Blogging Pioneers

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

editorsweblog.org points us to an article from last May at ReadMe where Steve Bryant talks big about bloggers, including Instapundit‘s Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, and Dan Gillmor.

The editorsweblog folks preface the link/writeup with “It’s not recent, but it remains a good synthesis on what is collaborative journalism.” and I don’t think I need to add anything else to it. Happy reading!

Never Say Never?

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Yesterday’s article by Timothy Karr over at MediaChannel.org asks “Could Kerry Suffer the ‘Dean Effect’?”

I, for one, don’t think this would occur, as I truly think that Kerry has a significant lead and don’t see his campaign exploding anytime soon. I do, however, believe that John Edwards could absolutely take the nomination for the Democratic party in 2004.

Karr writes, “Edwards Turns on Charm”, and there is no denying it. I think that if Edwards’ ability to win over a crowd would allow him to overtake Kerry, I don’t think it’s the same animal as what happened to Dean. Dean was finished the moment the “scream” took place in Iowa, even though it was made out to be 1000% worse than what it really was. This would be pure showmanship and composure. I think that the linchpin in this candidacy might be how positivity vs. negativity works when the advertising spots start hitting the airwaves.

Tim Porter Wants Some News

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

My read for the day is this post by Tim Porter where he describes his coinage “informational incest” to a T. If you didn’t understand what the term was before, read the post and the included links, and it should be clear as day.

By telling is how it is, not by being “media personalities…commentators…hawkers, squawkers or gawkers” but “journalists,” the news can be reported as news, not what someone else wants you to report as the truth or fact, clarifies Porter via points made by Eric Alterman and Michael Tomansky in American Prospect.

Porter says to “stop confusing media with journalism,” and I couldn’t agree more. Journalists happen to have their works published, criticized, or described through the “media” we all talk about. But they are their own men and women. They have an ability to take in a subject, interview, or event, digest it all, and convey it in a way where we, the reader, can pick it up in our publications, our television / radio programs, see what they have to say, and formulate a picture in our head of what went on. That’s how your opinions come to fruition and you gain/lose interest in a story. The journalist does more than tell you what happened – it’s part of their skill to point out intricacies or portray what the facts might be based on the “truths” that are given to them. That’s why your newspaper doesn’t look like basic Microsoft PowerPoint slides with five bullets under each article title and byline, leaving you to figure out what happened.

The article Porter refers to should be one of those “print a copy” things that anyone with an interest in journalism should read and save. Everyone needs a head-check once in a while, including those who work for the “media”. What I really like about the collective works referred to here is that no one person has been lambasted or made to feel small based on any actions they might have done as a “journalist” in recent times – they just try to get the collective members of the crowd to realize where their intentions should stand.

Newsday Gets A Facelift

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Cyberjournalist.net reports on changes taking place at that other New York-area focused newspaper, Newsday.

Changes have taken place on both the website and in the print edition, with a major change is the “back-page approach, which takes the tabloid’s longtime sports section design — which begins on the back page — and emulates it in other sections,” as reported in Editor & Publisher. This would cause the sports-first reader to jump into the paper but not necessarily just start at the last page and go back. Interesting. I’m really curious to see if this makes a difference.

A lot of people in the NY Metro area don’t give a lot of credit to Newsday (including myself, on numerous occasions) for their reporting, but it is a major publication and has some significant readership. While the typical reader might be coming from Long Island, it doesn’t mean Newsday isn’t on top of NYC-related news. Kudos to Newsday on this change.

And for regular Newsday readers (website or paper), you can contact the publication about your reaction to their changes here for website feedback or here for print edition comments. They have a link entitled “Redesign Reactions?” at the top of the site, in case you didn’t notice.

“Yeah, Get That Guy Again…”

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

It’s been chimed in on from a few places, including Instapundit and Buzz Machine (via Instapundit…), but I think this is worth making a bigger deal of. The New York Times quoted a gentleman named George Meagher in this article on February 3rd, stating he was an Independent. Yesterday, the Times quoted Meagher again, but now he’s a Republican. The quote seems re-jiggered to fit the story, and some other things seem paraphrased to make do as well.

Now I don’t really have a problem with using someone as a source multiple times, but when 1) the quote seems tinkered with and 2) you’ve changed some facts about a person in only a couple weeks’ time, that’s just not right. It’s not the first time that something like this has come up – and as much as I don’t agree with her on most topics, Ann Coulter seems to have it right when referring to Greg Packer, who, for a while, was the Times’ regular quote machine. (scroll about 3/4 down for his name)

Buzz Machine’s Jeff Jarvis has actually sent an email directly to Mr. Meagher, and we’ll see if he gets a response on his dealings with the Times’ reporter. It doesn’t seem to be who takes the reins at the paper, something keeps coming out. Has the Times been “tainted” so much that it won’t come clean until there is some sort of witch-hunt type action, or is it just a few people who seem to be causing problems for the greater group? I’d have to lean towards the latter, but for the Times to be held at the regard that it is and continue to have problems such as these is just crazy, in my estimation. As an optimist, I would have to give the Times the benefit of the doubt – as a realist, I see that there are problems deeper than what has come out so far. If you’re the publication that many people consider part of their morning ritual, you have to be on the top of your game at all times.

Your Advice For Today

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Rachel over at Media Life Magazine answers a reader when they ask for her advice on how to find a new position in the media industry when they “Want Outta Here” as their name suggests.

You, too, can ask Rachel your career advice questions by writing her at askrachel2004@yahoo.com. No word on whether Rachel’s email will change when 2005 rolls around.

Can The Public Alter Television?

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

We all know that ratings seemingly rule the roost when it comes to deciding what’s going to be a program that sticks in the prime-time lineup, and which programs walk, or make their way to the summer schedule. The endless Nielsen ratings we hear about are in your USA Today to read and see what people are watching. Somewhere, some television exec is sitting a room watching the results change for various programs, and making decisions based on them.

Well, what would happen if the “ratings” system wasn’t what really mattered?

Earlier today I came across this press release from a group of television viewers, or more specifically, fans of the NBC “dramedy”, as they describe it, “Ed”. The fans seem to not only be concerned about losing their favorite program, but the loss of sit-com or dramatic programming, asking “How far will the networks go before all scripted television becomes extinct?” More information can be found at the “Ed” campaign headquarters“.

This is definitely a shot across the bow of so called “reality” programming where people are put on an island, in an apartment, given jobs, or whatever, and everything is filmed. While some of it can be entertaining, a lot of people (including myself) feel that year after year (or season after season) of basically the same issues gets kind of…well…boring after a while. Interestingly enough, here seems to be some industrious individuals who have banded together to not only “campaign” to keep a show on the air, but reportedly have an advertisement in today’s Variety magazine.

Could this make a difference? I’m not sure it could, as networks have already made a lot of decisions having to do with the Fall schedule for this year – but I suppose we’ll see in the coming days, especially if this story gets picked up by some online or print publications. Could it turn out that the people that matter more are the ones who seem to “care” about their programs, rather than those who just happen to have the television program on at any given moment?

Best of luck, fans of “Ed”!

Interview: Mark Vrieling

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

In the ongoing series of interviews being put together for The Media Drop, I’ve mainly focused on members of the traditional broadcast media. This time around, I’ve gone in another direction in getting some great Q&A in with Mark Vrieling, CEO of ScreenPlay, Inc., a purveyor of master quality content including over 35,000 music videos, 6,000 movie trailers, and “hundreds of hours” of interviews and programming. He is also the owner of RainCity Video, a chain of “art house” movie shops in the Seattle area. He was more than helpful in providing some insights not only on his career, but on what ScreenPlay has to offer.

TMD: First off, tell me a little bit about how you ended up interested in a career around film and video?

MV: I guess the two biggest influences on my choice of career are my dyslexia and love of music and video. Having dyslexia has always made traditional learning environments more challenging for me than for most. Although my comprehension has always been very good, my reading speed, spelling and the ability to put thoughts on paper have been a challenge for me. As a balance to that I have always gravitated toward and found great comfort in music and TV/film.

During the late 70s when I was in college I discovered the media lab at my school and I spent hours watching 3/4” video tapes on all kinds of subjects and fell in love with the idea of audio/visual media on demand. Finding out that there was so much more available to be seen on a TV than just what the networks wanted to provide to you at that particular moment was a big revelation to me. I remember thinking how cool it would be if people could have access to a library like that at home. So when video rental stores started getting popular in the mid 80s I decided to start my own – with a twist.

In addition to New Releases I added special interest, deep catalogue, foreign, etc. The predominant model at the time for a video store (and unfortunately still is the model) is that video is a means were you can watch new release movies at home before they are on regular TV. Although it is not uncommon for video stores to hold on to a lot of old movies, the world of possibilities in education, travel and special interest programming never really took off. Even a well-stocked library of classics, foreign or PBS shows is relatively rare. Although providing New Releases is an important part of RainCity Video, our catalogue sections are what set us apart from other stores.

TMD: After finding your profile on LinkedIn, I did a little “look-see” at the ScreenPlay website, and learned a little bit about your company. I could write something myself, but I always find that asking someone what the two/three sentence runthru answer they give to people who say “What do you do?” is very helpful. So, what do you do?

MV: One of the lessons I learned early on as a video storeowner was how powerful an advertising medium the TV can be. I could take a movie that had not rented in weeks and play it on the in-store TV and invariably some one would want to rent it before I had finished playing it. It was not much of a leap from that observation to “Hey, what if I started playing movie previews in my store, I bet I could invigorate demand for movies that are starting to slow down.”

That idea is the foundation of ScreenPlay. We acquire video trailers, music video, video games and other pop culture video content from hundreds of sources throughout the world and produce programs that play on in-store TVs. We started by providing programming for video stores and music stores but over time we branched out to include businesses of all kinds. (Kind of a custom “MTV” for businesses). From there, we branched into streaming trailers on the Internet. Movie studios send us the video they want to be available on the Internet and we do all the encoding, hosting and streaming for them. From here we hope to start streaming music videos on the Internet but we still have some rights issues to overcome. [ed: Aren’t we all!?]

TMD: As a consumer, give me an example of something I might see during my daily errands that is produced by ScreenPlay?

MV: If you go into a video store and they are playing video trailers on their TV – it is probably us; as well as mall based clothing stores that have music videos playing on their TVs. We also supply to bars, nightclubs and casinos that play music videos on their TVs. On the Internet, if you watch trailers on any of the Disney sites, the New York Times, Amazon.com or hundreds of other sites, the streaming file you are watching is originating from ScreenPlay.

[ed: pretty impressive! The “behind the scenes” companies always fascinate me.]

TMD: For a follow-up to that question, how do you go about acquiring new business – I was, unfortunately, not familiar with the ScreenPlay brand before finding your profile – is there any possibility that the name will be out there – much like one of the “partners” listed on your site, Muzak?

MV: We do not market to end-user, so I am not surprised you have not heard of us. We market directly to businesses that we know could use our services. Large video retailers, music store chains, and large retail chains are pretty well defined and easy for us to target. On the Internet the studios find us to be a very useful service so they introduce customers who could use our streaming services.

TMD: Moving back to the “who are your customers” area, are they regional in nature, or has the Internet enabled your company to “get the word out”, so to speak?

MV: We do have some regional chains that we service but for the main part we offer our services throughout the United States and Canada. Yes, the Internet has become not only a market for us but also a major tool. Graphic approvals that used to take days to receive because of mailing time now take hours. We can stream or download questionable content to get instant feedback from customers saving days of production time.

TMD: Who are your competitors? Do they also serve as “partners” in some capacity?

MV: We do not have many competitors because we are so specialized but we do go after the same market that Muzak and others go after on the in-store side of our business. They create audio environments where we create audio / video environments. With Muzak they are both a competitor and a re-seller of our service. Muzak is so much larger than we are I don’t think they really see us as a threat. On the Internet side, our biggest competitors are businesses that set up a division within their own company to do what we do. We are usually more cost effective than doing it themselves but some business are just more comfortable outsourcing then others.

TMD: Some people mention GreenCine, who is a competitor of Netflix in the online-movie rental industry, as being the “indie” movie rental store – would you compare your typical customer to a GreenCine customer? And if so, what does your Seattle based brick-and-mortar store offer to that customer that GreenCine doesn’t?

MV: Sorry I don’t know GreenCine, I will look them up and let you know later. But in general, 70% of retailers make their rental decision the day they rent so I doubt that mail order rental will ever be a huge competitor to brick & mortar stores. Netflix estimates that mail order will not get to be much more than 10% of the industry.

TMD: Your bio lists your goal “to make media affordable and available for everyone – why watch MTV when you can program your own?” Obviously without giving away your whole business plan, tell me what ScreenPlay can do to make this a possibility – or recommend partners you might have where the readers can move towards “programming their own” media?

MV: ScreenPlay has a video library that rivals MTV and is currently only licensed for business-to-business use. What I would really like to do is make that library available over the web to the general public. I would love to let people build play lists and play them back the way they do with their iTunes audio files. Kind of a do it your self on-line MTV.

Personally I like the mixed tapes I get from friends better than what I hear on the radio, it could be kind of like blogs, good video programmers (VJs) would find their own audience. Technically, we are capable of doing this right now. This is very similar to what we provide on a business-to-business basis. The issue is licensing, the music labels need to reform their rules on media uses on the Internet before we could do anything like this legally.

TMD: And finally, what is a trend, product, or occurrence that you see coming in the near future in the overall media world that might not be on everyone’s mind as of yet?

MV: The biggest trend I see is the proliferation of homes with high bandwidth. 56k just doesn’t cut it for media over the web. Sure we can make a herky-jerky tiny picture that moves with a 56k modem, but it takes at least 128 to really do anything. A standard DSL at 256 is even on the low side but at least it is a base that you can start to do something interesting. We have seen an astounding increase in high bandwidth users accessing our content over the last year. At the same time that bandwidth is going up, the codecs are getting better. MPEG4, Windows Media 9 and the latest Real Media and QuickTime codecs are getting really good at making streaming files run smoother and look better at DSL speeds.

Keep your eye on ScreenPlay (literally!), you might be hearing more from them in the future. Being someone that seems like a small player to the casual investigator but turns out to be a much bigger deal and a potential pioneer of sorts in the media channel can definitely work to your advantage. Best of luck to Mark, ScreenPlay, and RainCity in the future!

Bad Spell Check, Bad!

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Cyberjournalist reports [via Romenesko] that Dow Jones Newswires has removed spell check from their tools to be used when writing a piece. No word yet if they’ve requested special versions of MS Word for their writers.

[The Media Drop makes a blatant assumption that Dow Jones uses Windows and Microsoft Office technology, of course]