a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Evan Williams explains “the whole web is dead thing” (pretty well)

Posted on the January 5th, 2011

If there’s anyone who isn’t feeling a bit steamrollered by a Web of Infinite Info, as GigaOM terms it, they must still be pounding away only on a typewriter and reading only at their local library.

As a help to the rest of us, last week Om Malik posted a Q&A interview on GigaOm with Internet entrepreneur and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams (“Ev Williams: The Challenges of a Web of Infinite Info”  Dec. 29, 2010).

The questions are wide-ranging. One I especially like was about the often seen quip by some these days that “the web is dead.”

Excerpt from Williams’ response:

What’s “dead” is the original model of the web, which was completely distributed and decentralized. In the beginning, it was like a million little islands, some of them were bigger islands. If you create something on the web, you’re your own island and you try to get people to visit your island.

Websites realized they couldn’t create everything themselves so they started to import things…

Read full post here.

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Wikileak’s Julian Assange talks to Forbes

Posted on the November 30th, 2010

It’s the conversation favorite virtually everywhere you turn these days — Wikileaks? And the inevitable question that arises — are you for or against?

Yesterday Forbes posted online an article and in-depth Q&A with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange  (“An Interview With WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange” by Andy Greenberg).

Greenberg writes:

Admire Assange or revile him, he is the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency. Having exposed military misconduct on a grand scale, he is now gunning for corporate America. Does Assange have unpublished, damaging documents on pharmaceutical companies? Yes, he says. Finance? Yes, many more than the single bank scandal we’ve been discussing. Energy? Plenty, on everything from BP to an Albanian oil firm that he says attempted to sabotage its competitors’ wells…

Read Greenberg’s article here. His Q&A with Assange is here.

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Prosperity, liberty, democracy and the Web: Tim Berners-Lee

Posted on the November 24th, 2010

Reading Tim Berners-Lee’s new article online in Scientific American, my memory was jogged to remember some things I already know but keep slipping away — the difference between the Web and the Internet, for example. And I learned other things I didn’t know — why social media such as Facebook, and proprietary sites such as iTunes may be harming the development of the Web itself.

The British-born Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web (www), and he is arguably its most passionate protector.

His article “Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality” (Nov 22, 2010) is a plea for everyone to become guardians of the Web. Berners-Lee writes that the Web as we now know it is being threatened in different ways. He lays out in detail what we need to do to protect it and keep it healthy and growing.


Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected.

Yet people seem to think the Web is some sort of piece of nature, and if it starts to wither, well, that’s just one of those unfortunate things we can’t help…

Read the full piece here.

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Who’s violating fair use these days?

Posted on the November 22nd, 2010

That much debated, confusingly fluid, hugely important USA legal concept known as “fair use” is back on center stage again, according to a blog post last week by Rob O’Regan at emediavitals.com (“Fair use and copyright issues return to the spotlight” Nov 18, 2010).

O’Regan notes some recent key lawsuits in relation to fair use, and identifies three current trends involving news and magazine publishers. Read full post here.

Another blog post on the same subject is also up on emediavitals from Prescott Shibles (“Fair use: how much is too much?” Nov 17, 2010). Shibles highlights policies of some aggregator websites and rates how some of them may or may not be violating fair use.

I’ve provided some examples of aggregation at the bottom of this post. You might be surprised by who’s violating copyright and by how much.

One of them is truly a dismaying surprise. See full post here.

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Italian journalists are moving online

Posted on the November 18th, 2010

Italy has a reputation for lagging behind in its citizenry’s embrace of the Internet (see here, for an example). It’s true that things could certainly be better online-wise, but still the country does rank in the top 15 countries worldwide in Internet users, according to a recent European Travel Commission report. And it shows online usage steadily rising.

Nonetheless, as the report also shows, the percentage of the Italian population online is only 51.7 percent (30,026 million). That compares to 68.9 percent in France, 79.1 percent in Germany, and 77.3 percent in the USA.

In Italy, one online sector where some promising new developments are underway is journalism, according to an article by Federica Cocco today at OWNI.eu (“Italian journos search for escape route in oppressive job market” Nov 17, 2010).

Cocco reports on some of the current hardships many Italian journalists are facing in traditional media. As a solution, she writes, some of them are “trying to find refuge in the web.”

According to a 2010 survey by Human Highway and Liquida, Italy now counts 1.7 million bloggers – half a million more than last year. The study also concluded that 23.1% of the 24 million Italian netizens read blogs regularly, and the majority of them focus on current affairs.

Cocco also reports on the recent launch of two notable online news reporting websites.

Read the full article here.

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Times online no longer a newspaper, says Clay Shirky

Posted on the November 13th, 2010

Earlier this week an authoritative, much listened to voice on the impact of the Internet on our social and economic structures, Clay Shirky, definitively dissected the recent user statistics of the UK Times and its experiment with locking its news content away behind a paywall.

In a post on his blog, Shirky, writer and New York University professor, offers no optimism about paywalls as saviors of newspapers (“The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics” Nov 8, 2010).


The advantage of paywalls is that they raise revenue from users. The disadvantages are that they reduce readership, increase customer acquisition and retention costs, and eliminate ad revenue from user-forwarded content. In most cases, the disadvantages have outweighed the advantages.

So what’s different about News paywall? Nothing. It’s no different from other pay-for-access plans, whether the NY Times’ TimesSelect* or the Harligen Texas Valley Morning Star.* News Corp has produced no innovation in content, delivery, or payment, and the idea of 90%+ loss of audience was already a rule of thumb over a decade ago. Yet something clearly feels different…

Read full post here.

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The world press puzzles over US midterm elections

Posted on the November 3rd, 2010

How the international news media is assessing the flogging that the Democrats just took in yesterday’s midterm elections in the U.S., is the subject of an entertaining and informative article by Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy (“The World Weighs in” Nov. 3, 2010).

Opening with a wry sub-heading alluding to the D.C. power shift and the  world’s press trying  to figure out what it means for them — and whether Obama is still worth talking to, Hounshell writes:

Around the world, though, U.S. midterm elections generally elicit little more than a collective shrug. Beyond the obvious fact that it’s hard to whip up enthusiasm in Brazil over the congressional race for Kansas’s 1st district, the world’s newspapers are generally focused on their own political dramas — Tim Huelskamp’s romp in Kansas isn’t about to kick Dilma Rousseff’s groundbreaking election off the front pages in São Paolo. But this year’s Democratic meltdown is notable because the global infatuation with Obama is now cast against his diminished luster in the United States. To the extent that there is any theme to the coverage, it’s an attempt to answer the age-old question: What’s in it for us? But, moving forward, there’s a larger issue lurking: Is Obama still the undisputed leader of the world’s most powerful nation?

Hounshell then moves into a rundown of some commentary in some of the world’s leading newspapers. A good read — see the full piece here.

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Who won? Who lost? The informed chatter: 2010 USA midterm elections

Posted on the November 3rd, 2010

It’s still too early to yet find much homegrown, morning after opinion of the meaning of yesterday’s big and messy skid downward for the Democratic Party in the 2010 midterm elections. In the meantime, here are some quotes and other stuff I’ve found that may be of interest.

From Jeremy P. Jacobs at the National Journal (“Starting Lineup: After The Storm“):

Good Wednesday morning. Here’s what’s on the radar: Republicans deliver a Democratic bloodbath in the House; Democrats hold off the Republican tidal wave in the Senate; GOP picks up eight governorships to the Democrats’ one…

From Paul Begala at The Daily Beast (“Election Night Fallout“):

It’s jobs, stupid. That’s the lesson I take from this election. For all the bloviating that Americans hated Speaker Pelosi, or opposed Obamacare, or wanted to shrink the federal government, this election was about jobs. If the unemployment rate had been 4 percent instead of 9.6 percent (and by the broader U6 measure, 17 percent), Obamacare would be beloved. If we were creating jobs by the hundreds of thousands there would be no Tea Party. If the economy were humming like it was under President Clinton, no one would be wringing their hands about President Obama’s inability to emote.

From Alan Fram for The Associated Press (“Exit poll: Ailing economy, tea party fuel GOP”):

The exit poll also pointed to problems for Obama as he considers a 2012 re-election bid. In a sign of his diminished luster, hardly any first-time voters went to the polls Tuesday despite campaign-trail pleas – a contrast to 2008, when about 1 in 10 voters were new and strongly backed Obama.

Independents supported him solidly two years ago but on Tuesday disapproved of his job performance by almost 3-2. They were also pivotal for Republican candidates, giving them about 55 percent of their votes after leaning solidly Democratic in Obama’s 2008 presidential race and the 2006 midterms that saw Democrats win congressional control.

From Amanda Paulson at the Christian Science Monitor (“Amid big Republican gains, House gets more polarized”):

In many cases, those Democrats lost despite amassing relatively conservative voting records and opposing key Obama Administration initiatives.

At the same time, it was a banner night for many conservative, tea-party-anointed Republican candidates.

More from National Journal, this by Ron Fournier (“GOP Gains Control of House, Narrows Dem Lead in Senate”):

With unemployment at 9.6 percent nationally, interviews with voters revealed an extraordinarily sour electorate, stressed financially and poorly disposed toward the president, the political parties, and the federal government.

About 4 in 10 voters said they were worse off financially now than they were two years ago, according to preliminary exit poll results and preelection surveys by the Associated Press. More than 1 in 3 said their votes were an expression of opposition to Obama. More than half expressed negative views about both political parties. Roughly 40 percent of voters considered themselves supporters of the conservative tea party movement. Less than half said they wanted the government to do more to solve problems.

From James Burnett, Rolling Stone (“Things We Learned at the Midterms“):

–A hard-line stance on immigration isn’t the winning position some GOP candidates and their consultants seem to think it is. Just ask Angle, Carly Fiorina, and Tom Tancredo.

From Michael Tomasky, blogging for the Guardian (“Midterm election results: the fight Obama now faces”):

Come next year, Obama will need to do two opposite things simultaneously. He will have to move to the middle on some issues. Independents, who backed him in 2008, left his party in massive numbers this year. If he can’t get a big chunk of them back, he will not be re-elected in 2012.

But he also has to fight. Republicans will pick fights, and they’ll think they can roll him. And they will hold a constant parade of hearings investigating the administration, trying to snare some big administration fish (maybe Obama himself?) in a perjury or obstruction of justice trap.

Republicans play for keeps. And now, Obama is going to have to, too. It’s a long and grim way from 2008.

Also from the Guardian, a video offering glimpses of a few conspicuous winners and losers (“US midterm election results herald new political era as Republicans take House”):

Not only candidates

But there were important things in play yesterday other than just Democratic and Republican candidates. There also were various voter referendums around the country. One that was most closely watched was the initiative calling for legalization of marijuana in California. It lost.

Or did it really? From Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone (“California’s Prop 19: Just Say…Maybe Next Time”):

Prop 19 actually provides a textbook lesson in “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Strong public support for legalization gave the state legislature and the Governator cover to decriminalize marijuana a month ago. In early October, they overhauled California law so that there’s no longer any sanction for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana. Smoking dope is now an infraction — like a parking ticket. No felony. No misdemeanor. If you get hassled by a cop, the worst thing that’ll happen to you is you have to pony up a $100 fine.

And now to finish this saga of opining

As a dismal illustration that the more things change the more they remain the same, I end the round-up with this. One thing that definitely didn’t alter in yesterday’s election (except in tiny glimmers here and there) is that in the U.S. Congressional landscape white men still rule.

For a whole bunch of pictures that speak volumes about this, take a look at this photo roster of the new group of freshmen Congressional members. Again from the National Journal, see here (“Meet the Newcomers of the 112th Congress”).

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Latest look at fortunes of Times’ paywall

Posted on the November 2nd, 2010

Continuing to keep an eye on reports about the ups or downs of Rupert Murdoch’s beloved paywall at his UK Times newspapers, I found this brief article from a couple of days ago by Peter Preston — “Murdoch’s paywall: those who leap are an engaging lot” (Guardian online, Oct 31, 2010).

Posting some stats from the latest Nielsen release on the paywall, Preston notes that the Times online traffic numbers certainly have fallen, and that only about 20 percent of visitors have opted to pay to read.


You can weave webs of relative triumph or disaster from all this. The good news for News International is that those who vaulted the wall were a bit older, richer and more dedicated to scanning the site carefully. They are the “engaged readers” advertisers admire – as opposed to the click-by-night trade who never stop to buy anything. The bad news is…

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: A much bleaker conclusion is drawn about the Times‘ paywall by Mathew Ingram writing today at GigaOM (“It’s Official: News Corp.’s Paywalls Are a Bust”).


… after four months of selling its new paywall system, News Corp. has only managed to convince a little over one-and-a-half percent of its readers to pay something for the newspapers’ content — and has only been able to convert half of that already tiny figure into actual monthly subscribers. Meanwhile, the site’s overall traffic has collapsed by almost 90 percent.

Ouch! Read full piece here.

UPDATE 2: A round-up of editors’ perspective on the Times‘ paywall — is it or isn’t it? — comes from Emma Heald at editorsweblog.org (“Times and Sunday Times have about 52,000 monthly digital subscribers” Nov 2, 2010).  Reviewing the basic stats just released, Heald takes a wait-and-see attitude on the fortunes of the Times’ experiment. She includes rosier remarks of a Times spokesperson, and also cites some comments from other media folk:

Media commentators were united in frustration at the lack of a more thorough breakdown of the numbers, but not about what they mean. Roy Greenslade believes that the paywall experiment “has, as expected, not created a sufficiently lucrative business model.” Malcolm Coles, on the other hand, sees the numbers as “actually quite good.” PaidContent’s Robert Andrews, stressing that it’s still early days, said that “the small subscriptions base at least offers hope of recurring customer income.” The 52,500 monthly subscribers figure could “signal a news business that has a future,” said Dominic Ponsford.

Read more here.

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Hoping for a future, magazines summon a ghost from the past

Posted on the October 14th, 2010

In their urgent push to find a business model — in this case, embracing digital “apps” as the way to induce readers (or somebody) to pay for their content — magazine publishers are hoping their subscribers will forget something rather important, according to Mathew Ingram.

Writing last week for GigaOM, Ingram said (“Too Many Magazine Apps Are Still Walled Gardens” by Matthew Ingram, Oct. 9, 2010):

…one thing is becoming clear: publishers mostly just want you to look at their content, and are hoping that you will forget all about the Internet and social media and all of those irritating things that get in between you and the consumption of their wonderful content.

Ingram reviews in particular the new app for Esquire magazine that has just been introduced, pointing out some glitches in functioning that he dislikes (he also discusses Wired magazine’s digital app, introduced earlier this year).

And since a picture is worth a thousand… etc, in order to see what exactly Ingram is talking about, here are the intro videos the two magazines produced for their apps.

First Esquire:

And Wired:

Technologically speaking, this is exciting stuff for Internet users, seems to me.  But Ingram objects strongly that these apps at present signal their publishers’ desire to turn back the clock to a “walled garden” world. Meaning that not so long ago old place and time where providers were in control of everything and users were passive and powerless and paying.

Ingram writes:

Wired’s app provides a slick interface to the magazine, but no way of actually sharing it, or of linking it to related content somewhere else — not even to Wired’s own website. It’s like an interactive CD-ROM from the 1990s.

The new Esquire app also has plenty of “interactivity,” if by that you mean the ability to click and watch an ad for a new Lexus, or listen to cover boy Javier Bardem recite a Spanish poem, or swipe your finger and watch a timeline of the construction of the new World Trade Center. All of those are very cool — but if you are looking for the kind of interactivity that allows you to post a comment on a story, or to share a link via Twitter, or to post anything to a blog and then link back to the magazine, you are out of luck. In fact, if you like the app or any of the stories within it, your only option is to close the app completely and then email someone to tell them that you liked it…

Earning praise, in contrast, from Ingram is the app for Flipboard.  As you can see in the video below, Flipboard stresses interactivity and all the social media aspects (Facebook and Twitter, as examples) of the Internet that are so hugely popular. You can read Ingram’s full article here.

Here’s Flipboard‘s video introducing its app:

For now, though, according to Peter Kafka writing in his column MediaMemo at All Things Digital (WSJ), the new magazine apps may be paying off for their publishers (“Magazine Publishers Turn Back From the Abyss” Oct 11, 2010). Alluding to the “brutal beating” magazines have experienced in recent years, Kafka reports that in recent months ad sales for magazines in general have begun to climb. Wired, he reports, is leading the pack:

Worth noting that Condé Nast’s Wired, which may have the most successful iPad magazine app, saw ad pages jump 32.8 percent.

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Online journalists face new (and old) legal issues

Posted on the September 21st, 2010

Wales journalist Ed Walker has an informative post on his blog about some of the legal issues online journalists now encounter (“Legal challenges facing online journalists” Sept 16, 2010).


The web is moving quickly and with certain acts dating back to to the last century, you won’t find mention of Facebook in the legal statements. First things first, if you’re unsure about media law…

Read full post here. The comments are also helpful.

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A whole lot of people “get” data journalism

Posted on the August 6th, 2010

Last night over dinner with friends, one of them expressed her bewilderment about what the purpose of data journalism is precisely. And, she lamented, doesn’t it just make things worse by overwhelming us with information that most of us won’t ever read or watch?

A couple of us pitched right in and tried our best to explain and defend this fast growing development in new media, one that Wikileaks has thrust into star position in the news cycle recently.  We didn’t make much headway, I’m sorry to say. So I was especially happy today to find an article online that offers a bunch of help for the next time such a dinner table debate ensues.

It’s a terrific interview that Nieman Journalism Lab did — video and transcript — with the editor of the Data Blog for the Guardian (“How The Guardian is pioneering data journalism with free tools” by Jonathan Stray, Aug 5, 2010). The interview is thorough and in depth — with a lot of show and tell. And if it doesn’t supply you just about all you might want to know about the potential uses and service of data journalism, I’d be surprised.


The technology involved is surprisingly simple, and mostly free. The Guardian uses public, read-only Google Spreadsheets to share the data they’ve collected, which require no special tools for viewing and can be downloaded in just about any desired format. Visualizations are mostly via Many Eyes and Timetric, both free.

Surprisingly for many like my friend last night, the raw data the newspaper is posting online is getting some impressive traffic, according to the Guardian editor:

“… a million hits a month during the recent election coverage.”

Read and watch the full Nieman interview here.

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What does the Wikileaks Afghan doc story tell us about where journalism is headed?

Posted on the July 27th, 2010

Can the question of “Are we seeing anything new?” in relation to this week’s huge Wikileaks Afghan documents story also be applied to journalism itself?

The answer is yes, according to journalism professor C.W. Anderson writing in a post yesterday for Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab website (“Data, diffusion, impact: Five big questions the Wikileaks story raises about the future of journalism” July 26, 2010).


The release of the Wikileaks stories yesterday was a classic case study of the new ecosystem of news diffusion. More complex than the usual stereotype of “journalists report, bloggers opine,” in the case the Wikileaks story we got to see a far more nuanced (and, I would say, far more real) series of news decisions unfold: from new fact-gatherers, to news organizations in a different position in the informational chain, all the way to the Twittersphere in which conversation about the story was occurring in real-time, back to the bloggers, the opinion makers, the partisans, the politicians, and the hacks. This is how news works in 2010;

Anderson goes on to point out how the three major newspapers breaking the Wikileaks documents story — New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel — each talked in a different way about the Wikileaks data. And he identifies the emergence of something new in journalism (read post here).

Definitely fascinating reading.

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Let’s play news, information and shopping: digital natives

Posted on the July 27th, 2010

The first thing Frédéric Filloux tells us in his blog post Sunday about a recent study on “digital natives” (scroll down) is that “they see life as a game.” (“Understanding the Digital Natives” Monday Note.com, July 25, 2010).

Filloux summarizes the findings of French polling agency BVA in a study it conducted recently on the digital habits of hundreds of 18-24 year-olds.


The way a Digital Native see his (or, once for all “her“) environment is deeply shaped by computer games. “When he is buying something”, says Edouard Le Marechal who engineered the survey, “finding the best bargain is a process as important as acquiring the good…

Filloux provides a link to the original BVA study report (in French).

I found the link to the post by Filloux at editorsweblog.org in a blog post by Dawn Osakue yesterday (Digital Natives versus brand elite?  July 26, 2010). Okakue offers further details about the digital native group.

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For those who still don’t understand how crucial Twitter is?

Posted on the July 25th, 2010

If you want to change the world, as they say, and still don’t understand how important social media (Twitter, Facebook et al) is as a primary tool, then you might want to watch this short video featuring digital strategist, Cheryl Contee.

Contee was speaking at the Netroots Nation conference (ending today) in Las Vegas. She highlights some important statistics about who’s using social networking media, and offers a few powerful dos and do nots for social activists and organizations.

For example, Contee explains why now “there is no digital divide.”

Though the conference is USA focused, the info about Twitter and Facebook is applicable across the globe.

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Times’ paywall experiment down, but is it out?

Posted on the July 25th, 2010

Although the paying-members-only policy recently enacted by The Times in the UK reportedly has caused online readership to plummet 90 percent (see here), it’s still too early to declare the experiment a dead duck, according to a blog post by Peter Robins, media and technology editor at rival UK newspaper the Guardian (“The paywall won’t be built in a day” July 22, 2010).

Robins writes that it would be “very unwise” to conclude that Times‘ publisher Rupert Murdoch’s paywall has failed. As argument, he raises the analogy of another Murdoch publication behind a paywall, the quite successful Wall Street Journal.


The Wall Street Journal acquired its million online subscribers by following a consistent strategy for a decade…

Robins cautiously predicts that a definitive answer about the success or failure of the Times‘ paywall (if continued) won’t emerge for six months or more.

Robins does omit mentioning that the WSJ is primarily a financial newspaper and — like the Financial Times that also operates successfully behind a paywall — has a select subscriber base that reportedly is quite willing to pay for the speciality of business and finance news (see here).

Earlier post on Times’ paywall here.

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How’s Facebook doing outside the U.S.?

Posted on the July 22nd, 2010

With more than 136 million European users (as of April 2010),  Facebook’s popularity in Europe is evident, according to InsideFacebook.com (“Who’s Using Facebook Around the World?” June 8, 2010).

Total penetration for Europe now stands at a respectable 21.1% with a total audience of 136,549,060 Facebook users…

And this popularity echoes a worldwide trend. More than 70 percent of Facebook users are outside the U.S., according to the New York Times. That would be 70 percent of a total of 500 million users that Facebook reports it now has on board, according to a flood of news reports this week.

I would be willing to bet that most Facebook users — though aging, still predominantly ages 13 to 34 — don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the man, Mark Zuckerberg, who’s behind the website that stars in their daily lives. But others do, especially privacy advocates, and some critics and enemies Zuckerberg gained along the way to his astounding success.

Recently Zuckerberg answered some questions about himself and Facebook in an interview that was broadcast last night on ABC Television. Related story here (“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Talks to Diane Sawyer as Website Gets 500-Millionth Member” by Ki Mae Heussner, July 21, 2010).

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If you can pay, here’s the news: Murdoch’s paywall

Posted on the July 5th, 2010

Yesterday a friend tried to send me a copy of an article in the Times, the UK newspaper that is now secreted behind a paywall, its online content available to paid subscribers only.

The article, so my friend wrote, was an interview with someone whose life story reminded her of a personal situation I had discussed with her recently. So, being a good friend, she took the trouble of scanning the article into an email for me.

Unfortunately some technical glitch messed it up, and all I got was html code instead of text. I asked her to try again and I’m waiting for the re-send.

In the meantime, in spite of knowing about the paywall, I clicked on the Times website to search for the article. Immediately, up popped a page saying either pay us or go bye bye.

Annoyance compounded! How do I mean this? Months ago when I read about media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s insistence that his News Corp newspapers be swaddled behind a paywall, I felt vaguely, though truly, annoyed by what seems to me a clear outbreak of Ludditus

But yesterday, I felt a personal sting from this imposition by Murdoch that access to information be only available to those able to pay. It feels a violation of what more and more seems to be a crucial human right — open access to a free flow of information. And, furthermore, the idea that a simple paywall can restore profits in today’s complex media-scape of vast options doesn’t seem probable.

Newspaper paywalls (I hope!) are futile wishful thinking for the claustrophobic old days when circulation and audience markets were sitting ducks. Readers and viewers were imprisoned by a relatively small number of news and entertainment outlets — it was quite awful for those of us who were there and remember.

So I perked up today when I came across an interview with Internet technologies expert Clay Shirky in the Guardian (“Clay Shirky: ‘Paywall will underperform – the numbers don’t add up'” by Decca Aitkenhead, July 5, 2010). I noted especially the following segment:

Rupert Murdoch has just begun charging for online access to the Times – and Shirky is confident the experiment will fail.

“Everyone’s waiting to see what will happen with the paywall – it’s the big question. But I think it will underperform. On a purely financial calculation, I don’t think the numbers add up.” But then, interestingly, he goes on, “Here’s what worries me about the paywall. When we talk about newspapers, we talk about them being critical for informing the public; we never say they’re critical for informing their customers. We assume that the value of the news ramifies outwards from the readership to society as a whole. OK, I buy that. But what Murdoch is signing up to do is to prevent that value from escaping. He wants to only inform his customers, he doesn’t want his stories to be shared and circulated widely. In fact, his ability to charge for the paywall is going to come down to his ability to lock the public out of the conversation convened by the Times.”

I like that last sentence so much, I want to pluck it out and highlight it again:

In fact, his ability to charge for the paywall is going to come down to his ability to lock the public out of the conversation convened by the Times.

Raise your hand if you want to be locked out, again.

UPDATE – July 20, 2010: “Murdoch’s First Newspaper Paywall Not Off to a Great Start” by Henry Blodget, Huffington Post

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(4th) Occasional U.S. news media round-up on presidential race

Posted on the August 1st, 2008

In their own words

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both gave interviews in July that the respective publications published verbatim in a Q&A format.

  • John McCain spoke to New York Times reporters here (“The Times Interviews John McCain” with Adam Nagourney and Michael Cooper, July 13, 2008).
  • Barack Obama spoke to a reporter for The Jerusalem Post in Israel on July 24 here (“Obama on Iran, Syria, and Jerusalem” by David Horovitz, July 26, 2008).

Wars and winners

But no one really wins a war, according to WW II veteran, historian and Boston University Professor Howard Zinn, who wrote an Op-Ed for the Boston Globe recently scolding Obama and McCain for fueling their campaigns with way too much war talk. (“Memo to Obama, McCain: No one wins in a war” July 17, 2008).

Some polls more interesting than others…

An AP-Yahoo News poll has been tracking the responses of the same 2000 people since last November in surveys focused on measuring how they feel about what’s happening in politics, according to the news outlets. A recent finding: one candidate (guess who?) is generating more loyalty and enthusiasm from his supporters than the other (“Poll: McCain’s backers less fired up than Obama’s” by Alan Fram, AP, July 2008).

And some fall prey to the whims of editors

Who knows why, but editors at two major news outlets in the U.S. manipulated the reporting of a recent poll they conducted “withholding from their first release results favorable to Sen. Barack Obama,” according to the watchdog organization Media Matters (“ABC News/Wash. Post withheld results of poll favorable to Obama” July 17, 2008).

Did they really think we wouldn’t find out? And I wonder, Still I wonder — … (lyrics here):

Fascinating peek back in time

Want to hear what Obama had to say before he was the Presidential candidate he is today? For Obama-watchers, it may be intriguing to read this in-depth interview he gave to Men’s Vogue way back in 2006 (“The Path to Power” by Jacob Weisberg, Sept 2006).


Days until the 2008 Democratic National Convention — 24. Days until the Republican National Convention — 30.

(See here for previous round-up)

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“Do we still need feminist media?” is the question

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

Will there be more room for women’s voices with the digital revolution of news media that is underway online? Yes, and the increase already exists, according to a recent study that found that women make up half of all bloggers.

Perhaps this means good things for improving the status of women as a result of the ongoing weakening of the MSM “gatekeeper” that often still continues to bar women from serious opinion pages, and frequently ignores them in favor of the male when an expert comment is needed. Read about this and more here.
(“Do We Still Need Feminist Media?” by L.S. Kim, Ms. Magazine, Posted November 9, 2007 – Alternet.org)

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