Melissa's New Media Musings

One important key to the future of online journalism will be what Alfred Hermida dubbed, “ambient journalism.” In his paper, Hermida suggests that “broad, asynchronous, lightweight and always-on systems are enabling citizens to maintain a mental model of news and events around them, giving rise to awareness systems.” In this digital age where we receive news updates by the second in short and long forms and from official and non-official sources, everything is fair game and everyone can report news. Having this ability to report at the touch of a finger has made us view happenings in our lives in terms of what is newsworthy and how other people will view these events, and how people will tell that story. Journalism in the future will offer a platform for citizens to report the news while also incorporating these citizen stories into stories by news media. This won’t occur as a courtesy to viewers, but out of necessity. Reporters can’t be everywhere at once, but citizens tweeting their own news can.

However, news feeds and and free-flowing information is only part of the future of journalism. As news and information gets saturated by an influx of unofficial sources, data and statistics will become an integral part of validating and filtering what appears in our news feeds. In Charles Arthur’s 2010 article in The Guardian, web founder Tim Berners-Lee said, “Data-driven journalism is the future,” while his colleague Nigel Shadbolt added, “Well, part of the future.” As we continue to get infiltrated with news from various sources, it seems that we will be come more and more picky as time goes by. We’ll want out information validated with stats and graphs, but we won’t want to take the time to analyze what they mean, so along with the numbers to back it up journalists will need to know how to break the information down in a ways we can understand and grasp quickly, so we can hurry and move on to the next headline.

In this video, Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google explains why statisticians will be the “sexy job” of the next decade. He explains that data is getting cheap, while the talent and capability to analyze data is scarce and expensive. In the future, we will need the key will be finding people to make the data tell a story.

Journalism schools will need to adjust by offering more statistics classes with a journalism focus, but this will just be one more skills that the new media journalists of tomorrow will need to acquire. Some journalists might want to focus statistics and analyzing data, but other might wantto become well-versed in editing video or programing, In the future there will be so many avenues to take to relay information, that the key will be balancing them all into one multimedia arsenal to have on hand and to know when and how to use those skills to tell a story.

Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are known for their passion, drive and having what it takes to start and lead their behemoth billion dollar companies into the next digital age. It isn’t surprising that successful leaders of this magnitude would have a lot of similarities in leadership styles.

Early on, Gates was known for bluntly criticizing his employees by telling them their ideas were stupid, but he would present his opinion as a sort of challenge by telling them, “ok, well if you disagree, you’ve gotta convince me that it’s not the stupidest idea in the world.” (In the video below you can see the younger Gates yell and criticize and an older Gates with less yelling, but he still exhibits a critical look on his face.) In Gates’ mind, this type of leadership was essential in order to stay on top in an industry that is constantly in flux. This strategy worked because Gates surrounded himself with a team that shared the same drive and work ethic.  Over the years he was known for a seek and destroy image and a competitive spirit that would lead him to win, whether gracefully or not, exhibited by copying Apple’s software concept that wasn’t licensed for what would become Windows.

Michael Moritz described Jobs as a, “spellbinding, mesmerizing leader of people,” and the story of how he returned to Apple in the late 90’s and reversed its declining legacy and brought it to the forefront of innovative technology today is certainly an example of that. When Apple was developing the Macintosh Jobs exhausted his team, aiming only for perfection. He was also known throughout his years at Apple for being outrageously idealistic and ambitious.

Jobs and Gates‘ leadership styles were very similar in the way that they challenged their employees and were known for being tough and striving for nothing short of perfection. However, when Gates was faced with the struggles that arose surrounding the anti-trust case in 1998 he decided to step down as CEO and focus on being Microsoft’s “idea man” and his charitable efforts with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Taking the back seat seems very out of character for someone with a demanding leadership style like Gates, but this is where he differs from Jobs.

Jobs has been known for having complete control over every aspect of Apple. He doesn’t even listen to his customers. Instead, he decides what his customers want from their next product before they even know that they want it. This is what makes Apple successful, but also characterizes an autocratic leadership style. Today, as Jobs is faced with ailing health, letting go of control will be a huge struggle personally and for Apple to find a new leader that can carry on the legacy that Jobs’ leadership created.

Jobs’ obsession for complete control might have hurt him in the past, when he stood in front of the Apple Board and made them choose between him or CEO, John Sculley. He lost his role with Apple, but was able to redeem himself and the company when he saved the company years later. It’s interesting to think whether the Board made the right decision. Sculley now admits that they should have chosen Jobs. However, at the time, people viewed him as a wasteful, self indulgent brat. He saw himself as an artist and revolutionary, but wasn’t diplomatic in the way he went about leading. His autocratic management style might not have worked at the time if the company did not respect him as a leader.

Jobs has matured through the years though and has loads of respect from Apple’s employees, leaders, customers and adversaries as the company’s savior. Now, Jobs has reached the ultimate level for a leader. He can say anything through his “reality distortion field” that convinces people through emotion that his products will change their life. His believers come in droves and will follow him wherever he goes. While Gates is respected now, it seems that people still cannot forget Microsoft’s past shady dealings that came out of Gates’ leadership and ambition to stay on top. Through his Foundation, Gates builds a reputation of respect by his peers, but in a much different way that Jobs.

New web technology has completely changed the way we look at music and musicians. As Damian Kulash, lead singer of OK Go mentions in a 2010 Wall Street Journal article, “Music is getting harder to define again. It’s becoming more of an experience and less of an object.” This pensive music version 2.0 involves new frontiers of buying, selling, creating, listening, enjoying, and experiencing music, which means forging new pathways for the musicians, consumers and businesses involved.

For the businesses who see a bottom line (revenue), music is about retaining control of how the music is bought, created and licensed. With the arrival of file sharing, consumers are much pickier about what they will pay since a few years ago we could easily obtain (steal) a library of music at no cost. That version of music benefited consumers a lot, artists a little, and was of no benefit to businesses. This accessibility completely changed the way we obtain music. Kulash said, “With uncontrollable and infinite duplication and distribution of recordings, selling records suddenly became a lot like selling apples to people who live in orchards.” Also, the increase of options and niche music that has come about as a result of the Long Tail model, means consumers are much pickier about the music they’ll listen to. They want more than just top 40 hits. This has created a pull and tug between businesses and consumers.

In the future, music needs to find a sweet spot for what people will pay so that businesses make their money, but no one benefits financially too much on either side. Also, we need an infinite library of music that we can easily access, but that the artists still hold the creative rights. Maybe music in the future will be accessible over one awesome app so we can listen to music anytime, anywhere and download for a small nominal subscription fee. Spotify doesn’t seem too far off from this…

In order to grab our attention in the myriad of entertainment choices available through the web, music in the future will need to present themselves as the whole package. In Jason Feinberg’s 2009 article, he says, “in today’s wired marketplace, musicians have to forge a personal relationship with their audience to keep their fans’ interest… fans are far too savvy and options far too many for a musician to appear to be operating in a different universe.”  Artists have to get creative and keep finding new ways to hold our attention. (sort of like OK Go’s famous YouTube video, below, that started as a creative project then went viral and fans came out in drives to concerts) As consumers we want what we want and we want it all…

Looking toward the future in music is difficult because all of the parties involved (artists, businesses, and consumers) have different wants and needs. New technologies change the way we listen to music and new advances aren’t always beneficial to all sides. The future of music will involve some sort of compromise that allows consumers to appreciate the music they love, artists to be creative, and businesses to benefit financially. Only time will tell what music 2.0 will look like…

When Chris Anderson told the tale of a new marketing strategy called the Long Tail in his 2010 Wired article he tapped into a new business model for the tech age that until recent years, just wouldn’t have made sense. It is one of the changes in our society businesses will have to adapt to. It’s good news for consumers. No longer are we limited to the popular choices deemed hits my marketing executives. The Long Tail gives us a wide variety of niche choices and websites following this model help us navigate our way to these new choices that we didn’t even know we had before. By following the Long Tail business model, companies like Netflix and Amazon who keep a large inventory online sell lots of different types of choices of product that might be low-sellers, by simply selling more in smaller numbers.

To take advantage of this new strategy, businesses must help consumers navigate their way to these unique choices that weren’t offered before. Suggested products, ratings and reviews offer the perfect platform for consumers to find their way toward the product that fits their individual needs. They draw them in with familiar hits and then show them choices that appeal to them in different ways. By making the consumer feel like an individual and showing them a unique product, they can capitalize on the Long Tail model and sell more of these niche products. In the long run, if business help consumers find their individualized tastes, they will benefit by creating loyal fans who will return to purchase products that address their unique interests.

No such thing as a free lunch?

As consumers complain about reaching an age where skyrocketing prices are the norm, we seem to forget how many offers fly by each day that offer something for free. As Chris Anderson mentions in his 2008 Wired article, we’re so inundated these days with offers, particularly online, that its easy to look past the benefits of a new online age. Thanks to dirt cheap bandwidth and storage costs associated with web technologies processing costs can be driven down to virtually nil. Consumers can take advantage of the FREE business model through free basic versions of web software and services, services with advertisements or product placement, buying a product that encourages you to buy another product, products that have zero marginal cost to produce, services that take consumer information to use, or services with an altruistic purpose. All of these choices show that there IS such a thing as a free lunch. Right? All of these free options provide some sort of value to the seller, be it ads, future sales, personal information, or sometimes even good feelings.

Free has become a marketing strategy that is so common, we seem to take it for granted. If we were told years ago that we’d be able to watch videos, play games, listen to music and more all for free in our own home, it would seem too good to be true. Now we pretty much expect it. With web companies competing in a world of free, they must continually find new, unique ways to make their offer stand out, grab the attention of lots of customers in a big way in order to make “freeconomics” work to their advantage. Free offers always have a catch, but making the offer stand out to the consumer is all about disguising the catch so that they think they are benefiting more from the offer than the seller is. The key is weighing the costs in a way that, in the end, it is always beneficial to the seller. This is a a fine line that is becoming increasingly harder for businesses to balance while still competing a world of free offers online.

Clay Shirky said, “Twitter has more raw capability for users than anything since e-mail.” People have various reasons for tweeting. Perhaps what makes it so refreshing is the fact that it is so personal and customizable. Every tweet is left up to the tweeter’s discretion which leaves a lot open to discussion.

What’s the tweet’s ulterior motive? Are they tweeting for business or for pleasure? What is the tweet trying to sell me? Did I really need to know that? These are all questions one might ask when reading tweets in a news feed. I am interested in researching the motives behind a user’s tweets. More specifically, “what is the driving force behind a tweet?

To answer this research question, I would randomly select tweets by random people and perform a content analysis pilot study that would categorize the tweets into categories including: education, promotion, emotion, daily event or opinion. I would define the categories further to make them mutually exclusive (or at least more one category than the other) and have three coders place them in their respective category.

I believe that my literature review would support a hypothesis that would say that most tweets are for education or promotion. I will also add findings that show that while tweets with emotion occur with more frequency at certain pivotal moments, on the whole tweets are driven less frequently by emotion than education or promotion.

I will also demonstrate that Twitter has strayed from its original intent that Evan Williams discusses in his TED Talk to simply talk about daily happenings. As we find more engaging posts that move beyond what we had for breakfast, I believe we will find motives of another driving force. In addition, this research might also show that Twitter users today tweet more for business and less for pleasure.

After reading all about the battles for internet real estate by Google and Facebook, it’s hard to say which platform will prevail. Google has search. Facebook has social. We need both; we want both. It seems that the next frontier for social media is to combine the two; an all powerful search engine that brings our friends’ activities, suggestions and anything else we want to know at the click of a button. A one stop social search shop. Our wants and desires should be a click away. A few clicks or searches is just too much trouble these days.

Since this futuristic social search engine would have combined powers of knowing our search history and personal information, our computers would know exactly what we want at the stroke of a key. When I type in “dell,” it would first give me latest posts and info on my friend Suzy Dell, not Dell Computers. When I want to buy a computer, it would show me in my search that Suzy just bought a Dell and had a miserable experience. When I search symptoms for strange rash, I will see that my neighbor had the same strange rash that neither my doctor nor WebMD could tell me. (This happened to a mother recently. See link) When I want to see the severity of a storm coming my way I can check the weather and see golf ball sized hail in the yard of a friend of mine that lives across town.

This new arm of Web 2.0 seems to be an earshot away. The harder Facebook tries to compete with Google and vice versa, the more similar they will become as they both try to fill in the gaps that the opposing platform hasn’t quite mastered. Facebook has already mastered the “social graph” and has emphasized authenticity and identity, as well as honesty. By doing so, users are encouraged to post personal information. Through this, Zuckerberg has a created a powerful new model of communication (Vogelstein, 2007). This social news feed is a one step toward a free-flowing web platform that is set up more like a conversation with a best friend who knows us inside and out.

Could powers collide to form an Evil Empire?

Of course, this new platform will have to keep a mindful eye on the fine line between providing all the information we need from the information gathered and providing so much information that the user feels violated. Facebook walked this line and had to deal with backlash from users when first debuting its News Feed. As Facebook’s chief privacy officer Chris Kelly said, “Facebook is about replicating the social restrictions of the offline world,” (Levy, 2007). With all the personal information at the fingertips of many, the resources of this new medium can be used to revolutionize our lives, but it can also get taken advantage of. Could the Next Frontier of Social Media turn into an Evil Empire? Let’s hope not…

Pondering the meanings of interactivity made me think of the skills I’m learning right now in an Adobe InDesign class. The CS5 version features new “interactivity” features that allow you to embed Flash players, buttons that makes sound and other interactive features. I’m still learning, but  this came to mind as Adobe is finding new ways to keep print media current by following this theme of engagement and shared interaction, a common theme in new media.

In the reading, the Kiousis study brings up a number of ways that interactivity is defined starting with the implications that the concept involves some sort of receiver feedback and that is linked to new technologies. This seemed to be the most simplistic and common thread throughout the readings struggling to define interactivity. He goes on to point out shortfalls of other experiments that call conditions interactive without considering multiples levels of interactivity or defining its true meaning. In addition, the term is subjective and fluctuates with people’s perceptions and altering technological properties (Kiousis, 2002).

In his conclusion Kiousis defines interactivity as “the degree to which a communication technology can create a mediated environment in which participants can communicate…participate in reciprocal message exchanges …and perceive the experience as an interpersonal conversation with telepresence.” Determining levels of interactivity, according to Kiousis, could be determined by technology, communication setting, and perceptions (Kiousis, 2002). While this definition it long, it seems to be the most cut and dry and easy to understand.

Downes begins his explanation of interactivity with Jensen’s broad sociological definition that it is a relationship between two people that mutually adapt their behavior and actions to one another. He further points out that the style of control is the key determinant in human-computer interactions. He also gives a series of Rafaeli’s various definitions that center around how messages in a sequence relate to one another and goes into other past attempts at defining the concept of interactivity.  He validates the purposes of his study by showing that there is no clear definition for this multi-facted concept, but that it is the key characterisitc of new media which is why it is so important to clearly define (Downes, 2000).

The elements that most struck a chord with me were those key characteristics by Rice, Rogers and Williams that Downes mentioned. They basically said that interactivity must involve some sort of role-playing (and exchanging), control of the situation and feedback. (Downes, 2000).

When I think of interactivity, I think of the word ‘interaction’ and though this concept is ambiguous and open to all forms of interpretation, I think that the interaction taking place is key. This means an interchange made by a user through engagement with the new media to someone else, and back and forth. Trying to put this concept into my own words, makes me understand why it went so long without a clear definition.

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