(notes from Richard who is having posting issues)
(I made no attempt to credit specific people with ideas/comments, sorry. If you really want credit, feel free to mention it in the comments to this post. –Richard)
CONNECTING TO LAST CLASS:
The relation of blogs to journalism.
Last time – we discussed what we would like in a media system if we were designing it ourselves and came up with a bunch of values (see last class’s blogpost).
· adding “choice” as a value
Kevin at the end of last class raised the point that the values we are seeking are in the system as a whole, but that any individual source need not embody them all.
TODAY: Looking at “News” sites (query whether they are news sites, and how we know):
We started with what seems like a liminal case, somewhere between a news site and a blog:
· Run by Arianna Huffington – former conservative pundit, now has become a liberal one
· Not doing much (if any) real reporting or newsgathering on its own.
· Has huge force within a particular readership such that major players are actually making posts on it (Hillary Clinton posted early in the election; Barack Obama wrote a letter responding to the Rev. Wright incident; Bill Maher; Alec Baldwin; Bill Moyers; David Weinberg; etc.).
· Pointed at, both positively and negatively as a prototype for the news in the future – adding their editorial spin to other people’s news without having to create their on content
WE brainstormed for a large part of the class, comparing Huffington Post to newspapers:
· Huffington Post (“HuffPo”):
o + covers rumors and gossip
§ + trying to affect / track public opinion and what people care about
§ + more American / blue collar
o + Non-objective, Partisan (return to old model of newspapers?) (a positive because there’s more competition)
o + Entertaining
o + Less taken as a public good
o + variety of ways of sorting
§ most popular, can be a fan of a particular blogger (subscribe to RSS), tags
§ allows people to decide what they’re interested in and stay with it
o + search
o + easily accessible archives
o + links within the page and off of the page (other blogs, news media, etc.)
§ though there’s some interest in keeping you there, obviously.
o + Feedback/conversation with / to authors / editors / readers through comments
§ extensive, threaded, sophisticated comment system.
§ Difference between comments and traditional letters to the editor:
ú letter to the editor – addressed at the newspaper, one way
ú comment – addressed at each other, more conversational
§ Tangent on comments:
ú (what’s the best way to run a comment section? Slashdot model where readers rate comments?)
ú (Trackbacks – built into WordPress –
· Blogger 2 links to Blogger 1, and Blogger 1 then knows that he did so, and then Blogger 1’s site notes that.
· (to make this work, the blogging companies share the links from each site with each other so that they can share them)
o + more real-time, immediate coverage?
§ not generally newsgathering, but very fast updating
o + shareable – you can distribute stories peer to peer
· Washington Post:
o + covering policy (more than rumors, etc.)
§ + trying to inform
o + covering local news
o (avoiding the question of whether printed newspapers are partisan)
Has the mainstream media gotten more tabloid-y under the influence of tabloid-y web journalism? Maybe, but that may be a matter of perception, and AM radio certainly fulfilled that role before
Connecting HuffPo to blogs:
· Blogs have some of the elements we’ve seen in Huffington Post, particularly links and comments.
· Howard Dean’s official blog when he was running allowed comments (radical at the time)
o people posted for lots of reasons, sometimes just enthusiasm
o had the effect of making the regular posters feel like they were members of a community, a social group enabled by the conversation
o Also true of places like Huffington Post or bigger blogs
§ VERY different from letters to the editor at newspapers where sometimes you see conversation, but rarely and limited
Blogs Themselves (moving away from HuffPo):
· Question: how would you describe / define a blog (to an aging parent)? What is a blog (like)?:
o an online conversation, an area where people can communicate without the other barriers
§ (view the video by Lee and Sachi LeFever, viewable on the meta-blog blog
§ sharing “news” broadly defined
§ they give people like you the power of the media, appeal to a high number of small audiences
o More brainstorming – Blogs are (like) _________ :
§ News, Media, Diary, Personal Conversation (among friends), Bully Pulpit / Speech, Community, Forum, Node on a Network of Information, Chronologically Organized Webpages, Serial Stories, diversion/entertainment, Public Persona/Self, Timely, Less Trustworthy, Marketing Tools, a blank piece of paper (David Weinberger)
· Clay Shirky’s article analyzing information from technorati about links to blogs:
o Shirky found a powerlaw distribution for links to blogs.
§ certain blogs have LOTS of links to them. Most blogs have way fewer.
§ (other internet stuff where powerlaws show up (they show up everywhere):
ú number of visitors / pageviews for al websites
ú mailing lists at Yahoo!
ú Livejournal friends
o Why do they keep developing?
§ self-reinforcing, positive-reinforcement, network effects
o Is this a bad thing?
§ it was highly controversial,
ú it blew apart the idea that there was a level playing field for blogs
ú destroyed the idea of blogs democratizing media
§ network effects can be good or bad
ú consider lock-in, which keeps people locked into a particular system / source of news
· switching costs from one site to another are relatively low, though.
· Chris Anderson (editor of Wired magazine) wrote a book called “The Long Tail”
o observes that there is WAY more information (area) actually in the long tail than in powerlaw head part.
o Therefore, the long tail has a big influence, but it’s not quantified (or monetized) easily
o e.g. Amazon.com can sell WAY more books because they can monetize the books which fewer people buy to more people, rather than having to stock only the most popular ones
o Netflix works the same way.
o Anderson argued that we would see more and more businesses monetizing the long tail
· Long-tail blogs:
o Technorati says that they have (4-6) links to them.
o closer relationship to the audience (not mass communication)
§ more personal connection (at least with those who comment) – can we really know that? Maybe it’s not the case at all.
§ it FEELS more attached to (a presumed intimacy with) with blog readers / audience than with book readers, for instance.
o can be more daring with a limited audience
o can deal with more esoteric / specific subjects (less pandering)
o money is less of a factor (lower costs), amateur
The Web Difference Question:
· which form of communication you analogize them to says a lot about how we view blogs.
· does comparing blogs to old media indicate a lack of a web difference or not?
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