"SAN FRANCISCO – Three weeks after Curtis Kimball opened his crème brûlée cart in San Francisco, he noticed a stranger among the friends in line for his desserts. How had the man discovered the cart? He had read about it on Twitter.
For Mr. Kimball, who conceded that he 'hadn't really understood the purpose of Twitter,' the beauty of digital word–of–mouth marketing was immediately clear. He signed up for an account and has more than 5,400 followers who wait for him to post the current location of his itinerant cart and list the flavors of the day, like lavender and orange creamsicle.
'I would love to say that I just had a really good idea and strategy, but Twitter has been pretty essential to my success,' he said. He has quit his day job as a carpenter to keep up with the demand.
Much has been made of how big companies like Dell, Starbucks and Comcast use Twitter to promote their products and answer customers' questions. But today, small businesses outnumber the big ones on the free microblogging service, and in many ways, Twitter is an even more useful tool for them."
(Claire Cain Miller, 22 July 2009, New York Times)
"Fashion photographer and filmmaker Jacob Sutton swaps the studio for the slopes of Tignes in the Rhône–Alpes region of south–eastern France, with a luminous after hours short starring Artec pro snowboarder William Hughes. The electrifying film sees Hughes light up the snow–covered French hills in a bespoke L.E.D.–enveloped suit courtesy of designer and electronics whizz John Spatcher. 'I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness,' says Sutton of his costume choice. 'I've always been excited by unusual ways of lighting things, so it seemed like an exciting idea to make the subject of the film the only light source.' Sutton, who has created work for the likes of Hermès, Burberry and The New York Times, spent three nights on a skidoo with his trusty Red Epic camera at temperatures of –25C to snap Hughes carving effortlessly through the deep snow, even enlisting his own father to help maintain the temperamental suit throughout the demanding shoot. 'Filming in the suit was the most surreal thing I've done in 20 years of snowboarding,' says Hughes of the charged salopettes. 'Luckily there was plenty of vin rouge to keep me warm, and Jacob's enthusiasm kept everyone going through the cold nights.'"
(Nowness, 16 February 2012)
[This dramatic clip appears to have been designed to target the audience of the new lifestyle magazine called "Nowness". The wish is presumably that the clip becomes a carrier for promoting the magazine's brand.]
"I've increasingly felt that digital journalism and digital humanities are kindred spirits, and that more commerce between the two could be mutually beneficial. That sentiment was confirmed by the extremely positive reaction on Twitter to a brief comment I made on the launch of Knight–Mozilla OpenNews, including from Jon Christensen (of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford, and formerly a journalist), Shana Kimball (MPublishing, University of Michigan), Tim Carmody (Wired), and Jenna Wortham (New York Times).
Here's an outline of some of the main areas where digital journalism and digital humanities could profitably collaborate. It's remarkable, upon reflection, how much overlap there now is, and I suspect these areas will only grow in common importance."
(Dan Cohen's Digital Humanities Blog)
"Mark Zuckerberg, a journalist was asking him a question about the news feed. And the journalist was asking him, 'Why is this so important?' And Zuckerberg said, 'A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.' And I want to talk about what a Web based on that idea of relevance might look like.
So when I was growing up in a really rural area in Maine, the Internet meant something very different to me. It meant a connection to the world. It meant something that would connect us all together. And I was sure that it was going to be great for democracy and for our society. But there's this shift in how information is flowing online, and it's invisible. And if we don't pay attention to it, it could be a real problem. So I first noticed this in a place I spend a lot of time –– my Facebook page. I'm progressive, politically –– big surprise –– but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.
So Facebook isn't the only place that's doing this kind of invisible, algorithmic editing of the Web. Google's doing it too. If I search for something, and you search for something, even right now at the very same time, we may get very different search results. Even if you're logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at –– everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located –– that it uses to personally tailor your query results. Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore. And you know, the funny thing about this is that it's hard to see. You can't see how different your search results are from anyone else's.
But a couple of weeks ago, I asked a bunch of friends to Google 'Egypt' and to send me screen shots of what they got. So here's my friend Scott's screen shot. And here's my friend Daniel's screen shot. When you put them side–by–side, you don't even have to read the links to see how different these two pages are. But when you do read the links, it's really quite remarkable. Daniel didn't get anything about the protests in Egypt at all in his first page of Google results. Scott's results were full of them. And this was the big story of the day at that time. That's how different these results are becoming.
So it's not just Google and Facebook either. This is something that's sweeping the Web. There are a whole host of companies that are doing this kind of personalization. Yahoo News, the biggest news site on the Internet, is now personalized –– different people get different things. Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times –– all flirting with personalization in various ways. And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see. As Eric Schmidt said, 'It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.'
So I do think this is a problem. And I think, if you take all of these filters together, you take all these algorithms, you get what I call a filter bubble. And your filter bubble is your own personal unique universe of information that you live in online. And what's in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don't decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don't actually see what gets edited out. So one of the problems with the filter bubble was discovered by some researchers at Netflix. And they were looking at the Netflix queues, and they noticed something kind of funny that a lot of us probably have noticed, which is there are some movies that just sort of zip right up and out to our houses. They enter the queue, they just zip right out. So 'Iron Man' zips right out, and 'Waiting for Superman' can wait for a really long time.
What they discovered was that in our Netflix queues there's this epic struggle going on between our future aspirational selves and our more impulsive present selves. You know we all want to be someone who has watched 'Rashomon,' but right now we want to watch 'Ace Ventura' for the fourth time. (Laughter) So the best editing gives us a bit of both. It gives us a little bit of Justin Bieber and a little bit of Afghanistan. It gives us some information vegetables, it gives us some information dessert. And the challenge with these kinds of algorithmic filters, these personalized filters, is that, because they're mainly looking at what you click on first, it can throw off that balance. And instead of a balanced information diet, you can end up surrounded by information junk food.
What this suggests is actually that we may have the story about the Internet wrong. In a broadcast society –– this is how the founding mythology goes –– in a broadcast society, there were these gatekeepers, the editors, and they controlled the flows of information. And along came the Internet and it swept them out of the way, and it allowed all of us to connect together, and it was awesome. But that's not actually what's happening right now. What we're seeing is more of a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is that the algorithms don't yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did. So if algorithms are going to curate the world for us, if they're going to decide what we get to see and what we don't get to see, then we need to make sure that they're not just keyed to relevance. We need to make sure that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important –– this is what TED does –– other points of view.
And the thing is we've actually been here before as a society. In 1915, it's not like newspapers were sweating a lot about their civic responsibilities. Then people noticed that they were doing something really important. That, in fact, you couldn't have a functioning democracy if citizens didn't get a good flow of information. That the newspapers were critical, because they were acting as the filter, and then journalistic ethics developed. It wasn't perfect, but it got us through the last century. And so now, we're kind of back in 1915 on the Web. And we need the new gatekeepers to encode that kind of responsibility into the code that they're writing.
I know that there are a lot of people here from Facebook and from Google –– Larry and Sergey –– people who have helped build the Web as it is, and I'm grateful for that. But we really need you to make sure that these algorithms have encoded in them a sense of the public life, a sense of civic responsibility. We need you to make sure that they're transparent enough that we can see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters. And we need you to give us some control, so that we can decide what gets through and what doesn't. Because I think we really need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it's not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a Web of one."
(Eli Pariser, TED.com)
Fig.1 recorded at TED2011, March 2011, in Long Beach, CA. duration: 9:05
"There are few things journalists like to discuss more than, well, themselves and the long–term prospects for their industry. How long will print newspapers survive? Are news aggregation sites the future? Or are online paywalls – such as the one the New York Times just launched – the way to go? As media organizations plot their future, it's worth discarding some misconceptions about what it will take to keep the press from becoming yesterday's news.
1. The traditional news media are losing their audience.
Many predicted that the rise of the Internet and online publishing meant that mainstream media organizations would lose their readers and viewers, with technology breaking their oligarchic control over news. But that's not the overall picture.
Yes, people are migrating online. In 2010, the Internet passed newspapers for the first time as the platform where Americans 'regularly' get news, according to survey data from the Pew Research Center. Forty–six percent of adults say they go online for news at least three times a week, as opposed to 40 percent who read newspapers that often. Only local television news is a more popular destination, at 50 percent.
But online news consumers are heading primarily to traditional sources. Of the 25 most popular news Web sites in the United States, for instance, all but two are 'legacy' media sources, such as the New York Times or CNN, or aggregators of traditional media, such as Yahoo or Google News. Of the roughly 200 news sites with the highest traffic, 81 percent are traditional media or aggregators of it. And some old media are seeing their overall audience – in print and on the Web – grow.
The crisis facing traditional media is about revenue, not audience. And in that crisis, newspapers have been hardest hit: Ad revenue for U.S. newspapers fell 48 percent from 2006 to 2010.
2. Online news will be fine as soon as the advertising revenue catches up.
Such hopes are misplaced. In 2010, Web advertising in the United States surpassed print advertising for the first time, reaching $26 billion. But only a small fraction of that, perhaps less than a fifth, went to news organizations. The largest share, roughly half, went to search engines, primarily Google. The newspaper industry illustrates the problem. Even though about half the audience may now be accessing papers online, the newspaper industry took in $22.8 billion last year in print ad revenue but only $3 billion in Web–based revenue.
Journalism thrived in decades past because news media were the primary means by which industry reached customers. In the new media landscape, there are many ways to reach the audience, and news represents only a small share.
3. Content will always be king.
The syllogism that helped journalism prosper in the 20th century was simple: Produce the journalism (or 'content') that people want, and you will succeed. But that may no longer be enough.
The key to media in the 21st century may be who has the most knowledge of audience behavior, not who produces the most popular content. Understanding what sites people visit, what content they view, what products they buy and even their geographic coordinates will allow advertisers to better target individual consumers. And more of that knowledge will reside with technology companies than with content producers.
Google, for instance, will know much more about each user than will the proprietor of any one news site. It can track users' online behavior through its Droid software on mobile phones, its Google Chrome Web browser, its search engine and its new tablet software.
The ability to target users is why Apple wants to control the audience data that goes through the iPad. And the company that may come to know the most about you is Facebook, with which users freely share what they like, where they go and who their friends are.
4. Newspapers around the world are on the decline.
Actually, print circulation worldwide was up more than 5 percent in the past five years, and the number of newspapers is growing. In general, print media are thriving in the developing world and suffering in rich nations. Print newspaper ad revenue, for instance, rose by 13 percent in India and by 10 percentin Egypt and Lebanon in the last year for which data is available. But it fell by 8 percent in France and 20 percent in Japan.
The forces tied to a thriving print newspaper industry include growing literacy, expanding population, economic development and low broadband penetration. In India, for example, the population is growing and becoming more literate, but a substantial portion is not yet online.
By and large, American newspapers are suffering the most. Roughly 75 percent of their revenue comes from advertising, vs. 30 percent or 40 percent in many other countries, where papers live and die by circulation. That means the collapse of advertising is not hitting papers elsewhere as hard as it is hitting them here. It also suggests that the need to charge for online access may be even more important abroad.
5. The solution is to focus on local news.
Going 'hyperlocal' was the war cry of Wall Street to the news industry five years ago. The reasoning was simple: In the Internet age, when users can access content from anywhere, it didn't make sense for local operations to compete with the big national news providers.
The problem is that hyperlocal content, by definition, has limited appeal. To amass an audience large enough to generate significant ad revenue, you have to produce a large volume of content from different places, and that is expensive. On top of that, many hyperlocal advertisers are not yet online, limiting the ad dollars.
Now we are entering what might be called Hyperlocal 2.0, and the market is still up for grabs. Google, which garners two–thirds of all search advertising dollars nationally, doesn't exert similar control over local advertising. Locally, display ads – all those banners and pop–ups – are a bigger share of the market than search ads.
But how to produce local content remains a mystery. Can you put paywalls around it? Can you build a 'pro–am' model, in which professional journalists work with low–paid amateurs to produce a comprehensive report? Or will the winner be something like AOL's Patch, in which hundreds of hyperlocal sites are owned by a single company that can connect those readers with major advertisers?
So far, no one has really cracked the code for producing profitable local news online.
Tom Rosenstiel is director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. He is the co–author, with Bill Kovach, of 'Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload.'"
(Tom Rosenstiel, 7 April 2011, The Washington Post)