The Future of News

by Jonathan Goodman on August 12, 2013

This is Jonathan Goodman. Welcome to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. It’s great to have you with us. Today’s episode is “The Future of News.” The Google Algorithm forecast from MozCast.com today is a hot 86 degrees, the high for the week; the low for the week occurred this past Sunday at 59 degrees. And now the news….

Social Media

Image representing Jeff Bezos as depicted in C... Image via CrunchBase

Video apps Vine and Instagram now have a little competition in the short film arena. Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, founders of YouTube, are working on an app called MixBit, which allows people to record, edit, and post video clips. While many of Mixbit’s features are similar to Instagram and Vine, one difference is the ability of users to mesh various clips together to create one large video file, which they can then upload to Facebook or Twitter.

In an effort to keep their dominance in the social media world, Facebook has taken to soliciting and recruiting celebrities to their site. With more than 63% of users worldwide, Facebook looks to Twitter to create new schemes and content for its site, including hash tags, trending topics and verified accounts. The new initiative is trying to make Facebook seem like a more public and friendly site.

Your Semantic Minute

Sometime next week Google will unveil a new section on a search results page. The new box will house articles for “in-depth” research. Google is again trying to best understand the metadata you provide for your pages to better present search results to users.

Hacker News

Think twice before plugging into that free iPhone charger at the airport or fast food restaurants. Researchers Billy Lau, Yeogijn Jang and Chengyu Song say they’ve built a custom iPhone wall charger that can install malware using any iOS device. They call the device the Mactans, named after the Latin name for Black Widow Spider. The Mactans can be controlled with a Raspberry-Pi device called the BeagleBoard. If you’re not familiar with the Raspberry-Pi, it’s a credit card sized board computer that anyone with minimum soldering experience can put together.

A group of students from Auburn University in Alabama are working with software company Intelligent Software Solutions (ISS) to gather intelligence for the U.S. government. The Auburn students hone real-world data analytics skills by gathering military intelligence for the U.S. government. Open source intelligence applies analysis to any kind of publicly available information, including Web sites, tweets and blogs, to help answer specific questions. So if it wasn’t bad enough to have thousands of low-level NSA analysts rummaging through our private data, now we have stoned college kids going through it as well. Wake up America!

App Highlight

This week’s App Highlight is going to focus on two applications created by the WhisperSystems company. Their website is WhisperSystems.org.  First is RedPhone, an app that encrypts calls for Android. It functions just like you would normally, but it has the ability to upgrade on a call-by-call basis to a secure and encrypted line. Unfortunately, the other user must also have the app installed on their Android in order to make an end-to-end connection. The software is free and open source, allowing you to audit the code, and the app uses WiFi and Data instead of your phone’s voice minutes.

The other app from this same company is TextSecure, which encrypts your text messages. Again, both sender and receiver must be using the software, but the messages are encrypted locally so if the phone is lost, your messages are safe.

The Main Event

For the Main Event this week we’re going to talk about Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post. John Cassidy wrote an interesting article in the New Yorker entitled “Jeff Bozos and the Washington Post: A Skeptical View.” He believes there are two possible motives Jeff Bezos has for recently buying the Washington Post. First, he wants the Post to return to a successful and profitable business, or second, he purchased the Post for political reasons. Cassidy feels Bezos is highly unlikely to try and push a certain agenda through the paper because of his connections with Amazon and any risk that a political stance could harm both his image and his company’s image.

Walter Issacson wrote an article in The Huffington Post entitled “Jeff Bezo’s purchase of the Washington Post gives me great hope for the journalism business, and not just because he’s a brilliant and visionary technologist.” Issacson states that Bozos is a good strategist and he doesn’t do things on a whim, well except for his over enthusiasm for the Segway. But we need to look at what’s happening throughout the industry to understand the big picture.

Online newspaper Newsweek has been purchased by International Business Times, a company founded in 2006. The purchase will allow Newsweek to un-merge with the Daily Beast, which assumes all things Newsweek under their own domain as of 2010. International Business Times will restart Newsweek.com domain, but it is currently unclear what specific direction the website will take.

Rumors of a potential sale of the Los Angeles Times, part of the Tribune Company, appear to be put on hold after the company sectioned off its publishing business as a separate entity. The company, which emerged from bankruptcy in December, wants to focus on digital advertising sites and the television stations it owns. Time Warner and News Corp took a similar route earlier in the year. Should Tribune choose to sell the Times, potential buyers could include News Corp, billionaires Stephen and David Koch, or a group of investors from Southern California. Warren Buffet is not seen as a potential buyer.

Let’s talk about what this really means. I believe it is a political move. Jeff Bezos himself has a very liberal stance, and the Washington Post doesn’t necessarily have that same stance.  I think what we’re seeing is that large billionaires are going to start buying media companies for political reasons. They already advance political agendas with lobbying groups, but those are groups and these would be individuals. You can’t tell me it’s going to be easy for columnists to continue having strong conservative views on a newspaper owned by someone with extremely liberal views. That’s going to be the start of this kind of monopoly that we’re going to see, almost a card game, right?

I think Jeff Bezos is just the first one getting into this. I think there are other billionaires sitting out there, like the Koch brothers, who may get into this. Rupert Murdoch and his empire have already built up the very strong conservative end of things. So now we’re going to see a liberal push. The problem here is that what is legitimate news is seen through the prism of the organization itself. Fox News is to blame for this 100%, so if they’re going to cry foul, they’ve been doing this for 20 years and nobody has really caught up to them. But the Washington Post will become a microphone for Bezos and his agenda.

It will be interesting to see if he gains a readership. Also is he going to implement technology like the New York Times has implemented or the Huffington Post has implemented? Could he go as far as the Huffington Post and essentially integrate RSS feeds and call that news? And would he be pulling from areas opposite of what the Huffington Post pulls from? Although the Huffington Post itself is a very liberal biased newspaper – not really a newspaper, but an aggregation site that simply pulls in news depending on a certain benchmark of visitors or views – but they have people writing articles like Walter Isaacson. However, that’s few and far between and off to the left-hand side of the Huffington Post that most people don’t read.

At least I don’t read them. I think I’ve commented that some of the stuff is rather boring and not to my liking. I like quick, easy reads. And Arianna Huffington is brilliant in that way. She knows that people don’t have that much time to read a whole analysis. They want the facts and they want them quickly. When I bring up the Huffington Post – which isn’t every day, although I’m sure some people do it every day – I scroll down the homepage to see if any of those articles are of interest to me. Of course, those articles are being pulling in from everywhere out on the Web. They’re not being created by Huffington Post. Some are videos because now they have an on-air Huffington Post.

Let’s say that I go there in a day and select five articles. I can tell you that three of those articles are the question that was asked in the header on the homepage. That question is solved either in the new title on the originating page or within the first paragraph. Fine, I’ve got my information. I’m moving on. I don’t need to sit there and read the article. I don’t have the time or the patience. So now I’m down to seven articles. Three more of those articles are probably videos, which I’m going to watch or not watch depending on whether they have an ad or whether they’re something that I’m truly interested in. When it gets down to it, on a daily basis I would say that I don’t read any Huffington Post articles to completion, I’m much more likely to stay on the page if there’s a video or if the question is answered in the first paragraph and I don’t need to go on reading because I’ve got my information. So I move on.

That mixed with a political agenda coming from Bezos could be the way that he solves the Washington Post. The disappointing factor is of course that there is no in-depth journalism anymore, which the Huffington Post has moved to and I think the Washington Post needs to get on board with. We’ve now moved on to the fact that there is no in-depth journalism. It is just simply tell me what I need to know and that’s enough. When you think back to Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair, these were stories requiring significant research by journalists. There were people who had to be interviewed and facts that had to be verified. That doesn’t happen anymore. Nobody needs to verify a fact because everybody can apologize at the end of the day, and no one even necessarily listens to the apology.

And not to bash Fox News, but their idea of news is to simply put the idea out there and then maybe follow-up with some real numbers and some real information. They tend not to do that too often. They typically just put the idea out there. They’re working on keyword phrases just to perk up their audience. Their audience is 65 and older, statistics will show. They’re trying to sell advertising. That’s what all these newspapers, websites and TV shows like Fox News are trying to do. They’re trying to sell advertising.

I think there is a place for in-depth journalism and I think there is a place for war photography. Unfortunately, we lose people because of these reports. And sometimes the reports, as we saw with Syria for a while, actually wind up being better when they’re being taken by people who live there and are dying there. Some of the best Syrian footage of the war was taken by Syrians on their phone and then uploaded or smuggled out of Syria.

I think it was interesting that the amount paid by Bezos was $250 million, which when you look at the world today is almost equivalent to saying $10 million. It’s just a pitifully low amount of money when you’re talking about a newspaper that has such value to the community and to the world around it, so $250 million was a steal. How do you even pass that up? If I was a billionaire, it would be a no-brainer. If you’re telling me that I can have a voice in the way that the news is perceived, I would buy it in two seconds. Now what I would have to do is scale down operations completely. In fact, I might even say there’s not going to be print anymore starting a month from now and just go to a purely online publication.

Because the numbers probably show that the preponderance of the people reading the Washington Post are willing to read it online if they aren’t already reading it on their iPad, iPhone or Android device. As opposed to the Washington Post not being there, they would rather it be there and take the extra step to log onto their iPad or download the app. There’s just a lot more interactivity with online. The old mindset of news delivered on paper has to go away. You sell those printing presses off, retire those people and shrink the staff down to a manageable size.

You don’t have one person covering Massachusetts and another person covering the northern part of Texas. Instead, you have a core group of journalists that are focused on issues and they have to be moved throughout, but everything is so interconnected now that they’re going to be able to get the data and the information they need to report the story between Skype and the phone. So I think Bezos is making the right decision in purchasing the Washington Post. What I’m curious about is what’s next? What newspaper is next and what other billionaire is going to step up?

What would happen if Facebook bought the New York Times? All a sudden, you’re integrating real significant news, and maybe that’s what Bezos is afraid of. Because now you have a news-oriented arm of a social network and you’re able to say this is the news and populate it into people’s Facebook streams. Considering the number of people who are on Facebook, Amazon can’t really do that. They can’t push the content to you on your Amazon profile because Amazon is a retail store, whereas Facebook is a social media site. In fact, one of the smartest things would be for Twitter to buy the L.A. Times and for Mark Zuckerberg to buy the New York Times. Integrating those into social media as the predominant form of distribution for information would change the industry forever.

Rant of the Week

I’m going to call this rant “Everything I Knew is Gone,” and it is unfortunately a very sad Rant of the Week. In my 20’s, I lived in Manhattan and I was working at a dot.com. I was making a lot of money. I had stock in the dot.com and I partied a lot. I had a great time and it was a great learning experience. It was a great social experience for me. Now I’m 42, so that was all 20 years ago. In my 20’s and early 30’s I left Manhattan. I moved out. I went to Jersey City. Anyone who is in the area knows Jersey City is a 20-minute train or subway ride into Manhattan, so I could certainly go in often.

The sad part of the story is that as I moved out of the city and made a more suburban life for myself, as a lot of people in my age group did because I think that generally does happen, the places that I used to like to go to went away.  They’re not there anymore. I don’t know whether my generation moving out of Manhattan had a significant impact or just the rent and the politics of Manhattan are such that the places I used to go to have disappeared. Tonight I’m going to the last of the bars that I used to hang out in that is closing on Saturday.

I used to go to clubs, I used to go to bars, I used to go to restaurants, but in this 20-year span from my late 20’s to now my mid-40’s, a restaurant that I used to go to all the time closed, one of the clubs that I used to go to closed a couple years later, a store that I used to go to all the time closed, and the bar I’m going to tonight is really the final place that I used to hang out in. It’s closing. That’s the end. So I think that my Rant of the Week isn’t so much a rant as it is a sad goodbye to what I experienced as New York City life.

I’m sure there are 20-year-old’s now who are going to different restaurants, different bars and different clubs, but it’s really a different experience. It’s a different generation, so they probably have different needs. They want to experience a different kind of bar, club or restaurant. But in the end, it’s sad to me that all my usual places have disappeared or are disappearing. Being only 20 minutes outside of New York now, I have been thinking in the past couple of months that I’m going to move further out.

I have clients in New York, but if I ever have a need to physically go and sit down with them, I still can. Most of the time we’re on the phone or on Skype. I have clients in every state with the exception of the Midwest and the very northern part of the country, so there’s no need for me to be right here and so close to New York City. And now with this club closing, I’m really going to be locking away that whole part of my life. So what can you do?

Speaking Gigs

Let’s talk about some of my speaking gigs. I’ll be at Affiliate Summit East, which is quickly coming up on August 18th, 19th and 20th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA. I’ll also be speaking at PubCon Las Vegas on October 21-25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center South Halls.

You can follow me @HalyardConsult on Twitter. New episodes of the World of Internet Marketing can be heard every Friday. You can access the archives of my previous shows on Spreaker.com – user name Jonathan Goodman. The podcast is also available with transcription at halyardconsulting.com and geekcast.fm one week after the episode airs.

Again, this is Jonathan Goodman. Thank you all for listening to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. Don’t forget to pick up my book The World of Internet Marketing on Amazon, and if you like this podcast please share it with your network of friends and family. Have a great week.

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