Posts from June 16, 2005

Bloggers at the bar

Bloggers at the bar

: Heather Green at Business Week says that if the Times/Time source case goes before the Supreme Court, it could affect bloggers because attorney Floyd Abrams, representing the reporters, said on TV recently:

I think a blogger ought to be protected also. It seems to me that the purpose of this privilege is to protect the people who play a function in American life. It’s not to protect reporters as such. It’s to protect people who gather information and disseminate it on a widespread basis to the public.

Journalists are citizens and citizens are journalists.

Used (and abused?)

Used (and abused?)

: Jonah Peretti at Eyebeam ran another brilliant experiment in contagious media and Marc Glaser has all the details about how Forget-Me-Not Panties, Crying While Eating, and Blogebrity racked up traffic, links, and publicity in a timed contest. Great stuff and most entertaining.

But be honest: Sometimes, once you find out that these things are hoaxes, don’t you feel duped and used?

In the case of Blogebrity, the straight lines were neon-obvious. And that’s why I didn’t link to it (and didn’t get duped by it): I didn’t want to be used. The poor fools in the press who reported on it as if it were real — and the readers who believed them — surely felt used and abused.

So I’m wondering, just wondering: What’s the line between a joke, a hoax, and a lie? What’s the line between a contagious media experiment and a phoney phone call? Does it matter? Is there an ethnical responsibility to duping people and duping the press and affecting the credibility of a reporter or a publication or an entire medium: the internet? Or is this a nonfret?

Of course, half the responsibility for getting a joke lies with the jokester and the other half rests with the audience. Some poor souls are just born humorless. A few weeks ago, Howard Stern had on his Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator vowing to blow up the moon to end PMS and idiots in a British paper and an American cable show reported this, even huffily editorialized about it, as if it were news. It was a joke. Any fool could see that. Well, most any.

So what’s the difference between that and a phoney phone caller who gets himself onto a news show in a crisis by impersonating a county official with news on a crime?

Motive matters, I think. The Schwarzenegger bit was a joke those shlubs didn’t get. The phoney phone call was meant to deceive and succeeded with news schlubs. Is there a difference? Is one meant to amuse and one meant to humiliate? Does that matter?

And where does a contagious media experiment fall on that scale? If it’s just a joke, it’s just a joke and it’s up to the beholder to figure that out. But this experiment, in particular, was designed to get links and attention. Does that mean it was mean to deceive or that it was just a damned good joke?

I really don’t know my own answer to these questions. I think they’re worth asking just because some serious souls use these episodes to question the credibility of the press or the good will of the people. Or maybe they’re just being too serious. Maybe it’s time to go get a drink.

: LATER: Yes, break out the beer.

I wrote that and then I read Stacy Shiff’s column in The Times yesterday wringing hands about the state of truth.

More than 60 percent of the American people don’t trust the press. Why should they? They’ve been reading “The Da Vinci Code” and marveling at its historical insights.

Well, that itself is a ridiculous stretching of truth. One has nothing to do with the other except that Shiff doesn’t trust the sense of the public.

The eternal truth is that truth is in the eye of the beholder. It’s up to each of us to judge whether we will believe a newspaper or a hoaxter or a novelist or a columnist or a blogger. It’s up to them to maintain the credibility in the face of doubt and punchlines.

Still, if I had been taken in by Blogebrity, I would have felt used and abused. I suppose because I didn’t, I’m supposed to feel smart. But I only feel lucky.



: Iran’s “election” day is upon us and I’d like to point you to two blogs:

: Hoder continues to report from Tehran with his savvy perspective.

: And go read Blue Bird Escape. This is a blog by a remarkable young Iranian-American woman whom I first came across a few years ago, when she returned to Iran after moving to America. She returned to her homeland filled with hope and memories but discovered once she got there that she could not see the country the same way, once she knew freedom. Her blog told that with eloquent but unvarnished honesty. Today, on the eve of the election, she writes:

Iran was always a great country in my childhood eyes. I left Iran at the age of 11. It was not until I went back to Iran at 15 that I saw with my own eyes what Iran didnít have. There was no democracy. Walking on the streets of Tehran brought back so many memories, but I couldnít imagine myself walking those streets for the rest of my life. It was nothing compared to walking outside on a street in Virginia or anywhere else in the U.S. I felt guilty as I watched people because I knew I was free and they were not.

Another election has arrived for Iran and I am thinkingÖare they really going to get what they deserve? Are they really going to get their freedom, their democracy? What can I do for them? The only thing I can do, as I am sitting here, on my comfortable bed, reading a magazine on Hollywood gossip, while Iranian women are protesting for equal rights, is to vote….

Do not build it and they will not come

Do not build it and they will not come

: A coalition dedicated to not building the International Freedom Center is calling a rally and press conference at noon Monday at the World Trade Center, details here. My plea to not build the center here.

: Cavuto took up the cause on FoxNews; video here.

A mass of class

A mass of class

: The BBC is wowed at 650,000 Beethovan downloads in a week. Repeat after me: John Stewart on Crossfire got 150,000 viewers on CNN but likely more than 10 million downloads. What’s more powerful: The networks that Time Warner and the BBC own or the networks no one owns? Obvious lesson to all broadcasters: Let there be downloads. All the folks who are bragging about their streams would be blown away by floods of downloads. Distribution is so yesterday.

Distribution is so yesterday

Distribution is so yesterday

: Amazon is producing and airing a concert with Nora Jones, Bill Maher, and Bob Dylan for its 10th anniversary.

I’ll just bet this marks the start of Amazon 2.0: the content company.

Amazon was in the distribution business and it did a great job of finding new efficiencies and market shares and customer needs in it.

But distribution has been dethroned as a business. Owning the broadcast tower still makes you money — but as your audience departs for limitless new competition, it won’t grow. Owning a cable franchise is a great monopoly — but growth is there mostly because you can sell new services, broadband and VOIP, and before you know it, you’ll be nothing but the pipe: the next telco. Owning a monopoly newspaper used to be a great business — until more efficient marketplaces replaced yours and your presses and trucks and Teamsters suddenly looked not like a strength but like a cost. When I went to work for the Newhouses, I got excited at the prospect of working with Random House, which they then owned, but my boss wisely told me it wasn’t what a thought — “it’s just a distribution business,” he said.

Amazon was in the distribution business. But now it has relationships with millions of customers and a network of sales people — that is, its own customers writing reviews and creating valuable data about likes and dislikes. Now it has a brand that is trusted for content. Now it can enter the content business. Why not produce a show or a book directly for Amazon and sell it there? Why not turn Amazon into a powerhouse of advertising targeted to both content and consumer?

When that concert is performed, I’ll be watching the Amazon Channel.

: Ernie Miller says it’s not a channel. He’s right. In fact, I put this the wrong way: Amazon isn’t a content company, then, producing content itself. Amazon is not a network. But Amazon is a networking company, putting together buyers and sellers, readers and writers (and vice versa). So what I meant to say is that sometime soon, someone will chose to publish via Amazon directly to the public and skip the middleman formerly known as the publisher. That makes Amazon merely a conduit. One could say that it’s about distribution but in the case of digital content, the distribution is meaningless. It’s just a place that helps A find B. It’s a maven.

Share the knowledge

Share the knowledge

: The BBC has put up a comprehensive and free course in shooting better video (see for more).

How smart of them. This is what the future of news is about: sharing.

By teaching those who care to learn, the BBC is building an army of news-gatherers in the world. One of them could be there when the huge story happens. One of them will be inspired to go out and report a story. And that video will end up on the air — on the BBC or on the internet or elsewhere — and we’re all better informed.

You could argue that the BBC, which has also talked about starting a journalism school for citizen reporters, can do this because it has a different mission than a commercial network: It is supported by license fees to inform the public, period (which would make you think, by the way, that NPR, PRI, and PBS should be doing exactly the same thing here).

But I’ll argue that the wise commercial station — and newspaper — should be doing this, too, because it will produce more news and improve the reporting of that news reporting at a lower cost, while also taking down the barriers that have been built up between the press and its public. It’s good journalism. It’s good citizenship. And it’s good business.