Ask Your Mother: for Lena Dunham

by Francine on September 30, 2015

I graduated from Cornell in 1962, before Roe v. Wade. I got a posh but poorly paying job at the Macmillan Company on downtown Fifth Avenue. It was my first full time job, and I was a novice at everything from work ethic to women’s place in society.

In theory, I was a copywriter, writing flap copy for books published by their educational division. In practice, I was little more than a typist, and everyone else in the office who was a woman was also a typist. So I started to go to lunch with Carol, a secretary.

Carol had been there much longer than I had, and she knew the ways of the world. She seemed to be very wise and experienced, although not much older than I. She had not gone to college, so she’d been working for several years.

Carol had an apartment of her own in the Village (I was living with my parents), and she was dating a dentist who was married. He showed her a very good time, taking her to all the places for dinner that I had only heard about and buying her expensive gifts. I thought it was incredibly glamorous. Having not yet had an affair with a married man, I didn’t understand how trite all this really was.

One day Carol came in crying. We had to wait until lunch to discuss, because she didn’t want anyone else in the office to know why. We went to a coffee shop nearby and she confessed she was pregnant.

This was way above my pay grade. I was not a virgin, having been through three and a half years at Cornell, but I carried a diaphragm in my purse (it was before the pill), wadded up in a pile of Kleenex. Why hadn’t Carol done the same thing? Well, it turned out she had been raised Catholic and she hadn’t been told about birth control. Things quickly got complicated.

I advised her to ask the dentist to do the right thing — leave his wife and marry Carol. You can see right there how naive I was. Over the next couple of weeks, I spent every day consoling Carol as she examined her options. The dentist was not going to leave his wife. But he would pay for an abortion.

Abortion was, in those days, illegal. I had never met anyone who had had one. In fact, the only girl I knew who even got pregnant at Cornell married the boy on graduation day. Also Catholic.

It was no surprise that there was an underground of people in New York City who knew someone who knew someone who performed abortions. Carol found an abortionist in New Jersey who came highly recommended. In the light of The Sopranos and every mafia movie ever made, I should not have been surprised. Everything questionable was in New Jersey at that time.

There was no one to go with Carol to her abortion but me. I was scared shitless. I’d never been to New Jersey on a train before, although we had summered at the Jersey shore when I was a kid. This was somewhere like Newark or Jersey City, however, in someone’s house on a side street. I sat petrified on the train, trying to make conversation with Carol. She tried to act cool.

I sat in the living room of the abortionist’s house, waiting. To this day I still wonder how and why I got there. Carol came out, pale but composed, and we got on the train back to New York. She was fine on the train, but by the time we got on the subway, she was cramping and bleeding and I had no idea what to do. I thought she would die and I didn’t want to see it.

Unbelievably, I ran from the situation, praying she’d get to her apartment safely and in so terribly over my head that all I could do was flee. And of course I didn’t tell my parents.

Fortunately, Carol survived. She showed up in the office two days later, depressed but alive. She had made the right decision.

In 1970, I became pregnant myself by a married man who was also my boss. By that time, abortion had been legalized in California. I told him I wanted to go to California and have an abortion, but he promised me he was going to leave his wife and marry me. I was very naive, but remembering Carol I took a deep breath and abandoned the idea of an abortion.

John Hardaway left his wife and married me. Everybody who knows me knows how having children transformed my life. I made the right decision.

And yet, when one of my foster children got pregnant at age 16, the third generation of women in her family to do so, I took her right down to Planned Parenthood and got her the morning after pill. She is a happy mother of three sons now, and she thanks me for that decision we made together.

In the lifetime of one woman, me, the abortion issue has come up at least three times, each with different circumstances and decisions. Sometimes abortion is right, and sometimes it’s wrong. But the choice to do it should exist.


Too Many Cooks in the Adtech Kitchen

by Francine on September 25, 2015

 I’ve been a marketer for longer than I care to divulge.

Tag-Cloud-AdvertisingI’ve been active on behalf of one of my clients, ZEDO, in the IAB and the Online Trust Association for years. What I see is that although the media industry has many organizations that come together to discuss challenges, and many working groups (the latest of which is the Trustworthy Accountability Group) to address the big issues like fraud, viewability, malware, and bots, none of the participants in these committees know all the other players in the industry. They’re not so much passing the buck as simply blindsided by the buck hitting them on the head from an entirely new direction.

Long ago, when I was at Intel, there were about half dozen leading companies that convened standards bodies. Those standards took hold. But that was in the computer industry.

Now, there are something like 2500 ad tech companies, and even if the major players or those have been around a long time (ZEDO has been a publisher ad server since 1999)operate according to a code of ethics, there will always be someone out there who doesn’t. And all of those “someones” have poisoned the well for the trustworthy players. They’ve made the consumer disgusted by ads, and now the entire system is imploding.

The most unpleasant of the ads, in the mind of the consumer, are retargeting and page takeovers. Perhaps these will vanish in the upcoming changes, like popups did a decade ago.

The example of the Deck and Marco Arment, John Gruber, Jim Dalyrimple et al is the most perfect one of how small publishers will are just by-kill as advertisers go factory fishing.

The Deck doesn’t do all the bad things the larger ad networks do. It serves up very straightforward ads to blogs by well-known publishers that service niche audiences. But even Marco developed an ad blocker. And then even he realized he (and his friends)was hoist on his own petard. Luckily, he doesn’t have a big company to support and he can change strategy on a dime.

Not everyone has that advantage. A big shakeout is coming in the online advertising business, and it will hurt both advertisers and publishers, although the publishers seem to be getting the worst of it right now. To them, it appears that the only way to survive is to get under the umbrella of Facebook. For now, that may look safe, but it’s a risky bet as many others have already written.

As for the advertisers, if Facebook takes all the publishers in, they will have a more difficult time reaching consumers contextually, because not everybody spends the day on Facebook, especially if they’re shopping for groceries or a car.

I wish I knew how this would shake out; I’d be rich. For right now, I can only say that it WILL shake out, and that advertising won’t go away. I just hope it will change.


Chris Stiffler’s Vision Lives

September 14, 2015

My friends Vera Kozyr and Igor Mikhnenko of NotAnotherOne stopped in Half Moon Bay to see me on their way to Shenzhen, where they’re going to select a manufacturer for their latest product, the Atmotube. Their last wearable product, GERO, which I helped them launch at CES, was the technology behind a device to monitor […]

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Former GoDaddyites Next Adventure: Sourcely

September 7, 2015

The proliferation of smart phones and the one-to-two-year upgrade cycle means there will be an awful lot of discarded phones, and many broken ones. Small businesses have sprung up everywhere to repair cracked screens, water damage, and other defects. The supply chain for the growing “recommerce” industry has, until recently, been business to consumer, as […]

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Facebook and the Big Dream

September 7, 2015

Facebook passed the billion user a day mark recently, prompting some pundits to talk about how it was a walled garden that was focused on owning the internet, and others (in Russia) to talk about it as an evil force. Not for me. Let me tell you why. In 1998 I met an Apple alum […]

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If You Think Zirtual Was a One-Off, Think Again

August 12, 2015

The disingenuousness of the Silicon Valley culture is revealed in the collapse of virtual assistant service Zirtual this week. Read this from the founder and this from Paul Carr for the background. Several common Silicon Valley myths caused this: 1)An inexperienced entrepreneur can make it big in an ecosystem like Silicon Valley without help 2)Users are […]

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Dog at Large

August 9, 2015

I have three rescue dogs. They are all trained as service dogs under the international Public Access and AKC Canine Good Citizen training programs. Training them involves doing the same thing with them day after day so they get the picture of what’s required. So I’ve come up with two awards programs: Dog at Large […]

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August 7, 2015

One of the unintended consequences of rising health care costs is that consumers have awakened to the fact that they have choices. They can choose to prevent disease, and to pay people who actually make them feel better — hence the proliferation of massage therapy, yoga, physical training, nutrition information, and other preventive health services. This change […]

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ReadWrite Announces Crowdfunding at #WWC15

May 20, 2015

You have to hand it to Redg Snodgrass of Wearable World. First he went out on a limb with Wearable Wednesdays, Now he has taken a huge, cavernous white elephant of a space in San Francisco, the Palace of FIne Arts,  and made it into an accelerator for companies involved in wearables or IOT.I can’t […]

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Roadrunner 1-Apple 0

May 12, 2015

Apple is the quintessential example of superb luxury brand merchandising, right? But I have just been sold $259 worth of athletic shoes (one pair) by Roadrunner Sports. Not your idea of a luxury brand. Better try-on experience than the Apple Watch, and the store actually had what I wanted to buy. In all my years […]

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