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Posts from the ‘No.’ Category

The New Face of “Phantom” Journalisim


It’s nice to see that the Dutch haven’t cornered the market on ill-formed ideas relating to newspapers and the internet.

I don’t really want to get into the details of Richard Posner’s blog post. The Tobin/Coover synopsis is that if it were illegal to link to or quote newspapers web-content they’d be in better position to monetize their content.

What’s more interesting to me is the zombie-like arguments that just keep coming around, and around again as to how newspapers are absorbing all of the cost of “news gathering”, while successful aggrigators and most blogs reap the benefits as freeloaders on the newspaper writers back. Posner goes so far as to postulate that without intervention Reuters and the Associated Press (those masters of new media that they are) could be the “only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion” left standing.

Which is just patently absurd.

The argument that “all news” originates with newspaper journalists, is as odd as “all news originated with television journalists”, or “magazine journalists”, or “radio journalists”, or even “journalists”. The fact is that original news is a rare thing and the lions share of any news media is generally built around re-purposing preexisting material (news conferences, press releases, other reportage).

Yes the majority of the new media space is dull and derivative – but so is the majority of every media space. A commenter at the Becker-Posner-Blog lamented that the death of newspapers meant the death of Woodward / Bernstein style expose – of course this is ridiculous.

Certainly most bloggers aren’t Carl Bernstein – but neither are most newspapermen. Nor do they need to be. The biggest news of the last few cycles in North America was likely the death of Michael Jackson. While it’s true most bloggers can’t afford to go to Florida to do original research – how many of the news affiliates in Florida are doing original research?

By the same token the new media space has shown itself more than capable of pursuing very detailed subtle investigation. It was strictly new media sources who first flagged that something was very wrong with Infinium Labs Inc.two years before the Securities and Exchange Commission laid fraud charges. And those news media sources were from the enthusiast computer review press [H]ard OCP, and the comic strip Penny Arcade. While I’m certainly not comparing the scope of the Phantom debacle to Watergate – the only difference in the underlying role provided between [H]ard OCP and the Wall Street Journal was that [H]ard OCP didn’t have insurance and risked their own, personal, assets in the court case that followed.

The only real change in the new space is that most of the “professional” new media (those making their sole living and/or paying wages to their writers) are more akin to magazines – focusing on a specific subset of scope and topic – rather than the broad overview of newspapers, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Quite the contrary – a network of “specialist” journalists are far more likely to ferret out news of interest than generalist newspaper writers. Some of it may be rough, or uneven, or incomplete, or wrong – but the new media space has shown it can respond with the swiftness (and resources) of the invisible hand of the market – delivering eyeballs (and effort) to the topics of the most interest.

If the new media transition has showed us anything it’s that the cloud is significantly better at minute oversight than traditional newspapers. So much so that the Guardian used crowdsourcing to tremendous effect in reviewing MP’s expense records in the recent UK scandal.

What all of the pro-newspaper arguments boil down to is that nothing in the new media space takes the exact place and format of the traditional newspaper. Which is absolutely true. However that in no way correlates with the loss of those functions.

In this case it’s important to remember that the medium is NOT the message.


Who knew there were Google image results for "NBC Fail"?

Who knew there were Google image results for "NBC Fail"?

Seriously NBC? There’s so much non-trivial stuff going on in the world and you’re going to make me comment on this? Fine. Let’s explore the myriad of ways you don’t understand how ratings work.

The Coles notes: Both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins have hosted free public “viewing parties” for Stanley Cup games being held out of town (or in the Pen’s case, sometimes for games in-town). This way people can still gather to cheer on their local team when there’s no chance of attending in person. However NBC is putting the kibosh to that, by not allowing either team the rights to rebroadcast their video feed for these public events. This is ostensibly to protect the “value” of their broadcast. Suffice it to say most people think this is idiotic.

NBC – since you’re only a broadcast partner, your broadcast has “value” in only two areas:

  • The perceived value to advertisers
  • The actual value to advertisers

Ratings are only important for the former. You want the highest ratings numbers, not because it conveys a tangible benefit to you, but it makes the perceived value of you advertising slots higher. True, sometimes there are minimum targets or advertisers get their money back, or bonus’ if you reach a threshold… but for the most part there is no difference to you (positive or negative) for minor variances. If we presume that the maximum number of people who would watch a game simultaneously in Detroit and Pittsburgh could maybe top out at 30,000 (filling the Joe, and another 5-8 thousand outside in Pittsburgh – tops – that’s less than 0.03 of a ratings point (currently a single ratings point is around 1.1M viewers). This is not a statistically significant variance to influence the perceived value of your advertising.

One might argue that the real issue is “share” (the total of all TV watchers at a given time tuned to a specific program), especially when broken down by region… but this ignores the second part of the “value” to the network which is actual value to the advertisers. That is to say, the number of eyebals that actually recieve an advertiser’s message.

Although they certainly aren’t sharing this information with us, I have no doubt that the execs at NBC have filing cabinets full of ratios, studies, and formula to estimate how many viewers in a ratings point (or share) are actually exposed to an advertisers message. This lets them court advertisers with comparatives. “Well sure, America’s Got Talent doesn’t have the ratings of Idol… but as you can see our audience averages .5 fridges per household more than Fox’s, so our audience is 68% more likely to not miss your 30 second spot because of a beer run… that makes us a much better value per dollar”. It’s one of the reasons that so many broadcasters are getting back into live sports – viewers are far less likely to PVR/Tivo/VCR/Bittorrent live sports events and watch them later, fast-forwarding through the ads. In horrible ad-speak this is called “appointment viewing”.

In this light, these live parties should be encouraged – as they are demonstrable “appointment viewing”. Ad execs should be doing cartwheels and writing press releases about how they’re delivering an absolutely captive audience to their advertisers. An audience that can’t even change the channel. Those 30,000 aren’t just “potential” exposures to advertising (like most ratings and share are)… they’re “actual” exposures to advertising… and should be considerably more valuable to advertisters.

So congratulations NBC, you’ve taken a “no lose” value proposition (one that – for no effort on your part – is either neutral, or beneficial, to the value of your programming) – and managed to turn it into international ill will and consumer outrage.

And that’s terrible.

[Update – the Detroit Free Press article linked above is now suggesting that the blackout could actually be at the request of the NHL… and if that’s true, that’s absolutely mind-boggling. That’s, like eighty pies worth of mind-boggling.]

Live From Gobblers Knob!

It's Groundhog Day!

I have to admit I’m a little confused on how we’re supposed to treat this, the most insane of meteorological celebrations, now that there is a vast field of pretenders to what was once Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania’s sole domain. Is it like the supreme court of Marmota Monax? With this years predictions in at 6:3 for “six more weeks of winter” does Staten Island Chuck write the dissenting opinion?

It's Groundhog Day! It's Groundhog Day!

“Melverne Mel, Dunkirke Dave, myself, and several other members of our honourable assembly must find that we we see no evidence of a shadow whatsoever. Seriously, we looked all over the place. Our respective handlers waved us all over the place for several moments – collectively almost a minute. We also must strongly question what kind of rigorous diligence can be expected from our honourable colleague, given that he willingly lives in a property called Gobblers Knob?”

It's Groundhog Day! It's Groundhog Day! It's Groundhog Day!

Or is it less a uniform consensus we are looking for than a forecast tailored to a specific general local? Not that it matters in this specific case as Wiarton Willie seems to be with the majority this year. I kind of like this reading, as the forcasts for Toronto have been a little shaky this year, and I like the idea that flinging around small mammals is just an effective method of prognostication as doppler radar. “Hey Rob, do you know if I need to take an umbrella with me?” “Hang on a second and let me see if the cat attacks my mouse pointer with it’s left or right paw!” “What’s the weather going to be like on my trip tomorrow?” “Take the raccoon out of the drier and see how many times it circles around before it gets into our garbage and throws up on our deck… multiply that by eight for your temperature in Fahrenheit.”

In conclusion – this is truly a spectacularly bizarre tradition, even by the somewhat lax standards of North-American-post-Christmas-festivities.

… I’ll stop this now… but know ye well that I could have HAPPILY kept re-posting this ALL DAY.

I wish I was making this up.


Pop Quiz Hotshot… a new Tokyopop Manga is published with the following (partial) description:

“Trina Devi is the last of the Tantric Adepts and a master of the esoteric art of Stripfighting; a tantalizing fusion of Shaolin martial arts and Tantric sensuality, where practitioners use articles of clothing as weapons to subdue and incapacitate their opponents.”

It should be marketed towards:

Don’t get me wrong guys, I know the market is in the tanks… but I’m not sure selling softcore to pre-teens is necessarily the solution.

[EDIT – I’ve been informed the rating is not “Older / Teens (11+)” but rather “Older Teens (16+)” and that the logo is just hard to read on the Tokyopop website… I guess I’m happier with that rating (at least without having actually read the thing. So now I have to find something else to be outraged about… like, why doesn’t the ratings logo actually link to a ratings explanation page? I may (or may not) be fine with the rating, depending on how they classify their categories, but if a net-addled wonk like me can’t find a definition page in two minutes of searching – that’s probably not good enough for little Billy’s Mom.]

[EDIT 2 – Yes I’m aware there’s a viewer on the tpop website to actually read the first 50-odd pages of “Tantric Stripfighter Trina” and therefore better base my opinion. However, without a serious creative team pedigree, or a shelf full of industry accolades, or someone paying me to, I am likely never going to voluntarily read a work entitled “Tantric Stripfighter Trina”]

Crazy Lawsuit Wednesdays!


Greetings from Hoth! The heat in my office has now been out for two days, and as a trademark Toronto SNOPOCALYPSE ™ kicks up around us things are looking decidedly grim for the rebellion.

Since my poor frozen brain is too sluggish for deep insight here’s some decidedly hot and spicy odd lawsuits from this week:

… you know what? This is just getting depressing… so we stop here. You don’t like it? SUE ME.

A Historic Tuesday

I would be the one who is neither incredibly ripped, nor dressed in vague 17th century garb

During the contentious 2008 US election we were often bombarded with variants of a very basic Republican speaking point: You don’t actually buy the hype do you? For all the talk of change you don’t expect you will magically open your eyes into a mystical new wonderland should, against all odds, a black man named “Barack” get elected to the highest office in the land?

Oddly, I had assumed this was just the usual pundit pedantry – intentionally making shallow word-play out of the broader social and international importance of metaphorical “change”. Heck, I think I probably argued that the act of such an unlikely election, in and of itself, would encompass of more national “change” than, perhaps, the entirety of the previous several presidential terms.

Ironically, the promise wasn’t nearly as metaphorical as I’d thought:

1130h EST, January 20th 2009 – Barack Hussein Obama II was inaugurated at the 44th President of the United States of America.

1200h EST, January 20th 2009 – I find myself in Puebla, Mexico officiating a press conference between Captain Henry Morgan and the famous Mexican wrestler, El 1000 Por Ciento Guapo, Shocker.

Now that’s change you can believe in!
(en espanol, but here’s a mildly comprehensible auto- translation)

BlogFox Braindump!

I don’t have a lot of insightful, funny, lengthy stuff to post, but rather a bunch of odds and ends that don’t lend themselves to lengthy discourse… hence – fear my braindump:


I had lots to talk about tonight. I managed to survive another World Rock Paper Scissors Championship.

Google managed to settle the lawsuit with the Author’s Guild over their book scanning project – paying out a hefty sum, but securing themselves some interesting rights in the process (fodder for a future post, I’m sure, once I figure out what exactly I think about it).

But all that was pushed to the side by the nice cashier at the grocery store this evening, Brefny.
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