Restoration Hardware’s Mail-Order Extravagance

Amy Merrick, writing in The New Yorker, explores why Restoration Hardware mailed a 17-pound catalog: 

Why do we still have catalogues? Web and mobile browsers have improved dramatically in the past decade. It’s hard to argue that catalogues, like books, are objects worth preserving for their aesthetic value; they will be obsolete within months. Yet Americans received nearly twelve billion catalogs last year.
Marketers say that people who browse catalogues buy more than those who shop only online. The U.S. Postal Service works hard to promote catalogues, which have become an increasingly important segment of U.S.P.S. business as people mail fewer first-class letters. The online retailer Bonobos, which began shipping catalogues last year, told the Wall Street Journal that twenty per cent of its new Web customers placed orders after receiving their first mailings, and spent more than other new shoppers.
Those incremental sales are accompanied by enormous waste. Industry surveys from groups like the Direct Marketing Association estimate that catalogues get average response rates of four to five per cent. In the case of Restoration Hardware, that means that for every sixty thousand pages mailed, approximately three thousand pay off.

Being Digital: Nicholas Negroponte: A 30-year history of the future

MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte takes you on a journey through the last 30 years of tech. The consummate predictor highlights interfaces and innovations he foresaw in the 1970s and 1980s that were scoffed at then but are ubiquitous today. And he leaves you with one last (absurd? brilliant?) prediction for the coming 30 years. If you haven't yet, you should read (or re-read) his classic "Being Digital."

In Modern Marketing, a Big Dose of Data in the Creative Juices

Claire Cain Miller, NY Times Bits Blog:

Computers are once again transforming the business of marketing, infusing the art with science. This time, though, the change is being driven by cloud computing and the processing of huge amounts of data about what customers do and what they desire.
Unlike the computer on “Mad Men,” which took up an entire room, the computers processing the data are not even in marketers’ offices but in far-off data centers. But just as in the fictional company depicted on “Mad Men,” the new technology is causing tensions among the quants, or quantitative data analysts, the artists and the information technologists.
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For consumers, the result is personalized marketing.
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Ideally, consumers do not notice the computing and data-crunching in the background and instead just see more relevant messages from brands, said Ian Schafer, chief executive and founder of Deep Focus, a digital agency. But when marketing is too personalized, it can feel creepy.

The CIA's first tweet

By now you probably know the CIA joined twitter recently. You've probably seen their first tweet, but just in case, here it is:

I'm using the situation to steer you in a different direction. Recenly Radiolab spent an episode exploring the origins of the phrase "neither confirm nor deny." It is a must-listen episode about the ubiquitous CIA phrase, so ubiquitous it became their first tweet.