ethanbeute

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Thoughts on Marketing from Inside Local Television Stations

I just ended a 14 year run in local television marketing and promotion that took me from Grand Rapids to Chicago back to Grand Rapids to Colorado Springs.  My short description of the work: running an in-house agency to build brands, drive viewership, and increase our overall standing with all stakeholders.  So, my side was the business-to-consumer marketing that results in business-to-business selling of audiences (basic content around advertising model).

I’ve greatly enjoyed the first decade and a half of my career.  I’ve worked for some great companies and done excellent work with wonderful people.

Here are some thoughts and observations from my experience in the local media industry.  They’re focused primarily on traditional television broadcasting, rather than multi-platform content distribution and marketing.

These thoughts and observations are simplified and bullet-pointed.  I’m happy to elaborate upon or talk through any of this in more detail.  Use the Connect with Ethan page to find me – or just leave a comment on this post.

TV set, television set, t.v., tee vee, boob toob, boob tube

What a TV looked like when my career began. (Image from Photobucket user alex54j )

 

Working in Local TV Marketing and Promotion is Fun

  • It’s a nice combination of creativity and strategy.
  • You get to work extensively with words and ideas.
  • You get to create and manipulate images, both still and moving.
  • You get to work with music, sound effects, and natural/ambient sound.
  • Promos are always more exciting than the news packages – you get to pack all the best video and sound into :30!

The Work Itself is There, Then Gone

  • This is a basic function of linear broadcasting.
  • The display of your work is immediately fleeting and the work itself is highly perishable.
  • You get plenty of immediate gratification; what you just made can be put on TV within minutes.

Marketing to Anonymous Masses Provides Limited Satisfaction

  • The ability to track and measure, to connect directly efforts to results, is weak.  Research budgets are limited.  Nielsen’s measurements of viewing behavior are (insert adjective with negative connotation here).
  • In short, it’s more art than science.
  • Very few people like advertising.  It’s an interruption of what they’ve come to see or experience.
  • Nearly everyone wants and expects content and marketing to be increasingly personalized and customized (rightfully).
  • Television broadcasting is linear and monolithic, not personalized or customized.
  • It’s impossible to be consistently relevant, and therefore satisfying, to a mass of people.
  • That’s because they’re not a monolith; they are individuals who happen to be consuming the same media at the same time.
  • Tools like Facebook have taken phone call and email feedback to a new level that approaches direct relationships.  Even those individuals, though, tend to be treated as a mass.

Local News is Very Static and Homogenous

  • Every station has pretty much the same stories as one another and the same kinds of stories every night.
  • Every newscast provides pretty much the same experience it did a decade ago … but shinier.  It’s predictable.
  • Locally, this is in part due to stations all watching each other.
  • Nationally, this is in part due to all stations being consulted by the same handful of consultants.
  • Overall, this is because “news” is defined rigidly by the journalistic institution.
  • This is why ubiquitous, generic “area man” headlines from The Onion, America’s Finest News Source, work so well.
  • This is why we all immediately recognize the visual and verbal patterns in the videos that close this post.
  • The formula from which newscasts are made seems to work well enough that there’s no compelling reason to make anything more than minor tweaks and conservative decisions.  Related: newspapers have only just found their savior and his ideas don’t seem especially radical.

Financially, Local TV Broadcasting is Challenged

  • As with most businesses, costs are constantly increasing.
  • This effect is mitigated slightly by technology and automation.  The hubbing of core operations, for example, is a fundamental operating strategy for Lin Media (22 broadcast signals originating from just 2 master control centers; 100% of traffic operations run from just 1 location (see 2010 annual report, page 4).
  • Revenue is flat/declining and dominated by TV revenue.  Though it varies by station and company, I’d guess that 90-95% of revenue is still generated by television ad sales.
  • Profit margins, naturally, are tighter than ever.  A broadcast license was once a license to print money; stations enjoyed profit margins above 50%.  Though it varies by station and company, I’d guess that they’re more in the 15-20% range in a good year.
  • For a stronger future, some local news operations will have to be shut down (see above – Static and Homogenous).  This is a natural result of competition.
  • As fragmented as the media landscape is (that fragmentation fundamentally threatening the TV business), television is still the only place to find mass.  This is why network prime time shows command higher ad rates, despite smaller audiences.
  • Among the younger set, it’s cool to hate TV and its advertising.  However, Apple loves it!  Go figure.
  • Television still enjoys an amazing windfall from political advertising.

Local Television Advertising’s Effective, But …

  • Is it cost effective?  By migrating dollars into other channels, the large-scale, sophisticated television advertisers say no.
  • I just finished Joseph Jaffe’s Life after the 30 Second Spot, published in 2005.  At the time, DVRs were the threat to effectiveness.  Forms of digital capture and distribution have increased dramatically in the past 6 years.
  • Digital pureplay companies offer relatively inexpensive marketing and advertising options … and they’re 100% trackable.
  • With inexpensive tools to create and publish yourself, “every company is a media company.”  There’s less need to pay for exposure.
  • Some traditional TV advertisers have flipped the situation upside down, selling advertising themselves.

Local Television Stations Are Important

  • Local television stations have incredibly strong brands.  They’re local instituions.
  • They inform, prepare, and connect people; they provide a sense of local identity and community.
  • People take your calls when you tell them you’re calling from a local TV station.
  • The role and responsibility of the best local news and weather teams will continue to be important, no matter how distribution changes.  The challenge there is to stay relevant day-to-day, rather than simply being a go-to place in times of crisis.
  • High definition television signals are free for the taking – and they’re the cleanest form of television signal.

In Summary

I’m grateful for all the opportunities this industry has presented me and the dozens of excellent humans who helped me along the way.  I hope for the best for the individuals who make the industry.

As you might expect, I’ve got many more thoughts, feelings, and ideas.  I’m happy to have a threaded comment conversation, a real conversation, or an email exchange about any of this.

My Local Television Employers

Related Posts at ethanbeute.com

Upside Down: Traditional Advertising Relationships

Good News: You Get to Decide What’s News!

Broadcast Television: In Praise of a Relic

Our Nation’s Common Medium: Why Just One?

 

Bonus Videos
Both employ coarse language. The first is more slowly paced. The second is more direct and more coarse. Both employ the immediately recognizable patterns to which I referred earlier in this post.

 

 

 

Broadcast Television: In Praise of a Relic

The latest incarnation of Apple TV has again fired up the “cut the cord” talk – killing off your obscenely-priced cable or satellite subscription.  The stranglehold is broken.  Cutting the cord is absolutely a trend.

Apple TV, for example, has now joined more than 100 other devices that support Netflix streaming, which allows unending access to a huge library of programming direct to your television.

Wired just issued a complete guide, fronted by Joel McHale (from NBC’s Community and E’s The Soup), about how to watch all the best stuff without cable or satellite.  Here’s another how-to-live-without-cable-or-satellite from Salon.com (not as fun as McHale’s).  A Google search produces at least a dozen more.

What you want, when you want it, as often as you want it – it’s easier than ever and doesn’t require a $100 cable bill.  Just a little bit of new hardware, a high-speed internet connection, maybe some new software, some non-cable and non-satellite programming subscriptions …

Just don’t tell me it’s about saving money.

Broadcast tower television digital signal high definition

Go old school: harness high definition television in its cleanest form with a $10 antenna or even a paperclip - compliments of your local broadcaster.

High definition television in its cleanest, purest form is always available to you at no cost.  The signal gets no better than straight out of the air.  No expensive hardware to purchase (because you already own that 42″ HDTV).  No cable, no satellite, no high speed internet, no Hulu, no Netflix … no subscription required of any kind.

Digital broadcast signals are in the air and all you need to harness them is a $10 antenna (though a large paperclip will often suffice).  Again, high definition television in its cleanest, purest form can be brought into your home at no cost.

  • Yes, you’re limited in programming.  In most areas, though, you’ll get a dozen channels or more between primary and sub-channels, from such content providers as PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Univision, Telemundo and others.
  • Yes, you’re giving up some precious control, subjecting yourself to a linear broadcast with incessant commercial interruptions.
  • Yes, it’s ludicrous to imagine cutting a high-speed internet subscription.
  • Yes, you may want to augment your options with a sub-$10 Netflix subscription.

But … over-the-air television is absolutely free.  Right now.  All the time.  And it’s nearly 100% stupid-proof … just plug it in and turn it on.  It’s the true essence of passive entertainment.

If your mobile device was equipped with a DTV tuner, you could have it all available wherever you go – without paying for mobile internet access.

I know this sounds like the ramblings of your grandfather, but the point remains: if your argument and motivation for “cutting the cord” is financial, you must celebrate the role your local broadcaster plays in entertaining and informing you.

High definition television in a linear form is a relic.  And it’s absolutely free.

Toyota: Lost in the Wilderness?

What a great ad. What a great message. What a great brand.

I loved where Toyota was with this:

The automotive branding textbook example is “Volvo = Safety.”

A runner up: “Toyota = Reliability.”

Once the darling of the automotive world for its efficient production, fantastic sales and extreme reliability, however, Toyota‘s taken quite a hit over the past year.

3.8 million cars. 8,000 trucks. 600,000 minivans270,000 luxury vehicles just last week.  That’s a lot of recalls (and that little recall rundown’s far from complete!).

Reliability ratings have fallen, too.

Result: a hard tack away from reliability toward

Wow!  That’s a ton of “safety.”  A quick count has them at seven mentions per :30 spot – nearly one time every four seconds!

On the upside: message is loud and clear, yet casual and clean.  Also, safety is not wholly separate from reliability; I consider the two concepts quite compatible.  It’s also timely and topical, if not a little bold given the state of all things Toyota.

On the downside: if you’re a Toyota owner (which I’ve never been), you may not buy the message – especially if the recalls have been particularly inconvenient.  This “safety” onslaught (I’ve seen several full-page print ads to match these spots) is not even fresh on the heels of the safety and reliability problems – it’s amid them.  I feel strongly, though, that something often enough repeated comes to be believed (for better and for worse).

I feel like this direction could really work … but they’re already giving up on it.

“They’re Already Giving Up” Exhibit A:

In short: “smart, young go-getter gets a helping hand from a good corporate citizen.”  Two notes: “Erica” does say the word “reliable” and it’s the same voice as the safety campaign.

The “safety” sell, though, seems to have expired.  They must have research that suggests their problems with perceived safety and reliability are over – or that those perception/imaging problems were never too deep.

If not, I’m considering Toyota lost in the wilderness.

Disclaimer: Toyota is obviously a highly sophisticated marketer.  My observations are based strictly in mainstream television and magazine messages.  I expect fully that they’ve got many targeted, niche campaigns striking exactly where needed that are beyond my view.

Pikes Peak: Gleeful Ignorance vs Mental Challenge

Tomorrow, I’ll day-hike Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak and back down for the second time.  This hike, however, already feels different.

My first ascent was undertaken in gleeful ignorance just three weeks after moving to Colorado Springs.

  • Sure, I knew I’d be hiking about 25 or 26 miles round trip to the top of “America’s Mountain,” the inspiration for the writing of “America the Beautiful.”
  • Yeah, I knew it would require most of my waking hours that day.
  • Absolutely, I was up for a walk up through three distinct ecological life zones (Montane, Spruce-fir and alpine).

It wasn’t until I hiked up alongside of JJ, a 20-something from Denver who’s in the Colorado Mountain Club, about 5 miles up that I really understood the accomplishment of day-hiking it.  The young man filled me in.

Pikes Peak, Barr Trail, 14er, mountain, summit, hike, peak, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs

First summit hike of Pikes Peak by Barr Trail, September 2006

Pikes Peak by Barr Trail is marathon-length, the longest approach of any of Colorado’s famed 14ers (+14,000 peaks).  It also has the greatest elevation gain of any approach; from the trailhead in Manitou Springs to the summit, you climb approximately 7,500 vertical feet.

Among more than 50 qualifying Colorado peaks, Pikes ranks 30th at 14,110ft above sea level.  So, it’s not even close to being the highest.

It’s also not the most technical.  In fact, it’s probably the least technical.  Barr Trail is a Class 1 walk-up, about as simple a summit hike as you’ll find.

It’s also insanely civilized.  To call Barr Trail heavily used is a gross understatement, even by 14er standards.  There’s Barr Camp halfway up, where many hikers spend the night, purchase t-shirts, eat a pancake breakfast or pick up a bottled drink.  The summit itself is a tourist’s delight, designed to satisfy all those who drive up the Pikes Peak Highway or ride up the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  In addition to a huge gift shop, replete with the requisite “Got Oxygen” t-shirts, summit house offers a snack bar and fresh donut stand.  Note: in addition to hiking it, I’ve been up by (rental) car and by cog railway.

So, what’s the difference between my initial go at it and what I’m preparing for tomorrow?  I don’t keep a list, but I’d guess I’ve climbed a couple dozen mountains since my day-hike of Pikes Peak.  So what’s the big deal?

I’ll call it the mental aspect of endurance.  It’s a little more in my head now.  I’m thinking too much about it.  It’s shaping up as more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

It’s going to be a long day – probably 12 or 13 hours of hiking.  I’m going to start before sunrise.  I’m certain to have blisters by the end of the day (even though I plan to switch between shoes and boots near treeline).

I’m not going up the much shorter Crags route on the west side of the mountain.  I’m not splitting the hike in half with by staying overnight at Barr Camp.  I’m not hiking up, then catching a ride back down in a car or on the train.

Instead, I’m heading up as fast as I can, buying a Gatorade in the summit house, seeing how full the parking lot is, then hauling all the way back down and out (the hike down’s different, but it isn’t easy).  I’m already wondering how tired and sore I might be as I head in to work on Monday morning.

To feel a little more prepared, I put on my boots and a full pack and did The Incline this morning.  And to think … last time, I simply decided on a Thursday afternoon that Saturday’s weather looked good, so I should head up that mountain in my back yard.

All kinds of Pikes Peak photos from my Flickr photo stream are here.

From Anonymous Appreciation to Personal Invitation

A quick follow up to the last post about a vibrant painting by a local artist hanging at the Pioneers Museum in downtown Colorado Springs.

I brought the post to the attention of the artist, Tracy Felix.  We had a short email exchange in which he shared a few additional images and gave me insight into his creative and production processes.

In some cases he works from his own photographs, as well as postcards and photos from others.  In other cases he works strictly from imagination, informed by decades of hiking, skiing and exploring our area.

Here is an example of the former, a new painting from a recent trip to Durango:

Grenadier, range, mountains, Colorado, Molas Lake, Durango, Ouray, peaks, lake, nature, painting, fine art, Tracy Felix, Denver

The Grenadier Range from Molas Lake by Tracy Felix

Here’s an example of the latter, an imagined scene generated from the general idea or concept of “northern New Mexico”:

Rio Grande, Colorado, New Mexico, fine art, painting, Tracy Felix, Denver, art, artist

Along the Rio Grande by Tracy Felix

The point of this post: rather than simply enjoying a painting at a local treasure of a museum, I decided to shoot a couple photos and write a brief piece about it.  From that limited initiative, I received more insight into the person and the process behind the images, images of three additional paintings not in the online gallery, information about a current showing of work by him and his wife, Sushe, and a standing, informal invitation to the Felix’s home and studio.  I think that’s wonderful.

Here’s the third image I received; it’s inspired by the La Plata mountains in the San Juan range near Durango:

La Platas, La Plata mountains, Colorado, painting, Durango, art, fine art, artist, Tracy Felix, Denver

La Platas by Tracy Felix

Here’s a Denver Post feature from July 2008 about Tracy and Sushe Felix.

Local History, Local Artist and Landscape Art

Three things I truly enjoy intersect just 2 miles from our home: local history, a local artist and landscape art.

Physically, they intersect at Tejon and Vermijo in downtown Colorado Springs.

The Pioneers Museum is dedicated to local history, including the settlement and development of the Colorado Springs area.  Its home is the former El Paso County Courthouse; one of the exhibits is a fully restored courtroom.  It used to be open from 10am-5pm every day of the week, but the city budget is an absolute wreck.  It’s always free to the public and absolutely worth a visit by locals and visitors alike.

The Pioneers Museum, downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado, history museum, local history

The Pioneers Museum in downtown Colorado Springs is housed in the former El Paso County Courthouse

One of my favorite exhibits is “Looming Large: The Artistic Legacy of Pikes Peak,” which was developed during the 2006 bicentennial of Zebulon Montgomery Pike’s expedition up the southwestern slopes of America’s Mountain.  It’s a room filled with various artistic renderings of the mountain that now bears Pike’s name.  One painting truly stands out from the rest and earns prominent placement.

Pioneers Museum, entrance to Looming Large exhibit

Entrance to the Looming Large exhibit at the Pioneers Museum

The oil painting is “Pikes Peak 2004″ by Tracy Felix, who grew up and worked as an artist in Colorado Springs.  Within the past few years, he and his wife, artist Sushe Felix, moved to Denver.

Pikes Peak 2004 by Tracy Felix, Colorado Springs, painting, artist, oil painting

Pikes Peak 2004 by Tracy Felix

Perhaps for my love of mountains, wilderness and trails, I’ve always favored landscape photography and landscape painting over most other artistic forms.  Fold in the fact that the artist is local and the subject is Colorado mountains and I’m all in.

The style here is obviously bright, playful and inviting.  Though this treatment of Pikes Peak is relatively straightforward, much of his other work is a bit more abstract.

His work hangs at the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center in Pueblo, among other places.

Here’s a sampling of Felix’s treatment of other Colorado landmarks.

Tracy Felix, painting, fine art, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mount Yale, Maroon Bells

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mount Yale, Maroon Bells

Tracy Felix, painting, oil painting, fine art, Sangres, Sangre de Cristo, mountain range, Longs Peak

Longs Peak, Sangre de Cristo Mountains

With this post, I simply wanted to draw your attention to a few things I enjoy that happen to intersect.

Related Links:

Pioneers Museum: home

Pioneers Museum: about

Pioneers Museum: exhibits

Pioneers Museum: photos from my Flickr stream

Tracy Felix: artist statement

Tracy Felix: gallery

Enjoy!

People Don’t Buy What You Do, They Buy Why You Do It

Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes and writer of its Digital Rules column, recently wrote about the “weak and uneven” economic recovery.

In doing so, he identified seven principles on which the companies that have succeeded throughout tend to excel:

  • design
  • speed
  • cost
  • external communication
  • internal communication
  • purpose

Each was well-illustrated with examples of companies succeeding by excelling in that aspect of business performance.

Sunrise, purpose, motivation, motivational, marketing, inspiration, inspiring

Motivational poster-style image representing "Purpose" grabbed from my Flickr photo stream so I'd have a colorful image in this post

The last one - purpose - really caught my interest because he highlighted thoughts of a guy I’d not read before – Simon Sinek.

The very best companies know why they do what they do.  They have a purpose – a reason for existence that transcends profit.  Driven by purpose, they create a movement and consequently get the most discerning and loyal customers.  In today’s crowded global marketplace customers ‘don’t buy what you do,’ says Sinek.  ‘They buy why you do it.’

This idea has fascinated me for a while and represents the most fundamental step in building strategy.  It seems so obvious and so simple, but it’s often overlooked and infrequently re-visited.  More often, we’re thinking and acting farther down the line at the tactical level.

Sinek’s “Start With Why” philosophy, of course packaged and sold as a book, isn’t revolutionary.  But the message is always timely and he gives it a fresh spin.

I’ll also add that I gave Sinek a “Like” on Facebook and will soon have motivational musings popping up in my News Feed.  Examples:

  • The difference between those who do and those who don’t is that they don’t believe it when they are told they can’t.
  • Assumptions can be dangerous because our behaviors are governed by our assumptions.
  • Those who lead are the ones who can clearly communicate their vision and those who can clearly communicate their vision are the ones who lead.
  • Leaders don’t complain about what’s not working, they celebrate what is working and work to amplify it.

Feels self-helpy, but I appreciate positive ideas communicated in well-crafted form.

A couple links:

Karlgaard’s Recovery’s Seven Secrets

Sinek’s “Start With Why” site, including video of his great TED speech

Shallow Analysis: PETA’s Circus Protest

In a way, this functions as a follow-up to the previous post about a marketing tactic employed by the Zeitgeist Movement of Colorado.  As in that case, the ideas marketed here lie outside the mainstream.  Unlike the Zeitgeist folks, the organization at work here is extremely well funded and celebrity fronted.

We experienced today in Colorado Springs the same thing many have experienced in cities across the country – a protest of the cruel “entertainment” that is Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which happens to be coming to town.

Protesting is PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  As the elephant’s sign reads: Circuses are No Fun for Animals.  The message is directed toward elementary school children and delivered on public property.

Here’s a shallow analysis.

PETA Circus Protest Colorado Springs Elephant Cruel Cruelty

PETA Circus Protest - Colorado Springs - Elephant

How it’s executed (approximately):

  • PETA gets Ringling Brothers tour schedule
  • PETA precedes the circus, city to city
  • PETA distributes material outside a local elementary school in each city
  • PETA alerts the local media in advance of protest
  • Local media swarms, story’s a good “talker” that elicits strong opinions
  • Conversation ensues

This execution is nicely focused.  They’re timely and topical with the elephant costume, signs, coloring books and more.  Preceding the circus with this message should influence the buying decision.

Commercials to get people to the circus have been running heavily on television here for at least a week; the circus is due in town in a week and a half.  As school’s wrapping up, kids may be talking about the circus.  Parents are probably in active consideration of whether or not to cough up the $100+ it costs to take a family of four to the circus.

There’s no question that this is effective in drawing attention to PETA and to the circus.  What is in question is what kind of attention does it draw - what kind of conversation does it start?

PETA Circus Protest Colorado Springs Cruel Cruelty

PETA Circus Protest - Colorado Springs

This strikes me as a case in which the discussion is limited to the organization itself, rather than to the specific topic and its related issues.  Alignments are basic:

  • People who believe animals are grossly mistreated and need a human voice for justice and protection
  • People who think animal rights people are moronic nut jobs and are perfectly satisfied with the status quo
  • People who take issue with directing the message toward young children outside their schools

Meanwhile, just how humane or horrific is the treatment of animals within the circus?  What are the consequences of training of large, wild beasts to perform unnatural tasks for our amusement?  What amount of money or entertainment value justifies any form of mistreatment?  The discussion never gets this deep.

Instead, it’s more basically about PETA – simply a love ‘em or hate ‘em alignment, plus a faction against their tactics in general.  It’s provocative.  It’s a continuation and refinement of their guerilla tactics.

This is not necessarily a bad outcome for PETA, especially if you subscribe to the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” philosophy.  Their name passed thousands of lips yesterday.  Because of the timely and topical nature of their message, some share of those people whose attention they got may have “converted” – evaluating the “circus is cruel” message and tending to accept or agree.

In conclusion and a bit from left field:  the difference between zealotry and simply spreading the word is defined by whether or not we agree with the message.

Link: local story at NewsFirst5.com with a couple dozen comments

Positive Outcome from Dubious Marketing Ploy

A note on a dubious markeing ploy …

I’m “friends” with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter on Facebook.  I’m not sure how or when this happened, but, as a positive consequence, I get some useful info about goings-on at the state level.  Because of this “relationship,” I was treated to this in my Facebook News Feed yesterday morning:

Zeitgeist Movement Colorado tags Governor Bill Ritter on Facebook

Zeitgeist Movement Colorado tags Governor Bill Ritter

Like many of his 4,868 other “friends,” I watched the video out of curiosity alone.  “We are all connected” … sounds interesting!

As it turns out, the Governor appeared nowhere in this video, which was a fascinating production – particularly the audio mix.  Among those who did appear, probably without their knowledge or permission, were Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson (PBS), Carl Sagan and Richard Fenynman.  The video became repetitive, running about 2:00 too long.

Obviously, the tagging of the Governor by a member of the movement was a tactic to get attention – a “spray and pray” effort to cast a message as widely as possible by whatever means available with the hope that a target will be struck.  The downside: this runs against new, targeted, permission-based marketing principles.  The lamentable upside: it actually works …  I’m writing about it right now (!?).

So what is this Zeitgeist Movement that made its way into my consciousness by way of a dubious marketing ploy?  They seem to have semi-laudable but wildly impractical goals/ideals.  They call for a “sustainable social design” built on a “resource-based economy.”  Those are nice-sounding phrases.  It’s all based on the life’s work of industrial designer and social engineer Jaques Fresco.

I say it’s “laudable” because their critique of the status quo is harsh, highlighting the ugliest things about the way we live, work and “prosper.”  Also laudable are emphases on: world as singular organism, humans as singlular family, dependence upon healthy environment, natural processes, and the scientific method.  Per their intro video, they endorse the “humane application of science and technology to social design and decision making.”

I judge it “impractical” because it seeks a complete and fundamental redesign of all the world’s social and economic structures; its coming to pass seems wholly impossible given human nature.

In hindsight, I’m glad my Facebook News Feed was “hijacked” by a fallacious video tag.

They’re “out there.”  They’re disconnected in nearly every way from mainstream thought.  They’re imagining an experience, even existence, here on earth completely unlike what it is today.  I expect that this separation from mainstream is a primary reason they resort to such tactics.

A positive outcome: they reminded me of something valuable.  We owe it to ourselves to consider every now and again how our fellow human beings are thinking and dreaming differently.

I never endorse such tactics, but I always endorse thinking, dreaming and listening.

Here’s their US homepage:  Zeitgeist Movement

Here’s a video introduction:  Zeitgeist Movement

Giving Them Away for Free

I produce a Flickr photo stream.  I periodically go through it to delete photos at which no one has looked.  Right now, there are about 2,200 photos up.  I set up a little widget here in the left column that randomly grabs and displays a photo from the stream.

Over the couple/few years I’ve been putting up photos, I’ve received eight or ten requests from proper publishers seeking permission to use one or more of these photos.  Several of them are web-based guides.  One was a publisher of lake, river and stream maps.  One was a publisher of books and videos about weird and interesting things across this great nation.

I’d forgotten about that last one … until yesterday.  I received a box in the mail; I could tell it contained a book by its size, dimensions and weight.  I figured it was a book about Google Analytics that I ordered a few days ago.  Instead, it was Weird Colorado!

Weird Colorado, Weird U.S., Weird US, Mark Sceurman, Mark Moran, Charmaine Ortega Getz

Weird Colorado

My brand new, hardcover copy is personally inscribed with thanks and appreciation from “my pals,” Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran.

The Weird U.S. series has been around for years.  In addition to national and state-focused books, they’ve produced videos that aired on the History Channel.

Weird Colorado is written by Charmaine Ortega Getz.  At some point, they scoured the web for photos for inclusion in the book.  They came across some of mine.

They emailed to request permission to use my photos from Picketwire Canyonlands and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.  These areas were included for ancient rock art, sub-oceanic history, dinosaur footprints and fossilized plants, animals and insects.  They ended up using two of each (pages 46, 47 and 59).

These four photos are not among my most “interesting” according to Flickr; I’m glad they were useful to someone.  Here’s one of them – detail of a fossilized tree trunk at Florrisant Fossil Beds NM:

Fossilized Wood at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Fossilized Wood at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Though every photo in my Flickr stream is copyrighted, they’re free for the taking from a technology standpoint.  All sizes of every photo are available, from thumbnail through original size (approx 3,500 x 2,600 pixels).

I suppose I could try to track people down and attempt to recoup my share of any commercial gains.  Instead, I’m giving them away for free.

I tag every photo extensively to help people find them.  It’s fascinating to watch analytics on photo views and traffic sources.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • It’s produced 100% from personal passion
  • It does me no good to hoard them, hide them or lock them down
  • For those who use them, I expect they’ll remember where they got them and perhaps link back or let me know
  • Legit publishers will request permission and provide appropriate photo credit, acknowledgment and linking (and sometimes even the finished product!)

Related hopes include:

  • I hope people will enjoy some of the images as much as I do
  • I hope people will connect through imagery with the beautiful and interesting things in the world around them
  • I hope people will be inspired to go outside and maybe shoot some photos

My photo stream is generally outdoors-oriented.  Photos go up in specific groups or sets based on a trip, an outing or a shoot.  They’re always dated and tagged.  They’re up in reverse chronological order.  (Related music note: I strongly favor albums over singles).

I’d love for you to use an image as a desktop background or any other application you see fit.  Please share with me if and how you use an image.

Here are some of my most viewed and most commented photos: 

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/ethanbeute/popular-interesting/

Here is Weird U.S. at Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weird_U.S.

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