Archive for the ‘Mainstream media’ Category

One of the greatest benefits of the web is also one of its greatest dangers: allowing us to consume only content that interests us.

The problem with that is it risks making us dangerously narrow.

I had a stark personal example of this this weekend when I called my parents in Kingston, Jamaica to say hello. When my father answered he asked if I was finally calling to check on them in light of what was going on…

“What’s going on?”, I asked.

“There’s a state of emergency in Kingston.”

I had no idea.

I had no idea because, almost exclusively, I consume media focused on topics of my choice: marketing and communications, parenting, running. I listen to radio from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) – but only for a few minutes commuting to and from work. So I missed the stories about a state of emergency in the city where my parents live.

More than ever,  in this connected world, a key part of being a good communicator is having a broad understanding of the public environment. Adding some mass media to your daily consumption is a good start.

Do you add a sprinkle of mainstream to your daily media diet? If so, let us know by leaving a comment.

Wednesday morning I attended a panel discussion titled News 2.0 – the future of media in a digital world with panelists Kady O’Malley, CBCNews.ca political blogger;
Andrew Potter, Ottawa Citizen Online Politics Editor and MacLean’s Public Affairs columnist and Christopher Waddell, Director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communications. The discussion was all about how media, especially newspapers, are – or aren’t – adapting to the rise of the internet.

There was a good amount of talk about how some newspapers are doing to die but the irony is the format of the panel itself was a key example of one reason why.

The presentation, put on by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), cost $35 for non-members and featured five minute panelist remarks followed by a question and answer session. That seems OK but when I asked if I could record and podcast the session the IPAC host told me she’d have to ask the IPAC chapter board members that were there. She did and then told me they had refused.

This is an example of the kind of behaviour that will kill all newspapers that keep doing it: hoarding and selling information via old models instead of sharing information and finding new ways to make money.

Telling was that in the question and answer period I asked the panelists if they heard of the UK’s Guardian newspaper releasing all their content for free via an API. The idea is to spread the content everywhere for free and make money by eventually requiring developers to carry ads from a future Guardian ad network. It’s kind of Googleizing the news. Brilliant.

None of the panelists said they had heard of this. It seems owners of Canada’s major newspapers haven’t either.

ps. The Guardian also launched a $3.99 iPhone app in December 2009.

I’m in the middle of listening (time shifted on my iPhone) to part 1 of Ira Basen’s great CBC radio documentary News 2.0: The Future of News in an Age of Social Media.  It’s a great piece of work partly because of all the great interviews Basen scored. This post focuses on his interview with citizen journalism critic Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture.

What I love about Keen is that he’s a smart, dissenting voice in my lefty neck of the woods – and those always get me thinking. No difference here.

Basen’s entire interview with Keen is posted on the CBC Web site. In it, Keen alternates between far too broad generalisations and some really great points.

First the generalisations.

“The truth about these so called amateurs is [that they’re] made up of wealthy technologists who have made a fortune sitting around… in California.. blogging because they’re the only ones who can really afford to invest significant time in working for free – and the other group of people are kids who again have nothing better to do in college or in high school – real…citizens are too busy with their jobs and careers and their families to invest too much time in expressing themselves for nothing.”

Keen misses a key point raised by someone else Basen interviewed: Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody. Shirky argues that the economy has changed so that money is no longer the primary motivator for people to produce things. They do it for recognition, challenge and passion. Keen dismisses the millions of people blogging because they’re passionate about their topic – and they enjoy it – people like me.

“The rebellion against mainstream media is part of a broader, social rebellion against authority and it can be seen most clearly in a generational revolt. You’ll find that most people over 30, 35 or 40 are somewhat sympathetic to mainstream media. The vast majority of people under 30 are deeply hostile to mainstream media…”

Blaming it all on age is way too simple.  (I don’t have studies to back this up. If  Keen does he doesn’t say so in the interview) From what I see, people haven’t abandoned mainstream news at all. They’re just getting some, or much, of what they used to consume from other sources. People still read their paper in the morning or watch TV news and then check their Twitter streams on the bus.

“…many of the kids who are involved in the web 2.0 movement are from broken families.”

This just seems completely unsupportable. What is his evidence for this?

“…the value of a professional journalist is to provide the citizen with…information, to understand the world, to vote, to determine the qualities of ones own government and ones own role in the world…..I don’t have a problem with democratizing the media, provided that there are editors and competent people involved in the process.”

This paragraph lays Keen’s simplistic beliefs bare: “real” journalists and editors are objective and competent, “citizen” journalists are bias and incompetent.  He ignores that fact that mainstream editors choose what to cover and how to cover it based on the values of the news outlet for which they work and, for private media, whether it will affect the organization’s power to make money.  The problem is that many people share his belief in the benevolent objectivity of mainstream media. Citizen journalism doesn’t pretend to be all objective or even all good – and that’s its power. Because much of it is so bad I assume people look at it more critically. (I “assume” because I admit I haven’t found studies to back this up yet.)

Also, a key part of the power of citizen journalism is the absence of editors – especially in places where journalists can’t go. No editors chose what reports people sent via Twitter about the violence during the recent Iranian election or what pictures people sent from Gaza during the recent Israeli occupation.  Journalists were restricted or banned from getting most of these stories but we got them thanks to citizen journalists.

“The other problem, and this is my fundamental critique of the web 2.0 idealogs is the vast majority of new voices on the internet are not earning an income, which means they can only do it part time, which means that the quality of their work, whatever their talent is going to be inferior to the person who is employed full time.”

Again, the issue is that often the “part-timers” are the first ones – or the only ones – on the scene capturing raw, unfiltered data. That being said, the full-timers have the luxury of providing more context making the two roles complementary.

So much for his generalisations. As for the good points I want to mention one in particular:

“Google, which on the one hand, idealizes the free market, is extremely hostile to the State.  They believe that the market resolves everything, that the activities of the crowd result in a kind of justice…”

Keen’s point highlights two key things here for me. The first is that “media” include things like Google and Wikipedia, for example. The second is that these also have biases of which most people aren’t aware and should be critical.  There is nothing objective about Google and search engine optimization (SEO) companies making millions from people paying to get their results to the top of Google’s rearch results. Yet many people think Google results are unfiltered (for more on this see Jay Moonah’s e-book Trusting Google and Yahoo: Search Engines & Information Literacy).

And Wikipedia, that supporters promote as completely objective, also has its biases. Firstly, fewer than two percent of Wikipedia users ever contribute (Clay Shirky, Here Come Everybody, pg. 125) so that’s the first bias. Then, to get an article to in Wikipedia about a person, that won’t be deleted, you have to show how that person was or is “significant”. Significant to whom? Making that call involves bias. Who are the main Wikipedia editors? Do we know? Are they a diverse group or all the same?

The main point is it’s crucial to be critical of all media we consume and I encourage all the lousy citizen journalists to keep it up because it makes that easier to remember.

mathew-ingram

Attended another great Third Tuesday Ottawa event tonight with Globe and Mail reporter Mathew Ingram talking about what the Globe is doing with social media. Here’s the blurb from the Third Tuesday site:

The Globe recently appointed Mathew as their “communities manager.” He is well qualified for this position, having established himself as one of Canada’s most respected and widely followed technology bloggers and reporters.

Since he took over as community manager, the Globe has engaged in high profile social media experiments – most notably using CoverItLive for live coverage of a subway shooting in Toronto, the Canadian budget and the visit to Ottawa of President Obama; the establishment of a public policy Wiki; and encouraging other Globe reporters to make it personal by using Twitter.

Some highlights:

  • 85% of the Globe’s revenue is still from the print version
  • the Globe online got 10,000 comments/day during election
  • the Globe is changing its business while still doing it and the challenge is how to change the business without destroying what got you where you are
  • the fact that the Globe’s policy wiki is so serious/boring has kept vandals away from it out of lack of interest

Mathew Ingram – Social Media at the Globe and Mail

Presentation (click the player below)

Q&A (click here)

Enjoy the conversation.

The two tools in question are Trendpedia and Help A Reporter Out.

Thanks to Beth Kanter for the first one. Beth runs a great blog on social media and non-profits and did a post on Trendpedia which is a blog search engine that let’s you compare blog coverage of up to three topics and presents the info as a graph. And the coolest thing – you can click on any point on graph, like a sudden spike in posts, and it will take you to the posts from that time that caused the spike.
Here’s a screen shot of a comparison of coverage of U.S. presidential candidates:

Trendpedia screen shot

 

It’s still in Beta form by very cool.

I found out about the next tool on the great marketing communications podcast, For Immediate Release by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, let’s you sign up as a contact for reporters looking for sources for stories and is run by its creator Peter Shankman. Here’s the scoop paraphrased from Shankman’s blog

Basically, reporters send Shankman queries about what they’re working on. (”I’m writing a story on farming, and I need someone in NYC who’s grown a windowsill garden,” or “I’m doing a story on General Electric, and need a financial analyst who covers them.”)

Peter (www.shankman.com) puts these all queries together, and emails them out, three times a day. There are usually anywhere between 10 and 25 queries per email, organized so you can read all of them in about five seconds. If any work for you, simply scroll down, and email the reporter with your details and why you’re an expert. If they don’t, simply delete them.

And it’s all free. The list has over 20,000 members that have joined since it launched four months ago [i.e. around April 2008]. Members have been quoted in everything from the NY Times to CNN to the Washington Post to the NY Daily News to Fox News to TV to radio to bloggers around the world.

Also, it seems like it’s pretty much U.S. focused now which is great for all of you working in the US. But, hey, there’s no reason this couldn’t become a great tool for marketers everywhere, including Canada. Just sign up and start telling other Canadian marketers and journalists you talk to about it.

The alternative is signing up for Canadian Sources directory that does pretty much the same thing but with two big differences: it costs $349 a year and it only lets reporters contact you – not vice versa like HARO’s 3-email-a-day system.

What your $349 buys you highlights another key difference between HARO and Sources.  Sources only accepts organizations as sources and there is an assumption that if an organization has paid to be listed that they’re a credible source. HARO is free and leaves it to reporters to decide the credibility of the sources. This is another reason I like HARO. In journalism school Sources was our Bible and that meant that most of us got lazy and usually just went with the same sources that Sources told us were credible. HARO puts journalists back to work.

I’ll be spreading the HARO gospel. Oh wait,I already am..

I love the CBC and think they generally do amazing work – with the glaring exception of the phone-in segment on Internet traffic shaping on last Tuesday’s Ontario noon radio show Ontario Today. Traffic shaping is Bell’s recently revealed practice of “throttling“, or slowing down, service to people using file sharing applications like BitTorrent to download large files like movies.

The piece was framed as the question: “Internet bandwidth hogs: should they pay more?” Now who would say “no” to that question? The problem is that the debate is about much more than that. But it seemed like CBC said to Bell Canada: tell us how you’d like the debate framed and that’s how we’ll frame it. So we got a show about the “debate” around whether “bandwidth hogs” should pay more. Bandwidth hogs, like those using BitTorrent, explained the representative from Bell Canada who was the first interview on the show, are slowing things down for everyone else. Bell was, therefore, slowing down the service of people using such “high bandwidth applications” during peak hours due to customer complaints. Seems reasonable right?

Wrong. The CBC let Bell spin the debate away from the real issues. First, host Rita Celli, obviously ill prepared for the interview, didn’t challenge the Bell rep’s claim that what they were doing was in response to customer complaints by simply asking: where’s the proof? She also didn’t question the fact that Bell’s way of dealing with “bandwidth hogs” was targeting “high bandwidth applications”. This is like the police dealing with speeders by targeting a certain type of “high speed car”. The problem is not the type of car or application it’s the behaviour of the people using them and that’s what should be targeted. But Bell isn’t targeting individual behaviour because that’s not the real issue. The real issue is more likely that Bell doesn’t want people downloading for free what it can sell them – namely movies and TV shows – which Bell’s parent company, BCE, sells through CTV and the specialty channels it partly owns.

The real issue is net neutrality but that was only mentioned once, if that, during the interview. There was also only passing reference to the increasing demand for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to step in and stop Bell from doing what’s it’s doing through regulation.

I am not disappointed by CBC often but I was this time by them allowing Bell to frame this issue exactly as Bell wanted. I will be encouraging everyone I know who is concerned about net neutrality to monitor the CBC and make sure that future discussion of the issue deals with all angles of the debate – not just those that Bell wants to talk about.

Just read a post on Slashdot that raised a scary angle to Bell’s throttling, (i.e. slowing down), of Internet speed to people using file sharing software like Bittorrent – including CBC’s distribution of its program Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister via the software. It said: “It seems rather convenient that Bell, who own a shit load of TV stations across the country, happen to be messing with CBC, their competition…”

“Goldberg’s Pants”, who wrote the post, could be on to something. Bell’s parent company, BCE, owns 15% of CTVglobemedia which owns CTV. CTV Inc. owns and operates 27 conventional TV stations across the country, with interests in 35 specialty channels, including Canada’s #1 specialty channel, TSN (Perhaps they’ll need to create a new penalty on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada just for Bell: a game misconduct for “Throttling”). CTVglobemedia also owns the CHUM Radio Division, which operates 35 radio stations throughout Canada, including CHUM FM (Mmm…I think it’s time to set up a Google Alert for “Bell + throttle + CBC radio”).

What the post doesn’t mention is that the throttling policy comes just after the recent CRTC approval of the sale of BCE to private interests….Now, it’s not clear if there’s any connection but one thing is clear: net neutrality, as Michael Geist recently wrote, may now finally become a central issue for Canadians. The folks at the Campaign for Democratic Media aren’t leaving this to chance however. They’re spearheading a campaign to get Canada to adopt legislation to stop Bell Canada from throttling – and I’m signing up.