Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wrap It Up

Mass media is changing. Whether for better or worse the mass media will always continue to change. On March 15, I posted a comment Rupert Murdoch made while speaking in front of The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, which he said “It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this [media] revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy -- not just companies but whole countries.” As one of the last few remaining proprietors of the traditional mass media, Murdoch’s vision can be seen as being directly connected to the current trends in the mass media.

Over the past three months this blog has attempted to examine the emerging trends that are driving this ongoing media revolution. Certainly, there are numerous factors that have added to the powder keg that has become the world of mass media. The first ingredient in the revolution that is having a profound affect is the changing landscape of content that is being offered to viewers. From the progressive, this years Oscar nominees for best picture, to just plain garbage, FX’s Black.White., to the proliferation of consumer generated content, which include everything from blogs and podcasts to commercials and televised newscasts, the increase in the variety of content available to users is staggering. This change in the landscape of content has empowered users to stretch the boundaries of the entire concept of content. Stretching these boundaries has led to the emergence of new genres of content and has also led the way to the sophistication of some content.

As content becomes more engaging to the audience, the methods in which it is distributed and who it is being distributed to, is having a profound affect on the mass media. First, the way in which content ultimately reaches consumers has made the mass media continually more accessible during all parts of a person’s life. This influx of content availability is altering the way in which users will consume media. For example, users are confronted with a staggering amount of information on the Internet, however, increased searching capabilities coupled with an improved ratings system makes it easier to sift through mountains of information. Also the distribution of content is going mobile from iPods to cell phones to unsecured wireless networks, individuals are able to access all different sorts of information wherever and whenever they want. For creators of content it then is their charge to continue to understand that users will be continually confronted with information overload, even on the go, which means content will continually need to be improved.

Furthermore, with the increased channels of distribution available it will need to be understood by this “new media,” the shift in who is using this content. Aside from the ability of media companies (including advertisers) to reach this , who can now access content from wherever they want, there are changes among the demographics in America that are causing a shift in content. With the increasing of Internet aspect among African Americans and the shift in tastes among the Hispanic population, how these distinct user groups are reached and what messages will be appropriate for them.

Finally, one of the main trends this blog has focused on and is the main force driving the
media revolution is the Internet. The Internet has allowed users to access almost unlimited amounts of content. This has led to the debate of the concept of “net neutrality,” and whether or not certain content should be restricted to users. The resolution of this issue will have the greatest impact on the direction of the media revolution. If the ability to freely view content on the Internet is compromised, then the Internet could drastically affect the content available and the resolution of this debate will have a profound impact on the mass media. Currently, however, one of the growing trends is the inseparable relationship between traditional media and the Internet. This relationship is again helping to alter the content available to users. As an open communication forum the Internet allows the creators of the content to offer their users an increased form of interactivity unparalleled to other media, such as offering audio and video on a magazine’s webpage. Offering users this interactivity allows them to become involved with and to create content that can be easily distributed. Therefore, it becomes imperative to continue the flow of the media revolution the Internet must remain a two way dialogue between individuals who create content (whether that be large corporations or user generated) and the users who access it.

The majority of the emerging trends are due to the increases in technology and the development of content to match those increases. The Internet’s distinct role in helping to shape the “new media” revolution cannot be doubted, but no matter how much technology increases, whether it goes more mobile or connects at a higher speed, ultimately media still befalls to the content. The idea that the “media is the message” has been a steadfast ideal in the media world for numerous years, however, after analyzing the current trends is becoming more apparent that this old adage is not as strong as it once was. For instance, those fortunate enough to own a vide iPod know that at first it is exciting to be able to watch “South Park” on their iPod. Once this initial excitement is over it is no longer about being able to watch a show on an iPod and therefore become less about the media on which the content is displayed, and more about just watching “South Park,” the message. Therefore, in this world of “new media” if companies and individuals cannot create content that is compelling enough to warrant it filling the increasing space created by the Internet and its associated technologies, then it seems that idea behind Murdoch’s prediction for the media revolution will not come to fruition.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has read my blog this far.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Where Are All the Magazines Going?

Magazine publishers everywhere need to start making some decisions. As they watch their newspaper bretheren suffer from people's addiction to Internet news, and their own circulations remaining stagnat it might be time for magazines to start looking elsewhere to reach their readers. Though magazine circulations have not been decreaseing as rapidly as newspaper readersghip, because magazines allows for the information to be consumed at the reader's leisure, publishers are still begining to steer their investments onto the Internet.

One publisher that is aggresively pursuing to increase their presence on the Internet is Condé Nast, the nation's second largest magazine publisher. This move by such a large publishing house shows that that the world of magazines is finally begining to realize that, as it has been with other media, the Internet is becoming an insepreable sidekick.

However, Conde Nast's strategy has been to differentiate the brand of the magazine from their Internet destinations. For example Conde Nast' combines the contentof W and Vogue magazines in its, while including information available exclusively on the site. Differentiating the web offerings from the magazine brands, according to Steven Newhouse, chairman of the company responsible for the Conde Nast websites, allows for Conde Nast to "gain a broader audience and more loyalty from your subscribers if you extend the experience into the Web." This allows "the company to cast a wider net for readers beyond those already buying the magazines. Moreover, having sites unattached to a magazine brand allowed the sites to be more playful."

The reason that the Internet offers so many oppportunities for magazine publishers to reach readers is because ot the added content the Internet offers. Magazines that relocate to Internet can also include added material to their stories, includinge video and audio components. For example, Vanity Fair released a video on its website for a recent photo shoot. Another feature that is attracting magazines to the Internet is the interactivity. For instance, the Web allows for readers research products and connect with other readers who might have the same interests.

These opportunities presenting themselves to magazine publishers to enhance the magazine reader's experience will completely begin to change how and where magazines are read. And since Conde Nast is the second largest publisher in the U.S. it will not be suprising to see other publishers begin to follow suit.

As Magazine Readers Increasingly Turn to the Web, So Does Conde Nast

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Closing the Digital Divide

The digital divide has always been used to describe the haves and have nots on the Internet. The Internet always has been actively used by white and Asian-American in significant numbers while at the same time Internet use has surpassed many African-American users. It was this digital divide "that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success." Yet, the digital divide has begun to shrink as more African- Americans have been logging on.

Originally, the cause for the digital divide was sheer economics. The cost of the technology to access the Internet surapssed those African American consumers who were at the "lower end" of the economic scale, effectively keeping them off the information superhighway. With the proliferation of inexpensive computers to hit the market and the ability to access the Internet from almost every convievable consumer electronic from cellphones to handhelds to video game systems are one of the main causes for the decrease in the divide. Also as the Internet changes from being used solely as a place to gather information and more into a hub of entertainment and interaction, it is enticing

It is not suprising that the majority of those African-Americans crossing the digital divide tend to be young people. With the increased presence of computers and the Internet in schools it is easy to see how this trend can emerge. The youth, however, are not the only members of the African American community that are gaining access to the Internet. According to a Pew survey the number of African Americans who are using the Internet has increase 38 percent since 1998.

This increase in Internet usage has shruken the digital divide, however, there seems to be a growing divide in the difference between how the different races use the Internet.
According to Marlon Orozco, program manager at Intel Computer Clubhouse Network and organization designed to teach young people how to use the Internet, says that "Instant messaging and downloading music is one thing, but he would like to see black and Hispanic teenagers use the Internet in more challenging ways, like building virtual communities or promoting their businesses."

"The type and meaningful quality of access is, in some ways, a more challenging divide that remains," says Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Even though the digital divide may seem to be closing, usage is not just an issue anymore. The next step in eliminating the digital divide should be to help educate and provide access so those in the African American community that are just begining their foray into cyberspace will have the opportunity to become comfortable and competent with the Internent. With the constant changing of the capabilities of the Internet it is imperative that this issue be addressed before this subtle divide becomes and irreparable gap.

Digital Divide Closing as Blacks Turn to Internet

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pop Culture Make Me Smarter?

To think popular culture may actually make us smarter. Such a statement might elicit muffled laughter and the occassional guffaw, but a quick flip through your local primetime line up might just prove this to be true. In "Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter" by Steve Johnson he examines this emerging trend in the media and the implications it is having on content. (By the way I have read this book, and it's a quick and interesting read)

The foundation for this belief is that the content being presented on television involves more cognitive engagement then it did 30 years ago. For example, Johnson compares an episode of "Starsky and Hutch" to an episode of "24." Now, this might be like comparing apples to oranges, but if the overall content of both shows are examined it begins to show a massive difference. "Starsky and Hutch" only required its viewers to keep track of a few characters and follow a linear plot. "24" on the otherhand has at least 26 characters that the viewer needs to keep track of, plus they need to follow multiple plot lines and piece together the gaps between them. These more cognitive engaging programs do not solely exist as television programs, but extend further to video games, the Internet and movies. By distancing themselves from the formulaic presentation of content, it now requires viewers and users to use more brain power.

This increase in the sophistication of content has stemmed from the change of the guard in who is driving the wealth creation in the new media economy. According to Joseph Frydl, of a senior strategic planner at Ogilvy and Mather, "If the old economy was dominated by “Organization Men” -- rule-following agents of large companies who are charged with implementing systems -- the new economy is dominated by the creators of ideas. They create the new technologies, new ways of doing business, the spark behind great brands as well as the movies, music and images we consume all the time." It is these new "ideas people" are creating the demand for smarter pop culture and thus the creators of the media are begining to realize that "Because they're ideas people, stimulation and provocation enhance the value of popular entertainment."

This trend of increasing the cognitive involvement in pop culture will only continue to increase over time. With more individuals being drawn to HBO to watch the final season of "The Sopranos" or the viewers who religiously tune into primetime shows like "Lost" and "24" are just the begining of the sophistication of media content. As this trend continues it will begin to have a profound effect on what people view. Now, don't get me wrong there are still going to be people out there who watch wrestling and still believe its real or who tune in weekly and vote on "American Idol," but even these types of programming that are viewed as not being as sophisticated, still require their viewers to keep track of why Triple H has become a bad guy this week, or empower their viewers to become a talent scout and use their ears to figure out who is the better vocalist. And even in these small doses the increasing sophistication of pop culture is a good thing.

The Growing Sophistication of Popular Culture

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Run, the F.C.C. is Coming

Oh, the F.C.C., protector of broadcasting decency and mortal enemy of Howard Stern you sure have done it this time. On March 11 the F.C.C. leveled a $4 million fine against nine different television shows that had violated decency standards from February 2002 to March 2005. Out of that $4 million dollars, the CBS drama “Without a Trace,” which airs on over 111 different stations, was fined a record $3.6 for its alleged depiction of teenage orgy. As the F.C.C. becomes more ruthless in its pursuit to squash indecency, it has WB censoring the first episode of its new show “The Bedford Diaries” to avoid any potential fines.

“The Bedford Diaries,” is about college students who are enrolled in a class on human sexuality. The show was created by Tom Fontana, who also happened to create the graphic HBO series “Oz,” but unlike HBO, where no restrictions on content exist , the WB would be a prime target for the continued F.C.C. crackdown. Therefore, even though the show had been given the thumbs up by the WB’s standards department, certain scenes from the show were asked to be cut by Garth Ancier, the WB’s chairman.

This concern over being fined for broadcasting the content has led the WB to offer an uncut version of “The Bedford Diaries” on its website Yet, the decision to release an uncut version of a TV show online could potentially be a change in which networks broadcast programs. With the fear of fines from the F.C.C. increasing this could be an emerging trend among all networks as they look for ways to reach increasingly fickle viewers who don’t want to be restricted by the time and place they can watch TV. Another positive benefit for viewers is that the Hollywood creative guilds forbid programs online to be used for commercial use. But overall, this might just prove to be nothing more than a glorified promotional tool.

As Mr. Fontana sees it, “The message here is that they'll be forced to go alternative ways of looking at shows if they want to see the real thing. It's like they're telling people that broadcast television now has much less interesting stuff than you see on the Web or cable.” Driving viewers away from the actual network with the promise of uncut and commercial free programs available on the Internet may just hurt the networks as much as it helps them evade the F.C.C.

WB Censors Its Own Drama for Fear of F.C.C. Fines

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Free Piggyback Rides

Wireless Internet access was a huge technological break through. It freed up the masses of Internet users from the tangle of wires that kept most chained to their desks. It also provided unlimited users access to the net through one modem. Yet, with access to wireless networks being mostly unrestricted could it pose a problem for individuals with wireless networks in their homes.

The term “piggybacking” has been causing worry among wireless network owners. Piggybacking essentially is when another user that is not allowed access to the network logs on and uses it. These unauthorized users can be your next door neighbor or some stranger in the car outside.

This only occurs if you have an open wireless connection, and because of this it has led many people to wise up and begin protecting their networks through passwords and firewalls. It may seem like protecting your wireless network from these “hackers” is justified. They are stealing your Internet connection, and the media is portraying the issue like a potential threat to people’s wireless networks.

It’s apparent how this could be seen as a problem by some, but is it really? How nice and convenient is it to access the Internet from anywhere you can receive an open network signal? But that is where Internet Service Providers have a problem. They don’t see unauthorized users accessing another individual’s network as simply sharing; they see it as a loss of profit. What if your neighbor just piggybacks off your connection permanently instead of reaching into his pocket to pay for a thirty-nine dollar a month subscription fee?

Others see piggybacking as a security threat to their computer’s data. Still others don’t even lack the technical know how to protect their wireless networks and leave them open for this reason. Users currently don’t have the ability nor the software included with their wireless routers to monitor who is accessing their networks and how much bandwidth they use. Such advancements would help to eliminate unauthorized users from permanently accessing individual’s networks and also protect their computers from other users. Ultimately it should come down to the user if they are willing to leave their wireless networks open to share with others.

As the Internet is one of the most prevalent ways that individuals consume media, the wireless revolution should be embraced. Piggybacking is not the evil idea that it has been portrayed as. More individuals than ever a looking for mobile Internet access and as we see an increase in the use of portable media devices from iPods to Blackberries to laptops and tablet PCs, open wireless networks and the ability to access these networks will only continue to benefit users.


Hop on My Bandwidth

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Clooneygate: A Blogging Scandal

A scandal has ravaged the blogosphere. Dubbed "Clooneygate" by the New York Times, the scandal involves a post allegedly made by George Clooney on the blog And its implications may effect bloggers everywhere.

In Clooney's alleged post, he goes on a left-wing rant which included such statements as "I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it. Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's dirty word," and "Bottom line: it's not merely our right to question our government, it's our duty. Whatever the consequences. We can't demand freedom of speech then turn around and say, But please don't say bad things about us. You gotta be a grown up and take your hits. I am a liberal. Fire away."

Though it's somewhat easy to imagine these words leaving the impassioned fingers of Mr. Clooney as he sat banging away on a computer somewhere. But the the truth is they didn't. According to a statement released by Clooney "These are not my writings — they are answers to questions and there is a huge difference."It turned out that the post was just old quotes from published interviews that Clooney had done that were put together and given a little added pizazz by HuffingtonPost's creator Arianna Huffington.

Yet, Clooney's statement sums up the entire issue at hand: the purity of blogs. According to Huffington in a later post she says even though the writings weren't Clooney's, "the medium isn't the message; the message is the message." This implied that even though the message was falisfied, it does not effect the credibility of the blog to function as a source of information. And to many this idea attacks blogging's essence.

Anyone with any background in the media already knows the huge error in Huffington's statement. Since the posts on a blog are a mere extension of the blog itself, in the blogosphere the media and the message work simultaneously. When users visit a blog they become engrossed with the writing style of the blogger (or guest writers), they become familiar with the layout and design of the site, and most of all the trust the authenticity of the blogger. According to Jeff Jarvis of ""If you're not really writing your blog, if you're having or allowing someone else to do it for you, then you're gaming me, lying to me, insulting me." With blogging becoming a force to be reckoned with in the media world, such insults will not be tolerated.

A Guest Blogger, and an Unwritten Law

The "Clooney" Post