Brand Journalism: the Magazinification of Corporate Communications

Journalism is dead. Maybe in the traditional, one-way communication sense, but in its reincarnated, interactive form it is alive and well – and trending white-collar culture. Owned media. Custom content. Branded content. Sponsored content. Native advertising. These of the moment marketing communications terms are related to a movement called brand journalism – corporations turned publishers, using blogs, videos, infographics and social media to better engage their audience through participatory storytelling than traditional media outlets. “The future belongs to businesses that become the media, and brand journalism ultimately means you cover your business and industry like a reporter,” reads an article in Ragan’s Journal titled “A 5-step guide to starting a brand journalism program.” Brand journalism is developing a niche expertise not unlike working a beat, a la the CNNesque extreme sports authority, and brand journalism pioneer, RedBull. Continue reading “Brand Journalism: the Magazinification of Corporate Communications”

The Price is Rice: Making Sense of a Cognitive Surplus

We’ve all noticed the steady decline in long-form writing.  Fewer writers are being properly compensated for their efforts and a dwindling loyal readership is willing to pay top dollar for quality work. Correspondingly, an abundance of cat memes, life hacks, and celeb-centric listicles have been flooding our personal newsfeeds all at the cost of nothing. Is generosity the driving force behind this shift in our journalistic and publishing landscapes? This is an argument that social technologist Clay Shirky makes in his study of our current cognitive surplus. While his positive premise is valid, and frankly quite touching, it may be more accurate to deduce that we are experiencing an influx of condensed and frivolous content due to economic factors, rather than human benevolence. So what do the quantity and quality of public knowledge have to do with the price of eggs? I argue that they have everything to do with the price of rice, actually. Continue reading “The Price is Rice: Making Sense of a Cognitive Surplus”

Darknet: The ‘Slow Internet’ Movement

“The regular internet is just a hotbed of surveillance […] we should probably just start calling the web the Spynet. (‘What are you up to this morning?’ ‘Nothing much, just shopping for some books on the Spynet.’)” – Clive Thomson, WIRED Magazine. 

As users of social media, search engines, and cloud email, we live within a very centralized and highly monitored area of the internet. In reality, however, there are many different levels of centralization and monitoring that exist in network form. 

Continue reading “Darknet: The ‘Slow Internet’ Movement”

Why paywalls help nobody, and how subscriptions help publishers move beyond containers

Paywalls will never work as a long-term solution. The mindset of the paywall is a remnant of the publisher-as-gatekeeper model. It is an exclusionary tactic that tries to build revenue on services and content freely available elsewhere. What is needed is a shift in perspective to the customer, to a model that is more likely to foster innovation and growth by approaching the issue of monetization from a service-based model, not a container/advertiser-based model.

Continue reading “Why paywalls help nobody, and how subscriptions help publishers move beyond containers”

The many meanings of content

Diane Gratton

Many years ago I was employed by a major software company as a developer assigned to their operating system help files. As such, my responsibilities not only included ensuring a good user experience but also ensuring that the content, which was saved in an HTML format, was “localizable”. This meant that the content was ready to be “localized” for 30 world regions—localization is defined by applying content that is not only translated, but relevant to the location where it is spoken.

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Situating Ourselves: Woolf meets Bridle

Intellectual freedom depends upon material things.

…one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’ Own

I used to always begin PUB802 with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. These texts, which for ages served as cornerstones of what it meant to be civilized, have the distinction of having survived every major communications revolution in history and reflected the relationship between literature and wider culture in different light along the way.

More recently I have thought it a good idea to lead with A Room of One’s Own, itself a cornerstone piece of modern literate society, and in its own way having reflected the culture around it in different ways over its time. In some very concrete ways, ARoOO speaks much more directly to the MPub cohort. You are typically three-fourths female, you’ve chosen a career in the literature business, and, like Woolf, you are faced with making sense of how to do that within the context of modern capitalism. In a sense Woolf’s essay speaks directly to you; it anticipates, at least, the world you now inhabit. Continue reading “Situating Ourselves: Woolf meets Bridle”

On Fancy Printable Things

I’ve posted the 2014 Syllabus for PUB802 here, and also a fancy, printable version. The printable version is a bit of an experiment in progress, inspired in part by Hugh McGuire’s excellent work in producing printed books out of HTML+CSS in Pressbooks. Where Pressbooks uses a fancy CSS rendering engine optimized for book production, I wanted to see how far I could get with just the browser.

If you have a recent browser with decent CSS3 support, the fancy, printable version should look pretty decent. The typeface is supposed to be Minion Pro, which is reasonably ubiquitous, but if you don’t have that installed, it falls back to good old Georgia. I’m using the elegant hyphenator.js library to do something approaching proper H&J. In CSS3 we can do things like side-heads and expect that things will turn out properly. Most of the rest of it is just some careful attention to typography.

But I’m sure you can do better… I hope to yet too. Watch this space as we play with this technology over the spring term.