business news in context, analysis with attitude

It is a good thing that I don't have to do a radio commentary this morning, because I spent all of last night at a Jimmy Buffett concert at Madison Square Garden, and have absolutely no voice left. But I will soldier on…

Interesting news this week that the New York Times has decided to abandon its policy of charging for access to much of its online content, and instead will make everything pretty much free. Reports are that when Rupert Murdoch takes control of the Wall Street Journal, he will make the same decision, even though the Journal actually made some money off its web content.

The lesson for all businesses, I think, is that sometimes it makes sense to look at the long term instead of the short-term, even if the short-term prospects for revenue look pretty good. In this case, both the Timesand the Journal are gambling that a higher number of site visitors is going to be more important to long-term growth and generating ad dollars than a smaller group that pays for access. In a business where there is a steadily diminishing number of readers, traffic will be critical…so I think this decision makes sense.

The difference between the short term and the long term often is the difference between tactical thinking and strategic thinking … and I think paying attention to the latter is generally the best choice a business can make. Long-term that is.

I was raving about Apple last week and had no intention of revisiting the subject … but now I have to.

I walked into the Apple Store the other day and noticed that they’d yanked out all the checkouts and replaced them with training stations. A salesperson told me that the decision had been made, because almost everyone uses credit cards, to simply equip all the store floor personnel with portable card readers and scanners. The Apple Store essentially brings the checkout to the customer … which strikes me as out of the box thinking.

In my case, I handed the items I was buying to the salesperson, he scanned them, pulled a bag out of his sack, put the products in the bag and asked if it was okay to email me my receipt. I said sure, and it was waiting for me when I got there.

Fast system, smart system. I like it.

Thanks to all of you who not only instructed me about rugs made out of bread bags, but actually sent me pictures to prove that it was possible. I still don't quite get it – for example, what exactly would it feel like under your feet? But I’ve now been enlightened on a piece of Americana that I knew nothing about.

By the way, there was one big advantage to being at the Buffett concert last night was that I didn’t have to watch the Mets game.

Here’s a question:

Who is more suicidal these days, Mets fans or Red Sox fans?

“3:10 To Yuma” is a terrific movie. It has wonderful performances by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, beautiful cinematography, and the best kind of story – it is, essentially, a morality play, a struggle between good and evil as personified by Crowe, the magnetic and educated outlaw, and Bale, the poor, beleaguered rancher who agrees to help escort the captured Crowe to catch the 3:10 train to Yuma Prison because he needs the money to feed his family. Plus, it’s got horses, and is based on a short story by the great Elmore Leonard. Go see it.

This version of “3:10 To Yuma” is actually a remake of a 1957 movie that starred Glenn Ford as the outlaw (he’s surprisingly good in the part; I don't usually think of him as an actor with that kind of range) and Van Heflin as the rancher. I rented it from Netflix out of curiosity, and found that the early version is good, in the style of a film like “High Noon,” but not nearly as good as the new one; it was shot in black-and-white and is a lot more claustrophobic, which I think works against it. It does have one other notable bit – the theme song is sung by Frankie Laine, who contributed the title songs to a bunch of other classic westerns, such as “Gunfight At The OK Corral,” and, of course, “Blazing Saddles.”

A final thought on last night’s Jimmy Buffett concert. It might not appeal to people who are not members of Parrothead Nation, but I can’t imagine a better time at a three-hour concert. Tens of thousands of people packed in Madison Square Garden, all singing the words to songs we know by heart. I’ve noticed that the demographic of attendees is getting little older lately, but then again, so am I. But as long as Jimmy is out there singing, I’ll be in the audience, smiling and clapping and swaying to the music and singing along:

I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year.
All of the faces and all of the places,
Wonderin' where they all disappeared.
I didn't ponder the question too long;
I was hungry and went out for a bite.
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum,
And we wound up drinkin' all night.

It's those changes in latitudes,
Changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane….

Words to live by.

Have a great weekend. Have a laugh. I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: