Monthly archive

August 2005 - page 4

My podcasting tipping point

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In the past, I’ve expressed my skepticism of the content available via podcast. And I’ve discovered that there isn’t much content I can’t live without if it isn’t delivered in a medium and at a time that’s convenient for me.

Two birds stoned by RadioTime, a local company I learned of from Alex Muse, who is quickly becoming the chronicler of the intersection of Dallas and Web 2.0.

I’ll explain the company in four words:

Prairie Home Companion Podcast

But PHC has no podcast

The hell it doesn’t. RadioTime can deliver just about any radio show you’re looking for in an MP3 format. Way cool.


In other Lake Wobegon news, a Kentucky station cancels Companion, fearing FCC obscenity fines. Ridiculous.

Backlog o' bullets

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Oh, behave!

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I just sat in on a WebEx hosted by 24/7 Real Media to talk about some of their recent experiences with behavioral advertising. I was multitasking, so my notes are spotty, but I did pick up on the following (some said on the call; some my impressions):

  • Our tagging taxonomy is similar to what they’re using, but it’s possible to be much more granular when you’re focused on local.
       
  • Ad agencies are starting to send in RFP’s looking for behavioral.
       
  • Behavioral CPM’s obliterate non-behavioral (in favor of the publisher)
       
  • In some tested categories, click-through rates were 87% higher when ads were served out of context. Eat that Google.
       
  • If tagging is going to fulfill its promise, at least in making the long tail of sites advertising-viable, some comprehensible standard taxonomies are going to be a must.

New old medi-ation

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The post below; the email responses I’ve gotten to it; and the ongoing citizen journalists v. mainstream media debate that won’t die jolted me into a revelation this morning:

The whole debate is damned silly. "Citizen Journalists" are, if stand-alone, small publishers. And if contributing to the MSM, they’re freelancers; stringers. It’s nothing even remotely new. It’s just more broadly distributed. And in some cases, the currency isn’t cash. But otherwise, it’s a long-standing arrangement.

Now some, like Jeff Jarvis, see all this upheaval as an end of so-called traditional media and a return to a more natural conversation:

We are headed into the post-media age.

When you think
about it, media are the artificial inventions of their means of
distribution: Books begat authors; fast and cheap presses enabled
reporters and press barons; TV bore anchors. But there is nothing to
say that these media are preordained as the best methods of sharing
knowledge and getting things done in society. They were the convenient
ways. Emphasis on the past tense.

The natural means of
interaction and of sharing information is, of course, conversation,
through the ability to ask and answer questions, to impart and collect
knowledge…

…Media changed that. Media made society one-way.

But
now the internet drains the one-way pipes of media and pours us all in
the same pond together. The internet enables conversation.

The internet is not a medium. It is the thing that challenges media.

While I think Jarvis is (as usual) basically right, in this case, I think that what’s missing is the fact that the myriad online conversations make media, for now, more necessary than ever. And even a would-be revolutionary like me realizes that as a business in a capitalist environment, Mr. Media will adapt to his new role. The slow pace of bloated, publicly traded companies opens a window for entrepreneurs like us.

(As an aside, check out this week’s On The Media interview with Paul Starr: Well, one of the things, I think, that’s good about the American
pattern is that we generally haven’t let the company or companies that
dominate a prior technology from also controlling a new technology. So
if you think about it, the post office didn’t get control of the
telegraph … Western Union didn’t get
control of the telephone. And then Bell Telephone didn’t get control of
broadcasting.)

But as much as I’d like to say we’re inventing fire, the wheel and a cure for cancer, the truth is that we’re leapfrogging down a path that MSM companies would follow if they didn’t have such short-term entrenched-model  o’er-hyphenated profit pressures and will follow within five years. We think there’s a huge opportunity in doing so.

So what is this new old role for old new media? I’ll start with a seeming non-sequitir, a warning for both myself and my media-obsessed bretheren, who mostly dwell on the coasts:

I live in a major metro. I run with a relatively tech-savvy crowd. And most of my friends don’t know RSS from USB. They look at the URL for del.icio.us and don’t know how to pronounce it, much less use it. Further, they don’t care to. For every tag-obsessed blogger, there’s a busy young professional or soccer mom who doesn’t care about a communications or social revolution — she just wants information that’s useful to her without having to think much about how to get at it.

We have a friend who is a smart, successful attorney. She’s a customer that media outlets and advertisers covet. She’s relatively net-savvy. She sends pictures out via Flickr. She invites people to parties via Evite. She subscribes to magazines, but doesn’t read them unless she’s on a plane. She reads mountains of documents for work, and gets what news she gets online. And if I suggested to her that she take time to configure a newsreader or set up tag searches, she’d tell me to stuff it. But, I firmly believe that if she found an online source that tailored itself to her myriad interests, filtered out the junk (which to others may be gold), and told her when Neiman’s was running a shoe sale, she’d read it more than any source she has now.

So how is a tidal wave of information, widely distributed, going to help folks like this? And how can a completely open network seamlessly target information that’s relevant without creating some really scary privacy issues?

That’s were Mr. Media comes in.  As Jarvis suggests, media as we know it had become a top-down speech. Now it’s a conversation again, as I’d argue it was at small-town, and non-monopoly news towns years ago. But there are so many speakers, that someone has to divide the signal from the noise — Not, as in the past, based purely on editorial judgment, but on individual relevance.

Media still exists, and will, if not forever, for some time to come. Instead of an edict, it’s now a much-needed filter. But a filter that the individual must be able to calibrate, and must be able to do so effortlessly.

In the end, I think it’s easy to agree that we all want conversations. What’s harder is getting people to work at their end of that conversation. Assuming that most will do so is, I think, the road to a failed business plan.

Money isn't the only currency

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JD Lasica explores the debate over paying citizen journalists. This has been a recurring discussion among the blogo-mediati and has even led to the launch of some, well, interesting businesses.

Here’s my take, if someone provides something of value, they should be compensated with something of value. But the truth is, that isn’t always cash.

Here’s our proposition for varying types of citizen journalists:

  • Bloggers:
    If we notice something valuable on your site, we’ll link to you. If you want to be a regular contributor, give us permission and we’ll scrape a few posts a week from your site as stories in our system. Every time, we’ll link to your blog, which will drive traffic. We’ll pay you in eyeballs.
     
    If you want cash, and your blog is sufficiently local and consistently high-quality, we can move your blog into our publishing system. If we mutually agree to do so, we’ll offer you a share in the ad revenue from your pages. But be warned: In many cases, we won’t get paid unless our subscribers act on the ads. So we’re all in this together.
     
  • People who submit comments:
    If your comments on stories and guide items are well-read and useful to the community, we may occasionally push them up the chain to be independent stories. If that happens consitently with your stuff, we’re likely to offer you a freelance "beat."
     
  • People who submit photos, audio, video and prose:
    We’ll always link to your website, if you have one, again paying you in eyeballs. In many cases, we may also be giving voice to a topic you’re passionate about, a topic too far down the Long Tail for the traditional media to cover. Again, if we post your stuff often enough, we’ll talk to you about a regular "beat."

If you’re interested in working with us, let us know.

Who's at fault?

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Last week I pointed to Richard Posner’s indictment of mainstream media.

In rebuttal to that piece, Jack Shafer says he doesn’t trust the audience:

The larger point that the boneheads who so despise the media need to
appreciate is that the mainstream American press is better than it’s
ever been. If you don’t believe me, visit your local library and roll
through a couple of miles of microfilm of the papers you’re currently
familiar with. By any comparison, today’s press is more accurate,
ethical, reliable, independent, transparent, and trustworthy than ever.
Skepticism is a healthy disposition in life. I wouldn’t be a press
critic if I regarded the press as hunky-dory. But mindless skepticism
is mainly an excuse for ignorance. Even the people who denounce the
New York Times as the bible of liberals ultimately get most of their useful news from it.

I agree that in many ways today’s media is far better than the yellow rags of old.

Just like cassette tapes were a big advance from LP’s. But once I saw I could get 10,000 tracks of my choice on my Ipod, I never looked back.


UPDATE: More ringing endorsements of the direction of the industry.

Plus, is the metro daily outdated?:

It used to be the metro daily was a regionwide source for national
and international news and lots of lifestyle and cultural coverage. It
was also the "prestige paper" in the market. Now the net delivers all
these types of news better and media prestige just ain’t what it used
to be, ya know?. Meanwhile, smaller, more nimble players deliver local
news better and definitely serve local advertisers more effectively…

As our cities have grown, metro newspapers evolved with them. That
brought a necessary giantism — giant presses, giant distribution
mechanisms, giant staffs. And because of the size of the enterprise,
metros require giant advertising revenues to stay afloat.

Simple biology: giant creatures always require more food from their
ecosystems. That also means there is a maximum size that giants can
reach before their ecosystems collapse.

Plus, giants tend to begin to miss the small; the small stories
certainly, and even the small advertisers. When you are a giant, the
national revenues from a General Motors or a Proctor& Gamble make
more sense than the local revenues of the dry cleaner.

Yet people live, even in a metro area, on an intimate scale. Their
lives are are made up of neighborhoods, and local shops and the fate of
schools and all the delicate subtleties arranged around us….

We should keep our eyes open as multiple, small upstarts —
ala the Examiner — arrive to do the local job the metro daily refuses
to complete. Add citizen journalism to that mix and you get a spectrum
of media that is downright hopeful.

Sound like anyone we know?

 

SPCA: A sad tale, and a lesson in research

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I referred earlier to some info that was being spread via email about Dave Garcia, the SPCA employee at the center of the 20/20 story.

That info made it into the DMN yesterday, along with news of Garcia’s resignation.

Several thoughts here:

  • This doesn’t necessarily make 20/20’s report any more valid — it’s still a swiss cheese mishmash of mischaracterizations. But, it makes the SPCA’s rebuttal seem less high-minded.
     
  • If 20/20 had really wanted a "gotchya," it was right there waiting for them.
     
  • This calls the SPCA’s judgement in its use of Garcia into question. Can a convicted rapist and kidnapper get a job as dogcatcher? Yes. Should he be positioned as a media darling poster-child for the organization? Probably not.
     
  • Are there no media organizations that make a public records check of article subjects SOP? This should have come out months ago.
       
  • Herein is an object lesson, both in enabling users to report relevant news and in maintaining civil discourse. In the continuation is the email I originally declined to post. I think it is clear that something of this tone can’t just be posted willy-nilly. But, once we’re operational, it’s the kind of thing that becomes a hot lead for a professional reporter to check out. Or better yet, the user posting it provides the proof.

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