March 19, 2007

Remix Politics [11:24 am]

Discussing this ad: Obama ad hints at things to come in cyberpolitics - pdf

It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate — one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising.

Yet the groundbreaking 74-second pitch for Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, which remixes the classic “1984″ ad that introduced Apple computers to the world, is not on cable or network TV, but on the Internet.

And Obama’s campaign says it had absolutely nothing to do with the video that attacks one of his principal Democratic rivals, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Indeed, the ad’s creator is a mystery, at least for now.

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“Where R U?” — Location Information in the ‘Net [7:32 am]

AOL adds location capability for IM - pdf

The Skyhook plug-in, available as a free download, adds a new grouping to AIM’s buddy list window called “Near Me.” That group will feature the names of any buddies who opt to share their locations and who are within a set distance from the AIM user. The application also can display a buddy’s location on a map. For now, these capabilities will be available when using AIM on a computer, but not on a cell phone.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner Inc., told The Associated Press the Skyhook application was the first of several new location-aware capabilities it plans to add to AIM in the next couple of months, but the company declined to elaborate.

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Jay Rosen’s Quest for EPIC 2014 Gets Some Ink [7:22 am]

All the World’s a Story

A new experiment wants to broaden the network to include readers and their sources. Assignment Zero (zero.newassignment.net/), a collaboration between Wired magazine and NewAssignment.Net, the experimental journalism site established by Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, intends to use not only the wisdom of the crowd, but their combined reporting efforts — an approach that has come to be called “crowdsourcing.”

The idea is to apply to journalism the same open-source model of Web-enabled collaboration that produced the operating system Linux, the Web browser Mozilla and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

“Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?” Professor Rosen asked last week on Wired.com.

The Wired story is Citizen Journalism Wants You!

In case you’ve not seen it, here’s a link to Robin Sloan’s EPIC 2014.

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The NYTimes on the CRB Royalty Fight [7:18 am]

A Fee Per Song Can Ruin Us, Internet Radio Companies Say

Several Internet radio companies are arguing that a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board, a three-member panel under the Library of Congress, would make it almost impossible for them to stay afloat.

[...] In the last few years, as broadband Internet connections became more popular, online radio offerings have proliferated. On Wednesday, Mr. Kimball testified to the House Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet that online radio played a greater variety of music, but that it was unfairly limited by restrictions that did not apply to conventional radio stations.

As the recording industry sees the matter, though, Web-based broadcasters are simply building a business with their content, which they deserve to be compensated for.

“They said the same thing in 2002,” the last time such fees were set, said John L. Simson, executive director of SoundExchange, the group that collects royalties from online radio and distributes them to labels and artists. “Not only did it not drive them out of business, we saw more people come online.”

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What’s At Stake With The Viacom-Google/YouTube Suit [7:15 am]

Viacom’s Full-Court Press for Online Ads

While all television networks have seized upon online video, few invested more aggressively than Nickelodeon’s parent company, Viacom. MTV Networks — the division of Viacom that oversees 28 networks in the United States including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and Country Music Television — manages 44 domestic Web sites and was among the first to put video from its TV shows online, posting MTV video in 1994.

[...] Other major media companies have accused YouTube of copyright infringement, but Viacom’s lawsuit underscores its particular vulnerability in the face of the popularity of video site.

First, Viacom has been adamant about maintaining its own relationship with advertisers, in part because it is trying to sell ads across platforms, using the popularity of its Web properties to bolster its television ad revenue. That is leverage the company would lose if it cannot draw enough viewers to its own Web properties.

[...] Viacom also has a enormous amount of content aimed at younger viewers, the kind most likely to click on YouTube or other sites. More than 80 percent of Nickelodeon’s and MTV’s audiences are under 34, as is 57 percent of Comedy Central’s, according to Nielsen. (Viacom says that clips of its programs have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times on YouTube.)

Advertisers like Internet commercials linked to online video because it allows them to communicate their brand messages with sight, sound and motion. And Web sites like video ads because they are paid more for each viewer than they typically would be with simple text or banner ads.

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A Look at Slacker … and DRM [7:01 am]

A defense of DRM that essentially boils down to “without it, you can’t get services like Slacker.” A valid defense? Or a sophistry in support of technical alienation? Just how transparent should our technical artifacts be? And what’s an appropriate tradeoff? One argument from the LATimes’ Jon Healey: Slacker’s gotta DRM - pdf

For people who like radio, Slacker could be a leap forward, depending on how well its DJ software works. It’s more controllable (users can skip ahead until they reach a song they want to hear) and more closely attuned to a listener’s musical whims. Even the commercials will be more personalized—Slacker users tell the service what their interests are, and that input helps determine which ads their virtual DJ inserts into the playlist. Those who expect more have the option of buying the premium version, which lets them save songs and play them on demand later, mixed with their personal MP3s. The songs are still locked to the player, however, and the rest of the Slacker song cache remains hidden until it’s played. Those trade-offs may be too severe for consumers, but again, the restrictions are part and parcel of the service’s availability. They’re the basis for the business model.

That’s how DRM should be evaluated: not on the basis of some quasi-religious objection to freedom-limiting technologies, but on the specific value proposition enabled. There’s no question that without DRM, there would be no Slacker. That begs the question, are music fans better off with the Slacker option? Is the Slacker experience better than other portable sources of music? The answers depend on the quality of Slacker’s products and the ingenuity of its engineers. If Slacker’s done well, users don’t notice the DRM. If not, it’s likely to be the first thing they complain about.

For another version of the same argument, see John Carroll’s blog entry The EU’s ongoing joust with iTunes

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Exploring the New Distribution [6:52 am]

‘Goodnight Burbank’ and a made-for-the-Web future - pdf

The experience has proved a revelation for [Goodnight Burbank writer Hayden] Black, who realized “that TV wasn’t the be-all and end-all” for a career predicated on scripted comic shorts.

“I actually believe it’s going to affect the way TV is programmed in the next five to 10 years,” Black, a stocky British expat who somewhat resembles Ricky Gervais of BBC’s “The Office,” said last week of what’s been variously dubbed netcasting, podcasting, video-sharing and webisodes.

“When they see alternative programming working,” he added, referring to network execs, “they’ll start rethinking how they develop shows.”

Yup, you’ve probably heard similar claims for a decade now, ever since tech soothsayers began slinging around the now-dated buzzword “convergence.” But lately, accumulating evidence suggests that maybe the claims made for the Internet as an alternative distribution platform weren’t a bunch of overblown business-plan hooey after all.

See also Steven Bochco’s experiences in To make a long story short… - pdf

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