Davos gossip

  • What do you need to do to get banned from the World Economic Forum? Massacre protestors in the street, just 974 miles from Davos? That’ll do it. But so, it seems, will phone hacking: Rupert Murdoch, along with all other News Corp executives, is persona non grata this year. While the Forum does provide credentials to journalists from the WSJ and Dow Jones, no News Corp executives are here. It’s far from clear when or whether they might be invited back.
  • In terms of technology use, “I treat a trip to Davos like a trip to China”, says one veteran delegate, adding that every time he returns from Davos, he finds that his computer has been hacked. This is probably no surprise. Everybody uses the same unencrypted wifi system, the delegates constantly type email passwords into open computers, flash drives are everywhere, and the Forum even explicitly discourages media organizations from setting up their own internet connections, on the grounds that they “interfere” with the WEF’s own IT. Given the power and influence of the people who attend, it would be surprising if everybody from the NSA to China weren’t engaging in massive cyber-spycraft this week.

Found Davos poetry

The Reshaping of the World

Consequences for Society,
Politics and Business
Profound
political, economic, social and,
above all,
technological forces are transforming
our lives, communities and institutions. Rapidly
crossing geographic,
gender and generational boundaries,
they are shifting power
from traditional hierarchies to networked heterarchies. Yet
the international community remains
focused on crisis
rather than strategically driven in the face of the trends,
drivers and opportunities
pushing global,
regional and industry
transformation.

“The Reshaping of the World:
Consequences for Society,
Politics and Business” is therefore
the thematic focus of the World
Economic Forum Annual
Meeting 2014. Our aim
is to develop the insights,
initiatives and actions necessary to
respond to current
and emerging challenges.

How gifts are like tattoos

It’s a whether vs what thing, basically. Or, to put it another way, it’s a real-world application of Buridan’s ass.

In the case of gifts, there are certain occasions (birthdays, weddings, Christmas) which are associated with strong societal pressure to give something. What you give is, in general, much less important than that you give. So it’s actually societally OK to give a crappy present: “it’s the thought that counts”.

Tattoos are more interesting. I’ve wanted a tattoo for quite a long time, but I’ve always been paralyzed by indecision about what tattoo to get. It’s so permanent, I set the bar extremely high — and end up with nothing, when I’m pretty sure I’d prefer something to nothing. Call it FOFR — fear of future regret — almost the opposite of FOMO.

When I see happily tattooed people, it’s obvious that they’ve made a simple determination — that a tattoo (or a lot of tattoos) is better than no tattoo, and that therefore they should simply go ahead and ink up. That doesn’t mean it makes sense to get an ice-cream cone tattooed on your face. But let’s remain within the realm of general common sense here, and I’m quite happy that the world’s skin is getting more colorful and interesting.

Just as I’m happy that people keep on giving each other gifts at this time of year. The deadweight loss involved notwithstanding.

Each of these activities (listening to high end audio gear, drinking high end wine, having needles inserted into your chakras) is really about ritualizing a sensory experience. By putting on headphones you know are high quality, or drinking expensive wine, or entering the chiropractor’s office, you are telling yourself, “I am going to focus on this moment. I am going to savor this.” It’s the act of savoring, rather than the savoring tool, that results in both happiness and a longer life.

“Joanna Coles, who runs Cosmo, is a dynamo. She is the future of fashion,” he enthused, unprompted. “She’s got a pizzazz about her and an edge that is exactly what you need in that business. I’m a big fan.”

Bloomberg is less of a fan of youthful, experimental fashion — the city’s efforts to aid emerging designers notwithstanding. “You have all these new fashion people that you and I have never heard of, doing things that I don’t like. I don’t think they are real fashion,” he scoffed, proffering his preference for Establishment labels like Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Ralph Lauren. “But that’s what our parents said about our stuff and what these people will say about the next generation,” he allowed philosophically.

Michael Wolff can’t do arithmetic

Michael Wolff has a weird column about Business Insider today. (Near the top, he says that Henry Blodget can be seen “at nearly every industry cocktail party”, which is hilariously wrong, Blodget hates going to such things, and almost never does.)

Wolff also back-of-the-envelopes some ad-revenue math:

Blodget recently told the Financial Times that Business Insider’s revenue will be “close to” $20 million this year…

Let’s assume that “close to” $20 million is more like $17 million and that a few million of that comes from conferences, its low-margin, hard-work new area of business that Business Insider has been recently bragging about. So figure perhaps $14 million from its core advertising base.

BI's 10 million uniques likely yield something near 40 million page views a month, which would be a $3 CPM (cost per thousand views), hardly setting even the abysmally low online CPM world on fire. In fact, comScore tends to undercount by almost half, so it could be more like 20 million uniques with 80 million page views and a CPM across the site of $1.50.

Let’s grant Wolff’s assumptions, silly as they may be. And let’s put to one side that he uses the term CPM (the cost to an advertiser of 1,000 pageviews) when he means RPM (the revenue to a publisher of 1,000 pageviews). The difference, of course, is that you can get more than one ad per page.

In any case, if you have 40 million pageviews per month, that’s 480 million pageviews per year. Now, let’s say you have advertising revenue of $14 million per year. Then you’re getting revenue of $14 million per 480 million pageviews. Divide both numbers by 480,000: that’s the same as $29 per thousand pageviews. Not $3. Wolff’s off by an order of magnitude.

Similarly, if Business Insider is getting $14 million from 80 million pageviews a month, that works out at an RPM of about $15, not $1.50.

Now I have no idea what Business Insider’s revenue or pageview numbers are. But I do know bad arithmetic when I see it. And Wolff’s arithmetic reminds me of nothing so much as Mary Meeker’s, back in 2007. Except in Wolff’s case, of course, it’s unreasonably bearish, rather than unreasonably bullish.