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Roger Black
Design for narratives
Design for narratives

Roger's posts

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Except, maybe for the font. A little Bundespost for my taste. . . . 
Woah, this new Google+ really is beautiful. +1 would visit again

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The view from the desk this afternoon.

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Comparing cars as metaphors for new publishing models. I didn't include a Merc from the same year as the first Honda subcompact, since it didn't seem all that bad. Probably why Detroit wasn't rushing to make tiny cars.

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Was struck by a complete about-face by Scott Dadich, the loudly trumpeted designer at Wired who pushed Condé Nast down an expensive production path leading to gigantic, slow iPad apps. Strategy was put on hold when they found the apps weren't paying for themselves.

Now he's talking about combined print and digital workflow and adaptive design. Does this mean there is hope for the legacy publishing groups?

Well, it's better than last year's story.

More on this on my blog:

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With all due respect to Messrs. Scoble, Battelle and Winer, I take on the war between the walled gardens and the open web.

"It’s possible that the ecosystems, like the railroad trusts of the 19th century, will come in and idiots will shoot all the buffalo, and the frontier will be closed. But this is a virtual frontier. Instead of fearing Google and Apple and Amazon, we can use them."

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What we can do about travel? Joe Sharkey, who often has some useful observations about the ordeal of airline travel, completely flunked his year-end wrap up.

“Airlines Are Retrenching, and Alternatives Are Slim: The coming year will be a time of reckoning in business travel, as airlines reduce service at many airports and prospects fade for practical alternatives to flying, including the long-term promises of high-speed rail.”

Like the media business, the airlines are stuck in a broken model and unable/unwilling to change. A little creative destruction is inevitable. Clean start-ups like Virgin America are the future. (Used to be hopeful about JetBlue, but it grew too fast.) Following Southwest’s lead and abandoning the hug-and-spoke system devised by American’s Bob Crandall, Virgin keeps costs low, employes relatively happy, and service really pleasant. For example, the flight attendants don’t spend the boarding time chatting in the galley, they actually help passengers get seated so the plane can leave. And it helps that the planes are all new and interiors have cool lighting and don’t feel like a holding pens.

What we need is a new model:

• Direct flights instead of hub-and-spoke
• Staff incentives and transparent management that opens information channels and builds morale
• Pricing plan that favors regular customers instead of the least frequent
• Baggage service that is reliable and fast, so you don’t want to carry on your luggage
• The end of the TSA nonsense

As for high-speed trains, they may work in high-density areas like Germany, where populations have real centers served by networks of rapid transit that let passengers get to and from train stations easily and quickly. Compare this to the U.S., where populations are diffuse and the cities far between. Once you factor in the time to and from the depot, driving your car for, say, 200 miles, on your own schedule always seems like a better, cheaper option than a train.

For example, Amtrak takes four hours and 45 minutes from San Antonio to Houston, about 200 miles. (If you wanted to go tomorrow, it would be $50.) Deutsche Bahn’s ICE can do Hannover-Berlin, about the same distance, in 100 minutes. (Tomorrow's fare: €52.)

And we all love trains, and want to bring back the glory days of the Sunset Limted. And say that Amtrak got the old Southern Pacific main line, which is pretty straight and flat on this route, avoiding the cost new right-of-way ($12 million a mile in urban areas), and they put in medium-speed Acela service on the route, and did it in two hours and a half. How many passengers/day would they get, and what would they need to charge for the roadbed upgrade, trains, maintenance, depreciation, operations, and a little profit? Hard to imagine that they could bring it in for less than $150, the cost of an airplane ticket, one way, tomorrow.

And passengers from, say, Churchill Estates on the north side of San Antonio on their way Tanglewilde on the west side of Houston would not save much time taking the train, even if Amtrak was running at DB speeds, and even if they had friends take them to and pick them up at the stations. The problem is that few us travel from city-center to city-center. And let’s not even talk about the San Antonio or Houston bus system, which would take at least hour, with no traffic.

So trains are not the answer here. But somebody could fix the airline business.
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