RECESSIO-NOMICS

I’m really starting to hate this economic downturn.

As if newspapers didn’t have enough economic problems, this recession seems to be accelerating the pace in which newspapers are shedding jobs. And by accelerating, I mean 200-kilometres-per-hour-driving-over-a-cliff-crash-and-fatal-burns-to-the-driver fast.

While the news reports are still sketchy as of yet, there were a number of layoffs at The Globe and Mail today and 24 reporters were given the axe at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald (sidebar: in the words of Sideshow Bob, “I’m aware of the irony of posting a link to layoffs from a newspaper’s web site, so don’t bother pointing it out.”).

Hey journalism students — better get those Web publishing skills up to scratch!

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* Oh boy. This could be either a great story or very, very bad. Iran’s now joined that exclusive club known as spacefaring nations. Now let’s hope they don’t ever join that other exclusive club.
* I swear, if Apple were a human being, it would be an incredibly classy and hot stripper. Why? Well, like strippers, they toy with the audience, reveal parts of themselves very selectively and ultimately find some way to separate you from your money. Four words: Flash, Video Recording and iPhone.
* Will the recession create more pent-up demand for online gaming? Well, considering that most people will probably be spending a lot more time at home in the next two years, I say yes. World of Warcraft baby!
* I know this link might be in slightly poor taste given what’s happened today, but it’s a good lesson for everyone and anyone trying to hold onto their jobs.

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ANOTHER REASON TO LOATHE TV NEWS

I generally find most TV news (with the exception of the BBC World News and the CBC News) pretty stupid and banal (watch even five minutes of City”News” on CityTV and you’ll understand what I mean). TV news journalism these days, especially at the local level, is full of non-stories, trivialities and crime-ridden junk.

But this segment is brilliant, halirious schadenfreude at its finest. Serves this KTLA reporter right for being such a bona-fide moron and asking what has to be the dumbest question ever.

ROGERS TAKES A PR BEATING

This rumour on Smithereens’ blog is too deliciously awesome to ignore. Apple sanctioning Rogers over their voice and data plans for the iPhone? God it would be so nice to see Apple really take it to Rogers on this one.

We can only hope this is the case. Yet another web site has emerged that neatly illustrates how royally screwed Canadians who buy the iPhone will be under the current pricing scheme (which, according to the National Post today, may change since Rogers executives, ever wary of the public relations nightmare they’re facing in lieu of this ill-conceived strategy). RuinediPhone.com, as of noon today, has almost 50,000 signatures on it and counting.

All of this on top of numerous stories on the CBC, Canadian Press and many, many other outlets. Sooner or later, Rogers is going to have to take notice of all this.

See, this is why the cellular market in Canada must be regulated. It’s obvious the carriers can’t be trusted to look out for consumers’ best interests. Here’s why libertarian free markets don’t work – if you leave companies in a position to regulate themselves without regard for the demands of consumers, you’ll get burned.

Rogers, how much more PR heat do you really want to take?

DIGITAL BACKWATER?

Let me ask you something: do you ever feel like Canada’s a bit of a digital backwater?

For all the touting of Canada by successive federal governments as a “world leader” in technological innovation, one wonders exactly how the political mandarins in Ottawa come to that conclusion. Perhaps in aerospace engineering, industrial manufacturing, biotechnology and other commercial development, that might be true. But when it comes to consumer technology, Canada is about as far from world leader as Robert Mugabe is to being a truly democratically elected President.

First off, Exhibit A: our pathetic cell phone culture. For a country that politicians claim has a lot in common with Nordic nations like Finland or Norway in terms of social democracy, we look more like a Banana Republic when it comes to cell phones than Nordic.

Globalize this little fact – over 90 per cent of Swedes use cell phones and has the highest rate in Europe of 3G phone network penetration. Canada? We still have cellular operators using the outdated CDMA frequency over the global standard GSM. We barely have 3G penetration to speak of outside of cities. Our lack of GSM options means we have to put up with Rogers being the only cellular operator able to offer the iPhone, which means no choice, no competition, no benefit to the consumer. We also seemingly lack the mindset of unlimited access, unlike our neighbours to the South – why is Rogers cynically charging consumers for capped data access when Americans can get unlimited data coverage nationwide? It feels like a gigantic middle finger to the consumer. More to the point, why are Canadians paying for things that U.S. cellular companies offer for free? Don’t tell me it’s about comparative market sizes – if we’re as advanced as the federal government claims, shouldn’t the cost of data and voice access be going down, not up?

Exhibit B: our Internet culture. While America experiences the same problems in terms of our capped internet speeds – wow, a whole theoretical five megabytes a second! Boy, that puts Koreans to shame *sarcasm* – we have to deal with Bell and Rogers throttling data speeds and making the web a functional experience at best. Sure, Europe and Asia have far, far more advanced digital infrastructure in place to ensure best speeds, but come on guys – you can’t expect us customers to be happy with download speeds that are positively antiquated in nature compared to French telecoms. Again, why are we paying for such crappy service? Worse, why is the federal government pretending this problem doesn’t exist? I can just see federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice sitting in his office with fingers in his ear, singing “la-la-la-la-la” at this moment.

God I wish we could be more like Europe sometimes.

IPHONE MADNESS AND ONE SWEET DIATRIBE

So today’s the big day – the second generation iPhone debuts today at the WWDC 2008 in San Francisco, presumably (of course, Steve Jobs could pull a homer and not even release the new iPhone today…). Engadget is liveblogging the event.

DIATRIBE: My old newspaper has posted some front covers from this past year’s volume of issues. Just to give you an idea of how far this newspaper has come since its debut in 2001 (jeez, has it been seven years?), check this cover out…

Wow. That’s pretty much all I can say. Effin’ A!

iPHONE UPDATE: Wow – the 3G iPhone has been announced. It looks incredible – some amazing new features, GPS tracking and a much slimmer design. And the price point! $199 for an 8 GB phone, $299 for a 16 GB phone. Best part: that price is fixed globally, so Canadians will get an affordable iPhone!

July 11th the new, 3G iPhones debut. Very, very cool stuff Apple.