July 12th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Can Tumblr Embrace Ads Without Selling Out?

Rob Walker writes for the NY Times Magazine about David Karp, Tumblr, and the social blogging companies efforts to turn a profit :

The features Tumblr eliminates are as important to the way it feels as those it adopts. Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, an early Tumblr investor who sits on its board, says that it is “normal behavior” for a founder to be excited about adding new bells and whistles, but Karp seems excited about doing the opposite: “He’ll tell us, ‘Hey, got a new version coming up — and I took four features out!’ ”

Karp’s thinking about the comments section, which is generally assumed to be a core blog feature, helps illustrate his broader ideas about how design shapes behavior online. Typically, a YouTube video or blog post or article on a newspaper’s site is the dominant object, with comments strewed below it, buried like so much garbage. Thus many commenters feel they must scream to be noticed, and do so in all caps, profanely and with maximum hyperbole. This, Karp argues, brings out the worst in people, so Tumblr’s design does not include a comments section.

Like lots of so-called Web 2.0 companies, Tumblr is now reckoning with the very banker-ish concern of figuring out how to make money. It has tried, over the last five years, to do so by selling tools that allowed users to snazz up their blogs or promote posts. But efforts like those haven’t generated nearly enough cash to offset its expenses — let alone justify the $800 million valuation suggested by its most recent round of venture-capital investment last year.

Shortly before Facebook’s initial public offering, Karp started talking about making money from advertising — which seemed to run counter to a declaration he made in 2010 that advertising “really turns our stomachs.” Then again, pretty much every social network chieftain, including Mark Zuckerberg, seems sour on ads until the moment they start making ads the center of their entire business.

Karp has said Tumblr could be “wildly profitable” overnight by simply incorporating conventional online ads into the platform, but he believes that would spoil the community and the creativity that have taken shape there. His proposed solution entails advertisers’ being just as creative and expressive as Tumblr users. For now, that means that a spot on the Tumblr dashboard generally used to highlight the company’s picks for the coolest stuff happening in its network will include occasional content from paid sponsors. The first participants included Adidas, Calvin Klein and the movie “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” generating more than $150,000 in revenue within a month.

Read the full article here.

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May 14th, 2012
erickstoll
Is Indigenous Media a Faustian Bargain? 
Anthropologist Faye Ginsburg considers whether the benefits of empowering indigenous people to produce media outweigh those traditions that are lost.

Indigenous and minority people have faced a kind of Faustian dilemma. On the one hand, they are finding new modes for expressing indigenous idetntiy through media and gaining access to film and video to serve their own needs and ends. On the the other hand, the spread of communications technology such as home video and satellite downlinks threatens to be a final assault on culture, language, imagery, relationship between generations, and respect for traditional knowledge. 

Read the full article here. 

Is Indigenous Media a Faustian Bargain? 

Anthropologist Faye Ginsburg considers whether the benefits of empowering indigenous people to produce media outweigh those traditions that are lost.

Indigenous and minority people have faced a kind of Faustian dilemma. On the one hand, they are finding new modes for expressing indigenous idetntiy through media and gaining access to film and video to serve their own needs and ends. On the the other hand, the spread of communications technology such as home video and satellite downlinks threatens to be a final assault on culture, language, imagery, relationship between generations, and respect for traditional knowledge. 

Read the full article here. 

February 24th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Within the Context of No Context

George Trow’s essay on television and its effect on American culture was first published in 1980 in a special issue of The New Yorker that devoted its entire central section to just this piece. Met with wide acclaim upon publication, it became a staple in media studies courses and a touchstone of essay writing. Novelist and screenwriter Michael Tolkin is quoted as saying that “No Context” is no longer fashionable because “It’s not a polemic for change. It’s just a cold description of where things are going. There aren’t many [essays] that are unafraid to be that negative.”

In the New History, nothing was judged—only counted. The power of judging was then subtracted from what it was necessary for a man to learn to do. In the New History, the preferences of a child carried as much weight as the preferences of an adult, so the refining of preferences was subtracted from what it was necessary for a man to learn to do. In the New History, the ideal became agreement rather than well-judged action, so men learned to be competent only in those modes which embraced the possibility of agreement. The world of power changed. What was powerful grew more powerful in ways that could be easily measured, grew less powerful in every way that could not be measured.

Read the full article here.

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January 10th, 2012
arvindsuguness
How Al Gore Came To Invent The InternetAs Republicans head to the polls in New Hampshire, it is worth reminding ourselves of the role the media will play in shaping the outcome of both today’s election and the presidential campaign to come. In this 2007 piece for Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz recounts how a collection of misquotes, half-truths and transcription errors were fashioned into a narrative of Al Gore as a serial exaggerator willing to say anything to win the presidency: 

 On March 9, 1999, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer conducted an interview with Gore shortly before he officially announced his candidacy. In answer to a question about why Democrats should support him, Gore spoke about his record. “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative”—politico-speak for leadership—”in creating the Internet,” he said, before going on to describe other accomplishments. It was true. In the 1970s, the Internet was a limited tool used by the Pentagon and universities for research. As a senator in the 80s, Gore sponsored two bills that turned this government program into an “information superhighway,” a term Gore popularized, and made it accessible to all. Vinton Cerf, often called the father of the Internet, has claimed that the Internet would not be where it was without Gore’s leadership on the issue. Even former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has said that “Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.”
The press didn’t object to Gore’s statement until Texas Republican congressman Dick Armey led the charge, saying, “If the vice president created the Internet, then I created the interstate highway system.” Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner released a statement with the headline, delusions of grandeur: vice president gore takes credit for creating the internet. CNN’s Lou Dobbs was soon calling Gore’s remark “a case study … in delusions of grandeur.” A few days later the word “invented” entered the narrative. On March 15, a USA Today headline about Gore read, inventing the internet; March 16 on Hardball, Chris Matthews derided Gore for his claim that he “invented the Internet.” Soon the distorted assertion was in the pages of the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe, and on the A.P. wire service. By early June, the word “invented” was actually being put in quotation marks, as though that were Gore’s word of choice. Here’s how Mimi Hall put it in USA Today: “A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he ‘invented’ the Internet, didn’t help.”

Read the full article here.

How Al Gore Came To Invent The Internet
As Republicans head to the polls in New Hampshire, it is worth reminding ourselves of the role the media will play in shaping the outcome of both today’s election and the presidential campaign to come. In this 2007 piece for Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz recounts how a collection of misquotes, half-truths and transcription errors were fashioned into a narrative of Al Gore as a serial exaggerator willing to say anything to win the presidency: 

 On March 9, 1999, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer conducted an interview with Gore shortly before he officially announced his candidacy. In answer to a question about why Democrats should support him, Gore spoke about his record. “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative”—politico-speak for leadership—”in creating the Internet,” he said, before going on to describe other accomplishments. It was true. In the 1970s, the Internet was a limited tool used by the Pentagon and universities for research. As a senator in the 80s, Gore sponsored two bills that turned this government program into an “information superhighway,” a term Gore popularized, and made it accessible to all. Vinton Cerf, often called the father of the Internet, has claimed that the Internet would not be where it was without Gore’s leadership on the issue. Even former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has said that “Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.”

The press didn’t object to Gore’s statement until Texas Republican congressman Dick Armey led the charge, saying, “If the vice president created the Internet, then I created the interstate highway system.” Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner released a statement with the headline, delusions of grandeur: vice president gore takes credit for creating the internet. CNN’s Lou Dobbs was soon calling Gore’s remark “a case study … in delusions of grandeur.” A few days later the word “invented” entered the narrative. On March 15, a USA Today headline about Gore read, inventing the internet; March 16 on Hardball, Chris Matthews derided Gore for his claim that he “invented the Internet.” Soon the distorted assertion was in the pages of the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe, and on the A.P. wire service. By early June, the word “invented” was actually being put in quotation marks, as though that were Gore’s word of choice. Here’s how Mimi Hall put it in USA Today: “A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he ‘invented’ the Internet, didn’t help.”

Read the full article here.

December 7th, 2011
chasewhiteside
Read This, Not That: The Real Problem with Fox News
The liberal platitude that Fox News is a propaganda arm for the Republican Party has gone mainstream; even the Obama administration has taken aim. But Terry McDermott argues in the Columbia Journalism Review that Fox’s agenda isn’t political, but commercial, and that the network has simply mastered the format better than its competitors:

Over the course of an average day, all this talking on the three channels adds up to more than half a million words spilled on cable-news air. That’s a phenomenal amount of verbiage—by volume, a new War and Peace every single day. It does not, as you might guess, approach anything like the art and coherence of a novel. Rarely does a single sentence rise to that level.
What are they talking about all the time? Usually, they’re talking about what a particular little morsel of news means. What is that bit of news good for? Whom is it good for? Who’s up, who’s sideways, who’s selling the country down the river? There is a very large measure of performance involved in all of this. The studio hosts typically play some amped-up, over-the-top version of themselves. They bring to mind nothing so much as one of the vibrant monologues from the Howard Beale character in the movie Network: “Television is a Goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business!’

Read the full article here.
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Read This, Not That: The Real Problem with Fox News

The liberal platitude that Fox News is a propaganda arm for the Republican Party has gone mainstream; even the Obama administration has taken aim. But Terry McDermott argues in the Columbia Journalism Review that Fox’s agenda isn’t political, but commercial, and that the network has simply mastered the format better than its competitors:

Over the course of an average day, all this talking on the three channels adds up to more than half a million words spilled on cable-news air. That’s a phenomenal amount of verbiage—by volume, a new War and Peace every single day. It does not, as you might guess, approach anything like the art and coherence of a novel. Rarely does a single sentence rise to that level.

What are they talking about all the time? Usually, they’re talking about what a particular little morsel of news means. What is that bit of news good for? Whom is it good for? Who’s up, who’s sideways, who’s selling the country down the river? There is a very large measure of performance involved in all of this. The studio hosts typically play some amped-up, over-the-top version of themselves. They bring to mind nothing so much as one of the vibrant monologues from the Howard Beale character in the movie Network: “Television is a Goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business!’

Read the full article here.

// Follow Read This, Not That on Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter //

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