“If someone’s abused on this train, let them know you’re on their side.” – Train ads address racism on PT

I assume this Anti-Hate advertising campaign from the Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission is a response to some well-publicised incidents recently:

Anti-Hate advertisement on a train

The small print says: The only thing more painful than racism is the silence that follows. If someone’s abused on this train, let them know you’re on their side. Help stop the hurt.

So are they encouraging people to give the racists a spray? Kind of… as the web site notes:

If you don’t act you might later feel guilty that you didn’t! But, more importantly, research shows that when people watching don’t do anything, it increases the impact of the incident. That is, by everyone staying quiet while someone is yelling hateful things, it makes it seem like they all agree with what’s going on. This can be far more hurtful than the abuse itself.

So by making an effort to let the target know you don’t support the hate, you can make a huge difference to how someone feels about themselves and the community.

It goes on to say that:

would never recommend that you put yourself in physical danger, for instance if the hater is drunk, on drugs or appears violent. Of course, if violence or a crime occurs, call the Police on 000 immediately.

I don’t know whether the kind of racism seen recently is on the increase or if it’s just being brought to attention via the proliferation of phone cameras, but it’s good to see an attempt to address it. Hopefully it helps.

View the full Anti-Hate web site: antihate.vic.gov.au

Magazines moving to digital

Magazines aren’t quite dead, but they’re in trouble.

While places like MagNation in Elizabeth Street are often busy, that might hide the fact that it replaced at least two older specialised magazine retailers (Technical Book Shop and McGills) that were in the CBD previously.

MagazinesAt Southland, the newsagency that had been there for decades has recently shut. From what I can gather, there’s now no dedicated newsagent in the centre.

Circulation figures show some publications continue to drop. For instance, comparing 2008 figures to 2012, my old favourite Australian Personal Computer fell from 37,156 to 21,612. In that time, Women’s Weekly fell from 530,143 to 465,477 — still a huge number, but undeniably dropping. Gardening Australia fell from 99,058 to 71,955.

There is a partial revival however, through better distribution channels (some specialised mags are available via air into newsagents and retailers like MagNation), and interestingly: digital.

Zinio is an digital magazine delivery company which seems to have a pretty good range (apparently around 5000 titles in all), including technology, lifestyle, sports, and whatever category things like National Geographic fall into.

Their magazines are readable on iPad, Android, Mac OSX and Windows, plus via any web browser with Flash.

What’s the pricing like? For some it’s much cheaper than buying paper — for instance the UK magazine Retro Gamer, which I’m quite fond of, via Zinio is A$51.10 for 13 issues (compared to 80 pounds/about A$130 subscribing to paper from the publisher), or you can buy just the latest for A$5.43 (compared to $14.95 for a paper copy in the shops, arriving several months after publication). For others it’s similar to the retail price.

Given many people will read a magazine once, then either chuck it out or keep it in the bookshelf for 5 years and then chuck it out, that’s pretty good value.

The other thing they have is called a Z-Pass, where for $5 a month you can read any 3 magazines, and swap between titles each month. That particular deal is US-only at the moment, but is apparently spreading to other countries soon.

I guess it shows that the important thing is the content, not whether it’s on paper or digital.

Zinio got in touch with me recently offering ten free subscriptions to readers, with the option of keeping one for myself.

So, I’m going to keep one for myself! Which means I’ve got nine to give away.

To win, leave a comment with your real email address (which is not visible to anybody but me) on the following topic: what’s your most favourite magazine of all time, and why? Is it still around? Do you still read it?

I’ll pick winners from what I think are the most interesting answers received in the next 7 days. Just try to keep it clean, okay?

[In case it's not obvious: I'm getting a Zinio subscription out of this, so this constitutes a paid blog post.]

Update 26/7/2013 — You can keep the comments coming, but the competition is now closed.

Anybody else getting dodgy texts about a United Energy power surge?

Has anybody else had one of these, possibly dodgy, texts?

Possibly dodgy text from an alleged United Energy contractor

This is the second one I’ve received now. After the first I replied “Wrong number” and got a “Sorry” back, but the guy is persistent.

Something smells fishy. Note the supposed pick-up date, which is last Thursday, three days before the text was received.

When I mentioned it on Twitter last night, Marcus Wong noted that there was a power surge around that day (actually on the 11th if the 3AW article is accurate), on the Mornington Peninsula.

United Energy is a distributor, not a retailer — many people in Melbourne’s south-east are connected via them, even if another company is the one sending them the bills.

Of course, it could just be a wrong number plus poor record-keeping. The number of emails I get for someone, who apparently shares my name but has no idea of their own email address, is amazing.

Beware of credit card points

I was thinking of using my Commonwealth Bank credit card points to get myself an iPad, or an iPad Mini. After much consultation and trying them out, I thought I’d go for the Mini, which I have about enough points for.

There’s a catch — ordering stuff from points can take quite a while for delivery.

And, as I discovered, it can be cheaper to use the points to get money back or gift cards.

For an iPad Mini, 16 Gb, Wifi only:

  • Target: $359. You could get $350 in Target gift cards using 59,300 points (169 points per cent), thus spending only $9 in cash and still having 27,200 points left. Or you could get $500 in gift cards for 82,000 points (164 points per cent), having $141 left.
  • Myer: $369. $350 in Myer gift cards would use up 61,200 points (174 points per dollar). Add $19 cash and as above, plenty of points left over.
  • JB Hifi: $356. Using the points cash back, this would use up 71,200 points (200 points per dollar)… but has the advantage that if you can afford to temporarily be without the money, you can get the knick-knack straight away.
  • CBA Award Points: 86,500 (based on RRP this is 234 points per dollar; some 43% more than via Target gift cards)

It’s only one example of course, but the lesson here is to not blindly use your points to get stuff — check if it’s better to cash in the points for money or vouchers and then buy your gizmo.

I haven’t actually bought my Mini yet — still decided which purchase route to go down.

The past and future of retail

In one lunchtime walk yesterday, I saw both the past and future of retail.

“As seen on TV.” Seriously, they still use this tagline to hook people in? Does it still work? It’s never the name-brand products which used this — always the slightly dodgy ones. I walked past this display twice, and saw nobody actually looking. Perhaps they do when there’s a shouty person with a microphone spruiking it.
"As seen on TV"

Meanwhile in the mall… Perhaps busking bands are moving away from selling CDs — instead they just sell you a token for an MP3 download.
Buskers - selling music downloads

The last weekday of @TheAge as a broadsheet – I won’t miss it

I don’t read The Age in paper form everyday, but when I do, it’s either on the weekend where I can spread out as much as I like (so broadsheet is fine, though the smaller format of the supplements is fine too), or on weekdays on the train, where the broadsheet format is extremely awkward to handle.

Many of us will know the feeling — we’ve managed to find a nook on the train where we can unfold the paper without hitting other people with it, struggled just to turn the page without it inadvertently folding in on itself, and finally got to the new page only to find it’s a bloody double-spread of adverts for Dan Murphy’s or some other booze outlet we have no interest in reading.

It may be seen by some teary nostalgics as the end of an era, but I for one welcome the new compact tabloid format.

Wow! What a scoop for The Age!!
Yesterday’s Age — a big scoop?

Mind you, as Jonathan Green writes in this interesting article, it may just forestalls the inevitable continuing decline of paper sales.

It does sound like some kind of paywall will go up around the web site, too. It’s unclear how well that’s worked for News Limited papers such as the Herald Sun, given there are easy ways of circumventing much of it.

I also wonder what on earth Fairfax were thinking when they built The Age’s Tullamarine printing plant, now set to close within a year or two, but which only opened ten years ago at a cost of $220 million — all set up with highly expensive printing presses to print broadsheets. Did really nobody see coming the decline of classified ad revenue, and thus big fat broadsheet newspapers?

Where is it made? Advertising implies NZ, but the box says China.

We upgraded the kids’ beds to King Single… because they’re both getting big.

Unfortunately the place I bought the excellent old bunk beds years ago (“Chunky Pine Bunks”) seems to have closed down… a real shame because all I wanted was fairly plain, but really sturdy beds.

I hunted around and eventually found these:

Bed advertised on web site

Good price, looked sturdy. I went in and checked them out in person, and they looked okay, so ordered them.

When they arrived, I noted that unlike the advertisement above which implies they are made in NZ, they are actually made in China.

Box from bed

I’ve got no problem with the quality of them; so far they’ve been fine. And frankly, the price was right.

But I’m not sure how I feel about the advertising implying they’re made in NZ, when they’re not.

Of course it’s possible that the wood originates in NZ but is shipped to China for construction. Or perhaps it’s some type of wood that is known as New Zealand Pine?

Oh well. Just one of those things I suppose.

I guess the message here is that if the country of origin is important, be sure to ask — don’t trust the advertising, especially if it’s a bit vague.

10 minute trains are great, but why is the promotion of them so incredibly vague and uninformative?

If you improve a product, and want it to sell well, you need to make people aware of it.

When they launched trains every 10 minutes between the City and Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston last year on weekends, there was an initial bit of publicity via the media, but very little else.

Metro did some advertising via MX and billboards which was incredibly vague:

Metro billboard near Caulfield station, October 2012

Witty? Perhaps. But what does it tell you? It could mean anything. And it implies the boost is on Sundays only.

Even now, while the excellent Dumb Ways To Die campaign has gained a lot of awareness, as far as other promotion goes, they’ve reverted to non-specific advertising:

My Metro - billboard near Caulfield station, January 2013

It might build brand awareness, and hint at the idea that people should consider PT for travel everyday, not just to and from work/school, but does nothing to tell you that, actually, weekend train services are better than they’ve ever been — and let’s face it, that’s what’s going to get people on board.

While those who know have started using ten minute trains more (and loving it), and it’s relieved the crowding, a lot of people are completely unaware that Melbourne’s three busiest rail lines have such a frequent weekend service.

The problem was brought home to me a couple of years ago (before the latest upgrade) when my stepfather said that he wished they’d improve Sunday (daytime) train timetables from running every 40 minutes. In reality on his line they haven’t run every 40 minutes since 1996. In that year they changed to every 30, then to every 20 in 1999. He had been thoroughly discouraged from using trains on Sundays many years ago, and hadn’t heard they’d improved.

Many people are also unaware that you’ll pay a maximum of $3.50 per day on weekends and public holidays to travel anywhere around Melbourne.

There are good examples in the not too distant past of targeted, clear promotion that gets the message across. Here’s a local newspaper advert from 1992:

The Met: advertisement for improved Sandringham line services, 11th Feb 1992

With Melbourne’ CBD booming on weekends, and inner-city traffic and parking often causing hassles, fast frequent trains have real potential to help people get around Melbourne.

Not every line runs frequently, but if we’re going to see that happen, the ones that do need to be successful. Proper, clear promotion is vital to help make it so.