Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Clicks/Bricks: the Kogan/Norman controversy

In The Web and advertising, The Web and democracy, Uncategorized on September 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I’VE decided to renege on my promise of a photo extravaganza (see last week’s post), because something more intriguing – and pertinent to the theme of this blog – has caught my eye this week.

ON last week’s highest rating episode of the Gruen Transfer (Season 3, Episode 9), the panel discussed the battle between the new online TV retailer Ruslan Kogan and Harvey Norman. Somehow, I’d managed to miss the whole shemozzle (perhaps because I get my news from ABC News Breakfast and Jon Stewart rather than Today Tonight). For those of you who are similarly behind on the news, and don’t have time to watch the Gruen episode (the Kogan segment starts around 23 minutes in, but why would you watch just part of the show?), here’s a summary from blogger Renai LeMay on Delimiter.

The Lowdown

IF you refused to be distracted by the link minefield I’ve just laid, the battle between the Kogan CEO Ruslan Kogan, and Gerry Harvey (no introduction necessary) made it on Gruen Transfer because of a cheeky ad Kogan had made in the style of those insistent and eminently lampoonable Harvey Norman ads. The Gruen panel, especially Todd, were glowing in their praise of the parvenu’s advertising strategy, and pointed to the fact Kogan has saved a packet on advertising, relying on the viral spread of the advertisement instigated in part by the story that Channel 7, a longtime partner of Harvey Norman, refused to show the ad during the Ben Cousins documentary (Kogan announced in advance that he’d booked the spot). Russell used a great term to describe the contest between the internet-based business model over the mass-market franchise model Gerry has thrived on for so many years: clicks versus bricks.

ANYWAY, why might this all be of interest to us? Well, another strength the panel pointed to was Kogan’s online community building (over 2000 people ‘like’ Kogan on Facebook). I thought I’d look into Kogan a bit further, through their Web site.

The site

It’s not the prettiest of sites, but then perhaps we don’t want that in a bargain retailer. All the same, it’s not amateurish. In fact, it’s reassuringly average.


It’s also roguishly militant, in its taunting of Gerry Harvey and Stephen Conroy’s internet filter (see Delimiter’s commentary on the latter); the company’s blog has the combination refreshing directness, quasi-diplomacy and insolence that characterises much Web 2.o communication.

And, along with all that swagger, it’s inclusive, encouraging readers to help name TVs and and take their own swings at Harvey, Conroy and big brands.

Also, though consumer reviews are not given prominence,  Kogan appears to be unafraid of what its customers might say:

My one big disapointment is the location of the page turn button. In my opinion, it’s a design flaw, especially if you read with the unit in it’s case. It also requires quite a bit of pressure to turn a page. Not good for repeated page turning.

(From customer review of the 6″ Kogan ebook Reader)

This, I believe, is called crowdsourcing.

IN SHORT, not only has Kogan embraced an efficient internet business model, its site seems to have tapped the Zeitgeist of Web 2.0 – or at least makes a damned good impression of doing so.

BUT once the novelty has worn off, will Kogan’s community suspect (/realise) that they are being manipulated just as the Gruen panel was, just as they are lured into Harvey Norman stores by those tantalisingly interest-free months? The curious and skeptical reader might look at the list of domains Kogan’s acquired and wonder whether they are just another unsuspecting gnat in a rapidly expanding corporate Web.

Now, I just have to make sure my partner doesn’t see Kogan’s site (or this post), otherwise I’m afraid we’ll see the unwieldy but perfectly fine CRT in our lounge room replaced with a Kogan whatchamecallit.



Gerry Harvey takes Kogan’s bait in this SMH article: Go Harvey!

Mumbrella’s commentary on Gruen’s commentary: meta-meta-advertising moments


The skills of the fleetingly famous

In Web writing on September 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm

After reading about the success of Dijana’s blog on the WordPress Freshly Pressed page, I thought that I’d check out some of the other blogs there and, in the style of myself, pick some out and analyse why they may have attracted WordPress’s attention.

Hey, read this thing I read! And watch this thing I watched!

I was attracted immediately to the most ironic of the new Freshly Pressed posts: Hey, read this thing I read! And watch this thing I watched! by Madame Librarian. Through the words of novelist Jonathon Franzen, Mme Librarian reflects on the shallowness of social networking as a way of connecting with our true selves, and resolves to heed said novelist’s words. With its conversational style, pop-philosophy/psychology, and wry, apposite and bizarre YouTube clip, this contribution ticks the boxes of a readable blog post. One thing I do wonder, though, is why it elicited as many as 47 comments.  Sure, it’s good to show your appreciation, but weren’t these people listening to what she had to say?

Image courtesy

Thunderstorms over Kansas City

I surprised myself by dipping into Thunderstorms over Kansas City next. Many of the Freshly Pressed blogs are cleverly assembled photo galleries, and this one’s no exception: written by a pilot/amateur photographer, it’s the sort of stuff you expect to find on the Web – that is, something you never knew you’d be interested in until now, in this case pictures of thunderstorms taken from the cockpit, and a first-hand account of how pilots manage poor weather conditions. Right, that’s it – next time I’m going to do a photo blog! (I’d be doing well to take better photos than pilot-blogger, though – check out his flickr gallery.)

Deathwatch of Our Daily Print

Next up, Deathwatch of Our Daily Print. Despite its catchy title, I must say I had trouble getting through this blog the first time. I’ve read many such articles, and was skimming for new news, so to speak. It seems I have no taste for anything even slightly redolent of redundancy any more, even when it’s well-expressed.

So, why has this blog succeeded? Well, here is MHO. For a start, the theme is highly topical (the death of print, and the paths journalists and photographers have to take to ensure their livings in the increasingly digitised publishing scene), and the blogger, ‘kkuukka’ has taken a highly personal approach to it. But perhaps more importantly, kkuukka seems to really listen to his audience. Many commenters are clearly in the industry, and contributed long, thoughtful responses – and kkuukka has responded in kind.

It’s interesting to note that he has also stopped short of saying everything he can on this topic. How can journalists and photographers keep ‘ahead of the curve’? He doesn’t say, but his ideas come out in the ensuing conversation. The now-familiar contention that newspapers are on their way out also draws a lot of comments, none of which, however, are snarky.

Kkuukka has clearly cultivated an atmosphere of measured, intelligent discussion on his blog – and also an atmosphere of inclusiveness (he’s Finnish, but writes in English and invites comments in a range of languages). In addition, he’s been smart enough to include a teaser about his next blog, on the iPad.

This blog is a sharp contrast to Sunday’s blog, with its brevity, and Monday’s blog, with its reliance on description and imagery: it’s fascinating to see just how many different approaches can work.

Now, stay tuned for my next post: the photo extravaganza!


The art process and the Web

In The Web and the arts on September 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Following on from one of the discussions in class the other night, when I also found out about the Brooklyn Museum and its wonderful interactivity, I’ve been pondering art a little, in particular visual art.

One of my favourite things about art is not just the beauty of it, but the wondering about how it is done. In particular, I’m always drawn to sketches and studies of works. Perhaps I have this interest because I did art at school and loved it. In fact, at the risk of sounding evangelistic, I think every child and teenager should be encouraged to create art, regardless of their talent for it. This exposure at the very least gives people some basis for assessing the aesthetic value of the art objects they encounter as an adult. It also makes people more open to different kinds of art – where the beauty of an object eludes you, at least you can try to understand the artistry that goes into it and/or the impulse behind it. In fact, this is the way I feel about many artworks. When I was in London around 2000 I was lucky enough to see a fantastic exhibition of Paul Klee. I didn’t find many of the works beautiful, but I loved trying to imagine, and follow their narrative. And, though it’s a cliché, I often find art does reflect life:

Klee, Paul: Twittering Machine (Die Zwitschermaschine) 1922

Image from artchive.

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