Steve Jobs Buys Ailing New York Times!

Steve Jobs holding a copy of newly-acquired New York Times

Steve Jobs holding a copy of newly-acquired New York Times

OK, not really. But imagine if you woke up this morning, glanced at the headlines and saw that this HAD happened? If Steve Jobs HAD purchased the New York Times. Now imagine what kind of changes we’d expect to see at the New York Times (or insert any large, ailing newspaper). One thing is for sure, we would cease to see business as usual.

The New York Times would change. And not only would the paper itself change, the industry in general would change with it.

I got to thinking about this after I published my entry The End of Print, As We Know It as well as after publishing Mobile Phones FINALLY Get Smart — Kinda. Think about the backwards, plodding, change-averse U.S. mobile industry before the iPhone was released 1 1/2 years ago. Mobile technology had made shockingly little progress when compared to the pace of technological innovation in most other industries and certainly when compared to the mobile industries in Europe and Asia. The iPod was a jolt to the system of the plodding mobile industry, much as the iPod had been to the portable digital music industry in 2001.

The newspaper industry is every bit as slow, plodding and change-averse as the U.S. mobile industry was. Maybe more so. Faced with substantial changes or death, it would seem that the industry has chosen the latter, as the steep dive in U.S. circulations may only be rivaled by the steep declines in newspaper profits.

What if Steve Jobs bought the New York Times?

I suppose one of the first things to change would be the web site. Don’t get me wrong, the New York Times web site is far from poorly-designed. I personally love the use of technology and white space. But as a fan of the printed version of the newspaper, I can’t help feel that one of the best aspects of the New York Times web site is the fact that it does a very good job of mimicing the look and feel of its printed counterpart. This may be its biggest downfall.

The New York Times newspaper works very well in the medium for which it was designed. Print. To handcuff the web site and tether it so closely to the printed newspaper is to ignore the realities of the medium for which IT is intended The dgital space.

For instance, why can’t I rearrange elements on the NYT home page like I can with my iGoogle? If I want MY version of the Times to lead with sports, politics and weather I should have that choice. That type of customization on web sites is very common now and users will not tolerate information being served to them in cookie-cutter fashion.

Todays front page

Today's front page

Another thing would I guess be conversational features. Why is it that I cannot comment on Times articles? Some newspaper web sites are starting to allow this type of user feedback but that type of progress is generally slow going.

Mobile Integration

I would have to imagine another change would be to improve the mobile integration of the site. I have the iPhone app and while I admire the Times’ ambition in being the first major newspaper to have one, the app has always suffered from being a bit slow and buggy. It crashes far more than its AP counterpart. Still, I think the iPhone app is a good start but I’d like to see more, far more. Mobile social features would be nice. For instance, it would be great to read an article on the iPhone app and Digg it right from my phone. How about ratings? How great would it be to be able to rate an article from my phone? Better yet, how about combine the two? Perhaps I could customize my home page to auto-populate a section of articles that are highly-rated by users who preferences match my own? Who have highly-rated similar articles that I have highly-rated?

NYTimes iPhone App

NYTimes iPhone App

Other Features

In my “End of Print” entry, I asked why it was that newspapers like the New York Times hadn’t innovated technologies like Craig’s List and eBay?  For that matter, why not Rotten Tomatoes, the online movie ratings aggregator? Or perhaps a location-based mobile application that lets you know where the most highly-rated restaurants on the New York Times list are, while you’re out on the town?

And by the way, it’s not like I’m picking on the New York Times. It’s my favorite paper. One could substitute its name for any major newspaper and I’m pretty sure my observations would still apply.

Maybe to have one of them bought by Steve Jobs is what they ALL need? Might be the only thing that could save the ailing newspaper industry, or maybe it’s too much even for him?


Bruce Nussbaum on Design

Bruce Nussbaum’s recent blog post, attacks “Innovation” and welcomes “Transformation.” I think the key phrase in there is how the future of Design “relies on humanizing technology, not imposing technology on humans.”

A Primer of Design-as-Art Movements

Contemporary auctions for design objects have been fetching prices that rival great artworks. These pieces are typically sitting on the same auction block. Where can one draw the line between a utilitarian design object and an artistic expression? Probably in the production quantity. Limited edition pieces by sought-after designers have the singularity of fine art, although the purpose of limited edition design objects can typically be attributed to bumping up a price tag.

There’s a good synopsis of five design-as-art movements at ARTINFO. They touch upon The Wiener Werkstätte, The Bauhaus, American Studio, Memphis, and Functional Art.

Some representative pieces:

Josef Hoffman, of the The Wiener Werkstätte

Josef Hoffmann

Marianne Brandt, of the Bauhaus

Marianne Brandt

George Nakashima, of the American Studio

George Nakashima

Ettore Sottsass, of Memphis (an Italian movement)

Ettore Sottsass

Tom Dixon, of Functional Art

Tom Dixon

bye bye 2008 … hello 2009!

I would like to wish you a magnificent and wonderful 2009 and I want to THANK YOU enormously for all your continues support, comments and emails … there were so many designs, artwork and crafts that I wish I could have shown you also in 2008, but there is just not enough space and time when working by yourself … but before we leave 2008 I really would like to share this with you …


Onkruid‘ … beautiful textile products inspired by weed, the tablecloth comes in 4 versions, made and designed in the Netherlands by Mara Skujeniece … see more amazing work by Mara right here


… and the beautiful 100% bamboo Magazine rack and chair by Lara de Greef and her Olympic Goldcups. Here you can read more about the very talented Dutch designer Lara de Greef.


… and how about this fantastic book … Vive la Fête … a DIY styling book for all occasions …  not your usual Christmas tree will be shown here! It is time for celebration with very different styling, playful homemade garlands and a mega-ultra-special personal vase for an extremely unique birthday … Vive la Fête … is brought to you by the fantastic Dutch stylingduo FriedaMaria and the beautiful photography is by Tjitske van LeeuwenUitgeverij Snor (mustache) published the book and you can order the book right here … at BijzonderMooi


When you visit the amazing website from FriedaMaria you will be bombarded by beautiful images, styling ideas and a lot of inspiration … it was a feast for me this morning to see all the ideas and totally understand why many international magazines and companies like to work with these brilliant ladies … Ontwerpstudio FriedaMaria

:: HAPPY NEW YEAR :: here’s to a splendid 2009 :: and may this New Year bring you all you are wishing for …

I will be back on Monday January 5 2009 ……………………………

“14 websites that will change the way you live” – Real Living Magazine

Sometimes things just have a way of turning out somewhat differently than expected (or planned…)… I was planning
on leaving you with some great posts just before Christmas and wishing
all of you a wonderful time, but due to family matters (nothing serious, but just very hectic…) I couldn’t finish in time … SORRY … but I hope you all had a
great Christmas and enjoyed the time with your loved-ones … we
had a very special week which we spent with our family and I enjoyed every moment of it …


After one week of not starting up my computer it was almost exciting this morning to open up my inbox and the internet again … yes this is how addictive it can feel and it was even more exciting when I read about the very nice mentioning of Bloesem in the Australian magazine Real Living … WOW, such a HUGE honor to be mentioned like this and together with these other blogs like Poppytalk, Desire to Inspire, Decor8, Design*Sponge, Apartment therapy, I borrowed these scanned images from Jo and Kim from the fabulous blog Desire to Inspire, thanks ladies!


And a special thanks to Hana from Real Living … I can’t tell you enough how grateful I’m for this mentioning and how very nice this is for Bloesem and for me … a great motivation to try and bring you original and nice posts in 2009! {ps. if anybody can help me with getting a hardcopy of Real Living, please let me know, I would be very happy}

Clever storage for Christmas decoration lights.

During the days before Christmas we have rolled out a number of meters of decorative lights. It took us a while. And it would probably have been a lot easier had we rolled the light cables on rollers like these at the end of the last season. Surprisingly we have not seen any products like these in Swedish shops, but there’s always e-trade… The rollers are USD 14:95 for four. The bag is unfortunately not included. If you want one it’s another USD 7:95 each.brbr

Snuggie vs. Slanket: The Ultimate Consumer Products Death Match

Round one of this gift giving season are two marvelous 19.95 products as seen on television: the Snuggie, a monk-red blanket with sleeves (also sold in wizard-blue), and the unfortunately named challenger, the Slanket.

Gladiator, ready? Challenger, ready? *whistle

Who do you think will win?



UPDATE: So as it turns out, the Snuggie is actually a rip-off of the Slanket. The Slanket was created by Gary Clegg in 1998 when he was a freshman in college. VIA

Mobile Phones FINALLY Get Smart — Kinda

Apples iPhone has inspired a flood of next generation smartphones

Apple's iPhone has inspired a flood of next generation smartphones

It’s almost, as Yogi Bera would say, “deja vu all over again”. 7 years ago, after Apple first introduced the iPod, there was a rush of “iPod-killers” that flooded the market in order to compete. However, few of these devices ever caught-on long enough to realize any real commercial success and mount a serious challenge to the dominance of the iPod.

This time around, with the mobile market, Apple is something of a late entrant with its iPhone. In 2001, MP3 technology was still relatively new and no MP3 manufacturer had yet created a device — or desktop music management software — capable of establishing it in a dominent position. Not so with the mobile phone market. Last summer, when Apple first introduced the iPhone, it immediately faced stiff competition against entrenched and established manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Nokia.

That said, since the iPhone was released in July 2007, it has enjoyed a remarkable climb in market share, skyrocketing from 4% at the time of its debut to 23% to date. It therefore comes as no surprise that, once again, the popularity of Apple’s device has spawned numerous immitators from RIM/Blackberry’s Storm to LG’s Voyager.

While I don’t see an iPhone-killer in any of them, despite being a faithful iPhone user, I’m rooting for the imitators to do a better job of giving Apple a run for its money than the so-called iPod-killers did. Why? For the simple reason that a good, healthy competition will only end up quickening the pace of innovation and lowering the prices of the resulting products. Both not only good for consumers but also good for the future of mobile computing, which is the next, fastest-growing frontier in the digital space.

Graph courtesy of ChangeWave

Graph courtesy of ChangeWave

Of course, given the sad history of the manufacturers chasing Apple, I’m afraid I don’t have reason to be optimistic. And I’m ALWAYS optimistic! It’s tough for me to realistically expect a rapid pace of innovation to come from the same companies that, prior to the introduction of the iPhone, developed some of the most useless, unimaginative and uninteresting devices on the planet. That last bit is not hyperbole either. For years the United States mobile market has lagged significantly, and embarassingly, behind its European and Asian counterparts. I find it interesting that now that a popular competitor has entered the space, each of them has found a way to incorporate features that had been unheard of before, such as touchscreens and real web browsers.

And why are they content with merely immitating the iPhone rather than developing something truly unique, user-friendly and useful? If they are all content with merely copying and coming in second to the iPhone, it’s unlikely they’ll all of the sudden start truly innovating.

The digital future is at stake

Why is all this important? Why do I care if the others in the mobile market give Apple a run for its money, rather than watch it route the industry as it did with the iPod? Because this time the future of the Internet is at stake. A recent Pew Internet survey found that “the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020″.  Also earlier this month, Opera Software announced in its latest State of the Mobile Web report that overall data traffic has increased 463% since last year.

Not entirely surprising. We now have mobile devices that are capable of doing things other than simply placing phone calls. The result is that we’re doing things with our mobile devices that we used to only be able to do with our desktop computers.

For those of us in the design field, we’re seeing clients begin to catch up very quickly as they ask for more ambitious mobile solutions to their business needs. This was hardly the case when useless WAP browsers run from archiac mobile operating systems ruled the market. Indeed one of the things that will make the iPhone so difficult to catch is the advantage it has, having developed a large ecosystem of innovators who write applications for the iPhone that extend its functionality far beyond Apple’s original functionality. Companies are beginning to see the advantages of empowering their customer/client bases and allowing them to connect with their brands wherever they are.

To be sure, Apple has never truly needed outside competitors to spark it’s internal culture of innovation. But it sure would be nice if others found religion and started really developing great products for once.



350 – Accidental Maps: Cartocacoethes or Blatant Pareidolia?

I learned a new word today, but the condition it describes has been with me for quite some time: cartocacoethes – the compulsion to see maps everywhere. More on that here on the excellent blog Making Maps. Turns out that the famous Çatalhöyük map, dating from around 6200 BC and often called “the oldest map in the world”, might not be a map after all (and thus a prime example of the aforementioned condition).

Be that as it may, the existence of that condition does not negate the fact that some non–cartographic visual stimuli really do look a lot like the familiar shapes of countries or continents we know from our atlases. Or, to quote Kurt Cobain on a related phenomenon: “Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.”

In its most general definition, this experience of seeing patterns in random data is called apophenia  a term that also covers the phenomenon of ‘false positives’ in statistics, for example.

A more specific type of apophenia, appliccable here, would be pareidolia: perceiving significance in stimuli that have none. This perceived significance is usually more revealing of the perceiver than of the stimuli,which is why this principle is used in Rorschach (i.e. inkblot) testing. It also might explain why it’s often the devout that see images of Jesus on a piece of toast.

But, as mentioned before, sometimes the stimulus is just too convincing, the pareidolia too blatant. This blog already covered a few examples of cartographic pareidolia (Britain in a cloud, #154, and Jamerica, #268). Here are a few more examples that have trickled into the Strange Maps mailbox over the last few months, and a few others found adrift on the internet. If you have a nice picture of a cloud that looks like Denmark, an Alaska-shaped inkblot on your school book, or any other form of accidental cartography, please send it in and I will add it to this post!

  • Another Britain-Shaped Cloud


Cornwall has hypertrophied and the southeast looks rather vague, but Scotland is quite solid and just about right, while even the Shetlands put in an appearance. Found here on the website of the truly awesome Cloud Appreciation Society.

  • The United States of Naan


“While enjoying a meal at a local Indian restaurant a few nights ago, I began to tear my naan bread then looked down stunned to find a very proportionally accurate map of the US,” writes Simon Wood of Wellington (NZ). “What was even more remarkable was the tear seemed to correspond really well with the Mississippi River. I realise people might call shenanigans on this, but it was entirley coincidental. I was happily nibbling away with no idea I was creating some my very own atlas out of garlicy bread.”

“The straight Canadian border along the top was where the Naan was cut in two by the chef, and you can still see the original half-circle shape along the West Coast. Granted, Florida has been pushed up a little and the distinctive features of New England and the Midwest are all but missing, but all of my dining companions knew straight away what they were looking at.”

  • Mexican Paint Job


This Mexican paint job gets two things right which typify the geographic shape of Mexico: the Baja California peninsula on the Pacific coast¨, and the bending shape of its southern part as it narrows to become the Central American isthmus, further down (map here).

  • Africa In A Milanesa


“I was cooking this typical Argentinian food called milanesa, when I found the map of Africa in my saucepan,” writes Manuel Barcia from Argentina. “This typical dish is made out of a cut  meat from the back of the cow, called nalga, covered with a mix of mashed bread and eggs and then fried. I always say that each piece of meat looks like an undiscovered island or some unknown place, but this looked just like Africa.” 

  • The Puddle of the United States


“Being a cartographer and all I could not help, but notice the puddle of the United States forming in my carport this past Thanksgiving weekend and thought it would make a great addition to the collection,” writes Chris Jackson of Atlanta (GA).

  • A Meat Map of Argentina


This simulacrum is quite apt, since Argentina is a huge exporter of beef (photo found here).

  • China Set in Stone


“A rare natural stone with detailing that looks like a map of China on it was recently found in Jiaozuo City, central China’s Henan Province,” relates this story on the website for the English service of China Radio International (link found at Making Maps, cf. sup.)

“Local newspaper the Orient Today reported that the football-sized black stone has on its surface a vivid yellow-coloured China geographical map. Places like Taiwan Island, Hainan Island, north-east provinces and Bohai Bay can all be clearly seen on the surface.”

“Zhang Jian, the owner of the stone, who got it at a public market, highly appreciates the natural beauty of the rare find.”

  • Australia As A Puddle


Quite accurate, and quite ironic, since Australia has been particularly badly drought-stricken of recent (map here on a fauxtography and other myths-debunking message board at, the urban legends website; for the record, the majority opinion of the posters seems to be that the picture is real).


The End of Print, As We Know It.

In the year 2009, is this what newspapers SHOULD look like?

In the year 2009, is this what newspapers SHOULD look like?

Newspapers are dying. Magazines are very, very sick and have a very bad prognosis. How bad is it? Mike Elgan of the site Datamation sums up the grim situation in his recent article Media Companies Have Only Themselves to Blame:

The Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy Monday. The company publishes the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers. The New York Times Co. intends to pawn its shiny new Manhattan building to borrow a quarter of a billion dollars just to stop the bleeding. Other major dailies are either for sale, or rumored to be so, including the Rocky Mountain News, the Miami Herald and others. The Cox newspaper group is closing its Washington bureau. Most newspapers have announced layoffs, or will do so soon.

Magazines are faring a little better than newspapers. But the industry is all doom-and-gloom, and everyone is predicting a bloodbath in 2009. Newsweek has reportedly lost between half a million to a million subscribers from its 2.6 million rate base and has announced layoffs. TIME layoffs may total 600. National Geographic, The Economist Group and Doubledown Media are all laying off staffers.

Even books are suffering. Simon & Schuster has laid off 35 people. Random House, Inc. killed its Bantam and Doubleday divisions. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that it would not take on any new authors.

How bad is it? Bad. Newspapers and magazines are getting hit especially hard during the economic downturn. But why? How did we get here? I remember the parade of “The End of Print” articles that were written two booms and 10 years ago. Didn’t newspapers and magazines have ample time — and money — to get their collective acts together? Or did the digital revolution, which we ALL knew was coming, sneak up only on them?

After all, there is not declining interest in the NEWS. There is no declining interest in the content that newspapers and magazines specialize in. So as their titanic struggles mount, I find myself asking myself a myriad of questions like:

  1. Why didn’t a People Magazine create a blog like the supremely popular and influential Perez Hilton’s blog? Instead of innovating for a new medium, they’ve essentially repurposed their print mag for the web.
  2. Why didn’t any major newspaper buy — or start for that matter — eBay or Craig’s List? Instead of losing millions as classified ads flocked to the web, they would have created new revenue streams.
  3. Why are there so many magazines that are not even online yet? Two of the biggest graphic design magazines, PRINT and HOW, have sites that only allow you to sign up for the printed versions!

In a recent article by Seth Godin, Watching the Times struggle (and what you can learn), Seth makes a lot of great points but none more relevant, especially following an election cycle that piqued worldwide interest, than the point he made about the huge missed opportunity newspapers made in not leveraging their existing Op-Ed voices:

2. Leverage the op-ed page and spread important ideas:
Sure, Tom Friedman and a handful of other columnists have a large reach and influence. But why doesn’t the Times have 50 columnists? 500? Tom Peters or Jim Leff or Joel Spolsky or Micah Sifry or Pam Slim or Patrick Semmens or Dan Pink would be great columnists. Why not view the endless print space online as an opportunity to leverage their core asset?

What would happen if the huge team of existing Times editors and writers each interviewed an interesting or important person every day? 5,000 or 10,000 really important interviews every year, each waiting for a sponsor, each finding a relevant audience…

Newpapers are in the shape they’re in today because they missed critical opportunities during the last 10-15 years to expand beyond their centuries old business models and stake a claim on the information superhighway. The only good news is, it’s not too late for them! If our nation’s leading newspapers get real about innovation and really look to push the boundaries about digital and how they (a) reach audiences and (b) derive revenues.

The only problem is, at most newspapers and magazines, that type of culture of innovation does not exist.

A few words about when we say “the death of” something

No one realistically thinks that when we say “the death of print”, newspapers will actually cease to exist. Newspapers will continue to exist, just not in the form or level of prominence that we’ve known them. Nothing TRULY disappears. Heck, you can still find someplace where you can send and receive a TELEGRAPH! Radio, once king, wasn’t completely wiped off the face of the Earth once television arrived. But the arrival of television had a profound effect on the future of radio. It marginalized it. To the extent that radio exists today, it exists because it is able to do the things that TV cannot do — be mobile, be very small and allow us to consume its content without needing to see it.

Newspapers won’t completely vanish into thin air. But we should take a nice, long look around. While they won’t vanish, they’ll be far fewer in number and much smaller in influence than they are now. And, unfortunately, they have only themselves to blame for it.