Monthly Archives: December 2009
“I uploaded (Panic Attack!) on a Thursday and on Monday my inbox was totally full of e-mails from Hollywood studios,” he told the BBC’s Latin American service BBC Mundo
Alvarez will be sponsored by Sam Raimi and is slated to produce an original scifi flick based in Argentina and Uruguay.
The Beeb is weeks late on reporting this deal, given that Collider.com blogged about Panic Attack in November, but it’s still good news for scifi fans.
Comments have increasingly become distributed. They’ve fled into the interstices of the Web, into tweets, Facebook updates or threads in Google Reader, for those who use those platforms. That’s why Disqus or Echo or other ways to aggregate comments about content through trackbacks and “tweetbacks” have become more important. That’s also why when you stumble across a high traffic blog that receives dozens of comments on each post, you know you’ve found a community of interest.
Yesterday, I commented on a story from Universal Hub that someone in my network had shared. That, in turn, led to more than a dozen others comments. By the end of the thread, however, the focus had turned from whether religious texts could be used in high school literature classes (something the Supreme Court has ruled on) to my use of Twitter.
It’s remarkable how many different places that Twitter has come up this year in conversations, often with strong opinions about its utility, business value or reflection on human nature. In this case, the comments were forceful, caustic and directed squarely at me. Since the author may not be alone in his sentiments, I responded at length.
The commenter focused his not-so-veiled critique on users guilty of “spewing links, dropping names and writing tweets that at times border on incomprehensible serve to do nothing but inflate the ego of the user who is clearly more concerned with the number of ‘followers’ than anything else.“
I don’t, in general, follow people who just link or @reply to celebrities. I rely upon those I’ve carefully chosen to follow over the years to filter and curate the best of what’s happening. Twitter Lists have made that even easier. I do need to be careful not to use too many #hashtags. Each tweet should be legible and understandable on its own. Focusing on clarity there is among my New Year’s resolutions.
I also commented that I believed I provide more value than most, which, given the quality of most tweets, isn’t unreasonable. I look for further validation to Chris Brogan, who tweeted “endless value in his tweetstream: @digiphile” last month, or to my friend Patrick LaForge at the New York Times, who included me on his “linkers” list. Or NYU journalism prof Jay Rosen, who added me to his “mindcasters” list.
Here’s the secret sauce – and it’s isn’t a closely held one: When I tweet, I attribute author, source and provide a link to more information.
That’s the format and behavior that has been rewarded, not “spewing links” like the twitterfeeds I so dislike. I don’t care about whatever my follower count is, honestly. I care about who they are, since that provides me with a direct line to folks at the New York Times, Wired, Google, RWW, TechCrunch or dozens of other tech pubs, blogs or institutions. I’ve gotten more than enough validation from those folks to insulate me now against haters, although to be honest, I haven’t found many. Most I’ve asked for feedback say I inform and occasionally entertain, and have generally been grateful when I’ve livetweeted events. It’s the Internet. Here, you can’t please everyone all of the time.
On Social Search
Recently, Google included tweets at the top of search results. As Google CEO Eric Schmidt tweeted, “so glad we could integrate tweets into our Google search products; real-time really matters.” Here’s Google’s Matt Cutts explaining what social search means to Google:
My critic chose to dive deep into Google’s interest in real-time search, suggesting that:
“Google’s Holy Grail isn’t real time search, just a way to rake in dollars. Google is a business that wants to make money. Google makes money with its search engine by getting eyeballs on results. Real time search is compelling to Google because it will bring more eyeballs to its search engine. More eyeballs on the search engine mean more advertisers want in. That, in turn, lines Google’s pockets further. Mayer and Schmidt have identified Twitter as a hot trend that it can capitalize on, which explains the love affair. In the end, Google doesn’t really care what anyone is spewing out 140 characters at a time. It only cares that it can serve ads based on continuously updating content.”
I find that to be a shallow assessment of Google. Brin and Page founded the company with a different mission than making money: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The revenue model to support that only came years afterwards. As a public company, Schmidt and other corporate officers must “maximize” shareholder value, which has meant cutting some of the more wild engineering projects. Money matters, as does the business strategy, but there’s something else at work there.
Google isn’t a monolithic “it,” despite AP style. The company is made up of thousands of people. Those that are working on next-gen search under Mayer care do care about “what anyone is spewing out 140 characters at a time,” including who they are. Listen to Mayer’s talk at LeWeb or Marshall Kirkpatrick’s analysis of social search at ReadWriteWeb for the reasons why this is so: influence, validation on a specific channel and link behavior.
“What we looked at was twelve different signals,” said Mayer, including retweets, replies, and topics retweeted. Those in aggregate leads to “a notion of authoritativeness.
That notion is the crux of adaption PageRank to a more social Web. Just as the human-aided algorithm at TechMeme organizes the best, more relevant discussions in the tech blogosphere, Google (and Bing’s) search team are looking for ways to make search social. Twitter and Facebook are clearly part of the social search puzzle. The actions of the connectors share phatics that make sense of that activity, much as the links from blogs and static websites organized the early Web.
Our navigation of the real world using social search is already improving. Take my experience yesterday, when I replied to Robert Scoble that searching for sushi in Capitol Hill in DC told a visual tale. I found Bing ‘s results less useful than Google’s search results because of geolocation, map integration and the ads served up. By sharing that, however, I learned more from people than the algorithm:
First, I learned from @imusicmash Bing actually does show a map for most searches for food, like “sushi palo alto.” Second, I heard from @DonavonHill that Kabuki Sushi in DC’s Union Station equals “SUPER-YUM!”
That’s social search in action, in real-time.
As we share what we’re thinking, working on, where we’re traveling or what our experiences are of any topic on the Web, we’re contributing to the nascent “noosphere,” a philosophical concept I described to @james3neal as the skein of global consciousness containing humanity’s cultural achievements. As we update social networks with our experiences, social search will be the means by which we surf that human-curated Web. It may be that we don’t use the word “social‘ to describe the process, choosing collaborative or people instead.
My 1st post to WordPress and Twitter using Tweetie2
“@photomatt gets big hooray for http://is.gd/5lfiH wordpress+twitter=!!!” – @dangillmor
As Mary Esch wrote in an “App in the hand” for the AP, the BirdsEye bird-finding app “gives users instant access to recent reports of birds spotted near their location, tells them where to look for specific birds, and keeps track of their lists of all the birds they’ve ever seen.”
As Mary also observes, the BirdEye app makes its debut just ahead of the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.
If fellow birders are going to take it out and about with them, I hope they bring along an Otterbox or the like. The count tends to be a squishy slog that’s more conducive to hardy clipboards than sensitive consumer electronics.
That said, BirdsEye looks nifty.
Good thing, too, since at $19.99, the app isn’t cheap. I suspect, however, that many avid avian chasers might just be happy to fork over for it.
It uses the iPhone’s GPS to calculate your location and then displays a list of either all of the birds ever displayed in the area, sortable by recent activity. You can also filter for birds that aren’t on your lifetime sighting list, if you’ve spent the time on inputting that information from the back of your dog-eared and battered Petersen’s Guide. (For iPod Touch owners walking fields with no nearby wifi access — imagine that — there’s an option to manually enter locations too.)
Birdseye includes some nifty interactive features, including tie-ins to maps, recorded bird calls, photos and spoken explanations by Kaufman about whether a given bird is likely to be spotted in trees, waterways or in the fields.
The application was developed by Birds in the Hand, LLC, of Virginia, and brings together content from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and field guide author Kenn Kaufman.
BirdsEye is now available on the App Store. (Direct link)
That collaboration of ornithologists means users have access to some of the best birding resources on the planet. According to Brian Sullivan at the Cornell lab, as quoted in the AP story, about 40,000 birders enter up to 2 million sightings every month into eBird.
And if people decide to spring for it this holiday season, you might well see some of my fellow geeky birders using a bird in hand to identify two in a bush.
For more on Birdseye, check out:
There are few certainties in the world. One clear phenomenon is that the Burning Man Festival continues to spawn innovative online communities. The most recent virtual entrée into the online maelstrom, Blackbox Republic, was conceived on the seventeen hour trip back from the scorching sands of the playa on Black Rock Desert, according to Sam Lawrence, CEO and co-founder.
The new site, which will go live at 9 PM PST today, is play for the hearts (and wallets) of people “who don’t consider themselves mainstream and are looking for a place to privately explore their personal lives” and aren’t finding satisfaction in the algorithm-driven pairing from sites like Match.com, Chemistry.com or the uncertainties of Craigslist.org.
Blackbox Republic combines features from many different virtual communities that have become familiar as the Web 2.0 bubble as waxed and waned:
- social networking, like Facebook
- status updates, like Twitter
- event planning, like eVite or MyPunchBowl.com
- image and video sharing, Flickr
The design of the site, as shown on the right, features an updated take on the familiar status box and public areas of social networks.
The vision, as laid out by Lawrence in a phone call last night, is that Blackbox Republic will combine those features in a protected environment that allows users to connect freely, with more privacy than in other networks. Users have to be vouched for, says Lawrence, and granular controls for sharing mean that once they’re approved, a given update can be shared as publicly or privately as desired. Users can integrate Facebook and Twitter into the platform, allowing a public update to be broadcast widely.
One element where Blackbox Republic shows some evolution from previous social dating sites is its event generation and management features. Users can invite people inside and outside of the social network to an event. If they choose, they can create a public destination page that’s available to non-users without exposing more than location details and numbers to external visitors.
It’s worth observing that this is one social network that is not designed for underage visitors nor for those uncomfortable with more progressive approaches to love, relationships and intimacy.
Blackbox Republic offers subscription-based social dating for “all orientations, relationship combinations and lifestyles,” a description that could describe the openness of the Burning Man festival as well.
That hasn’t made all parties happy, at least where traditional business are concerned: as Lawrence shared on his blog, State Farm chose not to underwrite “social software that helps people meet online.” Lawrence says that an iPhone app is in the works, although who knows what Apple will do when it comes social dating.
Social networking fatigue is a reality for many online users. Adding one more to the mix means that users will need to find it easy to use, responsive and secure, especially given the privacy that is at issue in this context. Niche social networks are likely to be a major growth area next year, as companies and organizations use Ning.com and similar platforms to create focused communities. Whether the strategy behind this “velvet roped” social network garners enough subscribers that find the slick design and social dating feature set attractive enough to make it a viable business will be worth watching in 2010.
Disclosure: Sam Lawrence is a friend, stemming back to his time as CMO at Jive Software. I received no compensation, food, services or other swag from writing about this new venture – As with most new creative online endeavors created by smart people, I just found it interesting.
Early on Tuesday morning, I walked up Massachusetts Avenue to attend the FTC workshop on the future of journalism. Ten hours later, I emerged overstimulated by the volume of ideas presented, saddened again by the tens of thousands of journalists who have lost employment and energized by the quality of the conversations I’d had.
If you look at Danny Sullivan’s impressive liveblog of the FTC workshop on the future of journalism, you’ll see why.
The event began with a video about the changing media world from Minnesota Public Media, embedded below. More about the “Future of News Summit, where it premiered, can be found at thefutureofnews.ning.com.
Why convene the conference?
The very existence of the forum raised some eyebrows. How does the Federal Trade Commission factor into regulating journalism, after all? FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz observed that:
..the ongoing revolution in the markets for news, then, warrants serious study for at least two reasons. First, markets for public goods such as news may work imperfectly. Competition policy is well-suited to evaluate these market imperfections.
Consumer protection policy is well-suited to help us understand the privacy and data security implications of the behavioral marketing used by media companies to increase ad revenues online. Second, and far more important, this is not just any market. The changes we are seeing in journalism will affect how we govern ourselves, not just the profits and losses of various news organizations.
The full remarks of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on creative destruction and journalism in the Internet Age are available as a PDF. He was forthright in assessing that there was no reversing the Internet revolution. As he put it, “when Gutenberg printed the Bible, that was bad for those who illustrate by hand.” (Note: Jessica Clark argued that the FTC Should Consider Policy Reform to Support Public Media 2.0” over at PBS’s MediaShift blog.)
Leibowitz was followed by Paul Steiger of Propublica, an “independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. “The answer is not to save newspapers,” said Steiger. “The goal should be to assure the continuation of journalism.” He called Amanda R. Michel an “Internet genius” for her coverage of the 2008 campaign at the Huffington Post. Steiger also cited Propublica’s investigative journalism on “hydraulic fracturing” in gas drilling as an example of the work the organization is doing.
Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, author of the BizBlog there, presented results of 2009 State of the media study he co-authored. One of his final assessments was sobering: “Most surviving newspapers will be smaller, more expensive & targeted to older consumers.” As I replied to Andy Carvin , who wondered about the statement, given the debt loads that Edmonds cited, waiting for hyperwired Echo Boom to “age into” newspapers might be a tough strategy.
The News from News Corporation
It’s a fair bet that the packed room in the morning was there in anticipation of remarks from Rupert Murdoch, founder, chairman and managing director of News Corporation, especially given that many of the media in attendance left to file stories once he was through.
Cecilia Kang covered his speech in the Washington Post in “Murdoch: Future of newspapers in online payment, feds should stand back.” Jeff Bercovici offered a similar take in “Murdoch to Washington: Stay out of the way, but please help.”
The other 363 stories in Google News about Murdoch’s speech at the FTC attest to the interest in his remarks, too, including an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal, “FTC to examine possible support of news organizations.”
Why? Murdoch may have held that “a diversity of views is essential to debate” but he was crystal clear: news organizations that don’t adapt should fail, “just like a restaurant that makes meals that no one wants to eat.”
Further, even as he argued that the feds should keep the U.S. press the most free in the world, the government should also “use its power to make sure the most innovative companies can reach customers,” a view that sounded to this writer’s ears rather like net neutrality.
He was also crystal clear in a conviction: “online ads can’t sustain good journalism.” Murdoch intends to extend the pay model of the WSJ and @BarronsOnline to the Times UK, perhaps as early as next January.
Murdoch also suggested that the FCC‘s cross-ownership rule that prevents single ownership of both TV and newspaper in local markets was “out-dated” in the Internet age, effectively suggesting that regulators both stay out of the news business and change the market conditions. He also observed that “for newspapers, spectrum could well prove an economic vehicle,” pointing to online convergence and the move to a readership increasingly consuming news through mobile computing devices.
What is the state of journalism?
Following Murdoch’s remarks, a state of journalism panel began with a focus on the financial health and accomplishments of newspapers and magazines. Martin Kaiser, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, spoke to journalism’s essential role: enforcing goverment accountability.
Bryan Monroe, a visiting professor at the Medill School of Journalism, brought attention to issues of diversity. His remarks were published at the Huffington Post as “Why New Media Looks A Whole Lot Like Old Media.”
This panel also raised the first – and as it turned out, only – question to the audience, in the form of a poll: How many of you know someone under 30 who reads a newspaper in print? To my eye, about 40% of those present raised their hands. It’s perhaps worth observing that very few people present were in that demographic.
One hopeful model for reporting by assignment that was cited by David Westphal, Executive in Residence, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California, hailed from my former neck of the woods at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
Mark Contreras, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Newspaper Association of America & senior VP, newspapers at the E.W. Scripps Co., ended the panel with an analogy to the music industry, suggesting that there are “poignant similarities” to news business. He favors ASCAP/BMI models for content protection and a B2B model for revenue generation. Given the music industry’s struggle to adapt to the Internet, that approach might merit more consideration.
Defending the aggregators
As she dryly observed, citing a post by Mike Masnick at TechDirt, there’s some news aggregation by News Corp/IGN out there. All Things Digital, for instance, links and aggregates content, as does Rotten Tomatoes.
Her remarks are posted in full there, as you might expect, in “Desperate Metaphors, Desperate Revenue Models, & the Desperate Need For Better Journalism.”
Huffington didn’t mince words in her denunciation, either:
It’s time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pretax profits of 20 percent or more, put cash flow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street — not modernization and pleasing their readers.
They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail — pick your metaphor — and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the Internet and new media represent. And now they want to call timeout, ask for a do-over, start changing the rules, lobby the government to bail them out, and attack the new media for being… well, new. And different. And transformational. Suddenly it’s all about thievery and parasites and intestines.
Get real, you guys. The world has changed. Here are some facts culled from one of the most popular anthems to the impact of technology on our world:
(I talked with Huffington afterwards about her comments and the transition the industry is going through. She asked if I’d like to write about it – so I did, in “Is journalism going through a Reformation?“)
Where are the readers? Whither remedies? A Yahoo! News consortium? And how does Google News work?
Leonard Downie presented findings on the reconstruction of journalism from the Columbia journalism report: Columbiajournalismreport.org
Lem Lloyd, vice president of channel sales at Yahoo!, shared details of the media company’s growing newspaper consortium. Lloyd said they’ve have sold 18,000 campaigns on Yahoo!, amounting to more than six billion impressions. Behavioral targeting sales represent some ninety percent of that total.
And Josh Cohen explaining how GoogleNews works with publishers. Cohen wrote about the FTC and the future of news at Google’s Public Policy blog. A extensive interview of Cohen on paywalls, publishers and partnerships by Danny Sullivan is also available at Search Engine Land.
Emerging models for journalism
The most dynamic panel of the day featured technologists, entrepreneurs and an bonafide bloggers like Josh Micah Marsall of Talkingpointsmemo.com and Danny Sullivan, who took a break from liveblogging to participate.
Sullivan, at that point, was frustrated with offline metaphors applied online. And Jeff Jarvis, media pundit and CUNY professor, asked the FTC to “stay off the lawn,” suggesting that premise of the event was about the survival of legacy players, not journalism itself.
In considering the prospect of not finding a viable models, Robert Thomson, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, observed that “the cost to society of not being able to afford specialist journalism is going to be profound.”
Chris Ahern, of Reuters, and Danny Sullivan replied to Thomson that it’s not “an either/or proposition.” Hybrid models for news are worth trying.
And in a memorable exchange, Marshall observed that “there is more of an ethic online of linking to the story that got the reporter on the track and then adding commentary” than is practiced by traditional media, alluding to stories that the AP and others have run with without linking.
Media consumption trends, the economics of news and online advertising models
For more on the final panel and preceding presentations, consult Danny Sullivan’s liveblog of the FTC workshop on the future of journalism.
Ball State professor Mike Bloxham presented on media consumption based upon data that can be found at ResearchExcellence.com. He described a need for publisher to look cross-platform for media consumption in order to meaninfully gauge a “news footprint” that included print, TV, online and radio.
Susan Athey, a professor of economics at Harvard, presented on the economics of news, particular the trend toward “multi-homing” in consumption and the growth of online advertising. Her presentation addressed the salience of potential FTC regulation more directly than any other, aside from the chairman himself, predicting competition in online ad networks and between aggregators that would require oversight.
Law professor David Evans, following Athey, said that “the one thing I do worry about is mixing up market failure with nostalgia.” His paper on economics of the online advertising industry is available online.
The final panel of the day, addressed the important of behavioral advertising to future business models. Jeff Chester of Democraticmedia.org asserted that “the news media industry should embrace fair information principles.”
As I look back over the day, it’s not clear to me yet what the FTC intends to do, other than listen. I look forward to returning to the FTC tomorrow to learn more.
Is Catholicism to the old media view of journalism as Protestantism is to new media?
To be clear, this isn’t an exact metaphor, nor does it in any way reflect my opinions of any branch of organized religion (or those of my employer). It’s a tricky metaphor, to be sure, and one I’m on dangerous ground to entertain.
The notion was suggested by a conversation I had with Steve Waldman and Arianna Huffington at the FTC’s workshop on the Future of Journalism today in DC, where she gave a fiery (and funny) defense of new media, aggregation, and the shift to a more social news experience online. (Talking with Waldman about the future of journalism had its own resonance, given his new role as a media advisor at the FCC.)
As Huffington put it, “with so many traditional media companies adapting to the new realities, it was ridiculous to engage in an us vs. them, old media vs. new media argument.” Her remarks followed those of Rupert Murdoch, whose speech was ably chronicled by Danny Sullivan in his liveblog of the FTC’s journalism workshop.
Students of history recall that Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church after his efforts to reform it were balked. That break resulted in a schism that roiled Europe for centuries. The metaphor may be apt here because of the way that readers are consuming the news has become more social. Protestants, particularly Quakers and Unitarians, embrace a personal relationship with a higher power that is not mediated by a priest. Historically, Catholics have relied upon priests to guide worship and intermediate their relationship with the deity. In medieval times, priests read the Latin in the Bible that illiterate parishioners could not.
The traditional “high priests of journalism” — newspaper and magazine editors — controlled what was covered, which letters to the editor were published, and where and when stories were run.
No more, or at least not in online news. Increasingly, readers have formed a more direct relationships with the sources. Even if the editors at the New York Times or Wall Street Journal choose not to cover a story, if someone uploads video from, say, an ACORN office, a campaign event in Virginia or a street in Tehran, the world can view it, share it and discuss it.
The very existence of this post is evidence of how the tools for production of news have been democratized. I’ve written about the trend before, when I blogged about NPR and PBS’s unconference or asked how, if we are the media, it changes society. And folks like Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor have been writing about the transition to grassroots journalism for years.
It’s not at all clear yet what the The Ninety-Five Theses of this “Reformation” in journalism will be. Online journalism ethics still pertain, and viable means of subsidy for production of that journalism will have to be tested and refined.
Today’s FTC hearings contrasted disparate views from Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington, a contrast in both belief and model, along with a panel of newspaper executives who frequently focused on newspapers’ past, not journalism’s future. “The Reconstruction of American Journalism,” authored by Len Downie and Michael Schudson, points to business models and challenges alike.
Huffington’s speech, published simultaneously at the Huffington Post as “Desperate Metaphors, Desperate Revenue Models, And The Desperate Need For Better Journalism,” led off with her belief that:
…the future of journalism will be a hybrid future where traditional media players embrace the ways of new media (including transparency, interactivity, and immediacy) and new media companies adopt the best practices of old media (including fairness, accuracy, and high-impact investigative journalism).
Perhaps 2010 will be the year that a reformation of journalism will find a workable medium between leaner, traditional news media, the growing flock of distributed contributors, and the higher power – civic good – that its audience expects and needs.