Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: That's Entertainment

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  • Russell Brown,

    Our secret with the three Nice'n'Urlich albums was the way we mastered. Listen now and they still sound loud, but keeping the warmth of the vinyl and they subtlety of the range were absolutely vital to the success. They push without clipping because the range was maintained. Rick spent days on each one rounding off sounds, emphasizing and, indeed, doing precision editing of each track's final wave. It just takes time (and ears).

    Interesting. Another release I'm hearing people with finely-tuned ears speak well of is the Humphreys and Keen album The Overflow. Warmth, light and shade, definition, etc. Graeme told me the name of the mastering engineer, but I forget.

    PS: You made me think of Deep Swing's 'Takin' Me Higher', from one of those albums. That has one of my all-time favourite breakdowns and you're right: the bass part where it comes back in sounds fucking gorgeous.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • James Graham,

    ad? what ad?

    oh yeah. firefox adblock. niiice.

    Bragging about this to a content producer is a bit like bragging about stealing their lunch. If everyone used ad blockers there wouldn't be much of an internet worth viewing. Something to think about.

    In a more general sense, I've always been surprised that ads on the internet actually make people any money. After years of working in the IT industry and using the interwebs my brain scans web pages

    You would be surprised just how lucrative internet ads can be. A single click on a Google text link in my experience can be worth between $US0.03 to $US2+. Average click through rates vary between 0.5% to 5%.

    Just checked http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org
    for historyorb.com Feels like an accomplishment to be blocked, as is public address :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    PS: You made me think of Deep Swing's 'Takin' Me Higher', from one of those albums. That has one of my all-time favourite breakdowns and you're right: the bass part where it comes back in sounds fucking gorgeous.

    Some of those tracks on the N'n'U albums (and indeed on our Room Service series) sounded better than the originals, simply because of Rick, who was the unhailed crucial element...especially when you consider all of the N'n'U albums came from overplayed bits of vinyl. Deep Swing was an example....Bevan's copy was, to turn a phrase, utterly rooted, and we used my slightly, but not much, better, copy. Despite that, Rick managed to make it sound fuller and warmer than either copy. The best version of that track you'll find anywhere exists on that album.

    Mint Chicks...I'm not sure of their contract but I suspct they are simply licensed to Warners here, and in Oz..hence the freedom to non-DRM the tracks elsewhere.

    A couple of other things...I'm very suspicious of the $90 claim for manufacturing costs on the FN Box set..if so, they were royally screwed by someone...5 CDs with booklets is about $15 to manufacture, the box..well, and the mastering fee is a flat one off charge. They were able to offer copies to musicians etc at about $70 as I recall, which is I suspect, their wholesale cost, which includes a margin.

    And one also has to call into question that a Box set marketed as a strictly limited edition then finds it's way onto other territories' release sheets, and formats as such. I know of several folk in Australia and the UK who bought the Box set online from NZ on that understanding. Then again, such is the way of the majors...

    What I would truly like to see from the Flying Nun catalogue is some inventive, smart compiling. Thematic releases...for example a smart 2CD look at the early Dunedin era perhaps centered around the Dunedin Double. So many of the acts are linked, there is so much that could be done. And personal selections....a Russell Brown selection, or a Simon Woods selection, or a Shayne Carter FN Back to Mine type album, or Dylan Pellett... 20th anniversary editions of selected albums. These sorts of things seem so bloody obvious..why is no-one doing it.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3200 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Bragging about this to a content producer is a bit like bragging about stealing their lunch. If everyone used ad blockers there wouldn't be much of an internet worth viewing. Something to think about.

    C'mon James, surely you flick channels during the ads, or hit the mute. Even Salon's view before reading model allows one to look at another tab while the page rolls through the BMW ad out of view, to the story you want. I rarely look at magazine advertising, never at newspaper advertsing, I consciously block it.

    Advertising is not, yet anyway, compulsory viewing.

    I have a pop-up blocker too btw....how does that relate to your lunch?

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3200 posts Report Reply

  • James Graham,

    Advertising is not, yet anyway, compulsory viewing.

    And neither is any website. If I had the option to block users with ad-blocking software from seeing my sites I would. It is a quid pro quid that I do not think is unreasonable.

    Sure I block TV and almost all forms of advertising consciously as well. Subconsciously though, the ads still work as I pick up on anything that is relevant to me as I am sure after enough repetition most people do. Something that can't happen if the ads are blocked wholesale via an ad-blocker.

    Mostly, we are talking about one-man bands as they produce much of the web's niche content. What's wrong with letting them cover some costs or even earn some money from it?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish,

    I suspect that people who install ad-blocking software have no intention on clicking on web adverts - so the benefits are two-fold: they don't have to see the ad, and you don't have to waste resources serving it.

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 152 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    And neither is any website.

    As a producer of some of the niche content you are talking about I understand where you are coming from, but taking it one step further, it's not compulsory to produce such.

    I actually don't object to advertising on niche sites, but the adblocker is, for me, essential to block the overwhelmingly corporate advertising I don't want to be bombarded with...and its hard to draw a line (or tweak for every site), hence my unanswered question about blocking pop-ups..if PA decided that such was desirable, as many niche sites do, do you think I should open my browser to those too?

    I would imagine too that if the option to block sites from those that use ad blocker software was widely implemented (I thought it was already available) then most of the current users of a site such as this would have trouble accessing it, or many other sites....I know very few web savvy people who don't use it. It would be largely self defeating surely....

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3200 posts Report Reply

  • Terence Wood,

    off topic and a request for assistance:

    A week or so ago in comments to one of Russell's posts a debate erupted over Democracy. One poster noted that democracy could only be grown from the grass routes up to which Craig R replied (more or less) "what about Germany and Japan". I foolishly didn't bookmark the thread and now want to write a blog post of my own using some of those comments as a lead in. Does anyone know which thread it is?????
    (ps I have tried searching - both with the PA search and with Google advanced search - to no avail).

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    But a question: how many readers would pay a one or two dollars a week subscription for PA without the ads? Like everything, it would cost yet more money to set up (and I've spent thousands in the last few months), but is it worth pursuing?

    A no ads Subscription might work. For a successful subscription model have a look at Rocksbackpages for an example where it does work. That is an archive of many magazines of music writing. (Actually if still have a few old RIU' stories it might be worth loading them up.) I did see Chris Bourke's name there.

    For a site like PA though - I think the more "conversations" the merrier and premium subscription style space may not work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    YES, CDS ARE TOO LOUD. You can’t even call it “compression” anymore; more like bleedin’ “decapitation”. They just chop the peaks clean off, leaving a jagged edge that cuts through the brain like a miniature Skilsaw. It’s criminal!

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Sebastian,

    While you Kiwis are all sleeping, I just need to note a further thought from my breakfast table - just to oppose the flood of pro-ads entries ;)

    mainly, this is directed @ James Graham.

    See, PA once started out with a consistent, clean and modern layout. Easy to read (because text is what its all about here), nice to look at, fast loading. The header has always been a trademark of PA, even that those kind of headers became very popular meanwhile.
    Now you go and downsize - the header! The header is a header. It´s the entrance to your web site. Not only did you put corporate interest above your header (!), but also you made it even bigger than your header. It is now omnipresent. It looks as if Vodafone (or whatever pops up ther randomly) runs the site. As a producer, you must be aware of this and familiar with the psychology of user interface design. What is your opinion on this?
    I could live with these side ads (if they integrate well with the site). But you make a statement when you place a large ad atop your site that competes with and outperforms the header an any further content on the site.
    Those ads destroy the layout and functionality of the site. They are very much to the disadvantage of PA, if that narrows PA to any other site out there.
    You started with carfully chosen ads. Local ads. They were even interesting to me, I like them! And guess what: I followed most of them! Because they are local and something special, out there in the internet. But then Vodafone & co kicked in ...

    No matter how much used most of the commentators here are to this kind of visual compression - it devaluates the effort by the developers, being put into a consistent and superb layout and functionality.

    At the same time I can follow RB´s explanation, absolutely. Dont forget: I am only raising a personal view on the issue, as a reader and audience. I do not question your integrity to run this site in whatever way it is best.

    And no, I would not pay to read PA. I need to pay my local newspaper already. I can not pay for each and everything I read. The pay threat is also inconsistent with the long going dispute and opinion here on PA on NZ Heralds decision to lock up commentary behind a pay wall. Why would you chose exactly that model? Its the internet! ;)

    Berlin, Germany • Since Nov 2006 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • James Graham,

    I suspect that people who install ad-blocking software have no intention on clicking on web adverts - so the benefits are two-fold: they don't have to see the ad, and you don't have to waste resources serving it.

    Most major websites (NZ Herald, Yahoo etc) make most of their money by ad views not by clicks. You also still waste resources serving a person content if they do not view the ads and thus do not contribute to the revenue of the site. Not a big deal if you run a blog but a bigger one if you are youtube I imagine.

    hence my unanswered question about blocking pop-ups..

    Fundamentally I don't see pop-ups as any different, though they do annoy people far more. Every form of content has a relative limit to how much it can annoy its users, e.g. how many mins of ads per hour of tv. Thank Google AdWords for getting rid of most of the pop-ups round the internet by giving publishers a better option.

    But you make a statement when you place a large ad atop your site

    I made the same point on PA System a few days ago about the header, personally I would place the top leaderboard ad below the PA header. As you say though each publisher gets to design their site the way they
    want.

    Personally I hate ads, but they are means to a valuable end, a diverse content rich internet.

    PS: whats sleep? ;)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    Just whitelist the damn site. It's not hard, right click the adblock button in the bottom right corner of your Firefox window and choose whitelist this whole site. Done.

    Goddamn freeloader.

    And, yes, I hate the Vodafone ads as well, not because they're ads, but because they're Vodafone. Fuck Vodafone. Incompetent, customer hostile, wankers.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 295 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Capewell,

    What I would truly like to see from the Flying Nun catalogue is some inventive, smart compiling. Thematic releases...

    I wholeheartedly agree - but as Andrew Dubber and many others would testify, CD is not the right medium for this. Having the whole catalogue online enables the label to create such playlists, and include any artwork and tags they like, with the author talking about why they chose tracks - much like iTunes' Celebrity Playlists already do.

    I totally agree though, Flying Nun is a perfect example for the potential of the long tail and online distribution.

    Manchester • Since Nov 2006 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I actually don't object to advertising on niche sites, but the adblocker is, for me, essential to block the overwhelmingly corporate advertising I don't want to be bombarded with...and its hard to draw a line (or tweak for every site), hence my unanswered question about blocking pop-ups..if PA decided that such was desirable, as many niche sites do, do you think I should open my browser to those too?

    I noted a little while ago that when the Firefox team were considering what functionality they should offer users as a default, they put the pop-up blocker right the in the browser, but kept the ad-blocker as an extension that users had to seek out. There is a difference: pop-ups are actively intrusive.

    I would imagine too that if the option to block sites from those that use ad blocker software was widely implemented (I thought it was already available) then most of the current users of a site such as this would have trouble accessing it, or many other sites....

    I doubt it. The Vodafone banner did about 12,400 impressions yesterday, so clearly someone's loading the pages.

    I know very few web savvy people who don't use it.

    I don't. It hasn't occurred to me. Yep, I ffwd through TV ads on the PVR, or mute them (unless I actually want to hear what they say), but TV ads take an unseemly chunk of my time to watch. If I don't like an online ad, I ignore it.

    The problem is, again, the nature of the creative. It's one size fits all. There are cool things you could do with advertising in this medium, but no one does them: narrative, timeliness, simply providing different creative for specific sites (which ought to be cheap enough - you're not having to go out and shoot a double-page spread after all).

    Interestingly, the ads that have worked best here (in terms of click-through, which is all we can measure) have been the most sophisticated, which usually means the ones we've created in-house. When we did the little contra with Whisky Galore at Christmas, I did three different ads, and the most offbeat one got twice the clickthroughs that the others did.

    But at least the big advertisers are there. When we started running advertising here, my hope was that we would attract a lot of smaller, retail-level advertisers. They turned out to be a pretty hard sell, even though you can be with us for a week for the cost of one or two radio spots. What is there is agency advertising, usually through the sole internet media buyer, sold on a cost-per-thousand-impressions model. And those guys want banners and skyscrapers.

    The fact is that display advertising is currently the only thing that'll keep internet content free (especially news media, which costs real money to make). It doesn't matter so much if all the good TV's on pay, but if you start throwing up paywalls around internet media you break the whole internet dynamic. That's why it annoys me when some lefty-liberal sites insist on linking to to the printable (and thus ad-free) version of an external story. It's not a very clever sort of protest.

    Anyway, enough rambling. I've discussed advertising decisions with our audience more than any other publication I know and I'll continue to do so. But I've got an investment to return and a household to support, so the ads aren't going away ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • jon_knox,

    Am not sure that creating a premium ad-free PA experience would be worth the time/money/effort. When considering alternatives such as putting the content (&/or conversations) behind a paywall, I think would unduely cut down the audience and the number of participants.

    I barely notice the advertising, which indicates that I'm not engaged by it. Perhaps this is validation of Russell's comments about the lack of fit of agency creative and desire to contibute in-house to the creative process for PA's advertisers à la bFM styles....tho perhaps translating the je ne se qua of bFM's radio ad's to the net may be quite challenging (particularly without pop-ups).

    I know other (non media) industries are skeptical about the reliance on advertsing revenue....but in the absence of alternatives, or rather should that be "with the proliferation of low/no cost alternatives", I think the advertsing is a business model that can work.

    Osterreich • Since Nov 2006 • 460 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I made the same point on PA System a few days ago about the header, personally I would place the top leaderboard ad below the PA header. As you say though each publisher gets to design their site the way they
    want.

    We tried a few different ways of handling it, but in the end, we went with what looked best. It's less of an issue with System, which was designed with banners in mind.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    With respect to the ethics of using adblock. If your site has flash ads, and I'm at home browsing it with dial-up, they will be blocked. At work, it's not an issue.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 681 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    With respect to the ethics of using adblock. If your site has flash ads, and I'm at home browsing it with dial-up, they will be blocked. At work, it's not an issue.

    Sam Morgan has been quite good value on this issue. TradeMe has a high percentage of dial-up users (PA's audience is much more broadband) and they took the approach of rejecting advertising that didn't load promptly over dial-up. But you can do that when you're TradeMe.

    Flash as an ad format lets you do more interesting things than just wink and blink at people - we could run an RSS feed straight into an ad if someone wanted it - but people don't tend to.

    In my earlier rant I forgot to note that we have secured changes in specific ads by forwarding reader complaints to the agency. The most notable example was Orange Election Man in 2005 - his stretch-and-squeeze wobbling was curtailed across the campaign thanks to PA readers. The odd thing was that the agency that was doubtless paid oodles to come up with it couldn't guess that people would find it annoying to have an ad that moved a lot and never stopped doing it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18509 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Funny, been reading PA for a while and checking out System since it came onboard and the old first-time poster bit is coming up here because of two topics that really interest me bundled into one here!

    1. Audio compression. I worked in hi-fi (as in the retail side of high-ish end gear) for years and so have a relatively advanced hi-fi system put together over time. Back in the day I was known to be as anal as checking for the country of origin on some CDs because if you got that rare German-pressed copy it sounded better - yet I realised the other day that most of my music now is being played off iTunes via Wifi to an Airport Express that then outputs to a pre-amp/power-amp/speaker combo that is absurdly over the top for the source!
    Audio compression on CDs has been an issue for a while, I think the shift to online delivery of digital formats raises slightly different (broader maybe) issues in terms of end-to-end quality (i.e. recording studio to speaker). What's the point in investing in higher-end gear if the source material is slowly downgrading in quality, either thorugh compression on CDs or lower bitrates for easy-delivery online?


    2. Online ad creative. I've got to talking about setting up a very specific web-ad creative agency, do nothing else but web creative campaigns and the sorts of things you are talking about - pick up campaign themes for major advertisers and convert them to a format that works best not just online, but specifically for given sites and build a varied online sub-campaign. Of course I have no advertising background, nor am I able to design even the simplest web page, but I know some people that do =]
    Biggest problem is that your Vodafones (as an example) are looking to create a consistent, integrated message across all media hence the web campaign tends to mimic the billboard and TV campaign etc. It seems that web creative needs to learn some "environmental context" in that way that great billboard campaigns do.


    Oh, and 3. Nice one on the stongly suggesting your own name as username... No hiding behind TheD0minat000r87...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1717 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Govt contract for social marketing, lotsa bucks and who cares? (I'm gonna pay dearly for this comment...)

    Suit: Hey we need a blinky blinky webby type ad for the interweb.
    Creative: Really, woo, cool, OK I'm on it.

    Creative (later on cellphone): Hey how much for a blinky blinky ad for a website?
    Freelancer: Ummm, how blinky blinky and how much you got?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Alan Macdougall,

    Back to the TVNZ downloading thing...

    Where are NZ on Air in all of this? Do they have a say in how NZ on Air funded programs are later used? Or do all subsequent rights revert to the broadcaster?

    If the former were the case, then NZ on Air might be a good place to apply pressure to make sure the download formats are more open. Surely it's in their interest to make sure that content they've funded is disseminated as widely as possible?

    Since Nov 2006 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Flash as an ad format lets you do more interesting things than just wink and blink at people - we could run an RSS feed straight into an ad if someone wanted it - but people don't tend to.

    Oh, I absolutely appreciate that (and that PA is more broadband). Actually, I'm not sure that I do have PA adblocked at home a) because I mostly read it at work, and b) because the ads aren't annoying slow to load. nzherald.co.nz on the other hand. That is excruciating on dial-up with no ad-blocking.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 681 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson,

    So I unblocked PA in the adblocker (as per the earlier commnet - i had no idea you could do that).

    Except that then work servers promptly blocked most of the externally reffing ads as non-business. Oh well.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 199 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    I wholeheartedly agree - but as Andrew Dubber and many others would testify, CD is not the right medium for this. .

    Actually I don't really agree with that. Pop aside, the celebrity playlists online are largely seen as a failure on the likes of iTunes. A box, such as the FN box is bought for the experience of the package as much as anything. I'm willing to bet that by and large the FN box sets that were sold over Xmas have had one or maybe two plays, but were bought because of what they represent, and it's impossible to replicate that package online right now.

    The CD is going the way of the dodo in pop, of that there is no doubt, but there are still places where it won't die, and one of those is collector, or thematic, compiling where the package is as important as the music (even more so sometimes....a notated, nicely packaged 2CD set of FN's Dunedin era is far more likely to sell than a CD entitled Flying Nun Vol1, with the same music on it, or the same tracks on iTunes / eMusic with downloadable notes and images).

    The much discussed long tail is a funny one, I think the figure is something like 2% of music on iTunes accounts for 98% of the sales...I simply can't see the likes of the Pin Group having legs online, perhaps selling a few dozen although it should be available. But put it on a Box set and it sells 2000......

    The CD will wither, but not die, and this is one area where it will live on.

    Ironically I was halfway thru a blog post on this very subject...

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3200 posts Report Reply

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