Category Archives: Media Criticism

The Innovator’s Dilemma

We have here a perfect example, in an area that I’ve noted previously:

During the whole time I was there [at the San Francisco Chronicle] I constantly pleaded with the powers that be to do the online version of the classifieds right, the way it could be done with all the power of the web. At that time, 1995, craigslist was still a gleam in Craig Newmark’s eye. The Chronicle owned the classified space for the Bay Area. I created a classified section on sfgate, but it was just an online version of what was in the newspaper, no more, no less. I argued that we should add interactivity, let people purchase ads online cheaply, have pictures and links, make sfgate.com the goto place for everybody in the bay area to buy, sell, rent, and know everything.

But this was utterly impossible. It was a question of turf. There was a large department that sold and processed classified ads. It was a major source of revenue, employed a lot of people, and had a big budget. No way they were going to yield that turf to a bunch of weirdos over at the six person, unprofitable, experimental web site crew. Besides, online ads would cannabalize the whole business. Even as time went on, and craigslist grew and the sfgate website traffic and personnel grew, there was never any possibility of going up against the entrenched bureaucracy. Newspapers are the most old-fashioned organizations left alive in the marketplace. Even book publishing companies are more with it.

They couldn’t innovate themselves, because it would have wrecked an existing profit center, but by avoiding it, they let someone else do it to them instead.

This is the fix that NASA is in as well. They can’t innovate, because the politicians (and their own internal fiefdoms and rice-bowl sitters) won’t let them shed the jobs in Houston and Huntsville and at the Cape that would be destroyed. So instead, they’ll be put out of business in a few years.

Of course, given that (unlike newspapers) they’re not a business, it’s possible that they’ll continue to get their multi-billion dollar stipend from Washington, but it’s hard to believe that even they will be able to continue to persuasively justify their hyperexpensive elitist activities in an era of cheap private access to space.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

We have here a perfect example, in an area that I’ve noted previously:

During the whole time I was there [at the San Francisco Chronicle] I constantly pleaded with the powers that be to do the online version of the classifieds right, the way it could be done with all the power of the web. At that time, 1995, craigslist was still a gleam in Craig Newmark’s eye. The Chronicle owned the classified space for the Bay Area. I created a classified section on sfgate, but it was just an online version of what was in the newspaper, no more, no less. I argued that we should add interactivity, let people purchase ads online cheaply, have pictures and links, make sfgate.com the goto place for everybody in the bay area to buy, sell, rent, and know everything.

But this was utterly impossible. It was a question of turf. There was a large department that sold and processed classified ads. It was a major source of revenue, employed a lot of people, and had a big budget. No way they were going to yield that turf to a bunch of weirdos over at the six person, unprofitable, experimental web site crew. Besides, online ads would cannabalize the whole business. Even as time went on, and craigslist grew and the sfgate website traffic and personnel grew, there was never any possibility of going up against the entrenched bureaucracy. Newspapers are the most old-fashioned organizations left alive in the marketplace. Even book publishing companies are more with it.

They couldn’t innovate themselves, because it would have wrecked an existing profit center, but by avoiding it, they let someone else do it to them instead.

This is the fix that NASA is in as well. They can’t innovate, because the politicians (and their own internal fiefdoms and rice-bowl sitters) won’t let them shed the jobs in Houston and Huntsville and at the Cape that would be destroyed. So instead, they’ll be put out of business in a few years.

Of course, given that (unlike newspapers) they’re not a business, it’s possible that they’ll continue to get their multi-billion dollar stipend from Washington, but it’s hard to believe that even they will be able to continue to persuasively justify their hyperexpensive elitist activities in an era of cheap private access to space.

A Wasted Blog Post

From Andrea Harris, via my comments section:

…neither Rand nor Mark Stein said that Hollywood is losing money because they no longer make “morality tales.” Why don’t you try reading the article? Steyn said that the reason Hollywood is losing money is because 1) the cramped, uncomfortable theaters with bad, blurry pictures run by inept crews, 2) the dull, bland, safe rehashing of the same three ideas (wacky girl and guy fall into comic hate-love, hilarity ensues, also car chases; brooding freethinking manchild who is still in love with his divorced Only Wife is Abused By the System — which is represented by short-haired white men in suits, aka Republicans; or occasionally, blond neo-Nazi terrorists with fake Cherman accents — and Loses Everything He Has But His Dignity, with car chases and explosions; and brooding, mature woman-goddess is Hurt By Men, but is redeemed by her Feisty, Bitchy, Neurotic, Yet Wise Beyond Their Prescriptions female friends — no car chases and the only explosions are screaming cat fights that dissolve into hugs ‘n’ tears) 3) the stifling political correctness that covers the industry like a blanket of mold and which has done something formerly thought impossible: made the Catholic League for Decency (or whatever they were called), the Hays Commission, and the dreaded Joe McCarthy and HUAC look like a bunch of fun party people.

He noted that Harry Potter was a phenomenon, but one unconnected to the overall problem of the no-fun suck that Hollywood’s output has become. He did imply that people go see the Potter movies because they seem to actually accept that there is good and evil in the world, not just “accepting” and “hurtful.” They also aren’t overly concerned with political correctness, though Rowling is careful to have Indian and black students in the wizard school, and one of Goblet of Fire’s subplots is (at least in the book, I haven’t seen the movie) about bigotry against the “different,” in this case, giants — but at least no one gets up and stops the action dead to make a speech, or worse. If the current minds behind today’s thrillers with the fake “nazis are the only acceptible villains” terrorists in them had been in charge of the Potter films Harry would have been cast as a black lesbian paraplegic and there would have been no magic to avoid insulting Wiccans.

Why Hollywood Continues To Lose Money

Mark Steyn explains that it’s political correctness:

…I stopped to buy the third boxed set in the ”Looney Tunes Golden Collection.” Loved the first two: Daffy, Bugs, Porky, beautifully restored, tons of special features. But, for some reason, this new set begins with a special announcement by Whoopi Goldberg explaining what it is we’re not meant to find funny: ”Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups,” she tells us sternly. ”These jokes were wrong then and they’re wrong today” — unlike, say, Whoopi Goldberg’s most memorable joke of recent years, the one at that 2004 all-star Democratic Party gala in New York where she compared President Bush to her, um, private parts. There’s a gag for the ages…

…”Stealth” was a high-tech action thriller about USAF pilots zapping about the skies in which the bad guy is the plane.

That’s right: An unmanned computer-flown plane goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is — stop me if this rings a vague bell — a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard the jet. The jet itself is the terrorist.

This is the pitiful state Hollywood’s been reduced to. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let’s make the plane the bad guy. No wonder it’s 20th century Britlit — ”Harry Potter,” ”Lord of the Rings,” ”Narnia” — keeping those Monday morning numbers up. It’s Hollywood’s yarn-spinning that’s really out of focus, and in the end even home entertainment revenue won’t save a storytelling business that no longer knows how to tell any.

Guess The Headline

Here’s a story from AP, that has items such as:

In Mosul, extraordinary security measures were underway Sunday around the house where the insurgents died, Iraqi officials said. American soldiers maintained control of the site a day after a fierce gunbattle which broke out when Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers surrounded a house after reports that al-Qaida in Iraq members were inside.

Three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture, Iraqi officials said. Eleven Americans were wounded.

Meanwhile, four Christian women were killed Sunday night when gunmen stormed their home in a Christian district of eastern Baghdad, police said. The gunmen stole valuables and the motive for the attack appeared to have been robbery, police added.

The latest deaths occurred at the end of a violent three-day period in which at least 140 Iraqi civilians died in a series of bombings and suicide attacks

Not Must-See TV

But it’s worth a listen. Heck, I even turned Greta down for it.

Yes, Mickey, that is damning it with faint praise, but it’s what happened to be on at the time that I linked to it from Glenn’s site. I would have turned down Hannity and Colmes, too, and probably O’Reilly, unless he had some really interesting guest on (a rare event). But not Brit Hume.

Here’s the problem. Political commentary doesn’t make for compelling video, even if it offers the entertainment of watching human robots (a combination of natural ability, and many frozen frames as the video buffer fills up). Even on high-bandwidth media (i.e., my satellite dish), talking heads are talking heads, and most of the time I rarely watch, but listen to it as I’m doing things elsewhere in the house. Well, unless Lauri Dhue, or Megyn Kendall, or various other newsbabes come on. Then, for some strange reason, I feel compelled to actually come into the room to view the screen. I’ve no idea why, but perhaps Robert Wright does.

But I thought the conversation was interesting, and much easier on the ears than the shout shows, and more intelligent than most of them as well. So one suggestion might be to bag the video, because it really is very little value added, and do bloggingmouths.radio instead. Bandwidth doesn’t yet grow on trees, and sticking with audio would open up the audience to the dialup crowd, and allow easier storage of shows, both for users and the server, with reduced bandwidth charges for all.

But even then, the question is, what is the value of listening to guys (and gals) talk, as opposed to reading what they write, which for me has a much higher baud rate for lower bandwidth. I had the same problem in college. I rarely attended the lectures, unless I explicitly had to in order to get the grade, because I don’t take information in that well through my ears, at least if I want to retain it. I always preferred to read the book, which offered me much more data in a given amount of time than having to listen to someone slowly mouth the words.

But given that I do keep a news channel on in background when I’m working, and I could download the audio and listen to it while exercising or out for a walk, one could certainly do worse than checking them out. As I mentioned up at the top, I know I was. Doing worse, that is.

Setting Her Straight

Emily Will says that Mary Mapes is living in an alternate reality, and that her book is rife with errors:

Mapes: Page 167: “Concerned, I asked her what the trouble was. She said she had done research on the Internet about President Bush’s military record and found that he had been in Alabama at the time those documents were written, so there was no way they could be true.”

Will: Book version is ABSOLUTELY FALSE. What did happen is that in our conversation on Sunday I outlined several problems with two questioned signatures, and with the typescript of the documents, including the superscripting and the proportional spacing, and I said that I had been researching online to determine the earliest date of production of typewriters offering those features.

Don’t book publishers care about this sort of thing?