National Lampoon

National Lampoon. Platform, uptown No. 1 at Houston Street. Guy sits down on the wooden bench two seats from me. Not From Here. Late forties, khakis, penny-loafers, outdoorsy woodsy LL Beansy jacket. Gray hair, round head. Short. Inexpensive looking. “Is there a train schedule? What time does the next train come?” No, there’s no schedule. “There isn’t?” If there were, it’d be the city’s greatest piece of creative writing. “You’d think…” It’s not a train train, it’s a subway. They come when they come.
“Well, then how do you know?” He smirks. He could do it better: if he were in charge, it would all work perfectly. Obviously, here in New York City, there is not the talent for perfection. You just know. You ride the train everyday, you learn when they come and when they don’t come and you learn how long you should have to wait. This time, right now, maybe five, ten minutes. Real trains like the Long Island Railroad and the Metro North have schedules, and keep them.
Where are you from? “Los Angeles. I’m here in town looking for money. National Lampoon. I work for National Lampoon dot com.” Oh yeah? Did you already try in the Valley? “Our investment banker is here. We’ve had an enormous response.” I’m getting the canned remarks designed for pitches, presentations and recruiting. “CNN, CNNfn, Newsweek, USA Today, all over.” Sounds like a lot of old media for a new media company. What kind of online promotions are you putting out? “Well, we’ve gotten a huge response. Maybe 2.5 million hits since October.” We get on the train. He’s defensive. He asks how far to Times Square. He’s uncomfortable. How many unique visitors? “About, I’d say, 175,000.” Hmmm. What kind of stickiness? “Twelve minutes.” His answers are terse. “Are you in the web?” This is how he phrases it: “in the web.” I do a few small web sites, but I’ve spent years on the periphery of advertising. “Oh.” I ask if he has a card. He doesn’t, he says. He gets off at Times Square. The visitors are too low to claim success, particularly since the hits are so high. Why are the hits so high? Visit to the site reveals long downloads, questionable navigation schemes, long drill-downs to real content, over-reliance on video media, Shockwave and (relatively) large graphic files. Weak site, in other words. Looks like National Lampoon licensed a mickey-mouse outfit hellbent on diluting and mucking up the brand. Welcome to it.

Posted January 4, 2000

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