Friday, April 28, 2006

Podcast advocacy

Spotted an interesting use of podcasting in an advocacy e-mail.

The e-mail, sent by the organization Common Cause, focused on the ups and downs of a lobbying reform bill now being considered by Congress. The bill was unexpectedly pulled from the House floor yesterday after Republicans disagreed over how much reform was actually needed. The bill is expected to be reintroduced next week.

Common Cause, which supports stronger reforms, included this postscript in its e-mail:

P.S. Listen to a podcast from the head of our ethics team, Mike Surrusco, describing what happened in the House yesterday.

A look at the Common Cause blog (yes, they have a blog too) revealed it was the organization's first national podcast. It's short...just a minute or so long...which makes it easy to take a moment and listen to Mike Surrusco's take on the lobbying reform bill.

I think it's a good use of a new medium. Bet we'll be seeing (and hearing) more like this.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The other shoe

As JMC Prof. Bill Tillinghast put it in an e-mail this afternoon, "the other shoe has dropped."

The San Jose Mercury News, along with three other major former Knight Ridder newspapers, has been purchased from The McClatchy Co. by the MediaNews Group Inc. and Hearst Corp. for $1 billion in cash. The deal lets McClatchy make a $1 billion dent in the $4.5 billion debt incurred when it purchased Knight Ridder. (Link to McClatchy's news release on the sale.)

MediaNews will get the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, and Hearst, which also owns the San Francisco Chronicle, will get the Monterey (Calif.) Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn. According to a story posted today on the, MediaNews also is acquiring Knight Ridder's smaller Bay Area publications, such as the Palo Alto Daily News group and the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers.

One of the largest newspaper companies in the United States, the MediaNews Group owns newspapers throughout California, the Rocky Mountain region and the Northeast.

When MediaNews Chief Executive Dean Singleton spoke to the Mercury News staff today, he was joined by Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder. According to the article, Singleton said:

"While McClatchy may be buying Knight Ridder, we're getting the flagship and the crown jewel of Knight Ridder. I know how much Tony loves this newspaper. We will continue to make him proud as we go forward.''

To complete the complicated deal, the two companies will trade a couple of their current newspapers as well.

Former Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor, commenting in his blog at, called the MediaNews/Hearst deal "a smelly one" that "just reeks of possible collusion in the marketplace."

Advertising trend-setter?

A new online video advertisement is getting a lot of attention. Some ad experts are already calling it a classic. Here's the link to check it out. (Warning, it's addictive!) While you're there, check out ad producer Albino Blacksheep for a blog with links to other online videos and Flash tutorials.

Here's some background information on the ad (and thanks to Bob Rucker for sending this info to me):

The ad was produced for Honda. Everything you see happened in real time, exactly as you see it. The film took 606 takes. Every time something didn't work, they had to set it up all over again.

The film cost $6 million and took three months to complete, including full engineering of the sequence. Since it's two minutes long, every time Honda shells out big bucks every time it airs on British television. However, since it is fast becoming the most downloaded advertisement in Internet history, Honda executives figure the ad will soon pay for itself simply in "free viewings."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

Here's an interesting idea...a syndication service that matches bloggers with web sites, including online news sites, that want content. I spotted a link to it on MediaShift, a PBS-affiliated blog by journalist Mark Glaser that looks at "how new media—from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism—are changing society and culture."

The syndication service is called BlogBurst. It offers bloggers the opportunity to increase their "visibility, audience reach and traffic," while providing online publishers with access to interesting and timely content in the form of blogs. Publishers listed as currently trying out this service include the San Francisco Chronicle, and Gannett. Interesting, eh?

BlogBurst says it is currently looking for blogs that deal with topics such as: travel, women's issues, technology and gadgets, food and entertainment, and local metro areas. It has plans to expand that list.

BlogBurst says it is looking for blogs that offer:
  • Unique perspectives that add a distinctive voice to feature content
  • Topical, vibrant and timely content that complements existing (web) site content
  • Ethical and fair writing that doesn't put the publisher in a compromising position
Sounds a lot like good journalism, doesn't it? Could this be the next wave of freelancing?

And here are some of the things BlogBurst says online publishers don't want: spam, pornography, hate speech, libelous content, material that violates copyrights, excessive errors in spelling and grammar (I wonder how many "excessive" is), or excessive swearing or profanity (ditto).

I think this might be an idea whose time has come. A number of serious bloggers are looking for ways to make blogging pay, while online publishers need a steady source of fresh, topical content. And it's got to be a lot cheaper to syndicate a few bloggers than it is to pay full-time staff to blog, right?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Are we safer in the dark?

Concerned about government secrecy, domestic spying and the like? Take a look at this video, produced by as part of national "Sunshine Week," held in March.

The goal of Sunshine Week is to "raise awareness of the importance of open government to the public."

Sunshine Week is co-sponsored by the following organizations:

American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
American Society of Newspaper Editors / Sunshine Week
Association of Research Libraries
Coalition of Journalists for Open Government
League of Women Voters
National Freedom of Information Coalition
Special Libraries Association focuses on issues related to: democracy; environment, health and safety; national security; and government accountability. In particular, it has an array of information and resources related to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the NSA's domestic spying program.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Viral attack ads

It looks like Chevrolet's attempt at viral marketing is giving the automaker a headache...and maybe a case of the sniffles too.

As reported by, Chevrolet introduced a Web site a couple weeks ago that lets visitors "take existing video clips and music, insert their own words and create a customized 30-second commercial for the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe."

Most likely, the company hoped people would create some fun videos and e-mail them around the Web, "generating interest for the Tahoe through what is known as viral marketing." That part of the plan apparently worked. There was just one problem: the Tahoe videos getting the most attention, and the widest distribution, are ones that diss the SUV.

For example, one ad that shows the Tahoe being driven through a sweeping desert landscape says, "Our planet's oil is almost don't need G.P.S. to see where this road leads." Another shows the SUV tooling down a country road lined with sunflower fields, jaunty music playing in the background, then white lettering appears on the screen: "$70 to fill up the tank, which will last less than 400 miles. Chevy Tahoe."

Ouch! The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Who needs ink?

If, like me, you were out of town over spring break and couldn't attend "Who Needs Ink?" the March 30 Commonwealth Club forum on the future of newspapers, you can read JMC grad student Ryan Sholin's blog post on that event or listen to JMC Alum Steve Sloan's 13-minute edupodder podcast on it.

Sloan asked the panelists (including Joan Walsh of, Jerry Ceppos and Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media) how journalism students should respond to a rapidly changing media environment. Here are a couple of excerpts:
"Learn how to be curious, how to think, how to ask good questions," said Gillmor, who advised students not to worry yet about what the medium will be, but to make sure they are "conversant, if not fluent, in different media formats, including audio, video and writing."

"There's always been uncertainty for journalism students," said Walsh, adding, "Go out and make yourself a great storyteller, and the rest will follow."

After the depressing uncertainty of the Knight Ridder buyout, I found their comments moderately encouraging. Maybe you will too.

Spring cleaning at NYT

The has redesigned its web site, making it more interactive, more multimedia, and easier to navigate. They've also enlarged the page size to "take advantage of the larger monitors now used by the vast majority of our readers" (wish I was one of them). soon plans to offer readers a way to a customize their online news by setting up "a personalized page called MyTimes that will let you organize your favorite Web sources of information — from and elsewhere — and view them at a glance." (Remember how several JMC students at the Jerry Ceppos lectures suggested more newspapers should be doing something like this? Great minds think alike!)

To read all about it, check out the "letter to our readers" from's Editor-in-Chief Leonard M. Apcar...and let me know what you think. Do you think this redesign means print mediums like the NYT are really starting to "get" the full potential of the web, or do you think it's mostly window dressing?