“Real News” Surrenders: CNN Fact-Checks SNL – UPDATE


There has been a battle brewing for years between the “real news” and the fake news, with poll after poll showing that more and more Americans get their news from comedy shows like “The Daily Show.” Who can forget Jon Stewart’s throwdown with the hosts of “Crossfire?“  More recently, Stewart got into a fact-fight with Bill O’Reilly (and won), and became a hero-of-the-moment to the right for pointing out the mainstream media’s abdication on the ACORN story.

Now, it seems the “real news” is acknowledging the fake news as its equal, as CNN runs a  “fact check” segment dissecting a Saturday Night Live sketch: (h/t Hot Air)

While there is certainly value in fact-checking a comedy skit that is widely replayed on all of the other news networks, this is usually the purview of the more partisan blogosphere, and of filmmakers like Sarah Palin booster John Ziegler.  A fine example of this comes at about the 2:30 mark in this clip, where CNN references Tina Fey’s “dead-on” impersonation of Palin, without ever mentioning its factual verisimilitude.

As a matter of fact, Saturday Night Live clips featured heavily in the 2008 Presidential campaign, but usually, the discussion centered around the larger points raised by the sketches, not a fact-by-fact analysis.  One cable network even played a snippet of a sketch alongside a snippet of an actual Palin interview to show how they matched exactly.  In this case, there was no attempt to clarify or provide context, but simply to laugh.  Can you guess which network it was?

This is basically the other side of the coin, as they give the impression that the entire sketch used Palin’s actual interview as its script.  They could have clued viewers in that the rest of the sketch did not match the interview verbatim.

By framing the segment as a fact check, CNN is providing conservatives with confirmation that the mainstream media is “in the tank” for Obama, despite evidence to the contrary.  They could have accomplished the same thing by deconstructing the clip as part of a broader examination of the way comedy fiction becomes popular fact.

Perhaps CNN isn’t being inconsistent, but rather instituting a new policy.  If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see their first fact-check of “Family Guy.”

– Via email John Ziegler offered the following comment:

“This CNN “bit” is far more hilarious than the SNL skit. The funniest part (other than them doing the piece to begin with) is that CNN claims that parts of the SNL sketch couldn’t be further from the truth and yet I can’t find one thing that they cam close to proving was totally untrue. I am still waiting for CNN to “fact check” Tina Fey implying Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her “house,” which 87% of Obama voters and many members of the news media (including Barbara Walters) wrongly believed she did. This is simply Media Malpractice in the extreme. I wish I could say I am surprised, but I am not.”

Report: Leaked Emails Zing YouTube in Viacom Copyright Suit

skateboarding-dogViacom has been rummaging through Google and YouTube’s records for more than a year as part of its $1 billion copyright lawsuit. Did it get what it was looking for?

Maybe, says CNET’s Greg Sandoval. He reports that Viacom’s attorneys have unearthed emails that indicate that YouTube employees uploaded copyrighted material to the site, and that “managers” knew there was copyrighted stuff on the site but didn’t do anything about it.

Those allegations happen to be key parts of Viacom’s (VIA) suit against Google (GOOG) and YouTube, and a good part of what it has been looking for in the discovery/deposition process that has stretched on for more than a year and is slated to extend through the end of 2009. Viacom has argued that senior YouTube employees, including cofounders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, knew full well that their site was full of copyrighted material, and not only didn’t try to prevent it, but at some point encouraged it as well.

So what exactly do the emails say? I don’t know. Sandoval is summarizing the documents, not reproducing them. And if I’m reading his story correctly, he may not have seen them either, but may be relying on someone else’s description of them. (That said, in a separate story, Sandoval does reproduce parts of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s deposition from the same case.)

Here’s his description:

Lawyers working on a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google’s YouTube may have uncovered evidence that employees of the video site were among those who uploaded unauthorized content to YouTube.

In addition, internal YouTube e-mails indicate that YouTube managers knew and discussed the existence of unauthorized content on the site with employees but chose not to remove the material, three sources with knowledge of the case told CNET.

The e-mails, according to the sources who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing litigation, surfaced during an exchange of information between the two sides of the legal dispute.

I’ve asked  Sandoval for more information about the emails he’s referring to, but I don’t expect him to say much; anyone who released documents from discovery would be violating a court order. Viacom had no comment. Here’s YouTube’s comment, via CNET: “The characterizations of the supposed evidence, made in violation of a court order, are wrong, misleading, or lack important context and notably come on the heels of a series of significant setbacks for the plaintiffs. The evidence will show that we go above and beyond our legal obligations to protect the rights of content owners.”

YouTube Yawns at Letterman’s Extortion Story

In certain circles, David Letterman’s extortion/adultery story is huge news. On YouTube? It’s a yawn.

Don’t get me wrong: Google’s (GOOG) video site still appears to be the only place to see Letterman’s jaw-dropping admission that he has had affairs with staffers on his show, and that a CBS (CBS) employee attempted to extort him with that information.

Those clips aren’t supposed to be there, and CBS and YouTube keep taking them down, but people keep uploading them. Here’s one that appears to come from a Portugese user, for instance.

But I had a hunch that the story, which involves a man who has been on late night TV longer than many YouTube users have been alive, might not resonate with the site’s core demo. And video tracking service TubeMogul’s data makes me think that’s the case. Here’s the report I got from TubeMogul marketing director David Burch:

Pirated versions only racked up 130,624 views throughout the day, mostly because CBS didn’t post an official version of the clip and was issuing take-down orders (they had already removed five versions of the clip by the time we ran our first report this morning). By way of comparison, pirated clips of the UFC Kimbo Slice fight totaled 1,074,531 views in the past 24 hours.

Oddly, CBS News’ channel released four news videos about the story today, but youtube.com/cbs only had Letterman’s Madonna interview rather than the clip everyone actually wanted to see.

Never heard of Kimbo Slice before? Like Fred, he’s yet another YouTube sensation, albeit one that’s graduated to TV.

Wall Street to Comcast: No NBC For Us, Thank You Very Much

Maybe this is why Comcast (CMCSA) rushed to knock down a story that said it bought NBC Universal from GE (GE): It knew Wall Street would hate the idea.

As it is, now that investors and analysts have heard the more plausible deal — instead of buying NBC U for $35 billion, the cable giant kicks in up to $6 billion in cash, plus its cable networks, and gets 51% of NBC U — they’ve decided they hate that one, too.

Here’s the story in the graphic form (click chart to enlarge):

cmcsa ticker

The Comcast-NBC U story broke after the market closed on Wednesday, in case that wasn’t clear. As I’m typing this CMCSA is trading around $15.6 a share – down some 7% since the talks became public.

Pull back a bit and you see that things could be much worse — as recently as March, CMCSA was down below $12, and there wasn’t any multi-billion dollar deal weighing down the shares then.

If anything, investors are much more forgiving to Comcast here than the professional chattering class of writers and analysts, who hate the deal. The conventional wisdom: Comcast’s dream of marrying cable programming with its cable service is misguided, because media conglomerates like Time Warner (TWX) and News Corp (NWS) have already tried it, and concluded that it didn’t work. If the Roberts family spends money on anything, they argue, it ought to be on shareholders, either via dividends or by buying back shares.

Here’s a sampling of today’s sentiments:

Pali Capital’s Rich Greenfield:

“Comcast is trying to become a massive player in content.. a move that investors should be frightened about, regardless of the initial ”math” surrounding the transaction.”

Barclays Capital Vijay Jayant:

Press reports of this potential transaction give credence to investor concerns that management has empire-building aspirations in general or that they may not believe enough in their own distribution business over the long term and therefore need to diversify their portfolio holdings…fundamentally, we believe that Comcast shareholders would be better served if the company were to invest in its own shares.

So if this is a trial balloon, you wouldn’t say it’s been completely shot down. But it’s certainly sagging.

Now on YouTube: David Letterman’s Amazing Extortion Video

This is the way the Internet is supposed to work: Something amazing happens on TV on Thursday night, and everyone talks about it, and watches it, on the Web on Friday.

Today’s example: David Letterman’s startling admission, broadcast on his CBS show last night, that a network employee had tried to extort him, using evidence that Letterman had sex with women who worked on his show.

That’s something you’re going to want to watch, right? And sure enough, the world’s largest video site obliges. Google’s YouTube (GOOG) is packed with clips of Letterman’s statement, which runs about 10 minutes.

None of them are supposed to be there, of course. And since CBS (CBS)  has a partnership with YouTube (that it doesn’t like to talk about but which is apparently a success for the network), YouTube will be playing whack-a-mole with uploaders for the rest of the day. They’ll throw the clips up, and the site, using its Content ID program, will hunt for them and take them down.

At some point it’s possible that CBS itself will put up an authorized clip on YouTube. But given that it hasn’t done so on its own Late Show site already, and that the network tends to be reluctant to put its best stuff on the Web under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Anyway, here’s one of the many clips, which tend to feature crummy video but acceptable audio. If it goes away, you’ll be able to find more here.

It will be interesting to see how this plays on the site. My hunch: Given that Letterman is 63 years old, and that the clip only involves him talking about the extortion attempt (as opposed to, say, jumping up on stage in the middle of an awards show) this may not be one of YouTube’s biggest hits. But we’ll see.

Hollywood’s How-to Guide to Web Piracy

This one circulated around the Web earlier this month, but I didn’t see it until Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield included it in a note yesterday: A 10-minute presentation, delivered by Paramount COO Frederick D. Huntsberry, that gives a through, if rudimentary, tutorial on how steal the movies his company makes.

As the intro to the video notes, Huntsberry was delivering his  chat at Federal Communications Commission hearing earlier this month. And as best I can tell, he was trying to alarm the FCC by pointing out just how easy it is to grab this stuff.

Along the way, he notes how many “legitimate” companies participate, in their own way, in the piracy value chain. Everyone from small storage startup Drop.io, which allows users to host big data files for little or no charge, to Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO), which can point people toward pirate havens gets tarred with his brush.

Not surprisingly, the video inspired all manner of invective from my fellow bloggers, who railed about Huntsberry’s lack of sophistication, his temerity in asking the FCC for help in stopping piracy, and other offenses real and imagined.

I find it hard to get worked up about it, though, since I hear this stuff from media executives all the time. The big difference, though, is that the ones who are most impassioned about it usually don’t want the FCC to stop piracy. They want the industry to offer compelling alternatives to piracy.

For instance, here’s a site someone who works for a very big media company points me to with some regularity. Said executive says it’s the latest and greatest in piracy. I wouldn’t know, because the download scares me off (and in case my employer is wondering – I don’t condone piracy, but I do write about it). But I’ll take said executive’s word for it.

In any case, the idea is not to tip me off about a great place to hoover up a camcorded version of “Pandorum”, but to point out how fast this stuff evolves, and how difficult it is stop. I don’t see any harm in noting that, right?

AOL’s Google Reunion Grows Yet Again: Former YouTube Ad Guy Shashi Seth Joins Up

sethOf course, Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL has hired yet another Google (GOOG) veteran. That’s what the company does under the Tim Armstrong regime.

Today’s example: Shashi Seth, the one-time “monetization” boss at YouTube, who was most recently running sales at Cooliris, the video Web wall start-up. His new job: Senior vice president of global advertising products, reporting to Armstrong’s lieutenant (and Google vet, natch), Jeff Levick.

I thought Seth’s job title sounded a whole lot like that of Senior Vice President of Global Sales Development Erin Clift, whom AOL brought out to meet with reporters last week. But AOL folks tell me Clift is still there and has a much different role: She’s the “agency and market guru” and he’s a product guy.

Seth will be working out of AOL’s Silicon Valley outpost with new hire Brad Garlinghouse, who comes to AOL not from Google but via Yahoo (YHOO).

Here’s the release.

NEW YORK, NY – September 29, 2009 – AOL announced that Shashi Seth has joined the company as Senior Vice President of Global Advertising Products, responsible for building and scaling AOL’s advertising platform and developing industry-leading products. Seth comes to AOL from Cooliris, where he served as Chief Revenue Officer. Prior to that he was with Google, where he served most recently as head of monetization for YouTube.

“Shashi is unmatched in the industry as an innovator with an outstanding track record of developing new and better ways to serve advertisers on the Web,” said Jeff Levick, President of Global Advertising and Strategy at AOL. “As we move forward on our strategy of becoming the world’s largest provider of display advertising, Shashi will play a critical role in creating the best products in the business for our advertising partners.”

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to come to AOL as it moves toward becoming an independent company,” said Seth. “The company already has an incredible combination of scale and a suite of great advertising products and technology, and I’m looking forward to working with AOL’s talented team to build on this strong foundation.”

Seth will report directly to Levick from AOL’s expanding Mountain View offices, joining Brad Garlinghouse, who was recently appointed to lead AOL’s Communications efforts and lead the company’s West Coast AOL Ventures efforts.

Prior to coming to AOL, Seth was with Cooliris, where he was responsible for revenue generation and business development. At Google, Seth was responsible for building advertising products, exploring all monetization opportunities, and defining business models for YouTube. Before that, Seth was the Product Lead for Web Search at Google. Prior to Google, Seth was with eBay, where he was responsible for building and managing eBay’s successful APIs & Platform. He has also worked for the Gap, where he launched their online stores, and co-founded two startups. Seth started his career at NASA Langley Research Center, where he built flight simulators and avionics equipment. Seth holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Kanpur, India, a Masters in Computer Applications from the University of Pune, India, and a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Miami.