John McCrory

everything interesting

Moving

This beta at WordPress has been great. Now I’ve moved home to johnmccrory.com. C’mon over!

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Filed under: Uncategorized

10 Great Books about New York City (nonfiction)

Here, for your interest, are my picks of 10 great nonfiction books about New York City, in no particular order:

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City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York by Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett

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Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas

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The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

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The Encyclopedia of New York City edited by Kenneth T. Jackson

power-broker

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro

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722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York by Clifton Hood

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A Natural History of New York City by John Kieran

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The WPA Guide to New York City

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Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

I lied. That’s only 9. What would you choose as a 10th great (nonfiction) book about New York City? Let me know in the comments

Oh, and my fiction picks are to come. Stay tuned.

Filed under: Urban Planning,

Pump up the Volume

As a corporate marketer, I am often asked what we need to do to dramatically increase awareness of our organization. The answer is simple: turn up the volume.

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More than loudness, however, I mean quantity. If you want to raise awareness, you need to to be in more places where your target audiences or customers can become aware of you.

To be loud is easy. Spend all your money on a full-page ad in the New York Times ($50,000) or a TV ad during the Superbowl. But, how much awareness in your target markets will that really buy?

It is more complicated to pump up the volume in terms of quantity. That requires a different sort of commitment. It requires that you think of yourself as a publisher. Yet being a publisher is usually not one of the things most organizations who are not media companies think of as mission critical. It may be alien to their culture.

No matter in what industry, the organizations that thrive in our knowledge economy (and every economy has been a knowledge economy, really) are the ones whose culture values sharing and communicating. Those values need to be or become essential to your organization’s mission.

What is your organization’s product or service? Chances are, if it is not media, then publishing media is not viewed as essential to the organization’s mission. How can you change that?

You need to focus on both the bottom and the top of your organization. On the one hand, you need to access to the President, CEO, Executive Director, and you need to convince that person of the importance of being a media publisher. It’s publish or perish.

On the other hand, you need to work the rest of the organization. You need to find the early adopters and opinion leaders for sharing and communicating who can (a) achieve quick successes and (b) illustrate the value for others, including the person at the top.

Finally, you have to put your marketing skills to work to constantly communicate the ethic of being a publisher and how that mindset has helped specific departments or individuals achieve goals that are important to leaders and staff throughout your organization.

When you have enough buy-in to reach the magical tipping point, you should discover a fundamental change has taken place, where people in your organization think about communicating with their constituencies on a regular basis and plan a structure and a  schedule for that communication.

Filed under: Marketing

Web 2.0 is as much about usability as sharing

Recently I was marveling to a colleague about how easy it was upgrading from an 8-year-old iMac to a new iMac. Just a few clicks and in less than one hour, my old computer, with all my configurations and settings, was up and running on my new computer. I didn’t have to learn anything new. I didn’t lose any of my data. The desktop looked the same (but bigger) I could continue to use my new computer just like it was my old computer.  It was much faster, had some nice new software, and wasn’t shutting down suddenly every few hours, but otherwise, it was as if I hadn’t upgraded at all. Furthermore, I hadn’t had to rely on any of the knowledge I’d accumulated in 25 years of experience with computers.

The same upgrade 8 years ago would not have been so seamless, especially if the previous machine had been 8 years old — from 1993. In fact, I had a circa 1992 Macintosh Centris at the time of that upgrade, and I remember cumbersomely transferring all my files on Zip disks… and then having to learn an entirely new operating system. Previous to that I had a 1989 Macintosh Plus, previous to which I had a mid-1980s Apple IIe. The files I created on the Mac Plus are on my current compuuer, but the files from the Apple IIe never made it to the Mac Plus.

The point of all this is to say that there has been a sea-change in usability. When I think about what makes Web 2.0 technologies different from what came before, the salient feature is actually the usability. The key is: You don’t need to be a computer person or a programmer to use Web 2.0 software. They are designed with average folks in mind, people who aren’t computer experts.

Filed under: Uncategorized

I heart Pandora

Driving from New York to New Hampshire today sans iPod, I was able to plug my iPhone into the car radio and run the Pandora for iPhone application and it was amazing. I basically had internet connectivity all the way via AT&T’s network, enabling me to have great tunes playing all the way and far superior to the offerings on the radio.

This is the beginning of a seamless “always there” web, when the cloud is with you wherever you are (which is a real cloud).

Incidentally, I got to listen to a bunch of different Pandora stations and have to recommend “Hammer and a Nail“as the most consistently good set of tunes.

Filed under: Uncategorized

AIG bonuses aren’t the problem. Excessive executive pay is.

On WBUR’s Here and Now, today, New York Times business columnist David Leonhardt pointed out that the excessive bonus pay at AIG (and now, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are only a symptom of the larger problem of excessive executive pay. He suggests that one way to deal with this that actually works, is to look at the tax code. It’s time for a new tax bracket for extremely high earners — people making $400k and up, he says.

He also explains this in his column today:

…any attempt to build a new financial system, one that’s less susceptible to bubble, bust and bailout, will have to include a new approach to pay.

The clear implication or Leonhardt’s argument is that taxes are the most effective tool for removing the incentive for ridiculously high pay. Other methods haven’t worked. Sounds about right. There’s also the issue of fairness.

The current top tax bracket is $373,000 and up, so people who make insane sums of money — and I ask you: who really needs to make more than $400,000 a year? That’s an astronomical sum, isn’t it? —  are paying 35% as their marginal tax rate.

Check out the history of top tax bracket rates on Wikipedia and at the Tax Policy Center. Notice that the top bracket’s marginal rate was 50% or higher until very recently: 1987.

When the Beatles emigrated to the United States in the 1970s to escape the Tax Man in Britain, they were fleeing a marginal tax rate of 95% to one of around 70%.

The exception before that is the 1920s, when the top rates were in the 25 percent range during the bubble that built the Great Depression. Leonhardt says that experts are suggesting a 45% rate for insanely high earners would make sense now.

So what should be the appropriate limit on what an exec or CEO can earn? In the corporate social responsibility literature, there’s a guide for pay that is useful: the top earner should earn no more than 7 times the company’s lowest earner.

So imagine a company in which the entry-level staff make $30k a year. The highest paid person in the organization would be eligible to earn $210k — which I happen to think is a lot. Note that in such a system, there’s an incentive to raise entry-level salaries so top earners (usually the folks in charge) can make more. I’m for it.

But that 7:1 ratio won’t happen on its own. It’s time to change the tax code to create a new tax bracket (or brackets) for the insanely high earners. Given the history, 70% doesn’t seem outrageous for folks earning over a million, and 50% for folks earning over $400k to a million. What do you think?

Filed under: Economics, ,

Who is in charge of your web site? [Poll]

Aaron Green started a discussion on this topic over at the UWEBD (University Web Developers) ning community and it occurred to me it was worth an unscientific poll. I’m certain that at most colleges and universities, authority for managing web content is distributed in some way.

But I am curious about who has lead authority for a school’s overall web presence? Who controls the home page? Where in the org chart does this responsibility mainly sit? I’m also curious how this responsibility is getting diffused as the concept of web presence grows way beyond the home page and the main web site to many different social media networks. I hope the results will augment discussion on Aaron’s topic.

Filed under: Marketing

There is no web site

From 1996 to last year, I had a personal web site. I published an e-zine in the mid-90s. I published an online newsletter at the end of the 90s. I blogged from 2002 to 2006. When my blog was hacked early on, I switched from an open source blog publishing system (dot-net-nuke?) to my own, custom-built CMS that I hand coded in ASP and VBScript to work with a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 database.

I still own the domain but there’s nothing there anymore. It became too cumbersome to maintain. And meanwhile my bits have been scattered over the Earth like ashes, dispersed to Flickr, Facebook, Delicious, Posterous, WordPress, Twitter, and for private intranet-style stuff, Google and Yammer. I hardly ever look at or write HTML anymore, thank goodness.

I’m in charge of the web site for a law school, among other things. We re-launched at the beginning of 2008. We’ll probably redesign in another year. But the truth is, there is no web site. Or at least, your web site is not where your web presence is. You are scattered among dozens, if not hundreds of web media, and your brand is being managed by thousands of people with their own two cents, their own blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook statuses.

So let’s get past thinking about your web site and think instead about your presence. You’re everywhere, or you’re nowhere.

Filed under: Marketing,

The recommendation ecosystem

Working on a marketing plan and trying to explain, for laypersons, how radically marketing has changed over the past twenty years, I think this prescient 2005 article by Matthew Yeomans, “Taming the Wild Web,” is required reading, even if only for his coining of the term “referral economy.”

What’s struck me about my use of social media is that I rely on search less and less, and I surf less and less. Instead, I let recommendations come to me from trusted “friends” or sources via Twitter and Facebook. When I search, it is usually for reference information, definitions. If I go to Amazon to look for a book, I immediately scroll down to the user/reader reviews for the social proof.

Here’s the catch: to play in this economy — to be referred to and recommended — one has to be a referrer or recommender oneself. It is more of an ecosystem in which energy is exchanged back and forth among organisms.

Refer or be ignored. That’s the new lesson.

Filed under: Marketing

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