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Cellular Santa

(Courtesy of Graphics Fairy)

According to Poynter, the Los Angeles Times this week unveiled a “Send a Santa Call” program, one of the oddest mixes of commerce and Claus I’ve ever seen.

The idea behind the gimmick is that you (maybe not specifically you if you’re Jewish, Hindu, a child) will call up your child at a designated time and talk to your child.

Talk about interesting new revenue streams for newspapers.

The message plays something like this:

“Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas (insert name). This is Santa Claus, and I’m calling you all the way from the North Pole. I was busy trying to make my list but I needed help trying to figure out who’s been naughty or nice this year. So I decided to call (name of elder in family). They told me that you’ve been at the top of their nice list all year long. Now I had my elves check the list again, because we do check it twice, and they found out not only have you been good all year, but you’ve been the best kid in (state of residence). I even had the elves tell all the reindeer about how good you’ve been, and that we were coming to stop and visit your house first. You may not know this, but my elves stay busy all year long making toys for all the good boys and girls around the world. Now I had the elves bring me your list, and I see you want (gift that child wants). Now I won’t say you’ll find everything you want under your Christmas Tree, but if you’re extra special good, I’ll see what I can do, ok? Oh my the time sure does fly, and I do have alot of other little boys and girls on my list to check on.But I just wanted to give you a special call to let you know that Mrs. Claus and I are so pround of you for being such a (good boy/girl). Now don’t forget to leave me some milk and cookies, and you have a Merry Merry Christmas….and remember, Santa’s always watching.”

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Anytime I hear the word “crowdsourcing,” I cringe. While surely plenty good can come of relying on this “design/discover by democracy” concept, I feel that it puts faith in the wrong hands. I feel that, in a sense it trivializes the tasks of professionals, while putting an over-reliance on what is essentially free labor.

The term “crowdsourcing” comes from a 2006 article from Wired entitled “The Rise of Crowdsourcing.” The term is a portmanteau of “crowd” and “outsourcing.” I feel that just like outsourcing, which puts American jobs at risk, “crowdsourcing” puts good quality journalism at risk. As CNN has tried to do with iReport, stations are trying to capitalize on this trend. If they don’t pay for it, they don’t lose anything. The problem, I feel, is that the news consumer, i.e. you and me, loses out from this. While it may be cheaper to produce for the networks/websites, I don’t feel that it provides a service that actually surpasses what a journalist does. That is, people can’t learn as much from iReport as from a skilled journalist.

However, some people would beg to differ. In the following video, 2010 Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards Paul Lewis, runs through why he thinks that “crowdsourcing” will ultimately provide a real service to journalism. I sincerely hope so.

ht crystal cox jp 111208 wblog Blogger Crystal Cox is No Journalist, Must Pay $2.5M in Damages, Says Judge

Blogger Crystal Cox (Courtesy of Crystalcox.com)

This past week, a blogger by the name Crystal Cox, was order to pay $2.5 million in a case in Oregon. She was being sued for defamation.

According to an ABC blog, Kevin Padrick, an attorney sued Cox,a Montana native, for defamation after she blogged strong accusations at  about him, accusing him and his company  acted unethically and illegally as a trustee in a federal bankruptcy proceeding.

According to the ABC blog, “U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez said Padrick was not a public figure and the bankruptcy case was not in the public interest, two criteria which raise the burden of proof in a defamation suit.”

It was in the judge’s opinion that Cox, who refers to herself an “investigative blogger,” does not qualify to be a journalist.

Cox had also created websites devoted to defaming the group online. Some examples of websites she created include “bankruptcytrustfraud.com,” “realestatelies.com,” and “realestatehoax.com,” all created with the goal of ruining Obsidian’s reputation.

This does bring up some interesting questions: Can just anyone be a journalist? Does the rise of citizen journalism and blogs just provide an ersatz replacement for professional journalism and columnists? I sure hope not for both.

 

The New York Times' Election 2012 iPhone app (Courtesy of Nieman Journalism Lab)

 

In its latest power move in new media, the New York Times has unveiled its’ Election 2012 iPhone app. According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, one of the most notable design elements are story clusters that along with a Times story, provides related content from other stories around the web.

It’s the Times second big grab to capture the new media market; earlier this year, they created a New York Times app for the iPad. (Apple and the Times have an affinity towards each other, seemingly)

According to the article form Nieman, the content is hand-picked by an editor, not using an aggregator like Blogrunner (In the words of the Blogrunner site, “Blogrunner is a news aggregator from The New York Times that monitors articles and blog posts and tracks news stories as they develop across the Web”).

I believe that the Times is playing to a niche market. However, they would also be playing to an affluent market, as the iPad  is still relatively expensive (I sure don’t have $499 off hand), however, I’m sure that sounds quite lovely to advertisers.

However, the Nieman article makes another interesting point. “Maybe more importantly, the app’s full content is only available to digital or print subscribers… For existing subscribers, this’ll serve as a nice surprise, a bonus to send home the value of a sub; for non-subscribers, it’s another little incentive, another reason to pony up.”

Pokemon & Politics

Herman Cain dressed as Ash Ketchum, the protagonist from the Pokemon series (Courtesy of Hipster Jew)

Just a little post on political communication.

Some people feel that they have to simplify themselves to appeal to a larger audience. Some just like to appeal to children.

Herman Cain, for instance, might find himself in the latter category. Cain ended his candidacy by quoting quite an unlikely source: Pokemon: The Movie 2000.

The quote, which he had previously attributed to “a poet”, goes, “life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, it’s never easy when there is so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference.”

These are actually the lyrics to the song “The Power of One”, the theme song from the Pokemon movie. The “poet”? R&B singer Donna Summer.

Cain has gone on record stating, “I’m not sure who the original author is, so don’t go write an article about the poem. Jon Stewart (Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times)But it says a lot about where I am – where I am with my wife and my family, and where we are as a nation.”

Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central’s Daily show, who has been lamapooning Cain throughout his campaign, had a field day with Cain’s odd choice of parting words yesterday. He can be seen here discussing the rather odd choice of quote here:

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Morgan hobnobbing with Gordon Brown, left, former Prime Minister of the Uniter Kingdom (Courtesy of the Daily Mail)

Piers Morgan, the charismatic but obtrusive host of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, is struggling to fill Larry King’s shoes at CNN. Morgan had taken over for the decidedly wishy-washy King, in his 9 p.m slot.

Morgan’s show had an average of just 154,000 viewers in the 25 to 54 age demographic for November, according to Nielsen. Mr. King had an average of 161,000 in the same month last year, marking a 4 percent decrease. Morgan’s total audience in November diminished as well, drawing 620,000 viewers against King’s 635,000.

According to Media Decoder, a New York Times blog on the media industry, the ratings are worth noting, “because Mr. King’s ratings were nearly universally recognized as unacceptably low for CNN last year, and because Mr. Morgan’s ratings are trending downward.”
Morgan started off very strong, drawing in 2.1 million viewers for his first show, when he interviewed Oprah Winfrey.
Morgan’s first big break came, interestingly enough, when he was hired by The News of the World in 1994. (In the New York Times, there was an amusing anecdote, that Morgan asked Rupert Murdoch, who among others things owns Fox News, to come on CNN, the mogul wrote back, “Your chances are less than zero,” and, “I wish you good luck, but I do not wish you success.”)
However, despite his penchant for stirring up trouble on Twitter, and his ability to get A-listers on his show, he has not been able to draw CNN out of its’ ratings slump. But only time will tell if Morgan’s derisive manner will translate into success for CNN.

Reuters To Hire New CEO

Tom Glocer, CEO of Thomas Reuters, in front of the New York Stock Exchange, 2008 (Courtesy of Reuters)

According to the New York Times blog Media Decoder, Thomas Reuters, the media company who owns such staples as Reuters, is replacing its CEO, Thomas H. Glocer.

Glocer has been at Reuters since 1993, where he started as Vice President of Reuters America. He was named CEO of Reuters Group, PLC, in July 2001. He then became CEO of Thomson Reuters, after a 2008 merger with Thomson Financial, in which they acquired Reuters Group for $17.2 billion.

Glocer’s replacement will be James C. Smith, formerly Thomson Reuters’s COO, who will replace him at the beginning of next year.

Thomson Reuters’ stock (Stock Symbol: TRI) fell roughly 2% Friday, ending the week valued at 26.34. Thomson Reuters has seen its shares sink 36 percent, over the past 12 months.

Nevertheless, Glocer has made quite a handsome reward off his exit. According to This Is Money, a blog that covers financial matters for the UK’s Daily Mail, Glocer’s payout is valued at  £23 million ($35.9 million), including £17.4 million ($27.1 million) in stock options.

For those who are unfamiliar with them, according to Reuters, Thomson Reuters, “makes the bulk of its money as a source of information, data and services for financial companies and other professionals, such as lawyers and doctors. However, it also owns the prominent Reuters news service.”

According to Forbes, along with changes to Thomson Reuters’ leadership, they will be changing the organizational structure of the company as well, organizing into five divisions: Financial & Risk, Legal, Intellectual Property & Science, Tax & Accounting, and Global Growth Organization.

These change will be an attempt to kickstart Thomson Reuters, which has stayed relatively stagnant in the media world. Their main competitors include giants like Bloomberg and the Dow Jones Corporation (of the News Corporation conglomerate). According the Financial Times, “the combination of Reuters and Thomson Financial made no dent in the growth of Bloomberg,” which it claimed was its arch rival. They cited Burton-Taylor Consulting, who estimated that Bloomberg’s market share rose from 25.9 percent in 2007, to 30.8 percent in 2011, while Thomson Reuters’ share fell from 36.1 percent, to 31.4 percent.

And, as for Mr. Glocer, what will he do now that he is stepping down? Perhaps, he might pick up blogging.

Memes & Millionaires

Adbuster's Occupy Wall Street "meme" (Courtesy of Adbusters)

The anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters has been a big supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. So much so, that it could be said that they were the first people to truly capitalize on the movement. In fact, it was Adbusters, who came up with the hash-tag #OCCUPYWALLSTREET, along with the visual (left) on June 13th, roughly three months before the movement started.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times, entitled “The Branding of the Occupy Movement”, focused on Kalle Lasn, the 69 year-old in charge of Adbusters.

“This is what Adbusters has done for the past 20 years, to come up with these memes and to propagate them,” he said, in the article. “That’s what it’s all about: may the best memes win.”

Memes, popular in internet slang, originated from Biologist Richard Dawkins who coined the term in his book The Selfish Gene (it is a portmanteau of the Greek word mimēma, meaning “that which is imitated,” and gene). Online, memes are content that deals with imitation, something that plays off one cultural idea, and spreads through the Internet.

One of the first online memes, "All your base are belong to us" (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The interesting part is how Lasn is using these memes. For the most part, memes are jokey, irreverent media created for the sole purpose of amusement (see right). However, what Lasn is suggesting, is that memes have the potential to serve a political purpose.

Subverting the message of multi-billion dollar corporations, has been Lasn’s goal from the get-go. Adbusters specializes in “subvertising”, which essentially comments on the state of advertising, by parodying current ad campaigns. One of the more well-known examples was a parody of Camel Cigarettes’ “Joe Camel” ads, which derisively featured a cartoon named “Joe Chemo”, as in chemotherapy, usually hooked up to an IV or something similar.

Of course, how successful this current advertising project will be remains to be seen. The “Joe Camel” character was discontinued after 1997, after a popular 10 year run. He became so well-known among children, that in 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Assoociation claimed that “Old Joe Camel cartoon advertisements are far more successful at marketing Camel cigarettes to children than to adults.” They linked the cartoon to a rise in Camel’s share of the illegal children’s cigarette market segment, which it claimed increased from 0.5% to 32.8%, which amounted to an estimated $476 million per year. Taking on the richest 1% of Americans, however, might be a larger undertaking.

Nevertheless, Lasn remains undeterred, maintaining that, “if you’re able to come up with a very sexy sounding hash tag like we did for Occupy Wall Street, and you come up with a very magical looking poster that seems to have something very profound about it, these devices push these memes, these meta memes, into the public imagination in a very powerful way.”

An example of Adbusters' "subvertising" (Courtesy of Adbusters)

Yum. Nutritious.

   

An example of "news nutrition facts" (Courtesy of the Nieman Journalism Lab)

Ethan Zuckerman, director at the MIT Center for Civic Media, is spearheading the weirdest project on the consumption of news that certainly I’ve ever heard of: nutrition labels for news.

As Zuckerman explained back in 2008, “Over the course of a week, it might let you know that you hadn’t encountered any news about Latin America, or remind you that a full 40% of the pages you read had to do with Sarah Palin. It wouldn’t neccesarily prescribe changes in your behavior, simply help you monitor your own consumption in the hopes that you might make changes.”

Zuckerman, knows the Internet well. He is, in fact, one of the first people to become rich off the Internet, through the early Internet startup tripod.com. The site was sold to the Internet company Lycos for $58 million, in 1998.

As for the news “nutrition labels”, it would consist of a plug-in to Firefox that would passively monitor your web-browsing habits, and provide a gage of your viewing habits.

Matt Stempeck, a research assistant on the project, said that the goal of the project was “to strike a balance between the consistent, widely-recognized FDA label and the far more creative, dynamic approaches to visualizing information all over the internet.”

On the Internet, everybody knows you're a dog (Courtesy of the University of North Carolina)

But how can you find and categorize all the Internet content that most news outlets put out, must less judge it?

Zuckerman already has the aid of the Media Cloud, a database he created back in 2008, that cataloged articles from the top 25 U.S. news outlets and posts from the top 1,000 blogs, from the previous four years. The database has roughly 43 million articles (!) amassing hundreds of terabytes’ worth of text.

Zuckerman, however, does have a certain agenda with his plan. Zuckerman claims that the Internet is not utilized to its full potential, as many do not get a global perceptive online, and many netizens suffer from cognitive dissonance (see link below). So while the program does not suggest that someone read or view other content, the goal is to get people to realize and possibly change their consumption habits.

The downside is that your personal browsing habits are available for others’ consumption. Of course, the nature of the Internet now is, seemingly, to share information. However, different people differ on how comfortable they are providing information. Some would even argue that many wouldn’t even see the value is such a technology.

Andrew Phelps, who wrote an article about it for the Nieman Journalism Lab, contextualizes it in a rather acerbic way. “Does everyone want to see a digest of his own news nutrition, let alone look at someone else’s? I bet a lot of us are afraid of what it might say,” he said. “Twenty-one years ago President Bush signed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Many local laws now mandate posting calorie counts in chain restaurants. And America is still pretty fat.”

 

Killing Lincoln

Bill O’Reilly, author and host of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor”, is no stranger to controversy.

His show, which airs daily on Fox News Channel at 8 P.M. (n.b. primetime), is a lightening rod for critics, like the 2004 documentary Outfoxed, that claims that O’Reilly and his fellow FNC compatriots push, to an extreme degree, a conservative message in their programming. O’Reilly has been criticized for things like name-calling; a 2007 piece from the Wall Street Journal blog the Numbers Guy, compared O’Reilly’s rhetoric, unfavorably, to Father Charles Coughlin. The Indiana University School of Journalism, found in 2007 that in O’Reilly’s editorials, he called either a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average.

O’Reilly found himself in another minor controversy, when his 10th book, Killing Lincoln, was removed from sale at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, after a study, conducted by Rae Emerson, the deputy superintendent, recommended that the book not be sold at Ford Theatre’s bookstore, due to erroneous errors within the book. A minor rift, considering that the book was sold in its gift shop in the ground-floor lobby.

O’Reilly, however, probably benefited more from the publicity than Ford’s Theater. On his show the next day, O’Reilly raised Cain about his book, ending by saying that, “Our enemies are full of rage at that success. We also know the media lies at will these days with little accountability.” Note the strong language he uses here: Our, enemies, and the phrase “the media lies at will these days.”

Since we are learning to be journalists, and know the effort put behind producing news, and maintaining a reputation, surely at least that last statement should make you cringe.

Hold up, I imagine you complain, but O’Reilly is a pundit.

Yes, that’s true, and I’m glad I imagined that you complained. However, he’s a pundit with a master’s in broadcast journalism (from Boston University), and influence, he was watched by over 3 million people last week, according to Nielsen. We have to remember that pundits can play a big role play in our political system, since, like Father Coughlin, he holds a large and influenceable audience.

So what, I imagine you complain again, this has been going on for years, it’s old news.

That is also true. Yet, he is not any less influential, and his ratings are just as high. And his influence and ratings net him a lot of money. In 2010, Newsweek made a list of the most affluent “political figures”, ranking them according to their estimated 2010 salaries. O’Reilly came is fourth, making an estimated $20 million. (If you were wondering, the three who made more than him were Rush Limbaugh ($58.7 million), Glenn Beck ($33 million), and Sean Hannity ($22 million.)

Now, as 2012 is approaching, it only figures to get worse, with a Congress seemingly at a stalemate, and as partisan as ever. If you noticed, the 2007 year in particular, was a time where a lot of vitriol came from O’Reilly. It is not perhaps a coincidence, that it was also just before the previous presidential election. And it is this kind of rhetoric from a streamlined conservative base that has the potential to kill Obama at the polls.

This was featured on O'Reilly's show back in 2007 (Courtesy of the Huffington Post)