The New Facebook, Twitter, and Streaming Status Updates: The Internet’s Newest Marketing Fool’s Gold

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Normally, I’m the type of person that makes fun of people that can’t seem to handle technological changes.  My knee-jerk response to a complainer is to say, “Get over it.  Change is inevitable.  You’ll get used to it.”  Last summer, when Facebook went through the first major overhaul of its website, I not only ignored all of the group invites to the “1,000,000 STRONG TO BRING BACK THE OLD FACEBOOK”-type groups, but thoroughly praised the changes as a check on the preponderance of applications in order to ensure the site didn’t become bombarded with trashy graphics like MySpace.  It made for a cleaner website that focused upon what I believed to be Facebook’s true drawing power: it’s a place to easily connect with people that you actually know in real life (as opposed to trying to meet people online a la MySpace or other forums).  Eventually, the Facebook users stopped complaining and actually embraced the new functionality in general, while the addition of new users vaulted the site past MySpace in terms of number of members.

As the World Wide Web turned, though, Facebook underwent another significant overhaul in March, with the changes geared toward providing a stream of information on each user’s home page.  However, while Mark Zuckerberg tried to sell me and hundreds of millions of other users that the “New Facebook” would be an improved experience, it has been a complete boondoggle on numerous fronts.  I could understand why Facebook had previously wanted to differentiate itself from its main competitor of MySpace, but I was at a complete loss as to why it believed that it would be good idea to copy (at face value) its new competitor on the block of Twitter.  Pretty soon, I would feel my blood pressure boil whenever I saw a comment from that tiny fraction of users that for some reason liked the new changes with the same retort that I used to throw out myself to others: “Get over it.  Change is inevitable.  You’ll get used to it.”

After over a month of using the New Facebook, I’m still not over it or used to it.  The entire crux of the problem is NOT about how the site looks (which is what most of the “get over it” contingent seems to believe people are complaining about).  While the home page appeared to be designed by someone that got smoke some potent peyote, opened up his Twitter account, blew chunks on his computer screen, and then figured that it would be a nice new user interface for Facebook, I can get over the fact that I personally don’t find the site as aesthetically pleasing anymore.  However, it’s the taking away of extremely useful functionality that has been abhorrent to a large portion of the site’s users (including me).  I’ll refer to some other well-written and coherent posts (not from the “1,000,000 STRONG TO SAY THE NEW FACEBOOK SUCKS DONKEY DUNG” crowd) here, here, and here that explain fully just how many useful tools were stripped away.  These writers are far from people that can’t handle change.  Instead, these are Facebook users that are in the tech and marketing industries that know full well constant change is vital to survive on the Internet, but don’t understand why particular changes were made that were completely unnecessary and removed options from users.  (Note that Facebook engaged in a half-assed attempt to “respond to feedback” from users, but pretty much missed the point on all fronts.)

While Facebook’s changes and the removal of useful functional tools have been well-documented from a technological user standpoint, what I’m trying to get to the bottom of is how exactly Zuckerberg and Co. thought such changes would improve the site’s chances for profitability.  Obviously, the powers that be thought that these changes would result in a better advertising model for the company – that’s the real reason why any website makes a change to its format.  As a person that is about as far from a commie pinko rabble rouser as you can get (I majored in finance in college and have spent most of my legal career representing high tech companies), I’m perfectly fine with Facebook examining ways to maximize its revenue since I know Microsoft didn’t pay $240 million for a piece of a charitable institution that it valued at $15 billiong.

At this time, there appears to be a monolithic group think forming among a lot of business and technical people that online streaming a la Twitter is the going to be the advertising model of the future on the web.   The theory is that in an increasingly mobile world, streaming will allow marketers to instantly connect with potential customers via cell phone or regular computer Internet use in a highly targeted fashion.  Of course, Twitter itself acknowledges that it essentially doesn’t really know how it’s going to make money yet.  At the same time, the problem I have with the supposed efficacy of online streaming as a business model is that virtually every supposed category killer in terms of web advertising has failed to come anywhere close to expectations (if not downright failed) since Internet usage became ubiquitous in the late 1990s.  In the beginning, click-on ads on websites were supposed to be a treasure trove for marketers, yet the click-through rates have turned out to be so abysmal that newspapers, for example, are dying en masse due to the loss of ad revenue online compared to physical papers despite the fact that their articles are actually being read by literally millions of more people than in the pre-Internet age.

For an almost identical comparison to the current tulip bulb craze over online streaming, look to your own email account.  Substantively, receiving alerts on Twitter is no different than receiving email alerts, where choosing to “follow” a person on Twitter is just like signing up for an email alert (whether it pertains to news links, coupons, products, etc.).  For most people, and certainly in my own personal case, there was a tipping point where my email inbox became filled up with more email alerts than emails from actual people and I simply started ignoring around 99.9% of such email alerts.  I’m not even talking about spam in its true form: these are email alerts that I pro-actively signed up for at one point but the sheer volume of them over time made it all into white noise that I don’t look at anymore.  When anyone has an email account that gets to that point, an email alert becomes an almost completely ineffective marketing tool.

As of now, Twitter is in its relative infancy, so the media has been regaled with anecdotal stories of businesses that have expanded rapidly because of a presence on the service.  Of course, the simple fact that Twitter allows for accounts to be created that are not for real life people mean that it will be sooner rather than later that the average Twitter user is going to be inundated with more follower requests from businesses and products than friends and family.  This was the fate of MySpace, where I had to delete my page on that site because my inbox was completely filled with friend requests from random musicians and porn stars.  As a result, MySpace, which was widely proclaimed to be the future of the Internet as the social networking giant back in the ancient days of 2005 (spurring Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. to shell out a whole lot of coin on the company), is now losing members and just pushed out its founders a couple of weeks ago.  (Tom, I hardly knew you!)  Any business success on Twitter is going to be short-lived once marketers populate the website en masse.  For the average person that isn’t constantly looking at his or her Twitter account, there are only so many Tweets that one can read through before it all becomes white noise just like email alerts and MySpace before it.

Please note that this is not meant to be a bashing of Twitter.  I have a Twitter account and find many Tweets very useful, such as updates on Metra delays so that I can plan for my commute or following the intense ramblings of Ron Zook.  Frankly, the only way that I can figure out where my sister is traveling at any point in time is to follow her daily litany of Twitter messages.  However, following lots of people and/or entities can quickly become a blur even if someone that has a fairly high tolerance to changes on the web.  Imagine how it is for people over, say, 50 years old that have a lot less web exposure.

I think the lesson of the web is that people really don’t like being overtly marketed to for random products.  When web advertising has been successful and profitable, it’s been tied to environments where people are searching for a particular product, with Google’s paid ads coming up in searches as the prime example – that is, the consumer is driving the process as opposed to the marketer.

At the same time, like almost any business whether it’s on the web or in the bricks-and-mortar world, Facebook needs to remember what it’s actually good at.  As I noted before, its hook is that it’s the simplest and most efficient way to find and reconnect with people that you know in the real world.  For some reason, there are business people and techies out there that believe that this is a liability for Facebook, where they look at the ineffectiveness of Facebook to meet and search for people that you don’t actually know in the real world as a constraint on its growth.  Of course, I consider this to be about as solid business thinking as (a) granting large shares of ownership in GM and Chrysler to the UAW members that did everything in its power to disallow those companies to make the necessary changes to make them competitive in a new global economy or (b) Kanye West foregoing being one of the best rappers on the planet in order to sing ballads with a vocoder.  (Why, Kanye?  Why?)  Almost every single website, blog, forum, and chat room on the Internet is designed for people to meet virtually – that market is completely loaded with millions upon millions of Internet sites.  The last thing that most people need is a place where they can meet virtual friends.  The difference with Facebook is that it’s one of the few mass market places on the web where people can actually feel safe and secure enough to use their real names, post real pictures, and submit real information.  (Whether this is a completely false sense of security is another topic for another day.)  That is the Facebook’s unique advantage and it made me believe that it would become one of the few social networking websites that could legitimately have some long-term viability.

I understand that Facebook needs to make money somehow in order to stay in business.  In my opinion, the best way for Facebook to become profitable is in small and relatively non-intrusive micro-targeted ads based on each user’s individual interests, where the aim is more informative on its face (in the same manner as, say, a magazine or newspaper ad) rather than interactive or click-through in nature (i.e. if someone notes on his profile that he’s a basketball fan, then a small ad on his Facebook home page appears with the match-up and time of the NBA playoff game that evening on TNT) .  This may not be a grandiose game changer that turns Facebook into the new marketing power of this generation, but it’s a reasonable aim to make money without making the same misguided mistakes of so many other websites, where they incorrectly believed that their user bases were so loyal that they could blatantly turn them into ad farms.  The greatest asset that Facebook has is the treasure trove of personal information of its users, but it must strike a delicate balance in using that information for marketing purposes.  Unfortunately, history says that any website can’t help itself when it has such information and ends up killing its long-term prospects for short-term ad gains.  If Facebook crosses that imaginary fine line where it becomes more of a marketing site as opposed to a social networking site, then it will end up not even having a market for those simple ads since people will either leave or stop using the site in droves.  With the new Facebook emphasis on trying to connect its users with marketers in a less-than-subtle manner (for instance, products and celebrity fan pages are now showing up in the “People You May Know” box), the website is putting itself at great risk of being another one of those white hot Internet brands (i.e. AOL, Friendster, LiveJournal, MySpace, etc.) that flames out after a few years.  I don’t want to see that happen since Facebook has reconnected me with multitudes of long lost friends, but I’m not nearly as bullish on the website’s long-term viability as I was a year ago.

(Image from Laurel Papworth)

Auto Bailout is Pointless

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As the economy turns, Detroit auto executives are back on Capitol Hill arguing their case for a bailout of their companies.  While Congressional leaders have developed a nasty habit of putting on ridiculous publicized corporate CEO scalpings to feed to the rabid proletariat which really don’t address the actual economic issues at hand (such as the over-the-top uproar about the fact that the auto executives took private jets to Washington last month – I understand it wasn’t the greatest move from a PR standpoint, but the problems in Detroit have very little to do with the existence of corporate airplanes), it will hopefully result in absolutely no bailout for the automobile industry.

We can take up an entire business book aisle at Barnes & Noble about the reasons why a bailout would do nothing to change the fundamental business issues, but I’ll just address a handful of them.  At the top of the list, the auto industry’s issues were not caused by the current credit crunch – the problems with credit have only exacerbated items that the Big Three automakers have failed to change for nearly four decades.  Simply put, Congress propping up the American auto industry isn’t going to get people to want to buy American cars.  My wife and I own a Toyota and a Mercedes-Benz, and I have to say that the performance improvement of those cars over the GM and Chysler cars that we used to own have made the likelihood of us ever buying an American car again essentially zero.  I know plenty of people that would say the exact same thing (and these aren’t Lincoln Park chads and trixies or Naperville yuppies – I’m talking about blue collar people who would have always bought Chevys and Fords back in the day).  The combination of mileage, maintenance, and performance of the Japanese and German cars since the 1970s have vastly surpassed their American counterparts.  For far too long, the Big Three automakers have relied on guilting Americans into thinking that they have some type of patriotic duty to buy their cars (even though Toyota and Honda are actually the car companies that are expanding production in the United States as opposed to the Big Three) instead of improving their product.  While Detroit has attempted to catch up to the Japanese and German automakers in quality over the past few years, it’s a classic case of “too little, too late”.  The decades of neglect have made a close to irreversible dent in the perception of the Big Three where it is directly reflected in their resale values.  Outside of UAW enclaves in Michigan and Ohio, people are pretty rational consumers of cars overall, particularly when it comes to the second-most expensive household purchase after a house (or the most expensive purchase for those who rent).  If a Toyota sedan is about the same price as a Chevy sedan, but the Chevy depreciates in value 2-3 times faster than the Toyota, then more people are going to move toward the product that is going to keep its value longer (much less get a couple hundred thousand miles of low maintenance use out of that product).  The current poor economic conditions have heightened these problems but they aren’t the root cause of them, which is why government assistance would merely put off the inevitable for the auto industry.  If the Big Three couldn’t get their act together over the course of four decades, then I have absolutely no faith that they would be able to change a thing over the course of a three month bridge loan.

A common argument among supporters of the auto bailout is that Congress has already done the same for the financial industry.  This is certainly a fair argument as the government has now gone down the dangerous path of judging which companies are deemed “too big to fail”.  However, there are some key differences between the banks and the automakers.  The broad issue with the financial industry is that each major bank has literally millions of transactions with the other major banks such that the flow of money in both this country and around the world is closely intertwined (whether this is right or wrong is a discussion for another day).  Thus, the failure of a single major bank could endanger the liquidity of healthy (or at least stable) banks that are on the other ends of those transactions.  It then becomes a vicious circle, where each bank whose balance sheet is suddenly thrown up in the air then causes the balance sheets of many other banks to suffer, as well.  This leads to both consumers losing confidence in those banks by withdrawing their deposits and banks then stopping the flow of credit since they don’t have any liquidity.  As a result, entities ranging from individuals looking for credit cards and huge corporations searching for business loans can’t find any credit, causing overall spending and investment in the economy to grind to nearly a complete halt.  Indeed, if the federal government could change one thing over the past couple of months, it would not have allowed Lehman Brothers to fail since their filing for bankruptcy started this circular financial drain almost immediately.  At the end of the day, the American economy is driven by the flow of credit, so the financial industry was indeed “too big to fail” in this case since the repercussions went far beyond those wealthy Wall Street bankers and lawyers.  It has always driven me nuts when the media intimated that there was some type of line of demarcation between “Wall Street” and “Main Street” as if they had conflicting interests.  The fact of the matter is that Main Street can’t function from a financial perspective, whether it’s using your credit card to buy groceries, getting a student loan to go to school, or obtaining a mortgage to buy a house, without a healthy Wall Street.

As large as the auto industry might be in this country, it doesn’t have the same impact on every single person in the United States in the same manner as the financial industry.  This isn’t to ignore the impact of auto industry on millions of people that either work for the Big Three or are peripherally impacted as suppliers and providers of support services.  That being said, the UAW leaders need to understand that it’s no longer about what higher-than-market wages their locals are able to maintain – it’s now about whether their union members are going to have any jobs at all in the next few months.  Until both executive and union leaders come together to figure out how to trim costs, come up with better products, and have wage and production flexibility that is up to speed in the information age as opposed to the industrial age, any government assistance to the auto industry would simply be throwing money away.  Filing for bankruptcy is actually one of the best ways for force all of those stakeholders to come to the table (and it doesn’t mean that anyone will go out of business – United Airlines didn’t stop flying planes or layoff all of their employees just because it went into Chapter 11 a few years ago and the company is in better position today to survive a tougher economic climate as a result of its restructuring).  A government handout, however, would simply put off the tough changes necessary to make the Big Three to be viable again further into the future.

(Image from Tickerwatch)

The Problem With Last Year’s Bulls, New Illini Basketball Schedule, the Blind Side, United Stock Scare, and Exception to Idiots-Out-Walking-Around – Land-o-Links for 9/10/2008

As both White Sox and Cubs fans watch their respective teams plummet, here are some links to take your mind off of Chicago baseball:

(1) Knowing is Only Half the Battle in Chicago (Wages of Wins Journal) – The always fascinating Wages of Wins Journal takes an in-depth look at why there was such a drop-off in wins for the Bulls from 2006-07 to 2007-08.  Through statistical analysis, the problem was simple to identify – offensive shooting efficiency was way down last year.  Of course, improving upon this is another matter.  As one of the commenters to the post noted and anyone who watched the Bulls regularly last season noticed, the team appeared to have a significant increase in the number of attempted jumpshots as opposed to shots in the paint.  I think this is a result of the Bulls’ previously weak-to-average post presence in P.J. Brown leaving for Boston, which left the team with no post presence whatsoever.  The key to Derrick Rose turning this team around over time is setting up those high percentage shots from the floor for his teammates.  I have been high on Rose since he was a high schooler and think that he’s up to the challenge, but Wages of Wins correctly notes that the immediate impact that he’ll have next season will be up in the air considering that you have to expect lower performance from a rookie (no matter how talented he might be).

(2) 2008-09 Illini Basketball Schedule Announced (Illini Basketball Fans Blog) – The test will be to see how the Illinois can get through the non-conference schedule in November and December without the services of Alex Legion.  For the team’s sake (but not for the sake of fan interest), the non-conference slate is a bit easier than last season.  Interesting games to note include a road game at Vanderbilt in the third game of the year on November 20th, Clemson at the Assembly Hall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on December 2nd, Georgia at the United Center a few days later on December 6th, and the Braggin’ Rights Game against Missouri in St. Louis being moved to the Tuesday right before Christmas on December 23rd.

(3) NFL Salaries: Believe in the Blind Side (New York Times: Freakonomics Blog) – Here’s a look at the average salaries at each position in the NFL, which reinforces what well-informed football fans know already: after the quarterback, the next highest-paid position in football is the left tackle.  As the referenced Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side” noted, this makes logical sense since the left tackle protects the blind side of the right-handed quarterback (if a quarterback is left-handed like me, it’s the right tackle that becomes the key offensive lineman), so it’s essentially an insurance policy to protect the most valuable player on the team.  (By the way, Lewis is one of my favorite writers on business and sports.  His first-hand account of being a bond trader in the 1980s in “Liar’s Poker” is a classic and entertaining read regardless of whether you’re interested in finance.)  Even more interesting is how little most running backs are paid considering how much they handle the ball.  This actually makes a lot of sense to me – while there are a handful of running backs today such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson that are truly unique talents, the success of most RBs is almost entirely dependent on the offensive line.  Hence, teams such as Pittsburgh and Denver that have historically had strong offensive lines have been able to plug in a number of running backs over the years yet continue to get great production.

(4) Google, Tribune Co. At Odds Over Spread of United Story (Chicago Tribune) – Speaking of financial matters, United Airlines stock plunged on Monday when a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel came across the newswires that the company was filing for bankruptcy.  It was later discovered that the report was a copy of the original Chicago Tribune story that was posted on the Sun-Sentinel website from when UAL filed for bankruptcy back in 2002.  Drive and Dish goes through a great analysis of how all news organizations and websites need to take greater care in getting accurate facts.

More disturbing, though, is a follow-up today about a squabble between Google and the Tribune Company (which owns both the Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel), where it appears that the Google News engine put Monday’s date on the old Sun-Sentinel story.  Thus, this shock to the markets appears to have been caused by a news aggregator putting a wrong date on a link.  If you’re an investor like me, the speed with which the market reacted to what turned out to be an old news story is absolutely frightening.  It’s clear that there are journalistic standards that news organizations need to stand by in terms of getting stories accurately reported.  However, what obligation do news aggregators, who are in essence posting links from those news organizations, have in terms of ensuring that the date and time stamps to those links are correct?  The United scenario that played out on Monday has probably just opened up a whole new area of the securities litigation – shareholders that saw their stock dive as a result of wrong date and time stamps might have some ammunition against Google and other news aggregators.  Whether those shareholders could actually prove that Google and other news aggregators have some type of legal duty to the general public with respect to checking these date and time stamps, though, is another matter that can’t be answered at this time.

And finally…

(5) Black Heart Gold Pants – Once you get past the initial shock of discovering the existence of literate Iowa graduates, this college football blog devoted to the Hawkeyes and, by extension, the rest of the Big Ten will vault to the top of your must-read list.  Even the occasional/frequent thrashings of the Illini are entertaining enough that all is forgiven (and the blog’s love of all things J Leman has become legendary on the interweb).

Parlay picks for this weekend are coming over the next couple of days.  Until then, let’s hope that the White Sox can stem the tide of awfulness that is taking them over.

(Image from Arbiter Online)

Land-o-Links – 4/4/2007

As we close out the college basketball season (the Final Four was pretty anticlimatic and Lord help me if Joakim Noah ends up in a Bulls uniform), say hello to Major League Baseball (I’m getting a sickening feeling that this is the year that the arm of Jose Contreras falls off), and head out to Augusta for the Masters (despite the fact that breaking 100 would be a stellar round of golf for me, this is one of my favorite sporting events of the year), here are some links:

(1) Welcome to the Megaprogram Era (ESPN.com) – As I alluded to last week in pointing out that Billy Donovan would be off of his rocker to leave Florida for Kentucky, Pat Forde tackles the subject of top-tier college football schools building up their basketball programs in-depth.  I’ve actually wanted to put together a list of colleges that I thought excelled at supporting the two main revenue sports for awhile, but Forde beat me to it here (along with listing those that aren’t doing a good job in one sport or the other despite a lot of time, effort, and money).  Please note the very familiar Big Ten school located in central Illinois that he calls “the ultimate football underachiever”.

(2) Billy Packer’s Curious Choice of Words (Deadspin) – Shockingly, this interview was with Charlie Rose rather than Jay Mariotti.

(Confession: There’s only one person in the United States under the age of 70 that watches The Charlie Rose Show on a semi-regular basis.  That person is me.)

(3) You Say You Want a Big-Law Revolution (WSJ.com Law Blog) – For those of you that have access to the Wall Street Journal Online, you can check out how some law students put together a “manifesto”, for the lack of a better word, regarding the treatment of attorneys in large law firms.  As one of the big-law associates that this seems to be aimed at protecting, I’d say that this is very cute.

(4) Vermont Becomes ‘Offshore’ Insurance Haven (New York Times) – The home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Birkenstocks, and insurance companies hacking their tax bills with the tact of Tony Montana.

(5) Cubs for Sale, but is Wrigley Field (Chicago Tribune) – As anyone that has worked in the commercial real estate industry knows, new Tribune Company owner Sam Zell is a true genius that makes Donald Trump look like a mom-and-pop landlord.  This brings up the interesting prospect of selling Wrigley Field separately from the Cubs in order to maximize what has become one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the country outside of the coasts.  I see the business logic in this from Zell’s perspective and sale-leaseback transactions are pretty common in the real estate world (i.e. a company sells off its physical headquarters to raise cash and then immediately enters into a long-term lease to occupy that same space), but I don’t see why any prospective buyer of the Cubs would want the club without the ballpark.  For better or for worse, Wrigley Field is what makes the Cubs organziation a cash cow regardless of how the team performs on the field, so I would think that the future owner of the club would want complete control over what is simply considered to be a high-profile piece of real estate in the Tribune deal.

On a related note, my feeling is that the people’s choice of Mark Cuban as owner of the Cubs is far-fetched.  Chicago Heights native, long-time Phoenix Suns owner, and former Arizona Diamondbacks owner and Illini basketball and baseball player Jerry Colangelo seems to be a much more likely choice since he is well-versed in the politics of Major League Baseball, which is a more difficult hurdle to get past than having or raising enough cash.  I also wouldn’t be shocked if an outsider such as the Dolan family (the Cablevision scions that ruined the Knicks) or Daniel Snyder (the marketing wunderkind that ruined the Redskins) enters into the race since they have more than enough money and the Cubs would seem to fit into their broader media portfolios well.  If all else fails, I can see Minneapolis Red Sox start taking up a collection fund to buy the Cubbies up.  I’ll stay away from that one, though.

And finally…

(6) What Will They Do For an Encore? (Siberia, Minnesota) – Speaking of Minneapolis Red Sox, here’s a video that he posted that seems even more poignant in the wake of another Ohio State failure against Florida.  On that note, my college sports predictions will mercifully be put on ice until the fall.

My Beef with the WB

With apologies to my readers that are fans of its shows, but I’m perversely gleeful about the problems and shake-ups at the WB Network.  My beef with the network is pretty simple and hard-headed: when the WB was launched in 1995, its Chicago affiliate WGN had to cut the number of the station’s Cubs and White Sox baseball telecasts in half in order to make room for inane shows by the Wayans brothers.

For most of Western Civilization and the developed world, this wasn’t a problem because they could simply switch the approriate cable television channel to watch those games.  However, at the time of the WB launch, I lived in a mud hut with parents who to this day have never paid a dime in their lives for cable.  If you don’t know me already, you’ll find out soon enough that I am a baseball freak, so after being accustomed to watching baseball on a daily basis for seriously as long as I could remember watching TV, finding an episode of “Sister, Sister” on WGN rather than a meaningless mid-September Sox-Royals game spurred me to initiate a personal boycott.  Even though I now have a DirecTV account that gives me access to hundreds of more baseball games than I could ever possibly watch, I still can’t evaluate any show on the WB objectively because of this deep-seeded bias against anything that appears on the network.

Of course, since the WB has banked its entire existence on attracting an audience of teenage girls (not my biased words – that’s the linked New York Times article’s analysis), it hasn’t been hard for me to avoid its shows.  I’m glad the WB’s executives paid $100,000 for their Ivy League MBAs and blew literally hundreds of millions of dollars in television production costs before figuring out that (surprise!) teenage girls are a pretty fickle audience, meaning that they had a shaky foundation for an over-the-air TV network.  I could have told them that when I was a high school kid who just wanted to watch some baseball in 1995.