“If it isn’t on the Web, it doesn’t exist.”

May 14, 2009

This is a famous quote that the inventor of WWW, Tim Berners-Lee said, when trying to show just how important the digital age is as well as how vital having access to the web is. One of the things he stresses is for everyone to have constant access regardless of economic status or location.

Recently the Obama stimulus bill passed congress and part of it is to expand broadband access to the masses. There is some criticism however by politicians and others when it comes to this spending like in rural areas with not much access or people. I would agree with Tim Berners-Lee and Obama that in a globalized world full of information it is vital for access to exist everywhere. Simply put open access to broadband will allow kids from various backgrounds to have more equal chances in succeeding academically. It will also bridge the social divide by allo0wing them to interact with other kids from different economic backgrounds.

The stimulus package has really been a great way for Obama to buy congress into spending money for such projects as broadband expansion under the disguise of improving the economy and “saving the financial sector.” It also did that but the other projects included are a bit more controversial. I think it is good that broadband expansion was included and this allowed it to be put on there.

It is now possible largely because of broadband to teach people and kids around the world from the seat of a teacher’s home. I think broadband in many ways is a public good and something that benefits society and the world as a whole.

According to the Committee on Appropriations document about the bill that passed in mid February 2009, broadband spending accounts for $7.2 billion:

“$7.2 billion to expand broadband internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy.”

Broadband opens up the world to people and with improved broadband as we catch up to Japan, it will allow for more eLearning possibilities as well as eHealth (for instance being able to monitor or operate on someone via the internet) to remote areas of the U.S. Only 45% of Californians have broadband. This means less than half of the residents can take advantage of things such as eLearning with streaming video, really take online classes, and communicate effectively.

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Newspapers and the bailout

May 8, 2009

Despite the fact newspapers are suffering more greatly now than ever because of people going to other venues for news and buying less print – the web being the largest venue and shifter from print. I do not think the web will totally replace them and there will be no demand for hard print news. People will always want the option of having a hard copy of the news to hold onto. However I do think more and more papers will be shut down until there is less competition, and those remaining will gain more revenue due to more advertisers having to rely on solely them as well as readers.

Michael S. Malone made a great point in his article about what newspapers need to change to survive when he said:

“In the digital age the death of an industry usually spawns its resurrection.”

The question comes up in these times, especially with all the other bailouts happening around the same period of time, is do newspapers need to be bailed out by the government to survive? There has been talk about this as of late.

In my opinion I do not think they do, however I would much rather see newspapers be bailed out than any banks or financial institutions that helped to pave way for the economic trouble we are in. I think that newspapers and the media in general are gatekeepers of the truth and really a necessity in keeping the government in check. So it would benefit democracy and everyone as a whole if they thrived. However if they bail a bunch of newspaper companies out I don’t think it will really stop them from shutting down if they aren’t making profits.

The media and the news will not die down in the end anyway and in the worst case scenario I think that there will only be a couple gatekeepers that are responsible for most of the news in the country driving competition out. Which would not be beneficial for the public at large, but it is the direction media has been heading to for decades.

The paper and newsprint will always survive in my opinion. What we need to worry about more than whether the print page will continue operating is how to preserve unbiased and varied news I think. Despite the fact it is heading toward a couple of corporations or a cartel dominating public opinion which can limit freedom of speech and create bias.

Online advertising transitions

April 27, 2009

Online advertising is a huge part of the World Wide Web, and the user who browses and participates in any online activity has to deal with it. Often what we forget or do not realize advertising is being fed to us with clever methods while we don’t notice. The same holds true in other media as well. For example a boxer or athlete might have a tattoo of some company on his back or a logo on his clothing constantly feeding us. In the online world the things you search for in web browsers are being fed back to you through advertisements later.

Advertising can be a annoying to the end users when not done right. For example, if the user is constantly fed with bright banner ads and ads popping off in flash it can make someone not want to be on that site. Advertising is part of every media and has been with us since the beginning of the WWW. It is not going to just go away. There needs to be an advertising procedure however that doesn’t alienate the user from the content that he is using.

Unlike previously in the history of the WWW where mass users were targeted for advertisement and advertising was easier to spot, it is becoming much more individualized now. It used to be about mass e-mail targeting, and bright banner ads but now it is much more personal and based on our interests. Often when we sign up for a message board on a site we have to fill out an inquiry asking about our hobbies and the like, and we later are fed things related to those hobbies or interests through ads. These companies figured out that we are much more likely influenced and purchase a product or service that we are interested in.

behavioral targeting is a method Google and its competitors use to target individual users with advertising based on their history of web search. Much what we do on the web is tracked, and often that information including private information about us is being sold or given to companies interested in such material. The web really opened us up to companies being able to profit off of.

I think for newspapers to be successful online, they should either work with or learn from companies such as Google — to see what really works. Banner ads might not be enough revenue, and readers probably do not want to be spanned with e-mails or have to deal with flash pop-ups. It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out what the interests are of a person reading certain topics and discussing certain news stories. However what is also needed is the revenue from online advertisers to be enough for online news sites to be profitable as well. Thus, the readership of online articles and the use of these sites must be high — which can be done through participation and good journalism attracting readers.

web 2.0 is here to stay but traditional media has advantages as well

April 8, 2009

Web 2.0 and technology is advancing and becoming a part of daily life of millions of people. People are interacting through the internet and are using it to communicate regarding the news among many other things. The news is no longer as rigid as it used to be due to technological advancements making it a lot more spontaneous and visual. However there are a lot of things that are great about traditional media that I think would be benefit for society if it survived and coexisted with the new media. I would not want to live in a world where hardly any traditional gatekeepers exist and only random bloggers or citizen reporters not trained in journalism ethics exist. The printed page has a lot of history and it will not be an easy battle totally replacing it with the web as people.

I think through participation of blogging, forums, as well as responding to e-mails and comments users leave on blogs, traditional journalists who write stories can be a lot more than just reporters to the readers. They can engage with their readers and develop more of a relationship many readers strive for and hence why twitter and various social networking news outlets are so popular. A lot of readers want to express their opinions on the news and be heard as well. The emergence of online journalism and blogging has pushed readers into wanting to participate and to engage in discussions of the news. Also access to tools online like polling people relatively quickly and anonymously opened up many options to traditional media.

There are also draw backs however to such audience participation as mentioned by Mark Glaser. Often discussions can turn heated or nasty, and people comment only to disturb. The traditional media’s filtering methods of only allowing certain letters to the editor to be published had served well in combating this. In the online world however it is  a lot more free for all and anonymous.

Bob Violino pointed out another disadvantage of so many companies and organizations supporting web 2.0 and that is hackers and security threads. A lot of us have seen our favorite web-sites hacked and know the feeling of not being able to access information when we need it.

Despite these shortcomings or disadvantages of web 2.0 over traditional media and print there are reasons it is being embraced by the reader and many organizations ranging not just within journalism. It offers many advantages from polling people easily to various ways of audience participation. People want more than just to read the news but share their views and discuss it.

Broadband online technologies keep evolving

March 27, 2009

The internet is evolving and forcing all media to evolve with it. Netflix is now offering streaming movies from the comfortable seat of your home and without even having to go to the mail box and pick up an envelope. More companies and corporations like Sony offering digital distribution and online-dependant functions. For example the Sony Mylo as well as the Sony Playstation Portable have introduced Skype — allowing people to talk on those devices. The only restrictions is a WIFI broadband connection by those devices to connect to Skype in a way akin to using a cell phone.

Apple has had a huge success with their Iphone where software is purchased through digital distribution without having to go to a store. This really is allowing people to do things that were a lot more time consuming and inaccessible a decade and a half ago. We can easily shop form the comfort of our homes, get our entertainment without having to walk outside, and get our news from our computer screens as well.

Recently a new technology become known that is going to launch this year and related right now to the video game medium called  OnLive:

“this year’s GDC may have housed the biggest unveiling we’ve seen in quite some time as OnLive announced its self-titled on-demand gaming service. The cloud computing version of gaming, players need only either a browser plug-in or a cheap device (called the MicroConsole) in order to play high-end PC games. Servers handle the hard work and stream the video output to your device at home, eliminating the need to purchase high-end PC gaming hardware (or perhaps even consoles). For in-depth details on how the service works, you should definitely read our announcement article right here.”

I noticed by reading comments from users they have a lot of skepticism due to the nature of broadband internet in the United States. For example bandwidth limits by many service providers, and speeds being the concern. This however I think can be overcome overtime. If such a service becomes a large success this could lead to more pressure to improve fiber optic wiring among other advances in broadband technologies. President Obama has expressed his desire to improve the broadband infrastructure in the U.S. already.

If more services such as OnLive or Netflix video streaming (as well as the catalog of streamed movies increases) become available and wide spread then the public will shell out more cash for faster connections helping to offset the costs. I really hope OnLive succeeds as well being a computer gamer and not wanting to shell out hundreds of dollars every year to improve my computer’s hardware so I can play a new game. With this service basically the server side configures the hardware and you basically watch a video of yourself playing a game at such high speed that it is virtually automatic. I also think this would have great success in Japan currently due to how effective their network infrastructure is set up for high speed internet. The demand for faster and faster broadband will continue, despite the fact I once thought you can probably do everything with a simple DSL connection, I am constantly proven wrong.

Money and incentive seem to be what is holding people back:

“Many broadband companies are keen to promote higher-speed packages, but these come at a price when plenty of householders are more interested in lowering their broadband bills.”

This also shows that the broadband companies are looking forward to expanding and allowing people access to higher speeds as long as the revenue is there.

Online communities

March 11, 2009

A community is a very important term that really defines our history dating all the way back to our ancestors who formed hunter-gatherer groups band lived together. Communities exist all around us in various ways ranging from the places we live and our neighborhoods to communities based on interest or jobs we hold. The various things that bind people together really form communities.

Online communities have existed really dating way back before the world wide web was even created:

“Online communities predate the World Wide Web and other aspects of the Internet. Since the early days of Usenet (USEr NETwork), developed nearly 30 years ago for university folk to communicate among themselves, lawyers have participated in online communities, both for social as well as professional reasons. And even before that, a Bulletin Board System, or BBS, enabled users to exchange messages in the ether.”

I think the World Wide Web simply made it so much easier and more accessible for more people to form and join existing communities online. The graphical interface allowed more freedom and content to be shared and discussed. It really opened up what was already there to be improved and accessible to the masses.

Current online communities can trace muchof their jargon and attitude to the past Usenet groups before many of us even logged on to the internet. An example of such jargon commonly used today on various online communities to label trouble makers or people who annoy the other community members are trolls:

In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups.”

There are various such jargon like ‘laugh out loud’ (lol) that trace their origin all the way back to these Usenet groups as well.

Martin reed argues that online communities who have been the most successful have done something effective at the outset and are resistant to change:

“Don’t be fooled into thinking that successful online communities are those that continuously innovate, introduce new features on a regular basis and constantly redesign to keep up with current trends. The most successful online communities are those that are different from the outset, and stick with what works. If you want to forge a strong online community, you need to be resistant to change – your members certainly are.”

I only agree to an extent. Sometimes a communities fails because lack of interest, funding, or for various reasons out there. I think that communities need to evolve and retain more of what is out there and what is popular on the web ranging form videos off Youtube to blogs. They need to take ideas from other online communities and put their own spin on them to be really effective. However, I agree that if a community builds a strong base at the beginning and gives something users to look forward to from the outset than it will in general continue being successful.

The bottom line is online communities are here to stay and will continue to bind people together from all walks of life and places around the world. People are no longer restricted to communities that are local because of what the internet and online communities accomplished.

print, television, online media — comparison

February 27, 2009

The traditional model of people waking up early in the morning and reading an urban metropolitan newspaper before going to work is less and less of a reality in this digital age, where competition exists from media such as the internet that accesses news from a variety of sources, and often freely available — at the touch of a mouse click. People no longer have to order a paper, wait for it to arrive, and deal with all the pages falling out or being crumpled. They also don’t have to deal with throwing it away or recycling it later. They can just click next on an internet article to flip the page online. There is also the television, that with the touch of a remote allows users to access news.

Television in my opinion is often a bunch of commentary and opinions on news in general, as it is harder to find unbiased reports. To me it seems often to be short news segments without going in depth to the story. Tuning in Fox for example shows it clearly and the bias is shown in documentaries such as “Outfoxed.”

it isn’t just newspaper that are suffering as a medium, but books as well. According to Nielsen Media Research in an article originally published by The New York Times Media Group, People are still watching televisions however in large numbers. I think this shows that people want more and more interactive material, and news summarized for them without them having to often think or read an entire article but instead want someone to speak to them what the article is about.

One aspect of the newspaper people cherish is the fact it is physical, and you do not have to deal with printing pages out since they are out there in front of you if you want to read it laying down or while going to work in the car. This is changing however due to online distribution and e-book readers and such being widely available. However, when someone has their name in the paper or accomplished something the paper acknowledged, they want to have that physical copy forever to show their family and friends. They really capture the feeling of being part of a community. Online story archives sometimes get erased, or older stories are hard to find, but a physical paper is always there. The same holds true for magazines.

Although newspapers aren’t as successful as in the past, magazines tend to do well because of being so niche and in my opinion more attractive to readers due to having colors, color photographs, easily turned pages, and things of that nature. They also are widely distributed in general. Magazines will not go away in my opinion, much less so than newspaper due to those reasons.

Beside the reasons I already mentioned about the quickness and ease of reading an article online, some other advantages of the internet are the fact news can be easily updated a lot easier or faster. Newspaper are generally once a day and magazines once a month with the stories often having to be written often a lot earlier than printed.

To sum it up, there are many advantages and disadvantages of traditional media and the digital or online media. In a perfect world all will find a way to coexist, and if statistics are right newspapers in local communities that are niche aren’t having many problems, it is the big time corporate papers and papers dealing with general news distributed for a wide range of people that are having the most problems.

Steve Ralph, from the Holland Sentinel, wrote an article on the recent situation regarding community papers and large urban papers.

“community papers, including The Holland Sentinel, are weathering the storms of a slowing economy and changing readership much better,” He said, and explained that because of the recent economy community papers are also suffering.

“The Sentinel and similar community papers are not completely immune to the down economy, however,” he said. His article, quoted Sentinel Publisher Pete Esser:
“‘While our business is relatively healthy compared to metro papers, we’re still feeling the pain of the local economic downturn that every other company in the Holland area is facing. We feel it because our readers and advertisers feel it’” Esser said.

Community papers I think are a lot more personal, and capture the feeling of the community the reader resides in. The reader may know for instance some of the names interviewed or written about in that paper. Or his own name will be there.

Alternate views of reality

February 20, 2009

George Orwell’s 1949 book “1984,” made some interesting predictions about the future of society and the media – however, one of his professors, Aldous Huxley, in the 1931 book, Brave New World, was the person who I would say predicted the way things are today a lot more realistically. The modern world isn’t some fascist state where everything, including the media, is controlled by the government, and books being outlawed or burnt. Instead, everything is available to the user, but like Huxley claimed will happen, people often just do not care or pay attention to the important stuff.

The internet is what really brought about the change of media and of information circulation more so than television. I think that it is very difficult to monitor all the available content out there online a lot more than it is television or traditional print since people can easily find ways around their ip addresses being traced. People will always find a way to have access to even banned or outlawed materials.

China has proven monitoring and censoring the internet can be somewhat effective and possible and they would not even stop the censoring during the olympics for foreigners. however, when I talked to Chinese international students they said it is more talk than action as there are easy ways around the censors. Censorship even goes on to a degree at times everywhere in the world as organizations try and fail here in the West as well as pointed out by Liam Eagle, in Internet Watchdoggin’ Ain’t Easy. A British agency named Internet Watchdog Foundation blocked access to a Wikipedia articleand that the block is part of a Wikipedia story now.  It is common knowledge, and people were upset over it. Liam Eagle also points out that IWF operates mostly against criminal obscene material, racial hatred, and things of that nature. The censor ended up being removed.

As the internet and multimedia world advances, more and more options are available to readers in terms of the information they have at their disposal and can choose to absorb.  Government organizations as well as single media outlets have less control and power over the user. However at the same time less and less family owned newspapers exist and the media in general is becoming more and more corporate owned. The same thing is happening on the web in a way where the successful sites such as Youtube are being bought out by companies such as Google.

The internet really opened up the world to the reader and Web sites like Rojo.com, Digg.com, and Reddit.com, as mentioned by both David Weinberger and Andrew Keen, allow the users to have news filtered to them electronically according to their tastes, preferences, popularity, what their friends are reading, or other such options.  Rather than the American government filtering knowledge it is the users themselves who have so much access they filter what they want to hear themselves without having to weed through all the available stories.

Andrew Keen thinks that is leading toward utopia narcissism and the destruction of traditional journalism, with the New Media being more about the individual rather than what is important. The online world such as blogging, according to Keen, is contributing to the destruction of traditional news. David Weinberger on the other hand welcomes the change of popularity of the online multimedia world through blogging, Wikipedia, and social networking with open arms, as it gives individuals in society more of a say with commenting on the news directly.

I think both have some insight to offer that contain truth in it although are extreme in their way of thinking. In a way there is a lot of crap to weed through with regards to blogging and information out there online like Keen states, but it does not take a genius in my opinion to figure out who is a credible source or has some good knowledge to share and who is not. Keen is also right when he says that many advertisements are mixed in with professional looking reviews of products, paid by the company, and influenced by public relations professionals, as well as many blogs are simply advertisements. However, as I believe Weinberger pointed out in their discussion, a person looking to buy a camera will look at variety of sources and reviews before making his mind up, if he is a sound individual. And, I think that it isn’t hard to spot a critical-free advertisement like P.R. review or article and users commenting will often point it out.

In some cases the media not having as much control over the user and sites such as Reddit filtering articles by popularity isn’t the best thing  as the media often concentrates resources on important issues people should be caring about but due to celebrity worship or scandals and other mundane things get absorbed by readers with the important things people should know about not being paid attention to. So Keen is right in that the traditional news filtered by professionals in general has stories that are a lot more relevant important for people to know about, but people would rather read things that are less global and important in terms of what is going on in the world.

However who is to say that gossip about celebrities and such being viewed and analyzed more so than real news hasn’t always been the case with majority of people regardless of web 2.0 influence or the decline of traditional newspaper readership – maybe it always existed and people would flip the pages of a newspaper over to those types of stories or articles most often if given a chance? As pointed out by Liz Smith, “Technology will drive gossip just as the print and photo media have driven it since their invention. But gossip and celebrity worship always existed. People were gossiping in caves, and they went right on gossiping in enclaves and families.”

How is changing technology changing journalism?

February 12, 2009

Technology is making journalism a lot more interactive with the audience as well as opening the doors to broader citizen journalism. Things such as cell phones having the ability to take pictures or videos allow regular people to be part of the news and broadcast the news through blogging or through submitting it to big name publications and having their name heard. The expansion of the internet in particular has moved journalism in a new direction due to the amount of people going online for their news instead of the traditional newspaper or even the television. There is so much choice and so much filtering going on through the user’s hand the attention span also decreased for the average person trying to read the news.

An example of how citizen journalism is how during the Tsunami in Asia cell phone pictures and video were taken and later published by news groups. According to Taking Tsunami Coverage into Their Own Hands, “Digital technologies — the Web, e-mail, blogs, digital cameras, camera phones — have evolved to the point where people on the scene share with professional journalists the ability to reach a wide audience, to tell and show the world what they saw and experienced.”

Often though citizen journalism is about small stories that major newsgroups or newspapers don’t take the time to dig into. For example according to Clyde Bentley, PHD Associate professor of University of Missouri school of journalism, Citizen Journalism: Back to the Future?, often citizen journalists want their voice heard due to the fact professional journalists are too busy with the big stories to pay attention to the smaller ones that “mean so much to people.”

Bentley goes on to mention how the World Wide Web and blogs really opened the doors to citizen journalism and one reason why it is as large as it is today. More people have access to this information and it is easier to spread through this cyberspace.

The bottom line is that traditional journalism is being influenced by this change and forced to evolve as well. Newspapers in general have an online section as well as print, and now they are becoming more engaged in blogging, showing videos related to stories, and other multimedia to accommodate the readers and would not be possible in traditional print.