By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Here's a digit for you: To Buzz, a man approaching 40, it was an ominous warning: "You're about to be digitally converged," said the Digital:Convergence software we had just installed on our office computer. Not yet, we hoped. Our dad warned us about the intrusive medical exams that men of a certain age undergo--the one-finger salute, he called it--and we weren't in any hurry to experience it.
So imagine how executives at Belo Corp. are going to feel when someone there figures out that the company has invested $40 million in a company whose primary function, near as we can determine, is to let lazy slack-asses surf the Web without typing and clicking quite as much. Someone, Buzz thinks, is going to take it up the tush. Belo already has.
You say you don't know what Digital:Convergence is? Obviously, you haven't been watching the news on WFAA-Channel 8 lately, which broadcast segments on the new technology on three consecutive nights last week. That's three more times than any other television station in Dallas, but of course, none of them is owned by Belo, as is WFAA.
The phrase you're looking for, by the way, is whore dog.
Digital:Convergence is the maker of the :CueCat and :CRQ Software. (The colons, we suspect, were concocted by someone in the company's marketing company who is a :jackass.) The CueCat--screw the colons, this is English--is a bar code scanner in a cat-shaped case that you plug into your computer. If you're sitting at your computer, surfing the Web while reading the paper--God knows why you would do that--you can simply drag the scanner 600 or 700 times over bar codes printed next to stories and ads, and presto, you get an error message. At least that's what happened to us; you're supposed to be whisked to a Web site with more info about whatever you were reading. Also, if you like to Web surf and watch TV at the same time, get a life. No, wait: You can also connect your computer to your television via a cable. Signals in certain programs will take your Web browser to a site with more information on what you're watching. (If your computer is that close to your TV, we suggest you check out Web sites on home decorating.)
Does this sound like the best thing since shirt pockets? Someone at WFAA apparently thinks so.
The station's whorish promotional trilogy began on September 12, when Gloria Campos teased a story on CueCat just before Channel 8 went to a commercial--about CueCat. During her second promo on the newscast, she promised a report on "exciting new technology." Twenty-eight minutes into the newscast came a two-minute (!) report/ad on the device, the company and senior vice president of Belo's broadcast division (Cathy Creany). It was mentioned that Belo was a partner with the company, but no details were given. As the report was ending, Vince Patton tried to show viewers how easy the technology is, but when he pointed his finger at the computer in expectation, nothing happened--except for us nearly wetting ourselves.
No need to worry: Channel 8 had two more reports scheduled. On Wednesday's two-minute big freakin' ad, the station at least told viewers that Belo had sunk a $40 million into Digital:Convergence--although it was left to the viewer to connect the dots and realize that what they were watching was essentially an ad. Cathy Creany returned to trumpet the device.
By Thursday, a full-scale ass-kissing attack was launched. The report came earlier in the broadcast this time, and its first line--"The rollout has begun!"--sounded like a grand marshal's whistle. To be fair, this time Patton noted that not everyone was masturbating furiously in anticipation of receiving a CueCat (he pointed out that the reviewer for ZDNet.com hated it), but compensated for that by showing how great the CueCat was in comparison with a competing product. Scott Sams could barely contain his robotic joy. "It's going to be amazing!" he said.
Amazing? If no heads are removed at Belo over this bit of genius, it will be a friggin' miracle.