Congress Weighs Landmark Change In Web Ad Privacy

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WASHINGTON — The Web sites we visit, the online links we click, the search queries we conduct, the products we put in virtual shopping carts, the personal details we reveal on social networking pages – all of this can give companies insight into what Internet ads we might be interested in seeing.

But privacy watchdogs warn that too many people have no idea that Internet marketers are tracking their online habits and then mining that data to serve up targeted pitches – a practice known as behavioral advertising.

So Congress could be stepping in. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, is drafting a bill that would impose broad new rules on Web sites and advertisers. His goal: to ensure that consumers know what information is being collected about them on the Web and how it is being used, and to give them control over that information.

While Congress has waded into Internet privacy issues before, this measure could break new ground, as the first major attempt to regulate a nascent but fast-growing industry that represents the future of advertising. Boucher insists his bill will benefit consumers and preserve the underlying economics of the Internet, which relies on advertising to keep so much online content free.

"Our goal is not to hinder online advertising," he said. "This will make people more likely to trust electronic commerce and the Internet."

Although his proposal is still taking shape, Boucher is confident lawmakers will pass an online marketing privacy law of some sort. He is working with Cliff Stearns of Florida, the top Republican on the Internet subcommittee, as well as Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who chairs a separate subcommittee on consumer protection.

Already, Washington's interest in Internet marketing has put online advertisers on notice. In July, the industry released a set of self-regulatory principles in an effort to head off concerns in Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC put out Internet ad guidelines early this year.

Boucher's efforts have encouraged privacy activists, who point out that Internet surveillance has evolved beyond just data-tracking files, known as cookies, that Web sites place on visitors' computers. Technologies such as "deep packet inspection" can now monitor a user's every online move.

"Consumers have no idea that they are being followed online and that their information is being compiled into invisible digital dossiers," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, one of 10 privacy groups that recently issued recommendations for lawmakers. "There is an incredibly sophisticated, ever-advancing system for profiling online users."

Chester believes several developments have put the issue on Washington's radar. Those include the rise of social networking sites that capture detailed personal information, like Facebook and MySpace; Google Inc.'s acquisition of the Internet ad service DoubleClick Inc.; and the proposed Internet search partnership between Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., now under review by the Justice Department.

"Online privacy has finally taken off and become a serious political issue," Chester said. "A perfect digital storm has created momentum toward action."

The challenge facing Washington, said Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, is to strike the right balance between "protecting the fundamental rights of consumers" and preserving "business equilibrium."

Boucher's bill will seek a middle ground in a long-running debate over what the default assumptions should be when companies monitor consumers' online interests.

On one side, privacy watchdogs say Web sites should be required to obtain user permission – that is, people would "opt in" – before collecting most data.

On the other side, Web sites and advertisers insist such a mandate would overwhelm consumers with privacy notices. The companies argue that it is more practical to simply allow people who do not want to be tracked to "opt out" of data collection.

Boucher expects to set different rules for different types of sites. Sites that collect visitor information in order to target advertising on their own pages, for instance, would have to offer consumers a chance to opt out of having their interests tracked. These sites would also be required to prominently disclose what information they collect and provide a detailed description of how that information is used.

Web sites that deal with sensitive personal information, such as medical and financial data, sexual orientation, Social Security numbers and other ID numbers, would have to ask users to opt in to being tracked.

Boucher's bill would not be the first significant online privacy law. In 1986, Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which placed privacy obligations on companies and organizations that offer e-mail services. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 requires commercial Web sites targeted at children under age 13 to obtain parental consent before collecting personally identifiable information.

But the current bill would mark the first significant attempt by Congress to regulate Internet advertising. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said there had been little need for Congress to impose privacy protections on advertisers offline, since traditional media such as TV, radio and newspapers don't enable marketers to profile individual consumers as easily as the Internet does.

Now, Rotenberg said, "privacy laws should be updated to reflect new business practices."

It's too soon to know whether Boucher's final bill will go far enough to satisfy privacy activists. But they agree that a law would do much more than the self-regulatory principles released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and three other advertising trade groups in July.

Among other things, those principles call for consumer education efforts and disclosure of behavioral advertising practices.

ANA Executive Vice President Dan Jaffe said self regulation is the best approach for managing an industry evolving as quickly as online advertising.

"Legislation would be too rigid because this is a moving target," Jaffe said.

Mike Zaneis, IAB's vice president of public policy, added that self regulation is effective since it is in advertisers' interest to make sure consumers trust them.

"At the end of the day, the most important asset any online company has is a strong relationship with the consumer," he said.

Yet that's also why Chester insists that tougher rules from Congress would not cripple online advertising. Consumers might be more likely to favor Web sites that allow them to see and influence their personal data.

"It's about treating consumers with respect," said Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. "Companies keep saying they want to engage users. That means opening up and not sneaking behind someone's back to draw up pictures of them. We need information reciprocity."

Turow added that while he supports opt-in mandates as "the ultimate form of respect," the debate over opt-in versus opt-out rules won't matter "when people really have an opportunity to interact with their data."

For now, privacy activists are pinning their hopes on lawmakers. Evan Hendricks, editor of the Privacy Times newsletter, believes Boucher's bill will find bipartisan support in Congress.

"This stands a very realistic chance of passage," he said. "Privacy is the kind of issue you can't be against."

David Letterman “The Last Grown-Up On Network TV…The National Daddy”: NYMag

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In a decade that has seen Tom Brokaw retire and Peter Jennings die, that has seen Carson fade from modern memory, David Letterman might be the last grown-up on network television.

The bad boy of Ball State, Huck Finn grown and weathered, David Letterman has become the national Daddy. He is the ideal dad for the age--not a particularly pristine dad, or full of Cronkitean certitude, but confused and serious and full of conflict, anger, and ambiguity.

Leno: “10:00 Feels Like The New 11:30”

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"I've got a new attitude and new energy," says Leno, stopping to greet producers and set-builders alike as they scurry about the cavernous 400-seat studio, just a few hundred yards from Leno's former Tonight Show haunts on the NBC lot. ...

"Maybe it's just me, but 10 o'clock feels like the new 11:30," says Leno. "People have kids and jobs; they just don't stay up. For them, we've got some of our Tonight stuff, plus a whole lot more."

Book Invites Readers To Add Footnotes

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Now, in an experiment developed by SharedBook, a company that designs customized books and allows readers to annotate documents online, the publisher of "Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children," a book about parenting by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman that went on sale last week, is inviting readers to make notes on three chapters of the book.

Stars & Stripes Editor: Paper Used To Be “Tame,” “Boring,” But Now We’re Becoming “Aggressive” With Pentagon

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For many years, this has been a pretty tame newspaper and, frankly, pretty boring. There is a tradition here of people pulling their punches when it comes to covering the Pentagon. My boss, Terry Leonard, a veteran AP reporter, got a mandate to make this a more aggressive, serious newspaper. That's my mission. The best way to do that is to give men and women of America who are risking their lives overseas for us, all the news, good or bad, and not spare them from stories about problems in the military.... It's all about making this newspaper aggressive. We won't be ignored anymore.

Vampires? So 2009. What’s Next? BRAIIINNS!

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twilight edward & bella PAS0053Vampires are having a moment. True Blood is a much-needed hit for HBO, with its latest episodes passing the 5-million viewers mark; Twilight is already churning out the third movie of its franchise, Eclipse, with newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard upping the star power of the cast. Kevin Williamson’s Vampire Diaries looks like Dawson’s Creek with coffins; there’s even a tongue-in-cheek how-to book, How To Catch & Keep A Vampire, coming out. Even erstwhile media mess Lindsay Lohan is joining in the fun, baring fangs (and desperation) on Twitpic. Will the fascination ever cease?

It’s not hard to figure out the motivation behind the vampire zeitgeist — with Barack Obama in office and a times-are-a-changin’ vibe as the aughts draw to a close, bloodsuckers represent the Other in a swiftly changing planet. True Blood’s vamps are Alan Ball’s thinly-veiled metaphor for gay rights. (A “God Hates Fangs” church sign drives the point in with a stake in the opener.) Twilight’s Edward Cullen is a hero to abstinent teens (and their moms), making scary-sexy palatable for the Rick Warren set. The soon-to-be-developed Anita Blake series casts vampires as misunderstood outcasts fighting for “Preternatural Rights” – a continuation of Laurell K. Hamilton’s bestselling novels (IFC will premiere the show this fall.) To sum it up, vamps are outsiders – and America has a lot of outsiders these days.

But with Halloween around the corner and tween’s fake fangs starting to look a little forced, what spooky creature will next inhabit the popular imagination?

I’ve got a theory, summed up in one word: BRAAAAAIIIINNNS!

Zombies have returned to the popular imagination for a while now, with Simon Pegg’s breakout Shaun of the Dead reuniting the brain-eating genre. Next up is Woody Harrelson’ s Zombieland, which has “cult sleeper/teenage boy-fest” written all over it.

But that’s not all: days after the Zombieland premiere, Random House is backing The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, a graphic novel/zombie primer by Max Brooks (itself a sequel to his original 2003 guide) that will prepare us all from the brain fetishists.

Zombies are also infiltrating YA lit, a sure sign of future teen movie supremacy. There’s Generation Dead: Kiss of Life, about a high school girl named Phoebe dating a zombie version of Edward Cullen, and You Are So Undead to Me about a cheerleader who finds out she’s a beacon for the “living-impaired.” There’s even an early 2009 offering, Zombie Queen of Newbury High, about Bitches, which is hilariously pitched as “Werewolf ‘Sex & The City.”) Or will ABC’s lizard-people remake, V, be the supernatural dark horse, putting aliens back in the popular psyche?

I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure: in a recession-addled media culture, the escapism of the fantastic isn’t going away any time soon. Shooting zombies is way more fun than covering the latest foreclosure story.

Jessica Gold Haralson is a writer and a gamer who writes about various topics, including entertainment, pop culture, and new media. She probably spends more time than is necessary playing World of Warcraft. You can see more of her writing on her Tumblr here.

Oil Storyline Continues In Lockerbie Bomber Release Coverage

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lockerbie_9-8The release of the Lockerbie bomber continues to provide new storylines, as details unravel about potential oil-related motives.

Although the news has not gotten nearly as much coverage here in the United States as it is has in the U.K., as more comes out the story is likely to gain more traction within the U.S.

The New York Times reports today BP (British Petroleum) is preparing to drill its first well off the coast of Libya in more than 30 years. The short article doesn’t get into the reason why BP is suddenly allowed to drill there, but it does mention “the deal has raised political questions after the Scottish government’s Aug. 20 decision to free on compassionate grounds” Ali al-Megrahi.

Furthering this storyline is a Wall St. Journal article about the brother of the judge who released al-Megrahi. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s brother, Allan, has “worked for several companies that sought oil business in Libya.” This all may be coincidence, as Allan maintains, but it still raises doubts about the motive behind the abrupt release of this convicted terrorist.

There are still questions about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s involvement in the decision, which he continues to deny. But if more information emerges about Brown potentially being linked to some deal securing al-Megrahi’s release, it will only raise the stakes, and the coverage.

On cable news in the United States, the story has gotten some, but not much, coverage. From Friday-Monday, the story was mentioned 34 times on Fox News, 9 on CNN and 6 on MSNBC (according to TV Eyes). FNC has clearly covered the story the most, but expect even more as further details emerge. This is an international story, but has strong implications here in the U.S. Because 189 of the 270 victims were Americans, and many college students, the release brought a strong reaction at the time. But if the deal to release this terrorist was tied to an oil deal in any way, the media in America is likely to increase coverage, as outrage reaches a higher level than before.

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Booker Shortlist 2009: Byatt, Coetzee Are Back

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LONDON — Previous winners A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee were among six finalists announced Tuesday for literature's prestigious Man Booker Prize.

Byatt's Edwardian family saga "The Children's Book" and Coetzee's autobiographical "Summertime" are leading contenders for the 50,000-pound ($82,000) fiction award.

A victory for South Africa's Coetzee would make him the first writer to win the Booker three times. He took the prize in 1983 with "Life & Times of Michael K" and in 1999 with "Disgrace."

Byatt won the Booker in 1990 for "Possession."

They face strong competition. Bookmakers have reported a surge of bets on Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall," a historical novel set during the reign of Henry VIII.

The other contenders are Adam Foulds' "The Quickening Maze," inspired by 19th-century poet John Clare; Simon Mawer's "The Glass Room," the story of a Jewish family set against the backdrop of the rise of Nazism; and Sarah Waters' "The Little Stranger," a spooky tale that unfolds in 1940s' England.

The Booker is open to writers from Britain, Ireland or the Commonwealth of former British colonies. Apart from Coetzee, all this year's finalists are British.

Journalist James Naughtie, who is chairing the judging panel, said they were all "writers on the top of their form."

"There is thundering narrative, great inventiveness, poetry and sharp human insight in abundance," he said.

The Booker almost always brings a big surge in sales for the winner – and a welcome boost for book stores.

Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles' bookstore chain welcomed a shortlist he said had strong commercial potential.

"It's noticeable that this year the majority of writers in contention all have a few books to their names already, which perhaps underlines the fact that most outstanding authors are like vintage wines, developing a fuller, richer appeal as their careers progress," Ruppin said.

"For bookshops, winners with a few books under their belt already tend to be better for sales: this gets people buying more books by that author and, we hope, encourages them to start exploring beyond the best-sellers at the front of the shop."

The winner will be announced Oct. 6.

The award was founded in 1969 and was long known as the Booker Prize. It was renamed the Man Booker Prize when the financial services conglomerate Man Group PLC began sponsoring it several years ago.


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Looming Duopoly? WSJ and NYT Train Sites on Bay Area Market

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San FranciscoIn hopes to win new readers and advertisers and start a new regional market by offering more local news, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are planning San Francisco Bay Area editions. The NY Times reports that the new strategy could be the first glimpse at a new strategy by national newspapers to capitalize on the contraction of regional papers.

Given that local newspapers are bleeding red ink and fighting for survival, the market appears to be a prime target for national outlets. The NY Times reports:

Over the last few years, newspapers around the country, bleeding circulation and advertising, have sharply reduced their news staffs and the amount of original content they offer, typically cutting back on national, foreign, business and arts news while trying to preserve local coverage. That may create an opening for national papers to exploit, with a marketing campaign to attract new subscribers for a regional edition, and regional advertisers who would not be interested in a nationwide buy.

Both The Journal and The Times seem to be betting that the Bay Area is the place to try first. Its biggest newspapers, The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Jose Mercury News, have suffered through some of the sharpest downsizing in the industry, and a very high percentage of the region’s residents moved from elsewhere, which usually means less attachment to the local paper.

Joy Behar: I’ll Take Palin’s “Maid…Or Her Babysitter” On New HLN Show

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NEW YORK — Joy Behar of "The View" should feel comfortable when her prime-time HLN talk show debuts on Sept. 29. The network formerly known as CNN Headline News is making headway with women, even if that wasn't necessarily the game plan.

Behar, at 9 p.m. ET on weeknights, will follow hour-long shows by Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace (a Grace rerun airs at 10).

The estrogen-heavy lineup, big on issues like abduction and addiction, airs to an audience that is nearly two-thirds women, according to Nielsen Media Research. It's not like men are unwelcome, but when a rerun of Lou Dobbs' CNN show fell flat in Behar's soon-to-be time slot, HLN yanked him this summer for Velez-Mitchell.

"You're aware of it because anyone can see it in the numbers, but it's sort of a happy coincidence from my perspective," said Conway Cliff, Velez-Mitchell's former executive producer who is now putting together Behar's show. "It happened organically."

HLN executives downplay the female-to-male ratio because, as Cliff notes, "we want everyone with a Nielsen box watching."

And it's not like the night is filled with needlepoint, or any other cliche of "what women want." Velez-Mitchell, a veteran newswoman with extensive New York and Los Angeles experience, is likely to shout "What?!?!" at something she disbelieves and did segments last week on problems with the Michael Jackson investigation, whether prostitution should be legalized and a drunken nun. Her show has the urgent graphic look of a Fox News Channel program, with more whooshing sound effects than a wind tunnel.

Grace focuses on legal issues, and is relentless and prosecutorial when investigating cases of missing women and children.

HLN sought a lineup of opinionated but non partisan personalities that could distinguish itself from other news networks, primarily corporate cousin CNN, said Ken Jautz, executive vice president of CNN Worldwide and chief of the network.

"They focus more on lifestyle and water-cooler topics than Beltway topics," Jautz said. "These are topics that address everyday lives."

Cliff said he didn't feel he was missing something last year when he flipped to time period competitors Shepard Smith on Fox, Dobbs on CNN and Chris Matthews on MSNBC and saw them all leading off with politics. He wanted to be different. HLN has even turned people away: it opened its 11 p.m. "Showbiz Tonight" on California primary night by suggesting that anyone interested in election returns switch to CNN. It still had one of its highest-rated nights, Jautz said.

Headline News officially switched its name to HLN last December, in recognition that a name meant to describe a continuous wheel of half-hour newscasts no longer fit its format. It began offering opinion shows at night in 2005, first with Grace and then with Glenn Beck, who is now at Fox News Channel. An opinion lineup was a huge cultural shift for CNN and if its average prime-time audience hadn't jumped from 194,000 in 2004 to 597,000 this year, Jautz probably wouldn't be around to talk about it now.

"It was a big risk," he said. "It paid off, and it probably paid off better than I expected."

In Behar, HLN gets a comic and social commentator well known from a show designed with women in mind. She was a little fuzzy recently in describing what her show will be, although it isn't expected to veer much from the traditional talk format. She said she wanted to bring in people who disagreed with her because it would otherwise be boring, and was looking for alternative bookings.

She'd love to speak to Sarah Palin, but "if she doesn't want to come, well, then we'll get her maid or something, or her baby sitter."

The reasoning behind HLN's move to prime-time talk shows, besides creating as much of a contrast with CNN as possible for viewers and advertisers, is that by the evening most people are caught up on headlines.

The Internet may be on its way to making HLN's news "wheel" obsolete during the daytime, too. The network already has a personality-driven show, with Robin Meade, in the morning. At one point its fans are going to recognize that instead of waiting for a certain point in a half-hour on HLN to get entertainment news, they can just click on an entertainment Web site.

"I'm not saying this network will be the same three or four years from now," Jautz said. "But right now there are no plans to change daytime."


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EDITOR'S NOTE – David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)

Newspapers Couldn’t Stop AP Death Photos, Even If They Wanted To

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Last week, the Associated Press’s decision to run a photograph of mortally wounded Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard moments before his death in Afghanistan gave rise to enormous controversy. It was condemned by Robert Gates, who called the decision to run the photo “appalling;” “The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency,” wrote Gates. Bernard’s family was strongly against the photo’s publication, but the AP ran it anyway, saying that “the photo itself is a part of the war we needed to cover and convey.”

The Bernard photo controversy had the side effect of showing just how unimportant newspapers have become as a means of distribution. The photo was all over the Internet within hours of its publication, but Editor & Publisher reports that newspapers had a “mixed” reaction to the death photo:

Stars and Stripes ran the AP story and a large photo of Bernard on Page One, but did not run the controversial image. The Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, The New York Times and The Washington Post all ran the AP story but did not include the image of Bernard. The Post carried a photo gallery, absent the controversial picture.

The Times later showed the photo with a lengthy discussion on its Lens blog at: carried the image but put it behind a prominent “Warning” screen.


All of that hand-wringing had no effect on the distribution of the photo. On the day of the controversy, “Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard” was one of the top searches on Google Trends, which has a ghoulish knack for putting death photos at the top. People heard about the death photo, and they found it, newspaper editorial boards be damned. If just the AP had run the photo — even if the AP had run the photo for 5 hours and then taken it down — it would have been out there, if only on bottom-of-the-barrel spam blogs that automatically scoop up popular searches and archive popular links.

Does this mean that the media is irrelevant? No. If the AP hadn’t run the photo, nobody would have seen it. Likewise, if the New York Times or the Washington Post doesn’t run a controversial article or op-ed, no one will read it, and the whole of the online debate will be changed by its absence. But if you’re the individual middleman, you have very little impact on the flow of information, even ethically compromised information. Once again, newspapers that slash their staffs and run lots of wire stories have fewer and fewer reasons to exist each day.

Yelp: Don’t leave home without it

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I just got back from my first fully Yelp-enabled vacation and it was the best ever. As the late, great Karl Malden said in his American Express pitch: Don’t leave home without it.Although tens of millions of savvy Internet consumers know about Yelp, I find that an amazing number of broadcast and publishing pooh-bahs still haven’t heard of it. That’s too bad, because it means they not only are

Would You Pay for This? New York Post Redesigns Website

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Picture 7

I have always suspected the reason the New York Post’s website was so impossible to navigate was part of Rupert Murdoch’s secret (and admittedly brilliant) plan to keep people buying the print version. Not so it seems! The brand new website was unveiled yesterday, and proves to be measurably more manageable than the unwieldy beast that preceded it. Two questions remain: The Post is the perfect subway paper, until the MTA is wired (and considering the economy it may, thankfully, be a while) why would anyone read it online. And two: If Rupe’s plan to make you pay for all his online pubs actually proves to be more than talk, is this something you’d be willing to shell out for?

Glenn Beck, The New Edward R. Murrow Of Fox News: Who’s The Next Target?

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Picture 1A little over six weeks after Glenn Beck introduced the world to Van Jones (tell the truth, how many of you knew who he was prior to this August?), Jones has resigned. Time’s Joe Klein says good riddance: “The work of this presidency is too important to be side-tracked by a too-angry blowhard spouting foolish radicalism. ” But really, if Beck hadn’t relentlessly pounded Jones for the past two weeks especially, would the “work of this presidency” have been side-tracked enough to lead to Jones’ resignation? Doubtful. Beck is officially playing in the big leagues now.

Up until Jones’ resignation Glenn Beck has been an incredibly popular and successful cable news version of the snake oil salesman — in the hands of anyone else Jones might have merely remained a blip on the talking points radar, in the mesmerizing, entertaining hands of Beck he has become a national villain, and now Obama’s Achilles heel. Whether or not Jones should have been hired by the administration in the first place pales in comparison to the fact that Glenn Beck (Glenn Beck), the most extreme anchor on cable today (frequently to the point of ridiculousness, though not so funny now!) is mostly responsible for bringing him down. It’s like some bizarro world version of Edward R. Murrow and Senator McCarthy.

Jones’ resignation has arguably just elevated Fox to the role of serious political power player (maybe the town hall meme that took hold in August should have been an early warning sign), and furthermore does not bode well for the White House, who now runs the risk of appearing to kowtow to Fox. Will the big media guns take this lying down?

Fox is a great punching bag, but no one wants to admit its anchors have the power to bring down a White House official. Keith Olbermann has issued a “Fox Twa” requesting viewers and Daily Kos readers alike dig up whatever dirt they can on Beck. No doubt there will be some dug up. Will it matter? Advertisers and ratings matter on TV, not “dirt.” The genius of Beck in choosing Van Jones to focus on — as opposed to, say, President Obama directly — is that Jones didn’t have a national reputation Beck had to contend with, he was a relative unknown, which allowed Beck to define him nationally, and destructively, almost from scratch. Beck already has a well-established national identity, it’s going to be hard for someone like Olbermann, who has made himself ridiculous crying wolf at Fox characters for the last two years, to do any real damage to it (being the ‘Worst Person in the World’ is now considered a badge of honor by many). Perhaps Olbermann should consider focusing on the lesser-known message makers whose ideology Beck picks up on if he wants to make a real difference. Perhaps, this is a good time for cooler heads (calling Rachel Maddow!) to step in and calmly fact-check Becks future storylines.

Also, perhaps everyone upset about the outcome should take a page from Beck’s notebook (chalkboard?) and understand all of this is very much the result of sustained attention to one subject. Not a bad media philosophy in the larger scheme of things, ahem. Something else to consider: Beck now has in hand his first “scalp.” Who’s next? The money seems to be on Cass Sunstein, Obama’s Regulatory “Czar” (also, recently married to media favorite Samantha Powers). More importantly, once the Beck spotlight finds him, or them, will they too run scared?

RBI Maintains 2012 Online Target, Plans More Cuts

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New Scientist and Flight International B2B publisher Reed Business Information needs “additional cost-cutting fast” and “some things must be done differently or not at all”, according to an internal memo from RBI CEO Keith Jones reported by Dow Jones.

Dow Jones: “It also said it wants to raise the sale of online publications at RBI to more than 50 percent of its total revenue in the next three years.” But this isn’t new - parent Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK) declared the target in its 2008 earnings in February (see our report), when it said RBI’s online revenue grew 12 percent in 2008 to account for a third of its earnings. Online information income already comprises over half of RBI UK revenues (and of Reed Elsevier’s overall sales) but only 30 percent of RBI-US sales.

Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) quotes RBI’s new memo is quoted as saying the “rollout of online media will mainly focus on paid services”, but 2010 will be “as difficult as 2009.”  Reed in February said it wanted to “accelerate plans to migrate from print to online”.

Reed Elsevier failed to sell RBI during the opening days of the credit crunch, so made some job losses, off-loaded its travel portfolio and is stripping down Variety publisher RBI US.