Posts about Exploding_TV

At the Media Summit

What a difference a day makes. I’ve gone from SXSW to the McGraw-Hill Media Summit in New York. It certainly is a different crowd: jeans to suits and better haircuts and far more people trying to pitch. By the coffee table, I hear a guy saying, “We build communities for large brands.” That is something you would never hear at SXSW because the people there know that’s an impossibility.

* * *

Good PowerPointese line from Disney’s Bob Iger: He has shifted from protecting the brand to projecting the brand.

Another: He says Disney isn’t embracing the internet so much as embracing consumers and to be relevant to and reach them, they need to use the technology.

He says they will generate $1 billion in digital revenue in the company up from $750 million the year before (not including online sales to the parks). He says they’ve sold 4 million movies on iTunes and 40-50 million TV episodes, which pales into comparison to streams. Both are incremental — that is, new and additional — to their existing business. He says the DVD business won’t go away but there will be a shift to online delivery.

He cautions that social media isn’t just about Gens X and Y. It’s about kids now. He believes that the broaddband enabled computer will be come a primary entertainment medium for kids. “It’s just as important to them as television.”

Asked what’s the trick for an old-media company to get it, Iger responds, “Hire new people.” He says you need people who look at technology as a friend not a foe, not talking about challenges and fragmentation. (The kind of people at SXSW.)

Google is no threat, he says. Disney is a popular search term. He knows that Google sends him people and rather than seeing Google’s ad sales on top of that as a problem, he wants his company to find ways to make the experience of coming from Google better.

He talks about Disney as an American brand worldwide. He says he respects the need for local creation of content and so in local markets they set up creative centers, not just distribution centers. (I wish he were around in 1991 when my bosses at Time Warner killed — muzzled — my column at Entertainment Weekly because I dared to say that local content support could be a good thing. “How can you say that?” demanded one of the company’s editors. I stopped writing my column then, in protest, and soon quit the magazine. This was only one of my problems.)

* * *

Next, a panel with big, old media companies: Julia Wallace of hte Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jon Klein of CNN, Kinsey Wilson of USA Today, David Westin of ABC.

“The paper I read most often is the Pocono Record,” says Raines, ex-editor of the New York Times. He says that local is the value of local newspapers. And that quote will float around his old shop in a few minutes.

Asked about the Times, Raines says they need to decide whether to go head-to-head nationally with Murdoch and the Journal. I thought it was the other way around. Isn’t the national report the high ground? Raines says no. He points to the Washington Post’s contraction strategy, pulling back into inside the Beltway. He says that the Times may need to come up with a contraction as opposed to an expansion strategy. “Common sense tells you that when your stock was at $54 in the mid 90s and it’s now at, what, $18 and the son of an Alabama construction millionaire has bought 20 percent of your company… your stock price cannot sit there.”

What should the New York Times do? Lightning round. Klein: “Stop writing about themselves.” Wallace: “Become that voice for the intellectuals of America on any platform.” Wilson: Long pause. Then he agrees with Howell — contraction. Westin: “It sounds right … that they’re in a middle ground that is not sustainable right now, neither fish nor fowl.”He says he doesn’t know whether the contraction is about local or a set of subjects of readers. Raines: “I think Julia’s idea of going for that elite, intellectual audience is a sound one.”

Klein answers moderator Jon Fine’s question about what job they’d fill first if they had a budget to start a new news product: “I’d hire data miners.” Right. Hunters. Gatherers. Searchers. Vetters. Curators. Right. “If you do it the right way, you’ve got the audience telling you an awful lot.” And that helps.

Fine gives a question that came in response to his blog post on the panel: Is there a supply-side problem? Is there too much news? Will there be a consolidation. Well, I’d say, there’s not too much news. But choice hurts one-size-fits-all products. There’s a supply-side problem for them, but it’s not that there is too much. There’s just too much for the old control point.

Wallace says the demand for news is higher than ever. I agree. And, as I’ve said before (but can’t link to it because there’s no wi-fi in this auditorium… grrrr) we are in the post-scarcity economy. Those who made their business by controlling that scarcity are the ones in trouble. And that is these guys if they don’t change their essential models, which they’re trying to figure out.

Westin says that they will not win on covering, say, the bridge collapse because that news is a commodity. But the Rep. Foley story is where they will win because that was reporting. There, he argues, there is an undersupply. Wilson says that is the discussion happening in newsrooms across the country: minimizing commodity effort and maximizing unique reporting value.

Fine asks them how they’d organize their newsrooms if they were doing it from scratch today. Klein says they’d have a lot fewer people. He tells about taking a feed via Skype (because Jeff Toobin went to law school of Eliot Spitzer and was on an island with no satellite uplinks); today, he says, he’d buy a lot fewer trucks and buy more laptops. (Or soon mojo phones, I’d say.)

Asked what is its high ground, its unique value, Wilson gives a characteristically smart answer: He says that USA Today is perceived as a down-the-middle voice, something it has cultivated since the start and something that is more valuable in a time when news organizations are perceived as having agendas. But then he acknowledges that it is difficult to bring that to online when the web wants voice and perspective.

I ask Klein what they’ll do when people out here are broadcasting live from their phones via Qik.com and Flixwagon.com etc. He says that iReport.com will be “a home for unvetted material.” He says they haven’t dealt with live material but they’re getting there. He wouldn”t put the CNN brand on it until it is vetted.

The human satellite truck

Visionary network news photographer Jim Long is gleefully putting himself out of business. Well, actually, he’s expanding his own business, for network executives should be plugging into his brain. But he’s reducing the need for that gigantic camera he lugs all over the world. While in Africa traipsing after George Bush and company, Jim turned on his mobile phone and hooked it into Qik.com and broadcast Sir Bob Geldof speaking. No big camera. No satellite uplink. No editing into packages. No b-roll. Just the news now.

But this is more than just broadcasting live from anywhere — that’s important enough. It’s also interactive: we can ask the correspondent to ask the subject questions: live lets us in on the conversation.

I’ve also been playing with Flixwagon, a Qik competitor that powered MTV’s Super Tuesday mobile coverage, and it’s dead easy: one click and you’re broadcasting. This is hugely changing.

: Also note from my friends at the Guardian that one of the paper’s still photographers won a Royal Television Society award for best international news. Repeat that: a newspaper photographer wins a TV award. TV’s not TV anymore.

(Disclosure: I write for the Guardian and consult for them and Sky.com, also an award-winner at the RTS.)

Davos08: Wireless

“If you defend the status quo when the quo has lost its status, you’re in serious difficulty,” says Sony head Howard Stringer in a panel on the future of mobile. “It’s a most exhilerating time” because it’s all up in the air. A year ago, he says, cable companies were negotiating from a position of strength. But look at their stock prices now; they reflect the walls falling around them. This has made them nicer to deal with. But he’s not saying he’s sitting in daisies himself. “It’s going to be hard to hold onto the price of content.” Then again, he turns to a Chinese mobile phone mogul and says that if Sony could sell just one song to each of his 500 million users, his music company would be instantly (and apparently finally) profitable.

Stringer, the funniest man at Davos (far funnier than Al Gore), says out of nowhere that he likes Google. Why? asks moderator David Kirkpatrick of Fortune. Because Google’s going to buy wireless spectrum and they’ll be in his business even more. The only reason he came onto the panel to be close to Google’s Eric Schmidt.

NBC’s Jeff Zucker says mobile is not that important to the network. Nonetheless, they’re going to put out 2,200 hours of programming on mobile from the Olympics.

Stringer says young people will drive usage in ways we can’t predict. The hot fact passing around conferences this week is that novels written — written — on mobile phones are selling like crazy in Japan. Stringer says mobile will be the platform for everything.

Google’s Schmidt asks what’s new “and I think it’s the arrival of short-form video as a category.” He says it’s not a replacement for a prior form but an entirely new form.

He also says he is so bullish about mobile as a business because he believes the players are motivated to make sense of the current lack of standards and create a unified platform.

There’s much discussion about openness from regulation to devices to business models. From the audience, Jonathan Zittrain asks about whether an open system will bring us viruses on our phones and a new frontier of unreliability. Schidt responds: “Open platforms are like Linux, not like Windows.” Oohs from the geeky audience.

Michael Arrington asks FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin about the open letter Google wrote requesting openness in the upcoming spectrum auction, wondering whether this made the decision harder — as pressure — or easier, as covering fire with the other commissioners. “The open letter is nothing like the pressure that others can put on in more private ways. I actually appreciated the openness of it,” Martin responds.

Somebody asks whether any of the companies represented planned to include scent — olfactory functionality — in phones since it’s the only sense not addressed by the internet. Gawd, and you thought it was irritating to hear other people’s mobile phones. I dread having their smells waft my way. Another person from the audience whether anyone is working on holographic images to replace the tiny screen on mobiles. That doesn’t seem to be in the works, either.

Davos08: David Cameron on small video

I ask David Cameron about WebCameron and how he talks to the small camera instead of the big one — recorded on my small Reuters mojo camera.

Here’s my Guardian column on Webcameron.

Davos08: Metavideo with Scoble

Robert Scoble as been using qik.com and his camera phone to broadcast live all around Davos. So I used my Reuters mojo phone camera to record him on video.

Exploding TV

I’m at the Guardian Media Group’s offsite. Not planning to blog it. But I can’t help this: David Muir, CEO of WPP’s The Channel, gives the agency’s ad share projections for the UK. Online is now at 25% (far ahead of the U.S., by the way) and they predict it will surpass TV — and all other media — next year. But he cautioned that 79% of that online advertising goes to search. Google is God.

CORRECTION: I missed a step in the math. Muir says that search takes 79 percent of online advertising and that Google, in turn, takes an estimated 75 percent of that, three-quarters of three-quarters.

The world from a purse

I’m amused that the Times is wowed that Fox News has a small trick that can broadcast TV while moving.

Except iJustine can do that with nothing more than her purse.

Years ago, I told a friend of mine at News Corp. that TV should be putting web cams in the homes, offices, and even cars of experts and sources so they could go on the air anywhere, anytime. One of her TV colleagues pooh-poohed the idea, insisting that this wouldn’t give them “broadcast quality” (is that an oxymoron?).

And, of course, soon you won’t even need Justine’s purse. I met last week with Nic Fulton, who has been leading the mobile journalist project using a stock Nokia phone with software that lets a journalist publish video, audio, photos, and text. That’s not live — yet — but soon will be.

TV from a truck? Dern, what’ll they think of next?

Let the dinosaurs huddle

Well, I came that close to agreeing with the head of the FCC.

In today’s Times, Kevin Martin argues for a loosening of the rules prohibiting cross-ownership of newspapers and TV stations to help save newspapers from financial doom. But he loosens them only so much, fearful, I’m sure, of unlocking the antimedia rage genie that bit his predecessor, Michael Powell, so badly.

A company that owns a newspaper in one of the 20 largest cities in the country should be permitted to purchase a broadcast TV or radio station in the same market. But a newspaper should be prohibited from buying one of the top four TV stations in its community. In addition, each part of the combined entity would need to maintain its editorial independence.

He doesn’t go nearly far enough. I say the ban should be lifted entirely and that cross-owned companies should be allowed to merge entirely and for more reasons that Martin gives. First, I agree with him that enabling newspaper and TV companies to join together in a market will give them both efficiencies that will help extend the limited life of the print business model; it buys them time and if that means time for development — instead of time to milk the old cow before she keels over — that’s good.

Media consolidation is a boogeyman we don’t need to be afraid of anymore. Clear Channel, the great consolidator, had to go private because the market wouldn’t support it anymore. Tribune Company, the wunderkind of cross-ownership with a paper, TV, radio, online, and a sports franchise in the Chicago market, has been taken over by a builder. Giant Knight Ridder fell into the hands of giant McClatchy, which just took a huge write-off against its plummeting value. Consolidation today is no longer about conquering the world. It is, as I’ve said here often, about huddling together against the cold wind of the internet. Let them huddle, I say, or they’ll die sooner. Martin apparently agrees.

But there’s another reason to allow — no, encourage — cross-ownership: multimedia literacy. Here I am arguing that newspaper people need to learn how to make radio and TV and the internet and that TV people need to learn to tell stories across all media. And so wouldn’t it be good for the journalists in both tribes to merge and learn each others’ ways? Couldn’t (notice I said ‘couldn’t’ not ‘wouldn’t') that improve the journalism on both sides? Isn’t there a chance that a wisely managed, larger newsroom could waste less resources matching each other on commodity news and go out and report real news?

I’m not so optimistic or foolish to believe that every consolidated, cross-owned, converged newsroom would operate with such strategic wisdom. Some would just use the merger as an excuse to reduce staff so as to squeeze out a last drop of milk. But you can’t regulate and legislate smart management.

Why not give them a chance to invent new ways to gather and serve journalism across all media and all distribution channels? Somebody might do it right and that somebody probably wouldn’t be in a top 20 market — the only ones Martin wants to free up — but in a smaller market. That somebody would show the way for others as a few — too few — newspapers and TV stations are doing for each other now.

Let the dinosaurs join together and lay their last eggs.