Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Tue 11 May 2010 8:37 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Four mysteries of social media

“I didn’t know what Facebook was. And now that I do know what it is, I have to say it sounds like a huge waste of time.” — Betty White on SNL

This is a time of fear, promise, and fidgety energy. Everyone who does what I do (marketing copywriting) is swimming in all of that as we adapt to social media.

The biggest challenge? Getting good information. Pragmatically, I need to connect with real people, not shout to a room of empty chairs or dumb robots. How do I figure out what to do?

For starters, by listening to social media experts. But here we have a big problem. Everyone with expertise in social media is also invested in it. If you’re in the business of promoting Google Buzz consultancy services, of course you’re going to rave about the tremendous potential of Google Buzz. When you’re talking about Twitter on Twitter, volume and repetition are as good as authority. And in this climate (here’s where the fear factor comes into play), any experts who betray a hint of skepticism are swiftly marginalized by their fellow social media leaders.

Those of us surveying this scene from a distance—ie., who embrace social media but don’t list it as a skill on our LinkedIn profiles—sometimes want to throw our hands up in frustration. Since I can’t count on self-styled social media experts for independent advice, I have to do research on my own. My counterparts in marketing departments everywhere are doing the same.


Fri 9 Apr 2010 7:15 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Two articles every writer should read

A newspaper editor friend recently asked me for advice on keeping up with the latest online jargon.

First, I suggested he use the phrase “location-based social networking” at every opportunity. And second, I recommended he read two articles. Here are links to the two articles and why I recommended each one. (more…)

Tue 2 Mar 2010 6:50 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Robots talking to robots

I’m beginning to wonder how many of the words I see every day are written by robots.

  • There’s stuff like Demand Media’s eHow, where articles are carefully engineered to produce as much incoming search engine traffic as possible for as little expense as possible. It’s about serving customer needs, kind of, but only in so far as a customer is a disembodied server request generated by Google’s software.
  • Facebook ads target us based on demographics, preferences and keywords. These ads make sense in theory, but in practice seem oddly tone-deaf and unambitious, as if they were written by interns, or maybe children. Or algorithms.
  • Twitter is overrun by robots programmed to follow and unfollow people and retweet posts based on predictable user behaviors. It’s so easy to do you wouldn’t believe it.
  • Online display advertising is falling victim to oversupply and automation — a combination that’s driving prices down so fast that even a Huffington Post exec was quoted on the record sounding scared.
  • Blogging has evolved from a fun hobby into a precise science of writing lists optimized for search engines and social media propagation—a.k.a. linkbait. Old-fashioned notions of quality and clarity of writing, design craftsmanship, and copyright ownership have been squeezed out of the equation as too inefficient.

If Internet media is a pure democracy, it follows that content creators must be evaluated by output volume and popularity. If you’re a writer, artist, musician, or filmmaker, this might sound like a dystopian nightmare. I am here to tell you: Do not despair.


Mon 15 Feb 2010 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

The dawn of professional gossip

Consider Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and (as of last week) Google Buzz. Time-wasters, to be sure. But recently, they’ve become a vital part of participation in many work communities. They’re how people keep up with the important personalities in their field—colleagues, competitors and trendsetters. This use—as an online, social component of business—is new. It is distinct from the more popular uses of social networks, like chatting with friends, posting personal photos, playing games and sharing funny videos. This is about work. We need a name for this.

Professional gossip – Real-time information about people in your field, transmitted through online social networks.

In some ways, gossip should be approached with caution. Things can go negative fast and unexpectedly. (Witness yesterday’s bizarre Twitter fight between Sarah Silverman and Steve Case!) There’s a lot of noise and few good ways to filter it. Often we would be better advised to do the work rather than gab about the work we’re doing.

But on balance, gossip is good. People just starting out in a field can follow a few good feeds and gain insight from experts. Actionable business intelligence spreads fast—and the most important facts spread fastest. No longer must ideas simmer for months before bubbling up through the trade press and conferences; they can can be defined, refined and debated as urgently as necessary. And, conveniently, social networks let you curate your own professional gossip channel. This gives you power to influence what other people in your work community are talking about. Given time to build up contacts and clout, you can set the agenda and shape how your peers perceive your business.

We’re all new at this. We’re going to discover some weird things as we blaze this trail. Let’s make it fun!

Tue 26 Jan 2010 7:36 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Face the music

OK, I admit it, I’m psyched about the Apple announcement tomorrow. And I don’t even work in print any more.

Spend any time with people who do and you can feel the excitement like static electricity. Newspapers, magazines and book publishers almost universally expect Apple to announce a new hand-held computer tomorrow that will breathe life into their ailing businesses.

  • Carr: “The tablet represents an opportunity to renew the romance between printed material and consumer.”
  • The Journal: “With the new tablet device that is debuting next week, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is betting he can reshape businesses like textbooks, newspapers and television much the way his iPod revamped the music industry…”
  • The Times: “With the widely anticipated introduction of a tablet computer at an event here on Wednesday morning, Apple may be giving the media industry a kind of time machine — a chance to undo mistakes of the past.”

Consensus seems to be that the Apple gizmo will do for print what the iPod did for music! How’d that work out?


Mon 21 Dec 2009 1:00 pm   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

How the media broke and how we’re going to fix it

Hey media people: Didn’t this decade suck? So many good brands are out of business, so many good people are out of a job. The media crisis of last two years has been worse than simply a recession-related thinning of the herd. We’re witnessing a famine. Entire species will go extinct.

No serious person expects Denver or Seattle to ever have two daily papers again. Broadcast is suffering (can anyone justify The Jay Leno Show?). Ad agencies are in various states of chaos (BBDO Detroit!). Crowds still flock to the movies and concerts, but CD and DVD sales have evaporated (along with Tower Records and the Virgin Megastore). Online content seems like it’s in the fast lane to mediocrity.

Gone are the “Citizen Kane” days when owning a broadcast license or a printing press automatically made somebody rich and powerful. Fans of good reporting—the hard, watchdog stuff—are standing in shock as we witness the collapse of journalism.

What the hell happened?

To understand, let’s first remember that we are in the early stages some fundamental shifts in human communication. The networked computer represents a social disruption as significant as the oceangoing ship, or the airplane. Historians won’t be able to put this into perspective for some time.

But for now, I think we can look back on the last 10 years and see two important trends that accounted for the implosion of mass media.


Wed 2 Dec 2009 6:00 pm   //   Posted in: Media

Be seeing you!

On Monday I start a new job. I’m thrilled!

Today was my last day at my old job. As most of you know, for the last four years I’ve been a combo news reporter and online editor for a trade magazine called Photo District News. I’m proud of my work at PDN. I forged some strong friendships and grew a lot personally. I’m going to miss working with an extraordinarily kind and professional team of people.

Now, elevator up!

Tue 27 Oct 2009 11:35 pm   //   Posted in: Media

Carr vs. Wolff

Of all the journalists in this city who cover media, David Carr, who writes for the business section of the Times, could be the best. His research is solid, he’s a brilliant writer, and he’s a master at taking brand new information and distilling it to its essence. (Example: His April 13, 2007 column about Don Imus.)

Michael Wolff, who writes a media column for Vanity Fair, could be my least favorite. He takes facts that are common knowledge and spins them into tedious stories that reach b.s. conclusions. (Example: His May 2008 effort to explain the finances of The New York Times Company.) He also runs a news aggregation site called Newser.

Being familiar with these two journalists’ work, it was fun to see them face off tonight at a debate at New York University. A friend offered me a last-minute invitation to the event, which was part of a series called Intelligence Squared. (If you’re into this kind of thing, a recording of the event will eventually be online, and it will be broadcast by NPR and Bloomberg TV.)

The motion proposed at the debate was “Good Riddance to the Mainstream Media.”


Thu 15 Oct 2009 11:46 pm   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Internet pollution

This afternoon, I considered writing a blog post about Jaycee Dugard, the 29-year-old kidnapping survivor who’s on the cover of People this week. Pursuing a photography angle, I Googled some phrases related to Jaycee Dugard images.

Do not do this! Unscrupulous web site operators, exploiting the popular interest in Dugard, have seeded Google with stinking heaps of rotten stuff connected to this poor woman’s name. I clicked on a link that looked like a profile of Dugard, but the site launched a cascading series of virus warnings and then tried to transfer an executable file to my computer. (I clicked no and got out of there.) Google Images brought me to a horrific white supremacist message board that happened to have a picture of Dugard on it. And of course, I found all sorts of “news” sites that were just re-posted snips of text from other sites, wallpapered with blinking and irrelevant ads, tapping the gushing sewer pipe of Internet advertising.

I eventually decided not to write the post, for a variety of reasons. But this is a good occasion for another one of my occasional strolls around the Internet media landscape. It looks polluted. We’re having a quality crisis.


Wed 7 Oct 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

The fast and the furious

Yesterday I read an AP story that contained a familiar idea:

“The Associated Press is considering whether to sell news stories to some online customers exclusively for a certain period, perhaps half an hour, the head of the news organization said Tuesday.”

Hey, didn’t I suggest a time-locked pay wall for newspaper sites a few months ago? Yes, I did:

“I propose charging a premium subscription fee for readers who want the news before anyone else. It works like this. All the stories on your newspaper web site that are more than one hour old are free. A subscription fee (say, $50 a year?) grants readers access to the newest stories.”

I won’t repeat my whole post, but if you’re curious you can read it here.