prof. e.

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

Archive for September, 2015

This Ain’t Your Father’s Television

Posted by prof e on September 26, 2015

rabbitearsIt used to be easy to explain what television was. The TV was the thing that sat in your living room, den or family room. It was standard definition, 4:3 aspect ratio, and had a 27-inch (or so) diagonal screen. When you turned it on and tuned in a channel, (you could choose from ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and maybe an independent station or two), you could watch a TV program that was either a game show, sitcom, drama, news or variety show.

That was then. Modern TV has morphed into something that defies easy description. TV “programs” can be watched on any one of many devices with screens from a few inches wide to, well…humongous. You can access TV programming using an antenna (surprised?, you’re not alone), cable or satellite subscription service, internet streaming from various service providers such as Netflix and Hulu, or for free on various internet websites.

TV programming used to always be 30 or 60 minutes in length. Of that, about 22 minutes or 46 minutes was actual program…the rest was commercial spots for products and services and promos for other TV shows.

The technology involved in getting a standard definition television signal to your home used to rely on a TV station transmitting a signal from an antenna to your receiving antenna, which was mounted either on your roof or on top of the TV set (aka, rabbit ears). That is actually still an option and more and more TV viewers are rediscovering free, Over-The-Air (OTA) TV and the benefits of an HD signal without a monthly bill. Switch from a pay service such as cable or satellite TV to free OTA is often referred to as cutting the cord. I’ve already posted to this blog about “cord cutters” (here and here) so I won’t revisit that in this post.

Instead, I want to discuss streaming video, and more precisely, the sharing of subscription passwords. If you watched the Emmy awards last week you may have heard the host, Andy Samberg of SNL fame, give out his HBO username and password to a viewing audience of just under 12 million people. What was intended as a joke by Samberg is actually a real problem for the streaming TV business. According to a recently published report, streaming media sites like Netflix and Hulu stand to lose $500 million this year because of unauthorized sharing. A survey of 1,000 US adults conducted in early September of this year found that 36% say that they share premium TV app credentials with others. An HBO Now account ($14.99 per month) permits three simultaneous users, and additional attempts to connect will result in an error message….something that lots of Emmy viewers experienced when they tried to login with Samberg’s account info.



Posted in tv, video | 1 Comment »

The Beat Goes On

Posted by prof e on September 20, 2015

A new report from Nielsen confirms that music is still an important part of most Americans’ lives. The Music 360 2015 Report found that 91% of us listen to music and we spend an average of 24 hours each week listening. That’s an average of 3.4 hours/day…that’s more time than college and university students spend on work and related activities (2.5 hours) and even more time than they spend on educational activities (3.3 hours) (link).

According to Nielsen,

Radio continues to be the No. 1 source of music discovery in the U.S, with 61% of respondents saying they find out about new music from AM/FM or satellite radio, a 7% increase over last year. Word of mouth is also important, particularly for teens: 65% say they discover new music through family and friends, well above the average of 45%.

music-360-chartAccording to another report from Nielsen, “On average, U.S. consumers report spending $109 each year on music. So aside from albums, what other types of music options are consumers spending their money on? Surprisingly, live events are gaining momentum, as they now account for more than half of total music activity spending each year.”how-we-spend-money-on-music-final

The chart on the right shows how American music consumers are spending (or not spending) their dollars to acquire music. As you can see, live concerts and CDs are the top two ways of purchasing access to music. While this chart may not describe your spending patterns, it is interesting to note that traditional means of acquiring music are still important. And you may also be interested in knowing that two albums alone sold a combined 7 million units last year…dominating album sales. “Combined, Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the Frozen soundtrack accounted for almost half of the year’s top 10 album sales.”


Posted in media industry, music, research | 3 Comments »

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Posted by prof e on September 6, 2015

The title is a saying that is intended to capture the painful choice between two equally bad options. You may have also heard someone use the phrase “between a rock and a hard place.” Both are idioms used to describe a dilemma.

When I saw this AP (Associated Press) photo in my local newspaper a few days ago I knew that this was one of those photos. It grabbed my attention and forced me to acknowledge a painful reality. Refugees from Syria and other nations under siege by the Islamic State are trying to get to safety, and some are dying in the process. Three-year-old Aylan and his five-year-old brother Galip, along with their mother, were just three of the victims of this tragically failed bid for freedom. To see a lifeless body of a young child is never easy…but is it necessary? That’s a question for journalists and reporters…and media ethicists.restricted-refugee-boy

The decision to take the photo or to record audio/video of an event unfolding is fairly straight-forward. Unless you can do something to change the outcome, your journalistic responsibility is to shoot the photo and record the event. Once you get back to the office, away from the urgency of the situation and with the support and counsel of colleagues who are emotionally one step removed from the situation, you can make the decision whether to use some part or all of the material.

As expected the photo was widely distributed, not just by AP but by social media users: some who were shocked by the photo, others by the reality that it represented, and still others by the decision to publish the photo at all. It’s not an easy call. Those who published the photo argued that the shocking nature of the photo may serve a greater purpose. According to the BBC article linked below, the UK newspaper The Independent said it had decided to use the images on its website because “among the often glib words about the ‘ongoing migrant crisis’, it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.”

This incident is not without precedent. There have been other photos that have forced us to face harsh realities and the dilemmas inherent in life-and-death moments captured on camera. In an earlier blog post I asked similar questions about photos of men who were seconds away from dying. Years and continents away, a South African photojournalist, Kevin Carter, took a Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a Sudanese child as a vulture waited for her to die. Carter later took his own life. You can read more here and here.

If you believe that these photos should not be published, then you see me as contributing to the problem. I thought about that…and decided to take the risk. I hope that you think deeply about what this picture means, and what it means for you. If we turn away and go back to our Twitter feeds, our video games, or our Netflix movies…or even back to work or whatever else we might be doing this Labor Day weekend…without asking soul-searching questions about our role in the world and how this tragedy might be averted for future Aylans or Galips, everyone loses.

For more information:

Posted in ethics, global media, journalism, media effects, new media, politics, social media | 3 Comments »