November 2005 Archive
Note that some of these links are short term and will expire after two weeks. If you have access to Lexis-Nexis at your college or university library, you can retrieve many of the stories that are no longer on the web.
Main Archive List
Wednesday - November 30, 2005
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Tuesday - November 29, 2005
Tuesday - November 29, 2005
- Portrait of Podcasting as a Young Medium Dept. - Old Media, New Media, & Why Disney/ABC Gets It
Ever since iTunes built in automatic support for podcasts, I've been a big fan of the new medium. Podcasting jumped to the public's attention last winter and officially became a phenomenon when USA Today ran two articles on the subject on one day. The idea of podcasting is that you can produce digital audio files using your computer, upload them to the Internet, and then have people listen to what you've produced on their computer, iPod, or other MP3 player (hence the name podcasting).
In the "good old days," the most popular podcasts were those produced by a range of eclectic individuals. As an example, the first podcast I subscribed to (and still the one I listen to most often) is Brian Ibbot's fascinating Coverville featuring covers (new versions of old songs). You haven't lived till you hear Jason Falkner's punk version of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. And it was through Coverville that I discovered Skipping Discs outrageous CD Saturday Night Hay Fever - a collection of disco hits done as bluegrass covers.
This is a prime example of how the Internet is providing alternatives to mainstream media, what blogger and Wired editor Chris Anderson refers to as "Long tail media." Note to my graduate students: You want to be spending some time at this site. Hint, Hint.....
Then there are the podcasts that are straight rebroadcasts of mainstream content. For example, I listen to NPR's On The Media every week on my iPod as West Virginia Public Radio doesn't carry the show. And I'm a huge fan of Elvis Mitchell's weekly interview show The Treatment that runs on Santa Monica public radio station KCRW. These are old media programs being delivered using a new format in much the same way that you can buy cassettes of favorite radio broadcasts. (Except that the podcasts are free and immediately available.)
So at the extremes we have totally original content with no connection to mainstream media and material from the MSM that is repackaged for distribution through the Net. And these are both Very Good Things.
What has been more problematic is original podcast content that is tied to MSM programming. Much of this is simply really poor promotional materials. Take the House M.D. Foxcast, for example. (Is that name just to clever by half?) The materials they've posted so far are either breathless star interviews that you might otherwise hear on Entertainment Tonight, or else pointless extended plot summaries that save you from the necessity of watching the show. Now I'm a big fan of House, (in fact, I discovered the show through Mitchell's interview with Hugh Laurie on The Treatment's podcast) but the podcast is corporate promotional drivel. I don't have a link here for subscribing to the podcast, but you can get it through iTunes.
But ABC/Disney continues to show that they "get it" when it comes to utilizing new media. You can, of course, purchase a video podcast of the show Lost for $1.99 the day after it runs through iTunes. And that shows an impressive vision on the part of Disney execs. But I'm also impressed with the Lost podcast. (This free audio program is completely separate from the episodes you can buy.) The first two episodes of the podcast were mildly amusing, but nothing special in terms of content. The only thing that made them interesting was that writers and producers were talking about the show in a fun and candid way. They (and the stars who were interviewed) said little of substance, but I didn't drop off the feed immediately. But the fourth installment was fascinating. It is a full-length commentary for episode Collision by two of the writers for the series that sounded just like the commentary tracks you might get on a DVD. Now this is making great use of the new medium. The podcast provides something of interest to the hardcore fans of the show and does something that couldn't be done otherwise. (You, in the back of the room, shut up about the fact you could broadcast it as a Secondary Audio Program... Besides, ABC already feeds a Spanish dubbing over that channel.) My point is that ABC is actually finding something innovative and interesting to do with their promotional podcast.
Podcasting is still a very young medium and is bound to change in ways that we can't predict. But it is going to be transformational to broadcasting the way that blogging has been to journalism and print. And the mainstream media ignore this change at their peril.
Sunday - Novemeber 27, 2005
- More Playing Catch Up Dept. - Media News From Thanksgiving Week
Just because it's been Thanksgiving Week doesn't mean the media news stops. More items I just haven't gotten posted this week.
Thursday - November 24, 2005
- And A Happy Media World Thanksgiving To All of You!
Just because it's Thanksgiving Week doesn't mean the media news stops.
Tuesday - November 22, 2005
- Harry Potter and the Magical Box Office Dept. - Franchise Spells Early Christmas for Beleaguered Industry (With a Little Help From the Man in Black)
The latest installment of the Harry Potter juggernaut flew its broomstick into theaters last weekend, and ignited the box office in both the United States and around the world. In fact, according to Box Office Mojo, this was the fourth best weekend ever for movie revenue, with the top 12 movies bringing in $171.9 million, 20 percent better than a year ago. Goblet of Fire managed to bring in more than $102 million all by itself, putting just behind SpiderDude, Episode III, and Shrek 2.
After having seen the movie last night, I can comfortably predict that this movie is going to do well in the long run. I thought it was a magnificent adventure film that's very true to the nature of teenagers - magical or otherwise - and my teenager, who primarily goes to movies in order to hang with friends, is looking for a reason to go see it a second time. And repeat business is the key for a blockbuster. (Just ask the millions of teenaged girls who went to their weekly Titanic cryfest.)
Although Potter got the bulk of the attention, Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic, also opened well this weekend to good crowds and excellent reviews.
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Monday - November 21, 2005
- I-Want-What-I-Want-When-I-Want-It Dept. - Options For Consuming Television Continue To Grow
Saturday - November 19, 2005
Friday - November 18, 2005
- The Fat Lady Hasn't Sung Yet Dept. - Plamegate: The Opera Enters The Fourth Act; Woodward Drops "I-Knew-About-Plame-A-Month-Before-the-Stories" Bombshell
You may recall that in my Oct. 12th entry I wrote:
Any of you who thinks Miller testifying before the grand jury was the closing act of this political opera is confused. It is at best at the close of the second act (of a three or four act show
I've now got a firmer handle on how this opera should be staged.
The first act has two great arias in it, "There's yellowcake in Niger" sung by The President, and "Ambassadors and Agents" sung by Robert Novak.
The second act features arias, ensembles, and a lot of recitative. Patrick Fitzgerald kicks things off with "Tell me a story," followed by the trio with Judith Miller and Matt Cooper "I've got a subpoena." Cooper then has his show stopping duet with Time editor Norman Pearlstine, "We've run out of options" followed by his aria "I have been released." The act ends with the giant choral number "Judy's turn to cry..." as Miller heads off to jail.
Act three picks up two-and-a-half months later with Miller's testimony before the grand jury. She starts with a reprise of "I have been released," followed by Scooter Libby's "Dear Judy, the aspens are turning." Following an extended recitative from Miller "I really don't recall," comes the major ensemble piece of the act, the incredibly snarky "We've never really liked her" sung by a large cast of reporters and bloggers. Prosecutor Fitzgerald then has his major aria of the show, "Scooter Libby, I Accuse You." Audience members will no doubt break out in great applause at the end of his powerful number, thinking that the third act is coming to a close. But then the bloggers break out with a quick tempoed "It's Fitzmastime" as a transition to the surprise true end to the act - Bob Woodward's dramatic, "I'm sorry, I knew it all along."
The question now is how to end this opera. Will it turn out in the end to be a tragedy or a farce? It certainly can't be comedic at this point.
Think this is all too far fetched? Try taking a listen to my favorite contemporary opera, John Adams' incomparable Nixon in China.
UPDATE: The Rambling Freshman has put together a cool poster for Plamegate. Thanks, Dave.
Wednesday - November 16, 2005
- Does Music Radio Have a Future in the Era of File Sharing and iPods?
Blogger (and Wired editor) Chris Anderson asks whether broadcast radio has any relevance in determining what music young people listen to. He writes:
I grew up in an era where radio largely determined music culture and was by far the strongest marketing vehicle for new artists, but I suspect that my kids won't think of radio as a music medium at all. Given the numbing effect of Casey Kasem and America's Top 40 on my adolescence and early music taste, this may be no bad thing.
He brings this up in an entry about a new radio format known as Jack FM. I'm not entirely clear on what this format represents, but it apparently involves a longer playlist than a typical Clear Channel station would have, and it doesn't have DJs.
This brings up an issue that I've been giving some serious thought to in my ethics class. Is file sharing a replacement for buying music, or is it, through the use of portable MP3 players a replacement for radio? I think it matters.
This interesting discussion comes from a fascinating blog called The Long Tail focuses on how mass communication is changing now that we no longer need the same types of mass media distribution channels that we've had in the past. (This is way too simple of an explanation, but Anderson explains it here. Thanks to Media Daily News for the link.
Tuesday - November 15, 2005
Friday - November 11 - 2005
Wednesday - November 9, 2005
Tuesday - November 8, 2005
- The Earthquake Continues - You Read It Here First
On Oct. 14, I wrote that October 12th, 2005, was the beginning of the next phase of the earthquake in slow motion that's been shaking up the television industry since the late 1980s. It wasn't that Apple's newly announced video iPod was revolutionary, it was that Apple was selling individual episodes of ABC's prime time lineup the day after they aired for $1.99, without commercials. The problem the broadcast networks are facing is that people just don't want to watch commercials anymore, but commercials pay the bills. What's the alternative? Apple is suggesting on-demand, pay-per-view video that you can keep on your computer or iPod as long as you want.
Now CBS and NBC are following suit, albeit with a more limited and less revolutionary approach. These two networks will sell commercial-free episodes of current series for 99 cents each through Comcast and DirectTV. Read the USA Today article for specific details about the two different systems. But the big difference is that the ABC programs are lower quality video, but available long term and can be moved among different devices. The CBS/NBC shows will be full broadcast-quality video, but will have limited availability. In the case of NBC, viewers will only be able to hold onto the programs for a week.
Of course, not everyone is enthralled with all the new choices. Some people, believe it or not, just want to watch a bit of basic broadcast television. As USA Today is reporting, only 3 percent of the people who don't have premium digital TV service say that they want it. The earthquake is clearly continuing.
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Monday - November 7, 2005
- Gene Weingarten Takes A Seriously Funny Look at the Washington Post
The Washington Post has an ongoing in-house critique that involves staffers reviewing a particular issue of the paper. Most recently, this was done by Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten, who along with some humor gives a terrific look at what is right and what is wrong at the Post. Surprisingly (and accurately, I would say) the topic of left/right bias isn't an issue. Instead, he suggests that the paper has been selling itself short when it comes to promotion:
Listen, I left my house at 10 a.m. this morning and went in search of anything within walking distance that I could purchase for 35 cents or less. (I live in downtown DC, across from Eastern Market, so this wasn't an empty exercise.) I just got back, and I have my purchases arrayed on the table before me. They are:
A slice of liverwurst; a cardboard container of cole slaw the size of a shot glass; a two-inch strip of turkey jerky; an underripe singlet banana; a raw chicken gizzard; an age- wrinkled cucumber ("Still good for pickling!") and The Washington Post of Nov. 2, 2005....
I would like to suggest that if this particular product is not selling the way we wish it to, and if the future looks bleak to us, it bespeaks a failure of imagination in the field of marketing. The Washington Post--print edition--may be an atavism, an ancient technology, but so is the doorknob. If we cannot persuade the public that this remains the single greatest bargain on Earth, we need to rethink the way we sell ourselves. And I'm not talking about "rails." I'm talking about salesmen, selling the CONCEPT of a great newspaper in new and
Weingarten also opened the critique up to the readers of his weekly online chat at the Post's web site. His complete critique, along with an good discussion of its significance is posted at my favorite press blog Fishbowl DC.
Friday - November 4, 2005
- Site Updates
A number of updates to the site today.
I've eliminated most of the NY Times columnist links from the commentary section because the Times has gone pay-per-view for all of its interesting op/ed page material. It may make economic sense (may...) but it will also keep the paper's writers out of the blogosphere. For example, both David Brooks and Frank Rich, vibrant voices from the right and the left, are only available to subscribers. (I've put in a search link to the StarTribune where you will be able to read some of David Brooks work, however.)
I've also added links to both the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post to the Media Gossip and Blogs section, and fixed a number of broken links. All the fixes are marked with NEW tab.
BTW, in the Morgantown blogosphere, how can there be so much going on with so little comment from Unknown? The Freshman has had a lot to say, but UniversityJan has been quiet.
Thursday - November 3, 2005
Wednesday - November 2, 2005
- Why We Still Need MSM - Great Reporting From the Washington Post
With all the folks posting snarky blogs and ideologically driven internet news sites, and with all the cable commentators talking about easy-to-find domestic news, it's easy to start questioning how much we need traditional news media like the major papers. But today's lead story in the Washington Post on secret prisons being run by the CIA is a perfect example of what a serious news organization can do that the new commentator/reporters can't. The role of the press in the United States is to be a watchdog on the government, something the press forgets all too often these days. But the Post has done a great job with this story exposing government action to the light of day. (Also, as you read the story, note that the reporter has left out some important details at the request of the government in order to protect national security.)
Tuesday - November 1, 2005
- Living in a New Media World
Way too much serious, think-too-hard news to blog about lately, so let's step away for a bit and take a look at what has been happening in the world of new media.
- Google Goes Back To Scanning Books
Google paused briefly in scanning books into its online digital library when publishers started making a fuss. But the search giant has resumed scanning and posting once again, starting with out-of-print titles that publishers will have a hard time claiming hurts their sales. But Google will get back to scanning current books eventually, and that's when things will really hit the fan. Must reading for anyone interested in the future of publishing and libraries. (The Globe & Mail)
- Have Video Games Reached the Status of Mass Media?
I have been raising this question for several years now. I think that video games have gradually becoming more and more movie/TV like every year, and no one does this better than game publisher Rockstar. Say what you like about the Grand Theft Auto series (and there's a lot to be said about them!), it has redefined what video games can be. (Newsweek)
- AOL Founder Steve Case Leaves Time Warner Board
Back in the 2001, AOL merged with Time Warner in a deal that was sometimes billed as a takeover. The company's name of AOL Time Warner soon got cut back to just plain ol' Time Warner. And now Steve Case is leaving the company's board of directors. Funny how this scenario keeps playing out over and over again - founder makes something big out of something small and then company looses its identity as part of a corporate giant. (Washington Post)
- Questions Worth Asking