The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Research for the Newsroom 10.2.08

Cell phones are big, but the Blogosphere is bigger. While Technorati’s report on the Web’s wunderkind is enough to keep you reading for weeks, the fortnight’s useful reports ran the gamut from simple snooping to a phone that may change your TV to the not-so-funny papers. Clyde

Missouri School of Journalism

Clyde Bentley Missouri School of Journalism

State of the Blogosphere: Technorati released its eagerly awaited benchmark of the blogging world in a massive and highly detailed format for 2008. Posted in chapters over five days, it offers a compendium of Web research from the demographics of bloggers to the content they provide to the rise of commerce in the blogosphere. Some highlights:
• Technorati has indexed 133 million blogs since 2002. The 2008 count was in 81 languages from 66 countries.
• While not all blogs stay active, Technorati’s engines noted 7.4 million blogs that posted in the 120 before the study, 1.5 million that posted in the 7 days before and 900,000 that posted in the previous 24 hours.
• 48% of the bloggers are from North America, 27% from Europe and 13% from Asia.
• By surveying a sample of U.S., European and Asian bloggers, Technorati found 66% globally are male and half are 18-34. But in the U.S., 57% are male and only 42% are 18-34.
• 74% of surveyed U.S. bloggers have college degrees and half have incomes of more than $75,000. Professional blogs beat out corporate and personal blogs in both visitors and revenue.
• A stunning 52% of U.S. bloggers sampled reported they carry advertising on their blogs with median annual revenue of $200 and more than $75,000 for blogs with 100,000 or more visitors per month.
• While three quarters of bloggers globally cover three or more topics, personal/lifestyle content is most popular (54%). Technology takes second with 46%.
• For better or worse, news is the third most popular identifiable topic – 42% of blogs. Politics are discussed on 35% of blogs. Sincere and conversational writing styles are most popular, with confrontational/snarky at a minimum.
The report goes into detail on the time and monetary investment in blogging, the issue of anonymity and how revenue is generated, among other items. It’s a must-read for anyone who “lives” on the Web.

“Reporting” on Palin? – Hackers used a simple process known as social engineering to gain access to vice presidential candidate Sara Palin’s Yahoo Mail account. Social engineering is similar to some investigative reporting. Yahoo, like most e-mail services, allows you to recover a forgotten password by answering pre-determined questions about yourself. Social engineer hackers use Web sources to guess the answers.
It took 15 seconds to get Palin’s birthday on Wikipedia and there are only two ZIP codes in Wasilla, AK. The security question about where she met her spouse took a bit of searching and guessing by CNET testers, but “Wasilla High” worked.

Attack of the Droid – T-Mobile’s G-1 phone powered by Google and backed up by Amazon is hot news in the tech world. But the real significance for the media world is the software that powers the phone: Android.
The new Google operating system gives the G-1 most of the common smartphone capabilities, but its power is aimed more at the Web experience than e-mail or voice phone. Observers say the browser on the G-1 gives the iPhone a run for the money.
Android may also change the way all cell phones are marketed. Unlike Microsoft or Palm operating system, Android is compatible with all the major phones systems and chips. Android phones for other cell carriers are expected soon – while the iPhone is tied to a five-year exclusive with AT&T. The opportunity is there for the European marketing system that sells unlocked phones that let the user pick the carrier.

But here is the kicker – the ‘Droid is not for phones alone. Android is based on the open-source Linux platform. That means it is open to third-party developers who can make applications at will. Developers are already talking about Android-enabled televisions and set-top boxes. That could give viewers the ability to watch You-Tube and similar sites from the comfort of their La-Z-Boy. And some developers want to put the system in automobiles – bad news for radio stations.

More phone fun: Researchers at Siemens came up with a cell phone with a built-in projector. Not for movies, but to beam a keyboard onto a tabletop or other hard surface. Users hunt-and-peck with a special pen.
A similar idea for a PDA made the rounds a few years ago. That one worked sans the pen – but I don’t think a working model ever surfaced. Both, however, illustrate the inexorable move from laptop computers to pocket computers. Making the processors small enough is a minor hurdle. The big challenge is an input device that works for people with fat fingers and little coordination — like me. But the pocket newsroom is not far away.

After the metro: While more speculation than research, an article in BusinessWeek speculated on what will replace big-city newspapers if (or when) they fail. Web editions? Not likely, said Joe Fine. He gives the edge to local TV and cable, which already have viable franchises in the cities. There will be lots of indie sites out there, but there is no indication the ad revenue will follow them.
Of course, Fine’s notion begs the question of what happens if those metros continue to tweak their products to include more online and video. That gives even greater import to the Android-driven dream of living room TVs that pick up Web video.

Beyond Facebook: While journalists are trying to figure out how to use Facebook and MySpace, another aspect of social networking is slowly creeping up on them. Ning co-founder Gina Bianchnini said people are creating a new social network with the software every 30 seconds – nearly 500,000 so far and growing at 86,000 per month.
Ning allows users to create a private cousin to Facebook and then invite friends, acquaintances and others to join the party. In that sense, it competes with blogging, discussion boards – and newspapers. While the Ning system is still under the radar screen for most of the media, its exponential growth is reminiscent of the Blogosphere that surprised most of us.

Who is our audience? An Ipsos Mendelsohn study shows that 20% of American households have more than 50% of the income. While the study also shows that these $100,000-plus families are big-time users of the Web and other media, it should be a heads-up for newsrooms and front-office execs. It seems logical to aim our strategy at those heavy users of the media and enthusiastic buyers of the goodies we advertise. But that strategy leaves behind 80% of American households and leaves little room for growth.
I regularly poll my journalism students about the American class divide. I rarely get students whose families were supported by an hourly wage earner and seldom find they even know someone who brings home the bacon after stamping a time clock. As journalists tend to write for themselves, this has serious implications for our ability to connect with the broader market.

Eat your veggies: Americans are a lot more concerned about turning green than living green. A Yankelovich survey found that less than a quarter of American consumers think they can make a difference when it comes to the environment and only 34% are more concerned about environmental issues today than a year ago. Fewer than 20% checked out Al Gore’s movie or book, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
But comScore’s research showed that the popularity of health information Web sites in booming. As a Web category, health information sites grew 21 percent over the past year. That’s more than four times the growth rate of U.S. Internet users. “Most sites have become vibrant online communities rooted in sharing experiences and advice, rather than simply being one-way information resources for the consumer,” said John Mangano, senior director, comScore Pharmaceutical Marketing Solutions.

Funny thing happened on the way to the newsroom: Chris O’Brien reported on a trial project by USA Today to use comics to deliver the news. Writing in NextNewsRoom, he explains (and gives examples) of how a mashup between bloggers, comic book artists, Twitter and USA Today produced and intriguing narratives with real news value. His key finding:
“These projects are good reminders that innovation doesn’t just have to be about embracing the new digital tools (though they played a big role in this case). It can also involve working with new people or groups that you don’t usually collaborate with. And it can include finding new ways to tell stories that embrace older forms, such as comics.”

All you have to do is take off your shoes: United Airlines now allows you to redeem frequent flier miles for subscriptions to local newspapers. That has interesting implications for the value of a newspaper. It puts the paper in the occasional splurge category of a trip to Hawaii. But it also means it is worth going through TSA Hell for. There is a dissertation waiting out there for someone who looks at the non-cash value of newspapers.

Read this first:
Those annoying ads that come up in front of content are not so annoying after all. Dynamic Logic found that the number of Web users who think the ads are inappropriate is down to 21% from 32% in 2003. The study calculated that two over-content ads per hour is OK to support free content.

(Note: ‘Tis the season for a deluge of research reports. I may have to produce this wrap-up weekly for a time to keep up. Let me know if that in itself is overwhelming. E-mail me at CB)


October 2, 2008 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley |

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