Posts about Media

Explaining it all

Peter Day at the BBC’s In Business delivers an in-depth, half-hour show on how blogs, et al change media and business. Day interviewed me (twice, thanks to damned technology) at We Media in London and I haven’t enjoyed an interview that much in quite some time. Maybe that’s just because he let me blather. But I think he does a good job of stringing it all together. Here‘s the MP3. [via Hugh]

Who’s afraid of the big, bad media?

It’s ironic that The Nation should come out with its perennial screed against big-media, cross-media conglomeration (complete with obscene centerfold) at the same time that Tribune Company — the grandfathered forefather of local cross-media newspaper-TV-radio-cable-magazine-online-entertainment hegemony — is threatened with breakup, like Knight Ridder before it, because a warring stockholder says that synergy just isn’t working.

Folks, in the age of small, it’s bad to be big.

Hell, even Markos isn’t worried about big media.

The media landscape is changing dramatically, seemingly on a daily basis, and what we once considered serious dangers to our democracy–things like media consolidation and the absence of balance and fairness–will become increasingly less important. We are at the beginning of the age of citizen media, where corporations can own vast, billion-dollar media outlets yet fail to control the flow and content of information. It’s quite hard to be a media gatekeeper when everyone becomes media, and that’s what we’re seeing happen in the age of blogs, wikis, social networking sites, podcasting, vlogging, message boards, e-mail groups and whatever wonderful communication technologies emerge tomorrow. Consolidation isn’t saving newspaper circulation numbers.

It’s actually kind of sad to see writers at The Nation still trying to get up a good fret over media monstrosity. [via InOpinion]

: LATER: Matthew Yglesias does the better analysis (of course):

Media concentration is, I’m afraid, one of those progressive causes I’ve never been able to get unduly worked up about. Whenever this comes up, I think back to years and years ago when I was living at home and my parents subscribed to The Nation. They printed this big chart showing how concentrated the media was in the hands of a few corporations. Or, at least, that’s what it was supposed to show. I recall having thought that the chart actually showed Big Media to be relatively diffuse, all things considered. . . .

As they’re saying-but-not-saying here [in the current Nation chart], the media’s become less concentrated. They’re up to six giants from just four — General Electric, Disney, Time Warner, CBS (which I believe is the successor to Westinghouse), plus new entrants Fox, and Viacom. So that’s six.

Six is a reasonably small number, but compared to what? What do the top six American car companies control? Oh, right, there are only two. And only two operating system makers. And so on and so forth. The tendency in any field would be for the top six firms to control a large portion of the aggregate.

What’s more, the curious thing about these six media monopolists is that between them they control zero of America’s most-influential newspapers. . . .

On top of all that, you need to consider the existence of NPR and PBS. . . .

On top of all this, the Internet is greatly enhancing peoples’ range of options. Actual “new media” — blogs, etc. — play a relatively small role in this. The main thing is that, unlike it past eras, it’s now really, really easy for somebody living in St. Louis to read The Los Angeles Times or The Boston Globe or, for that matter, The Guardian or The Independent if they’re interested in a different perspective on world or national affairs. In the more strictly entertainment sectors of the media, thanks to the iTunes Music Store and EMusic and Netflix and digital cable, it’s never been easier — especially for people living outside major cultural centers — to find an independent album or movie.

This is getting very longwinded. But suffice it to say that while I have major — major — complaints with the reality of most media content, I don’t find it especially plausible to attribute these problems to overconcentration. The media business doesn’t seem especially concentrated and it’s becoming less rather than more concentrated.

[Hat tip: Robert Feinman in the comments]

Yum

I’m loving Huffington Post’s new Eat the Press. More and more media. We keep eating it and never get full.

Driving readers online: update

An update and correction to the post below: I just heard from Ed Roussel, editorial director of the Telegraph group, who says it’s not true that his paper will delay stories until after publication in print. In fact, he said, they have already shifted people to earlier schedules to get news out sooner. They are not trying to put every story online before print (which is where the Guardian is apparently headed) but they are free to put up anything short of a big scoop they want to save (which will be the same for everyone).

How did this meme start? He said at the World Association of Newspapers session in Moscow, there was discussion about content management systems and the ability to schedule publication to the web and it grew out of that. So they’re playing wack-a-mole on the tale now.

While I had him, I asked Ed whether the Telegraph has plans to invade America, like the Guardian and the Times of London. He said no. “The reality is that we want to do the best possible job of writing for our readers and the core of our readership is British people,” which includes expats. He said they already had a third of their online readership is in the U.S. And he said that the track record of British companies making a go of it in America is limited.

: LATER: More from Shane Richmond at the Telegraph about this.

Konvention

At the end of the linking thing in Philly yesterday, Jay Rosen was headed off to Vegas to be on a panel at the Kos konvention, where about a thousand online and offline political machers are showing up — including big names who want to curry favor with the Kos krowd. As we discussed this, David Weinberger shook his head, recalling someone at one of the panels that day who’d said that bloggers aren’t influencing politics. The Kos thing is the (latest) proof that they are.

And then here is the lead of Adam Nagourney’s New York Times story on the konfab today:

If any more proof were needed of the rising influence of bloggers — at least for the Democratic Party — it could be found here on Friday on the Las Vegas Strip, where the old and new worlds of American politics engaged in a slightly awkward if mostly entertaining clash of a meeting.

The Kos event is a fascinating clash of lines:

What is the line between blogger and media? Nagourney and Maureen Dowd (expensive link) wonder whether the bloggers are trying to be media as they go off to write books or columns in big publications. Also, judging by rather slapdash way Dowd wrote her column, one might wonder whether media are trying to be bloggers.

What is the line between blogger and activist? Markos makes it very clear that he’s the latter. But not everyone in the crowd would paint themselves similarly. Still, they’re all there because they share agendas and from an old-style journalistic perspective (we have no opinions, we have no agenda), then that makes them activists. But from a new-style blogger perspective (I am media, hear me roar), that makes them media. Is activism media? Should media be activism? Nagourney makes the rather silly observation that there weren’t Republicans in the crowd. Well, of course not. Whether this was a meeting of activists or a meeting of media makers, it was definitely a meeting of Democrats — well, Democrats of the Kos kamp.

What is the line between insider and outsider? In one breath, you hear the attendees talking about taking over the party. In the next gasp, you hear them talk about supplanting both parties. Markos declared in his acceptance (of adulation and power, if not office) speech: “Both parties have failed us. Republicans have failed us because they can’t govern. Democrats have failed because they can’t get elected. So now it’s our turn.” So is this an attempt to influence the party (Howard Dean, today) or to take it over (Howard Dean, yesteryear)?

And what is the line between Democrat and Democrat? The Kossaks, like the Deaniacs before them, push orthodoxy over the dialectic. They are the outsiders who want to be in and who decide who’s in and who’s out. When asked about whether Hillary Clinton would be welcome at his event, Kos said, “Oh, my God, no way!” Nagourney said she declined an invitation. The outsiders declare she’s in the wrong crowd so she’s out with them.

So is this a party? A caucus of the party? A splinter from the party? A new party? A gathering of bloggers or media? A gathering of media or activists? A candy mint or a breath mint? Life is so confusing now.

Since the Kossaks can sometimes be rather defensive, let me make clear that I’m not criticizing the gathering. I’m celebrating it. But I’m also trying to figure out what it is — as are the scribes in The Times. But I don’t think it fits any old definitions. It’s something new.

Some quotes from the coverage. Nagourney:

There were the bloggers — nearly a thousand of them, many of them familiar names by now — emerging from the shadows of their computers for a three-day blur of workshops, panels and speeches about politics, the power of the Internet and the shortcomings of the Washington media. And right behind them was a parade of prospective Democratic presidential candidates and party leaders, their presence a tribute to just how much the often rowdy voices of the Web have been absorbed into the very political process they frequently disdain, much to the amazement, and perhaps discomfort, of some of the bloggers themselves….

They may think of themselves as rebels, separate from mainstream politics and media. But by the end of a day on which the convention halls were shoulder to shoulder with bloggers, Democratic operatives, candidates and Washington reporters, it seemed that bloggers were well on the way to becoming — dare we say it? — part of the American political establishment.

Dowd:

As I wandered around workshops, I began to wonder if the outsiders just wanted to get in. One was devoted to training bloggers, who had heretofore not given much thought to grooming and glossy presentation, on how to be TV pundits and avoid the stereotype of nutty radical kids.

Mr. Moulitsas said he had a media coach who taught him how to stand, dress, speak, breathe and even get up from his chair. Another workshop coached Kossacks on how to talk back to Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. “One of my favorite points,” the workshop leader said, “is that the French were right.”

Even as Old Media is cowed by New Media, New Media is trying to become, rather than upend, Old Media….

Were the revolutionaries simply eager to be co-opted? Mr. Moulitsas grinned. “Traditionally it was hard to get your job,” he said. “Now regular people can score your job.”

Fine. I’ll be at the Cleopatra slot machine pondering a career in blogging, which will set me up to get back into mainstream media someday.

Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post:

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal Daily Kos blog and iconic figure of the liberal Left, asserted Thursday night that the Internet-based progressive movement had gone from the fringes of politics to its center in just four years.

Michael J Smith at Counterpunch:

…The other thing I had expected was that the Kosniks themselves would provide abundant material for ridicule. But they don’t. They’re much more engaging than their posts on the Daily Kos web site would lead you to expect — and this really should have come as no surprise, since people notoriously show their worst side online.

No, the Kosniks are mostly not only sane, but obviously intelligent. A lot of them have pretty good haircuts. They’re personable, kind, witty, self-deprecating, thoughtful, earnest, and generally likable….

Most of them seemed to be honest, sincere, good-hearted people, baffled and dismayed by what their country has become. What, I wondered, are nice folks like this doing in a cult like Daily Kos?

The perfect blonde storm

I was talking with an editor I know about the Coulter Cerfuffle, shaking my head that we in media are such idiots for falling into her spider’s web and giving her just the publicity she wants for saying the next outrageous thing. No, the editor said, it’s actually a conspiracy: Media are loving it, for they get another alleged controversy and lots of ink and link and hot air on-air. It’s a conspiracy, a conspiracy of cynics.

The book of the future

In the continuing discussion about the future of books, Infotainment Rules points us to Galleycat‘s discovery of a Library Journal interview with Ben Vershbow of The Institute for the Future of the Book, where he’s working on a project called Sophie:

This summer, it will release the first version of Sophie, an “all-purpose tool” for creating multimedia texts. Like the institute itself, Sophie’s mission is both simple and complex: to help authors easily create books that use any medium…. It’s a key goal, because the future of the book lies in the hands of authors first. Give them the tools they need to deliver dynamic, digital books, and dynamic digital books will flourish.

From the Q&A with Vershbow:

Q: You write about the “social life” of books, and I know you don’t mean where books go to hang out and cross-reference. What do you mean?

A: Well, to a certain extent, I do mean that books will be able to go hang out and cross-reference. I think digital libraries will be in constant communication with each other, sharing patterns of use, exchanging user-created metadata, building maps of meaning out of the recorded behaviors and interests of readers. Parts of books will reference parts of other books. Books will be woven together out of components in remote databases and servers. So, in some ways books will have a life of their own. But you’re right, what I’m getting at primarily is the social life of readers and authors that will exist around and inside of books.

Q: How do you see that developing?

A: Soon, books will literally have discussions inside of them, both live chats and asynchronous exchanges through comments and social annotation. You will be able to see who else out there is reading that book and be able to open up a dialog with them. You already see evidence of this in Wikipedia’s “discussion” pages and revision histories where the writers and editors negotiate the collaborative development of articles. Wikipedia is a totally new kind of book in that it is never static, always growing. It has boundaries, but these boundaries are always shifting and are highly porous. We also see social interaction in the reading and interpretation of texts-on blogs, for example, discussion forums, social bookmarking sites, Amazon reader reviews, and thousands of nonpublic venues like [discussion lists] and email. Again, this sort of interaction is not inherently new, but the Internet allows it to be recorded, aggregated, and woven together in astonishing new ways that defy geography and time.

Q: Is blogging a good example of this?

A: In many respects, the blogosphere is a society of readers, all publishing their notes and reflections in real time and linking to fellow readers….

At the institute, we talk about “the networked book.” This involves many of the things we’ve talked about already-the book as a place, as social software-but basically we’re talking about the book at its most essential, a structured, sustained intellectual experience, a mover of ideas-reinvented in a peer-to-peer ecology. The structure part is crucial, though. Whereas the web is a massive, diffuse array, more like a library than an individual book, a book provides some sort of shape, even if that shape is malleable and the boundaries porous, even if the edges of books overlap. A good future of the book is one that combines the best qualities of physical books with the best qualities of the network….

Q: What future for the print book? Is it even conceivable that future generations will eschew the benefit of multimedia?

A: It’s really impossible to predict exactly what will happen to print books. Of one thing, though, I am pretty certain: the main arena of intellectual discourse is moving away from print to networked, digital media. That doesn’t mean that certain forms of print books will not persist. In fact, the mass migration to computers and the Internet in some ways serves as a foil for print, dispensing with its more circumstantial uses and highlighting its most essential virtues. There are certain kinds of books I’m convinced will cease to exist on paper: directories, reference works, textbooks, travel guides, to name a few. But deep, linear narrative works read for pleasure like novels, biographies, and certain forms of history may persist in print for some time. Then again, this could simply be a generational question. People raised with high-quality electronic reading devices, using only multimedia electronic texts in school and forming little or no attachment to dead-tree media, may consider paper books at best fascinating antiquities, at worst, inert, useless things.

I want visit their laboratory!

Follow the money

The Internet Advertising Revenue Report says that online ad spending in the U.S. is up 38 percent this quarter over a year ago to $3.9 billion.

Ah, but before you start crowing, fellow American geeks, see what Jon Fine says about online ad spending in the UK: He quotes the ad group Heavy M saying that online ad spending there is overtaking spending on national newspapers. Adds Jon:

What really caught my eye, though, is Group M’s expectation that 13.3% of all UK ad spending will go to the Web this year. That’s about twice as much as the Web will get in the US this year, if I recall the figure from a recent Merrill Lynch analyst report correctly. (And which I’d quote from if I hadn’t stupidly deleted.)

Once again, the Europeans are ahead.