The Daily Newspaper Minus the Print

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ahh, just what I wanted for Thanksgiving, a paper-less daily paper on my non-existent iPad.

Here’s the rundown on Rupert’s newest pet project:

Who: News Corp.’s “The Daily,” a staff of 100, and Mr. Murdoch.
What: A daily digitial newspaper available only from an iPad app.
When: Set to debut sometime in 2011.
Where: Available on iPads everywhere, for a price that is.
Why: Cha-Ching $

Like its namesake, The Daily will be published daily. Imagine a newspaper website, now imagine never being able to refresh it until the next day. The limitations don’t stop there; the staff of 100 is expected to churn out mostly original content, with some recycled bits of content and videos from News Corp. and Fox Sports. [Compare that to most large daily operations which feature at least a couple of hundred on staff.]

Staff highlights include the likes of Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, Steve Alperin of ABC, and Richard Johnson of Page Six fame. While I’m interested to see what this static, multimedia daily will look like, I’ll admit that I lack the capabilities to do so. The access cost, in this case, an iPad, is quite high–and that’s before I can even access the content via the application.

No need to fear, Murdoch expects half a million to snatch up the app [about 5 % of current tablet users according to the Times]–an ambitious feat, even for the media magnate.

But with tablets and smartphones representing a growing cash mine with users routinely spending on apps, it just might pay off.


Television Without the Box: Ads Galore

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

With Google TV and Apple already making their rounds on the online television circuit, a report from Turner Broadcasting that claims web viewers may be willing to watch even more ads online is drumming up support for television without the television.

The report found that online viewers may be willing to sit through ads comparable to that of current television ads (read: a half hour of NBC’s “Community” actually breaks down to a 23 minute episode with the remaining seven minutes left for 30 seconds+ ads).

Currently, Hulu viewers are accustomed to much less, watching that same 23 minute episode with four to five 15-30 seconds breaks–totaling a whopping minute and a half of ads. Viewers on Hulu also have the option of watching a minute-long trailer or long-form commercial first and bypass the 15-30 seconds breaks entirely for an uninterrupted viewing experience.

The plan? Pad online streams with so many ads that its simply television online. Really? Moving backwards much?

Granted that online viewing still has its limitations, the idea of online streams simply becoming jam-packed with ads will still not bode well with online viewers. The flexibility of the web is still hampered by traditional media, with some shows running on a delayed posting date in conjunction with broadcast agreements (e.g. popular shows like Fox’s “House” is posted 7 days after the original broadcast).

And we still haven’t seen anything comparable to a 6 o’clock news show online that doesn’t originate from a network. [And even so, how many times will you go online to watch Nightly News with Brian Williams the DAY AFTER the original broadcast? It’s old news made even older.]

But for now, it’s good news for those hoping to squeeze the nickels and dime out of online viewers, who, for the most part–don’t really pay attention to ads. At least I don’t. The best part of watching House online, even if it’s a week later, is being able to quickly toggle to my Facebook page while some Toyota ad blares on in the background. Is it just a case of the dollar-dime rule, this time applied to television and the web instead of print and the web?

Newsweek: The One That Got Away…

November 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Only to come back.

That’s right fellow media romantics, The Daily Beast‘s Tina Brown is at it again with  Newsweek Magazine.

The Daily Beast's Tina Brown.

After parting ways just last month, the Daily Beast is finally set to merge with Newsweek, making Brown editor-in-chief of not only her feisty web aggregator child, but also head honcho at the iconic and failing weekly magazine.

Newsweek's Sidney Harman

Brown confirmed the rumors on a column on the Daily Beast, which read: “Daily Beast, Newsweek To Wed!

It’s nice to see the two crazy kids finally get past their differences and just tie the media knot already, but in case you’re interested–here’s the nitty gritty of the new deal:

  • New company to be named “Newsweek Daily Beast Company”
  • Ownership will be split 50/50 by IAC’s Barry Diller (co-founder of the Beast in 2008) and Newsweek’s Sidney Harman.
  • No word yet on what the merger will mean for Newsweek and The Daily Beast as separate entities, although the Times is reporting that both “would retain their separate identities” (whatever that means).
  • Harman will finally get an editor-in-chief for the magazine with extensive print experience and an online following (Brown was former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.)
  • IAC and the Beast have the potential to see mega-profits with the redesign of an old print favorite.

Not to split hairs, but what exactly broke up the two anyway?

Well, apparently Harman felt like he was getting squeezed out of the company during deal talks. The 92-year-old audio pioneer, who purchased the company from the Washington Post Co. for $1 this past summer, absorbed the magazine’s $71 million debt and poised to turn around the failing weekly.

Only time will tell if these two can make it work. Here’s hoping that I won’t have to return that blender.

Joel Klein: A Lesson In Media Restructuring…Sort Of

November 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

Image: Daily News

Imagine my surprise when I received this text alert from the NYTimes today at 4:29 p.m.:

“Joel L. Klein, New York City Schools Chancellor, Will Step Down, Officials Say

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banked his current third term on an education overhaul and worked closely with Klein to secure mayoral control of the massive City school system.

Klein, who has served as chancellor for eight years, is most well known for putting an end to “rubber rooms,” which were seen as a costly band-aid for reprimanding teachers, as well as ending “social promotion,” while also controversially pushing for charter schools, testing, and his disdain for teacher unions.

So why ditch out now in the middle of Bloomberg’s term?

The Los Angeles Times reports that Klein is leaving his close partnership with New York’s most powerful billionaire politician (calculated net worth by Forbes: $18 billion) for another politically savvy New York billionaire with an Aussie flavor.

That’s right folks, Mr. Klein will be playing for Rupert Murdoch’s team now (Forbes net worth calculated at $6 billion) as executive VP of the Office of the Chairman of News Corp–a newly created post.

What’s an education bureaucrat to do in a mega media corporation like News Corp.?

One only needs to look at the Washington Post Co., which receives over half of its profits from Kaplan, the popular testing and test prep company.

In a statement, Murdoch commented on the decision to appoint Klein:

“His record of achievement leading one of the country’s toughest school systems has given him a unique perspective that will be particularly important as we look into a sector that has long been in need of innovation.”

News Corp. isn’t the only company to jump on the potentially lucrative education bandwagon. The New York Times public editor, Arthur Brisbane, recently elucidated on the Time’s Education Network in one of his Sunday columns.

As failing media companies look into creating alternate revenue streams, restructuring almost seems inevitable. The recent clash between Cablevision and Fox boiled down to News Corp’s heightened demands for retransmission fees and even the popular is priming itself for a paywall in the near future.

The cherry on the media-education sundae?

Just ask Klein’s replacement, Cathleen Black, aka. Chairwoman of Hearst Magazines.

MSNBC to Keith Olbermann: Pontificate, But Don't Donate

November 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

Popular MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann was suspended over this past weekend after a report by Politico revealed Olbermann’s donations to several Democratic candidates days before last week’s Nov. 2nd election.

Olbermann, a former ESPN talking head turned MSNBC talking head, had donated $2,400 each to the campaigns of Jack Conway (Kentucky Senate), Raul Grijalva (Arizona House), and Gabrielle Giffords (Arizona House).

The donations, which were set at the maximum legal amount allowed by individual donors according to the Federal Election Commission , were in direct violation of MSNBC’s ethics guidelines, which Politico scraped from a 2007 article, which states that all possible conflicts of interest, including political contributions, should be reported to the NBC News President.

The New York Times reported that the suspension, which began on Friday, ends on Tuesday, allowing the commentator to resume his nightly show, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” which is the highest-rated program on the 24 hour news network.

I make it a point to avoid as many talking heads as possible, which often translates into skipping over MSNBC, Fox, and sometimes CNN. Though, admittedly, I do make an exception for Mr. Bill O’Reilly, whose Youtube hits remain a particular penchant of mine.

While corporations were given unbridled freedom to donate towards political advertising as a result of the landmark Citizens United decision, and as evident by the  recent Chamber of Commerce piece in the Times, it’s interesting to note that individual contributions can still make a ruckus.

Perhaps part of it is that Olbermann make the donation to Grijalva the same day the politician happened to appear on his show. Or the fact that the issue sheds a hypocritical spotlight on Olbermann, who has been a staunch critic of Fox News’ political donations to the G.O.P.

Nevertheless, in a market that has become over-saturated with polarizing commentary, pseudo-experts, and a never-ending stream of Facebook updates and Twitters from viewers like you, it’s hard to believe that there’s any credibility left to destroy.

The ‘punishment’ also doesn’t really seem to fit the crime. A suspension that starts on Friday and ends before Tuesday night for a weeknight show seems like the media equivalent of sending a bad teen to bed after dinner with no dessert. [Bad teens never care for dessert anyhow.]

And when I consider the nature of his job, like many others on both MSNBC and Fox, I can’t help but see a thin pane of glass where there should be a brick wall.

The Downside to the Buzz: Google's Failed Attempt at Popularity

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

In 2009, Myspace was found to be home to thousands of sex offenders as well as aspiring musical bands. [No worries, they’ve since moved to Facebook.]

In 2010, Facebook’s numerous privacy violations became the subject of a book, which in turn became the subject of a movie. All are successful.

In September, Tyler Clementi commits suicide after a telling tweet from his roommate and Perez Hilton vows to be nicer.

Foursquare, and other location-sharing applications, let you become your own GPS and is a privacy suit just waiting to happen.

Digital native or not, we’re all familiar with the fallout of when popular social networks become too social.

The latest notch in the proverbial stick is Google Buzz, an experiment by the tech giant that was launched earlier this year with mixed results. Though it has in no way reached the status of any of the aforementioned, it’s interesting to note that Buzz is not without its problems. As one of Gmail’s 170 million + users, I received the following email earlier this week:

My experiences with Google Buzz were uninspiring and short-lived. I basically clicked on it during its debut in February, only to find a mismatched collection of some of my Gmail contacts that included everyone from good friends, acquaintances, professors, and random people from some random mass emails I’ve received/or sent over the years.

It was weird. It lacked the interactivity of Facebook and even the shallowness of Twitter. And that was about it.

And by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one to feel this way. Google’s current lawsuit stems from angry users who suddenly found their contact lists made available due to Buzz. You can view the terms of the settlement here:

Of course, tech-media watchdogs like TechCrunch were all over the suit like white on bread, pointing out that Gmail will not be forking over a penny to any of its disgruntled users. Instead, the $8.5 million fund will go towards “organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education, as well as to cover lawyers’ fees and costs and other expenses.”

In a time when companies are thirsting after web interactivity and web 3.0+, privacy issues are ablaze. And when you figure in the economic and editorial impact such services play in today’s journalism industry, it’s no small matter.

Leave it to Google to reap the cost without the benefits. On the social front, anyways.

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