Federal Communications Commission

Archive for March 2010

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

Project for Excellence in Journalism Releases Important "State of the Media" Report

Posted March 16th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released their very important State of the Media report yesterday.  

Here’s the report.

Here’s a good summary from the Columbia Journalism Review:
Top two items from CJR:

1) To put all those tiny little papercuts into perspective; each round of newspaper layoffs, here and there, equals one big gushing head wound:
“We estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent, which leaves an extra $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves, we predict more cuts in 2010.”

2) Today’s brave new media ventures are rowboats struggling against the rushing tide of lost journalistic capital. The following statistic only underscores how important it is to critically examine the short- and long-term prospects of many new media ventures funded by foundations and individual donors. How long will their charity be sustainable?
“$141 million of nonprofit money has flowed into new media efforts over the last four years (not including public broadcasting). That is less than one-tenth of the losses in newspaper resources alone.”


Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Newspapers and Magazines
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Citizens' news vouchers: $200 for everyone?

Posted March 16th, 2010 by Irene Wu

Would you get more of the news and information you want if the government let you direct $200 of taxpayer money toward your favorite media outlets? This is the proposal most recently suggested by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols in their new book The Death and Life of American Journalism (Nation Books, 2010), which builds on a proposal by Dean and Randy Baker. In McChesney and Nichols’ proposal, every American adult would have a citizen news voucher in his or her tax return. On that voucher he or she could divide $200 among eligible media outlets. Which media outlets would be eligible? Public broadcasters and not-for-profit media, for example. In return for the government subsidy, McChesney and Nichols suggest eligible media should be required to forgo advertizing and to make all their content public domain, in other words, not covered by copyright. 

The goal of the voucher system would be to increase funding for public media that citizens want to see flourish, including start-up web-journalism, without getting the government involved in evaluating the viewpoint of the media receiving the subsidy. McChesney and Nichols refer to the postal subsidies the federal government granted newspapers in the 1700 and 1800’s. This helped newspapers and magazine of all political viewpoints by lowering their distribution costs and creating a vibrant public debate in the early days of the republic. 
Adam Thierer in his blog identifies three problems with the proposal. First, most Americans will not want to spend their taxpayer money on media, which has largely succeeded as a commercial industry. Second, determining which media would qualify would be a headache. What if people chose to spend their vouchers on comedy news or movie star highlights? Would that be all right? Finally, inevitably if the government is funding something, there will be strings attached. Giving up copyright protection is a serious demand, does that really further the creation of good news and information? What do you think?

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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
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Recap of March 4 Workshop

Posted March 5th, 2010 by Christopher Clark - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Yesterday the Future of Media project hosted a workshop on Serving the Public Interest in the Digital Era to address how the new media environment necessitates policy changes in the FCC’s approach to enforcing the public interest obligation.  The day-long session featured panelists discussing the history of media policy, the state of traditional media sources, and how the digital media revolution is changing the way people consume and participate in media. We will be posting the panelists' statements and an archived video of the workshop on the workshops page soon. In the meantime, you can view the workshop here.

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio
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How to Participate in FCC Workshop on March 4

Posted March 3rd, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The FCC is holding a workshop entitled “Serving the Public Interest in the Digital Era” on March 4, 2010 from 10:30 am to 5 pm.

The workshop will focus on:

  • A brief history and overview of policies involving “public interest” requirements for commercial media and telecommunications companies;
  • The state of local commercial broadcast TV and radio news and information; and
  • The impact of media convergence and the emergence of the Internet, mobile technologies, and digital media on media policy.
You can participate in the workshop by viewing the livestream on FCC.gov/live and by posing questions or comments to the panelists.
You may submit your questions and comments to the panelists through:


Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Information Needs of Communities
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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
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