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The Case Against Increasing Government’s Role in Sustaining Journalism

Posted April 6th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

With the news media struggling to survive in the Internet age, questions are being raised as to who will pay for quality journalism. In an essay written by Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, the authors critique proposals that increase the government role in sustaining journalism or promoting more “public interest” content.

 In their first essay, the authors argue why taxing media devices or distribution systems to fund media content does not work. They believe such financial redistribution is “fundamentally inconsistent with American press traditions, highly problematic under the First Amendment, difficult to implement in a world of media abundance and platform convergence, and likely to cause serious negative side effects.”
 
In the second essay, Thierer discusses why proposals to tax broadcast spectrum licenses to transfer money to public media projects or “public interest” content is unfair to broadcasters, who are also trying to survive in the midst of marketplace turmoil. Further, he argues that such a tax “is unnecessary in light of the many other sources of ‘public interest’ programming available today” and that the government should not force media choices upon consumers.
 
What do you think?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Internet and Mobile
7 Comments

Is there a Difference between Pay Walls for Web Sites and Mobile Media?

Posted March 24th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Some media executives, like Slate chairman Jacob Weisberg, believe media companies should require readers to pay for content when delivered in a “specific, convenient, dedicated form” such as the iPhone or Kindle, but keep Web sites free.

In a piece in today’s New York Observer, Weisberg noted his first hand experience with putting online content behind a pay wall and called it “the worst year at Slate. Luckily it’s 12 years in the past now; we got it out of our system early.” He recalled that the year of having the pay wall was a “tough year for the writers, because they went from having a growing audience and starting to feel like the web was working in terms of reaching to people you wanted to reach to suddenly feeling like you’re writing for a very small group of people.”
Do you buy Weisberg’s distinction of media companies charging for newer mobile technologies that deliver content in a dedicated form versus Web sites that should remain free? Do you believe consumers will buy the difference?

Posted in Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
8 Comments

Can News and Information Be Appealing as Virtual Goods? (By Adam Hanft)

Posted March 12th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The Game Developers Conference was held this week in San Francisco.   On the surface, you wouldn’t think that this convocation would be an event of great interest to those working on, and thinking about, the future of media. 

 But when you consider it more deeply, the “God of War III” and “Street Fighter IV” are actually quite relevant to many of the issues that newspapers and magazine face. Because they’ve been successful at turning free into paid in a category where small packages of content are delivered to users as a form of distraction, entertainment and sociability.
 
Casual games are booming; it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow by 100 percent ever year.   What are consumers paying for?   Since the games are free, they’re ponying up for virtual goods that enable a user to move up faster or explore new areas.  
 
It’s really important to note that casual games have a particular appeal to women – and particularly, older women. Hint hint: this a demographic that consumes a lot of news and information, too.
 
Casual games function as tiny distractions, as a kind of video snacking, as stress-reducers, as pure entertainment and escapism. And importantly, because they live inside social networks, they are a hybrid of gaming and connecting.
 
Can the success of game snacking be translated into news snacking? Can the media package its content in a way that connects with the expectations and behaviors of the casual game consumer? Should the news media be partnering with the game developers at the conference?
 
It would be a real breakthrough if news snacking was able to ignite social networks for sharing and virality -- in the way casual game have -- and by doing so extend the reach and appeal of newspapers and magazines.
 
John Pleasants, the CEO of Playdom, a leading casual game company, said in an interview that 90 percent of his revenue comes from the sale of virtual goods, versus just 10 percent from advertising.
 
Can news and information content be made as appealing and emotionally rewarding as virtual goods? What do you think?
 
For more information: 

Posted in Ideas and Debates Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
1 Comment

New Study from Pew Internet & American Life Project

Posted March 2nd, 2010 by Christopher Clark - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has released an interesting study about online news consumption.  Currently, more people get their news from the Internet than from any other medium, other than TV.  Some of the news and information most commonly sought online include weather forecasts, national news, information about health/medicine, and business/financial news.  When seeking out these (and other) types of information, most Americans (92%) utilize multiple platforms (e.g., national TV, local TV, Internet, national newspapers, local newspapers, radio) in a typical day. Those who use the web tend to visit only a few news sites regularly, and a significant percentage of online news consumers value portability, the opportunity to participate in creating news, and the ability to customize the news content that they receive. Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter play a significant role in news dissemination. Check out the study for yourself and view the press release here.

Posted in Research and Studies Internet and Mobile
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Wallpaper, Hidden Gems, and Water-Coolers

Posted March 1st, 2010 by Dana Scherer - Senior Policy Analyst, Media Bureau

 

After they lost their radio jobs, deejay Mike O’Meara, sidekicks Robb Spewak, Oscar Zeballos, and “news guy” Michael Elston opted to take their show to the Internet.  Zeballos argues that listening to traditional radio programs and advertising is like watching wallpaper:  you know it’s there, but you don’t pay much attention to it.  In contrast, he says, podcast listeners actively seek out programs, making them far more likely to be engaged in the accompanying commercials.  (See Mike Musgrove, “With this Radio Gig, Who Needs FM?,” Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2010 at G1.) 

 

Paul Camp writes in a Future of Media comment that readers who self-select news and information online miss out on the serendipity factor.  When you listen to the radio or thumb through a newspaper, you may encounter a hidden gem of a story that you otherwise might have missed.  Paul calls this an “unsung beauty” that neither advertisers nor consumers have fully valued.

 

Another facet of online-offline media dynamics is the “Water-Cooler Effect.”  Brian Stelter in the New York Times discusses how the Internet can enable television viewers to alert each other to and engage in national conversations about politics, sports, and entertainment.  While consumer split their time between computer and television screens, the two screens reinforce, rather than compete with each other.  (See Brian Stelter, “Water –Cooler Effect:  Internet Can be TV’s Friend,” New York Times, Feb. 24, 2010 at A1.) 

 

Do you think these forms of gathering news and information will co-exist in the long term, or do you expect one will dominate?  What do you think are the public interest costs and benefits of each? How do you think advertisers will react?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Business Models and Financial Trends Commercial TV and Radio Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
1 Comment

New Documentary Explores How Digital Media is Transforming Culture

Posted February 4th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

This past Tuesday, Frontline, an investigative journalism show airing nationally on PBS, explored how digital technologies are changing every aspect of our lives, including how we consume media in a 90 minute documentary Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier.

The Frontline website notes: “Within a single generation, digital media and the World Wide Web have transformed virtually every aspect of modern culture, from the way we learn and work to the ways in which we socialize and even conduct war. But is the technology moving faster than we can adapt to it? And is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we've gained?”
 
The documentary explores the implications of living in a world consumed by technology and the impact that this constant connectivity may have on future generations. Check out the website and from there you can watch the documentary online for free.
 
Do you believe the technology is moving faster than we can keep up with it? Do you find our wired world causes us “to lose as much as we’ve gained”?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Internet and Mobile
2 Comments

Newspaper Advertising: Paper Dollars vs. Digital Dimes?

Posted February 3rd, 2010 by Dana Scherer - Senior Policy Analyst, Media Bureau

In Entertainment Industry Economics, Hal Vogel estimates that about 80% of newspaper revenues have traditionally come from advertising, with the remaining 20% coming from subscription and newsstand sales. [Hal Vogel, “Publishing,” Entertainment Industry Economics (Seventh Edition) at 342.]

Standard and Poor’s has a similar estimate in its August 2008 Publishing Survey.  [James Peters, Industry Surveys: Publishing (includes Advertising), Standard and Poor's, Aug. 21, 2008, at 26.]

As newspaper readership migrates online, however, this ratio may change. Ken Auletta states in his latest book, Googled that:

The rule of thumb is that an online ad brings in at most about one-tenth the revenue as the same as the same ad in a newspaper. There are two reasons for this: readers spend less time reading a paper online than they do a newspaper, and because ad space is not scarce on the Web, advertisers pay lower rates.” [Ken Auletta,”Chasing the Fox,” Googled, 2009, at 165.]

Do you think that these estimates are valid? Do you think these estimates will persist? If so, could the paper dollars vs. digital dimes ratio apply to subscription revenues as well?

 

 

Posted in Ideas and Debates Business Models and Financial Trends Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
1 Comment

Could the Library Serve as an Aggregator of Local News?

Posted February 2nd, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

We have an area where citizens can describe their local media. For example, Rick Livingston writes:
 
Columbus still has a strong, locally owned daily paper (The Dispatch), functioning as the main channel for local news and statehouse reporting. It also owns the major TV station. Other print publications are mostly puffery, catering to the college-age music-and-drinking crowd (or post-graduate, young-professional versions thereof). We have three (count 'em) NPR stations, mostly overlapping programming larded with a little local coverage; the rest of the radio dial is hopelessly canned. One excellent website I know (Columbus Underground), and several partisan blogsites. Some civic issues are getting publicized through Facebook, thanks primarily to a few civic-minded individuals: the medium is not conducive to discussion, however, so much as mutual encouragement. Good if you agree already. We lost one important voice for fair-minded debate this year, when Fred Andrle, a gifted local talk-show host, retired.

I know we're lucky still to have a hometown newspaper, but the range of discussion and information is distinctly limited. The Dispatch has invested heavily in a particular version of urban development and definitely shapes the options we're offered. The only civic institution with a comparable citywide reach is the library system: could it develop a presence as an aggregator of local news and a forum for discussion?
 
What are your thoughts? Could the library “develop a presence as an aggregator of local news and a forum for discussion”? Could Facebook (or other social networking websites) be used to facilitate discussion of civic issues? Feel free to comment and don’t forget to tell us about your community and its media by posting here.

Posted in Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
1 Comment

Comment on: Internet and Mobile

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about the Internet and mobile media.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

31)  With regard to the Internet and mobile-based applications, which news or information operations are successful, and why?  How should we define success?  Do they tend toward a particular type of information or format (e.g., news, commentary, independent, government-generated, user-generated, advocacy-oriented programming)?  What are the most successful business models (e.g., for-profit, non-profit, subscription, micro-payments, advertising-based)? 

 

32)  What role will and should user-generated journalism play?  In what ways can it improve upon traditional journalism, and in what ways can it not substitute for traditional journalism? How can the quality and effectiveness of citizen journalism be further improved?

 

33)  What have been the trends for online advertising in general and specifically advertising supporting news and information parts of websites, both nationally and locally?  How about on mobile platforms?

 

34)  What might be the role of popular technolgies heretofore associated with entertainment or social interaction, such as gaming systems or social media? 

 

35)  How would policies related to “open Internet” or “universal broadband” or other FCC policies about communications infrastructure affect the likelihood that the Internet will meet the information needs of communities?  Are there search engine practices that might positively or negatively affect web-based efforts to provide news or information?

 

36)  Do minority-owned media or media targeted to minority communities use broadband tools differently than other media?

 

37)  What kinds of digital and media literacy programs are appropriate to help people both use new information and communication technologies effectively and to analyze and evaluate the news and information they are receiving?

 

38)  With regard to mobile devices, what role will mobile communications services and devices play in meeting the news and information needs of communities during the next five to ten years?  What is the impact of those trends for consumers, businesses and policymakers?  Should that role be reflected in the Commission’s regulation of the industries involved? 

 

Please weigh in on any of these questions, or offer your own.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Internet and Mobile
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