Singing the Bite Me Song


Cyberculture


July 29, 2006

The old "Wonkette" as Time.com Washington Editor?

Link: COX IN THE HEN HOUSE.

OK, what's wrong with this picture? I get that Ana Marie Cox was a serious journalist before becoming Wonkette, as the article says below, working at Mother Jones and the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Fine. But Washington Editor?! Replacing Matt Cooper? WTF?

And I'm all for bloggers making an end run around the traditional journalistic pecking order gauntlet, where usually it means you came from a prep school and went to Harvard or a famous journalism program, then bought your famous media internship. Generally, the idea that the only way to the top in the Washington press corp was through an impossible labyrinth of trenches and who-you-know (right up there with K-Street? Do you get hired for your Rollodex? That reinforces the prep-school feeling about it all.) galls me greatly.

But a thousand political blogs are blooming in a reborn social commons, and there are some REALLY FINE voices out there, WOMEN, people I can respect a hell of a lot more than "Wonkette." You gotta be kidding me if you think she's the cream of the crop with all the heavy snark and sex talk. Time.com should be at Blogher Conference right now, like I wish I were.

And I LOVE that they picked a woman, but good god, why THAT woman? Please note, I don't know Ana Marie Cox from Eve, and while I'd probably immensely enjoy going out for beers with her, I take my opinion only from the tone and scope of the old "Wonkette" blog, which I'd call fun, but not exactly Washington editor material.

If they wanted someone who has taken a blog leadership role and rejuvinated a sense of holding government accountable, why not go after Arianna Huffington? (she probably wouldn't take it anyway, heh) She has accomplished something substantial in the blogosphere, creating a powerful stable of bloggers who are actively holding government far more accountable than Time.com is. (Maybe Time.com accurately realizes that Huffington Post is becoming its competition, something Wonkette NEVER was.)

I dunno, maybe Time.com was doing one of those GOP-token women things, where the women Republicans put in prominent positions are PR flash, fake placeholder fronts for the MEN who get the real responsibility (like Christine Todd Whitman, who didn't like being a fake woman figurehead all that much, or like our current president, who doesn't seem to mind being a fake figurehead leader at all), just so they can be seen to be publicly promoting women for the PR value of it, even though the good ol' boys in the smoke-filled rooms are deeply loathe to share any REAL power.

I sure would hope Cox would take 'em on, if that is the case, and I'm betting if they expect her to act properly de-fanged, she'd tell them precisely where they could stick it. I mean, of course I'd take the offer if I were in her shoes, but damn if I wouldn't be on the lookout for some other shoe to drop.

I'm just projecting, making all that up, but this just chaps my hide. Does Time.com expect to hold any crediblity with this? Or is that somehow the point? Perhaps Time is just delightedly certain that Cox will never be subpoenaed for her sources by the government, the way Cooper was.

I mean, would Time pick someone from a supermarket gossip tabloid to run other major coverage efforts?

Ana_marie_cox Is it a bald-faced play for that coveted youth-babe-loving male demographic with advertising buying power? Strictly a PR hire to "buy cred" in the blogosphere?

Does it reflect the male assumption that mature, experienced, competent women have no place in this newly-reborn out-of-the-closet 2000s sexism, where women are tolerated so long as they don't look like they know what they're doing or threaten the male power establishment? In other words, mouthy Ann Coulter clones, of any political stripe?

Would they have given this same job to Cox if she had the same writing "voice" and looked like, say, Madeline Albright or Donna Shalala or even Arianna Huffington?

Or is the Washington editor just a nothing job? (I bet there's a fair number of folks inside Time.com who'd been bucking for the job, working their way up, who just got leap-frogged.)

Maybe government sources are rejoicing at the potentially free-er ride they'll get from at least one major newsweekly, so long as they obfuscate with juicy sex and gossip bits to hide pork, kickbacks, incompetence, or other corruptions.

Or maybe Time.com actually strategized that the Ann Coulter-loving GOP power-brokers who don't take women seriously will let their guard down more with the likes of Cox. You know, the kind who let the "girls" froth and foam, take a puff from a stinky cigar, pat them on the head, and say, "There there, honey. You tell 'em, all right. Are you sure you won't fuck me now? I just love it when you get all worked up."

Cox in the Henhouse?

Former Wonkette Ana Maria Cox's transformation from blogger cover girl to Old Media's new hope is almost complete. Cox on Thursday was named Washington editor of Time.com, where she will coordinate political coverage and continue to contribute articles. "I've been trying to sell out for a very long time," Cox wrote in an e-mail to WWD. "I'm proud to say I finally have."

Cox will succeed Matt Cooper, who jumped ship for Condé Nast's upcoming business magazine Portfolio, and who often served as blog fodder in Cox's Wonkette days. Said Cox, "Matt asked me to inscribe his copy of my book with, ‘Thanks for all the material.'" She expects to write more often than Cooper did in the role, as well as amp up the magazine's quotient of "satirical, biting D.C. commentary."

Time, suffering like all newsweeklies to maintain its relevance in a 24-hour news cycle, is evidently pinning its hopes on Cox to bring buzz to its Web site. For those who remember her mostly for her bawdiness and outing of Capitol Hill indiscretions and who doubt her prowess on subjects such as the midterm elections, Cox cited her years as a serious journalist for publications like Mother Jones and The Chronicle of Higher Education. But that doesn't mean the new gig signals a new, soberer Cox. "I won't change much about what I write about or the way I write it," she said, "because that's how I got here." — Irin Carmon

July 29, 2006 at 11:35 AM in Best Essays, Cyberculture, Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Satire, Singing the Bite Me Song, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 27, 2005

Freeway Blogging for fun and profit...

What do you want for nothing... Burmashave?

Contest: Blog Your Campus

I've written about freeway blogging on this site before, but I thought a picture or two would be nice.

Also, college students make note: a contest to "freeway blog" your campus with prizes at Operation Yellow Elephant.

Link: FREEWAYBLOGGER.com - Free Speech: Use It or Lose It.

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Link: Operation Yellow Elephant: Contest: Blog Your Campus.

Many of you may be familiar with the Freeway Blogger's brilliant work. We'd like to see something similar happening at or near college campuses. To that end, Operation Yellow Elephant is holding a "Blog Your Campus" contest.

Description

Create signs relating to Operation Elephant's mission to expose the hypocrisy of hawkish College Republicans and other young conservatives who are too cowardly to fight in the war they demanded. Post these signs near roadways and pedestrian pathways on or near college campuses. Photograph your work and send it to OYE@charter.net. I'll post them here. In early October, the OYE contributing Writers and the Freeway Blogger will pick a winner.

How to Make Your Sign

It's always a good idea to learn from the masters.

How to Win

Send us a photo featuring a sign with a great message and lots of people or cars traveling past it. If it generates press, it wouldn't hurt to send us a url or a clipping.

[...]

Rules

1. Signs must be placed near roadways or pedestrian pathways on or near campus.

2. Photos of the signs must demonstrate that the sign can be viewed by many people (people or cars in the foreground)

3. Submit your entries here [OYE@charter.net] no later than September 30, 2005.

4. Vaughn adds this:

Make sure the sign really kicks ass, it's easy to see, and it's clear that it is not a fake. I'm a Photoshop master, so don't f&*k with me and you will get your musical device -- grasshopper. Perhaps take photos of the sign making process including the hanging of it?

August 27, 2005 at 01:49 AM in Cyberculture, Favorite Links, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Photography, Privacy & Free Speech, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 07, 2005

Video - Orwell Rolls In His Grave - Parts I & II

It's long, but go watch the whole thing! Requires RealPlayer.

Link: Video - Orwell Rolls In His Grave - Part I .

Link: Video - Orwell Rolls In His Grave Part II .

When Lies Become Truth

Video - Orwell Rolls In His Grave

A Must Watch Documentary
"Could a media system, controlled by a few global corporations with the ability to overwhelm all competing voices, be able to turn lies into truth?..."

Director Robert Kane Pappas’ "Orwell Rolls In His Grave" is the consummate critical examination of the Fourth Estate, once the bastion of American democracy. Asking whether America has entered an Orwellian world of doublespeak where outright lies can pass for the truth, Pappas explores what the media doesn’t like to talk about: itself.



August 7, 2005 at 11:15 AM in Cyberculture, Democracy, Favorite Links, Intellectual Property, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, War/Terrorism, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

congratulating ms vivian darkbloom on her new identity...

Isn't blogland wonderful? Change identities like trying on a new pair of pants! Sorry I was so late catching on.

Miasma

Link: adventures in navel-gazing: the taking of darkbloom, one two three, or, who am I this time?.

the taking of darkbloom, one two three, or, who am I this time?

So I created this blog thing.

Not surprisingly, some Nabokov-loving soul had already snagged "vivian darkbloom" as a user name. "darkbloom" was taken too. Quelle disappointment. Well, for all of five minutes, actually.

While I tried to think of some other vaguely fashionable, literary-wanker nom de plume, I realized something: I was tired of being vivian darkbloom. Well, that's all fine and good. As someone once said, "change is as good as a haircut." (Er, it may have been the other way around, I fear; but wait, does that make sense? "A haircut is as good as change"? Why not just, "A haircut is a good change"? Can we just forget I said all that? Too lazy to delete.)

This blog is about turning over a new leaf, about taking my writing in a different direction--or trying to at the very least. So it makes sense I would craft another "identity" of sorts to celebrate that, to mark the occasion, as inauspicious as it may be.

So I draw inspiration from Lolita again. There's Quilty, Clare Quilty to be precise, the nymphet-loving writer in the book, Humbert's quarry. Darker than Darkbloom, crueler than Humbert, more powerful than a Charlotte Haze leaping into a suburban street. (And played memorably by Peter Sellars in the movie; every time I go back to read the book now, I see Sellars as Quilty.)

It's not that I love Quilty as a character; but his unregenerate bastardness is appealing. You have to be bold to be a Quilty. And I imagine you'd have to be even bolder and stronger to be a Madame Quilty. Because I mean, really, who would marry such an asshole?

Oh. Right.

you go girl! I'm staying tuned.

June 14, 2005 at 09:31 PM in Cyberculture, Favorite Links, Interactivity, Singing the Bite Me Song, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Do I really care what celebrities have to say?

While my title begs the question, my own cynicism is not so well-ingrained. Sure, I don't really give a flying flip about most of those fawning "entertainment news" programs out there. They are driven by PR people and agents, the publicity machine, so they're compromised, not to mention obnoxious with more time spent teasing vapid stories than is actually spent on the vapid stories.

Still, I can't say I'd fault celebrities for wanting to break out of that relentless ET and talk show promo-circuit box that is usually the only way people get to know them. There are smart and thoughtful people who just happen to be celebrities, you know? (check out their 10th house... did they do it on purpose?)

What I can't stand is the endless fawning. Maybe this will help them break out of that massive ego stroke. Maybe it will expose a few ridiculous egos along the way, and perhaps even take some of these schmoes to task for the money they spend on stupid things to prove they are richer than rich ($80 pair of socks, Winona? Your feet were THAT cold?), while lacking the common sense of Angelina Jolie, who gets that people are living on a pittance in other parts of the world so they can hoard their unreflexive bling.

Maybe we will discover different measures by which to assess the cult of celebrity, eh? Wouldn't that be nice?

The mainstream media force-feeds this courtier-wannabe world on a passive audience, makes us think that celebrities are all lords and ladies from the Middle Ages, and if we don't aspire to be a courtier hanger-on, we might as well be a trailer park serf. Who can resist such pressure?

Active and empowered users with interactive media, perhaps? Whoo doggie!

Miasma

Link: The New York Times > Technology > A Boldface Name Invites Others to Blog With Her.

A Boldface Name Invites Others to Blog With Her

New York Times
April 25, 2005
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

OS ANGELES, April 23 - Get ready for the next level in the blogosphere.

Arianna Huffington, the columnist and onetime candidate for governor of California, is about to move blogging from the realm of the anonymous individual to the realm of the celebrity collective.

She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls "the most creative minds" in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion. It is essentially a nonstop virtual talk show that will be part of a Web site that will also serve up breaking news around the clock. It is to be introduced May 9.

Having prominent people join the blogosphere, Ms. Huffington said in an interview, "is an affirmation of its success and will only enrich and strengthen its impact on the national conversation." Among those signed up to contribute are Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, Nora Ephron, Warren Beatty, James Fallows, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Diane Keaton, Norman Mailer and Mortimer B. Zuckerman.

"This gives me a chance to sound off with a few words or a long editorial," said Mr. Cronkite, 88, the longtime "CBS Evening News" anchorman. "It's a medium that is new and interesting, and I thought I'd have some fun."

[...]

Ms. Huffington's effort - to be called the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com) - will also seek to ferret out potentially juicy items and give them legs. In fact, she has hired away Mr. Drudge's right-hand Web whiz, Andrew Breitbart, who used to be her researcher.

But unlike the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post will be interactive, offering news as well as commentary from famous people and allowing the masses to comment too, although not always directly with the celebs. Notables will oversee certain sections, with Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator, for example, taking the lead on national security issues. R. O. Blechman, the magazine illustrator, has designed the site. All material will be free and available on archives.

While many of the bloggers are on the left of the political spectrum, some conservatives have also signed on, among them Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, and David Frum, the writer who coined the phrase "axis of evil" when he was a speechwriter for President Bush.

In a solicitation letter to hundreds of people in her eclectic Rolodex, Ms. Huffington said the site "won't be left wing or right wing; indeed, it will punch holes in that very stale way of looking at the world."

[...]

April 25, 2005 at 11:38 PM in Current Affairs, Cyberculture, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2005

CNET's Charles Cooper rips on the DMCA

Link: Rethinking the DMCA | Perspectives | CNET News.com.

Ya gotta love this tag line:

"At its inception, many people called it a lousy law. CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says that proved to be too charitable an appraisal."

He's letting it rip, and here are a few of the highlights... don't hold back man, tell 'em what you really think.

Rethinking the DMCA

April 8, 2005, 4:00 AM PT

By Charles Cooper

Time and again since its 1998 passage, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has proved to be one of the worst-ever pieces of technology legislation.

By now, nearly every sentient being in Silicon Valley must wonder why Congress couldn't have done a better job thinking through the implications of its handicraft before voting the DMCA into law. The act has been responsible for needless litigation and even transmogrified into something of a gag on free expression. More about that in a moment.

[...]

So it was that Congress bowed to the copyright industry's demands and created a marvelously one-sided document. By making it illegal to circumvent technology used by the copyright industries to protect digital content, legislators took care of a key constituency. But they also created an invitation to trouble.

With no clear boundaries and very little legal precedent, the predictable result has been a messy conflict between the public and the moneyed interests. And that's where we are now with the specter of the DMCA, like Marley's Ghost, rising up to chill the spirit of free inquiry when it comes to encryption and computer security research.

Here's my favorite example he gives:

2003: In an extreme example of the application of the DMCA, an Illinois-based manufacturer of garage-door openers claimed that a rival's replacement product violated copyright law. A federal court later dismissed the lawsuit.

Cooper's main point is that the threat of lawsuits is having worse than a chilling effect on free speech, and the suits are being used to keep QA folks from fairly evaluating the software.

Now where I come from, that is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, called "fair comment and criticism." Imagine if such an odious rule were applied to movie and theater critics who gave away endings, for instance!

It seems to me that the whole point of the DMCA is to create a catch-all black box that anything created or produced can be stuck in and held exempt from nearly any kind of scrutiny at all.

This has far-reaching ramifications that Cooper doesn't look at here. I'm talking about proprietary voting software in the US, and its potential for manipulation.

It is beyond my comprehension that ANY kind of legal precedent is allowing Diebold and other e-voting providers to operate outside the public interest and the public trust by monitoring democratic processes inside a black box!

Hypothetically, I'd speculate that if property law (you know, the deeds and such that are open records at most counties in the US) were being created from scratch right now, I think these same folks would find a way to keep property ownership records, hell, all government procedures and processes, in that same black box. Hell, they'd subcontract it out to a private company in the name of government "efficiency," and that company would claim it's paperwork and software was so proprietary that all property records would be closed to the public, unless some "government" or whatever interest wanted to pay for it.

We know what company would be running such a venture in that black box, if that were the case. ChoicePoint.

April 9, 2005 at 11:37 PM in Cyberculture, Democracy, Intellectual Property, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2004

How will the Federal Election Commission try to regulate political speech online?

FEC May Regulate Web Political Activity

Oct 13, 7:55 AM (ET)

By SHARON THEIMER

WASHINGTON (AP) - With political fund raising, campaign advertising and organizing taking place in full swing over the Internet, it may just be a matter of time before the Federal Election Commission joins the action. Well, that time may be now.

A recent federal court ruling says the FEC must extend some of the nation's new campaign finance and spending limits to political activity on the Internet.

Long reluctant to step into online political activity, the agency is considering whether to appeal.

[...]

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean made the most pronounced splash online when he stunned his rivals by raking in tens of millions of dollars through Web-a-thons, a far cheaper fund-raising method than traditional dinners and cocktail parties. And Internet message boards, known as blogs, have become as common a place for people to air their political views as talk shows and newspaper editorial pages.

The Internet also is where political players do what they can no longer do on television or radio.

The National Rifle Association, for example, has started an online newscast and talk show to air its views on presidential and congressional candidates. The Internet is exempt from a ban on the use of corporate money for radio and TV ads targeting federal candidates close to elections, part of the new campaign finance law that took effect this election cycle.

The November Fund, an anti-trial lawyer group partly funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is posting Internet ads criticizing Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, a North Carolina senator and former personal-injury lawyer.

The FEC exempted such ads from the law's ban on coordination between candidates and groups that raise or spend corporate money. Last month, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck down the coordination exemption, ruling that it "severely undermines" the law.

[...]

OK, so my question in all this is, what in particular would be policed?

Fund-raising is regulated in such a way that the laws should apply uniformly offline and on. No special laws or rules needed there.

WILL Internet communication be held accountable under "truth in advertising" laws, FTC stuff, right? Aren't candidates held to the same restrictions as soap? No, not really, and under a Republican administration, truth in advertising laws aren't enforced anyway.

The Equal Time mass media provision hasn't been in force for the PUBLIC AIRWAVES since the Reagan years, although this Sinclair Broadcasting flap shows there is still very much a need for public stewardship of the public broadcasting spectrum (note: cable tv IS exempt, an arguable point, since most people get their TV over cable and not limited airwaves).

The Internet does not have the supposedly captive audience that public airwaves once presumed to have. Much of the political speech regulation first appeared because of the concentration of power in the funnels of the mass media, OLD media.

The Internet supposedly turns this funnel upside down. BUT. As I wrote in here previously, spin doctors and PR handlers may be learning how to "game" the blog system, a political version of a "Google bomb" filtered through RSS with bogus "front blogs" of freepers or what have you.

Would such gaming get the same sort of concentrated power that TV political messages have? Or is this "Long Tail" stuff, aggregate, scalable to masses only in a diverse cacophony, a street carnival, rather than as goose-steppers marching on message?

If the model is by definition diffuse, distributed, NOT concentrated, then should those who fear concentrated power worry about it?

OR, does the Internet represent an al Qaeda model of asymmetical political warfare... a viral, shifting target of hit and run political sites spreading memes and fading off the IP addresses? The cyber-ghost of Lee Atwater playing dirty tricks online with slander and smear? And is that model something to be feared and regulated?.

Miasma

October 13, 2004 at 03:05 PM in Best Essays, Cyberculture, Democracy, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Venture Blog and Wired on the Long Tail

When I first read the Wired article, it was the first thing online to get me excited in quite some time. Finally, someone is at least advancing a theory rather than churning slogans about subscription models and copyrights and borders and gates versus Open Source, the death of banner ads, and distributed systems linked to online democracy.

With venture capitalists so unimaginative all they can do is repeat mindlessly, "but how do you monetize the business model?"

So here's the new backer of Six Apart, right? That was how I found this page. Sehr interessant.

VentureBlog: The Internet And the Death Of 80/20

The Internet And the Death Of 80/20 By Kevin Laws on October 5, 2004

Scarcity of attention and space were the cause of the 80/20 rule; the Internet is changing that

The 80/20 rule is a rule of thumb every startup should know. Economizing on time, management effort, and money has to be second nature. They should constantly be going after the 20% of the effort that provides 80% of the benefit. They should constantly be focusing on the 20% of their products and customers that provide 80% of the revenues.

Or should they?

Entertainment has Discovered the Long Tail

Chris Anderson's observation in a recent Wired Magazine article is that the 80/20 rule exists in the physical world because you chop off the long tail. In music, for example, Britney, Santana, Madonna and a few others represent the very few artists (well, more like 1%) that account for huge sales. However, there are literally hundreds of thousands of smaller artists that have tiny sales. Historically, these artists have never been carried in record shops (except maybe one or two local ones), were not featured on top radio stations, and were never promoted on big concert tours. Since they were in the tail and record companies were following the 80/20 rule, they never got exposure and a chance to increase their sales. The real world "chopped them off" of the long tail, since a record store only carries thousands of titles, not hundreds of thousands.

This meant that the 80/20 rule was self-reinforcing. Because they weren't promoted or available, they never moved beyond their few copies. Hollywood never saw their sales since they were all independent.

However, many of the Internet media companies are different. They started out just being a better way to shop (or rent movies). They sold the same things everybody else did, but at better prices. Then a funny thing happened -- suddenly they noticed that more and more sales were coming from the tail. That is, they were selling a lot of the items that physical stores didn't carry. In hindsight this is completely obvious -- of course you are in competition with every single bookstore in the nation to sell Clinton's "My Life", but if you want Gerd Gehringers "The Adaptive Toolbox", there's only one place to go: the Internet. Chris cites numerous examples in his article: over 50% of Amazon's media profits come from sales past the top 100,000 titles. More than 50% of Rhapsody's business is streaming songs past the top 10,000 tracks.

Once they started focusing on the long tail, new recommendation tools appeared. They helped "push you down the tail" by bringing little known artists to your attention when you purchased the big guys.

When tallied, all of those little-selling items and all those little customers across the nation can exceed the online sales from the biggest sellers.

The Death of 80/20 on the Internet

It's not just media. Once you start to think of the world in those terms, it is clear that most of the successful Internet companies fall into exactly that category: business models aggregating the untapped tail.

[...]

Also, let's plug some bits on the original Wired article:

Wired 12.10: The Long Tail

The Long Tail Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.

By Chris Anderson

This is not just a virtue of online booksellers; it is an example of an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture).

An analysis of the sales data and trends from these services and others like them shows that the emerging digital entertainment economy is going to be radically different from today's mass market. If the 20th- century entertainment industry was about hits, the 21st will be equally about misses.

For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution.

Tyranny of the Lowest Common Denominator. Yup. I've been saying that for a long time.

But most of us want more than just hits. Everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them. Unfortunately, in recent decades such alternatives have been pushed to the fringes by pumped-up marketing vehicles built to order by industries that desperately need them.

Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hours in the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots.

This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound.

[...]

When you think about it, most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another. Google, for instance, makes most of its money off small advertisers (the long tail of advertising), and eBay is mostly tail as well - niche and one-off products. By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale, just as Rhapsody and Amazon have, Google and eBay have discovered new markets and expanded existing ones.

This is the power of the Long Tail. The companies at the vanguard of it are showing the way with three big lessons. Call them the new rules for the new entertainment economy.

[a summary]

Rule 1: Make everything available
Rule 2: Cut the price in half. Now lower it.
Rule 3: Help me find it

[...]

The problem with MP3.com was that it was only Long Tail. It didn't have license agreements with the labels to offer mainstream fare or much popular commercial music at all. Therefore, there was no familiar point of entry for consumers, no known quantity from which further exploring could begin.

Offering only hits is no better. Think of the struggling video-on-demand services of the cable companies. Or think of Movielink, the feeble video download service run by the studios. Due to overcontrolling providers and high costs, they suffer from limited content: in most cases just a few hundred recent releases. There's not enough choice to change consumer behavior, to become a real force in the entertainment economy.

By contrast, the success of Netflix, Amazon, and the commercial music services shows that you need both ends of the curve. Their huge libraries of less-mainstream fare set them apart, but hits still matter in attracting consumers in the first place. Great Long Tail businesses can then guide consumers further afield by following the contours of their likes and dislikes, easing their exploration of the unknown.

[...]

Rhapsody does this with a combination of human editors and genre guides. But Netflix, where 60 percent of rentals come from recommendations, and Amazon do this with collaborative filtering, which uses the browsing and purchasing patterns of users to guide those who follow them ("Customers who bought this also bought ..."). In each, the aim is the same: Use recommendations to drive demand down the Long Tail.

This is the difference between push and pull, between broadcast and personalized taste. Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.

The advantages are spread widely. For the entertainment industry itself, recommendations are a remarkably efficient form of marketing, allowing smaller films and less-mainstream music to find an audience. For consumers, the improved signal-to-noise ratio that comes from following a good recommendation encourages exploration and can reawaken a passion for music and film, potentially creating a far larger entertainment market overall. (The average Netflix customer rents seven DVDs a month, three times the rate at brick-and-mortar stores.) And the cultural benefit of all of this is much more diversity, reversing the blanding effects of a century of distribution scarcity and ending the tyranny of the hit.

Such is the power of the Long Tail. Its time has come.

Chris Anderson (canderson@wiredmag.com) is Wired's editor in chief.

Great article Chris!

October 12, 2004 at 08:27 PM in Cyberculture, Democracy, Favorite Links, Interactivity, Media & Journalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Reuters: Is 'Rathergate' a Watershed Moment for U.S. Media?"

This article is majorly setting off my bullshit detectors. I got to talking with some folks on a listserv about it.

I have one friend who wrote:

This story rather ignores the fact that the blogger who first flagged up the "forgeries" (within minutes of the broadcast) turned out to be a well-known(and I bet well connected) Republican activist.

and another friend who added:

Yes. And no.

If we are adamant about noting the political affiliation of a Republican and framing is as a way to devalue their statements, then we have affirmed that such tactics are appropriate, and the other side has as much right to do so as we do.

That the blogger is Republican *should* be inconsequential. That's the fight that will defeat our current rhetoric of blindly believing those who share political views and dismissing others because they are different.

To which I replied:

I'm considering a possible different frame for analysis, where party affiliation is less relevant, and something much more dark is turning out to be likely.

We've heard about "freepers," an online variation of Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads. What if Rove and Wolfowitz have learned how to "game" the blog system? What if bloggers are merely putty in their hands?

This has more to do with the field of public relations and spin doctors than it does with any party ideology or affiliation. In other words, it may be a developing communications strategy.

I've seen this happen with the so-called alternative press in the late 80s, where the corporate media chains used focus groups and careful imitation to basically "win" in the demographic publication category of "altpress," putting out "faked" alt press papers, with the edgier part of the alt surgically removed, but with enough alt elements to fool audiences. Not for political reasons. For capitalistic business reasons. They made their pseudo alt products look better than the actual alt products, they were managed more professionally, and they used audience tools to mime enough elements to gain or even seize huge sectors of the alt audiences. Many people read some of these alt papers today, not knowing that they are owned by corporate chains and that those companies put out similar publications in many different markets.

Now, consider the blog landscape and spoofing. We see spammers do this on the web all the time, trying to spoof google. You know, where you get a highly ranked page in the results of your "fan-related" search and it is just a "fake" fan page that pretends to have images of some celebrity or whatever, but they are mostly just pages of links automatically generated in categories by some bot? I've hit whole groups of pages like that when looking for the fan sites in other fandoms than just the ones I'm used to.

So how easy would it be for the GOP to have THOUSANDS of spoof blogs? Sure, maybe some real bloggers with real community ethos spin the GOP talking points out within minutes of the CBS report, and then thousands of spoof blogs with RSS feeds jam into the echo chamber, which has its right wing nutjobs anyway, right? But the important thing about rightwing nutjobs is that they aren't THAT good at goosestepping. Sure, they will do it when it suits them, which may be a lot of the time. But they DO take some pride in independence, a fascist, racist, bigoted kind of independence, but an independence nonetheless. That isn't what Rove and company need, so I believe they have undoubtedly supplemented the nutjob quarter with spoof blogs beyond number. That's what I mean by gaming the system.

SO, my question in all this is: Will the Internet resist gaming more so than the pathetic alternative press did?

It is a kind of Turing Test, because on the Internet no one knows you are a dog/GOP spoof site generating fake "grassroots" support for things.

And maybe any system can be gamed.

Come on bloggers! Stand up for yourselves! Are there manipulative spoofers in your midst? Would you recognize and out them if there were? Or are blog spoofers seeking to manipulate interactive and viral media the same way they manipulate and spin mass media? Is this merely another domain for spin doctors to rule and subvert, all the while panoptically observing and measuring the precise rhetorical effects they are seeking?

Miasma


Is 'Rathergate' a Watershed Moment for U.S. Media?

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Internet bloggers have drawn blood and American journalism may never be the same.

To hear some press experts tell it, CBS's admission on September 20, 2004 that it was duped into using questionable documents about President George W. Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War was a watershed moment brought on by a small army of Internet-based commentators known as bloggers. CBS anchor Dan Rather is seen in this October 2001 file photo.

To hear some press experts tell it, CBS's admission on Monday that it was duped into using questionable documents about President Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War was a watershed moment brought on by a small army of Internet-based commentators known as bloggers.

Their insistence, from the moment that CBS aired its report almost two weeks ago, that the documents were fake turned the question into a national issue ending with Rather, CBS and the American media establishment in a state of deep embarrassment.

Orville Schell, dean of the school of journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, said CBS's admission of error after days of stonewalling was "a landmark moment for the balance between the blogosphere and mainstream media."

Bloggers were the first to challenge the authenticity of the documents and the first to publish detailed examinations of the evidence by dozens of self-declared experts, some of them with Republican party ties.

"The credibility of the media has taken another hit, especially when you consider the story is not Dan Rather but President Bush's service in the National Guard," Schell said.

That latter story -- that said George W. Bush ducked military service in Vietnam by entering the Guard and then getting special treatment thanks to his powerful father -- has been lost in the welter of complaints about the CBS story.

It was not the first time that bloggers have stuck.

Often working anonymously, bloggers have fanned the flames of controversies ranging from whether Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry deserved his Vietnam medals to whether Republican Trent Lott should remain a Senate leader after praising a segregationist.

[...]

But Tom Goldstein, former dean of Columbia University's School of Journalism, dismissed the notion that CBS's dilemma was a sign that American journalism has become more sloppy in recent years.

Instead, Goldstein said Rather's report was another example of bad things happening to good news organizations. "They had the best in the business on it, and they got duped and there but for the grace of God go you and I."

September 22, 2004 at 08:33 PM in Cyberculture, Democracy, Interactivity, Media & Journalism, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

Webmonkey bites the dust

I know I'm slow on the uptake these days, but Webmonkey got me through all kinds of basic web stuff when I needed to bone up on something quick. And yeah, I liked their attitude. I still got piles of Webmonkey pages printed out and cluttering up dog-hair-filled corners of my office.

Miasma

Wired News: Webmonkey, RIP: 1996 – 2004

Webmonkey, the site that turned humble Web developers into attention-grabbing authors, said last week it is closing down following a round of layoffs in the U.S. division of its parent company, Terra Lycos (also the parent company of Wired News). Judging by blog posts and e-mails, the site's fans aren't surprised. Still, they're sad to see the end of an era.

[...]

Enter Webmonkey: A series of how-to articles and techie opinion columns written not by professional writers, but by the lowly geeks building Wired's websites. Most important, the site's editors ditched the dry, lecturelike tone of other tech publications in favor of a flip, funny approach -- the language Web workers use to talk to one another. Editorial founder June Cohen described Webmonkey's voice as "the smart, sassy friend you wish you had."

Instead of documenting software protocols for trained engineers, Webmonkey offered informal advice for self-taught webmasters. One programmer took up stunt journalism, offering to write anything -- a chat server, a search engine -- in four lines of code. Another posted an audio file containing an ear-shredding howl, to convey the pain he suffered at the hands of misbehaving Table tags.

Eager writers toiled for free, producing their columns and articles outside regular work hours -- at least in theory. To complete the image, writers were given Photoshop-tweaked close-ups and sarcastic bios ("Luke Knowland isn't as mean as he looks"), in contrast to the anonymous bylines and clean-cut head shots on other tech sites.

March 29, 2004 at 10:28 PM in Cyberculture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack