An Eye on New Media
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Before there was Steve Jobs....

Douglas Engelbart : The Mother of All Demos (1/9)
On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute...

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An Eye on New Media
New Media in Society, Business & Classrooms
Curated by Ken Morrison
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Social Media Over The Past Decade | HubSpot

Social Media Over The Past Decade | HubSpot | An Eye on New Media |

...To think of what “might be” a few years from now is barely fathomable but really exciting! I remember listening to the keynote speaker at the 1990 Seybold Conference talk about how books in the future would be enjoyed on electronic readers, and thinking, “not in my lifetime would electronic readers replace printed books.” We all know how that turned out.

Let’s go back and hit the high points from the past ten years. Below is a visual infographic timeline followed by a more detailed look at each year! Pay close attention to the ones that were launched in 2012; some of them have a lot of potential to be game changers!

Via Jeff Domansky
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When did you jump in?
Meredith Tong's curator insight, August 10, 9:17 PM

look how many apps have been made from 2004 to the present!!!


Jeff Domansky's curator insight, August 16, 9:07 PM

Great way to look at the history of social media.

Amanda Swanson's curator insight, August 22, 8:22 AM

# 19 - A quick look at social media development over the last ten years.


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Facebook And YouTube Account For Almost 40% Of All Mobile Internet Traffic

Facebook And YouTube Account For Almost 40% Of All Mobile Internet Traffic | An Eye on New Media |
Two of the biggest social networks dominate the mobile scene.
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GPS as We Know It Happened Because of Ronald Reagan

GPS as We Know It Happened Because of Ronald Reagan | An Eye on New Media |
President Reagan allowed civilian use of the Pentagon's Global Positioning System as part of his response to the shoot-down of Korean Air Flight 007
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▶ ACLU Releases "Police Tape" Android App - YouTube

"The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-NJ) has just released "Police Tape," an Android phone app that allows people to securely ...
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Gangnam Style Has Been Viewed So Many Times It Broke YouTube’s Code

YouTube never expected that any one video would be viewed enough times to max out their counter.  It happened today.

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Facebook's Abbreviated Privacy Update, Even More Abbreviated

Facebook's Abbreviated Privacy Update, Even More Abbreviated | An Eye on New Media |
Here's the important stuff.
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This was helpful.

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From Zero to 35,000: How I Built A Big Email List Exclusively About Books I Liked

From Zero to 35,000: How I Built A Big Email List Exclusively About Books I Liked | An Eye on New Media |
After having a great deal of fun writing two big posts for the New York Observer on the ins-and-outs of book marketing, I thought I would do a similar breakdown on how to build an email list.

But first, why build one at all? I love recommending books but deep down I have to admit there was another motivation for creating the list. In 2009, I dreamed of one day writing my own book. How would I tell people about it? I thought if I spend every month for the next several years recommending amazing books to other people, maybe those readers would give me a shot when it was my turn. And they did!

Building an email list is the single best way to communicate with your audience, period. Better than Facebook, better than Twitter, better than ads. Because you own it. Because it is a relationship of mutual trust and opt-ins. That is why you need to build one.

So here’s what I learned building mine:

-When I started, I knew so little about email marketing that I just put up a post on my blog and told people to email me if they wanted to sign up. I figured I could just email them all directly.

-So the first year of the Reading List was me copy and pasting the emails into Gmail. I found out the hard way that Gmail only lets you email 250 people a day (or did at the time). Sometimes I had to batch it over a couple days.

-Eventually, I turned to Mailchimp–that made my life way easier. But more on that later.

-One of the best books I’ve ever read on marketing taught me a lot about emails. Check out Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. It will change how you approach your customers.

-It’s critical that you pick an angle for your mailing list. I see so many authors and brands just put up a form that says: “Sign up for my newsletter.” What newsletter? Why would I want a random newsletter from a random person? I decided on book recommendations because no one else was doing it and it was something I was good at. What are you good at? What can only you offer via email?

-I decided to go no frills with the reading list email too. No images, no formatting, all text–partly because it’s easier but also because it is better for mobile. Before you waste too much time designing some fancy template realize that there are marketers out there making millions of dollars on great copywriting alone. Maybe you don’t need frills.

-Though I don’t use a template, I do have a very standardized format that I follow, including the same conclusion I paste onto each email. Keep it simple and you’ll find the list less of a burden.

-I also decided that I wanted my email to be a conversation. I “send” all the emails from my personal address and encourage subscribers to reply. Every month I have all sorts of great conversations about books. Sometimes I even get recommendations that I end up reading and using myself later.

-I said I decided to go with Mailchimp for my backend. Why? I only send one email a month and most plans are designed for people who send lots of emails. Using Mailchimp was cheap and easy. Also they allow bulk imports of emails, which was important because my list already existed. If you use this link to sign up, MailChimp will give you like $30 in bonus credits.

-There are a lot of other good programs out there such as SendGrid, AWeber and ConstantContact.

-Mailchimp also allowed me to put a little form on my website for entries.

-But I’ve also always encouraged people to just email me directly with the words “Reading List” in the subject line. It’s a little bit of a pain but over the years I have manually entered hundreds of addresses this way. Would those people have signed up the other way? Maybe, but I didn’t want to take the risk that they wouldn’t.

-The list chugged along by word of mouth for about two years. Every month I did an email and sold a couple books via Amazon’s affiliate program. The first real bump in subscribers came from Tim Ferriss–I wrote a post for his blog in 2011 and asked if I could link to the list at the bottom. Almost 1,000 subscribers came to the list just from that post.

-Speaking of which, you have to give yourself time. I knew that I wouldn’t need to deploy my email list for years so I was able to develop it over time and treat it right. If you have a product you’re releasing next week, that’s just not enough runway to build a proper list.

-Also because I am thinking long term and know that I have no plans to abandon this list, I was able to buy Mailchimp credits in bulk (a few thousand dollars at a time) and save a lot of money on the cost-per-send.

-Charlie Hoehn suggested a couple years ago that I do a yearly round up. His point was that most people follow along but don’t have time to read all the books. Could I recommend 3-5 BEST for the year, as well? So I do that in December or January and I post it online too. It actually drives leads. Here are the ones from 2011, 2012 and 2013.

-I’ve tried multiple different toolbars at the top of my site to drive signups. First I used HelloBar. Then I moved to the ViperBar, which was great because it offered A/B testing. Recently I moved to Noah Kagan’s SmartBar which is absolutely killer.

-Don’t obsess over unsubscribes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs–you can’t email lots of people without pissing off a couple. Provided that you’re adding a lot more than you’re losing, you’re good. A couple months ago, some kook got very upset about something I said about Adam Smith–so I unsubscribed him myself. No reason to bother with it.

-I deliberately have zero monetization plans for this list. It has made a decent amount of money from Amazon affiliate links over the years but in all honesty, it probably barely covers my time and definitely doesn’t cover how much I’ve spent on books myself. The benefit of the list is meaningful, direct access to 35,000 avid readers. The value of that is essentially priceless.

-In fact, in seven years I have sent a total of two emails to the list that were not exclusively book recommendations. Even my short book, Growth Hacker Marketing, did not get its own dedicated blast–that’s how protective I am of not abusing the privilege of communicating with these readers. This has paid off. For the announcement of my first book, the email list alone was enough to send it sub 100 on Amazon two months before release…and the list was less than 5,000 people then.

-Be ok mailing to very few people for a long time. I was. I knew that I had a long-term strategy. I also knew that recommending some life-changing books even to a small number of people was a beneficial activity in itself. Look at my chart–the size is basically unchanged for over a year. In reality I was excited each time 2-3 people signed up and I also knew that it takes time for word of mouth to spread.

-Obsess about quality. There are some months when I was so-so on the books I read. I debated whether to include them in the list (because that is lost affiliate revenue). I always decide no. The trust and respect of the readers has to trump all. I would rather recommend nothing than recommend a book that ends up letting people down.

-According to Amazon over 30,000 books/products have been ordered via my affiliate link since creating the list.

-As you can imagine, this was a convincing bit of information to include in my book proposals. I wasn’t just saying that I had some fans who would buy my stuff, I had proof that I had a list of people who bought tons of books on my recommendation (that I didn’t even write!). Having a platform is one of the biggest things that agents and publishers look for.

-Oh yeah, during the launch of Trust Me I’m Lying, I found out that my Brazilian publisher actually found out about my book because they’d been a subscriber for a few years and were willing to take a chance on me.

-One thing I’ve never done well is proofing or editing my emails. I know I should spend more time and I get this criticism a lot. Learn from my bad example here.

-I saw my friend Ben Casnocha speak at UC Riverside a few years ago and was impressed with how he sent around an email signup sheet at the end of the talk. I didn’t want to do that, so I decided I would put a slide in all my presentations that gave away some bonuses if people emailed a certain email address. I’ve probably snagged 1,000 email addresses this way over the last two years.

-The list added 32 people yesterday. I didn’t do anything. Not bad for a day’s work.

-My publisher Portfolio was nice enough to let me put a page in the back of my first book pushing the newsletter under the title “Further Reading.” As you can see from the graph at the top of the post, this correlates nicely with the growth of the list. It also worked out that they’ve continued to publish my other books–and have benefited from its sizeable growth.

-That’s something to remember: Lists help promote launches. But launches, if done right, also help grow lists.

-I use MailChimp’s “Email Beamer” to draft almost all the emails. Basically, I type up the email in Gmail, send it to a special unique address and bam, the campaign is ready to go in my account.

-Another unexpected benefit of the list. Authors and publishers send me free copies of their books all the time. It’s also been a great way to connect with authors I admire. Amazon added me to “Amazon Vine” and other cool stuff like that. When the list was small, nobody cared that I recommended a book to 100 friends. But now when I say, “Hey Joe Author, I loved your book and just told 35,000 people to buy it,” they tend to be pretty friendly.

-For the launch of The Obstacle Is The Way I did a Bittorrent bundle. Their email gate (to get the content you have to provide an email) was responsible for over 5,000 emails I got to add to my list. It was the single largest driver for me to date (other than word of mouth).

-I’ve also been a long-time Slideshare Pro user–a program that they inexplicably discontinued recently. Last year, I paid $200 to have this Slideshare made to promote my list. It has done 152,000 views and driven substantial numbers of new emails to the list. Before that, it was a successful blog post. The point is, create content in multiple mediums to inform people about what you do.

-Another thing about protecting your list? Through MailChimp I use AlterEgo to require double authentication for login. I don’t want to mess around with security or privacy with these emails.

-The best way to drive people to your list is to have a list that people enjoy being on. I put a little line at the bottom that encourages readers to forward the email to friends. A lot of them do so because they genuinely do recommend it. Like all things, word of mouth is the best marketing there is.

-Sometimes friends will ask me to recommend their books to my list. I have to be super choosy–honestly, I won’t even recommend books by clients who pay me to consult on promoting their books unless I love love love the book.

-There are a couple of high-profile subscribers like Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing and the author Austin Kleon. Their occasional mentions of the list has been hugely helpful.

-In 2012 I got my act together after talking to my friend Derek Halpern. I redid my sign-up page for the list with a clear explanation of what the list was, why people should sign up and what they’d get out of it. It has done wonders for the number of new subscribers. Who’d have guessed?

-But what really made a difference was the auto-responder I set up. For more than five years, new subscribers were simply added to this list but received nothing from me until the next monthly email went out. That meant that sometimes readers might go 45 days before they heard from me, meaning that some forgot that they’d even signed up (and then promptly unsubscribed). So I added a short, clear email that you now automatically get when you sign up. It hits you with 5 book recommendations to start you off and provides links to some popular articles I have written about reading and writing.

-Of the 20,000-plus people who have gotten this initial note, more than 80% have opened it. It’s sold many, many copies of the books I’ve written, driven great traffic to my articles and of course, made the list more active and engaged. For more on this, I would check out these resources: Start with The Art of the Welcome Email and 13 ‘Welcome’ Email Ideas. You should also look into Really Good Emails, which has a category dedicated to great welcome emails. Tim Ferriss’ introductory email is a great example to follow–it provides exclusive content and highlights some of his best posts.

-In the future I might create a track for users so that there are more automated emails. For instance, a 1-year anniversary email or a bump after three months with some thoughts about reading. Onboarding is incredibly important and I want to get better at it.

-My list doesn’t currently offer sign-up bonuses but I have worked with plenty of clients to develop some. Look at what we set up for Robert Greene. In less than three months he has nearly doubled the size of his email list simply by offering this cool little document we created to anyone who signed up.

-The regularity of the list is important. Some people let their lists lie fallow for a long time. I don’t get that. On the other hand, look at Groupon, which could have been this hotly anticipated, exclusive email once a day but instead became forgettable by oversending. For a list like mine, once a month has been a great middle ground. Enough to keep people active, not too much to lead to burnout.

-The list has an open rate of nearly 50%. That’s crazy for a list of this size. And guess what? I do basically no subject line testing, no clickbait, no trickery. In fact, for like a year I forgot whether I called it the “Reading List Email” or “Reading Recommendation Email. One might be better than the other but what really matters is having a solid email that people actually want to open.

-I’ve never done affiliate mailings to my list, but I have worked on them with clients. Essentially, it’s when someone mails to their list on your behalf for a cut of the revenue. This can be a great way to expand your reach for a product launch or particular push. Here are some resources: Look into this post on Indiemark, MarketingSherpa’s 10 rules of thumb and Mailchimp’s post on the pitfalls of email list rental.

-Oh yeah, when you have a list, people will come to you all the time to ask “if you’ll send to your list for them.” They ask like it is some tiny favor. See the affiliate point above, but also be very cautious about this. Protect your list. Don’t give yours away. The whole value is that the readers believe that you carefully curate this and that its content reflects your actual values and sensibilities. Don’t trade trust today that you might need down the road. (One nice lesson I learned with my list is that by having a very defined and clear format, I can easily say no because their request just doesn’t fit with what I do.)

-I also worked to develop a popup. I generally hate popups and don’t think they are effective–but a clear, non-intrusive call-to-action can really work. I had it coded so the popup came only after your second visit to the site and only after you’d been reading for something like 30 seconds. This did well for me at first. Recently, I switched over to Noah Kagan’s popup, which is more automated and looks better. It shows up after a reader has seen 80% of a given page and can be easily x’d out of.

-One question I’ve gotten a lot over the years was access to the Reading List Email archive. I’ve deliberately declined to make that available to most people because I want the list to be forward focused. I want them to sign up and look out for the email each month, not go back through what I recommended in 2010. But the archive did make for a really good PDF bonus when I did a pre-order campaign for The Obstacle Is The Way.

-Last month I tried out a KingSumo contest that encouraged people to sign up for the list. I offered a free copy of every book in the October list to one winner. But the benefit of a KingSumo contest is that it incentivizes entrants to invite their friends to participate (by offering them a better chance of winning). My contest wasn’t as huge as some people’s but I did snag around 700 new names to the list.

-I also have two other smaller lists. I’ve collected more than 3,000 emails for my launch of Growth Hacker Marketing (detailed here) and it made for a great asset for the launch. I also collected about 500 random emails during the launch of The Obstacle Is The Way (though almost all went directly to the Reading List Email).

-Think about it: Facebook just announced they were going to be deliberately throttling marketing messages (what a scam). Most Twitter messages get lost in the stream. Email is the best way to reach your people because no one can get in the way.

* * *

I hope this case study was helpful and of course, I hope you sign up for the Reading List Email. More than that, I hope you start creating your own list. You’ll thank me later.

I’ve built a lot of different assets in my career, from marketing campaigns to books to businesses. Honestly, building this list ranks among my proudest achievements. It’s something that no one else has replicated and has succeeded with an incredibly discerning audience. I take some extra satisfaction that it succeeded despite some doubters.

Where it will go in the future, I have no idea. I know it will continue trucking along–in fact, I’m typing up this month’s blast right now.

Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumphs and two other books. He is editor-at-large at Betabeat and his monthly reading recommendations are found here.
Margaret Driscoll, Learning Organization Librarian's comment, December 2, 2:54 PM
This is way too much content for a! post (IMHO)
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I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl!

I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! | An Eye on New Media |
Of course, we can never be certain, as there is no record of Darrow himself ever discussing his intentions with the book. All we have is speculation — but let’s at least make it of the contextually intelligent kind. Sure, he was born in the first decade of the twentieth century — a time when those absurd gender norms were very much alive and well, a time not too long after it was perfectly acceptable for a wholly non-sarcastic Map of Woman’s Heart to exist and a list of don’ts for female bicyclists could be published in complete seriousness. And he came of age in a culture where those same norms very much mandated the rules of love and gender relations. But that’s perhaps all the more reason for a man who dedicated his creative career to our era’s smartest institution of cultural commentary to poke fun at society’s ebb and flow of values the best way he knew how — through his satirical cartoons.

Sadly, I’m Glad I’m a Boy!: I’m Glad I’m a Girl! rests in the cemetery of out-of-print gems — but it might well be worth a trip to the local library.

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Here is a look at some not-so-old media from the 1970s shaping children's views of gender roles.

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10 free tools for creating infographics | Infographic | Creative Bloq

10 free tools for creating infographics | Infographic | Creative Bloq | An Eye on New Media |
For all the importance we place on text, it's an indisputable fact that images are processed in the brain faster than words. Hence the rise and rise of the infographic which, at its best, transforms complex information into graphics that are both easy to grasp and visually appealing. No wonder magazine readers and web visitors love them.

Via Paula Barroca
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Why is the average pop song only 3 minutes long?

Why is the average pop song only 3 minutes long? | An Eye on New Media |
There's a famous Billy Joel song called "The Entertainer."

In it, the piano man warbles about the perils of the music industry, and having to limit himself to writing radio-friendly tracks.

"It was a beautiful song/But it ran too long/If you're gonna have a hit/You gotta make it fit/So they cut it down to 3:05."

It's a deft set of lyrics that perfectly sums up the music world's short attention span. In the pop industry, most radio hits typically can't be longer than three to four minutes. Case in point, the top three songs currently on the Billboard Hot 100. For the week of November 22, the reigning trio was Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" (3:39 minutes), Meghan Trainor's "All About that Bass" (3:08 minutes) and Maroon 5's "Animal" (3:49 minutes).

What makes three the magic number? And will that magic number change with the ever-evolving music business?

As it turns out, average hit song length has more to do with historical limitation than an audience's focus level. Let's take a quick trip back in time, to the beginning of the record.

SEE ALSO: 15 visually stunning album covers of 2014

The origin of the single.

In the early 1900s, the most common way to release music was via a 10-inch record. The 10" usually played at a speed of 78 revolutions per minute (rpm), which measures the frequency of a rotation.

Early 10" records could only hold three to five minutes per side. Twelve-inch records were also used, but they only held about four to five minutes, according to the Yale Music Catalogue.

"If it went longer than that, the grooves became too close together...the sound quality went down," explains Thomas Tierney, director of the Sony Music Archives Library, in an interview with Mashable.

Thus, musicians in the first half of the 20th century were artistically bound by technological constraints. The limitation meant pop artists had to create quick tracks that fit the mold if they wanted a song to be released as a single. A short single could be played on the radio and become a hit song A short single could be played on the radio and become a hit song, wholly unlike the DIY aesthetic that allows modern artists to get famous via social media, blogs or music sites like Bandcamp or Soundcloud.

"In those days, if you recorded a song that was longer than three minutes and 15 seconds, they just wouldn’t play it," Tierney says.

Naturally, there were exceptions, but they were reserved for other genres. Duke Ellington could record longer songs, because jazz had different rules.

In the pop world, exceptions were rare — and relied on deception. One example of a song breaking the 3:15-minute rule was the 1964 smash "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers.

The Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' from A on Vimeo.

Produced and co-penned by hitmaker Phil Spector, the song was actually 3:45 minutes, much longer than its contemporaries. Unwilling to cut it down, Spector stamped 3:05 minutes on the single, so DJs would play it without realizing its actual length.

It went on to become the most played song on American radio and television of the 20th century.

A folksy sea change

Bob Dylan on tour in 1966.
Modern pop charts show that artists still stick to the three- to four-minute mold, though radio restrictions are no longer as ironclad. For that, musicians can thank Bob Dylan.

Unlike the pop scene, folk artists of the '60s typically recorded longer songs, Tierney says. They didn't care for singles, which were more for trying to climb the Top 40. Instead, they focused on "selling LPs in college towns," Tierney says.

By 1965, Bob Dylan was already a respected artist. He had released now-classic albums like The Times They Are A-Changin', and "Subterranean Homesick Blues," cracked the top 40 chart at spot 39.

Then he went electric. He released Highway 61 Revisited, which contained the 6:34-minute track "Like A Rolling Stone."

Despite wanting to make it a single, the Columbia Records sales team nixed the absurdly long song — well, except for employee Shaun Considine.

Then the coordinator of new releases, Considine sent the track to a popular Manhattan DJ. According to History, the track spread like wildfire, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts. It was an unprecedented success and a "watershed moment in pop history," Tierney says.

Rock changes, pop remains the same.

Robert Plant performs.
Dylan's success didn't completely alter pop's future, but it did shape rock's trajectory, where singles mattered less and less. Bands like Iron Butterfly would record 17-minute songs like "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," then cut them down into radio-friendly snippets, though fans preferred the lengthy tracks.

Led Zeppelin never released "Stairway to Heaven," which is 8:02 minutes, as a single, but the track still became the stuff of legend.

"The only way you could hear 'Stairway to Heaven' was by buying the album," Tierney says. "Bands began to have that type of power and say, 'This is our art. You’re not cutting it down.'"

So why haven't songs gotten longer?

Rapper Drake.
If a song can still be successful beyond three or four minutes, why aren't pop artists exploring that option?

Well, with the onslaught of good music comes the erosion of the public's attention span. Unlike the heyday of Zeppelin, fans won't just buy the album — they wait for the single, judge, then move on to the next. Today's top chart is a little more cutthroat, because some music fans won't listen beyond what they hear on the radio.

As far as length, some exceptions remain. Hip hop and EDM, arguable today's most influential genres, get away with longer songs because they're suited to club culture, which is "more dance oriented...and lasts a little longer," Tierney says.

For example, the longest songs in the iTunes Top Songs chart as of this week include "Tuesday" by ILOVEMAKONNEN, featuring Drake (5:21 minutes), "Bed of Lies" by Nicki Minaj, featuring Skylar Gray (4:30 minutes) and "I Don't F**ck Wih You" by Big Sean, featuring E-40 (4:44 minutes).

These are the rarities surrounded by a sea of short tracks. For example, take Taylor Swift. Her first "official" pop album, 1989, is largely dominating the charts — but only two tracks are a little over four minutes. Compare that to her previous three albums, where at least half the tracks were well over four minutes.

"Young people will always be pop music’s biggest consumers," Tierney sums up. "[They] are always going to want their songs to be three minutes, and on to the next one."

Audiences have already been conditioned to desire short radio hits. It's a deeply engrained habit of the music and radio industry, despite anomalies and limitless technology. For Tierney, the foreseeable future won't yield longer radio hits. At this point, it's almost like "it’s embedded in our DNA."

Like a wise singer once said: If you want to make a hit, you've got to make it fit.

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The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel

The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel | An Eye on New Media |
In 1998, amid a recession, Schröder defeated Kohl and became Chancellor. The next summer, Volker Schlöndorff, at a garden party outside his home, in Potsdam, introduced Merkel to a movie producer, half-jokingly calling her “Germany’s first female Chancellor.” Merkel shot Schlöndorff a look, as if he had called her bluff—How dare you?—which convinced him that she actually wanted the job. The producer, a C.D.U. member, was incredulous. Schlöndorff said, “These guys whose party had been in power forever could not imagine that a woman could be Chancellor—and from East Germany, no less.”

In November, 1999, the C.D.U. was engulfed by a campaign-finance scandal, with charges of undisclosed cash donations and secret bank accounts. Kohl and his successor as Party chairman, Wolfgang Schäuble, were both implicated, but Kohl was so revered that nobody in the Party dared to criticize him. Merkel, who had risen to secretary-general after the C.D.U.’s electoral defeat, saw opportunity. She telephoned Karl Feldmeyer. “I would like to give some comments to you in your newspaper,” she said.

“Do you know what you want to say?” Feldmeyer asked.

“I’ve written it down.”

Feldmeyer suggested that, instead of doing an interview, she publish an opinion piece. Five minutes later, a fax came through, and Feldmeyer read it with astonishment. Merkel, a relatively new figure in the C.D.U., was calling for the Party to break with its longtime leader. “The Party must learn to walk now and dare to engage in future battles with its political opponents without its old warhorse, as Kohl has often enjoyed calling himself,” Merkel wrote. “We who now have responsibility for the Party, and not so much Helmut Kohl, will decide how to approach the new era.” She published the piece without warning the tainted Schäuble, the Party chairman. In a gesture that mixed Protestant righteousness with ruthlessness, Kohl’s Mädchen was cutting herself off from her political father and gambling her career in a naked bid to supplant him. She succeeded. Within a few months, Merkel had been elected Party chairman. Kohl receded into history. “She put the knife in his back—and turned it twice,” Feldmeyer said. That was the moment when many Germans first became aware of Angela Merkel.

Years later, Michael Naumann sat next to Kohl at a dinner, and asked him, “Herr Kohl, what exactly does she want?”

“Power,” Kohl said, tersely. He told another friend that championing young Merkel had been the biggest mistake of his life. “I brought my killer,” Kohl said. “I put the snake on my arm.”

In 2002, Merkel found herself on the verge of losing a Party vote that would determine the C.D.U.’s candidate for Chancellor in elections that fall. She hastily arranged a breakfast with her rival, the Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber, in his home town. Disciplined enough to control her own ambitions, Merkel told Stoiber that she was withdrawing in his favor. Schlöndorff sent her a note saying, in effect, “Smart move.” By averting a loss that would have damaged her future within the Party, Merkel ended up in a stronger position. Stoiber lost to Schröder, and Merkel went on to outmaneuver a series of male heavyweights from the West, waiting for them to make a mistake or eat one another up, before getting rid of each with a little shove.

John Kornblum, a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, who still lives in Berlin, said, “If you cross her, you end up dead. There’s nothing cushy about her. There’s a whole list of alpha males who thought they would get her out of the way, and they’re all now in other walks of life.” On Merkel’s fiftieth birthday, in 2004, a conservative politician named Michael Glos published a tribute:

Careful: unpretentiousness can be a weapon! . . . One of the secrets of the success of Angela Merkel is that she knows how to deal with vain men. She knows you shoot a mountain cock best when it’s courting a hen. Angela Merkel is a patient hunter of courting mountain cocks. With the patience of an angel, she waits for her moment.

German politics was entering a new era. As the country became more “normal,” it no longer needed domineering father figures as leaders. “Merkel was lucky to live in a period when macho was in decline,” Ulrich said. “The men didn’t notice and she did. She didn’t have to fight them—it was an aikido politics.” Ulrich added, “If she knows anything, she knows her macho. She has them for her cereal.” Merkel’s physical haplessness, combined with her emotional opacity, made it hard for her rivals to recognize the threat she posed. “She’s very difficult to know, and that is a reason for her success,” the longtime political associate said. “It seems she is not from this world. Psychologically, she gives everybody the feeling of ‘I will take care of you.’ ”

When Schröder called early elections in 2005, Merkel became the C.D.U.’s candidate for Chancellor. In the politics of macho, Schröder and Fischer—working-class street fighters who loved political argument and expensive wine, with seven ex-wives between them—were preëminent. The two men despised Merkel, and the sentiment was reciprocated. According to Dirk Kurbjuweit, of Der Spiegel, Schröder and Fischer sometimes laughed “like boys on the playground” when Merkel gave speeches in the Bundestag. In 2001, after photographs were published of Fischer assaulting a policeman as a young militant in the seventies, Merkel denounced him, saying that he would be unfit for public life until he “atoned”—a comment that many Germans found strident. During the 2005 campaign, Fischer said in private talks that Merkel was incapable of doing the job.

At the time, Schröder’s Social Democrats ruled in a coalition with the Greens, and the public had grown weary of prolonged economic stagnation. Through most of the campaign, the C.D.U. held a large lead, but the Social Democrats closed the gap, and on Election Night the two parties were virtually tied in the popular vote. Alan Posener, of Die Welt, saw Merkel that night at Party headquarters—she seemed deflated, flanked by C.D.U. politicians she had once disposed of, who didn’t conceal their glee. Merkel had made two near-fatal mistakes. First, just before the Iraq War—unpopular in Germany, and repudiated by Schröder—she had published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “Schroeder Doesn’t Speak for All Germans,” in which she stopped just short of supporting war. “One more sentence for Bush and against Schröder, and she would not be Chancellor today,” Ulrich said. Second, many of her advisers were free-market proponents who advocated changes to the tax code and to labor policies which went far beyond what German voters would accept. After fifteen years, she still didn’t have a fingertip feel for public opinion.

On Election Night, Merkel, Schröder, Fischer, and other party leaders gathered in a TV studio to discuss the results. Merkel, looking shell-shocked and haggard, was almost mute. Schröder, his hair colored chestnut and combed neatly back, grinned mischievously and effectively declared himself the winner. “I will continue to be Chancellor,” he said. “Do you really believe that my party would take up an offer from Merkel to talk when she says she would like to become Chancellor? I think we should leave the church in the village”—that is, quit dreaming. Many viewers thought he was drunk. As Schröder continued to boast, Merkel slowly came to life, as if amused by the Chancellor’s performance. She seemed to realize that Schröder’s bluster had just saved her the Chancellorship. With a slight smile, she put Schröder in his place. “Plain and simple—you did not win today,” she said. Indeed, the C.D.U. had a very slim lead. “With a little time to think about it, even the Social Democrats will come to accept this as a reality. And I promise we will not turn the democratic rules upside down.”

Two months later, Merkel was sworn in as Germany’s first female Chancellor.

Those who know Merkel say that she is as lively and funny in private as she is publicly soporific—a split in self-presentation that she learned as a young East German. (Through her spokesman, Merkel, who gives few interviews—almost always to German publications, and all anodyne—declined to speak to me.) In off-the-record conversations with German journalists, she replays entire conversations with other world leaders, performing wicked imitations. Among her favorite targets have been Kohl, Putin, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, former Pope Benedict XVI, and Al Gore. (“Ah have to teach mah people,” she mimics, in a Prussian approximation of central Tennessee.) After one meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, during the euro crisis, she told a group of journalists that Sarkozy’s foot had been nervously jiggling the entire time.

Schlöndorff once asked Merkel what she and other leaders discuss during photo ops. The Chancellor described one such moment with Dmitri Medvedev, who briefly interrupted Putin’s fifteen-year reign as Russia’s President. She and Medvedev were posing for the cameras in Sochi when, gesturing toward the Black Sea, she said, in the Russian she had learned from Frau Benn, “President Putin told me that every morning he swims a thousand metres out there. Do you do things like that?” Medvedev replied, “I swim fifteen hundred metres.” To Schlöndorff, the story showed that, “even when she is involved, she is never so totally involved that she could not observe the way people behave and be somehow amused by it.”

“She is a master of listening,” the longtime political associate said. “In a conversation, she speaks twenty per cent, you speak eighty per cent. She gives everybody the feeling ‘I want to hear what you have to say,’ but the truth is that her judgment is made within three minutes, and sometimes she thinks another eighteen minutes are wasted time. She is like a computer—‘Is this possible, what this man proposes?’ She’s able in a very quick time to realize if it’s fantasy.”

Nor is she above embarrassing her minions. Once, in a hotel room in Vienna, in the company of Chancellery aides and foreign-ministry officials, Merkel was telling comical stories of camping trips she’d taken as a student. Her aides fell over themselves laughing, until Merkel cut them short: “I’ve told you this before.” The aides insisted that they’d never heard the stories before, but it didn’t matter: Madame Chancellor was calling them sycophants. After last year’s elections, she met with the Social Democratic leader, Sigmar Gabriel, who is now her economics minister. Gabriel introduced Merkel to one of his aides, saying, “He’s been keeping an eye on me for the past few years. He makes sure I don’t do anything stupid in public.” Merkel shot back, “And sometimes it’s worked.”

“Schadenfreude is Merkel’s way of having fun,” Kurbjuweit said.

“Wait for it.”
Throughout her Chancellorship, Merkel has stayed as close as possible to German public opinion. Posener said that, after nearly losing to Schröder, she told herself, “I’m going to be all things to all people.” Critics and supporters alike describe her as a gifted tactician without a larger vision. Kornblum, the former Ambassador, once asked a Merkel adviser about her long-term view. “The Chancellor’s long-term view is about two weeks,” the adviser replied. The pejorative most often used against her is “opportunist.” When I asked Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the Green leader, whether Merkel had any principles, she paused, then said, “She has a strong value of freedom, and everything else is negotiable.” (Other Germans added firm support for Israel to the list.)

“People say there’s no project, there’s no idea,” the senior official told me. “It’s just a zigzag of smart moves for nine years.” But, he added, “She would say that the times are not conducive to great visions.” Americans don’t like to think of our leaders as having no higher principles. We want at least a suggestion of the “vision thing”—George H. W. Bush’s derisive term, for which he was derided. But Germany remains so traumatized by the grand ideologies of its past that a politics of no ideas has a comforting allure.

The most daunting challenge of Merkel’s time in office has been the euro-zone crisis, which threatened to bring down economies across southern Europe and jeopardized the integrity of the euro. To Merkel, the crisis confirmed that grand visions can be dangerous. Kohl, who thought in historical terms, had tied Germany to a European currency without a political union that could make it work. “It’s now a machine from hell,” the senior official said. “She’s still trying to repair it.”

Merkel’s decisions during the crisis reflect the calculations of a politician more mindful of her constituency than of her place in history. When Greek debt was revealed to be at critical levels, she was slow to commit German taxpayers’ money to a bailout fund, and in 2011 she blocked a French and American proposal for coördinated European action. Germany had by far the strongest economy in Europe, with a manufacturing base and robust exports that benefitted from the weakening of the euro. Under Schröder, Germany had instituted reforms in labor and welfare policies that made the country more competitive, and Merkel arrived just in time to reap the benefit. Throughout the crisis, Merkel buried herself in the economic details and refused to get out in front of what German voters—who tended to regard the Greeks as spendthrift and lazy—would accept, even if delaying prolonged the ordeal and, at key moments from late 2011 through the summer of 2012, threatened the euro itself. The novelist and journalist Peter Schneider compared her to a driver in foggy weather: “You only see five metres, not one hundred metres, so it’s better you are very careful, you don’t say too much, you act from step to step. No vision at all.”

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was Germany’s defense minister between 2009 and 2011, said that Merkel took a “Machiavellian” approach to the crisis. She had the stamina to keep her options open as long as possible, and then veiled her decisions behind “the cloud of complexity.” Guttenberg said, “This made it easier for her to change her mind several times rather dramatically, but at the time no one noticed at all.” In the end, under pressure from other European leaders and President Obama, Merkel endorsed a plan for the European Central Bank to prevent Greek sovereign default by buying bonds—much as the Federal Reserve had done during the U.S. financial crisis. In exchange, the countries of southern Europe submitted to strict budget rules and E.U. oversight of their central banks. Merkel realized that she could not allow the euro-zone crisis to capsize the project of European unity. “If the euro falls, then Europe falls,” she declared. The euro was saved, but at the price of ruinous austerity policies and high unemployment. Across much of Europe, Merkel—that Protestant minister’s daughter—is resented as a rigid, self-righteous puritan, while support for the E.U. has fallen to historic lows.

Merkel’s commitment to a united Europe is not that of an idealist. Rather, it comes from her sense of German interest—a soft form of nationalism that reflects the country’s growing confidence and strength. The historic German problem, which Henry Kissinger described as being “too big for Europe, too small for the world,” can be overcome only by keeping Europe together. Kurbjuweit said, “She needs Europe because—this is hard to say, but it’s true—Europe makes Germany bigger.”

Yet Merkel’s austerity policies have helped make Europe weaker, and Europe’s weakness has begun affecting Germany, whose export-driven economy depends on its neighbors for markets. The German economy has slowed this year, while European growth is anemic. Nevertheless, Germany remains committed to a balanced budget in 2015, its first since 1969, and is standing in the way of a euro-zone monetary policy of stimulating growth by buying up debt. In recent weeks, with global markets falling, a divide has opened between Merkel and other European leaders.

After 2005, Merkel had to mute her free-market thinking at home in order to preserve her political viability. Instead, she exported the ideas to the rest of the Continent, applying them with no apparent regard for macroeconomic conditions, as if the virtues of thrift and discipline constituted the mission of a resurgent Germany in Europe. Merkel is obsessed with demography and economic competitiveness. She loves reading charts. In September, one of her senior aides showed me a stack of them that the Chancellor had just been examining; they showed the relative performance of different European economies across a variety of indicators. In unit-labor costs, he pointed out, Germany lies well below the euro-zone average. But the population of Germany—the largest of any nation in Europe—is stagnant and aging. “A country like that cannot run up more and more debt,” the senior aide said.

Stefan Reinecke, of the left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung, said, “Half an hour into every speech she gives, when everyone has fallen asleep, she says three things. She says Europe has just seven per cent of the world’s people, twenty-five per cent of the economic output, but fifty per cent of the social welfare—and we have to change this.” Merkel frets that Germany has no Silicon Valley. “There’s no German Facebook, no German Amazon,” her senior aide said. “There is this German tendency, which you can see in Berlin: we’re so affluent that we assume we always will be, even though we don’t know where it will come from. Completely complacent.”

It makes Germans acutely uneasy that their country is too strong while Europe is too weak, but Merkel never discusses the problem. Joschka Fischer—who has praised Merkel on other issues—criticizes this silence. “Intellectually, it’s a big, big challenge to transform national strength into European strength,” he said. “And the majority of the political and economic élite in Germany has not a clue about that, including the Chancellor.”

The two world leaders with whom Merkel has her most important and complex relationships are Obama, who has won her reluctant respect, and Putin, who has earned her deep distrust. When the Wall fell, Putin was a K.G.B. major stationed in Dresden. He used his fluent German and a pistol to keep a crowd of East Germans from storming the K.G.B. bureau and looting secret files, which he then destroyed. Twelve years later, a far more conciliatory Putin, by then Russia’s President, addressed the Bundestag “in the language of Goethe, Schiller, and Kant,” declaring that “Russia is a friendly-minded European country” whose “main goal is a stable peace on this continent.” Putin praised democracy and denounced totalitarianism, receiving an ovation from an audience that included Merkel.

After decades of war, destruction, and occupation, German-Russian relations returned to the friendlier dynamic that had prevailed before the twentieth century. German policymakers spoke of a “strategic partnership” and a “rapprochement through economic interlocking.” In 2005, Schröder approved the construction of a gas pipeline that crossed the Baltic Sea into Russia. He and Putin developed a friendship, with Schröder calling Putin a “flawless democrat.” In the past decade, Germany has become one of Russia’s largest trading partners, and Russia now provides Germany with forty per cent of its gas. Two hundred thousand Russian citizens live in Germany, and Russia has extensive connections inside the German business community and in the Social Democratic Party.

“According to the map, the treasure should be right behind that door.”
As a Russian speaker who hitchhiked through the Soviet republics in her youth, Merkel has a feel for Russia’s aspirations and resentments which Western politicians lack. In her office, there’s a framed portrait of Catherine the Great, the Prussian-born empress who led Russia during a golden age in the eighteenth century. But, as a former East German, Merkel has few illusions about Putin. After Putin’s speech at the Bundestag, Merkel told a colleague, “This is typical K.G.B. talk. Never trust this guy.” Ulrich, of Die Zeit, said, “She’s always been skeptical of Putin, but she doesn’t detest him. Detesting would be too much emotion.”

When Putin and Merkel meet, they sometimes speak in German (he’s better in her language than she is in his), and Putin corrects his own interpreter to let Merkel know that nothing is lost on him. Putin’s brand of macho elicits in Merkel a kind of scientific empathy. In 2007, during discussions about energy supplies at the Russian President’s residence in Sochi, Putin summoned his black Lab, Koni, into the room where he and Merkel were seated. As the dog approached and sniffed her, Merkel froze, visibly frightened. She’d been bitten once, in 1995, and her fear of dogs couldn’t have escaped Putin, who sat back and enjoyed the moment, legs spread wide. “I’m sure it will behave itself,” he said. Merkel had the presence of mind to reply, in Russian, “It doesn’t eat journalists, after all.” The German press corps was furious on her behalf—“ready to hit Putin,” according to a reporter who was present. Later, Merkel interpreted Putin’s behavior. “I understand why he has to do this—to prove he’s a man,” she told a group of reporters. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

In early 2008, when President George W. Bush sought to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, Merkel blocked the move out of concern for Russia’s reaction and because it could cause destabilization along Europe’s eastern edge. Later that year, after Russia invaded two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Merkel changed her position and expressed openness to Georgia’s joining NATO. She remained careful to balance European unity, the alliance with America, German business interests, and continued engagement with Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm I is supposed to have remarked that only Bismarck, who tied Germany to a set of countervailing alliances, could juggle four or five balls. Bismarck’s successor, Leo von Caprivi, complained that he could barely manage two, and in 1890 he ended Germany’s treaty with Russia, helping set the stage for the First World War.

When, this past March, Russia annexed Crimea and incited a separatist war in eastern Ukraine, it fell to Merkel to succeed where earlier German leaders had catastrophically failed.

The Russian aggression in Ukraine stunned the history-haunted, rule-upholding Germans. “Putin surprised everyone,” including Merkel, her senior aide told me. “The swiftness, the brutality, the coldheartedness. It’s just so twentieth century—the tanks, the propaganda, the agents provocateurs.”

Suddenly, everyone in Berlin was reading Christopher Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers,” about the origins of the First World War. The moral that many Germans drew was to tread carefully—small fires could quickly turn into conflagrations. During a discussion about the First World War with students at the German Historical Museum, Merkel said, “I am regarded as a permanent delayer sometimes, but I think it is essential and extremely important to take people along and really listen to them in political talks.”

Merkel ruled out military options, yet declared that Russia’s actions were unacceptable—territorial integrity was an inviolable part of Europe’s postwar order—and required a serious Western response. For the first time in her Chancellorship, she didn’t have the public with her. In early polls, a plurality of Germans wanted Merkel to take a middle position between the West and Russia. A substantial minority—especially in the former East—sympathized with Russia’s claim that NATO expansion had pushed Putin to act defensively, and that Ukrainian leaders in Kiev were Fascist thugs. Helmut Schmidt, the Social Democratic former Chancellor, expressed some of these views, as did Gerhard Schröder—who had become a paid lobbyist for a company controlled by the Russian state oil-and-gas giant Gazprom, and who celebrated his seventieth birthday with Putin, in St. Petersburg, a month after Russia annexed Crimea. The attitude of Schmidt and Schröder deeply embarrassed the Social Democrats.

A gap opened up between élite and popular opinion: newspapers editorializing for a hard line against Russia were inundated with critical letters. Merkel, true to form, did nothing to try to close the divide. For most Germans, the crisis inspired a combination of indifference and anxiety. Ukraine was talked about, if at all, as a far-off place, barely a part of Europe (not as the victim of huge German crimes in the Second World War). Germans resented having their beautiful sleep disturbed. “The majority want peace and to live a comfortable life,” Alexander Rahr, a Russian energy expert who advises the German oil-and-gas company Wintershall, said. “They don’t want conflict or a new Cold War. For this, they wish the U.S. would stay away from Europe. If Russia wants Ukraine, which not so many people have sympathy with, let them have it.” In a way, Germany’s historical guilt—which includes more than twenty million Soviet dead in the Second World War—adds to the country’s passivity. A sense of responsibility for the past demands that Germany do nothing in the present. Ulrich, of Die Zeit, expressed the point brutally: “We once killed so much—therefore, we can’t die today.”

Germans and Russians are bound together by such terrible memories that any suggestion of conflict leads straight to the unthinkable. Michael Naumann put the Ukraine crisis in the context of “this enormous emotional nexus between perpetrator and victim,” one that leaves Germans perpetually in the weaker position. In 1999, Naumann, at that time the culture minister under Schröder, tried to negotiate the return of five million artifacts taken out of East Germany by the Russians after the Second World War. During the negotiations, he and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Gubenko, shared their stories. Naumann, who was born in 1941, lost his father a year later, at the Battle of Stalingrad. Gubenko was also born in 1941, and his father was also killed in action. Five months later, Gubenko’s mother was hanged by the Germans.

“Checkmate,” the Russian told the German. Both men cried.

“There was nothing to negotiate,” Naumann recalled. “He said, ‘We will not give anything back, as long as I live.’ ”

Merkel takes a characteristically unsentimental view of Russia. Alexander Lambsdorff, a German member of the European Parliament, said, “She thinks of Russia as a traditional hegemonic power that was subdued for a while and now has reëmerged.” Ukraine forced Merkel into a juggling act worthy of Bismarck, and she began spending two or three hours daily on the crisis. Publicly, she said little, waiting for Russian misbehavior to bring the German public around. She needed to keep her coalition in the Bundestag on board, including the more pro-Russian Social Democrats. And she had to hold Europe together, which meant staying in close touch with twenty-seven other leaders and understanding each one’s constraints: how sanctions on Russia would affect London’s financial markets; whether the French would agree to suspend delivery of amphibious assault ships already sold to the Russians; whether Poland and the Baltic states felt assured of NATO’s support; the influence of Russian propaganda in Greece; Bulgaria’s dependence on Russian gas. For sanctions to bite, Europe had to remain united.

Merkel also needed to keep open her channel to Putin. Even after the E.U. passed its first round of sanctions, in March, it was not German policy to isolate Russia—the two countries are too enmeshed. Merkel is Putin’s most important interlocutor in the West; they talk every week, if not more often. “She’s talked to Putin more than Obama, Hollande, and Cameron combined have over these past months,” the senior official said. “She has a way of talking to him that nobody has. Cameron and Hollande call him to be able to say they’re world leaders and had the conversation.” Merkel can be tough to the point of unpleasantness, while offering Putin ways out of his own mess. Above all, she tries to understand how he thinks. “With Russia now, when one feels very angry I force myself to talk regardless of my feelings,” she said at the German Historical Museum. “And every time I do this I am surprised at how many other views you can have on a matter which I find totally clear. Then I have to deal with those views, and this can also trigger something new.” Soon after the annexation of Crimea, Merkel reportedly told Obama that Putin was living “in another world.” She set about bringing him back to reality.

A German official told me, “The Chancellor thinks Putin believes that we’re decadent, we’re gay, we have women with beards”—a reference to Conchita Wurst, an Austrian drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision song contest. “That it’s a strong Russia of real men versus the decadent West that’s too pampered, too spoiled, to stand up for their beliefs if it costs them one per cent of their standard of living. That’s his wager. We have to prove it’s not true.” It’s true enough that, if Merkel were to make a ringing call to defend Western values against Russian aggression, her domestic support would evaporate. When eight members of a European observer group, including four Germans, were taken hostage by pro-Russian separatists in April—practically a casus belli, had they been Americans—the German government simply asked Putin to work for their release. Merkel was playing the game that had been successful for her in German politics: waiting for her adversary to self-destruct.

On at least one phone call, Putin lied to Merkel, something that he hadn’t done in the past. In May, after Ukrainian separatists organized a widely denounced referendum, the official Russian statement was more positive than the stance that Merkel believed she and Putin had agreed on in advance. She cancelled their call for the following week—she had been misled, and wanted him to sense her anger. “The Russians were stunned,” the senior official said. “How could she cut the link?” Germany was the one country that Russia could not afford to lose. Karl-Georg Wellmann, a member of parliament from Merkel’s party, who sits on the foreign-affairs committee, said that, as the crisis deepened and Germans began pulling capital out of Russia, Kremlin officials privately told their German counterparts that they wanted a way out: “We went too far—what can we do?” In Moscow restaurants, after the third vodka, the Russians would raise the ghosts of 1939: “If we got together, Germany and Russia, we would be the strongest power in the world.”

On June 6th, in Normandy, Merkel and Putin met for the first time since the crisis began, along with Obama, Hollande, Cameron, and Petro Poroshenko, the newly elected President of Ukraine, to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of D Day. News photographs showed Merkel greeting Putin like a disapproving hostess—lips pursed, eyebrows arched—while Putin’s hard features came as close to ingratiation as is physically possible. In the optics of power, she was winning. “This political isolation hurts him,” her senior aide said. “He doesn’t like to be left out.” (Russia had just been suspended from the Group of Eight.) Later, before lunch, Merkel orchestrated a brief conversation between Putin and Poroshenko. On the anniversary of D Day, Germany’s leader was at the center of everything. As Kurbjuweit put it, “That was astonishing, to see all the winners of the Second World War, and to see the loser and the country which was responsible for all this—and she’s the leader, everyone wants to talk to her! That is very, very strange. And this is only possible, I think, because it’s Merkel—because she’s so nice and quiet.”

The final ball Merkel has to keep in the air is the American one. Her opinion of Barack Obama has risen as his popularity has declined. In July, 2008, as a Presidential candidate, Obama wanted to speak at the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin—the historic heart of the city, a location reserved for heads of state and government, not U.S. senators. Merkel rebuffed the request, so instead Obama spoke about European-American unity at the Victory Column, in the Tiergarten, before two hundred thousand delirious fans—a crowd Merkel could never have mustered, let alone mesmerized. “What puts her off about Obama is his high-flying rhetoric,” the senior official said. “She distrusts it, and she’s no good at it. She says, ‘I want to see if he can deliver.’ If you want to sum up her philosophy, it’s ‘under-promise and over-deliver.’ ”

In Obama’s first years in office, Merkel was frequently and unfavorably compared with him, and the criticism annoyed her. According to Stern, her favorite joke ends with Obama walking on water. “She does not really think Obama is a helpful partner,” Torsten Krauel, a senior writer for Die Welt, said. “She thinks he is a professor, a loner, unable to build coalitions.” Merkel’s relationship with Bush was much warmer than hers with Obama, the longtime political associate said. A demonstrative man like Bush sparks a response, whereas Obama and Merkel are like “two hit men in the same room. They don’t have to talk—both are quiet, both are killers.” For weeks in 2011 and 2012, amid American criticism of German policy during the euro-zone crisis, there was no contact between Merkel and Obama—she would ask for a conversation, but the phone call from the White House never came.

As she got to know Obama better, though, she came to appreciate more the ways in which they were alike—analytical, cautious, dry-humored, remote. Benjamin Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, told me that “the President thinks there’s not another leader he’s worked closer with than her.” He added, “They’re so different publicly, but they’re actually quite similar.” (Ulrich joked, “Obama is Merkel in a better suit.”) During the Ukraine crisis, the two have consulted frequently on the timing of announcements and been careful to keep the American and the European positions close. Obama is the antithesis of the swaggering leaders whom Merkel specializes in eating for breakfast. On a trip to Washington, she met with a number of senators, including the Republicans John McCain, of Arizona, and Jeff Sessions, of Alabama. She found them more preoccupied with the need to display toughness against America’s former Cold War adversary than with events in Ukraine themselves. (McCain called Merkel’s approach “milquetoast.”) To Merkel, Ukraine was a practical problem to be solved. This mirrored Obama’s view.

On the day I spoke with Rhodes, July 17th, the TV in his office, in the White House basement, showed the debris of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 strewn across a field in eastern Ukraine. The cause of the crash wasn’t yet clear, but Rhodes said, “If it was a Russian shoot-down, and Americans and Europeans were on board, that’s going to change everything.” In Germany, the change happened immediately. The sight of separatist fighters looting the belongings of dead passengers who had been shot out of the sky hit Germans more personally than months of ugly fighting among Ukrainians had. A civilian airliner, Dutch victims: “People realized that the sentimental attitude toward Putin and Russia was based on false assumptions,” a German diplomat said. The idea of maintaining equidistance between Russia and the West on Ukraine vanished. Though the crisis was beginning to hurt the German economy, Merkel now had three-quarters of the public behind her. In late July, the E.U. agreed on a sweeping new round of financial and energy sanctions.

Since then, Russian troops and weapons have crossed the border in large numbers, and the war has grown worse. In a speech in Australia last week, Merkel warned that Russian aggression was in danger of spreading, and she called for patience in a long struggle: “Who would’ve thought that twenty-five years after the fall of the Wall . . . something like that can happen right at the heart of Europe?” But, on the day she spoke, the E.U. failed to pass a new round of sanctions against Russia. Guttenberg, the former defense minister, said, “We are content with keeping the status quo, and kicking the can up the road—not down—and it keeps falling back on our feet.”

DECEMBER 19, 2011
“The post-touchdown celebrations are getting out of hand.”
The close coöperation behind the scenes between Washington and Berlin coincides with a period of public estrangement. Germans told me that anti-Americanism in Germany is more potent now than at any time since the cruise-missile controversy of the early eighties. The proximate cause is the revelation, last fall, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden to Der Spiegel, that the National Security Agency had been recording Merkel’s cell-phone calls for a decade. Merkel, ever impassive, expressed more annoyance than outrage, but with the German public the sense of betrayal was deep. It hasn’t subsided—N.S.A. transgressions came up in almost every conversation I had in Berlin—particularly because Obama, while promising that the eavesdropping had stopped, never publicly apologized. (He conveyed his regret to Merkel privately.) “Tapping her phone is more than impolite,” Rainer Eppelmann, the former East German dissident, said. “It’s something you just don’t do. Friends don’t spy on friends.” (American officials I spoke with, though troubled by the effects of the breach, rolled their eyes over German naïveté and hypocrisy, since the spying goes both ways.)

German officials approached the Americans for a no-spy agreement, and were refused. The U.S. has no such arrangement with any country, including those in the so-called Five Eyes—the English-speaking allies that share virtually all intelligence. German officials claimed that the U.S. offered membership in the Five Eyes, then withdrew the offer. The Americans denied it. “It was never seriously discussed,” a senior Administration official said. “Five Eyes isn’t just an agreement. It’s an infrastructure developed over sixty years.”

“I tend to believe them,” the German diplomat said. “The Germans didn’t want Five Eyes when we learned about it. We’re not in a position, legally, to join, because our intelligence is so limited in scope.”

In July, officials of the German Federal Intelligence Service, or B.N.D., arrested a bureaucrat in their Munich office on suspicion of spying for the U.S. He had been caught soliciting business from the Russians via Gmail, and, when the Germans asked their American counterparts for information on the man, his account was suddenly shut down. Brought in for questioning, he admitted having passed documents (apparently innocuous) to a C.I.A. agent in Austria for two years, for which he was paid twenty-five thousand euros. The Germans retaliated, in unprecedented fashion, by expelling the C.I.A. station chief in Berlin. Coming soon after the N.S.A. revelations, this second scandal was worse than a crime—it was a blunder. Merkel was beside herself with exasperation. No U.S. official, in Washington or Berlin, seemed to have weighed the intelligence benefits against the potential political costs. The President didn’t know about the spy. “It’s fair to say the President should expect people would take into account political dynamics in making judgments about what we do and don’t do in Germany,” Rhodes said.

The spying scandals have undermined German public support for the NATO alliance just when it’s needed most in the standoff with Russia. Lambsdorff, the E.U. parliamentarian, told me, “When I stand before constituents and say, ‘We need a strong relationship with the U.S.,’ they say, ‘What’s the point? They lie to us.’ ” Germany’s rise to preëminence in Europe has made Merkel a committed transatlanticist, but “that’s useless now,” Lambsdorff said. “It deducts from her capital. Rebuffing Washington is good now in Germany.”

Obama was concerned enough to dispatch his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, to Berlin in late July, to mollify German officials. During a four-hour meeting, they agreed to create a framework for clearer rules about spying and intelligence sharing. But the details remain to be worked out, and barely half the German public now expresses a favorable view of the U.S.—the lowest level in Europe, other than in perpetually hostile Greece.

In a sense, German anti-Americanism is always waiting to be tapped. There’s a left-wing, anti-capitalist strain going back to the sixties, and a right-wing, anti-democratic version that’s even older. In the broad middle, where German politics plays out today, many Germans, especially older ones, once regarded the U.S. as the father of their democracy—a role that sets America up to disappoint. Peter Schneider, the novelist and journalist, expressed the attitude this way: “You have created a model of a savior, and now we find by looking at you that you are not perfect at all—much less, you are actually corrupt, you are terrible businessmen, you have no ideals anymore.” With the Iraq War, Guantánamo, drones, the unmet expectations of the Obama Presidency, and now spying, “you actually have acted against your own promises, and so we feel very deceived.”

Beneath the rise in anti-Americanism and the German sympathy with Russia, something deeper might be at work. During the First World War, Thomas Mann put aside writing “The Magic Mountain” and began composing a strange, passionate series of essays about Germany and the war. They were published in 1918, just before the Armistice, as “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man.” In it, Mann embraced the German cause in terms of national character and philosophy. He allied himself, as an artist, with Germany—“culture, soul, freedom, art”—against the liberal civilization of France and England that his older brother Heinrich supported, where intellect was always politicized. German tradition was authoritarian, conservative, and “nonpolitical”—closer to the Russian spirit than to the shallow materialism of democratic Europe. The war represented Germany’s age-old rebellion against the West. Imperial Germany refused to accept at gunpoint the universal principles of equality and human rights. Though Mann became a vocal supporter of democratic values in exile during the Nazi years, he never repudiated “Reflections.”

Several people in Berlin suggested that this difficult, forgotten book had something to say about Germany in the age of Merkel. The country’s peaceful reunification and its strength through the euro crisis might be returning Germany to an identity that’s older than the postwar Federal Republic, whose Basic Law was written under heavy American influence. “West Germany was a good country,” Georg Diez, a columnist and author, told me. “It was young, sexy, daring, Western—American. But maybe it was only a skin. Germany is becoming more German, less Western. Germany has discovered its national roots.”

Diez didn’t mean that this was a good thing. He meant that Germany is becoming less democratic, because what Germans fundamentally want is stability, security, economic growth—above all, to be left in peace while someone else watches their money and keeps their country out of wars. They have exactly the Chancellor they want. “Merkel took the politics out of politics,” Diez said.

Merkel, at sixty, is the most successful politician in modern German history. Her popularity floats around seventy-five per cent—unheard of in an era of resentment toward elected leaders. Plainness remains her political signature, with inflections of Protestant virtue and Prussian uprightness. Once, with a group of journalists at a hotel bar in the Middle East, she said, “Can you believe it? Here I am, the Chancellor! What am I doing here? When I was growing up in the G.D.R., we imagined capitalists with long black cloaks and top hats and cigars and big feet, like cartoons. And now here I am, and they have to listen to me!” Of course, there’s something calculated about her public image. “She’s so careful not to show any pretensions—which is a kind of pretension,” the senior official said.

Merkel still lives in central Berlin, in a rent-controlled apartment across a canal from the Pergamon, the great neoclassical antiquities museum. The name on the brass buzzer is her husband’s—“PROF. DR. SAUER”—and a solitary policeman stands outside. Dwarfed by her vast office in the massive concrete-and-glass Chancellery, Merkel works at an ordinary writing table just inside the door, preferring it to the thirteen-foot black slab that Schröder installed at the far end of the room. “This woman is neurotically busy,” the longtime political associate said. “She sleeps never more than five hours. I can call her at one o’clock at night. She’s awake reading bureaucratic papers, not literature.”

Merkel entertains guests at the Chancellery with German comfort food—potato soup and stuffed cabbage. When she eats at her favorite Italian restaurant, it’s with just a few friends, and she doesn’t look up from the conversation to greet her public, who know to leave her alone. When her husband calls the Philharmoniker for tickets (Merkel and Sauer are music lovers, with a passion for Wagner and Webern) and is offered comps, he insists on giving his credit-card number, and the couple take their seats almost unnoticed. A friend of mine once sat next to Merkel at the salon she frequents, off Kurfürstendamm, and they chatted about hair. “Color is the most important thing for a woman,” the Chancellor, whose hair style is no longer the object of ridicule, offered.

OCTOBER 15, 2012
“And that's how babies are made.”
Earlier this year, President Joachim Gauck made headlines when he called on Germany to take its global responsibilities more seriously, including its role in military affairs. It was the kind of speech that Merkel (who had no comment) would never give, especially after a poll commissioned by the foreign ministry in May showed that sixty per cent of the public was skeptical of greater German involvement in the world. German journalists find Merkel nearly impossible to cover. “We have to look for topics in the pudding,” Ulrich Schulte, who reports on the Chancellor for Die Tageszeitung, said. The private Merkel they admire and enjoy but are forbidden to quote disappears in public. Any aide or friend who betrays the smallest confidence is cast out. The German media, reflecting the times, are increasingly centrist, preoccupied with “wellness” and other life-style issues. Almost every political reporter I spoke with voted for Merkel, despite the sense that she’s making their work irrelevant. There was no reason not to.

Meanwhile, Merkel has neutralized the opposition, in large part by stealing its issues. She has embraced labor unions, lowered the retirement age for certain workers, and increased state payments to mothers and the old. (She told Dirk Kurbjuweit, of Der Spiegel, that, as Germany aged, she depended more on elderly voters.) In 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in Japan, shocked Merkel, and she reversed her position on nuclear power: Germany would phase it out through the next decade, while continuing to lead the world’s large industrial economies in solar and wind energy. (A quarter of the country’s energy now comes from renewable sources.) Meanwhile, she’s tried to rid her party of intolerant ideas—for example, by speaking out for the need to be more welcoming to immigrants. Supporters of the Social Democrats and the Greens have fewer and fewer reasons to vote at all, and turnout has declined. Schneider, a leading member of the generation of ’68, said, “This is the genius of Angela Merkel: she has actually made party lines senseless.”

This fall, in elections held in three states of the former East Germany, a new right-wing party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), showed strength, capturing as much as ten per cent of the vote. AfD wants Germany to withdraw from the euro zone and opposes Merkel’s liberal policies on gay marriage and immigration. In moving her own party to the center, Merkel has created a space in German politics for a populist equivalent to France’s Front National and the United Kingdom Independence Party. If the German economy continues to slow, Merkel will find it hard to float unchallenged above party politics as Mutti, the World Cup-winning soccer team’s biggest fan.

For now, the most pressing political question in Berlin is whether she’ll stand for a fourth term, in 2017. Joschka Fischer described Germany under Merkel as returning to the Biedermeier period, the years between the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, and the liberal revolutions of 1848, when Central Europe was at peace and the middle class focussed on its growing wealth and decorative style. “She is governing Germany in a period where the sun is shining every day, and that’s the dream of every democratically elected politician,” Fischer said—but “there is no intellectual debate.” I suggested that every Biedermeier has to end. “Yes,” he said. “Mostly in a clash.”

A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion—Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America. But what Americans today might envy, with our intimations of national decline, makes thoughtful Germans uneasy. Their democracy is not old enough to be given a rest.

“We got democracy from you, as a gift I would say, in the forties and fifties,” Kurbjuweit told me. “But I’m not sure if these democratic attitudes are very well established in my country. We Germans always have to practice democracy—we’re still on the training program.” Kurbjuweit has just published a book called “There Is No Alternative.” It’s a phrase that Merkel coined for her euro policy, but Kurbjuweit uses it to describe the Chancellor’s success in draining all the blood out of German politics. “I don’t say democracy will disappear if Merkel is Chancellor for twenty years,” he said. “But I think democracy is on the retreat in the world, and there is a problem with democracy in our country. You have to keep the people used to the fact that democracy is a pain in the ass, and that they have to fight, and that everyone is a politician—not only Merkel.” ♦
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41 uncensored instagrams from North Korea by David Guttenfelder

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How to Write For Any Medium (From a Guy Who's Written For "The New Yorker," "Saturday Night Live," and Pixar)

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Simon Rich writes novels, essays, screenplays, and sketches—and he’s written them for some of the most respected arbiters of quality in their respective fields. Here, the prolific writer talks to Co.Create about the differences between each medium, and how to choose where an idea belongs.
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Interesting how-to step-by-step guide by @Robbie Richards on how to use various platforms and tools to get distribution for your content. And in particular how to use content suggestions in a win-win way for both the original content creator and the curators who can source content this way.

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This is why the middle class can't get ahead | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour

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When’s the last time you worked overtime? How about the last time you worked overtime and got paid for it? If you’re in the middle class, probably not recently.

Only Americans who make less than $23,660 a year are eligible for time-and-a-half pay after working 40 hours a week. Today, that’s only 11 percent of salaried workers. It didn’t used to be this way, and it doesn’t have to stay this way, argues venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.

Just like President Obama has taken executive action on immigration, Hanauer believes the president can and should take executive action to raise the salary threshold for overtime eligibility.

Hanauer’s a billionaire who made his fortune as one of the original investors in Amazon. The current rules are written to benefit wealthy capitalists like him, he admits. So, you might ask, why does Hanauer care about overtime pay for people who make less, much less, than he does?

“Ironically,” he writes, when “you earn less, and unemployment is high, it even hurts capitalists like me.” That won’t surprise Making Sen$e readers who’ve heard his brand of “middle-out economics.” Closing the income gap wouldn’t just benefit the middle class; a stronger middle class is the source of economic prosperity for everyone, he thinks. Watch him make that argument to Paul Solman below.

Making Sen$e first caught up with Hanauer in Seattle last spring, where he was pushing for the city to pass a higher minimum wage. Just as the minimum wage is crucial to improving the economic outlook of low-wage workers, overtime pay is essential to the middle class’s prosperity — and everyone else’s. Hanauer explains why that matters to him, as a venture capitalist, in the following essay which first appeared in Politico Magazine.

– Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

If you’re in the American middle class—or what’s left of it—here’s how you probably feel. You feel like you’re struggling harder than your parents did, working longer hours than ever before, and yet falling further and further behind. The reason you feel this way is because most of you are—falling further behind, that is. Adjusted for inflation, average salaries have actually dropped since the early 1970s, while hours for full-time workers have steadily climbed.

Meanwhile, a handful of wealthy capitalists like me are growing wealthy beyond our parents’ wildest dreams, in large part because we’re able to take advantage of your misfortune.

“Fair overtime standards are to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-income workers.”
So what’s changed since the 1960s and 1970s? Overtime pay, in part. Your parents got a lot of it, and you don’t. And it turns out that fair overtime standards are to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-income workers: not everything, but an indispensable labor protection that is absolutely essential to creating a broad and thriving middle class.

In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. Not because capitalists back then were more generous, but because it was the law. It still is the law, except that the value of the threshold for overtime pay—the salary level at which employers are required to pay overtime—has been allowed to erode to less than the poverty line for a family of four today. Only workers earning an annual income of under $23,660 qualify for mandatory overtime. You know many people like that? Probably not. By 2013, just 11 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay, according to a report published by the Economic Policy Institute. And so business owners like me have been able to make the other 89 percent of you work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all.

In my defense, I’m only playing by the rules—rules written by and for wealthy capitalists like me. But the main point is this: These are rules that President Barack Obama has the power to change with the stroke of a pen, and with no prior congressional approval. The president could, on his own, restore federal overtime standards to where they were at their 1975 peak, covering the same 65 percent of salaried workers who were covered 40 years ago. If he did that, about 10.4 million Americans would suddenly be earning a lot more than they are now. Last March, Obama asked the Labor Department to update “outdated” regulations that mean, as the president put it in his memo, “millions of Americans lack the protections of overtime and even the right to the minimum wage.” But Obama was not specific about the changes he wanted to see.

So let me be specific. To get the country back to the same equitable standards we had in 1975, the Department of Labor would simply have to raise the overtime threshold to $69,000. In other words, if you earn $69,000 or less, the law would require that you be paid overtime when you worked more than 40 hours a week. That’s 10.4 million middle-class Americans with more money in their pockets or more time to spend with friends and family. And if corporate America didn’t want to pay you time and a half, it would need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to pick up the slack—slashing the unemployment rate and forcing up wages.

The Obama administration could, on its own, go even further. Many millions of Americans are currently exempt from the overtime rules—teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals, etc.—and corporate leaders are lobbying hard to expand “computer professional” to mean just about anybody who uses a computer. Which is almost everybody. But were the Labor Department instead to narrow these exemptions, millions more Americans would receive the overtime pay they deserve. Why, you might ask, are so many workers exempted from overtime? That’s a fair question. To be truthful, I have no earthly idea why. What I can tell you is that these exemptions work out very well for your employers.

Since the Republican Party’s takeover of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, all the talk in Washington has been about what won’t get done because of gridlock between the White House and Capitol Hill. And Obama has talked of moving things forward by making unilateral changes to immigration law and climate protections.

But what about the most basic need of all—jump-starting the real economy by giving more middle-class Americans a fair shake? You would think that for a Democratic administration, raising the threshold back to where it once was would be a no-brainer, but I have grave doubts that administration officials are heading in this direction. In fact they are likely to raise the threshold only partly, and the Obama administration has not yet grappled with the broader question of how moves such as this are critical to helping to restore America’s middle class. How do I know? Intuition. OK, I admit it, more than intuition. I’ve had conversations with administration officials about their forthcoming policy changes. And the scuttlebutt out of the Labor Department looks promising—for corporations. Not the middle class.

It is my sense, based on my conversations with government officials, that the administration is buying the line from corporate lobbyists who are arguing that such rule changes would devastate their bottom lines, forcing them to lay off workers. You know, the old trickle-down gambit—if workers earn more money, it would be bad for business, the economy and workers. The Obama team, in other words, is buying into the same discredited theories that were used to erode the threshold in the first place. Officials will very likely raise the overtime threshold just enough to say they’re doing something, without actually doing much of anything for the middle class or our demand-starved economy at all.

“We capitalists will tell you that our increasing profits are the result of some complex economic force with the immutability and righteousness of divine law. But the truth is, it is simply a result of a difference in negotiating power. As in, we have it. And you don’t.”
But here’s a little secret from the corner office: The arguments that the corporate lobbyists are making—about how badly business will be hurt—just don’t add up. What is adding up instead are the trillions of dollars in corporate profits and stock gains that corporations have made over the same decades that your hours climbed and your wages fell. From 1950 to 1980, during the good old days of U.S. economic might—the era in which the Great American Middle Class was created—corporate profits averaged a healthy 6 percent of GDP. But since then, corporate profits have doubled to more than 12 percent of GDP.

That’s about a trillion dollars more a year in profit. And since then, wages as a percentage of GDP have fallen, you guessed it, by about the same 6 percent or 7 percent of GDP. Coincidence? Probably not. What very few Americans seem to understand is that that extra trillion dollars isn’t profit because it had to be, or needs to be or should be. That extra trillion dollars is profit because powerful people like me prefer it to be. It could have been spent on your wages. Or it could have gone into discounts to you, the consumer. We capitalists will tell you that our increasing profits are the result of some complex economic force with the immutability and righteousness of divine law. But the truth is, it is simply a result of a difference in negotiating power. As in, we have it. And you don’t.
Still, it’s hard to blame the administration for doing so little to defend middle-class workers when most middle-class workers aren’t even aware that they’re being ripped off. But I know. And a lot of other business owners know. We just don’t talk about it. You see, we capitalists will never actually ask you to work overtime. I don’t even track your hours. I just make it clear that I trust you to get your job done in the time allotted. And then I hand you twice as much work as you can reasonably do in a 40-hour week. But this downward pressure on wages doesn’t end there.

In the absence of a law requiring me to pay you overtime if you earn under a certain amount, you end up working harder—and the harder you work, the fewer employees I need. The fewer employees I need, the higher the unemployment rate. The higher the unemployment rate, the more leverage I have to “encourage” you to “do what it takes” to keep your job. And so you work even more hours, pushing unemployment up and wages down. And that, my friends, is one of the little tricks that keeps you poor and me rich.

This is why, in a recent Gallup poll, salaried Americans now report working an average of 47 hours a week, not the allegedly standard 40. And 18 percent of you report working more than 60 hours per week. Yet at the same time, you’re taking only about 77 percent of your paid time off. According to a survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. workers now use an average of only 16 vacation days a year out of the nearly 21 days they earn—the lowest in more than four decades. Why? Often because they’re terrified of working fewer hours and falling short of their employers’ demands for ever more productivity. And many of these unused vacation days are forfeited: an estimated $52.4 billion worth each year that goes to owners like me.

Now obviously, take away our license to force 10.4 million Americans to work extra hours for nothing, and smart capitalists like me would try to limit overtime as much as possible. I mean, time-and-a-half pay sure adds up fast! So many of you would be unlikely to see much of an immediate bump in take-home pay. Instead, we capitalists would be forced to hire millions more people to do the work you currently do for free. That would drive down unemployment. And a tighter labor market would drive up wages for the first time in 40 years.

“And just like raising the minimum wage would nudge up incomes for those workers earning somewhat above it, restoring the overtime threshold would push up incomes for many workers currently earning above $69,000 too.”
So you see, when I say that the overtime threshold is the minimum wage for the middle class, I’m not just playing with words. In the exact same way that the erosion of the federal minimum wage—from an inflation-adjusted peak of about $11 an hour in 1968 to only $7.25 an hour today—has held down wages for low-income Americans, the simultaneous erosion of the overtime threshold has also held down wages for the American middle class. And just like raising the minimum wage would nudge up incomes for those workers earning somewhat above it, restoring the overtime threshold would push up incomes for many workers currently earning above $69,000 too.

What Do Executives Do With All Their Money?

Of course, capitalists like me will tell you that when we cut into profits, the entire economy is damaged. And think of all the investment that corporate profits make possible. What do executives like me do with all that extra money? Why, invest in creating good-paying jobs for middle-class Americans like you, of course.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly true either. Mostly, we use profits to manipulate our stock price for personal gain.

Here’s a little history that will explain how: Back in the 1970s, when the share of total U.S. income that the top 0.1 percent of households got was at a 100-year low, corporate executives received most of their compensation in the form of a salary, just like you. But since the late 1980s, the largest component of income for the top 0.1 percent has been stock-based pay. This shift toward compensation via stock options and grants means that CEOs are directly incentivized to increase the share price of their company’s stock.

What contemporary capitalism needs to learn from fairy tales
Building better products that lead to higher sales and fatter margins is the traditional way for a CEO to push up the price of his stock. But that’s so old-fashioned. So yesterday. Instead, ever since a former Wall Street CEO in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission back in 1982 loosened the rules that define stock manipulation (beginning to see a historical pattern here?), U.S. corporations have increasingly resorted to stock buybacks to prop up share prices. According to a report in the Harvard Business Review by professor William Lazonkick—“Profits Without Prosperity”—over the past 10 years, America’s largest companies, those making up the S&P 500, have devoted a staggering 54 percent of their profits to buying back shares, reducing the total number outstanding and thus increasing the value of the remaining shares owned by capitalists like me.

A stock buyback, in case you are wondering, is when a public company buys its own shares. “Why on earth would a company do that?” you ask. To push the stock price higher, of course—which benefits senior managers who are all paid in stock—rather than, say, investing in R&D or in building new factories. Or paying you overtime for all those extra hours you work.

I want to be clear: I’ve done stock buybacks. We all do it. In order to be a public company today, you practically can’t avoid it, despite how obviously corrupt it is. Ever wonder why the stock market is soaring again, while the real economy is just slogging along? Buybacks are a big reason. According to data compiled by Mustafa Erdem Sakinç of The Academic-Industry Research Network, public U.S. corporations of all sizes have spent an astonishing $6.9 trillion on stock buybacks over the past decade alone. $6.9 trillion! That’s about enough to run the entire federal government—for two years! Let me tell you how it works. Your institutional investors will call you, maybe after some bad news that drives your stock down a bit, and they’ll say, “Hey, your stock is undervalued, don’t you think? And if you guys won’t support your own stock, then why should we?” Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge. But you will not be able to grasp the size of this, relative to your situation, without some examples.

Take low-wage king Wal-Mart. Over the past 10 years, according to data compiled from its public filings, Wal-Mart has spent more than $65.4 billion on stock buybacks—about 47 percent of its profits. That’s an average of more than $6.5 billion a year in stock buybacks, enough to give each of its 1.4 million U.S. workers a $4,670-a-year raise. It is also, coincidentally, an amount roughly equivalent to the estimated $6.2 billion Wal-Mart costs U.S. taxpayers every year in food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized housing and other public assistance to its many impoverished employees.

And further up the wage scale there’s IBM. Once an icon of innovation for its proud legacy of investing in basic research, the 21st-century IBM has instead chosen to spend an astounding $117.5 billion on stock buybacks since 2003—a remarkable 89.4 percent of total profits.

What else might we have done with that $6.9 trillion other than manipulate stock prices? Well, we could have forgiven the $1 trillion in student debt currently crippling the purchasing power of young Americans; funded the looming $3.6 trillion maintenance backlog on our roads, bridges, dams, schools and the rest of our nation’s public infrastructure; boosted our nation’s annual R&D expenditures by more than 20 percent a year; and still have enough money leftover to buy every man, woman and child in the U.S. a round of drinks. Every Friday night. For the next 15 years.

Are you paid to look busy?
Or, we could spend the approximately $700 billion in stock buybacks per year putting all 9 million unemployed Americans back to work at more than 2.5 times our nation’s pitiful $28,000 median wage.

If this sounds a little bit like a Ponzi scheme, that’s because it is. I buy my shares back from investors and speculators, who then use that money to buy more shares. We get richer riding this merry-go-round, but the money never touches the real economy. Perhaps you’ve wondered how the stock market hit 17,000 while, at the same time, five years after the end of the Great Recession, the real economy that you live in still kind of sucks? Stock buybacks.

So if you’re still thinking that higher wages or fewer hours of overtime for you and your coworkers might bankrupt the public company you work for, I encourage you to do this: Send an email to your CFO and ask him or her how much your company has spent on stock buybacks over the past 10 years in both dollars and in percent of pretax profits? Seriously. Do it right now. And while you’re waiting for a reply from your CFO, let’s have an honest conversation about the way the economy really works.

But Don’t Rich People Create Jobs?

Forget everything you’ve been told about how the rich are job creators—that the more money we have, the more we invest, the more jobs we create, and the better the economy is for everybody. As our epidemic of stock buybacks clearly illustrates, capitalists like me already have more money than we know what to do with. Indeed, smart investors are struggling to cope with what Bain & Co. has termed “capital superabundance,” marked by a tripling of global capital since 1990 despite the ongoing stagnation of the underlying economy. Meanwhile, even as this glut of financial capital continues to grow, new technologies are dramatically reducing demand for capital.

It once cost billions to finance a new steel mill, the symbol of the old economy. But the new economy just isn’t nearly as capital-intensive—in other words, companies don’t need anything like this huge amount of reinvestment in stocks. For example, take Amazon. I was an early investor—it’s where I made much of my fortune. How much capital did Jeff Bezos initially raise to start up Amazon? One million dollars. Last year, Amazon reported over $74 billion in sales. It is this “investment supply–demand imbalance,” writes Bain, that is decisively shifting power “from owners of capital to owners of good ideas.”

In the information economy of the 21st century, it is not capital accumulation that creates growth and prosperity, but, rather, the virtuous cycle of innovation and demand. The more innovators and entrepreneurs we have converting ideas into products and services, the higher our standard of living, and the more people who can afford to consume these products and services, the greater the incentive to innovate. Thus, the key to growth and prosperity is to fully include as many Americans as possible in our economy, both as innovators and consumers.

In plain English, the real economy is you: Raise wages, and one increases demand. Increase demand and one increases jobs, wages and innovation. The real economy is simply the interplay between consumers and businesses. On the other hand, as we’ve learned from the past 40 years of slow growth and record stock buybacks, not even an infinite supply of capital can persuade a CEO to hire more workers absent demand for the products and services they produce.

The twisted irony is, when you work more hours for less pay, you hurt not only yourself, you hurt the real economy by depressing wages, increasing unemployment and reducing demand and innovation. Ironically, when you earn less, and unemployment is high, it even hurts capitalists like me.

Which brings us back to President Obama. He is hearing daily from corporate executives and lobbyists that raising your wages would be bad. For you. So he won’t, unless he hears from you—all of you—demanding the same fair overtime protections for today’s middle class that were once enjoyed by your parents.

Contact the White House. Do it for yourself. Or, at the very least, have the courtesy to do it for me. Because honestly, I’m beginning to run out of customers. In the meanwhile, I’ve got to go buy back more shares ahead of the next earnings report.
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Kim Dotcom dodges jail (for now) in his latest battle with US authorities | VentureBeat | OffBeat | by Paul Sawers

Kim Dotcom dodges jail (for now) in his latest battle with US authorities | VentureBeat | OffBeat | by Paul Sawers | An Eye on New Media |
New Zealand-based internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has managed to dodge jail (for now) in his ongoing feud with US authorities, reports

Dotcom – real name Kim Schmitz – is best known as founder of file-sharing service Megaupload, which was forced offline in 2012 by the US Justice Department and the FBI on claims of criminal copyright infringement. They stated that Dotcom and his co-defendents were responsible for “more than half a billion dollars” in harm to copyright holders.

Though he went on to launch a similar cloud-based service called Mega, as he awaits his extradition hearing next year Dotcom revealed at an event in London last week that he is now officially “broke”. This went some way towards explaining why his crack legal team had jumped ship, at least.

To capitalize on his precarious predicament, American authorities had sought to have Dotcom’s bail revoked ahead of the extradition hearing in June 2015, which could lead to him receiving up to 88 years behind bars.


The core underlying accusations levied against Dotcom is that he wasn’t simply providing a cloud-based file-sharing service à la Dropbox – it’s that he was complicit in actively encouraging users to upload and disseminate copyrighted material.

Steven Fabrizio, the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) senior executive vice president and global general counsel, has previously said:

“Megaupload wasn’t a cloud storage service at all, it was an unlawful hub for mass distribution. To be clear, if a user uploaded his term paper to store it, he got nothing – and, in fact, unless he was a paying subscriber, Megaupload would delete the paper if it was not downloaded frequently enough. But if that same user uploaded a stolen full-length film that was repeatedly infringed, he was paid for his efforts.

That’s not a storage facility; that’s a business model designed to encourage theft – and make its owners very rich in the process. There’s nothing new or innovative about that. That’s just a profiteer using existing technology to try to get rich off of someone else’s hard work.”
Dotcom says Mega now has 15 million registered users, though his claims of being broke are essentially down to the fact that all his shares and assets have been transferred over to his family. However, he did reveal during the latest bail hearing that he had garnered $40 million since being on bail – as such, the Judge imposed slightly stricter bail conditions. Not only can’t he travel by helicopter or by sea, but he must also report twice a week to a local police station.

Prior to today’s news, Dotcom has notched up some other minor victories after the initial police raid at his home was deemed illegal.
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How Google Grades Employees, And How You Can Use The Same System At Your Company

How Google Grades Employees, And How You Can Use The Same System At Your Company | An Eye on New Media |
From the time Google was a tiny startup, it's been using an internal grading system for employees call Objectives and Key Results, or OKR. 

OKR is a simple system that helps a company organize and execute its goals. It starts at the top, and travels down the chain of command within a company. Google didn't invent the OKR system. It came from Intel. And many other companies use a similar system. 

A few years ago, Google Ventures partner Rick Klau gave a presentation on how OKR works. If you work at a startup and don't use a system like OKR, you should. Or, if you work at a big company, and your company doesn't use OKR, it should. Heck, even if management hates the idea at your company, you should use OKR for yourself!

We watched Klau's presentation, and peeled out the slides to provide a how-to on how OKRs work, and how you can use them for yourself.

Click here to see how you can implement Google's grading system »
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The QR Code Generator

Free Online QR Code Generator to make your own QR Codes.
Supports Dynamic Codes, Tracking, Analytics, Free text, vCards and more.
Ken Morrison's insight:

I like these QR Codes 2.0s

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Updating Our Terms and Policies: Helping You Understand How Facebook Works and How to Control Your Information

Updating Our Terms and Policies: Helping You Understand How Facebook Works and How to Control Your Information | An Eye on New Media |
Over the past year, we’ve introduced new features and controls to help you get more out of Facebook, and listened to people who have asked us to better explain how we get and use information.
Ken Morrison's insight:


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What to Post & When to Post it on 9 Important Social Networks [Infographic]

What to Post & When to Post it on 9 Important Social Networks [Infographic] | An Eye on New Media |
Posting to one or two social platforms for your business can be tricky. When you’re attempting to have a presence on nine or more, however, it becomes exceedingly difficult and time-consuming. How…

Via steve batchelder, juandoming
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Scalpers Appear as 'Interstellar' Becomes Phenomenon in South Korea - Hollywood Reporter

Scalpers Appear as 'Interstellar' Becomes Phenomenon in South Korea - Hollywood Reporter | An Eye on New Media |
The Christopher Nolan film has garnered over $40 million as of Thursday, making the tiny Asian country the third biggest market for the film following the U.S. and China.

The space drama has topped the charts for advance online reservations for tickets for the fourth consecutive week. This weekend, over 280,000 moviegoers are set to watch Interstellar according to the Korean Film Council's KOBIS database. This makes up 68.1 percent of all advance reservations; Fury, for which Brad Pitt recently toured Seoul, accounted for just 7.3 percent.

Read more Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Part of His "Mandate" to Push Smaller Films

The sci-fi epic has earned a reputation as a film that just has to be seen in theaters, moreover on the IMAX screen. "There has been an unusually high demand to watch this spacesci-fi film that cost $165 million," said Kim Tae-joo of All That Cinema, Interstellar's local PR agency.

Most of the IMAX screenings this weekend at CGV Yongsan, one of Seoul's largest theaters, are sold out. Only a handful seats are available for the early morning showings between 2-7 a.m. (Korea has 24-hour cinemas) as of Friday noon.

Ticket scalpers have emerged at key Seoul theaters for the explosively popular IMAX format, with the $10-dollar tickets selling for as much as $40. CGV, the country's largest cinema chain, recently published a statement urging moviegoers from taking part in such illegal transactions.

"I know it's not really legal, but I paid 20,000 won [about $20] per ticket because my girlfriend really wanted to see the film," said a 31-year-old male film fan in Seoul. "It was mind-blowing. We felt inspired to learn more about some of the physics theories that were featured in the film, and we are thinking of watching it again. But without having to buy scalped tickets of course."

Read more Warner Bros. to Make Local Productions in South Korea (Exclusive)

Positive reviews of the film handled by Warner Brothers Korea have spread through both word-of-mouth, but mostly notably through social media platforms in the world's most wired country.

With the highest Internet and smartphone penetrations in the world, Korea has held a reputation for being tech-savvy and the technology heavy nature of Interstellar has struck a chord. "As reflected by Korea's fast IT culture or the widespread use of [social network services], Korean audiences seem to have a strong intellectual curiosity about high technology," said film critic Kang Yu-jung.

Film critic Jeong Ji-ouk also pointed out that the strong fatherly affection and concern for future generations portrayed by Matthew McConaughey are resonating with the local Confucian values – "unlike many Hollywood films that are centered on hero worship."
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A Visual Guide to Type Terminology – Design School

A Visual Guide to Type Terminology  – Design School | An Eye on New Media |
Fast-track your design education by getting familiar with fundamental typographic terms.
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