Sunday, January 29, 2006


Former Green Beret blogger gains following with Iraq reports

POSTED: Sun Jan 29, 6:33 AM ET
Michael Yon: Online Magazine:

Blogger Gains Following With Iraq Reports

By MITCH STACY, Associated Press Writer

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - He didn't have to go, it wasn't his job and nobody paid him to do it. But Michael Yon says he went to Iraq because he wanted to see for himself what was going on.

The 41-year-old former Army Green Beret, self-published author and world traveler didn't know exactly what he was going to do when he got to the war zone last year, nor did he have any particular plans to report what he saw to the world at-large. But that's what he did. After getting himself embedded as a freelance journalist with troops last year, he used his Internet blog to report on the car bombs, firefights and dead soldiers. But he also wrote descriptively about acts of compassion and heroism, small triumphs in the country's crawl toward democracy and the gritty inner workings of the military machine. Yon's dispatches have been extolled by loyal readers as gutsy and honest reporting by a guy who's not afraid to get his hands dirty. He has been interviewed and his blog quoted by major newspapers and TV news networks, and he has drawn comparisons to Ernie Pyle, the renowned World War II correspondent who shared the trenches with fighting soldiers.

Actor Bruce Willis is a fan and has said he wants to make a movie about the exploits of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment ÿÿ aka the "Deuce Four" ÿÿ which Yon followed through battles against insurgents in Mosul. "Deuce Four is an overwhelmingly aggressive and effective unit, and they believe the best defense is a dead enemy," Yon wrote in one dispatch. "They are constantly thinking up innovative, unique and effective ways to kill or capture the enemy; proactive not reactive."

In May, a poignant photo he shot of a soldier cradling a dying Iraqi girl after an explosion in Mosul was printed in major U.S. newspapers and brought even more attention to his unpaid mission. A subsequent appeal for donations on the Web site brought in thousands of dollars.

And at one point he crossed the line from observer to participant. In August, during a fierce firefight in downtown Mosul, Yon and witnesses say he picked up an M4 rifle, reloaded and fired three times at insurgents inside a shop as two of the battalion leaders lay wounded nearby. That's a no-no for embedded journalists, and it brought a stern reprimand from the Army. "As soon I saw the rifle, I just grabbed it," he says. "It was just a reflex."

The slant of Yon's blog is unflinchingly pro-military, but he has frequently criticized Army public affairs officers in print over how news out of Iraq is managed. He hasn't shied away from describing the horrors of war, and he once wrote about an Iraqi taxi driver killed by U.S. troops during a fire fight. "They know I don't follow the party line," says the soft-spoken Yon, whose broad, solid physique makes him seem taller than his 5 feet and 6 inches. "Like when our guys get killed, I'll write about it and I'll write about it the way it really happened, which sometimes is pretty graphic."

Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, the Deuce Four commander who was wounded in the downtown Mosul battle, says Yon was effective because he stayed with the unit longer than most embedded reporters. "Mike, by spending five months with us, understood the unit, the idiosyncrasies, the good and the bad, and how we made decisions," Kurilla says. "You don't get that from coming in for 48 or 72 hours."

A native of Winter Haven in central Florida, Yon is a professional adventurer of sorts. His tales range from establishing a vending business in Poland to tracking cannibals in India, all after serving five years in the Army in the 1980s. In 2000 he self-published a memoir called "Danger Close," which includes details of the 19-year-old Yon killing a man in a bar fight, a case later determined to be self-defense. At the urging of friends connected the military, Yon went to Iraq a year ago, began blogging a few weeks later and within a few months had a good Internet following. It really took off when he started writing about the Deuce Four in Mosul, and in the last four months of 2005 the site logged around 1.5 million hits.

"I think Michael set out to chronicle what it was like for regular rank-and-file soldiers who went out outside the wire every day in a city that has been a very dangerous place," says Richard A. Oppel Jr., a New York Times reporter who was in Iraq with Yon.

Not being a journalist by trade, Yon says he initially had trouble being an objective observer when the explosions and gunfire started. "In the beginning I would just help people, and I wouldn't get any photos," he says. "I realized that I could do a lot more with my camera and my pen than I could with my hands, and so I disciplined myself to just stay out of the way and photograph, unless somebody really, really needs me."

He felt that was the case in the downtown Mosul battle in August when he got involved in the battle. But before picking up the rifle, he shot a stunning sequence of photos of Kurilla crumpling to the ground as an insurgent's bullets pierced both his legs and an arm. Kurilla and the rest of the Deuce Four are home now, with dozens of Purple Hearts among them. Lately Yon has been traveling in the United States and interviewing them for a book about the unit and the Battle for Mosul.

He recently bought new body armor and, if all goes as planned, he'll return to Iraq later this year. "It's a very complicated world and you can't learn about it by sitting back and reading about it," Yon says. "Not the way I wanted to learn about it anyway."


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Washington Post story considers Google's decisions on China blocking vs. search subpoena


Google hits glitches over video site, China
Vulnerable to public opinion, Internet company grapples with ethical issues

By By Yuki Noguchi
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - After a run-up in stock price, good press and public accolades, Google Inc. hit a rough patch this week.

The popular Internet company acknowledged a design flaw in its recently launched video service and released a version of its search engine in China that, at the behest of the Chinese government, filtered out some of the results on politically sensitive search terms such as "democracy" and "Taiwanese independence." That move drew charges that the company compromised its freedom-of-information ethics and tarnished its vaunted "Don't be evil" credo.

But China is the fastest-growing major market for the Internet, and many companies have had to make compromises to expand their businesses there. Last month, Microsoft Corp. shut down a Chinese journalist's political blog after the Chinese government complained about its content; Yahoo Inc. last year supplied the government information about a dissident journalist who was later incarcerated.

Ethical struggle

Google acknowledged struggling with the ethics of its decision but defended it, saying Google's entry into China would, on balance, increase information flow into the country. "While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information . . . is more inconsistent with our mission," Google senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin wrote in the company's e-mailed statement. McLaughlin said Google will not introduce its Web log or e-mail service in China until it can strike a "comfortable" balance between user interests and local regulations.

Critics said Google's capitulation to Beijing put it at odds with its own decision last week to resist a U.S. government subpoena that sought records of search terms to research pornography on the Internet. Google must be careful not to taint its own do-good corporate image with seemingly incompatible policies, they said. "To their credit, Google does think very hard about these problems. [But] I think it was a mistake. . . . I think ultimately this will hurt Google," Columbia University law professor Timothy Wu said of Google's China policy. The company compromised its own goal of making the world's information searchable, and it has to be careful to preserve the public's trust, he said. "We generally trust Google, which is why people use it. It needs to keep that [that public trust] in these two areas of censorship and privacy."

Others say the ubiquity and depth of Google's databases make it a bigger target for criticism, whether the issue is small failures in its system or unpopular policy decisions. "Part of it is envy; part of it is earned," said Rick Munarriz, an analyst with Motley Fool Inc. "It's kind of the backlash of 'you're too big.' "

Google now has 86.6 million monthly U.S. users, according to Nielsen-NetRatings. Success with services such as Google Maps awed users and touched off huge competition from Yahoo Inc. and America Online Inc., which have tried to replicate Google's success with online advertising. Google's problems with its new video site, which the company acknowledged this week was poorly designed, was its highest-profile stumble on a new, competitive product. The company's stock closed at $433.49 on Friday, down from a high of $471.63 on Jan. 11.

Vulnerable to public opinion

Google is arguably more vulnerable to public opinion than conventional product companies, because its power -- and its money -- comes from its ability to capture something fleeting: the attention of consumers as they surf on the Internet, which is filled with free alternatives. "I think it's really important for them to have a good ethical image," said Larry Ponemon, president and founder of the Ponemon Institute LLC, a research group on privacy and information security. "If you believe there are ethical issues in the background," whether it is a free-speech issue or a privacy concern, "those fears and doubts can change behavior," he said.

Resisting the U.S. government's subpoena proved a positive move for Google, said Ponemon, who issued a public opinion survey this week showing that 56 percent of people do not believe the company should release those data. Additionally, 89 percent of those surveyed said they operate under the assumption that their search inquiries were kept private. Preserving that privacy may be a government issue beyond the corporate control, and that is a potential issue for all major Internet brands. "They're holding so much personal information," said Xiao Qiang, a journalism professor at University of California at Berkeley. "No company can stand up to government policy alone."


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Congressman's staff said to have altered Wiki entry to delete broken campaign pledge reference

From the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, a MediaNewsGroup Inc. paper
FIRST POSTED: 01/27/2006 11:37:00 AM

"Rewriting history under the dome"
Online 'encyclopedia' allows anyone to edit entries, and congressional
staffers do just that to bosses' bios

By EVAN LEHMANN, Sun Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to
his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge
campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a
Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun
has learned.

The Meehan alterations on represent just two of more than
1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of
Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference
that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries
on millions of topics.

Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July
to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of
the lawmaker.

The change deleted a reference to Meehan's campaign promise to surrender
his seat after serving eight years, a pledge Meehan later eschewed. It
also deleted a reference to the size of Meehan's campaign account, the
largest of any House member at $4.8 million, according to the latest data
available from the Federal Election Commission.

"Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform," the
pre-edited entry said. "As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to
not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This
breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th
Congressional District of Massachusetts."

The new entry reads in part: "Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a
plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record
since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was
re-elected by a large margin in 2004."

Vogel said, "It makes sense to me the biography we submit would be the
biography we write."

The change doubled the length of the entry on Meehan, corrected errors and
replaced "sloppy" writing, Vogel said. "Let the outside world edit it. It
seemed right to start with greater depth than a paragraph with incorrect
data from the '80s."

Wikipedia's online honor system has made it ripe for abuse by vandals.
Recently, a user wrote in a Wikipedia bio that Virginia Congressman Eric
Cantor "smells of cow dung." Another wrote that Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist is "ineffective." These statements were traced to the House
Internet-protocol (IP) address.

In November and December, The Sun has learned, users of the House's IP
address were temporarily blocked from changing content because of
violations described by the site as a "deliberate attempt to compromise
the integrity of the encyclopedia."

"I'm not denying it," Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House
Administration, which oversees the House computer network, said when asked
to confirm House ownership of the address.

For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is

While vandalism is a problem, deleting factual information raises ethical
concerns, said Geoffrey Bowker, director of the Center for Science,
Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.

"The vandalism is just plain childish," Bowker said. "The term-limit
pledge (that was changed by Meehan's staff) is a much more serious case.
That's someone trying to alter the public record.

"To knowingly remove a truthful statement is just wrong," he added. "It's
not the place of any special-interest group to tamper with the facts
available to the public."

Most of the 1,000 House changes were meant to enhance various encyclopedia
entries. Slurs against Cantor and Frist, which have been removed, are the
first examples of abuse that Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales has seen
derived directly from the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

Wikipedia records every change to its site and who made it. The
encyclopedia prefers that editors log in with a user name, but it's not
necessary. Many editors make changes anonymously; Wikipedia identifies
these users by tracking the number assigned to their Internet entry point,
called an IP address.

But Wales said the deletion of factual information goes against the
principles of Wikipedia, which promotes a "neutral point of view" policy.

"You don't delete it," Wales said. "If they wanted to put in their side of
things, that would seem ethically relevant, rather than just omitting it."

Mistakes were inserted into the Meehan entry at different points of its
evolution, according to an examination of the edits. One editor
erroneously said Meehan attended Harvard College; another indicated it is
likely that Meehan would run for Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.

Wikipedia reaches around the globe, having 3.1 million articles published
in more than 200 languages. The English-language version is the largest
category, with more than 910,000 articles and 856 million words. That's
more than six times larger than Encyclopedia Britannica -- the largest
reference printed in English.

And people read it.

Yesterday, Wikipedia was ranked the 19th- busiest site on the Internet,
according to, a subsidiary of that tracks Webtraffic.

A new reference to Meehan's term-limit pledge was inserted in the
Wikipedia entry in November by a person not using the House address.

On Dec. 27, someone using the House IP address reduced the reference to a
single sentence: "(Meehan) also supported term limits, pledging to serve
no more than four terms."

Vogel said he did not authorize the change.

No reference to Meehan's top-rated campaign account has been reintroduced.

The changes by Meehan's staff are not as "reprehensible" as inserting
derogatory comments in someone else's entry, said Stephen Potts, former
director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, which establishes
conduct standards for the executive branch.

But the sheer breadth of changes emanating from the House reflects an
abuse of public time and equipment, said Potter, now chairman of the
Ethics Resource Center.

"That kind of usage, plus the fact that they're changing one person's
material, is certainly wrong and ought to be at a minimum the focus of
some disciplinary action," he said.

Evan Lehmann's e-mail address is


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SPJ's California chapter seeks national dialogue on journalism quality, integrity


In a Jan. 26, 2006 statement, the current president of the Society of Professional Journalists, David Carlson, called for "an urgent national conversation about how to preserve public-service journalism in light of the likely sale of the Knight Ridder newspaper company."

The statement, released on SPJ's Northern California chapter website, says a national conversation on how KR papers can maintain their journalistic integrity under escalating profit pressures "should send a message to investors not to ignore the social value of their investments -- either now or in future battles over media ownership."

Added Carleson's SPJ statement: "Such a dialogue would also help journalists fulfill their ethical responsibility to be accountable to their readership. And it would help that readership participate, as we believe the Constitution envisioned, in preserving a free, vibrant and competitive press."

David Carlson, President, (352) 846-0171 or
Michael Stoll, Northern California Chapter, (415) 846-3983 or

Editor & Publisher magazine's website also noted the statement:
It said a comment from Knight Ridder could not immediately be obtained.

SPJ Calls for 'National Debate' Surrounding Sale of Knight Ridder

By E&P Staff

Published: January 25, 2006 8:55 PM ET

NEW YORK The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) on Thursday will call for what it terms "an urgent national conversation about how to preserve public-service journalism in light of the likely sale of the Knight Ridder newspaper company," E&P has learned.

The call, which is being spearheaded by the national group's Northern California Chapter, continues: "News media play a vital role in ensuring a robust and transparent democracy, a role that is too important to be compromised by the quest for profits. SPJ believes that both journalists and the public need to discuss openly the societal implications of these kinds of business decisions, as several groups have done in recent weeks." "According to the statement, SPJ believes that those directing the production of news "have an ethical obligation to readers every bit as significant as their fiduciary accountability to shareholders . . . "

"We acknowledge that newspapers cannot serve their democratic role unless they stay in business. But the increasing corporate pressure to squeeze additional returns out of already profitable newspapers, at rates exceeding the margins in most other industries, has skewed the balance between journalism and commerce."

The statement continues: "Though there is disagreement about what should happen to Knight Ridder -- whose 32 daily newspapers, various Web sites and weekly publications provide news to millions of readers -- there is broad consensus within the journalism community that it should not be allowed to fall into the hands of those unwilling to guarantee the continuity of public-service journalism.

"Journalists in particular have an obligation to invite discussion on this topic. The SPJ Code of Ethics urges journalists to 'clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.' We call on reporters, editors, columnists and editorial writers to write about the planned sale and solicit ideas from community leaders and readers, who have a significant stake in the civic-minded management at their local newspapers.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


LOCAL: Former North Carolina daily journalist readies online news community

Published: January 25, 2006 11:22 AM ET

By Jay DeFoore
Editor & Publisher Online

NEW YORK -- With online publishing tools becoming ever cheaper and easier to deploy and grassroots journalism on the rise, a growing number of mainstream newspaper journalists are flocking to the Web to compete with their former employers.

In December we wrote about former Chicago Tribune reporter Geoff Dougherty and his ChiTownDailyNews project. Elsewhere, Debra Galant and Liz George are getting a lot of positive attention for their blog. Now former Reidsville (N.C.) Review editor Jeff Sykes is planning an online community newspaper, the Reidsville Free Press, which is set to launch in February.

Amy Kingsley, a staff writer for Yes! Weekly, an alternative paper in Greensboro, N.C., does a good job outlining Sykes' plans in the paper's current issue. Kingsley writes that Sykes will be competing not just with his former employer, but also with the Greensboro News & Record and The Neely Chronicle, an opinion paper in Rockingham County.

"The concept involves blending newspaper-style journalism with features like online diaries kept by locals," Kingsley writes. "All of it will bed presented in a format where readers can interact by posting comments to the site."

Kingsley gets to the nub of the challenge for online community journalism: "Internet publishers that eschew the printing press can save significant costs associated with production and distribution but face challenges publicizing and legitimizing their product."

Sykes resigned from Media General's Review last July after two of his reporters admitted to writing a "man on the street" column with fake names, photographs, and quotes. The incident played out in the local News & Record, not to mention Romenesko's media blog and E&P. Sykes told E&P at the time that his decision to verbally warn the journalist rather than outright fire them -- a decision that ultimately led to his demise once word spread -- grew out of a desire to give two young journalists a second chance.

Describing his idea for the Free Press to Kingsley, Sykes said, "I want to give people the opportunity to see their community in a way that isn't tainted by ineptitude, one man's opinion, or a much larger institution's condescending attitude.


Jay DeFoore ( is E&P's Online Editor.

This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


BUSINESS MODELS: Anxiety attacks traditional media as devices get smarter

PUBLISHED: January 25, 2006

Convergence: As Gadgets Get It Together, Media Makers Fall Behind

The New York Times

AMID the cacophony of the sprawling Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the main action had little to do with electronics. Sure, booth after booth claimed to have the biggest TV screen, the smallest music player and the niftiest wireless gizmo. But that was to be expected. The real news was neither shiny nor tiny. The question in the air was what people will watch, listen to and do with these machines now that they are becoming interchangeable and interconnected.

This should not be a pop quiz. For decades, nearly every gathering of media or technology executives has defined the future in a single word: convergence. What exactly was converging remained in dispute, but most saw some combination of television, computers and an intelligent network that would give consumers much more control. For once, the visionaries were right. Video is popping up on cellphones, iPods, TiVo's and Web sites. And as for blogs, photo-tagging sites like Flickr, podcasts and the rest of the bubbling digital stew, it's clear that lots of media are coming together in lots of devices in lots of ways.

Yet for all the time that media executives - from the towers of Sixth Avenue to the back lots of Burbank - had to prepare for convergence, they are now scrambling to figure out what to do about it. "Convergence is possible now, and you are seeing the earliest breaks on the beach," said John C. Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, who has been trying to profit from convergence for the last two decades. Now that it's here, he predicts there will trouble for many established companies.

"The 'anything, anytime, anywhere' paradigm is really going to shift the world of media," he said. "There will be a tough, grinding transition for an awful lot of businesses." Old-line media companies' fears can be lumped into three nightmarish categories:

¶Business-model anxiety. Will paid download services like Apple's iTunes, not to mention TiVo's and their ad-defying fast-forward buttons, undercut TV networks' huge advertising revenue? Or will video from advertising-supported Web sites become so rich that people will drop their cable and satellite subscriptions altogether? Or will they just steal what they want by using file-sharing software like Bit Torrent?

¶Creative anxiety. McLuhan is out. The medium is no longer the message. Anyone who wants to tell a joke, spin a tale or report the latest White House news can produce any combination of video, text, sound and pictures for viewing on a 50-inch TV, a laptop computer or a cellphone screen. No one in conventional media is sure how to manage all these options or what audiences barraged from all sides actually want.

¶Control anxiety. Since the invention of the high-speed printing press, mass media have been created for the masses, not by them. The rise of Weblogs has given everyone a printing press and even the opportunity to get income from ads that Google will happily sell. Now we can all be D.J.'s and film directors, distributing our podcasts and movies online without groveling before a studio executive. The career prospects for hit makers, gatekeepers and even fact checkers may well be in doubt.

Control anxiety may help explain why the media establishment has been so taken aback by the actual arrival of convergence. When media moguls talked about convergence, they often meant interactive television that was developed, operated and controlled by cable companies or the other usual corporate suspects. Accordingly, Comcast has invested billions to teach its old cables new tricks, like video on demand. But what really broke down the barriers in the last few years was the spread of high-speed Internet connections and the development of efficient ways to deliver high-quality video signals.

"There is this primordial soup brewing of more bandwidth, more storage, more devices and more people creating content which is inherently digital," said Ted Leonsis, the vice chairman of America Online. "The lightning that struck is that the people have rapidly adopted all this even faster than we in the industry conceived, and bypassed the traditional media."

What's new are the possibilities. Anyone can create a "mashup" by putting together pieces from any medium and any source, distributing it to anyone anywhere. Today, it's the mashup that is the message. "It becomes a game of three-dimensional chess when you are thinking of your digital audience in addition to your television viewers," said Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN/U.S. So the challenge is to overcome the fear of so many choices, and there are already people - in big companies and suburban basements - who are building information and entertainment hybrids that could be as compelling as books, movies and TV shows.

Take Daniel Myrick, a creator of "The Blair Witch Project," who is directing a new video drama called "The Strand," meant to be sold on a pay-per-view basis over the Internet. He has written a soap opera with oddball characters set in Venice, Calif. His Web site,, will link to 20-minute video episodes as well as mock interviews with the characters and back-story information that typically fits in a novel but not a TV show."You still have to have a sense of narrative, a sense of the story and characters and do it in a compelling way," Mr. Myrick said. "But we can expand the universe that surrounds the show and give you a sense of place that expands the overall experience."

Another approach to weaving different media together to tell stories, albeit true ones, is "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone," Yahoo's first foray into news gathering. It features Mr. Sites, a former network correspondent, reporting from the scenes of various wars. Traveling alone, he uses a variety of portable devices to produce reports that contain text, photographs, audio and video.

Mr. Sites has found it confusing to figure out how to manage all these choices. "Did I need to shoot the entire thing with my video camera, transcribe it later, and take notes off of it?" he said in an interview by satellite phone from Iran. "Or did I need to put the camera down and take copious notes?"

Ultimately he focused on the text, which he found conveyed the most information, leaving the video to do what only television can - show the viewer what it is like to be in a place or talk to a person.

That does not mean every project must use every new crayon in the box. Drew Massey, the 35-year-old founder of ManiaTV, a video Web site aimed at young people, is defying the new conventional wisdom that the Internet audience wants nothing but bits of video on demand. ManiaTV is a live, 24-hour Webcast, with chipper young cyberjockeys introducing music videos, comedy segments, video game previews, offbeat news reports and discussions of online dating.

The site's single-most popular feature - freshened slightly from AM radio - is the old-fashioned request. The requests are for videos now, and they arrive by text message from viewers who could just as easily click to play whatever they wanted on ManiaTV's site or on others."People love it when their song comes on," Mr. Massey said. "Even if they can play it on demand, they love the fact that, hey it's the only thing being played now, and everyone hears it at the same time." Mr. Massey has found, however, that the request line is not enough. His viewers want to take ManiaTV's videos and mix them with other material. "So we will offer ways for kids to have their own TV shows, sort of like 'Wayne's World' on steroids."

For better or worse, the media world of the future may well be Wayne's. There is no better way to see this than to venture into, a jungle of clashing colors, blasting sounds, lurid images and banter so dense that anyone over 25 quickly becomes lost. The lesson here is that on MySpace there is no distinction between personal and mass media. A teenager can post a photo from last night's party, a poem for a lost boyfriend, buttons that play her favorite song and a clip from her favorite TV show.

It is no accident that Google's new video service ( lets users put its video clips on their own Web pages.

Here are truths about MySpace that even a septuagenarian media mogul can appreciate: In the last two years, 50 million people worldwide have created pages on MySpace, and 32 million people in the United States visit the site each month. You do not have to have a pierced tongue to know that anywhere that teenagers congregate, soda vendors and sneakermongers will pay to follow.That audience was enough to draw Rupert Murdoch and Sumner M. Redstone into a bidding war to buy MySpace last year. Mr. Murdoch's News Corporation beat out Mr. Redstone's Viacom, buying the site for $580 million.

For major media companies, buying popular properties is a time-tested strategy. The other move of the moment is simply for them to shift their programming to similar new platforms. Just as magazines and newspapers created Web editions, radio stations are churning out podcasts, record companies are offering snippets as cellphone ring tones, and TV networks have started selling downloads and putting some programming free on the Internet with ads.

The risk, as they had foreseen, was that these new distribution methods would undercut their existing businesses. A turning point came last fall when Robert A. Iger, the new chairman of the Walt Disney Company, agreed to sell versions of the most popular ABC shows for the new video iPod. So far, ratings for "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" have not been hurt. Other networks are starting to sell programs through iTunes, Google's video store and soon similar stores from AOL, Yahoo and others.

Mr. Malone of Liberty Media contends that eventually these moves will erode the networks' advertising base."The public will increasingly pay for the content it wants, and advertising will be the secondary support," he said. "You have to scratch your head and say, What will fund the creation of all this entertainment content, which has been paid for by advertising?" Initially, Mr. Malone is betting on subscription revenue. So his biggest play in convergence now depends on fees, not advertising. Vongo, a service of Liberty's Starz Entertainment Group, lets people watch movies on their computers for $9.99 a month.

So far, the media companies are finding that convergence is lifting advertising revenue because advertisers want to place commercials on Internet-based video programs.The audience is responding. A year ago, 20 percent of visitors to Disney's played a video clip at least once a month. Today, 70 percent do. A growing number - Disney will not say how many - are watching clips on cellphones. And ESPN's condensed version of the Rose Bowl was the most popular paid download on iTunes in the first week of this year. "We have been saying we are going to serve fans wherever they are, however they want to get information, on whatever time," said John Skipper, a senior vice president of ESPN. "That is moving from the rhetorical to the actual."

Mr. Leonsis of America Online says all this shifting of programming from one format to another is a necessary first stage in the development of converged media.

"It wasn't CBS News that made CNN, and it wasn't Rolling Stone that made MTV," he said. "Each new medium has its own generation of breakthrough applications."

AOL, which at 20 years old may not count as a young turk, is certainly trying to revive its fortunes by mastering the convergence of video and the Internet. It has long offered Webcasts of original concerts, and is now developing program networks for entertainment news, old TV shows and sports. Similarly, Yahoo has hired the former head of programming at ABC, Lloyd Braun, to develop new video projects. One program under development is an Internet revival of "The Runner," a drama about a fugitive that ABC introduced and canceled in 2001.

Now the media giants are thinking about how to get creative. In recent months, the TV networks have begun Internet distribution of programs that cannot be squeezed onto cable systems. NBC Universal, for example, moved its Trio network, which focused on pop culture, onto the Internet, in a service called "Brilliant but Canceled." It will also produce original series for the Web.

Mr. Malone, who introduced the idea that cable systems could have 500 channels, contends that in this new world of infinite channels, less may well be more, at least for some existing networks. Discovery Communications, in which a company Mr. Malone runs owns a controlling stake, is considering spending more money to produce fewer programs with more appeal, he said."You want products the consumer really wants to stick around and watch," Mr. Malone said, "not simply because they happen to be there."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

The article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


PRIVACY: Berkman Center, Google, Sun backing anti-"malware" effort with millions

ORIGINAL URL:,300,p1.html
POSTED: Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google, Sun Backing New Anti-Malware Effort
Harvard, Oxford researchers aim to create Internet defensive strategies geared to consumers.

By David Talbot
MIT Technology Review

Major figures at Sun and Google -- including Vinton Cerf, one of the inventors of the Internet and now Google's Chief Internet Evangelist -- are backing a new academic anti-malware initiative that aims to spotlight spyware purveyors and ultimately give besieged computer owners simple technologies to guide their Web surfing and downloading decisions.

The new effort launches today in the form of a website,, created by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Oxford University. The site's initial function is to serve as a collection point for empirical information -- from consumers and technical experts alike -- about nasty code that infects computers and aims to steal data, send spam, and churn out obnoxious pop-up advertisements. The researchers behind the effort plan to use this data to understand the scourge, spotlight offending malware purveyors, and generate consumer-friendly defensive strategies.

Malware (or the anglicized "badware") is a catchall term for little pieces of code that can ride like parasites inside pieces of software, games, and other objects downloaded from web sites. In some cases, the malware slips in when the user merely visits certain sites. Infected machines often slow down dramatically and begin generating error messages. According a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project, the computers of roughly 59 million Americans suffer from these digital infections. And home computer users spent roughly $3.5 billion in 2003 and 2004 to fix the problems, according to a recent Consumer Reports investigation.

"There are lots of efforts at fighting spyware or badware," says John Palfrey, the Berkman Center's executive director. However, he adds, until now "there has been no consumer-focused, disinterested, nonprofit effort that will give consumers guidance in terms of what they want, or don't want to download on their computers. We can bring expert guidance." The research team will comprise researchers at academic institutions, including Harvard, MIT, and Oxford.

While the research will be done by academic figures, Palfrey says, it is supported by grants from Google, Sun, and Lenovo, the Chinese company that bought IBM's PC business. He said the grants are in the "multi-year, multi-million dollar" range. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is helping design the program and assisting with strategies for notifying and educating consumers.

Google's Cerf will offer technical input when it's sought by the researchers, Palfrey says; as will his two counterparts at Sun, Greg Papadapolous, chief technical officer, and Carl Cargill, director of standards, and Lenovo's George He, chief technology officer. The team hopes to publish academic research, inform consumers, and highlight offending companies. Its long-range goal is to give consumers a simple collaborative technology for gauging the likely hazards of a web site they are considering visiting, or a file they're considering downloading.

Berkman cofounder Jonathan Zittrain, now also the chair in Internet governance at Oxford, who helped hatch the idea for, says this technology might take the form of a kind of PC "dashboard" that indicates the level of novelty or danger associated with a piece of code. This "dashboard" would draw upon the anonymized, aggregated mouse clicks and experiences of thousands or even millions of PC users.

To be sure, companies like Symantec are already offering sophisticated anti-malware products. Microsoft, too, regularly provides operating system updates meant partly to fight malware. And myriad small companies offer services; a recent entrant, SiteAdvisor, is launching a product that offers web site ratings based on its automated web-crawling technology. The key question all consumers should ponder, Zittrain says, is: Who gets control over decisions to either banish a piece of code, or allow it through? "The definitions of what is bad and what is not are not agreed upon; software is constantly changing," he notes. So giving one company control over the decision to block may not be the right decision for all people.

Zittrain argues that today's anti-malware efforts may prove to be highly effective solutions. Yet they also reflect a toehold of corporate control over individuals' computer activities that could metastasize into something more invasive, or one day serve as a vehicle for court-ordered software purges. Consumers should worry, too, that a worsening of Internet security -- especially a successful cyber-attack -- could precipitate heavy-handed government regulation akin to the USA Patriot Act that followed the September 11 attacks. He describes the project as an effort to head off this dystopia, and preserve consumer willingness to operate open PCs. He calls the project a "collaborative effort to define the axes along which software can be evaluated, to develop and distill those evaluations in ways that consumers can understand, and in which they can participate, and to ultimately create an environment where heavy-handed regulation isn't called upon to deal with these ills in wa!
ys that cause a lot of collateral damage."

Sun, Google, Lenovo, and Cerf did not immediately respond to interview requests. But in a written statement, Cerf sounded a dire tone: "I believe the potential growth of the Internet will be limited if we allow invasive badware and spyware to continue to fester without strong action. All consumers must be in control of their experiences when they browse the Internet and the mass proliferation of badware threatens this control. We cannot allow that to continue. In order to stem the unimpeded growth of badware, we must develop a better understanding of the avenues by which this abusive behavior is conducted in order to inhibit its effects -- and I believe that this initiative will help with that." He added: "The providers of Internet services and software simply must get this problem under control." Yet, in not immediately responding to questions, Cerf and Google left unanswered such questions as whether their involvement might presage a Google bid to enter!
the PC market with, say, a machine that wards off "evil."

What's clear is that the malware problem is far more than merely annoying. To many leading figures in Internet research, these problems could erode consumer confidence to the degree that Internet growth is stalled (see "The Internet is Broken"). Earlier this year, MIT's David D. Clark, an Internet elder statesman and onetime chief protocol architect, characterized the problem this way in a conversation with Technology Review: "We might just be at the point where the utility of the Internet stalls -- and perhaps turns downward." In recent months, Clark himself has been trying to cobble together a government-funded research effort to design new Internet architectures more in tune with the modern era, incorporating security features and other improvements.


This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Brewster Kahl's Open Library Project pushes imaging envelope -- an alternative to Google


The Chronicle of Higher Education -- Information Technology
From the issue dated January 27, 2006
Section: Information Technology / Volume 52, Issue 21, Page A34

Scribes of the Digital Era

A library-scanning project brings public-domain materials online and offers
an alternative to Google's model

The Chronicle of Higher Education

San Francisco

Brewster Kahle is mobilizing an army of Internet-era scribes who are
fastidiously copying books page by page. Unlike the monks who slowly copied
ancient tomes by hand, though, these scribes make digital reproductions, and
they zip through hundreds of pages each hour.

Mr. Kahle, director of the nonprofit Internet Archive, is guiding a
mass-digitization project called the Open Content Alliance, which was announced
in October and is rapidly gaining partners. The alliance plans to take
carefully selected collections of out-of-copyright books from libraries around
the world and turn them into e-books that will be available free to scholars
and anyone else who wants to view them, print them, or even download them to
their own computers.

The project has the backing of Yahoo and Microsoft, and many see it
primarily as a response to the controversial book-scanning project led by
Google ( .com/googleprint/library.html). Google is
digitizing millions of books from five major libraries, and it says it hopes to
scan nearly every book held by one of those partners, the University of
Michigan at Ann Arbor. Because many of the library's holdings are still
protected by copyright, publishers have challenged the legality of Google's

Although the Open Content Alliance has pledged not to scan copyrighted works
without permission, thereby avoiding that thorny legal issue, the project could
do as much to shake up the library world as Google's effort has. The alliance's
undertaking is more than just a mass-scanning project it is a new model for
cooperation among libraries hoping to build their own digital archives of
public-domain materials. Individual libraries have long worked on digitization
projects on their own, but the new alliance promises to pool the digital
content created by academic libraries. "It's a book-scanning initiative and a
vision for an open library," says Mr. Kahle.

Indeed, the alliance involves far more players than Google's project: So far
34 libraries, most of them at universities, have agreed to join and
contribute material. And the Open Content Alliance will make its digital books
more freely available, putting them online in a way that anyone, even companies
other than Yahoo and Microsoft, can index and search the files, or even
download the books for their own use.

One key to achieving the project's goal of scanning hundreds of thousands of
library books is to keep the price of scanning remarkably cheap with a charge
to participating libraries of about 10 cents per page by scanning the volumes
quickly and accurately. To do that, the project makes use of a specialized
document scanner developed by the Internet Archive and called, appropriately,
the Scribe.

The copying has already begun. In a building in the warehouse district here,
employees of the Internet Archive who operate the book-scanning machines are
working through an initial batch of books selected from the University of
California system. Two more scanning machines are in place at the University of
Toronto, where they run 15 hours a day. The project's leaders hope to have
scanners in more libraries by the end of the year. Each machine costs tens of
thousands of dollars, says Mr. Kahle.

One challenge for libraries, of course, is finding the money to scan large
quantities of books, even at 10 cents per page. Daniel Greenstein, executive
director of the California Digital Library, says he hopes that libraries can
contribute to the project by shifting some of the money they now spend on
digital-book subscriptions to scanning books and adding them to the shared
online collection. Several companies sell access to e-book collections, such as
the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections, from the ProQuest Information and
Learning Company.

"We're going to spend the money anyway," Mr. Greenstein says. "Let's spend
it more wisely." The alliance is also trying to entice companies and others to
donate money to the effort, touting the benefits of offering the world's
public-domain literature free to all online. "It will be remembered as one of
the great things that humans have ever done up there with the library of
Alexandria, Gutenberg press, and the man on the moon," Mr. Kahle said at a
kickoff event for the project in the fall.

Difficult Work

At the Internet Archive offices one afternoon, Mr. Kahle demonstrates his
book-scanning machine.

The device, about the size of a photo booth, is draped in heavy black cloth,
with a V-shaped stand in the middle to hold a book open. Two high-resolution
cameras are positioned at the top of the machine, one aimed at each page of the
book's spread. The book is pressed open by a V-shaped piece of glass, which the
machine's operator can raise or lower with a foot pedal. After each pair of
pages is scanned, the operator raises the glass, turns the page by hand, and
then lowers the glass back in place. A computer monitor at the back of the
machine shows the cameras' views of the book pages, and the operator can make
sure the text is lined up in the cameras' sights.

Working the machine is not easy. Putting the right amount of pressure on the
foot pedal, so the glass lifts just high enough to turn pages, can be
difficult at first. Mark Johnson, lead engineer for the Internet Archive, says
the employees who spend their days at the machines get into a rhythm that lets
them scan about 500 pages per hour. "They're amazing. If you watch the people
scanning, it's like an athletic sport."

Once the book pages are scanned, a computer attached to the device
automatically creates digital files that can be displayed and searched. The
high-resolution images include any illustrations and even margin notes that are
contained in the original volume. The machine then sends those digital files
to a server, where they are available on a Web site run by the Internet
Archive (http:// Copies of the files will also be sent to
the library that lent the book for scanning.

Mr. Kahle says that the books will be given new life in digital form, and
that they can be displayed in a number of ways. The archive has developed an
on-screen interface that makes it easy to read and search each book. But online
users can also request a printed and bound reproduction of a book by paying a
small fee to a company that does the printing and binding. Soon the books may
be able to be printed in Braille or in large print. They could even be
downloaded to PDA's, cellphones, or other portable devices for reading on the

Rick Prelinger, president of the Internet Archive's Board of Directors, says
that even though the materials scanned by the Open Content Alliance will be
free to view or download online, some companies will find ways to make money
with the digital files. "People will pay for enhanced services" such as
printing, he says. "I think the print-on-demand business is going to do very

Let the Scanning Begin

The University of Toronto's libraries have been working with Mr. Kahle since
before the Open Content Alliance formed, and have scanned more books for the
project than any other participants. On the second floor of one of the
university's libraries, in a room that once housed a computer cluster, two of
the scanning machines are in use seven days a week, staffed by employees hired
by the Internet Archive.

Carole Moore, chief librarian at the university, says each machine scans
about 7,500 pages per day. Several thousand books by Canadian authors have been
scanned so far. The volumes were selected in coordination with six other
Canadian university libraries, and the national Library and Archives Canada.

Mr. Greenstein, of the California Digital Library, a project of the
University of California system, says he hopes to eventually place scanners at
the University of California system's two regional storage libraries
warehouselike facilities that are closed to the public but whose books can be
requested through interlibrary loan. Ideally, those storage libraries could
routinely scan each book as it is first deposited, so that patrons could view
the books online instantly rather than have to wait for a printed copy to be
delivered. "We're looking at how much it would cost," says Mr. Greenstein.

Many of the libraries involved in the project have only recently joined and
are still deciding what materials they will contribute. "Every library has some
of those things that no one else has," says Shirley K. Baker, vice chancellor
for information technology and dean of university libraries at Washington
University in St. Louis, which recently joined the alliance. "We have probably
a couple thousand books that are in the public domain that we could digitize
and make publicly available."

Ms. Baker is also interested in digitizing films from the university's
collection to add to the shared online library, including raw footage from Eyes
on the Prize, a well-known documentary on the history of the civil-rights
movement in the U.S. The book-scanning machines won't be necessary for that, of
course, but the Internet Archive has experience digitizing and storing video
and audio files as well, and the archive plans to collect a range of materials
through the Open Content Alliance. "Within this calendar year, we hope to be
contributing at a relatively modest rate, but ramping up over the long run,"
says Ms. Baker.

Hard-to-Capture Materials

José-Marie Griffiths, dean of the School of Information and Library Science
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that her school has
joined the project to experiment with how to better scan manuscripts and
documents that are not in book form. "You can have whole documents, letters,
notes written on fragments of paper," says Ms. Griffiths. "Much of it is
handwritten" and therefore difficult for computers to translate into text form
for searching, she says. "The actual scanning and creating the ability to
search the content is much more challenging for nonprinted, nontypeset

Librarians from Chapel Hill plan to take a few boxes of such materials to
the Internet Archive soon, she says, to start trying to run them through the

Google's book-scanning project, meanwhile, is more restricted, and its
leaders are far more secretive. Google officials have apparently developed a
high-speed book scanner of their own, though they refuse to divulge details of
how it works or say how fast it can scan books. Google also will not say how
many books it has scanned so far from its partner libraries or even describe
the types of books it has added. Such secrecy frustrates many librarians, who
are accustomed to using collections that are carefully delineated. "It is, I
think, important for people to know what they might be able to find," says
Ms. Baker, of Washington University.

Mr. Greenstein says that he has met with Google officials, and that they
seem more interested in grabbing a large quantity of materials than in
carefully selecting certain collections of works. "None of them are
interested in curation," he says, adding that their attitude is "the more of
it, the better." Google is also less open in the way it presents its books. For
those in its collection that are in the public domain, Google allows users to
see the full text, but there is no way to download the data or easily print the
whole book, features that are allowed by the Open Content Alliance.

When asked to respond to those criticisms, Google issued a statement
comparing its scanning project to that of the Open Content Alliance: "We
welcome efforts to make information accessible to the world. The OCA is focused
on collecting out-of-copyright works which constitute a minority of the world's
books a valuable minority, but certainly not complete." Google's plan to
scan copyrighted works without permission from their publishers, while the most
unique aspect of its project, is also the most controversial.

Google officials emphasize that only short snippets of copyrighted works
will be shown to users. Still, members of the Association of American
Publishers have filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Google in U.S.
District Court, asking the court to prohibit Google from reproducing their
works and to require Google to delete or destroy records already scanned.

Leaders of the Open Content Alliance say they will scan copyrighted books
only if publishers grant permission first. But participants in the Open Content
Alliance are also quick to credit Google with bringing more attention to book
scanning. "We're just providing another model," says Robin Chandler, director
of built content for the California Digital Library.

"Every generation of scholars looks at past events in a new way," she says,
adding that bringing old books into an easily searchable digital format will
help scholars revisit older works and better make comparisons with more recent
texts. "The idea that you can analyze texts over the centuries is very
Copyright © 2006 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available
in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First
Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We
believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S.
Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the
material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving the included information for research and
educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog
for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright

Monday, January 23, 2006


POLITICS/BLOGS: National Journal traces growing influence in Washington

(go to original for hotlinks)

"Far more blogs are focused on Washington than was the case a year ago,
says Danny Glover in the National Journal. The latest issue of the
National Journal magazine is out and includes a package of stories by
Glover on the policy and political impact of blogs within Washington.
Since the site is for subscribers only, Glover has republished the main
story and a sidebar on lawmaker blogs at Beltway Blogroll, the blog he
writes for the National Journal."


The article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Friday, January 20, 2006


VIDEO: San Jose Mercury interviews CBS.COM chief Larry Kramer in Q&A format

Posted on Sun, Jan. 08, 2006

headline: CATCHING UP WITH LARRY KRAMER: The Internet takes center stage at CBS

By Michael Bazeley
The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

The mainstream media are under pressure, their future cloudy as people turn to a wider and more diverse variety of sources for their news.

But from his perch on the third floor of CBS's San Francisco offices, news veteran Larry Kramer isn't worried. As the recently named president of CBS Digital Media, the network's Internet division, Kramer is quickly reshaping CBS' news and entertainment operations to reflect the new world order, in which the Internet has emerged as a major source of information.

Since Kramer, the founder of financial news site, came on board as president, CBS News has rebuilt its Web site into a 24-hour news operation, with original video and reporting not found on its TV news programs. The company is now streaming news and entertainment video to mobile phones. It will stream NCAA basketball games on the Web this spring. And it's experimenting with putting episodes of prime-time TV sitcoms on sites such as Google Video and Yahoo.

On Friday, Google and CBS announced a partnership that would make some CBS video programming available on a pay-per-view basis through a new Google Video Store. k ramer considers CBS Digital to be the ``cable outlet'' that CBS doesn't have. Kramer's online portfolio is vast, including,,, and a bevy of smaller sites, including

The 55-year-old Kramer has been in the news business for more than 30 years, starting as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner in 1974. After stops at the Washington Post and the Trenton Times in New Jersey, he rejoined the Examiner only to leave again in 1991 to start a company called Data Sport. In 1997, he launched CBS invested in the company, and the site was renamed Dow Jones bought the financial news site in November 2004 for $520 million, making Kramer a millionaire. He joined CBS Digital in March 2005.

We caught up with Kramer recently on the first day in his new offices. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Q What is your role now at CBS?

A To put all of that stuff together into a formidable digital group and to grow the digital assets quickly. The idea being, we're not a portal, so we're not going to grow users with e-mail or that kind of stuff. But what we do have is a portal-size audience. We just have them on TV. So migrating them to and bringing them into our world, into the digital world, is the way we're hoping to grow a digital audience big enough to get significant amounts of digital advertising dollars.

Q What did you find when you came in?

A SportsLine was a mature Internet business. and weren't. They were really shoestring businesses meant to support the core, the television shows, the news operations, in a smaller way. What we did was change the outlook of those into real profit-making products. And we went the other way. We actually got the fact that we have a great news division that can support a great news site, and we want to have everybody in the news division work for the news site. And we re-launched that in June.

We have people working 24 hours a day for a 22-minute show basically. So the ability to use them the rest of the day turned out to be not just something we thought would be a good idea, but something they thought would be a good idea. People who work for CBS now get a lot more display on the Web site, and have their video seen. Anybody can go back and see it. They're doing a ton of original content for the Web now, more for the Web than for television.

Q Talk about your vision for

A There, we're attracting a younger audience. The average age of a CBS user is 15 years younger than Evening News viewers. So it's our first wholesale exposure to a younger audience. Really important to us. On the other hand, we get the revenues to support the kind of news operation that we could never support on Web revenues only.

Q So you're leveraging the television assets that you have, and layering on or coupling them with digital online assets.

A Right. We've got 1,500 news people around the world. We didn't need to put another (online) reporter next to our reporter in Baghdad. We needed to have the reporter in Baghdad learn to file to the Web. . . . Almost invariably we have much more on the Web than we have on TV.

Q Today, people can get content wherever they want, and there's been a lot of talk about bypassing the mainstream media and the value judgments it makes about what kind of news it thinks is important. You say that people want that news judgment, right?

A I definitely think people want judgement. . . .In the news gathering, in the news operations, the magic is still a combination of things. It's giving people what they want and what we think they need to know. . . .At MarketWatch, it was the reason we never did a (personalized) ``My MarketWatch'' page. Our front page was core and central to what we did. People were getting from us our take on the news. We had a very active news desk. It was our secret weapon. We actually had humans editing and doing the front page on the Web. Everyone else was automating that process. And we had people really manipulating, like we do here, how things appear, based on our opinion of what's important. And that's one of the things you want when you come to our site, is the CBS News we think is important and why.

Q Q What are you learning about the next generation of users who are coming online who you want to target?

A A I think they want the same things. I think we have to give it to them differently. We have to entertain them a little more, we have to make it more visual. They're kids who have grown up in a more visual society, so mixing video and text and interactive graphics is real and it's evolving.We're now on cell phones. We're working on something where what you'll get is a video alert. You'll get 10 seconds, a 10-second video of whatever news just happened.

Q Q Talk about that. I'm personally skeptical that people are going to want to watch very much video on a tiny screen (like a cell phone). Why am I wrong?

A A It's all relative. I don't think it becomes the pre-eminent place to watch video. But it's all about your time. So if I'm sitting on an airplane or I'm sitting on a runway, will I watch a TV show on an iPod? If that's my only choice, I will. Would I rather see it in front a flat screen, or a 50-inch screen sitting at home on a couch? You bet. But I'm making concessions in my life. I'm doing a million things, I'm traveling a lot. Kids are moving around a lot. They live on cell phones.I don't think anyone, honestly, will sit here and watch an hour-long show on a cell phone. But it doesn't mean when it's 10 o'clock night at Logan Airport and you're waiting to come home, and it's late and nothing is open and nothing is on, that they wouldn't do anything they possibly could on here.

Q There's been lots of talk about moving legacy media such as print and TV onto the Web and whether or not it can pay for itself.

A We're doubling advertising on every year. And advertisers, for the first time, are supporting video on the Web. I can't put enough video up. I'm sold out. . . . Our Web business is a significant business by outside standards. It's less significant by CBS standards. It's just 3 or 4 percent of CBS' revenues. But we're bigger than MarketWatch. . . . (CBS Digital) is profitable, it has good margins and the margins are growing.

Q Internet search is a big way that people are beginning to find video. How do you see that playing out?

A That, to us, will be a big business, because you'll be able to go on Google and say, ``I'm doing a report on Jackie Robinson for school.'' And you can go and find out that ``60 Minutes'' did a piece on him in the '60s. And you can go get it, and now see it for a buck, if that's what we decide to do. Or you can see it with commercials. I'll be able to sell entertainment programming from Paramount. And maybe it will cost you, or maybe we'll inject ads. Those are dollars we wouldn't have been able to take in before. We could have never matched that buyer with that content without a search mechanism.

Q Have there been discussions with Google to make your video more find-able?

A Everybody. Google, Yahoo, MSN.

Q There have been predictions that Google and Yahoo will begin to build up news staffs. Do you see them becoming content- providers?

A Yahoo is obviously further down the road there, and they're wrestling with that question...And I do not believe that they've made that decision that question that they want to go big. Right now, they don't think they can. They don't expect to be CBS News or CNN. But they do want to do more and more programming of their own. Because the problem is, they were dependent totally on partners for content. And guess what? The partners are starting to get stingy because they want to build it themselves on the Web. There's a built-in conflict.

If you take that to its logical conclusion, Google buys CBS. They've got the kind of money to buy someone or a content-creation machine. (But) that hasn't gone well historically with technology firms.


Larry Kramer

. Age: 55
. Birthplace: Hackensack, N.J.
. Position: President, CBS Digital Media
. Previous jobs: Reporter at San Francisco Examiner and Washington Post,
metro editor of Post, editor of Examiner, founder of
. Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism and political science,
Syracuse University; MBA from Harvard University.
. Family: Married to Myla Lerner, with son Matthew and daughter Erika.
. Residence: Tiburon
Source:Larry Kramer, Mercury News research


1. He got the first interview with newspaper heiress and kidnapping
hostage Patty Hearst after she was released by her captors.

2. At 31, he was the youngest Metro editor ever at the Washington Post.

3. He gave TV political pundit Chris Matthews his first job in journalism.

4. He left work early on the day of's initial public
offering so he could coach his daughter's basketball game.

5. He was once a photojournalist whose first assignment was shooting the
Woodstock music festival.


ESSAY: Are Americans willing to pay for journalism that's good for them?

POSTED: January 19, 2006: 10:53 AM EST

Out with old media; in with... what?
The old gatekeepers are getting weaker by the day. Will anybody step up to take their place?

Fortune Magazine

By Justin Fox, FORTUNE editor-at-large

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - A couple weeks ago, my wife and I caught a lengthy but entertaining promo for the Winter Olympics on NBC. It consisted of ice skaters skating, plus a song that combined hip-hop and arena rock by a group we didn't know.

A little searching on the Web revealed that the group was Flipsyde, that Washington Post critic Geoffrey Himes considered "largely ignored" We the People to be the best hip-hop album of 2005, and that the song played on NBC was called "Someday." A few seconds and 99 cents later it was ours.

Which got me to thinking. The first thought was: How lame is it that I get my music-shopping ideas from Olympics ads? Which immediately led to thought No. 2: Where else am I supposed to get those ideas?

This is becoming one of the more interesting dilemmas of the new information age. The old media gatekeepers are getting weaker by the day. In the case of pop music, this is an almost unmitigated good, given how bland and craven the most powerful gatekeepers -- commercial radio stations -- had become.

It also means, as Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson will be telling us in great depth soon in his much-anticipated book The Long Tail: Why the Future is Selling Less of More, that more and more people will be able to make a living from songs, books, movies and other media products that appeal only to a limited audience.

Still, the new world of iTunes playlists and "customers who bought this album also bought ..." has its drawbacks as well. The main one is that it can hard to break out of whatever subculture -- of music or any other kind of media -- you've decided to join.

Sometimes this is just a case of missed opportunity: If I hadn't happened to be watching NBC that night, I wouldn't have bought that nice Flipsyde song. But it can also mean a loss of shared experience, of common reference points for a society. This has to be part of the explanation for the increasingly polarized state of political discourse in the United States: Partisans of both left and right are now able to assemble media diets that almost never contradict their preconceived views.

This is not an unprecedented state of affairs -- big American cities used to have lots of different newspapers, each with pronounced political leanings and articles explicitly shaded to reinforce those leanings. There is nothing natural or inherently superior about the monolithic media institutions of the mid-to-late 20th century.

But there is still a need for the community-building, consensus-shaping role that the best of the media gatekeepers can play. The question is, who's going to play it? And how are they going to make it work economically?

There are the existing gatekeepers, of course: Network TV, newspapers, mass-circulation magazines. Some may survive and thrive. But they'll have to do without economic advantages they enjoyed in the past. Newspapers in particular are in a panic right now. It's not so much that readers are abandoning them (they get an awful lot of traffic online) as they've lost their stranglehold on classified advertising.

For those who place classifieds or read them, the new era of Craiglist,, and the like is undeniably better than the old newspaper-dominated one. But for decades, classified ads subsidized journalism. Now they won't. This is the way of economic progress, and as a business journalist who has on occasion applauded creative destruction as it wreaked havoc upon other people's industries, I can't exactly complain about it.

But it does raise some subversive thoughts: Are Americans willing to pay for what's good for them? Are there great new fortunes to be made in telling us what to pay attention to, or is this business of media gatekeeping going to be chiefly a sideline (think Oprah Winfrey and her book club)? Is there a role for public broadcasting as the last uniting, subsidized medium?

And are there any more of those NBC Olympics promos coming up that I should know about?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


BUSINESS MODELS: Gather.COM and competitors seeking to cash in on freelance blogging and advertising


The blogger "Mister Snitch!" has posted a somewhat disjointed -- but thoughtful and well-linked -- roundup of information on some of the startups seeking to make money by aggregating free-lance blogger writers, then sell advertising around them. The post is precipitated by a story in the Sat., Jan. 14, Boston Globe, about Gather.COM, funded by the founder of Lotus Development Corp. and the New York investment bank, Allen & Co. But there are others, writes Mister Snitch, including (with links to writeups about them):




Others include:


Saturday, January 14, 2006


EDUCATION: Journalism prof at Univ. of Oregon uses MP3 podcasts to reach students

Prof's podcasts are a big hit with Oregon journalism students

Romanesko wrote:
"Al Stavitsky's "Al Pods" don't reproduce his Mass Media and Society class lectures at the University of Oregon. "Instead, they provided new content bridging the lectures and the assigned readings, freeing Stavitsky from spending large amounts of class time talking about the readings," writes Eva Sylwester."

ORIGINAL POST: Oregon Daily Emerald
The independent campus newspaper at the University of Oregon, Eugene

Now educating on an iPod near you
UO professor Al Stavitsky gives students access to more class information using MP3 audio files

By Eva Sylwester
Senior News Reporter
January 10, 2006

Many students walk through campus listening to their MP3 players, often with a favorite band filling their ears. But for a growing number of people, the sound may also be the voice of one of their professors. Last term, journalism professor Al Stavitsky experimented with creating online audio files called podcasts, which he termed â..Al Pods,â. for his Mass Media and Society class.

Stavitsky, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, said his podcasts differed from podcasts available at some schools in that they did not reproduce class lectures. Instead, they provided new content bridging the lectures and the assigned readings, freeing Stavitsky from spending large amounts of class time talking about the readings.

â..Lectures can be the lectures and the readings can be the readings,â. Stavitsky said. â..These podcasts can be the way I help students see connections.â. To record his podcasts, Stavitsky sat down in his office with a digital voice recorder and a stack of lecture notes and talked for 20 minutes a week. He incorporated information from lectures, guest speakers and current news, he said.

â..It would basically be a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing,â. he said.

After making the recordings, Stavitsky uploaded them from his computer onto the Blackboard Web site. Students could then download the podcasts onto their computers and add them to their MP3 players, or simply listen to the podcasts through their computer speakers, Stavitsky said.

Before becoming a professor 16 years ago, Stavitsky worked in radio and television news.â..Thereâ..s certainly a comfort level,â. Stavitsky said. â..A podcast is kind of like a radio show.â.

Journalism associate professor John Russial said he is more an interested observer of podcasting than a user of the technology, and will use his share of the grant to help students add audio to their projects in his Cyberjournalism class. He said many journalism organizations and citizen journalists use podcasts to deliver news. But he is concerned about classroom podcasts at some schools that simply reproduce lectures and theoretically make it unnecessary for students to attend class.

â..I think the classroom environment is a pretty good place to be,â. Russial said, citing the importance of class discussions.

Stavitsky said recording lectures is not an optimal use of podcasting technology because it does not add value to the class. While recorded lectures can be good if a student misses a class, Stavitsky said, they also provide an incentive to miss classes.â..We are really way out ahead of everyone else in how weâ using podcasts,â. Stavitsky said. He said podcasting worked well in his class. â..It was a big hit,â. he said. â..The students really appreciated the flexibility.â.

Two students, McCall Hall and Margot Charkow-Ross, made Stavitsky a CD with an original hip-hop theme song for future Al Pods, receiving extra credit in class. Hall, a journalism major, said in an e-mail that Al Pods were helpful for finding the most important points of lectures and readings, and for being able to review class discussions. But the flexibility provided by the technology may have been too much for some students to handle, he said.

â..Iâ..m pretty sure that kids didnâ..t read the book because Professor Al (Stavitsky) made the Al Pod so convenient,â. Hall wrote. â..Also, some kids wouldnâ..t show up to class due to the fact that they could simply download the Al Pod and listen to it while they were at the Rec Center. I think some kids abused the Al Pod.â.

Charkow-Ross acknowledged that although substituting the Al Pod for the readings was sometimes tempting, it was not a perfect solution. â..Even though the Al Pod did help, it didnâ..t contain all that the book did,â. she wrote in an e-mail.

Podcasts may soon reach departments beyond journalism. Kassia Dellabough, senior instructor for the Arts and Administration program, said she may use podcasts in an exercise for her online section of AAD 250: Art and Human Values this term.

In the proposed exercise, students would sit in a public place and watch people, making notes of their own reactions to other peopleâ..s appearances. Wearing MP3 players, students would listen to a pre-recorded podcast that would guide their observations with statements like, â..Notice someone you think looks weird. Why?â.

â..One of the challenges with the podcasts is not everyone has an iPod or MP3 player, so itâ..s going to be optional,â. Dellabough said. Dellabough said that in the future, a program allowing students to check out MP3 players for the term would be useful.

Stavitsky said he came up with the idea to make podcasts for his classes last summer as a result of buzz about iTunes adding support for downloading podcasts. â..Iâ..m always looking at ways to experiment with technology in my classes,â. he said.

Stavitsky bought podcasting equipment and traveled to a conference at Brigham Young University with a grant from the School of Journalism and Communication. â..I saw it as a potentially very innovative use of technology and a way to enhance the classroom experience,â. said Tim Gleason, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication.

Russial, journalism instructor Mark Blaine and graduate student Michael Huntsberger also benefited from the Deanâ..s Teaching Fund grant.

Contact the business, science and technology reporter at


© 2006 Oregon Daily Emerald

The article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available
in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First
Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We
believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S.
Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the
material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving the included information for research and
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BUSINESS MODELS: WSJ article reviews music pricing models for possible collusion


SUMMARY AT PAIDCONTENT.ORG posted Jan. 12, 2006:

Subscription Service Pricing Under Scrutiny [by staci] : The Journal has a slightly odd story about "most-favored nation" status and pricing. Maybe it just reads odd to me because I've dealt with MFNs for years in cable programming so I'm not surprised to see it at work in music. For purposes of this discussion, MFN -- and please send me a better explanation if you have one -- is a clause in a contract that usually means no one else can have a better deal than that content provider. For instance, if you agree to pay me 50 cents a song wholesale and then agree to pay someone else 51 cents a song, you have to up my price to 51 cents. On the other hand, if I don't have an MFN, you could pay someone else $1 a song and I'd be stuck at 50 cents -- until it's time to renegotiate.As longtime readers know, I'm very interested in variable pricing and how prices are set. I've spent a lot of time in the last few days looking at video pricing issues and will be writing more about it so!
on. In the interim, the clearest aspect of all of this is that NY state attorney general Eliot Spitzer sees a good opportunity here and he isn't going away anytime soon.

Digital-Music Officials
Criticize Subscription Prices

January 12, 2006; Page B2

While New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer investigates possible price collusion in the music-download business, some in the industry are complaining about pricing tactics used by the major record labels in another corner of the digital-music world: subscription services.

Mr. Spitzer's preliminary investigation appears to focus on wholesaling music to a la carte services that sell individual songs for 99 cents apiece, such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store. To collect information, Mr. Spitzer has issued subpoenas to the four major music companies: Vivendi Universal SA's Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp., EMI Group PLC and the Sony BMG venture between Japan's Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG, of Germany.

Several current and former executives of digital-music companies believe that significant anticompetitive pricing practices by the major music companies take place in the subscription arena, where listeners get access to an unlimited amount of music for a flat monthly fee. Yahoo Inc., RealNetworks Inc. and Napster are among the biggest operators in the music-subscription field.

The concern is that, when selling their music to subscription services, music labels engage in what may amount to a passive form of collusion, resulting from their use of "most favored nation status" clauses, as they are known in the trade. Unlike downloading services -- in which labels sell songs to retailers for a set wholesale price -- the prices charged to subscription services are derived from complex licensing agreements. The most-favored-nation clauses, or MFNs, seek to ensure that if a rival label negotiates better deal terms, the label with most-favored-nation status gets the same terms. Critics say that, because all of the major labels have sought or secured such clauses from subscription-music services, the result is anticompetitive.

Most-favored-nation clauses are often used by retailers to secure lower wholesale prices for products. For some, the concept causes greater concern when it is deployed on behalf of suppliers. "Seller-side MFNs are inherently price-increasing and anticompetitive," says Jonathan Potter, executive director of the Digital Media Association, a trade organization whose members include Apple, Yahoo, Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, RealNetworks, Napster, Viacom Inc.'s MTV, and MusicNet Inc.

Executives of the subscription services are barred by confidentiality agreements from discussing terms of their agreements with the music companies. Most said they hadn't been contacted by Mr. Spitzer's office. A representative for Mr. Spitzer didn't respond to a request for comment.

The extent to which the music companies seek MFNs appears to vary, people familiar with the industry say, with the biggest companies -- Universal Music Group and Sony BMG -- acting more aggressively than their smaller counterparts. A prime example of an MFN can be found in a term sheet circulated by Universal Music Group. The document covers a number of licensing terms, including pricing, digital-rights management and accounting. Its final line effectively undermines the need for Universal to negotiate any of these points aggressively: "UMG will receive an MFN for all material terms."

In a statement, a Universal spokesman said: "Universal is committed to providing our artists with the best possible service and this includes protecting them as their music is used and exploited in new and different ways."

Many music-service executives have questioned the legality of such contractual provisions and generally fight to keep it out of final agreements. "Antitrust enforcers seem to recognize most-favored nation as a red flag," says Albert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute, an independent think tank. "Not to say it's inherently illegal, but you'd want to take a closer look at how it works and what the effects are."

Some music-company executives defend the use of MFNs, calling them legitimate tools for delivering their offerings quickly to consumers in the rapidly shifting and unpredictable world of technologies, without getting bogged down in lengthy, nitpicking negotiations. Others say their companies seek the clauses only occasionally, and rarely, if ever, enforce them.

In 2003, the Department of Justice closed without action an investigation into whether the labels stifled competition in online music in part through the use of MFNs. Online-music-service executives say that, despite their best efforts to rebuff MFNs, some labels are pushing the clauses harder and trying to make them more restrictive.

"The MFNs of a few years ago were not as aggressive," says Mr. Potter. At least one global music company has begun trying to ensure in its contracts that it can examine the terms of its competitors' agreements.

Write to Ethan Smith at


This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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