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Conan O’Brien: ‘Tonight Show’ Immune to DVR/Web

Less than an hour ago, Bill Carter of the New York Times posted a statement from Conan O’Brien on the Times’ “Media Decoder” blog.  The statement, for those who’ve avoided hearing this, refers to NBC’s late night shake-up, moving Jay Leno back to 11:35 PM, O’Brien to 12:05 AM, and Jimmy Fallon to 1:05 AM (for more on this story, please read Carter and Brian Stelter’s article, here).

In the statement, O’Brien breaks down the reason for the ratings failure that has been the Jay Leno Show which has lead to a lackluster ratings share for O’Brien’s own ‘Tonight Show:”

I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like [Leno], I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

O’Brien continues, attempting to justify his reasoning behind refusing to leave the 11:35 PM time-slot:

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

The last part, hi-lighted in blue, raises an interesting point.  Yes.  By definition, the Tonight Show should actually air.. tonight.  But to suggest that television overrides DVR technology and the Internet is short-sighted.  Not that I’ve been checking every day (mainly because I wasn’t expecting this to happen), but when I do visit Hulu and check on the Most Popular videos of the day, the Tonight Show is always at the top of the list.

Now, does that mean that O’Brien’s wrong and the Tonight Show thrives on the web?  Not exactly.  The vague calibration of “popularity” does have a bit of a kill date as popularity per week, month, year has each episode of the Tonight Show buried by shows like The Office, Family Guy, and The Simpsons (ironically, O’Brien’s former employers).

The mobility of the web makes it more of an ally to the Tonight Show than a foe.  That same mobility, or lack thereof, handicaps DVR technology.  The Tonight Show airs at 11:35 PM, if someone DVRs the programs and watches it before heading to work in the morning, the content is still ‘fresh.’  However, if that same person doesn’t watch the program until coming home from work, most of the material has ‘expired’ (via other media, water cooler talk at work, interpersonal conversations, etc), making a DVR’d version of the program less of a reward for said viewer.

In the end, O’Brien is obviously concerned about the tradition of the Tonight Show more than anything.  His argument against DVR and Internet assistance is documented and the introduction of ‘fresh’ and ‘stale’ media content demonstrated why.  As to the future of NBC’s late night programming and current Tonight Show host, O’Brien offers the following:

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Essentially, he cannot contractually talk about any pending offers from Fox, or any other network.  It’s a messy situation for the three hosts and an obvious black-eye for NBC.  O’Brien’s comments about television daily evolution toward Internet and DVR technology sheds an interesting angle on the story.

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Mike Francesa, Marshall McLuhan, and “Hot” Sports Media

A few months ago, while listening to Mike Francesa on the YES Network, the normally sports-oriented talking head took a tangential moment to talk media evolution:

Beginning with the evolution of sports media (evening news anchors to ESPN), Francesa notes that the evening sports anchor’s power was in his knowledge of scores.  In the end, anchors on ABC/CBS (Warner Wolff, 1976-1980/1980-1995 & 1997-2004)) and NBC (Len Berman, 1982-2009), New York.  Obviously, there has been an abrupt shift in power.  As mentioned in my previous post (Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?), the consumers became producers.  This shift first began with “SportsPhone.”

Amazingly, there’s no Wikipedia entry for “SportsPhone,” but, essentially, this service was, initially, a free service .  After providing sports fans with a desirable product, much like fantasy sports, the content provider began charging money.  According to a member of HFBoards:

“I lost my cable TV and internet service last night and had no way of getting a score for the Isles’ game. That made me think of Sportsphone, which I think was from back in the 70s. The younger people might find this hard to believe, but there was a time before cable sports channels and the internet when, if you missed the nightly TV news or it was a late game, you could not get a result until the next day. So, someone got the idea of “Sportsphone”, a number you could call which played a tape of game results.”

The author of this post, an obvious former SportsPhone user, depicts the necessity for such a service.  A breaking trade?  An extra-innings/overtime game?  A late game?  No matter the time, Sportsphone would provide a up-to-date delivery of the day’s sports news.  As novel as it seemed, dialing a combination of digits into a telephone at work or home would give one what one wanted.

Today, there’s a reflection of the same with the network television and, more-so, the Internet.  Much like local news’ relationship with network news stations, local sports anchors share the same relationship with the advent (1979) and success of ESPN.  Minus the cost, the web provides up to the second (a minute is much to slow in this day-and-age) scores for sports fans across the globe.  The question now: is there room to grow?

I surmise there is.  The aforementioned YES Network has teamed with Cablevision and Verizon (independently, not as a conglomerate) to bring “live” Yankees’ games to fans wherever there’s Internet access.  In the end, it’s fantastic to have scores and statistics to temporarily quench one’s thirst for sports, but reading about Kobe Bryant’s career defining performance and seeing it with one’s own eyes are two completely different things.

Classic “hot media” v. “cool media” take place in this statistical realm.  As Marshall McLuhan describes, “hot media” require less participation… whereas “cool media” require a bit more interaction.  When seeing an athlete, like Kobe Bryant, penetrate defensive pressure, artistically maneuver through the paint, and  finish with a “pump-handle-slam” it’s easy for the viewer to identify this performance as “career defining.”  Especially when this sequence is repeated during a performance.  As McLuhan, himself, states:

“Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialogue” (Understanding Media, 25).

Though the Internet provides instant statistical delivery for consumers, the YES Network’s partnership with the aforementioned cable companies displays the “warming” of sports entertainment and media from “cool” to “hot.”

Though Mike Francesa didn’t read up on Understanding Media before his broadcast, his TV broadcasting partner, the YES Network, assuredly did.  In my prediction, this move– whether it be revolutionary for the time or not– will result in many television/Internet networks partnering to provide sporting fans with similar “hot” content.

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Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?

Over the past few months, Wikipedia‘s push for public funding has evolved from spokespeople (in the form of both celebrities and “everyday” people) to a “voice of reason” via Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s founder).  Upon logging on to the site, the user is greeted with a banner the following banner, requesting you take a moment from your browsing to consider what Wikipedia is… and what Wikipedia could be:

Once the user takes a moment to read Wales’ appeal, they’re brought to a page with a personal note, the bulk of which is displayed below (click picture for full note):

It’s easy to see where Wales is coming from.  If  a company like Microsoft or Google pruchased a percentage of Wikipedia (much like Microsoft did with Facebook), it would certainly make it easier for the “non-profit” to stay afloat… but would it affect the information provided?

I submit, and I trust you will agree, that it certainly would.  Imagine you, a Wikipedia user, are interested in researching Professional Wrestling storylines (a personal favorite procrastination search of my own).  As you find yourself reading about a feud between the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan during Wrestlemania VI, you discover a link for “Mr. Perfect,” one of your personal favorites wrestlers.  When you click on the link, however, it’s not “Mr. Perfect’s” Wikipedia page that opens, it’s his “Bing” or “Google” search results (depending, of course, on the partner).

Here in lays the problem.  As Wales points out, “We Need to Protect Wikipedia.”  If Wikipedia is publicly funded, as Wales hopes, the above scenario will not come to fruition.  Instead, a site where “every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge” will be possible.  As Paul Levinson notes in New New Media (Penguin, 2009):

Wikipedia is the most thorough-going, consistantly user-driven system on the Internet.  It is the pick of the new new media litter, at least insofar as its primary, revolutionary charactersitic of allowing consumers to become producers (p. 90)

Tonight, while watching Monday Night Football (MNF) with my girlfriend’s family, I was asked what the lineage of announcers since the start of MNF was.  Logically, I searched Wikipedia and came to an answer within seconds (if not sooner).  Some of the article, I’m sure, was written/edited by ABC (long-time broadcaster of MNF).  Other components, likewise, were indubitably composed by ESPN (who has held the rights to MNF since 2006 — yes, I got that bit from Wikipedia).  Furthermore, there are the multitudes of NFL fans and MNF traditionalists who have added and edited their factual components of “all-things” MNF.

In a microcosm, this is what makes Wikipedia “revolutionary.”  As the title reads, I wonder if Wikipedia can, one day, become this all encompassing “good’ that Wales depicts in this open-letter to Wikipedia users?  My best guess is that it will.  There are millions of people in the world who can’t stand not knowing “who sings that song,” “what other shows is s/he in,” or “what’s the meaning of life?”  Wikipedia does, for these questioners and more, represent a haven for knowledge.  And it is a haven that Jimmy Wales hopes will remain safe from taint in the near future.

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Google Wave Foray: 1st Edition

We learn best by practicing, working, or doing the activity that we study. (Levinson, New New Media)

The above quote came within the first nine pages of Paul Levinson‘s New New Media (Penguin, 2009) as the author qualifies his methodology citing American Philosopher, John Dewey‘s maxim for learning.  Within the early pages of New New Media, Levinson submits the the hallmark of New New Media as the opportunity for “anyone [to] join, play, or work on them” (Levinson, 10).  Last night, I had an opportunity to explore exactly what Levinson posits in the early chapters of his latest book, as my application for Google‘s new Google Wave was approved.

To begin, Doctor Wave (who reveals his true name to be “Greg” in the introduction video) provides a brief introduction to the Wave.  Though, there are admittedly a plethora of reasons why the length of the intro is so brief, I submit that Google doesn’t want the user to feel pressured into operating the Wave the “standard” way.  In fact, my early foray into the Wave has provided anything but a standard operating procedure.

Above, rests my first day of work.  As you can see it’s fairly plain, listing a standard (there’s that word again) navigation bar, contacts list, and inbox.  However, one less-than-standard characteristic of the Wave.. are the “waves” themselves:


Within the picture, a conversation/discussion/meeting/whatever-one-uses-it-for is taking place between myself and two friends from college.  Within the snapshot, the viewer notices the application of “gadgets” into the Wave.  Gadgets, or (web) widgets and apps (application software), provide the same user-generated content carrying Facebook toward virtual “Uno,” “Farmville,” “Mob Wars,” and “Friend Finder.”  At times annoying (see any Facebook “News Feed” regarding “cow” purchases on Farmville or a “hit” on Mob Wars), the manifestation of these gadgets appears to take root in group collaboration/communication.

Currently, as my conversation with a former co-worker relays, collaborations or group work (in the broadest of definitions) are based from a purely textual perspective.  Eventually, the Wave will come incorporate the same video technology (see: Skype, ooVoo, etc.) currently housed on Gmail‘s Google Talk (also known as “gchat”).  In fact, multiple video chats operating concurrently lends itself to the anthropotropic characteristics evident in even the earliest stages of Google’s Wave.

Finally, as I wrapped on this post, a close friend “pinged” me:

Putting our heads together, we instantaneously identified “pinging” as Instant Messaging.  Further, one of Wave’s most unique characteristics became evident: keystroke to screen communication.  Without hitting “Enter,” Regina was able to see every letter I pounded into the “ping” box.

Meaning every time I misspelled a word, relayed misinformation, or wrote something I didn’t want her to read… she had the ability to catch my misspelling, mistakes, or rude demeanor.  This addition to the Instant Messaging universe as it’s known delivers a number of immediate changes to the code of conduct or ethical guidelines by which users abided (and still do, for the most part) since IMing’s conception (dating back to Windows Messanger, ICQ, and AOL Instant Messanger).

The initial shock of key-stroke submission soon wore, as Regina suggested that her “Social Media” plate was quickly filling (and just in time for finals!).  Though, it’s far from coming to fruition, my media convergence supposition is idealistic (at best) for the time being.  While Wave’s mobile desktop potential is evident, it’s hardly available at the time being.

At the end of our discussion, I experienced another novel component of Wave’s “Ping:” editing.  Again, ethically speaking, this may have been rude.  But justifying my actions with John Dewey’s educational maxim, I corrected Regina’s grammatical mistake.  Though my snapshot doesn’t show it, I promise she didn’t mind.

At the end of my session, I have nothing but positive feedback to provide Google.  The universe of possibilities for Wave are limitless at the conclusion of Day 1.  The most interesting elements to note are the potential for mass-editing (as discussed with Tom regarding video and audio productions) and the potential for Wave as mobile desktop (as detailed just above with Regina).  In the end, the most interesting characteristic of my initial foray into Google’s Wave is that I was able to collaborate and sculpt ideas with my friends, co-workers, and peers with relative immediacy and ease.

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