Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Throwback

Leo Laporte is pushing Predictably Irrational with his Audible commercial today on TWIT. Premise of the book is intriguing, and before the standing Audible pitch the TWITs were talking about hard-sell tactics in the brick-and-mortar electronic sales industry. Dvorack, of course, is hearkening back to the old days.

Then it hits me. Laporte is pimping the Book of the Month Club, iPod-style. Sign up for two books of your choice. If you don't want to continue the service, cancel but the first two books are free.

I can't be the only one who see it. How many times did I sign up for a Military History or Aviation Book Club to pick off the four free books? Or the Columbia Record/Tape/CD of the Month -- following the tech iterations that followed that program. And then forgot to cancel and ended up paying full retail plus shipping and handling for some remainder book getting flushed out by a publisher.

Predictable Irrationality at work here, as I'm really thinking about it, to get a copy of, yes, Predictable Irrationality. Oh no, a circular meme infection . . . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blast from the Past

There it was on the hotel nightstand, a flashback to my youth -- the HBO Guide. Oh, those were the days when you'd wait for the cable bill and pull out your only preview, your only listing for the only movie channel on your black box.

So 1978.

A sneering chuckle, that was, until going down to breakfast and discovering genuine country ham in the hot box. Oh my, if you dig around the edges, you can find that chewy, over-done slice. Just like back home with mom from the 70s.


Sometimes, retro is good.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Changing Times on the Road

Kyle Kellams and I have hit the road for women's basketball games for years. In the past, the quality of cable television was important at the hotel. Now, it's just whether or not the WiFi is free.

Funny how for most trips, the TV -- as tonight -- never gets turned on.

Just Throw It Up On the Website

The internet is not the slap-dash place many people think. That phrase, "hey, just throw it up on the website," reveals both a lack of understanding and a lack of respect for everything digital.

Does it require a dark room filled with D-76 and RapidFixer to get photos on-line? No. A 16mm fill developing machine and a CineView to cut moving pictures? No. A reel-to-reel recorder for audio? No.

Just because the labor-intensive means of message production are behind us does not mean that creating on-line content is simple.

Because you can post a photo within a minute or so does not mean it took considerable time to arrange and present that image.

In fact, the quality of the on-line presentation has a direct proportion to the number of people and the time spent in planning.

Streaming media is another one of those vastly understood enterprises. Just because one guy with a camera can stream an event doesn't mean it will be of the quality that brand representation deserves.

The lack of respect part on "throwing it up" reflects a total inability to realize that the seemingly ephemeral website is as permanent in this digital world as a high-gloss four-color printed publication.

When you "throw it up," that's exactly what it often looks like -- puke.

I'd be interested in feed back from other digital professionals.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Laporte Weighs In

Leo Laporte, master of the new media and host of This Week in Tech, gave the closing keynote of MacWorld. Not something I would usually be seeking a copy of, but listening to Leo speak on WeatherBrains I caught bits and pieces of his take on the end of the "old media".

I've found these notes, but I'm hoping someone could find a full copy -- audio would be fine.

Don't want to offer my take off someone's quick notes, but my opening graph I think tells a lot about the interconnectivity of the digital media. While I take TWIT as a podcast, it was one of the great purveyors of new media making a cross promotional appearance on a completely different medium -- a weather geek podcast -- talking about his remarks at a conference.

There's the essense of mixing your media.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

60 Days to Digital

This post has nothing to do with television, and whether or not recently inaugurated President Obama will flinch and back away from the conversion deadline.

It does concern the Post-Intelligencer, one of Seattle's long-time great newspapers declaring that it was for sale and if a suitable buyer is not found withing 60 days, it will cease paper production and go all on-line.

That's Hearst Newspapers making that move. The once profitable and powerful Hearst ready to shed a major brand. It lost $14 million last year alone. The editor announced that he firmly believed they would soon no longer "publish in print."

Here's the extra kicker -- the P-I itself made the announcement and set the stage with a video on its website.

Gee, how about that. A brand using its primary communications vehicle to go directly to its consumers to convey bad news first, to set the tone, to establish the agenda. The story is pretty blunt ("Potential Buyers -- Zero?") and somewhat negative -- including gloomy comments of staffers.

Now, the rest of us will comment from that starting point, rather than allowing other media to break the story and become the secondary commentator trying to steer a conversation started by others.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Whole Lotta Blather to Get to The Point

Three long posts to get to the payoff, but here it is. A very necessary part of our governmental ecosystem is dying. The creative destruction underway in the legacy media is like a wildfire where the lack of logging and clearing of land has left the tender ripe on the forest floor.

Journalism as we know it today exists like a giant whale, feeding on a plankton of advertising that fills the seas. Journalism has survived in its current form on what is functionally a tax upon commerce called advertising.

It is directly funded by advertising. But the ocean is heating up and off the plankton for our media whale. Call it website warming.

Think about it. Since the dawn of Madison Avenue, newspapers -- then radio and television -- survived on their ability to be the most efficient mechanism for promoting commerce. The producers of goods were willing to pay these purveyors of public opinion a tithe to bring people to their door. It wasn't a required tax, but it was a taste off the top of the books nonetheless to the piper.

Today's one-to-many system of communication allows people to let other people know the same information, and unless the brand of an institution gets in the way of that, people will tend to trust other people more.

Ah, yes, brand again. Let's say for the sake of argument that the legacy media were to fully collapse into some eight-track tape anachronism. Who is left with the resources to promote their POV? That would be the institutions -- both public and private. The job of the fourth estate? Bought out at a bankruptcy auction by the other three.

Before we go off on some Ben Richards worm-hole, roll back to these couple of counters.

At some point, a new revenue source will appear for the legacy media that carries with it standing and reputation -- again, brand -- and they will move right into the future.

But the digital media stands ready to fill the gap immediately, and what will differentiate the good from the bad -- well, guess: reputation.

Consider this: who really believed the National Enquirer had the goods on John Edwards? The previous week, they were as likely to have the inside scoop on Oprah's latest diet or space aliens living in our midst. The traditional media harrumphed, but at the end of the day, the Enquirer had a good bit of the story down.

Did that make the Enquirer have a better news brand than the New York Times? For many, no, the brand that is the NYT endures.

How does that relate to our digital natives? I predict the successful ones will be the bright kids that look back to the future. That realize they can short-cut the time it takes to build a reputation -- you don't need a century of newsprint, just ask Politico or Little Green Footballs (or gasp, Matt Drudge). While it may come at hyper speed, the digital brand is build with the same care to the details -- being right, being sourced, being vetted, knowing when you're being played. A melding together of the time-honored traits of journalism with the time-smashing techniques of digital media. Being first doesn't count over time if you're nothing but first with the rumor when others are next with the truth.

Pretty exciting stuff.

All The World Is A Stage

For the past nine years, I've been involved with the local storm spotter training. Continuing evidence of the digital era, four guys show up to record the Tulsa NWS training session. They were uber-weather digi geeks, quite proud of how they didn't need any of that old-school ham radio stuff. I suspect they MP3'd up the event along with their video.

Usually, these training sessions are somewhat embargoed, and contain some copyright material. But, it was in a public space and at a public university, so there was no hesitation in recording and potentially putting it on-line.

OK, this isn't like Justin.TV hijacking content. It is more of a wake-up for anyone in a public forum -- you should expect that you are going to be recorded.

This is the end of "off the record." The end of background briefing. And, for transparency, I can't say that's a bad thing.

However, don't let this illustration give anyone the feeling that life is more transparent. In fact, I believe as we become accustomed to "new media" we will become more -- and better quality -- performers.

The digital natives are quick to remind us old folk that the beauty of SNW is the ability to construct your public personality. As one said, a current college student has three distinct digital profiles -- resume avitars -- Facebook for friends, MySpace to advertise themselves, Linkdin to get a job. While these profiles may be at great odds, they exist as extentions of the reality that is the person who created them.

Welcome to the big show.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Brand, The New Media and The Future, Part III

Mythbusters is a brand. The hosts are likable. They build up a reputation for truth. Then, you hit the one episode that you have personal knowledge that what they are saying is lacking -- radios on airplanes -- and then poof, the brand is busted.

The guys took the government-industry point of view that electronic devices would surely interfere with navigational devices and communications gear in the pit resulting in the sudden and fiery of all on board if we flipped on our iPods at the wrong moment. OK, that was a stretch, but no one is carrying powerful FM transmitters or AM sets with huge ferrite antenna bars to throw off the coms. By the way, how do you think the pilots keep up with the scores of games? By turning their nav radios into the AM broadcast band to listen.

Nevertheless, if Virgin America and other breakout airlines can now offer WiFi on the airplane, and new systems to allow use of regular cellphones on board -- wait a minute, what happened to all that interference we were suppose to cause?

So, there it is. Now, replace some of the key elements in my story. Let's say Mythbusters was a politician, or a university, and it sought over time to take its information, its brand, direct to its fans, its supporters, its constituents. Again, as long as the veracity of the brand remains in tact, the institution can continue without impediment.

Who challenges the Mythbusters? Sure, they'll do fan shows and retest their work. Let's switch to another part of the Discovery family. Who's going to buy into Man vs. Wild upon its return to the old flat screen after it was revealed the star wasn't exactly always roughing it as much as it appeared in the show. It was counterbalancing media that outed the story, and for a while, forced the show off the air. Without that coverage, would anyone -- beyond that handful of people with a personal experience perhaps in surviving the Amazon -- have blown Bear's cover?

Enter the new media.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Brand, The New Media and The Future, Pt Deux

If reputation is all we have, how does that relate to the creative destruction occurring in the mass media?

People want to believe in things bigger than themselves. Society is based upon this. Perhaps more than opposable , it separates us from the beasts.

From serfs working for the king to followers to religions, society needs mass forms of belief structure. The difference today is those structures are almost more easy to achieve in a virtual than a physical association. Our media is delivered by means that not only make it simple, they tend to encourage association.

The traditional newspaper, created by editors and writers who were disciples of the cult of objectivity, or the legacy broadcast entity, tempered by the offices of standards and practices, the FCC and the perceived threat of "fairness doctrine," brought the media consumer a product that was reasonably inclusive of a range of points of view in the middle of the road.

The interconnection of supportive opinion, blogs, materials and message boards carries the reader not into a broader view, but rather into an ever tightening spiral toward self-affirming thought. What does suffice for points of view become more like opposite camps, hurling invective at each other with giant virtual trebuchets. Call it the Crossfiring of America.

Here's where the story gets dark. Manipulation is inherent in the human system. From society enforcing its standards of decency to evil-doers seeking to work to their own ends, followers will be urged to drink the kool-aid. And, they will, particularly as long as they are motivated to believe. When there is no challenge to the mindset, when there is no equal and opposite force, it will continue.

Such is the case when the media challenges an institution that has its faith and trust in tact with its base. Only when the faith and trust -- the brand -- is injured, will the opposite opinion to the believe of those inside the citadel break. For those in the local area, I'll point at the unusual case of one of our smaller universities where the administrator was hailed as the next coming in academic leadership. A handful of wrong moves, the sweater snags on the nail, and in what seemed like an instant, the emperor not only had no clothes, he had no job.

What happens when there isn't the counter balance of the media to ask the question?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Brand, The New Media and The Future

In celebration of post #400, a multi-part discussion on the future of the career once known as sports information.

Once upon a time, the sports information director was the keeper of the flame in almost every athletic department. A trusted confidant, the holder of the institutional memory, the link between generations of student-athletes and coaches to a college or university.

In the late 1990s, the SID died. The role was divvied up among a host of new job titles that feasted on the position like Ebola virus on a wildebeest. Assistant athletic directors for media relations, for marketing, for internal operations. Then came the internet, and more people into the pot. Publications coordinators, website coordinators, new media directors. Soon, the public relations professionals rode in to managed individual coaches and athletic directors.

I once went on an interview at another D. I school for a upper level administrative job, and the athletic director looked me straight in the eye when I asked if the SID office was under my position or independent. "They're nothing but a bunch of stat keepers," he said, the words dripping with disdain. In other words, if I wanted those useless twits answering to me, OK by him. (An aside, he didn't last long there, and it was a good thing I didn't take that job.)

And, like a shortstop, a centerfielder and a rightfielder all charging after the same Texas Leaguer, these different jobs began trying to call the ball when it came to managing the image and reputation of the department. At many schools, political infighting that only a department faculty meeting could appreciate ensued.

The result? You guessed it. More times than is acceptable, the ball falls to the ground uncaught among the fielders.

In the never ending drive to be relevant and hip, PR-types have pounced upon the buzz word of the early 21st century: brand. Brand management is de rigueur, but who is the brand manager in athletics? Same pack of hyenas will compete to be that person. At a lot of places, it will get lost in a hybrid definition of making sure the right logos are used or the correct verbiage is in place.

What does it really mean? In my humble estimation, brand equals reputation, pure and simple. You either have a good reputation, based upon postitive perception of your [fill in the blank -- team, product, school, etc.].

All the talk about brand takes me back in time. My dad had a brand -- well, if a reputation for being a hard-livin', gamblin', rock-n-roll night club owner that always had the hottest spot in town is a brand. For all the oddity associated with that lifestyle, there was one thing all the folks would say about Smitty -- his word was his bond. His brand wan't all that other stuff, it was the trust other businessmen had in him.

In college, there were a couple of journalism teachers and later one history professor who constantly reminded the students to be careful, their reputations -- at the end of the day -- were all they really had.

What, for heaven's sake, does any of this have to do with new media and the future? Everything.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I've Said It Before, Let Me Say It Again


One word. One image. One focus. The future.

To that end, post 400 -- hopefully later this week -- will begin a series of comments on how that works in the new media world and for college athletics.

Meanwhile, digest this appetizer from Bloomburg News courtesy of our director of new media, Blair Cartwright. He emails this link last night.

The gist of the story is in bad economic times, the strongest brands have the best performance and the brands that put resources into building image perform at the top. Local giant Walmart, of course, fairs well in this article.

The money quote:

“When the economy tanks, the really strongly branded companies take much less of a hit than price-cutters,” said Frankel, who has worked with companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Honda Motor Co.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Long Week, Semester Looms

A week of consecutive home games and project completions makes the blog a dull place. With an open date upcoming along with pre-semester prep work over, I'll have come special posts on some new theory work to celebrate the 400th entry here.

In the meantime, from the frozen tundra of the SEC's northern outpost, here's one quick post to lay down a marker for a new malaprop.

After visiting Joseph-Beth Bookseller to scan through then purchase Sal Paolantonio's new book, "How Football Explains America" (more to come from it -- I can tell you it should be required reading of anyone in the industry), I turned to Kyle Kellams and noted in response to a question he asked me:

"Well, it's the kind of story you could only read about in the movies."

Halfway through the sentence, my mental on-air spell check was going off, but I couldn't stop myself. Kellams looks at me and we both bust out laughing. That stayed funny the rest of the night.

Now to just work it into today's broadcast . . .

Thursday, January 01, 2009

How Do You Know It's True?

One of the courses I have long hoped to see back in the UA curriculum is History of Journalism. I have two reasons, and no, neither one is because I'd be perfect to teach it.

The first reason is the natural outgrowth of doing "We're History" on KUAF. Been a while since there was time to cut a new episode (and not quite so many media fumbles since the election), but the gist of the series is the short-sighted and misuse of history by our media. A big part of the approach I'd designed for the course was to teach journalists how to utilize professional history to their advantage and to avoid the dreaded "unprecedented" pitfall. The second is obvious -- to give these digital natives some sense of the field.

Here's living proof again of the lack of historical perspective. The historical hoax of the last American pirate was revealed recently by George Mason University professor T. Mills Kelly. Kelly, a part of the Center for History and New Media at GMU, turned the digital natives upside down with a well conceived story of Edward Owens. It was part of a semester course in which the 15 graduate students concocted every aspect of the "history" of Mr. Owens, right down to Wikipedia entries and a supporting faux diary.

Kelly took it one step beyond as he launched his fake into the media world, and until the reveal, got away with it. Kelly's going to take a lot of heat for this from the serious academic types, but he did it for the right reasons -- to show just how simple (notice, didn't say easy) it can be to pull the wool over the public and the media. Say, here's your first clue: the name of the course was Lying about the Past. (As usual, the Chron has a great coverage of the course.)

Does it undermine our faith in history? It should.

We live in a world where plenty of people believe Americans never walked on the moon, that Oswald didn't act alone and Guilani was a key conspirator in the destruction of the World Trades.

A healthy skepticism is an important part of citizenship.

Another of my favorite pastimes (huh? well, something for between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., OK?) is the NPR show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Their end of the year story circled back to the Dana Perino -- Cuban Missile Crisis brouhaha they helped stir up. This week, the host Peter Sagal, had Perino back on to claim the whole thing was a comedy skit, that her husband hadn't really chided her ("Oh Dana") about not knowing the difference between the missles of October and the Bay of Pigs.

But, wait, wait -- it got so much media play. Hosts across the country were calling Perino out as yet another Bush appointment gone wrong. So, was her Dec. 2007 NPR appearance the "exaggeration" she said it was? Was Perino playing the media, knowing that overly smug anchors and commentators would pounce on her?

It does stretch belief that anyone who would rise to her position would not know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was -- I thought that at the time.

So what worse: a history professor that turns his profession and the media on itself with a hoax, a public relations professional who pranks the media or that same PR person would actually be ignorant of a major part of American history?

Happy 2010, Now Go Read Something

Searching for my early blog validation on this one and not finding it handy. Nevertheless, for years I've said that the essentially written nature of the internet was driving a revival in writing and reading. Why? Well, what are you doing right now. Please, hit yourself on the forehead for effect right . . . . now.

Here's my backing -- this WIRED coverage of a University of San Diego study that shows -- shocking -- that reading is going up, not down.

Takeaway from the USD study: Reading, which was in decline due to the growth of television, tripled from 1980 to 2008, because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet.

I could have told you that. As much as I liked to read as a youth, I'd never, ever have picked up a two-pound leviathan like the last Harry Potters. 13 year old daughter? And her friends? Can't get enough of these monster books.

Hello NCAA colleagues -- before you kill those printed media guides . . .

Happy New Year

Here's to this one working out better than the last.