Who’s on Twitter? This data will scare the bejessus out of some of my corporate clients

Quoting Media Bistro reprinting All Twitter, “The anatomy of a Twitter user is interesting stuff: he’s male, between 18 and 29, Hispanic, and lives in an urban area. At least, that’s according to the latest Twitter infographic from FlowTown.”

It continues, “And the type of information that Twitter users are sharing might surprise some people as well. Personal updates are the most-shared pieces of information on Twitter, followed by work updates. The least popular thing to share on Twitter? Your location.”

The article features a graphic illustrating users and usage too.

But my point is – if the most interesting thing to Tweet is one’s location, then it doesn’t say much about content, editorial direction or much that portends to be informational or substantial. If social media is reduced to location, location and location, then it would seem to be of limited, lasting value. I don’t think that’s the case, but it does support the contention that Twitter is like the pet rock

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Stupid is as stupid does – again

Sitting in for Sean Hannity on FOX News this week Tucker Carlson called for Michael Vicks execution for pet abuse. Gawker has the clip.
Is this for ratings? Attention? Is it racism? Is it just reality TV?

The question of why the FOX bosses allow this is obvious – cloaked in “free speech” it garners attention and column inches, like these.

But is any one thinking of the longer term damage to discourse? Of course, if it is Tucker’s opinion calling for executions of pet abuses, then he’s welcome to it. Maybe he wants his own show again and feels this is the best way to accomplish that goal. But it just doesn’t pass the smell test of reasonableness… So why say it? For effect? For attention? One can only surmise he was motivated by being quote-worthy. He succeeded. But at what price?

What is the price for discourse? What is editorially responsible? Where is the line? Where are the editors? The managers? The grown-ups?

The war we don’t hear (much) about

Arguably the war in Afghanistan drones on into its ninth year with continuing Draconian consequences including the loss of lives (US & Coalition troops and Afghan citizens), a negative effect on US interests and reputation abroad and devastating impact on our national budget, among others. And yet, no one (including, especially the media) seems to pay much attention.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported that just 4% of news coverage this year focused on the war and that’s down from the year before when it was a whopping 5%.  According to Afghan War Just a Slice of US Coverage this week, the war just does not merit much editorial interest or coverage.  Is that because the media finds the war uninteresting?  Difficult to cover?  Or is it the impression and/or understanding that the audience doesn’t much care for the story, so why cover something distasteful that’s apt to turn viewers off?  Or, all of the above?

Thinking back to Vietnam when there were thousands of reporters from all over the world covering that war, daily papers and multiple wire services were filled with incisive and comprehensive coverage. Nightly newscasts featured competitive stories. Names like Saigon, Da Nang, Hue, Cam Ranh Bay, Pleiku and so many others were widely known – heard frequently in coverage and by datelines – and discussed. But what of names, places and coverage from Afghanistan? After Kabul what names do come to mind? And could many (any) of us find them on a map?

Whose fault is that? Is it the media? There are fewer than a handful of reporters in country.  Is that because of diminished interest, reduced news budgets? The difficulty (near impossibility) of getting around without the assistance and escort of the US or coalition military? All of the above? But wouldn’t we be better served by more coverage – not just that which is approved by US military and diplomatic handlers?

From the Times’ story, “The low levels of coverage reflect the limitations on news-gathering budgets and, some say, low levels of interest in the war among the public. About a quarter of Americans follow news about Afghanistan closely, according to recent surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

“Inside the United States, you’ve got audiences that are beginning to suffer from war fatigue,” said Tony Maddox, who oversees international coverage for CNN.”

Competition among journalists in Vietnam as well as the wider range of published, conflicting and divergent viewpoints did contribute to the divisive nature of that war as well as to its ultimate peace.

The current crop of Afghan stories – according to what was published in the Times – seems to focus on whether the war is in fact winnable? A fair question – an obvious one at the end of the year and prior to the upcoming new Congress and State of the Union.

But – from a media standpoint – and a critical one – how is it that a war which is sucking resources at an appalling rate only merits 4% of the annual news coverage to begin with? Incidentally this isn’t just the fault of the media, for whatever our many sins might be, we have also become victims of the business culture which seeks to please audiences by giving them news they want, news they will be entertained by – not necessarily the news they need to make sober, serious and informed decisions. Afghan news is deemed to be unpopular unpleasant – it’s certainly foreign – and to be discriminatory or bigoted it is about people and a country we don’t generally think very highly of! There, I said it. From a media management standpoint – though they may not want to admit it – if honest they’d say their audiences don’t understand these people – don’t relate to these people – and don’t believe that our being in country is going to make much of (if any) reasonable difference. We’re marking time until the body county, blood-letting and money loss is so unsupportable that we’ll skulk out having declared a win, proudly asserting we had established a toe hold for democracy and proclaiming a peace. Whatever the hell that will look like.

The real question is this – from a media standpoint – 4%. Is that the best we can do? Is that a measure of how little we really care – and its failing Y2Y.

So as we enter 2011 let’s watch for stories with more bang-bang than politics. And stories about Presidential visits – 3 hours at an US air base – instead of a texture piece on the complexities of the Afghan government. And let’s not minimize the panache of visiting news anchors – Beauties in Bush Jackets – who visit from time to time to do their own ‘in-depth’ personal reporting conducted from the safety of US military escorts. This isn’t reporting. This is white wash. We deserve better… we don’t want to pay for it, we don’t want to be bothered by tough reporting and serious questions… and so instead we wait for Beltway pontificators to fill in what we don’t get from the field — offering platitudes and opinion instead of reportage.  It is however a poor alternative for the real thing.

Comparisons of Stewart to Murrow & Cronkite are misplaced

Today’s New York Times story portraying comedian Jon Stewart’s advocacy role in support of 9/11 responders to that of CBS news icons Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite seem out of proportion to history, to journalism and to impact.
Mr. Stewart – though both popular and persuasive – does not merit comparison for his remarks on a single show or position compared to the risks that Murrow for instance took when he spoke out against Senator Joseph McCarthy or the Army hearings; nor that of Cronkite when he editorialized about the long-term future of the Vietnam war. Stewart – to his credit – did speak out using his platform and popularity to ridicule what he felt was happening in Congress, but in doing so he did not risk nor face the same consequences as Murrow or Cronkite.
In our rush to make comparisons to the past – all of us – journalists, professors, every one must be more careful to make more apt, thoughtful comparisons than what is offered today by both the Times and a quote from a professor of popular TV culture at Syracuse.

Is doing enough actually enough?

Joshua-Michéle Ross who writes a nifty column Opposable Planets on social media has written Be Committed but Not Attached offering a phrase “be committed to the work that you do, the purpose you have, the intentions and integrity of your actions. Don’t be too attached to the results.”

I’ve been pondering this for the last few days.

Applied to the work: media – especially the challenged world of multimedia communications today – is just being committed enough? In times of tumult – of change – of business challenges while one cannot live daily on the edge, doesn’t one have to be committed to results? Is there any other way that is as rewarding?

20% of the audience is gone in the first 10 seconds

20% of the audience clicks OFF a video in the first 10 seconds; 40% is gone at 1 minute and 60% has tuned out at the minute thirty mark.
Distressing?
I think this is a near fatal blow in recognizing audiences don’t even give many programs a chance before they’re clicked off. For corporate clients… for news producers… for any one who produces content this is a sad set of numbers produced by Benchmarking Viewer Abandonment in Online Video which “looked at how viewers watched and ultimately abandoned over 40 million unique video clips, which, in aggregate, have received nearly 7 billion views.”

Blink taught us people make judgments about one another in the first 3 seconds of a conversation, but even at 10 seconds this study gives me little reason for optimism. What does this say for our concentrations? What does this say for our quick-trigger response about what interests us, or what we want to give time to, invest ourselves in?
For clients who produce videos in the hope of delivering messages this will be positively frightening. For my students who flit about from story to story with little regard for depth or concentration, this just gives weight to their argument that if a piece isn’t interesting (quickly) they just wont watch it at all.

10 seconds is hardly justification for ignorance.

Selling off assets – Colleges dump campus radio stations

There’s a disturbing trend on college campuses these days…no, not about sex, social mores or scandals. Well, not this one anyway.

It’s the apparently growing trend for colleges and universities which own broadcast licenses that are prepared to sell these golden ducats to raise cash. Stations that were once the student voices or the training grounds for journalism majors are being sold off to raise funds and reduce deficits.

A December 5th NYTimes story Waning Support for College Radio Sets Off a Debate by John Vorwald gives insight.

“But as colleges across the country look for ways to tighten budgets amid recession-induced shortfalls, some administrators — most recently in the South — have focused on college radio, leading even well-endowed universities to sell off their FM stations. That trend was felt this summer at Rice and Vanderbilt, among the most prominent of Southern universities, stirring debate about the viability of broadcast radio, the reach of online broadcasting and the value of student broadcast programming.”

Colleges that have sold their licenses, or are on the verge of doing so, include Rice, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech University and Augustana College among others.

What’s most interesting to me is the debate (and the defensive argument in favor of making the sale) over usage — are students listening to terrestrial radio or only the Internet? And does that matter? A student voice is still important, beyond the four walls of the university and into its community.

How this pans out – whether these are a few isolated examples of part of a larger trend is as yet unclear. But it is increasingly evident the value of the transmitter is considered an asset to educational institutions strapped for cash and the decision whether to sustain the station seems less about education than funding.