Minnesota bridge collapse and freed prisoners

MultimediaShooter points out two multimedia packages that combines data with visuals, audio and text.

1. “Exonerated, Freed, and What Happened Then”
The New York Times interviews 137 prisoners of 200 exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989 and compiles a mix of very compelling audio interviews, stats and traditional narrative.

2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s 13 seconds in August package on the 35W bridge collapse is a “living document” with details on 76 of the 84 vehicles involved, their occupants and interviews with victims.

Shift from print/tv to web

An European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) survey of 7,008 people from Belgium, France, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian nations reconfirms the exodus.

Almost 2/3 of Internet users in Europe prefer online media to traditional media. In particular, 62% of the respondents prefer logging on to the web, terming it as a key information source.

Sixty-five percent visit news web pages at least once a month, whereas 28% admits that they read newspapers less and less.

Forty percent claimed they have stopped switching on their TV sets as much as they used to, while 22% said they do not listen to the radio.

Logging on to the Internet to listen to radio programmes or watch television ranks on the top ten of the most popular online activities among the Europeans, with 31% of the respondents listening to radio online and 30% watching online television and videos.

The European Interactive Advertising Association has predicted that more and more will swift away from TV to Internet.


On the US front, a new In-Stat survey predicts that more than 16 million US households may be using their broadband service more than they use their TV sets within the next three years.

The fight between traditional TV broadcasters and ISPs is already on.

“Today’s stable and profitable subscription TV services are facing new competition from online and mobile entertainment services, and from new high-quality packaged goods such as HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs,” said In-Stat analyst Gerry Kaufhold.

“The very nature of ‘entertainment’ is undergoing a profound change in which the ability to instantly share content with friends, family and those connected on social networks or buddy lists is creating micro-user communities that replace traditional entertainment sources such as TV programmes.

“As more high-quality content becomes available online, savvy consumers are considering ways to reduce their monthly bills by getting everything from the Internet.”

In-Stat’s survey revealed that up to 30 per cent of respondents would drop subscription services and use the Internet for TV.

Some 42 per cent of respondents indicated that they are not getting enough international news and information from their current TV delivery services, even though there are hundreds of channels available.

The respondents to the survey had a broadband connection, a TV set, and were 18 years of age or older.


Amazon re-Kindles the ebook

Jeff Bezos introduces the Kindle, an ebook reader that looks set to do for digital book-reading what the iPod did for music.

Some specs: Holds about 200 ebooks,no cables, no synching, 292 gm, 6-inch E-Ink screen, no backlight, EVDO connectivity for wireless downloads (over Sprint in the US), 30 hours of battery life with a full recharge taking just 120 minutes. Can email your Word documents and pictures to Kindle for viewing. Price: US$399.

88,000 compatible Amazon ebooks on sale at the Kindle Store at US$9.99 for bestsellers and as low as US$1.99 for classics, while newspapers and blogs will be available via subscription. See Newsweek story.


Jan Schaffer: No free lunch in new info-structure

Jan Schaffer points to three community sites that exemplifies the new info-structure:
1. Placeblogger.com,
2. GlobalVoicesOnline.org,
3. BlogHer.org

The three sites aggregate other community sites, set a platform for diverse voices to be heard, and become greater than the sum of its parts.

She warns however that news organizations need to be wary of thinking they can draw a community under their fold and brand without renumeration:

“Remember, though, there is no free lunch. News organizations that think citizens will freely contribute to their citizen journalism pages need to think again.

“While citizen journalism may well be a new form of volunteerism – something baby boomers do when the finish coaching their kids’ baseball teams – it’s a fragile dynamic.

“There must be a high degree of equilibrium, a balance between the giving and the getting, in these initiatives. Money is not the only motivator. People contribute for a reason – either because of a personal passion, to effect change, to learn something, or even to get smarter about technology.

“Be clever in juicing that equilibrium. If you have to pay the high school that uploads the most robust content on your hyperlocal sports site, like the Orlando Sentinel does, consider it an investment in your info-structure.

“Use your Big-J journalists where they can really add value. Professional journalists should focus their expertise and skills on doing investigations, identifying trends, building databases, holding public officials accountable and articulating the master narratives in their communities.

“Ultimately, the marketplace will decide what is news. News will be whatever adds value in a noisy information landscape, whatever helps people get their jobs done, whatever imparts wisdom, and whatever elicits gratitude.

“To figure this out you also need some new players in your info-structure. They include:

1.“Can do-ers” instead of those who whine about what they can’t do.

2.Computer programmers who will be the architects of searchable databases or news games in your info-structure.

3.Collaborators, people who have the sensibility to see the possibilities of working together instead of moving into kneejerk competitor mode.

4.News analysts who will trawl incoming information looking for Big-J opportunities. Minnesota Public Radio uses these para-journalists to analyze information coming in through its Public Insight Journalism network.

5.Tribe expanders. Journalism in the future will come from many places. We should contribute to the momentum of the best and most responsible efforts and recruit them for the info-structure.

For those who embrace these challenges, there is cause for a great deal of optimism.”


eMarketer: Shift to online ads speeding up

The credit squeeze has begun to slice off earlier projections, but Internet ad spending continues to rise.

From eMarketer’s latest report:

eMarketer projects online ad spending to reach US$42 billion by 2011, more than doubling from the estimated US$21.4 billion this year.

Those numbers are slightly down from eMarketer’s previous estimates of US$21.7 billion in spending for 2007 and US$44 billion for 2011.

Under the revised projections, online ad spending for 2007 is expected to increase 26.7 percent from the US$16.9 billion spent last year.

By contrast, advertising spending on all media is only expected to increase 2.1 percent.

“Don’t expect any large growth in total media,” eMarketer’s David Hallerman told InternetNews.com. “The shift away from traditional media is accelerating.”

Hallerman cautions that percentage growth changes can be deceptive, as they are bound to taper off as an industry builds mass.

While “Internet’s total growth is going to be decelerating,” he said, the digital share of the advertising pie will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Hallerman offered no predictions on how large that share will become down the road.

The study found that search advertising will remain the strongest of digital ad spending through 2011, holding steady around 40 percent. Spending on display ads also is projected to remain at around 20 percent, followed by online classified spending at about 17 percent.

The biggest proportional gainer will be rich media, driven by video ads, which is expected to jump from 8 percent this year to 13 percent in 2011.

Hallerman admitted that eMarketer’s estimates may be conservative in areas where businesses models are still developing, and said he expects to revise his projections in rapidly developing sectors like video.

“I think we’re going to see some of the largest growth in video ads on televisions stations’ Web sites,” he said.

Anne Spackman: On Google and online media

When Times Online Editor Anne Spackman got the job last year, her teenage son retorted: “You? You don’t even know when to double click.”

Jemima Kiss reports on Spackman’s recent comments:

1.Google is the No 1 topic of conversation at News Corp.”One tiny tweak to their algorithm and we all have to re-calibrate our pages. And we can’t afford not to be brilliant on Google News.”

2.News International is hoping for closer integration of the Times website and its newspaper.

3.Smaller screens should be the focus for online news as the development of iPods and mobile speeds up.

4. Journalists now need commercial awareness. “Online demands at least an awareness of skills that were never part of the journalistic parameters,” she said. Knowing who the audience is and working out how to get the news to them used to be handled by marketing and distribution, and that’s a new kind of commercial awareness that journalists have never had to have before.

5. “We are all operating to a certain extent without a business model, and in a world like that you do take risks but with a really strong awareness of what commercial back up there is.”

6.Local news sites have an advantage over national properties because they have less competition. National sites end up competing with international sites.

7.The news industry will become more male. Online news demands a combination of editorial and technical skills that is, she said, more commonly seen in men. “I’ve recruited a lot in the past 12 months,” she said.
(NOTE: I don’t find this an issue in Asia. More women have the skills than ever before, and even if they don’t they’ll pick it up faster.)

Martin Slade reports on Spackman:
1. Google is now ‘hugely dangerous’. When Google tweaked its search algorithm last month, WashingtonPost.com was one of several major sites whose PageRank temporarily dropped. Google also controls a large amount of advertising online, particularly since its acquisition this year of online advertising firm DoubleClick.

2. Local newspapers would be the next to face the effects of the search giant as its Google Maps service transforms the market for local listings and advertising.

It’s the process, stupid! Six ways to do online news

Joe Murphy points out reporters quickly lose faith in blogging, and video when the process isn’t in place to keep it going.

I would add that newsrooms have to wake up to the fact they are in the 21st century. Nothing works without constant validation and encouragement – especially for the millennial generation that thrives on instant gratification and feedback, without which they get easily bored.

Six ways to engage them:

Get online breaking news stories
Write blogs
Shoot video
Record audio
Build photo galleries
Make interactive graphics

I would add:

1.Set up a clear process by which they can submit these and make sure it appears online fast.
2.Set up small project teams to build mini-sites of their own.
3.Get a blogging study circle going — where reporters who blog meet up and encourage each other — and set up meet-the-blogger sessions with readers.

Murphy suggests the Denver Post’s finger puppets as a great idea in the vein of encouraging a new kind of interaction with readers.


Worse Than Enemies: The CEO’s Destructive Confidant

The article by psychoanalyst Kerry J. Sulkowicz in HBR, Feb 2004 explores how trusted insiders to the CEO can at most times complement their strengths, deriving their gratification vicariously – ie. Steve Ballmer to Bill Gates, Charlie Munger to Warren Buffett – but sometimes the confidant relationship can become toxic.

“Dangerous confidants come in all shapes and sizes. They are sometimes intentionally scheming and deceitful. Like Rasputin, the crafty manipulator of the Russian imperial family, these overtly bad confidants have sociopathic personalities: They habitually lie and cheat to achieve their aims without any apparent constraints of conscience.

“Take someone we’ll call Sanford Anderson. (I have changed the names in our examples to protect the privacy of the individuals and companies depicted.)

The CEO of a privately held real estate business in the Midwest, a company worth billions, Anderson fell victim to just such a confidant. Early in his career, Anderson’s corporate attorney, Gregg Mayer, had saved the firm millions by deftly handling a discrimination lawsuit, which earned him Anderson’s undying gratitude and respect.

“As the years passed, Anderson came to rely on Mayer’s advice about everything from investment strategy, architecture and design, to personnel development.

“Although Anderson was in most respects a highly effective CEO, he had never seriously contemplated the prospect of retiring. Anderson’s worries about retirement took the form of denial of his own mortality.

“Instead of acknowledging his anxiety, he manifested it by plunging even more deeply into work, while ignoring his fatigue and gradual loss of passion. Consequently, he had never set in place an adequate succession plan.

“Given the toxic confidant that he was, Mayer used the lack of succession planning as an opportunity to advance his own interests. Mayer preyed on Anderson’s anxieties about aging and retirement by fueling his fears about whom might want to wrest control of his business.

“… When Anderson stepped down, he impulsively handed the reins of power to Mayer. Shocked by the announcement of the new CEO, several key members of the management team stormed out in protest. Unfortunately , without the skills of these key players, the company was soon in trouble, and Anderson’s legacy was ruined…”

Sulkowicz describes three distinct types of destructive confidants:

1. Reflector: Mirrors the CEO, constantly reassuring him that “he is the fairest of them all.”
2. Insulator: Buffers CEO from organization, preventing critical info from getting out and in.
3. Usurper: Cunningly ingratiates himself with the CEO, in a desperate bid for power.

He says most CEOs are narcissistic – or else they wouldn’t be leaders – and select reflector confidants who cater to their fragile self-esteem but are themselves driven by their own neurotic needs to please authority.

CEOS who seek insulators tend to arrogant, abusive and abrasive and so at odds with their subordinates they need a mediator who can translate their poorly communicated ideas. The insulator is constantly apologizing to the others on the CEO’s behalf and shielding the CEO to a point where he gets cut off from senior management and the grassroots.

Usurpers are the worst of the lot. They are sociopaths, deliberately scheming and ambitious, and only uses the relationship to empower himself.

The best literary example of this: Shakespeare’s Iago who manipulated Othello to kills his beloved Desdemona.

Sulkowicz cautions that ousting the toxic confidant is often difficult because of the personal stake the CEO has in it. The most unaware CEOs choose the worst confidants, and may repeat this pattern if unable to see how destructive the relationship has become.

Often, the best thing to do is jettison both at the same time.

(Requires subscription)

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