Technology’s Influence on Politics

In 1920, radio transformed elections. In 1960, TV reigned. Now, online media rank supreme, with election campaigns morphing into constant social-media-streams, customized to fit voters’ myriad devices and attention spans. In the 2016 presidential elections, social media are the key battleground for any politician hoping to make the cut. According to The Hill, “9.5 percent of political media budgets could go towards digital media — a total of $1 billion.”

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The Future of Communications

NYWICI panel
(left to right) Sarah DaVanzo, Dana Points, Lisa Stone, Liz Kaplow. Photo by Jan Goldstoff.

On June 11, 2014, a panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) debated the shift in communications. A shift that is leading away from personal interactions toward a future obsessed with blazing-fast, always-on technology in our pockets. Is the ability to stay connected wherever we go a service or a disservice? To find out, NYWICI surveyed its members in partnership with BlogHer and discovered that 79% feel ignored when another person is using a phone during a conversation; 67% feel that multi-tasking is both a blessing and a curse; most would give up an e-reader before a phone (20% couldn’t decide). But overall, all seem to agree that technology is empowering — and disempowering them — at the same time.

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The Web’s Baby Babble

Forkly, Mingly and Grovo. Twitter with its tweets and peeps. Digg, reddit, Bebo and Mixi. Tumblr, Flickr and folkd. Oovoo and Zoomr. Prezi and scribd. Badoo, Rapt, Mubi and Wooxie. Spotify, Blippy and Twilio. Zynga, Scribd and Tsy.

Pet names? No, all are real companies, social media and web 2.0 platforms — some better some worse, some useful some mere copycats and others just a waste of time. But they have one thing in common: Their names are pretentious and annoying. Spelled lower case or upper case and backward and what not. I am not really sure anymore. Web 2.0 galore. Well done!

To all you Silicon Valley and Alley cats: Enough already. Give it a rest. Don’t try too hard to be original. All you came up with was yet another syllable in a crowd of too many other similar syllables. But we are able to remember names with more than one syllable, you know. Regardless of what your branding guru says.

Please ditch your babyish sounds. Don’t make us repeat those sounds over and over (and my fellow peeps, let’s stop using them as verbs), as in: “Hey, have you digged (dug?) and pinned my flickr pix, shared them with your Mingly contacts and oovooed about them? xoxo”

Seriously?

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180,000 Crazy Twitter Users

Had to get this off my chest!

What do you make of this stunt? Does this bother you as much as it bothers me?

Social Media are great, but I think some people are slowly losing sight of the gist of it all: Providing meaningful content/context and engaging with others. Learning or offering new insights and giving some productive feedback.

Too hard? Then leave the field to people who are serious about communication and connecting with their peers.

Just go away and find another venue to bother us. May I suggest link harvesting, engaging in dubious SEO practices (the New York Times has a few suggestions here), spamming or phishing? You’d be good at it.

Summer Laziness and Mob Mentality

For this one lone August post, I can blame summer laziness, not media fatigue, even though I have many times come close to just giving up on the state of the media and where we’re headed.

My tagline reads “Old Media and New Media Meet”, and that is sometimes hard to come by. Old and new are still behaving like third graders who compare the size of their ice cream cones. It’s not either-or; neither will get far without the other. So, here is a small list of the positive things that each side will bring to the table. Merging these will lead to better communications, no matter the platform.

Old media bring depth, when needed, tight control over the quality of the writing (editors, copy editors, proof readers), sincere fact checking and an army (or what was once an army) of investigative reporters and writers who know their beat, have the right connections and get out there to cover the news. Oh, yes, and they get paid and have the resources to follow their noses. Old media still adhere mostly to the rule that one needs more than one source to get the story right and that you draw a distinctive line between reporting, commentary and advertising. Old media raise issues that readers are not always aware of, or don’t think they need to know but should.

New media bring immediacy, the collaboration of many to a story, the interaction with the readers, the ability to constantly update and supplement a story with new facts, links, info graphics, audio and video. It is a many-to-many approach, and as such rather democratic: no matter where you are and who you are, your voice is part of the whole. You can decide what you want to read and customize your daily media intake. You become the editor.

I, for one, need both, the old and the new.

Many of us in media, however, see only doom and gloom lurking around us. We’ve lost our jobs, our self-esteem and careers, and our work is being taken for granted by young web editors, who crash with their parents but then tell us our hour’s work of writing should be worth less than what they get babysitting their neighbor’s kid to supplement their own meager income. Now, they say, everyone is a journalist, a photographer, an editor and writer, or so it seems. Content should be free, they beam, and they advise us old timers to be happy to get a byline and a thumbs up on Digg.

I want to share with you a moving blog post from the blog Headlines and Deadlines. The writer muses about her “blogging breakdown” amid the state of old media:

“Lately I haven’t had many thoughts about journalism or newspapers, at least not any that would stand sharing. Because recently, Blog, I have found it increasingly hard to negotiate the choppy waters of ‘changing times’; I have, if you like, lost my compass. I have striven to be optimistic about newspapers and the future but sometimes the words rang very hollow indeed.”

I hear you. But no, it’s not all downhill from here. One way or another, people will come to realize that words and content still matter. They will miss getting lost in a story, once they’re left with only snippets of bullet-pointed search-engine-friendly written content; “voices drowning one another out”, as Jaron Lanier wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “World Wide Mush.” And he continues: “When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation […] creativity and excellence.”

Admit it, new and social media by themselves are not enough to get the whole picture. Surely you’ve come to the same conclusion, when you got lost in a Google search the other day and ended up spending hours on Facebook before you picked up a magazine or a paper.

I believe, we still have a choice: to become a numb collective with a short attention span, that regurgitates what advertisers, public relations people or celebrities want us to talk about. Or we could merge old media’s values with new media’s possibilities and not get lost in the crowd.

Social Media. Now What?

“Social media are becoming part of journalism, another transmission system, that all journalism must be involved in, in much the same way that aggregation is now a component of journalism. Journalism is more than narrative now. It is more than storytelling. It always has been, but professional journalists didn’t always see it. Journalism is shifting from being a product…to being a service…how can I help you answer your questions.” Tom Rosenstiel on the Future of Journalism | Future of Journalism

I think this calls for sharing with you one of my favorite media cartoons of all times re YouTube comments. Enough said.

By the way, have you heard this new adjective, introduced in the June issue of Wired Magazine’s Jargon Watch:
“Word-of-finger, adj, Marketing communicated via the keystrokes of social media.” Makes sense.

And finally, a video: “What the Hell Is Social Media?”

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