Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Journalist Could Learn From Advertisers

Yes, we have so much information thrown at us, that our attention is limited. Now, this seems like a terrible thing, most notably for advertising. But as an advertising creative, I think attention economy challenges us on that level to really go past the 'ok' zone to the 'wow' zone. Here at UT, our portfolio professors tell us all the time 'Fail Big.' Instead of purely informational ads, we push smarter concepts to try to engage the consumer. We catch attention with more non-traditional campaigns.

In a more traditional form, advertising was a linear model from attention to interest to desire then action.  If you don't have someones attention, then they cannot complete the rest of the path to action. 

I believe that is the problem with web advertising, and is a problem with journalism as well. With web advertising, annoying pop ups and banner ads could irritate the consumer, and some can be so abundant, that the consumer doesn't even glance at them at all. In journalism, most of the big papers are writing the same story, so what's going to make them choose yours? Example: iPhone 5 reveal. The internet was over flowing with iPhone 5 stories, that all pretty much said the same thing. 

So what do advertisers do? They think bigger, and I think that is something that journalism is still trying to do. 

Example of non-traditional advertising

It is not easy to miss the important information today

Information surplus seems having big effect to our daily life, people feel stressful by the countless information. Because there are so many information which tries to attract people’s attention, so everything on the media becomes bigger, faster, louder just like De Grandpre said in the book of Digitopia: The Look of the New Digital You.

However, as a user, I think audience can train themselves to ignore most of the information which they are not interesting. I use Facebook everyday for keeping in touch with my friends in Taiwan, however, I hardly pay attention to the advertisement on Facebook. People can develop the necessary skills to fit into the environment. And to ignore the useless information no matter how big, fast or loud it is, could be an important ability to people live in the age of information. Actually, it is not easy to neglect the important information for there are so many different types of media which communicate the same content. If people miss any important information in one media, they will receive that information in another media very soon.

Apple Daily is not only popular in Hong Kong, but also in Taiwan; it not only dominate Taiwan’s printing media, but also Taiwan’s television media. If there is any “important news” in Apple Daily, almost all of the news channels will report the same news from Apple Daily immediately, and sometimes TV stations just report the news without interviewing any key person or take any photography but cite the source from Apple Daily or NEXT MAGAZINE (both issued by NextMedia). 

Maybe we should not feel anxious for information surplus, for we don't have more information in the digital age, just repeated information.

Never "Undress," but rather "Dress Up"

According to the State of the News Media 2012, last year, most sectors of the news media managed to stop the audience losses they suffered a year earlier. First of all, news websites saw the greatest growth. Monthly unique audience to the top news sites was up 17%, and seventeen of those 25 continue to be legacy news outlets. Average evening news viewership across the three networks increased 4.5%, local TV news and cable TV news 1.0% respectively.  

Nevertheless, decline in overall news consumption may be incontestable fact in Web 2.0 era. So? What should news media do to stop the audience’s leaving and draw their attention? What is clear is that the model like Apple Daily – making audience sensory-saturated with alluring stimuli – should not and cannot be the answer. For product differentiation strategies, I think ‘absolute market-driven’ or ‘entertainment-driven’ journalism signs its own death warrant in the long run. The same is true of softer news, to my mind. For long-term attention management, I believe that news should not undress by myopic 'infotainment' and softer news, but rather dress up with news more significant and relevant to audience.

I agree on the following argument regarding how to make journalism’s storytelling interesting and relevant:
“... The infotainment strategy is faulty as a business plan because when you turn your news into entertainment, you are playing to the strengths of other media rather than your own
… The value and allure of news is different. It is based on relevance. The strategy of infotainment, though it may attract an audience in the short run and may be cheap to produce, will build a shallow audience because it is built on form, not substance. Such an audience will switch to the next “most exciting” thing because it was built on the spongy ground of excitement in the first place.”

Nieman Reports
(Excerpt from "The Elements of Journalism" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, p. 195)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rhetorical questions

I really like the juxtaposition of the two readings for tomorrow's lecture on attention economy. The coexistence of information surplus and attention deficit is indeed bad news for us on many levels -- from the possible development of inferiority complex among news junkies (e.g., "omg I can never keep up with all the news I want, what's wrong with me?") to information overload among news avoiders (e.g., "omg why am I bombarded by the news even on Facebook?!"), just to name a few.  The old and wise often say "moderation is the key to long-term peace and contentment, but whether we want it or not, and for better or worse, the Internet has long declared information moderation "overrated." 

While filters may help us screen out unimportant information (e.g., junk mails) in the attempt to save us time, another equally, if not more important problem that I see in the age of attention deficit is our inability to prioritize things in our lives. Especially in capitalist societies, we are taught at a young age to do whatever we can to meet the demands of school and work, and sometimes we, like Rob Lippincott, lose sight of what matters to us most in our daily struggle to tackle everything that requires our attention (which is, sadly, 99% work related for many of us).

To me the problem extends from information economy to modern society, and is in dire need of our attention (no pun intended) as we spiral down the capitalist abyss that is unrealistically obsessed with growth and productivity. To paraphrase what one of my professors at Penn remarked a few years ago: The internet has fundamentally changed academia -- the expectation now is that we can work from anywhere and at anytime -- as long as we work all the time.

At what point will we learn to take a break from time to time to reassess priorities in our lives and adjust accordingly? For example, just because we can work from anywhere and at anytime doesn't mean we should work from everywhere and all the time... but we do. 

Some lessons are harder to learn than others, but hopefully this, the art of prioritization, is one we will all master sooner rather than later.

What are your priorities in (1) the age of information surplus and (2) life? 

How does an information surplus square with a resurgence in longform journalism?

While reading Davenport & Beck's and Iris' pieces on the attention economy and information surplus, I couldn't help but think about how those ideas squared with the resurgence of longform journalism online. On the surface, longform journalism's renaissance would seem to run completely counter to those concepts: If attention is becoming increasingly scarce and the amount of information exceeds what people could consume even at the price of zero, then long, deep, involved stories would be the worst kind of information to try to succeed with online.

Yet we're seeing the opposite of that -- we've seen example after example in the past few years of how thoughtful, long, time-consuming pieces are among the most popular in online information and journalism. Iris provides an example of Apple Daily's lowest-common-denominator style succeeding in an information surplus, but this seems to be the opposite. So what gives? Can the information surplus model explain this, too, or is it broken?

I think it can provide us some clues. Iris' model posits that at the information surplus level, there's more information than a consumer can possibly consume, even with all of it free and available. So at that point, quality in some cases may become more important to the consumer, not less, in determining whether to give some message their attention. If a consumer doesn't have time for anything, they may take conscious steps to limit their media consumption to only what they deem truly important, as opposed to frivolous content.

For me personally, consumption of frivolous, low-quality tends to go up as I have more attention free, not down. When I have to bear down and get projects done and limit my media intake, it's generally that low-quality content that will get cut out -- the pointless YouTube videos linked to my friends on Twitter, the endless blog-comment discussions, etc. What survives as my available attention dwindles is the good stuff, the stuff that takes more attention, not less. Not everyone's media consumption works this way, obviously, but it could help explain why we still have time for quality longform journalism during an information-surplus age.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Do we really want news on our fridge?

Here's an example of how sometimes "we can" doesn't have to mean "we should" or "we do."

This is the fridge in the graduate student lounge. It has the capability to get news, tweets and more once you connect it to the internet. Mercifully, nobody has taken the time to set it up.

On a slow day, I might spend 20 seconds at my fridge, but I'm looking at its contents, not its front. Is there really a crowd of people out there going, "Man, the front of my fridge is so boring. What it needs is a touch screen so I can read news on my fridge. That's right, a news fridge." (On the other hand, a fridge that plays music from Pandora is potentially useful because you don't have to stare at the tiny, elbow-height (on me) screen to enjoy it.)

When I was at my newspaper, I felt like new media initiatives were sometimes approached in this same way. Hey, could we have a live chat along with that news event? Even if it's not the sort of thing that people watch live and participate in? If the answer is "yes, we can," then the answer immediately became, "yes, we should." Flood the site with anything we can think of, and maybe something will work. Throw all the spaghetti against the wall, and see what sticks.

This was partly because it's the editorial department in charge of all our content. Any sort of marketing or audience research was directed at attracting advertisers, not readers. We were left on our own, and without time to conduct our own research, we were left to make guesses. And our guesses weren't that good. If we made those judgments based on what phone calls we got at the office, then everything would be about the TV listings and the Junior Miss Salem Rodeo Queen pageant.

All this to say, if we're going to try something new, perhaps existing newsrooms aren't the best incubator for it. If we leave it to the overworked journalists who are very married to their routines, we might get news fridges. It's new, it's news, but it's stupid.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Media Studies(1.0), dead and alive?

Without question, new media have clearly different characteristic from conventional medial. I think, however, the tools for new media studies should not be designed “to address an entirely different landscape” from conventional media. There seems to be a tendency to cut new media off from traditional media in many ways. As lots of new media studies argue that new media is replacing the previously powerful media industries, focusing on the creativity and power of previously marginalized people and groups, I am wondering they seem to overvalue the influence of new media on contemporary society.
Some authors view technological change regarding new media as "an incremental process, in which the latest innovations tend to be variations or elaborations of existing systems and infrastructures, rather than radical departures." There are also several new media research that refers to principles of mediamorphosis and diffusion of innovations to explain the emergence of the new media concentration within the communication discipline. Moreover, some scholars take note of “the increased control of new media content, ownership, and policy debates by conventional mass media industries.” If so, is media studies(1.0) really dead and alive?

Gauntlett's Perfect World

Facebook Commercial

First off, we talked about Facebook last class, and they have released a commercial, which has already sparked criticism and its own Internet meme site (


Now to the reading: As someone in the digital world, you hear words like Web 2.0 thrown around a lot. Gauntlett talked about the act of the Internet being a community, which it is. We have websites like Facebook that allow an interaction created by the user. I remember several years ago people talking about how we were losing that much needed human interaction because we were doing more things online. Instead of picking up the phone and calling a friend, we could just message them on AOL. Already we were becoming an attention economy, with sites like Xanga, where our once personal diaries became public.

What I find interesting about Gauntlett, is that he sees these online interactions just as crucial and healthy as a face to face interaction. While reading an interview with Gauntlett, he explained that it is the act of making a difference with our new found connections (whether online or offline) increase our overall happiness and well-being.

Gauntlett seems unrealistically optimistic about people on the web, and that users are trying to help people, the world, etc. He mentioned that Web 2.0 is like a community garden. I think he forgot that some people are weeds.

Media studies: What's helpful (or not)?

Gauntlett raised a good question in the 2004 chapter: What is the point of academic research on media studies when whatever we produce tend to lag behind real-time evolution by months if not years given the way academic publishing processes are? 

I think the point is that academic and trade publications have different aims in what they do -- whereas the former cares more about understanding the why and how for in-depth understanding and theory-driven purposes, the latter tends to care more about how to make profit from cursory, real-time snapshots of reality. Nonetheless, I think both streams of research can learn from, if not complement each other, but first academics need to start thinking outside of the box -- especially in the new media environment where there are still a lot more unknowns than there are known things -- stop asking the trite question of "what is your theoretical contribution?" and start paying attention to all quality empirical work that may fill in the knowledge gap. "Theory" is not confined to the few constructs with fancy names and that are put on the pedestal in the old media environment. Instead, I think theory should be broadly applied to any explanation or prediction that helps us better understand why and how the new media environment differ (or not) from the old media environment. Some of these explanations and predictions may not have a name yet, but given time patterns will emerge and that's how new theories are developed, is it not? 

On a different note -- I disagree with Gauntlett on two accounts:

1. It is not true that "with some effort" anyone's website can be seen on the web (p.16). Especially given the exponential growth of information in recent years (granted his article was written in 2004) and the way google algorithms are, there is simply no easy way for anybody's website to be noticed just by following what he suggested. 

2. I think Gauntlett's closing remark on one's need to make one's own website in order to succeed in web studies is overly simplistic and disrespectful of the diversity and complexity in both qualitative and quantitative academic media studies.   What would he suggest scholars who study the antecedents and effects of pornography do, I wonder?

What matters is to monetize attention!

Response to 'Attention economy'

As long as individuals have interesting contents, they compete with any big companies on the Web. That is a key tenet of ‘Attention economy’ and growing popularity of blogs is a good example of the concept.  However, survival of any web site or individual blog depends on monetizing the attention. Moreover, information barrier still exists in production of high quality contents in news media sectors even on the Web.

The relationship between attention and monetizing is similar with a relationship between revenue and profit. While revenue growth is an important indicator to predict the future success of the company, the revenue growth does not guarantee the survival of the company in the market place without increasing profits. In an extreme case, selling one item with a profit of $1 is better than selling billions of items with minus profit or loss. However, future investors are more attracted to business models selling billions of items than the business models selling only a few items because it is easier to grab the public’s attention with the seemingly promising number.

In light of that, the way of monetizing attention on the Web is more important task for individuals or companies to survive on the Web. For instance, despite the fact that there are many blog journalists, it is rarely found that they run their blogs only based on the profit generated by their blog postings. ‘Backpack journalism’ can surely be achieved on the Web, but it cannot succeed without a successful business model to ensure the backpack journalism in the long run.

Moreover, information barrier still exists in producing a high quality of contents in Web journalism. Popular blogs are found in the area of soft news, such as cooking, culture, sports and entertainment. In those areas, subjective critique on news items is appealing to the public. The success of is a good example showing that anyone can be a commentator on reviews of restaurants, for example. In those areas, creating interesting contents is not dependent on information, itself. However, there are areas requiring a high degree of information access; foreign policy, defense and health care. To be successful blogger journalists in those fields, information disparity between blogger journalist and traditional journalist matters in producing a high quality of contents. But, the access to information in those fields is mainly restricted to those with a credential of traditional news media.

I believe that those two problems, such as monetizing attention and information disparity, are the key issues to be solved for citizen journalism models from the perspective of economics. Voluntary blogging cannot count as a successful journalism model in the long term.

Seokho's stock portfolio

Seokho’s Stock Portfolio.

Potential, potential and potential….


1)    Baidu, Incorporation (NASDAQ: BIDU)

-       A Chinese web services company. Simply speaking, Baidu is a Chinese version of Google.

-       Current stock price as of Oct 5  is $114.20, which is relatively close to the lowest price level of 52 weeks (Price ranges in 52 weeks are from $ 99.71 ~ $154.15)

-       Stable income and EPS growth in last 5 years: 86% and 73%

-       Increasing internet users in China.

: 800 million internet users will be reached by 2015.


2)    Zynga, (NASDAQ: ZNGA)

-       A social game service company.

-       Current stock price as of Oct 5  is $2.48, which is relatively close to the lowest price level of 52 weeks (Price ranges in 52 weeks are from $ 2.21 ~ $15.91)

-       Current situation

: Increasing revenue growth and decreasing profit.

: Overvalued IPO price : $10 per share

-       Possible buyout target from Facebook

Motley fool article about M&A

-       Possible business plan change upon the bill, ‘The internet gambling prohibition, poker consumer protection, and strengthening UIGEA ACT OF 2012’

: Licensed online poker enterprises…..

Seeking alpha article about the proposed bill