Last night, Google shut down its China search engine, Google.cn. Visitors to Google.cn are now redirected to Google’s Chinese-language service based in Hong Kong, Google.com.hk.
Google has now set up a censorship dashboard for Google services in China that shows which services are blocked.
As Ron Deibert of CitizenLab tweeted, “It’s no ONI report, nor Herdict, but interesting anyway.”
In a statement posted to Google’s official blog, David Drummond explained the new approach to China. Google had previously announced on January 12 that it would no longer stand by a 2006 deal with the Chinese government after it was the target of hacker attacks that it attributed to China.
“CDT applauds Google for following through on its commitment to protect human rights and for its continued effort to enable China’s people with unfiltered access to robust sources of information from all over the world,” said Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technolog.
“Whether the Chinese people will be able to take advantage of Google search now rests squarely with the Chinese government. If China allows access to unfiltered search, it will be a substantial win for global Internet freedom and for the Chinese people. If China blocks access, it will finally make clear to the Chinese people who is pulling the levers of censorship in the country.”
“It is certainly a historic moment,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet project at the University of California, Berkeley, quoted in “Google Shuts China Site in Dispute Over Censorship,” in the New York Times. “The Internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China, clearly indicates that China’s path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for.”
As the Ryan Singel reports in his post on Epicenter blog at Wired, “Google Uncensors Chinese Search Engine,” “now a search on June 4, the day of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, returns 226 million results. Formerly that search, and thousands of other terms like it, had limited results and a notification to users that search results had been hidden due to the rules of China’s Communist government.”
Mental Health Break: the wonderfully creative video for “This Too Shall Pass,” from the OK Go album, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky.”
According to the shownotes on YouTube, the video was directed by James Frost, OK Go and Syyn Labs and produced by Shirley Moyers.
The video was filmed in a two story warehouse, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. The “machine” was designed and built by the band, along with members of Syyn Labs ( http://syynlabs.com/ ) over the course of several months. OK Go thanks State Farm for making this video possible.
I was the 7,869,145th person to discover it. [HT Mark Drapeau] I’m ok with that. The success of this video built further on “Here It Goes Again,” one of the most popular viral videos ever:
This past week, OK Go took one step further along their transition to “Band 2.0” — they left EMI Records to form Paracadute Recordings. (Paracadute is parachute in Italian, for those wondering, along with being really fun to say.) Fittingly, the move was a;so announced on YouTube:
As Kulash indicated in a New York Times op-ed, “WhoseTube” earlier this year, however, there’s more of a backstory here. As Kulash observed, EMI prevented users from embedding the label’s videos on other websites, a move which likely targeted at increasing the label’s streaming royalties from YouTube. Kulash argued that the policy hamstrung the “viralability” of the video:
When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.
Clearly the embedding restriction is bad news for our band, but is it worth it for EMI? The terms of YouTube’s deals with record companies aren’t public, but news reports say that the labels receive $.004 to $.008 per stream, so the most EMI could have grossed for the streams in question is a little over $5,400.
With that move, the “most-downloaded band ever” followed Radiohead and NIN into independent distribution and promotion. Given a press release that credits OK Go with 180 million video streams and counting, perhaps Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka and Andy Ross figure they can make it without a label’s backing.
Given the challenges of selling music online, this hybrid model of sponsored viral media, touring and merchandise sales might allow OK Go to make enough to support families. Not every artist is going to be able to pull this off. As Jonathan Coulton showed in 2007, however, for some savvy musicians, the Web offers a new media model. Code Monkey went viral – and fans got involved:
Both Coulton and OK Go have embraced video, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other online networks to distribute their work, promote their appearances and — crucially — engage their fans. Making money from that investment of time is the secret sauce, of course, but for some, “band 2.0” will pay off. Not every band will be able to make more than $2 million dollars from digital downloads, as Radiohead managed to do through inrainbows.com, but OK Go’s success does show how creativity can be rewarded.
In the meantime, enjoy that Rube Goldbergian video.
Early on Tuesday morning, I walked up Massachusetts Avenue to attend the FTC workshop on the future of journalism. Ten hours later, I emerged overstimulated by the volume of ideas presented, saddened again by the tens of thousands of journalists who have lost employment and energized by the quality of the conversations I’d had.
The event began with a video about the changing media world from Minnesota Public Media, embedded below. More about the “Future of News Summit, where it premiered, can be found at thefutureofnews.ning.com.
The FTC established a Twitter account for the conference, @FTCnews. You can see all of the participants’ tweets aggregated at #ftcnews.
Why convene the conference?
The very existence of the forum raised some eyebrows. How does the Federal Trade Commission factor into regulating journalism, after all? FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz observed that:
..the ongoing revolution in the markets for news, then, warrants serious study for at least two reasons. First, markets for public goods such as news may work imperfectly. Competition policy is well-suited to evaluate these market imperfections.
Consumer protection policy is well-suited to help us understand the privacy and data security implications of the behavioral marketing used by media companies to increase ad revenues online. Second, and far more important, this is not just any market. The changes we are seeing in journalism will affect how we govern ourselves, not just the profits and losses of various news organizations.
The full remarks of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on creative destruction and journalism in the Internet Age are available as a PDF. He was forthright in assessing that there was no reversing the Internet revolution. As he put it, “when Gutenberg printed the Bible, that was bad for those who illustrate by hand.” (Note: Jessica Clark argued that the FTC Should Consider Policy Reform to Support Public Media 2.0” over at PBS’s MediaShift blog.)
Leibowitz was followed by Paul Steiger of Propublica, an “independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. “The answer is not to save newspapers,” said Steiger. “The goal should be to assure the continuation of journalism.” He called Amanda R. Michel an “Internet genius” for her coverage of the 2008 campaign at the Huffington Post. Steiger also cited Propublica’s investigative journalism on “hydraulic fracturing” in gas drilling as an example of the work the organization is doing.
Rick Edmondsof thePoynter Institute, author of the BizBlog there, presented results of 2009 State of the media study he co-authored. One of his final assessments was sobering: “Most surviving newspapers will be smaller, more expensive & targeted to older consumers.” As I replied to Andy Carvin , who wondered about the statement, given the debt loads that Edmonds cited, waiting for hyperwired Echo Boom to “age into” newspapers might be a tough strategy.
The News from News Corporation
It’s a fair bet that the packed room in the morning was there in anticipation of remarks from Rupert Murdoch, founder, chairman and managing director of News Corporation, especially given that many of the media in attendance left to file stories once he was through.
Why? Murdoch may have held that “a diversity of views is essential to debate” but he was crystal clear: news organizations that don’t adapt should fail, “just like a restaurant that makes meals that no one wants to eat.”
Further, even as he argued that the feds should keep the U.S. press the most free in the world, the government should also “use its power to make sure the most innovative companies can reach customers,” a view that sounded to this writer’s ears rather like net neutrality.
He was also crystal clear in a conviction: “online ads can’t sustain good journalism.” Murdoch intends to extend the pay model of the WSJ and @BarronsOnline to the Times UK, perhaps as early as next January.
Murdoch also suggested that the FCC‘s cross-ownership rule that prevents single ownership of both TV and newspaper in local markets was “out-dated” in the Internet age, effectively suggesting that regulators both stay out of the news business and change the market conditions. He also observed that “for newspapers, spectrum could well prove an economic vehicle,” pointing to online convergence and the move to a readership increasingly consuming news through mobile computing devices.
What is the state of journalism?
Following Murdoch’s remarks, a state of journalism panel began with a focus on the financial health and accomplishments of newspapers and magazines. Martin Kaiser, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, spoke to journalism’s essential role: enforcing goverment accountability.
This panel also raised the first – and as it turned out, only – question to the audience, in the form of a poll: How many of you know someone under 30 who reads a newspaper in print? To my eye, about 40% of those present raised their hands. It’s perhaps worth observing that very few people present were in that demographic.
One hopeful model for reporting by assignment that was cited by David Westphal, Executive in Residence, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California, hailed from my former neck of the woods at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
Mark Contreras, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Newspaper Association of America & senior VP, newspapers at the E.W. Scripps Co., ended the panel with an analogy to the music industry, suggesting that there are “poignant similarities” to news business. He favors ASCAP/BMI models for content protection and a B2B model for revenue generation. Given the music industry’s struggle to adapt to the Internet, that approach might merit more consideration.
Defending the aggregators
After the representatives of legacy media shared their perspectives, Arianna Huffington came to the defense of aggregators and new media, like her own enterprise, the Huffington Post.
As she dryly observed, citing a post by Mike Masnick at TechDirt, there’s some news aggregation by News Corp/IGN out there. All Things Digital, for instance, links and aggregates content, as does Rotten Tomatoes.
Huffington didn’t mince words in her denunciation, either:
It’s time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pretax profits of 20 percent or more, put cash flow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street — not modernization and pleasing their readers.
They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail — pick your metaphor — and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the Internet and new media represent. And now they want to call timeout, ask for a do-over, start changing the rules, lobby the government to bail them out, and attack the new media for being… well, new. And different. And transformational. Suddenly it’s all about thievery and parasites and intestines.
Get real, you guys. The world has changed. Here are some facts culled from one of the most popular anthems to the impact of technology on our world:
Lem Lloyd, vice president of channel sales at Yahoo!, shared details of the media company’s growing newspaper consortium. Lloyd said they’ve have sold 18,000 campaigns on Yahoo!, amounting to more than six billion impressions. Behavioral targeting sales represent some ninety percent of that total.
The most dynamic panel of the day featured technologists, entrepreneurs and an bonafide bloggers like Josh Micah Marsall of Talkingpointsmemo.com and Danny Sullivan, who took a break from liveblogging to participate.
Sullivan, at that point, was frustrated with offline metaphors applied online. And Jeff Jarvis, media pundit and CUNY professor, asked the FTC to “stay off the lawn,” suggesting that premise of the event was about the survival of legacy players, not journalism itself.
In considering the prospect of not finding a viable models, Robert Thomson, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, observed that “the cost to society of not being able to afford specialist journalism is going to be profound.”
Chris Ahern, of Reuters, and Danny Sullivan replied to Thomson that it’s not “an either/or proposition.” Hybrid models for news are worth trying.
And in a memorable exchange, Marshall observed that “there is more of an ethic online of linking to the story that got the reporter on the track and then adding commentary” than is practiced by traditional media, alluding to stories that the AP and others have run with without linking.
Media consumption trends, the economics of news and online advertising models
Ball State professor Mike Bloxham presented on media consumption based upon data that can be found at ResearchExcellence.com. He described a need for publisher to look cross-platform for media consumption in order to meaninfully gauge a “news footprint” that included print, TV, online and radio.
Susan Athey, a professor of economics at Harvard, presented on the economics of news, particular the trend toward “multi-homing” in consumption and the growth of online advertising. Her presentation addressed the salience of potential FTC regulation more directly than any other, aside from the chairman himself, predicting competition in online ad networks and between aggregators that would require oversight.
The final panel of the day, addressed the important of behavioral advertising to future business models. Jeff Chester of Democraticmedia.org asserted that “the news media industry should embrace fair information principles.”
As I look back over the day, it’s not clear to me yet what the FTC intends to do, other than listen. I look forward to returning to the FTC tomorrow to learn more.
The president of Microsoft‘s business division, Stephen Elop, showcased a video from Microsoft Office Labs at the recent Wharton Business Technology Conference. The five-minute long video more than hints at what Microsoft imagines mainstream information technology will look like in 2019. Pure awesomeness. Saw it in March and publishing it now ’cause it’s still worth viewing if someone happened to miss it.
A forum organized by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council addresses one of the hottest questions in social media: how do you measure the return on investment (ROI) for these platform? The panel, part of a “Social Media Summit” hosted in Microsoft’s Cambridge offices, was moderated by Dave Vellante, co-founder of the Wikibon Project and featured Fred Cremo of Humana, Leslie Forde of Communispace, Chuck Hollis of EMC and Katrina Lowes of Market Bridge. The panel followed danah boyd’s keynote on “social media evolution and digital ethnography.”
Chuck Hollis kicked off the panel by defining the challenge of measuring this kind of interaction and usage. “How do you measure a good conversation? A good idea? You guys are measuring the wrong thing.”
Lowes, whose focus on results and specific case studies throughout, put ROI in the context of creating relationships with Medicare recipients. The campaigns she has been involved with have been razor-focused on measuring all of the interactions, including what people are interested in. She described a partnership with Eons to host and provide discussion groups. Using them, they watch what people are talking about. As people move towards trigger point for Medicare, they watch more closely. As Lowes noted, “you get one chance to get a 65 year old into Medicare. If you can get people interacting with you three times before 64, you become relevant. That will have an impact on conversion rates.” At present, they’re taking a research-based approach to measuring impact utilizing a control group for direct mail and comparing it to the conversion rates of different groups based on a mix of social media presentations.
After a while, the audience grew restive, looking for a measure of hard ROI that could be used to justify social media use. The panelists understand the issues, especially at a large enterprise:
“When executives ask about social media ROI, they’re asking about risk. Why should I change decades of experience?”-@ChuckHollis
Hollis noted, in following, that managing risk in social media is challenging but possible: “negativity is passion that needs to be channeled to constructive conversations,”
Forde also sees the challenges for engagement marketing. With consumers (and users in general on the public Internet, you simply don’t know what you’re going to hear. (Note the Skittles experience). As she noted “in opening dialogue, you get serendipity & surprises.” For instance, Forde cited a case study provided by Kraft. People on their discussion boards were talking about weight loss through portion control. “Why can’t you make a tiny bag?” Kraft listened — and in the first six month, Kraft’s “Calorie Pack” earned more than $100 million dollars of revenue. Forde noted that the marketing campaign and manufacturing cycle in a one third of the time.
Forde noted as well that “It’s amazing how self-policing communities can be.” In her experience, community managers rarely have to step in and intervene. It is necessary, on occasion, to send private emails or direct messages and pull aside members to assert norms. How do you manage risk? Hollis noted that “EMC had a governance board for each project. They met once — and never met again. We never had a problem – but the structure was there to address it if necessary.”
When queried about adoption of social media by enterprises, Lowes voiced a key concern: “Everyone is in love with the technology. They haven’t thought about maintaining the conversations.” In her view, a company needs to have someone passionate to engage people and answer questions. The issue that many organizations are having with community management and conversation curation lies in a widespread tendency to put lower-paid people customer service reps. It’s not about technology or governance. It’s about skills, behaviors and attitudes. In Forde’s view, it’s about “trust, transparency and demonstration of listening.” That means that organization need to allow customers to be heard, with the understanding that it’s crucial to nurturing a long term relationship. That means “building websites around their interests and preferences, raising awareness of a company as a trusted partner,” according to Cremo — not through pushing sales directly.
When I stepped out, however, I returned to a groundswell of pushback for the panel. Where are quantitative social media metrics? Hard ROI? “The problem with social media is that we’re all talking to each other,” as one audience member put it. He stated that the total social media spend is “0.4% of the total annnual advertising budget in Fortune 500.” (That number was cited as $250B). Where’s the real return?
In response, Katrina Lowes offered the most substantive response of the day. “Consider: I’ve got a video to put online or on broadcast. You need to calculate the advertising comparison impact between the two mediums… How much would I have had to pay to get this exposure in traditional media?” She suggest looking at click through rates (CTR) of a cluster demographic from a social media platform or campaign back to the launch page of your website. Measure “Media equivalent purchase value” and conversion traffic, in other words, when it comes to ROI.
Forde noted that it’s also key to consider cultural differences, especially overseas, particularly with respect to hierarchical processes. If decisions are made once a month by a small group, observe how that can be improved. For instance, asynchronous tools can help – a lot – with time to market for products or campaigns. She cited one client where a 52-week time to market was cut to 14 weeks.
Considerable concern still remained in the audience with regard to unleashing social media internally. “What about the sexting that’s going to happen in my company.” Executives are worried about risk.
They should be, as Lowes noted. By tracking & gathering people’s personally identifiable information (PII) at Humana, they’re liable under HIPAA. That’s a major responsibility. Given the longevity & permanency of data on these platforms, organizations must be mindful of measuring ROI in more than conversion; they need to consider the risks of the overall project.
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