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The Internet Is Taking The Music Industry For A Ride

The internet is a powerful platform for independent artists, turning the mainstream into independent and the independent into superstars. Many forget that Justin Bieber got his break after posting videos of his singing to YouTube, which goes to show how the internet is flipping the music industry upside down.

There is a website that has grown in popularity recently called SoundCloud, it is a social networking site where anyone can upload audio for anyone to listen to and comment on. Users get 2 hours worth of space on the site for free and can pay extra for more space and other premium features.

What relates SoundCloud to independent media is that recently I’ve noticed some of the big name musical artists who have accounts are uploading original tracks that their fans can download for free. These are artists signed to a record label who normally produce tracks sold through normal methods who enjoy making music so much that they circumvent the label and give up payment. This is an example of establishment artists going independent.

Similar to Radiohead releasing their album for name-your-own-price, there seems to be a backlash against the music industry. The internet provides unique tools and mass distribution methods that are making the music industry obsolete. There are now online music stores that cater to indy labels, emusic, Bleep and a past site, Amie Street, to name a few.

Actually, Amie Street followed a unique business model: all tracks began free but as they become more popular, the price increased (the reason its name and logo allude to the stock market). The prices were capped at .98 cents and users could earn credits to be used for buying songs by recommending promising tracks to other users. If the track they recommended became popular on the site, the user was awarded with free credit. Sadly, Amie Street was bought out by Amazon.com and the demand based pricing does not exist anymore, but it still remains a shining example of what can be.

Currently, the best way an independent artist can distribute him or herself across the net is through tunecore.com, a service that partners with the largest online music distributors to allow anyone to have their music listed and sold. For $10 a song per year, an artist can have their song sold through iTunes, Amazon.com, emusic and many others.

The internet has undoubtedly opened a world of opportunity for independent artists, who now have a chance to make it for minimal cost.

Survey Of Magazines Can Provide Tips for Indy Outlets

I found an interesting report from the Columbia Review of Journalism about the online versions of print magazines that raises questions for indy outlets to answer. There is a lot of interesting data but the major fact shown is that magazines spend a very small portion of their time on their websites. A staggering 59 percent of magazine editors responded that there was “either no, or less vigorous, copy-editing than the print versions. Furthermore, 40 percent responded that there was little fact checking when wen editors are in charge of online content and 17 percent responded that sometimes there is no fact checking.

Perhaps this illustrates that there is a need for quality, internet-only content, something that will drive users to the site and earn advertising revenue for the publication. Are independent news outlets filling the gap of fact-checked news?

Another interesting number was that Just 32 percent of respondents said their website makes a profit. Sixty-three percent said they had the same editorial staff for print and online content. Does this mean that small staffed publications — like so many indy news outlets — will find it difficult to keep make a website profitable? or does it mean that it’s incredibly difficult to make money from a journalistic website? Whatever the answer, this study could be a helpful tool for helping indy outlets make decisions that will keep them in the black.

Carrier IQ is a Chilling Wake-up Call For news Consumers

The controversy is growing over Carrier IQ, the software installed on some smartphones that tracks user activity on the internet. The data can potentially be sold to advertisers to build customer profiles. The recent discovery that this software was installed is a wake-up call to potential for corporate involvement in our internet activities.

It is important to protect privacy on smartphones because more and more people are viewing news on mobile devices. An article from Poynter cites a 2010 PEW study that showed 26% of those polled read their news on mobile devices, and that trend is expected to increase.

The article says, “According to Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Project For Excellence in Journalism, ‘Those numbers are only going to go up as the penetration of smart phones grows. The computer of the future is held in your hand.’”

If corporations are able to track user activity and have a presence on mobile devices, this could open the door for censorship and infringement on net neutrality Thankfully, Al Franken has put pressure on the practice and maybe we’ll see this type of privacy breach disappear.

The Media’s Masquerade

Relating to the class material on the state of public television and radio n the U.S., the most striking difference between the BBC and PBS is the relationship between the media and politicians. The footage of Jeremy Paxman on “Newsnight” where he was not afraid to challenge Prime Minister Tony Blair head-on, asking condescending questions and being plain mean about it, was a thing of beauty. That type of interview is unheard of in the US and today we seem to be moving farther away from it.

An article in the Huffington Post talks analyzes how the media deals with lies and it does not paint a good picture. Instead of questioning statements by politicians outright, like Paxman, the U.S. media consistently finds ways to circumvent the lie while still reporting on the story. According to the article they may report on the controversy surrounding a lie, the effectiveness of lying during a camping or just glance over the lie part of the story.

A 2006 blog post from the writer of the article, Dan Froomkin, discusses the media’s inability to call “bullshit,” as he states it. He writes,

“I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way. “

The mainstream media’s fear of losing access to sources and offending political sponsors seems to be eroding the once great journalism produced in this country. It is shocking to see how much better journalism is in Europe; I’m appalled at how sugarcoated and corrupt the media has become and it is clear to see that the public is being duped repeatedly by the press. It is important that politicians are given a hard time by reporters, it’s their job and it’s how the people hear the truth. The sad thing is that the only place on TV that you hear about this issue regularly is the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The media can’t hide behind the mask of objectivity, they must seek the truth.

Out Of Context Goes Both Ways

The story of Mitt Romney’s anger over his recent Fox News interview, which he alleges was taken out of context, is amusing. Just a few weeks before he was caught taken Obama out of context. Though Romney can’t seem to see the irony, it illustrates the pervasiveness of comments taken out of context and how it is used as an excuse for making whatever point you want. Romney’s campaign ad was largely covered in the mainstream media without stating the obvious lies and disregarding the whole thing, and when Romney doesn’t like how he’s portrayed in the news, he claims he was taken out of context.

Huffington Post story and video on Mitt Romney controversy.

It appears that the mainstream media needs to focus much more attention on this issue and be diligent and fact-check whenever they choose to publish something. Failure to do so can lead to unnecessary loss of jobs (ACORN and Shirley Sherrod) or by politicians to undermine opponents or escape ridicule after a bad interview, as in the case of Mitt Romney. it should not be the responsibility of the viewers to determine the facts.

Be Wary Of Net Neutrality’s Unintended Consequences

There is no doubt that net neutrality – the guarantee that internet service providers will not restrict access to any part of the internet, thereby providing the same internet to everyone – is something to be revered. Yet, is a government regulation the best way to make it happen and should we be wary of the unintended consequences? A few dissenting opinions warrant a place in the neutrality discussion.

Johna Till Johnson of NetworkWorld.com, writes in 2009 that net neutrality regulation would likely cause prices to jump and innovation to halt. The argument goes that the internet is in a transitional period, as consumers demand more and higher-quality video streaming, faster download speeds and other features, the need for bandwidth grows exponentially. Increasing bandwidth costs money, so providers like Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon have invested heavily in upgrading the internet’s infrastructure, bringing technology like fiber optics to private homes. To pay for these upgrades the companies would need to charge more to consumers who use the new technology. Net neutrality legislation, however, bans companies from charging certain customers more; the result is internet providers will have to charge per bit of data downloaded.

Per bit charge would work like utility “metering,” where consumers are charged based on the amount of the product consumed instead of paying a flat fee. In Johnson’s scenario, providers, in order to track the bit usage, would need to isolate their customers by ceasing to allow access to other provider’s networks. For example, currently Comcast is connected to Verizon, AT&T and other networks around the world, meaning that a website need only pay to be on one network because any user can access it. This practice, called peering, would disappear with a metered pay system, meaning only a rich institution could afford to be on all the networks and be accessed by any user. Ironically, this causes the scenario net neutrality attempts to prevent.

Phil Harvey, editor-in-chief of Light Reading, which covers the telecom industry, provides a similar alternative. He argued that there should be “light” government regulation combined with the metered pay system. He said the government could force internet providers to be transparent while allowing customers to choose a company that provides the best service.

This argument fails to consider the changes to force multiple companies to provide internet to the same area, which most anyone can attest is not how the system works now. Consumers would be forced to stay with a company that was charging more to access certain sites. In short, if a metered system went into effect, the consequences for consumers would be bad.

Whether these particular scenario occurs is only a possibility, but it proves that one must be diligent before jumping in with net neutrality.

Media’s Objectivity Fails to Expose Attack Ad lies

As the presidential primary races proceed it has reached the time were candidates release volleys of finger-pointing and blame in the form of negative campaign ads. This round it is attack ads against president Obama as Republican candidates battle for valuable swing votes. The media’s coverage of these ads exposes the serious flaw in mainstream media’s objective reporting model and the strength in the biased-but-transparent model used by many independent news outlets. The same issue that Weinberger discusses in his 2009 article, “Transparency is the new objectivity.”

When mainstream media covers an attack ad it is often simply a he-said she-said story, which, when ads contain lies and twisted truths, fails to provide the public with the important part of the story – are the candidates lying or not? A recent clip from The Young Turks illustrates the point with Mitt Romney’s recent attack ad. The ad contains several factually incorrect statements regarding the recent healthcare legislation as well as an out-of-context sound bite, which the media failed to tell their viewers. Cenk Uygur goes on to talk about the response of mainstream media’s habit of making statements like “It appears to be out of context, but the Romney people say this…,” the point being that the media should just say it’s a lie in the first place.

Transparency is the other side of the coin, Uygur’s clip is a perfect example. He makes it clear that he is upset with Romney from the get go, then proceeds to expose each lie in the ad and links to a Huffington Post article that further delves into the Obama clip taken out of context. This really lives up to the statement that “Transparency is the new objectivity,” because it is only this way that we can hear the truth, not through the flawed objective model.