Tuesday, January 29, 2013

EU Study Suggests Need to "Monitor" News

Bureaucracies like setting up commissions and groups to study things.  They get time off from real work to "study things", free travel to group meetings in nice locales, invite their friends to participate in the group, and spend money for others to really study whatever they're supposed to look at and tell them what to say about it.  And the EU is really just a gigantic bureaucracy with a veneer of democracy for show.

In this case, it's the "High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism" releasing their report last week after pondering various "threats" to media independence and the independence of journalists for more than a year.  As the norm, any complaint by any group got treated as a threat,  Too much government oversight? A threat.  Too little government oversight? A threat.  Media too big and powerful? A threat. Media too weak and powerless? A threat.  27 separate sets of libel and privacy laws (one for each EU nation)?  Almost as many distinctive sets of ethical standards, professional norms, and legal rights for journalists?  A real problem in a digital world where content easily flows across national borders.

The good news is the report only outlines concerns and makes suggestions, rather than drafts new laws and regulations.  Still, you can see the underlying intent in many of the suggestions in the report and in the comments made by the group's Chair, former President of Latvia Vaire Vike-Freiberger, in a well-attended press conference announcing the report.  Frances Robinson, covering the story for the Wall Street Journal, offered a few of the juicier bits.
  • Oversight needed to reign in "journalists"
    “There is a responsibility that goes with being a journalist,” Ms. Vike-Freiberga told the assembled hacks. But with new technology “enabling just about everybody” to access information, form an opinion, and blog it, from their phone, “trained monkeys could probably do it.”
    The report suggests a need for someone to determine who gets to be a journalist and who doesn't (i.e. licensing), although that power shouldn't be in the hands of government or left to the discretion of news outlets or journalists self-identifying.  In other words, you need an "independent body".  One that will probably also have the job of determining which journalism is "quality," and which isn't.
  • One Ring to Rule Them All
    The final report actually likes the idea of "politically correct" national Media Councils with the power to punish possible offenders.  Although Europe really, really needs an EU-wide "independent" Media Council with ultimate authority, under the aegis of the European Commission (i.e. the unelected, unaccountable, EU bureaucracy).
    Recommendation: All EU countries should have independent media councils with a politically and culturally balanced and socially diverse membership. … Media councils should have real enforcement powers, such as the imposition of fines, orders for printed or broadcast apologies, or removal of journalistic status. The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values.
  •  Set a single EU standard
    The report seeks to apply to same approach EU bureaucracies favor in virtually all regulatory circumstances - replace local and national standards and regulation (outside the EU's control) with a single standard/regulation/law determined and enforced by the EU bureaucracy.
    Recommendation: For improving the functioning of the Single Market, further harmonisation of EU legislation would be of great benefit.
    While greater consistency in libel and privacy rules would be helpful, "harmonisation" is the most widely-hated aspect of the EU and its bureaucracy.
  • Punish (successful) Intruders
    Robinson notes one recommendation suggesting using regulation to punish "dominant information providers" (i.e. Google) for being more popular than local sources and thus "restrict(ing) media freedom and pluralism."  In other words, let's promote pluralism by removing media sources... particularly those you can't control.  As the line goes, "Yeah, that's the ticket."
  • Fund (and control) investigative journalism
    Not enough good investigative journalism?  Let the EU fund it, and thus influence what reporters and stories investigate.
  • We Need Good PR
    The report suggests that the various EU Presidents need to meet with groups of journalists from a range of EU countries, and get wider coverage of pronouncements in other EU press.  Robinson succinctly phrased the problem that poses.
    EU Presidents aren’t known for breaking news in panel interviews, and hypothetical situations don’t sound promising – will a Finnish reader really want to know the Spanish commissioner’s answer to a question from a Slovenian journalist?
While I had some fun with this, there are some real issues and threats confronting journalism generally.  Some do emerge from the different roles journalism and news organizations play in different countries, and the resulting mash-up of policies, professional standards, regulation, oversight, and libel & privacy laws across the EU.  Some harmonization, or lessening of differences, would be helpful in a world where media, content, and news cross borders.  I'm just pretty doubtful that a centralized bureaucracy is the best way to accommodate cultural, political, and economic differences around the world (or within Europe).  Or how greater politicization and oversight/control promotes media freedom in the Western tradition.

Sources -  EU, Media, and Trained Monkeys, Wall Street Journal
High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism website and final report,  EU Task Force on Co-ordination of Media Affairs

Ooops - Infamous "gun map" mostly wrong

The Journal News made a big splash last month when they published an interactive map it claimed showed all the registered gun owners in Rockland county, New York.  The map generated a lot of negative response, debates over the ethics of "outing" gun owners, and may have encouraged several burglaries (see earlier post for more).
It turns out the map was mostly erroneous. as well.  Of the almost 17,000 addresses listed for gun owners, it turns out that only 3907 (22%) were "current" (given or updated in last 5 years).  As it turns out, Rockland county, like most counties in New York at the time, did not require permits to be renewed or updated periodically - thus when the paper asked for addresses, they got all 16,998 in the county records, going back to 1930.
The Journal News responded to the news of their erroneous map by blaming the county records office for giving them what they asked for.  But they did create a new map with all the old, and mostly erroneous addresses and stated that "some ... may not represent current gun owners."  (Interestingly, they don't provide that caveat for any of their other maps of addresses - implying that they all represent current gun owners).

This kind of reaction to an egregious error brings to mind several questions about the "vaunted layers of editors and fact-checkers" in the news business, and/or the motives of the paper.
  • Were they ignorant of the rules for permits, and unaware that permits never expired in that county?
  • Did they bother to ask anyone whether the permits list was current and accurate, or even look at the sample and measure definitions to find out?
  • Did anyone independently verify any of the listed addresses?
  • Did The Journal News know that most of the provided addresses were "historic," yet still included problematic listings to make the story more sensational?
or even more fundamentally,
  • Did anyone remember the basic semantics principle that "the map is not the place"?  That is, the paper got addresses, yet made claims of current gun ownership about the people who currently live at the address given on the permit.  Did no one realize that the permit holders might have moved, no longer owned gun(s), died, or that there might be other people at the address other than the gun owner?  Or that the permit might have an incorrect address (for reasons ranging from simple clerical error to intentional deception)?
If The Journal News wanted truth, they should have thought about and considered at least some of the above questions.  There's no indication that they did.  Rather, their reporting equates a listed address with a current gun owner, without exception.   Such a presumption, and their behavior in responding to valid questions about the ethics of "outing" a (disfavored) group, potential impacts, and now clearly erroneous results, suggests their purpose was to portray gun ownership as a plague on the community requiring immediate political action, with reckless disregard for the potential harm to those identified, and misidentified, as gun owners (as well as the truth).  As a result, rather than shaming gun owners, they've shamed themselves as journalists.

That's my opinion anyway.

Source -  Newspaper's Gun Map Woefully Inaccurate, Newser.com
Map: Where are the Gun Owners in Your Neighborhood,  lohud.com (The Journal News online site)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Using Social Media Images

In what looks to be an interesting case, a Federal judge ruled in a summary judgement that the Washington Post, press agency Agence France-Press (AFP), and Getty Images (which AFP uses to market its photos, and which it used to license the images in question to other media outlets and publications) improperly and illegally used images that a photojournalist had posted on Twitter. 
Daniel Morel, a photojournalist whose photos (of the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake) were placed on the AFP newswire without payment, turned to the courts in March 2010, claiming AFP had violated his copyright. AFP responded with a few different defenses; its boldest, almost shocking defense was that the Twitter terms of service actually granted it a license to use whatever photos it could grab off the micro-blogging service.
 AFP had argued that once posted on Twitter, the images became public - specifically that since the photographer had granted Twitter a license to post and share the picture, that meant that he had granted permission for everybody else to use the photos freely, without permission or royalty.  In this case, the judge ruled that such an argument was dead wrong now, just as it was when it was pointed out to the AFP in a copyright infringement case years earlier.  And it's certainly not an argument that AFP and other media outlets would extend to their own photos and content, or when they sought payment from others for licensing the Morel photographs to other outlets.
  So it was no surprise that the judge knocked down that defense in a summary judgement.  (Judges use summary judgements when the allegations are so silly and/or inappropriate that there's no point in even going to trial).  The judge also ruled in a separate summary judgement to limit potential damages.  Morel's attorneys had argued for damages as set forth in U.S. Copyright Law, which allows for damages of up to $150,000 per instance if infringers did so willfully, and $200 if infringers can prove they didn't know they were infringing; the kicker, though, is that each the damages apply separately to each separate instance of infringement.  That let plaintiff's attorneys to ask for damages for each infringement, for each copy of the photo printed in newspapers, or each time a webpage with the image was accessed online - which could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in statutory damages).  The judge, in summarily ruling that any damages would be limited to the initial infringement of each image (and not later reuse), essentially indicated that the current legal language on damages was "ridiculous" - at least when applied to online circumstances like this specific case.
  A number of other arguments and aspects of the case, such as whether the infringement was willing, and whether Getty Images acted in the role of purely a middleman passing images and covered by the ISP exemption, will continue on to a full trial, or whether AFP & Getty violated the DMCA by providing false copyright information (in this case claiming ownership by AFP for licensing purposes through Getty).

  I've posted on a similar situation emerging from secondhand use of photos and images on Pinterest.  The main point coming from that situation and this case, is that content creators need to be aware that availability on the net does not equate with being in the public domain.  If you do reuse content, you need to consider the nature of that use, whether permission is likely to be needed, and that proper credit and attribution is provided - particularly if you're commercial operation.
  The one thing I'll disagree with in terms of the judge's summary judgements relates to the damages.  I'll agree that the current copyright law language overdoes damages (mostly to maximize potential deterrence), but rather than limiting damages to the single instance (per image), I'd also argue that Morel should be able to recover a hefty multiple of the revenues that AFP and Getty earned by (illegally) licensing his photographs.  But that's the result of fraud as well as copyright infringement, so I hope Morel's attorneys can still make that case.

Sources - News flash for the media: You can't sell photos grabbed from Twitterarstechnica
More than $120,000,000 at stake in AFP vs. Morel caseBritish Journal of Photography

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Off-Topic - US College Tuition Inflation

This comes from a feature called "Scary Chart of the Day", and it is.

Since 1978 (the first year that Tuition costs were tracked and published as a separate category by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics), the costs of College Tuition and Fees have increased almost 1200%.  That's almost twice the increase in Medical Costs, more than three times the rate of increase in Energy costs, and around four times the increase in Food costs.  What makes it worse is that the chart also shows that the curve became steeper around 2002-2003, which indicates that the rate of increase has increased.  Further, the curve remains fairly steady after that kink, which suggests that this increased rate of growth in College Tuition and Fees is a long-term phenomena, rather than a reaction to short-term events and factors (as the jagged Energy costs line reflects).

This should be of concern to Journalism Departments, particularly as starting salaries aren't increasing significantly over time, and certainly not keeping pace with the increasing costs of getting the degree.  In a purely economic market (which thankfully higher education isn't), this would mean declining demand and fewer majors.  And the very real possibility that at some point, the cost of getting a journalism degree would not be recoverable - that is, the degree isn't worth the cost of getting it.  Particularly since, in journalism and media industries, the degree isn't essential to the job.  Declining demand and majors is a real problem for departments and programs in higher education today - and in many programs can be a death knell foreshadowing closure.
  Now that's scary.

Source - Scary Chart of the Day: Tuition Inflation,  College Insurrection

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

CES: TV Goes for Wow Factor

Here's some of the TV industry highlights from CES:

UltraHDTV (UHD) & displays - The industry's settled on the name (and standards) for the next improvement in video screen resolution.  This step has actually been in use for a while in the movie industry as 4K, as older analog film stock is increasingly digitized at 4K (3840x2160 P) or 8K resolutions (7690x4320 P) prior to digital processing (cleaning, color correction, etc.) of the movie to create the digital archive version - which is then downconverted to HDTV or NTSC formats and resolutions for home video or licensing.
  However, until this year there were only a few 4K displays available to consumers, and those were extremely expensive.  This year, in contrast, most of the major TV set manufacturers displayed new consumer UHD displays at CES.  Along with 4K displays running from 20" to 110" were several promising 4K 3-D, and a couple of consumer 8K sets (including the 85" 8K from Sharp displayed to the side). However, there remains the problem of a lack of 4K or 8K programming sources. 
  The new 4K sets, and a few BluRay players, can upconvert current signals to 4K, but at this time there's little content available to consumers in native 4K formats.
  NHK has been experimenting with higher resolution cameras, and transmitting the resulting 4K content over the Internet for several years. South Korea reportedly has an experimental test channel for UHD, and the BBC filmed some of last summer's Olympics in 4K and distributed the content to several public 4K displays.  More recently, Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, a prominent digital film camera manufacturer, announced the availability of a player capable of sending a native 4K signal to a single 4K display.  And NHK announced it will be demonstrating 8K broadcasting (7680x4320P video format that provides 16 times more pixels than HDTV, and a 22.2 multichannel audio system that produces a 3D sound space for viewers located anywhere within a large viewing area) in a special theater at the NAB Show in a few months.  A few cable MSOs have indicated an interest in offering 4K channels, and Sony is promising a 4K movie downloading service to be launched this summer.

Organic LED (OLED) displays -  I think these have been "hot prospects" for almost a decade, and certainly the technological potential of OLED displays (environmentally friendly, high contrast, and the potential for flexible screens and unlimited sizes) is worthy of the hype.  The problem's been ramping the theoretical technology up to commercially viable manufacturing levels.  (And don't confuse true LED or OLED displays with flatscreen LCD screens using LED for backlighting - which is what most TVs marketed as "LEDs" really are).
  OLED's potential as mass consumer TV displays seems to still be sometime in the future (promised availability keeps being pushed back), but there were a some leading-edge options on display at CES.  Samsung displayed a 55-inch "multiview" OLED that displayed two separate programs on the same screen (upper right in image to the side).  It builds on the 3-D approach of using active viewing glasses to distinguish the two signals, allowing the viewer to choose which one to watch.  The higher contrast and faster signal switching of OLEDs allows this to work on very different program contents (in 3-D, they're basically the same image with slight offsets in perspectives).  For it's part, LG displayed a curved OLED 3-D display.  And Panasonic offered their first 4K OLED display.  However, Sony took a hit when it's 4K OLED offering failed to work during their big press conference at CES (see story and video here), although they did get it to work later in their booth.
  The major set manufacturers once again promised that consumer OLED sets would be available within the year, but as I mentioned, they've been saying that for a long time, with little actually to show.

Touch-screen computing offerings also went for the Wow factor, with a big push from Microsoft and its Windows 8 operating system.  Samsung was there with a 24-inch touchscreen monitor, while Panasonic displayed a 20-inch tablet offering 4K resolution.  Higher resolution screens was an emphasis on most traditional tablets on display. New offerings also seemed to focus on splitting the tablet market - with many stressing computing power and compatibility, while others focus on the devices' ability to handle media content and/or gaming.

And for those not into big and beautiful, there were the Mobile DTV offerings (principally DyleTV).  These don't refer to watching TV on mobile devices through traditional TV tuners and broadcast stations, or the ability to download and watch videos from the Internet.  Several groups are experimenting with using parts of the current broadcast spectrum to broadcast specially formatted (lower resolution and reframed for smartphone screen orientations) television signals.  While DyleTV is already offering access to some local TV channels in some markets, Mobile DTV has a way to go before its consumer-ready (and consumer-friendly).

Sources  - Display Technology Takes Center Stage at 2013 International CESTV TechCheck
NHK to do First 8K U.S. Broadcast Demo at NAB Show, TV Technology
10 Best Tablets of CES 2013, Laptop Mag

Speaking of DVRs - Hopper, CNET, and CBS

Interesting story to start the week - as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) came to an end, the folks at CNET generated nominees and selected winners for their customary "Best of CES" awards for innovative technologies and services.
  In the running was the Dish Network's new "Hopper" service and set-top box.  The Hopper is essentially a DVR service that automatically records all prime-time programming from the 4 major broadcast networks in the U.S. (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) for replay, while allowing viewers the option of automatically skipping commercials embedded in the broadcasts.  In fact the ad-skipping feature is a prominent feature in Dish's Hopper advertising and promotion.  And it was among the publicly announced nominees for "Best of CES" awards.
  Then came an announcement on Jan. 10, from CBS, which owns CNET.  Dish and the Hopper were banned from any CES awards - reportedly due to a "policy" that prohibited any CBS-owned outlet from reviewing or commenting on any product or service that was "under litigation" from CBS and its various companies.  All four of the major broadcast networks, including CBS, are suing Dish over the Hopper service, alleging its service is a violation of copyright.
  Some intrepid reporting from The Verge has brought to light some of what happened behind the scenes, and it doesn't look good for CBS.
  First, if there is such a policy, it seems to have been created as an excuse for the Hopper ban, as CNET, as well as other CBS outlets, have reviewed and/or commented on the Hopper service without repercussions through last week.  Another hint that the policy was hastily devised came yesterday as CBS had to clarify that the ban wasn't on covering companies and devices involved in litigation, but only reviews - and specifically promised not to interfere in CNET's "actual news" coverage.  (Which raises the question - are "Best in Show" selections reviews, or news reporting on what technologies and services are generating the most interest?).
  Second, it turned out that the Hopper wasn't just precluded from the competition, it had already been selected as the "Best of Show" by the CNET editorial staff.  According to the reporting, when CBS top executives learned of the pending award, the word came down directly from CBS CEO Les Moonves' office to spike the award.  It fell to CBS Interactive News senior vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin to tell the CNET editorial staff that they would have to drop the Hopper and come up with a new "Best of Show" winner.  Larkin reportedly told the CNET staffers that he had fought strenuously against the interference, but it came down as a mandate from the top. 
The news raises questions not only about CNET's editorial independence, but concerns over why editors at the site have remained mum on the events surrounding the decision to remove the Hopper as winner of its "Best in Show" award. It suggests a growing influence of CBS' corporate interests in editorial decisions at its digital news subsidiaries. One source says that both Larkin and (reviews lead Lindsey) Turrentine fought for full disclosure, but were rebuffed by CBS.
  Interestingly, in a suit brought against CBS Interactive that sought to claim that parent company CBS was responsible for its subsidiaries' actions, the CBS lawyers argued that holding CBS responsible for CNET "would create grave uncertainties for writers and publishers — including search engines, web encyclopedias, blogs and most technology journalists."  A later statement from CBS tried to argue that this was an isolated incident, prompted by fears that Dish would use positive reviews in CNET to undermine CBS's lawsuit allegations.

  The incident will further blacken the famous CBS eye, as well as CNET's reputation among its readers.  Even if there is no lingering impact on straight news reporting, I think the top executives at CBS don't realize that CNET's reputation is built at least as much on the independence and integrity of its reviews, as it is on the independence of its news coverage.  This instance has shattered the credibility of CNET reviews - particularly now that there is clear and formal policy instituting corporate control over what products do, and do not, get reviewed.  It's a small jump from that to influencing the outcome of the review itself.  And there's not too much basis for believing that CBS and its top execs will behave nicely in the future.

Source - Exclusive: CBS force CNET staff to recast vote after Hopper won 'Best in Show' at CES, The Verge

Monday, January 14, 2013

DVR, VOD changes TV viewing

Recent consumer research from Leichtman Research Group (LRG) shows that more than half of homes getting their TV from a multichannel video programming delivery service (i.e., cable, DBS, telco cable) have and use DVRs to record and watch TV programming, while only 4% of households without MVPDS (that is, rely on over-the-air broadcast stations and/or internet streaming for their TV programming).  Since about 90% of homes get MVPDS programming on at least one TV, that's a lot of U.S. TV households with DVR capability.  And 43% of DVR homes have DVR access to two or more TV sets in their home.
  In addition, the survey found that 70% of cable digital subscribers have used its VOD (video on demand) service to watch TV programs (compared to 58% in 2007 and 25% in 2004).  In addition, more than half (51%) of the MVPDS subscribers also subscribe to Netflix, the top on-demand Internet video streaming service.

  So now that DVRs, VOD, and on-demand Internet video streamers and other technologies that shift control over viewing time and conditions to audiences are fairly widespread, how do consumers like and use them?  What do consumers think about having the power to watch TV programs when and where they want?  LRG surveyed some 1300 U.S. households, and the LRG report concluded that:

“... the percentage of all TV households in the US with a DVR has... doubled over the past five years, and... expanding to more TV sets in the home... consumers are increasingly integrating DVR, VOD and On-Demand TV viewing into their TV viewing patterns... ”
More specifically,
  • People really like having DVRs, with an overwhelming majority giving the service strongly positive ratings (8-10 ratings where 10 is excellent).  In addition, people prefer (give higher positive ratings) when they have DVR access on multiple TV sets (81% top ratings) than when they have DVR access from only one TV (71%).
  • More than half of digital cable (59%) and Telco video (64%) subscribers have used their VOD service within the last month.
  • More than a quarter (26%) of Netflix subscribers watch "Instantly" on a daily basis, and more than half (59 watch a movie or TV program "Instantly" at least weekly.
  • More than two-thirds of VOD users strongly agree with the idea that having both VOD and DVR makes their TV service better.
  • 79% of Netflix "Watch Instantly" users watch movies and TV programs on a TV set (as opposed to a computer screen or mobile device).
These reported results certainly suggest that most viewers like having more control over their TV viewing in the form of DVRs, VOD, and Internet video streaming services - and that having those tools helps to improve their perception of the value of their TV delivery service.  What's in the press report doesn't really get too much into changing behaviors, but a spate of current research is clearly establishing and increase in time-shifting viewing - enough to start a debate about what that means for TV advertising, and how to best measure and incorporate that viewing into ratings.

Source  -  The DVR Impacting TV Viewing and SatisfactionResearch Brief

Traditional, Print News on the Skids

Newsweek is dead - it delivered its final print issue at the end of last year.  It will technically continue as a digital-only affiliated with the Web-based Daily Beast.  Its death as a competitive newsweekly was hardly unexpected - the journalistic quality of its content, and its paid circulation, had been crumbling for years, particularly after the Washington Post firesaled the weekly for a buck a few years ago.

Time - the remaining "real" newsweekly magazine, is said to be planning to lay off as many as 700 staffers.  First, though, came a memo in which Time CEO Laura Ling cancelled the annual 3% across-the-board raises for the staff.  Now sources in the company are telling the New York Post that the company is looking to cut $100 million in costs, as a result of declining advertising revenues.  That would mean laying off about 10% of its workforce (500-700 positions).

Rumors of layoffs are also flying around the New York Times.  New York Magazine is reporting that up to 39 top-level staffers will be offered "buyouts" - and likely terminated anyway if they don't take them.
  Last month, shortly after welcoming a new, and extremely well-paid, CEO, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., told all of the newspaper's divisions to identify possible cost savings as an attempt to deal with rapidly declining ad revenues.  The one division that seems to have been spared is the highly opinionated Editorial section (opinion).  In addition, the NY Times' new CEO (see posts here and here) is talking about "reshaping the organizations' contours - including taking advantage of "branding initiatives" (i.e., "news" content tied to commercial opportunities).  If the coming layoffs in senior editorial staff isn't enough of a hit on traditional news values, the thought that resources are shifting to opinion and commercialized content is a further indication of the decline of traditional news in what had been an elite newspaper.

And now the venerable Associated Press (AP) wire service is selling sponsored Tweets on its Twitter feed, as it searches for new revenue sources.  AP's being dropped by some newspapers, and facing increased competition online.
Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor overseeing its social media efforts, (said) in a statement (that) "As an industry, we must be looking for new ways to develop revenues while providing good experiences for advertisers and consumers. At the same time, advertisers and audiences expect AP to do that without compromising its core mission of breaking news."
In addition, the AP has cut a deal with a posh DC restaurant to print AP dispatches, along with advertising, on diners' receipts.
According to the press release, the news receipts have several advantages over smartphones, namely that they provide access to the news “without people becoming absorbed in their devices as at the same time contributing to table conversation and interaction.”
The sponsored content is labeled as such, and the AP says it will be handled only by non-editorial staff, as it "hopes" to maintain the traditional dividing line between news coverage and advertising that had served the newspaper industry well.  Good luck, since the newspaper industry's been broaching that "clear dividing line" a lot lately (see this post).

Sources -  Time Inc. CEO Lang Grinches Staff, New York Post
Time Inc. Prepares For LayoffsMedia Jobs Daily
Major Shakeout Looms for Top New York Times Editors,  New York Magazine 
AP's Twitter to Begin Displaying Sponsored Tweets,  Mashable
Old Ebbitt to hand out Associated Press stories on customer receipts, Wachington Post Capital Business blog. 

editted - to add last source.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pics Rule on Social

Forget for a moment the recent success of Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr and other photo/visuals oriented social media.  A new study of Facebook posts by HubSpot found that photos on Facebook pages generated 53% more likes than the average post, and photo posts generated 103% more comments - at least for businesses.  (The study examined posts from B2B [business to business] and B2C [business to consumer] Facebook users).
  Facebook users posted and shared around 300 million photos last year, an increase of 20% from the start of 2012.  Instagram use (measured separately) is up more than 1000% since it was bought by Facebook; however, Facebook recently announced it will no longer post Instagram metrics separately.  The study looked at thousands of business posts to see if incorporating visuals encouraged use and engagement by other social media users.  In addition, engagement metrics are a large component in Facebook's EdgeRank metric, which is used to determine what posts and comments appear in Facebook News Feeds (providing businesses with even more exposure and chance for impact).
  The study looked at a variety of types of posts, and found that 85% of the "most engaging Facebook posts" incorporated photos.  In contrast, 3% of the most engaging posts incorporated video, 5% were status updates, and 7% were links.  Furthermore, photo posts received 84% more link clicks that text-only or link posts.
The report suggests that this conclusion might challenge initial theories that using text-only posts could be a better Facebook strategy for businesses, versus the contradicting argument is that Facebook surfaces text-only posts in News Feeds more often than photos...  Marketers who are using interesting images to their advantage can increase traffic to their websites with an included link.

Sources -  A Picture is Worth More Than Any WordsResearchBrief
Facebook yanks Instagram usage data from public view, C/Net
Photos on Facebook Generate 53% More Likes Than the Average Post [NEW DATA], HubSpot's Inbound Internet Marketing Blog

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Oops - News channel airs porn in background.

These things happen - tech people get bored and decide to watch something more interesting, and every so often, they hit the wrong switch and the "more interesting" goes out live.

The latest incident was on a 24-hour news channel in Sweden, where the viewers of discussion of Russian support for Syria were treated to a porn flick visible in a monitor in the studio background.

Not quite "Naked News," but still embarrassing.

A spokesman for the TV channel said: "Put simply, it's c**p that it happened. We're going to do everything we can so that it doesn't happen again."

Source -  News show screened background pornOrangenews

The (Absurdly) High Cost of Textbooks

This morning I explained why I wasn't requiring a textbook (much to their relief) - it's absurd price ($160 in paperback on Amazon, more for the Kindle version). Then I see a link to a good graphic on price increases over time that accompanies a short piece on The Atlantic website.

There's a lot of reasons given for high textbook prices - higher than normal production costs, limited demand, the need for sturdier versions (i.e. hardcover vs. paper) to bear up under studying and note-making.  But most don't hold up in a digital media marketplace.  What does is the forced demand generated from us professors requiring our students to buy them.

Enter the open educational resources (i.e. textbooks & related materials) initiative, as discussed in a recent Slate/Future Tense piece.  The piece discusses the efforts of academic publishers to sue a online open-access "publisher" out of the market.  Not for plagiarism or copyright violation, but for ordering topics/chapters similar to how they're presented in their textbooks. Absurd, right?
(I did a post on the Free Text Movement and some of our efforts here at UTK several weeks ago)

The Slate piece suggests that academic publishers are likely to follow the path of the printed encyclopedia (and the wooly mammoth).  There's  a good chance of that if they follow the strategy of trying to litigate their competition out of the market.  But that's not the only strategy available - several (MIT Press and Oxford University Press most notably) are putting out reasonably priced trade versions for some specialized textbooks, and smaller university presses are testing open-access online publishing.
I'm going to try to write a text for my class, and offer it though our Tennessee Journalism series.  It's more work, but gives us authors the ability to add multimedia and online features, and the advantage of rapid updating, and gives our students cheap alternatives.  (And as a full professor, I'm not as concerned about it qualifying as peer-reviewed research).

Traditional academic publishers could try embracing the opportunities of online and on-demand publishing, rather than trying to retain the old monopolistic business model.  They still have significant value as gatekeepers and guarantors of peer-reviewed quality - and may be able to make up in reduced costs and increased demand most of revenues now based on high per-unit profit margins in shrinking markets.  Just like most traditional media have had to do in recent years.  There's a lot of downside for business models based on litigation, and not much of a long-term future.

Sources -   Why Are College Textbooks So Absurdly Expensive?, The Atlantic
Never Pay Sticker Price for a Textbook Again, Slate/ Future Tense
The college textbook bubble and how the "open educational resources" movement is going up against the textbook cartel,  AEIdeas blog (source for graphic)

Nielsen US Consumer Media Usage Infographic

Officially, it's a report - but basically it's two infographics.

Some highlights:
  • TV still dominates in terms of time used
  • Among US TVHH, 86% have DVD player, 75% have HD sets, 56% have game cousoles, 52% have digital cable (33% have DBS (sat), 47% have DVR
  • 76% are active Internet users
  • Only 4% have a smart TV connected to the Internet, but 56% watch online videos
  • 56% of mobile subscribers have smartphones
  • 17% of "connected" users have an eBook reader
  • 16% of TVHH have tablets
  • 20% of the time people spend using computers is on social media/blogs - the next highest usage category is online games, at 8%, followed by email, at 7%.
  • Mobile device users spend the most time texting (14%) and on social networks (10%).  Almost half (46%) of consumers use mobile devices to access social media.
  • YouTube continues to dominate online video, with 136 million unique users in the U.S. - while Yahoo! and Vevo have just under 38 million unique users. 
Source -  Nielsen U.S. Consumer Usage Report, Nielsen  (may require registration)