Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Virtual reality

Whoa mama. Have you seen this new interactive feature on the New Institute of Contemporary Art? This among the most detailed features I've seen: a jaw-dropping virtual tour, a literal gallery of audio and visual features, a Globe press section and a ridiculously cool opening feature. Work like this takes time, but it is really worth it. As long as both the online and print editions are hanging around each other struggling to play nice, this is exactly the right use of the Internet. I'm glad to see the Globe take some big steps in the right direction and actually show a desire to use its website.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mitt happens

Those of us here in the Bay State have been expecting this for a long, long time. It's been pretty clear for almost his entire final year as governor that Mitt Romney is gunning for the White House in 2008. And we've watched, in shock-and-awe much of the time, as he's won over a surprisingly large portion of the country. But there was always one aspect that was whispered as his biggest hurdle. And the thought was, soon enough the rest of the media would bring this aspect out and bring him down. The point: He's a Mormon.

Time has caught up.

Mike Allen asks the big question: Can a Mormon be President?

Well, he makes it appear that it depends on what Allen describes as the Church of Latter Day Saints' "public relations offensive," which may include somewhat distancing himself from the religious baggage -- a bold move in an era characterized by heavy reliance on the religious right vote. Though they tend to be Southerners and not Mormons. But anyhow, on with the distancing!

Romney advisers are debating whether he will need to give a big speech in the tradition of John F. Kennedy, who told Protestant church leaders in Houston 46 years ago that he was "not the Catholic candidate for President" but instead was "the Democratic Party's candidate for President, who happens also to be Catholic."

I don't think the question is whether a Mormon can be President or whether Romney can distance himself from his religion. The question really is: How much will the media beat the issue of Romney's Mormonism into the ground? And furthermore, will it be enough to effectively ruin his candidacy? For the damage so far, let's go to the tape.

The Globe's been all over it since the get-go. Ditto the Weekly Standard, who brings up the Kennedy issue: "The country could be looking at its first Mormon president--or, as Romney would prefer to put it, a president who happens to be a Mormon." The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg conducted a poll in June and found that 35% of registered voters would not consider voting for a Mormon for President and only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate.

For evidence that the media is circling the issue, ready to rip Romney to shreds, Google the words "Mormon" and "President." Pages and pages arise with the same question asked by our friends in Time, though occasionally worded differently. Can a Mormon be President? Maybe, if he can survive the media storm.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Welcome aboard

So, the CIA wants you... to take it's like totally awesome online quiz! Or, as Wonkette put it, the country's most covert agency is "apparently eager to recruit 16-year-old girls."

Regardless, it's a funny endeavor. There's an exhilarating, loud, face-melting intro that concludes, "We'd like to dispel a few myths about working for the Central Intelligence Agency." Then, there's all sorts of cool, spy-vs.-spy graphics and Bondsian maps. Funny, because the AP reports (via the Washington Times) that "the quiz was designed to encourage job applications while dispelling myths about the agency, some of them born of the James Bond stereotype." The quiz also pokes fun at this image, the AP reports, noting the site reads, "You don't have to know karate or look good in a tuxedo to work at the CIA."

But it looks like matters could be worse. They could go back to the way things were, which means the "Bug Spot."

Officials in charge of hiring realized they needed a new plan. They hired an ad agency, TMP Worldwide. The "Bug Spot" was born. A snooping dragonfly zooms through the ad, showing how scientists at the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology develop Bond-esque devices -- "technology so advanced, it's classified," the ad boasts.

Yikes. So, now they're having fun with us and, umm, maybe reaping the benefits. Either way you slice it, I'm psyched. I feel like I'm already part of the team. What's my first assignment?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A wired up Congress

I'm pretty excited about the shift in Congress. I stayed up late to watch results roll in, I crunched numbers to see if the Democrats could pull off a sweep. And now, like many voters in this country, I wait with a new sense of hope. Cheesy, yes. True, as well. But, according to Business 2.0 Magazine's Chris Taylor, technology types may have a reason to perk up as well.

The 110th Congress could be the most technology-friendly in history.

Here's why: Yes, Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive new Speaker of the House, hails from one of the most liberal parts of the country, San Francisco. But she also represents a city that's near the heart of America's tech sector.

He explains that Pelosi's history and ties with Silicon Valley may be a big bonus in fights over net neutrality and Wi-Fi. But it's not just our new Speaker-to-be.

Nancy Pelosi is a staunch supporter of net neutrality, as is Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who called the telecom's plan "private taxation of the Internet." Dingell will chair the telecom committee in the house, and told reporters on Wednesday that "we're going to have to address the question of network neutrality."

In fairness, Taylor notes that "Democrats aren't always pro-technology," afterall, "How can they be, when most Hollywood campaign contributions wind up in Democratic coffers?" Either way, it's shaping up to be an interesting few years.

I count this as only good news, since we need to keep up in the rapid-fire progression of the digital world. As long as they address the real world's concerns, too, these folks should do fine.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Same old song and dance

My mother used to tell me that in order to be successful in the entertainment industry, you had to have the total package: show tunes, tap dance, acting, a little bit of everything. Well, someone should have told folks flocking to high-powered Internet jobs that they should know a bit of everything, too.

Poor News Corps and Time Warner execs. Both replaced by those savvy in television, which shows, as the Financial Times' Richard Waters and Raphael Minder put it, "the growing importance of video programming to the major internet portals."

Didn't they know the Internet calls for the total package?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lesson from the not-so-distant past

It wasn't a story broken by YouTube, but it was via the net. Thanks to some poorly-chosen words and thoughts and the spreading of those words and thoughts by, the man forever known as Kramer can effectively kiss his reputation goodbye. Didn't he learn anything from the decline of George Allen?

Partial side note: Michael Richards is the No. 1 search on Technorati. Word spreads quick on this new-fangled Internet, eh?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Drowning with the ship

Listen, newspapers, I know you like the way things used to be. I'm only 21, and even I lust for the days of a smoke-filled newsroom where bulldogs roamed, where reporters tapped out stories on typewriters, and where the big bosses puffed cigars lit by flaming $100 bills pulled from the piles of money forklifted in from advertising profits. Yeah, I need to snap out of it. BUT SO DO YOU!

There's almost no better example I've seen than this nice Editor & Publisher piece by Jennifer Saba, where it notes that newspapers are finally giving into exploring new means of gaining ad revenue. It highlights the profits of one particular company, Mediabids, a Winsted, Conn.-baed "online marketplace that serves advertisers and agencies along with newspapers and magazines." Saba notes that the "company takes its cue from online travel sites, with publishers in this case bidding on advertisers' dollars" (NOTE: unlike the piece, I won't be focusing on Mediabids, but rather the newspapers' collective stupidity in waiting for this whole declining circulation and ad rates thing to blow over). OK, newspapers, so you're starting to come around. But I can't figure out why it took so long. But maybe I'm the only one that doesn't understand the hold-up. Read onward:

It's no surprise that it took a while for newspapers to catch on. When the platform first launched in 2002, publishers wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. "A lot of publications felt like we were not a method of selling, that somehow we would detract from their sales efforts," says Gould, who used to run a chain of weeklies in Connecticut. "Our argument is that we are selling ads that your sales reps don't know about yet."

Even our old friend the Globe has attempted, and consequently been burned by, the Mediabids model.

Online auctions for advertising are nothing new. Google got in the game, buying newspaper space and having advertisers bid. The Boston Globe introduced a front-page auction for its Sunday recruitment section BostonWorks in May 2005. However, Mediabids flips the model over, making newspapers stand on the block -- a method Gould says is more productive. ...

Indeed, The Boston Globe has quietly stopped pushing its online auctions due to lack of demand, confirms Jason Kissell, managing director of BostonWorks. "We have stopped emphasizing and promoting it," he says, but it is still available.

This just underlines the fact of how media is changing from top to bottom. But one thing that would really help is if the media outlets responded accordingly, and weren't resistant to change and dreaming of the long-gone past.

It just seems like common sense. If the ship is sinking, don't hold onto the ship -- instead, try to swim.

Not exactly media, but, oh wait, it is

Promoting your music to the masses can take a lot out of a band. Going it alone is tough -- lots of money, time, and effort. There are all sorts of tools out there purporting to help you, including this interesting little idea: stream your live shows. It's been done by the big guys, sure, but why not the little ones? Well, I'm looking at it right now and trying to figure out if: a) people would use it, b) how much it would cost, and c) am I smart enough to master the tools they provide.

While I'm promoting music services, here's just another little interesting one. If you've ever wanted instrument lessons but didn't have the time, now you can take them over the Internet. Ay yi yi. WorkshopLive takes you through the impersonal world of online tutorials.

Both are great ideas and will probably help a lot of people. But I can't help thinking -- if we watch live shows strictly online rather than supporting locals and if we take online tutorials, and if the Internet is constantly creating more jobs, could we live our entire lives without ever interacting with someone else face-to-face?