Wednesday, July 9, 2008



Don HewittIn a wide-ranging interview for a forthcoming AR&D book, long-time CBS producer (and creator) of 60 Minutes Don Hewitt told us that television news is still stuck in “the 1948 Douglas Edwards model” and that it’s not good enough for today. Brushing aside the matter of objectivity as “reciting what happened today” — “something the cable news networks do all day long” — Hewitt said the audience for evening news is hungry for opinion, and we ought to give it to them.

The stories have been told before they get to them. You can’t tell them much at 7PM that they don’t already know. And I’ll tell you the other thing that I never understood: What really sells newspapers are columns and strong opinions. The only strong opinion that any of the three networks ever put on the air is “Meet The Press,” “This Week with Stephanopoulos,” and Bob Schieffer’s “Face the Nation.” Where is all of the opinion the rest of the week? Most people who buy the NY Times turn from page 1 right to the op-ed page. They want to find out what the columnists are saying. There are no columnists on the news. It’s bland. I love strong opinions. I love to hear two guys having it out, whether its Bill Safire or Tom Friedman — you know, with different points of view. Can you name one place where you can find it? Other than Sunday morning?

…Of course (opinion is appropriate in an evening newscast). What’s it doing in a newspaper? Newspapers actually endorse candidates! Newspapers run all kinds of opinions, everyday, and you never find any opinion on television. Unless you get it on CNN, you get it on FOX, you get it on MSNBC. You may not want to get as much of Keith Olbermann as you get; maybe you don’t want as much opinion of Lou Dobbs as you get; but they do it, and they do it very well. There ought to be a roster of great broadcasters with something to say, who appear on the evening newscasts with some provocative thought that gets people in the audience, when the show is finally over, to sit down and say “What did you think of that guy?” “I thought he was full of shit, well I thought he was great!” And that’s what sells newspapers. Newspapers are now being sold by the columnists.

While acknowledging that broadcast news does some wonderful things, he believes the industry is stuck in the past and unwilling or unable to move into the future. “They (broadcasters) have not recognized yet there is this thing out there called the Internet,” he said, “and the Internet is running circles around them. The game has changed and we have not changed with the game.”

Don Hewitt is an original and the interview was filled with gem quotes. Here are just a few:

The thing that is keeping television alive these days is sports.

I don’t know to this day if a doctor on the evening news is a doctor or an actor playing a doctor.

When kids talk to me they say “Hey you invented 60 Minutes,” I say, “Yeah” They say, “You know my grandpa always looked at that show.” And I always want to say, “Shut-up, kid.”

Women have become the stars of television news. Every night there is a great looking, great sounding, knowledgeable, well spoken woman on one or all of the news networks.

The public eye among a new generation is not television. The Internet is the public eye.

Watch for this material in a major, new book that will be released by AR&D later this year. That’s all I can say about it for now.   Link>


American University LogoIn an attempt to codify what we can or cannot remix, mashup or otherwise mess around with online, American University’s Center for Social Media has released a code of “best practices” for user-generated content. It’s not a bad list, either. It does, however, make me wonder how it will be enforced.

According to the group’s press release, there “six kinds of unlicensed uses of copyrighted material that may be considered fair, under certain limitations. They are:

  • Commenting or critiquing of copyrighted material
  • Use for illustration or example
  • Incidental or accidental capture of copyrighted material
  • Memorializing or rescuing of an experience or event
  • Use to launch a discussion
  • Recombining to make a new work, such as a mashup or a remix, whose elements depend on relationships between existing works

Well, OK. But this does seem overly broad, doesn’t it? At least from an original creator’s point of view it does. Try telling the Olympics people you’re showing a clip from the 100 meter dash for illustration and see how long it is before you get a cease and desist. I believe the record is 9.7 seconds.

And I could argue that posting a video on YouTube and naming it “What do you think?” would cover me under “use to launch a discussion.“Same with commenting or critiquing. “No, this isn’t a pirate video site! It’s a comment and critique site!”

But even if every user understood the good intent and spirit of these guidelines and followed them, would that stop the companies from going after them? After all, the American University’s Center for Social Media is not a legislative branch of government. They did have some lawyers on the panel as they tried to interpret existing copyright law for the digital era. And full credit for trying.

Not only are we left wondering who will enforce this, we also don’t know who will follow it. Are there 15-year-old remixers out there who are looking for copyright guidelines?

We want to think there are ways we can control the information, but we really can’t. It’s good to have guidelines out there but ultimately these questions are going to be resolved voluntarily (as we see from Creative Commons) or decided by the courts and not pronounced by academia.   Link>


According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, total spending on TV ads in the 2008 presidential race is expected to top $800 million. That’s up from about $500 million in 2004, a nice bump. It promises a second-half-of-the-year respite for beleaguered broadcasters — especially those in key states — and the Olympic games in Beijing will also help owners breathe a sigh of relief for a season.

But we all know that this is just a temporary escape from the reality of plunging revenues from key advertising sectors, like automotive and real estate, and beyond that is the looming approach of 2009. So what can we expect in ’09, and what can we do during this respite to prepare ourselves for then?

Interpublic has come out with two estimates for 2009 this year that bear noting. Its Magna unit projects that while the hyperaccelerated growth of emerging media will slow next year, it will still growth at a rate of 31.1%. Universal McCann, another Interpublic unit, issued a tepid projection of 4% growth for the entire ad market in 2009.

In a report on the projections, Joe Mandese of MediaDailyNews notes that opportunities are there, if you know where to look.

The fastest growing of the emerging media platforms tracked by Magna, he (Magna’s Brian Wieser) said, is online video, which he projects will grow 45.0% to $805 million in 2009. However, online video’s rate of advertising growth has ebbed from 54.2% in 2008 and 67.4% in 2007.

The next fastest growing emerging medium is mobile advertising, which is expected to rise 42.6% to $298 million in 2009, followed by social media (+37.4% to $1.474 billion), gaming (+27.4% to $295.9 million), search, emerging out-of-home (+22.7% to $1.954 billion), and advanced TV (+13.7% to $183 million).

Both reports predict continuing trouble for traditional media, so clearly we must have executable emerging media strategies and tactics in place to prevent 2009 from being a total disaster. If online video is where it’s at (it is), then do you have a viable online video ad business in place? What are you doing in the mobile space in terms of revenue?

I continue to press clients to move into the online local ad network business, and many are doing so. This is the real business opportunity for local media downstream, and the company that has this in place for next year will be a yard ahead of everybody else.   Link>


Disney LogoI’m back from the family vacation to Walt Disney World, and I’ve learned a few lessons. The first is this: don’t go to Florida in July. Barring that, I learned plenty of lessons that apply to our industry. Disney markets very, very well, and I paid attention.

  • LOTS OF BRANDS: Disney does this like nobody else. They don’t care if you see their name on it, as long as you’re buying it. They go beyond the mouse.
  • GO BEYOND THE CORE: Why just have the Magic Kingdom when you can have Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios too?
  • MAKE EVERYONE FEEL LIKE THEY’RE THE ONLY ONE: Disney has this uncanny way of making you feel like they set up just for you. Even as you’re there among thousands of others. Your site and your offerings should be exactly the same way.
  • OVERDELIVER: Nobody says “no” at Walt Disney World. You’re 30 minutes late for your reservation? No problem. Expect a small portion? You get a large.
  • KEEP IT CLEAN: Walt Disney World and its parks are immaculate. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be a mess. And yet, they aren’t. And the funny part is that you don’t see an army of people constantly cleaning. They’re quiet about it. Our sites should be clean and we shouldn’t be fussy about it.
  • HUGE DOESN’T MEAN OVERWHELMING: My goodness, the place is enormous. Four major parks. A couple of water parks. But Disney is very well marked, gives you daily maps of what’s going on and has crews of knowledgeable people who direct you. Even if you’ve been there a dozen times, nobody assumes you know so much as how to get to Cinderella’s Castle right in the middle. See where I’m going with this? We need to be just as clear with our sites.
  • I AM NOT THE ONLY AUDIENCE: There were plenty of rides I didn’t like. If I were designing a park for myself, I probably would have killed off a bunch of those rides. We make this mistake with Websites. We’re not the only target audience. We have to see how lots of people are engaged by lots of choices. I think “It’s a Small World” is torture; it’s one of the most popular rides there.

Those are just some of the lessons I picked up. (Along with a sunburn and the inability to get “It’s a Small World” out of my head.)

Go beyond your mouse.   Link>



What we called TV has already become nothing more than a form of data that can be carried over the Net at nearly zero cost, and stored anywhere for about the same. Live transmission is a demanding thing, but not once the pipes get fat enough. Where they aren’t, we have podcasting and variations in file size to avoid bandwidth hoggery.

Already anybody can produce high-def TV. As devices…come down in price, along with processing, data storage and render farming, Hollywood-grade video production quality will no longer be exclusive to Hollywood. Collaboration and distribution over the Net will inevitably follow.

As it does, it will become ever more clear that “TV stations” will be repositioned as doomed mainframes. Doc Searls on What happens after TV’s mainframe era ends next February?