Sick of listening to pundits and their softball questions? Why not ask comment or hurl a zinger yourself through Prez Conference, a YouTube forum where citizens and bloggers are trying to get the attention of the powers that would be.
Blogger J.D. (Social Media) Lasica was recently thrilled to learn that Sen. Joe Biden had video-blogged an answer to one of his questions. (Here’s a link to Lasica’s post that leads to Biden’s video, the original question and more.)
How cool is that! Lasica, a grassroots media entrepreneur and co-founder of OurMedia, wrote:
“I hope other bloggers and videobloggers will join in and ask questions of the candidates. The pundits are saying YouTube and MySpace will play a major role in the 2008 election. But what’s really about to happen is that we, the people, will.”
The Knight Citizen News Network, aka KCNN.org, debuted this week with a stellar list of contributors and an impressive compilation of resources. If you’re doing independent media by all means check it out.
KCNN.org is an outgrowth of J-Lab, a University of Maryland project that has focused on the how-to aspect of grassroots media. The new site will presumably feature that educational and instructive material plus offer opportunities for independent media startups to commune.
The money behind all this comes from the Knight Brothers Foundation, which is focusing its considerable assets on seeding what all optimists hope will be a flowering of community and communications through the proliferation of media tools.
Last week I wrote about how publisher Wendy McCaw had sued former editor Jerry Roberts for trying to deflect her meddling in the news. Now a report says the National Labor Relations Board “will prosecute the conflict-ridden Santa Barbara News-Press newspaper for unfairly firing eight reporters.” The article quotes Barry Cappello, a lawyer for the News-Press: “The meteor has hit. We’re watching the end of the industry . . . Journalists think they can write what they want when they want. I don’t know if that can survive in this age.”
Here’s a premise that should get broad agreement: it’s so easy to create and display content nowadays that the choices become overwhelming and time becomes the factor limiting consumption.
For years Web thinkers used the term ”Attention Economy” to describe this relationship between scarce time and ever-more-abundant content. This same idea also forms the premise of a presentation by Bear Stearns entertainment analyst Spencer Wang. (I will link to the presentation momentarily as Bear Stearns graciously posted all 38 slides). It is titled: “Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment.” Wang argues that Big Brands will become the gate keepers between content creators and consumers. The Big Brands may include traditional content kings like Disney, Web portals like Yahoo and Google, and gadget-aided audience builders like Apple (via the iPod) and Nokia (via the super cell phone). This small band of brands will package content, creating channels to simplify choice. Consumers will tune in to one or more channels to get variety. In slide 34 Wang explains the rationale behind the Big Brand-ification of media: “The value of aggregation and brands increase with exponential increases in content choices.”
I agree with Wang up to a point. But I envision an alternate future to this supermarket model for media. Imagine that a network of independent filtering agents arise and find audiences. They would be people or small media whose expertise we trust on whatever issue is at hand: the local commentator who has the pulse of city hall; the scientist who has a knack for explaing his or her field; the real voices that we know to be more honest than soul-less brands. This idea of grassroots filtering agents is not new. Robin Good has called them “newsmasters” — another concept to which I will link momentarily. I think these newsmasters, to use Good’s term, will augment rather than oppose Big Brand media (which has too much money and power to be stopped). And I want to propose a structure that would give these independents more clout. I hope you’ll read on as I describe more about Wang’s presentation — and the alternative.
I am disgusted with Internet censorshop (and the complicity of U.S. firms in it) and therefore delighted to read in a New York Times article that, on December 1, computer scientists at the University of Toronto will release a program called psiphon (pronounced “SY-fon”) that I gather will be a sort of peer-to-peer way for people in censored countries to access unfiltered content through cooperative hosts in uncensored nations. Here’s a snip from the Times:
“Psiphon is downloaded by a person in an uncensored country (psiphon.civisec.org), turning that person’s computer into an access point. Someone in a restricted-access country can then log into that computer through an encrypted connection and using it as a proxy, gain access to censored sites. The program’s designers say there is no evidence on the user’s computer of having viewed censored material once they erase their Internet history after each use.”
Thanks to Ronald Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, and his team for creating this workaround.
Conferencing and conventioneering must rank among the foremost professional diversions. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing and being seen, whispering to allies while smiling frostily at those who look down their noses in your direction. Just thinking of all the schmoozing possibilities makes me wish that I wish I had $1,200 (plus travel expenses) to attend the Online Publishers’ Association “Forum for the Future” that will be held in London in March.
But it costs nothing to look over the program or can the speaker’s list. Which is fortunate, because while the OPA event is not unreasonably priced, it’s still beyond my budget. More importantly, because it’s not all that difficult to scam the cash, the level of discourse and the business concerns are way beyond what small or independent media would find useful.
So let me put in another plug for the idea of creating a cooperative organization for independent media producers. I call this class of producers mini-media. But that’s just a term and if there’s a better banner under which to unite these disparate producers, I’d embrace it without hestitation. Perhaps OPA has a way to accommodate small producers and their concerns? I’m in favor of anything that might help members of this emerging business category find each other. I still think there are other purposes, beyound comparing notes, that would warrant the formation of a professional association of small media folks, but that remains to be shown.
Meanwhile, on the different subject of censorship . . .
I pointed my browser to Unmediated.org today, and saw a nifty addition to that gathering place for offbeat and tech and media news. It is a black rectangular box that announces headlines for two dozen or so recent postings — so the visitor can scan and click to pieces of interest instead of having to scoll down to see what’s up. I wish I knew how to grab a screen shot and post it, but in a word-picture it reminds me of those giant train schedules I’ve seen in stations back east or in Europe. Thanks to the Unmediators for making the reading easier, and perhaps this is a trick you’ll want to copy as well.