A Few Coherent Thoughts on Murdoch Blocking Google

Yesterday Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp, said that he was going to have Google blocked from all New Corp. websites.  That means something

From EditorandPublisher.com:

The Chairman of News Corp. said in an interview with Sky News Australia (reported here in MediaWeek U.K.) that once the newspapers get their paywalls, News Corp. plans to pull its content from the likes of Google and others.

Murdoch said: “We’d rather have fewer people come to the Web site and pay. Consumers shouldn’t have had free news all the time — I think we’ve been asleep. It costs us a lot of money to put together good newspapers and good content. No news Web sites anywhere in the world are making large amounts of money.”

Immediately the web went all a flutter, myself included, predicting that that Murdoch would rue the day.  Joe Mandese at Mediapost.com noted:

According to an analysis of Google-generated traffic released late Monday by Experian’s Hitwise service, Google and Google News currently account for more than 25% of the daily traffic to the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ.com site.

That’s an awful lot of traffic to put at risk.  Now the other side of the coin is that Murdoch knows that showing tons of traffic low cost network ads begging them to Punch the Monkey or telling them they just won a lottery is the absolute path of least resistence.  You go there when you have nothing else to possibly do… Continue reading “A Few Coherent Thoughts on Murdoch Blocking Google”

News Has Always Been Free…

Image couresy of WSJ.com

I read an interesting post this morning by Michael Hickins on The Faster Times that posit that “Internet Isn’t Killing Papers, We Are“.  His basic premise: that the tech industry, and the web in particular with with the dotbomb era and sky high salaries and insane stock packages, inflated journalist salaries well beyond their regular levels.

Why? Because salaries had to be adjusted for the stock options that artificially inflated the potential compensation packages offered by the dot-com start-ups. How could Walgreen’s compete against Drugstore.com without compensating for the stock options that could make someone an instant millionaire? They couldn’t. The dot-com bubble burst threw some people out of work for a short period of time, but did nothing to bring salaries back into line.

So all of a sudden, in 2001, I went from making $45,000 for the print publication to $60,000 per year for the online version while working for the same publisher, Conde Nast. Not that I complained. At my last full-time position, I made $90,000 per year working as an editor at Ziff Davis Enterprise – and had reporters working for me who earned well above that. It’s public knowledge that Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal earns over $1 million per year.

I posted the link via Twitter and was quickly reminded by Stephen Hadley that “…Most of my reporter friends who are losing their jobs aren’t overpaid. It’s just that the papers they work for no longer are able to sell advertising to support their staffs. Ad dollars are moving.”

That, to my mind is the crux of the matter. You will definitely spot other problems throughout the newspaper industry, but the real problem right now is ad revenue going away.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a myriad of other compounding issues here, such as circulation declines, outdated technology, Jurassic management, etc., and certainly those are all factors.  But the real problem comes down simply to a matter of dollars not coming in the doors.

Brian Carr pointed me towards the AnnArbor.com launch – a Michigan newspaper opened a new site, using 54  staff members. (according to their site masthead)  Ponder this: 54 newspaper folk took a couple months to launch a site using what appears to be a bog standard MoveableType installation.  Frankly, given part of a weekend and a 12 pack of Mountain Dew, I could have outdone them.  Seriously…

The big problem for journalists is this: even though Hickins may tell us that the web got us big salaries back in the day, the sad truth is this: the prevailing thought on the Internet today is that content is free.  As content originators, that means our work isn’t under valued, if FLAT OUT ISN’T VALUED.

Back in the day, I got $500 for a blog post.  Granted, those were some excellent blog posts, but right now I do basically the same thing for free.

Look at the fiasco a few weeks back when Chris Anderson, of Long Tail fame, and EIC of Wired Magazine lifted huge sections of wikipedia articles for his new book “Free: the Past and  Future of a Radical Price” (and yes, he’s talking about free content…). If a Wired Magazine editor can’t even manage to properly cite Wikipedia, what does that say for his view of the value of content?  Oh, right, I guess we should re-read the title of that book…

The real problem inherent in all of this is that after we’re done killing off all the reliable primary news sources, such as newspapers, television news, or even magazines, is that we’ll find we’re left with a gaping void.  The thought is that blogs will take over.  unfortunately, while blogs are generally interesting sources of commentary and opinion, I see very few that provide anything like news, and when and where they do it, they generally do not do it reliably.  You can’t count on today’s source to have good info, or any info, tomorrow, and you definitely should not expect extensive enough general coverage that will allow you to get a good picture of the world, or any small part of it for that particular piece of time.

Okay, I’m sure one of you is thinking now about the Iranian Election a few weeks ago, and how it broke on Twitter.  In fact, it would have broken on major news outlets as well, but it got bumped for the MJ Media Circus.  Even so, Twitter may be many things, but it’s not a reliable primary news source.  Yes, it may provide a lead here or there, but any good journalist knows, that’s just where the story starts…not where it ends.

Getting back to the original theme here, I think now that we can see that news generation was a loss leader for newspapers.  It took a lot of effort to do it right, but it was something they could monetize through ad revenue.  Today, we need to forget about how content gets delivered, and remember that content generation is still a valuable and necessary product.  When we rediscover a proper way to monetize it, the world for journalist and everyone will be a better place.

Because none of us wants to work for free…

The REAL American Heros

I’m at the point that I can barely watch the news anymore.  Almost a month in and they are still talking round the clock about the death of the mono-gloved King of Schlock…as though we should really care.  What I do care about is that we stop looking at drug-addled sequin-encrusted performers as heros.  They aren’t.

Real heros are the folks that do the right thing when it’s too easy to do the wrong thing.  They’re the people that take the hard road, so that others can live easier.  They’re the people that stand up, not just in war, but in all facets of life, and say “I’m going to do something about it…”

People like:

  • Byrd and Melanie Billings who were murdered in a home invasion this week.  They have adopted 12 handicapped and mentally challenged children, on top of their own 4 children.
  • The 5 NJ Policemen who were shot while apprehending two robbery suspects.
  • Miguel Colon – the New York father who was killed by a motorist as he pushed his son out of his way, saving his life.
  • Lance Cpl. John J.T. Doody – a marine who was shot multiple times while on duty in Fallujah, Iraq in 2007, nearly died and is now paralyzed.

Or perhaps anyone of the thousands and thousands of people across the world who make the effort every day to make the world a better place.

Whither Investigative Journalism?

The “Special Sauce” for news media has always been investigative journalism, ala Woodward and Bernstein.  It’s what made myself and an entire generation of young writers want to get into journalism back in the 1970’s, each of us aching to bring the mighty low, to shine lights into dark places and in the process, make our names, too, household words.

Today, investigative journalism is a dying craft.  Dying not because there aren’t reporters willing to ask the tough questions, but because media itself has rolled over and become passive.  Somewhere in the 80’s and 90’s news switched from investigating controversy to reporting on press releases. 

Why is it dying?  

  • Mega-corporate ownership – Many of the owners of major media now are not primarily media companies per se (think of NBC as owned by GE), hence their primary goal isn’t news, it’s now earning profit for the corporation.  Is it possible the GE has muzzled the news? 
  • The economy – when things are down, it’s hard to justify putting a reporter on a special assignment for a day if it isn’t going to lead to a story right away.  The best investigative journalism often takes weeks or months.

I’m sure if I thought about it, I could come up with many other reasons.  One thing I can state with certainty is this: not only has the way we get our news changed, the very fabric of what our news is has changed.  And I am not at all convinced its a good thing.

In the vacuum that has been created, we’re now getting much more news “analysis” which is very easy to produce, very cost effective, and really comes down to us listening to someone else’s opinion.  Often those opinions come with agendas, be they right or left wing.  The funny thing is that if we really want analysis, we can get if via podcasts, vidcasts, blogs, etc. There is little that big media brings to the table here that can’t be found elsewhere.

At the end off the day, we all lose without investigative journalism.

Media Ethics and Political Affiliations

Watching the Twitter streams of the newly minted gurus of Social Media, I’m often surprised by how little many of the experts actually know about traditional media. In fact, I’m surprised by how many of us actually have bought the “journalistic ethics” and “media bias” lines we see so often.

One of the giants of the Social Media, who I’m not gonna call out here, the other day expressed dismay that the Boston Globe had made an endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President.  Actually, I’d say we ought to express dismay, as a long time reader of the Boston Globe, that they hadn’t endorsed him before the  convention, as there was never any doubt as to which direction they’d swing.

Bruce Carlson covers the issue wonderfully with his podcast “My History Can Beat Up Your Politics” in the episode entitled “Objectivity in the Media (Re-Run)“:

If the fact that Greeley ran for congress while being an editor seems shocking, it was not so at the time. His rival Raymond was the chairman of the republican national committee and ran Lincoln’s re-eleciton, all while remaining editor of the NY Times. Later in the century both names associated with tabloid journalism -Pulitizer and Hearst would both serve in congress at different times, with Hearst also running for New York governor and new york city mayors, both realizing they had more power in ink than in office as one vote of hundreds.

The reality here is that we really didn’t see a lot of “journalistic ethics” in the pre-Watergate era.  Prior to the Woodward and Bernstein days, the newspapers really walked a line in which they simply didn’t want to be called out by the competition for having published a story that was incorrect.  Editors actually cared about taking the time to get things right.

In some ways we’re surprised today to think of the New York Times as a mouthpiece for the Democratic party or that perhaps the Washington Times is carrying water for the Republicans. We shouldn’t be, the media has almost always been associated directly with the political parties.

Playstation 3 + PlayOn! = Killer Home Video Setup?

I’ve had a glimpse into the future of home video and it surprisingly comes from a device I already owned, the Sony Playstation 3 (and it works on the XBox 360 as well, but I haven’t tested).  By downloading and installing a small app to my windows machine, I am now able to access online content from Hulu.com, CBS.com, Youtube.com, ESPN.com and soon, CNN.com and Netflix.

The software is PlayOn! which is currently available as a 60 day beta trial, and when released is expected to cost $30.00 when it reaches full release.  It’s made by a company called MediaMall who’s got the tantalizing mission statement: “MediaMall Technologies enables Low-Cost & Widely Available Media Services, delivered over Broadband to the Entertainment System, via the PC.”  Now how can you possibly go wrong?

The software isn’t completely perfect yet, but it still gives me a better picture than I get with my standard, non-HD cable line.  I have occassionaly had some jerky delivery, but I’ve found it I pause for a few minutes, go make some popcorn or something, and come back, whatever I’m watching runs fine.  Navigationally, I find the PS3 controller a bit challenging to use, but my 9 year old daughter is getting around like a pro. Continue reading “Playstation 3 + PlayOn! = Killer Home Video Setup?”

How Technorati Gave Away Their Special Sauce

I used to use Technorati to find compelling blog posts to share and comments.  It was rather convenient to be able to go to one spot and find out what people were saying in blogs around the globe and to easily search.  One of the most compelling features, for me, was that it was an application designed with blogs only in mind.

This morning I was looking a set of compelling blog posts on the anniversary of 9/11.  So I fired up my Google Chrome browser and headed over to Techorati.  Strangely, the homepage was infested with non-blog newsources such as cnn.com, time,com, etc.  The ration of mainstream media to blog posts on the homepage was around 3 to 1, with blogs drawing the short stick.

So I did a search on my topic, and once again, tons of mainstream media results, although they were at least clearly identified, once again my results bore lots of topics from big media.

Part of the problem is that lots of big media is now using blogs as a part of the content strategy.  The New York Times is blogging using WordPress MU and many other papers and news channels are as well.  Hence they get submitted along with the rest of the unwashed masses.  And since they’re big media with big readership, they jump to the top of the authority heap. Authority is one of the measures that Technorati uses to rate your blog – in my case, an authority of 9, which used to be 40+ when I blogged at Vario, and a rating of 705,000 or so, vs. the Vario rating somewhere under 100,000k when I was active there.

I guess blogging has come to the big time and media’s realized it finally.  I just wonder if there’s going to be any room for the rest of us when all is said and done.

Resources:

Technorati. Old Tools Don’t Die. They Gather Dust.  – Global Neighbourhoods

What’s wrong with Technorati – Neville Hobson

Technorati and Me – Thornley Fallis

The Worm Turns for Big Media

There have been two big events in the media world in the past couple days, and to some extent, I think both have gone largely unnoticed.  The first is that the 2008 Olympics have become a real social media event, such to the extent that it’s been written about almost as much as Misty May’s tattoo or Michael Phelp’s speedo.  From the NY Times (pointer via Churbuck.com) article by David Carr:

“On Friday, NBC spent the day trying to plug online leaks of the splashy opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in order to protect its taped prime-time broadcast 12 hours later. There was a profound change in roles here: a network trying to delay broadcasting a live event, more or less TiVo-ing its own content.”

(Read Churbuck’s commentary on this here…)

It’s true.  I’m running YouTube videos from Beijing on Cycling.com and reading all manner of blogs, tweets, etc. about the festities.  If you want a good look at what Web 2.0 can do for you, look at what Lenovo’s accomplished.  Their SummerGames.Lenovo.com site has 100 athlete bloggers taking us right inside the story.  How cool is it to see video and pics of the opening ceremony *from the inside looking out* or to hear someone like Robert Gesink from Denmark discuss the strategy he employed in the Men’s Road Race (cycling).

Lenovo didn’t stop there, they have a twitter account (Lenovo2008) which has kind of taken the next step from “getting the converstation started” to “keeping the dialogue going” (beware, they do tweet results – and they tend to come 6-10 hours before NBC shows the events).  Then you’ve got their Interactive Podium – which has become my first go to site for Olympics info

So yes, the way that we’re getting our info is changing dramatically – and I’d urge anyone that’s not reading David Churbuck’s blog to do so right now – he’s posting from Beijing and covering the proceedings in a way that is truly unique and utterly motivating.

And meanwhile, back in mainstream media..via Valleywag

That which the newspapermen had been warning us about has finally happened.  Last Friday when the Russia went into Georgia (actually South Ossetia, a mountainous region with around 128,00 70,000 inhabitants – note that Worcester, MA has more than twice as many residents at 175,000) , we were treated to a Google page on the war, with a pin in the map over Georgia.  Savannah, Georgia, in fact.

We’ve been told by mainstream news that if we allow Google to be our newsource, our news is only going to be as good as their algorithm, and in this case, it put Georgia on the opposite side of the world.

The point is that as we push away from the main stream, this is exactly what we lose.  When the story is machine made, rather than vetted by a surly old copy editor, it’s going to get gamed, and it will sometimes be wrong.  In this case, it’s *REALLY* wrong.

On another note, I suggest we all take a look at some foreign news sources today to find out what they think about the Russia/Georgia war – I think we will find their take wholly contrary to that which we are getting from AP which has almost been a single source for US news reporting on the issue.  (Here’s a good bit from Reuters…)

Great LA Times Piece on Revision3

I’ve said it before – they’re changing the way broadcast media is done…check out the LA Times piece on  Revision3.

nd so far, people are. Revision3 was started in 2005 by Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson, the guys behind Digg.com, the popular site where users vote on the best news stories of the day. Rose co-hosts the show “Diggnation,” a weekly rundown of the site’s top stories, which Revision3 beams out to about 200,000 viewers per 40-minute episode. He has become a model for the kind of smart celebrity the technology scene loves — people who are entertaining while the camera’s rolling, and enterprising when it isn’t.

“What’s working are these host-driven shows,” said Revision3 Chief Executive Jim Louderback. “The ones where you’ve got an engaging host with a proven ability to aggregate social networks around them online, and who are great at talking about their passions.”

I don’t miss a single episode of Tekzilla and Systm – great shows, and they work very well downloaded right onto my Iphone – I no longer fear waiting rooms.  They are there when I’m ready to watch them – utterly convenient, as opposed to traditional broadcast

The real thing to get out of this article is this: online video is the place to be right now.  The rules are being written and the frontiers are being explored.  Look at the stuff that Leo Laporte’s doing at Twitlive.tv and definitely take a very close look at Revision3 – this is the next wave and it’s happening now.

(Disclosure: Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback is a friend from college – but that had nothing with my decision to run this post, although I am extremely happy for him and the Revision3 crew…)