He Said, She Said.

April 19, 2008

The idea behind the role of filters on the internet is heavily stressed in Chapters 7-9 of Anderson’s The Long Tail. Post filters expose the marketplace and trades the secrets of the expose the value of a product after it has been release from pre-filters. Anderson suggests that post-filters channel consumer behavior, that they are actually the voice of the marketplace. Consumers utilize blogs, playlists, and reviews that do, in fact, amplify the market. While pre-filters spend time and money trying to formulate what consumers really want, the consumer will not be forced to give its attention to anything that is meant to be credible to anyone else’s standards but their own.

Anderson takes an extensive look at music in his book probably because it is an industry that has changed most since the mp3 ( or should I say mp4). Radio used to be the number one medium for launching new music. Everyone had a radio even if they didn’t own a car. However, today’s generation, the Y, a demanding group that desires everything in lightening speed, because of the microwave quick results of the digital age. The youth rock the online sector of the music industry, being its biggest, most risky consumer. The youth have been transformed from the quintessential boy-band grubbing, followers to the leaders of a new alternative market. The implications of this may point to this generation’s rather close relationship to the internet and the time and energy they spend using it. Pre-filters would be wise to put their product on the internet, however, many of them are still making the same mistake: trying to be a post-filter, and taking a chance with what consumers really want. Bonnie McKee failed for that very reason. While Bonnie McKee was succeeding in making a connection with young teenage girl listeners, editors and producers tried to predict her image balancing her look between the prototype popstar and rebellious punk. It didn’t work and her music didn’t sell outside of the internet environment that McKee had grown up in. Anderson provides hard numbers of the failure in this book proving that the pre-filter can’t do the job of the post-filter. Additionally, its a bad business decision to try.

Post-filters are the makers and breakers of any industry that involves consumer entertainment. Now that entertainment is available online and is being consumed from the internet more than before, consumers are creating outlets to respond to music. Blogs provide personal as well as group feedback that are more intimate than any other medium can provide. As the credibility and usage of blogs increase, the more valuable the conversations become. Post-filters have made consumers comfortable with the taking someone’s ” word for it”. A consumer becomes credible on these filters when they post alot of comments about what they do or don’t like. Its all about what he said, or what she said.


Anderson: Chapters 4-6

April 18, 2008

The LongTail represents the way that the market is varying and making more room for niche markets. Anderson describes the forces of of the LongTail using an explanation centered around production, distribution, and our interests in newly discovered niches. Anderson proposes that aggregators and filters that are available on the internet, continue to drive the LongTail.

Aggregators digitally collect an abundance of products online. One could find anything on Amazon, one of the largest aggregators on the internet for consumer products. Amazon is a sufficient outlet for businesses and consumers alike to sell products to the outside world. Amazon is also one of the largest sources to buy consumer goods ranging over 18 different categories to browse; including more than 50 subcategories and a marketplace, where consumers can sell their own products to Amazon users.

The repercussions of Amazon are not necessarily making it easy for brick-and-mortar stores to keep up with the revolution that the LongTail has created over the time period of the digital age. First, there is no store in the world that can equate to the “shelf-space” on the World Wide Web. The internet supports the overproduction of products so the shift of more products being aggregated on the internet seems quite natural, if not inevitable. Next, the internet provides a space where many people can shop. Unlike, local stores and businesses, the internet hosts many different consumers from all around the world. The result is a varied consumer market: people who have different needs and interests due to their location. The internet alleviates any barriers between people that may otherwise be caused by physical distance. Therefore, the sharing of products from one party to another is also varied across markets and forms niches that may otherwise be abnormal in one person’s small town, for instance. Finally, people can create conversations about products. Amazon, iTunes, eBay, and NetFlix all have a tool that suggests and recommends different products to a consumer based on what they have already expressed as their “interests”.

The online systems keep track of your purchases so that it can suggest and recommend products even as the consumers choices change and their interests evolve from what they originally said they were preferred. Aggregators are re-creating consumers, molding them by the interests of other consumers. One could imagine that by suggesting what others like might make a market of consumers more alike than an internet product provider might benefit from. However, with an over abundance of products to choose from and suggest there is room for enough niches to make sure that never happens. Ever?


There are leaders and there are followers.

April 7, 2008

Economics is the inscription of change in our world. I used to think that economics only dealt with a handful of sciences to determine another set of numbers that are typically eligible to the general mass of society that mostly will not bother to seperate x and y from z if it looks good and is convenient. Chris Anderson, begins The Long Tail with a quick lesson in economics anyway. The charts and graphs in the first chapter of the book gives the illusion of people’s internal tendency to follow the bandwagon. I learned in another media class that most people do not set trends, neither within the media nor in trying new technologies. The tendency to be “safe” is also true in our taste of music. Anderson provided some interesting numbers which give an idea of what people allow themselves to be exposed to and how much consumers are willing to dabble into the unknown. It turns out that we aren’t all that adventurous. Anderson picks on Wal-Mart shoppers first in his attempt to break down the numbers of albums that are being sold the most. In defense of all the Wal-Mart shoppers who may be reading this post, I just want to assure you that you are not alone in this, Target shoppers, and Best Buy media consumers are squares too!

Anderson mentions the downfall of media like broadcast radio with conviction in the second chapter of The Long Tail. His argument that corporations like Clear Channel and attachment to a newer tecnhnology, the cellphone have been part of radio’s spiraling plight. I’d like to add to Anderson’s argument that the cellphones upgraded tecnnology has definitely reduced the usership of radio in the past five years. Cellphone companies have condensed so many different types of media into cellphone now that we can browse the internet, listen to music, watch television, and send/receive emails and pictures amongst other things. Such behavior shows that people are adapting to more updated technologies very quickly, probably because we get so much practice with it on our cellphones. Which leads me to a point I want to make about music switching changings it wheels rom the compact disc to the internet.  Consumers are becoming much more comfortable shopping online. Browsing the internet can now be down in a virtual music store like ITunes or Rhapsody, even Zune. People are spending hours online searching and browsing titles comfortably in their own homes, or in Starbucks, at a friends house, etc. It is only recently that people are looking for the most underground titles and artists they can possibly find. Its like now all of sudden people think they want to be “unique” but in reality most consumers are just following a well planned marketing maze that lead people to create niche markets. Like Rhapsody and ITunes both offer a system that was borrowed from Amazon.com. “Users who chose this title also liked” or “people who bought this also bought” can only be said in so many words. What is even more pertinent to understand is that thousands of other consumers are doing the same exact thing, creating niche markets that they have been assisted to by peer reviews, or suggestions from a site like Allmusic or Wikipedia even. The effects of this are exponential because everyone is doing it. So is it really a niche at all?

The internet has mobilized everything that lives in the world of capitalism. Businesses, consumers, and products have bigger wheels to cover the ground with in since the Information Age first began to rev its engine at the turn of the 21st century. More and more brands are adding an online addition to thier prototype and new businesses are establishing themselves online from the very beginning. Businesses like EBay and Amazon.com that started online know the benefits of having a store online and they have the sales and page rank on Google to prove it. Brick-and-mortar places refuse to accept being left behind because most have them have created an extention of their businesses online enabling better customer service in the stores and greater access, more variety, and easy tools to help customers help themselves to branded merchandise on any personal computer that has an internet connection, and perhaps FLASH, at most. Anderson talks about how this strengthen customer loyalty. I wholly agree with that. However, reading how the internet has upgraded businesses and their sales, made me think about the old way that customers bought merchandise at home: mail-order catalogs.

When I as a kid I used to really enjoy receiving my mail to order catalogs. They were the only pieces of mail that I was receiving at the age of 10 (later I would subscribe to Seventeen Magazine). I have no idea how anyone got my address to send a catalog in the mail, but I would start seeing tween clothing catalogs from stores that were not close to home. In fact, Delia’s was a company that distributed from the East Coast and their earlier development of brick-and-mortar retail location were quite sparse. I really enjoyed getting the catalogs just for the validation of feeling important because I got mail just as my parents did. Now, of course, all the content that would have been sent in a catalog can be found easily online. The ordering process is much more convenient now, too with secure, Hacker-free software that allows consumers to purchase at their leisure safely. However, when thinking about this from a marketing perspective it is wise for stores to continue the circulation of their mail-order catalogs. In terms of sales and revenue the average profiles of customers varies per store and per product sold in that store, but one thing remains known: older consumers are not as apt to purchase things online as younger consumers. In fact, I would almost guarantee that statement for the memory of my grandfather who would purchase something by phone from the QVC before going near a computer to buy something online. While the Internet does extend brand loyalty for some, other customers may find that the reliability of the mail-order catalog is most familiar and satisfactory to them, also increasing brand loyalty. People don’t always want new formats or to use what might seem like tricky media to view formats that they already know. Either way, people are creating niche markets by continuing to purchase products that are an extension of their own personal interests. The newest and most exciting part about filling our own desires is that now we can share information about those products to other people who enjoy the same things we do. Consumers are not quite catching onto this yet, but companies have manifested themselves in response to the urge to share by building social media networks and its software.

A culture is forming around downloading and sharing music not just because music can be bought online, but because there is new social technology out there helping it move to places where many different people can see, listen to it, and find out what other users have to say about it. Digg, Reddit, Technorati, and Facebook are all social tools that enable consumers to test drive niche items without the responsibility of owning it necessarily. Social media allows people to share as much as they want, but users have the option to choose what they want to consume.  Anderson talks about the famous overtake of peer-to-peer and how it has basically taken viral marketing to a virtual level. Social communities aggregate on a site of their choice and then start bringing in a slew of different interests from music to news to tecnhology. People are not only developing and helping niche markets to survive they are actually part of a community of people who may be trying to seekt something new or diffferent. Those who end up folllowing the trend of the niche market will inevitably turn into a leader of that market. Anderson’s economics lesson shows changes that have occurred because of the internet in graphs and charts. However, the real vehicles of niche markets are the consumers and their new experimentation with social media on the internet. Perhaps Anderson should start practicing his stick figures, because people will soon dictate the market entirely. Consumers will decide how they want advertisements to look and will enable immediate responses to marketing from super corporations forcing such giants to conform to the people at which they will begin to demand. As consumers continue to supply niche markets to other consumers, super corporations may have to begin thinking about how they can buy back some interest of a spurious market that they helped to begin with the evolution of the online virtual store.



What Gillmor’s Trying To Say Is…

March 21, 2008

Blogs are a tech extension of our First Amendment as citizens. Free speech has never been so visible as when they are accessible through the blogs on the world wide web for all to view. Gillmor provides a manual in Chapter 10 for getting the word out without getting crunched with libel charges and prevent being sued. What seems to be most important? Get insurance. The inspiration that breeds amongst big bloggers is that they are able to express themselves creatively and with the ability to indirectly defame any one major or lesser figure they choose. The chapter doesn’t go on to state where the insurance would come from, but Gillmor does reveal that it has to be purchased, and it is expensive. Perhaps, Gillmor was being discreet about his message within the text of the section named “Defamation, Libel, and Other Nasty Stuff. However, I find it it to be inherently obvious that advising insurance for bloggers to “protect” their speech is a clue that the media industry at large is very much in control of the avenue that citizens choose to express themselves when they make their speech public. It is especially true when public figures are involved. At that time, the characteristics of Media looks more like Big Brother Government and that because they both possess a very prominent feature: Money.

Media and money both fundamental components of American culture. Gillmor forgot to leave out the latter when he said that media can show us how we have been transformed. The best of lawyers, provided by the FCC of course, can argue that the internet is the best invention since the printing press. Certainly the internet has become a technological innovation that will succeed many generations past the printing press, becoming one of the most multi-used inventions that the world has seen in the history of human communication. However, Gillmor once again refuses to denounce the primary access that the government also has to the internet-making it a tool best used to “serve and protect”. The incidents of 9/11 didn’t scare people away from reading the paper as much as the US government made everyone whisper into their phones, search only familiar sites on the internet, or momentarily stop or decrease the usage of the phone and internet.

Blogs have revived the tragic abuse of our technologies adding vigor to news that can not often be seen in Big Media newspapers. In fact, many larger media companies have found themselves to be in competition with major bloggers that speak out again their companies, correcting their news and correspondence. Yet, Big Media has acquired the novelty of blogs turning it into a premiere feature on their news websites, and indirectly flaunting the phrase “we got you”! Just as citizens are taking the reigns on blogs as a technology, the larger media industries sweep them up and pay large dollar amounts to get their hand on the writers’ keyboard (instead of their pen). Its a shock that we are not tired of being deceived by these convergences, but its our nature to keep producing, and that’s what bloggers have been doing at their new found homes. The gist of Gillmor’s final chapters in this book is the message that any and all of these changes or restrictions should not stop a citizen from using their First Amendment in its full right. Grassroots are a role model in free speech and if they want to help out major companies in business and public relations and marketing, that’s ok. They need all the guidance they can get considering the danger that has risen with new OS software-no more secrets or information to hide. I can appreciate bloggers who have come from the ground up, taken on an attentive audience, and catch the attention of larger media companies, because it shows that normal citizens who are not tied to the government have power too. It’s even more admirable when the same media industries that tried to shut them up, hired them and gave them six figures to catch them up on what’s happening today in the world of internet media. It’s a new addition to family-We the Media.



Who Says It’s Not A REAL Source?!

March 13, 2008

So far, my understanding about citizens’ journalism has been in the context of recreation.* Although, one could argue that blogging has the potential to become somewhat of a scholarly resource, because many people who are hosting and adding content to blogs are experts in their field. Whether it be fashion-clad industry members, or foodies that receive due recognition from Wolfgang Puck’s former executive sous chef, these pages of frequently update information are essential to anyone’s keen interest or research from an experienced member of society who is choosing to give away content for free! The art of sharing one’s expertise (and nothing else) seems to be as close to any source as you can get, not to mention that if others have made it popular, it is going to be easy to find through a quick Google search.

Gillmor talks about the “Wiki Media Phenomenon” in chapter seven of our text. He calls is “a profoundly democratized form of online data gathering”. I agree that Wikipedia IS the most fascinating development of the Media Age, and specifically the years of my college career. Thousands of people around the world have taken it upon themselves to dedicate many hours of their days to supply me with unequivocally updated research, complete with photos, and links to more resources on the Internet, helping me to make impressive statements in my classes and in papers. So let me take a moment to say: “Thank you”! I’m very impressed by Gillmor’s defense for Wikipedia and its level of credibility. Unlike many of my college professors who have shunned any use of wiki-articles as citations for academic papers, Gillmor suggests that the volunteers who are contributing their content to one website are careful to make sure that the information is as accurate as it can possibly be. Isn’t that better than using some JSTOR article or archived media article from the New York Times from 2005 when I’m just trying to find minute details of information like dates and locations?

The blog community (Wikipedia) is especially resilient. Of course, that makes sense if most of the content gets edited based on pure intellectual debate about what facts to add to the pages to make them fuller and complete. Such hard work should encourage pay for many of these blogging sites and they do, through advertising. Sponsors have been laying the bricks around the best blogs in the world. Gilmor talks about the Internet’s dual ability to present an enormous foundation for bloggers and the tool for collecting funds from potential sponsors. Talk about pimping the system! Bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and Chris Allbritton solicited and bribed money from readers who were really interested in their material. While readers were paying for content in a sense, the work that was produced was quality and truthful, better than Big Media can say about itself especially when involving themes of Iraq and the W-A-R.

The most important part of the blog community is people’s interests and blogger’s responsibilities to adhere to that of their audiences once they have been established. Readers are going to choose what they are interested in and if the material is good, they will stick to it and probably share their new found treasures with others. Blog communities are self-sufficient and they can thrive on their own because of the participation that occurs within them. Gillmor gives a wonderful example of that when he talks about Allbritton’s venture to northern Iraq to cover the war. Readers were posting mounds of comments and information to communicate with Allbritton- the information and news that he probably did not have much access to in Iraq. What troopers!

Chris Allbritton didn’t really belong to the troops but he sure would have had my support on covering the war on Iraq had I known about his blog and requests for sponsorship- before reading Gillmor this evening while browsing Wikipedia. Talk about scholarly- I now feel compelled to belligerently site Allbritton’s blog on any paper I had to write about scholarly sources or perform research on an acceptable level of credibility. How much more real can you get?

*Disclaimer: I am aware that there are some blog prodigies out there-and that many more are making personal blogs into every large names that are highly recognized and pulling in a lot of money. That’s cool. And trust me I am not trying to jinx myself.



MoneyMakers: Blogging in Corporate America

March 6, 2008

Many Internet users have grasped onto blogging as a trend technology. Blogs are attractive to the less savvy internet user because there are many blogging websites that have blog layouts already created and ready to use. Blogs are not a new technology, however, and they have many more functions than the diary-style uses most people use them for everyday. Blogs have been vested in the newsmaking quadrants of media since 2000.

News about politics and current events such as the Dean Campaign in 2000 and the Terrorist Attacks of 911 in 2001 have led the forefront of blogs as well as “turned the tables” on how we read and respond to news. Now corporations in the public relations and marketing industries are grabbing the coattails of blogs and riding the tide to a better image and response to their businesses by learning what the consumer has to say about them. What characterizes the changes that blogs have changed the way that news is made? The one communications skill that has literally re-created the way that newsmakers make news and consumers respond to it is listening! For years, businesses have been using mass media tools to reach their audience enabling the path of communication to go one way from business to consumer. Ads in magazines, on television, and the internet were truly the only face that businesses were showing to people and hence that was the main focus of most companies. Unanswered email and contact pages were the only outlet for consumers to respond to companies and their product and service. Gillmor has suggested in our readings that various tools have filled the ambiguous gap of communication gap. Email, weblogs, short messages, syndication via Net-based tools such as RSS build enable conversations between businesses and consumers that email and contact links do not provide.

Industries are growing wiser in their trade through the update of their communication on the internet.There are two main reasons why Gillmor finds the use of blogs and RSS be an implication of more progressive relationships among industries and people who consumer. First, blogs are creating an avenue of personality for companies that may have otherwise been seen as threatening or self-serving. Gillmor says that “blogging is an opportunity” for industries like PR and Marketing, because it provides a the actual thoughts and opinions of staff rather than just corporate jargon and “business talk” that no one really understands. This is an incredible benefit for industries because it draws the audience into the people of the organization, not just their business suits. More importantly corporations have a greater opportunity to listen to their audience. How can a company better their image, or a business better their product without the comments and feedback of actual consumers?

Gillmor’s second point about this technology is that blogs provide real time commentary on different subjects that can be implemented from the corporate side or topics that the people feel are important that corporations may have overlooked. Great perspective is gained on what the customers needs, wants and are concerned about at any given time. Customer service can be increased and be more effective if staff are able to respond immediately to consumers and issues can be alleviated quicker, preventing them from occurring to other non-biased consumers. I find this to be an unseen gem for businesses of many industries because blogs can clearly look be like an extension of their marketing and image development for products and the company at large. Seems like open strategies like this can make one company look a lot more trust worthy than other that do not choose an open strategy that allows communication to occur and for the consumer to have a voice in their business. I’m pretty sure that these are the types of businesses that most consumers would rather give money to in exchange for a more honest and personable product than anything else. The exchange here has much profound results than for companies that don’t practice open source strategies of communication.

Gillmor mentioned that focus groups or interviews and surveys which were more traditional forms of getting feedback from an audience. These tactics are not only time consuming, but they cost more money to facilitate. Since blogs are on the internet and everyone has access to them, it is clear to see why companies should definitely choose this technology as their method of communicating with their audience.



Wealth of Networks by Yochai Brenkler

February 25, 2008

Yochai Brenkler’s writings in the “Wealth of Networks” work in favor of explaining the pros of free software and its direct benefit of internet users. The perks include a highly accessible code to all users, enabling the ability to create new applications or existing applications on the internet. Brenkler talks about the benefits that free software provides not only for internet users but for society as a whole. One benefit that Brenkler highlights is the boost to economy that free software provides. Free software is non-proprietary because there is no one owner. Anyone and everyone who makes changes to the software is an “owner”. Since there are many users of the internet already it is inevitable that many users will share this privilege, yielding not one but many “owners of the software who do not gain a monetary benefit from this privilege but rather the freedom to do the things they wish to do. I found this system to be slightly problematic but then I realized that I am the product of a capitalistic world where someone has to be the capital winner. Free software is a refreshing state of mind in the sense that it doesn’t have to be about money, but more about creative liberation without government larks hanging on the back of citizens who want to use the internet to their liking.

I found Brenkler’s writing to be quite liberating because he posed suggestions that free software not only allow people to do what they want, but that freedom in turn promotes human development. Now I am all for the ethnological benefits that the internet can pose on society but Brenkler fails to acknowledge the obstacles that have already inflicted more than 13% of the general US population: the digital divide. At the 7th week of classes I am starting to get annoyed with the authors of these readings because of the fact that none of them have taken three lines of their articles to mention one of the most prominent elements of controversy regarding internet communications. I mean how can one discuss the innovations of free software and its benefits for “ordinary people” when a ot of “ordinary people” don’t even know the ins and outs the internet. Is it truly democratic usuge when everyone can’t phathom the first step to write and re-write code in free software. Some who use the internet for recreational purposes alone can barely adapt to languages outside of their own familiar lingo rather than the complex language of the internet. Did Brenkler consider this? I am starting to think that many authors we have read are representing a wider population of academics and scholars who are avoiding this topic. Maybe we only want the freedom and wealth only for some, rather than for all?