Enjoy(ed) It

It’s hard to believe the semester has ended and with a few exams I’ll be on to my senior year. But this semester has been one for the books. I’m not sure if I can accurately depict everything I gained from taking Prof. Robinson’s Current Issues of Mass Communication class. But I’ll try to do my best.

We started the semester off with 4 main points:

  1. Human communication has changed through the ages and will continue to do so going forward.
  2. Sci-fi writers are better at predicting the future than experts because leaders in the industry or business are primarily focused on protecting. (I took this point to heart leading up to my final project my watching some clips from the Jetsons).
  3. Every generation grows up with a different form of media on the rise.
  4. Young people always play key roles in inventing new media.

We then talked about current issues that ranged from sexism in media to network neutrality to the decline of print journalism.

And we finished out the year looking ahead at what’s to come. A challenge because, well, we’re talking about the future. It’s easier to analyze what’s currently happening in media or past trends and events that brought us to this point in time. But to deeply and critically think about what media and journalism will look like in 10 years — that’s an entirely different ballpark.

As to point number 4 from the list above, Prof. Robinson firmly believes that our generation is the vehicle of change for mass media. I believe that’s why he challenged us to think deeply about the future. He’s provided us with a chance to be on the forefront of the curve. I’ve taken classes where I’ve had to analyze and think about Plato and Aristotle or work my way through a complex piece of legislation. But never before have I been forced to critically think about the future of a particular entity over a course of four months. I have to say that it has changed the way I think and process new information for the better.

Prof. Robinson set up the class as a means for us to engage in lots of self-teaching, doing so by giving us a diving board to leap from into particular areas of mass media. This blog, while challenging to maintain at times, has become a place for me to both conceptualize my thoughts and improve my writing.

As a fellow strong believer in networks, Prof. Robinson demonstrated the benefits of growing and interacting with your network multiple times throughout the semester. He even used his network to publicize our work, which led to my debut on a major journalism outlet in a Josh Benton piece for Nieman Lab — a personal highlight of my semester.

But as the semester comes to a close, I’m finally ready to attach my name to some predictions regarding the future of mass media and communication.

Here are a few of my takeaway points from the semester:

– Newspapers may die, but journalism never will.

– Social media will become a mass media in itself and become further incorporated into the internet.

– Speaking of the internet, the Internet of Things is coming and it’s going to be pretty cool (more on that in my video).

– I now agree with Prof. Robinson that Google and Facebook are taking over the globe. Both companies are looking to hook the whole planet up with internet and in doing so will gain even more power. However, while I reference Facebook taking over journalism in my video, it’s not something that I’m condoning or want to happen. I just think there’s a strong chance more of our news will be housed there. 

– Periscope is only the beginning for the cross between live streaming video and citizen journalism. In the future, we’ll be able to combine all of the eyewitness streams into one video feed for a real-time experience of what’s going on. 

– Storytelling wins every time. Tell a good story and you can find a good audience. 

Last but not least, thanks for one hell of a good semester, Prof. Robinson. I’m proud to call myself one of your students and also one of your friends.

Cheers,

Clay Sutton

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Your Move, PGA

I always enjoy catching Masters Sunday. I’m not a major golf fan by any means, but there’s something special about witnessing what takes place at Augusta National. This year was no different as 21 year old Jordan Spieth finished the tournament at 18 under par in route to taking home his first green jacket.

Golf, like baseball, is a slow sport to watch. Lots of build up for little action. For baseball, on-screen animations have helped to improve the viewing experience.

As I was sitting there watching Spieth hold his lead through the last 13 holes, I thought about ways to make watching golf more entertaining.

There is so much strategy and knowledge that goes into reading the greens and trying to calculate what will happen to the ball if it is hit a certain way. Even with high definition, it’s impossible to see exactly how the greens are cut from my couch.

Modeling the virtual strike zone employed during baseball broadcasts, I think there should be even more animations for golf broadcasts that walk the viewer through the most ideal place to hit a ball and the best potential landing spot on a green. If a player hits a ball off course, there should be an animation to show where the point of contact was on the ball and a graphic showing the course of the ball from first contact to where it lands.

Golf received a major win today by Spieth taking home the green jacket — a new superstar to replace the fading names of Mickelson and Woods. The announcers even noted during the broadcast that this year had more young people than they had ever seen before.

Now, the PGA needs to ride this wave of popularity by adding elements to the broadcast that will have casual fans like myself tuning in for more than just the Masters.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Like Lauren, I was inspired by our class discussion to do some further research on cutting the chord. She explains:

Sling TV is a service offered for $20 a month with no contract and the ability to watch on various online devices. It was newly released in early 2015 but isn’t the first of its kind. Many entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the downfall of cable to introduce something even better – selective channels for a much lower price.

Personalization is a growing trend within media. Netflix, YouTube and even Facebook all employ strategic algorithms in an effort to keep users on their site for longer periods of time. It makes sense for cable TV to fall in line with the personalization train by allowing users to select the few channels they watch the most for a reduced cost.

It’s not like we watch all of our hundreds of channels either.

If you have cable TV, you probably don’t watch most of the channels you get. The average American television household receives 189 channels, up from 123 in 2003. But we’re watching only 17.5 of those channels — nearly unchanged from 11 years ago, according to a new report from Nielsen.

-The New York Times

However, the idea of unbundling cable is potentially one that looks better on paper than it actually is. Both Time and The New York Times have published pieces explaining the potential damages that could come from such moves.

Back in 2010, New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki wrote that if the bundle disappeared, the cost per customer for each channel would soar, “perhaps on a customer-by-customer basis.” The likely result would be that loads of channels would go out of business, and that the average customer would pay roughly the same amountmonthly he was paying for the big bundle, only with far fewer channels.

-Time

But now consider what would actually happen to prices. The cost of maintaining the wires to your house and keeping the lights on at the cable company wouldn’t go down, even as you order fewer channels. After all, it costs just as much for the cable company to deliver four channels as it does 189. There is good reason to expect your cable company to raise your basic service charge to cover those expenses, offsetting part of your per-channel savings.

-The New York Times

The best analogy I’ve seen compares the unbundling of cable to the airline industry and its unbundling of flight service packaging. My experiences with that have been on both sides of the spectrum. Flying Southwest is usually a good time. Spirit Airlines, not so much. But you’re paying for what you get.

With as much frustration as people go through with Time Warner Cable, Dish and DirecTV, maybe we should take a breath and realize our TV lives are pretty good. I’m all about innovation and disruption, but there’s a reason for the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Not So Fast, Tidal

Recently, Tidal has been the hot topic in the music streaming world.

My classmates Laura, Liz, Morgan, Brooke and Alexandra all wrote about Jay Z’s new music option. I highly encourage you to check out their posts.

However, I’m staying loyal to Spotify — at least until more artists besides Taylor Swift pull their music from the platform. And I have more reason to believe that Spotify will prevail going forward.

Business Insider announced today that Spotify is close to securing a $400 million round of funding from the likes of Goldman Sachs and others.

The new valuation would be double that of rival streaming service Pandora, which has a market capitalization of around $3.5 billion.

It was reported earlier in the year that Spotify was seeking $500 million in funding, in part to hold of from going public for at least another year.

With $400 million on the horizon for Spotify, I’m very interested to see what this money will be used for. In order to keep up with the social prerogative of Tidal, some of that money should be directed back towards the artists. But in regards to media companies working to stay ahead of the curve, raising $400 million is a good look.

Back To The Basics

Here’s an issue within mass communication: media training for our student athletes. I’m sure they go through some lectures and have sit-downs with coaches. But to the outside world, all of the attention seems to be focused on how student-athletes handle themselves on social media rather than interacting with reporters and traditional media.

I did a quick Google search of “media training for NCAA athletes” and the first result was from a 2006 ESPN article. The rest of my article options on the first page regarded social media training for college athletes. I personally know that there is a large focus on social media for my student athlete friends here at UNC. For example, the men’s basketball team has an individual who monitors the player’s tweets around the clock.

But in light of two specific instances during this NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, maybe it’s time to readjust the focus a tad.

Last night, the racial slur uttered after his first and final loss of the season by Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison (Video contains NSFW language). Ironically enough, Harrison responded to the incident via Twitter.

And earlier in the tournament, a hot mic caught Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes saying “gosh she’s beautiful” to a teammate during a press conference.

Obviously the two examples are very different in weight. And as someone who does not play varsity sports at the collegiate level, it’s not entirely fair for me to speculate on the traditional media training these athletes go through. But after two incidents where players were caught off guard by a hot mic, it may be time to stop deeming social media the evil medium.

Periscope & Business

Periscope and Meerkat have recently taken the tech-social world by storm. These apps provide users the ability to live stream from their camera phones to followers anywhere in the world.

Meerkat was the first app of this kind to gain popular notoriety, gaining loads of press surrounding the SXSW music festival in Austin, TX. But in no time at all, Twitter restricted Meerkat’s access and launched its own live-streaming service, Periscope. Periscope looks like the real deal. It has backing from Twitter and has seemed to capitalize where Meerkat has not.

We debated last week in class what purpose or void these new apps fill. I think that beyond the obvious uses for the app in events such as Ferguson, Tahrir Square and 9/11, there is use for it in the everyday spectrum.

Celebrities have been using UStream for years — a computer service very similar to Periscope — to launch products, make announcements or answer questions from fans. In an increasingly mobile friendly world, I think business should take advantage of Periscope.

AOL already has. Their CEO, Tim Armstrong, just held a company wide meeting via the live-streaming service.

On more of a branding side, it would be cool for companies to host office tours via Periscope. Or maybe video stream a product launch or company conference like Facebook’s F8. There are lots of options here. I see this app filling a void somewhere between Vine and Snapchat.

It’s April Fools Day… Gotcha!

I’m not the biggest fan of April Fools Day. It’s a day where brands and companies try way too hard to prank consumers. And let’s be honest — it’s rarely funny.

Some of this year’s worst examples include:

Selfie Shoes

Virgin 

Utah Jazz 

However, there’s a difference between harmless and lame April Fools pranks completed by companies and those done by news organizations. It’s frustrating for me as the reader to decipher which headlines and real and which ones are fake. In a week like this one where I haven’t had time to read the news as much as I like to, it’s annoying to glance at a paper’s headlines and not be able to tell what particular stories are worth believing.

For instance, University of Virginia’s The Cavalier Daily published an article on the front page about ABC agents targeting Native American Students as an April Fools joke. This comes right after the actual incident between alcohol officers and UVA student Martese Johnson. Without knowing it’s an April Fools Joke, I’d be inclined to believe it.

Here at UNC, The Daily Tar Heel ran a story on the front page titled “UNC.porn.” The story says that UNC is buying two porn domains in order to protect its brand. The article even has quotes from a professor in the Journalism school who teachers a “Branding of Me” course. But because the article was published on April Fools Day, there’s not a strong reason to believe its true.

So the April Fools thing goes both ways: In the UVA example, the newspaper published a too-real fake story under the impression it would be taken as a joke. I’m still trying to figure out if the DTH article is real or not. It sounds wacky. But it’s just believable enough to buy that it’s happening.

And thus my dislike for the first day of April.