February 29, 2008

Links for Those Who Attended My Tampa Talk

On Monday, I spoke in Tampa at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Tech Forum. My central topic was on the ways that the new media landscape was enabling the emergence of new kinds of public intellectuals. I promised folks in the audience that I would provide them with links to some of the examples which I cited. I already posted this over on my blog, but I thought the resources would be of interest to C3 readers as well.

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February 28, 2008

Stopping the Signal: Another Look at China's "Great Firewall"

With the Beijing 2008 Olympics fast approaching and the recent announcement by the International Olympics Committee to allow athletes to post personal blogs during the games, so long as they follow fairly limiting content guidelines, talk is buzzing again around China's so-called "Great Firewall," now with the addition of the "Golden Shield" -- an elaborate filtering system that prevents undesirable internet content from being viewed.

According to a great article by James Fallows at The Atlantic, plans are in place to open up a range of IP addresses that the government expects to cater to foreign visitors for the length of the games.

The move comes as no surprise to anyone who's been inside a high-end Chinese hotel where the extravagant lobbies give way to mediocre rooms where the curtains don't hang right: China has been notoriously good at putting on a show for western visitors (and potential investors).

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Bringing "Awesome" to Self-Distribution

As you might have noticed, I've been on the film distribution beat lately. It's a subject that interests me well beyond the extent of this blog.

For a long time, I considered distribution concerns to be a kind of luxury, having worked for various years in enabling a more abundant and empowered Central American and Caribbean film production. Then, the subject of distribution seemed important, yet a distant second to the immense hurdles that production entailed all over the region.

After being here for six months, I'm allowing myself to think about this very pressing issue to which we haven't found satisfactory answers, not only in Latin America, but in all sorts of independent/low-budget films worldwide as well.

While I find it essential to understand existing industry paradigms, reinforcing them is not going to bring about substantial change in distributing independent and low budget films; at most, it will open the doors to a wider audience for one or two films. The vast majority of films produced will continue to remain invisible when working completely within the system.

Luckily, both for mainstream and independent production, there are some who are questioning the current models and, more importantly, proposing potentially successful alternatives.

This is when "awesome" comes into the picture.

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CMS Research Fair Tonight at MIT

As I noted last month, the Program in Comparative Media Studies will be holding our CMS Research Fair from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. tonight, on the first floor of the Ray and Maria Stata Center here on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If you're interested in attending this evening and need any further info, don't hesitate to e-mail me at samford@mit.edu.

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February 26, 2008

Buzz, UGC, and Advertising at the Oscars (2 of 2)

In a post earlier today, I began a comparison between the Super Bowl and the Oscars and the difference in emphasis of advertisements for each. I wanted to continue that discussion here.

While I referenced some fundamental differences between the two events and their place in American culture, I think the other part of the hype problem can be changed.

Even though two major brands, Dove and MasterCard, incorporated opportunities for interaction in their advertising through a UGC contest where viewers could vote and the announcement of a new promotional contest, I realized I'd never heard of either initiative before.

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Buzz, UGC, and Advertising at the Oscars (1 of 2)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how advertising rates and viewership for the Super Bowl have changed over time, and mused a little bit on how to draw viewers into the ads during other major telecasts. Watching Sunday's broadcast of the 80th Academy Awards, even though I'm very interested in advertising, I realized that I really wasn't thinking about, or watching for, the commercials. I asked my friends why we don't look at Oscar ads as such a big deal. Everyone shrugged.

So, I began to wonder why.

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February 25, 2008

Learning From YouTube: An Interview with Alex Juhasz (Part Two)

Earlier, I ran the first installment of a two part interview with filmmaker, activist, and cultural critic Alex Juhasz that first ran over on my blog.

In the first part, we focused primarily on a course she taught this fall on YouTube, describing some of the pedagogical issues she encountered, and some of the ways her course got distorted through mass media coverage.

Today, she is focusing more fully on some of her concerns about profoundly "undemocratic" aspects of YouTube, concerns which her teaching experience brought into sharper focus. While Juhasz and I start from very different perspectives, I see her critique as a valuable starting point for a conversation about the ways that YouTube does or does not achieve our highest goals for a more diverse and participatory culture.

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Learning From YouTube: An Interview with Alex Juhasz (Part One)

Given the Consortium's interest in YouTube, I wanted to post a recent interview I ran over on my blog a few days ago.

What does it mean to learn from Youtube and what would it mean to treat YouTube itself as a platform for instruction and critique?

Alex Juhasz taught a course about YouTube last term at Pizer College, a small liberal arts school in California. As she explains below, Juhasz and her students adopted novel strategies for not simply engaging with YouTube content but also for using the YouTube platform to communicate their findings to a world beyond the classroom. In doing so, they took risks -- inviting outside scrutiny of their classroom activities, bringing down skepticism and scorn from many in the mainstream media which itself plays such a central role in the cycle of self promotion and publicity which surrounds the platform and its content. They became part of the phenomenon they were studying -- for better or for worse.

Earlier this month, I served as a respondent on a panel at USC's 24/7 DIY Video Event on a panel during which Juhasz shared her experiences. I felt that both her pedagogical approach and her critical perspective on YouTube would be of interest to readers of both my blog and the C3 blog.

Continue reading "Learning From YouTube: An Interview with Alex Juhasz (Part One)" »

February 24, 2008

Around the Consortium: GDC, His Girl Friday, and the Advertising Lab

Wrapping up a weekend of updates for the Consortium blog, I wanted to look around C3 to a number of interesting posts from some of our C3 Consulting Researchers.

This week, I wanted to point to David Edery's recent work presented at the Game Developers Conference, Jason Mittell's piece on His Girl Friday and early television in the public domain, and a variety of stories that Ilya Vedrashko has provided of late on his Advertising Lab site.

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Google Videocracy and Online Upfronts

Recently, Google hosted their "Videocracy" event in New York, which was intended to be a "deep-dive, Cliffs Notes, YouTube 101 education" for advertisers, according to YouTube spokeman Aaron Zamost.

Among the featured guests number of youtube celebrities such as Lisa Nova, Tay Zonday, and the source of my own bit of YouTube infamy (see here and here), Soulja Boy.

Bloggers hit their keyboards soon after and several called the event an "upfront" -- a telling comparison since the goal of Videocracy seemed to be to present YouTube to advertisers not just as a video distribution platform, but also as a viable alternative content stream comparable to television wherein advertising was concerned.

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FCC Hearing on the Future of the Internet

For anyone here in the Boston area, I wanted to put it on your radar to attend the Boston FCC hearing on the future of the Internet, which will be taking place tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Ames Courtroom at Austin Hall in Harvard Law School. The hearing will not include an open microphone for the public at large to voice their opinion as part of the event, but activist group "SaveTheInternet" will be videotaping the comments of those in attendance and submitting them to the FCC.

A wide variety of speakers will be present as part of the event, which will revolve around two 1.5-hour panels. The first will feature Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benlker, author of The Wealth of Networks, as well as a variety of other law professors, a general counsel for Free Press, Massachusetts State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, and Comcast EVP David L. Cohen.

The second panel will focus on technology and include the Chief Technology Officer of BitTorrent, a network architect, SVP of Networks & Systems Architecture for Sony Electronics, and three MIT speakers.

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GL Makes Major Shift in Soap Opera Production This Week

One industry many have come to expect the Consortium blog to post on, per my entries, over the past couple of years is American soap operas, the area in which I've done my thesis work and continue to write about substantially. In fact, my particular areas of interest and my acting as the primary contributor to this blog explains why there are robust categories of entries on soap operas and professional wrestling. (NOTE: We have not completely tagged all the posts in our archives, so these categories often do not include a significant number of the posts we've done on a subject.)

I'm actually teaching a course on the American soap opera this spring here at MIT for the Program in Comparative Media Studies, and my students and I are in the process of launching a class blog about soaps and particularly about the soap opera we are following for the semester, Procter & Gamble Productions' As the World Turns. We'd love to have you stop by and join in the conversation here. The good news is that comments actually work over at that site! We've also been invited to run regular class updates at the official blog for Procter & Gamble Productions, located here.

But one of the most significant stories in soaps this year is set to take place this week, when Guiding Light switches over to a new taping format that uses handheld cameras and four-walled sets.

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February 22, 2008

Board Game Franchises Come to Film

Seems that board games based on media properties have been more prevalent than media properties based on board games. After all, it's easy to create a fairly low-maintenance ancillary product by replacing the names of various streets with venues associated with The Simpsons or Star Wars. It's a bit more challenging to turn the very brief narratives of most board games into film.

Now, news has come from Hasbro that a major deal has been signed to do just that, however, and many of the world's favorite board games are set to come to life through a partnership with Universal Pictures.

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February 21, 2008

Transparency and Viral Media--Notes from the CMS/C3 Colloquium

The Viral Media--Hows and Whys colloquium event I wrote about in my previous post earlier tonight featured a discussion of a few issues that are of particular interest of me with regard to the issues I've been writing about here on the C3 blog over the past several months.

During the panel, Natalie Lent brought up issues of transparency and authenticity when it comes to promoting word of mouth as an advocate. I've written a few posts recently about transparency and what I see as its great importance in that, despite being a buzzword, it still seems to be primarily undervalued as an essential component of online presence for many companies. See a couple of the anecdotes I shared regarding transparency here and here.

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Viral Media--Hows and Whys

Tonight, we hosted an event in conjunction with our parent academic program, the Program in Comparative Media Studies, here at MIT, dealing with viral media. For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you know that we're doing a fair bit of research within the Consortium right now about this concept of "viral," and some anecdotes from that research have made their way here on the blog. This CMS colloquium event also flowed out of that work.

The event was hosted by C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf (see her bio here), who is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society here in Cambridge at Harvard Law School and who works with the London School of Economics, moderating a discussion between two practitioners working in the digital space who incorporate tactics that are often labeled as "viral."

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From Bleak House to Random House

Last week, I found out from an unlikely source that Random House will begin selling individual chapters of some of their books online. I stumbled upon this bit of news at SpringboardMedia, a blog that belongs to Brian Newman the executive director of Renew Media, a long standing not-for-profit that fosters the production of independent media art.

So why was Mr. Newman so interested in this development?

Well, he considers that filmmakers should learn from Random House's example.

Continue reading "From Bleak House to Random House" »

Blu-Ray Declared HD Winner, Ending Format War

I wanted to start a string of blog updates this afternoon/evening by making note of the end of the format war that has divided HD television owners for some time now. However, now that the DVD format war is over, despite what might be lost in innovation and pricing for the consumer, one would think a consolidated technology will help push innovation forward on the content side and likewise ease consumer reluctance in adopting the new technology.

For those who haven't followed the events, news surfaced earlier this week (see here) that Toshiba has conceded the market battle with Sony between its HD DVD format and Sony's Blu-Ray.

As with others I know, since I hadn't taken a personal stake in the battle up to this point and never purchased and HD player, this is a victory because it means consumers now know which technology to invest in, but I still feel there's some bad branding involved when the format which won carries the name "Blu-Ray" instead of the more intuitive "HD DVD." Perhaps they could just buy Toshiba's much simpler brand name in the process?

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February 19, 2008

Convergence Culture and Behavioral Targeting

On Monday, Online Media Daily reported that Revenue Science, a behavioral targeting (BT) marketing firm, called for participants in an initiative it is calling the Behavioral Targeting Standards Consortium (BTSC), a group of industry practitioners and thought leaders that would define BT, set standards for data collection and use, define best practices, and identify some common metrics.

What does that have to do with convergence culture? I would argue quite a lot.

Continue reading "Convergence Culture and Behavioral Targeting" »

February 18, 2008

Fandom, Dialogue, and Independence

We spend quite a bit of time here on the Consortium's blog writing about and thinking about the relationship between producers and consumers, particularly in the media and entertainment space. As regular readers know, my own Master's thesis work at MIT dealt with how this relationship manifests itself today in the soap opera industry in particular (see here, for instance), and the energy of the Consortium and many people surrounding the CMS program here at MIT are often dedicated to these questions.

While I hold fast to the idea that companies must treat their fan communities with some esteem and pay attention to the discussion taking place around their product, perhaps even communicate directly with those fans, we also see that this desire to get closer to fan communities can quickly become a desire to control communities in many cases. It's quite a mistake to think that all fans want, through the social connections they form online around brands and media properties, is to get closer to the official productions of these shows. After all, that's one of the biggest misconceptions that caused some of the controversy surrounding Fanlib.com, which we wrote about several times in the past year (see, for instance, here).

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Around the Consortium: In Media Res, Massless Communication, and User-Generated Branding

First off, an extremely interesting project that some of you may not know about: In Media Res, in addition to being the title of the newsletter for the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, is also the title of a Media Commons project, located here.

Each day, a media scholar uploads a video between 30 seconds and 3 minutes in length and includes as well a 100-150 word response to it. According to the site, "The goal is to promote an online dialogue amongst media scholars and the public about contemporary media scholarship through clips chosen for either their typicality or atypicality in demonstrating narrative strategies, genre formulations, aesthetic choices, representational practices, institutional approaches, fan engagements, etc."

I recently participated in the project for the first time, posting a video entitled "Cactus Jack and the Moral Justification of Great Wrestling Heels." If you have a chance to watch the video, I encourage you to contact me or leave a comment there if you have any thoughts.

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UK ISPs and Piracy Monitoring

The latest in continuing controversy about the role of Internet service providers in monitoring or having any responsibility or culpability in the actions of its customers comes from the United Kingdom, where Mark Ward from the BBC reports on governmental pressure directed toward ISPs to reject net access to those who use their Internet service for pirating copyrighted content.

Ward writes about a new consultation document that has been circulated in the UK this week, advising the government that ISPs should be brought into "the fight against piracy." However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has come out in staunch opposition to the suggestion, pointing out that "the 2002 E-Commerce Regulations defined net firms as 'mere conduits' and not responsible for the contents of the traffic flowing across their networks.

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Online Buzz as a Catalyst and a Symptom of Popularity

Perhaps it is intuitive, but it's always helpful to have some bolstering studies out there. News came out earlier this month of the results of a study from the Stern Business School at NYU that, among a variety of factors studied surrounding the success of album sales, blogs and social networks are particular indicators of successful album sales.

According to Jacqui Cheng with Ars Technica, the study found that albums with 40 or more posts made about them before their release received three times the average sales; for albums with 250 or more blog posts about them, the sales were six time the average.

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Last.fm, Online Music Distribution, and Cross-Platform Promotion

The Web has brought discussion of crises to traditional media for a variety of industries. However, no industries have been hit harder than newspapers and music, in terms of rhetoric about Internet culture and consumption signing the death warrant for those industries as we know it.

I have written multiple times in the past about the plight of newspapers here on the C3 blog (look here and here, for instance), while Ana Domb has written multiple times about changes in the music industries (see here and here).

Last month, Ana wrote specifically about how 2007 was considered "the year the media industry broke," writing further that:

My sense is that the music industry is not broken, but it is going through terrible growing pains. It's outgrowing its parents and struggling to find its new identity. (We all know that this is a long and painful process.) Now, granted, "parents" is not the strongest analogy for the music labels, since they have NOT given birth to music, and some might argue they've done just the opposite. For the moment, though, let's consider them the music industry's legal guardians.

We have yet to find out what this new music industry will look like, but changes like the ones that took place last year will help consolidate an important shift in the dominant power structure. Much has been said about how this change has empowered the audience, and certainly Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails respond to this trend, but they also reflect the increasing power that the creators have obtained over the production and distribution of their content. This will be a long, slow and interesting struggle. And I would say that, in spite of the industry's flare for the dramatic, it will be a while until everybody knows what their new role is, what they are allowed to expect, and how they can relate to each other.

This all takes me to Last.fm, a CBS-owned music site which allows users to listen to a wide variety of musical choices, on-demand, for free, with advertising support. The positives? Through CBS's reach and access to a deep reserve of music, users can line up their own mix of music to play for free without interruption. The negative? At current, a track is only allowed to be played three times. Otherwise, users are linked to iTunes, Amazon, and other outlets to buy that song from.

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February 17, 2008

Bickering between Dunkin' Donuts and Its Franchises

Some of you may have read my posts a few weeks ago about a local donut joint here in town called Linda's and the subsequent discussion regarding authenticity and chains (see here, here, and here.

A couple of the Yelp users I wrote about framed Linda's against the chain of Dunkin' Donuts, and in fact I got into a longtime discussion with the guy my age while I was visiting about Dunkin' Donuts, the value of their convenience, and what he felt was the declining quality of their product, in favor of proliferation and speed.

Compare this with our discussion with Joe Pine from back last fall, in which Joe referred to the Starbucks edict that "it should take time to get a cup of coffee."

Apparently, many of the franchise-holders of Dunkin' Donuts agree to some extent, that there is a point of too much proliferation. And that's not that surprising, considering that they have quite a financial stake into not seeing the Dunkin' Donuts brand extend too far...especially out of their stores.

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February 14, 2008

Light Bulbs and Eye Drops: FNL Fan Care Packages for NBC

In my previous post, I wrote about the fan campaign surrounding the effort to keep FNL on the air. With some further searching this afternoon, I've found a couple of other campaigns focusing on keeping this NBC drama on the air.

While the group I wrote about earlier are focusing on sending mini-footballs to the network, other groups are sending related household and health items related to the show.

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Go Long, Peacock: FNL Fans Beef Up Offensive Line

Considering the writing we've done here at the Consortium of late about Friday Night Lights (see here, here, and here), as well as fan campaigns (see here and here), I wanted to spend some time looking at the rise of fan energy surrounding attempts to get NBC to renew or find a new home for one of the best American primetime dramas I've seen.

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More Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference

At the Console-ing Passions conference in April I wrote about in my previous post, I am participating in a workshop from 10:30 a.m. until noon on Friday, entitled "Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old."

My presentation is entitled, "Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps." The workshop is chaired by Bob Rehak from Swarthmore College, who is presenting on "Boys, Blueprints, and Boundaries: Star Trek's Hardware Fandom." The workshop also includes Julie Levin Russo from Brown University, who has a presentation entitled "Labors of Love: Who Charts The L Word?" Louisa Stein from San Diego State University will present "Videogames, Fan Creativity, and Gendered Authorship: Complicating Dichotomies," while Suzanne Scott from the University of Southern California presents "From Filk to Wrock: Performance, Professionalism, and Power in Harry Potter Wizard."

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Some Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some information about intriguing panels at a couple of academic conferences I will be speaking at in March: the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (see here and here) and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference (see here and here).

The preliminary program is now available for a third conference I'm speaking at this spring, called Console-ing Passions. The conference's tagline is "an international conference on television, audio, video, new media & feminism." This year's event is being held at the University of California-Santa Barbara, from Thursday, April 24, to Saturday, April 26.

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From YouTube to WeTube...

I recently shared this piece with the readers of my blog. Considering the work the Consortium has been doing of late on YouTube (See blog entries about it here, here, and here), I wanted to cross-post it here as well.

Last week's 24/7 DIY Video Summit at the University of Southern California represented a gathering of the tribes, bringing together and sparking conversations between many of the different communities which have been involved in producing and distributing "amateur" media content in recent years.

Mimi Ito and Steve Anderson, the conference organizers, have worked for several years to develop a curatorial process which would respect the different norms and practices of these diverse DIY cultures while providing a context for them to compare notes about how the introduction of new digital production and distribution tools have impacted their communities.

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February 13, 2008

Honeydripper: The Challenges of Self-Distribution

With 16 feature films under his belt and a few Oscar and Palme d'Or nominations, John Sayles is a well-established figure in the U.S. film industry. He also has a reputation for being politically consistent and outspoken. In the majority of his movies he writes, directs and edits; his partner, Maggie Renzi, has produced most of them. For their last feature, Honeydripper, Renzi and Sayles chose to give up on the perks of being able to work within the mainstream industry, for the control that self-distribution and self-financing affords them.

Set in the Deep South during the 50s, the movie was made with 5 million dollars and Danny Glover's full support and participation. Honeydripper is a fable about the birth of rock and roll; more importantly it manages to depict the rich and complex lives led by African-Americans during a time of oppression, without making oppression central to the storyline.

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February 12, 2008

Ending the WGA Strike

News came over the weekend that the WGA strike seemed to be reaching an end, with the Guild approving a tentative contract and rumors that the writers could be back at their keyboards as early as Wednesday. It seems that both the studios and many writers, not to mention television viewers, are delighted at the prospect of new episodes, after the endless stretch of reruns and reality shows that has been dominating TV in recent months.

At C3, we've been following the strike fairly closely, with a discussion of its historical context in the blog last November and continuing discussions with striking writers and producers in class and at the FoE2 conference.

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February 11, 2008

Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (2 of 2)

In my previous post, I said, "How prevalent streaming becomes in relation to other methods (DVD, VOD, broadcast, downloads) will ultimately depend on the collective movement of five interdependent forces: content creators (including writers), technological change, cable companies, advertisers and audiences." While I looked at the first of those forces--content creators--in that post earlier today, I wanted to elaborate on each of the other four aspects I mentioned as well.

Technological change

Let's face it, most people still watch television on their TV, and moving content from your computer to the television screen isn't exactly simple at the moment. There are definitely options, but they aren't obvious, simple, or convenient for most people (myself included). They also require high-speed internet connections, relatively new televisions, relatively new computers, and the know-how to set them up.

Continue reading "Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (2 of 2)" »

Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (1 of 2)

There are a lot of lingering questions following the writer's strike. Will TV audiences return? How will networks recoup the lost revenue of the last three months? Will TV meet the same fate as newspapers and see advertisers move to greener new media pastures? Could NBC's reaction be the beginning of the end for the fall premiere season and the up fronts?

These are all interesting questions, but one sentence in this Washington Post article caught my attention Sunday afternoon, referring to the contentious and complicated issue of writers' payment for streaming content online: "[t]he guild, in turn, held fast, arguing that writers had to share in the profits of what may become the preeminent way to view filmed entertainment."

I think this leads to the most interesting question of all. Will streaming episodes online become the primary way that people view television content? And, perhaps equally as important, will that be a viable way for networks and producers to monetize content? I would argue that the shift is is not, as some suggest, a foregone conclusion.

Continue reading "Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (1 of 2)" »

February 10, 2008

Around the Consortium: FoE2, Firebrand, Bollywood, and Jason Mittell

I wanted to finish off the weekend by pointing out a few interesting pieces of writing taking place around the Consortium recently.

First, I wanted to direct everyone's attention to this recap of the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference from C3 partner MTV Networks' Greg Weinstein, appearing on the FanTrust site.

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Fans, Producers, and when Real Person Fic actually becomes about Real People

As indicated by the recent piece for the C3 Weekly Update newsletter we distribute within the Consortium on Fanlib and my previous posts (here and here) about Friday Night Lights and fandom, I've been thinking quite a bit recently about the relationship between fans and media producers that results from fan production in general and fanfiction in particular.

Two recent personal incidents around this issue come to mind, the first regarding the discovery a couple of weeks back, of RPF (Real Person Fic, or fanfic about celebrities) about people that I actually know. It wasn't tongue-in-cheek meta-RPS like the infamous Henry Jenkins/Chris Williams, but unironic fan work about a couple of guys in a band who used to live around the corner from me in Brooklyn.

I found myself disconcerted and even a bit scandalized.

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Be Kind Rewind: Between Participation and Control

One of the great pleasures of living in Cambridge is that we regularly have access to sneak previews. About a month ago, I got to see John Sayles' latest opus Honeydripper, and just last week Michel Gondry came to the MIT campus with Be Kind Rewind. Both push different boundaries and deliver an honest, dare I say "authentic," authorial gaze. (See recent C3 posts about authenticity here and here.)

Be Kind Rewind is an unpretentious movie. Its plot, as it's accurately described onIMDB is about Jerry (Jack Black), a junkyard worker who attempts to sabotage a power plant he suspects of causing his headaches. But he inadvertently causes his brain to become magnetized, leading to the unintentional destruction of all the movies in the family store of his friend (played by Mos Def).

Continue reading "Be Kind Rewind: Between Participation and Control" »

Scott Bryce Fan Campaign Continues

As part of some blog catch-up this Sunday, I wanted to pick back up on a story I wrote about last month about fan response to the firing of actor Scott Bryce on As the World Turns. Fan campaigns have launched Web sites, petitions, and mailing campaigns, as soap fans are so quick to do when they dislike a decisions made by soap opera producers.

Now, with Bryce doing a fairly candid interview with well-known soap opera columnist Michael Logan about the situation for TV Guide, fans have had much of their sentiment confirmed by the actor himself.

Continue reading "Scott Bryce Fan Campaign Continues" »

February 9, 2008

Passions Cancelled Again...But Rumors of Its Continuation Persist

Last April, I wrote about the intriguing deal NBC struck with DirecTV to move its soap opera Passions over to the satellite provider as exclusive content, after the network had decided to cut the soap opera from its daytime schedule to make room for another hour of The Today Show.

The show ended up getting a run that lasted from Fall 2007 until Summer 2008, when the last episode of Passions is currently set to air. Fans and critics alike knew the deal struck with DirecTV was an experiment from the start.

Continue reading "Passions Cancelled Again...But Rumors of Its Continuation Persist" »

WWE's Departure from The CW a Situation Worth Watching

Significant news broke this week for the CW Network and World Wrestling Entertainment, as the WWE announced on its Web site Friday that, at the end of the current television season, Friday Night Smackdown will no longer air on the CW Network.

The move raises significant questions for what will happen to one of the two major WWE wrestling brands, but it also gives us a chance to consider what programming with a strong base like the WWE's might be able to seek out as alternatives. The WWE has proven in the past few years to be willing to experiment and change the nature of its programming, from its launch of defunct brand ECW as its "C-show" on Sci Fi (a move that was controversial in itself, especially due to tensions between wrestling fans and sci fi fans over its placement on the network) to its use of the Internet for distribution of shows in the past when they were moved off the network (see here).

Continue reading "WWE's Departure from The CW a Situation Worth Watching" »

Recut, Reframe, Recycle: An Interview with Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jassi, Part II

Earlier this week, I cross-posted the first part of an interview with media scholar Pat Aufderheide of the Center for Social Media and Law Professor Peter Jaszi, both from American University. Now that the second half of the interview is available on my blog as well, I also wanted to share it with the Consortium's blog readers.

Your team has had good luck developing a set of guidelines to provide more clarity to documentary producers about when their deployment of borrowed materials is protected under current legal understandings. Can you describe some of the impact that this report has had? What lessons might we take from those experiences as we look at the challenges confronting amateur media makers?

PA: Documentary filmmakers found their hands tied creatively, without access to fair use. So in November 2005 they developed a consensus statement, Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use, through their national organizations and with our coordination, which describes four typical situations that come up for them, and what the principles of fair use are, along with the limitations on those principles. For instance, the Statement shows that in critiquing a particular piece of media, you can use that media to illustrate your point. The limitation is that you can't use more of it than makes your point. Common sense and good manners require that you let people know what it is (provide credit).

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February 7, 2008

Watching for the Ads: Consumer Culture, Engagement and the Super Bowl (2 of 2)

In my previous post on advertising and the Super Bowl, I observed that household share has been flat for this major American cultural event since the late 1990s, but the actual number of viewers has increased almost every year. I wanted to share some more insight with you regarding the data from Super Bowls throughout history.

CPMs for Super Bowl Ads have been climbing, especially since the late 1990s.

More people are watching the Super Bowl, but CPMs (the cost of reaching one thousand viewers) have been growing, in nominal and real terms, quite rapidly since the late 1970s (before cable and the Internet) and took off in the late 1990s.

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Watching for the Ads: Consumer Culture, Engagement and the Super Bowl (1 of 2)

Perhaps because I didn't grow up in the U.S., and definitely because I am interested in television and advertising, I am absolutely fascinated by the Super Bowl.

It's a major sporting and cultural event in this country, complete with the urban legend, social elements (plans almost take on the importance of NYE in some circles), and consumerism that marks any holiday.

Consumer culture is alive and well in the Super Bowl. Americans spent an estimated $9.5 billion on related expenses this year, acquiring about 2.4 million HDTVs, according to a report in Cynopsis Digital.

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Recut, Reframe, Recycle: An Interview with Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jassi, Part I

I posted this entry on my blog yesterday from the west coast, having flown out to California to participate in 24/7 A DYI Video Summit being hosted by the University of Southern California. The event brings together videomakers from a range of different communities -- everything from fan video producers to activists who use Youtube to get their messages out to the world. I am thrilled to be participating on a plenary panel on the future of DYI Video, featuring Yochai Benkler, John Seely Brown, Joi Ito, and Lawrence Lessig, hosted by Howard Rheingold.

As I was getting ready to head out to the conference, I conducted an interview with media scholar Pat Aufderheide (of the Center for Social Media) and Law Professor Peter Jaszi, both from American University, and I thought I would share it with the Consortium's readers as well.

I've long been interested in the work Pat and Peter have been doing promoting fair use in relation to a range of different communities of practice -- including documentary filmmakers, media literacy instructors, and producers of online video content. We featured some of the work they were doing through the Media in Transition conference at MIT last year.

Continue reading "Recut, Reframe, Recycle: An Interview with Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jassi, Part I" »

February 4, 2008

YouTube and Non-English Media Content

As we have written about several times here on the C3 blog of late, we've been immersed in a study of YouTube for the past several months that involved going through and coding a variety of details about hundreds of videos on the site. As part of our ongoing effort to provide some very preliminary sketches on some of the interesting data or trends we've found, I wanted to write a bit about some of the more interesting series that appear to have a strong following online.

Binbir Gece. Several times, I ran into posted videos of a Turkish video series called Binbir Gece. It appears these videos became popular after an individual user started splitting individual episodes into pieces short enough to be posted on the video sharing site, from a handful of individuals, none of whom seem to be officially affiliated with the site. A search for the series on YouTube reveals about 2,500 videos in all, These videos appear to generate a significant amount of discussion in the comments section, revealing a community of Turkish-speakers on YouTube that might not be apparent at first glance.

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Measuring Consumer Awareness about the Digital Deadline

When it comes to measuring phenomena, there are a variety of things one can look at, but at the heart of any question is whether your goal is to measure how much of something exists or the quality of that phenomena where it does exist. These are two fundamentally different research questions, yet it often feels that the goals of both get confused.

We've spent considerable time over the past year talking about audience measurement--online, for advertisers, for the television industry, for technological adoption, and so on. Several of those pieces are available here, and you can watch to a whole panel on the topic from our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference back in November.

But a recent e-mail I've received brought all these discussions back up, about impressions and expressions, about engagement, and about audience measurement. As I've written about before, the myriad approaches--and agendas--often create a virtual Tower of Babel.

This time, the research revolves around measuring knowledge of the upcoming digital deadline.

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Around the Consortium: IAP Class, Ad Impressions, Indian Radio, Community Managers, and the NATPE

It's Monday morning, and we're getting ready to launch our spring classes here at MIT. I wanted to start out the new week with a look at some of the most interesting pieces being written on blogs affiliated with the Consortium.

First, now that C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken and C3 Research Manager Joshua Green have finished their course on qualitative research methods for the Independent Activities Period here at MIT, Grant has shared a few pieces of insight he received from the course and from his time here in Boston. Grant provides some insights from a couple of his students who I've had the pleasure of interacting with, Jason Haas who works here in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and John Deighton from Harvard Business School, regarding Mr. Rogers and a sneaker store in Boston.

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February 3, 2008

Fandom in the Age of Franchising (2 of 2)

In my previous post on the topic, I voiced my frustration about Virginia Heffernan's combining a variety of "convergence culture" activities that I feel can't be so easily conflated in her recent piece on Friday Night Lights for The New York Times Magazine. Heffernan devotes a lot of attention to the lack of fanfiction in particular, and her take has been both praised and derided in fanfiction communities. While I think that some of her speculations on why Friday Night Lights doesn't have a lot of fanfiction do make sense, the way they are presented, and the reasonings behind them, are somewhat flawed and speak to a somewhat shaky grasp of fanfiction as both a social and artistic practice.

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Fandom in the Age of Franchising (1 of 2)

I finally started watching Friday Night Lights over Thanksgiving. Several people, including C3's own Sam Ford (see his post on FNL) had been hounding me to give the show a shot for months, but I had been resolute in my resistance. I had so little time for TV as it was, so why would I spend it on a show about high school sports? What did I know about football, or even Texas, for that matter? It wasn't until someone literally shoved the DVDs in front of me that I gave it a chance and immediately fell for the way it's able to convey with such astute, human tenderness a culture that had once seemed to me so alien and unwelcoming.

So I count myself amongst the "fans, critics, and even network suits" Virginia Hefferman mentioned in her New York Times Magazine article who had come to think of Friday Night Lights as necessary television. And, as a member of C3, a fan of many media properties, a consumer of transmedia content, a blogger, and a once-reader of fanfiction (back when I had time to read any form of fiction), I agree in general that entertainment and art are becoming increasingly collaborative and that fan engagement is gaining greater prominence as a marker for success.

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February 1, 2008

Authenticity, Grant McCracken, and Donuts

I've gotten a few e-mails regarding the piece I wrote a few days ago about Linda's Donuts and the search for authenticity. One of them came from friend and Consortium Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken, who turns out had written some on the subject of authenticity only a couple of days prior, in response to criticisms of the Dove and Axe Unilever campaigns, which many have had problems with because of what they identify as an inconsistency between the messages of each, with Dove stressing one's comfort with their own body in their advertising, while Axe emphasizes a more narrow form of feminine beauty in encouraging teenage boys to use the body spray to attract a certain kind of woman.

Grant wrote me wondering whether we might disagree, and I didn't answer him for a couple of days, as I wasn't sure if we were or not. And I'm still not.

I read his post before I ever wrote the Linda's piece, but it hadn't dawned on me that my points about authenticity might be in conflict with his, even though we both referred to Joe Pine and James Gilmore's new book Authenticity. Of course, in academia, one has a right---perhaps an obligation--to not always agree, and Grant and I have discovered in the past that perfect agreement at the expense of others can sometimes be downright unhelpful. I'm referring here to Grant's September piece on the nature and problem of scorn.

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