Category Archives: media

monday media musings

tv_screensI work in media. For the past decade or so the powers that be were worried about online versus TV. Was online going to kill television the way television “killed” radio?  The way it “killed” the major record labels and newspapers? By “kill,” lets’ admit we mean “lessen the social and economic impact of.”  Sometimes less is more … but when billions of dollars are on the line, not so much.

As an industry, we focused more on the platforms than on audience behaviors. Our economic models are wrapped up in the platforms … but users don’t care. We just want what we want (I am counting myself among the users here). Mostly, we want options. Make it easy, make it simple, make it entertaining.

In the case of television, the question is not when and how online will “kill” TV … the question is how will people choose to watch their video?

… will they watch it live?
… will they watch it close to the original airdate? (hours, days months or years later?)
… or will they watch it on demand?

And how can we influence that decision? How can we incentivize people to pay attention when where and how we want them to?

The cable guys are all freaking out now because the chord cutting phenomenon is becoming real. People are deciding that they don’t need to spend $100+ a month to get a giant package of content when all they want is about 10% of what’s offered. Now people can cherrypick what they want through other means (Netflix, Hulu, and Boxee, etc.).

Broadcasters, who are the content engine of the entire ecosystem, are divided on what to do. They are fine with distributing online as long as they can monetize it meaningfully and not cannibalize their existing business. Cable chord cutting wouldn’t really bother them so much … except for the fact that the cable guys pay them retransmission fees. If the cable guys are hurting, then they have less guaranteed income to return to broadcasters. Guaranteed income = good. Uncertainty = bad.

It’s pretty complicated. If you care to read a bit more, this is a decent article.

socialsearch

Distribution matters aside, the intersection of search and social and video on demand is what’s very much on my brain at the mo. Today I signed up for a social search service called aardvark. It lets you tap into your social nets to ask questions and get answers from real people in real time.

For example, I am moving to the East Village on Friday and want to get  an idea of Yoga studios in the neighborhood. I posed the question and within less than a minute I had an AIM message with an answer. A good answer. I got an email a few hours later with more good answers. So now I have a list of Yoga Studios in the East Village provided by people who use and like them – not by the studios that paid the most for SEO.

Very Zen Col if you ask me.

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Are you a man or a boy?

bored-to-death-logoi am enamored with hbo’s new original series, “bored to death,” created and produced by jonathan ames. was pleased to learn today that we’ll be getting a second season. there’s so much to talk about here, but basically it’s about men flailing around in the absence of women. the main character, jonathan, played by nerdy dreamboat munchkin jason schwartzman, is pining for the ex who left him due to his meandering lack of focus and proclivity for white whine and weed. he’s a writer whose debut novel won him critical success. but he’s languishing with the writing of the second novel. aided by craigslist advertising, he begins moonlighting as an unlicensed private detective. it’s jonathan’s way to fight boredom and get his mojo back. absurdity ensues. when he’s not sleuthing, jonathan’s activities are centered around his two buddies: his boss George Christopher, magazine editor and party-goer played by the dashingly deviant Ted Danson, and Ray Hueston, his bestie, a  Brooklyn comic book artist played by the hilarious bearded yet feminized Zach Galifianaki.

this is a writer’s show. the dialogue is fantastic. the most recent episode had some words that broke through to my noggin:

Claudia Worth: Are you a man or a boy?
Jonathan: Well… what’s the difference?
Claudia Worth: With a man, you feel like you’re being taken, and you like it. And with a boy, you feel like they’re stealing something from you, and you don’t like it.

Claudia was the 16-year-old daughter of a psychologist that Jonathan picked up at a party (assuming she was older). out of the mouths of babes, right? that distinction is right on, and it extends beyond the physical sex act. the difference between being took and being stolen from. when you’re took, you go along with. when you’re stolen from, you are left alone, in a world apart.

postcards_1253668174641

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This is your media life

photoA crossroads feeling … BD and AD (Before Dad and After Dad) … summer into fall … good girl into willful woman overtook me yesterday, September 9. We (my company, my department, my honchos and colleagues) hosted a memorial service for Walter Cronkite at Lincoln Center.

All kinds of media types showed up. And most notably, POTUS came. We were surprised he didn’t cancel. After all, he had that huge health care address to deal with later in the evening. Maybe he wanted a shot in the arm … muster up some extra journalistic goodwill. Regardless, I was seated all of 50 rows directly behind him on the on the center left aisle seat. Cool.

Three rows down across the aisle from me was Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation. I did a 6-month internship there in 1998 at the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Victor was creaking along in a seersucker suit, which is how I picture him in my head, always. I remain grateful for that opportunity, though I always felt like a disappointment to that leftie bunch, having given up on the journalistic “good fight” to become corporate flack, writing earning speeches for EVIL BIG MEDIA no less. By the way, had journalism not paid so poorly, had it enabled me to get health insurance and move out of my parents’ house, I might have stuck with it. Instead I took a job as a marketing copywriter and ended up working directly with the top brass. The rest is history.

Right behind Victor was Howard Kurtz, whose writing I have read for decades and took particular interest in while writing my Master’s thesis at journalism school in the summer of 1999. At one point I saw him, all of 15 feet away from me, typing into his Blackberry. His Tweet posted to the feed displayed on my iPhone. Surreal.

The title of my yesteryear thesis: “Taking themselves to task: The rising role of media criticism in the American mainstream press.”It was 70+ page exploration of how the media views and reports on itself. If I recall correctly, my point was that the journalists are individuals, with flaws and strengths … viewpoints and emotions. There is no such thing as “just the facts” or one objective truth so let’s just acknowledge our biases already and get it out of the way.

That was before FOX News became a powerhouse thanks to Election 2000 and its dangling chads. Half the country felt their views were not being represented by the media. All the networks, all the papers seemed to start from the same premises and value systems. They purported to offer a mirror to “reality.” But many citizens felt oppressed and misrepresented by that reflection.  Roger Ailes tapped into that discontent, creating a press outlet to cater to that large underserved market claiming, “we report, you decide.”

All around the same time, just as I finished up grad school, Napster was happening, Google was happening. Digital was changing everything. Content was unbound. People were unbound. Back then I couldn’t have imagined that I would go for weeks, months at a time without turning on a radio or picking up a newspaper. I used to read 5 or 6 papers A DAY. Now I just skim my RSS feeds and email newsletters and focus on the items that interest me.

Never could I have imagined ten years ago that I would be sitting in a room with all these guys, plus the (BLACK!) President of the United States, Bill Clinton, the CEO of my company, Barbara Walters, Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson and so many other, listening, typing away on my phone, and pondering yet again what will become of our world of information (and just generally our world).

None of them seem to know. All they seemed to articulate was that something big is gone. That feeling of unified certainty. The reassuring notion that knowledge itself could be known.

marsalisOne of the coolest parts of the ceremony was when Wynton Marsalis and five members of his sextet played an amazing New Orleans funeral procession song, circling the entire room. They walked across the stage, down the stairs, up the aisle, around the back, down the other aisle, and back up on stage. The sound was incredible. (When I die, get me one of those, please.)

On my way out I ran into my dear friend and mentor, Mary Jane Clark, who helped me get my first internship at CBS in 1996, and my first (short-lived) job in the newsroom in 1997. She is family to me. I have listened to her stories and watched her work over the years. I know that the industry she was so passionate about, that she built her first career on (she is now a best-selling fiction writer) has morphed into something unrecognizable. It must be a very strange thing to behold.

For me, only a decade or so into the game, the beat goes on. The journey in this world of media and information is just beginning. I don’t know where it’s headed either, and I have nothing to lose … no romantic attachments to “the way it was”.  While I honor and respect those who made my current adventure possible, ultimately I’ve gotta go my own way. Onward pilgrim! Onward willful woman! The world awaits!

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innovation

differentgirl“What I would do was look at the world and how other people were doing things. I just don’t like conflict. I don’t want to compete. I don’t want to try to do the same thing better. So I went off in very different directions from what was obvious.” – Steve Wozniak

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tough guys

the wire premiered on hbo in june 2002. back then i was too occupied with six feet under and the sopranos to take on another series. and then the critical acclaim for the wire grew so vociferous that i became annoyed and decided not to watch. enough friends over enough years persisted in wearing me down … and i’ve finally taken it up via netflix and itunes. i’ve completed seasons one and two (watching semi compulsively) and am hooked.

the characters, the stories, the words, the intricacies. wow. it’s the kind of show that makes you think twice when you see people − especially cops, politicians and union guys − out in the world. makes you wonder what kind of wild mess they are caught up in.

in one of the episodes i was devouring last night, bunk showed up in sweatpants and i thought for a moment he might be the same actor who plays stanley on the office.

Bunk:

bunk

Stanley:

stanley

okay — not so close. this morning as i was walking up hudson street to the e train, a man dipped his shoulder in like a football player and rammed into me on the sidewalk. the space was more narrow than usual due to the christmas trees lined up for sale. the impact didn’t knock me down, but it turned me around. he had scabs and bruises on his face and was clearly a junkie of some kind. he shouted out “whore!” he was not a bit like the wire’s kindhearted, amiable crackhead, bubbles.

bubbles1

by the way, i prefer my crackheads to be of the fictional variety, and agree that now is not the time to cut back on nyc cops.

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overall …

image below sent to me by miss laurs, inspired (i think) by my latest internet suitor, courtesy of graphjam.

meetonweb

i was thinking more about the overalls dude and wuz reminded of the article from this week’s nytimes mag. excerpt:

II. FACEBOOK OVERALLS

Jack Hitt, NYTimes contributing writer: Let me give you a scenario. I’m the somewhat desperate C.E.O. of a company called Jack’s Overalls. We manufacture functional clothes, and in the era of corporate farming, our market is fading. My younger vice presidents are telling me that we need to try new media. So I’m turning to you: Why should I even consider these emerging media? Can’t I just spend my money on old-school, 30-second spots on prime-time television?

LARS BASTHOLM, chief creative officer at AKQA: Well, we do have a ton of different new media and new ways to use them. But before we get there, I would suggest that first, you take a step backward and ask yourself, How do I make my brand relevant? Overalls are a staple of Americana, a cultural icon. The question is, How can you make overalls relevant to people today, and how can you use these different media channels to accomplish that?

BENJAMIN PALMER, the C.E.O. of the Barbarian Group: Your customers in the past have been farmers. Overalls are a commodity.

ROBERT RASMUSSEN, the executive creative director of the Nike account at R/GA: Very functional. And your market is shrinking.

Palmer: So you have to create a new market. Farming may be going away, but what’s on the rise? Right now your overalls are made with special pockets and holders for farming tools. Maybe we retool them for urban farmers, as it were, and their specialized gear. You have special pockets for your iPhone and your BlackBerry, and a pocket for your headphones, another for your wallet, your subway card, your keys.

the article itself is old news … all the stuff they’re saying media companies should do to build brands, they’re already doing (and have been since the late 90’s). the trend will increasingly disintermediate advertising agencies … who needs ’em if you have the right media partners … and within the next 5 years you’ll see brands going directly to the media companies who will, in turn, continue to grow their boutique agency-like capabilities. 

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wednesday afternoon dance party!

yeah, you heard it right — i’m on a rampage, stirring things up with a dance party MID WEEK! i really dig this song & video “time to pretend” from hipster kiddies MGMT. it’s particularly resonant as i embrace my adultesecent sensibility and prepare for my reading at cringe on october 1! judging by the song’s lyrics, these guys tend to agree that life is a bastard.

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