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When I joined Time magazine in 2007, I got an office between Joe Klein’s and Nathan Thornburgh’s. Joe was perfectly nice but he wasn’t there much and when he was there, he was usually haranguing somebody over the phone. So I mainly hung out with Nathan. Now Nathan and I are both part of the vast Time diaspora —he co-founded and co-runs a wonderful travel site called Roads & Kingdoms — and we still hang out from time to time.  A few months ago we met up at Birch Coffee on Columbus between 96th and 97th, and afterwards this happened:

Justin … told me as we walked back to Broadway that what Roads and Kingdoms really needed was more Breakfast, that Breakfast was a stunningly underrated meal, and that if I was smart I would start a Breakfast vertical as soon as possible.

This week my recommendation became reality. Roads & Kingdom’s Breakfast vertical (a vertical is a digital-journalism thing that’s sort of equivalent to a section in a newspaper) is a thing, a beautiful thing. The very first breakfast looked this:

That is a donburi bowl (which is redundant because “donburi” means “bowl”, but I’m just trying to be clear here) from a restaurant in Hakodate, the southernmost city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, containing what writer Matt Goulding describes as:

… scallops swollen to the size of English muffins, salmon eggs that pop like little depth charges of salt and umami, cat tongues of uni that melt over the warm grains of rice like egg yolk on a carbonara …

This, and the subsequent breakfasts (there’s a new one every day), makes me more than a little self-conscious about the piece I’ve been planning to turn in about Joey’s and my regular Saturday morning breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant on Broadway. But it also makes me very proud to have played a role in getting this thing going.

As for my own writings, the piece I put the most heart and soul into over the past couple of weeks was a column about the sad, sad standoff between Steve and Elaine Wynn, once the most powerful (and maybe the most endearing) couple in Las Vegas. The best part of it was reading old stories about the two, and the best story was by another former co-worker of mine (at Fortune), Nina Munk, in Vanity Fair in 2005. One of my favorite passages was about how their parents introduced them in Miami over Christmas break in 1960. Steve was a sophomore at Penn; Elaine a freshman at UCLA.

From dinner with their parents at the Miami Jai-Alai Fronton, he took Elaine to the Boom Boom Room at the Fontainebleau; then he drove her to the 79th Street Causeway, where they were parked until two o’clock in the morning. Ten days later, she was wearing his Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity pin.

The column I put the most hours into was on the new Steve Jobs book by two more former Fortune colleagues, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. I read their book, which took me most of a day. But first I also finally read Walter Isaacson’s much-longer Jobs biography while flying to Birmingham, Alabama, and back. More than 1,000 pages in a row, then, about a man who said “shit” all the time (it really does seem to have been his favorite word). Fun!

Actually, it was fun. They’re both quite entertaining books.

Other things I wrote about: “The Rise of Chipotle Nation,” “Are Money Managers Lemmings?” “China’s Leap Forward in Digital Medicine,” “Kraft Was Global, Then It Wasn’t,” “The Intangible Corporation.” And many more.

Till next time,


The Rise of the Y-Axis-Zero Fundamentalists

On Friday, I read a Natalie Kitroeff story on the declining appeal of law school, and was so struck by this chart that I shared it on Twitter:

law schools

The chart tells a dramatic story: all the gains in law school enrollment since the mid-1970s have been wiped out in just three years. Twitter responded to that drama with lots of retweets and favorites — but also with lots of disapproving remarks like this:

And this:

There were many, many more responses like that. A couple of them wielded the name of Edward Tufte, today’s leading authority on the visual presentation of data. Which is interesting, because after about five seconds of Googling I found Tufte’s actual views on the practice:

In general, in a time-series, use a baseline that shows the data not the zero point. If the zero point reasonably occurs in plotting the data, fine. But don’t spend a lot of empty vertical space trying to reach down to the zero point at the cost of hiding what is going on in the data line itself. (The book, How to Lie With Statistics, is wrong on this point.)

For examples, all over the place, of absent zero points in time-series, take a look at any major scientific research publication. The scientists want to show their data, not zero.

The urge to contextualize the data is a good one, but context does not come from empty vertical space reaching down to zero, a number which does not even occur in a good many data sets. Instead, for context, show more data horizontally!

Thanks to one of the offended responders on Twitter, Abhinav Agarwal, we can see what the chart would have looked like with a zero base:

I love that he went to the effort to make that (thanks, Abhinav!) but … it is less informative than the original chart. Yes, in the new version it’s now crystal clear that law-school enrollment hasn’t gone to zero. But who looked at the original chart and thought it had? (Well, this guy says he did, but I think he’s kidding.) And the contrast between the herky-jerky rise of the past four decades and the straight-line drop since 2010 is much less clear in the zero-base chart. It hides the precipitousness of law schools’ change in fortunes.

Such arguments seem to carry little weight, though, among the legions of what BuzzFeed’s Matthew Zeitlin has dubbed y-axis-zero fundamentalists. I had somehow missed out on their rise, I guess because all of my HBR time-series charts over the past few years have for various reasons (the main one being that my Excel skills are so limited that I don’t know how to truncate the axes) featured y-axes that go to zero. But apparently now this is a thing. The Huffington Post‘s Ben Walsh reported a similar experience with a recent (non-zero-based) chart on taxi medallions in New York. According to Walsh, “all the responses were like ‘rule violated. i refuse to consider your thesis’.”

When I checked the Twitter bios of the people who objected to chart, most of them were software programmers, so I wondered if it was some weird coder obsession. It might be, but a simpler explanation was that prominent programmer Jeff Atwood had retweeted it to his 152,000 followers.

Instead, I think it’s mainly just that more and more people have acquired some amount of statistical literacy, and have learned along the way that not basing your y-axis at zero is can be misleading. As Duke sociology professor — and believer in non-zero-based charts — Kieran Healy Tweeted when I asked him where he thought the reaction came from:

“Narrow axes can make small and inconsequential changes seem big,” Healy went on, “but—symmetrically—zero-axes can make big and real changes seem small. What matters isn’t some iron rule like ‘Always have a zero-base axis!’, it’s your prior commitment to being honest with the data.”

It is easy enough to find examples of people using broken y axes to mislead. From a Media Matters compendium of Fox News chart outrages:


This isn’t much of a time series, and I really can’t think of any good reason why the y-axis on a bar chart shouldn’t go to zero. But more important than any simple rule is that this chart was obviously crafted to deceive — there’s really no other reason to draw the chart this way.

The chart, on the other hand, was crafted to show the data as fully as possible. Facebook “data visualization guru” Andy Kriebel recommends adding a note to any non-zero-based-y-axis chart explaining why you didn’t base it at zero. That’s not a bad idea, but I also think the overwhelming majority of those who read a chart like this one online (as opposed to those who see a chart flitting by on the TV screen) are able to figure out what’s going on. I love that so many people online are on the lookout for dodgy charts. But focusing on the data isn’t really dodgy.

Update:  My brilliant colleague Scott Berinato, who is working on a book on data visualization for the HBR Press and created the cool Vision Statement “How to Lie with Charts” in the December issue of HBR, emailed me with his thoughts, which I don’t entirely agree with but seemed worth sharing given that he knows more than I do:

I have to agree with them about the Y axis. Not because it should be a hard and fast rule but because of the metaphor problem. Our brains create 0 when your line begins or ends at the bottom — a metaphorical zero as in “no one is going to law school because the line’s at the bottom.” This is exacerbated by the headline “Empty Classrooms,” which creates a textual cue that “empty” is what matters. 

There’s also the slope problem. Tufte is right and wrong. He’s right about just show the data but a truncated axis doesn’t actually show the data. The data is not the line, the line divides space that represents the proportion of a (those enrolling) and b (those not). So by truncating the axis we not only create a more severe-looking slope, we literally hide representative space, and more on one side than the other.

Having said all that, this kind of thing is rampant, because of web design. This chart would be very tall otherwise. So we have to think about the tradeoffs. My developing sense for these situations is to go even simpler. The data that matters here is:

‘74: low

‘74-‘10: Steady, rolling climb.

‘10-‘13: precipitous fall off

In theory we could build this same chart with three data points — ‘74, ‘10, ’13 — unless those three small humps on the climb matter to the story, which I don’t think they do. Basically start with as few data points as possible then add as necessary. Don’t even connect the lines necessarily; use points.

New Job

So … this happened:

Bloomberg View today announced that Justin Fox will join the opinion and analysis site on January 5 as a columnist covering corporate strategy and trends, innovation and the broad business landscape.

The rest of the announcement is here. It was supposed to come out Tuesday morning, but it came out Monday afternoon instead after Ben White of Politico Tweeted this:

Ben had gotten the news from Bloomberg View’s PR people in hopes that he’d put it in his widely read Morning Money daily e-mail the next day (which he did). But he didn’t realize he was supposed to hold off, possibly because he’d known for weeks that I was considering the job. I’d gone for a long stroll in Central Park one afternoon to think things through, run into Ben and his son playing in the dirt, and, because I’m really bad at keeping secrets, immediately blurted out why I was on walkabout.

Anyway, the early disclosure was fine, because on Tuesday Bloomberg announced that John Micklethwait of The Economist was replacing Matt Winkler as its Editor-in-Chief, and my news was entirely forgotten. Good thing, because I’m still at HBR and I’ve got a bunch of work to do.

New Neighborhood

office viewI started work at Fortune magazine in April 1996. Since then I’ve left New York a couple of times — to work in London in 2000-2001 and Boston from 2010 to 2013. But I have always come back, and all the time I’ve lived in New York, I have worked in pretty much the same place. First on an assortment of floors in the Time & Life Building at 1271 Avenue of the Americas, and since last summer less than a block away at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, the old Time Warner headquarters building, where HBR had its New York offices.

Those days are over. Time Warner’s lease is finally running out, and the occupants of 75 Rock are being kicked out so the building can be refurbished (it really needs it). So HBR‘s New York office is moving this week to 3 Columbus Circle, which is really at 1775 Broadway (a block south of Columbus Circle). It’s the old Newsweek building, and before that it was the GM building. It has recently been reclad in glass, rechristened, and readdressed. I’m a bit dubious of all the choices the developer made, but our office is really nice (the photo shows the view from my office window), and I’m excited about the new neighborhood. The subway commute will be shorter, and riding my bike to work through Central Park will be an option. There are lots of new restaurants and shops to be explored. And maybe I’ll actually go ice skating at lunch sometime at Wollman Rink. I never did at Rockefeller Center. Not once.

The Other Zillionaire Who Bailed Out the Washington Post

Meyer in the 1940s

Eugene Meyer in the 1940s

In 1933, The Washington Post was in a death spiral. As a writer for Fortune put it 11 years later, “its playboy owner … had milked the paper of its assets until it could no longer pay the newsprint bill for its scraggly circulation of 52,000.” The bankrupt newspaper was auctioned off, and went for $825,000 to an anonymous bidder who after a few days revealed himself be Eugene Meyer.

Meyer was a hugely wealthy former Wall Street tycoon who had just spent a frustrating three years as the Herbert-Hoover-appointed Governor (analogous to today’s chairman, but with less power) of the Federal Reserve Board. He had tried to buy the paper before — in 1929, for $5 million — but was turned down. And a few years before that, he had offered to buy the Washington Herald from William Randolph Hearst.

As Merlo J. Pusey tells it in his 1971 biography of Meyer, the conversation went something like this:

“What,” [Hearst] had asked, “makes you think it would be a good idea to sell one of my Washington newspapers?”

“You are reported to be losing about a million and a half a year,” Meyer had replied.

Money-losing newspapers, then, are nothing new. The reason they lost money in the 1920s and 1930s was in some ways similar to why they are struggling today — because there were so many alternatives. The big difference was that back then, the main competitors for readers and advertisers were other newspapers. In Washington, at the time a city of fewer than 500,000 inhabitants without a lot of suburbs, there was only one really successful paper in 1933, the Evening Star. But there were five dailies in all. Scripps-Howard’s afternoon tabloid Daily News likely turned a profit, given the Scripps-Howard penchant for keeping costs low. But Hearst’s morning Herald and afternoon Times and the morning Post all found it hard to make money even in good times, and gushed red ink in the depths of the Depression.

Nowadays, of course, the newspaper business can be tough even if you’re far and away the leading newspaper in a big, news-addicted metropolitan area, which is why the company controlled by Meyer’s descendants sold the Post last year to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. That marked the beginning of another saga of an enormously successful businessman from a different industry buying the struggling Post for non-financial reasons, and attempting to set it aright. In Meyer’s case, things turned out spectacularly well — the money-losing Post became the basis of a new family fortune that appears to have grown even bigger than the one he amassed in his Wall Street days. It seems pretty unlikely that things will turn out that way at the Post for future Bezoses (Bezii?). But hey, you never know.

I started studying Meyer for an Atlantic column on the pre-monopoly-era economics of the newspaper business. His story didn’t end up fitting in, but I felt compelled to tell it somewhere. The man was impressive.

Eugene Meyer was born in 1875, the son of a businessman and banker who had emigrated from Strasbourg to Los Angeles 15 years before. Marc Eugene Meyer (the father) moved the family north to the Bay area when his eldest son was a young boy, then moved East after the Panic of 1893 to become a partner in the New York office of the investment bank Lazard Frères. Young Eugene, who had just finished his freshman year at UC Berkeley, transferred to Yale.

After graduating, the younger Meyer went to work with his father at Lazard, but didn’t stay there long. His father had promised him $600 if he hadn’t taken up smoking by age 21. Meyer earned that reward, and quickly built it into $5,000 by investing in the common stock of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Then he made a big bet on the 1900 elections. Meyer expected Republican William McKinley to win, and expected this victory to unleash a stock market boom. As insurance he bought some gold bonds, which he figured would soar in value if easy-money Democrat William Jennings Bryan prevailed, but put most of his $5,000 into options to buy railroad stocks at specified prices after the election.

McKinley won, easily. Meyer held onto his options, cashed in his gold bonds the morning after the election, and bought more options. Then, the January after the election, he sold them all — for $50,000. With that he quit Lazard, bought his own seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and embarked on a remarkable career as an investor and sometime investment banker. His most lasting accomplishment was bringing five companies together in 1921 to create the hugely successful Allied Chemical and Dye Company (which later became Allied Signal, which merged with Honeywell in 1999), but he also was a big investor in Fisher Body (maker of most of the bodies for GM cars) and the Anaconda Mine. He wasn’t as iconic a figure as Bezos today, and wasn’t quite as rich either. But he was in the same general territory.

When he bought the Post, Meyer, seemingly like Bezos, wasn’t in it to make money. In his case, buying the paper was conceived mainly as a hobby to keep him busy in retirement and give him a continuing voice in national affairs. Meyer was 57, and had seriously been considering following up his stint at the Fed by succeeding his friend Bill Ward as Republican county leader of Westchester County, New York, where he and his wife had a weekend house. But running a newspaper in the nation’s capital was more appealing.

More expensive, too. The Post didn’t break even until 1943, when the combination of a wartime economic boom and wartime newsprint rationing (which resulted in smaller, cheaper-to-produce newspapers with a higher ratio of ads to news) put lots of previously ailing newspapers in the black. Meyer had, however, brought his newspaper back to respectability well before then, mainly by putting Felix Morley, formerly a PR guy at the Brookings Institution and later the president of Haverford College, in charge of the editorial page. Morley won the Post’s first Pulitzer Prize, in 1936, and established the paper as a moderate, well-informed voice on national affairs. The paper’s reporting improved, too, but the Post didn’t really become famous for that until decades later when Meyer’s daughter was running the show.

In the meantime, the economic and demographic trends of the postwar era all played into the Post’s hands, and Meyer made all the right moves to take advantage of them. The huge increase in the size of the federal government during World War II, which was only partially ratcheted back after the war ended, left Washington much more important as both a news source and an economic force. The Post took federal government coverage more seriously than its competitors, and it also took advantage of the fact that most of the region’s growth was taking place in the burgeoning Maryland and Virginia suburbs (the District of Columbia’s population peaked in 1950). It was a lot easier to deliver a paper to those suburbs before the morning rush hour than in the middle of the evening one, and declining reliance on public transit meant declines in the single-copy sales so crucial to evening papers. It became ever more advantageous to be a morning paper, and after 1954 the Post was the only morning paper in Washington.

That was the year when Meyer, who was 78 years old and had already handed control of the Washington Post Co. over to his daughter Katharine and her husband Phil Graham, forked over $8.5 million to buy the Times Herald (the Times and Herald had combined in 1937) and merge it with the Post. The afternoon papers lived on for a couple decades after that (the Daily News shut down in 1972 and the Star in 1981), but posed ever less of a competitive threat to the Post. Under Phil Graham’s leadership, the Post Co. had also acquired a few TV stations and Newsweek magazine. Meyer’s retirement hobby had grown into a small media empire, the kind of business that, in 1973, struck investor Warren Buffett as just the thing to help him turn his small fortune into a gigantic one.

By then Katharine Graham was fully in charge — her husband Phil Graham, who suffered from manic depression, had killed himself in 1963 — and was beginning to establish herself as one of the great makers-of-big-decisions in business history. She had already plucked Ben Bradlee out of the Washington bureau at Newsweek and appointed him executive editor of the Post. When word came that a strange man in Omaha was buying a big stake in her company, she ignored the warnings of her board of directors, met with Buffett, and invited him to join the board. With Buffett as her adviser, Meyer’s daughter transformed the Post from a very good business into a juggernaut. “From the time of the company’s IPO in 1971 until she stepped down as chairman in 1993,” Will Thorndike writes in The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, “the compound annual return to shareholders was a remarkable 22.3 percent, dwarfing both the S&P (7.4 percent) and her peers (12.4 percent).”

Then the Internets came along and, two decades after Katharine Graham retired as CEO, her descendants began looking for a way out of the newspaper business. Buffett, a major Post Co. shareholder for four decades, said he briefly considered buying the paper outright last year. But he decided he was too old for that kind of thing, and Bezos came through instead.

What can the proprietor of “The Everything Store” possibly learn from Eugene Meyer’s experience? Not all that much in the way of specifics, one would have to think. Still, there were two elements of Meyer’s success that Bezos will probably have no choice but to emulate: patience, and a willingness to spend lots of money. A brilliant daughter would help, too.

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‘A New Golden Age for Media?’ Annotated

My latest Atlantic column, headlined “A New Golden Age for Media?” online and “Start the Presses!” in the May print edition, is about how newspapers made money back before they became profit-spewing monopolies — the idea being that the future of the news media will probably look more like that than what media people got used to over the past half century.

I relied on a bunch of books in writing the piece, but only had room to mention two. And while it is possible to insert links into Atlantic print articles, the last time I tried it didn’t stick, and I was in rush this time so I didn’t bother. So here are the links and other annotations I would have liked to include.

pmarca twitterFirst, to the left, is a screen shot of the beginning of Mark Andreessen’s Twitter list of the ways digital media companies can make money (read it from bottom to top). He was later nice enough to compile these and a zillion other media-related tweets in one handy blog post.

Andreessen’s tweeting didn’t inspire me to write the piece — that was Atlantic deputy editor Don Peck’s idea — but it certainly helped organize it.

I mention two books in the column, Richard John’s Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse and James McGrath Morris’s Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power. They’re both pretty great.

Spreading the News is based on John’s doctoral dissertation, so it’s academic. But it’s good academic, offering lots of I-did-not-know-that moments, plus a framework for understanding why U.S. communications networks developed the way they did. John continues the story in Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications, which I cited in a previous Atlantic column. By the number of reviews the two books have gotten on Amazon, it appears that they haven’t attracted a general readership. They should. They’re both relevant to current issues such as the troubles of the USPS and the monopolization of broadband, they’re not hard to read, and they change how one sees the world.

John begins Spreading the News with a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831-1832 travel journals, subsequently published as Journey to America:

There is an astonishing circulation of letters and newspapers among these savage woods … I do not think that in the most enlightened rural districts of France there is intellectual movement either so rapid or on such a scale as in this wilderness.

John points out that a few years later in Democracy in America, Tocqueville quantifies this observation, showing that postal revenue per person is higher in backwoods Michigan and Florida than in the Departement du Nord, “one of the most enlightened and manufacturing parts of France.” The Frenchman also offers this wonderful assessment of the inhabitants of the rude wood huts of America’s frontier:

Who would not suppose that this poor hut is the asylum of rudeness and ignorance? Yet no sort of comparison can be drawn between the pioneer and the dwelling which shelters him. Everything about him is primitive and unformed, but he is himself the result of the labor and the experience of eighteen centuries. He wears the dress, and he speaks the language of cities; he is acquainted with the past, curious of the future, and ready for argument upon the present; he is, in short, a highly civilized being, who consents, for a time, to inhabit the backwoods, and who penetrates into the wilds of the New World with the Bible, an axe, and a file of newspapers.

But I digress.

Morris’s Pulitzer is an entertaining, engrossing biography. So is David Nasaw’s The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, the source for most everything Hearst in the column. The stuff about James Gordon Bennett came mainly from Richard Kluger’s The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune, a book I read back when it came out in 1986, and loved. I even visited Kluger at his house near Princeton and I thought I had written up the interview for The Daily Princetonian, but I can’t find the article in the archives. This recent Prince article about Kluger looks pretty cool, though.

Most of the other information about how newspapers made money in the 19th century came from Gerald Baldasty’s The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century, which is not exactly a fun read, but is full of useful facts. My brief mention of radio’s success as an advertising medium was based on a skimming of Laurence Bergreen’s Look Now, Pay Later: The Rise of Network Broadcasting, which looked pretty interesting although I was mainly just digging for numbers. Such as, 1931 advertising revenues for the main radio networks and a couple of leading magazines:

  • Saturday Evening Post, $35 million
  • NBC, $25.9 million
  • Ladies Home Journal, $12.8 million
  • CBS, $11.6 million

For the rest of the 1930s, revenues just kept rising for the radio networks while they presumably stagnated or even fell at the magazines. NBC and CBS, Berggreen wrote, “were purveying a commodity desperately needed by a Depression-ravaged nation: free entertainment.” ABC, by the way, wasn’t created till 1943, after the FCC ordered NBC to divest a big chunk of its operations and the man behind Lifesavers candies, Edward J. Noble, bought it.

Still, print publications could make tons of money even in the broadcast era. The quote from Warren Buffett about newspapers gushing profits comes from Berkshire Hathaway’s 2006 shareholder letter. Sandwiched between the two sentences I quoted in my column was this:

As one not-too-bright publisher famously said, “I owe my fortune to two great American institutions: monopoly and nepotism.”

Buffett then launches into an extended (it starts on page 11 and takes up all of page 12) and very good explanation of why newspapers used to be a great business but aren’t anymore. It’s too long to quote, so just read the letter. Fun bonus: Margaret Sullivan, now the excellent public editor of The New York Times, rates an admiring mention.

Finally, while my Atlantic piece was in the editing process, Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti posted a fascinating memo to staff in which he too compares the current media environment to that of before 1950. At one point he writes:

These days, media companies don’t have natural monopolies or oligopolies where one or two newspapers dominate a local market or a handful of broadcasters are the only options on a limited dial. There is more competition, the market is more fragmented, and gatekeepers have less power. Advertisers have more ways to reach consumers so they aren’t as dependent on publishers and can negotiate lower rates. In fact, some smart people in our industry don’t think it is possible to build a huge new media company anymore, that the golden age is over, and that all the growth now will be limited to pure technology companies.

Which is basically the argument of my column, although I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to build a media empire, just really, really hard. “This pessimistic view is wrong,” Peretti continues,“because it is focused entirely on what has been lost (monopoly pricing power, etc) and ignores what has been gained. This is a common psychological trap: People tend to be overly focused what is lost, while under-appreciating gains.”

The gains Peretti sees have to do with technology, scale, and diversity of talent. I totally get how those three factors all help Buzzfeed now. And I wouldn’t put it past Peretti to become the new Henry Luce. I wouldn’t bank on it either, though — and I really wouldn’t bank on Buzzfeed continuing to thrive long after Peretti and Ben Smith have retired, as Luce’s Time Inc. did. But then I do prefer history to futurism, which I guess makes me a backward-looking guy.

Back in New York

After three years in Massachusetts, my family and I moved back to New York in September. The photo below, which currently serves as the backdrop for this blog, was taken one evening this fall from the friend’s vacant apartment we were staying in (with bean bags, AeroBeds, and a couple of Ikea tables as furniture) on West 72nd Street. The rainbow’s cool, but I especially like the plane flying right over it.rainbow2
We’ve since moved into our own apartment in Morningside Heights. The view isn’t as grand. In fact, last Saturday, it looked like this (my son took the picture):Citibank fire

That’s because the Citibank on the corner was on fire — for 30 hours. I’m thinking that’s unlikely to happen every weekend, though.

I’m still with the Harvard Business Review, doing a lot more writing and a lot less going to meetings (because the meetings are all up in Massachusetts). I’m kinda sorta starting to work on another book. And yeah, I’m glad to be back.

Joe Nocera’s Microsoft Trial Coverage

I have a column in the January-February Atlantic on the tendency toward monopoly of Internet businesses. The initial inspiration came from an executive education class that a bunch of us Harvard Business Publishing managers took at HBS in the fall. Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Bharat Anand taught us about modern media business models, and I was struck by how many of the terms and concepts they were using reminded me of the Microsoft trial 15 years ago.

Once I started working on the piece, I needed a refresher on the trial, and while I briefly thought about checking Ken Auletta’s book out of the library, I remembered liking Joe Nocera’s trial coverage in Fortune much more than Auletta’s in The New Yorker (Joe’s my friend, and I worked at Fortune at the time, so I’m biased, but his articles were better). So I went to and dug up the full collection. And now that I’ve gone to all that effort, I figured I should share. For any future students of the Microsoft trial, this is your one-stop Nocera shop (that is, until CNNMoney or Time Inc. goes and changes all the URLs) (Update: with Fortune and CNN no longer part of the same company, the URLs did in fact all change. The old URLs are, impressively enough, all redirecting to the new ones for now, but just in case I updated everything):

Microsoft Goes to Court Big Question: What If They Lose? Oct. 26, 1998

High Noon: Both sides came out with lawyers blazing as federal antitrust chief Joel Klein’s prosecutors went gunning for the Bill Gates gang. Behind the scenes at the Microsoft trial, Nov. 23, 1998

His Own Worst Enemy: Bill Gates flops on video. The judge rebukes a Microsoft lawyer. An Intel exec testifies for the feds. In round two of our coverage of U.S. v. Microsoft, software’s heavyweight takes it on the chin, Dec. 7, 1998

Spin City: As the Microsoft trial proceeds, the appearance of truth is becoming as important as the truth itself. At least, that’s what the spinmeisters for both sides seem to believe, Dec. 21, 1998

The Empire Strikes Back: As the antitrust trial slogged into the holidays, Microsoft and its CEO tried to make nice and plead their case to the press. But something didn’t quite ring true, Jan. 11, 1999

Muddied, But Unbowed: After three months of testimony, the government closed its antitrust case with two witnesses, one powerful, one pathetic. As Microsoft emerges to present its defense, one thing is clear: Gates & Co. have been embarrassed, but the government has not landed a knockout blow, Feb. 1, 1999

Hang-’em-High’ Boies: The government’s lawyer says he’s not a showman, but he’s putting on some performance, February 15, 1999

Witnesses in Wonderland: On trial in Washington, Microsoft saw its witnesses get skewered, its video crash, and its prospects for victory take a serious turn for the worse, March 1, 1999

Let’s Go To The Videotape: Armed with dueling tapes, the government and Microsoft quibbled over download times and modem speeds. Thanks to one strong witness, the software giant actually turned this sideshow into a moral victory — but was it too little, too late? March 15, 1999

Is Boies’ Paper Trail Microsoft’s Burial Ground? As the trial headed into a recess, Microsoft had one foot in the grave — thanks mostly to its own witnesses and its own documents, March 29, 1999

Microsoft And Me: With the trial on hold, talk of a settlement emerges. Our diarist heads to Redmond to see if the defendant really has compromise in mind, April 26, 1999

Microsoft Tries To Crack AOL’s Case: With the trial set to resume, our diarist returns to check in on a key deposition, and finds that Microsoft is still…well, Microsoft, June 21, 1999

The Big Blue Diaries As the trial resumed, the government produced a Microsoft competitor with a telltale journal. But did the evidence show a crime? July 5, 1999

Curtain Call: In the last act of the antitrust trial, Microsoft made another dogged attempt to plead its case. But the judge was obviously unmoved, July 19, 1999

Microsoft’s Trials: Thou Shalt Not Lie, Dec. 6, 1999


Inside the Minds of Joel Klein and Bill Gates, May 1, 2000

I Remember Microsoft: Once computing’s red-hot center, Microsoft now has a tough time retaining its best and brightest employees. Here, some who left reflect on what they learned–and why they find life on the outside so much more alluring, July 10, 2000 (special bonus: current People magazine movie critic Alynda Wheat was the reporter/fact-checker on this one)


13 hours, 38 minutes of Myth of the Rational Market fun

The Myth of the Rational Market is now out as an audiobook! I just bought a copy. It's still downloading (58 minutes remaining) as I write this. I can't imagine I'll ever listen to the whole thing, but I am looking forward to sampling narrator Alan Sklar's rendition. He and I did a lot of talking on the phone over the holidays, as he checked the pronunciations of characters' names with me. The man has a fine voice.

I knew most of pronunciations, but there were a couple that I had never heard said aloud—and discovered, after some asking around, that I had been mispronouncing in my head. Turns out the late University of Chicago economist Melvin Reder's last name is pronounced "Reader" (thanks to Edward Lazear for setting me straight), and rational expectations pioneer John Muth's is pronounced "Myouth" (Bob Lucas came through on that one).

In other news, there are new book-related interviews up at the website of Chai University (a new online MBA provider) and at the Motley Fool's UK site. Plus, I did a commentary for public radio's Marketplace that was informed by my book research.

Talking efficient markets with Robert Kleinschmidt, Jerry Senser and Consuelo Mack

I hadn't realized that my appearance on Consuelo Mack WealthTrack in October was available in embeddable form. Thanks to Prieur du Plessis for showing me the way:

There's also a transcript where you can read semi-coherent utterances such as this one (it's better on TV):

JUSTIN FOX: It's funny, even though my book is critical of this whole idea coming out of academic finance, I spent enough time talking to all these finance professors that I immediately think to myself, "yeah, but do those guys really know where these stocks are headed?" But my thought is yeah, I should hope some people do because that's what makes, it's the work of Jerry and Robert that makes markets more efficient over time. My thinking is more power to them because I'm no good at that.