Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage
Posted: under journalism, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Online (Multi)Media, Web/Tech.
A wildly successful industry is faced with a bold challenge from scrappy digital interlopers and reacts in all the predictable ways…
Stage 1: The industry reacts with disdain – "The new digital stuff is just a fad. Look – our sales are going great. And people love us. They've always loved us. They'll be back in droves when this digital stuff blows over. It's so cheap and shoddy – where's the fun and interest in that?"
Stage 2: The industry's P&L statements can no longer be ignored. The industry reacts by trying to co-opt the new digital technology into its existing product.
2a. The existing designers and producers react with outrage and strong resistance to changing the way that they've done business for decades.
2b. The industry half-heartedly markets the new hybrid product to its existing customers. The distributors don't really understand the appeal of the new digital technology, but they glom onto the idea that the hybrid is the "same thing only different" and try to force the digital product into their same old channels and strategies.
Stage 3: The old guard loyalist customers are turned off by the hybrid product that doesn't function as well as the "pure" version, and inundates the industry with complaints and threats.
3a. The newer customers, who don't have that much loyalty, and who use both regular and digital products, try the new hybrid and find that the experience isn't really all that satisfying. It doesn't do the old thing well, and it doesn't do the new thing well. So they split their time between the new digital and old analog, trending gradually towards the new.
3b. The newest customers, who have been using digital, look at the hybrid and sneer. They don't bother using something that is so obviously lame and half-hearted.
Stage 4: The industry is relegated to a curiosity, maintained only in small niches, and used by nostalgic aficionados.
The story of newspapers? Or of pinball machines? I know, I know – the analogy breaks down at a million kajillion places along the way, but there are some interesting points of reference.
Full disclosure: I was a pinball nerd back in the day. After every big mid-term test, I'd go to the student union, and take out my frustrations and anxieties by banging around Pinbot, Black Knight, Eight Ball, Centaur and others. Sure, there were other video games there, and every once in a while, I'd goof off with one of them to pass the time. But there was something therapeutic about the way that you could actually get physical and bang on a pinball machine to get results – either to get the damn shiny sphere to go down the right ramp, or to get a revenge "Tilt" when the damn thing kept draining on you…
I remember the machines that started appearing that tried to include video games into the back panel. You'd make a shot, and then a short cut scene would come up and you'd have to take your hands off the flippers and yank on the controls for a bit.
The game sucked. The pinball game was shoddy and ugly and didn't really play well. The video game was light-years behind the competition that was specifically designed to be a video game. Worse, it cost far more than either one, and the damn thing was always either out of order, or the arcade owners had its guts all over the floor and were wrenching on it.
In later years, the pinball industry was relegated to producing super-expensive movie tie-in games for Terminator, Lethal Weapon, Addams Family, etc. etc. Meanwhile, the video game industry migrated from the arcades to the game consoles in every living room. The technology kept improving from the simple move-and-shoot games like Asteroids and Space Invaders to the current MMPORPGs like World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Guild Wars and all the first-person shooters like Halo 3, Resistance: Fall of Man, and whatever iteration of Doom/Quake we're now up to…
Not only have video games far outstripped the wildest dreams of the old arcade makers (who could have ever predicted one-day sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars), but the industry has also spun off all kinds of related industries: cheat codes, bulletin boards, wikipedias, blogs, fansites, contests for best fan art, etc.
The lessons for newspapers here are not clear-cut. But I'd like to believe that it is possible for a whole new thriving economic ecosystem to arise when a new technology invades an existing content space. I've spent the last couple of years staring into the crystal ball, trying to discern hints of what the future info-media-news landscape is going to look like … all of which may be as futile and doomed to error as it would have been for a Bally or Williams pinball game designer back in 1983 to have predicted that someday, a teenager in a basement could play a 3-D immersive game with other kids from all over the world, and then run his own business connected to said game…
Posted: under Current Affairs, Online (Multi)Media, Web/Tech, Weblogs.
Not sure if I want to have to make sure that my hair is all on the correct tangent from my head, and that there’s no broccoli in my teeth before participating in my next online pie-fight in the comments section of Sadly, No!
Then again, it’s only a matter of time before people start offering plug-ins to do the video commenting, and we get animated snowmen (like in the CNN Democratic debate last summer), World of Warcraft avatars or Second Life furries chiming in …
Anyway, check out Seesmic – the webnoscenti are saying that it’s the "next Twitter" – which I guess, means that all the early adopters will ooh and aah over it, as it suffers weekly outages from lack of scalability, while the rest of the webmob blithely ignores it in favor of seeing the latest Pirate Bay porno.
UPDATE: It appears that there is a use for this – Jemima Kiss at the Guardian, used it to interview Spielberg, Lucas and Harrison Ford.
Guardian Journalist Jemima Kiss was
one of the Seesmic community members who asked questions to Steven
Spielberg, Harisson Ford, George Lucas, Shia Laboeuf, Karen Allen and
Cate Blanchett. Here is how Jemima describes the experience (you can see here all Jemima questions and reactions):
"It’s a simple
enough idea but incredibly exciting; I just posted a few direct
questions to Spielberg and Karen Allen (Marian was always one of my
favourite heroines) and it’s quite a buzz watching them reply directly
to your own questions. Seesmic is quite intimate too – like most
people, I just use my webcam and was still wearing my pyjamas when I
recorded. But hey, pyjamas have a good internet heritage."
Posted: under Current Affairs, Film, journalism, music, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Online (Multi)Media, television, Web/Tech.
Can you say “Doomed”?
Apparently, a report called “And Now for the News,” written by Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research, came out this week, and it’s got both Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and, not coincidentally, HDNet, and the pundits at Digital Media Wire all atwitter over the stark economic realities.
Cuban made billions of dollars in the internet video game, and, while he’s acted the fool at various Maverick games over the years, nobody has ever accused him of either being stupid or lacking passion. So when he starts winding up the air-raid siren, it gets my attention.
From Cuban’s blog:
Starting with the disappointing but expected news that journalism is no
longer a service consumers desire to pay for, he moves on to the
problems facing Internet video.
Five years into the video-over-the-Internet revolution, we have learned
two things. First; consumers won’t pay for content on the web, so it
will have to be ad supported. And second; it won’t be ad supported.
Oh, shit. (*stomach lurches*)
On the web, early evidence suggests that consumers will tune out –
click away – if they are forced to watch more than 30 seconds or so of
advertising up front, and maybe another 90 seconds of advertising over
the next thirty minutes. Hulu.com, for example, which has already been
lionized by many as the future of TV, serves two minutes of advertising
for every 22 minutes of programming(i.e. the programming duration of a
typical half hour show from television). Assuming identical CPMs for
web video and TV, and after accounting for lost affiliate fees, a 30
minute program on the web with two minutes of advertising yields
approximately 1/8th as much revenue per viewer.
Are content producers prepared to reduce production costs…by 88%?
In fact, the actual economics of web-based video are far, far worse than this.
Sweetie, can you get me a hemlock cocktail, please? Easy on the ice. And see if there are any razor blades in the junk drawer?
88%? Are you freakin’ kidding me? That kind of revenue restructuring would be in line with what newspapers have experienced since classified ads migrated to the web (i.e. the “Craigslist effect”). And yeah, I know, there are some shellshocked newspaper reporters/editors who will nod wearily, taking schadenfreude satisfaction that the arrogant pacotillos in local TV are about to take the bollocking that print has taken these last 10 years.
Over at Digital Media Wire, Paul Sweeting explains the problem that video producers here in Hollywood face, seeing as how they’re making the same goddam mistakes that music labels made when the internet came calling:
There’s no reason to believe that video producers’ experience will be
any different. Like it or not, the web simply isn’t very kind to
publishers, packagers and distributors. It rewards enablers. Search is
an enabling technology–perhaps the ultimate enabling technology. And
as Google shareholders can tell you, it’s been rewarded. The challenge
for publishers is not to figure out how to force the web to reward
them. It’s to figure out how to capture the value created by enabling
In that sense, Cuban is right. It may not make sense for the networks
simply to make their schedules available for free on the Internet. That
doesn’t really create any new value; it mostly just drains value from
What the networks need is to figure out how to capture the value
created by enabling consumers to access, select, aggregate, transform,
embed and share content–in a word, to use it. Anything else is just TV with buffering.
For scripted TV entertainment, well, I’m not sure what the survival strategy is yet. I do know that there is not much love in the ad world for a CPM rate hike for online video that would bridge that 88% gap. There’s just too much other product out there screaming for attention … not to mention the fact that the scripted TV content (and movie content, for that matter) is a melting sandcastle to the surging broadband tide. Trying to make back a $160 million budget from some exotic cocktail of online subscription, advertising and branded sponsorship … well, let’s just say that I’m glad I’m not writing the checks on that one. I don’t know how you can possibly monetize the budgets that Hollywood is used to.
And folks, we know – dammit, we know all too well – how the media megalopalies react to revenue reductions. For a time, they throw money at the problem. And then come the cutbacks. “We have to do more with less.”
It comes down to our old friends, supply and demand. If there is
demand for the kind of spectacle that you get in Iron Man or Raiders 4,
or whatever, there will be someone out there that will supply it …
but at the price point that the people on the demand side set.
Kiss those expense-account lunches at The Ivy goodbye. All the little perks that pampered writers, directors, producers and stars have gotten used to over the years. There is going to be a lot of screaming and whining hereabouts in the next decade or so.
I think that my clients over in newspapers have actually got a significant advantage in this arena. The future of video is going to be like the future of news: disaggregated and hyperlocal. Papers can do this. Papers ARE doing this.
I can’t figure out how to take a 2 1/2 hour piece of video – hell, video of any length, from a blipvert to the entire back catalog of the Museum of Radio and TV – and make it pay off a $320 million opening weekend return.
But I can teach you how to monetize short clips shot by reporters that go along with local news stories. That’s do-able.
One last thing: in the comments was this gem, sure to be included in my next series of trainings for newspapers migrating to video on the web:
I’ve never seen ABC.com and the rest put an RSS, Email, or text message subscribe/alert button on their video pages. Instead they want us all to *remember* show schedules, come back, and sit through ads. They’re blowing a huge chance to have a relationship with the audience. The sad truth is that TV networks don’t want a relationship. They want us all to sit around the glowing box together on *their* schedule as if it were 1966.
Posted: under Current Affairs, journalism, New Media Strategery, newspaper crisis, Web/Tech.
As someone who has spent much, much more than my share of time being hassled by cops for doing my job, face jammed onto the hot, stinking hood of a patrol car, I felt it necessary just to acknowledge this protest event being held at Hollywood & Highland on June 1.
More and more, I find that the police have been infected by the “well, we’re just trying to be cautious” bug, spread by the geeks at Homeland Security that show up every six months with their PowerPoints demonstrating how the eeee-vil Mooslim terr’rists are going to set of a nuke right here in River City if the beat cops slack up even for a second. Sheesh. Mostly, the induced paranoia is nothing more than a fig leaf for some overzealous freaks to throw their weight around.
So yeah, join the group, send some supportive e-mails, whatever it takes. Taking a picture in a public place is not a crime. Should not be a crime. Idiots that want to clamp down on people obeying the law because they feel justified … that is the bigger danger to our republic.
I particularly liked this question from the comments on the blog: “what if a bunch of art students sat down and sketched a public place? would that be a crime?”
This image of a shirt was posted on Flickr – go there and join the group, even if you don’t plan to show up
Posted: under Found Genius Artifacts, Mac v. PC, Macintosh Madness, Vaio=Garbage, Web/Tech.
OK, someone up in Computer Heaven HATES me.
I managed to completely crash the Mac. as in, "The little pinwheel just spins on the screen, and none of the buttons, clicks to key-combos does the least little thing."
Happened when I tried to close out of Firefox. The whole system just hung. Had to do a "Hard Quit" of holding down the power button until the machine went dead. And now that I’ve been trying to work with Premiere Pro to import footage from the NAS, the Mac has gotten downright cranky.
I did, however, manage to install 4 extra Gigs of RAM from Crucial - for those of you shambling around wearing Apple t-shirts and mumbling "braiiiinnnssss …. brrrraaaaiiinnnssss " – a much better option than buying memory from the gottverdammt total rip-off Apple stores.
Not that all that extra mem seems to have pepped the system up much. (sigh)
I guess this is a case of the "grass = greener over in the Mac pasture." FAIL.
Posted: under Home Office Technology, Mac v. PC, Macintosh Madness, Web/Tech.
I have bowed to the inevitable, and bought a Great Big Expensive Mac Pro. This is a dual quad-core machine, and I just got an extra 4 gigs of RAM from Crucial (NOT the Mac store – their prices are nothing short of absurd) so that I can really work on post-production on my short film.
It struck me that every computer I’ve bought has been about 10x as fast as the previous machine. My first computer was the old TRS-80, with 4K (later 16k) of RAM. Programs were loaded in via a cassette tape drive, and later we all freaked out when there were actual floppy disks. Which, back then, were really floppy – the 5 1/4 size, and the big TRS disks were about 8 inches across.
Yes, children, you’re reading that right. Shut up and go play with your terabyte iTouches.
Next, was a PC-AT that sped along at 4.77 mHz. This had dual disk drives, and a sickly green monochrome display. My sister Sara and I played some kind of lame "Adventure" game on it for hours and hours, wandering around in a lame dungeon and shooting arrows into green slimy blobs.
In the early 90s, I made the decision to go whole hog to the PC platform – at the time, a Mac SE30 was about the size of a boom box, a monochrome screen the size of my hand, and a tiny 30 meg hard disk. By comparison, my old Zeos desktop had 4 megs of RAM, a 120 meg hard drive and a 14" color display. Whee!
I still remember the cover of the old PC Magazine, back when the mag was fat as a phone book with all the clone makers who had been unleashed on the landscape, packing the mag with ads … the big splash headline said: "25 Megahertz Screamers Unleashed."
Yeah, a lot of things are quaint in retrospect.
Next, in ’98, I got a Dell laptop that ran at 233 mHz. This had a 3 gig hard drive and could actually connect to the internet.
In ’02, I got the Fry’s Electronics desktop – 2.53 gHz, 120 gig hard drive, dual DVD drives.
This Octocore has 8 cores, all running at 3 gHz, which specs out to 32 gHz. The hard drive is a puny 250 gigs, but I have a gigabit connection to my NAS (which has decided this week to play nice with the rest of the network), and a Superdrive. I’m still trying to reconcile myself to the change in the way that I navigate around from program to program, and I am really hating not being able to use my keyboard (typing on a regular keyboard hurts like a bitch after about 5 minutes – I need the split keyboard because of my 2XL hand size).
Still, Vista had made my life into such a living hell for the last year that I could not in good conscience keep banging my head against the wall. The crashes, the constant updates, the security holes, the unexplained way that multimedia content JUST WOULDN’T WORK no matter what I did …
If I am going to actually produce video content for the web, I need something that actually works. Vista did not. It just didn’t. I spent hours and hours on the phone with customer service reps who painfully tried to walk me through all the steps to troubleshoot Vista, and on more than one occasion, they just threw up their hands and said, "Well, we don’t know."
That can’t happen.
Or, when I was doing a presentation in Cucuta, I arrived in front of a room full of expectant journalists, tried to fire up my machine … only to stand there, sweating, in dismay, as the computer took more than 25 minutes to install what Microsoft called "Critical updates." For 25 minutes, the screen was blank as the disk light just lit up and kept on, and I head the clicking and grinding from inside the Vaio (and don’t get me started about the for-shit quality of the hard disks in the Vaio).
You try standing in front of a room that’s expecting to see demonstrations of how multimedia can change their lives when your computer won’t even wake up and there is no way to make it work.
So I have embarked on this adventure with the Mac. It is my hope that I can learn how to deal with all the quirks and differences with the Mac fast enough so that my productivity doesn’t take a massive hit. So far, I am not encouraged. Despite the promises of how the Mac makes things so easy, it is impossible to add a printer in any way that makes the slightest bit of sense to me.
Posted: under journalism, Politix, Web/Tech.
Where has Hillary really been, and under what circumstance? Check out this use of the Google map-customization features…
In the wake of the "Platoon coming into a hot LZ" story that Hillary floated last week – and that rose up to bite her in the ass, and make her a reliable butt of jokes for a few news cycles – comes this bit of multimedia storytelling.
It kinda threw me for a loop, at first – I was trying to see what message it was that the map was trying to tell me. And then, I realized that this was a more sophisticated use of the web than the traditional use of infographics, that normally serve to cram complex information at you in as short a time as possible.
No, this is use of multimedia that is far more demanding – it demands that you have the time, patience and attention to really browse through all the data collected here, and that you arrive at a conclusion on your own (should you so wish).
And also, should you also not wish. Because if you were only interested in a few segments of the story (such as, what the hell was Hillary doing in Dakar? GIving away a trophy to some dust-caked winner of the Paris-to-Dakar rally?) – well then, you can just skim & browse over the map and pick out the bits of information that you are interested in and that are relevant to you. A more trenchant hypothetical would be if you’re a foreign minister of one of these countries, and you want to see how long it’s been since the Clintons swung by on an official visit.
Anyway – brilliant use of non-linear storytelling techniques, and the possibilities offered by the web. This is an infographic that works on a lot of levels, from the most sophisticated, to the most casual interest. And yeah, it kinda sucks you in after a bit – you want to keep mousing over all the points and trying to imagine from the sparse description what the hell was going on during that visit back in the ’90s.
Posted: under Web/Tech.
The posts here have been pretty sporadic – it’s my hope that the imminent arrival of a Nokia N95 cellphone (the new & slightly improved N96 is pictured to the right) will inspire me to put the thing thru its paces to see how useful a tool it is to multimedia journalists looking for an all-in-one gadget to cover the news.
There has been a mad rush to the streaming video space this year – there must be much love in Vulture Capitalist circles for streaming vid sites right now. Can’t rightly tell you why – I guess someone out there is still clinging to the old biz model of there being some kind of value in live broadcasting.
Well, when everyone is toting one of these devices around at all times, in all places, the media landscape is going to look at lot more like the world envision in such books as Farewell Horizontal, where everyone is a freelancer, broadcasting live at all times, and when they manage to stumble across an interesting live event, they immediately package it, upload it to an aggregator, and get credits for the number of people who pick it out of the flow and pay attention…
Posted: under Web/Tech.
Esto es una demonstracion de como hacer un blog.
Mi esposa dijo que esto fue tonteria.
Posted: under Colombia, Current Affairs, Guerrilla War, Narcotraficantes, Politix, Travel, Web/Tech.
…and no, this is not some forgotten Hope & Crosby "Road" movie, co-starring Ginger Rogers & Betty Grable.
This is a "Guest Post" by Janine, and I’m running it here because it’s well-written and also because I’m so frickin’ burned out right now that I would have great difficulty stringing together an account half as coherent as this about some of the surprises we’ve encountered here during our "World Tour 2007-8" of Colombia for Andiaros and the government agency SENA. Earlier today, I was able to show the roomful of very young journalists here just how easy it is to use the TypePad software to post something to a blog (BTW – the pic that appears there was take about 2 months ago, in Moscow, at a restraurant located on "Clean Lake" across from the Moscow offices of OLMA.)
Anyway, here’s Janine:
This picture was taken by Dave through the window of a military checkpoint that we hit on the way to Baranquilla, a medium-sized city about an hour’s drive from
e hit a nasty rainstorm on the way here so it took us
nearly two hours. As we drove, our driver told us about how the road was
impassible only a few years ago because of the Guerillas/Narcotraffickers.
Now there are Colombian military stations every several kilometers along
the way that protect the road and have made it possible for people to make
the drive without fear.
To help us appreciate how things have changed, he told a personal story
about a bus trip he took to Bogota a few years ago. Part way there, the
bus was stopped by guerrillas who boarded the bus and demanded everyone’s
Cedulas (the national ID). They then consulted the laptop they carried
with them, looking up each person’s name in a database to see if they were
related to anyone rich enough or powerful enough to make them worth
kidnapping.(Dave and I noted this was an impressive use technology, albeit
for all the wrong reasons.)
As the Guerrillas checked IDs, they had one of the children on the bus go
around and collect everyone’s shoes, which he explained they did routinely
to make it harder for anyone to run away, especially when they are being
led through the jungle at night and stepping off a path in the dark could
cause serious damage to bare feet.
But what really amazed us about the story, was that apparently the
guerrilla’s radio discussion about the bus was picked up by the
US-supported Colombian army, which then called for a Black Hawk helicopter
to be sent to help them. That radio message was in turn intercepted by the
guerrillas, who took off once they realized they’d been discovered and
that the helicopter was on the way. (An interesting case of spy vs. spy,
and a moment that I think represents well the turning point that led to
these roads being so much safer.)
Unfortunately for the passengers on the bus, the guerrillas had already
poured gasoline all over the inside of the bus, which they planned to set
on fire before they left. They didn’t take the time to burn the bus. but
the passengers had to ride to the next town in a bus full of gas fumes so
strong it made most people sick. Still, I’m sure they all agreed it was
better than being kidnapped and walking barefoot through the jungle.
Today, he said he drives down these roads without fear, happy to see the
Colombian military on the side of the road. And I have to admit, Dave and
I both appreciated the soldiers a bit more after his story.
For my part, I’ve been amazed by how much more peaceful things are here
than they were just 6 years ago the first time I came to Colombia.
Everyone we’ve talked to about security has commented on the improvements,
how President Uribe has made such a difference by cracking down on
corruption and guerrilla activities, and how great it is that they can now
go out at night and travel the roads around the country without fear.