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 showed them some of the very basic tools to promote [...] [...more]
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 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.
Ask not for whom the Mooseinator tweets… Last Friday, I conducted a training session for the reporters attending the Online News Association’s national conference to demonstrate how to build the basic skills needed to cover a breaking news event using mobile phones. That sounded rather cold & stilted. Let me re-phrase: I created a scavenger [...] [...more]
That sounded rather cold & stilted. Let me re-phrase:
I created a scavenger hunt (which, if you want to be picky, is technically an Alternative-Reality Game (ARG)) to be the spoonful of sugar to entice the journalists into using their phones to cover a “breaking news” event that I had designed beforehand. I have put a full description of what the basic steps are to create a mobile training session like this up on our main Artesian Media site.
The lucky winner of the "Alaska Canned Moose." Like I said at the time, this is the kind of persistence and ingenuity that won Brazil the Olympic Games that very morning...
The conceit was that a visiting national candidate has had her pet moose (gee, I wonder who that could be based on?) escape into the hotel. I then doled out clues that led the reporters on a scavenger hunt where they had to use their phones to interact with both the real and virtual worlds. I drew on my short experience designing D&D computer games (my agent in the 90s got me a couple of commissions writing game modules, but none of them were ever used – trust me, it’s a Hollywood thing). I tried to make the training experience challenging enough that the reporters would stick with it to the end to unravel the puzzle of what happened to the poor beast, and to collect a (somewhat) valuable prize.
My aim was to get the journalists going through this training to use ten basic skills:
Take a picture with their cellphone cameras, and then use a wireless connection to email that picture into a CMS (I used Posterous, because it’s the simplest open-source blogging tool I’ve found recently – posting there is as simple as sending an e-mail.)
Receive an e-mail message on their phone, and act on it
Watch a video on Flickr, and follow up on a story lead contained in the video
Browse Facebook, and find information on a social-media profile
6. (The next five skills were deleted because of limited time and uneven bandwidth at the hotel.) Write a two-sentence news summary of events and post it to a WordPress blog
7. Use GPS to navigate to a location
8. Create a photo gallery, and geo-tag the photos
9. Stream audio/video live to the internet, and then upload the same local recording to a podcast/vodcast directory
10. Transmit/share files with another reporter’s mobile device
All these were taken from examples of real-world news events, and the various skills the journalists had to have to cover the news live & in-person, using only the tiny (yet increasingly powerful) mobile phone. Unfortunately, once I got to the Hilton in San Francisco, I quickly learned that I was going to have to scale back my training a bit. Quite a bit, in fact.
Twitters from that ungulate-obsessed madman, The Mooseinator.
The effects of having more than 700 of the most internet-savvy journalists in the world in one place – and then adding the mobile-phone crazed USC college students who had made the road trip to watch their team play Cal – overloaded the hotel’s internet connection. I could barely send/respond to email through the hotel’s wi-fi system, and I quickly found out that despite San Francisco’s rep as the epicenter for all things cool & new in digital technology, the 3G cellphone coverage in and around the hotel was abysmal.
ASIDE: I have never had so many dropped phone calls in my life. Maybe this was due to the overloaded cell zone & the usage of all the journos & college kids. But even at night, I found myself wandering my hotel room with my new iPhone held apart from my body like some kind of cell signal dowser, hoping to strike a pose that would allow me to complete a call without having the person on the other end start screaming “What? WHAT? YOU’RE BREAKING UP!!!” Either all the people whining about AT&T have a point – which is probable, considering the amount of chatter on the web about them – or the new iPhone 3Gs is a great handheld computer and a lousy phone. Which also seems (sigh) likely. All I know is that I had the iPhone 1.0 on this same AT&T network all over the world (Colombia, Moscow, Kiev, Amsterdam, Costa Rica, Mexico), and I didn’t have problems like this.
Back to the subject. With the fragile connectivity at the hotel, I had to scale back the plans I had made, so that I didn’t have frustrated crowds of journalists howling at the ceilings and shaking their phones at hotel staff (although that might have made a cool scene for an ad for some new mobile company). While I knew that everyone likely to attend my session would have a smartphone and would probably at least have some skills in how to use it, I whittled away some of the more advanced features that are not common to all phones. Given more time and resources, I could certainly make these things work, which would really take the experience to the next level.
Nerd alert: The basic skill set needed to set up a training session like this is pretty much the same one it takes to be a great dungeon master (DM) in the dice-based Dungeons & Dragons game. You have to set up a framework where you allow your players to use their ingenuity and improvise enough so that they feel like they’re the ones telling their own story – but also controlled enough so that you can lead them from step to step towards the set-piece goals you have established beforehand.
The first thing that I did was to post a handwritten clue in an unused conference room next to the ONA registration desk. This was a stand-in for a confederate – I was hoping to have someone there to play a recorded statement that I had on a little digital voice recorder, basically telling the reporters “I’m sorry, but we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation.” Hey, I was going for the verisimilitude.
The next step was to have a couple of people over in the corner giggling over a picture on their phones of the moose on the loose. Again, the hotel was uncooperative. Seeing as how they’re located in “The Tenderloin,” maybe they had other problems on their mind. See Dave Mitchell’s excellent blog post “Country Mouse in the Big City” to read about some of our adventures as we tried to leave the hotel on Saturday night (they involved drunked brawling, drug ODs in the bathrooms and SFPD cops circling a handcuffed pursesnatcher).
The contestants then had to navigate to the Moose_inator Twitter feed and click on the Twitpic link to see the picture of the place where the next clue was located. Their next task was to go there and upload their own photo of the pool to the Posterous CMS (standing in for the CMS of their paper/TV station/website).
The beast seems to be taunting us, carefree and grinning...
After they uploaded their own photos, they then got an email with a link to the Facebook page of the Moose Inator, who claimed to have shot a video of the moose in the hotel. I was going to put it up on YouTube and Vimeo, but found that the hotel’s wifi system was clamping down a bandwidth throttle on the video sites.
By the way, I really put a lot of work into fleshing out the character of the Moose Inator on Facebook. so take a few seconds to click around and look at all the photos that I uploaded, such as this one.
The photos were shot in our backyard here in Los Angeles, but the videos of the moose in the hotel were shot the day of my presentation, using the video camera functionality on my new iPhone 3Gs. It’s not the greatest video in the world, but it’s low-bandwidth and it was fairly easy to edit using Premiere Pro CS3.
Channeling the spirit of Lord John Whorfin, grinning and taunting, "Laugh-a-whila you can, monkey boy!"Actually, The Moose Inator tends to issue odd permutations of classic Melville lines, such as "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last chaw of Copenhagen at thee!"
The most gratifying part of this whole exercise was the way that some of my contestants came up to me afterwards, gushing that they had had a blast, that they had learned how to upload pictures directly from their phone to the internet, and that they loved the feeling of being immersed in a carefully thought-out experience. This was one of the few sessions at ONA that actually got the attendees out of their seats and out doing something new, trying to accomplish something on their own, rather than just sitting and listening and watching yet another PowerPoint session.
It was a cinematic night, as event organizer Brad Nye looked like he was making an entrance in a James Bond film, and Jason Calacanis did a Q&A (thanks for taking my question first, BTW), and looked a little like Citizen Kane. It’s late and I’ve got a lot more post-processing to do on the [...] [...more]
It was a cinematic night, as event organizer Brad Nye looked like he was making an entrance in a James Bond film, and Jason Calacanis did a Q&A (thanks for taking my question first, BTW), and looked a little like Citizen Kane.
It’s late and I’ve got a lot more post-processing to do on the photos, so here’s just a couple of the images that I shot. The video of the discussions can be found at This Week in Startups.
Before the lights were adjusted, standing on the platform over the audience made the speakers look like they were either making a dramatic entrance - or having their identities concealed in some "60 Minutes" tell-all segment.
The energy of the old VIC was certainly present – a little too much, as techies on the make back at the bar made it a little hard to hear the speakers at the time. This, despite the overt threat by organizers to find the yapping networkers and toss them out.
Anyway, here’s Calacanis discussing what the future of social media sites is going to look like, and what smart companies should do in the next couple of years to try to adapt to the increasing pace of innovation.
As I said in an email to Nye, Jason would probably be secretly pleased at the whole Citizen Kane-esque imagery here. And then, of course, he'd feel conflicted about it and make a self-deprecating joke.
One of the more interesting areas of discussion – particularly since I just got back from Costa Rica – centered around virtual currency as being “the next big thing.” Certainly seems that way in places like Costa Rica, where you’re getting an increasingly large, tech-savvy and connected labor force. A lot of people either work in the internet gambling industry there – or have relatives/friends that do. The speed of internet connections in San Jose – and even out in the jungles on the Pacific side – stunned me. I’ve had much worse connections in the small town U.S.A.
This week's debate is not as acrimonious as in the past (although there are exceptions to that, of course), and in the wake of the biz models released by the Aspen conference, some people are taking building new revenue streams seriously. At least, they say they are. It turns out that a lot of what has been reported in this paid content debate is a little like Microsoft software releases: trial balloon "vaporware." [...more]
This week’s debate is not as acrimonious as in the past (although there are exceptions to that, of course), and in the wake of the biz models released by the Aspen conference, some people are taking building new revenue streams seriously. At least, they say they are. It turns out that a lot of what has been reported in this paid content debate is a little like Microsoft software releases: trial balloon “vaporware.”
Page design at Rue89.com looks a little like what splatters on the side of the carny Tilt-a-Whirl after you load it up with a buncha 10-years olds who've spent the day eating cotton candy and mystery meat hotdogs. I think the boxes up & down the sides are supposed to be clickable ads, but they were inert when I tried them... (click for larger)
The illustration here is of a new French news site that is apparently taking off at Rue89; I can’t decide whether the chaotic design is totally off-putting, or intriguing because it basically violates every rule of page design. Also, I can’t hear the word “Rue” in a title without flashing to “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Or some B-movie villain twirling a moustache and chortling, “You’ll rue the day, Rex Manly!”
As a bonus, this week I’ve broadened the focus a bit to include some big-picture thinking from some of the unusual suspects; Doc Searls has a post wherein it is posited that what we think of right now as the internet is just a finger pointing in the direction of what this thing is actually going to grow into. Which should fuel a couple of late-night dorm-room debates, if nothing else…
Do not count me - yet - amongst those who hope that, well, now that it's (allegedly) become clear that newspapers are fated to die, then let's just get this over with. I still think that they can turn things around - the recent LA Times excellent Mapping LA project is a great step towards building the kind of hyperlocal database and information exchange network that could take off and fulfill all those dreams about the possibilities of digital local coverage.
While I am all for the development of the new content & biz models touted in Xark!, I don't think they are ready - yet - to step into the line of fire and take over in collecting and distributing the information that we need to be able to function effectively as a society. Hell, as a civilization.
The anger in the screen on Xark! is palpable, and I will cop to feeling it on more than one occasion. But I am not yet ready to give in to it. to throw in the towel and just lean back and toast marshmallows over the flames. [...more]
We’ve reached the “Aw to hell with them, let it all burn” stage
Just a quick late-night hit while I prepare to shoot an interview tomorrow at KCET.
I’ve spent much of the last couple years of my life trying to come up with case studies, strategies, training programs, tools and mash-ups of all the aforementioned, all aimed at illuminating a clear pathway for the newspaper industry to follow to save itself from “The Crisis.” My last big project was the Audience Planbook for the NAA, which was supposed to lay out a step-by-step process to building new businesses that take advantage of the technological innovations that have changed the way we get news.
I’m not so delusional and narcissistic as to think that I have some revealed, holy wisdom that can turn around the momentum of a massive, multi-billion dollar industry by myself. But I had hoped that maybe my voice, along with the voices of those who I recruited (shanghaied? hoodwinked?) into writing chapters in the Planbook for me, would spur some kind of change. This hope has grown harder to sustain in the last couple of months.
What will these media executives do when that reality hits them?
When these debt-burdened chains, stripped of journalistic talent by a
decade of profiteering, their web traffic reduced by 60 percent by
their paid-content follies, their pockets emptied by the cost of the
proprietary paywall systems offered by Journalism Online LLC and other
opportunistic vendors, what will they do?
Will they buck up and
go back out into the fray with fresh ideas and leadership? Or will they
fold, casting bitter eulogies to their own imagined glories as they
exit the stage?
They don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. And in many cases, they’re literally paid not to get it.
journalism infrastructure – from corporate giants to non-profit
foundations like the American Press Institute and the Newspaper
Association of America – is funded by dying companies. So when you hear
about efforts to save newspapers (and, by extension, journalism),
understand that answers that don’t return the possibility of double-digit profits and perpetual top-down control aren’t even considered answers. They’re not even considered.
They’ll do anything to survive… so long as it doesn’t involve change.
Click on over and read the rest of the piece. And then go to the comments section – because the action is always in the comments – and check out the long, impassioned note from someone trapped in a sinking newsroom.
Do not count me – yet – amongst those who hope that, well, now that it’s (allegedly) become clear that newspapers are fated to die, then let’s just get this over with. I still think that they can turn things around – the recent LA Times excellent Mapping LA project is a great step towards building the kind of hyperlocal database and information exchange network that could take off and fulfill all those dreams about the possibilities of digital local coverage.
While I am all for the development of the new content & biz models touted in Xark!, I don’t think they are ready – yet – to step into the line of fire and take over in collecting and distributing the information that we need to be able to function effectively as a society. Hell, as a civilization.
The anger in the screen on Xark! is palpable, and I will cop to feeling it on more than one occasion. But I am not yet ready to give in to it. to throw in the towel and just lean back and toast marshmallows over the flames.
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. [...more]
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.
"We’re about to get another breakthrough, another interface leap. If I knew what it was, I would start a company there. But I don’t know what it is yet, but I have some ideas, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today." - John Battelle
“We’re about to get another breakthrough, another interface leap. If I knew what it was, I would start a company there. But I don’t know what it is yet, but I have some ideas, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.” – John Battelle
Battelle says he stayed up late one night (visions of the mythical college dorm room & heavy inhalation) to come up with this heavy information and interface theories, and worked up this speech to try to describe where he sees the future of the web going.
If what he said above is right, then there is about to be another evolutionary stage, and the current titans of search (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc.) are going to be replaced by The New Hot Thing. He seems to be hanging his hat on “conversations” which sounds pretty good to me – the human urge to connect & trade information is one of the strongest forces on the web. I’m just not entirely convinced that the Facebook/MySpace paradigm is at all viable. We’re been waiting a while now for anything remotely resembling a business model to emerge, and the latest news is that Google’s shareholders are starting to get a bit bent out of shape about subsidizing the world’s inconsequential home videos, and that Emperor’s Missing Wardrobe-type questions are starting to get asked about the 1/2 billion a year burn rate.
YouTube will manage to rake in about $240 million in ad revenue in 2009, against operating costs of roughly $711 million, leading to a shortfall of just over $470 million. This half-billion dollar loss comes after more than a year of feverish experimentation in various forms of advertising, cross-product embedding, licensing and partnership deals. YouTube is adamant that ultimately they’ll find an advertising solution that will enable the ungainly behemoth to reach profitability. Looking at the math, it doesn’t seem likely.
Battelle’s take on where all this is headed is pretty complex, and not all that out of line with things that you’ve probably heard before. This is only the first part, so stick with it – it gets more rewarding as we go along.
Here’s some teaser quotes to get you to click over and watch the video – please excuse the camera movement, but Battelle kept pacing around on the stage, and I had to either go so wide that focus was a problem, or track him, making the camera movements a little jerky.
Every publisher is now a marketer … you have to engage the audience in a conversation … if you don’t know how to do that, you’ll die. That’s it. It’s over.
I call this the conversation economy. It’s kind of a sequel to the search.
The three-bump theory of how man interacts with technology … as Eric Schmidt is fond of saying ‘25% of GDP is fine with me.”
We all give Apple credit, but basically we know that Windows won. I call this the “hunt and poke” interface … that’s way better than learning a foreign language like FORTRAN. That’s also called the “I’m lost in a foreign country interface.”
We started having conversations at scale with our customers. All of a sudden every customer could talk to every company, and nobody was ready for the conversation. But around the turn of the century, we started to develop that interface, and that interface, I argue is search. This is the first time we have ever been able to have a conversation in our own natural language with a machine. People don’t see search that way, but I do.
This is the first part of the rather incendiary keynote speech by Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo.com, at the OMMA Hollywood 2009 conference. The keynote's title is "Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression," and in it, Calacanis cheers the death of newspapers and "Old Media," and lauds paid search as the "most powerful advertising medium ever created." [...more]
Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression
Curmudgeons skip directly to 7:50 or so, for the juicy bits. If you are in a crowded place, please allow at least 10 feet of safety space in all directions for when your head explodes.
This is the first part of the rather incendiary keynote speech by Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo.com, at the OMMA Hollywood 2009 conference. The keynote’s title is “Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression,” and in it, Calacanis cheers the death of newspapers and “Old Media,” and lauds paid search as the “most powerful advertising medium ever created.”
Not coincidentally, Mahalo is a paid search company.
Along the way, Calacanis also trashes social media advertising, showing screenshots of drunken parties to “prove” that all advertising on this platform is unwelcome, intrusive and doomed to die.
“Gosh, newspapers didn’t see this coming, did they? I mean, the newspapers were reporting on their own demise for a decade. And they still couldn’t change it.
It’d be as if you’re the Titanic and you haven’t even left port yet. And they’re like, “By the way, there’s a lot of icebergs to the north.” And you’re like “OK, thanks.” A day later, it’s “Icebergs are still there.”
They’re like, “Full speed ahead! To the icebergs, as quick as possible!”
They did nothing. They deserve to die. Don’t cry for newspapers, it’s great that they go out of business, because new things can take their place that are better. Much better.
Don’t cry for journalism. Rejoice, because a new journalism is being built, today, as we speak. And it’s going to be better than the last one.
“They deserve to go away. Goodby, good riddance.”
The keynote was obviously designed to provoke a reaction (more than one conference attendee muttered “linkbait” after listening), and it certainly did that, as every other session after this opened with the panel trying to refute Calacanis’ claims. I’ll post John Battelle‘s rather more measured keynote tomorrow.
I have a few reactions to this, and I’ll post some more with the other three videos in this series. But to start with, the notion that newspapers did nothing at all about the internet is absolutely false. The industry has tried to engage with online since before there was an internet (you’ve probably all seen those videos from San Francisco, showing the early paper over video screen tech of the 80s). The problem is, that the battlefield on which newspaper have been trying to engage has shifted radically. First, it was the fight between portals – Prodigy vs. CompuServe vs. AOL. Then it was Netscape vs. Internet Explorer. Yahoo vs. Google. Facebook vs. MySpace.
Newspapers are a $50 billion a year industry, with tremendously expensive production and distribution infrastructure, grown up over centuries. If the Tribune chain had just splashed kerosene over the presses back in ’92, and declared in the flickering light that they were shifting every penny over into becoming a competitor to AOL … well, they probably still woulda wound up about where they are. But along the way, there would have been tremendous dislocation – millions of readers not getting information. Millions of readers turning to competitive print products that would have made billions.
So the newspaper industry has tried incremental solutions. Right up to this point, where, as we see in Seattle & Denver (despite what Jason sneers at, there are plenty of people who want to read what he dismisses as “boring” stories about local government, taxation, schools and crime) the papers are being forced to migrate to the web under conditions that are nothing short of brutal.
It’s all very well and good to talk about the exciting news products that are “being built today, as we speak.” But I know many of the people that work at these small, struggling web news outfits. They are up against the wall, just trying to keep the broadband bill paid. They are not going to be able to devote thousands of man-hours to digging through documents and making connections, and going out and doing original research (i.e. interviewing people to get things that are not archived on the magical, all-seeing web). Maybe this will be solved someday – but it ain’t the case today, and that’s when we need it. We need this kind of enterprise reporting, or this country is going to implode, because society is angry at the economic collapse, and nobody’s really been able to dig deep enough to explain it. At least, not in a way that holds up & makes sense for more than a month or so…
If I sound like a bit of a curmudgeon here, well, it’s hard to watch this and not get a bit grouchy. I agree with Jason on the broad points – that Big Media has sinned, and is paying the price; that ad dollars are shifting to where the consumer eyeballs are, and that this trend is only accelerating.
General interest sites, however ... well, let me put it this way. Check out the sode aisle in the supermarket next time you're there. Diet Coke, Diet Coke with Lime, Diet Coke with Splenda, Diet Vanilla Coke, Diet Black Cherry Coke, Coke Blak, Regular Coke, No-Caffeine Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Caffeine Free Coke, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, Diet Coke with Vitamins.
Each of those products exists because there is a niche out there that wants to drink them. Why would Coke want to waste its ad dollars for health nuts that want a soda that has vitamins and that they can delude themselves into thinking that is "good for them" ... on a site that has an audience of cigar-smoking red-meat-eaters?
The advertisers have had to fragment their products. Those fragmented products have to be marketed just to the people who are going to buy them, or they are not viable. That means that the platforms that those products advertise on have to be similarly well-defined.
The root of the problems with mass media isn't that there isn't interest in the information - it's that the advertising money is shifting away to places where the audience is better defined & targetable. [...more]
This is going to have to be quick – I haven’t had any spare time to blog, since I’ve been finishing up on editing the Great Big Scary Project, and I have to churn out my intros to said project, along with sprucing up my multimedia examples for my trip to Kiev.
But – two items this week converged (yeah, there’s that word) to illustrate one of the powerful, emerging lessons about New Media. It’s one that I learned years ago, when I first rode a couple of dot-bombs all the way down into the crater.
Big site traffic numbers do not necessarily mean big money. Read More