Audio Articles are Helping News Outlets Gain Loyal Audiences
“In the U.S. alone, the number of people who listen to spoken-word audio jumped by one fifth in the last five years; it’s now a daily habit for 121 million people (music listening, meanwhile, has declined 5%). That’s still far below the number of people who read text online each day, but publishers offering narrated articles find that listeners value depth with audio journalism, and, as they do at Zetland, will listen for longer than they read.”
About 10 years ago I was immersed in the disruption of journalism and publishing. At the time, the tone was negative. Most people thought change was bad. Change meant jobs would be lost and long-established publications would close. While some of this was true, I withdrew from the space because all the bad news and doomsday stuff was toxic. But now, things are getting interesting. Yes, disruption rolled through and a lot of stuff was undermined. Yet, in its place we’re seeing a revitalization in print books, the embrace of streaming music, and the rise of podcasting as a viable form of content. This article looks at another one of these positive signals: people seem to like listening to long-form articles and publishers are experimenting with different techniques to serve that need. There’s no doom in this piece. Rather, it’s a clear-eyed analysis of something that has potential to serve audiences while improving engagement for publishers. (Sidenote: This article also introduced me to the term “prosody,” which covers “the way words are said, the rhythm of speech, the emphasis and adjustment of tone.”)
These Students Are Learning About Fake News and How to Spot It
“The aim of the Civic Online Reasoning curriculum is to get students to ask three basic questions when reading or watching online content: Who is behind that information? What is the evidence? What do other sources say? Researchers focused on two major skills. The first is lateral reading. It encourages readers who come to an unfamiliar website to refrain from exploring the site more deeply until they have opened other tabs and found other websites to help them determine the authenticity or reliability of the newly discovered site. The other skill is click restraint. Ideally, users would resist the impulse to click on the first results that appear in say, a Google search, until they have scanned the full list for credibility and then click selectively.”
Couple of things: First, this article makes the point that “digital” savvy is not the same as “information” savvy. Just because someone is proficient with technology doesn’t mean they can assess the veracity of online information. But this isn’t new. The same point was made about the undergrads I taught 15 years ago. We’ve had this problem for a while now. Second, the essence of media literacy is contained in the three questions I highlighted above: “Who is behind that information? What is the evidence? What do other sources say?” If you ask those questions consistently, you can offset a lot of the manipulation.
Making Uncommon Knowledge Common
“… you’ve likely used Zillow, Glassdoor, and Expedia before. It’s hard to look on the internet for anything related to real estate, jobs, or travel and NOT see one of Rich Barton’s companies. Their ubiquity is stunning. But it’s not coincidental. Rich Barton’s companies all became household names by following a common playbook. The Rich Barton Playbook is building Data Content Loops to disintermediate incumbents and dominate Search. And then using this traction to own demand in their industries.”
The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium, 2012–present
“Why spend so much time worrying about what Medium is? Maybe because we wanted to know whether it was a friend or an enemy. The answer is that it’s neither. It’s a reflection of what the media industry has worried about, and hoped for, and not received. But Medium was never something that we would get to define. Instead, it’s turned out to be an endless thought experiment into what publishing on the internet could look like. That’s not much fun for people who got burned along the way, but Medium was never exactly ours to begin with.”
At long last, I find a suitable answer to a question that’s haunted me for years: What the heck is Medium, anyway?
AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform—Call It Mirrorworld
“Just as past generations gained textual literacy in school, learning how to master the written word, from alphabets to indexes, the next generation will master visual literacy. A properly educated person will be able to create a 3D image inside of a 3D landscape nearly as fast as one can type today. They will know how to search all videos ever made for the visual idea they have in their head, without needing words. The complexities of color and the rules of perspective will be commonly understood, like the rules of grammar. It will be the Photonic Era.”
I’m not a digital native, but I picked up digital quickly and I’ve always felt fluent in it. But I’ve wondered what paradigm-shifting technology will seem truly alien to me in the years ahead. I watched older relatives struggle to master computer basics, and I knew someday I’d encounter an interface that would be just as confusing to me. The paragraph above might very well describe that thing. Intellectually, I get the concept of visual literacy. But it’s going to take a lot of ongoing effort for me to learn and apply it.
Death of the feed and rise of the groups
“Traditional communications strategies have focused on perfecting messaging so that it can be relevant to many people for years after it publishes. But in a world driven by ephemeral posts and closed-group conversations, where nothing is designed to live in perpetuity, they need to be more timely and authentic for consumers to pay attention.”
When Snapchat debuted “Stories” I thought it was a gimmick designed to differentiate the service from competitors. I certainly didn’t see ephemeral content supplanting forever content. But the pendulum always swings: closed systems are disrupted by open systems, and vice versa, and in content I guess always-available material is disrupted by disappearing material. Will the pendulum swing back to archival content at some point? Yeah, probably. And it make sense to prepare for that while also taking advantage of the ephemeral opportunities.
How NBC broadcaster Bob Costas was dropped from Super Bowl LII broadcast
“Asked what it says that the NFL wouldn’t make the commissioner available to a network that pays it billions, [Bob] Costas responded, ‘It tells you who calls the shots. It’s an unusual relationship when you talk about broadcast sports. It’s one of the few relationships I can think of where the buyer must continually flatter the seller. We deliver the billion dollars in a Brink’s armored truck, but we hope we didn’t offend you by sending it over in the incorrect denominations and if we did, we’ll immediately correct that oversight and we’ll come over and wash your car as well. That’s not unique to NBC. That’s the way this thing works’.”
This is the best description I’ve seen of the bizarre relationship between the NFL and TV networks.
The Patriots Out-think the Rams for a Sixth Super Bowl Title
“The idea on defense, through what Flores and Belichick planned, was to force Jared Goff to think on the fly. It’s well-documented that McVay uses the coach-to-quarterback communication to adjust calls based on what the defense is showing, up to the point where that communication cuts off, with 15 seconds left on the play clock. The Patriots wanted to negate that creative advantage, so they essentially sent in two calls on every play. One was what they’d show before the snap. The other was what they’d switch into post-snap. And if you want to see how it worked, go back and watch how Goff held the ball, and doubted what he was looking at, over and over and over.”
I wish we got more insight into how coaches and players identify wrinkles like this and then dream up gameplans to take advantage of them. I find this so much more interesting than useless predictions and fake debate.
Google Gives Wikimedia Millions—Plus Machine Learning Tools
“It’s certainly positive that Google is investing more in Wikipedia, one of the most popular and generally trustworthy online resources in the world. But the decision isn’t altruistic: Supporting Wikipedia is also a shrewd business decision that will likely benefit Google for years to come. Like other tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, Google already uses Wikipedia content in a number of its own products. When you search Google for ‘Paris,’ a ‘knowledge panel’ of information about the city will appear, some of which is sourced from Wikipedia. The company also has used Wikipedia articles to train machine learning algorithms, as well as fight misinformation on YouTube.”
A transaction between a giant company and another entity is not inherently bad, even though it often feels like the little guy is getting screwed. It’s all about quid pro quo. If the giant (Google) gives a bunch of money to a smaller organization (Wikipedia) and that money lets the smaller organization flourish, it’s okay for the giant to also get something of equal value in the deal. No one should expect altruism in these arrangements, but we certainly should expect fairness. And this one seems fair.
Facebook's '10 Year Challenge' Is Just a Harmless Meme—Right?
“Regardless of the origin or intent behind this meme, we must all become savvier about the data we create and share, the access we grant to it, and the implications for its use. If the context was a game that explicitly stated that it was collecting pairs of then-and-now photos for age progression research, you could choose to participate with an awareness of who was supposed to have access to the photos and for what purpose.”
I saw a bunch of the 10-year challenge posts and I thought they were kind of fun. And that’s exactly when my alarm should have sounded, but it didn’t. I need to do better. Anytime there’s a clever new thing sweeping social networks, I need to ask myself: 1. Who started this? 2. Who stands to benefit from it? 3. What are the broader applications for the information being gathered? We’re at a point now where a fun thing could be a data-gathering exercise. And since we can’t count on the people or organizations behind these exercises to be transparent, *we* need to be discerning.