July 2009

The Making of Zach Galifianakis

The Absolut ads still make me laugh, a half-dozen viewings later.

Jul. 29, 2009 humor profiles

The News About the Internet

The entire piece, by Michael Massing for The New York Review of Books, is worth reading, but this bit stuck with me:

During a recent visit to [Talking Points Memo]’s office, on West 20th Street in Manhattan, the place seemed eerily quiet as a dozen or so young reporters, writers, and “aggregators” (who link to other Web sites) peered intently at their computer screens. […]

Over the years, [TPM founder Josh] Marshall has helped train many cyber-savvy reporter-bloggers who have taken their skills to other, better-endowed institutions. Take the example of Paul Kiel. […]

Kiel is an example of an emerging new breed of “hybrids,” schooled in both the practices of print journalism and the uses of cyberspace.

Jul. 28, 2009 journalism

Kindle and the Future of Reading

Nicholson Baker doesn’t much like the Kindle:

Amazon, with its listmania lists and its sometimes inspired recommendations and its innumerable fascinating reviews, is very good at selling things. It isn’t so good, to date anyway, at making things.

Instead, he prefers an iPhone or iPod Touch for his e-book reading.

I’ve never used a Kindle, but I have read a book on an iPod Touch. I found the reading experience good but not great, and the small pages forced more page turning than I’d have liked. I’d wait until I had something larger, like Apple’s rumored tablet, before again reading in e-book form anything longer than a short story or novella.

Jul. 28, 2009 apple ebooks kindle publishing

A Battle Already Lost

The New York Times reports:

Taking a new hard line that news articles should not turn up on search engines and Web sites without permission, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used. […]

Search engines and news aggregators contend that their brief article citations fall under the legal principle of fair use.

Linking is at the very heart of the web—in many ways, it is the web. That the Associated Press and newspapers, without which the AP would be much diminished, do not understand even this simplest of web truisms is regrettable but understandable.

The AP will lose this battle, as any organization that attempts such restrictions will lose and, in turn, only hurt itself. But sadly—and I say that earnestly, as one who still very much loves newspapers—the people with the power to save newspapers are those who have no incentives to change them.

And so we read reports of reduced expectations, margins and costs within, at their cores, unchanged organizations. But without a change, the news organizations of yore have not long to live. The traditional business model just doesn’t work anymore, and forcing it on the web isn’t going to work any better.

The choice, then, is natural selection at its simplest: Evolve or die.

Jul. 24, 2009 journalism webdev

Barber: “Almost All” News Sites Will Charge for Content

The Guardian:

The Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has predicted that “almost all” news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.

Good luck with that.

Jul. 16, 2009 journalism

Students Give E-Readers Mixed Reviews

The Wall Street Journal:

At first, Mr. Finney worried about dropping the glass and metal device as he read. But eventually, the sophomore came to like the Reader. Its keyword search function, he says, was “easier than flipping through the pages of a regular book.” Dozens of other participants, however, dropped out of the program, complaining that the e-texts were awkward and inconvenient.

I think the problem, though, has more to do with the devices and pricing available today than with the concept itself. Wait a few years for the technology to improve and prices on content and devices to drop, and I doubt many students will complain.

Jul. 16, 2009 ebooks publishing

Vanity Fair: “Politico’s Washington Coup”

Michael Wolff:

But one effect of its Internet traffic and notoriety and the ensuing attention of cable news shows is that the original Allbritton idea for a Capitol Hill paper—one that now largely reprints Internet content—has become, with its special-interest-size circulation of 32,000, a major success. Internet cachet, in other words, has enabled a tabloid-size print version of Politico (also called Politico) to thrive and more than double the company’s revenues.

I’ll have more on the piece later, but this particular bit above reminded me of the newspaper prototype Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s are putting together for the fall. A lot of the pessimism surrounding print has been slightly misguided, I think. Printed, general-interest newspapers may not have a future, but that’s because it’s a combination that can’t compete with online media. Printed media, if done well and in the right context, can still thrive.

Jul. 3, 2009 journalism

Why Are Newspapers Dying?

Because of thinking like this. Connie Schultz:

David and Daniel Marburger think they have the answer: Change the federal copyright law. I think they are right. […]

The Marburgers propose a change in federal law that would allow originators of news to exploit the commercial value of their product. Ideally, news originators’ stories would be available only on their Web sites for the first 24 hours.

This is, no doubt, the dumbest thing I’ve read in weeks. To propose something like this is to wholly misunderstand the web.

Jul. 1, 2009 copyright journalism