Learfield Interactive

I have three “pet projects” (for lack of a better description) at work. They make a little money but not much. One could make a good argument that these are things we shouldn’t be messing with. But I am quite proud of them and today seems like a good time to bench-mark them.

Legislature.com (how lucky were we to get that domain?) has to be one of the more expensive subscription services on the net. We charge $750 a year for a live stream of debate audio from the Missouri House and Senate. All the more amazing since those two bodies offer a live stream for free. In addition to the live stream, we archive each day’s debate. We’ve got it all going back to 2002. Don’t ask me “who cares?” because I don’t know. It’s a little bit of history and it seemed dumb to discard it.

UPDATE: We registered Legislature.com on September 16, 1999. Roger Gardner called me the day before and asked if the domain was available. I assured him someone had snapped it up but had our IT guy (Phil Atkinson) check. Lo and behold, it was available. Not many one-word domains still up for grabs in 1999.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch story »

Supreme Court of Missouri Oral Arguments. Very dry stuff. We stream audio of the oral arguments before the court, and then we archive it. 637 cases, dating back to December 14, 1999. The service has been free until just recently, when we started charging an annual subscription of $99. [We started doing this in January of 2000.

So we have the audio of the state legislature making the laws…and the audio of the state supreme court interpreting many of those laws. While I don’t care that much about the process, saving this audio record just seem very cool to me.

Last, but not least… Missouri State Highway Patrol Crash Reports. These are the initial reports filled out by the state troopers and radioed back to the dispatcher. He or she then enters the information into a computer and it gets distributed to various points around the state. Several years ago, Phil did a little hack that put the reports on a website which, today, easily generates 800,000 Page Views a month. There’s a free, “public” version of the site…and a “premium” subscription service which includes a searchable database of reports going back to the beginning of 2004. Two years of crash reports. God (and maybe Andy and Phil) know how many files that might be. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands? A shit load.

A good businessman would tell you these projects are “distractions” that “dilute” our efforts from our “core businesses.” Which, for the most part, is selling 30 and 60 second commercials on radio networks. I think it’s a credit to our company that they let me (and others) explore these murky, digital waters. But I wonder… if I went to that Big Blogging Convention in the sky tomorrow, would anyone keep these projects going?

Are we more than our stories?

Could it be that our purpose is to tell a story, and that the better lived a life is, the better the story that survives after you’re gone?

An intriguing question posed by Dave Winer (a couple of years ago). If I read the post correctly, he’s wondering if there is really more to us than the stories we tell. For those of us that attempt to share our hopes and fears, successes and failures (in journals like this one)…is there really more to us than our blogs? Reminds me of a great T-Shirt David (Brazeal) found on someone’s blog: Enough about me. Let’s talk about my blog.

Corporate blogging

Clyde (the president/CEO of our company) popped in this morning with a page torn from the December 26, 2005 issue of Forbes. It was an article (“My Life As a Blogger”) by Rich Karlgaard, the publisher. Our CEO is not a blogger (yet) but he likes reading them and commenting.

Forbes did a cover story a couple of months ago, titled: “Attck of the Blogs” that was pretty much full of shit. So I was surprised at how clued-in Mr. Karlgaard is. He’s been blogging for a couple of months and concludes (full post):

  • Blogging is not overhyped.
  • Don’t judge blogging by the “average” blog.
  • The best bloggers write about what they know, and when the don’t know, they link to more knowledgeable sources.
  • Blogs really do threaten the mainstream media.
  • Good companies and honest businesspeople have little to fear from bloggers. Bad companies and shady dealers will get their heads handed to them in the blogosphere.

Forbes and Learfield don’t fully grok “the blogging thing” yet but they will, because they have really smart guys at the top. Which is, of course, how they got there.

Bonus link: Interesting post by Doc Searls on corporate blogging, branding, etc.

Life After the 30-Second Spot

Between XM, Tivo, HBO, the nano, and the web…I don’t see or hear that many 30-second commercials anymore. So I don’t know why it should be difficult for me to imagine Life After the 30-Second Spot, the title and premise of Joseph Jaffe’s latest book. But it is. Maybe it’s because our company sells a LOT of 30-second spots.

The forward, written by Don E. Schultz, Professor Emeritus-in-Service at Northwestern University, sets the tone of the book:

Media advertising, as we have known, practiced, and worshipped it for the past 60 or so years, is in trouble. Big trouble. And it’s not going to get well. Ever.

I’m about half-way through the book and highlighting something on every other page. Jaffe might be full of shit, but just in case he’s only half-full, anyone remotely connected to advertising supported media should read this book. Jaffe is also a blogger.

Who do you resemble?

This genealogy website compares the facial characteristics of an uploaded photo to those of celebrity photos in their database. My best match (61%) was Jean Chretien, the 20th Prime Minister of Canada. I look less like Paul Newman (44%) and bear a similar resemblance to Barbara Streisand and George W. Bush (42%). Thanks to Jeff who is the spitting image of Jack Ruby, Steven Spielberg and Christina Aguilera.

U. S. Founding Fathers

Scott Adams insists we must look at the the actions of our Founding Fathers in order to understand their ideals:

1. Slavery – excellent source of poontang
2. Women voting? That’s crazy talk!
3. People who don’t own land suck
4. A good way to change tax policy is through violence
5. It’s not really crossdressing if you also wear manly boots.
6. Treason is okay if you have a good reason.
7. No one wants to sit next to Ben Franklin

Like Adams, I’m glad they did the whole create-a-new-country thing… just don’t go nuts with the “this country was founded on sacred ideals put forth by our Founding Fathers” riff. They were a practical lot.

Online school closing network in Nebraska

The following item appeared in a recent RTNDA regional newslettter:

Thirty broadcasters in Nebraska have joined a network of stations sharing winter closing information. The idea started in Kearney at KRNY-FM and has grown into an on-line and on-air entity known as weatherthreat.com. The most notable feature of the service is its price—free. Schools, organizations, and the media can all use the service at no cost. On the network’s web site, creator Travis Hollman adds, “But along with being priced right, I would say weatherthreat.com is unique in that it is a non-exclusive network that is operated around the clock by local media working together for a common good.” The system works by giving accounts to all who participate, allowing them to log in and post or check closings. Hollman says he may expand to other states.

At first glance, this looks like a pretty good idea, well executed. These kinds of things almost have to be collaborative to work and getting a bunch of radio stations to cooperate is a good trick. But even if they can’t make this thing regional, it could work on a district-by-district basis. (Thanks, Kay)