Media stories of note for Monday, May 6, 2013:
Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed,
notes the paradox of online comments. They're vilified in many quarters yet have never been more popular. He explores the constant dilemma for online sites in providing space for and moderating comments. No matter that some sites have minimized or even stricken them, they are here to stay, he concludes.
Jaron Lanier, in a commentary piece for the New York Post,
says people should be compensated by the likes of Twitter and Facebook for providing content. Lanier, a Microsoft employee and author of a new book, believes social media is killing the middle class because rewards of the technology are only deposited with a few. He says it's time to take the future back.
Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, looks back on the
Jayson Blair fabrication episodes at the paper that came to light 10 years ago. She examines the effort to repair the shaken credibility and the steps taken to avoid a recurrence. She concludes the Times has put in place several measures to verify, and the Internet context provides ongoing scrutiny from the audience. But she and editors in the piece note that nothing can guarantee there won't be another event.
There are two surveys out that suggest a rearranged pecking order in online media trust.
One, from Harris Associates, suggests consumers
are more trusting of branded news organizations that of portals. The trust extends through editorial and advertising content, says the survey for the Online Publishing Association.
The second, from Zogby Interactive, suggests that
the technology heavyweights still hold reputational sway over the social networks in terms of consumer trust. Microsoft, Apple and Google have higher trust levels than Facebook and Twitter. John Zogby says the new firms don't have the brand equity yet.
The editor-at-large of the San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Bronstein, spent some time yesterday
with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and extracted some thoughts about the state of journalism and social media.
Until recently, Gates wasn't using social media. It was too intrusive and he just couldn't keep up with the demands of Facebook friendship. But he's finding ways to asymmetrically use it through his Fan page, just as he's adopted Twitter to talk about his foundation work and look for useful information.
But where Gates sounded most reflective was in his discussion on the changes in journalism. He seems worried that, as organizations cut resources from major investigations, the blogosphere will not replace it.
"Is the Internet missing something that the top papers have collectively provided? Probably so," Gates says. Organizations like ProPublica
are doing good work but not necessarily filling the gap, he says.
If the conventional wisdom is that whatever we place on the Internet is there for public consumption, researcher Danah Boyd has a different idea
. She believes that it's an abuse of privacy when Internet services take content meant for smaller audiences and make them more widely public.
Boyd, who works for Microsoft Research and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, was the keynote speaker at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. She made a pretty aggressive point in her call-out of Google and Facebook for making some provisions public unless you opt out and for making many changes without adequately informing users.
In recent months Facebook has had to respond to concerns --- the most strenuous ones here in Canada --- that it was sharing too much information with third parties and gathering too much without the clear consent of users. Google, meanwhile, took enormous criticism for its roll-out of Google Buzz; it has since tapered some provisions.
But Boyd said privacy and publicity are not binary, that there are things you say in a room that you don't want repeated --- there needs to be a digital equivalent of that respect for privacy, she argued.
Only a couple of weeks ago one blogger suggested that Google and Microsoft might very well start bidding for news organizations' content.
Well, the suggestion is real. Microsoft is going to pay
news companies to take their content off Google's search engine.
The aim would be to give Microsoft's upstart Bing search engine some bragging rights, in essence to build a bit of an engine war not unlike the browser wars of old --- except in this case, content would only be available with it.
Among the organizations in discussion with Microsoft: News Corp. which is looking at taking its content off Google. The terms and conditions of Bing's exclusive pacts are not yet clear.
Michael Arrington, no staunch defender of legacy media, nevertheless can spot an opening when he sees one. In this case, he has some advice for Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. as it strives to de-index itself from Google.
Murdoch has been criticized in recent days for suggesting that's his strategy. Traffic will decline and others will offer content free for which he's seeking payment, the argument goes.
But Arrington, riffing on an idea from Mahalo CEO (and former News Corp. exec) Jason Calacanis floated, suggests the way to win
the war is to start one. Namely, he suggests Google would be hurt if Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and, say, the New York Times opted to exclusively index with Microsoft's Bing search engine instead of mammoth Google.
Arrington believes the shift of power would revert to content companies, bidding wars might ensue,
"If Murdoch is going to go through with this de-indexing Mexican standoff thing, he might as well do it the right way and drive the fear of God into Google. As a spectator, I’ll enjoy watching the fireworks," Arrington writes.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicts that within 10 years all content will be digital. In the shorter-term, he suggests the recessionary impact will be permanent on advertising in media.
"I don't think we are in a recession. I think we are reset," he told an advertising conference in Europe. "We have reset and we won't rebound and re-grow."
In the future, "static content won't cut it." Replicating a newspaper online won't cut it, either.
Meantime, he says, media should plan for a smaller share of the pie.
Microsoft this week announced its new "decision engine" called Bing. It's a challenge to Google and the promotional video --- knowing that all promotional videos feel this way --- is impressive. Some early testers like John Batelle have come away impressed.
Today, though, Google announced Google Wave, an integration of communication devices and services, available later this year. It seems to me it's a challenge to Windows, although that's shortchanging its ambition. Mashable is impressed.
Whatever the outcome, let's assume it's good for the consumer.
A new report from Microsoft suggests online video consumption will overtake TV viewing in Europe in mid-2010. But it's not the death knell for television programming --- if anything, it means people are switching screens to watch many of the same things.
The report predicts that the PC will actually find itself crowded by mobile and console devices so Internet consumption on a PC will drop over the next five years.
Nathan Richardson, the CEO of ContentNext Media (the parent firm of paidContent), has an essay on how Silicon Valley and the broader tech sector can help the challenged newspaper industry.
Richardson identifies several options, but rules out all but three fairly straightforward ones in the near term. He thinks such entities as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others can spearhead fairly significant but achievable approaches online to help newspaper Web sites:
1. Host an upfront, akin to what happens for TV, in developing a stable and predictable advertising base.
2. Agree on a per-click standard rate across publishing.
3. Show search results only for originating sources, not repurposing ones.