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Oct

13

Florida Court Awards $11.3 m for Internet Defamation

Posted by Tish Grier

The jury in a Florida Internet defamation case has awarded $11.3million to a Florida consultant over comments posted on a message board for parents of troubled teens who attended a Costa-Rican boarding school.

Susan Scheff, an "educational consultant" who runs Weston-based Parents Universal Resource Experts Inc. won the Sept 19 jury verdict against Carey Bock, who had sought Scheff's help in removing Bock's twin sons from a boarding school in Costa Rica run by Utah-based World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools. Scheff succeeded in removing Bock's sons from the school.

Their relationship soured after Scheff refused Bock's request to help her get in touch with a minor who may have been abused at another World Wide affiliated school.

Originally, the Internet bulletin board Fornits.com, where the Bock's statements were posted, was also sued. The case against Ginger Warbis, the owner of the bulletin board, was later dropped. Philip Elberg, of Medvin & Elberg of Newark, N.J., who represented Warbis, comments: "People in this industry have consistently used their money and their access to lawyers to silence critics of the industry and this may be one of those examples. Sue Scheff is simply another person in the industry of people who make money from the plight of frightened parents."

In the past, Sue Scheff had been sued for defamation in Salt Lake City by World Wide, after she had posted stories to her own site that World Wide claimed were defamatory. The 2004 verdict in this case ruled in favor of Scheff.

Scheff claims the reason for her suit was to make a point that those who unfairly criticize others on the Internet should think twice. "I'm sure (Bock) doesn't have $1 million, let alone $11 million, but the message is strong and clear," Scheff says. "People are using the Internet to destroy people they don't like, and you can't do that."

Bock was displaced from her Louisiana to Texas after Hurrcaine Katrina, and could not afford to retain an attorney and could not afford to show up for the trial. Scheff's attorney, David H. Pollack, offered arguments about damages, but did not seek a specific amount in damages.

University of Florida law professor Lyrissa Lidsky who specializes in free speech matters called the verdict "astonishing" and noted that it could represent a shift in the courts attitudes towards statements made on blogs and message boards. "What's interesting about this case is that (Scheff) was so vested in being vindicated, she was willing to pay court costs," Lidsky says. "They knew before trial that the defendant couldn't pay, so what's the point in going to the jury?"

Some are worried that this case a href=" http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-10-02-bloggers-courts_x.htm">could have an impact on other cases involving negative comments on message boards and blogs.

Category: Law

Oct

10

Ask.com Offers Google Alternative

Posted by Tish Grier

JD Lasica recommends searchers ditch the Google habit in favor of new and improved Ask.com: "First, check out Ask's new, spare home page, with an Ajax-powered mini-directory at the right (go ahead, drag and drop to change the order of the listings).

Next, click on Blogs & Feeds, enter a term, and behold the tabs at the top of the results page: Posts, Feeds and News. Nice!"

JD also finds the Maps feature "most impressive" and says it "blows" away both Mapquest and Google Maps : "Want to get somewhere on the map. You don't even have to type in the address — just right-click it. You can enter up to 10 locations on your route. Another nifty feature: walking directions! Forget the one-way streets, this is heaven for hikers. "


Category: Web 2.0

Google-YouTube Purchase Raises Concerns

Posted by Tish Grier

Both MSM and the Blogosphere have been buzzing since last evening's announcement of the $1.65 billion purchase by search giant Google of popular video upload site YouTube.

In the MarketWatch report on the sale Google will allow YouTube to "operate as a separate entity" with its own employees remaining in the YouTube offices in Silicon Valley. What sold the YouTube guys on the deal was, according to YouTube founder Chad Hurly was ""revolutionary ad program that inspired us." Plus, he added, "we wanted to remain independent. By working with Google, that's still the case."

Mark Cuban, who wrote last week that he thought Google "would be crazy" to buy YouTube due to
questions of legal liability stemming from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act ,still thinks Google is crazy. Pondering the impact of the sale: "It will be interesting to see how this impacts DRM. As it stands now, there is no DRM on all that video being offered from Google or YouTube. Millions of copyrighted videos that their owners spent a boatload to copyprotect that is available to everyone and everyone without it. (Personally i think DRM is a waste of money, but will all those labels and content providers ?)

I think it was interesting how Google and YT both rushed to get deals done with the music labels. That tells me that they aren't comfortable hiding behind the safe harbor laws. If they were, they would just be telling people to send take down notices rather than doing deals that require software to detect copyrights."

Umair Haque speculates on the enonomics reasons for the purchase: 1) Google has to amplify (and protect) it's key revenue stream - ppc. Video ppc is a higher value domain, and a hugely untapped one.

2) Google wants assets at the edges of the value chain which can exert market power against 1.0 publishers - just like it's doing in book search.

The more of these assets it has across media markets, the greater economies of scope it can ultimately realize; the flipside of these scope economies is, of course, the more market power it can exert.

In other words, Google's goal is to redesign a more efficient value chain.

3) Google Video failed miserably."

Terry Heaton sees how Google's acquisition is creating a new kind of scarcity by aggregting many "pieces" of media as possible in one place":" Why does this work? Because there are far more people creating content than there is time for people to consume it. Therefore, trusted, smart filters (or smart aggregators, as I call them) become desirable."

A broadcaster's best new media strategy, he explains, would be " to make our content available everywhere. . . because we want our content to be where the eyeballs are. In so doing, however, we need to understand that we're feeding the beast that will ultimately destroy us. This is only acceptable if we move quickly to create our own local smart aggregators."

Category: Web 2.0

Oct

6

Insider Trading and Audience Graying at MySpace

Posted by Tish Grier

MySpace founder and former Intermix Media chairman Brad Greenspan is demanding that the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, and the Senate investigate his allegations that Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp "bilked" investors out of billions of dollars in its $580 billion dollar acquisition of the social networking behemoth.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times Greenspan "leveled allegations of insider trading and options manipulation on the website FreeMySpace.com, where he quotes e-mail exchanges that purport to show how Intermix engineered a quick sale to News Corp."

"It wasn't about what's the best deal," Greenspan said. "It was about getting the deal done at any cost and jamming it home. That's just not a fair way to play."

This all may become relative if MySpace begins to lose its "cool" factor with the 18-34 crowd. OnLine Media Daily looks at the "Greying of MySpace": " More than half the visitors to the popular social network site are now 35 or over--up from less than 40 percent last year.

The proportion of MySpace's audience between the ages of 12 and 24, meanwhile, has dropped to 30 percent from 44.3 percent over the last year, according to a study by comScore Media Metrix released Thursday. The comScore research compared audience demographics among top social sites, aiming to dispel the notion that they are the exclusive domain of teens. "

Steve Yelvington notes the "greying" phenomenon: "That shouldn't be surprising; with the barrage of media coverage about the dangers of Myspace, every mother in America is trolling through Myspace for evidence of her children's activities. (And probably more than a few older creeps trolling for the children.) Anybody tempted to think Myspace is unassailable as a business should keep in mind that young people have fickle brand loyalties and can switch in a moment, and there are many alternatives."

Category: Web 2.0

Oct

5

Jailed Videoblogger Case Tests First Amendment

Posted by Tish Grier

Tom Abate points to coverage in the Online Journalism Review of the case against freelance journalist an blogger Josh Wolf. Wolf, 24, was jailed on September 22, 2006, on civil contempt charges for his refusal to turn over to a federal grand jury his unpublished video (as well as cameras and editing equipment) of a July '05 anti-globalization demonstration in San Francisco. As Tom notes, OJR's coverage spans the chronology of the case, as well as case law and "the nuances that separate his plight from that of mainstream media folks," who have been involved in similar court cases.

According to OJR, the reaction of journalists to Wolf's plight is mixed. Wolf's journalism portfolio has been categorized as "thin", but Wolf's refusal to turn over the video, and his "willingness to go to prison" has gained the support of many journalists and free speech advocates. The Society of Professional Journalists has donated $30,000 towards his legal fees. SPJ President Christine
Tatum said of Wolf :"As unconventional and non-traditional as [Josh Wolf's] work in journalism may be in many respects, he is contesting an age-old argument... and that's that journalists never should be arms of law enforcement. . .Josh has, at great personal cost, taken quite a stand – an admirable stand, and he has said..., 'I am not divulging unpublished, unedited, unaired material...for a grand jury's review. And we stand wholeheartedly behind him."

Yet others feel that Wolf's assertion that he's also an "advocate" is problematic. "You can't step in and out of being a journalist," said Jane Briggs-Bunting, director of the Journalism program at Michigan State University. Tatum added, "There is a degree of discomfort that I've felt with some of his assertions, as far as viewing himself as an advocate. I think that it's very important for online journalists to begin to understand.. that it's very, very important that you do maintain some sort of objectivity and distance."

From a legal perspective, Wolf may have an uphill battle defending his First Amendment rights. The case has gone to the Federal courts, rather than the California state courts, where he may have had some protection under California's shield law. This law "protects journalists from being required to disclose unpublished information gathered for a news story." It was found that the case could come under federal jurisdiction because the San Francisco Police Department receives federal funding, and that the damage to a police car, which was recorded by Wolf, constitutes damage to federal property.

Federal prosecutors have maintained that the tapes will help them locate the persons responsible for damage to SFPD property. First Amendment advocate Martin Garbus, Wolf's lawyer, maintains that the government isn't all that interested in "alleged crimes committed at the demonstration. "This was the use of an FBI anti-terror law to get information on people they can't get information about, such as anarchists. They know he knows nothing about the actions involving the police car," Garbus said.

Garbus maintains that Wolf's case, because he does not know anything about the identities of those he videotaped, is different than that of another high-profile case against journalists in the SF area. SF Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada were jailed for their refusal to reveal the identity of a confidential source who leaked federal grand jury testimony in the BALCO steroid scandal to the reporters.


Category: Law

Oct

4

Perils and Positives in Newsroom Integration

Posted by Tish Grier

Taking a cue from Rory Satran's post A Case for Media Integration, Steve Yelvington adds his own observations on what he believes are the "perils of newsroom integration."

Satran's analysis highlights such issues as newsroom restructuring and the loss of staff, positioning "print-hardened" top editors" at the helm of an integrated newsroom; and respecting the difference between the ways in which print and online journalists write and work.

Steve asserts the importance of keeping the online newsroom separate from the print newsroom at the present time: "I believe we are not finished defining online news, and we need to be careful not to lose the agility of a separate online operation as we seek efficiencies. Print editors will argue that they're innovative, forward-thinking and fast-moving, but I've consistently found an order of magnitude of difference in those definitions.

More importantly, we've hardly even begun making process outside of the "news" concept in local information and community interaction. "

Newsrooms, however "are not designed to address product-development and innovation issues in such areas; newsrooms are production factories."

Yet Steve's argument is not "against integration": "In fact, I think production processes need to be integrated and "newspapers" need to become multiplatform organizations managing a portfolio of products. "

Also, Steve's analysis of Newpaper Next and the ideas that he believes constitute a how-to manual for integration at newspapers: "N2 redefines "the core" as the portfolio of existing products, including the typical existing newspaper website. There are ways to do a much better job in the "core," much of them built around the "jobs to be done" analysis. Newspapers in this regard remind me of the camping knife I had when I was a kid. It had a fork, a spoon, a knife, a bottle opener -- and it wasn't very good at forking, spooning, cutting or opening. (I cringe every time I see an ad campaign for a newspaper website that boasts how it has everything under the sun. Because a little voice in my head says, "and none of it worth a damn.")

There also is a "non-core" category where N2 recommends the development of utility-focused services, databases, unlocking the "collective wisdom" of the community by facilitating user interaction around utility, and the establishment of general community interaction platforms (citing WickedLocal.com and BlufftonToday.com,/a> as examples). "

Mark Hamilton adds a a few thoughts on why he will not subscribe to some newspapers, whether or not they have an online version: "As newspapers struggle for ways to finance an increasingly online presence, one of the ways they can attract money from readers like me is to deliver high-quality, compelling journalism. After all, I can get free access to most stories from any number of sources, whether it’s breaking international news, in-depth coverage of major events, or even neighbourhood-level hyperlocal journalism. I can meet that need without spending a cent (other than the cost of my internet connection).

Despite that, the desire for quality is something I’m willing to pay for, particularly when that quality comes combined with trust in the people providing the compelling storytelling."

Category: Newspaper Industry

Oct

2

Newspaper Next's "Time Warp," WSJ's Innovations

Posted by Tish Grier

Vin Crosbie recently attended the second phase of Newspaper Next, an initiative by the American Press Institute and innovation consulting firm Innosight, designed to bring together decision-makers in the American newspaper industry to discuss new ways to transform that industry.

What Vin took away from that session, however, left him with the impression that this think-tank is in a "time warp". Breaking down Innosight's two-part strategy for how the newspaper industry should tackle the troubles ahead: "Innosight’s first suggestion was that the newspaper industry defend itself by utilizing a process in which it stops seeing its purposes as selling a printed product and instead look at how people ‘hire’ newspapers to do various 'jobs'"

This particular strategy was described with a fast-food analog gleaned from Innosight research. Innosight found that, at fast food restaurants, consumers "hire" milkshakes to do one of two specific jobs: either sustain them through long commutes or to please their children. It was then suggested that newspapers think about the "jobs" that consumers might "hire" a newspaper to perform and develop their products to serve those "jobs."

Innosight's second suggestion, Vin notes, "was that newspapers stop worrying about developing ‘perfect’ quality services or those backed by financially perfect financial projections; stop worrying about whether new services will fail; and stop taking years of internal reviews before launching such services. Newspapers instead should quickly launch new ‘good enough’ services on the cheap. As these services start to succeed or fail, the newspapers should quickly refine, revise, or discard the services. In other words, newspapers should emulate the start-up companies that are launching innovative and cheap new products or services against them."

Further, Vin observes that Innosight's were, for the most part, outdated: "The advice Innosight gave would have been excellent advice for the newspaper industry in 1995, shortly after newspapers first began publishing online, before their printed product’s circulations began precipitous drops, and before the newspapers’ businesses began being eaten by small and then unknown competitors whose innovative and cheap new products and services newspapers initially ignored as flawed or not lucrative enough -- new competitors named Google, Yahoo!, craigslist, etc. Innosight’s advice has come ten years too late."

Editor and Publisher reviews statements made by Wall Street Journal Publisher L. Gordon Crovitz at the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) seminar Saturday in Mexico City about the changes the Journal will introduce in its January2, 2007 edition. "Our goal is keeping a business model in order to maintain news departments that are as large as they have been, and that maintain the lifestyles of the people in those large newsrooms," said Crovitz.

Crovitz has listened to the Journal's core readers, C-level executives, and understands that many have become adopters of new technology. These executives told Journal researchers they wanted an online product that interfaced better with the print product, and with type that was "easier to read." One major update will be to the pages of detailed financial listings, which will be replaced by what Crovitz describes as "a state-of-the-art" Markets Data Center.

The speed at which the Journal will innovate, however, will be markedly different than in the past: "The product lifespan of that newspaper was 50 years," Crovitz said. "The product span of this Journal is not going to be 50 years. It´s not going to be 10 years. It'll be closer to 5, or maybe closer to 2 or 3."

Category: Rethinking media

Sep

29

New York Times Co. Brings Futurist Aboard

Posted by Tish Grier

In a first for the newspaper industry, The New York Times Company recently announced that interactive media pioneer Michael Rogers has taken a one-year appointment as the Company's futurist-in-residence. Mr. Rogers will work as a consultant with the research and development unit in developing new strategies and innovations for Times's online and other products..

Mr. Rogers, former new media exec with Washington Post Co. and Newsweek.com general manager, founded his own consulting firm in 2004, and writes the Practical Futurist column for MSNBC.

In an interview with I Want Media, Mr. Rogers discussed why the Times chose to bring on a futurist, as well as some of his experiences with Newsweek.com and as a blogger. From the interview:

IWM: What will you be doing for the Times Co.?

Rogers: My role in R&D is in part market research seasoned with speculation: What are consumers doing today and what might the want to do tomorrow? What kind of technologies will be available and how likely is it that they will serve a wide audience?

I've also spent 20 years building and operating new media products, working across editorial, technology and business lines, so I hope to help shape product ideas to serve well in all three spheres.

Another part will be helping the R&D team communicate our work back to the business units. We're all intensely aware that even the smartest R&D is pointless if it fails to engage with the people who actually run the businesses. . .

IWM: What lessons did you learn from your experiences with Newsweek.com and the new-media division of the Washington Post Co.?

Rogers: It's trite but true: The fundamentals still apply. It all begins with writers, reporters and editors who can recognize and tell a good story. If you don't have those folks on your side, it doesn’t make any difference how good the widgets are. That's a big part of what attracted me to the Times.

IWM: The Practical Futurist originated with a column and a blog for Newsweek. What do you see as the future of blogs produced by magazines or newspapers?

Rogers: The "blog" has become intertwined with the notion of self-publishing, but I think it's important to see the blog itself as one of the first truly original forms of Internet journalism. The blog energized static text with two unique Web elements -- outbound linking and close audience interaction, creating a form that by its nature can't be duplicated in print.

The blog and its successors will continue to be useful journalistic forms on the Web, whether self- or professionally published. Print can't do blogs, but they will become staples on print properties' Web sites in years to come.

If there's a problem with blogs, it's that done right they're a great deal of work; it's a daily column on steroids, and it takes a lot of energy and endurance to keep one going.

(via Cyberjournalist.net)

Sep

7

Google Creates News Archive, Branches into Audio

Posted by Tish Grier

Search giant Google, Inc. announced that it has added 200 years' worth of newspaper archives to its Google News search feature. The Google News Archives Search feature takes keywords as well as dates and creates "a timeline of stories on a particular subject over the years."

Thus, if one searches for "1969" and "moon launch" Archives will generate a page that lists a full range of stories from major news publications pertaining to the July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 moon mission. Regarding advertising, another important aspect of Google, Inc, at this point there are no plans to place advertising links alongside archive search results, but sites that feature historical news may feature advertising alongside articles or choose to charge a fee for content.

What Google suggests is a great new tool for both history buffs and academic researchers, Terry Heaton calls "a major effort by the company to organize the world's information." The move not only positions Google as the prime search engine for historical information, but also "gives them the ability to make money off other people's content." Terry also sees how Google's innovation should be a lesson for local newspapers and broadcasters: "Don't get me wrong. Mainstream media companies have no choice but to make these deals (with the devil?), but we need to be learning at the same time that Google's mission is our mission -- especially at the local level -- and that the creation of local databases ought to be our first priority."

This is not the only new inroad Google is creating. Mark Ramsey finds a Google advertisment radio sales execs. The ad may say "radio" but Ramsey sees it as a reach into a broader range of audio broadcasting: "It's worth noting that while the ad emphasizes "radio" the true nature of the effort is guaranteed to cross distribution channel boundaries - to be truly "audio": Online, satellite, radio, you name it."

Sep

5

Understanding Successful Online Communities

Posted by Tish Grier

Steve Yelvington, shares some advice on building successful online communities in response to Rob Miller's OJR essay Five rules for building a successful online community.

Steve is cautious on Rob's interest in

A community is where people get to know one another and develop interpersonal relationships. Cities aren't communities, but they can contain communities -- at the neighborhood, church and social organization level. Communities are small and strong."

Rob's Rule Three: Let your readers judge each other so you don't have to judge them yourself emphasises the use of the right technology for monitoring online communities. However, Steve is a firm believer that it's "not the technology. It's the people." and offers the following to Rob's rule: "Users will judge one another regardless of whether you implement software and ask them to take overt self-moderation actions, and peer pressure is a remarkable thing. Recognize and manage that process.

A well-led online discussion will have social goals and process targets that are carefully thought through by its managers and appropriately communicated. I would never, never counsel a news site to abandon that process to software. Visible human leadership is the single most powerful predictor of success in operating online communities. Focus there."

Mark Hamilton finds he is more convinced that "something real" is happening in the Second Life virtual online community after reading about Rebecca MacKinnon's reason for joining Second Life . Rebecca plans to take a course, Law in the Court of Public Opinion that will be taught both in Second Life and in real life by Harvard law school professor Charles Nesson. Rebecca also notes some of Second Life's limitations for social interactions in Chinese, as well as Ethan Zuckerman's observations on its limits for raising "awareness about the plight of people living in conflict-torn and impoverished parts of the world."


Category: Web 2.0

Aug

29

Injunction Keeps Pulitzer Prize Columnist Off-line

Posted by Tish Grier

A preliminary injunction issued Friday against Dave Mitchell, former publisher of the Point Reyes (CA) Light, bars the Pulitzer Prize winner from posting a weekly column to the web-based Bodega Bay Navigator. Marin County Superior Court Judge John A. Sutro's indictment also bars Mitchell from assisting the Navigator in its coverage of West Marin County.

The Light's new owner, Robert Plotkin, who purchased the paper from Mitchell five months ago for $500,000, claims that publication of Michell's "Sparsely, Sage & Timely" column violates a non-competition clause in the sale agreement. According to Mitchell's attorney Ladd Bedford, the agreement prevents Mitchell from writing for another Marin County newspaper, but "does not prevent (Mitchell) from maintaining his own Web site as long as the Web site is not set up in competition with the corporation's (the Light's) Web site."

The Navigator website is owned by Joel Hack, who decided to publish online only after it became too costly to continue to publish in print. Hack invited Mitchell to write for the Navigator after a heated dispute between Mitchell and Plotkin resulted in legal action against Mitchell.

Mitchell had no part in the development nor in the ownership of the Navigator.

On the non-competition clause, Peter Scheer, executive director of the San Rafael-based California First Amendment Coalition, believes the non-competition clause would need to be specific on the matter of online news outlets. For the clause to hold up in court, Mitchell would have to specifically and willingly give up his rights to write for the web. "Major ambiguities would be interpreted in favor of the party that wants to continue writing," Scheer said. "Otherwise, it would be hard to enforce such a restriction because of First Amendment concerns."

Category: Law

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