Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Dec 16

The Music Video Is The Advertisement: Lady GaGa Goes Post-McCluhan On Us All

Posted: under Multimedia, New Marketing, new media, Online Video, Video, Webconomics.
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Her “Bad Romance” music video features prominent product placement for stuff she designs & sells – and has garnered 38 million views.

The song itself is kinda beside the point – it’s bubblegum synth-disco-pop, about as bland and processed as the stuff the taxi drivers in Moscow used to subject me to on the way back & forth from my gig there. Which may be why it’s getting so many views – this is the kind of stuff that works internationally, since the thumping beat and lyric structure make it sound pretty much interchangeable with everything else on the radio.

Can't wait until she starts marketing the exploding bustier shown here; Madonna's Wannabees all wore their undies over their shirts. Wonder if GaGaEttes are going to be lighting their smokes off their flaming boobs.

Can't wait until she starts marketing the exploding bustier shown here; Madonna's Wannabees all wore their undies over their shirts. Wonder if GaGaEttes are going to be lighting their smokes off their flaming boobs.

But the real action here is in the video to the song. Blew my mind. Didn’t think that people had budgets like this anymore. Costumes that would make Gaultier sick with envy — white latex with “Where the Wild Things Are” shiny plastic crowns, some kinda homage to LeeLoo’s orange strappy outfit in The Fifth Element and a Eastern European mobster/white sex-slave buyer with a steampunk-ish articulated brass chin. Looked to my eye like about a week in production, probably about $500K in total costs of models, locations, crews, lighting, post-production.

The plot seems to be that Lady GaGa wakes from her sleep the way normal people do – by sticking her hand out of a gleaming white Tylenol-shaped coffin – getting forced to drink high-end vodka and the gyrate for & be sold to a bunch of strange pervy dudes.I half expected to see Liam Neeson kicking someone’s ass in the backdrop and telling her, “Here’s the scary part. You’re going to be taken…”

Nobody does these kinds of elaborate music videos anymore, because there is no way to recoup that kinda cash from the moribund music industry.- at least, not until now.As Dan Neil points out in the LA Times

the “Bad Romance” video, which features placements for no less than 10 products: a black iPod; Philippe Starck Parrot wireless speakers; Nemiroff vodka; Gaga-designed Heartbeats earphones (via Dr. Dre); Carrera sunglasses; Nintendo Wii handsets; Hewlett-Packard Envy computers; a Burberry coat; those crazy, hobbling Alexander McQueen hyper-heels; and enough La Perla lingerie to choke an ox.

This isn’t a music video so much as the QVC Channel you can dance to.

I had thought that Madonna and Michael Jackson were about as sophisticated as you could get when it came to figuring out ways to build up a juicy public image, and then squeeze it until rivers of cash started running out. Not so. Lady GaGa has rightly recognized that selling CDs if for chumps; anyone can pirate them, and pretty much does.

No, you need to sell things that people can’t copy – or at least, if they do, it kinda defeats the purpose. So Lady GaGa’s come up with the list of high-end commercial goods to do “Hero Shots” of in the video and obviously done revenue deals with them.

As a business model, I have to say hats off to the Lady. She’s adapted to the draining of value from the content (i.e. nobody actually buys music anymore – at least, not like they used to), and migrated over to where the money still lies.

When advertising no longer works, when information is a commodity in which we all drown for free, then the only things that are left that have any value are physical objects that we can wear, eat, drive or plug in, as well as what cultural anthropologists call “fetish objects” that bestow special status because they signify that we hae enough disposable income so as to be able to waste a couple grand on some gaudy sunglasses.

I’m not sure if this is the way that all news & entertainment is going to have to go in the future. All of it sponsored, with big shout-outs to the guys footing the bills worked into the info-stream every 10 seconds or so.  I do know that if this works, we’re going to see a lot more of these “branded videos” online.

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Oct 17

Happy Students in Astana, Kazakhstan

Posted: under Multimedia, new media.
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This is the last class I taught in Astana – they were very engaged with the idea of moving from traditional media to “New Media,” particularly with blogging.  The main question on everyone’s mind was “How do I drive more traffic to my site?”

I didn't know the Russian phrase for "Group hug, people!" So I just stood in the back and spread out my arms.

I didn't know the Russian phrase for "Group hug, people!" So I just stood in the back and spread out my arms.

I showed them some of the very basic tools to promote your content – the simplest being the blast e-mail alert to people you’ve signed up on a subscription list.  A couple of people in the class were already up on Twitter, and I sang that particular gospel, as well as the advantages of setting up Facebook groups or using the same functionality in the Russian equivalent, which is a Classmates.com-alike.

As always, the skill level in the audience was very uneven. Some people were way out in front of the pack, others seemed to be lost. I tried to deliver a wide variety of tools to hit everyone. I got just a couple of hours to do some very basic tourism after this session.  The scale of the construction going on here is truly awe-inspiring.

It's pretty chilly here; not snowing yet, but it's thinking about it - thus the heavy clothes. Also, behind me is the new Presidential Palace.

It's pretty chilly here; not snowing yet, but it's thinking about it - thus the heavy clothes. Also, behind me is the new Presidential Palace.

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Aug 04

Unruly Adobe Tag Cloud for MAX in LA

Posted: under Design, Multimedia, New Marketing, Uncategorized, visual storytelling.
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I stumbled across this today while poking around at the new Adobe products, trying to decide whether it’s worth it to upgrade to CS4 for the new features in Premiere Pro and Photoshop, or to just hang on to CS3.

Anyway, this is a 3-D animated tag cloud to promote the Adobe MAX conference here in LA; but I think they might want to regulate this a bit more, because some of the user-chosen tags are getting a little … pungent.  Hey. That’s pretty good. Maybe I’ll go there and add “pungent” to the mix…

I'm not sure if you can geo-anchor the text; if not, having "PORN" appear about where Chatsworth is located, is a stroke of serendipitous genius...
I’m not sure if you can geo-anchor the text; if not, having “PORN” appear about where Chatsworth is located, is a stroke of serendipitous genius… (click to embiggen)

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Jun 29

Duce: The Cat Who Would Not Be Caged

Posted: under journalism, Multimedia, Uncategorized.
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On Friday, I lost my cat Duce to a terrible and swift-striking illness. I am going to devote this post to remembering him, because he was such a large & special part of my life for the last 8 years.  This is the last notice my friend will receive on this earth, and I want to do this right, to honor what he meant to me and to the other people he charmed and brightened the lives of.

If this strikes you as over the top, please click over to the regularly scheduled media criticism & analysis; but let me have a moment here, please, because this has struck me at a deep & unexpected level.

Our Honeymoon Never Ended

Our Honeymoon Never Ended

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Apr 24

Friday Noon Videos – Best of the Web Week of April 24, 2009

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Art, journalism, Multimedia, Online Video, Uncategorized, Video, Viral Fame, visual storytelling, Webconomics.
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Last week at the International Symposium of Online Journalists in Austin, I presented a series of viral videos to make the point that the national discourse is no longer “owned” by what we think of as professional media.  It may seem like a trivial point, when compared to the other nuclear meltdown-level emergencies of declining advertising, lack of a sustainable business model for the future, declining audience share, sky-high debt loads, etc. – but I believe that adapting ourselves to this new environment is the first step towards resolving these other problems.

I asked the audience how many of them "got" the central image here, and could put it into its viral meme context.

I asked the audience how many of them "got" the central image here, and could put it into its viral meme context.

Over at the Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles makes a compelling and far more comprehensive argument about why the whole concept of ownership of the news & the national conversation has been toxic to the mainstream media’s efforts at retaining its audience share.

Another point that I tried to make was that it is OK to use humor in your reportage, now and again. The relentless barrage of bad news these days is making us all a little crazy (see this excellent Newsweek article on this topic).  There’s a reason that John Stewart & Stephen Colbert are so popular – they report on the news, they give it the kind of context that is so often missing on these stories, and they do it in a way that makes us crack a smile.  It’s the voice that I remember from my early b.s. sessions at seedy bars with grizzled news veterans.  It’s a human voice. The voice that says, “Well, y’know, I hadda write the story about [local businessman X] getting the Nice Guy award for the paper. But the funny thing is that everyone knows that he’s a screaming tyrant whose wife tried to run away…”

It’s the kind of voice that can re-establish the trust that our audience has lost in us.  The one that doesn’t feel the need to kneel and genuflect at the altar of he-said she-said “objectivity.” The one that can make us feel informed, energized, and in control a bit – because things that we can laugh at are no longer quite so scary.

[And yeah, I know, my much-promised blog post about the effects of fear in the media on all of us is still in the works. Forgive me.]

So for all of you trapped in office cubicles, or just in need of a bit of diversion at the end of the week, here are the top viral videos:

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Apr 15

John Battelle – Packaged Goods and $100 CPMs

Posted: under advertising, Multimedia, new media, Online Video, Video, Web Tech, Webconomics.
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This is part 3 of John’s keynote at OMMA 2009.

…and yes, I know, I don’t have the excerpts and such that made the other videos interesting to watch. But I figure if you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably already pretty interested in what this guy has to say.

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Mar 26

New Online Ad Models/Placements That Will Make Money – Calacanis keynote (part 4)

Posted: under Digital Migration, Multimedia, New Marketing, new media, Online Video, Webconomics.
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This is the final slice of the Calacanis keynote, where he concludes by showing off some of his ideas for online content sites to start effectively monetizing their audience’s attention. For example, he shows off a movie trailer that could run before users are allowed to start their Facebook session.

He asks how many people in the audience would stop using Facebook or Twitter if they had to put up with ads before they used them. Although few people raised their hands in such a public setting, I tend to think that a lot of people would start to desert these services if they start to cram advertising down the audience’s throats.

Also – not sure if advertising is all that viable a business model to base your hopes on – with the economy in such shambles, businesses have cut back on advertising in ways that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.

At the end, he returns to his attention-grabbing theme of “Just take the money! We can destroy traditional media once and for all!”

Once more, a great big shout-out to OMMA for a great conference, packed with ad & marketing people who, will deeply worried, are still trying to find a path to the future whereby the media can start functioning again.  It may not look like it did in the past, but we’ve kinda known this day was coming. 

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Mar 26

Extended Forecast: A 20% Chance of Riots in the Streets – Calacanis keynote at OMMA 2009

Posted: under Digital Migration, Multimedia, New Marketing, new media, Online Video, Webconomics.

Calacanis referred to this as “The Bridge.” He starts off with a little more digital triumphalism, and then talks about the real numbers behind the economic downturn, and the 20% chance of civil unrest, riots in the streets, cats&dogs living together, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, etc. etc.

It’s quite canny of him to stick a mood-changer like this in the middle of his presentation. A relentless parade of stats (allegedly) proving that digital media will win out over all outmoded forms of communication, and we will join hands and walk into the sunrise of a brave new day … would be sickening. So he threw this in here to address the fears of economic meltdown that were at the core of this conference (after all, the title was “Tools for Tackling the Downturn”).

In the early going, he can’t resist taking yet another swipe at “Old Media” saying that the audience cannot be measured – or that it can, but that the Nielsen stats are “bullshit.”  Which there is a certain logic to – advertisers who buy display ads are charged as though every single reader of the newspaper is going to open to that page and look at the ad.  Of course, we all know that they are not – that the ad rates are actually based on the “potential audience.”

And what Jason doesn’t really go into here is that there are some very sophisticated media analysts grinding numbers and coming up with some alternatives to the “Search Is God” theory he’s plugging.

I’ll post the video of that later – if I don’t decide to turn it into a larger story for a magazine or website – but basically, media buyers/planners are starting to get hip to the fact that search swoops in at the last second in the decision-making process of consumers, and takes all the credit for their buying choice.  Meanwhile, if they had never known that there were, say, alternate iPhone headphones that actually sound good and don’t fall out of your ears – then they would not have been able to search for it.

My own prediction: in the next couple of years, we’re going to see content make a comeback.

That is, if the second part of Jason’s bit here doesn’t come to pass, and we’re all either fricasseed by angry mobs, or hiding out in the hills, living like the Gyro-Captain in “Road Warrior.”

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Mar 11

Why 4G Matters: 300Mbps Data Rate (well, almost)

Posted: under Mobile advertising technology, Mobile commerce, monetizing mobile content, Multimedia, Video, Web Tech.

HD video demands – at pretty decent color depth & resolution - about 15-25 megs. (Well, unless you’re trying to deal with uncompressed 1080i HD, which calls for about 400 megs - but the only reason to do that is to capture/edit, rather than watch, which is a whole other can o’ crawlies.)  That means that a 4G phone is basically the final linking device to provide the addressable TV & instant content delivery that we’ve all been blathering about for the last 20 years.

This article on Gizmodo is about the clearest, best-written piece I’ve stumbled across in the last year or so of baking my noodle in the alphabet soup broth of mobile media acronyms.

But what’s so special about WiMax and LTE? And how fast can they really get? Very simply, West told us, “The magic is the channel width.” LTE and WiMax use really fat wireless channels, so they can move a lot of data at once. For example, AT&T’s Kafka told us that “peak speed for LTE in 10MHz is about 140Mbps and peak speed in 20MHz is about 300Mbps.”

Did you see that? 300Mbps? Over the air? Whoooa. Well, don’t let your panties get blown away yet. Yes, 4G will be way faster than 3G. But don’t expect Asian city internet speeds wirelessly in the next couple of years. Clearwire’s Barry West throws a bit of cold water on the ridiculously scorching speeds you might see hyped for LTE: To get to that 170Mbps, “that’s like 8.5 bits per hertz and I’ve never seen a system achieve more than 5 bits per hertz.” Huh? Basically, it doesn’t take a whole lot of interference to slow your connection down, because it and WiMax use a complicated modulation scheme that you can’t have constantly cranked to 11. So real world speeds will be slower.

This, coupled with the laser-projection capabilities being built into the next phones, and the ever-smaller and higher-rez cameras, is pointing to one helluva information device in the future – one that can capture, upload, download and display crystal-clear video.

“In the future everyone will be a television network. For 15 minutes.”

Quick glossary:

4G: 4th-Generation cellphone.  The big clunky analog beasts that we used up til the late 90s were 1G. The switchover to digital (when bad connections were echo-y and robot-sounding rather than crackly and static like bad radio reception) put us to 2G.  iPhones operated at 2.5G, which means data rates of about 200K.  The faster data rate is 3G.

CDMA/1XRTT/EVDO: The compression & transmission technology sets used by Verizon and Sprint. Popular in Korea, Japan, South America and U.S.

GSM/EDGE/HSDPA: The data transmission sets used by AT&T and T-mobile. Everyone in Europe uses GSM technology. It allows you to swap SIM cards between phones, but is slightly less efficient than CDMA.

LTE/WiMax: The coming data transmission standards that phone companies have been beating to death for the past 10 years. LTE = Long Term Evolution.  This is a the data speed that will also be known as 4G.

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Feb 09

Ukrainian Sarah Palin Berated by Exasperated Director

Posted: under journalism, Multimedia, new media, Online Video, Politics & New Media.
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Hire this director and have him start whipping Christian Bale into shape.

This video had my class rolling with laughter – it’s slightly NSFW (mainly with the cussing in the subtitles, although if your office has Russian speakers, they might object).

This is the mayor of Kharkov, and he was trying to record a TV campaign commercial, but couldn’t manage to string enough coherent words together to spit out a sentence. Apparently, he’s notoriously stupid – “The Sarah Palin of Ukraine” – and is the subject of much mockery & head-shaking.

I was particularly impressed by the torrent of expletive-laced abuse hurled at this guy by the director (who we see in some of the early shots). I think this must have come at the end of an exhausting filming session, because the director is just going off on him in a way that would put Joe Pytka to shame.

Gems include: “Try to have an expression. Come on, at least try. Let’s go, let’s go.” “Misha, stop this crap.  Really, stop it.”

D: “Why the fuck did you take your hand away?
M:”I finished?”

D: “So fucking what. You finished! Sit one second, motherfucker. OK, we have to do this all over again. From the top…”

D: “Your face is boring. Nobody is going to give you any money.”

Please, can anyone out there who has access to the footage of Palin campaign commercial filming post the outtakes to the web? Because I think the wolf-shootin’ turky-genocidin’ Caribou Barbie must’ve had sessions like this.  Then again, maybe she had the offending directors fed to polar bears.

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