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June 26 2013

16:48

What’s New in Digital Scholarship: A generation gap in online news, and does The Daily Show discourage tolerance?

Editor’s note: There’s a lot of interesting academic research going on in digital media — but who has time to sift through all those journals and papers?

Our friends at Journalist’s Resource, that’s who. JR is a project of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and they spend their time examining the new academic literature in media, social science, and other fields, summarizing the high points and giving you a point of entry. Roughly once a month, JR managing editor John Wihbey will sum up for us what’s new and fresh.

We’re at the halfway mark in our year-long odyssey tracking all things digital media and academic. Below are studies that continue to advance understanding among various hot topics: drone journalism; surveillance and the public; Twitter in conflict zones; Big Data and its limits; crowdsourced information platforms; remix culture; and much more. We also suggest some further “beach reads” at bottom. Enjoy the deep dive.

“Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2013: Tracking the Future of News”: Paper from University of Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, edited by Nic Newman and David A. L. Levy.

This new report provides tremendous comparative perspective on how different countries and news ecosystems are developing both in symmetrical and divergent ways (see the Lab’s write-up of the national differences/similarities highlighted.) But it also provides some interesting hard numbers relating to the U.S. media landscape; it surveys news habits of a sample of more than 2,000 Americans.

Key U.S. data points include: the number of Americans reporting accessing news by tablet in the past week rose, from 11 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2013; 28 percent said they accessed news on a smartphone in the last week; 75 percent of Americans reported accessing news online in the past week, while 72 percent said they got news through television and 47 percent reported having read a print publication; TV (43 percent) and online (39 percent) were Americans preferred platforms for accessing news. Further, a yawning divide exists between the preferences of those ages 18 to 24 and those over 55: among the younger cohort, 64 percent say the Web is their main source for news, versus only 25 percent among the older group; as for TV, however, 54 percent of older Americans report it as their main source, versus only 20 percent among those 18 to 24. Finally, 12 percent of American respondents overall reported paying for digital news in 2013, compared to 9 percent in 2012.

“The Rise and Fall of a Citizen Reporter”: Study from Wellesley College, for the WebScience 2013 conference. By Panagiotis Metaxas and Eni Mustafaraj.

This study looks at a network of anonymous Twitter citizen reporters around Monterrey, Mexico, covering the drug wars. It provides new insights into conflict zone journalism and information ecosystems in the age of digital media, as well the limits of raw data. The researchers, both computer scientists, analyze a dataset focused on the hashtag #MTYfollow, consisting of “258,734 tweets written by 29,671 unique Twitter accounts, covering 286 days in the time interval November 2010-August 2011.” They drill down on the account @trackmty, run by the pseudonym Melissa Lotzer, which is the largest of the accounts involved.

The scholars reconstruct a sequence in which a wild Twitter “game” breaks out — obviously, with life-and-death stakes — involving accusations about cartel informants (“hawks,” or “halcones”) and citizen watchdogs (“eagles,” or “aguilas”), with counter-accusations flying that certain citizen reporters were actually working for the Zetas drug cartel; indeed, @trackmty ends up being accused of working for the cartels. Online trolls attack her on Twitter and in blogs.

“The original Melissa @trackmty is slow to react,” the study notes, “and when she does, she tries to point to her past accomplishments, in particular the creation of [a group of other media accounts] and the interviews she has given to several reporters from the US and Spain (REF). But the frequency of her tweeting decreases, along with the community’s retweets. Finally, at the end of June, she stops tweeting altogether.” It turns out that the real @trackmty had been exposed — “her real identity, her photograph, friends and home address.”

Little of this drama was obvious from the data. Ultimately, the researchers were able to interview the real @trackmty and members of the #MTYfollow community. The big lessons, they realize, are the “limits of Big Data analysis.” The data visualizations showing influence patterns and spikes in tweet frequency showed all kinds of interesting dynamics. But they were insufficient to make inferences of value about the community affected: “In analyzing the tweets around a popular hashtag used by users who worry about their personal safely in a Mexican city we found that one must go back and forth between collecting and analyzing many times while formulating the proper research questions to ask. Further, one must have a method of establishing the ground truth, which is particularly tricky in a community of — mostly — anonymous users.”

“Undermining the Corrective Effects of Media-Based Political Fact Checking? The Role of Contextual Cues and Naïve Theory”: Study from Ohio State University, published in the Journal of Communication. By R. Kelly Garrett, Erik C. Nisbet, and Emily K. Lynch.

As the political fact-checking movement — the FactChecks and Politifacts, along with their various lesser-known cousins — has arisen, so too has a more hard-headed social science effort to get to the root causes of persistent lies and rumors, a situation made all the worse on the web. Of course, journalists hope truth can have a “corrective” effect, but the literature in this area suggests that blasting more facts at people often doesn’t work — hence, the “information deficit fallacy.” Thus, a cottage psych-media research industry has grown up, exploring “motivated reasoning,” “biased assimilation,” “confirmation bias,” “cultural cognition,” and other such concepts.

This study tries to advance understanding of how peripheral cues such as accompanying graphics and biographical information can affect how citizens receive and accept corrective information. In experiments, the researchers ask subjects to respond to claims about the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero and the disposition of its imam. It turns out that contextual information — what the imam has said, what he looks like and anything that challenges dominant cultural norms — often erodes the positive intentions of the fact-checking message.

The authors conclude that the “most straightforward method of maximizing the corrective effect of a fact-checking article is to avoid including information that activates stereotypes or generalizations…which make related cognitions more accessible and misperceptions more plausible.” The findings have a grim quality: “The unfortunate conclusion that we draw from this work is that contextual information so often included in fact-checking messages by professional news outlets in order to provide depth and avoid bias can undermine a message’s corrective effects. We suggest that this occurs when the factually accurate information (which has only peripheral bearing on the misperception) brings to mind” mental shortcuts that contain generalizations or stereotypes about people or things — so-called “naïve theories.”

“Crowdsourcing CCTV surveillance on the Internet”: Paper from the University of Westminster, published in Information, Communication & Society. By Daniel Trottier.

A timely look at the implications of a society more deeply pervaded by surveillance technologies, this paper analyzes various web-based efforts in Britain that involve the identification of suspicious persons or activity. (The controversies around Reddit and the Boston Marathon bombing suspects come to mind here.) The researcher examine Facewatch, CrimeStoppers UK, Internet Eyes, and Shoreditch Digital Bridge, all of which had commercial elements attached to crowdsourcing projects where participants monitored feed from surveillance cameras of public spaces. He points out that these “developments contribute to a normalization of participatory surveillance for entertainment, socialization, and commerce,” and that the “risks of compromised privacy, false accusations and social sorting are offloaded onto citizen-watchers and citizen-suspects.” Further, the study highlights the perils inherent in the “‘gamification’ of surveillance-based labour.”

“New Perspectives from the Sky: Unmanned aerial vehicles and journalism”: Paper from the University of Texas at Arlington, published in Digital Journalism. By Mark Tremayne and Andrew Clark.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) in journalism is an area of growing interest, and this exploration provides some context and research-based perspective. Drones in the service of the media have already been used for everything from snapping pictures of Paris Hilton and surveying tornado damaged areas in Alabama to filming secret government facilities in Australia and protestor clashes in Poland. In all, the researchers found “eight instances of drone technology being put to use for journalistic purposes from late 2010 through early 2012.”

This practice will inevitably raise issues about the extent to which it goes too far. “It is not hard to imagine how the news media, using drones to gather information, could be subject to privacy lawsuits,” the authors write. “What the news media can do to potentially ward off the threat of lawsuits is to ensure that drones are used in an ethical manner consistent with appropriate news practices. News directors and editors and professional associations can establish codes of conduct for the use of such devices in much the same way they already do with the use of hidden cameras and other technology.”

“Connecting with the user-generated Web: how group identification impacts online information sharing and evaluation”: Study from University of California, Santa Barbara, published in Information, Communication & Society. By Andrew J. Flanagin, Kristin Page Hocevar, and Siriphan Nancy Samahito.

Whether it’s Wikipedia, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or some other giant pool of user-generated “wisdom,” user-generated platforms convene large, disaggregated audiences who form loose memberships based around apparent common interests. But what makes certain communities bond and stick together, keeping online information environments fresh, passionate, and lively (and possibly accurate)?

The researchers involved in this study perform some experiments with undergraduates to see how adding small bits of personal information — the university, major, gender, or other piece of information — to informational posts changed perceptions by viewers. Perhaps predictably, the results show that “potential contributors had more positive attitudes (manifested in the form of increased motivation) about contribution to an online information pool when they experienced shared group identification with others.”

For editors and online community designers and organizers, the takeaway is that information pools “may actually form and sustain themselves best as communities comprising similar people with similar views.” Not exactly an antidote to “filter bubble” fears, but it’s worth knowing if you’re an admin for an online army.

“Selective Exposure, Tolerance, and Satirical News”: Study from University of Texas at Austin and University of Wyoming, published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research. By Natalie J. Stroud and Ashley Muddiman.

While not the first study to focus on the rise of satirical news — after all, a 2005 study in Political Communication on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” now has 230 subsequent academic citations, according to Google Scholar — this new study looks at satirical news viewed specifically in a web context.

It suggests the dark side of snark, at least in terms of promoting open-mindedness and deliberative democracy. The conclusion is blunt: “The evidence from this study suggests that satirical news does not encourage democratic virtues like exposure to diverse perspectives and tolerance. On the contrary, the results show that, if anything, comedic news makes people more likely to engage in partisan selective exposure. Further, those viewing comedic news became less, not more, tolerant of those with political views unlike their own.” Knowing Colbert and Stewart, the study’s authors can expect an invitation soon to atone for this study.

The hidden demography of new media ethics”: Study from Rutgers and USC, published in Information, Communication & Society. By Mark Latonero and Aram Sinnreich.

The study leverages 2006 and 2010 survey data, both domestic and international, to take an analytical look at how notions of intellectual property and ethical Web culture are evolving, particularly as they relate to ideas such as remixing, mashups and repurposing of content. The researchers find a complex tapestry of behavioral norms, some of them correlated with certain age, gender, race or national traits. New technologies are “giving rise to new configurable cultural practices that fall into the expanding gray area between traditional patterns of production and consumption. The data suggest that these practices have the potential to grow in prevalence in the United States across every age group, and have the potential to become common throughout the dozens of industrialized nations sampled in this study.”

Further, rules of the road have formed organically, as technology has outstripped legal strictures: “Most significantly, despite (or because of) the inadequacy of present-day copyright laws to address issues of ownership, attribution, and cultural validity in regard to emerging digital practices, everyday people are developing their own ethical frameworks to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate uses of reappropriated work in their cultural environments.”

Beach reads:

Here are some further academic paper honorable mentions this month — all from the culture and society desk:

Photo by Anna Creech used under a Creative Commons license.

June 18 2013

17:20

Adobe Finds Tablets Racing Ahead For Retailers

Time was, the term “mobile” could be used to describe a swathe of devices. But now the market is so rich with portable gadgets, it’s time to get more granular, according to Adobe digital marketing SVP and GM  Brad Rencher.

“A lot of people are still lumping smartphones together with tablets, together with other types of mobile device,” Rencher told Beet.TV during the Cannes Lions advertising conflab. “We’ve seen very different behaviour in terms of how and when people use those devices.”

“Tablets are becoming a powerhouse in terms of engagement with apps and shopping. People are spending more time with tablets between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Smartphones tend to be out and about during the middle of the day, looking for directions or  for a restaurant.

“Tablets are becoming a retailer’s dream. We buy more often when we shop  on tablets than we do on desktops or smartphones. And when we buy, we buy 25 percent more product on tablets than we do on any other platform.”

Rencher bases the differentiation on “hundreds and hundreds of millions of interactions” from Adobe’s Marketing Cloud advertiser analytics suite.

March 25 2013

18:49

“Post Classic”: The Washington Post integrates its print edition into a new iPad app

What if you had an old-school newspaper newsroom where the digital producers were at the core of the operation, and the task of putting together the print newspaper was the side job?

The Washington Post’s Cory Haik, executive producer for digital news, says that’s “exactly what we are trying to do,” with the new iPad app the paper launched Monday as a step in that “one web” direction. (Disclosure: I freelance regularly for Post.)

washington-post-ipad-front-page

But the Post is also trying to find ways to bring along less digitally oriented readers. The new app includes a print replica edition — so you can still read the daily paper in its entirety from A1 to the back page — but with the display of each story still optimized for the tablet, rather than frozen in awkwardly static PDFs or in ungainly digital presentations. (The replica includes puzzles, comics, and Sunday magazine, plus a 14-day archive so you can dig back into recently published material.) Plenty of newspapers offer a replica edition for the iPad, but most are separate from their “traditional” iPad apps. (Can we say “traditional iPad app” yet?)

“The app features the new ‘Post Classic,’ which yes, is an entire replica of the broadsheet newspaper,” Haik told me in an email. “This was something users had been asking for since our first version of the iPad. They wanted the complete Washington Post. The mobile teams worked hard to create something that delivered across the board. It’s more than a PDF reader — we thought a lot about the UX and flow from the ‘Post Classic’ version into our iPad reading experience.”

(Coke Classic jokes are left as an exercise for the reader.)

washington-post-ipad-replica

The app also represents a move to Newsstand for the Post, which means Apple will get a 30 percent cut of any subscription revenue generated using in-app purchases. (The app is free in the Apple Store for now, but the newspaper is rolling out a paywall this summer.) The Post’s decision to go that route had less to do with money, though, and more to do with giving readers what they want. Haik explains: “It’s part of Apple and delivering on the platform. We have to meet our users where they are.”

Not everyone is thrilled about the move. Commenters in the Post’s announcement about the app have already expressed annoyance that Android users are being left out. Here’s Haik: “As for other native tablet apps, those are surely conversations that are active. It was just time for an upgrade to our iPad product and Newsstand was a natural step for us.”

The meet-the-audience-where-it-is mentality is also what prompted the Post to bring its moderated commenting system, The Forum, from its politics iPad app to the new flagship app. “Our goal was to create a ‘lean-back’ and synthesized view for an iPad audience looking to digest the conversation without all the noise,” Haik said. In other words, it’s a way to foster engagement without subjecting Twitter-averse readers to the firehose of that platform.

“When we think about building out social, it’s important to think about users who are not on social as well,” Haik said in a later online chat. “And [The Forum] can be customized, but we tried to do the heavy lifting for folks.”

Other notable aspects you’ll find on the app: live video and live chats, photo galleries, sports scores, and the ability to read offline.

“We have an entire producer crew that is dedicated to desktop and mobile platforms — 24/7,” Haik said. “Right now there is a big focus on making sure the app is ready at night and then throughout the day.”

August 03 2012

05:59

Low-priced tablets in emerging economies profitable for panel makers, say sources

Digitimes :: Panel makers are producing low-priced tablet panels for usage in the educational sector within emerging economies, according to industry sources. Sources said the makers believe tackling niche markets in emerging economies is more profitable at present as there is more growth compared with mature economies.

A report by Sammi Huang, Taipei | Alex Wolfgram, www.digitimes.com

July 31 2012

16:41

Journalism and Digital Education Roundup, June 31, 2012

The best stories across the web on journalism and digital education



1. What will J-schools look like in 2020? (Poynter)


2. Graphic novels, e-books on student summer reading lists (Baltimore Sun)


3. Company adds e-books for community colleges, vocational schools (Publishers Weekly)


4. Tablets arrive at rural schools (Austin Daily Herald)


5. 10 tips for live digital reporting (journalism.co.uk)


Get the weekly Journalism Education Roundup email from MediaShift



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May 03 2012

19:39

Ad buyers want better info on magazine tablet editions

AdAge :: Print media buyers have sent a letter to magazine publishers asking them to reveal more information about their tablet editions' performance. "While certain digital extensions, such as the tablet, represent a relatively new medium, we believe the time has come for rigorous transparency and accountability," the 4A's Print Media Committee said in a May 1 letter to the MPA, the magazine industry association.

Continue to read Nat Ives, adage.com

April 27 2012

06:33

Consumers turn to tablets to research purchase decisions

emarketer :: Online’s role in researching products and services has been well documented, but a study from Local Corporation conducted by the e-tailing group offered greater insight into the role of mobile devices—particularly tablets—in the purchase-decision process. Not surprisingly, desktop and laptop computers are no longer the only means of performing digital research. Findings showed more than 60% of North American consumers researched products or services multiple times a month via a mobile device.

Continue to read www.emarketer.com

Tags: iPad Tablets

April 22 2012

08:48

Google to enter tablet war against Apple and Amazon

The National :: The search giant Google is understood to be planning to release its own tablet computers in a move that would take it toe to toe with the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire. Google is expected to use the smartphone and tablet maker Motorola Mobility, which it acquired for US$12.5 billion (Dh45.91bn), to co-brand tablets running Google's Android software to sell online via the Google website. Its strategy is to try to counter what it sees as attempts by rivals such as Apple and Amazon to carve out huge, exclusive chunks of the internet market.

Continue to read Tony Glover, www.thenational.ae

April 18 2012

16:18

Daily Must Reads, April 18, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung.

1. Julian Assange launches talk show on Russian television (NYT)



2. Father of the world wide web urges people to demand their personal data from Google, Facebook (Guardian)



3. Hulu's paid subscription service hits 2 million users (GigaOm)



4. More people are watching TV shows on their tablets (MediaDailyNews)



5. Can Twitter replace newswire services? (Digiday)



6. Netflix could move from streaming to making content (GigaOm)



Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



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This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

15:54

Sony's Rob Wiesenthal: The future of TV is the tablet

AdAge :: Waiting for the day that a majority of consumers download content from the internet directly to their TVs? You may be waiting a while, said Rob Wiesenthal, chief financial officer, Sony Corp. of America. - "The past 10 years everyone has been trying to figure out what is the optimum [user experience] for [internet-enabled] TV," Mr. Wiesenthal told the audience today at the Ad Age Digital Conference in New York City.

[Rob Wiesenthal:] People are trying guns, pointer devices … and, actually, I think it is the tablet.

The what?

Continue to read Jaseon Del Rey, adage.com

April 14 2012

17:51

MIT's Jason Pontin: Tablets must be based on open standards to succeed

Beet.TV :: The "feckless infatuation" of magazine publishers to creating closed-garden Apps to replicate their publications has proven to be a disappointment, says Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief of MIT's Technology Review in this 10-minute video. He says that the medium of the Internet is fundamentally "linky" and that for tablets to succeed, they need to be built on open standards, namely HTML5.

Continue to read Andy Plesser, www.beet.tv

Tags: Tablets

April 10 2012

14:00

Pew Survey Shows How E-Books Are Changing the Equation for Publishers, Readers

More Americans are reading e-books than ever, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

The most impressive stat from the study is that 21 percent of adults had read an e-book in the past year, but adults are still more likely to read a printed book. Seventy-two percent of adults (age 16 or older) turn the pages the old-fashioned way.

However, the reach of e-books is growing, increasing from 17 percent of adults before the 2011 holiday season, during which thousands of e-reading devices appeared under Christmas trees, to 21 percent immediately after. The poll, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, captured Americans' attitudes toward reading and digital reading in mid-December 2011 and January 2012.

The data showing that e-books are on the rise will not surprise anyone who's been paying attention to the rapid adoption of e-readers. But what the study really sheds light on is how quickly our relationship with reading is changing in the digital age.

Reading is still in decline, but not by much

Thumbnail image for ebook_flickrcc_by_shall_be_lifted.jpg

According to the study, 22 percent of Americans said they hadn't read a book in the previous 12 months or refused to answer the question. That figure was 12 percent in 1978, 19 percent in 1990, 15 percent in 1999, 14 percent in 2001, 17 percent in 2005, and 22 percent in 2011. Fewer people are reading than ever, but the percentage of people who don't read has been hovering around 20 percent for 20 years now. Increasing use of the Internet since the mid-'90s and ever more available tech gadgets haven't radically changed the percentage of Americans who read books, especially when the study's plus or minus two-percentage-point margin of error is taken into account.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Richard Eoin Nash is a forward-thinking publishing veteran who ran Soft Skull Press, an independent publisher, from 2001 to 2007. He wasn't surprised by this result. "Frankly, this 'reading in decline' business struck me as a bunch of hokum," he said.

Nash currently wears several hats as the founder of Cursor, offering what he describes as a "new, social approach to publishing," the publisher of Cursor's Red Lemonade imprint, and the vice president of Community and Content for Small Demons, a startup that tracks the rich content inside of books, including songs and places referenced in them.

"There is absolutely no sign that reading is in danger," he said. "As a rule, these things tend to get exploited by people looking for stories about how the sky is falling, whether it's because they're looking for funding, or whether it's because every establishment institution that purveys culture in the end is looking for ways to preserve its status. Changes in technology, all other things being equal, tend to undermine its status. So, whether it was Socrates complaining about books or the great comic book scares of the 1950s when four-color printing came about, every time there is a new technology that allows more and different culture to be created, the guardians of the status quo announce that civilization is over."

E-Books Result in More Reading, Even in Men

On the other hand, despite the continued slight decline in reading overall, e-books are increasing the rate of reading among some people. According to Pew, "30 percent of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now. Some 41 percent of tablet owners and 35 percent of e-reading device owners said they are reading more since the advent of e-content."

Many studies have found that men read less than women, and this poll supports that general trend -- 14 percent of men are frequent readers, reading 21 or more books in the past year, while 20 percent of women are frequent readers. However, men who own e-readers report they are reading more now, and men are more avid readers than women of certain categories of material. Men are slightly more likely to read a newspaper daily. Men are more likely than women to read about current events daily (53 percent vs. 46 percent), and men are more likely to read daily for work or school, while women are more likely to read for pleasure. Men are more likely to own only a tablet computer, such as the iPad or Kindle Fire, while women are more likely to own only an e-reader, such as the Kindle or Nook.

Teachers and librarians have often lamented that it's more difficult to interest boys in reading than girls. Could e-books provide a way to interest more boys in reading?

Samantha Becker, research project manager of the U.S. IMPACT Study at the University of Washington's Information School, said, "I think it may be too soon to tell whether e-readers are making readers out of non-readers. But it certainly has the potential to be a hook for boys and other reluctant readers if they are enticed by being able to use technology. The other thing that e-books provide is the ability to link to other resources beyond the print, including videos and other enhanced content that will make reading more fun and interesting. This is an underutilized capability of e-books, particularly for tablets, but I think it will be a growing area of development as the market expands, and eventually there will be books written with enhanced content in mind."

E-Book Enthusiasts are Superlative Readers

E-book users earn a gold star for reading more avidly than any other group. The Pew study finds e-book readers are "relatively avid readers of books in all formats: 88 percent of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read printed books. Compared with other book readers, they read more books. They read more frequently for a host of reasons: for pleasure, for research, for current events, and for work or school. They are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than borrowed it, and they are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books in general, often starting their search online."

Significantly for publishers who feel the ground shifting under their feet with recent developments such as the demise of Borders and some other traditional bookstores, e-book readers are more likely to buy the books they read, while other readers are more apt to borrow.

"Is this part of a CD moment?" Nash wondered. "We had this moment in the music business where people embraced the CD player over their cassette player, and they started acquiring a significant amount of CDs. At a certain point, that plateaued as people acquired a critical mass of stuff, and then shifted to a more sedate degree of consumption. By consumption, I mean purchase. The amount they listened to remained the same, but the amount they purchased started to taper off. This is highly speculative. I'm not saying this will happen. But as Nassim Taleb (author of 'The Black Swan') always points out, every straight line going up at a diagonal stops some time."

Given that e-book readers are more likely to purchase books than non e-book readers, every publisher will have to cater to them to stay afloat in the rapidly changing book marketplace. Nash observed that figuring out how to do this is the publishers' problem, not the readers'.

"The interesting thing is the reader doesn't have a problem here," he said. "Because for so long, people could only read what a fairly small group of publishers picked for them to read. Readers were living in an oligopolistic world. So we didn't really have to think very much about readers. They were only peripherally part of the equation. From a cultural standpoint, they were absolutely central. But in terms of talking about the industry, they were an abstraction. They were helpless. Now they have power. Now they can choose not just from a much larger group of publishers than existed before, but also from a bigger chunk of publishing history, as books stay in print longer and books that were out of print get put back into print."

He added, "I would emphasize how significant it is that books are no longer going out of print. Most books published in 1986 were not available in bookstores in 1990, so there was this forgetting. We're sort of living in a science-fiction movie where no one forgets, where everything published stays published. That gives readers tremendous power."

pewchart_better.jpg

Do E-books Contribute to the Digital Divide?

The Pew poll, which was conducted in English and Spanish, found Hispanics read less than white or black people, and that lower-income Americans read the least: "A fifth of Americans (18 percent) said they had not read a book in the past year. This group is more likely to be: male than female (23 percent vs. 14 percent), Hispanic than white or black (28 percent vs. 17 percent and 16 percent), age 65 or older (27 percent), lacking a high school diploma (34 percent), living in households earning less than $30,000 (26 percent), unemployed (22 percent), and residents of rural areas (25 percent). Those who did not read a book last year also tended not to be technology users."

Do e-books contribute to the digital divide in which those without access to technology are being left behind in a tech-centered world? Becker said, "I don't know that e-books contribute to the digital divide right now, though that's certainly a possibility in the future if e-publishing overtakes traditional publishing and readers are shut out of participating because of excessive restrictions in borrowing and lending, or prohibitive costs for accessing devices and content.

"I think there is some more interesting research to be done around the intersection of reluctant readers and people who also don't use much technology. It seems likely that those folks are probably living on the margins generally, and lack of reading and use of technology is a symptom of their circumstances rather than a cause. Ensuring that rural, poor, unemployed, and other marginalized groups have access to reading and self-improvement has always been a core value for public libraries, and it continues in ensuring access to technology and digital literacy skills. Librarians see this as part of their mission, and e-book access is becoming part of that mission, too."

Looking Toward the Digital Future

The Pew study shows that Americans have begun to move toward reading books, newspapers, and magazines digitally, without waiting for the publishing industry to figure out how to survive this shift.

Nash reflected on the history of the publishing industry to frame the current moment. "In the last 150 years, publishing became a weird artifact of the industrial revolution," he said. "With the industrial revolution, you tend to have this really stark separation between producer and consumer, because you make money off of scale. In an analogue, mechanical reproduction situation, the primary way you're going to make money is because your marginal costs always decline. It starts high and always it declines. So the more you can print of something, the more money you're going to make on each additional unit. With digital, the marginal cost of reproduction is virtually zero. What we're witnessing most clearly is the slow demise of the industrial revolution model. It's interesting because books began it. Books were the first mass-produced object."

As Pew's research shows, only a few years after their introduction, e-books have arrived as an important part of reading in America, whether publishers and booksellers are ready for them or not.

Photo of e-reader by Anders Hoff on Flickr

Jenny Shank is the author of the novel "The Ringer" (The Permanent Press, 2011), a finalist for the Reading the West Book Awards. Her fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Poets & Writers Magazine, Bust, Dallas Morning News, High Country News and The Onion.

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April 09 2012

15:53

Daily Must Reads, April 9, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung.

1. "When a new medium comes along, embrace its possibilities." -- And other lessons from Mike Wallace's life (Forbes)



2. NBC News presidents explains Zimmerman tape-editing snafu (Mediaite)



3. More than 67 percent of U.S. libraries now offer downloadable e-books (PaidContent)



4. Study: Tablets are not helping publishers expand advertising base (MinOnline)



5. Is Google coming out with its own tablet this year? (Mobile Marketing Daily)




Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



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March 29 2012

19:17

Tablets in the classroom could save schools $3b a year

AllThingsD :: A group of publishers and tech companies gathered in Washington today to talk about getting digital textbooks into U.S. classrooms. The gathering, convened by the FCC and the Department of Education, included everyone from Apple to Intel to McGraw-Hill, and it was premised on the idea that digitizing classrooms is a good thing. And for argument’s sake, let’s say it is. But not because doing so will save schools much money. At least not anytime soon. Here’s a report from the FCC that compares costs, per student, for a traditional classroom and one that uses tablets.

Continue to read Peter Kafka, allthingsd.com

February 11 2012

21:23

Kindle Fire conversion rate worse for advertisers than iPhone

RKG Blog | Rimm-Kaufman Group :: By all accounts, the adoption and use of tablet computers has accelerated over the last few months, bringing them to the forefront of the attentions of consumers and marketers alike. After more moderate growth at the beginning of 2011, tablet traffic shot up quickly during the holiday season and it remained elevated through January of this year. RKG research shows tablet ad click share from paid search campaigns was 5 times higher last month than it was in the same period a year ago.

Continue to read Mark Ballard, www.rimmkaufman.com

February 03 2012

14:59

LIVE: Session 3B – Multiplatform strategies

News outlets rarely publish on one platform in today’s media market and so when it comes to forming a publishing strategy they need to be aware of the opportunities of each platform, from smartphone and iPad to the Kindle and desktop computer screen. This session will look at the importance of building an effective multiplatform strategy and making the best of content across different devices.

With: Mike Goldsmith, editor-in-chief of iPad and tablet editions, Future Publishing; Douglas Arellanes, technologist, consultant and the director of clients and services, Sourcefabric; Ron Diorio, vice-president of product and community development, Economist.com; and Lucia Adams, web development editor, the Times.

15.01

We’re about to kick off on multiplatform strategy. Hope the wifi holds out!

January 23 2012

14:00

Pew Report: Tablet Ownership Doubles. What's Left for Print?

The shift from print to mobile reading went into overdrive this holiday season, with ownership of e-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad doubling in a single month.

A new survey-based study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that the percentage of adults owning tablet computers went from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January, with the same growth rate seen among black-and-white e-readers like the Kindle.

tabletdoubling.jpg

Source: The Dec. 2011 and Jan. 2012 Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

So how should content providers and publishers react to this news? As the founder of e-book publishing startup BookBrewer, I live and die by these kinds of numbers, and they're obviously good for us. But they should serve as a wake-up call for traditional publishers -- especially newspapers, magazines and book publishers that still manage their businesses around shrinking print audiences.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS

The Pew study said tablet and e-reader adoption sped up due to holiday gifting, but it was amped by two new value-priced color tablets: Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's new $249 Nook Tablet, both of which are far below the iPad's $499-$829 price point. Amazon doesn't release exact figures on the Kindle Fire, but investment research firm Morgan Keenan recently estimated that Amazon sold 4-5 million Fires over the holidays at the expense of 1-2 million iPads that Apple would have sold absent the Fire.

Also noteworthy in the study is that the sex divide has disappeared -- at least for tablets. In November of 2010, 60% of tablet owners were male. Today? It's at a healthy 50-50 male to female ratio. Curiously, black-and-white e-readers went in the opposite direction, with women now making up 57% of of e-reader owners. (My theory on that based on e-book sales data I'm privy to as the owner of BookBrewer is that romance e-books play a role, but I digress.)

In both cases, people with more education and higher incomes were more likely to own a tablet or e-reader, although the difference was slightly less for e-readers.

GOODBYE PRINT?

So what's left for the print market? This is a valid question because the contrast in trends for tablets and traditional print couldn't be more stark. Think about it. In just one month the number of people with a sexy new device that can display books, websites and streaming video doubled. When's the last time you saw those kinds of figures for mass-market newspapers or magazines?

What's more, these tablets are generating significant sales from content after very little time on the market. An RBC Capital analyst projects that the brand-new Kindle Fire will make Amazon $100 over the lifetime of the device. The revenue comes directly from sales of e-books, apps and streaming content from Amazon.

Compare that to Pew's figures on yearly newspaper revenue, which has been going in the opposite direction for some time.

Having been completely out of the newspaper industry for over two years, I see the glass as more than half full, but I keenly remember how it felt to work for a newspaper and feel tied to a tanking business model. That's partly why I've been urging journalists and news organizations to repackage and publish their content as e-books. E-book sales were surging even before the numbers looked this rosy, and they represent a new way to monetize content without advertising.

And here's the great news there. I now have multiple, solid examples that readers buy e-books about news.

Our first news partner, The Huffington Post, has published several e-books through BookBrewer that quickly moved into the No. 1 spots of their categories -- including this latest about the Occupy Wall Street movement. And we're seeing a similar effect with The Denver Post's first e-book about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Based on these successes, we're openly looking for more news organizations that are ready to jump into the e-book world with both feet, so let me know if that means you or your organization.

WHERE PRINT STILL SHINES
To those of you who mourn the loss of the feel of a printed product in your hand, don't fret. Print is not completely dead. If you think of the digital revolution as a play, print is going through a wardrobe change.

Here's just one example. On January 8, we started pre-order sales for the Post's Tebow book as a Print on Demand paperback through our partner Consolidated Graphics. Even though readers have a choice between e-book and print, we've been amazed to see the print orders outpace the e-book orders by a 3-to-1 ratio. The book's print pre-order sales reached $23,000 in just 10 days, and they show no signs of slowing down.

I heard something similar from the folks at O'Reilly Publishing at a session I ran at their recent NewsFoo camp in Phoenix. Founder Tim O'Reilly told participants that his company sells twice as many e-books from the O'Reilly website than it does directly through Amazon. Those e-book sales are high, but print sales still make up at least half of their business. More and more of those print books are printed on demand from online orders, too.

GIVE INFORMATION CONSUMERS WHAT THEY WANT

Here's what I see as the broader trend. It's not the printed book itself that's dying, but rather the way that books are mass-marketed, shipped to physical book stores, retailed, sold at a loss, and ultimately shipped back to publishers for a refund. (And what does that tell you about my view on daily newspaper delivery? It should be obvious. Stop the insanity! Newspapers should be personalized and on demand, too.)

On the same note, the growth in tablets and e-readers says more about peoples' desire for convenience and choice than it does about gadget lust.

Information consumers now expect to get whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever form they choose. Tablets, e-readers and smartphones speak directly to that need, but so does an impulse buy of a printed book that shows up at your doorstep five days later. In fact, more and more of those purchases initiate from smartphones. The need for on-demand, multi-platform publishing -- perhaps including an app or two -- has never been more important.

06:57

Pew Research: Tablet and e-book reader ownership nearly double over the holiday gift-giving period

Pew Research :: The share of adults in the U.S. who own tablet computers nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January and the same surge in growth also applied to e-book readers, which also jumped from 10% to 19% over the same time period. The number of Americans owning at least one of these digital reading devices jumped from 18% in December to 29% in January. These findings are striking because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers

Continue to read Lee Rainie, www.pewinternet.org

January 22 2012

05:57

RedPad: A custom-made Android tablet for China's cadres priced at $1,580

Penn Olsen :: Yesterday, we told you about the RedPad, an Android tablet aimed at China’s government officials and priced at an incredible 9,999 RMB ($1,580). Yesterday, the Southern Metropolis Daily spoke to an official RedPad rep and got the full scoop on the device, and also heard the company’s official response to many of the cynical questions raised by Chinese net users after the device went viral yesterday.

The biggest question, of course, is why the device costs so much.

Continue to read C. Custer, www.penn-olson.com

January 16 2012

21:31

91% of business professionals use iPads for work, 83% loyal to Apple

Electronista :: Nearly every business pro with an iPad is using it primarily to get work done, IDG determined in a study on Monday. About 91 percent worldwide who have iPads use it for work first, leaving just the small remainder to personal-first use. About a quarter of those tablets had been supplied by work, showing that companies were increasingly handing out Apple's tablet as a corporate tool.

Continue to read Staff reporter, www.electronista.com

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