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Posts tagged New York Times.

No such thing as bad publicity?

A fascinating story from the NYT about a company that intentionally generated negative publicity in order to improve its PageRank.

I ran across this article a few weeks ago and found it interesting because it illustrates some of the things we've been saying about ethical strategies for a while. Namely, that it might be profitable to behave unethically but that, in the long-term, the Internet will find you out and shut you down. The corollary: being ethical makes good business sense.

The subject of the piece is, a business that sells designer eyeglasses. Its owner discovered that treating his customers poorly --incorrect orders, insults, and even threats-- helped his business by increasing his visibility online. Apparently, there really was no such thing as bad publicity.

So he started doing it intentionally.

And here's where the story seems to violate our aphorism: When people went public about their stories of awful treatment, it only seemed to have the opposite effect.

The owner brazenly replied to his angry customers on a forum:

“Hello, My name is Stanley with,” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”

The owner (whose real name is Vitaly Borker) generated just enough negative feedback to game Google's algorithm, but not so much to be shut down by authorities. For a while he was able to keep enough business to offset the business he loses due to complaints.

That was, until the NYT story. A week after the article was published, Borker was arrested and charged with making threats and mail and wire fraud.

Since the press coverage, Google seems to be reworking its algorithm to better account for bad publicity. In the case of, at least, the effectiveness of these changes is still hit or miss.

Ultimately, it seems our assertion was upheld. Borker may have profited initially from being unethical, but once word from the forums spread to the wider press, he lost.

Be good. Because if you're not... people will find out.

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NickJan 11, 2011

NY Times on the Beauty of Opt-Out

An assistant managing editor at the New York Times "seems to think its customers aren't all that bright" (Forbes).

Listen to this, from the Forbes blog:

During a panel discussion at the Digital Hollywood New York conference, Gerald Marzorati, the Times’s assistant managing editor for new media and strategic initiatives, explained why the paper's print business is still robust. "We have north of 800,000 subscribers paying north of $700 a year for home delivery," Marzorati said. "Of course, they don't seem to know that."

As evidence that Times subscribers don't realize how much a subscription costs, he pointed to what happened when the paper raised its home-delivery price by 5 percent during the recession: Only 0.01 percent of subscribers canceled. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they're literally not understanding what they're paying," he said. "That's the beauty of the credit card."

...Stealthily hiking rates on the assumption that customers are too dim to catch on and/or too lazy to do anything about it is the kind of thing that gives banks, credit card companies and cell phone providers such a bad reputation. When I pointed this out after the panel to Marzorati, he was quick to dial back his condescension. All he meant to say, he explained, is that customer retention is always better in an opt-out situation.

Nick has been pointing out the problems with this kind of scammy thinking for a while now, but it's a bit of a surprise to hear it from the New York Times. More evidence that you've got to keep a leash on your social marketers -- and that includes anyone who speaks for you in public.

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PaulNov 29, 2010

Speed, Death, and Interactive Graphics

I've been thinking about this brilliant piece by friend-of-DLB Greg J. Smith all day. Are there subjects for which information graphics are Too Much Information?

NYT: Luge Crash at the Olympics
Image from the New York Times info-graphic: Luge Crash at the Olympics

[T]he precision with which this graphic schematizes the death of a man is unsettling.

This past Friday, Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during a training run for the Winter Olympics. Saturday, the New York Times produced this visualization of the circumstances which lead to his death on the track.

I was struck by the experience -- a man reduced to an abstraction, a projectile -- which one manipulates towards the last frame: a photograph showing the moment of his fatal collision. I found the juxtaposition, and my participation in it, troubling.

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NickFeb 16, 2010

Picturing the Past 10 Years

Reflect on the last decade with this NYT graphic from Phillip Niemeyer.

Phillip Niemeyer | Picturing the Past 10 Years
Detail. Click here for full-size image.

See you in 2010!

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NickDec 31, 2009

Four Design Links: December 10, 2009

Bundle-up with Four Design Links, a curated collection of stories we've been reading this week.

Watercolor of a turkey by Karen Faulkner
Photo by Wally Gobetz

1. The Lazy Designer’s Guide to Success

Pentagram's Michael Bierut offers seven ways designers can work smarter, not harder.

#4. Do as you’re told.
Simply following the client's instructions will yield wonders. For Bierut – who likes limitations – creating the gargantuan sign for Renzo Piano’s New York Times building was fairly straightforward. The Times Square Alliance mandates that all buildings in the neighbourhood feature bright, large signage, to "keep Times Square looking like Times Square,” says Bierut. (He adds that, for Piano, hearing the words large-sign-stuck-on-your-building must have been, "like, the biggest 6-word, ‘F--- you, architect’.”) And so, the almost 6 meter-tall logo was chopped into 893 pieces and applied to Piano’s ceramic rod façade.

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NickDec 10, 2009

How Much Do You Charge Now?

Like those long voice mail menus, are some cell phones designed to run up your wireless bill? The New York Times tech blog seems to think so.

In this NYT blog post, David Pogue discusses letters sent by readers regarding pricey data transmission fees. It seems that Verizon counts ANY amount of data sent from a phone as a full megabyte, which shows up on customers' bills as a $1.99 charge. Not unexpected, but here's the kicker:

The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data. NOT COOL. I’ve had phones for years, and I sometimes do that mistake to this day, as I’m sure you have. Legal, yes; ethical, NO.

For the record, I have accidentally clicked that button many times and quickly shut down the browser when I realized my mistake, but I don't recall any charges showing up on my bill.

I will say this: It would seem to me that if there is a very easy solution to this problem. Presumably Verizon can tell which URL customers are trying to connect to. If someone receives only 0.02 kilobytes or whatever from Verizon's address, they ought to ignore it as an error. This humane gesture would save them a bundle on customer service calls and data holds, not to mention reducing the number of angry blog posts out there.

As for the phone design conspiracy, my Verizon phone lets me reconfigure the button to something other than their web store. I just did. I realize many people don't ever touch the settings on their phone, but at least it can be changed. It's their phone, so you'd better believe they have the shortcuts configured for easy access to their most expensive services. Is that surprising to anyone?

I'm less inclined to believe this is an evil conspiracy, as the NYT post seems to promote, than an unfortunate confluence of corporate thinking. It's not ethical, but it's not a trap, either.

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NickNov 17, 2009

Four Design Links: October 1, 2009

Happy Thursday. Happy October! Happy Anniversary!! Time for Four Design Links. This week features stories about advertising and data. Dig in!

1. Unilever's "Crowdsourcing" Outted as High-Tech Spec

Unilever, which encompasses dozens of popular brands such as Lipton, Bertolli, and Slim-Fast, fired the ad agency representing Peperami (British Slim Jims) and replaced it with what it calls a crowdsourcing solution.

But while most crowdsourcing involves leveraging the collective intelligence of a group for mutual benefit, Unilever marketed the call for ad ideas to professional ad agencies only. Moreover, they are offering a $10,000 bounty to the winning idea. Sound familiar? It's the classic spec work pitch.

Peperami packaging
They should crowdsource a packaging designer, too....

Advertising Age called them on it:

Crowdsourcing at its core is about mass collaboration. Unilever's move, on the other hand, is nothing of the sort. Unilever is looking for no collaboration here. What it is looking for is to get lots of high-quality creative ideas at a significantly lower price. End of story.

UPDATE: There appears to be a whole section on NO!SPEC regarding unethical crowdsourcing practices!

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NickOct 1, 2009

Graveyard of Ideas

Jennifer Daniel is a prolific, witty, and talented illustrator who works for the New York Times. I even dig her gallery of rejections: Graveyard of Ideas.

Graveyard of Ideas
Check out that tombstone interface, too. Sweet.
rejected illustration for Vagabond Films
Jennifer Daniel, rejected illustration for Vagabond films.

Vagabond was a film and production company that wanted a more "worldly" look. Since they exclusively shot in America and South America- I created a new world for them.

I don't think they "got" it. Also, maybe logos aren't supposed to be sarcastic.

rejected illustrations for NYT: How Industries Survive Change.
Jennifer Daniel, rejected illustrations for NYT: How Industries Survive Change..
"How technologies evolve and how the businesses change with them"

There's something about looking through designers' rejected work and the stories behind it-- the process, I guess-- that I find really appealing. Kudos, Jennifer, for sharing.

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NickAug 25, 2009