Archives for January 2004

The audience knows as much about your (media) job as you do

The audience knows as much about your (media) job as you do
This is one of my rules for doing news in a Postmodern World. Like the emperor who has no clothes, we go through our daily routines safe in the knowledge that our audiences can’t see beyond our bullshit. Not so. Ed Cone writes:

This morning I was on a panel sponsored by the Greensboro Youth Council concerning media and politics. I was the only media person there, but the politicos (Mayor Holliday, Mayor Pro Tem Johnson, and county commissioners Rakestraw and Thigpen) didn’t gang up on me. Some sharp questions; media savvy is part of the culture now, kids swim in it from birth and understand the currents and eddies. They understand (as one young woman from Page pointed out) that objective news can be spun by its placement on the page, headline size, etc.
And for journalists in Scotland, it could get even worse. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell says that learning to watch television should be as important as maths or science, that “decoding” the media will become as important in life as understanding great literature. She added: “As the electronic media environment grows and diversifies, we need to ensure that we give the public the tools they need to make their way through the electronic world.

“Everyone needs to be able to decode the way the media works, questioning everything in order to understand everything.

“We need to make sure that people are equipped to understand and interpret this mass of communication: to differentiate between opinion and fact; to make sense of what they see and hear; and to challenge and question it.

“And it is important that we know when we are watching ‘accurate and impartial’ news coverage and when we are not.”

Ms Jowell has given Ofcom, a new communications watchdog in Scotland, a specific duty to promote media literacy.

Of course, her comments are being criticized by educational types who accuse her of giving students a reason to avoid studying “hard” subjects, like math and science.

The point is we are broadcasting to media savvy folks these days, and it’s one of the reasons viewership is dropping like the temperature in New England this winter. Personally, I’m glad to see it, because anything that cuts away at the pedestal of mainstream television news can only be good for everybody, including news people themselves.

Notes from the RSS WinterFest Webcast

Notes from the RSS WinterFest Webcast
I got into RSS (Really Simple Syndication) only a few months ago and have come to believe it’s the most amazing Web technology to come down the pike. I’ve explained many times here, including in one of my essays, but it’s one of those things that’s really difficult to explain. You have to use it to understand. This blog is available via RSS feed. All you need is a reader and the xml address (the orange graphic above).

People with varying degrees of this understanding met today and shared their thoughts via a free Webcast. Here are a couple of my notes:

Dan Gillmor: “Something RSS does (although not fully appreciated) is it may be the perfect vehicle for doing news delivery to small devices. I don’t think people understand how important this might be for the delivery of news.”

Dave Winer: “Innovation isn’t what it’s about. Value is the right word. The value is in all the people who write about news events from their points of view and then provide that to others via RSS, so I don’t have to rely on the monoculture of the big media to keep me informed. It’s a decentralized communications medium.”

Jim Moore, Director of Internet & Information Services at Dean for America: “We have our chins up in one sense. We’d love to have won Iowa, but we do think we helped promote political participation in Iowa. Among 17–30 year olds, twice as many people participated as before. We didn’t win that group, but we do believe the Web and blogging helped create that turnout. Sometimes you can do good but not get any benefit out of it. We might actually succeed and not win the election.”

Steve Gillmor: “We’ll see the rich media, fulltext feeds, video, etc., that will provide an economic model that will circle around and provide advertisers and other interested parties with information from the readers that’ll make this work. We’re overlooking the innate power of RSS to create the personalized newspaper. You become the editor of your world. That’s really largely untouched and when they intersect as disruptive technologies, it’ll explode.”

I agree with Dan Gillmor that this profoundly simple piece of technology will play a very important role in the delivery of news in our Postmodern world. A news organization that doesn’t make their content available via RSS is missing what will ultimately turn out to be a very significant audience.

The eyes change, but the downstream view doesn’t.

The eyes change, but the downstream view doesn’t.
BusinessWeek’s Ronald Glover gives us his take on the future of TV, and it’s more of the same.

Now, TV — network and cable — has new and potentially greater competitor in DVDs, computer games, and the Internet. All you have to do is check with your teenager — as I have done — to figure out she doesn’t know NBC from MTV, or CBS from a Friends DVD. The networks are going to have trouble down the road if they don’t figure out a way to get the viewers of the future back from their game players, PCs, and DVD machines.

In the next few years, an even bigger distraction is coming in the guise of the digital video recorder (DVR) — the time‐shifting, ad‐zapping machine that will allow folks to retrieve programs from last night, last month, or just about anywhere in the TV universe. Satellite and cable companies, in a fierce battle to win subscribers, will soon be all but giving DVRs away.

TV has always been the industry of easy answers and quick fixes. A new celebrity here. A new breakthrough hit there. I’m afraid, however, there are no easy answers this time around.

(Source: I Want Media)

Myers: More of the same downstream

Myers: More of the same downstream
MediaLife’s5 questions” segment this week features Jack Myers, influential television and advertising prognosticator.

How do you think the television landscape will evolve over the next year or two?

In two years, we will look back and see that the indicators available today were pointing in a clear direction of continued fragmentation, growth of digital distribution, growth of satellite penetration, broadcast network erosion, more accountability and auditing in advertising, shifts of budgets into more direct and promotional media opportunities, and new programmer/advertiser relationships.

While I certainly concur with that, it’s a rather bland statement for Myers, who’s usually more direct. He says nothing, for example, about 2005, a year many of us think will be make‐or‐break for broadcasters.

Multi‐tasking on steroids!

Multi‐tasking on steroids!
The closest I ever got to serious video games was watching my daughters play them. I prefer games that require you to think (I’m a freecell nut) over games that require you to act and react. But, of course, I’m just an old fogey. So I’m amazed — but not surprised — that the folks at Nintendo are coming out with a new Gameboyesque machine with two screens. Here’s what Reuters has to say:

Nintendo said the dual screens on the new game machine would let players see the same game from two different perspectives, or see game action on one screen while looking at a map of the game environment on the other.
This is multi‐tasking on steroids! Seriously, though, those of my generation (and that includes a whole slew of media executives) have trouble conceiving how young people can point their brains in multiple directions simultaneously. It begs the question, how many screens of entertainment, news, information and ad messages can the human mind absorb simultaneously? Think about it. Memo to the ad industry: There’s no reason the ad can’t run adjacent to the content or around it. Interrupting is, like, so 20th century!

Pop‐ups on their way out. Or not.

Pop‐ups on their way out. Or not.
The complaints from Internet users about the intrusive nature of pop‐up ads have long been an obvious signal to the ad community that old media tactics won’t be tolerated in the new. Yet the ads have continued, because they’ve been effective, especially those of Orbitz. Their ads, however, are interactive games, so the intrusion doesn’t seem so in‐your‐face. (full disclosure: I’m a confessed Orbitz miniature golf nut.)

So software that blocks pop‐ups came to the rescue and is now becoming rather widespread. AOL, Yahoo and Google distribute software that blocks pop‐up ads, and Microsoft will put a pop‐up blocking feature in the next release of Internet Explorer this summer. The New York Times has a good overview of the issue, including the excuse of the ad industry.

“I haven’t spoken to any people who say I love pop‐ups, send me more of them,” said David J. Moore, the chief executive of 24/7 Real Media, an online advertising firm. “But they are part of a quid pro quo. If you want to enjoy the content of a Web site that is free, the pop‐ups come with it.”
But on the Web, users rule, and these pop‐up blockers pose a new challenge for the advertising industry. Or do they?

MediaDailyNews reported yesterday on a California company’s release of new software called “Popstitial” that actually uses pop‐up blockers to serve an ad impression to users.

Popstitial doesn’t defeat pop blockers. Instead, a code in the ad determines whether a pop‐up or pop‐under is being thwarted. Then Popstitial serves up a full‐page advertisement that can either be a separate ad — using Flash, video, animation or static images — or the same style as the missed pop‐up/pop‐under.
Hence, technology overcomes technology that overcomes technology. And so it goes…