Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faster Than You Think

Some random media catch-ups. Hulu is now the platform of choice for three of the four networks -- ABC/Disney gets an ownership share like NBC and Fox for joining up. That's a shot against YouTube, but not a terrible blow. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise. YouTube is the home of the social video community, and if it gets professionalized by picking up ABC (or maybe CBS), it would be changed and perhaps begin to lose its identity.

With ABC bringing its content on-line in a slightly advertising supported, very free to the end user experience, it will become harder and harder for people to argue that subscription base will work in the near-term future.

Meanwhile, MLB's on-line app for iPhone has reportedly topped $1 million in sales. Who said you can't sell stats -- excuse me, DATA -- to fans? Couple it with audio and video streams, and you got the holy trinity. Now, who'll be the first to do that in college . . .

Related rumor puts MLB's Advanced Media division thinking about an on-line newspaper. Kind of beats Mark Cuban's let's subsidize the beat reporters from the NBA office scheme to the punch. Or does it bode well for theories espoused in this space and other colleges, notably our friends at Wisconsin, of a Fan First approach to bring all the news to our followers? It has certainly worked already for MLS -- primarily because in many markets the American soccer league couldn't get the local media to give regular beat coverage. Hmm, sounds like women's college soccer or volleyball, where the only "newspaper" is the university website . . .

Recovering Journalist has a very detailed post today regarding the plan of one newspaper-television station to reinvent itself and survive. It is a must read.

Last of all, Daily Reville catches up with the interview I had gosh, what seems like two weeks ago. Good to hear the NCAA compliance folks and I were on the same page that as long as coaches don't cross the established lines of personalizing recruiting communication to a specific recruit that there is nothing wrong with Twitter.

One Take On One Coach's Twitter Perspective

According to our friends over at CNET and the Technically Incorrect blog, notable non-Twitterer Les Miles at LSU will look to tweet during games this year (maybe, like here at Arkansas where we call those Grunts, they'll be Growls).

We've seen our share of stories about the growing Twitter impact in recruiting, with one of our local newspapers weighing in today as well. They lead with Tennessee's football coach capturing the essense of so much of what happens in college sports:

“I don’t know that it really helps you that much in recruiting. But if it does, we’re trying.”

One of the local bloggers called out our basketball coach, John Pelphrey, for having only three followers while UK coach John Calipari had over 10,000.

I'll clear this one up from our end -- we secured all our head coaches names where available, and a reasonable alternative -- CoachTomCollen comes to mind -- to protect them from imposters until each coach decides how -- and more importantly if -- they may use the system.

So you can't get followers if you aren't active; and it is not fair to dun a coach for low numbers until they have decided how they will incorporate it into their recruiting philosophy.

Plus, as you read through the CNET story, those in the Division I business will quickly pick up some places where I hope CNET simply misquoted or misinterpreted. Twitter can be a minefield, and one must be careful to not let it become a SMS texting work-around.

As far as our main department feed, @ArkRazorbacks, I'm quite pleased that we're about to cross 700 followers who have shared the knowledge of the feed among themselves. There's been some cross promotion, but its a natural phenominan that grows about 30 followers a day.

It's a good tool for the mobile class and the distant fan -- they'd have gotten the first news of Eibner's hit and later his game winning walk. We also use it to refeed our RSS from the web and the video -- a huge item since I really believe a lot of folks were not aware of how much video came out of our site every day (usually two to three new clips in season).

Just Because You Can . . .

. . . Twitter style. A redeux of advice given in the early days of Facebook: the ability to post your innermost thoughts and the interesting events of your life does not mean it is in your best interest to do so.

I'll provide the link over to this recount at Technically Incorrect of a pair of San Francsico Giants, and their missteps in the world of Twitter.

Next time you see rutting hogs, just say no to the web photo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It will be the "plastics" of a new generation. More to come.

New Directions

In the coming few weeks, closing out some new outlines on the three states of media for college sports information: the mobile, the record and the pitch. Just as solid, liquid and gas represent different states of matter, we need to think of our total brand and how we will utilize each form of media. And yes, the printed word remains crucial. Blunt force trauma will result from the cutting of printing budgets for press guides -- rumored all around the country again.

I said it in 2005 when this narrow minded proposal was made by the NCAA, I'll repeat it today: not every bit of recruiting can be done on-line, not every mission of the university can be fulfilled by a web site.

Heresy, for a blogger. Perhaps.

Fact of the matter is the institution must match its message to the proper format. Websites are increasingly becoming reference material. Lists, PDFs, records, old stories, historical bits. News is rapidly leaving the 15-inch screen and migrating to the mobile device. Yet, we continue to front news. A refocusing time is immediately ahead for sports information people.

Does the university print the "racing form" -- the list of class schedules -- any more? No, it's listed data that can be better transmitted in digital forms. Even school catalogs fit better on-line.

But nothing equals the magazine format for an emotionally evocative presentation of a school's pride, history and traditions. No amount of website work is going to make the message statement of a well crafted two-page spread with accompanying artwork. Sorry, paper is not going away.

How we spend money on it, what we print on it -- that will be the subject of a series of upcoming posts.

Meanwhile, chew on this thought -- as sports information begins to give away its old soul, the future just might be in "sports" "information". Huh?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just Don't Drop It

Three weeks ago, I railed at the loss of some key sections of my Sunday paper, and the decisions of the local to essentially encourage me to abandon pulp for pixel by putting the stuff that once appeared on my doorstep on-line.

Ten days ago, I got my own iPhone.

Today, I'm asking why in the hell isn't my local paper providing me with an app that presents the content in the way I want it.

And, I'm not alone. Mark Potts among others is joining in the clarion call for newspapers to save themselves through subscriptions in the format we want. The money quotes:

"Seventeen-plus years ago, when I began working in new media, the one thing I always heard was that nobody would ever be able to read a newspaper on a computer while sitting on the john." Then I take out my iPhone, hold it up, and deliver the punchline: "Now you can, and I have. Regularly."

I suspect they will not give us the formats we want. Television as an industry is far more embracing of the net technology, and has recently begun to understand that they need to provide their content across every possible platform without impediment to the end user. They know if given the option, I will watch on my 48 inch plasma before my 19 inch computer or my 2x4 inch iPhone. But if I'm stuck in an airport, guess what, iPhone.

Newspapers remain stubbornly attached to old formats, first paper then static internet. The world is mobile. We're mobile.

I've spent more time the past 10 days reading the New York Times and Wall Street Journal because they freakin' get it and have the apps.

I don't think I'm alone when I say I'd pay my subscription to get all my local paper's content in an easy to navigate app format -- not firing up Safari and pinching and spreading to get the web on the iPhone.

The question for my colleagues -- will we as content creators and providers continue to live inside our printed media guides and static story-based websites -- or will we join the aggressive like MLB and jump for "advanced" media, not just "new" media.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Facebook as Reporting Tool

Shared with me, and like so many Facebook examples, the names and university changed to protect the innocent.

What in the world is being taught in journalism school when a student includes this passage in an interview request for a college athlete:

Normally I would have just gotten quotes from [SPORT REMOVED] on Facebook, but I'm received some grief about that from other sports relations people.

On one level, this is shocking. Could you be lazier, just Wiki-harvesting data? And not telling the subject of your story that you're lifting quotes from a place where the intention clearly was not to reveal information that was "quotable."

Before we tar and feather our young journalist, or call for the removal of accreditation of the involved school, turn this around.

How many times have I said you must take care with your Facebook -- any student -- because you do not know who is reading? How many experts have cast Facebook and other SNW as the opportunity to "market" yourself and create the public persona you want people to see?

At the end of the day, is what this person proposed to do wrong? It violates the 20th century ethics of journalism, but the whole blogger industry lives on the unauthorized lift of passages. This post itself would be a hypocritical example of that by taking a portion of an email forwarded to me. Is it any different from gossip columns of old and new -- this just "overheard".

In some ways, this college student could have reached for something true, something raw, something of the moment, by just taking the quotes needed from the Facebook page of the athletes involved. Are we at the point now where SNW becomes the real first draft of history? How many academic careers were made by reading the diaries of the dead -- paging Ken Burns, Mr. Burns, white courtesy phone please.

Again, is it unethical? Might be too strong. Is it bad form? Yes, especially if you ever wish to work with that person or institution again.

The tweet away: When I say everyone is watching your SNW, they really are; take care with your emotions and postings. They really will represent you forever.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Long Time Off Line

NAB will take the time away from you, but this small note before a wave of catch-up -- I could not get into my email the past five days (as I suspected might be the case). 1887 emails await today.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More Fun with Facebook

Ohio State resumed comments on its university Facebook page after someone thought about the fact that a gag order on a conversation was probably not in the best long-term interest of an institution of high learning.

More from The Chronicle

NCAA vs. Facebook

Here's the latest in fighting the future. At the risk of trouble, I'll simply give up the link:

Giving It Away for Free

It's counter-intuitive, but here's some more free insight. My hope is whoever takes it will someday recognize the source and perhaps pay it backward.

Local newspaper wants to survive? Get a TriCaster; in fact, get a bunch of them. Sign deals with every high school to produce their home football games. Hire your own sports guys to crew the games, which insures they are on the ground to write the stories. Run the stats like regular so they go into your paper's on-line and into the broadcast.

Next up, take that portable system into the local town meetings. You become the source of the raw coverage, and the later value-added interpretation and analysis.

The paper evolves from being a singular medium of news into a portal for local knowledge. Want to watch Timmy's game, Want to read the sports column about Timmy? Want the immediate stats and scores?

This mash-up unites the old local radio station's coverage with the TV station's visual presentation into a real-time entity that can regain some of the local relevance.

Current staff can't make it -- go get yourself a bunch of predators -- producer-editors who can shoot the story, package it, appear on-camera and write the copy. Yeah, backpack journalists by any other name, but the predator mode is a mindset.

Oh, that big-old continuous sheet press in the back? Sell it off for scrap and replace it with a ton of servers and a big pipe T1 hose. You'll only need a short run press for the weekend feature edition of the content the staff vacuumed up.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Continuing on Carey Article

Kevin Carey in his recent Chronicle article points to lower division classes as the weakness of the current public university system. Anyone can get a course of these type on line. He correctly points out the big private school brands like Duke, MIT and Stanford can afford to give away courses through iTunes to no impact on their bottom line. Why? Those schools are effectively in the business of vetting employees -- if you get in, you've reached a certain standard; if you get out, you have the stamp of approval (they call it a degree).

Carey's got a telling line on this: "People will pay more for better service, but only so much more."

He follows up with:

" . . . no-cost alternatives on the other side of the accreditation wall is growing. The longer the relentless drumbeat of higher tuition goes on, the greater their appeal."

This cuts two ways. It works against the quality of content as a driving factor in premium services (more on that later). But, it also opens more doors for people who want to learn, and not necessarily get a diploma. That is compelling in certain areas, but impossible in the "union card" areas of education.

For example, I could easily compose, create and put on-line a series of courses based on my years of expertise.
Sports Media Basics
Sports Media Relations (a course I taught in the brick-and-mortar here at UA)
History of Sports (a course I have developed, but can't get the B&M slot to teach)
History of Journalism (another syllabus and lecture set start unusued)
Gee, add a few more goodies like
Investigative Sports Journalism (how do you figure out what's really going on inside)
Convergence Sports
Technology for Backpack Sports Journalism
And real quick, you have a tool kit to enable a whole bunch of Net Media sports reporters.

Now, not a one of those that followed that would have any credentials, but like in space, where they can't hear you scream, on-line do you really need a J-School degree to be effective?

I'd still argue there are things that you can only get in the physical world, but we need to be ready to accept a tremendous virtualization of much of the education process. He quotes the Sloan Corsortium that found that 3.9 million people took an online course in 2007.

That's the REAL takeaway of Carey's warning for my particular area. Where next Columbus? Forward into the kind of world they are promoting on the Apple website (obviously, to sell more Apple computers) of the Arizona State Cronkite School or back to the future with the trades and guilds approach of taking young talent and teaching it the ropes of the 1920s through 1940s?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hey Streaming Vid Guys

Good to know that we're not alone here in the colleges with spotty video streaming quality. Major League Baseball has caused a stir by deleting a bunch of comment posts about their struggles, but for me the real takeaway is down the story:

Some subscribers have also encountered what MLB describes as a “weird black screen” upon starting up the video player. “This one is a bit scary. We think it is related to pre-roll advertisements. That has been removed. We will be monitoring this one closely,” Sunday’s post read. Other problems have included “spotty” access to some archived games, as well as audio issues.

Were they watching our video this fall? We had some of those exact problems. Most colleges are still in the Windows Media Encoder world, but some have migrated to Flash. MLB started last fall in Silverlight, and moved to Flash for this year -- but to no avail as they're struggling to get either one to be locked-down reliable in the streaming mode.

Two side thoughts -- first, this is a Mac story, and hey they're a great platform but there's something not quite right when they try to take streaming media from the WME world (anytime you need a second program like Flip For Mac to see the stuff in your browser, you're just asking for compatability troubles). Second, while Hulu, et. al., have VOD locked down, streaming at the high quality level we now want is still emerging tech -- sorry, it is. You better have the right connection, the right equipment, the right software or there will be hell to pay on the user end.

Soon, let's hope very soon, we will be at a point where it's like TV -- plug cable into set-top box and go -- but that will require something the internet loathes: a single, lowest common denominator standard. That's a human variable that no amount of computer engineering can overcome.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

We Interrupt This Train of Thought

For a "breaking" update: Guess what, legacy media is declining in the press box. Full story from today's Wall Street Journal chroncles "the end." The from the lede:

" . . . some games may be chronicled only by wire services, house organs and Web writers watching the games on television."

Welcome to the official website, home of the news coverage.

For better or worse, in this transition period, the only people who can afford to have "beat writers" -- you know, we call them sport contacts -- will be the brands themselves.

As we contemplate the horror that is the end of newspapers, cue Rock Hound:

It's time to embrace the horror

Who are those "Web writers" anyway? Methinks they are the former newspaper beat reporters. The story picks up on a Mark Cuban initiative to have the NBA create and fund a beat writer coop. That sounds a lot like the legislation to allow newspapers to have non-profit status (if you're losing a $1 million a week like the San Fran Chronicle, guess what, you're not a for-profit venture).

There is a sense that all the pillars of the society are in near-panic mode over the loss of the Fourth Estate in its ink-stained visage. Let me posit a counter -- if the US government is granting non-profit status to newspapers, and one of the requirements is that they must give up editorial endorsements in political races, doesn't that violate the First Amendment in that Congress will be making a law that is "abridging the freedom of speech."

And if in that non-profit paper, the NBA's funded writers create coverage on teams. Will the Dallas Mavericks writer rip Cuban when he makes his next referee Tweet?

At that point, is it really an independent newspaper? Or just an advertising vehicle? What is the difference between our own brand vehicle -- the official website -- and these professional league funded or government subsidized publications?

I have no answer here, but they are questions we should consider.

Side note -- looking at the recent U.S. circuit court ruling on what an employer -- in this case a college -- can discipline an employee for -- in the case, a tenured professor -- under an employee's free speech, how much longer can this blog survive?

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Fuse is Burning

So says Kevin Carey in his commentary in The Chronicle, "What Colleges Should Learn from Newspapers' Decline." The Twit-Away? The internet has caught up with newspapers; higher-ed shares many similarities and it catches colleges within our lifetimes (perhaps 10-15 more years).

He recognizes that this Cassandra call was made in the late 1990s, and that today it doesn't ring true. As more and more iTunes University high school seniors graduate, the tipping point for delivery mechanism from the lecture hall to the internet approaches. This is particularly true for "survey" courses in any curriculum.

He accurately skewers one of the misnomers of the decline of newspapers -- "The problem is that the (New York) Times is not, and never has been, in the business of selling news. It's in the print advertising business" -- but buys into one of the other pillars of today's panic -- "A strong society needs investigative journalism and foreign bureaus."

Really? Is that going to disappear when the Times stops printing nationally? Or is that function going to shift to the new advertising folks -- Yahoo, et al. (Did anyone else pick up yet another investigative sports piece by Yahoo!, this time time the texting at UConn.?)

More later on Carey's column.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tweet or Twits

What will the NCAA do now that Twitter has come to town? So much for the vaunted blogger rules that the national college association went to the mat to defend last spring. Tonight -- as has been the case all tournament -- Rebecca Lobo is blowing those x-number of posts per half business out of the water.

The same for the SEC, where citizens microblogged each of the championships this spring. The one I can speak directly to having watched it happen was the SEC gymnastics meet.

Or does it not count because those updates are coming 140 characters at a time.

Maybe the excuse is ESPN owns the TV rights and can have its people violate the blogging policy. I suspect Rebecca is the most publicized Tweeter from St. Louis tonight.

I'll go back to my own point from convention last summer with the NCAA folks -- these guidelines weren't functional, and now thanks to the increasing pressure of techonology, are not enforceable.

Maybe AT&T Has The

Why is no one crying for the loss of pay phones?

They are a thing of the past because cell phones provide personal, continuous access to the voice world. The economic no longer works to support a system of public phones.

At the same time, if a voice had informed us in 1976 that just over a generation into the future we would stop dropping dimes for calls home, but would willingly pay ten times ten times (yeah, that's no typo -- that's two orders of magnitude for you stat geeks, and when you think about it, many of us add another with that $100 iPhone data, unlimited texting, 1000-minute deal) that amount each month to have a personal communicator on our hip.

Journalism isn’t going away tomorrow. The key is convincing us to pay its real cost. The next Warren Buffett really is the William Randolph Hearst who figures out how to make palatable that same transition; from putting two quarters into a newspaper rack each day into electronic debiting two Euros a week for our local information.

I know I've said that before, notably in reviewing some of Rupert Murdoch said the in the Boyer Lectures. But the pay phone analogy smacks me right between the eyes with a V-8 moment.

Another Plea for Sundays

Granted this is long winded and occasionally pretentious, but darn it, I'd like my full measure of Perspective back along with the Books section of the local paper. Without further ado, a letter to the editor:

Dear Messrs. Greenberg and Kane:

It is wholly a pleasure to engage plastic Chiclets to charge phosphors and diodes in response to the recent decisions of the legacy media enterprise known as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Today’s Perspectives section carrying an obituary to the printed word that was performed either with tremendous irony and just a soupcon of insider’s joke to provoke responses similar to my own, or the complete and total lack of full awareness of the precipice really is systemic of newspapermen.

If I may engage in a moment’s self-promotion – as no self-respecting net media type would not plug their own blog – in my response last month on-line to the downsizing decisions of the ADG by dropping Books and Travel, I noted that it seemed like self-mutilation. Those of us still buying the print edition, are we the best demographic for Style? Gee, if we like our trees dropped on our doorstep, chances are we’d like to read about bound editions of them, AND read the opinions of others about them.

Can I find book reviews elsewhere? Absolutely. But I have become accustomed to the opinion of those I know, and put value in the Brand – there, I spoke the buzzword de jour – that is the motley crew of my local newspaper. In homage to Mr. Greenburg, I seek the Southern opinion on Books, not one that was made in New York City.

Instead, we get more encouragement to go on-line. For those of us in the Great Northwest, a scold that you savages out in the distant hinterlands should log on to continue imbibing in the delivered wisdom of those located in the Central like Philip Martin. Speaking of Mr. Martin’s essay, as he joins the chorus to wring hands and peel bells for the passing of his medium, could we not recognize a truer loss? The departure of the statewide community the statewide newspaper brings.

More and more, the paper becomes an index, and a dated one at that, for what we might find on those pesky internets.

The paperless office we were promised along with The Automobile of Tomorrow has not come to pass. Nor will it. As long as man has committed written language to surface, the quest has not been for the slickest browser, it has been for the cheapest fixed medium. Until the day when Our Scientists can bring us The Newspaper of The Future, some organically grown flexible LCD that can also double as a wrapping for our leftover Soylent proteins, the consumption of paper will continue to increase.

Note to the Greens: Within every home, attached to almost every desk, there is a small cut-sheet printing press. While it lacks the romantic charm and distinct odors of spinning rolls of the printing plant, it fuels our insatiable need for pulp. Quite fiction to think by eliminating a printed edition we save our environment. Have you checked out the amount of heavy metals contained within a single computer, the carcinogenic components of toner and ink cartridges?
But I digress from the central thesis, and do so at my own cause’s risk. After all, I have long ago exceeded the magical 140 characters that all net worthy know is the limit of both our expression and attention span.

Let me restate in the haiku-like form of the Tweet: This isn’t fighting the future; Raising hand to note, can’t force the future; adapt to our needs, give us right info on right platform.

If we believe the RIAA, digital formats were the end of music. Before that, if we believed the Motion Picture Association of America, the video recorder was the end of entertainment. Today, Cassandra speaks through the Legacy Media; those internets are the end of days.

By the way, as sure as the Paperless Office was going to save the forests, even though we are hip deep in the Worst Economy in Recent Memory, sales of CDs and DVDs, both music and moving picture, are up last quarter. How can that be? Because the internet is the most recent incarnation of the most effective advertising medium known to man. The future isn’t in Free Content. Regrettably, it is a proven business : any good dealer will let you have the first taste for free.

The Sunday newspaper is about convenience, just as books are about convenience. Edward Tufte is right – there are some things that work best in print, but you have to be imaginative enough to escape Flatland and give us the content we seek in the medium we want. Stock prices and sports scores are dated, the weather map and forecast is useless when frozen in print.
A sense of salon, that true Value Added content that can only come from experienced writers and editorialists – this is what we seek. And when what we want has migrated on-line, the Sunday paper ceases to fulfill its utility. So I salute you in your march to the edge by reducing the portions of the newspaper of most interest to those who still sit on the porch (and, to be frank and forthcoming, other places) on a Sunday morning to read.

We can’t pass our Kindle back and forth in the coffee shop. We don’t gather ‘round the flat screen. People still trade newspaper sections back and forth on a casual weekend. Reading is an individual art form, and if you haven’t noticed, reading is going up. How can that be as this slack-jawed, finger-twitching wireless X-Box controller generation knows only how to engage either in Mortal Kombat or NCAA 2009 Dynasty Mode? Generation Twitter texts, not talks.

Mourn the passing of the personal letter at your own peril. Before the rise of the E-Mail Leviathan, just how many of those personal letters did you really write? Today, how many more notes to friends and colleagues to you write because it’s easier to sit down at the keyboard, compose and transmit?

Having far exceeding the 700-word limit – wait, let me guess, it can go on-line where word-count is infinite – let me close with the admonition that we, the Loyal Reader, aren’t deserting the newspaper for the browser. Far more often it is the quintessential definition of that old Whittaker Chambers saw as the print edition becomes that curiosity shop unvisited by the public thanks to the decisions of the owner. We want to drop in and visit, particularly on the weekends, but increasingly there is nothing we want to see.

Good night, and good luck.

OK -- I did warn you it was long.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Harry Truman Strikes Again

Remember my favorite Truman quote -- The only thing new in the world is the history we don't know. I'm still just working the fringes of True Enough (again, anyone who tells you spring and summer are "slow" in academia is a liar or tenured full professor), but I've blogged here about the key outlines.

Discovered this quote in another book I'm co-skimming at this time. It's from the 15th century French essayist Michel de Montaigne:

Truth for us nowadays is not what is, but what others can be brought to accept.

Our internet age isn't always as unique as we'd like it. If our weather isn't unprecedented, we can't make the changes we want. If our crisis aren't the worst of all time, hard to justify our suffering.

At the same time, I got another validation for Farhad Manjoo's thinking while visiting with a colleague recently. At a particular school, the new coach arrived and demanded a media guide that had "none of those records or history." Ah yes, let us create our own reality in which our program is one of the finest in America. Don't let the fact that its suffered dozens of losing seasons get in the way. We are the Bestest! Go Lake Woebegon High -- where all teams are above average.

Here's for hoping our variable realities can get reconciled back to a time where there are certain truths.

Sorry for the Outage

Courtesy of a cut in my DSL feeder line that put me off-line from the home for the past five days. Not enough time in the business day to post anything.