Economics of Abundance

Here’s what most public media outlets still don’t get — especially in the corner offices. If you get this economic concept, you’ll understand why creating media and throwing it out there isn’t enough.

There are two scarcities that public service media firms can utilize immediately, and probably more that haven’t yet quickly come to mind:

  1. unparalleled-quality news / information / data / analysis, especially when coupled with excellent curation
  2. leadership and convening of tribes by geography and public service interest

News, even top-quality news, is not enough. Because once it’s released into the digital world, the price falls to zero or near zero, so you can’t monetize it directly. You can ask for donations to support your public service (sound familiar?), but the appeal to altruism — while it works to a degree — doesn’t achieve full financial support. (Look at the balance sheets of public media companies across the country; they don’t live by altruistic donations alone).

But just as the musician makes money from t-shirts and live events and other opportunities to “experience” the music beyond simple recordings, so too can public service media gather money via events and participation in limited-access tribes or communities of interest. Plus, the simple creation of those events and communities is a new service for most pubmedia outlets. The communities can be created online and the tribes can be led and organized offline.

I know — some of these terms may be confusing if you haven’t read Seth Godin or Jono Bacon. But that’s where public media has to go. Broadcasting is not enough. Publishing online is not enough. The public needs more, wants more and will part with money to get it.

Patent lawsuits = innovation tax

I love Mike Masnick.

Basically, if you build anything even remotely innovative these days, you’re going to get sued for patent infringement, probably multiple times. It’s become a massive tax on innovation, rather than a lever for innovation.

from: Nokia Getting Killed In The Smartphone Market… So Of Course It Sues For Patent Infringement

Do old media journalists really want to go digital sooner?

lifebeyondprintThanks to @kegill for pointing out a new report from Northwestern University on how print journalists are feeling about the transition to digital. It suggests there’s plenty of people in the old media wishing their owners / managers would move to digital models faster.

I worked with some journalists in public radio for several years. And public media managers. And while there was plenty of lip service given to new media, the truth was no one wanted to change their methods or outputs and would, when pressed, criticize new journalism work as merely partisan blogging by people with no sense of professional journalistic ethics or objectivity. Sadly, the non-movement to digital models was happening while mass media everywhere was missing story after story while the Bush administration and Fox News led them astray.

What’s been your experience? Are most broadcast and print journalists you know troubled by slow adoption of new media reporting? Or is the resistance still overwhelming?

You can download the 4MB PDF report here.

Mobile Internet is the new PC revolution

Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker presented a major collection of charts and notes about the economy and developments on the web at the Web 2.0 Summit this week. There are some mind-blowing numbers and observations about the “mobile Internet” in these charts.

MS Economy Internet Trends 102009 FINAL

I remember when PCs arrived on the scene, when corporations started adopting those tools to empower individuals and small departments to get work done without having to wait for the slow-moving “Data Processing” departments. DP professionals hated these uncontrolled devices as they proliferated everywhere. The same thing happened when the Palm Pilot and other early PDAs arrived. Today, the PC and even corporate-owned mobile devices have largely been brought under control in larger companies (and it’s killing their transformational utility, by the way).

But the arrival of the mobile web into the pockets of millions of people worldwide is changing things in ways we don’t yet see. Check out the slides. Look at the astronomical growth rates of data consumption on the iPhone platform. The mobile web is how we must serve the public interest going forward. We don’t have to forget the standard PC and browser, but we have to meet the mobile needs of users in lots of new ways.

Check out the slides and consider the (near) future.

NOTE: Found via Google Reader’s new “Popular Items” feature.

Podcasting tools guide

Dan Benjamin has updated his Podcasting Equipment Guide for 2009 and it’s a must-read for anyone wishing to do audio production work from home or office, without having to setup a complex studio.

This post, combined with the tools section at Transom, can get anyone recording with good quality for distribution online or even on air.

PublicMediaCamp thoughts and project coming


I’m currently in Washington, DC, about to board a flight home to Anchorage. I’m still thinking about the weekend’s activities at PublicMediaCamp. I have session notes to post to the wiki, I need to edit up and post the video I shot and I need to get rolling on the project I agreed to start. Sheesh!

But for now I have 14 hours of flying, a short night, and then back to my day job. In the mean time, thanks to @corbett3000, @acarvin, @jdcoffman and everyone else that supported and attended the event.

Should public media make Education its mission?

UPDATE: I added some comments about what “education” means to me at the bottom of the post.

O'Reilly RadarAn interesting new article was posted last week that caught my eye (thanks to @kevintraver):

A More Public Role for Public Broadcasting: Education
by Dale Dougherty / O’Reilly Radar

The gist of the article seems to be that public media — though Dougherty focuses almost solely on public TV — should use it’s ample broadcasting bandwidth to focus on educational content, from traditional kids programming up through lifelong learning and civics topics. Using TV is considered better than using the web for accessibility reasons (which broadly makes sense given the cost of broadband in this country).

While I like the idea in broad strokes, I think Dougherty is missing a lot of insider knowledge of the industry as it exists today and how it’s funded. So I submitted a comment to the site that goes like this:

This is a nice idea that will never happen. At least not without a huge change in direction for public media and government (i.e. voters).

Whether or not education / lifelong learning was in the 1967 PBA is now irrelevant. Public media institutions have drifted far from education over the years and aren’t coming back. Why? Because education doesn’t make enough money to be self-sustaining. Which is why taxes pay for schools and students pay for college.

With all due respect to Mr. Lippincott and other former colleagues in public TV, let’s get real. PBS’s best work is done in children’s programming and it’s marginally educational. The only way it’s strongly educational is with deep parental involvement (rare) or direct classroom tie-ins in schools (limited for political and time management reasons).

To make the Education mission a reality in public media, taxpayers would have to agree to foot the bill of perhaps $1-2 billion annually. That would be cheap for what we could get, but not likely. Further, it’s becoming very clear that education via online video and other means is exploding and to do this work via TV is anachronistic if not downright wasteful.

The short-run plan for PBS: keep doing what it’s doing until it collapses financially (by 2015, I’m betting). Once that happens, the children’s programming will remain in a reformatted PBS, the news content will go to a reformatted NPR, and WGBH will gobble up the rest and become a national superstation.

If, on the other hand, you consider quality news a form of education (which, in truth, it is), then you’re talking about NPR for the most part, and they’re the shining hope for public media.

I’m big on having a bold mission, articulating it and making meaningful community impacts. But my take is that well-done news that intelligently informs the electorate in times of turmoil (say, the next 25 years) is more supportable and more meaningful than trying to take on the education monster, in which everyone has opinions of what should be done but no one is really in charge and everyone is underfunded.

UPDATE 14 Oct 2009 2:30am EDT

After a Twitter exchange with @MarkRyanWFWA (follow him!) I realized that I may be defining “education” more narrowly than others would like.

For me, education is a fairly systematized approach to providing information and then following up to ensure the information was understood and can be practically applied. So when I say public media should not adopt education as its primary mission, I mean it. I just mean it in my own way.

Of course, “public media” can even be debated as to its meaning. In it’s largest sense it means creating / curating / sharing media in service of a public good. That’s great, but I do think for practical reasons we have to sharpen our missions much more than that. To me, that means news and information aimed at already-educated (to some degree) people to allow them to live their lives more successfully and make decisions as citizens that have positive impacts.

Education is definitely a public good. I just don’t think public broadcasting, as it moves to public media, should focus exclusively on that mission.

Complete 'Chaos Scenario' speech from Bob Garfield

God bless Bob Garfield. Though he can sometimes be too clever by half in hosting NPR’s On the Media, his new in-your-face book and speaking tour, The Chaos Scenario, hits a home run.

And he’s done a wildly smart thing by sharing his premise in a semi-lengthy but very listenable speech, billed as perfect for marketing, PR and media folks who are already inside a disruption wave.

Excellent listening and good viewing.

The Chaos Scenario from Greg Stielstra on Vimeo.

Counting on Clay Shirky

If Clay Shirky is right about Here Comes Everybody, then this social media counter is simply the latest proof.

Two astonishing things:

  1. Texting (SMS) is far more popular than searching Google (communication beats search)
  2. This is only the beginning — let’s see these counters in another 5 or 10 years

The conclusion? Mass media is shrinking rapidly at the hands of participatory media. It’s not absolute (one kills the other), but it is a complete reshuffling of the deck.

Are you connecting in your public media practice, or are you broadcasting?

Learning Google Wave

Google Wave is all the rage. Not sure what it’s about? Here are the 2 things you can review to become an expert (without actually getting an account):

Google Wave Intro by Epipheo

A quick-and-dirty explanation of what some of Google Wave can be. Very popular video from the last couple of days on the social networks.

Google Wave Intro from Google – May 2009

A very long introduction, but it’s very complete and fully geeky for those that are interested.