Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

The New News: Vox Populi

By Eleanor Haas

  • A new Greenpeace campaign targets Apple’s cloud computing products, as it looks to “clean the cloud around the world.
  • A smooth animation of a timelapse of planet Earth from ‘Electro-L’, a geostationary satellite orbiting 40,000 kilometres above the Earth.
  • A blind-folded guy entertainingly told at his bachelor party that he’s about to bungee-jump 50 feet – only it’s more like 5 feet into a pool of water!
  • Honda’s new ‘UNI-CUB’ personal mobility device.
  • A graphic undercover investigation, by the Humane Society of the United States, into the walking horse industry discovers cases of rampant cruelty.

These are Storyful Daily’s “Five of the best on YouTube” for today.  Not exactly “all the news that’s fit to print” or any other major daily’s take on world news, is it? 

To the five best on YouTube, Storyful adds its five best in sport, five best in weather and five general stories – Frankfurt protesters, fans mourning the death of disco queen Donna Summer, a PAC plan to attack Obama, the effect of a Twitter hashtag on a Spanish bank and a live-tweeted journey through a region facing a hunger crisis.

It’s the new news from Storyful, the brainchild of an Irish journalist.  Storyful’s professional journalists sift “actionable news” from the chaff of the real-time web for use by news organizations throughout the world, acting as a “social media ‘field producer'” and providing an online window into their findings for the general public.  For both its media clients and the general public, the result is access to authentic views on recent events or developments and early warnings of what could be big stories to come.  It adds a valuable social dimension to what we call “news.”

Politcs 2012

By Eleanor Haas

That the Internet has changed everything is a truism.   Some stunning – and sometimes alarming – take-aways from “Politics, Tech & Decision 2012,” the most recent Gotham Media Ventures panel discussion, bring this home with a bang.

  • Online presence is everything.  The first hire in today’s political campaigns is the website team, not the campaign manager.
  • Privacy has become a quaint illusion.  Database techniques now make it possible to serve and measure advertising and other messages to increasingly specific market segments.  The next step in targeting will be knowing what you think right now. Target is already trying to understand and sell to pregnant women specifically in the 3rd trimester.  Credit cards companies can predict divorce rates two years before they happen with 95 percent accuracy. They see changes in consumer patterns.
  • “We all live in a yellow submarine.”  Personalization and digital targeting surround each of us in a membrane of filters so that there is less and less discursive conversation.  We each tend to be always talking with like-minded individuals and to be less and less exposed to opposing views.
  • More money buys more influence than ever before.  Super PACS in 2012 are dirtier and more powerful than ever before.  They are funded by huge donations – $20 million – from really big donors.  They often support shadow campaigns of tweets and viral videos that are user generated but paid for by PACs.
  • Polls no longer speak truth.  Online polls are now skewed because of technological flaws.  They’re all misleading. We each live in our own echo chamber (see the bullet before last).  Automated polling has under 10 percent response; it’s illegal to call cell phones for research and 35 percent of people have no land lines.
  • One thing hasn’t changed.  TV is still the most effective election all for all demographics, while social media are the most persuasive tools on issues.
  • Speed counts.  The Internet has increased volatility to an unbelievable extent.  Being nimble has become more important than planning.  How can you anticipate a potential crisis?  How can you respond in Internet time?
  • Two kinds of power.  It’s become a bimodal world, where you either have to have the big donors locked up or have huge online broad-based support from celebrities and/or grassroots.  That at least provides a ray of hope for the masses! 

To give credit where credit is due:  Richard Hofstetter, partner, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz was moderator. Panelists were:  Michael Bassik, managing director and US digital practice chair, Burson Marsteller; Taegan Goddard, founder and publisher, Political Wire; Eason Jordan, former chief news executive, CNN founder and CEO, Poll Position, and Eli Pariser, board president and former executive director,  Frankfurt Kurnit hosted the event.

Will We Pay for Online Media? Will Journalism Survive?

by Eleanor Haas

Yes and yes.  But
there’s a lot more to these questions than that.

“People pay for things they value. Ask people to pay for
content that’s worth paying for.  Some things
publications once provided no longer have value, such as daily stories on ball games
just played . . . people who care about the ball game know what happened before
the newspaper comes out.”  So said
Richard Tofel, General Manager, ProPublica, at a recent Gotham Media Ventures
panel discussion.  Richard Hofstetter,
partner, Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz, was moderator.

ProPublica is a not-for-profit newsroom that produces
investigative journalism in the public interest through an innovative pro-am
model that relies on both professional journalists and a distributed network of
2,500 citizen journalists.  Stories are
distributed by major media, who benefit by getting stories their readers can
find worth paying for – and the media get these free of charge.  The organization deploys its amazing network
to cover stories no one else has the manpower to cover, such as how stimulus
money is actually being spent.  As a
result, ProPublica has better data on this than the Government!

Merrill Brown, of MMB Media, a strategist who works for Journalism Online,
among others, agrees about the value proposition.  “The business model will change profoundly,” he
said.  “It will be successful only if the
product changes.  People won’t pay for
commodity news, sports scores or stock quotes. 
They will pay or new products.” 
Journalism Online will give newspapers tools that enable them to market
their new products by providing an e-commerce platform that adds convenience
for users by allowing users to register once and then click for specific
subscriptions to multiple media.

Government funding for the arts or news is just not part of
the American culture, the panel agreed, but the classic not-for-profit economic
model of foundation grants could be. 
That’s what ProPublica is testing. 
“People support arts institutions. 
Some kinds of journalism can be supported that way too,” added Mr.

Beyond issues having to do with business models and even the
role of journalism, however, is the fact of today’s polarization, as Neal
Shapiro, president and CEO of, pointed out.  “This is a polarized country with polarized
debates.  A narrow group is gripped in
its own feedback loop.”  Jay Rosen, Associate Professor of NYU’s Carter Journalism
, expressed concern that we have
lost the common culture we once had.  “The
only way to get it back is for people to want to live in the same world
together,” he suggested.  “Some people
can no longer be reached by fact – including one political party.  It’s up to the public, not changes in the

Citizen journalism as part of a pro-am model appears to have
a major role to play in cost-effective news gathering In addition to ProPublica’s
distributed network, Mr. Merrell referred to NowPublic, a Canadian enterprise,
that raised $10 million for a citizen journalist network around the world and
sold it to, a citizen journalism site   It will be used to create local news sites on
the pro-am model with a positive cost model.