My Wallet Share of Cliffs, Sequesters and Bending Over to Take It

Over the cliff we goVery intentionally, I avoid politics and political issues as best I can in writing this blog.  The big reason is because it’s a nightmare to track through my Facebook timeline on most days-forget when hot button issues like guns, abortion or finance are in the news.  I really don’t want to manage political commentary in the comments on this blog.



Now that said, every now and then an issue to me transcends my stated avoidance of political commentary and forces me to share.  The complete inability of our collective (and cross party and ideology) elected body in Washington though prompts this.

Think back for a moment to the waning days of 2012.  Many were planning parties or excursions.  I was getting ready for a second knee surgery, and we were all inundated with musing of the “fiscal cliff.”  This in essence was the making of bad congressional policy of not dealing with real fiscal management in real-time and “kicking the can” down stream to a date way off in the future.  That future date for fiscal comeuppance was in January 2013.  Without a deal, bipartisan in nature, there would be dire fiscal consequence not to the top 5% wage earners in the country and not to the bottom 20% who need help.  No, the issue would be solved by the many-the folks below the 95th percentile and above the 21st.

With great fanfare, our leaders in Washington crafted a cure to big, bad fiscal cliff by simply taking a bunch of money none of us had already, but many of us worked hard for.  At stake was the very corporate STI (short-term incentive).  For many of us, we simply call it our bonus.

Often this is payable not in the year earned, but in Q1 of the following year.  Since the fiscal cliff of 2013 was solved in early January, STI earned in 2012 but paid in 2013 would be the saving grace of the financially mis-managed country we live in.  On this money we had earned but had not seen yet, withholding tax would increase and new rules were created to drop STI to the gross in the year earned.

Take this use case…say you earned $100,000 in STI (using $100k makes the math easy).   A bonus paid out in 2012 would face withholding of around 33% or $33,000 with $67,000 going to the earner to do crazy things like pay bills and buy a new car.  A lot of money, but in 2013, that 33% became 42%.  So that same $100,000 bonus now becomes $58,000 banked.

So in 2013, my net is down almost $10,000 by simply working hard. But wait, there’s still more hands trying to touch my money.  Under 2013 rules, that $100,000 also counts as part of my gross earnings, eligible for income tax.  Not the $58,000 I actually banked mind you, but the 42% the government already taxed.

There is no incentive to work hard for my bonus, after all by the time the bipartisan elected government is done, I’ll owe them money on the money I worked hard to earn….

Now enter the sequester.  So, my tax rate, already taking more money from me pays for less, because once again the people elected from both parties and all branches of government to govern-can’t.  So services face automatic cuts, people lose jobs, industry suffers-and I pay them more for that.

So, I’ll take my wallet and sequester it, before throwing it over the cliff, because I am already bent over and frankly my ankles are pretty sore….

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None of the Above

I am going to interrupt the usual pitter-patter of this blog to go on a political rant here for a moment.  My apologies to those who don’t care and thanks for those who will make it through this rant.

I am putting it out there now-if you are an incumbent and running for re-election, you are minus one vote right now.  So from President Obama to Congressman Bishop to Assemblyman Losquadro to State Senator Lavalle down to the county and town people-none of you go back to your day jobs with my blessing.

And I reached this conclusion after for a very short time thinking about becoming politically active myself.

No one needs me to tell them that the political system in this country-at every level of government is broken and it needs people doing more than looking to fill patronage jobs and pad a war chest to fix it.

The issue is not gas prices as Allen West, clearly a mensa member from Florida who holds the job of congressman would have us believe.  No, the $70 you spent to fill you gas tank is not the problem.  The problem Mr. West, Mr. Bishop, Mr. Schumer, Ms Gillibrand is looking you back in the mirror.  None of you wants to take responsibility.

And so, I will not give you my one opportunity at voicing my responsibility.  None of you gets my vote.  I don’t care if I agree with everything you stand for-none of you can do your job and therefore do not deserve to go back to work on my dime.

So, we have reached the point where dysfunction has become the new norm-and it’s not a system that works.  There is too much at stake for my kids and me.  Decisive action is needed that transcends the imaginary lines of political parties, ideology and whether you like the person sitting next to you or not.

So when November rolls around, if others are willing, none of you will be returning to work-and perhaps the people who replace you will be willing to take action and represent us and not their own “special” interests.

And we now return to the usual pitter-patter of my blog.

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Looking Ahead-Its that Time

So I have to admit, being in the media and journalism business-the election cycle is actually kind of a fun time.  There is so much happening, and it all matters.  I have worked in the most local of local radio stations, to stations that are “as local as local news gets” to networks (three times)–and all of the elections are important.

So, with that thought process-and some interesting thoughts from a buddy of mine Heather Kovar- checck out her blog here or follow @hrkovar on Twitter here-2010 will be an interesting year for applied social media.  And for those who like to watch-see what works and how it works now, because 2012 will be downright fascinating.

Now, Heather has a pretty good beat on beat on the local scene-especially in Connecticut where she works-and you can see the sheer volume of Twitter and Facebook users who are either in or running for office.

Add to that some of the early favorites for 2012 already staking out ground on social media-Sarah Palin is not shy about sharing on Twitter. Barack Obama is active as well.  Don’t discount Mike Bloomberg (the NYC Mayor) as a player in 2012.

Right now, its “experimental” for the politicians.  But wait as the stakes go up–and the attention grows.  Admit it, you dabble in the space if not go full frontal.  After all-Jet Blue announced the single fare for September travel on Twitter.  American Airlines ran a whole contest on Facebook where tens of thousands (including me) offered names for their Facebook app. (just a mention to the AA folks, it would be nice if they set up a better URL for their fan page. Its two clicks on Facebook).

Think this all goes unoticed? Nope. Not even a little.

Its a simple formula.  I have 600+ plus friends on Facebook (you can always friend me up) and just shy of 1100 on Twitter (follow me there) plus more on Plurk, Bright  Kite and MySpace.

In social media 1.5, this is where the people are.

Social media 2.0 is bringing your content to the people–see what Huffington Post did today-with the huge Facebook integration.  This is just the start.  Its not about what you read and where you read it–its about where you get to what you read.  That’s the eyeballs that we all seek, and the decisions we make are geared toward making that a straight up user experience.

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So, it worked

Wanted to share a blog I posted to  Overall, I think the use of CBS Eye Mobile in inagural coverage was a success–baby steps.  Not sure what is next, but I think we can build on these successes.

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Fighting to Be Heard

Certainly it was not unexpected.  Put millions into a confined area-like the Mall in Washington, DC and it will stress the mobile bandwidth that we have all become reliant upon.  While the network certainly did bend, I don’t think it broke.

While I was not out on the plaza, I am making that assessment based on watching Twitter, CBS Eye Mobile, Facebook and other sites-where users were posting their updates from the crowd on the mall.

But there were still some great moments captured and shared:

Like John Legend hanging with the Obama family.

The reliance we have on this mobile backbone though has never been more apparent. A good friend was in the crowd, and was trying to send an MMS of his view of history (which was from about a mile away and shaky).  It didn’t arrive to me and others on his personal distribution list until well after 1pm (ET).

His carrier (I don’t know which one) queued up the message and then sent it out.

Here in NYC, there was evidence of this stress too.  As we sent out news alerts to our customers, the experience as a content provider was interesting.  The devices and carriers that are usually the first to get the alerts got them late.  The carriers who tend to queue up the alerts had them flow right through.  In talking to our MMS aggregator, the issues all came after the gateway, which is where the message reaches the carrier.

In an interesting Tweet from the Mall, here is what @dceiver had to say about his experience trying to update via his BlackBerry:

To review cell providers: Verizon, T-Mobile, great. Cingular, failed miserably. Guess what network my BlackBerry is on

But that did not stop the content from coming in-this is the age of the citizen journalist after all.

So keep those videos coming, wherever your share them, this is our collective digital archive after all.

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News and Social Media Experience

So I am kicking it into gear today after 11 days in Hawaii-followed rule number one and did not take a five day week my first week back, although not sure I should have made the flight from Hawaii to NYC yesterday (a different blog post perhaps). But one of the interesting discoveries I made while vacationing (along with the whales, dolphins and volcanoes) is how beneficial being connected can be.

I was able to dip in and out of what was going on-and not just the usual back and forth banter with friends, "friends" and followers-but truly getting an update while on the go. Start with the first day we were on Ohahu. The national press corp is camped out on the same Waikiki beach we are on:

PE traveling press on the beach

So what, I shared a vacation spot with Barack Obama, right?

But then so much happended as well. Israel and Hamas renewed their long standing rivalry-and it played out in real time on Twitter. And the information-from eye witness accounts, -and all updated regularily. Made following and drawing my own conclusions about the events possible.

One of the areas (and its one I can change) that I found unfulfilling was how the major media companies used social media to get word out on the story. Too often it was a headline and a click through to a web site–very unfulfilling and automated. It did not have the feel of something that I needed to take action on. And even worse–being on the go, and living off my iPhone and BB, too many of these "major" media companies have crappy mobile experiences. My BB got locked up opening up a Java filled page. My iPhone took forever to open up full websites–its a crappy experience.

For the major media companies, social media has to be about connecting to users–not driving traffic.  And if you really do need to drive traffic with your Tweets–at least use Tiny URL or something similar–and put more content into the Tweet.

There is a viable and usable flow of information available–and major news organizations are doing some great reporting from Gaza, Capitol Hill and elsewhere where news is happening.  It would be great to sue these tools to share the reporting-and not just drive traffic.

Perhaps we can do both.

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Survival of the Fittest

So, a couple of seemingly random things yesterday got me thinking about the future (seems I have been doing that a lot this month), and it kind of made me think in a lot of ways its no different than ever–survival of the fittest.

The first trigger for this came when a co-worker posted on his Twitter this great little ode to those who have felt the blade in recent weeks. Michelle Chappel tells their story:

Then as the day unfolded, came word out of Moutain VIew that LinkedIn, the "venerable" business networking site was shaking up its management.  Now, I have been on LinkedIn for years, add me if you like, but I am almost never on the site.  And I have had that LinkedIn for years.  I almost never think about it as a resource.  Although, its always a good way to tell which partner is about to have a shakeup, because I get swamped by requests from LinkedIn.

For utility sake, I have been pretty happy with Facebook; go ahead, friend me up.  But lately even that has been well, wonky at best.  Not sure that it is built for speed for the future.

So, I have been checking out some other sites-like Live Journal, Social Median, Twitter, Plurk, Digg, Friend Feed, the site I run CBS Eye Mobile -and others.

And the conclusion I have reached is that we are getting closer, but not quite there yet.  I kind of hope that there is a push now that the field may be thinning out to take a step back and sort out the upsides and downsides of each–and then come up with an ueber social networking experience.

The ease of Twitter to quickly update–and to connect to others.  The simplicity of Eye Mobile to add video and multimedia.  The capability to add a blog like Live Journal.  The abilty to quickly share like Digg and Social Median, and the sense of community that Facebook offers.

Either the beauty of the experience, or the trouble for a business model is that the site can't be just one thing–it has to be all things to all people-and have the utility to be flexible enough.

There are some steps in the right direction–Facebook Connect for instance is rolling out and hitting key sites.  But that is a start. 

What we all have to remember is that we are not in this alone–and we need to make our sites open to one another–because the upside is limitless, but the walls (like fences in a neighborhood) will kill the community.

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Go Forward, Ever Forward

And so it was our turn.  My company did its business restructuring yesterday.  I won't put the details here, there are at least 15 blogs (that I found with a simple search) that have background.  Instead, I am thinking about a few tangential things today–and some things that have weighed on me for a while leading up to this.

The discussions started about this over the summer–I want to say in August.  And to be clear, and pretty high up in this thought process today–I get the business decision.  100% I understand.  But there are people involved–both those who joined the swelling ranks of the unemployed, and those on what we in corporate land like to call the "go forward" team.  And for very unique reasons its not easy to be in either group (and I have felt the sting from both sides).

Throughout the day yesterday, as news of restructuring surfaced (again check the blogs) the outreach was impressive.  People I know who battled through this during this week, and last week, and last month, and last quarter reached out–who was impacted? are you ok? words of encouragement.

Yeah, we are all in this together.  It is a social fabric–but still to Robert, Sarah, Dan, Ramy, Vaughn, Mike, Hamid and the rest it may seem like you are alone–but you are not.  I can remember the first time I was the victim of "business restructuring."  It was pre-email–and keeping connected with the people who may be able to help you get re-settled was about making phone calls, and trying to go for coffee.

Today-reach me via Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, LiveJournal, IM, email, text, mobile-I think its part of my social contract to be a resource for you. I am sure Cali, Julie, Mark, Mike, Jeff, Randy and all the rest agree.

So yeah, we will go forward, ever forward.  But we will also remember where we are today, and where we have been together.

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Mixology as the Future…

When I was in college–as I would think most people my age (just north of 40) would admit-I idid my turn behind the bar. Hey, it was OK cash, got me to the parties, and I learned a skill. Now, I never trully mastered the art of mixology, and those rare times someone wanted more than a draft or a bottle, or somethign with more than one two ingredients I gave them the old, "How do you make that again?" line…but it was a great experience.

This is not about being a bartender. At least not in the classic, "Give me a double and keep 'em coming" sense.  No, this is about how we need to think about media, consumption, social networking and the hows and whys we should create a solid mix in order to create a meaningful and engaging experience.

As a senior level manager for a big media company I am watching a lot of changes fall across the landscape of my office. Ask the folks at NBC or Gannett, or Papas or Tribune about the climate. 

Whether is be a good, bad or indifferent model, at least for now its my job to generate eyeballs.  If I generate eyeballs to content, sales has a product to for placement of VIagra, Tums, Cingulair or just about anything else.  Call it quid-pro-quo, call it old school–I call it a business model.

So, now the challenge. I have destination content and I want to get people to my destination–but the people I want to reach are on Twitter, Jaiku, You Tube, Plurk, MySpace, Facebook–pretty much anyplace but on CBS News.  What's a middle manager to do? The key has to be to get to where the eyeballs are.  Its a matter of getting out and generating interest where people are.

There was a great story in today'sNY Times about the impact Twitter had on CNN's announcement last week that it would create a news wire service–similar to the AP, but not in competition with the AP.  You can go dig into that and try to piece that together.

So, I Twitter.  And I follow some of the folks who apparently were in the room when CNN made the announcement.  I thought nothing of the fact that I was learning about this through Twitter.  After all, the first hint of the terror attacks in Mumbai I got from Twitter.  Same for the riots in Greece.  Same for the protest at the airport in Thailand.  Its the power of social networks.  People are able to connect you to what they are doing and what they are seeing.

If you want to connect with them–then you need to be where they are and engage them not on your terms–but where they are.

Its like a perfect Bloody Mary.  Needs pepper, tabasco and a little love.

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The cross point?

So, an interesting thing happened last week for users and watchers of social media. The horrific (and cowardly) attacks in Mumbai were a chilling and gripping story line (as a news consumer, news producer and news professional)–but the best information and the best images were not coming from "all the usual places."

Instead, there was a constant flow of real time eye-witness data, video and images pouring into sites like Twitter, Seesmic, Mahalo, Jaiku.

So, this brings us to an interesting point in time in the information age–when can we substantially count on these social network sites as a source of information. Now, I work for a broadcast network adn spend a lot of time finding ways to work in social media to the flow of information. The biggest push back from managers, producers, on-air typles, pretty much everyone is–how do we know if the information is right? How can we confirm?

Believe me, I know how vital it is to confirm information before its use. Having gone through the long and drawn out process of being deposed in law suits, having to testify in law suits–I get it. But just because it comes from Twitter or Seesmic or any of the "citizen journalism" sites-does that make the information suspect?

I have spent times working at local TV stations, and taken random calls from viewers with the next great story for air. These "tipsters" as we called them back in the day are the early adopters of social networks. They had information they wanted share. Its what we do with Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, YouTube, CBS Eye Mobile–all of them.

As the person on the other end of the phone, it was (and still is) my job to make sure that information is right before we put it on air. The game has not changed, the tools have just become more direct.

So back to the central issue-I think its a cross point. As platforms evolve, and the data flow becomes simpler, I am going begin requiring (probably first for producers then for on-airs) an ability to convert from social media to "confirmed news product." There is just too much information out there that we (and I use this term collectively) are missing because of "old school" rules in the new media age.

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