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They’ll Take ‘Manhattan’ Project And Use It to Hype Los Alamos

Usually when The Wire sees a headline about “Manhattan Cable TV” it brings back memories of Charles Dolan and Gerald Levin launching HBO, or the late Glenn Britt building his resume as VP and treasurer of the predecessor to Time Warner Cable.

But in this case, the punctuation on the press release — “‘Manhattan’ Cable T.V.” — was a tip-off.

This “Manhattan” is not about cablesystem finances or movie hits. Actually it is about bombs, but of the nuclear rather than cinematic variety.

Looking to capitalize on the debut of new WGN America series Manhattan (from Masters of Sex writer Sam Shaw and The West Wing director Thomas Schlamme), about the development of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, staffers from the Los Alamos Historical Society were scheduled to be at the town’s Timeout Pizzeria on Central Avenue July 27 for a viewing party and discussion about what is fact and what is fiction in the series.

The Wire will have a slice, but you can hold the mushroom ...

It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that the show could boost tourism in the town, or at least that is what the society and its publicists are banking on.

“Once the series airs, tours of Manhattan Project locations in Los Alamos — some of which will be depicted in upcoming episodes — are expected to fill up quickly by curious visitors who will follow the series,” said New Mexico public relations firm Griffin & Associates, whose clients include the state’s Los Alamos County.

First on the list of “relevant” locations they are expected to flock to is the Los Alamos Historical Museum and Book Store, “a one-stop shop for the history of the area from its ancestral Puebloan beginnings to the present day,” Griffin said hopefully.

“If the hit cable series Breaking Bad was any indication of how powerful exposure can be for the community it features, Los Alamos, N.M., could see an influx of visitors,” goes the PR take. AMC’s hit was filmed in Albuquerque, N.M., whose convention center is also a Griffin client.

Certainly, Los Alamos’s reviews were glowing in the 1940s: Griffin said Manhattan Project director Robert Oppenheimer wanted a location that was “isolated yet still accessible, a place with an adequate water supply, a readily available labor force, moderate climate and a beautiful setting that would inspire his scientists.”

Or maybe that glow was just from the enriched uranium imported from Oak Ridge, Tenn.

(Faux) Founding Fathers Send Words of Wisdom On Net Neutrality to FCC

The Wire wondered: What sayeth the most prominent voices amongst the more than 1 million who’ve filed network-neutrality comments with the Federal Communications Commission?

Given that a big issue is the impact of the rules on speech, had any faux Founding Fathers weighed in? Turns out, they were fairly falling all over their eloquent selves to be heard from across the centuries.

OK, The Wire assumes the commenters used pseudonyms for effect, or perhaps shared a famous name, or both.

George Washington: “This is what I fought so hard for? Eventual oppression of the people whose ancestors gave their lives for FREEDOM? I could’ve stayed in England for this horses--t. The Whiskey Rebellion was different. We made them pay to play. But what you’re doing is making the people pay for watered down s--t. They will rebel. Mark my words. Remember, I was a rebel myself. Keep the net neutral. Your First ‘Mr. President.’”

James Madison: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” (Quoted from Madison’s speech of June 16, 1788.)

Thomas Jefferson (one of nine Thomas Jeffersons commenting in the docket): “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Ben Franklin: “Protect Net neutrality and stop the lobbying by big Internet service providers.”

John Adams: “The Internet is to be considered a public utility. The electric company can’t dictate how fast or strong power comes in for my light bulbs vs. my refrigerator. No Internet company should be able to do the same for the data I use.”

Three Abraham Lincolns also weighed in. FCC chair man Tom Wheeler is a big Lincoln fan and has likened Lincoln’s use of the telegraph to today’s Internet-based email system.

A dozen or so Tom Wheelers also weighed in, not counting the ones that identified themselves as “NotTomWheeler” or appended the name with an unprintable description of the chairman.

Startup Neon Labs Sees a Better Way To Draw Clicks

Can the right thumbnail image generate more traffic for a Web video? Neon Labs thinks so and has put to work technology that automates the task of breaking down an online stream into individual frames, then selecting a thumbnail that, it said, can produce more clickthroughs than an image selected manually by a human.

Neon Labs, which recently raised $4.1 million, is bringing the product to market following nearly a decade of research at Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Its first announced customer is IGN Entertainment, an online media and service firm focused on gaming.

Neon Labs CEO Sophie Lebrecht told The Wire the technology builds on years of MRI-based research that sought to discover how the human brain responds to images. That work has resulted in its first video-facing product, which automatically recommends a static image that it believes people would find the most appealing and then publishes it to the customer’s website.

While Neon’s system does this automatically, Lebrecht said research has found that people are more apt to click on an image that shows an incomplete action, such as a player about to shoot a basketball or kick a soccer ball into a goal.

“People click like crazy because they want to know what happens next,” she said.

IGN said it has been getting 30% more video views than it was with human-selected thumbnails.

Neon has completed integrations with online video publishing firms Brightcove and Ooyala, and hopes its technology will catch on with cable programmers and other suppliers of premium video increasingly being served up on demand.

“It’s not about linear TV anymore,” Lebrecht said. “[Consumers] have to make a decision.” The challenge for programmers, she added, is to “find the right image to represent the show.”

— Jeff Baumgartner