Friday, December 09, 2005

Wrapping it all up

Wrapping it all up
Sixth in a six part series

In this series, I started by seeking to motivate the thought that we are in the throes of fundamental change. Following that, I talked about some example societal developments that are increasingly evident and that are the direct effect of increasingly ubiquitous voice communication made possible by the cell phone. I next drew an analogy between the potential next stage of global societal evolution, made possible by the increasing availability and variety of inter-personal and intra-societal communication, and the coming to be of an olympic-calibre gymnast through the gradual orchestration and coordination of neural communications within her brain. Last week I talked about the availability of significant communication infrastructure that is increasingly being put to use to enhance global communication and general one to many, one to one and many to many forms of social and interpersonal interaction.

In this, the final installment of this series, I would like to draw from the foundations I laid in early posts to talk about a variety of avenues that may be beneficial to explore as the world gets better orchestrated - and more complicated.

To start with, why are things more complicated just as they are supposedly getting more coordinated? One reason is that individuals now have global reach, and inspiration has whole new sources from which to emanate in our everyday lives. For instance, before the advent of the telephone, significant portions of the population worked on farms and were bound by small communities. An individual's action, either by accident or design, was rather confined in terms of its reach or effect. It would be difficult and rare, for instance, for an individual to document a thought and share it globally with people of a like mind and interest. Today, this is exactly what is possible. A high school student, or anyone else for that matter, has opportunities to locate people with a common interest from around the world and communicate with them about the shared interest at any time of day or night through the use of Internet chat rooms or blogs. This makes life at home more unpredictable and, perhaps, more complicated because you may find that your next door neighbor suddenly has a new outlook on life because of something that someone half way around the world wrote about in a blog, or because of what she read in an expanded thread containing contributions from any number of individuals around the world. You no longer know the individuals that will start a societal transformation as you once would have in a small town with a very finite set of individuals, all personally known by all residents of that town.

As a result, new so-called "killer apps" are more likely than ever to be something that appeals to the common element in each of us. The common element that makes us each human. Along the course of history this was not the case. "Killer apps", or those things that achieved significant popularity quickly, could well have been something that was specific to a society or a small region. In fact, it could have been something inadvertently imposed on all by a shift in leadership, such as a national preference for a certain breed of dog, should it become widely known that the supreme governing individual, be it king, queen or other, holds a penchant for the breed. Such follow-the-leader preferences are more likely to be deep and long lived than would a mandate that all acquire that certain type of dog due to dictatorial creed. Indeed, widespread adoption, to be long lived, requires that adoption have the appearance or fact of being at the will of the adopter. Monopolies, therefore, sew the seeds of their own demise when the masses grow weary of adapting to any change that comes at the whim of the monopolist. People crave free will, so free will choice of adoption is likely to be one notable requirement of the next killer app.

There are many other angles from which this whole topic can be approached, but for this summary, I would like to stick to just those two - the next "killer app", or global trend, or significant opportunity, will very likely have two significant qualities:

1) Global, personal appeal, meaning that it speaks to a primordial tenet of human-ness that transcends culture, language, race and any other higher level distinctions between people

2) The appearance or fact of personal choice and personalization - not something imposed on an installed base

I hope that my articulation and rationalization of those two qualities, combined with the other posts I've made over the last six weeks prove to have value in your personal and professional lives.

Warmest regards.

Posted by scott.smyers on December 9, 2005 at 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Two days late and much more than a dollar short

Normally, I blog here at Morph on Wednesdays; this week, owing to stuff waiting for me upon my return from a lengthy and enjoyable vacation, I'm a bit late.

Both just before and just after, most of the conversations I was having with co-workers about various aspects of our Town Square project had to do with resources and, inevitably, paying for same. That's because we've begun to bump against the limits of what we can do without more.

Very generally, our Town Square project had three components: 1) Making our news gathering operation more transparent; 2) Making that news gathering more of a partnership with our readers; 3) Learning how to make our Web site more robust, both to take full advantage of the medium and to lay the groundwork for a move, should it become necessary, from a primarily print news operation to a primarily online one. Other than devoting the full time of one News employee (me) to the project, the paper gave the initiative no budget or staff.

The bulk of our efforts in 2005 have been concentrated in the first two areas. One reason is that we were already doing some things in this area (for example, we already had launched several blogs by the first of the year). Another is that although they required the time and attention of people in News, they didn't require much in the way of additional expenditures.

And for months, we had a continuing string of accomplishments to report. These accomplishments got us a lot of attention within the industry. I'll leave it to others to decide whether we deserved it, but we're all proud of it nonetheless. Lately, though, the accomplishments have been fewer and farther between, particularly in the area of the third goal set out above.

When we began this initiative a year ago, our newsroom did not possess so much as a single digital audio recorder, let alone video cameras, editing equipment and so on. Now, we've got some digital audio recorders and a few other cheap gadgets, and a couple of Mac Minis awaiting hookup that will be equipped with audio/video/Flash editing capability. The department still does not have a single video camera or quality microphone. I could go on, but you get the point.

In addition, we began using a new Web publishing system this year; it replaced one we bought in 1996. It's a nice system. It does a lot of things. But it does not do, or does not do easily, many of the things we <i>need</i> it to do. Of course, when the contract to purchase it was signed, the Town Square was barely a gleam in my boss's eye, let alone an item in our capital budgets. I'm not a technical expert, but it's looking increasingly likely to me that if we're going to solve some of these problems (and, by "solve some of these problems," I mean, "give our customers some of the things they have said are very important to them"), we might have to grow our own. There might be no off-the-shelf solution to some issues we face. Off-the-shelf solutions cost, but homegrown ones, particularly in the area of computer code, could cost much more.

I'm not criticizing my employer, not only because it's bad form but also because I have no idea whether it even would be appropriate, publicly or in-house. Not knowing much about the finances has been a blessing for most of my career (as well as pretty much inevitable, given that we're privately held). But as I say, we're bumping up against the limits of what we can do.

I knew this would happen at some point, and I expected it to happen about when it did. But my sense of urgency, which was pretty strong to begin with, has been goosed dramatically by this fall's circulation numbers and recent news of impending additional cuts at Tribune Co. and elsewhere, to say nothing of the likely sale of Knight Ridder. A year ago I figured that even under a mediocre economic scenario, we might have five years to prepare for and execute the transition I described above. In hindsight, I suspect I was too conservative. After all, the Iron Curtain stood for 40 years, but when it fell, it fell almost overnight. We <i>know</i> our circulation losses have accelerated dramatically. More than ever, I wonder whether we shouldn't be leaving some current profits on the table in order to invest to make sure we're around to generate future profits. But I'm not in a position to say, and those who are in a position to say aren't in a position to tell me. The only way I can gauge their thinking is to see what new freedom to invest, if any, materializes in the coming months.

Our city, Greensboro, has cultivated an image of itself as "Blogsboro," a city 30 seconds ahead of the curve. But given the changes looming in our economic environment and my industry's historical reluctance/difficulty responding to change, I'm not sure we're going to be able to keep the curve from catching us ... or worse. I think we will. I certainly hope so. And in any event, I'm continuing to work on that assumption. I hope and trust that, to the extent you're able, you are, too.

Posted by Lex on December 9, 2005 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Doug Kaye and the Art of Conversations

This post is from Havi Hoffman, who is a Social Media Catalyst at Yahoo!

Doug Kaye is a man with a new idea and the passion to fuel it. He wants to deliver entertaining, inspiring, educational audio straight to the ears of everyone on the Web. Over the last several months, he's started architecting his vision: a volunteer-produced archive of intelligent discourse called The Conversations Network.

I think of Doug as a senior wizard of podcasting; he's got the know-how, the Walt Cronkite gravitas and authenticity, and the been-there, done-that wisdom of a serial entrepreneur. Doug launched IT Conversations back in 2003, long before the word podcast (a portable, downloadable digital audio show) burst onto the scene.

Continue reading "Doug Kaye and the Art of Conversations"

Posted by Gloria Pan on December 7, 2005 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bring in the Young Turks

College Media Advisors has just launched a new blog site, Reinventing College Media. Ralph Braseth, director of student media at Ole Miss and a fellowship recipient to The Media Center’s recent We Media conference, is one of the project leaders. Ralph says about the initiative:

"College media should take a lead role in helping create the media future. This site will serve as a forum for new ideas, but it is our goal to move from mere ideas to proposing and implementing significant change for the student media of the future. Here we will share our experiments, our successes and failures. This site will highlight best practices among our colleagues and serve as a resource for any adviser of any media looking for a jumping off point."

Continue reading "Bring in the Young Turks"

Posted by Gloria Pan on December 6, 2005 at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Power of Database "Utility"

A few key attributes of the Web seem to get most of the glory and attention: immediacy, interactivity, multimedia. Usefulness, or "utility," is one way to describe information contained in a searchable, sortable data base. We know from Web-traffic statistics that readers find databases very useful. On local news sites, some of the most popular features are things such as high school sports scores and statistics, obituaries, event results, election information and classified ads.

Continue reading "The Power of Database "Utility""

Posted by Ken Sands on December 6, 2005 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Media Tech Trends in 2006

This is the time of year I’m asked to do trends pieces and as I put those things together (the first on tech companies in trouble will appear on on Monday), I realized that many of the changes impact the delivery of media.

Here are some things I’ll be writing about as we end the year:

Continue reading "Media Tech Trends in 2006"

Posted by Rob Enderle on December 2, 2005 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dark Fiber and Opportunities

Fifth in a six part series

During the course of this series, I have been discussing some social implications of temporally and spatially ubiquitous and varied forms of p2p communication. Now I would like to discuss some other untapped forms of communication and interaction enabled by the global IP network infrastructure, but largely unexplored.

I would first like to observe that there is a tremendous amount of already-laid but unused high-speed communications links, usually referred to as "dark fiber." Do an Internet search with your favorite search engine on "dark fiber" and you'll see what I'm talking about. You'll see sites that will help you locate and utilize, lease or purchase dark fiber, and you'll see news stories about companies that are aggressively purchasing dark fiber, and so on. The abundance of dark fiber is the result of fiber network build-outs that included laying substantial extra fiber-optic cables at the time the trenches were opened, as a non-specific plan for the future and as a hedge to limit the likelihood that new trenches would have to be dug. I emphasize the availability of this commodity to make the point that new forms of communication that require incredible bandwidth are viable now because of the absurd availability of nascent bandwidth infrastructure.

Continue reading "Dark Fiber and Opportunities"

Posted by scott.smyers on December 1, 2005 at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

TV News is Adapting and Growing

Media Center Director Andrew Nachison comments on the future of broadcast news on VOA News, in a segment called "TV News is Adapting and Growing." Read the transcript or watch Andrew in action here.

Posted by Gloria Pan on December 1, 2005 at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Declining News

Richard Aedy interviews Media Center Co-Director Dale Peskin about the state of the news industry on The Media Report, on Australia's Radio National.

Read Dale's pearls of wisdom here, or listen to his mellifluence here.

Posted by Gloria Pan on November 30, 2005 at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Who's doing good multimedia?

Here's one recipe for success in multimedia storytelling: Take an award-winning newspaper photographer, give him some training in video and audio, buy him some good equipment and turn him loose. You won't find these pieces on TV:

A non-traditional look at an unusual piece of performance art.

The best way ever to tell a back-to-school story.

A moose on the loose.

The story behind the making of a terrific photo.

What you can do with great photos that don't get in the paper.

Who else out there is experimenting with multimedia storytelling? Send me a note or add your comments below.

Updates: The Nashua Telegraph has some interesting audio/slideshow and video pieces. By the way, a good length to shoot for is 2 minutes. Everyone needs an editor!

David Kennedy at The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., has begun using the SoundSlides program to produce audio slideshows. Here's one about homeless people.

Other SoundSlides pieces: from the Raleigh News & Observer; and The Seattle Times.

Posted by Ken Sands on November 29, 2005 at 05:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

This We Candidate is Wiki Good

By Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D.
Internet Advocacy Center

Since the birth of the nation we have debated the proper role of our elected representatives.  Are they delegates, chosen to legislate based on their constituents’ wishes, or are they trustees, chosen to use their own judgment as to what is best for their constituents as they legislate?  Thanks to an innovative candidate for the U.S. Senate in Utah, this age old debate is being revisited in a manner that may have been unexpected by the nation’s framers, but perhaps not unwelcomed.  Pete Ashdown’s campaign against incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch takes a revolutionary approach using wiki technology to enable his supporters to become a true political community with a real say-so in his campaign platform.

Continue reading "This We Candidate is Wiki Good"

Posted by Alan Rosenblatt on November 29, 2005 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Say it ain't so, Joe

I love my DVR for many reasons. But, as a former print person who always marveled at what broadcast people could get away with, I think the ability to hold people more accountable for what they say on the air has to be among my favorite aspects of these wonderful machines. With that, I give you the observations of a reader of's Sports Guy column, who is shooting some of the fish in a barrel known as Joe Theismann's comments:

Continue reading "Say it ain't so, Joe"

Posted by Chad Capellman on November 28, 2005 at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)