Archives for January 2006

Nostalgia and unbundled music

Today’s MediaPost Daily Spin is worth passing along. Written by Tom Hespos of Underscore Marketing, it speaks to the unbundling of music in a way that few people have. Here’s a sample:

I have younger cousins who have never owned a CD and have all of their music stored on their computers and in their portables. The concept of becoming emotionally attached to an album cover is completely foreign to them.

That was the thing that, for me, took some time to get used to. It’s not so easy to throw out that Van Halen album you played at your first beach party, or that Journey tape that accompanied your first kiss. It makes me wonder if kids growing up today will get attached to the players themselves.

I can appreciate Tom’s nostalgia. I still haven’t gotten over vinyl. But the lesson for everybody here is that the unbundling of media is very real and accelerating, regardless of how we feel about it.

Crack the digital code and avoid death

Diane Mermigas offers yet another intelligent and thoughtful column today loaded with good advice for broadcasters:

Broadcasters’ best hope is using digital broadband technology to capitalize on their unique ties with local consumers, advertisers and communities that can be the targets of digital broadband personalization that make for grass-roots media. But even the biggest markets can absorb only so much leveraging of local news, sports, weather and other content across all media platforms.

…If highly localized and customized content that is more relevant, spontaneous and valuable to consumers and advertisers is where new media is headed, why aren’t more broadcasters following?

…In order to protect their turf by cracking the digital code and avoid death by ad-skipping, television broadcasters must seize the only factor over which they still have some control. They must have the courage to alter their fundamental business understanding that they are smaller, but critical players in a larger, more diverse media pool because of their long-standing close ties with individual consumers and advertisers.

I couldn’t agree with her more, and I’m looking forward to meeting with Diane at a conference in Seattle in late February. We’re joined-at-the-brain, if you know what I mean, and I may just record our conversation for iPod download.

Revisiting the anchor issue

Now that Bob Woodruff is back in the U.S., media critics are jumping all over ABC for sending him to Iraq in the first place. The view looking down their noses is that it’s purely a marketing ploy and, therefore, disingenuous to dispatch an anchor to foreign lands, especially those where the anchor is put in harm’s way. There are two huge problems with this thinking.

In the first place, these people don’t know Bob Woodruff. He IS a reporter, and reporters report. He would not be comfortable sitting in front of a desk in the traditional anchor role.

Secondly — and more importantly — the traditional anchor role in a TV newsroom has less of a future than the printed newspaper. As media continues down the unbundled path, it is inevitable that the need for an “anchor” dissolves. The traditional anchor is the glue that holds the bundled content of a newscast together. You cannot make a case for glue in an unbundled paradigm. In this sense, ABC may have actually backed into a position with legs by turning the traditional anchor role into that of chief correspondents.

In one of my earlier essays, I noted that the news anchor was an endangered species:

The industry’s obsession with celebrity and the easy marketing thereof is meaningless in a Postmodern world that has demystified the industry and its hype, rejects elitism and doesn’t need its information spoon fed by good-looking faces anyway. As the world of video news shifts to a broadband environment, where users can pick and choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch it, there are powerful forces at work that will make news anchors unnecessary.

Firstly, time is precious to the Postmodern (Pomo). It “belongs” to me, and I can read a story faster than anybody can read it to me. I’ll read my own stories and make my own decisions about those I choose to explore further. I don’t need you to do that for me.

Secondly, in selecting the video stories that I want to watch, I’d rather have the reporter who was there give me his or her take on it than somebody sitting in a studio. This is essential Postmodernism — that if I can’t experience something for myself, I want only someone who’s been up close and personal with the thing to share their experience.

Thirdly, the only “personalities” I care about are those who share my beliefs and provide the arguments that I need to communicate those beliefs with other members of my “tribe.” I don’t care what these people look like or sound like. What they say is paramount.

Finally, I’m out here slugging it out with everybody else, and I have little time or respect for people on pedestals, especially those who don’t have a clue as to what I’m going through. The pejorative term “media elite” is generally used by conservatives to slam those with a liberal bias, but, for Postmoderns, it goes way beyond that.

Some day, somebody is going to experiment with an anchorless newscast, viewing the “finished product” as assembling the unbundled content they produced throughout the day. All media is, after all, being turned on its head by the disruptive innovations of Media 2.0, so why should TV news be any different? The death of the (traditional) nightly news anchor is closer than you think.

Rocketboom launches eBay ad auction

Andrew and Amanda over at Rocketboom have stepped out on a new venture related to their wonderful daily vlog that has the potential to start something REALLY big in terms of online advertising. They’re auctioning off advertising on eBay, but that’s not the disruptive innovation. They are insisting that they produce the ads as a part of Rocketboom content, which means they’ll be archived for retrieval via unbundled media applications.

This auction is a bid for advertisement space on Rocketboom, in addition to payment for our creative services. The actual advertisements (the content) will be created and owned solely by Rocketboom and exist as a part of our regular Rocketboom show under a creative commons, non-commercial, share-alike, license.

…We will work closely with the winner to make sure that their message will resonate with our viewers in a beneficial way for the winner. The bidder understands, however, that Rocketboom will have complete control over the commercials that we create.

This seems like foolishness for any advertiser, but I don’t think so. Firstly, Rocketboom knows its viewers, so anything they produce will “fit” their audience like a glove. Secondly, the fact that these ads will be Rocketboom content means Andrew and Amanda will give it their all — not just toss the responsibility to a production department that has agendas other than the program (as is done with local TV advertising). Thirdly, by making the ads part of Rocketboom’s content, the advertiser is actually getting what amounts to product-placement advertising, even though it’s not being positioned as such. Who’s going to tune out during an ad produced by Andrew and Amanda? Not me. In fact, it’ll be just the opposite.

I think this has the potential to create a significant disruption in the world of video advertising, assuming they can find takers for the concept. It’s a tough sell for the ad world to give up control, but in a very real sense, this is what advertisers (not agencies) have been wanting for a long time — placing their products and services in front of potential customers in the seamless context of the medium in which it’s delivered.

We’ll be watching the bidding.

Our obsession with blame

I wasn’t going to write about Bob anymore, but it’s been pretty hard to concentrate the last 24 hours. Then came this crap from the New York Times, as noted by Jeff Jarvis:

I wondered whether I was the only one who was amazed and even offended by the subhed under today’s lead story in the New York Times reporting the bomb attack on ABC’s Bob Woodruff and a cameraman. It read:


Now I get the point that the next headline makes: “Field Reports Were a Ratings Strategy.” There is a business angle. Woodruff, they’re saying, was put in harm’s way by Nielsen. Though one could also say they were put in harm’s way by journalism, by the need to report. And the subhed might have just as easily read, “BIG BLOW TO FAMILIES.”

The Times has changed the online version of this, but I’m still pissed off. To blame corporate greed for what happened to Bob misses the mark by a mile. First of all, the writer of that crap doesn’t know the guy. Bob would’ve been jumping for joy at the idea of anchoring on-the-road, because he really is the consummate reporter. For all we know, it was Bob’s idea, not some evil network’s plan to exploit the concept.

Secondly, it takes a special kind of asshole lowlife to blame a victim — or the victim’s company — for getting injured in a terrorist bombing. Latest blow to network? Ratings strategy? Come on. Where’s the empathy for another injured human being in this God-awful quagmire?

The Associated Press reports that the body armor Bob and his shooter were wearing saved their lives, because by standing in an open vehicle, their bodies took the brunt of the explosion. The article also reports that Tom Brokaw spoke with Bob’s wife, Lee.

“The doctors had told them once they arrived that the brain swelling had gone down. In Bob’s case, that had been a big concern. Yesterday they had to operate and remove part of the skull cap to relieve some of the swelling,” Brokaw said on NBC’S “Today” show.

The doctors didn’t know for sure whether shrapnel penetrated Woodruff’s brain, but they were removing additional shrapnel from his neck area, Brokaw said. He said Woodruff’s family had also learned more details about the explosion from witnesses.

“Immediately after the explosion he turned to his producer and said ‘Am I alive?’ and ‘Don’t tell Lee,’ and then he began to cry out in excruciating pain,” Brokaw said.

That concern for his wife is the Bob Woodruff I know.

Mike James of NewsBlues (subscription required) reports some really bad news via network sources:

ABC insiders say Woodruff’s facial injuries have effectively ended his television career.
If that’s true, Bob will find a way to deal with it and use it to advance the cause of journalism. He’s a special guy, folks, and that’s why I hate this shit with the Times so much.

The ultimate obsession of a modernist culture is the assessment of blame, because that’s the way logic works. If order is the goal, then everything is cause and effect. Hence, the need to assess blame. This is the lifeblood of our legal system, which has taken the place of God in our culture.

The problem, of course, is that the law isn’t God (something everyday people seem to understand), and no laws can account for time and chance. If you’re going to blame anybody in this, blame the misguided insurgents who actually believe that slaughtering innocent people is the path to righteousness.

Bob Woodruff injured

Bob’s a friend and former colleague of mine, and I’m praying for him, his wife Lee, and their four children right now. You can find details all over the place, so I’ll limit this to a question. Why the heck do we call a bomb an IED? Is it supposed to communicate that “improvised explosive devices” are different than manufactured explosive devices, that terrorists are more likely to “make up” bombs instead of buying them? Who knew?

Bob Woodruff was hurt by a bomb, people.