We come from the future!

Gizmodo, being an offshoot of Gawker media, innately has a contemporary if not “young” aesthetic. Its content leans towards zany—where nerd meets culture and then of course, politics. They’ve earned enough clout now to become a familiar media outlet and I think a lot of people feel comfortable getting news from there as a result. However, having known people who have worked for Gizmodo, it is known that they employ young, inexperienced writers, often whom come from no journalism background and go on to do other irrelevant things– and while that is a wonderful opportunity, it sometimes shows. That, and their crazed demand for a certain amount of articles from each journalist per day—this almost seems like too easy a set-up for quantity of quality.

“The effects of this mixing of contexts raises important questions around the likely impacts of a shift toward consultancy roles for individuals who had previously been engaged solely in journalistic roles, inviting new challenges to the integrity of the ideological definition of journalism.” (Burns and Matthews, 1547)

Since Gizmodo has a technology and design contingent, as well as even sci-fi, I think it stands a part as a niche “nerd” outlet, kind of merging otherwise previously societally ostracized interests with the mainstream news.

-Chelsea Kane

References:

Burns, L.S., Matthews, B.J. “Post-Industrial Journalism as a Creative Industry.” International Journal of Social, Behavioral, Educational, Economic, Business and Industrial Engineering 11.6 (2017). Online.

Ciao, Manhattan.

In the past year, three of the most revered independent news outlets in NYC were put to a brutal end, and their archives deleted immediately. Publisher and CEO Joe Ricketts seemingly suddenly and unilaterally made this decision.

Billionaire Ricketts shut DNAinfo and Gothamist (sites) down after an attempt to unionize. Regarding the former, he said, “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.” (Leland and Newman)

This came shortly after The Village Voice shuttered its print edition much to the chagrin of New Yorkers everywhere.

I find this privatization of media and disregard for cutting edge journalists very alarming and dystopian. Furthermore it’s hard to give Mr. Ricketts the benefit of the doubt knowing that he is a conservative who supported Trump. The act of deleting the archives immediately seems like a real jab, like downright evil.

Our reading talks about the press as an institution, a “reference to the whole complex of publication and circulation of ideas throughout society, without which democracy cannot work.” (McQuail, 16)

This seems chilling considering these three news outlets were edgy and liberal, representing a really liberal city, and put to an end by corporate greed.

-Chelsea Kane

 

References:

Leland, John and Newman, Andy. “DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize”. The New York Times. NOV. 2, 2017. Online. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/nyregion/dnainfo-gothamist-shutting-down.html?smid=tw-share

McQuail, Denis. “What is Journalism? How is itLinked to Society?” Journalism and Society. London: Sage, 2005. 1-26. Print.

Hey, Mr. DJ.

12 years ago, my best friend Dominic in New York City met the moderator of the then small, countercultural music blog BrooklynVegan at a concert. They talked music, continued to run into each other at shows, and became friends. Soon Dominic was a regular contributor on the blog. This turned into him filling in for the DJ sometimes, once the blog got its own radio show on SiriusXM satellite radio. Now, he runs that show.

 

While it’s a side gig for him, and he also has two other shows on different satellite stations, this one is close to the heart, and uniquely linked to this now popular, near-authority (think pitchfork) blog. The blog chronicles bands, mostly indie, who are from New York, passing through New York, reuniting, breaking up, you name it. The blog has also become pretty famous for its hilarious comments threads. (Nothing is funnier than music nerds arguing or giving their very important 2 cents.) As for the site, the only suggested algorithm are related posts based on tags, usually a band’s or venue’s name.

 

“Stopping with understanding audience preferences, and then catering to those, is treating choice as an end rather than a means. But choosing to reflect and act on both what the audience wants and does not want, understanding why and assessing whether the latter is something the audience needs, is considering choice as means to a more worthy end.” (Tandoc and Thomas, 253)

 

What I find interesting is that my best friend is involved in this cross-medium phenomenon that is both influential and carefully curated, but one side is more grassroots and the other is a part of a huge corporate entity which is fueled by paying subscribers. So, while Dominic can pepper in some personal favorites here and there, he has to model his show based on the blog. He tells me that his fellow DJs who run all sorts of genre channels often look to his show for what’s “cool”, and often try it out on more commercial stations. However, at the end of the day, they are looking at analytics indeed since they don’t want to lose subscribers. If certain things aren’t “testing well”, the program manager ends up canning it, whereas on regular radio, you can manipulate and impose your taste, which is what most indie record store workers and music nerds set out to do. That’s the peculiar irony since that particular blog radio is considered the authority on what’s “cool”.

 

-Chelsea Kane

 

References:

Tandoc, Edson C., and Ryan J. Thomas. “The Ethics of Web Analytics.” Digital Journalism 3.2 (2015): 243– 258. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web.

Don’t Be Evil: In Pursuit of Honesty from the Media Machine

Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, in a recent blog post  discussed a very important contemporary issue: tracking transparency in our media. Technology and news outlets are perpetually evolving, faster than we can keep track of, but the whole point here is just that: trying to keep track. The Paterson, et al. chapter talks about the presence of the proverbial man behind the curtain when it comes to researching production—a “substantially hidden world” (Paterson, et al. 3) However, consumers deserve to know, and in the digital age, it is perhaps a little easier for us to research this and voice our opinions. It becomes an issue of morality, which is Jarvis’ argument—these huge outlets like Facebook and Google owe us transparency, especially if they get to mercilessly use our data for their gain. However, at the end of the day, profit might trump ethics. “organizations risk criticism when they permit independent analysis of what they do” (Paterson, et al.) Jarvis praises Google, actually, as their message to their staff in pursuit of an honest business is “Don’t be evil.” “Building and then operating from that position of moral authority becomes the platform more than the technology. See how long it is taking news organizations to learn that they should be defined not by their technology — “We print content” — but instead by their trust and authority. That must be the case for technology companies as well. They aren’t just code; they must become their missions.” (Jarvis)

-Chelsea Kane

References:

Jarvis, Jeff. “Moral Authority as a Platform”. Buzz Machine October 4, 2017. https://buzzmachine.com

Chris Paterson, David Lee, Anamik Saha, and Anna Zoellner. “Production Research: Continuity and Transformation.” In: Advancing Media Production Research (2015). Print.

VICE: MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY?

I remember knowing Vice as a young teenager. Back then, it was a mysterious, alluring hotbed of counterculture, which published books filled with cocaine fueled party tricks and blowjob tutorials.
Insidiously, for better or worse, it has become one of the biggest and most unique media conglomerates.
While the counterculture label remains, they are pretty straightforward in their capitalism. They also historically treat their employees questionably and pay way below the margin. This might be why the quality of journalism is often barely there.
As I grew older, in New York, I’ve come to know people, particularly film people, who shoot their video content. It seems that is their main medium at this point, with their plethora of original series and edgy expository news pieces.
I was pretty interested to hear that as of last month, the media workers are now unionizing, joining the writers and editors guilds respectively, and it’s been approved on both sides.
I think this is a big step for Vice—they know that some of their employees are worth more than they’re getting, and they are churning out the content that people now look to Vice for.
While the company still produces a lot of garbage, mostly in the form of filler articles on twitter which have no real arch or point, the video content is generally really compelling.
The Mierzejewska and Shaver text comes to mind in the sense that Vice applies to almost all of the 10 “changes” they list and can be considered a “media firm”. What’s interesting is the “content segmentation” (Mierzejewska & Shaver, 48) gap is closing with Vice. While they have shifted to almost exclusively free web video content, it should be worth noting that they are now valued at an estimated $6 billion with the help of private investors and—most notably, a television channel deal with HBO specializing in ever popular documentaries. Key shareholders are Facebook and Google. (Varian)
This will be interesting to see how the company (hopefully) continues to evolve. Generally when people are secure in their position and treated well, they have more motivation to go above and beyond. This is a really unique opportunity.
I do wonder what will happen to the other workers who were laid off, or if the unionized workers will move on.
A spokesperson for Vice said in a statement that the company would work with all its employees to “continue to advance a shared mission to make Vice home to the most innovative, entrepreneurial and progressive minds in media.” (Ng)

-Chelsea Kane

References:

Bozena Mierzejewska & Dan Shaver. “Key Changes Impacting Media Management Research.” International Journal of Media Management 16 (2014). Print.

Ng, David. “Vice Media video workers to unionize with writers and editors guilds” LA Times. September 2017. http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-vice-media-wga-20170921-story.html

Varian, Ethan. “Vice Media raises $450 million, bumping valuation to near $6 billion”. LA Times, June 2017. http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-vice-raises-tpg20170619-story.html

Blurred Lines & Crossroads: When Engagement Becomes Manipulation?

I came across this interesting article, written by Ava Sirrah, a PhD candidate who herself used to work as a creative strategist for a company enlisted by The New York Times.

The story is this: She explores in retrospect the blurred lines and questionable ethics (and general shadiness) of “native advertising” and editorial content. Huge publications like this one hire teams of creatives to specifically design native ads that will be so tailored and streamlined they will look like part of the article.

As a Creative Strategist in T Brand Studio, I was tasked with crafting proposals that showed marketers how the Times could create bespoke advertising opportunities that would capture an engaged audience. In practice, this means working closely with the sales staff across specific categories such as finance, live entertainment, and luxury, and to respond to RFPs (requests for proposal). A common theme in these RFPs was a request for something that “has never been done before.” This wasn’t a surprise, because it is not always enough to offer a brand digital ad space: rather, content studios need to deliver creative ideas to clients.” (Sirrah)

Even the journalist is not privy to who’s controlling this, and the lack of transparency to media watchdogs she finds very alarming. The term used is “branded article” which is kind of spooky, but pretty common.

I thought about the Hujanen article’s mention of “consumer business partnerships” and kind of re-branded it in my head to the tune of the Sirrah piece: this idea of the relationship between the advertiser and The Times to keep the influence and revenue evolving, as well as the custom advertising campaigns tying the company to the publication.

“As perceived in participatory discourse, user-generated content may change the user experience and the role of an original piece of news.” (Hujanen, 954.)

This of course is a big question mark since Sirrah tells us there is much mystery around how the publisher-advertiser relations are regulated, but they’re definitely studying demographics, so it’s almost a kind of unusual/inadvertent user engagement. Which might help you find the right bank, but is also super creepy.

 

 

References

Hujanen, Jaana. “At the Crossroads of Participation and Objectivity: Reinventing Citizen Engagement in the SBS Newsroom.” New Media & Society 15.6 (2013): 947-962.

Sirrah, Ava. “The Blurring Line Between Editorial and Native Ads at the New York Times”. Mediashift. October 3, 2017. http://mediashift.org/2017/10/advertisers-underwrite-new-york-times-content/

CNN: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.

A CNN story released yesterday as “exclusive” revealed that specific public ads on Facebook from a few years ago geographically targeted the US cities where the largest Black Lives Matter protests happened. This ad was one of many that were owned by the infamous Russian troll farm.
The idea was that it was to create general chaos during the 2016 presidential election.
The ads have been revoked and Facebook will not release them due to “privacy concerns”. This couldn’t be more ironic considering it is known how little privacy anyone has on Facebook and how they’ve come under fire for meddling.

“Facebook did not comment for this story but did point to a statement from Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, who said earlier this month that “the vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.”
“Rather,” Stamos said, “the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.” (Byers)

The framing being taking an existing story and making it news once it is reframed. In this case, more specific and not only questioning the Russian “internet research agency” but Facebook’s involvement in subversive voter suppression as well. I found this to be an interesting spin, almost meta—pitting two interlocutors beside each other while also framing within framing. CNN is classically left, so as in the Scheufele reading the reader is from the jump having their opinion influenced by specific agenda setting. But, is this story, albeit more specifically targeted than previous ones really anything new?
Framing often comes down to semantics to re-brand a tired traditional value. I find the use of the word “Exclusive” in the headline to exemplify this.

References:

Byers, Dylan. “Exclusive: Russian-bought Black Lives Matter ad on Facebook targeted Baltimore and Ferguson” CNN, 27 September 2017. http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/27/media/facebook-black-lives-matter-targeting/index.html

Scheufele, Dietram A. (2000). Agenda-setting, priming, and framing revisited. Another look at cognitive effects of political communication. Mass Communication and Society 3 (2&3), 297-316. Print.

Chong, Dennis, and James N. Druckman. “Framing Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 10.1 (2007): 103–126. Print.

I NOW LOVE MONDAYS: Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” changes the music streaming game

After a technology meltdown in 2015, losing all my beloved iTunes, many of which I’d ripped myself after uploading CD after CD in 2004, I gave into the whole music streaming app craze, which seemed ubiquitous in my social circle. For what felt like years I’d been regaled about this Pandora entity—but it seemed impure, unfair, dare I say creepy—suggesting what you might like to hear based on one random song, and forcing advertisements upon you in order to keep listening.
After seeing the convenience of Spotify as used by a friend, who paid for premium, I opted for the latter. The interface was more approachable, and for a flat, affordable monthly fee, I had access to everything, sans commercials.
While I really didn’t take the time to “follow” all my favorite artists and curate playlists, based on what I was listening to or “saving”, I began to notice something: the radio feature, based on one song of your choice, ala Pandora, was pretty on point. That gave me the incentive to then try the “Discover Weekly” feature, again, something I’d normally overlook, which now was hitting me every Monday with a hearty, eclectic list of interesting, and mostly wonderful tracks.              As a DJ and a complete music nerd I found myself impressed with these selections—many of which were old, obscure, world-music, you name it. I consulted a fellow music nerd/friend/confidante about it, and by the following Monday he was calling me from 5,000 miles away to tell me how “Discover Weekly” was both blowing his mind and making his week.
As a self-proclaimed Luddite, I found myself particularly enchanted by what seemed like little elves in a factory spying on everyone’s music listening history and actively researching from the most extensive library imaginable using magic, telepathy, and round-the-clock work. How do they KNOW?
Taking into consideration some of the concerns of Boyd & Caplin, the Spotify conundrum is just that. Other streaming platforms, apps and social media have more obvious or predictable algorithmic tendencies—ones that are specifically designed to manipulate anything from the socks you buy to the person you elect in office.       This is not to say that Spotify doesn’t control what songs show up where and what artists might get more exposure than others, but in   this illuminating article by Adam Pasick, he seeks (and succeeds) to debunk the methodology behind this. What we learn through his research is that it’s 1) very dependent on other people, 2) pretty fair/progressive (in that, a fancy curated playlist made by a company or someone with a lot of followers is scanned and picked apart just as much as some guy in his mother’s basement who only listens to 5 albums) and 3) a little bit random.

“Spotify also creates a profile of each user’s individualized taste in music, grouped into clusters of artists and micro-genres—not just “rock” and “rap” but fine-grained distinctions like “synthpop” and “southern soul.” These are derived using technology from Echo Nest, a music analytics firm that Spotify acquired in 2014, which learns about emerging genres by having machines read music sites and analyze how various artists are described.” (Pasick)

It also can’t be an accident that a fresh playlist awaits on Mondays—when we might need it the most.

Bibliography:

Caplan, Robin, and Boyd, Danah. Who Controls the Public Sphere in an Era of Algorithms? Data&Society (2016). Online.

Pasick, Adam. The Magic that makes Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists so damn good. Quartz Media (2015). Online.