Daily Archives: December 22, 2010

Seriously Annoying

Okay, WordPress users, a question for you: Can you think of any reason why WP would suddenly and randomly make the most recent posts disappear from the front page? The post isn’t deleted and is directly accessible, it just doesn’t show up on the front page, even if it was there before. It seems to be happening to me quite a lot over the last couple of days, and I know I didn’t press any “make most recent posts randomly disappear” button on the back end of this thing.

If anyone knows the secret to making this stop, I would be obliged. Thanks.

An Interview With the Christmas Bunny

Your name, please.

Aloysius McFuzz.

And your profession?

I am the Christmas Bunny.

The Christmas Bunny.

That is correct.

Not the Easter Bunny.

No, but close. But the Christmas Bunny is a franchise.

Franchise?

Yes. You know what a franchise is?

In the sense of McDonald’s or Burger King franchising a store.

Yes.

Sure.

Same thing. Just with rabbits. And holidays.

I’m afraid I’m still not entirely clear on the concept here.

Fine. You said you know about the Easter Bunny.

I do.

The Easter Bunny is a very successful icon of his season and does a huge amount of business through licensing. Every Easter Bunny stuffed animal, toy, decoration, chocolate treat, what have you, he gets a cut. And through that initial influx of licensing deal cash, he moved into other sectors of Easter menagerie licensing. In 1985, for example, he bought out the entire Easter-related poultry segment. So everything Easter-related that features a bird or a bird product, he gets a cut of that too.

Including Easter eggs.

Oh, yeah. A gold mine, those. Even those chocolate creme eggs, you know which ones I’m talking about?

The ones that have the commercials where the rabbit clucks like a chicken.

That’s how he got them! First, he sued them for trademark infringement on the rabbit. Then he got them on trademark infringement on the eggs. By the time the dust settled he had a substantial minority interest in the entire company.

Sounds ruthless.

He’s no dumb bunny. But he does it all for the kids.

I still don’t see how this has anything to do with Christmas, however.

Well, clearly, as the Easter Bunny shows, rabbits and holidays are a potent commercial mix, and in the course of time it became obvious that brand expansion needed to happen. But the Easter Bunny didn’t want to do it himself — he didn’t want to spread himself too thin — so he franchised it out and took bids on bunnies for the various holidays. I and my investors put in the strongest bid for Christmas.

I imagine there was a fair amount of competition for that particular holiday.

It was a challenging bidding environment, yes. It came down to us and Disney.

Disney.

Yes. They had re-acquired Oswald the Rabbit — that was Walt Disney’s first famous animated character, and Universal had owned him until recently — and wanted to relaunch him.

I’m surprised they didn’t get their way. Because, you know. It’s Disney.

The Easter Bunny felt that since Christmas already has so many legacy characters, and the Christmas Bunny should be new and fresh. I mean, Oswald’s heyday was in the 20s. It’s him and Felix the Cat, drinking prune juice in the retirement home.

How much were the franchise fees?

That’s confidential.

Come on. You can tell me.

Let’s just say it was more cheddar than the mouse wanted to shell out.

And there are other holiday bunnies, too.

Yes. At the franchise bidding, he sold the Thanksgiving Bunny, the July Fourth Bunny and the Labor Day Bunny. There was interest in a Hanukkah Bunny and Kwanzaa Bunny too, but those are part of our franchise, so we’ll eventually sub-franchise those.

No Valentine’s Day Bunny.

No, he kept a two month exclusivity window on either side of Easter. The National Arbor Day Foundation begged for an Arbor Day Bunny, and he totally shut them down. Had a tirade. The words “April is MINE” were said. It was an uncomfortable moment for everyone. But he had a point. You don’t undercut your core brand. Especially not for Arbor Day.

Let’s get back to Christmas again.

Yes, let’s.

You noted that there are already several prominent… what did you call them?

“Legacy characters.”

Several prominent legacy characters involved in the Christmas holiday. It seems like it may already be a saturated market in that respect.

This is true. But most of them are fairly minor and can either be eclipsed in popularity or simply bought out. To that end we are in serious negotiations with the Geisel estate. You probably know him as Dr. Seuss.

You’re buying out the Grinch? That’s oddly appropriate.

We’re also pursuing a long-term license to Rudolph. We’re already planning the stop-motion holiday special with me and him, saving the Island of Misfit Toys from Evil Drunken Santa.

Evil Drunken Santa.

Yes, that’s right.

Isn’t that defamation?

He’s a public figure. We’re on safe legal ground, First Amendment-wise.

You’ve settled on a plan of driving down Santa’s popularity, then.

Well, yes, but that’s actually only a minor component there. I was mentioning how we’re dealing with the minor legacy characters. Well, there are two major ones.

Okay.

One’s Jesus, and, well. He can’t be touched.

Because he will smite you?

No, he’s not the smiting type. But the Easter Bunny is. He says that he’s got a good thing going with Easter, which is another Jesus-focused holiday, as you may be aware.

I’d heard.

Right. I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did anything against Jesus, the repercussions would be significant. The word “fricassee” was used, and not metaphorically.

I’m not sure I like what I’m learning about the Easter Bunny.

He is tough but fair.

So one is Jesus. I’m guessing the other is Santa Claus.

Yes. And him, I can totally go after. In fact, I was specifically told by the Easter Bunny to gun for him. Apparently there’s bad blood there. I don’t know the details. I don’t want to know the details.

So what is your strategy for Santa?

We’ve developed a two-pronged approach. First, we’re going to outcompete on service.

How so?

Think about it. Santa delivers on only one night, on an inflexible schedule, only to particular children, and in a manner that utterly compromises your home security — and he expects you to be happy about the arrangement.

I never thought about it that way.

No one does. Because it’s the way it’s always been done. But I ask you. Any other night, how would you react to a home invasion? At 4am? From a guy who judges your children? Which is of course an inherent criticism of you as a parent.

When you put it that way, Santa seems like a jerk.

And for all that, he expects cookies!

And milk!

The Christmas Bunny offers a better way. A two-week delivery window, on your schedule. We knock before we enter. And hey, we know that kids today have their ups and downs. We don’t judge, either them or you. It’s a no-pressure way to enjoy the holiday.

That’s one prong. What’s the other?

Litigation.

Litigation.

Yes.

As in, suing Santa Claus.

Absolutely.

For home invasion?

No, we don’t have standing for that. But for restraint of trade, yes.

How does he restrain trade?

Are you kidding? The man’s got the entire holiday locked up. We’re trying to make deals with manufacturers and merchandisers here and abroad, and we’re getting shown the door. They’re not even allowing us to buy their stuff retail. We have to sneak into Target and CostCo and try to buy things before they find us and kick us out.

I imagine your fluffy cotton tails give you away.

It’s definitely not legal, what he’s doing. So, yes, we’ll be seeing Santa in court.

In US court? If anyone has jurisdiction over the North Pole, I would think it would be Canada or Russia.

Hey, the North Shore of Alaska is up there. We’ve got a claim. But the point is moot. HoHoHo Enterprises is incorporated in Delaware. Third Circuit, baby.

But aren’t you going after Santa for the same sort of thing the Easter Bunny does?

How do you mean?

I mean the Easter Bunny’s got that holiday locked up as tightly as Santa’s got Christmas. If you go after Santa, you leave the Easter Bunny vulnerable to same restraint of trade argument. And then the next thing you know, you’ll have an Easter Claus.

I think such speculation is wild and baseless and I can say with authority that the Easter Bunny welcomes any legitimate competition and would never in any way engage in the sort of illegal trade practice you allege. I’m shocked you would even suggest it. I can’t believe I’m sitting with you now. If I had known your intent was to slander the Easter Bunny, I would have never let you through the door.

The Easter Bunny is listening to us now, isn’t he.

This conversation is over.

Stats Geekery Addendum

In October, I posted an entry about the readership stats for Whatever and noted at the time that it’s often difficult to get a true bead on how many people are reading what I’m writing here, in part because of the variance in reporting between stats programs, and then also because the stats programs may or may not report syndicated views (i.e., people reading and sharing via RSS), but even when they do those reports don’t show up as part of the “official” site statistics.

To bring home the latter point, the picture above shows you the WordPress stat suite tracking for the “Interview with the Nativity Innkeeper” piece, tracking the readers of the piece from yesterday through about 10:30 am today — more specifically, people who visited the entry page itself (rather than reading it off the front page of Whatever, as regular visitors were likely to have done), and those looking at it via RSS feed. The light blue bits are the people who are looking at it directly on the site page for it; the dark blue bits are the people reading it via RSS.

What do we see? In this case, the RSS readership is swamping the direct-to-page visitors; since the piece went up yesterday (and not counting those who read it directly off the front page) the stats suite has reported about 51,000 readers, nearly 84% of whom are reading it away from the site. This percentage is higher than usual for my posts, but in a general sense there’s always a substantial number of RSS/offsite readers, none of whom are part of the “official” site numbers.

I bring this up partly because I nerd out about how people get hold of my stuff, but partly to make the point that online readership numbers are highly fungible. If I were trying to sell advertising on the site, I could say that this entry has had 8,000 readers or so; the RSS readers would be, in a sense, dark matter, or the equivalent of people who watch shows on DVRs — watching but not useful to advertisers. Unless, of course, I put ads on my RSS feed, which is a thing I’ve seen people do. I think this stuff is fascinating.

Bear in mind that I have no plans for adding advertising to the site (save for another possible sponsored piece of fiction, a la “An Election“), so for me this is largely noodling over numbers. However you’re reading the writing on Whatever, I’m glad you do so.

I Write About Some Science Fiction Films, and Try To Be Brave

Specifically, I’m talking about the SF films of 2010, in an “end-of-the-year wrapup” fashion, in my column for FilmCritic.com. Please go visit, because now that the SG:U gig is gone, this is the only regular paycheck I have left, and if you don’t go and read it right now, I’ll be fired, we’ll be thrown out into the snow with only thin summer clothes to cover our shivering bodies and then we’ll die.

(breaks down, sobbing, in pure financial desperation)

[Editorial note: This is has been a dramatic simulation of a moment of desperation, not an actual moment of desperation. The Scalzi family is on perfectly stable financial ground, and has many winter-appropriate bits of apparel. Nor are any of the pets in danger, as may be  suggested in upcoming lines. We now return you to the faked breakdown already in process.]

(wipes eyes) Sorry, I didn’t mean to break down like that. I’m fine. We’re all fine. Except possibly Zeus. Chubby, delectable Zeus. Who will be fine at five minutes a pound at 325 degrees.

Anyway, won’t you read the column this week? Please?!!!??!!??!!?!?!ONE!??