10 questions for world builder Gerry Flahive

10 Questions for Gerry Flahive Gerry Flahive is the creator of a fictional character, Bert Xanadu. You remember, Bert Xanadu? Mayor of Toronto in the early 1970s? Owner of Imperial Six Cinema? And complete figment of Gerry Flahive’s imagination. Gerry tweets in Bert’s name and some of this work is miraculously good. One example: @MovieMayor […]

The middle is a dangerous place to be

According to a Goldilocks logic, the middle is a good place to be. It’s the Via Media between two extremes.  It’s the place politicians [used to] fashion compromise.  It’s the place most of us look for balance. Typically, the middle is a place of safety. Or at least it used to be.  My first glimpse […]

It's an unpleasant, abominable idea, submitting something as delicate as culture to the rack of metrification. But here's why it's necessary. There's so much going on "out there" in culture, so many different people creating so many different innovations, subject to change so violent and frequent, that unless we have metrics at our disposal, well, […]

Leno learning: the triumph of mesmerizingly particular culture

Jay Leno's show is doing so badly, it is now seen to endanger the health of NBC.  This is failure of an almost epic scale.  People are using language like "complete calamity" and "utter disaster." And it tells us that the strategists at NBC miscalculated badly.  Let's suppose that they thought to themselves, "American culture […]

Three surprises and the Long Tail

I am surprised that people were surprised at my comments on Chris Anderson’s book.  And I am really surprised that Chris Anderson responded from an airport lounge, insubstantially, and with the complaint that we are both on the same side.  First, I don’t see a "we" here.  That pretty much dissolved, Chris, when you wrote […]

The Long Tail Strikes Back

Chris Anderson submitted a comment on my Friday post.  He quotes the offending passage from my blog and then expresses his displeasure. "I guess we should be grateful that Penn is not offering up Chris Anderson’s "long tail" fallacy, the odd idea that because we have ceased to be a mass culture we are now […]

A note on ethnography

Barbara, my translator here in Germany, likes the sound of ethnography and she asked me to tell her more about it.  Here’s an elaboration of the answer I gave her.  It comes in three parts. Part 1 To do ethnography, she would want to master the mechanics of the interview process. 1) humility.  Interviews work […]

A stock market for music

It is 2010.  You’re in San Diego, visiting a friend.  He takes you to a hip little eatery.  The neighborhood is filled with auto repair yards and unbranded coffee…but not for long.  The condos are coming.  There’s a guy in his 50s sitting at the table in the corner.  He is dressed casually, contrarily, anti-conventionally, […]

Department stores on the upswing: two approaches to change management and brand architecture

Department stores are making a comeback.  Sales are up 4.1% compared to 1.3% at the specialty chains.  J.C. Penny will make around $1 billion this year, having lost roughly that amount in 2003.  Bloomingdale’s is opening 4 new stores.  (All figures and quotes from NYT article by Barbaro, below.) This is big news because department […]

the artisanal movement, and 10 things that define it

The artisanal movement has come to cheese, salt, bread, pickles, quick serve restaurants, chocolate, beer, olive oil, ice cream and stoves. Yes, stoves. In 2004, several bread makers lost sales, including Private labels (-5.6%), Interstate Brands, George Weston, Sara Lee and General Mills (-14%).  Sales for La Brea Bakery, on the other hand, were up […]

We are 700!

This is the 700th post for This Blog Sits At the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. Thank you very much to TBSA readers for their 3729 comments and many off line encouragements.  I once heard someone say that TBSA had the smartest readers in the blogosphere.  I believe this is true.  Other stats: There are […]

The Coca-Cola Company and chunky marketing

The pressures are extraordinary.  Coke is still more profitable  than Pepsi, but Pepsi has pulled even with Coke in market value (at $103 billion).  Ten years ago, Coke was three times bigger.  The value of the Coke brand has declined 20% since 1999.  Superficially, the problem for the Coca-Cola Company looks like a long tail […]

Chunky marketing and the Wall Street Journal

Yesterday, Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal weighed in on behalf of chunky marketing.  He says, Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson’s hot, new best seller, "The Long Tail," is causing a sensation with its eye-opening claims about the way the Web is rewriting the rules of commerce. But I’ve looked at some of the […]

Poor Hollywood: trapped between the devil of marketing and a deep blue sea of capital

Poor Hollywood.  It is being hollowed out.  Some companies flee to the high ground of the block buster.  Other descend to the indie market.  The tradition stamping grounds of the market place, the $50 million picture, is being abandoned.  We learned yesterday that Disney has taken to the high ground.  Anne Thompson surveyed the industry […]