When Jeff Bezos launched his e-commerce website, he chose the name Amazon because it would appear at the top of the predominantly alphabetically listed website indexes. That has made Amazon the force it is.
The A principle has had another interesting side effect in our age of runaway telecommunications: the pocket dialler.
The problem of unintentional phone calls, known as pocket dialling, is caused by a magical combination of buttons being pressed as cellphones are placed in pockets or handbags.
The sometimes amusing, sometimes irritating problem is most acutely felt by men called Adam, it emerged in the course of writing this article, although those called Adrian and Adriaan have their own encounters.
”It happens regularly,” says Adam Fittinghoff, the brand manager for Palm smartphones. ”A lot of people do not use the keylock function,” he laments. ”You won’t believe the conversations I have overheard, [including] one of my friend’s children being born,” he says.
”You are like a voyeur,” says Adam Cooke, deputy editor of Men’s Health. ”You are never quite sure what you will hear.” But, he adds: ”It is often quite intriguing. What are you going to overhear?” Sadly, he adds, most of these conversations are muffled because of the mobile being in a pocket.
Lawyer Adam Brink says he gets at least 10 of these pocket-dials a week. ”I get repeated ones from a colleague who works for the Scorpions and hear her discussing weird crimes,” he says. Another friend bizarrely calls him when he is hanging up washing with his wife. But ”no one has triggered their phone while they are having sex,” he laughs.
It is clearly a source of much humour for the Adams (and Adriaans and Adrians), who could easily form a support group, or perhaps an informal espionage service.
Context seems to be everything. Cooke says most of his calls seem to come from people who are driving. ”I once heard my brother singing along to the radio, really badly.”
Consultant Adriaan Wessels jokes that ”I tend to get calls from people’s arses, when they sit on their phones”.
The problem isn’t confined to calls. Text messages are as frequently mis-sent.
”I could write a book,” says Adrian Wainwright, an account director at PR firm Text 100, who gets frequent SMSs from burly men in the IT industry professing their love for him. One client, an executive at a big IT computer company, ”told me he loved me” instead of his wife.
Cooke was alarmed to get a text from his au pair, clearly meant for her boyfriend, which read: ”I crave Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ you.”
”I had to SMS back ‘ho, ho, pity you got me’,” he laughs.
Actress Shelley Meskin says she’s escaped the A factor. But because her number is the speed dial on her brother’s touchscreen cellphone, positioned above the disconnect button, he often inadvertedly calls her. No letter of the alphabet is safe.
However, solving it is easily done, say the Adams.
”I have often had to phone people to remove me [from their contacts] or put in a fictitious entry,” says Fittinghoff. One woman showed the Mail & Guardian how her brother Adrian has created an ”AAA” entry with a ”00” phone number in her phone to prevent this. One Adam even tells people to put him in as Madam.
Whatever would Jeff Bezos think?
Marketing music on the Web
Trying to explain the success of Arctic Monkeys, some have pointed to the power of the Internet. The Web, it is said, helped the Sheffield band to build up its fanbase.
Just look at the results: a second number one single and a debut album tipped to be the fastest-selling in the United Kingdom for more than five years after it sold more than 118 500 copies on its first day. That Arctic Monkeys have the most popular band website in Britain adds to the evidence. But the band’s record label disagrees.
”There’s been a lot of hyperbole about this,” says Jonny Bradshaw at Domino Records. ”People seem to forget that what the band did was burn their demo on CD-Rs, gave those out at gigs and then the fans file-shared the hell out of them. It’s all old-fashioned word of mouth.”
According to Nielsen SoundScan International, Arctic Monkeys’ single When the Sun Goes Down was the most downloaded track in Europe in the week ending January 22. More than 50% of that market is in the United Kingdom, where more than one million tracks are downloaded legally each week.
While a band website has not been a valuable promotional tool in the case of Arctic Monkeys, the same can not be said of Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs. Chris Hassell, the founder of Ralph, the agency that handles the digital activity for both, says websites are now central to marketing.
”Websites allow bands to build relationships with fans. Even unsigned bands can have a fanbase,” he says.
The official websites of Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs each get between 10 000 and 12 000 unique visitors a day. And although both bands are successful, they take their online presence seriously, offering regular live webchats and online video diaries.
”In terms of investment, it is not so much financial but time,” says Hassell. ”Bands are taking a more active online role.”
”What a good website repays a band and a label, in knowing who their audience are and where they are coming from, is incomparable,” says Danny van Emden, the head of new media at EMI Records.
”Websites are an artist’s ongoing communication with the audience. The Internet has fast-forwarded the importance of customer relations in the music industry.”– Ã‚