July 06, 2002
Antarctic melting even faster than previously thought
See the story by Alex Kirby for the BBC:
Antarctic ice fringe 'melting faster'.
More On Clear Channel
I found a gold mine of articles by Eric Boehlert for Salon about Clear Channel's Radio Monopoly:
Radio's big bully.
Highlights include: background on how Clear Channel and how it managed to quietly take over radio (the company owns nearly 1,200 radio stations and effectively controls the rock radio market and also owns SFX Entertainment, the nation's dominant concert-venue owner and touring promoter), the corporation's evolution under the aegis of Randy Michaels, the "new payola" (the complex arrangements under which the world's major record companies pay for virtually every rock song broadcast on commercial radio) and links to the Clear Channel Web site so you can locate the affiliates nearest you (there are probably a ton of them right in your town!).
Is it me? Or is this the cutest spider that ever lived smiling for the camera?
Is Clear Channel's PD Perceptual Rigged?
Clear Channel is being accused of promoting an artist it was only supposed to be tracking in an effort to reward trial users of its new PD Perceptual Service.
This story makes it seem like the "little guy" got a break this time around for a change. Weird.
The title is especially ironic -- everyone knows that Clear Channel sells hit singles. The point is that they actually gave away some airplay without charging (allegedly in an attempt to promote another of their other services) -- and now the company is being interrogated for it.
Could it be possible that Clear Channel reps might have happened to mention that Eagle-eye Cherry was one of the few acts that was trying out its new PD Perceptual Service, and that, when it came time for the Music Director to pick a token no-name act to add to the playlist, Eagle-eye Cherry came to mind? Could Eagle-eye Cherry just be a nice guy that everyone likes to promote, perhaps? Or is Eagle-eye Cherry so bad that his getting so much airplay immediately calls the ethics of the entire Clear Channel organization into question?
See the Salon story by Eric Boehlert:
Is Clear Channel selling hit singles?.
Seth Godin Tells It Like It Is
Fast Company Contributing Editor Seth Godin has written a Memo to Media Monopolists that might actually help save them from themselves if they can pay attention long enough to follow its thoughtful and simple advice. He's just trying to help you out, man. Check out:
Memo to: Media Monopolists.
Why can't Nike charge $500 for sneakers? Because there are easy substitutes. In almost every industry, consumers have countless choices. And unless a product is truly unique, they can take their money elsewhere.
The media business has always been different. At its heart, the media business is actually about the prospect of being a monopolist -- and about getting paid a lot more than your products cost to make. A few years ago, if a couch potato ( God love 'em ) wanted to watch TV, there were only three channels he could choose from. If a moviegoer wanted to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, there was only the William Goldman version, and she had to buy a ticket to see it.
The point is this: The media business was built on scarcity. Scarcity of spectrum. Scarcity of hits. Scarcity caused by copyright and limited shelf space. Consumers hate scarcity. But you and I know that monopolists love scarcity. When consumers have fewer choices, a monopoly thrives.
Scarcity made it easy to get fat and happy. But almost overnight, the scarcity on which you built your media monopolies started to disappear. All of a sudden, there are about a billion channels available on the Web. There's a movie theater in any home with a DVD player. Amazon.com has infinite shelf space, so retail market power is now a myth. It's hard to charge take-it-or-leave-it prices when the consumer can just leave it...
...Here's the problem: You monopolists appear to believe that you have a right to business as usual. You believe that if the rules of the marketplace change, it's not fair. You believe that you somehow deserve the private planes, the great parties, and the obscene profits. You also seem to think that if your monopoly were to go away, so would all of the good ideas.
The truth is, the supply is in terrific shape, thanks. In fact, there's never been more to choose from. The only thing that would go away would be your profits. Ouch...
...Senator Fritz Hollings, warrior on your behalf, feels your pain. He views the technology companies and their customers as not much more than thieves. Apple makes money from the iPod -- on the backs of the artists who aren't getting compensated every time we listen. Steve Jobs must be torn. On one hand, he makes iPods. On the other, he makes Monsters, Inc.
Think about that for a second. Steve Jobs has two jobs, and one of them could bankrupt the other ( if your rhetoric is to be believed ). He's not dumb. He gets it...
...One last thing: I'm not saying that I want the markets to be the way they are. I'm not saying that pirating is right. But I am saying that it exists and that it's going to become more widespread. So here are your basic choices: You can whine, lobby, sue, and then cripple your product so that it can't be copied. Or, maybe, just maybe, you can stop thinking like a monopolist long enough to find new business models, new markets, and new strategic plans.
You're not going out of business tomorrow. The structures that you have built and perfected are going to stick around for a long time. But it's not going to get better, more profitable, or more fun. It's only going to get worse.
Bill Gates has a backup plan, guys. What's yours?
The Infeasibility of Time Travel: One More Time!
July 05, 2002
Viewers Unite: It's Time To Renegotiate Our Contracts
Henry Jenkins takes a deeper look for the MIT Technology Review into the implications of viewers' "contracts" with programmers to watch advertising as part of the deal:
Treating Viewers As Criminals.
...I stumbled across the recent comments of Turner Broadcasting System CEO Jaimie Kellner, who asserted that television viewers who skipped commercials using their digital video recorders were guilty of "stealing" broadcast content. Kellner told an industry trade press reporter that "Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots." He conceded that there may be a historic loophole allowing us to take short breaks to go to the bathroom but otherwise, we are expected to be at our post, doing our duties, watching every commercial, and presumably, though he never said it, buying every product.
Kellner's intemperate rhetoric is, alas, characteristic of the ways that the media industry increasingly thinks about, talks about, and addresses its consumers in the post-Napster era. Napster may—and I stress, may—have been legitimately labeled piracy, but now all forms of consumerism are being criminalized with ever-decreasing degrees of credibility. Once going to the bathroom or grabbing a snack on a commercial break gets treated as a form of theft, the media conglomerates are going to be hard pressed to get consumer compliance with their expectations, making it impossible to draw legitimate lines about what is and is not appropriate use of media content.
Name-calling is the last resort of once powerful institutions that are finding themselves losing control in the face of rapid media change. Never mind that the same media giants are often the manufactures of the new media technologies we are using to skip their commercials or that some of the advertisements they want us to watch are marketing us features which allow us to skip advertisements. Never mind that we now have many more media options and we need the networks frankly far less than the networks need us.
I don't know about you but I want to renegotiate my contract! There has been a significant increase in the number of commercials per hour since I first started watching network programming. Consequently, my workload has doubled or tripled, while my compensation—the programming—has gone down in quantity, if not in quality. One wonders whether it isn't time for television viewers to form a union, demand that people like Kellner sit down at the negotiating table, and cut a better deal with us, if they continue to expect viewer loyalty. And given research linking extensive television viewing with obesity, perhaps we might have some way of holding the networks accountable for their workplace safety violations as well, before some of us start to spontaneously explode.
July 03, 2002
Fun With Mozilla "Groups"
Have you downloaded Mozilla yet? Do yourself a favor and give it a try today!
One of the features I love about Mozilla 1.0 is the tabbed windows. You can also create "groups" of bookmarks, so you can open all your working windows easily everytime you relaunch the application.
Here's an example groups file to get you started if you'd like to try this out.
After replacing the site names and urls in the example file, select "Manage Bookmarks" from the "Bookmarks" menu bar up top. Once in the Bookmark window, select "Tools" and then "Import" to have your groups added to the Bookmark menus.
You also might want to engage the "View" - "Show/Hide" "Sidebar" feature, so that you can look at your bookmark groups and open and close the little expanding windows.
George Michael Speaks Out
This time around, George Michael is making a statement about hypocrisy in government instead of corruption in the music industry. (You know, that stuff everyone laughed at him for whining about years ago that every artist-type person in the industry now finds themselves currently obsessed with...)
See the Times of India story by
Rashmee Z. Ahmed:
July 01, 2002
Tivo + CSPAN = Heaven
June 30, 2002
Why Media Consolidation Hurts The Public
I've been trying to find the words to express exactly why I feel that media consolidation is such a bad thing.
Then I found this elegant Businessweek Online commentary by Catherine Yang, Tom Lowry and Ronald Gover that explains it pretty well:
Commentary: Media Mergers: The Danger Remains
Despite 100 channels and the Web, softer ownership rules will put the major outlets in Big Media's hands .
Meanwhile, media consolidation is well under way, even without massive deregulation: In 2001, 311 deals valued at $113 billion were announced, the highest amount for any industry. Scale is the name of the game. Already, the big three networks are aligned with conglomerates led by Disney, Viacom, and General Electric.
The AOL Time Warner (AOL ) merger only raised the stakes for bigness. If the FCC's rules evaporate altogether, "we would be trading some greater profitability...in return for undercutting the very pillars of separate media ownership that our democracy is built on," says Gene Kimmelman, co-director of Consumers Union.
It's up to regulators to decide whether more consolidation will hurt the range of viewpoints available to the public. But they need to tread carefully. Once gone, an independent press and media won't be easily recreated.