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Feb 14, 2009

Understanding Twitter for Baby Boomer, Web 1.0 Users

Twitter has stormed to center stage. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook are all talking about Twitter.

What is it? Why has Twitter become ubiquitous?

What is Twitter?

Twitter is simple. Open an account. Log into your email account to connect with friends. It takes minutes.

Your profile immediately streams endless chatter from friends and casual acquaintences. Click on friends and friends of friends to follow more chatter. The more people you follow, the greater the number of messages.

One box lets you send messages. Messages are limited to 140 letters - short. Your message joins the endless chatter. 

Why Ubiquity?

With such a simple concept, how did Twitter become so pervasive?
  • First, Twitter serves millions of self-promoting artists, writers, politicians, consultants, pretty women, and enterprise brands. Many have tens of thousands of followers. Thus, they're motivated to continue the chatter - ten times per hour for many. Obama does not chatter, but leads the follower parade.
  • Unlike Facebook and Myspace, Twitter is an open, global chat room. Anyone can listen and broadcast to anyone else. Messages are not buried in forums, groups, rooms, or other confined spaces.
  • An open API appeals to millions of programmers. The simple interface allows access to any content, opening the doors to thousands of sites that make the chat stream relevant to their audience. In contrast, the Facebook, Google OpenSocial, and Myspace API have been mired in complex methods that restrict content access.
  • The 140 character message integrates the much larger mobile phone world with the web. Anyone can use SMS text messages to participate - not just smart phones like iPhone, but any basic cell phone.
  • Pundits call this microblogging. Does this replace blogging of longer messages? 
What's Next with Twitter?

In reality, Twitter is an open database. Each message is a free-form record, searchable and accessible with any program.

Unlike microformats, Google Base, and other complex structures, Twitter opens data sharing to one, huge database. It's easy to send data to Twitter. It's easy to extract the data for presentation and analysis.

As programmers work with Twitter, we've just begun to see the stream of innovation. See Media Life at http://media.tearn.com for one example - where we use Twitter as the comment system that is shared with Twitter users - globally. Comments return to Media Life, real-time, through the Twitter API. Incredible.

Will Twitter change chatting, blogging, and commenting? More importantly, do they become one global database? What do you think?

CLIP Flickit: Gracefully Add iPhone Photos to Flickr

flickit.jpgOn any given day, there are thousands of people snapping iPhone photos and uploading them to Flickr. So many in fact, that the iPhone is one of the top five cameras. That's amazing - but not for the reasons you'd think. It's amazing because the default process of getting a photo from the iPhone to Flickr should be easier. And while any number of apps have attempted to solve that problem, Flickit handles the task in a way that is arguably the most graceful - and iPhone appropriate - of them all.

We've had excellent ways to view photos on Flickr from the iPhone - Flickr's iPhone-optimized mobile site is great and we're fans of the Cooliris iPhone app. Getting them to Flickr however - either by emailing them to a Flickr dropbox or using an existing app - always seemed to lack that certain je ne sais quoi.

Flickit is different. It's a beautiful little app that offers a simple - yet rich - Flickr uploading experience. Or as Lifehacker puts it, "the free Flickit application is [Flickr's] truest friend on an iPhone or iPod touch." We couldn't agree more.


While Flickit's functionality can be found in other apps, the look, feel, and usability give it something special. It has an aesthetic that matches the iPhone, with big chunky buttons and stylish animations. Long story short, Flickit just feels like an iPhone app.

flickitInstructions.jpgAnd like the iPhone, it's easy to use. How easy? The IKEA-like instructions should provide a clue.

Once you've installed Flickit and logged into Flickr, you'll start with Flickit instead of your camera. Shoot photos directly from the app or grab pictures from your existing camera roll. Select a photo with which to work and you can edit title, description, and tags, add it to a set, choose its visibility, and geotag it with your current location. Press upload and you're done - fast. And it's all thanks to Flickit's streamlined uploading engine.

Downside? Flickit is an upload-only utility. So you're not going to be browsing your photos from it. That's unfortunate because given how they handle the upload process, we'd love to see how they handle viewing.

Want to give it a try? Download Flickit for free.

MySpace Quietly Launches Site-Wide Image Search

MySpace has introduced a new image search feature to its integrated search engine, allowing users to quickly search through photos shared by their friends and the MySpace community. While MySpace did not officially announce the new feature, the company has confirmed that it recently went live, and indexes around 3 billion of the site’s photos. The addition reflects MySpace’s apparently increasing focus on its search engine, which also includes the site’s video and music content along with a Google-powered web search.

Users are given the option to search through photos their friends have shared, those with viewing rights set to ‘public’ by other MySpace users, or images on Photobucket, which was acquired by MySpace’s parent company in 2007. MySpace says that all results are shown through a “social lense”, which means that the engine pays attention to keywords in your profile and who your friends are to try to generate the most relevant results...

Feb 12, 2009

Clouds, Open API, Twitter, Facebook, and Realtime Collaboration

The more we learn, the less we know. 

Despite the bad economy, innovation has been moving at accelerated pace. I have been busy innovating and not writing. Here is an announcement of our work and lots of questions.

Photokit Announcement

Regular readers have noticed the many photo channels on this blog. Here is the formal elevator pitch.
Photokit crowdsources photo and video content; automates activities such as slideshows, marquees, games, survey questions, iqtest questions, and others using public content; and shares user comments, likes, and dislikes publically over social networks like Facebook, OpenSocial, and Twitter. 
  • The photokit mashup platform uses public, cloud resources - such as Google, Yahoo, Youtube, Live, Blogger, and FlickR - to host pages, photos, videos, comments, and data. This reduces capital investments to essentially zero cost. 
  • User actions are shared on Twitter timelines, Facebook feeds, and other networks - creating a viral community for publisher controlled activities, contests, and events. Results are near realtime. 
  • Users submit content using hashtags. It's online in seconds. Users tag content. Their interaction refreshes the page in seconds.
  • Skins, layouts, and filtering control creates sites that complement existing template themes.
As one example, 'Media Life' crowdsources user interactions to compile and maintain information about the top 1000 media personalities, globally. We've recently added embedded video viewing and Twitter integration. Users recommend personality adds, upload relevant photos, and/or post to Twitter or Facebook. 
Whether personalities, companies, places, or products - the photokit platform can be applied to thousands of local and niche communities. Take a look at http://media.tearn.com
Market Changes

Our new leader has moved quickly to pass a huge economic stimulus package. It's time to spend - or invest - depending on the party line. Whether the plan works or not, time will tell.

Obama has also led with more social media activities - direct to his armies. This has stimulated greater interest in everything social. Not surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter, two social networks, have grown dramatically. Obama leads both with the number of fans at each.

The future is strong for web2.0 - web3.0 - semantic web - what ever we decide to call the clear trend.

Technical Trenches

There has been huge changes in the technical plumbing. Building Photokit has provided an upfront view of these developments.
  • Data everywhere. RSS and API feeds abound - data is increasingly open. The NYT has opened their news archive for external use. Yahoo's strategy hinges on shared data silos. Microsoft has released their army to work on the shared web. Obama will push government data transparency. Thousands of data silos have made themselves available. 
  • Integration challenge. Of course, each API is a little different. Like political parties, we can't seem to agree on the fine-print. Photokit services to unify the many languages into one consistent interface. 
  • Not every API makes sense. Those that solve real problems, like Twitter, has won big. Those that don't understand the full issue, like Yahoo, loses. Ironically, Yahoo authored the mRSS specification in 2004, but failed to support it. Google and others are closer to true deployment - and Google made it simpler.
  • Cloud computing is today. The Media Life website sits in the cloud, pulling resources from hundreds of computers over the Internet. We use AJAX, thus tapping the computing power of the user computer, not servers or networks. The UX is rich and simple, including transparent, embedded play of video. 
  • Real time. Users expect real time results. Whether transparent photo, video streams; satisfaction from a badge that lets them join the elite community of media personalities; or comments to Twitter that immediately feed back to the site - it's real-time and simple.
  • Data cloud. Photokit sources multi-media streams from many sources - like the ticker source on CNBC or sports scores on CNN. We'll also able to store user data in the cloud. Whether comments, scores, or recommendations - information streams to Twitter, Facebook, and back for consumption at the destination site. We call this the data cloud.
Complex web projects - without servers, networks, or databases - is it possible?


What does this mean? The more we learn, the less we know. We're doing dozens of projects - with many more to come. Yet, the consequences of the many technology changes are unclear. 

Like the Obama stimulus plan, we need to have faith that the best efforts lead to the best results.

Your thoughts?

BTW, Check out the new Google FriendConnect at the bottom. Join us.

Have some web ideas? Partner with us.

Blogger Buzz: Facebook Your Blog

Blogger Buzz: Facebook Your Blog

CLIP Why Viacom Ignores Mash-ups of Its Copyrighted Content

Ad Age: Feb. 12, 2009
Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas lets mash-ups of its copyrighted content slide by.
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Using special filter systems, search engines and a crew of dogged digital gumshoes, Viacom has succeeded in having hundreds of thousands of infringing online videos removed from the Internet. Appearing at Gotham Media Ventures' recent legal seminar, the media giant's general counsel, Michael Fricklas, discussed that massive in-house operation. He also detailed how Viacom, which operates a slew of user-generated video sites across its many properties, systematically polices that content for copyright violations. 

CLIP Twitter? It’s What You Make It

Ed: Twitter gains traction.

Published: February 11, 2009

Writing can be solitary work, but not when you write a tech column. Feedback pours in so quickly — by e-mail, on blogs, in online comments — that it’s almost real-time performance art.

Readers' Comments

Share your thoughts.

For the longest time, my readers kept nagging me to check out this thing called Twitter. I’d been avoiding it, because it sounded like yet another one of those trendy Internet time drains. E-mail, blogs, chat, RSS,Facebook. ... Who has time to tune in to yet another stream of Internet chatter?

True, there’s nothing quite like Twitter. It’s a Web site where you can broadcast very short messages — 140 characters, max — to anyone who’s signed up to receive them. It’s like a cross between a blog and a chat room. Your “followers” might include six friends from high school, or, if you’re Barack Obama, 254,484 of your most tech-savvy fans. (Incidentally, he hasn’t sent out a single Twitter message since taking office. Where are his priorities?)

Meanwhile, you sign up to receive the utterances of other people. Eventually, your screen fills with a scrolling display of their quips — jokes, recommended links, thoughts for the day, and a lot of “what I’m doing right now” stuff.

Even so, I was turned off by the whole ego thing. Your profile displays how many followers you have, as if it’s some kind of worthiness tally. (See also: Facebook friend counter.)

Then one day, I saw Twitter in action.

I was serving on a grant proposal committee, and I watched as a fellow judge asked his Twitter followers if a certain project had been tried before. In 15 seconds, his followers replied with Web links to the information he needed. No e-mail message, phone call or Web site could have achieved the same effect. (It’s only a matter of time before some “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant uses Twitter as one of his lifelines.)

So I signed up for a free account name (pogue) and stepped in.

It’s not easy to figure out what’s going on. Most people are supportive and happy to help you out. There is, however, such a thing as Twitter snobbery.

One guy took me to task for asking “dopey questions.” Others criticized me for various infractions, like not following enough other people, writing too much about nontech topics or sending too many or too few messages.

Determined to get the hang of it, I searched Google for “Twitter for beginners.” There were 927,000 search results.

(Of course, you get a staggering number of results when you search for anything on Google, which is why it’s such a lame trick when journalists use Google tallies to prove their points. But I digress.)

Most of these articles are lists of rules. One says to use Twitter to market your business; another says never to use Twitter to market your business. One recommends writing about what you’re doing right now (after all, the typing box is labeled, “What are you doing?”); another says not to.

One of these rule sheets even says, “Add value. Build relationships. Think LONG term.” Are we talking about Twitter, or running for Congress?

My confusion continued until, at a conference, I met Evan Williams, chief executive and co-founder of Twitter. I told him about all the rules, all the advice, all the “you’re not doing it right” gripers. I told him that the technology was exciting, but that all the naysayers and rule-makers were dampening my enthusiasm.

He shook his head apologetically — clearly, he’s heard all this before — and told me the truth about Twitter: that they’re all wrong.

Or, put another way, that they’re all right.

Twitter, in other words, is precisely what you want it to be. It can be a business tool, a teenage time-killer, a research assistant, a news source — whatever. There are no rules, or at least none that apply equally well to everyone.

In fact, Mr. Williams said that a huge chunk of Twitter lore, etiquette and even terminology has sprouted up from Twitter users without any input from the company. For example, the people came up with the term “tweets” (what everyone calls the messages). The crowd began referring to fellow Twitterers by name like this: @pogue. Soon, that notation became a standard shorthand that the Twitter software now recognizes. The masses also came up with conventions like “RT,” meaning re-tweet — you’re passing along what someone else said on Twitter.

If you asked me to write my own “Rules for Twitter” document — No. 927,001 on Google — it would look something like this:

DON’T KNOCK IT TILL YOU’VE TRIED IT Of course, this advice goes for anything in life. But listen: even my own masterful prose can’t capture what you’ll feel when you try Twitter. So try it.

If you don’t get any value from it, close the window and never come back; that’s fine. Despite all the press, Twitter is still largely a geek and early-adopter phenomenon at this point.

CLIP The AP Reveals Details of Facebook/ConnectU Settlement With Greatest Hack Ever

This is almost too good to be true. The Associated Press has uncovered the details of the Facebook/ConnectU settlement using, of all things, copy and paste. After taking drastic preventative measures to keep the settlement confidential, including barring reporters from the courtroom and redacting portions of the documents, Facebook has been foiled by the most laughable lull in security I’ve heard of:

Large portions of that hearing are redacted in a transcript of the June hearing, but The Associated Press was able to read the blacked-out portions by copying from an electronic version of the document and pasting the results into another document.

Read that again. Just, wow.

Now for the juicy details:

The document reveals that Facebook’s internal valuation of the company is $3.7 billion, or $8.88 per share - far less than the $15 billion implied valuation established by the Microsoft investment in 2007 (though this comes as no surprise, as a value around $4 billion has been rumored for months).

Under their settlement, Facebook agreed to pay ConnectU $20 million in cash and 1,253,326 shares of common stock. The stock was worth $45 million, based on the Microsoft valuation, but only $11 million under Facebook’s own appraisal.

Something worth noting from these figures: Facebook paid out $20 million in cash, but only around $11 million in stock based on its own valuation (when the news of the supposed $65 million settlement was revealed yesterday by a lawfirm’s advertisement, many speculated that it was primarily in stock). The high cash value (at least compared to the stock) may indicate that the ConnectU founders really did have some compelling evidence in their case. Then again, $20 million in cash is still fairly insignificant to Facebook - it may have well been worth paying even if there was no damning evidence given that it was supposed to make the case go away forever. So much for that.

Feb 11, 2009

CLIP Apple gearing up for $99 iPhone? Edge iPhone at Reduced Price

Ed: Original iPhone at $99 with a data-only plan would be interesting; i.e. iPod/Touch + data plan + VoIP.

Come this summer, Apple is expected to dip its toe in the entry level market for its popular iPhone, according to a report by RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky.

(Credit: Apple)

Apple is expected to debut a $99 iPhone, as well as an iPhone 3G with updated performance, sometime in June or July, according to Abramsky's research note on Tuesday.

Abramsky, in his report, states:

Checks reveal further entry-level iPhone details, including launches on existing carriers June/July with a data plan, entry-level pricing and a lower subsidy. Also expected is a 3G iPhone performance upgrade (performance, features, form factor).

An entry level iPhone could increase Apple's overall iPhone unit sales by 25 percent to 69 percent and bump up its slice of the smartphone market from an estimated 12 percent to 14 percent to 19 percent, the report notes.

But it could come at a price.

Apple could find itself cannibalizing its iPhones/iPod business. For example, Apple would need to sell the $99 iPhones to replace the gross profits of one 3G iPhone, Abramsky notes in his report. And it could also create a situation where Apple would need to lower its iPod pricing to sustain the momentum with its media player since the iPhone also offers such capability.

To compensate for a potential cannibalization of its gross profits, the computer maker would do well by expanding its distribution beyond its current list of iPhone carriers, the analyst notes.

From Abramsky's point of view, Apple investors should remain wary.

Apple's shares have risen 16 percent since it reported record first-quarter results. While the shares could possibly go higher ahead of the iPhone update, Abramsky remains concerned that Apple is still largely a premium-priced hardware maker standing in a global recession that's acting like quicksand.

Talk of an entry level iPhone has surfaced in the past, from rumors of an iPhone Nano to a $99 iPhone at Wal-Mart.

Apple was down less than 1 percent at $97.20 a share in early morning trading, coming off a 4.6 percent decline on Tuesday when it closed at $97.83 a share.

CLIP It's Been A Year Since AOL's Big Widget Play, But How Real Is The 'Widget Economy'?

imageThis time last year, VC firms had already invested nearly $60 million into widget-related companieslike Slide and WidgetBox. AOL got caught up in the widget craze too, and gobbled up desktop and web app-maker Goowy Media. Was it a hasty investment—like the one the company admitted it made when it bought out Bebo for $850 million during the social media rush the previous year?

More on that later ... In the year since that acquisition, VCs have continued to invest in widget-related companies, with nearly $13 million worth of funding for startups like iWidgets, mEgo and SocialMedia in the past four weeks. And the apps have evolved from profile badges, to branded units that let users play games and videos, to price-comparison tools. But analysts are still expecting a shakeout, as advertisers are cutting back their budgets across the board, and investment firms are scrutinizing the business models of startups (and even established companies) on the hunt for cash. More after the jump.

But how real is the widget economy?: The latest forecast from eMarketer only pegs widget- and app-based social media spending to reach $70 million this year—less than 6 percent of the $1.3 billion advertisers are slated to spend on social media overall. eMarketer Senior Analyst Debra Aho Williamson said the notion of a "widget economy"—at least one like last year's, with sky-high valuations for startups that aren't profitable yet—had no basis anymore. "This is still a developing market, and most of the companies are spending their resources on making the widgets smarter, more intuitive and improving their tracking capabilities," Williamson said. "Are many of them making a profit? I'd tend to say no."

Widgets are evolving to better meet advertisers' needs: CNET, for example, partnered with Gigya to launch widgets that give tech junkies the ability to embed product reviews and video clips, and even a software downloader into their social media profiles and blogs. The apps are continuously updated—and since they're tied to products, they go beyond the glut of widgets that just look pretty or thrive on novelty (like throwing a sheep or a thong at your friend) that quickly wears thin. "Last year it was about the rush to just 'do a widget' that's fun but didn't have much use," Williamson said. "Advertisers have decided that they need to be more than just fun—they need to serve a purpose. If you can provide real-time pricing info on a product right on a review site, that's an interesting model."

The shakeout is still coming: "There's going to be consolidation across the space, simply because there's only so much real estate on someone's social networking page," William said. "There are already thousands of Facebook apps available, and only a few that are going to do really well." Companies like Gigya, WidgetBucks and others that build in-depth analytics and other features into their widgets may survive, but a majority of the app development and distribution startups won't if they don't get more cash—or get acquired. Williamson also said some of the widget funding and development market might "siphon off to the iPhone," as startups take what they've learned (and their investors) and port it to mobile app development.

As for AOL (NYSE: TWX), the company folded Goowy into its Platform-A business in July, and then pulled the plug on the Yourminis customizable start pages—a feature the startup had been known for—so that Goowy could focus on developing brand-friendly widgets. According to a release touting the deal's one-year anniversary, Goowy widgets powered nearly 2 billion impressions over the course of 2008—but AOL didn't disclose the average CPMs for its widget ads. Since the company has to split that revenue with publishers (and display ad revs were down 25 percent in Q4), it's quite possible that the investment may not be as lucrative as they're making it out to be.


Feb 10, 2009

CLIP Whee! New numbers on social network usage

(Credit: Compete.com)

The blogosphere simply loves to slurp up social-networking traffic stats, and on Monday we got a nice tasty serving of them with some new numbers from Compete.com for the month of January. The results? Facebook is in the lead, with about 68 million unique visitors, well ahead of MySpace's 58 million. (The two are pegged at 1.1 billion and 810 million page views, respectively.)

This may be the first survey we've seen that puts Facebook ahead of the News Corp.-owned MySpace in U.S. traffic. It also puts Twitter as the third-biggest social-media site in the country by total page views, with only about six million unique visitors but a whopping 54 million views.

Compete's numbers are interesting, because they often are pretty different from other analytics firms'. Here are some clarifications, explained to CNET News in an e-mail sent by Compete's Andy Kazeniac: These are numbers stemming entirely from Web browser data in the U.S. That means that you won't be pulling in any international numbers, where most of Facebook's users are now, or data from widgets or third-party applications, which are how many avid Twitter users access the service. That means that it's likely that Twitter's reach is bigger than the numbers indicate.

What's also intriguing is that there are a few social-media sites, like Flixster and LiveJournal, with relatively low unique visitor counts but proportionally very high page view counts, indicating that they probably have smallish bases of very loyal users.

Also pulling in notable numbers are LinkedIn, with about 11 million unique users, Classmates.com, with about 17 million, and Reunion.com, with slightly under 14 million. On the other end? AOL's Bebo, an $850 million purchase, which Compete.com clocks in as having just shy of three million unique visitors. True, its biggest user bases are in the U.K. and Ireland, but that's not good considering the price tag.

Still, statistics are like tequila shots. Always take 'em with a few grains of salt and a slice of lime, and be warned that they may give you headaches.

CLIP Twitter enters top 100 sites; UK traffic has trebled already in 2009

Last week (w/e 07/02/09) Twitter became one of the 100 most visited websites in the UK for the first time. It ranked 91st within All Categories, placing above online heavyweights such as Expedia UK (96), Gumtree (100), easyJet (101), Digital Spy (103) and Money Supermarket (105). As the chart below illustrates, Twitter now ranks as 7th within our Social Networking and Forums category, up from 23rd just 3 weeks ago.


Twitter traffic has already more than trebled this year, and much of that growth has come since we last wrote about the site in January. As the chart below illustrates, there was a noticeable increase in visits following the media attention generated by the likes of Stephen Fry (owner of the world’s second favourite Twitter feed after Barack Obama) and Jonathon Ross.

Over the last 12 months traffic to Twitter.com has increased 27 fold. However, the service is likely even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website. If the people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications (such as Twitterrific, Twitterfeed and Tweetdeck) were included, the numbers would be even higher.


One of the reasons for Twitter’s success is the ‘eco-system’ of sites and applications that it has created via its open API. One of the most notable is Twitpic, which essentially allows users to upload pictures to their Twitter profiles. Last the site ranked 7th in our Entertainment – Photography category last week, up from 26th a month ago. Twitpic is still small in comparison to Flickr and Photobucket, but is growing rapidly. As the chart below illustrates, UK Internet traffic to the site has increased more than 5 fold already this year.

You Follow Hitwise UK on Twitter here. It’s also interesting to note that Twitter hasn’t quite achieved world domination yet. While it’s winning in the US and Australia, in Singapore Twitter currently trails Plurk.

CLIP Analyst: Time Warner Shares Are Overpriced; Putting A Valuation On The Content Business

Most analysts are fairly bullish on Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) shares, despite bleak forecasts for advertising revenue this year. But this morning, Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson downgraded the stock (to "Market Perform" from "Market Outperform"), saying the company's content business—- which will be what's left of TWX once Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) is officially hived off as a separate publicly traded company—is overvalued. The report takes a fresh approach to appraising the content business, including sobering forecasts of long-term results at AOL and Time Inc. Here is what he says:

—Because Time Warner Cable is trading as a separate tracking stock and the cable results are still currently included in consolidated Time Warner results, it's possible to come up with a valuation for the content business alone. And that valuation suggests that Time Warner stock will be overvalued when the cable split is official.

—The Time Warner content stock is trading at 11.5 times price-to-earnings, a double-digit premium to comparable stocks. Nathanson says: "The relative decline of Time Warner Cable (down 6.4%) over this time frame versus the 3.3% gain of Time Warner translates into a 16% appreciation" in Time Warner's content business. He believes the stock has appreciated past the point of representing a good value.

—Nathanson assumes no long-term EBITDA growth for Time Warner content, a surprisingly bearish view even given near-term challenges at AOL and Time Inc., which he believes should cause the content shares to trade at a 10 percent discount to its peers. (They're currently trading at a premium.)

It is not news that the AOL and Time Inc. businesses are challenged, but Nathanson doesn't see signs of life in those units anytime in the next several years.

Nathanson's bottom line? "Longer term, the company will need to identify a better strategic vision."

Feb 9, 2009

Watching The Grammys: No Live Streaming But Lots Of Twittering, Gossip And Promos

imageWatching the 51st Annual Grammy Awards and anyone who's watching it too will understand why I'm not paying full attention. Disappointing because with all our focus on music lately, I was looking forward to this one ...

Not online: The signature event is meant to bring people to CBS (NYSE: CBS) so the show isn't being streamed live. The award for the most nonsensical explanation goes to the official Twitter feed from TheGRAMMYS: "there is no official way to stream the GRAMMY Awards live online. We do not have a published schedule of performances." (The pre-telecast ceremony was streamed live and is available on demand for the next month.) Seriously. In addition to Twitter, The Recording Academy has an official Facebook presence, an iPhone trivia app, blogs, video but so far no legit way to see the MusiCares Neil Diamond tribute from Friday night. CBS.com features a music video challenge sponsored by Lincoln; users can vote for the Project Rising Stars winner. You can also vote for the My Grammy Moment finalists. No official way to vote for least favorite performance by someone people usually pay to listen to.

Speaking of Twitter: Real-time interaction definitely adds a different dimension to watching something live. Wonderwall's Alex Blagg says it makes award shows relevant again. What it really does is transform the experience into a kind of warped communal event—warped, because so much of it is anonymous and people feel like they can say absolutely anything no matter how personal, but still community because it's shared. Igot to vent about the golden banana entry by Katy Perry (seriously awful) and was able to reassure myself that the muddy sound was not because my ears rebelled against the latest flight. I did try to restrain myself, hence no snarky comment on gum-chewing Adele. (Update: Time delays make this totally surreal; it's like watching the wave go around a stadium in slo-mo.)

CBS Radio: Can't remember last year's efforts but this year CBS is making a serious push to CBS Radio and CBSRadio.com. Users who follow the visual cue from the TV to CBSRadio.com can click on a format (rock, pop, R&B, rap, country, adult pop) and be directed to a CBS station where they can listen live now. The CBS unit now programs AOL Radio—leading to a promo for the "AOL Radio powered by CBS Radio" iPhone app—and starting Feb. 16, will power Yahoo LaunchCast, too. The latter will have 150-plus stations but user-customized "my stations" will disappear.

Gossip: In addition to myriad red carpet pix, the real-life police drama that kept Chris Brown and Rihanna away from the show tonight plus Usher's last-minute departure for family reasons are giving gossip sites a workout likely to continue well into tomorrow. Gabe Rivera's WeSmirchis the best way to keep track of the not-so-good, the pretty bad and the very ugly.

CLIP Crowdsourcing the US Senate Stimulus Bill

Posted by Emma Heald on February 9, 2009 at 11:01 AM
The Huffington Post is experimenting with a technique know as 'crowdsourcing' to report on the lengthy but highly significant US Senate stimulus bill, and the differences between the original bill and the 'compromise' which was recently made available online.

The two documents total nearly 1400 pages and are dense, complex reading - too much for one journalist alone, believesHuffPost. Instead, the website has appealed to its readers to go through the two bills and point out "any significant differences," particularly "any examples of wasteful spending or corporate giveaways that aren't stimulative." Readers who sign up are sent an email from HuffPost which gives them an assigned portion of the bill: about a fifth, according to theColumbia Journalim Review, along with instructions. 
At least 367 people responded to HuffPost's appeal, posted online by senior congressional reporter Ryan Grim on January 24, and readers' efforts "led to hundreds of tips to Grim and his fellow reporters, in the form of individual emails and of comments on the HuffPost's article pages," reported CJR. "We have readers who are highly intelligent, a lot of them are highly accomplished," according to Grim. And HuffPost's coordinator for distributed reporting Matt Palevsky noted that this technique of using readers' skills was particularly effective when dealing with something so crucial for the American public: "people want to see these things come to light."

HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington has expressed enthusiasm for this kind on reporting, not just for legislative analysis: "We are doing it across all the verticals, and we are finding that every day, there are more and more opportunities to use the wisdom of the crowd, to use our community--which is so large and active at the moment--to report stories." HuffPostalready used citizen journalism extensively during the 2008 US presidential campaign with its OffTheBus initiative. 

This kind of reporting leads to a distinct change in the reporter-reader relationship, turning it into a "two-way street," as Huffington described it. And although it can be argued that this has been happening for many years to some degree, as readers or viewers frequently offer tips to newspapers or TV news shows, inviting reader participation on this scale is new, and will not be welcomed by everyone. An obvious problem is that readers do not have any accountability to the publication, and no professional training. The New York Times's congressional correspondent David Herszenhorn asserted that reading through the bill was definitely his job, "I'm supposed to do that for the readers, not the other way round... We are not going to count on them to do the scrutiny of the bill." Several NYT reporters are sharing the work of going through the bill.

As long as readers' findings and observations are checked, however, the issue of accountability is less relevant. If their input is edited and combined with professional, accountable expertise from journalists, then crowdsourcing can indeed be a time- and resources-efficient way to work on projects which are too large for individual reporters, and could add valuable content.

Source: Columbia Journalism Review

CLIP Twitter and journalism: match made in heaven or disaster waiting to happen?

Posted by Helena Deards on February 9, 2009 at 11:01 AM
It's a constant theme at the moment, but an important one nonetheless; Twitter as a journalistic tool. The question has been raised once again by Poynter journalist Dave Poulson, who last week followed the Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm's annual state of the state speech.

Whilst watching the speech, Poulson asked his followers if there had been a 'hashtag' created for the event - there had, #MiSOTS - which allowed users to follow all the Tweets on this topic.  As the speech was ongoing, people watching it were Tweeting their responses and thoughts to the governor's points as she made them.  One journalist said that the responses were helping his journalistic perception of the event by "giving him a feel for how people were reacting to a very critical speech to a very economically depressed state."
By searching #MiSOTS you can see the posts people made about the speech.  The feed is interspersed with Tweets from Twitter stat counters publicising it as one of the hottest topics on Twitter at that moment; in fact at one point the #MiSOTS tag made it to number 6 in the most talked about tags on Twitter.  The problem is that a hashtag only appears after the topic is relatively well established - "perhaps the journalist's role in this kind of activity is to simply help establish and publicize the hashtag," muses Poulson.

The possibilities for using Twitter in journalism are endless - but it doesn't seem that an effective method has been perfected just yet.   Positive aspects include the ability to pick up on hot topics by checking the most talked about tags, the range of perspectives available, and the ability to break news instantly.  The recent Tweeting trend amongst politicians to communicate directly with the public means that their feeds have become an essential point of reference with Barack Obama at the front of the field in this respect.

At the same time, Twitter users aren't accountable to anyone, which gives a large margin for error, speculation and rumour in news terms.  The 140 character limit can be, well, limiting.   On top of which, it is by no means all encompassing in terms of news reporting - Twitter in general works better as a complementary news source, either supporting a main news provider or linking to outside articles. 

Twitter and journalism: endless possibilities combined with integral flaws.  But Twitter's huge popularity means that it surely can't be long before a method of harnessing its extraordinary journalistic capabilities and avoiding its downfalls is found.   Can it?

Feb 8, 2009

CLIP Rate the Superbowl Ads: How To Participate

Last year, I kicked off a twitter game that let folks rate superbowl ads, and we collected the results from the tweets and found that the popular favorites on twitter weren’t too different than what media analysts were predicting.

We found that many enjoyed making the game interactive, by watching and critiquing the ads (more fun that just consuming) and many non-football fans were able to get into the spirit of it, (some were dragged to the superbowl parties)

I’ll be on a plane flying from Maui to SF during the superbowl (not really a loss for me) so I won’t be there to enjoy the festivities, so this year, it’s going to be bit different, as it’s being kicked off by Brian Solis (who was with me last year), Louis Gray (his post here), Guy KawasakiJesse StayChris Heuer, and others.

Rate the Superbowl Ads: How To Participate

1) If you want to participate, you can discuss the ads on twitter, (feel free to say why you love/hate it) and be sure to tag it: #superbowlads. Dont’ have a twitter account? start here.

2) Then when you’re done, be sure to rate your favorite ad using this survey. (notice this page will show all the tweets tagged #superbowlads.

3) Throw back a few cold ones, clown on your friends, and talk some smack on twitter and in real life! Have fun!

The results will be published later, and I’ll link to it from this post.

Super Bowl Commercials Live Coverage

Shower Go Daddy Ad

While the Super Bowl annually ranks as the most watched television event of the year, many tune in specifically for the commercials and not so much the game itself. So in recognition of this, Mahalo is providing live coverage of the commercials airing duringSuper Bowl XLIII on Sunday, February 1, 2009.

Fact Facts

  1. Airs Sunday, February 1, 2009
  2. Cost of a 30-second commercial: $3 million
  3. Game will air on NBC
  4. Kickoff at 6:20 PM EST
  5. Pre-Game Coverage Starts: 12pm EST

"What was your favorite ad during Superbowl XLIII?"

Twitter Bowl 2009

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