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Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for February, 2014

Social Media & Breaking News

Posted by prof e on February 24, 2014

If you’ve been paying attention to international news you’ve probably noticed that while the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia were winding down, a geo-political revolution was heating up in the neighboring state of Ukraine. Demonstrators battled riot police and security forces in the capital city of Kiev and, as the saying goes, the whole world was watching.

Over the weekend the tide appears to have shifted in favor of the demonstrators. Charged with mass murder, former president Yanukovych fled leaving behind a palatial estate complete with zoo and  golf course. Corruption has been a problem for this democratic state for many years, and it is still too soon to tell if this latest revolution will put them on the road to political stability.

But this is a blog primarily about media, not politics. Conveniently social media was an important component in the Kiev uprising of 2014, and one viral video in particular helped to focus attention on the plight of the Ukrainians. In case you didn’t see it…

Social media is being used increasingly as a source of news for teens and young adults. A recent survey of >5,000 adults by the Pew Research Journalism Project found that Reddit, Twitter and Facebook lead other social media for users reporting that they get news online. Of those who report using social media sites for news, most use only one site for news, while 26% get news from two sites, and 9% get news from 3 or more sites. It is also worth noting that the study found that social media news consumers also seek out news from traditional legacy media outlets such as cable TV and radio.

But social media as a source of news has some interesting strengths and weaknesses. One obvious strength is the speed of social news. A twitter feed from the front lines can literally provide a play-by-play account in near-real-time. Another strength is the democratization of sources. Citizen journalists and eyewitnesses can now transmit to a global audience. The barrier to entry has never been lower. As Mathew Ingram asserted in GigaOm, “social media is the only media that matters” in these contexts.

Of course these strengths are also weaknesses. Speed is frequently the enemy of accuracy. And the lack of gate-keepers and editors to vet content means that a lot of half-truths and out-right lies also make it into the mix. As Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” And these criticisms don’t even begin to raise questions about overt and covert propaganda. Who is behind the I am a Ukrainian video on YouTube and what should we believe about their efforts to elicit support? Remember, if you get your news from social media, you need to be prepared to be your own filter and fact-checker.

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Posted in global media, interactive media, journalism, new media, politics, PR, social media, video | 16 Comments »

Cashing in on Legal Pot

Posted by prof e on February 13, 2014

retail potThe state of Colorado is involved in a grand social experiment. Recreational marijuana is now legal for adults (over the age of 21), and since January 1st is available through retail establishments known as dispensaries. A similar experiment is underway in the state of Washington, but for now I’ll focus attention on the state that I call home.

Plenty of time and energy has been devoted to the debate over the wisdom of making marijuana available over the counter. This post is not about the decision itself, but how media outlets are responding to the opportunity to cash in by carrying advertising for dispensaries. Any discussion about the legality and propriety of accepting advertising is compounded by the fact that marijuana use remains a federal crime. And while federal authorities have promised to look the other way with regard to Colorado’s new law, the fact that radio and TV broadcasters are licensed by the Federal government is having a chilling effect on local broadcasters. According to Justin Sasso, president and CEO of the Colorado Broadcasters Association, the CBA doesn’t think it’s wise for stations “to risk their license–or the legal fees required to fight for their license–if the federal government decides to crack down on broadcasters” (Broadcasting & Cable, Feb 3, 2014, p. 28).

The State of Colorado has a few things to say about advertising retail pot. Last fall the Colorado Department of Revenue issued a 136-page document that stipulates, among other things, that advertisers must have reliable evidence that the audience for the ad does not contain more than 30% under the age of 21. According to the website The Cannibist, the publications High Times and Westword have sued the State of Colorado claiming that the restriction on advertising is an infringement of First Amendment rights. In addition to age restrictions, advertisers may not use outdoor advertising, may not buy out-of-state ads, nor promote marijuana tourism.

Cable TV is subject to different regulations than broadcast TV so if we see TV ads anytime soon we would expect them to appear first on select cable channels. Websites, of course, are subjects to even fewer regulatory restrictions. The Cannabist, a website by The Denver Post newspaper, is staking out territory on the web and will likely become a venue for advertising in the future. The Post even has its own marijuana editor, Richardo Baca.

In some ways this debate is made moot by the fact that marijuana dispensaries have been overwhelmed with business. That, and the free publicity provided by the news media, makes advertising unnecessary for now. However, as more vendors compete for customers, as supply matches and exceeds demand, and the novelty and media attention fades away, advertising will become increasingly important. And then the difficult decisions will have to be made.

Posted in 1st amendment, advertising, media industry, politics, radio, regulation, tv | Leave a Comment »

Facebook turns 10

Posted by prof e on February 3, 2014

FacebookHitsPubertyTen years ago Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University, launched Facebook. If you want to see a Hollywood version of the beginning and early years of the company, see the 2010 film The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by  David Fincher. In the film, Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed as a brilliant, but self-absorbed, geek who takes his own ideas and combines them with ideas from other innovative students to create the foundation of what would become the Facebook we know today. Blinding ambition and underdeveloped social skills aside, Zuckerberg creates a social sharing network that grows beyond his wildest dreams. Of course there are plenty of plot twists, including law suits from estranged partners and competitors, to keep the film humming along. In fact, the DVD case is inscribed, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” And just for the record, the current number of monthly active users is just north of 1.2 billion!

Since the early 200s, much has changed for Facebook and a host of social network services (SNS) competing for your attention. Some start-ups, like Instagram, were purchased by Facebook, while others, e.g., Snapchat, rejected Zuckerberg’s advances (and his $3 billion offer)!

Rumors and speculations about the teen market abandoning Facebook (even as their parents and grandparents join up) have been growing. A recent study by two Princeton University PhD students uses comparisons to Myspace to predict a rapid decline of Facebook users over the next several years. While many bloggers and experts have criticized the methodology and conclusions of the study, (Facebook itself offered up a rather humorous and snarky rebuttal) there appears to be mixed evidence regarding the decline of teens and college-age users.

Long a proponent of radical transparency, Zuckerberg created a network that asks users to log in as themselves without the option of hiding behind a pseudonym or avatar. The requirement that users “own” their own content is seen by some as a benefit, and by others as a limitation. In social media spaces where anonymity is allowed and encouraged, loss of civility is too common and other users can feel victimized by empowered bullies. Case in point: YouTube comments recently overhauled their comments to make users more accountable for their posts.

As Facebook approaches its pre-teen years it is important to look carefully and critically at what it has become and what we are becoming as we spend more and more time online.

In 6 New Facts about Facebook, PEW research identifies several interesting facts about Facebook.

  1. Our greatest fears about Facebook are about “oversharing”
  2. …but sharing is why we love Facebook.
  3. The median number of friends is 200
  4. …and some of us have been asked to “unfriend” someone on Facebook.
  5. We like to “like” and comment on others’ posts…but we’re not as fond of posting.
  6. And, even those without Facebook accounts are likely to live with someone who does.

Posted in interactive media, new media, social media, websites | Leave a Comment »