A Letter From the CEO: My Breakup with Facebook

I had to break it off. We had a decent run and shared a lot of memories, but the sea of minutiae overwhelmed me, and I lost interest. I wanted to see other people. It was time to deactivate my Facebook account. Though they tried to keep me by dangling old wall posts and pictures of “friends” I didn’t recognize, I was done.

My online saturation point coincides with the 15th anniversary of BlackBook magazine. To mark the occasion, it seemed fi tting to deactivate my account on the world’s largest social media site. It was my gift to myself, one that would allow me to spend less time online and to stop handing over free content to Facebook shareholders.

In our 15th Anniversary Issue, we’re toasting the amazing contributors, eye-catching visuals, and incredible behind-the-scenes access we’ve provided to our loyal readers during this decidedly rocky time for print journalism. The pendulum is about to swing back. The luxuriousness of engrossing oneself in a gorgeously printed, tactile magazine is a part of life we should never give up—and sitting in front of one’s laptop, or texting away while tossing off navel-gazing fi ller to “friends” is, simply put, not really living.

As we’ve done consistently with our editorial content, we’re going to go out on a limb: We’re wagering that, contrary to all the technology-fueled exuberance, people are about to recognize the shortcomings of the digital experience and the futility of creating free content for social media outlets. For one, as much as we love them, our Blackberrys, iPhones, and Androids—and the social media to which they give us real-time access—are in many ways killing our nightlife. “Plans” are a dinosaur, replaced by promises to “text me later.” Look around the hottest clubs and you’ll see tastemakers hunched over and banging away on their keyboards searching for something better—they’re there in body but not in mind.

We tried an experiment the other night at a dinner with friends at Sean MacPherson’s buzzing Crow’s Nest enclave out in Montauk. We turned off our iPhones and Blackberrys, committing to not even glance at them until we’d left the restaurant. No quick checks on the bathroom line, nor while half the table was out having a smoke. It was disturbingly hard to go cold turkey—even with the smell of beach bonfires in the air. The result of our all-too-brief technology blackout was that we actually focused on each other and had a terrific, fully engaged time. We were living our lives in the beautiful, physical, analog present—a true experience we’ll remember, even without any TwitPics to prove it happened.

If I’m not constantly checking my phone, I’m probably not going to be one of the fi rst to know when major news breaks. Just 15 years ago, as the first issue of BlackBook was going to press, you might even have waited until the next morning to read about it in The New York Times—and when you did, you’d experience an accurate, balanced, editorial account of the events. We’ve forsaken reliability for the cheap thrill of instant gratification. That’s a lot to give up in exchange for a news alert pinging in your pocket.

I predict that The Social Network will have marked the zenith of Facebook as a brand. Those who are providing content for media sites (social or otherwise) are going to expect to get paid for it. Until then, the beneficiaries of our free labor don’t let you go easily: Facebook shows you all your “friends” who will “miss you” if you leave. I’m not arguing that Facebook will go the way of Friendster—or of 27th Street in New York, for that matter—but I believe it’s one of the first signs that we’ll look back on the 2010s as the Decade of Disengagement, or, at best, the beginning of a return to a healthy balance between our actual and digital lives. Advertisers are recognizing that experiential marketing is the place to be to make a true impact. Taking the time to enjoy the print experience, complete with sumptuous pictures and thoughtful profiles from world-class photographers, editors, and writers, is on its way back. Here’s to another 15 years.

Kiteboarding: Extreme Sport for the Wealthy Thrill-Seeker

Over the holiday weekend, you might have noticed this article on kiteboarding in the Wall Street Journal. The pursuit of wind power atop a surfing speed machine has attracted the amour of “adventure capitalists” like Richard Branson, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Philip Rosedale, Alexander von Furstenberg, Bill Tai, and our own Ari Horowitz. As a result of this burgeoning luxury niche that continues to thrive in the face of general economic blues, we’re pleased to highlight a small nugget from the WSJ piece: the upcoming launch of our sibling site focused on kiting, KiteEnthusiast.com.

Just like BlackBook, KiteEnthusiast.com will be part of the Access Network, featuring high-end lifestyle content — from gear reviews to travelogues to destination guides to rich photo and video. Think of it as a combo of BlackBook, Travel & Leisure, and Surfer. Go ahead and sign up now, and we’ll keep you posted on developments. Might even be some special bonuses for early adopters.

New BlackBook Guides for iPhone, Now with Access!

The new BlackBook Guides for iPhone has been released — an in addition to tons of new features, fixes, and improvements, it also features the premiere of our new Access program. The red key symbol on any listing means you can access free, custom perks at that location by showing off the BlackBook app on your iPhone. From a special store discount to a comped cover charge, the list of perks is growing fast. Check it out now! Full press release after the jump.

CONTACT: {encode=”Andrew@BBook.com” title=”Andrew Berman”}, BlackBook Media Corp, (212) 651-1720 {encode=”JTalbott@intermixny.com” title=”Jennifer Talbott”}, Intermix, (212) 741-5075 x228

BLACKBOOK ACCESS mobile perks program launched for location-based marketing Premier shops, restaurants, bars & clubs, and hotels can market real-time, location-based special offers on BlackBook’s 36-city, international mobile iPhone City Guides.

NEW YORK, April 22, 2009 — BlackBook Media Corp. (BBook.com) announced today the release of BlackBook Access mobile perks program on the BlackBook Mobile City Guides iPhone application — the authoritative insider-curated database of restaurants, nightlife, hotels and shopping in 36 fashionable international cities. Leveraging the GPS technologies embedded in the iPhones, the BlackBook Access platform enables local retail venues which are featured in the City Guides to provide special offers directly to mobile iPhone users who are on the go.

“This is what local marketers and retailers have been dreaming about for years,” commented BlackBook CEO, Ari Horowitz. “The ability to target consumers who are near their venues and who are in purchasing mode, and to put special offers directly onto the mobile phone is the ultimate, location-based marketing platform. We believe this is the next step to truly make local marketing work.”

Available to marketers and retailers for all 36 international cities, but with most of the initial Access offers based in New York, BlackBook Access gives the City Guide iPhone users the ability to find special offers for the BlackBook editors’ picks of the shops, restaurants, bars & clubs, and hotels that are worth checking out. The special offers are another feature on top of the BlackBook City Guides, and they can be found both on BlackBook’s iPhone City Guides as well as on BBook.com.

“The advantage of having offers directly on the mobile device,” added Horowitz, “is that it’s hassle-free, immediate and available at the user’s fingertips. For marketing programs to work to drive foot traffic and purchases for this demographic, it needs to speak to the users’ lifestyle.”

“We are delighted to partner with BlackBook on this innovative application — Intermix is always looking to offer the newest and most cutting edge technology for our customers — and this seems to be a big part of the future,” commented Intermix CEO, Khajak Keledjian. Intermix is testing two offers at different stores around the country including 15% off all purchases and $50 off purchases over $300.

“Today’s customer has so many options, and it’s a major advantage to leverage mobile technologies to provide an extra incentive to steer those people to our venues,” added Noah Tepperberg, co-owner of Marquee in New York City and Tao and Lavo of Las Vegas — all of which provide free admission through the BlackBook Access program.

Like hidden treasures, BlackBook Access “keys to the city” highlight the venues that offer special deals.

“In a recession, everyone is looking for that special deal,” noted Horowitz.

Lights, Camera, Armin!

imageOur seemingly unquenchable cultural thirst for celebrity gossip has gotten to the point where star watchers are not only obsessed with what’s going on behind the velvet ropes, but who’s out front manning them. To wit, Armin Amiri—best known as the gatekeeper at New York City’s enduring Bungalow 8—has parlayed his doorman “celebrity” status into a burgeoning movie career. In his breakout performance in this winter’s Factory Girl, he took on the daunting role of Ondine, Andy Warhol’s misunderstood cohort. But rumor had it that the fledgling actor almost got booted from the cast. “I read for director George Hickenlooper and he took a chance on me,” Amiri recalls. “Then the part got bigger and bigger, so the studio decided, ‘Hey, who’s this kid that we hired? Let’s get someone else.’ I almost got bounced; I thought that was going to be my karma.”

However, with support from the director and leading lady Sienna Miller—whom Amiri says “really took a liking to me”—the kid stayed in the picture. And he’s already wrapped his second film, Reservation Road with Joaquin Phoenix and Terry George (Hotel Rwanda).

Amiri’s Iranian-born mother, an actress herself, recognized her son’s non-conformist demeanor and spiritual side early on and knew that a life under the oppressive Iranian regime would have made it difficult for him to thrive. So at 12 years old, he was sent to Vienna before landing in New York in 1992 with a passion for acting and a distaste for that sense of entitlement possessed by those “spoiled kids” and celebrities.

Amiri, 35, studied acting under Susan Batson (well-known for schooling Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise) at the fabled Actors Studio, founded by Lee Strasberg. And as luck would have it, his Bungalow 8 experience not only brought him face-to-face with industry power brokers, it also gave him an insight into Hollywood politics.

Five years ago, Bungalow 8 owner Amy Sacco says she saw in the former bartender (at Kaos, Raoul’s, and Lotus) someone who could “create that character out in front” of her club and ensure that the rope was un-clipped for most celebrities and let in a “mixed crowd” comprised of “those that have something to add to the place and most importantly radiate good energy.”

By the time this story goes to press, Amiri will have passed on the Bungalow 8 throne to the daunting “Disco,” his former nightly co-star, and have moved on to focus on his acting and producing a movie of his own. “While the steady gig kept the money coming in, it also kept me up late and tired for auditions, and made me a little soft in my acting pursuits,” says Amiri. But it wasn’t all for naught. “I certainly played a role out there. Just like Ondine in Factory Girl, I created very clear boundaries, was cordial, and didn’t waste people’s time. But once you step on my tail? Snap!”

While you won’t find him working the door anymore, that doesn’t mean you won’t spot Amiri at Bungalow 8 in the future. “He is leaving soon, but he is always welcome back,” says Sacco, dryly adding, “We’re hoping that when he does, he returns as a celebrity investor.” Considering Bungalow 8 regular Bruce Willis made a similar crossover—from New York bartender to action-hero bard—it’s hardly out of the question.

Photography by Paul Costello