Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where to find my links

I've discovered the Web-page sharing tool at http://delicious.com/, and it's taken all the wind out of my blogging sails. if you are interested in following what I'm reading about the intersection of journalism and the Internet, sign up for an account on delicious.com and join my network. My user name is bselvin. You can search on my page for links I've tagged "24/7."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Slaves to connectedness

A poignant post-vacation reflection by Ben Stein on how our communication-and-control society isolates us, a thought that my brother, Al, blogged about rather beautifully, I think.

Monday, July 28, 2008

selvin247 is on summer break

I'll return in September ... Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

ISPs begin experimenting with metered pricing plans

This Times piece weighs the arguments: Are usage caps fair, or will they interfere with the natural growth curve of the Internet?

Friday, June 20, 2008

All Russert, All The Time

A blogger for the Orlando Sentinel takes the networks to task for excessive coverage of Tim Russert's death and memorial service. An excerpt: "Did you notice how MSNBC and CNN called attention to double rainbows over Washington after the Russert service? Yes, it was a sign, all right, to show you've gone soft, real soft."
Hal Boedeker, the blogger, was particularly incensed that on Friday, the NBC Nightly News "devoted its entire half-hour to Russert. The network ignored all the other news in the world. ... flooding in the Midwest, a deadly bombing in Baghdad, fighting in Afghanistan, the possibility of peace talks in the Mideast, talk of oil drilling off the U.S. coast. That last story could become the biggest this year in Florida."
Some who commented on the blog post said they liked the coverage because it helped them process their own feelings and gave them a respite from bad and/or stupid news (think flag pins).
What is the role of network news organizations, anyway?

Huffpo "Aspires To Be A Newspaper"

What's next for local news coverage? Huffington Post is trying local aggregation in Chicago.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What the Heck Is Hulu?

I noted the spate of stories last spring when NBC Universal and News Corp. launched a joint venture called Hulu. I grasped that it had something to do with TV and the Internet, but I never quite figured out the real deal. This story from the Los Angeles Times unwraps the mystery. Hulu lets you watch TV shows, clips and episodes on your computer -- much as you can on network sites, but the links are all in one place. The story calls it a department-store model as opposed to a single-label boutique -- Nordstrom, not Abercrombie & Fitch. It's like Joost, only better and less intrusive. I got rid of Joost--too many annoying e-mails. I went on hulu.com after I read this story, and I liked what I saw. Also worth noting: Hulu signed a deal with rival Viacom allowing it to show complete episodes of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

Obama's Views on Media Policy

Barack Obama discusses his positions on net neutrality, media consolidation, the digital-TV transition and other communications policies with Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The bird whisperer

This is too cool to miss, especially if, like me, you enjoy watching birds. Corey Kilgannon has a phenomenal eye -- or in this case, ear -- for the offbeat story. Students, take note: There are stories all around you, every single day.

Another hint of hope for newspaper revenues

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says he hopes that DoubleClick, which his company recently acquired, will help newspapers increase their online revenues. He sees "a huge moral imperative" to help newspapers survive.
Besides, where else is the news on Google News going to come from?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thoughts on Hillary Clinton's Achievement

Presidential campaigning isn't my usual topic, but I can't let the end of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid pass without comment. I had been ambivalent about Hillary for years, but I made up my mind that I could not support her over the winter after reading Carl Bernstein's biography, "A Woman In Charge." He portrayed a passionate idealist who began to cut ethical corners as soon as she and her husband took power in Arkansas. The unpleasant traits and tendencies he described carried through her White House years and were already beginning to show in the campaign, and I decided that I didn't want the two of them and their psychodramas back in the seat of American power.
But now that her campaign is over, I feel nothing but pride. As a woman, I feel empowered by her courage, her stamina, her intelligence, her conviction. Sure, she made some mistakes, and she got me pretty riled at times, but now that she's ended her run, I'm enormously proud of her. She has made history. The gaffes and exaggerations and sneaky, line-crossing comments she made won't be what people will remember in 25 years. We won't dwell on those things, no matter how annoyed we were at the time; only the political historians will keep those mistakes in focus. What we'll remember, what will stand out as clearly and sharply in 2043 as it does in 2008, is the image of her powerful presence, her success in redefining presidential politics to include the clear possibility of a woman nominee. Bravo, Hillary.

Digital TV Deadline

Come February, when analog TV signals go off the air, viewers with in-home antennas are in for a rude shock. They'll need to buy roof-mounted motorized antennas or subscribe to a pay-TV service. See this piece in Broadcast Engineering.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The End of The Beginning

In my darker moments, I believe that Zell's blindly destructive moves at Tribune are the end of the beginning of the dismantling of America's newspapers.
Zell is a businessman with no sentimental, patriotic, moral or ethical ties to newspapering -- no sense of newspapering's nobility. He sees only the balance sheet. How else could he base staffing decisions on his bizarre idea of "productivity"? Does he really think an investigative reporter, a feature writer, a beat reporter who covers, say, health care or real estate will-- or should be-- in the paper as often as the cop-shop or city hall reporters?
But fewer and fewer newspapers are owned by people who get it, who understand and cherish newspapering as practiced in the United States for the past 150 years. And the mass of owners, the ones who don't get it, are likely to follow Zell's lead because they think only in balance sheets, too.
So while we've seen the death by a thousand cuts at Newsday, the San Jose Mercury News, the Baltimore Sun and too many other once-great papers, now, I fear, we're upgrading to the guillotine.
Randy Michaels as Madame DeFarge, knitting messages to his followers as the condemned mount the steps to the blade?
The bloodletting up to this point has been pinpricks compared with what seems likely to happen now at Tribune. I don't think the tumbrils will roll everywhere. I think the biggest and best papers (all three of them?) will hold off, sticking with the pinpricks as long as they can, until the repeated falling of the guillotine's blade leaves the rest reading like Gannett papers.
But I may be wrong. FishbowlNY keeps a running total of the journalists who have accepted, or been forced to accept, buyouts at the New York Times. Each day's list hurts a little bit more. Maybe the Times has already moved beyond pinpricks -- not quite to the guillotine, but maybe as far as the switchblade.

Less Is Less, But Is It Enough?

The Times reflects on the changes at Tribune.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Citizen Journalists Are Changing The Rules of Engagement

Two of the most controversial quotes from the primary season--Obama's "bitter" comment and Bill Clinton's attack on Vanity Fair reporter Todd Purdum -- emerged from the digital voice recorder of Mayhill Fowler, a self-described citizen journalist who is blogging for Off the Bus, a campaign feature on Huffington Post. Unlike professional journalists, Fowler doesn't identify herself as a reporter when she's talking to people she plans to write about. Some observers of the blogosphere call this a healthy development, arguing that it's up to sources to determine whom they're talking to and that allowing the public to see public figures in their unguarded, unmanicured moments serves readers rather than protecting the reporter-source relationship. The Times explores the issue.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Krugman: 'We Are All The Grateful Dead'

How could I resist a line like that? In his June 6 column, Paul Krugman describes a future in which intellectual property is a loss leader for merchandising--kind of like the Grateful Dead meet Yogurt in "Spaceballs," I suppose. ("'Spaceballs' the flamethrower -- the kids love this one!") It's late on a Friday night. What can I tell you?

Sexism Sells

How television commentators spoke about Hillary -- this is not, in my view, why she lost, but this montage from the Women's Media Center is instructive.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How Not To Do Hyper-Local

The Washington Post's loudonextra.com, its big push into suburban hyperlocal-dom, has been a flop -- largely because the crew of big-name online outsiders never got to know the community, according to this story in the Wall Street Journal. Maybe the Post should have hired weekly newspaper reporters and editors from Loudon County to provide content.

Can Wal-Mart Save Local Newspapers?

Wal-Mart has created an online classified-ad service that includes local newspapers as partners--something Craigslist, often cited as the chief villain in local papers' plummeting ad revenues, has never been willing to do. So far only a few local papers are participating, but the potential is there for newspapers to recapture some of this crucial market, according to http://www.slate.com/id/2192828 by Chatwick Matlin in Slate.

If Not The Demise of Media, Maybe The Demise of Manners

I attended a forum yesterday at NYU's spanking new television studio on the future of media. The panelists were an all-star cast -- media reporters from Vanity Fair, Reuters, The New York Times, Newsweek, New York Post and TechCrunch -- but that didn't stop them from sniping at each other. This post on FishbowlNY captures the mood nicely.

After Murdoch, The Deluge

Michael Wolff doesn't think for a second that Rupert Murdoch expects the fall of print media in his lifetime. But if you don't want to take Rupe's word for it (your call), we have experts to evaluate this sort of thing. Journalists David Carr (New York Times), Keith Kelly (New York Post), Kenneth Li (Reuters), Johnnie Roberts (Newsweek), Erick Schonfeld (TechCrunch), and Michael Wolff (Vanity Fair) took shots at the print world, the online world, and of course, each other during an Internet Week panel discussion on the demise future of media. I Want Media's Patrick Phillips moderated the talk at NYU's Department of Journalism.

Schonfeld used the public platform to announce some "breaking news": the launch of TechCrunch's new video site for entrepreneurs called "Elevator Pitches," where the startups can present themselves for ratings.

Wolff didn't hesitate to profit from the event either, chatting up the November release of his Rupe biography. His comment on Murdoch's plans for the WSJ was, "Buy the book."

The journos took a good look at their "own obsolescence" (Wolff) and argued over their individual relevance. Wolff and Carr were particularly punchy, while Roberts tried to keep the peace and Kelly used the words "camcorder" and "blog" in the same sentence, waxing nostalgic about the penny press.

All in all, these guys didn't know much more about the future of the media than anyone else, making such groundbreaking observations as "newspapers need to reevaluate how they do news" (Kelly).

Read the top 10 scathing remarks after the jump...

Top 10 (Thank you, David Carr):
10. Wolff: "The NYT is getting its news off the Internet, too."
Carr: "That's a bunch of shit."

9. Schonfeld: "If I read something in the Times, I've already seen that story or nugget [online]."
Wolff: "It's certainly longer [in the Times]."
Carr: "I love that Michael makes a crack about length given how long his columns are. Every word of it a shining diamond."

8. Wolff to Roberts: "If Newsweek is still around in five years, I'll buy you dinner."

7. Carr, on Carr: "If I seem smug now, I was a lot more smug a year ago."

6. Carr, on the crash of traditional media: "It's like there's a piano above your head and the wire's been clipped."

5. Wolff, on Newser.com: "Essentially everything that NYT offers, I can offer, too. I can offer it more efficiently. And I can offer more."

4. Carr, to the "news aggregators": "You're a pilot fish." (read: parasite)

3. Carr, on transitioning to online media: "In the adapting matrix, I'm about where Fred Flintstone is."

2. Carr, after Roberts opines on walking into a newsroom with 100's of empty desks: "Have some sheet cake."

1. Wolff on the last "extraordinarily happy" person in media: "After [Rupert Murdoch], I suppose, the deluge."


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jonathan Landman, deputy managing editor of The New York Times, oversees the paper's digital media (and is a member of the Stony Brook U. School of Journalism's Professional Advisory Board). During the last week of May, he answered questions from readers in the Talk to the Newsroom feature.

His most fascinating answer came at the end, and I include it here in full:

Q. How much does the ability of online newspapers to monitor what people are actually reading affect what becomes "newsworthy"? For example, if the day's top E-mailed article is about school finance does that mean that the Times will generate more articles in the future about school finance and less about those articles that don't generate buzz? Is this different from the days of print-only journalism?

— Steve Tomasula
A. There were a lot of smart questions this week about news judgment — in particular about how the new-media environment has affected it. They were deeply informed, sophisticated questions like Mr. Tomasula’s, about serious and difficult issues we wrestle with every day. And there seemed to be a subtext: Aren’t we all going to hell in a handbasket?

I don’t think we are. In fact, I think the opposite. I think this is a remarkably exciting time for journalism, though not always for journalists. The very meaning of news and information is being redefined. Think of how Wikipedia has undermined the settled value of credentialed authority.

Credentialed authority? Oh yes, that’s us.

Rewriting rules and challenging assumptions is heady, stimulating stuff. It’s also unsettling, for us and for readers alike. We ask, “What do readers want from us that’s different from what they wanted before?” Readers ask, “Can we still trust you?”

We know we have to find new ways to tell stories, to communicate more effectively with readers, to engage citizens by helping them make information useful. When we do it people congratulate us for our spirit of adventure and push us to go farther. “It seems like you guys are throwing a lot of your value in the trash by sticking to the traditional, stovepiped newspaper model,” wrote Matt Mireles, who described himself as a 27-year-old digital native.

But readers also warn us against going too far.

Patrick Roath wrote from Somerville, Mass., to ask whether we’re comfortable with leading the news coverage on our Web site with blog posts. “I'm often surprised to see that the Times' headline story is a blog post that, while it may be up-to-date, seems to be hastily put together with little on-the-ground reporting,” Mr. Roath wrote, adding, “They often also contain a good deal of opinion and do not reflect the standards the Times has for News headline stories.”

I disagree on this point. Blogs are terrific for following a running story in real time. That’s why we use them to carry the weight of breaking news. Here’s how our Metro news blog, City Room, covered today’s fatal crane collapse in Manhattan. Read it and judge for yourself. But clearly, the fast-moving, interactive Web and the slower-paced, one-way newspaper work differently. The challenge is to be responsive without surrendering judgment; to adjust old definitions of quality to fit the new medium while staying true to our fundamental values.

Patrick Murphy, of Lionville, Pa., asks for “confirmation that you're willing to let your reporters innovate and learn from crabbed feedback” like his. (He also has problems with blogs.) The answer: Yes! Every day.

So here we are, studying the way readers use our Web site to see if we can figure out what they want. As Mr. Tomasula suggests, we can count every click. We know exactly what people are looking at online, which articles they read, how much video they consume, where they came from and where they go. Another reader, Lucas Vernon, notes correctly that some online news organizations teach reporters to put lots of keywords in the first paragraphs of their articles. This makes the articles more visible to search engines but doesn’t do much for readers who appreciate good prose. So we don't do it.

Some news executives think people should be paid more if their articles get more Web traffic. A good idea? Mr. Vernon doesn’t think so and neither do I. One of the most popular items on nytimes.com in recent memory was a slide show with pictures of celebrities in tuxedos and Oscar gowns. And fine pictures they are. Do I hear anyone arguing that they have more value to New York Times readers than this kind of reporting from the Middle East?

(Don’t lose heart, loyal Times readers! Coverage of the presidential election campaign generates tons of Web traffic and so do investigative scoops like the one that preceded Eliot Spitzer’s political demise.)

We’ll keep studying our readers closely, using the most sophisticated technology and techniques we can muster. We’ll respond by altering the architecture of our Web site, improving the way it works, providing tools to make it more open and flexible. If we discover gaps between our judgment of what is interesting and important and that of the readers who rely on us to help them sort through the noise, we will make the necessary adjustments.

After all, if people stop finding us compelling, we’re dead. Happily, that is not happening. Our Web traffic has been rising. New users are coming. In February, blogs linked to nytimes.com almost 50,000 times, more than double the next most-blogged news site, according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Buzz, properly understood, is good.

We won’t turn into a fanzine when we see that readers like to look at pictures of Oscar gowns. But we might add slide shows to our Movie section. No, Mr. Tomasula, we will not push Iraq off our homepage to pander to school-finance buffs! But we might start weighing the costs and benefits of building an education site.

We are lucky to have in our company a student of Web analytics named Jeffrey Graham. He’s the person who leads our effort to understand our online readers better and here’s his take on how to use reader-research wisely:

I want the site more responsive to users, because I don't think we have the same authority as an institution over Web products and technology (what gets built) as we do over what gets written (and I know that this is a blurred distinction). I think if we aren't responsive to users in what we build, we will not succeed. But I don't believe, at this point, that Web analytics should have any influence over which stories are written, how they are written, and what gets featured. It is negotiating between these two ideas that is hard. I say "at this point" because editors are always responsive to the audience — but the state of the art of analytics is not refined enough to truly represent it in a way that we can trust.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for a lot of challenging and interesting questions. Please keep them coming for my colleagues in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Here Come the Internet Meters

In Beaumont, Texas, Time Warner CAble has begun charging Internet customers $1 for every gigabyte they use above a monthly allowance, the Associated Press says in this story.

Racial Segregation in the Blogosphere

Thought-provoking piece from the SF Chronicle; it says "black bloggers link to black bloggers, and white progressive bloggers link to progressive white bloggers."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We're back!

And here's a new post about Net Neutrality from Wired: Net Neutrality Debate Is Secretly All About Internet Television, Net Pioneers Say

Thursday, April 10, 2008

U.S. broadband penetration


Social networking and politics among the young


Canadian ISPs face net neutrality concerns


Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Post a Big Question on the possible role for nonprofits in the journalism of 2025.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rosenblum's blog mentioned in NY Times roundup


Ten Ways the Internet Could Die


Saturday, April 5, 2008

OK Go speaks on net neutrality

Damian Kulash Jr. testified last week before Congress on net neutrality. He writes about the experience for the Times op-ed page. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Your thoughts, please

Please post your thoughts on Michael Rosenblum's take on the future of journalism, and comment on what others say.
Your three questions on the future of journalism are due Monday, along with at least one blog post. The posts may help you clarify your thinking on the questions.