The Attention Economy in an Inattentive Economy

DC2_0956The second I heard it verbalized by Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Ning, I realized why user-generated content works on YouTube. In a forum sponsored by the Bridge network (a yearly sabbatical involving discussions between Hollywood talent, Silicon Valley execs, and financial executives), Mr. Andreessen explained how to measure consumption of the world’s most popular media. The traditional movie is two hours long because that’s the attention span sweet-spot for the cinema-goer. A television show is anywhere from a half an hour to one hour. YouTube is measured by the end of your nose to the laptop screen. It’s about a “one foot experience’; therefore, two to three minutes is the average length of user-generated content. Have no fear – a decade from now we’re going to be watching subliminal blips from underneath our eyelids.

Not really, but the analogy is sound in cognitive behavior. Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter and it’s killing the traditional formats. The question is – Why? In a recent trip to Washington D.C., I spoke with several neuroscientists from the National Security Association and the Department of Defense. I was doing research on human behavior in respect to global consumption of the internet. The underlying thesis from America’s most intelligent minds is that humans don’t evolve at the same rate as technology. Technology marches northbound up the bell curve while human beings adapt at a slow crawl. When one of the neuroscientists drew me a graph, it might as well have been a picture of a Mack truck driving through the gap between computer and human. In plain language, technology is setting the tone thousands of times quicker than humanity can adapt. And yet, somehow we still manage to keep up.

This point was proven recently when I sat on a “Collision in Content” panel in New York City last month. There must’ve been thirty people in the audience. Half of them either had their heads buried in a laptop or on a handheld device (iPod or Blackberry). And even when I pointed out the rudeness of that behavior, they still kept one eye on their respective devices, unable to tear themselves away completely. It was sad, but true. Not to cast stones, because it was all I could do not to answer the vibrating Blackberry buzzing in my pocket. It was then that I realized: we’re all addicted to our devices. We’ve turned into Pavlov’s dog: If it chirps, buzzes, vibrates, or rings, we want to answer it immediately. What have we become?

This brings me to the old and new paradigm in terms of Hollywood. The old regime will continue to pre-schedule “appointment television” with minimal regard to ancillary websites which compliment or extend the brand beyond that one hour or half-hour. Networks continue to drive all television fans to one corporate website with hopes of gathering an authentic community which can be monetized like a micro-charged economy. Quite simply, it doesn’t work. This is the old regime.

Level26finalHIGHIndeed, our attention economy in this inattentive economy is screaming for change. Drastic change. The kind of change where television will only have true value when it’s a launching platform for the “new” television: the net. The mobile phone, handset, or PDA is only an extension of content “on the go.” It’s the freedom to consume, interact, schedule, and manipulate that makes the content experience grand. It’s the merging of Silicon Valley’s technology with Hollywood content creators that will save television as we know it.

We can no longer make the audience come to us. We must go to the audience and re-invent ourselves based on behaviors that will never return to the old regime. It will be the convergence of multi-media or trans-media, consuming content “specific to the device,” that will win out going forward. Our attention economy is shrinking while our attentive economy is changing. And while no human being can verbalize with certainty when our behavior shifted, we must realize there has been a shift in the first place if we hope to keep up with it. It’s no longer the wild wild West but the global network of the technological revolution that will shape our consumptive future.

My contribution to this future starts with publishing. Instead of just writing a novel, I decided to pair it with a motion picture and offer a social networking site at the same price as a traditional book. The convergence of novel, movie, and website as a “singular narrative” is my literary experiment for the new age. I want to offer the consumer different levels of consumption regardless of their attention economy. If you want to read the book cover to cover, the novel will be a great read. If you don’t,  the book also lets you read twenty pages, log in, and watch a three-minute motion picture scene which bridges you from one chapter to another. If you want to read, log-in, watch, and then join a social network designed to continue the narrative long after the book is over, you may consume that way also.

This is the philosophy of the “Digi-Novel”: A re-invention of behavior offering the traditional book reader a new way to consume while at the same time offering the YouTube generation an excuse to read again. The multi-media novel Level 26: Dark Origins will hit stores on September 8th of this year. It is my new paradigm offering to the world via an underutilized industry – publishing – that can still be a player in the cross-pollination of content across multi-media. This brave new format is offered to the marketplace in the spirit of reinvention – something technology allows content creators to do when you enable them to make change.

Anthony Zuiker is best-known as the creator of TV’s mega-successful “CSI” franchise, which now includes CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. In the year 2002, CSI became the most-watched show on television, almost single-handedly helping CBS regain its foothold as the number one network in America, reaching 75 million viewers per week. With his newest project “digital novel”, Level 26: Dark Origins, Zuiker looks to transform the world of entertainment again by exploring new models of premier publishing and content delivery. The project is a collaboration between Zuiker and EQAL, the groundbreaking social media company behind the web’s most successful interactive drama series: lonelygirl15 and KateModern. It will combine written content, video and interactive elements that allow the user to “watch the story on film and join online to unlock deeper levels of the experience.”

Robert Gibbs Fact-Checks Mediaite’s “Gaffe” List

gibbsYesterday, Mediaite’s Robert Quigley posted a list of 8 gaffes (later reduced to 7) by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, along with the assessment that Gibbs “largely gets a free pass from the media for his many blunders.”

I thought it was only fair to give Gibbs a chance to respond, so I emailed him to see if he had any reaction to the piece. While he said he had “no real response,” and that he was “happy to get the criticism,” he did have a few factual corrections for us. Let’s see how Gibbs’ fact-check stacks up against our double-fact-check.

1. Sarah Palin’s Healthcare Comments – “…Gibbs’ snark yesterday about how ‘you [reporters] cover a lot of process and you cover a lot of — you cover noise and heat and light’ was the wrong kind of dismissal, and did nothing to brush the matter away.”
Gibbs: “On #1, I didn’t brush off Palin yesterday – I responded by using stuff from a GOP Senator calling her accusation nuts.”
Point: Gibbs. While he did make the “heat and light” statement, that was in response to a broad question about messaging. In responding to Palin’s quote, he did cite Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson’s statement that the “death panel” idea was nuts.

2. “Elected Leader” Ahmadinejad?
Point: Mediaite. Gibbs didn’t offer anything on this, and in fact, clarified his statement the day after he made it.

3. Laff-A-Lympics – Gibbs has laughed, or caused laughter, on more than 600 occasions. Singled out was this instance, where he joked that “only in Washington” is $100 million not considered a lot of money, even when compared to the national debt.
Gibbs: “On #3 if that’s a gaffe then so be it, same with #4.”
Point: I’ll give Gibbs #3. Humor is subjective, and Gibbs’s joke was clearly at the expense of free-spending D.C., not the national debt. Besides, I wouldn’t want to discourage Gibbs from occasionally livening up what would otherwise be some intolerably dull briefings. As a former stand-up comic, I’ve got to admire the guy’s timing.

4. Taking on Cheney – Gibbs compared Cheney to Rush Limbaugh, and called him part of the Republican cabal. “When you’re the White House Press Secretary, show a little respect for the former Vice President, even if you disagree with him.”
Gibbs: “On #3 if that’s a gaffe then so be it, same with #4.”
Point: #4 Mediaite. On #4, I’m tempted to call this a push because Cheney did some hitting below the belt of his own, but since Gibbs concedes the point, I’ll take it.

5. Twittergate – “Gibbs’ July 24th statement on C-SPAN that Twitter is blocked on White House computers led to a firestorm of speculation on the Internet.”
Gibbs: “#5 set off a firestorm!? Weird that I missed the firestorm.”
Point: Mediaite 1 – Gibbs’ statement to C-Span was technically accurate – Twitter is blocked on White House computers, except those in the New Media office and they’re in the Executive Office Building, anyway. Since the “firestorm” was mostly caused by the Interwebs panicking that Twitter had been blocked by the White House itself, we removed that item. It was fixed it before he responded to us, but we’ll award a point to Gibbs for observing that there might not have been a firestorm. Also for not being wrong in the first place, though he should know better than to be flip about Twitter. The Interwebs get very excited about Twitter.

6. What Joe Biden “Meant to Say” About Swine Flu -”on April 30th, Gibbs attempted to spin Biden’s infamous “closed container” remarks on swine flu into a handy health advisory. Jake Tapper called him out for not saying anything “remotely close to what [Biden] said.”
Gibbs: “I understand what he said, and I’m telling you what he meant to say.”
Point: Mediaite, since Gibbs conceded this one as well. However, his grilling by Tapper illustrates that he doesn’t exactly get a free ride, either. Half a point to Gibbs.

7. “The Fraternal Order of Police Endorsed McCain” – “When a reporter asked if Obama’s remarks during Gates-Gate would lead to a backlash among police groups, Gibbs responded, ‘I think the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed McCain, if I’m not mistaken.’ It quickly shot to the front page of Drudge. No doubt Gibbs had prepped the response, but it came out at the wrong time in the wrong way, and made Obama’s response to the situation seem vengeful.”
Gibbs: “I love #7 since I was responding to Mark Knoller asking me if the FOP endorsed Obama – if this guy sees it as a gaffe to have said they didn’t then so be it.”
Point: Gibbs. He was asked directly, and answered accurately.

8. Monarchy in the UK – Gibbs unwittingly kicked a hornet’s nest in June when he told reporters that the Obama administration was working to get the Queen to attend D-Day commemorations in Normandy…As it turns out, the White House hadn’t even been in contact with Buckingham Palace; Gibbs was winging it. The Queen did end up going to the commemorations, though.
Gibbs: “On #8, the Queen hadn’t been invited, we were in touch with the Brits and she didn’t come – Prince Charles did.”
Point: Gibbs. He’s on the money here, as Prince Charles did, indeed, fill in for the Queen at the D-Day commemoration. Gibbs gets an extra half-point for pointing out that the White House was, indeed, in touch with the British over the snub.

We’re also awarding Gibbs a full point for confirming that he was the goalkeeper, rather than the goalie, of the North Carolina State Wolfpack, and for calling the game “soccer,” rather than “football.” Unfortunately, we also have to deduct 3 points because he wasn’t a baseball player.

Final score: Robert Gibbs 3, Mediaite 3

EDITOR’S TIEBREAKER: Wow, we feel like Dumbledore after a Quidditch match! However, the tie must be broken – and the record made clear. Since Mediaite erred in asserting that Her Majesty the Queen had attended the D-Day commemoration ceremonies, and since the original posts was about gaffes, and this itself was a gaffe, we hereby award an extra point to Gibbs for being right. Final score: Robert Gibbs 4, Mediaite 3 Gibbs wins – but if the White House tweets this out, then won’t we all be winners? Thanks for playing!

Meet The Prensa: Gerson Borrero on Univisión, Telemundo and the “Drive-By Racists” of Fox News

borreroIt started as a quiet radio talk show—a dialogue between two journalists from competing Hispanic television networks. Both were praising the way their stations had been covering the ongoing hearings of Sonia Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It was the usual display of Hispanic pride, respect for the accomplished judge and her mother, and the reshaping of the American Dream.

Then NPR’s Tell Me More host Michel Martin asked what Gerson Borrero had to say.

“You’re a columnist, so I think you probably have a little bit more latitude in what you may say,” Martin said, a hint of irony slipping between her words.

“With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, both of them…” Borrero said – and launched into one of his famous tirades.

Eighty seconds of ranting ensued, with Borrero calling the networks’ programming “ridiculous,” and denouncing “the suits” who ran them for not caring to “educate, illustrate and inform” Hispanics.

After being stopped by Michel to allow a reply from Univisión’s anchor María Elena Salinas, and Telemundo’s reporter Lori Montenegro, Borrero decided to abandon the conversation.

He felt he wasn’t given the chance to fully express his point of view.

Yet it was probably a good morning for Borrero, who seems to enjoy a good controversy as some enjoy a fine bottle of wine.

The Puerto-Rican-born New Yorker has been picking fights over Hispanic issues for decades, most notably when he lost a radio talk show after suggesting that three Hispanic Congressmen lacked political cojones (one of them was a woman, for whom he preferred the term “ovaries”); and when he resigned to the position of editor in chief of New York’s El Diario over a column on education reform in Cuba signed by Fidel Castro.

These days, Borrero is most recognized for his weekly appearances in NY1’s Inside City Hall, where he confronts Guardian Angels’ Curtis Sliwa, and his “Bajo Fuego” columns in El Diario. He has also recently added a new platform for his commentary with the Borrero Report.

In a conversation with Mediaite’s “Meet The Prensa,” Mr. Borrero addressed his position on the political status of Puerto Rico (”occupied”), his upbringing in the Bronx (”it made me tougher”), Fox News (”drive-by racists”), soap operas (”they make people stupid”), Hispanic radio (”full of Howard Stern wannabes”), and his insult-ridden journalistic style.

It was also the first time he addressed his NPR controversy on Univisión and Telemundo.

“As far as I am concerned, they could go out of business tomorrow,” he quipped.

Interview below:

Meet the Prensa #2: Gerson Borrero from josesimian on Vimeo

Best Wishes to Jeff Jarvis

blogdaddyAuthor, blogger, pundit and Internet lion Jeff Jarvis announced yesterday via his blog that he has prostate cancer. The What Would Google Do? author wrote a short, honest blog post about the diagnosis yesterday, explaing his decision to share the news thusly: “I argue for the benefits of the public life. So I’d better live it.”

Another benefit of living the public life: Holding yourself up as an example to others, and a cautionary reminder. Jarvis said that his cancer was “caught very early, found in only 5 percent of one of 12 samples gathered” and called himself “lucky” — and then tried to pass that luck on:

I also hope to be one more guy to convince you men to get get your PSA checked: a small mitzvah in return for my luck. And when we talk about the cost of screening in the health-care debate, I’ll stand up to say that when you’re the 1-in-100, screening is worth it.

He also maintained a sense of humor about the process, joking about one of his classic blog foes (not us): “I’m opting for robotic surgery – geek that I am, how could I not? My only fear is that they’ll wheel me into the O.R. and I’ll see that the machine is powered by Dell.”

Javis’ forthright announcement caught the tech and new media community by surprise – there are few who are as ubiquitous and familiar, with such deep roots across media. The comments section is like a who’s who of Internet well-wishers, with sincere and supportive comments, plus fans of his book offering the support of strangers who feel like they know you (one guy said he was a nutritionist and recommended tomatoes; another guy REALLY recommended tomatoes. Apparently they are thought to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. What would Google do? It would return a whole bunch of results and also mention broccoli).

Of course the personal messages have a different sort of meaning, and they really speak to how highly Jarvis is regarded in his community. Jay Rosen may have epitomized the classic multi-media wish for Jarvis: “As I said on Twitter, my friend: We’re with you, Jeff. We’re with you all the way.”  R/T.

We wish Jarvis the best of health and luck on this unexpected and difficult new phase in his life, but after scrapping with him ourselves, we know that cancer’s got a helluva fight ahead.

The small c and me [BuzzMachine]

Image above via Jarvis on BuzzMachine. I just noticed that he named it “blogdaddy.” Funny.

Twitter Zombies! Last Week’s Twitter Outage, Explained

F.O.M. (”Friend of Mediaite”) Caroline McCarthy explains last week’s Twitter outage, demonstrating that she knows what “DDOS” means. She also uses the uber-cool phrase “Zombie PCs.” THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING! THEY WILL EAT YOUR TWITTERY BRAINZ! Hear her explain it in less fear-mongery terms below:

Here’s McCarthy’s piece from CNET about what happened, from last Thursday; our own Andrew Cedotal made some smart guesses as to the problem earlier in the day, though “vengeful Georgian hacker” was beyond the bounds of even his perspicacity. McCarthy traced the problem in detail, and made this salient point:

Way back when, Twitter outages were so commonplace that it was worth reporting when it didn’t crash–as when it stayed afloat during the entire South by Southwest Interactive Festival in 2008. Now, a few million dollars of venture capital later, the service is far more stable.

Twitter wants to establish itself as a communications standard rather than just a social-media brand. It’s been a crucial platform for information exchange in the face of global events where more traditional means of broadcasting have been inaccessible or blocked.

But according to McCarthy, it’s still got a ways to go:

…But the Facebook outages were not on the same scale as Twitter’s by any means, said Ben Rushlo, a senior consulting manager at performance firm Keynote. “There’s been a few slow data points but you couldn’t even put them in the same sort of stratosphere of comparison,” Rushlo told CNET News.

In the battle of all-powerful social media tools, point: Facebook. (Poor MySpace didn’t even rate a mention until somebody piped up down in the comments.)

Here’s something else I noticed from this clip: Melanie Notkin’s got some serious fans over at MSNBC, with TWO @SavvyAuntie screenshots, at 0:46 and 0:48. Though upon closer inspection, it’s less fandom than efficiency: That’s stock footage from circa March, and I actually know that because back then I noticed it too, and if Twitter Search let you search back more than a WEEK I’d be able to prove it. But note that it seems to be a screenshot of results for searching “@JimmyFallon” – hence the inexact placement of the stock footage to March, when his show launched.  Why do I know these things? Perhaps I need some sort of life. Maybe you do, too — this post ceased to be useful a long time ago. Take it away, Keyboard Cat!

Video via our pals at @NewsPolitics

Goodbye Angry Mob, Hello “Death Panels”

sarah-palin-AlaskaIt seems as though, every week, the Republicans find new ways to alienate normal people. First, there were the Birthers in Congress, amplified by much-publicized coverage of the conspiracy theory from Lou Dobbs. Then, there was the so-called “Angry Mob,” a noisy confluence of birth certificates, tea bags, and healthcare town hall meetings.

Then, just as conservatives were getting some traction by leveraging Democratic criticism into a “stifling of dissent” argument, Sarah Palin comes along to complete the hat trick.

On Friday, the former Alaska Governor posted some grade-A crazy talk on her Facebook page:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Well, the echoes of the accompanying cuckoo-clock noises had barely died down when Newt Gingrich rushed in to agree with Palin that Death Panels were, indeed, cause for concern:

While the White House’s Deal or No Deal with PhRMA may be the big political story so far, expect many a cable news panel to discuss the Death Panel, and many a Republican guest to hop on the Death Panel bandwagon. If you need an excuse to get drunk this week, play the Death Panel drinking game, then hope the Death Panel has mercy on you.

This sets a high bar for next week, and I’m not sure they can top this. Maybe Palin will announce her Presidential bid, then pull out of the race the next day.

Hudson Plane Crash on Twitter: First Reports, Best Coverage

Copter 1Copter 2Right now I’m watching Fox News’ live report on the collision between a plane and a helicopter over the Hudson River today in Manhattan. It’s about 90 minutes after the crash occurred, according to the first tweet I’ve seen about it, from Anthony De Rosa at 12:10 pm. It’s a surprisingly precise way to assess it — reports place the crash at just after noon — because one moment my Tweetdeck was filled with details of brunch, coffee and morning runs, and the next tweets from people like Brian Stelter and Marc Ambinder started coming thick and fast, along with incidental reports from people I follow who just happened to be on the west side — like Michael Orell: “At Chelsea Piers Gym. This is the second time I’m watching a plane crash recovery from the Hudson. All wreckage looks to be submerged.”

By now, 90 minutes later, the networks have gotten a handle on it — NY1 was covering it almost immediately; the New York Times put out a story, at about 1:05 p.m.; Fox News is providing fantastic live coverage with commentary from anchor/host Jon Scott, also a licensed pilot and scuba diver with rescue training, who is giving extremely sharp ongoing analysis.

But right when a story like this breaks — an event in public that no one has an exclusive on, just an army of news junkies trying to collect and share new emerging information — there is just no beating Twitter.

Here is where following a few trusted aggregators can get the story out first. Brian Stelter is a great example of this – jumping on the story, collecting sources, sharing eyewitness tweets, getting out info as it rolls in. Ditto Marc Ambinder, off his usual political beat but not his usual commitment to precision and thoroughness. Anthony De Rosa was another essential curator, the first I saw to post the Hoboken411 link (New Yorkers sometimes forget that Jersey is on the other side of the Hudson; a lot of activity on that shore, too). Upshot: there’s a vast world of tweeters out there, but knowing who to pick out and follow can give you the highest quality, most current info out there.

Now, 90 minutes later (by now 2 hours, actually) the best coverage I am seeing is on Fox News, thanks to Jon Scott, who is giving probably the best analysis of a breaking aviation event that I’ve heard (previous breaking plane incidents have been marked by bumbling, uninformed coverage; Miles O’Brien, CNN’s former anchor/correspondent who, as a pilot, IS informed, wrote a smart piece on that point after the Air France crash in June). But even with Fox News’ great coverage, I’ve had it on pretty solidly for an hour,  and keep hearing things that I read on Twitter first. It’s just a damn good information conduit — once again, if you know who to follow.

Even so, Twitter will never be able to replace the reporting and analytical skill of experts (except when those experts are on Twitter) — just as a single Tweet will never have the depth of a literary masterpiece crafted over years of work. They are two different things — but where breaking news is concerned, Twitter is proving yet again that it dominates.

Are there confused, inexact, even false reports? Yes — I retweeted one myself, even though I signaled my skepticism (”Incredible if true: RT @marcambinder Preliminary report that all six aboard helicopter have been rescued, minor injuries.”) This is what happens with breaking news reporting; as Ash Kalb noted, eyewitness accounts are almost always rife with inconsistencies. But you can’t verify what you haven’t collected, and that’s where Twitter makes its bones.

If reporting is the first draft of history, Twitter is the first draft of reporting. For all its unreliability, unverifiability, and potential for misuse, I think I’m fine with that.

Helicopter and Plane Crash Over Hudson River: Twitter Tells the Story [Mashable]
Live Coverage – FDNY [The Bravest]
Shoutbox Feed – FDNY [The Bravest] (note: has exceeded traffic)