governor’s race, with another 16% for Steve Poizner. More importantly in this context, voters who support Campbell in the governor’s race prefer DeVore over Fiorina in the Senate race by a whopping 42-24%.

carlychuckcollageThis means there’s some connection, in voters minds, between Campbell and DeVore; when we studied the crosstabs from the survey, we found it’s not gender, ideology, geography or age. What does seem to explain the connection is income – which makes some intuitive sense, as the two are the only poor boys in either race.

The poll found Whitman leading Campbell in the governor’s race 35-27% overall. But among downscale, gunrack Republicans – those with incomes under $50,000 who made up 37% of the sample – Campbell was beating Whitman 34-28%. That’s a huge swing.

And guess what? While DeVore and Fiorina were tied at 27% overall, among the trailer park Republican cohort, DeVore was leading Fiorina 34-17% — another massive shift.

So what’s up here? Lower-income Republicans (and for Campbell, the over-65 voters, too) seem to cluster around Campbell and DeVore. Which could well mean that if Campbell got into the Senate race, it could actually boost Fiorina’s share of the vote.

Here’s what Calbuzz believes: While Campbell would have a hell of a time winning the GOP nomination for Senate, he would be the most formidable opponent against Sen. Barbara Boxer in a general election because he’s pro-choice and a moderate on the environment, issues that would help him with independents in the general election.

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Being 80 is the new black: Speaking of the Senate, the flat-out silliest political story in months was to be found on the home post of Huffpost in recent days. Headlined “Antonio Villaraigosa may call the U.S. Senate ‘home’ in 2012,” the piece predicted the L.A. mayor will be an all-but-certain bet to take over Dianne Feinstein’s seat two years hence.

It’s an abiding mystery why Huffpost editors thought this a worthy page one candidate (though we expect Arianna’s recent big push for her L.A. page provides a big clue) given the goofiness of the column, written by some guy named Feldman, a self-described “journalist and media consultant” whose current job appears to be doing “investigative reporting” for AM radio.

Under the Feldman Scenario, Villaraigosa’s march of triumph to the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body will be enabled by Difi either a) deciding to run for governor or b) choosing not to seek another Senate term because she’s just too damn old. As hard evidence for either option, Feldman cites the undeniable fact that…well, he really, really believes it might happen.

It is…probably foolish to make this next political prediction — and, if it turns out wrong — someone, somewhere, someday will no doubt cite it as yet another example of why such tea leaf reading is a dangerous art, indeed.

“Probably”? “Someday”? “Indeed,” indeed. At least he got the “foolish” part right.

diannePutting aside the fact that Tony V’s erratic performance as mayor better qualifies him as a used car salesman than a U.S. Senator, the notion that Feinstein will run for governor is sooo 2008 , and the idea that she’d give up her hard-earned sweet gig in D.C. if she was 112, fercrineoutloud,  ignores the fact that she’s been immersed in politics and government since 1956. She wouldn’t know what to do if she retired, except drive Dick Blum crazy by nagging him to prune the hedges or something.

In point of fact, Feinstein is already raising money for her 2012 race, and Calbuzz makes her a good bet to challenge Robert Byrd and the late Strom Thurmond in the oldest-coot-ever-to-serve-in-the-Senate sweepstakes.

“She’s not going anywhere,” one associate told Calbuzz, “and if Antonio runs against her, she’ll beat him like a drum.”

emegebay

Update from Delaware: All good Calbuzzers recall that we’ve noted the significance to eMeg Whitman’s candidacy of the big eBay vs. Craigslist civil suit smackdown now taking place in Delaware.

Absent a political record, Whitman has pointed to her experience as eBay’s CEO as the primary rationale for her candidacy for governor, so the trial offers some insider perspective about her values and performance in that role.

The case focuses on a dispute that followed eBay’s acquisition of 28 percent of Craiglist, at a time when Whitman was CEO of the online auction giant. eBay alleges that Craigslist violated terms of the agreement to deny them any say; Craiglist executives charge that eBay and Whitman used the agreement to obtain confidential information in order to set up a new online classified operation as a competitor.

On Tuesday, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster testified about an email exchange between eMeg and eBay executive Garrett Price that followed an interview Buckmaster gave to business reporter Matthew Boyle of Fortune; in response to a question about possible conflicts between the two companies, Buckmaster told Boyle, “our first instinct is to trust eBay to take the high road.”

Price emailed a copy to Whitman, asking if she had seen the piece:

Whitman: “Did. Pretty funny.”
Price: “Yes. I am glad to read that he trusts us.”
Whitman: “Love this.  :)

Referencing the email string, Craigslist’s attorney asked Buckmaster, “Did you think it was ‘pretty funny’ that you trusted eBay?”

“No,” Buckmaster replied sadly.

Following our earlier kvetching about a dearth of trial coverage, we’ve been pleased with the sudden stream of stories and commentaries that appeared this week (Coincidence? You be the judge).

Topping the list is our friend Jackson West, who reported over at NBC Bay Area about Monday’s appearance by Buckmaster,  who testified that Price at one point threatened him with being confronted by “Evil Meg” unless he went along with her designs on his company. As Randall Chase, the AP’s man in Delaware reported the Buckmaster testimony:

jim-buckmasterPrice said he needed to remind Craigslist officials that there were “two Meg Whitmans,” Buckmaster said

Craigslist officials, he was told, had met the “good” Whitman in July 2004, when she convinced Buckmaster, who had broken off discussions and decided not to do business with eBay, to go forward with negotiations that eventually resulted in eBay’s 28 percent minority stake in the online classifieds company.

Buckmaster said Price warned him that there also was an “evil Meg, and that we would best be served if we got with the program, or we’re going to meet the evil Meg.” Price added that Whitman, who is now seeking the Republican nomination for governor in California, could be a “monster” if she got frustrated, according to Buckmaster.

(Yikes! Memo to scheduling: should we rethink this whole eMeg dinner thing?)

The wily West got off the best line in the face of the emerging, unflattering portrait of eMeg, noting that “revelations about Whitman will actually play pretty well to the Republican Party base she’s courting in the gubernatorial primary.”

Swap Meet: eMeg of Oz Meets Craig, Scott & Inga

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

megsmugRants and raves: Amid a shortage of MSM reporting about the epic legal battle between eBay and Craigslist, political junkies wanting to track Meg Whitman’s role in the messy litigation can rely on Jerry DiColo’s coverage in the Wall Street Journal.

Unlike a batch of niche sites covering the eMeg vs. Craig Newmark online titan cage match staged back in Delaware, DiColo does a fine job of fulfilling the basic duty of journalism, to make the complex clear. For starters, his  stuff doesn’t read like it’s been translated from the Swedish, and he does nice work  boiling down the dry-as-dust issues involved in a suit that’s all about, heaven help us, corporate governance. (Punishment gluttons who just can’t get enough should check in on Corporate Counsel while total hardcore types can catch the live webcast at Courtroom View TV – who says we have no life?)

As a political matter, however, the one and only issue at stake is what the trial and testimony offer in the way of insight and evidence about the integrity of the corporate record of Whitman, who proved to be somewhat veracity challenged in the recent set-to about her voting failures.

With eMeg pointing to her CEO experience as  her prime qualification to be governor, her words and actions in eBay’s acquisition of 28 percent of Craiglist, and the messy falling out that followed, will be closely examined by her political rivals. Based on this week’s testimony by Newmark, whose idealistic, Golden Rule values define the online classified company’s brand, it’s a fair bet eMeg’s campaign won’t be micro-targeting the craiglists voting bloc (no worries – there are only 50 million users a day in the U.S. ).

Reporting on Newmark’s appearance on the stand, DiColo wrote:craig

Mr. Newmark said former eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman assured him that eBay was content not to try and gain control of Craigslist during a “courtship period” of three years.

“eBay told us that we were ‘the play’ in classifieds, the definite article indicating exclusivity,” Mr. Newmark said. During a meeting in 2004, Ms. Whitman, he said, told him, “that they would be comfortable with a courtship period, where eBay would be completely happy with 28%.”

“eBay, specifically Meg Whitman, made commitments, and broke them,” Mr. Newmark said.

Huh. Maybe she is ready to be governor.

Meg Whitman Dinner Watch, Day 100: As Calbuzz waits patiently if expectantly by the phone for eMeg’s call to join her for dinner, we’re always eager for that thrilling shiver of schadenfreude we get each time we hear about Her Megness stiffing other members of the media too.

So we were surprised to learn only belatedly of how Whitman put the screws to conservative talk jocks Inga Barks and Scott Cox, who host a  show on KERN-AM in Bakersfield. It seems that Queen Midas refused to grant them permission to speak to her unless she was provided questions in advance and allowed to pre-tape the interview.

ingaDuring a live interview with GOP  rival Steve Poizner, who dropped by the studio a few weeks back while in town to speak to Bakersfield’s Chamber of Commerce, the two yakkers spilled the beans about eMeg’s shyness, after a few warm-up yuks about how much dough she is pouring into radio ads.

Cox: And you need to spend a lot more money advertising on this station, I just want to put that in there one more time. Meg is way outspending you here at American General Media. You can’t have that. It’s détente man, the race is on.
Barks: There you go. All right.
Poizner: Well fortunately you are all giving me equal access here. So thank you very much.
Barks: I give her equal access, but it has to be pre-arranged, they have to know the questions, and–
Cox: She doesn’t want to talk to me at all.wizard-of-oz-w24
Barks: –it has to be pre-recorded. She won’t take calls.

I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL eMEG! (Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain).

You can check the You Tube version here

Press Clips: We’re bummed as hell at the news that Editor and Publisher, the bible of news about newspapers, is folding. In recent years E&P has been aggressive, smart and scoopy in covering the demise of the industry and, let’s face it, where else will you find the story about 56 papers in 45 countries joining together to run the same editorial about climate change on the same day?

Why voters hate Sacramento, Chapter 871: The ridiculous spectacle played out this week over “Race to the Top” legislation, aimed at getting $700 million from the feds for education, had little to do with schools and Jennifers Clownsstudents, and much to do with special interest Capitol palace intrigue completely disconnected from the real lives of real people. Amid an endless stream of booorrrring MSM process stories and a package of press releases from Speaker Karen Bass big enough to choke a horse, Dan Walters cut to the chase, exposing the whole fuss as nothing but a clown show staged by Assembly Democrats dancing to the tune called by the CTA.

Talk about your hat tricks: The Calbuzz Ross Douthat Fan Club went crazy this week when our favorite MSM conservative columnist pulled off an extraordinary feat, by getting the Treaty of Lisbon, polygamy in Sweden and the word “dhimmitude” all into one piece. It’s Milla’ Time!

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: If you keep using that internets, you’ll go blind and get warts on your hands.

We’re Just Sayin’: In Newspaper Death Spiral, Save the Reporting

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

By Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts

Here’s some free financial advice for panicked newspaper owners: If you want to save some real money, stop publishing the news altogether.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the direction that many papers are headed. With papers across the nation contracting, collapsing and folding, and reporters and editors seeking safer ground – the bad news in the industry is going to get worse before it gets even worse.

Simply put, American newspapers are in a death spiral.

A handful of national papers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today will hang on, and so probably will some in the category of small-bore, small-impact community papers. But the once-powerful, once profitable big metro papers – the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News come to mind – which combined both the resources and the motivation to serve as public interest watchdogs on school boards, city halls, cop shops, courts, their state legislators and members of congress, all are in big-time decline.

Metros, scandalously slow off the mark in adapting to new technologies, reacted to economic decline by slashing the amount and quality of local news coverage that was the central value proposition in selling the paper to readers. Faced with plummeting circulation, owners and publishers ensured the downward trend would gain momentum, by cutting back on the very product readers were looking for: journalism .

The result: readers found their local newspaper was not something they had to have in their daily lives. So circulation declined even further, leading newspapers to cut back more, leading to further decline in readership and further cutbacks. That’s the death spiral.

BROKEN BUSINESS MODEL: THE DECLINE OF CLASSIFIEDS

The internet upended the traditional model for newspapers – aggregating a mass audience and selling it to advertisers – by fragmenting the very notion of a mass audience. Instead of one-stop shopping for news, weather, sports and comics in the daily paper, consumers now had an almost infinite number of new sources of specialized and in-depth information about specific subjects of interest to them – along with the power to engage in a conversation with those producing that information.

Dumping most of their resources into hanging on by their fingernails to their old franchises, publishers and owners failed to invest adequately – in bodies or in dollars – in exploring in a big enough way how they could use the new technology to build on their greatest strengths: the expertise and intelligence of their reporting staffs.

Suddenly then, the revenue to cover their vast overhead nut started disappearing. Nowhere was this more dramatic, or more damaging, than in the rapid loss of classified advertising.

Yes, once upon a time, BCL (Before Craig’s List), newspapers sold classified advertising. It was like printing money. Every line was a source of revenue. And significantly, classified advertisers really didn’t care how big the home delivery circulation of the paper was because people looking for a job, home, car or repairman bought the paper because they needed the classifieds.

Today, people looking for any of these things – especially jobs – don’t bother with the newspaper. They go online, usually to a site that has no connection to their local newspaper.

When newspapers could no longer rake in cash from classifieds, they became more heavily dependent on display advertising. And display advertisers – from big national chains like Target to local restaurants and shops – do care about the size of circulation. They might pay $10,000 to place an ad in a large circulation newspaper but only $2,000 to place that ad in a paper with smaller circulation. It’s all about paying for eyeballs.

In order to survive, newspapers needed to focus more sharply on their primary business – local news. People interested in what was happening in Uzbekistan didn’t need the L.A. Times to tell them about it – they could go online and find all and more of the information they sought. What people couldn’t find was what was going on in South Central or West Hollywood. That’s not on the Internet, except when it’s aggregated by sites that pick up the work paid for by local newspapers.

But when classifieds dried up, newspaper managers responded by cutting the one thing crucial to saving their business – those who produced the local news that readers could find nowhere else. Less compelling content (and the rise of the Internet and other channels of information) led to declining circulation, which made newspapers less attractive to other advertisers. Stockholders and owners long used to annual profit margins of 20% saw their dividends shrinking so they demanded further cost savings. And the death spiral deepened.

For some papers — like the San Jose Mercury News, for example — where the business model depended on classified advertising for more than half its revenue — the evaporation of classifieds was a devastating blow to the bottom line. But instead of making itself indispensable to readers by increasing resources for local news, the publisher cut the newsroom budget even further. (See “death spiral” above)
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WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

There are only two ways to stop the spiral. And at this point, it’s not clear either will work.

– Newspapers can invest more resources, not less, in local reporting, leaving every national, international news and sports story to the national papers and wire services. They have to concentrate all of their force and fire power on their own communities, making themselves indispensable to local residents. People need to feel that they have to take the local paper to know what’s going on in their hometown. It’s the only way to maintain and grow circulation.
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– Or, a business like Google or Yahoo, which is expert at online advertising – including personalization at the individual user level – can begin to pay reporters in communities to produce content. We’re talking about covering city councils and school boards, writing about local development and utilities, local sports and arts, etc. This might kill local newspapers, but it might save local reporting.

Why can’t local papers themselves do this? Maybe they can – and the Hearst Corp. is trying in Seattle, where they’ve shuttered the venerable Post-Intelligencer but kept a small staff of local reporters on hand to try to do its job online. Freed from the costs of paper, ink, presses, mail rooms, bundlers, delivery trucks, pressmen, racks and real estate, maybe they can find an online business model that works. But it’s clear that news operations that have to carry all those legacy costs can’t make enough on the Internet to sustain themselves.

Why should we care? Because city councils, school boards, water and sewage boards, police departments and more will have no one looking over their shoulder, rummaging through their waste bins, blowing the whistle on bad behavior or commending admirable work. Because democracy works only when there is an informed citizenry. Because corruption loves a vacuum. Because when you turn on the light switch, the cockroaches run for cover. Because we cannot afford to leave politics and policy in the hands of politicians and policy-makers.