Category Archives: Media

Random Media Notes

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  1. I concede. I have long insisted that media is the plural of medium. But, based on common usage, I now accept that media can be a singular term as well as plural.
  2. The New York Times “Truth” ad campaign is genius on many levels. However, just because a story appears in the New York Times, that alone does not make it necessarily true.
  3. Memo to those whose Twitter bios contain the words “Retweets are not endorsements.” Actually, they often come off that way.
  4. Judging from my Twitter feed during the Oscar show, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Love is Love is Love” thing does not apply to Mel Gibson.
  5. PriceWaterhouseCoopers is the world’s second largest accounting firm. Not only will they will survive the Oscars flub, awareness of the firm’s name and services it provides will actually increase.
  6. It’s easy to understand why Charter would want to rebrand as Spectrum. But it seems that the changeover has been glacially gradual.
  7. Speaking of branding, it turns out that the real name of the actress Cush Jumbo is… Cush Jumbo! Great name.
  8. Speaking of branding, it was clever to repackage DVDs of old romance movies (such as Somewhere In Time) with black and white graphics similar to the now familiar 50 Shades graphics.
  9. Have you noticed how the attention-getting power of the term “Breaking News” has been diminished over the last couple of years?
  10. If I were in the news biz and wanted to do something related to immigration, I’d do a feature on Global Foods in Kirkwood (MO).
  11. The most recent Nielsen radio ratings strongly indicate that St. Louis listeners prefer older music to newer music. Have young people stopped listening to radio?
  12. Can you find yourself on a map? No, not on your phone. On a map. In an atlas. Or on TV. Apparently, many otherwise intelligent people cannot. Click HERE for link.
  13. Got an email recently that said it was from “Hamilton, the Musical.” It was NOT from Hamilton, the Musical. I deleted. But only after I unsubscribed.
  14. Am I the only person in the English-speaking world who detests the word “eponymous?” It just sounds so pretentious.
  15. If you write for money, please obtain and read the book Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. And put its guidance into practice. Thank you.

Photo credit: squidsoup.org. http://www.flickr.com/photos/8191354@N04/8704884335, via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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Rule Number One: Be Skeptical

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When we consume information, it helps to be skeptical. It’s a good idea, of course, to be dubious of anything that comes from extremist organizations. Not just their “fake news” but also items that seem plausible.

We should also be skeptical of news and information we receive from the “mainstream media.” Whether it’s a hard news report from Washington or a puff piece in the neighborhood paper, numerous factors determine the content that’s delivered.

Questions worth asking: Is the reporter a friend or nemesis of his/her source? Did the subject of an upbeat item spend ad money on the outlet? Did an editor remove a key element of the piece because somebody took her/him out to dinner? Did a PR person offer an exclusive scoop in exchange for a prominent placement? We can’t know the answers, so everything we read, see and hear should be subject to that healthy skepticism.

No matter the source of information, it’s important to consider that there is no such thing as absolute objectivity. All of us are subject to influences of our upbringing, our schooling, our past and current professional relationships, as well as personal friends and acquaintances.

Mass gullibility is not a new thing. Mistrust of news media is not a new thing. Nor is mistrust of elected officials. (Remember the Maine!)

It’s often necessary to get info from multiple sources in order to obtain the full scope of an issue. The New York Times may play up a certain aspect of global warming, for instance, whereas the Wall Street Journal may try to poke holes in the NYT’s version of facts. The exact truth may lie somewhere between their respective takes.

As a consumer of information, you should be able to know what is being shared as factual information and what is labeled as comment or opinion. Print and online outlets generally do a good job of differentiating. Broadcast and cable outlets sometimes fail to make clear which is which.

In these days of extreme polarization, an open mind can help you get the full picture. Certainly, many individuals will always be steadfast in their beliefs and their prejudices. Some people will believe anything they hear from conservative-leaning outlets and others will put full trust into anything they get from liberal-leaning outlets.

Wherever you receive your information, be it a trusted source or one you view with caution, maintain your healthy skepticism as you determine your own version of the facts. As they used to say on the X-Files, the truth is out there. You just have to find it.

For more on determining the validity of news we receive, you may want to check out these thoughts from NPR Morning Edition anchor Steve Inskeep. Click HERE to link to his article. Even if you perceive NPR to have a particular agenda, you may find his “finder’s guide for facts” useful.

(photo credit: Bruno Meyer Photography; http://www.flickr.com/photos/55293868@N08/31907319405; http://photopin.com; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0)

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16 Things To Know For ’16

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  1. It’s great to have lots of Twitter followers, Facebook friends and LinkedIn endorsers. But a good credit rating beats all three.
  2. Despite Southwest Airlines’ longtime claim that “your miles never expire,” mine expired last year.
  3. Never ever drive through (or even around) Atlanta if you can avoid it. Ever.
  4. Best media advice I’ve heard lately came from radio meetings in Nashville: “Infuse everything you do with FOMO.” (Fear Of Missing Out.)
  5. An organization that delivers hilariously entertaining TV spots may engage in sleazy business practices. (Sorry for being necessarily vague on this one.)
  6. My number one news source is Twitter.
  7. Using the term “startup” in reference to your business generally gets you attention, even if your business is selling life insurance.
  8. Some people think it’s okay to end a 7-year business relationship via text message.
  9. The adverb is not your friend. (Writing tip from Stephen King.)
  10. A Discover Card ad offering double rewards for new cardholders contained the line “no limits and no catches” but the tag at the end of the spot said, “limitations apply.” So… which is it?
  11. “Inspired by true events” does not make a movie better than one that’s total fiction.
  12. A St. Louis area business that advertised regularly in local print media for three decades ran NO print ads in 2015… and their revenues increased.
  13. A black and white photo often has stronger impact than a color pic.
  14. Whole Foods does not take checks.
  15. Sometimes I’d prefer to READ your story in an online article instead of watching a video about it.
  16. Your strict adherence to political correctness may cause you to shake your head at times, but it beats having to apologize for a communications boner. Um, mistake.

 

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Can You Teach A New Dog Old Tricks?

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Newspapers are dead, according to common belief in 2015. (Just don’t tell that to the people who drop off the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wall Street Journal and New York Times at my house each morning.)

Certainly the transition to online communication from ink on paper is continuing full steam ahead (full lithium battery ahead?) and is revealing that some purveyors of online content don’t know when to stop.

A key component of a successful newspaper, for at least the last century, has been the columnist who shares opinion and information with a personal writing style. Newspapers have traditionally limited the amount of space on the page a column may occupy. Tight editing allows more space for ads and other content.

In an online context, however, a writer has an almost infinite amount of space to spew his or her thoughts. If you consume a large amount on online content, you have certainly encountered articles that run too long. You may have slogged on to the end and breathed a sigh of relief when you got there.

You have also read articles that kept your undivided attention from start to finish and, occasionally, left you wanting more.

Though the initial reason for limiting newspaper columnists may have been conservation of valuable space on the page, writers and editors have learned over the years that there are optimum lengths for columns that ensure reader engagement. These may vary from paper to paper and section to section, but a good columnist will develop the ability to compose her or his content within established parameters.

How can these old newspaper methods apply to today’s new communicators? These “new dogs” can read columnists from today’s major papers and take note of their “old tricks.” Practice self-editing. Check for redundancies. Read your prior posts and consider how you might have made them tighter. Ask your readers and associates for candid feedback.

If it takes too long to read through the piece you have written and posted, your reader may check out halfway through and move on the next article on his/her agenda. Know when to say when.

(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/81881849@N00/2089122314 via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

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New Media Versus Old Media: Both Claim Wins

 

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In July 2013 I posted an article titled Why New Media Are Better Than Old Media. The next week I listed reasons Why Old Media Are Better Than New Media. My point in these back-to-back posts is that both have their strong points.

(Also, I use the word “media” as a plural of “medium,” though I acknowledge that many people refer to “media” as a single entity.)

Here are those lists:

Why New Media Are Better Than Old Media

  1. The internet is open to everyone. No FCC license or printing press necessary.
  2. Net content is available throughout (most of) the world.
  3. Content can be archived on computer drives or accessed via the cloud.
  4. It’s easier to make corrections to web content than to material that’s already been published or transmitted.
  5. Advertising is not as pervasive or obnoxious. Yet.
  6. Content can be more easily targeted to specific groups.
  7. It’s easier to email a file than to send via USPS or FedEx.
  8. It’s quicker to send a text message than to make a call.
  9. Downloading books, movies and music is more convenient and more eco-friendly than purchasing at stores.
  10. Wikipedia and Google provide info that’s more up to date than those volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica and Webster’s dictionary.
  11. Twitter and Facebook serve as community town hall forums for instant sharing of ideas and thoughts on news and events.
  12. Interactivity allows all to participate.
  13. Apps on mobile devices provide immense amounts of entertainment and information.
  14. New media bring continual innovation while old media struggle to keep up.

 

Why Old Media Are Better Than New Media

  1. A framed newspaper article on the wall of your business looks better than a framed printout of the online version.
  2. The Super Bowl looks better on a 50-inch TV screen than it does on a smartphone.
  3. Spill your oatmeal on your morning paper, not a big deal. Spill oatmeal on your iPhone/iPad/MacBook, panic time.
  4. Listening to traffic reports on radio while driving is not as distracting as looking at traffic apps on a smartphone at 60 mph.
  5. Internet connectivity is not so hot on country back roads when compared to the signal strength of a Class C FM station.
  6. A century-old newspaper has more credibility than a ten-year-old news aggregator.
  7. Movie theaters offer an experience that cannot be duplicated at home. And the popcorn is better.
  8. Online death rumors are often hoaxes. Old media are more likely to seek verification.
  9. A segment on local TV morning news is likely to be seen by more eyes than a feature on a popular local blog.
  10. Wikipedia information can be revised and updated by literally anyone. Traditional reference material is vetted by scores of editors.
  11. Neighborhood weekly newspapers provide useful information not easily found elsewhere.
  12. Despite fragmentation, advertisers still reach enormous audiences via TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.
  13. A telephone call allows for speedier dialogues than does a series of text messages or emails.
  14. Even in the era of consolidation, no single entity rules old media like Google dominates new media.

(During Summer 2015 I am revisiting several of my posts from previous years.)

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Short Attention Span Theater

We live in a world of truncated content. If you don’t have 3 hours to watch a ball game, you watch the highlights in a 40-second package on TV (or on your phone or tablet).

Don’t want to watch SNL on Saturday night? Catch a segment or two later via Hulu.

News and commentary come in short spurts on Twitter.

I skim. You skim. We all skim.

Though much of this shortened content comes via new tech, the idea of minimizing content is not new.

My grandparents’ favorite magazine was Reader’s Digest, which curated and condensed content from numerous print sources. What they liked most were the humor sections, consisting of brief snippets. My mother was a subscriber to Reader’s Digest condensed books, which delivered short versions of 4 or 5 books in one volume.

In my teens and 20’s, I read The Sporting News every week. The parts I enjoyed most were the “three dot” notes columns from Dick Young and other writers and the news nuggets, often collected under the heading “Caught on the Fly.”

Some of the biggest shows on early TV were comedy programs that featured “blackout” sketches, which could run from just a few seconds to a couple of minutes. (These bits were adapted from the live theater form called Vaudeville.)

When you choose not to click on a video because it runs 4 minutes and you only care to devote 2 minutes OR when you skip a blog post because it runs 9 paragraphs instead of 3, don’t feel bad. You’re not the first to be stingy with your time.

Think of all the students who didn’t actually read Moby Dick back in the day but flipped through the Classics Illustrated comic books or skimmed the CliffsNotes.

A Short Attention Span is not a new phenomenon. The volume of content and number of delivery channels, however, are greater than ever.

With a finite amount of time and seemingly endless content choices, it’s important that we all manage our time as efficiently as possible.

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