Monthly Archives: January 2005

Changing of the Guards (photo)

Changing of the Guards

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Morning Arrival (photo)

Cyclist

Cyclist – Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Shoe Shine (photo illustration)

Shoe Shine

Media Roadkill and Blogs

Jack Shafer of Slate thumbs his nose at those predicting the death of traditional media ("Blog Overkill," 1/26/05).

The premature triumphalism of some bloggers indicates that they haven’t
paid attention to how Webified journalists have become. They also
ignore media history. New media technologies almost never replace old
media technologies, they merely force old technologies to adapt and
find new ways to connect with their audiences. Radio killed the
"special edition," but newspapers survived. When television dethroned
radio as the hearthside infobox and cratered the Hollywood box office,
radio became a mobile medium, and Hollywood devoted itself to
spectaculars that the tiny TV set couldn’t adequately display. The
competitive spiral has continued, with cable TV, VCRs and DVDs,
satellite TV and radio broadcasters, and now Internet broadcasters
entering the fray. The only extinct mass medium that I can think of is
the movie house newsreel.

He also takes a dig at the smugness of some bloggers. I come out closer to his view (for instance, here, here, here, and here)  yet, as Woody Allen might have said,  I at least partially "resemble" the following criticism.

The bloggers certainly weren’t going to get much lip from me. I saddled up with the new media posse back in 1996, and much of what I do—write, post, link, read, communicate with readers, devote myself to an arcane subject—resembles what most bloggers do, except that I get paid for it, and I tend to write twice or three times a week at 1,000 words rather than several times daily at a paragraph or three. The biggest difference between me and conventional bloggers is that I usually pause between first thought and posting. Inspired by the slow food movement, I like to think of myself as a slow blogger. Sometimes I’m so slow—as this Wednesday dispatch from a Friday-Saturday conference proves—that I resemble a conventional journalist.

Mea culpa, yet still a well-earned chuckle from this corner.  The column seems to have been sparked by Harvard’s "Blogging, Journalism & Credibility" conference.

Search and the Need for Editors

More commentary on why we are going to continue needing human intercession in the parsing of information.  Peter Norvig, Director of Quality Seach at Google, speaks on the problem of how to ensure proper "tagging" of information.

One challenge is ensuring consistency, even in seemingly minor issues on spelling, style (for instance, how names are written and presented), "correct" transliteration from one alphabet to another and the "proper" handling of abbreviations. Any one trained at the grindstone of a newspaper know how such style, grammar and spelling rules are knocked into heads. Not everything published on the Web goes through that same vetting process.

Somebody’s got to do that kind of canonicalization. So the problem of understanding content hasn’t gone away; it’s just been forced down to smaller pieces between angle brackets. […]

Another, is battling intentional deception on the part of some people tagging the information on the Internet.

The last issue is the spam issue. When you’re in the lab and you’re defining your ontology, everything looks nice and neat. But then you unleash it on the world, and you find out how devious some people are. What this indicates is, one, we’ve got a lot of work to do to deal with
this kind of thing, but also you can’t trust the metadata. You can’t
trust what people are going to say. In general, search engines have
turned away from metadata, and they try to hone in more on what’s
exactly perceivable to the user. For the most part we throw away the
meta tags, unless there’s a good reason to believe them, because they
tend to be more deceptive than they are helpful. And the more there’s a
marketplace in which people can make money off of this deception, the
more it’s going to happen. Humans are very good at detecting this kind
of spam, and machines aren’t necessarily that good. So if more of the
information flows between machines, this is something you’re going to
have to look out for more and more.

Hong Kong Trams (photo)

Hong Kong Trams

Growing Blog Readership

Dave Pollard estimates the readership that each tier of today’s bloggers is receiving.

If you’re an average A-list blogger (those getting at least 15,000 hits
per day), your 150,000 40-second visitors in aggregate are spending
1700 hours per day reading and commenting on your blog. The average
B-list blogger (those getting at least 1,000 hits per day) is getting 62
hours per day of 90-second-per-visit aggregate reader attention, the
average C-list (150-1,000 hits-per-day) blogger 13 hours per day of
aggregate reader attention, and the average up-and-coming (50-150
hits-per-day) blogger 2.5 hours per day. These are not staggering
numbers, but certainly an encouraging return on time invested in
writing.

(Check out the charts on his blog.) He then compares those numbers against the readership of traditional newspaper columnists…

Compare this to a daily local paper. According to Encarta,
in 2000 the 1500 US dailies printed an aggregate 50 million copies per
day with an average readership of 2 people per copy. A Readership
Institute
survey suggests the
average reader spends 15 minutes per day reading the paper. Assuming
half of that is spent reading classifieds, ads, comics etc., that means
the average US daily paper gets 8300 hours per day of aggregate reader
attention. Assuming an average of 50 articles, editorials and columns
per edition, that works out to 170 hours’ reader attention per article.

…Dave then optimistically concludes…

What this means is that if blog readership continues to soar (doubling
every 18 months) and newspaper readership continues to stagnate, in
three years the average B-list blogger will be getting significantly more reader
attention than the average unsyndicated US newspaper article or column,
and the average A-list blogger will be getting almost as much reader
attention as the average US daily paper.