Vol. 2 No. 4

December, 2002


Keepers of the News

iToon on netPharmacy

Internet Television

New! Bends & Trends

The Digital Lifestyle






Keepers of the News

Who in their right mind wants to sign up for more junk email? The news gatekeepers think you will to gain access to their shortened stories. But who believes “free” registration does not come with a price?

The free registration requirement on news sites has been spawning like weeds. The Chicago Tribune weaned its site visitors to total registration. Other news organizations just went cold turkey and made the registration mandatory overnight.

A larger questions beckons. Who owns the news?

In a free society, vis a vis the government and agency policy, regulations, laws and budget information, the public-taxpayer owns the content since he is paying for it (one way or another). In a free society, vis a vis the private sector working for the public interest, the public-reader has a stake in the content since he is indirectly paying for it (one way or another). An author's creative work effort is copyrightable. Writers are entitled to make money from their skills. Publishers are entitled to make money from their compliation of stories, photographs, etc.

Universal access to the news has been the core trust readers have had with newspapers. The availability of the news promotes the common good.

Hard news is a finite event. It has a short shelf life. Readers have even a shorter attention span. If the goal for a newspaper publisher is to distribute its information to the widest audience, to promote the public good, why add the hurdles of web site registration, web site pay-per-view, archive reprint charges and the like? A few clicks on a good search engine, and one can find the news, articles, features and archives from other sources, usually for free. The heartbeat of the net continues to be the free exchange of information.

But big media companies, snookered into the internet bubble and castrated by an advertising depression, are out to squeeze every penny of revenue from each of its operating entities. By putting up a registration wall, a newspaper site is sealing its writers, columnists and print advertisers from potential hard copy readers. A news website is not the in-depth, portable paper as a full edition broadsheet. At best, a news website is a summary of the day's events. However, a good news website is the perfect platform to promote and highlight a newspapers' strengths instead of recycling old news and features with a discount price tag.

The Keepers of the Public Trust have lost sight on their mission as they attempt to maximize the profit and shelf life of their news stories.


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Internet Television

More than two years ago, there was a promise that there would be interactive television on your computer. The vivid programming on network television would be ported directly to your PC monitor, with the added feature of you being to interact in real time with the content.

So far it has been another example of the vision far ahead of the technology. Web cams have been around for the parlor trick, slow, choppy video-conference, look-at-the-coffee pot uses that pioneered the fertile internet ground for the weird and wonderful. Refresh rates, and interconnection speeds have been the barrier for mass, real time commercial appeal of current television signals. The connection speed on the home copper wire coupled with the finite application of a central file server has doomed the internet TV concept to stone age flint and rock firestarting.

The idea of logging onto your internet provider, and calling up in a window a live telecast in real time, while you have other windows open word processing or spreadsheet number crunching, was a cool goal to pure multitaskers. The basic problem of the internet television broadcast is that the medium is incompatable with the old school way of running a television network broadcast. Television stations zip out airwave signals so each customer's receiver can instantaneously tune in that signal. On a web system, the signal is packeted in bits that are stored on central servers to be relayed to each individual computer. We know how long it takes for a server to upload and open large graphic files on the net. Slow as frozen molasses, even if you can keep a modem connection, or your DSL line is not off-line.

Cable transmissions are always on. Or so says the broadband operator.The gateway for cable modem technology is similar to airwave television, but it is redundant to have the program go through your television box then to your PC monitor. The internet pipe is not big enough and fast enough to connect millions of people to a single event broadcast. Some sites have tried to do it, but the dedicated resources to make it, and the faulty telephone line connections, made it unstable and unprofitable.

“Interactive television” is at best defined today as the instant polls on football telecasts during the slow referee booth reviews. Log on to the network's website and vote to reverse the call. But it is still not the vision of sitting in an airport lounge, and booting up a laptop with wireless telecom box and watch your can't miss television program. (That is a grand assumption with the state of creative network programming today.) You can have a battery portable television set on the beach, but you can't fire up a laptop to get the same television signal.

This was the fear of the movie and television studios. The internet would supplant radio and television as the principal means of entertainment viewing by the public. Costly megamergers with internet pioneers has led to a harsh realization that everyone jumped the gun on the concept. So toasted by the lack of distribution fever the new economy is providing, the major entertainment conglomerates have shifted back to acquiring more cable channels and cutting back their webtainment sites.

Will computers in the future use one of the expansion slots to plug in a network tuner? Or will the new HD-TV sets mandated by the FCC be wired with a computer cable modem? Is there even a mature market for an all-in-one solution? Should there be one at all?


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News sites are trending toward providing less news depth on internet site stories, then charging premium subscription fees to see the full story. A Cliff Notes version, a paragraph or two, on a news story can hardly explain the event in clear context. Other news organizations are charging fees for audio or video stories for monthly subscriber rates. The internet savvy news surfer is also the person who does not watch the evening television news, so why would he pay for it to see a postage stamp representation on his computer screen?

The hot trend for 2003 will be the virus-hard drive repair-disk clean-up software vendors incorporating spam filters into their base products. Junk emails are getting as bad as regular postal junk mail. At work, junk emails pile up 4 to 1 to real work email.

Some internet providers are upgrading their browsers to filter unwanted electronic mail, but marketing industry sources claim that the growth of mass emailings will continue at its breakneck pace.



The Digital Lifestyle

Woz was right. There is no pressing need to go out a buy a new computer. Unless you drop your laptop off a building, or a printer blows up in flames, people have been getting along with the legacy machines they acquired during the rush-panic of the Y2K scare.

So how does one sell something one has no need to buy? Advertising. Not the product, per se, but the lifestyle. Apple is the first to start the push for creating a Digital Lifestyle of hardware and software interaction. Integrate your calendar, address book, photographs, emails, home movies and music collection in one or two spanky new gadgets. If the biggest hook in the American Dream is to be cool and hip, pricey gadgets have been the historic beacons for trend setting.

The prototype is the hip-cool 1960s second tier Bond-movies like Flint, where the spy snaps his fingers for an instant martini, instant ground to air missile guidance or instant mood while dancing with his latest go-go girlfriend in the Hefnereque sunken living room of this pad.

The Digital Lifestyle is still a few mainstream magazine cover stories away from becoming a lukewarm fad. But in the holiday electronic shopping season, bad economy and all, here are a few cool concepts that can get most technos saliva to drool state:

iPod. In the post-Napster burial ground of rip and burn MP3 players, everyone I have talked to thinks their iPod is the best thing since sliced bagels. It is more than just cigarette pack juke box; it is a fully functional 20+gig hard drive. Simple to use; versatility; cool design.

Digital cameras. Who needs to buy a 35mm film camera when a digital camera is smaller and is packed with all the professional features a weekend amateur photog needs to sparkle at family gatherings. The simple LCD read-out screens makes shooting pictures almost foolproof. The process of in-camera editing saves time; a bad shot is erased and not printed at the one-hour photo counter. Upload software is simple. Pick and choose printing is now affordable. And in a easy pinch, one can burn a CD photo collection for your relatives while they wait in awe.

Flat-screen televisions. If you are in an electronics store, you have probably seen the new big screen, projection HDTV sets that need an abandoned movie theatre to fit them for proper viewing. The cooler concept is the picture frame flat screen television. Hang it on the wall like a large framed piece of art. The manufacturers know it is so cool that in their commercials they don't have to say a word; a couple merely hangs the set on various walls in their apartment trying to find the right spot.

Kitchen communication center. Now, some R&D departments have too much time on their hands. Currently, the center of a family's communication network is the magnets holding papers on the kitchen refrigerator doors. So, a bright manufacturer has decided to take that concept and make it a touch-screen door. Now, things are supposed to remain cool on the inside of the refrigerator, not on the outside door. It is getting to the point where a smart frig will be able to inventory the contents of the unit, and print a shopping list for the homeowner. Now, I still have enough gray matter free space to walk into a grocery store without a list, and still function in hunter-gatherer mode to sufficiently restock my refrigerator without spending a second mortgage on an overkill appliance.


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