AT&T keeps taking it

A week or so ago I talked about the Economist running full-page AT&T ads in the very same issue in which they bashed the announced AT&T purchase of AT&T.  (For anyone keeping track, I’ve yet to find any more AT&T ads there)  Tonight, while watching Traffic Lights (there’s literally nothing else in my TiVo) I caught one of those ubiquitous T-mobile ads mocking AT&T’s service on the oh-so-trendy iPhone.

Chances are you’ve seen the ad, they’ve been running for months, and I have to admit raised my interest enough to get me to look into their service.  In an homage to Apple, they star two people who declare themselves either an iPhone (a young, good-looking guy with a balding accountant-looking companion) or a T-mobile myTouch 4G (a fetching, girl-next-door, purple-dress wearing Carly Foulkes) in front of a plain white background, who then go on and dialogue about the failings of the former and the superiority of the latter.  The ads vary, but the theme is always that everything you love about the iPhone is weighed down by AT&T (and Verizon in one ad).  T-Mobile is smart in not attacking Apple, cultishly adored for their products’ abilities, but instead the reviled telecoms.  Given T-mobile’s history of winning awards for customer service and customer satisfaction, it’s a good strategy.

Which makes me wonder, why exactly are these ads still running?  The buyout is not a hostile takeover bid, T-Mobile seems to be accepting it (rather Deutsche Telekom, their parent, is eager to offload its poorly placed subsidiary and focus on stronger markets).  If I’m a T-mobile customer, the ad seems to tell me to start looking at Sprint or Verizon, which is bad no matter whether the buyout succeeds.  If I’m a savvy consumer looking for a new phone and carrier (which I am), this ad only cements that it won’t be AT&T and thus it won’t be T-mobile, again lose-lose.

My only idea is that the ads were produced, airtime purchased, and placement approved well before the merger talk.  With nothing else in the stable to replace it with, T-mobile might have thought that the airtime is a sunk cost and the ads might boost their image (and thus the eventual combined value of the AT&T).  The ad certainly isn’t new, so it’s not like this is a new strategy or even an update.  Or maybe there still is internal struggle to remain independent and this is one internal faction’s move to signal the non-inevitableness of the deal.  But maybe it’s just a hedge that the deal will ultimately be blocked by regulators.  Either way, it’ll be interesting to see just how long the ads stay on air.

Media type: TV commercial
From: T-mobile (watched originally on FOX)
Title: not sure
Watch it: 

Pandora for podcasts


Apple is a company that makes investors and entrepreneurs alike tremble with envy.  Sleek new smartphones, products that create entirely new markets (iPods, iPads), and an online music store that has found a way to monetize some of movement to online music.  But there is one flaw so glaring on the Apple facade that leaves many increasingly irritated: the inability to sync.

I am lucky enough to have a home laptop, a work desktop, an iPhone and two iPods (mainly for long car trips) and I devour podcasts at a prodigious rate (see aforementioned trips as well as long hours spent at the bench).  Check any one of these devices and you will seldom see any overlap in the podcasts.  I constantly have to re-upload the latest editions, re-connect USB cables, and re-download new subscriptions.  But lately I’ve found stitcher.

Stitcher radio is a bit like Rhapsody and Pandora all mixed together.  It’s web-based podcast radio.  You have one user-generated account and in it you can “favorite” your usual podcasts (searching through my standards only one was not in the stitcher library: NPR 7AM ET News Summary).  It then keeps track of what you’ve listened to, downloads the latest editions, keeps an order, and automatically syncs anytime you log in.  Oh, and there’s an iPhone app.  No more awkwardly transferring from the iPod app to the iTunes store app, waiting for a download, etc.  Since it’s all on-demand, it just starts streaming the podcast just like Pandora!



If you’re like me and always looking for new podcasts, it’s got you covered: click on a single podcast and there’s a ‘find similar’ button.  Or simply go to the playlists of what’s currently most popular, what the staff recommends, etc.  I’ve previously used the iTunes store suggestions or Hunch.com’s “tailored” recommendations to varying degrees of success.  The jury’s still out on this, but so far it’s been interesting.

Of course there are downsides:

  • I’ve yet to figure out how to download older episodes.  For instance ,the Moth is a great live story podcast and there’s no reason why last week’s story is irrelevant, so I’d like to be able to call it up.
  • Like I mentioned, it has yet to offer every podcast.
  • It’d be nice to see it have a recommended list of podcasts to check out based on my current favorites and other podcasts I’ve thumbs upped (undoubtedly this option exists I’m too slow to have figured it out).
  • And finally, there’re ads.  Granted the ads are usually 20-30s promos for stitcher itself, but given that most successful podcasts now start and/or end shows with the hosts plugging audible.com, carbonite.com, or stitcher.com, you may have three annoying bits in a row.
  • My iPhone does not connect to my car’s stereo, but my iPod does (thanks Apple for lack of backward’s compatibility, way to try to shill more money out of me).

Overall, these flaws are exceedingly minor for the service stitcher provides.  Can I guarantee I’ll still be using this app in six months?  No.  But at least for the moment it’s worth playing with and incorporating into my daily life.

Media Type: iPhone App (also available for Blackberry, Android and Palm)
From: Stitcher
Title: Stitcher
Try it at: http://stitcher.com/home.php