Monday
Aug162010

The future of the newspaper industry does not, apparently, sound like Kraftwerk.

Recently, my favorite radio show, On The Media, held an election for an updated rendition of their newspaper jingle "Present and Future Business Models for Monetizing the Newspaper Industry." On The Media uses this jingle to introduce segments where they discuss the business of print journalism.

OTM listeners were invited to vote for the show's new newspaper jingle on Facebook. The result tells you a lot about its listeners (on Facebook at least).

In spite of lyrics which literally invoke ideas of innovation and change, the selected jingle clings to a comfortable simpler time. It's country, folksy, and sounds like a one man band.

This alone makes makes me worry for the future of the newspaper industry. If they can't get behind a jingle that evokes a modern sound, how can they support the behemoth effort it will take to evolve the industry?


Wednesday
May192010

Web Analytics can save our democracy.

ABC's This Week has begun providing third-party fact checking in partnership with Politifact.com. Here's how it works: a guest is interviewed live on Sunday and during the next week, This Week posts the fact-checking of the guests statements to its website.

Bob Garfield interviewed This Week host John Tapper on last week's episode of NPR's On The Media. Garfield inquired about This Week's website traffic – did Tapper know if there was a rise in traffic with viewers visiting the site to review the fact-checking. And Tapper's response was a bit disheartening. "I don't. And I will be looking into it. We've only been doing it for about four weeks."

HEY JOHN TAPPER, DON'T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY!

Web analytics could support the fact-checking initiative in a huge way.

1) Demonstrate success or failure for the experiment. If viewers are visiting the site - it shines a light the hunger for the information. Information that at this time, only ABC's This Week is providing. BOOM! Niche content! If not, evaluate if this mechanism is the best way to surface this valuable information. If traffic has risen – what can be done to improve those numbers? And again, evaluate if the web is the right channel for the information.

2) Look at the demographics. Let's track the site's visitors and take a look the potentially wider (and perhaps more attractive?) demographic. I'm talking The Daily Show with Jon Stewart demographic. If the average Sunday morning talk show visitor skews older - could the fact checking device lure younger viewers to This Week?

Analyzing the success or failure of idea of accountability is going to help This Week better understand what resonates with viewers – with citizens.

Monday
May102010

One World

Meedan.net homepage

 I recently visited a site I heard about during a piece on language translation on NPR's On The Media podcast.

The website is called Meedan.net and it's self described as a "digital town square where you can share conversation and links about world events with speakers outside your language community." Specifically, it's an event / topic driven forum that is addresses issues of interest to the arabic community - and translates the discussions to and from English to make the dialog accessible to a wider audience.

HOW IT WORKS.

Each "Event" is a topic. Meedan members comment in either Arabic or English. Those comments are first translated by a computer and then nuanced by one of the many translators who volunteer their time.

The original comment appears on a white background, the translated content appears of a gray background.

Meedan.com event page
WHAT I LOVE
First and foremost, I love the mission of the site. The ability to engage in conversations that had previously been closed due to language barriers delivers the promise of the internet. It gives all of us a larger world.

CLEAN, INVITING SITE DESIGN
From an aesthetic point of view - home run! The clean, open design of the homepage feels inviting. The topics / events are easy to scan. Graphics are small, but engaging. The typography is really top notch.

Thursday
Dec102009

The Revolution will not be monetized.*

I attended a lecture given by Bob Garfield of On The Media on December 8 at WNYC's Greenspace. The lecture was a platform for Mr. Garfield's book, The Chaos Scenario. The Chaos Secanario describes the end of advertising, news, entertainment and marketing as we know it.

The lecture provided lots of frightening statistics, some great anecdotal evidence. Bob Garfield is an entertaining and informative speaker. I'm a huge fan of On The Media's radio show so much of presentation for me consisted of details around concepts to which I was already was familiar.

It was some questions from the audience that really challenged me.

One audience member asked why should we care if the News, Advertising and Entertainment industries collapse? If you don't work in the effected industries, is their demise really going to effect us?

THE MISSING PIECE
Relevancy
. It's hard to illustrate what we're missing (and what we're going to miss), when we're "getting" so much more now.

But are we? We're drinking from the firehose, people and it's bowling us over. Without credibility, criticism and curating, it's impossible to navigate relevant, interesting, and valuable content. So while we may now have vast choices in media, are we really better off?

Another audience member felt they were better off, they had more information than they ever had - think Tweets from the Iranian election in June and recommendations of books via friends on Facebook or videos of charming kittens on YouTube. And that's all true. We never had those outlets before. They allow The People to speak out publicly and account for a huge rise in citizen journalism. But how long can that last?

HERE'S THE RUB:
Not one of those companies that we have come to rely on has a workable business model.

Seriously. One of the stats I heard in the Bob Garfield lecture was that YouTube was on track to lose close to a half a billion dollars in 2009 in spite of their advertising-based model. And Twitter and Facebook have no such business model to support themselves.

So in all honesty – how long can these companies continue to run? Remember the late '90s with all those internet companies that were "post–profit"?  What happened to them?

And if we as a society require these mechanisms for all our media, what happens to us?

*I totally stole my headline from Bob Garfield.

Monday
Nov022009

Datavisualization grab bag

I'm not only a practitioner of datavisualization, I'm a huge fan. Here's some a collection of inspiriting artists (and subjects).

 

Information Aesthetics. Fantastic blog with a bevy of inspiring information graphics. Above is an example from xkcd.com

Stunning sports stats with design love from infojocks.com

Information design with a political sensibility - the art of the late Mark Lombardi

A wee bit more political information design from the good folks at TheyRule.net. Their interactive allows users to find the connections between board members of some of the world's largest multi-national corporations.

A little art with your information design: Stefanie Posavec's graphic maps of literary works. Her website (www.stefanieposavec.com) seems to be down, so the image links to where I first found her work: notcot.com

Chad Hagen's Nonsensical Infographics. Infographics that are based on nothing but aesthetics. They explore the beauty of infographics without all that pesky data.