The opposite use of Facebook

I’m now on the other side of media. After spending so many years working in PBS and in publicmedia I just began a new gig in commercial television. Consolidation, concentration and economies of scale are what has and is going on. I guess the thought is that with overall viewership down, combining operations to reduce inefficiencies and cross promote programs through other outlets (transmedia) the cost per viewer will be acceptable. Social technologies are used on the commercial and non-commercial sides to support “audience engagement” or promote “the conversation” and to harvest sources. In one instance, Facebook “Likes” and Twitter “Follows” further qualify traditional ratings. In another, to drive clicks to web properties.  To what end?  Beats me – could the rationale be to keep increasing the pennies generated by “other media”?

All this “why” aside, broadcasters are driving viewers to their Facebook pages and twitter streams. That’s the goal. Up the likes. Up the followers. Pour the bread in to the webpage and hope for a better tomorrow. I kinda understand this and have learned a good many techniques and underlying principles to help reach this goal. The idea is that development on the net will pay off eventually and benefit core viewers the most for now and the brand later. But here is a different objective. Use this stuff to increase the ratings. To drive more viewers to the show. Huh? Right?

OK. Let’s give it a shot. Why tune in? How to make appointment TV more relevant? It’s asking a lot these days to have a viewer stop what they’re doing – and tune in to your show at a specific time. This is further complicated when the show isn’t live. Two thoughts here. “Hey friends, look at me, I’m on TV!”, but you have to watch at a specific time and day because it’s fleeting and has little value beyond now. And two; host a conversation during the airing to gossip with me about it! This plus a less throw back goal, let’s build a network of sources and develop a citizen corps.

In our Knight Foundation News Challenge grant proposal, we refer to one of the techniques we’re developing as “Enhanced Live blogging.” I’ll describe just how and why these techniques should be included in your production design to stream line workflow and create more material to serve and engage your constituents. Let’s start with that term constituent. The conversation about our lives, what’s new,  has been going on before TV, newspapers and the internet. As media evolved into a convenient collection of information for our consumption, it subtly promoted a sometimes unspoken agenda by directing what our focus should be. The notion of Eyewitness news – unless “we” witnessed it and share it with you,  it isn’t news – is based on the idea that there are limited resources to gather information. A gatekeeper must prioritize the stories and decide which are worthwhile to bring to you, the audience. With the wealth of information now available to all people in all areas turns this notion around. A passive audience that absorbs only what is placed in front of them is fading away. Many take an active role in their information consumption and share it in conversations. This sharing takes many forms. Some comment on blogs, others call in on talk shows while others still write letters to the editor.  Some just shout at their TV’s.  A real digital conversation can now occur, we’ll talk more about this later.  But what to we call this new relationship? Not an audience, not a user, not a pure content consumer. The relationship has changed. The media is no longer a lecturer standing at the front of the auditorium reading notes to listeners copying them into their notebooks. It’s more like a study group where participants share their discoveries to further the dialog. So if we are engaged with others and providing the mechanisms to help further their conversation perhaps it is constituents that we serve. The enhanced live blogging concept was designed for live programs, but can also be used for the broadcast premiere of pre-recorded events. Live blogging is a written play by play account of an event from someone at the event as it happens – enhanced live blogging adds video, audio and transcription. Four or more unmanned cameras are positioned around a “talking head” discussion. They are switched live and sent to be broadcast, streamed  or to a recorder. The product of the switched output is a traditional public affairs program. It can be used in long form for audio and video podcasts. Each camera is focused on the individual participant of the discussion. These “quote” cams along with the audio feed of the conversation are isolated and sent along to blogging stations. The live blogger selects relevant statements by marking in and out points.  The product of the blogging station is a branded video clip of the statement and a transcription of the statement that are posted for distribution.  A shortened link that points to the clip is generated and inserted in to the twitter template where the blogger writes a brief headline.  A tweet containing the quote, the link to the video and branding information is tweeted. At the same time RSS feeds are updated and text messages are send to subscribers. A transcription of the quote with the link is also inserted into the topics “chat” stream where others continue the conversation. The relevant points made in this chat stream are curated by an additional blogger or social avatar who participates in the televised conversation by introducing chat points to the televised guests. The live blogger position takes the place of camera operators. The ability to quickly determine quotable or relevant statements are needed instead of knowing how to operator a camera. The live blogger position can be virtualised by sending the isolated audio and video streams to remote individuals who have demonstrated the skills necessary to operate as an enhanced live blogger.

Summary of a Social Media lecture at Princeton

Does Civic Media Help us understand the Arab Spring? A lecture by Ethan Zuckerman at Princeton University 11/10/11

The talk was about how or even if media can affect social change. This can only be determined if the effects of media can be measured. This matrix has been difficult to measure with conventional media because the numbers or ratings are derived from statistical samples and aren’t always accurate. New or digital media that include websites, the blogosphere, tweets, FaceBook and several others, provide accurate and excessive data. The rest of the discussion went about making comparisons of media measurements to civic actions in current events to see what can be derived. This in itself is very interesting, but the tools Ethan Zuckerman uses, some of which are available to the public, is the most fascinating to our discussion.

The selfimmolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable cart owner in Tunisia is deemed the origin of the Arab Spring. There were no other countries to model the revolt on so it makes a good “patient 1” in analyzing a movement in the time of social media. Twitter and Facebook documented this and earlier similar and unrelated events, but while many advocates like to credit New Media with enabling it all – there’s no evidence to prove this. Somehow through word of mouth, perhaps SMS (texting), an already angry population got together, in mass, and took back their country from a dictator. The government was monitoring all social sites; the population knew it and the only supporters were those outside Tunisia. Expatriates promoted it, perhaps that’s why there was traction – Ethan concludes that’s partially true.

Zuckerman proposes that when New or Participatory Media overlaps Civic engagement, Civic Media forms. This can be explained in four ways. Ecosystems, Participation, Inclusion and Codesign – this discussion concentrates on the first two,Ecosystems and Participation.

Ecosystems – Understand, map and visualize the relationships between traditional and new media, so we can help communities and organizations call attention to stories and issues that otherwise go uncovered.

Zuckerman then sites 4 takes on how social media influences social change

Malcom Gladwell says  it doesn’t  – physical participation is required to make change.

Clay Shirky says the internet enables groups to form and gives voice to activists

Beth Coleman says the internet allows affiliation and this leads to virtual support

And Sami ben Gharbia feels the internet influences broadcast which help coordinate broad social movement

He later illustrates the expatriate connection referred to earlier. Using phone cams,  images are posted to FB and a Nawaalja page for Tunisian expats. It gets the attention of Al Jazeera which puts the news out on (pirate) television.  Locals are aware that the government is monitoring FB for subversives so don’t use it, but learn of the protest from the unblocked Aljazeera TV reports. A combination of old and new media, by design or accidentally causes something to happen.

Some may think those laptop-wielding people at protests like OWS are tweeting and getting the word out, but this is not the case. The media team is monitoring the coverage and trying, where possible, to frame or shape what images and stories get out. Rather like old school public opinion, but now with new tools. This is how one social component works. When the OWS movement first began, a rash of photographs of people holding handwritten signs appeared on FaceBook.  These were used to bring attention to the cause, but were also designed to project a certain way. The handwritten passages then subsided and have been replaced with relevant quotes from historic figures and presented on more graphically designed vehicles. An infographic that shows the relationship between inside and outside tweets of the Tunisian protest is useful and attributable to Kovas Boguta. Another visualization makes the point as well and shows how something is/was going on.

Mr. Zuckerman has a very interesting graphic, familiar to us that show the interaction between different media today.

Looking at some media cloud graphics of the different topics on blogger sites when OWS first began was very informative. We see the evolution in memes between left and right, left and left and right and right over time. Initially, the Left are talking about how it’s growing and cities where the occupiers are forming gets attention while the Right start to knock the gatherings trying out different name calling to see what get traction – As time goes on the conversation grows to a focus of Corporations, Democratic, Labor and more in tune with what the OWS organizers want. – This media cloud is good stuff. It helps see trends and when you get enough social traction, they can show audience users preferences.

Ethan Zuckerman comes from the Media lab at MIT so he also explains the workings of and promotes the adoption of the nutritional label for content. Along these lines, another great illustration showed the types of stories most read in the New York Times over a certain period. It revealed that the Times’ reader is more interested in national news at times of recession and domestic news during prosperous periods. Because everything is digital, it’s data can easily measured to see what type and when stories appear. This can be applied to video only when there are transcripts of the text, which would also be useful. A somewhat troubling aspect of this technology is when it’s married to the devices we use to consume content. From the information found in our content consumption diet we may be able to find if we’re in an echo chamber and not getting any information from outside. And of course, so can advertisers.

Particpation – Civic media helps communities participate effectively in civic life. Participation in civic life cultivates consumers for informative and investigative media. We’re working to help people participate effectively in both local and distant communities.

Zuckerman tells of an early case of civic participation. During the labor vote in Wisconsin when protestors essentially occupied the state house. A sympathizer asked if there was anything they could do to help the protesters. The reply was to ask if they’d could get some pizza from a local pizzeria. Once this was tweeted it grew and the pizzeria was inundated with pizza orders from around the country. The media drove participation which circularly drove more media coverage. This came back to Gladwell’s cry for physical participation or interaction not just tweet or as we used to say in the security world “actionable information” This is also the complaint of many OWS detractors. What do they want? The cycle now seems to be you see some information that pisses you off. You maybe share it or like but want to do something more, but something more – isn’t readily apparent. So you go back and see some funny cat video on youtube. A lesson there for makers of content that does’t ask for something.

The next subject was politically what was going on. Main Stream Politics requires, you petition your law makers they represent you , you vote , sign things etc. But much of what we see with TEA and OWS is the disfranchisement of citizens – they just don’t see things change based on the old way. They feel compelled to take to the streets and DO SOMETHING, because this democracy thing just isn’t working for them us. Other examples of this need to DO something are users changing their avatar to one color to demonstrate support. Or, the more sinister Anonymous who shuts down “offensive”  website with denial of service attacks. And somewhat successful   leave your bank day, which had 1/2 million new customers switch to credit unions from big banks, along these lines you could add American Express’ brilliant Small Business Saturday campaign.

He basically concluded with something that reminded me of the dot com days in tech. He used the South Park example of the 3 phase underpants. Basically it says, Do something you think is cool; don’t worry about the 2nd phase and then in the 3rd phase – PROFIT.

Before Web 2.0 it was start a cool internet company – have someone buy it out, make a profit. Wait, how will the company make money? Not my problem, I sell it before that part. That’s what they said with twitter and FB and many others, Ethan relates it to a movement, start the movement, yada yada  – change the world.

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For New Jersey to achieve worldwide domination in hyperlocal journalism

It must create a platform for the exchange of news sources and information.

We talk about a marketplace of ideas – here’s one way we can build one. What if the broadcasting infrastructure could be used in new ways. The FCC’s continuing attempt to reallocate broadcaster’s spectrum for the use of wireless broadband is misguided and wrong. The free flow of news and information in the form of broadcast television and radio would be replaced by a fee based system. Premium priced or tiered information will be available for the haves, while the have-nots can read yesterday’s discarded newspapers.

For a mere $50 per month you could get your news on a small screen held in the palm of your hand or lap of your seat? If you prefer to see it on you television, that would be another $50 per month to the cable company. Professional journalists would also use this brave new conduit, for a fee, to move ideas around and somehow eek out revenues by charging for a peak of what’s going on.

Consumers would pay an entrance fee to enter the marketplace of ideas. Information merchants must also pay a fee to set up there and oh yeah, this would all take place in the public park known as “the people’s air waves”, leased to the highest bidder. The “bonanza” to be shared between the federal government and broadcast license holders is comparatively little and only ensures the eventual demise of the television industry.

The question is, what is a broadcaster? A distributor of content or a content creator? If the answer is just a creator, then sure, sell off the ability to distribute. But the radio infrastructure is used to gather content AS WELL as send it. This fact is unique to broadcast journalism and must be considered. As print journalism turns electric, the infrastructure needed to publish to the people and mine the data from the web must also ride the net.

In New Jersey, there is a unique opportunity to help  journalism to the next level. The legacy infrastructure that makes up the only public broadcasting entity in the state is up for grabs. The transmitters, receivers and myriad pieces of equipment, along with the skilled professionals who make it all work, gather and disseminate information to the most influential people on this planet.

This is done in a very unique way. Regardless of people’s reading ability or native language, information is shared by showing it. Is an informed public necessarily a literate one? The visual medium is the most direct way of communicating. Children say that they “have to show you” because they haven’t developed the communication skills to tell you, let alone write it down to be read.  Showing”  works.  Certainly not for everything. Complex concepts must be explained and defended, but not just in blogs or OpEds. Conversations take place by listening or watching, thinking and responding.

One of the biggest challenges of newsgathering is getting somebody to show up. This is even more difficult in broadcast journalism because equipment, a crew and a reporter must be sent to the scene.  Print journalists still have to physically be there, some print journalists carry digital audio recorders to supplement their note taking. But an eye roll or other nuance can tell a seasoned reporter far more than the direct answer. What if the experienced reporter didn’t have to be at the scene and their questions could be asked remotely?

Wireless broadband or WiFi/WiMax signals are able to carry multiple audio and video streams along with other data. A very high-speed WiMAX backbone can be build across the state on the transmission towers. These towers can then feed participating libraries, colleges and schools to create a bi-directional public high-speed network that covers most of the state. Each tower site would serve as a regional communication hub and clearing house of information. Sub-hubs would form at libraries, schools and eventually to individuals.  So, an individual blogger might do a daily, hourly or constantly updated transmission. The product would be made of personal reporting and aggregated information. The content would be fed up to the library where it would be appended and aggregated  and pushed up again until eventually there was a living, state-wide, stream of information for everyone to discuss and write about.

Most cell phones can stream video and audio. The quality is acceptable, but not like television. Cell phones use lower bandwidth intended to carry voice and text. WiFi has more bandwidth and can carry video at an acceptable quality level. The cell phone uses the optics and sensor acceptable for a multifunction device.  Several “black box” solutions are now available that allow broadcast cameras and other higher quality less expensive cameras to be transmitted over WiFi and cellular signals.  Imagine the possibilities of an ad hoc network that can easily send live sounds and images of events across the state.

While this technical infrastructure is built, a community infrastructure or human network is also built. Libraries, schools and community groups along with broadcast and newspaper journalists, offer classes in video production and electronic journalism. From these classes an army of stringers grow. Local news productions run locally via web sites. Some stories get pushed up to broadcast and traditional outlets while others become source materials for in-depth coverage. All this local and statewide content is kept via Production Asset Management and Content Asset Management software. All the presentations of information get authored in a multi-leveled multi-media statewide news and information network. The “owner” of each story automatically broadcasts to their local web and local air. Collaboration becomes possible and some stories may grow to worldwide distribution.

A statewide wireless computer network should be built in New Jersey. A federated, ad-hoc, peer-to-peer information sharing infrastructure will ride a top it. This system will serve as a platform for professional, semi-professional and citizen journalists. Once the informational stream (infostream) is created, aggregators, curators,  critics,  analysts,  pundits, reporters and even citizens can sip locally or from the larger pool

Taking from the rich to give to the rich, but inexperienced.

Something is a foot in new_broadcasting. Free WiFi, how’s that? And if we fill the air with broadcasts, why are they trying to dismantle old broadcasters. What’s the dirty little secret? Bandwidth envy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/23/super-wifi-coming-fcc-ope_n_736592.html

http://www.tvnewscheck.com/article/2010/11/12/46983/do-we-really-need-a-2nd-broadcast-system

Strategies for a new presence on the Internet

Things have changed

The Internet is over 40 years old. The World Wide Web is over 20. Many of the conventions we are now accustomed to, like websites promoting a single program or product, banner ads, email contact information, etc. are the standards that makeup the internet experience to many of people who use it. A great deal of time goes into designing the art and technology used to craft these sites, but the model is based on the same principles we adhere to for television. If we build it, they will come – if we can just cut through all the clutter and make viewers aware it exists.

We say the web is a “lean forward” environment meaning a visitor who peruses a website is more engaged than a passive television viewer. This is a false assumption. Technology has made TV viewing a much more engaging activity if only to find the content itself. While some viewers still sit down at a scheduled time to see a show, many take a much more active role. They’ll tell their DVR/Tivo to find the shows they like or heard about. They’ll go to a video rental shop (if they can still find one in their neighborhood) or subscribe to Netflix and rent an entire season. Then play them in the car for the kids or copy them to their iPhone to watch on the train ride in to work. If this much has changed for ancient old television how can we not expect a more nimble Internet hasn’t grown as well?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Web2.0. While this term is considered passé today, the concepts behind it are ones to consider for a new approach. From a design perspective the sites look dull or even uninspired. Visually, these websites look  stripped down and bare. They have uncluttered layouts with very few distractions. The juice that makes them run is content. Constantly updated content. Not just weekly, daily or even hourly – constantly. Many of them aren’t even much of a “website” in the sense we know websites. The Internet is going “real time” and that is a great development for those in the television business.

Let’s take a step back to remember our media history and think about this for a second. Driven by the technology of the day, television was born a “real time” medium – Live.  With no way to record television or video, other than filming a TV monitor, techniques were developed to communicate.  Borrowing heavily from the language of film, live editing or switching between multiple cameras, pre-positioned around a live event became what television was. Eventually videotape was invented. This allowed more traditional film production techniques to be used in producing content. It took until today for digital post-production to become so technically sophisticated that it’s affordable and accessible to almost anyone who wants to “say” something.

But the core competency of television, and you could make a case for radio also, is the live dissemination of information. Event coverage or news. Whatever you want to call it – there is a constant stream of information coming out and an audience with an insatiable appetite for more. Along side the infostream, and contributing to it, is analysis of what’s happening and the editing (both figuratively and contextually) of this information. These too, are areas that TV/Radio organizations have considerable strength in.

The convergence of media and telecommunications – TVphones – helps grow the audience. The technologies have merged and live television has an advantage. Cellular, G3, G4 and WiFi are all radio technologies. While not exactly the same thing as microwave and satellite transmission there are enough similarities that becoming expert in these concentrations is not that great a stretch. I don’t use the term “mobile” because there is a television bias in that term. For now, let’s table any discussion of “Mobile TV” because the financial and technical hurdles associated with that space makes it a tomorrow possibility at best. What is real today? What do iPhone and Android phone users and iPad and tablet users “get”? As mentioned earlier, traditional television programs and movies are available or can be made (ripped) ready for consumption on these devices. Obviously, content producers who want their stuff seen will make it easily available on all these devices.

Here’s where it really gets different. The interaction of users with content when using these devices. Whether voice or finger swipe initiated,  searched content is delivered TO the user DIRECTLY. Some of this is “app” driven – another discussion for another time. The point being information or content finds it’s way to the user. Does this come from a website? Kind of, but not exactly. Does the user care that there’s a website associated with the information they seek? Maybe, if they visit that site for a recap later from home. And, depending on the type of information, is it fresh or only updated in the morning? If it‘s dated information will the user wait for the trusted source to update or find another more timely trusted source?

This is happening now. One of the first “hacks” for the iPad was how to have it setup at the Apple store. The iPad requires initializing with an iTunes account while tethered to a PC. So, in order for the iPad to work you had to own a Mac or PC. Enough people didn’t own a computer that the “hack” of using a Mac at the Apple store to initialize the iPad was widely circulated. By 2011 there will be more smart phones than PC’s and that doesn’t even count hybrids like Slate/tablets and SmartTVs/SetTopBoxes.

Although these devices are also used to visit websites, their design is for “content consumption.”  Content consumption being a more passive experience. Content is played or viewed through the device.  Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and ABC News are redefining how their content is consumed while Hulu, UStream, YouTube and others play in this newish medium. Most of these devices are inexpensive compared to the price of a full PC’s, and don’t require much technical skill to use. They are bought by folks with some disposable income who are not necessarily very web savvy and they are impatient. These users will expect the content they want to find them.

Implementation

The most immediate challenge is to create content quickly that is easily updated. Then to figure out ways to get it to users in whatever way they want, whenever and wherever they want and to have them keep wanting to get it from the same source. An Internet Services Group (ISG) will facilitate an entire organizations participation in meeting these goals.

Surrender the homepage and main websites to participants. There are several providers that offer all the services needed for robust delivery of traditional websites along with the ability to update these pages without expert intervention. ISG will select pre-built and in some rare instances, change pre-build or construct new designs to accommodate new projects. At the beginning of each new media project an Internet strategy will be defined. Perhaps a webpage isn’t appropriate for a project. A webpage for a “Reader Services for the Blind” project can be constructed for visually impaired persons, but a podcast describing the offer might be a better use of resources.
After a webpage has been determined to be an appropriate use of Internet services a layout will be agreed upon along with a maintenance schedule.  Detailed instructions for the regular maintenance of the site and any training, if needed, will be provided by the ISG.  Rather than having content pushed from project producers to web workers up to the net – the content creators take responsibility for managing their own content. This is one way to insure that information is distributed in the most timely way and that content producers have a greater stake in their online content. Formal  workshops  and less formal one-on-one instruction is key to making this successful. These same procedures can be extended to outside partners to host even more, non-home-grown content.