prof. e.

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

Archive for March, 2015

The Infamous Spaghetti Tree Harvest

Posted by prof e on March 31, 2015

April Fool’s Day is a time to prank your friends and family members with a tall-tale or fib designed to make them believe something that isn’t true. When I was growing up it was not uncommon for one of us to look out the window first thing in the morning and exclaim, “Wow, look at that…it snowed last night!” Of course one could only hope that the target of the prank would look outside before remembering what day it was.

But how would you feel if your local news broadcaster pulled a fast one on you this April 1st? In 1957 the BBC’s Panorama program broadcast a 3-minute segment about the spaghetti harvest in the south of Switzerland. Here, see for yourself…

According to the website,

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

To this day the Panorama broadcast remains one of the most famous and popular April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time. It is also believed to be the first time the medium of television was used to stage an April Fool’s Day hoax.

You can read more about it here.


Posted in ethics, global media, journalism, tv | Leave a Comment »

Couch Potato Dumplings

Posted by prof e on March 25, 2015

Question: What do you call someone who binge watches TV shows about binge eating? Answer: Someone who needs to get a life. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but seriously! Apparently the new hit YouTube TV genre in South Korea involves watching people eat.

Mukbang performance artists eat in front of their webcams for live audiences who apparently get a voyeuristic thrill out of the experience. “Rachel Ahn, who goes by ‘Aebong-ee’ on her broadcasts, is kind of a big deal in the mukbang world.” For three hours a night she eats for an audience, and the audience rewards her with virtual prizes that combined amount to a salary greater than her day job.

You can read/listen here on the NPR website.

Sadly, the fact that their neighbor to the north has perennial problems with mass starvation may be lost on these seekers of fame, and their followers.

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

Is This Mic On?

Posted by prof e on March 19, 2015

Plenty of people have ended up in hot water after saying something that was picked up by a “live” mic that they forgot they were wearing. President Obama leaning in to promise Russian president Dmitry Medvedev “more flexibility” after the election; President George W. Bush calling a NYT reporter “a major-league a@*%#*!”; and Jesse Jackson issuing a fairly graphic threat to President Obama for “talking down to Black people.”

This is such a common occurrence that Time magazine has assembled a Top 10 list for our amusement.

But the latest “caught on mic” moment may lead to a murder conviction for an eccentric (to say the least) character who was the subject of a recent HBO documentary. According to a report in the New York Daily News,

The LAPD recently reopened its Berman investigation, bolstered by new evidence in the HBO documentary by Andrew Jarecki, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Durst appears to make a chilling confession in the final episode of the six-part series when he says off-camera — while his mic is still live — “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Fame and fortune have an odd way of bringing out the worst in people…but if there’s one thing for sure, this real-life, made-for-TV drama will continue to attract attention and win ratings. For you binge-viewers, the entire series will be airing back-to-back on HBO, starting at 3pm on March 21st.

Posted in tv | Leave a Comment »

MJ Advertising and the Case for Audience Research

Posted by prof e on March 18, 2015

I teach a course titled, Audience Research Methodology.  Over the years I have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to make the case for the importance and value of applied audience research. Audience research is happening all around us all the time, but it is often invisible to the average observer. But thanks to marijuana advertising, finding applied examples of audience research just got easier.

When Colorado passed Amendment 64 allowing for the legalization of marijuana they also created laws controlling the process whereby legal MJ would be cultivated, processed, marketed, and distributed. One part of the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code governs the advertising of MJ. For the sake of brevity I’ll cut to the chase. The legal requirement for advertisers is that they provide “reliable evidence” that no more than 30% of the consumers of said advertising are “reasonably expected” to be under the legal age (21 years). This provided a teachable moment in class last week when we discussed how audience research methodology might inform the issue of what percentage of a target audience falls within (or out of) a particular demographic range for various media products.

Some have questioned whether this part of the law would stand a legal challenge. According to a news report released March 17 by the Colorado Press Association, a legal challenge to the 30% requirement brought by the CPA and The Pulp (a local independent news magazine) was found to be without standing. In other words, the challenge on First Amendment grounds was dismissed because the parties bringing the lawsuit were unable to demonstrate that they suffered harm imposed by the legal requirement of no more than 30% underage readers. Claims that the law created a “chilling effect” were likewise dismissed.

Since this 30% requirement appears to be the law for the time being, any retail MJ establishment (or the media company hoping to sell MJ ads) will have to secure the services of audience research companies who can provide “reliable evidence” that can be used to meet the legal requirement. Companies such as the research giant Nielsen can provide data for TV and radio broadcasters and their Scarborough audience analytics for print media can provide reliable data (for a fee). According to the CPA news release, “the [Colorado Department of Revenue] found Scarborough research to be ‘reliable’” for the purpose of legal justification.

Mass Communications majors sometimes (and, I believe, unfairly) think of themselves as math-challenged. But understanding basic data analysis is not a luxury anymore. Nearly everyone working in or around the media industries will, at some time or another, be expected to make sense out of a spreadsheet or graph or table that contains or summarizes data. Quantitative illiteracy is not a reasonable alternative, and MJ advertising is just one example that brings that home.

Posted in 1st amendment, print, regulation, research | Leave a Comment »

Are we all ADD now?

Posted by prof e on March 2, 2015

Black and Blue, or While and Gold? It’s the question that appears to have captivated the ever-so-brief attention span of the online world. The more philosophical are asking again the age-old questions; what is the nature of reality and perception?…and, can we ever know for certain what we think we know? Yes I’m talking about #TheDress. And if you haven’t been paying attention, suffice it to say that the “twitterverse” has been embroiled in a heated debate about the real color of a dress that was worn to a wedding in Ireland. Here’s just one of the many tweets having a bit of fun with the whole thing.dress

Well, that was before the llamas got loose in Arizona…which was just briefly before Leonard Nimoy passed away. We are an easily distracted lot, humanity. One might argue that we need a distraction every now and then to give us relief from the pressure and demands of real life.

But seriously, is this what we’ve come to expect from our media? Was there nothing important going on in the world at the end of last week? Oh yeah, there was. “Jihadi John” was  identified as a college grad from West London; Net neutrality was adopted by the FCC (thanks, perhaps, to John Oliver); and a Russian politician, and foe of Putin, was executed on a city street.

But perhaps there is an explanation. According to this article by Mel Robbins at CNN, “the emotions that make a story go ‘viral’ are not fear and anger — they are awe, laughter and amusement.” Well, there you go. I feel just a little better now about #TheDress and #LlamaDrama.

Posted in interactive media, journalism, media effects, new media, social media | 1 Comment »