Renderings: ASG/Chesapeake House (Opening Summer 2014)
Renderings: ASG/Chesapeake House (Opening Summer 2014)
As we tweeted last night, it appears the La Boulange food range by Starbucks is set to hit D.C. area stores at the end of March. We checked with our local store in NoVA which is currently receiving new equipment to handle the new offerings. At the same time, D.C. Internationalist received a press release which announced the upcoming debut of London-based coffee chain Caffè Nero in…wait for it…Boston. The location at Boston’s Millennium Place will be the chain’s first U.S. outpost. Sorry Washingtonians.
“We’re looking to bring European coffee house culture to the United States,” said Jay Gentile, director of U.S. operations for Caffè Nero. “Caffè Nero is an accessible, friendly coffee house where customers are welcome to grab a bite to eat, meet friends, catch up on work or simply read and relax.”
In order to be successful, Caffè Nero must differentiate themselves from the competition, build brand awareness, and understand their local market without compromising their identity. They are likely to be be seen as a competitor to Starbucks. Not Dunkin. In the past, British businesses entering the restaurant biz in the U.S. have had mixed results. When Pret A Manger entered the American market, they failed to do their homework. They over-expanded and realized that us Yanks have slightly different tastes compared to our British cousins. As The New-York Times reported, Pret realized Americans are not fond of mayonnaise and prefer drip coffee over espressos. Oh, we also like to shake our salads too. The sandwich chain ended up closing some stores, re-tooling their product, and eventually bounced back. Keep in mind that their success today is partially due to the fast-casual craze and the demand for healthier food.
Caffè Nero will open more locations in Boston, but no additional details were provided. If I were their real estate agent, I’d stick to the city and establish a presence in prominent areas to “introduce” the brand. Harvard Square, anyone? Boston’s Logan Airport would be an intriguing choice. What a clever way to get locals introduced to the brand at place seeing thousands of potential customers each day. I’d recommend the Back Bay station, but I hear it’s pitiful compared to Union Station in D.C.
No organization is immune to layoffs…including National Public Radio. I was troubled by a tweet I discovered recently in which the photo depicted employees bidding farewell to those who had accepted buyouts. NPR is a beacon of journalism in a world where profit stomps over content and integrity. So it is with great sadness that I pen this blogpost and offer a piece of advice; NPR must invest in its future audience and ramp up efforts on NPR Generation Listen.
The project is supposed to focus on my demographic (20′s). But I don’t see a lot of effort being mustered by this endeavor. The bright spot: the daily production of abundant and accessible content that my demo would find appealing. A prime example of this was an interview conducted by David Greene with the band TLC. The segment was energetic, fun, and exuded gravitas. If NPR can package and tailor its content into a 30 minute weekend show or digital podcast, I think more of my peers will tune in which is exactly what the public broadcaster needs to ensure its survival.
We’ve been off the grid at D.C. Internationalist. But here is a rundown of the most recent and notable news items.
Travel: British Airways will feature the A380 on flight 216/217 to Dulles next September.
Media: Al Jazeera America is interested in prestige than profit.
Food: Despite the fast-casual craze in D.C., Ping Pong Dim Sum and Yo!Sushi are currently not in expansion mode.
More Food: Per the Shawafel social media guru, the fast-casual Lebanese joint plans to setup shop in the Courthouse area. More on this as we get it.
Update: Shawafel intends to open at 1919 Wilson Blvd in the spring.
Retail: Conneticut Avenue is losing a flagship retailer [Burberry] to CityCenter. Does the strip have any chance of attracting high-end retailers? Prada and Saint Laurent have signed leases at Tysons Galleria making Conneticut Avenue seem like an after-thought.
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Al Jazeera America, the new kid on the block aiming to provide authentic news coverage of domestic and global events for us Yanks, launched this week. It is an ambitious move by Al Jazeera and the tiny state of Qatar to launch a news channel in this country at a time when hard news is a hard sell. The fragmented media business has all players staking out their territory. The question remains to be answered as to whether Al Jazeera America can attract a sustainable audience in order to survive. But you have to give credit to those trying to bring back a rational and straight-forward voice to the marketplace. The content of “AJAM” programming presents us with an alternative point-of-view that has been lacking in the mainstream media. It is the peoples’ points of view that is front-and-center. While scholars and academics have a room on the channel, one does detect a socialistic tone in the output. AJAM strikes the right cord with the airing of domestic and international news coverage in addition to simulcasting “Newshour” from Al Jazeera English.
Yet AJAM is no match for AJE when it comes to on-air presentation. The grade school graphics and pompous music theme make AJAM look like an un-sophisticated and second tier news network. Its like the nerd in high school trying to be popular when he doesn’t have the goods to show off. What am I saying? AJAM lacks a strong and incisive visual identity and that is needed to stand out in the marketplace. It appears the creative and management folks missed the brilliant relaunch of ITV News and the inspiring visuals of Bloomberg or Al Arabiya. The production values are not slick enough to compete with the likes of CNN, Bloomberg or even BBC World News. Countless repeats of employee testimonials are not altruistic and come off as annoying. I care about why the “faces” of AJAM (Ali Velshi, Soledad O’Brien, Joie Chen, Davis Shuster, Tony Harris, John Seigenthaler) joined the network. These are the “stars” of the channel and I want to hear from them in an emotional and compelling capacity. Let us face one fact. If viewers elect to watch the news, their favorite anchors determine what channel gets picked. But like all new kids on the block, AJAM will somehow work out the kinks, adapt and survive. If it doesn’t, well, we can talk about it till the end of time.
08/26/13 Update: In my next post, I focus on the channel’s talent including those who have a bright future. Yes, I’m looking at you Thomas Drayton and Libby Casey.
Unfortunately, I have no definitive answer to the question posed in the title of this post. But Richard Sambrook was right. In 2002, he correctly predicted that BBC World News would never be more than a niche player in the world’s most competitive media market. After failing to get signficant cable carriage for Al Jazeera English, Doha has pressed ahead with the launch of an American network. As a media junkie, one thing puzzles me: who is their target audience? The urban professional? Key decision makers? Expats or the general viewing public? If it’s the latter, we’re in big trouble. At this point you may be wondering with what authority do I write on such matters. If I were in your shoes, I’d wonder too. But more on that story later.
There is a perceived notion that Americans by-and-large are not interested in global events since it has no impact on their lives. If it’s not happening in my town, why should I care is the motto. Despite an ever-shifting media landscape and an evolved audience, Sambrook was onto something. He knew that BBC World News would fill a gap in the U.S. market and there would be a sustainable audience to serve. That niche audience has only grown in the last decade, but the majority of viewers are not still not demanding to the type of journalism that serves the public well. The only way to stand out is to be different from the rest of the crowd and not conform to American standards. In fact, the BBC asked its U.S. audience if they wanted an American to present the news. The idea was later rejected through a survey. Another example of being unique and succeeding is CBS This Morning. After floundering for years and enduring multiple makeovers, new leadership at CBS decided to run in the opposite direction as opposed to copying the market leader. The result? The show’s ratings are up and there is a certain amount of prestige associated with the latest re-incarnation. Will the Tiffany network ever have the number one morning show in America. Probably not. But at least that show stands for something. CBS has carved out an identity for their news programming and that is exactly what “AJAM” needs to be successful. If they don’t create an indelible mark, the network will be lost in cable space and viewers will not flip over. Unfortunately, Doha leadership seems more interested in attracting as many eyeballs as possible. Al Jazeera is a great news network for which I have tremendous respect and admiration (despite the tone of my posts), and it has the ability to be greater still. But it appears Doha management does not have the courage to be different and are only emboldened by the conviction of their own vanity.
If I didn’t care about the success for AJAM, I would not be writing these posts. As a former media insider, I started this blog knowing that I could bring a unique voice to the table by commenting on global news organizations operating in this country. I’ve been fortunate to communicate with many news executives. Indeed, I have “friends” in high places. Heck, I’ve even had off-the-record conversations with top executives from Apple and Starbucks. But I digress. I know this website will never generate thousands of hits, but I’m content with my place in the blogosphere. Can’t AJAM be satisfied with the role it should play in the U.S. media market? Stay tuned…
The waiting game is over! Al Jazeera has made an announcement on who will take charge of the American network. Kate O’Brian of ABC News will lead Al Jazeera America while veterans from CNN and MSNBC fill other management roles. The news is surprising as O”Brian was never bracketed with the likes of Jon Klein, David Westin or Mark Whitaker. Reports of David Shuster joining the network also surfaced yesterday. He’s probably being Al Jazeerized at this very moment.