Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wrap It Up

Mass media is changing. Whether for better or worse the mass media will always continue to change. On March 15, I posted a comment Rupert Murdoch made while speaking in front of The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, which he said “It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this [media] revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy -- not just companies but whole countries.” As one of the last few remaining proprietors of the traditional mass media, Murdoch’s vision can be seen as being directly connected to the current trends in the mass media.

Over the past three months this blog has attempted to examine the emerging trends that are driving this ongoing media revolution. Certainly, there are numerous factors that have added to the powder keg that has become the world of mass media. The first ingredient in the revolution that is having a profound affect is the changing landscape of content that is being offered to viewers. From the progressive, this years Oscar nominees for best picture, to just plain garbage, FX’s Black.White., to the proliferation of consumer generated content, which include everything from blogs and podcasts to commercials and televised newscasts, the increase in the variety of content available to users is staggering. This change in the landscape of content has empowered users to stretch the boundaries of the entire concept of content. Stretching these boundaries has led to the emergence of new genres of content and has also led the way to the sophistication of some content.

As content becomes more engaging to the audience, the methods in which it is distributed and who it is being distributed to, is having a profound affect on the mass media. First, the way in which content ultimately reaches consumers has made the mass media continually more accessible during all parts of a person’s life. This influx of content availability is altering the way in which users will consume media. For example, users are confronted with a staggering amount of information on the Internet, however, increased searching capabilities coupled with an improved ratings system makes it easier to sift through mountains of information. Also the distribution of content is going mobile from iPods to cell phones to unsecured wireless networks, individuals are able to access all different sorts of information wherever and whenever they want. For creators of content it then is their charge to continue to understand that users will be continually confronted with information overload, even on the go, which means content will continually need to be improved.

Furthermore, with the increased channels of distribution available it will need to be understood by this “new media,” the shift in who is using this content. Aside from the ability of media companies (including advertisers) to reach this , who can now access content from wherever they want, there are changes among the demographics in America that are causing a shift in content. With the increasing of Internet aspect among African Americans and the shift in tastes among the Hispanic population, how these distinct user groups are reached and what messages will be appropriate for them.

Finally, one of the main trends this blog has focused on and is the main force driving the
media revolution is the Internet. The Internet has allowed users to access almost unlimited amounts of content. This has led to the debate of the concept of “net neutrality,” and whether or not certain content should be restricted to users. The resolution of this issue will have the greatest impact on the direction of the media revolution. If the ability to freely view content on the Internet is compromised, then the Internet could drastically affect the content available and the resolution of this debate will have a profound impact on the mass media. Currently, however, one of the growing trends is the inseparable relationship between traditional media and the Internet. This relationship is again helping to alter the content available to users. As an open communication forum the Internet allows the creators of the content to offer their users an increased form of interactivity unparalleled to other media, such as offering audio and video on a magazine’s webpage. Offering users this interactivity allows them to become involved with and to create content that can be easily distributed. Therefore, it becomes imperative to continue the flow of the media revolution the Internet must remain a two way dialogue between individuals who create content (whether that be large corporations or user generated) and the users who access it.

The majority of the emerging trends are due to the increases in technology and the development of content to match those increases. The Internet’s distinct role in helping to shape the “new media” revolution cannot be doubted, but no matter how much technology increases, whether it goes more mobile or connects at a higher speed, ultimately media still befalls to the content. The idea that the “media is the message” has been a steadfast ideal in the media world for numerous years, however, after analyzing the current trends is becoming more apparent that this old adage is not as strong as it once was. For instance, those fortunate enough to own a vide iPod know that at first it is exciting to be able to watch “South Park” on their iPod. Once this initial excitement is over it is no longer about being able to watch a show on an iPod and therefore become less about the media on which the content is displayed, and more about just watching “South Park,” the message. Therefore, in this world of “new media” if companies and individuals cannot create content that is compelling enough to warrant it filling the increasing space created by the Internet and its associated technologies, then it seems that idea behind Murdoch’s prediction for the media revolution will not come to fruition.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has read my blog this far.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Where Are All the Magazines Going?

Magazine publishers everywhere need to start making some decisions. As they watch their newspaper bretheren suffer from people's addiction to Internet news, and their own circulations remaining stagnat it might be time for magazines to start looking elsewhere to reach their readers. Though magazine circulations have not been decreaseing as rapidly as newspaper readersghip, because magazines allows for the information to be consumed at the reader's leisure, publishers are still begining to steer their investments onto the Internet.

One publisher that is aggresively pursuing to increase their presence on the Internet is Condé Nast, the nation's second largest magazine publisher. This move by such a large publishing house shows that that the world of magazines is finally begining to realize that, as it has been with other media, the Internet is becoming an insepreable sidekick.

However, Conde Nast's strategy has been to differentiate the brand of the magazine from their Internet destinations. For example Conde Nast' combines the contentof W and Vogue magazines in its, while including information available exclusively on the site. Differentiating the web offerings from the magazine brands, according to Steven Newhouse, chairman of the company responsible for the Conde Nast websites, allows for Conde Nast to "gain a broader audience and more loyalty from your subscribers if you extend the experience into the Web." This allows "the company to cast a wider net for readers beyond those already buying the magazines. Moreover, having sites unattached to a magazine brand allowed the sites to be more playful."

The reason that the Internet offers so many oppportunities for magazine publishers to reach readers is because ot the added content the Internet offers. Magazines that relocate to Internet can also include added material to their stories, includinge video and audio components. For example, Vanity Fair released a video on its website for a recent photo shoot. Another feature that is attracting magazines to the Internet is the interactivity. For instance, the Web allows for readers research products and connect with other readers who might have the same interests.

These opportunities presenting themselves to magazine publishers to enhance the magazine reader's experience will completely begin to change how and where magazines are read. And since Conde Nast is the second largest publisher in the U.S. it will not be suprising to see other publishers begin to follow suit.

As Magazine Readers Increasingly Turn to the Web, So Does Conde Nast

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Closing the Digital Divide

The digital divide has always been used to describe the haves and have nots on the Internet. The Internet always has been actively used by white and Asian-American in significant numbers while at the same time Internet use has surpassed many African-American users. It was this digital divide "that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success." Yet, the digital divide has begun to shrink as more African- Americans have been logging on.

Originally, the cause for the digital divide was sheer economics. The cost of the technology to access the Internet surapssed those African American consumers who were at the "lower end" of the economic scale, effectively keeping them off the information superhighway. With the proliferation of inexpensive computers to hit the market and the ability to access the Internet from almost every convievable consumer electronic from cellphones to handhelds to video game systems are one of the main causes for the decrease in the divide. Also as the Internet changes from being used solely as a place to gather information and more into a hub of entertainment and interaction, it is enticing

It is not suprising that the majority of those African-Americans crossing the digital divide tend to be young people. With the increased presence of computers and the Internet in schools it is easy to see how this trend can emerge. The youth, however, are not the only members of the African American community that are gaining access to the Internet. According to a Pew survey the number of African Americans who are using the Internet has increase 38 percent since 1998.

This increase in Internet usage has shruken the digital divide, however, there seems to be a growing divide in the difference between how the different races use the Internet.
According to Marlon Orozco, program manager at Intel Computer Clubhouse Network and organization designed to teach young people how to use the Internet, says that "Instant messaging and downloading music is one thing, but he would like to see black and Hispanic teenagers use the Internet in more challenging ways, like building virtual communities or promoting their businesses."

"The type and meaningful quality of access is, in some ways, a more challenging divide that remains," says Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Even though the digital divide may seem to be closing, usage is not just an issue anymore. The next step in eliminating the digital divide should be to help educate and provide access so those in the African American community that are just begining their foray into cyberspace will have the opportunity to become comfortable and competent with the Internent. With the constant changing of the capabilities of the Internet it is imperative that this issue be addressed before this subtle divide becomes and irreparable gap.

Digital Divide Closing as Blacks Turn to Internet

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pop Culture Make Me Smarter?

To think popular culture may actually make us smarter. Such a statement might elicit muffled laughter and the occassional guffaw, but a quick flip through your local primetime line up might just prove this to be true. In "Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter" by Steve Johnson he examines this emerging trend in the media and the implications it is having on content. (By the way I have read this book, and it's a quick and interesting read)

The foundation for this belief is that the content being presented on television involves more cognitive engagement then it did 30 years ago. For example, Johnson compares an episode of "Starsky and Hutch" to an episode of "24." Now, this might be like comparing apples to oranges, but if the overall content of both shows are examined it begins to show a massive difference. "Starsky and Hutch" only required its viewers to keep track of a few characters and follow a linear plot. "24" on the otherhand has at least 26 characters that the viewer needs to keep track of, plus they need to follow multiple plot lines and piece together the gaps between them. These more cognitive engaging programs do not solely exist as television programs, but extend further to video games, the Internet and movies. By distancing themselves from the formulaic presentation of content, it now requires viewers and users to use more brain power.

This increase in the sophistication of content has stemmed from the change of the guard in who is driving the wealth creation in the new media economy. According to Joseph Frydl, of a senior strategic planner at Ogilvy and Mather, "If the old economy was dominated by “Organization Men” -- rule-following agents of large companies who are charged with implementing systems -- the new economy is dominated by the creators of ideas. They create the new technologies, new ways of doing business, the spark behind great brands as well as the movies, music and images we consume all the time." It is these new "ideas people" are creating the demand for smarter pop culture and thus the creators of the media are begining to realize that "Because they're ideas people, stimulation and provocation enhance the value of popular entertainment."

This trend of increasing the cognitive involvement in pop culture will only continue to increase over time. With more individuals being drawn to HBO to watch the final season of "The Sopranos" or the viewers who religiously tune into primetime shows like "Lost" and "24" are just the begining of the sophistication of media content. As this trend continues it will begin to have a profound effect on what people view. Now, don't get me wrong there are still going to be people out there who watch wrestling and still believe its real or who tune in weekly and vote on "American Idol," but even these types of programming that are viewed as not being as sophisticated, still require their viewers to keep track of why Triple H has become a bad guy this week, or empower their viewers to become a talent scout and use their ears to figure out who is the better vocalist. And even in these small doses the increasing sophistication of pop culture is a good thing.

The Growing Sophistication of Popular Culture

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Run, the F.C.C. is Coming

Oh, the F.C.C., protector of broadcasting decency and mortal enemy of Howard Stern you sure have done it this time. On March 11 the F.C.C. leveled a $4 million fine against nine different television shows that had violated decency standards from February 2002 to March 2005. Out of that $4 million dollars, the CBS drama “Without a Trace,” which airs on over 111 different stations, was fined a record $3.6 for its alleged depiction of teenage orgy. As the F.C.C. becomes more ruthless in its pursuit to squash indecency, it has WB censoring the first episode of its new show “The Bedford Diaries” to avoid any potential fines.

“The Bedford Diaries,” is about college students who are enrolled in a class on human sexuality. The show was created by Tom Fontana, who also happened to create the graphic HBO series “Oz,” but unlike HBO, where no restrictions on content exist , the WB would be a prime target for the continued F.C.C. crackdown. Therefore, even though the show had been given the thumbs up by the WB’s standards department, certain scenes from the show were asked to be cut by Garth Ancier, the WB’s chairman.

This concern over being fined for broadcasting the content has led the WB to offer an uncut version of “The Bedford Diaries” on its website Yet, the decision to release an uncut version of a TV show online could potentially be a change in which networks broadcast programs. With the fear of fines from the F.C.C. increasing this could be an emerging trend among all networks as they look for ways to reach increasingly fickle viewers who don’t want to be restricted by the time and place they can watch TV. Another positive benefit for viewers is that the Hollywood creative guilds forbid programs online to be used for commercial use. But overall, this might just prove to be nothing more than a glorified promotional tool.

As Mr. Fontana sees it, “The message here is that they'll be forced to go alternative ways of looking at shows if they want to see the real thing. It's like they're telling people that broadcast television now has much less interesting stuff than you see on the Web or cable.” Driving viewers away from the actual network with the promise of uncut and commercial free programs available on the Internet may just hurt the networks as much as it helps them evade the F.C.C.

WB Censors Its Own Drama for Fear of F.C.C. Fines

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Free Piggyback Rides

Wireless Internet access was a huge technological break through. It freed up the masses of Internet users from the tangle of wires that kept most chained to their desks. It also provided unlimited users access to the net through one modem. Yet, with access to wireless networks being mostly unrestricted could it pose a problem for individuals with wireless networks in their homes.

The term “piggybacking” has been causing worry among wireless network owners. Piggybacking essentially is when another user that is not allowed access to the network logs on and uses it. These unauthorized users can be your next door neighbor or some stranger in the car outside.

This only occurs if you have an open wireless connection, and because of this it has led many people to wise up and begin protecting their networks through passwords and firewalls. It may seem like protecting your wireless network from these “hackers” is justified. They are stealing your Internet connection, and the media is portraying the issue like a potential threat to people’s wireless networks.

It’s apparent how this could be seen as a problem by some, but is it really? How nice and convenient is it to access the Internet from anywhere you can receive an open network signal? But that is where Internet Service Providers have a problem. They don’t see unauthorized users accessing another individual’s network as simply sharing; they see it as a loss of profit. What if your neighbor just piggybacks off your connection permanently instead of reaching into his pocket to pay for a thirty-nine dollar a month subscription fee?

Others see piggybacking as a security threat to their computer’s data. Still others don’t even lack the technical know how to protect their wireless networks and leave them open for this reason. Users currently don’t have the ability nor the software included with their wireless routers to monitor who is accessing their networks and how much bandwidth they use. Such advancements would help to eliminate unauthorized users from permanently accessing individual’s networks and also protect their computers from other users. Ultimately it should come down to the user if they are willing to leave their wireless networks open to share with others.

As the Internet is one of the most prevalent ways that individuals consume media, the wireless revolution should be embraced. Piggybacking is not the evil idea that it has been portrayed as. More individuals than ever a looking for mobile Internet access and as we see an increase in the use of portable media devices from iPods to Blackberries to laptops and tablet PCs, open wireless networks and the ability to access these networks will only continue to benefit users.


Hop on My Bandwidth

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Clooneygate: A Blogging Scandal

A scandal has ravaged the blogosphere. Dubbed "Clooneygate" by the New York Times, the scandal involves a post allegedly made by George Clooney on the blog And its implications may effect bloggers everywhere.

In Clooney's alleged post, he goes on a left-wing rant which included such statements as "I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it. Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's dirty word," and "Bottom line: it's not merely our right to question our government, it's our duty. Whatever the consequences. We can't demand freedom of speech then turn around and say, But please don't say bad things about us. You gotta be a grown up and take your hits. I am a liberal. Fire away."

Though it's somewhat easy to imagine these words leaving the impassioned fingers of Mr. Clooney as he sat banging away on a computer somewhere. But the the truth is they didn't. According to a statement released by Clooney "These are not my writings — they are answers to questions and there is a huge difference."It turned out that the post was just old quotes from published interviews that Clooney had done that were put together and given a little added pizazz by HuffingtonPost's creator Arianna Huffington.

Yet, Clooney's statement sums up the entire issue at hand: the purity of blogs. According to Huffington in a later post she says even though the writings weren't Clooney's, "the medium isn't the message; the message is the message." This implied that even though the message was falisfied, it does not effect the credibility of the blog to function as a source of information. And to many this idea attacks blogging's essence.

Anyone with any background in the media already knows the huge error in Huffington's statement. Since the posts on a blog are a mere extension of the blog itself, in the blogosphere the media and the message work simultaneously. When users visit a blog they become engrossed with the writing style of the blogger (or guest writers), they become familiar with the layout and design of the site, and most of all the trust the authenticity of the blogger. According to Jeff Jarvis of ""If you're not really writing your blog, if you're having or allowing someone else to do it for you, then you're gaming me, lying to me, insulting me." With blogging becoming a force to be reckoned with in the media world, such insults will not be tolerated.

A Guest Blogger, and an Unwritten Law

The "Clooney" Post

Friday, March 17, 2006

Well It Sure Beats Being the Pepsi Generation

A new generation is upon us. Not like any seen before. This a generation that does not exclude based on age, and is for anyone with any creative inklings. This is Generation Content. It is this generation that is responsible for the increasing numbers of blogs, podcasts and Internet television programming. attributes two reasons for the emergence of this new generation: "(1) The creative urges each consumer undeniably possesses. We're all artists, but until now we neither had the guts nor the means to go all out. (2) The manufacturers of content-creating tools, who relentlessly push us to unleash that creativity, using -- of course -- their ever cheaper, ever more powerful gadgets and gizmos. Instead of asking consumers to watch, to listen, to play, to passively consume, the race is on to get them to create, to produce, and to participate."

With the increasing availability and ease of consumers to create content it is not suprising that the numbers are continuing to increase. And with the continuing influx of consumer created content it has led to many users getting paid. Such content creaters are reaching niche audiences and reaping the rewards. Creating new types of original content that would not be noticed nor produced by mainstream media outlets. So people are paying for content created by the average joe.

Such a market of user created content has implications on all aspects of the mass media. It means that people can get involved. In a previous post the idea of current TV was discussed. It is this type of content that could potentially drive the mass media. It could also mean that slivercasting will become more important as viewers demand more specific content.

Generation C has come to exist because of the interaction of four other trends: Creativty, Casual Collapse, Control and Celebrtity. First, creativity is important, because "let's face it, we're all creatives, if not artists!". Though most people will not be shy about telling others that they aren't creative, deep down the desire to be creative exists and such creativity is the catalyst for the creation of content.

Next, Casual Collapse simply put is "the ongoing demise of many beliefs, rituals, formal requirements and laws modern societies have held dear, which continue to 'collapse' without causing the apocalyptic aftermath..." (These are's words not mine). Such a change, however, has implications for society as a whole, because "a society in which the creative ethos is increasingly dominant," allowing a " generation of parents is slowly abandoning its obsession with children becoming doctors, lawyers or business executives, they are realizing that creative careers are not necessarily a dead-end road to poverty and family scandal." As people begin to shy away from such beliefs, the value of creativity will begin to flourish.

Control is probably the most important ingredient in the emergence of Generation C. The ability to control content, whether it be where, when, what or how it's shown has always been on the forefront of media consumer's minds. These individuals no longer want to be spoon fed content, rather they want to have some sort of stake in it.

Finally, there lies most people's desire to be a celebrity. With the improvement of communications technology from cell phones, to digital cable, to the Internet, individuals are able to disseminate information at their convience. Such an ability is allowing more and more people to become overnight sensations.

As consumers gain greater ability to produce and distribute their own content it has the potential to change the media landscape. With the emergence of the four C's, and their continued presence it seems that Generation C will be less of a generation and more of a media revolution.

Generation C

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Narrowcasting Might Have Just Gotten a Little Smaller

Cable TV has almost always been the ideal mass media. It reaches large audiences, while at the same time offering specialized channels to reach targeted audiences. Still most people buzz right by all the programming options, because "nothing is on." As consumers begin to spend more time on the Internet and broadband connections continue to improve, a solution to this problem just might be found. The development of Internet TV has led many content providers to seek out niche audiences, thus creating the concept of slivercasting.

Slivercasting is essentially an off shoot of narrowcasting. Its purpose is to provide either streaming or downloadable content to tiny niche audiences. What ties the audience together is a common desire to watch programs about topics like sailing or news from the Congo, which also make these niche audiences very loyal to the programs. Though many of these audiences are not served by satellite or cable providers, because such programs audiences too small to warrant the cost, let alone turn a profit.

The low cost of producing content for Internet TV is what makes it attractive to slivercasters. According to Andy Steward, the founder of a sailing channel, "we didn't have any idea how big the audience would be," (which by the way had over 70,000 viewers in the first month) so he wanted to keep his expenses as low as possible. That is why he turned to the Internet, because “Internet television is an investment we can grow into.” This means for a small start up cost, independent programmers are now able to reach as many members of their audience that have Internet access.

Though a majority of the content available is produced by independents, the potential of slivecasting has begun to attract large cable networks. For instance, after the failure of Bravo’s Trio network due to, among other things, its attempt to reach too diverse of a market. Therefore, it decided to move its network to the Internet and split it into three distinct channels that will reach three entirely different audiences. Bravo’s extension to the Internet could just be the beginning, as other networks are likely to follow. Since broadcasting content over the Internet allows programmers to offer even more programs. As consumers are demanding more specialized content when they want it offering such extensive and specific content over the Internet would allow for attract larger audiences.

Currently, most sites are offering very small and limited clips that range from two to ten minutes, but as broadband technology becomes faster it will be possible to see half hour and hour shows. Most Internet TV networks charge on average $9.95 a month to access the content. Some sites though offer the programs for free, but have begun to sell advertising space.

It seems that slivercasting is following in the footsteps of blogging and podcasting. Like its predecessors, Internet TV is offering both independent programmers and large media companies the ability to aim their content at specific audiences. Such targeting presents the opportunity to bring together these largely fragmented niche audiences, which would never have been reached by traditional media vehicles.

As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born

A Quote to Ponder

"It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this [media] revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy -- not just companies but whole countries."
- Rupert Murdoch, March 14, 2006

Read More:
Internet Means End of Media Barons, Says Murdoch

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

¿Tu hablas español?

Spanish language television has been an offering by most cable and satellite providers for sometime. The networks are best known for their wacky game shows and sultry Spanish soap operas, or telenovelas. These shows have even been known to stop even the non-Spanish speaking channel surfer. It is this programming formula that has driven the Univision to prominence, but as the reigning number one Spanish-language network is preparing to be sold its new owner might have to revaluate the network's offerings to meet the needs of a changing audience.

With an audience of over 40 million, Univision has become a giant among the Spanish networks. Its shows account for all ten of the top ten Spanish-language shows. Ratings wise in some markets with large Latino populations, Univision has begun to beat some of the large broadcast networks. Though Univision has based its successes on such a large and faithful audience, the network's future owner will have to deal with the shifting demographic make up of the Hispanic population.

The Hispanic population is consistently growing. It is projected that by 2010 that the percentage of Hispanics born in the U.S. is likely to exceed 75 percent. This means as the composition of the Hispanic population shifts so are the demographics. American-born Hispanics tend to primarily speak English as opposed to Spanish, be better educated and have higher incomes. For Univision these demographic changes pose a bigger problem as the larger networks could potentially begin to poach their audience. Yet, Univision is sticking to the formula it knows best. The network has remained exclusively Spanish and still buys most of its programming from Mexico.

With the shifting landscape of Spanish-language TV's audience, the sale of Univision is refreshing to marketers trying to target the Hispanic population. Marketers view Univision as a lumbering giant, whose resistance to change is shutting them off to reach those who fit within this changing demographic. As marketers try to reach bilingual Hispanics, the potential for Univision to change and the emergence of other Hispanic-targeted networks will provide such outlets

But in the pursuit of trying to reach these shifting demographics, whether it be through programming or advertising, it must not forget that as whole the Hispanic population is diverse. Therefore, it is more about preserving the culture and not what language the programming is broadcast. According to Cynthia Hudson-Fernandez, executive vice president and chief creative officer of Spanish Broadcasting System, "These are a new generation of people who have a very broad perspective," she said. "They don't have to prove that they're one thing or another to be comfortable as Americans. If it's quality programming, they don't care if it's English or Spanish."

Changing U.S. Audience Poses Test for a Giant of Spanish TV

Monday, March 13, 2006

A New Breed of Celebrity

Have you ever wondered why the saber-toothed tiger from Ice Age looks an awfully lot like Dennis Leary? Or why numerous other animated characters often resemble the actors who voice them? These resemblances aren't coincidences. With the increased usage of computer generated (CG) content in movies making a cartoon character resemble a real actor is simple. Hollywood, however, is trying to take this a step further and create true virtual actors.

Currently, many prominent celebrities have already been digitally copied. To do so an actor and their movements are scanned by laser into a computer. Digital animators then transform the scans into digital files. These copies then are used primarily for stunts, which an actor is unable to perform due to contractual stipulations or if it is too dangerous for a human to perform.

Though digital clones of real actors have been used in such short scenes, it has become quite common to have full parts played by CG characters. Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels or the more substantal role of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy are two prime examples. The only difference is that most of these digitally created characters are based on the imaginations of their creators, where anything goes.

That is where Hollywood has fallen short in its quest to create a truly virtual actor. When creating a fictional character, whether it be an alien or monster or some other fictitious creature, it is easy for the audience to believe that is how such a character would move or how its facial expressions would look. Yet, when creating a virtual human it has been nearly impossible to create movements and expressions that are identical to the real world. To create such life like animation it takes almost 90 people an entire day to create approximately three seconds of animation. Therefore, to make the average two hour movie it would take 2,400 days or close to 8 years. According to Shuzo Shiota, head of Polygon Pictures the leading digital-animation studio in Japan says, ""The amount of information that the human expression, skin, and body … require is just too huge for CG animators."

George Lucas, one of the fathers of the digital effects revolution, has vehemently attacked the idea of digital actors saying that "Acting is a human endeavor and the amount of talent and craft that goes into it is massive - and can a composite reproduce that?" Lucas may have a valid point. By creating digital actors it defeats the purpose of going to the movies. When seeing a human act it adds depth and emotion. A digital actor on the otherhand may provide similar emotion, but it would be merely an illusion. An illusion that once revealed might ruin the experience and equate to nothing more than watching a cartoon. However, it is difficult to foresee the potential of creating digital actors since we lack the technology create such an illusion.

Can You Clone a Movie Star?
Lucas Attacks 'Digital Actors' Idea

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reality TV Might Have Gone Too Far This Time

The once black Sparks family

Reality TV was supposed to be one of those trends that fizzled out just as fast as it appeared. Unfortunately, it hasn't. The longer it stays the more ridiculous the shows become. FX's new show Black.White. (Wednesdays 10 PM E.T.) takes realtiy TV's eccentricities a step further by trying to examine the differences between races.

The program's premises is a novel one. Find two families: one black, one white. Hire Hollywood's best make up artists. Transform said families into the opposite race. Let families loose in an upscale California neighborhood. At the end of the day have the families live in the same house. And voila reality TV at its finest.

Yet, Black.White. (by the way those periods are actually part of the title) seems to fall short of its lofty intentions. First, is the issue of the families that were recruited to participate in this artificial environment. FX's official website describes the Wurgels as a white liberal family from California and the Sparks (the black family) as a middle class family from Georgia. These mundane descriptions are spot on with just how boring the participants truly are. The closest thing to a real character is the Wurgel's patriarch, Bruno. Having the aura of a closest racist, Bruno is wholly aloof of the whole concept of racism and is almost dissapointed when no blatant acts of racism are committed against him. By the end it is apparent that Brunco can almost believe that racism doesn't even exist. This bullheadedness combined with his ignorance are only slightly entertaining.

The second problem with the show is that it is a poor measurement of the racial inequalities that exist within America. Though race is an important topic in the discussion of American culture, its portrayal on Black.White. does not even remotely touch on the most important issues. For instance, in one episode the Wurgels traverse swanky Los Angeles suburbs looking for jobs at high end retailers (which they are denied). This is about as far as the show goes to examine racism as most of the other episodes follow the same idea of the families trying to buy products or receive commonplace services and examining the results. Racism in America roots itself deeper than not receiving preferential treatment in a store or the ability to work for a trendy retailer. It involves more important things such as getting a college education, getting a mortgage, escaping poverty, getting adequate medical treatment, etc, etc. To trivialize such an important issue by only focusing solely on the participants consumption of goods and services is ludicrous, especially when much more complex problems could (and should) have been confronted.

Overall, as a show Black.White. lacks the characters and situations that make reality TV entertaining. Since the show is based on such an ambitious idea, it should have taken the issue of racism and examined it in greater depth. Examining racism in greater depth would have provided an eye opening experience for viewers. But, even though Black.White. lacks any true substance or morally redeeming social value, it's at the least an attempt to deviate from traditional reality TV.

Color Commentary - FX's Creepy New Race-Swap Show
Black.White.-Television Review
Black.White. Official Site

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Can You Digg It?

With so many blogs, news sites and e-mail newsletters inundating Internet users on a daily basis there has to be a simpler way to sift through it all. is attempting to provide a site that does just that.

About a year ago websites all over the Internet began to offer their users the ability to "tag" pages. Taggining requires users mark their pages using descriptive words and phrases. Users then who use similar or like words and phrases are linked together, creating a natural network. This network makes it easier to connect users who share similar interest. Yet, it still requires users to sift through pages and pages of content to find something worthwhile.

Digg, however, is changing this. According to "Digg is a technology news website that combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allow an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do." A digg is simply a user giving a story the OK. Such a system is empowering the sites visitors to choose which stories are worth reading. The more "diggs" a story gets the higher it ranks on the site. is also looking to replace the more dated Internet ranking systems. Digg simplifies rating something by eliminating the ambiguity of starred or numbered systems. Honestly, what is the difference between 3 and 4 stars or a 2 or 3 rating. Giving users the ability to simplify how they rate stories, while at the same time making it simpler to sort through all the articles that aren't worth reading.

Currently Digg only accepts stories that are technolgy related, but they are planning to expand into other popular categories like celebrity gossip, politics and news.

Since Internet users are faced with information overload from all aspects of the media, making it simpler when it comes to finding relevant and interesting news stories is a solid idea. allows a substantial amount of interactivity, which will help in enticing users to visit the site. Because users are able to control the content, it will be easier with similar interests to navigate the Internet.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Blogging: A True Profession

From the dot com bubble on people have made substantial sums of money using the Internet. The latest craze for Internet entreprenuers has been the blog. Blogs started as a chance for wannabe journalists to spread their opinion. Now, as blogs are being used to develop business plans and credible sources of news, will professionalization turn blogging into media-as-usual? Or will the idiosyncratic voice of the lone blogger prevail?

When blogging began it was a cheap way to self publish all the pent up thoughts most Internet users had. For little or no cost, bloggers established their sites, began posting and soon found themselves with offers from advertisers willing to pay for space on their sites. Soon those established sites began to turn a profit. Yet, many bloggers will never see a dime.

Blogs have begun to be classified like celebrities. The most read: A-List. Middle of the road: B-List. And the least visited or unread (like yours truly) C-List. Those blogs that fall under the A-List category have seen profits that range into the seven figures from advertising dollars.

The reason such A-List blogs can demand such high advertising rates is for of two reasons. First, most A-List blogs have readerships that surpass many local newspapers. Second, advertisers are attracted to these blogs because of the niche markets they reach.

With so many blogs not being read by anyone (like yours truly) and big advertisers offering to pay large sums to the most visited blogs, it seems that professionalization of the blog is not far off. “Blogging is increasingly becoming a survival of the fittest—and that all boils down to who has the best content. The blogs that are going to stand out are the ones who break news and have credibility.” For blogs looking to make a profit then they must continuously provide new, relevant and well written posts for their readers. And that my friends, sounds like a full time job to me.

Blogs to Riches

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

The 78th annual Academy Awards have come and gone. The stars have graced the red carpet, what they wore is ready to make front page news (by the way Keira Knightley looked stunning) and some lucky individuals got to take home a small statue of a naked bald man. But more than anything this years Oscars made a statement about the current direction of Hollywood. The best picture category is probably the most accurate gauge. This year it was populated with small budget, intelligent, character driven dramas: Capote, Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck and the lone exception Munich.

And the winner was…Crash.

Crash was not only the biggest upset, but of all the movies that were nominated it had the smallest budget. Yet it was bestowed the industries highest honor. Though the majority of films nominated for best picture this year were mostly niche films with small target audiences, it is becoming apparent that moviegoers as a whole are becoming hungry for quality films. So how will Hollywood respond? In the past studio executives have always underestimated their audiences. Now theyare developing independent brands like Focus and Fox Searchlight to develop these heavily targeted products.

This is not surprising as Hollywood has been struggling to make successful blockbuster movies that are A) worth $9.50 and B) worth two hours of your life. These films usually lack big stars and spectacular special effects, the two ingredients that usually put audiences in theater seats, but they more than make up for it with the compelling stories and equally believable acting. These nominations show the emerging desires of what moviegoers want.

Yet, Hollywood can't completely ignore the blockbuster idea as it is has helped to shape the film industry since the release of movies like Star Wars and Jaws. Therefore a middle ground must be found. As the blockbuster begins to lose its way, and higher quality films are being demanded, studios must look to develop that can appeal to a mass audience while simultaneously being creative and engaging. This new breed of film cannot solely rely on special effects and star power, but must foster creative directors creative visions. I think George Clooney said it best during his acceptance speech: "Maybe Hollywood is out of touch with mainstream America. And maybe that's a good thing"

Hollywood’s Crowd Control Problem

The Next Generation Cell Phone

It’s no longer a question with of where you will lose service, but rather what services your cell phone is missing. As more American cell phone caries begin to release third generation (3G) enabled phones and services the amount of content becoming available to consumers is astounding, but is it really necessary?

Most 3G phones that are being released allow users to download music, video and pictures, send e-mail, take photos, play games, search the Internet and even make an old fashioned phone call. Though the novelty of the multitude of features available to cell phone users is apparent, certain problems currently exist with the success of 3G technology.

As with new technology the cost is rather high for the breadth of services offered. On average to add the full capabilities of 3G technology costs and extra $60 a month on top of the regular monthly service fee. This increase cost has cell phone providers concerned and they are anticipating a surge of consumers opting to use 3G services. In order to entice consumers to purchase the 3G plans, many providers have used promotions to cut the cost of the phones. For instance, Verizon Wireless's LG 8100, which lets customers watch television clips, play games and listen to music, costs $150 after rebates.

Just keeping the price of the technology low does not increase the number of subscribers to the network, however. As most other countries, that had released 3G technology, learned that it takes an extended period of time and low cost plans to get consumers to use the services.

Ultimately the largest obstacle that these new cell phone services will face "… is not pricing or technology, but consumer behavior. Most people still look at these things as phones."

It Rings, Sings, Downloads, Uploads. But Can You Stand It?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Books With Street Cred

Relentless Aaron, according to his website, is a bestselling author, publisher and visionary. He is the self proclaimed “Father of Urban Fiction”. He is also an ex-con.

During his seven year sentence, Relentless Aaron completed numerous manuscripts just to pass the time. Upon his release, Aaron self published his manuscripts and hit the streets to sell them. This “relentless” drive, comined with tactical guerilla marketing techniques, soon landed him a four book publishing contract with St. Martin’s Press.

This is more than just a mere success story of an ex-con turning his life around. Aaron’s story highlights large publishers’ growing interest in street lit. With titles like Rappers ‘R in Danger, Sugar Daddy and To Live & Die in Harlem, the books are filled with excessive sex, drugs and violence. Often set in prison or on the streets, the prose is marked with slang and the rough personality of cell block walls.

These explicit tales that play themselves out in Relentless Aaron’s novels are not just jailhouse scribblings, but according to St. Martin’s Press, show craftily weaved narratives with strong stylistic potential. Coupled with the street credibility that Relentless Aaron brings to his prose, it makes him an ideal street lit author.

This combination has worked well for rappers, but will it work for serious authors? As hip-hop continues to increase its presence in mainstream culture, it seems that street lit is an ideal off shoot. With stories that are a combination of a Sue Grafton novel and a 50 Cent music video, the growth of street lit is inevitable.

Street Lit With Publishing Cred: From Prison to a Four-Book Deal

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Finally, a Portable Super Model

Maria Sharapova, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2006

Men can never get enough of women in bikins and the annual release of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is no exception. With the release of this year's edition on February 14, Sports Illustrated estimated newstand sales to exceed 1.5 million, in addition to the magazine's 3.3 million subscribers. From this paid readership Mark Ford, the president and publisher of Sports Illustrated, estimates that an additional 60 million readers see the magazine. With one of the largest single issue readerships, it is apparent why Sports Illustrated is pairing the magazine's release with multimedia options.

For this years Swimsuit Edition, not only will it be available at newstands (for the premium price of $5.99), and on, but 8 exclusive videos have been produced to be sold through iTunes ($1.99 each). Content also has been developed for cellphones and other hand held devices through a partnership with American Greetings Interactive. The rationale behind this interactive approach according to Mr. Ford "[The Swimsuit Edition" is the mother ship of what we do. We want to leverage the power of that franchise," said Mr. Ford, "Sports Illustrated is a multimedia brand. It's a magazine, it's online, it's mobile, it's an event."

Today, many magazines have tried to immitate the Swimsuit Edition's formula. Therefore, the iconic magazine can no longer solely exist in one media. It must create a synergy between different media. In creating this synergy, the magazine must direct readers to access this content that is available. For instance Sport's Illustrated has included a unique number in each issue, which can be used on iTunes to download one free Swimsuit Edition video. The release is also expected to drive increased traffic to the website, which is where visitors can download content for their cellphones. By offering content on a variety of portable media, it allows for Sports Illustrated to keep the "wow" factor that is associated with the Swimsuit Edition. As long as there is reason to go.

Article Links:
So Many Models In Bikins, So Many Ways to See Them (Requires Registration to read)
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Al Gore created a TV network?

Al Gore, the father of the Internet, has made another foray in the mass media. About six months ago he established the San Francisco based television network, Current. In developing this network, it is Gore’s intention to make the youth TV news addicts. Rightfully so, Current is being billed as a “national cable and satellite channel dedicated to bringing your voice to television.”

As a network, Current sounds like a novel approach to get youth involved with the news. First, it eliminates the classic cable news format, no more extended torso view of some news anchor reciting the news. Instead, Current focuses it’s programming around “pods” consisting of segments ranging from thirty seconds to ten minutes. Next, the network operates around VC2, viewer-created content, which makes up about one third of the networks programming. This allows viewers who are tired of channel surfing and who want to be more involved to get out there and make their own programming. They then post it on the Current website, and hype it up to get people to vote for the segment. And if enough people vote, presto, they might just see their clip on TV.

Will this idea limit content to those fortunate to have the equipment and knowledge to produce programming as Current begins to use more viewer created content? Or will it cause a TV revolution? Such active participation has worked well in the past for many advertisers. For instance, Converse challenged its users to create short films, not advertisements, of their sneakers. The Internet also thrives on user created content. From blogs to podcasts to fan sites, Internet users spend countless hours creating content. So, why shouldn’t this formula be able to work for a television network, especially the youth oriented Current?

Current TV

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Net Neutrality

Should Internet users have unrestricted access to all “legal” websites? Or should internet service providers be given the opportunity to restrict access to certain sites?

In the Senate this week Google battled it out with broadband providers over the possibility of future net neutrality legislation. Net neutrality legislation, simply put, would allow users unrestricted access to all websites.

It appears that Web based companies, like Google, whose mission it is to provide users with information or services, favor unrestricted access to the contents of the Internet. These companies feel that because broadband carriers provide consumer’s with the connection to the Internet, it would be possible to deny users access to websites in direct competition.

Broadband providers, however, feel that such legislation is currently unnecessary. These companies believe that the Internet, as a marketplace, should dictate the necessity of such legislation. Broadband providers explained that such legislation will stifle the growth of Internet services.

The current situation shows that both sides believe two different things. According to the argument raised by the broadband providers it seems as if they believe that the Internet is currently unrestricted, and that their services do not prohibit users from accessing competitor’s websites. However, John Thorpe, a Senior Vice President at Verizon Wireless commented that many free Web based services use extensive bandwidth and attract consumers for long periods of time. He feels that the "free lunch" broadband providers give to Web based information and services has an impact on their businesses. Thus, it seems that broadband providers would like to begin to limit Internet access to specific Websites. These restricted websites would most likely fall into one distinct category: those websites that are in direct compeition with the broadband provider's interests. By limiting customers access to these services, it will eliminate the consumer's right to choose. Also, such policies will diminish the Internet’s purpose, which is to provide individuals with access to unlimited information.

Article link:
Google, Telecoms Clash Over 'Net Neutrality'