December 30, 2006

AT&T/BellSouth Merger and the Controversy about Net Neutrality Provisions

In major news that will send shock waves throughout the media industry, FCC has approved the merger between AT&T and BellSouth. The impact this will have on Internet, mobile, and cable has yet to be seen, but the only thing we cannot doubt is that there will be an impact of some sort.

According to the FCC's press release, the decision requires broadband service to be offered throughout the company's entire region by the end of 2007, increased competition for pay television services, improved wireless products, enhanced national security, better disaster response and preparation, and a variety of other provisions.

Of most interest to the blogosphere has been the provision that "Effective on the Merger Closing Date, and continuing for 30 months thereafter, AT&T/BellSouth will conduct business in a manner that comports with the principles set forth in the Commission's Policy Statement, issued September 23, 2005."

Marguerite Reardon with CNET points out that the company will be well on its way back to dominating telephone operations, now holding as assets more than half the Internet access lines and telephone lines in the country.

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Surplus Audiences: The Deaf Use YouTube to Communicate Through Signing

When new technologies are created, the initial concern is to reach an intended audience and to fill a particular void. What happens in reality, however, is that many unintended audiences often find and incorporate these products, regardless of how popular the service becomes with the target audience.

This phenomenon of surplus audiences, outside the target demographic but whose use of a product or consumption of some type of media is nevertheless a factor in the popularity of the product, has been of interest to me.

For instance, last June, I wrote about the As the World Turns storyline involving gay character Luke Snyder and how it was being written about regularly on message boards in the gay community, driving interest from a segment of people who were not initially fans of the show but who were particularly into this storyline and who started to become interested in the show in general.

"The thread is a demonstration of how fan communities within a niche audience can begin to proselytize and recruit other members of their social group to watch the show as well," I wrote.

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Fox Sports to Make Championship Bowl Games Available Online

Sports fandom has driven a lot of new attempts at marketing and distribution to get content to fans in the ways those fans want it. The latest decision is to make bowl games available online.

The first of these bowl games, which will be launched by Fox Sports, will be on New Year's Day, when the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic will be available through simulcast for free.

The games that will be made available online are all part of the college football Bowl Championship Series. After the initial free simulcast of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic Game, the plan is to offer full-length games after they have been completed for $2.99 through sites such as Apple iTunes, Amazon's Unbox and Fox outlets Direct2Drive and Fox Sports on MSN.

Highlight packages and preview shows will be available for $1.99, or fans can purchase the whole series as a package for $19.99 or a specific bowl game's package for $6.99.

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The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency Previewed on Glam

This past week, the highest-rated show in the history of the Oxygen network, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, aired a preview of the first episode of its second season on the Web network Glam. While the episode will air on Oxygen on January 10, astute fans of the show and others interested in the show had the chance to view that second episode as a holiday treat.

I'll have to admit that I know nothing about the show, but I'm also guessing that I'm not in the target demographic. In return for getting an exclusive preview of the show, Glam is promoting The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency through online banners and e-mail correspondence with its network of bloggers, according to Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek.

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The Game Show Network, Transmedia Extensions, and Brand Building

The Game Show Network is attempting to expand its reach through a transmedia approach to games, making its Web site not just a destination for a different type of gaming experience but a place in which the network can further develop a brand identity that may be lacking from its game show lineup in the traditional channel alone.

The online site for the network has launched a series of games in recent months that has gotten the attention of the users of its Web site. The first such game was launched late this summer, when an animated online game that provided little in the way of intriguing game play but much in the way of commentary and parody of current events, spiking traffic from 444,000 in August to 654,000 unique viewers in September, according to information reported by Daisy Whitney in TelevisionWeek from Nielsen's online ratings.

That animated game mocked Mel Gibson's drinking, entitled "So You Think You Can Drive, Mel?" The object of the game? Why to "collect tequila bottles while avoiding Stars of David and Troopers."

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December 29, 2006

Star Trek, Fan Culture, and Community Building: An Essay from Lincoln Geraghty

Maybe it is an overused example, and I know that at least two C3 affiliated faculty members have written on the fan community in one way or another, but Star Trek fans are likely the most analyzed fan communities in popular culture over the past several years. Both Henry Jenkins (look here and here and here) and Rob Kozinets (look here and here and here) have written several times about Star Trek fandom. But, because it has become a common example used by scholars to debate larger questions about fan communities and fan connections, these conversations have been invaluable for understanding fan communities in general.

One of the latest essays in that continued scholarly conversation is Lincoln Geraghty's piece "A Network of Support: Coping with Trauma Through Star Trek Fan Letters," who uses these fan letters to try and understand the way fans believe membership in some idea of a fan community has "helped them in daily life." Geraghty writes that he intends to try and understand "how far one might regard the Star Trek fanbase as a collective network of support. I believe that those fans who community through writing letters to fan magazines, as well as online chat rooms, are doing so in an attempt to contact fellow enthusiasts and share their own personal experiences, whether they are positive or emotionally traumatic."

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Wilson, Cast Away, and Product Placement/Integration: Maynard and Scala's Essay

Back in August, in the fourth issue of this year's Journal of Popular Culture, there was a great essay on product placement and looking at the unpaid placement of the Wilson ball in the Tom Hanks scenes on the deserted island in Cast Away.

The essay examines the rising business of product placements in film and television and looks at the Wilson example to try and figure out how much a product placement of that sort would have cost Wilson and also a qualitative analysis of the effects of this type of brand exposure.

This piece, "Unpaid Advertising: A Case of Wilson the Volleyball in Cast Away," is written by Dr. Michael L. Maynard, who is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising at Temple University, and Megan Scala, a doctoral candidate at Temple.

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Craig Jacobsen and the Conflict Between Episodic Storytelling and Broadcasting Nature

Another interesting piece from Flow that I wanted to bring to everyone's attention is an essay by Craig Jacobsen from Mesa Community College. Jacobsen, in an essay entitled "The Simultaneous Dawning and Twilight of Broadcast Network Narrative", builds on his previous piece on "How TV Met Narrative Sophistication."

Throughout the fall, we have been documenting the debate about the future of complex television. I have written in response to Jeremy Dauber's column in the Christian Science Monitor depicting the ways in which culture has shifted with the rise of DVD viewings and how the broadcast system is not as good at supporting many complex narratives in primetime simultaneously. I wrote about the cancellation of Smith and how "the middle ground gets you cancelled," as well, concluding that:

In this case, what is said about Hollywood makes sense for television as well, and one has to wonder, as show after show falls off network lineups this fall, which of them could have gone on to be major successes in the long-term. But, until there is a monetized way to value the shows that take the middle ground, and until there is more economic incentive on the network's part to care about the success of shows long-term, then would-be fans of Smith and many other shows will have to just keep guessing what might have been.

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Ray Cha and the Definition of Television

Independent scholar Ray Cha has been writing an illuminating series of articles for the online scholarly journal Flow. For those not familiar with Flow, it defines itself as "a critical forum on television and media culture published biweekly by the department of Radio, Television, and Film at the University of Texas at Austin."

In his first article, Cha examines the traditional definition of television and the way the idea is being redefined. He finds that the three dictionary definitions currently in existence for television is each rooted in a particular time and a technological understanding of the medium. The first essay takes the first definition of television, looking at how the VCR/DVR and online streaming of television has changed the initial understanding of television as transmission.

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Pepsiman! Murray's Essay and Jenkins' Concept of Pop Cosmopolitanism

Noel M. Murray has provided an interesting review of a Japanese Pepsi advertising campaign and its implications on understanding advertising and the base of globalization, in the piece "Pepsiman! Toward a Theory of Symbolic Morphosis in Global Advertising".

Our interest in the many changes in the media industry surrounding "convergence culture" stretches far beyond new technologies but also encompassing the shifting ways in which international popular culture content takes hold. Globalization is perhaps such an overused term that it loses some of its meaning. Further, I've had a class throughout the semester at Harvard that has examined the challenging ways that globalization is examined from an anthropological perspective, as to whether popular culture can be studied and understood by academics and also whether globalization means the homogenization of international culture, presumably at the hands of Western imperialists who are practicing that new, and perhaps even more dangerous in the long run, form of imperialism--cultural imperialism, that eventually destroys indigenous cultures at the hands of the almighty dollar.

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December 26, 2006

Verizon Takes Cautious Step into Mobile Advertising

Today's New York Times features an article by Matt Richtel about the decision by Verizon Wireless to enter the mobile advertising space--albeit cautiously.

The company plans to launch mobile advertising in the new year, through banner advertisements for its mobile Internet content.

Richtel writes, "The development is a substantive and symbolic advance toward the widespread appearance of marketing messages on the smallest of screens. Advertisers have been increasing the amount they spent on mobile marketing, despite lingering questions about the effectiveness of ads on portable phones."

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Veoh Revamp Another Example of Companies Preparing for Continued Growth in Online Video Content

News broke last week that Internet video service company Veoh would be ramping up its service with a variety of new features for longer features provided through its video service. The revamped site includes a new home page with personalized recommendations, as well as listings for featured broadcasters whose content is available through Veoh and a popular categories option.

With the new version of the site, content providers can even charge rental fees to those who access the online video, as well as download-to-own. Further, all the content will now be viewed on a substantially larger player.

The site also provides new ways to navigate the content. Users can mark content as favorites or make recommendations, or content can be searched through for a particular person or a particular series.

According to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek, Veoh ranks 14th in popularity among video sites.

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December 22, 2006

Viacom Drops Out of Plans for Network-Driven YouTube Competitor

Looks like one of the gangs dropped out of the coalition.

Viacom, the parent company for our partner MTV Networks here in the Convergence Culture Consortium, has announced this week that it will not be a founding member of any collective group that provides online video content, with plans that were being formulated to create a competitor for YouTube in the distribution of official copyrighted content on the Internet.

The decision was made public through a story by Claire Atkinson and Abbey Klaassen Advertising Age on Wednesday, with Viacom sources saying that, while the network may license material to be distributed on such a channel, it will not plan to be one of the founders of an online platform of that sort.

Already, we had mentioned that ABC was not planning to be a part, as Disney is content with releasing content through its own online digital distribution service. Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek writes, "Viacom's early exit from the proposed venture represents yet another blow to the networks' YouTube copycat project."

Whitney points out that, with iFilm and Atom Entertainment, Viacom is already positioned well online, and that's not counting various video distribution systems for some of its networks, including CBS's innertube.

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Ten Day Take--Contest for Winning User to Develop Pilot Episode

This week, cable giant Comcast announced that it would be working with global television company Endemol to help transform user-generated content solicited by the cable provider into an official television show, launched through a new contest called Ten Day Take.

Ten Day Take will require users to submit ideas for programs to Comcast, with a winning idea being selected to give that person a chance to work with Endemol to produce a pilot. The catch, as the name of the contest implies, is that the winning idea will only have 10 days to produce a pilot, working on a budget of $50,000.

You can probably see where this is heading...The process of creating that pilot will be programming as well, as it will be a reality-style show which follows the production of that pilot.

Think about the wealth of content this creates...a call for user-generated content that builds into a documentary on the making of a show by the winner of the contest. Sounds like a reality version of Nobody's Watching, doesn't it?

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New Web Program Follows Congdon's Life

Today marks the launch of a new Internet video show from Amanda Congdon, well-known in Internet circles as the former host of Rocketboom. The early star of one of the first massively popular video weblogs, Congdon has worked more recently as a video blogger for ABC News. The show will focus on Congdon's life in L.A. as well as her current occupation.

The new show will be available both on her Web site, as well as Blip.TV. The show will also be available cross-platform through both MySpace's video sharing and for download from iTunes.

According to a press release from Blip, both Paltalk and Dove have signed on as advertisers.

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Dan Rather Reports Distributed on DVD

HDNet is planning to use cross-platform distribution to help further develop its brand identity and establish itself as an entity separate from its technology, as the network announced this week that it will be releasing a line of DVDs of its news program Dan Rather Reports.

The Dan Rather Reports DVDs are only offered in standard-definition right now, while HD versions will be available next year. Each program carries a hefty $9.99 price tag, with the first five episodes currently available.

Starting next month, there are plans in place to offer the program through the Web site by paid download as well. No news has been released as to the cost of downloading each episode.

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December 20, 2006

Finnish Television Event Offers Users Chance to Choose Ending During Show by Text Message

While viewers of Days of Our Lives have the chance to name the baby of a prominent character and WWE invites fans to votes on stipulations and participants of matches on its pay-per-view wrestling event Cyber Sunday, Finnish television fictional event Accidental Lovers from the BT Group is offering an interesting new way for users to text message in order to affect the outcome of storylines on the show.

According to a story from David Meyer at CNET, viewers will be able to text during the show, which will allow them to affect how the program ends in real time. "In an evolution of today's interactive TV, SMS messages texted in by the audience will--in real time--cause the characters to either fall in love or break up." Some of the texted comments will also appear on screen during the show.

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Bill Gates Comments on Digital Rights Management; ABI Reports a Lack of Interest in Movie Downloads

Various members of the C3 team sent me some interesting stories in the news over the past week. Two items in particular are interesting in relation to discussions surrounding digital rights management.

First, as reported by BBC News, Bill Gates on Thursday told an invited group of bloggers and Web developers at the Microsoft headquarters that digital rights management is not effective and has been, according to the story, "too complex for consumers." He said that, while Microsoft uses DRM for the Zune and various other outlets owned by the companies, his short-term advice for people wanting to transfer songs was still to "buy a CD and rip it" because the content would then lack all the angering DRM restrictions. However, the comments do not apply to British listeners as they do to Americans because, as the BBC points out, it is illegal to copy CDs in the country, "although the music industry has made clear it will take no action against people copying their legally bought CDs to their computers or music players."

However, many critics--such as Suw Charman with the Open Rights Group quoted in the BBC story--found Gates' knocking DRM to be a "bit rich," considering how heavily Microsoft uses DRM. She pointed specifically to the way "DRM is stuffed into Windows Vista."

Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion documented the Thursday meeting, and it's worth looking at all the interesting comments that are not related to the few remarks about DRM.

But our research manager Joshua Green was perceptive to link these comments from Gates to a story Geoffrey Long brought to my attention--a new study which claims that less than 5 percent of people polled--all of whom watch video on the Internet--have rented or bought a digital movie download. The study, from ABI Research, was a Web-based survey of 1,725 U.S. adults, found that 70 percent of the people polled, however, watch video online in one form or another.

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December 19, 2006

Scarcity and Plenitude: The Shifting Power Structure of the Publishing World

One concept that has definitely shaped the way we are thinking about the future of media and popular culture here at the Convergence Culture Consortium is a concept that is closely linked with one of our affiliated faculty members, Grant McCracken: plenitude.

Yet we are a culture that understands itself through scarcity, especially when it comes to policy for dealing with the mass media. The Internet, satellite and cable, and a variety of other technologies may allow for plenitude, but we are still locked into this scarcity mode. That struggle between defining media and publishing space as scarce and plentiful drove my interest in a recent commentary from the writer who identifies as "A Betterment Worker" on the blog "Working Towards the Betterment of Publishing." The article, entitled "What Scarcity?", questions the long-held notion that publishing was so expensive that free speech only extended to the few folks who could publish something to get enough copies out and make a true impact.

Before we explore this piece, though, it's helpful to explore Grant's concept of plenitude in greater detail.

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Are Interactive Contests Meaningful Communication or Cheap Gimmicks? A Question Posed from a Fan Message Board

Although it was not a major conversation and only created a couple of responses, I was intrigued by a post on the As the World Turns fan message board over at Michael Gill's Media Domain. User Kimberly Walsh asks fellow readers about the variety of promotional programs Procter & Gamble Productions and CBS had been entering over the past several months.

First, there were Daytime Dollars, a promotion that gave a code sometime during each day's episode that viewers could log on and see if they match to win $500. This promotion ran several months, with a different star announcing the day's code at the top of one of the commercial breaks every day, although it was moved throughout the show to keep people from just tuning in to see the code.

The promotion received a little bit of attention outside the soaps press, including Adam Finley's bonehead comments over at AdJab which claims that the money is "almost worth the damage your brain will endure from watching these shows." Sounds like those guys in the Southern Medical Journal I wrote about back in March, doesn't it?

Now, CBS and As the World Turns have a See it, Text it, Win it Sweepstakes in which a trivia question is asked every week for fans to text the answer in for, with the chance to win $5,000.

Both are very loosely involving communication with fan communities, but this type of interaction is much lower on the ladder than even naming the DAYS baby.

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December 18, 2006

iTunes Sales Dropping? Questions About the Continued Growth of iTunes and the Controversial Meanings of Numbers

A new report from Forrester Research indicates that iTunes sales dropped by 65 percent during the first half of 2006. Forrester researched almost 3,000 iTunes purchases in preparing the data, finding that the post-holiday season indicated a peak and a dropoff from that point forward.

However, the release of the study and the reports in the media following it created a growing amount of controversy.

A story in Thursday's Independent Online in the United Kingdom by Martin Hickman reflects some degree of controversy as to the truth of these figures, as a company spokesperson in the article--who was not named--said that the charge was "simply incorrect." "Apple is leading the digital music revolution with almost 70 million iPods sold and a stunning 1.5 billion songs purchased from the iTunes store," the spokesperson said. This quote was attributed to Tom Neumayr by Scott Martin on Red Herring.

The Independent story also quoted Josh Bernoff, who wrote in the report for Forrester that "iTunes won't save the music business or Apple." The question, of course, is whether online downloads of music were a fad that people are moving away from, whether Apple competitors are starting to make in-roads, or perhaps a third option, where users chose to bolster their music collection at first and, after downloading the music they wanted the most in short order, decided that was enough. I can think of similar phenomena when it comes to releasing the archives of various old shows. Everybody may have certain shows they want in their collection, but they aren't going to keep buying old shows just because they are released but rather are looking for specific purchases to flesh out their collection.

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Branding Education: How Higher Education Is All About Brand Management

William Lozito over at Strategic Name Development had an interesting piece on Wednesday based on a Wall Street Journal story about branding for universities. In this entry building from that WSJ piece, the focus is on the branding of business schools and how that brand has increasingly become a part of MBA programs, in seek to increase recruitment, funding, etc.

The piece focuses on how schools are developing a niche for their particular brand, such as The Kelley School of Business at the University of Indiana, which considers itself as "the best MBA program for career switchers," or schools changing their names often to reflect prestigious donors.

Lozito writes, "B-schools have to think creatively about promoting their brand names. Sometimes that means engaging in some non-traditional advertising." The example he uses is the National University of Singapore, who has created ads like this to promote their schools.

Yet, what does something as highly subjective as branding a university mean in reality? One thing is for sure--universities spend big bucks protecting their name and intellectual property.

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December 17, 2006

A Weird Comic Dialogue: Conan O'Brien, Horny Manatees, and User-Generated Content

Last week, people across our department here at MIT were talking about the situation with the Horny Manatee and Conan O'Brien.

For those who haven't heard the story, here's the synopsis. Conan had a segment on his show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, in which he was talking about a variety of ludicrous sports mascots for universities that he would like to see, he suggested that F.S.U. create a mascot called the "Webcam Manatee," who it was insinuated would perform various masturbatory acts and tease sexual explicitness while, well, in a manatee costume. The video displayed someone watching the manatee rubbing himself to the tune of the classic (and I use that term loosely here) song, "I Touch Myself."

In itself, not a major story. Sounds like standard late night fare. Raunchy, but still within a safety net, while poking fun at the very real popularity of sexually charged webcams. However, at the end of the skit, and it is still said to e unplanned, O'Brien said that the person watching the Webcam was logged onto, a site that didn't exist when this show was taped. Lawyers were quickly afraid that someone would create the site and then create extremely inappropriate content that NBC could then be construed for having promoted, so they bought the license to the site in between the time the show finished taping and its airing time later that night.

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December 16, 2006

FTC Cracks Down on Corporate Attempts to Emulate Viral Marketing without Disclosure

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it would be creating new regulations that any company engaging in viral marketing can no longer try to pass that interaction off as a form of grassroots--a type of action that has been called "astroturf" marketing--without making the official relationship with the company transparent.

There had not been a previous ruling from the FTC on this issue, although it has sparked a growing amount of controversy from online users after a series of situations in which companies were found to be behind a variety of what appeared to be advocacy sites promoting brands from independent fans.

According to Anny Shin with the Washington Post, "Word-of-mouth marketing can take any form of peer-to-peer communication, such as a post on a Web log, a page for a movie character, or the comments of a stranger on a bus."

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December 15, 2006

Firefly Universe Lives on through Massively Multiplayer Online Game

Last week, Mark Wallace had an interesting piece in Wired about how the narrative universe of Firefly lives on through an online product, with the launch of a massively multiplayer online role playing game based on the world of the Joss Whedon space show.

Firefly is an oft-cited example of a show that continued to be popular, despite getting cancelled after only one season, and eventually launched a film version called Serenity, based on the plot and characters from the show.

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Bendis on Transmedia and Continuity in the Marvel Universe: Thinking About Comics Vis-a-Vis Television

My colleague here at the Convergence Culture Consortium, Geoffrey Long, sent me a great interview with Marvel comics writer and all-around prolific creator Brian Michael Bendis. The interview, conducted by Danny Fingeroth and transcribed by Steven Tice at Newsarama, was conducted back in October, focusing on the comic writer's success in the super hero world of Marvel but also the ways in which he has become a transmedia creator (as many comic books writers have.) But perhaps what interested me as much was his discussion of continuity in a universe that has built up a substantial backlog of history through all the comic books over the years.

Bendis writes about his experiences working on films and television shows, as compared to the time he spends in comics. For instance, he writes about the time he spent working on the Spider-Man show on MTV, as compared to his experience writing the Ultimate Spider-Man series for Marvel. At Marvel, he basically took over the character of Spider-Man and recreated the story, starting at square one in a contemporary setting with the character and telling new versions of the events that first happened back in the 1960s to Spidey. Since launching that series from the very first issue, he's already made it now to more than 100 issues. He writes, "I was writing the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, and it's the greatest job I'd ever had in my life. It's completely fulfilling on every conceivable level. So I figured that writing the TV show in addition would be twice as good. And when I started working on the show, immediately it was not fun." As an example, he shares a story of meeting with an executive who questions "why does it have to be a spider."

Bendis spends his time talking about transmedia experience to emphasize the artistry of comic books and why he prefers working in what has been considered by many to be a fringe media form.

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December 14, 2006

In Over Their Heads? Sony Finds Out That Astroturf Marketing Can Quickly Put You Out in the Weeds

When will people get the picture? Astroturf campaigns, as they are often called, make people mad. While there is some fun in playing with avatars and some degree of skill in trickery in taking on aspects of one's biography that may not be "true" in online spaces, there's a difference between my pretending to be Duane Gill in a chatroom and what Sony has apparently done. (By the way, as a complete aside, people actually believed my Duane Gill impersonation as a teenager, usually with the argument, "He must be telling the truth. What idiot would waste their time pretending to be Duane Gill???)

Blake Snow with Joystiq All I Want for Xmas is a PSP, in which two kids are trying to convince their parents to buy them the game console. Snow questions their authenticity just from the perhaps too stereotypical behavior of the kids. "The site only uses lower case letters, always references 'two' as '2,' embraces hip phrases like 'here's the deal,' publishes fake user-generated comments like "this is the best site ever" under the alias of True Gamer, and posts homemade rap videos full of stage props and trite 'izzies.'" He says of their YouTube video, "It just screams street cred."

The problem is that there's not much credibility at all in the fact that the video is posted on a domain owned by Zipatoni, a marketing company. Snow's words are actually pretty acerbic and at least sarcastic..."Dense marketers usually do an excellent job in fooling ignorant customers with such authenticity." Searching out the domain ownership, etc. Now, THAT's another good example of grassroots journalism.

And how does Sony react? Well, they are like those villains on Scooby Doo, when they inevitably have that mask ripped off of them at the end of the episode. So, here is Sony, in their best Miner 49er impersonation:

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Advertising Space in Second Life: How Brands Are Flooding to Virtual Worlds

A great piece from Laura Petrecca in last Wednesday's USA Today about Second Life and how the success of the virtual economy there is starting to drive significant business interest. We've written before about the Reuters Bureau in Second Life, as well as the Ninja Tune music channel. But this article highlights a variety of interesting ventures businesses have made into the online world.

Petrecca writes:

About 5% of Second Life's total "world" now is occupied by big brand names, she says. The creeping commercialism shouldn't offend anyone, she says. Players can easily move from area to area, "so they don't have to see anything they don't want to see."

Also motivating advertisers: Second Life has attracted a tech-savvy user base with an average age of 32. That's an audience increasingly hard to reach through traditional media such as TV.

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December 13, 2006

Times Square: A Publishing Platform?

Many of you may have already ran across Louise Story's article in Monday's New York Times about the ways in which Times Square has become an important icon in viral marketing. The ads that appear in the famous Manhattan area are seen by millions of tourists but have their reach expanded even more now that publishing photos through blogs and sites like Flickr has become a more prominent activity.

The article attempts to give some cursory information about how prominent that reach can be and how far your message can travel across geographic boundaries just by making an appearance in Times Square.

Story writes that, as opposed to the ad campaigns that involve billboards, marketers are increasingly interested in "low cost, face-to-face marketing campaigns" which are more easily photographed and spread by passersby.

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Enemies Rally Together to Ward Off New Threat: A Meeting of Three Families

It sounds like something out of The Godfather. Three families who have long competed, shot at each other, and undercut each other's businesses--sometimes even using questionable tactics--all think about banding together when a new threat comes into the town. They may have always despised each other because they wanted complete control, but the last thing any of them want is a new guy on the block, especially one that doesn't play by their rules.

So you set up a meeting and start thinking about doing the impossible--working together to run that new power off. This new ring has the gall to do the things you never imagined you could get away with.

Okay, so News Corp, Viacom, and NBC Universal has never sold drugs to children (although I'm expecting some snide remarks about alcohol ads from the left-wingers out there or else some talk about depicting of drug use on television from some conservatives right now to try and contradict that), but this new plan from these three powerhouses sounds reminiscent of those old-school cross-gang meetings depicted in the films when it comes to their pervasive new threat: YouTube.

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Music Choice's Popularity in VOD Opens Up Increasing Number of Distribution Doors

Video-on-Demand channels seem to be one form of distribution that are continuing to draw more and more attention as a viable model. WIth the breaking down of the traditional flow of network programming, in an era where TV guide options for viewers allow them to pay little attention to what network their favorite shows air on other than the watermark in the corner, companies are starting to adapt to the non-linear viewing experience.

Case in point? The growth of Music Choice, the Video-on-Demand network that Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek reports is expanding its reachinto the Time-Warner cable markets, according to an announcement made yesterday.

Continue reading "Music Choice's Popularity in VOD Opens Up Increasing Number of Distribution Doors" »

Ad Sale Increases Continue to be Strongest For Spanish-Language Programming, Web-Based Ads

No surprise that the continued growth in ad spending is led by continued dramatic gains in Internet revenue, as well as Spanish-language programming.

The latest figures released by Nielsen for the first three quarters of the year now list a 49.2 percent increase for now from a year ago, while Spanish-language ads are up 16.6 percent from a year ago. this is compared with a rise of 4.1 percent in ad spending for network television, while spot TV in smaller markets grew only 0.6 percent, compared to an increase of 7.4 percent in ads for the Top 100 American television markets.

Continue reading "Ad Sale Increases Continue to be Strongest For Spanish-Language Programming, Web-Based Ads" »

PSFK Asks for Users to Predict the Trends of 2007 Through YouTube

PSFK, an innovation team that calls themselves a "network of experts from across the globe who share the same energy, enthusiasm and wonder" for following the latest news in "trends, fashion, marketing, business and eco-consciousness" have an interesting new project going where they consult the real experts in the trends of tomorrow: users.

In order to track the trends of 2007, the company has sent out a call for readers to make a clip up to one minute in length about the trends they see coming and post those clips to YouTube. They are asking for any trend you predict in the coming year, tagged "PSFK2007" in YouTube, and they plan to collect and watch all the trend videos posted and put together a compilation for their site.

Continue reading "PSFK Asks for Users to Predict the Trends of 2007 Through YouTube" »

December 12, 2006

Internet Television a Reserve for Independent TV Producers?

My inbox has been flooded with people pointing the way to a variety of interesting articles appearing in the New York Times over the past couple of days. I guess that, as they enter their end-of-the-year run, they've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about convergence culture since...well...the newpaper of record is starting to realize that 2006 was the year of Convergence Culture (cheap plug).

On Sunday, I wrote about Jon Pareles's article in that same paper about the rise of user-generated content as a concept in the past year.

However, Lynn Liccardo passed along a short piece from Sunday's paper by David Haskell which writes about the potential rise of independent television using the Web as a distribution model.

Continue reading "Internet Television a Reserve for Independent TV Producers?" »

December 11, 2006

Fair Use

Jason Mittell asks the C3 partners how we view Fair Use in our business models.

As an advertising agency, the copyright issue is pretty cut and dried for us: it's our client's copyrights; we follow their lead. We don't create much media on our own, with the exceptions of some books published by GSD&M LP, such as recently published The Amazing Faiths of Texas.

To be honest, there is surprisingly little discussion of copyright outside the realm of "Who owns it; how much do they want for it?" Few at the agency are interested in Lawrence Lessig's books. So, I think it's clear where a typical ad agency stands.

However, there are cracks, specifically around audience participation, because once you entertain the thought of having others incorporate your work into theirs, you have to figure out how to give them permission to do so. Where people tend to net out, though, is shy of a Creative Commons License. They tend to make the acceptable use an exception of "All Rights Reserved," which outlines specifically what other people can do with their content, as opposed to "Some Rights Reserved", which typically does not.

Why? I think primarily for three reasons: 1) defaulting to stringent copyright interpretation is easy, indeed; there's no questioning of your own assumptions involved; 2) doing so lessens your time with the lawyers, and 3) revolutionaries are not rewarded, so there's little incentive to do something different. This, despite that fact that audiences are changing.

Also, for copyright holders, the default answer of "No!" to reuse is easy. It doesn't take thought, and it doesn't take record keeping. Therefore, I think participatory culture will thrive in a parallel universe of Creative Commons licensed content.

Let me try answering one of Mittell's questions directly.

"Why would the industry want to restrict educational practices that primarily teach students how to consume and create the very products that they wish to sell?"

Continue reading "Fair Use" »

December 10, 2006

2006: The Year of User-Generated Content, According to Pareles

Another interesting piece from today's New York Times from Jon Pareles. He discusses the business of user-generated content, in which platforms for uploading this content is selling for increasingly large numbers, such as the $580 million for MySpace and the $2 billion for YouTube.

He considers "user-generated content" the "paramount cultural buzz phrase of 2006," although he considers it a more technocratic dressing up of the idea of self-expression.

Pareles writes:

All that free-flowing self-expression presents a grandly promising anarchy, an assault on established notions of professionalism, a legal morass and a technological remix of the processes of folk culture. And simply unleashing it could be the easy part. Now we have to figure out what to do with it: Ignore it? Sort it? Add more of our own? In utopian terms the great abundance of self-expression puts an end to the old, supposedly wrongheaded gatekeeping mechanisms: hit-driven recording companies, hidebound movie studios, timid broadcast radio stations, trend-seeking media coverage. But toss out those old obstacles to creativity and, lo and behold, people begin to crave a new set of filters.

Continue reading "2006: The Year of User-Generated Content, According to Pareles" »

Change Sometimes Takes Time: Richard Siklos on High-Definition, Mobile Media, and Virtual Worlds

For all of our talk about what has happened this year, I was interested in Richard Siklos' piece in today's New York Times about what has NOT happened this year: the "hat trick" many analysts were expecting that has not come to fruition quite as quickly as everyone expected--high-definition programming, mobile media, and the rise of the avatar.

Now, mind you, it's not that these three phenomena have not had substantial impact on the media this year, but rather that the impact has just not been as pervasive as many people have imagined. It reminds me of a post I made back in July about the stark reminder that the media experience of many Americans does not feel like it does on those of us interested in looking at the cutting edge.

Continue reading "Change Sometimes Takes Time: Richard Siklos on High-Definition, Mobile Media, and Virtual Worlds" »

December 9, 2006

Nielsen Meeting Solidifies Plans About Commercial Ratings; Consensus on DVR Viewers?

News came out on Thursday that the battle between the networks and advertisers and their buyers over commercial ratings has seen a little headway. Nielsen announced, with more than 100 clients present at a meeting that day, that it will "make available all the data necessary for the media agencies and TV networks to create their own minute-by-minute ratings for all dayparts, including DVR playback data, for intervals of up to seven days," according to John Consoli and Anthony Crupi of MediaWeek. The data will be available on April 24, but raw data will be available for networks to analyze themselves, in the coming weeks.

Michele Greppi with TelevisionWeek points out that, while raw data will be available soon for the broadcast networks, data on cable commercials will not be made available at all until late April, and syndicated shows will not be available until late May.

The idea is to find a way to let commercial ratings be available, but such a late date allows only three weeks before the first upfront presentations, at which time networks traditionally announced their programming for the coming fall and commercial buying deals commence. Will the late release of this raw commercial ratings data not allow them to be a major factor in the haggling over next fall's commercial upfronts?

Continue reading "Nielsen Meeting Solidifies Plans About Commercial Ratings; Consensus on DVR Viewers?" »

Mobile Content Expected to Gain Major Ground in Next Five Years, Juniper Says

According to new research released this week by UK-based Juniper Research, a boom in mobile content is expected to take place over the next five years, with estimations that the global mobile entertainment market, currently valued at $17.3 billion, will reach $76.9 billion by that time.

This large upswing in content will come along with a shift in the types of mobile entertainment people are consuming over the next five years, their report estimates. While, for now, the majority of mobile content focuses on music, and principally on ringtones (More than 80 percent of mobile music revenues are for ringtones, according to Ben Macklin with eMarketer.), the shift will come with revenue from mobile television and mobile games, which they estimate will exceed the money generated by mobile music by that time.

Continue reading "Mobile Content Expected to Gain Major Ground in Next Five Years, Juniper Says" »

December 8, 2006

What Is a Media Educator?

Jason Mittell presents a strong case for an exploration of common ground, indeed for a more direct level of communication of any sort, among those of us involved in the Consortium through the newsletter and blog. Fair use strikes me as just the kind of issue that should generate a productive exchange.

However I wonder to what extent the lack of conversation on this and other topics (at least through this format--I have not yet been able to attend conferences where interaction seems much stronger) can be traced back to some misunderstanding or uncertainty about media education and scholarship itself.

Continue reading "What Is a Media Educator?" »

December 7, 2006

Building Soaps as Long-Term Brands: A Diatribe on Laura's Return on General Hospital

Back on Nov. 8, I wrote about legacy characters in soaps, basing much of my writing about the short-term reuniting of Luke and Laura on General Hospital the iconic couple of days gone by in the soaps industry, going back to a time when soaps carried many more viewers. The post raised spirited debate, even drawing in the former head writer of the top-rated American soap opera, Kay Alden, who is also an advisor on my thesis project.

My intent now is to start with the comments generated from that last post to move into examining the limited success of the Luke and Laura reuniting and what the industry can learn from it and hopefully not misinterpret. The show re-inventing the Luke and Laura wedding did a 2.9, above the usual average for the show but below what some projected might be possible to reach. And, what's worse for some people, the ratings were back down to a 2.6 average for the show, still putting it atop some of its competition but not resulting in any major sustained growth. However, the reunion did post the highest rating in the history of cable network SoapNet, and it generated quite a bit of publicity.

Kay Alden wrote about how unique thinking about using older characters/viewers to help "reinvent the soap opera viewing audience" was a fascinating way to think about audience-building that the genre had not thought about. "The idea of actively rejecting the consistent concern with more and more youth, and instead reaching out for the multigenerational audience is one that we would be wise to explore and, frankly, exploit."

Alden writes, "No one in my experience has said, let's bring back this old person as a means of drawing old viewers back to the show and getting them re-involved, because these old viewers might be the key to drawing in new viewers from their own families, and helping to re-establish the tradition of soap opera viewing as a family affair, passed down from mothers to daughters to their daughters."

Continue reading "Building Soaps as Long-Term Brands: A Diatribe on Laura's Return on General Hospital" »

The Viral Marketing That Doesn't Build Goodwill: Spam

People are always talking about the value of viral marketing, spreading word throughout the Internet. But one thing they aren't referring to is spam. It's the lowest common denominator, advertising gone wrong, the thing that gives proponents of viral marketing a bad abuse of power. But what about the free speech rights of the spammer?

We all have to deal with spam messages. Spam filters for our e-mail help. They help a lot, actually. But they also sometimes catch legitimate correspondence as well that I have to dig out of all the rest of the lint. And then there's all those people I've e-mailed over the years who have never gotten in touch with me, that I'm sure didn't respond because my e-mail got stuck in a filter as well...(Please don't ruin this dreamworld I've built for myself.)

For anyone who runs a blog, though, it's even more frustrating, perhaps. I've learned all I could ever want to know about Tramadol....If you haven't heard, his/her "life's been pretty dull recently," "mind is like a void," and he/she believes "today was a complete loss." I wish someone would give me some Tramadol for having to deal with all their spam.

Lewis Wallace with the Furthermore blog over at Wired followed up on the New York Times story from Brad Stone, who writes that "worldwide spam volumes have doubled from last year, according to Ironport, a spam filtering firm, and unsolicited junk mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages sent over the Internet."

Continue reading "The Viral Marketing That Doesn't Build Goodwill: Spam" »

People Might Not Hate All Advertising...Just Bad Advertising

Over at Techdirt, Mike has written an interesting short commentary about advertising that he posted in the wee hours of the morning, at least Eastern Standard Time.

The theory? "People Don't Hate Advertising; They Hate Bad, Intrusive And Annoying Advertising." He points out that Forrester Research has recently released a study that has the press surrounding it claiming that consumers hate ads because more than 50 percent of households use some kind of advertising blocker.

Mike doesn't buy into the theory that the fact that people who block ads are necessarily "anti-advertising," though, but that they are certainly against certain kind of ads that are pervasively rude. He points instead to the variety of ads that people seek out, viral marketing and Superbowl ads and the like.

Continue reading "People Might Not Hate All Advertising...Just Bad Advertising" »

December 6, 2006

Studio 60 and Product Placement

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has been the location of a lot of interesting discussion this television season--about the importance of "high-end" educational and financial viewers versus "the masses," about the importance given to prestige programs versus programs that draw major audiences, etc. The Aaron Sorkin show has been renewed while many shows have fallen, both by drawing more affluent viewers and by having a prestige factor, even as the latest episode was the lowest rated yet.

Being a major fan of The West Wing and always a follower of sketch comedy, I was interested in this show from its very beginning. And, while I'm disappointed that we don't see enough of the actual show per episode (what a great transmedia project releasing an actual episode of Studio 60 from time-to-time would be!), the show does have some intelligent and insightful (and funny) commentary about politics, religion, and Hollywood.

Particularly interesting to the research we do here at C3 is a recent discussion on the Nov. 27 episode about bolstering Studio 60--the fictional sketch comedy show, rather than the real thing--with product placement to make it more profitable and to help offset the potential of cutbacks. Considering how controversial these questions have been in the "real world" of the entertainment industry, it was intriguing to see them as a plot point on the show. The major points of contention has been from the writers, who feel that product plugs are placing new forms of revenue that carry with them new responsibilities for writers that they are not being properly compensated for.

Continue reading "Studio 60 and Product Placement" »

Gil Thelen on Journalism, Profit Margins, and the Language of Convergence

Today marked the release of the December edition of The Convergence Newsletter, the journalism-focused collection of essays released by the University of South Carolina's College of Mass Communications and Information Studies every month. Of particular interest in this month's edition is the essay titled "Rogues, Rascals, Nostrums and Hard Truths," written by Gil Thelen, who is a former publisher for the Tampa Tribune. Thelen was involved in the converged newsroom in Tampa that combines a radio station, newspaper, and television station that was an inspiration for the Newsplex at the University of South Carolina that also has a converged newsroom.

Thelen joins in on a debate that I've been participating in as well about journalism's future at a time when the newspaper's obligation to the public is coming into direct opposition to its obligation to investors. Thelen writes:

The cost-cutting that is reaching muscle and bone in many news organizations is due in large part to unreasonable profit growth demands by the investor community. My former AP colleague Conrad Fink, now at the University of Georgia, calculates that newspapers average about double the 11% profit of Fortune 500 companies but are hammered by what he calls 'completely unreasonable' investor demands. 'Wall Street knows only one mantra,' he says, 'more, please, more.' I agree with his assessment.

Continue reading "Gil Thelen on Journalism, Profit Margins, and the Language of Convergence" »

December 5, 2006

Ninja Tune Launches Music Video Channel in Second Life

Here's another interesting bit of news forwarded from my colleague Geoffrey Long via Macworld UK: a British record label is finalizing plans to launch a virtual music video channel through the immensely popular virtual world Second Life. The channel will be called Ninja TV, launched by independent record label Ninja Tune. The channel will feature multiple hours' worth of content from a variety of UK artists, and any Second Life inhabitant can watch the TV station free, as well as purchasing the release through the digital shop for Ninja Tune.

Ninja Tune will launch its virtual music video channel as part of a new TV network from the UK design agency Rivers Run Red, which will be called Virtual Life.TV. According to their story, "The Ninja TV channel will be supported by leading UK digital music research firm Music Ally, which will be hosting an event in London in December to profile how Second Life can benefit the music industry."

Continue reading "Ninja Tune Launches Music Video Channel in Second Life" »

PullBox: The Theory Behind a New Online Distribution System for Comics Content

My colleague here at the Convergence Culture Consortium Geoffrey Long sent me a link yesterday to PullBox Online, a new online service that is providing PDF versions of comic books to be legally downloaded for the magic $.99 price per comic.

Users register with the site which the provides downloads of a variety of titles from smaller publishing houses featuring several different genres of content. The site proclaims that "it is created by people who truly understand the comic book community and embrace the lifestyle, hence our name, referring to the thousands of customers who reserve their comics in a 'pull box' every month." They say that they are ignoring technological debates about online comics and simply want to offer another form of distribution.

"We believe that the proliferation of downloadable comics is healthy for the industry, and will allow collectors of physical comics to catch up on hard to find issues they missed, and enabling them to continue to collect the physical series rather than dropping it" (sic) and also position their downloadable versions as a good alternative for those who plan to buy a graphic novel of a series but want to read it along the way as well, since the cost is substantially lower for the PDF files as compared to buying each month's physical edition.

Devil's Due Publishing leads the way, including Family Guy, along with IDW Publishing, Jim Mahfood, and Tim Seeley's Loaded Bible.

Continue reading "PullBox: The Theory Behind a New Online Distribution System for Comics Content" »

Name That DAYS Baby: A Low-Investment Stab at Interactivity

Here's an interesting call for interactivity in the soap opera world. NBC soap Days of Our Lives is asking for fans to choose from a list of final names for the baby of one of the main characters, which is due in January.

Hope will be having a little girl that may be named Cassidy or Darcy or Rori or Bridget or Clara, depending on what the fans choose. Voting is open from Dec. 4 to Dec. 17, at which time the contest will be narrowed down to the top three vote-getting names, and fans can choose again from those top three names from Dec. 18 to Dec. 31.

According to Anna Johns with TV Squad, the site is set up so that each fan can vote as many times as they would like.

Continue reading "Name That DAYS Baby: A Low-Investment Stab at Interactivity" »

December 3, 2006

Seeking Common Ground Between Media Educators & Industry on Fair Use

C3 provides a great opportunity to develop dialogue between media scholars and media professionals, something that has thrived in face-to-face meetings at MIT and elsewhere. While this blog seems not to have generated much dialogue and interaction across this divide (at least that I've seen), I offer the following commentary (both here and cross-posted on the newsletter) to provoke discussion, as it's a topic that needs input from multiple sides, and thus I encourage feedback and commentary to flow from these thoughts.

If there is one issue where I feel the perspectives of academic researchers and educators greatly diverge with the interests and policies of the media industries (at least as publicly stated), it is copyright. The media industries have been aggressively framing their copyrights as owned property, demanding control over all uses and successfully lobbying for legislation to protect ownership rights over all others. Media scholars are typically both copyright holders and active users of copywritten materials, so we can (ideally) see the perspectives of both creators and users - I certainly want to protect some rights to my writings, ensuring proper credit and (modest) compensation for using my work. But I am a dependent practitioner of fair use, the right to use copywritten material without permission for certain purposes such as criticism, parody, and education. Without fair use, I could not quote a book in my own research, show a clip from a television show in class, or assign students to make parodies of movie trailers, all practices that I see as integral parts of my role as a media scholar.

Traditionally, courts have protected such fair use rights over industry objections, but Congress managed to legislate around these rights in 1998 with the DMCA - this act mandated that users could not legally circumvent copy protections (like the DRM system on all commercial DVDs), even if the purpose was protected by fair use. As the film and television industries have switched to DVD as their only format, consumers were denied our fair use rights to make clips for educational use, backup discs in a personal collection, and create parody videos, escalating the hostility between media users and owners. As an educator, this restriction effectively says I can only teach material following the limits dictated by DVD technology. Thankfully, the U.S. Copyright Office last week issued a ruling (which I blogged about) allowing film & media faculty to override DVD protections to make in-class clips - a great allowance, but still one much more limited than fair use.

Continue reading "Seeking Common Ground Between Media Educators & Industry on Fair Use" »

Convergence & Privacy, Redux

Clive Thompson at Collision Detection notes that the new Nike shoes that can broadcast your footsteps to your iPod (making it into a pedometer) can also be used to stalk you:

A group of computer scientists at the University of Washington wondered if they could build a simple device to secretly track somebody by the signal emitted from their shoes. So they set up a laptop, and whaddya know: It turns out that each shoe broadcasts a unique identifier, and it took the scientists only a few hours to write computer code that would sniff it out and track it. They wrote a report summarizing the stalkertastic possibilities raised by the shoes, as their press release reports:
A jealous boyfriend could track a woman's movements, or compare them with the movements of a suspected rival. And although a receiver only picks up the signal when a person is within range, a stalker could hide receivers near a home, a gym and a restaurant, for example, to closely monitor his or her target's movements.
Nice! Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. As more and more products are shipped with radio-frequency ID labels, it'll be increasingly easy for people to track where you're going based on the radio-ID being constantly squirted out by, oh, your cup of coffee.

Or, as Thompson goes on to note, your credit card.

Replacing Touchdowns and Field Goals with Amnesia and Love Affairs: The Fantasy Soap League

Many of us have had friends and relatives addicted to fantasy football. And I wrote this summer about an interesting project between MSN and the Schaumburg Flyers called Fan Club: Reality Baseball, where the collective intelligence of fans was touted as being consulted to help manage a minor league baseball team.

A little farther away from "pure" sports, I spent plenty of time in earlier days competing in fantasy pro wrestling leagues, putting together shows and hiring and firing rosters to get the best ratings from a third party who played "the Nielsens," to compete with the managers of competing wrestling shows. And then there's all the people addicted to the Hollywood Stock Exchange.

But I'll have to admit that I've never heard of a venture quite like this one; cable channel SOAPnet launched a Fantasy Soap League earlier this month.

Continue reading "Replacing Touchdowns and Field Goals with Amnesia and Love Affairs: The Fantasy Soap League" »

LCD Selling Power Continues Growing as Flat Panel TVs Become the Top Seller

According to a study cited by James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek, flat panel television screens are now the most popular televisions in North America. According to a new study by DisplaySearch which was made public last Monday more than 50 percent of televisions now sold in North America are flat panel televisions, with some of the more expensive television sets being the most popular.

Kiyoshi Takenaka with Reuters points out that "it is technologically difficult and often costly for plasma makers to give a full high-definition function to models with a screen size of less than 50 inches, while LCD TV makers are aggressively promoting full HD models in that segment although prices are generally higher" and quotes one analyst as predicting that, "with little price difference, most people would choose LCD TVs because of their higher resolution."

Continue reading "LCD Selling Power Continues Growing as Flat Panel TVs Become the Top Seller" »

Two Recent Examples of Interactive Advertising in Germany

It is not surprising to see that the excitement about participatory media usage has been spilling into advertising.
Two recent examples of brands utilizing this strategy are Hugo Boss, encouraging its (German) customers to pick a 'theme song' for their campaign from the portfolio of the British Indierock band 'The Subways', and Beck's, a German brewery, encouraging customers to design a bottle label using a simple Flash web interface.
The 'deconstructed' elements of the Becks label generator were also used in print ads where they represent an uncommon, yet familiar aesthetics for people routinely exposed to interactive media.
It is a peculiar effect that the deconstruction of the label's 'syntax', e.g. the apparent distinction between 'obligatory' and 'peripheral' elements which ensures the recognizability of the label despite all artistic 'freedom' provided by the interface, does not produce a critical stance towards the ad/label itself but, on the contrary, creates immersion because it ties in with established media practices.
It would be interesting to see some data on the 'success' of the campaign according to the criterion of interactive media exposure.
At the same time, inherently 'critical forms' of media usage potentially revolving around the campaign, e.g. a semi-public blog discussion concerning this matter, are discouraged by avoiding traditionally static, top-down strategies. This latter type of advertising, which McLuhan catchily described as „dunking entire populations in new imagery" („electric persuasion") in his „Understanding Media" in 1964 - interestingly in the chapter about weapons as media - appears to have been 'demonized' in current popular discourse.
Advertising as a 'media toy' in this respect offer a totally different, probably far more effective 'rhetoric'.

December 2, 2006

Your Cell Phone Could Be Spying on You


A district court judge has ruled that it's legal to turn cell phones them into "roving bugs" whose microphones can be activated remotely even when they're powered down.

The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him...

The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone."

Combine this with the administration's claim that warrantless wiretapping is legitimate, and suddenly every cell phone in America that doesn't have its battery removed could be acting as a surveillance feed.

Even if you're not concerned about the possibility of the FBI or NSA spying on you, though, this technology has significant implications. It's only a matter of time before someone (either at a cellular service provider or elsewhere) decides to use this technology for corporate espionage, assuming it hasn't happened already.

Read the whole thing.

The Internet Plays Rough: Fan Support in Peter Jackson's Directing The Hobbit

One thing is for sure--fans care about who creates the work they consume. And, when they attribute genius to a creator, they are likely to remain very loyal.

Just ask the folks over at New Line Cinema, who are probably pulling their hair out at the reaction among the fan community and their stand of solidarity behind director Peter Jackson, denouncing support for a Hobbit film based on the Tolkien book if it doesn't involve Jackson. Since he was largely credited as the "auteur" of the initial Lord of the Rings trilogy, fans have given him attribution as genius, it seems. And many people feel that's founded because of his co-scripting of the screenplay and his leadership directing and producing.

In fact, New Line itself benefited from the initial promotion of Jackson as a genius, as the previously little-known director (see his credits at IMDB) became an authoritative voice on all things Tolkien, and his quirky personality and dedication to the film helped drive critical acclaim and fan interest in the three films that snatched numerous awards and a large chuck of box office and DVD success.

Now New Line must be wondering if their empowering of Jackson has been a mistake, as the director has built up a significant following from online fan communities--and, unlike Frodo with the ring, he knows how to control its power. And, as Sharon Waxman points out in her New York Times article last Tuesday, "the Internet plays rough."

Continue reading "The Internet Plays Rough: Fan Support in Peter Jackson's Directing The Hobbit" »

Wal-Mart Offering Digital Downloads for Movies--If You Buy the DVD First

Wal-Mart is the newest name involved in the digital distribution of films, with the company's new program to stick its toe in the download market with an interesting program--making digital copies of films available to those who buy a copy on DVD.

Here's an interesting way around the complaint that movies don't allow one to see them in any platform you want to with digital rights management blocking copying them from one format to the other. Wal-Mart will not mess with its DRM but rather allow a corresponding download along with the purchase of the film on DVD.

The test film? Summer blockbuster Superman Returns.

Brad Stone with The New York Times suggests that the download service may be a sign that "the decade-old DVD moved two small steps closer yesterday to technology's endangered-species list."

But don't think this is out of the goodness of the retailer's heart. No, according to Amber Maitland in her post on the business initiative with Pocket-lint in the UK, "Customers who buy a copy of the DVD will be able to choose a $1.97 download for portable devices; a $2.97 option for computer-compatible download; and a $3.97 version that works on both."

Continue reading "Wal-Mart Offering Digital Downloads for Movies--If You Buy the DVD First" »

Google Offering Nine Figures to Copyright Owners: The Negotiation of YouTube's Power

The drama surrounding YouTube and its copyright issues continues. BusinessWeek has written this week about plans to calm the waters between rights holders and YouTube, now that Google is "dangling nine-figure sums in front of major programming and network players," which it is calling "licensing fees," according to magazine contributor Jon Fine. He writes, "But some of them characterize the subtext like this: Don't sue us over copyrights. Take this (substantial) payment, and trust us to figure out how we'll all make serious money once we get advertising and revenue sharing worked out."

As Fine points out, the settlement to buy Google some time to figure out what to do with YouTube's copyright issues is quite a predicament for copyright holders:

Continue reading "Google Offering Nine Figures to Copyright Owners: The Negotiation of YouTube's Power" »

FCC FU: Guess the Title Makes Their Message Clear

Now, here is a group who, I believe, makes their point quite clear from their very title: FCC FU.

The initiative was created by World Wide Wadio, which describes itself as "an All-Star team of radio writers, directors, producers and sound designers" who have "won more than 1000 awards so far."

They write that their goal is to protest through humor but hope to tie their humor substantially with more straightforward and traditional forms of protest as well. According to their statement, "Our dream is to spread our message through the Internet and the Mass Media; to have as many people as possible singing and sharing our song, proudly wearing the message on our merchandise... and taking the first crucial step toward that most American of all activities: political protest in the name of Free Speech."

Their mantra may best be expressed by this video I first saw over at Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine. It is the anthem of FCC FU, sung to the tune of "America the Beautiful." The video is also getting widely distributed by Robin Good and WFMU.

Continue reading "FCC FU: Guess the Title Makes Their Message Clear" »

South Park in HD?

James Hibberd has an interesting piece in this week's high-definition coverage for TelevisionWeek about South Park conducting high-definition filming tests. And, as he poses, "The big question is: Why?" Hibberd points out that, especially considering that Comedy Central doesn't have a high-definition channel, "It's tough to imagine a show that would benefit less from an HD makeover than a half-hour animated starring cardboard cutouts."

However, he said that he did know that the experiment "did not go smoothly," crashing the hard drives for the studios and requiring the service of a computer recovery service "to recover two months' worth of work."

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December 1, 2006

YouTube/V CAST Deal a Natural Extension for Cross-Platform Distribution, But Do Users Feel It Is Overpriced?

When we write about new forms of cross-platform distribution, it seems, for the most part, that we are discussing transferring television or film content into an alternate form of distribution. But the new deal between Verizon and YouTube is a reminder that these content distribution deals can also be based on content that first appeared on the Web. But some of the initial user response indicates that what fans perceive as incorrect pricing for these services could lead to them being ineffective, even if the crossover is a natural idea.

Mike Shields with MediaWeek points out that, "at this time, the company has not laid out whether those clips will be primarily of the user-generated variety or will feature content provided by YouTube partners, such as CBS or Universal Music Group." He summarizes YouTube's co-founder Steve Chen's philosophy as being that "extending into the mobile space is key for YouTube to make its platform available to consumers wherever they want it."

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FOE: SpellCast--Episode 11

Yesterday, the 11th episode of the Harry Potter fan podcast SpellCast was released. This episode features Gwendolyn's interviews with several people from the Futures of Entertainment conference. Be sure to check it out!

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