The New York Times > Technology > For a Start-Up, Visions of Profit in Podcasting

The New York Times > Technology > For a Start-Up, Visions of Profit in Podcasting

Markoff on the commercial prospects for Podcasting, specifically Odeo.

No Times today. A big dumping of snow here on the Cape has forced me to the nyt.com for my daily read. 

Don’t Feed the Troll

Library Journal – Revenge of the Blog People!

"A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People."

That’s Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association and Dean of Library Services, Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, writing in the  Library Journal in response to the blogger critics who slagged him for writing an op-ed in the LA Times in December which criticized Google’s avowed plan to digitize library collections.

This is an important piece and I recommend clicking through to read it in its entirety. [clicks to Chris Locke for the alert to its existence]

The topic of digitization and open access to the "stacks" has roiled the professional librarian/research world since ASCII was invented. A story I wrote about WAIS and Gopher and Brewster Kahle in the early 90s sparked a bit of a "s**t-storm" due to its rhetorical prediction that the digitization of the world’s information and easy access to such tools would make the librarian profession as secure as stablehands and paddock boys were the year Henry Ford rolled the first horseless carriage out of a Michigan garage.

 Well, of course that is not the case, and the role of the librarian/searcher will doubtless persist and perhaps intensify over time as the mechanics of the information space continue to explode beyond our capacity to tame the output [sort of Ithiel de Sola Pool meets I Love Lucy on the assembly line of bits]. Librarians have displayed some scorn over the democratization of data access, mostly on the misassumption by laymen that online search tools are comprehensive, but also on the difficulty to verify data sources in an age when any fool can forge an earnings report, release it, and play the options.

 Gorman, and other librarians, aren’t opposed to digitization per se, but to the danger of laymen assuming that if it isn’t in Google, it doesn’t exist. The sin of omission through ignorance of existence.

This tendency is particularly dangerous for amateur searchers when their favorite search tool can’t penetrate the "costwalls"  [ack. to Jim Thompson for my favorite word-of-the-day"] that hide newspaper archives, etc. (costwalls have their own perils for those erect them, per Penenberg’s wirednews piece about the loss of relevance for the WSJ per his Google search to see where the world’s best newspaper ranked on results for the term "Enron." Net result — it didn’t, ergo irrelevance].

 

 

 

Wired News: Whither The Wall Street Journal?

Wired News: Whither The Wall Street Journal? Penenberg on the WSJ and his recommendation they drop the subscription model and open their doors to the traffic.

Two points he touches on, but deserve development. He cites the Battelle meme of irrelevancy due to the walled-garden model which prohibits bloggers from deep linking inside the archive. Same could be said of the NYT. Sites that permit a permalink into their articles will reap what they sow by letting we bloggers funnel scads of traffic into their pages. Highbeam (not another Highbeam reference!) takes it even a step further and lets bloggers deep link into the archives (which could actually end run the newspaper industry’s precious rev. stream from their morgues.

The killer in the open-site model such as the one followed at Forbes (Adam misstates Forbes "…got rid of registration requirements when it discovered they drove away traffic.") Forbes never required registration for access. It was a founding principle to counter the Journal’s model with an open one and make cash from the traffic [CORRECTION: Adam writes: "You are mistaken. Not in your day, though. But a few years ago the site did require registration. I know this for two reasons. Number one, I had to register just to read old friends like Penelope Patsuris. Number two, Michael Noer recently came to the graduate seminar I teach at NYU and reminded me about Forbes.com’s former registration requirement.]) was pointed out yesterday by Forbes.com’s editor, Paul Maidment.

Online operations need coal in the form of stories, articles, content, bus plunge stories, to meet their inventory needs. As long as online arms like Forbes, Businessweek, NYT are dependent on print parents feeding them, they’ll never stand on their own two feet. Force them to build their own editorial capabilities and they sink under the overhead. 

I sense some very interesting days ahead in big print media as they come to terms with their online offspring. The place with the best prospects, imho, is Reuters, which has no print parent and could easily become the arms merchant of linked news by embracing bloggers.

IntelliTXT is bad.

IntelliTXT crosses the line and needs a stake driven through its heart.

I was following some links from Romensko’s daily email yesterday and one landed me on the New York Post which lo and behold was testing IntelliTXT, the contextual adword technology that automatically highlights keywords in a story and provides a link to an advertiser.

Forbes.com was one of the first pubs out of the gate with the technology but pulled the plug in December when the editorial staff righteously stood up and cried foul. Today’s NYT reports that the Times itself is considering implementing the stupid, stupid, stupid technology. Even though Steven Hall at Adrants was quoted as saying the ads are “easy to ignore.” I disagree. They aren’t. Especially for the clueless who may, at first pass, think they are a hyperlink to more detail on the story or a definition. They are annoying as hell, stupid in their blindness, and probably, sigh, the way of the future.

Ad words

This crap completely crosses the line between church and state. Penenberg equates them to the comments in Pop-Up Videos. While Hall says they are easy to process and preferable to flashing banners, skyscrapers and other dancing baloney, I disagree — the news hole needs to be sacred — ads need to be labelled ads and kept out of the content well. Figures Popular Mechanics would use them.

Congratulations to the editorial side of Forbes for swatting it down.

What’s with poker mania?

Sorry, but after swatting down at least a dozen online-poker spams every day, and now a wave of trackback spams from “tigerspice.com” I have to ask:

WTF is it with poker?

My teen-aged son is obsessed with watching it on television — louche men wearing bug sunglasses — and it seems to have encroached into nearly every channel with celebrity poker, world series of poker, dogs playing poker.

I have a dark fantasy of inventing the email equivalent of a neutron bomb and replying to the online poker spammers with some sort of digital missile missive that will cause faces to rot off.

MP3s for pennies? Russian cops say no | CNET News.com

MP3s for pennies? Russian cops say no | CNET News.com

In the “Oops, blogged too soon department …” In my daily dump below, I promised to dig a little deeper into allofmp3.com’s copyright status. Looks like the Russian music seller is in the deep doo-doo with the IP cops. From CNET:

“A Russian digital-music site offering high-quality song downloads for just pennies apiece is the target of a criminal copyright investigation by the local police, recording industry groups said Tuesday.

“AllofMP3.com has been operating for several years, asking consumers to pay just 2 cents per megabyte of downloads–usually between 4 cents and 10 cents per song. Alongside the catalogue available at traditional stores like Apple Computer’s iTunes, the site offered access to songs from the Beatles and other groups that haven’t yet authorized digital distribution.”

Daily Dump 2/23/05

I see French People

“I’m color-blind … I don’t see French people. I just see smart people who are creating value and innovation.”

What has the global economy come to? Full page ads in the NYT (c-20) touting the benefits of doing business in France? I thought the era of despising the French as a pack of concessionary socialists went out with “freedom-fries” and the vitriol of the barking heads at Fox News. But no. Now Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola, is proclaiming he’s color-blind to the Frenchness of the French. So what if its employment-for-life in the United States of Europe? As Ed tells us: “Great food, great wine!”

WordPress 1.5
This is like a newspaper publisher telling the readers that he’s just bought a new press. Big whoop. How about a writer upgrade? The power of upgrades compells me to disprove the famous “WordPress 5-minute install” and trash my blog later today in the interests of being current. I get twitchy if I’m not running in the beta-zone. Time to roll out mysqladmin.php and get gnarly with the CSS templates.

Time to Retire “Twisted”
A piece in the Times looks at Aspen and its richification over the years despite Hunter Thompson’s efforts to beat back the greed-heads with the Freak Power Party. The piece ends with a very good suggestion by an Aspen writer who says he checks himself everytime he types the word “twisted” and remembers that’s a Dr. Thompson word and should be retired into the rafters like Bobby Orr’s Number 4. Here. Here. Time to create the HST Archive of Language and relegate “Fear and Loathing”, “Greedhead”, “Twisted” etc. to the ceiling.

A Blog Post I Wish I had Time to Report
Tip of the hat to B. Lipman who introduced me to allofmp3.com, a Russian paid-music service that lets you PayPal in balance and then download CD quality music (the usual western music, not Cossack dance tunes) for pennies per song. With iTunes and others essentially pricing a song at a buck, what’s with allofmp3.com getting away with full CDs for $2.00 and songs for $0.14? Ah, it seems Russian copyright law is a very interesting thing. I shall explore and expiate. Love to see the RIAA go gunning to shutdown a Russian music service and find itself in the court system of one of the world’s greatest kleptocracies.

Highbeam vs. Factiva …
I emailed a detailed description of my online research habits to customer service at Factiva last week but haven’t received a reply. They claim I’m unfairly comparing Highbeam’s all-you-can search model with their “Individual”-$2.95 per article rate. I’ll give them another few days then post my pricing and feature analysis before declaring this tempest dead.

Affording Bloggers Press Protection

Adam Penenberg writes a fine piece on the implications of the Valerie Plame scandal and the protections afforded to journalists at Time and the New York Times to keep their sources confidential and what that means for bloggers.

I may quibble with Adam’s observation that the issue is a First Amendment issue, when in fact it is the lack of a national press shield law that would allow journalists to keep anonymous sources anonymous, but I thought I’d weigh in on the more hairy issue of whether bloggers are journalists.

There is no official certification in existence for journalists. Journalists are not officially regulated and licensed the way physicians, attorneys and accountants are. One does not pass the equivalent of a bar exam to become a journalist. While there are professional associations of journalists that often extend credentials to reporters — the four Congressional Press Galleries review and grant press passes, not Congress — some entities such as the White House, approve the granting of credentials. Hence the recent fracas over a gay hooker gaining access without any “professional” oversight.

Journalists have resisted the official regulation of their ranks and should continue to do so. I also feel they should eschew the protection of the law when it comes to anonymous sources and take their chances on the stand with the rest of the citizenry. Anonymity is a slippery slope and should only be applied, in my opinion, to physician-patient privacy, client-attorney privilege, and pastor-congregant communications.

When reduced to their essence, bloggers are individuals who write and publish into a public medium. Whether they are acknowledged as journalists by the subjects they attempt to report and write about is a reputational problem, not one of credentials, professional standards, or other frameworks. If a blogger can develop a reputation for whatever salient elements define a “journalist” (objectivity, accuracy, literacy, and audience), and win credentials to a Presidential convention, well then good for them.

The crux of Adam’s thesis is:

But should bloggers receive protection under the law as regular reporters? Should they be able to maintain the confidentiality of their sources and not be forced to testify before grand juries or at trial?

Sadly, no, because contrary to conventional wisdom, journalists don’t have these protections. The press has been under assault from the legislative and judicial branches for the past 40 years. These constitutionally protected privileges have become essentially meaningless to reporters and, by extension, everyone else. Bloggers simply can’t count on the law to protect them from the law.

State shield laws have proliferated — there about 31 states with such laws — and calls to extend them to a federal level are mounting. Senator Dodd filed legislation last November to implement a shield law on a federal level.

I dissent. The issue is not a classic First Amendment freedom of speech argument, but the right to publically publish anonymous information and keep that information anonymous in the face of subpoena and other fishing expeditions by law enforcement. I believe that seeking legislative protections above and beyond the First Amendment is a concession of privilege by a free press to officialdom. Journalist should reject all attempts to classify, certify, and protect them by the legislative and judicials branches they are supposed to cover. Permitting elected and appointed officials to determine who is and isn’t a journalist is abhorrent.

The question, which Adam hit on the head, is the definition of who is, and who isn’t covered by a shield law. The definition generally comes down to an employee of a recognized news organization. Well, bloggers should get indignant right out of the box on that definition, and accept the fact that if they want to publish, bloviate, attack, or slander they have to take their chances with the so-called professionals.

Bill Ketter at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune sums up my opposition to shield laws in this column.

He writes:

“In Washington, U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., has proposed a shield law. He feels that while reporters carry the burden to report news accurately, the government must ensure them the freedom to report the truth without fear of imprisonment.

A noble purpose indeed.

But one of our fears is the government. What it gives it can also take away. And while politicians can help us, as they’re apparently trying to do now, they can also hurt us the next time they get mad at the press.

They can, that is, if we let them by conceding that the First Amendment isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Relying on something other than the language of our founding fathers could end up costing us dearly in this risky business of publishing news some people don’t want out.

There is cause for concern. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that reporters have no right to refuse to give information to grand juries, there have been several efforts to break the bond of confidentiality between reporters and their sources. This has the indirect effect of censorship by scaring off those news sources who won’t risk possible disclosure.

But even most shield laws make exceptions when disclosure is necessary to avoid violation of a person’s constitutional rights or a miscarriage of justice, such as a wrongful conviction. Or there is absolutely no other means of obtaining the information in a case that has an overwhelming public issue at stake.

These exceptions strike at the heart of press freedom. The minute we agree that the press is free except for this remote eventuality or that one, we’ve started giving away this little piece of the First Amendment or that one. The result might be that, over time, the legislative effort to bolster the rights of reporters could end up diminishing them.

Better that we rely on the First Amendment, and fight for reporter’s privilege — and the public’s right to know — on a case-by-case basis.”