Tag Archives: digital media

Crying Wolff about the state of digital media

It’s not news that Michael Wolff is sour on digital media, and has been for quite a while, and this recent Q and A with Digiday makes it clear his mood is as dour as it’s ever been:

“TV was the wasteland. Now digital media is the wasteland. There’s nothing there. A deluge of crap. TV has gone in the other direction and produced these things everybody watches and talks about and become important signposts of the culture. So TV is upscale, and digital is downscale media.”

What’s more, he says that what successful web plays like Vice are really angling for is some kind of TV gig. But he’s off the mark in claiming that “digital media has killed music, has killed newspapers.” No, those industries cemented their own demise long before Napster and Matt Drudge, et al, came along. Not that Wolff cares about being right, even after being reminded that he once predicted the end of BuzzFeed. Classic reply:

“What the hell, that’s karma.”

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Discerning views about the digiterati

One of the biggest developments in the five-plus years since I first began my digital media education in a serious manner is learning how to better evaluate the claims of those I like to call the “digiterati” — especially when they sound absolutist.

I’m generally bullish on the Web, particularly as it applies to the journalism profession. Being among the tens of thousands of those having joined the print diaspora, I know the transformation will take years and decades, and may not save many of us who are mid-career journalists.

On other topics related to the Web, such as the evolution of open societies, for example, I cannot offer a more informed opinion. But that hasn’t stopped some in the digiterati from claiming that democracy is on the march. This is not the case everywhere, as Evgeny Morozov explained recently in “The Digital Dictatorship,” revealing a rather big hole in the ideology of those he has labeled the “techno-utopians:”

“. . . while the American public is actively engaged in a rich and provocative debate about the Internet’s impact on our own society — asking how new technologies affect our privacy or how they change the way we read and think — we gloss over such subtleties when talking about the Internet’s role in authoritarian countries. . . . While we fret about the Internet’s contribution to degrading the civic engagement of American kids, all teenagers in China or Iran are presumed to be committed and engaged global citizens who use the Web to acquaint themselves with human rights violations committed by their governments.”

I recalled Morozov’s argument this week when I was catching up on news about the release of iPad. There’s unhappiness within the techno-utopian set about what some have heatedly labeled a not-so-shiny new toy. All of which made Nick Carr, my favorite critic of the digiterati, rather gleeful:

“Progress may, for a time, intersect with one’s own personal ideology, and during that period one will become a gung-ho technological progressivist. But that’s just coincidence. In the end, progress doesn’t care about ideology. Those who think of themselves as great fans of progress, of technology’s inexorable march forward, will change their tune as soon as progress destroys something they care deeply about.”

Some like to accuse “old media” of getting too comfortable with their own value systems that blind them to what’s happening to the public they serve. Carr calls out the digiterati for the same offense.

Some of the “geek gods” — his term — have gotten so carried away with their own technological worldviews that they don’t consider that many outside of their realm may not want what they do from a new device.

Not everybody wants to be a content creator. Not all are constantly flushed with the compulsion to be all multimedia, all the time, and always, always, to be connected.

Sometimes we just want to sit back and be the audience for a while.

I don’t know what to make of the iPad because I haven’t held one in my hands and played with it. But this might be the invention that gets my 74-year-old mother to ditch her badly outdated WebTV (yes, she still has WebTV!) to surf and check e-mail more easily and conveniently.

Not everything that comes on the market is designed for the “thought leaders,” those so offended by what the iPad represents that in one instance shipping the “Bizarro Trojan Horse” back to Apple was the only appropriate thing to do.

Their certitude and bluster is no different than that of tough-minded literary and restaurant critics. Maybe they’ll be right about the iPad.

But I do find it ironic that those who like to snort at middle-brow technology users have given up on something before it’s been widely sold, or has undergone upgrades and improvements.

Perhaps I’ve been following the digiterati long enough to be better able to discern when they’re dispensing something of value and when they’re just full of hot air.

But when far too many of them sound like overgrown, impulsive, perpetually disappointed teenage boys — not many females here — I tend to think what what they’re serving up is more of the latter.

Happy happy gobble gobble

Just wishing everyone observing the American Thanksgiving a very good, peaceful, restful and enjoyable holiday.

I’m still burrowed in the work of launching a sports site I’ve mentioned here before, and hope to finish that in the coming days.

My posting here has been more sporadic than I intended as I work on that project, but I want to return to more active blogging as soon as possible. There’s been a lot going on in the journalism and media realms, as usual, and there’s so much I want to explore when I get the time.

So my thanks to you for your patience.

In the meantime, help yourself to some links on journalism, media and work, plus some miscellany, that have caught my eye on the fly . . .

Walt Disney vs. the news industry: How bad management is killing newspapers and their websites (Online Journalism Review)

Journalism, Technology Starting to Add Up (MediaShift Idea Lab)

How Demand Media’s Business Model Can be Applied to Niche Sites (Poynter)

Reinvention: Now the job requirement for Boomer women (Vibrant Woman)

It’s Not the Recession, You Just Suck (Outspoken Media via Mike Wells)

Local Bookstores, Social Hubs, and Mutualization (Clay Shirky)

Coffeehouses: Bringing the buzz back (Wall Street Journal via Evgeny Morozov)

 

 

A little media blogging on the fly . . .

I do want to return to blogging a bit more substantively about many of the topics I’m linking to below. But I’m trying to launch a site and grapple with some serious server meltdown issues that are preventing this from happening. The life of a Web entrepreneur is a glamorous one, I tell you. What I offer here I do so without comment or elaboration — for now:

Newspapers Not Evolving Enough for Digital Demand:

“I have wanted to work for a forward-leaning digital company for a long time. Part of this is recognition that newspapers have limited resources, they are saddled with legitimate legacy businesses that they have to focus on first. I am a digital guy and the digital world is evolving rapidly. I don’t want to have to wait for the traditional news industry to catch up.”

We Need ‘Philosophy of Journalism:”

“Every journalism student should be required to take a course in ‘Philosophy of Journalism,’ to develop the intellectual instincts and reflexes that will make the approach to truth of both practices a permanent part of his or her intellectual makeup. Imagine a world in which every column about the Obama administration’s battle with Fox News came with profound context about the large issues involved. A sweet, rather than tweet, thought.”

Does Political Journalism Focus on the Trivial?

“In the 60s journalism was a craft, not a profession, and more identified with ordinary people. Now, we’ve lost some of our idealism. The media and politicians are going down together in terms of cynicism.”

‘The Daily Show’ crew serious about media criticism:

“Too often, King said, journalists’ political coverage — and that of media critics — ends up being sanitized and nothing but a perfunctory he said/she said exchange. ‘If you were going to talk about whether the earth is flat, and 99 percent of scientists are saying it’s round, and 1 percent are saying it’s flat, you wouldn’t bring on the 1 percent guy. That viewpoint is factually inaccurate and they shouldn’t bring him on just to give the illusion of balance.’ “

Fertile Ground for Startups:

“Startups are playing an increasingly important role in American business, and they may play a central role in any recovery. As of the end of 2008, companies infused with venture capital were responsible for generating 12 million jobs and 20% of U.S. gross domestic product, according to a recent survey published by the National Venture Capital Assn.”

The War for the Web:

“It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.”

Some post-Labor Day ideas on labor

I like to start each week with some positive, upbeat thoughts not only about the work I’ve got on my agenda, but also to stay sharp on the challenges of the changing nature of work, career and the creative impulses. Here are a few items that have been on my mind in recent days:

Lessons from the Great Recession: “Instead of relying on the onetime holy grail of employment—a good-paying job with full benefits—workers may find themselves becoming microentrepreneurs, especially those in creative businesses.”

Sole proprietors account for $1.3 trillion in revenue: “Given these numbers, it’s hard to believe we are often asked if sole proprietors play an important role in the U.S. economy.”

Slaves of the Bonus Culture: “The old class-defined distinctions between those who earn salaries and those who earn wages is thus breaking down. So we encounter the paradox that while everyone today is in some degree professional, that very specialisation combining skill and integrity is breaking down in another sense, especially among the managerial classes. It appears that among many of the richer and more powerful figures, only a kind of special wage, or inducement or incentive, called a bonus, can draw the best out of them.”

•  Work for Passion, Not Money: “You need to understand that your job isn’t just a mindless routine you go through everyday of your life, it’s to contribute – and if you don’t feel happy contributing in a particular field, do something you actually enjoy and are enthusiastic about.” (via Liz Greene)

Real Change, Not Spare Change: “We also need to put people to work building community organizations, and writing plays and making art. The artist’s paycheck is every bit as important as the banker’s paycheck or the auto worker’s paycheck.”

Self promotion and making money in the new digital economy: “In an age in which the old cultural gatekeepers are being swept away, the most pressing challenge of creative artists is to build their own brands. And it’s the Internet which provides creative talent with easy-to-use and cheap tools for their self-promotion.”

Why I Love the Humor of the Web: “As digital matures — and we all agree it is maturing — I hope it doesn’t turn sour and stuffy, like direct marketing traditionally has been (“customer relationship management,” “test-and-learn”), or haughty (“Manifesto”), ephemeral (“Whassup?”) and delayed, like advertising.”

Readings: The Web at 40, and how we’re still kids

I’ll admit it: I’m looking forward to a good long Labor Day respite, and so are you. So I’ll post some really good links here on a Thursday that I usually save for weekend reading. Will return on Tuesday after I get off the griddle for a few days (and I really mean it this time).

The first connection between two computers in September 1969 was a quiet event, eclipsed by such events as Woodstock. Now, some of my fellow aging Baby Boomers are trying to come to grips with the Web and all that it has wrought before we head for the rocking chairs.

What has become a major life-changing event for many of us in the media fields took place right after Richie Havens played his bongos on an upstate New York farm, Richard Nixon summoned the silent majority to speak up, a car careened off a bridge on Chappaquiddick and two men walked on the moon. There was a lot going on.

Various overview thoughts on the Web at early middle age here, here, and here, plus some goodies about the Web and digital life below that have many of us feeling like rebellious teenagers in the face of it all:

The Web Does Not Equal More Civic Engagement: “The impact of these new tools on the future of online political involvement depends in large part upon what happens as this younger cohort of ‘digital natives’ gets older. Are we witnessing a generational change or a life-cycle phenomenon that will change as these younger users age? Will the civic divide close, or will rapidly evolving technologies continue to leave behind those with lower levels of education and income?”

Bill would give President emergency control of Internet: “Rockefeller’s revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a ‘cybersecurity workforce plan’ from every federal agency, a ‘dashboard’ pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a ‘comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy’ in six months–even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.”

The erosion of privacy in the Internet era: “Do we want to live in a society where the government can—regardless of whether they use the power or not—have access to all of our communications? So that they can, if they feel the need, drill down and find us?”

Multitaskers beware: your divided attention comes at a price: “Heavy multitaskers tended to be more readily distracted by extraneous information than their more focused peers. That doesn’t mean that multitasking is a total loss, as there may be benefits that weren’t tested in this study, but it does make the case that heavy multitaskers might want to consider the limits of their habits.”

Why Studies About Multitasking Are Missing The Point: “I reject the notion that media is a stream of soulless ‘content’ that I am ‘consuming’. As a result, I read differently than than someone who simply wants to scan the headlines. An article may cause me to look something up, and I read that, and I need to let some inchoate idea at the back of my mind bubble for a day before taking any measurable action.”

Sentiment Analysis Takes the Pulse of the Internet: “Social media used to be this cute project for 25-year-old consultants. Now, top executives are recognizing it as an incredibly rich vein of market intelligence.”

‘Social Networking’; Give me a break: “Granted, there are people spending too much time on social media, just as others 10 years ago spent too much time surfing the Web, or using AIM. I’m old enough to remember people who spent the entire morning pouring over every word in a newspaper sports section, or checking their stocks. Those who are non-productive in the workplace are obvious, whether they are addicted to Twitter or online puzzles. Why should companies spoil it for everyone else?”

How Twitter saved my career . . . and my life: “Over the course of my unemployment, my Twitter account grew from roughly 2,000 followers to more than 5,000, and it was undoubtedly these impressive numbers and a demonstrated knowledge of the power of social media that played a role in my hiring and differentiated me from others with similar skills.”

A history of blogging, and why it matters: “I am now one of them, although, like half of registered bloggers, I rarely update. As such, I can attest it’s possible to accept blogging with neither cynicism nor Rosenberg’s unequivocal enthusiasm. Blogging is time-consuming no matter what your profession, and if you happen to be in the business of selling your intellectual and creative capital, giving it away free can be a mystifying and maddening expectation.”

Race to Be an Early Adopter Goes Mainstream: “There’s really no group out of the tech loop. America is becoming a digital nation. Technology adoption continues to roll along, picking up more and more mainstream consumers every year.”

Before taking a little time off the grid . . .

I just got a bit too busy — at least to write here in any meaningful way — during what’s been a very productive week.

What I need more than anything is a bit of a break from the Web and will be posting lightly here over the next week. A number of freelance writing proposals, laying the groundwork for some sports media startups and the brainstorming needed to put everything in order will be my priorities.

In addition, I’m doing a little rethinking of this blog to go beyond career reinvention for displaced journalists. I’ve altered the blogroll already and soon will explain more fully the changing focus of what I want to examine here.

But I do want to pass along some good weekend reading links on media, the Web and digital life, as I try to do each Friday. Enjoy and as always, I do appreciate your feedback and comments:

For Families Today, Techology Is Morning’s First Priority: “This is morning in America in the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities.”

The Future of Work, It’s Data, Baby: “As suggested by Daniel Pink’s assertions on the rise of a right-brained working elite, the ability to extract stories from a world of increasing and abundant data will be increasingly critical to many industries. Indeed, the opening of U.S. federal government data at data.gov implies a new societal and cultural importance for data wranglers.”

Tim Berners-Lee: We No Longer Fully Understand the Web: “The brain is something very complicated we don’t understand — yet we rely on it. The web is very complicated too and, though we built it, we have no real data about the stability of the emergent systems that have cropped up on it.”

The Age of the Stream: “As it becomes the primary way we interact with content, streams threaten longer formats like TV shows, articles, albums or books. Over time, we will find we’re no longer a nation that eats media meals. Rather, we’re all-day content snackers — which means we become more source agnostic too.”

Disappearing in the Digital Age: “Mr Ratliff is truly testing the ability to just simply disappear in an age of 24/7 connectedness and digital clues that litter our lives. It’s an intriguing project that at its heart aims to find out ‘what does it take to up and disappear these days? Not to head off the grid for a few days, mind you, but to actually vanish from your life?’ “