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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Online Pay-Per-View

October 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

Ah, the internal memo.

I’m sure at some point in time that the internal office memo remained internally within the office and was a sacred part of office etiquette not to be trifled with.

Gone are those days (if they ever indeed existed).

This recent post on Business Insider features a leaked memo from Gawker owner Nick Denton concerning how much employees should spend when buying a “commissioned piece of content.”

In other words, how much should Gawker be willing to spend in order to introduce readers to Jenn Sterger?

While such tabloid-esque stories wouldn’t carry much clout in the straight news industry, the idea of this pay-per-view journalism is definitely catching on when it comes to the web.

Increasingly, websites take a similar approach to defining costs based on clicks–letting clicks determine not only a story’s worth and budget, but the worth of the journalist who wrote it.

On a hyperlocal site like Patch.com, where local bureaus can consist of nothing but a single editor and a handful of freelancers, contributors can get paid a whopping $30 per article (so say a few of my friends who contribute to the site).

While a published clip is a published clip and j-students are probably more than grateful to receive any kind of monetary recognition for their student work, a lot of these online freelancing gigs pay a rather microscopic nominal free or even pay you purely based on how much web traffic you direct to their site.

What you end up seeing are desperate status pleas from friends on Facebook asking you to bring them one click closer to the thousand or so views needed to generate a dollar.

The boom of the internet seems to have caused an exponential rise in information and news, but not necessarily original information or news.

Traditional print media has sort of always relied on a “build it and they will come” kind of strategy, using ad revenue streams to make costly newsprint profitable, often operating in the red for years before breaking even.

While the web is seemingly based on the traditional business model of ads, the relationship between news and ads and how they affect each other is a bit murkier online. What happens when journalists’ pay are in direct relation to how many views they get? Do the same standards of journalism apply then too?

The Death of Social Media: It's Not What You Think

September 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

The opening line of a post on Mashable by Vadim Lavrusik immediately caught my attention:

“The future of social media in journalism will see the death of ‘social media’.”

Personally, the idea of the near-total annihilation of  twitter would be akin to when the Wicked Witch of the West evaporates into thin air. It would be perfectly fine to me if social media were to no longer rule the Kingdom of the Web–leaving behind only a Facebook graveyard in its demise.

While I admit to being somewhat of an avid Facebook-er, the idea of tweets included alongside my morning broadcast is equivalent to adding a pound of sugar to Fruity Pebbles. It’s both way too sugary and way too early. (Though, I’ll admit to being a fan of former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s tweets–it’s like my morning coffee: chock-full-of-gaffes.)

Of course if one were to continue reading the article you’d notice that Lavrusik is actually writing about the exact opposite: that is, the full integration of social media into journalism. Thus, the concept of “social media” would no longer apply as it would simply be a living, breathing, tweeting, thread of the fabric of news.

While a traditionalist-cynic like me finds the idea absolutely cringe-worthy, the guy has a point.

It's not pretty.

As traditional forms of journalism–print publications, broadcast, radio–struggle to stay afloat on their decrepid, sinking business models based on dried-up ad revenue streams, online journalism continues to sail forward.

While the industry buzz word last year might have been “social media,” this year’s buzz word might be “hyperlocal.” News 12 on Long Island embraces the term on broadcast graphics and websites like Patch.com, which utilize a Craigslist-esque approach to the news, are one of the few places that are readily hiring.

 

Twitter owns all.

 

Even the “big dogs” of the industry can’t resist the allure of the number of hits that locality fostered by social media brings. The New York Times, The Financial Times, and virtually every major broadcast network has a twitter. And even the industry sweethearts like ProPublica, which uses public funding to pay for its Pulitzer award-winning investigative pieces, are reaping the benefits of going beyond simply being on the Web.

Unlike my doom and gloom, Lavrusik appears more optimistic about the shift, saying that the integration of social media into journalism will actually integrate journalists into the communities in which they write and report on. Elements of Journalism, anyone?

One of the fundamental elements of journalism, according to Kovach and Rosensthiel, is loyalty to the public. In other words: Thou shall provide the public with all they need to know to make their own decisions. It may also refer to: Thou shalt not isolate yourself from the very public you’re suppose to work for.

Could social media be the bridge between journalists and the communities they serve? Or could it just end up being a bridge to nowhere?

Is Lavrusik right? Could social media actually be the bridge that gaps the distance between the lonely reporters perched on their islands and the constituencies that they purport to serve?

It very well could be, but for now, it’s a shaky one.

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