Report from Digital Hollywood Confab

    by JD Lasica
    October 31, 2007

    When my book Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation came out in 2005, the Hollywood studios were still doing everything in their power to resist the onrushing wave of the personal media revolution.

    These days, it’s a far different story. Hulu, the online video portal backed by NBC and News Corp., is about to launch, and talk in the hallways at Digital Hollywood this week is all about how to embrace our digital destinies. Talk during the panels is not about how to build a better Facebook but how to build a widget that gains traction on Facebook.

    Will news media companies soon follow suit? (I know it’s Halloween, but their overall lack of innovation is downright spooky.)


    Here are some of the notes I scribbled down during two of the sessions:

    During the “User-generated media, social networks and traditional media” panel, Eric Alterman, founder and chairman of KickApps, talked about how message boards were adopted by only a handful of large sites like AOL but soon became ubiquitous, and the same thing is now happening with widgets and video players. He also pointed to the power of online contests; a magazine site saw 80,000 people sign up for a contest in just a few days, far more traffic than they had seen before that.

    Robert Tercek, founder and president of PeopleJam, talked about two “value control points”: profiles and content, the challenge that websites face in bolting them together. If you’re a media company and you just “bolt on the community functions,” he said, “you’re missing the point.”


    Dmitry Shapiro, the CEO and founder of Veoh: “Facebook is partly open but it’s not open enough. The Web is the platform.”

    More Shapiro: “Web 1.0 was about media companies pushing content to us. Web 2.0 was about consumers connecting with each other. Web 2.1 is now about consumers connecting with each other around content.”

    Shapiro said Veoh started as a client like Joost or Azureus but found that it was hard to get people to download the application, so it created a video on-ramp and tried to distinguish itself from YouTube by giving people publishing tools, striking deals with content providers, and giving users the ability to publish to multiple sites: YouTube, Google Video and MySpace.

    Tercek: If I were a media company, I wouldn’t want to try to erect a big portal. I would try to distribute my content to as many social networking sites and niche sites as possible. Go where your customers already are.

    On the “Personalized media platforms” panel (I was a panelist), Leonard Brody, CEO of NowPublic.com, said: We made a mistake in trying to look at Facebook as a publishing platform and it’s really about personalized news.

    Citizen media sites as a whole, he said, are “shitty content packagers,” and that’s something traditional media is good at. But he said that ordinary people were just as capable of reporting on an event or telling a story as trained professional journalists are. “I hate the term ‘citizen journalists.’ You won’t find that term on NowPublic. Do we talk about citizen dentists?”

    Tagged: digital hollywood hollywood media media companies startups web 2.0
    • Dan Schultz

      “I hate the term ‘citizen journalists.’ You won’t find that term on NowPublic. Do we talk about citizen dentists?”

      ^^ I wish people would stop comparing journalism school to medical school – It isn’t the same thing! Flawed analogies pack a punch and detract from the conversation.

      ** Begin Rant **

      I’m training to get a technology degree, does that mean I’m necessarily better than anyone who DOESN’T have a technology degree? no! It just means I have a nice leg up on them. There are some fields where you MUST be trained to do the job at all simply because you MUST do the job incredibly well (such as dentistry, or any field involving nuclear reactors). Fields that involve communication, however, have more wiggle room when it comes to quality – you can tell a story poorly or well and get away with it. You can tell a story well without being formally trained and nobody will die or lose their teeth.

      Of course, degrees in this field are well worthwhile and should be recognized as an indicator of a raised bar. They are also necessary for a professional setting. I’m just saying the term citizen journalist is NOT analagous to citizen dentist.

      ** End Rant**

    • jr

      I like the term citizen-something. I think having the word “citizen” attached implies anyone can participate. I think most people have an idea of what “journalism” means. So combining the two makes for a simple, self-explained term.

      For some years now, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has managed citizen science projects by relying on the observations of amateur birdwatchers. It’s not possible to blanket the land with professionals, so the data from amateurs is important.

      Somewhat related is the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which began over 100 years ago. Counts take place all over the U.S. and beyond. From the CBC Web site :

      “Welcome to the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the oldest and largest citizen science event in the world. It is a fertile source of information on the status and distribution of early winter bird populations and is studied by scientists and interested people the world over. And it all starts with you!”

      Jan 4, 2007 NewAssignment.net posting titled Amateur Bird Watchers Do Research for Professional Scientists :

      “Next time someone says citizen journalism is “for the birds,” don’t dismiss it – they might actually be right. That’s because American’s bird watchers have hit upon a very smart approach to gathering ground-level info that citizen journalists, and mainstream media, could well learn from.”

    • jr

      Sorry, I should have linked my name to my profile page and not to the home page of the site.

    • While I agree with Dan that the terms citizen journalist and citizen dentist are in no way analogous, I do think there’s an unmistakable trend afoot in new media circles *not* to use the term citizen journalist. We saw this a year or two ago at NewWest.net, which ditched its references to citizen journalism and now just invites readers to participate in reporting the news in their communities.

      I guess labels — of whatever kind — are often loaded and always trouble.

    • tulu

      “I wish people would stop comparing journalism school to medical school…It isn’t the same thing! Flawed analogies”

      I think Journalism do much hurm to the nation then wrong Medical skill… if the doctor make mistake only one person die but if the journalism make mistake a lot of people die. Let me give you an example a newspaper can report that Iraq having the bomb and USA goes to war. and you know what happend. newspaper can be used to warmonger, hatemanger or mislead the public at larage when used by anyone who have no idea of Journalism ethics… if Journalism is more powerful tool you don’t want to unskilled citizen to mess with it..

    • kat

      Actually, NowPublic does use the term “citizen journalism” and many of their supposed “reporters” also refer to themselves and write articles on that premise.

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