Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Press

Failure all the way around

Glenn Reynolds quotes reader M.A. Lamascolo:

“I disagree with 85% of Obama’s positions, but I want him and our country to succeed.  He can’t do that if he hasn’t been tested.  One of the best tests is a campaign.  But he didn’t have one of those, he had a coronation. [MSNBC’s Chris] Matthews and his colleagues across the media let our country down.  They gave Obama no vetting whatsoever.  Now Matthews wants to complain?  It’s a little late for that.”
And the failure wasn’t only with Obama.  The coverage of the Republicans wasn’t “a coronation,” but it wasn’t even a substantive attack.  Instead we got endless horse-racing, gaffe-spotting, and Sarah-Palin’s- Daughter’s-LoveChild irrelevance.

In a perfect world, press coverage of the political campaign would leave voters with some idea of the character of the candidates and the nature of their positions.  Which doesn’t mean puff pieces:  While candidates should get the opportunity to express their ideas, the press should hold candidates’ feet to the fire when inconsistency, vagueness, or illogic rear their heads.  Unfortunately, this type of coverage is harder than most.  Asking intelligent questions requires that the questioner understand the issue.[1]  It also requires the questioner to give the person questioned some benefit of the doubt, at least initially.  Far easier to play “gotcha,” rewrite some pollster’s latest press release, play gaffe-of-the-day, or play “he said/he said” using the opposing party’s talking points.

And so, actual campaign coverage has drifted so far away from this paradigm that it makes me wonder what “press” it is that the authors of articles like this one[2] have been reading.

[1]  Although I have a “can’t go wrong” way for an unprepared reporter to cheat and still be relevant:  Candidate states his position/policy/program.  Reporter asks two questions: (1) “How do you plan to pay for this?” and (2) “How much will it reduce individual liberty?”

[2]  Via Daily Pundit.  I may have a complete post on the TNR article, provided I can avoid repeating myself.

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 16:31:21 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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Friday, 13 February 2009

The Press

Muzak™ files Chapter 11, press remains stuck in elevator...

...in the 1960s:

We begin with The Consumerist (who I would have expected to know better)[1]:

Ever acoustically bankrupt, Muzak,the makers of elevator music, have declared themselves financially bankrupt by filing for Chapter 11.  The company’s unique style of precisely limited in tempo and dynamics and unswervingly bland music may not be long for this world.
USA Today headline:
Elevator music maker Muzak files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Here’s The Telegraph (in the doctors’ office):
Waiting in the doctors’ office listening to a pan pipes arrangement of Robbie Williams’ Angels may never be the same again.
A really stupid article by Jonathan Brown in The Independent:
...With its mushy strings and cloying tones, the sounds which once emanated from Muzak’s laboratories of sound at their height in the 1960s colonised almost every public space threatened with the spectre of silence.  From the hotel lobby to the dentist’s waiting room, from the shop to the airport lounge, Muzak was at once a company and a musical form, as well as a byword for corporate blandness in an age of consumer soullessness.
It might come as no surprise to those many millions who have grown to hate elevator music and its bastard offspring on-hold messaging, but the origins of Muzak can be traced to [cue scary music Muzak™ - o.g.] the United States military.
(Given the author’s tone, I just knew he’d find a way to drag in the U.S. military somehow!)

Meanwhile, NPR does (a little) better:
Its business is more focused now on creating playlists for use in retail stores, installing professional sound systems and other services.

Have to leave it to The New Yorker (from three years ago!) to explain how the business has changed.

Charlotte Business Journal:  Muzak files for Chapter 11
Charlotte Business Journal:  Muzak wins early bankruptcy rulings
Associated Press story at TheStreet.com
(added 090220) I did some geezering about Muzak in the comments at DP

Did you know that André Previn wrote an article (for Punch, unfortunately not online): “In Praise of Muzak”?  Really!

HT to “Hungry Mohican” for the New Yorker story.
[1]  UPDATE 090216 19:45:  Consumerist gets educated.

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 19:28:54 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Press

“Availablilty model” for online advertising is a bad idea

Buried in a New York Times article about that company’s plans to survive the recession is this:

Like most publishers, the Times Company is not able to sell all of the potential ad space on its Web sites.   It turns much of the remainder over to ad networks, which sell it at a small fraction of the original price.

...Industry executives say that online space — which a major newspaper could sell to an advertiser for $10 or more for every thousand readers seeing it — often yields the paper less than $1 when sold through a network.

Across the Internet, “we have a glut of unsold inventory every single day,” said Kelly Twohig, the digital activation director at Starcom, which buys media for clients like Kellogg’s and Nintendo.  She said that could force major sites... to cut back the online ad space they offer, to keep prices up.

“It’s about understanding, really, the efficacy of ads, and understanding how clutter hurts and lack of clutter helps from a branding perspective,” she said.
In print, newspapers adjust for advertising that is “not sold” by reducing the page count.  The size of the paper varies from day to day, but the ratio of news to advertising remains (relatively) constant.  Since newspapers don’t have to fill pages that they aren’t going to print, last-minute bargains in ad space are rare.

But the idea of online advertising as “inventory” to be “sold” is an important change.  Companies that look at their online ads in this way are adopting an “airline” or “radio and television” model.  For newspapers, it’s a model that gives them no advantage while running a big risk of irreversably cheapening their product.


Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 02:52:25 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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