21st Century Media.
Monday, October 30, 2006
  The odds are in our favor.
I've been tooling around with the New York Times Election Guide of 2006 for a good part of today. It's actually a very good interactive feature that gives insight into the overall predicted outcome of the midterm elections.

The only page I am a little confused about is the "Race Profile" page. Massachusetts has one of the most hotly debated and severely bitter governor's races, and all they can say is "Strategists expect the race to be a tight one." Hello? No mention of rapists, education or the phrase "soft on crime?" Also, who are these "Multiple" Democratic candidates? Last I checked, Massachusetts is screaming Deval Patrick - and have we all forgotten that Christy Mihos initially wanted to run as a Republican?

But on the main page, if you click on state by state, the coverage is easily viewable and completely comprehensive. It even displays a gauge of how liberal or conservative an incumbent candidate has voted. A definite example of new media done right - more interesting and interactive than plain old text.

P.S. Read this while you can. I dunno how long the links will last, since I can't use the link generator with these pages.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
  Get your webcams ready.
A recently released article on NYTimes.com has thousands scrambling to make dumb videos of themselves singing Backstreet Boys songs into a hairbrush. According to David Halbfinger, talent agencies, particularly United Talent, are now scouring web videos to find fresh faces and new marketing opportunities. In addition, they are making deals with producers and directors of such videos, introducing them to an increasingly competitive industry that would otherwise be nearly out of reach.

I can see the appeal, but personally, I think about 3/4 of the user-generated web videos online are pure crap. Who is really thatinterested in a 20 second clip of a pretty Japanese girl posing for a camera, or some desperate 35-year-old guy's reply and analysis of Lonelygirl15's last video? But I guess that's what talent agents do - weed out actual entertainment value and production skill from the millions of people worldwide who just want to be famous.

And some of the stuff that I think they should take note of? Things like The Ghana Youth Photo Project, a very interesting video and one of the most powerful things I've seen on YouTube (which I guess isn't saying much, but oh well). I know they're going for what's going to appeal to the American public, and documentaries aren't exactly valuable materials to the advertising world, but I hope it means that some of the people that are doing great things and putting them online will get noticed.

Also, in the related realm of powerful web videos, watch Execution of a Teenage Girl, about a 16-year-old from Iran accused of "crimes against chastity." It's long, but it will change your life.
Monday, October 23, 2006
  Online ethics (fun fun!)
So the rest of the world may think this is completely boring, but Poynter just had a conference about online ethics. Since the online realm is where I think I'm headed careerwise, this is pretty relevant to me. They broke it down into 3 categories:

Linking. Rick Edmonds asks:
But if accuracy, transparency (about where the information is coming from) and taste are ethical values of an organization -- and part of what the "brand" stands for -- how should those values inform decisions about links? Isn't linking to below-standard material just another way of publishing it?

I understand the worry about bringing in unreliable sources, but isn't linking a new way to prove credibility? Rather than keeping readers and sources in entirely different realms, linking provides the reader with an ability to actual see where things are coming from - and I can see nothing wrong with that. The only concern I would have is taste - a small story about a new celebrity sex tape may be discreetly revealed by a respectable news source, but a link to a night-vision trailer for Another Night in Paris might be fairly damaging, even for Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa. (Low-blow, I know.)

Revenue and content. Edmonds says:
A complicating factor is that the newness of the Web and frequent site redesigns have created publishing formats without the physical and visual boundaries that are fairly obvious in a printed edition. In other words, it may not be clear, just by looking, what is editorial, what is advertising and what is some sort of hybrid.

This is probably what terrifies me the most. Advertorials. Infomercials of the print world. The last thing we need is someone hawking Orange Glo and disguising it as a well-developed piece of editorial writing.

This is one of those things that I think will not affect the serious news organizations, despite the pressure they're under. The bonds between the business departments and newsrooms will really need to be cemented, however, to make sure that profit is considered, but not before news. Who knows, it could mean massive steps in the right direction, so long as everyone who works for a news organization actually cares about their institution.

And finally, user-generated content. Again from Edmonds:
On the one hand, user-generated content is integral to a broadened mission of developing community as well as reporting the news. It positions a newspaper or broadcast outlet as getting attuned to multi-directional conversation in which the audience becomes a valued contributor.

But, boy, are there landmines.

You got that right. This is an issue of people who are seriously interested in contributing their knowledge and opinions to a news-based community versus bored morons at work who think its funny to insert the f-word six times into a two-sentence comment. For this reason, I don't think anonymity should be allowed. If you are contributing your point of view, you should take responsibility for your words and be unashamed to stand by them, if you really believe in what you're saying. They don't allow anonymous letters to the editor, so why should they allow some jerk with a computer and no life ruin an opportunity for intelligent Web discussion?
Sunday, October 22, 2006
  Things I've missed.
Sorry for the lack of updates - a bit of family crisis. It's been a rough week/weekend.

Anyways, I'm kind of sad I missed the well-publicized Bob Woodward chat on washingtonpost.com. Woodward is a personal hero and the possibility of having his fans/readers interact with him directly via a chat is, I think, a good technological advance. The transcript is nowhere near as fascinating, but still gives you a good idea of what happened. Read for yourself.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
  A new Apple mistake.
Apple is now admitting that iPods shipped in the past 5 weeks may have a virus that could, in fact, infect computers with Windows. Shock! Horror! We always knew that Apple hates Windows, but to punish Windows users for making a bad choice? This Microsoft vs. Apple war is getting too severe.

In all seriousness, the Washington Post Security Fix blog reported the story and apparently, the virus was spread by a Windows machine used to test compability on new video iPods. The virus can be easily removed with any basic anti-virus software, according to Apple. What shocks me the most is that Apple, one of the most technologically advanced companies in the world, somehow lacked the foresight to run Norton while testing new devices. Looks like they're so busy pumping shabbily-made new iPods, they forgot to actually follow what most would consider to be protocol.

Forgive me for my anguish - my 2-year-old iPod has broken 4 times.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
  So I'm not the only one.
I was talking a few weeks ago about Friendster and how it's failing as a social network. The New York Times site now has a video that chronicles the decline of the site and an accompanying story discusses how it lost out on a billion-dollar deal (log in might be required).
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
  C'mon now.
Fortune senior editor David Kirkpatrick is virtually licking the boots of Mark Zuckerberg in a recently released Fortune/CNN.com article. Zuckerberg, apparently over lunch, had this to say to Kirkpatrick:

"A lot of companies get grouped as social networking. Lots are dating sites, or media sites or sites for community. But our mission is helping people understand the world around them."

Yeah, right, so all those girls who post pictures of themselves with shots of tequila in their Facebook albums are really out to "figure out the world." This really makes no sense, particularly since Zuckerberg goes on to say that for the most part, the average can only access less than 1 percent of the total Facebook network. Kirkpatrick also revels in the privacy controls of the site - which basically enable people to show their friends the pictures of themselves with a 4-foot bong, yet hide those from the people at their company. So apparently, self-restraint is no longer necessary.

But as far as I'm concerned, Zuckerberg IS concerned with money - he did drop out of the world's most distinguished university for some dumb website - and Facebook is an instrument for us to brag about who we are. And there's nothing wrong with that, but... just call a spade a spade.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
  New media: Something of a World War III.
I got it from the Washington Post, which got it from Reuters, but it is, in fact, everywhere: Lonelygirl15 and her cohorts are now operating on a website owned by Google.

The world is in a state of non-uproar at the in-no-way-a-surprise move.

What I do find surprising, however, is that News Corp. paid only $580 mil to acquire MySpace, which is consistently among the top three most visited sites on the web, and Google forked over $1.65 billion dollars for YouTube. Aside from that, the news seems, well, rather flat. As new media sites gain more and more popularity, they're just going to bought up by the media giants. I'm just waiting for Facebook to go to Google as well. It's all rather unimpressive.

I was even more bored by the message from the founders featured on YouTube's front page. They may be totally rich, but whatever happened to grassroots media?
Sunday, October 08, 2006
  The strong keep getting stronger.
The staff at the Washington Post allegedly want to be bloggers, and who can blame them?

Editor & Publisher, covering the annual convention of the Online News Association, reports that Post editor Len Downie said that everyone in his newsroom wants to be a blogger. Wonkette also had a tidbit about the story.

Downie went on to say that rather than feeling threatened by the blogosphere, the paper shares a "symbiotic relationship" with bloggers such as Matt Drudge. In addition, he noted that readership of the Post has dramatically increased since the introduction of an online edition, making the Post an internationally-known brand. It looks like Downie and the Post are moving in the new media direction, and its staff members are more than happy to follow the shift. That's all fantastic, but what about localized news?

It goes without saying that for superb international coverage, you go to the New York Times. You go to the Wall Street Journal for the best business news. You go to the Post for in-depth political coverage and analysis. And in a connected, online society, we can get all this information without ever leaving our homes. But what will happen to the Boston Globe, the Times-Picayune, the Observer? There's no doubt in my mind that the print media giants will blossom into multimedia empires, but I fear that in that, we will lose the necessity and availability of local news. In our ability to get the highest quality news whenever we want, we could be putting the local papers out of business and lose the sense of community that a local newspaper used to instill in its readership.
Friday, October 06, 2006
  So busy - but not too busy for Hastert's excuses!
Since I've been so inundated with working on my *feature story* I've hardly had time to update. That and the fact that I'm basically living in three cities right now.

Anyway, found an interesting tidbit on Wonkette - Dennis Hastert is now blaming the internet for the Foley scandal. Apparently, the instant messaging application is somehow to blame for the messages that were sent OVER it. Looks like the GOP now has a bit of problem with new media.

More later, I promise.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
  Now THIS is the definition of media about ourselves.
Yes, this is the newest toy of 14-year-old social networkers and bloggers alike - my celebrity look-a-likes! I know most of the matching is based on the angle of your face, according to the database of photos that they have, but still, it's pretty damn cool.

How on earth I got both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I'll never know. But Gael and Obama - freakin' awesome!
Monday, October 02, 2006
  And I thought I was using the internet a lot.
A CNN.com story about the move of Baghdad life from the streets to the internet caught my eye today. The article discusses how citizens now create their communities via video conferencing and instant messaging, for fear of the danger that befalls those who get caught amongst the violence. I particularly thought this tidbit was interesting:

Perhaps the hardest part is electricity. Much of Baghdad had electricity for 12-18 hours a day before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Most neighborhoods now get electricity from the grid for just four to six hours a day.

It means ordinary people have to know their ohms from their amperes and their megabits from their kilohertz.

Most middle class households now have cables snaking down the street to a neighborhood "generator man" who gives them diesel-generated power for a monthly fee of about $10 per ampere. Six or seven amperes are usually enough for a computer, a TV and a fridge. An air conditioner costs more.

A neighborhood Internet cafe will sell a subscription for wireless Wi-Fi access to its satellite broadband hookup for about $40 a month.

One of the best parts about all this, I think, is that it's not about using the web to communicate with people across the world that you will never meet - it's about the real sustainment of a community and the ability to stay in touch in real time, despite hardship. Call me sentimental, but I don't think any discussion with a stranger - be it on a forum or in a chat room - can compare to discussions with friends. It's an example of a globalized network that works locally. And it keeps people safe.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
  Musical genius.
I'm a HUGE music person. I spend about 50% of my online time on social networking sites (I know, it's humiliating), 25% educating myself, and 25% on music. A huge interest of mine in new media is the new culture of recommendations, and music is on the cutting edge of all this.

About a year ago, a friend introduced me to Pandora Internet Radio, a music portal that retains your personal music preferences and makes channels based on an artist or song that you select. Pandora is possible thanks to the efforts of the Music Genome Project, a group of music lovers who have attempted to make the most exhaustive encyclopedia of music, analyzing everything from lyrical topics to harmony styles. I'm in no way an internet radio person - it usually tends to bore me - but Pandora keeps it pretty interesting, particularly in the fact that channels are created using both mainstream and very underground music. My only complaint is that the musical license seriously limits how many songs you can listen to per hour.

I recently just found this neat little toy called Liveplasma, a self-proclaimed "discovery engine" that makes maps that link artists to one another according to style. Liveplasma, formerly Musicplasma, recently incorporated a search for movies, actors and directors. I don't really get the relations - what does Something's Gotta Give have to do with Kill Bill Vol. 1? - but its interesting to see the connections, and it's also more interesting than looking at lists. Downfall: no information about the things on the map!

Last but not least, we come to my personal favorite: Last.fm. Last.fm operates by installing an "Audioscrobbler" into your iTunes, keeping a record all of the songs that you play on your computer and making lists of your listening habits. My personal "dashboard" will display recently played tracks, top weekly artists, overall top artists and overall top songs. Seeing your own habits is interesting - I was completely unaware that I actually listened to "Sorry" by Madonna 5 times - but the features that connect you to other people are much better. "Neighbours" are people with similar music taste. There is an option to add friends, join groups, and write on people's "shoutboxes." It feeds the needs of internet radio junkies, with neighbour radio - what your neighbours are/were listening to - and regular recommendation radio. The best part? You can tag artists, songs and albums in your own personal music journal, which reaches a community of listeners just like you.

Last.fm is the winner of the musical recommendation game as far as I'm concerned. It mixes the best elements of digital media and new technological capabilities with the one thing you can always trust - good old word of mouth.

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