July 17, 2014
The article titled Scoop: A Glimpse Into the NYTimes CMS on the New York Times Blog discusses the importance of Content Management Systems (CMS) for the future of journalism. Recently, journalist Ezra Klein reportedly left The Washington Post for Vox Media largely for Vox’s preferable CMS. The NYT has its own CMS called Scoop, described in the article,
“…It is a system for managing content and publishing data so that other applications can render the content across our platforms. This separation of functions gives development teams at The Times the freedom to build solutions on top of that data independently, allowing us to move faster than if Scoop were one monolithic system. For example, our commenting platform and recommendations engine integrate with Scoop but remain separate applications.”
So it does seem that there is some wheel reinventing going on at the NYT. The article outlines the major changes that Scoop has undergone in the past few years, with live article editing that sounds like Google Docs, tagging, notifications, and simplified processes for the addition of photographs multimedia. While there is some debate about where Scoop stands on the list of Content Management Systems, the Times certainly has invested in it for the long haul.
Chelsea Kerwin, July 17, 2014
July 10, 2014
An outfit called the Washington Examiner printed “Censorship: 38 Journalism Groups Slam Obama’s Politically-Driven Suppression of News.’” Stories that talk about censorship are difficult to peg on the white board of online information. True, I have noticed that certain documents once easily findable in www.usa.gov have been increasingly difficult to locate. My touchstone example is information about the US government’s RAC, MIC, and ZPIC programs to combat alleged Medicare non compliance. I have stumbled across other examples when querying the Department of Energy’s Web site with routine queries I used when DOE was a cheerleader for the Autonomy IDOL search system.
The “Politically Driven” article is somewhat different. The angle is that “real journalists”—presumably not the type of professionals working at entities like IDC—are not able to get information. The terms “media coverage” and “limiting access to top officials” make it clear that “real” journalists have some gripes; namely:
- Officials blocking reporters’ requests to talk to specific staff people.
- Excessive delays in answering interview requests that stretch past reporters’ deadlines.
- Officials conveying information “on background” — refusing to give reporters what should be public information unless they agree not to say who is speaking.
- Federal agencies blackballing reporters who write critically of them.
The article points to a “survey” in which “40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.” Yep, a survey, similar to those cited by some consultancies to “prove” that something is really, really true.
The article concludes with a rousing call to action:
SPJ’s Cuillier told Secrets, “I feel this excessive message management and information control are caused by the professionalization of PR in the bureaucracy — in all levels of government.” And, he added, “It is up to journalists — and citizens — to push back against this force. Hard!”
I find this an interesting statement. What does “push back” mean? If I put on my semantic analysis hat, I can list possible meanings for “push back.”
The point is that news is shaped, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly. In order to determine what is accurate, one must work quite hard. The notion that an individual can ferret out specifics of a particular event by gaining easy access, walking halls, or just showing up flies in the face of my experience.
I have learned that misinformation, disinformation, and reformation are the common currency of professionals today. Forget the problem with US government bureaucracies. These operations survive changes in administration, budget shifts, and policy changes.
Focus instead on individuals who take information, put their name on it, reshape it, and use it to further a narrow agenda. I emphasize in my lectures for the intelligence community that figuring out what is “accurate” is getting more and more difficult.
We are in the grip of a cultural shift in information. Recent examples that make the magnitude of the “accuracy” challenge may be found in these examples:
ITEM: A Google executive dies and is described as a family man as a factoid in an article about a heroin overdose, a person of alleged ill repute, and a yacht. See “Did She Kill Before?”
ITEM: A fellow with a fascinating work history puts his name on work done by the ArnoldIT team, sells it for $3,500 a whack on Amazon, and ignores my requests for payment. The person appears to be David Schubmehl, employed by the consulting and publishing firm IDC. Here’s the Amazon listing for my work with my name and that of two of my researchers. Seems just fine, right? I find this shaping of my information interesting because I have not given permission for this material to be sold on Amazon. But who cares about a 70 year old getting trampled by the “real” professionals?
ITEM: WN.com search results for th3 query “Brazil Riots 2014.” A lack of information about the events after Brazil’s loss in Rio flies in the face of the alleged robberies and police actions. See http://wn.com/brazil_riots_2014. Where’s the information, WN.com.
Net net: Anyone who wants accurate information has to work the old fashioned way. Interviews, research, reading, and compilation of factoids from various sources. I am not sure a fuzzy “push back” will have much impact in our present information environment.
For short cuts, one can ask a reporter on the US government beat, the editor at WN.com, or the very, very happy David Schubmehl, research director, where he analyzes the future and surfs on my team’s research.
Exciting times when “real” pros want easy access, a hop over the negative, and a free ride to expertise.
Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2014
July 10, 2014
To help us visualize the plight of the papers, Gigaom shares “Everything You Need to Know About the Future of Newspapers in in These Two Charts.” Writer Mathew Ingram shares two graphs based on 2013 data that show no signs of hope for the beleaguered industry. The first, created by University of Michigan economics professor Mark Perry and based on figures from the Newspaper Association of America, shows print-based advertising revenue falling by more than 70 percent since 2000. When digital and other advertising is included, the fall is only slightly less dire. Ingram likes to call this line graph the “cliff of despair.”
“[This chart] contrasts the amount of time that users spend on a specific form of media — mobile, print, TV etc. — with the share of advertising spending that is devoted to that platform. Last year, print got just 5 percent of the overall time spent on media, but it pulled in almost 20 percent of the overall advertising revenue…. Meeker’s chart is an updated version of an earlier one, and the share of time spent that is devoted to print has (not surprisingly) continued to decline over the past couple of years…. But while the amount of advertising dollars devoted to it has also continued to fall, there is still a dramatic gap. And it is matched by the exact opposite gap on the other side of the chart, where time spent on mobile is 20 percent and share of advertising spend is just 4 percent.”
These trajectories may seem obvious, but Ingram points to evidence that senior staff at some publications still need to be prodded into this century. He closes with a suggestion: “If you work at a newspaper, post these charts in your staff room.”
Cynthia Murrell, July 10, 2014
July 9, 2014
Update: A person asked me who is the IDC “expert.” The answer is David Schubmehl. His picture on LinkedIn shows him as a very, very happy individual. My photograph shows a quite annoyed 70 year old individual. Whenever I think about this unauthorized reuse of my content now being sold on Amazon, my heart races and I fear the IDC matter is pushing me closer to the “narrow house.” Did William Cullen Bryant use another’s work in “Thanatopsis”? Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2014 at 4 53 pm
I read “Amazon Angles to Attract Hachette’s Authors to Its Side.” The main point is that Amazon is pro content and anti at least one publisher. Here’s the passage I noted with considerable interest:
Amazon has proposed giving Hachette’s authors all the revenue from their e-book sales on Amazon as the parties continue to negotiate a new contract. Hachette’s response on Tuesday was to suggest that the retailer was trying to make it commit suicide.
Why am I pro Amazon? Well, two UK publishers stiffed me for books I wrote and they published. One annoying outfit is out of business. No loss, believe me. The other is still promoting the book and presumably selling the scintillating monograph called Successful Enterprise Search Management. More recently I reported that IDC, one of the numerous McKinsey / Bain / Boston Consulting chasers published my content under another person’s name. The “expert” whose knowledge derived in part from the work of me and my associates is marketed on Amazon at this link as of July 9,, 2014. Notice that the IDC “original work” carries the hefty price tag of $3,500. (Goodness, I was offered a job at IDC when I worked at Ziff Communications in New York. I passed. I was uncomfortable from the git go with this company.)
Verified, July 9, 2014 at Amazon.com. Search for Schubmehl Attivio or IDC Attivio.
I hope Amazon disintermediates any publisher, consulting firm, or knowledge outfit that does not issue contracts, honor copyright, and puts individuals like me in the unenviable position of having my expertise inflate that of another; specifically, an alleged expert named Dave Schubmehl, formerly from the vendor of multiple software written by third parties. I assume that’s what “ramp quickly” means. For more on the shuffle of my work under an IDC’s consultant see http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/wp-admin/post.php?post=40033&action=edit.
Publishers and trust, respect, and appropriate professional behavior in my experience do not go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Go, Amazon. Disintermediate these outfits. And I will gladly split any money from my work 50 50 with you. Amazon has earned my trust. The publishers who have treated me poorly have lost my trust.
Ronald Reagan was correct, “Trust but verify.”
Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2014
July 3, 2014
The bookseller wars are getting nasty, says The Guardian in the article “Indie Booksellers Join Hachette’s Battle With Amazon.” Amazon and the book publisher Hachette have been at war for some time, but just recently has their conflict made headlines. Hachette is angry with Amazon, because the Internet retailer delayed delivery on over 5000 of its titles and removed the option to pre-order books by authors.
J.K. Rowling’s newest crime novel was removed from the pre-order option and she’s using her notoriety to garner support for Hachette. If the Harry Potter mogul was not enough, indie bookstores joined the battle. Their response is that they would never delay selling a book, because they were made at the publisher.
“Both sides in the dispute have released public statements on the issue, Hachette saying most recently that ‘we will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon – which has been a great partner for years – but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them, at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator”. Amazon, meanwhile, has said that “this business interruption affects a small percentage of Amazon’s demand-weighted units”, and that while “suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer … it’s reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly”.
Amazon is not without its supporters: mainly ebook readers and authors who like how Amazon has reshaped publishing. Both sides have a right to be angry, but does this cut down to a battle between the future and the past? Amazon is clearly a selling model for the future and indie booksellers are trying to save their livelihood. In the end, the money will win.
July 2, 2014
“Pay as you go” is a service model that allows you the freedom to pay for the types of services you want to use when you want to you them. The idea is that it saves people time and money. Ola Sitarska introduces us to the concept that books can be applied to the pay as you go model in her blog post: “Experiment Results: Books In A ‘Pay As You Want’ Model.’” The book was published as part of her work at Makerland. Makerland is an open source company that teaches people how to code and use the Internet to their benefit. Their book, Makerland Tutorials, helps people understand basic Internet usage and navigate the many options to help them promote themselves.
Releasing the book as a “pay as you go” project was a complete experiment. They offered a downloadable PDF and a printed paper copy. They advertised is using regular channels: newsletter, blog post, Twitter, Reddit, and news Web sites. The PDF was more popular than the paper copy. The results for the PDF are below:
• “average book was worth $0.87
• 89 out of 490 people paid anything (18%)
• if we extract only people who paid anything, then we have average of $5 per book. median is also $5.
• the highest payment was $20, 4x paid average and 23x average. the lowest one was $0.99.
• we’ve got 4 mailinator emails (of course, they also didn’t pay)
I think this results make me happy. I know they might be better if we invest more time into promotion, but I like this two numbers: 18% of people who paid anything and almost 500 people who downloaded the book.”
For an experiment that relied on free advertising channels and with a minimal investment, the Makerland team as able to make a profit and learned how to improve the “pay as you go” book in the future. Will this be a new way people read books in the future? It is more plausible for non-fiction books than fiction, but why not? Why pay for a book that you don’t end up liking or reading?
June 23, 2014
Did you know that there is a Netflix equivalent for book junkies? Oyster is a service where users pay a nominal fee and read as many ebooks as they want. Oyster launched fall, but despite good marks it was still criticized for lack of big name authors and titles. That was resolved when Oyster signed a deal with HarperCollins to access their library, but according to The Next Web, “Subscription eBook Service Oyster Adds Simon And Schuster.” It’s a big deal when you consider that Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and Walter Isaacson will be available for download.
While this is great news for bibliophiles, Oyster’s rivals might be unhappy:
“As it gains traction, Oyster could represent a viable alternative to Amazon, which has secured a dominant position in the ebook space. It’s not quite as easy to binge on books as it is to burn through a TV series on Netflix, but it’s great having the option to peruse and skim through titles for an affordable monthly fee.”
Reading does take longer than watching a TV show. You can also do other things when watching T, unlike reading a book. There is competition for Amazon, which helps prevent a monopoly. Oyster should take on Audiophile next.
June 18, 2014
Struggles continue in the ever-shrinking world of real journalism. The Columbia Journalism Review reports that the “Majority of Top Editors Quit Le Monde.” The walkout is the latest in a series of problems for the influential paper. Writer Edirin Oputu tells us:
“Seven of the 11 senior editors at Le Monde, one of France’s newspapers of record, resigned en masse on Tuesday over a conflict with management, according to reports. A center-left daily founded in 1944, Le Monde was one of the leading papers in the coverage of Edward Snowden’s revelations.
“‘A lack of confidence in and communication with editorial management prevents us from fulfilling our roles as chief editors,’ the editors wrote in a letter to management.
“’We have realized that we are no longer able to assume the tasks entrusted to us, and that’s why we are resigning from our respective posts,’ the editors wrote. They also said that they would continue working to keep the paper running smoothly until a new team was appointed but would then take up other positions.”
Staff members were also unhappy in February when management melded the print and Web departments without consulting them, leaving many concerned for their jobs. And that was before the new managing editor, who is described as “difficult to talk to,” was elected in March. The article also notes concerns about Le Monde’s seemingly unfocused digital strategy; management sidelined plans for a mobile-friendly evening edition without explanation. Is the paper in trouble? Perhaps no more than the rest of the newspaper industry.
Cynthia Murrell, June 18, 2014
June 13, 2014
The article titled 12 Free (As In Beer) Data Mining Books on Christonard lists many excellent books available for download. Free-as-in-beer, the article explains, means that the download is complete and without payment. Statistical learning books, programming guides, guides to Bayes and Bayesian reasoning are all included in the list with a brief synopsis. For example,
“Machine Learning – The Complete Guide – This one is new to me. It’s a collection of Wikipedia articles organized into chapters & downloadable in a number of formats. I didn’t realize they did this, but it’s a great idea. Because it’s a collection of individual articles, it covers quite a bit more material than a single author could write. This is an incredible resource.”
The possibilities are endless with content available for free. The only limitations on knowledge gathering today are time and ambition- based. Anyone with a few hours and the willpower to turn off the TV and Facebook can learn for free. This list in particular shows the appeal to beginners, with the article touting readability and the introductory level that many of the books maintain. They are not short, either. David Barber’s Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning clocks in at 648 pages, and The Elements of Statistical Learning by Hastie, Tibshirani and Friendman has 745 free-to-download pages.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 13, 2014
June 2, 2014
I have been watching the smoke from the artillery fire between Amazon and Hachette. I learned more about monopsony as an up and coming MBA buzzword than I wanted to know. (See “How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon,” New York Times, page A 19, May 31, 2014 and maybe online at http://nyti.ms/1twSPv2). I also learned that Amazon is a bully. (See Amazon’s Bullying Tactics, same newspaper, same page, and same date and maybe online at http://nyti.ms/T1rxlA one hopes.) Then the June 2, 2014 International New York tossed in some personal anguish in “Alone in the Ring with Amazon” on page 17 and not available online as I write this.
Let me summarize the approach of these write ups: Bad Amazon. Good publishers.
It seems that the buggy whip makers are annoyed at the motor powered vehicle. Amazon needs to make a profit, so it is doing what every good MBA-type does. Amazon is trying to increase its margins.
Bad Amazon. Shame on you for wanting to serve your stakeholders.
Let me summarize one of my experiences with one “real” publisher. The outfit is IDC, founded by the now deceased Pat McGovern. IDC published four reports as their own in 2012. No big deal, right? Well, the research for the reports was completed by me. IDC put my name and the names of a couple of my researchers on the reports. But there was one little anomaly in this deal. IDC did not issue a contract and continued to sell the fruits of my labor for two years until my attorney managed to get IDC to remove the reports from its online store. When I pressed for money, the IDC outfit had an human resources person call me to manage this particular human resource. My attorney was able to get a letter from IDC that said, in effect, sign this and agree never to tell anyone that we violated your notion of proper conduct. I did not sign. IDC continues to sell my work under their brand via Amazon too. Yep, square dealing from a real publisher. Do I care? Sure. Does anyone else? Nah, why should they? Aren’t publishers the good buys of the information world. These outfits are, I thought, incapable of nicking, scamming, and double dealing. I keep sending invoices. Perhaps IDC will pay one day? Hope springs eternal?
Was my experience with IDC an isolated incident of a big “real” publishing company trampling on the individual author?
So, when I read about the bully Amazon, my reaction is, “Invade and do the scorched earth thing, Amazon.”
My hunch is that others who have been unpaid and underpaid for their work by “real” publishers may feel the same way. If the author cheerleaders for Hachette and other big publishers are happy with their deals, good for them. When the economics of online shrink those advances and royalty checks, my thought is, “Maybe self publishing is better option?”
For many individuals, “real” publishing may not the Mr. Clean bathroom chemical for every content need.
Stephen E Arnold, June 2, 2014