Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

January 13 2012

18:41

What Do You Think About the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)?

Imagine 150,000 people from 140 countries wandering 1.6 million square feet of exhibit space in search of the latest whiz-bang flat-screen TV, tablet, smartphone or souped-up teched-out car. This is the International CES show in Las Vegas, which has mushroomed from 17,500 attendees in 1967 to the massive techno-hordes of today. This could be either your most incredible dream or a nightmare waiting to happen. Often, for tech journalists and bloggers, it ends up being both. So what's your take on CES? Have you attended and enjoyed what you experienced? Is it your idea of the 7th level of Hades? Vote in our poll (where you can choose multiple answers) and explain more in the comments below.


The Consumer Electronics Show is...

To hear more about CES, check out the latest edition of the Mediatwits podcast, with two tech journalists reporting from the conference floor.

P.S. From the CES website:

Products that Debuted at CES

Videocassette Recorder (VCR), 1970
Laserdisc Player, 1974

Camcorder, 1981

Compact Disc Player, 1981

Digital Audio Technology, 1990

Compact Disc - Interactive, 1991

Mini Disc, 1993

Radio Data System, 1993

Digital Satellite System, 1994

Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), 1996

High Definition Television (HDTV), 1998 Hard-disc VCR (PVR), 1999

Digital Audio Radio (DAR), 2000

Microsoft Xbox, 2001

Plasma TV, 2001

Home Media Server, 2002

HD Radio, 2003

Blu-Ray DVD, 2003

HDTV PVR, 2003

HD Radio, 2004

IP TV, 2005

An explosion of digital content services, 2006

New convergence of content and technology, 2007

OLED TV, 2008

3D HDTV, 2009

Tablets, Netbooks and Android Devices, 2010

Connected TV, Smart Appliances, Android Honeycomb, Ford's Electric Focus, Motorola Atrix, Microsoft Avatar Kinect, 2011

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

15:20

Mediatwits #33: CES Jumped the Shark?; SOPA Battles; Google+ in Search

Welcome to the 33rd episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali. This week we have a special show focused on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happening in Las Vegas all week. Apple isn't there and Microsoft did its last keynote presentation there. Is the show losing momentum? Are we all burned out on gadgets and flatter TVs? We talk to two tech journalists on the CES floor, Rob Pegoraro and TechDirt's Mike Masnick, about the various new TV sets, tablets and smartphones. Plus, Masnick gives us an update about how the CEA and many folks at the show are overwhelmingly opposed to the two anti-piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA, before Congress.

Meanwhile, search giant Google caused a stir by integrating Google+ much more deeply into its search results. The new "Search Plus Your World" has been criticized as unfairly giving Google+ an advantage over Twitter and Facebook in search results. Google responded by saying that it was upset that Twitter didn't renew its contract to be included in search results. Will this move bring more trouble to Google, with the Feds already investigating the company over privacy issues?

Check it out!

mediatwits33.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Intro

1:00: Background on the CES show

3:00: Journalists weary and tired of CES now?

4:00: The pain of CES

4:45: Rundown of topics on the show

Report from CES

portrait-with-cables.jpeg

5:15: Special guests from CES: Rob Pegoraro and Mike Masnick

6:10: How is this show different than previous shows?

7:50: Masnick: Thin TVs are impressive

10:40: Pegoraro: Color e-ink readers might boost e-readers

13:30: Masnick: Hard to see disruptive technology at first

CEA opposing SOPA

16:10: Many people at CES are opposing Stop Online Piracy Act, including Consumer Electronics Association

19:20: Why SOPA went too far

20:00: Pegoraro: History of greedy, restrictive bills put forward by entertainment industry

22:05: Masnick: When entertainment biz loses fights, they often still win

mike masnick hands.jpg

Google integrates Google+ in search

24:00: Mark gives background on move by Google

26:40: Why can't Google put social, private search in a new tab?

29:10: Facebook, Twitter are feeling left out of Google search

More Reading

CNET's Best of CES at CNET

CES XV at RobPegoraro.com

Tech Charms: Flying Cameras, Musical Purses at WSJ

Desperation Of SOPA/PIPA Supporters On Display At CES at TechDirt

Boo-Freaking-Hoo: RIAA Complains That 'The Deck Is Stacked' Against Them On CES Panels at TechDirt

Author of Controversial Piracy Bill Now Says 'More Study' Needed at WSJ Digits

Google's Results Get More Personal With Search Plus Your World at Search Engine Land

Is adding Google+ to search a red flag for regulators? at GigaOm

Search Plus Your World -- As Long As Its Our World at SearchBlog

Compete to Death or Cooperate to Compete? at SearchBlog

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about the CES show:


The Consumer Electronics Show is...

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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

January 12 2012

15:20

Wearing Our Computers on Our Sleeves

It's natural to imagine our computers as devices that have screens and some sort of keyboard input, real or virtual.

Those two design elements constrain the device's form factor because the screens need to be big enough for us to see and the keyboards must make room for our fingers or thumbs. But a number of technological hurdles are being overcome that will, in the coming year, dramatically alter the shape of our computing and communication devices. We are about to enter the world of wearable computing.

 

Before the end of 2012 many of us will be sporting bracelets, watches, fobs and other fashion doodads that will send us messages or convey data to our phones, computers and the Internet.

 

These devices already exist.

 

The rise of the wearable device

Apple's year-old iPod Nano is being worn as a watch. There are at least a half-dozen companies making watch straps specifically for it. The Nano is a touch-screen iPod, a radio, a Nike running monitor, a photo frame and, of course, a watch -- with 18 different fashion faces. Apple's already considering the next step.

The Up Band, a thin, colorful bracelet from Jambox, captures biometrics about your exercise and sleep patterns and, when you plug it into your computer, sends that data to the Internet so you can see and share your health data. The Fitbit, a pedometer updated for online, does the same sort of tracking, but attaches to your belt, not your wrist.

upband.png

But these are just the early vanguard of wearable computers that will be much more powerful and versatile. That shift will be fueled by four major trends: improved short-range communication protocols, flexible screens, and better battery life and voice recognition.

Protocols first. A new Bluetooth standard, Bluetooth 4.0, is now being built into smartphones and upcoming wearables. Standard Bluetooth 2.0 is a wireless communications protocol that allows smartphones to "talk" to earpieces.
 

But Bluetooth 4.0 uses less power and allows devices to "pair" with each other almost instantly. That means that a smartphone in your pocket can share information with a watch or bracelet on your wrist. That information could be the text of an incoming SMS, email or alert. Or, it could just be a signal that makes the bracelet flash blue if you have a new message, green if you've received a new email, or red if you've gotten an important alert.

 

Or, you could sport earrings that subtly buzz on your earlobes to signal arriving missives.

 

Of course, it could also have more serious uses, conveying health-monitoring data from patients to their smartphones and on to their doctors via the web, for example.

 

The devices could also support Near Field Communication (NFC) protocol so that your watch or bracelet could act as a transit token or a movie ticket by touching it to a point-of-purchase pad, much the way the Presto card in Canada works now.

 

A smart bracelet is possible due to advances made in flexible screens -- often OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) -- printed on a plastic backing. Such screens can arc along a circular bracelet. These screens display text, images and have a refresh rate high enough to show video. Cheaper e-ink screens (like those in Kindles and Kobo eReaders) have already been made of flexible backing and are being used to display color and monochrome data and images. It's easy to imagine an inexpensive bracelet that can, chameleon-like, alter its appearance based on sensors that detect a change in ambient temperature, surrounding colors or the vital signs of its wearer. Samsung is already working on flexible screens that will show up in wearable devices this year.

 

Of course, none of these wearables would work without power. Some, like watches or bracelets, could be powered by solar cells built as a layer of the display screen. Or, since the charging capacity of lithium-ion cells is improving dramatically and the Bluetooth 4.0 standard sips power, they could be powered by small, thin rechargeable cells.

Intelligent ears

Finally, these upcoming wearable computers can have intelligent ears. Siri, the speech-recognition technology now in iPhones, could power speech-recognizing earrings or watches. The wearable device, of course, would not do the speech-recognition work itself. It would just pass the captured speech to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4, then the phone would compress that audio data, send it to the Internet for Siri servers to decode, and then translate the text and send it as an SMS or email, sending a confirming alert back to your watch.
 

Why does this matter to us? Because these gadgets will become the next wave of communication devices, as different from tablets as tablets are from desktop computers. As journalists, we need to understand what's coming and ask important questions like -- how do you tell a story to a wristwatch?

Wayne MacPhail is a veteran journalist who now heads up w8nc inc., helping non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, charitable organizations and associations develop and implement technology-based, marketing driven communications strategies. MacPhail also teaches online journalism at the University of Western Ontario and Ryerson University. He serves on the board of rabble.ca where he founded the rabble podcast network and rabbletv. He's a tech columnist for the website.

JSOURCE_logo_colR1.jpg

This article was originally published on J-Source. J-Source and MediaShift have a content-sharing arrangement.

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

January 09 2012

15:20

6 Filmmakers Talk About Documentary Films in the Digital Age

Lower costs in pro-consumer digital equipment, the crowdfunding phenomenon, and new online and mobile distribution models have opened the door the past few years to many first-time documentary filmmakers in the United States. Independent filmmaking is on the rise, and with that, a trend for more personalized storytelling.

Many of today's documentary filmmakers are making bold, stylistic choices more often associated with narrative storytelling than documentary filmmaking and finding savvy, new ways to engage audiences. By pushing the boundaries of what is considered traditional documentary filmmaking, they are stepping up to compete for the eyes of a generation raised on the often outrageous, unfiltered and unedited user-generated videos that can be found on YouTube and the conflict-driven, scripted reality TV that fills networks.

I wanted to get a pulse on these current and emerging trends from those working in the industry as gatekeepers, curators and trend spotters and find out what influence online distribution, crowdfunding, and lowered equipment costs have had on U.S. documentary filmmakers. Here's what they had to say:

Eddie Schmidt

Eddie Schmidt, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, is president of the board of the International Documentary Association. Dedicated to the non-fiction filmmaking community, IDA also provides educational programs to the next generation of documentary filmmakers starting as early as high school age.

Schmidt: A lot of U.S. filmmakers are taking on international topics, and I think this is in contrast to the overall myopia and narcissism of American culture, which tends to take very little substantive interest in anything outside of itself. So documentary filmmakers are motivated to fill these gaps in our understanding, thankfully. This is the new journalism.

Filmmakers in general are flexing their creative muscles to explore the limitless possibilities for telling nonfiction stories on the screen. We're just beginning to understand and recognize the art and craft of documentaries, rather than just their nobility, goodwill, or sociopolitical eye-opening, so I think films are going to get better and more innovative.

I think U.S. documentary filmmakers benefit from the more regular employment of reality television, because its directors of photography, editors, and post people all bounce between the two and bring what they learn in reality to the wider canvas of documentaries (producers and directors too, although their schedules allow for less bleed-through). There's an energy present in a lot of U.S. documentaries that comes from these frequent workouts. If you have to strive to tell stories quickly and smartly in a demanding medium, frequently, you can't help but bring those problem-solving tools and ingenuity to the feature table.

Online distribution has leveled the playing field in terms of delivery systems. These days, no one can tell you your film isn't getting picked up and have that be the end of it. The battle now is for attention and eyeballs. Today, even funding channels have had a boost; 10 years ago, it would have been unthinkable to ask audiences to finance your film over the Internet, but now it's a totally viable way of getting $50,000-$100,000 towards your budget, maybe more.

Lois Vossen

Lois Vossen.jpg

Lois Vossen is the producer and founder of the Emmy award-winning series "Independent Lens" and vice president of ITVS, an organization that funds, presents and promotes documentaries on public television and cable as well as innovative media projects on the web. Previously, she was the associate managing director of the Sundance Institute.

Vossen: We've seen an increase in the number of U.S. filmmakers who want to make films about other countries, perhaps because we have so many independent filmmakers in the U.S. compared to many other countries and there's a lot of duplication of topics here (for example, 25 films on immigration on the U.S. Mexico border vs. one or two films on immigration in Turkey). That said, it is also exciting when U.S. filmmakers do focus on their local communities and find great, new ways to tell stories like Steve James did in Chicago where he lives with "The Interrupters," or Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady did with "DETROPIA," about Heidi's hometown.

"Independent Lens" has the youngest demographic of any prime-time PBS series and the most robust social media campaigns on PBS. We know that 70 percent of our viewers turn on their television specifically to watch "Independent Lens." They also then migrate to other PBS series at a higher rate than most other PBS series, so we're kind of a gateway drug to PBS. Documentaries certainly entertain, but they're about engaging in real life, not turning away from it. I think audiences see the obvious difference between reality television, which is scripted and actually not "real," and documentaries about real people. Reality television is escape television, and it is designed as entertainment for people who watch it.

I do think filmmakers are beginning to imagine new ways of telling stories across multiple platforms including online, through games, etc., and so transmedia and more immersive formats will continue to pull documentaries in new directions. Much more relevant to independent filmmakers is the question of how viewing habits have changed and what audiences will "sit through" in terms of television running times. I ask filmmakers how many 90-minute social issue documentaries did they watch on television last week, and maybe we need to consider making multiple versions of some films: a festival version, theatrical version and television version. We still want a great story, well-told, and some of us will sit in a movie theater to watch that, and more of us will sit in our living room or with our laptops to watch it, but the way we watch is definitely changing.

Jason Spingarn-Koff

Jason Spingarn-Koff recently became The New York Times' first-ever video journalist in Opinion, launching Op-Docs, a forum for short, opinionated documentaries produced on a variety of subjects, from current affairs to historical subjects. Jason himself is a filmmaker and journalist whose work has appeared on PBS, the BBC, MSNBC, Time and Wired.

Spingarn-Koff: I do think there is a growing interest in shorts online. When I say online, I'm also thinking about mobile. What I find really exciting with the New York Times videos is we put them out on every device imaginable. You can watch an HD video on the iPad so that now, even though the Times is not a TV broadcaster, we can ultimately deliver content to a lot of people at the same quality as TV broadcasters and now be in the same playing field.

There's a very big world out there to cover, and TV broadcasters are often months behind. When you start comparing online versus television broadcast, broadcasters usually have a very long horizon where they might be programming in the fall what's going to come out in the spring. We can put things up within a matter of hours, and it's exciting to be able to engage with issues as they happen. I think feature documentary filmmakers are excited about this format. They may have to spend years on a subject, and now they can spend a few weeks or maybe even days and reach a wide audience and find satisfaction around that.

I think the challenge and the opportunity is to marry creative storytelling with timelessness and find different ways to engage with the issues that are on people's minds. We have an editorial focus that is encouraging creative approaches, creative perspectives and unique voices, and some strong opinions about what is going on in the world. Not everything has to have an overt opinion -- some are much more subtle or artistic. We allow people to speak very freely, the same as they would in print. I'm actually commissioning pieces and receiving submissions from the public the same as we do in print. I'm encouraging filmmakers to think of a way to do an Op-Doc to help build engagement and awareness around the issue for them, but to me, the most important thing is that the Op-Doc stands on its own.



New York Times Op-Docs


Sky Sitney

sky sitney silverdocs.jpg

Sky Sitney is the festival director for Silverdocs, a film festival and conference created by AFI and the Discovery Channel that focuses on documentaries. Previously to joining Silverdocs, Sky was a programmer at several prestigious film festivals and worked in the industry.

Sitney: In documentary, filmmakers are giving themselves a lot more creative leeway when it comes to articulating reality, and I think a lot more documentary filmmakers see themselves as interpreters, creative interpreters of reality rather than strict observers. I think more and more filmmakers are acknowledging that every representation of reality inherently has a kind of bias, and rather than try and present the work as pure reality as it was in its early days, filmmakers are more comfortable taking creative license.

Sometimes we see this in very extreme ways. In the last couple of years, we've included a number of animations. For example, "Waltz with Bashir" would have been unheard of in the '60s or '70s. We are also seeing an interesting resurgence in re-enactment. About 10 years ago, re-enactment was considered a dirty word in documentary, and now there are very creative ways filmmakers are working with re-enactment. Overall, I think there is just a lot more flexibility and creativity to the aesthetics.

Every year, we can be certain there are going to be many films on the environment, many films on the economy, various health issues -- year in year out we will see these kind of things coming out and then surges based on big news events. Now I'm seeing a lot of comprehensive films on Haiti, the BP oil spill; we are just beginning to see some early work on Egypt.

What I'm seeing from running a U.S. film festival is a lot more American filmmakers telling stories that are specific to the U.S. but also globally. It's much less common to see an international filmmaker dealing with American stories. On the one hand, all the big U.S. events are covered ad nauseam, but a lot of filmmakers in the U.S. are invested in personal storytelling, using the camera to investigate some kind of familiar history or personal quest. The camera becomes a tool to make that journey. A film that comes to mind is "Family Affair" by Chico Colvard. He was the one brother of three sisters who were all sexually molested by their father. He was teaching law and turned to the camera to penetrate that story, and in some ways, as a safety mechanism to confront his sisters in a way that didn't feel comfortable in the privacy of a living room. I'm not sure that is specific to the U.S., but I see it a lot, for the camera to become a psychological tool.

At Silverdocs, we try and find balance, not just on topics and themes, but also who is behind the camera, and I have to tell you, it's really depressing. The minority is represented significantly on film, the subjects are diverse, but who's behind the camera is still very, very white. We have a long way to go on that. There are a lot of great entities out there trying to change that, but it isn't even close to where it ought to be. It's not as bad looking directly across gender lines, but across color lines it is very bad.



"Family Affair," an independent feature-length documentary film written and produced by Chico David Colvard


Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a former CBS executive, book author and frequent speaker at leading media industry events including Real Screen, Silverdocs, Sheffield Doc/Fest, HotDocs, and other international film festivals and conferences. His e-newsletter DocumentaryTelevision provides current information about deals and trends in the industry, and he is an authority on the factual sector including reality TV and docu-series.

Hamilton: Single and multi-episode documentaries as well as strands based on commissions of similarly themed docs are on the decline. The news for documentarians has not been good; decreased viewing overall because the number of documentary slots has fallen off. Sundance Channel dropped its documentary strand. OWN is struggling. Nature programming has been hit hard because the Nat Geo Channel has shifted to character-driven series and Discovery and Animal Planet have moved away from wildlife.

In the U.S., the tide continues to flow in the direction of character driven series -- big, larger-than-life characters that fill any room they walk into. In a mature, competitive environment of hundreds of channels, these characters stand out, and the series are repeatable, meaning that the channels' promotional and marketing efforts to launch them can pay off over multiple episode seasons.

Reality TV at its best is an extension of the observational documentary genre, and it draws from the best of that genre like the U.K. hit series "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding"; at its worst, it is a casting-based enterprise that shares little with the documentary tradition. It is a good thing that reality is on the rise, versus drama and other categories, because it creates the possibility of a future return to unscripted documentaries on television.

Scott Macaulay

Scott Macaulay is the editor in chief for Filmmaker Magazine. The magazine's "25 New Faces in Independent Film" is a prestigious and much-anticipated list that provides great insight into current trends in filmmaking as well as a look at the industry's next generation of talented and award-winning narrative and documentary filmmakers. Scott is also the owner of Forensic Films and an independent film producer of award-winning films.

Macaulay: I'm seeing a number of trends with younger, up-and-coming filmmakers. One is filmmakers pursuing hybrid strategies, in which documentaries are inflected with elements more commonly found in fiction films. Alma Har'el's documentary, "Bombay Beach," is a great example. She visited the town of Bombay Beach, got to know its residents, and then, while documenting their day-to-day lives, worked with them to create dance and fantasy sequences that attest to these subjects' own imaginative, creative lives.



Bombay Beach trailer


As for personal storytelling, I think this is on an increase as well, and it's aided by the increasing amount of source material produced by subjects and their families. What once might have been a few rolls of Super 8 shot over years is now a family archive of hundreds of hours of footage. Filmmakers interested in exploring personal stories are finding they have a lot more to work with.

Another trend is one of self-sufficiency -- filmmakers embarking on, and sometimes finishing projects, entirely on their own. Alison Klayman, whose "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" is premiering at Sundance this year, started shooting her film in China and let it evolve organically into a feature documentary that was able to attract supporters. The Sparrow Songs team of Alex Jablonski and Michael Totten made a fantastic series of web docs simply by committing their time and resources to a once-a-month schedule. Completing a documentary feature can take years, whereas some stories need to be told immediately. You're seeing great short docs being made now about Occupy Wall Street, for example, and they're able to insert themselves instantly into the political dialogue. Kirby Ferguson has been making a fantastic series of web videos, "Everything Is a Remix," addressing copyright, remix culture, and the current political debate about the SOPA and PIPA legislation, and he's sharing those not only on his own site but also on the websites of groups supporting the same political goals.



Everything is a Remix, Part 1


Transmedia documentary projects, like David Dufresne and Philippe Brault's "Prison Valley" and Danfung Dennis' "Condition One," are pointing to new modes of interaction for viewers. As we've seen from the work of Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Films, there are now financing and distribution outlets composed of the audiences themselves, people who are as invested in the subjects as the filmmakers are. Crowd-sourced funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are well-suited to documentaries because they can engage non-filmmaking audiences drawn by the subjects of the films.

Truth is in the eye of the beholder

Today's documentary filmmakers, exhibiting a strong postmodernist self-awareness of the blurred and murky lines crisscrossing vérité and agenda filmmaking, are more inclined to believe that, like beauty, truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Yet it is the search for "truth," the intriguing, mysterious and often-elusive truth that hides between words and behind actions, that drives documentary filmmakers to persevere in an industry hard hit in today's economy.

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called "Truth in Documentary Filmmaking" and is currently producing the documentary, "The Art of Memories."

ejc-logo small.jpg

This piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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

January 06 2012

15:20

Mediatwits #32: Yahoo's Mr. Wrong?; Steve Rubel's Clip Book; Fake @Wendi_Deng

steve rubel headshot small.jpg

Welcome to the 32nd episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali. We're back from our holiday break and ready to tackle more media news. The big news of the new year is a new CEO (again) at Yahoo, this time PayPal president Scott Thompson will try his hand at turning around the Net pioneer. But most pundits say the odds are long on Thompson being successful because he has little discernible experience running a media or advertising company.

Our special guest this week is Edelman PR exec/pundit Steve Rubel, who is working on a new e-book via Tumblr called "The Clip Book," where he will give visual takes on the future of media in scrapbook-style. And finally, we turn to one new prominent Twitter user, @rupertmurdoch, and what appeared to be a new verified account for his wife, @wendi_deng, that ended up being a fake. What does that mean for the credibility of the Twitter platform and its lack of transparency in verifying accounts?

Check it out!

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Intro

1:00: Mark's visit to Disneyland and the MouseWait app

2:10: Rafat is all work and no play over holidays

3:05: Rundown of topics on the show

Yahoo's new CEO

4:00: Yahoo hires Scott Thompson from PayPal; is he the right guy?

6:10: Could Thompson secretly be a media genius?

7:50: Rafat: Why should we care about Yahoo?

Steve Rubel's Clip Book

10:10: Special guest Steve Rubel

12:45: Rubel: I share some intelligence publicly and some internally at Edelman

15:50: Rubel will look at 5 companies that control content online

18:20: People are relying more on visual information, infographics

20:50: Rubel: Two tiers of content: quick-bite snacks and in-depth long-form

25:45: Richard Sambrook's role at Edelman PR teaching companies to run newsrooms

Fake @Wendi_Deng

28:15: Rupert Murdoch joins Twitter, but his wife's verified account was fake

29:10: Does this hurt Twitter's credibility?

30:10: Twitter has a bad track record on being transparent

More Reading

Yahoo Stakes Future on Accountant-Engineer Who Is Unproven in Media at Bloomberg

New Yahoo CEO (And BoSox Fanboy) Scott Thompson Speaks: It's Still Early Innings at AllThingsD

Yahoo Finds New CEO at PayPal at Wall Street Journal

The Key to Yahoo's Long-Term Health? Data, Says New CEO at AdAge

Steve Rubel's Clip Report

Trash your old media eulogies, The Clip Report details its future at the Next Web

Why Twitter's verified account failure matters at GigaOm

The Case of the Unfortunate Underscore: How Twitter Verified the Fake Wendi Over the Real Wendi at AllThingsD

How did fake Wendi Deng slip through the Twitter net? at the Guardian

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how Scott Thompson will do as Yahoo CEO:


How will Scott Thompson fare as CEO of Yahoo?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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

December 30 2011

15:20

The 5 Tenets of Open Journalism

I'm not a middle-of-the-roader and wasn't aiming for a compromise position with my discussion paper, "The Case for Open Journalism Now: A new framework for informing communities," published early this month by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Innovation Lab. Instead, I sought to identify and propel a culture shift that might build a healthier relationship among those who produce journalism and others who consume news and information.

Yet the values and emerging practices I call open journalism stand apart from the polarizing intramural debate on whether quality journalism in the future will come from institutions, information networks or individuals. (Answer: yes.) This intermittent fight, which broke out again following a recent Dean Starkman piece in CJR, forces people into corners. After a recent USC Annenberg event at the National Press Club where I gave a talk on this paper, a young journalism academic told me he hadn't read "The Case for Open Journalism Now" but added, "I'm probably against it -- the whole thing."

Open journalism should be up for debate, like any idea, but it's built squarely on some of the traditional journalism values we're so quick to protect. "Open journalism" just gives it a name and now, a better roadmap for two-way journalism in the digital era (see the five tenets below).

My open journalism idea sees journalism as acts that provide service in the larger context of Internet-era communication. It recognizes that communities gain from skilled and expert journalism (there never has been enough) and that such work has the best hope of success through robust connections to sources, citizens and other contributors in a networked information universe.

Public affairs journalism, especially the time-consuming work of investigative reporting and accountability coverage that relies on accumulated knowledge and expertise, is indeed a public good and must be responsive to those it serves. Those who provide it need to build trust as well as tangible support such as digital subscriptions, e-book payments, organizational alliances, donations or philanthropic grants. In 2012 and beyond, in the communication age that has blossomed post-Internet, such support involves not blind faith but open and active connection.

Explore transparency

Consider the new "Explore Sources" tool unveiled by ProPublica last week as part of a story by Marshall Allen on a Texas woman's efforts to learn how her husband had died. Explore Sources (which readers can turn on or off) allows web viewers to click on highlighted information and view primary source material. News applications developer Al Shaw's blog post explained both the function of the tool and how it was built, concluding: "While Explore Sources is just an experiment, we look forward to finding new ways to use it to make our reporting process more transparent and accountable, and when we can we'll open-source the code so other newsrooms can show their work, too."

carswell-plaque-630.jpg

I began my work at USC Annenberg in June intending to focus on how journalism contributes to community engagement in public life and to spotlight experiments that seemed to be working. I quickly learned that Joy Mayer, a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow, was finishing an academic year's work on this topic and that many interesting experiments were too young to assess in any fair way.

Rather than repeat Mayer's work and other recent explorations, I wanted to build on it. Away from the front lines of most mainstream news flow, I found a web-influenced culture responding in new ways to journalism values of serving community needs and making a difference. Peer-level collaboration was sparking invention and problem-solving, especially involving data journalism and investigative methods. Social media tools were enabling more direct dialogue among news providers and their sources, contributors and customers.

In a small but significant number of exceptions to the norm, and in the ideas of a number of writers and practitioners, I glimpsed a nascent but potentially transformative approach to journalism that could build trust and support (moral and practical) for informing communities in key ways amid media upheaval. Alan Rusbridger and The Guardian called their strategy "open journalism on the web."

Open journalism struck me as the right headline for framing journalism as a true public endeavor: accountable, responsible and accessible, like open government or an open kitchen or "Open Leadership," the title of a book by social media consultant Charlene Li.

My experience leading newsrooms in North Carolina and California taught me that ideas need both support and structure to turn into improvements. I wanted not just to argue for direction, but to offer useful guidance to practitioners -- in any size of newsroom, nonprofit or commercial, and to individuals -- on how open journalism can and does work for quality as well as relevance. I highlighted journalism action, not theories, demonstrating creative and often effective new approaches to the core mission of providing timely, accessible and high-quality coverage.

You can find examples and references linked throughout the discussion paper and highlighted in a sidebar element called "100 Ideas, Arguments and Illustrations for Open Journalism." Additionally, I offered "Action Steps for News People" in the five key categories I identified for open journalism to emphasize:

5 tenets of open journalism

  • Transparency: Buzzword or not, this is a contemporary cultural value that connects deeply to journalism tradition. Yet it's a value news providers must more openly embrace in the processes and the presentation of news coverage. For instance, established media sites rest on "brand" and rarely explain their missions or practices. New information and news sites, perhaps because they're introducing themselves and working to build brands, routinely tell users who they are, what their editorial mission is, and how they're funded. The best of them provide easy links to staff at all levels and take the next steps to embracing "show your work" tactics such as posting original data, using blogging to explain how journalism is made, and inviting others to make use of resources. News organizations here and there are opening up or webstreaming news meetings, sharing working story lists, soliciting questions and input, and explaining how corrections are handled.
  • Responsiveness and engagement as central functions rather than add-ons: Open journalism makes newsgathering and dissemination two-way practices that ask and answer questions and invest trust even while expecting to be trusted. This matters for community value but also has benefits as business practice. The Internet has changed the expectations of viewers and readers -- more broadly, customers. Companies learn the hard way about failing to monitor or respond to user input, which now often happens via social media. In this environment, providers of news and information suffer when lines of communication are unmonitored (online story comments being the case in point) or miss opportunities when these lines operate as one-way channels (e.g., here's our story, what do you think?) By seeing engagement as part of newsgathering rather than as link promotion, journalists can pick up on news tips and promising sources and, in turn, make their work more useful by delivering on requests for certain information.
  • Substantive and mutually rewarding participation: The interplay among news providers and others who exchange and supply information gets more attention than other aspects of open journalism and fuels the most debate (over citizen journalism, for instance, a term almost no one likes). Yet notable experiments such as HuffingtonPost's OffTheBus presidential campaign crowdsourcing effort in 2008 (back for 2012) are being joined by a rapidly expanding menu of ways that news and community information sites are tapping contributions and knowledge. On most news sites "user generated content" gets little respect or attention, and again the vandals who troll online comment sites consume far too much of the resources newsrooms have for interaction. We're ready for the next steps in understanding that people want to participate in life, not news sites. Some news sites are improving interaction tools, using forms and other mechanisms to streamline participation and engaging in more active social media dialogue with contributors.
  • Collaboration: This is an overused word, perhaps, because true collaboration is less common than an expanding list of cross-promotion and content sharing. Yet the open-source ideas infecting some newsrooms via the influence of programmers and technology have produced direct benefits for some kinds of journalism. Practitioners working to analyze data and to map and graphically display their findings regularly share knowledge and software via traditional channels (such as Investigative Reporters and Editors) and new ones including the GitHub software website.
  • Networked presence: Information-sharing happens online through many crisscrossing networks, from fan communities and social media to highly specialized knowledge blogs and discussion forums. It also happens in person, often in conjunction with digital community-building. News sites may be where most people, in one way or another, pick up headlines and traditional news, but other networks supply a vastly greater variety and style of information. By understanding the greater context and looking for ways to carry out their service missions, news providers can make an important leap forward from the gatekeeper role that defined journalism for so long. The next conceptual leap involves community-level collaboration around the goals of information as a service.

"The Case for Open Journalism Now" is one of the first "Future of Journalism" efforts by the Annenberg Innovation Lab, built as a simple website with a response function. Please add your thoughts, criticism and links. However far the Internet has taken us already, those who believe in quality journalism as public service have only begun to comprehend the opportunities ahead.

The only thing certain is that we're building journalism's future now through our actions and our omissions. I prefer the former.

Melanie Sill is the Executive in Residence at the USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. Before joining USC Annenberg Sill was senior vice president and top editor at the Sacramento Bee in California and The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. Raised in Hawaii, Sill earned her journalism degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1993-94.

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

December 28 2011

15:20

Top 10 Media Stories of 2011: Arab Spring; R.I.P. Steve Jobs; Phone Hacking

Yes, 2011 was another year of massive change in the American media landscape, with newspapers struggling, radio and TV trying to sharpen digital strategies, and magazines prettying themselves for tablets. But more often than expected, we turned our eyes overseas, to the role of social media in organizing protests and revolutions in the Arab world. To the spread of Facebook and freer speech in places like Egypt and Libya. And to the shocking phone-hacking scandal that brought the News Corp. empire to its knees, shuttering its most popular tabloid, the News of the World (published since 1843).

2011 year small.jpg

As smartphones and tablets proliferated, the reality of mobile news (and advertising) finally came into focus after years of failed promises. News orgs big and small tried to cash in on mobile editions, with mixed success. While Apple and its dominant iPad platform demanded a 30% cut of digital subscriptions -- and the customer data -- publishers fought back with "web apps" that went around the App Store and its restrictions. As more Android tablets, including the popular Kindle Fire, got into the hands of consumers, the chance that more people would ditch print editions for digital grew.

So here's our annual list of the Top 10 media stories that mattered most in 2011, and some predictions of where those stories are headed in 2012.

Top 10 Media Stories of 2011

1. The Arab Spring and the "Facebook revolutions."

What started as protests in December 2010 in Tunisia, after a college graduate set himself on fire, turned into a Middle East-wide revolution of people rising up against totalitarian regimes. In Tunisia and Egypt, the ruling governments fell, and in Libya a long civil war led to a rebel victory (aided by NATO). What many of these revolutions had in common was organizing done with social networks, especially Facebook, and news spreading virally over Twitter and YouTube. And that formula was repeated in protest movements outside of the Middle East, including in the Occupy Wall Street protests here in the U.S.

While social media played a crucial role in organizing protests and spreading the word to people in the outside world, the revolutions were not dependent upon them. When the Egyptian authorities shut down Internet access, that didn't stop people from human networking and organizing person-to-person to keep protests alive. As Miller-McCune's Philip Howard wrote:

Overemphasizing the role of information technology diminishes the personal risks that individual protesters took in heading out onto the streets to face tear gas and rubber bullets. While it is true that the dynamics of collective action are different in a digital world, we need to move beyond punditry about digital media, simple claims that technology is good or bad for democracy, and a few favored examples of how this can be so.

Prediction: Social media will continue to be vital cogs in any protest movement around the world, even as the targets of those protests learn to become more savvy in using social media in response to them. The days of closing off society to the outside world are numbered as more people use online platforms to communicate with the rest of the world.

jobs day of dead.jpg

2. Steve Jobs dies, and the tech world mourns.

Love him or hate him, Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs did make a dent in the universe. He was there at the birth of so many innovations, from the personal computer, desktop publishing, the iPod, iPhone and iPad (the holy trinity of gadgets). But one thing he couldn't conquer was cancer, and he finally succumbed and died in October at the age of 56. Not long after that, an in-depth biography of Jobs was published, written by Walter Isaacson, detailing his many triumphs as well as his hard-driving, caustic personality.

While Jobs made a huge contribution to helping salvage the music business with iTunes (while taking his cut), he has had mixed success in helping the news business with mobile subscriptions. And his take on revolutionizing the TV business had yet to be realized at his death. One quote that stands out from Jobs is this one from his Stanford commencement address in 2005:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Prediction: The legend of Steve Jobs and what he accomplished will only grow bigger over the coming years, as his legacy as a media visionary is cemented and the rougher parts of his personality are downplayed.

3. The phone-hacking scandal shutters the News of the World.

Tabloid journalists have always gone to great lengths to get scoops, but nothing compares to the breathtaking deceit at the U.K.'s News of the World, which hacked into the voice-mail messages of celebrities, politicians and even a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. What was originally deemed to be a few bad apples turned out to be widespread misdeeds that led to numerous arrests, resignations and firings at News International, the parent company of the tabloid. Even more surprising was the decision by News Corp. honcho Rupert Murdoch to close down the News of the World after 168 years of publication.

The "hackgate" scandal has led to resignations in the British government, at Scotland Yard and at various News Corp. publications (including Dow Jones publisher Les Hinton). Here's how MediaShift correspondent Tristan Stewart-Robertson summed it up:

Ultimately, we have a clash of what my retired philosophy professor father refers to as the "social duty to provide as much information as possible," and the duty of "non-injury to others." So which trumps which? ... The conflicting appetites for information and privacy are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Prediction: The scandal will continue to unearth more villains as government inquiries and lawsuits continue into the new year. More people will use stronger passwords for their voice-mail, and tabloid journalists will need to ratchet back their "black ops" to get scoops.

4. Bubbly IPOs return for a few startups.

groupon-ceo.jpg

No one would mistake 2011 for 1999, the last year of the dot-com bubble, when IPOs were popping like champagne corks. The initial public offering was the most conspicuous way that investors and startup employees with stock options could cash in on their around-the-clock hard work. But still, some echoes of the late '90s seeped in this year, with successful IPOs for startups such as LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga. In May, LinkedIn was priced at $45 per share, and jumped 109% to close at $94.25. As a Reuters story explained, the IPO was "evoking memories of the investor love affair with Internet stocks during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s."

The hottest startups of 2011 fell into the SoLoMo category: social, local and mobile. And Groupon was right at the sweet spot of SoLoMo, as the biggest player in the hot "daily deals" market. Despite the fact that Groupon was not profitable and its growth was slowing down, the company's IPO raised $700 million, the biggest public offering since Google. While social gaming startup Zynga raised even more money, $1 billion, its IPO actually ended its first day of trading below its initial price of $10 per share. While a few Internet companies did well going public, most are still waiting in the wings. As USA Today put it, overall IPOs have had a dismal 2011.

Prediction: With so much stock market instability, it will be tough for many companies to go public in the coming months. More likely, the exit for startups will be to get acquired, except for the big fish like Facebook and Twitter, which could have huge IPOs next year.

5. New York Times finds success with metered pay wall; others try their luck.

Why won't people pay a fair price for news content online? So many news orgs simply put up their content for free online that this is what most people expect to pay: nothing. But some exceptions like WSJ.com (leaky wall) and FT.com (metered wall) found success with a mix of free and paid content. Then came the biggest experiment of them all, the metered pay wall at NYTimes.com, where you get 20 free articles per month (or via Google search or social media) and then you have to pay anywhere from $15 per month to $35 per month for full access on the web and with mobile apps. The price seemed steep and the Times was targeting the people who use its content the most. And yet there were exceptions: Car maker Lincoln subsidized free access for many users, and a recent "special offer" gave full digital access for just 99 cents for 8 weeks.

The metered wall has been a smashing success so far for NYTimes.com, garnering 324,000 paying subscribers by the end of the third quarter, just six months after the start of the wall. Plus, the Times has 1.2 million users with full digital access. (Many have print subscriptions that give them digital access.) But where does that leave the other, smaller papers that are trying out pay walls? Gannett newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Boston Globe all have begun testing pay strategies and it's unclear if they will be as successful as the Times. But as PaidContent's Staci Kramer wrote in a year-end review, "2011 is the hands-down winner when it comes to people paying for digital content. The numbers aren't all in yet and some of it will be hard to quantify given the lack of complete transparency but it's clear that more people are willing to pay for digital access to music, news, movies, TV, games, books and magazines."

Prediction: More online newspapers will try to charge for their content with mixed success. Not everyone has the strong brand (and followers) of the New York Times, and many folks are happy to try out other free sites for news if they are forced to pay too much.

6. The battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress.

No one likes piracy, but the two bills in Congress to fight online piracy, SOPA and PIPA, are seen as flawed and overreaching by various tech companies and online pundits. The two bills are supported by most big media companies, music publishers and Hollywood, and are opposed by big tech and online companies and organizations.

While Congress expected to pass some version of these two bills into law with little friction, online organizers have wreaked havoc with political protests that haven't been seen at this depth before. Tumblr created a slick "Call Congress" tool that popped up on its home page, and 6,000 websites participated in an online protest against what they considered to be possible censorship under the new law, with 1 million emails sent to members of Congress. As Congress adjourns for its holiday recess, the fight continues, with so many people pulling their domains from Go Daddy (a supporter of SOPA), that the domain company changed course and withdrew support for the bill.

Prediction: The bills will still likely make it through Congress in some form, but if the online protests continue apace, there might well be amendments to make the bills less overreaching when it comes to piracy enforcement.

7. Kindle Fire tablet is an affordable alternative to iPad.

Here come the low-cost Android tablets. While Apple has done such a good job with its iPad tablet in dominating the market, there was still an opening for a lower-cost, smaller tablet to steal away market share. And this Christmas season, Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet ($199) and to a lesser extent the Nook Tablet ($250) have stolen Apple's thunder with cheaper alternatives. Some leaked data to Cult of Android showed that the Fire was racking up 50,000 pre-orders per day, which could mean 2.5 million sales before it even went on sale Nov. 15!

Those are impressive numbers for Amazon, which has created quite the backlash for its bullying in the book industry, becoming a book publisher on its own and sending people as spies into bookstores to compare prices. And yet, Apple will still continue to dominate tablet sales this holiday season, according to researchers at IDC, with the Kindle and Nook tablet sales coming at the expense of higher-priced Android tablets. "I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11," IDC's Tom Mainelli told the Washington Post, "and in 2012 I think we'll see Apple's product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets."

Prediction: Apple will have to work harder at keeping its dominant lead in tablets, and will need to consider selling a cheaper, smaller tablet to compete on the low end. While the Kindle Fire will be popular as a cheap alternative, it will need to offer more than a closed Amazon environment to satisfy gadget geeks.

8. Netflix stumbles with huge price hike, poor Qwikster idea.

2011 was another strong year for people cutting the cord to cable and satellite TV. The cable industry finally acknowledged there was a slight drop-off in subscriptions, and for the first time U.S. households with TV sets declined. But one reason people were willing to cut the cord was the proliferation of "over the top" streaming TV services such as Netflix and Hulu. But after years of growth and profits, Netflix stumbled badly in 2011. The company announced it was unbundling its DVD-by-mail service and charging higher rates for DVDs and for streaming, with a spin-off company for DVDs called Qwikster.

Those moves were largely panned by pundits, and Netflix started bleeding customers, with 800,000 of them leaving the service by the end of the third quarter. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had to apologize to customers in a blog post and in a video address:

Prediction: Netflix will need a two-pronged strategy to gain back customers: aggressive pricing and promotions; better selection of streaming content. It might be tough to pull it off, but without doing anything, Netflix will find a very difficult road ahead.

9. Publishers rebel against Apple with HTML5 web apps.

Apple could only push publishers so far. While the tech giant came hat in hand to media companies promising to prop up the news business with digital subscriptions for the iPad, its terms were onerous: a 30% cut of all revenues; Apple keeps the data on customers; no links to subscriptions outside of Apple's App Store from within apps. Some publishers decided that enough was enough, and created "web apps" that worked on the iPad without going through Apple and its App Store. The most prominent web app came from FT.com, which decided to create its own HTML5 app to go around Apple's control.

When I spoke to FT.com's managing director, Rob Grimshaw, he shared these figures about their success:

> 20% of all page views for FT.com come from mobile devices
> 30% of all page views seen by paid subscribers to FT.com are on mobile devices

> More than 1 million downloads for the FT apps for iPhone and iPad

> More than 500,000 visits to the web app over the past 3 months

> 15% to 20% of new paid subscribers come from mobile devices

Apple eventually blinked and set better terms for publishers, allowing them to sell subscriptions at discounted prices. However, Apple still gets a huge 30% cut and keeps the customer data.

Prediction: More publishers will watch FT.com and others' web apps very closely, and will consider ways to get around Apple's walled garden.

10. Rise of Google+ as an alternative to Facebook, Twitter.

After several false starts (including Google Buzz, Orkut, Wave), Google finally got social networking right with its Google+ network launch in 2011. While the service quickly brought on millions of new users and was integrated tightly into Google search results and Gmail, some folks were unimpressed and felt like it was a ghost town because their friends remained entrenched on Facebook.

So what was the big deal with Google+? The service let people set up "Circles" so that status updates could be sent to discrete groups, and the "Hangouts" let you do group video chat like never before. One enterprising TV station in Columbia, Mo., even started putting Google+ Hangouts on the air. My experience was typical for the more plugged-in tech media crowd: Within a couple months on Google+, I had more people following me there than on Twitter, where I'd been active since 2008.

Prediction: Google+ will continue to be an attractive option for interactivity and higher level conversations among the more tech-insider crowd, but most people will continue their presence on Twitter and Facebook.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other stories that didn't quite make the cut but are worth mentioning:

> Digital First takes over newspapers at the Journal Register Co. and Media News, and launches an investment company for digital news innovation.

> AOL buys Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is eventually pushed out after trying to run both TechCrunch and a new VC fund.

> #OccupyWallStreet organizes hundreds of protests around the U.S. and world to demand that money is removed from politics.

> News aggregators proliferate, with the rise of Flipboard, Zite (bought by CNN), Trove, Livestand, News.me and many more.

What do you think? What media stories were the biggest ones this year? Did we miss any key ones? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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

October 07 2011

21:21

TrueTies.Org Wants to Increase Transparency on the Op-Ed Page

The following is a guest opinion from Gabe Elsner of The Checks and Balances Project, which recently launched a new project aimed at increasing transparency at news outlets.

Every day, Americans read the opinion and commentary of seemingly impartial "experts" from think tanks on critical subjects in the pages of the nation's newspapers.

What these readers don't know is that the authors of these opinion pieces work for think tanks and organizations funded by the same industries they are "impartially" writing about. Rarely -- if ever -- are readers informed that the so-called expert has received money from the industry he or she is championing or defending.

Why? All too often, top news outlets don't ask pundits about these conflicts, and so readers don't get the whole story.

That's why, starting Oct. 6, The Checks and Balances Project launched an online petition at TrueTies.org.

As the recession has ground on, many news media outlets went out of business or fled quality journalism. Fortunately, the New York Times did the opposite -- it doubled down. That's why we're asking the Times, as our nation's paper of record, to increase transparency on the opinion pages by beginning a practice of asking one basic question of every op-ed submission finalist: "Do you have direct or indirect ties to the industries you are writing about?" And, if the answer is yes, to tell their readers at the time the piece is published.

The case of the "senior fellow"

The Checks and Balances Project -- a startup watchdog organization committed to holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public -- decided to launch True Ties after reading a June 2011 op-ed in The New York Times by Robert Bryce.

Bryce, using the title "senior fellow" at the Manhattan Institute, claimed that renewable energy was bad for the environment and that natural gas was far preferable, despite widespread concerns about the gas industry's potential contamination of public drinking water supplies. What readers weren't told, while reading his argument in favor of fossil fuels, is that his host organization, the Manhattan Institute, received nearly $3 million from fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

Wouldn't it have been better if someone from the Times' opinion page staff asked Bryce one question about his financial ties? Don't readers deserve to know that this columnist's paycheck is funded in part by fossil fuel-tied groups?

Sadly, the New York Times piece by Bryce is not an isolated incident. This problem is widespread -- in newspapers, cable television, radio and beyond. Bryce points out that his work has been seen by millions of Americans through "publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Counterpunch and Atlantic Monthly to Oklahoma Stripper." In addition, he's appeared on television shows ranging from the PBS "Newshour" to Fox News to "Energy Now."

Bryce is just one example in a growing industry of front groups and industry-sponsored pundits. These organizations are functionally serving as industry public relations firms, while carrying neutral-sounding names such as the Mercatus Center, Institute for Energy Research and the Cato Institute. They provide a platform not just for Bryce, but for other "experts," such as the Mercatus Center's Andrew P. Morriss, to spread fossil-fuel industry talking points while taking fossil-fuel money. Much of the funding for the Mercatus Center comes from the Koch Family Foundations, while the Institute for Energy Research is essentially a joint project of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil. And, similar to Bryce, Morriss, a fellow at the Mercatus Center, works for organizations with sponsors who remain hidden from readers and viewers.

These pundits have the right to be heard, but they shouldn't get to hide their industry funding. The New York Times, as the standard bearer of journalism, has a responsibility to ensure consumers know all the facts.

What do we do about it?

The clearest step forward is simple: The New York Times and other important media outlets can ask a basic question of anyone publishing opinions on their pages regarding financial conflicts of interest -- and then tell readers about the conflicts.

Full disclosure of these ties will increase transparency. More importantly, it will ensure that readers have the relevant information they need to put commentaries into proper context, and ultimately, help inform their opinions on vital issues. By asking contributors like Bryce to answer a short set of disclosure questions, the New York Times can set the industry standard and help their readers get the full story.

Gabe Elsner is a public interest advocate based in Washington, D.C. For the past five years, he has worked with a variety of non-profit organizations to elevate the voice of ordinary people in policy debates. Gabe understands that citizens need to stand up for true American values to restore democracy and to overcome the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups. He joined the Checks and Balances Project in June 2011 to help increase transparency and inform the public on critical issues, especially related to energy.

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

13:00

Richard Feynman on Beauty, Honors, and Curiosity

The art of uncertainty, why awards are the wrong pursuit, and how to find wonder in truth.

On the heels of yesterday’s children’s book on science by Richard Dawkins and Wednesday’s testament to remix culture comes an ingenious intersection of the two — an inspired effort to promote science education and scientific literacy amongst the general public by way of a remix gem. Canadian filmmaker Reid Gower, who has previously delighted us with some Carl Sagan gold, has created a trilogy of magnificent mashups using the words of iconic physicist Richard Feynman, culled from various BBC, NASA, and other notable footage, to convey the power, wonder, and whimsy of science. Dubbed the Feynman Series, it’s a continuation of the brilliant Sagan Series.

Beauty does away with the common myth that scientists are unable to truly appreciate beauty in nature as Feynman explains what a scientist actually is and does.

I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. [...] I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose.”

Honours peels away at the pretense of awards as false horsemen of gratification.

I don’t see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish academy just decides that this work is noble enough to receive a prize — I’ve already gotten the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding a thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it — those are the real things. The honors are unreal to me. I don’t believe in honors.”

Curiosity is Feynman’s lament for simplicity, which gets lost in our ceaseless hunger for sensationalism.

[The Big Bang] is a much more exciting story to many people than the tales which other people used to make up, when wondering about the universe we lived in on the back of a turtle or something like that. They were wonderful stories, but the truth is so much more remarkable. And, so, what’s the wonder in physics to me is that it’s revealed the truth is so remarkable.”

For more on Feynman’s legacy and genius, look no further than Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher.

via Open Culture

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets us know we're doing something right and helps keep the lights on. Holstee

September 16 2011

18:17

What's the Best Business Model for Metro Newspapers?

Metro daily newspapers have been in a long rut in the United States, with many retrenching, closing or flailing for a new digital business model while cutting editorial staff to the bone. Many papers are watching the pay walls at places like NYTimes.com, and the new launch of the pay site, BostonGlobe.com. And what about newspapers like the Guardian in the U.K. that have kept content free, and pushed for an even bigger global audience?

What's the right mix of free and paid content for metro newspapers? Answer our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments below.


What's the best business model for metro newspapers?

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

16:30

Mediatwits #20: Newspaper Special: Boston Globe Pay Wall; Guardian U.S.; Philly Tablet

CUNY-J LOGO.jpg

The Mediatwits podcast is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

Welcome to the 20th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the one and only founder of PaidContent. This week is a special edition on newspapers, newspapers and more newspapers. First up, the Boston Globe launched its new pay-walled site, BostonGlobe.com, which is free for print subscribers but costs $3.99 per week for non-print subscribers. The old Boston.com site will look more cluttered and have less content from the paper. The special guest this week is Chris Mayer, publisher of the Globe, who talks about why they went with a two-site strategy, and how people will still be able to see Globe content if they come from social media or search links.

Next up is the move by the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, with its third attempt to take on the American market. The paper launched a new site, GuardianNews.com, helmed by Janine Gibson, and will be moving over star reporter Nick Davies as well as new hire Ana Marie Cox. Can they finally get a foothold in the States? And finally the Philadelphia newspapers and Philly.com are subsidizing an Android tablet for subscribers at $99 with a two-year subscription contract. Will people take up their offer?

Check it out!

mediatwits20.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Intro

1:40: Update on Michael Arrington leaving TechCrunch

3:10: Big conflicts of interest at TechCrunch Disrupt

4:10: Rafat likes "retro" feel of print NY Times

5:15: Rundown of topics on the show

BostonGlobe.com pay wall

Chris Mayer photo.jpg

7:20: Rafat likes clean look of BostonGlobe.com

8:35: Special guest Chris Mayer, publisher of the Boston Globe

10:30: The split between two groups of Globe readers

15:40: Mayer: Readers appreciate advertising, as long as it's not disruptive

18:20: Will BostonGlobe.com do a special app or stay out of App Store?

21:10: The Globe's marketing push for its paid content

23:30: BostonGlobe.com will allow free reads of stories via social media and search without limits

25:45: Mark wonders if having two sites will really hurt the Globe

Guardian launches new U.S. site

26:20: Guardian moves Nick Davies stateside and hires Ana Marie Cox

28:20: Rafat impressed that they're hiring 20 to 30 people

Philadelphia papers subsidize Android tablets

30:35: Get a $99 tablet if you subscribe for two years at $9.99 per month

32:40: Allows many possible advertising deals

34:45: Why we're still watching moves by newspaper companies

More Reading

Four Observations (and Lots of Questions) on the Boston Globe's Lovely New Paywalled Site at Nieman Journalism Lab

Boston Globe pioneers double website strategy as it erects paywall at the Guardian

Judgement Day: Does the Boston Globe's paywall site have a chance in hell? at the Boston Phoenix

BostonGlobe.com, the pay site, now free until Oct. 1

The Guardian Launches a U.S. Homepage with a Special American U.R.L. at New York Observer

Nick Davies, Ana Marie Cox Join Guardian's New U.S. Operation at Capital New York

The Guardian Launches in America at the Next Web

GuardianNews.com, the new U.S. site

Philly papers offering subscribers $99 Android tablet at CNET

Sound Familiar? Philadelphia Newspapers Subsidize A Tablet To Sell You A Subscription at Wired

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time the best business model for metro newspapers:


What's the best business model for metro newspapers?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

CUNY-J LOGO.jpg

The Mediatwits podcast is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

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

September 13 2011

21:30

Censorship Prevails in 'New' Burma, Despite Reform Talk

BANGKOK -- A handful of protestors gathered outside the Burmese embassy in Bangkok last Friday to vent their anger against the detention of 17 journalists in Burma, some of whom have been given multiple-decade jail terms for what activists describe as "no more than doing their jobs."

The jailed reporters worked for Democratic Voice of Burma, a Burmese media organization with personnel in Norway and Thailand. Decades of military rule in Burma incorporates vice-like press controls, and though these have been loosened of late, there are questions over whether this apparent liberalization is anything more than rhetorical.

Those questions are highlighted by the case of Hla Hla Win, a 27-year-old DVB reporter sentenced to 27 years in jail for breaching motorbike rules and shooting video. DVB Chief Editor Aye Chaing Naing said, "There is no legal justification to arrest Hla Hla Win, and she should not have been arrested in the first place."

Talk, but no walk on reform

Hla Hla Win and the 16 other DVB reporters are among what the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners -- a Thailand-based organization staffed by ex-political prisoners from Burma -- calculates to be 1,995 political prisoners or prisoners of conscience still in jail in Burma. The Burmese government claims all the country's incarcerated are criminals, including the hundreds of Buddhist monks rounded up after the 2007 Saffron uprising against military rule. The continued detention of almost 2,000 political prisoners highlights what activists believe to be a sham transition from military rule to democracy. Former political prisoner Nyi Nyi Aung, now in the United States, told me that the failure to release the detainees shows the insincerity of the Burmese rulers. "They don't want to make any reform in Burma," he said.

Burma held elections in November 2010, the first since 1990, though the result was a predictable landslide for the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). When the post-election government was formed, ex-army men made up 26 of the 30 government ministers. Journalists have been given controlled-environment access to the recently convened Parliament, but on the condition that they avoid reporting in a manner damaging to the "dignity of the Parliament and the State."

In another apparent loosening of the press control spigot, an article by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, recounting her recent trip to Bagan -- a temple-laden city in north-central Burma -- was allowed to be published in a Burmese journal called "The People's Era." As ever, there was a caveat. It went to press only after much of the Nobel Peace laureate's submitted content was chopped by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), the official name for the state censor.

Leaked diplomatic cables give startling picture

Unlike some other authoritarian states, Burma has a thriving private-run media and, according to one of a cache of recently leaked U.S. diplomatic cables sent from the country's Rangoon embassy, "the number of weekly newspapers has gone from just a handful 10 years ago to approximately 150 today." That said, most of the growth is in non-controversial areas "like sports and entertainment," lacking what the cable terms "hard news about events in Burma or the outside world."

Covering Suu Kyi has long been a tricky topic for Burmese publications, with the journal Messenger banned from publishing its supplement section for a week by the PSRD. Shiwei Yei is the Southeast Asia point-man for the International Federation for Human Rights. He told me that this is likely to be "related to the journal's recent interview of Suu Kyi and the front-page photo of her."

While bread-and-circus stories about soap operas and sports can, for the most part, now be run without prior vetting by the censors, political stories are subject to word-by-word examination, meaning that critical or investigative coverage of the country's government cannot be undertaken.

According to U.S. embassy officials, writing in a cable sent before Burma's 2010 elections, the censor bans "20-25 percent of all stories in a given periodical." Burma's poorly paid reporters have a pocket incentive to keep within the censor's limits.

"Because Burmese reporters tend to get paid only for the stories that make it into the newspaper, self-censorship is prevalent," according to the same cable. As for the new media regime, some say it merely "encourages more self-censorship as publishers become less certain of what content is acceptable to the authorities," as Amy Sim of London-based Article 19 told me.

Government still promising reform

DSC_0069.JPG

Still, the Burmese government is talking the talk on reform. An April 2011 parliamentary speech by President Thein Sein, describing media as the "fourth pillar" of Burmese society, was followed by other apparent liberalizations such as the watering-down -- for now at least -- of clumsy propaganda against foreign media by the much-lampooned New Light of Myanmar. In the past, this Burmese government mouthpiece panned DVB, along with BBC and VOA, with thick-tongued insults such as "killer broadcasts designed to cause troubles."

However, the new president -- who was an army general and prime minister under the pre-election military dictatorship -- tempered his fourth estate spin by giving Burma's MPs the enigmatic yet ominous-sounding missive that they were "required through media to inform the people about what they should know."

A new fish-in-the-barrel target for satirists might be the Burmese information czar, Kyaw Hsan, who followed up a much-derided tearful breakdown at a recent government press conference -- itself a novelty in Burma -- by describing media as "red ants" in a parliamentary debate on Sept. 7, held in Burma's purpose-built but isolated administrative capital Naypyidaw. To some, Kyaw Hsan's speech means little more than the same old restrictions garnished with some unintentionally entertaining rhetoric. "He thinks that the country is not ready for press freedom," said Zin Linn, of the Thailand-based Burma Media Association.

In his eyebrow-raising and quixotic response to a much-needed and overdue parliamentary proposal on press freedom, the minister of information said it would bring "more disadvantages than advantages," before launching into a half-hour speech which quoted from the ancient "550 Jataka Tales" and its fable of the elephant king Saddan. In the tale, the king offered flowers (press freedom) to his queen, but the flowers attracted red ants (journalists), which bit the queen.

Simon Roughneen is an Irish journalist usually based in southeast Asia. He writes for the Los Angeles Times, Asia Times, The Irrawaddy, South China Morning Post and others. He is on twitter @simonroughneen and you can Circle him on Google+.

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

September 02 2011

20:04

Poll: What's Your Favorite Video Streaming Service?

This has been a busy week in the world of video streaming services. The new higher rate for Netflix streaming and DVDs just went into effect, just as Starz broke off negotiations with Netflix (meaning, perhaps, less selection of movies on the service). Hulu also made noise by launching a streaming service in Japan that costs more but has no ads. And Amazon has its own streaming service and could be in the running to buy Hulu. And let's not forget about competing services from Vudu and even YouTube.

So which streaming video service is your current favorite? Are you a Netflix fan or Hulu lover? Vote in our poll and explain why in the comments below.

(And listen to this week's Mediatwits podcast for a discussion on the video streaming wars.)


What's your favorite streaming video service?

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

August 03 2011

18:51

The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn From Playing

kidsandmedia small.jpg

"When people learn to play videogames," according to James Paul Gee, "they are learning a new literacy."

This is one of the reason kids love playing them: They are learning a new interactive language that grants them access to virtual worlds that are filled with intrigue, engagement and meaningful challenges. And one that feels more congruent with the nature and trajectory of today's world.

As our commerce and culture migrates further into this emerging digital ecosystem it becomes more critical that we develop digital literacy, of which videogames inhabit a large portion.

Gee, a linguist and professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University, thinks we should expand the traditional definition of literacy beyond reading and writing because language isn't the only communication system available in today's world. And there is no better example of a new form of media that communicates distinctive types of meaning than videogames.

The literacy of problem-solving

Thumbnail image for kidsvideogames_flickr_seandreilinger.jpg

Although games can be immensely entertaining, it would be a mistake to consider them as only a form of entertainment. Games are fun, but their real value lies in leveraging play and exploration as a mode of learning the literacy of problem-solving, which lowers the emotional stakes of failing.

In Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?, he reminds us that our educational system has stigmatized mistakes. As a result, kids are frightened of being wrong. Yet if we are not prepared to be wrong than we won't be able to come up with anything creative or solve complex problems. Videogames, on the other hand, embed trial and error into the foundation of gameplay.

Kids aren't naturally great at gaming the first time. They develop mastery through disciplined practice -- a path marked by dead-ends, wrong turns and blunders. Yet gamers aren't angst-ridden about making wrong decisions because games encourage a growth mindset. Mistakes are how one figures out what doesn't work and provides the impetus to zero in on what might.

Conversely, the game of modern education revolves around right and wrong answers. Now this kind of learning may be appropriate in some instances, say, when you want a student to remember the capitals of countries. That method is important, but it can only take you so far. It certainly can't penetrate more sophisticated, and I would argue, more important questions, such as: How does geography shape culture?

Games on the other hand, cultivate problem-solving, that, with that right kind of scaffolding, could begin to gain traction with these more exploratory questions and knowledge.

Focusing on the process, not the content

johnsonbook.jpg

Much of the critique leveled at videogames is oriented around their content. In Everything Bad Is Good For You, Steven Johnson writes of a hypothetical high school English teacher admonishing videogames' lack of content: "There's no psychological depth here, no moral quandaries, no poetry. And he'd be right! But comparing these games to 'The Iliad' or 'The Great Gatsby' or 'Hamlet' relies on a false premise: that the intelligence of these games lies in their content, in the themes and characters they represent."

Games are based on problems to solve, not content. This doesn't mean that game-based problem-solving should eclipse learning content, but I think we are increasingly seeing that a critical part of being literate in the digital age means being able to solve problems through simulations and collaboration.

Videogames, and the type of learning and thinking they generate, may serve as a cornerstone for education and economies of the future.

In their book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson state that "policymakers interested in preparing students for success in the 21st-century economy would do well ... to appreciate how skills developed through navigating virtual environments might pay off in the workplace ... [and how] the new skills and dispositions of the gamer generation will transform the workplace. The gamer generation will push for work environments to incorporate more virtual aspects in fields, such as market analysis, and social and economic modeling. Gamers, for example, have abundant experience making big decisions, coordinating resources, and experimenting with complex strategies in game-based simulations."

Making the most of gaming for your kids

Although videogames have great potential to be powerful vehicles for learning, there is no guarantee this will happen. Just as there is no guarantee that someone will understand the themes and symbols of "The Lord of the Flies" by simply reading it. As a result, kids need parents, teachers and their peers to engage their gaming in thoughtful ways. While there could be a long list of recommended practice, for simplicity sake I've reduced the list to three preliminary suggestions.

  1. Play games. Otherwise how can you have meaningful conversations about them? Not learning how to play games would be akin to talking about "The Lord of the Flies" without having learned to read.
  2. Connect games to books, movies, TV and the world around them. By thinking about games beyond their boundaries we can cultivate pattern recognition across media platforms and parlay the problem-solving of gaming into the real world.
  3. Have your students or kids collaborate with other peers to analyze and interpret games, as well share strategies. There has been a raft of research in recent years that extols the wisdom of the crowd and the logic of the swarm. Through collaboration and networking kids can learn to enhance their own perspectives, ideas and, perhaps, contribute to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read more in the Kids & Media series on MediaShift.

Photo of kids playing videogames by Sean Dreilinger on Flickr.

Aran Levasseur has an eclectic background that ranges from outdoor education to life coaching, and from habitat restoration to video production. For the last five years he's taught middle school history and science. From the beginning he's been integrating technology into his classes to enhance his teaching and student learning. He recently gave a talk at TEDxSFED on videogames and learning. Currently he's the Academic Technology Coordinator at San Francisco University High School.

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

16:30

The Parent Show: Will Augmented Reality Be Our Kids' Reality?

This week on MediaShift, we're running a special series exploring the relationship between kids and media. In that vein, the following video from our partners at PBS Parents looks into augmented reality and what that means for kids.

In this episode of The Parent Show, Angela Santomero (the creator of "Blue's Clues" and "Super Why?"), talks with PBS Kids' Jeremy Roberts about the possibilities of augmented reality.

Watch the full episode. See more The Parent Show.

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

August 02 2011

17:20

Special Series: Kids & Media

We've all been there before. Whining kids at a grocery store with their dad, they can't sit still until finally the dad hands over his iPhone, and peace is restored. Kids are growing up with media all around them, from computers to smartphones to tablets to flat-screen TVs. And even in households without as many screens, kids find ways to get their media fix at school, the library or at friends' homes. We decided to do another in-depth special report focused on "Kids & Media" all this week on MediaShift, and likely into next week. We have great expert advice, an interview with a kid, and a live chat coming up on Aug. 3 on Twitter -- so you can join in and share your experience.

All the Kids & Media Posts

> Screen Time for Kids: Balancing Fun, Learning, Media Creation by Tina Barseghian

> How to Control (Or At Least Influence) Children's Media Access

Coming Soon

Wednesday: PBS Parents' webisode on augmented reality in kids' apps
Wednesday: LIVE TWITTER CHAT with special guests, moderated by Mark Glaser and Courtney Lowery Cowgill; 2 pm PT at the #kidsmedia hashtag.

Thursday: Mark Glaser interviews his son Julian about various screens he uses

Friday: Chris Purcell on parental controls for streaming video services

Monday: Courtney Lowery Cowgill on baby photos on Facebook

*****

What do you think about our series? Did we miss anything? Share your thoughts on how your kids use media and what you'd like to see change about it.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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

17:00

How to Control (Or At Least Influence) Children's Media Access

kidsandmedia small.jpg

This week, MediaShift will be running a special series on navigating the relationships between kids and media. Stay tuned all week as we explore topics like this one.

Once you have a child old enough to use a remote, the angst begins over how to control access to media. And absent the will to live a technology-free existence, media access is virtually impossible to control.

Still, I have been able to assemble some tips on ways to at least try to influence how children navigate the media landscape. These are some of the conclusions I've reached after talks with friends and family, and a lot of personal experience as a father.

TIP: RESTRICT TV IN THE HOME

Often, the first screen a child will access on his or her own is the TV. In earliest years, it's not too hard to put the remote control out of reach and monitor use closely.

Once they get a bit older, you can turn on whatever parental controls your TV provider or set allows, sometimes even block access to certain channels.

A few friends and family members don't subscribe to cable TV. You can also go without TV, which one friend told me she has done since before the era of video on the web.

HINDRANCE 1: TV? What is this, the 1990s? Most media shown on TV is soon available on some other screen the child has access to. As I said to a friend whose children were issued notebook computers in middle school: "Once they get laptops it's game over."

HINDRANCE 2: Media is pervasive out of the home. Family members in Minneapolis don't have cable. So, their daughter for years has just gone over to the house of a friend who seems to have every channel known to man, as well as a giant plasma screen.

Even at school, your children might watch movies and shows without your explicit permission. I was unhappy, for example, to learn that my child during elementary school recess on rainy days was put in an auditorium to watch entertainment that was anything but educational.

HINDRANCE 3: Parental controls are often based on rating systems that may not match your values. My friends and I, for example, find sometimes startling levels of violence in programming that's considered "safe" for children, while a fleeting bare breast in an innocuous setting will cause a show to be blocked.

TIP: CONTROL NETWORK AND COMPUTER PERMISSIONS

router block sites.jpg

You can restrict access and set permissions on your wireless router for different computers (via, for example, identifying the computer's "MAC address" -- a unique identifier code for every computer's WiFi antenna). Some routers allow different permission levels for different computers, so you can restrict them from accessing certain web addresses. On some routers, you can also monitor activity on the network.

You can also set yourself up as an administrator on a computer, and make your children simple users, then use browser tools to restrict access to certain web addresses and kinds of content.

HINDRANCE 1: Do you really want to be the admin on your children's computers and have to be called on every time they need to download some little plug-in to access something they may need for homework or to play a legitimate game?

HINDRANCE 2: Your progeny (they are smart, aren't they?) may find a workaround and get the content from some avenue you haven't blocked. If you restrict them at the browser level, for example, they may figure out a way to download through a different browser.

Another friend was able a few years ago to block his daughter's access to AOL Instant Messenger chats by, he said, denying access on his home router. But the means of accessing AIM and other real-time social engines have ballooned to where he knows it would be a losing battle now to even try.

My movie-obsessed 15-year-old nephew knows how to fake proxy servers and make a website think he's coming from a different IP address or country to get around restrictions where he lives.

TIP: CUT OFF WIRELESS ACCESS

Instead of trying to restrict access over a home network, how about doing away with it altogether? One friend told me he and his wife decided to go retro. "We cut off our wireless Internet at home, and instead ran cables through our house" so everyone had to physically plug in to access the web there, he said.

He and his spouse also require their children under the age of 16 use computers in open areas of the house rather than their bedrooms.

HINDRANCE 1: Neighbors. My friend and his wife noticed their children doing homework in a cramped area near the front porch. It turned out they were accessing an unprotected wireless network named "Stevo" emanating from next door.

HINDRANCE 2: Going without wireless can tie your own hands. My friend, who is a busy hospital doctor, found it to be a hassle when he had to get online at home and find a free port while the kids were doing homework.

In a house like mine, where I'm constantly accessing media in all corners for work and pleasure, I have trouble imagining going without wireless.

HINDRANCE 3: Children often have access to smartphones and tablets, on which they can consume media over a cellular network, and sometimes tether to a computer to give it wireless access.

HINDRANCE 4: Laptops can be carried to places with WiFi over which you have no control.

TIP: CONTROL ACCESS TO PAID SERVICES

You can set up a separate log-in or account for your children's access to services like Netflix, and monitor what they're watching.

HINDRANCE: My 14-year-old daughter and nephew are masters at finding whatever they want to watch. They're fans, for example, of the British version of "Skins," which is considerably more frank about sex and drugs than the American knockoff.

If they can't get what they want through Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other legitimate services, they seem to find it some other way. When they can't get a whole show, someone inevitably posts choice bits to shared sites like Tumblr or YouTube.

I have told my daughter of the agreement reached between content providers and cable companies to limit access to unapproved content, so she can better understand the dangers of downloading material that our ISP finds illicit.


TIP: WATCH TOGETHER

tv watch family.jpg

In our house we encourage media consumption together, as a family. That way, at least, we can ask and answer questions, discuss what we're seeing and hearing, and I can gauge reactions and levels of sophistication. I'd rather have an idea of what's being consumed than believe I can place blanket restrictions.

HINDRANCE: Many children, once they're old enough, will resist watching shows with the family. Friends and I have experienced various excuses and explanations.

Our children will say they've already seen a show we want to watch and don't want to watch that episode again, or that something they want to watch isn't appropriate for younger siblings.

CONCLUSION: TEACH YOUR CHILDREN

Let's be frank: Part of growing up is doing things your parents don't approve of and testing limits.


Rather than resign myself to losing battles, I try to influence media consumption -- and production -- habits by instilling values and judgment. My daughter at this point would have to be pretty dull, for example, to not understand the risks of a) putting embarrassing personal material online or b) interacting with someone she doesn't know.

I try to encourage her to tell me what she's watching and listening to, even if it makes us both squirm a little at times.

An upside for a media professional like me is that children often act as a window into other media worlds. My daughter told me of YouTube sensation "Fred,"":http://www.youtube.com/user/Fred whom I've since researched and now use in lectures to demonstrate the power of the new social ecosystem.

I also believe we can't lord it over children if we're going to let them have rich, interactive lives, while hoping they have gained values and judgment that buffer them from the worst possibilities.

I know my daughter won't share everything with me. Yes, I can see her Tumblog and am her "friend" on Facebook. But I also am well aware that there may be other Tumblogs, social networks and websites where she does things she hides.

I do hope I've helped arm her with values so that in creating and consuming content she shows the good sense I've seen on so many other occasions.

Read more stories in the Kids & Media series on MediaShift.

Photo of family watching TV together by Paul Emerson via Flickr.

An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk.

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

August 01 2011

18:27

Screen Time for Kids: Balancing Fun, Learning, Media Creation

kidsandmedia small.jpg

This week, MediaShift will be running a special series on navigating the relationships between kids and media. Stay tuned all week as we explore topics like this one.

When it comes to videogames and apps, what’s a parent to do? On one hand, we’re bombarded with messages about the perils of letting kids play with computer games and gadgets. On the other, we’re seduced by games and apps marketed to us as “educational.”

It’s a tricky line to navigate. The spectrum of kids’ apps ranges from “baking” cupcakes to crushing war demons. Most of them have some educational aspect — at the very least kids learn what ingredients are used in cupcake baking, and the physics of launching Angry Birds at just the right angle to kill the piggies. That’s learning, isn’t it?

Therein lie the vague boundaries. Not all games are educational, and not all are shallow forms of entertainment. Many are marketed as educational tools, but in fact, most have some elements of both. The trick is to figure out what we want kids to learn and to experience. To clump them all into one category is to miss out on a huge treasure trove of learning opportunities. Real learning apps have a set of criteria that qualifies them as educational, so rather than writing them all off as a waste of time, parents can figure out what their kids are exposed to.

Engagement and Learning

“We don't ever want to separate engagement from the purposes of learning,” said Daniel Edelson, Executive Director and Vice President of Education and Children’s Programs at the National Geographic Society at a cyberlearning conference this spring. “When you're engaged with activities that have learning goals, you can connect the dots between engagement and learning. If you use engagement in its broadest possible sense when people are paying attention because of bright lights and activity, then you don't find that connection.”

Enter the parent. A young child is not necessarily going to figure out if she’s learning or having fun. And in the best cases, that line is blurred without the child even knowing it. She’s collecting information about bugs and plantlife with apps like Project NOAH. She’s creating original stories — complete with exposition and denouement and background music — with digital storytelling apps like Toontastic.

So should parents feel guilty allowing their kids to play games on mobile gadgets?

“Most parents don't understand the need for their participation,” said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician who says she specializes in children’s media use. “It's a small population who gets it.”

girl with tablet.jpg

Simply put: “No,” says Dr. Michael Levine of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which recently released a study called Learning: Is There an App For That. “Kids see their parents using mobile phones all the time. It’s only natural for them to want to use them too. And from the data in our study it looks like many parents are letting their children use them responsibly - with restrictions and in moderation. We recommend a balanced media diet that consists of content that is fun, educational, and doesn't take up too much time in a given day.”

Tools to Create Content

That said, Levine cautioned parents to stay vigilant about screen time. “We would be quite concerned if young children, especially pre-schoolers, began to dramatically increase their mobile screen time,” he said.

A screen is not just a screen, though. The one-way interaction between TV and the couch potato is far different than an absorbing Scrabble play-off with a friend on a mobile phone.

“Nobody's saying, ‘Give your kid a Gameboy, so he can be quiet and go sit in the corner,” said Andy Russell, co-creator of Toontastic at a digital media and learning conference. “We're giving them tools to actually help them create content. The new devices allow us to do new things that we haven't ever been able to do. But the world of ‘edutainment’ has dug us into a hole where most people think games only create a solitary experience.”

In fact, many apps invite multiple players, social interaction with peers, and a call to go outdoors, either with specific instructions or with the child’s own imagination. When my daughter and her friend were deciding how to spend their Saturday afternoon last week, their indoor play turned into an outdoor movie that they scripted, and that I filmed and edited for them with my iPhone.

“Most parents don't understand the need for their participation,” said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician who says she specializes in children’s media use. “It's a small population who gets it.”

Russell says game designers should also take responsibility in guiding parents on how to interact with the games and their kids. “The failure is not the technology, but how we communicate to parents,” he said.

BEYOND SCREENS

Regardless of how educational or engaging a screen can be, O’Keeffe says emotional connections are lost without face-to-face contact. “If they’re looking at a screen, they can't see the emotional response,” said O’Keeffe, who believes screens should be kept out of the hands of kids under 5 years old. “It's about empathy and they're having trouble learning that. Do you really need to turn on the DVD in the car? Do kids really need the Gameboy in the grocery store? We all have to use the screen as babysitter sometimes. But to always use a screen that often is a problem.”

But gaming advocates argue that social connections are built into most games. That sharing tactics and strategies help cement the learning experience — and connect players to each other in ways that haven’t been done before.

As researchers dig deeper into the ramifications of games and apps on young minds, parents will have to navigate the gray areas between absent-minded parenting and the smart use of technology.

Photo of boy with iPad by Mark Glaser.

Photo of girl with an iPad by Alec Couros via Flickr.

Read more about how technology wires the learning brain and suprising truths about videogames.

Tina Barseghian is the editor of KQED's MindShift, an NPR website about the future of education. In the past, she's worked as the executive editor of Edutopia, a magazine published by the George Lucas Education Foundation, as well as an editor at O'Reilly Media and CMP Media. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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

July 29 2011

16:47

How Do You Like Watching TV Shows?

It used to be so easy. You'd cozy up on a couch, get your remote control (and popcorn) and turn on the TV for a night of vegetation. But now, you have options. So many options. You can watch shows when you want by recording them on your DVR. You can cancel cable TV and use a Roku box to watch shows through Netflix streaming. Or watch shows on your laptop or desktop computer through the websites of various networks. And then there's your handheld devices, smartphones and tablet computers, which now have such high quality video. So how do you like to watch TV? On the big screen? On time-delay? On computers or handhelds? Let us know your TV show viewing habits in the comments below or by taking our poll.


How do you like watching TV shows?

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

16:47

Mediatwits #15: Special Cord-Cutters Edition; TV Networks vs. Streaming

brian stelter twitter.jpg

Welcome to the 15th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the founder of PaidContent. This show is all about cord-cutters, people who like to watch TV without paying for cable or satellite TV (like Mark & Rafat). The big news is that Fox will not allow free streaming of its shows online for 8 days after airing unless you pay for Hulu Plus or can authenticate that you are paying for TV. Special guest Brian Stelter of the New York Times talks about the move by Fox and how ABC might make a similar move soon. Brian also talks about the streaming race between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others, as Netflix raises its rates and Hulu goes on the sale block.

Plus, the show covers recent moves by various app-makers who are stripping out the ability to buy books or subscribe to magazines within apps to keep from having to pay 30% to Apple. Apps for Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all have stripped out "buy" buttons and are directing people to buy outside the Apple ecosystem. Will others follow suit? Will a rush continue to develop web apps and HTML5 apps that get around Apple's big bite out of revenues?

Check it out!

mediatwits15.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Cutting the cord

0:25: 'We hate Skype' episode

1:50: Rafat uses Roku, Apple TV to stream Netflix, Amazon

5:10: Mark sometimes watches shows on iPad via Hulu Plus

6:25: Rundown of topics on the show

Fox restricts online streaming of shows

7:45: Background on Brian Stelter of the New York Times

9:45: Fox affiliates happy with this move

hulu targeted.jpg

12:20: Will people get to watch the shows they want when they want (without cable)?

14:15: The pain of authenticating pay TV to see streaming services online

17:00: Can Netflix get more content?

18:20: Competitors like Amazon now targeting Netflix

21:10: HBO Go as an example of the future of streaming

Getting around Apple app restrictions

24:00: App makers strip out "buy" button to keep from giving 30% to Apple

26:00: Magazines pull "subscribe" buttons, look at web apps instead

27:20: Amazon's Android tablet could break Apple's chokehold

More Reading

Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV at PBS MediaShift

Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers at NY Times

Fox TV Shows Get Pay Wall at WSJ

Fox Affiliates Pleased With Network's Plan For Limited Streaming at B&C

Amazon Prime Follows CBS Deal With Movies From NBCUniversal at PaidContent

Big Cable Braces for a Lousy Quarter at AllThingsD

Netflix vs. Hulu - the screen battle at Variety

How Netflix, Hulu And Amazon Stack Up at PaidContent

Analysts: CBS Corp.-Amazon Streaming Deal Bodes Well for Sector Giants at Hollywood Reporter

Apple forces Amazon to alter Kindle app at CNET

Kobo creating HTML5 Web app to buffer Apple at CNET

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how you like watching TV shows:


How do you like watching TV shows?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl