Friday, July 31, 2009

dumb q.

Tears welled in the lifelong reporter’s eyes as he discussed the dwindling number of war correspondents. #

How to trust a journalistic culture that fails to question why corporations, which are essentially wealth accumulation mechanisms, are granted human status in the United States.

The bogus analogy that will never go away.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

You can gaze, but you can't see

[cleaned up a bit to make, hopefully, clearer]

Part of the reason the current frantic scribbling about US journalism's prospects of economic dissolution seems arid, tepid and inconsequential is that it takes place within the same tidy, unreal frame in which news is conventionally represented as taking place. Now that the framers of the journalistic gaze are turning it upon itself their own predicament, they're missing the boat. (Sonderman good on this here and here. I attempt to describe the invisible vessel here and here).

Our hypothesis: Content providers have been working on the plantations without making a nickle from the plantation owners - the ILECS - who rake in profits driven by the labor of the content creators.

What is noteworthy, and indisputable, is that very little of what is contained in the frames of the gazers listed below can be found anywhere in USian media (other than Democracy Now) - even now, after all the economic lies that have been exposed. What do USian journalists read, anyway? There's a form of transparency I'd love to see. Do they ever read actual critique?

A brief supplemental reading list, from here:

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The President of Regulation

The greatest poet hardly knows pettiness or triviality. If he breathes into anything that was before thought small it dilates with the grandeur and life of the universe. He is a seer … he is individual … he is complete in himself … the others are as good as he, only he sees it and they do not. He is not one of the chorus … he does not stop for any regulation … he is the president of regulation. #

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Haque and Doc on news, evolution, and bucks

Attention to the dire straits of news as insolvent, failing enterprise and what to do about it goes on. Interesting discussions include that of Umair Haque, who suggests that nichepapers may provide a clue to how content can make money in the future. He makes a distinction between news - the commodity that is immediately available everywhere when something "newsworthy" (Michael Jackson dies) happens and knowledge, which is "meaningful" and "lasting."

Doc comments on Haque, offering a tantalizing suggestion about how the new news is larval, how it pixellates via many witnesses and sources, and how this may over time evolve into something rich and strange.
The results paint a mosaic, or perhaps even a pointillist, picture of news sourced, reported, and re-reported by many different people, organizations and means. These are each portraits of an emerging ecosystem within which newspapers must adapt of die.
Where Haque is looking at the hierarchic depth of knowledge as gleaned from informed sources by discerning journalists, Doc is watching the world scan itself, reacting with almost a visceral immanence, seismically, to events. Twitter picks them up and gossip bubbles up.

Somewhere between Doc and Haque may lie some future -- place? medium? manner? -- of instant information channeled and built into useful knowledge.

One thing both writers speak to, but implicitly, I think, is the current complexity of what is now knowable as news. Newspapers can still position themselves as significant cullers of local news and information useful and desired by their local audiences. But no single newspaper can hope to match the scale and complexity of the Internet as a sensorium resonating with the quickening awareness, wit, and free comment, learned or ignorant, moving all around us. Nor can any modality other than the Net contend with the complexity and intricacy of, say, the Federal Government or Organized Crime in all their tentacular scope.

Rather than compete with the Net, newspapers - no, news organizations - will need to adapt and work with it. Haque and Doc are both saying this, but I'm emphasizing the evident difference imposed by scale that makes this not an option, but a new norm. This is why TV studio local news has become nothing more than a joke - its simplicity beggars belief in a networked world of information.

But the other side of this - how to make a profit - is still unclear in Haque and Doc. According to Haque, successful nichepapers like HuffPo are indicators of how money is made:

"What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness."

I'm less persuaded that content alone, no matter how stunning or seductive, can establish reliable, viable earnings. Which is why I have been trying to formulate one simple observation -- that we who use the Internet think of the Net as both mechanism and mind - pipes and content. We believe that when we've paid our Internet Service Provider, we've done our share. The stuff we find when we connect is what we have already paid for.

Only, the corporate "owners" of the pipes do not see it this way. They make a clear distinction between pipes and content (and then proceed, if they're Verizon or Comcast, to offer miserable excuses for content), and tell us we are only paying for the pipes.

What strikes me in all the discussions, white papers, and bloggery among journalists and commentators is, they apparently buy this hokum -- hook, line, sinker, and mouse turd. Not once have I seen the savvy content gurus suggest that the money we end users intend for content is all being waylaid, ripped off, by the pipe guys. Somewhere back in the day when the pipes were being laid, there was a logical moment when Big Pipe had to think: "What if no one puts any content out there? Then who will use our infrastructure?"

Fortunately for Big Pipe, no content provider apparently ever raised the issue with them, saying, in effect, "That's a nice pipe you've got there - want some content? Let's make a deal."

That deal has yet to be made. The discussion involving the economics of content seems trapped inside Flatland's notion of content. They extrapolate from antique models of moneymaking and apply them to the future, instead of journalistically analyzing the lie they've all been fed, and all believe, that the Internet can, in the eyes of its paying customers, be divided neatly into monthly infrastructure charges on the one hand, and then, on top of that, an infinity of charges to the same customers for the privilege of reading or seeing anything.

My $.02 is that this entire economic system of the Net has to be revisited. The mega profits generated and hoarded by Verizon, Comcast and their keiretsu buddies needs to be shared with content makers -- not just with news, but with anyone doing worthwhile stuff. This is what I've been trying to speak to in recent posts here, as you'll see if you scroll down.

My proposal (caution: Language!) recommends creating an independent pool of funds generated from the income streams of the ISPs or ILECs -- funds which then can be shared among providers of content via an equitable micropayment system.

I don't mean to imply this is the way it must be. I'm saying that I've yet to see any economics of content - including that of David Simon - that makes better sense by leaving out the economics of the totality, which includes the infrastructure. I'll be happy to be pointed to a better idea.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

re.pressing the Italians through open access

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Open: for business

This is basically more added to this.

The FCC released a Notice of Inquiry on developing a national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requires the FCC to create a national broadband plan and to deliver it to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010. The FCC seeks comment on the most effective and efficient ways to ensure broadband access for all Americans, strategies for achieving affordability and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and services, evaluation of the status of broadband deployment, and how to use broadband to advance consumer welfare, public safety and other national purposes. link
Comment at Listics:
In crafting the national broadband plan, the Federal Communications Commission must protect Internet users from corporate gatekeepers who seek to keep prices high and speeds slow, limit access to content and stifle innovations and market choice.
Broadband Opportunities for Rural America

FCC develops strategy for rural broadband

Rural broadband vs. red tape "Fortune"

The biz publications (e.g., "Fortune") always have these stories depicting federal efforts as squabbling, lacking in determined, forthright action. They usually downplay the complexities, the ethical elements that enter a host of decisions, definitions, and planning exigencies.

It's a tried and true USian way to side-step the difficulties inherent in capital expenditures that attempt to implement equitable policies - such as open access to the Net. We are a closed business world masquerading as an open society.

Access is the moment in Capitalism at which fake scarcities, exorbitant overcharges, massive profiteering, failures of cooperation, and mere business-as-usual enter the system. Healthcare, Internet Service Provision, and Open Access Publishing all suffer from the failure to adequately articulate the justifications for public access.

Incidentally, the Internet itself was a hack - how did corporations end up controlling it?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

To David Simon

Dear David Simon,

You have gone from the penetrating world of The Wire to the impermeably inelastic world of Build the Wall.

Instead of talking supplicatingly to two publishers as you do in your piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, consider what you, we, and they are dealing with.

The money is in the pipes. The pipes are sucking it all into their nether regions. The money for content is there, but it's been abducted.

The quandary of viable content on the Net is not unlike the quandary of viable healthcare in a world of corporate greed. Consider the parallels; they are legion.

There's much more to be said on this. For now, what I'm saying to you - whose work I have deeply admired - is this: where's your imagination? Where are your investigative instincts? Where is your ability to follow the almighty $ from the streets to the vultures to their insect lords?

Dude. No fucking walls.

More to come.


Some of the More: {still in progress}

The hegemonic control over the finite, "hard assets" of the Internet has displaced the power of an infinity of content providers from making anything like real money from end users, who have already paid their fair share to access the Internet - where "Internet" takes the pipes and all the content as one unified entity. Even though it's not literally (as in, legally incorporated as a single entity) unified, it obeys the logic of a single system for the end user. We pay for the Internet and we get the dialtone and we get the content. Only, the dialtone providers keep all the money - not for any logical or legitimate reason, solely because they occupy a certain gatekeeping position on the "superhighway."

Just as corporate control of news organizations has eviscerated the very idea of what news is, as Greenwald so eloquently notes here, so the health insurance industry has so polluted our notion of sociality that it does not seem self-evident to many US citizens, including Max Baucis and roughly 40 Republican Senators, that healthcare is a right that must be available to all.

So too Adam Arvidsson in The Ethical Economy is making the case that branding has changed the nature of the economy, from one of production to one of finance. The moment you move from the product to the financing of the product, you have the desire for HUGE BRAND. Only, hugebrandness, like Lehman Brothers' credibility, is mere rumor of value, distinct from all use. If you have Huge Brand as a journalist, say Greenwald and Lewis Lapham, you are probably as corrupt as the day is long.

The point is, it is our health, and our Internet, that should be at the center - not the financing of healthcare, or the financing of content. The corporate infrastructure makes miching mallecho of the argument's inherent logic before it can begin, because the corporate structure of media and the corporate structure of healthcare are entirely alike (indistinguishable plasmids?). Both are wealth creation centers that, like Ron Suskind's famously anonymous worldbeater, create their own reality -- which the reality-based rest of us are permitted to report on, consume, and bewail.

Study for Raft of the Medusa*

*h/t for image to Juke aka Informant38 aka dirty beloved.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bernanke brought to us by Rupe

So today Chairman Ben Bernanke chooses to address the USian public via a piece under his name in the Wall Street Journal, entitled The Fed's Exit Strategy.

The article addresses matters of money supply and public policy:
My colleagues and I believe that accommodative policies will likely be warranted for an extended period. At some point, however, as economic recovery takes hold, we will need to tighten monetary policy to prevent the emergence of an inflation problem down the road. The Federal Open Market Committee, which is responsible for setting U.S. monetary policy, has devoted considerable time to issues relating to an exit strategy. We are confident we have the necessary tools to withdraw policy accommodation, when that becomes appropriate, in a smooth and timely manner.
These are issues so basic to the economy in which we all swim or sink that the placement of the article raises at least two questions.

1. Why does one of the most highly placed officials of the US choose to write for a private, subscription-based publication, instead of making his views known through some more public channel? His piece could have run in various Government - as in Open Government - websites, blogs, the Fed's own site. It could have, indeed, run on all of them. As well as in the WSJ, and the NYT, and WaPO, etc.

Why does Bernanke - here playing the role of example, not whipping boy - not think of his role and place in USian life as warranting the widest possible public distribution of his thinking? Why not share via multiple networked distribution, rather than lend visibility solely to Rupert Murdoch's private enterprise?

In brief, why is the nation's top banking official failing to understand that his official words, like his official deeds, should be shared with all?

2. A slightly different aspect of this regards the Murdochian worldview. The WSJ sells its articles, and in most instances offers a couple of paragraphs - you want more, you pay. But in this instance (and in others), the entire piece is available to anyone.

Why? Could it be because the Journal acknowledges that public communications about matters of public interest deserve, warrant, or require public access?

If we assume something along those lines, then the question of the propriety of newspapers charging for news - which tends to involve "matters of public interest" - rears its uncapitalist head. Because if all information and communications relating to public interest are commodified products owned by private info-factories, why should there be any exceptions? Why should Mr. Obama's words, or Mr. Bernanke's not simply be carried by the highest bidding private publisher?

Or, if there must be exceptions, where is the line between essential, necessary public communications that must be shared with all, and inessential, government and public communications that need not be so distributed? Barack Obama yes, Hillary Clinton no? Barack yes, Michelle no? Bernanke yes, Paulson no?

Who decides where matters of national concern leave off and those merely of private interest begin?

Private Ben

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Description and judgment

Transparency is the new objectivity, says David Weinberger:
The problem with objectivity is that it tries to show what the world looks like from no particular point of view, which is like wondering what something looks like in the dark.
Yes and or no. If the object is an object, and one is describing it, there is some sense in which, through trial and error and comparative observations, one can determine if the description is more or less accurate, for some purposes, some of the time.

In journalism, of course, the object is rarely an object, in that reified sense. One is dealing with characters, motives, interested speech, commerce, rhetorical ploys, misrepresentations, missing data, dubious sources, events sometimes rooted in earlier events, now hidden from view, veiled, or forgotten, for starters.

Then one is utilizing all sorts of processes of judgment, including the senses, but going beyond that to intuition, research, bullshit detection, critical thinking, imaginative interrogation, official records etc.

Transparency of the reporter as source can then be a valued element in his readers' (and editors') judgments of her/his total process of judgment. Prior to that, transparency of the reporter to her/himself is also a great plus, unless one works for Fox.

But neither one or the other of these transparencies, though offering significant interpretive clues, equals objectivity, so far as I can see, as neither speaks to the quality of the thinking, research, or intuitional sensibility informing complex acts of journalistic judgment.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fuck the piper (an immodest proposal)

Google Inc. (GOOG 429.53, -13.07, -2.95%) on Thursday said its second-quarter net income rose to $1.48 billion, or $4.66 a share, from $1.25 billion, or $3.92 a share in the same period a year earlier. Net revenue in the period ended in June rose to $4.07 billion from $3.9 billion, Google said. Excluding special items, earnings were $5.36 a share. Wall Street analysts had expected Google to post earnings excluding special items of $5.09 a share, and $4.06 billion in net revenue, according to data from Thomson Reuters. #

I'm not understanding why everyone thinks Google is brilliant but no one seems to grok the model.

It would be edifying to know how many stories at the NY Times site have been clicked on by users (or by bots) over the past decade, if that's how long they've been available. Must be in the hundreds of millions. Let's say 300 million [add: that's way low - see here]. Had they charged $.007 per story accession (i.e., click), the Times would have made $2.1 million. That's $2.1 million more than the ZERO their content has earned for them thus far (offset by whatever grand total their short-lived scheme of charging for Rich, Dowd, etc. brought in).

But who would agree to pay them even $.007 per access? you fairly ask. And my model says - it doesn't matter. Because the money would not come directly from the end user's pocket, but rather from those funds spent by all of us to all the large corpses who bring bits into the home, by whatever means - Comcast, Verizon, etc. Because these companies right now are thieves. They are making money hand over fist from users. But users do not pay them in order to see dark screens (that bliss is for television). We pay the Comcasts and Verizons in order to access content. Their mega-earnings are contingent upon their parasitism of Content.

Does it not seem appropriate that the pipers pay for that which enables them to exist? I have put forth this model before, (also a bit here) and of course it's patently absurd. However, I assure you, it's the only fair way to make sure that there is quality content on the Net. As of now, that assurance is lacking. The black holes of internet service providers are threatening to suck down all the light. They are making vast profit while thinking only about metal and fiber and trucks. All of those who are trying at least to think, to tweet, to make something or do something or read something, sit atop an enormous pile of bupkis. This is wrong.

The only fair way is to let every click on the net - to anything, except closed sub sites (like JSTOR), and sites featuring socially challenged content (bestiality, child porn, Republican Senators) - move a bit of micromoney from piper (a general fund fed from all pipers) to contenter. And, the same amount. Equal bits. Let's not quibble over how much more quality one finds in the NY Times. You provide content, you get clicked on, you get the everybody micro$, period.

This in no way obviates Big or Small Content from selling ads or running contests or selling t-shirts. It is simply the addition of a revenue stream that wasn't there before, taken from the profits of Big Pipes. You know the gold is there.

My argument would be improved by containing actual numbers of clicks for some content providers. But I don't think it would change the underlying logic. Please now tell me why I'm wrong so I can remove this chimera from my skull.

[Update] from the Man who Knows Everything:

Free is for the masses; the elite will pay for high quality content in news, information, education and entertainment. Digital feudalism...

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Not Pamplona but

Greil Marcus:

... By 6 July 1984, when the Jacksons played the first show of their "Victory" tour, in Kansas City, Missouri... Jacksonism had produced a system of commodification so complete that whatever and whoever was admitted to it instantly became a new commodity. People were no longer consuming commodities as such things are conventionally understood (records, videos, posters, books, magazines, key rings, earrings necklaces pins buttons wigs voice-altering devices Pepsis t-shirts underwear hats scarves gloves jackets - and why were there no jeans called Bille Jeans?); they were consuming their own gestures of consumption. That is, they were consuming not a Tayloristic Michael Jackson, or any licensed facsimile, but themselves. Riding a Mobius strip of pure capitalism, that was the transubstantiation.

Lipstick Traces, cited in this fine piece.

So what just happened - the consuming of the gestures of a wraith's consumption of mourning?


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