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.”

Continue reading Technology’s Influence on Politics

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.

Continue reading The Future of Communications

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?

Continue reading The Web’s Baby Babble

SOPA/PIPA: It’s Not Over Yet

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), two controversial privacy acts that were up for a vote in the House and the Senate respectively, have caused a huge uproar, an internet blackout by more than 115,000 websites, an outpour of comments and discussions on social media and more than 3 million e-mails to Congress, urging lawmakers to change their vote.

The bills were designed to stop online copyright infringements by cracking down on websites that offer copyrighted material abroad and block Google search from displaying them. For now, it seems, the two attempts to stifle internet piracy by censoring website abroad, has been put on hold with many representatives switching sides. The proposed bills have not been, however, outright cancelled. 

I understand the need to protect copyrights. As a writer and “content provider,” I’ve had my fair share of articles and quotes “stolen” reused, quoted out of context and copied by others. That said, I still don’t want the government imposing censorship, and it doesn’t matter if the censored sites are located abroad or within the United States. Once we start policing the web, we go down a slippery path.

For more background info, read Wikipedia’s entry on the Stop SOPA/PIPA Initiative and excerpts of a primer on the bills via ReadWriteWeb:

“The Internet is in an uproar over the Stop Online Piracy Act. The battle lines are drawn. Big Media (the record labels, movie studios and TV networks) support the bill while Big Tech (search engines, open source platforms, social networks) oppose it. The bill, introduced to Congress by Representative Lamar Smith, is ostensibly supposed to give the Attorney General the ability to eliminate Internet piracy and to “protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. support of infringing sites.

There is a lot that may be wrong with SOPA, but putting the power to censor the Internet into the hands of the government is chief among citizens’ concerns. The law would force Internet Service Providers and search engines to cut off access to infringing sites as well as give the government the ability to stop payment to those sites.”

Below is a recap of the events. Combing the web in the past weeks, I have gathered links to the best articles that I could find on the topic. Keep this as a reference tool, because it is not over yet. And make sure to sign this petition by americancensorship.org, who states on its website that more than 24 million internet users have had their voices heard in a “collective flexing of internet muscles”. Be one of them. Because backers of both acts are “still working on backroom deals” to get similar bills passed.

Feb. 2

Jan. 31

Jan. 20

Jan. 19

Jan. 18

Jan. 17

Quickshots: December

Wired Magazine’s new look was introduced in its January 2012 issue. Old media and New Media meet: “The redesign is an entirely new platform for what Wired has become: not just ink on paper but increasingly, pixels on screen,” state the editors in their introduction.

According to Wired, 20% of their readers read the magazine in digital format (a number that strikes me as rather low for its sophisticated, wired, cutting-edge audience. But then again, also geeks like to read print).

“[With the redesign], the structure and format of every page is built to adapt seamlessly to digital form,” the editors write. “Every layout starts with the same challenge for the designer: How do you organize the page in a fresh and interesting way? Our solution was to simplify. Simplicity can be the most essential tool for navigating complexity.”

I couldn’t agree more. Well done.

 ♦

“The number of jobs eliminated in the newspaper industry rose by nearly 30% in 2011 from the prior year.” (via Reflections of a Newsosaur). “In other words, the decline in newsroom employment has been twice as great since 2007 as the 11% drop in over-all industry employment.”

A total of 3,775+ jobs lost. And you thought the recessions was over?

 ♦

We still remember the importance of “above the fold” placement of articles in the newspaper. New media don’t have the same restrictions, right?

“Wrong,” writes Emily Smith on the blog Design Festival. “The term was ported over to the web. It refers to any content that can’t be seen in your current browser window without scrolling or manipulation. This means that on most web viewing experiences, no matter the device, the fold exists.”

But should we pay attention to it?

 ♦

‎”We’re not out of the woods yet, but Web publishing is starting to hit its stride. Product offerings are getting smarter, prices are getting better and, most importantly, content is getting more interesting. We might not even be half way to the future of publishing yet, but the industry is picking up steam,” writes Jon Mitchell on ReadWriteWeb. 

There are new ways to read, new ways to write and new ways to advertise. Publishing is a rapidly changing high-tech business now, so the tools change the content and vice versa. Established publishers have lots of inertia, so the changes won’t sweep the world overnight, but here in the blogosphere, there’s a palpable sense of excitement.”

 ♦

Kind of creepy, but  Heatmaps Reveal Where People Look on Social Media Sites, reveals the Inbound Internet Marketing Blog. The technology follows eyeball movement of readers on the web to determine which content their eyes gravitate to on a webpage. Mashable commissioned a study called EyeTrackShop, a startup that performs heatmap studies for marketers, to see where people look on popular social media sites.

And, who knew, content still matters! The study found that people gravitate to where the content is: to the Facebook Wall of a friends for example. Also Facebook brand page visitors “almost always saw the wall first, and spent more time looking at it than any other element on the page,” according to Mashable.

“Time spent on mobile phones per day on average increased 30% in 2011 to an hour and 5 minutes, easily more than the combined 44 minutes devoted to print magazines and newspapers combined,” according to a new report by Nielsen State of the Media: The Mobile Media Report” that offers a snapshot of the current mobile media landscape and audiences in the U.S. and highlights the potential power of mobile commerce in the near future.

Forward to any young media consumer you know. This should be obvious but apparently many youngsters have no clue: Be skeptical, distinguish between news, facts, opinion and lies — The News Literacy Project. The project was introduced by a PBS Newshour report on Dec. 13. Read the transcript here.

Quickshots: September

“It was computer technology (particularly Apple) that put typography into the hands of all of us. And it’s computer technology that is relentlessly picking it apart, devaluing expression in a misguided attempt to demonstrate that you’re too busy coding to make anything look trustworthy or delightful.” (Seth Godin in “The web leaders hate typography (but not for long)”

I agree wholeheartedly. In case you are interested in typography, this is a must read: “Why do the points on Futura in letters like A and N rise slightly above and below the heights of other capital letters? Purely a design decision? Residual choice from old printing techniques?”

New and old meet.

According to a 2010 Project for Excellence in Journalism study, aptly named “The Blogosphere: New Media, Old Media,” 99 percent of news links on blogs came from legacy outlets like newspapers and broadcast networks. “Despite the unconventional agenda of bloggers, traditional media still provide the vast majority of their information. More than 99% of the stories linked to came from legacy outlets like newspapers and broadcast networks. American legacy outlets made up 75% of all items. […] Web-only sites, on the other hand, made up less than 1% of the links in the blogosphere.”

Shut those down and what have you got? Kittens on YouTube.

What, The Byliner and The Atavist both pay for original written content, aka the labor of a writer, who worked on a story that will bring in ad revenues, clicks, eyeballs and…readers (ahem, unique visitors)?

Shocking.

“Like The Atavist, The Byliner’s business model offers its writers an initial fee (reportedly topping out in the low five figures for the biggest names) and then splits revenues 50/50. “

Isn’t that a given for a good business model, one that values its workers? And you need a pat on your back for that? 

Oh, that reminds me: How can an online journalists work when the Internet is full of unpaid blogs? Join the National Writers Union, NYC, on Oct. 11 for a panel discussion. The panel will also be streamed live at PayTheWriter.org.

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook

Americans spent a total of 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook in May, according to a new Nielsen study. “As long as Facebook and its new partners are still motivated by their bottom lines, coming changes are […] kind of scary. As Facebook marches toward its inevitable IPO, the social network walks a very fine line between being a profit-generator and a protector of 750 million users’ privacy preferences. It will be interesting to see how Facebook’s users (and its competitors) feel about all of this.” (Forbes Magazine, “Facebook’s Makeover Is A Little Scary“) .

Facebook execs say that Timeline will be “like meeting a friend for drinks and spilling your soul until the bar lights flicker for closing time.”

Is this a joke? To me, Facebook feels like a trendy nightclub, where everyone that you know — or barely know, or have already forgotten that you know or have tried to tune out — lounges around in their PJs and watches your every move. Cozy, huh? Here’s more on Facebook: CNet: “Facebook changes creeping out some customers” and via All Things D: “Facebook Boldly Annexes the Web

I am on Facebook, but I don’t “spill my soul” there. Are you, Zuckerberg? Wait, don’t answer that…

Interesting article in the New York Times, “All The News You Want, When You Want It,” on how apps help create customized magazines, leaving out what we don’t want. But, admits the author, he goes back to the newsprint version often to seek in-depth reporting that he has possibly missed. “[T]he news app experience is different from reading a newspaper section by section, page by page. I feel informed, but I always have the nagging feeling that I missed something important or that I am reading the news superficially. I go back to the newsprint version during the day to seek in-depth reporting that I may have missed by skimming. Sure, I saved longer articles to read later on my apps, but I don’t always do that. At least gathering the newspapers for recycling is a reminder to glance through them to be sure I did not miss something important.”

New needs old.

 ♦

Computer-generated content is on the rise: “The leaders of Narrative Science emphasize that their technology would be primarily a low-cost tool for publications to expand and enrich coverage when editorial budgets are under pressure.”  (The New York Times, “In Case You Wondered, a Real Human Wrote This Column“)

Is that supposed to make us feel better?

The Onion’s editorial department will be relocated from New York to Chicago next summer.

I doubt that it will find as much satirical material there. I guess, the fiscal bottom line is more important. I feel for you. 

Remember this one: “8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live“? “At 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, every single resident of New York City decided to evacuate the famed metropolis, having realized it was nothing more than a massive, trash-ridden hell hole that slowly sucks the life out of every one of its inhabitants.”

We’ll miss you, Onion.

Quote from the movie Contagion: “Blogging is not writing; it’s graffiti with punctuation”. Except mine, of course.

Told ya! Return of the Editor: Why Human Filters are the Future of the Web: “Before news aggregators, content curators and Google’s omnipotent algorithm, the world’s information was sorted by real human beings. In the web’s next phase, argues The IdeaLists’ Karyn Campbell, the old-fashioned editor is poised for a comeback.”

Yes, Please!

In case you’re concerned: Print is not Dead. Really.

“Last summer, Paul Steinle and Sara Brown took shoe leather journalism to its extremes. The husband and wife couple, retired journalists and academics both, set off on a 50-state trek to gauge the state of the U.S. newspaper industry in the midst of digital transition.” Their findings: “Market size matters. Local news and watchdog reporting are indispensable assets. There’s no holy grail for digital revenue models.”

Feel better? 

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.

Tweeting is for Birds

“Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, ‘tweet’ has not yet achieved the status of standard English,” wrote Phil Corbett, New York Times standards editor, to NYT staffers recently. More than that:

“Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And “tweet” — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections. […] “Tweet” may be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But let’s look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you’ve established that Twitter is the medium, simply use “say” or “write.”

Now, here’s the fallout from the Times’ new policy and what they’ve come up with to keep “tweet” out of the paper’s esteemed pages. In this article on LeBron James’ decision to move to Miami and the ensuing Twitter buzz, the paper went all out not to use the word “tweet”. It seems, the editors had their Thesaurus handy.

Old media being ridiculous. Pity.