We Need More Than Video to Drive Upstream Upgrades

Stacey's skinny upstream pipe

Stacey's skinny upstream pipe

Internet Service Providers are beginning to focus on upstream speeds as subscribers change their online behavior from consuming online content to producing it. Upstream demand is on the rise thanks to online storage services, video uploads and yes, file sharing, but for consumers to truly pay attention to their upstream pipes someone needs to build products that get everyday consumers to experience true pipe envy.

Video is boosting upstream data, which is why Cisco is so pumped about its purchase of the Flip camera maker Pure Digital (more demand for bandwidth on the upload and download side means Cisco can sell more gear), but what else is out there? These aren’t the dot-com bubble years. Operators won’t invest in upstream capacity unless users want to pay for it.

In a long view article I wrote over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), I list some services that may get consumers to both demand (and pay for) fatter upstream pipes such as broadband burglar alarms, home telepresence, and medical monitoring, but what will make you upgrade?

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William Easterly: Who is the Target Audience for Celebrity Aid Campaigns?


I've complained a lot about celebrity aid campaigns, but somebody must like them since they keep happening over and over. To whom is the celebrity campaign meant to appeal?

The celebrity aid campaign of the past few years has precisely these three components:

1. Angelina Jolie
2. Music by Bono
3. Picture of African mother and baby

So who is the audience that likes looking at Angelina, enjoys 1980s Rock, and wants to save helpless African women and children? The answer is now obvious: chauvinistic middle-aged white males. (Speaking as an expert middle-aged white male)

A more serious analysis might note the irony of using Hollywood women as sex objects and seeing African women as the passive recipients of aid chivalry, when one of the objectives of aid is gender equality...but let's not go there.

And it's easy to understand why the campaigns target chauvinistic middle-aged white males, since they have the deepest pockets.

Economics is a lot more fun than you thought...

Robert Townsend: Hollywood, the Internet and the Poor: No Disconnect Necessary

First and foremost, the entertainment industry's job is to entertain. That's why we call it entertainment.

What many people don't realize is that those of us in television and films have addressed a wide range of issues -- education, family planning, health, safety, emergency response, and so on. When we get it right, people receive critical information while being entertained. As an industry, we should be proud of that, but there's more we can do. And right now, resources are available to do it while also seizing the moment to improve lives.

Today, the entertainment industry is largely overlooking the most powerful distribution vehicle available: the Internet. It's a portal to personalized, localized content, all retrieved in a few short clicks. But millions of people aren't seeing the content as relevant and, as a result, they are not connected to broadband at home.

The Obama administration believes in the Internet's power to restore the economy. In fact, more than $7 billion of stimulus funds has been allocated to help bring broadband to low-income and "underserved" populations. But the truth of the matter is, without relevant, engaging content, Internet access won't deliver to its full potential. It doesn't take much to figure out that supply without demand is pointless.

That's where the entertainment industry comes in. We know how to create demand, rivet attention and engage audiences. What we know and what we do can transform lives and change the world for the better.

The need for relevant, engaging content became apparent to me when I teamed up with a global nonprofit called One Economy that leverages the power of technology to enable low-income people to improve their lives. Together we've produced a series called Diary of a Single Mom for the Public Internet Channel. The subject is something I know a lot about. I was raised by a single mom myself and there were plenty of tough times growing up. It's fiction that is meant to be inspiring and sometimes funny, but always reflective of the realities millions of women face every day.

This is what economic recovery looks like -- empowering underserved individuals by providing the necessary and relevant information for them to make tangible and life-altering choices. These choices will lead to lasting and sustainable economic and social mobility, and ultimately bring rise to a vibrant economy.

The entertainment industry has an opportunity to create a sea of change in the way people experience the Internet and the information they extract from it. The underlying concepts of this are not new.

Most folks hadn't heard of designated drivers before Cheers, LA Law and a hundred other shows featured them. Likewise, more than 60 percent of ER viewers reported watching the show to obtain medical information -- perhaps a testament to the fact that more people have access to television than to health care. And few would dispute the power of story-telling, specifically through An Inconvenient Truth, to raise large-scale awareness of climate change.

The opportunity lies in what our creative community can do to ensure that broadband access is accompanied by meaningful content. We can use this opportunity to advance partnerships with innovative organizations working on-the-ground and in communities to deliver relevant, meaningful and entertaining broadband Internet content. These partnerships can help people to change their lives. At the same time, they enable us to reach new audiences and demographics. It's a win-win.

As an industry, Hollywood is in a position to develop new creative product, rivet attention and change the world all in a few keystrokes. Like I said, there's no disconnect here.

‘Insider’, Eh?

Brian Lam has a much-linked-to piece on Gizmodo today titled “An Insider on the Apple Tablet”:

They went on to say that although the project has been going on under various names between four and six years, the first prototype was built around the end of 2008. Adding, “The time to market from first prototype is generally 6-9 months.” That would place the device’s release date in this holiday season. They then said, “There was a question of what OS the device would run, too.” (Other people I’ve talked to have implied this remains a huge secret.)

I’m almost certain there’s no tablet coming this year. It’s a 2010 thing. (Update: Jim Dalrymple is hearing 2010, too.)

So Lam’s source is an “insider” but has no idea what the OS is and has the ship date wrong. Sure.

New York Times Trains Local Youth in Blogging Workshop

by Mike Reicher

What do you get when seasoned professional journalists train novice teenage bloggers in the tools of the trade? We’ve started to answer that question this summer at The Local, The New York Times’ collaborative blog covering neighborhoods in Brooklyn and New Jersey.

Ready...Set..Blog! student Kaseim Watts (Photo by Tamara Best)

Ready...Set..Blog! student Kaseim Watts (Photo by Tamara Best)

Since launching in March, one of our goals at The Local has been to publish work by contributors from many perspectives in the community. But since the infants of ex-Manhattan moms are still a little too young to blog, The Local sent out word to high school teachers, community leaders, and youth groups that we wanted to recruit neighborhood teenagers interested in journalism.

We didn’t just want to give them a video camera, though, and say shoot. So, the students went through a three-day intensive workshop, called Ready…Set…Blog! Fellow CUNY Graduate School of Journalism student and Local intern Lois DeSocio and I developed the curriculum and led the workshops.

On day one, students learned the basics – how to write a news story, how to conduct an interview, how to sniff out news and a primer on journalistic ethics. The next two days they learned media tools – how to shoot photos and video – and they hit the streets.

Samples of the students’ work, which we’ve already posted on The Local, are available here, here and here. And then there’s this video of a local musician.

In total, we trained 16 students – eight in Brooklyn and eight in New Jersey. For the most part, though, we weren’t doing the teaching. Lois and I recruited volunteer professional journalists and journalism educators who wanted to train teens how to effectively cover their own communities.

Photo by Mike Reicher

Ready...Set...Blog! students taking diligent notes. (Photo by Mike Reicher)

In Brooklyn, Indrani Sen from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, who also teaches high school journalism in The Bronx, led the discussion on news values and the elements of a news story. Two local reporters, Jennifer Maloney from Newsday and Sophia Hollander, a freelancer who contributes to The New York Times, taught interviewing and ethics.

Sandra Roa, a grad student at the CUNY J-School who interns at NYTimes.com guided the students through the basics of photojournalism, and I led the video seminar.

The next phase of the program is to pair students with reporters from The Local and from The New York Times, so they can work together to produce at least one story this summer. We’re anticipating a range of topics, from youth summer employment to teen violence.

Just last week a group of teenagers allegedly beat a college student into a coma. As many stories tend to do in this neighborhood, it has evolved into a discussion of race and class. This is the type of divisive local issue we’d love to have covered both professionally and from a teen’s perspective.

Jonathan Spalter: A Deserved Double-Take on Wireless Prices

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to take a closer look at several aspects of the U.S. wireless market. While hardly an encouraging signal to mobile technology innovators, one bright spot in these developments has been the firm, public commitment of Chairman Julius Genachowski to "fact-based and data-driven" decisions.

Against this backdrop, this week's highly publicized release of a new study by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) deserves far closer scrutiny. If you follow broadband policy debates, OECD international "rankings" are known to favor smaller member states, while often claiming the U.S. marketplace in comparison is "behind." Clearly, our nation has many unique challenges (not the least of which is its vast physical geography) that policymakers and the private sector must acknowledge and constructively address to advance modern infrastructure needs.

But the most recent entry of OECD "analysis" into the wireless debate is proving equally problematic to informed progress toward important national goals. The new study claims that the U.S. has among the most expensive wireless service in the world. Having seen a television ad just last night for unlimited calling, texting and wireless Internet--with no long-term commitment -- for $40 a month, I was immediately skeptical and decided to take a closer look.

Without inducing a flashback to college statistics class, no matter how you slice and dice the numbers, there are many obvious flaws in the OECD analysis. Perhaps the most problematic is the global assumption of what a typical wireless user and typical wireless service looks like.

According to the OECD, the typical global wireless user talks on their mobile phone for about an hour a month and sends about 50 texts. But according to CTIA, the U.S. wireless association, consumers in the U.S. spend on average more than 12.5 hours each month talking on our mobile phones, and we send over 400 texts. Americans, in fact, are the chattiest people on earth. The next most vocal mobile population is Hong Kong at less than 7.5 hours a month. Why do we have so much to say? Because in the U.S., mobile talk is cheap. U.S. wireless consumers, in fact, have the lowest per-minute prices of any OECD nation.

Where precisely do the OECD analysts go wrong? In the mother of all footnotes, if you look at the fine print that accompanies their chart on the typical global wireless user, you learn that the analysis "does not include discounted or free calls to pre-selected phone numbers as part of 'friends and family' or 'preferred numbers' plans...Pre-paid plans are excluded."

Translation: Everything that makes the U.S. wireless market the envy of consumer bargain-hunters around the world is conveniently stripped from the analysis. It's a disclaimer that puts even the most evasive pharmaceutical ad to shame.

But the core issue here isn't simply whether the OECD got its numbers right or wrong. The deeper problem is the consequences that such faulty analysis can have on our broader goal of maintaining the pace of progress and innovation in the U.S. mobile marketplace. Perceptions matter in the incredibly competitive wireless world in which we now live. They matter for consumers, for regulators, and for innovators. So let's keep our focus on the facts.

And what are the facts today? Since 2001, the average price of a U.S. wireless plan remains about $50 a month, even though we've more than quadrupled the amount of time we spend on our mobile phones (not to mention added texting and data surfing). In fact, price per minute of use has declined by almost 90% since the 1990s. What other household expense could come even close to matching that figure? Bottom line: Consumers have scarcely paid a dime more for this extraordinary step into virtually limitless mobile communications.

Chairman Genachowski is right to hang his hat on data-driven decision-making. Enlightened people can disagree on policy. But we should never disagree on math. The quality of the data will guide the quality of the debate and in no small part determine the effectiveness of future policies.

The U.S. wireless sector leads the world in consumer value, innovation and choice. As we weigh changes to the policies that got us here, it's important that this fact not get lost in translation. The OECD got this one wrong -- and no amount of wishful thinking on behalf of our global competitors makes it right.

Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, served as chief information officer at the United States Information Agency and as an advisor to and spokesperson for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration. www.mobilefuture.org

Using the ‘Steal-O-Meter’ to Gauge if Stories Steal or Promote

In the recent dust-up between the Washington Post and Gawker, Post reporter Ira Shapira was upset when his story was excerpted on the media gossip blog Gawker. While blogs and even mainstream news articles have been quoting, excerpting and summarizing other stories and blog posts for years, there's never been accepted etiquette on how to do so.

According to Shapira, his editor told him: "They stole your story. Where's your outrage, man?" Stealing is a serious charge in the world of journalism, even though story ideas, scoops and angles are stolen daily. If a blog is excerpting content from a news story and crediting and linking to the original, isn't that so-called stealing really a form of promotion?

The Post itself offers numerous ways for readers to share Shapira's own story, from putting it on Digg, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Reddit and more. Are they telling people to "steal" the story or "promote" it? Where does the promotion end and the stealing begin?

I had my own experience with Valleywag's Owen Thomas excerpting a story I wrote on MediaShift last February about Second Life. While my original story probably received a couple thousand page views, the Valleywag post has had more than 60,000 views. The art I captured in Second Life for the story was lifted without my permission. There are two major quotes I got that were re-used in the blog post.

But there is one key difference between the Post excerpt job and the one from MediaShift: Thomas did a better job re-framing the story with his own angle. His headline takes a much harder stance, "The End of Second Life," while saying the virtual world is "firmly headed into irrelevance." That's something I never would have said, even though such a vehement statement is likely what brought all the traffic to Valleywag.

So there's a difference between the way Gawker heavily excerpted Shapira without adding much and the way Valleywag more lightly excerpted my story and gave its own spin on it. I decided the time is right to create a taxonomy of sorts for all the excerpting and linking that goes on between blogs and news organizations -- and between news organizations as well.

I wanted to create a graphical way to denote where a practice falls between "stealing" and "promoting" -- so I included the "Steal-O-Meter" to show where it lands. A shout-out goes to the folks at PolitiFact for inspiring the meter.

Drive-By Summary

stealometer steal side.jpg

What It Is: A blog post that excerpts heavily from the original story without adding any significant new material.

Example: Generational Consultant Holds America's Fakest Job at Gawker

What's Lifted: Multiple quotes from the story, usually the best ones.

What's Added: A summary of the rest of the story.

Bottom Line: Appears to promote original story but doesn't give people many reasons to check out the original.

Summary with Spin

stealometer middle.jpg

What It Is: A blog post that excerpts heavily from the original story and also includes more material or a strong opinion or additional angle.

Examples: The End of Second Life at Valleywag; Full Details On Mint's $14 Million Series C Round at TechCrunch

What's Lifted: Usually a passage or paraphrase from the original story.

What's Added: A summary of the rest of the story, along with original ideas or reporting.

Bottom Line: While it might be borrowing a lot from the original, at least it can stand on its own by adding original material.

Deceptive Excerpt

stealometer leans steal.jpg

What It Is: Excerpting other people's stories with credit, but making it look like the writer is writing for the site that's excerpting it.

Example: AllThingsD's Voices section. (The site used to point people to an internal page with the excerpt before going to the original site, but that practice has changed after complaints were filed.)

What's Lifted: The headline and first few paragraphs from the story verbatim.

What's Added: A link to the rest of the story on the original site.

Bottom Line: Includes absolutely no original material, but does whet appetite to click to read more at original site. Should not include deceptive packaging.

Retold Story with Credit

stealometer leans steal.jpg

What It Is: News wires and other reporters simply retell a scoop from another news outlet, giving credit to the original report, lifting quotes and sometimes adding new material.

Example: JPMorgan looking to sell 23 office properties -- report at Reuters

What's Lifted: Most important news, quotes and storyline.

What's Added: A local or different angle, but usually not.

Bottom Line: This common journalistic practice of repeating a story told elsewhere -- but with credit -- still doesn't fly for doing anything original. Even worse is that these stories rarely link to the original online.

Aggregator Blurb

stealometer promoting.jpg

What It Is: An automated news aggregation site reusing a headline and blurb, along with art, without adding anything new.

Example: Anything found on Google News site.

What's Lifted: Headline, photo and the first line or two of the story.

What's Added: Nothing, though some stories now have original comments on Google News.

Bottom Line: Google News drives tons of traffic to news sites, and reuses very little material. Very few users of Google News can get all their news just from the site without linking to originals.

Reuse without Authorization

stealometer steal side.jpg

What It Is: Site scraping, where one site completely lifts all content from original without credit, linking out, or getting permission.

Example: Year in Review -- 10 MediaShifting Moments of 2007 with MediaShift content scraped by Panic Re-Programming

What's Lifted: Entire story, artwork and links.

What's Added: Credit for someone else.

Bottom Line: Outright stealing with no credit and absolutely no redeeming quality. Not only is this wrong, but it can be illegal when used to make money off someone else's copyrighted content.

Link Love

stealometer promoting.jpg

What It Is: A blog that links out to related material on another site.

Example: You can find it all over the blogosphere.

What's Lifted: A headline, a quote, or an idea.

What's Added: A whole new story around it.

Bottom Line: Links are the currency of online journalism and blogging, and when used judiciously help to spread ideas and promote others without taking too much from them.


I'm sure this is not even close to an exhaustive list of the ways stories are lifted or shared online. Add your own examples in the comments below, and tell us where you think it lands on the Steal-O-Meter, and I'll add it above, with credit to you.

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