Liz Gannes reports on a study of 90 children age 3-12 in the U.S. and Israel by Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group of a wide variety of children's websites, including PBS Kids. The study concludes that, unlike adults, children are more app oriented than search oriented. Interesting reading. Link: GigaOM. --Dennis
I’ll not comment on it because I work at NPR, but Staci Kramer has a lengthy article describing the live launch today (9/8) of a local journalism effort among NPR and partner public radio stations built around content verticals. Check it out. Link: paidContent.org. --Dennis
Howard Kurtz, in a great column on the impact and importance of search on journalism, provides this as an outrageous fictional example of a headline designed to attract page views from search engines. Link: Washington Post.
No sooner did I get done posting on this topic earlier this morning, but I found that consultant Mark Ramsey made an excellent closely-related post on his on blog yesterday. Great minds think alike? ;-) See Everything you need to know about FM radio chips in mobile phones at Mark Ramsey Media. He covers more ground than the title implies. Good reading. --Dennis
Steve Yasko, GM of WTMD in Towson, MD (Baltimore area) recently brought up this subject on two public radio lists which I would really categorize as scalability of listening by means other than an analog radio. Here’s my take on this and, as usual in things relating to public radio, comments here are my own, not NPR’s (see About).
Content is like water. Water flows through big channels nicely but also through smaller channels and cracks whenever it has a chance. Continuing the analogy, the effect of those smaller flows over time often makes the smaller openings larger. Radio content is flowing nicely through the broadcast channels we have – they scale very well, but it’s also beginning to emerge through other openings as well. And, just as well-drillers often fractionate bedrock to create more cracks for water to be released, new products for distributing media content are being developed constantly.
With some regularity, I listen to Pandora over my iPhone on my car’s sound system and to Northwest Public Radio’s folk music program while riding my tractor Saturday afternoons in Virginia. Some people to whom I (and others) mention this think, “Well, that’s cool,” and try it themselves, thereby testing a little more the limits of the wireless IP channels that were originally set up for voice calls. It should probably be like not telling your friends about that great little restaurant you found. Already, I can’t reliably do this inside the Washington beltway at most times of day, and it’s a non-starter during rush hour along major roads. Wireless providers are reaching the limits of available spectrum in major markets so are abandoning their “all-you-can-eat” plans (I’m grandfathered – heh, heh), at least for now. The reason mobile streaming is working at all during favorable hours or favorable locations is that so few people – other than us in the radio cognoscenti – are doing it.
But don’t take too much comfort from today’s limitations. They won’t last. The iPhone and iPad are garnering a well-deserved share of attention, but Android devices are now outselling iPhones and an avalanche of cheap Android tablets will almost surely do the same to the iPad in the autumn (WebOS, Windows Phone 7 and Linux tablets in there, too). There will be a lot of mobile media devices out there very soon. 4G systems are being rolled out by all major carriers and reclaiming spectrum from television and government users has a head of steam. The cracks through which content trickles now will enlarge to small channels and the small channels will become larger ones. Do we really want to bring out the Bondo and duct tape or do we want people to find us many places?
Broadcasters even have a (possibly interim) role in mitigating the current spectrum problems. Flo TV is providing white label television streaming services to Sprint and AT&T cell phones using broadcast-style transmission over spectrum that used to belong to UHF TV (seamless to the cell phone user). In radio, the NAB is advocating putting mandatory FM chips in cell phones while a credible research company report says that digital radio will benefit from the spectrum crunch by mid-2011 when carriers use it to mitigate IP audio traffic problems in smartphones. If we’re smart, broadcasters will use the time we have to develop hybrid IP/broadcast radios and/or RadioDNS-enabled radio receivers – not to mention find ways to make it easier for people to find us on their many IP devices.
It’s all about scale. We’ll see lots of strategies to manage it. Right now it’s pricing and the beginnings of non-IP delivery for media content. Soon it will be more IP packets delivered to your devices, and you can be sure that will impact pricing as well – likely in the more for your dollar direction. Carriers have a lot of knobs they can twist, so don’t judge today’s situation in pricing or capacity as significant for much longer than an eye blink in media time.
Update 11:15 Eastern: Coincidentally, consultant Mark Ramsey makes many of the same points plus others in an excellent new (somewhat mistitled) post on his blog. Link: Mark Ramsey Media.
Nine of ten visitors to local televisions station websites are already fans of the station, but only half of any given station’s “fans” visit their website. This startling piece of information comes from AR&D cross-platform media studies based on 2,200 interviews with consumers and reveals a major weakness in the operating strategies of local television companies. Online, according to AR&D senior analyst Rory Ellender, “stations are only playing to their on-air audience and not even doing a very good job of that.” ¶ This is the fruit of trying only to be a television station online, while the marketplace is vastly bigger. …
After some analysis, he goes on to recommend that stations “need to creat an online news service that is 100% Web native,” that they “need to be able to separate [their] ability to make money from [their] ability to create content,” and that they “need to place strategic control of making local money in the hands of local people.”
I’m reposting the following by my NPR colleague, David Julian Gray. It was originally posted on an internal blog, Technically Speaking. About a month ago, I reposted another essay of his on RadioDNS. --Dennis
At a technology presentation last year, which was sadly more interesting than the Major League ballgame used to lure me there, a vendor's Sr. VP asked what I thought of "cloud computing." I dismissively answered "You might as well ask me what I think of air! -- 'Cloud Computing' is just a convenient marketing term for remote applications and storage accessible over the Internet -- technologies which have been evolving for decades..." But this was too flip, I thought the trend toward so-called "cloud computing" so obvious I missed the forest for the trees -- or the clouds for the air ...
As it happens, I've been thinking a lot about "AIR" -- or better "The AIR" -- as broadcasters think about it -- that is, the Electromagnetic Spectrum or at least that part of it known as the "Radio Spectrum". I'm also thinking a lot about "The CLOUD" -- as the FCC appears to be thinking about it -- that is, the Radio Spectrum. "The AIR" is getting very cloudy these days -- as is the difference between the conglomeration of technologies, techniques, services and resources once known as "The Internet" and those once known as "broadcasting." As Vint Cerf, true daddy of the Internet and now Chief Evangelist for Google, is fond of saying: "IP on everything."
In my last entry in this space, I wrote about RadioDNS as a possible, I think ideal, bridging technology between traditional terrestrial broadcasting and mobile broadband platforms. To briefly recap, RadioDNS propose a collection of technologies to leverage the existing data already included in both standard analog and HD-Radio broadcasts to link to other services and content already and/or potentially provided by broadcasters to a variety WEB and mobile devices. In other words it merges "the broadcast cloud" with "the IP cloud".
As far as the FCC is concerned -- this cannot happen fast enough, but their approach is to annex "the broadcast cloud" and hand it over to those providing IP based services. That's what the conversion to digital TV was all about -- reminds me of old Hollywood's take on the Railroad's great land grab of the mid to late 19th Century -- you know the push to drive farmers off the land to make room for modern commerce. This is the great Radio Spectrum grab of the early 2010's, the push to drive broadcasters off the spectrum to make room for "Mobile Broadband"...puts an ominous spin on the exhortation to "Rule the Air."
But it needn't be ominous at all -- there are models of how providing information and content via an integrated set of radio spectrum based services blur any distinction between "broadcast" and "broadband". I'll get flip again and say it's a specious distinction after all. That seems clear to NBC and Comcast -- who have been trying to elope. One successful model we can point to of an integrated "broadcast/IP cloud" is in service to the Public Broadcasting community: the PRSS Content Depot.
"Radio Towers" aren't going away in five years or any time soon-- even if, or when, the FM band is yanked by some government agency and auctioned off to LTE or WiMAX providers -- for where will those LTE or WiMAX, etc. signals be coming from? "The Cloud" is just an expression ...
-djg (David Julian Gray, IS Sr Product Manager, Content Production
NB: This starts out as a long story about publishing medical books, but I intend it as a way to illustrate the pace and degree of change in the media for the blog’s usual readers at the end. --DH
This spring I married a physician who has written or edited a fairly large number of medical books. Her background is both in clinical practice and research, she has an appointment as full professor at an area medical school, and she has way, way more letters behind her name than do I. Her most successful book is a sort of how-to manual for procedures in her area of specialty, the most recent edition of which came out in 2007.
So a few weeks ago, we were discussing a call she received from her publisher asking her if she wanted to do a 5th edition of the book. The last edition had a companion DVD that contained videos illustrating seven of the 53 procedures in the book. The videos are good, including some basic animations, but require a physician to go to a computer, find software that will play the odd format (with some trial and error, one of which crashed my PC, I discovered that RealPlayer could handle it), and hope that the procedure you need to do is one of the 13% in described in the book (the book does have helpful drawings and photos). You shouldn’t have to call the IT department before trying to bone up on intubations.
As a new iPad owner, I’d been very impressed with how tablet apps are creating a whole new category of book – or is it a whole new category of video – or is it some new medium we haven’t yet named? I’d heard great things about two such apps, so I downloaded them and they blew me away. One is Alice for the iPad by Atomic Antelope, a presentation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The other is Theodore Gray’s, The Elements: A Visual Exploration by Element Collection, Inc., a mesmerizing way (I kid you not) to visualize and learn about the periodic table of elements.
I showed these to my wife and her co-editor, and they got it instantly. In The Elements, not only do you get text and video but computations are also included in the app. The ability of a “book” to include text, audio, video, animation, and computation totally blows away the traditional atom-based professional book (imagine being able to enter patient parameters and instantly determine medication dosage). And the tablet format frees you from having to retreat to your office (perhaps at a different location), boot up a DVD through problematic software, and find the right video in multiple indexes. You can do all this in the hallway or even the OR if you want.
That led the three of us to have a conference call with the publisher, a leading company for this type of book. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they hadn’t viewed the same iPad apps that we had, and perhaps we weren’t the most articulate advocates, but it was clear that they were in the business of making books of paper and perhaps they could add some additional procedures to the DVD that’s bound into the book. If there was recognition that the whole conception of a professional book has changed, it wasn’t evident on the call.
Enough of the book publishing story. I don’t want to be too hard on them because those of us in other traditional forms of media are too often not much better at re-envisioning our products. But we must do that and, indeed, there is very good creative work being done toward that end. Let’s do more. --Dennis
Hope isn’t exactly “busting out all over,” but two examples of at least guarded optimism for the business model of mainstream media came to my attention in as many days.
In an article in Columbia Journalism Review, “A Second Chance,” Curtis Brainard says that mobile devices might just be the key. He writes:
… Media outlets are still having a tough time seeing beyond their own dwindling print runs, and it was only three years ago that electronic paper helped incite what has been called the “e-reading revolution.” It’s not much of a revolution yet, but what is increasingly apparent is that mobile devices have the potential to offer the journalism business that rare and beautiful thing: a second chance—another shot at monetizing digital content and ensuring future profitability that was missed during the advent of Web 1.0. ¶ I use the word “potential” because there are many ifs and unknowns undergirding this notion of a second chance. But I use it also because so much of the hype about how e-readers could save journalism that has poured forth since the release of the iPad in April (actually, such articles have been appearing since the launch of the Kindle in 2007), ignores—or fails to grasp—what’s really going on. …
Then I got a link to an On The Media [WNYC for NPR] program on newspaper economics from 15 July that I’d missed. It had a variety of opinions about the economic future of newspapers, some of them unfashionably optimistic. I liked their approach to the topic. Toward the end, though, they quote from Clay Shirky’s March 2009 essay, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable:
… Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify. ¶ And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to. ¶ There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.
In previous posts here and presentations I’ve given, I’ve stated that my own view is pretty close to that of Kevin Kelly, who asks in his by now classic “Better Than Free” essay, if content can generally be freely copied on the internet, what is it for which we can charge? You sell things which cannot be copied, which he calls “generatives” and lists eight of them in the essay. He writes:
… A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing cannot be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfe3ited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold. …
I’ve spent my whole professional life in public media and his generatives resonate particularly well, but they would seem to for other mainstream media as well. That’s not to say that some forms of paid content won’t be successful. I’m a happy Netflix subscriber, for example. But smart people need to apply as much thought to those eight and other “generatives” as they do to resuscitating the legacy business model of their medium.
Thanks to Steve Rathe for the CJR link and to David Liroff for the OTM link. --Dennis