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Mass Communication: Living in a Media World
Now available from CQ Press!

Living in a Media World 2E

Looking for Student Blogs

I'm always looking for links to blogs being written by student journalists. If you have one, or know someone who does, drop me a note!

Dr. H

Second Edition Available Now!

The second edition of Mass Communication: Living in a Media World is now available at the very student-friendly price of $45. (Yes, the new edition sells for less than used copies often do of the first edition.) It features a newly strengthened media literacy focus, greater depth on a number of topics, extensive coverage of "long-tail" media, and new chapters on media effects and global media. For more information, visit the CQ Press website.

Thursday - September 27, 2007

Three Things I Learned Reading Romenesko Wednesday
It's been awhile since I've taken a long look at what Romenesko has up on his definitive media news blog. Learned quite a bit. Here's a sampling of what I read Wednesday:

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Wednesday - September 26, 2007

Controlling the News

  • Clinton Campaign Gets GQ To Kill Story
    Politico is reporting that GQ killed a story about infighting on the Hillary campaign to protect their access to Bill for a cover story. A prime illustration of how sources can influence the content of magazines by refusing to cooperate on cover stories that can sell many copies of the mag. (BTW, before you start yelling LIBERAL BIAS, think for a minute what's going on. GQ wants to make lots of money. They can sell more magazines and make more money with a celeby cover featuring Bill than an investigation of Hillary. Is that liberal or conservative..... or neither?)
  • FCC Suggests Fine For Comcast "Fake News
    The FCC seems to think that when a cable company is paid to run a video news release (VNR) they ought to tell the world that it's a VNR and not a real news story. So the FCC is proposing a $4K fine for Comcast running a VNR for a homeopathic sleep aid. (Hollywood Reporter)

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Tuesday - September 25, 2007

Controversial Campus Speech Dept.
What's been put in the water the last couple of weeks? We've had more of a fuss about free speech on campus than I've seen in months -- and it's about everything from stunting college students to presidents of countries.

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Monday - September 24, 2007

Questions Worth Asking Television Edition

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Thursday - September 20, 2007

Happy 25th Anniversary Dept. -- USA Today and the E-mail Smiley Turn 25
Two modern icons had their 25th anniversary this fall - USA Today and the e-mail smiley.

  • USA Today Is All Growed Up, Chuckie
    On September 15th, 1982, USA Today launched its first issue. And nothing in newspapers would ever be the same. It was the first paper to have a four-color weather map as a regular feature, and while it was not the first color paper to be published, it was the first to absolutely revel in its color. On The Media's Bob Garfield (who was at USA Today in the beginning) interviews designer Richard Curtis, who has been at the paper for all 25 years of its existence. And while I'm not supposed to admit to such things as a journalism professor, I buy and read USA Today almost everyday.
  • Carnegie Mellon Prof Invents :-) 25 Years Ago
    You all know the smiley emoticon from e-mails and bulletin board posts. As best anyone can tell, it was first used by Prof. Scott E. Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon as a way of indicating that something was a joke. Unlike so many of these stories that turn out to be urban myths, Fahlman can actually document his first use of the smiley with some research that dug through ancient electronic tape archives that show the message in which he proposes using :-) to indicate humor. A fun bit of history that also shows how much documentation we can leave behind electronically.

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Tuesday - September 18, 2007

Comic Strips and Controversy - The Opus Edition
Sure seems like comic strips are doing a great job of getting lots of people upset.

The latest example is Berkeley Breathed's wonderfully irreverent Opus. The strip, a Sunday only follow up to Bloom County, is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. So it is more than just a touch ironic that the Post has twice in the last month refused to run the strip for fear of offending.

Ombudsman Deborah Howell explains (though doesn't really defend) the action, noting that the two strips had Muslim themes that some might find offensive. The two strips ran in most of the papers that carry Opus, and of the papers that ran the strips, two received a total of two complaints.

Howell does a good job of looking into why the Post didn't run the strips and how various Muslim scholars reacted to them. (HINT: Many of them found the strips funny. They weren't making fun of Muslims. They were making fun of the culture wars going on these days.)

For those of you keeping track, here's links to several comic controversies from the last couple of years.

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Thursday - September 13, 2007

Way Out On the Long Tail - Erik Goes To Germany
I'm teaching an honors seminar this semester, and our major topic is long-tail media economics. So you're going to be seeing several entries on the topic over the next few weeks. The long tail is also where so much that is interesting about mass comm is taking place.

Let's start by looking at what constitutes the long tail:

The long tail is a statistical term that refers to the portion of a distribution curve where a limited number of people are interested in buying a lot of different products. This is opposed to the "short head" portion of the curve where a large number of people are interested in buying a limited number of products.

It looks something like this:

Long tail distribution curve

So if you look at the illustration, you can see that big media products are limited in number but are consumed by many people. On the other hand, the further out you get on the long tail, the more choices you get, but the fewer people who will consume each item.

Chris Anderson, in his book The Long Tail says that there are several consequences of long tail media, including:

  • Democratization of the means of production
  • Democratization of the means of distribution
  • Lowering of the cost of connecting suppliers and consumers to near zero

So how does this play out at the furthest reach of the long tail curve?

My eldest son, Erik, is currently an exchange student in Germany. Erik, and a number of his friends, have made music together for some time.

Before he left, he loaned his MicroKorg synthesizer to his friend Cody. Now with Erik out of the country, Cody, Geoff, Ethan, and Bennie have formed a kind of techno band called, oddly enough, Erik Goes To Germany. (EGTG) Through the miracle of the long tail, EGTG actually can have its music recorded and distributed world wide.

So let's look at how this applies to Erik Goes To Germany.

  • Democratization of the means of production:
    The band records their music, and enhances it, using the program Garage Band that came with Cody's MacBook computer. His computer is a bottom of the line Apple laptop computer that he uses for doing homework, surfing the net, and recording music by his band.
  • Democratization of the means of distribution:
    EGTM distribute their music using the music player on their MySpace page, a tool used by musicians of a lot of different levels. It has the advantage of being completely free. This is important because high school student Cody's main source of income is washing dishes at a local summer camp. So far, EGTG's music has been played about 1,700 times.
  • Lowering the cost of connecting suppliers and consumers to near zero:
    EGTG is promoting itself through MySpace and through a Facebook group, neither of which costs band members anything.

Am I making too much out of a group of teens fooling around making music at home? I don't think so.

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Wednesday - September 12, 2007

Riding The Long Tail Dept. -- Notes On Alternative Media
It's late and I'm tired, but here's a few quick links to readings about alternatives to Big Media.

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Friday - September 6, 2007

Burying the Lead Dept. - You Must Read the NYT Sunday Magazine Interview with Rick Rubin
I have a confession to make. I don't always read all the articles I link to on this blog. I'll skim a dozen or so articles a day to consider for linking, and once I know something is worthwhile, I may move on with putting together the blog entry. Yesterday I ran a small round-up item on an interview with producer/record exec Rick Rubin (Dixie Chicks, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.) without reading more than the lead. Last night over dinner at a local Panera with wifi, I read the piece. This is a must-read story. In it, you see the record industry finally taking their heads out of the sand and trying to figure out how to deal with the fact that people are no longer going to buy little plastic disks containing music. I don't think that the answers that Columbia Records is considering (having all record companies come together and charge people $20 a month subscription fees) is going to work. But at least you have some people who understand the business thinking about the problem instead of saying "Let's throw our best customers in jail."

Not everyone is impressed with what Rubin had to say, including both the Huffington Post and Idolator

Then after you read this, go pick up a copy of Chris Anderson's brilliant book about modern media economics, The Long Tail. Lots to think about here!

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Thursday - September 6, 2007

Music and the Recording Industry News

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Wednesday - September 5, 2007

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • How's The Movie Business Doing?
    Depends on who you ask. The summer box office was near record levels in gross terms, but when adjusted for inflation was down. And much of the revenue came from really expensive movies like Spidey III and Pirate Ride III. On the other hand, as the guilds getting ready to negotiate new contracts point out, the summer box office was more than $4 billion. That's a lot of money. (NY Times)
  • What Does DragonCon Have To Do With This Whole Long Tail Media Thing?
    Well, as I said in my Intro to Mass Comm class today, the long tail is where a you have a way of easily distributing media content to a limited, widely dispersed audience.

    An example? Well, you may have read about DragonCon in a few AP news stories this week. DragonCon is a sci-fi, comic, pop culture convention held labor day weekend every year in Atlanta. It's also a weekend long costume party. And you can get a long-tail look at it through this YouTube video featuring web comic artist Jennnie Breeden taking on men in kilts with a leaf blower. No, I can't explain these things. I can only tell you about them.

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