The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

I never thought I would never think

As the digital clock clicked 10 p.m. last night, one of my African-American colleagues stared at the screen in open wonder.

Clyde Bentley in another life

Clyde Bentley in another life

“I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.”

Many of us shared that emotion when the networks declared it was all over and Barrack Obama would become America’s first president of color. But strangely, what flashed through my mind was how often I had heard that phrase.

I think the first time was when as a first-grader sat before a wood-cabineted-but-fuzzy B&W TV to watch the inauguration of the Boeing 707. I still remember a man who had traveled by covered wagon telling a reporter how amazed he was at what had happened in his lifetime.

And since then I’ve heard it again and again. Pocket-sized transistor radios. Man on the moon. Color TV. Cure for polio. A global communicator in every pocket or purse.

Technology moves so quickly now that we say “I never thought I would see that in my lifetime” with a grin and a perfunctory shake of the head. We simply expect technology to amaze.

But I’m saddened that people seldom realize that the breakthroughs in the social world spawn those technological wonders. We instead think of technology molding our society.

Would jet travel have become common without a commercial airline system in both executives and factory workers could share traveler’s impatience? Would we have put a man on the moon without universal education that freed the intellect of even the mechanic’s son? And that special drive to be so human – to be in constant contact with others. Gene Roddenberry recognized it; the cell phone pioneers made it so.
In my lifetime, the power of American justice gave Black students the right to study among people who looked like me. And often to show they were both brighter than me and better suited to lead. My soldier father – raised in a family of bigots — expressed his new norm – “All soldiers are just green.”
And that’s the beauty of today. Obama was not elected because or despite his color but because King’s dream that people will be judge by the content of their character is finally a normal expectation of American life.

Our “breakthroughs” will continue – changes in the definition of “private,” a re-evaluation of what constitutes “home” or “family” or “that one,” a new sense of “now.”

We tech watchers will follow with accolades with the resulting inventions. I may never have thought it would happen in my lifetime, but I certainly will not be surprised if it does.

Advertisements

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | Leave a comment

News, commentary and nightmares

My recurring nightmare is back. I’m in front of a large and irritable crowd trying to explain what “news” is. They keep talking about Bill O’Reilly. When I try to clarify the term, they bring up Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh.

I can’t take it! What is the world coming to?

Clyde Bentley

Clyde Bentley

But when the night sweats ended and the morning’s coffee cleared my head, I started to wonder if the world is just coming to new reality I helped create.

Tuesday I attended an interesting lecture by media watchdog Jennifer Pozner. Pozner is the passionate critic of the press who heads Women in Media and News. Although she could use an editor to keep her from wandering off the point, Pozner did a very good job of demonstrating how the talking heads on television have strayed even farther off track by turning the political debate into a trivial discussion of hair-dos, cleavage and how black is black.

I heartily agree with her observation and am an equally passionate advocate of media literacy education to help citizens sort the seed of news from the chaff of commentary. Continue reading

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | , , | Leave a comment

Research for the Newsroom 10.16.08

Clyde Bentley

Sports fans with cash, the unsuspected impact of broadband and words you can count (if not count on) head the research reports this fortnight. And then there is that rumor of bad news for Twitter…
Clyde

– – –

Clyde Bentley
Print & Digital News
Missouri School of Journalism

Who’s on first: Media Life Research produced a fascinating profile of American sports fans this fall. Fans of any sport tend to have high levels of education – 29 percent have college degrees compared to 16 percent of non-fans. Predictably they are more likely male (53%), but have higher income than non-fans. They are more likely to be political moderates than non-fans, half are married, they are much more interested in international events and like to take risks and fix mechanical things.
The report also ranks various sports by demographics. Golf fans are oldest, hockey has the fewest minority fans. It is a good read for both editors and marketers.

Eyes on video: As with other online news content, the biggest challenge facing newspapers as they expand the use of video is finding a workable business model. Media economist Robert Picard, writing in INMA’s Ideas magazine, said news organization face a rising demand for video tempered by rapidly changing technology and a faltering ad-based budget.

Picard said 90 percent of newspapers now offer video on their sites and approximately two-thirds accept consumer-generated video. But Picard says news video has its best value if it is original rather thansyndicated. The primary value of video is not monetary, but an enhancement of the news business.

Continue reading

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | | Leave a comment

Research for the newsroom 9.25.08

For some time I have gathered research and technology reports and translated them into usable notes for the editors at the Columbia Missourian. I will start sharing them here so other may them useful. Look for the report about every two weeks.

Clyde Bentley

Them vs. them vs. us dominated the media research discussion lists in the past fortnight. Here’s a digest of research

and related information of use to the folks in the news trenches.

Mobile society: A seminar at the NAA Marketing Conference focused on the impact of cell phones on surveys, but there is news there for us also. Among the statistics:
• One-in-eight U.S. adults is cell-only
• The cell-only population is demographically different from landliners. While 12.6% of the general population is mobile-only, 29.1% of 18-29-year-olds are.
• 40% of landliners surveyed said they read a newspaper yesterday, but only 27% of cell phone folks did. On the flip side, 8% of landliners read a local Web newspaper, but 12% of the mobile did.
• You actually can call cell phones for a survey and even telemarket to them — but the law requires that you manually dial the number. That aces out most automated researchers and marketers – for now.

Check out the presentation and the report.
Also, Nielsen this week pegged the wireless household rate at 17% and predicted it would hit 20% by year-end. A curious link found by Nielsen: Cutting the cord and moving your household.
So much for multi-tasking: A Mediamark study challenges the common notion that newspaper are distracted by TV, radio, etc. The study indicated 55% of adults who read at home do so without the involvement of other media. It is 54% for magazines, 54% for Internet, 49% for TV and 28% for radio.
On the cover: The September Presstime from NAA cover feature is on journalism schools, focusing on Mizzou. The headline is “Mind the Gap” and the issue is the synchronization of what we teach and what the industry needs.
On the air: A number of papers are experimenting with CoverItLive, software that allows one to post live text, video and audio from the newsroom via computer or from the field via iPhone or Blackberry.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin archives show what the software can do.

Traditional vs. Online audiences: The Readership Audience reviewed the Pew study on audiences, noting that 46% of U.S. adults rely almost exclusively on traditional media, 23% use traditional as the main source but supplement it with online, 13 percent use the Web as the main source and 14% appear to live in caves. ‘Even after almost 15 years of online news, Traditionalists make up half the adult population. Those of us who fall into the Integrator or Net-Newser segments sometimes forget how many people still use news media the way they always have,” notes Rich Gordon of Northwestern. But, he said, those folks are unlikely to change their habits, so we can logically focus our new initiatives at the one-eighth of adults who are Web-centric. It’s a good read.

“Cutting” edge: Attempting to do to e-readers what the Razr did to cell phones, Plastic Logic introduced a black/white device about the thickness (and size) of a magazine.

Different Moms, different Web: Gen Y and Gen X mothers use the Web in significantly different child rearing ways, NewMediaMetrics found. The older Gen X (dob 1965-1981) uses the Web for task-oriented activities like uploading photos or shopping. The Millennial Gen Y (1982-1994) moms uses the Web to connect to other mothers (blogs, video-sharing, online communities). They also like to use their mobile phones to text message and send photos to friends.

On the smaller side: The Suburban Newspapers of America announced its 2008 Newspapers of the Year winners. This list is a good place to see what relatively well-funded smaller newspapers do. At a centennial workshop, the suburban and community papers said circulation was generally up and this year’s losses were only about 3%. They are looking at a profitable 2009.
• Non-Dailies, Up to 10,000 Circulation — The Riverdale Press, Richner Communications
• Non-Dailies, 10,001-22,500 Circulation — Coast Reporter, Madison Publishing, Ltd./Glacier Media Group
• Non-Dailies, 22,501-37,500 Circulation –The Chilliwack Progress, Black Press, Ltd.
• Non-Dailies, Over 37,500 Circulation –The Era Banner, Metroland Media Group, Ltd.
• Dailies, Under 30,000 Circulation — The Beacon News, Sun-Times News Group
• Dailies, Over 30,000 Circulation –Arizona Daily Star, Lee Enterprises, Inc.

The St. Louis American was second in non-dailies over 37,500. In the Missourian’s size, the Beacon News of the Chicago Sun-Times group ( http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews/index.html ) has an interesting way of displaying blogs. One of the common traits of all the winners’ Web pages: Pictures of kids.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | , | Leave a comment

Doctors, blogs and disasters

Ralph Kurtenbach makes a Doubting Thomas’ argument for blogging on his blog, A Box of Curtains.  He, like others in our profession, was suspicious of citizen jouralism.  But when doctors blogged from disaster sites, he revisited his notions.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | Leave a comment

Blogs give the big guns something to shoot for

There I was, staring down an entire auditorium full of folks wearing “Winchester,” “Weatherby” and “Remington” gimme caps who knew well how to shoot those guns. They were steely; I was nervous.
So I shot them with a blog.Clyde Bentley on the skeet range

Last week I spoke to the Professional Outdoor Media Association convention in Sioux Falls, S.D. It’s a group of outdoor magazine publishers, the freelance writers who fill their pages and the gun or fishing equipment manufacturers who support them. POMA Executive Director Laurie Lee Dovey asked me to answer a deceptively simple question: “Is print dead?”

I think it may be easier to drop a charging water buffalo with a slingshot than to give the definitive answer. Mine was “yes, no and depends on how you define ‘print’.”

My slide for the “yes” explanation earned a few chuckles: Me in my hunting gear (albeit armed with a laptop) smiling over the pile of dead magazines on my truck’s fender. “Yes – and I bagged it.” And I told them how technology is pushing the print world hard to go digital.

But the “no” (me reading in my library) is very much still out there. People are reading books and other publications by the droves. And of course, Baby Boomers will remain the primary American market for more than a decade. (Boomers grew up with print. Even if they use computers, they compare all media with the print with which they are familiar). Perhaps more critically, the Web has yet to reproduce the comfort level of a magazine or book (who cuddles up with a good laptop?).

But it is the “depends” that really counts – and where I winged a few gun writers.
Print journalism is the transfer of information using those little squiggles we call letters. When Gutenberg built his press, it didn’t mean the words that monks inscribed on parchment went away. Print survives even if the technology it uses changes. So even if we use e-ink or PDF, the call is still for a good story.

They liked that. They liked less my advice that they all launch blogs whether they like the medium or not.
Why blog if your expertise is crafting beautiful tales of an autumn duck hunt? Or if you are in your 60s, can’t figure out the TV remote but can trick any bass in the lake into taking your hook?

I passed on to them the advice of my friend and fellow cyber soul, Steve Yelvington:
“Clyde, if you don’t have a blog in our business, you don’t exist.”

Blogging is not the be-all to end-all. And as fellow cyberbrain Hans Meyer pointed out, it is an uncomfortable task for most professional writers. We spend our whole day turning thoughts into written words, so a blog is just another nagging chore.

But for critics, tech experts and writers – especially freelance writers – a blog is a type of advertising once reserved for Yellow Pages. It gives you presence.

In the scheme of things, blogs are poorly read. But they are specifically read by people who have an interest in the bloggers specialty. More importantly, blogs posts each have individual URLs. That means the fact that a blog read by only a handful of people does not keep it from having substantial power. A single post can be passed on blog-to-blog until it lands at the top of national agenda (witness Rathergate).

Several of the writers in the audience were visibly shaken by my admonition. Then I showed them how easy it is to use Blogger. The clincher was when an old fellow with a country-boy drawl told the, “Well, I’ve been blogging for quite a while. It’s not so hard.”

I’m curious to see what type of blogging community develops within POMA. One of my early editors told me that the three topics that could always generate an argument were politics, religion and game management. Given the level of expertise among its members and the fact hunting and fishing IS their religion, it should a lively corner of the blogosphere.

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | 3 Comments

The Web on a cell phone? A dialogue

The Cyberbrains had the following discussion over e-mail the last few days (I know, we are so old school.) It all started when Clyde asked how Web pages looked on an iPhone and evolved into a treatise on the viability of the mobile web. It included Cyberbrains Clyde Bentley, Joe Kokenge, Jeremy Littau, Deborah Mason, and me, Hans K. Meyer. It’s kind of long, but we thought it pretty profound and appropriate for this forum, so we’re posting it here in its entirety in a point-counterpoint format. We hope it makes sense, and more importantly makes you think about why people use their cell phones, the Internet and when they use them together.

CLYDE: AT&T seems to have increased the operating speed of its cellular Web connection recently. I’ve just started reading a few papers on my Treo because it is now fast and easy. Today I read the NY Times, the Columbia Tribune and the Missourian.

The Times is great. It is only slightly slower than reading on my laptop. The Trib has some layout problems, but eventually reformats and does a pretty good job with color photos and stories. The Missourian is problematic. It immediately tried to download 160 MB of homepage. That homepage started as a big block of headers and navigation links. When it reformatted, it put half the page in big black blocks with purple type.

I had not read our version of the Taser story, but had read Tom’s e-mail on my phone. I read the story on the home page, then it gave me a sidebar link the the “Captain says..”, but that turned out to be the same story.

When I scrolled down to the bottom of the page, the ads went a bit crazy. I’ll keep playing with this, partly because I’m now addicted. BTW, on the Treo the type reformats to one column wide and about 12 point, with 14-point bold headlines. Very readable. The photos have good color. Haven’t tried the video links.

Can someone tell me how the page looks on an iPhone?

JEREMY: Digmo surfs OK on my iPod Touch, not sure how similar the tech is to what the iPhone offers. The page does load slower than I expected though.

CLYDE: You are using WiFi. Most phones use cell web. We need to get more tests on that.

JEREMY: Ah, then yes, very different. I know very little about cell web, as I don’t sleep with my Blackberry like Hans. 🙂

HANS: Ok, I do not sleep with my Blackberry. Actually, I broke it, so thanks Jeremy for bringing up a very painful memory!

From what I understand, Blackberries and Treos have native software that truncates pages so they’ll fit on the smaller screen. Most of the major sites include code that interacts with this truncation software to make the sites look good. Smaller web pages do not. For example, I could see ESPN great on my Blackberry, but not MyMissourian or DigMo.

Apple uses entirely different software that tries to replicate the same page you’d see on your Apple desktop. It doesn’t truncate (whether connected on wifi or cellularly). The bugaboo I’ve heard on iPhones is sometimes the zooming feature doesn’t work, but all web pages should display fine.

Here’s an article that makes the distinctions better than I could.

By the way, I’d argue with you against young people using their cell phones to access the Internet. The old interfaces were so bad that all you could do was download a ringtone or see some news headlines. The only people I ever seen on the Internet have an iPhone, but that’s half the campus now.

JOE: Hans, I’m with you there. Surfing the net on a phone is really only worthwhile if you have an iPhone. Unless there’s some new fangled cellphone model out there that I don’t know about. It’s funny too, why can I get Internet almost everywhere on an iPhone but I still have to “find” wireless with my laptop. Ridiculous. If they can do it on a phone, they sure as heck could do it on my computer. And even if your download speeds are awesome, using an iPhone to actually do stuff on the Web is a pain. I mean how much can you actually do for how long on a screen the size of a tarot card. I want free wireless everywhere on my computer. That’s what I want.

CLYDE: Whoa! There are plenty of cell phones out there that are great Web platforms. Actually, the iPhone is a latecomer to that genre. Nokia, Sony-Erickson and Samsung have been turning out high-quality Web browsers for years. We don’t know about them because our phone system just reached the level that it can actually do the Web work.

We stayed 2G (second generation) long after Europe and Asia moved to 3G.

Now Asia is evolving into 4G, which allows good TV reception. The high speed that AT&T offered over the last two years was actually 2.5G. But 3G came up a few months ago, significantly increasing the speed of download.

IPhones get their Web reputation from using WiFi, which is also available from most other phone manufacturers. But WiFi is seldom available if you are mobile. It requires that you go to an identifiable place and keep there while you are connected. Not very handy.

Mobile Web, on the other hand, uses the telephone’s own system. It is far more predominate than mobile WiFi – even my $15 AT&T Go Phone could access the Web. I will bet a cup of coffee that your own phone has Web access, Joe.

My major use is to access Google Maps when I am on the road. Works great. I also look up products when I am shopping and read the Times while in waiting rooms.

Readability on phones is not bad, especially if the site is reformatted. Even the Missourian formats into one column for reading. One column on a phone is about the same width and type size as a column in the newspaper.

It’s pretty easy to read. It’s quite amazing how much you can do on that screen. The Treo has a stylus, which I find is much more accurate than my fat fingers.

The New York Times and others format so that the headlines, photos and sidebars are easily read. They go without the annoying design “button” text that take up so much space on the Missourian.

Your desire for universal wireless has some limitations, Joe. It would take WiMax to give you enough range to even walk around town. WiMax, however, does not use the same frequency as WiFi. I understand the next iPhone will have WiMax capacity, but so far you need to get a special modem for your computer to make it work. And buy a subscription (no free lunch with WiMax).

Don’t short those little phones. There are millions and millions of them out there and the phone companies are making a big push to get folks to use their Web browsers.

You can find out about 4G, WiMax, here.

Here is a review of 5 great phones. Here is a peek at what is happening in Asia:

And if you are still confused, here is an interesting piece on how mobile phones differ in the European and U.S. cultures.

HANS: This is a discussion we should be having on the Cyberbrains. I’m well aware of the phones that offer Internet. My free Motorola V70 offers Internet as well, but c’mon Clyde, can you use it?

You made the exact same point on your tryout of the Nokia N90. It’s just not functional enough for more than occasionally looking up directions, texting or downloading a ringtone. I don’t have any hard and fast research to back this up (and I think we should do some) but I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that Web use on ANY phone is limited. I remember when a certain professor got an iPhone last year about this time and I had to help her set most of it up.

I think what we are really talking about here is diffusal of innovations theory. No matter how many cool gizmos and capabilities phones offer, everyone except the early adopters will only use what they need it for. How many people actually need Internet 24/7, OK besides you and me.

Don’t know why I’m so fired up about this. I guess I just missed the other cool discussions you guys were having.

JEREMY: Another point is you have to pay for those super great phones. iPhones have some social cachet, I can’t even name another slick Web surfing phone. When in doubt, I want the free phone, and that usually doesn’t do all the big stuff of the others.

Truthfully, when I think of my phone, I don’t think of it as a web device. I don’t even text message that much with it. I know in other countries like South Korea the phone is more central, but I don’t see it being used for the Web a lot in everyday life here in Columbia unless it’s an iPhone.

JEREMY: I’ve heard you make a good point about South Korea in particular, that it is a commuter culture more suited for reading material in a mobile way. In the U.S., that has translated to newspaper use because our subways aren’t really great for being wired or getting phone reception all of the time. So perhaps if it takes off stateside, it could happen in commuter culture (of which we will all be members in two years when gas hits $20 per gallon).

The one caution I would make is that technology isn’t what changes society, it’s how we use it that changes society. The use of a killer app in one culture might have little use in another, or they might use it differently.

We saw with OhMyNews that citizen journalism as they experienced it was very, very different than ours. The web surfing technology looks damn cool (if my iPod is any indication), but there has to be cultural reasons to adopt it. I have surfed the web with my iPod something like 5 times in the six months I’ve had it. Four of those times were in the first two weeks after I got it. I have yet to figure out its utility for me (interestingly, it has little to do with finding a hotspot) even if the technology is pretty cool to me.

Apple seems to have found a way with the iPhone, combining a lot of essential features into one product. Maybe I’d surf more on my phone if I had one. But to be honest, beyond the cost I don’t want to shell out that much a month for service. To me, the latter (phone plus data monthly fees, according to /. those will run about $110 per month) is probably the big barrier for entry to me, and I’m sure it is to a lot other potential adopters. Oh my god, I think I’m a cheapskate.

But on a serious note, I agree there are a lot of research avenues here.

CLYDE: This is a good discussion and could lead to good research. I wonder what people do with their phones other than talk on them? Do they take photos? Do they listen to music (most new phones have some MP3)? Do they Web surf?

Part of what I was pointing out in that European article is that we “assume” a phone is not a Web tool. The Europeans and Asians do. Now we have 3G, we may also. It makes a BIG difference. But right now only Apple is taking advantage of that.

JOE: Clyde, thanks for the articles. I will check them out. Jeremy, I remember reading this article about cell phone novels in Japan. These become actual bestsellers, on paper even, but they start out pecked out on a cell phone. I thought of that as a fun example of the print/web intersection. And, it really argues against my complaining that I can’t do work on a mobile device, which I would love to do instead of driving. My phone is ancient, though, and maybe that’s the problem. If I had media money to invest, though, I would put as much as I could in a mobile browsing technologies and ways to get cool content on it.

Cross my fingers and hope for a house in Brentwood. It’s going there eventually. (As for me in Brentwood, that’s more of a long shot.)

CLYDE: By the way, if you push AT&T you can get a Web bargain. I pay $19.99 a month for unlimited Web and 200 messages a month. It is called Media Max 200 and is not advertised. I added it to get my MU e-mail via the Palm VersaMail program. All I do is hit “sync” and it updates my mail and calendar. But now I am using the Web more and more.

When I temporarily had another phone, I just used Webmail. I still do that with my G-mail account. Works like a charm.

Now the biggie:

How are we going to get this discussion onto our blog? Should we just copy the thread in order and plug it in? Or somehow summarize it. It is too good to leave behind in an inbox.

DEBRA: OK, I am a Mac snob but I will say that while there are many phones that offer web surfing, etc., there is a look and feel and “fun” element of the iphone that certainly was not matched by my highly utilitarian Blackberry. I can’t keep my kids away from my iphone. True, there will be imitators quick enough, but even though there are imitators to the ipod nothing comes close in sales. It’s not just the “fun” element of the Ipod, but it’s a combination w/ the easily accessible and reasonably priced content on the itunes stores. Content and device, I think.

So what is it about these devices that go beyond functionality to make the device part of the entertainment. That is what matters to my 15-year-old.

JOE: Debra, I agree. Not that this is about age, (and I don’t mean anything by that) I just realized that at my age and social position now, I feel the reason of practicality and the pull of the “shiny and slick.” I always would have liked to work from a mobile device but never thought about buying a Blackberry. But I would think about buying an iphone, when, it appears, the functionality is more or less the same.

But, there’s no reason why utilitarian shouldn’t be sexy and fun, other than the designers were too lazy to make “x” utilitarian, sexy and fun. And, newswise, I say that’s the bar that’s been set for any product. At least when it comes to young people. Like Slate.com is the New York Times for college age kids who actually read. And, sad to say, I think what makes something sexy and fun is marketing, at least in part. The iphone design is super-cool and slick. But so are those 80 foot billboards in Times Square and looming over the corner of Sunset and Vine. How does that slogan go, “Advertising is the fuel of a free press?”

JEREMY: One other thought I have is that Debra is describing a sense of cultural cachet that goes with owning one of these, but is that the realm of early adopters or something that drives the diffusion of innovation? To me it would seem that if you’re not dealing with the volatile teen/tween market, then cool and hip aren’t selling points so much as utility. I find myself thinking that if Apple will continueto have success with the iPhone, they’ll have to sell its features and uses more than its social hipness.

It’s the same reason I don’t own a riding mower; I think it’d be fun to own one and ride around, but I don’t have a lawn. And what’s thepoint of owning a Prius if you don’t drive very much? As much as I want to think these situations are classic laggard behavior, I think that’s more rooted in the rational self-interest of capitalistic market behavior. I think Hans is right that D of I theory has some anchors in this discussion.

By the way, it occurs to me that what Clyde has been posting on is the media dependency side of U&G theory, where I am more talkingabout the utility and needs gratified side of it. Theoretically speaking, we’re talking the same language even if we are disagreeing in plain terms.

This discussion is making me feel old. We need to stop that.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley, From The Cyberbrains, Hans Ibold, Hans Meyer, Jeremy Littau, Joe Kokenge | Leave a comment

TV strikes out; CJ’s in the bullpen

As hard as it might seem on sports fans now, the demise of local sports on television might be the precursor to a jock-world bonanza.

KRCG in Jefferson City, MO recently eliminated its sports department as part of a cost-cutting binge of layoffs. ???????? ????? ????????Clyde BentleyBut it is not the first station to do so. Stations from Norfolk to Las Vegas have given sports the ax in a move that seems antithetical to our belated realization that “local” means “popular.”

The trouble with local sports on television, however, is not the content itself. It’s the demographics of the market and the logistics of television.

Sports sections, be they on TV broadcasts or in newspapers, are advertising dogs. I cannot tell you how many times when I was a newspaper general manager I had to discount agency ads when they ended up in the sports section.

Sports fans are loyal readers or viewers. But they are guys. And guys seldom make buying decisions in American households. A study by Mediamark in 2004 showed that just under half of male readers go to the sports section but that less than a quarter of women do. That alone might not be a marketing challenge, but 63% of women peruse the general news section – joined by 57% of the men. You can also get a closer point spread in business, opinion, classified and even the comics.

An advertiser has to ask why they should display their wares to a bunch of fellows who don’t know a sale from a sail when they can get both the men and the real buyers in many other sections of the paper or segments of the TV news.

That’s bad for newspapers, but the emphasis on local news is doubly bad for television.

A newspaper typically covers a city and a few small towns around it. But the television station in the same market beams its programming over hundreds of square miles. The newspaper may have three or even a half dozen high schools in its coverage area. Even a small market station like KRCG has dozens of high schools, scores of junior highs and perhaps thousands of Little League teams. No one can afford to send reporters to all the games and no evening newscast has enough time to air all the stories.

TV stations do best covering what a whole lot of people want to watch. Local sports are important, but I have absolutely no interest in the junior varsity volleyball scores from a town I’m not sure how to drive to.
Fortunately, there is a great solution in the wings. And we don’t even have to invent it.

The Internet provides an easy way to disseminate that information widely without requiring everyone to read or watch it. As my old friend and media watcher Vin Crosbie once said, “The Internet is not a mass medium. It’s a massively delivered niche medium.”

Internet-facilitated coverage is ideal for sports. It’s cheap to publish, easy to access and allows the consumer to pick just the stories that interest them.

Of course, the technology alone doesn’t answer the staffing problem. That’s still a whole lot of games to cover. So bring in the citizen journalism cavalry.

I spent several years as a Little League then youth soccer dad. I bought an outrageously expensive telephoto lens so I could capture the mud on my goalkeeper-son’s face as he dove for the ball. And I wasn’t alone. It was surprising how many times I had to jockey for shots with other parents.
The parents are there, they are interested and they are shooting photos and recording stats. The hard work is organizing the effort to collect that information. Those of us who have worked in citizen journalism for any time at all know the fallacy of the “Field of Dreams Syndrome.” Just because you build the Web site doesn’t mean they will come.

Good. That means careers for journalists. Organizing parents and sports fans is not all that different than coordinating a huge newsroom. Or riding herd on the freelancers for a magazine. It can be done.
So sorry, sports fans. The tube is going dark. But not to worry, as the game will go on. Just stay tuned.

May 26, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | Leave a comment

Taking CJ to the ‘hood’

What happens when citizen journalism collides with traditional journalism?

Bentley bookcaseLike any collision, you could expect a few injuries – at least damaged egos. But so far neither type of journalism has been fatal to the other. What is of concern, however, is that the bumper of the CJ Prius doesn’t mesh well with that of the Traditional News SUV.

Here at the Missouri School of Journalism, our citizen journalism efforts are narrowly focused on its relationship with traditional journalism. We are the world’s oldest journalism school and have served that profession for a century. My charter from Dean Mills was to find some way to keep trained journalists in the user-contributing future media picture.

Our first research planning meetings were marked by loud arguments over whether it was even possible, whether we would ruin journalism or whether it would make any difference at all. The first consensus was unexpected: Citizen journalism approached by a traditional organization must have a revenue stream.

The blogs, discussion boards and news groups that spawned citizen journalism had little profit motive. We quickly realized that the burden of paying a staff significantly changed a medium.

Continue reading

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Clyde Bentley | 1 Comment