For the Week of October 21, 2002
We may not be in an economic Depression (although I would argue that unemployment is undercounted - it doesn't include freelancers and contractors who can't find work). But our world is certainly in a psychological depression.
Since 9/11 our government has systematically terrorized us and the media has gleefully joined in. When there isn't real terror we make it up. Child abductions, traffic accidents, spree killers - there's no longer any difference between the old tabloids and, say, MSNBC. Except, perhaps, for Jerry Nachman tut-tutting like a Buddha over it. (Oh, if Bill Gates were still alive. You mean he is? This should kill him.)
While the "leading" U.S. news network spouts propaganda all day (Big Brother is always good on Fox, and 2+2=5) the original news-leader, CNN, pulls in its horns with celebrity news readers who have no content (because all the reporters were let go to hire the celebrities). So since this started as an Internet business rant (back when there was an Internet industry) let's talk about that grand Internet-age creation, AOL Time Warner.
I will argue that Steve Case didn't kill AOL Time Warner, he just looted it. Walter Isaacson killed the company, making its news the lapdog of the powerful, and destroying its credibility.
Ted Turner built CNN on a "Southwest Airlines" model. He paid less, but hired more journalists. He had bureaus everywhere, built on the cheap, and anonymous anchors. The money went into producers, and investigations, and it was money well-spent because when big news happened, viewers worldwide knew where to turn and who to trust.
Walter Isaacson of Time Inc. has systematically destroyed that CNN. Instead he has imitated the worst of his cable and network competitors. If I ran it (or Ted could buy it back) the plan would be simple. All that "talent" - from Paula in the morning to Connie at night? Out the door. All those fancy studios, all that expensive office space? On the market.
Pull back to cheap space for editors in Atlanta, and hire a host of young journalists in two-person teams who will scour the country, gathering records, conducting interviews, and doing real journalism. For one Connie Chung, at $2 million/year I can put 10 such teams on the street - how many more can I get for Larry, Paula, and the rest? (Aaron Brown can have a truck of his own.) The office is a bullpen, communicating with the field, compiling the results (either footage, finished pieces (Moore's Law makes digital editing cheap) or schedules for live cut-ins (ditto for satellite connections)) and keeping the station filled with news. Real news, exclusive news, news dug-up by real reporters, 24-7, not the kind that bleeds or sits on its butt in a studio.
Isaacson's magazines are, if anything, worse than CNN. "Time" itself has taken to casual sadism. Last week they followed a report on laid-off managers with an advertising-driven feature on the "new American home," the McMansion with its restaurant-quality kitchen, TV studio set living rooms and designer car-filled garages. But what really stuck in my craw was this piece of garbage from Fortune - all about how "Gen X" has no hope because they got laid-off from their dot-com dreams, and they'll never get back on the ladder to success, never have the money mommy and daddy had.
This is what happens when you let a corrupt business class buy an election and monopolize the media. If this were done to us by Saddam Hussein we'd have something to go to war against. But it was done by us. A democracy under capitalism with liberty for all is no good to anyone if you don't use those tools. If you become cynical, decide "they're all crooks" and don't go after them, not only do they get away with it but you're the one to blame.
I expect crooks to be crooks. But I don't expect a free people to roll over, give up, and toss away its prosperity, its liberty, and a 200-year tradition out of laziness and cynicism.
Time for a quote, this time from Paddy Chayefsky, a man who knew the responsibility freedom renders to speak out. "Things have got to change my friends. You've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis."
But instead of opening the window on your house, instead of shouting your hopelessness to an uncaring night, open your browser window. Get in your chair, open your browser window, stick your head into the Internet and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Then, ignore your TV, ignore the monopoly media of AOL Time Warner. Find like-minded people online - they're there. Become empowered, get organized, join a demonstration (even if it's just a product demonstration) and get busy. You have your own life, it pumps through you 24-7, and you have the greatest tool in the history of man right here before you, ready to serve you, if you will serve it, and give it the best of yourself.
This is how we beat the corporate crooks and the election thieves and the media monopolists, this is the weapon, this medium you're looking at right now. Use it. "Come writers and critics, who prophesize with your pen. And keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again. And don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin. And there's no telling who that it's namin'. For the loser now may be later to win..."
This medium is like freedom itself. It's useless if it's not used. It must be exercised regularly to be protected, just like your heart, just like our republic. With freedom comes responsibility, and those who lose hope cease to deserve liberty.
Now get back to work.
SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)
I need recommendations, personal recommendations, preferably from "famous" people (you know who you are). Think of the very nicest things you can and send them here. The best will go in "Moore's Lore: The Pace of Progress," available in PDF format at Booklocker . The print version should be available soon, but I heartily recommend the PDF. It has more pictures, it supports links directly (as opposed to through footnotes) and it's less expensive.
Follow the continuing story of Moore's Law on my "Moore's Lore" blog . Drop by and watch it grow. I'm still trying to arrange a "book promotion" tour for February or March in Australia.
My other books include "Boom, Bust & Beyond: The Best of Dana Blankenhorn," , "The Time Mirror," and "Living on the Internet" . I still write for Boardwatch , Boardroom , Marketing Profs Thom Reece's eComProfits and BtoB . I still produce I-Strategy for Adventive
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Takes on the News
Turning Blogs Into Money
Despite all our pissing-and-moaning the trend is clear. People are moving their attention from TV and print to the Internet . This is even true for "big media" - the "New York Times" now gets more readers online than offline .
But how do you turn attention into money? In the blogging business (where a lot of the attention is moving, despite the Times' relative success) money is a dirty word. Glenn Fleishman has made a bit of money at his 802.11b blog but he seems ambivalent about it.
"I'm dealing with very small companies, and I'm fully disclosing the relationship," he wrote. "I'd have to think awfully hard if a larger firm more directly in my coverage asked to sponsor, like T-Mobile, Proxim, or Apple. I'd probably have to decline."
Glenn's heart is in the right place. But no medium is sustainable if it depends just on passion. The proper format can separate ads from editorial. The proper publisher can insulate great writers from the pressure of advertisers. The time has come for an ad-driven publisher to step forward, to represent the best blogs, to protect their creators, and to turn this medium into something people can make a living from.
Day of the Jackals
The terrorists aren't all in the Arab streets, or in the suites, and they don't all use guns, or bombs, or poison.
Many of the worst rise to the top during recessions like this. I equate spammers with terrorists, especially when they hack mailing lists and sell the names to pornographers. I equate spyware hidden inside other, more useful programs as terrorism, and support all efforts to fight it . I especially hate the hijacking of affiliate revenues by thieves as the great Ralph Wilson recently reported .
As in the real world, these cyber-terrorists wish to present us with a false choice between anarchy and tyranny. But the real answer, as in the real world, is a rule of law based on the protection of liberty and the defense of real democracy. What the Internet needs most is not a cyber-Bush, but a cyber-Carter .
Everyone loses with false choices. So long as some men are free, there is another choice available.
The Real Political Web
A CQ story from Adam Graham-Silverman about politics and the Internet was re-published on the Washington Post recently . It angered me and so I wrote him about it.
I told him that the "political Web" doesn't just consist of sites by and for (or against) specific candidates. The story he missed involves amateur Web sites, sites run by advocates, mailing lists, and the use of the medium by all sorts of people (both candidates and others) to energize and mobilize their supporters.
To my surprise, Adam agreed. "I agree that politics includes the culture that surrounds and shapes the world and elections, not just the parties and candidates. In my story, however, I chose to focus just on this year's political campaigns."
The response says a lot, about Adam's success, about my own failures, about how journalism misses stories and about this medium.
By narrowing his charge, answering only what was asked, Adam made his deadline and got his story. The story's facts were true, but its conclusions were faulty, because the right questions weren't asked. But Adam has full deniability on that, having written what he was asked to write.
Media (as opposed to journalism) is a bureaucratic medium, like architecture or movie-making. One difference is that, while buildings or movies are one-offs, the media bureaucracy is permanent. It can (and does) suppress whatever the bosses of the moment decide to ignore.
But this medium is beyond their control, as it's beneath their notice. TV, newspapers, magazines, and radio are all the past, and the monopolies that control them choke off their growth. This medium is the future. It's a revolution. Because as those media were when they were young, this medium proceeds from the bottom-up.
The revolution will not be televised. You'll only find it online.
Clued-in is Googlefight , where you can compare the number of hits on any two keywords (don't forget the commas for proper results). Oh, and I got 13,600 hits, with the quote marks.
Clueless is Symantec , which either doesn't know or doesn't care that spammers have taken over the marketing of its Norton software. Either way, they lose.
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