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My two grown daughters (Kathrine – 31 and Shelby – 28) tell me I’m a conference junkie. And I suppose it’s true. If I had the time (and $!) I’d probably attend at least one conference each month.

So last month was pure joy for me. I attended 3(!) conferences.

Here are some big ideas I learned at these events:

  1. My good friend Charlie Stryker was the keynote speaker at the Adlucent conference. He told us there are 5 billion gigabytes of data made newly available every day. The focus has been on big data, but it should be on smart data. Leading companies find the data that matters to them and then use it, understand and apply it is an intelligent way. This requires new types of SaaS (software-as-a-service, such as GoodData) and bigger, smarter analytic teams or partners.

    [Heads up, the Direct Marketing Club of New York will be hosting a Data Innovators Group Dinner on April 24 in New York City – where they will be honoring Charlie as the Data Innovator of the Year.]

  1. RampUp was all about how to use offline data to improve online marketing results. In fact, LiveRamp, the conference host, offered up the most profound idea from the conference. LiveRamp does one thing…onboard consumer offline data by placing a cookie on its clients’ customers’ records so each customer can be recognized on the web (not using personally identifiable data, but through a de-identified digital identity). Having such data history in hand, in real time, allows marketers to deliver relevant messages when customers visit their sites or partner sites.

    Too often we try to “boil the ocean” when it comes to the offline/online challenge – and as consumers move between screens and channels. But simple yet very powerful methods can yield big results.

  1. South By Southwest® is such a big and comprehensive event (from education trends to sports marketing – almost anything you can imagine) that one take-away is challenging, but my favorite came from a marketing-as-a-service session led by Team Detroit, Hipcricket and Digitaria Interactive.

The availability of customer and prospect data (and consumers’ willingness to share) means that today’s customers expect (require!) relevant messages and offers. The segment-of-one is a reality. Marketplace winners will be leaders in recognizing consumers and dialoguing with them. Companies no longer should send “email blasts” or make the same offer to everyone. Every channel is now addressable.

If you were at one of these events, please post the Big Ideas you learned.

Helpful Links:

Mobile Marketing Watch: “What We Learned about the Future at SXSW 2014”
http://www.mobilemarketingwatch.com/what-we-learned-about-the-future-at-sxsw-2014-40342/

iMediaConnection: “SXSW hot topics: Email, the Whole Funnel, and Customization”
http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/36200.asp?imcid=nl

Digiday: “What Caught Marketers’ Eyes at SXSW”
http://digiday.com/agencies/what-caught-marketers-eyes-at-sxsw-centro/

Digiday: “The 15 Worst People of SXSW” (just a little bit funny)
http://digiday.com/agencies/people-sxsw/

LiveRamp2014 RampUp Summit Agenda:
http://rampup2014.com/agenda/

Adlucent’s Client Summit Press Release
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/adlucent-to-host-second-annual-client-summit-in-austin-on-february-21—22-192095511.html

Data Innovators Group Dinner in New York City – Where Charlie Stryker Will be Honored on April 24 (Register If You Can Come)
http://www.dmcny.org/event/2014_apr_dig_summit

Quote:

“SXSW also showcased geo-location and customized ad delivery. ‘Beacons,’ which were used sparingly at the show, will be ‘getting small’ very soon, as small as a grain of sand, in fact. And, while big data was certainly a topic of discussion, hyper personalized customer service was a bit more popular…”

– Michael Essany, Mobile Marketing Watch

Posted by: garyskidmore | March 20, 2014

Privacy & A Skeptical Consumer

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Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the never-ending pursuit of the engaged, loyal customer, brands are trying to present themselves to the right audiences, with the right message, at the right time – and they need data to do it, no matter what the communications channel.  This is happening at a time of increasingly skeptical marketplace.

In the privacy arena, at the same time, I’d say we’re a fed-up bunch. In a January address, President Obama seemed to lump National Security Agency surveillance, marketers’ data use, and other modern-day privacy concerns in one big privacy pot… which made me scratch my head.  Isn’t public sector use of personal information – and private sector use of the same… two different issues?

Public sector use of personally identifiable data may or may not improve national security, improve law enforcement and it may impugn civil liberties. As for the private sector? Well in the world of marketing at least, it’s simply to increase value and relevance; to create, serve and retain a customer; and to generate commerce, jobs and tax revenue in the process.

Still, the President may be onto something (that’s really hard for me to admit): Americans may have distrust of Big Government, but they aren’t head-over-heels for big brands either. Even worse for marketers would be for consumers to see business and government in quiet collusion against citizen privacy and civil liberties. The President might be rolling this up altogether, perhaps as a distraction from the NSA debate.  It is clear the Direct Marketing Association seeks to dispel this point of view.

Yet the takeaways for brands and marketers, in my mind, are clear. Trust is essential – earn it, protect it, focus on it:

  1. Be absolutely transparent and give each consumer (and business individual) a choice on personally identifiable data usage, and track each individual’s channel preferences.
  2. Use marketing data for marketing purposes only. Adhere to all marketing-privacy self-regulation regimes.
  3. Keep your privacy policies up to date with advertising technologies being used – and keep these policies short, concise and free from legalese.
  4. Perform due diligence on all third-party data you incorporate in customer and prospect data. Make sure its original source also included disclosures and permissions.
  5. Secure data (PII and otherwise) – perform a security audit, map all data flows, and test all points where data are exchanged (vendors included). Beyond trust, business continuity also depends on this.
  6. Design all data-driven processes and products with consumer privacy in mind.

This is just a starter list – and you may have additional “rules” of engagement you might add to this in comments.  I’d welcome your sharing them.  

Let’s be certain:  U.S. consumers, at least, want relevant messaging from the brands they interact with – but in achieving such relevance, we need to be transparent and empower customers in that pursuit.

Helpful Links:

Will the White House’s big data privacy initiative distract from the NSA debate?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/02/10/will-the-white-houses-big-data-privacy-initiative-distract-from-the-nsa-debate/

Direct Marketers Object to Obama’s NSA Comparison
http://associationsnow.com/2014/01/direct-marketers-object-to-obamas-nsa-comparison/

We want to be your friend | Brands are finding it hard to adapt to an age of skepticism
http://www.economist.com/news/business/21595412-brands-are-finding-it-hard-adapt-age-scepticism-we-want-be-your-friend

Consumer Confidence in Online Privacy Hits 3-Year Low | Most afraid of businesses, not government
http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/consumer-confidence-online-privacy-hits-3-year-low-155255

2014: Trust is the New Currency
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/andy-kahl/2014-trust-is-the-new-cur_b_4731265.html

Are Consumers ‘Falling Out of Love’ With Brands?
http://www.marketingcharts.com/wp/traditional/are-consumers-falling-out-of-love-with-brands-39812/

Quote:

“But spare a thought for the poor admen. Their industry is going through a particularly difficult time. Not only are they confronting a proliferation of new ‘channels’ through which to pump their messages; they are also having to puzzle out how to craft them in an age of mass scepticism. Consumers are bombarded with brands wherever they look—the average Westerner sees a logo (sometimes the same one repeatedly) perhaps 3,000 times each day—and thus are becoming jaded. They are also increasingly familiar with the tricks of the marketing trade and determined to cut through the clutter to get a bargain. Scepticism and sophistication are especially pronounced among those born since the early 1980s. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 46% of American ‘millennials’ use their smartphones to check prices and online comments when they visit a shop.”

 – Economist, Feb. 1, 2014

Posted by: garyskidmore | February 27, 2014

It’s Earnings Season – And the Markets Tell a Story

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The Markets Define Value

It’s been a while – much too long – since I posted a From ATX blog post. Well, check off one of my New Year’s resolutions (well, maybe a Chinese New Year resolution at this late date), I’m back in the saddle here in Austin.

To kick things off, I’ve listened in on many 2013 fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call from many leading brands – some I admire, some where I hold shares, and all of them in the news and leaders in their respective categories. In each case, I share some observations and key take-aways.

Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) the most consistently, high-performing company in America (and in maybe the world) has done it again. It has just completed 41 consecutive years of profit…including 2001. The key? Its people… mentioned throughout the call as the reason for the company’s achievements.

Apple (NasdaqGS:APPL) – Year after year, the expectations of financial analysts are outrageous in my mind. Apple sets a record for revenue and profit, but it wasn’t good enough, and so its stock price fell. No other company is held to such a high standard for level of performance. In my opinion, Apple delivers.

Netflix (NasdaqGS:NFLX) is my current favorite company. It is changing the TV industry. As of the end 2013, it counted 44 million members worldwide (33 million in the U.S., up 14% over a year ago) watching what they want, when they want it. Netflix is an entertainment company with its own high-quality content (Millie and I are watching season 2 of “House of Cards,” which won an Emmy) and a technology company able to serve high-speed, on-demand video. If it were a network, it would be the fifth largest – trailing only the 4 majors.

Google (NasdaqGS:GOOG) is the most powerful company in the world and it worries me. Look at the metrics: 67% of all web searches in the world are on Google, and Google+ members are up to 540 million. They store every search and e-commerce transaction conducted on its platform – it knows everything about your web behavior. For the most part, the company doesn’t use it and doesn’t allow access to it, but what would happen if it did?

Disney (NYSE:DIS) – The Walt Disney Company has the happiest place on earth and has very happy shareholders. Earnings Per Share grew 32% in Q4. Its parks and resorts worldwide have record attendance, ESPN is still growing, “Frozen” is a smash success on the screen, all while the company is successfully integrating huge acquisitions in Marvel and Lucasfilm. What a great company, and they’ll even teach you how it does it at the Disney Leadership Institute.

Facebook (NasdaqGS:FB) is a really young company that in the past year transformed itself into one of the biggest mobile marketers. More than 50% of its revenue originated on mobile last quarter. In fact, mobile revenue in Q4 was higher than all its revenue in Q4 of the previous year. Facebook now has 1.23 billion members (increasingly older, which equals bigger spending from those members, thus advertisers). (Note: The WhatsApp purchase came after the earnings call.)

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) had its first earnings call and the challenges are obvious: how can the platform get more revenue (GROWTH!) and make a profit from advertises who want to reach Twitter’s 225 million active/engaged users. And how can it do this without changing the basic Twitter user experience. This will be one of the great business stories of 2014 and for the next few years.

Amazon (NasdaqGS:AMZN) – The everything store set more records in Q4…revenue up 20% to $25.6 billion. How do you describe Amazon today? A retailer, entertainment company (Amazon Instant Video), a tech company (Kindle and Cloud Services)… but maybe more than anything… a big data company! The company knows the purchasing behavior of its 240 million customers so well they may be able to ship you a product you want – even before you order it and you’ll be happy that it did.

Linkedin (NYSE:LNKD) is both fast growing ($447 million revenue in Q4) and profitable ($111 million in Q4). Maybe the most important business-to-business tool today….connecting, getting a job, hiring, information learning. I use it all day, every day. It is a well-managed company and is unmatched in its scope.

I’m a big fan of these companies. They are transforming marketplace dynamics – literally how we work, play and live – even as they evolve themselves. That’s exciting, and for me, very hopeful about the kind of world we’re becoming – and the businesses and business leaders who are getting us there.

Quote:

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

– Source: Warren Buffet in a Letter to Shareholders, 1989

Posted by: garyskidmore | March 13, 2013

SXSW Interactive 2013

ImageA confession:  although I’ve lived in Austin since 1976, this is the first year I’ve been to SXSW.  I know, I know… how could I have let that happen.

Well, my life has changed a lot in the last 8 months and now I’m in the middle of all things social in my new role at Dachis Group.  So I spent the last 5 days in sessions, meeting really smart people and learning about amazing new products (www.sxsw.com/interative).

Here are my rookie observations.

  1. SX Interactive is much more than a technology conference.  It’s a gathering about tech/business/life.  For example, I attended sessions on the latest tech in social, how to manage and sell to millenials, and how tiny habits can lead to big behavior change.  Every one of the 16 sessions I attended was very good.
  2. That said, the real power of SX is not the sessions, but the unexpected connections with other attendees that will lead to fantastic business and personal opportunities.
  3. The next big product idea (like Twitter and Foursquare at past SX’s) was here.  I don’t know if it’s Yabbly or Koozoo or one of the hundreds of other new products I saw and heard about, but it was here.  As Bruce Sterling said yesterday, “the disrupters will be disrupted.”
  4. The best new ideas are the most simple.  Who would have thought that being able to share 140 character thoughts would change how we communicate?
  5. There weren’t enough of my peers (the “50 and up” generation) at SX.  I’m not saying I’d rather spend time with my peers instead the 30 and under crowd (they are the smartest generation every!).  But I worry that my peers think they have nothing more to learn.  Are you kidding me!?  There’s no way to keep up with all that’s happening in the tech business world.  SX is best way I’ve found to spend a concentrated 5 days learning.   Time well spent.

The broad appeal of the SXSW Interactive may be best shown by Oreo being an event sponsor.  Since tweeting “you can still dunk in the dark” during this year’s Super Bowl blackout, they’re one of the hottest companies in social.  Who’d thunk it.

Put it on you calendar… SXSW Interactive 2014… March 7-11, 2014… Austin.

Posted by: garyskidmore | February 7, 2013

Our Annual Trip to Washington

Millie and I are on the plane…flying to Washington, DC for the national prayer breakfast.   This year is our tenth time.  Like many of you, until we attended, we really had no idea what happened at this annual event.  Yes, there’s a breakfast, prayer and the President speaks, but I would not describe this as a religious event. 

 How’s that possible?

There are about 3500 people who attend and many are not Americans, are not white and not Christian.  Tomorrow at the Washington Hilton people from all walks of life, all faiths, political and not, will gather in the name of Jesus — his principles and teachings.  It is profound.

 We’ve been seated with Muslims and Baptists, Jews and Pentecostals, Senators and Tribal leaders.  Rich and poor, some who speak English, old and young. 

 The one unifying element — all who gather believe the world would be better if we simply loved each other more, took better care of the sick and poor, and just treated each other the way we’d like to be treated.

 The highlight of our ten years was hearing Bono speak in 2006.  I’ve attached a link to a video of that speech to this blog.  I hope you can take the 20 minutes to hear his simple message.  I believe it will encourage and convict you — like it does us every time we listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUdrYDk8rVA

 

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Posted by: garyskidmore | November 22, 2012

A THANKSGIVING REMINDER…

From the Wall Street Journal last year.  A great reminder.  Hope you all had a great day.Image

Thank You. No, Thank You

Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up

By MELINDA BECK

 It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.

 A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

 Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

 Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don’t, studies show.

 “A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them,” says Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., who has conducted much of the research with children.

 “The key is not to leave it on the Thanksgiving table,” says Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis and a pioneer in gratitude research. And, he notes, “with the realization that one has benefited comes the awareness of the need to reciprocate.”

 Philosophers as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans cited gratitude as an indispensable human virtue, but social scientists are just beginning to study how it develops and the effects it can have.

 The research is part of the “positive psychology” movement, which focuses on developing strengths rather than alleviating disorders. Cultivating gratitude is also a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which holds that changing peoples’ thought patterns can dramatically affect their moods.

It’s possible, of course, to over-do expressions of gratitude, particularly if you try to show it with a gift. “Thanking someone in such a way that is disproportionate to the relationship—say, a student giving her teacher an iPod—will create resentment, guilt, anger and a sense of obligation,” says Dr. Froh.

Gratitude can also be misused to exert control over the receiver and enforce loyalty. Dr. Froh says you can avoid this by being empathic toward the person you are thanking—and by honestly assessing your motivations.

 In an upcoming paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies, Dr. Froh and colleagues surveyed 1,035 high-school students and found that the most grateful had more friends and higher GPAs, while the most materialistic had lower grades, higher levels of envy and less satisfaction with life. “One of the best cures for materialism is to make somebody grateful for what they have,” says Dr. Froh.

 Much of the research on gratitude has looked at associations, not cause-and-effect relationships; it’s possible that people who are happy, healthy and successful simply have more to be grateful for. But in a landmark study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2003, Dr. Emmons and University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough showed that counting blessings can actually make people feel better.

 The researchers randomly divided more than 100 undergraduates into three groups. One group was asked to list five things they were grateful for during the past week for 10 consecutive weeks. The second group listed five things that annoyed them each week and the third group simply listed five events that had occurred. They also completed detailed questionnaires about their physical and mental health before, during and after.

 Those who listed blessings each week had fewer health complaints, exercised more regularly and felt better about their lives in general than the other two groups.

Drs. Froh and Emmons conducted a similar study with 221 sixth- and seventh-graders from Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills, N.Y., an affluent area on Long Island. Although the effects weren’t as dramatic as with the adults, the students in the gratitude group did report a higher level of satisfaction with school and more optimism than the students who listed irritations, according to the study in the Journal of School Psychology in 2008.

 As simple as it sounds, gratitude is actually a demanding, complex emotion that requires “self-reflection, the ability to admit that one is dependent upon the help of others, and the humility to realize one’s own limitations,” Dr. Emmons says.

Being grateful also forces people to overcome what psychologists call the “negativity bias”—the innate tendency to dwell on problems, annoyances and injustices rather than upbeat events. Focusing on blessings can help ward off depression and build resilience in times of stress, grief or disasters, according to studies of people impacted by the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

 Can people learn to look on the bright side, want what they have and be grateful for it? Experts believe that about 50% of such temperament is genetic, but the rest comes from experience, so there’s ample opportunity for change. “Kids and adults both can choose how they feel and how they look at the world,” says Andrew Greene, principal of Candlewood Middle School, who says that realization was one of the lasting legacies of Dr. Froh’s research there.

 Some experts believe that children don’t develop true gratitude until they can experience empathy, which usually occurs around age 7. But researchers at Yale University’s Infant Cognition Center have shown that infants as young as 6-months old prefer characters who help to those who hinder others. To help lay the groundwork for gratefulness, Dr. Froh says he asks his 4-year-old son, James, each night what was his favorite thing about the day and what he is looking forward to tomorrow.

 For older children and adults, one simple way to cultivate gratitude is to literally count your blessings. Keep a journal and regularly record whatever you are grateful for that day. Be specific. Listing “my friends, my school, my dog” day after day means that “gratitude fatigue” has set in, Dr. Froh says. Writing “my dog licked my face when I was sad” keeps it fresher. Some people do this on their Facebook or MySpace pages, or in one of dozens of online gratitude groups. There’s an iPod app for gratitude journaling, too. The real benefit comes in changing how you experience the world. Look for things to be grateful for, and you’ll start seeing them everywhere.

 A Buddhist exercise, called Naikan self-reflection, asks people to ponder daily: “What have I received from…? What have I given to…? and What trouble have I caused…?” Acknowledging those who touched your life—from the barista who made your coffee to the engineer who drove your train—and reflecting on how you reciprocated reinforces humbleness and interdependence.

 Delivering your thanks in person can be particularly powerful. One study found that fourth-graders who took a “gratitude visit” felt better about themselves even two months later—particularly those whose moods were previously low.

Adopting a more upbeat mind-set helps facilitate gratitude, too. Instead of bonding with friends over gripes and annoyances, try sharing what you’re grateful for. To avoid sounding boastful, focus on giving credit to other people, as in, “My mom took a whole day off from work to get to my game.”

 Studies show that using negative, derogatory words—even as you talk to yourself—can darken your mood as well. Fill your head with positive thoughts, express thanks and encouragement aloud and look for something to be grateful for, not criticize, in those around you, especially loved ones. New York psychiatrist Drew Ramsey says that’s an essential tool for surviving the holidays. “Giving thanks for them helps you deal with the craziness that is part of every family,” he says.

 Last, if you find you take too much for granted, try the “It’s a Wonderful Life” approach: image what life would be like without a major blessing, like a spouse, a child or a job. In a 2008 study in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology, researchers found that when college students wrote essays in which they were asked to “mentally subtract” a positive event from their lives, they were subsequently more grateful for it than students whose essays simply focused on the event. The “George Bailey effect” was modest, the authors noted, but even small boosts in positive emotions can make life more satisfying.

 

Write to Melinda Beck at HealthJournal@wsj.com

Posted by: garyskidmore | October 18, 2012

People. Discipline. Customers.

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It’s been two months since I “retired” from Harte-Hanks and during that time I’ve been giving a lot of thought to just what makes a company great.  I’m not talking about a Facebook or a Google — those are companies that are built on once-in-a-lifetime, powerful ideas that changed the very nature of how business is done.

What I’ve been thinking about is what makes a typical company great and separates it from most other companies.  I’ve decide that it is not a radically different idea or extraordinary luck.  But I believe great companies are built on very three fundamental principles.

1.  A company is made up of just four things – people, process, systems and culture.  If that’s right (and I think it is) then the most important of those is people.  Most companies have good people, but few have exception people. Over my career, when I’ve worked with some exceptional people, then exceptional things happened (growth, competitive advantage).   I was fortunate enough to work with exceptional people at Select Marketing — the company I founded.    I know that because they helped me accomplish things I could not do on my own.  They were smart and hard working, but mostly they were passionate.  They would not settle for good enough.  If you have exceptional people on your team, make it your highest priority to take care of them. If you do, they will take care of your customers.

2.  Most companies have processes — ways they get stuff done.  But very few organizations have the discipline to consistently work using the processes they have established. Most try to cut corners to save time or eliminate steps to reduce expenses.  And often (not all the time, but most of the time) when sound processes are not followed then mistakes happen and sometimes, customers are lost.  The difference between good athletes and great athletes is the discipline to work a little harder at the fundamentals. Larry Bird was always the last player to leave the gym after practice, staying to shoot a few more free throws or work on some other basic part of the game. He was not the fastest and could not jump the highest, but he was the most disciplined and therefore, was one of the greatest to ever play the game.

3.  Finally, the last fundamental thing that makes a company great is being customer focused.  Most companies fall in love with themselves — their products or services. What they should do is fall in love with their customers.  A business cannot exist without customers, no matter how good the products and services are.   In fact, the companies with the best products or services are not usually the companies that win in the marketplace.  The company that is passionate about meeting customer needs and is willing to make the extra effort to really understand what customers want and need is the company that will win.  Being truly customer focused — falling in love with your customers — creates authentic, sustainable competitive advantage.

The fundamentals of a great company

  • Passionate people
  • Discipline
  •  In love with customers

Sounds so simple.   But if were, then there would be more great companies.   Stick to the fundamentals.

In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.

 Warren Buffett 

Posted by: garyskidmore | August 5, 2012

For The First Time Since 1969…

Kathrine, London, Shelby and Papa G

I’m unemployed.

Since the Summer of 1969 when I was grounds keeper, score keeper and announcer for Western Little League, I’ve had a job. Grocery sacker, youth intern, salesman, marketer, entrepreneur, and corporate exec….I’ve done them all.

But on August 1st I will just be Gary Skidmore….again. Husband, Dad, Papa G, friend….those are great jobs.

I will work again soon, but for a few days I will reflect on 43 years of lessons learned, friends made, customers served, achievements and mistakes.

Monday will be different.

“…independent communications consultant, those are just code words for unemployed…” George Banks in Father of the Bride

Posted by: garyskidmore | July 23, 2012

Welcome To Austin — Please Don’t Move Here


On May 1, 1976, I graduated from college. On May 2, I packed all my belongings in the backseat of my 1972 Chevy Nova and drove to Austin. May 3 was my first day on the job at Sweet Publishing Company (we didn’t do gap years in those days!). Thirty-six years, 2 months and 23 days later I’m still in Austin and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

The population of Austin in 1976 was about 325,000. Major employers were the state government, UT (the University of Texas), IBM (a manufacturing plant for Selectric typewriters – if you are under 50 go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IBM_Selectric.jpg  to find out what a Selectric is…) and Texas Instruments (those were the days of TI computers and printers).

Since 1976 Austinites have complained about growth. During the 80s, the City Council wouldn’t approve the construction of new roads, “if we don’t have enough roads, people won’t move here.” Austin grew 36.6% in the 80s to 472,020 (U.S. Census).

Seems that once you visit Austin, you want to move here. Today Austin’s population is 820, 611. We were the third-fastest growing U.S city in 2011 (Round Rock our suburban neighbor to the north was number 2): http://tinyurl.com/6txoem2

 
Some say it’s the hill country and Town Lake. Some say it’s the music; we are the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world. Some say it’s all the tech companies.

I say it’s the people. We are generally an unpretentious and authentic bunch. Where else would you find a city motto like, “keep Austin weird?”

So I invite you to visit and enjoy some Austin originals. See a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, have lunch at Chuy’s (I recommend the beef stuffed sopapillas with Tex-mex sauce or the Elvis green chili fried chicken), learn to two-step at The Broken Spoke, eat at the food trailers and shop on South Congress Street or take in all the music on 6th Street.

Come stay a weekend for ACL (http://www.aclfestival.com) or ten days for SXSW (http://www.sxsw.com).

I’ll even let you stay at my lake house. But please don’t move here.

Quote:

“Austin is why people move to Central Texas.  They want a piece of that specialness. That specialness is being driven by job creation and quality of life.”

– Ryan Robinson, City of Austin Demographer

Posted by: garyskidmore | June 27, 2012

In New York City: Mickey Mantle’s is Bankrupt

Photo of Mickey Mantle's Now-Former Restaurant, NYC, June 2012

Photo Credit: Alex Silverman, WCBS Radio Web Site

I was in New York City in early June to honor one of my colleagues (see “Jonathan Sander,” http://www.directworks.org/Contribute/Default.aspx?id=434), but the news from Manhattan wasn’t all encouraging. As I often do when I’m in New York, I went to Central Park South to one of my favorite restaurants, Mickey Mantle’s, and I learned with great disappointment:

“Closed.” “Bankruptcy.”

A radio reporter just happened to be there to catch my reaction the moment I learned of the news: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/06/05/mickey-mantles-restaurant-on-central-park-south-closes/

A part of the conversation you don’t hear on the recording is the reporter asking my age (57) and then saying, “You mean even 50 years later he means that much to you?” To which I replied, “Absolutely!”

That’s the thing about heroes, time doesn’t matter. Their short-comings don’t matter. They may be in New York (which I didn’t visit until I was 22) and you in Lubbock, Texas. You want to be like them. They are the real superheroes.

I will forever remember the Saturday afternoon game of the week on the CBS TV station in Lubbock (one of only two stations), watching Mickey make the game of baseball magical for me. Those experiences last a lifetime.

I shared this news of Mickey Mantle’s with a couple of my friends, and one of them, a lifetime New Yorker Mitch Orfuss, recalled his own boyhood memories of the Yankees center-fielder, which I share with permission. Mitch told me:

“You sounded crushed, as well we should be. Mantle was my childhood hero, too. Born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, his father was a miner named Mutt.

“I went to the old Stadium for Mantle’s ‘retirement’ game — almost like Lou Gehrig saying goodbye. The end of an era. I didn’t watch another ball game for 20 years after that day — it was not the same without Mickey.

“When I was a kid and Mantle went 0-for-4 (striking out a couple of times in the process, which happened a lot), I had a bad day, all day. I lived for the guy. When his lifetime average slipped below .300, it was worse for me than for him!

“Only much later did we find out that this great hero did not take good enough care of himself, which shortened his career and caused him not to reach his potential. But we didn’t know it at the time. To his credit, they never repaired his knee, injured badly in the ’51 Series, and he was in constant pain from that day forward. Today they’d have him back to 95% in 3 months! So sad.

“Long live the Mick!”

Long live the Mick indeed. I may have lost a lunch place in New York, and we always have Monument Park in Yankee Stadium and the Hall of Fame, but I’m certain that Mickey Mantle lives on for many of us in our hearts, if not in our stomachs.

Helpful Links:
The Official Mickey Mantle Web site:
http://www.mickeymantle.com/

The New York Yankees:
http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=nyy

Quote:
From WCBS 880AM radio: “I love Mickey. He was my boyhood hero. That’s why I always come back here when I can. That is really disappointing.”
– Yours Truly on Closing of Mickey Mantle’s

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