With the perfect topic for my last week in the Studio City adjacent section of North Hollywood.
Links for 08-26-16
1 hour ago
Comments, observations and thoughts from two left coast bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is a new assistant professor. Mark is a marketing statistician and former math teacher.
But most of all, this kind of punditry, while ostensibly praising the Real America, is in fact marked by deep condescension. One pats the simple folk on the head, praising their lack of exposure to quinoa or Thai food — both of which can be found in food courts all across the country. Sorry, but there are no country bumpkins in modern America. Most of us, in all walks of life, have a pretty good sense of the full range of things our culture offers, even if too many can’t afford to participate in some of it. You might even say that the only segment of our society that seems truly unaware of how others live is a certain segment of the commentariat, blinded by its simultaneous romanticization of and contempt for working-class white America.
Many people think that the more popular a publication gets the more ads it will sell. The bigger the audience, the more eyeballs, the more ads wanting contact with those eyeballs. That's not how it works.As a marketing statistician, I'd like to emphasize the point about "reasons, some good and evidence based, others silly." Most of the people buying these ads, including high-level executives at Fortune 500 companies, have a very weak grasp of how targeted advertising works.
There are a million dimensions to the advertising economy, just as many ways of describing it. But you can understand a whole lot about how the whole thing works by thinking in terms of three factors: 1) endemic sales proposition, 2) controversy and 3) influence.
Let's talk first about endemic sales proposition. Because I think it may have played some role in Gawker's demise (on-going legal liability may have played more of a factor or have been the entirety of the issue). A site about clothes has an endemic sales proposition: selling clothes. A site about books: books. You may say well, I only read sites about news and sports but I still buy a lot of clothes so ... Not how it works.
For a variety of reasons, some good and evidence based, others silly, advertisers want to sell you their product when you are thinking about it and in the mindset to buy. This doesn't just mean impulse purchases, but buying in general. In many cases that makes a lot of sense.
For instance, aside from people being really into tech, why do you think there are so many tech sites? Right, because there's a ton of money in video games, devices, computers, everything under the sun. People also tend to buy those things online. Again, we're not just talking about impulse buying. It can be more nuanced and less direct. But if you stand up a site about tech, gaming, computers, etc. and it does well, you have a ready made channel for ad sales. And in the case of tech an extremely lucrative one.
Sometimes it's a little more amorphous but no less ad driven. Why so many 'lifestyle' publications? Well, we all need a lifestyle, of course. And general interest magazines cover many interesting topics. But by and large that's because you're aiming for an audience of people who are affluent and want to read about cool things affluent people do: travel, toys, aspirational personal development. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as they used to say on Seinfeld. But that's what it's about.
Next, controversy. This largely speaks for itself. Advertisers don't want to be around things that upset people or divide people. They want to be everyone's friend. They don't want negative ideas or stories to rub off on them. This isn't an absolute of course. Plenty of sites which court controversy sell tons of ads. Gawker's a prime example. But controversy is always a constraint on ad sales. You just may have other factors that overcome it.
Next, influence. This is an inherently small and nebulous part of the equation. But it's key for many publications. Many ads aren't trying to sell you anything directly. They're trying to tell you stories, shape your thinking, advocate positions. Political ads are like this. But they're mass market since obviously everyone can vote - at least in states without Republican governors and Secretaries of State. But where the money is is with people who are considered influential in various communities, so-called "opinion-leaders".
Here's an example. Go to the subways in New York you'll see ads for storage rentals, lawyers, grocery deliveries, breast augmentations, ESL courses. Go to Washington DC and you'll see ads for ... Kazakhstan or Northrup Grumman or PhRMA or well ... you get the idea. There are lots of people who care a lot about what people in the nation's capital think. And yes, TPM very much plays in that ad space. TPM and similar sites lose big on #1 and #2. But #3 is where there's a business that can drive ad sales.
In a conversation with Yahoo News shortly after the conversation aired, Michael Cohen, an executive vice president and attorney at the Trump Organization, said he believed he “controlled the interview” with Brianna Keilar.
“I think I unraveled her,” Cohen boasted.
In her Playbill bio, Ms. Mode notes that since 2001 FULLY COMMITTED has been one of the ten most produced plays in the United States. Very impressive. And not to take anything away from it…
It’s one actor, one desk, and two phones. It also must be one of the ten cheapest plays to produce in the United States. The actor gets quite a workout, but still, it’s very doable. Especially if a theatre is planning its season and has another play that requires say...actual costumes.
The theatre scene is really run today on a tight budget. When I wrote my first play it was extremely well received and got big laughs during staged readings. But the late Garry Marshall summed it up. He read the play, called me, and said: “Very funny. Too many people.” Neophyte that I was, I had written a play with seven characters. In today’s world, that was like writing LES MISERABLES on spec.
The requirements today (unless you’re Tony Kushner or Tom Stoppard) are this: No more than four actors, preferably one set or just a few props that can suffice for a set, and not a lot of wardrobe or effects. I feel bad for us playwrights because that severely limits the kinds of plays we can write, but I feel worse for the actors. Twenty years there were a lot more parts out there for thesps. And unlike writing where all we need is an idea and Final Draft, actors have to be hired in order to practice their craft.
Getting a play on Broadway, even a modest one, requires a bankable star. If Jesse Tyler Ferguson was in THE MINDY PROJECT, as sensational as he is in FULLY COMMITTED, no chance does he do that play on Broadway.
In Los Angeles, we have the added hurdle of the ridiculous Equity mandate that actors be paid minimum wage for all performances and rehearsals for shows playing in venues of 99 seats or less. Two-thirds of their membership voted NOT to enact that provision but the Equity board in New York ignored them and instituted it anyway.
In Florida (you knew it was Florida, didn’t you?), some third-graders — including honor students — are being forced to retake third grade because their parents decided to opt them out of the state’s mandated standardized reading test this past spring.There are few decisions that conscientious educators take more seriously than whether or not to have a child retake or skip a grade. Sometimes it turns very badly (the resulting anxiety stayed with Charles M. Schulz for the rest of his life); other times it's the best thing that could happen to a kid. Children have different abilities and they develop at different rates. Being held to some Procrustean standard can be unimaginably stressful.
An undetermined number of third-graders who refused to take the Florida Standards Assessment in reading have been barred from moving to fourth grade in some counties. A lawsuit filed by parents against state education officials as well as school boards in seven Florida counties says counties are interpreting the state’s third-grade retention law so differently that the process has become unfair. Test participation, therefore, is more important than student class academic achievement.
On Friday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers held a hearing in the suit about the third-grade retention law, which was passed years ago, when Jeb Bush was governor and at a time when there was no movement among parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. Now the opt-out movement is growing, and officials in Florida as well in other states are trying to figure out how to handle students who won’t take mandated standardized tests. It is unclear how many students in Florida opted out of the 2016 test, though in New York state, 21 percent of public school students did.
Half of California’s likely Republican voters and a third of independents said they wouldn't vote for either candidate in the state’s U.S. Senate race this November, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The survey found that 28% of all likely California voters said they didn’t support state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris or Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez, and 14% said they were undecided. Harris and Sanchez are Democrats.
The two Democrats will face off in the November election, setting the stage for the highest-profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary election system.
In the June 6 primary, Harris received 40% of the vote and Sanchez nabbed 19% among the 34 candidates on the Senate ballot. Duf Sundheim, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, landed in third place with 8%.
Since no candidate won more than 50%, the top two advanced to the runoff.
Bill Carrick, a political consultant for the Sanchez campaign, has said the congresswoman is trying to build a coalition that will “cross party lines, cross regional lines — every kind of line you can imagine” to overtake Harris before November.
To do so, Sanchez will likely need support from Republicans and independents because, according to the PPIC poll, Harris leads Sanchez by a 2-to-1 margin among Democratic voters.
Harris also leads among independents. Sanchez leads Harris among likely Latino voters.
Among likely Republican voters, 50% said they would not support either candidate and 19% said they were undecided.
But Malone also touched on another topic, which opens up a new and very different set of questions. Although she wouldn’t discuss any financial details for the course, she didn’t dispute my observation that its accounts for 2014 showed a loss-making operation. The observation was almost “asinine,” she says, because projects routinely make losses in the early years. This was a “legacy project” for Donald, she says. “This is about the love of the game of golf, the love of the land, and memory of his mother,” who was born and grew up in Scotland. The official accounts filed at Companies House (the British version of the S.E.C.) show, in fact, that for the calendar year 2014, the operating company Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited showed a net loss of £1.1 million ($1.8 million) on revenues of £2.8 million ($4.4 million).
But Trump’s disclosure in July 2015 to the U.S. Federal Election Commission (F.E.C.), under the “income” heading, showed a profit of precisely $4,349,641. We aren’t quite comparing apples with apples here, because the F.E.C. disclosures cover the calendar year 2014 plus preceding months in the current year. This scenario would make sense only if the loss-making operation in 2014 suddenly surged into profit in early 2015, when the course was closed for winter until April 1, then returned (as Malone suggests) to its loss-making ways more recently. Or it could just be an error: mistakes are only human.
But let’s look further. For the Trump Turnberry golf resort, on the Scottish west coast, his F.E.C. disclosures record a profit of $20,395,000—but the accounts for 2014 show a loss of £3.6 million ($5.6 million) on revenues of £9.2 million ($14.6 million). It’s the same story again at his Doonbeg course in Ireland, where he told the F.E.C. his profit was $10,755,683—again, very precise—while Irish company accounts show a loss of 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million) on revenues of 4.2 million euros ($4.7 million).
This looks like a pattern: in each case a loss for 2014 in the company filings morphs into a large profit (for 2014 plus a few extra months) in his F.E.C. filings. This would be compatible with other analyses suggesting Trump is prone to hyping his wealth and income. Shawn Tully at Fortune magazine, using rough but reasonable calculations, estimated in March that Trump had been putting in gross revenues in his disclosures, where he should have been putting income, after stripping out costs, and that his true income was probably between a third and a half of the £362 million ($514 million) he claimed in his July 2015 disclosure.
When I pressed Trump on the discrepancy between the Scottish and Irish filings and what he had reported, he said that the disclosure was “a revenue number: it is not a profit and loss number.” His C.F.O., Allen Weisselberg, who was also on the phone line, echoed that this was a “revenue” number. Yet, in February, Trump told Bloomberg News that these same Scottish and Irish numbers on his disclosures represented “projected future income”—a different thing again, which is certainly not what the F.E.C. asked for.
Of course, £5.5m is tiny in the context of companies worth £30bn+. But then, so is employee pilfering. Does that thereby become acceptable?It points out that the magnitude of a problem (in terms of economic impact) does not influence the morality. It also kind of suggests that if we ignore small problems (pilfering, escalating pay) then they might become larger problems.
Khizr Khan, the father of the Muslim soldier, said in his speech at the Democratic convention last week that Trump had "sacrificed nothing." And Trump hit back over the weekend, saying that he's "made a lot of sacrifices," like creating jobs."Creating jobs" normally implies actually paying the people who do work for you, but we can save that for another day.
During a CNN panel discussion Sunday, Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes defended Trump's comments.
"Mr. Trump was responding to the fact of sacrificing. Nowhere ever did he ever say that his sacrifice was equivalent or more or even close to what the Kahn’s had given up," she said.
CNN host Fredricka Whitfield then asked, "Is creating a job considered a sacrifice?"
"You know what, creating jobs caused him to be at work, which cost him two marriages,” Hughes said in response. “Time away from his family to sit there and invest.
Clinton surrogate Bernard Whitman jumped in to say, "infidelity cost him."
"No, actually being away from his family, he’s admitted it,” Hughes insisted. "That is the spin of the media and ongoing bias."