http://www.zadby.com: Video advertising platform
http://www.mobileposse.com: Puts ads on idle cell phone screens
I’m not sure how I missed this wonderful act of journalism-by-data visualization produced by Mother Jones magazine.
Titled “Lie by Lie,” it’s the wayleft publication’s “history of the Iraq War.” The project was undertaken, the editors state, “to create a resource we hope will help resolve open questions of the Bush era. What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them?”
Why I love this work of journalism [my own political inclinations notwithstanding]:
1. It’s nothing fancy, hardly a data visualization at all. It’s essentially a timeline navigation of information on the Iraq War. The only visual grace note is the roulettey spin of the date slider as you move it around. But the tool is functional: It permits navigation of the same data by topic, tags or search. It engages and it works.
2. It is an aggregation of content reported by others. This is a great example of curation, of journalism by assembly. Clearly, smart people knowledgeable about public affairs paid close attention to a huge amount of information, made careful selections and used available digital technology to make it accessible and flexible in a way no print publication could.
3. It proves you can advance a political agenda with digital journalism just as easily as you can in the analog world. Edit, select, tweak, ignore. . .and you can assemble your own version of history, just as certainly as the wingnuts at The Washington Times or the pinkos at the New York Times.
4. By virtue of its form, it surfaces new understandings that a reader of the original reports would not achieve. For instance, noodle around with the “Dick Cheney” taq and you’ll discover, right at the top, this entry dated . . . over 15 years ago:
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, speaking to the Discovery Institute in Seattle, says the first President Bush was right not to invade Baghdad: “The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that…we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”–Aug. 14, 1992
But even as it offers a great example of digital journalism, “Lie By Lie” raises troubling questions about same.
Most of the information is drawn from reports that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, Knight-Ridder, the New Yorker and many more. Yes, some bloggers made significant contributions. But it’s hard to imagine there would be much of a record of events to assemble without mainstream journalism’s (eventual! shame-faced!) commitment to digging for facts about the runup to Iraq.
The rub: This original reporting cost a fortune. It was produced under the old, dying model of journalism, wherein investigative reporting is funded by advertisements for cell phones, new subdivisions, mattress-chain mega-sales, designer clothing, and so on.
It’s important to remember that for all their swashbuckling highbrow bravado, the authors of New Yorker articles write on the back of designer vodka ads.
As Mother Jones has shown, people who are passionate about telling a story have powerful new tools at their disposal to do so. But without high-quality content–difficult, time-consuming, intellectually demanding, butt-numbing, sometimes actually dangerous reporting–the tools are just toys.
And who will pay for that reporting as we glide forward into the age of paper-free journalism?
Pour yourself a designer vodka and think about that one.
This ad on my Facebook page today:
Yes, Facebook, I’m 51. And yes, I’m overweight. *
But at least I have friends.
I wonder if you’ll be able to say that a year from now.
* “overweight” only according to standardized Body Mass Index assessments, which are widely known to be highly inaccurate and often defamatory. I actually have really dense bones and an extraordinarily heavy head–it’s like a freakin’ anvil–so this targeting of me as an advertising prospect is unfair, wrong and possibly actionable.
While playing around with the video platform MetaCafe today, I came across a particularly shrewd use of contextual video advertising.
Are you a Lasik candidate? Check out this educational video illustrating the procedure, with a flap of cornea being sliced off and laser pulses reshaping the eye–all while the patient is wide awake.
What’s that? Think you might want contacts instead? Click here, my friend!
The blog Silicon Valley Insider has an extraordinary item today about Google’s latest ad scheme, which works this way:
1. Advertiser buys ad in newspaper; a Google barcode appears on the ad
2. For reasons unrevealed and hard to imagine, a newspaper reader wants so badly to have the ad on her mobile phone that she takes a snapshot of the barcode with her device (she has previously installed special software to permit this)
3. Her mobile phone takes her directly to an online version of the ad–which presumably has more value in mobile, digital form than it does in its mobile, analog print version. Maybe it’s more information, or a chance to sign up for, oh, I don’t know, an e-mail newsletter or a sweepstakes (which is to say an e-mail newsletter)
4. The newspaper advertiser can now capture data about that potential customer which is uncaptureable in a print environment
5. Google sends the cell phone user an e-mail message, which she is invited to print out and attach to her forehead with duct tape. The e-mail says “I Am Verry Stupid.”
Actually, I made up No. 5.
I know, I know, they do this printed-bar-code-and-cell-phone thing in Japan. But in Japan they also watch those game shows where people hilariously incur significant internal organ damage by competing in contests involving mud, spinning platforms and immovable objects. “I Am Verry Stupid” indeed.
Business Rule No. 1: If you want to get consumers to do something that benefits you (like give you money, or merely identify yourself as a reader of an ad so someone else gives you money), you have to offer them something of value in return. This “value proposition” seems to be missing in this Google scheme.
Please, right now, close your eyes. Try to imagine seeing an ad in the newspaper so utterly compelling that you’re willing to stop whatever you’re doing, take out your cell phone, and view another version of that ad–maybe an interactive one, just like on the web!–in the tiny screen of your cell phone.
I know, I can’t either.
I prefer to view a money scheme this spectacularly wrong-headed as another hopeful sign that Google has entered its Late Empire phase, when the emperors drink arsenic at orgies while the lean and crafty barbarians consolidate control of the provinces and plan the ultimate pillage.
Or maybe (alas) it’s just another sign that Google has so much money now it can make big bets on slim chances and put nothing more at risk than a quarterly earnings rounding error.
In any case, if you know anyone who works on this particular project at Google, please send them the following message as an e-mail and ask them to tape it to their foreheads.
I AM VERRY STUPID