Archive for March, 2011


Google has just announced a new social aspect to their search engine, simply called +1. As detailed in an article by the Financial Times, (http://on.ft.com/e3dMip) Google is trying to use this new feature to compete with Facebook’s “like” system of judging web content.

Personally, I think this is a really smart idea. Google should be able to use this data to draw advertisers to sites with the highest amount of “+1’s” so that advertisers can see which websites people are most interested in. This in turn could help websites to adjust their prices for banner ads if they have a higher +1 status, or vice versa. In a time when everyone is uncertain of the effectiveness of online advertising, this seems like a likely step in the right direction for ad companies and websites to gauge the popularity of various sites.

If I worked at Google, I would collect this data and then sell it to various websites. That way, Google can turn a profit off of this new system while helping to inform website admins to the popularity of their site. Alternatively, websites might want to pay Google to enable the “+1” feature for their sites when they come up in a search. I really feel like this is a great idea for everyone involved in online marketing, and could definitely boost the ad revenue that is gained by online news media sites. In general, if something works for Facebook, it should work in the broader context of the Internet’s social media capabilities.

Now the only thing left to determine is if Google users will like, I mean, +1, this new feature.

 

 

In this corner... the world champion of all search engines... Google!!!

And in this corner, the fastest growing social network on the web... Facebook!!!

Today I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a discussion panel of graduate students from Stony Brook’s School of Journalism, and what I heard was not disappointing. Four graduate students from various years were present, each with excellent jobs and even more promising career opportunities ahead of them. The grad students each had a very different job, with some working as sports writers, web journalists, and even ethnically-driven news site reporters.

The thing that most impressed me about the grad students was their confidence. Most of them weren’t much older than myself, and already they had an air of confidence, professionalism and wisdom that I struggle to see myself having as a sophomore journalism student. I was amazed by how quickly they had transformed from students like me into professionals in the journalism world. Their success stories and even some of their missteps were inspiring, especially in a field where almost everyone has bad news for prospective journalists.

But these students said yes where others in the industry may have suggested otherwise. I was most impressed with Chris Hunt, a reporter for the Armory Track website. The oldest member of the group at 30, Chris was a down to earth and genuine person who spoke of his success with a great deal of modesty. “Confidence is something you wear,” said Chris. “So make sure it looks good.”

The grad students spoke about the hardships of the job hunt and their personal experience in what to do and also what not to do. I feel like I learned more from this one hour seminar than I have in a month’s worth of classes. Being able to listen to someone who used to be just like you only a few years ago was both inspiring and helpful to my future job hunt.

I really think that the entire School of Journalism could benefit from more seminars such as these. After hearing the grad students talk, I felt really inspired to get out there and give the journalism field everything I’ve got. And that’s a feeling that I fear I was beginning to lose.

After reading the State of the News Media this week, I have to say I was pretty depressed by the results. The decreases in newspaper readership and circulation perfectly matched what we have been talking about in class this semester (I  was hoping to hear differently) Despite the gloominess surrounding the decline in newsprint and cable tv,  there was some good news for online readership. Apparently, more people than ever before get their news online, which may have also helped to bolster online ad revenue.

Finally, some good news! Throughout my journalism career, I have heard about the downfalls of online advertising, but it seems that things may be turning around for digital advertisers. With the growing popularity of online news consumption, it only makes sense that online ad revenue would also increase, since more eyes equals more dollars for marketers. The only concern that I have is with mobile devices and news consumption- where are free mobile apps going to make their money?

I personally read the NY Times on my iPod Touch at least two or three times a week, and there are virtually no ads. I happen to like this a lot as a news consumer, but the journalist part of me worries that these programs will begin to die off if people don’t pay for them and there aren’t any ads to pay for their maintenance. So what is a news organization to do?

Now that almost half of online news consumers use mobile devices to get their daily news, the media needs to figure out a way to offer affordable mobile apps and keep consumers coming back to their apps daily. I think charging something like $5 a month for a news app is a good place to start – in fact, The State of the News Media said that some people are willing to pay for digital news outlets.

As a community of journalists, we need to band together and focus on what works in order to keep our industry strong. Its the only way we can manage to provide the general public with the information they want and need while managing to support ourselves and professional writers and reporters.

Google was recently denied the chance to create a massive online digital library by a New York judge, a decision that either stopped a monopolization of the publishing industry or robbed millions of people of the chance to read rare books http://yhoo.it/fNuVxQ.  However, the real verdict depends on your own opinion of Google laying claim to millions of published works. Would it be so bad to see a massive digital library, populated with books both old and new in an effort to expose readers to new and unheard of titles? Or is Google simply trying to gobble up the entire publishing industry while pretending to be a savior of forgotten literature?

NOM NOM NOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

I personally think that having an entire library of titles available online would be a great resource for people whose local libraries are inadequate or for those who simply can’t afford to buy their favorite books. Everyone is always complaining about how no one reads books anymore, so why not try giving them away for free? If this works, than maybe a paywall-type system can be instituted, so that readers can “subscribe” to the Google library?

And just because Google wants to make all published works available online, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will stop purchasing paper-bound books. Personally, I hate reading on a computer screen for a long period of time, and I can’t afford an e-reader. For people like me, traditional print books are something that can never be replaced.

So do I think an all-encompassing Google library is a good idea? Definitely. But, like all things, it is a concept that needs to be smoothed out before being implemented. I really think that having obscure titles available online would really increase readership, and help to slow the so called “dumbing down” of America. With a paywall type system in place, publishers who negotiate with Google in order to perfect this system may find that something that once seemed so scary may actually turn out to be the publishing industries greatest helper.

But for now, I guess I’ll just have to keep photocopying my bo0ks from the public library.

On Thursday night I attended the News Literacy Conference discussion with Ken Auletta and Dean Howard Schneider, and I honestly thought I was going to be bored. However, within five minutes I found myself raptly listening as these two experienced journalists discussed the present and future status of the news industry.

I had never heard of Ken Auletta before (I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a copy of The New Yorker) but found him to be a very interesting person with a keen eye for spotting trends in the news industry. Dean Schneider and Auletta first discussed the speed with which technology is evolving, which really helped me to put into perspective how far the news gathering and distributing process has come in the past century.

Another interesting topic of discussion was the problems that have arisen in the publishing industry with eBooks. While Auletta agreed that the lower price of eBooks is good for consumers in the short term, he made some excellent points as to why these same benefits could eventually harm consumers and the news industry as a whole in the long run.

One of the most interesting things that Auletta said during the course of the conversation was that “the news media is no longer in control of its own destiny.” I completely agree with this statement- it seems like more and more news organizations are simply trying to stay afloat with the current web advertising model and are failing to try unique and unorthodox new payment models. If the news media keeps playing follow-the-leader, it could be years before we as an industry are able to find a payment system that allows journalists to do quality work and be well resourced.

Auletta also talked about his concept that “Journalism is a kind of seduction without the sex,” meaning that a reporter has to almost “seduce” their subjects in order to get information from them. Aside from being very funny, I found that this statement is for the most part very accurate. In a way, the reporter himself can become seduced by the thrill and satisfaction that comes from producing excellent stories and informing the public through their expertise.

In closing, Auletta said that the new generation of journalists has to stand up and show people the kind of news that is important to them, such as the need for better and more extensive international coverage. Auletta said he understood why the media can be drawn to celebrity stories for easy ratings, but said that journalists need to tell Americans to “eat their peas” so to speak.

I walked away from this session feeling very enlightened and inspired by Auletta’s words. He managed to inspire in me a sense that journalism is not just about getting accurate information – it’s also about helping people to understand why this information is necessary to their everyday lives.

 

 

Any journalist worth his salt has been covering the crisis developing in  Japan this past week. The horrific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami have captivated international audiences and have raised questions about the safety of nuclear power.  Of the many the news outlets that I have been following this week, I have to say that NPR has had the best coverage.

NPR is great for me because I can listen to the news on my commute to school, and the depth and variety of their stories has helped me to see the nuclear crisis through many different lenses. The Morning Edition show of NPR often has correspondents reporting from around the world, and this week the majority of the reports have been from Japan as different correspondents weigh in on the situation as it unfolds.

I was really impressed with the many nuclear experts that NPR has featured on Morning Edition, and I find their stories to be the most concise and informative of all the news networks. I haven’t been a regular listener of NPR until recently, but I find more and more each day that I really value their coverage of international topics.

A lot of times, I find that just by listening to NPR for a half an hour in the morning that I am able to obtain enough of the day’s news to supplement my reading of the Times and television news. For instance, I watched the ABC World Evening News tonight and found that I had already heard most of the stories after having listened to NPR on my way home.

Although I feel that most news organizations are doing a stellar job of covering the potential nuclear crisis in Japan, I have been especially impressed with the coverage done by NPR. In my opinion, radio journalism is massively overlooked in this day and age, and NPR proves that just because the technology is old, it doesn’t mean it isn’t still useful.

With the release of the Ipad 2 this morning, analysts are predicting that the new device may sell 600,000 units in a single weekend (http://bloom.bg/hSOJPe ).  The new device is thinner and features two cameras for video conferencing.

The predicted sales of the Ipad 2 seem to confirm the rise of the tablet as the most popular portable device, as was discussed by Josh Quittner in class on Wednesday. However, how does the popularity of the Ipad 2 affect journalism? Will more consumers begin buying digital magazines on their new devices, and regularly using news apps, such as the one provided by the New York Times?

I have so far been extremely impressed with the Ipad (and all Apple products for that matter). I think that once the prices of digital newspapers and magazines come down to a more socially acceptable price, that people will begin to purchase them in greater numbers. Websites that allow me to read my favorite magazine and newspaper articles for free are great, but they have never been able to capture the unique and timeless layout of a printed magazine or newspaper. There is something so elegant and satisfying about a good magazine that I think has been impossible to emulate until now.

With the large screens on most tablets on the market, magazine layouts can finally be aranged more traditionally than their website brethren. I would love to be able to get my hands on a great digital magazine that looks and reads like a traditional printed magazine.

While I don’t think the Ipad 2 will be the end all and be all of tablet devices, I think it is definitely a step in the right direction.  With tablets’ ability to play flash video and much more, it might even be plausible to see a digital magazine with a video clip embedded rather than a static picture. The possibilities for  digital magazines are very exciting, and hopefully the creators of such apps will take these possibilities into consideration in the future.

If Justin Beiber can become an overnight sensation because of YouTube, who’s to say that the next Steven Spielberg won’t be found there too?

Google, the owner of YouTube, has purchased the web video company Next New Video for $50 million dollars, as announced on Monday (http://nyti.ms/gB2TI9). Next New Video is a website through which users can create their own videos and distribute them for profit.

The acquisition of Next New Video may turn out to be a huge success for YouTube. When most people think of YouTube videos, some of the first things that come to mind are dogs on skateboards and other America’s Funniest Home Video type of clips. However, genuinely talented people have been discovered on YouTube, including Justin Beiber (like him or not) and the newest lead singer of the rock band Journey.

Professional, full length videos on YouTube might be the start of independently produced feature films, news shows, and even accurate newscasts by citizen journalists. Much like public access TV gave regular Americans access to a television audience, YouTube has given people all over the world the chance to get exposure on an international level. I’m actually shocked that more directors and citizen journalists haven’t been discovered already.

I think the acquisition of Next New Video by YouTube is a great thing. By giving people easy access to software that allows them to create professional grade videos instead of amateurish gag clips, more and more budding journalists and film directors will surely begin to make their work known. The world has seen enough silly viral videos and teen idols gain popularity from YouTube – Bring on the award winning online journalists and Oscar winning directors.

From this...

To this!

 

This morning I read a very interesting article from the New York Times about a battle that had taken place in the town of Brega, Libya between Colonel Quaddafi’s military forces and the opposition group (http://nyti.ms/gJuu0o). The reporter, David Kirkpatrick, was able to give a detailed eyewitness account of the battle, which, although I found to be poorly written, was very interesting and colorful.

The rebels fighting against Quaddafi’s forces in Libya have made some significant gains in the past weeks, but many fear that the growing power of Quaddafi’s military will soon overtake the freedom fighters. Even though the opposition forces were able to push back the military today, the battle is becoming increasingly more difficult.

I really wish that the United Nations would do more to help the people of Libya. I understand that the United States is in a tough position right now, but I feel that it is wrong to let these injustices go unpunished. Furthermore, we may be able to gain some much needed allies in the Middle East if we were to step in and help the freedom fighters retake Libya from Quaddafi’s forces.

Every day that the fighting continues, more and more innocent people are dying for their cause. In order to help restore balance to the Middle East, we need to intervene to help rid the people of Libya from their oppressive dictator.

The events in the Middle East have shocked the international community. Hopefully with enough aid from the United Nations and the United States, the people of Libya can return to their daily lives, and we can reestablish the relative tranquility in the Middle East. What America does or does not do in the next few weeks may determine the political outcome of the region, as well as influence the rest of the world’s politcal relationships.

With the federal budget in its current state, it’s understandable that some major cuts have to be made across all areas, including public news. However, some Republicans are proposing cuts to PBS and NPR that could severely cripple these American institutions. An article in yesterday’s New York Times (http://nyti.ms/fBWDPH) explains some reasons for these budgetary cuts and the history of the struggle between government and public radio (apparently, this sort of thing has been going on for years).

I’m very concerned about what may happen if government funding is cut for public news stations. I’ve finally begun listening to NPR, and I find their coverage of the news to be good enough to supplement a good deal of my newspaper reading. It is also highly convenient to listen to NPR on the radio on my way to school and work as opposed to reading a newspaper. I have heard some very interesting and unique stories on NPR, most notably a phone interview with a 50 yr old Libyan businessman in the midst of gunfire from protesters.

While I don’t regularly watch PBS, I agree with what Patricia Harrison, the chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said about public news in the New York Times article:

She cited her experience running a small business as evidence that it was possible to cut too deeply, and equated public broadcasting to the Statue of Liberty, noting that even if Americans did not always visit, they wanted to know that it was there.

“It’s not always about numbers,” she said.

I feel like PBS and NPR are American Institutions that are worth fighting for. After all, public radio and public news in general has remained a reliable source for news, and should be held to the standard of other larger, better known news providers such as the New York Times or the Wall St. Journal.