UPDATE: Drudge demotes app advertisement

Matt Drudge has lowered the profile of the new Drudge Report app, pulling it from the top headline spot in recent days to put it down near the bottom of the page. It’s unclear whether that decision was planned in advance or whether it is a response to withering criticism the latest version of the app has received in the iTunes and Google play store.

Yesterday, the top spot in the third column advertised the newest version of website's app for iPad and iPhone.

Yesterday, the top spot in the third column advertised the newest version of website’s app for iPad and iPhone.

Today, that headline with a link to the app store had been pushed down to the bottom of the column.

Today, that headline with a link to the app store had been pushed down to the bottom of the column.

I am staying on this story and will publish developments as they become available.

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Drudge Report iPhone app bombs

The Drudge Report's iconic breaking news siren. This week, fans of the site have declared its mobile app a complete failure.

The Drudge Report’s iconic breaking news siren. This week, fans declared the site’s mobile app a complete failure.

The Drudge Report is one of the web’s most popular sites, and a key force in shaping the daily news cycle – a role it has occupied since it broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998. QuantCast ranks www.DrudgeReport.com at #158 for U.S. websites, while online analytics firm Alexa declares it to be the 100th most popular site in the country as measured by a combination of unique visitors and page views – just a few spots below the BBC but ahead of Major League Baseball and real estate listing giant Trulia. By all accounts, the enigmatic Matt Drudge is a smashing success.

So why is the Drudge Report app such an absolute failure, according to its own users?

What happened?
“Everyone here loves Drudge, but until you can fix this app, Ill just be using it in Safari….”

5.0 is better but still bad
“These app developers should be fired… At this point I have to wonder who is actually approving these updates and how did they get this job….”

I’ve been a loyal Drudge reader for years. Indeed, as one of the “10% Addicts” who account for “70% of Visits” (according to QuantCast), I’ve scanned nearly every site headline, nearly every day, for much of my adult life. So while Drudge has his share of detractors for everything from his tabloid instincts to his right of center, libertarian leanings, I’ve got no beef with the man. While he’s not the only news source I go to, he is certainly one of my “go to” sources when I want to know what’s happening in the world on any given day.

The other day, while perusing the App Store on my iPhone 5s, I noticed that a few of my apps needed updating, including the Drudge Report. After I updated, I opened up the app, and…. was totally bummed. Something was not right, and I wondered if maybe my download had a glitch and I needed to restart the app, which I tried to no effect.

Useless
“Matt, you seriously need to boot these developers and keep giving your audience what you have for years – an easy to read glance at pertinent headlines. A .5 font size in three columns is going to lose you the audience you’ve worked so hard to gain.”

I really don’t understand…
“Now it’s all hopelessly tiny script you have to pinch to zoom in on. Seriously?!?”

Basically, everything is tiny. Like really, really tiny. So small you might as well be reading the lowest line in the eye chart machine that you think you can see but you’re really not sure about every other character (is that an E or a 3?). In fact, there’s no discernible difference between opening up the app to get the headlines and opening up the website itself in Safari on iPhone (which, in and of itself, does not seem to be mobile-optimized, which is another, completely baffling story to me).

I took a look at the ratings and reviews for the app in iTunes. Turns out everybody was scratching their heads just like I was, and sounding off with their feedback on the new version 5.0.1. With 567 ratings as of this writing, the app had only 1 star out of 5 – the worst possible rating for an app.

Thanks for Web Page in an App
“This app is now useless. It looks just like the web page, except the web version is better because you can at least share links and use the reader function….”

Return– still horrible
“I’ll be using my brewer instead I guess. I don’t understand how Matt Drudge can be letting this nonsense occur.”

Two constant themes ran through the criticism: that developers seemed to be responding in a petulant, childish manner to earlier criticisms of the most recent previous version (it had a few bells and whistles that didn’t quite work out that well for some users, and in the new version they have been stripped away to present a highly minimalist package for the app); and that the three-column website layout has not been adapted for the small screen, leaving the font so tiny as to be illegible. The only high rating I saw (other than one who gave five stars simply to stand out and to “give hope” to Matt, before trashing the actual app) was somebody reviewing the app as used on an iPad.

DrudgeReport.com as viewed on an iPhone 5s on October 14, 2014.

DrudgeReport.com as viewed on an iPhone 5s on October 14, 2014.

The app developer, Siren Tech, LLC has no other apps published in the iTunes store, and only one app (this one) in the Google play store, where every review since the new version was unveiled also earns the lowest possible rating of one star. Version 5.0.1 was released on October 9, only a week after Version 4.0 was launched. The latest iteration is touted as “The pure Drudge Report experience,” in reference to its streamlined approach that is light on features. Overall, the app earns three stars in the iTunes store, factoring in ratings for earlier versions.

Information about Siren Tech is hard to come by. The “developer website” link in iTunes takes you straight to the Drudge Report, and no home page comes up in a Google search. However, information about the company does appear on the Nevada Secretary of State‘s website, which records Siren Tech LLC as a domestic limited liability entity registered in that state as of May of 2011. Its registered agent is the Laughlin Associates out of Reno, a company that assists and represents business owners forming a business entity.

The Drudge Report, as viewed in the mobile app on an iPhone 5s, on October 14, 2014.

The Drudge Report, as viewed in the mobile app on an iPhone 5s, on October 14, 2014.

A managing member is also listed, however: Richard Moon of Valencia, California. His address listed with the Secretary of State’s office is also the address of a California firm, TC Financial, which provides services ranging from investment planning, tax preparation and estate conversion. Nothing on app development, per se. 

If you’re a regular to Drudge, you recognize the siren atop the page that signals a major, breaking news story. That, and the fact that there is no other trace of Siren Tech LLC doing any other development work, leads me to wonder if Matt Drudge built his own app, or at a minimum, if a non-professional developer (i.e. a friend, etc) built the app for him.

Mobile app users account for a small but portion of Drudge Report traffic according to the folks at Alexa (about 5% in a recent week, for example), but most likely represent a base of “power users” for the site, and in theory should be on the rise as apps continue to become more prevalent generally. However, the recent rollout of this app and the utter fiasco that it has become makes one thing clear: Matt Drudge needs a new app, and a new developer, before this mobile mishap causes too many readers to turn the page on a site that helped usher in the new media age as we know it.

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Gordon’s pregame leads team to postseason

Various political topics occurred to me as I considered what to write about today, but in the end I’ve got to go with something entirely apolitical: Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon‘s pre-game workout routine. My wife and I have been watching the Major League Baseball playoffs the past ten days or so with rapt attention, because our beloved Royals have been tearing it up, winning six straight and up 2 games to none against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 8.11.20 PM

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, whose “pregame routine is the stuff of legend,” writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. (Photo: Royals.KansasCity.MLB.com)

Gordon is a cornerstone of the team, having been a Royal since he entered the big leagues and having made two trips to the All-Star game to represent the club. He’s also a three-time Gold Glove winner.

What I didn’t know about Alex Gordon until now was just how dedicated he is to developing and maintaining on his level of on-field performance. That shows up in his daily pre-game workouts, which stretch for hours and include strength training, extensive stretching, sprints, fielding drills, batting practice and more, according to reporter Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. He manages his time efficiently and moves from one task to the next with a serious sense of purpose.

Gordon has gained a couple disciples among fellow players on the team, who now emulate the routine, and the Royals have put together a condensed video of the workout to send around as an example to the players in their farm system.

There’s a reason the country is rooting for the Kansas City Royals right now, and it’s got a lot do with the fact that it’s guys like Gordon, working as hard as he does, that brought them to where they are now – just two games away from the World Series.

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Why I won’t be getting my ten bucks from RedBull

I definitely downed a few RedBulls between 2002-2014, but I won’t be asking for ten bucks from the company, which announced last week that it was settling a lawsuit for $13 million by giving away free cash and energy drinks to anybody who had bought a RedBull during that time.

The class action lawsuit alleged that RedBull didn’t really give you wings, as its commercials advertised. More specifically, the suit asserted that contrary to the company’s marketing claims, drinking a RedBull didn’t do anything more for somebody than drinking a cup of coffee.

Speaking of coffee – is this the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit of our generation?

Actually, I would say it’s worse, because a woman was actually seriously injured when she spilled a scalding cup of joe between her legs. Some guy out there (i.e. Benjamin Careathers, the main plaintiff) habitually downs caffeinated beverages and wonders why he’s not getting that sudden “jolt” of performance he was hoping for? All of a sudden he’s an injured party and needs to be made whole?

The settlement included an additional $4.75 million to cover attorney’s fees according to Law360, making the total payout nearly $18 million for Austria-based RedBull. Clearly, the company thought it had something to lose by going to court – although as a general matter I wish companies would not settle so easily and instead make the opposition beat them in court. Energy drinks have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, so maybe it’s not a shock that something like this is happening now.

And maybe Careathers is right that RedBull’s advertising is misleading; that it oversold the benefits of its product. The problem with the lawsuit is – doesn’t every ad campaign do that?

I won’t be claiming my ten bucks from RedBull on the site they’ve set up to distribute the funds. Mostly because I don’t believe in the lawsuit, but secondarily, because they’re may not be much money left after the bonanza that was this story hit the net last week. Traffic to the settlement web page was so heavy that the site crashed, and the money will be divided by the number of people actually requesting the free money or product, meaning the payout could end up being just a few bucks per person when all is said and done. The $13 million figure does not even factor in the cost of administering the class action settlement, which is handled by a company which specializes in that sort of thing.

Who knows, with all the publicity RedBull is getting, and the public’s general interpretation of this suit (‘of course RedBull doesn’t give you wings!) this may be one of the most effective ad campaigns, dollar for dollar, the company has ever managed.

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Filed under Just For Fun, Legal Matters

Chicago boasts cheapest Uber fares

ChicagoInno has compared UberX rates across the country and reports that Chicago is the most affordable city in the nation to use the ride-providing service. For a ten mile, twenty minute trip, a passenger in Chicago pays $14.70, versus the national average of $22.74. That’s an $8.04 difference, or 35%. Makes me feel even better about taking Uber in Chicago!

Just for kicks, I also calculated what it would cost to take that same ride in one of our city’s fine taxi cabs. The answer? Nearly double the price of Uber, or $27.85. Here’s how the math breaks down:

UberX and Taxi rates in Chicago, as published by Uber.com and City of Chicago Chicago Business Affairs & Consumer Protection Department.

UberX and Taxi rates in Chicago, as published by Uber.com and City of Chicago Chicago Business Affairs & Consumer Protection Department. 

Unfortunately, in my hometown of Kansas City, the same ride will cost you $29.75, making it the seventh most costly locale to take that trip (not sure what it would cost to take the same ride in a cab there). KC is one of Uber’s newer markets, I believe, so that’ll change no doubt as more drivers come on the scene and even out the supply-demand situation there.

The Chicago Tribune picked up the story, and interviewed a local cab industry representative for a response. In hilarious and telling fashion, Peter Ali Enger actually says the low local taxi rates are the reason for Uber’s low fares… but that his cab council has been trying to raise those rates for seven years. 

So while Uber brags about delivering the cheapest possible rates, the cab industry complains that it can’t raise the price you pay even higher. That tells you just about all you need to know as far as why Uber has been killing it the last couple years against the taxi cab companies.

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Why did Levenson release the email?

The Atlanta Hawks released a statement today announcing that owner Bruce Levenson was stepping away from the NBA team, two years after he sent an email that touched on matters of race in a discussion of game day operations and fan attendance.

Levenson stated that his informal strategy memo to Hawks president Danny Ferry “was inappropriate and offensive,” and apologized to the team family and fans. He characterized his decision to sell his majority stake in the NBA franchise as being in the best interest of the team, the city and the league. His statement along with the complete text of the email were both published on the Atlanta Hawks website today.

In the email, Levenson shared thoughts and posed questions about boosting season ticket sales. Having been told that white males age 35-55 are the primary season ticket subscribers around the league, he speculates that a largely black attendance base and cheerleading squad, coupled with the hip hop and gospel music played at the games, was limiting the team’s appeal with this demographic.

Levenson himself had provided the email to the NBA and an investigation commenced, which is still ongoing. It seems an odd supposition that his furnishing of this document would have been unprompted, so the real question is: why did he do it?

That’s what the real reporting will attempt to answer in the next several days. Did any of the minority-share owners having anything to do with the document’s disclosure, and was Levenson pressured to release it, perhaps to preempt its release by another, hostile party?

At least four people knew of the email at the time of its writing: Bruce Levenson himself; its recipient Danny Ferry; and Todd Foreman and Ed Peskowitz, both of whom were Ccd on the email. It’s also possible of course that IT personnel or anyone with access to the computers or email systems of those four individuals could have seen the message as well. And, naturally, any of them could’ve forwarded the message to anybody.

It’s interesting that Levenson sent the message close to midnight on a Saturday night, from his iPad (as recorded by the time stamp in the email at the top, and the signature block at the bottom). Is it possible he was just tired enough or just uninhibited enough to say things in writing that he might otherwise normally not have?

The other whole angle here is of course the nature of public discussion of race, the intricate (but well defined) protocols that dialogue has developed and the strangely formulaic shape the process has assumed. Part and parcel of that part of the story is how the media has covered this issue, and how they have characterized Levenson’s statements. But that is for another day and another post.

 

 

 

 

 

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Violence on Lake Shore Drive mars July 4th celebrations

On Independence Day, scores of youth descended en masse on Chicago’s lakefront in a scene that erupted in a mob-style beating on the lakefront trail and another group attack that spilled into the southbound outer lanes of Lake Shore Drive.

The holiday weekend and inviting weather kept the lakefront busy throughout much of the city yesterday. More than 125,000 visitors were expected at Navy Pier, where officials closed the gates two and a half hours before the 9:30 p.m. show because crowds had already reached full capacity. Just north of Navy Pier, bicyclists and joggers were joined by a steadily growing number of people strolling the lakefront or staking out spots along its raised steps to take in the show.

By around 7:00 p.m., large numbers of young teens were appearing on the lakefront, some in small groups and others in throngs of perhaps a hundred or more. As a whole the group was somewhat amorphous, sometimes coming together in a nearly singular critical mass, other times scattering and remaining in smaller, separate units before reuniting again.

In multiple instances, members of the group surrounded bystanders seated on lakefront’s concrete steps waiting for the fireworks to begin. It was unclear whether the assailants wanted only to intimidate the victims – or to rob them, flash-mob style. Groups of a dozen or more suddenly sat down on both sides of victims, while standing in front of them and also walking up behind them. Within moments, an individual, couple or family would be surrounded by a large, unknown, menacing group of teens. Some got up and walked away, clearly shaken, and others bravely held their ground.

People walking, jogging or biking did not seem to face harassment, other than the obstruction of walking and biking lanes by certain members of the group who swaggered arms-length apart down the lakefront, taking up an outsized portion of the walkway.

Around 7:20 or 7:25, the first fight broke out, several hundred yards north of Navy Pier in front of 850 N. Lake Shore Drive. It happened quickly: there was a commotion near the sidewalk (on the raised, western edge of the lakefront) which quickly moved to the middle of the lakefront. A mob chased a young man into the middle of the lakefront, where he fell to the ground and they continued to kick him until several uniformed police officers on bicycle arrived.

Chicago Police officers interrupted an assault on the lakefront yesterday evening after 7 p.m.

Chicago Police officers interrupted an assault on the lakefront yesterday evening after 7 p.m.

At  7:38, another major assault erupted. Dozens of teens streamed across Lake Shore Drive itself and beat another victim until officers quickly approached and the crowd fled the scene. Others approached a stopped motorist at the intersection of Chestnut & Lake Shore Drive and appeared to harass or threaten the driver. Vehicles on the major north-south freeway braked and stopped to avoid the stream of people rushing across the lanes, or were alternatively stopped by police officers who followed them.

Updates with more information and analysis to follow…

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Filed under Crime, Race