Every weekend, Gawker will analyze a consumer product in a sufficiently probing—that is, harder probing than Chuck Klosterman but gentler probing than Malcolm Gladwell—way. We will describe it a little bit, then write a few "on one hand"/"on the other hand" statements, then call it a day. With apologies to Moli re, Chekhov, and sad-eyed whores the world over, we will call it "Dying of Consumption." Someone will pay us for it.
The most basic threshold is that it has to be something people are consuming (in the most flexible sense of the word).
For example, in tomorrow's "Consumed" column on toasters, Rob Walker talks (or writes!) about toasters in a way that, when I was reading it over breakfast (which—factoid!—is called that, because as the first meal of the day, it "breaks" your "fast"), made me want to eat toast in a way that even most conventional toaster advertisements cannot do. This seems to me a trend, because I've seen people start eating more toast and less matzo just recently:
The Back to Basics Egg & Muffin Toaster seems to offer pretty good evidence in [business writer Michael Schrage's] favor. With a retail price of around $40 (double the price of a plain old toaster), it was a top-selling toaster in 2006, and that seems to be largely because of what makes it distinct in the [toaster] category. As the name implies, it's a toaster with a built-in egg poacher.
"Nevertheless, sales figures offer some evidence in [Columbia University professor Bruce] Greenwald's favor: of the 12.3 million toasters bought in 2006, half were in the $20-or-less range, according to NPD Group, a collector of retail data...And yet, the most robust growth in toaster sales in 2006 was among products at the higher end of the price spectrum, according to Peter Goldman, president of the NPD Group's home business unit....The Egg & Muffin Toaster speaks equally to the march of toaster innovation and the difficulty of it."
Not Necessarily Toast [NYT Mag Not Online]