Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some New York Times articles that demonstrate a need for "Media Fluency" knowledge

Over the last two days, as I've been pondering what kind of exam essay questions to pose to you next week, I saw a couple of articles in the New York Times "Technology" section that I thought offered good examples of the kinds of issues that you should be able to analyze more effectively now that you've been through two-thirds of a "media fluency for the digital age" course.

The first article describes how the latest generation of stand-up comedians is beginning to use the Web in order to directly reach customers, rather than relying on other media outlets:
Stand-up comedians of a certain era knew they had arrived when Johnny Carson invited them to a desk-side seat on “The Tonight Show.” A generation later, the gold standard was getting a solo comedy special on HBO. But in the Internet era, the yardstick for success has been redefined.
A handful of top-tier performers have begun producing stand-up specials on their own, posting them online and selling them directly through their personal Web sites, eliminating the editorial control of broadcasters and the perceived taint of corporate endorsements.
While this straight-to-the-Internet strategy is far from ubiquitous in stand-up, it is already having a profound impact on the comedy landscape, enabling online content providers and individual artists to take more turf from television networks and empowering comedians to be as candid (and as explicit) as they want in their material.

The second article describes some of the pitfalls of linking your organization -- in this case, the government of the city of New York -- too tightly to social media:
On Twitter, he is @MikeBloomberg, a popular online avatar with more than 230,000 followers. His official Foursquare account leaves tips about Shake Shack and Kennedy International Airport. And his Facebook page energetically promotes the programs and values of New York City Hall.
But the actual Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg? When it comes to social media, he has a few concerns.
In a speech on Wednesday in Singapore, where he received a prize for urban sustainability, Mr. Bloomberg spoke about the difficulties of leading a city into the future amid a political culture that is often focused on the short term.
The mayor noted that technology, despite its benefits, can add new pitfalls to an already grueling process. “Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments” in cities, Mr. Bloomberg said.
“We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day,” he said. “And it’s very hard for people to stand up to that and say, ‘No, no, this is what we’re going to do,’ when there’s constant criticism, and an election process that you have to look forward to and face periodically.”
You might be inspired to read through both articles in full.  What tools and ideas from your reader might help you to analyze either of these two cases?

Monday, March 19, 2012

State of the News Media 2012

A big event in the world of journalism & mass communication is the annual "State of the News Media" report issued by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.  Of particular interest for our course is the section on digital media:
Two numbers symbolize the intensifying challenge and opportunity the digital world poses for the news industry:  In 2011, social media giant Facebook grew to 133 million active users from 117 million in the U.S.1 And in the final months of the year, tablet ownership in the U.S. nearly doubled, to 18% of Americans.
Each is a threat and a promise. Facebook and other social media are additional distributors of content, but they are also are rivals for advertising revenues. The new tablets, smartphones and other mobile technologies represent new ways to reach audiences, but they are also a new wave of new technology that news companies need to react to. Even as traditional media institutions continue to struggle to find a sustainable model after more than a decade of declining advertising revenues and digital upheaval, the new wave threatens to shift the media landscape out from under them once more.
Check out the whole report if you like; there's lots to talk about on your blogs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who owns online course materials?

In my discussion section this week, I asked my students who they thought should own online course materials of the sort that are found on iTunes University.  We pondered a number of different answers and the contradictions between different views of intellectual property, ownership, and commons.  These are not just philosophical discussions; an article in Inside Higher Ed today talks of a case hinging on just this question:
Jeff MacSwan and Kellie Rolstad, a husband-and-wife team at Arizona State University, heard rumors last year that courses they designed for an online program were being used without their permission.
So in the summer of 2011, MacSwan registered as a student in an English as a Second Language program for which the couple, both tenured professors, had developed courses. In his telling, he logged on to discover that the courses he and his wife, an associate professor of linguistics, had created were being used without attribution or authorization.
A lawsuit is now likely as MacSwan and Rolstad claim damages for alleged violation of copyright laws and university rules.
The couple left Arizona State and are now employed as tenured professors in the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park. Their lawyer sent a notice of claim, a legal notice that precedes a lawsuit, to the Arizona Board of Regents and the state’s attorney general in December, calling for $3 million in damages.
You can read the rest of the story, reported by Kaustuv Basu, here.   How do you think this case should be decided?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Group Facebook Pages

Email me your group's page so we can share. If you have suggestions for other groups on how to link your blog and Facebook page or how to set up the page, feel free to share them as comments.

Former Googler on "Why I left Google"

A former Google employee, now at Microsoft:
The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.
Read the whole letter here.   I think his post is more interesting for what it says about the overall state of new media and the web right now than for what it says about Google's current innovation strategy.  What do you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The contradiction between mission and revenue in new media

A good example of the contradiction between staying true to your mission (especially a public-service mission) and being able to bring in revenue to support that mission (and pay professionals for serious work) in new media: a founder of Facebook with capital to spare has purchased a majority stake in a venerable political magazine, the New Republic.
The newest owner of The New Republic magazine is Chris Hughes, a new-media guru who co-founded Facebook and helped to run the online organizing machine for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Hughes’s purchase of a majority stake in the magazine will be announced on Friday, once again remaking the masthead of the nearly century-old magazine that helped define modern American liberalism.  
His focus, he said in an interview in advance of the announcement, will be on distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad. 
Asked how he would turn a profit for the money-losing magazine, Mr. Hughes said, “Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I’m getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous contextual journalism that we — we in general as a society — need.”
He added that he hoped the magazine could be profitable. “But I’m investing and taking control of The New Republic because of my belief in its mission, not to make it the next Facebook,” he said.
You can read the whole article at the New York Times here.  There are positive and negative consequences to having media properties owned by single individuals or families, rather than by larger conglomerates with private or public shareholders.  Can you think of any?

(P.S. Notice that one of your readings for next week comes from ... The New Republic.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This online media campaign seeks not just revenue, but action

Today in the New York Times an article about the Obama/Biden presidential campaign echoes many of the themes we've been talking about in our media fluency course.  Read the first two paragraphs:
With a “chief scientist” specializing in consumer behavior, an “analytics department” monitoring voter trends, and a squad of dozens huddled at computer screens editing video or writing code, the sprawling office complex inside One Prudential Plaza looks like a corporate research and development lab — Ping-Pong table and all. 
But it is home to the largely secret engine of President Obama’s re-election campaign, where scores of political strategists, data analysts, corporate marketers and Web producers are sifting through information gleaned from Facebook, voter logs and hundreds of thousands of telephone or in-person conversations to reassemble and re-energize the scattered coalition of supporters who swept Mr. Obama into the White House four years ago. 
The rest of the article is accessible here.   Beyond helping to raise money for one party or the other, or helping to build support for one candidate or another, what consequences do you think such online strategies might have for our political process over the long term?  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Onion nails it

As usual, The Onion hones in on the topic of this week's lecture, discussion, and readings dealing with "online revenue" with a simple, sarcastic blurb:
SAN FRANCISCO—According to industry sources, this news article is generating a veritable bonanza of highly lucrative advertising revenue by mere virtue of the fact that it mentions Apple's new iPad. "Current estimates show that the particular article I am being quoted in at this very moment began to accumulate thousands of dollars in ad-based profits as soon as the words 'new iPad' appeared in the headline," said market analyst Jonathan Bowers, who single-handedly and out of thin air created cold hard cash for a media organization simply by adding that the new Apple iPad will feature a high-definition screen and an improved processor. "Furthermore, any subsequent mention of the new iPad in this article—as well as any mention of the fact that preorders for the device start today—is resulting in increased reader traffic and, thus, increased revenues for your company's ad-based business model." At press time, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad.

Free social media seminar at WID

Gilson Bootstrapping graphic
Register for this free event!

Can You Hear Me Now? 
Social Media, Marketing and Effective Use of Web Tools
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 
5-6 p.m. presentation followed by reception
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Town Center at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
330 N. Orchard St., Madison, WI 53715
The Internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter are profoundly impacting how established companies and startups get noticed and market themselves.
Tim Gill, traffic manager at, will discuss the key tools, techniques and trends that have the greatest impact in this area and how they can be used by, a subsidiary of founded and operated in Madison, has grown to become one of the leading online women's contemporary fashion retailers.
Register for this free event!

Please register by March 16.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What about online newspapers?

Today we talked about some strategies for reaping revenue with online content production — the Google AdWords/AdSense combination, the AOL Way, the Amazon "long tail," and the Angie's List crowdsourcing + subscription model — but we left out a big category of online content production, that of newspapers, magazines, and other news/information outlets.  Today an article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the option of creating "paywalls" for encouraging internet visitors to subscribe for their digital web-surfing:
As more newspapers close the door on free access to their websites, some publishers are still waiting for paying customers to pour in.
The numbers of readers signing up so far suggest that at many papers, "paywalls" aren't about to reverse publishers' deteriorating finances. Yet the results aren't discouraging industry executives, who say their efforts are succeeding in shoring up the core print business after years of declines.
This is a serious challenge for most online news sources that used to be print-based, as the article describes:
Over the past decade or so, with newspapers' content available free online, their finances have been devastated. Newspapers saw weekday circulation drop by nearly 10 million from 1999 to 2009, about 17% of the total, according to the Editor & Publisher International Yearbook. Print advertising revenue was cut almost in half in that period, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
Check out the rest of the article for more.  Under what circumstances would you be willing to pay for online news and information?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Using Google Analytics with Tumblr

One of your classmates found some step-by-step instructions for linking Google Analytics to Tumblr weblogs.  Anybody find any more good analytics resources out there?  Have any questions you want to pose to your peers (or to your instructors) about getting analytics working on your blogs?