Saturday, August 29, 2009

Flippin' Out

As the fall seasons begin, the best $200 spent in the off-season was the high-capacity HD Flip camera we have deployed with our traveling teams.

Good quality for up-close interviews, easy interface for staff management and a native ability to create windows media makes this a perfect road tool. Our media relations contacts with soccer and volleyball can use the Flip instead of a pocket audio recorder to get the post-game from a coach, and in a little more time than it takes to post the story and stats, we can add video.

The ability to capture action isn't as strong, but that's not the Flip's main purpose. It's a social media tool -- quick things with your friends, a point-and-shoot camera for moving pictures.

In the past, we only had post-game video at home; now all our events can carry video -- a big step ahead for a small price. If a shop can't quite afford the large unit, the SD Flip is as low as $100.

If your state's telecom or campus contracts weren't as restrictive as ours and you can option for the 3GS over the 3G (just a missing "S" we're told), the media relations office could deploy with the full solution of multi-account Twitter management, Facebook updating and point and shoot video uploads. Something else to consider as your upgrade office phones.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cold Hard Opinions

Tip of the hat to Jay Rosen's Twitter feed for today's reading. This space has spent its share of time thinking about J-School's future, and posited that if it's not careful, the networked media will island hop its way around the concept. Poynter Online columnist Earnest Wilson provides a bracing shot of ice cold water. The money quote:

Yet at the moment when legacy media are being excoriated for their demonstrable failure to adapt quickly to the new world of digital convergence, and when newspapers are dying daily, the performance and responsibilities of the institutions that train so many journalists, editors and managers has gone largely unexamined in the public eye.

And it goes from there. Care is needed, lest journalism return to its origins -- a trade of which one learned in the journeyman tradition.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Might Have That Backwards

From the recent Editor and Publisher story on AP and Gannett taking on the Southeastern Conference over its new credential policy. It quotes Mark Silverman of The Tennessean:

They fail to recognize that we are not just a newspaper. We use a variety of mediums and I believe we are going to be able to make a prior restraint argument.

Actually, the policy is quite the opposite. It recognizes that anyone can exist in all three of the basic rights bearing formats -- audio, video and data. And the policy is platform agnostic -- it's media.

The difference is the newspapers are moving into a realm almost exclusively held by television media in the past. The television station can stream its newscast, that may contain game footage. Newspapers, I suspect, could create a similar, non-archiving newscast, but seem to base their claim right now on that as the "difference" in how the policy is discriminating against their traditional form of media.

It's that archive of video living on the internet that is the issue. The story remains, well, developing.

Collision Course

Gannett and AP have drawn their lines in the sand against the Southeastern Conference, proclaiming yesterday they would not sign the league's new credential policies. I notice in the Editor and Publisher story that some of the tone has shifted to restraint of trade rather than First Amendment. I sense the reality that none of the conditions on the credentials related to limiting free speech has led the lawyers to shift.

Also seems the E&P story is quoting the original draft, rather than the current language, to make some of the key points.

Forgotten in the salvos are the restrictions media agencies submit themselves to when it is the NCAA men's basketball tournament (or any other NCAA championship) and when they cover bowl games governed by the BCS.

The internet and digital means of transmission change the rules for everything. In the past, a national network holding broadcast rights would not have known if a local television station from another network was using its footage without rather expensive and extensive local monitoring -- which they did perform. Now, it's a click away.

Copying and posting high quality video has the same relative ease compared to the old days of VHS. Tape to tape or film to film always lost something in the next generation copy. Not so with HD digital. Therefore, copyright holders are becoming increasingly protective.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Busy With New Class Notes

Pardon the pause -- time devoted to a retooling of my NWACC U.S. history survey notes this week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Favorite LIne

Catching up on The Chronicle Review's lead essay on "The Mixed Success of Postitive Psychology," I saw this pull quote:

For "defensive pessimists," one reasearcher says, focusing on what could go wrong spurs them to take more-effective action.

I like that, not because it feeds a dark side within, but it recognizes a firm reality. Just because your media specialist is always talking about what could happen, speaking in terms of the worst case, planning to mitigate the downside effect DOES NOT make that person a pessimist.

It makes them a defensive pessimist.

Time spent on media training, a quick Q&A before a difficult press event, working on talking points -- it is all to make the subject better equipped to convey the message.

In the past, one of my favorite responses from a coach, player or administrator was "they weren't as tough as you said they would be" or "they never asked the me questions you asked me." That means you did your job, because the 30 minutes spent hurling the most invasive, nasty, pointed questions imaginable -- the ubiquitous dirty thirty -- prepared them, gave them confidence in their positions and made them practice reaction to the hardest issues.

Today -- let me be very clear, I don't mean at Arkansas -- I see more and more discussion about leaders wanting only positive comments, only positive thoughts, to somehow channel The Secret into their media relations work. Those that spend their time raising questions internally get labeled as "negative", marked with a big black "N" for their attitudes.

Want the philosophy in a pithy single phrase: Plan for success, but prepare for disaster.

Any athletic season could end in a horrible losing streak in which fans and media are circling, and if you have not planned for that type of disaster, you are going to need a bigger boat. Certainly, as we look ahead to a potential H1N1 outbreak, it is not being negative to create plans on how games might need to be rescheduled and how teams might suspend activity.

No one wants to see that happen, but only fools skip into the future thinking that confidence that the unlikely will not come to pass is a legitimate strategy.

At the same time, we need to plan for a BCS bowl game. How will we leverage success? One must have both templates in hand, and know that the reality is you will probably use some of both scenarios during any given year.

Maybe Shell Was Right

A couple of weeks ago, I found some old notes about the Gruen Transfer and the impact of first impressions toward brand loyalty. The Shell Oil research seemed counter productive -- why market to people who can't buy your product. Nevertheless, the world wide oil company's findings lead to adding kid toys and other youth attractors.

Fast forward to last night and dinner with my wife and daughter. I casually look up at the TV which is showing the Sharpe 500, and make a passing comment to Ashley that "hey, your race is on." She looked up and it was a flood of memories. Oh, I miss that booth. Wasn't that fun. I wish they still did that. Didn't we miss the last one going to Florida for vacation.

When Ashley was six or seven, the Walmart vendors still put on fairly elaborate shows and booths at our local stores during the Walmart Shareholders meeting. Over the past couple of years, the off-campus booths at the stores have disappeared and the economy really dried up the on-campus ones this year.

Back when the vendors were trying to impress the public as much as the Walmart buyers, Sharpe had a big booth with lots of kid games and plenty of free pens and markers. It made a permanent -- sorry, no pun intended -- impression on my daughter, who still gravitates to the Sharpe display in Office Depot and with last night, remembers the company with warm emotions. By the way, my money is on her eventually purchasing Rubbermaid products over Tupperware or other brands for food storage as an adult for the same reasons.

I will grant that a good personal anecdote will reinforce any research to the individual. I have to say, this one is pretty compelling.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wanna Have Your Eyes Pop?

Thanks to Kevin Selle for spotting this from BuzzMachine, Jeff Jarvis' blog, about Jarvis' presentation at the Aspen Institute on the future of media. Let's just say, you need to plan two or three passes through it. It's revolutionary. It's visionary. It's, well, risky.

Also, could be right. It's all about the hyperlocal -- and yes, we've been sold that pig in a poke before -- Topix, anyone? Two big things have changed. A greater acceptance of the "flying cars of the future" idea of the personal newsfeed, plus the near total collapse of the legacy metro newspaper. Second part seems more important than the first in Jarvis' models.

In Jarvis' piece, we see Google bubbling up again with one of their gurus touting the "hyperpersonal news stream." I can buy that myself, using a lot of RTC through Twitter to keep up with the breaking, RSS to take in my deeper info. Not sure about the concept of what "happens after the article" -- but Google Wave is crashing on the media shoreline once again.

Want to get good and depressed? Let me lift the addenda closer from Jarvis: "Jim Cramer says he’d short media companies, that journalism businesses aren’t working, that magazines are doomed." Ouch.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Entry in the "Getting It" Sweepstakes

Thanks to a faithful reader of the blog for this morning update after the last post. Michael Kruse of the St. Petersburg Times provides his take on the SEC rights flap, and recognizes:

"They get it. The language of the conference's policy suggest they know all to well the high-stakes fight that's just beginning."

The future is now. Here's Kruse's column.

Setting the Right Blogger Terms

I've said for the past few weeks that the time has come for us to begin changing the terms away from the Kleenex-like references to Tweeting to a term that best expresses what is going on: real-time coverage. Similar to saying social networking website, or SNW, RTC is platform agnostic.

And today, for those who want to turn the Southeastern Conference's new policies toward non-pros attempting to do RTC in violation of the league's rights, a pair of reporters from the New York Times had a very balanced and accurate story today. Here's one of the soup bone quotes:

"The rules are aimed not at the casual fan who might post a few pictures of Saturday's football game on a personal web site, but rather at those who copy television broadcasts, create their own highlight reels and post them on sites charging for access or advertising."

In other words, pirates.

Let's not kid ourselves -- you know who they are and you know where they capture games and restream them on the internet.

This part of the "new" SEC credential policies got a lot of heat last week as it was pitched that the league was trying to stifle the First Amendment rights of the masses. No, the SEC was trying to protect it's own 14th Amendment rights as a corporate entity to protect its "life, liberty, or property."

As explained to the league members in July, many things within the new policies actually are not new. They have existed for years, even decades. Some were understood by all, but technology changed the rules. Some were never acknowledged, and now become hue and cry.

First, the understood. To walk into a stadium and broadcast a game took millions in capital and assets like distribution networks. Today, the right cell phone, enough batteries and a decent connection (good luck with that when 70K-plus try to call home about the last touchdown at Razorback Stadium) is all it takes.

The media -- and the fans -- understood that schools and leagues assigned the right to telecast games. Along with that went the exclusivity. No one credibly thought they could just walk in and claim a First Amendment right to broadcast games.

Continuing on the game broadcast path into the hidden -- for all these years, the network creating the broadcast had the right to tell others how and when that footage could be used. Look at the Olympics as a common example. Most rights holders did not bother to pursue the crude copies made of events, or simply had no way of knowing for sure that the 10 p.m. sports in the 147th market in the country was re-airing highlights without permission.

Enter digital. The ability to harvest video at a high quality and repost forces the rights holder to begin to consider pursuit. When people sell ads on such pages, it's no longer "fan" oriented, it's a business. And when that video is placed on line, it becomes discoverable.

Increasingly, there is real money in The Long Tail of old highlights backed by Google ads. Is anyone really surprised that the rights holders are now asking for their part of those proceeds?

Let me change terms for the sake of illustration. If the Rolling Stones were performing in Razorback Stadium, would anyone question the language on the back of the tickets that said it was a violation of the copyright of the performance to take audio or video recordings? Is it different when it's Arkansas vs. Ole Miss in football? Legally, no.

Emotionally, yes -- and let me say that the collective "we" get that. Fans are upset about this, and so are some media -- particularly new media.

At some point, big time college athletics is seen as a big business -- in fairness, it often is. And everyone likes to stick it to the man. So, yeah, what does it matter if I use a capture card to stream the game to my fellow fans who can't afford or can't get access to see the Razorback games live. The man is just tryin' to hose the fans for as much money as he can get.

No, the man is trying to pay for that stadium expansion. That practice facility. That team's expenses -- including those coach's salaries, especially when the fans want to pay "whatever it takes" to acquire a new coach or keep an old coach from becoming somebody else's trophy hire. Those sports that we all love to root but somehow don't find the time to either attend or pay for season tickets to support. And, the man is paying for the equipment, production truck rental, talent fees, satellite time, distribution networks, etc. to bring you the original broadcast.

So remember next Monday, when classes begin at the University of Arkansas that for the first time in 24 years, basic tuition is not increasing. In large part, that was thanks to a $1 million gift from athletics to the general operating fund of the university. On top of the existing roughly $3 million in direct or in-kind support to the school.

That $1 million didn't come from donors. It didn't come from ticket revenue. It didn't come from fundraising.

It came from rights holders.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Final Four Head Coach

The 1998 Lady Razorback basketball team that went to the NCAA Final Four had produced three Division I assistant coaches until today, when Sytia Messer became the first to elevate to head coach. Tennessee Tech made the announcement today (and now we know why Sytia was needing those photos a couple of weeks back).

The MVP of the NCAA West Regional, Messer had a Cinderella career at Arkansas, setting the mark for consecutive games played and helming Arkansas' other great moment, winning the WNIT in 1999 as senior.

She was associate head coach at Georgia Tech, and takes over a program that had a 40-year history at TTU.

Who are the other two Lady'Backs in Division I from that team?

That would be Tennille Adams at Northwestern and Christy Smith at Valparaiso.

A lot of people thought the 1998 team was a miracle squad. Really? Let's take a look at where they are today. Along with three Division I coaches, we have a published author (Celia Anderson), sports director of a major US market (Tiffany Wright), former WNBA player now high school coach (Wendi Willits) -- and this is just off the top of my head.

Still, very cool to consider the player who was the leading scorer at the regional (Messer), the player that had the go-ahead offensive rebound and stick-back against Duke (Adams) and the player who stood at the free throw line and hit four ice-cold free throws to clinch it (Smith) are now all coaching at the top level.

Maybe there's a book in there somewhere -- I claim it first.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More from the Gruen Transfer

Cleaning house, contacts and notes lists to prep-up for the start of the active Razorback seasons, I came on this bit overlooked from earlier in the summer.

My favorite television show on advertising -- aside from Mad Men which gets Season Three this Sunday -- is The Gruen Transfer. It's a short-run talk show from the Australian Broadcasting Company, and it's the McLaughlin Group of PR.

Tod Sampson is one of the regulars, and he said this:

The internet is the ultimate truth serum

This was from an episode about bottled water and brands, and the reference was to the fact that if you as a brand put something out there, you will be held accountable for it on-line. He also added the fantastic thought about why more people just don't drink tap water. Utilities don't mount campaigns to get people to drink tap water because "they're lazy marketers."

Gruen is filled with great info -- and I highly recommend you putting it on your iTunes list. Sadly, I lost half of season one thanks to a stupid iTunes error, but I save every episode to my desktop for storage.

The panel had a compelling discussion about the importance of first experiences in forming a brand allegiance. Why did Shell Oil spend so much money on toys and other items that were pointed at children? Because in some controversial research, Shell discovered that setting the brand hook early was crucial.

I loved this passing reference at the end -- the best way to kill a bad product is to advertise it successfully.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cuts Both Ways

Troy Smith of the Baltimore Ravens surely wants to make sure the world knows he's not TroySmith10, lest he incur some similar fines to the San Diego Chargers' Antonio Cromartie. The Baltimore Sun reports the Ravens' QB as one of the latest spoofer victims, but the Sun article also delves into some of the Ravens' policies. For example, Baltimore is not planning to ban Twitter around its camp. We also pick up this tidbit: "The NFL says it supports the 300 or so players who tweet and the league has 807,473 followers on its Twitter site, but it has banned in-game tweets."

At the same time, Georgia discovers how the media is tracking on the activity of its athletes through Facebook. Injuries to players were discovered through casual updates of status, resulting is a flood of questions at the next practice. Players again need a reminder, the media is increasingly looking at all SNW as legitimate, quotable sources.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Significant Twit-colypse

Meanwhile, back at the hard data, the Twitter Haters could find a more important trend than the recent runs of media restrictions on the real-time journalism product. Nielson Wire picks up on this trending data -- Teens Don't Tweet.

The fast-growing RTJ system is seeing is most rapid growth with Gen X & Y, but the true Millennials seem to care less. For June 2009, 64% of Twitter's growth was age 25-54. The next cohort? Not the recruit age kids -- it's the AARP members with 55-plus at 20%.

What does it mean for college athletics? Tickets and news -- yes.

Coaches reaching out to potential student-athletes -- not so much.

I'll give this the anectodal thumbs up from the Smith household as neither the 12-year-old daughter nor the 18-year-old college bound son have accounts, or could care less.

Now Facebook -- as the conventional SNW product -- can't live without.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unsolicited Opinions

While cleaning through some files at the house, if I was programing for a hoops team, I'd be looking at the imminent resurrection -- shudder -- of disco. My money is on Turn the Beat Around becoming the new band song at schools in the near future. Catchy hook, nice scratch/percussion in the middle, would work well with the growing number of bass guitars and amplification at lots of schools.

Why disco? Look, I lived that horror the first time as the hauler of albums to my dad's night clubs (how many 15-year-olds did you know that had a subscription to Billboard to pull titles for orders). But just like those vintage ties, give anything time and it will cycle back. My seventh grader and her slightly older junior high generationals -- looks like a casting call for Hair.

Same reason why AC/DC is suddenly the football stadium band of choice -- what's old is new to the students and the parents and 40-ish ticket buyers can secretly bob their heads back and forth and remember when they heard it as a first edition back in the day.

Other quick cuts:

I'd have a rally video based on Four Minutes, and hammer it at the four-minute timeouts.

Somebody is going to jump on Stop the Rock for a pregame or timeout rally video with lots of slam dunks and drives to the rack ( . . . you can't stop the rock, can't stop the rock).

Now I'll bet what you'll hear in a lot of arenas is Boom Boom Pow, but for my money, reaching back for something like Boom Shot Dis (hey, didn't the Razorback band have that last year -- yeah, that's right) shows a little hipper edge. Something a little ragged edged? Reach back for Franz Ferdinand Take Me Out (pick it up at :51 and splash those team mug shots). Radar Love at the 3:42 breakdown -- tell me you couldn't have the pep band rake the crowd with a power horn line to that.

Of course, I always thought we should have been playing the Dudley Do Right theme song. Then again, that peculiar music taste might be why I'm writing the blog instead.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Do I Want to be the Media?

Some Sunday clarifications as we all seek to figure out exactly what the SEC's new rights agreements mean for everyone. I had more than one media member comment to me during Saturday's football media day that "you want the fans just coming to your website" and "you just want to be the media."

Well, the short answers are: Yes and I don't have a choice.

Up front, let me counter something that may be taken from a series of posts over the past few months regarding the future of networked media's impact upon sports media relations. Brand-based information is on the rise, and it is because the resources for the legacy media to continue being the broad source of information are disappearing.

We are media now not by design, but by necessity. I'll use our local market as an example, but those reading nationwide know it to be true. Both newspapers laid off the women's basketball and Olympic sports full-time beat reporters during cutbacks this spring. It has resulted in a net loss of coverage for those teams. We had zero legacy media at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Lincoln. A first ever appearance for our team, that made for an even better story when they advanced to the Super Six.

I have absolutely no doubt that if it happened two or three years ago, one or both of the reporters would have been in Lincoln -- an easy drive from Fayetteville. The worst case scenario would be a stringer hired for one of the two. But a shutout with no one there? Inconceivable.

The SEC track and field championships were a regular for our media, the Baton Rouge Advocate and the Gainesville Sun. This year, only one of those four papers were at indoors and none of them hit the triple crown like they did in the past.

Why? Resources.

That doesn't mean interest from the legacy media is gone -- what's gone is the financing and the willingness to spend discretionary money on sports that may not have immediate circulation return. The precious resources left are now poured into the "media" sports, depending on the school or market.

That brings us to the second of the two questions. Our fans want football on the website, as much or more as they want that live coverage from the men's golf team making a miracle run at the NCAA Championship.

Are we -- the institutional website -- to sit back and concede coverage on our most popular events, and just focus on the events the legacy media no longer invests resources into coverage? Or worse, are we suppose to continue filling in the gaps for the traditional media with our investment?

Here's the point my colleagues in the legacy media, in my opinion, overlook. What they bring -- as I've stressed over and over in this blogspace -- is value-added content. It boggles my mind that I have numerous media upset that we're putting uncut, wall-to-wall video or audio from press events on our website. Let's not go down the copyright road on this, but if everyone has the same 20 minute long presser, what's the difference maker? What is the traffic driver? Cutting that presser into a three-minute highlight package with B-roll and voice over by a beat reporter who can give interpretation.

Instead of playing to advantage -- staffs of experienced journalists -- we're on the verge of a throwdown over running the unedited video and exceding a time window.

Future of Recruiting

Evin Demirel has an interesting lead essay in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (pay link) on the rising globalization of basketball, specifically how Americans are now seeking to bypass even the one-year stay in college before reaching the NBA. The dramatic title --

At what price do you give up your youth, or your child’s youth? Well, the answer is: millions . . . and counting

doesn't exactly convey the depth of the piece. We get the usual "hypocrisy of American amateur sports" business and the hints that maybe we should pay those poor college athletes.

Basketball is the focus of the piece, and maybe we should be honest about a couple of things. America was once the place where the world sent its youth to learn our game (be truthful -- basketball is the only 100% born on this soil pro sport). Now there are viable alternatives.

We are to basketball what Europe is to soccer -- the elite. Part of what Demirel details in his story is how futbol has worked around the world, and baseball functions in the Western Hemisphere today. The more interesting passages are devoted to the lengths a handful of American families are going to advance a young athlete's pro potential. In this area, Demirel does his most meaningful work.

At the end of the day, I'm left with this thought. Parents and relatives pushing a talented child ahead, and traveling across the country in search of training or advantages. A system that seeks out, identifies and then uses these young people. Who are these lost youth?

They call them child stars. Paging Macaulay Culkin.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Don't Think Brand; Think Concept

The Death of Twitter was proclaimed from the highest and lowest media this week with the END OF THE WORLD announcements of:

A fine for a San Diego Charger carping about camp food in his Tweets

A dozen NFL teams attempting to declare Tweet-free zones around camp

ESPN issuing "draconian" restrictions on the "First Amendment rights" of its employees

As Darren Rovell said earlier this week, let's take them in order:

Antonio Cromartie gets hit for a $2,500 fine because he Tweeted that the Chargers served "nasty food." We're surprised by this?

Cromartie is a businessman, and his business is representing the San Diego franchise. If he said this to the San Diego Union-Tribune, would we believe the organization's reaction would have been any different?

He didn't get his First Amendment rights violated -- the reality is he never had them on this one anyway. I'd be willing to guess somewhere in his contract language, there's some clauses about adverse commentary on the organization. Perhaps a team rule or two. Or maybe, a little common sense.

When I write this blog, I do not presume that I can say anything about anything. The same would be true if I worked corporate PR at Wal-Mart (Facebook followers, help me out here). Or NWACC. Or the Northwest Arkansas Times.

You see, Twitter isn't without consequence. If you are a celebrity, whose job essentially is as an independent contractor toward the industry, one can take the time to contemplate one's navel all day long and rip the craft services trailer without fear of repercussion.

Let's go with a little further to our friends in Bristol, Conn. Every major corporation that has significant on-line presence now has a Social Media Policy for its employees.

Think ESPN went a ways in its? Have you read the Associated Press? Washington Post? These are media outlets whose stock in trade is A) information and B) reputation.

Be real about this. You have a contract to provide content to the World Wide Leader. Does it make sense that they would be OK with you sharing that for free? Or speaking against the company? Recon they'd just be fine with your tips to Deadspin? Hey Leather, I doubt it.

Now, does this mean it's the end of the Twitterverse? Hardly. In spite of the extremely snide personal comments of some colleagues both here and at another university, Real-Time Journalism is here to stay. The technology is not only that simple, it is that important. Oh, there's no such thing as "journalism" in a text message (BTW -- one must sneer appropriately while saying the word journalism in that statement).

Fine -- call it Real-Time Media, call it Instant Citizen Journalism, call it mobocracy; but don't you dare say there's no reportage involved. Twitter as a brand name will be as gone as MySpace and Friendster someday. Real-Time Media is here to stay.

Don't think so? Ask those kids in the streets in Teheran how important RTM was to not only their cause, but potentially their survival. How many more without Neda? I'll bet the ones from 20 years ago this summer back on Tianamen Square wish they had TwitPics.

So declaring a no cell, no Tweet zone around a NFL team (when, by the way, the league signed off on those 32 embeds for CBS and pretty quickly jumped on the teams for trying to shut down media members Tweeting) is not functional. Telling those employees of a franchise they can't be their own reporters -- not that different from telling them not to talk to reporters. In fact, kind of evens the playing field.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Thinking About Arkansas

"That's the one thing I want from your mother's apartment," my wife reminded me. She was speaking of my nursery school finger paint composition that adorned the kitchen wall of my home back on Huntington Street in Monroe, and later in my late mother's apartment.

Not only was the artwork exquisite, it had it's own libretto of a back story provided by the artist. My grandmother and mother never tired of the tale. I came home from St. Christopher's and proclaimed that this was a picture of a cowboy on a horse who was chasing a Razorback, and in the corner was the invisible squirrel.

Myself, I was always impressed with the turning of two small dots into the eyes of said transparent creature. THAT's making the most our of a situation.

But my mom and her mother were proud of the Razorback. Frankly, it was the best part of the finger work, complete with a spiky ridge-back. Ma-Ma was pure Delta, getting her teaching degree at Arkansas A&M and spending her days as a single parent teaching the children of Arkansas City. She even lived across the street from the one-building school district, where I almost died in a playground . (You read that right; story for another day)

My mother grew up there, playing a little basketball for the old River Rats of ACHS, and eventually meeting up with a Central casting Louisiana rogue that was my dad -- talk about a house divided back when that meant a heck of a lot more between Arkansas and LSU.

Those weekend trips up 165 North into Chicot County, watching the telephone poles along the railroad track fly by from the luggage slot behind the back seat of my mother's black VW Bug. (Hmmm, maybe that's where the trendy small Euro car thing comes from . . .). These two women took great pride in teaching their young Shoat to Call the Hogs at an early age.

Been a lot of change in Fayetteville, but starting a third decade (oh my, a 21st year -- the freshmen weren't even born when I arrived) with the Razorbacks, sometimes you figure you might have been born for something. You just hope everyone else realizes it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nothing to See Here

Move along, move along, says the NFL to Twitter. Ten teams came out with no-Tweet zones around practice, only to discover the league says that's against policy. Considering CBS has hired 32 networked media members -- mostly former bloggers -- to "embed" with the NFL teams for real-time reporting, yesterday wasn't the "dark day" for the immediacy media that bloggers made it out to be.

Coming Soon

Once I've had a little time to reset, I will get the technical notes from today's YouTube in the Classroom posted here for my fellow UA Teaching Camp attendees.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Who Mourns the Milkman?

When I was a child, my mom would put the milk bottles outside our back door with a little paper pinwheel to let the milkman know what products we needed.

At the intersection of two of the busiest streets in the center of Monroe stood the Clover Leaf plant. Behind the building where the milk was processed was a pair of long piers where the milk trucks parked. The angled parking spaces were covered to keep the Louisiana heat away from the vehicles, and special power attachments dangled from the roof to hook up the refrigeration units when the trucks were at the plant.

It was a fascinating model of distribution efficiency.

Today, the sprawling space once occupied by milk plant is a vacant lot, a convenience store and a chain pharmacy.

Last time I checked, you can still get milk. Pretty much the same stuff today as the late 1960s.

What's missing is the home delivery.

Care to think about another industry who for decades has depended upon the distribution of its product to the doorstep?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bottle or Tap

In our local market, the gaping hole into free content for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette closed with the gating of the northwest Arkansas editions of the statewide paper. The ADG had been paid on-line for some time, but savvy readers knew the vast majority of the content could be read through the Northwest Arkansas Times or Benton County Daily Record -- the website.

As one might suspect, the decision has led to indignation among the Arkansas diaspora. How dare WEHCO take away our news content? We've even had complaints sent into our website at the university asking the Razorbacks to get involved on behalf of the fan base.

Putting the content behind a pay wall is counter-intuitive to the herd's thinking. I have advocated advertising supported free content myself. At the same time, you're telling your audience what it's worth when you give it away for free. For that very reason, over time, free admission never works in athletics or entertainment.

Perception of value is reinforced by cost. The problem comes when cost and value are out of proportion. A $15.95 audio CD with eight to 12 tracks became seen as a ripoff by the masses, and once they could copy and distribute to circumvent the perceived high cost, they did in droves. But a 99-cent digital track proved to resonate with people, and money spent on music is heading back up.

Let me provide another analogy. People drink all the water they could when it is free. Over time, they just expected the water fountain to be there. Every day, we are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of water fountains, faucets and dispensers.

Who drinks from the tap any more? Nobody. Why? Because around 10 years ago a marketing company began to build value into buying water prepackaged in a bottle. It's convenient. It's healthier. It's cleaner. It's safer.


Studies show that's not necessarily the case. Sometimes the water in the bottle is worse than the tap. Then there is the tremendous cost of packaging and delivery. Plus the environmental impact.

We buy bottled water because we perceive it has greater value than tap water. We pay handsomely and eagerly for it. This is the key for on-line subscriptions. The value added to the information you can get anywhere is what separates the premium newspaper staff written stories from the rest. Not to mention that the media staff has packaged it into an easy to use bottle rather than the virtual fire hose of information that is the internet.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Last Bits from Science of Fear

Daniel Gardner quotes Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, about why humans are so interested in each other:

"We are social mammals whose brains are highly specialized for thinking about others. Understanding what others are up to -- what they know and want, what they are doing and planning -- has been so crucial to our survival of our species that our brains have developed an obsession with all things human. We think about people and their intentions; talk about them; look for and remember them."

As I continue prepping this fall's class notes for history up at NWACC (ya'll sign up for Tuesday nights now), Gardner gifts me with a new quote on my favorite bane of history -- presentism.

"Simply put, history is an optical illusion: the past always appears more certain than it was, and that makes the future feel more uncertain -- and therefore frighten - than ever. The roots of this illusion like in what psychologist call 'hindsight bias'."

Couldn't say it better.

There is a ton of significant other theory and data within the book -- I highly recommend it to those teaching journalism or working the profession.

Cleaning Out the Notebook

In advance of the security upgrade on my iPhone, past notes and quotes.

"I'm here in case the shuttle blows up." -- News reporter describing his life on the NASA beat. Does this explain why we as a nation have no vision for manned space flight? Forget the Age of Cronkite and space race promotion. Or does it speak to a lack of vision and/or an inability to articulate that vision from the government to the media?

"The battle is between legitimate and non-legitimate media." -- So said Tim Brando to the luncheon crowd at CoSIDA back in June. Come to your own conclusions.

Let me add a final note -- if you are a PC user with iPhone, don't trust you'll be able to recover any notes taken. While 3.0 system and 3GS should sync notes now, the only way to make sure to keep things you may have jotted down is email them to yourself. Learned this the VERY hard way in the 2.0 to 3.0 upgrade, and the iPhone decided to eat itself. Recovered everything but -- you guessed it -- notes.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Gardner on Journalism

Here I'm letting David Gardner's book, Science of Fear, speak for itself. There is a whole chapter on the media, and considerable reconsideration of its conclusions in the final chapter.

"Fear means more newspapers sold and higher ratings, so the dramatic, the freightening, the emotional and the worst case are brought to the fore while anything that would suggest truth is not so exciting and alarming is played down or ignored."

"Journalism is not run by a scientific formula. Decisions about a story being newsworthy come from the head, the heart and the gut." -- quoting NPR's Sean Collins

He concludes with three culprits for the increasing fear in the West: "The brain, the media and the many individuals and organizations with an interest in stoking fears."

Gardner's hardest shot from the final chapter:
"The media are among those that profit by marketing fear - nothing gives a boost to circulation like a good panic - but the media also promote unreasonable fears for subtler and more compelling reasons. The most profound is the simple human love of stories and story telling. For the media, the most essential ingredient of a good story is the same as that or a good movie, play, or tale told by the campfire: it has to be about people and emotion not numbers and reason."