Must Reads in Media & Technology: June 5


This post is by Bianca Fortis from MediaShift


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Newsonomics: Craig Newmark, journalism’s new Six Million Dollar Man


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Craig Newmark is a creature of the internet. Like Beyoncé, a singular name defines a great brand, one he provided 22 years ago to the eponymous Craigslist. Though long associated with “free,” this organically grown San Francisco-based classifieds provider may produce a billion dollars in annual revenue sooner rather than later. Today, at 64, Newmark is all about the money — but distributing it as much as earning it. “It’s incumbent on me as an ultra-patriot to spend like a sailor on shore leave,” he told me last week. Newmark is a long-time student of the American press. “Now I’m mostly educated. I still have questions about news ethics, but I’ve learned I think as much as I need to start moving ahead hard…The idea’s a lot’s happening, and as a funder of nonprofit journalism, I’m an amateur. I have been helped by Tom Rosenstiel and others at API, Continue reading "Newsonomics: Craig Newmark, journalism’s new Six Million Dollar Man"

Craigslist Creep Seeks ‘In-Shape,’ ‘Well-Educated’ Foodie to ‘Cruise’ Chicago’s Restaurants


This post is by Dana Eisenberg from Mediaite


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If you’re “in shape, intelligent, college-educated with an MBA, personable,” and you are looking to dine with someone with all of those same qualities, you’re in luck. Allow us to introduce you to this guy. Normally, he’s in a relationship with a “classy, attractive woman,” but currently he’s “between girlfriends” and he’s looking for a dinner companion on Craigslist to “cruise the Chicago restaurant scene.” craigslist The best part? He won’t even “hassle you for sex,” even though he’ll pay for dinner. Come on, how nice is that? He’s a great wingman, has a “nice sense of humor,” and is “fun to be with.” All you have to do if you’re interested is send this guy your “basic stats- age, height, weight (or at least dress size), hair/eye color, etc” in an e-mail. Not creepy at all. [featured image via Wikimedia Commons/John Picken] Follow Dana Eisenberg on Twitter.

A Canadian Olympian Tested Positive For Cocaine Because He Kissed a Woman Who Used it


This post is by Joe DePaolo from Mediaite


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screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-5-41-47-pmCanadian Olympian Shawn Barber of Canada got higher than any other pole vaulter at the 2015 world championships. He also got higher than any other pole vaulter at the 2016 Canadian championships, in more ways than one. According to the CBC, Barber tested positive for cocaine due to a sexual encounter he’d had with a woman who snorted it in a hotel bathroom where they’d met. The incident occurred on July 9 in Edmonton, where Barber was competing in the Canadian championships. Barber reportedly found the woman via the “casual encounters” section on craigslist. He posted that he wanted to meet a “professional” woman. A man contacted Barber to set up an encounter with his girlfriend. They arranged to meet in the hotel room, where the woman snorted cocaine right before Barber arrived, unbeknownst to the Olympian. “I didn’t know that kissing a girl could transfer coke,” Barber said on Continue reading "A Canadian Olympian Tested Positive For Cocaine Because He Kissed a Woman Who Used it"

Joker Poses as Univision Exec Trying to Resell Gawker Media on Craigslist


This post is by Lindsey Ellefson from Mediaite


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The writers over at Gawker Media are in revolt. Univision bought up their company after Peter Thiel bankrolled its historic demise, kicked the flagship Gawker site to the curb, and got to work Univision-ing the rest of the staff. The off-the-wall posts that the other blogs were known for are becoming more toned-down by the day, but most notably, six articles were deleted from the blogs altogether. Today, one of those blogs, Deadspin, fought back, finding a clever way to republish some of the articles. They published a lawsuit that had resulted from two of the pieces and just so happened to include all of the original copy in the complaint. It’s like a made-for-TV movie about babysitting. The kids that looked so sweet before Mommy and Daddy left are now banning together to cause a lot of trouble for the uptight straight-A student who was just trying to get
screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-3-25-36-pm
Continue reading "Joker Poses as Univision Exec Trying to Resell Gawker Media on Craigslist"

An argument that newspapers are missing out on reaching loyal, local digital audiences


This post is by Justin Ellis from Nieman Lab


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Is the digital audience for local news hiding in plain sight? Damon Kiesow, senior manager for mobile initiatives at McClatchy, thinks local newsrooms are overlooking an important audience as they try to reorient themselves for the future. No, it’s not mobile users (well, not entirely). And it’s not millennials (well, it’s kinda them too). The audience local publishers are overlooking are those who are living lives online every day and not having their needs met. He writes:
Many newspapers are still built to cover “community” as defined seemingly generations ago as rigid beat structures constrained by geography and by local government services. Advocating a change to that system is nothing new; numerous blog posts have covered the ground. Unfortunately, experimentation has come largely but not exclusively from digital news start-ups. These days, digital-savvy readers live seamlessly between online and offline. Amazon.com is their local market and Netflix Continue reading "An argument that newspapers are missing out on reaching loyal, local digital audiences"

Are online ads more valuable than print ads?


This post is by Caroline O'Donovan from Nieman Journalism Lab


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A paper by the University of Chicago’s Matthew Gentzkow, published last month in the American Economic Review, is making headlines. “Trading Dollars for Dollars: The Price of Attention Online and Offline” looks at advertising spending based on time spent engaging with news content. In it, Gentzkow contends that the conventionally held belief that the dawn of the Internet destroyed the business model for print newspapers is false.
Contrary to most popular accounts, the growth of the Internet has not obviously caused a large decline in newspaper readership. Readership has fallen steadily since the Internet was introduced in the mid-1990s, but it had been falling at almost the same rate since 1980, and the small acceleration of this trend accounts for a drop in readership of only about 10 percent. This is consistent with more systematic evidence in Gentzkow (2007) and Liebowitz and Zentner (2012), suggesting that online-offline substitution is relatively limited, as well as survey evidence showing that the Internet currently accounts for less than 10 percent of total time spent consuming news (Edmonds 2013).

In addition, he says print news lost more revenue when it lost its classifieds to sites like Craigslist than it ever did to online news. For data, Gentzkow relied on comScore for online news traffic and the Video Consumer Mapping Study for print. Obviously, it’s much harder to measure minutes spent reading print than spent reading online, however, Gentzkow writes in an email:
…they actually had observers follow participants around and record what they do minute by minute. They find that the average person who reads a newspaper on a given day reads for 41 minutes. Now these aren’t exactly comparable — one person could make multiple visits to a website on a given day, and subscribers probably read more than the average reader. But I think it’s clear as a ballpark estimate that the print number is an order of magnitude bigger than the online number.
Based on these numbers, Gentzkow calculates that, although more money is spent on print advertising, when you look at spending per hour of attention, the rates for online are much higher. Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 2.42.40 PM Gentzkow offers a a few rationales for why online advertising might be valued more highly in the market.
Each newspaper has physical space for exactly one advertisement. All readers of the newspaper must see the same ad. The marginal cost of printing ads is zero. Each website also has physical space for exactly one advertisement, but these ads are targeted, so the website can show different ads to different consumers. Consumer types are observable to websites.
In other words, whatever online news lacks in eyeballs, it makes up for in delivering the intended viewer.

WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel and Alison Brie Read Craigslist Missed Connections


This post is by Tina Nguyen from Mediaite


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Last night, Jimmy Kimmel took his viewers down the dark, lonely rabbithole that is the Craigslist Missed Connections page.

“Let’s say you run into someone, you meet someone, you’re looking at someone someplace, and for whatever reason, you didn’t exchange contact information with them,” Kimmel explained for the uninitiated. “With Missed Connections, you can write something and post it and hope that they will see it.” (It’s a very sad practice.)


With help from Community’s Alison Brie and a sexy sax man, he went through some of the best ones, ranging from the innocent (“Girl in Lion King sweater eating Papa John’s”), to the sad (“Walmart paint lady”), to the weird (“Eagle River glory hole couple.”)

Watch below:

[Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

>> Follow Tina Nguyen (@Tina_Nguyen) on Twitter

The ‘Huckabee Post’: Is Mike Huckabee Starting a Media Entity?


This post is by Josh Feldman from Mediaite


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Mike Huckabee‘s radio show is ending, but could he be taking a stab at the written word next?

An ad has popped up on Craigslist seeking reporters for a new venture called Huckabee Post, that already boasts offices in both New York City and Washington D.C. Rumors about a “Huckabee Post” surfaced after his first presidential run in 2008, but perhaps now it’s coming to fruition?

In the Craigslist ad, the Huckabee Post is described as “a new and exciting online news publication covering news on politics, US, international, media, sports and other general news.”

In the New York Times Friday morning, Huckabee is quoted as saying he’s keeping the door open to a 2016 presidential run, but no mention of any potential media ventures.

Mediaite has reached out to Huckabee for comment, but we have not heard back yet. We will update.

[Photo via screengrab]

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Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

Craigslist can use anti-hacking law to stop firm from scraping its data, court rules


This post is by Jeff John Roberts from paidContent


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Craigslist has won another victory in a closely-watch court fight over who can use the treasure trove of public data found on the classified ad giant’s website.

In a ruling handed down last week in San Francisco, a federal judge said that Craigslist can invoke a controversial anti-hacking law to stop a start-up known as 3Taps from gaining access to its website.

3Taps had argued that the law in question, known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), should only apply to non-public information protected by passwords or firewalls — not free, public data found on sites like Craigslist. US District Judge Charles Breyer disagreed with this view, ruling that 3Taps had accessed Craigslist’s website “without authorization” under the plain meaning of the CFAA.

While Craigslist is a public website, the company blocked 3Taps from accessing the site and also issued a cease-and-desist letter in order to stop the start-up from collecting its classified data and making it available to others.

After Craigslist blocked it, 3Taps turned to so-called “IP rotation technology” (tools that disguised its identity) to continue to visit the site and scrape data. The judge ruled that this IP-masking was enough to violate the anti-hacking statute, dismissing concerns that this ruling would criminalize ordinary internet use:

The calculus is different where a user is altogether banned from accessing a website. The banned user has to follow only one, clear rule: do not access the website [...]

Nor does prohibiting people from accessing websites they have been banned from threaten to criminalize large swaths of ordinary behavior. It is uncommon to navigate contemporary life without purportedly agreeing to some cryptic private use policy governing an employer’s computers or governing access to a computer connected to the internet. In contrast, the average person does not use “anonymous proxies” to bypass an IP block set up to enforce a banning communicated via personally-addressed cease-and-desist letter.

The decision is already causing a stir in the legal and technology community, where scholars like Orin Kerr have argued that masking IP addresses is a common tactic that does not amount to “circumventing a technological barrier” under the CFAA.

The decision is also likely to fuel debate over Craigslist’s aggressive legal tactics against other companies that use it data to create more user-friendly websites. Critics argue thatCraigslist has become an ugly, out-dated monopoly and resent its efforts to crush sites like PadMapper, a real estate site that uses Craigslist data to plot rental listings on a map.

Judge Breyer’s ruling on the CFAA is only a preliminary one, and part of a more complicated, ongoing case that also turns on copyright and antitrust laws. Here’s last week’s CFAA ruling:

Craigslist Ruling on CFAA



    


This Exists: Craigslist Ad Seeks Actors To Roleplay Zimmerman/Trayvon Fight At Birthday Party


This post is by Andrew Kirell from Mediaite


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Oh, Craigslist. You are so helpful for finding last-minute tickets, used vinyl records, and perfectly good furniture. You’re also good for reminding us that ridiculous people exist. In this case, specifically, people who enjoy watching actors role-play the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin altercation at a birthday party on Long Island.

“HI MY FRIENDS AND I ARE HAVING A PARTY THIS WEEKEND AND WE ARE LOOKING TO HIRE TWO ACTORS TO COME IN AND ROLE PLAY THE TREVYON MARTIN/GEORGE ZIMMERMAN ALTERCATION,” the spelling-error-laden advertisement reads screams in all-caps.

The ad doesn’t specify whether the actors should be lookalikes or just people of similar complexion, but, “ONE PERSON WOULD BE SMALLER AND THE OTHER A BIT BIGGER. ITS A JOKE AND WOULD ONLY GO FOR ABOUT 5 MINUTES. EMAIL ME IF YOU’RE INTERESTED AND I’LL GIVE YOU SOME MORE IDEAS.”

What kind of party is this?!?! Is it some kind of twisted sex/voyeur party? No, says the headline seeking actors for a “non-sexual” role. (Though, it does specify that this is for “comedy,” so ha?). So who’s it for?

THE PARTY ITSELF IS A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR A GROUP OF PEOPLE IN THEIR 30′S. EVERYONE IS COMPLETELY PROFESSIONAL. YOU CAN CHECK OUT MY FACEBOOK PAGE AND OTHERS IF YOU LIKE. ITS GOING TO BE IN THE BACKYARD OF A VERY NICE HOME IN ROCKVILLE CENTRE, LONG ISLAND. 35 MINUTES BY TRAIN FROM PENN STATION

Well, there you have it. A bunch of drunken, “completely professional” 30-somethings are looking to laugh at a five-minute-long re-enactment of a violent brawl that ended with a dead 17-year-old boy. Apply within.

Add this supremely bizarre Craigslist ad to the one we reported months ago about a Virginia couple seeking a Pat Robertson lookalike to stand over them and condemn them while having sex.

[h/t Jason Kirell]

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>> Follow Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) on Twitter

Jaron Lanier wants to build a new middle class on micropayments


This post is by Eric Allen Been from Nieman Journalism Lab


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jaron-lanier-cc

jaron-lanier-who-owns-the-future“We’re used to treating information as ‘free,’” writes Jaron Lanier in his latest book Who Owns the Future?, “but the price we pay for the illusion of ‘free’ is only workable so long as most of the overall economy isn’t about information.”

Lanier argues that a free-culture mindset is dismantling the middle-class economy. In his estimation, the idea “that mankind’s information should be free is idealistic, and understandably popular, but information wouldn’t need to be free it no one were impoverished.”

Who Owns the Future?, like his 2010 book You Are Not a Gadget, is another manifesto attempting to rebuff what he sees as the contemporary ethos of the web. But the followup also refreshingly attempts to pose solutions, one where all participants in this information-based world are paid for what they do and distribute on the web. Throughout, it places particular emphasis on the ways digital technology has unsettled the so-called “creative class” — journalists, musicians, photographers, and the like. As he sees it, the tribulations of those working in such fields may be a premonition for the middle class as a whole. It’s “urgent,” he writes, “to determine if the felling of creative-class careers was an anomaly or an early warning of what is to happen to immeasurably more middle-class jobs later in this century.”

I recently spoke with Lanier and we discussed the ways he sees digital networking disrupting the media, why he thinks advertising can no longer sustain paid journalism, and why he misses the future. Lightly edited and condensed, here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Eric Allen Been: You were one of the early advocates of the notion that “information wants to be free.” An idea most media companies initially embraced when it came to the web, and one that now some seem to regret. Could you talk a little bit about why you changed your mind on this line of thinking?

Jaron Lanier: Sure. It was based on empirical results. The idea sounded wonderful 30 years ago. It sounded wonderful in the way that perfect libertarianism or perfect socialism can. It sounds right, but with all these attempts to make a perfect system, it doesn’t work out so well. Empirically, what I’ve seen is the hollowing out of middle-class opportunities and that there is an absurdity to the way it’s going. I think we’re not getting the benefits that I initially anticipated.
Been: When it came to journalism, what were some of those benefits that you originally expected? I imagine you then thought it would be a largely positive thing.
Lanier: Yeah. To use the terminology of the time, we — that is, me and others who were behind a lot of the ideas behind the Web 2.0 ethos or whatever — wanted to “supplant” or “make obsolete” the existing channels of journalism and the existing types of jobs in journalism. But what would come instead would be better — more open and all of that — and less intermediated. What happened instead was a little bit of what we anticipated. In a sense, the vision came true. Yes, anybody can blog and all that — and I still like that stuff — but the bigger problem is that an incredible inequity developed where the people with big computers who were routing what journalists did were getting all the formal benefits. Mainly the money, the power. And the people who were doing the work were so often just getting informal benefits, like reputation and the ability to promote themselves. That isn’t enough. The thing that we missed was how much power would accrue to the people with the biggest computers. That was the thing we didn’t really think through.
Been: Historically, technological advances have caused disruptions to industries, but they’ve also tended to provide new jobs to replace the wiped-out ones. There seems to be some optimism in a lot of quarters that journalism can get eventually get on the right track, economically speaking, within the digital world. But you don’t think so.
Lanier: The system is slowly destroying itself. I’ll give you an example of how this might work out. Let’s suppose you say in the future, journalists will figure out how to attach themselves to advertising more directly so they’re not left out of the loop. Right now, a lot of journalism is aggregated in various services that create aggregate feeds of one kind or another and those things sell advertising for the final-stop aggregator. And the people doing the real work only get a pittance. A few journalists do well but it’s very few — it’s a winner-take-all world where only a minority does well. Yes, there are a few people, for instance, who have blogs with their own ads and that can bring in some money. You can say, “Well, isn’t that a good model and shouldn’t that be emulated”? The problem is that they’re dependent on the health of the ad servers that place ads. Very few people can handle that directly. And the problem with that is the whole business of using advertising to fund communication on the Internet is inherently self-destructive, because the only stuff that can be advertised on Google or Facebook is stuff that Google hasn’t already forced to be free.

As an example, you might have a company that makes toys and you advertise the toys on Google, and that might show up in journalism about toy safety or something. So journalists can eek some money from people who sell toys. That’s kind of like the traditional model of advertising-supported journalism.

But every type of business that might advertise on Google is gradually being automated and turning into more of an information business. In the case of toys, there’s a 3-D printer where people print out toys. At some point, that will become better and better and more common, and whenever that happens, what happened to music with Napster will happen to toys. It’ll be all about the files and the machines that actually print out the toys. If the files that print out the toys can be made free, the only big business will be the routing of those files, which might be Google or Facebook handling that, and there will be nobody left to advertise on Google.

That’ll happen with everything else — pharmaceuticals, transportation, natural resources — every single area will be subject to more and more automation, which doesn’t have to put people out of work. The only reason automation leads to unemployment is the idea of information being free. It’s a totally artificial problem, but if journalists are counting the Google model to live on, it won’t work. Google is undermining itself, and there will be no one left to buy advertisements.

Been: Speaking of advertising, I’m interested in hearing what you think about a lot of people currently lauding BuzzFeed and its use of native advertising. There’s a lot of talk about it solving “the problems of both journalism and advertising at once”, or it being some sort of guiding light for a “future of paid journalism.”
Lanier: Advertising, in whatever form, just can’t be the only possible business plan for information. It forces everybody to ultimately compete for the same small pool of advertisers. How much of the economy can advertising really be? It can’t be the whole market. Why on earth are Google and Facebook competing for the same customers when they actually do totally different things? It’s a peculiar problem. You’re saying that there’s only one business plan, one customer set, and everybody has to dive after that. It becomes a very narrow game — there’s not enough there for everybody. It could work out locally a little bit, but it’s not an overall solution.
Been: And your solution is what you call a “humanistic information economy.” Could you talk a little bit about how such a system would work?
Lanier: There are some theoretical reasons that lead me to believe that if you monetized a deeply connected open network, the distribution of benefits to people would look like a middle class. In other words, there would be a lot of wealth in a lot of people’s hands that could outspend any elite, which is critical for democracy and a market economy to survive. So one benefit is you could get a consistent middle class even when the economy gets really automated. It becomes a real information economy.

A humanistic economy would create a middle class in a new way, instead of through unions and other ad hoc mechanisms. It would create a middle class by compensating people for their value in terms of references to the network. It would create an expanding economy instead of a static one, which is also important. It’s built around the people instead of the machines. It would be a change in paradigm.

Been: In the book, you write: “If we demand that everyone turn into a freelancer, then we will all eventually pay an untenable price in heartbreak.” But a lot of what you’re proposing strikes me, in some senses, as a freelance economy.
Lanier: That’s right. What I’m proposing is actually a freelance economy, but it’s a freelance economy where freelancing earns you not just income but also wealth. That’s an important distinction to make. What I think should happen is as you start providing information to the network, it then will become a part of other services that grow over time.

So, for instance, let’s suppose you translate between languages, and some of your translations provide example phrase translations that are used in automatic translators. You would keep getting dribbles of royalties from having done that, and you start accumulating a lot of little ways that you’re getting royalties — not in the sense of contractual royalties, just little payments from people that are doing things that benefited from information you provided. If you look at people’s interest in social networking, you see a middle-class distribution of interest. A lot of people would get a lot of little dribs and drabs, and it would accumulate over a lifetime so you’d start to have more and more established information that had been referenced by you that people are using. What should happen is you should start accumulating wealth, some money that shows up because of your past as well as your present moment.

Been: So if I simply shared a link to a New York Times article on Twitter, for instance, would there be a payment exchange? If so, who would it go to?
Lanier: It would be person-to-person payments. Right now, we’re used to a system where you earn money in blocks, like a salary check, and you’re spending on little things like coffee of something. And in this system, you’d be earning lots of little micropayments all the time. But you would be spending less often. That terrifies people, but it’s a macroeconomic thing. I believe the economy would actually grow if information was monetized, and overall your chances will get a lot better than they are now.
Been: You say in the book that this person-to-person payment system is partly inspired by the early work of the sociologist and information technology pioneer, Ted Nelson. Particular, his thoughts about two-way linking over a network. Could you talk a little bit about why you think this is a better way to exchange information?
Lanier: The original concept of digital networking that predated the actual existence of digital networking is Ted Nelson’s work from the 1960s. It was different from the networks we know today in a few key ways. All the links were two-way, for one. You would always know who was linking at your website — there would always be backlinks. If you have universal backlinks, you have a basis for micropayments from somebody’s information that’s useful to somebody else. If the government camera on a corner catches you walking by, and it matches against you, you’d be owed some money because you contributed information. Every backlink would be monetized. Monetizing actually decentralizes power rather than centralizing it. Demonetizing a network actually concentrates power around anyone who has the biggest computer analyzing it.
Been: Let’s talk about that last point. This is an example of what you call in the book a “Siren Server.” That is, computers on a network that gather data without conceding that money is owed to those individuals mined for the information.
Lanier: That’s right. It’s my name for one of the biggest, best, most effective, connected computers on the network. A Siren Server is a big server farm — a remote unmarked building somewhere in the countryside near a river so it can get cooled. It has tons of computers that run as one. It gathers data from the world for free and does more processing of that data that normal computers can do. What it does with the processing is it calculates several moves that the owners can make that put them in an advantage based on a global perspective.

If you’re Amazon, it means you keep track of everybody else’s prices in the world, including little local independent stores, so you can never be outsold. If a store wants to give a book away, Amazon will also do that, so nobody gets a local advantage. If you’re Google, it gives advertisers a way to use a behavioral model of the world to predict which options in front of you are most likely to steer you. If you’re a finance company, it’s a way of bundling derivatives in such a way that somebody else is holding the risk. It’s almost a cryptographic effort. If you’re an insurance company, it’s a way of calculating how to divide populations so you insure the people who least need to be insured. In all these cases, a giant computer calculates an advantage for yourself and you get a global perspective that overwhelms the local advantage that participants in the market might have had before.

Been: In the book, you call Craigslist a Siren Server, one that “created a service that has greatly increased convenience for ordinary people, while causing a crisis in local journalism that once relied on paid classified adds.” You write that it “has a tragic quality, since it is as modest and ethical as it can be, eschewing available spying opportunities, and yet it still functions as a Siren Server despite that.” So a Siren Server, in your mind, isn’t necessarily always a malevolent construction.
Lanier: That’s true. I don’t think there’s much in the way of evil or competitive intent. It’s the power of having one of the biggest computers. When you suddenly get power by surprise, it’s a seduction. You don’t realize that other people are being hurt. But if it wasn’t Craigslist, it would have been something else. Some computer gets a global perspective on everything and the local advantage goes away. Craigslist calculated away the local advantage that newspapers used to have.
Been: So far, the reviews of Who Owns the Future? have been largely positive. But in The Washington Post, Evgeny Morozov criticized it by saying “Lanier’s proposal raises two questions that he never fully confronts.” One being whether a nanopayment system would actually help the middle class once automation hits its tipping point. He cites cab drivers being replaced by self-driving cars and says: “Unless cabdrivers have directly contributed to the making of maps used by self-driving cars, it’s hard to see how a royalty-like system can be justified.”
Lanier: This has to do with the value of information. In the book I ask this very question — in the future, in the case of self-driving cars, it’s certainly true that once you’ve been through the streets once, why do it again? The reason is that they’re changing. There might be potholes, or there might be changes to local traffic laws and traffic patterns. The world is dynamic. So over time, maps of streets that need cars to drive on them will need to be updated. The way self-driving cars work is big data. It’s not some brilliant artificial brain that knows how to drive a car. It’s that the streets are digitized in great detail.

So where does the data come from? To a degree, from automated cameras. But no matter where it comes from, at the bottom of the chain there will be someone operating it. It’s not really automated. Whoever that is — maybe somebody wearing Google Glass on their head that sees a new pothole, or somebody on their bike that sees it — only a few people will pick up that data. At that point, when the data becomes rarified, the value should go up. The updating of the input that is needed is more valuable, per bit, than we imagine it would be today. Cabbies themselves, that’s irrelevant. There won’t be cabbies. They’ll have to be doing other things.

Been: His other question is “how many [online] services would survive his proposed reforms?” Morozov brings up Wikipedia and says the “introduction of monetary incentives would probably affect authors’ motivation. Wikipedia the nonprofit attracts far more of them than would Wikipedia the startup.”
Lanier: But in what I’m proposing, Wikipedia would not pay you — it would be a person-to-person thing. I’m proposing that there’s no shop and people are paying each other when they create things like Wikipedia. Which is very different. If it’s going through a central hub, it creates a very narrow range of winners. If it’s not, it’s a whole different story.

The online services that would survive would be the ones that can add value to the data that people are providing anyway. Instagram could perhaps charge to do cool effects on your pictures, but the mere connections between you and other people would not be billable, it would just be normal. People would pay each other for that. The services would have to do more now than they are. A lot of services are just gatekeepers and would not survive and they shouldn’t. It would force people to up their game.

Been: Speaking of upping one’s game, you get a strong sense throughout the book that you think society is no longer future-minded. Towards the end, you write that you “miss the future.” What do you mean by that statement?
Lanier: It seems that there’s a loss of ambition or a lowering of standards for what we should expect from the future. We hyped up things like being able to network — and we understood it was a step on a path — but these days I call the open-source idea the MSG of journalism.

An example would be this: Take some story that would be totally boring, like garbage bags are being left on the street. But if you say, “open-source software is being used to track garbage bags on the street,” there’s something about it that it makes it seem interesting. And that makes it a low bar for what seems interesting. A very unambitious idea of what innovation can be.

Photo of Jaron Lanier by Dan Farber used under a Creative Commons license.

Craigslist’s hacking, copyright claims against rival PadMapper hold up — for now


This post is by Jeff John Roberts from paidContent


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A federal court has sided with Craigslist in the early stages of a bitter dispute over whether upstart data and apartment listing sites can draw on information posted by the classified giant to offer rival services.

In a ruling handed down Monday in San Francisco, US District Judge Charles Breyer refused the request of PadMapper, 3 Taps and other defendants to throw out a laundry list of claims by Craigslist, which is accusing the defendants of hacking, copyright infringement and more.

In the view of Craigslist, the newer companies are plundering data which it has collected and compiled at great effort. The defendants, meanwhile, say Craigslist is monopolizing data that belongs to users while offering an ugly, out-dated service. The lawsuit broke out last summer.

In a key part of Tuesday’s highly-technical decision, the judge examined whether Craigslist’s terms of service meant that users had given the site permission to use their ads as the basis for copyright lawsuits. The judge said Craigslist didn’t obtain such permission, except for a short period in the summer of 2012 when the site changed its terms of service — before backing down in the face of a popular backlash.

What this means is that Craigslist can rely on users’ ads to go forward with its copyright lawsuit, but only those ads written between July 16 and August 8, 2012. The judge also said said that Craigslist may have its own copyright over the way it has compiled the ads, though it will still have to prove that this compilation is an “original” artistic work.

The hacking portion of the decision, which is based on the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and a similar law in California, is also nuanced. The judge wrote that the companies’ attempts to access Craigslist data after receiving cease-and-desist letters might be “unauthorized access” under the laws, but implicitly suggested that the laws are out of date.

The judge also gave Craigslist a minor victory by agreeing to shelve counter-claims from Padmapper and 3Taps over the monopoly issue. The defendants won their own minor victory when the judge threw out Craigslist’s conspiracy claims.

So what does all this mean? Monday’s decision is very preliminary and was about what can stay in the case — the real action will start at the summary judgment stage, likely later this year, where each side can try to win on a matter of law.

In the bigger picture, the case is important because it is helping to set the rules over the degree to which companies can treat data controlled by other firms as a public good.

This is just a short summary of a complex decision. If you want to get further into the weeds, here is a marked-up copy of the ruling itself:


    


How the Boston Phoenix Kept Its Readers But Lost Its Advertisers


This post is by MediaShift from MediaShift


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For the Boston Phoenix, the decline lasted years -- but the end came swiftly.

Last Thursday afternoon a local journalist called to ask if I'd heard rumors that the 47-year-old alt-weekly was about to go under. I hadn't. Within an hour, Boston.com was reporting that the Phoenix would cease publication immediately. One more issue -- online only -- will be posted this week. After that, the Phoenix, my professional home for 14 years and an important part of my life since the 1970s, will go dark.

It was a shock, but it wasn't a surprise. Last fall, publisher and founder Stephen Mindich took an enormous gamble, converting the Phoenix into a glossy magazine in the hopes of attracting high-end advertisers that had traditionally disdained the scruffy newspaper.

The national advertising he had been counting on failed to materialize, though. In the last few months the publication was shedding pages and hemorrhaging money. Still, I'm told that the day before Mindich's announcement, staff members held a long meeting to plan future issues.

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Although the Phoenix now stands as an extreme example, its demise may presage the beginning of the end for the alternative press, a lumbering dinosaur in an era when -- as Reuters media critic Jack Shafer notes -- people looking to kill time are far more likely to pull out their smartphone than go looking for anything in print.

Still, it would be smug, facile and wrong to attribute the Phoenix's death to a slide into irrelevance. Its print circulation of more than 100,000 was roughly what it had always been. Its journalism, on subjects ranging from the media's complicity in climate change to Mitt Romney's binders-full-of-women deceit to a bizarre tale of strife and intrigue on the Breitbartian right, was as strong as ever. Rather, what did in the Phoenix was the decline of community. That is, of a certain kind of community -- local businesses -- that had supported it financially for many years, but that by the end had almost entirely ceased to exist.

Long Time Coming

The Phoenix and I go back a long way. In the early 1970s, as a high school student in a rural community an hour from Boston, I read the city's alt-weeklies eagerly, absorbing their left-leaning politics and discovering music ranging from Bruce Springsteen to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis and Carla Bley.

Yet it was many years before I asked the Phoenix for a job. After a decade in community journalism, I left to start a regional news-and-lifestyle magazine, a venture that ended the way such ventures usually do. At 34, expecting our first child, I was kicking around, doing layout and production for the local Catholic paper, when a copy editor's job at the Phoenix opened up. I took it, and started in early 1991. I stayed until 2005, spending most of those years as the paper's media columnist.

Some wonderful remembrances have been written by Phoenix alumni in the past week, including those by Susan Orlean of the New Yorker and Esquire's Charles Pierce in Grantland. The Phoenix's last editor, Carly Carioli, wrote a poignant sign-off, and Al Giordano has promised what's sure to be a must-read for his Mexico-based news site, the Narco News Bulletin.

Here's how I would put it: I was at the Phoenix for its last great flowering. With the 1960s and '70s a fading memory, editor Peter Kadzis reimagined the alt-weekly as a hipper version of a city magazine. Politics and music remained staples, but so did a more encompassing vision of Boston aimed at readers for whom Woodstock and Vietnam were barely a rumor.

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In 1994 Lloyd Schwartz won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his classical-music coverage. In 2001 Kristen Lombardi wrote a series of reports on the Catholic Church's pedophile-priest scandal, months before the Boston Globe began publishing its Pulitzer-winning work. And though no one was overpaid, money was no object if the story was deemed worth doing. Ellen Barry, who now covers Russia for the New York Times, was dispatched to Moscow for Boris Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign. I covered three national political conventions, not counting the one in Boston in 2004. In 2000, I got a chance to chase the media horde pursuing John McCain and George W. Bush across South Carolina.

Those glory days would soon end.

In 2002 I took a year's leave to write a book. When I came back, shrinkage had set in. By the time I left for good, it was clear that the flush times were over. What no one could imagine was that, in less than a decade, the Phoenix would be gone altogether.

From Green to Red

So what happened? Some of it is pretty obvious. About a dozen years ago the Phoenix switched from paid to free distribution, which might have made sense at the time but which proved disastrous given the advertising collapse that was to come.

Craigslist, of course, had a devastating effect on a paper that depended on pages and pages of classified ads -- college students looking for roommates, bands looking for musicians and, yes, people from all walks of life looking for sex. National advertising from cigarette companies and record labels dried up.

But beyond those factors, the community that sustained the Phoenix has passed from the scene. At one time the Boston area was awash in concert venues, record stores, guitar emporiums, independent book stores, head shops -- the kinds of businesses that reached their customers by advertising in alternative weeklies. Now they are almost entirely gone. There was very little to offset the costs of producing a free magazine and a free website. It's no wonder that Mindich personally had to subsidize the Phoenix to the tune of $30,000 a week, according to a report in Boston magazine.

On the surface, it might seem odd that Mindich will continue to publish the Portland (Maine) Phoenix and the Providence Phoenix, much thinner alt-weeklies that are still printed on newspaper stock. Yet many smaller cities have maintained the sort of community that can sustain such papers. Indeed, Tiffany Shackelford, the executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, told the website NetNewsCheck that the relative health of the Portland and Providence papers reflects broader trends.

"We're seeing that alt-weeklies are still really thriving in small to medium markets where they're an important voice for their community," she said. "In larger markets, there's more competition for advertising."

With the Internet taking away the Phoenix's classified-ad revenue and with the passing of its traditional base of display advertising, Mindich really had no choice other than to try something completely different.

It failed, but it was a noble failure. Sadly, some 50 people are losing their jobs. I've lost a touchstone that had been an important part of my life for the past 40 years. And Boston has lost an intelligent, vital, irreplaceable voice.

Dan Kennedy is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston and a panelist on "Beat the Press" a weekly media program on WGBH-TV. His blog, Media Nation, is online at www.dankennedy.net. His book on the New Haven Independent and other community news sites, The Wired City, will be published by University of Massachusetts Press in May 2013.

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Craigslist still has no official app, but here’s a pretty good substitute


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from paidContent


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The headline and text of this story have been updated to remove misleading references to Mokriya’s work with Path. A Mokriya representative initially claimed the company was the “mobile development studio behind blockbuster apps like Path” but in truth only consulted with Path on a BlackBerry app that was never released, both it and Path have confirmed.

Craigslist gets over 50 billion page views and over 60 million U.S. visitors every month — yet the classified site’s design and mobile strategy appear stuck in the year 2000 (when it first expanded beyond San Francisco). Craigslist offers a barebones mobile view, and it’s recently rolled out some mobile-friendly features like a map view and an image-heavy grid view. But it’s never released its own smartphone or tablet app, and its API is closed.

Mokriya craigslist app 2Plenty of companies have stepped in to try to fill the void, and the most recent of those is Mokriya, a consulting company that has worked on apps for companies like Hipster.

Mokriya’s new Craigslist app for iPhone and Android, which launches Wednesday morning, and is called Mokriya Craigslist, joins third-party Craigslist apps like Craigslist Mobile and c•Mobile. What sets Mokriya Craigslist apart, the company says, is its easily navigable “two-tap” interface and the fact that it’s officially licensing data from Craigslist. The basic version is free; a premium version that allows posting and other features is $0.99.

When you launch the Mokriya Craigslist app, you choose category and city. Listings are then presented in an image-heavy interface. “Browsing Craigslist should be as pleasurable as using Pinterest,” Mokriya founder Sunil Kanderi told me.

Mokriya Craigslist app 1To choose a new category, post a listing of your own or ‘favorite’ a listing; all you have to do is tap at the top of the screen. “We built this to solve the problem of having to browse through multiple categories,” Kanderi said. Users can also create alerts so that they’re notified when, say, an apartment that fits their criteria is listed. And the app can use GPS to identify listings near a user’s location. Posting is also streamlined: A user writes a headline and description, chooses photos from his or her camera roll, adds price and category, and that’s it. Browsing listings is free, but to post listings, ‘favorite’ listings or set alerts, you’ll have to pay $0.99 for a premium version. I found a test version of the app smooth and nice to use — which sets it apart from some other unofficial Craigslist apps I’ve tried.

Mokriya officially licensed data from Craigslist prior to building its app. That should help it avoid legal hurdles: In the past, apps that have used Craigslist data without permission have gotten in trouble. This past summer, for example, Craigslist sued apartment search app PadMapper for using its data without a license. Craigslist didn’t answer my question about how many apps it’s licensed its data to (in fact, it didn’t respond to any of my questions for this story), but I imagine that many third-party apps besides Mokriya do have licenses or they’d have gotten cease-and-desist letters by now. (c•Mobile, for instance, notes on its iTunes page that it’s officially licensed.)

Craigslist is also making a little money off Mokriya’s app: “As part of the licensing agreement, Craigslist does get a small revenue cut,” Kanderi told me. “But mostly the licensing agreement ensures that we are in compliance with Craigslist’s terms of use.”