Memory Bank Monday (9.21-9.27)

1. Fahrenheit 451 in 2011? The Montessorium app for iPad (and iPhone) introduces numbers and letters to kids.

2. Apple’s evolution parallel to newspaper industry (except Apple’s stock is beyond the stratosphere and print is… well… subzero)?

3. This future of screen technology concept is AMAZING! And predicted for a very near 2014. Can you imagine waking up and being able to reads the news on your mirror like that? Totes awesome.

4. NYT expects 3Q loss, lower revenue and the growth in digital ads won’t make up for loss on the print side

5. In the  social media competition, Facebook leeches from Twitter by adding a “follow feature” on the sly


SparkNotes… for TV shows

TV show recaps aren’t a new phenomenon, but apparently there’s been a surge in readership, according to the NY Observer.

After reading the article, which basically says that recap blogging is the new coffee-run for aspiring young writers, I’ve determined the following unsolved equation:

Unsolved Equation

Pop culture + Interactivity + Fast fast fast fast = ????

???? = Sustainable profit-yielding media
???? = Short-term fad
???? = Segue to better sustainable profit-yielding media

“But of course how long is the kind of more formal, old-school criticism going to be around? Or is this just going to take over?” asked Times TV critic Ginia Bellafante — who, incidentally, recaps Mad  Men for the paper. “I certainly hope it doesn’t, but how viable is a TV critic’s career anymore?”

Hmm. This is just another (another what… nail in the coffin?) piece to the complicated puzzle of how the media can harness the audience’s attention and make them pay for it at the same time.

On the bright side, the new job opportunities are pretty exciting espesh for the “young writers,” ahem, like me

NY Mag casts off the “New York” part of it’s name in favor of hipster “Culture Vulture” web-appendage

With the tagline “Devouring Culture,” NY Mag debuted the web-based Vulture on Tuesday. The site is supposed to be a revolutionarily harmonic combination of both “high and low” culture, and “will serve as a home for criticism, commentary, news and aggregation from New York’s bloggers and critics.

Not that the editors at NYMag are about 4 years behind, or anything.

Gawker has been ripping the entertainment industry a new one for a while now.

So, why the buzz? Probably because this qualifies the desperation need for a new source of income. Thanks to market research, NYMag found that people care more about last week’s Mad Men recap and Joel McHale’s value in Hollywood than, you know, the other entertainment news that already permeates NYMag’s home site. Editors want to disassociate themselves with the “NY” label in order to get more advertising and gain a broader readership spectrum.

New York’s publisher, Lawrence C. Burstein, said the kinds of advertisers he hoped to attract with the site — luxury goods, beauty products, movie studios and television networks like Showtime, Bravo and HBO — were responding well so far.

“Culture Vulture” seems a bit to obsequious to me, but hey, someone’s gotta pay the bills, right? This is just another example of media struggling to get the attention of advertisers. Granted, this is an entertainment outlet, so it’s not like we’re seeing the fall of hard journalism or anything. What is particularly interesting to me will be if Vulture can actually turn a profit (which is projected for the coming year) against other criticism collaboration sites that already have a foothold. And if Vulture can actually draw a national audience.

Further Reading:
Culture Vulture Stands Alone– NYT Media Decoder
42-Year-Old ‘New York’ Magazine to b Profitable “Next Year”– The Awl

Memory Bank Monday (9.14-9.20)

*MBM will be a weekly link-list of articles that I dig but don’t feel like writing about. Probably because I’m lazy.

1. OMG, ETC When did we start speaking in sets of capital letters? Lane Greene looks into the rise of the acronym and its sibling the initialism …
2. Can Digg Find Its Way in the Crowd?It may also explain why Digg, a darling of the online media world just a couple of years ago, may have missed its moment. ”
3. Groupon Responds to Cafe Owner Who Says Using Service Was “Single Worst Decision” Interesting follow up to Groupon-mania

4. Tweet Nest is a self-hosted online tweet archive If you’re a religious teweeter (as I’m definitely not
), you can now save all of your tweets in an archive. Who knows when the next published book of tweets will appear?
5. Pa.University Bans Facebook, Twitter For a Week Interesting social media experiment

The (Quickly Disappearing) Line Between Real News + Advertising

It’s no secret that mass advertising has been infiltrating every scope of the media. Not only is it a huge part of the journalism industry’s changing face (why else would there be chapter after painstakingly long chapter devoted to the asphyxiating grip of major advertising comps? And we were required to buy a $22, ten page packet on the cause and effects of advertising monopolies… *cough, cough*) but the increasing difficulties that come with deciphering what is hard news and what is promotion is going to be a huge challenge for whatever the media restructures itself to be.

Now, I was raised to “never believe what you see on t.v.”—a household mantra my mom instilled early on. The LA Times posted this article about a back-to-school feature the local Detroit Fox station aired about toys. Turns out the so-called “toy expert,” Elizabeth Werner, was actually hired to promote toys from companies who paid over $11,000 to be apart of her back-to-school tour.

(I couldn’t find a clip of the back-to-school segment, but this is from Werner’s holiday toy guide in Nov. 2009, also on the Fox Detroit channel. So you kind of get an idea of what it’s like.)

This is yet again just another chapter to the blurring between news and force-fed garbage that our unconscious absorbs. For one thing, I find that I don’t really actively pay attention to the news when it’s broadcasted. Having a newspaper or even reading online at least forces me to think a little. One of the articles in that $22 packet talked about the power of branding; that after seeing advertisements for a popular brand, like Clorox, consumers go to the store with the familiarity already embedded in their brains. This is how prices are kept artificially high, and we fall for it.

Why? Because that 30-sec commercial is short enough for us to forget about questioning it, but long enough for us to remember that catchphrase or logo. Familiarity + comfort = weapon against the unknown (or in this case, the dreaded store brand *shudder*).

Anyway, I digress. A growing concern about the credibility of the media applies itself to the internet as well. I think it’s generally accepted that print newspapers are more trustworthy—again, not only because they’ve been around forever, but because there is a sense that print journalists get out there and do hard “reporting.” These days, anyone with a blog is considered an author, nevermind the fact that it’s harder to distinguish the credibility of sources.

Communal Consumerism

Being a broke college student warrants a few monetary conservations. I’ve always found dumpster diving to be really intriguing, especially after an acquaintance of mine and his girlfriend moved to Syracuse and started a (now defunct) blog about their dumpster-diving expeditions.

I don’t know that I’m ready to go to such extreme measures. Yet.

But I am subscribed to feeds like the skint, which sends out a daily email of freebies and deals in NY. That’s how I found out about Groupon. Groupon sends out an email with a new deal every day, many of them with ear perkers like:

“$25 All-Day Bike Rental from Central Park Bike Tours ($65 Value)!”
“$99 for Six Laser Hair-Removal Treatments at Laser Cosmetica (Up to $1,745 Value)”

Whipped your plastic out yet?

SocialBeat posted this article about Groupon’s growing success despite using an archaic method of communication—email.

By offering an email newsletter, Groupon had ‘a lot of latitude to screw up,’ in that the company only had to have enough good deals to keep users from unsubscribing. It didn’t need to attract users to the site with a super-compelling deal every single day.

So alright, groupon, you’ve got me hooked after reading that deliciously tempting half-off deal on a juicy burger. Now what?

Like the name implies, groupon relies on the groups. Deals are only finalized if a certain number of people pledge to buy the deal, which expires after a certain number of hours. If not enough people want the deal before the sand runs out, then it is cancelled and no one gets anything. It’s a strategy that resembles the likes of kickstarter, the point and—all of which are sites that appeal directly to the people in order to fund projects, and journalistic stories.

It’s interesting to see what kind of marketing tactics sites like these employ in order to get the reader’s attention (and money). Groupon is also working on hyperlocality (as seems to be all the rage these days) and offering specific deals based on location, but I have to say I was kind of disappointed when I found out I had to depend on other people in order to get my deal or not. I’m wary about giving my credit information out anywhere, but apparently I’m in the minority in this case, because groupon’s popularity is bumpin’—it has a waiting list of over 35,000 businesses.

I did take a few things from this article, though. YES! CREATIVITY IS KEY! We don’t necessarily need to focus on a barrage of instant communication and on-the-verge-of-being invented technology; why? Because email still rears its Mesozoic head!

Literary savvyness combined with localization, could it be the proverbial “algorithm” for informational success?

Incidentally, Groupon is hiring in our area, too.

BRB gotta get back to my real life—online

Oh, the days of MySpace. Thinking back on it now, I wouldn’t so much term it “like ghetto or whatever,” but rather a meeting place for middle school kids pretending to be much older than they are, scantily clad girls lookin’ for love (who are also more than likely jailbait), and bands hoping to ride out on the free music player—because really, tell me your opinion of a band isn’t knocked down a few notched when their only contact is through MySpace. I remember when MySpace was a breeding ground for scenesters: dyed jet black, two-tone, ironed flat hair, studded belts, skinny jeans, dinosaurs, pink bows and smoky cat eyes. I’m talking about the male population, too.

The Economist points out in a study that the lives we lead on the internet are more similar to the way we act in real life than were expected.

A generation of digital activists had hoped that the web would connect groups separated in the real world. The internet was supposed to transcend colour, social identity and national borders. But research suggests that the internet is not so radical. People are online what they are offline: divided, and slow to build bridges.

And to this I retort: Is it really that surprising? We already know that niche magazines statistically do better than their rapidly dying cousins, so it’s only natural to expect that though a milieu of information is available at our fingertips—that we, as humans, will naturally gravitate towards what is familiar and comfortable. Because let’s face it, actually exposing yourself to the unfamiliar requires work: the energy to want to look for something new as well as the energy required to retain that information.

While Facebook’s surge in immigrant population (the article uses Orkut as an example, a popular Brazilian social networking site) would seem to warrant social acceptance, the article looks at the site’s various methods of customization as a deterring factor.

Facebook and Twitter have been making attempts at bringing people from different ethnic backgrounds together under the tag of “decrease world conflict” “and triumph of humanity,” or whatever. That’s great, but like I said, what really matters is that is requires the expenditure or energy to make friends. I’m on Facebook and I’ve never even seen this “Peace on Facebook” app. And even if it is successful… will it really mitigate the problems that need to be solved right now? Perhaps these invisible friendships may influence world relations decades from now, but then again who is to say that people really take them seriously?

A big issue with MySpace was the contest to accrue as many “friends” as possible. Being on the Top 8 was a coveted position, especially on the page of someone with particular fame, like Raquel Reed or Audrey Kitching (who both used MySpace as a tool to advance their internet celebrity). On a friend count of 2,000, how many of them could the average person know, realistically? Probably 200, if that. Facebook paved the way by offering selectiveness and privacy, and the phrase, “I only add people I know” became the crusading motto for a good period of time. Whether an elitist view, or simply a desire to feel needed and special, both contributed to the death of MySpace, as the masses relinquished their busy layouts for the simplicity and privacy of Facebook. People don’t want to feel like they’re being collected to boost someone else’s internet popularity.

So I wonder if the attempts to bring people closer together by friending someone on the opposite side of the world will be successful. Perhaps touting friendship under the banner of world peace is what MySpace missed. Or maybe, we’re just closer conducting our lives entirely via the web.

Further reading:
Black People Internet and White People Internet Class Snobbery
Shai lays down the science on the Black People on Twitter Theory (“Its the nature of how we craft these environments to suit our core comforts and fine tune our twitter experiences.”)
The latest research on race and microblogging