Media Diet And Other Things

Sometimes, it becomes apparent to me that this part of the site is basically the equivalant of screaming into the void. I basically did not post anything here for almost three months and nothing seemed to change. As they say, if a tree falls in the forest and no one was there, did it make any noise? I think the issue for me that I need to develop more of a consistent voice that needs to be developed and evolved over time. There is also the time commitment: I’ve always done this as sort of a side hobby – I’ve never really dedicated myself to frequently posting here because of ‘real world’ commitments like a job, family and other responsiblities. In the past, I have highlighted items that have peaked my interest and were just worth sharing with the world. Yet part of the challenge in standing out in today’s landscape is figuring out an approach – do you go for volume or quality? – are you built for speed or comfort (as Vince Vaughn once said)? So as I think about how to refresh and re-think the ‘blog’ part of the site, I’m going to try to figure this out. As for now, I’m going to share a couple of updates and then share some media that I am consuming.

Wallpapers – English and European Soccer

Over the latter part of the summer, I cranked out updating approximately 900 Wallpapers across my posted collections on the site that represent all English Soccer League team kits – from the English Premier League through the National Leagues (National League, National League North and South), as well as leagues in Scotland, and Europe. There are still a few laggards however as of now, the stats reflect that I have updated all Home kit designs across all leagues, all except 3 Away kits across all leagues, and 65% of Third kits across all leagues (not all teams have third kits).

Wallpapers – Music

I’ve quietly added several to this collection – either on my own or via the occasional request. For this collection, I have been trying to track against the top 500 albums of all time, as ranked by Rolling Stone’s annual list. I’ve always been happy with the design of these wallpapers, in that you can prominantly see the name of the album and the artist, while at the same time you can see the song list and the album art on the two corners of the background while using your computer. Whatever you would be working on would be in the middle of your screen, yet you can see the songs and/or the album art in the right and left corners and immediately recognize what album it is.

My Media Diet

Building off of something that Jason Kottke does on a semi regular basis, I thought I’d share a few of the media items that I have been consuming recently.

Stop Making Sense (IMAX) – [Grade: A] David Byne dancing with a lamp and making it compelling. The classic concert movie was re-relased and remastered . It looked amazing on the IMAX screen.

Welcome To Wrexham – Season 2 (HULU, FX) – [Grade: A] – The well documented story of the ups and downs of how two Hollywood actors purchased a Wales soccer/football team is well into its second season. The show’s first season was excellent. The show’s second season is rivaling it, and the best is yet to come!

The Gold (Paramount+) – [Grade: A] You had me at British spy series based on the real Brinks-Mat robbery.

Star Wars: Rebels (Disney+) – [Grade: C-] I’ve been trying extremely hard to watch the full Star Wars saga in the proper order. After plowing through the Star Wars: Clone Wars series, I am struggling with Rebels. I’ve heard the last season makes it worth it but I’m skeptical. The only thing keeping me motivated is that Andor is next.

Slow Horses: Real Tigers (Book) – [Grade: B] After watching the first two seasons of the series on Apple TV+, I decided to read the books from author Mick Herron which correspond to the series (Slow Horses, Dead Lions) and then read the third book – Real Tigers – ahead of the 3rd season. Solid read yet the real revelation is that Gary Oldman’s depiction of Jackson Lamb is spot on.

Foundation (Apple TV+) – [Grade: C] I’ve been told the 2nd season is better and easier to follow but I have been struggling with the first season of this series.

Sex Education – Season 4 (Netflix) – [Grade: B] Really enjoyed the first two seasons of this series. The fourth season was solid however it started to get cluttered with so many storylines. Otis, Maeve and Ruby steal the season.

Beckham (Netflix) – [Grade: B+] I learned a few things about “Becks” and grew to appreciate him after watching this. He is surprisingly humble and grounded even though he was, and is, one of the iconic figures in soccer and style over the past 25 years. If you are in the middle of the Pop Culture – English Premier League fan venn diagram, this is for you.

Seinfeld (Netflix) – [Grade: B+] I rewatched all 9 seasons over the past several months – each episode is only 23-25 minutes. The jokes still hit. Some of the tropes felt a little dated. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The Americans (Hulu) – [Grade: A] Rewatching this as well. I loved this show when it was on TV and that point of view has not changed.

Folks Are Cutting The Cord

People are fed up and they are not going to take it anymore! At least, this appears to be holding true for their relationship with cable TV companies.

In the first half of 2015, year-over-year growth in MVPD subscribers “multichannel video programming distributor,” or, in plain English, a cable company like Time Warner Cable or Comcast” went negative. Over the past five years, the percent of households with cable subscriptions has been falling. But with year-over-year subscribers still seeing growth, however modest, cable companies were still able to look past what some had seen as a coming cord-cutting apocalypse. It doesn’t get worse than this.

The consistency of the decline in cable subscriptions is pretty amazing if you look at this chart. And as the article illustrates, it is a trend that does not appear to be subsiding anytime soon. The ability for today’s customers to more effectively control how, when, and where they consume their media is nothing short of a tidal shift in customer behavior.

As a focus group of one, the only time I really watch TV programming ‘live’ is for sports or very unique programming events. All the TV shows, series, and ‘pre-produced’ content I watch derives from my DVR, Netflix, HBOGo, movies in my movie library, and other channels on my Apple TV set top box. More times that not, I’m watching those programs on my iPad. And what is even more telling: my children almost never watch TV on the TV – they watch their content via their iPads.

I’ve debated back and forth with some friends who have cut the cord, or are seriously considering cutting the cord, about how they are evaluating the ‘savings’ from making such a move. The thing is that the ‘kabletowns‘ of the world know that their ‘hammer’ is the broadband internet pipe feeding into your house. Folks like Comcast and Time Warner are now offering “Internet Plus” type packages for $60-90/mo that include high speed internet as the primary value with some local TV stations and HBO as add ons, a price point that is significantly lower than the $160-200 folks pay now for bundled services. Yet when you start to add on Netflix ($10/mo), Amazon Prime ($99/yr) and any other type of monthly media services that may be important to you, the total cost starts to creep up to the same price as what Comcast was originally charging for the full Cable/Internet/Phone packages. And I’m not even including your monthly Mobile Phone bill or the cost of devices.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to a lifestyle and personal preference decision. If you are a person who values the idea of surfing around different TV channels to ‘discover’ a program or movie you have not seen, then there is value in the ‘traditional’ cable package. If you are a person like me who doesn’t watch much ‘live’ TV and is just as comfortable finding a TV series via apps like Netflix and HBOGo, then the idea of moving away from subscribing to cable TV as we know it is not that big of a deal. For companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications and media organizations like ESPN, these ‘cord cutting’ market shifts should be a big wake up call.

Night Owls

This is interesting but not surprising. A recent study said that people check their social sites at all times of the day – morning, noon and night. Checking Facebook at 3AM in the morning? Seeing what folks are doing on Foursquare at 2:30AM on a Monday? You are not alone! What is most interesting is that folks are checking their social graph to find out what the big news of the day is. And we wonder why the big news organizations are struggling.

Stock and Flow

I just love this article/post Stock and Flow from Robin Sloan at Snarkmarket. I have been trying to put my finger on a way to articulate how modern media and content works today and struggled to find the best way to sum it up. I think this article does this very effectively.

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as interest­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time. I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvi­ous reasons, but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audi­ence and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time run­ning on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got noth­ing here.

This really hit home for me. In the article, Robin takes the simple economics metaphor of stock, the amount of “money in the bank”, and flow “the rate of change” and applies it to modern online and social media. So services like Twitter and Facebook are the “flow” and things like blogs and publishing are the stock. Yes, sites such as Twitter are interesting and have changed the landscape, but this approach just reinforces to me that blogs and the development of sustainable articles, applications, and services are just as critical to the modern media landscape.

Via Kottke

Frustrated With Search

Here is an interesting analysis from eMarketer that notes while Search spending is steady, marketers are becoming frustrated with the results. The bellwether of the online marketing arsenal is showing some cracks in the armor. To be honest, this does not surprise me too much. Online users are getting more savvy with regards to online marketing, and search specifically (clicks on banner ads have been in free fall since the first one back on Wired in 1998).  In turn, searchers are clicking less on paid results and increasingly looking more towards the “natural” results.  They are searching for relevant conversations about whatever it is they are looking for.  Further, we are seeing the behaviors of Searchers change over time too. Queries are becoming more complex, more in the form of natural language questions, and we are seeing a big rise in mobile search. Add this together and the result in less “advertisable” Search impressions – paid search is not as effective in matching against such complex queries, and mobile search has less physical space to deliver advertising.  With less search impressions, there is less inventory, meaning prices will inherently rise while performance declines. Not a good equation if you are a marketer.

But I think this is another element of a much broader movement that is going on. What we are seeing validates the argument that will be outlined in Bob Garfield’s upcoming book The Chaos Scenario, where he outlines the massive changes that are and will be happening in the media world.  In part, he argues that while the customers are still out there, they are placing less value in word of the marketers (or institutions) and more value in the advice of other customers:

“They’re still an audience,” he writes, “but they aren’t necessarily listening to you. They’re listening to each other talk about you.

Interesting times, interesting times.

ESPN Chicago

Another nail in the coffin of newspapers and local media. Today, ESPN launched ESPN Chicago, a version of ESPN.com specific to Chicago sports. Basically, they are going to try to leverage their scale to deliver localized content to Chicago. But it’s not just Chicago, this is going to scale to the major markets across the US and Canada. The incremental cost to develop this site was probably relatively minimal, but they will now be able to charge a premium to advertisers who want to market online to a predominantly Chicagoland audience. I’m sure NYC, Boston, LA, Dallas and others are not far behind. And just think, with ESPNZone in Chicago, they can have some serious multimedia, multi channel promotions to dream up. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this – whether they will gravitate to this offering or if they will continue to stick with their trusted sources like the Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times and the bartender at Harry Caray’s.

We’re Not Dead Yet

There is a little contentious battle brewing between The Atlantic and the NY Times. The NY Times says it is not going away in May, as was suggested by The Atlantic’s Michael Hirschorn. Yet while its not going away anytime soon, it is an institution that has seen its better days. Be sure to read John Battelle’s post on the future of publishing, which was prompted by the same article.

The End of Circuits

I have recently heard that the popular Circuits section in the NY Times will be eliminated and the articles from Circuits will be rolled up into their general Business section as part of an editorial overhaul of their Business section.

The basic philosophy in making this bold move is that technology is now so part of the mainstream that the reporting and articles that were previously isolated to the Circuits section should be more seamlessly integrated into the overall Business section of the paper. I think the theory and rationale is very sound however there is a part of me that did like having a specific section dedicated to technology. Since they introduced Circuits, I have been a loyal reader of the Thursday section, however in the past year or so I do have to admit that more times than not, the stories became less interesting to me. I look forward to the new changes to the NY Times Business section and I am sure it will make for better reading.

Goodbye to TechTV

A few weeks ago it was announced that TechTV, the great TV network dedicated to all things technology, was purchased by Comcast and would be merged with the game tv channel G4 to create G4TechTV (now that just rolls of the toungue). Idiots. Fools. Corporate blowhards. Gaming is not technology, technology is not gaming. Technology enalbes Gaming to make the experience better. Gaming is an attribute or a component of the vast impact that technology is having on media and entertainment. But they are mutually exclusive and should hardly be combined. I guess Comcast was so bummed out about geting spurned by Disney that they felt as though they needed to merge something.

Gawk

Check out Gawker. Its an “interesting” site that takes gossip to the next level, if you want to go to that next level. I think we can only get so much news about what the Hiton sisters are doing on their worldwide rampage to spend their family’s fortune.

RSS

I have discovered RSS, as some people call real simple syndication, where you can have data feeds incorporated into your web site or blog. It is pretty neat and enables you to add updated info and data to your site. Ah, the power of xml.