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In a Few Words? The Future is Grim…

May 15, 2010

“The New Media Landscape: What Should We Be Most Concerned About?” featuring Robert McChesney, Ken Auletta, Daniel Solove and Jonathan Zittrain.

Robert McChesney

In this day of 24-hour news outlets and the World Wide Web, I am not entirely sure what is newsworthy anymore. I’m worried that our society is getting to a point where we don’t even know what news is at all, and we are simply entertaining ourselves. We take more interest in trivial matters than vital ones, and the news will only become more diluted as online advertisers throw more money at news sites. We don’t just read up on the news once a day, many of us do it once an hour. Ad dollars recognize this, and content producers are looking for more ways to fill their sites. So, they distract our time with stories concerning a phantom hot air balloon boy and Alex Rodriguez’ likeness as a centaur.

In the future, we will lose complete site of what quality journalism is. We will no longer be able to judge credibility and caliber. We will automatically put our trust in the first source we read, unfortunately many of these first reads will be hosted on WordPress and Blogger accounts and not the New York Times and BBC.

People’s perception of reality will be altered mightily, as so much information is being delivered to us at one time, we take what we want to understand and disregard the matters we find difficult to comprehend (often the more complicated and important issues).

I am worried that “citizen journalists”, someone who has little to no formal training and doesn’t abide by a code of ethics, is replacing a traditional and respectable journalist’s job. Worse, this citizen journalist is simply reporting news as a hobby, and doesn’t invest enough time and interest in important matters.

We need to apply traditional media values when producing content in new media. We have lost site of that.

Daniel Solove

One of the biggest concerns the Internet is confronted by today is the issue of security and privacy as it relates to our online reputations. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a quick fix for this as the ubiquity of the Internet is much too powerful and influential.

It is important that we manage our online reputations the same way we manage our daily lives. The Internet moves too fast for any one individual to keep up, and the importance of prevention is less painstaking then doing a PR trick down the road. News and information spreads like wildfire on the Internet, prominent PR agencies even find it too difficult to perform damage control when a client is defaced or exploited on the Web (Tiger Woods).

What people love most about the Internet is the anonymity it provides. This luxury has become and will continue to be our own worst enemy if we do not conduct ourselves responsibly. Many individuals are contributors on social networks and blogs. They choose to put themselves out there. Once their information is given to someone, it only takes one click of the mouse to send it to everyone.

Once on the Web, always on the Web. We can’t bury news that happened ten years ago. The Internet may allow us to forgive, but it doesn’t let us forget. We need to keep this in mind when educating the youth on Internet practice. Some outlandish thing a child might have published on his blog in high school can still be found twenty years later when he is applying for a job. Is it fair to let this instance effect his standing in society? Probably not, but that’s the way it is.

With great power comes great responsibility. The Internet gives regular citizens extraordinary power. It is time for us to assume the responsibility that accompanies it.

Ken Auletta

Google strives to be the best at everything, and for the most part they have achieved their goals. However, I am concerned that they are taking on too many projects, and these projects are being done a little too well. They have mastered the art of the search engine to filter out any unwanted information and given us the best search results. They have conquered the ad revenue industry by creating adsense, and they have just released Google Buzz (social networking platform) and Google Chrome (a Web browser).

Is Google trying to take on too much? They are building a global empire on the Internet, and I don’t think that many people have recognized that their lives are molded by what Google does.

We don’t necessarily need to be fearing Google, but what need to be aware of what they are doing. When I open the email my dad sent me regarding the US Open golf tournament, I see several ads appear on the sidebar trying to sell me golf clubs. Has this become an invasion of privacy? I don’t know what the next step will be. My worry is that Google will be leveraging its users for financial gain, and will not regard the privacy and intergrity of the people. There “Don’t Be Evil” slogan is a nice PR tagline, something Apple and Steve Jobs can relate to.

Jonathan Zittrain

The Internet is a great tool for collaboration and contribution. The generative tools new media provides are most excellent for society. My main concern is that we are losing site of this, and that non-generative products are dominating the market, such as the iPod. We can play music on an iPod, and even a few of them play videos, but we can’t get all that creative with it. The same goes for a Kindle, we can read books on it (yay!).

What we need are more tools that allow for building ideas in creative ways. Wikipedia is a sensational example of a generative tool: it is ever-changing and although it doesn’t allow us to be all that creative as the site is built on mostly* facts, we can still alter other people’s works to phrase them more academically, making them more credible.

As a society, we can’t  allow ourselves to hang our hats on someone else’s ideas and say that’s the end of it, because it’s not. We need to be asking ourselves how we can be making these tools better, and utilize all the ways in which we can use them.

I believe that because the Internet is a global phenomenon there will be greater developments toward the use of generative tools. We need to preach the importance of creativity as it relates to collaboration, not domination.

McChesney Critique

Although McChesney is long-winded at times, I tend to agree with his outlook that journalism is being subject to market pressures. Some would argue that the public is better informed due to online news media outlets and their ability to update news completely. It is probably easier for a local newspaper to get away with this as they can report on petty crimes and new zoning laws, but on a national or even global level it is hard to argue in favor of sites like CNN and FOX reporting on news that matters.

It seems to be a classic case of the agenda setters getting what they want, only this time the setters aren’t the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world. Instead, it is the ad dollars that are indirectly influencing the news that we want reported. We would rather hear about celebrity scandals than political scandals.

Stories get lost in the mix and reporters are forced to distribute their attention when writing stories because the public always wants more. Just because we are getting more coverage, doesn’t mean we are getting more news. What it means is that we are getting more “crap”, and I think McChesney would agree with this.

I am a bit torn on the subject of citizen journalism; I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for news. Ideally, news is to be unbiased. This is fine and it’s good to get the facts, but people are going to form their own opinion based on the facts anyway. In some cases, are own opinion could reflect a story in a way that is unfair. If citizen journalism is bias then at least we can hear at least one side of a story. It’s almost as if you’re a juror in a trial case. You can hear one opinion, then a second, and ultimately you can decide which one is more appropriate. It creates more thought, and eliminates a top-down model of reporting. Conversation is always better.

There is so much discussion about how an outlet can reach an audience, questions arise about what they want and where they can be reached, whether it be through a wired device or otherwise. Unfortunately this is a priority for news media, and the news itself is taking a back seat.

Solove Critique

On pages 190-191 Solove talks a lot about the expectations of privacy and confidentiality on the Internet; suggesting there should be some sort of legal standard to be upheld. Yes, in an ideal world there would be many regulations against the unwanted spreading of information, but right now it just isn’t feasible.

Like he mentions earlier with cyber-bullying, much of it remains anonymous, so how would we be able to enforce these laws and whom are we enforcing them against?

Another issue is determining where these potential crimes are even taking place. If I am tarnishing the reputation of someone in Canada and I am in the U.S., then what law am I breaking, Canadian or American? To get people to follow one set of Internet laws on a global level isn’t likely to happen.

Perhaps the biggest issue Solove addresses is privacy. On the Internet, privacy is such a broad term that can’t be taken lightly. Solove discuses that privacy lurks in the background, and is to be acknowledge by citizens. On the Internet, there are social norms that breach this code, and who are we to say as an offline society what is acceptable in the virtual worlds?

I really like Solove’s points that the Internet just isn’t the real world, and can’t be lawfully or ethically treated in the same way we conduct our everyday lives. If I am acting like a drunken buffoon at a party, people will laugh about it the next day then move on. If I go on some idiotic rant on my blog (more than likely), twenty years from now people can easily trace it back to me and my reputation, in their eyes, can be altered greatly. The Internet doesn’t recognize time, place, or context, it simply displays the content hosted on it.

NEWS: now entertainment worth sharing!

May 10, 2010

It is no surprise that one of the most popular arguments in college classrooms today revolves around news media outlets, and whether or not we are getting actual news, or if it is simply entertainment. This debate might go on forever, but why? Can we, as a society, simply accept the fact that news and entertainment are no longer two separate entities, and have now become one in the same? Well this may be easier said than done, and there is a great fear that this will one day be the case.

Media purists will tell you that the state of news media outlets is in crisis mode; that the agenda setters of the world have finally gotten what they want: for EVERYONE to be tuning in. This means that those looking for Paris Hilton headlines go to the same place as those who are looking for updates on national security. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Sure, you save money on ad dollars by putting all content at one place, and not having to use several outlets for differnent information, but trivial news dilutes the importance of vital information, and matters of global impact become trivial to those seeking the latest celebrity gossip.

This is not a unique argument, but I would like to pose a question that goes along with it: If this media epidemic comes to a halt, what will be its cause? Maybe it will take one person to stand up and say, no, enough is enough. Somebody alluded to this the other day and he is a rather influential figure, President Barack Obama had this to say to students at Hampton University, “With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.” This statement has been said by almost every journalism professor, but hopefully it will resonate more coming from an influential icon such as President Obama.

However, it will take more than a few words to make a drastic shift. It is up to the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world to step up and take action, to take TMZ off of network television, to put an end to 24hr news sources. Murdoch has been quoted for being an activist in the field, “I’m a catalyst for change. You can’t be an outsider and be successful over 30 years without leaving a certain amount of scar tissue around the place.” Are we feeling the effects of the scar tissue right now, or has the change yet to come?

Something tells me that the change we are looking for isn’t going to happen for quite some time, if it even happens at all.

Who is Telling us Who We Are?

May 6, 2010

The term “brand” is a hot one right now. Sure, it has been used and referenced before, as far back as Warhol’s Campbell Soup infatuation, but it carries a heavier weight now that we have entered into this thing called the Internet: there is brand management, brand overhaul, re-branding, and the one I want to discuss today, personal branding.

As an avid user of the Internet, I have opted to throw myself out there. With a Twitter account, personal blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, portfolio website and a countless amount of online subscritions, it is safe to say that I am fully immersed. But is this necessarily a good thing, is it more trouble than it’s worth? Five years ago I would say no, I could sign up for anything and use it how I want, risk free. However, that is not the case today.

Even Waldo has trouble branding himself.

Everyone uses Facebook. Many use Twitter. A few of us keep blogs. So who really cares? Well, human resources departments do. According to a recent survey conducted by Cross-Tab Marketing services, 75% of HR departments are required to screen job candidates online, 45% of these use social media sites. Even more intriguing, 70% said they have rejected potential candidates with a poor online reputation.

These are all stressful statistics, especially for someone who is seeking a new job. Personally, I don’t let anyone – friends included – see photos of me on Facebook, except my profile picture. The reason for the stress is because it can restrict your personal expression on these sites. Everytime I post somehting I have to think to myself, “What would an employer think of this?” My beef with that? Employers are real people too, doing the same things we do, interested in the same things we are. Who are they to say that I have character issues because they see a picture of me holding a beer? Are they really so ignorant or arrogant as to think that holding a beer, or God forbid consuming one, is a liability to the company’s brand? What happens at office Christmas partys, people play Parcheesi?

My apologies for the rant, but personal evaluations via social media is a strong case of the pot calling the kettle black. There is, however, a silver lining in all of this. Half of the HR personnel surveyed say that a strong online reputation influences hiring decisions to a great extent. So, if you’re using Twitter or Facebook, perhaps include a fact, thought, or observation about the industry you’re interested in. Maybe start a couple of blogs, a professional and personal. It’s not a big deal to sensor your photos, you can always email them to Mom.

If you don’t fully understand the concept of online personal management, you could always go to Syracuse for your undergraduate degree. They have purchased a six month subscriptions to brand-yourself.com‘s online reputation management platform for all graduating seniors. Good luck out there!

Loyalty: The Only Way to Get What You Don’t Need.

April 29, 2010

Over the past few weeks I have been observing and participating in graduate student presentations and I must say that they have been more than impressive. The class is based around contemporary issues in new media, and the presentations themselves range from news vs. entertainment, geo-targeting, online branding and even cyber warfare. As a man who is interested in online marketing tactics, specifically through social networking platforms, I was intrigued by one lecture in particular: Social Media Policy. The content focused largely on the etiquette a company should abide by when exploring the depths of marketing in social networks. The attending group was asked to contribute in forming an unofficial set of rules for which companies could refer to. Below is the list we collaborated on:

1. Be transparent.
2. Be honest.
3. Do not bribe, threaten or manipulate in order to alter online content like posts, comments or blogs.
4. Disclose resources and tools, especially in the case of user reviews.
5. Know your audience and appropriate channels of communication.
6. Avoid making negative comments about the organization in your public and private social media presence.
7. Do not control the conversation.
8. Disclose your identity at all times. If you are going to speak under someone else’s name, disclose your own identity.

The OCD in me was pushing for two more to round-out a list of ten, but I suppose a few of them are multifaceted. All of these policies seem to be logical and certainly make sense in my mind, but what is it that these marketers are striving towards when following a list such as this? It’s interesting because traditional marketers will tell you that they do what they do to sell a product. After all, it is all about the Benjamins. However, I recently read an article in the New York Times titled, “Linking Customer Loyalty With Social Networking”. What caught my attention most was the word loyalty, because there is no mention of this in our unofficial list. We came up with rules, but we never came up with a mission statement or pur

pose to go along with them. So, which is more important, the rules, or the reason for them? Sort of a chicken and egg dilemma.

The article talks a lot about geo-targeting a mobile device while capitalizing on consumers’ infatuations with Twitter and Facebook (this could be a whole other post in correlation with another presentation, I’ll leave it alone for now), but it’s the extra attention and care that a customer gets when they are near a product they follow on either of the two social networking sites. Woah, hold up a second, you mean to tell me that the marketers have us trained like dogs? Yes. I think that this is what I am trying to get at. It’s a little like Pavlov, every time the bell rings we scurry to dinner. Well, every time our phone alerts us, we run into the nearest bodega to get a discount on a Pepsi. A product we would not have considered buying had it not been for the familiar summon of our smartphone.

Loyalty often describes what a dog is most loved for. Well, it appears that man and his best friend are a little closer than we once thought.

Generative Tech. Tools

March 30, 2010

Generative tools are, to put is simply, awesome. Less generative tools can still be useful, but can still be restricting and use-specific. Jonathan Zittrain, author of “The Future of the Internet”, illustrates more than a dozen examples for each. My personal favorite genrative tool is duct tape: it should be included when buying any product or appliance, it just makes sense.

Zittrain doesn’t list any new technologies, which is kind of nice, because now it is left up to us to create a list. Let’s look at a few examples.

Laptop vs. Tablet

Both useful, colorful and engaging. Yet a tablet is less versatile than a laptop: mainly meant for e-books and now with the introduction of the iPad, other basic technologies. The laptop is a container for an infinite number of softwares and capabilities. It can do everything a tablet does x 100,000,000. Both useful, yet only one can be the best.

“Smart” Phone vs. “Dumb” Phone

The smart phone has many capabilities: internet, email, applications, text, phone calls, video/image camera and voice recording. The dumb phone, well, doesn’t. It has text, phone call, image camera, and…your mom’s phone number. Enough said.

Online Newspaper vs. Traditional Newspaper

The online newspaper is delivered and updated in real time. It includes links to social medias, blogs, new sources and old stories. It uses video, images and audio. A traditional newspaper? Yesterday’s news.

Reputation: A Numbers Game

March 7, 2010

According to dictionary.com, reputation is the estimation in which a person or thing is held, esp. by the community or the public generally. Reputations are held in high regard, and people are always concerned about their own. Even OJ Simpson in 1994 preached “clear my name!” from behind bar cells. He was more worried about his reputation than who ‘allegedly’ killed his wife.

Today, in this unique era of real time access to information, we need to be especially careful with how we conduct ourselves. Cell phones, flip cams, blogs, and tweets have made everyone a journalist or critic. Have we lost our privacy rights? Is everyone a gossip queen or king, even if they aren’t documenting the information? Are we are own worst enemies when it comes to violation of our own privacy rights? These are all difficult questions that have equally as complicated answers.

It is interesting to see how some people look at a situation and think there is a direct violation of privacy. Others look at the same scenario and don’t think twice about it. Daniel J. Solove writes in his book “The Future of Reputations: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet” about Qian, a sixteen-year old boy in China. Someone secretly took Qian’s photo and put it on the Internet. His pudgy face became an Internet sensation, with people photoshopping his unique face over well-known pop culture images. Qian, annoyed at first, decided to make the best of the sitiutaoitn, and celebrated his unique fame. If used in an appropriate context, people can take advantage of the vastness and transparency of the Internet.

Another example of privacy being in question is Conan O’brien’s latest ‘stunt’ on Twitter. Conan recently opened his own Twitter account. He has been using it for the past few weeks and up until a few days ago he was following no other users. However, on March 5 he decided to follow one person at random: Sarah Killen. He tweeted that he would be following her and that it was her lucky day. As of March 7 Conan has tweeted only twelve times and has more than 500,000 followers. Clearly he has some influence. Naturally, when he has something to say people are going to recognize it. So when he announced that he would be following one person and choosing at random, it caught the attention of his followers. Here is a chart showing how Sarah’s Twitter presence has increased since Conan’s announcement.

Now, it is apparent that Conan is being innocent and playful, but what if Sarah Killen doesn’t want this kind of attention? Is she comfortable with having 15,000 people checking her status everyday? Maybe she wanted to limit her audience to friends and family, and now her limited intentions have expanded far beyond her expectations. Did Sarah forfeit this right the moment she signed up for Twitter? If Sarah were emotionally effected by this transformation would Conan be held responsible, or Twitter?

It is interesting to think about the rights we give up the moment we sign on to something. It’s as if we are selling our souls to the devil in exchange for some Facebook pictures.

The Secret to Their Success…

February 27, 2010

If Brantley Foster, Michael J. Fox’s character in the 1987 film “The Secret of My Success”, could have only read Ken Auletta’s Googled before crashing the Big Apple, he might have spent less time doing his best Benjamin Braddock and more time in the board room.

Auletta illustrates the development of Google’s multimedia empire, and the brains behind it. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, commonly referred to as LarryandSergey, are the masterminds behind Google. Two buddies at Stanford with a vision so obscure that it needed the help of more than several geniuses to bring it to fruition. So what was the secret of their success? Well, being a genius isn’t a bad start, but not all geniuses rise to the top. Let’s take a look.

Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin gave Google its GO!

User First.

LarryandSergey had a vision that would deliver an infinite amount of information to users. There wasn’t a business model that drove them, it was practicality. It didn’t make sense to them that there is limited access to information. An entire database just made more sense for them to produce. The fact that there was no money-making scheme in the forefront of their operation is what allowed them to succeed. There was nothing getting in the way of their creative vision and their project flourished because of it. What’s that famous tag-line, the customer is always right? Well, even though they didn’t have any customers yet, it’s as if LarryandSergey already knew this during development. They felt they owed everything to the user. Answer all questions before they are asked.

Confidence, Swagger, Attitude.

LarryandSergey, especially Sergey, knew they had the goods. In fact they were so confident their product would succeed that they wouldn’t share it with anyone. They knew exactly what they wanted, what they had, and how it might change information sharing. You might even say they were a little paranoid of competition. But it didn’t matter. They would act almost as if the rules wouldn’t apply to them. Was this a good thing? Well, whatever they did seemed to work. But I do know this is important, when you walk into a meeting you want to be the person dominating the conversation. You want to be the guy who feels like he’s got $1 million in his pocket and he’s got nothing to lose. That’s how it is with Google. They have everything and they sure as heck know it.

Environment.

In the earlier hiring process at Google, Page and Brin were extremely careful with who they added to their team. They wanted people like them. People with an engineer’s understanding, but also bringing different attributes to the table. They were patient and particular in the hiring process, and didn’t settle for just anyone. They treated the selection of their staff like a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece had to fit just right or the whole thing wouldn’t work. This was, and probably still is, their biggest asset. They picked personnel very carefully. It only got them to be the most successful corporation in the last 100 years.

So to all of you Brantley Fosters out there remember this, “You want to have a culture where the people who are doing the work, the scientists and the engineers, are empowered. And that they are managed by people who deeply understand what they are doing. That’s not typically the case.” -Larry Page  (Auletta, 227)