Posts from November 14, 2004

Argue with me III

Argue with me III

: Another in the continuing series of Qs and As from the Corante interview, which I’m excerpting here because (a) I blathered on at far too great a length over there and (b) we want to see some discussion started over there (if, indeed, there’s something worthy of discussion here). So at the end of each Q/A, I’ll give you a link to the comment space at Corante:

EM: Who will make money in the media world of the future? How will they do it?

JJ: Ah, the $64K question. Bloggers are making money at this and they will make more. PaidContent and other trade bloggers are making a living; Gawker Media and other blog companies are turning profits; BlogAds is enabling individuals to make even six figures. And Google AdSense not only paid my 12-year-old son [an amount I’m now told I shouldn’t reveal under Google’s rules but it’s a heckuva lot more than his allowance!] last week for his blog but did something even more important: It cleansed the cooties off of citizens’ media. Still, AdSense and its equivalents are the lowest rung of the value chain; they are about nothing but the coincidence of a word on a page. This new medium is all about relationships and we need a new ad infrastructure to measure influence and not just impressions and to serve and audit marketing served via networks of citizens across text, audio, and video. Build it and dollars will come — at high rates, for advertisers will eagerly buy the opportunity to speak to and through influencers.

The lower cost of production in citizens’ media also will create opportunities as big media companies wake up to the realization that there are ways to make media at much lower costs. And they will desperately need to lower their costs as declining audiences put a stop to ever-increasing upfront ad rates.

One caution: Online is a scarcity killer. When media isn’t fed through hoses, time isn’t limited and that means time isn’t money anymore. And with no end of content producers, the value of content and even talent as a scarce resource will decline. I depressed the hell out of an old-time columnist when he told me he wanted to use blogs to find a new home for his column. Bzzzzzt, I said; it’s not a column now, it’s a conversation. He said he needed a paycheck. Bzzzzzt, I said; there are bloggers making a few hundred or perhaps thousand bucks a month doing this. The poor, old dinosaur wheezed: You mean, I’ve spent my life building a reputation and brand and I’m competing with people making $2k a month? It’s worse than that, I replied: You’re competing with people who are doing this for free just because they love it.

Which leads me to Jarvis’ Second Law of Media: Lower cost of production and distribution in media inevitably leads to nichefication. The corollary: Lower the cost of media enough, and there will be an unlimited supply of people making it.

Comment here.

EM: Do you think the future for independent media producers is bright? Financially rewarding?

JJ: So bright they’ll have to wear shades. Yes, the cost of producing content will decline. But the opportunities will explode. Used to be, you had to know or sleep with somebody on Sixth Avenue or in L.A. to get your shot at getting into print or onto TV. Now all you need is a high-speed modem.

Text media is exploding first. But the fuse was just lit under audio programming with the advent of podcasting (that is, producing content anyone can hear whenever or wherever they want, whether that’s recorded on a hard drive today or downloaded from ubiquitous broadband in the future). And next, TV will explode.

Today, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a half-hour of, say, a home rehab show. With a decent camera and the tools on a Mac plus some time and talent, you could produce an equivalent show for a few thousand at most. That creates tremendous opportunities. Producers can make shows and distribute them online and eventually, they will be discovered by the big boys, who will be desperate to reduce their costs. But in the meantime, great new sources of programming will explode.

Comment here.

An exciting career in porn

An exciting career in porn

: PaidContent lists all the hot jobs.

F***ing Private Ryan II

F***ing Private Ryan II

: Newspapers are editorializing over some stations’ decision not to air “Saving Private Ryan” for fear of being fined by the ever-more-obscenely-unconstitutional FCC…. coming too damned late to the party to protect our First Amendment. (See my complaint to the FCC below.)

The Chicago Tribune gets it right:

Much has been made of the foul-mouthed Howard Stern’s coming move to satellite radio to escape the Federal Communications Commission’s increasingly Draconian interpretation of its indecency rules. And of the FCC’s overkill in fining CBS Television parent Viacom Inc. $550,000 for the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show. And of its loopy finding that rock star Bono’s use of an expletive on a televised awards show was indecent and profane.

Some have argued that such behavior deserves to be singled out for punishment. But the reality is that in setting its sights on curbing a few fleeting and isolated instances of excess, the FCC’s crackdown is chilling all broadcasters. It’s threatening to scrub powerful programming from the air in favor of pablum that takes no chances in offending anyone.

And viewers will lose the most….

With the prospect of FCC fines hanging over their heads–and Congress still deciding about whether to dramatically increase those fines–some broadcasters are playing it safe. They’re guessing what the FCC may do. They’re running scared.

There’s only one word for this: censorship. And it needs to stop.

The FCC–and Congress–have to back off.

Amen and well said, Tribune.

The New York Times gets it way wrong, blaming the stations when they should be blaming the f***ing FCC:

But the pre-emptive timidity of a score of them was a sorry spectacle last Thursday when they decided not to show “Saving Private Ryan” on Veterans Day because they were afraid of the Federal Communications Commission.

You fools, you: The fault lies strictly with the FCC, which made it clear that “fuck” is illegal on TV, even though it refused to advise these stations that in this case it would not be — in other words, it refused to make its rules clear. The stations are actually brave, in my view, calling the FCC’s bluff, showing its regulation for what it is: senseless censorship. Shame on you, Times, for not understanding that. You whine about the chill on Judith Miller brought by a subpoena involving knowledge of an illegal act, but you do not see the chill that the FCC and government regulation bring to all media and all speech. For shame, Times.

The LA Times gets it mostly right:

Sure, the movie is violent and reveals that soldiers are known to use unpleasant language while under fire. But at a time when thousands of Americans are engaged in another conflict, reminding their compatriots back home that war is hell is not such a bad thing.

Moreover, the prudish desire to keep any profanity off the air, regardless of its context, is misguided…. The ABC affiliates that refrained from airing the movie could have shown more valor, but they are as much a victim of the FCC’s arbitrary and capricious regulation as they are villains in this tale. Their fear of the jihad is understandable, and their surrender Thursday serves to highlight just how destructive the FCC’s crackdown on indecency has become.

The commission has been targeting the broadcast industry for the last year or so, prodded on by such Taliban-like zealots as the American Family Assn. and the Parents TV Council (which did issue a ruling exempting “Private Ryan” from its campaigns) and their allies in Congress….

Rather unhelpfully, the commission has pledged to judge the airing of supposed profanity on a case-by-case basis. This, coupled with the FCC’s refusal to provide advance guarantees to affiliates that it wouldn’t take action if they aired “Saving Private Ryan,” makes it look as if the commission’s main priority is to tailor its response to whatever level of pressure it feels from self-appointed morality guardians. This is not only cowardly on the part of FCC Chairman Michael Powell and his fellow commissioners, it’s probably unconstitutional.

But in the end, all these editorial pages are chicken-stupid. You waited to defend the First Amendment and your and our free speech… you waited until they went after Steven Spielberg and Private Ryan. You should have protested when they went after Howard Stern and Janet Jackson and Bono, you fools. But you waited. For shame.

Where the real fight for free speech is being fought

Where the real fight for free speech is being fought

: The Dutch are struggling with painful ironies: They treasured free speech so much they tolerated the intolerance of Muslim fanatics; now Theo Van Gogh is dead because of nothing more than what he said; and now war is breaking out between the Dutch and fanatic Muslims with bombs launched against both sides.

Oh, and there’s another level of irony here: It appeared that the battleground between fanatic Muslims and modernity would be on American soil while Europe looked on. Now I’m coming to believe this war will be fought on European soil, where Europeans and Muslims are living in close and uncomfortable proximity.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Bruce Bawer reports from Amsterdam, where he once lived:

During my time there, I quickly came to see that the city (and, I later recognized, Western Europe generally) was a house divided against itself.

The division was stark: The Dutch had the world’s most tolerant, open-minded society, with full sexual equality and same-sex marriage, as well as liberal policies on soft drugs and prostitution; but a large segment of the fast-growing Muslim population kept that society at arm’s length, despising its freedoms.

Instead of addressing this issue, Dutch officials (like their counterparts across the continent) churned out rhetoric about multicultural diversity and mutual respect. By tolerating Muslim intolerance of Western society, was the Netherlands setting itself on a path toward cataclysmic social confrontation?…

In the 1930’s, Europe faced a struggle and, many thought, a need to choose between two competing totalitarianisms. Many analysts are wondering if this is Europe’s future, as well. They also wonder whether the Dutch people’s anger will blow over or whether they will act decisively to protect their democracy from the undemocratic enemy within.

The other price of ‘objectivity’

The other price of ‘objectivity’

: I’ve ranted regularly on the need for transparency in news media, for revealing our perspective and process so our publics can judge what we say in context. Not to do so is to lie by omission, to sacrifice credibility even as we try to protect it.

Dan Okrent explores another price of ‘objectivity’ in his Sunday column: By trying so hard to act objective and relying on — that is, hiding behind — “experts,” reporters often don’t take the opportunity to simply tell us what they know.

And reporters think that getting an “expert” to comment adds the aura of objectivity.

In recent years, though, the concept of objectivity has taken a bit of a beating. Some journalists (and critics of journalists) argue that it is in fact unachievable; we all bring our experiences, sensibilities and innate prejudices to the door, and even the act of attempting to leave them on the stoop will alter our approach….

But haven’t we reached the point where denying the reader what a writer knows to be true is far more unfair than including it? I was delighted when, in “After 6 Months, Tyco Prosecutors Close Case Against Ex-Officials” (March 18), Alex Berenson described the prosecutor’s case as “bewildering,” “tedious” and having “rarely been presented in a straightforward way” – a vision of the trial that would have been utterly unavailable had Berenson not dared to offer conclusive characterizations based on his own observations. On a much larger scale, I was dismayed when a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in a letter to friends (later passed around the Internet) described the horrors of life in Baghdad, and was criticized in some quarters for thereby jeopardizing her impartiality. But what she described was based on indisputable first-hand experience. If there was a journalistic offense here, it was that readers of The Journal had been denied knowledge of what this reporter knew to be true. Whom did that serve?

Right. When you remind yourself that a journalist is human, not an institution, and that news is a conversation, not a sermon, then it’s a lot easier to and more sensible to just tell the story instead of hiding behind convenient experts and an aura, a conceit of ‘objectivity.’