Monday, July 29, 2002
I am so freaking far behind in email and news that it's almost time to give up. Which, I guess I'm kind of doing for tonight because I'm going to sleep early, but if you sent me email and are expecting a response, please be patient as I wade my way through it. Thanks!
Big Brother Hits the Books
"Under the Patriot Act, the FBI doesn't have to demonstrate 'probable cause' of criminal activity to request records. In fact, the so-called 'search warrant' is issued by a secret court. Once granted, it entitles the FBI to procure any library records pertaining to book circulation, Internet use or patron registration. Librarians can even be compelled to cooperate with the FBI in monitoring Internet usage.
This sort of secrecy is not only chilling, it is ripe for potential abuse. A similar Cold War version of library monitoring was called the Library Awareness Program, through which FBI agents specifically targeted Soviet and Eastern European nationals.
The American Library Association effectively fought the LAP then, and is now standing up to the Patriot Act searches. The association unequivocally opposes 'the use of any governmental prerogatives which leads to the intimidation of the individual or the citizenry from the exercise of free expression.' (ALA Policy on Governmental Intimidation, 1981). The ALA sees the new FBI policy for what it is: blatant intimidation of readers....
Just as a person wearing rose-colored glasses sees everything rosy, so the FBI is predisposed to find suspicious facts. If the FBI wants to scour libraries looking for "suspicious" reading records, they're going to find them, but their perception is inherently skewed by their intent. I view reading as access to information; the FBI views it as an indictment. It suddenly fears domestic suicide bombings, so reading lists are examined and suddenly an innocent researcher is a suspect....
While the FBI may never visit your library (not that you'll know if it does as librarians are barred by law from disclosing the FBI's presence), this program of surveillance still has a chilling effect on cognitive liberty....
Freedom of thought and the freedom to read are intertwined. And while monitoring library records is not as direct as banning books, it is bound to cause self-censorship among readers, which may be the intended result anyway. The government may not be able to ban a book, so instead it will make you a suspect if you read that book. The FBI is merely circumventing the First Amendment by threatening readers rather than prohibiting what they read." [Law.com, via LLRX Newstand via Library Stuff]
Books for Freedom Head to Afghanistan
" 'Many Americans donated money and blood to victims and their families after Sept. 11. Some also donated money to aid groups working in Afghanistan. But when Melissa Street heard a Jan. 17 report on National Public Radio by Anne Garrels about the devastated National Library of Afghanistan, something inside her clicked.' [Yahoo News]
So she joined with Garrels to form Books for Freedom, a non-profit group dedicated to helping rebuild Afghanistan's devastated libraries. The groups now hopes to expand its scope, however, having received requests for help from around the world." [LibraryNotes]
Doubleclick: Web Sites' Reach Matches TV, Nears Mags
"The Internet's most popular sites consistently deliver larger audiences than television's most-watched programs and are comparable in reach to popular consumer magazines, according to a study released yesterday by DoubleClick Inc.
The top three Web sites -- Yahoo Search, MSN Hotmail and MSN Search -- deliver audiences 43 percent larger than three of the top prime-time television programs, 'Friends,' 'ER' and 'Will & Grace,' DoubleClick's study found. The sites also attracted audiences that on average were just 5 percent less than the top consumer magazines: People, Reader's Digest and Better Homes and Gardens, the study determined....
Meanwhile, not surprisingly, DoubleClick's study found that the Internet is effective for reaching males ages 18 to 49 and high-income adults ages 25 to 54. Also according to the study, magazines far outdeliver the Internet and television in reaching 18- to 49-year-old women and African-Americans." [DM News]
Of course, the "stickiness" factor isn't the same, but these numbers will shift even further as the mass market continues to break down and the advantages of focused advertising to targeted channels are integrated into digital video recorders (DVRs), satellite radio, and web sites.
I wondered where Google came out in the rankings, so I found the study on Doubleclick's site (PDF) and here's what I think is the most interesting statistic: for teens (ages 12-17), magazines outpace prime-time television by a 2-1 margin (298-114) and even web sites pull in more teen eyeballs than TV (213-114).
As the study rightfully points out, this is most likely due to the fact that magazines are portable, although the narrow focus of teen magazines doesn't hurt either. The report goes on to state the following:
"Seven websites, including eBay and Yahoo! Search, outdeliver Friends, while People Magazine outdelivers vehicles in either TV or online....
To put things in more perspective, the highest rating for any of the TV shows for the demos analyzed is 16.3%. By comparison, there are 31 websites among the dozen demos that have higher ratings."
By the way, Google is fourth on the list of web sites and it, too, outpaces any prime-time TV show and all magazines except People, Reader's Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens.
PayPal, Stamps.com Ink a Deal
"Online payment processor PayPal and online postage provider Stamps.com have joined forces to enable PayPal users to buy and print postage from their accounts.
The companies say the Web-based service will allow PayPal sellers to calculate the exact amount of postage needed and to print a shipping label with the buyer's information already on it, according to a PayPal statement.
In addition, the electronic delivery confirmation feature will allow sellers to verify delivery of their shipments online....
'Our focus is on delivering a complete Web-based technology for shipping and mailing,' McBride says. 'Integrating our functions with PayPal, the leader in the payment space in the online auction space, [makes sense] because the natural place for a shipping transaction is following a payment transaction....'
PayPal also entered into an agreement with United Parcel Service of America, in which UPS digital shipping tools will be built into PayPal's online payment process, enabling sellers to print shipping labels and buyers to receive tracking numbers via e-mail." [PC World]
Are we finally starting to see a micropayment service approach a tipping point? Are any libraries working with PayPal for registration fees, overdues, etc.?
Marylaine sends along notice that libraries aren't the only ones that need to shift:
Investors May Have Repudiated the Internet, but Consumers Have Not
"The reorganization of AOL Time Warner last week has been recounted as a story of Time Warner, the king of traditional media, reclaiming its rightful throne from the upstart digital pretender, America Online.
But as old-line media celebrates its return to power and to vogue, some analysts and executives caution that the Internet's capacity to change the rules should not be discounted too quickly. Investors may have repudiated the Internet, they say, but consumers have not....
But with 61 percent of American adults using the Internet, up from 46 percent two years ago, analysts and media executives say the medium is beginning to change consumer expectations of what mainstream culture should offer. Consumers who were once content to sit back and absorb what was beamed at them are demanding more control over how and when they consume movies, television, newspapers and music.
And whether it turns a profit or not, media companies are being forced to respond. Some of the Internet's effects on media, like the growing number of multitaskers, are subtle — although not so subtle for advertisers, who might be interested to know whether the eyeballs they are buying are simultaneously trained on two screens. Others, like the online file-swapping that the recording industry holds responsible for a chunk of the 10 percent decline in CD sales in America last year, are more extreme. But perhaps the most far-reaching impact lies in the rhythms and habits formed by daily use of the Web's interactive features.
'We see young people who are flowing between TV and the Web almost seamlessly, finding new ways of getting what they want, going to what they want when they want it,' said Betsy Frank, executive vice president for research and planning at MTV Networks. 'That's what the Web has taught them — you don't have to sit around for something you're not interested in.'
MTV has responded with more participatory programming like 'Total Request Live,' where audiences can vote for the songs that are played. But by Ms. Frank's logic, AOL Time Warner's largely unsuccessful efforts to sell its magazines, music and movies over AOL may have been the wrong approach.
'You'd go on AOL and there'd be a pitch to subscribe to a magazine, but that's almost like the broadcast TV model where you'd turn on the set and there'd be whatever the programmers wanted to send you,' Ms. Frank said. 'This is an audience that wants to make their own schedules....'
Newspapers have also been forced to change by the Internet, adopting a 24-hour news cycle in order to update stories on their Web sites. And they have begun to profit from it as well, recouping some classified revenue that they have lost in print editions....
But Mr. Crosbie added that the reason that people were using AOL and the Internet was to get information that they were not getting from traditional media, which was created to satisfy more general interests. "The media that Time Warner does," he said, "is very good at satisfying generic interests but isn't good at satisfying each individual's very unique, specific interest.' " [The New York Times]
So AOL/Time Warner is in the same boat as libraries, newspapers, and almost every other customer service-oriented industry. In this day and age, would you switch to a different bank that didn't provide ATM/debit cards? Would you buy a car that didn't have a CD player pre-installed in it? Would you sign up for a cellular service plan that didn't include long distance? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I'm willing to bet you're 45 or older.
Portability will be the key to the future.
RIAA Web Site Disabled By Attack
"The apparently deliberate overload rendered the RIAA.org site unavailable for portions of four days and came after the group endorsed legislation to allow copyright holders to disrupt peer-to-peer networks.
The malicious flood started on Friday and did not involve any intrusion into the RIAA's internal network, a representative for the trade association said on Monday afternoon. Nobody has claimed credit for the denial-of-service attack, which ended at 2 a.m. PDT on Monday." [CNET News.com]
You don't suppose paying customers are angry at the RIAA and its members, now do you? This actually took far longer to happen than I thought it would. (Please note I'm not condoning it, I'm just realistic about what happens when you tick off your market.)
The article then goes on to quote an unidentified "RIAA representative" as saying "Don't they have something better to do during the summer than hack our site? Perhaps it at least took 10 minutes away from stealing music."
Of course, my question is doesn't the RIAA have something better to do than pay legislators to pass laws that will ultimately harm its members?
InstaPundit catches me up the latest round of proposed anti-consumer, pro-media-companies legislation:
"BIDEN ALERT: I'm really starting to dislike Joe Biden, even if I did defend him in the whole plagiarism thing. First it was the stupid RAVE Act. Now he's sponsoring yet another corporate-whoring entertainment industry bill that would make legal conduct illegal for the better enrichment of Big Media:
Biden's new bill would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years. And that's not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense.
'Say I've got an MP3 collection and I buy a new nifty player from Microsoft that only plays watermarked content, and I forge the watermark to allow my legal MP3 collection to play,' says Jessica Litman, who teaches intellectual property law at Wayne State University. 'It is certainly the case that if I pass that around, I could be trafficking (in violation of the law).'
This proves something I've been saying for a long time. These legislative initiatives aren't just about copyright. They're about building a regime that's hostile to content that comes from anyone other than Big Media suppliers. That's because their real fear isn't copied Britney Spears CDs -- it's that people will abandon the crap they're selling for works by independent artists, and cut out the middlemen. And the Democrats are carrying the industry's water on this.
How can they even pretend to be protecting people from Evil Big Corporations when they're actually serving as those corporations' paid lackeys?
Hypocritically, that's how." [Glenn Reynolds]
I am a media company's dream. I get the whole digital cable package, I love music and own hundreds of CDs, I frequently go to movie theaters, my study is lined with books, I like DVDs because of the extras and the quality of the picture, I attend plays, I like going to concerts, I take my media with me, and I've always wanted my MTV.
Except that these days,
- I use my ReplayTV to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it (and yes, I skip through commercials);
- I still love music, but I've bought one CD this year and the shutting down of internet radio stations will make it more difficult for me to find new music I would even remotely consider purchasing;
- I'm more thoughtful about what I'll spend my time and money seeing at the movie theater;
- I'm reading more internet sites and fewer books (and magazines);
- I rarely buy DVDs anymore because I thought I'd bought "definitive" versions only to have better, more complete ones come out a few months later;
- I still like going to plays, but prices are up and the number of new shows I want to see is going down;
- Concert tickets cost way too much;
- And I don't want quite so much of my MTV these days, especially since it's not very different from what I'd hear on the radio these days.
That leaves portable media, and now the entertainment industry wants to take that away, too. Their one remaining guaranteed pipeline to my wallet.
Let me tell you something, though. I just spent the overwhelming majority of a week consuming no media at all, and with one exception, not any new media. The few exceptions were trying to watch Seinfeld a couple of times when it came on late at night (and MadTV), seeing Stuart Little 2 with the kids, and watching the Harriet the Spy on video (with the kids and then with adults).
Granted, things might have been a little different if the TV in the cabin received more than four channels, but I found myself not really missing it. In fact, it was kind of annoying being unable to skip through the commercials, and there was no decent channel guide to see what was on when.
I did take my MP3 player to listen to music, but I don't really have appropriate speakers for it so the volume is too low, and we actually weren't in the cabin all that much to listen to music anyway. I had tried to take some DVDs to watch, but it turns out the laptop doesn't have a DVD decoder on it (so I guess under Biden's bill it would be illegal for me to install one on it).
So what's the lesson here? That as the months go by, the entertainment industry is getting less and less of my money at a time when they should be getting more and more of it. There's certainly more to choose from (even if quality doesn't match quantity), and sometimes I'm not all that choosy (I like cheesy and campy as much as the next person).
And now they want to lock up their content even tighter using Congress to legislate away their fears? Who exactly do they think needs them?